I can see it from the plane’s window, the beast’s bulk a wart on the horizon. The top of the beast crests through the clouds. Even from this distance—the pilot claims we’re a hundred miles away—I can see texture on the side of the beast, thick, ropy columns like the head of a mop prepared to scrub the landscape clean. All color at this distance is grey, but I imagine the beast green. A bright green like that of a B-movie Martian. Below the clouds, below the body of the beast, is Cleveland.
The plane from Detroit to Houston is full, as is every plane out of Detroit these days. There is plenty of time to evacuate. Even in the midst of this crisis, moving companies are making a killing. The guys I hired are charging four thousand dollars. They will pack up my apartment and send everything along after me, packed tightly into an eighteen-wheeler that will navigate roads already thick with cars.
I picture the cars on the road as spawning salmon. All the footage I’ve seen shows cars stuck on shoulders and angled into ditches, though the news doesn’t dwell on it. They don’t want to cause a panic. They don’t want another roadside shootout. They don’t want another highway robbery. They don’t want people riding shotgun with shotguns.
Riding on the plane with us are six federal marshals. They try to be unobtrusive. They stay where they were when we entered. Two are outside the cabin, one is in the rear, and the other three have aisle seats evenly spaced throughout the length of the plane. They keep their feet out of the aisle. They are careful with their elbows.
The beast moves slowly. Scientists have measured its speed at a mile a day. There are people left in Cleveland who refused to abandon their homes. I understand why. Yes, the beast is several miles high. Yes, the government has issued warnings.
But when a fear is part of your life day in and day out, you cease to be afraid. The beast is part of your skyline for weeks, for months. You wake up in the morning and its presence is comforting. You come to believe that the beast was meant to be there. That its role in your life will never change. That you don’t want it to change.
And then one day you find the beast has eaten the school and the corner store, the YMCA and the library. The power has been down for days, but your generator is still running. From the fridge, you grab a beer. You grab a tub of tuna salad and a tomato. You grab a knife.
On the porch, you watch it approach. The beer is crisp and tastes of earth. You slice the tomato and eat those slices with dollops of tuna salad. From this distance, you can see the beast move, each column of flesh rippling forward individually. It is late afternoon and the sun is shining directly on the flesh of the beast. It glimmers in the light like a mirage.
Andrew Kozma’s stories have appeared or will appear in NANO Fiction, Front Range Review, and DIAGRAM. His first book of poems, City of Regret (Zone 3 Press, 2007), won the Zone 3 First Book Award. His chapbook A Natural History, written with Michelle Schmidt, will be published in the spring by Blue Hour Press.