‘Not with a bang, but a whimper’. The words were almost a tangible presence in the still air. He found himself humming whilst forcing one foot before the other; ‘This is the end, my only friend, the end’. He battened down, drowning the lyric in the endless emptiness around him. He strained, concentrating every inch of his being on trying to hear any sound but the leaden thud of his feet. In the hollowness of isolation he walked on.
The town was small, perhaps ten thousand souls, and the ghosts of those souls inhabited the houses and streets still. Washing fluttered on lines in yards, teasing clues to the personalities of households, families. Demonic prints on black tees, a moody teen with Goth pretensions. Work overalls streaked with oil, oil that probably never quite left the rims of fingernails, became ingrained in skin folds. Skimpy thongs caressed by stylish boxers, a new marriage which would never age.
Snazzy sports numbers sat next to soccer mum cars on drives cracked by searing sun and zero maintenance. Lawns ran wild, sprouting every delicious, banned weed as if revelling in freedom from human conformity. Here and there the buzz of a dying radio, desperately sucking minute dregs of power from the last batteries ever made, seeped out of open windows, sounding like bees in their death throes.
Windows and doors displayed personalities. Some were shuttered, sealed, refusing to give up their secrets to the newly still and terrifying world. Others flung wide their entrances, all but beckoning in this strange experience, this land of endless peace. Curtains danced in and out of fractured panes, fabric flashes in faded hues, vanishing patterns bleached by blazing sunlight. Door mats sprouted micro worlds in moss and grass.
Discarded toys, eternally waiting for those who would never play again, shimmered brightly, alive with slug trails and tattered spider webs. Paving stones, lifted and askew, revealed shadowed holes, the realms of rodents, rabbits, all things below the world. Garden furniture gaped, frothing from animal-chewed mouths with mouldy stuffing. Patriotic flags dangled lifeless, wrapped around poles by passing winds, stuck there by tangled threads. Rooftops exhibited gap-toothed smiles where tiles had slipped into oblivion. Splashes of mottled white marked the presence of countless birds.
The scent of ozone swept toward the town, bringing with it the taste of brine, salty and sharp. The beach road was strewn with countless shoes, abandoned by those who had desired a final naked connection to the land which had disowned them. The pale white sands stretched for a couple of miles in both directions, but it was hard to see. Shredded remains of clothing rippled and wafted in the busy sea breezes, bringing to macabre life the thousands of desiccated corpses which lined the shore.
As the last man on Earth walked steadily, unseeing, toward the waves, which were rolling in, growing, fed by the purple bruises of storm clouds above, thousands of eyes followed his progress. Mice, rats, carrion birds, watched him from their cadaver homes; the inheritors of the Earth in silent acknowledgement of the extinction before them. He walked into the sea and did not return.
The last woman on Earth ran from her security, her cavern hiding place, too late to reach him.