The emptier the world proved to be, the more confining it became.
They had been alone in their dank, global mausoleum for over three months now and at times it seemed that a reality with other humans was something they had only dreamed once. It faded. Summer was approaching and the heat coaxed out a new noxious odor from within the pervading stench that Dioria and Lammel had only just begun to grow accustomed to. The rotting bodies and unchecked intestinal functions of the (dramatically decreased) animal population were a potent enough aromatic experience, even more with the oven on.
As Lammel had hoped, in time Dioria found rudimentary human interaction a necessity. Starving herself or opening a vein with a sharp window shard had required too much will-power, which meant that life stubbornly crawled on. As the weeks went by without contact, without affirmations of her beauty or modest approval of her benign asides, her normally calm and steady internal voice had grown frantic and insistent. The loneliness did not agree with her.
It had been nearly a month since their last meeting when Dioria wandered out one Tuesday (or Wednesday or Saturday; what of it?) towards Lammel’s neighborhood, a formerly immaculate row of posh condominiums and designer shops, now a molten river of skin and plastic, bones and silicone. In the weeks since she had last seen the area, Lammel had taken on the morbid task of clearing pathways through the offal, creating the impression of a plowed street after a particularly vibrant snowstorm.
He was surprised to see her, pleasantly so, a state his face could not hope to hide.
In her absence, his inner monologue had grown bolder, decisive, with the resolve of a settler in the land of ravages, commissioned by an unknown power to remake the world in his own image. He had developed a day-to-day routine, something he never actually had in the pre-Apocalypse when an entire day could be lost within the plains of a digital battlefield. Worldwide desolation had a haunting familiarity, which is not to say that the sight of a decomposing arm sloshing out of its socket into a crumbled mess didn’t still bring on fits of convulsive disgorging, but at least now, through the practiced art of disassociation, he could sleep a few hours a night. He was a hardened survivor.
But the presence of Dioria softened him.
“Any news?” She asked.
“It really is just us.”
“…Yes.” He answered.
It was midday, the sun above them, and for a brief period the omnipresent shadows were in hiding. They stood a mile apart in their uncomfortable circle of yards, and if Lammel had been more adept at reading human emotions he might have recognized the expression on Dioria’s face as unholy resignation, the look of humanity. This was it, this was all. They stood in silence for minutes, Dioria looking out over the ruins, truly looking for the first time in months, her eyes focusing on a pair of shoes, half off, then a leather jacket, distressed, and next a bright diamond ring, the solitary gleam in a mound of filth. This spree spread for miles all around.
Lammel also examined his surroundings, though he had done it countless times, and he always returned to the only remaining stem of beauty in the wasteland, Dioria’s lilting face. When her gaze scanned past him, he averted his eyes quickly, a biological instinct bred of his status as a lesser creature in the kingdom. But they were the last humans on earth, and surely that meant things had changed. What did it mean for him to be beneath her when there was no higher level, nothing greater with which to be compared? He was the standard. His body was, for all its failings, warm.
If he stepped up to her, pulled her to him and kissed her with all the force that his desire demanded, wouldn’t she acquiesce, even reciprocate? Humans had rules, both stated and unstated, for how pursuit must be approached, but what did those rules mean in this empty world? They were animals after all, and they both had needs.
Dioria ceased her examination and looked at Lammel directly.
“We should go.” She stated.
“We can’t keep living here in this graveyard. There has to be more out there, somewhere. We have to find it.”
“Oh. Yes. Okay.”
And like that, the new social order was set.