Urban Cosmonaut

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The Sun is a giant rupture in the sky through which blinding waves of cosmic fire cascade into our world. Searing radiation drenches all, bouncing off things, scorching everything it touches. Pomona burns, and the trapped air stewing over concrete turns the avenue into a furnace. On and off, the scene around me becomes a Van Gogh nightmare, forms swirling and trembling in the seething heat. Traffic has been slowed down by construction; I’m at the stop light, boots on the pavement, gloved hands on grips, enduring the radiator blowing hell at me as the exhaust pipe burns my right leg. Halfway through today’s journey, with 2 more errands to go, I chide myself for this bright idea. If only there was a breeze… I need to get moving soon or I’ll be cooked alive in my leathers.

A beastly earth mover makes its way across Garey Avenue in a thunderous slumber. The ground vibrates and creaks under its immense weight, and for a moment I envision a lazy eye on it, looking at me as it passes, a whale considering the fish yielding the right of way, smoldering in an ocean of effervescing light. It all happens slowly enough that I can take a look around. What sort of creatures populate this hour? How have they adapted to life in the fire?

This isn’t the best part of town. Aside from the ubiquitous palm trees betraying my surroundings as somewhere in Los Angeles, the scene is a typical slice of run-down America. A handful of characters roam the sidewalks, some, predictably, the embodiment of oppression. Vacant buildings are always within sight. Empty lots, bare soil bereft of all but dry weeds and refuse, speak of neglect. Exhaust fumes reveal the age and disrepair of the vehicles around me. And as we wait—impatiently—for the construction crew to part the boiling seas, I notice people in their cars looking at me, the urban cosmonaut in black. Unable to see past the dark polyglass over my face, they feel at liberty to put on their this fool must be crazy faces. Yes, the world is on fire, my skin under leather is aflame… but I am not crazy. The world confirms it. There is an acrid tint to the air; an incisive, disturbing assault on the senses. It’s the scent of death… Somewhere near, perhaps in one of the vacant lots, a carcass is returning to the Earth. Memento mori as we wait for a green light, and an admonishment to all: in this our world, the world today, the world we have created, venturing anywhere without armor is, quite simply, no longer an option.

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