2050 Version 1.0
I am the last one. This is it. The others partied themselves to death because they saw no reason to do anything else. I began last night by doing my best to imbibe a lethal amount of alcohol and other substances, but I’m pretty sure if I were dead I wouldn’t have this severe pain above my eyes, or this acute nausea. Hazily, I recall creeping away from the New Year “festivities” as things started to get out of hand. This morning five of the last six people on earth are dead. Two are mashed up in motorbikes that apparently rammed each other head-on, two are lying blue in vomit puddles and one seems to have leapt from the roof of the house and missed the festering green swimming pool. There is a lot of blood around, but I am still alive.
What’s wrong with me? What am I going to do now? Why am I so scared of dying? I can’t face these thoughts at the moment. It is the beginning of a new year, so I throw up, find a bottle of home-made vodka and cry. There is no point in living, but here I am. Maybe I actually wanted to be the only human left. I have never been very special before, and now I am unique. If there were a higher intelligence around it might call me precious. Nobody has ever called me precious. I am the most complex, advanced being on the planet. Probably.
Dioxin contamination has made most humans and animals infertile for over thirty years now. Starvation and AIDS wiped out the population of Africa over twenty years ago. The air in China has been pretty much deadly to breathe for around thirteen years. The non-regenerating genetically engineered superweeds took over South America and malnutrition finished off those who had lived through the War on Drugs. Europeans and Russians were unable to produce or buy enough food or heat to survive their increasingly tough winters. We know nobody could have survived the nuclear explosions in North America or the Middle East. All the Pacific Islands, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Burma, much of India, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia, Hungary and the Netherlands have been totally submerged by the rising seas, flooding rivers and storm surges. There could be a few people left in New Zealand, but with nothing edible left in the sea and disease wiping out all the sheep, it’s hard to know what they would be eating. Possums maybe, but they’re so large and ferocious these days, it’s more likely that they’d be killing off any remaining humans. We listened to the short-wave broadcasts from around the world dwindle away until the airwaves were as dead as the forests. Even if any others have survived I’m not likely to ever meet them, am I? The catalogue of historic devastations file through my head as I groan through the rest of the day.
By the following morning my hangover is better, though my stomach is empty and my limbs are weak. It hits me that if I’m not going to commit suicide, I will have to find an alternative plan. I walk around the devastated town, looking for inspiration. I end up sitting on the beach staring at the sea, which is the only part of my life that hasn’t changed dramatically for the worse since I was a child. That’s not actually true, as it is now practically lifeless and full of large, small and tiny particles of plastic, but it still appears more or less the same from this vantage point. I watch the waves crash, recede and crash again, and I think, it’s all too hard; what is the point? Nevertheless I keep coming back to the fact that, as I’m too chicken-shit to kill myself, I’ve got to do something. If I stay here on this beach for long enough I will slowly burn to death, and that has to be about the worst option available.
The thought occurs to me that I should finally leave this town and all its gruesome memories. I have travelled a little, and I doubt anywhere else is going to be any better than this place, but I can’t think of any other ideas. So should I head north or south? I’m definitely not going inland because, I reconfirm to myself, burning to death definitely holds no appeal. Trying to make some sort of logical plan, I decide that, on the off chance there is anyone else alive, they would be more likely to be down south where the population was bigger, so therefore I should probably drive north. If there are any humans still alive they would not be likely to be friendly types inviting me to share their tea, and it would presumably be better to avoid them. Even as I think this, I suspect it’s overly cautious. Somehow I’m totally convinced there is no-one left.
I will experience this world as my domain I think, trying to motivate myself into action. No-one is ever going to tell me what to do again, or even make a suggestion. I never liked other people much anyway, so it’s not so bad being the only one. I can get a car and there is still a bit of fuel around if you know where to look. When I was a little kid, using fossil fuels was the height of political incorrectness, but by the time I was a teenager everyone knew that life on earth was on its way out, so what the fuck. Petrol is stashed all over the place. I have a rifle, and wallabies still hop around the place occasionally. There are plenty of rats and rabbits, but they look so diseased I haven’t been able to stomach eating any of them yet. Even if I can’t find edible animals, packaged imperishables will keep me going for a few more months. My condensation collection kit makes enough water for drinking.
