My first practice session of 2017 is going to be a challenge to write exactly 2,017 characters without spaces (because I’m too lazy for 2,107 words).
The last snail died.
It happened on a sidewalk on a sunny day. The last snail in the universe stretched out on the concrete and died. It curled as it dried, as though appalled by its own demise.
No one mourned the snail because no one noticed. Might someone have mourned? Perhaps. But there were too many other things to mourn during that time.
The sidewalk where the last snail died cut through a place that had once been a city. Not a large city. In fact, a rather small one. It may have been more correct to call the city a collection of neighborhoods that happened to be close enough together to put a lot of people in proximity to each other. But the buildings were not tall. The buses were not frequent. There was no metro, no train, no skyway. Homes huddled together like shivering old men with hunched shoulders and people called it a city.
Someone in this non-city walked along the sidewalk where the last snail died, taking its entire species with it. They were not the last person, but they were not far off.
They found a house that used to stand but now leaned. The nearly-last person started chopping at the walls with an ax they’d taken from what used to be a store. It took days to chop up the walls and haul the tinder back to the less-leaning home where they now lived. But they found the task rewarding, and not merely because it made the night less dark and cold. They felt a purpose through this simple work, an action and direction. Most importantly, they felt time jolt and reawaken, felt its rusted wheels churning after long disuse.
But the work could not last forever, or even the short duration of one person’s life. So they set about seeking other tasks to keep the gears of time lubricated.
Soon, their home stood perfectly straight and contained an assortment of still-usable furniture. They had a garden, even a few chickens who nested in a coop the person had built by reading yellowing books and guessing.
The problem, of course, came when other people noticed a suspiciously nice home in the devastation of humanity’s end. Then time moved because the nearly-last person had to protect their small and meaningless continuation. They gathered weapons. The fortified their home. They recruited a few humans who seemed capable of being trusted.
Time moved once more, for all these people. They signed treaties with the house two streets away. And eventually, all this, the new city full of the very last humans, also passed.