The sun simmers lightly upon the wasteland. The skies are clear and empty. The arid lands bear no plantations, left suntanned and stained. Light winds drag landscapes to hurl sand as shrapnel. Dead trees stand pridefully as a constant reminder of the forgotten, lettered with a “told you so”. An ol’ lone, worn, and sad house tries to tread on. Its roof was riddled with holes, and walls were soon to collapse. Rotting wooden beams stand high without any of the confidence those branching tombstones have. The door leans on its side with one hinge left at the bottom. A doormat lays in front of the weary barricade, bleached and tainted to a boring and mundane orange to blend in. Nails point out haphazardly to point out each scratch and imperfection. An isolated light bulb dangles from the middle beam of the roof, swaying side to side to try and reach each nook and cranny with the most minuscule of hopes, only to further disappoint them when it sways back.
Somehow, without reason or rhyme, something still remains in the sarcophagus. A short and stout figure, shadowy and dark, even when the lightbulb dangles towards them. It has arms better described as tendrils that drag along the floorboards. A large eye smack dab in the middle of the mass tries to push aside its subsiding body that impairs its own vision. Teeth attempting to form any type of resemblance to a mouth as it is constantly washed away. Its hair floats at the top of it, each thread distinguishably messier than the first. It tries to hold itself together, into the feminine figure it saw in the magazine. She was everything it wanted to be. Despite it still being worn from constant wind and sand, the magazine was of utmost priority to the mass. It tried to protect it as much as it could, to shield it as best as she could. Its teeth scraped and chipped, its eye bloodied and dry, its hair bleached and ruined, her body remained the same. It would be better if that magazine had just flown out of her life, but her obsession was already set. Each day she’d exert herself to countless reshaping attempts. To try and piece herself together, but it would always droop back down, in a slow and sludgy style. Perhaps if her mind hadn’t tried so relentlessly to keep going, she would have stopped. But instead, nothing changes, and she continues to try again, only to end in her misery.
To be fair, nothing has changed for a very long time, except the slow decay of her house, and the growing reminder of this planet’s extinction. To her knowledge, everything else is dead. Everything within her proximity is decaying, so why bother looking for something that isn’t? Besides, it probably wouldn’t take much for them to start decaying too. The reason she gets to stay is to be a cruel joke to the gods, a jest for them to laugh at after the rest angered them.
One day, the decay of the lowly string that kept the bulb up finally took its toll, and down when the only light after the beaming sun. Nights were lonelier, with no one but the rising moon. There was a primal sense of fear, despite the fact that nothing could be lurking in the darkness, as it would much rather do anything else to survive than lurking. She couldn’t look herself in the mirror as well, and the magazine soon was left untouched after hampered time. She began to appreciate the day more, as the golden light was something she had taken for granted, but she had also begun to appreciate the night more, as she longed for a time where she could blend and meld into her backgrounds.
During the midst of the night, she had found a rustic box lit from the dim glaze of the moon. She had not seen where it came from, or what it was for. It had a label warning to “handle with care.” The box was littered with pointed holes on the top. Out of morbid curiosity, she opened the box to find something completely foreign. Life. A baby duckling, curled into a ball that waddled and flinched and tripped and wailed. It was like nothing she had ever seen. She’d only seen remnants of what could be life. The sticks and branches of weeds unplucked and rooted were the closest things. She’d simply sit there in absolute shock and awe at the golden fluff that rolled around in dust and sand. Its feathers were very dirty, and it shook and trembled. Despite this, it still joyously bounced around like a magazine fluttering in its flight. She was frozen. Life was a little more than a myth to her, and she was complacent in her rot. What was she supposed to do? Everything was telling her that she could not allow such an unknown and unpredictable force to reside in her home, but that same part of her mind that tried to shape herself into the women in the magazines told her to keep it safe by all means. She was not the most rational, so the duckling stayed the night.
The first night was the hardest. She had tried her best not to ruin the gleam of its feathers while keeping it warm, but there was no good way of doing that. Her hardwood floors had potential splinters. Her furniture was far too worn to be of any use. The doormat was rugged and tough, but it provided a little more time for her to think. She looked down at her magazines, the things so precious kept in pristine condition. Even then, the paper had discolored and ripped. Her sorrowful eye continued to peer, to wonder if this was worth it. Her instincts come to clash; her rationale told her this was her last comfort, a guarantee in her life of vague mystique—something to pin her down in reality, but as further proof of the lack of her rationale, she would lay the paper wings over the golden wings. She’d lay herself over as well; its rich gleam mixed with the blackened mass. Whether it was to further protect the duckling as her own or to protect herself from the grief of losing what she once prized, only its veiled tears would tell.
She looked into the mirror and saw herself, like normal, but that usual judgment and shame were replaced by a glance backward to the duckling running along the cupboard, so she’d run along to catch it. When it was thirsty, tears would have to suffice. When it was hungry, it would clean its caretaker of her black sludge. It started to grow larger than its caretaker while she had shrunk bored with pores the size of craters. The hair had to be mixed with the muck of her body. The harder parts, like the teeth, had to be removed and chewed away, eroding similarly to the worn house. The pain was of no notice to her; she had felt it all before. She didn’t miss her limbs; they served no purpose but to fill her with misery. But the duckling was no glutton. They would rather spend days running around the enclosed space with innocent optimism which lit the rooms in place of the broken lightbulb. Days of feasting were ones of sorrow and solemn rather than solace. Yet, they continued to live; to grow, while she had continued to further sacrifice herself willingly for a hope she irrationally believed in, knowing what the future lies in reality. She wore thin, not questioning the end of it, but what lays after, when her precious has nothing left to feed. She questioned whether it was humane to prolong such a death, but her glances away from the mirror to a proud duck in this lonely home gave her no other choice but to love with all her heart.
A day came when she had exhausted all of her resources, nothing but an eye. The sun had risen the highest it’s been. Her sorrow shined through, sad not of the end, but that she could no longer provide. The duck begged her to stay, but she had insisted she was not of any use anymore. In one merciful gulp, her sorrows were swallowed to the bottom of their hearts. And the moon glimmered like no other day until it couldn’t any longer.