re: The Last Man on Earth
by Eric Del Carlo
DATE: 12 May 2012 9:57pm
SUBJECT: re: The Last Man on Earth
I cannot BELIEVE this! I got the lights on here half an hour ago, after 3 days of trying. This is a police station, left wide open like most everything else. It’s got its own generator but I’ve never run a generator before. I threw switches, pressed buttons at random. At one point I don’t mind saying I just sat there and cried, with this dead body in sergeant’s stripes sitting at the desk opposite me. But I finally did something right because the electricity started flowing. I danced around under all those lights, laughing. Then I booted up this computer. The TVs and radios only play static. I checked email, though there was no point–and there was your message! Maybe the last thing I expected to see again in my life was spam. Seriously, Romero zombies wandering the streets would have surprised me less. My name is Bernard Quincy Zaslow and I’m in Hoyle, California. You are not the last man on earth. And neither am I, now. Please reply to this. Please be real. Don’t be some cruel joke, some automated message from a dead man from before the Plague. I couldn’t take that. I couldn’t.
DATE: 12 May 2012 10:08pm
SUBJECT: It’s for real
Easy, Bernard. I am real. My name is Kit Gomez, and I’m living outside a small town called Colling, in Iowa. I’ve had electricity all along, as well as food, water, weapons, entertainment. I am alone here, but I’m used to that. Over the past month, since the Plague (I like your ominous capital P; it’s more evocative than “M-230 Omni-Germ”) apparently finished its global sweep, I have been working to reestablish email communications. I figured a worldwide spamming employing every mailing list I could find was the best way to contact any other survivors. I’m glad it’s worked. Yours is the first reply I’ve received. I don’t doubt others will follow. What are conditions like in your area?
By the way…”Romero zombies”? Are you a horror film fan by any chance?
DATE: 13 May 2012 1:03am
SUBJECT: re: It’s for real
I meant to write you right back, but I think I fainted. Sorry for the delay. It’s just a relief not to be alone anymore.
“What are conditions like”? You kidding me? Dead people everywhere. No power. Highways jammed with wrecks. I’m not from this town, which is small and was probably quaint a month ago, before the Plague hit. I came up from San Francisco because of the stench. It had been at least two weeks since anybody was collecting bodies–and now even those collectors are dead. I traded off cars to get around the impassable parts of the roads. Walked when I had to. I figured on staying here. Why not? Fewer corpses. But it’s still awful. Everything reminds me of what’s gone. I pray the warmongering bastards who let the Plague loose are roasting in hell. Obviously, you and I have to get together. I know Iowa is far but I figure we can meet somewhere in the middle between there and California. I’m so EXCITED, Kit!
Oh, and I’ve loved horror movies all my life. When I was a teen my dad would take me to Z-grade R-rated monster films. Good times. I always liked the end-of-the-world kind of horror flicks best, which seems either real funny or real sad now.
There’s a lot of computer gear here at the police station, and I took a photo of myself, scanned it, and have attached it to this message. I–again–don’t mind saying I haven’t been that nervous since taking my senior prom picture. Back then it was because I couldn’t figure out what I was doing at the prom with a girl. Now I’m kind of wondering what the hell I look like to somebody else after everything I’ve been through.
Send me back a picture if you can.
DATE: 13 May 2012 1:46am
SUBJECT: re: re: It’s for real
I can’t leave my location, as I don’t have the use of my legs. Though I am able to operate a customized vehicle, the conditions on the roads (final reports indicated they are surely as bad nationwide as you have found them to be) would prevent me from traveling. However, I am fully capable within the confines of my estate. I have attached a detailed map of all potential routes from your location to here, as well as an inventory of supplies you should collect, along with chain stores in your vicinity where you are likely to find these items. I suggest a four-wheel drive or an all-terrain military transport if you can handle one.
Apocalyptic horror movies are a lot of fun, especially when you’re a teenager. I am something of an aficionado actually, or at least an earnest dilettante. A few years ago I even put together An Armchair Guide to Blood, Monsters and Cinema, which was released through a small publishing house. What film of that genre, in your opinion, most accurately predicted the world’s current circumstances? That is, what movie got it right?
I got your picture and have also attached a recent photo of myself. I must say, it’s reassuring to see another living person’s face. And a not unhandsome one at that.
