Chapter 1: Mike
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.
Chapter 2: Erica
Halfway through the movie, with Erica sitting on the floor near the dripping bed, Mike started to close his eyes. Erica saw, and wasn’t sure what to do. If he fell asleep then that almost certainly meant death, and while he seemed to be ready and all that (and he was in terrible pain, after all) she didn’t feel like…it was time. Even though it was. Or something.
She cleared her throat to try and keep him awake. That didn’t work, so she said “What d’ya think of the movie?” Like they were on a date.
“I hate this godawful lazy remake culture,” Mike said weakly. “Star Wars, Star Trek, Jurassic World, what’s the point?” None of those films were actually remakes, but Erica didn’t have the heart to tell him that.
“Phil and Carol are going to name their baby after you,” she said, figuring it was as good as a time to bring it up as any.
“See,” said Mike after one sad second, “another example of godawful lazy remake culture.”
“He’s calling it Mike already. Yesterday I heard him refer to it as “Mike 2: The Mikening”.
“Maybe that’s a sign he’s recovering.”
“I doubt it, because after that he was crying again.” Mike winced, and it obviously wasn’t just because of the pain. “Carol convinced him to write your name in the sand and let it wash away. Apparently that’s a very popular method of grieving these days.”
“So he tried doing that, but then he found a condom wrapper marked ‘small’ in the sand, and cried for another hour because apparently it reminded him of you.”
“Son of a bitch.”
“Well done,” said Erica, after a pause in which she wondered if she was pushing too far, “you just insulted your dead mom.”
“Gosh darn it, so I did.” Mike then had a massive coughing fit which looked agonizingly painful. Erica didn’t know what to do, so she just sort of…poked him. It was a gentle poke. It was really stupid. But then he grabbed her gloved hand with his faded strength and held it.
Credits rolled on The A-Team.
“Well,” said Mike, “the movie’s over and I’m still not dead.” He was actually stuck to the bed with his own blood. Some of it was on Erica’s hands now too. (Figuratively, not metaphorically. The Liam Neeson version of The A-Team hadn’t been so bad it had hastened his death.) “I hate to tell you this, Erica, but it’s not the best note to go out on.”
“What would be?”
“None of these movies,” said Mike. That wasn’t remotely what Erica had meant. “What the fuck, my parents had a copy of the 2016 Ghostbusters?”
“I liked that movie,” said Erica.
“It’s just ripping off an older movie! It’s so lazy!”
“It’s not really lazy,” said Erica. “I mean, remakes in general. It’s just people telling each other the same stuff over and over, with the same characters and places and themes. Because we need to hear it over and over, so we don’t forget it, you know?”
Mike shrugged. “I guess.”
Of course, movies were a thing of the past now. Apparently they hadn’t needed to hear it over and over and not forget it after all. It, whatever It was, was gone.
“When I was a kid I wanted to be a film director. I would have remade so many movies I loved,” Erica said. “Made them mine. Made them awesome. Got famous. Then I remembered Hollywood was an old white boy’s club. And then the world ended, so…”
“Sorry,” said Mike.
“But I think, if it hadn’t, I would have found you anyway. No matter where I ended up.” This was a foolish, cloying lie. She wouldn’t have. She was lucky that she had done, if lucky was the word, but she wouldn’t have.
Mike clearly knew it was a lie too, she could see it in his eyes. She didn’t know what to say next. Everybody lied to the dying. It was just a human thing.
“I should stop talking,” she whispered.
“No you shouldn’t,” said Mike, “I’m literally going to be dead in probably less than a hour. And I can’t force you to leave, so talk away.”
Knowing what had happened with Phil, Erica realised she was actually a little hurt he hadn’t tried harder to make her leave. But on the other hand… they barely knew each other. He didn’t know about her parents or her sister or her first boyfriend or her first girlfriend. He didn’t know about her love for Vincent van Gogh and for Beyonce’s Lemonade. He didn’t know how much it had hurt being pointless, vacuous Amanda Williams, who had come from nothing and loved nothing. Now, of course, he would never know.
Erica sighed and picked up one of the balls balanced on Mike’s headboard. It had a little face drawn on it.
“Don’t touch that, that’s ball-Phil!”
“Of course it is.” Erica tried to think of a joke involving balls and came up short. Phil would have managed it. It was the first time ever, ever, she had been jealous of him. “Mike, why exactly did you send him away?”
