John knew two things; he was in trouble, and he hated this hospital room. He contracted the new strain of influenza by means of a contaminated toilet flush handle. John’s IV bag hung empty on the stand. He could not remember the last time a nurse was in his room to change it. The room was a typical dull gray ICU suite, the constant beep of the medical equipment, reminded John of a McDonald’s fry machine, “Order Up,” John thought.
The worst part about the room was that picture on the wall he was facing. It was a picture, the one with the cat on a ledge, “Keep hanging in there,” what nonsense. John was happy just a week ago, he was married, he had a house, two kids, and a competitive rate for auto insurance. Even the news of an infection ravaging the country could not get him down, he was going to buy a brand new above ground pool, not to compete with the Ross family, just to cool off. That was last week, now he was sure he was going to die alone, in an empty hospital.
Suddenly, John heard a new sound, someone walking on the aged linoleum. The sound ceased at his door, it was pushed open, which revealed an older gentleman, tall with a ramrod posture. The man was dressed in a black suit, with a dark red bow tie adorning his neck, his bald head shining in the fluorescent light. The man walked into the room, looking around he spots the cat picture and walks up to it. The man shakes his head in disapproval.
“How cruel of them to put this in here. I mean your room of all the rooms.” The man dragged the hard metal chair to John’s bedside, emitting a horrible scraping noise that made John wince. The man then pulled a cigarette from his jacket pocket and lit the end looking down at the man. “You know, the ‘experts,’ say these things will kill you. Care for one?”
“No thank you.” John shook his head. “But who exactly are you?”
The new arrival looked a bit shocked, taken aback with the question. “Well… I think that is the first time I have ever been asked that question. I frankly do not know who I am. I have been thinking for a while that maybe I should see one of the companies provided psychologist.” The man said in between drags on his cigarette.
John stared at the new arrival to his room. He considered this might just be a dream.
“My name is Mot.” The new man said, clearly not pleased with John’s response so far.
“Mot? Like the applesauce?” John interrupted.
Mot’s eyebrows arched. “Applesauce? No. Mot, you know… Ancient Canaan… Also known as Mavet… Oh, nevermind. I guess we can check ‘cultured,’ off your list of qualities.” Mot cleared his throat. “As I was saying you are John, or should I say ‘the last person alive on Earth,’ is rather exciting would do you agree? “I really expected to have a deep conversation about life the universe and everything with you, can you rise to the challenge?”
John was sure that he heard the sound of a man passing gas in between his sentences. His eyes met with Mot’s, who considered John for a moment.
“That was not me, John you could have a little decency. I have been rather busy lately, collecting souls by the billions, I should not be subjected to your body odor as well. I will tell you, I was actually rooting for your kind. Humans cling on by their fingernails, just like the cat in that picture.” Both men looked at the cat picture for a moment. “Yet, here you are, blowing gas like an oil well.” Mot stared off and a smile crossed his face. “Oh oil, that was a real dandy invention, really paid off in the long term, I really had a lot of work from that project.
“So you are telling me that I am the last man alive? Why are you here? Are… Are you like an angel or something?” Said John, the hopelessness of his position evident on his tired face.
“Well John, for all intensive purposes, I am here to collect your soul…”
“Intent and purpose.” John interrupted yet again.
“Excuse me, John?” “The phrase is ‘for all intent and purpose,’ it is a common mistake.
Mot’s eyes closed into small slits, lacking the quality and benefit of having a soul behind them. “I see your sense of humor is intact. We are wasting time. I will give you eleven minutes to ask me anything you want, ask me about life, the universe, and everything.”
The weight of the reality started to press onto John. “So you mean to tell me I am the last person alive? Are you telling me my family is dead? How could things possibly get any worse?” A tear began to form in his eye as he coughed out the sentences.
“Mot originally planned for this to be a musical, a ‘big production,’ as he called it.” This was a new voice that startled John, a small, rotund man was standing on the other side of his bed. The new man continued, “He did not submit it in triplicate, nor did he consider the manpower shortages. Thankfully you do not have to listen to it.”
“Oh get off your horse Mr. Brown Nose. My musical was amazing, I even wrote the lyrics.” With that, Mot broke out into a song and dance, rather impressively for a man who appeared so old. “John Doe, it is time to go, Time to end the show.” The song was set like a barbershop quartet. Under normal circumstances, he might have enjoyed it.
