Tales of the Fallen

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It had been years, but it felt as if days had passed in how quickly everything had fallen into this new norm set by corporate. He’d never expected it, and yet it had come so very predictably. People fell to the line as if the earth-shattering change was just a late start on the day.

He stood somewhere in the middle of the line, following the people before him with jerky steps. He tried in vain to stop, but his limbs would only obey the authority of conformity. He had to bite his tongue from crying out in frustration; no one could disturb the carefully kept peace.

They shuffled forward and it sounded like bone being ground, the sound grating against his sensitive eardrums. He was subject to feeling the world around him and he wished it would stop. It was too painful, and he’d become too cynical.

The man before him was the worst he’d seen. He dragged his feet with every step, lurching like a bear on two legs. The man ate without a care in the world, he knew, for he’d seen so many like him eat their fill of manufactured slop and die. Another would take his place soon enough. After all, his children would grow up just like him.

He wondered how people like the heavyset man would get what they wanted when he was just the same and found himself starved. Their good fortune seemed disconnected from the world and yet the landscape deteriorated with every morsel devoured.

A girl not too far in front was bones, and she was the question that plagued his mind. Domino’s innocent white and black polka-dot dress hid her, acting almost more as something to feed her ignorance--and so he always wondered what it was that starved her.

Poison paints and apathy had made her look severe, and the girl wasted her life, complaining for wi-fi or an outlet. Her youth could not be seen in her appearance but in her blatant disinterest for everything that didn’t pertain to her. She didn’t look to realize where they were going, always with her head bowed over her phone. In the beginning he had wondered if it was a ploy, but the passing years had changed his mind.

She didn’t change, not matter how much he’d hoped. She only drew in more to circle her in cyberspace, her “followers” planetary shields to her ignorant sun. That way, she didn’t have to see the destruction in the universe around her. Her narcissism seemed objectively her own and yet whatever sun filtered through the gray clouds lessened with every person to light their devices. Perhaps apathy was born of selfishness.

Domino was too set to change her ways without passion for something other than the phone in her hand. Analyzing her posed a distraction, actually understanding her a burden.

He should have said something to her when she’d been a couple years younger and had talked. Now, her life hinged off the condition of her device, living in that small space as to forget whatever crippled life stalked her. Being in it seemed to have quieted her with knowledge so many possessed and yet didn’t care to act on. He wondered if she could remember the truth, and he pitied her if that was the case.

It was knowledge that had wired his own jaw. Despair had cut out his tongue and sharpened his senses to feel pain as other inflicted it, chipping away at the world. He could sense whenever someone stumbled in the line, hear the switch click in their minds as they saw the thousandth person drop out and realize some sense of what humans had become or come to do.

We are pigs, one would think.

We don’t care for others, another would whisper.

Every once in a while someone would ask a question and not assert a statement. They silenced the fastest and at no one’s hand but their own.

Desperation would dull their eyes, and smog would cloud their vision. The smoke that was the result of others’ actions and ignorance would cover them; and hearts would fall into the infectious rhythm that was human inaction personified.

People stood cold and white and they walked without lifting a foot off the ground. They were as most were, so close to the truth, so close to stumbling upon it, and yet ignoring of it. If they fell, they would have to acknowledge what had knocked them down, and they avoided seeing the consequences almost defiantly.

An invisible chain pulled him forward, and though he couldn’t see where he was going, he knew what was going to happen: they would walk until they died, and new people would simply line up, billions in one train of thoughtlessness. If one stumbled upon the truth, all would be fine and the illusion would continue, but should that person speak, more would fall out of step.

Domino spoke too soon to be stopped.

We are killing each other.

Hearing her voice almost made him fall. For a moment he considered admitting the truth he knew, but life outside the line was unfathomably real, and he fell back into the tempo set.

He longed to see her as lucid as he’d never be, but he only caught a peppered white dress in the din. His pupils had dilated to stare into the hopeless darkness and yet not enough to recognize the mechanical monsters producing it.

She called out again, a white silhouette moving through the darkness.

He coughed, breathing in the rancid air as if for the first time. His blood went cold when everything went silent. He paled to think of what might have happened to her, but everything continued as it was, and selfishness kept him in the rut.

Walking forward in the line, closing the gap where Domino had been, he cut his knowledge, hiding it in the smoke. He breathed sweet air at that, and was complimented with what he’d never had.

Foul food was given to him at one lick of his lips, acid placed in his stomach at the thought of thirst, and he didn’t care. It felt as if there were food and light enough to forget everything else. He stopped feeling the world, the other people in line, his new diet searing away his nerve endings.

But then where he could have once sighed, he could barely gasp for breath despite the aromatic air. Domino spoke somewhat the same.

We are killing ourselves! She gasped. And we’re destroying the ground we stand on. If that doesn’t move you, think on all you kill with what you eat.

She implored, but people only ate and ignored. The world was too far gone, lush grass trampled by cattle and air polluted in making their lives as easy as possible. The people were pallid refugees as a result, walking to oblivion and convincing otherwise.

They devoured food as if there would always be enough, as if the planet weren’t lying on its deathbed. Everything was gone, no animals remained, water was sludge, and somehow they ate, manufacturing tasteless crap of the poisons created when they had laid waste to the world. He ate as they did, using it to forget, walking the line to nowhere. That line had once meant hope, the salvation of the people concocted by clever corporations, but now, one stumble could down it. They had been fooled and stupidly continued to believe the lie.

It seemed someone was walking the line, disturbing something, but the smog had grown so thick he’d be blind even should tears stop falling. He’d been numbed to the pain after too long in inaction, and he felt no bond with the world. He caught sight of Domino’s red hair, fire in the gloom.

Everything is going to fall, she cried, with no one but humans to hold it together. We are selfish--how can you not see this?

She kept crying, screaming to the world, and all he could think of people like her was, Are they deluded, or are we just lazy?

He looked about and saw people walk without hope, eyes black caverns in their marble faces, yellow teeth and red lips on faces of the deludedly shallow, and they just droned on. They were waiting to die.

They knew they would fall, for they had destroyed everything else and lined up the pieces for their own demise. They walked, dropping one by one like the stars as they had blinked out of the sky. They didn’t eat but devoured, feasting off others’ deaths in their “fortune” and ignorance.

They told themselves they were all right and he had grown to do the same. If hearing one person speak did anything, it made him realize how little one voice would carry. It would go long distances and yet carry no weight on those who were blind to the world, gluttonous and greedy and egotistical.

Another word from Domino and he saw her. She was pacing along the edges of his vision, frantic, looking crazed to anyone who held up the pretense humans were all right.

We can change, she panted, crying. We have to change.

He looked at Domino and saw in her eyes a blue he had only glimpsed once before the stormy clouds had clamped over the sky. Domino walked on, tugging at people and pulling them out of the line, stirring life into dazed humans. Some screamed at seeing others fall, but no one heard. All fell to chaos, and it was confined to the only living things left on the planet.

There was nothing left to fall alongside them.

With as much mindfulness as children, they had played without caring for the rules. There were really only so many pieces in domino, and so many of every number. Humans had used everything else, leaving just blanks, closing off the ends so nothing more could be played and nothing more could be done. The game had ended, and there was no starting over.

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