Calamity by Matthew Smart
The sound of the TV from the next room reminds him that he should go to bed as should his wife. The sound of the newsfeed gave up hours ago, defaulted to infomercial desperation. She’s probably asleep or else she’s much more interested in new meat grilling technologies than he expected. Last time he checked she was a vegetarian. He’s been surfing the internet for the latest updates but nobody seems to be posting anymore. The TV reverts to static hiss in the other room, a sound he hasn’t heard in years. He’s been sitting in front of the computer all evening watching his twitter feed, expecting something else to happen and it inevitably did. She’s been trying to watch reality TV all evening watching things happen, and it did too, right on queue. Until the interruptions made that reality feel less real. He wonders how she can sleep at times like this. Wishes he could too. Humans are amazing at ignoring the amazing. He used to try to cook the occasional meal. She was grateful for him trying. But not now, now he never tries and she never thanks him. They both prefer it this way. They are divided by yet another slash mark, a fraction line underneath a fraction line underneath a fraction line reducing them straight down to the earth’s core. That is how he sees their relationship. Fractured beyond understanding but also with very deep roots. What’s amazing he thinks is how quickly we can have reporting crews onsite. That is the miracle of this age. The giant net is strung overhead, just waiting for the lightest tripwire to snag so it can fall. Nobody knows where the next calamity will hatch so we monitor even the slightest brood for oddness. Everything is always falling apart. The center isn’t expected to hold, not for long. We don’t build anything to last—why would we? His bed is built for two but hardly anyone sleeps there. He slouches deeper into his office chair and hits refresh again, he feels bad. They seldom eat together anymore but that vegetarian jab was uncalled for. He regrets his meanness. He retracts his post. He knows her beliefs just as he knows when she occasionally strays. She knows his, and knows when he doesn’t himself. She strays, as does he in his different ways. The world is going to shit and panic according to the news feeds. And he follows some pretty reputable names. It sounds like the apocalypse. He wonders when she’ll wake up and notice. Or if she’ll head up to bed, or if she’ll run out the front doorway, faintly lit by the oncoming fires.
Matthew Smart lives in a part of Michigan often overlooked by amateur cartographers. By day he works as an information technology analyst. In his evenings he writes poetry, fiction, and computer code. His writing has appeared in Vestal Review, Rawboned, Smokelong Quarterly and elsewhere.