The Last Person in America: A Short Story

“3/3/17,” I read aloud, even though I was alone. “Dear Diary. I got paired with someone really cute for my science project!” My voice came out mocking and scornful as I sat on a ratty, burnt couch and crossed my legs. “I’m so excited to get to know them more. Hopefully they think I’m cute too.” I squinted my eyes at the next line, trying to see through the ash smeared on the paper. “I..” I paused and set the book to my side, taking my glasses off and wiping them on my shirt, accidentally smearing dirt across them. I sighed irritably and found the cleanest spot on my shirt to clean my lenses with. After they were as clean as I could get them I put them on and picked the book back up. I still had to squint to see the words, but I figured it out. “I..don’t know what we’re going to do for the project, but I can’t stop smiling.” My tone was shrill as I imitated the voice of whoever probably owned the journal. “I have to…” There was a hole in the paper, obviously from sparks, blocking the next words. “I’ll be back though. Love, Sammy.” The page was blank after that, other than marks of ash, blood, and water damage. I turned the page with distaste and began to read from the top. “5/18/19,” My eyebrow went up for a moment, processing the huge jump in time, but I persisted. “Dear Diary, Sorry, I lost you for a while. In my first entry I talked about a cute person I was paired with on a science project.” My legs uncrossed and I swung them up onto the couch, laying my head on the burnt armrest. “Well, their name is…” There was another hole in the paper and I groaned at the inconvenience. “We’re actually together now. We have been since..” Another smear of ashes blocked the date. “We’re in love.” I practically gagged as those words came out of my mouth, but I still had an entertained smirk on my lips. “They’re helping me save up for an apartment. We agreed not to move in together straight out of High School, but it was a difficult choice. Technically, I should be working right now, so I’m going to go. Love, Sammy.” I turned the page again and cleared my dry throat. I would’ve killed for a glass of water, or even a just a sip. “Ahem, 8/8/22,” I licked my cracked lips, but it did very little to help. “Dear Diary, We’re married now and we’re having a kid. I’m so excited. I’ve never been happier in my life.” I glanced at the date and a frown fell on my lips. I actually felt bad, knowing what would befall this person’s family. “Apparently there is some big war going on. They told us not to worry about it. It should be over soon.” Tears threatened to fall from my eyes, but my dehydration kept them back. “Woah! I think it’s time! I have to go now! Wish me luck!” My voice was mine once again. It was too serious for me to make fun of it now. This page didn’t have a sign off, probably because ‘Sammy’ was in a rush. I turned the page. The date was illegible due to ash and blood, but I knew when it was by the messy, urgent handwriting. “They were wrong. It’s been years and the war is still going. Millions of people are dead and more soon will be.” I gulped back the lump in my throat as I continued. “I don’t know who’s winning, but I don’t really care. What war could be worth this? We were told not to open the doors to anyone except the police and right now someone is banging on the door. Soon, they’ll get in and we will all die. I will do my best to protect my family, but I don’t know if I can.” The rest of the journal was empty and I stared at the words for a while. I would have been crying if I hadn’t been too dehydrated. I took in a deep breath and dropped the book to the ground. Finally, I stared out at the empty, barren wasteland in front of me. The sky was red and black with ash and fire and nature was completely destroyed. I heard the sound of a plane engine roaring loudly overhead and I wondered if maybe it was someone coming to help me, but it was a long shot. It landed not too far from me and as a few men approached me I held my arms up, awaiting whatever fate had in store for me, the last person in the land that was once called America.

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