Finally, the world had ended. In a good way. The human race had been wiped out and Earth was more beautiful than ever. The town I lived in that was usually polluted with thousands of college students had been emptied out. This had to be a dream come true. Although my head was hurting, I was more focused on the possibility of being the only human left. The bars that were usually filled with drunken students no matter the time or day were empty, the many families that went to brunch after Sunday service didn’t flood the restaurants, and the roads were free of lifted redneck ego machines the college students called “trucks.”
It was weird, but a good weird. I had the town to myself. From what I remember hearing on television and reading in the tabloids, the world had wiped out its habitants in three waves. The weakest people went first with their deaths being the most disturbing. From what the newspapers said, the first wave of humans to die were those that had known love all their lives—children who were loved by both parents, two lovers entwined in a happy relationship, those who had genuine friendships, and those who accepted themselves for who they were. But what was the cause of it? Eventually the news sources stopped broadcasting stories and I assumed it was because they were the weakest. They were the first to die for a reason. The world didn’t need them anymore.
The first wave had caused a third of the human race to commit suicide in various ways. People jumped off buildings, caused car accidents, shot or asphyxiated themselves, and set themselves on fire. They didn’t commit suicide because they were unhappy. It couldn’t have been that easy for them to escape. But here I had to face the world alone. There weren’t any dead bodies piling up in the streets, the bars and restaurants were empty, and there was no sign of human life. There had to be something wrong with their brains. They didn’t know what it was like to be lonely, and if they did, they sure as hell couldn’t have been happy. They were too joyful, too confident, too perfect, and that’s why they needed to go. The world didn’t need to meet those kinds of standards.
The next wave was people who had love before, but couldn’t keep it. They were given two choices it seemed; to live without love or to die knowing they once had it. They were torn. They were torn between being happy and being sad. It’s not possible to be happy and sad at the same time. The world didn’t need that kind of confusion. Those that chose to die with love went by stabbing their loved ones first, and then themselves. It was believed that if they didn’t die from mutilation, they died from a broken heart of watching themselves kill their beloveds. Those that chose to live without love made it to the last wave. They became those who had never known love. They hadn’t even heard of it, let alone felt it because they couldn’t remember. They died in their own ways. Maybe because they had nothing to show for.
My memories were coming back. I knew everyone’s assumptions were true because I had seen it with my own eyes. I remembered now.
“Daddy! Daddy! Look how high I can go!” I was seven and my favorite past time was going to the park to play on the swings while my favorite person, my dad, watched.
“Look at you go, honey!” half of his face was hidden behind a video camera. We spent hours at the park whenever we could. Times like those meant the most because my dad was a busy man who spent most of his time in his lab. It made me cherish his time a lot more before he died of cancer.
As years went by, I watched my mom’s happiness slowly wilt away. I was old enough to know that my mom would take action, but not like this. I was almost 21 now and almost finished with my third year of college. I remembered now. This was just the other day. I looked at my phone to see that I had a 3-minute FaceTime call with my mom. I remembered that video call. I was lying in my bed reading World War Z by Max Brooks when an image of my mom buzzed on the screen. I always hated picking up her calls, especially on the weekends.
I was finishing my last sentence on the page before I looked at my screen and asked, “Hey, mom. How’s it going?” My God. My mother was holding a gun to her head. She was in a living room I didn’t recognize. She was crying.
“Mom? Mom! What are you doing? Please put the gun down.”
“I can’t.” The will to survive in her voice was gone. She sounded broken.
I knew she had been dealing with depression, but I didn’t think it would come to this. “Please don’t do this, Mom,” my voice cracked. “You’re all I’ve got left.” I blinked and all my tears came pouring out.
There was no talking her out of it. She was dead set on dying. “I just can’t live like this anymore. You take care of yourself, honey; you know you’ve always been able to. You’ve always been my pride and joy. I love y—” Within the second, my mom’s finger fired backwards on the trigger and the sound of the pistol going off screamed into the speakers of my phone. I jumped. The tears from my eyes had washed over my nose and cheeks, and I had blood on my finger from biting it too hard. I was left staring at the blood splattered on the screen. And then my memory went blank.
Why didn’t I fit into any of those waves? Maybe it was because I didn’t care about love and I didn’t care about not having it. So why was I still alive? Was it because I wasn’t as weak as everyone else? Or was it because I wasn’t as strong as the people who died last? Where was my place in the world and why am I the only one still here? This wasn’t living. But my living began when I saw him.
He looked so calm, like he was okay with what had happened to the world. He made it look easy being alone. He made me wish I were alone because he looked so good being it, but I knew I wouldn’t be anymore. I immediately found him intriguing. He was so noticeable and I don’t notice anyone, but maybe that’s because he was the only person I’d seen since everything happened.
