Author: Cliff McNish

Eventually, once we’d screwed up everything in the ecosystem, Naomi and I were the final ones left – the last man and woman on Earth. Unfortunately, we didn’t get on. We felt some vague responsibility to repopulate the world, but kept avoiding sex. We did it politely, but even so.

‘Mm, what do we do now?’ Naomi asked one day, and I shrugged. All we had was some cross-species gene-splicing technology the last scientists had desperately thrown together in the final days.

We thought long and hard about how to use the technology. We asked each other if it was ethical to use it at all. Of course it wasn’t, but being human we got lonely.

Naomi eventually joined a surviving troop of monkeys in a last remnant of forest for companionship.

I decided to take my chances with a herd of llamas on the arid plains. Llamas can eat the driest of grasses, so they seemed a good bet. They also share 90% of our DNA. Looking at their goofy faces, who’d have guessed?

I did not meet Naomi again for several years, and it was purely by chance: I happened to be roaming near the forest edge with my new gene-spliced family at the same time Naomi brought hers there. Like any decent mother, she’d decided it was high time to bring her offspring out to see the big wide scary world beyond the forest.

Naomi’s children, dropping out of the branches, were charming. Their faces were quite long-nosed, just like Naomi, but they had wonderfully dextrous tails.

My own children mingled excitedly with them, while Naomi and I restricted ourselves to respectful nods. Talking didn’t seem like the best idea. I think we both knew it would only spoil the moment.

The sun was not too hot for a change, so the children could have played together beyond mid-morning. But Naomi decided hers had had quite enough excitement for one day and ushered them back into the forest. My own children, caught by surprise by the sudden departure, followed them into the dappled shadows of the high trees. Mostly they were curious to see how the Monkey-Humans used their hands.

Finally returning to me, they stared rather disconsolately at their hooves. They also asked me why they did not have tails.

Interestingly, they did not ask me why they did not look more human.