This is a "Last Person On Earth" story. I tried to write it in a non-gender specific way, so
it could be a "Last Man On Earth" story, or a "Last Woman On Earth" story. I also tried to write
it in a kind of stream-of-consciousness format, so it reads a little weirdly. I have made no attempt to
try to explain how this person got to be the last person on Earth. I could not think of any
reasonably feasable mechanism for this that I was going to be happy with. So, for the sake of
argument, just assume that a (very large) alien star-cruser passed by one day and snarfed up
all of the humans, except for our hero...
Creeping slowly and peering through the pounding wipers the obstacle came into view. It was
definitely a cache marker. An early one. The two cars arranged in the intersection indicated
that the next marker would be found by turning left here. Pulling around the marker and proceeding
north the street was clear for as far as could be seen, which was not far in the downpour.
Supplies. Food. Ammunition. Batteries. Maybe batteries. Two burnt out cars, on their sides,
roof-to-roof, both roofs crushed, noses pointed north. This was a good marker, plenty of burnt out
cars. Too many for the mosaic. Not enough cars in the primary colors. A spine of steel spikes
driven into the top side of one of the cars indicated that the marker was put in in the fifth year.
Five tall spikes. Was there a banner at one time on one of them? Maybe. Gone now. No matter.
Eighteen scars on the inside left forearm indicated that the marker was installed thirteen years
ago. Eighteen transits of Orion. Nothing looked familiar yet. Rain. Passing thunder storms were
always welcome. The smell of wet dirt, clear air. Lousy driving. Five more intersections, the
next marker indicated right. A large bus, front end immovable on the Jersey, back end twisted
around out of the way. More earth-tone cars, rejects. Memories of rage, senseless. Nine empty
intersections then a cache marker, part way down the block, cross-ways to the street. Two
more cars, five spikes. Noses sniffing the front of a First National Bank.
Pulling up onto the curb, through the crack weeds, close to the building. The rain had let up
some, but not much. The front of the building had no broken windows. Getting out of the car
into the rain felt good. Cool wetness. Pulling open the rear
door releases a small flood of dogs, canine molecules colliding in the confines of the door frame,
de-compressing into the vacuum of the street. Noses glued to the street as they fan out around the
car, instinct searching for the next meal. The trail of which is being washed down the nearest
"Let's go Sophie." Sophie is the elder of the flood. Knows what to find, and where to find it. A
ratchet set from the trunk makes quick work of the bar and bolts installed to keep the front doors
closed. Sophie hesitates with indecision when the door is first opened, when it looks like her
master would go in first, then squirms between legs and door frame as the hesitation and confusion
becomes mutual. The air in the building is quiet and dry. A small flag is toggled, a mental
check on the list of finding an intact cache. No smell of wetness, mold. No smell of urine.
Sophie begins her search for intruders. Water and rodents are the two greatest enemies of a
cache. Large bodies huddle under lifeless blue tarps, in neat rows in the big main room of the
bank. Non-perishables. As if there was such a thing. Moving down the space between the columns
some of the shapes reveal themselves through the holes in the tattered tarps. A small herd of
mopeds. Probably useless. A generator on a cart. A few hand-trucks. The space in front of the
vault is just clear enough for the door to swing open. It is almost too dim to see the details of
the door in the feeble light that finds its way through the front windows, then through the maze of
tarps. Grey day. Would probably have to wait until tomorrow for more light. This bank faces
north in any case. Oh well. The light will not be great even under blue skies. In the dimness
several icons are visible on the vault door. Single letters in squares, heavily written in dark
wax. Waterproof on stainless. Figured that one out early on. F, food. A, ammunition. M,
medicines. G, generally useful items. B, batteries. Glorious. Probably dead by now, but a welcome
find. The CD player has been silent for too long. A usable flashlight would be useful, now in
fact. Feeling around the periphery of the door the wax seal feels intact. Good news.
