The Great War
by: Dennis R. Humphreys
There was a great war. It was a miracle anyone survived. It wasn't the normal war you read about in texts or you see in the movies. It wasn't one country against another or a dispute between nations about ideologies...one thinking theirs was the correct one, attempting to force theirs on another who believed theirs was the correct ideology. No, these were corporate wars, designed by billion-and- trillion-dollar companies so their power and holdings grew even larger than they were. Control was the key factor.
Nuclear and conventional warfare were messy leaving large portions of the earth's surface unusable. Humans still needed places to live and they needed to grow food. What was the alternative? That's where the large, powerful pharmaceutical companies came into play. Just as many of the computer companies paid computer hackers to develop and spread viruses for computers so they could make millions developing the anecdote for them...the drug companies developed human viruses that could be spread among the population to destroy entire cities, states and countries. Any laboratory involved in developing viruses for biological warfare knows the first rule of that type of warfare is not to use something like that unless you've developed the anecdote.
For years strange little cases sprung up here and there of mutated viruses but it finally came to light it was larger companies testing their lab created viruses on an unsuspecting population. Fear stepped into the place of precaution as governments warned people of the dangers of the virus. A vaccine had to be developed, which had already been. 'You must give up some of your freedoms for us to fight this thing,' they were told and when the 'cure' was revealed, 'you must all get the vaccine'. You must not amass in more than groups of six...there can be no Sunday services...no holiday parties. Many of the lambs blindly followed those suggestions. When it finally came time to unleash something more serious to diminish the world's growing population, it was easy to tell people what to do and lead them to the slaughter.
The problem was, those in charge of these insidious plans were able to think of steps in terms of A. B, C, but couldn't think far enough ahead when X, Y, Z, appeared. The arrogance of such people is their destruction as it has always been. Some of the viruses developed and released mutated at such a rapid rate, there were no vaccines and the creators of the diseases couldn't develop the appropriate vaccines fast enough. Even some of the wealthiest people behind this devilish plan succumbed to their own diseases...an ironic ending for a psychopaths and sociopaths.
Death was everywhere. It was commonplace to see bodies strewn throughout the cities as great
fires burned day and night to rid humanity of the diseased carcasses while the stench of burning flesh became ordinary. Piles of women, men and children perked in the sun until someone threw gas on them and ignited the piles of death. Dogs and cats devoured the rotting flesh of humanity for there was no one to feed them or care for them. Many of them died too without care. Disease continued to spread without check. The medical communities fell apart, most of the government who were here 'for' the people had gone underground, hiding in their bunkers. Some of those bunkers were discovered and overcome by crowds, their inhabitants killed. The disease went unchecked. Many resorted to cannibalism for lack of food. This helped spread the disease which continued unchecked then for ten years.
In another five years there was nothing except some vegetation growing wildly. You couldn't walk anywhere without stepping on human bones but then there was no one walking. Some animals walked about, and there were birds. Rodents were everywhere in incredible numbers but there were no humans.
The world's vanity and greed destroyed what the Creator had made. Their self-serving wishes were granted.
One day, down a great length of road leading from a large city, there was a solitary figuring walking the middle of the decaying surface. It had been used extensively by vehicles at one time but now was almost unfit to walk. It was a man. He was tall and broad shouldered. His hair was longish and dark. Three days growth of beard was on his weathered face. He appeared to be about thirty. His clothes were worn and appeared military in nature. He was armed with a machete and a single rifle, slung over his shoulder.
From nowhere it seemed, a pack of six dogs appeared, running towards the solitary figure. The canines viewed the man as their next meal. When he saw them, he raised his rifle and stood his ground. It was simply a .22 caliber semi-automatic rifle, but it served him well over the years. The twenty-two was a light weight caliber that shot straight and far. Additional kill power for something larger meant squeezing the trigger two or three times in close succession. At one time when there were Eskimos... they brought moose down with a .22 caliber with three or four closely fired bullets into the heart. The man only fired one shot for each animal attacking...six in all, and brought them down. Satisfied, he lowered the rifle and watched for several seconds, then he slung it back over his shoulder. He had a back pack with a few things in it...clothes, some dehydrated food, coffee, and a blanket. There was a box of additional ammunition as well.
