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The End of the Beginning - A Short Story

It would have been quite nice for it to have been quiet. The apocalypse carried in like pollen on a spring breeze. But space is only held up by 62 miles of sky, as I’m sure you’re well aware. And when screams scrape along the wind and embed themselves into the echoing soil - it’s surprisingly hard to tune out. I had to put my hands over my ears, I didn’t even do that on the tube.

I’m getting ahead of myself - I’ll start at the beginning, or the end, whichever you prefer.

When I was young there were stars. When I got older, there were hundreds of thousands more. They got closer, and they got brighter, and for a while we were shining. I basked in the glow of the Cosnik Communications Network. Eve always told me off for embroidering my stories, she preferred plain truth.

So in short, the stars fell out of the sky. Your satellites. And they’re still falling.

It had started slowly, like the shedding of magnolia petals. I read somewhere that magnolia trees were so ancient that they were pollinated by beetles. I wonder if the beetles resented the bees. 100 million years of evolution, just for petals to end up in sewer drains, and between tyre tracks, or under smouldering hunks of space debris.

That’s the thing about extinction events, some beauty will still survive.

Eve said that was too naive, I said you don’t need rose tinted glasses when the sky burns red. Whenever I’d say something like that her lips would curve downwards into a lopsided smile, and she’d burrow into my side. I loved the way she’d hum in half hearted disapproval.

She never realised I was talking about her.

The day we lost power, I had stationed myself in front of the television, shifting between channels, trying to find a newsreader that still had hope in their eyes. CCN News, of course, stayed eerily buoyant. I hugged a pillow so close to my chest that the feathers fluttered against my ribcage.

Eve brought me a cup of tea, just like she always did. I remember the look of earnest determination on her face, and the crumpled look on mine. She prised the pillow out of my arms, slotted herself into them, and whispered “Cheer up love, it might never happen,”.

I should have known that she just wanted to hide her tears, to let them seep into my shoulder unseen, to pretend she could still be unremarkable. But I chuckled wearily, and loved her more than I ever had. She clung to me like honey on a teaspoon, and when the TV shuddered off and we fell into darkness, she hummed. Or something inside her did.

I will never forgive you for signing those micro-chips. Never.

You should have been the last thing on her mind.

We didn’t know why the first satellite came down, news travels slow these days. Someone said something about solar winds. Someone else said neuro-nik patches. Many said the wrath of God.

He must have struck a sponsorship deal with Cosnik - a partnership between Creator and brand. Eve would have laughed at that.

I hope you’re not.

I had wondered if the bees and beetles resent the cockroaches. They are far more ancient, and far less beautiful. The world’s ended and it keeps ending, and the roaches have seen 200 million years worth of endings. What's one more?

I asked Eve back then why she was still there, with me, paddling in almost certainly radioactive puddles and rifling through half melted cost-nik corner shops.

She said cockroaches mate for life. They don’t.

But I didn’t tell her that.

Instead I took her hand and we swayed and spun to the sound of the scorching earth. By then I had realised something about magnolias. When the wind takes them - they dance. Might as bloody well.

I should have never let go of her hand. It turns out I couldn’t take another ending.

But I can promise you one thing, Mr Kosnik, I will end you.

I’ve heard about your space race, for you and your bunker buddies. There will be no life on mars. No new beginnings. I will make sure of it.

Besides - I always preferred Space Oddity.

Warmest regards,

The Cockroach


Eleanor is an English Literature and Linguistics student from North London. She writes poetry and short stories inspired by hope, dread, and everything in between. When she’s not writing, she can be found crocheting hats for her very ungrateful cat.

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