Laying down on the dull patch of ground by your headstone, I can’t help feeling guilty. It’s not an easy thing to visit the grave of someone both so young and to who you have been so cruel.
Maybe you feel the same way I do. Feel the same justified disappointment at our pairing. Of all the people who could have survived to come and visit you, I would be low on your list – but then if you could feel that, you’d know why I come.
You’ll be glad to hear they didn’t have Fat Hoggy Hogton carved into your epitaph. A name, I assume from the face you used to make squealing under the table, you disliked.
To my eternal frustration, your headstone says remarkably little about you. Nothing about how you died, or who you might have loved, or how you spent the 9 years since we left school. Understandably, it misses probably the most interesting thing – you were the last person ever buried.
I mean in a graveyard of course – well, in this graveyard certainly: this country, the world, I have no idea. But judging by your dates anyway, few others could have been put under after you. A strange honour, I guess.
This strange privilege gives way immediately to an opportunity for schoolyard mockery – which I am no longer cruel enough to carve onto your tombstone – died a day before the end of the world.
I can’t know for sure, of course, if you were the last, but I have seen no one; I see no one.
I can barely remember the day now. When the alarm came it was simple Burn Up: Ahead of time: FIND IMMEDIATE SHELTER. On every app, I imagine on every TV screen and radio, everywhere it was possible to broadcast. In bold black writing within flashing red.
All I remember is running into a school. And then kicking and emptiness; kicking and emptiness; kicking in door after door into yet another empty room until I saw the cafeteria and the great walk-in fridge that was to be my home for the next 3 months.
So I have seen no one since then. The town is gone: everything was either burnt, drowned or in some stage of decay when I came out. The world seemed about as fertile as the end of a struck match. I walked around for days like the literal last person on the fucking earth – until I found you.
I won’t lie about why I bothered coming into the graveyard; it was hard to make it out – the whole town is one – nothing lives anywhere – but here apparently. Here there is life.
Yesterday, sat in the wreck of that dank cafeteria, I began to wonder if in the nine years since leaving school, whether you’d lost those chubby little arms and cheeks, or whether you lie below here now fat as the days we used to knock your head into the lockers. I thought about the little orange thing you used to spend all day squeezing, and the friends you never had, and the look of irritation on all the teachers you ever cried off to. And I came up to ask you – why is there nothing here worth anything, nothing that’s not burnt, broken or in ruin accept your bloody grave.
You must be able to see it or feel it at least. I can see it from half the town away. It has replaced the sun. A horrid parody of a lighthouse. You must know what happens when I’m not here. You must be doing something to make them come.
I can’t see why out of all the dead places in this dead world what scraps of life there are left gravitate to you.
I won’t allow myself to admit that I begrudge you, R. T. Hogton, so says the final testament no one else other than me will ever read. I am sorry for the past. But I want answers. Where do they come from?
I won’t stop haunting your grave until I have an answer.
I guess you know they scatter as soon as they see me. I can’t see from what hole they can possibly emerge. I have checked everywhere. There is nothing here. All I have is the shadow of life: broken buildings, empty houses, tinned food and gravestones.
But you have it in spades. You’ve stolen it from everything around you. Not even just empty town and burnt woodland, but the other graves too. They stop only here. I see them fly off, see their paw prints and the petals they leave. I can feel their life.
I have my changed usual spot and now lie directly above you – head resting on the stone. I have given up life at the school almost completely. I had taken to pouring out the tins and showering the empty classrooms with their boiled crap. I thought the food might inspire something to come and feed, come and be alive around me.
I spend 9 hours a day here waiting. If there is life and beauty to be had in this desert, I should at least be able to know it.
Nothing has come back, and I am beginning to feel the old sting of guilt. I am sorry for the mess I made of the place. Yesterday there were empty tins of food everywhere and a dirty great hole where I used to kick my heals down at you.
Today I took the empty cans back to the school. Left them in the blue bin if you can believe we still have one. I will deal with what to do when it’s full later.
I finally managed to break into the remnants of the hardware shop. I can’t begin to describe the ruin, but you might be glad to hear, I found some seeds: Marigolds; and thought of you.
I have levelled the ground a little and planted them. All over you, head to toe. I can’t say if they will grow, but I am willing to wait and see.