The Last Person On Earth Celebrates Their Birthday
Written by Nandini Sethi
There is no cake, no confetti, and technically speaking, there is nobody here. Everything is gone, everyone has vanished. Believe what you may – it was the aliens, the impending extremities of climate change, COVID, or even suicidal terrorists – the outcome was all the same. The end of the world.
It’s not what you imagine it would be like: there is no destruction, no indication of torture or struggle, and no uprooted buildings and trees. It’s almost peaceful, as if civilization never existed. Never meant to exist.
The scenery is as lush as the inlands of Luxembourg, and the water is clearer than the ponds of Switzerland. The supermarkets are still stocked, so I walk in like I own the place, I can if I want, and head towards the frozen foods section. I looked for sweet bread, like the Germans used to cut before cakes, back in the Middle Ages.
I had no money in my pocket, just like during the Great Depression, and I sighed heavily. Even though I had no one to pay, I fished out some loose change from my shoe and left it on the counter.
I decided to take a walk, one final time, and reflect on life. As the shoreline of the sea affronted me, I pondered over the day when the Portuguese first arrived on this very horizon, ensuing confusion, chaos, and a sense of dread. My neighbours reeled under the stringent laws of the British, while I enjoyed the luxuries of coastal foods, monsoon rains, and Portuguese armour.
But this can’t be compared to the heat of the Cold War. Just the spine-chilling whispers of uncertainty, of what was to become of our nation, will we even make it to tomorrow? Was more nerve-wracking than the atomic bombs being tested and stored. We didn’t know where and how they were kept, but we knew we would be the first to live the consequences of egoistical decisions.
The battles between communism and capitalism kept us up all night. To be frank, they kept us up at night even till just two days ago. You know, before the world ended.
I remember the horrors of September 11th, the unanimous disappointment we felt in humanity. I remember the horrifying thoughts swirling around in my head, of rage, passion, and revenge; and one look in the eye of my comrade, I knew he was ashamed to admit he was thinking those thoughts too.
The heart-wrenching moments in history still bring a tear to my eye. But it doesn’t go without saying that the better moments lasted longer. The good times kept us going. They gave us hope, enough to guide us through the ravages of war and misfortune.
Like the time we threw juicy tomatoes at each other to celebrate the most-awaited festival, and when we made dances to all our favourite songs and went viral on the internet.
There were the little joys, like singing along to songs in languages we didnt know, and dancing on table-tops with strangers from all across the world.
We brought spaghetti to Thailand and sushi to Britain, we wore denim in India and sarees in Ukraine. We shattered labels and boundaries of all sorts; we made the world one, despite all the wrongs.
The last piece of my sweet bread remains in my hand, and I hesitate to bite into it. I have indulged in rituals of all kinds – birthdays, weddings, funerals, and have been a fundamental member of the world.
I have danced on all the table-tops and spoken in all sorts of languages, but I belong nowhere. I belong nowhere, and I am related to no one. I hold no attachment to the world because I only let myself feel what ought to be felt in that moment. Then I forget about it.
I cried with families of victims in 2001, and I laughed with sheer innocence and joy at every festival. But I don’t remember. I can only recall now.
I lived through all the world, so let me tell you, it’s not all that bad. There’s no heaven or hell when you die. It all happens when you’re alive.
I walk to the store again and pick out a little candle and matchstick. One final time, I indulge in one more tradition that will soon be lost with a new generation.