Love Among the Kaiju

by Edward Barnfield

It’s the way he runs that I notice first. He has a sort of dancer’s grace, like he could almost float, but he’s also considerate. Most people, when the attacks occur, just wave their arms and charge, trampling strangers in their stampede to get away, but Josh doesn’t flee like that.

He’s careful, up on his toes, and he stops alongside me to help an old lady who has been knocked over in the panic. We manoeuvre her under one of the railway arches, where all these families are sheltering and panting, and he offers his hand, tells me his name.

“I’m Josh,” he says, and I blush slightly, conscious that I’m still wearing the stupid Santa hat from the office party.

We stand there, these great crashes of concrete all around, and I ask him where he’s trying to get to. He’s a tourist, he says, staying in a hostel in King’s Cross, and I tell him that it’s likely rubble by now and he can come with me, if he wants, and for once I’m glad I live on the unfashionable side of town.

During a break in the fighting, we dash for the underground, which is supposed to be the safest route. They’ve stopped all the trains, and we walk along the rails together, faces crimson in the emergency lights. A couple of times there’s a boom and a great sheet of dust falls from the ceiling, and I instinctively grab his hand. He tells me he’s from Minnesota and that they’ve never had a kaiju incursion in the Midwest. I tell him about Manchester, that time I was stuck in a car park when the giant spider bastard descended.

“Pretty wild,” he says, and I say, “You get used to it.”

By some miracle, the landline is still working back at the flat, so Josh calls home.

“I’m safe, I’m safe,” he says, because Mom is clearly hysterical and then, “I’m staying with a friend,” and my heart skips.

The heating is out, so I pull a pile of blankets from the cupboard, and we settle in the living room well back from the windows. There’s a half-empty bottle of malbec from last week, and we drink it in slow, steady slugs, passing the bottle and laughing hysterically as the adrenaline wears off.

Around midnight, when the monster breaks through the protective barrier and tears down the tower blocks, Josh leans over and kisses me on the neck, his breath warm and sweet. His hand is on my stomach, and I lean back, and even though there’s screaming in the street outside, all I can think about is the top of his head and those strong, strong shoulders and—

Afterwards, we go up onto the roof and watch as the army tries to drive the monstrosity back to the river. We have a pretty good view, what with all the flood lights and machine gun flashes.

“It’s Butarah, the pig beast,” I say, as it flails and snatches a military helicopter in its terrible claw-trotter.

And it’s strange to think about it now, but the scene is— can I say this?—almost festive. Butarah has clearly crashed down Oxford Street, and its hindquarters are shimmering with fairy lights. There’s a Christmas tree caught in the twisted spines on its back, along with the remnants of a nativity scene, an impaled plastic donkey and a Joseph mannequin. (At least—God—I hope that was a mannequin).

Just then, it starts to snow, and Josh puts his arm around me.

With immaculate timing, the patriot missile barrage begins, and smashes into the eldritch horror, which roars its awful howling squeal and vomits a tsunami of acidic bile onto the neighbourhood below.

And even that, with the flames and the noise and the stink, feels enchanted on this magical, magical night. The flares illuminate the sky and make it feel like the whole show has been arranged just for us.

“Christmas fireworks,” I whisper.

We miss the moment the creature goes back into the black water, the top of its leathery head disappearing beneath the poisoned waves. We don’t hear the air raid sirens that keep wailing even after the missiles stop, or the endless wave of ambulance noise that follows.

Josh is leaning in and kissing me, and that’s all that matters in the moment. The thump in my chest isn’t fear about our impending extinction. It’s love. Real love.

And even when there’s a final shriek, and the creature reaches up to capsize one of the rescue boats, I can’t suppress this surge of happiness.

It’s going to be a great 2028.

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