The Apocalypse of the Boy

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

The apocalypse in the title refers to the original meaning in Greek, i.e. revelation, or the revealing of truth. It is a short story about a boy in a violent world of humankind who goes out into the harsh wilderness for a short stay and finds a truth he cannot describe. I wrote this some years ago and I welcome any feedback.



The taste of copper burst into his mouth spooling. The boy parted his lips to breathe and caught yet another fist. Held under arms, he tried to struggle his way free from his attackers but they kept him pinned down while one saw to knuckled blows bruising his face. A crowd had gathered in a standing circle and they gawked and stared but none took it upon themselves to help him. It ended when the one pummeling him grew exhausted, his breaths reached deep into his lungs to sting at his sides. Released, they walked away, as much bound to the moment as the boy was, laughing and congratulating each other. They threw final threats at him but he took no notice of it and raised himself up on his elbows to glare bloody faced at those who stood by.

Blood gushed slowly from the well of a broken nose over his chin and down unto his white shirt. The boy was young, and carried a pale innocent face. His black hair haphazardly cut short with marks left by the blind knife that took to his scalp. He stood up, pushing himself up from the dusty earth. With glazed dark eyes, as smooth as wet river stones, he stared at those encircling him. Some drifted away. His head throbbed with the pounding drum of his heart. A snare of pain tied around his jaw. He spat. Blood mixed with dirt to form a red clot of clay. He stood breathing and gaping and his tongue searched through his mouth. A slicing pain stung on his tongue where he had bitten it and he felt an incisor loose on the lower right. His stare kept intact and it was forceful and accusative and he reached in and with a squint of pain drew out the loose tooth and it clicked softly as it broke loose and he held it in his hand and saw that it was small and white under the red drench of blood.

He turned to take his leave and showed his back to the paint peeling school building and walked past a group of girls. Their heads followed him turning and whispering to each other. He caught no words and did not care for them but on his way he glanced at a blond girl in the group, with soft doe eyes and porcelain fair skin, and she saw him see her and his heart panged and he felt rage where once love had been. He did not look back once and set himself to walking the dusty road home.

The heat was dry and the breeze gusty and old. Worn down by the summer the town sagged in its mortal flesh. The buildings stood out like white bones from the earth, dead and quiet, once living and vibrant. The boy made his way through the grid iron streets, where he passed rotten mutts on chains barking their hoarse whoop at him.

The sun dried his blood and it cracked on his face when he grimaced with scorn at those who stared at this pale boy with the innocent face marked by a blackening smear of painted violence. A dread enlightenment began to set in on him, to dawn on him as the sun sank from its noon meridian down to die for a day in the west.

To where do the vacant feel drawn? At home in some empty vastness that fills where the torrential wildness within feels matched by the boundless vacuity outside.

The boy arrived home although it felt like none. Drowned in drink his mother lied on a moth eaten and molding couch, sagging into it with her melting mass, entombing her gratuitous bulk with liquor as white as light. She called for him when she heard him walk through the creaking metal door. He stood hid in the shadow cast by the afternoon sun. Blind as she was he was not to take chances. Drunk and rattled she began to talk. It was not him that she had something to say to, but rather that she had something to say and felt that it had to be said. Her words had to fall upon listening ears but the boy lazily walked away to fetch her a bottle from the kitchen of her own home brewed white lightning. When there was none left she would stir and raise her behemothic self from her den to clamorly create some more but until then she will drink and piss where she lay. He placed the bottle within reach of her hand. It was cold and frigid and he walked back to the kitchen and fetched two for himself and left his mother's presence for his room.

With warm water he washed his face and inspected with a still frowning eye the damage done to his face. A swollen ridge had begun to rise under his eye and he felt it hard to open it to see with.

Stripped of his clothes the boy was skinny, pale, and scarred. Fresh bruises darkened his belly, his chest. His arms looked like a ghost had touched him with its frigid hands and left his arms with frost bitten purple grips. He changed his clothes and took a sip from one of the bottles. Rancid as the stuff was he coughed and heaved but soon felt the warmth from the liquid ember settle in his stomach and spread across his torso to his limbs. A lightheadedness came over him and he quickly slugged back another mouthful even though it burned his mouth and tasted metallic. He packed a small knapsack with things and left the house with his mother still hollering at him her complaints about his meek and dead father.

He headed for the hills, South. The sun descended to his right and he kept it there. Through crags and cracks in hill and earth, through dried up dead rivers, over old trails he meandered. He stopped by a creek with a slither of water to drink of its muddied pool to counter the thirst his mother's brew drew out of him. He did not rest until the town lay far and behind him.

