WHEN IT WAS OVER WE DIDN’T NOTICE, AND BY THE TIME WE DID OTHER THINGS WERE GOING ON.
by Emmett Montgomery
Every year in Seattle, there was a thing we used to do in which we would say goodbye to the sun and wait for it to find us at the other side of the calendar. We called it Winter, and other places had it too, but ours was special. Ours was greyer than theirs was, ours was wetter and ours was definitely longer, but it didn’t matter. We didn’t come here for sunshine, we came here to hide from it.
We had left the deserts, mountains, and farmlands, the places with regular seasons where we were outsiders, and came to this city where we were still outsiders. But so was everybody, and loneliness was something we could do together.
We enjoyed the half year of gloom that was our Winter. We looked good in layers, and we were always more of an indoors than outdoors type of people, because inside was where the interesting things went on. That was where the booze was brewed and drank, and the books were written and read, and the songs were played and heard, and the food was cooked and eaten. Most importantly, inside was where the daydreams visited us, and we got lost in them. Even complaining about the weather was something we did together.
So when Winter came, harsher and longer than we remembered, we weren’t that surprised. Even though the darkness was thicker, more menacing than usual, and the wind seemed to howl terrible things at us, and the rain even stung our skin a little, we were ok with it. We wrote it off as the consequence of a surprisingly pleasant summer, and gathered the things and people we loved around us, prepared to wait it out like we had done before with arts, crafts, and passive-aggressive blogging.
Only when the power went out, and the internet went away and didn’t come back, did we go outside and see that the sky was gone. That the shambling figures in the streets weren’t the homeless that we had gotten so good at ignoring, but the walking dead. Nobody really knew the exact time that the sky had been stolen and the corpses had risen from the ground, but once we knew it had happened, we all had our own theories.
The most logical assumption was that the Mayan Apocalypse of 2012, which had been a joke to many and a real worry to some, had finally happened just a little later than scheduled, and civilization had ended. This was supported by the fact that when we turned on our hand powered radios we got the buzz of static, but it did not explain the sounds of flapping wings and the distant tinkle of sad piano music that occasionally came on the air as well.
Others suggested that the Christian rapture had come and gone, taking the virtuous with it and leaving the sinners behind. We checked around for people who were missing and couldn’t find anyone, but then again, we didn’t really hang out with anyone those type of people.
Still others blamed government experiments or climate change. These answers were boring, and we’d already seen those movies.
The most popular, though least plausible idea, was that the world had actually been like this for decades. That the Space Needle was not just an overpriced elevator ride to an expensive piece of pie, but a broadcast tower which had projected an illusion deep into our heads for fifty years, and when the battery died, we all woke up. This made no logical sense but there was an appropriate poetry to it, and this wasn’t really a time when things seemed to make any sense at all.
No one had an answer for what happened to Seattle. But something did and now we could no longer look up because there was nothing to see. No clouds, just a dizzying void, and we shared our streets with the rotting yet mobile bodies of Seattle’s former residents.
Many felt this meant there were important things to do, and so we started doing them. We gleefully set out to rid our streets of the perceived zombie menace with guns and fire and bludgeons, but quickly realized extermination was a messy business and not as fun as we had been led to believe. All we were really doing was hacking up someone else’s dead relatives and they never put up much of a fight. So eventually we left them alone; they were easily outrun and didn’t seem to mean any harm.
Next, we turned on each other. We formed alliances and cliques, warring over territory and hoarded piles of canned goods and ground coffee. However, we soon figured out no one could really die anymore, because maybe we weren’t exactly alive. So we stopped fighting and instead reopened the bars, the museums, and the libraries. We figured that if we weren’t going anywhere, we might as well spend our time doing the things we liked to do.
After everyone had slept with everybody else, and when we had drank every drink, read every book, and seen every film, we went outside and noticed the city had changed. A forest had grown around us while we were distracted.
Several people set out to explore the trees, searching for the echoes of those that lived before us, hoping to find answers. They promised to return and share with us what they discovered, but we knew they were not coming back.
Others went poking around in the tunnels underneath the city and found passages that seemed older than the ones Man had built, which led even further into the earth. The bravest of us walked down these hallways, but the rest were too afraid to follow. In fact, we boarded up the entrances, so those who stayed would not be tempted by the gusts of warm air and sweet smells that emanated from those dark, sinister cavities.
Those of us left spent our time on the waterfront and made friends with the octopi that lived in the sound, eventually inviting them to come visit us on land. The octopi sang us songs and taught us true religion. Most of those left followed them into the water to practice the sweet science of making mermaids and sea monsters.
But the two of us remained, you and I. We stayed and waited and tried to remember how to look up. Because even though we didn’t miss the sun, you and I, we missed the stars. We thought if we waited long enough, they would come back to us. After waiting forever, they did. But the stars were different than we remembered. Which was okay, because so were we, and there was a lot to tell them.
Emmett Montgomery is a comedian and writer from Seattle, WA.