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The day started like any other. As Christian rolled over and wiped the sleep from his eyes, he hesitantly drifted away from his dreams. He lay awhile longer in the stillness, breathing deeply. He attempted to harness a few more solitary moments of peace, while they lingered with tremendous contrast to another feeling. This early in the morning, there was only the smallest alertness of impending doom dancing faintly on the outer limits of his consciousness. Alas, those sacred moments of serenity slipped through his grasp like sand. He began to pay attention to his surroundings, observing the stale feeling of morning for what he knew would be the last time. The leftover smell of last night’s cooking, the warmth of the sun through the window, the weight of the blankets and the comfortable body heat they trapped… With much difficulty, he pulled himself into complete awareness to focus on the task at hand.
Coffee. With eyes and mind half open, he drug his feet into the kitchen to begin the morning routine. The digital clock on the microwave read 9:43. It was a later start than he’d hoped for, not that it mattered. He turned on the radio.
“As of today, ten percent of the population remains.”
He regretted it immediately, turned it off, and wandered into the living room with no desire to hear any more. Since they made The Announcement, the numbers had begun to decrease steadily. Closer to The Inevitable, as they were calling it, every day. No births. Nothing new, as the old slowly dwindled. Those healthy, especially those of The Last Generation, were left to wait the longest. They said it was for their own good, but Christian thought it was a terrible end. The worst.
He lowered himself down onto the couch, and took off the necklace he’d been guarding so fiercely. He turned the delicate silver key in his hands, and for the first time started to think of how he could possibly explain. He knew he was procrastinating, mentally using planning his words carefully as an excuse. No progress made, he eventually reached for the small box he’d hidden between the leather cushions. He’d made sure to find one that was fireproof… and water proof… Apocalypse proof. He put his key in the slot, and as the inner workings met their corresponding parts it opened with a comfortable click. He gathered the precious contents, and took them back into his bedroom.
He made sure to close the door behind him, not knowing exactly why. He sat down with a heavy sigh, and began absentmindedly drumming spastic finger rhythms on the desk. He had written dozens of letters to the people in charge - The Extinction Committee.
“We don’t have to give up. Some of us don’t WANT to give up.”
They never listened. With one more letter to write, he opened the bottom drawer and dug to the bottom to find the heavy duty stationary. After thinking of a million possible beginnings to explain an end, he finally worked up the courage to start. He flipped on the desk light, and briefly glanced over at his box once more before taking a deep breath. He smiled to himself at having symbolically chosen a fine tip permanent marker over pencil, or even pen… as if it would make a difference. Then, he began.
It is May 19th, 2321. My name is Christian Birch. This is very difficult for me to write; I apologize in advance for any confusion, or any lack of clarity. I will do my best, however my thoughts are very scattered.
I’ve lived in a time of technology. If it were still inhabited, I could contact someone as far away as Australia in less than a second. I don’t know how much of that will be lost, or how much of it can be salvaged does society re-build after The Inevitable.
The world is almost empty. I suppose the optimist would claim that it is half full. Regardless, as of today only 10% of the original population remains. In 2294, they made a discovery. After years of research, it was apparently proved that the Yellowstone super volcano is a ticking time bomb, and there is no way to avoid its eruption sometime within the next 200 years. That’s the expiration date. It’s… Inevitable. Few (if any) would survive. Flames. Destruction. Death. Even after the smoke clears, it’s been said that it will be impossible to go on. They say there will be so much debris that it will block out the sun. The entire planet would be in perpetual winter.
A conclusion was reached; The Announcement was made. The government couldn’t possibly put an entire population through the end of the world. Instead, they’ll save us from it. We are being SAVED… The bright idea of our blessed saviors, you wonder? We no longer allow people into the world. They’ve outlawed conception. They’ve eliminated healthcare. They are doing whatever possible to SPEED up the process our ancestors have spent centuries trying to drag out. They’re sure that there will be none left to suffer by the time it happens.
I was born in the year 2294. That makes me a part of The Last Generation. I was raised knowing the harsh reality. If I could avoid coming down with any life threatening diseases, I would outlive almost everyone around me. And then I would die along with the rest of The Last Generation, and it would all be over. Human extinction, a quiet end.
Through all of time, we have speculated just how and when the end of the world would come … Y2K. 666. 2012. Those were theories. Speculation. This is scientific fact. In my opinion, The Inevitable isn’t a bad end, if it would be the end at all. We’d go out with some dignity. We could fight. If there are to be intelligent life forms in the future, they could look back on our bravery.
This plan is completely absurd. We are people. Humans. Capable of thought, capable of RATIONAL thought… and here we are, letting ourselves join the ranks of the dinosaurs in extinction. If there is a god, there must also be a special and excruciating circle of Hell reserved for those who do not appreciate what they’ve been given enough to want it to be given their children and their children’s children. Isn’t self-preservation a natural instinct? I’m not afraid of death, but I will not accept it when the time comes knowing that our race could have been more had we only tried. I refuse to be a part of this.
There is a chance this letter will be destroyed, and there is also a chance that all of this is already known. Maybe there are refugees, or secret organizations in hiding. Maybe there will be a few scattered survivors after the eruption, and we can rebuild… but the alternative is not something I could stand to see.
There is another possibility for you reading this letter. Your name is Aralyn Birch, you are my lovely wife, and you are wondering why on earth I did what I have recently done. Aralyn – I love you, and I’m sorry. I just can’t live like this any longer, in a world that would devalue human life to such an extent. There are so many things I wish we could have done. I regret having to put you through this, but I won’t have to regret it for much longer. As of now, I see no other way. Can you do something for me? I’m leaving this letter for you to find. Please put it in the box. I figure that gives it the greatest chance of survival. After that, take it someplace safe. Burry it, or something. I don’t care. Just put it someplace safe, and someplace secret. Thank you so much... for everything. Goodbye, and good luck.
Christian left the letter on the desk, and turned his attention once more to the contents of his metal box. He sat in silence for some time, turning the tube up, and down… watching the bubbles rise, and fall…
He tried not to think about the meaning of life, the meaning of death, and other questions to which there are no answers. He picked up the syringe and did what he needed to do with absolutely no hesitation. The needle slid effortlessly through his skin, and as he pushed down and the poison pumped through his veins, he could see it clearly in his mind. He could see it, the way it should have been. Himself, his wife, and the children they would have had, if they had been allowed. Through the moisture clouding his vision, he could see so many lives that wouldn’t be lived. The images slowly began to blur, until he saw nothing. He felt nothing.
Though a change had taken place, the sun followed its usual path across the sky, setting in the west hours later. At 7:16, the telephone rang. Once. Twice. Six times, until a ghost was heard on the machine.
“Hello, you’ve reached the home of Christian and Aralyn Birch. We are not available at the moment, but leave us your name and number after the beep and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.”
“Christian!? Christian, it’s Aralyn. Pick up the phone! You’re never going to believe it. Did you see the news? Turn on the TV. There was a protest… and they called it off. The whole thing, the whole plan… For real this time, they really called it off! Oh, my gosh, Christian, this is what we’ve been waiting for… I just got off work. I’ll be home, soon, okay? I love you.”
Christian’s body slumped in the chair, with a posture that was eerily and misleadingly alive. The clock ticked, the crickets chirped, and what little life was left continued.