The Peach at the End of Days

A short story
by Bruce Holland Rogers

“Please, no parable today. I don't think I could sit still for it.”

“You don't have time to hear a story?”

“What I mean is that the world is in such peril.”

“You worry.”

“I want to do something! We don't need stories. We need action!”

“All right. No parable today. Instead, I'm going to reveal a prophecy.”

“Yes! The kind of story that shapes the future! A call to action!”

“Is that what prophecy is to you?”

“If not, then 'prophecy' is mere fortune telling.”

“What I have in mind is not fortune telling. Now, tell me about the state of the world. What is it that worries you?”

“Where to begin? The seas are rising.”

“Are they?”

“They're going to rise.”

“Yes. That's part of my prophecy. The seas are going to rise. And fall. And rise, too.”

“I'm not talking about waves! I mean cities under water!”

“I don't disagree.”

“The bees are dying! And frogs, too. Crop lands will turn to desert.

Don't you pay attention to what's happening?”

“Anything else?”

“Yes! The ones who hate! They're getting stronger! They're coming!”

“Those people are always strong. They are already here.”

“I mean the armies! Everything we stand for, they mean to wipe out!

They will wipe us out!”

“That wiping out, that erasure, yes, that's familiar. It is history when it lies behind us and prophecy when it stands ahead.”

“It's not inevitable.”

“My prophecy is this: All that you fear shall come to pass. And in the last days, four people will come upon a blighted orchard. These four will be the last who have warned and resisted and struggled. They will be the last four of our kind, the last four who remember the world as you and I know it.”

“You mean, in your foretelling, the seas rose, and we didn't stop it?”

“That's right.”

“And the deserts grew?”

“The crops failed. Millions upon millions starved. Will starve. Millions upon millions more will die in the erasures. Everything that worries you has come to pass in the future, and now these four souls are the last who believe as you and I do, the last who speak as you and I do, who would dress as we dress, though their clothes are such rags that in these final days it is hard to say how they are dressed. The enemy is not far behind them. Weary, starving, these four people come upon an orchard where the trees have borne scarcely any fruit for years.”

“No bees, then.”

“Hardly any bees. Maybe one last hive, miles away, and one storm-blown bee that pollinated a few blossoms before it died. There is, in one sickly tree, a peach.”

“Ah. There's always hope, isn't there?”

“This isn't hope hanging from a branch. It's a peach.”

“Well, it strikes me as a symbol.”

“It strikes these four hungry people as food. One of them climbs into the tree and plucks the fruit. Trembling, one of the four tears it with her fingers into four portions. The four refugees eat it slowly, chewing the ripe flesh into pulp, swallowing, licking the sweetness from their fingers. After the fruit is gone, they pass the stone from one to another to inhale the scent of it. They praise the peach, and the memory of the peach, and the scent of the stone, until the enemy finds them and kills them.”

“That's it?”

“That's the end of it.”

“Your prophecy is that all the worst happens?”

“This, or something like it, shall come to pass, in the fullness of time.”

“Well, I refuse it! I'm going to fight!”

“Did I say you shouldn't?”

“Yours is a prophecy without hope!”

“I did say that the sweet flesh will be tender and perfumed.”

“I don't care about the stupid peach!”

“It will be there, ready, whether you care or not.”

 

Copyright © 2011 by Bruce Holland Rogers
Story image: © Anne Power | Dreamstime.com

 

Bruce Holland Rogers lives in Eugene, Oregon. He has taught creative writing at the University of Colorado, the University of Illinois, Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest (on a Fulbright) and is currently a member of the permanent faculty for the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts MFA program, the Whidbey Writers Workshop. Stories by Bruce Holland Rogers have won two Nebula Awards, a Pushcart Prize, two World Fantasy Awards, and the Micro Award for flash fiction.  More of his stories can be found at shortshortshort.com, where he also offers email subscriptions to new stories.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Lori Romero August 18, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Captivating story, Bruce – I love the rhythm of the banter in this piece…it winds around and around and spirals outward. Lovely work.

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Christian Riley October 7, 2011 at 6:17 am

This was a good read. Quick and subtle. Nice!

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