“Mot, do not insult my heritage, the Brown Nose’s have contributed much to the system. Secondly, you know you that is forbidden, you did not get approval from the local union.”
Mot scoffed in response. “Some people have no class.” He flicked the remains of his cigarette on the ground and returned his attention to John. “Go ahead, fire away!”
John thought silently for a few moments, finally, he had the perfect question, the burning question. “Well seeing as you are here, there must be a God.”
Both of the visitors screamed in unison, throwing their hands over John’s mouth and looking around nervously. A few seconds passed and the men had visible relief. “Sorry John.” Mr. Brown Nose said. “We don’t call them…” He mouthed the word, “Gods.” “No Mr. Doe, we use the neutral term, ‘Supreme Beings,’ far less inflammatory.”
“Never mind then, what was your favorite soul to collect, anything exciting?” John asked.
“Those who canceled Firefly and Jericho. Oh yes, I took exceptional pleasure taking those jerks.” An evil smile played across Mot’s face. “Let us see, well the lady right before you did not trust the toilet paper companies. That is right, she would spin the entire roll on the floor, and then wrap it back up, a giant wad of fluffy cotton. I collected her on the toilet… So much irony in life.”
Mot was silent for a few moment. “My all-time favorite was following the fat guy. Nothing put me in the holiday spirit like that fat man doing his song and dance and then bam!” Mot yelled this last word. “I kick the front door in and collect a soul. Cheer? Gone!. I know, your next question would be something like ‘Why Mot, why use the front door?’ And I would say, ‘showmanship my good lad.’
Anyways, your eleven minutes is up. Why on Earth is it eleven?”
John was confused, something that was a running theme. “Well Mot, you chose eleven.”
Mot shook his head. “No, I mean the word eleven. All the other numbers are spoken left to right, twenty-one, twenty-two and on. But what in the world is ten? Eleven? Twelve? Once you get to the teens, everything goes to hell, it is backward. Fourteen?”
John threw his hands up trying to figure out how to stall. “I am not sure about the numbers, but if you are Death, where is your scythe?”
Mot was clearly unimpressed by this question. “John… Do I look like a farmer to you? Despite your insults, I did bring you a gift. Something I have never done before.” Mot reached into his suit and pulled out a card. John looked at the card, it was all red, with the caption reading Congratulations to the Last Man on Earth, Have a Nice Day. A small yellow smiley face adorned the rest of the lower edge. “ I am not sure if that gives you any consolation, but I feel this is a very special day. Anyways, I have kept you waiting for quite some time, we better get on with it. Time for you to go to the big unemployment office in the sky.”
The card was the last image John ever saw before he left this world. He took his last breath, winced a bit and died. The monitors emitting the flatline noise. With this, only Mot and Mr. Brown Nose remained in the hospital room and the smell. John’s body emitted a series of gas expulsions as he aged into death.
“Well, that was anti-climatic, no flash. Dull.” Mr. Brown Nose said.
“Would have been splendid with the musical,” Mot replied through gritted teeth.
“Well Mr. Brown Nose, as they said in show business. ‘The show must go on,’ or end…” Mot clapped his hands together. “How long is this intermission? How long before the next batch is cooked?”
Mr. Brown Nose held out his hand and a Rolodex appeared in it. He thumbed through the cards until he found the information he was looking for. “The bean counters are looking at a few million years before the next race comes about for you too, practice your craft.
Mot sucked in his lips. “I heard word around the office that you were looking for a new Supreme Being figure on a planet, is that still open?”
“Yes, the one on planet Neb? That position runs about 35,000 years and has an unusual ritual that involves spaghetti. If you are interested I can have my assistant give you more.”
“Sounds interesting enough. I always thought the last would ask about Elvis.” Mot said.
“Well, what was it like collecting Elvis, Mot?”
“Awful, he was so far gone he kept trying to bite me. He thought I was a fried banana sandwich. Put me down for the Supreme Being job. My people will call your people.”
With that, Mot and Mr. Brown Nose disappeared. Leaving the world to turn, like sands through the hourglass, just without humans.