The terrain was hill ridden but the horizon stretched flat against the sky. Porous country, rough and dry, bushes and brown shrubs spotted the landscape. Whatever breeze the east could kick up was dry and heavy with heat and barely stirred the dead limbs of cracking trees and the earthen hands of tumbleweeds reaching up from their rooted graves. The boy found an abandoned walking stick as tall as he was, standing twelve years tall as well, and he plodded along with it, taking a swig from the first bottle every few hundred steps.

He sat his bag down under a rocky cove from where he could watch the sun set but first he had to gather firewood. In the dead dry land he did not have to go far for what he needed and soon had a pile that could last the night. He had no food but hunger wasn't going to stir trouble in him till morning. That night he slept to the yapping of coyotes and dreamed under the seduction of drink.

Morning burst open like a flower blooming. The sun cut across the boy's face and slowly warmed him till burning. He woke up dry throated and thirsty and walked down to the creek to drink silted water. It tasted bitter and grainy, rough with salt but he gulped it down and washed his face. Hunger stirred in him and he set out to search for food. Stick in hand he climbed over boulders, snuck through crags, and hunted for small rodents. Crickets and locusts he found he ate, crunched into a pulp in his mouth and swallowed with an unfavorable opinion.

The day became warm soon and long before noon he began to sweat and he could smell himself. An odor rich in the spoils from the night before, pungent and sweet, seeped out of his skin and stunk up his body.

He met with bones upon the earth. Some bovine lied down never to stand up again. Stripped of their meat long ago, the bones were bleached by the arid sun and they were cracked and scattered. The boy picked up the skull, hollowed out at the bottom and placed it on his head. The eyes of the dead beast did not line up with his own and he could only stare out of the sockets with one eye at a time, either the right or the left, while the other found its vision obstructed by the white cavern of the creature's skull. He took it off and laid it back down on the ground and left.

A rolling breeze swept the land and a dust devil spun spiraling into the sky, disappeared upon its ascend into a vast blue heaven bright in the sun's glare. The boy searched and sought but found none and hunger burdened and sun beaten he relinquished to return to the boulder cove. During the night before he had mustered only enough strength to see the bottle through to half, and would now see to the rest.

He arrived back to his respite by noon. The sun blazed in its meridian hateful and vengeful and the boy felt heavy under the weight of the heat. In the creek he bathed as he could and painted himself brown with the silted mud like some savage performing a ritual before war. His face still pained to his touch but the swelling had hardened and was no longer tender. The mud dried and cracked and he thought about how his blood had done the same and how when he spat it into the earth it became clotted and bound together. He stood in the creek, feet in the pale brown stream, under the shade of the mud, and saw himself as a forgery of the earth. A creature of mud made flesh of white bones hidden under dark duress.

The noon sun sank towards the western horizon and the sky reddened in a stunted, august blaze. The boy, caked in mud, returned to the cove where he sat down next to his belongings, hungry, and opened the bottle and took a sip. Something stirred next to him when he brought his head back up and shook the liquor-like flame through his body. He saw it out of the corner of his eye and it was a dark, coiled mass that stared at him from a dark abyss through amber eyes. A tongue flickered forked and flailing. The boy backed away slowly, dog-like and stood up crouching under the dome of the cove. Pursuing him, the viper stretched out after him, wary itself. Neither spoke to the other and the boy stared into the viper's slitted eyes and felt it staring back at him. Darkness in daylight and what could it yield?

The boy felt something coil in himself as the viper drew closer. His hand grew aggressive, a violent spirit possessed it. While his eyes kept the dead stare with the serpent his hand reached for a rock. The closer the viper was to come the surer destiny bound it to the rock coming down in malevolence upon its head. After he lifted the rock to peer under it to see the viper's crushed head only then did the boy try to remember what sound it had made. Dreams end, even the waking ones.

Against the red sky with his silhouette darkening the boy set about stripping the snake of its skin and started a fire. From his bag he withdrew a knife he had stolen from the kitchen and sliced open the serpent from head to tail along its belly. The head came off and he peeled the skin away around the decapitated neck with the knife at first but then began using his fingers and the flesh quietly ripped as the two were freed from one another. The skin came off in one piece and the boy put it aside, spread on the flat rock surface of the cove. A fire was started and the boy took out the organs from the fat belly, placing oblong organs aside. He cut through the spine and carved the corpse into several pieces to skewer and roast over the fire. When all was done and light still barely remained he took the snake skin down to the river and washed it in the silted water and covered it in the mud to dry the next day. Upon his return to the cove he rotated the meat where they roasted on flat stones so that their other side could be licked by the flames as well. The fire was cold and young but it grew in warmth to fight off the desert cold. The boy sat picking the meat of the bones and drank sipping sups from the bottle. He slept, caked in mud and smelling of snake blood.




