I had a vibe in mind for this prompt, an atmosphere, a sort of fin-de-Anthropocene gloom that I wanted to evoke with my deathless prose. Then I read this incredible flash fiction by Sharon Telfer, realised I could never do any better, and took to my fainting couch for a week.
But I rallied! And did my best, with this COVID-19-inspired flash.
Very happy to welcome a new contributor, Ann Whiting, with this short story:
The last house of the last passenger
He barricaded himself in, said it was his home and no one was going to take it from him; still strong enough to drag two-by-four wooden planks from the garden, he hammered six inch nails into their depths. Soon he would fly on angel’s wings to his beloved’s home and she’d greet him as she’d always had with a smile as alluring and warm as freshly baked bread. One hug from her and he was healed.
She’d died there, in his arms, and he needed to know she’d know where to find him when his time came. There was nowhere else he was going to die.He’d prepared his exit carefully, stopped the medication weeks ago. The cut backs in health care were a godsend to him. No one checked on him daily anymore. He’d fallen through the net.
His heart fluttered weakly now, the exertion had after all taken its toll so he rested in the chair, dreaming of her face lying close to his once more. This would be his last home and he would be the last passenger out of here. The last one to take flight on angel’s wings. He slept in his cosy armchair, dozing lightly. When the angel came, it looked like her, so he flew away with her into the blue sky and never looked back.
Beneath him, the authorities were breaking down his door to remove him to a ‘place of safety,’ also known as a Care Home, before the demolition men could be moved into the street, his street, where his children had played.
They found him in his favourite chair as if asleep, smiling as if at some private joke. He’d checked himself out, taken flight and evaded their control. The last passenger had departed his home on his own terms, not theirs, and there was a sense of triumph for him at least in that.
Outside, the engines of the bull-dozers growled waiting to leap into action but now there’d have to be an investigation into his death which would delay the demolition by months at least. Time enough for questions to be raised about the purchase of the land and their methods and perhaps for the truth to come to light…
The last passenger’s intentions began to immediately take flight.
Please also enjoy this poem from Caroline Walling, in which the Earth speaks to the last human…
This it is.
Time to leave.
Could I not?
I’m tired of you riding my back
Spinning my axis for you
This is your final time
But my home is with you.
It’s always been this way.
How your memory is thin!
But you are my world!
Not any more
I needed time
You wasted it
I’m no longer your prize
Your infinite feast
Please, get off.
Where shall I go?
Where they all go
In the end,
From where they came,
and I shall be the happier for it.
it’s time to leave.
And I’m delighted to have a poem from Jane Burn too!
The poor, the sick and the needy are already dispersed, dissolved,
divided up or dead. They will not be going forward into our Pure New World.
Did you think those sci-fi films were wrong? They were premonitions.
We super-rich got our heads together many years ago to shield ourselves
from such what ifs. Put our money where our mouths were. Why d’you think
we never really seemed to care enough while the Earth blazed and water
reclaimed the land? Remember Noah? That big blot on the horizon is our Ark.
This is our Plan B and yet I cannot help but want this one last glance,
barren and blistered though this place be. So I took the last in a long line
of temporary tents, have watched the loading of our privileged exodus.
Survival of the fittest, you see. Fat Cats will always land upon their feet.
We will be angels, mounting a ramp that rests on the slain – the ones
that tried, with their pauper’s hope and ruined bones, to join the Chosen Few
and now waste, with bullet addled skulls and bloody skins beneath our feet.
I walk away from the camp – the last place I ever lived, on this planet,
at least. Wind snatches at silk like a lover gone wrong, snaps at the hold
of guy ropes, takes shreds of it into wasted air to remind the sky of birds.