Last in Line

by Paul

Last in Line

written by

Paul Kensmoe

The eyes that had contained that brightness of life that denoted intelligence faded. Her breathing had slowed from the panicked pace that had been in possession before. Toffy knew that she had fallen into The Sleep and like so many others she would not awaken.

The eyes that now stare at him with no light or movement, could they see? Toffy turned his head from side to side. He then passed his hand quickly in front of her face. The deep brown did not so much as flicker. He covered them up and waited for a moment. The heat from her face warmed his hand in the chill of the October evening. He pulled his hand away quickly and still there was no tightening of the iris. Fixed and dialated is what he had heard it called.

Toffy rose from his knees without taking his eyes from her. She was beautiful though her light had gone. Her blond hair was unwashed and her clothes were filthy, from what Toffy could only guess. After he had regained his feet he looked down the block and into the darkening sky. His shadow stretched out long before him as his recollections washed up on him like a gentle wave.

Three years ago it had been unleashed but was not unexpected. Most of the people at the time had thought of it as inevitable. The Bug was not let loose by some crazed terrorist as was expected but it rose of it's own volition. The smallest of creatures hopped right to the top of the food chain and began devouring mankind. It fed upon DNA not all of it but just certain sections. Toffy was not an educated man as were those that recieved the cure but he got to hear the ruminations of the that he had watched slip into The Sleep.

So many had died all over the world when it began. Within two months one in three had died. So much grief, so much smoke from the pyres that burned day and night. Toffy stayed far away from those cursed places where the government disposed of those stacked fleshy piles, doused with fuel then set aflame.

His journeys through his fourty-five years on this plane had prepared him for many things. He had ridden the trains, relied upon the kindness of strangers for his survival. Friends had come and gone, companions moved on to what he hoped were bigger and better things. Now he doubted that anyone he had known still breathed.

The ghettos had been hit hard by the pluage. It swept through Africa, Europe, everywhere that people were amassed. Toffy had been there, right in the middle of it. People were falling in the streets, dying in their beds. The wailing of the survivors echoed through the streets that he called home. Then the cure came.

It was a godsend and those that had been waiting for just such an occurance began scrambling for it. Those on the top of the food chain were the first to recieve it. Once they were vaccinated against the virus they could breathe easy again. Too bad there was not enough for everyone. Those luck enough to have survived found themselves locked out of their share of the cure. The people outside of the hospitals and civic centers were pissed and rightly so.

When the citizenry found that they were not going to get the vaccination, violence ensued. Riots were tripped off and people died. Those that had gotten the shot, those with the money and power to be thought of as important found themselves under siege as they were attacked. Homes were invaded and more people were killed.

Toffy cared nothing for these things. He was not one to get mad or kill others. His lot was to bear witness to the end of days. If it was his lot to die then die he would and without lament. So rather than join in the insanity that he saw as he walked this now alien place.

Once a few of the elite had been killed whoever was at the top now let his hounds loose. The trucks and tanks came rolling in upon those that decided to stand for what they wanted. The military must have recieved the vaccine or why would they fight? Well it was not a fight really but more of a massacre. Those that had been outside of the hospital were shot down as they left the now looted building. People were then hunted by fast moving, growling predators fueled by indifference. Toffy must have had a guardian looking out for him because the soldiers, upon seeing him, moved on without taking his life, without so much as a second glance. So much the better.

After a nearly a week the gunfire ceased and Chicago became very quiet. There were still birds in the park, cats still dug in the trash cans and Toffy still wandered his home, the streets of Chi-town.

On one of those seemingly endless days he happened upon a gathering of his bretheren. They were meeting in a park that Toffy had known since his childhood. The trees were changing and leaves littered the ground. There must have been three hundred people standing and listening to a man on a dias as he spoke. Some of the people Toffy recognized from shanty towns that the homeless lived in. He had seen them in various states of disarray and oh so humble.

"Now is the time for us. The ruling elite is gone or soon to be gone. We have lived in the shadows, forgotten." his face held a smile as he spoke and his eyes hinted at hope. "We lived on the streets and under their bridges, living off of the scraps from their table."

Those that listened to the man nodded and spoke hushed to one another. Agreement coulod be seen upon the faces of those gathered. Toffy listened but made no judgements.

"They are falling into The Sleep. Their greed has finally taken it's toll and they are soon to be no more. I know that some want us to take care of these people until such a time as they may come to. Would they do the same for us?You know they wouldn't. It seems that the cure was worse than the disease. The virus is gone, at least for now. For months there have been no deaths from The Bug. The vaccine is what is causing The Sleep that these people find themselves in. Do we help them?" No one spoke or dared breathe as they waited for the answer to the obviously rhetorical question. The speaker looked pained as he ruminated.

"I have given this much thought and I have spoken with many people on the subject. I don't know if you are aware of this but there are gatherings like this occurring everyday. We are what is left of this once thriving civilization. The answer that has been agreed upon time and again is that we do not help them." at this last statement the crowd cheered. Toffy looked around at the faces of those that had once been the forgotten but were now the only hope for mankind. They were the people that had not just been denied the vaccine that had given way to The Sleep but had not even been added into the equation. They held the fate of those that horded the "miricle" in their hands.

"They let us flounder in the world that was theirs. They will now wither in this world that we have inherited." the crowd cheered again as the speaker held his arms wide as though encompassing the whole world. Once the cheering died down he continued:

"We must rebuild though. All of this is ours and we must become the stewards of mankind. Our task is to join the others, those like us. They are travelling now to a new Eden that we are to become a part of. I ask you now to come with me, tonight. Will you join me, will you join us?" the crowd cheered again. "Then let's go and begin this world anew."

Vehicle headlights could then be seen coming up the street. The gathered throng spoke to one another as they watched the approach. The sound of so many voices sounded like the babble of a river.

The line of vehicles stopped on the side of the road just in front of Toffy. As one the people began to make their way towards the line of motorhomes. With smiles that seemed to stretch from ear to ear the small mass of people began to make their way toward the fleet. Toffy stood where he was as the crowd moved around him. He felt like a boulder in a river that split the water but was fixed in place.

The air felt electric with hope but Toffy was not to become part of the exodus, it was not his lot. The speaker was the last to make his way to the gathering. Upon seeing Toffy he stopped.

"Are you coming?"

"No sir." Toffy replied matter of factly.

"Really? Why not?"

"I never really wanted to be part of anything to begin with."

With that the speaker shrugged and smiled at Toffy.

"Well then, good luck to you." the speaker held out his hand and Toffy shook it. "If you change your mind we will be in Omaha Nebraska."

"I doubt that I will sir."

"If you run into any other people..."

"I will let them know."

The Speaker nodded and continued to the lead motorhome. He disappeared inside as the convoy began rolling down the street. As they passed Toffy heard singing and laughing, sounds that he had not heard for a very long time. He smiled as he watched the tail lights fade from view.

The night was quiet again as Toffy continued on his way. His home, this city on the lake, was now his and his alone and he would keep her company for as long as he was able.

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