At the End of the World, Where It Is Very Hot
by Nathan Knapp
Sometimes things burst into flame. Mostly just trees, these days, as most of the trash has melded itself into the surface of the soil or already burned up. Sometimes my spaceship catches fire, but that’s because I’m not a very good mechanic and perhaps because I forget to screw the gas cap back on sometimes. And also sometimes my dog bursts into flame, which is very unfortunate because each time this happens I am forced to find a new dog—an increasingly difficult task as most dogs have become unfriendly and aggressive, prone to foaming at the mouth and prowling around in large packs and trying to eat people.
As you may have guessed, it is very hot outside.
We get a little closer to the sun every time the planet turns and it is purgatory for us but absolute hell for dogs, who are still for the most part covered in fur, at least the ones that are still alive. I can understand why they in general have terrible dispositions these days. The prospect that one may catch on fire simply by going outside between the hours of noon and five pm is not likely to be good for anyone’s psyche.
My last dog liked very much to go up in the spaceship. I have a little log cabin that I built on the edge of a large satellite which still rotates the earth and from which I get a very good television signal; I receive fifteen or sixteen different channels very clearly and three or four others not so clearly, but from one of the not-so-clear channels I get very good porn, which is useful, as there are precious few women around.
In fact there are no women around, just the ones I draw life-size pictures of and occasionally engage in conversation with in order to stave off the loneliness.
It is very lonely out here. But why talk about it? It is not a nice thing to talk about, since it’s already what I think about nearly half the day or more depending on the day. So let’s talk about the nice things that I do have: around a thousand 20 ounce water bottles stocked in my closet; a very nice set of Django Rineheart records and a working turntable; a picture of my kids; a picture of my last dog, whose name was George; a copy of the U.S. Constitution, over which I occasionally like to imagine the actor Nicolas Cage and I engaging in combat; a copy of the King James Bible; a picture of Bettie Page, nipple-not-quite exposed; another picture of Bettie Page, fully-nude; a tin of dog biscuits, in the event that I do discover another friendly companion; some very stale marijuana; several thousand cartons of Camel cigarettes which I took from the Camel factory in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, which are not as stale because I keep them in a large humidor; some very nice zippo lighters; and a certain quantity of frozen chicken—taken from a KFC production plant a few years ago and for the most part not yet freezer-burnt; a decently-sized library of American poets; the collected works of Cormac McCarthy, who now seems a prophet to me; a box of Trojan condoms which no longer see much use, except to keep my masturbatory ejaculate from going all over the room; some fifty boxes of tissue, for when I cry and must blow my nose, which is fairly frequent—I cry now as regularly as I masturbated all through my adolescent years, and as vigorously.
But here, again, I am talking about my loneliness. Everything eventually leads me back to loneliness.
I suppose it’s not all so bad. I have my spaceship and my log cabin in the sky, which I go to twice a year for vacation. And I’m working on a language which I can use to make conversation with the cockroaches, of whom I am jealous for their constant means of meaningful work and camaraderie; but again, the loneliness.
I speak to God, whom many people turned to in the days when people were still aboveground in plentiful numbers. And occasionally he speaks back, but he’s as hard to understand as the cockroaches rubbing their jaw-pinchers together. So we don’t really talk much.
At some point I will run out of water bottles—I am bad at math and always have been, so I’m not sure how long it’ll take. What I’ll do then I don’t know.
I think I hear a dog barking outside. I think I will put on my bee-keeper’s suit and go investigate. Yes, I will investigate, and try not to cry.
Nathan Knapp lives and writes in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he edits The Collapsar. His fiction, essays and poetry can be found in or are forthcoming from JMWW, Two Dollar Radio’s Frequencies, HTMLgiant, elimae, and others. “At the End of the World, Where it is Very Hot” is the opening pages of his novel-in-progress, The Lonely Architecture of God.