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Copyright Frank Westcott, 2013. All rights reserved.


Published in Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse in January 2014, Exile Editions, Toronto, and in ELQ: Exile, the Literary Quarterly, Issue 150, June 2014. I wrote this story in my hotel room at the Wynn, Las Vegas.


Disaster struck. One man left standing. No woman to speak of. He could see. If there was one. How would he procreate? Could he. If he could. Find a woman. And he had any juice left.

Food would be scarce. And there was no power to speak of. Candles. One windmill. Tilted. No cows. To speak of. He stammered even if no one was listening.

His mouth felt like a broken slot machine after the fire. No handle to open it. Lips sealed. He stammered anyway, inside his head even if there was no one to listen, if he spoke out loud, if he could, and his lips weren’t sealed. In the silence. Around him. Gracefully. Or gracelessly. Whatever the case, if he spoke, if his lips magically opened. But he stammered in his thoughts, as if he spoke them and there was someone listening. Able to. But there wasn’t. He heard. With the last scream of death from the barn.

They called the barn the dying place. Or the other way around.

The dying place was the barn. You get things turned around when you are the second last man standing, or sitting, for that matter. I was the second last man standing. It was the way the cards were written, dealt, off the dealer, off the bottom of the deck, hisdeck, after he fell to the floor in the barn, and the cards scattered all over the place. His place. And the air. Around him. Like ice in the water of time that no longer existed. Because this was the future. We were seeing. Toronto. After the storm. The last storm. We would see. Witness. Or be alive for. There had been many. Predicted. All of the them. Except the last one. It came first. Thing. In. The. Monring. Morning.

My fingers slip on the keys now like the last man’s speech inside his head. You see. I can see into the future. This future. His future. Toronto without a bus. Line. Or streetcar named desire, if that’s what you wanted. Time had fallen out o the CN tower, re-named something else I can’t remember. What. And the periods are slipping all over the place too on this machine. I wonder where the comma went. Oh… there it is… , … Found one. How many commas on a typewriter, anyway. I can’t remember. Memory’s not too good after the storm. The second last one. That is why I am the second last man standing. Or sitting. For that matter. I can’t remember if I said that already. All ready. All aboard. But I might have. And the conductor called from the train.

“Boarding all. All aboard. If you are boarding. Last man standing. No last man standing. No second man standing.”

I am the second man standing. The last man can’t see me. He is blind now. Temporarily, until he gets his speech back. Stammers. Now. Like a horse with hiccups. Neigh-i-neigh is what he sounds like with every word he thinks, and does not say, but thinks he does because he is stammering inside his head like he would if he could get his words out and his lips weren’t sealed.

Time does that. Is like that. After a disaster. Train wreck. Bus wreck. Plane wreck. Any wreck. And this is a disaster.

“Last man standing,” the conductor calls again. But the last man doesn’t hear. He is listening to himself stammer, and wondering where the stammer came from.

“Must be the train,” he mutters inside his head, stammering like always, now. Like now. Always. He’ll never speak write or type right again. Disasters are like that. Having trouble with my own words now.

Stammering inside my fingers that used to no… know … which word I meant and how to spell it direct from my brain. Disasters are like that. Too. The way he speaks. And the way he writes. I write. Mixed that one up too.

It’s cold in here. I am going to turn up the heat. But I can’t find the thermometer thing. I go into the kitchen where the thermostat used to be. But there is nothing there but the train station. Now. The house moved and became a train station that looks like a subway because it is under ground now. But the roof, a roof, came with it. Oddly. But this is the future. Toronto is gone. Buffalo slid over from texas where it went first. And there is no more TV reporting disasters. This is the last one even though I am the second last man standing waiting to the last man standing to stand alone.

He wants to procreate one last time, but doesn’t realize there is no procreation to be had. All the test tubes are gone. “Why do they call test tubes test tubes?” I ask him. But he doesn’t answer. Can’t. His lips are sealed. Frustrated by time and space. Because they no longer exist. Only the future exists. The present is gone. Into the past. And the past never existed. Had to make room for the present going there. Time warp. Life warp. Some kind of warp this is I haven’t got a name for yet. And probably won’t if the last man standing becomes the last man standing, and I am gone.

That’s how it works. You have to wait for it. And not get on the train even if the conductor calls you. All the people on the train are sitting. So there are only two of us standing. I am disintegrating. Slowly. That’s how it works and how they said it would work.

The last man goes into a field looking for a cow to drink from the windmill first. The water. He is thirsty. But doesn’t know if the water is poisoned. Like everything else. That’s how they do it. Did it. Poison. And the waters tilted with the windmills and exploded taking fingers and time and chicken with it. Fingers. And Tim Horton’s. And Kentucky Fried. Even if Texas got here. And Buffalo slid over. Without wings. And remorse. Or hockey. And Buffalo Sabres. They’ve got a new team in Phoenix, I hear. Heard. Before the last TtV went out. That was supposed to be TV but the room shook with the shaking of the train leaving. The trembling . Of the after life those on the trai n entered. Are entering. Now. In the field of dreams they wish they had played on instead of this one. Build it and they will come. Well, somebody built heave n and that is where they are going. The ground is shaking. Trembling. More than ever. Now. And I see the last =man drinking from a cup. Sorry about that = sign. Don’t know how it got there. These typewriters they left me are sucky. Half the keys don’t work. And the half that do have other symbols on them. Slid over from the shaking. And the melt. In the ice. After the pisen, poison, left. And there was oly only the two of us standing. Like that. I’ll go dslower. To make less mistakes. The trembling plus having to use two typewriters to get all the letters I need is slow enough.

