The Last Man on Earth   by Sarah Lister

The Last Man On Earth

Adam awoke as the sun streamed into the room. It was another glorious day. He remembered when clouds of smog used to obscure the sun but nowadays nothing stopped the sun’s light from streaming through the thin curtains. For the fifth time that week he made a mental note to look out for something thicker to cover the window, he never seemed to remember though.

He climbed out of bed and wandered over to check his food. He had taken to living in the one room now ... it was easier. The fire, which was still glowing from the night before kept the whole room warm. Adam picked up some wood, added it to the fire poking it to get it going again, he would need it later to cook on but for now he went over to the table where he stored his food and opened a tin of pears for breakfast. There were only a few tins of food left; he would need to get more supplies today. He ate the pears and finished by drinking the juice straight from the can.

Then he went over to his desk and turned on his computer. He only did this a couple of times a day now, trying to save the battery but there was still in him that vague hope that he might make contact, so he continued to try.

He checked all the usual social networking sites but found nothing. No entries since his last one, two days after The Event “Is there anyone out there?” He didn’t know if there was in fact no one out there or if the Internet no longer worked with no one to operate it. He was fuzzy as to the details of these things and again found himself wishing that he had paid more attention in Computer Science class at school. But he’d always been more interested in sports, and girls, and now it seemed there was no one to play sports with, and no more girls, could he really be all alone?

Turning off the laptop he turned to the corner of the room and picked up his rucksack and walking stick. He didn’t need the stick to help him walk anymore but somehow it gave him a sense of comfort to have it with him whenever he ventured out. And as his last food supply had almost dried out he might need it to help him obtain another one.

He left the house and walked down Johnston Street, empty windows stared out at him like dead eyes, past number 53. Old Mr Jones garden, once his pride and joy, was beginning to look wild and unkempt. He remembered the old man mowing the lawn religiously every Sunday morning, 9am on the dot. It had been the cause of much animosity between the two neighbours, and now the silence mocked him. Was it Sunday today? He had begun to lose track of the days ... but did it really matter anymore he wondered?

Turning left into the high street he passed the Waitrose, he had emptied those shelves days ago ... time for something less upmarket he thought as he remembered the Co-Op at the end of the road. He would never have thought of going there before The Event but now he had no such airs and graces.

The stores darkened windows greeted him. Despite everything that had happened he still felt uneasy about doing this. He had always been an upright, law abiding citizen. He’d smoked a bit of grass at university but since then he’d always stayed on the straight and narrow. He raised his walking stick and smashed the big glass window. The sound was phenomenal in the silence. The shards of glass tinkled to the floor, but no alarms sounded, no burly policemen came to arrest him, and no worried passers-by looked on in horror.

The stale air of the store hit him full in the face. How long had it been now since those automatic doors had opened for the throngs of customers? It was a cliché but time really had no meaning now.

He wandered up and down the aisles filling his rucksack with unfamiliar cans and boxes. The dairy and meat counters were clouded in bluebottles and a ripe aroma so he knew it had been at least a couple of weeks since The Event had happened. That day following the accident that he had woken up in hospital to find not a soul remained. And there had been no sign of what had happened either, no bodies, nothing. At first he had thought he had died, but surely no afterlife could be like this. Even if this was Hell where were the demons to torture him for his sins, surely not just this, nothingness?

Once his rucksack was full, he hefted it onto his back and leaning on his stick he made his way back to the house. The extra activity had made his leg ache and the stick was a comfort on the walk home.

Once home he busied himself with unpacking his shopping, could he still call it that, and preparing his one hot meal of the day. And after the bowl of baked beans with little hot dog sausages, something he had never eaten before now, even in his student days, he allowed himself a rare treat of tinned rice pudding. It wasn’t a patch on the one his mother used to make but it was a positive feast in these hard times. He was adapting, learning to live with his new circumstances. Whether this was a good thing or not he was unsure but it seemed like his only choice for now.

