The End of Humanity
The world has ended. There have been speculations for centuries for how it would end: fire, water, explosions, war. However, humankind never expected it to end so soon. Nobody expected that in 2020, the last of humankind would be fighting to survive, and that they would have ever lost so much.
â€œHey,â€ Caleb said in commiseration, bringing down an oversized hand down to rest on Sageâ€™s narrower shoulders. â€œWe donâ€™t have to go through here. There probably isnâ€™t anything left. At least nothing worth saving.â€
â€œCaleb,â€ Sage scolded through a held back gasp in her throat, â€œdonâ€™t say that. We--we lived here,â€ she managed to press out with closed eyes. â€œIt canâ€™t just all be gone.â€ Sage said the word gone as if it was illicit.
Caleb took a deep breath, steadying himself against a potential breakdown. Sage had those quite frequently recently. She was just too tender and kind for this hell that was Earth. He wondered how long Sage would be able to keep that trait: she would either destroy it, or it would destroy her.
"Sage," Caleb said, trying to make his tone reasonable. "This isn't our home anymore." He inhaled slowly, filling his lungs with darkened air, before finishing his statement. "This isn't anybody's home. Not anymore."
"This was our life," Sage argued. "We had friends, family, a pool-â€
"Most of our lives were spent in an underground bunker, Sage," Caleb said, cutting her off sharply. "Twelve years, nine months, two weeks, three days, 14 hours, and 23 minutes. Sage, I remember the exact date and time we started living in that coffin, but I don't remember any of my childhood here. I don't. I lived here for seven years. You lived here for thirteen. And for three of those years you can't remember anything because you were a baby. This isn't our life Sage. Not anymore."
Caleb tried not to get too frustrated with his sister. Sage was his elder by a little over five years, but recently Caleb felt like he was the eldest. Sage had been through--well calling it rough would be an understatement. They all had, but Sage seemed to be a magnet for the worst of luck.
"Caleb, we lived in for Alaska that long," Sage reminded him. "We were only in the bunker for five years."
"Even Alaska was training for survival," Caleb said darkly. "We grew up too quickly Sage. You and I both."
"We don't have to go back," Sage said softly. "We don't ever have to go back. Lets focus on going forward."
Caleb noticed the raspy sound her voice made, and the tears framing the corners of her gray-blue eyes. He also noticed her delicate hand go to her stomach, if only for a brief moment.
He didn't know how much more his sister could take. Caleb almost considered praying but then vetoed the idea. There couldn't be a God, could there? The world had ended and Jesus hadn't come for the survivors. Caleb might have not always been the best person, but nobody could deny Sage passage to Heaven. The only way she could be denied is if it didn't exist.
And so Caleb kept steering the borrowed boat, not praying to a deity he wasn't sure he believed in anymore.
"Caleb," Sage said in warning. "Stop." She pointed to an open window of one of the flooded homes. "There might be supplies in there. Oh but it is really stealing? Caleb there must be some other way to live," Sage exclaimed in a false desperation. Caleb knew that Sage wasnâ€™t naive, at least, not naive enough to believe the statement she had just made.
"We aren't living," Caleb said blandly. "This is survival."
Caleb shifted slowly in his seat, facing Sage. His sister was once an incredible beauty. If their life was normal, Caleb knew that the boys would have been all over her, but ever cautious of their dad. Her body was thinner than it should have been for a woman who was pregnant only two months before, a result of hunger and life being an aÅ›s and using Sage as its personal punching bag. Sage's light hair was tangled and frizzy, and she was covered in filth with torn clothes. Circumstance had robbed her of being in her being a stunner, but still underneath all that, Caleb knew his sister was beautiful. And if they came into contact with other humans, Caleb knew that Sage would instantly have even more problems to deal with.
"We need to go to a pharmacy," Caleb decided. "You can't live like this, Sage. I'm worried about you. You shouldn't be moving like this after a miscarriage and losing Phillip. You need medicine. I'm no doctor but please, you're all I have left."
"I know," Sage said softly. "You're all I have left as well."
Both Caleb and Sage sat in a contemplating silence for a moment. Then it was broken by a short and bitter laugh from Sage. "Look at us," she had remarked bitterly. "We're a mess. How did we even end up like this? Why were we condemned to survive?"
Caleb didn't answer her questions. He knew the first one was rhetorical and he didn't even know where to begin looking for the answer to the second. Maybe it too was also rhetorical.