He went back to walking the lonely road, looking around. His shots could be heard by anyone alive but he hadn't seen a live person in over five years. The world was dead. Was he lonely? Yes and no. The kind of people left in the end weren't the kind of people you were lonely for. The good people died early in the epidemics, victims of the evil ones and those willing to stay alive at any cost. These kind of people, you couldn't help and you couldn't turn the other cheek or you would find yourself cooking over a campfire. Your kindness was construed as a weakness by such people and they took advantage of it like the upper echelon people that orchestrated this world catastrophe.
The man, his name was, Tune, came a long way, wandering endlessly. He wasn't really looking for anything or anyone that might be a survivor. He had already decided there was no one, not even a sign. It was getting close to the end of the day and he would get to spend it inside somewhere tonight instead of under the stars. At least the stars were still there. He chose an old hotel and went in climbing the stairs to the second floor. Tune chose a room there where he could look out the window over the city street. The door was locked so he busted it open. It was clean without any bodies. Many times he would bust a door open only to find the remains or mummified body of a human lying on the bed. This room was vacant and clean.
Tune opened a can of sardines he had. Something that didn't need cooking. He sat at the window to view the last light as the sun sat and ate the fish with a small crust of bread. He watched as he saw two dogs stalking something on the street. 'Must be something small' he thought since he couldn't see anything but he casually watched since nothing else moved to see. The animals crisscrossed among the permanently parked cars in the street trying to find their meal. It was then another movement that caught his attention.
There was a young girl that leaped from nowhere to the roof of an old cab. She was dressed in hide and held a bow and arrow which she quickly aimed at the first dog who had yet to see her. She shot immediately in a move almost too quick to appreciate, seemingly not even having aimed. The arrow met its mark and the dog went down. It caught the attention of the second dog who looked at his compatriot and then saw the movement of the young woman as she again armed the bow. The dog immediately went into attack mode and headed for the woman. Before he went too far an arrow stopped him by lodging into his spine.
Tune watched as the woman took precaution and held another arrow for a minute watching the terrain. Sensing there wasn't any more reason to be wary she placed the arrow back into her quiver. Jumping off the vehicle she pulled out a knife and cut her other arrows out of each animal and put them away. Then she carved out a piece of the hind leg of the last animal she shot, most likely her dinner.
Tune, wondered who the woman was. She was the first person he had seen in years. He also wondered if she had heard his earlier shots when he was attacked. If she had, she might be stalking him. He wasn't about to try and find her now. It was almost dark and he didn't want an arrow in his back. Still, he would like to make contact but that would have to wait until sunup.
The night was like every other night...quiet. You might hear an occasional dog or coyote howl in a city. In the countryside there were a lot of sounds as in the old days but more so now that the planet had been returned to nature.
Morning came with light on the horizon but the tall buildings of the city blocked direct evidence of the sun as it came up. Tune climbed out of the bed there and went to the window. He looked out hoping to see the young woman. All he saw was a squirrel running down the sidewalk a few feet ahead of a cat. He spotted a few rats as well. These abandoned cities were loaded with them. They were almost as dangerous as the packs of dogs that roamed looking for food. If you came across a hoard of rats, you'd better run. Tune often thought he'd rather die at the mouths of a pack of dogs than at the ravenous mandibles of a hundred rats.
After using the bathroom with no need to flush, he took a drink from his canteen and pulled out a piece of jerky from his back pack. Suited up and ready to go he left the room and went down the stairs into the hotel lobby eating his jerky as he walked. Going through the doors he stood on the sidewalk a minute and looked around. Tune wondered where the woman was. He sniffed the air hoping to smell a campfire she might have had to cook the dog or for other reasons. However, like him, she may have stayed inside over-night. She may have been lucky enough to find a place with a kitchen and a gas stove to cook.
He wasn't in a hurry so he decided to take his time. Perhaps he would find her. He had no idea how an initial meeting between two survivors might go. He would be as distrustful of her as she would be of him. However, socialization is something needed between two thinking, breathing beings just as much as food and water.
Tune began walking around looking for signs. It was difficult on a hard surface like sidewalk and macadam but he would walk in a grid pattern perhaps all day to see what he could find. If there wasn't anything, he'd leave in the morning.
