He wasn’t sure if he was the last man left or not. He hadn’t heard from any other living soul in about 45 full moons and Jeremiah wasn’t even sure what the current month would have been called in the old days.
It still felt warmish, so it was probably August or September. Although that didn’t mean much now, it was only when you shared events with others that the hours and days found some significance.
Jeremiah had stopped feeling lonely when the birds had arrived, the first lot had come from the north and settled in a field across the river.
Whatever had happened to the world, it had left Jeremiah and the birds to share the Earth. Jeremiah had been in the vault at the University when it had happened. He used to go down there to read or write on his lunch breaks as it was the only room where one could find real peace and quiet.
Perhaps he had been anti-social, perhaps that is why he had survived when the others had perished. His type of behaviour was a luxury – you needed other people around you to make you feel that isolation was a reward of sorts. When you were on your own there was no such thing as isolation – it just you and no one else.
When the birds had arrived, he had felt that the universe had sent him a message, that he hadn’t been forgotten – here were other creatures to keep him company. Although the birds were reluctant at first to come to his side of the river, he eventually tempted them over with seeds he had found scattered in the forest.
Once the birds felt safe on Jeremiah’s side of the river, they started to arrive in their numbers. Some built nests and raised families, then when the colder months arrived they all left and headed off in different directions. Some to the north and some to the east.
By the third year, Jeremiah looked forward to their arrival. He set up little areas to help them build their nests, he piled high the seeds he had collected through the dark winter and he sat watching the heavens for the return of his friends.
It was while he was observing a little bird pick up leaf and head off into the trees that it gave him an idea. By now the birds and their chicks had grown accustomed to Jeremiah’s presence and almost treated him like he was one of their own.
He coaxed some of the birds into a little hut he had built. They were allowed to come and go as they needed but at night they tended to settle down and sleep in the hut.
Jeremiah knew that the birds started to leave around the eighth month of the year – or what he thought was the eighth month – so he would hand feed each of the little birds in the hut. On each one he would write a note and attach it to their legs, the way people had done with pigeons in the old days. It didn’t seem to harm or disturbed the birds.
When he felt the time was right, he took the birds up to the highest hill and released them one by one. One or two returned to the hut below but most of them flew off either to the north or the east.
Jeremiah watched and hoped as his little friends flew in to the air.
On each note he had written.
‘My name is Jeremiah and I may be the last human alive. I am living three days walk from what was the big city. If you find this, write where you are on the other side of the paper as the birds will return to me, and I will come looking for you. If you know where I am, then come and find me. I am just another lost soul.’
For the rest of his years, Jeremiah watched and waited. The birds returned every year but none had another soul’s writing on their papers.
The sad thing was that a few days before Jeremiah died of a broken heart, in the forest one of his birds had built a nest on its return, too high for Jeremiah to see. On its leg was a note,
‘I am coming to look for you. Stay where you are.’
bobby stevenson 2017