Gradually my mind formulates a plan and sets my body in motion. There are a few working vehicles around town and I test drive the best ones and choose a Toyota utility truck. I siphon the fuel from all the others and load up the ute with all the useful items I can find.
Mentally, I say goodbye to the bay. I have experienced a fair amount of horror here, but it has been my only home. Apparently Byron Bay used to be a kind of hippie paradise of whales, reefs and rainforests, but that is very hard to imagine now. The only thing that remains from its glory days as a tourist attraction is the surf, which is now bigger and wilder than ever before. I’ve had enough of surfing though; I’ve survived my share of painful dumps and now it is time for a different kind of adventure. Slowly, I make my way out through the potholes to the freeway, heading north on the comparatively smooth bitumen to my new life of total solitude.
As I drive, I contemplate living alone and it seems increasingly attractive. No longer will I have to deal with the depressions or rages of other people. I will never feel compelled to cheer anyone up while my own mood is one of complete indifference. I won’t have to justify to anyone why I strive to stay alive. I will just be and do whatever my instinct tells me, like any other animal. These thoughts make me oddly calm and an anxiety I didn’t know I had floats away from me. For a couple of hours I am quite content, singing along with the music player and scanning the land for something to see.
There is nothing but dirt and billboards until I approach the place along the river where Brisbane used to be. Bodies and rats and piles of plastic line the highway. Flies thicken the air. I don’t want to stop here, although I should probably look for more fuel. Reluctantly I leave the highway to drive around some side streets, but fear chokes me and I cannot make myself stop the truck.
The smell of death seeps through the vents.
Fuck it. I return to the highway and get through the city as fast as I can.
North of Brisbane I know there were some smaller beach towns, so maybe I can find petrol there. I have to leave the highway again, and the streets here are not so different from those in the city, but at least the sea breeze takes away most of the smell. I find a coastal road and follow it north for a while. Eventually I muster the courage to stop driving and explore some ruined buildings, but all I find are cockroaches, rodents and garbage. Nothing in the rubble is useful for me, so I return to the ute and keep heading north.
A couple of times I stop at old service stations, until I realise that they would be the last places to find petrol now. Private garages are probably the best bet, but I really don’t want to look in every house along the coast. The familiar fingers of apathy take hold of me. I guess I will just drive until the fuel runs out, and then see where I am. Not much of a plan, but whatever. I still have nearly a quarter of a tank and a few jerry cans left. I resolve to keep driving unless I see something that is really worth stopping for.
It’s not too much farther on that such a place actually presents itself to me. It is an old supermarket and even from the road I can see there are a few brightly-coloured packages still on the shelves. I pull over, but I’m suspicious. How could there be food left here? What if it’s a trap? Looking around, I don’t see anything else unusual. It is possible, I suppose, that all the locals here died before they finished looting the entire supermarket. My empty stomach convinces me to take the risk and check it out. I get out of the ute, look up and down the street, then carefully step over the jagged edge of the broken glass doors. There are mouldy wrappers and debris all over the floor, but at the end of the aisle on the top shelf I see a few unopened packets of pasta and a taco meal kit. The parts with salsa in them don’t look too good, but I rip open the taco shells and eat one straight away. It is stale but edible, and partially fills the hole inside me.
The food left in this supermarket reassures me that nobody is alive around here, so I relax a little, and take my time to check all the shelves and pack the truck. I use the opportunity to refill my tank from the jerry cans as well. I wonder whether I should stay here for a while, but the urge to keep moving tugs at me, so I start the engine and continue the drive. After a few kilometres the coastal road ends and I get lost in a maze of roundabouts for some time, until I finally find the highway again. Now hours go by with nothing to look at and the old songs repeating themselves on the player.
