To read this story from the beginning, click Here!
He opened his mouth uncertainly. “…Are you real?” The words came out as a hoarse whisper that sounded foreign to his own ears.
“I can see it’s been awhile since you used that voice.” she chuckled as she looked him up and down. “Your whole look right now screams ‘it’s been a while.’ What’s your name?”
He shook his head, clearing his voice this time before he spoke. “I don’t have one.”
“Don’t have one. Your father never named you?” Despite her questions, she didn’t look surprised.
“He said names were for humanity. Not the unwanted scraps left behind.”
She grimaced, but said nothing. He watched in fascination as she turned on her heel and started walking away from him into the trees. There was no way he could just let her disappear, so he followed her out of the clearing. “Hey wait! You never answered my question. Are you real?”
She glanced back at him, a distracted expression on her face as she looked from headstone to headstone. “What do you mean by real?” she asked.
“Well, are you a living person? Are you part of my imagination?” He reached out a hand to touch her, but she stepped out of his reach, still staring at each headstone they passed.
“Are those the only two options?” she asked.
“I think you know exactly what I’m asking you. You’re being difficult on purpose. You don’t look surprised at all to see me, and you knew my father didn’t name me.” His frustration got the better of him as he followed her desperately. “What on earth are you looking for?!”
“Ah! Here it is!” she exclaimed, ignoring him. She pointed at the headstone in front of them. There were no decipherable words on its face. She knelt down next to it as if she could read the inscription that once marked the face of it. “Here! Elijah. The perfect name for you.” she looked at the headstone fondly. “I so loved him.” she grinned, patting the headstone. “You remind me of him. Welcome to humanity, Elijah.”
“You can’t just name me.” He said, feeling flustered.
“Why not? No one gets to choose their own name, Elijah. That’s part of being human. I don’t see anyone else around here to name you.”
“Was it always like this when there was more than one person? Confusion and annoyance?” he asked.
The girl stood up, bouncing on bare feet. “I’d say it’s pretty close to accurate.” she grinned. “Now that we got that important part out of the way, we can get back to your questions. You’re right. I’m not surprised to see you. But I’m not just some hallucination of yours either.”
He raised his eyebrows suspiciously. “I’ve read a lot of books, mystery girl. The hallucinations always deny what they are.”
“So you think you’re insane?” she asked, a smirk twisting her lips.
He thought about that for a moment. “Fair point.” he said. “So, a ghost then?”
She considered that. “For our purposes, I think that will work.”
“Our purposes?” he asked nervously, “What are our purposes?”
She started walking again, wandering through the cemetery, skirting some of the toppled headstones. “Elijah, you’re the last human alive on Earth. Yours is the last story.”
He walked in silence next to her considering this news. He knew that he should be less surprised than he felt. It wasn’t the first time he had considered the idea, that there may really be no one else left. In the back of his mind he had always imagined that somewhere far away, people still lived. He felt a twinge of sadness, even though knowing for sure didn’t change anything.
“Why does it matter to you if I’m alone? You’re already dead. You should be like the rest of them.” He gestured toward the graves that surrounded them. “Just some moss covered stone sticking out of the ground.” He looked around at the headstones they were walking past. “Which of these headstones are you anyway, What’s your name?”
She glanced back at him as they made their way back toward the four statues. “It’s funny that you think I’ll just tell you my name.” she said.
“Well, why wouldn’t you?” he asked. “You aren’t going to make me walk around this place and guess are you?” When she didn’t answer, he said “Maybe I should just make up a name for you at random, see how you like it.”
“I think you’ll find that no name you can think of will suit me.” She said.
He stopped short, caught off guard by the briskness of her comment. She leaned against the nearest statue, regarding him with a smile tinged with sadness as he ran through any name he could think of. She was right. Nothing fit her.
“The sun is setting.” She said gently. “You should rest Elijah.”
He didn’t have time to answer her before she was gone, disappeared before his eyes, leaving him alone in the fading light of dusk. He spun around, searching for her even though he knew he would find nothing. The renewed stillness of the cemetery pressed in on him, making him shiver. Had that actually just happened?
He grabbed his pack off the ground, weariness sinking into his chest. While she had been standing in front of him, her presence had been so natural that he hadn’t thought to be afraid or to run. But now that he stood alone, surrounded by the dead in the fading light, he felt a sudden urge to move along. He moved quickly toward the nearest rusted gate, away from the headstones that now felt as though they were staring at him.
To be continued!