Caleb got the boat as close as he could to the open window. The water seemed still, so if Sage wanted to she could easily come with him into the house for supplies. However, he knew she probably wouldnâ€™t want to, and to be honest with himself, Caleb didnâ€™t exactly want her to either. Sage didnâ€™t like stealing. Caleb didnâ€™t exactly like it, but he didnâ€™t mind it either: he knew that it was necessary for their survival, and he would do whatever it took to survive. â€œSage do you want to-â€
â€œIâ€™ll stay,â€ Sage said, cutting him off. â€œJust go.â€ Caleb felt Sage watching him as he ascended up into the open window. People had always said Caleb's mismatched eyes were unnerving, but in reality Sage, with their motherâ€™s piercing gaze, was the one with the unsettling eyes; at least in Calebâ€™s opinion.
Caleb had to remember to crouch down low as he crossed the threshold, otherwise he would bang his head again. He was too tall to stand in these lofts and attics where supplies would be found, if there was anything left to be found anyway. He took a careful step forward, the moldy wooden floor creaking beneath him. He didn't have a flashlight, as they had lost it during an earthquake in Vancouver a week or two ago. Caleb wasnâ€™t sure about the specifics of time anymore, now only using basic relative terms such as morning, afternoon, and night. What was the point of knowing the exact time anymore? Every second, every minute, every hour, and every day that you lived was only bringing you closer to dying. Why would he count that?
Caleb made his way in the dark room, using the small amount of natural light coming in from the moon, searching for a flashlight or even a few matches. He wasnâ€™t picky, he just wanted to have light. And besides, each one had their own pros and cons. With whichever one he got, he would win, and he would also lose.
In his search Caleb wasnâ€™t really paying attention to bulky objects near his feet, so it wasnâ€™t really a surprise when he stubbed his toe on a half-opened box. â€œShÃ¬t!â€ He cried in alarm, pulling out his revolver instinctively, fingers resting on the trigger. When Caleb saw it was only a box he laughed tensely, thankful nobody was around to see what had just happened. He was the strong, mature, and dependable one. He always knew what to do in a time of crisis. He was the rock. Or at least, that was what was always expected of him, and over time he came to expect it of himself.
Caleb wouldnâ€™t ever admit this out loud, but he needed to be in control. That was why this calamity unnerved him more than it should have: he didnâ€™t know how to control any of it.
Caleb knelt down and rummaged through the box. He might find some useful supplies in it.
Or maybe not. The box turned out to be filled with mice, or maybe they were rats, Caleb really couldnâ€™t tell the difference. Sage was the one good at scientific stuff, not him. However as he quickly jerked his hand away, knowing over the box, he had a stroke of luck. A flashlight had rolled out of it.
Caleb picked it up, almost as if it were sacred. His back tensing up, Caleb scarcely breathed while he flicked the switch of the flashlight. Thankfully, his luck continued, as the flashlight turned on, illuminating what seemed to be a loft, in a bright yellowish-white light.
â€œCaleb!â€ Sageâ€™s voice rang in the distance, jarring Caleb out of his serene calm. â€œCaleb!â€ Her tone seemed to be rising into a panic.
Worried, Caleb rushed to the window, his flashlight still in hand. He wasnâ€™t losing this one. Life was so much harder without light. Peering out into the street frantically he saw dark, deadly water churning violently against the motorboat. And in the motorboat was Sage, who was incredibly fragile and basically helpless right now.
â€œShÃ¬t,â€ Caleb cursed under his breath at the asperity of the the current situation. â€œSage!â€ He called down to the frightened girl. â€œI am going to need you to swim to me. Can you do that?â€
Illuminated by the flashlightâ€™s beam, Caleb saw Sage nod with scrunched up eyes. A few seconds later he saw her dive in the dangerous waves, and he heard the clumsy splash. Sageâ€™s head bobbed above the water a few seconds later, only to be pushed back down under again. Caleb saw her choking water out of her mouth as she tried to swim against the brutal current. And she was failing. â€œShÃ¬t!â€ Caleb said for the third time in a row. He was pissed off at himself; he should have known that Sage couldnâ€™t swim in that in her current condition. By forgetting that little fact, Caleb feared that he might be killing the only person he had left in the world. "ShÃ¬t," he said again. It was really the only word that Caleb could currently think of to describe Sage's and his situation. Just shÃ¬t.