Bored, I decide to test my vehicle. I accelerate until I reach around double the speed limit and the ute rattles dangerously. It would be funny to die in a car accident after surviving all this. There’s nothing much to crash into, but I guess the truck could always roll and squash me. I slow down and resume staring at the dirt. After all these hours, I’ve only seen two distant wallabies, well out of my range, and one crow. That was the first bird I’ve seen for months. Otherwise it’s just a big, straight, empty road. It’s incredibly quiet too, apart from the sound of my truck. There are no distant screams or gunshots or smashing glass or sirens. I suppose you could call it peaceful.
With nothing else to do, my mind wanders back to ancient history. No-one understands what is happening in the world when they are very young. My childhood was probably not so different to those of the previous few generations. There were times I was hungry or scared, but there were also times I revelled in my new existence, as all children do. I remember one day at the beach, when the waves were flat, my parents stood a few metres apart in waist-deep water and I spluttered and kicked between them, astounded that I was able to move alone through the sea without drowning.
When I was an adolescent, everything was wild and almost fun. My parents, like many adults at the time, were still trying to hold on to life on this planet. They pleaded desperately with the leaders to change the systems, and with their offspring to act responsibly. My mother was always saying things like, “Turn off the lights!”, “Take your bicycle!”, “Don’t waste water!” but we, the youth, knew it was too late for us. Our fate was already sealed. It was sort of liberating to be alive at the end of the world. We knew our actions could have no consequences, because it was all over and there was no way back. Our spirits were unrestrained and the parties were insane! When I try to remember details about those times they are very fuzzy, but I do recall the overall sense of freedom at being able to follow wherever my impulse led me, whenever it happened and whatever it was.
As I grew older, and lost more friends and family to diseases, disasters and violence, that feeling faded, although I continued to party hard and follow my foolish whims. My mother died in a flood and it took weeks for me to find out. When I did hear about it, it seemed inevitable, and my grief was not prolonged. I know this is sad. Self-pity sags my shoulders.
I have not really been aware of the road for a long time, but now I notice I’m approaching the remains of a small town. It looks horrendous, but I am tired and I search for somewhere to spend the night. There are many ruins of motels along the road and I spend some time driving up and down until I find the least decayed one. It smells quite unpleasant, but I grab my torch and my sleeping bag and inspect the rooms for somewhere to sleep. One room is still locked, so I break the window and climb in. It seems reasonably clean. The air is stale but not rancid. I put my sleeping bag on the bed and discover I’m not quite ready for slumber, despite my fatigue.
I return to the ute to look for a way to pass some time. I can’t decide whether to get a book or a bottle of vodka. Neither is easy to find in the mess of my hastily-packed truck. I don’t really feel like getting drunk and being hungover in the morning, but the old stories in books seem so irrelevant to my life. As I fumble through my possessions I hear a noise in the street. It sounds like a human footstep. My adrenal glands pump and I’m suddenly very awake, and scared. I flash the torch around, but everything looks as dead as usual. I decide on the vodka, which is now obviously where I left it, and hurry back to the motel in darkness. There is no moon, and I try to be silent as I find my room, lock the door and sit on the bed, watching the broken window. Carefully, I open the bottle and take a sip. It is only then that I think, why didn’t I get the rifle? Now I don’t want to go back out there.
Everything is quiet. Struggling to remain calm, I creep to the window and look out. A massive white rat is looking at me from the path outside. That must have been the noise, I conclude with relief. I take a deep breath and a swig of vodka, and explore my temporary home. There are tourist books and pictures on the wall that show this region before the chaos started: beaches, forests, waterfalls and people smiling calmly, with no sign of mania. I find myself smiling back at the faces, until I see my reflection in the glass and snap out of it. When I have looked at everything and drunk half the bottle, I start to destroy things and try to kill the rats outside by throwing coffee cups and saucers through the window. They all get away, but the bottle isn’t finished before I go to sleep, so I’m pretty pleased with myself.