He was startled by a squirrel that scolded him as he passed under its tree. He smiled then at him and spoke to it about the time it was hit by an arrow. Tune turned around immediately holding his rifle defensively. He saw nothing so he couldn't tell from where the arrow came from. He reached up into the crotch of the tree and pulled the arrow down with the lifeless body of the rodent at the end of it. Tune, turned towards where the arrow came from and held it up with the squirrel and yelled.
“Thank you. I'll be cooking this in a little while. If you want your arrow back you can join me,” he shouted the invitation.
Tune bent down and cleaned the squirrel. It was easier to do right away rather than let it get cold. The hide was easier to remove. He threw it and the arrow into his knapsack and walked through the city. He would scavenge anything he could use or need as he went. He always did when he got to a larger city. Finally, he decided to build a fire and cook the squirrel along with a can of beans he found in one the stores along his way.
He busted up some old pallets and made a fire on the sidewalk. He placed the can of beans by the fire to cook and the squirrel over it on a stick and sat down. He was being followed. It was the feeling he had since the arrow but now he saw movement out of the corner of his eye as the young woman proceeded to sneak up on him.
'Join me for a meal,” Tune spoke aloud without turning around.
He felt the point of an arrow against the back of his neck.
“That's my squirrel,” the woman announced.
“And these are my beans. Join me,” he told her.
“Why don't I just put this arrow into the back of your neck and have both?” she asked threateningly.
“You haven't made it this far not being able to distinguish friends from enemies. I'm not an enemy. Sit down,” he told her.
He felt the point of the arrow lift from his neck and then she sat across from him on the sidewalk. It was cold on the concrete and Tune had a second flattened cardboard box with him which he slid her way.
“Here sit on this. It's more comfortable,” he told her. “My name is Tune.”
“Mine's Melody,” she told him looking at the food.
“Really? Interesting...” he exhaled.
“What do you mean?” she answered.
“Tune...Melody,” he said simply without further explanation. He figured if he had to explain that he wasn't dealing with anyone very sharp. “You don't see the humor in that?”
She stopped talking. Tune had given her the can of beans and a camping spoon to start. While he took the squirrel off the fire and began to cut it in half. Melody put the can down and watched as he cut, giving her half to eat. She devoured it like she hadn't had the rear leg of a dog to eat in months. Tune handed her half the tree rodent on the end of his knife and picked up the can to eat some beans but she had devoured them all. Tune just looked at her and shook his head. He'd be fine with half the rodent to eat.
When they had finished Tune took a few swigs of water and handed Melody the canteen. He pulled it back after she had drunk a bit otherwise, she would have emptied it. He stood up after packing things away in his sack and threw his rifle over his shoulder.
“Where are you going?” Melody asked looking up at him from her cardboard seat.
“I just keep moving. I haven't found a place yet where I want to stay. You're welcome to come along if you'd like but get one thing straight, we share the meals...half and half. Don't go hogging everything down on me,” he warned her.
Melody stood up then and slung her bow across her shoulder and adjusted her quiver.
“I'm coming,” she said determinedly.
They walked the length of the city heading east. Within the hour they were on the outskirts walking through a suburban area loaded with residential home that hadn't seen residents in at least five years and maybe more.
“How did you survive the plagues and the aftermath,” Melody asked Tune.
“I don't know. Maybe it's because I didn't care anymore. All the crap that was going on at the time with the government and the companies. It seemed no one had your back and you really couldn't do anything, they were way too powerful. It was impossible to get people together because the powers that were made sure of that, creating havoc between different groups,” he explained to Melody.
“I know what you mean. They did a pretty good job of indoctrinating us in school. I couldn't even make decisions on my own anymore. I guess I had a rude awakening one day when the authorities started to load us all up in buses and refused to tell us why or where we were going. I wasn't going to get on the bus until they told me why. I heard the one guard there tell him just to get rid of me. Thank God my dad taught me self-defense growing up. The guy took me behind the school building. It was obvious he was just going to shoot me. I beat the crap out of him, took his guns, his knife and his ammo. I ran like hell. I've been running since,” she explained to Tune.
It was late in the day. In an hour the sun would be setting. Tune made it a habit of stopping about this time to look for a place to stay the night. It was better checking things out while you could see. The one thing you didn't want to do was wake up in the morning and be in the same room with a mummified remain. It was just creepy, having done it before.
