Qui Vive – Joe Haward

The perpetual hot air blew across the pile of broken skulls, lifting with it a cloud of dust and ash. Hollow songs rang out through jagged holes in decaying cranium, creating an anthem of extinction. A single human hair, bleached pure white under the scorched bright sky, rose imperceptibly, carried high across the badlands. No-one knows how far it traveled – there was no longer anything that could be described as ‘no-one’ – but eventually it drifted down through the collapsed roof of a ruined church, its white wooden walls splintered and broken. For a moment it hovered over the wreckage of a burnt out car, its metal carcass sticking halfway in where the church’s front door once sat. However, the shimmer of a breeze moved the hair’s course, its final resting place a turned over silver chalice that rested upon the ash covered floor. The silver body of the chalice was dull, lifeless, and marked with Latin.

Sanguis Christi

A cockroach licked at the dark crust that ran around the edge of the chalice, before scuttling away, crossing the floor and crawling over a large wooden cross laying flat upon the sanctuary stage.
Creeper vines had broken underneath the far wall, dark green fingers climbing up the walls and along the stage, beginning to wrap themselves around the cross, ready to overwhelm its meaningless presence. A single bone remained nailed to the beam of the cross, a faint echo of the savagery that once visited this place.

Sacrilegious liturgy was graffitied across the church’s walls, paint that dripped words which spoke deeper truths than anything once heard and echoed within the now dead theater of morality.

Where is your god now?
Jesus can suck my dick!
Die, all of you.

Bundles of clothes laid beneath the graffiti, dark stains covering every item, whilst objects were scattered within and spilling out; red shoes, a metal walking stick, faded pink cuddly toys. A pile of cellphones sat next to the clothes, like an altar waiting for an influencer’s sacrifice that could never be enough.

Roots of a tree stuck out like gnarled hands in the ground around the cellphones, whilst branches broke through windows. Outside, under the shadows of the trunk, a spider’s corpse squirmed with movement as the larvae of a wasp prepared to hatch.

Beyond the shadow of the tree, a dozen rusted and wrecked cars crowded in upon the other, frozen in a destructive embrace. One of the cars, its black paintwork discolored and scratched, had blood on every window, dark red stains hard and baked on by the sun. A magpie flew down and landed on the windscreen, pecking at the glass. A single human tooth was embedded in the glass, held perfectly in place, half in, half out, small cracks in the screen stretching out around it. The magpie continued to ram its beak against the tooth, tapping furiously as it sought to dislodge the item of its fascination. After a few more moments, the magpie flew off, searching for other objects to pick up.

The small cracks in the windshield surrounding the tooth grew longer, and in doing so the tooth dislodged from its place, bouncing off the dashboard, landing on the passenger seat, and resting against a bottle of hydrochloric acid. A coil of rope, hacksaw, and pair of pliers were also on the seat, all of which obscured the scruffy handwritten letter underneath. Only a couple of lines were partially visible.

g. I saw you, and it broke my fucking heart. So I’m gonna break yours. Who gives a shit anyway? The world’s ending. Might as well settle old scores. Don’t

The wind whistled through the broken window, a sound not dissimilar to the howl of a lone dog, limping past the cars, one of its back legs torn and bloodied. It made its way past the church, into the mass of trees and plants growing wild, an array of colors that threaded like a tapestry through the density. Forcing its way through the foliage, the dog arrived at a small stream, and laid down next to it. Sniffing the water a few times, she then lapped at the coolness, before licking and biting her wound. Eventually she rested her head, exhaustion forcing her body to surrender to sleep.

The forest fell dark, night rolling in aggressively, sucking the light in wherever it could be found. A monkey glided through the trees, coming to rest on a branch near to where the dog now slept. Looking up, she saw a piece of fruit, nearly ripe, and pulled it free, biting in, the juices running down her chin. In recent weeks she had noticed changes in herself – noticed, noticed, noticed, aware, aware, aware – a strange feeling of being aware that she was aware, the oddity of noticing that she noticed.

After finishing the piece of fruit, she looked at her hand, studying the intricacies, pulling at the hair on her arm, watching how her fingers moved. Such things somehow seemed new to her, an experience that felt like something.

There she sat, all night, captivated by herself.