“Dog Days” – Avra Margariti

In dark parks, after hours, impromptu funerals crop up like dandelions in flower gardens. Everywhere I look, there are people cradling candles in star-like clusters, weeping, clutching ratty dog toys, and hugging strangers to their bosom.

I don’t seek comfort in this midnight vigil—I’m not sure I deserve it. I don’t want a slobbering, snotty stranger clutching onto me, telling me it’s okay, we’re gonna get through this, we didn’t kill the stars with our arrogance, we didn’t we didn’t we didn’t.

Constellations first cried their swan-song nine years ago. But for us, down here, it’s been only a month. Orion died first, followed by Sirius, his dog. A coincidence that echoes all those pseudo-inspirational stories about dogs following their owners everywhere, even into the afterlife. I think about my dog, how he was stupid enough to get run over by a semi-truck last year, and I was stupid enough to cry in bed for weeks.

The sky is darker than usual even by city standards. Where do stars go in the afterlife? Probably the same place we visit when we fall asleep. Which is why I haven’t been sleeping much, lately. Too scared of the dark, too proud to use a nightlight.

Deeper into the park, near the swing-set glinting rusty red, I find another outsider. Like me, he’s not part of the sobbing people-clusters. The tip of his cigarette burns through the dark that will soon become all we know.

He expels a cloud of herbal smoke into my face. Hands me his cigarette. I think about absent god and hopeless rituals of mollification.

“Are you going to tell me everything’s gonna be okay?” I ask.

“No.” His warm laughter snags against the goose-bumps of my skin. “I was about to welcome you to the end times.”