The end of the world starts with a song.
You wake up, still hopped up on the pain pills they pass out like candy here. Someone changed the radio station while you were out, instead of sports scores there's singing. Your head is clearing quickly, not leaving the usual headache behind it, for once. You reach to change the radio station, and stop.
It doesn't hurt.
You look at your arm, at the tubes stabbing into it, and see the sagging skin pull back, tighten, heal. You sit up, and the song grows louder, and you realize that you're sitting up for the first time in months. You wonder if you're dead, if you're dreaming.
One minute has passed since the song started playing.
You try to get up just to see if you can, and you can, and it doesn't hurt. You walk awkwardly, legs still stiff, steps still unsure after so long without use. Your bare feet tingle as they touch the carpet. There is a small cactus perched on the windowsill, and you could swear that it twitches slightly, thorns growing imperceptibly.
Well, you decide, it's a dream. Might as well enjoy it. You step outside into the hallway, and hear the song being broadcast from every speaker in the building
Other doors are opening, all down the cancer ward, and pale people in sky blue hospital shifts are stumbling slightly as they remember what walking is like. You see that some of them still have tumors, those for whom you can tell, and you run a hand over your neck. There's still that small lump. You aren't cured? You feel cured, though…
The small potted trees, placed to give some feeling of life, are rustling as if in a light breeze. You pinch yourself suddenly, automatically, perhaps even unwillingly… it is, after all, a very nice dream. It hurts, but it stops hurting quickly. You walk for the main desk of this, the top floor, the hospital's hospice. The receptionist is standing and staring, and you laugh when you think of how she's been put out of a job. Is this real? Probably not. It seems real, though, and feels real, and by now that's enough. You stroke the lump on your neck again, and it somehow feels bigger.
Two minutes in, and the song plays on.
You need to see the sky.
You stand on the roof, and hear the song being played from every direction. The grass is green, and trees that had lost their leaves to the sinking heat of autumn are growing new ones, bigger and thicker. People are there, too, just standing and listening. You laugh, loud and without care, and try to sing along, but the song is in words that you do not recognize. It seems as if everything that can play the song is piping it to the heavens, a song of genesis, of life.
A dull ache is there in your neck, you realize. It feels heavier, too, as if padding were being placed on the tumor. You reach your hand up, and feel a mass of flesh twice the size that it used to be. And all the trees put forth flowers at once.
And everything begins to go wrong.
Four minutes have passed since it started.
You see someone down below keel over, suddenly. She vomits, and a sapling shoots up out of the mess. Others begin to clutch at their stomachs, some fall over, many throw up or suddenly vent their bowels. Small plants grow from the waste. You feel nothing but the steadily growing tumor.
You stand, transfixed, until
Five minutes have passed since you first heard the radio sing.
Things are moving faster, now. The grass seems to double in height in a matter of seconds, though from the roof it's hard to tell. New branches are sprouting forth from every tree you can see. Most of the people down below have stopped moving, and you watch as they bleed green that rises towards the sun. It's life, you realize, feeling detached. The hospital was sanitary. You've been fed through tubes for months, but there's bound to be something inside you waiting to grow. You don't care. You've been dying for too long now to care.
You sit down, legs dangling over a rising forest.
You feel something slip down your side and hit the roof. You feel when it hits the roof. The tumor is spreading, and you watch it bubble outwards, putting forth a tendril here and there, feeling its way. It spreads like living molasses, but full of veins and prickling as it slips over bumps in the surface.
There's something gray in the distance, but coming closer. It's covering the trees, releasing smoke-like clouds as it does.
You must be the only one left. The tumor is spreading outwards still, coating the whole roof. It's almost like a gigantic cape. You wonder why you're still alive. The gray has solidified into a mountain of fungus, and you wonder if it will reach the clouds. It's stopped coming closer, though- the trees in front of it have become covered by what look like spider webs, connecting them all together, catching the gray spores and keeping the trees safe. Below you, the roads are no longer visible. The grass has taken over, with an occasional tree poking up from the tangle. The grass , as far as you can tell, is sprouting out and growing connections to nearby stalks.
How can the song still be playing? There can't be electricity, the speakers have surely been in most cases overgrown. It still seems to be coming from everywhere, though not like before. Before, it came from electronics. Now you can feel the voices as if the choir were standing right behind you.
Eight minutes, and you wonder how long the song can be.
The grass below has cut down the trees, joined together and lacerated the trunks, absorbed them and grown taller. The spider webs in the distance begin to cover the mountain of fungus, which fights back with irregular bulges and stick-like protrusions. You have covered the entire roof, and are working your way down the walls, entering windows as you reach them. The people inside have disappeared as far as you can tell. You can tell because the tumor can tell, not with eyes, but you can feel every minute difference in warmth that reaches it, every vibration that passes through the air and the building.
Nine minutes have passed, and you return to your room, slipping in through the window.
Something stabs you when you do. A spike rips through the leathery folds of flesh that were once a tumor. The cactus.
Your skin contracts around the spines, but more keep growing. They impale you, sent into a frenzy of growth by the touch. Spikes erupt from the top floor of the hospital, too fast to be stopped, too fast to be believed. It's odd. You realize, still detached, that you can see it happen. You can see every side of the building at once. The cactus throws quickly growing green balls of itself outward, seeming to double or triple in size before they hit the ground and tear into the grass. It hurts, of course, but that's nothing new.
You try to laugh as you think of a cactus growing here , in autumn no less, but you have no mouth anymore. It's grown over.
The cactus spreads furiously, each mine-like spike ball exploding into maturity in a matter of seconds. They begin to throw their own children outwards as well, and the grass acts as a single being, flowing like water to ice to solidify beneath the baby cacti, not letting them touch the ground. It doesn't matter. The spikes go down and somehow take root. They come up, as well.
Ten minutes, and it's time to die.
Twenty minutes later, and the song abruptly stops. Not that you're there to hear it. Not really. Something survived, though your brain was impaled by a thousand miniature barbs, your body torn from the tumor and used for its nutrients. Some of the flesh survived, carpeting the roof. It may live forever.
It's not a wasteland that you left behind. When the song stopped, so did the changes. At least, so did the speed of the changes. They'll always be happening. They always have been, really. Where the hospital once stood is a world of spikes and thorns, the grass grown together with your cactus to give a clear message to whatever animals may come. Whatever animals there are. You would not recognize them, anyway.
The fungus still stands like a mountain, and will continue to do so, forever. The spider webs grow thick, but no insects will ever be caught. There are no humans left. In some strange spots there are things that were once human. A tower of bone, with eyes peeking out. A hair-covered family of four-armed and legless things, who will continue to etch meaningless inscriptions on crumbling masonry until they at last die out. A cloth-like, almost fluid mass of flesh that wisps through the miles of cacti, parting and reforming around each individual spear.
And the world began with a song.