The Earth has been hit by a doomsday asteroid, carrying civilization to the brink of extinction. As far as the two survivors know, they are the last of humankind, locked in a bunker below the sizzling surface.
Compatibility is September’s Flash Fiction that introduces readers into a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story that is a stand-alone sequel to Red Then White.
Dreaming of Memories
A golf-ball-sized sphere remains stationary in front of a matte black sheet of paper. The ball is painted in blue, green, and white blotches to represent the ocean, land, and clouds. The black space around is covered in tiny white dots. Earth. The planet that everyone has named home. Calling another world home is a far-fetched idea, with space travel being a dream. The astronomical distance to other Earth-like planets is mind-boggling. Even the idea of light years is tough for many people to grasp in a practical sense. Scientists have many theories about how we can travel the vast distances of the stars, often proposing yet-undeveloped technologies. There is also the possibility that the human race will kill itself off before developing a form of energy for space travel. None of this changes the fact that we are fascinated by the stars.
The man leans down to look at the model of Earth more closely, inspecting the tiny moon attached to the planet by a wire. He eyes each of the major continents of Earth before sighing. He can’t help but wonder where it all went wrong. If only humans had learned to work together sooner.
“You examine that every day,” says a cold feminine voice, echoing in the bright white-and-chrome room.
The man gets up, facing the woman, who is at a kitchen bar, boiling water on a stovetop.
“Yeah,” he says, walking over and leaning against the counter. “We’ve been down here for so long, I wonder if I will start to forget what the surface is like.”
“Is your memory that bad, Mr. Morin?” the lady asks.
“I’m not sure,” the man says. “I hope not. It’s just a concern of mine.”
“Do you think staring at that miniature model of the planet will help?”
“No,” the lady says, opening a foil packet of oats and pouring the contents into the boiling water. “Humans are resilient; we can rebuild. That is what we did after the great empires had fallen. Take the Egyptians and the Romans, for example.”
“I know, I know.”
The Big Picture
The man looks up at the ceiling, over to a closed hatch at the far corner of the room. A ladder is just below it, beside a console that glows red. He nods at the glowing light. “How long do we have to wait, though?” he asks. “It might not even be our generation.”
The woman stirs the contents of the pot with a wooden spoon. “Yes, which is why we have to stick to our set routine. Keep healthy and procreate.” She glares at him, reinforcing her statement. “It isn’t a matter of intimacy.”
The man scratches the back of his head. “It might help if you called me by my first name,” he says.
“All right, Mason, we can do that. Can we try tonight?”
“Sure,” Mason says.
He wouldn’t be so difficult to work with if she was a bit more human. Her choice to use his last name and her strange, cold tone of voice weren’t turn-ons. He didn’t even mind the shaved head—plus, shaving helped save on the limited shampoo supplies. The truth was, sex was the last thing on his mind. Of course, he understood that the interaction was only to carry on the human species. For all they knew, he was the last man on Earth, and she was the last woman. Humanity potentially came down to just them. The act of procreation was also a difficult one when it involved this automaton of a woman.
She’s nothing like Chloe, he thinks. Oh, how Mason wishes to find out who those pricks in the sky were that took his girl from him. Why couldn’t she be the last woman with him?
“How did you get selected again, Abigail?” Mason asks.
“For this program?” the woman asks. “No different than you.”
“That’s the funny thing,” Mason says. “I’m not sure if I fully recall.”
Abigail squints. “Your memory isn’t that good. We’ll have to perform more mental exercises to correct this. Hopefully it isn’t a defect in your genetics.” She pours the oatmeal out of the pot and into two separate bowls. “Here, eat, and we will begin our morning analysis of the surface.”
“Maybe I bumped my head,” Mason says, recalling driving. The mountains. Red, then white. That’s all.
“Unlikely,” Abigail says coldly. “We monitor our health daily. It would have been flagged in the console.”
Mason takes the bowl and moves the contents around with the spoon, feeling the heat absorbed by the metal utensil. He can feel. He is alive. “Can you refresh my memory on how we got here?”
Abigail places the pot on an unused element and takes her bowl. “Well, we all took DNA tests, and then were psychologically evaluated. The results dictated who would be a suitable candidate to continue the human race.”
“Right, I remember,” Mason says while eating. Truthfully, he still doesn’t remember the events that brought him to this underground bunker. He remembers being told how he got here by Abigail. Everything seems like a blur. One day he was living a normal life, had a steady job, a wife, and the next, he found himself here. There is a gap in his memory.
Chloe. His last memory of his wife was that damned road trip to Jasper. That natural blonde babe was so obsessed with her job. Work seemed like a trivial thing now that he was apart from her. His life consisted of physical exercise, studying in the archives, and daily reviews of the Earth’s temperature levels with the robots on the surface. They still had no answers as to what happened in Jasper. Chloe was just gone, and he couldn’t remember anything else.
Mason looks up at his companion. “How many more of us do you think there are?”
“What do you mean?” Abigail asks. “Of the human race?”
“I guess I meant humans in the bunkers. There have to be more.”
“Not to my knowledge. There wasn’t enough time to build more before the asteroid hit.”
Asteroid. A word that Mason is pondering over. He does have a chunk of memory missing, but he’s sure those lights were no asteroid. “But they had enough time to do a screening process?”
“I didn’t build the program. The UN did in hopes of keeping our species alive. Be thankful that you survived.”
