On the way up we don’t say much, our breath saved for our blood, for pumping our legs up the dirt path. A vulture hovers in loops overhead, huge. I wonder what it smells down there and realize we have hiked so high, overhead now means eye level.
At the top of the hill, finally, the trail forks east to camp and west to coast. We can finally feel the breeze off the Pacific. I sit on the edge of the chaparral. She sits in the dirt of the trail, casts grass at me, flirting with my cleavage. She asks how sure I am that the world will end in twenty-twelve. I pause. I think: the Mayan calendar, the dark planet, the shifting poles. I say, “Fifty percent.”
Before pulling ourselves up we reapply sunscreen, try not to exhaust the water. We cannot yet see the ocean. An hour still on the trail, flat along the ridge, then all downhill.
We reach the length of the coast, the expanse of brown and blue. She asks how sure I am that she might not get to see me again. I think: the other lips, the other face, the other hands. I say, “I don’t know.”
She walks ahead, angry I think, but more sure of her footing. We start down the narrow trail, steep and silent. I lag behind, resigned, afraid I will fall.
We do not talk driving back on the highway that cuts between wetlands and beach, the tsunami zone. The sun is setting; I pretend I am not crying. I ask, “Where should we go for dinner?”
The taco stand seats twenty uncomfortably, a handful of high tables with high stools. We are both on our second margarita. The grill and the drinks and the other eaters heat my face and she asks how sure I am in fifty percent. The radio on the shelf by the grill is spattered with grease, and the station bleeps the bad words over accordion and trumpet, but the songs sung in Spanish hardly seem vulgar to me. I think. I laugh. I might be sunburned. Everything – it all seems ridiculous now – who cares about the bad words when we all know this will all end? I say, “Maybe it doesn’t matter. Someone told me that it doesn’t matter, because whenever you die, that’s the end of the world for you. Whether you die with everyone else or not doesn’t matter.”
The waitress brings the check, the same total every time, and I pull the soft ten and twenty from my back pocket. A flat black seed with eight legs clings to the bills. I panic; I shake the tick to the floor, to the dark terracotta below. It has been there in my pocket this whole time. There’s been a tick in my pocket this whole time. We leave the cash on the table, we run, we tear off each other’s clothes in the living room. We search every moment of each other’s skin for tiny danger.
About the Author:
Andrea Danowski hopes to complete her MFA in fiction at the University of Oregon before the world ends. Her work has appeared in NANO Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Monkeybicycle, and Jersey Devil Press, among others.