I gotta make this short. Keep it short. Only 800 words left. That’s all they gave me. And I am done. Two thousand-ish, they said. So it is done. The last man is looking for that woman for a final procreation, but he doesn’t know that the future doesn’t know the difference between a man and a woman. The future has no procreation. There are only souls. Wasted. Or not. Used. Or not. Lost or not. Found or not. It doesn’t matter. Everything is the future now so we can go on living. The past is gone. The present is the past. And if the present existed we’d all be dead. So we have to go on in the future. Never getting there.

Toronto laughs at us. The last man stammers. Collapses. And becomes the last man kneeling. I think he is praying. Or catholic. Or something. But he is only dying.

\I am disnintegrsting more. And the shaking is getting on me now. To me. The bus left before the train. And I wish I had taken it and not seen my future where I had to be the second last man standning. I walk over to the last man and check to see how many words I have left. I take both typewriters so I can get all the words in without with as few mistakes as possible. It is hard writing this way.

“Get up,” I say to the last man standing, who is now kneeling, still, and blabbering about something he heard yesterday, but he doesn’t know yesterday is gone and only the present now, and this is the future and he better get up because he has to be the last man standing.

I walk to the foyer where texas used to be for awhile and see Floriada inching closer. You’ll have to translate. The typoes. One typwerwriter quit and now only one-winging it on one… and the last man stands so I can sit and follow my destiny into the future, which is now.

I have no regrets. Only a tilted windmill and father time complex. I wonder what the futre holds but I am not there yet.

The train rumbles out of the station and I follow it as best I can. With my heart. Because that is all I have left. My heart. It is undone. The last man standing gives up on procreating. His lips are sealed. And he still stammers in his head thinking he is speaking out loud, and he is embarrassed. Just like he used to be before his lips were sealed by the fire. It doesn’t matter. He’ll be dead soon, too. Death is like that. So are disasters. You are dead before you know it. And if the future wasn’t all there was. Is. I couldn’t write about it before it got here. But that’s what futures are about. Isn’t it. Aren’t they. They the getting here.

The train follows me out of the station.

I wave good-bye to the last man.

He is looking for a semen cup to leave soeting something behind. But he already has ‘cause the future is now, like I said. I board the plane, train.

“Ah… second man,” the conductor says.

I see he is written in italics and wonder at the font. I didn’t know this typerwriter was a selectrix and had a ball font you could turn and get different script. My fingers have stopped moving. The future is written. Anyway.

Two hundred an d five words left. Not many to go. And the end is near. In sight. But it hasn’t happened yet. Because it never will. It is the future. The end. That is the secret of living in the future. It never gets here. Ands if you want to live for eternity you just have to stay in the future. Forget the past. Even the present. Just remember the future. As you see it. Read it.

The last man standing is stammering inside his head to a cow he can’t see and isn’t there but he wishes it was so he could see it drink from the waters of the tilted windmill flowing in the stream of life and consiousness where cows drink from streams o f futre tenses and remedies for all that ails you as long as it isn’t beer ale. That would be a laguer without a key. Lost my spell check with the typewriter reincarnation. Four words to go before there are only a few left and I wish this typewriter had a ribbon so I could see what it writes… but it does in the future… else how do you think you see it…

I re-read the beginning in the future like you reading it for the first time. Are you sitting? Or standing? Or neither. What is YOUR future?

I read,

Disaster struck. One man left standing. No woman to speak of. He could see. If there was one. How would he procreate? Could he. If he could. Find a woman. And he had any juice left.

Food would be scarce. And there was no power to speak of. Candles. One windmill. Tilted. No cows. To speak of. He stammered even if no one was listening.


*THE BACKGROUND: This story Last Man Standing was written in one hour, with no changes or edits afterward. The mistakes I made in writing, typos and spelling and such, were incorporated into the story on the fly, as I wrote it. I did not want to do it. The story. But the call came for submissions just as I was done for the year, on another story, and did not want to write any more for a long time and was about to celebrate. So, I decided nope! Aint gonna do it. Went downstairs at the Wynn to the cafe for lunch. The Wynn is in Vegas. Oddly, as I sat there and ate and such, words came to me... the first lines for a story that would fit the submission request. I wrote them down on a napkin. Here for you in the picture. I decided I don't want to do this, but the muse is landing on my shoulder, I better pay attention and thought how can I make it impossible. I would give it one hour, the time of a good massage. Impossible! The minimum word count was 2,000 words for the submission. I thought, impossible! I cannot type that many words in an hour, let alone make a story. I can say I tried. And leave it at that and go on with my vacation. The story I had wanted to finish, My Last Story: Hemingway's Cigar or It Must Have Been in the Water, was done. Just finished. I could soon relax if I just gave this other story a whirl. I went up to my room, set the clock, watched the word count as I typed. Impossible. I did it. Over 2,000 words in 60 minutes. Sent the story in just as it was/is here.Exactly as it came out of my fingers to the screen. The rest is history. Last Man Standing was published by Exile Editions in their anthology Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse in January 2014, and in June 2014's ELQ: Exile, the Literary Quarterly, Issue 150. ELQ & EXILE EDITIONS have a fine literary history, I was very pleased.I hope you enjoyed the story. And the background.

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