Chapter One: Earth
Edward felt around in his pocket for cigarettes and watched the Seattle Ark lift off, a thick tail of fire from the solid state rocket engines destroying the launchpad, leaving him and six billion other human beings stranded on a doomed Earth. He was out of cigarettes, too.
The sky was already dark with smoke and ash. Edward thought he saw a cigarette butt on the ground, but it turned out just to be a tattered receipt for a sweater. He shrugged and pocketed it anyway, then turned to go find his friends. Shoulders hunched, hands shoved deep in his jacket pockets, he regarded the situation bitterly. He steered himself around a woman, wailing and inexplicably scraping her teeth against the pavement, prostrate with grief- then hopped over another, prostrate with death- before reconsidering and turning back. He crouched down and felt up the dead woman for cigarettes (fruitlessly), then sauntered to the live one.
“Excuse me, miss,” he attempted. “Do you have a cigarette I might be able to borrow?” The woman wailed something unintelligible about her daughter, and continued weeping, bashing her bloodied fists against the ground, tiny black bits of asphalt embedded in the red, raw flesh. This is when Edward saw the small body underneath hers, its limbs bent unnaturally, tiny blue dress torn and spattered with blood and tar. He doubted it had any cigarettes, so he left.
Edward figured his best bet to find his friends was the Boot, or Sel’s Boot Bar and Grill, as it was less colloquially known. Sel was a genial man of 55 who had traveled the world while in the Marines, then later traveled the world to escape his joyless marriage, then later founded a bar to celebrate his wife’s untimely death and large life insurance policy. He had many stories to tell, but didn’t tell any of them unless one got him sufficiently drunk; which was relatively easy to do, as he tended bar and was also a dyed in the cirrhosis alcoholic. Sometimes, you could catch him holding a picture of a beautiful Oriental girl and crying softly.
Most people, normal people did not like the Boot. Edward and friends loved the Boot. The Boot was a place where one went to forget their troubles, by accidentally creating new ones (by this of course, I am referring to accidental friendship destroying casual sex, race-fueled punchups, vomiting into ones’ purse, etc.) . Its atmosphere was difficult to describe to the uninitiated, but could be best described as “unfortunate”. Edward blamed the geometry of the place- it was set on a hill, and was slightly uneven, so there were about 7 or 8 single step stairs scattered throughout the building’s beer-stained pine floor, just to keep it all even- giving the impression of a sawtooth wave set to architecture. It also made drunk people fall down a lot, which provided great entertainment to Edward and his friends.
Edward walked through a group of protesters, who, having just watched their very last chance to leave the Earth blast off into the atmosphere, had stopped protesting and were now unsure of what to do with themselves. They started to drift apart, and some bright souls started making vague references to the health benefits of orgies.
The Boot was a good 26, 27 blocks away. Edward hoped he wasn’t hit by something heavy or on fire on his way there. If one has to die, he thought to himself, one should die with friends. Or with alcohol, which, thankfully, The Boot also had. He hoped to God that he found some cigarettes on his walk. No man should have to walk 27 blocks without a smoke break.
Edward steeled himself, took a deep breath of stinking charred flesh, concrete dust, the harsh tang of carcinogenic smoke, the bouquet of a dying world (still not as good as a cigarette, he lamented), and started up the insurmountable hill of E. Denny Way.