Smll Apclyps

by Christopher James


First, Mum ran out the front door. I'd never seen her run before. Not for a bus, not for pleasure, not for anything. But she was fast, like a dragster, and she screamed as she raced past me, the way bullets scream in movies. She left the door open, perhaps inviting us to follow.

It was some time before Dad ran out the front door too. He was a rugby player at the weekends, and he had a bit of pace on him. There was a chance this was just a game, and that was why he'd given her a head start. He also screamed as he raced past me, and he slammed the door behind him so hard it missed the latch and swang back open. Its bang shook the walls and rattled the hallway mirror.

Then Lorraine, my big sister, ran out the front door as well. Lorraine ran as fast as either of them, but without screaming, which left only me and Grace, my little sister. I closed the door, and pointed a finger at Grace.

"I'm in charge," I told her.

And the good thing about Grace is she's young enough to believe everything she's told.


I played Mum and Dad. Mum: "Ooh, my nerves. I'm going to have a little wodky." Dad: "For fox sake, in front of the focking kids? And would you please stop talking in that baby voice? You're a grown woman." Mum: "Stop screaming at me." Dad: "Grace, Daniel, go to your rooms!" That was fun for about a minute, in which time none of them returned back home.

"Come with me," I told Grace, and she followed me to Mum and Dad's room. "Take your shoes off," I said, and she did. I threw her shoes out into the hall. "Jump on the bed," I said, and she jumped on the bed, messing up the sheets. "When Dad comes back, I'm going to tell him you jumped on the bed."

Grace stopped jumping, stunned by my deception. "He won't mind," she said, but she didn't look too sure about it.

"He'll smack you."

"But you told me to do it."

"If I told you to jump off a cliff, would you do that too?"


"Good," I said. "Now help me search the room."

I didn't know until we found it what I was looking for—mum's tub of pills, which she needed to calm her nerves. The childproof top came off easily, and I shook a few pills out on to my hand. "Take one of these," I said to Grace, "or I'll tell Dad." She did as she was told. I took one too.

"I feel sick," said Grace.

"Stupid," I told her. "They're medicine. They make you feel better, not sick."

She didn't look convinced.

"I'm bored," I said. "Come. Let's go find Mum and Dad now."


Before we could leave, Grace needed to get her doll, who needed dressing and feeding and putting in the pushchair, which Grace also needed to get. "Fine," I said. "But don't take all day about it. They were running, remember? They could be miles away already."

"Sure," said Grace, plaiting the doll's hair into braids.

"Don't do that," I said. "We're in a rush."

"But her hair is all messy!"

"So cut it off."

Grace nodded. Why hadn't she thought of that? Then she went to find a pair of scissors. While she was gone I put the doll into her clothes, pushed the pushchair into shape, and strapped the doll in. And yes, I braided her hair.

Grace came back without scissors, and with clumps of her hair missing from her head. A hole where her fringe had been, a bald spot either side of her scalp where her pigtails would normally go. Strands of hair dusting the shoulders of her dress.

"I feel nice," she told me.

"That's Mum's medicine," I said. "I feel nice too."

"I want Mum now. We should feel nice together."

"So come on. What are you waiting for?"


"What are you waiting for?" said Grace.

"I'm waiting for you."

"I'm waiting for you."

The little monkey was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

"Are you copying me?"

"Are you copying me?"

"Grace is an idiot."

"Danny is an idiot."

"Ha! I said Grace and you said Danny!"

"Ha! I said Danny and you said Grace!"

"You're stupid."

"You're stupid."

"Stop it!"

"Stop it!"


Grace practiced rolling the sounds around in her mouth, and decided it was impossible.

"Stop it!"

"I thought so. Only idiots copy other people. Now get your stuff together and let's go. They could be in China already."


We went first to the shop. Or, I went to the shop, and dragged Grace's ugly butt after me. We could've gone other places. The park. The pub. The moon. But instead we went to the shop.

"Wait here," I told Grace, and left her parking her doll's pushchair next to an overflowing bin.

"You!" said the shop owner, after I walked inside and the bell above the door rang and she looked up from her crossword and saw me. "Get out you! You're not allowed here."

"Keep your panties on," I told her. "I haven't come to steal anything."

