There’s a belief that right before you die, you watch your life flash before your eyes. That’s a beautiful idea to me. Not because I want to relive my favorite memories. Rather, I look forward to being granted death after what I continue to experience.
It started with the announcement that humanity’s days were numbered. An asteroid with an eight-mile diameter was heading towards Earth, and even if a large chunk of the rock was burned in the atmosphere, it would remain large enough to eradicate life on Earth. It was scheduled for impact seventy-two hours after the announcement.
After the news landed, every sort of live network was abandoned. TV, radio, even most major websites went dark. Riley thought that this was when the chaos would really start. Fires, riots, “‘a holocaust of ecstasy and freedom,’ as Lovecraft put it,” she said.
I don’t doubt that the holocaust happened in major cities across the world, but it didn’t happen in the minuscule city we lived in. No, raging fires and riots were replaced with the blare of countless horns from the roads being clogged with vehicles and the screams of despair from residents of the apartment complex we lived in, and many beyond that. After twenty-four hours the screams died out, but every now and then Riley and I could hear sobbing from the other side of the wall in our bedroom, so we slept in the living room.
Happiness wasn’t something I expected to feel after those first few hours, but I’ll be damned if Riley didn’t make me genuinely happy for those last few moments, even if it was just her presence doing most of the work. We played video games, reminisced photos of us and our friends on the walls, and even managed to make peace with our own mortality. Together, death was much less frightening. We were even able to talk to our families before cell phones went down, and that helped bring some peace of mind.
The only time there was any semblance of true sadness was that first night, when we heard gunshots ring all around the apartment complex. I could tell they were suicides by the rhythmic shots and lack of any other shouts or screams. We fell asleep in each other’s arms that night, tears staining each other's pillows.
My eyes were still puffy when I woke up, to the point where I had trouble reading the time on my watch. Two A.M. I got up, being sure not to wake Riley, and went to look out the sliding glass door.
The entire complex was dark, and the sky was pitch, as the overcast blocked any light from the moon or stars. Our apartment was on the inside of a sort of ring of buildings, so I couldn’t see any lights from the city, if any were even on.
The kitchen was nestled into a little room right next to the living room, as was the melatonin I had left on top of the microwave. After a few drinks of orange juice and a few tablets of the sleep aid, I went to the TV to play some video games while the pills digested.
That’s where Riley found me, in the glow of the TV as I tried my hardest to top the leaderboards of a few of my favorite arcade games growing up. Even from out of the corner of my eye, the sight of her made my nerves lessen and my pulse slow. Her strawberry blonde hair reflected amazingly against the flashing lights. She hugged me from behind and looked at the screen.
“Hey there,” I said, giving her a kiss on the cheek.
“Hey, whatcha up to?”
“Getting the high scores while I can.” I tried to smile, but I’m sure she could tell that it was shaky and forced.
Riley laughed and hugged me before sitting down and motioning for the controller. “Let me show you how it’s done,” she said.
“Let’s see you try,” I said, both of us grinning as I gave the controller to her.
I didn’t end up falling back to sleep. We played games for a few hours, and that was enough to keep me awake, calm, and happy. When I checked my phone, it was 5:45, and the faintest hint of dawn was beginning to show behind the blinds. It was as I was trying to look beyond the door that I heard the scream.
At first, it seemed human, but after a few seconds it was clear that it was a howl, a blood-curdling howl with an intensity I’d never heard any animal give before, though it was unmistakable that it was a dog.
Riley dropped the controller and ran to the door, with me right behind her. She pushed the blinds aside and looked for the dog, leaving me to peer through the swinging blinds at the darkness. My legs were shaking the whole time. It was a dog for sure, maybe even a wolf from the forest a few dozen miles outside of the city, but that howl was more of a primal scream of pain than any yelp or whine I had ever heard from any animal.
A few minutes went by before our eyes adjusted to the night, and through it we saw a grey husky wandering the courtyard beyond the patio. It looked almost as if it were in a cage, they way it would shake its head and pace before the looming apartment complex around it.
