Bad Air – Andersen Prunty

The children were the first to go outside. We, the parents, couldn’t keep them in anymore. Besides, we were all curious how it was out there.

Our son and daughter charged through the yard and right into the street. We didn’t have to worry. There wasn’t any traffic anymore. My wife and I watched them through the big living room window.

“Huh, look at em go,” my wife says.

“Go lock the door,” I say.

“What?” she says.

“We don’t know what’s out there. Can’t have them bringing it back in. They’re tainted.”

She does it, begrudgingly, shoulders slumped. I can tell she’s struggling inwardly, feeling like a bad parent.

I walk over to her, place a hand on her shoulder, and say, “This doesn’t make you a bad parent.” Her eyes are still glazed with doubt, so I say, “I’ll get the wine,” and she perks up considerably.

We get completely trashed. Other than an occasional beer or glass of wine at dinner, we’d tried to keep drinking to a minimum unless the kids were at their grandparents’. Their grandparents are all dead now. They were the first to go.

There are now a lot of children in the yard and streets. Our boy, Aiden, smashes out the window on my wife’s car parked in the driveway. He has a girl with him. I don’t recognize her. They’re both smoking and holding bottles of beer.

“Huh, looks like Aiden’s already got himself a girlfriend,” I say.

“He’s too young for that kind of thing,” my wife says.

“Relax. They don’t have a future anyway.”

By nightfall, the fires become more visible. Looking down our once quiet street, a house burns here and there. In the distance, the city is an orange glow.

“We really should unlock the doors,” my wife says.

“Nonsense,” I say. “I’m tired and wasted. I wouldn’t feel safe.”

Deeper into the night, most of the streetlamps have been pulled down or shattered by rocks and assorted debris. We’ve been locked inside so long, I’m envious of the chaos and fun they’re having. It’s all my imagination at this point. I can’t actually see anything.

I lower the blinds and say, “I think it’s time for bed.”

My wife and I retreat to the bedroom and have the wildest, best sex we’ve had since we were dating. We fall asleep shellacked in sweat and various other bodily substances and I think, I don’t want to wake up.

We are woken up by the shattering of windows. Or, at least, I am. My wife may have taken too much of the wrong thing and might be dead. I don’t know.

The bedroom is darker than it’s ever been but I can sense someone standing in the doorway.

“Aiden? Katrina?”

“Yes, Father?” they both slur.

“It’s your world now. We’re leaving it to you.”

“It’s garbage. We have to redo everything.”

“Well,” I say, “I guess it worked okay for us … or something.”

Those are my last words.