by Sarah Elisabeth Newman
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
“I’m Mark.” It was all they needed to say.
Mark smiled and held out his hand. Annie took it, and they walked together across the empty world.
There was no one else. Mark and Annie were all that was left of humanity. For so long, Mark thought he was the last. But now he had found her.
They started a life. Occupied a small house. Tried to repopulate. Annie feared they would never have children; Mark didn’t care. If they were the only two left, they should be happy until they died. Let humanity go out on a good note.
And they were happy. For a while.
Mark sat with Annie on their front porch. They gazed over their garden, which had been someone’s front lawn at some point, to the destroyed road and houses beyond.
“This is good,” Mark said. “I’m so glad we’re together here.”
“If only it didn’t have to end,” Annie said wistfully, sighing. She was sitting beside him, leaning into his chest. Their arms wrapped around each other.
He frowned. “It doesn’t. Not until we die.”
“Oh, no. Much sooner than that.”
Now he was upset, worried, and without a reason that he could understand. “Why, sweetheart?”
“Because, Mark, I’m not real.” Annie gazed sadly up at him, her blue eyes shining with unshed tears. “Soon, you will have to wake up.”
“What…? Don’t be ridiculous. No!”
“Yes, darling.” She sat up and kissed him. “I’m only a dream.”
Mark cupped her face in his hands, brushing the drops from her cheeks. “Dreams don’t cry,” he whispered. He was beginning to panic.
“We do,” Annie said gently.
“Why?” It was a question directed to their situation, not her statement. She didn’t know, or she chose not to understand.
She looked away, her gaze focused on something he couldn’t see. “We don’t want to die.”
Mark felt his world begin to slip away and grabbed his love. “Don’t leave me, Annie!” he cried.
Annie kissed his lips gently, for the last time, but he barely felt her. “Goodbye, my love…”
Sunlight slanted through his window, alerting him to the new day. The scent of fresh coffee wafted through his apartment, brewed automatically every morning. Birdsong, neighbors chattering, and car horns drifted through the thin walls to him.
Mark felt the bed beside him, searching for something. But there was no one; there never had been. Mark had always been on his own.
For a moment, this thought made Mark terribly sad. So very sad. He didn’t know why as it wasn’t a new development. It had always been like this. But when he touched his face, his fingers became wet with tears.