Word Count: 940
Writing: 58 minutes
Editing: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 18 minutes
Shambles was the only word for what had once been the greatest race of mammals the Earth had seen. He wondered what would come next, perhaps another form of similar animals to the humans, maybe even better. Hopefully better. The red apple was crisp as he bit through the juicy skin, and he chewed with a merry discontent as he walked through the vacant street.
It had been a long time since he’d seen another—living—human being, and with each passing day he thought more and more that he may be the last. He chuckled to himself taking another bite of the apple, and still so young, he thought to himself. Who could’ve thought it would all come crashing down so quickly? How long had it been now? Twenty, twenty-five years? Twenty-five sounded about right, but he hadn’t given time much thought in the last decade at least.
He still remembered where he was when it happened, he’d never forget. The groceries were piled up, bagged, and ready to go at the end of the conveyor belt. He swiped his debit card through the small terminal, declined. Again, declined. What was going on? He knew there was plenty of money for the groceries in his bank account and then some. The supermarket grew loud around him and it seemed other people were having the same issues. Quickly he pulled out his phone to check his bank account, but there was no signal.
“You fuckin’ deal with it then, this is bullshit! I’m taking my food and going, you all can come and get my money when your system fixed!” One man yelled at a cashier. The rest of the customers voiced their approval for this man’s initiative and people started to grab their bags of groceries and head for the doors. He remembered looking back down at the word, searching, where the bars on his cell phone used to be and feeling like something had changed forever.
That feeling never left, and his bars never came back, nor did his or anyone else’s money. Cash quickly became a precious commodity, then more quickly became obsolete. As far as he knew they’d never found any explanation as to what it was that killed the satellite signals around Earth. There was speculation of all kinds from aliens to sabotage by one of Earth’s many governments. It didn’t really matter what the motive was to him though, it couldn’t change the fact that it had led to the last world war and the apocalypse so many had predicted since the beginning of time.
First, the United States declared the attack on the world’s satellite signals a combined effort by hackers from the Middle East and North Korea. Which led to the unanimous world decision that they should no longer be tolerated, and the nukes were dropped. But not in time to stop the Korean biological bombs that wiped out the planet, a strain of the flu with a ninety-nine percent mortality rate. For years after, the few people left on the Earth formed small bands and gangs, waging war on each other over trivial things, helping to further the extinction of the human race.
He looked at the broken ruins around him and took another bite of his apple. The irony was literally sweet in his mouth as he chewed the last bite and threw the core to the ground. How could something as small as an apple seem to survive the test of time, yet these structures and things humanity created couldn’t make it for thirty years after the money dried up? He wondered if, when scientists and computer engineers were working in whatever small white room he was sure they’d been in, they had any notion the monster they were creating called the “internet,” would one day have the power to destroy all that civilization had worked so hard on, for so many thousands of years.
As a boy, he’d been briefly fascinated with stories of the apocalypse and predictions of future doom. But never had they been anything more to him than fantastical stories, myths of the new millennia. Yet here he was, standing alone in the ruins of the American civilization. The main character of his own myth. And what would the next race say about their ancestor’s the humans? The once great and powerful people that killed themselves in less than a century, with a swift and graceful swipe of the blade.
There was a bench up ahead and he decided to take a seat and rest his feet. Despite the doom that peppered the face of the Earth at every turn, the sun was out and the temperature was nice. He closed his eyes and let his other senses take over. The breeze blew across his face and carried the scent of green trees from somewhere in the distance. On the insides of his eyelids, he watched memories from the past, stories from a life that most days he was no longer sure he hadn’t fabricated, simply to combat his loneliness. All the same he liked to watch them, like the movies of old.
Sometimes he wondered what life may have turned out like that day if his card had swiped, if his phone had never been searching. Maybe he would have a wife and kids, a family. Or maybe he would’ve gone on to be famous or change the world. Like a child’s fantasies, he would let his mind wander on occasion to these wonderful places. Though, each time, he knew when he opened his eyes again, he was sure to be among the shambles.