She should not have had that last margarita.

That was the thought that filtered through Christine’s mind as she stirred into wakefulness. The sun was slanting through the blinds, bright and cheerful, opposing her mood. Her head felt as if it was going to explode, her eyes seemed to have dried out completely and her stomach protested when she sat up.

Definitely should not have had that last margarita. She dimly recalled that it had seemed like a good idea at the time. Of the rest of the evening, there was nothing.

She took stock. She was in her own bed, alone. So she hadn’t done anything really stupid. Or the man had woken up, got up and left hours ago. Her clothes were…still on her body. Definitely hadn’t done anything really stupid. She must have just made it to bed and passed out.

The clock on the nightstand told her it was eleven a.m. Had she not felt so rotten, she would have gone back to sleep. She had nothing she had to do and nowhere to be. Instead, she got up, and slowly made her way into the kitchen.

Coffee. No, a rational voice crept in. Coffee would make the hangover seem better but actually be worse. Water.

She downed a glass, and it seemed to work a little. At least, her brain was not quite as fuzzy. Not quite. It was close, and she shook her head, then regretted it. Second glass, aspirin. There. That helped.

She walked to the window and opened the blind. A chill, crisp, winter day, but she saw nobody out walking their dogs towards the park opposite. Of the park itself, she could see little. Too many trees.

She was probably not the only one recovering from an interesting evening. Heck, those who were not were outnumbered by those who were. A new year. A new decade.

She decided going outside would help…forcing herself to grab a breakfast bar on the way. Jacket on, and out into the crisp air.

Not that crisp. A faint smell she could not place drifted across the park. It was probably those margaritas. Maybe she should give up tequila. She liked it, but it always had this effect. Now it was messing up her sense of smell.

No birds were singing, but any sensible bird had flown south months ago. There was a light coating of snow that crunched beneath her feet. The squirrels were obviously all in their dreys.

Then she grasped what was really wrong. Even on New Years’ morning there should have been some cars on the road. She heard none. She heard nothing except the wind through the trees. No cars. No voices. Had she gone deaf?


She could hear her own voice, and she could hear the wind. No, she was not deaf, the world really was that quiet. “I know it was one hell of a night, but…”

She spoke now to fill that silence, to have some human sound. Her voice echoed, as if off of a glass wall she could not see or touch.

She even reached out for such a wall, but felt nothing. Nothing. She walked further into the park. She saw only a terrier dog, padding through the snow, its nose close to the ground. It seemed to be looking for something. Shaking her head, she continued to the other side.

It seemed as if it was still five a.m. not eleven, although the sun told her otherwise. There was only one car not neatly parked, and that one seemed to be empty. Perhaps somebody had taken the man’s keys? Or perhaps he had passed out and ended up in the hospital? She walked over to it, concerned that perhaps something was very wrong. Something was. The man lay slumped across the wheel. The window was open. She reached in, felt for a pulse, and there was only the chill of death.

The next full awareness, she was at home. She must have run. The television showed only static. Radio, the same. She picked up the phone, called her parents in Alaska. It rang and rang and rang.

It felt as if she was the only living human on Earth. Maybe the tequila had saved her somehow. Or maybe the Rapture had happened and she was the only one not worthy. Or one of the handful, who now wandered through the ruins.

That called for another drink. She passed the next two days in a drunken haze. Then…she ran out of food.

The supermarket was closed and empty. She broke in relatively easily. Stole a cart, filled it with stuff that would not go bad. A dead stocker lay in one of the aisles. He had already started to decompose, despite the cold weather.

She was not entirely sober. As she left, she thought she saw somebody moving. Or something.


There was no answer. She kept the cart. Canned food. When she got home, the lights did not work.

A car. She needed to get out of the city, out to where there might be farms, might be crops. Could she grow her own food? The immediate answer was no. The second one was, she had no choice.

No choice at all. The vehicle she picked was a van. She filled it with food, thinking she saw that shadow around the store again.


Again, no answer…so she got in and drove away. The highway was empty except for one truck, perhaps one in which its driver had spent the night. The skies were empty except for one desultory bird that flapped overhead, slowly.

Maybe there would be enough…and she thought she heard something. It sounded like a motorcycle approaching, yet when she turned, she did not see it. That feeling of being somehow trapped in glass returned, an image for her situation. A metaphor.

She was trapped, because she was the only one left. No motorcycle. No motorcycle outside of her imagination. She was trying to fill the emptiness with hallucinations. The next gas station, she stole a bunch of CDs. The pumps did not work. She topped up from a gas container out the back. Her range was limited.

She heard the motorcycle again. This time, she searched the area carefully, visually. Her scalp prickled. But if there was another survivor, then they could work together. They would have to. Maybe it would be a man.

No. You could not restore a species from just two individuals. She had driven down the coast, rather than up into the mountains. Down into Oregon. Maybe if she kept going…maybe there was a range after all.

She kept turning on the radio. Nothing. But every hundred miles, she tried again, until darkness fell.

