After the Great War, the lone commanders of the Union that were still loyal to the ideals of their lost cause, decided to force thousands to march to the deserts. One would think people would rebel against this in a heartbeat but the truth was that they didn’t. They were all exhausted after having been prisoners and slaves for almost five years. They didn’t have any energy in them and the commanders were the only ones that, though deranged, still kept some integrity and ideals, even if they were twisted. The war had destroyed every major city and no government had remained after the last nuclear warhead had been either used or destroyed in the ocean. The world was no longer in chaos because humanity was broken and it would take a very long time for it to be fixed.
The march went on for a year, by which the commanders had begun to show mercy to their prisoners as they were all in the same condition. As the climate always changed, everyone wore the same robes that were cool during the day, when the sun was specially harsh on the planet and were a bit warm during the very cold nights in the deserts. The people only marched and marched. Sometimes they rested, ate what they could find, mostly insects, small animals and plants, if they could find them, and they had all agreed to harness the largest amount possible of water and to share among the whole community of marchers. The commanders wanted a larger share for themselves but, in time, they stopped asking for special conditions.
After the first year was done, almost five hundred people had died from exhaustion or disease. Among those, many commanders, some of the hardest and cruelest among them, which explained why no one was being as evil as they used to be anymore. The commanders had always believed that their race was superior and that their values and morals were the ones that would make the world better. But now, the ones remaining secretly believed that to be just propaganda statements. In the desert, going almost completely mad, they understood they were not superior to anyone and that they are equally fucked by war and the decisions of men that weren’t there to be punished.
Of the group that marched, there were not many children. People began to notice, after a while, that sexual desire had decreased after the war and that even when people had sex, children were almost never produced. The general belief was that many women had been rendered infertile by the radioactivity in the air. One of those cases was Yolanda, a woman in her thirties that used to have three children but now only had one and had been rendered sterile. The only child she had was now too skinny and his skin was a weird green hue. She knew he was going to die soon because of radiation and, when it happened, she barely even bury him. She had been prepared.
Among the commanders, Rick Wolf was maybe the oldest one remaining. He almost forty years old and had joined the Union because he had believed it would lead to a better life for him and his family but that was proven to be false. He actually thought about it often during the long walks, and he had reached the conclusion that the most disastrous point of his life had been the one when he had worked for some of the mad men that had rendered the world into a barren dust ball. Even then in the desert, he had never felt guiltier and shocked that during the war, were officials were demanding to exterminate certain groups o for them to be examined. They had inspired themselves from the past because, he thought, humanity had always been rotten.
Commander Johansson was much younger, not even reaching his thirtieth birthday and he was beginning to think he would never reach it. The truth was that he was never too hungry and when they happened to capture a large animal in some large wasteland, he just wasn’t hungry enough to eat more than a bite. He knew it was the radiation that was eating him slowly. He probably had cancer but he did not want to know anything about it. He was kind of glad medicine was over because he wouldn’t be able to cope knowing what was going to kill him. He felt better like this, just walking without thinking and waiting for his death.
Not all of them just walked. A man called Jeremiah had been named one of the leaders of the prisoners, which were no longer really prisoners, and he was the one that lead them and decided were to go next. In the morning, he was the first one to be awake and he would often go around the camp singing waking everyone up. The songs he sang were sad and very ancient but they made the trick: people were ready in no time and it was him who decided which way to go. He thought that they should go to Australia, a country that was rumored to be still full of life and only marginally affected by the war. Radiation may be present there but not in such large quantities like here so he tried to take them there but no ocean had been seen yet.
No water bodies had been seen at all to be correct. All the lakes and large rivers appeared to have been vaporized in the war and the small amount of water they often found was the kind that poured from the mountains over rocks and that could barely be kept in any bottle or can. They just drank from it or licked the rocks and went on with their march. Most people had forgotten fast about the taste of the food that they had eaten before it all went to shit. They forgot about juices, about cooked warm meals and about water that you didn’t have to lick to be satisfied. Their memories were slowly dying and nothing could really be done to stop it.
They all knew that, eventually, they were going to die. They also knew that it would happen much faster than usual and that the weak would go first. And so it happen during that first year when mostly children elderly people and the ones that had a proper disease just died stumbling down to the ground. Some people, the ones that still had any real feeling left, tried to bury them with sand or under rocks but they soon realized that was too much work and that they didn’t have the amount of energy to be doing that every time. So from then on they decided to just let the dead lay down on the ground and for the living to continue their journey in peace, or at least without worries.
All that could be seen on their walks was dead or dying. The few creatures that they had managed to hunt were skinny animals that were simply not enough for such a large amount of people. At first, when capturing an animal, they would let one of the commanders skin it and then cook it in some hot water they had found. But like burying bodies, that too proved to be just a waste of time and energy. With time, they began eating raw meat, which gave them the energy needed to keep going and live one more day. Because in the end, that was their goal, to just live one more day in this world that had been destroyed and that would eventually be empty and with no recollection that we, the humanity, had ever been here at all. All of our things destroyed, our individual stories rendered useless and forgotten in the abyss of time.
People didn’t know why they wanted to keep living. But they did. Most of them still had hope that they could fin more people, maybe living like proper human beings, or maybe getting to that Australia place and live in peace for at least a couple of years. Some of the walkers still remembered the old world and they would often tell storied to the others, to keep them entertained. The commanders allowed this and they would too be enthralled by the stories of the man, who claimed men had walked on the moon and that they had created viruses to be weapons and how an entire country was blown up in a day by the forces of the Union before the war even started. Although most people thought they were just stories, it happened to be all true.
People had forgotten who they were. Humanity was no more and just people remained, empty, like a shell that some animal has left in the ocean to be covered by algae and sand. People had no interests in the world anymore or on each other. Some were still more human than others but it was all the same because they all knew that they were the last generation to walk the Earth. Strangely, that didn’t make them nervous or crazy. They had just accepted it because they knew it had all happened because of them and now the consequences were upon them and not accepting them was not an option.
The march went on for as long as ten more years. The last group, of no more than twenty people, finally arrived to what used to be the ocean. Now, it was a region of canyons and death. It was then when humanity disappeared.