Deep, deep into the underground they went; the meat-lipped youth and the phlegmatic woman. It was the only way to escape. Stalagmites hung down from the underbelly of rock above them like giant glittering flaccid penises, poking their heads down into the luminescent air swollen with whatever foreign thing that suspends itself and emits energy in our perceivable spectrum. The young man could not consciously feel the miniscule golden globes softly sweeping across his watery green eyes. The woman snorted back a globful of snot and spat. It traveled at a 45º angle, propelled by her thin and crusty lips, and found its way through the tangle of light on a straight path to the wall.
“Have you seen Space Novelist?” she coughed.
The boy was silent. He did not see movies he knew were going to be terrible and he did not converse with idiots who did.
The woman snorted and hoofed at the ground where stalactites were iridescent and slick-looking. She thought about the space novelist, and how glamorous her life would have been had she written novels in space and had people to love her. There was one particular scene in the movie that touched her: A friend was scolding someone for not keeping up with him and for keeping his personal life secret from him. She had never experienced that. Moved by this thought, she then told the youth all about the scene in some detail. Since he didn’t tell her to shut up or fuck off, she poured her heart out to him.
“I’ve never had a friend my whole life. Not a real friend. No one knew me. No one knows me,” she emphasized with a snort. “There was never anyone scolding me for not writing or calling often enough, or worried that I did not love them as much as they loved me. I run after my friends, clutching at them- begging them to stay.” She glared at him through a sea of gold. “Not anymore, though,” and then after a moment, “You don’t care, either.”
“I mean, I’m not complaining or anything; it’s just that I’ve noticed that most people wouldn’t piss on me to put me out.”
A moment passed.
“If I were on fire.” The boy was getting angry.
“Don’t get angry, now. I say this to everyone and here’s why: To see if it has any effect. That’s how I can gauge how much someone cares about me.”
“I don’t see why that’s necessary,” growled the boy. “I helped you evacuate, didn’t I?”
“Yes, but not because you care about me! You probably care less about me now than when I was just an anonymous human being you felt obligated to assist- and a woman, no less. You saved me to fulfill some deep, hot wet dream of being a hero and receiving the standard thank you fuck. Thank you so much for saving my life- my mouth, vagina and anus are all available for penetration.”
And so she did, her cracked lips cradling the globes of light in her mouth as she silently enunciated her anger around them. He did not harbor for her as many negative feelings as you do. To him she was just boring and short-legged. Tiresome. No one can go on about themselves like the depressed. She did not look as though she would tear out her own eyes if given the chance, so he was unsympathetic. She was only soliciting.
“My name is Jean.”
“Levi,” without offering his hand.
“For Leviticus?” she hawked.
He nodded and did not ask her. Her namesake, she thought to herself, was Janine. No- Janette. It was her great Aunt Jenna’s name. It was a grand society name passed through a series of families- throughout the third feminist movement. It was the pseudonym she used when writing novels in space.
After minutes of silence, the not-asking became clear.
Levi navigated the changing slope of the cave floor, grateful that he could not see the glare of another wet lougie reflecting green-gold as she spat against the wall a second time.
“Umph-” she tripped, pitching forward. He turned to face her just as she landed hard on her knees, tearing small bloody holes in the knees of her vintage 90’s green flowered Capri pants. A tiny smile lounged on the upturned corners of his mouth.
“Careful; the slope changes,” he warned.
“Thanks- yeah. And I ruined my damn pants.” She took a minute to turn her wide, flat bottom towards him, and then set it down on the ground, scooting forward to bring her knees out over her ankles, trying to stand up as if it would fucking kill her. Levi stood, waiting; the pallid green of his eyes brighter under the soft glow than they’d ever been outside. Then he got it- she was waiting for him! Waiting for him to help her up!
“A little help here,” she extended a hand. Levi took it, gave the appendage a yank, and then continued into the golden fog ahead.
I think I’ve found a clearing, he thought to himself.
“Hey- is that a clearing?”
He silently made his way closer, the sound of her pumps changing with the acoustics. They had found their way into a broad cavern. In the center across from the entrance, there were three golden, glowing figures. The woman screamed and wedged herself between the earthworm smooth slippery wall and Levi’s lithe hunter’s body, but a different thought crossed Levi’s mind. He did not wonder if the glowing figures were friendly or even human. He wanted to know why he could see them. Until now, his vision had been obscured by the thousand of miniscule glowing lights. Abandoning the faint scent of urine to clutch at the wall, he went towards the people-shaped halos across the way.
They are eating them, he realized, horrified. The floating golden globules were actually feeding on the corpses; scouring it like a colony of ants. There was a note.
“Group suicide,” he said. “They didn’t think they were going to make it so they…” he read on, “had a supply of morphine. Lucky Bastards.” Levi carefully extended a hand towards the luminescence. The creatures appeared to be interested only in dead flesh, which was, of course, how they had survived so well in the cold and cavernous wasteland of the caves. All one had to do was wait- like a vast and slick desert.
“Maybe there’s more,” the lady sniffed.
“Is the gold stuff gonna hurt me?”
“Then start searching.” Her pudgy, sticky hands were already busily working at the straps on a stripped skeleton. They were in the marrow.
“Got it!” she exclaimed. “There’s probably plenty left in here.” She rattled the bag at him, grinning a wide and plaque-licked smile. He stabbed her in the chest. Then he stabbed her once in the neck just below her slight Adam’s Apple, and once more in the chest. The knife was given to him at a recent ceremony in Eagle Scouts. She gurgled, spit, and then fell to the floor. The creatures swarmed her while the young man snatched the bag from her hands and strode off towards the climbing station he knew to be there from a Scouting expedition.
“Not if you were the last person on Earth.”