It was like a dark dream. Everyone was gone. He was the last to live in the Milky Way. His house was at the top of the road, so he had barely noticed the changes. It had happened gradually, with fewer and fewer people who in the afternoon came home to the neighbourhood from work, from shopping or school.
(From chapter 2)
“It’s just this room here,” he said. “You can take the upper berth, then I will take the one below.”
She nodded. He could not see her face. Her hair fell down in front of her cheek and hid her mouth, and her eye was down.
At night it was difficult to find sleep. He listened for her breath. It was barely audible. A couple of times he heard absolutely nothing, and he thought: is she still alive?
He did not know when he fell asleep. It must have been in the middle of the night, after two or three. He came into a colourless dream. There were many shadows, and there were many people he did not know.
The dream changed and he slipped in and out of it. Suddenly she was beside him, he wanted to lie close to her, wanted to feel her body against his. She did not reject him directly, but she did not invite him either. She just was there, in his dream. She was there, next to him. Nothing more happened.
He was confused, had only vague ideas about what he was involved in, did not know where he was. He thought for a moment that he was at home in bed in the Milky Way. Then he saw a glimpse of himself in this cabin far up in the mountains, but it was a different woman than she who was there in the cabin with him. He tried to get up, but could not get up and out on the floor. Just then he woke up.
It was a black night, and he lay awake for a long time. Then he finally slipped into a dreamless sleep. He found himself in a situation where he struggled not to lose his grip. He hung by an arm over an abyss. He was desperate. Just before he woke up again, he had her close to him again. He bathed his face in her hair. Then he noticed that it was not her. It was Sara.
It was good, but just then he woke up. And he listened after her. After a while he heard her breathing and he realized that he had dreamed. He dreamed he lay close to her again, and suddenly Sara’s voice was there. She was grave and told him he had to be careful not to pressure her. She said she was an exposed, vulnerable person.
He lay with his eyes open, struggling to get out of the unreal. He swung his legs out and planted them on the floor. When he stood up, he saw that she was awake. She smiled quickly at him. He said: “Good morning.” She answered the same.
He considered whether they should stay there one or more nights. He decided to take her for advice.
“You, listen,” he said, “I think it’s a good idea to stay here a few more nights and wait a bit. We have to see if it works out down there. I know of a mountain top one to two hours walk from here, a great vantage point where we see quite far. I think it’s a good idea to go there and look down on the plain. From up there we can see many miles away, so it can give us a pretty good overview.
He looked at her: “What do you think?”
She smiled. “Yes,” she said, “you know the area here, so we do as you say.”
They had a quick breakfast and then got ready to go. He asked if she wanted to join, and she replied, “Yes, do you want me to?”
“Yes, I think it’s best.”
She showed with a sign with her head that she agreed.
They did not talk while walking. The terrain was hilly and there was a lot of climbing up and down. There was no path, and they did not go fast. They regularly took short breaks, and he made sure that they sometimes rested a little longer.
When they had walked for about an hour, they sat down at some distance from each other on a cliff and he said: “What do you think about this happening? What is it doing? Why is this happening now?"
“I do not know,” she said. “It’s so unreal.”
“Was there really a reason why it should happen now?”
“No, I do not know.”
“In recent years — it has seemed as if the world was in a good trend, a mainly positive development. The economy may have gone up and down a bit, but there have not been as many wars as before. ”
“No, I do not understand this.”
“And people have had a good time, most people are better off now than they were 20 years ago, and yet there are such riots in the streets.”
“Yes,” she said.
He waited for more, but there was no more. She looked confident as she slowly shook her head.
“No,” she said.
“Maybe,” he said, “yeah, perhaps people in our part of the world have gotten it too good, they are too well?”
“Do you mean that people come to welfare too easily?”
He looked at her but said nothing.
“Yes, maybe,” she said. “Maybe prosperity comes too easily. There are no requirements, one does not have to work so much for it — is that how it is, do you think? ”
“Yes, maybe it is.”
“No,” she said, “it is not entirely right to say so, I think.”
“There are many people in our society and in other societies who are similar to ours, and they are struggling and are having a hard time. Many people have a hard time finding out, and they have a hard time making ends meet financially. ”
“Yes, I see it. — And then there is this general dissatisfaction, there are so many such people who are so jealous and think that others have more, the others are always better off than me, etc.“
“Yes,” she said, “you can choose to see it that way. But you do not get the whole picture then. Remember that the rich in the last 30 years have only gotten richer and richer. And in the last year alone, in the year of the pandemic, many more people have become poorer.”
“Yes,” he said, “the rich are getting richer.”
“Yes, in fact,” she said, “in the first year of the pandemic, the 500 richest people in the world increased their wealth by $ 1.8 trillion, while 150 million more people ended up in extreme poverty.”
“Yes, there are huge differences.”
“What is wrong, I think, is that greed and selfishness have come in the driver’s seat, along with envy. Many of these people, the richest, do not understand — they have not learned — the value of community and of sharing. There are many who lack empathy and who just want to gain control over the most possible values. They only think about securing their own interests and acquiring more wealth. Many believe that they will win the big ticket in the Lottery. Too many people dream that they will suddenly become rich.”
He sat a little puzzled, enchanted, almost lame.
— She talked! She said many things, and what she said, it fit!
She got up and got ready to move on. He got up and walked behind her as he thought about how special this was, how incredibly exciting it was to gain insight into this secret universe of a person who was so different from those he knew before. She looked so small, next to be confused with a young girl, where she climbed so easily over rocks and branches.
It was overwhelming, he thought, that he had begun to come near her, to get to know her a little. A human being — a whole universe inside her. A world of thoughts, and probably also feelings that she had begun to share with him.
This is chapter 21 of the novel The Last Human in the Milky Way. The novel is written and published “live” chapter by chapter in ILLUMINATION Book Chapters.
To see all published chapters, go here.
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