All I wanted was to be left alone.
After my wife and daughter were killed by a drunk driver, I left Albuquerque and bought a place in the New Mexico desert. It had belonged to a survivalist who built it back in the 2040’s and spent the rest of his life there. He was serious about survival – the place was practically a bunker, much of it underground. He’d drilled a deep well, rigged the place for wind power, and added five 1,000-gallon propane tanks as well as two 500-gallon gasoline tanks. There was also enough dry storage space to stockpile a few decades worth of food.
Lucky for me there’s not a huge market for survival bunkers in the middle of the desert, and I picked it up for almost nothing back in 2057. I think that was ten years ago, but I’m not sure since I’ve pretty much lost track of time.
I had all the tanks topped off when I moved in, and then spent the next month making supply runs, bringing in food, tools, gunpowder, you know, the essentials. Finally, I was able to park the truck in the shed and sit still. It was quiet and I was alone, except for the ghosts of my wife and daughter.
Then, about two years ago, I was outside changing the tire on one of the ATVs when the world ended. I might not have even noticed, but I happened to look up at the sky and saw all of those contrails. Some heading inland, some heading out. I wasn’t certain they were nukes until I noticed the wall of smoke over the horizon where Albuquerque was. Or, more accurately, where it had been. Good thing I had a bunker, I thought.
Last month I figured it was safe to venture outside. At first I planned to stay put, but something made me charge the truck’s battery, top off both tanks, and strap a few 55-gallon drums of gas in the back. Who knew how far I’d have to go to find another person to talk to.
It took all day to get to Roswell, and when I got there the place was deserted. Except for the skeletons. People and animals apparently just dropped where they were when the radiation overcame them, and I guess the insects took care of the rest. I suppose we got one thing right – the insects survived.
I drove along the empty highway into Texas and then northeast into Oklahoma. It was the same everywhere: the larger cities were just piles of ash and rubble, and the smaller towns were desolate. Nothing but empty buildings, abandoned cars, and skeletons. Lots and lots of skeletons. Eventually I had to head back home before I ran out of fuel and food, and the last man alive made it back to his bunker with five gallons to spare.
All I wanted was to be left alone. But I never knew how painful loneliness could be until now.