No Great Loss

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
This is really quite depressing, but I really felt the need to express my thoughts on nuclear weaponry and the opinions of world governments towards them. Why does anyone keep ANY? This shouldn't be some penis size contest between leading powers, it should be a non-issue. No one should have any nukes. It's not about winning wars, it's about potentially ending all life on earth, all because Mr President or whoever wants to show they have a few inches over Mr Premier or whoever. Cut it out and open your eyes, jeesh.
Rant over, enjoy.

Submitted: August 11, 2013

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Submitted: August 11, 2013

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And finally, we have come to it.

The last act in a tragedy.

Those desperate moments before the final modicum of hope evaporates like dew off of morning grass. Time stretches to infinity for just a moment, stalled on its endless road for one last, peaceful second, and in that second it seems as though nothing is at all wrong. Lovers still sit in parks on blankets, enjoying a bottle of wine together, or perhaps a slice of fine cheese. Children still play on the sidewalks, commuters in cars still cruise along the main roads, and elderly couples still smile fondly to each other as they potter around their gardens.

We knew it would all end. Everyone acknowledged that it would, eventually, but it wasn't something anyone wanted to dwell upon. We never asked why it might happen, or when. Of course, it didn't take a genius to see that we were inevitably bringing it on ourselves. I just don't think anyone expected it to happen so soon.

It's a shame that human beings live for so short a space of time. Perhaps if we stayed alive a little longer, those responsible for disrupting the stillness of this beautifully mundane moment would feel more inclined to take the time to think about their move before they made it.

But then again, they are politicians, and I am not sure if those sorts are altogether human at all. They made their decisions thinking only of how their intercontinental allies and enemies would respond. Perhaps they were disillusioned of just what the consequences of their actions would be. Perhaps not. No one will ever find out from them now, because they will all be dead soon.

The people in the parks and on the roads begin to look skywards. Shooting stars by daylight; how unusual. For most, this is all they have time for. This split-second of confused bewilderment. Some have time for fear. Some folks living far enough away from civilization even have time to gather their personal effects and rush off, in vain, towards whatever place they had once thought might keep them safe from just such an event.

But like I said before, no one really ever liked to contemplate this sickening turn of reality. No one thought they would be around to see the end. No one had really prepared. The arrows of conquest had finally been loosed upon the world, and all anyone could do was sit and watch.

And so we find ourselves now, that eternal moment, those white pinpricks with their white shafts angled down towards the earth, those people in their parks gazing up with wide eyes; the quiet before the storm.

And then the eternal half second, inevitably, passes, and there is the flash. Everyone and everything with eyes to see is blinded. Pure, uninhibited white light the likes of which planet Earth has never seen. There is no noise, nothing, just light. We were always told to 'walk towards the light' when the time came. But there is no one light source to walk towards now, only brilliant, painful whiteness.

The flash fades as quickly as it came. The lovers in the park are not smiling now, they are blind, and screaming, and they cling to each other as they scream. The children wail and curl and crumple, and the cars and their drivers spin from the roads. And then comes the noise and the inferno. There is a boom, no, a series of booms, but all close together, as though they are all one mighty hammer strike from some cosmic god, crashing into the Earth. Mushrooms, terrible and sprawling and made all of fire and smoke, unfurl their hideous caps around the globe. The noise is impossible. The very rock of planet Earth buckles and bends under such colossal power, the atmosphere burns, and a horse of war and fire rears up, his rider swings his sword of flame and our humble blue planet is engulfed. The sea bubbles and spits and boils like water in a kettle. Whole forests are turned to ash in a second. Shock waves like drops in a puddle shatter mountains and level the places we once called home.