DATE: 13 May 2012 2:04am
Sorry about your legs, Kit. I didn’t know–obviously. I think it’s amazing though that you’ve done what you’ve done. I still don’t understand how you got the email working. You must be like a genius.
As for “accurate” movies…I don’t know. Maybe that miniseries of THE STAND from the 90s, minus (I hope) God and Satan going head to head. And also without Molly Ringwald.
I wasn’t going to mention this, but what the hell: I blushed like a schoolboy when I read what you wrote about my picture. I didn’t even know “unhandsome” was a word, but with that double negative thing like I remember my sixth grade English teacher harping on I guess that’s a compliment. I sure took it as one, anyway.
And, goodness…you are one good-looking man. I printed out your picture and am going to keep it with me, no matter what happens.
DATE: 13 May 2012 2:11am
SUBJECT: re: Sorry
No need, none at all, to feel sorry for me, Bernard. Understand? I created a successful and lucrative career for myself as a computer specialist. Communications satellites are still orbiting, and will continue to do so for a long time to come. It’s getting late now, and you should get some sleep. You’ve got an odyssey ahead of you, my friend.
By the way, it is my legs which are out of commission; the rest of my, shall we say, equipment is functional. Fully functional. I’m aware of this fact every time I look at your photo.
Also, I’m in wholehearted agreement with you about Molly Ringwald.
DATE: 15 May 2012 9:58am
SUBJECT: On my way
I got just about every item on that list you sent, plus a few others things, and I figure anything I need I can grab on the way. I mean, I don’t have to worry about maxing out my credit card, do I? Hah hah. Sorry, lame joke. I’m a five finger discount shopper these days. That sounds nicer than “looter,” don’t you think?
Anyway, I’m already 30 miles outside of Hoyle, leaving behind all the grape groves of the wine country, heading east. So far, these smaller roads are working out, fewer abandoned vehicles on them. This laptop you recommended is great. I’m wardriving, hitting the WiFi spots you pointed out. I’ll keep doing that all the way east.
I’d tell you I blushed again over what you said about looking at my photograph, but the fact is I took out your picture and stared and stared at it, and I got excited, and well, go ahead and guess the rest. I’m blushing now, telling you this, but that seems kind of silly, doesn’t it? Why get embarrassed if for the time being at least we might as well be the last two men on earth?
It is funny, though, how we two males just happen to be attracted to each other. I mean, it bucks those old statistics about how many gay people make–I mean, made–up the population. I bet it would really piss off the Moral Majority.
DATE: 15 May 2012 10:06am
SUBJECT: re: On my way
I’m getting you loud and clear. In every way. I should mention that, as successful as I’ve been in my chosen field, my past romantic experiences have been…limited. I wouldn’t have credited that I could develop serious feelings by way of email and a single picture. But I never would have predicted these circumstances, naturally.
I look forward to your eventual arrival here. I long for it, Bernard.
DATE: 15 May 2012 5:26pm
It’s not going so fine now, Kit. I thought I’d take a feeder road which turned out to be flooded. I backtracked like 5 miles, then had to keep stopping on the main road to clear cars. And some bodies. I really, really don’t like touching dead bodies, especially now that they’re so decomposed. Every time I start to get moving, something else stops me. I’m tired and frustrated. You know how in those end-of-the-world movies the heroes always manage to drive wherever they have to, swerving around all the dead traffic on the freeways no matter how much there is? It sure isn’t working out that way for me.
But I’ll get through this, somehow. I will get to you. I want to see you, be with you.
DATE: 15 May 2012 10:10pm
Stopped at a small town, sleepy, sore, eyes burning. Just wanted a bed. But every house I went into–every single one!–had bodies putrefying in the bedrooms. I’m pitching a tent in somebody’s yard now. Very depressed.
I’m looking at your picture one more time before going to sleep. I don’t even feel foolish anymore when I kiss your lovely mahogany face goodnight.
DATE: 16 May 2012 2:33pm
SUBJECT: Keeping on
Slow as ever. The maps tell me where roads are but don’t say if they’re still passable, of course. Lots of dead-ends, lots of rough off-roading. The army base was where you marked it, but those heavy-duty multi-gear vehicles you mentioned were just too hard for me too operate. Hell, a normal gearshift is a challenge for me. I finally had to give up. I’ve got a decent jeep, but a jeep can’t get me over a flipped over semi or past a five car pileup on a two-lane road. I’m starting to wonder about getting across the Sierras. I might have to detour far south, and no guarantees that way. I can’t believe I just set out yesterday. Feels like I’ve been traveling for months.
