Max drank whiskey on his porch, one bottle for him, the other upon Henry’s return. By his calendar, Project Annihilation should have been be completed weeks ago, with Henry disposing of remaining humans.
Birds chirped in the distance, a summer breeze washed Max’s face, and sublime acceptance seeped into him. In a rusted out car, like something out of Mad Max, Henry speeds over the horizon.
Max downed another glass while waiting.
Henry stagged out of the car, sweat and blood congealed on his shirt.
“Is it done?” Max asked.
“The last person I saw was a bearded shut-in. We drank coffee and smoked his last pack of cigarettes.” Henry paused. “Hell of a thing being with someone during their last hours.”
“I got to know this man.” A long pause. “Somehow all of this don’t feel right.”
Max lit a stale cigarette. “Did he know who you were?”
“No, just an old timer happy to see someone. His town was empty, though not by my hand.”
“When we finished, he pulled out a gun, and blew his brains out.”
“Just like that?”
Henry took a seat next to Max. “Just like that.”
“But you’re sure everyone’s dead except us?”
“As sure as anyone can be,” Henry said. “I mean, goddamn, I’ve been out there for what? years?”
“Little over a decade.” Max handed Henry his bottle. “We’re the last humans then. Ain’t that something?”
Henry admired the bottle and took a swig. “You know, I think I’ll miss this world.”
Max leaned back, his whiskey almost gone. “I’ve had a weird and interesting life, but I won’t miss it.”
Henry took another swig. “You never told me when this all started.”
“My father looked at me with sadness. Not a sadness that I was his son, a melancholy that I was born. Not resentment. No. Something deeper. A kind of existential depression of foisting existence on a meat puppet.” He took a long drink. “As I aged, he told me he longed for extinction. His reasons made too much sense to ignore.” Max took another drink. “You never ask many questions before. Why now?”
“You’re a friend. The only one I ever had. A smarter than anyone I knew. No point in questions at the time. But now I’m curious.”
Max took a drag and exhaled through his nostrils. “Thank you, friend.”
“Did he start the program immediately?”
“Took him until I started college to perfect the formula and work out the logistics.”
“Whatever happened to him?”
“After he taught me how to keep it going, he went to the garage and hung himself. I think I was twenty? Maybe twenty-one? Shot my mother first.” Max paused. “He didn’t say goodbye, but his eyes leading up to his suicide didn’t lie. My mother once told me he’d long suffered bouts of anhedonia”
“He couldn’t feel pleasure.”
Henry took out a cigarette, lit it, and stared off in the distance. “I’m not sure I’m ready to die.”
Max put his wrinkled hand on Henry’s shoulder. “The planet’s a sentience void now. This moment we have, right here, right now? That’s it. And Henry, thank you for your friendship, and service.”
Henry let the cigarette burn. “It’s been a wild ride.”
“No more human misery. No more needless suffering of beings thrust into a world to suffer and die. No more cradles that become coffins. You understand the humanism behind it all, right? The compassion of saving countless future lives from this wretched world, right?”
Henry inhaled, then snubbed out his cigarette. “Yeah, sure, I suppose.”
“One more glass?”
Both downed a final glass in silence, then Max produced two cyanide tablets.
“You were more than a friend. A brother.” Max said. “Thank you.”
Off the coast of California, on a derelict boat, a baby cried out as the mother finished birthing.
“It’s ok,” she said. “Mommy’s here. Everything will be ok.”
“It’s a miracle,” the doctor said. “You’re one of a few fertile women left. You’re a hero.”
The woman looked out at a crumbling L.A, then back at her crying infant.