Imagine a world without people. In this world, concrete buildings stand tall against pale blue skies, their interiors left completely vacant. Streetlights flicker when dusk emerges, but the illuminated streets remain silent. Living rooms, kitchens and bedrooms become time capsules, preserving the remnants of a once lively human race.
Now imagine, you wake up one Sunday morning to the sound of your alarm clock; the rest of your house deafeningly quiet. You make your way through the corridors, expecting to be greeted by someone you love. But nobody ever greets you. In fact, nobody will ever greet you again.
You don’t know how long it has been since you woke up alone that morning, but it has been long enough to forget the sound of shared laughter, bustling traffic and overhead airplanes. Everyone you knew is gone and everything you ever thought was important no longer exists. At first, you convince yourself you’re dreaming, paralyzed by your subconscious mind. But you soon realize it’s not a dream. At least not one you can wake up from.
Deep down you know that things will never be the same, but you find ways to adapt to a new way of life. When society still existed and borders defined countries, you lived somewhere in middle America. Now, you spend your days exploring new cities and rural landscapes, relying on worn billboards, and highway signs to tell you where you are, or where you once were. You need these remnants of mankind because nothing looks the same as it did before. Landmarks are overgrown by luscious green trees. Flowers sprout from cracks in the highway pavement. Clean rain collects in streams that flow through pristine woodlands. Without humans to impede, Mother Nature quickly regains her throne.
Humans were the only animals to vanish. In the weeks and months following humanity’s departure, the birds, four-legged creatures and marine animals began to thrive. Their natural habitats restored quickly, despite the once highly developed wastelands around them. Every breath you take of the atmosphere is refreshing. The water is pristine. Strikingly blue and pure enough to drink. Every day, you are overwhelmed by the world’s unwavering beauty.
In this new world, time is a mere suggestion. The cyclical nature of seasons indicates it has been at least a few years since that day, but you know nothing precisely. The blooming flowers rising from the soft soil and warm sun rays on your exposed skin provide an inkling of summer. The weather is temperate, and you find yourself without clothing. You feel completely free and at ease; one with nature.
But if you try hard enough, you can remember the poisonous haze that once blanketed skylines across the globe. Mostly, you remember the unpredictable and tumultuous state of the world, where good news stories were few and far between. Whether it was the looming threat of nuclear war, financial collapse or an indiscriminate virus, you, along with many others, had little hope for the future. Your whole life, people had been predicting the end of the world, but no one could have predicted this. No one could have fathomed the beauty that lie beneath the earth’s toxic soil and layers of floating debris in its oceans.
Despite the beauty that surrounds you, you still fear being alone. Often, you wonder how different your situation would be if you had a partner; just one person to share this peculiar journey with. Before departing an area you’ve explored, you leave behind some semblance of human activity. Whether it’s writing on the dusty windshields of abandoned vehicles or scrawling chalk against barren sidewalks, you make your existence known. You know nobody will ever see these messages, but the minuscule chance that they might is enough to keep you going.
If you can, imagine now that this world you’ve come to know will change once again.
Unlike your previous life, you now have the freedom to do as you please, when you please. Before, your ability to enjoy life was stifled by routine and the shifting expectations of society. But now, freedom is a guiding principle of your existence. This freedom leads you to follow the steady rising sun for what feels like several weeks until eventually, you reach the once-booming metropolis known as the Big Apple.
You wander through the empty streets surrounded by towering buildings; their walls covered in resilient foliage. A skulk of foxes emerges from the undercarriage of an abandoned vehicle and prances through the empty streets; the once feral animals are unbothered by your presence. Your bare feet stick to the hot pavement as you take a moment to appreciate the peaceful ambience of the city’s skeleton.
Eventually, you encounter a massive, magnificently diverse park nestled in the center of the urban landscape. A large olive-green placard, partially shrouded by overgrown trees, reads ‘Central Park.’ The scenery is expansive with a canopy of tree leaves stretching as far as your eyes can see. Small critters hurry up and down thick tree trunks as birds glide high above, chirping melodically. In the forest ahead, you see a small spotted fawn frolicking beside its graceful mother drinking from a fresh stream. This is not the Central Park you remember.
As you walk through the park, your hands graze the vibrant shrubbery, occasionally picking a flower to smell. The aroma is intoxicating. Eventually, you reach a small meadow in the middle of the forest. In the center, a colossal apple tree casts a shadow over the lush green grass. You sit beneath the tree, resting your naked skin on the soft grass. Relaxed by your surroundings, you begin to drift off.
You are awoken by the unusual sensation of someone watching you. Your eyes open to the sight of a rugged, middle-aged man crouched in front of you. He stares intensely into your eyes while gently touching your shoulder. His face is the first you have seen in years that’s not plastered on a billboard.
You realize that the man is also naked, but neither of you feels compelled to react. You sit up swiftly and return his stare, once again questioning the boundary between dream and reality. But like last time, you know there is no dream to wake up from. After years of solitude, you are no longer alone.
The man is utterly stunned by your existence. Tearfully, he describes his many days and nights alone, convinced he was the last remaining person on earth. That is, until he saw the messages you sprawled in chalk in the otherwise empty Time’s Square. Naturally, you sympathize with the man. You understand exactly how he felt, alone in a vast yet empty world for countless days and nights. You're immensely relieved to have someone to confide in. Your once uncertain future begins to unfold before you.
The two of you sit comfortably in the shelter of the towering tree and talk for hours. You discuss the perils of mankind - its fragility and increasingly hostile nature before all of this happened - a stark contrast to the serene paradise before you today. Although neither of you can explain what happened on that fateful Sunday or why you were spared, you both agree that the world is a much different, albeit nicer, place now. You both yearned for someone to share this life with and against all odds, it became true. Together, you share a boundless utopia.
You sit next to the man in peaceful silence until suddenly you feel a tickle on the top of your foot. Your heart begins to race. A small yellow garter snake slithers quickly across your skin, disappearing into the tall grass. Startled, you jump to your feet. As you try to catch your exacerbated breath, you look up to see an abundance of shiny, red apples hanging from the picturesque tree above you.
Your mouth begins to salivate at the sight of the perfectly ripe fruit. You want to ask the man if he too would like an apple, but you realize you never had a proper introduction. Feeling rather foolish, you ask him for his name.
“It’s Adam,” he replies, looking up at you with a smile.
“Nice to meet you Adam. I’m Eve,” you say as you take a bite out of the succulent red apple in your hand.
The man, still sitting beneath the tree, returns your gaze. His eyes scan your fully exposed body and his cheeks begin to flush, turning a slight shade of pink.