Two days after the last explosion sounded, the man climbed from a fallout shelter alone. Remains of people and animals blended together and could no longer be told apart. This man’s name was no longer important, as it would never serve him a purpose again. What is important is that he was the owner of an oil company. Greed had overcome people like him, and contributed to the cause of the terrible war in the first place. With America seen as too much of a consumer of resources in a world scarce of everything, it was agreed by many nations that it should be eliminated. Death dropped from the sky and killed all in its wake, including the hope of any survivor.
The man simply started walking, as there was nothing else he could do. The shelter was exhausted of resources and his new environment was not in any kind of condition to live in. Technology and luxury had made survivors such as the man struggle to adapt. He walked until he was crawling on hands and knees. He was thirsty and exhausted. His surroundings were unforgiving. Below him only laid cold, broken asphalt to rest on. On both sides were two bodies of fresh, irradiated water. The man could drink it, but it would have an unpredictable effect on him. He lied down and cried right where his stood, although crying wouldn’t better his situation.
After one and a half days without water, the man now was left with a hoarse, dry throat. He drank from the filthy water, a horrible taste enveloping his entire mouth. The man even choked the water up, but forced himself to swallow. As he continued to walk, he realized that he had not missed his previous life more than he missed people in general. Without the existence of others, where would be the point in anything done? Even if he managed to live, what would his purpose in living be anymore? He contemplated suicide, but figures that it would also serve no purpose to needlessly kill himself.
Eventually, the man came upon a vacant, square concrete building. It stood out with limited features surrounding it from all sides. He cheered and jumped around as he ran forward into the doorless frame. His excitement quickly subsided as he was only met with a charred mattress inside. What had the man really expected, anyway? He pushed off the remnants of a burned skeleton and lied down on the mattress. Though it had never been alive, the bed seems lifeless and it creaked heavily under his weight. The house and everything else around him seemed dead. He was alone in this barren, lifeless chunk of land. Although, the man thought of himself as a speck of dust no different than anything else. Nature would not give him any special treatment.
The man awoke in the bed some hours later. He didn’t know exactly how long, but it mattered right now about as much as his name did. Dragging his feet across the floor of the building, he almost fell over a handle on the floor. Uncovering the dust revealed a cellar door of some sort. With some struggle he managed to pull it open, revealing a descending staircase. The man cringed as each step was met with heavy creaking. He slips, tumbling down only a couple of steps before hitting concrete floor. During his fall the man flipped on switch, which illuminated the room in a sickly yellow light. A cursory glance around the room revealed the source, a portable generator. Inside this room held food and fresh water that could last the man for weeks. The man just stared at the supplies, not believing his own eyes.
Afraid of the desolate land outside, he stayed there for weeks in the cellar, slowly exhausting the resources. Even with basic needs temporarily taken care of, the line between the man’s imagination and reality slowly started to blend. He would sit in the corner for hours, staring at the same spot of the wall, as if waiting for something to happen. He also started hearing voices. At first, they were quite harmless and the man would carry conversations with them. As the voices started having more malicious intent, they would tell the man to do things. Sometimes the voices would tell him to hurt himself or other people. There wasn’t anyone else to hurt but himself, so that’s exactly what he did, and the man began to deny that there was even a world outside of his cellar.
At long last there was nothing more in the cellar for the man to live off of. He decided he would wait to die. The voices had become more than he could bear. Before long though, there were voices coming from outside of the cellar. Not the voices within him, but real voices! He poked out of the cellar, and the two men fell to the ground in fright. They had grown long beards and were quite emaciated. There were store clerks, still in uniform. The names read “Marvin” and “Carl.” The man imagined he looked similar, as he had spread out his rations of food very thinly. No words were exchanged between the three men, as it was a shock to all of them that there were any beings left on the world at all. The man tried to speak, but suddenly the voices stopped him in mid-thought. They were telling him to bad things again.
They wanted the man to kill. He pulled at his hair, shaking his head violently in refusal. Marvin and Carl were still on the floor and edged away from the man. He finally just snapped, no longer resisting the orders of the voices. It was simply too much to continue to struggle against. The man lunged at Marvin, slamming him again the wall of the house. Carl was in shock, not moving from his previous position.. Meanwhile, the man had knocked Marvin unconscious from slamming his head repeatedly into the concrete floor. Blood drenched his matted mess of hair and dirt. The man chased Carl straight down into the cellar. Rushing to the trapdoor, he found it to be held shut. In his rage he ripped the door straight out of Carl’s grasp. Tumbling down the staircase by a kick from the man, Carl plopped at the bottom, his leg positioned in an impossible fashion.
