by Anja Reed
When I wake up, I take just a few moments to gather my bearings, become really confused, and connect the dots. Then I sit up and slap Cash.
The young man wakes up with a gasp. “What the actual flip-flops were you thinking?” I yell, spreading my arms wide.
He blinks up at me in the dim light of the sun. The sun, which is by the way a heck of a lot closer than I’m used to because we’re lying on a shard of the Earth–specifically, a little island off the shore of the city Cash and I lived in–as it flies through the universe on a previously impossible trajectory. He brushes a curly blond ringlet from his eyes. “Well, I was thinking that I forgot to bring an alarm clock, so I should be thanking you.”
“I thought you were joking!”
“About packing an alarm clock? Nah, that was my bad.”
“About blowing up the frickin Earth!” I hit him again. “If I’d known you actually had that many Pop Its–which, by the way, I have so. many. questions–and if I’d known that you were actually the heir of the inventor of air conditioning and therefore owned more money than any human has a right to own and if I’d known that you had the technical skills to build a solar-powered-self-sufficient-artificially-pressured-evolution-proof-doomsday-pod-that-somehow-has-gravity around our island, I might have protested the idea of blowing up the Earth!”
He grins. “Aw, you’re just upset everyone you ever knew or loved is dead. Some breakfast will cheer you up!”
I don’t know how to respond. Without waiting for an answer he jumps to his feet and runs to the center of the island, where the island’s only building–a derelict hut Cash and I rebuild as bored teenagers–stands amid the lush, mossy meadow. Now a thick bronze pipe extends to the plastic dome above our heads, and multiple bronze tubes cut through the forest to what was once our east to enter the hut’s base. There’s some ungodly sounds from inside. Finally, I sputter, “Well what’s for breakfast?”
“Scrambled eggs, buttered toast, and yogurt! They’ll be our breakfast staples from here until eternity, though I hope to plant some berries to diversify things a bit eventually,” he calls from inside.
I pause to take that in. “How is…I mean, where are…never mind.”
He emerges a few minutes later with a plate in hand. Yup, that yogurt is definitely fresh. I tense as he sits next to me, then leap to my feet and stalk into the woods. On a damp log I sit and stare past the plastic only a meter from my face, at Venus as it slowly passes us by. Seconds later Cash plops down beside me.
“Sheesh, V. What’s a guy gotta do to make you happy?”
I turn my back to him. “Don’t call me V. Only my friends call me V.”
“And what exactly have we been for the past 22 years?” I can tell that he’s grinning. “The cuts, the fights, the make-believe, the day trips, the ranting sessions, the complete lack of anything resembling sexual tension–if I’m not your friend, you have no friends whatsoever.”
“I do have no friends whatsoever. Now.”
“Well, if we’re going to be bringing up old wounds–”
“Don’t bring up the time I abandoned you in Vancouver, that barely compares and you’ve used it to death already!” He puts his hand on my shoulder and I, after resisting for a moment, turn to face him. There’s a pause. In the burning wreck of our planet, he has really pretty eyes–hazel, long lashed, slightly upturned, forever smirking.
“Why’d you do it?” I ask.
He was quiet for a moment. Then he answered, “Humans deserved it.”
I almost laugh. “If your reasoning is that humans are destructive to the earth and animals, buddy I’ve got news for you.”
“No, that’s not what I meant. I just mean that humans do whatever they want. No thought for those around them. They make sacrifices for other people, create things that no one else gave them permission to make, are too scared of public opinion to do what needs done. They sit back and watch the world frickin explode around them–metaphorically or, as we’ve seen, physically. They create a world that fits them and just them, and then want a share of other people’s everything. They’re selfish sons-of-a-puppy, all of them. They refuse to share what they’re wrongly given, claim it as their own. They…Gosh, it makes me so angry. That’s another thing, too, religion. They cower behind their own beliefs, they refuse to understand the basic truths in front of them, they bomb, they attack…humans should have died off long ago.”
I blink twice. “Absolutely nothing you just said made any fucking sense.”
He bursts out laughing. “Goshfrickindarnit, I hoped you’d just admit I was correct to feel righteous. That would have been easier.” He slides a hand around my shoulders, and I neither resist nor relax. He’s still chuckling. “Oh V, you’re a smart cookie.”
“Spill it. You’ve never cared about the environment or greater ethics; I once saw you order DDT with single-day shipping.”
“Okay, okay,” he concedes. “It was because Aimee got married. You know, the intolerable girl who got put in our grade freshman year.”
I frowned. “Yeah, I heard. What about her?”
“Well, I realized that if someone as annoying, dumb, and physically like the bottom of my shoe could fall in love, get married, and have children before the age of 20, I must be doing something wrong. I mean, I’m basically a Disney prince: charismatic, intelligent, loaded, and handsome as any girl could want, but I’ve never had anything resembling a relationship.”
He’s joking, right? “Cash, you had girls throwing themselves at you–sometimes literally–for most of your life. Idiots are a dime a dozen.”
“What are you, jealous? They just wanted to have a good time, and they knew I was fun to be around. Don’t overanalyze. Anyway, I decided that I’d need to start planning immediately if I wanted to have a shot at getting married, having kids, you know, the normal adult stuff. Figure out what I was doing wrong, what I should learn, etc. But to start planning I needed to decide on which girl I wanted to win over, since that would affect the details of my plan.”
I wrinkle my nose. “Me? Eww!”
He holds up his hands. “Hey, hey, I’m not disagreeing! Right now things are rocky on both sides, mainly because you have the sex appeal of a beached walrus.”
“I’m hot!” I sputter.
He made a face. “Ugh. But anyway, you were the most logical choice. We have similar eating and sleeping habits. We like the same types of environments. We have similar political and ethical views–”
“–I’m beginning to seriously doubt that–”
“–I already know your basic medical history because of that one really weird never-have-I-ever game so I know we don’t have much to worry about in that regard, I’ve seen you at your worst and think I can tolerate it, and most importantly, the fact that we’re still friends after 22 years of friendship proves that we can manage anything.” He smiles.
Well jeezus. “Yeah, um, I’m kinda flattered…kinda very not flattered, too..but what does that have to do with the earth going kasplooie?”
He brightens. “Oh! That was the easy part. I wanted to learn what I’d need to do to win your hand, and you just told me like, six months ago on the ferry ride after I stole your ice cream, that you’d marry me if I was the last guy on Earth. So….” He gestures out the window, which is not rotating back towards the expanding ruins of Earth.
I just stare at him. Two, three seconds go by. “I said I wouldn’t marry you,” I finally say. “You stole my ice cream. I was mad. So I said I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last guy on Earth.”
There’s a few seconds of silence as he stares at the pieces of earth, some still hosting charred crisps of monkeys and hospitals, slowly drifting from the place Earth used to dwell. “Oh,” he said. “Well shit.”