“He’s got a collar and he doesn’t look injured,” Riley whispered. “But we should go take a look at him to make sure.”
I nodded, unable to take my eyes off the dog. Riley slid the door open and walked outside. As she did, I would swear I saw the dog grin and its tail wag.
“Riley, wait,” I whispered. The dog wasn’t grinning and wagging its tail at her, it seemed to be doing this to the empty space in front of it, as if its master was only a few feet away holding a ball.
She was already beyond the patio, tip-toeing in pajama bottoms and tank top in subzero weather to go meet the dog. My words didn’t reach her.
Ignoring the cold stabbing at my exposed skin, I walked out onto the patio behind her, but I didn’t make it very far. Riley stopped as she made it to the edge of the yard, and I saw her go pale from the edges of her face that I could see.
“I-its eyes-” she said, stepping back onto the patio.
Before she could finish, the dog went still, even its tail freezing mid-swing. A small whimper escaped it before it dropped to all fours and rolled in the snow, as if trying to shake off something trying to grab it.
I gently reached out to grab Riley’s shoulder, trying to pull her back to the apartment. As soon as I touched her skin, the dog screamed again.
The way the dog arched its body and trembled as it let out that intense scream of pain and fear I’ll never forget. The sound of it echoing along the complex was enough to insure the ice in my veins would never leave.
We ran back into the apartment, Riley slamming and locking the door behind us before looking back at the dog. I couldn’t bring myself to look.
We were both panting and sweating, even though neither of us had ran all that much.
The dog continued to scream.
We stood there for a few minutes, pale and shivering, before we paced and considered our options. There wasn’t much time to do the latter, however, as soon the dog came back. I was sitting on one of the chairs in the kitchen when I heard Riley give a short, stilted gasp from the living room.
I moved slowly, knowing it was the dog. Not much else would have made Riley that pale again.
The blinds were still swinging, making it even harder to distinguish in the darkness, but it was there. There were two faintly glowing red orbs beyond the door. Unblinking, unmoving, it watched us cowering in fear before moving backwards into the cover of darkness.
Neither of us dared to even breathe.
Just as I stepped out into the living room to comfort Riley, the sliding glass door exploded, sending shards of glass flying into the room. The dog flew towards me, jumping and rounding his back so that his spine collided directly with my stomach, sending me flying into the wall.
My vision was covered by a wave of fog, and I could feel the strange sense of both discomfort and pain from my skull hitting the wall. I landed face down on the carpet, the wind knocked out of me, choking on air. I tried to prop myself up on my arms before dry heaving. I looked up, exhausted, nauseous, and in the worst pain I had ever felt in my life. Maybe Riley had managed to get away.
She was pinned down by the dog. Her head was bruised, and her eyes swung around in her sockets as she squirmed. The dog looked at me, and I saw that a shard of glass was lodged into its right eye, its left unharmed, red, and almost pulsating as it looked at me. He looked back down to Riley, and a tear fell from his face. Even the tear glowed crimson.
Riley, who had more than a mild concussion, groggily tried to move her head away from the tear, but all that did was ensure that the tear hit its mark. Her head listed to the left, leaving her wide-open right eye directly in line to be hit by the tear.
She began to scream, louder than I’ve ever heard her scream before. Her voice ringed across the walls, grated against my ears. She screamed until her voice went out and her throat must have been torn and bruised.
The dog sat and watched as she writhed on the floor. When she stopped, the dog sat himself in the corner and closed his remaining eye. They were completely normal when he opened them. White on brown. He even looked at me and wagged his tail, as if he didn’t notice the large shard of glass lodged in his eye. Then he was gone.
Riley had passed out from the pain. I picked her up and moved her to the air mattress. I remember sitting on the couch wondering what I was going to do next when I passed out.
When I woke, I had a massive bruise on my stomach. It hurt immensely to even get off the couch. Riley was still in bed, she had even covered herself in sheets during the night. It was cold, as the heating was off and the hole in the sliding glass door hadn’t been dealt with.
