Meaning - To be utterly and extremely alone and lonely, that no one could even find you or reach for you, physically and mentally.
The dust storms have razed everything in its path. The camp of 8 people was barely able to hold on its own. Severe rationing of supplies had become necessary to sustain the Prometheans for a few days before they could resume their journey to the outpost. An eerie sensation swept across the camp and the faces of the survivors marked an impending doom that they are trying to escape. The travelers are fortified near a highway that runs for several hundred kilometers all the way to Lake Baikal, the last bastion of human civilization.
I still remember the day of reckoning. December 21, 2029, changed everything. A massive meteor named Apophis, named after the great serpent of the Egyptian tales, changed course to hit the Earth. The hit was catastrophic and annihilated everything that came in its way. The futile attempt by the world space mission to destroy the meteor mid-way failed miserably. The hit completely vaporized the continent of America. Global communications went down instantly. Earthquakes devasted the lands and Tsunamis wiped out all the major coastal cities around the globe. Dust clouds spread from the impact zone and shrouded our planet in dark for several months. The government systems had fallen weeks before the impact. It was a barbaric, brutal, violent, and cannibalistic show of humanity ever. There were unaccounted-for deaths that may have been several million due to the collapse of civil society. Rapes, theft, murders, and arson became part of the daily news. The worst of humanity was witnessed before the glorious collapse of the dominant specie. Few of them ahead of the curve decided to pour their resources into underground chambers that could sustain life until the dust settles. Just a few hours before the impact, a radio transmission was broadcasted from an unknown source that confirmed an outpost near Lake Baikal in Siberia built by the World Space Organisation as a backup plan to save the species from extinction, Operation Phoenix. The plan was in motion since the meteor was first marked for certain impact in the year 2004. The scramble to get your hands on anything caused the massive stampede. No one knows to date who transmitted that information but it didn't matter after 6:00 PM IST when the meteor hit the Earth. My guess is Prometheans but there is no way to know. I am no longer the person I was in a world that would never sleep. Well, one can argue that our world did not change in this aspect. I cannot sleep even today.
My father was the pilot of one of the nuclear bombers that made course for the meteor as part of the World Space Mission. Despite the strict confidentiality around Operation Phoenix, several people inside the organization grouped together to form an alternate committee that fought for this information to become public so that every individual has a right to fight for his survival or at least have a decent amount of time to say their last goodbyes to their loved ones. They called themselves "Prometheus" - the rebel titan that went against the Almighty Zeus. The Prometheans were labeled as extremely dangerous by WSO and were identified and killed in suspicious circumstances. The diary that my father left contained a series of instructions to make way for an obscure location in Central India and stay there for as long as you can and once the dust settles, coordinate with other outposts to reach the fortress of WSO in Lake Baikal. I was in disarray and confused about what to do but my father's last words still resonate with me. "You have to survive because you will be the living record of a world that vanishes into oblivion. It shall be your duty to live and a curse that you will bear for the rest of your life. Accept your fate and march on."
The location marked in the diary led to a large underground cave. Several Prometheans were inside the underground concrete complex specially built to survive the impacts of the catastrophe. It was large enough to house a small community of 200 people. The communications are online with help of a separate decentralized network (we still call it the internet) that would form the basis of communication in this new world. This network runs its data through several stations across the world that transmit data through WSO satellites. This helped the Elders with assessing the situation outside our little world. The shockwaves from earthquakes terrorized us for several weeks. None of us could ever sleep again. We never saw the sun again.
I trained hard to remain in good shape. Lack of proper food, sleep, and constant terror of death has severely affected my health. I had to follow a strict regimen designed by the Prometheans to acclimatize our bodies to such strenuous situations. We were taught basic martial arts by the elders. They prepared us for the journey that lay in front of us. The world has changed would be a gross understatement and inaccurate assessment of our situation. Prometheans developed an exoskeleton from WSO research that would adapt itself to low sunlight toxic environment. The exoskeleton could not be removed once we are outside because it would mean certain death. The thought of being trapped in a shell for the rest of my life made me uneasy and restless but I could only hear one thing that my father said to me, "Accept your fate and march on."