I wake up feeling quite fine, considering. I eat some of the tacos I took from the supermarket yesterday. I would like to cook the pasta, but I don’t have enough water for that. My real-food cravings are getting bad, so I decide to make a proper effort at hunting today. Driving around the town, I notice a mountain, probably about a hundred kilometres west of the highway, which seems to have some vegetation on it. Eventually I find a road that leads towards it, all the while keeping an eye out for any signs of hopping animals. As I drive, my brain starts to spin and the hangover kicks in. I need some meat.
After nearly an hour I get lucky. At the foot of the mountain, a remnant of bush appears, complete with weedy grass, a creek bed with some puddles in it and even a couple of sick looking trees. I crouch behind one of the trees with my rifle. Surely I won’t have to wait long in such an animal paradise as this. I don’t. A small wallaby comes into view within fifteen minutes. I think the poor thing is dying of thirst, because it hops straight for the creek without the usual cautious sniffing. Lucky for me, as I’m not the world’s best marksman. Actually, I guess I probably am now. Anyway, I kill it easily and go over to check it out with my stomach rumbling. It had died immediately and is on its side with one lifeless eye staring into the blue sky.
Without warning, my hunger changes to nausea as pain spears through my eyes to the middle of my head. The ground wobbles under me. Another life gone. How much death can I take? Ever since I can remember people, species and countries have been dying all around me. Apart from my mother, the longest time I knew any living being for was maybe two years. My mother. She used to think she could save the world, but she couldn’t even save herself. I have gotten used to it of course: there is nothing else to do, but as I look at the dead wallaby I ask myself why it has to be like this. The fog of death and decay close around me so that I can hardly breathe. People I haven’t thought about for years invade my brain with their forgotten faces and voices. I suddenly remember that when I was very young I loved people: people in general and specific people too, until I learned better. The misery of loss, denied for so long, seems to hit me with one accumulated punch and I gasp for breath on my knees in front of the animal I have just killed.
Chilly sweat springs through my pores and the tacos in my stomach are ejected onto the yellow grass.
After a while the panic eases, but I stay on the ground and one particular voice keeps talking inside me. It says things like, “Come on, Ruby. You don’t deserve this life. It’s hateful. There has to be peace on the other side.” It was a boy I knew long ago, called Victor. I spent a good part of a year with him, and we took a lot of drugs together and had a lot of sex. Great sex, actually. He was a believer and he used to try to get me to join his suicide pact. I wouldn’t; I wanted to survive and I was even careful about avoiding an accidental overdose. About seven of them ended up having some big ceremonial orgy and blowing themselves up with dynamite. He had brown skin and almost-black eyes, and was kinder than most other people I had known. I realise I was probably in love with him. Tears and snot run down my face. This is crying. I don’t think it has happened to me before. I begin to understand, deeply for the first time, why so many people had wanted to die. Why did I have to be born at the end of the world? Why did Victor leave me here alone? Why couldn’t I have had a normal life with a job and a family and holidays, at least for a little while, as my parents did? I know they tried, in their inadequate ways, to stop the annihilation of life, but most of their generation couldn’t have cared less. They let the world turn to shit, then died and left their children to deal with it. It isn’t fair. The pain of all the senseless destruction is almost unbearable. Almost, but not quite. I just can’t believe in an afterlife (the idea seems ridiculous) and still, I want to stay alive. Don’t ask me why.
So, anguish eventually submerges beneath my habitual numbness and hunger returns. I heave myself to my feet and think listlessly about building a fire. Usually I cook on my gas burner, but there is enough wood around, so I may as well conserve my fuel. There are plenty of twigs and just enough bigger pieces, although they take some time to find. Making the fire, cooking the wallaby is such a normal, old-fashioned thing to do that my mood improves slightly. Eating is an enormous pleasure and the voices are forgotten again, lost amid the quiet sounds of the fire.
I know that being hungover most of the time does not help my state of mind, but the nights are so difficult and long without alcohol to help me sleep. Anyway, being the last person left, with a probable maximum life span of about six months, does it really matter what my state of mind is? Well, I argue with myself, why stay alive if you’re just going to be sick and confused the whole time? I give up the internal debate with a vague promise that I will not drink tonight, at least.
