Last Road, by Chad A. Clark
The dry wind picked up, and blew the tattered remains of the newspaper through the faded memory of the long dead town. The buildings and houses that once lined the streets were now nothing but dilapidated, skeletal remains, hallow shells of a former life that refused to loose their grip on days gone by.
Far above the street, a crow perched silently on top of a pole. It shook out its feathers as it sat, surveying the landscape below, illuminated only by the pale light reflected down from the moon. There was no sign of life, nothing to swoop down and feed on, nothing but hot blasting air and forgotten dreams. The crow lifted up with a cry that quickly dissipated into the silence.
Inside the tavern, the stools remained, loyally lined up in front of the bar, even though the wood was rotting away from the inside, nearly collapsing from the weight of what little life was left in it. At the end of the bar, a former patron sat patiently, bony hand placed on top of the dusted remains of a pint glass.
A jukebox in the corner of the tavern still stood, albeit with most of the insides smashed to bits. Behind the bar, the glass mural had been shattered, shards littering the floor below.
A beetle popped out of a hole in the wall and surveyed the room. It danced around the various blood stains on the floor and managed to avoid the chunk of ceiling tile that came crashing to the ground beside it. It fled the tavern and turned out onto the street. The wind nearly picked it up but it managed to stay rooted as it scampered around in circles before turning down an alley, and leaving our sight forever.
The streets, stained with the blood of regret and decaying pulchritude now were barely capable of holding on to the dust and grime that didn’t even want to call this desolate place home. Further down were the remains of heavy equipment, long since stripped of any practical use and scattered in as many different directions as seemed possible. Between two buildings, a stray coyote sat and stared, transfixed by the misleading odors of this place, unsure if scavenging was called for, or if it should follow its instincts and run before it was too late.
Across the way, in front of the rotting corpse of a general store, the frail remains of a rocking chair moved back and forth with the wind, still yearning for the physical touch of a body to fulfill its only purpose in life.
It had been years since this town had had what anyone would consider a population, residents holding claim to its borders and using it as the frame to hold all of their disparate lives together as one. All glue eventually must fail and, as such, the people of this town had slowly peeled away, leaving behind nothing but this failed structure of humanity.
Maybe that was why they used the town for their purposes. Where better to put something that you never wanted found than a place where no one ever went to find anything? What better graveyard to dispose of a dead body than amongst the already decomposing memories of what was had been? Where better?
The south side of town, where the church had once been, was now littered with the signs of freshly dug graves. It was hard to say how many people were out here since they rarely designated one hole for one body and to be fair, the dead hardly ever complained about having to share.
They used this place because, like this town, some people needed to disappear as if they had never existed, leaving behind nothing but the barest shades of memory. Whenever they had someone who fit this necessity, they would march him through here in the middle of the night, taking him on his final walk through this boardwalk of spectral dilapidation until they reached the final steps of this last journey.
Dexter had thought that he would tell the police everything that needed to be told. He thought he was doing so well and had been so prepared. He hadn’t expected the people who showed up at his apartment tonight to get him, to escort him to this place.
He heard the smooth sound of a revolver being drawn from a shoulder clutch, the metallic snick of the slide being pulled back. Cold steel pressed to the back of his neck and all he could do was look up into the ocean of stars boiling over in every direction and it occurred to him as he spent his remaining moments in awe of this terrestrial magnificence that even a place as barren and dead as this could still sometimes be blanketed in beauty.
The crow fluttered back towards Earth, sensing the possibility of a fresh meal.