Twitching arms, blinking eyes, quivering livers—you name the body part—fell all around me as I ran. The sharp slapping sounds of flesh meeting concrete punctuated the dull wet thump of bodiless heads crashing to the ground. Blood splashed everywhere from the constant rain of limbs, and I was soon covered from head to toe in gore. I would have loved to ditch those damn slippers if I hadn’t needed them to run across the bloody pavement. Squish-squash, squish-squash, squish-squash!
I looked back over my shoulder. She was still there smiling, not so much as a drop of blood on her. I had no idea what she would do if she caught me. She was all of my height—which wasn’t saying much—and about as beefy (again, not saying much). She didn’t have anything in her hands, no visible weapon at all, just a great big smile full of smoldering madness.
As I ran, the bones of my mind were beginning to snap and rub together. Little bits of pain began to pop and crunch inside my head. The insanity that had taken hold of the world was trying to get to me, smashing its shoulder against the door of my mind, but something wouldn’t budge. Some piece of stubborn sanity had propped itself against the door, firmly holding it shut, forcing me into the role of a lost sunbeam wandering a night that wouldn’t end. I knew the woman had been sent for me.
She was going to put me with all the other newly outdated relics—sunshine, morning strolls, coffee dates, and all the other staples of the previously ordinary world. I prayed for a breakdown, for my mind to split open and start spilling hordes of flying headless clowns into the sky, but I just wouldn’t happen. That’s when I discovered one small sliver of notable change—I was hungry. I hadn’t been for weeks. I knew I wasn’t supposed to be. It wasn’t part of my script. I’m sure I was intended to be busy piling dung beetles into mile-high pyramids or something crazy like that, but all I really wanted to do was eat.
A falling foot hit me directly on the head and I had to slow down. I stumbled into the doorway of a laundromat. The crashing of blood-soaked limbs beat a wicked rhythm on the roof. It was like God was using the top of the city as a gigantic bongo drum. I moved away from the large windows at the front of the place, giving me a far better view of the chaos outside than I was comfortable with. Namely, Sneaker Lady came strolling through the downpour.
She just calmly walked toward the laundromat, smiling her nuttiness into a world already clogged with the stuff, staring at me through the gore and glass. The “rain” still avoided her like the plague. As she moved closer to the windows, blood started dripping from the ceiling tiles, and the crashing of body parts onto the roof seemed to multiply. She didn’t even try to open the door, she just stopped in front of it and stuck her hand out again. It seemed like her smile was becoming brighter, more real. I know that’s a hard one to wrap your head around, but it was like her smile had been muted all along, barely visible from behind the thin plastic curtain of our cheap little reality. It was somehow burning its way through the divider, showing its true colors.
Like a thunderbolt, a severed elephant’s head smashed through the roof, taking out the door, granting Sneakers access to the building. The woman stepped around the head, the arc of blood spraying from its still-flailing trunk always seeming to miss her. I screamed and ran out the back door.
I ran until I crossed beyond the city and into the woods. The body parts were still coming down, the only real change was the sound. The loud smashing was replaced by the cracking and rustling of parts falling through the forest canopy—limbs falling through limbs, I guess you could say—and the softer thuds as they landed in thickets and underbrush.
It wasn’t long before I found my salvation—a cave. I practically dove into the thing, I didn’t care who or what might’ve been in it, I just wanted to shut out the sounds of the rain. It was a huge cavern, going far deeper than I expected. I squish-squashed my way inside, hoping I would just dissolve into the darkness and be done with everything, once and for all.
Well, I didn’t dissolve, but I did eventually collapse into a sobbing heap of blood-soaked ruin. And no, I wasn’t crying over my lost family, or the insanity that had replaced the world. I was crying because I had become so very hungry. It was like a blazing ravenous fire growing inside my belly. To my surprise, I had almost unconsciously begun to stuff my mouth with whatever crawled across the dank floor. Spiders, salamanders, it didn’t matter—in they went. I did this for hours until I was full. Soon after I was done gorging myself, I realized I wasn’t alone. There were other things down there with me.
Animals of every stripe haunted the darkness around me. The poor things were horribly sad. The world had betrayed them. It had become unnatural, and so there existed no place for them. No place, that is, other than at the bottom of a cave, sharing their misery with a bug-eating human whose feet squelched when she walked. They just milled about or slumped against the rocks. I was perfectly safe, mind you, as even the biggest bears and cougars were in too much shock to consider eating me. We all sat down there for quite a while—I’d long given up trying to keep track of time—resting against one another, depressed. Eventually, it occurred to me to do the only thing I could think of to raise our spirits—I sang my little song.
Now, I wasn’t much of a singer, but the words were easy to find and my throat felt better, having eaten. The song just sprang out of me, and my new friends sang along with me. We sang louder and louder, harder and harder, longer and longer, until we were all screaming the words in the language of both man and beast.
What else could God sound like, if not the combined voices of his greatest creations?
My Lord, did we ever dance and roar and spin! We were making such a ruckus, but we all thought, ‘To hell with the end of the world! We’ll just sing until there’s nothing left of us!’
Now, who do you suppose showed up to try and spoil the party? Yup, Sneakers. I could see her by the light of our raging song, still smiling, still crazy. Suddenly, I could feel the fire in my belly burning through my meal of worms and lizards. I smiled back at her, and I could feel my lips and teeth playing at the limit of my own newer, greater reality. We were still singing when we all rushed her. Oh my, were we excited! We were just insane, I tell you! The foolish little thing had no idea what kind of a family we had become, what kind of song we were singing. We buried the woman under our combined weight.
I was still singing as I ripped and tore at her with my thin painted fingernails. Yet there was something missing from my song, something that my new family had long understood, that my stomach had been burning for. Then it came to me—I plunged my teeth into the woman’s chest and ate her heart.
You should have heard us howl! I was laughing and gorging at the same time, hugging and kissing my new family. The blood was everywhere, all over my clothes and hands, drizzling down the back of my throat. It was glorious! It was happy, and it was safe. It was home.
I wasn’t scared anymore. I didn’t even miss the old world. In fact, I wanted nothing more to do with it. It’s surprising how quickly you can change when you have to. And that was just the beginning. We would change so much more by the time the rest of the world woke up.
Speaking of change, I finally got rid of those lousy slippers. The red sneakers were a perfect fit.
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