End of Days
By: RJ Newlyn
Dawn greets us as we reach the brow of the hill – not just the sunrise but the angel herself, golden hair shimmering, gaze like fire, but in a moment fading into the morning mist and a coda of birdsong.
I hold up my hand to bring a halt to the columns and we stand there, looking out over the ruins of the city, its mangled towers of iron and shattered glass forming a distant half-shrouded horizon. Somewhere below, beyond a desert of railway tracks and industrial estates, the enemy host is gathering. We are far outnumbered but we have God’s anger like thunder in our wake and this flaming sword like lightning to go before.
These moments feel no less unearthly than the time the changes began, when the world twisted in on itself in its final death throes. This army looks to me now but all I can think about is you, wondering where you are now and whether I will ever hold you again under the falling stars. And all I can do is whisper these words and hope that the wind will carry them one day to you. If it does, say a prayer for me.
I always hate the hour before a battle. The tension in the air crackles like static and there’s generally some trivial decision to make. This time it concerns the left flank’s line of communication once they cross the road below. I gaze down at the mess of vehicles there, still held in a single moment of collision, but now quietly rusting away. All the highways are like that, all paralyzed by those first terrifying shock waves.
Do you remember our little Astra and that drive through the mountains? I can picture right now the high pastures opening out before us and the greenness of the meadows beneath the snowline. I’m standing here at the head of an all-conquering army but back then we were just two teachers on holiday, escaping from nothing more important than the next heap of marking. I know where I’d rather be.
We’ve just brought down one of the enemy scouts. He tried to escape but caught his wings in some old telephone wires. I still flinch when they die – you can see Hell’s mouth open and suck them screaming back down into darkness. Perhaps that fate will be mine by the end of this day.
Mr. McKenzie was the first person I killed. Do you remember him? He was that quiet old man who turned up at the Laundromat every Saturday morning with piles of pink sheets. I don’t think we knew his name then; I only found out afterwards – just to remember him as human and not what he became.
It was not long after the second shock wave, the one that took out the electricity. I was running home, desperate to reach you, and he went for me with some old piping, his eyes filled with that black fire. I don’t recall the fight, but I expect it was clumsy and desperate. The next thing I knew I was kneeling over him with a brick in my hand, pounding away mercilessly.
There were so many others like him, maddened by the power that was taking over. I still wonder how I survived. I tried so hard to find you but the fissures had begun opening and the roads were blocked. Every waking moment I pray that you are alive somewhere, but more than that I pray that the insanity never took you.
The enemy is massing below us now. It won’t be long.
At least the battle has started, although still just small sallies and feints, each side probing for weaknesses. Our left flank is taking up a position around an old furniture store and I realised that it was where we bought our first couch – the over-priced leather one that seemed a good idea at the time. You might be pleased to know that it’s a smoking ruin now, the rear wall blown apart by an enraged earth-demon. Cohorts brought the monster down but I ordered them to pull back – it’s too soon to engage and I want a chance to extend our line.
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