The Last Of Them

In an unknown city in the United Kingdom, a man lives by himself in an ancient, scenic city. An ancient, scenic city decimated by a fungal infection which has destroyed humanity as he knows it.

In the man's past is trauma and horror. The loss of family and friends and everyone he could ever think of meeting. Yet more importantly, in his past is the secret to where the world-ending Cordyceps fungus originated.

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3. III.

By Neville’s tally it has been roughly four years since the beginning. Sixteen seasons since broadcasts died, the electricity went and he started forgetting days. Forty eight months since the thousands of memories he dwelt on daily were rendered in agony when he realised that everyone he had ever met was probably dead. Or worse. The loneliness staggered him whenever he let himself remember it.

Perhaps forty eight months was too much. Or too little. His calculations about everything were rough these days. Which was ironic, considering his vocation before the end of the world. His intense drive to quantify everything, which pervaded his younger years in a desperation to be as specific and precise as possible, was forgotten in the first weeks of the outbreak. Yet he knew for certain that, out of the sixteen he had survived, it was only three seasons before Neville Mason had found himself alone. Before the last of them were gone.

He reaches the bottom of the spiral staircase. To his left is a door embedded in the thick stone slab wall. Neville lights a candle on a small shelf and steps through the door. Immediately past it are four long, and one short, planks of wood embedded in the tough dirt floor.

‘Good afternoon,’ Neville says as he hunches past them down the narrow corridor. He collects a small bunch of tools from a construction desk set against cobbled grey wall. A sixty litre rucksack, a high-powered flashlight. He also takes a fire poker and an ice pick, which he stuffs into the side nets of his rucksack. He takes a swig from a bottle of water, and after a moment’s hesitation, he swallows a bite of a granola bar wrapped tightly on the desks edge. Before pulling the gas mask over his face like a second skin, he sniffs the air. A damp stench pervades the dark basement. Despite much searching, he can't find the source of the smell.

He leaves by the low corridor again.

‘Wish me luck,’ he says as he walks past the half-buried sticks in the stone.

The front door of the penthouse, at the bottom of the spiral staircase, enters onto a small private lane, five feet straight across, with a brick wall opposite the door. To the left down the lane is a garden. To the right a six foot green wooden gate leads to the street.

Standing outside the staircase door, he can see neither the garden to his left nor the gate to his right. Spores swill about him thickly, as if he's standing in a wheatgerm shot. He unlocks and bolts the gate and passes through the terminus of his safe haven.

One could barely see a hand waving in front of one's face. The goggles of the gas mask revealed only a world of impenetrable mud. Neville makes his way down the short lawn and steps off the curb which he knows is there roughly six steps from his front door. The car he keeps parked immediately outside bars his way: a heavy silver city car, sturdy yet mobile. He had never used it, and never planned to.  it helped him keep his peace of mind.  

He walked down the street to where he knows is a t-junction. He takes the right hand fork. Several cars litter the small square. Bodies are still inside, skin stretched taught and mottled with pocks of rot. He doesn't have to check that they are there. He just knows.

'It's a quiet one today, Bron,' he mutters. He imagines her replying and casually entertains a short conversation in his mind's ear.

The city sounds like a rural evening. A silence so pure it mocks the filthiness of the fungal air. On the ten minute journey North he hears perhaps one sound: a brief, rattling shot of clicks from an open garage. He doesn't go near it. He knows there is one in there. Probably leaning against a wall. Sweeping its head from side to side. Looking for anything to infect, to partially eat. 

Looking for him.

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