To all intent and purpose, the Earth is dead, uninhabitable. Every living thing across the world perished when the planet was hit by a massive solar storm, rupturing the atmosphere and boiling the planet’s surface.
Humanity, with the exception of a handful of individuals, who saw the catastrophe coming, died out.
Those few unknowingly irradiated escapees, who descended below ground in Earth’s last hours, became troglodyte-like cave dwellers. Within a few short weeks after the solar bombardment, they began to change beyond all recognition as the last remnants of the oxygen-rich atmosphere disappeared. A new subterranean species soon replaced humanity.
In general, they live out their lives knowing nothing of what went before. However, in nature, there is always at least one exception to the rule.
I still retain a conscious mind while the rest merely exist. While we no longer communicate in the way our ancestors once did, I somehow sense that we evolved because of the solar storm into the species we have become within ten short generations.
Today we are reliant on absorbing all gases, moisture, and nutrients necessary to live through our skin from the underground environment we live in. Above us, the surface of our planet is continuously subjected to violent cosmological bombardment. We have become blind, deaf, limbless slug-like creatures burrowing our way through our underground environment with only one aim, the constant search for nourishment.
Despite our monotonous subterranean way of life, I sense that, unlike me, most are content in their ignorance of our previous existence. Via the fragile link I still possess to our human ancestors through fleeting memories, I believe our life span has increased beyond theirs, although I have no real way of proving my theory.
There are times when I wish that I was like my brethren, merely existing, not knowing anything of the way our ancestors once lived and loved.
Why have I retained these memories? I can’t communicate my knowledge to my brethren. Why am I cursed with consciousness and emotions? Knowing something of the way we used to live in our former existence is excruciating mental torture to me.
I wonder what it would have felt like, were I human, to feel grass beneath my feet? In my troubled mind, I often imagine what it would have been like to experience the simple pleasure of seeing a flower, touching it, smelling it, and marveling at it. What must it have been like to actually speak? What was it like to love another individual?
I am a freak, an outsider.
As night falls across the dead planet, it transforms into a shadowy vision of hell. Its satellite moon casts its ghostly light and for a brief moment, illuminates a new feature in the stark landscape below. The desiccated remains of the last conscious link to mankind now lie half in, half out of the parched surface.
All that humanity was, aspired to be, is now truly dead and lost forever.
An excellent story as always.
I always find I am content in NOT being one of the enlightened ones. To read of their torment is quite enough for me.
I most certainly would not wish to be the very last Merle. How awful would that be? 🙂