The rider on his horse smiles under his helm of shadow. He has done his work. He will not be seen again. Earth burns - who knows for how long, there is no one keeping track of time. Eventually the whirlwinds of flame and rivers of lava begin to cool. Dust and ashes swirl and tumble in place of the fire, and what is left of the seas stop hissing and spitting, going still as though they are gazing mournfully at the now-grey heaps of rubble that were once continents beyond the shores. For weeks the world cools. The atmosphere is much thinner now, but a shell of hovering ash engulfing much of the world keeps it protected from the beating rays of the sun. Much of the water evaporated from the seas starts to cool and it rains perpetually, acidic and dirty, for longer than anyone has ever seen it rain. The Earth reels from the blow it has been dealt, and its once beautiful and complex weather systems fall into chaos and disorder as they try to right themselves.

***

The lovers do not sit in their parks anymore. In fact, there is little evidence to suggest there ever were parks in most places. In others, though, there are ruins. There is still no sunshine as the ash clouds swirl and clash overhead, but the shadows of a couple can be seen literally burned into a wall were they had been sitting together on a bench The shadow of a girl hangs mid jump, the shadow of her skipping rope burned in a graceful arch over her head. It is cold. Snow falls. The world is grey and dark. But not everything is dead.

Figures shuffle through the darkness. I wish I could say they walked with purpose and hope, but alas, they do not. Their backs are hunched, their shoulders slouched and their arms hang limply at their sides. They drift through the streets they used to inhabit. They have no hope because there can be none. Many are blind or incensed, their sight stolen by the flash and their sanity by the horror of their ordeal. Some are fortunate enough to still hold onto both their sight and their minds, but these are the ones doomed to exist in this near-lifeless purgatory for the longest. But even they will die in the end.

Famine strikes those left alive like hoof beats on the ground. They soon come to realise that much of what was once edible is now poisonous. Sealed cans, even though they have lasted without going off, are irradiated. The few surviving animals that could be killed and eaten are also irradiated. Food is scarce, and it is poisoning everyone who eats it anyway. There is no hope left.

***

A man scrambles through a field of ash and snow that stretches away as far as the eye can see in every direction. It might have once been a forest, or a desert, or part of the seabed. Who could say? The man is insane, half blind, deaf, and starving. That he has lasted so long is purely down to chance. One day he found the bones of a dead dog and picked them clean for meat. Then he chanced upon an abandoned trolley cart half full of canned vegetables. About a week and a half ago he had eaten his last meal; he had discovered the corpse of an elderly woman half buried in the ash.

His stomach aches now for food and he wails and mutters to himself. His belly is distended and tumorous growths have begun to protrude from his thighs and trunk. His insides are gently rotting from radiation, but he doesn't know it.

He does not know for sure, but in the rare clairvoyant times between the deliriums, he has begun to suspect he is the last human being alive on planet Earth. He has not seen a living soul for almost three weeks, although he has stumbled upon the odd body or too, which fed him a little. But a few days ago he staggered out into this plane of ash, and he has not eaten since.

He is quite right, though. This scrawny, wretched wreck of a man is the last living human being in existence. The other contender for the title died yesterday; a young woman. The bones in her legs, made brittle by the effects of radiation, had finally given way and she had crumpled to the ground, where she was killed by a pair of starving dogs. The dogs later savaged each other to death.

The Last Man stops in the ash waste. He is done. He has nothing more to give. He falls almost gracefully to his knees, still muttering to himself, and gazes around. His blurry eyes squint; he thinks he can see a cloaked rider on a skeletal horse on a ridge directly in front of him, but he reminds himself out loud that he is very probably insane. The horse stomps at the snow, and the rider turns his hooded head towards the Last Man.

Almost happily, the Last Man slumps forwards into the snow, mutters something that, if anyone were left to hear it, could well be said to sound something like \"...at last,\" and dies. There is no rider on the ridge now, but a gentle breeze pushes some dust over hoof prints in the muddy snow there.

A grey rock that was once so blue and teaming with life continues its hurtling journey around the sun, along with seven other lifeless rocks. The sun continues to gently glide around some twenty-seven thousand, two hundred light-years from the core of the Milky Way, and the universe carries on as normal. The human race has all but destroyed itself, and no one was there to see it.

No great loss.


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