Authors: Chris Dietzel
Tags: #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Science Fiction, #Dystopian, #Post-Apocalyptic
THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE WORLD END
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidence.
THE MAN WHO WATCHED THE WORLD END.
Copyright 2013 by Chris Dietzel. All rights reserved.
Published in the United States by
CreateSpace Independent Publishing.
Author Photo: Jodie McFadden
THE MAN WHO WATCHED
THE WORLD END
Table of Contents
It’s obvious now that the end of man won’t be signaled with mushroom clouds, an alien invasion, or a meteor, but with silence.
Only silence, long and unceasing. We’ve always known this would be the case, however, it never seemed like the final day would really arrive.
My mother was fond of the saying, “All good things must come to an end,” a cliché that now makes me cringe. Yet, what was there to do about any of it? Nothing except to wake up each morning, go through the normal routines, and t
hen go to sleep. Each day we were all a little older, a little closer to the end. And each day fewer people were alive than the previous day. That’s how it’s been for eighty years; it’s the way it will be at least a little while longer. I see now that from the vo matter what about ve beenery start, my life has been leading to this: my brother and I alone, witnessing the end of man’s 200,000-year reign.
I watched more movies as a kid than any other boy in the neighborhood. They fascinated me. While the adults were worried about grown-up problems, I could go to my bedroom, close the door, and put
on a movie that let me go anywhere I pleased. The possibilities were only as limited as the imaginations that created each story. One day,
trilogy allowed me to live the life of mobsters. Another day, the
trilogy took me to a galaxy far, far away. Occasionally, Andrew stayed in his own room, but most of the time he was right there with me. All the while my parents and the rest of the neighborhood worried about what they were going to do—if they would move or not move, if they would be able to take care of their loved ones or if they would need caring for themselves. The adults’ worries, my parents’ worries, didn’t bother me back then because I had my movies. No matter how awful the scenario was in each film—a nuclear holocaust, aliens enslaving us, a race to save the Earth from a meteorite—the stories made me smile and gasp and giggle the way little boys do.
The actors from those movies have been dead for years. So
have the writers and directors. The last movie ever made was produced fifty years ago. Not many people went to see it, but it was actually pretty good. It was billed as a culmination of everything ‘Hollywood’, and promised big explosions, incredible special effects, and a startling final scene. For the most part it delivered on its promises. Not many people were in the mood to go to the movies at that point, though. It didn’t help things that the infamous ending was its own kryptonite. The protagonist, a handsome and charismatic man, the envy of every man and the fantasy of every woman, proclaims that life is just a huge joke. Instead of pushing a red button and launching a rocket to save Earth’s population—still billions of people back then—from the dreaded invasion, he takes his lover in his arms, begins crying, then shoots himself in the face. Dramatic music kicks in. The screen fades to black.
Audiences hated it. Everyone involved with the film was lucky there were bigger problems in the world than an ending equivalent to being given the middle finger; if mankind hadn’t been dwindling away, the producer and director might have been charged with some sort of indecency crime, or, more ironic yet, simply shot dead. I still watch that movie every once in a while. From a technical perspective, the film is a masterpiece—excellent character development, cinematography, editing—although I only watch the ending when Andrew isn’t in the room with me. He shouldn’t have to see that kind of hopelessness. He stayed one time when I was tired and I didn’t feel like wheeling him out of the room just for the final two minutes of the movie. I had his wheelchair turned away, though, so he wasn’t looking at the screen and couldn’t see what was happening. When the final gunshot sounded, I looked over at him to make sure he didn’t give a reaction. If anything could make him groan with discouragement, it might very well be the desperation in that anti-clima hit the game-winning homerun aof ctic scene. But of course he didn’t complain: he has never had a voluntary movement or spoken a single word. No, Andrew didn’t get upset about the ending. He didn’t even blink. When the credits started rolling, I got up and turned the DVD player off, then the lights, and moved Andrew to the sofa so he could sleep there while I slept in
Every other time the movie’s ending is near, or if I watch a similarly upsetting movie, I wheel him out of the room. Even without the ability to offer a response, he shouldn’t have to see the worst that people are capable of. He’s
79, only a couple years my junior, but in my head he is still my baby brother. Nothing can ever happen to make me think of him any other way. The day he can speak for himself, say, “Hey, I’ll wipe my own ass from now on!” is the day he can start being thought of as a grown adult.
With the lights off, the sun having set for the night, I find myself sitting here thinking again about the end of that movie. Why not press the red button and save
everyone? Why not give the people an ending that would allow a little bit of hope instead of a critical commentary on the state of mankind? Did the writer or director lose faith in people because of what had started happening in the world, or did the movie end that way because he had already become indifferent, prior to the Great De-evolution, and thought mankind deserved nothing better?
If my house is a prison, the animals are my jailers.
I was at the incinerator today, only fifteen feet from my patio door, when
a bear spotted me. It was eyeing me from the edge of the woods, its claws digging into the ground with anticipation for when it had a hold of me. It was forty, maybe fifty, feet away.
Forty feet is no
concern for a bear hunting an old man. Instead of turning and running, I took a single step backward. Then another. If I tried to dash for safety, it would close the distance before I could get indoors. The bear growled, then lumbered forward. An old man’s heart should not have to beat as fast as mine did when that beast came toward me. My eyes stayed down at my feet. Looking at the predator would only make it angry. I took another step backward, and it took two more paces forward. Even without trying, it had cut the distance between us by half. Sweat ran down my face. My hands were shaking.
The thought struck me then that I could use the incinerator for protection.
Each time the bear would circle the large metal bin, I would do the same. But just as quickly, reality sunk in: I would get tired after two minutes and, anyway, the bear can run laps around me. My only hope was to get back inside my house.
I prayed for another animal, maybe a dog, to catch the bear’
s attention, but for once it seemed the only animal in the open was this giant thing in front of me. Where were the other animals when you needed them! It became difficult to breathe slowly, to keep from screaming. My stomach kept shifting, offering growls of its own. The bear took another step forward.
And then, as
the bear yet again closed the distance between us, this time to perhaps twelve feet, my hand grabbed hold of the doorknob, turned it, and I was back inside my home. Safe for one more day. The bear stayed there, staring at me through the glass. Although I was safe, my hands would not stop trembling.
Nature returned with a vengeance as soon as the Blocks initiated man’s decline. I’m pretty sure a family of deer lives in the
empty Donaldson house next door. I looked through the window of the old McGee house the other day, and instead of seeing Jimmy McGee waving at me with a cup of coffee in his hand, the way he used to, a giant brown bear lumbered through the living room looking for something to eat. Foxes, wolves, and bears have all re-established themselves as the proper owners of the forest. Their new rivals are the cats and dogs that used to be pets. Every day a different pack of animals walks down the street in my neighborhood as if the roads were made especially for them.
Gone are the days when deer have to be concerned
about cars. The days of foxes sitting by the roadside, afraid to cross the street, are long forgotten. Sometimes the bears get a sniff of food and pace up and down the neighborhood. I used to be able to bang pots and pans to startle the wildlife into returning to the woods, but now they look at me with amusement, their mouths slightly open like content farm animals.