This is a continuation of my other post. If you missed Part One of this short story, you can check it out here: Kill the Earth – Part One
“It’s entirely I fault,” I repeat. “We never should’ve created that stupid formula, and much less actually sold it to a company we didn’t even know or fully trust in the first place.
“Hey, stop that,” my brother commands, tightly gripping both of my shoulders to try and calm me down. “We were trying to do good and you know it. We created that formula with the purest of intentions.”
“They just found a loophole to the whole ‘don’t use it for war’ clause that we failed to foresee,” comes my husband’s soft voice from behind me. “Yes, they may have used it to destroy the world, but they technically didn’t use it for war. They made sure to get nearly every country to side with their beliefs. That’s not war.”
I turn around to face him. The solid navy mask that covers his face from the bottom of his nose up to his hairline doesn’t faze me. I’m used to the fact that he’s blind and feels safer with that on. Even now, he is always able to see much more clearly than everyone else, despite his handicap.
I grab both of his hands.
“Then, what are we supposed to do now?” I ask. “I feel so conflicted.”
“Well, first things first: We can’t just keep standing here chit-chatting and just go down without trying to fix this, now can we?” he says with the gentlest of smiles.
I peek over at my brother and quickly bat my eyelashes at him. He sighs in defeat and nods in agreement.
“Fine. You two, try to locate the missile. If along the way you happen to find anyone or anything that can help stop that thing, use it,” my brother suggests.
“But the way they developed it, it goes through even iron and steel… I guess if we find something we haven’t tested yet, then we can at least try it out…” I mumble, not sounding very confident at all.
“Yeah, I know. Too bad almost everything’s been destroyed. We can’t even dig deep enough to figure out if being underground would help. I know it was tested for the third missile, but their shelter was apparently not deep down enough,” my brother sadly states.
Those people he speaks of in such a regretful tone were old colleagues of his from his college years.
“Okay,” he continues. “I’ll try to find our fourth troublesome member to advise him of the plan and to see if he had any brilliant ideas. They’re usually dumb, but they at least work. Man, do I miss cell phones… Anyway, let’s try and stop this thing and save what’s left of our species!”
We run around searching where we can for hours, and I mean literally run. Missiles two and three didn’t only take out most life on Earth, but they also disintegrated nearly every man-made and nature-made structure and material, with the exception of the very few we use for our daily uses.
All that can be seen for miles is almost like a gravel-filled desert. It’s difficult to run on and doesn’t feel good against our worn-down shoes. It’s a depressing sight around us, but we have to keep running. We have something that needs to get done.
I lead my husband by the hand. We don’t have any time for him to use the tools that he had created for himself long ago to help him get around with ease. Plus, it’s become increasingly more dangerous for him to even stand around on his own, so I hardly ever leave his side regardless.
And we run.
And we keep on running, but we can’t seem to find anything at all. The only hint that we have regarding the possible location of the missile is that it’s somewhere in this portion of the world. If we can miraculously find its exact location, then there’s a slight chance that we’ll be able to possibly cut or mess with its signal so that it doesn’t automatically launch like the last one did. But, that option seems to be creeping further and further away from us the more we run.
Time is running out. We had estimated that it would launch by sundown, and it’s already late afternoon.
I squeeze his hand twice. He knows exactly what that means.
“Let’s go meet up with them,” he suggests in a much calmer voice than I could ever muster right now. “We may as well spend our last moments together. We tried our best.”
He’s right. We’ve been so focused on searching for its location that we haven’t even had the opportunity to say our goodbyes to one another; something that I’ve been trying to unsuccessfully convince myself isn’t needed because everything will somehow turn out okay.
I give a quick nod to try and reassure myself and we start to run toward the only place available for humans to take shelter in on this side of the world.
Almost immediately, the ground below us begins to frantically shake back and forth with a deep rumble emanating from all around us.
“An earthquake?!” I gasp, attempting to keep my balance. That’s the last thing we need right now.
“No,” he says. “This feels more like it’s-”
And that’s when I see it for myself: the last missile.
“Are you kidding me…? It was this close to us the entire time?”
I’m not entirely sure if those words managed to actually leave my mouth. They felt like they got stuck at the bottom of my throat, making me feel nauseous. The fact that it had literally been beneath our feet the entire time hurt me more than the fact that it had been launched.
“Let’s go!” he exclaims, tugging on my arm. Despite the situation, he knows exactly in which direction we have to go and we quicken our pace.
