by JC Isabell
A short story of a girl who is at her end.
The Time I Was All That Was Left
I fiddled with the camcorder relentlessly, positioning the height of the tripod, making sure the lens was balanced, checking the light intake, finally throwing up my hands up and decided I was just stalling. I looked at my wrist. My watch read 10:16 in the evening, the ticking clock on my wall said just about the same. The room was dim, the door closed, and the curtains were pulled together tightly as if it were holding back some type of strong sunlight even at this late hour. This is stupid, I thought, no one is ever going see this video anyway. I'm pacing now, the floor beneath me squeaking and creaking with every step. But if there was even the slightest chance someone would... Wouldn't I want to at least try? I stop in front of the tripod, grab the camera and flip the sidescreen so that it faces me.
"You've gotta do this," I said, thinking out loud this time. I look at myself on the tiny screen: my brown hair, which stops above my shoulders and is filled with frizz. Eyes, tired and dark, like black marbles. The white flash from the camera hid the freckles that coated my cheeks and made me look pastier than I am, and my orange t-shirt made me look pudgier than I always have been. I was a mess, but it didn't matter all that much. I took a deep breath set the timer on my camcorder for a minute, then a seat in front of it. Sitting on the wooden stool in front of this contraption, a million thoughts ran through my head: What if they think I'm weird? Should I cross my arms, or does that make me look closed off? What if the flash from the camera washes me out? If I start swearing, should I edit it out? Could I- My panicked brain is brought back to reality as the 30-second warning beep tells me it's almost time. I sit up straight, trying to look as calm as I can manage, smooth out as much frizzy pieces of hair that I can manage, and close my eyes. The camera gives 3 beeping sounds for the final seconds before recording.
I breathe, open my eyes, and start.
"Hi, m-my name is Gwen Peters. G-Gwendolyn, actually. I'm 20 years old, I'm from Helena, Montana. The date is August 28th, 2016, and I'm possibly the last person on the face of the planet Earth."
I stop, looking down at the floor, thinking about what I've just said. I'm stunned and hurt at the same time. Even after two years, it still feels weird knowing how alone I am. I shake it off and get back to the camera.
"To anyone watching this, I'll give you a summary of my first encounter: On the morning of April 17th, 2014, I woke up to an empty house. No mom, no dad, and no little brother. I thought maybe Dad had all left for work before I got up, and I figured Mom took Bobby to school early to beat traffic. It was close to 8 in the morning, so I went about my usual routine: showered, brushed my hair and teeth, got dressed, grabbed my own bag and keys, and headed out the door. Going outside, I finally realized that there was no one. Everyone was gone: the mailman, my neighbors, the stray alley cats, even strangers driving to God-knows-where. Not a single car on the road, but parked on the sides of the street or in driveways, as if time had just frozen and everyone had just up and left. The world seemed so... quiet" Where am I even going with this?
I push the dark thoughts away and get back to my recollection. "I called and texted every single person in my phone, looking for someone, anyone, for some type of explanation and not a single answer. It didn't take long after that for no calls to even go through, the cell towers going down. After that, the electricity went, too. I didn't know what to do other than go to the police. Was there some type of alien abduction? Nuclear fallout? Zombie apocalypse? To this day, even after 2 years, 4 months, and 11 days... I still don't know what happened..."
My voice trails off until nothing but a stillness fills the room. I glance down at my watch, reading 10:33. It felt like I had been talking for longer than that.
"I went to every place I would think would have people: the police station, our schools, the grocery stores, city hall, and just nothing. Just... nothing a-and more nothing, everywhere..." You're not going to cry on camera, Gwen, even if no one ever sees this.
"When I realized I was alone, I tried to be happy about it. Excited, almost. It felt like something people would dream of: a whole world to themselves. Even I'll admit, I had fun with it: I went to the town's car dealership and drove all the fancy cars. I drank all of my mom's fanciest wines and ate tons of McDonald's before it all went bad. I dressed up in my prom dress and crowned myself Queen with a big tiara as I ran around my high school's halls. I felt alive. Life was okay," I say cheerily, turning to a monotone voice, "until the loneliness kicked in." I avert my eyes and focus on the floor. "Everything was fun and games until I realized that there was no one there to enjoy it all with. That's when I decided to take matters into my own hands.
