A Little Trouble Dying
by Edmund R. Schubert
Waiting for the last contaminants of the plague to pass, I had sat in my
underground bunker, surrounded by 55-gallon plastic drums of distilled water and
mountains of canned vegetables with peeling paper labels. I had scribbled the days
and weeks and years onto the wall like a prisoner marking time in solitary.
And that's exactly what I was: a prisoner. Except I hadn't been forced into a cell
for crimes against society; I had gone down there alone, voluntarily, to escape
If only I had known quite how thoroughly I would accomplish my goal . . .
You see, until yesterday I had been alone, waiting, lingering, without seeing
another living being in exactly two-hundred-fourteen years, eight months, and
three days. But I was still here, still young, still healthy. Still exactly the same.
I was having a little trouble dying.
Now, I know what you're thinking, and no, I'm not crazy. I may have become a
little obsessive about counting things, but you try spending 3,264 days alone in an
underground bunker -- no matter how well-stocked it might be with books,
games, digital music and movies -- and another 75,146 days above-ground but
still alone, foraging for anything that might help ease the boredom, and see if you
don't come out obsessed with something.
And I think it's important that you know I never intended to go into that bunker
alone. Despite being told repeatedly what a paranoid fool I was for building the
damn thing in the first place, I was a social person. I loved being around people.
They say the difference between an introvert and an extrovert is that the former
derives their energy from being alone; the latter derives their energy from being
with people. I was no introvert.
But when I told my co-workers at the lab that I thought the N7HV3 virus was
about to explode across the planet, none of them grasped the urgency of the
situation. And when I told my family and friends the same thing, I got the same
response. They called me a 'Doomsday Prepper' and told me I should go on one of
those reality TV shows.
Reduced from logic to cajoling, then pleading, I finally had no choice but to go
into the bunker alone.
Six weeks later they were all pounding on the double-paned, bullet proof window
next to the entrance, their eyes bleeding and their flesh flaking from their bodies in
great gray chunks.
But by then letting anyone else in, even my sister and her infant daughter, was no
longer an option. All that was left to do was talk--and sometimes cry--along with
them, through the intercom, until they died on my doorstep.
A lot of people died on my doorstep.
I hated each and every one of them for making me watch them die like that. Hated
them with a passion.
That's when I started counting. I counted family and friends as they died a few
hermetically-sealed inches away, and I could feel myself age with the passing of
Several centuries later, I'm still in the habit of counting things -- but I haven't
And I only hate them a little . . .