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What Came Was Desolation
I had seen them run to the oceans. A mass migration into the horizon, desperate to escape the unstoppable tide sweeping across the land. Plague. It killed everyone, there was no survival rate. Some hoped they could outrun it, had outran it, and that they would be safe from contracting it isolated at sea. And i held the hope that some of them had succeeded, floating out there somewhere in the big empty, but that hope seemed just as void.
There had been no cure. Maybe it could have been cured, maybe a cure was even created, but I doubt it. The plague spread so fast it didn't even make the news in many places. Those who did hear about it tried a wide variety of methods protecting themselves, from masks to locked doors to prayer to the after mentioned desperate dash to the sea. As far as I could tell they had all failed. The only survivor I knew was myself, and I hadn't even bothered to try to hide from it. I was too occupied with grieving for my dead family, and I assumed that I had already been infected.
As time passed I realized that I wasn't getting sick and probably wasn't going to. I buried my loved ones within a few days, but leaving my home behind took a little longer. It was hunger that eventually led me to venture out. Initially I was afraid, I carried guns and looked over my shoulder constantly, expecting to run across other survivors with bad intentions, or wild animals. I didn't stop to wonder what another survivor would hurt me for, as there was no competition for resources and as a male I didn't have to worry about being sexually assaulted, but I felt uneasy in those first few weeks nonetheless. However, as time went by this uneasiness was slowly replaced by another much more terrible fear-the fear that I was alone.
As the weeks turned to months I wandered the U.S. seeing neither man nor beast. The largest living creature I had seen had been an earthworm laid out in the grass during a rainstorm. I later learned to love the earthworms when I found myself in the forest searching for survivors and ran low on supplies.
The plant life was doing fine, as were the insects, and the microorganisms seemed to be better than ever with all of the fresh meat to snack on. I combed the countryside looking for other people, leaving signs and looking for clues. Four months after the plague began I threw away my last gun, a tiny pistol, to make room for an extra tuna lunch kit.
I searched North America by car and motorcycle for the better part of three years, often becoming distracted when I came across a place I wouldn't have had the run of, or admittance to, when people were alive. I trashed malls and broke glass, I toured the White House and drove exotic cars. I went to Area 51 and found nothing but a near death experience when my car broke down in the desert. I eventually became depressed and along with my interest in living I also seemed to lose my fear of death. I read several manuals and, using generators, watched instructional videos on operating small aircraft, then I took to the skies. I had paid attention to the materials I had found and within a few weeks flying was as normal to me as driving.
Eventually I decided to go overseas. I had a system of signs I had left behind in the places I had visited for possible survivors, all led to Los Angles International Airport. I had left behind a note on a hangar stating that I would be there every year on the winter solstice, drawing a simple diagram of how the stars would appear at that time. It was there and soon after that, on January 8th, that I left LA heading west to see what I might find in the far east.
I traveled extensively in China and Eastern Russia that first year overseas, also swinging over to Japan briefly to see if anyone had held out in Tokyo. I found more of the same, of course. I went back to LA in mid December to find my note apparently unread. I waited there a few weeks and headed west again, this time hopping all the way to Europe. I found nothing again.
The third year out I went to India. I found myself less hunting other people and more exploring the region and taking in the scenery. It was there, in the countryside, that I found the beetle.
It was huge, the size of a golf cart only flatter, with a shell that was jet black and shiny. It was eating brush. I watched it tor days before I got up the nerve to get close. It didn't seem to notice me, though I made sure to stay out of the way of it's mouth. On closer inspection I saw that it didn't just eat shrubs, it consumed everything it came across. And it was growing. Within two weeks of finding it it had doubled in size, eating continuously, leaving nothing but dirt in it's wake. The thought of killing it crossed my mind several times, but it was too much of a novelty to kill, and besides that it was my only companion. I watched it eat and grow for another three months, until it was time to return to LA. By this point it was a behemoth, more than two stories tall and still growing.
When I arrived in LA i took a few days to eat and rest, as three months following a giant beetle can take it's toll on a man. I didn't spend too much time trying to ponder it's nature, there was something unsettling about thinking down that road. I was eating a MRE in the RV I had parked by the hangar when I herd the most beautiful sound of my life.
I jumped like I had been shot. It was a woman, my age, with her right hand on a holstered gun. She and I cautiously eased toward one another. She told me that she saw my sign. I was shaking. She asked how many people were with me. I said I was alone. She said she was too, and then we embraced without speaking another word. I don't think one human being has ever felt so happy to see another.
Over the next months we talked non stop. We traded stories.I told her of the beetle, she told me of her loneliness and depression. She had spent most of the years looting pharmacies for anything that would take the dire reality away before she finally decided to go out and live life, even if she had to do it alone. She had been looking for airplane fuel when she saw my sign. We fell in love and in the spring decided to leave the withering city and headed for the mountains.
One morning I awoke in our tent and, seeing that she wasn't by my side, rushed out to find her at a nearby lookout that faced to the west. She was staring off in the distance. I ran to her side to see what she was watching. The beetle was coming in from the sea, more massive than the mountain I was on, his back blanketed by the clouds, and he was eating everything but the dirt.