Another short written for OU last year. Due to time constaints this wasn’t edited too much from the original blast of words so still needs a lot of editing and redrafting but thought I may as well post in it’s original word-dump…
Being stationed on the Moon, she always thought she had the best office view in the world – that is, until her usual 05:30 alarm woke her and she found the stars had gone.
Eyes wide, she stared out of the window; the entire sky was black. Earth was still there, shining bright over the horizon although she didn’t think it held it’s normal beauty maybe due to it being surrounded by total blackness.
Breathing heavily as she ran from the living area of the complex through to the control area, she pushed the communications button to get in touch with her colleagues down below on the surface. Silence, not even the usual static. No response. Everything seemed to be operational, her screens glowed with data but looking closer her heart went cold and knees started to buckle.
The large Helvetica counter on one monitor read 0.
Her task as Resource Guardian was to monitor life on the planet below and ensure each nation was compliant with the Population Agreement of 2230, her simple mission to ensure that forced euthanasia was taking place to keep the global population under 500 million and allow the diminishing natural resources to last until the Replenishment Plan was fully activated. The dark side of her mission was her power to force euthanasia by a simple command, a power she had never had to use. The public on the planet below referred to her as the Moon God.
The counter provided an accurate population number and that population was zero.
Tracing through the recent logs, she noticed that whilst she was asleep at 02:35 the population dropped within a minute to 437 million before gradually dropping to zero over the next 90 minutes.
It didn’t look like an error. It looked like she was the last person in the world alive.
Quickly, she found the old-fashioned paper guidelines for use in an emergency. Unused to the feel of paper she struggled to turn the pages over without them sticking together before remembering an old movie she once watched where the mass murderer had licked his fingers to fix the same issue – it worked. As she expected, there was no page detailed the procedure for when the counter reached zero nor was there a procedure for being the last person alive.
She remained calm. She didn’t have anyone down on the planet to mourn, her family had long since travelled to the shadows. She had no friends, in fact she had only ever had one friend until she betrayed her confidence – after that she trusted no one and consigned herself to a life alone. It didn’t upset her though, her analytical mind and lack of emotional baggage had served her well through her career. Starting off in research, she had soon risen through the ranks of the Earth Space Agency until becoming the youngest Director in its history. With her emotionless personality and her psychological expertise she was an obvious choice to take the role of Resource Guardian when the role became available.
Nearly eighteen months into the job she could carry out her tasks running on auto-pilot, whilst using the many other hours she had available to expand her knowledge through constant reading. This was her next move as she started to trawl through the world network to try find out anything she could. All seemed normal with the usual stream of zero-G selfies, hoverboard crashcams and porn until 02:35 when she started to find messages expressing horror in all six remaining languages of the world. Each message carried little detail but the majority of them referred to ‘the shadows’; nothing else.
Trying the radio again brought the same silent result. Deciding to head over to the engineering module to check the diagnostics were correct, she picked up her Omnikit and ran through the tunnel to the other side of the complex. Normally, she enjoyed this short trip as the tunnel had been constructed of a transparent material giving her an amazing view of the dusty grey lunar landscape outside, but at this time her stomach was doing somersaults, something she had rarely felt before and definitely didn’t like.
All the diagnostics she ran on the complex systems passed with no issues. Her stomach churned even more as she started to believe that she really could be the last human alive. It didn’t make sense to her though, her logical mind couldn’t comprehend how or why? Heading back to the command module she stopped in the connecting tunnel to look and collect her thoughts. Confused and needing to find out what was happening, she gazed outside and noticed the light was fading. This shouldn’t have been possible as the sun rose less than four days ago so there were still many days left of this lunar day. Sunset was also pretty rapid, far quicker than down on Earth so there was little time for the light to fade but fading it was – and then blackness.
It was only as all light departed leaving her in complete and total darkness that she started to panic. Hands shaking she tentatively reached out to find her way back to the command module. The darkness was clinging and oppressive, unlike anything she had ever experienced and she felt a wave of coldness race through her. Becoming disorientated in the total darkness and with panic starting to overwhelm her, she collapsed to the floor with chest heaving whilst struggling to breathe.
