When I awoke, the TV was beeping like crazy. All the stations were showing the local news channel.
“Do not touch the floor,” they yelled. “It will kill!”
Of course, this made me curious. I threw my shoe at the ground to see what would happen. For a second, my shoe was fine, until it burst into flames. It started at the toe, then it went all the way to the heel. It sort of looked like this spontaneous combustion TV show episode I watched once. They were talking about how there were some gases in the body that when mixed with static could light on fire. After watching the shoe, I wondered why all the furniture wasn’t on fire. I had a new plan, which was to throw a pillow at the ground. When the pillow touched the ground, it didn’t light on fire. Now I knew how to get around. I looked at the clock and saw it was 5:15 P.M.
“Mom! Do you know where scissors and tape are?”
Still no reply. I realized she wasn’t home.
I need to find her, I thought. I threw a few pillows and the couch cushions so I could walk over to the kitchen. I was still too scared to test if I would go up in flames like my shoe. I found some of my supplies in the cupboard next to the wastebasket. My plan was to tape my feet to a pillow. I really hoped this would work because I would be literal toast if it didn’t. As I took my first steps with my new invention, I was incredibly nervous, but it worked! My new task was to go find my mom and other living people. The local news channel had gone offline.
As I stepped outside, I saw my neighbor on top of her car.
“Ms. Morrison!” I called out.
“Jonathan, what are you doing? You’re going to die!” she replied.
“I taped two pillows to my feet so I won’t burn up,” I said, walking towards her car. “I really need your help. My mom hasn’t come home yet, and I don’t know where she is! Does your car work?”
“I was listening to the radio as I was driving back from the supermarket when I heard the news, so yes, my car does work. However, can you make me one of those foot protector devices?”
“Only if you take me to my mom.”
Ms. Morrison drove us to the local plant nursery where my mom worked as a landscape architect. They designed gardens for other people. She seemed to always be complaining about rude clients or not having anyone to actually plant the plants. Maybe this would be a good change for her.
Once we arrived, it looked deserted. Nobody was in sight. Our footsteps could be heard from a mile away as we walked into the store. Everything was normal, the plants were all labeled and in the right place, and the power was working, just no one was around.
As I turned around, Ms. Morrison had tripped over a vine on the ground. We locked eyes as I reached out my hand to help her up, but it was too late. I watched her burst into bright, orange flames as high as the ceiling, then vanish into only a pile of miniscule, gray, unwanted dust.
I sat on the counter for a good 30 minutes wondering what I should do. I felt like I needed someone to talk me into finding my mom or living my life. But I knew my mom needed me. As I looked down at my feet, the pillows were beginning to disintegrate. Some of the down feathers were falling out and leaving a trail. I either needed to find new pillows soon or I’d have to jump from table to table. If my mom was in the store, she probably would be able to hear me.
“MOOOOOM! WHERE ARE YOU?” I called out.
“Jonathan?” I heard quietly.
“MOMMA, WHERE ARE YOU?” I called out again.
“Help me,” I heard even quieter.
I ran as fast as I could to the backroom where I thought she was. Sure enough, she was there, but in a horrible state. She was crying and her left leg was completely gone.
“Oh my god Mom, what happened?”
“I was walking over to my minifridge to grab a Coke when I felt like my leg was on fire, and it literally was. I jumped on my desk and looked at my wound. My wound was completely closed, no blood, no skin, no pain, just no leg. First I heard Jim scream, then Dave, then Kevin, then Janet, and it just kept going on and on. Do you know what’s happening? How are you fine standing on the ground?”
“I was taking a nap on the couch when our local news station was saying something about the ground being on fire. I threw one of my shoes on the ground and watched it go up in flames. I realized pillows wouldn’t light, so I taped two onto my feet. We should get home soon to fix up our pillow shoes.”
“I can’t drive now because of my leg, so you’re going to have to drive us back home,” she told me.
“Woah, now, Mom, slow down. I’m only 11 years old. I can’t drive. I can barely look over the dashboard,” I stated.
“Jon, list our other options right now.”
“Well… yeah, you’re right, I need to drive.”
I took one of the pillows off my feet and taped it to her only foot. We sort of did a three-legged race to the car, but only with two legs. As we got in the car, she taught me the basics of driving. I had a bunch of trouble turning and almost crashed into a parked car, but since there were no cars on the road, I was fine. I also could barely reach the brakes, but that didn’t cause any problems. Our car did get pooped on by a bird though. It was really funny but, also, really startling. One thing I noticed now, that I hadn’t noticed with Ms. Morrison, was that all the stores were vandalized and looted. Everyone was panicking, the streets were trashed, and nothing was normal. Once we arrived home, our pillows were almost completely degraded. We stepped inside and called everyone we knew. Strangely, no one picked up except for my cousin’s cellphone, but all I heard was a single scream.
“Momma, I think we have some crutches in the closet in my room from when I broke my leg. I’m going to go see if I can find them,” I told her.
Sure enough, there were crutches in the closet. We also needed to repair our pillows. I took some duct tape while my mom grabbed a bunch of our smaller, sturdier pillows. We attached them to our feet using Krazy Glue and some more duct tape. My mom and I decided we would venture outside to find more people.
“This California heat is really getting to me,” I told my mom.
“Yeah, it’s almost 100 degrees out here.”
We heard a man screaming. I saw him running on the street and pointed it out to Mom. As he got closer, we could see that he had a few fingers missing and a huge scar on his face. His legs were covered in what looked like rain ponchos and torn-up cardboard. As he approached us, my mom noticed he had a knife lodged in his belt.
“How are y’all doin’,” he asked.
“What are you doing screaming in the street like that?” Mom questioned.
“I want to take your skin off and wear it as my own.”
“Get outta here, you creep,” I said.
“What’d you say?” he said, taking his knife out of his belt.
My mom swung her crutch at him, barely missing. He started charging at her when I shoved him into the ground. He burst into flames and vanished from sight.
“That was weird and scary,” I said to Mom.
“He seemed like one of those doomsday, end-of-the-world predictors.”
“Did you hear what he was screaming?”
“No, did you?”
“I thought he was saying it’s shaking.”
Right after I said that, the ground began to rumble. An enormous fault line appeared right in front of us. The shaking was too much for my mom, and she fell over and was transformed into worthless dust. I ran back inside and jumped on the couch. I didn’t want to be here anymore. All of my family, my friends, and everyone I knew and cared about was gone. I didn’t have a purpose anymore. I couldn’t take it anymore. I jumped off the couch and disappeared.