Their Days Are Numbered is a new year-long project authored by the collective Entropy community. It is a collaborative online novel written by the Entropy community on a weekly basis. A different author will write the next “chapter” each week, to be posted every Tuesday, following the previous post from the previous week, and following a very limited set of guidelines (that each author has one week to write the next piece after the previous week’s installment goes up, that installments should range between 150-1500 words, and that pieces should somehow incorporate a real-life occurrence, current event, news item, or other happening from that week).
Follow the entire “novel” here: Their Days Are Numbered.
The fortieth installment is presented this week by August Evans.
You don’t realize how much faith you’ve placed in the mouse until you see it, dangling upside-down, a foot from your face, knotted tight to a tree branch by its tail. It’s only an electric mouse—made of fake-metal, deceptively cut to resemble real-mouse fur—a pallid grey loaf, rotating placidly in the moonlight, tiny fake-nails pulsing. You know all of these things, and yet the sight of the mouse after your time apart feels like every airport embrace, scored goal, smiling doctor.
But then the mouse rotates. And you see its eyes.
You scream, jump back.
This isn’t the mouse you wanted; this isn’t the mouse you saw before.
The mouse from before was a comfort to you. It made you think that, even though the oceans had turned dry as jigsaw puzzles, you were still here. The mouse was still here. The fact of the mouse’s existence confirmed your own for you. And you hoped, in the way a mouse would understand, a way you couldn’t fathom to know—that you, too, confirmed the mouse to itself.
But, clearly, seeing this mouse up closer, you are certain: this is a different time; this is a different mouse. This new mouse isn’t a mouse at all. Its eyes couldn’t even be called eyes; they were throbbing red algorithms, cherry-electric impasses.
You walk on. The mouse releases a whir as you pass, like its sensors have been activated by you moving past. And yet, despite the mouse being made of metal and tiny red alarms, you feel guilty leaving it on its own. You must have some compassion left.
There is more shore than ocean now. Experts ask: Was the earth swallowing its lakes and rivers? Or was it something in the sky descending, licking up the seas, taking drags off the earth?
These numbered days. That time the famous college misplaced their rockets. It was a big event, everyone gathered coliseum-style, to watch the launch of a fleet unsurpassed by prior attempts. The rockets were affixed with tiny cameras; they were programmed to travel a certain distance, snap a few pictures, and come back. There were all sorts of people doing the same thing, trying to figure out how far we would have to go to survive.
The rockets had launched sideways rather than vertical. The strays nailed a lot of good people. Friendly fire in the shithole you were supposed to have been running.
You can’t remember your capacity at that job; your ability to collect details has waned. All you know is you worked at the college.The campus was rich with tightly wound plant life, twisted limbs begging the sky.
You remember your co-worker. Loreen. You took smoke breaks together, in a 12×12 slab of dirt reserved for that purpose. Loreen used to say, “Out, out, damn mouse,” when she couldn’t get her cigarette cherry to go out.
You and Loreen had gone to the beach together once, just after the Final Dry had been declared. It had gotten pretty bad by that point, fish washing up on miles and miles of shore. Their mouths wouldn’t close. Their huge lips puffed and psshted; they all suffered the same end—mouth stuck in the shape of an O.
Rain: like “fish,” a word for another time. Rain had formed a jelly of lakes and rivers and oceans around the continents. Rain had held the land tight in just the right places, buttressing every side with salt and fishes. Rain had formed puddles for children and dogs; Rain had spoken unwelcome greetings to people on street corners, waiting for buses. Rain had made the leak in the roof, turned floury the boxes of albums and clothes and books and trinkets. Rain had soaked through stacks of photographs, hooding some faces, enhancing others.
You stop walking. You gasp. There, at your feet, you bend down and squint and guffaw and slap the ground, and start hollering into the empty sky, believing this is really it, this is finally your chance—because there, on the ground: you see a stream of water.