The blood on the asphalt must be my own –nobody else is around to break the curfew– but I remember neither falling nor standing again. I only recall the blast: vibration, energy, pressure strong enough to briefly turn my eyeballs into soft kumquats. My brain has turned into a humming beehive. I turn my head to the left, to the right, and now I hear a distinct rattle, but the country road remains empty, stretching to infinity. The rattle persists and settles as a hollow in the pit of my stomach. Finally my legs stabilize, my vision clears, and I understand: I am the rattle. My skull has become a plastic cup and with each movement the dice are thrown, but the dice are actually teeth, loose in my salty mouth. How many teeth are involved, I’m not prepared to assess just yet. It’s time to look up.
Interesting. It’s snowing and raining fire, high above. Unlikely but not impossible. It’s winter after all, and the snow-heavy clouds mingle with the poisonous fumes. I try to take a deep breath of cold air while it’s still clean, but choke on a molar instead. I’m reminded of a recurring nightmare where my teeth fall out for no reason, but in the dream there is never blood, only dry enamel Chiclets clinking around. I fumble hopelessly between my cheeks, grabbing at sticky, naked gums. This time, it’s real.
The protective dome separating the thermosphere from the exosphere is gone, as they predicted. Behind the curtain of fire, I see Venus’ bright dot, and an outline of the moon where before there had only been a gleaming surface similar to liquid mercury. When moments ago our new-fangled missiles hit the invader’s vessel in open space (presumably, since here I am, not obliterated by alien fire) the shock wave must have destroyed the dome, our only defense. It was a calculated risk, but everyone left knew it was the only option left. “Left” is an apt descriptor for the state of things, from Earth to little ole’ me, not right in the head and musing all by my lonesome.
We Earthlings had long settled into a kind of resigned patience bordering on apathy, which made worldwide decision-making a breeze. I miss the early days of mass hysteria. Violence in the cities, frantic YOLO orgies, and the way we clung to our belief that human socio-political structures actually meant something. In anarchy, there are no empty streets and no empty beds. I laugh for the pleasure of hearing my own voice. It resounds like a machine gun through the fields, and a canine shoots out the side of my mouth. What a riot.
I wipe a trickle of blood from the corner of my lips and fiddle with the plastic security access bracelet I never took off my wrist. The stars and red chevron logo are barely visible. It’s a permanent nervous habit; I’ll be picking at my skin long after the bracelet is gone. Five years ago to the day I was a NASA computer scientist with a killer smile, but then the attacks began, and the world under siege only needed so many hot IT guys. I didn’t speak any East Asian dialects, and once you pooled the entire planet for its resources, it turned out my coding was subpar, and I was no Tom Hardy. The United States had long been left behind by China and Japan. Who knew. But man we used to have some darn good sweet corn. I once bedded the corn queen of my hometown, and now surrounding me are the desiccated remnants of her kingdom. You need teeth to eat corn on the cob, but thankfully tongue is good enough for the queen.
I remove my earplugs, but any sounds from our warships are muffled. Large clusters of debris become visible as gravity takes hold. For now they look like alien Lego that I can pluck from the sky. The otherworldly alloys will come crashing down soon enough, but they are still minutes away. Falling to Earth is a process, I know that much, though I have long been out of the loop and reduced to a Chef Boyardee-eating basement dweller. Mad Max middle-American style. Even with the dome in place most of the population has migrated west toward the Rockies. The flat plains offer no protection from above, and you can’t outrun the stars. I stayed, because why not? No one needed me, and I prefer to go in a blast than in an avalanche. I shrug, sit down right in the middle of the road, and spit out a few more teeth into the ditch. There goes the killer smile.
A dazed yellow cat pops out of the same ditch, disturbed by my pearly projectiles, and ambles toward me. He is missing an ear but seems fine otherwise. He climbs into my lap and we sit together, longing for our MIA body parts in the reddish light of a new era. Post-alien Earth. I stick out my tongue and catch a few snowflakes while I stroke the cat’s matted fur. The melting snow activates the iron flavor lingering in my taste buds. Is this the taste of victory: hemoglobin and H2O? In the end, it’s only ever about the basics. Humanity will keep trudging along in the muck, as long as you feed it. I should probably take up farming, plan a future and find a corn queen, but all I can think about is who the fuck is going to fix my teeth.
– Natasha Leullier
Unseen places, forgotten histories, and the dark recesses of humanity populate many of Natasha’s stories. French-Canadian born, she now lives in the Boston area and is writing her first novel. You can find more stories online at Circlet Press, Literary Orphans, and Beat to a Pulp, or on her Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/NatashaLeullier/