How would you feel if you were the last survivor on a planet that was tearing itself apart? Here’s a short story about a man who was disconnected from everything, facing the crucial moment where he’d have to take serious stock of his life. What happens at the end of existence? Let’s find out. I hope that you enjoy it!
There! What was that in the distance? Could it be another survivor?
Walt had been floating on his lifeboat for what seemed like ages. As the sun blazed down on him, repeating the same skin-searing process of the past few days, he was feeling lightheaded from thirst. It had been a long time since the rains came to wash him away from the debris of what was once his home.
The earthquake had come before everyone was prepared. Screams barely sounded above the roaring freight train sounds reverberating everywhere. As the land started splitting, Walt had known that this was finally it: the Big One. At least it felt like the Big One, though he had no idea just how far it had spread. The news stations had gone off the air instantaneously, probably because the transmission lines were being swallowed by enormous gapes appearing from underneath. The land looked as though it was screaming in horror along with the rest of humanity.
The devastation had only been the beginning. The earthquakes had comes in swarms, with each successive quake being larger and more violent than the previous one. Walt had no idea why he grabbed his boat, but he was glad that he did. No sooner had he placed it on his front yard, a wall of water washed across his neighborhood. Soon he was clinging onto it for his life as he watched his friends being washed away from his reach. His throat had been raw for days after that life-altering event, only saved because his screams had been warn away with his grief. He’d seen no one since then. At least he’d been smart enough to grab his emergency pack, so he knew that he had some basic necessities to get him through until some semblance of order could be restored.
But would order be restored? It wasn’t like the government was any more prepared than his friends. His cell phone hadn’t gotten through to his family, so he had no idea if they were affected. Surely, no cell signal for this long was a bad sign, wasn’t it?
As he drifted in and out of consciousness for those first brief days, he was only aware that he was no longer near his home. He’d floated down the street and headed towards open water. He was too far from the ocean, so at least he wouldn’t have to worry about drifting out to sea. If that happened, well, he could kiss his life goodbye. “Sayonara”, he thought as he chuckled at a memory from his military days in Japan. Yeah, being a former sailor definitely helped him in this situation, as he put his emergency lessons to good use.
He could finally look around without being brought to tears. He was past the residential area, and no longer had to see the floating bodies that obviously lost to the combination of earthquake and tsunami. Of course, no one was ready because they lived inland, miles from any large bodies of water. If the water had gotten to their town, then it had to have been a big event. What did they call those again?
Right, ELEs. Extinction Level Events.
But he was alive, so it couldn’t have been an ELE. There had to be others. He couldn’t possibly be the only lucky bastard in the world, could he? Because that would just be too rich, considering that he didn’t even believe in luck, or omnipotent beings, or that the two would combine to save him for some warped reason that would surely be the ultimate spank from life.
Contemplating a cloud floating lazily by, he sighed again as he listened to the silence from all around. Who knew that silence could be so oppressive? It was like a heavy blanket that smothered hope. Walt kept hoping that he’d find another survivor, so that he wouldn’t have to go insane alone.
Suddenly a rumble sounded from far away, and Walt shot up like a whip. What in the hell was that? As another low rumble came, he looked at the sky and noticed that it was getting darker in the distance. It looked like another storm was coming his way. Maybe his luck had run out.
The clouds roiled over his head like a thick soup of grey silk slipping and sliding against one another. It didn’t look good. The wind had picked up and Walt was being thrown around the water’s surface, which was no longer placid. Sky and water were in an argument and he was in the way. Now would be a good time to be talking to one of those omnipotent beings that he used to scoff about. Maybe they wouldn’t hold a grudge against his many diatribes throughout the years? His girlfriend had left years ago, so he wasn’t going to hold his breath that they would be any more understanding than she had tried to be.
Splashes of water pelted his face, and he looked upwards as he felt the cool relief. As the sprinkles became a deluge, he felt clean for the first time in forever. All of the dirt from the earthquake slid down to his feet and created puddles at the bottom of the boat.
“Whoa! That’s not good.” Walt thought in alarm as he noticed the wood planks disappearing under an increasing level of water at the bottom. Quickly spotting his trusty cup, he started to bail the water over the side of the boat. And while he was trying to save himself from drowning, he opened up his canteens so that he could collect some drinking water. Who knew when he’d get a chance to get some fresh water after the rains ended? “Hopefully, they’ll end.” Walt mused as he kept up his pace with the downpour and stayed afloat.