Came the morning he ate what he had left uneaten of the viper. The meat was cold and hard and he bit of stringy chunks of it. His jaw still ached from the bruising from the day before and his toothless socket panged and panged like a pan beating against a kettle next to his head. Tortured with thirst he saw himself to the creek and drank great gulps of the sordid water and for a while lay there to cool and bathe in the mud.

Before noon he left the cove to go hunting for food once more. He took off in a northerly direction

to search where he hadn't yet, but again came up empty handed and returned to cool himself in the creek.

The cove stood out on a small hill, a protrusion against a flat surrounding backdrop. The horizons may have been riddled with hills but they all rose to the same hobbled height. From atop the boulders resting atop boulders, leaning on and underneath each other to form the nook the boy took for his wilderness home, the boy sat and surveyed the land. It almost seemed faded, in a dusty fog. The sky wide and overbearing while the earth lay flat like an open palm. Honest and offering.

The boy climbed down and his feet thudded heavily. Another dark coil took notice of his presence. This viper was met with curiosity from the boy who stared at the serpent and approached him. In his hand he held the knife, having picked it up with a gliding hand where it sat loose among his belongings. He approached the viper, crawling on his belly as his victim might do himself. Eye to eye he reached a hand forward and slowly grabbed a hold of it, the glare from those amber eyes never once cast aside from the boy's blue souled stare. The viper came to his hand like it was meant to be taken into the boy's grip. There it was held, rough scales lined smooth along its body and the forked tongue flickering in and out of its cavernous mouth from where death is dealt quickly but abates and comes slowly. The knife knew the way, it wielded the boy and soon the boy was by the fire roasting yet another viper slain that came to him.

The first bottle, still holding its own against the boy, was left unfinished the night before but the boy set about ending it once and for all. He stared up at the night sky, searching for stars, light among the vast blackness. A fire breathed a small glow of light like a reddened orange flower under the cove's boulders. The boy listened for coyotes to cackle and call but they bickered none that night. The bottle undone the boy still with resolve took it upon himself to see to the other and stumbled down from his perch from where he had watched the sun set.

The sight of a young woman, dark skinned from the beating sun and hair as wild as her eyes, sitting by the fire and helping herself to the remaining snake meat, froze the boy in his place. She looked up at him, bewildered but not surprised. A moment passed and she smiled, offering him some of what she hadn't eaten. He refused and tried speaking to her but she cocked her head to the side like a dog and she pointed to her ears and waved her hands. She could not hear, and she did not speak. The boy lost his apprehension and sat down and opened the bottle. He offered her a sip but she stared at it with suspicion. He took it back from her, swallowed a gulp and passed it back. Watching him carefully, she did likewise but never took her eyes off of him and she spat the poison out as soon as it spooled over her tongue and the fire erupted in a burst of light and anger and she fell back and cackled with a silent chuckle. She tried again and held it down but she shook and shuddered as the liquor slithered down into her stomach and through her veins, bonding with her blood. The boy took it back and for the rest of the night they passed it back and forth until they fell asleep.

The woman followed the boy down to the creek upon morning and partook of the water as he did. Savagely he smeared himself with the mud, coating himself to protect against the harsh rays of the sun, but the woman took off all of her clothes and stood before him naked. Her body curved from shoulder to hip and her skin was brown and unwashed. A soft down covered her arms and she sat in the water before she laid back to roll and soak herself as best she could. The boy stared and knew not what to do. His eyes circled in their sockets and scoured across her body. He saw more than he knew what to do with and stood in a solid stare at her. Playfully she threw a lump of mud at him and it splattered him on his shoulder. He did likewise to her and soon the favors kept being slung back and forth until they collapsed behind their battle lines and sat in the shade of the creek's ridge breathing deeply. The boy felt a sleep come over him and he closed his eyes. He opened them to find the woman next to him resting her ear on his chest and listening to him breathe. In a sudden burst she pushed herself off of him and stood naked before him and with her arm she made snake-like gestures. She stopped and pointed at him and with the other hand pointed in the direction from where he came from. He stared at her bewildered and rebuked her with words she could not hear. Leaving her by the creek, he walked up to the boulder cove and took up his hunting instruments that have failed him so diligently and went looking for more to hunt. The woman soon followed him, dressed in her worn down and tattered clothes.

