The last man on Earth sat alone in a room. There was a knock on the door.
Actually, most of that statement is inaccurate. Mike wasn’t the last man on Earth, although it would have been easier if it had been, and it wasn’t a knock, it was more like a pounding. He was in a room though. Hey, it’s a good opener, just go with it.
“Phil?” Mike asked. It came out as a sort of croak. It wouldn’t be Phil, he had promised. Maybe it was Death. Maybe it was the Terry Pratchett version of Death, which Mike had always hoped to be the real one. That would be pretty cool.
“Mike?” a voice called from downstairs. Whoever it was had opened the front door. Also, it was a woman. It was Erica. “Mike, it’s me.” A moment of silence. “Are you dead?”
“No,” Mike called back. It took most of his remaining strength to say that. Erica raced upstairs, taking the steps two at a time, and flung the door open.
“Christ!” she exclaimed on seeing him. “Oh, christ.”
“Sorry,” said Mike. He thought about making some joke about he wasn’t used to having that effect on a woman, but the words just didn’t come.
“Oh god, you do have it,” Erica said. She was wearing a hazmat suit; somehow Mike had missed this. “Oh god, I was hoping - I was hoping everyone was wrong. I had to come, I had to see-”
“Sorry,” said Mike again.
Erica was crying. “Oh god - you just look so terrible -”
“I gotta go.” And she ran out of the room.
“Thanks,” Mike said again. He actually meant it.
A few minutes later Erica was back. “I found some wet wipes,” she said. “Your face is covered in blood.”
“Yeah, that’s from my nose. Possibly the eyes too.” She began wiping his face, which he didn’t like. “You should see the other side.”
“That’s not funny, that’s not cute, that’s horrible! You’re dying of the virus and it’s fucking wrong!”
Mike figured it was a good time to change the subject. “You really shouldn’t have come here. Especially in your condition. You gotta leave.”
“I just…” But Erica didn’t finish that sentence. She tried to to start it again. “I just…”
“Is Phil okay?” Mike asked, anxiously. Maybe that was why she was here. “Please tell me he’s okay. He didn’t do something stupid like crash the DeLorean into a tree on the way back to Malibu?”
“No, he’s fine. He’s in one piece, I mean. We had some trouble back at the house -”
“That weird guy you met, remember him? He found some more survivors and he thought, let’s go introduce ourselves and bring goddamn drones and guns! All sorted now. But freaky.”
“Pat? Pat found you guys? God.”
“Is that his name? Didn’t catch it. He’s in the stocks now. Dumbass.”
Mike mentally went through all this. It was hard, because his brain was still mostly preoccupied with dying. “Other survivors?”
“Two women. Lesbians. They’re nice.”
If Phil had been there both of them would have made some dumb joke about lesbians. On the other hand, that was a douchebag sort of thing to do, and neither of them were really douchebags anymore.
“Do any of the others know you’re here?”
“No,” Erica said. “I told them I was going to bury my sister. Cos of what Tandy- Phil just went through, I told them I was inspired to go find what happened to my own family. They bought it.”
“So your sister-”
“Is actually in Australia. And very, very rotted away by now, probably.”
She seemed very blase about saying something so horrible, but they had all said and done the same thing hundreds of times over. “How did you find the house?”
“Tandy left a GPS in the DeLorean.”
“Of course he did.”
Now the blood was back, and it was coming from everywhere. It was gross. “Erica, please go.”
“You’ve got a real thing about dying, haven’t you?” she said to him.
“What on earth does that mean? Everyone’s got a thing about dying! It’s part of the human condition!”
“No, s’like, remember what your brother said about your grandmother? That you went kayaking when she was on her deathbed? That’s not a dick thing to do - well, it kinda is - that’s what people do when they don’t want to see death.”
“Yeah. Maybe I should have seen a therapist about that, if all of them hadn’t been wiped out by the virus.”
“Yeah, that’s a bummer.” There were a few moments of painful silence.
“It’s just not fair,” Erica finally said, her gritted teeth visible behind the plastic of the hazmat suit, “that you fall down to earth, that you reconcile with your brother, that you’re having a good time and then you fucking get the virus. It’s not fucking fair.”
Mike thought about this (he wholeheartedly agreed with her) and said, “Hey, is that what Australians mean when they say ‘fair dinkum’?”
“No,” said Erica bitterly. “It’s not.”
Mike tried to get up and found he couldn’t. He sort of wanted some water, but he didn’t want to ask her. What would be the point, anyway? He could die not thirsty, but he’d still die.
“So Phil’s definitely okay?” he said.
“He’s just sort of sitting around moping.”
“We usually call that ‘grieving’. Don’t know what you call it in -” Mike made air quotes with his shaking fingers, “‘Australia’“.
“Grieving, then” said Erica, rather gloomily. “Just grieving.”
“God, putting a ‘just’ in front of it makes it sound so much worse, doesn’t it?”
"Phil says you gave him…a fart in a jar?” Erica asked. “I presume that’s not code for anything, and you actually did give him a fart in a jar.”
“Well, that fits in with what I know of you two.”
“Actually, it’s not quite a fart in a jar. I just found some of our mom’s perfume and sprayed it in there,” Mike said. “He’s gonna be really shocked when he finally opens it and thinks my farts smell like roses.”
“That also fits in with what I know of you two.”
All topics of conversation seemed to be expired now. Mike wished she would leave, but what could he say to make her go? She was a grown adult. And Phil had never been, not really, not until…
“Erica, I’m guessing you’ve lost a lot of people,” he said. “You lost the father of your baby not too long ago, right? Just…give it up, go home, get drunk. Alright?”
“Actually, I haven’t lost that many people,” Erica said quietly. “I was one of the, ur, the lucky ones.”
“Okay,” said Mike, sort of wishing he’d known that earlier, “so what happened to your family?”
“Um, disowned,” said Erica, although she didn’t say which party had done the disowning. Mike decided to drop it.
“That hazmat suit is definitely all good, right?” he said, to distract himself from the utter misery at the back of this brain. “Had a little trouble with one myself once.”
“Yes, I’m not friggin’ stupid,” Erica said, and then she said, “Shall we watch a movie? I saw some DVDs downstairs.”
This was so completely out of left field that Mike just said “Alright.” Erica darted downstairs and returned within seconds. She hovered above the bed (it was covered in blood and urine by now, incidentally) and showed him the DVDs.
“What do you think?” she said. “Titanic? I love Titanic.”
“No, I’m not watching Titanic! Spare me that ‘I’ll never let go’ bullshit, there was room for them both on the door.”
“Alright. How about the movie of The A-Team? Liam Neeson and Bradley Cooper are in it.”
“Yeah,” said Mike. “Alright. We’re going to spend my last night on earth watching the Liam Neeson version of The A-Team. Why not.”
So that happened.