Hellis’ Eye

We were ten miles from the city’s edge
when Hellis’ Eye rose from the North.
You’re supposed to freeze, let him watch
you and your small, human ways, pity
you if he can. So we pulled to the side
of the road, unpacked the canned food
and sleeping bags set aside for such occasions,
learned the names of the family two truck-lengths
down from us. Half-lidded and unblinking,
the Eye watched us as he made his slow trek
to the south, larger than the sun, crowding against
the moon and blocking stars as we gossiped
the colors we saw in his iris (green and red
for me, like Christmas). On the second day
we were already planning where we would get our tattoos,
the number two inked onto forearms, between shoulder
blades, over hipbones (orange and cream for my sister,
just above her left elbow), not a thought spared
to the possibility of a Third Day except in fervent
prayer, in salt and fir branches burned with melted crayons,
the smoke scattered with a Spanish fan in the direction
of home. Like it’s said in every textbook, repeated
by the few survivors, we all woke on the Third Day
as one, each of us sitting up, acknowledging the strangeness
of waking up the same moment as someone else
before we all raised our eyes and met his gaze. Dilated wide
enough to swallow the earth, his pupil swept first damningly
over the city then around to us all, an imploring glance like a fist
clutching at our clothes, hauling us up by the spine. Everything
more than a foot away from the car was left behind. I drove,
by human laws in the wrong direction but there was no other road.
The family behind us either ran out of gas or popped a tire;
I saw them tumble from the car and sprint before I lost
them to distance. Ten minutes later we were twenty miles
away, a flock of other cars spiriting with us when the earthquake
hit the city, errant waves rippling gently but firmly beneath
us like a handshake from a confident man. We all jerked,
braked hard in reverence of it. I hit a tree, killed a squirrel.


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