This City of Oil-and-Wire by Justin Lawrence Daugherty
And, in this future, this being just one way things will go: see this lizard-man alone, see him deep beneath the poisoned earth, see him and no one else left in this ill-fated land. See this lizard-man wandering the tunnels, ever burrowing and building new ones, searching for some others yet still alive. See this lizard-man made mad for the solitude, for the talking to rats, for forgetting the warmth of touch, the wetness of lips, the scratch of nails on skin, the sonorous chorus of voices not his own. See this lizard-man stir, see him dig and dig, see him claw for life. See this lizard-man, a master of machines and sciences, build robots as companions, see him give them skin and pink tongues and see him build them in these lonely future days, days when this lizard-man walks alone about the world, the last man. See how each robot comes close but not close enough, how each touch is skin still coursing with steel and electricity, how each kiss is nothing but the passage of volts. See how long this lizard-man’s been alone in this too-deep earth, how long in this future he will go without hearing his sister’s voice, how long it will have been since the only recording of it long since malfunctioned. See this lizard-man send out these robot sentries to the world above, see them search for life. See them returned after months and months of searching, see them empty-handed. See this future, this being just one way things will go. See this lizard-man after months of waiting for one sentry to return, see him ask the others about its whereabouts. See them shake their robot heads. See them longing, too, for closeness. See them hope for the return of their own. See this lizard-man say: Perhaps she has found another; perhaps there is yet someone left. See how this has happened before. See how this lizard-man forgets. See robots in the up-above earth clogged with dirt and dust, wiring gone worthless with rain and rust. See them torn apart by beasts above hoping for meat. See, in this future, this being just one way things will go: how this lizard-man hopes, how he forgets the plagued air above, how he forgets the hungry monsters, how he forgets how long it has been since he heard the voice of another, how long it has been since the singing of songs. See him take elevators above through this half-mile silo, see him step into the light, see him blink and rub his scale-crusted eyes. See this sick Sun, this dwindling star, this cold planet. See this lizard-man kiss this picture of his sister, the only one he has left, before he tucks it deep in his cloaks, so deep it will not be lost. See him track the faint beacon of this lost sentry, this siren-song. See him trudge through the snowy land and then over mountains and see him cross rivers and search each building in the cavernous cities left behind. See, in this future, this being just one way things will go, this lizard-man coming upon some city, the source of this faint beacon. See this bustling metropolis, these vehicles traveling, this stench of smog and dust, the billowing of black smoke from smokestacks, the whir of life. See this lizard-man drop to his knees with this discovery of this place, see him shed tears so long stifled. See, then, his sorrow at this city, a city built and inhabited by these hundreds of thousands of robots. See this lizard-man break down. See him ask passers-by if anyone is left. See these robots confused by this question. See them say in response, We are all here, all of us. See that they have found what this lizard-man has sought. See this lizard-man explode with hatred, see him rip out oil-and-wire guts, see his scaled skin blacken with the spilling. See, then, his crying, this lizard-man alone in this street. See this lizard-man, this last man upon this earth, lift up his head, see the bodies of the dead at his feet. See this lizard-man say: If this place is alive, surely there are others. See this lizard-man go out from the city of wires, this city of steel and oil. See this lizard-man searching again for song.
Justin Lawrence Daugherty‘s first chapbook, Whatever Don’t Drown Will Always Rise, is forthcoming Spring/Summer 2013 from Passenger Side Books. He is the managing/founding editor of Sundog Lit. He’s a hopeless romantic. Other excerpts from “Now, the Destruction of Days” have appeared in Metazen, Whole Beast Rag, Knee-Jerk, Necessary Fiction, Wigleaf, and The Collagist.