Cracks in Life’s Path

He walked along the suburban sidewalk, the sound of summer cicadas buzzing away. On either side of the path sat unfettered patches of brown grass, dotted with dandy lions, weeds, and small anthills. The dandy lions had bloomed quite some time ago and were turning a sour yellow from a lack of moisture. Ants flooded the sidewalk with their everyday operations, bustling like a Tokyo train station. Footsteps interrupted the whole colony as the ants attempted to avoid the massive shoe descending from above. They were his footsteps.

Looking down at the concrete path, he struggled to step around every crack. Cracks were nearly ubiquitous in this part of town; the thousands of ants scrambling for food further obscured the sidewalk. Some cracks were rounded and curved off to the side, whereas others were sharp and stuck out like a needle.

Every so often, a car-usually a PT cruiser or minivan-zoomed by on the equally dilapidated road. There was hardly any traffic. The most boisterous human presence around here was the occasional group of Pokémon GO players walking along their usual routes.

As he continued to navigate the sidewalk, one such herd marched parallel to him, from across the way. Dozens of people, muttering to each other about eggs, candies, and the like, staring down at their screens as they stumbled forward in a zombie-like trance. Some wore headgear carrying pop-cans with a translucent straw running down to their mouth as they suckled the carbonated drink; others held two devices simultaneously, furiously tapping away at the virtual interfaces before them.

As the overbearing heat wore on, his backpack gained weight and further sapped his energy like a leech. Inside rested several novels waiting to be read, finished, and returned; they were accompanied by a lightweight laptop and charger. Furthermore, the bag had supplies of water, deodorant, and cash. A small apple huddled in a crumpled corner, growing warmer by the minute. The water bottles were metallic and needed washing, as indicated by their odor. They were to be hand-washed only.

For him to reach the library, it was necessary to cross the road. It was such a barren town that no crosswalk was found within a mile’s distance. Safety was not an immediate concern, though, since cars rarely drove around this area.

He crossed.

Embedded in the road ahead of him were dozens of cracks; some were thin and spider-like, but the worst were wider than his foot’s entire length. He made careful not to step on any, but forgot that his shoes were left untied.

He tripped.

He put his hands out in front of him to break his fall and landed on his front. Lying there for a brief minute in agony, he let the warm sun beat on his skin before making an effort to get up.

Too late.

A loud rumbling approached. It wasn’t a car; something much worse. Cars, driven by attentive and thinking people, have a conscience. Instead, fate handed him a mob of those Pokémon GO players. A legendary shiny whats-it was spotted nearby, and all the town’s zombies left their home’s in search of it.

With a depth-of-field of about one foot (close enough to see a screen, but not the road), the mob trampled all over him without any regard.

Ten minutes passed. All the players were gone. The dust settled. His body was crumpled, the life draining from it fast.

After that, the town remained empty for a fortnight. His body decayed while detritivores fed on him. The ants, sensing food, formed an excavation committee to enter his backpack and haul the apple back to the colony; the project was a success. The water bottles remained stinky and full of hydrogen monoxide. Meanwhile, his books had yet to be returned to the library that sat a hundred yards away; subsequently, his late fees accumulated a substantial amount.

The worst part of it all was that he died on a massive crack in the road.

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