Down the Street from Central Park

February 14, 2008
By Jasmine Osby, St. Louis, MO

At half past twelve, the wind blew life back into his unconscious body and he began to crawl. Wide eyed and terrified, his limbs seemed to move on their own with no help from the owner. Left leg, right leg. Right arm, left arm. The confused, frightened man ran through the motions in his head as he dragged himself through the rough, dark ash that used to be the grass. His palms pressed down and dug deep into the leftover corpses of tulips and roses that had decorated the city. His knees, exposed through the holes in his jeans, scratched along the ground and bled.

With fragile bones, he struggled to pull his wounded body onto its feet. He succeeded and stared into the open air with empty eyes. He was a walking corpse. Completely lifeless as he gazed into the urine colored sky. There weren’t any clouds or filthy pigeons flying through the air. Instead, the beauty of the spacious American sky had been replaced with a dull, hazy yellow that stretched on forever and dripped down the horizon like oil. The man opened his mouth and a rushing agony emerged from his throat. The scream echoed across the desolate area where he stood. It was all gone. There was no more.

An uncontrollable confusion washed over him as he struggled to remember where he was. He wandered for what seemed like hours, gazing at gas stations with rusted signs and rubbing his bruised fingers over dirty, soot covered cars that had no drivers. He wasn’t sure. He was standing down the street from Central Park. Or maybe he was in Florida. Missouri. San Francisco. Washington D.C. He didn’t know. He didn’t remember. It had happened everywhere. There hadn’t even been enough time for the warning bells to sound. All he knew was that he had a family. A wife and two girls. He used to have a wife. He used to have two girls. He knew they were gone.

Clumsily he turned the corner as he desperately tried to make it somewhere in time for anything. Unknowingly, he ran his hand across the brick wall. A thick, crimson ash broke away from the bricks and stained the palms of his hands. His feet told him step back and when he did everything came rushing back at him in pieces and his memory was as fresh as rain in April. An explosion. Death. Chaos. Everything had happened so fast he hadn’t had time to blink.

Yellow bile filled his throat and chunky vomit erupted from his peeling mouth. Clumps of the toast he’d eaten for breakfast that morning swiveled through the cracks on the dried up ground and slid between his two legs as they shook violently. He’d eaten toast for breakfast that morning. It was hard to imagine that there had even been a morning on a day like today. His legs crumbled beneath him as he glared through half closed eyes at the frozen, blood red silhouettes that had been permanently drawn onto the brick wall. They were people. They used to be people. People who’d walked through shopping malls and jogged in parks. Innocent bystanders who’d only wanted to live and love had now been blown away and pasted on the aftermath. The outlines of their bodies were ghosts that lurched out at the helpless man as he laid sprawled out on the ground. Their lives were spelled out in their blood.

His manly physique was curled up in the fetal position when the panic attack started. His body shook like a terrible earthquake as it pulsed off and onto the ground again. He breathing became irregular. His fingers flinched nervously. Every vein was a yoyo, throbbing and bouncing in and out. Then, it stopped. His pupils dilated as he gradually slid from one sphere of time to another. His mind wandered back. It was wandered back to before catastrophe.

The war in Iraq had evolved into the longest war in American history and time was beginning to repeat itself. Outside of every window throughout the country, an antiwar protest was being assembled. It had gone too far. Over time, the nation’s leaders had begun to fear and suspect every ally. Saudi Arabia grew weary of the Americans lust for oil and eventually cut all ties to the country. Every day hundreds of U.S. troops were dying for a senseless cause and, at the desperate request of the royal family, the British prime minister had finally pulled out all British troops from the war zone. The final straw was when United Nations turned its back on the foolish American belief that Japan was building new weapons of mass destruction and focusing them on the United States. It all ended there. Somewhere along the line, there had been a loss of favor.

Yet, life went on. Students still took standardized tests and prayed for a good outcome. Men still cheated on their wives and wives on their husbands. Few were faithful in these last days. Immorality of the days of Lot and the days of Noah ran wild throughout the country. The philosophy of men triumphed over all and only did what felt good. There was no holiness.

Soccer mom’s drove their small, compact green hybrid cars past deserted, rusted gas stations and the news had even ceased to chronicle the plummeting stock market on a daily basis. The issues and corruption of the United States government were not interesting to the people anymore, and eventually, everything that had gone wrong became right.

In some town, on the outskirts of some major city, a man in blue jeans and a button down shirt stood in the doorway of a large condo with a piece of toast hanging out of his mouth. He yelled at his wife from the door and cursed her. Every opportunity the man got to ravage at his wife’s self-esteem, he did because it made him feel better.

“Look Josh, I didn’t mean to leave the door,” sighed the man’s wife.

His wife headed towards him but her apron got caught on a bookshelf. As stacks of unread books came tumbling to the floor so did the ashes of the woman’s dead mother. The urn crashed onto the floor ruining the delicate pattern. Gray and white pieces spread all over the hard wood floor at the foot of his wife. Her mouth opened in shock. She was broken. The delicate silence was broken by his laughter. He laughed at her. He laughed harder when the tears slid down her cheeks and onto the floor make gray and white whirlpools.

The crash woke up the girls, and when they ran to be caught up in the arms of their father, he pushed them away. He couldn’t stand them anymore. He hated his wife. Everything about her, every wrinkle, every ounce of cellulite and aging he hated. He turned and stalked out the condo leaving them all aching with confusion. He felt stupid only for forgetting to put on shoes.

While driving down the highway in his nice, compact hybrid he blasted his music to the highest volume. He didn’t see the cloud roll in behind him, wiping away his condo and his family and his life. He couldn’t hear the screams of desperation and agony around. His eyes didn’t see the sky dark and the pavement ripping off the ground and flying through the air. He didn’t feel anything because he thought for sure he’d be able to turn around.

I’m not that guy, thought the man as he lay vulnerable and open on the sooty ground. The yellow in the sky had turned to a dusty gold and drips of hot tar had begun falling like gumdrops. I can’t be that guy, he reassured himself. The cold, desolate man cleared his head of the thoughts and crawled under a balcony that hung off from a tattered building. He prepared his eyes for the approaching storm.

The thick drops of acid rain fell from the sky like boulders. They landed on the dark asphalt and hot puffs of smoke sizzled up. The acid burned through the roofs of the driverless cars leaving the metal chewed up and fractured. Everything was melting. The ash was burning up and plastic was breaking down. It was an unrealistic sight. It couldn’t happen in American. It could happen anywhere in the world, but not here. But it had and everything was burning down. He sat under the balcony and let the acid rain burn away his memories. He prayed that he would survive for the next ten minutes because he was unsure if there would be a tomorrow.

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