The final chapter, which turns out to be a fairly translucent allegory of the Book of Genesis
Baxter had to conclude that he and Matilda were the only two humans left alive.
Furthermore, it seemed quite safe to assume that he and Mildred had been transported to an open glade in the midst of a lush, sunny wilderness. All around them were bushes, bursts of flowers and tall, waving grass. In the near distance, a creek flowed down a gentle slope toward a thicket of trees. He could hear birdsong emanating from the tree branches spreading above him.
Conspicuously absent were cleanly chopped stumps, clods of dug earth, piles of sticks or stones, or any evidence of humankind's propensity to rearrange and recombine matter as it sees fit.
Baxter began to wonder why this place, this entire situation, seemed familiar - almost homely - to him. He wondered if Matilda was feeling the same way.
Baxter turned his thoughts to the event that had extinguished every other member of their race, and the rapid and extraordinary chain of events that had led to their salvation and transportation to this place. He noticed that he didn't feel any strong feelings of sadness or shock at knowing that every other human being he had ever known was dead, or that every accomplishment and monument of his species had been annihilated from existence. That humanity had risen to such towering heights, but had now fallen - for lack of a better word - down to the humbling earth with nothing. He rationalised that he should probably feel some emotion, but somehow, in this place, those tragic events seemed... unavoidable. As if that great fall ought to have happened, and really wasn't worth worrying about any longer.
He again wondered if Matilda was feeling the same way. He glanced around. Matilda had, upon their regaining consciousness, quickly scrambled to the other side of the tree, because, of course, she was as naked as he was. He began to wonder why, having witnessed humankind's near-complete extinction, she still felt the need to hide her unclothed body from him. He then, for seemingly no reason, began to wonder how and where they would find something to eat.
He soon discovered that the very tree he was crouching beneath happened to be bearing fruit, and several such fruits lay bruised in the tall grass around him. While he tentatively took a bite and chewed, his mind turned, then, to the etymology of his own name. He wondered if "Baxter" originally had some special meaning that he was unfamiliar with - perhaps something poetic like "origin", "beginning" or "all-father". It probably did not, but it was nice to entertain the possibility that the only male name left in existence was an important name.
As he ate, Mildred creeped out from behind the tree, waddling toward Baxter in a huddle. She spoke.
"It's still the end, Bax. We're going to die here, sooner or later, and so will all that's left of humankind. Nobody will bury us or remember us, or do anything ever again."
She watched him eat, and added, "Nothing left to do but wait."
Baxter turned to the woman before him. He heard the flatness of her voice, saw her crouching all small and huddled up, and more specifically without any clothes on, and began to make a decision. He swallowed.
"It may feel like the end, Mil, but somehow... it feels like it could actually be the beginning."
He slowly rose to his feet. "We may be all that's left, Matilda, but we don't have to just quietly die like everybody else! We could have children, you and I. We could have five children... or ten! Then... each of them could raise ten grandkids!" His expression grew more enthusiastic as he continued. "That's a hundred more human souls, reclaimed from Death and oblivion! And if that goes on, if they all survived long enough and spread out over... then it would all come back! Everything would be back! We'd reclaim all of the science and art and poetry and technology! We'd slowly rebuild the cities and the roads and the factories, century by century! We'd refill the whole world with our children - the whole world, Matilda!" At this point he was almost leaping at her. "There's a whole entire world inside of us, waiting to be born! We have to let it out! We must! We must, Matilda!"
Fortunately for the both of them, his mania subsided over the next few hours and she didn't have to kill him after all.This was originally posted on my Blogger blog on 25/5/2009.