“David.” I roll his name around in my mouth like it is a prayer. David Malouf. He laughs when I use his family name. It means nothing now. But I like it. I like how when I use it, I remember.
In some ways, it would be easier to forget. And then, we’d be back at the beginning of time, just the two of us, as if none of it had happened. Just bodies. No past, no future.
David Malouf. David, my David.
I stand from where I’ve been stooping along the riverbank, gathering wild onions.
We do think about it. I do. Here, holding the weight of the onion heads against my belly, tucked inside my makeshift shirt, pulled up apron-like. I, who never wanted to be married, never cared for children, who could think only of the next track meet or of prom coming up and who scoffed at the idea of college—no one with our kind of money would bother. I, now craving the swell of life inside me, foreign and mysterious, and yet so bound to my genetic coding it’s all I can do to fight the primeval urge that wills to devour me.
It’s there in his eyes, too.
I roll my shoulders to relieve the gelled pinch that sits at the base of my neck. The muscles loosen easily, perfectly. It’s been thirty-eight months (although David swears thirty-nine and has stubbornly fasted accordingly) since we left the capsule, and still I remember the break in my clavicle, the blast of pain deep in my bursting eardrums as the world incinerated itself—when the first of the bombs hit. I remember the bullet in my thigh, how the exploded metal screamed under my skin. I shouldn’t have been alive to take her spot. It was supposed to be her, not me, in the capsule beside David, slumbering through the centuries.
But she didn’t make it. Her skull cracked open when the earth quaked and she fell. I can still see it, the gore spilled out . . . .
We’ve seen no birds, and so no eggs. We wouldn’t be able to stomach it, cracking them open.
For a long time, we made no decision. We didn’t touch. Even accidentally. There was too much grief.
But survival is a cruel and unfoilable taskmaster.
I look over the small field at him, the one we found several months ago rife with edible tubers. We will have to move soon, because they are mostly gone. Winter is coming again. We will need better shelter. David is turned toward the setting sun. He always knows where west is, day or night. Once, early on and in a rage, I told him his God was gone with his Mecca and why bother? His face became a shadow that took a long time to clear.
His back is covered in what is left of his uniform, now stitched with plant matter to reinforce it. He is strong and tall. Perfect, just like me. We had a half millennium in the amniotic bath to be transformed, re-generated, made into exactly two people robust enough—given vastly elongated lifespans—to reclaim our planet.
We swore we would.
But the people we swore to—the people to whom we paid money and blood—are gone now. It is only me and David. And this broken species of ours should never again have dominion over the earth, now that it’s free. We do not deserve this second chance. I’ve told him this. He agrees.
He turns and looks my way, looks down at the bulge of onions.
It is in his eyes.
Where is the goddamn pill when you need it?
I want to go to him. Drop the onions in a heap and wash our bodies in the river and fuck under the hot, indifferent sun. But—David Malouf, we swore to each other. We wouldn’t. We won’t. We are the last, and we will make the right choice. Now, after so many wrongs, after so much failing.
“Is it life, what we have?” he asked once in his right-to-left kind of way that I’d grown to love. He took my hand, and his touch electrocuted my skin, his fingers like the first rays of sunlight on a dewcold morning. “In childbirth, you would not be weak or die. You are stronger, no? The bath made you this?”
Yes. My body is strong. It isn’t the lack of hospitals I fear, not the absence of cervical blocks or local anesthesia.
But I pulled away, glared at him. We’d discussed this, what I’d have to do.
“I won’t die. But when I let our baby die, or if I kill it myself?”
He shuddered, nodded. Shook his head. “No, no.”
We did not touch again.
But as the months turn, we are both falling.
Now, he stands across the field, and I wonder what he will say if someday after we fall there is more blood between my thighs than the months before. He notices things. He will ask, and I will tell him. We talked about it, true, we agreed, true, but talk is not real. Blood is real. Death is real. It is my body, not his, and so my burden, my responsibility. Will he hate me? Will he understand?
I must be strong.
After all the world has been through and now abandoned—
I do not feel strong.
David approaches. My hands tighten, and then something lets go. The onions tumble. Their scent makes my eyes water, so that he comes to me in a field of molten green and liquid sky.
I don’t know who moves first, but our hands reach out and close the space between us. Blood surges. Ours is the only human touch on the face of the planet.
It is the only thing that matters in the whole world.
What is the right choice anymore? When no one is left?