It happened in the time of war, and when Zachariah was at the right place, and at the right time – or perhaps that’s dependent on your point of view – and who or what you are.
The US and Russia had formed an alliance in those days. Each of them building weapons, not against each other (at least that is what they stated) but to keep China, North Korea, and India in their respective places.
Then it happened, as it surely must – the Russian President slapped his US buddy on the back, making an off-hand remark about the American’s sister. That was all it took.
There wasn’t a war – at least, not at first. First there was the rhetoric – the words – the apologies – then these two, these statesmen, found each of them taking a road where they would have to lose face to turn around, something they weren’t willing to do.
Initially there was the week of fear, followed by the first rockets. What can you suppose about the mental state of each of the leaders that they should go so far? It’s not as if we didn’t see it coming. The black money was on the Chinese as the cause, but they resisted, against great odds.
The rockets, when they came, arrived in the middle of the night in Western Europe. Most never got to see the flashes, most souls never got to cry out, most were blasted from their sleep by a nuclear storm.
Then came the silence.
It was on the third day that Zachariah moved from the cave. He wasn’t too sure how long he had been there. If there was any nuclear debris, then 3 days wasn’t enough – not nearly long enough. They’d been taught all that stuff in school. Just in case. They’d even taken exams on it: ’The Long Nuclear Winter’.
As Zachariah stumbled and slid down the road, he saw the outlines of dust, possibly the last shadows of humans. Those people who hadn’t taken the warnings seriously, or maybe they just got caught – like billions of others probably did. It had all been a joke – hadn’t it? Just like the way folks had underestimated Hitler – at least until the camps and ovens were built.
The War wasn’t like any other Wars. There hadn’t been time. No time to say ‘Goodbye’, or ‘I love you’, or ‘I am sorry’. How many souls died with love on their breath, unspoken?
In the inevitable course of things, the low Winter Sun returned, and then with it a new Spring, followed by a cold, dark Summer. In all that time Zachariah never found another living soul. He wondered if he could deal with the loneliness? And yet, nothing seemed to faze him.
He ate what he had expected to be contaminated grasses and roasted, dried flesh. Yet each night he examined his body and found that there was still no sores – no sign that his body was about to die.
He calculated what he assumed to be Christmas Day, and in celebration, he ate a dried-out bird he had found on top of a skyscraper several months before. He sang a Carol, and then slept that night dreaming of Santa Claus – the ghost of the Red Man who had haunted his childhood.
What would he have liked for Christmas Day? Probably to have another soul to talk to, or more importantly a body to hug. Some contact. Some warmth.
As he fell into a deep slumber, he failed to notice (or feel) the large tear in his back. The one that exposed the Titanium framework, and the cybernetic mechanisms of a truly Godless creature.
His programme would go into self-repair while he slept, and his reboot would always (always, mind) let him think that he was human – a man with a soul.
bobby stevenson 2016