A whistle blew, and the train trembled into movement….
What’s a train?
Oh silly me, I forgot you were born after the hauntingly vague apocalypse.
So I wouldn’t know what a train was.
No, you wouldn’t.
The man smiled sadly. The man and the boy trudged onwards along the ashen road. The road was covered in ash, the ground on either side was covered in ash, and the trees set back from the road were ashy, probably because they were ash-trees. Ash was everywhere, even in his memories, as his wife had been called Ash, even though she had had a willowy figure. His wife. He remembered her desertion of them without emotion. It had been too long ago for the concept of emotion to remain after the language had died that could express it.
The man woke from a dream. Even his dreams were pallid and ashen. He tried to get back to sleep, hoping that maybe this dream would have some flash of vivid colour. He returned to his dream, he was following a pig in the dark but without being able to reach it. The pig had something on its back – it was carrying fire in a container with glazed sides that allowed the light to escape. The man realised he would never catch the pig. Then he woke and wept.
What’ll we do for food now?
We’ll get by. We always do. Do you remember the time we came across a bunker full of food, and before that the time we stumbled onto a truck full of food, or the time we were hunting for mushrooms in a field, down on our hands and knees rooting like pigs, and then we found a dead pig.
You think that will happen again?
Well, maybe not it exactly, but… Something will turn up, it always does, it’s like some secular intervention keeps putting food just a bit further down the road despite the fact that all life was wiped out some years ago by that oddly unspecified event.
Is that how other people survive?
Yes, that and eating each other.
But we’d never do that.
Not unless it was someone truly evil. Like Lady GaGa.
The boy was excited when the man returned from the woods beside the road.
That old man in the distance, further along the ashen road.
He looks like a Jungian Archetype.
Damn! I forgot.
You wouldn’t know because the apocalypse happened, somehow, before you were born but a Jungian Archetype is a reference to Star Wars.
Never mind, the point is that if the man has a beard, he’ll be wise.
You have a beard.
Ah, but my beard’s not white. If his is white he’s wise, if he’s also British then we’re really in luck. He’ll know what’s going on for sure.
The old man stopped walking when he heard the sound of their footsteps. The man approached slowly, and tried to convey by holding his hands out that he meant no harm to the old man.
I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk to you, about the apocalypse.
That question makes no sense.
I was being cryptic for the sake of the boy. Can you save us?
Yes. I have a book that can rebuild technology.
Yes, boy of indeterminate age, I have in my mind….The old man tapped his forehead….
The complete King James Bible.
The boy stood with a confused expression on his face while the old man smiled and the man looked like he was recovering from a nasty shock.
The King James Bible, said the man, disappointed. A book that can’t even get Pi right and you expect it to rebuild civilisation?
Oh, I’m sorry, I must be mistaken, I thought you were characters from the Book of Eli. My Bad.
The old man shuffled off down along the ashen road.
I always thought Jung was full of crap said the man, before coughing so violently that blood dripped ominously from his mouth.
Later. The man was huddled in his blanket. A grizzled man stood looking at him with compassion. Life ebbing, the boy crying.
But I don’t want to leave you.
Don’t be afraid. Remember what I taught you about Hollywood clichés.
To carry the flame, and always just be myself.
Yes. And even the last man on earth can have a happy ending. You just have to believe…
The boy cried for a time. Then he followed his new father figure. If civilisation ever returned, he was sure his dead father’s story would win many awards. For bravery, and other things.