“I fear I might go insane down here.”
“That is why they put the program guide together, so we have a purpose every day. I am no different than you. I signed up in hopes of surviving.”
“Yeah,” Mason says. “That’s true. I wonder if any doomsday-preppers managed to survive through this.”
“I guess our offspring will be the ones to find out about that when the ash clears,” Abigail says.
Mason nods. He doesn’t have any further comment.
The concept of living the rest of his life in this bunker with Abigail was not a pleasant thought. They had few to no common interests. They had been in the shelter for several months, if his memory served correctly. Then again, his mind wasn’t very reliable as of late.
The two finish their breakfast and leave the kitchen, entering a secondary room, equipped with two monitors mounted to the ceiling. Each monitor has a white office chair in front of it. Both Mason and Abigail sit down on a chair and wave at the monitors, turning them on. Each morning, after their workout and breakfast, the two analyze the latest information the drones have gathered over the past twenty-four hours. The robots are graded for space exploration and can easily survive the harsh temperatures on the surface. They are fully equipped with cameras and measuring equipment to test the planet’s livability.
The monitor showcases a smaller live-cam of the drone Mason manages. The video displays an ash-covered wasteland with a grey sky. The digital interface also contains stats of the drone’s health, menus, and a map outlining how far the drone has gone from the bunker. At the top right is the temperature: 148° C.
“Dammit,” Mason mumbles. He’d had a small amount of hope that maybe they would see a change in temperature. But it has stayed the same for the past week, give or take a few digits.
“What?” Abigail asks.
“Nothing. The readings seem to be the same as they were yesterday, and the day before.” Mason waves his hand to enhance the drone’s live-cam.
Abigail turns back to her interface. “We aren’t looking for hope, Mason. We are simply monitoring the aftermath for future generations.”
“Right,” Mason says. He merely wants to believe there is more. Each time he reviews the stats, his hope dims. Abigail and Mason are the last people on Earth.
Duty to Humankind
Just like every day, the two move on with their routine of planetary diagnostics, studying, meditation, and eating. The activities are what the UN’s program guide has instructed them to do. Abigail doesn’t question it, and Mason follows, knowing if he doesn’t, he would probably go crazy. He’s no psychologist and has to admit the routine helps him stay focused. Even then, his mind falls back to Chloe, and he has to fight through his memories to get back into the moment.
After dinner, Mason and Abigail patrol the halls to ensure they did the daily inventory check and to review the general health of the bunker. As it is every day, everything is in order. The task generally takes a couple of hours, leaving one more task before leisure time: procreation. Great, the one task Mason doesn’t want to do. The task is on the list, and he has avoided it repeatedly. But he signed up for this. It’s just Abigail and Mason. The new Adam and Eve.
The bedroom lights are brought to level three of ten, creating a soft glow over the black sheets. At least the mood is right. Mason finishes showering, drying himself from head to toe. Abigail sits on the bed, hands on her lap. He wraps the towel around his waist, walks over to the bed, and sits beside her.
“Would you like to undress me?” Abigail asks.
Mason shakes his head. “You aren’t good at this.”
Abigail exhales and unbuttons her blouse.
Mason watches as she slips out of her shirt and pants. Her body is well-toned—hell, way better than his own. Her breasts are basically what other women paid top dollar to recreate. Abigail’s physique is a frame that most men would fantasize over. In an unclear series of events, Mason has found himself as the last ‘lucky’ guy on the planet who gets to live that fantasy. Yet he can’t give less of a damn.
Abigail leans back onto the pillows, resting her hands on her legs. “Come here,” she says.
Mason stiffly crawls over on top of her, eyeing her from her smooth legs up to her pink lips. She fits the definition of beauty, yet he doesn’t feel a thing for her. Shouldn’t he feel something for the woman who would care for his future children? Maybe it doesn’t matter. They are truly the last people on Earth, and they have a duty to humanity. The act of sex was instinctual with Chloe. Why is this so difficult for him? Perhaps the concept of being the last humans is rotting in the back of his mind. Maybe he is distressed by not knowing what happened to his memories or his wife.
Abigail gently runs her hand against the back of his neck, bringing him closer. At this near distance, a red glow sheens over her iris, making Mason resist momentarily, stopping his face from meeting Abigail’s. He blinks, and the blotch goes away. It’s probably the stress getting to him.
“Are we going through this again?” Abigail asks.
Mason blinks a couple of times. “I can’t recall what happened to Chloe.” He rolls off Abigail and presses into his forehead, trying to remember something. Anything. He can’t.
Abigail sits up beside him. “You’re overthinking this. We’ve endured the impossible, being alive today when everything else is gone.”
“I . . . red . . . ,” Mason mumbles as Abigail takes his hand and pulls him towards her, leaning into the sheets.
Mason exhales through his nose as they kiss, pushing the thought-chatter aside for one moment. They will procreate. They will have children and continue the human race. His eyes open briefly, seeing another red shimmer in Abigail’s half-open eyes. He recalls red eyes. Yes. Chrome flooring. The recognition is dismissed as Abigail’s soft hands glide over his genitals. The pleasure is overpowering as their naked forms press against one another, limbs intertwining. Mason’s resistance fades as she stimulates his primal desires. His thoughts are gone as he embraces the woman, melting his newfound memories for the sake of humanity.
Leave a Reply