THE LAST MAN
Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)
The time is about one hundred years in the future. The earth has been plagued by war and famine, the result of a recurrent series of belligerent and aggressive tyrants in charge of governing most of the nations on the planet. Finally, as a result of the sinking of a neutral passenger liner, the final engagement takes place. A mad scientist has discovered a radio frequency that will stop the human heart. In a short period of time, knowledge of how to create this wave has spread to most of the countries and one of them has utilized the beam to attack her enemies. And is imitated by most of the larger governments.
Mark Adams, a member of the Royal Navy, was aboard a submarine which was lying on the bottom of the sea adjacent to the Isle of Wight. The boat had suffered an engine failure and most of the crew had escaped, but Mark was unconscious due to a scrabble with a pugnacious fellow submariner who had a bad case of the me-firsties. When he woke up, he utilized the escape mechanism to reach the surface and swam to shore. He noticed a number of sea-bathers lying about, apparently asleep. But when he tried to rouse one of them he noticed they were all dead. He hot-wired a car and drove to Cowes, the major city on the island, but couldn't find any live people. He tried visiting his uncle Andrew who lived nearby but nobody was home. So he commandeered a small boat and sailed to the mainland. He thought if he could use the powerful radio located at the nearby yacht club he might be able to find out what was going on. But the radio seemed dead also: no static and no response. He laughed hysterically for a bit after understanding that in all likelihood he was the only person left on the planet.
Appropriating food and clothing as needed, he made his way to London where he found a lot more bodies. They were all sort of dried out with chalky faces, looking a lot like mummies. Finding an abandoned limousine, he equipped it with food and necessities and set forth on a road trip, taking in all the major cities of England and Scotland. He didn't find a single soul alive, so he made a plan to try Europe. Arriving in Paris he didn't find anyone either, but while sitting disconsolate in the Louvre, he found a lady's purse stuck behind a seat cushion. Inside was a watch that had just been wound, so he knew there was at least one other person alive beside himself. Outside, he saw that his car had been stolen. Various indications suggested that whoever it was, was originally from Rome, so he got another auto and drove there. Touring around the classical/tourist sites, her heard a scream while he was checking out the House of the Borgias in the Vatican. He ran, but couldn't find the lady, but through some rather clever deduction, he managed to trace her to Ravello, on the Amalfi coast. They got together at last and she (Evelyn) shared her survival story.
She had been on the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in a diving bell, looking for unusual fauna with a man named Mardok. Unknown to her, this person, being a kind of future-day Trump, had been largely responsible for the death of the human race. But he was a scientist as well as being a maniacal psychopath, and was interested in ruling the post-human world with Evelyn as his help-mate. Of course she's horrified at the idea and manages to elude his clutches once they were back on the surface. She and Mark lead a settled life for a while in Ravello until Mardok (who'd been searching all over Europe for Evelyn) discovered their whereabouts. The two flee back to Rome, but Evelyn falls into the clutches (i like that word: i used to be a mechanic) of the evil Mardok and agrees to marry him. She convinces him to take a boat to Capri for a marriage ceremony, but cleverly manages to trap him in the Blue Grotto when the tide arose, escaping back to Naples where she and Mark flee once more. Their new plan is to take refuge in Assissi, where they hope there are still some monks left. But they soon realize that Mardok is close behind them. Their car breaks down and they find two horses with which they ride cross-country to Balneum Regis, a castle on the edge of a cliff at the end of a dead-end road. Mardok catches up to them but in the mist drives over the cliff edge and crashes at the bottom, killing himself.
Mark and Evelyn travel on to Assissi, where they find peace and tranquillity at the Monastery of St. Francis, and also a number of monks who have survived the crisis. When asked how they did it, the querulee replied only that it had something to do with the local rocks.
Noyes was a well-recognized and popular figure as a poet. "The Highwayman" might have been his most popular work. He was certainly an accomplished describer of scenery of all sorts, and inventive insofar as the plot was concerned. There was a lot of religious philosophizing that interrupted the action from time to time, and provided a reason for a certain amount of vague haranguing. In my view, it was a bit narrow-minded, but others might feel differently. Anyway, it was entertaining and thought provoking even though i wouldn't rate it as high as the other work of the same name by Mary Shelley.