Caleb pulled off all his clothing except for his underwear in what had to be record speed. He wanted to have dry clothes afterwards and to be hypothermia free. While he couldn't exactly control the later, he could make sure of the earlier.
With a shiver, Caleb jumped in, feet first, into the water below. As he hit it, Caleb was dazed for a few seconds by the deep, bone-gnawing chill of it. However, as the current pulled him under, Caleb shook himself out of his daze, focusing at the task at hand. He had to get both him and Sage to safety, immediately. Taking a deep breath, Caleb submerged under the water and swam blindly towards Sage. He ended up gauging where he needed to go just right, as when he broke the surface, Sage was fighting against the waves approximately five feet away. â€œSage,â€ he called, â€œtry to swim towards me!â€
Sage nodded in understanding and started making her way towards Caleb, as he made his way towards her, shortening the distance needed for them to reach each other. Sage reached for Calebâ€™s hand, and her hand almost slipped out of his. â€œI got you,â€ Caleb said in forceful reassurance, grabbing her arm. â€œWeâ€™re going to be alright.â€
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ Sage sobbed while spitting out water. â€œThis is all my fa-â€
â€œWhat is?â€ Caleb challenged her fiercely. â€œYou didnâ€™t ask for this shÃ¬t! You wanted that baby, it isnâ€™t your fault that he died. And even if you had Jacob you still would be fragile and you know what?- I donâ€™t care! None of this shÃ¬t is your fault Sage!â€
Caleb hoped that would be a comfort to Sage; it was completely baffling when she only start to cry more.
â€œIâ€™m sorry,â€ Caleb blurted out quickly, unsure of what to say. â€œNow, hold on,â€ he commanded, pulling them both up with difficulty. Caleb wasnâ€™t as strong as the used to be but his determination to survive made up for it. Both him and Sage fell through the window shivering.
â€œIâ€™m going to look around for some towels and clothes for you,â€ Caleb told Sage, who was shivering violently. â€œTake off your clothes and wrap yourself in this,â€ he said while handing her his sweatshirt. â€œJust until we get you dry ones.â€ Sage nodded, wiping her runny nose, tears still falling out of her eyes. Caleb walked away from her as quickly as he could without breaking into a run. Sure he could save her from drowning, but getting her to stop crying was an entirely different matter that he couldnâ€™t handle.
Caleb shined the flashlight over the loft, searching for clothes and other supplies. Sage could look for trinkets that could be traded later. Sage had discovered that anything that could be crafted into something could be traded, if you ever came across another human, when she had traded cheap, poorly made earrings for medicine when Caleb had gotten frostbite. The man she had traded them with wanted his daughters to have something pretty and sparkly, Sage had told Caleb later.
And it wasnâ€™t a one time lucky thing either, Sage had done the same thing with knitting needles, getting herself a waterproof bag to hold all the miscellaneous junk she collected. Not that Sage felt happy about it, in fact she loathed gathering up peopleâ€™s old junk. Caleb didnâ€™t mind it, in fact if he saw valuables such as gold or silver, he took it without further thought. Except, he didnâ€™t tell Sage.
Caleb eventually found some boots, jeans, a holey-patterned long sleeved shirt-thingy, undergarments, and a brown leather jacket that he guessed would fit Sage. He also found a sleeping bag and some blankets, batteries, towels, and the jackpot: canned food, packaged bread, and Coca-Cola. There was a stove against the wall. Caleb would see if he could figure it out later. Right now he needed to get Sage dry clothes.
â€œHey,â€ Caleb said, bringing the supplies over to Sage. â€œI found you some stuff that might fit. Maybe?â€ He said, handing her what was now her clothes. â€œAnd I found supplies and food. Thereâ€™s Coke, Sage! Coke!â€ You would have thought it was manna from how Caleb was reacting.
â€œThatâ€™s great, Caleb,â€ Sage said tiredly, taking the clothes from him. She turned and faced the wall, pulling on her underclothes under Calebâ€™s Simon Fraser University sweatshirt, that he had nicked out of the university's store in Vancouver. Caleb looked away; it seemed wrong almost to look at his sister while she was so exposed and vulnerable. Caleb was pretty sure that with anybody else, except for a small child or old lady, he wouldnâ€™t have bothered to look away at all. So Caleb decided to do something useful and changed back into his clothes.
