The sky was a uniform shade of gray, with a weak, paper-white sun shining its feeble light down across the graveyard.
The grass wasn't trimmed, and vines had long since grown over the grave he sought. James Holland didn't mind. He knew that there wasn't much use for graveyards anymore. But still, he would visit this grave as often as possible, even if the world marched on and he was the last one to ever visit a graveyard at all.
James was the image of a young, healthy man, fit and lean and tall. His face was unmarked by wrinkles or scars, other than one small, barely visible line running down his cheek. His dirty-blond hair was short and neatly trimmed, something that had stuck with him ever since his time in the military. He wore a black overcoat that somehow managed to make him look almost impossibly dignified. With a sad smile, he knelt before the grave and brushed away the leaves and dead plants, revealing the name 'Steven Allens.'
"Hey, Steve," he said affectionately. "What's up? I know it's been a while since I last visited, but hardly anyone goes to graveyards anymore. I'm sure you understand."
James sat back for a while and tried to organize his thoughts as the roar of a supersonic plane tore through the skies overhead.
"I guess this is somewhat of an important visit. See, it's the last time I'm going to have to talk to you about politics and the world. I know how much you hated that stuff, so it'll be a relief from now on that we only get to talk about our lives. Maybe I'll start with that."
James' voice was choked with emotion, and he wiped a tear away from his eye as he continued to talk.
"Sorry. Just got a little something stuck in my throat there. Ahem. Uh, anyway, there's this new kind of music that's going around, it's pretty sweet. It uses ah, this weird sort of headphone, and it's like you can...feel the music, deep in your brain, instead of hearing it. It's cool because you can put them in and change the setting so it's in your....well, they call it foremind and backmind. The foremind setting, the music drowns everything else out, and on the backmind setting, you can concentrate on other things, so you can listen to it while working. I ah, I got one in now, in fact. Listening to a new band called Peace Finally Won. They're kind of political, I guess you got that from their name, but I don't mind. They make good music. Oh, and the last company to manufacture CDs has pulled out. Pretty much everything is bought over the Web now, anyway."
"Oh, what else...they came out with a new game called Seventh Day. It's funny, because it's an immersion game about the Long War. I tried it out. It's actually pretty accurate. They even actually have graphics for each soldier that took part in the war, foreign or on our side. I saw mine...and of course, I saw yours. And I thought I'd never have to see your ugly face again."
The tears were falling fast on the dead leaves, now, and James was becoming a little hysterical and hoarse in his conversation. Although all this had happened so long ago, the wounds still cut deep. James had known Steven from childhood, and their friendship had been deeper than most.
"You know what? I don't regret it. Even though you had to die, I don't regret enlisting with you. After the war was won, and everyone got home, wonderful things began happening. New technology eradicated poverty, hunger, disease, even aging. I'm eighty four, and I look like I'm sixty years younger. The world is so wonderful now. Every need is fulfilled, and virtual reality can grant you the illusion of every wish. What I came to talk to you about..."
Now James wept openly and laughed at the same time, looking at the grave that he could swear was staring back at him with a look of exasperation, expressing his dead friend's lack of interest in the news.
"I know you don't care, but Steve, there's no more death. They've found a way to copy people's brains into computer data, and they can put it in pretty much anything. There's a man living as a superintelligent toaster right now. No, I'm not kidding! They equipped the toaster with the right hardware, and they put the guy's brain in it. They're talking about making a sitcom about it, it sounds so dumb."
"And you know that guy? Oh, I forget his name....it was a funny foreign one, you know, one of the ones it's impossible to pronounce...the guy they were calling the last tyrant. He was way after you...you were killed, and I left the war. I forget what he did. He ran some little dictatorship in some backwards mudhole, wouldn't let any foreign technology cross his borders. I guess he wasn't important enough to attack until the very end. He's been tied up in some U.N. court for years and they've been trying to execute him. I guess they thought it was really important that they kill this guy. Anyway, he commited suicide. Left a note spouting nonsense about how technology was making us inhuman. His guards were pretty upset, but either way I see it, he's dead. The papers called him the 'Last Man to Die.'"
Suddenly, James laughed, and leapt to his feet. He was all alone in the cemetary, and so he didn't feel any embarrassment or worry that others might witness his strange behavior. He leapt to his feet and lifted his tear-stained face to the sky, shaking a fist at the dull heavens and dim sun.
"You know what this means?" he exulted, staring back down at the grave at his feet. "It means we won! No more tyrants! No more dictators! The last casualty of the Long War now lies in some unmarked grave. And what's better, there's barely any need for politicians anymore. Crime, poverty, war...they're all gone. What's for them to do anymore? Don't you see it, Steve? Remember that old saying? Well, Death and Taxes are both gone now, along with Tyranny. And all it took was the minds of brilliant men and the lives of thousands of soldiers."
James let his triumphant shout of victory echo out across the empty graveyard. Then he sank down to his knees again, his pants becoming wet with dew. He ran a hand across the grave in front of him, feeling the rough stone beneath his fingers.
"I really wish you were here to see it all," he said bitterly. "I really wish you were here."