Songs of Life

Mohawk took one last drag of his cigarette, sighed, then flicked the butt down into the lifeless wasteland below. The dying embers tumbled into the void, and he watched as they bounced off something that might’ve been a car one day, then disappeared forever.

The frigid remains of the city spread out in every direction, a festering carcass of metal and concrete fading in the twilight. Countless mounds of bones and flesh decorated the necropolis, a shameful reminder of what had been lost. There was a time when Mohawk remembered which pile belonged to his wife, but now her husk had been ground to dust and swept away on the icy wind. The whole place stunk.

Something moved out there in the ruins, and Mohawk knocked his packet of cigarettes off the balustrade as he scrambled for his binoculars. He scratched the scaly skin of his skull as he scanned the city, looking for any sign of life, but there was nothing. Not even a cockroach or a hungry pecking at a bloated corpse. It was probably sunlight glimmering off a dead man’s glasses, or a child’s head popping as it rotted, nothing special. As he slumped back in his chair, Mohawk mourned for civilisation and he mourned for his cigarettes. He’d never see either again.

How long had it been since the nightmare began, Mohawk wondered again, and his answer was the same as it always was; time no longer exists. It’s been thousands of years and it’s been one second. Everything stood still, even as it rotted and peeled in fast forward. He woke, he vomited, he shat, he sat, he drank and he waited for his time to come. It never did.

Mohawk could barely remember a world before this filth took over. He didn’t even know if he’d ever had a wife, or whether it was his mind playing tricks again.

Maybe it was time to hurl his withered body into the streets below, where his cigarette butts rolled restlessly in the breeze. The thought of his body exploding across the concrete like an overripe watermelon, of his bright red blood painting the grey world, of his obliterated entrails becoming one with the dead mob below, stirred something inside him.

For a moment an erection threatened to appear, before passing like a ghost ship in the night. It would take too much effort to kill himself, Mohawk decided, so maybe he’d do it tomorrow. Then he laughed at the absurdity of ever finding a tomorrow. His chuckles turned into cackles, and they echoed throughout the dead city, scrap of life to its coldest corners for the first time in aeons.

The thought of his voice crawling around inside the skulls of the dead, climbing into bed with them, discovering their final resting places, suddenly seemed hilarious to Mohawk. He shrieked and shook, calling out to the friends, enemies, lovers and strangers who littered the epic graveyard below his apartment. For a few moments, a lunatic imitation of life took the city, driving out the silence. The echoes in the emptiness sounded like replies, and the madman jigged on the balcony as he called to himself.

Somewhere out there in the crippled citadel, one of the bags of bones rattled, struggling to lift its foul skull from the rubble. Sickly yellow hair fell over its grotesque face, the strands sticking to the slime and puss where the nose had once been. The thing peered vacantly towards the howling, made a feeble attempt to crawl in that direction, and then fell into a pile of dust.

When Mohawk finally stopped laughing and plunged back onto his decaying chair, the silence descended on the city once more. It filled the cracks and blanketed the bodies. A blood-red moon slipped into view from behind a tower. Mohawk lit another cigarette, braced himself against the cold, and wondered for the final time how long it had been since the nightmare began.

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