â€œCaleb catch,â€ Sage said, throwing him the sweatshirt. She was wearing the jeans already and was pulling the cream shirt over her head once she had thrown Caleb the sweatshirt. â€œAre there any clothes that fit you?â€ she asked him as she pulled on the jacket.
Caleb shook his head. â€œAll the guy clothes I saw were five sizes too small, and Iâ€™m not going to even go near wearing girl clothes. How does yours fit?â€ He asked her.
â€œUm,â€ Sage hesitated, â€œkinda?â€ Caleb gave her a questioning look to this response, willing her to go on. â€œThe shirtâ€™s a little big, and the jeans are really tight,â€ Sage told him, â€œbut the shoes fit.â€ Sage bent down and started laying out her damp clothing. â€œNow, you said there was Coke?â€ she said, trying to sound nonchalant.
â€œWant some?â€ Caleb asked.
â€œPossibly,â€ Sage said with teasing eyes.
â€œYou sure?â€ Caleb tease back, opening a bottle. â€œI could have it all to myself, you know? I mean it would be hard, but Iâ€™m willing to make that sacrificeâ€-
â€œJust give me the damn Coke,â€ Sage said, a little irritated.
â€œYou know,â€ Caleb said in mock seriousness, â€œshouldnâ€™t you not do illegal drugs? I thought you were supposed to be the doctor-y one here.â€
â€œShut up. You know what Coke I meant,â€ Sage snapped, but not altogether mad. â€œNow can I have some?â€ Caleb laughs and throws her a bottle. Sage catches it and unscrews the cap, and took a sniff of it before drinking, as if she didnâ€™t trust Caleb. Then she gulped down the drink, sticking her tongue out at Caleb when she finished.
Caleb finished the bottle, stuffing the other four he found in Sageâ€™s waterproof bag. Caleb didnâ€™t know how she managed to hold on to that, but he wasnâ€™t going to question it. That bag might as well be a life bringer for what held.
â€œSo do you want a can of beans with some bread?â€ Caleb wondered out loud, not really asking Sage. â€œThereâ€™s a stove over there,â€ he informed Sage, who was stuffing the rest of the supplies in the bag.
â€œOkay,â€ she says handing him a can with the brown beans. â€œTry to figure out the ordinary stove, Mr. Wilderness and Survival Guy. Iâ€™ll look for random crap we can maybe trade later if we...you know, ever see anybody.â€ Caleb noted that Sage didnâ€™t sound thrilled at the prospect: well she never did, to be fair. Sage didnâ€™t like what she viewed as stealing; Caleb just did it without thinking, and he viewed it as a necessary evil for their own survival.
â€œIt looks like the water is rising,â€ Sage noted as she wandered past the window, picking up a container of glass beads and some Ziploc bags. â€œItâ€™s rising fast.â€
Caleb wasnâ€™t worried about it. The water always rose when it the currents became active. It wasnâ€™t like the water was going to come up into the loft-
â€œCaleb,â€ Sage breathed worriedly, coming up beside him, â€œlookâ€. She pointed at the window, which now had water coming in from it.
â€œShÃ¬t!â€ Caleb cursed, hastily gathering up their supplies. â€œShÃ¬t!â€ Caleb looked around, searching for an escape. He couldnâ€™t find one, and he was on the verge of panicking, though he forced himself to retain his calm exterior.
â€œThis was the Johnston's house,â€ Sage said, as she picked up the picture frame. â€œLook, itâ€™s Mr. and Mrs. Johnston, as well as Julia, Kyle, and David when they were kids. I assume they have gotten older,â€ Sage added on in clarification.
Caleb didnâ€™t care about pictures. â€œSage,â€ he said through the frustration and stress eating at him, â€œthe room is about to flood and you are worried about pictures and whose house this was?â€
â€œNo, listen to me,â€ Sage hurried on. â€œThereâ€™s a ladder to the roof somewhere around here, Julia and I, and Livie when she came to visit, used to use it to get on the roof. If we can find the ladder, we can reach higher ground and wait for the water to calm down.â€
â€œThatâ€™s a--thatâ€™s a good idea,â€ Caleb said, a little put out that he hadnâ€™t came up with it. â€œUm, where is this ladder at?â€
â€œNo idea,â€ Sage admitted, already starting to move around in search. â€œHopefully itâ€™s still here.â€
â€œAnd if itâ€™s not?â€ Caleb asked, scarcely breathing, already knowing the answer.
â€œThen we donâ€™t have to worry about it; weâ€™re already dead.â€