Sophie returns quietly, nothing to report. "Roof?" Sophie turns eager, wags. "I'll get the gun
and binoculars." Out on the sidewalk some of the dogs have returned, the rain has stopped. It will
be dark soon. From the car comes a duffel and a set of binoculars in a case. Two of the other
dogs join Sophie in the return to the building, the others lie, idling, resting from the chase for
dinner no doubt. Stairwell at the back of the building smells dry. A quick look down the well
reveals no noticeable disturbances. The seal on the basement door can be checked tomorrow. Going
up, the upper floor doors are still sealed. Good building. More work for the ratchet set and the
door to the roof un-seals, but provides resistance from the outside. Setting down the duffel and
binocs, a shove with the hips
forces the issue enough to see the growth blocking the door. Layers of rotted vegetation, wind
blown dirt, vines, life. More shoving gets the door open enough to squeeze through, followed by
the dogs. The roof is a sea of vines, grasses, a few shrubs, and a small tree. The dogs wade out
into the sea, the vines reluctantly release their grip on the door frame and finally allow the door
to open most of the way. The duffel and binocs are retrieved from the stairwell and bob across the
green sea towards the edge of the building. Looking over the front of the building reveals
more returned dogs. Pulling out a police whistle and piercing the damp silence causes them to look
up sharply. The others will return soon. This sea of life will have to be cleared if the cache
is to survive as long as possible. Tomorrow we'll continue to the airport, another cache and living
The horizon is clear all the way around, no fires burning. A quick look and count, all the dogs
have returned but one. Nothing moving in the streets below for as far as the binoculars can see.
The pack dogs are out there. They will find us by tomorrow, following the scent of Sophie and crew
back to us. "OK, time to settle in."
The dogs come in and explore the canyons between the tarps. Several more duffles find their way in
from the car and the doors are secured. A temporary encampment is arranged in a clearing in a
back corner of the large main room. Pulling a tarp off a pile near a wall finds, yes!, a mattress
stood on end and a grey metal cabinet behind it. I guess I wasn't completely stupid. "Incoming!"
The mattress crashes to the floor, scattering a few of the dogs, tensing the others. They settle
in again into small groups. The metal cabinet is well stocked. Cans of food fill the bottom, some
clothes, boots, hats, a shelf of small tools, can openers, and a shelf with boxes of candles, and
(holding ones breath, twisting off the lid of a large wide mouth metal can) dry matches and some
lighters! Good job. Thanks all around. The audience stands in applause. Further towards the
back of the shelf is three hurricane lamps and a can of lamp fluid. "Light tonight, boys and
girls." Storing fuels like this is risky, stupid. Oh well, live and learn. Living for what,
Looking at the vault seal with the hurricane lamp brings good news. The seal is still intact.
Although the duct tape has long since fallen off the wax poured in behind it is perfect. The steel
surface of the door is pristine, the icons indicating the vault contents still clear and perfect.
I guess I'll leave this cache intact if I can find one closer to the living space and the mosaic.
Time to sleep.
Swimming to the surface from the depths of a dream, there is a solid structure of tension connecting
the dogs. Very dim light struggles in through the front windows, visible by moving to the end of
the mattress and looking towards the front of the bank. The dogs are agitated and stalking towards
the glass. Dark shadows are milling around outside on the sidewalk. Wild pack dogs. No tolerance
for these creatures. Mean creatures, force filtered through eighteen years of survival. More of
them than one can possibly imagine. It only took once to learn how dangerous they are, and you
never make the mistake again. Always prepared. And armed. Kill as many as possible. It will be
another hour before there is enough light to deal with them. May as well get up. Clean clothes
from the cabinet. Peaches! Re-fried beans, ugh. Beef stew, cold. Some for the dogs, splurge.
Don't feed them too much. Who knows how long it will need to last, they need to keep their own
survival skills sharp. And I need the best of them.
