The wife said she thought that martinis were the wrong drink under the circumstances, but the husband handed her a glass and said “Drink” and she did. They sat on the balcony as the lights and sirens and fire converged off in the distance somewhere. He downed his martini in one gulp after sitting down in a wooden outdoor chair.
“Why do you always do that?” she said.
“What?” he said, hoping she wasn’t coming back to the previous topic.
“Insist on something but then never enjoy it?”
She was coming back to the previous topic. He ate the olive and set his glass down.
“When do I do that?” he said.
“With the car, the kids, even with this balcony. This is the first time you’ve sat out here since we bought the apartment.”
He slumped back in the chair and put his hands behind his head. She was right. They’d had the place for six months already.
“Heck of a day for me to finally enjoy it,” he said. “I still think we should at least try to evacuate.”
She sipped her martini and glared at him.
He needed a break.
“I’m getting another drink,” he said standing up. “Want one?”
“No,” she said. “I’m happy with the drink I have.”
* * *
Not far from the balcony, a giant lizard was slowly clawing his way into a large building and eating the people he found inside.
The monster was disappointed with how his annihilation of the city was going.
Sure, there were plenty of people to chew on, cars to smash or throw into news choppers, but something was missing and he couldn’t quite put his claw on what it was. The monster looked down as a small throng of middle school children two tail-lengths away fled towards a sidestreet with their teacher. He turned to give them a de facto roar when he saw one kid lagging behind the group filming the monster with his phone. The kid’s chutzpah impressed him, but he blasted the children with his fire breath anyway. Even if he didn’t feel like being here, he still had to maintain his image.
He watched the class wail and wither in the few seconds it took for them to vaporize.
He wondered what he would have been like as human child.
He shook it off and turned back to eating people out of the apartment building.
I need to pull myself together, he thought.
* * *
The husband made himself a martini at the wet-bar but drank it before he got to the balcony door, so he had to go back and make another one. He thought about just bringing the bottle of gin with him, but he stopped himself because he knew what she would probably say about that. He always knew. He walked back out to the balcony and sat down with his new drink, making sure to set the drink down slowly so that she would see how full the glass was.
“What took you so long?” she said.
“Forgot how to make one,” he said and swallowed half of his drink.
“You’re not a good liar,” she said.
“I’m not a liar,” he said. “I never lied.”
He saw that her martini was half-gone. “Want another?”
“No,” she said as she took another sip.
The husband sat back and tried to make out what was happening with all the noise in the distance. Despite all the light from the buildings and the fires, the smoke and overcast night kept the city so hazy he couldn’t see anything. He could only make out the occasional roar and deep rumble of a building falling over. He wondered how far away the whatever-it-is actually was at this point.
“So,” said the husband, “I talked to your sister today.”
“Oh,” said the wife, “do you two talk often?”
“No, I never talk to her.”
“But you talked today?”
“Never before today.”
She shrugged and gave a one-note laugh.
“I talked to her,” said the husband, “about visiting your parents over the weekend. I think we should go. I think it would be good to see them.”
The wife finished her martini and threw the olive over the balcony railing.
“I thought you hated Connecticut,” she said.
“I don’t hate Connecticut,” he said, “I never said that.”
“Fine, then you didn’t.”
“Well, we should go. It might be a good time to get away.”
The wife threw her glass off the balcony.
He asked her why she’d done that.
“Seemed the thing to do,” she said, and got up, and went inside.
* * *
The monster gave up on the building and trudged down a main avenue towards one of the parks where he now chased homeless people and stray animals. They were small potatoes next to the F-22s pelting him with machine gun fire, but he was happier catching the people than he was trying to flick the fighter jets out of the air with his tail. The homeless people actually looked him in the eyes as he ate them. One of the men even laughed and applauded as the monster lifted him to his mouth, which startled the monster so much that he guffawed a fireball all over the man, incinerating him completely. Perplexed, the monster swatted an incoming missile into a fire station.
When he’d first gotten bored of attacking cities, he started attacking ironically, beginning his assaults by setting fire stations on fire or destroying construction companies. But now even that wasn’t amusing. He shuffled over to a SWAT vehicle and pulled its passengers from the wrecked steel like sardines from a can.
The monster was getting tired of running around the park, so he wandered over to an amphitheater where a crowd had been watching a band perform before he’d attacked. He could tell from the fliers scattered all over the ground and the speakers set up around the area. He sat down on the roof of the amphitheater, smashing the first few rows with his feet, leaned his head on his right claw, and sighed. This trip was a total wash. He’d felt this apathy coming on for a while.
He’d hoped this world tour would rekindle the zeal he’d first had. He’d even stopped by his favorite cities on the way to this one: Kyoto, Bombay, Liverpool, and now here he finally was in America. Nothing.