The heat is fierce and having half a wallaby digesting inside me makes it worse. I splash around in the creek bed for a while, but the water is not exactly clear or refreshing. It’s box jellyfish season (still enough of those fuckers alive), so the ocean is out of bounds if survival is my goal. I pack up the rest of the meat in my hot esky and decide to return to the highway, continue north and maybe find a swimming pool somewhere. Humming “On the road again” and fish-tailing round the curves, I choose to leave Victor behind in the ashes of my fire.
Driving through the back roads is way more fun than on the highway. It reminds me of playing computer games when I was very small, but eventually I have to turn left onto “Bruce”, as the main highway is called, and soon afterwards I find a motel with a slimy swimming pool. I jump in, carefully avoiding getting the water in my ears, eyes, mouth or nose. I might as well try to avoid getting sick for my remaining months. The water stinks, but it does lower my body temperature pleasantly. Afterwards I hunt around in the pool shed and am thrilled to find a stash of fuel: enough to ensure I get to Townsville I reckon. So far, so good. Ever onward!
Townsville. What a shithole. There is hardly a building left standing. Broken glass, smashed concrete, bones and all kinds of garbage cover the streets. This is where the Queensland Military Command Centre was set up when the shit started to hit the fan, and consequently where the state’s most savage rioting and looting occurred. It looks as if there hasn’t been any life around here for a long time. The dead bodies are in an advanced stage of decomposition, mostly skeletons. It’s going to be slim pickings here, for food, petrol or even shelter. I drive around for a while, with the fuel gauge flashing red, but the town is so flat that I can see there is nothing to see. I don’t know what to do and I’m drained after a whole day of driving and the emotions of the morning. I just want to eat and sleep, but I have to get out of this dump. There is one hill in the town and at least I could see the ocean from there. I just hope the ute can make it to the top.
It does, and things do seem less dismal higher up. Apparently several cars have driven over the edge of the scenic look-out, but the hill itself is comparatively serene and the sea looks the same as always. I eat some just-edible wallaby meat as the sun goes down, then lie in the back of the truck to sleep.
The sun is about to rise when I wake. My back and knees crack painfully as I lurch outside to urinate. I feel as if I have been drinking tequila and red wine all night, which hardly seems fair. Staggering to the look-out, I rub my eyes and see the first sun rays shooting over the water. I lean heavily on the railing and the fucking thing collapses under me! I clutch at a sign that is still standing and manage to hold it just long enough to slow my fall. Pieces of railing plummet far beneath me, but I skid down the hill on my back grabbing at concrete blocks and what vegetation there is on the slope. My T-shirt rides up and small rocks embed themselves in my skin. Finally I catch hold of a scrawny tree on a tiny outcrop and stop the descent. I am motionless for a while as my adrenaline and breathing slow down and I begin to feel the stings and aches of numerous scratches and bruises. Shit! Yet again, I have survived.
With some difficulty I change my grip on the tree, turn to face the slope and look for a safe way up or down. It is then that I see a strange thing. Behind the sparse grass just beside me, two steel doors are built into the side of the hill. I lean across to push on one and it opens heavily. A dark concrete tunnel, wide enough for maybe three people, leads into the middle of the hill. How bizarre! I love weird stuff like this and besides, there might be food or petrol inside, so I push both doors open as wide as they will go to let the light in, and scramble inside.
About eight metres into the tunnel, or corridor really, there is a door that opens into a large room. It is furnished with antiquated filing cabinets, desks, tables and shelves: all older than anything I’ve ever seen before. The dim light also shows signs of a more recent occupation: a cobwebby but modern sleeping bag; a gas cooker; a small saucepan. Also there is a zippo lighter which unbelievably still works. It is engraved with a name: Liam. I pocket it before I return to the hall.
