End of Days Page 72

‘Speaking of wheels,’ says Dee. ‘It can go twenty miles on four flat tires. It can climb up hills and over other cars if need be. This is an all-terrain vehicle of the wet dream kind, ladies and gentlemen. If we ever loved anything more than this, we must have called her Mommy.’

‘Hang on tight to your raffle tickets,’ says Dum. ‘They could be worth more than your life.’

Now it makes more sense. I’m sure some people came to stand by other humans in a final fight for survival, but I’m equally sure that some came for a shot at winning the World After RV.

The RV projection turns off. Huge spotlights turn on that make the stage glow. I cringe at the beacon, then remember that it’s supposed to be showy.

The speakers crank up with a whine that turns into a piercing shrill as the feedback blasts throughout the broken bridge.

I scan the dusky skies and see nothing but the beautiful sunset coloring the wispy mist. The peekaboo sky is a magical backdrop for the show, which seems miraculous in itself.

Dee and Dum dance a jig onstage, then bow as if they’re expecting a Broadway-show response. At first, the applause is muffled and scattered, timid and afraid.

‘Whooo-wheee!’ Dee shouts into his microphone. It reverberates through the whole crowd. ‘Damn, it feels good to make noise. Let’s all get it out of our system, people.’

‘If we’re going to rebel, we might as well rebel with noise and gusto!’ says Dum.

‘Everybody, let’s take a moment of joy by screaming out whatever you’ve been feeling all these weeks. Ready? Go!’

The twins let out a holler through their microphones that releases all kinds of stored up energy ranging from excitement to anger, aggression to joy.

At first, only one or two echo the twins’ yells. Then more people join in. Then more. Until the whole crowd is screaming and yelling at the top of its lungs.

This may be the first time anyone has spoken loudly since the Great Attack. A wave of both fear and cheer is released into the crowd. Some begin crying. Some begin laughing.

‘Wow,’ says Dum. ‘That’s a big ol’ mess of humanness right there.’

‘Respect!’ Dum thumps his fist to his chest and bows down to the audience.

The noise goes on a little longer, then settles down. People are jittery and anxious, but excited too. Some have smiles on their faces, others have frowns. But they’re all here – alert and alive.

I settle into my spot at the corner of the stage and look around. I’m on the ground crew, which means I’m one of the lookouts for tonight until there’s action on the ground. I scan the horizon. It’s getting harder to see in the thickening mist, but I don’t notice any hordes of angels.

On the water, two boats are throwing buckets of chopped fish and venison innards into the water all around our chunk of the bridge. A pool of blood spreads behind the boats.

Onstage, the twins stand tall with goofy smiles on their faces. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, and the rest of you who fit into neither of those categories, I am your master of ceremonies, Tweedledee.’ He bows. ‘And here’s my co-MC, my brother and my bane, Tweedledum!’

The crowd whoops and hollers. Either the twins are extremely popular or people really like being able to make noise again. The twins take deep bows with a matching flourish of their hands.

‘Tonight, we have the show of a lifetime for you. It is unfiltered, unmanaged, and certainly undeniably awesome!’

‘We take no responsibility for any of the bad things that might happen tonight,’ says Dum.

‘And take all the credit for the fabulous, fantastic, and fun-filled things that will definitely happen tonight,’ says Dee.

‘And without further ado,’ says Dum, ‘let me introduce our First Annual World After Talent Show contestant. The San Francisco Ballet!’

There’s a stunned silence as everyone takes a moment to make sure they heard right.

‘Yup, you heard that right, folks,’ says Dee. ‘The San Francisco Ballet is here to perform for you tonight, you lucky dogs.’

‘I told you we had talent on the streets,’ says Dum.

Three women in ballet tutus and four men in matching pink tights come out onstage. They walk with the grace of professional ballet dancers. One of the ballerinas walks up to Dee as the others get into their ready stances. She takes the mic and stands in the center of the stage until everyone quiets down.

‘We are what’s left of the San Francisco Ballet. A couple of months ago, there were over seventy of us. When the world collapsed, many of us didn’t know what to do. Like you, we stayed with our families and tried to find the ones we loved.

‘But for us dancers, the ballet company is our family, and so we searched among the rubble of our theater and dance studio for those of us who fell. In the end, twelve of us found each other, but not all of us made it this far.

‘This dance is the one we were practicing on the day the world ended. This one is dedicated to the members of our family who are not here today.’ Her voice is clear and strong. It carries through the crowd like the wind caressing our necks.

The ballerina gives the mic back to Dee and steps into position. The dancers take what looks like random places in a line. I can almost fill in the rest of the line in my mind with the other dancers who are not here tonight.

The music begins, and the lights follow the dancers as they leap and pirouette across the stage. It’s a strange yet graceful postmodern kind of a dance with most of the performers missing.

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