My house resides at the edge of the Earth. At the corner of ruin and strife. At the intersection of alone and scared.
The world ended two years ago. A massive viral contagion culled ninety-five percent of our population. For those fortunate souls, death was swift. Those who survived because of a mysterious immunity were destined to a far worse fate. We fell to anarchy first, famine next, and disease last.
582 days after the first infection, I found myself the only known survivor on a planet that once housed nine billion. War and pestilence had had their way. I was numb to the acrid stench of death that once haunted me like an insufferable itch. I no longer feared finding rot beneath every shelf I turned over. To me, vile sights had become the norm.
Fate chose me at random to be immune. Fate may have given my body a strong constitution. But fate didn’t choose me to be a survivor. In my neighborhood, I had been “that guy.” The one with the $75,000 underground shelter stocked with medicine and non-perishables, enough to nourish and care for me, my wife, and my four kids for a full year. Call me a conspiracy theorist, fine, but I was prepared.
I wasn’t prepared to bury my family. I was a broken man when my shovel met the earth. When I lay down the last flower, I lay myself down hoping to die. But I didn’t. I decided I needed something to live for. I would find five survivors to take in, maybe offer them a chance they wouldn’t have had.
For months, I had searched to wit’s end. Most I found were sick. The rest were more trouble than worth. I finally managed to find five. Two tried to steal, and I kicked them out. One left in the middle of the night without giving a reason. The last two eventually succumbed to illness.
I stopped searching. I became a solitary island of humanity foundering in a decaying sea. Hope was gone, relegated to nothing more than a dictionary word. During the outbreak, New Earth promised to send transport vessels for the survivors. I never believed it. Was I a carrier of the mysterious disease? If I had that question, New Earth scientists did as well.
No, there would be no rescue. I was at the edge of the Earth. Alone.
(opening sentence borrowed from Ami Mckay’s The Birth House)