Author: James Callan
Here I am, the last survivor, destined to survive, locked within the lunar colony foodstuffs pantry. Outside the bolted door, the monsters have all died. They’ve expired. Starved. No crew left among us but me, locked away, insufferably safe. No more food for the monsters. The others all devoured, all dead. The banquet is over. I am alone.
Yet here I am. Well fed. Bored, if you can imagine. A prisoner who tallies her days by bulk cereal boxes that have been hollowed out, made into a shelter, the puffed wheat and clustered rice for dinner, the coco flakes for dessert, the canned peaches a calendar event, a rare treat, the ammunition with which to dent the plated metal of a locked door where aluminum-cased fruit has been thrown without effect.
The quiet will kill me, even if the monsters did not. Such is my isolation that I find I begin to miss them. Their six-inch talons and salivating fangs. Their ink-black exoskeletons and armor-plated scales. I even miss the fear, the trauma that lingered for months before finally going dry. I wouldn’t have dared believe it when I ran from them to save my skin, but it’s true: I miss the beasts, missed out on the mercy of death that they brought to everyone but me.
When they hatched from the leathery eggs brought back from the quarry where they had been discovered embedded in the rock, we marveled at the notion of non-human life before we realized it meant all human death. Now it is only me. Me and peaches. Me and Peach Can Pete. We talk for hours. We watch the stars through a narrow window that cannot be broken. We share fluids. His is sweet, from a can. Mine is bitter, salty tears from eyes that cannot unsee what is relived in a perpetual nightmare.
I talk. He listens, even after I have hollowed him out like a ravenous monster. Though he is reserved with his opinions, he shares of himself aplenty. I take what he gives. My words echo in the ribbed lining of his cavernous body. If I pretend hard enough, it sounds like someone else. Someone named Pete.
Sometimes I see him for what he is: an impostor, a fake. Me. Only me. Sometimes I see him for what he truly is: a fucking peach can. But then I snap out of it. I remember I am alone, and unable to face that truth, I create another. I open one more peach can. I dent the plated doors. I cry. Then I devour preserved fruit and make a brand new friend, an old friend.
Peach Can Pete. Pete, like my husband. Like the father of my daughter, Hannah, back on Earth, which occasionally I glimpse from that pesky rhombus of triple-layered laminated glass. I see a sliver of shifting blue, green, and white and wonder why I left such a beautiful world, a beautiful daughter behind. Have the monsters somehow made it back home? Have those leathery eggs been brought back to a planet where they will hatch and thrive? I decide fear is worse than boredom, and convince myself Earth is okay. When I see it, half-visible and floating in space, I kindly lie to myself, preaching with unfounded conviction that Hannah is safe. That I will see her once again.
Peach Can Pete. Pete, like the man I love who lies digested in the belly of a monster which has long since expired. My husband, gone. Everyone gone. I have outlasted them all.
I reach for some peaches. I start anew.