All I can think about on the way is that we’ve failed. Nobody can change my mind. We carelessly failed humanity more than once. I was taught growing up that good is always supposed to win in the end, that everything would always work out for good people. Does that mean we were bad all along? We didn’t manage to do anything good in the end. We couldn’t even save a single child.
We know that we still have a little bit of time before the missile hits. They had oddly been designed to leave Earth’s atmosphere for an unknown reason, would orbit the planet a single time, and would then come back down. So, the estimated time we have is a little over ninety minutes, the amount of time it would normally take a shuttle to orbit the Earth.
We finally reach our destination. This is the only building that we were able to find after the third missile that was still relatively intact. It’s very clearly falling apart now, but it serves its purpose. It’s all the remainder of humanity has to shelter themselves from the unforgiving climate that followed the second missile. Even without any planes in sight, it’s easy to see that it had once been a bustling international airport in the distant past.
However, walking into it is always heartbreaking. This is when I always feel grateful that my husband can’t see.
There are so many sick, dirty, and hungry people of all ages in every corner imaginable huddled up so close together that it almost looks like they’re absorbing one another. It’s nearly impossible to pick out a single person within the bundles.
We took too long to get here, though, and now we’re exhausted. We decide to sit on the floor where we’re standing to try to calm our breathing a bit.
The air in here makes it so difficult to breathe. I’m trying to concentrate on catching my breath and take a chance to glance out of the nearest window just below someone’s shoulder.
My heart feels like it’s stopped. The last one was the quietest one. It’s here. It’s already landed.
I can see the strange mist emanating from it and slowly making its way over to us. It’s only a matter of time now before it seeps through the what little glass and walls we have between us and the deadly contents of that missile.
It’s even harder for me to breathe now. I’m beginning to hyperventilate.
My husband hears me panicking and realizes what must be happening. Apparently, even he didn’t hear the missile this time.
He removes his mask and turns to properly face me. He places both of his hands on the sides of my face, forcing me to look at nothing but him.
It’s been so long since I’ve seen his eyes, but even now amidst the end, they seem to still have a tranquilizing effect on me.
“Listen to me,” he says. “Everything’s going to be alright. We did our best, okay?”
All I can do not to cry is nod. My nose hurts.
“I love you more than anything,” he continues. “You’ve been my sole reason for living this long. If it meant your guaranteed survival at this moment, I would gladly sacrifice my body and soul a hundred times over. Thank you for being by my side all this time.”
I can’t hold back my tears anymore as I struggle to respond, “I love you, too… so, so much… I’m sorry…”
He gives me a kiss on the forehead and pulls something out of his pocket.
By now, I’m starting to hear people around us scream in horror, as their senses are slowly being stolen from them. They’re fully aware of what follows. They were all forced to watch what happened to their loved ones with the other missiles. They’re petrified of what’s coming. They don’t want to die. Nobody is ever truly prepared to die, no matter how much they say that they are.
He grabs my hands and re-focuses me. He places five small blue vials into them that look an awful lot like insulin cartridges.
“Take those with you and do what you need to do.”
“What are these for?”
“After the first missile hit, your brother and I decided to try and make an antidote with the prototype we had secretly made and kept. We wanted to right our wrong and try and fight the poison that we had unintentionally created. We couldn’t seem to get the formula right no matter what we tried. Eventually, I was able to make a temporary medicine that could at least bypass the cancellation of the senses for a bit, similar to how they had done for the pain sensors and nervous system. These are like little burst of adrenaline for your body, They don’t last long, a few minutes at most, so use them and-”
My hearing has been almost entirely destroyed by now, but I’m able to read his lips and finish his thought.
“-leave me here. You’ll be able to get to the others much quicker without having me hold you back. Go.”
There’s no way in hell that I’m going to leave him here to die alone. Who does he think he’s talking to? His disability has never once felt like a burden to me, even if it had been to his family and so-called friends in the past, who had selfishly abandoned him at a young age because of it. If it hasn’t bothered me the entire time we’ve known each other, then it sure as hell wouldn’t bother me now, during our final moments together.
I pull him up off of the floor and drag him down the least crowded of the corridors with me. I can see a grateful smile painting his face. Dummy. He knows there’s no room to argue with me about this.
I intentionally ignore all of the suffering I see around me because if I don’t, I know I’ll break. I hate seeing this. I hate hearing this. I need to find my brother and best friend. Nothing else needs to matter right now. I’m sorry.
I look everywhere I can think of. They should be here. But the longer I search, the hazier my vision begins to become. I might be running out of time. I have to constantly look toward my right to make sure that he’s still holding on to my hand because I can no longer physically feel anything either. I hate that my hearing seems to be the last thing that wants to remain until the end.
