By Cody T Luff
When the lock finally broke and the door slid open, Ismay disappeared inside, her red shawl trailing after. William didn’t bother glancing around for observers, there were none. Silent warehouses stood shoulder to shoulder beneath a gray sky that matched the color of their metal skins. From somewhere in the surrounding city, a car alarm howled its grief into the empty streets.
William told Ismay about this place a week ago. They’d still been watching the news at that point, their phones glowing in the ruddy dim of William’s walk-up. They agreed to toss their phones from his bathroom window when the numbers reached over a million and the faces on their screens melted into tearful mannequins, makeup and coiffure long forgotten. They’d walked through the little bodega down the street, the door unlocked and the cash register lying gutted on the floor, picking snacks and sample-sized bottles of dark rum and Tennessee whiskey. William remembered the flowers when Ismay took his hand as they stood staring at the dark freezer case, watching the ice cream clot behind the glass.
Ismay was immediately interested, she wanted to leave that instant. The image of a warehouse full of last year’s Mardi Gras floats was enough start the old fire inside of her. Her eyes filled with it, her fingers tightened around the bag of pork rinds she’d plucked from the belly of the bodega. Will convinced her to wait until morning. There was no telling when the power would go out. There streets were mostly empty now at this late stage but there were still enough souls left out there to cause William to worry. Ismay was not easy to agree but over pork rinds and a bottle of sweet red wine, she relented.
Somehow, right at the start of the End, they had come to a silent agreement on the bedroom. For the last few weeks, they shared William’s couch, his grandmother’s afghan wound around Ismay’s shoulders and couch pillow hidden beneath the spill of her hennaed hair. Will slept curled into a question mark against the flower-print arm of the couch, Ismay’s feet tucked beneath his thigh for warmth. It was in this posture that Ismay asked him to describe the warehouse. He tried, his words always caught in their own traffic whenever her skin was against his own. Even now, at the end, his sentences backed against one another and his heart clicked away in his throat.
Dead flowers, he said. So many dead flowers.