“Has the sky always been so black?” Chuck said, staring up toward the darkened clouds. They looked odd, he’d never really noticed how peculiar they were. In fact, he wasn’t entirely sure whether or not they actually were clouds. They seemed to be significantly less translucent and much more scattered than traditional clouds. If anything, they reminded him more of a platoon of soldiers, flying through the air toward a fiery battle. They’d been that way for years, although it never really seemed strange until that week.
“Yeah, definitely,” Howard said. “Sky was definitely always black. I think.”
“You positive?” Chuck hadn’t really looked up at the sky in recent memory. He was pretty sure it used to be another color once—perhaps maple? He wasn’t completely sure what color “maple” was, but he had been thinking of maple syrup while eating his waffles earlier in the day and it seemed to make sense.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.” Howard shuffled his feet slightly, adjusting his glasses as he turned his head back toward the ground and locked eyes with Chuck. His glasses were cracked, the frames tilted and skewed. He and Howard had tried to find someone to repair them, but the store was always closed.
Chuck shrugged his shoulders, Howard seemed confident enough in his assessment. He’d probably just seen a movie recently that threw off his perspective on reality, although he couldn’t really recall seeing a movie in the past few years. He glanced down at the floor, blackened rocks and dust caking what was once a clean, well-kept road. It’d been a while since he’d seen a working car.
“Well, okay I guess. I do have another question, though,” Chuck said. He hadn’t been sleeping well, his bed had become significantly less comfortable for some reason. It hadn’t bothered him much in the past few years, but it had been on his mind lately.
“Sure, what’s up?” Howard said. He pulled down on the sleeve of his t-shirt, which was actually less of a t-shirt and more of a few strips of cloth stitched together with discarded plastic. Chuck wasn’t sure how fashion had deteriorated so much, but apparently strips of cloth were all the rage lately. He had made his from an old curtain.
“Are you finding it hard to sleep recently?”
“Yeah, actually. A little bit. My bed kind of sucks now. I might need a new mattress.”
“Weird, me too.” Chuck glanced over at his house, which was actually just a gaping chasm in the ground. His home had been swallowed up almost six years ago, a fiery pit taking its place. It had seemed totally normal until now, that his house had just needed some time alone. Small, red, horned creatures occasionally climbed out of the chasm. Chuck always thought they were just new neighbors, although they never seemed to have any decent house warming parties. “Probably just one of those weird things, right?” Chuck studied his bed, which lay just a few feet from the chasm, noticing that it seemed more like a boulder with several large leaves on top for blankets. Weird, it had looked so much more bed-like before.
“Right,” Howard said. “Anyway, I’m still a bit hungry. Do you have any of those waffles left over?”
“Yeah,” Chuck said, reaching into the bundle he carried on a stick over his shoulder. It contained all he owned now, yet was no more than a handful of items. He preferred traveling light though, yet would’ve liked at least a few more items. Maybe some silverware, or a second pair of clothes, or just a bit more food. Unfortunately, everything he owned had been lost when his house decided to move without him. It was a bit peculiar how there also seemed to be no stores any longer, just fiery pits and burning human effigies, but it didn’t bother him too much. As far as he could tell, that had always been the case. Food was easy enough to come by, a canning factory was just down the road from his home-chasm.
Chuck pulled a silver, half-sealed can from his bindle And handed it to Howard. He immediately grabbed it and tilted it into his mouth.
“The waffles sure taste like baked beans today.” They always tasted like baked beans. It never really seemed strange to him in the past, but the more he thought about it, the weirder it was.
“Hey, Howard,” Chuck said, staring at the side of the can. “One more question.”
“Yeah?” Howard mumbled through the can, mouth seemingly stuffed with baked beans.
“Do you think it’s possible that we’ve been eating cans of baked beans every day for the past few years?” In retrospect he realized that it was slightly peculiar for filet mignon, lobster, and beef to come in a can. They also always seemed to taste the same, all of them salty and baked bean-like.
“No, I don’t think so.” Howard lowered the can down and stared at it. “Definitely not. We had filet mignon yesterday. Very bean-like filet mignon.” He lifted his left eyebrow as if suddenly suspicious.
“Yeah, but we ate it with a spoon,” Chuck said. “And it came from a can. I’m pretty sure it was the can you’re holding.” Chuck glanced around him. The black sky hung threateningly overhead, a plume of lava spouting upwards in the distance. The volcano beneath it had been erupting for years, legions of dark, scattered figures flying forth from it and slowly replacing the people that had once filled his city. They hissed at him whenever he passed, sometimes pricking him with their weapons. It never really struck him as odd at the time, he thought it was maybe just a trend like that whole “swag” thing. He never was too up-to-date with the kids.
“I don’t know, I think you might be going a bit crazy. Peaches sometimes come from cans,” Howard said. “There was a song about that once in the 90s.” It was true. There was a song about peaches in a can. “Then again, these beans do taste an awful lot like the lobster we had last week. And the filet mignon. And the Lucky Charms.”
“Weird, right? And you’re still positive that the sky was always black and filled with fiery creatures?”
“Yeah, pretty sure. Well, not really, but kind of.” Chuck stared up at the darkened sky, a massive, shadowy figure flying overhead. Birds had become a lot larger recently, which he attributed to something in the water supply turning them into dragons. One of his old friends had been the first to point it out to him, screaming for help as one of them swooped down and grabbed him in its beak. He never saw that friend again, but it didn’t really strike him as odd until now.
“Hey, uh, one last question,” Chuck said, watching as the massive shadow flew into dust that now covered everything and everyone. “Do you think it’s possible we might have missed the apocalypse?”
Howard stared up at the sky. “Maybe,” he said, tilting the can of beans back toward his mouth.