You are going to fall in love. After the world ends, the cities fall, you are going to meet someone. You are going to fall in love.

     Maybe he will have thick eyebrows and two missing teeth. So many people will be missing teeth then, hollow mouths. Maybe he’ll have an inadvertent whistle whenever he says south, sky, sea, turn his head, redden.

     It doesn’t matter, you’ll say. You’ll still have most of your teeth, wiggle them gingerly at night, lying on your back in the dark. Look up at the sky, remember flossing, remember braces.

     Do you remember dentists? you’ll say to the man you love.

     Yes, he’ll say. I remember dentists.

     Maybe he’ll have a scar on his forehead, the back of his right hand, the left side of his torso. Maybe he’ll carry a sharpened stick in his hand. That’s all that will be left then, sharpened sticks and butter knives, lighters that flick and flick and never catch. Cans of onion cream soup, more water than flavor. You will have mastered the art of opening a can of onion cream soup with a butter knife, the sharp edge of a rock.

     Maybe he’ll smile when he sees you. People will still smile then, more out of habit than anything. Smile, hiding their missing teeth behind their lips. Maybe he will smile; maybe he will call out to you.

     Or you will call out to him.

     When you were young, you used to fall in love. Teenage kisses in movie theater, clammy hands clasped together. Whispered endearments: darlings, honeys, dears. Whispered I will always love yous. Even if the world ends. Except you didn’t think it would end, really. Not the world, or the love either. Everything felt so permanent, felt so solid.

     We’ll always be in love, you said, right? and traced your shaking hand over their collarbones.

     Look, you said. I’m trembling.

     After the world ends, you are going to fall in love again.

     Maybe he will have a disease that is killing him, something quiet and devastating. Maybe you will, a devouring from the inside. Maybe you will both be healthy, as healthy as any people at the end of the world can be. Maybe you will just be hungry, hands catching on a can of onion cream soup in an otherwise empty convenience store.

     We’ll share? he’ll say. We’ll share?

     Maybe there won’t be enough onion cream soup for sharing. Maybe in this withered, dying world, it will be dog eat dog, every man for himself. Your hands will brush as you both reach for the last can of onion cream soup on the dusty shelf. Your butter knives will clatter as they hang on your waist.

     When your hands meet, you will feel it: a coming apart, a spasming of atoms. He’ll reach for his sharpened stick. You’ll clutch a butter knife in your hand.

     Look, you’ll say. I’m trembling.

 


 

Cathy Ulrich makes a creamy onion soup that is really yummy. Her work has been published in a variety of journals, including Whiskey Paper, Wigleaf and jmww.

     As always let me begin by reassuring that this experiment consisted of six willing and handsomely compensated volunteers. The participants were chosen after undergoing a standard (somewhat) physical and mental ((mostly)) evaluation . The applicants varied in age, gender and intelligence, but all included “the single flaw” identified by Dr. Johnstein (a great hero of mine), and all indicated different levels. The participants willingly signed a contract that was strenuously written by a \\\. The six participants proved invaluable to the research, but obviously the only two I am required to talk about are “Fuse and “Tack”. The two exhibited the highest levels of “the flaw”. Both were very badly riddled with the illness (poor \\\..).

     Even though much data was lost and there is still the lasting controversy behind the end result. It has become much easier to develop identification technology for “the single flaw”. An amazing silver lining! But I do not write to bask in my own research, or to clear my name, but to drag the truth farther into the (light) sun (and to comply with the state’s mandated terms of conviction). However, I would like to praise the faith and diligence of my team of students -a truly brilliant and sometimes ((to their brilliance)) calculated bunch of kids- and also sometimes little \\\’s. As always though I recount them to a true and lasting call to abstractions of the collective conclusion.
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     And some would have described her as a girl with piercing blue eyes, but we knew she was not the Main Character, so we left off with that. Interestingly, the next customer was a man with piercing brown eyes, which we hadn’t thought of before. However, this observation led more to us discussing what piercing really meant than to our decision about the man’s status as a character. In that way, he was allowed to be more real than the rest of us.

     Should we consider the contest? That was what some of us wanted to know, to define the rules, fix them to the board and our minds. Unfortunately, the line was starting to get held up. We served them coffee. Some had tea. When they needed eggs, they were cracked. When they needed lemons, they were sliced. We did more sometimes, but that was the gist of it.
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     I can’t wear the same outfit in public twice. Not because the tabloids will judge me, but because nothing I wear outside of the ten-foot high electrified fence that guards my house ever makes it back in one piece. Once, when I was feeling particularly masochistic, I looked up how much scraps of cloth that had touched my body were going for on eBay, and it made me sick.

     My hair goes for more, though, which is why I have so little of it left. Most of my money goes towards wigs, to hide the bloody mess that is my scalp, and makeup to hide the blotchy mess that is my skin.

     The line between a blessing and a curse is thin as the thread on a fairy-tale spindle. (more…)

     I needed to get off the road because my eyes were blurring and each blink lasted longer than the one before it and each revealed a dream. I had a boyfriend in college who theorized every dream was an alternate reality we were stealing glimpses of. The theory evolved to suggesting we never knew if we really were dreaming or awake, because we accept the logic of a dream in its moment, no matter how absurd it might seem. I told him I dreamed of turning in a paper for our philosophy class where we’d met, and I was sitting in the classroom when I realized all the words that were supposed to be italicized—the titles of books, the points of emphasis—were cast instead in bold print and I felt certain I’d flunk the assignment. He told me I was boring and broke up with me, not in the moment, but it had might as well have been because, from ten year’s hindsight, what was the difference between a second and a minute and hours and days?

     Blink once, I’m with him.

     Blink again, kittens surround me and I’m trying to get them all not to eat daffodils, and not to trample upon rows of them beneath a warm summer sun. To get them to be still.
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     Pirate Keith, as he insisted he be called now, held the kaleidoscope to his one good eye like a nautical spyglass. Since the accident that damaged his right eye had forced him to wear an eye patch, Keith had taken to acting like a pirate in stunningly quick fashion, much to the consternation of his Protestant parents who hoped he’d someday end up a lawyer or a dentist—something respectable. But it seemed the pirate life had chosen him, so Keith embraced it with verve.
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0FT

When they watch the bus get sucked up into the sky most people assume it is a stunt for television, possibly a trick by that famous magician. Some people are genuinely awestruck; others, occupied with waiting for their own buses, want the stunt to finish now, please, so that they can have a little clap and then get on with their day.
When the bus does not descend, the awestruck say, wow! That’s a really good trick, to keep it up in the sky like that. Despite themselves, the impatient find that their interest is piqued once more. Some start laughing at the absurdity of it all. Others feel nervous. Others feel fear. The bus station is a veritable smorgasbord of emotion. (more…)