“Because there wasn’t room for both of us on the door.”
That made so much sense, but it also made her oddly angry. How dare he explain a complex situation to her using a movie he didn’t even like! How dare he make something so hard and horrible sound so effortless!
“Oh,” she said.
Mike coughed up blood again. There was even more of it now and it was black and thick. Though she had only seen it up close a few times, Erica knew that that always spelled the end. There was no coming back from that.
“Erica,” Mike said, “I’ve never said this to a woman before, but I want to be left alone with my balls.”
“Okay,” said Erica quietly. Mike raised an eyebrow as if trying to get her to laugh, but she didn’t. It honestly felt like she never would again. “I’ll go.”
There was nothing else for her to say. No jokes, no denial, no declarations would save him. She took a deep breath and she walked.
“Wait,” Mike croaked. “One more thing.”
Erica walked back, and leaned over the bed, and Mike said, “You should remake Titanic for the new world, and you should do it totally your way, except you should fix the bit with the door…and you should cast Phil as Rose. Old Rose and hot Kate Winslet Rose. You promise me?”
“Strangely I can’t imagine him not being up for that,” said Erica.
“Tell him I’ll be watching, with popcorn. Also with Kate, come to think of it,” Mike said. “I’ll evaluate his performance, which will be terrible, when we meet again.”
“Alright,” said Erica. “Yeah, yeah, you will.” Blood was oozing from him like a slug. How could anyone think of other people, in the midst of dying so horribly? In amongst the pain and the fear and the things falling out of you? It was insane.
“Oh, and tell Mike 2: The Mikening that I said hi,” said Mike, and then (she thought) most of him pretty much died. With the last of his strength he pushed her away, towards the door, and she went through it. On the Miller’s staircase, surrounded by debris of the family’s former lives, she heard the rest of Mike go. Or she might have done. The hazmat suit protected her ears from the worst of the sounds, so maybe they only happened in her imagination, but that was still pretty bad. There was also singing. That was definitely happening inside her head, unless it wasn’t. But who the fuck in the post-virus world had had the luxury of going out singing? It was her. It was her brain screaming some sort of comforting defiance.
It did sound a lot like “Falling Slowly” though.
When it was all over she realised her hands were at her belly, where the baby was. She hoped it hadn’t been able to feel her emotions, and she hoped it still wasn’t able to now. She got up, shakily, and went into the room. Mike was definitely dead. Absolutely, thoroughly, 100% dead.
She did what she had heard everyone else on the planet describe doing at some point. She wrapped the body up in as many sheets as she could find, and then found a government-mandated body bag. There was one in the kitchen. She was initially surprised to find it, before realising it was probably meant to have been Phil’s.
She dragged the bag containing the body outside very slowly, not putting any extra strain on her own body, which was after all not entirely hers at the moment. When she got the bag to the back door she had to sit down and just gasp for a while, praying for the baby to deliver its first kick and console her in that moment, but it didn’t.
Outside she was not in the least bit surprised to find a gravestone and a grave freshly dug. She pushed the bag into it, as gently as she could, but it still made a disgusting noise when it landed. She ignored this entirely. Funerals didn’t been dignified affairs for a long, long time. Still clad in the hazmat suit, still with drying blood on her, she went upstairs and picked up all of the little sports balls with faces drawn on them. She dropped them into the grave as well, and then filled it in with the nearest shovel.
Then it was done. It was over.
Erica decided not to cry. Unfortunately, decisions had nothing to do with it, and she did cry, loudly and horribly into the silence of the world. No sort of comfort came to her even after ten minutes of tears: that would have to wait until she was back among people again. But even then, she would have to tell Phil that his brother was definitely, unmistakably dead. Maybe he’d be mad at her for burying him, because that should have been his job, even though Mike himself hadn’t wanted it to be. Maybe Carol would lose the baby. Maybe she would lose hers. Maybe they were fucked, all fucked…
In the end, she just had to ride out the grief. In the end, also, she got back in the DeLorean and gripped the wheel. Though she hoped to, she didn’t see Mike’s ghost in the road smiling and waving at her. She didn’t hear his voice whispering “Never let go, Erica!” Leo DiCaprio style. Nothing happened like she thought it should have, like it happened in the movies. Like it would happen in her movie?
Despite the grief and anger and fear within her, she gritted her teeth and started the car and began her journey back to Malibu. It was time to start remaking.