“I see you are still the same, ray of eternal sunshine that you were in Mr. Woods third grade class.” His sarcastic jab was sure to trigger her memory.
After a moment processing his revealing statement, her eyes lit up in bemusement. “Oppenheimer, you really are the ‘destroyer of worlds’, aren’t you?”
James had no idea what she meant. He either slept through History class or was too occupied with spitball fights to pay attention to lessons about his atomic bomb designing namesake. Regardless, coming from her, it was clearly some sort of intellectual mumbo-jumbo that went over his head.
He pretended to get the reference but they both knew he didn’t. After the tension and awkwardness of the situation wore off, he moved closer to hear her better. She backed away nervously and cringed. There were no cops or consequences anymore. There were absolutely no morals or religions to obey. There were no rules in life other than what the two of them decided in their own consciences. It was a savage new, lawless world and she wasn’t sure of his questionable intentions.
He recognized her fear reflex for what it was and snorted at the overreaction. “Pa-lease, Heather! You aren’t my type. Back in school, I seem to remember you saying that you wouldn’t marry me if I was ‘the last man on Earth’. Guess what? Here I am, LITERALLY THE LAST MAN on Earth! How you like me nowwwww!” After a moment he softened his attitude a bit. Clearly he had stewed on her schoolyard put-down for a lonnnggg time. “I’m hard of hearing in my left ear. I wanted to move closer so I could absorb your ‘brainiac’ insults better.”
Heather almost felt bad about her reaction to the innocent gesture but she had no way of knowing what was in his mind, beforehand. He was a man, and men have ‘urges’. There was no one to stop him from acting on them, except himself and will power. The prospect of being at the mercy of another person was almost as bad as the idea of being absolutely alone. Both extremes were terrifying. If there were other people out there somewhere, they might not be as civil as James Oppenheimer. The thought made her shiver. He might be a big, dumb, stoner galoot but he seemed pretty harmless.
She pontificated on his relative value to her. He could lift heavier boxes. He could ward-off rabid or wild animal attacks. If he had any mechanical or survival skills at all, it would be useful to have him around. Far more importantly, if there were other male survivors out there, he might be willing to protect her from them. That is, if she and him could come to an ‘arrangement’. She shuddered again at the thought.
Even so, being ‘pawed’ by him on agreed-upon occasions would be infinitely preferable to assault and murder by apocalyptic ‘road warrior’ wannabes. Plus, he could probably kill spiders. As she was formulating the initial details of her cunning plan, James turned to walk away.
“Wait. Um, where are you going? Don’t you think we should talk about…”
He was already out the door with the armload of supplies he pilfered. She followed him outside and repeated the unfinished question. This time she was able to get the whole thing out before he was all the way out of earshot. It seemed to make little difference. He wasn’t interested in forming a ‘cooperative partnership’ or any other fancy term for huddling together in fear of the unknown.
Heather finally had to run in front of him to stop his forward progress. “Hey asshole, I’m talking to you! If we are the only two people left, we need to band together and pool our resources. It’s probably the only way we can survive this hardship. What do you say?”
James stood there in the middle of the abandoned freeway with his arms loaded down with supplies. Their weight began to tax on him far more than Heather’s desperate offer or insult. “Not interested.”; He stated apathetically. Then he stepped around her as if she was merely a fire hydrant and continued on to his shelter.
She was flabbergasted. He just learned that he wasn’t alone in the universe after all and yet, he didn’t care! The human race was doomed. The last man on Earth was a moron who blew her off like she was a traveling vacuum salesman. She started to lob more insults his way but realized the polite approach was probably best. She was quite proud of her recent zingers but they hadn’t achieved the positive response she had hoped for.
In an unnaturally sweet tone that made her secretly loathe herself, she tried to reason with him. She hinted that their individual strengths would mesh together against a collapsing world that conspired against them. He kept on walking. She continued to tag along behind him in frustration. “We can help each other. Don’t you understand?”
He stopped dead in his tracks. “You don’t have nothing I want.”
“ANYTHING?”; She chimed.
He wasn’t sure if she was correcting his grammar or insinuating there were ‘favors’ being offered on the table.