DATE: 17 May 2012 12:02am
Hey Kit, where are you? Why haven’t you sent me anything? I can’t sleep. Every time I close my eyes I see the bodies I came across today. Write to me. I miss you.
DATE: 18 May 2012 8:42pm
No other word for it–ORDEAL. I’ve had to do what I did when I was getting out of San Francisco, trade off vehicles when I can’t get through someplace. Except now I’ve got all this gear to haul. Some of it I’ve just dumped, figuring I’ll replace it. Not this laptop computer though. No, this thing I got to hang onto so I can keep on writing to you and not get any answer. I’m getting worried. Seriously. WHERE ARE YOU, KIT?
DATE: 21 May 2012 1:22am
Got some whiskey. it tasttes good. Havn’t had drinks in a long time. I coud see just doing this hving whisky and not worrying or thinkng about anythig. Wuldn’t have to try to get to Iowa. sounds nise. Why did God do this to me? Why he invent you Kit jus to take you away? Why did he make me lov you???
DATE: 23 May 2012 7:30am
SUBJECT: Keeping on, still
OK, sick of feeling sorry for myself. I’m bulling on ahead, whether you ever answer my emails again or not. I had 19 months of sobriety until two days ago. I’m not going to make that mistake again. I can see the mountains. I’m coming across. I am coming to Iowa, coming to Colling (I’ve got it bullseyed on my map), and I’m going to see you, Kit, and I’m going to kiss your lips and hold you and do everything I’ve fantasized about for so many days now. That is, if you’re real. If I haven’t just imagined you.
DATE: 27 May 2012 12:02pm
SUBJECT: Making time
I have conquered the Sierra Nevadas. If I can do that I can do ANYTHING! I hope to tell you about that whole adventure in person. Right now, I’m making the best time since I started out. Nevada, nice and flat. I’ve got a fast car for this leg, with lots of gas. I stopped at a mall and got myself some CDs. Blasting music on the open road, getting this baby up to 100mph on the clear stretches. WHOO! Hey, I also went into a bookstore but couldn’t find your book. I would have liked to. It would’ve helped me believe you really existed, maybe even more than your picture. It would’ve made me feel closer to you, having your words at my fingertips.
DATE: 29 May 2012 3:58pm
SUBJECT: Keeping on and keeping the faith
Utah. Colorado. Here come the Rockies. I did the Sierra Nevadas, I can do these. It won’t be easy. I thought I was suffering through an “ordeal” before–HAH! But I’ve got my faith. I know God is watching out for me, not because I’m so special but because he’s got so few of his children left. If he’d wanted us all gone he would have coaxed us to completely destroy ourselves with the Plague. It was the perfect opportunity. I will cross these mountains, no matter what it takes.
DATE: 5 June 2012 11:01am
SUBJECT: Up and over
When I was a teen I had Sisyphus dreams about climbing an endless hill. They were the only recurring dreams I ever had in my life, and they ended–I’m not kidding–the day I looked myself in the mirror and declared that I was gay, without any hemming, hawing or apologies.
Crossing the Rocky Mountains was a lot like those pre-epiphany dreams. The trip felt like an endless slog, full of frustration and exhaustion. It was a true tribulation. But the Rocky Mountains were the goal I set for myself. The roads are blocked and run through with cracks and crumbling at the edges. They had to have been like this for a while. Makes me think everything was falling apart even before the Plague.
At one point I had to abandon yet another vehicle, this time when I tried edging around an overturned tanker truck. My engine stalled and my front tire was poised on the lip of a sheer drop of a couple hundred feet. I didn’t breathe again until I’d crawled out the back window.
After that, I was on foot for 34 straight miles. I found an SUV to sleep in during that stretch. It was out of gas, and anyway the keys were gone. But at least no bodies were in it, which made me think of the owner–maybe even with a family–driving the thing until it was coasting on fumes, then setting out on foot, already sick and staggering, trying to reach…well, who the hell knows? I probably passed his, her or their corpses later on without noticing it.