"After about a month of my fooling around, I need to search for others. After about 3 months of searching, I came to the conclusion that my town was empty, as was every neighboring town, and after a lengthy road trip, I found that the whole state of Montana was empty. I mean, Montana has always been empty, but you get what I mean. I started to lose hope, but instead of just giving up, I packed some clothes, canned foods, bottles of water, books, and gallon jugs full of gas into a police pick-up truck, and just drove. I hit all of the lower 48 states, from the east to the west coast, and everything in-between. I took hundreds of red spray paint cans and plastered things like COME TO HELENA, MONTANA, and ALIVE IN MONTANA on billboards and buildings all across America, printed flyers and let them fly out my window as I drove. I broadcasted my message at every radio station outlet I could find. I even played some songs, just for the hell of it." I smiled, feeling a sense of pride in the effort I gave trying to preserve whatever was left in humanity, but my smile faltered and faded soon after that, dark thoughts crossing mind.
"I drove for five months before coming home, optimistic and hopeful that maybe there would be survivors rebuilding and settling in my hometown, but the only new thing about my city was the snow that had begun to fall." I rubbed my hands together, a sudden chill running up my spine, as if it were in competition with the gloom that filled my core.
"For the longest time, I really thought someone would come. Something inside me told me that there were people still out there. I couldn't figure out why I had been left behind, forced to roam the earth, purposeless and isolated. I had so many questions, yet there was no one to answer me." My voice starts to rise, a built-up frustration arising.
"Where did everyone go? Why them? Why me? Why couldn't I go? Why was this pale, chubby, freckled face nobody from Montana left in AN EMPTY WORLD?!"
My body trembles out of anger and sadness, tears silently falling from the corners of my eyes. I wipe them away with the back of my hand and look at myself once more. My face is blotchy, my eyes red and tired, and even more frizzy hair appeared. You're a fucking mess. Get to the point.
"My mom used to tell me I could do anything if I put my mind to it, probably much like your mother did. But the fact is... I just can't. I can't continue living in a world without a point. I can't survive purposeless and alone. There's nobody out there besides me, and I've decided that I don't want to be here any longer." I put on the best smile I can manage, despite my ruined face, trying to say farewell not so sadly.
The last thoughts on your mind before you die shouldn't make you regret the life you've lived, even when it is coming to a close.
The time read 11:24, and I decided it was time for my message to humanity to come to a close. I'd done the best I can, and that was enough.
"I gave my remaining time on Earth my all, and it's time I make peace with myself. Mom, Dad, Bobby, if you guys see this somehow, if anyone ever sees this, I'm sorry. I hope that one day you'll forgive me, but I understand if you can't. I know I wouldn't forgive me." I muster up my best impression of a newscaster, cheery smile and upbeat voice, and ended my video. "This is Gwen Peters, signing off from Helena, Montana. Goodbye, and good luck."
I stand up, reaching over the front of the camcorder and stop the video, the flash turning off. I take in my living room one last time, absorbing what's left of the home I've loved my whole life: The only light comes from a few candles, resting atop of piles of books and crates of non-perishable foods. The pillows fluffed and set on the couch, the pictures and knick-knacks stacked on the shelves were dusted the best I could manage. Hanging above me is the ceiling fan, an old ivory color, with about a yard of rope above my head, a noose tied at the end, dangling and waving, as if it were waiting for me, taunting me. I tried my best to keep everything clean and organized, especially as things started to come to an end. No reason for a messy house, Mom would say.
Even if you're about to kill yourself.
I took the stool and placed it underneath the fan. I throw my hair into a messy ponytail, and step up. Standing on it, the tan, scratchy rope just meets my shoulders, as if it were meant to be. I slid the opening of the noose over my head, the rough exterior scraping my neck the whole way down, my body going cold at the touch, and tensing when I tighten it. This is it, Gwen. No turning back now. I begin to rock on my heels, feeling the stool beneath me tremble. I glance behind me, taking one last look at my video camera, hoping, praying that if someone sees my recording, they'll know I tried. I lift my left leg slowly and steadily, holding tightly onto the rope with both hands, my fingers being the only barrier between my throat and my soon-to-be eternal fate. My knee gently rests against my stomach as I start to slide my right foot to the end of the stool. I'm facing my front door, but my vision is blurred through my tears, tears of sadness and relief. My foot meets the edge, the stool shaking, the rope feeling tighter and tighter, causing me to lose the sensation in my fingers. I can't breathe, but I don't know if it's the pressure against my neck or my own panicked state. I feel my foot slip.
Goodbye, and good luck.
Then, a knock at my door.