57 plus 09: A Watercolour Sunset

Posted: 26 August 2021 in 57 plus, 57 plus new fiction, fiction, new fiction, writing
Tags: , , , ,

Once upon a time, I partook in a project called Elephant Words, where a single image would inspire multiple stories from and by multiple authors.

When I decided to honour a promise to an old friend, and write new fiction once a week for the ’57…’ run, the first week’s was based on an image I’d come across serendipitously. And since then I’ve kept an eye out for images that spark something, that provoke the storytelling parts of my brain.

So that every week, I can write something brand new, a story written for this blog that no-one’s ever seen before, sparked by an image I come across entirely by chance, usually while looking for something else entirely.

I came across the following image the other day, and this sparked the merest gem of an idea, about enjoying a sunset alone, because there’s no one else to enjoy it with.

And here’s what the idea became.

A Watercolour Sunset

To my certain knowledge, I am the last intelligent being left on the planet. And I will be gone. Soon, maybe.

Once, long ago, when the skies were blue, and the oceans still free from poisons, there had been billions of humans, trillions of animals, and many many more smaller creatures. There had even been viruses once.

But no longer. Only I and maybe the bacteria remain.

I have lived long enough to know that my home will never again support sentient life as I know it. And, after I have gone, whatever evolves here in the next few billion years will be unrecognisable to those who once thrived upon this once blue, now dark ochre, planet.

They left, you see. So very long ago, they left in their ships and their craft and their matter transporters and the like. Only I remain. PZ, the last of them called me. Pat Zero before that. And originally, Patient Zero. I had another name once. I must have had, surely? I came across a word written on a sign in a language I no longer recognise. The letters were unfamiliar to me, now, after so long. I think one was called an E, another a T. And a third was a strange symbol, round with a small tail attached.

Maybe one of them was in the name my parents called me. Parents. Such an odd concept to me now. I had parents, didn’t I? I must have had. I no longer remember them. Or anyone else; they’re just a blur, like the sunset. Colours smeared into each other.

The Disease, it was called. Just that. No fancy names, no popular designation, no code. Just ‘The Disease’. There wasn’t time to name it, you see. Half of humanity, more than half the animal life on the planet, dead within weeks. Governments fell, societies decayed. And eventually, they left. They all left. So very long ago that I can now no longer remember quite when. Or precisely how. But I remember why. I always remember why.

And, when they’d gone, I remained. And still I remain, both here and alive.

Whatever it was that transformed me into the carrier of the most deadly influenza in recorded history also made me essentially immortal. I haven’t aged in several centuries. That much I know from the diaries I kept before I gave up on them decades ago. Or maybe centuries. Or maybe millenia. Or maybe months. I’m not sure, you see. It’s been a very long time.

I actually tried speaking a little while ago. After some abortive and very painful attempts I stopped. Whether my body was too unused to it, or I’d forgotten how, I don’t know. Or at least I think I don’t know. Memories become vague and ephemeral after so long, you see. Oh, and I tried writing proper words yesterday. Or the day before. Or several weeks ago. I know it was when I saw a glorious sunset, just like the one tonight. Maybe it was earlier tonight I tried writing. It might have been tonight.

It’s such a beautiful sunset. Maybe my last. But then I thought that yesterday. And the day before that. And the day before…

I am ready for death. I’ve been ready for death since they left.

Sometimes, just before I sleep, I wonder whether they did leave. Whether the vague and faint images of their departure, like watercolours caught in a rain shower, are my imagination instead of memory. That’s when I cry, grateful that no one can see me. And then I cry more, because there’s no one left to see me. At least I think I cry. I hope I do.

No. They must have gone, and the skeletons I see everywhere, on land, in the ocean, are just those they left behind. Surely humanity survives, out there, somewhere.

One day, I’ll travel again. I’ll visit new places, and see yet more skeletons, ages old. And I’ll look up into a different sky. And hope that someone, anyone, is looking back.

© Lee Barnett, 2021



See you tomorrow, with… something else.



Fifty-seven more days. Fifty-seven more posts. One fifty-seventh birthday just had.

Just dropping this in here, as I was asked by message the other day: the best places to contact me outside the blog are via email at budgie@hypotheticals.co.uk and @budgie on Twitter.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting up from my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here. (And you can see the posts in the run counting down to the birthday here.)

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