She should not have had that last
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
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
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
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,
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
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
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,
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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
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
published November 17, 2010