Sleeping With Humanity
by O.G. Rose
Listen, for God’s sake! Now, like I was saying, first Wall Street crashed, the 401ks dried up, housing prices plummeted, student loans defaulted, mobs kidnapped Senators, a virus mutated, xenophobia intensified, the police militarized, a bomb killed the president, China invaded the islands off its coast, Russia seized Lithuania—and then only two people were left.
Standing on a highway all alone. Being the last of all males, he was “the man,” and she, being the last of all females, was “the woman.” (They did, of course, have names.)
The world having ended, the man asked the woman if they could mate. To save humanity.
“You honestly think I’m raising children in this mess?” She laughed. They stood on FDR Drive, bordered by the East River and the smoldering skyscrapers of New York, which, in its general atmo- sphere, resembled Beijing, London, and Chicago at this point (global unity.)
And she had a point: it was tough to raise kids without a working stove, let alone surrounded by dead bodies under a perpetually cloudy sky.
“Come on, for humanity,” the man in blue jeans and a 1980s Starship T-shirt begged. He was average height, in fair shape from police training, and blessed with bright red hair (turns out gingers weren’t the first to go extinct.) Over the last five months, during supply runs — their home base was Peter Luger Steak House (they could finally get in) — the man alluded to the possibility of procreation, and usually, he wasn’t persistent. However, he was done risking a dormant cruise missile detonating or a precise lightning bolt finishing off the woman and murdering sex. After centuries of hard work, human reproduction deserved better.
“You’d say anything to get in my pants,” the woman assumed (unfairly, he thought). She had beige skin, long brown hair, and amazingly didn’t resemble a character from Mad Max.
“You’re not wearing any pants,” the man noted. A burnt tablecloth hung loosely around the woman’s hips under her white T-shirt. She slapped him, stormed up the parkway near where a B-2 bomber had smashed into an ice-cream truck, picked up a page of The Walking Dead from off the pavement, and started reading until she finished the copyright information. She released the remains of the bestseller into the radioactive breeze, disappointed. Fortunately, the cover of a Pride and Prejudice paperback was plastered to the road in front of her, too. She could review it without bending over, and began to. The man walked up behind her and tried to lace his fingers into hers; they bounced off her tightly sealed fist.
“We have to,” the man whispered. She was thirty years old, and he at least looked like he might be, too.
“No, we don’t.” The woman walked over her reading material and around two overturned taxis to a paved spot free of fallen streetlights. She crossed her arms. The man looked up as if to ask God for help (though it would have been pretty funny if the Heavens decided to help now.) Under clouds, far away, the stars shone. Aliens may have flourished near them, identical to resisting the urge to destroy themselves. Maybe Mars housed the remains of alternate humankind, one that under-went its own nuclear genocide long ago? The man wondered if future aliens would be excited to find water on Earth. (Personally, I like imagining a universe where humans find weapons of mass destruction on Mars, because I bet there wouldn’t have been any nukes around when Earthlings felt suicidal. I digress, but honestly, after the world ends, digression is all that’s left.)
Anyway, the man stood in ever-increasing darkness, the stars invisible. He considered killing himself, but like an idiot, he believed in God. He was sure he’d go straight to Hell if he committed suicide (which wouldn’t get him very far.) It would take billions of years for the sun to explode, so that potential noose-hole was closed. The man could perhaps ask the woman to kill him? She seemed willing. But if he were to ask, God would surely blame him, not her, for finishing off humanity and then burn him for the whole afterlife. The politicians almost destroyed the world, but the man, the criminal of criminals, would get the cigar. Nuclear war was a stumbling block; the end of the world, an injustice. The injustice.
No. No. If the woman refused sex, the Apocalypse would be her fault. But could the man really tell God that humanity ended because he couldn’t convince a woman to sleep with him? Would that really pass the Judgment Seat? Or maybe, Christ-like, the man could somehow die to save humanity. But how? He needed to make love with the woman, not lay down his life. The man snatched up something in the dark that might function as a gift.
The woman turned around to watch the man skipping around the wrecked taxis. “What, Romeo?”
The man stopped in front of her and thrust forward the random happy day gift. “I love you!” The vase shard just missed her thigh.
“What’s your name again?”
“We have to sleep together,” the man insisted. “For humanity’s sake, love me.”
“You’re not my type.”
He dropped his gift. “I’m the only type.” “I prefer Italians.”
“There are no Italians.”
“Have you heard of dating?”
“Do you have a place in mind?”
The woman looked away. “Not here.” “Well let me just check my iPhone—” “Don’t be sassy.”
“Look,” the man tried sounding mature, “We need to have sex. This night isn’t going to last forever.”
“It probably will.”
“We can do it fast.”
“I’m impressed,” she admitted, “It’s not easy to turn someone asexual.” “So, we’re on?”
