Jake cursed as he banged the heavy radiation shutters
tight. He knew it was best not to watch. Anyway, he
did not care to watch the sun rise large, red and
malevolent through the dust that swirled harsh on the
far hills of the eastern horizon. It was not easy to be
the last human on Earth.
He got down to checking the few monitors that were
still working. Routine helped. Something to focus on.
Anything that could take his mind away from the
loneliness, from the sense of being left behind, from
the whispers that were always just below the
threshold of hearing, from the voices that hid in the
sad songs of the wind as it danced through the
unwholesome dust of the dying Earth.
A little scurrying noise caused Zake to look behind.
He turned slow and steady, no need to scare them so
they would slip back into those dark corners that they
liked so much.
"So, where are my little guys hiding and what are you
plotting now?" He spoke out loud. Apart from the
Goblins, there was no one to hear, to reply, to
criticize, to approve, to care.
However, there were always the Goblins. It was way
back in the early years of his isolation that he had
first conjured up these mischief-making companions.
Looking back, he sometimes wished he might have
picked on a rather more benign species to populate
the loneliness of his mind, Elves or Fairies perhaps.
But there are some things that cannot be undone.
Then he would remember his reasoning, for
companions who are much too nice might soon
become just too boring. So he had wanted Goblins
and now he had Goblins lurking in that space
between what is real and what is not.
A blinking light on the main board caught his eye and
drew a quickening heart beat. It called him to a
message incoming from way out in deep space. It
was always from way out these days for this was the
posting that no one else would take. He tidied his hair
and collar line before hitting the switch. He needn't
have bothered for there was no video link, no action
required, just another advert for something he didn't
need and couldn't order that had wormed its sneaky
way past the filters.
Then it was time to check the water. One after
another, Zake's heavy boots rang loud on the bare
rungs of the access ladder. When you're all alone you
take care on ladders. You remember there are no
medics, no back-up, and no nice nurse with cool
hands and a warm smile. As he stepped into the
partial darkness of the service tunnel he sniffed the
blast of cool air and caught a hint of mildew. He put
the fans on full.
All along the tunnel there were the little whispers and
an occasional hint of movement back in the shadows.
Things that were there but at the same time were not
there. He didn't like it when they were quiet and
today the Goblins seemed quieter than usual.
He checked the water every morning. For Zake this
was an act in which he saw a sense of history. These
were the end days. There would never be another
human on Earth and at the same time this was the
very last of the good water that had made Earth what
it once had been.
He had taken to enjoying his own jokes. As he said to
himself and sometimes to the Goblins, if he didn't
laugh then no one else would. Today, on his way to
the water he burst out giggling like a schoolgirl at his
new security measure, perhaps not very original but
surely effective. He thought of how many times the
same old joke might have been made in some form or
another down through the millennia when mankind
walked the Earth. But this would be the last time on
Earth and it was his time. He giggled all the more as
he pictured the carefully handwritten notice he had
pinned to the wall of the precious water storage
Please be advised.
I have peed in the water.
"That should keep it safe from these thieving little
Goblins," he said. However, as he drew close he saw
the notice was not quite as he had left it. For beneath
his steady measured words there was something new,
scrawled so carelessly that he had to look close to
And so have all of us.
Below this, on the notice and on the wall all around,
many strange and unpronounceable names had been
added with Zake's own pen but in as many different
hands as there were names to see.
In the months that followed, Zake spent many quiet
hours wondering about the effects of isolation on the
human mind and why the water tasted so salty.
All Alone was published in
Fantastic Frontiers Magazine