*Not your average publishing company

Dezy’s tangled, unwashed hair hangs around the pages, her eyes are mere inches above the paper and her pen skitters back and forth, line after line. She wears only her underpants and a tatty blue robe. The lamp on the desk is the only light in the apartment, which is filled with takeout boxes and piles of clothes and aluminum cans. There is no music, no TV sounds, nothing but the scritch of the pen and her whispered mutterings.

-Knock knock-

She stiffens and drops the pen. Who, who could it possibly, then she realizes it is night, hours and hours have melted away unnoticed, and the friend who she asked to come over, thirty-six hours ago, is now here. Her eyes sweep over the mess. She touches her greasy hair, looks briefly toward the bathroom. -knock knock knock-  She sighs, ties the robe closed, and opens the door.

It’s her friend, Bee, in a gray pantsuit as always, heels, and little white handbag as always, rings under the eyes, probably just coming from the office, working till evening as always.

“Dezy, my God, you look like shit.”

“Come in.”

Dezy pushes some clothes off the couch and sits down. She stares at nothing, trying to think of what to say.

Bee turns on the light, and closes the door behind her, then stands there stiff and grimacing. “What’s going on, are you okay? Did you get fired?”

Dezy is staring at her desk, at the unfinished papers that describe everything. Speaking about it now seems pointless. Everything seems pointless. But maybe a connection with someone, a hand to hold as the ship sinks, maybe that would make things different.

“I had a vision,” she says, looking at the window, which points over a smattering of city lights and trees. “I was looking outside, out the window there, and it just… happened. I saw reality, and I can’t forget. And the sky is lifeless now.”

“Dezy…” Bee moves up to the couch and puts a hand on her friend’s arm. Dezy does not react, and her eyes are locked on the night sky.

“The whole world is empty. It’s all dry and purposeless and empty, and dead, and still. So still. And there is no one alive in the world. Everyone is an empty husk, moving without passion, following paths, like they’re not people, just dead leaves scattered by the wind, not choosing anything, only being pushed around by the weather. And all the cars driving up and down the streets down there, and on all the streets of the world, they’re all empty, driverless cars, and I’m a driverless car, I move automatically. The world is empty, dead… and so are we… we’re all dust, being blown by a mindless wind. Everything is dust.”

Bee sits slowly onto the couch beside her friend, who is still looking fixedly out the window. “Dezy… hey, look at me.”

Dezy rotates slowly as a moon, until her black eyes are pointed at Bee. Her face is motionless like a wax sculpture. Bee puts a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, I’m here. And I’m not dead. I’m not dust.”

Dezy stares for a moment. “Aren’t you?”

“I- no, Dezy, babe I’m right here.”

Bee feels a barrier behind her friend’s eyes. She feels alone in the filthy apartment.

“You can’t understand it, yet,” says Dezy. “You can’t see it. But you feel it. Under everything you feel it, don’t you? We all know it, but we pretend it’s not true so we can keep eating, so we can keep moving, and keep doing the same things and telling each other it’s all okay. But it’s all dead now. It’s all dead, and we’re just waiting around while the life fades out.”

Something about her friend’s voice, her tone of unquestioning certainty, cracks a little fissure in Bee’s world, and tendrils of darkness leak in. The room is much too quiet, and her ears are ringing. She hugs her friend, wraps her arms around unresponsive shoulders and squeezes. “Oh no, honey, it’s not all that bad, there’s lots to look forward to. You’ve got that trip to Brazil coming up, don’t you? Won’t that be nice?”

“I want you to read something. Something I wrote. Will you?”

“Well, sure. I’d love to. Some new poetry?”

“No.” Dezy goes to her desk, points at the stack of papers. “Here, it’s not finished, but…” She trails off, and gestures at her chair.

Bee sits hesitantly. The chair creaks under her. The stack of papers seems to draw everything toward it. She takes the first page, dense with writing, and lays it before her like fragile, ancient papyrus.

Dezy stands at the window, staring out wordlessly. Bee reads the first few lines, shakes her head, but keeps reading. She finishes one page, then another.

Hours pass. Dezy lays down on the couch. Bee reads page after page, unmoving, hunched over the desk, her handbag on the floor at her feet. At midnight she pauses briefly, thinking about work in the morning, thinking that she better go home… but why? Why? She reads on into the night. The stack of read pages grows taller, heavier, denser than a black hole.

Bee’s been sitting at the desk motionless, staring out at the empty streets for some time when Dezy wakes up. “Do you see it?” Dezy asks, wiping sleep from her eyes. Bee just keeps looking out the window.

The sky is lightening. The sun is rising, exactly the same as it always has, uncaring, and unknowing if anyone is there to see it. A completely automatic process, like a burning tree branch swaying back and forth over a hole in the ground.

The horizon breaks open with burning white. Light passes over the streets, and the cars and people react to the heat and light and begin to move.

“You see it,” says Dezy.

The sky is fully light now, and rays have angled far enough into the room to touch Bee’s hand on the desk. Heat, from a fire burning ninety three million miles away. “Yeah, I see it.”

“Want to get some breakfast?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Jonas David is a writer and editor at Lucent Dreaming magazine and lives in the Seattle area with his wife and two cats.

You see more of his fiction here.

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