Solitude ruptured and rendered routed, the boy struggled to tolerate with the woman in her fay-like dancing. She skipped and floated excitedly from stone to stone, over brush and shrub and disturbed nothing save the boy's hunt. He began to see her as a hostile creature sent by some demiurge to disrupt his attempts at finding a kill. She giggled and gasped and found the world curious while he scolded and frowned and yelled liturgies of abuse at her deaf ears. In her excitement she brought him stones clear as crystal to look at. She poured over the bones of little animals and she picked up the dead limbs of plants and swung them back and forth like a desert bride's bouquet. Like a dust devil she kicked up dirt into the heavy arid air and made herself playful chaos incarnate. After noon the boy decided to turn back and walking past the woman she grabbed him and embraced him, holding his back to her body, and she quickly pecked him on his cheek with a soft wet kiss and she flung him aside gently and sprinted ahead. The boy stood left behind in confusion and a bewildered anger. She turned around and smiled and laughed and turned back to the boulder cove on the hill and began running back towards it. The boy, dejected and a wicked seed of doubt and naive fear planted in his head taken root, followed after her to bathe in the creek once more.

But she did not lead him to the creek. In the stead of the days before she waited for him under the shadow of the cove, and she sat cross-legged upon the flat surface next to the fire. He came up after her.

She raised a hand and he stopped. She gestured for him to sit which he did. From his bag she produced the bottle of white light and she took a deep slugging gulp and her head twisted on her neck from side to side as she forced it down her gullet. With parched lips she took a great unburdening breath and placed the bottle down. For a moment she stared at the two snake skins hanging from the boulder over head, caked in the silt mud and drying. His eyes followed hers and he yielded to her movements like a creature charmed. Their eyes met and she smiled. Sliding a hand behind her back she brought forth another viper and held it loosely. The dark fat headed serpent coiled and slithered along her harm and she kissed it on the mouth with no harm to her. She looked at the boy with a coy smile and closed her eyes.

The viper became wild and bit her on her throat. She sat still and unmoved and the viper curled itself in her lap and brought its eyes to stare at the boy who became pale and frightened. A sleek trickle of blood streaked down her neck from where the two puncture wounds blessed her with deathly venom. She kept her eyes closed and the viper kept staring at the boy, his eyes cast upon the woman's chest. Her breathing grew more rapid but a sereneness clung to her face, carved out from marble it seemed.

Slowly, the boy watched the young woman die where she sat. He spent the night beside her corpse, the viper laid coiled in her lap. There was no food to be had but he was not hungry. The bottle stood aside and his lips did not touch its mouth for a liquored kiss. He listened to the quiet of the night, listening for longing.




There was no dawn when he awoke and in the darkness he saw as the blind see and packed his belongings and took with him when he left the woman's satchel she had brought with her. The sun began to rise when he turned to look back and saw through the eye of the boulder cove the woman's body still sitting upright, darkened against the anguished dawn sky. He took his leave, the mud cracking off his skin as he walked and headed home. But he did not go home.

The streets had daggered eyes to stare at him as he walked by, brown with dirt and sun and stained with sweat. The snake skins dangled loosely from where they were slung over the woman's satchel he ignored all. Barking dogs quieted their yaps when he passed. A dark cloud followed him. Upon his return his gait had changed. He walked like a lone wolf into a lamb stockade, knowing full well that they were to be trapped by their own designs and walls to face his unrelenting violent visage staring back at them.

A harbinger of the end. Some end. Whatever it may be it will come and with the boy it came. The school was not hard to find but it shown in his mind like a beacon and he walked through its door and into the classroom with those who he had last seen when he had lost his tooth. The class was interrupted and the boy stood before them brown and darkened as the earth. He smelt of a wild animal, of innards and sweat. His gaze was cruel but old. A maturity brought about by witnessing the truth to be found in self collapsing solitude. Some spoke but he did not hear them, for he became deaf. Those who asked were looking for answers from a boy who became dumb. He reached into the woman's satchel and from it, coiling up his arm, he brought forth the viper that had killed her and showed it to the children sitting in their desks. It did not bite him for he did not wield the snake but the snake him. And behold, those amber eyes, and the abyss that stared back, spoke death.

Submitted: January 07, 2021

© Copyright 2021 Alexander Byrne. All rights reserved.

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