was late when he began the climb. He didn't know how long it
had been really. With the clouds covering the sky and only brief
glimpses of the sun, it was hard to judge time. The world outside was
growing darker, the sun drawing away from the clouds as if revolted
by the wretched gloom surrounding this once blue planet.
ascent of the stairs was slow going, each step an epoch. But Ethan
didn't notice. A second or an hour could pass between each footfall.
In his mind he was still walking the dead streets of Las Vegas.
moment played back through his head in a ceaseless loop. The
stillness of it all. The smell of ozone. Twisted remains of
buildings, vehicles and of other indistinguishable things. The
crater. The corpses.
had spent hours walking through the empty, ruined streets. At first
it was like a giant, surreal display in an old dusty museum. One
where you were free to explore an entire city, devoid of inhabitants.
He called out. He called for others, for survivors, for help. He
only response was the dreadful emptiness. If he shouted, it would
shout louder, drowning him out with its own deafening voice that
screamed nothing, as if berating Ethan for disturbing the peace.
he drew further into the city, the serene illusion crumbled. No
longer a picturesque model city, there were now signs of destruction
first body Ethan saw was in the driver's seat of an overturned car.
He didn't know what it was at first, misshapen and burned as it was.
He bent down for a closer look through the window and then he saw the
twisted limbs and blackened cascading flesh that looked as though it
had melted off.
the first, they were everywhere. He saw them in the streets, through
windows, collapsed on the sidewalk. All charred black, like grim
shadows of the people they once were. There were bodies sticking out
of piles of debris, glass fused into the skin itself.
landscape became more grim and twisted as he walked on. His own
building seemed undisturbed, but soon there was broken glass
everywhere, some of the older buildings collapsed in on themselves,
rubble spilling into the streets. He passed a building that had been
made of wood, which now was splinters. The nearer to the centre he
drew, the more hellish the city became.
were on fire. Countless plumes of smoke rolled into the sky, becoming
a part of the grey mass that hung there. There were skeletal remains
of some structures, steel bars with bits of stone still clinging to
them. He had to make detours where buildings had been blown apart,
clogging the streets with the dead.
was midday as far as Ethan could tell when he came within sight of
the epicentre. He climbed on top of a van to get a better look at the
disaster zone, glass from the shattered windshield crunching under
his shoes as he mounted the hood. He was afraid to get too close. For
what looked like a several block radius, there was but ash and rubble
with a handful of structures like tombstones
standing above the ruins, defiant to the bomb's intent. Ethan
swayed as though he was now feeling the blast wave that had destroyed
this place. He thought he might faint, but his legs held ground.
there be more damage?” was the thought that crossed his mind. He
looked upon the devastation of the world before him and knew with
primal instinct what happened.
saw not merely the destruction of a city, but the utter ruin of an
entire civilization. Standing there, above the
wreckage, too shocked to think or feel anything, words drifted along
the wind into his head.
powerful but unrecorded race
dwelt in that annihilated place.”
were words from a poem Ethan liked. He couldn't remember the rest of
it, or who had written
it, or why he even knew it. He had never understood poetry. The
structure, the imagery, it all went over his head. He was never able
to express his thoughts in such colourful language and
he supposed it stood that he couldn't comprehend the thoughts of
others when expressed so.
couldn't recall when exactly he had read whatever poem this piece
came from, but those lines had stood out to him because it was
something he did
these towering structures, the endless stretch of roads connecting an
immeasurable network of people and places. It was all meaningless
now. All the things that mankind had achieved. Marvels of
science and engineering, revolutions in medicine, even the timeless
and everlasting power of art. What was it all for?
didn't know why these were the thoughts that came to him after what
he beheld, and he felt guilty. Shouldn't he be stricken mad? Should
he fall to his knees and weep? What was the appropriate response to
something like this? Surely some feeling of sorrow or grief? All
Ethan felt was an emptiness in his chest. It was the feeling he had
been living with since the accident three months ago. Seeing the
insurmountable death, he resigned to defeat, he lost control of the
situation. He let the distress take him, and suicide entered his
Ethan had never
seriously considered killing himself before.
he first looked his smoking problem in the face, he rationalized that
it was ultimately beneficial because it would shorten his misery on
was only partly a lie. He smoked because he was addicted, same as
anyone. His depression and anxiety were merely how he justified it.
Ethan, suicide always seemed a pathetic, cowardly choice made only by
those of weak moral character. Pitiable people who decided ending it
all was easier than facing adversity. Having battled with depression,
Ethan was of course, in his own mind, an expert on the subject and
decreed anyone who took their own life clearly didn't deserve it in
the first place. Good riddance.
wasn't until Grace's death that Ethan ever truly felt like ending it
all. The pain he felt was more than he ever thought man was capable
of enduring. The grief, the guilt, the emptiness. It was crippling.
He knew there was nothing left for him.
could never bring himself to do it. Despite his misery, he knew that
Grace wouldn't have wanted him to literally throw his life away for
her. The thought kept him strong in the time following the accident.
At least strong enough to go on.
had always been an inspiration to Ethan. He quit smoking when he met
her because she gave him a desire to live his life instead of just
occupy it. He felt true joy with her as he could never remember
feeling it before. When she died, he couldn't imagine going on
without her, but he couldn't take his own life after all she had done
to give it back to him.
now though? Killing himself in her name would have been a disrespect
to her memory, but here, in the face of Armageddon, what more did he
have to live for? As far as Ethan knew, the entire world could be
nothing more than a dead husk. How could a nuclear attack be an
isolated incident? Wasn't that the point of having nukes? Mutually
assured destruction? There was no way he could be the last person on
Earth, was there?
thought about his mother. “Who would want to blow up Canada?” He
wondered if she was still alive. He swallowed a lump in his throat.
He'd only spoken with his mother a handful of times since his father
not my fault” he thought. “She
abandoned me when I wouldn't cut her a fucking cheque.” He'd
called her after the accident. She never cared for Grace. Said she
only wanted him for his money. It hadn't helped their already
strained relationship. But he was so alone, so unbelievably sad and
he needed his mother to help him through it.
begged him to come home. She said there was nothing left for him
there, that she loved him and wanted to make amends.
it went wrong. He couldn't even remember what she'd said to make him
so furious. He'd called hoping to reconnect with his mother, and hung
up after telling her he never wanted to see her again. Now she might
uncertainty ate at his mind, growing fat on his insecurity and giving
birth to bleak thoughts. Despite trying to find a bright side or
convince himself that Vegas was just some kind of unfortunate mishap,
the black swirling vortex in his gut told him true. He had nothing
opened his eyes, cutting off the playback reel of memories and saw
his fingers still around the elk antler grip of the razor. Surely he
would be justified in ending it all. Surely Grace would have
understood. No one would think him weak for doing it in the wake of
the apocalypse. Moreover, there would be no one to think so.
No friends, no loved ones. No society to judge his actions. No one to
mourn his passing.
he had killed himself before all of this, life would have kept going
for millions of people like nothing ever happened. Now, it would end
completely and no on would ever know.
he thought; “I would know.”
Ethan Carver, the bombs dropped months ago, It had taken the rest of
the world until now to be caught in the blast-wave. He had been
living an empty life in an empty existence since the death of the
only person he had ever truly loved. The only difference was that
now, the world reflected his misery.
folded the razor closed and put it in his pocket. His life wouldn't
end this day. “There must be someone out there” he told himself.
If he had a purpose, he could go on. He may not have believed
himself, and he may have been deliberately walking to his own grave,
but as long as he had purpose, he could go on. So he came to his
decision. He would set forth into what remained of this planet; A
dead heart in a dead world.