Past the first room it becomes completely dark and the lighter makes almost no difference to the visibility. Still, I continue down the corridor with small, cautious steps, flicking the lighter while my spare hand sweeps around for danger. I feel like the protagonist in a teenagers’ mystery novel. Eventually I come to another door on the opposite side. This room is smaller and I can’t see anything in it. After groping around for a while, I make out a shape in the corner. Holding the lighter to it, I discover it is a jerry can full of petrol! “Fantastic,” I whisper to myself, then suddenly gasp and drop the lighter. Now I just have to get back outside without causing an explosion, and then somehow get the fuel to the car. It is pretty heavy but I am, after all, the strongest woman in the world. I shuffle gingerly in the direction of the door, but when I get to where I think it should be there is a solid wall. I have a moment of panic, thinking maybe I have stumbled into a magic disappearing-door-world, until I eventually find it a little to the left. Flicking on the lighter for a second, I orient myself then follow the wall slowly back to slope of the hill.
Climbing back up is impossible, I soon discover, and climbing down is also going to be very tricky, especially with the jerry can. There is no alternative, so I struggle and slip my way to the bottom of the hill. It takes a long time and costs me several new minor injuries. I’m also intensely thirsty. Finally I reach flat land, stash the can near the road and go in search of liquid. There is nothing close by, but at last, near the old aquarium, I find a smashed-up vending machine. It’s out of water, but there is one can of warm Fanta left. It tastes horrible. However, it does abate my thirst slightly, and I start out on the long trek back to my vehicle.
Trudging up through the intensifying heat, I wonder again why it is that I bother to continue with this life.
Not that I seriously consider giving up, but my motivations seriously mystify me. What the fuck am I hoping to gain?
Whatever it is, eventually I make it to the ute, drink the small amount of water that has collected from this morning’s condensation and roll down the hill to the fuel. I am going to need a lot more to properly get away from Townsville though. The Military Command Centre is my best bet, although I’m not sure where it is. I have been to this town once long ago, but I don’t remember the layout very well. That lair in the hill could have been part of the QMCC, but it looked much older than that. It’s more likely that it had something to do with the army base that used to be here way, way back in World War II.
I drive around the northern edge of town, because I have a faint recollection that the QMCC might be around there somewhere. It takes about twenty minutes to find the signs that lead me to it. With the fuel gauge close to empty again, I crash through the wire gate and drive up to a huge, corrugated-iron warehouse on the right of the compound.
The warehouse is locked, although it has obviously been broken into before. I can’t open it with any of the tools I have, or by shooting at the lock with my rifle, but ramming the doors head-on with the ute works in the end. All sorts of shit has been stored in here, most of it already ransacked. Some helicopters and boats are left, apparently of no use to the thieves. There is a store of fuel piled at the back, but it is not petrol. It’s biodiesel, made from coconut oil. When I was a kid, public outrage was finally overcoming the oil companies’ sabotage tactics and carbon-neutral biodiesel was being widely used around the world. It turned out to be unsustainable in such large quantities and anyway, it was becoming apparent that it was all too late to stop climate change from happening, so most people reverted to petrol, which was still stored in vast quantities around the place at the time. Unfortunately my engine is not a diesel one, so it’s no use to me.
An hour later, a thorough search of the rest of the compound reveals nothing more helpful. My best option appears to be abandoning the ute and finding some sort of diesel vehicle, if I want to leave Townsville, which I definitely do. Apart from the fact that this town is as depressing as hell, I have never been farther north than here and I have a desire to go somewhere new. As there are no cars or trucks in sight, I’m about to get in the ute and start a search for alternative transport, when an idea comes to me. What about one of those boats? If they run on diesel, I could travel north by sea, which would surely be more fun and less hot than the road. I have driven boats a few times before, and there will be no other sea traffic to deal with. There’s just enough of the dead Barrier Reef left to shelter the coast from most of the ocean swell, so the conditions should not be overly treacherous. I am truly enthused by this plan and I return to the warehouse to inspect the boats.
