Last Camera, fiction by CJ Vallis

I am an accident. 

Let me say it out loud now, Kofi. Now that I’m ready to go. 

You regret bringing me underground. Before the cataclysm, I’d barely registered you as Facility Manager of my apartment building. We might have nodded politely at each other when sharing the elevator. Neither of us planned this. We both thought others would signal and join us.

So long ago, it’s hard to recall. Yesterday and the days before, like bubbles blowing out of my arse in a bath. What would I give to fart in a tub of hot water? Never you Kofi. Sometimes I wallow in missing you and my imaginary bath becomes a bottomless well with no sides to climb. That’s love, I guess. I miss jogging on the treadmills together, yoga stretches to salute the sun, our reading, typing, talking. Small meals of oatmeal and honey warmed in the microwave. Fucking (when there was still hope in that). At least I could hear you masturbate and smell it rubbed into your belly, when you started sleeping in another bunk, away from me. 

Anyway.

What a waste. Energy and memory are leaking and evaporating and I can’t fix power, filtration or purification systems. If they fail, I fail. I’m not resourceful. Wish I’d paid attention to Physics at school. My excellent communication skills are useless here. Ditto my talents in social media monitoring and content strategy. Kofi, how’d you get the hydroponic garden to thrive? Those magic Tradie hands.

Kofi, I record this for you. Whereas you dared to believe — maybe there are others, maybe we’re all hiding in our own bunkers — I doubt it. Many luxury bunkers with living quarters and gyms and greenhouses were sold before nature went crazy, it’s true. If you’re right Kofi, let’s hope some dooms-dayer had enough sense and storage to archive textbooks and scholarly databases and such, instead of downloading the library of the world’s largest streaming service, as we did. 

Unlikely. 

I hardly blame you for sneaking out while I was comatose on whiskey. Not anymore. For days I searched every millimeter of our reinforced steel home for messages. My brain hurt. I almost electrocuted myself trying to unscrew the overhead LED light cover with a steak knife, in case you’d set me a treasure hunt and hidden a clue inside, because you love thrillers where characters have to use their wits to solve a mystery or escape an impossible situation. 

The next year or two I devoted to shows you wouldn’t watch. Forty seasons of Survivor, six seasons of Lost on a loop. They inspired me to tell our Robinson Crusoe story, as a legacy, a gift to you. 

After another year, and thousands of words, I quit writing. Somehow my pitiful sentences diminished rather than honoured the memory of our three babies. Even if this is painful for you to hear, Kofi. 

Dakota, our sweet kidney bean. Ten weeks pregnant I started to bleed and cramp, and although I resisted pissing as long as I could, (s)he still slipped out of my body and into the self-composting toilet. 

Then Hunter. I was lucky to feel my skin stretch and her quickening inside. She also demanded an early release. I wished I would die birthing her, and maybe you did too if you’re honest. Her eyes were fused shut; her jelly-thumb was in her mouth. 

You cried more than I did and bit your nails until your cuticles bled. Your moods turned soft and rancid, like butter left in the sun. 

Kofi, Kofi. We tried. I realised the low buzz of the generator played on your nerves. That’s why I spent months editing David Attenborough’s voice out of every episode of ‘Our Planet’. So worth it, to close our eyes and soak in sounds of ocean waves lapping on wild shores, Arctic penguins and jungle birds of South America.

You were angry that I hid my third pregnancy for as long as I could, I understand. You fretted. I kept promising a happy ending, even as Zebadiah pressed hard on my pelvis, a constant ache in my back, again too soon. You wept as my waters gushed to the concrete, as you mopped the floor. Still a baby. I loved Zebadiah’s tiny fingernails, the downy black hair that covered his body. My breasts were full of milk.

Fuck. 

Don’t think about incinerating him.

You refused to squash yourself against me, or stroke my hair and body, and lost interest in gradually working my legs open. Were you scared, Kofi?

As a child I remember climbing up a diving board and standing on its edge transfixed by rippling water below, vaguely aware of my mother yelling, Just jump, you can do it! 

Might as well. 

Our home is malfunctioning. The last camera outside the entrance blinks, its fisheye picture full of grit. Against all reason, I still expect a trace, an outline of you among dust, black smoke, horizontal rain, and plastic bags flying past. Kofi to the rescue!

But I know I have to fight against the urge to brood inside. So I yank the lever down. Step into the airlock chamber, despite feeling like a B-grade actor on the film-set of a science fiction movie. 

The HazChem suit has disintegrated, my feet won’t scrunch into the heavy boots. For what it’s worth, I pull on gloves and fit the gas mask to my face. Do I sound distorted now, Kofi? I’ll talk as long as I can. 

See the rusted rungs that lead out of our concrete shaft. Climb, that’s all I have to do. Rebirth myself. I imagine you wait to deliver me, Kofi, your heart pumping adrenalin with mine, both of us dizzy.

Without a second skin, I begin again. One foot after another, I heave myself up the ladder. 

You could’ve hinted at what’s ahead, Kofi. My breath comes shallow and fast. It’s cold, glary. 

So sorry Kofi. 

About the contributor

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