fear came as he sat on the steps of an empty church with a yellowed
paperback in his hand. The fear came as the wind blew garbage and
dead leaves down the empty and much patched street that ran in front
of the church.
could hear them now even though the evening was still young; the
sun cast orange shadows across this long wounded and rusted and
empty midwestern city. He could hear them earlier and earlier every
day and with a sigh he went inside the church and latched the door.
He cursed himself for reading too much. He should have gone and
gathered his things sooner but he got lost in that damn book.
had to read.
he read in a compulsive fashion. He needed the words that books
provided to create a dialogue in his head, or else the silence would
drive him insane.
now the silence was gone, and he could hear the other voices dancing
on the autumnal wind. He could hear their voices coursing through
these empty and ragged streets, traveling with the blowing leaves
and the drifting bits of ancient paper.
had found him.
chose this church for several reasons. First and foremost, it was
a very solid structure. It was built in the early twentieth century
out of hand carved stone and the door was of a solid and heavy oak
with a medieval style iron bar and latch to lock it with from the
inside and the stained glass windows were high; too high above the
ground to allow climbing in.
was now getting in unless you were invited, and those that now pursued
him had no means to break the windows, at least he didn't think
so, but he wasn't too confident.
church also sat in a part of town that was rife with memories of
playground, now overgrown and rusted and broken, stood across the
street. The playground was rusted and dilapidated way back when,
when he played there forty odd years ago as a child.
a crowd would gather there each time his parents would dare to bring
him out in public. Cameras and microphones would be thrust in his
face, and people - especially the very old - would try to touch
him as if he were some sort of god or some piece of divine treasure,
as if touching him would restore their youth and cleanse their soul.
to the playground were always short and brief. His parents always
took him early in the morning, just as the sun cast its light on
this decaying city, baring open all its wounds of empty storefronts
and abandoned factories and houses sagging in chronic neglect.
parents would whisk him away as soon as the crowd became beyond
manageable. Besides personal security, the shattered government
had given them the courtesy of a professional driver, someone adept
at losing pursuers.
didn't mind the attention, really, but his parents did. They tried
to give him as normal a childhood as possible. It wasn't so bad
when he was a toddler; his parents could keep him isolated from
the world and he didn't realize he was unique.
it was hell when he approached adolescence. From the age of twelve
on, woman would throw themselves upon him lustily and desperately,
all in an attempt to possibly procreate with Joshua.
attempts at random breeding were made, once a week and government
sanctioned. Joshua had to mature emotionally very quickly; forced
to have sex with woman whom at the minimum were fifteen years his
those attempts were futile; Joshua was no different than any other
man on the planet.
inside of the church was dark and damp and smelled of ancient must,
but the smell of the Damned was stronger, and it wafted through
the thick stone walls. The smell bordered on the sweet and the rancid,
sort of like old oranges or something human-like, perhaps semen
or perhaps mucus. And he remembered them that way, covered in slime
and hairless and pale.
voices came from the far side of the empty city, echoing against
the sagging and weather beaten houses and buildings and they seemed
especially loud on this night, as if their was urgency in their
search for Joshua.
they found him in this city, he didn't know. He could move in the
daylight and get the hell out of this city, but would another town
have a church as secure as this one? And there was a comfort in
staying in the town where all his memories dwelt, memories completely
happy until he reached the age of ten - the age he realized he was
the last child on the whole entire planet.
birth was an earth-shattering event. No child had been born for
ten years prior to Joshua's arrival. His father was as sterile as
any other man on the planet, but somehow and miraculously, his wife
became pregnant. Joshua's birth became a light of hope on a dying
planet as one by one people succumbed to death by age and affliction,
and there were no more children to take their place. It was as if
a life was a candle, and one by one the candles were extinguished
and each day the world became a little darker and little gloomier
than it was the day before.
were becoming extinct.
had all started in the twentieth century, just after the industrial
revolution. Too many environmental toxins and synthetic chemicals
had adverse affects on male hormones, as if the Earth was taking
revenge on her polluters. The toxins and chemicals - mainly pesticides
and growth hormones for cattle - mimicked estrogen as soon as it
hit the blood stream. The food and water supply was and still is
riddled with estrogenic chemicals and the assault on testosterone
began in the womb and never stopped. Young men kept on approaching
puberty later and later, while girls matured much more rapidly.
And along with the late growth came a drastic effect on sperm counts.
