The Last Human. Short Story.

Barry had sat in his apartment for two weeks, alternating between crying and praying. The water had started to turn a dark brown after the ninth day, he had enough bottled up and stored to last almost another week, the food though, that was the problem. He had been running out steadily since it happened. He had stocked up only the day before, a lot of pasta and rice, non-perishable’s. That had been a lucky break though he hadn’t gotten enough to last him more than a week. With rationing he was able to stretch it out a little. Not enough though. He didn’t want to leave himself emaciated and too weak to fight if they got in. He heard them breaking into the apartments around his. The steady, methodical thudding, the moaning, the screams as they broke through and devoured what ever or who ever was inside. They had left his apartment alone so far. He didn’t know why, he didn’t question it either. The only thing that mattered was that he was still safe. He had planned his escape route, should they break through the door and the barricades he had set up. The balconies on either side of his were close enough to jump to, the zombies didn’t seem very coordinated and he didn’t think they’d be able to do it. He could move sideways and, if he really needed, he could probably managed to drop down a floor or two if he was really careful. It seemed like a very good plan, at least it did when it was all just hypothetical. Now that the food and water were running out and the plan became a real possibility, it didn’t seem so great. The moaning and banging in his building had died off a little, he suspected that most of those that were banging around still were those who had gotten stuck somewhere, or locked into their apartment. The main danger would be taking down the barricade he had put against the door when it all first started.

He had been sitting on the balcony, having a smoke when he saw them shuffle onto the street, at first he thought it was some kind of flash mob or performance art, until the screams started. He watched as people were devoured and gored and as they too rose and staggered off. It wasn’t acting, no one was that good, that convincing. No special effects make up could recreate the gore in real time. He had shoved his couch up against the door, followed by throwing everything he could on top of it. It resulted in a haphazardly thrown together pile that had no real starting or end point. Barry’s main worry was that moving anything at all would cause it to collapse, alerting anything nearby that he was inside.

It was no use. He needed to leave, find food, water. He started to dismantle the barricade, not bothering to be too quiet. If they heard him they’d all come and start banging on the door, they’d break it down and flood in to find an empty apartment. While they were beating in the door he planned to move a few apartments over. They’d all be distracted and corralled into a small space. He couldn’t be sure it would lure everyone, but it would be a good start.

Every so often he paused and listened, waiting for the inevitable moans, but none came. He had cleared the door entirely and there was still nothing. He looked through the peephole, but it was too dark to see anything properly. He grabbed his backpack and put it on. Perhaps they were getting more intelligent, that was possible, after all if they could come back from the dead, whose to say they’d remain stupid? It wasn’t exactly known territory they were going into. Maybe they were outside, waiting for him to step out, then they’d all attack. It seemed a little too sophisticated, but he couldn’t say for sure that wasn’t the case. He turned on his torch and took a deep breath, then he unlocked the door and pulled it open a crack. He shined the light into the hall and after a few seconds, stuck his head out for a better look. The hall was empty, there were still banging noises and thuds about the building, though they were getting fainter as time went on. Maybe they all just thought he was another zombie, stuck and bashing against something, trying to get out. They didn’t attack other zombies, not that he had seen. Maybe they would, down the line when they were all starving after running out of humans to munch on.

The hallway didn’t smell as bad as he had expected, it was only slightly worse than what he had experienced in his apartment. A smell of stale blood, rotting meat, shit and bile. The hallway was splattered in fluids, Barry was thankful it was too dark to see most of it. He made his way down the hall slowly, listening every few steps to make sure he was alone. One of the upsides was that the dead weren’t very stealthy. He’d be able to hear them coming. The only danger in here was being penned in. Once he was outside he would be able to move through them. He hoped that they had spread out of the city, making them less dense. He wanted to move to open areas, places where he’d have options and there would be less chance of a dead end.
he reached the stairwell without incident, he opened the door and peered in. Again, it too seemed empty. The smell in here was strong, the thick air almost felt as though it was pushing back against him. He rooted around his pocket until he found what he was looking for, an old penny. He threw it into the stairwell and listened to it clatter as it fell. There was no other noises. Barry took a deep breath, then stepped inside. The door closed behind him, if not for the torch he would be in complete darkness. He hoped that any zombie that tried to take the stairs had fallen, potentially bashing their heads in, if not breaking their spines. He moved down the stairs carefully, there were splatterings of gore here and there but he was able to avoid them for the most part.

He was almost to the bottom floor when he saw it. Slumped against the wall, head down. Whoever it was was obviously dead, but he wasn’t sure if they were undead or not. He only had a length of wood for a weapon, and he wasn’t entirely sure it wouldn’t break on the first hit. He needed to either get past them, or give them one good blow before it realised he was even there. He took another step closer, his breathing was becoming rapid, he couldn’t hear if that thing was breathing or not, hell he didn’t know if zombies even breathed. They needed food, why not air? He suppressed a giggle, he had to keep it together. Just a little further and he would be outside. He stepped closer, the thing moved, it looked up at him, its pale eyes meeting his. He shrieked before he could stop himself. It was different, seeing them up close like this. They were actually real. He swung the stick, it shattered on its head. He couldn’t even think of it was a woman, a person. It was neither, it was a thing. Barry froze. It didn’t work, the stick had broken, the zombie was still alive. He had to turn and run, he had to do something before it started to come after him. Before he could make a decision, the zombie dropped its head again, seemingly dismissing him entirely. Barry moved closer, it didn’t react. He edged his way by, getting ready to break into a run if needed, but the zombie didn’t move again. Maybe it was too weak to go after him, already close to its second death. He stumbled into the lobby, the door slamming behind him. He didn’t notice the sound, he was just so glad to be out of the stairwell and in the lobby where there was space and light and air. He stumbled a few feet then stopped. The lobby was full of zombies. They were milling about aimlessly, drifting in and out of the shattered doors. None turned, none looked at him. They didn’t seem to notice or care about his presence. Barry took a slow and tentative step forward. The zombies continued what they were doing. One or two glanced at him, but then they continued on. Barry picked his way through the crowd, careful not to touch them, terrified that what ever spell seemed to hold them would break at any second and they would descend on him. But it didn’t happen. He stepped outside into the streets, there were more zombies outside. More than there appeared to be from his balcony. They too ignored him. Heart thudding in his chest, Barry started to walk, scanning around himself to make sure nothing noticed him.

Barry stood on the outskirts of the city. Nothing had stopped him, nothing had tried to attack him. They didn’t seem to even realise he was there. He scanned the horizon, trying to decide on a direction. He couldn’t be the only one, there had to be more people like this, people who were immune or something. He’d find them, they’d be in the cities, travelling along the roads. He couldn’t be the last human. Barry took a deep breath, then started walking. He’d find others like him. He knew he would.

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About Alan James Keogh

I am a 24 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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