Written by Gwendolyn Lopez
Art by Schäferle

I stand here, with this lonely blackbird, and say my goodbyes.

Before us stretches my kingdom, now a hollow shell of what it used to be. The soft blue sky has been stained the color of blood, and the forests have withered—bark crystallized into unforgiving prisms, leaves burnt to ash. And below that, craters dig deep into the earth, each one with its own destructive story.

The blackbird ruffles his feathers. He’s been here with me since the very beginning—back when the planet was young and I was powerful. We’ve gone through toil and triumph together. He was there by my side when my most prized creation, humanity, tore itself to pieces. And I was there by his when the planet curled up and died.

It feels so strange that after all those lifetimes together, today is finally the end.

“Are you sure about this?” the blackbird caws, in a voice that sounds like broken glass. I turn to get a better look at him. His feathers, which were once a black so deep you could fall into it, are now singed with silver, and his beady eyes are steely. 

“Yes,” I breathe out. A sigh, a change in the winds, a preparation for the inevitable. “Do you remember what to do?” The blackbird nods, the motion a small bob of his head. “There will be no looking back after this, Arris. This…” I look back at the wasted landscape, and scoff out a bitter laugh. “This is deicide, isn’t it?”

“I suppose it is,” says Arris, the loyal blackbird, the last believer.

“Who would have thought…” I muse. Arris cocks his head at me, a question in his eyes. I’m stalling, but somehow a part of this all feels… unfinished. Like a sentence missing the final period. Or a painting, left incomplete by the artist’s death. 

But even if I searched the ends of this earth, there would be no way to complete this painting, no way to find the missing piece. How, after all, do you say goodbye to a world that has already left? How do you reach ears that don’t listen anymore?

I shake off the thoughts. My deathday is not a day for regrets.

“It’s time.” Arris bows deeply at my words, and I feel a pang of resentment at the gesture. Once upon a time, I never would have felt such foolish, human emotions, but apocalypse has made me soft. Even with the power to change worlds at my fingertips, there is nothing I can do to save this little bird. There’s nothing I can do to soften the blow of his departure.

My only reassurance is that I will join him shortly after.

“It’s been an honor,” Arris says, in that terrible, shattered voice of his. He cowers slightly, perched on one of the hardened tree branches, silhouetted against the crimson sky like a comma. “So, I just… let go? Is that it?”

“Yes.” I stare out at the sky, which now looks like a flickering fire near the horizon. Sunset. Yellows and oranges streak against the harsh red, and the lighting makes Arris’s feathers appear bloodstained. “Our existences are hinged off of belief. Once you let go of that belief… there’ll be nothing left. The same goes for me.”

Arris straightens up, looking at me one last time. For a moment, I almost believe that he’ll hesitate—that he’ll change his mind and the two of us will live many more eternities together on this crumbling planet, both searching for the courage to fall apart. But then he dips his head, and I watch as his eyes close. The silver of his feathers engulfs him, and in a few seconds, my loyal blackbird is reduced to ashes that fly away into the waiting sunset.

It has been done. The blackbird is gone, and with his absence there may as well be a dagger in my chest. All that’s left is to wait for my life to pour out onto the hard ground, leaving nothing but this shell behind.I look toward the sky, indulging in one last beauty before I fall asleep.