Lonely. I flipped to the L section. After turning back and forth between decaying pages. I found it. It was defined as “Without company.” For a moment I scowled and let out a small chuckle, as if to signify to everyone around me that that definition was pathetic. Of course, no one was around me, so my mood quickly changed back to depression. To be lonely was not to just be sad, not even just to be without another entity, but instead it was an example of total and utter neglect. I had never been the social type, not even a thousand years ago, but even so I had never felt anything like this complete isolation. It was sad to think that the last member of the human race would spend the duration of their days in this… this sadness. A single tear drop fell from my eye, and slowly spread across the dictionary, blurring the definition of longbow.
I shut my eyes, squeezed my fists, and closed the book with a thud. A cloud of dust escaped from the book. I got up from my squatted position and stretched my legs. A ray of sun came in through the hole in the ceiling; I looked up and saw that the hole led up to a room made of glass, as if to mock my captivity. I could see the ghostly dark green sky. It stained my retina as if someone had branded me in my eye. The intense heat coming from the hole made me think of home in New York. I thanked god that the lab boys had thought to put in an ultra solar powered cooling system. This place was prepared for anything. It had radiation proof walls and waterproof padding on nearly every surface that made the place look like an insane asylum. And then there were the guns. You couldn’t walk four feet without running into a missile launcher or secret panel containing pistols and rifles. Maybe if humanity’s demise was zombies or aliens or robots then I wouldn't feel so alone.
I hadn’t taken my treatment in a thousand years but it only felt like two days. Schizophrenia is not something that you want in a post apocalyptic scenario. I had tried to smuggle some into my cryo bed, but the lab boys saw it in my pocket in a moment. They said something about how I wouldn't need it when I woke up, but what I wish we realized is that before they could wake me up the human race would kill itself. The carbon dioxide levels on the flickering monitor showed that much. The people frozen for the end of the world were set to not wake up until ten thousand C.E. I knew this because I had tried to open their cryo sleep chambers. Some of them had rocks crushing the subjects, but most of them were still intact.
When I saw that some people were still alive I had felt so joyful that I almost immediately opened one with a label on it reading “Johnson.” After pressing the button I waited for about five minutes and then the top opened with a satisfying click. I could see “Johnson” breathing so I knew he was alive but he wasn’t yet awake. I shook him and hit him, but nothing would work. I opened the rest of the sleep chambers, but they were all the same. I remember waiting there for hours but none of them would wake up. They were all in comas.
To keep myself busy I went to an office space. They were mostly decimated but I managed to find a dictionary in the wreckage with only a few ruined pages. And now I’m bored again. I walked back to the “Apocalypse section” and then I saw it, Johnson was awake. Just then, someone under the name of Jake got up. A moment later so did one named Sophia. Then Emma, Liam, and Jacob. They were all awake. My mouth opened in awe while they simultaneously walked step by step towards me, like zombies. I turned and ran. I twisted and turned around a labyrinthine hallway, but wherever I turned and however fast I ran, they were right behind me. Soon I was out of breath, so I opened a closet door and grabbed a handgun. I pointed it at the zombie-like creatures and put my hand on a trigger. They didn’t flinch. Before I could think twice I shot. To my extreme surprise the bullet went right through one of their heads. I fired again and again but it never worked. They had me in a corner and they continued to march. I kneeled down against the cold wall and closed my eyes and waited… and waited… and waited. A chill went up my body but besides that I didn’t feel anything. I opened my left eye, but to my surprise nothing was there.
As I walked back I cursed myself for not knowing that it was a hallucination sooner, but it had never been this vivid before. I checked to make sure the cryo chambers were all closed and then I went back to the closet that had the gun. I walked in. There were two more guns, two sticks that I assumed were once a broom and a mop, a bucket, a painting, a brush and four pails of paint. One black, one white, one grey and one red. I took the paint and started working.
By the time I had finished I felt exhausted but accomplished.
Right in front of me was a huge mural of my daughter Clara. When I left she was only nine. In the portrait her brown hair was replaced with pure black, and her blue eyes were a haunting, ghostly white. The cracks, bumps and imperfections of the wall made her grey skin look uneven and rough while in reality it was as smooth as silk. In her left hand was Roosevelt her favorite teddy bear, and in her right was the little red umbrella she always liked to drag around the house. I knew that she was the only thing that I would miss from 2061 but I did not realize to what extent. She was only seven when I left her. Laurisa had died when she was three, so I had to have my parents take care of her. I can't imagine what pain I had put her in and it had just brought pain for me.
I took my hand gun and roamed into an enclosed room. The door closed with a squeak as I walked in. Along one wall was a row of monitors displaying ten places throughout the building. The third and seventh I actually recognized from when they were bustling with life one thousand years ago. But now they were empty and lonely. I placed the gun up to my head. I took a deep breath but before I could pull the trigger I saw something. On the ninth monitor there was movement. I put the gun down on the desk and looked closer. In the corner there was a shadowy figure. It was definitely female but I couldn't make out any details. As if reading my mind the young woman stepped into the light. Although her face was massively different and she looked at least one thousand and fifteen years older I would recognize that face and eyes anywhere. That was definitely Clara.