"Don't steal anything!" she said, pointing a finger at me like a knife. "Where are your parents?"

"Funny," I told her. "That's what I came to ask you."

"I don't know where your parents are. What am I? Google maps?"

"Yes," I said. "I think you're Google maps."

"Google maps doesn't know where your parents are. Now get out! You're not allowed here!"

Just to wind her up, I started browsing the shelves. Picking things up, putting them down. Whistling.

"I'll leave," I said, picking up a birthday card with my left hand and a pack of chocolate buttons from the opposite shelf with my right. "I'll go. When's the last time you saw my mum?"

"Yesterday, buying vodka."

Putting down the birthday card and picking up a roll of sticky tape. "My dad?"

"Last week, buying cigarettes."

Putting down the chocolate buttons, picking up some oatmeal cookies. "And Lorraine?"

"Your sister's not allowed. You're not allowed. Get out! Get out!"

I put everything down. "Fine. Since you asked so nicely, and you answered my questions so graciously, I'll go. But I'll miss you, my darling, and I know you'll miss me too. Have a nice day, Ella Mae. See you later, alligator, don't forget your calculator."

On the way out I swiped a bag of dried mangos, which she didn't see. I got out, and Grace was missing. I hadn't minded that much when Mum and Dad and Lorraine went missing, because they could all be pretty big jerks most of the time, but Grace was hardly ever a jerk.

"Ah crap," I said. I went back in the shop. "When's the last time you saw Grace?"


"Please," I told her. I took the dried mango bag from my pocket. "Look, I took this? But now I'm putting it back. I won't steal anything else."

"You want me to be grateful? Wait out there; I'll go grab you a medal and a certificate."

"Grace is missing. Please? Have you seen her?"

She put her pointing finger down and thought about it.

"Which one is Grace? The little one?"


"She seems like a good kid. The only decent one of the whole bunch of you. I haven't seen her."

"Fat lot of good you are, then," I told her, and I got out. I was in such a mess, I didn't even steal anything.


Assuming Grace wasn't bundled into a car and taken, assuming aliens didn't beam her up, and assuming the ground didn't open like a pie hole and swallow her, that meant she'd be walking, pushing a pushchair, so she couldn't have gotten far. And she'd be more likely to have gone downhill than uphill, because downhill is easier. Plus, at the bottom of the hill was the fush and chups place, and Grace loved fush and chups.

"Ok," I said. "Not a big problem. She's at the fush and chups, so I'll go there and pick her up, no harm done."

When I caught Grace, I was going to smack a new hole in her backside. She knew better than to wander off. Although. She had taken one of Mum's pills. Maybe she wasn't thinking straight.

I'd taken one too, so maybe I wasn't thinking straight either.

I went to the fush and chups place.

The fush and chups place was called No Plaice Like Home. Before that it was called In Cod We Trust, and before that it was called I've Haddock Up To Here, and before that it was called Open Tuesday To Sunday, Serving Fish Every Day Barramonday. The owner was big and fat and from New Zealand, and everyone called him Kiwi because nobody could remember his name. He liked puns, and always gave free pickled onions to little girls like Grace. He didn't know that we sometimes, when he wasn't looking, spat flemmy boogers into the bubbling chup oil.

"Mister Danielsan!" he shouted when I walked in. "Aren't you a sore sight for eyes?"

"Kiwi, have you seen Grace?"

"Amazing Grace? It's been a while."

"Have you seen Mum? Or Dad? Or Lorraine?"

"You've misplaced the whole clan? Try down the back of the sofa, Danielsan. That's where I found Jesus."

"Kiwi, please! I've lost Grace."

"Ok, little mate. I'm sorry. Listen, there was a couple of police officers in here two minutes before you came in. If you run up towards the park you might catch them. They can help you out."

"OK," I said. "Thanks Kiwi."

"But listen, mate. You might want to put some clothes on before you go talk to them."

I looked down, and he was right. All my clothes had gone missing.

"What the hell?"


First Mum, then Dad, then Lorraine, then Grace, then my clothes. My clothes?

On leaving the house, I'd definitely been wearing clothes. Hitec trainers. One red sock, one blue. Jean shorts. Tidy whities. My "Pobody's Nerfect" t-shirt.