Diesel engines; three-metre Avon rigid inflatables, similar to a type I have driven before; complete with trailers: perfect! This will be great! As I back the ute into the warehouse and hook up the trailer I discover I am smiling- just like those people in the pictures in the motel. There is also a tent in the warehouse which I throw in the boat with as much biodiesel as it can carry. I make my way down to the water and after a while I find a battered boat ramp. Backing the boat into the water proves just as challenging as I remember, but eventually it’s all in place. I load her up, unhook, start the engine after several tries and back off the trailer. I leave the truck and trailer where they are and zoom out of the mouth and north along the coast. The wind, the speed, the water and the novelty are so exhilarating I cannot control my grinning face. The rich, coconut smell of biodiesel mixes with the salty freshness of the sea, and the spray is cool on my skin.
I feel alive from my whipping hair to my tingling, damp toes.
After four or five hours the second fuel tank is getting low and I am completely exhausted, though still intoxicated with the experience. Time to find a camp for the night. Up ahead I can see a jagged mountain range right on the coast covered with what looks like lush vegetation. As I have never seen lush vegetation before, I am intrigued and decide to try to find a landing close to it. When I get nearer I see that it is indeed what it seemed: huge, dark-green trees and vines, strong, healthy and overgrown! The mountains appear to be on an island separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. There are shallow sand banks and nowhere to land on the south side of it. As I travel slowly up the east coast, I see that it if it is an island, it’s a very large one. The vegetated area is soon replaced by the usual dirt and eventually I find a sandy beach where I can safely get ashore. Although the waves are small, they swamp the transom as I drive onto the beach, but I manage to scramble off with my backpack, pull the boat up as much as I can and dig the anchor into the sand.
At first I just lie there, resting my aching body under the hot sun. When my heart and lungs begin to slow down, I unpack the tent and erect it on the first flat bit of ground I find. Ravenously, I finish the wallaby meat, pray that it doesn’t make me sick, and surrender to weariness.
Something wakes me very early- a sound familiar from long ago, but difficult to recognise. As I become more conscious it is suddenly obvious- a dawn chorus! There are birds here! Not only crows, but at least three other kinds. I lie still listening to the different calls and watching the sky turn pink through the mosquito net window. Maybe my whole existence has been a dream and life on earth is continuing to evolve and revolve and feed and breed as it has for millions of years…
When the sun separates itself from the ocean, I emerge from the tent and stretch my arms behind my head. Today I will walk to the vegetated area (you could almost call it a forest) and try to imagine I live in the old days: in a time when life thrived all over the planet. I drink some water from my reserves and set off straight away.
It takes about an hour to get through the sandy-dirt nothingness. As I ascend the base of the first mountain I can see the ancient trees up close. Soon I’m able to put my palms on the bark and look up at the branches, so high in the sky that it hurts my neck to look at them. I walk further in and up, so that the trees surround me and I can see nothing of the wasteland outside. It makes me light-headed. Gradually, I notice the sound of running water and stumble towards it. It is a flowing creek with water so clear I can see right through it, even in the deep bits. I drink from my cupped hand and it tastes like nothing I could have imagined before. I lie on my back, listening to the water splashing on the rocks and looking at the trees reaching out to the clouds. A bird flies across and perches on a branch way above me. It has a sharp, red beak, blue wings and a long white tail and is easily the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. Tears seep from my eyes again, but this time is different. This is how the world was meant to be. The world humans created out of cars, television, fashion, drugs, money, nuclear weapons was just a sick fantasy, a nightmare. But so many people believed in this nightmare that it gained enough power to destroy everything else and became the new reality. Now this forest remnant is the dream. It’s just a nostalgic illusion which will soon fade away.
I have survived because I have been very good at accepting the new reality and ignoring the old one. How will I keep surviving? By eating that bird? It’s him or me. I’ve had enough. Let the birds live out their dreams. I’ve seen what is real and I accept that my time is over. Maybe the Earth is more resilient than I assume and maybe it can somehow recover from this mess. Whatever. It is not my business. Humans are not part of the future. We’ve done our bit. I’ve had my adventure and soon I will go back to camp and use the rifle on the last known representative of my species. Not right away, though. First I’ll lie here for a while and feel life flowing beneath me, beside me, over me and through me.