This little piece of flash fiction was inspired by eMergent Publishing’s “End of the World” writing prompt, and R.E.M.’s lyrics:
It’s the end of the world as we know it (It’s time I had some time alone) and I feel fine.
It looks like a shiny button floating in a muddy black pool. The sculptor called it “Cloud Gate,” because it was designed to reflect clouds in the beautiful, changeable sky of the Windy City. We called it the bean, because that’s what it looked like – a stainless steel kidney bean. Being a descendant of Illinois farmers, growers of soybeans, corn and pigs, I thought of it as a soybean.
Things have changed now, and any type of bean would be welcome. I look down at the city from my perch on the 21st floor, and wonder how long it will be. How long till I run out of food, how long till I die of heat stroke, how long till I see another being, how long till I see my God and have to explain what a mess we made.
We used to walk through the bean, touch its interior, and see the reflection of our smiles. Now, only the top three feet of the 33-foot sculpture is visible. And it’s only visible to me. Everyone else was smart enough or mobile enough to evacuate, except for those who lingered in city hospitals or not-so-assisted living.
Some smart-ass (but not very smart) kids hung back, hoping to loot their favorite stores and brag about their new electronics, clothes or cars. But since most of their favorite stores were at ground level, they either drowned or became high-rise residents like me. They took over a few broadcast signals temporarily, but soon found themselves marooned in office buildings that had little to offer in terms of creature comforts. Their electronic bully pulpits shorted out or switched off. Theirs were the last young voices I heard.
Most apartment dwellers go through phases, looking for the most economical place to live in their youth, when they have no savings to do otherwise, and later in life, when their savings have dwindled or been consumed by divorce, illness, economic meltdown or old age. I was a survivor of all of these, but had been happy in my little studio looking down at the clouds, reflected every day in Cloud Gate.
Until now. Now the clouds cloak the sky every day, never changing, always the same muddy hue as the bean.