The Professor strode majestically through the hall, display cases on either side of him. Six of his students followed their teacher, hanging on his every word. “Now,” he said, gesturing all around them, “we come to my favorite place in the museum–The Hall of the Lasts.”

“Why is this your favorite, sir?” a male student asked.

The Professor explained, “In this hall, after an exhaustive search, my colleagues and I have gathered all the dying species we could find in the hope of somehow saving them.” He pointed in one display case. “Here, for example,” he said, “we have the last cat and, beside her, the last dog.”

A female student giggled and offered, “How ironic.”

“Why is that?” the Professor asked.

“Cats and dogs often could not tolerate each other, and here–side by side–are the last of their respective species.”

“Very true,” the Professor agreed after a chuckle. He continued on, pointing at more cases to make his point. “The last chimpanzee. . . the last polar bear. . . the last fox. We have equipped each case with muting technology so this hall doesn’t become a cacophony!”

“Is there nothing science can do to make sure these beautiful species don’t become extinct?” another student inquired.

“What would you suggest?”

The student thought for a moment. “Artificial insemination? Cloning?”

“We have tried both,” the Professor answered, “and have consistently failed. Purely by chance, most of the animals we rescued are female and well beyond their fertile years. If we had only been able to also locate some males, perhaps these species would not now be on the verge of extinction.”

“What about crossbreeding?” a female student asked.

Her professor grew angry. “Why do you ask that?” he wondered, stopping in his tracks.

The student was caught off guard. “No reason,” she replied nervously. “I. . . I didn’t mean to insult you, sir. It was only a question.”

“I’m sorry,” he apologized. “That happens to be a sore subject with me.” He drifted for a moment, remembering a time past. “We did try crossbreeding–once–when no other options were available.”

“And?” the girl prompted him.

“Watch closely,” he said, pointing at a certain case. “I can only turn on the light for a moment.” There was the flick of a switch. The students recoiled in horror.

The thing inside was short and misshapen. It was covered in fur and skin. A few twisted horns protruded from what was likely its head. Several tails swished on its rump. The Professor reached forward. “Listen to it,” he said. “Remember it.”

He pressed a button to allow the sound from inside the cage to be heard. It was an ungodly mix of snarls, growls, and barks. The thing sounded vicious and terrified at the same time. Saliva poured from around the fangs in its mouths. It leapt at the clear front of its case. The questioning student buried her face in her hands. “Please turn it off!” she pleaded. The Professor did as she wished. The case darkened and went silent.

“It will rest now,” he told them. “I’m sorry if that disturbed any of you, but I wanted to show why crossbreeding is no longer an option.”

“Have you no idea what went so terribly wrong to create that. . . thing?” a student asked.

The Professor began walking again. “None,” he said. “Perhaps one of you will find the solution after your graduation next month. Every day, some species here die. It breaks my heart when. . .” He stopped at a particular case. “Oh no,” he uttered.

“What is it, sir?” a student wondered.

“This specimen is dead.”

“That’s so sad,” another student added, touching the case.

“She was the last.”

“Rest in peace,” a third student said.

“When we conquered this Earth,” the Professor went on, “we decided to preserve all the species we could find because of their novelty. We enjoy observing them. This. . . This was the last human being.”

He sighed heavily and–dismissing what just happened as not terribly important in the grand scheme of things–asked, “Who wants nourishment?”

Zetetic separator

—For several years, Mike has been primarily an author of audio plays. He’s had over 150 of them produced in the U.S. and overseas, many for Audible. In 2016, he won a Moondance International Film Festival award for his TV pilot script The Bullying Squad. Mike’s prose work has appeared in Dime Show Review (including in their second “best of” anthology) and The Flash Fiction Press. In 2015, his script The Candy Man was produced as a short film under the title Dark Chocolate. In 2013, he won the Marion Thauer Brown Audio Drama Scriptwriting Competition.

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