Issue #90

Spring 2024

&

by Tadhg Wallace

The & had decided Earth was worth about nine universal bucks, and the Earthlings were, by and large, receptive to this estimate. Of course it was the government speaking for the people, and the people speaking for the land, but the deal was struck, and by the following week, some ninety odd percent of life had been graciously relocated to an & vitaworld or jubilee station, and on the whole, Earth was forgotten quite readily by its former inhabitants. There were the stragglers, those whose sentimentality for the past overpowered the future's allurement, and the &, naturally pacifistic and amorphous, allowed this, simply harvesting around these individuals' homes, like rocks tangled in a gardenbed, the tubers and wedding rings pulled out around them. Most of these lingerers fell away as the years receded, either having been finally convinced by offers of limitless riches and their own green moons, or dying of natural causes, until only one man remained. Nobody had realised it, even for a while after it had been so, not even him, but Johan Raisin had become Earth's last child, and final resident. Save for this one, accidental claim to fame, Mr. Raisin was a very unremarkable man, having lived a very boring life. When asked why he had chosen not to leave, all those years ago, he replied that he simply had not felt like it, and this was his same response when asked why he had not died, being of such extreme age. Such interviews took place over the course of many years, as the inadvertent celebrity found himself at the centre of a rising media frenzy. Both human and & alike were captivated, with opinion ranging from support and respect in a period of renewed Earth nostalgia, to baseless contempt and bafflement at his mere existence and its continuation. His life was feverishly monitored and broadcast to sensescreens across the universe, the ratings highlights being his interviews, and the annual season finale in which an increasingly unbelievable reward was offered for his leaving. Observers from Sirius to Earandel looked on in bated breath each year as he flippantly rejected the deepest desires which many would have died for, but as always, he didn't feel like it. After all, he had everything he needed, and he believed this earnestly. Living in an already small cottage lobbed upon a dwindling plateau of wilted grass, he miraculously awoke every morning to the sight of complete desolation around his homely demesne. As far as the eye could see, lay only fields of dirt and dirt turned over itself, down to dirty chasms where the Earth's last scraps of metal were pulled like dead teeth. Most days, Mr. Raisin would come to the edge of his veritable island, and for an hour or more, sitting upon the last grass with his legs dangling over the loose cliff, look out at the mountains of dry, red clay, their spills of dark soil sliding into an uncharted badland of inexplicable rises and falls down to the planet's very core, all below the untouched vault of an eternally blue sky. As he sat so, he wondered if he might not spy a lone hawk, flying live out of the same mysterious storm of luck as he had. Even a seagull would do, which he now remembered witnessing as a boy with such yearning as if it had been the most wonderful, momentous facet of his life, and it may well have been. But neither was there gull nor sea now, he was pretty sure. No lake, sea, ocean, and not a cloud in the sky. As far as he knew, he possessed the only reliable source of water left, a small well. Slowly it seemed to dry up with the years, but as with all matters of life and death, he was none too worried. For food, he had initially kept a small flock of chickens, but these too eventually dissipated from age or falling off the land. He ate the last egg on what he supposed to be his one hundredth birthday, but it could've just as well been his ninetieth or two hundredth. After this he could rely only upon a modest plot of potatoes. Each day, with unerring vigour, he would eat as many plain baked potatoes as he could until full. When asked about the strain of this diet, he merely replied, “I’m not sick of the potatoes, they’re sick of me”. This was his life, with little else to say, for decades upon decades, as the universe looked on. Eventually, there was little spectacle outside of the fact that he somehow still survived, and even the intrigue of this had waned with sufficient years. As observership dropped dangerously low, the & eventually decided a finale was necessary, one last offer to beat all offers. On the final day of that year, the & came to him extending, among everything else, immortality. The old man laughed, replying only, as he had when the whole ordeal began, that he didn't feel like it. Inside, he was content with the knowledge that he already had practical immortality all these years, being kept alive with the ratings, but he didnt feel like making such a show of this revelation. Quickly, Earth, and Johan Raisin were both forgotten again, both dying quietly in the same moment less than a year later. His last words were "And what?"

Author Bio

statuary


Tadhg Wallace is a writer of speculative stories and poetry who is interested in the subconscious, surreal, historical, and political.