I was startled to find two big horn sheep outside the SUV when I woke up. They were just nosing around. I couldn’t believe how nonchalant they seemed, like the whole scene was normal to them. Maybe they’d already adjusted to the new world. Maybe they had forgotten about people. I watched them and waited until they had wandered onward before I climbed out of the vehicle.
One evening I was chased by wolves. Or probably wild dogs, since I remember reading there aren’t any more wolves in this part of the country. Whatever, they were growling and vicious. They came onto the road behind me. I reached into my pack but the pistol I had must have fallen out at some point. I should’ve kept better track of it. I started running, and the dogs/wolves came after me.
Then I remembered I had a pack of flares. I hurried to light one, and the creatures stopped. I lit several more. Their eyes glowed back at me, red and sinister. Talk about something out of a horror movie…
It worked, though. I tossed a couple of the flares at the pack and they scattered. Then I hightailed it. Those flares saved me. And that was how I made it up and over the Rocky Mountains, to this still active wireless network spot where I could get a signal again.
DATE: 7 June 2012 1:17pm
SUBJECT: The Last Man on Earth
I’m done. In more ways than one. I’m in sight of Iowa’s border, north of Omaha, but it’s too late. I came to a town, I staggered toward a church with a tall gold spire and big red doors. I just wanted to thank God–not the stupid, warped version of God that the bigots like to invoke, but the warm, loving one, the God I know. I wasn’t going to ask for favors or demand answers. Just to thank him for getting me this far. But inside that church, there were bodies. Bodies, bodies and more bodies. Not like the place had just been packed to its capacity. No. This was a mound of the dead, a lake of them, floating motionlessly in the aisles, above the pews, atop the altar. Body atop body atop body atop…Like they had come in, succumbed, and others just kept pouring inside after them, with no one removing the corpses. Then that wave died, and others climbed on top of them, the way layers of leaves pile up. That’s how I found them, like mulch. Rotting. Melting together. A stink beyond the ability to absorb. They must have come from miles around.
I don’t know if you had family, Kit. I don’t know why I’m even writing this or addressing you by name, or why I’ll send this message when I’m through. I don’t believe you’re real, Kit. I think now that I lost my mind back in San Francisco, that I’m probably still there, in fact. See, I had family. A husband, a daughter we’d adopted, parents, cousins. I still had two grandparents, even. And I saw half of them die right in front of me, and the others I looked for later on and found dead.
But I didn’t die. I’m going to take care of that though. Sometime soon I’m going to go all the way into that church. I’ll just crawl in among the dead and stay there and join them. I’m the last man on earth. But not for long.
I’ve blurred your picture with my lips and tears. I can’t even make out your face anymore.
DATE: 8 June 2012 3:27am
SUBJECT: re: The Last Man on Earth
Bernard, I understand your troubles. I’ve had some too. Three weeks ago a severe electrical storm hit. I lost power. Half the estate burned down, with no firefighters to come put out the blaze. I mentioned I’m self-sufficient on my turf, and that’s true–up to a point. It hasn’t been easy making repairs. Really, it’s been damn near impossible. I had to drive into Fort Dodge for replacement parts. I know your frustration with the roads now, firsthand. I’ve barely slept these last twenty days.
But communications are working here again. And I have great news. Several other emails accumulated during the outage. I’ve received six other contacts. One from Canada, two Europeans, a man in Thailand, and three people here in the States. A woman in Wisconsin is a retired navy helicopter pilot and she’s got a military bird all prepped. Till now she didn’t have anywhere to fly it.
You neglected to mention the name of the town where you are, but I calculated a rough area by your proximity to Omaha and the Iowa border. Luckily you provided a good description of the church. The same mapping satellites that gave us Google Earth once upon a time are still up there, and I was able, through some computer wizardry, to access them. I found your gold spire.
The woman from Wisconsin–her name is Rosario–will be flying toward your location at sunrise. Hang on, Bernard.
I didn’t have much family, and I don’t share your religious beliefs. But I’m your friend. More than your friend. And somehow…I feel you’re still there, still alive. I’ve never really experienced love, but I know it now. And I’m not going to miss out on it.
Oh, and no surprise you couldn’t find my book on bookstore shelves. It wasn’t exactly a bestseller. But I’ve got copies here, which we can all consult when we get everyone together for the First Annual Post-Apocalyptic Film Festival.More stories like this by topic: Characters of color, LGB characters