Wyld FLASH – November 20th 2020
By Alexander Xavier Urpi
I can hardly remember the day they started coming by. It was just one dust-covered pickup on the road, so similar to all the others that I had watched from my front porch over the years that they may as well have been the same truck over and over again. But they had all their belongings packed up in the back and they were barreling down Route 60. They raced on by, speeding, but then, most did.
It was the tenth one that stopped. Eight others had come by already, with all manner of beds and chairs and coolers packed into trunks, tied onto rooftops, streaming out the windows from rear seats overstuffed. Some had flown, some had waved at me from behind the windows, some had slowed down, as if to stop, but then changed their minds and stepped on the gas. I never bothered much one way or the other. I have lived too long to be bothered.
But the tenth stopped, came right to a screeching halt right there on the 60, beckoning me to come off my porch and talk to them. I saw their drawn faces, their gaunt and bloodshot eyes, their shaking hands. The woman behind the wheel (the mother, I’m guessing it was, of the two kids in the back and the wife of the shivering man in the passenger seat who was wet with sweat) was twitching like she meant to press the accelerator any second and drive off, leaving me there standing on the side of the road with no explanation for the stopping or the going.
It was coming down from up north, they said. I asked what. They couldn’t say, but they said it had started spreading up there, with all the unseen death of a plague but all the destructive power of an earthquake. The news was telling everyone to get away, to head down south before it could reach them. Already the capital was gone, they said, swallowed up by it. I asked what it was again, but they had no answer for me. They only said I needed to go, too. Then her foot got too twitchy on the accelerator and they were gone before I could ask any more. I was glad to see them go. The man in the passenger seat was holding that rifle like he had never seen a gun before but had been told to grab one.
I have no television, no computer, no internet. I long since gave those up since the last computer blue-screened me and the last television faded away into blackness. The radio was working, I think, but it picked up nothing but static. I decided I was not about to go anywhere on the whim of one family of strangers.
Then it was no longer one family. It started with the trickle of a creek, grew into a steady stream, and then cascaded like rapids. Cars, trucks, buses, cyclists, people on foot, all in panic to get away from the spread of the thing up north. At first, their stories were all jumbled. They had heard of the Pit (now it had a name) coming down on the television, or from a neighbor who had heard it from a relative, or from a second cousin whose father’s sister had heard the warning. A month later they were still coming, only now there were some who said their brother or their sister or their neighbor had seen it firsthand, a terrible Pit spreading unstoppably like a voracious power bent on consuming all evidence of life from leaf to skyscraper. Big, black, fast, coming, growing, feeding, circling—there was no shortage of words they used, though I still can’t wrap my head around what it actually looked like. It was one of those vague nightmares you hardly remember in the morning having taken root in the daytime and eating through conscious dreams.
Three months in and still they came like an eternal traffic jam there on Route 60 just beyond my front lawn. My whole town was already long gone south. They screamed and honked and never moved as fast as they wanted, but they still they kept coming like this was this was the only road in the whole world (there are many highways with faster speed limits, I’ve no idea why they chose this route). I finally met a man six months in who said he had seen the Pit firsthand, but I got nothing out of him because all the words he said were words I had heard a hundred times before. Big, black, fast, coming, growing, feeding, circling (I’ve still no idea what that last meant). His eyes were more bloodshot, his face gaunter, his hands shakier than all the others, so I guess he must have seen something they didn’t. I remember at some point the endless river started to trickle away, so there was an end to it or maybe they all sunk into the ground—or the Pit—but I remember clearly the last one (even though I can hardly remember the day). I remember the shock on her face that I was even sitting there on my front porch, and her telling me it was almost here (big, black, fast, coming, growing, feeding, still circling, apparently), that her brother had seen it and now her brother was gone. She was still screaming at me to get a move on as she drove off.
No one has come by Route 60 in years now. The crops in the backyard still grow. The water in the well still comes up. The town is empty. I sometimes have nightmares that the coming sunrise will mark the day the Pit at last arrives and devours me in its big, black, fast, coming, growing feeding, circling formlessness. But I have yet to see any sign of it and part of me says I never will. Maybe that’s just the cynical part of me.
Author Bio: Alexander Xavier Urpí has been published in Page & Spine and The Fall Line and was twice a finalist in the OWT Short Fiction Prize in 2018 and 2019. His writings fuse together his love of fantasy, Latin American and American Southern literature to craft fiction that immerses the reader in magical realist and fantastic worlds through the exploration of concepts and the internal struggles of individuals. An alumnus of the University of Virginia, he resides in Charlottesville, Virginia.
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