A small sad dwarf sat at the end of the world. Everybody else’s time had come… why not his?
A small, sad dwarf sat on a stump, looking out on the rolling landscape in front of him. He didn’t remember his name or much of anything. A black army of clouds wafted up into the sky. In his mind, it looked like the souls of the world ascending into space.
He chewed a thin piece of straw. He didn’t know where the straw had come from. Little was left that could grow. The dwarf didn’t know why he was chewing the straw. Maybe, long ago, he liked to chew things. Or smoke thing. Or stick things in his mouth. He had forgotten.
The ground rumbled and the dwarf almost fell off the stump. That was good a reason as any to get up and move around. His legs were cramping something fierce and he assumed there wasn’t much use staring and the charred, desolate hills. Getting up, he reached up to the sky, craning his neck.
He let out a groan, it echoed, hanging in the air.
He kicked a pebble, watched it bounce down the incline. It left the small patch of ground that still had grass, tumbling into the sea of black earth. The dwarf heard it smack against something hard and smooth. Not having much else to do, he followed the pebble.
The ground sloped steeply, forcing him to work on his balance. A creature so small and squat, that was rarely a problem. But nothing was like it was. And even a stout dwarf had trouble standing up straight–when the world was at an end.
The dwarf thought about a lot of things as he descended the hill. He thought about how he ended up on the stump. And how the world went the way it did. He thought about all the people who were no longer there. He thought about his own name and what he was doing before it all ended.
He couldn’t come up with anything. Not even his name.
He reached the bottom of the slope. The ground was miserable down there. The dwarf had the feeling it was once beautiful, once bursting with life and color. Now it was all blacks and grays. There were plenty of shapes, rough, bulky shapes that reminded him of charcoal. Silky wisps of gray smoke climbed out of cracks in the ground. The smell was alright. Kind of like the end of a barbeque. To the dwarf, that was familiar.
He couldn’t find the pebble he had kicked down the slope. He found another rock, a black thing that was very round. One side of it was shiny like it had been polished. The dwarf kicked the stone. It was heavy, but it rolled away. As it hit another rock, a big one, it crumbled. The crumbles were shiny, reflecting the fading light like glitter.
The dwarf kept walking, hands in his pockets. Again, the earth rumbled, like an old man upset and ready for slumber. He didn’t know where he was going. Honestly, there was nowhere to go. Craning his neck again, there was little to see but the army of clouds. They still marched away, up and to the South. The dwarf was walking away from the clouds.
He wasn’t sure if there was any use walking. The dwarf was convinced that no matter how far he walked, the world would look the same. It all happened so fast. But, at the very edge of his mind, he thought there was something to find. Someplace that was still a place.
The ground rumbled again. Harder now and longer. The dwarf wondered if there was something deep down inside trying to get out. Or, if it was something from above, knocking on the ground like an angry visitor, trying to get inside. Either way, it couldn’t be good. Eventually, the thing would get out. Or in.
He tried to listen to something. Tried to find out if there was something else to listen to, other than the rumbles. He remembered a sound that would greet the morning. A soft, chirping noise that sounded like music. Where did it come from again? And was it completely gone, like everything else? Was it morning anyway? He couldn’t tell.
The small dwarf stopped in his tracks. He was suddenly surprised. It wasn’t the rumbling or the army of clouds or the smell that stopped him. It was something else. Something he couldn’t believe was still something, there in the black desert.
Growing out of a crack in the middle of his path was a flower.
It was small, like the dwarf, with bright yellow petals and a white center. The flower just sat there, unconcerned about the end of the world. Or that it was growing, impossibly, out of the dead ground. It simply bobbed in the steady breeze, content to still be.
The dwarf bent down to get a closer look. He remembered that flowers had a nice smell. He took a breath, but couldn’t smell the flower. The stench of the desert was too much. Slowly, carefully, he reached out and touched the flower. He touched it with a large, clumsy finger. The petals were soft. In his mind, they were happy to find him.
He plucked the flower, gently, from the dead, unwelcoming ground. The dwarf tucked its green stem under a flap in his battered old coat. It looked nice there, sitting on his lapel. Almost as if it belonged there. He remembered another time when a flower was in his coat. When there were flowers everywhere and everyone wore them.
And then, just like that, he remembered his name.
To be continued…