The first house they went to was filled with carcasses, both human and animal. It must have been a holdout for a number of people trying to stay together to stay alive. Eventually time, resources and probably the desire to live eroded. Melody left quickly appearing to be sick.
A few doors down there was another house and when they walked in it was clean. There wasn't anyone there but when Tune went to the basement and found an entire family dead. It appeared they had committed suicide rather than risk any other number of ways to die. That was a choice, choosing your own way to die this way. It was a quieter way to go than the alternatives.
“Let's try the next place, not here,” Tune told Melody as he grabbed her arm and pulled her off the sofa she was already lying on.”
“What's wrong with this place?” she asked as she was pulled along.
“Dead family in the basement. I'd rather the dead lie peacefully to themselves,” he told her.
The next house was good. There was nothing there anywhere so they both settled down.
The stove was gas and there was still gas in the line as most places like this. They could have a hot meal. There was also a small pantry in the basement that was untouched. Several cans of spam and an assortment of canned vegetables made a meal fit for a billionaire that put them here.
“That was good. I'm full. It's the best meal I've had in several years,” the young woman told Tune.
'I've never seen anyone your size put away so much food. At least since it looks like we're the only ones left on Earth you won't be able to eat your way through all our resources,” Tune joked.
“It's funny and a strange coincidence, kind of...” she began, just realizing something.
“What's that?” Tune asked.
“Our names...Tune and Melody...how funny is that?” she asked slapping her knee with her epiphany.
Tune just glanced at her and rolled his eyes.
“How old are you anyway?” Tune asked her as he began cleaning dishes.
“I think I'm seventeen. I could be eighteen. You know how it is?” Melody told him as she came over to help. She took a bowel from the shelf there and ran to the bathroom where she took water from the toilet tank and returned, dumping it into the sink.
“That helps. You did take the water from the tank and not the bowel. I don't want old crap on my dishes,” he told her laughing
“Oh, you're fucking gross,” she laughed back. It was good to laugh with someone again.
The sun went down and it was dark. Tune had a small LED nicad battery powered lantern with a small solar panel he put out to keep it charged. One of these days it would die and he wouldn't be able to get a good battery to replace it. As it was it gave good enough light to read by and just light things enough if you weren't ready to sleep.
He laid there in the one bedroom looking through an old magazine he found when Melody came to the door.
“Mind if I stay in here with you tonight. I don't mean anything by it,” she told Tune as he patted the bed indicating for her to lie down next to him. “I mean I've spent all this time alone until now but now you're here I just want to be close to someone.”
“I know what you mean. I didn't want to seem like I wanted anything more than friendship so I came in here,” he told her.
He put the magazine down and laid back to talk, Melody laid her head on his shoulder and almost immediately fell asleep. Tune turned off the light.
In the morning he cooked breakfast using the previous tenants' cookware. They didn't need to be cleaned. There were things left in the refrigerator years ago but what was in there was in probably worse condition than the family next door in the basement. He cooked up some more spam and took canned corn to make corn fritters. It made a ton and what he didn't eat Melody socked away in her normal fashion.
They walked a good distance the next day. Tune was getting a kick out of Melody. She wasn't pretentious and was gullible enough to have fun with. She knew she wasn't the smartest one around but didn't care. She went along with Tune's kidding. Melody liked Tune. She trusted him early on that first day. They had each other's back; you could feel it.
“How'd you ever learn to shoot that thing,” Tune asked several days later as they walked into a coming rainstorm.
“I had archery in grade school. I got pretty good but I got better after the whole epidemic thing. I took this really good bow from a sporting goods place. All the guns were taken and the ammo was gone so I took this and loaded up with arrows. I knew the basics all I had to do was practice. I had plenty of that with everyone either trying to take what little I had or eat me,” she told Tune.
“It doesn't seem like we have too much of that anymore,” Tune commented.
“I was thinking of something you said the other day...about us probably being the only two left on Earth. What if we are?” she asked her companion.
“I don't know...what if we are?” Tune returned the question.
“Is this the end of mankind then?” she asked.
“Maybe,” her companion answered.
“We'll like if we don't get together and do something about it there will be no more people when we die,” she surmised.
