Ollie met Kale two nights after the world ended. They were still alive, but a lot of people weren't, and it was all very dark and different from when the world was still awake and flourishing.
It could probably be said that they met on accident, but they had lived so close to each other their entire lives that it was coincidental they had not met before then. It was, in fact, a particular gallows irony type of thing that it took the ending of the world to introduce two people who had spent their entire lives across the street from one another to finally meet up. They had gone to the same school, ridden the same school bus when they were younger, perhaps even gone to the same parties.
When they did finally meet, back behind the crumbling high school they had gone to, it was with a strange kind of familiarity. They were so used to the unknown presence of one another, that when it finally made itself known, it was not awkward like a first meeting usually is.
They were alone, the two of them, having instinctually migrated to the same place. The glow of dwindling candles was their main source of light, the sky dark without a moon or stars to light it. The candles were not comforting; a memorial for the dead and missing. Candles to light the way for the dead and the orange embers of the lit cigarette that sat heavy between the slightly parted lips of Kale's dazed face. Red eyes and a chapped mouth, a sweaty dirty face that was normally kept so clean, all barely visible behind the cigarette. Uncertainty and fright.
Ollie hadn't been sure, either, as he sat next to the boy he should have known. Hesitation hindered his movements, the hesitation of someone who had lost so much he was afraid of losing the stranger next to him.
It took a moment before Kale realized there was any one else there at all, and he looked over at Ollie with wary eyes. Taking the cigarette from his mouth, he breathed in the ashy, dead air and flicked the cigarette at the ground.
"It's my last pack. You want one, you'd better find one somewhere else."
Ollie just sat there, staring at the broken pavement of the parking lot. His assigned parking spot was straight across, a big, angry welt of cracked asphalt opening up in the middle of it and traveling down to stop at his feet. "Don't want one. Don't smoke. It'll kill you."
"Yeah, whatever. If you don't want a smoke, then why are you here?"
"Where else would I go?"
Home, thought Kale. You should be at home with family, watching TV, playing video games, eating dinner at a table with people you know. But Ollie didn't have a home now, and neither did Kale, because their street had been one of the first to go under. When the earth had opened up and eaten half their town, half the country and most of the world, their street had been eaten as well. When the sun has stopped shining and the moon dropped out of sight, when the stars disappeared, so did their families, friends and houses. Their street was gone, everything they had ever known, and even though they hadn't known each other before, they did now. There was no one else to know.
The flames of the candles sunk lower to the ground as they sat there in silence. The candles would go out soon and they would be left in the dark, but there was nothing left to hurt them anymore, and even if there had been they wouldn't have cared. The survivors of the town had left, all but them. Neither of them had had the strength to get up and follow a straggling band of people they didn't know and didn't like. People who weren't their families. Neither had the will power to leave the town they grew up in and were forced to watch die, so they hadn't. And as the people of the little town of Ophelia Falls lit candles and left behind memories, Ollie and Kale basked in the light those candles gave off and the memories that were still fresh and would not spoil for a long time.
Though they had stayed behind to be left alone, neither of them made any move to get up and leave the company of the other. It was a silent comfort they gained from one another, as they sat there and watched their only light die. Neither had ever known anything so dark as it was then, and when the candles finally did die, they would know a level of dark that was meant for the dead.
"What do you think will happen when they go out?"
Ollie had broken the silence, but Kale didn't seem to mind much. The fact that they were sitting there like old friends didn't feel odd, no matter that they didn't know each other's names.
He ground out his cigarette on the pavement next to him, throwing what was left into the parking lot with a flick of his wrist. "Nothing, probably."
"Do you think we should have gone with them?"
Kale hesitated. He didn't know where they went, where they were going. He didn't know how many people had been left or who had been left. All he knew was that the world had ended and here might as well have been anywhere else, because it was all the same now.
"Why? Do you think it'll be any less dark in the next town over? Do you think it'll be any different? The world is dead, gone. This is the apocalypse and those bible thumping fanatics were right about one thing at least."
"No, I guess you're right."
There was not much else to do, nothing else to talk about. Still, neither boy had introduced themselves. It would have seemed too strange at that point, a new beginning coming out of a gruesome end. So the silence took over once more, this time a little heavier with the impending darkness. They were both tired, very tired, though they had been sitting and resting for hours. The candles were close to death, and they were still stuck in life.
There was no wind blowing, there hadn't been for weeks, even before the end of the world, but the candles snuffed out all the same. One by one, within a few minutes of each other. The world got darker and darker, and then finally darkest, when all of the candles were out and the silence was no longer comfortable, just slightly frightening, because when the lights went neither boy was sure the other one was still there.
Trying to keep the tremble out of his voice, Kale cleared his throat nervously. "Do you know what time it is?"
Ollie stared hard through the dark, barely able to discern the figure next to him, and shook his head. "Lost my watch. Couldn't read it, anyhow," his voice was strained and Kale could here the tremble in it that hadn't been there in the light.
"Yeah, I guess you couldn't, could you? I wonder what time it is. It feels late, but maybe that's just because it's so dark."
"Probably. I dunno. Maybe it is late." Ollie pulled his legs up to his chest and rested his chin on his knees, closing his eyes to the dark of the world and seeing a more comfortable dark, one he was used to.
"I guess it doesn't matter anymore. Could be anytime," Kale stretched out on the hard pavement, putting his jacket under his head as a makeshift pillow, and accidentally kicking a candle stub in the process.
The stub rolled away with the dull clatter of gravel. Kale cleared his throat again, his voice a little higher, trying to hide the fear that he felt, "Suppose I'll go to sleep then."
Ollie picked up his head, "Right here?"
"Where else would I go?" had it been any other situation it would probably have been mocking.
It wasn't any other situation, though, and he was serious. There was no where else to go, not in the dark. Maybe they could have gone into the school behind them, but the doors were still chained shut and inside would have been no different than outside, only probably a little more frightening. At least out here they knew they weren't locked in a building that might collapse and fall into the earth like their own houses.
"Suppose so," Ollie laid down himself, on the gravely, stony ground.
Rocks bit into his back, through his now tatty t-shirt, so he turned on his side and used his arm to cushion his head. At least he wasn't alone. He wondered if the other boy would be there in the morning, and then wondered if it would even be morning when he awoke. He didn't know, and his head hurt from the nasty air and everything that had happened, so he just closed his eyes and tried to sleep.
It was a long time coming for both boys, Kale lighting up two more cigarettes, more for the comfort of the light than to smoke. He only had four left, but conservation was the least of his worries. When they were gone, they were gone. After all, smoking was bad. The other boy had said it himself, it might very well kill him. He found the thought almost funny. Dying from cancer after the world had already ended.
They went to sleep at last, both of them, as the sun should have been rising, though neither knew that. Uncomfortable and in the dark of their own minds that was nearly as bad as the dark of the end of the world, neither dreamed, because neither wanted to dream of light and wake up to the inevitable nothing of the end.