VICTIMS OF THE FUTURE
"The Last Man on Earth" by J. A. Castillo
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It has been snowing for such a long time that I even forgot when it started. The cold that embraced our land is seeping into my veins. I can even feel its icy fingers clutching at my soul. I become weaker every moment. My movements have slowed down, and my body feels stiff and heavy, too. I wish that this was just another nightmare, but this time I have to face the reality. This used to be a warm place. What happened? Is there anybody there that can explain it?
I needed someone to talk to. I decided to go to my friend George’s house. He used to work for the climate research project. The snow is so high that you can hardly move anywhere. You can see some people venturing out, so few that I have enough fingers on my hands to count them. We have arrived to the point where survival instincts play the main role.
They bunker themselves, and pity and compassion for each other have disappeared. After who know how long, I arrive at George’s house. I have been in his place before. George lives by himself with his pets, two Sumatra monkeys, Poock and Soock.
They are noisy, but very smart, monkeys. George trained them to be extremely useful.
I found him on the second floor, sitting in his recliner with a blanket over his legs, in front of a huge window, his eyes looking into infinity, the two monkeys beside him. Afraid that he was injured, or worse, dead, I called him.
Johnny: “George, George! Are you alright?” I didn’t have any response, so I passed my hand in front of his eyes, waiting for some kind of reaction, and then again,
“George, George! Are you alright?” Finally, I got a response.
George: “Hello, Johnny. You are brave to venture out there, buddy.”
Johnny: “Man, you scared me to death! I thought that …”
George: “That I was dead? Not yet, Johnny, not yet.”
Johnny: “I didn’t mean …”
George: “Do you want a beer, Johnny?”
Johnny: “Sure, why not?”
George didn’t move at all. He just snapped his fingers, and Poock and Soock disappeared and came back in a few minutes later with a couple of beers.
George: “Make yourself comfy, Johnny.”
Johnny: “George, what is happening? Do you have any idea what is going on?”
George: “We played God, Johnny. That is what happened.”
Johnny: “What do you mean?”
George: “We did exactly the opposite to what is supposed to be done.”
Johnny: “I don’t understand.”
George: “You know, Johnny, flexibility and adaptability is how species survive. Species adapt to the environment that surrounds them. We did exactly the opposite. We tried to force the environment to adapt to our needs and desires. We failed, and now we start to see the impact of weather change.”
“We used to talk about this impact coming during our children and grandchildren’s lifetimes. Now, we know it’s our lifetime. We now have a choice between a future with a damaged world or a severely damaged world. We are victims of our own success, Johnny. The future is already here.”
Johnny: “You mean this is just the beginning?”
Johnny: “Well, that’s pretty freaky, man. What’s next?”
George: “Mutations, Johnny.”
Johnny: “I don’t get it.”
George: “We knew that the levels of man-made chemicals were accumulating on the ground, in the water and atmosphere, you name it: hormones, pesticides, DDT, PCB’s, and I can keep going on and on. They were already in the food chain.”
Johnny: “Would that explain obesity in people?”
George: “Right. The cattle were treated with hormones to speed up growth before they were sent to the market. Of course, we never knew the full impact. What was shocking was that the same hormones were also able to change the sex in children before birth. All man-made chemicals were carried by winds, rivers, and oceans. They are everywhere, everywhere.”
Johnny: “That’s worse than my horrible nightmares!”
George: “Plus besides, the climate change was allowed to continue unchecked. Its effects are already catastrophic, on the level of a nuclear war. We are doomed, Johnny.”
Johnny sat in silence trying to understand what had just been said.
George: “Have you noticed anything unusual on you, Johnny?”
Johnny: “No, not really.”
George: “Check out that corner, Johnny.”
Johnny moved to the corner that George had pointed out.
Johnny: “What the hell is that?”
George: “Roaches, Johnny. Roaches.”
Johnny: “I have never seen roaches that size in my life! They are almost the size of a mouse!”
George: “According to my calculation, they are the fifth generation. Seems to me that insects are the first ones to adapt to the new circumstances. If you didn’t notice, your body has already started to grow bigger. Have you noticed Poock and Soock? They are bigger, and if you pay more attention, Frankie, too.” (Frankie is Johnny’s cat, a huge Persian cat).
“Some species will be affected more than others, but plenty will be
Johnny: “Listen, George, I know this place. It is a church basement. The priest has stocked plenty of food, enough to survive for a long time. If we can make it there, we will survive until we can figure out what to do. I know a secret way that will take us there.”
George: “I don’t think you were the only one that knew about that, Johnny. Food is becoming a luxurious item. I live from beer. That’s not that bad, and it keeps me happy.”
“Listen, Johnny, I can’t go with you this time. Just do me a favor. Take Poock and Soock with you. Your survival could depend on them. They can sniff food miles away. Plus, they like you really well. Don’t forget to take Frankie. Cats produce plenty of heat, especially yours.”
Johnny: “I don’t understand why you refuse to go.”
George: “Oh! Johnny, I can’t go anywhere because my legs are already frozen. Too much beer, I guess. Please take Frankie and my monkeys. They will be the only company that you will have for a long time.”
“Before you go, can you bring me the last cases of beers that I have? I have the suspicion that this will be my last night.”
Johnny: “George, we still can . . .”
George: “Please leave, Johnny. Good luck.”
I took Poock and Soock with me, and went back to pick up Frankie. George was right. They are getting bigger.
I went to the church basement, and he was right again. I found just a few cans of food. Everything was gone. I am at the mercy of my pets’ instincts. They are better than mine.
George was also right about another thing. Somehow, the cold doesn’t bother me like before. I noticed that I can’t distinguish colors any more. Maybe I am adapting to the new circumstances. Maybe I am beginning to mutate.
I have been wandering around for so long that time and space has lost their meaning. I haven’t seen any other human being. I don’t even know how old I am. I wonder if I am the last man on earth or just another victim of the future!
Story by S. Florence and J.A. Castillo. Illustration copyright 2007 by J.A. Castillo. Names, characters, places and incidents featured in this publication either are the product of the authors’ imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons (living or dead), without sarcastic intent, is purely coincidental.