(Artwork: Zdzisław Beksiński)
This is the last glorious day.
The sunlight knifing through the smoky interior of the building that shelters the last two humans in existence has a distinct redness to it.
This is the last fantastic day for the human race and its two final members, together at last, together at the end, together at the final cough.
You can see their footprints in the dust. Indications of pacing, shuffling, kneeling. Bodily imprints of slumber, sex, and despair. Craters in the soot and dust where sweat droplets or tears have collided into the wood with force. And you can follow the trail to where these two humans sit huddled against the wall, holding each other.
The knifing light creeps at a nearly imperceptible pace across the room, motes of dust dancing in the spotlight. A puddle of blood appears slowly as the square of light continues its ceaseless march.
Dante regards his fingers, Beatrice’s hair woven between the digits. The calluses of a long journey to this wasted end catch individual strands, hooking them like velcro. He plays with her hair a moment, pulling his hand away from it slightly, letting the strands fall away, all except the few strands hooked by the cracked skin of his rough palm.
Beatrice notices the change in his breathing. She can feel his mind distracted, and for moment she feels both jealousy and anger at him for having the capacity to allow his mind to wander away from their last embrace. She sniffs and lifts her head slightly from his chest, where the light grey of his shirt is charcoal from her tears. Blinking her eyes against the pressing light, she examines his face. Following his eyes to where he still holds a few strands of her hair captive, she draws breath through her mouth in a moment of understanding. It has been this way between them since the beginning, primal knowledge, some fucked up quantum connection between them. Entanglement, Dante calls it, borrowing an old term from long before man found death in the far reaches of space—threads across the gulf, unbreakable.
Her eyes drift from fingers and hair towards the puddle of blood now half-revealed in the center of the room. Try as she might, she cannot prevent her gaze drifting further into the darkness of the room where she knows a body lies immobile.
As connected to her as she is to him, Dante’s eyes drift there as well.
For several minutes they stare into that darkness together, their breaths nearly in unison, or at least in repetitive cadence. The sunlight gradually reveals a broken man whose broken eyes stare back at them through the new light. It is his blood in a drying puddle on the floor. It is his death that has brought the universe where it is on this glorious final day.
Only a few days previous, those same eyes that now stare accusingly at the last humans had stared instead into the eyes of a siren. Just as galaxies move slowly, inexorably, toward each other—colliding, combining in a maelstrom of destruction and creation before permanent unity—the dead man before them had found himself moving towards a woman. Their collision had been violent and destructive, but also a catalyst for creation. They had been labeled saviors of time and space, the final solution beyond the reach of the void, the future of all existence. They had been meant to save the universe together.
The light continues its march across the room, revealing the mortal wounds that sealed the fate of all things. And still onward, it creeps, revealing another puddle of blood drying.
Together Dante and Beatrice follow the progress of the light with bloodshot eyes.
Soon, a woman’s dead eyes meet their combined gaze.
Dante and Beatrice stare at their own dead bodies for several minutes before rising from their position against the wall of the small room they have been huddled in. They rise in unison, an unspoken word, more evidence of that ineffable entanglement, triggering a collective motion towards the outside air.
The couple leave themselves behind and walk hand in hand through the the threshold of the small shack, stepping carefully over the shattered door. In the front yard, bodies lie in final repose, some fresh and some skeletal. All the eyes are the same, the bones all identically one of two different types, the entanglement gone beyond the invisible as some bodies lie in a final embrace. Some bodies brandish weapons, blades, guns. Dante and Beatrice step over two skeletons that are forever bound by the wicked knives each have plunged through each others ribcage.
On a white picket fence, a few bodies are impaled, and cautiously the couple steps through the gate trying not to disturb them. Before these two last vestiges of humanity, the rolling hills are covered in an endless sea of Dantes and Beatrices. Beyond their vision, the entire planet is blanketed with their corpses, seas carry islands of their final embrace, mountaintops raise their bodies to the heavens, in deep caverns darkness hides those same dead eyes. In the interminable space between this planet and the next, Dantes and Beatrices float frozen like motes of dust in infinity. The scene is repeated across all time and space.
The final Dante and Beatrice walk for some time hand in hand towards a small open area free of bones, bodies, and blood. The grass is green here, and a few wildflowers rise from the ground in defiance of the death surrounding.
Turning to face each other, they stare deeply into each others eyes. Their final kiss lingers long after the dead sun disappears beyond the void, their final embrace is the darkness that holds infinite nothingness like a smothering cloak over all things.
This is the final glorious day for all things ever.
The universe dies because all that ever really mattered to Dante and Beatrice …
… was that wicked entanglement.