To my certain knowledge, I am the last intelligent being left on the planet. And I will be gone, soon, maybe. Once, long ago, when the skies were blue, and the oceans still poison free, there had been billions of humans, trillions of animals, but no longer. Only I and the bacteria remain. I have lived long enough to know that my home will never again support sentient life as I know it and after I have gone, whatever evolves here in the next few billion years will be unrecognisable to those who once thrived upon this once blue, now dark ochre, planet.
They left, you see. So very long ago, they left in their ships and their craft and their matter transporters and the like. Only I remain. PZ, the last of them called me. Pat Zero before that. And originally, Patient Zero.
The Disease, it was called. Just that. No fancy names, no popular designation. Just ‘The Disease’. Half of humanity, more than half the animal life on the planet, dead within months. Governments fell, societies decayed. And eventually, they left. So long ago that I can no longer remember quite when. Or precisely how. And yet, I remained, both here and alive.
Whatever it was that transformed me into the carrier of the most deadly influenza in recorded history also made me essentially immortal. I haven’t aged in several centuries. That much I know from the diaries I kept before I gave up on them decades ago. Or maybe centuries. Or maybe millenia.
I actually tried speaking some time ago. After some abortive and very painful attempts I stopped. Whether my body was too unused to it, or I’d forgotten how, I don’t know. Or at least I don’t think I don’t know. Memories become vague and ephemeral after so long, you see. I tried writing proper words yesterday. Or the day before. Or several weeks ago. I know it was when I saw a glorious sunset, just like the one tonight. Maybe it was earlier tonight I tried writing. I suppose it might have been tonight.
It’s such a beautiful sunset. Maybe my last. But then I thought that yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before…
I am ready for death. I’ve been ready for death since they left.
Sometimes, just before I sleep, I wonder whether they did leave. Whether the vague and faint images of their departure, like watercolours caught in a rain shower, are my imagination instead of memory. That’s when I cry, grateful that no one can see me. And then I cry some more, because there’s no one left to see me.
No. They must have gone, and the skeletons I see everywhere, on land, in the ocean, are just those they left behind. Surely humanity survives, out there, somewhere.
One day, I’ll travel again. I’ll visit new places, and see yet more skeletons, ages old. And I’ll look up into a different sky. And hope that someone, anyone, is looking back.