Black as night.
Stephen Krane develops a catalyst that induces iron into "atomic disintegration" uses it to power a rocket. Despite warnings of dire consequences and acts of sabotage, he takes off in the rocket with his dog in tow. Knocked unconscious during the takeoff, he wakes in time to see the entire Earth engulfed in flame. Leaking catalyst sets off all of the iron atoms in the atmosphere like tiny nuclear weapons. He and the dog land on a devastated world full of nothing but ashes. The story is told in flashbacks as he crawls with broken leg toward an uncertain destination. He hallucinates conversations with the saboteur and his fiancée Evelyn. Eventually his starvation-mad dog attacks him and he is forced to kill him. He builds a funeral pyre for the dog and his remaining possessions. Story ends as he is waiting to die, hoping that the bacteria in his body will live and eventually evolve into intelligent life.
One of the few stories where the protagonist is the literal last man on earth, is actually responsible for the death of everyone else and never meets another person.
ISFDB Publication History