I duct-taped a line of aluminium foil over the hole before moving a blanket and recliner to further cover it. It didn’t do much for the cold, but it was enough.
The dog wasn’t in sight, though a dark fog had covered the ground during the night, making even the nearby apartments hard to make out.
I went back to Riley and pulled the sheets away to make sure she wasn’t sick or frostbitten overnight. I hadn’t pulled the blanket more than a few inches down from her head before I reeled back screaming, slamming into the same wall that the dog had hurled me into before.
Her corneas were a bright red, and her iris’s a toxic, pulsating green. Her breathing was slow and erratic, as if she was struggling. She was on her back, conscious, but her eyes were locked on to the ceiling, unwavering as she did her slow, mechanical breathing.
I sat next to the wall completely frozen. I couldn’t even think properly. The silence, broken only by Riley’s breathing, completely enveloped me.
Riley sat up slowly, her eyes never moving or focusing on something I couldn’t see.
“Please… I can’t…” she said, her eyes watering. “Are you there?”
“I’m here!” I said, pushing myself from the wall and running to her side. I grabbed the blanket she was under and wrapped her with it. She didn’t move, and her eyes didn’t lose that thousand-yard stare.
“Riley, can you hear me?” I said, grasping her hand and looking closely at her face as she looked at nothing.
Tears went down her cheeks, leaving red paths in their wake.
“I know you’re there, Mom,” she said, squeezing my hand. “I can feel you…”
All at once, she stopped sobbing, and let go of my hand. Her eyes gazed upward.
Three tubes began to creep out from the corners of her eyelids, pushing her eyes upwards and backwards, forcefully rolling them to the back, and pressing them against the tops of their sockets. My stomach churned as I realized they were raw nerves.
The nerves protruded slowly, going backwards and tightening themselves around her head, inching their way to the back of her neck. When they reached it, two more sets of nerves punctured from under the skin near her spine and connected with the nerves from her eyes.
They began to glow red, as well as pulsate with the rhythm of her breathing.
That was all I could take before I began to dry heave, tears streaming down my face as I did so. I’m not ashamed to admit I almost left her there and ran out into the freezing cold with barely any clothes to warm me. I didn’t want my last moments with Riley to be like that.
She beat me to it.
When I lifted my head, my mind still spinning and buzzing from anxiety and nausea, she was standing in front of the sliding glass door, the recliner and blinds moved away from the hole that the dog had made.
She didn’t even notice the deep cut the glass etched into her arm as she climbed out. In nothing but pajama bottoms and a tank top, she walked out into the snowy fog. The last I saw of her were the bright cords pulsing on her head being encompassed by snowfall and fog.
I picked myself up and moved to our room. I glued my eyes to the floor as I searched for my winter clothes on the floor. I knew that when I picked my head up I would see pictures, posters, and decorations that would break me. The last straw would have been memories of what had been.
Was it not enough that everything was going to be wiped off the face of the Earth? That everything man had built and experienced would soon be non-existent in a few hours?
No. I still had to be reminded that these memories were there. And so I pulled on my winter clothes with my eyes cast on the floor, struggling to breathe with the bruise on my stomach.
As I stood before the sliding glass door, I fumbled momentarily for my keys, phone, and wallet, forgetting that all of these things were useless to me. Even with everything going on, I couldn’t help but smile at the absurdity of that. A little gag to set me on my way.
The cold wind that hit me as I stepped onto the patio was almost enough to convince me that Riley had to have frozen to death not long after she left, before I noticed that there was a trail of blood leading left of the door, towards one of the apartment complex’s exits.
Even with two layers of clothes I could feel the cold stabbing at any bit of exposed skin. My eyes and cheeks felt as if they were being stabbed with needles. I had to stop and close my eyes occasionally just to help trap some heat onto them, though that didn’t matter, as the fog and snow was almost completely blocking the sunlight.