“That's good reasoning,” Tune told her.
“All this seems senseless without people,” she remarked.
“I guess so,” Tune responded as he stepped over a fallen tree. “But it was senseless people that put us here.”
“I think a higher power is trying to tell us something, after all look at our names and in this whole fucking world we found each other,” she told him.
“I think you're reading too much into it,” he answered her. “Now if our names were Adam and Eve, I might feel different he joked.
“Do you find me attractive?” Melody asked him.
He looked at her a minute before answering. He'd have to blind to have not noticed how cute she was right off the bat. She was little thing, maybe five foot, six compared to his six foot, four. Melody was in excellent shape with long medium brown hair and dark skin like Tune from the elements. Her legs were incredible coming from under her short animal skin skirt she wore not for fashion but because that was a big as the skin was. Melody was very attractive.
“I noticed how attractive you were the day I first saw you from my window, when you killed those two dogs that were hunting you,” Tune announced.
“Well...we're the only two people around and we're here together. I think in the natural scheme of things it's our responsibility,” she reasoned with him.
“You want to bring a child into this screwed up world?” Tune asked her.
“Maybe the new world we create will be better. The really bad role models are all gone,” she countered. Oddly she was right to a point.
“When do you want to start this new world?” Tune asked her as she started clapping her hands in joy.
“You have to take it easy with me though and be the teacher. I've never had sex,” she informed him.
That afternoon, the two found a country house surrounded by rolling acres. It was an old stone place that had grown weedy and unkempt. Melody found a hand pump out back at a trough to water livestock. The pump still worked and since it was warm out, she filled the trough to bathe. Tune enjoyed watching her bathe and she enjoyed having him watch her. She found him very attractive and while she wasn't in love with him, under the conditions with time she thought it might happen. But what is love but a certain level of trust, dependency and willingness to support the other in just being who they are. They were already part way there. That's why in the past, arranged marriages often worked out better than other marriages. A couple wasn't in love first, that came later after the other things had been nurtured and each found a growing dependency on the other.
Melody thought to herself, 'tonight's the night.' She felt clean actually getting a full bath with soap she found in the house. Tune used the trough after Melody abandoned it and wrapped a towel around her.
“I'm going upstairs. I'll be in the master bedroom waiting. I want to do this while it's still light out so I can see every little thing,” she said running into the house.
Tune wasn't far behind, he hurried up washing to join her. He was resigned that they were the last two people or at least the last of a few at best. Maybe they could help start a new world, one that was better with different philosophies and ideals that would avoid the repetition bringing everyone to this end.
He climbed the stairs hearing Melody call out.
“Who's there?” she laughed
“Just wait and see,” Tune said running naked into the room and jumping on the bed where they embraced.
She breathed heavily after just minutes. She had never felt a man's mouth on her nor was she explored by a man's hands. Melody had never felt anything like it before as she laid flat on her back. Tune explored her body passionately and then turned her over beginning at the back of her neck, nipping and licking. She was ecstatic. He traveled down between her shoulder blades kissing her and rubbing his body against hers. Her breathing became even heavier as it urged him onward. He moved to her waist and there he was stopped by a small tattoo across her lower back.
“When did you get this tattoo?” Tune asked her not paying an over amount of attention as he continued to kiss her waist.
“Tattoo? I don't have a tattoo,” she commented.
“Yes, you do,” Tune told her as he pulled back to get a better look at it.
“What is it of?” she asked, thinking she was crazy, how would she not know she had a tattoo?
“Oh God,” she heard Tune tell her. “It says 'Prototype Biobot 9401, Made in China...”
“It can't be. Oh God...no wonder I remember nothing of my early childhood.
Then Tune didn't know anything about his child hood either. He was told early on he had a traumatic episode as a child that left him with amnesia.
“Do me a favor, Melody. Look at my lower back,” Tune asked as he turned around for her.
She looked barely able to see from the tears rolling down her cheeks. No wonder she survived the plagues and other things she wasn't even human. She was incapable of having children. She was manufactured. If she was the last woman on Earth humanity was extinct.
She focused as well as she could sniffling erratically. But she manged to focus, noticing the tattoo on Tune's back.
“Prototype Biobot 9402, Made in China...” she mumbled.