Read original in Open: Journal of Arts and Letters here:
Artwork: “The Unknown God” by Gary Van Haas
by Nancy Stohlman
When St. Joe, Missouri was announced as the Best Place Ever to watch the rapture, the people felt chosen. Not since Lady Gaga had come to Kansas City had they felt so special.
No one was exactly sure what would happen. Some thought it would be a fiery ball dropping from the sky, or ash blocking out the sun until they all choked, or floods, earthquakes, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions. As the day of final judgement drew closer, Motel 6 jacked up its prices to 800$ a night, the porn shop repaved the parking lot, and gun shops ran out of both guns and ammo. Red Lobster, the nicest restaurant in town, put gluten free items on the menu. Dunkin Donuts, overwhelmed by it all, just said fuck it and shut down.
Half a million people descended upon St. Joe. They came with rapture glasses, rapture t-shirts (prepare for the rapture with Pepsi!), and rapture key chains, booking out the KOA and every hotel room in town. When the grass was all claimed the people started pitching tents right on the concrete; rooftops became prime real estate. Dan Rather showed up in a RV. Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Lawrence were spotted raving about “untouched Americana” and eating a hot dog for the first time ever.
The day of the rapture everyone was ready. Some had UV glasses, some had hazmat suits, some were naked and meditating. Some boarded up their windows and the tornado sirens sounded for good measure and everyone waited outside, watching the sky. Crowding the streets and waving fireball pompoms and trying to shove rapture pancakes in their mouths.
As the rapture was about to begin the sky became covered in thick black clouds. It will blow over they assured, twitching. Then a rumor swept through the town that Beatrice, just one hour north, was a much better place to see the rapture. People dropped their pancakes mid bite and fled to their cars and flooded the highways, which became gridlocked almost instantly for 40 miles in either direction, leaving St. Joe like an exhausted whore.
Some that remained put on their UV glasses anyway just in case and they were lucky because hundreds of people went blind without seeing a thing.
About the writer:
Nancy Stohlman is the author of the flash fiction collection The Vixen Scream and Other Bible Stories (2014), the flash novels The Monster Opera (2013) and Searching for Suzi (2009), and three anthologies including Fast Forward: The Mix Tape (2010), which was a finalist for a 2011 Colorado Book Award. She is the creator and curator of The Fbomb Flash Fiction Reading Series and the creator of FlashNano in November. She teaches college in Denver and Boulder. Her newest book, Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities, is coming in the fall of 2018.
Image: “The Unknown God” by Gary Van Haas. Van Haas was born in Los Angeles. In his paintings, he combines an illusionary vocabulary with non-objective subject matter as a way to impress color and collage, which instead of relying mainly on imagery, responds formally and expressively to the illusionist idea of surrealist space and time.