I had always known that I would never fade from existence. For I am a spirit. A ghost. And my existence is eternal. I don't know how I became the way that I am, but after the first thousand or so years, I stopped caring. You may ask, how could a ghost be physical, be real? And I would tell you, even I do not know. I was once alive, was once a living human being. But my life was so short, I have no memories of ever living. And I have no memories of ever returning to physical form. I have just always been this way, and eventually, I stopped asking why.
I was never sure of the role I played, being the only corporeal spirit among the living, but now, at the end, I have finally found my purpose. And I only discovered it after it was far too late.
I just never imagined that I would be witness to the end of things. I always thought the world would continue on forever just as it had been for hundreds of thousands of years. But…I suppose all good things…
It still hurts to think about it, about all the hopelessness and loss and death. So much death. I think I will always feel pain and suffering from this loss. The emptiness inside me reflects the empty streets, houses, schools, workplaces, etcetera, etcetera. Total, utter emptiness. For there is no one left.
The human race is extinct.
It came swiftly. No one could stop it. Science and medicine were useless. All they could do was slightly delay the inevitable. The disease was widespread before they even took notice to it. From there, it didn't take long for the airborne plague to reach even the most remote tribes of Africa. Within twenty years, Earth's entire population of human beings was decimated. Not a single man, woman, or child remained.
I was all that remained. I alone am the sole "survivor" of a doomed species. And only because I could not suffer from that disease; I could not be killed by it. And so I remain. Alone. Forgotten by a harsh world that was glad to see mankind go, only because man had so drastically changed the face of that world to suit his own selfish needs.
At first, I did my best to pay respects to mankind. I toiled endlessly, digging mass graves. I went through pockets and purses, trying to find names that I could inscribe on large stone slabs which I placed near each grave. Those people would be remembered, even if it was only the stone, where the names were carved, remembering. But there were so many bodies, and they were rotting too quickly for me to possibly bury them all. So I began burning them. A cremation of sorts. It was the least I could do for the people I cared so much for. Day in and day out, fires lit the skies, the smoke so thick it blotted out the sun and the moon. Eventually, I started burning entire towns or buildings where there were too many bodies to move elsewhere. I still remember the smell of the smoke and the heat from the flames.
But I was not fast enough. The bodies quickly rotted. Animals ate into dead flesh, insects made the bodies their breeding ground, and birds picked the bones clean. I could not prevent it. No one could. And so I abandoned my quest to preserve mankind's dignity. The animals and insects may not respect the human race, but I do. And I realized after a while that that was all that mattered.
Not long after, a thought came to my mind. Could there possibly be survivors somewhere on this planet? It was the faintest glimmer of hope, and I clung to it with all my strength. I set out across the globe, searching tirelessly for any signs of human activity. I found some lights on in homes, and grew excited. But when I went inside to check, I only found more death. It had only been the electricity still running in that area that had given me false hope. But I would not give up. I headed off again, and again. But everywhere I stopped, no human life ever greeted me. Only death, decay, skeletons…and eventually dust. I searched the world until the bones of mankind had returned to the earth, and there was nothing left for me to look for.
With my being a spirit, yes, I could sense other spirits about. Some ghosts of people long past still remained. But none were strong enough to contain the consciousness that I had. They were only weak remnants of lost souls, wisps of energy that would eventually fade. Even in death, the human race's existence was finite.
I was then the only humanoid left on this Earth.
The years dragged onward, and I found myself in a deep depression, overwhelmed with loss and sadness over the extinction of the human race. The civilization the humans had strived so hard to build and maintain for so long was crumbling down, slowly but surely. And now that mankind was gone, the Earth was slowly reclaiming her lands, flora, and fauna. Overgrowth covered many structures, and former pets and other wildlife surged inward to reclaim their lands and territories. Slowly, things were beginning to vanish, and it was much too painful to bear.
I was having a difficult time with letting go. I loved people so much that to watch them all die helplessly devastated me. I found myself unable to move for days on end, collapsed on the ground and weeping uncontrollably. Even the pelting rain that sometimes fell could not sway me into getting up.
I was never a very emotional person, always stowing the things I felt away from prying eyes. But with no more eyes upon me, I lost my need to keep things hidden. And so I wept. I hit things. I shouted up to the heavens. But none of it ever made me feel any better.
Unable to accept the extinction of the human race, of a people I held so much love and appreciation for, I set forth and sought out remnants of their existence. I chose a location, the Smithsonian Institution, a place that was already established as the world's largest museum complex, a place that contained many fine works and studies made by mankind, and made it my personal sanctuary. I also went out into the world once more, bringing back with me artifacts, art, technology, literature, and literally anything I could carry within my power's limits. I added those things to the Institution, expanding it's repertoire vastly by accumulating thousands upon thousands of pieces of mankind's legacy to its nineteen museums and nine research centers. Years were spent, toiling almost non-stop over what to leave and what to bring back. Truth be told, I wanted to save it all. But I was not so blinded by my ambitions that I could not see that it was impossible.
Eventually, I found that there was no more room to store the pieces I had been collecting. Every nook and cranny, shelf, closet, room, hallway, staircase, desk, and drawer was packed to maximum capacity. And so I was forced to abandon my quest. All I had left was to hope that I had recovered enough to properly display the diversity, intelligence, ingenuity, and beauty of the human race.
For many, many years, I remained in that place, maintaining all of the artifacts and the buildings, caring for mankind's legacy much like a curator. I took pride in my work, sometimes spending half a day, gently dusting a statue. What did I care that I was taking so long? I was eternal. And with my help, all of the pieces I collected would also be eternal. I was not going to allow humans or their great achievements to vanish so quickly into oblivion.
That was how much I loved them. Cherished them.… Missed them.
I still cried sometimes, quietly. I still mourned my loss and emptiness. Mere objects could not replace their creators. But there were still nights where I would curl up into myself and weep, burning for the physical contact from a human again. Human beings were social creatures. They could not function properly without being close to each other, or even touching each other. Lack of physical contact with their own could depress them or even drive them mad. I was no different, for I too was once human, and I still retain all of their needs and desires, even if I don't remember living.
And so I have functioned in that way for hundreds of years after the demise of man. Or has it been over a thousand or more? I have unfortunately lost count of the days. All I know, is that when I look out beyond the few buildings I keep in repair, I see only forests. Earth has swallowed up much of the human's civilization. And although it saddens me, I still feel good about the accomplishment that I have made in keeping these museums full of mankind's rich history.
And then, one day as I stood outside and gazed out over the forested landscape, I came to a startling realization. I was the only intelligent being left on this planet. The only being with intimate knowledge of the human race and their brief reign over the Earth. And because of that, I too was part of mankind's legacy. For if, somehow, someday, a new group of humans appeared, curious about their ancestors, I would be the only one able to tell their story. Art and artifacts could only go so far in the retelling of a culture and history of a people. For someone to actually be able to recount events as they truly happened…that would be more precious than all the artifacts I have retained in these museums.
And so, after one more leisurely stroll through the institution, I found a comfortable place to sit down. My vast power welled within me, and I sent it outward to cover every building that I had been caring for for so long, encasing them with a protective barrier to preserve them for as long as I existed myself.
Now I sit here, my eyes closed and willing a deep, indefinite sleep upon myself. And in my last few waking moments, I finally understand and accept my purpose, my role in this world. I will not only preserve all of these items, but I will also preserve myself for some distant future generation of humanity, someone, something of intelligence…all in the hopes to retell the story of mankind. And maybe…somehow…hopefully…be reunited with human beings once more. That has been my dream…and will forever continue to be my dream.
My name is Endri Timbúrland. And I am mankind's legacy.