A squadron of tanks rolled up to the edge of the park and started firing. As the shells sparked on his back spikes, the monster leaned forward to see what had been left behind in the amphitheater.
He wondered what kind of band it had been, but before he got a good look at the stage, the roof collapsed under his bulk and crushed everything beneath it.
Damn it, distribute your weight better, moron. He always messed up these small glimpses into their world. In his frustration, he grabbed a tank and flung it into nearby buildings. He beat two others against one another like malformed cymbals until he got bored and dropped them on a copse of oak trees.
Finally calming down, he saw a lone tank mired in the park with the gunner laying injured half out of the top hatch and a soldier trying to rouse him or pull him below. The monster squatted down and watched the soldier, who was quivering with panic and struggling to drag the limp body of his friend inside, and decided to let them go. The monster knew the soldier would tell the story of that moment for years, of how he saved the gunner by sheltering him inside a flimsy tank. They would probably be lifelong friends.
The monster wondered what it was like to know someone for your entire life. All he knew were cities and landscapes.
He kicked a Volkswagen into a Mercedes as he walked away from the park.
The soldier wouldn’t know he only survived because the monster just didn’t feel like crushing another tank today.
It wouldn’t matter even if he did, thought the monster.
* * *
The wife had gone inside for a moment to go to the bathroom, so the husband sat out on the balcony by himself. He knew he could easily make it to her sister’s place in less than fifteen minutes. He could leave the apartment, walk a few blocks, and he would find her there, waiting for him with a bottle of wine and a warm bed. It would be so much better than this.
The wife slid the balcony door open and poked her head out without looking at him.
“I’m making myself something to eat,” she said. “Do you want something?” She was trying to meet him halfway.
He nodded but then realized she wouldn’t see that and said, “Yes.”
“What do you want?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “Just anything.”
She turned to look at him.
“I’m making myself a sandwich,” she said. “Do you want a sandwich?”
“That could be good. Just surprise me.”
“Do you want soup? I can whip up a salad or pop some popcorn?”
“That’s fine. Just whatever you want.”
“Spaghetti? Pizza? I could order out some sushi?”
“No, just make me whatever you’re having.”
“For God’s sake, what do you want?” she shouted.
He’d screwed this up but didn’t know how. He started to reply to fix whatever he’d broken, but she slammed the glass door shut.
He was trying to decide if he should follow her inside when he heard a crashing sound coming down the street.
He turned and saw a giant lizard shuffling toward him. The lizard looked sad.
* * *
The monster had given up and was going back to the ocean. Maybe he would try another city somewhere else, somewhere he’d never been before. He heard cheering behind him from the soldiers, who probably thought they had him on the run. He sighed.
And then he caught sight of a man on a balcony. This man didn’t seem to notice the monster—or maybe he just didn’t care—he just sat there and sipped his drink. The monster stopped and stared down at him, rumbling his best menacing rumble, trying to get a reaction out of the man, but he continued to sit and sip his drink, totally unaffected.
The monster stamped a small earthquake, filled the sky with fire, clapped a whirlwind, and still the man did nothing.
The monster felt tears welling into his eyes. He let out a small howl. This wasn’t how things were supposed to work.
He wasn’t the one who was supposed to be crying. He wasn’t the one who was supposed to be giving up. He was the monster. He was the spawn of humanity’s failures. He was supposed to punish them, not the other way around.
Through the gallons of liquid collecting in the monster’s eyelids, he finally made eye contact with the man. The man made a sympathetic face, raised his glass toward the monster, downed the rest of his drink, and went inside. The monster bent down towards the apartment.
He wanted to talk to the man, to pick him up and hold him next to his face, to take the man away with him to his island, to tell the man what his life was like. But before he could fish the man out of his apartment, an errant missile struck the man’s building and atomized it. The monster roared and frantically searched the rubble for the man. Maybe he was okay, maybe he’d been inside an elevator or bathtub and had survived the blast and the collapse. He wouldn’t stop looking until he rescued the man.
But there was no man.
He kept looking anyway. Eventually, he got tired of standing and sat down next to building’s crater. He sat there for days parsing the ruin. He searched until the tanks and planes stopped circling, until the military called a ceasefire and the city fell into a perfect silence. The monster stayed even long after he knew the man was no longer alive, after his stomach quaked with hunger pangs and his skin turned to rock from lack of water, until his carcass was towed into the sea and the city resumed business as usual and people forgot he’d ever been there at all.
Along with watching an inordinate amount of YouTube videos, Josiah Meints spends his time studying science fiction and video game rhetoric and working as a sports satirist covering the Big 12 conference. His fiction has also appeared in Ambit and Big Muddy. Josiah lives and writes in Stillwater, Oklahoma.