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I Slept Through the Apocalypse

By Emily Holleran
On February 15, 2019

It’s been 831 days since I woke up, but no one else did. The worst Monday morning imaginable. Of course, that’s an exaggeration, about the fact that nobody else on the entire planet woke up. It took others longer to die, and not everyone was asleep around the world at the same time. I met several people who held on longer than others, but in the end they all died.

    The cause? Some airborne disease that couldn’t even be given a name before it killed all the people smart enough to identify it. All I know is that for some reason I’m immune. Lucky me. I’m like the plot device of a dystopian book series. Alma Delacruz definitely doesn’t have a protagonist ring to it, it should be something like, “Beatrix Black” a good alliteration. Anyways, I’ve done my grieving, now I’m just focused on old fashioned surviving.

    I’m in California right now, my destination. I’ve always wanted to go, and after a mass death literally no one could stop me. I used to be scared to travel, with how expensive it was and my social obligations like college. Now, that’s in the past. Perks of the apocalypse—you have to look on the bright side of things. Another perk is that all this walking in the sun has given me a great tan, but I still use sunscreen because I can hear my mom’s knowledge on malignant melanomas echo in my head.

    I’m not alone, despite me constantly talking to myself for comfort. I brought along my overweight wiener dog, Salchicha. I call her Sal for short. I’ve been carrying her for miles in one of those baby carriers you wear on your stomach because the apocalypse wasn’t made for dogs who could barely walk. You’d think the lack of sufficient food would cause her to lose weight, but I have a theory that she’s eternally frozen in a girthy state of being. After lugging her around everywhere I’m relieved I’ll never experience pregnancy. I couldn’t imagine what my mother went through, and she had five! I’m the youngest…was the youngest.

Dios, I hate thinking about the past. Gotta build up that wall of repression, it helps.

I’m headed to Santa Monica Beach for no other reason than I just wanted to see it. I don’t know what I’ll do after, but I’m not going to think about it.

Before the apocalypse, I’d only seen a man die once. He got shot right in front of my family’s apartment. I was watching because they were fighting beforehand and I thought it was entertaining, just another stupid fight between two stupid guys, but then one of them took out a gun. My mother ripped me away from the window and immediately called 9-1-1. My father had to talk to me and two of my older brothers about the senseless violence in this world. It was a weird feeling to see him crumple to the ground, knowing he wouldn’t get back up again. Now, those bodies are an everyday occurrence, and the disease makes the bodies look more disturbing, if you can imagine.

“It burns,” they would all say. Apparently, once inside, the disease eats through your body at a feverish pace. It raises your body temperature to insane degrees and burns you out literally and metaphorically. I named it El Diablo, for obvious reasons.

Sal barked from her place on my stomach, her tail struggling to wag against the restraints. Her long snout, that was greying at the muzzle, made wheezing noises that told me she was trying her best to utilize her ancestors sniffing abilities. We were walking past a McDonald’s and I was wondering if she could sense the ghosts of chicken nuggets past. What I would do for a hamburger that wasn’t rotten.

The two of us were almost at Santa Monica Pier, and I could already see the giant Ferris wheel looming in the distance. The sight of the amusement park was enough to make me cry, I had no more tears to shed, but I had traveled across the whole country to see the sight of the sun setting into the Pacific Ocean. I’m still a hopeless romantic.

I slipped off the baby carrier and released Sal’s bulbous body. Her whole butt wagged back and forth because she knew food was coming. I opened some canned dog food and dumped it on the street—I was lucky Sal wasn’t a picky eater. I bit into a couple teriyaki flavored, beef jerky strips, that I took from a 7-Eleven, and watched Salchicha heave up the dog food from eating too fast, and eagerly slurping it up again, which brought me great comfort.

“You’re really trying to die doing what you love most, huh?” I gently patted Sal’s knobby skull. She finished her meal in seconds and wanted more but I had to ration our supplies. Finding a store with food isn’t difficult when you’re in a city, but it is always a gamble with distance and if they’ll even have what you want.

The light of the Californian afternoon was growing dimmer and I realized I had underestimated the sun’s speed after golden hour. I hurriedly tucked Sal under my arm, like a football, and charged towards the pier. The sound of waves echoed like a dream, like it was still miles and miles away.

The pier stretched into the water, and I ran the length of it, Sal jiggling under my arm. All the rides were rusted, the prize stuffed animals matted, and the buildings dilapidated.  I hit the railing dramatically at the end, like I was running toward a long-distance lover at an airport.

“Sal, we made it!” I raised my arms in the air. Sal panted and squirmed in her position. I placed her down, and she plopped down next to my leg, leaning against it more for spinal support and less for tenderness. The sun radiated waves of deep orange and slipped down under the blue blanket of water like it was hiding from another day of looking down upon a disastrous world.

A sudden whistling sound screamed its way into the air from the beach and exploded into the twilight sky. Two people were setting off fireworks, like it was just another free-spirited summer night. Two people, who were very much still alive after 831 days. I could hear their laughter as the sparks rained down and crackled around their feet. Salchicha jumped with every explosion and pressed closer to me in the way that told me she wanted to be carried again.

“Want to go meet those people Sal?” I asked as if she would answer. I slipped her into the baby carrier with ease and walked closer to the railing that overlooked the beach.

One of the people noticed me, they looked small enough to be a child. They shook the other person’s shoulder as another firework was launched into the sky. Both now looked at me standing on the pier, with a dumpy dachshund strapped to my chest and an ambiguous buzzcut.

The firework exploded in red streams, like meteors pelting the calm waters below. It looked like the world was ending for a second time, but this time I wanted to make sure that I would be awake to see it.

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