A Rupture in Ragnarok
He almost ignored the rupture because he was tired and the glass desert was hurting his eyes.
The sunset hung low on the horizon, like a sacred wound weeping scarlet trails through
the overhead cumulonimbus clouds. Bill squinted and shook his hairless head at this
harsh red light reflected all around him.
“Now what is that?” he asked no one in particular, since there was no one at all within earshot.
In fact he could have screamed the question with a megaphone and, sadly, no one would come running
with a reply. Bill Gravell (“and that’s Gra-Vell,” he instructed everyone he met) limped down the
glassy street all alone, with no chance of being hounded, attacked by dogs, or run down by a reckless
Bill halted his stride, turning his brown, wrinkled, smiling face in the direction of the rupture.
He didn’t know what else to call it. Across the street, a bizarre silver circle had appeared. Floating.
“Isn’t that something?” he exclaimed.
Or is it nothing?
This thought, sudden and unbidden, brought a sad smile to his blistered lips, and made him mouth his favorite prayer.
“Kirsten-Sherry-Tina-Bobby.” Little Bobby was the only one who had died, but he didn’t always remember that.
This was one of those times; in his memory, all four of his children were alive and smiling, waiting for
him to come back to the bunker with good barter stuff. And he had it! In his left hand he clutched a
swollen plastic bag stuff with yellowed newspapers like some sickly egg sac. There were people in the
caves who’d trade food or pillows or blankets for it. Paper was good for burning. And some
even drew as much comfort from reading faded advertisements or movie listings as others from
a warm campfire. Yes, newspapers were a good thing to barter.
The melted glass road stretched ahead of him leading to the bunker’s dome. Most of the outer
shell was gone now, but Bill could always spot it against the crumbled surroundings because
of the fire hydrants. Fire hydrants were made of cast iron. They alone had survived the war.
They alone would continue, like strange hard mushrooms sprouting from a rusting landscape.
Bill squinted down that way. He could just see the dark knob of his cast-iron friend.
He looked back at the glowing circle across the street.
Bill had no idea how long he’d been outside. You weren’t supposed to be outside for
longer than twenty minutes. Most people from the bunker kept count a loud, hurrying
back with whatever spoils they could dig up when their count reached fifteen or sixteen
minutes… but Bill was always forgetting things. And his watch, strapped around his
wrist like a prison shackle, was useless. Frozen at the hour the bombs had gone off.
“Stay outside too long and you start seeing things,” he muttered. “Oh, all right!”
He limped over to the silver rupture. And crossing the distance, he realized it was a round window of some kind!
Somehow, impossibly, as if a cosmic hole-puncher had ruptured the fabric of reality and given him a peephole glimpse into another world.
And what a world! So different from the shattered spires of buildings around him like fractured teeth jutting out
from a grey gumline! In this porthole he saw an entirely new horizon of wide open grassy plains and blue skies! Blue!
His fingers twisted the plastic bag. His mouth twitched.
Green grass! Blue skies! A limitless flat horizon! And standing upon the grassy plains was
a person, gaping at him from the other side!
“Hello!” Bill cried.
He approached the rupture until his chin was nearly resting on its warm perimeter, the blue
light bathing his face in an azure blanket.
The man on the other side was also approaching him. He wore only a dirty loincloth; his robust
chest was like a red barrel. In one hand he clutched a dead rabbit.
“Hello!” Bill shouted again. The rabbit would make great trading. Far better than rat meat or roach paste.
The man in the loincloth grunted at him.
“Do you want to trade?”
The loinclothed man recoiled a step.
Bill held up his bag of newspapers. “I’ve struck print! You’ve got food! Do you want to trade?”
The strange primitive just gaped like an idiot.
“Now look here,” Bill said angrily. “I’m offering a damn barter! Fine!”
Bill turned away, disgusted and feeling ill. How long had he been out? He had no way of knowing.
Behind him, the rupture closed like an eye drawing shut.
“Kirsten-Sherry-Tina-Bobby,” he said sadly, and hurried as far as his lame leg could take him.
Poor Bobby was dead, but his other children would survive. They would. He’d make sure if it.
On the other side of the rupture, the loinclothed man stared long after the strange hole had closed.
Hours passed while he stood vigil, the blue sky failing and folding into black. Then he threw his
head back and laughed.
He was tempted to stand vigil to see if the god would speak to him again. But he had been outside for
a long time now, and couldn’t afford to linger with grassland predators about. Perhaps later he’d
return with the other hunters and the tribal shaman, and show them the spot. The shaman might understand what had happened.
The loinclothed primitive ran eagerly, the rabbit pinched in his fingers. It was so dark he
almost couldn’t see the strange hard mushrooms marking his way to the cave.
But he did find them. There was just enough light.
Brian Trent has has work appear in Clarkesworld,
Asimov, Strange Horizons, Orion's Child, Electric Velocipede, Bewildering Stories, Atomjack,
The Humanist (August's cover story), and many other publications.
Email: Brian Trent
Return to Table of Contents