The Ridges of Ancient Battles

by James Claffey

We sat in the collapsed basement; rain dripped off the snapped beams, wind flapped the rent curtains, and the smell of warm meat rose from the frozen mound in the corner. It had been four days since the lights went out, five days since the sun lost its brightness.

 "It smells like turkey," she said, rubbing her one good eye.

"No. I think it's more like mutton," I replied, tugging the lapels tight.

The steam rose from the corpse in ripples, the matted fur stiff, stuck together in places. Where it came from we had no idea.

"Is it safe to eat?" she asked.

"Does it matter?" I asked, running a finger along a tusk, feeling the ridges of ancient battles and noting the dried blood caked in its ridges.

"Not if we're going to die anyway. We can at least feast before it happens." Her eye was wet from the rain, or from crying, and all I wanted to do was huddle up against her and tear the flesh with my crooked teeth.

"I miss the daylight. Don't you want to see the clouds blow across the sky again?"

"No. I wouldn't care if I never saw the clouds ever again. There's a place by the ocean where I'd rather be, where the seals roll in oil-thick water and bark sharply as they play," I said.

She dragged herself across the bare floor to my side and took both my hands in hers. "What about our daughter? What about her, and the plans we had for her?"

I brushed her bad eye with my lips and hushed her. "She's no concern of ours now. Wherever she was when the sun died is where she'll stay."

Maybe she was in her boyfriend's house by the slipway, or on a plane to somewhere exotic for their anniversary. I rubbed my stubbled chin and felt the dead creature to see if it was ready for eating.

I tapped the chisel on its bare flank and the room shook. Dust and rubble showered from the jagged hole in the ceiling and more steam left the body.

"Is this it?" she asked. "Is the world going to end today?"

Whilst I searched for answers, the tusks shifted, the fuselage of its rib-cage expanded, dust billowing from its fur, and a roar burst from the creature's shredded trunk. 

BIO: Writer, James Claffey, hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his wife, the writer and artist, Maureen Foley, their daughter, Maisie, and Australian cattle-dog, Rua. His website is at www.jamesclaffey.com