“Don’t step on the cracks,” a mother tells her child, voice firm but tainted with fear: at the inevitable doom of unstable child-legs walking over crumbling terrain.
(Tiny lines spread along the land, long and thin and seemingly harmless: until they widen. Plates shuffle under our feet. The evacuation order comes. People panic. Cars race to escape too fast and drown in sink holes awaking beneath them. Buildings shudder and collapse, as the ground opens its jaws and swallows them whole. The only chance is to walk.)
Eyes dart out at the sound and dart back again. Looking down. Everyone looks down. The people who don’t are already dead.
(Smoke and dust and gas rises in clouds from the holes. Cracks mar earth like a body of poisoned veins. Sometimes hurried shoes come down on them. The cracks stretch, dirt clods fall, a chasm appears. And anyone nearby is gone.)
Steps are careful, weight shifts from one foot to another. Teeth grit against the cough rising in our throats, the resulting vibrations would be dangerous. The smoke though long gone remains in the searing of our lungs.
“Don’t step on the cracks,” echoes again. People are moving away now, sensing what is to come. The child is tired, making mistakes.
Heat encases, suffocates. Sweat trickles sticky down backs. Broken land stretches out, elongating, in the search for solidity. Air ripples. Earth rumbles and yawns underneath us, but no one runs. The people who run are already dead.
(The crust fractures with keening hisses. Movement quickens in the struggle to get away. Thumped treads pound breaks into the fragile floor. And they’re Falling to oblivion.)
“Don’t step on the…”