The sky was deeply overcast so the fog had brought what visibility there could have been to almost none. It was as if a cloud of ash had blanketed the city, like a dust storm during the Great Depression, when dust from countless dry fields collected in the wind, sending any town in its way into a deep, toxic blackness. Where I stood, the atmosphere was the darkest shade of grey. As if the air itself was infected by some dark, inky sickness.
When the dense brick buildings gave way to the now-empty parking lot, I saw a shadow in front of me. It was huge and rectangular, stretching farther than I could see. Getting closer to it I saw that it wasn’t a shadow at all, but a heavy section of the fog and snow that was a deep red. It stretched perpendicular to the ground into the sky. A trail of red snowflakes merging into the ink of the fog and atmosphere.
I continued on. If some strangely ambivalent stranger that been passing by, they probably would have wondered why someone in layers and layers of winter clothing was quivering with every step.
It was like that for a few blocks. Staring at the ground looking for inklings of blood in between letting my eyes sit closed so they wouldn’t freeze over. I was grateful for the low amount of snow; if it had been much heavier the blood would have been covered long before I ever found her.
As I got closer, the fog began to dissipate, making her footprints much easier to make out. I stole a glance upwards to see if she was visible yet.
I was in front of the hotel that was next to my apartments. A quaint place that didn’t receive a whole lot of traffic, but was the only decent hotel around this part of town.
Riley was walking into the hotel, but it looked as if there was a straitjacket over her entire body. Her arms quivering against her torso and her legs sliding on the ground. As she reached out to open the door, I saw the wound on her arm was still spurting blood onto the snow below her.
“Riley!” I screamed.
No answer. She was already through the door.
Then both the fog and weather cleared up to the point where I could actually see my surroundings.
Above the hotel, in the dark, grey clouds that overcast as far as the horizon reached, there was a cube that protruded from the clouds, stretching from somewhere above the clouds to a few feet above the hotel. The object was a deep red that was barely discernible through the fog and my own freezing eyes.
It wasn’t the cube itself that kept my eyes open and staring in petrified wonder, rather what was happening to the clouds and fog around it. Anything that touched the object passed through with the same red I’d seen in both the dog and Riley’s eyes and the section of fog and snow outside of my apartments. From where I stood it was as if a growing wall of red was protruding from the object, from the snow and clouds, even to the fog that rolled all the way up to the roof of the hotel.
I turned, still unable to close my eyes. Sweat was pouring down my face even though I was the coldest I’d ever felt. In front of the hotel was the mall, and, for a moment, I could actually see as far as the horizon. It, too, was coated in crimson.
Cubes stretched out from the clouds as far as I could see, and beyond each one was a line of infected clouds and fog, painting the toxic grey atmosphere with stripes of crimson.
I collapsed to my knees. I tried to make sense of what I saw, but nothing would come to mind. For a long while I just sat there, my mind blank, my eyes closed, doing nothing but staring into the darkness of my closed eyes, wishing that everything would just stop. What finally got me to stand was her. Even if the world and reality as we knew it was going to end, all I wanted was to be with her when it did.
Anxiety clawed at my throat as I picked myself up and shambled to the hotel.
Walking into the lobby, I almost expected an attendant to come out and greet me. The lights were still on, soft parlor music could be heard from the speakers, and nothing seemed out of order. The exception being two things: no one was in the lobby, and the doors to the auditorium stood ajar, where I can only assume everyone had gone. The atmosphere of the lobby almost seemed to grow more dim as I approached the double doors to the auditorium, along with my breathing and sweating only becoming more out of control.
Initially, all I saw as I crept to the left side of the auditorium doors was a crowd of people sitting in the rows. As I crept closer, gazing deeper into the auditorium, things only grew more chaotic as the rows went deeper. Instead of sitting upright in their seats, the people seemed to have been clamoring over them, some of them even reaching their hands forward, reaching for whatever was at the deep end of the auditorium. It was only until I saw this that I realized why my legs had turned to jelly when I began to creep towards the doors.
No one was moving.
Everyone in the auditorium were as still as mannequins, even the ones piled over seats attempting to reach some indescribable prize. As I approached the doors, the stage of the auditorium getting closer and closer into my view, the bodies began to get mangled into each other. The breaking point was when I saw the deer.
