Denise Randall

I'm cold – colder than I've ever been, even before my gemutation.

Sitting on the beach I can see a long way. Well – at least there is a lot of flat land to look at either side of my perch. Past thirty feet it is just a blur of tan and charcoal. Forlorn sands hiss their woes, battered and beaten by the incessant action of wind and wave.

The dead of the previous world have slowly been buried beneath the shifting detritus of mountains. The carcasses of vehicles and buildings have been obliterated until only dunes provide the grave stone.

The time for remembrance is long since past.

I glance toward the town, huddled even in these days, under the sheltering mantle of the bridge. It once led travelers to the foot of the floating airport that served New Fresno and the rest of the Sea of San Joaquin.

Mourners continue to file out of the concrete structure that had been home to a local legend. I draw a deeper breath and allow my gaze to fall to the steel colored sand.

"Farewell, my friend." The words break free of my lips without any intention of speaking at all.

With Corea's passing, I fear that my last friend in this long life has been lost. My own time grows short, and I feel it now like I never have before. I've lived longer than I should have been allowed, considering my past.

God got the last laugh after all.

My hand absently cups the tarnished band still gracing my left arm from wrist to fin. Worn filigree bites into the pads of my fingers in bitter reminder of all that I've lost.

Her face wells in my mind, the details never fading despite the time between her loss and this moment. Angelina…

My breath catches, as I remember hearing the warning. I begged her to dive into the ocean. How her fear of living under the waves could be stronger than her will to survive the holocaust still boggles me. But she remained, even as the mushroom cloud rose towards the heavens, she balked at joining me in survival.

The tears slip, and I slap at bony cheeks to wipe away the waste of moisture.

She made her choice, and I had to live with it.

And what of Michael?

The ache of not knowing his fate is worse than the idea of Angelina being burned to a cinder.

My son…

He and Mandy were living up towards the SeaTac area when the world fell apart. He was a smart boy, and Mandy a level head. Surely they survived the blast? But the realist in me continues to whisper that he would have made his way here by now if he still lived. Michael knew his father would never leave the area around New Fresno. In fifty years there hadn't been even a whisper of his whereabouts.

I stifle the sob, wondering if it is Corea's death or just the thought of my own pending mortality.

This world is done with me. It has taken from me until there is nothing more to take. I have been its terror, its savior, and its protector in my turn. I've been father, husband, and son – friend and foe. As payment, this life has taken my humanity, my family, and finally my will to live.

The world is recovering. I can see that, I can feel it in the wind, and I can taste it in the water. Though in less variety, Earth's bounty has begun to spring back, filling the vacuum that nature so abhors.

The vampires are no longer a threat. Though the town will miss Corea's presence, and perhaps even my own, they have learned how to be independent of us. They have learned not to just exist, not just to survive, but to defend their home from internal and external threats alike. No longer do they fear the darkness.

I can say I had a small part in that change in them – a legacy of sorts to remain when I leave here.

I stand once more, pushing stray strands of that coarse white hair back out of my eyes. I can't say it's been a bad life. A rough one, yes, but there were as many happy moments as there were bitter memories.

My hands work of their own accord as I stare out at the San Joaquin, I blink as human trappings drop into the sand. I come to my senses as fingers work the latches on my wedding band.

No, that reminder stays.

Angelina would want me to keep that.

I close my eyes as the hot wind kisses my bare skin. It seems to push me towards the surge, telling me that it is the right choice, the only choice that matters anymore.

I take only two steps before leaping into the swell. The water swallows me, welcoming me home.

No one will lament my passing, I will be sure of that.