And then there was the day when the transmission towers came to life.
Before then, I had thought of power lines as held up only by those stripped and ratty-looking twigs that line every street in the city. Those utility poles are tall, yes, and sturdy, yes, and covered in creosote, yes, but they remind me of nothing more than Slim Jims fit for the gods. They carry power to our homes. They shine down on us with their streetlight eyes. If any manmade object were to come to life and rebel against servitude, it would be them.
But the newspapers carried pictures of the multi-legged transmission towers rampaging through small towns, marching down interstate highways, lattice steel monstrosities a hundred feet tall with fleeing people scattered like rice at their feet. Both internet and cable went down with the transmission tower rebellion. I hung out at Bill’s house for the satellite TV, even though he’d stolen my girlfriend, Ruby. She was a psychiatric nurse and had been called in for the emergency, a fact for which I was thankful.
“I don’t believe it,” Bill said. He’d been saying the same thing every time photos of the transmission towers came up on screen. A few hours into the crisis, I began taking shots of Old Crow at every repetition. I had to stop when the networks got hold of video footage as Bill’s denial became a chant, a monotone mantra he repeated to make himself feel better, though his eyes remained as wide and round as gumballs.
I started to get hungry.
“I don’t believe it I don’t believe it I don’t believe it I don’t believe it,” Bill said. I fed him shots until he passed out, then rummaged through the fridge. Whole shelves were full of yogurt and pickle packs. I grabbed a few of each and sat back down on the couch. Bill had slumped to the floor, passed out in a puddle of his own drool.
The news anchor smiled through her lipstick. Across the bottom of the screen the ticker said that satellite connections might go out at any moment. The transmission towers were jealous. They were tired of being abused. They wanted us silenced.
I stared at the open containers of yogurt and pickles before me. If this was the end of the world, I didn’t want this to be my last meal.
The man at Pink’s Pizza was surprised to hear from me, but yes, they were still delivering. Cash only. Forty-five minutes or less.
“Or what?” I said.
“Or you don’t get your pizza.”
Bill lived in top-floor apartment on the outskirts of the city. Downtown cast its shadow over us as the day waned. There were no pillars of smoke. There was no sign of panic. In the sky, planes held to their approaches like circling vultures.
Through the opposite window overlooking the city, I hoped to see some evidence of the state of the world, but all I saw were the houses, trees, and roads. The streets were full of cars racing around like ants stirred up by a twig-happy kid. I imagined that kid up there above us, looking down on the world with a curiosity neither morbid nor cruel. Just curious.
The satellite cut off in the middle of a commercial for a new kind of cigarette, one that had all the flavor of tobacco, but no nicotine, no tar, nothing that could kill you, honest. The news promised a revelation after the break of what we should do to be prepared.
I was prepared. The pickles and yogurt were back in the fridge, and I’d plastic wrapped the packages I’d already opened. I’d searched the house and found a shotgun under the bed that I thought might be fake, but looked real enough. I knew nothing about guns.
The pizza guy dropped the pizza at my feet and ran off before I could pay him, which was odd until I realized I was resting the shotgun on my shoulder like a sledgehammer. The phone went dead as I called Pink’s Pizza eager to give any explanation I could that they’d believe. But I knew what it meant, the phones going dead.
Pepperoni slice in hand, I went back to the window and there they were, flopping and twisting like minnows. The telephone poles struggled to snap the wires that held them tethered together. Finally, in the distance, a plume of fire. And walking through that fire, the first of the transmission towers to reach the city.
Bill started snoring.
“I forgive you, Bill,” I said. “I forgive you for stealing Ruby, and I wish you both the best.”
After all, if we can’t communicate honestly with one another, what hope do we have?
© 2014 by Andrew Kozma
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