Everything changed overnight. There’s nothing quite like the extinction of virtually every other human being on Earth to make you reevaluate your priorities. One day the population was around seven billion. The very next, it was only two individuals. The real kicker? The sole remaining male survivor of the human race was a huge jerk that she had a strong dislike for; at least prior to the global apocalypse. In the third grade, she had even told him; “I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on Earth!” Only later did the true weight of those words coalesce.
Somewhere, she suspected the gods of fate were surely laughing about the catastrophic irony. The hand of doom meted out a savage blow. It was perhaps the cruelest joke of all to leave only two people alive that had a marked dislike for each other. Even more traumatizing was the fact that they were both unaware of the other for several weeks in the immediate aftermath.
Initially, Heather Akers believed she was completely alone. She wandered the vacant streets in a daze for weeks. She desperately hoped to find another living soul in the abyss that was her hometown. Anyone. It was like a wide-awake nightmare. Cars and trucks were abandoned alongside the lonely roadway. Stores of all types were unoccupied and government offices were completely vacant.
After an extraordinary series of panic attacks and deeply personal meltdowns, survival instincts kicked in. Heather sought a way to gather up all the unclaimed food she would need to survive. She knew it would eventually spoil and then she’d be relegated to eating scavenged cans of beans and non-perishable items. She dragged three overloaded grocery carts back to her home and started ‘nesting’.
As if to release the overwhelming grief of permanent solitude, Heather laughed at the absurdity of it all. She had the entire world to herself. All of it was hers. Despite that, she was still trying to cram everything into her modest apartment. If there was any consolation to surviving a global apocalypse, it was that she had her pick of places to live. There was absolutely nothing to stop her from claiming the biggest mansion in town. Her manic laughter morphed to hysterical weeping. Everyone she knew and loved was dead. Even the people she didn’t care about were gone. The weight of that crushing blow was enough to break the spirit of even the hardest misanthropist.
James on the other hand, was too busy preparing his doomsday survival bunker to dwell on the morbid circumstances. It was his coping mechanism to put himself completely into what he was doing. He had to avoid free time. Otherwise he would get mired down into a deep depression. Thoughts of being alone could only bring more ruin.
In the movies, the end of the world always came about from nuclear war or astronomical catastrophe. There was supposed to be piles of twisted wreckage, smoldering buildings and countless dead bodies everywhere. The actual apocalypse was quite different. There was no carnage, hordes of zombies or tidal waves. Only the people themselves were gone. It was as if every single person on Earth just boarded a space ship and left.
He had a veritable fortress to protect himself from the unknown and supplies to last months, if not years. James had massive stockpiles of tube socks, toilet paper, vitamins, batteries, and underwear. He also had crates of toothpaste, candy bars, pocket knives, deodorant and firearms. Lots and lots of firearms. Whatever killed every other person on Earth might still get him too, but he’d be well prepared when it happened.
It was inevitable that the last two known people on Earth looting their abandoned town would run into each other. Both had noticed evidence of unexplained activity in areas they had previously scavenged. There were tell-tale signs of things being moved or missing. The wandering herds of abandoned pets might explain objects moving from one day to the next but ownerless dogs and cats couldn’t carry cases of beer. That required opposable thumbs and an understanding of what was in the containers. It didn’t take a genius to figure out what was going on.
James staked out one of the locations affected by the moving objects. He hid in the grocery store to witness and catch his apocalyptic competition. He hoped it wasn’t a horde of mutant zombies like in the movies. He didn’t have to wait very long to find out.
“Ah haaaaa!”; James stepped out from behind a cardboard display to confront the mystery interloper. Having only recently come to terms with believing she was the last human being on Earth, she shrieked and dropped her ‘booty’. “So, I’m not alone after all!”; He shouted at her. “I knew someone had been stealing all the tubes of lip balms off the counter!”
Heather was still in a state of disbelief and shock until his last statement. She was too offended by his accusation to be relieved that she wasn’t actually alone in the world. “Stealing?”; She shot back. “What exactly do you think YOU are doing with those doughnuts, tubbo? It may be news to you but neither of us own this store. We are both taking things that aren’t paying for.”
This time it was his turn to be caught off-guard by the stinging retort. Almost immediately he recognized his long lost classmate. She was still the same defensive, nerdy girl that he teased in elementary school. Twenty years had passed and yet she was still uncomfortable in her own skin. He was a bit offended that she didn’t recognize him, as easily as he did her. They went to different schools after her family moved to a different town so perhaps his appearance had changed too much for her powers of observation. He debated whether to even remind her of their mutual past at Forest Acres elementary school.