The world was over and they were not.
It did not matter how. The reporters, videos, and politicians had all argued and pointed blame, but they hadn’t listened. They were young and powerless so they decided not to worry. And after everything fell, it didn’t matter what happened first.
They were tired, hungry, and wanted a hot shower, but they were not over. They were lucky, they knew, but that is logic. And logic is not much good for slim stomachs or heavy eyelids.
They had been hungry almost until they were in danger of no longer feeling it, and then they found food and now they were hungry again.
They found that canned food stayed and there was a lot of it. No worries about starving while they tried to learn farming, although growing sick of tuna was very likely, and Dustin worried about them getting enough vitamins. Still, it was best to be careful.
They missed just eating, not calculating supplies and trying to predict years. When they felt guilty about the possibility of growing fat instead of the fear of starving.
"We'll make it," he said, although sometimes he didn't know how.
"I know," she said and she squeezed his hand.
They weren’t Adam and Eve, they were Dustin and Maddie.
They didn’t want the world on their shoulders or at their feet.
There were still other humans. There had to be. They weren’t looking, but it was too big a world to search. And wider now, now that it was measured by feet and not bisected by airplanes.
Humanity was not worth marrying for. The survival of the species…why? That’s something said by childless scientists who don’t listen to music. What is the point of reproducing and reproducing until the stars themselves couldn’t hold you? What is the meaning of thousands of years when you can barely hold today?
No, humanity was not worth marrying for, but humans were.
The way when they walked in with heavy feet and he stumbled over a chair and they both laughed and laughed until they couldn’t keep their heads up anymore, and they fell into bed with their shoes still on.
It was for the bright sun in her hair and the way she whistled as she washed the dishes.
The way he tried to sing the words to the songs they realized they never truly knew.
Because you don’t know how large the silence is, until you can’t press “play.” It was shameful how few songs they actually knew, and many they had just sung along to. They started out with children’s songs, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “This Little Light of Mine.” They found hymnals in a church closet, stuffed back there when the congregation had moved to PowerPoint and Hillsong. They never knew “Amazing Grace” had so many verses.
It was in the way he brushed her hair all night after they finally found shampoo and conditioner and she cried because it was all tangled and it hurt when she tried to jerk the brush through it and she felt ugly. And he just held her, then took the brush, and started gently detangling the ends. She watched the fire and rested her head on his knee and they recited stories and poems their grandmas used to tell them.
She found that she almost knew all of "Wynken, Blinken, and Nod."
It was easier to talk about grandmas than parents or brothers.
They got through it.
And marriage? Perhaps some people would have laughed. There was no government to care, no neighbors to gossip, no one to cheat with. No other options.
But they chose each other.
If the world was back tomorrow, if cars were back on the streets, and people woke up complaining of their jobs, and they actually had to pay for the things in the stores, he would call her first.
They would call off work and have a hot shower for two whole hours until steam painted the mirrors and all the walls. They’d turn on all the lights in the house and play with the running water. And ice cream! All of it had melted years ago, but they could still remember. They’d get a whole cartful and have a bit of each. He would start with strawberry and she would have pistachio. He had never had pistachio before. Then they would find a karaoke place even if they had to drive all the way, with the radio blasting out of the windows. People would stare, and they wouldn’t care. They would watch movies and she would hold his hand.
If the world was back tomorrow, they would still choose each other.
He wanted to make it special but one day he was digging holes for a fence, and she came out, sun on her hair, and shining on the shimmering grass, and he fell to his knee with dirty hands. And she cried and he kissed her.
They went to the fancy shops they would have ever dared to go in before. Poor didn’t exist anymore. And if they were wise and if the sun was kind and the frost held off, hungry wouldn’t either.
No suspicious employees to watch them and make them keep their hands in sight. They had as much time as they wanted.
And they went to museums. She tried everything on and felt like an empress. They brought them home. Money was useless but gold still glittered. She would pull weeds in pearls. He would drink from colored glass. Because pretty things make life better.
But it wasn’t right to get married on a stolen ring. He carved out rings from the wood of the oak tree right next to their garden. It was messy and they were clunky and ugly but she loved them. He hid the splinters and smiled.
Borrowed dresses were different. She couldn’t wear her mother’s, but that was ok. She wore a gold headdress and an 18th century embroidered silk dress, barefoot in a meadow of flowers. There could have been diamonds or it might have been glass. He wore jeans but added a tie.
He married her with the red hymnal with God above and a robin picking worms in the dew-wet grass. And she was beautiful. And he wished he could write poetry.
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Congratulations. I love how survival and joy mingle so logically here. They're eating tuna for the two-hundredth day and digging fence posts, but singing songs and raiding museums. When I was a kid I used to imagine getting locked in the grocery store overnight. Your story gives me that same feeling.
Like this story. Hope to read more.
Thank you! I'm focusing right now on writing stories and making art for the #inktober challenge right now! You can read those on my Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/adriana.k.maxwell/) but I'm still keeping an eye out for inspiring prompts. :)
Yes, I saw your Instagram. Very creative artists aren't you? Please continue with your gift.
I just really love this story. It's so simple, yet so absolutely beautiful! Great job writing this!
The ending was really wonderful. Loved your story and congrats for the shortlist. You deserve it. Keep writing. Would you mind reading my new story? Thanks!
And he wished he could write poetry.... Dustin and Maddie: not Adam and Eve. Wow. This is genius.
Congrats on the shortlist, Adriana!! Job well done!
This might be the best "romance" I've read from this prompt. Nicely done.
Thank you! These aren't my typical genres so I'm really glad that you liked it! Any way I can improve?
There are so many incredible lines in here. I love the third-person plural voice. The way their actions and their love seems to simplify everything. That entire section about them not being Adam and Eve, up to not wanting the world at their feet. The devaluation of things, and it making no difference whether the gems are diamonds or glass. I loved the proposal, too. Honestly, I think my only criticism would be that it is more vignette than story. We know early-ish on that they are going to be married, and then they are. There isn't much in t...
Sorry. Too much? :) I can get carried away.
No way! I'm so grateful for long, specific comments! It really helps me improve and I appreciate you taking the time to write it. You also taught me a new term. I didn't know "vignette" before, but it clearly fits. I think the only possible tension I had for this story was the idea: if you were possibly the only two people left on earth, what would you do? How would you know that you genuinely liked each other? That you were with each other by choice and love, not necessity and fear of loneliness? Maybe I could make that str...
I did get shades of that coming through. It's interesting, because it's a tough call in a way. You want to keep that very nice third-person-plural, but the best way to create tension with two people is to have one be less certain than the other, or have them otherwise in some kind of discord. I think the question of whether or not these last two people can possibly become emotionally attached to one another might work, but for me, at least, it felt like it was resolved quite early. Perhaps what it needs is for them to essentially get cold fe...