A little girl, nine or ten years old is running up, down, and around the home of her grandparents calling for her mother. Theirs is one of four apartments on the floor. Outside there are what might be typical city noises, but they aren’t. It’s night and there is the feint glow of streetlights and convenience store awnings, neon corona palm trees. The little girl exits into the hallway, the 6th floor, searching still for her mother. No one bothers to stop her. “Where is she” the child cries, “where?” She re-enters the apartment passing first through the living room where moments earlier there was a small gathering. The remaining guests, some familiar to the girl others perfect strangers; wear their fear unwittingly on their faces. They are flushed with worry, pale skinned, red eyed, and huddled around each other. It is as if they have nowhere to go. She remembers that look in their faces. Her mother’s face was home to such a look when they were being evicted. This is why they had come to stay with grandma and grandpa. She remembers how her mothers face went limp with defeat. It seemed as if her beauty had slid off, the soft rounded parts puffed and turned ugly. She hugged her mother then, telling her it was all going to be O.K and wrapped her arms tightly around her slender waist.
Earlier at the gathering there had been a rumbling and the building shook, there were shrieks and people ran. They were having a holiday party. It was after Thanksgiving but before Christmas. It was somehow convenient for all of the guests. There were those who worked service jobs, nightshifts at hospitals, or other such inescapable schedules. They had families to support, mouths to feed, or habits to fund. The little girl had been watching something on television in the room she and her mother shared when the screen went all static and then the annoying emergency broadcast screen appeared. This annoyed the little girl, assuming it was only a test as it so often was. She jumped up and went to find her mother to ask for some eggnog. That’s when she noticed she was missing. The little girl didn’t know that her mother had gone downstairs with a man. She didn’t know that her mother was smoking a cigarette and flirting with an old acquaintance of the family.
The girl made her way past the sulking guests and toward her grandparent’s room where she heard voices from behind their closed door. She knocked, remembering that it was the polite and respectful thing to do. Her grandpa had once scolded her when she entered unannounced. He rushed toward her grabbing her by the shoulders and shook her slightly speaking from behind his tightly clenched teeth, “Don’t you know its rude not to knock, little girl!?” He let her go as she fell back from the threshold and shut the door. She heard drawers slam shut as her grandfather scrambled around the room.
“Come in” she heard her grandmother say from behind the closed door. Her voice seemed distant and weak. It was not a welcoming invite, but an empty one. The little girl pushed the door open, revealing the bare white walls of their room. She entered. Her grandmother sat up in the bed as the grandfather stared eerily out the window. Flashing lights danced across his face. The girl crawled into the bed and lay next to her grandmother. She looked up at her face and saw the same expression as the guests. Tears fell out of the old woman’s eyes and onto a bible that lay open on her lap. “Where is mommy” the girl asked. She too began to cry, wailing in long echoing rounds like a banshee. Her grandfather stared blankly into the street, a dilapidated urban scene. The sidewalk decimated and through the rubble he could see a train car erupted, like lava from a volcano but a solid silver mass. The sky was blood red and dark thick clouds moved rapidly across it. The little girl overheard her grandfather say under his breath “this is the end.”