She slept across the front seat of the van. She had taken something else from that last station, which lay next to her. It made her feel safer, but no less trapped. And what was the point?

How had she survived? It could not be because she was drunk. Everyone had been drunk. If she had been sober, then she would have blamed that as the cause. But she had done nothing thousands of others had not. Chance.

Chance. Or something else. She was being followed. Followed as she drove the coast road south. The highway was closed, blocked by road construction and detour signs. She turned around, left at the next exit, and this time she was pretty sure she saw the motorbike. It seemed hazy, though, as if not perfectly formed. As if it belonged by rights in another universe. A universe where this had not happened. A mirage.

Off on the side road, then, and she pulled up. A country store. She took preserves, and there was some edible bread. She ate it, sitting at the side of the road. If there was a biker, he was welcome to stop. Welcome to catch her.


Her head snapped around at the sound of her name, but she saw nobody who could have spoken.

“Hello?” she asked of thin air, knowing she had imagined it. There was nobody there. Not even a parrot, that might echo her words. Which seemed to be coming off of glass again. As if she was trapped in a bubble that went with her.

As if she was protected somehow. “Okay. I know somebody’s out there.” Her going nuts might be more logical, but she was far past logic. Her heart told her she was not alone.

But nobody came out of the woodwork, metaphorically or literally.

“Come out and tell me what the hell is going on!” She rose to her feet, her voice snapping out into the silence. Whatever was going on, she was not going to be answered. Perhaps whatever had called her name could not hear her.

“I give up.” Maybe she should just kill herself. End it now, except she was too stubborn to do that. Too stubborn to really give up. Which only meant she would starve or die of some disease. Humans had died. Everything else went on, the world would be better off without them. Without her.

Glass. “Whoever you are, you didn’t do me any favors.”

Still silence. She stalked back to the van, got in, put it into gear. It was a stick, and she grated the clutch in her anger. She drove too fast until she looped back onto the freeway. The landscape would have been worth appreciating, but she saw none of it. Nothing except the red of her own blood and the road.

She almost hit a wrecked semi, and that brought her out of it. The radio? Nothing. She stuck in another stolen CD. She had not looked at them. Billy Joel. It would have to do. It was what she had, all she had. A voice that reminded her that there had been other men and women.

The biker. She could see him in her rear view mirror. He lifted a hand, he signaled to her. Not indistinct now…she slowed, she wound down the window.

“Who the heck are you?”

“Christine,” was the only response.

Yet she knew the voice now. Toby. Toby, who had been dead for over a year. Toby whom she had loved and lost and loved again.

He had died in a motorcycling accident. His ghost was riding the road now. She was a ghost. That was the logical explanation, the one she did not want to accept. She seemed solid.


“Christine.” And then he faded away again.

I’m already dead, she told herself. Or he would not be calling to me. Or maybe he wanted her to kill herself. She had a knife. She could make it very quick indeed. She…was far too much of a coward to die.

Which meant she had to be brave enough to live. The light was fading. When had that happened? She glanced at her watch.

It had stopped. She frowned a little bit, then decided that in a world with no jobs or television shows, she did not need a watch. She took it off, then threw it out of the van window. It landed on the road with a faint crunch.

There. She was divested of civilization and its rules. A sense of freedom flowed through her. What need did she have of time beyond day and night, winter and summer?

The darkness fell, and she pulled the van off the side of the road. She had acquired a camp stove, she used it to heat pasta and sausage in the can, then ate them straight from that. She had no good way to wash the fork, but she didn’t care. If she was the only human left, what could she catch?

What did she have to lose?

The night fell, and the stars slowly began to appear. There were no street lights, and she could see the Milky Way in its full splendor. Stars upon stars upon stars.


“Go away, Toby. I’m not coming with you, not yet.”

“You must.” His voice was clearer now, he wore no helmet. His face was as she remembered it, ruggedly handsome. Very much a biker.

“I won’t.” His pleading with her made her all the more determined to live. Even if she did not know why.

“Please, Christine. If you don’t…” Then he faded again, as if it had taken all of his energy to manage that brief communication.

She shook her head, then leaned back on the grassy embankment, watching the stars. Somewhere there had to be other survivors. She would find them, they would join together. They would find some way to live. She was determined of that.

Toby’s presence had completely gone from her mind and senses. He was a memory. No, he was her guilt. Her guilt at living when everyone else had died.

Not a siren trying to call her to death. Not that. The stars were a panoply. They called to her in a different sense. Had mankind reached for them, then there would be more survivors, out there, somewhere.

She watched them, remembering that once men had thought them just pricks in the cloth of the sky.

She knew better. They were the suns of a thousand worlds…

…but as she watched, one by one, the stars began to go out.

# # #

That Last Margarita by Jennifer Povey
originally published November 17, 2010



Jennifer Povey is in her mid thirties, and lives in Northern Virginia with her husband. She writes a variety of speculative fiction, whilst following current affairs and occasionally indulging in horse riding and role playing games. She has recent fiction in Cosmos Online and Zombist: Undead Western Tales.

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visit her Big Pulp author page


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