The Last Woman on Earth

“Before the Rain” by Mary Stone

The Last Woman on Earth

She thinks she remembers before, the lavender mist sprayed on bedspreads, the ease of switching on a light, the breath of an acoustic guitar. She hadn’t noticed any war playing out, each bomb an isolated image of smoke and fire so far away. A man’s bloodshot eyes and another man’s tears. She keeps finding guns after a full moon as they sweep in with the tide searching for powerful hands. The only things ever real were what she once held in her hands — warm coffee mugs, a dog’s leash, a cotton bra. She isn’t sure if chlorine ever existed, if she is clever enough to have invented something as grand as the sun or a toddler’s laugh. Instead, she digs down, deep into the dark sand, burying guns like little bodies.

The Last Woman on Earth

She combs the lake for her voice, using nets made from the silk of spider egg sacs, the moan of an ancient radio wave alive in her fingertips. Once, she’d had a lover bore of the sounds she made orgasming and today she sees the faces of many lovers in trees dying across the peninsula. Those monsters appear when she forgets the word they used to call her when she lay naked in candlelight and sang to burning neon clouds that threatened to fold into her limbs. She sang of laughter, once. The silvery lake opens and opens and beneath, where she can never see, the remnants of another song are swallowed by catfish, are sick with algae, are rearranging into the wrong order, are telling her to leave, to wind the net around her neck and sleep.
 
And she’s been listening for so many days she no longer hears the black siren warnings beyond her throat, resting somewhere between a palm
and an anxious heart.

The Last Woman on Earth
 
In Kentucky, she finds mile-long spider webs attached to road signs, streetlights, to the silent air, but not one spider shows its green eye. She collects the few eggs she finds in a mason jar because the webs reminds her of a book she’d read as a child. Leaving them unhatched and alone makes her weep on the blacktop. It’s all she needs in Bourbon County, a road and a jar, to count empty barns, to collect rusty trinkets from dead farms. Sometimes her feet flash the crackle of bonfires and she swears her breath smells of pickles and vodka, but when she breathes the unborn move in their black sacs and the webs glisten with dew, long silvery blades reflecting the moon.

The Last Woman on Earth
 
She carries an unloaded gun and a shovel, though she prefers to dig by hand, the soil bloody from dead trees. How her fingernails crack and peel. She hasn’t eaten meat in weeks and prefers it that way as she tongues the maggots from rotting mangoes and threads seed after seed onto her necklace. She loops it around her neck fourteen times and when she breathes her collarbones and breasts expose roots. Why can’t she think of something more to do than draw up things from the ground into her body? She wishes at times to dig into her own torso but then it rains. She’s forgotten the sound of something important — a heater turning on, a fire alarm, a melody — something simple gone each day. She wants to keep bathing in the rain with the shadows. She hangs rose thorns among the spider webs to remind her that comfort can be found in empty doorways. She once saw a video of a crow sliding itself down a snowy roof on a lid. Here, the road is scattered with lids and invisible bombs and she searches for something like the crow among the tree limbs, swears she’d grill it up and consume all the faces she’d been told old crows remember.