I pushed my way through the crowd, flowing downhill towards the docks like blood. Men, women, and children all huddled together shoulder to shoulder. The mass was one brain, one life, moving all towards the same end. We were in no rush. We had nowhere to go.
I pushed through, not for an escape - it was past the time when that was possible - but for contact. I had a message to get out, and I was intent on making my delivery even if it was to be my final act.
Our island had winding roads, built on the slope of a massive mountain, said to contain our Gods. But there were no Gods here. Or if there were, they didn’t care about the likes of us. Still, that hadn’t prevented us from clamoring up to their feet like a dog under the table.
While the roads and architecture was beautiful, it was poorly designed. The streets were not made to get anywhere in a rush. People who’d lived their whole lives here would still get lost . Of course it wasn’t designed by us. The streets were carved our from marble before my people had ever set foot on the island. We had inherited it.
And that was our way. We stumble blind onto a new city, proclaim it as our birthright and coat the streets with our mark. Then people began to believe it. This was the way of the world. Ruins built on ruins, graves built on bones, streets cleaned with blood, and paved with gold.
Now was not the time to be sentimental. At least the cycle was broken. There’d be no one building on our ruins. Or any ruins to speak of.
I made my way through the crowd, and finally got to the docks. Boats loaded with all those who could make it in time. A vain attempt, more for comfort than safety. Few knew what came for us. The ground had opened up that day, and the mountain had spoken. A wave ripped through our streets, and we knew it was over. We hadn’t felt the full force yet.
I stood atop a mound of rubble and surveyed the scene. Soldiers in plate ushered people aboard boats across thin gangplanks. Men walked at the backs of women, babes in arms. Some cried, but most were silent. Few seemed to register what was happening. I found my mark, standing off to the side, watching like I was. I made my way over.
She was beautiful no matter the circumstances. The end of an era would not mar her radiance. She stood like a stoic, her red hair bundled up on top of her head and off of her dark tan neck. Her clothes were plain, an off white robe draped across her form. She saw me making my way over to her, and her piercing eyes almost made me stop. I was used to her glances by now.
“Thera…” I had been searching for her since the morning but now that she was here in front of me, I struggled through the words.
“Are you not seeking a boat as well?” She raised an eyebrow as she spoke, even though she knew the answer.
“You know as well as I do we aren’t getting out of here.”
“Yes. That doesn’t stop the fleet though.”
“They’ll never have enough room,” I said. “We will carry our sins with us.”
She savored the breath. She looked up to the mountain, the smoke billowing out of the peak like a thurible. It would not be long now.
“I fear you’re right.”
“You fear nothing. Not even death, it seems.”
She smiled at me. “Fear is wasted. Our island spits in disgust. Our kings have left and our gods never arrived. For once, we’ll have to pay for this. Why fear the inevitable? I welcome death.”
I did not welcome death, no more than I welcomed life. It was just another path. As with all roads, I knew I’d walk it alone. But for now, we were together.
I took her hand as the shockwave hit. We fell to the ground alone. We stood and I held her close. The boats launched, having delayed too long. The gangplanks fell into the surf with people halfway aboard. Men started to scream.
We looked up to the mountain. Down the slopes, a thick black fog rolled. It was in no rush. Any remaining buildings collapsed in its wake. The fog poured into the grooves of our streets, flowing like we had. Death rolling as life. I turned to Thera and kissed her, fearing I'd not get to again. A tear rolled across her nose and onto my foot.
And then, nothing.