The Bushmaster comes out of the duffel, with several boxes of ammo. High velocity copper shrouded
lead, makes quick work of canine skull and brains. Gun over one shoulder, two extra clips, a can
of open beef stew, and yesterdays shirt. I'll clean up after taking care of some pack dogs. The
trek to the roof is un-eventful, must remember to check the basement before continuing on. The
morning air is fresh after yesterdays rain, the sky is blue-sky blue, sun still hasn't gotten up
yet, but is stirring just below the horizon. The shirt gets the contents of the can, then arcs
gracefully out over the street, splattering the opposite sidewalk. No sense in canine parts where
I'd have to walk over them. The first dog onto the scene laps wildly at the beef stew, certainly
unfamiliar. Soon many of the others join in, a bit of a frenzy. Safety off. Pause. Remove
scope, to close for that. The first one goes unnoticed in the rush. Two. Three. Four. Five.
Six. Now they are beginning to notice as the concussions echo down the street. Several startle
and move away, looking for the source of this unknown. Most pause too long. Seven. Eight.
Nine. The rest now scatter and run. Game over. One more, ten. Mid-stride. Another,
wounded, tumbles. Then done, eleven. Six on the run out of sight. They will be back. Even more
of them, fresh blood is in the air.
Sophie and crew go out the front door for the morning pee, and a sniff around the dead bodies on
the opposite sidewalk. The scavengers will clean up the mess, gone before we are back in a few
The stairwell basement door unseals. Good building. Inside is a typical landscape of pipes,
conduits, and environmental controls, all quiet now. Do they exist when not in the flashlight's
cone of light? Nonsense. Dry floors. Cobb webs. Good building. Reseal the door.
No pack dogs in view, the tools, duffels, and some supplies go into the car. Front door gets
sealed hand tight, anticipating our return. A sharp call of the whistle brings the dogs back and
into the car, piling into the back seat. Too many dogs, not enough seat. Sophie and Max overflow
into the front. The guage shows less than a quarter tank. Hopefully the fuel store is intact, and
the fuel still good. Fuel is stored by itself, never with any other essential. The car easily
manages the turn in the street, headed back the way we came last night, back to the highway.
The miles thump by, cracked and cracking pavement, crack weeds, an occasional small tree. The first
highway sign come up with the simplistic aircraft outline. Airport. Mosaic. Five miles. One more
CD track. "Put your shoes on campers. Landing soon." Empty exit ramps. "Where is everybody?! No
flights leaving today, I guess." Explosion of voices, daemons. Quick, jump tracks. "Control tower
in view campers. Empty all ashtrays!" Dogs never get these comments. The roads closer to the
airport are crowded with cars. Mosaic pixels. Some sitting where they were abandoned, some moved
here years ago for future use. All are succoming to the onslaught of life's tidal wave. Grass.
Weeds. Vines. Grinding all that is left into dust. Onto the garage ramps, looping, up to the
Departures Level, stop in front of the plywood barricade. With the engine running and the doors
open the dogs mill around as the plywood comes down and is dragged out of the way. The dogs pour
into the opening and race out onto the concourse. Nails clack. Doors slam, engine races, tires
squeal, dogs scatter as the car enters the concourse, racing past the empty ticket counters, piled
metal detectors, shops of rotting private enterprise, barking howling dogs giving chase. Right at
the fork, towards the restaurant with the view. Brakes, tires gripping, into the restaurant, up to
the windows. Halting, bumper to glass. Out onto the hood, sun, blue, pavement, glass, jets parked
below. A sea of cars. Dog motion approaching quickly. There will never be a million cars out
there. But what else? Explosion of voices, daemons, derail. Dogs, tongues, slobber. Glorious
dogs. "To the ramparts, campers!". Blank stares. Stupid dogs. "Let's go find our stuff."