Each generation's sperm counts were half of the previous generations,
until the sperm counts became negligible. Sterile.
and drug and chemical companies ignored these facts, as did most
of the governments of the industrialized nations. Too much money
was being made selling and distributing those chemicals. When they
did finally react, it was too late; no drug could raise the sperm
counts high enough if there wasn't enough sperm to begin with.
kinds of bizarre things were done to help stave off extinction.
People were forced to breed at selected intervals. Nubile young
girls, in some countries, had to have sex with apes and other animals
so just maybe, maybe, an offspring of some intelligence could be
was pretty much sheltered from all of that, he enjoyed a celebrity
and privileged status as the government kept him under constant
protection. The hope for humanity rested on Joshua's young shoulders.
one attempt did affect Joshua, and one attempt at pro-creation was
successful, but not successful enough. Animals had been cloned for
years, decades even, but not humans. Attempts had been made, but
the results were horrific, but there was pressure now, to see if
the job could be done.
that had the skill to clone were now quite old, and only one candidate
was of the right age to be replicated. Joshua, at twenty-five.
was cloned, all told, a hundred times over five years, but with
poor results. His replications were hairless and sexless and unable
to bear the light of the sun. They were nocturnal for some reason,
and for some reason they were allowed to live. Joshua wished they
were destroyed upon their creation, but the men of science and the
government had had enough of dying, the planet was dying, their
legacy was dying, what harm would there be with a small community
of androgynous Joshua's roaming around the planet? They would have
the place to themselves, a planet that would soon be hell, hence
their name - the Damned.
after, Joshua's world began to completely wither and die. His parents
passed away when he was thirty-five. Joshua went to Washington DC
where the rest of the surviving nation was starting to congregate.
The Damned too were kept there, in and around the grounds of the
old naval hospital in Bethesda.
spent seven years in DC, watching the world and humanity slowly
close its eyes. The televisions had long been silent, as were the
radios and finally the newspapers stopped printing and suddenly
one morning, he was the only one awake.
had known this day would come, he had spent all of his life mentally
preparing for it. He had no idea what he would do with his time.
decided, then, to maybe spend it with the Damned, rather than spend
Damned had never seen Joshua before and when they first saw him,
when he drove to the ancient hospital, they stood in open-mouthed
amazement. They knew, right away that they were the image of him.
knew the details of the Damned, knew they were nocturnal and sexless,
but their appearance startled him.
were bald and naked and slimy versions of himself, with his intelligence
doctors at Bethesda had taught the Damned to speak. They had hopes
that the Damned may develop sexual organs later on in their existence
but those hopes weren't
realized, but they kept them anyway. They kept them as pets or symbols
of hope for the same reason no one bothered to tear down the playgrounds
across the world; there was hope someone may play on them again
smell of the Damned was overpowering and he was frightened by their
were staying in what was the main concourse of the hospital; a vast
and cavernous area scattered with couches and coffee tables.
Damned stood up when Joshua entered. They first gave him a solemn
bow and then they surrounded him in a large and curious circle.
started touching him. At first they approached him gently, caressing
his arms, his hair, his ears and he could hear their voices murmuring
then the murmur became louder, "father, Father, FATHER,"
and they started tearing at his clothes and tugging on his hair.
Joshua ran away and the Damned followed. The Damned had never ran
before, it was a new way of locomotion for them and they fell clumsily
as their legs started to churn.
made it to his Hitachi electric car, his heart racing madly, his
hair formed in slimy tufts.
sped away and decided then and there, that he might as well go home
again, back to that now dead midwestern city, and spend his days
in the company of his memories.
the Damned found him, a week ago. He heard their voices as the twilight
fell, he could hear them chanting "father" and he took
refuge in the church.
the past week, the voices of the Damned wound through the night
of the small city as if they knew Joshua was somewhere, but they
didn't know exactly where. He fell asleep to their murmurs in the
wind, murmurs that disappeared as soon as the sun and birds announced
wanted to find them during the day, find their shelter from the
sun and destroy them while they slept. But he didn't have the heart
or the courage. He much preferred to spend the day reading on the
steps of the church, interrupting his reading only to forage for
canned food and bottled water.
on this night, as Joshua nearly fell asleep, a crashing came at
the front door of the church. A hundred bodies of the Damned pushed
against the heavy wooden door, causing the door to break free from
its rusted and iron hinges.
door, sadly, was not invincible
was on the altar of the church, and he tried to hide behind the
then hands were on him, and his last memory was that of his right
arm being passed backwards through the throng of pale and outstretched