The night is quiet as I twirl and dance among the abandoned cars along the street. I whirl past a dusty white station wagon with “In case of Rapture, this vehicle will be unmanned” on the bumper and a half-eaten corpse in the driver’s seat. No Rapture, my dear sir. This is 100% apocalypse and 0% salvation, all lingering whimpers and no mercifully decisive atomic bangs. I nod and wave at the decaying driver as I leap onto the hood of the car and pirouette onto the sidewalk. I’m almost to the museum now.
The lack of adequate cover for living humans has made Central Park sparse pickings, so most of dead don’t hunt here any longer. I don’t smell human anyway. I smell like petroleum and grease. I’ve held out for as long as I could, and tonight I’m done. I’m not even going to try to rage against the death of light anymore.
The moonlight reflects off the white façade of the building. I am dancing in a spotlight, but I’m not worried. The dead don’t sneak up on people. They just stumble along until you have nowhere to run from them. They’re the turgid ebb and flow of human misery that Matthew Arnold bewailed. I chuckle and tell myself I’m moving through Arnold’s land of dreams. At least the museum still glistens like a lost paradise nestled in the shadows of the park.
Before the Plague, I would visit the museum and wish I could be there alone, without the mindless shuffle of tourists and the ridiculous groaning of school children who had no interest in Rembrandt’s use of shadow or Monet’s deconstruction of light. The living had no art to them, and I resented how they intruded on the art of the dead. I suppose this is the world I wished for, but I don’t want to live in it.
I gaze up at the broad steps that lead to the museum’s entrance. Eventually I realize that I can’t bear to risk burning the art after all. I settle in the middle of the silent steps that once bustled with mischievous children and chattering adults. The end of the world is not nearly the boon I thought it would be. As I light my match, I console myself with Sylvia Plath’s manifesto: Dying is an art. I’m going to do it so it feels like Hell.
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