The last generation thought the end would come in the mushroom cloud and retinal burn of nuclear holocaust. Or perhaps the Christians had it right, and the righteous would disappear in the space between heartbeats as they ascended to heaven, leaving only the corrupt and sinful in a world abruptly reduced. In truth, the end came with a woman. But perhaps everyone should have expected that, when you figured it all started with one, too. There was a symmetry in that. She just turned up one day, in an old brown jacket from some defunct army. Chains around her neck and gold on her fingers, a revolver in her pocket that wasn’t half as threatening as her switchblade smile. And where she stepped there was ash, and where she smiled there was blood, and all it took was a wave of her hand and a sway of her hips to make entire governments topple like badly stacked dominoes. In the aftermath of it all, I found her sitting in the ruins lighting a cigar with a burning holy book. I brushed the dust off the closest pillar, sat down, and made myself comfortable. Looked up at the sooty sky and waited until she’d taken a nice, long drag. “Well, that was easy,” she said with a husky laugh. “What’ll you do now?” I asked lightly. “Dunno. Fuck, maybe? And then see what I can find around the next corner.” “Can I be of any assistance?” “You sure you wanna play with me?” she asked, all teeth. “I don’t play all that nice.” “That’s fine. Never much cared for nice. And it’s hardly as if there’s anything else to do.”