They never really told you what to expect after the world ended. Marc Rhysson had seen loads of movies about the end of the world and read more than a few books. But they all seemed to neglect the ‘after’ part. A few hinted that after the shouting was past it was time to knuckle down and rebuild society. It would have been nice if they’d gone into a bit of detail; maybe then he’d have an idea of what to do. Marc was . . . well, Marc had been a helicopter pilot. In fact, taking his whirlybird out for a test flight was probably the reason he was still alive now. He had gotten a bird’s eye view when the sea decided to swallow the United Kingdom.
He didn’t know what could cause a tsunami of such proportions in the Atlantic. Of course he knew that tsunamis were caused by earthquakes, but they normally didn’t wipe entire countries off of the map. The UK was just a set of island chains now. Ironically enough, from what he could tell, Scotland and Wales had fared best. The mountains and hills of the west country had sheltered some of the lowlands from the initial wave, but the sea just kept rising.
And he hadn’t found any other survivors.
Marc knew they had to be out there. There had to be some other people. He hopped his helicopter from mountaintop to mountaintop until the fuel was gone. Then he took to trekking across the hills. He found homes and vehicles undamaged by water, so there must have been survivors somewhere. Maybe they’d been evacuated? The radio in his helicopter was built in, but he’d found a portable one in a lorry and took that with him. He scanned the frequencies often, calling out for someone, anyone to answer him. There had to be someone else. There. Had. To. Be.
But no one answered.
Weeks went by, then months. He kept batteries in the radio and left it to ‘Scan’ so it would pick up activity on any channel, but there was nothing but static. Marc found enough mountain streams and a few stashes of bottled water in high altitude shops to get by and he could catch fish and birds to eat. He wasn’t looking forward to winter, but even then he could probably hole up and survive.
If there was a point to surviving.
He wasn’t so sure about that anymore. He could meet his physical needs, but the solitude …it was doing things to his mind. He’d talk to himself for days on end, then not speak for weeks afterward. He’d found a talking doll in a home and sat and pulled her string over and over, just for the joy of hearing another voice. The doll introduced herself as Madison and spoke with an American accent.
Marc took the little girl doll, answering her insipid questions about playing and being friends and inventing wild stories about why his ‘daughter’ was American. He has studied abroad in university; Madison was the result of a night of passionate love with a shy but sweet poetry major. Or maybe her mother had been at a wild frat party and it took her this long to track him down. Or perhaps that shapely tourist getting the helicopter tour of Wales had become with child, or –
Marc was aware this probably wasn’t the healthiest way of dealing with the solitude, but it beat the living hell out of just bearing it.
In this latest home he’d found something that might help. It was an old pistol, starting to rust with neglect. But still . . . it had bullets and revolvers didn’t need electricity to work. Was this really how he would go? Surviving a disaster that wiped out an entire nation only to commit suicide? But he was just so alone . . . they said it was a sin, but God would understand, wouldn’t he? These were extenuating circumstances.
Marc left the pistol on the kitchen table and went looking for other resources. The house turned up some canned pasta and a few bottles of wine. Marc ate the pasta and drank the wine, staring at the gun the entire time. Once his meal was done, he threw the dishes against the wall, then followed them with the empty wine bottles. Then he burst into tears. He didn’t want to die, but he didn’t want to go on like this. Marc picked up the gun, put it to his temple, lowered it, then went and got his doll and held her to his chest. He raised the gun once more.
“All right, Lord. If you don’t want me to kill myself, give me a sign.”
It was hard to say which was louder; the extremely enthusiastic howl from the radio, Marc’s startled scream, or the retort of the pistol firing as he pulled the trigger in his shock. He quickly ducked under the table to avoid the ricocheting bullet.
“’This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,--’”
Marc peered out from behind his chair at the radio strapped to his backpack. It was talking. There was a voice on the other end. And it was quoting Shakespeare.
“’This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England!’”
A woman’s voice, Marc noted, with an American accent. Very high, almost childlike, with a slight squeak to it. It was not the voice of a radio presenter, an actress, or anyone else paid to talk. It was the voice of a real person.
“Actually,” the voice continued in a normal tone. “If my charts are right, I think this is Wales. The land of my father’s birth! Goooooooooooooooooooood morning, Wales!”
Marc recognized that insipid ‘I’ve been talking to myself too long’ tone all too well. Wait . . . this lady had been alone, too. What if they were the only ones left?!
“Ah, Wales! Land of . . . Scotland is the thistle, Ireland is the shamrock, England is the rose . . . Wales is the . . .is the . . . I should know this. There’s a dragon on the flag.”
Marc keyed the mic on his radio.
“Wales is the leek,” he informed the speaker.
There was a long pause.