I closed my eyes and counted to three but when I looked again she was still there. Clara looked around then ran out of the view of the camera. I froze. I stood there and stood there and stood there. What seemed like hours passed. Eventually I sat down and started to think. A thousand questions flooded my mind. “How could Clara be alive? Why would Clara have gotten frozen? Could that have really been real?” The more and more I thought about it the more confused I got. None of it made sense. None of my hallucinations had ever been nearly as clear as the cryogenic zombies or now Clara. The only times I had ever seen anything that wasn’t real that vivid was in a dream. That made me think. What if I was just sleeping. Maybe this was all a dream. I remembered when I was eight I had a dream where I had cancer. It really felt like I was dieing. I could feel the pain... but then I woke up and I was fine. Maybe this was like that. Maybe I was never diagnosed with schizophrenia and I was in my bed with Laurissa who was still alive. It had to be true. There was no way I was the only member of humanity left. There was literally a one in ten billion chance of that. The odds of this actually happening to me and not anyone else was less than 0.00000001 percent. I could feel my blanket on top of me. I laid down. The floor felt cold on my skin but I could almost feel the pillow. I woke up.
Or at least I tried. The cold hard floor still pressed against my cheek. I knew this was a dream but I didn’t wake up. What kind of sleep do you never wake up from? Then it hit me. Maybe I was the one in a coma and everyone else woke up in a peaceful utopia without extreme levels of global warming. Maybe I’m in a twisted version of the year 3061 that I have dreamed up. This brought up the question of what to do. If I’ll stay in a coma for the rest of my life no matter what I do, what’s the point of going on? I pondered this for a long time. On the off chance that any of this was real and if Clara just so happens to be here with me finding Clara is the only possible happy ending for me. I remembered what my wife Laurissa had told me on her death bed. I had asked her what I would do if she died. In a hoarse voice she had said something I will never forget “Assuming the worst never brought any good. Assuming the best will bring a little more hope to humanity.” In my case assuming the best could bring more a lot more hope to me and I was all that was left of humanity. I reached for the handgun next to me. I took the gun and left out the squeaky door.
I walked for a few moments until I found a sword. I was hoping for a knife but this would have to do. I started my work in the center of the room.
It wasn’t pretty but it was legible and that was what mattered. I started to roam. Hall, room, room, stairs, hall, huge room, hall, hole in wall, stars, gun room, dead end, hall, room, hall, cryogenic storage room, pause, open, wait, close, dead end, hall, stairs, hall, room, hall… If the facility didn’t seem endless before it did now. I walked for a while. In every other room I scratched in the name CLARA. Room, engrave clara, cafeteria, eat more canned beans and drink water from the back, lobby, engrave clara, hall, room, gun room, engrave clara, hall, room, dead end, room, engrave clara… Every room that I entered seemed like it would be the one that would have Clara in it but every room entered held disappointment. Hall, room, lobby, cryogenic storage room, pause, open, wait, close, dead end, hall, room area, area, area, area, area… As I grew more tired everything seemed to blend together. Every step I took my head hung lower. Sadness, depression, engrave clara, despair, area, engrave clara, sorrow… One time when I entered a room I saw my name on the wall but when I looked again it was gone. It took every bit of energy I had to keep walking. I felt like laying down and feeling sorry for myself but I didn’t… for her. Every movement I made stabbed me with woe. Melancholy, gloom, misery... I thought about my scenario while walking. Somewhere deep inside I knew now that none of this was real. Nothing felt real anymore and that was the only reason I had ever thought this wasn’t a figment of my subconscious mind.
Nothing, emptiness, void, grey, grey, grey, grey, black.
I was in a cold dark metal box. The bolts beneath my legs hurt me but I couldn’t get up. I could feel though. I felt blood trickling down my neck. It was cold and thick. I tried to reach up and touch my wound but I couldn’t. It was not as if something was stopping but as if I had forgot how. Was this death? Slowly I felt the walls close in on me. No you can’t be hurt if you’re already killed. The confinement around me closed in inch by inch, at an agonizingly slow speed. Any fear of death that I usually would have felt was replaced with monophobia. 10 feet. 9 feet. “Please no”, I whispered. 8 feet. 7 feet. “Please no!”, I said louder this time. 6 feet. 5 feet. “No she’s real, she’s real!!”. 4 feet. 3 feet. the walls pressed against me like a huge knife against my skin. “No! She is real, I am real, I’m not crazy!!”, I screamed. “I’m not crazy...”
I sat on a beach. The waves crashed against the sand and then slowly approached me until I felt there cool refreshing presence against my toes. It felt so good to once again have the sun on my skin. Within moments the waves washed away the fear and the tears in my eyes. The woman I thought I had seen on the monitor stood beside me. I wasn’t sure how she got there but I figured maybe she had walked next to me while I was focused on absorbing the feeling of the warm sand.
“How do you think I can dream inside of a dream?” I said genuinely curious.
“The mind is a marvelous place,” she responded. I looked over at her and now she was just the little girl I had loved before I left. “Eighty-six billion neurons sending messages to each other every second of every minute of every day!” I smiled, she had always been so smart. “But there’s one thing the brain can’t do...”
“Oh yeah and what’s that?” I asked with a smile on my face while a tear rolled down my cheek.
“The mind can never, ever… forget.” The sky grew dark and she was old again. “I love you dad.” As she said that she faded away. The rain started pouring and lightning flashed in the distance.
The waves grew stronger in the distance. The seagulls that were spiralling around me quickly disappeared. The rain spoke to me in a voice I had never heard before. It was a calming voice but it seemed scared. Chills swept up and down my spine. “Dad??” it said.
I opened my eyes to the brightness facility. In my blurred vision an angel stood above me. “Dad!?” she repeated this time more surprised and more urgent. There standing above me was my daughter. She was no longer a little girl. Her brown hair flowed down her back like a river. Tears filled my eyes and emotion overtook me. I reached out to touch her. She was real and her skin was just as smooth as when she was a baby.
“Clara?” I said.