They wander between the ruins of the human race and they wait. It’s the first time in Erica’s life she’s given up on anything. Stopped fighting. She should be more ashamed than she is. But she accepts their impending extinction calmly, welcomes it.
Her grief and her tears have long dried out—
—there is a lock of Tyler’s hair in the back pocket of her unwashed jeans. His face has faded from her memory, only the image of his dead blue eyes stalking her across empty highways and blackened landscape.
Jack buries his cross in the backcountry and just like that God is also extinct and they have outlived him and the world fades to an even uglier shade of colorless, (they still like to think).
For a long time she keeps her gun at her hip, with its five or six bullets. Eventually she drops it into the Long Island Sound because she isn’t sure she can resist her suicidal fantasies for much longer.
Her life is the one thing she’s sworn never to surrender.
Jack cries sometimes when he thinks she is sleeping. It happens less and less as everything that makes her and him human deserts them like a cowardly, fair-weather ally.
The summer turns the wind hot and suffocating and dry. They are used to the smell of blasted corpses, but now the obliterated wildlife, flora and fauna alike, reeks intrusively, unfamiliar. When she drifts off at night, death and rot steam into her nostrils and she knows that this stench more than anything means the apocalypse is over and she and Jack and the other occasional survivors are as dead as the rest of the planet. They’re still moving, still breathing and that means nothing. Moving and breathing. Slower and slower.
(Worst of all are the few trees and blades of grass that cling to life with the optimism and faith that their human companions have had no choice but to abandon. Because the signs of life make it impossible to let go, to forget what was and will never again be. She can’t cry anymore but the faint scent of green makes her tremble. Sometimes.)
She has a difficult time remembering whether the silence came before the sex. Regardless of which led to the other, it is a surprisingly, impressively long time before either happens.
Jack isn’t a virgin, and she decides not to ask about that. It might have mattered, before they saw the world explode.
He (again, always) presses her into the dirt underneath the skeletons of dead trees and only Jack Landry would bother with foreplay and consideration at this point. She should find a little comfort in the fact that he is retaining something of who he used to be, but really, it just makes it even more obvious that she isn’t.
His lips glide along her breasts, fingers tracing her ever-more-prominent collarbone. She lies still and exhales as her body briefly awakens, her passiveness just another sign that the essence of Erica Evans is dead. Eventually, one of her hands finds its way into his hair, nails scraping at his scalp. As her eyes blank out through the dead branches, a dormant pulse of rage suddenly ignites her blood and she flips them over with a newfound energy.
She trails open-mouthed kisses down the hard planes of his chest until he is shivering, and she smiles inwardly. His vulnerability is more arousing than their mutual desperation. It has been, from the beginning.
He is hard against her thigh, and she marvels that after all this time and tragedy she can still have such a natural effect on a man.
Eventually she positions herself above him, takes him inside of her with an obsolete grace. He sits up and captures her mouth with his own and his tongue joins with hers in a kiss that is both aggressive and generous. She begins moving, her hips finding a comfortable rhythm as he penetrates her deeper, fully, his hands tracing her waist, curves they have both forgotten she has. He drops his lips to her throat, her neck arching backward with the building heat in her core.
A whimper escapes her lips when her orgasm fills every fiber of her body and for a moment, she forgets that they are just about dead.
He is still orgasming when she collapses into the hard dirt beside him. Her emotions flatline again, the burst of anger and arguably passion extinguished as quickly as it emerged. She rests her head on his bicep and her palm on his stomach.
They lie there naked. Adam and Eve in a horrible mockery of the Garden of Eden. She doesn’t have any breath left to laugh.
That is the last time. They choose not to explicitly agree on it, but she knows. They want to stop while it still means something, while companionship hasn’t yet lost all its relevance.
Erica fills her worn out water bottle with water from a stream that seems to not have noticed that it is the only other entity still moving.
The air grows cold when it should, sometime in what might have been October, once. They have sauntered into a ghost city. It used to be Great Barrington, Massachusetts.
Jack disappears two nights after they take up residence in an abandoned grocery store. She doesn’t really care how or why. Disintegrated by a lizard’s laser beam, splattered on the asphalt at the base of some building where he finally decided he was ready to stop moving, stop breathing…
He reappears in the morning and she has to touch him to make sure he’s real. Her fingers on his cheek. His lips on her forehead.
On a morning shortly after the days have started to get longer again, there is a wildfire silhouetted against the horizon.
“What do you think, Father? A burning bush, or hell?”
It’s the first time she’s spoken in a long, long time.
“Whatever we want,” he answers, voice hoarse from disuse, but a light in his eyes that fills her with warmth.
Either way, an end is coming.
She smiles. He smiles back.