Was this a symptom of Mum's pills? Maybe between leaving the shop and reaching the fush and chups place I'd stopped to strip butt naked and forgotten about it.

"Jesus, Kiwi," I said. "Have you got anything I can wear?"

"Just an apron," he said. "But you're only small—it'll wrap right round you and cover up your back door."

The apron said "The Frying Squad", and Kiwi was right. It covered up all my good bits. He had some flip-flops too, which were covered in chup oil and were several sizes too big, but it was better than nothing. I ran as fast as I could, which was not fast, towards the park, hoping to catch Grace, Mum, Dad, Lorraine, my clothes, or the two policemen Kiwi'd just served.


I saw the coppers first, holding paper cornets and eating fistfuls of vinegary chips. Officer Dwayne and Officer Dribble. Our town was not that big, and the police spent more time hassling our family than most, so I recognized the pair of them. They were not my favorite people, but right now beggars could not be choosers.

"Officers," I shouted. "Hold up!"

They turned, annoyed, and then shocked. "Look at you," they said. "What happened to your arms?"

Until then I hadn't realized it, but my arms had gone missing.

"Have you seen Grace?" I asked.

"Did she do that to you?" asked Dribble, still staring in disgust at the bloody stumps where my arms had been.

"No! She's gone missing. So's Mum, and Dad, and Lorraine. Everyone's missing."

"And what happened to your arms?"

"Hold on," said Dwayne, to Dribble. "We can talk about his arms later. I think he wants to report a missing person. Is that right? Do you want to report a missing person?"

"Yes!" I said. "They've all gone missing. All of them! Grace, Mum, Dad, Lorraine. Everyone!"

"Well," said Dwayne, "I'm afraid that's tough titties. We're on a break. Why don't you come find us in half an hour, and then we can help you out?"

"Yeah," said Dribble. "Come back in half an hour. And in the meantime, sort your arms out. You're bleeding all over the pavement."

"And can I tell you something,' said Dwayne. "Maybe if you weren't such a little shit all the time, maybe then we'd be happy to help you out. Think about that a minute."

"Think about it for thirty minutes," said Dribble, laughing. "And then come back and tell us all about it."


Since they were no use, I ran on, to the park. The park, honestly, was not much of a park. It was the size of a football pitch, and at one end there was a football goal, and the grass had all died, and there was a hole someone dug in the middle which nobody yet had been bothered to fill in. I know, because I was the one who dug the hole, to bury a cat I'd accidentally killed. I'd got tired after digging the hole, and hadn't had the energy to replace the dirt on top of the dead cat, so I'd left it.

Maybe Grace was in the hole.

I tried to run, but fell. My legs had gone. Just disappeared, the same as everything else. No Grace, no Mum, no Dad, no Lorraine, no clothes, no arms, no legs. I crawled towards the hole, rolling my hips and thrusting my pelvis to propel myself forwards.

"Grace!" I shouted. "Are you there?"

If she was, I wouldn't have heard it, because now my ears had gone. There were holes in the apron now, so it just said The F. My nose had disappeared as well. When I tried to pull myself forward by biting my teeth into the little bit of grass that straggled out of the unforgiving earth, I couldn't, because my teeth had gone too. I tried to roll, to build up some momentum and get a good spin going to carry me the last ten or so feet.

"Grace! Come on Grace, get up!"

I finally made it to the hole. Mum was there, all chopped up into pieces, missing her arms and legs like me. Dad was there, in the same condition, and Lorraine too. There were some extra limbs, which I guessed were mine, wrapped up in my Pobody's Nerfect t-shirt.

"Have you seen Grace?" I asked them.

They moved aside, as best they could, and slowly cleared a space in the middle of the hole. There was something in the space, but I couldn't make out what it was. I leant forward, and fell into the hole alongside the others, landing with a soggy thump on the thing. I rocked and rolled until I'd moved an inch out of the way, and could see what it was.

"Oh God," I said. "I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

"It's okay," said Grace. "I'm just happy we're all together at last."

BIO: Christopher James lives, works and writes in Jakarta, Indonesia. His work has been published in McSweeney's, Tin House Online, The Times (UK), the Smokelong Ten Year Anthology and many other places.