The Last One Alive
The gravel path was well-packed and surprisingly neat as it cut through the scrubby grass covered in ash and sparkling with frost. He’d discovered the path a few days before. The cat had arrived then too and had stubbornly fallen into step beside him despite his best attempts to scare it away. Lincoln had screamed at it, even kicked at it with his boot, but it had only slowly blinked at him with all-knowing yellow eyes and he gave up.
Truth be told, he was grateful for the companionship. He hadn’t seen another living being since The Disaster. That’s what he called it because he didn’t know what it was or how it had happened. All he knew was that late one night, he’d come out of the seedy sex shop where he worked to find a changed world. There were no seasons anymore, just an endless dry cold that had dug in and refused to leave. Cold enough to chill him, but not enough to kill.
Lincoln had been walking ever since, stopping only to rest for a few hours at a time. He was afraid if he stopped for longer he’d lie down, close his eyes, and never open them again. He slept in fits and starts, snatching fragments of sleep when he could. He didn’t know where the rest of the world had gone or why he was still here so he kept walking. He didn’t know what else to do.
He thought he’d been walking for months but he didn’t have much to judge the passing of time by except how long his hair had grown. It was well past his ears now, nearly brushing his shoulders. A while back, he’d caught a glimpse of himself in the glass of a storefront he was raiding for food and hadn’t recognized himself. For the briefest second, he’d thought he wasn’t alone. But he was. Except for the Damned Cat—which was what he called it—he hadn’t seen another living soul.
Lincoln assumed the cold and the ash and the lack of human life were all connected, but he wasn’t sure how or why. He thought it would be like the movies, that he’d find a ragged group of plucky survivors banded together to begin a new civilization, but nope, he’d been wrong about that.
Turns out, he didn’t know much of anything. So he kept walking.
The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, weak and cold, the light teasing him with its promise of warmth it didn’t deliver. If he’d been the kind of man to believe in God, maybe he’d take it as a sign, but he didn’t believe in a higher power today any more than he had before The Disaster.
“C’mon, Damned Cat,” he said, his voice hoarse and rough with disuse.
With a sigh, Lincoln walked into the weak, watery light, his feline companion at his side, the last man alive.
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