Straight down the aisles, where the bodies began to spill onto the floor and seemed to become a mass of entangled limbs, I saw the deer. It was at the end of the aisle, where the foot of the stage began. Its bottom half was engulfed in the pile, while the top half...
Even though no human will ever read this, I’m having trouble summoning the will to write what I saw in that auditorium. Nothing deserves to see what I beheld, but on the very slight chance that something, somewhere sees what I am forever doomed to relive and can save themselves from a similar fate.
By the time the rows of chairs reached the stage, the bodies that had begun to literally pile over themselves on both the chairs and floor were merging. Skin, hair, clothes, it all fused together in a wave of flesh and cloth. The deer’s head poked out from the pile at the base of the stage, its eyes looking towards the ceiling, being the only easy identifiable thing in the mass.
It all culminated with a massive, red, pulsing cube at the center of the stage, at the top of which was one enormous red eye. I only know it was an eye because at the moment I saw it, it swung its gaze from the ceiling to me. As well as every eye in that auditorium.
Dozens of eyes opened in that amalgam of flesh, and any neck that could move in the rows nearby craned to look at me. From the bannisters I saw the glow, even from tiny nooks and spaces in that maze of bodies. All of them connected by a string.
The string stemmed from the eye on the stage, and it weaved and spread to everything I could see. Near me I noticed the string splitting and spreading into the crowd, creeping into the eyes of all those infected in the audience.
All I could muster was a slow, step backwards from that place. At the same time, a darkly lit body from the crowd rose up and began to approach me.
I turned and ran for the doorway, but a massive weight crashed into my back from behind, sending me flying to the floor, my forehead crashing into the marble. Nausea and disorientation welled up in me as I scrambled to pick myself up and run for the door, but it was too late. A hand grabbed and clenched a tuft of my hair as I tried to escape and slammed me into the ground, my legs being pushed out from under me so that I landed face-up, towards whoever was after me.
The last thing I was able to make out before I fell into unconsciousness was Riley wiping tears from her eyes and stabbing them into my own.
I woke up in the same spot. My head swam and my legs wouldn’t move right, so I crawled to the reception desk to lean against while I waited for my head to clear. I coughed and dry heaved the entire time, my eyes stinging with tears.
When I reached the desk, the visions began to start.
Think of the most vivid memory you can remember, and think of the most vivid dream along with it. That was what I experienced. I moved through memories as if they were some extremely lucid dream, mimicking things I had done but unable to change anything about it.
My first day of school, my first kiss, days of no consequence, nights where my life had changed forever. I was reliving them. Occasionally, I am able to sense where I am currently, or at least where I think I am currently, and am able to write everything down onto this notepad, but it feels like lifetimes pass before I am able to do so. That might even be the case. But for as much time passes, it passes immensely slowly. It’s taken lifetimes to write up to the point I’m writing now. I don’t know how much longer I can record what I’ve experienced. But I can’t stop. It’s the only thing keeping me tied to the present. I’m sure of it.
I only know who I am because I’m able to read what I’ve previously written.
The red wire reached me, and briefly, I was shot back into my consciousness just in time for it to be sucked away from me, but I finally understand what’s happening.
After it crept into my eyes, I could see where that wire led, if only more a moment.
It was a radio signal. The signal went from the wire to the massive eye on stage, and then to the monoliths stretching into the sky. From there, I could feel my memories being replicated and stored somewhere. If I had to guess, it would be that my memories of life on Earth were being recorded.
The entirety of life on Earth was being catalogued before it was blown apart forever.
It was only briefly that any of this was visible to me. Soon I was back into my memories, travelling through a life that seemed as real as ever while I was experiencing it in dreams, but is a horrifying prison every time I wake up as if I’m gasping for air.
I hope that’s the case. I’ve lost count of the times my life has “flashed” before my eyes.
Soon enough I don’t think I’ll be able to write in this notebook.
The memories are only becoming more and more real.
Written by Ccspinnaker