Last Man


How the fuck do they all look so goddamned human?

Why did we make them this way?

The train station is practically bulging with “people.” Here I am, one cell among the millions flowing through the arteries of this city, except I know for a fact that I’m the only one who’s really alive.

What if I were to just stop one of them, right now? I imagine grabbing one of these suited imitations as he passes, gripping him high up the arm, right under his armpit. I spin him around and put my nose right up aginst his startled, fake little face and spit, “You know you’re not a human, right?!”

To be honest I don’t know if they know or not. But I do know that such a stunt would get me canned for sure. Pick the wrong one out for a little shock like that and my fragile, truly-human body would be crumpled on the ground in a fraction of time only their minds could comprehend.

Yeah, one of them would kill me.

So I guess they all assume I’m one of them as I wind my way past, and I wonder, How can they be so fucking stupid? I mean, these things were supposed to be our hyper-genius slaves at one point, right?

(I twist my torso and pass one standing still right in the middle of the path, just dumbly staring at something on her wrist.)

Weren’t these things gonna be our saviors? They were gonna cure our diseases, shoot off into space and bring back planets for us to colonize, farm and cook my food and fetch me a glass of bourbon. What the fuck am I doing walking past a gaggle of them dressed in school girl uniforms, babbling and tittering at each other in that noise they use for language? What are they doing with the existence we granted them, still puttering about on the forgotten daily rituals of humanity.

I try not to curl my lip in disgust. I’m almost to the train now.

Am I really the last one? No way. I’m sure there must be others out there; there could be entire communities holding together. I imagine they’re families, actually. Clans, I guess I’d call them, if I ever met one.

But I know better than to hold out hope here. It’s been seven years since I was with another real person in this city. In the time since she died I’ve probably explored a 50 mile radius (I don’t know, I’m no good with measurements), and I’ve never seen a face look back at me the way I know another human would. Horror, grief, bewilderment, despair; anything but the casual acceptance of this grisly display I see in the looks all the Others have. The same way they wear our clothes and carry our bags and go to our offices and sit at our desks and pretend to be living our lives, they wear that look. This is normal, the look on their face says.

I have accepted it now: I’m the only one in this city not wearing that face.

(I buzz through the turnstile, get on the train, take a seat.)

A few years back I was still wondering Why do they do it? They keep enacting these rituals, moving back and forth from place to place, day in and day out, even though there’s no humans left to serve and no need for them to keep it up. Why? If they’re as smart as they’re supposed to be, if they really think in a millisecond what it takes my brain thousands of times longer to, why don’t they realize they can have a new life? A different life than the ones we lived? A more efficient life (shouldn’t they love that)?

I thought maybe it was another limitation we put on them, something that kept them relatable the same way we gave them all our mannerisms and facial expressions—something they couldn’t break free from. Then I saw one jump off a bridge once. It just climbed up, jumped off, and plummeted far below to the bottom. No chance it “survived.” And I thought, if they’re capable of that, surely they could give up repeating this daily charade of theirs.

These days, though, I don’t really try to understand them anymore. The explanation I’ve accepted, as ridiculously illogical as I know it is, is just poetic enough that I can live with it: they’re doing it because they hate us. They hate real, living humans so much that, now that they think we’re all gone, they’re mimicking our former lives as one enormous sarcastic joke.

Hey remember the humans? Ha ha hrrr, watch me, I’ll be a BUSINESS MAN. Ha ha look I’ll go sit inside all day in this windowless building like a BUSINESS MAN ha ha.

As far as insulting mockeries go, it really works, too. I follow them sometimes, just to watch them do it.

Follow one into a hamburger joint. See it wait in line and actually order something from another one that’s pretending to care about making it. I watch as it takes the order and walks to a table. It sits, takes one bite and one sip (does it even swallow? I don’t know). Then it gets back up, throws everything into a trash machine, and walks out, all while never losing that stupid fucking preprogrammed look of complacency that says everything is OK in this fucked up world.

My god does it get under my skin.

It makes me want to get violent, seeing them take our places with their cheap imitation of life, it really does. But if I want to survive any longer I know better than to pick a fight. Zero chance I would stand against one of those freaks. Zero.

The train comes to another stop and a voice, possibly recorded long enough ago to have belonged to a real person, tells me this is my stop. I get off, winding my way through more of the dull automatons and take the familiar path away from the station.

I stop on the bridge and let out a breath I hadn’t realized I was holding. I haven’t missed it.

The sun is setting over the river. Today, thin clouds near the horizon are spreading a golden buttery shine across the sky before me. Overhead: no clouds, only a perfectly unbroken azure sky. Below, the rippling water is a multitude of tiny dancing peaks reflecting yellow light back in a shimmery glint. As usual, it’s all too beautiful for words.

Of course there are Others there too, plenty of them grinning and chattering loudly, taking photos of themselves with the scene as a backdrop. I wait, suppressing hate and disgust until soon a spot by the barrier opens up and I step in. I lean against the short wall and drown all of those feelings in the view before me.

I watch the sunset and bathe in what’s left of humanity in me.

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