At some point my mind gets very calm and clear as I realize there’s nothing I can do. I am alone. As far as I can tell San Agustin is defunct. No radio signals from there. Black winged things that look like vultures sail on the wind, circling the city. Just like they circled down in the Valley below the Punto des Pesadillas when Holly and I had fucked and napped and looked down and shuddered at the world’s dirty and lethal secret. I remember a horrible painting called “The Insects Are Set Free in the City.” An abomination of a painting with a giant, malevolent butterfly brooding above the Doge’s palace in Venice.
It was supposed to be impossible for the dumb fucks (giant carnivorous butterflies) to get as high up as San Augustin but there they are. They weren’t supposed to grow that big but they’re big as horses. Down below they circle population centers and when they see prey they converge on it and human and animal screams are carried on the updrafts. As time goes on the signs of human habitation decrease and the silence below increases. After a while I think that I am the only white man left. Just me and the Indians.
I take to fishing in the mountain streams and think I can live on fish for a long time. I still have the white gas stove and plenty of gas and staple foods for things like unleavened biscuits. Even in the sleet and snow of winter I can get around on snow shoes. And the Indians start trading with me. Even the Yaquis. They seem to know we are all linked by things that transcend our differences. They seem to understand what is going on below.
One night when I am asleep in my tent it happens. I’ve been expecting it. The sun comes up in the middle of the night. I get the glazed goggles I’ve been carrying around with me and put them on and look down.
Yes. They have done it. The fireball from a nuke, rising. I’ve been ready. I get everything into the jeep and drive it into the cave before the heavy neutron flux gets here and long before the fallout. And I am very grateful for the shielding from electromagnetic Pulse on the HumVee, even with the extra mass. EMP would’ve fried the electrical system otherwise and I would have a dead jeep. When I’m inside the cave I seal myself in and wait for the radiation from the fallout to subside.
When I leave the cave everything seems the same. Radiation levels are higher but not dangerously so. For a while nothing seems to move down below. As the weeks go by the Dumb Fucks come back, their ranks swollen by radiation resistant strains. And as time goes by they fly a little higher. This is when I decide to act.
In the night I drive to the edge of the world in Caborca. I am safe from the butterflies in the night and I feel like looking around. Corpses stripped of all flesh are strewn around and feral dogs gnaw at the bones and slink and growl at me. Finally I have to shoot one and the others surround it and eat it alive. Overturned cars litter the place and low grade fires burn and provide evanescent illumination.
I cross the molasses barrier and get on the catwalk and go to the console with the controls for the world cylinder. With my high intensity beams on it’s not hard to figure out the controls. It only takes a few minutes. I turn the lights off and go back to my mountain cave.
At home I ponder the enormity of what I have done. I started bleeding the atmosphere into outer space. And I turned the world heaters off so the temp all over the cylinder/world will drop to a few degrees above absolute zero, the average temperature of outer space. And to make it complete I fired the rocket engines with thrust vectors that will push this big cylinder out of the solar system and into interstellar space. A few eons from now some intelligent race may chance upon this world and wonder what happened. I hope for their sake they do not get some butterfly DNA and try to reconstruct it.
Our race got so far and had so much. The more it got the faster it pissed everything away. As fitting an epitaph as any for times that now seem like only yesterday.