What survives when everything else crumbles? Will cities be reclaimed by nature? Will our pictures, our films, our recordings, will they deteriorate over time and leave the future with no evidence that we were ever here? People decay, metal deteriorates, memories fade. So if this really is our end, how will the world remember that we were ever here? If they win, if in the end we're all turned into them, and then our bodies decompose over time; how will the world remember that there was some good in this world? How will these writings of mine survive over time?
How do we leave our mark on the world when it will eventually be forgotten? Will there be an equally mythical being out there, ready to determine what is worth preserving? If there is a God, why doesn't He come down now, in our time of peril? Does He test us, to see if we are evolutionarily capable of adapting to our new environment? Or has He left us for a new, more perfect people that He has created, in some distant universe?
Or maybe it's simpler than that. Maybe He knows we'll adapt. It will be difficult, many will perish, but we'll survive. I used to watch something on TV, detailing how people sacrificed everything from money to a limb just to be able to survive. Maybe that's all we're dealing with.
If there is a God, is He toying with us or is He somehow helping us survive through this?
The fire at the state university lasted for days. The ashes flew everywhere, the smoke suffocated everything outside. For some reason, they had no need of lungs. We would see some of them with soot coming out of their mouths. We found one gas mask from the garage of one of the houses in the neighbourhoods (some guy whose principal hobby was pimping out their ride). This meant only one of us was able to go out of the house without breathing in the toxic air.
We are baffled by how it only took this long for the smoke to be able to reach us. We are even more baffled by how we weren't able to notice the fire when it started. When we got to the state university, the fire had obviously been going on for a while. We are satisfied with leaving it to the weather and to the fact that tall condo buildings obscured our view of the state university.
Susana was happy with staying inside. She didn't do much other than stare outside a window facing the university with the people in it. I kept telling her we could go there, but she insisted otherwise. "It's too risky," she would argue. "For all you know there are bad people in there. They could take the car, take our supplies. They could find the mansion and God knows what they might do to me."
She was right, of course. It wasn't worth the risk. We both knew that you had to be cautious about who you trusted. But even I was curious. The whole world was ending, why did those people at the university bother to keep the place clean? If the grass was green, if the trees were tall and if the flowers were blossoming, would that really help them survive?
As far as we knew, our supplies would be able to last us at least a year. Most of the houses in the neighbourhood have been cleared out, which meant that if we wanted to keep scavenging we'd have to go out of the neighbourhood, and we both decided that for the moment it wasn't worth the risk.
We both knew why she didn't want to go. Seeing those people run into that university gave her hope, finding out that her sister isn't one of those people in there would take all that hope away from her.
We were seeing more and more of "people". The mansion was really tall and we were able to see far and wide. It's usually groups of three or four, carrying bags, wearing masks and moving fast. I would only see them for a few seconds before they would disappear into another house, sometimes they would stop to kill one of them before running off completely. Susana and I knew it would only be a matter of time before they would come here to scavenge for supplies. We hadn't thought about preparing for what we would do should they come.
Two weeks passed and one night I heard somebody opening the door. Instinctively, I took the shotgun from the side of the bed (which I do every morning) and headed to the side of the door, where I would wait for them to come to me.
"Doesn't look like he stays here, the place isn't clean," said the voice of a man somewhere in the house, loud enough for me to hear.
"Yes because they care about cleanliness in a time like this," said a second voice, the voice of a woman.
"Well we keep everything clean, why can't we assume whoever would stay here also cleans up?" said the man.
"Because they aren't as uptight about the environment as we are," said the woman.
They were walking around downstairs. Weeks before, Susana had thought of keeping all our food and water at the top levels of the mansion for safety, which was a good idea as that meant the kitchen was cleaned out entirely.
"There's nothing here," said the woman, "it looks like somebody's already cleaned up the kitchen."
"Did you see the car? It looked like the car Paolo was talking about, like a car from one of those racing games where you could shoot rockets from the hood of your car."
"He also said whoever was driving it was insane," said the woman.
"That's why Sheila and Paolo are outside keeping watch. The padlock on the gate hasn't been touched for days, which makes me think that nobody's here. I'll go check upstairs."
I heard footsteps, which was where I remembered something important: Susana. She was always sleeping in a different room every day. This day it was somewhere in the third floor, which was lucky for me.
"Looks like bedrooms!" shouted the man, the voice coming from the hall, his footsteps getting louder and louder.
"Not so loud, moron!" the woman shouted from below.
"If those things were here, don't you think we would have heard or smelled something by now? We're pretty loud."
"That isn't what I'm worried about, idiot! And we wouldn't be able to smell them; the ash is clogging up everything. That's why we have gasmasks!"
The man didn't answer. I think he was able to assume what the woman was talking about: that someone else who is alive might be living in the mansion, and might be hostile. If he was thinking that, he was right. His footsteps became light; every time he would open a door I would hear a faint creaking sound. Either the man knew someone else was there or he was just being cautious. I'd like to think he was just being cautious, I hadn't moved or made a noise since I heard them entering. Maybe Susana was making noise, but she was in the floor above us, which would mean even I would have heard her.
He was getting closer to my room. I had positioned myself on the other side of the door. The only problem would be if he kicked in the door, which would mean I would act like a doorstopper and he would be aware of something on the other side of the door, which might raise an alarm. Hopefully, he won't do that, as he is still being cautious enough not to make any loud noises or sudden movements.
His hand gripped the doorknob, slowly turning it and opening the door by an inch. With his pistol raised, he took a step into the room. He took another step; his body is fully in the room. He took another step; his eyes started scouting out the darkness.
I took two steps toward him, raising the shotgun and pointing it at the back of his head. He was obedient, his hands rose along with his pistol, his trigger finger safely away from the trigger itself. He was right handed, and so was I. The shotgun was resting on my right shoulder and his pistol was on his right hand, which meant that if I made a move to take the pistol from him I would have been in a vulnerable position, thus risking my position of power.
"Throw it onto the bed," I ordered softly. He did as ordered, the pistol bouncing lightly and his right hand back in place in the air. "Where did you people come from?"
"The university," he answered. His tone was shaking. He was afraid.
"I have questions. You have answers. What happened to the state university?"
"They burned it down."
"How the hell would I know? Those people in the state university or something."
Something cold was pushed up against the back of my head. My heart raced as fear gripped the shotgun in my hands.
"Drop the shotgun. Drop it!" ordered the voice of a woman as she pushed the barrel of the gun in her hand harder into my neck. "Drop it now!" I didn't drop it, the man I was holding up at gunpoint turned around and took the gun from me, after which he hit me with the butt of the gun. I felt a blinding pain, and then there was nothing.
Why did I become hostile towards them? Is a society in peril totally incapable of trusting other people? It would be safer to be cautious rather than open, as all chances would point to any stranger you meet stealing everything you own and leaving you for dead.
What legacy would we leave behind when in the time that we need every living being, we would gladly kill them and take everything they have for our own survival? If we continue to ignore the big picture, would we die out? If we can't trust anyone, what would make us different from them?
Is this a test of how much our humanity can take? If so, I'm not sure we're going to pass.