The chain-link gate for the service area of the airport was still wide open, as if it would be any
different than it was when I left years ago. A quick loop around the building at the base of the
control tower to check the integrity of the place. All looks OK. No pack-dogs around, some
pigeons. Dogs pour once again from the rear door of the car. Out of the trunk comes the tool
kit, making quick work of the bolts holding the door to the building shut. The air inside is quiet
and still, no piss smell, no intruders. "Take a look around. See what you can find." All of the
interior doors get opened, window shades raised. Mental notes taken of room contents. Up to the
second floor, same routine. Dogs sniffing, exploring. Rooms piled with stuff, years of
accumulation, stuff that might be useful. Kitchen, food stores. Cans, cans, cans. Jars. "We need
some fresh meat." Sleeping quarters. Mattresses for the dogs also. Old familiar sleeping spots to
be resurrected by those returning. New spots to be found for the new hires. Empty spots for those
lost. Stereo and video room. I hope the fuel for the generator is still good. Up the long climb
to the control tower. Sophie and Plasma trail along. The main room at the top is flooded with
window-tint filtered sun. A silent pile of electronic equipment stands neatly in the back corner.
The view from twelve stories up is impressive. Clear horizon. Cars. Jets. Cars. Concrete,
tarmac. Terminal. Cars, cars, cars. A sea of cars, slowly disappearing into the rising sea of
The building next door is a maintanence shop, tools, garage bays, roll-up doors. And some
generators. This building and the tower were isolated early on from the rest of the surrounding
buildings. No sense in trying to power the entire airport. Bay Two's roll-up door slowly creaks
open. Some of the dogs mill around. The airport tractor parked in the bay has a luggage trailer
attached, with a 200 gallon plastic fuel tank bolted on, empty. Hmmm, one flat tire. The tractor's
fuel tank is also empty. "Hey, the keys are still in the ignition!" Sponge, standing looking out
the door looked back, un-impressed. "Let's go get some fuel." Sponge tags along, head out the
passenger window, on the short trip to the tank farm. The storage shed near the tanks smells dank
and pissy. "Something has moved in here, Sponge. Probably mice." Not surprising, since the
building was left with lattice for windows, ventilation. There are seventy-three five gallon jugs
of gasoline left, sitting on wooden pallets. Hopefully the gasoline in them has survived all these
years, dosed up on stabilizers. Four of them come out and go into the rear seat of the car.
After some futzing with marginal batteries the tractor's engine sputters to life. "Yet another
empty victory, boys and girls. Why drive a car when you can drive one of these puppies!" Back to
the tank farm, with Sponge along for the ride again. Never travel alone. It originally took some
time to figure out how to get gasoline from the massive storage tank. A big brass nut on a thirty
foot length of string lowered into the open access port on the top of the tank serves as a crude
fuel level guage. The tank is just less than half full. About 200,000 gallons of rotting gasoline
left. Twenty-two years of moderate generator time. It will definately go bad before then. "Let's
hope the generator is willing to burn this crud. I need some loud music."
The trailer returns half filled, parked outside the back of the building, plumbed to the generator
in the far bay. Should check that the Tower breakers are open before firing up the generator. Most
of the dogs were back at the Tower. Surrounded by ... feathers and chicken feet. "Chicken
feathers?" "Chicken feathers!" "Eggs!"
It took a while to find small rectangular tokens with about the same proportions as a car's length
to width, and in an assortment of typical car colors. Twenty pallets of tiles, more than I need,
but all the colors I need.
The sea of tiles spread out on the hangar floor reflected the current state of the sea of cars out
on the airport grounds. The view from the catwalk in the hangar ceiling was useful to see where
the project was, and where it was going. Five years of work so far, two hundred and ten thousand
and some odd cars. Only one fifth done. This won't ever be finished. Onward.
The current inventory list of available cars is spread across the floor next to the tile mosaic.
Paper lists. Lasts forever if kept dry, no batteries required. Just needs organization and
perseverance. Today's block of cars is in the middle top of the mosaic, a block of a hundred or so
non-descript black or dark blue cars required.
Copyright 2005, David Scott Coburn