I cross the street to Rafael’s house, holding the file in my hands and carrying the bag on my shoulder. I try to ignore the empty silence of the morning, the stench of wilting plants, and the lack of vehicles on the street.
I fail as usual.
I open the door, greeted by the aroma of pancakes filling the air. I go to the dining room and find the rest of them sitting at the table, eating breakfast without saying a word.
I stand there for a while, wondering how to announce my arrival when Marisa notices me and nods with the faintest of smiles.
Their silent staring contest breaks and all of them acknowledge me. Rafael comes up to me and embraces me. I hug him back, placing my files on the table.
“David, you’re late,” she says.
David, not Dave.
I look at Sharon above Rafael’s shoulder, noting her baggy eyes and worn-out face. I curse my bad luck once again.
I should have told her.
But now it’s too late.
I hug Elliot, give each of the girls a kiss on their cheeks, and finally sit down and open the file.
All of us look at the diagram we’ve seen a million times.
The virus stares back, looking about as threatening as an ant in front of an elephant. But we had seen the elephant fall.
All of us had.
I pull out the news articles from the previous week, of the world’s last words about the Silent Death, previously called the coronavirus.
The reporter wrote of the increasing deaths nonchalantly, adding a little warning here and there about washing your hands and wearing masks.
The next day, the reporter died.
As did the rest of the world.
Except for us six.
I look up again, just to convince myself that they were still there.
All of them had fallen into their easy banter, choosing items from my file to scrutinize.
Rafael was going through some stats on the deaths last week in Italy and Germany, his eyes glaring at them as though he could bring them back.
Elliot was reading an article about the celebrities who had succumbed to the Silence, secretly glancing at Rafael. El has been in love with Rafe since the three of us had been classmates in high school.
But he’d never made a move.
I can’t blame him, I thought, looking at Sharon talking to Vania about the human multiplication algorithm, her eyes lighting up as they always do when she talks about science.
Marisa looks up from her article, sending a knowing smirk in my direction.
I glare back and look pointedly at Vania.
Mare’s smirk gets wiped off in a second.
I go back to my documents, smiling at how happy my friends would be if they just told each other how they felt.
But the Silent Death hung over all of us.
And I was to blame.
I can’t help it; I start to cry.
As my best friends, the only people I have left, try to comfort me, I wonder what I’ve done to deserve them.
“I’m so selfish! I found - I found the cure, and I - I couldn’t save your families!” I start bawling like a baby.
Sharon hugs me tight, whispering that it’s not my fault.
But it is.
“It is my fault! I’m the reason everyone’s dead! I’m the reason none of you can even look each other in the eye anymore!”
“Stop it Dave!”
I look at Elliot, surprised.
He never raises his voice.
“YOU are the reason all of us are alive and well today. You saved our lives, Dave.”
“But I killed everybody else.”
“That’s it! You need to stop this self-pity thing right away. You knew the risks behind trying the cure on anyone, and yet you tried it on yourself. We are your best friends, which is why we volunteered to try it with you! We knew that it might not work, and we were willing to die trying! We were okay with dying, as long as we were together! Just because it worked on us doesn’t mean that you killed everybody else! It means that you saved our lives!”
“El’s right, Dave. You need to stop blaming yourself.”
I looked at Rafe and El, and nodded, wiping my tears.
“Let’s get to work then, shall we?”
It’s been a few days since my outburst at breakfast, and we’ve finally fallen back to our easy rhythm of working together. I can’t stop myself sometimes from thinking about the last time we worked together.
The time I told them that I might die, but it would be in the name of medicine.
When they said that I could try it on them too.
The massive argument we had afterwards, which resulted in me breaking up with Sharon.
“What are you thinking about, Dave?”
I look at Vania, and shake my head, acting like it’s nothing.
I just glance at Sharon, and Vania doesn’t need any more explanation.
“I really did think that you guys would last.”
“Me too. But I’m the guy who thought that the world would last. I guess I’m not right about anything.”
“This algorithm is almost finished, but we need a massive amount of energy to power this machine. This is the rebirth of humanity that we’re talking about.”
“What if we don’t need energy, Sharon?”
Sharon looks at me, confused.
“What if we only need minimal energy?” I ask her again, embarrassed at having this conversation with her.
Her eyebrows furrow up further.
“All six of us are immune to the Silent Death now. So, all we need to do for the rebirth of humanity is for one of you girls to give birth. And then the baby will be immune, and we can just clone him…or her.”
Her eyes widened. So did Marisa and Vania’s.
“I think that’s going to be a bit of a problem for me and Vania. You see, we’re kind of together now.” Marisa announced, smiling with a smug expression.
“Wait, what? You promised you’d tell me when it happens, Mare,” Sharon tried to glare at them but failed, seeing them holding hands.
I look at them and smile. “I called it years ago.”
“Maybe now is the time to tell Sharon, Dave.” Vania looks at me meaningfully.
I nod, and the two of them leave, leaving me and a puzzled Sharon alone in the room.
“Tell me what, Dave-David?”
I look at her, hurt.
“The reason that I broke up with you wasn’t because I didn’t think you were strong enough; it was because I didn’t want you to-to get hurt.”
“And why is that David?” she asks, having the most innocent smile on her lips.
“You know why.”
“I love you too Dave. I always have.”
Without giving me a chance to react, she kisses me tenderly.
I can’t believe it.
I’m kissing her.
Oh, how I’ve missed these lips.
I sink deeper into the kiss, and a low moan erupts from her throat.
Let’s just say we stay there for a while.
As we leave the room to announce to the rest of them that we’re together again, we’re greeted by El and Rafe passionately making out.
As they hear us approaching, they quickly break apart, embarrassed.
“Please, don’t stop for our sake,” I say, winking at Elliot.
As Sharon squeals like a little girl and goes to hug them, I’m struck by this shocking realization.
The sound of the baby crying is all we need to let out a sigh of relief.
And also for all of us to start sniffling.
Sharon gently holds the baby as if she’s afraid to break it. I go over and kiss the baby’s forehead.
“You know something, Dave? You are literally the father of humanity,” says Rafe, in between his tears, looking at me with a ‘You are Adam 2.0’ expression on his face.
I try to act like the joke is terrible, but I burst out laughing.
Everyone in the room smiles, because finally, we’re back to normal.
“What's her name, Sharon?” asks Marisa, while sitting on a chair with Vania on her lap.
“Hey! I’m the father, I get a say too!” I say in mock indignation. Sharon rolls her eyes at me.
Suddenly her face lights up, and she smiles widely.
“I know what I want to name her.”
All of us wait with bated breath.
As everyone gathers around, cooing her name and taking turns to hold her, Sharon looks at me with a teary-eyed grin.
“Why Viviana, Shar?” asks El.
“That’s because Viviana means…”
“Life. Viviana means life.”