He was walking towards me with his hands in his pockets, wearing retro sunglasses and a beanie, with a ridiculous galaxy print sweatshirt with cats on it. I should’ve been more excited seeing that there was another human being walking this planet, but he wasn’t exactly jumping for joy when he saw me either. He was much taller than me in the way that if he looked straight ahead, I wouldn’t even be in his peripheral. He said something first, but I couldn’t hear him very well. I had spent my teenage years blasting heavy metal music into my eardrums to escape reality, so I took a couple steps closer to him to greet him.
I looked around. Not a single person in sight. “Why are you still alive?” I asked. I couldn’t see his eyes, so I focused on reading his lips.
His voice echoed through the empty streets, “That’s kind of a personal question. I was under the impression that I was the last person left when I found out I survived the last wave. Where’d you come from?”
“I go to school in town. I thought I was the last one alive.” I sneered.
His hands weren’t in his pockets anymore; they were lifted towards the sky to catch what seemed to be snowflakes falling. It wasn’t winter. “I enjoy being alone, but you’re in good company. In my opinion, the world has never looked better. The human race was such a sad life form.”
“You’re not wrong. So, do you know why are we both still alive?” I asked.
“I can think of a couple of reasons. Do you ever feel like you’re meant for something more than what this world has to offer?”
“No.” I noticed the town smelt of burning flesh. “Do you smell that?”
He chuckled, “Yes. Hey, do you think mankind is a joke and to be pitied?”
Why wouldn’t he be more concerned? “What?” I started to look around. “Yeah, I’m ashamed to be a part of it,” I said. I don’t think this guy was trying to be my friend. “I think I’m going to go my own way from here.”
He started to get defensive. “I don’t think that’s a very good idea,” he said as he started to block my way. “I just came from the southern part of town. There’s something burning down there.”
He was starting to creep me out. “Don’t you want to find out what it is?”
“No,” he sighed, “Not really. That’s why I headed north of town. Plus, I think I have an idea of what’s burning.”
Why hadn’t I seen the smoke before? Maybe it was because Evergreens and Maples surrounded the town or maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.
“Whatever. I suggest you follow me if you don’t want to be left here alone.” I started to walk towards the smoke and then I felt sharp pain in my head, which had caused me to fall to my knees. I remembered again.
I was leaving for the grocery store earlier today when I heard the couple that lived upstairs in my apartment complex screaming at each other. I couldn’t make out what they were saying, but I heard thumping, glass breaking, and the dog barking. And then it went quiet. I took one step towards the stairway that led directly to their door before it was slammed open and a girl’s body had stumbled down the stairs. Beyond her body lying at my feet, covered in blood and stab wounds, her roommate, boyfriend, husband, whatever, was whimpering.
This made me nervous. “Are you okay?” I shouted upwards. It was funny to me. I figured I would’ve been more concerned with the body lying at my feet and not the crying man looking down on me with a knife pointed at his jugular.
“I killed her and now I have to kill myself,” he trembled. Before I could tell him to stop, he pinched his eyes shut, clenched the knife’s handle, and punctured his throat. What the fuck just happened? And then my memory went blank.
My vision was blurry, but his voice started to creep in. “Wake up! Wake up! We have to get out of here!” Who was talking? It was the guy I met on the street. He started to lift me off the ground, but my legs wouldn’t move. “They’re coming for us! We need to go!”
They? I couldn’t make out the two figures coming toward us, but my legs started to wake up. My feet hit the ground like I was a baby deer trying to figure out how to walk. I was hesitant to follow him, but I felt like I had no choice. The two men looked like they wanted to hurt us.
“They haven’t been planted with the drug yet! Get them!” the man in all white yelled towards us. What drug? Once I had control of my legs, our run turned into a sprint and we had finally lost them amongst the town.
We found a safe spot in one of the rooms of the coffee shop I was familiar with on 18th street. “What just happened?” I screamed. The room didn’t echo.
“Shhh! Keep your voice down,” he said. We were both out of breath. “You fainted and as you came to, these two weird men charged for us, and now we’re here.”
“I fainted?” I was confused. I had never fainted in my life, but the episodes seemed to be happening often.
“They said something about us not having the drug planted in us and that’s why they ran after us. Do you know what they were talking about?” he asked.
“No, but we should scavenge the town to search for more answers.” I started to reach for the doorknob before I had the chance to react.
“Not a chance,” he said curtly. There was a syringe jabbed into my head and I started to drift off. Something happened. Something bad.
Had he killed me or was I dreaming? I was in a dream-like state as I watched him drag my body out of the backroom, out of the coffee shop’s front door toward what looked like his fellow comrades that were crowded in the street to lay me out like a trophy fish. I wasn’t dreaming. I was murdered.
“She was the last one,” he said. “A sad one, too.”