“Go to bed.”
“We don’t have one.”
The woman laid down on her side on the road. “You don’t have one.”
The man bit his lip. If the future of humanity was at all bright, it was probably on fire. The man thought this would be the perfect timing for that forever-imminent alien invasion to arrive. They could bring women. Alien-human babies were better than no babies.
The man walked over and lightly shook the woman’s shoulder.
She sighed. “Lie down.”
Thrilled, the man dropped to the ground behind her. He reached out to touch the woman’s hip, but she slapped his hand away.
“Sleep with me,” she said. “It’s cold.”
The man felt the woman push her body into his. Were there any other women out there? Unfortunately, the hovering electromagnetic pulse rendered TV, radio, and the internet useless: even if there were others, before he found them, they would die and take their wombs into the void.
“It’s cold,” she said again. She didn’t sound like she was crying, but most women didn’t when they cried. The man put his arms around her, trying to be her blanket.
She pushed him back. “Don’t be an animal.”
“But humanity is at stake.”
“I’m willing to die for dignity.”
“But you don’t have the right to take humanity out with you.”
“I have a right to life,” she said, “To live as I see fit.”
“At the expense of others?” “Those people don’t exist.”
“But they could,” he said.
“Why would they want to live in a world without dignity?”
“What is dignity if it destroys the world?”
“Life,” she said. “Life can’t kill us.” The man folded his hands away into his chest; the woman closed her eyes. They both lay in the fetal position, and in the silence, the man considered something, something he’d never considered before.
He considered raping her.
Dignity? Hell, what did that matter?
She was selfish. Prideful. If humanity ended, it would be as if humanity never was: every kiss, laugh, tear — gone. Darkness. Night. Eternal. Was the woman stupid? Blind? To put her preferences above every man, woman, and child who ever was and ever would be? She was raising sex, something he didn’t even want to have, above the very future of humanity.
The woman shivered.
The man locked up rapists: he’d been a law enforcement officer before the world ended. Rapists were monsters, and as an officer, the man preferred filing the papers for the ones who admitted it, like the clear-minded monsters he saw in movies.
“It’s wrong,” he said, unsure if he was speaking about rape or the Apocalypse.
He didn’t know she was still awake. “Nothing’s wrong,” she said. “There’s us.”
As far as the man could tell, the woman had fallen asleep. If she was unconscious, would it really be rape? No. Yes. To save the world, he just needed to wait. They were well beyond good and evil: morality, that luxury of options, had died with the first nuke.
“It’s cold,” she said.
“I know,” he spoke softly. “It’s very cold.”
It had been his job to help people, he thought, to make the world a better place, to save the lives of those now dead. And he could still save the lives of those not yet born. But what if she committed suicide after she was pregnant, unwilling to bear life? He would watch over her like a big brother, make sure she carried the weight. On nightshift, he had been responsible for checking that criminals didn’t hang themselves. But she wouldn’t be so bent on getting her way that she would abort humanity, would she?
Idiot! He was rationalizing rape! But he was morally obligated to. Or, no. It was wrong. But it was right! Was it really certain that God damned suicides? Those who stopped the experiencing, the knowing-what-they-decided? Maybe. Maybe she was planning to rape him? Maybe she was willing to bear the shame and guilt? The sin? The sin of the world (at this point?) What if this was all a plan of hers? A trick! To save him from himself! He couldn’t let her; he needed to rape her first. Fast! He reached out and touched the back of her neck.
“Please,” the woman said, “not now.”
The man withdrew his fingers, his heart beating him to death. Did he have what it took? To be a hero? To save the world? He was just a man! Christ! He didn’t want this! Sex and rape, salvation and damnation. Was this the Wrath of God? This situation? Was this how God separated the goats from the sheep? God led Noah to incest: it might not be unlike God to drive a man to rape. Or not unlike man to seek permission? God’s hands were nailed down: humanity was the god of this age. And the man, this man, was the last man.
He turned his head and looked up into the darkness. Of the world. Up. Down. Within. It was the same. Everywhere. And he saw them. Standing there. Staring. The ones who loved his love of justice. His wife. His daughter. The woman against whom he might commit adultery. The child he might replace.
“Honey, why didn’t you save the world?”
He stared back. He had let them die, but could he let them down? “Please,” the man begged. He was a defender of justice considering committing rape or permitting the Apocalypse. He couldn’t risk waiting any longer: the world wouldn’t last forever.
There was no reply.
“It would be wrong,” he whispered. He looked again at the back of the woman’s head — in darkness — the line between where he ended and she began slowly faded. They would soon be one. “It would be wrong.”
Was justice worth humanity? Silence.
The man reached his arm around to hold the woman’s hand. He shut his eyes; the woman smiled.
And that, humanity, is how humanity was born.