Sam kept a slow fire going in the huge fireplace. The snow had fallen afresh last night and the temperature had dropped precipitously, forcing him to run outside and get even more firewood. He sat in the overstuffed chair directly in front of the fire. Sam really was not much of a woodsman and had not used this cabin more than twice since he’d bought it, and that had been in the two summers since. It was definitely “off grid,” with no electricity, telephone, or internet capability, but it had seemed like a good investment at the time—what with everyone talking about WTSHTF and all the “preppers” barraging him with advertisements about having a “bug-out” place. Well, he had it and here he was, but now he was not at all sure that he really wanted to endure the loneliness.
Sam was not a real sociable kind of guy. He had tried to be, but it was just not him. He had gone to the parties his friends had thrown—all three of them—over the years, but nothing had ever clicked between him and any girl there. He thought that he was a nice enough guy, and he had some great interests—like his bug collection, all of them encased in resin. He had done it himself and had gotten to be quite an artist in resin. But when he ran out of things to say about that, he always ended up tongue-tied.
Now…it was all over. Too late. He figured that the big clock the scientists kept, which usually showed about five minutes before midnight, had surprised them, jumping to the hour in a few days. Suddenly, he was hearing on the television that doomsday had arrived; a disease was quickly wiping out the population.
A tear rolled down his cheek and he quickly wiped it away. “Look at me,” he said to himself, “worrying about crying, when there’s no one to see me. There will never be anyone to see…” A giant sigh escaped his lips. He got up and went out for more wood.
There was no reason to burn all the wood at once, he thought. A roaring fire seemed more fitting for a bunch of people, rather than one lone guy, reminding him that nothing would ever change. It was just too much to face. Although Sam was not good at social interaction, he did not think he was very good at being a happy recluse, either. If only he had a woman here. They could rebuild civilization, kind of like a modern “Adam” and “Eve.” Sam was very good at tinkering, that was his other pastime, but now he had no reason to do it.
“There must be others around somewhere,” he said, talking to himself—again. He had been doing that a lot lately. He had also been watching the cute little raccoon that raided his food now and then and thinking about training him as a pet. He was so lonely! From the moment that he had heard the news, and then the Television had groaned to a stop, he had been alone.
He was alone when he took from the convenience store whatever food he could fit into his jeep. He was alone when he stopped by the gun store and loaded up on guns and ammo for his future hunting needs. And he was alone when he headed out of town on route 86—not another vehicle moving anywhere. Of course, Sam did not live in a big city, just the little town of Crosshairs, Texas, but it was not far from big towns. No one! Not another person anywhere. The disease must have really traveled fast, and the only reason he could think of for why he had not gotten it was that he had been spending the weekend inside. Just hanging out with his television. He had not been able to go online, which was strange, and no one answered when he called the cable company. But he figured that the net was down because there was no one manning the servers.
It was so beautiful here at the cabin by the lake, in the quiet of the forest. He could have had many years of happy times with someone, and their kids would have loved it here too. But, eventually, they would have gone into the city. After all, his future offspring would have needed him to get things going with civilization, and all that. if he had just found one woman alive! What other choice would she have had, with no other men around?
Memories of other, better times came to Sam as he sat there brooding about his bad luck to be the only one still alive. He had already grieved in his own way for his brother back east, with his family, and his cousins in the south. Surely, if they had made it they would have called him. He had tried to call everyone he could think of, but the line just rang and rang each time.
No, he just could not stand it. He could not live his life so totally and utterly alone. The lake was no more than a few hundred yards away. He had decided. He would go and put a hole in it. No sense eking out his life one day at a time with nothing to look forward to but the same loneliness every day.
Having decided, Sam jumped up and headed for the door. He would pick out a nice, large stone. That would make it much easier. But—what was that noise? It was outside, and it was not a natural sound that he had ever heard in the forest.
Sam ran to his window and looked out. He could not believe his eyes. There, coming down the road, were two trucks, followed by a bunch of cars. “I’m saved!” he yelled, “There are survivors here, after all. And women.” He threw the door open and stepped onto the porch, his head now spinning with elation. He felt dizzy with joy. And then he saw the sign on the side of the first truck. It read, “Universal Studios.” Behind it was one of those trucks with a camera mounted on an extension on top of it.
The trucks pulled into the driveway and were followed by the cars, spreading out on either side. People began emptying out of them and a man approached him with a big grin plastered across his face. The camera truck went to work, as the arm of the thing rotated toward him and the cabin. Others had cameras as well and were snapping photo after photo, the lights practically blinding Sam.
“I thought we’d find you here,” the man in front said into a microphone. He had a loud, booming voice that needed no amplification. “We wanted to interview the last man on earth.”
“Wha—what do you mean?” Sam stammered.
“Well, we know everything that has happened to you and everywhere you went,” the man replied. “We wanted to get your impressions and thoughts about being the last man on earth. It’s been a great study, watching you take all that stuff from those stores and get out of town. You picked a good place to hide yourself out. Of course, we knew about your cabin.” The man looked around, went to the door, and glanced inside. He motioned for those with the cameras and they went in, snapping pictures as they did so.
“So, what do you want to tell us about your experience?” the man said, that great big grin still on his face.
Sam kind of lost track of things after that, but he saw it all later on the ten o’clock news. Apparently, they could not understand why he should have clobbered the news man. “He just went sort of berserk,” a reporter said.
Sam shook his head violently, still not over the shock and the anger. His hand clenched around the piece of paper they had given him after he had come to his senses—which had almost set him off again. It was a bill from each store he had gone to for the cost of the merchandise and the repairs to the doors.
One good thing did come out of it. Sam was besieged with letters from women wanting to date him and—as he met each one of them—he learned for the first time in his life that he had an experience to talk about which they were interested in.