Several Prometheans committed suicide. The anxiety of the challenge that lay in front of us was too great for some. Several test runs were made by the elders to venture out before making the journey to the Lake. A number of test runs failed. The results were disastrous. The exoskeleton had to be calibrated to certain parameters before it could acclimatize to the current environment. A great number of people died a ghastly death. Burns, radiation marks, and mutations are the least of the reasons that caused death. One elder was vaporized in the exoskeleton because of the malfunction that caused the gel covering the host to boil. The uncharted world became a nightmare. Peaceful death became a viable option over this abominable journey.
Nothing mattered to me. I knew what I had to do. Accept my fate.
Several of the Prometheans gathered in weekly orgies. Elders promoted this as part of calming the populace and restoring a semblance of human nature into this dark world. Only a few could participate in the gathering and others had to be part of the security in case anyone commit any excess. The duties were assigned in rotation. I was the participant today as I was part of the security duty last week. Several females grind their bodies against me in an attempt to entice me. I was never a conventional good guy, to begin with. I often cheated on my girlfriends with her best friends and their friends and their friends at times. I was always covered in a dark veil of lust. Women were nothing but a way for us men to enjoy this cruel world. I don't know to date what I seek in promiscuity. What was I trying to achieve back then? I stood there blank and empty watching those women rape me as they satisfied their carnal needs. Everything finished and I was left alone in a sweat wondering if this is my fate. I went back to my bunker thinking if I am worthy enough to be even alive.
"Accept the fate and march on", whispered the dead old man.
The Exoskeleton is working in excellent condition. We started getting out of the chambers a few weeks back. The world has changed drastically. We haven't seen a single living being on our journey yet. The dust has not settled yet but there are promising signs that it will clear in a few months. Everything has been razed to the ground. Culture, philosophies, art, civilizations, relations, emotions, religions, politics, kingdoms, and technology has turned into dust, and dust is only what remains. Our attempts at agriculture failed. We did not know how much time will it take for the soil to regenerate or if it was even possible within our lifetime. We foraged for things that would help us in our journey but we could barely find anything. Our survival was in question. We had to make a hard decision. I slipped poisonous shrubs into the food rations of some people who I deemed not fit for the journey. The next day, we were able to greatly increase our odds to survive our journey. There was now enough ration to make this journey. Those who survived did not ask anything. Everyone knew and silently we left the dead to their miserable fate.
A frigid dusty landscape stands in front of me. After several days of walking alone, I finally see an artificial fort tucked in the mountains. Operation Phoenix was in fact true. The last bastion of humanity lies in my sight. After dreadful years of the soul-wrenching ordeal that this journey has given me, I finally reach the end of my torture and suffering. I am the Chosen one indeed.
NO ONE MADE IT ALIVE. THIS PLACE IS EMPTY......I DON'T______________
I don't know. It took me two days to gather any semblance of sanity before I could understand what is happening here. I checked the records on the intranet. The AI that was built by WSO logged the daily updates. It took me a few hours to grasp what transpired in this forsaken establishment. After the failure of destroying the approaching meteor, WSO Chief gathered everything here that would help the human race to repopulate. The underground complex built as part of Operation Phoenix was a fitting masterpiece of human inventions. Humanity's last golden egg would be a perfect analogy. An indestructible haven with ample resources, supplies, and power that would help the next generation to survive. It was heaven on earth while every other place turned into a living hell but humans will never learn to appreciate it. Greed and lust for power corrupt the mind easily and ensnares even righteous souls. The surviving men in this complex were the worst of the pack. They did not need an apocalypse to die. They made their death with their own hands. Envy and pride spread like a pandemic and destroyed everything in its blaze. The last remaining ones killed themselves by opening up their exoskeletons. I sit near those remains of the exoskeleton as I write. Several things should go through my mind but surprisingly that is not the case. I have never been this calm in several years. The silence has never been this peaceful. The clarity of being the last human on earth made me laugh. My father wanted me to live. I foolishly thought that it was born out of noble intentions but I now know that my old man could not have been further from the truth. Damned to a life of eternal solitude is the punishment of the Gods ordained to the worst of humans. This is a curse that I solemnly accepted but no longer can endure it. I think there only remains one thing to do.