I rub my eyes to try and ease the burning and itching sensation that I’m having.
I glance down at my other hand and decided to give one of the cartridges a try. It’s now or never.
I ingest one. It’s almost like an inhaler. I suck up a quick, short burst of bitter-tasting air into my mouth. I give one to my husband, as well.
My vision begins to clear up and I can feel his hand in mine again, not entirely, but just enough for what I still need to do. It actually worked; I can’t believe it. If only he would’ve had more time to perfect it… He really could’ve been our savior.
No, I don’t have the time to be thinking about this. He said that these would only last a few minutes at most. That should be plenty of time so long as my organs and immune system aren’t attacked yet. If I can’t find them by then, then it won’t matter. We’ll all be dead by that point.
I tighten my grip on his hand and pick up my speed. Where are they? Where are-
Down the hall, running up what is left of a non-functional escalator, is my brother, wearing an equally frantic look on his face that I assume mirrors mine. He unquestionably relaxes upon meeting my gaze. His vision is apparently lasting longer than mine was.
As soon as he reaches us, he looks down at what I’m gripping in my left hand and promptly recognizes the items. He turns to look at my husband, clearly amazed.
“I can’t believe you finished it.”
My brother can’t seem to hear himself based on the contorted face he just made, but he knows that my husband was able to hear him from the nod he gave him.
My brother appreciatively takes one and begins with the man to my right.
“Ever since we’ve met you, I’ve always considered you a brother. There was no one else on the planet that I would’ve chosen for my little sister over you. Thank you for always looking after her. And thank you for always being the voice of reason and pushing us forward.”
They hug, no type of embarrassment shown on their faces. This wasn’t the time or place to worry about such childish things.
“Thank you for accepting me into your family after mine had disowned me,” he softly responded.
I’m not ready for this. Who is ever fully prepared to say their final goodbye to a person they cherish knowing that it’s the end?
I can’t swallow and no words are coming out, so my brother happily takes the reins.
“No matter what happens, just know that I’m proud of everything you’ve done and accomplished. I love you. Thanks to you, I didn’t lose myself after ma and pa were taken from us. Thank you for letting me be your big brother.”
There is nothing I can do, nothing I can say to show him how I feel. I’m just hoping that this tight hug I’m giving him as I bury my face in his chest is enough to help him understand my emotions.
I feel someone doing the same thing to me from behind. When I curiously turn around, I see that it’s my best friend, his wife standing beside him.
He’s the last person I need to see. He and I have been best friends since infancy and he’s an irreplaceable part of my heart and soul. Nevertheless, nothing ever needs to be said between us, even now. We know everything.
I give him and his beautiful wife the two remaining cartridges.
The people around us start dropping like flies while we all subconsciously pretend not to notice. We’re aware that it’ll be our turn very soon. We don’t have long at all.
As soon as my best friend inhales his temporary medicine, he kneels down in defeat in front of his wife and places one of his ears on her large belly. He wants to try to hear or fell his unborn child one last time. They had desperately held on to the hope that we were going to have the opportunity to repopulate and start over.
Tears begin to stream down his face as he grabs my husband’s free hand and shakes it in gratitude, whispering, “Thank you.”
His wife lovingly brushes his hair with one hand and rubs the side of her belly with the other.
I nod at her, silently thanking her for making him so incredibly happy and reciprocates.
The five of us huddle together, crying because not only are we living our final moments together, but because we failed to save what little of humanity is left. We had created something that we wished to help people with, but instead led to the species’ inevitable extinction.
We try our hardest to provide the most genuine smiles that we can muster for one another. We need to let each other know that we’ll be okay despite what’s happening. That’s what it means to love someone. Although these smiles are very clearly disguising out pain and regret, they still show how fortunate we are to have known one another.
I turn to face my husband, etching the sight of him into my mind just before he blurs away into a gray nothingness. His hand slips out of mine and I start to panic against my better judgment trying to locate him.
All I can hear is a faint beeping deep inside my ears that makes me lose my balance. At least I can’t hear anything anymore.
I no longer have the strength in my legs to remain standing, nor can I physically feel anything anymore apart from the pain inside of me in response to my organs forcibly being shut down one by one.
I keep the faces of my loved ones vibrant in my mind. They will occupy my final thoughts, not pain or fear. Everything I ever did was for them. It’ll be okay.
And, just like that, I can feel the last remaining two percent of mankind being wiped away from existence as I take my final breath.