She Has Arrived

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Issue 6, Volume 112

By Caroline Pickering 

The year is 2069. Society has caved in on itself, leaving the world as a scarred wasteland of war, plague, and carnage. (Please dear God, will someone watch that new “Carnage” movie with me? I want to see Sir Edward Thomas Hardy and his stupid alien boyfriend be unhinged for two hours). After years of climate disasters, a plague that claimed the lives of over 25 percent of the population, and a long, bloody civil war, nothing remains but a husk of the society from The Before Times. All there is left to do is to scavenge the rotting carcasses of suburbia in hopes that you and your small band of survivors will live to see another day.

Another summer has come and gone, and you couldn’t be happier. Now that the scorching heat has faded, a nice breeze flows through the air as the temperature starts to drop, until it finally reaches a freezing temperature of 75 degrees in the winter. You bask in the chilliness, grateful for the cold evening. You can finally stop wearing your hazmat suit and just wear your regular gas mask as you look for something to eat. What a joy!

As you and your squad prowl through the streets, you notice a new scent in the air above the ever present stench of oil and ash. It's sharp, but fresh and pleasant. An older member of your group says it's the smell of pine needles. You wonder where it could be coming from; you’re miles away from any kind of plant life.

The sun begins to set, and as you enter your home base, you notice the facade of the building has been spray-painted red and green. Suspicious. You tell your squad to look alive, and you breathe a sigh of relief when you realize the inside is unharmed. It was probably some weird art freak; they get bolder during the cold months.

Long into the night, you’re standing on the roof with a few of your comrades, keeping watch. A frosty breeze dances across your cheeks, too cold to be just the weather. It's like something is… defrosting. Your whole body stiffens. You were so caught up in your own ignorance that you missed all the signs. The pine needles, the holiday colors; oh, how callous you had been! What day is it? You turn to your comrade in arms and ask frantically.

They answer, “October 31. How come, boss?”

Your eyes widen. Dear God. You order everyone to prepare their battle stations––to be ready for a fight to the death. The sun set hours ago; it's almost time. You glance at your watch. It’s 11:55 p.m. Only five more minutes. You sit among your squad, waiting for the first crack, waiting for her to break free. An elderly wanderer runs into the street still clothed in traditional fall attire, shouting “We don’t have to do this! We can stop her if we all band together! I remember The Before Times! It doesn’t have to be this way!” Before he can finish, he is shot with a piercing arrow. You take a deep breath in your gas mask. The scent of Christmas cheer is unmistakable now.

It’s 11:59 p.m. You hear the loud cracking of ice coming from the core of the Earth itself. You shut your eyes, a single tear rolling down your cheek as you accept your fate, which you should have done long ago.

Glockenspiels ring. Cymbals crash. The bells chime as that timeless, ever cheerful soprano begins to belt, and you know as that familiar song shakes your organs against your ribcage.

“I don’t want a lot for Christmas…”

Mariah has returned.