December 18, 2017

One-thousand years after all of civilization is destroyed by the 459th strain of the influenza virus, a little girl in a torn dress walks across a parking lot at dawn, which is now hardly anything more than a field with some asphalt fertilizer. She heads towards the skeleton of a steel beast crashed into an iron tree. An old man sits atop it, staring out at the tomb-like Costco. Her voice drifted into the wind like the dandelion seeds that dotted the field.
"Where is everyone?" The old man's head whipped around, startled by the sound of another voice. A minute passes, and she shifts uncomfortably on her feet.
"I think that, perhaps, they are all dead."
"Oh. Are we dead?"
"I think that, perhaps, we are."
"Oh. Why are we here?"
"Well. I don't know if you remember child, many wouldn't, but the living are very loud. The act of all those minds and souls buzzing along, experiencing something new every day. I couldn't come across the veil before they all died, it was way too loud. There wasn't enough space. I heard only whisperings while I was still on the other side. Plague. That's how everyone died... I guess I don't have to visit any longer. I can stay. What's your name, child?"
"Izzy, I think."
"Come sit with me for a while? We can watch the sun rise, and then, I think we should look for others."
2 / 5
"Oh yes Izzy, I believe many more will be returning over the next couple years. It's just so... quiet." The sun finished it's rise over the crumpled paper tubes of buildings long abandoned. Birds sang, they had come back too.

Ten years later, there are many more spirits walking the earth, that marvelous marble that has become much bluer and much greener. The birds and the pigs and the trees have returned in full. Man's monuments continue to crumble, but meanwhile, one building raises. A parcel of papery people parade through the ruins, all circling a stadium, once clean and new, then ruin and rust, and now dirty and new. The ghosts had built it up again, a new home for a new people. It took many years to rebuild, it was at first difficult to focus hard enough to manipulate tools, but they grew quite skillful. After all, even amongst the parade, it was much quieter now. A fact which had always been familiar to them became real when many scavengers fell into a sinkhole. They felt the dirt and the mud slide along their skin, but the sharp shards of metal, the debris and the rock, failed to bruise their form. They sprouted from the veil that they slept under, into a bright green world where they were immune to hurt and disease and death but were experts at growing. The dead became better at living then the living ever were.
The parade was in celebration of the completion of the stadium, their home, but also in celebration at the rediscovery of music, for they yearned to dance again. A group of ghosts crowded around the salvaged music-maker, which, oddly enough, was a phonograph, an invention far older than the apocalypse. The record began to turn, and the crowd cheered. Izzy whooped in joy from atop the old man's shoulders, whom she had long ago begun to call grandfather. Music drifted from the yellow horn, flowing into the wind like the dandelion seeds in the field a decade ago.

3 / 5
"Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true"

The sound echoed through the bleached white concrete that made up the crumpled castles. They were all more dust than solid by now. Beedy living eyes, loud eyes, watched the celebration from inside, in the darkness.

A year after the music reverberated through those pale tombs, many more eyes locked on to the stadium, which glowed in the night.

Over the course of that year, the dead had salvaged a multitude of music-makers, and tonight they all sang for the anniversary of their home. Record players, radios, and the phonograph sat on top of makeshift cots and beds and quilts. The dead each danced their own, every long-gone style and culture was home to this home. Izzy giggled as she danced with the other children. For a moment fear touches her when she doesn’t see her grandfather, but she finds him among a group of his friends including a sailor, a soldier, and a singer. He smiles back at her. Every new year of this new life gets farther and farther from the disease and death that haunted them before they could return, and her grandfather’s smile only ever grows wider, his eyes only ever softer. Happiness seems unending.

A cacophony of savage shrieks ring throughout the air, ripping the melodies to shreds. Izzy looks up, and for the first time in a long time, is afraid. Men and women, real, living people, stand on the edge of the stadium, screaming and whooping and holding spears in the air. Their unadorned bodies are
4 / 5
covered in mud and blood and war paint. The dead freeze, silent and confused. The quiet was gone. A lone savage leaps down from his perch, runs downwards through the new homes that raise upwards along the sides of the stadium, to the border of the field. Without hesitating, he winds back his arm, and slashes across the belly of the nearest spirit, a young man in overalls. Not a single source of death had been able to touch them since they returned to the world, not even when lightning raced along their home one night and they felt themselves lighting up, but now, today, in the loudness, the young man screamed in pain. He fell to his back, overalls cut open, and blackness poured from his wound like mist. The savage fell on him, and the rest of them began to descend, issuing war-cries from their rotten teeth. All of her friends and family all around her scattered, all screaming and running for the exits. Terror returned to them, fresh and powerful. Not a one didn’t scream, they were all infants emerging from paradise, feeling the worst thing they’d ever felt, at least in recent memory. Izzy ran, searching frantically for her grandfather, for safety. His eyes met hers from across the field, and a mix of relief and fear shone in them, something she had never seen before. They began to run for one another, before a scream and a spear pierced her grandfather’s chest and pinned him to the spot like a fly on the wall. Black mist and white floating shreds rose into the air. An animal shriek rang out from Izzy, and she paused, ran again, and sank to her knees when she reached the empty spear in the ground. She barely had time to recognize this loss before she felt the loss of the skin on her back from the stone blade. She blasted upwards to her feet, running, running again. She escapes from the stadium, her home, but cries of pain ring behind her and cries of rage follow her. She runs along the memory of a street, the soft grass pressing against her feet. The moon witnesses her drift away.

As men and women yell in triumph and bloody joy in the middle of the old home, a phonograph remains playing in the center. It sings:

5 / 5
“Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There's a land that I heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true
Someday I'll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far
Behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops
Away above the chimney tops
That's where you'll find me”

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