The next area of the house Misters Callahan and Smyth paid a visit to was the kitchen. The kitchen in this house was designed to feed either a family of twenty-two or four people whose love of food could be measured in metric tons. Mr. Smyth walked toward a granite countertop, running his hand over its smooth, cool surface.
“Granite. Nice,” said Mr. Smyth.
“Yes, indeed,” responded his cohort.
While Mr. Smyth was getting his fingerprints on the counters, Mr. Callahan was inspecting the knife collection. There was a knife for every occasion: eating steak, slicing bread, peeling cucumbers, dissecting peas, shearing the hairs on peaches. Mr. Callahan did not know most of the knives’ purposes, but then again, the knives probably did not know either. He carefully removed a slender paring knife from its holder. He touched the tip of his finger to the blade’s edge. A drop of ruby red blood squeezed out from the miniature wound. Out of nowhere, a mosquito flew into the room and landed on Mr. Callahan’s finger. It sucked up the drop of blood and was gone before the victim even had time to comprehend the misdeed performed against him.
“That vermin stole my blood!” exclaimed the distraught Mr. Callahan.
“Disgusting,” Mr. Smyth responded with a shake of his head.
“Honestly, when we’re long gone off the face of the earth, the only things that will remain will be mosquitoes and rutabagas.”
“Yes, rutabagas. They’re the one thing people won’t touch, which means they’ll survive the rampant destruction humans will cause when we know our end is imminent.”
“That’s a very dark outlook.”
“Maybe, but at least the insect and the root will keep each other company.”
“True. You did afford the world that one glimmer of hope.”
Mr. Callahan slid the knife back into its rightful place and meandered over to the gas stove. The pilot light was on.
“Curious,” whispered Mr. Callahan.
“What is?” asked Mr. Smyth.
“It’s just interesting that here we are, walking through this abandoned house of grandeur, and we haven’t stolen a single thing.”
“That’s not true.”
“Are you saying it isn’t abandoned?”
“No, I’m saying we haven’t abstained from any robbery.”
Mr. Callahan’s hand instinctively shot up to the jacket pocket where the old book remained hidden. When he realized what he had done, he slowly lowered his hand. He glanced up at his partner, but Mr. Smyth was oblivious to the mental commotion that had just occurred a few feet away. He was completely occupied with emptying his pockets of gewgaws and gadgets, thing-a-ma-jigs and baubles.
“Where did you get all of those?” demanded Mr. Callahan accusatorily, though he felt a pang of guilt as he did.
“Why does it matter? We came here to rob the place,” retorted Mr. Smyth.
“I know that. It’s just that we always share the loot. And it looks like you were trying to hide those useless items from me.”
“Here. Take some.” Mr. Smyth took a handful of the worthless objects and placed them directly into his partner’s pants pocket. “Now we’re even.”
“Yes. Yes, we are.”
The two separated and continued exploring the crevices of the kitchen. Occasionally an appliance would catch one of their attentions, but after a few minutes of toying with it, the interested party carefully returned it back to its place. Mr. Smyth opened the refrigerator. It was empty. He let out a long sigh.
“Why are we here?” asked Mr. Smyth.
“To steal valuables,” answered Mr. Callahan automatically.
“Answer me honestly. Are we just going to walk aimlessly from room to room, pretending that these objects interest us?”
“I thought so.”
“Why are you so frustrated? We do this all the time, but you never complain.”
“It just feels like we’re the mosquito and the rutabaga, as you put it earlier. We’re the last things alive, and we’re forced to go through this routine together, exploring an empty house, snatching the only things that seem to interest us: meaningless trinkets.”
Mr. Callahan turned away, not saying anything. Then, after several moments:
“I call the mosquito.”
The Last Living Thing
Barren. Desolate. Empty. Wasteland. Apocalyptic. The Mosquito looked up from the thesaurus and stared at the land around him. All of the words accurately described what he saw. Which would make sense, because the Mosquito was the last thing alive.
The Mosquito gave a long, sighing buzz and flew up into the air. It was time to search for something to eat. Each day this necessary task became more difficult. The Mosquito did not know how much longer it would be able to survive. There was a lot of pressure being the last living thing.
The insect flew past vacated homes, ransacked storefronts, and bare forests. Just a few weeks ago, all of this had been full of vibrant life. Now the only sign of life was the puny Mosquito, hoping to find anything to prolong its imminent demise. It was not afraid of death; after all, everything else was no longer alive. Still, it enjoyed life and wanted to prolong it as long as possible.
After a few hours of unsuccessful searching, the Mosquito took a break and landed on a broken light post. That was when it spotted something new. Something it had not seen since everything else ceased to exist. Life.
It was a rutabaga. And it was still alive. No, it was not much, but it still counted for something. The Mosquito could barely contain its excitement over the fact that it was no longer the only thing alive. Then its stomach rumbled. It was starving.
Somewhat guiltily, the Mosquito slowly flew over to the root and landed atop the plant. It felt bad about killing the only other living thing, but its survival instincts were relentless. It bent down to take a bite.
“What do you think you’re doing?” screamed the Rutabaga.
“What? What do you mean?” said the flustered Mosquito.
“I should ask you the same thing. You’re the one who’s trying to eat me, after all,” retorted the Rutabaga.
“Yes, but I need sustenance to survive. I can’t survive on water and light alone like you.”
“That just proves that I’m part of a more fit species.”
“How can you argue that? We’re both still alive.”
“But I’m doing quite fine, and you’re starving to death. And would you really want the knowledge that you killed the only other thing alive weighing down your conscience?”’
“No,” admitted the Mosquito. “So what happened to all the other rutabagas, if you’re so hardy?”
“The same thing that happened to your brethren. They died,” stated the Rutabaga matter-of-factly.
“Then how did you survive?”
“Luck, I guess. Or fate. Depends which one you prescribe to.”
“Then it’s a miracle you survived.”
The Mosquito shrugged as much as a mosquito can. It paused a moment to consider this new turn of events. Its stomach rumbled again. It slowly lowered its head in preparation to take a bite out of the Rutabaga.
“Watch it!” shouted the Rutabaga.
“I’m sorry, it’s just that I’m so hungry. And there’s nothing else to eat. You’re it.”
“I’m also ‘it’ in the sense that I’m one of the last living things.”
“The penultimate living thing, if you will.”
“Why do you say that?” asked the Rutabaga worriedly.
“Because I’m the last.” And with that, the Mosquito took a large bite out of the Rutabaga. Before it could change its mind, the Mosquito quickly devoured the remainder of the root. Soon, there was nothing left.
The Mosquito took a breath. It had never had such a filling and tasty meal in its life. It looked around. Now it really was the last living thing.
Abandoned. Deserted. Vacant.