At least he didn’t have to bother with the washing up these days. He just ate from the cans and then threw them out of the window into the waste ground that had once been his back garden.

As day started to fade he lit a few stubby candles by which to read. He had exhausted his meagre supply of books, never being much of a reader before The Event, but he had raided a nearby bookshop a few days earlier in an attempt to stifle the boredom of his new life. And finally, after a few chapters of some torrid romance that he struggled to maintain interest in, he turned on the laptop for his evening check for companionship.

And there below his pitiful entry there was a response, “Hello?” He found it hard to catch his breath, his heart sounded in his ears. He wasn’t alone. He never once stopped to consider what sort of person this might be ... just typed “Hello?” in response.

He stared at the blinking cursor ... willing a reply to follow ... and then slowly the letters unfolded on the screen before his eyes, “Who are you?”

“I’m Adam, who are you?”

“I’m Evelyn, Where are you?”

“London, you?”

“Cardiff”

It seemed so far away, how long would it take him to walk there he wondered, how many days out in the open? He wondered about travelling underground but memories of playground stories of alligators in the sewers sent a shiver down his spine.

But for now there was at least comfort in knowing she was out there.

A few questions later,

“Are you alone?”

“Yes”

“Are you hurt?”

“No”

“Have you seen anyone else?”

“No”

they both signed off for the night, agreeing to talk again the next evening.

The next day Adam woke with a sense of hope and excitement like he hadn’t felt for years. The weather didn’t match this though as the day dawned misty and damp. When he ventured out to scavenge for extra laptop batteries from a nearby computer shop the clouds of mist enveloped him deadening the sound of his footsteps, adding to the feeling of loneliness that hung around him. It was as if he was the only person on earth, but then he remembered Evelyn and the anticipation of talking to her again made his heart skip.

That night after his meal of tinned macaroni cheese and fruit salad he turned on his computer and waited impatiently for her to join him. As he waited his mind filled with thoughts of what she might be like, was she blonde, brunette, tall or short ... he knew it shouldn’t matter but still his mind could not stop from wandering. And as his wait got longer his imagination filled with thoughts about where she could be, things that might have happened to her, after all he still had no idea what had happened to everyone else, what if whatever it was had come back and got Evelyn?

And then, just as his imagination was filled with monsters, aliens and crazed serial killers the word appeared on the screen in front of him “Hello”.

Relief flooded him as he replied. He told her of his concerns, she laughed but assured him that all was well she had just been late as she too had been out getting batteries for her laptop but for her it was a much longer trip. They both laughed that they had had the same train of thought, making jokes about how well suited they were and what a good job that was as they were the only people left. It seemed strange to be laughing about it but it was also such a relief.

And they talked and talked, about their lives before The Event. He had worked in advertising; she had been a doctor’s receptionist. He played cricket which she hated. She had enjoyed clubbing and loved dance music while he liked Jazz. They talked all night and as dawn climbed in the sky they finally concluded that the only thing they actually had in common was that they appeared to be the only people left alive. Yet still Adam went to bed thinking of her and a smile crept across his face.

He spent the next day looking forward to talking to her again as they had agreed they would that evening. He tried to fill the day as best he could, another trip to get food, and a search for more wood for his fire, but none of these tasks could distract him from thoughts of Evelyn. He daydreamed of going to Cardiff to find her, her grateful smile when he did, and so much more. Could he really be falling in love with someone he had never met? But then it happened didn’t it? In the days before The Event, Internet dating had been all the rage. A friend of his had even married a girl he had met over the Internet and they had been together for ten years and had two lovely girls. Or was he just fixating on Evelyn because she was the only girl out there. After all, wasn’t it their duty to repopulate the human race? And then again, if she was still out there maybe there were others out there somewhere, but where? All these thoughts ran through his head as he went about his daily rituals of survival. And then finally it was time. He turned on the laptop and typed “Hi” He thought about “Hi darling” but decided it was still too soon. Maybe tonight he would turn the conversation that way, see if she responded in kind but he didn’t want to rush her.