I spent the last of my savings on flinging myself into South America’s wilderness. The world was ending anyway. I thought that I should see it before it was gone. She told me that the country would still be a pretty place without her.
I pinched the brim of my baseball cap and looked up the stairway to the temple’s altar. It was hard to believe that I stood in front of one of the buildings photographed in her books. The pictures made them look indestructible, like the stone blocks that formed the stair-step sides of the pyramids were caulked with magic. Nothing should have been able to destroy those.
The temple crumbled under the crimson glow of the sun. Its majesty had melted away. Vines reached up the rock in desperation, like browning, parched fingers. Even the jungle plants couldn’t survive much longer in that heat.
The wild trees leaned close to the shrine; the ferns brushed their scorched leaves against my back. Sweat rolled down my bare chest as I stepped out of the undergrowth and climbed the temple side. The thump of my footfalls marked my ascent like a drumbeat and my heart joined it in a fierce harmony.
She sat on the back patio inspecting her worn fingers, her skin dirty and cracked from the garden. There was enough in that garden for both of them. Barely enough. She had checked the gauges on the water tanks before her gardening, and thanked God for the snowy winter and wet spring. There was enough for drinking and bathing. And she checked the drums of gasoline in the garage her husband acquired for the generator. Enough.
Looking down the sloping backyard, Becca made out the form of her son, lying on his back, feet crossed at the ankles, holding the book above his face. Becca laughed at that book – cover gone, pages ripped, that kid had memorized that book by now. She watched her son roll over and point at the sky.
“It’s going down,” he said.
Becca nodded and told Greg to hurry up. She had a supper of potatoes and beans prepared and then it was time for bed. Greg sat up and turned pages. Becca looked past her son at the metal fence rusting in the tree line, three live wires spooling through it, electrifying it. Becca worked hard to build that fence, and even harder training Greg to never, ever touch it.
Cletus Givens, an ox of a man, and hairy like a bear, credited his mighty physique to the cutting down of trees to build his home, barn, chicken coop, wood for his fireplace, and to his father and his father’s father. Dark of mind, he prayed to chickens.
And he prayed to chickens through Her, the wraith-like woman at the top of Pine Mountain. Perhaps soon she might journey down the mountain for him. Cletus prayed mightily.
Sometimes on overly warm nights Cletus slept in the chicken coop with his chickens. The stench, and his familiarity to the smell of chickens and chicken shit, did not bother him enough to interfere with the gentle cooing of his friends helping him sleep. Cletus rarely slept well, sometimes not for days, and when he slept he dreamed of foxes. He rarely wore clothing, finding it necessary only when in the company of humans.