And then suddenly he heard something…different. It wasn’t the swish of the water hitting the sides of his boat. It also wasn’t the rumble of the sky overhead. There it was again!
“Hey, you there. Don’t leave me!”
A frantic cry came from somewhere to his left. Walt gazed across the water and saw something white waving. Dropping his cup, Walt grabbed a paddle and started towards the white mirage, hoping that it was real this time. He couldn’t take another disappointment after being alone for far too long.
“Oh my god, you can see me!” cried the woman. A single woman out in the middle of a lonely stretch of water that was once his alone. Now, he wasn’t alone anymore.
As Walt reached her side, he could see that she was pretty beaten up. She had a gash along one arm, and her face was sunburned. Normally, he would look away, but she looked too good. Finally, he had company.
The woman grabbed him, almost capsizing both of their boats. Walt shushed her as he engulfed her in a bear hug. Neither one cared if they hadn’t showered in who knew how long. This was the end of the world. Things like that just didn’t rank too high in importance. Walt kept her in his embrace as she cried in relief. He could hear her mumbling prayers of thanks, but he took little notice because now didn’t seem to be the right time to have a debate about omnipotent beings. He didn’t want this woman to go anywhere that was away from him. It was a matter of survival and sanity.
As he pushed her down into the seat in her boat, he drew away and chuckled at the look of alarm that passed over her face. “No, I’m not going anywhere. You’re the first sign of life I’ve seen, so you’re stuck with me.” Warmth filled him as she saw her relief at his words. It felt good to be wanted.
Rummaging through his pack, he came across some rope and got busy tying the boats together. Walt figured that they’d be more stable together than apart. As a hand reached out to him, he looked up in question.
“Do you have any more rope? I can tie the other end so that we can be linked together faster.” The woman beamed when Walt handed her more rope. Funny how something as basic as survival changed your opinion of people. Hopefully, she was as sweet as his ex-girlfriend had been. She’d need patience to deal with him. Walt shook his head in wonder that he’d even contemplate being a better man for a stranger. “Desperate times, desperate measures”, he thought, though he knew that he’d be getting the better end of the deal.
As they settled down to talk, he listened in wonder at the sound of a female voice. He hadn’t realized just how much he missed it until now.
Her name was Milly, and she too was washed out without any preparation. Somehow she had managed to find an empty skiff floating by, so she’d clambered aboard and held on for dear life. She didn’t know how long it had been since the earthquake. She thought she was alone. Looking at Walt’s scruffy face, she felt happy that she wasn’t.
They had been floating together talking non-stop, and hadn’t noticed that the rain had finally subsided. Blue sky was breaking out in small patches, and Walt noticed an occasional gull flying overheard. Looking around, he still saw no land, only water. Until he turned once more and noticed something dark floating towards them. It was another boat. There were more survivors. Milly and Walt paddled their raft towards the incoming boat.
As it clunked against the side of Milly’s boat, they heard a moan sound so Walt quickly jumped aboard. A teenage boy was asleep. Soon he whimpered as he felt a hand shaking him awake. Waking up, blue clouded eyes looked into Walt’s face before a hand reached out to touch his beard. “Dad?”, the boy asked, causing Walt to shrink back. No way was he anyone’s Dad. Milly giggled at his reaction, and patted Walt on the back in small comforting strokes.
Jumping up in excitement, the boy started to lose his balance, but was caught by both Walt and Milly before he went over the side. None of them had much energy for a rescue. As Milly held onto the teenager, who refused to let go of her, Walt maneuvered the new boat so that he could tie it to their raft. If their luck held out, they might find more survivors and make a big enough raft to ensure everyone’s safety. Walt crossed his fingers for good luck. Yep, he was a changing man.
Suddenly, a flash of light burst down towards them, highlighting them like a spotlight. And right after the light had hit them, they could hear more shouts. Looking around, they saw boats of all shapes and sizes coming toward them. Walt could feel himself tearing up.
Omnipotent being? He didn’t really know. But he was ready to believe in something. As the voices rang across the water, he had a feeling that life was taking a turn for the better. Life was made up of links. And they were coming at him from all directions. It didn’t get much better than that.
Hopefully, someone’s carrying a radio that’ll get reception. Then they’d be living a miracle. Considering what’s already happened, the miracle just might be in reach.