Apocalypse Story
Roxane Gay

We realized something was wrong on our way home from an afternoon in the country, driving from one antique shop to another, buying things we wanted but didn't need, engaging in charming conversations with charming locals and enjoying the hot summer sun on our forearms.

Normally, the highway is packed with traffic heading back into the city but on this day, the lanes were empty in either direction. The sky overhead was as bright and clear as ever but there was a curious stillness in the air and there was a smell, like rust, only sharper.

He covered my hand with his. My hand was resting on the cup holder between our seats. He traced my knuckles over and over, and the closer to home we got, the stranger it all seemed. The responsibility overwhelmed us, being the only two people left in the world (which is what we were starting to think). The firmer he gripped my hand, the more terrified I became until there was a tingling in my elbow and I could hardly feel my fingers and I thought, this is love, a certain willingness to suffer in silence.

I saw the mob first, but didn't know what I was looking at. What I saw is this—men, lots of men, crowded on the exit ramp, beating their chests, throwing their fists in the air, tearing at their shirts. They screamed nakedly, almost joyfully, their voices making the air everywhere throb with energy. Their bodies gleamed with sweat like a second skin. When they saw our car, they grew quiet, for just a moment. I felt the strangest twinge between my thighs, almost like excitement. He and I looked at each other. He didn't look away as he shifted into reverse. We stared and stared and sped backwards into the emptiness from whence we had come. Then, those men, so many men, with their naked screams and bare, sweaty chests, they gave chase.

Roxane Gay is the author of a collection of stories, AYITI. She co-edits PANK. Her story "North Country," from Hobart, will be in the BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES 2012.

Read more of her work in the archive.

Detail of art on main page courtesy of J.J. Verhoef.

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