Dr. Johnathan Abrams walked down the street, death his only companion. The air was thick with flies and the smell of rotted flesh. Buildings stretched towards the cloudless sky like tombstones as vultures picked at the bubbling remnants of the city’s human inhabitants.
It‘s all my fault, he silently cried, as grief for what would never be poured through his tears. He cried for the innocent, he cried for the guilty, he cried for the world, but he could not cry for himself.
He had wanted to save the world, to study disease and bring it to its knees, to halt aging in its tracks and bottle immortality. The power of his work was intoxicating and pretty soon he was drunk with possibilities. Why bow down to the Grim Reaper when you held both life and death in the palm of your hand?
So John fought fire with fire. He fought against death, cold relentless death, that neither knew nor cared what it did, mindless and natural, but not unavoidable. John started with cancer, crafting a cure that liquefied the offending cells, while leaving the healthy parts behind.
John fell into his work, never stopping to see beyond his own goals. Government money flowed in, partnerships were made, and John slowly lost control of the project. What had been a way to beat death was becoming a way to cause it. The intoxication wore off and John realized the truth, but it was too late. After all he had worked for, all he had to show for it was a way to destroy the world.
All he wanted was to destroy all traces of the project and never look back, but his partners had other ideas. They saw themselves as gods, crafting a new type of cure, one that would cull the chaff of the world and leave only the wheat behind. They took his idea and corrupted it, leaving him on the outside while they continued the work in secret. John managed to insert an immunity into the project right before, but there was only time to craft it for himself and not the rest of humanity. Years went by and the secret leaked to other groups, each trying to cull the other, in a tidal wave of destruction that left the world in ruins. The only person left alive ended up being the one who had started it all.
The guilt was like a dagger, lurking around every corner, ready to strike him down. He thought about the many long hours trying to redeem himself, with outspoken speeches against corruption and greed, and good deeds that would slowly rebuild his devoured soul.
It had been nothing more than castles built of dust. What good were all those speeches, with no one left to hear them? What use were good deeds to a world that no longer existed? Did he really think that a change of heart and empty words would keep the world from paying for his sins? One couldn't press against a cracked dam and expect to staunch the flow.
A slippery squish brought John’s mind back to the present and he looked down at the body of a young girl, her pink dress and bright barrettes the only clue to what she had once been. John raced from the damning sight, his eyes shut tight to keep out the world, or what was left of it. He fell face first onto the concrete, smearing the dirt and death with a fresh gush of his own blood. John scrambled through the grime and got back on his feet, clothed with the liquid remains of another body.
Bile surged in his throat, but John bit it back and continued on his way. He passed a small stone church, overflowing with melted men and women who had packed inside in their last hours alive, probably praying for deliverance. The only deliverance that existed anymore was death.
He walked into the street and sat down next to two crumpled cars. His fingers toyed with a jagged piece of metal and he lifted it to the sky. The light played with the glittery red paint, as if it were covered with the blood of fairies. John pulled it across his neck, the pain calling him to dig deeper, until the metal caught in the muscles of his throat.
The world grew dimmer as John lay in the midst of the wreck and curled up like an unborn child. Death did not come quickly, but slowly, in the gasps and spurts of his belabored and bloody breath. Pain was his companion now.
He smiled and sank deeper and deeper into the black abyss that awaited him. He welcomed death and escape from the lonely world he had created. Blackness crept into every corner of his brain, but it was pushed back by a final wave of guilt. Even death couldn’t wash the stain from his soul, or fix what he had wrought. John let out his breath one final time and found that he could still breathe, slow halting breaths that whistled through his mangled throat. His crafted immunity worked too well, robbing him of even this one last act of repentance.
“I'm sorry,” he said, his words lost and useless in his mouth. He stood up and walked on, to whatever lay ahead.