The man pulled Carl by the hair towards one of the food barrels. The barrel was filled with pickle juice, leftover from the pickles that had been inside. The man pushed Carl’s head into the barrel, watching him squirm for life as his lungs burned for air. Eventually, Carl grew limp. He was then pulled from the barrel by the man and tossed aside like a used dishrag. Hurrying back up the staircase, the man had found Marvin just beginning to recover from the previous attack. The man was quick to grab him and toss him down the staircase. Although not seriously injured, Marvin screamed at the horrifying sight of his friend’s corpse. Before he could scramble back up the staircase, the man had slammed it shut, as well as pushing the heavy bed frame over the trapdoor. The man cackled triumphantly as the banging of the trapdoor slowly grew weaker and weaker. Eventually, the banging simply came to a stop.
Again the man woke up, this time on the hard floor of the house. He looked at the blood on his hands and remembered the terrible acts of murder he had committed. While crying in frustration, the man suddenly stopped, realizing that the voices had left him. Perhaps he had spent a bit too much time in that cellar. He could only wonder if this was momentary as he exited the house and endlessly wandered the burned forest behind what he had made his home. Lush trees had been turned into thin, black needles that pierced the sky. Startled by a loud squeak, the man looked below him and there laid a sickly, ash-covered puppy. Although the dog did not look like she would last long, he would take any companionship possible at this point. Taking off what was left of his tattered suit jacket, the man wrapped the dog in his arms. After what seemed hours of drudging through the forest, the man looked to now-sleeping dog and smiled for the first time in a very long time. Looking back up, he could see a supermarket in the distance.
The walk had not been as long as expected, and soon the two were inside the store looking for food. Looking past the charred bodies and widespread destruction, the man had found a strong sense of security inside the store. Digging through the ash and debris, he had surprisingly found some salvageable food and water. Dusting the dog off, he noticed that her ash-covered coat was a dark chocolate, and she had a collar with a name tag. The metal tag was worn and rusted, and ironically enough read “Rusty.” Uncommon for a girl, but the man thought it was fitting, regardless. After tearing open a can with a piece of jagged metal, the man was relieved to find that Rusty could eat out of it. From that point forward, three times a day, he would come to feed her. With each passing day, Rusty became stronger until she was finally able to walk again.
The man had rationed his food out between himself and Rusty quite carefully. Even so, he was almost never hungry anymore. He had more energy, and therefore had more time to do the things he wanted with his companion. Basic survival needs were taken care of and for the time being there was little stress in either of their lives. Together Rusty and the man would play in the parking lot in front of the supermarket. They would play with balls, sticks, and whatever else they could find. Over time, their bond became unbreakable. Even in his life before, the man didn’t have much time to really enjoy himself, or have any real friends. Despite the hopelessness of his situation, the man was ironically happier now than in the time before the apocalypse. Meanwhile, Rusty had grown into a strong, healthy dog who now the sworn protector of her master.
One night the man awoke to the sound of a loud slam that echoed the aisles of the entire store. The heavy door that he was sure to barricade every night swung open. Maybe he not secured the door properly and the howling winds had blown it open. Rusty was close to his side as the two crept across the store to investigate. A very large figure stood in front of the man. A knife inside the figure’s hand gleamed in the moonlight. He charged for the man, who was frozen in fright. Rusty also made a charge, the two colliding with her jaws tightly around the figure’s hand. The knife dropped to the floor and the man’s eyes darted to it. He didn’t want to kill again; it was already too much to bear the thought of two deaths. He would have simply let the figure kill him, had it not been for Rusty. The man valued her life now higher than his own. With a loud shout, he picked up the knife and slammed it into the figure’s chest. The figure collapsed from the wound, dying almost instantly. Devastated of what he just did, the man dropped to his knees and just stared at the wall ahead. It was beyond crying at this point; he could do nothing to comfort himself.
The rest of the night was very sleepless, and the image of the figure’s corpse was burned into the man’s brain. He wondered if it was right, if killing the man really necessary. Slowly, the voices had crept back into his head. Again, the man had fought them, but they soon overtook his mind again. Picking up the knife, he turned to his sleeping companion. He was crying and shaking, but the man’s actions were no longer his own. He plunged the knife into the dog’s side, waking her up. Rusty looked to her master with a confused and terrified expression before blood trickled out of her mouth and she fell limp. More than anyone else, his own mind was the biggest enemy the man had ever faced. Sobbing hysterically into the dog’s corpse, he only wished that the voices could of told him to kill himself instead.
After sobbing for hours, the man covered Rusty in his tattered jacket like he had done when they met. He now faced the danger of being dangerously low on water. He pushed open the doors of the supermarket and fell to his knees, being reminded of the desolate and unforgiving wasteland. He closed his eyes and wished that he were home. Oh, how the man would have treasured his life so much more if he were given another chance. He would love and care for everyone around him. No, that was impossible; he’d never get a second chance.
The man died, his own last thought wishing he could of loved more people beside himself.
The end of the man’s life was as anticlimactic as his lived. He did not value life until he realized the happiness that could come from bonding with something. He remains unnamed only for the fact that he never existed. The man represents society and how it lives so greedily. Before it is too late, we must see the error of our ways, or else this is not only a possible future, but also an imminent one. Wait until the end to change, and there’s nothing left to change for.
Written by Avenging Angel