Her mind raced – if the lights were off, then the power was down and the backup generators not running which meant she had no oxygen being recirculated. Her breathing become more laboured as she struggled but as her mental senses began to return to her, she realised that even with no new oxygen, the complex had a few days of air due to its size. Her breathing began returning to normal and as she was about to return to her feet to try and find her bearings, the dim emergency lighting powered up temporarily blinding her as her eyes got used again to vision.
The engineering module was unusually quiet when she arrived. The emergency generators were outside, but to preserve power all but essential services were turned off when they were in use so the usual hum and glow was absent. She did notice that the current power input from the kilometres of solar cells installed to keep the system operating was zero. Again she couldn’t comprehend this as the console showed connectivity to the array, but no power. Strength returning, she raced to the nearest observation panel – the only way there was no power was if the sun had set which would have meant she had lost nearly three weeks somewhere. Eyes wide, she stared out of the observation panel with hands against the cold graphene walls and her face pressed against the transparent window, she couldn’t see the sun – there was no light outside at all.
It was at this point that the meltdown started. She started to feel her head bang like never before. Along with the headache her extremities started to tingle and she started to find difficulty in focusing her mind. She suddenly realised that she was sitting on the floor, tucked into a corner with tears in her eyes.
Her mind was drifting, floating around her life. At first she experienced terror at being the last person alive before her subconscious reconnected with her logical mind and she realized it wouldn’t actually be that bad. She had always been alone, tormented by colleagues who kept trying to befriend her and inviting her into their networks. It had never interested her, friends only added a layer of stress and responsibility that conflicted with her career and constant need for learning. She preferred to be alone; she craved the solitude and only ever wanted her own company as this was the only company that understood her. As her mind processed these thoughts a big smile appeared on her face; her first smile in many years.
She was calm during her return to the main module. Passing through the kitchen and stores she grabbed a few supplies before locking the door and taking a breath. Her thirst for knowledge was still looking for an answer; an explanation. Sitting on the upright chair she again started searching through the recent logs to satisfy her needs. Hours passed as she engrossed herself but still she was no closer to an understanding. Something happened at 02:35 but nobody had actually said WHAT it actually was. Frustrated, she threw her graphite cup to the floor watching it shatter into many pieces.
Feeling weary both in mind and body she lay down in her cot to rest. As she lay, she continue to think about the solitude. As sleep took over, her final thought was of happiness – being the last human alive was an honour, even if she didn’t really like the rest of humanity. As she slept, again she smiled.
She woke with a start. One of those awakenings where the whole body seems to defy gravity and jump up. Her eyes caught the clock showing 01:47 as she noticed that there was again light outside. Jumping up so quickly that she felt a little faint, she noticed out of the small window that there were stars. Heart again pounding, she ran through the corridors noticing on the way that full power had been restored. Arriving at the control module she could see sun, stars and the earth peering over the horizon. There was crackling music coming from the communications panel and a voice telling her to ‘answer the damn radio’. Completely confused, she looked at the counter.
With a blank look on her face the pushed the comms button and her words stumbled out.
‘Yeah. Er, I’m here.’
‘Get your lazy butt out of that cot and give me your report’
She sighed, a long sigh of disappointment. No longer the last human alive. No longer truly alone. No longer special, she felt empty. With no idea what had happened she noticed the sharp debris on the floor where she had smashed her cup – her mind processed that everything DID happen, it wasn’t just a strange dream.
Being a professional, she dropped back into her normal role routine instantly but her smile was gone. Loneliness overcame her being as the lives of half a billion people returned to her world.
Her life returned to normality. She checked the counter and she read, repeated day after day but her mind constantly returned to the memory of bliss she had experienced towards the end of her episode. The more she thought about it, the emptier she felt and the emptier she felt, the more she longed for that feeling again. She never once smiled. Eleven days later she made the decision.
Knowing exactly how to free herself from the emptiness, sadness and heavy oppression she felt, she walked calmly to the command module and started flicking switches and entering commands at the terminal. The number 500,000,000 appeared on screen. Running her finger slowly down the screen the number reduced.
She slowly continued, eyes fixed to the number getting smaller and smaller.
Voices screamed over the communications channel before gradually fading.
The clock showed 04:05. The counter showed zero.
Ella smiled. Happy. She was special again. She truly was the last human alive.
Featured image © Bill Young via Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0 license