When the sky first changed, I thought it was pretty. Champagne gold, like a gift. Like a Bond villain decided on the color. The more I look at it, the more I think it’s actually the vomit of some alien race that decided to use Earth as a trash can.
No one expects to be around for the Last Day.
All those apocalyptic movies, they got a few things right. Like the cars jammed onto the freeway, which is where I like to do my picking. All it takes is a jimmy with a coat hanger to get me neck-deep into most trunks, stashing bottled water and canned goods in my pack.
What the movies missed? The silence. I guess that’s because someone always saved the day before this point, so they never had to imagine the absence of that oh-so-human electrical hum, the water moving through pipes.
Weirder still is the absence of birds cawing and pecking, the rustle of cats in the garbage, the growl of dogs, the skitter of cockroaches (surprise! we thought they’d outlive us, but if they did, they’ve gone dark).
At least it’s easy to sleep late.
Once you said, What if I were the last man on earth? Then would you want to…you know?
And I said, What’s the point? Am I horny, or…?
You said, Repopulation, and I said You know, I never understood that, because if you’re the last man and I’m the last woman, then our children would have to…you know…with each other in order to continue humanity, and we’re not exactly hamsters.
And you said, OK, you’re horny.
Now I’m spread out on the hood of a dead SUV, tucking canned peaches under the facemask that sorta-kinda protects my nostrils from the smell of decay. The peaches are too close to the color of the sky.
The sun filters through the sickly atmosphere like fluorescent light through cheesecloth, and I’m trying to figure out what I should do tonight.
If you were here, would I change my mind? I’m pretty sure that by tomorrow, there’ll be no world to repopulate. Not enough time to fertilize an egg, baby.
Let’s say that is off the table.
What would you have wanted to do on your last night, if you’d had a few hours to choose?
Video games. Food.
I could find you a board game, probably, and dinner’s taken care of. Hello, peaches.
There’s a hot pink iPod on the passenger seat of the SUV, earphones coiled as if lying in wait. I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about looting, but still, I almost leave it. What do I need an iPod for?
Still, I hesitate.
I pop open the door.
The iPod has juice.
You used to sing that old Drifters song, as if it might change my mind.
This iPod belonged to someone young, because the singers are all Jessee and Kellee and Chad. No Drifters, no Frankie Valli.
What made her leave it behind?
I check the earphones for wax before getting off the highway. I skip down the exit ramp, pretending it’s a slide. I should have found a town with a waterpark. Or I bet I could have made it to Disney World. So what if the rides wouldn’t run? I’d have climbed the rungs of the roller coasters, just to sit at the top. I’d be lounging on Dumbo to eat my peaches. I’d be sleeping in Cinderella’s castle.
I’d be wearing Mickey Mouse ears. No, Minnie.
The sky is getting too bright to look at, like a sunset gone wrong.
The park has the fewest bodies, which I know because I was the one who moved them. I drop my pack beneath a tree. There’s no one to steal it, nothing to rip it apart for peaches.
You’d hum it under your breath: Save the last dance for me.
You Always Had a Thing for Silver Linings originally appeared in Daily Science Fiction.
Sign up to receive a monthly-ish dose of, well, ME, via email—plus a free collection of short stories. It’s not all doom and gloom like this story. Maybe like 50% doom.