“The world shrinking down about a raw core of parsible entities. The names of things slowly following those things into oblivion. Colors. The names of birds. Things to eat. Finally the names of things one believed to be true. More fragile than he would have thought. How much was gone already?”

Tracking their endless journey to the coast, the man considers the death of language at a stop on the road. He is usually obsessed with preventing physical death, but in this safe place he considers what will die out from human vocabulary. He imagines the names of things passing out of all knowledge—even the things he believed to be true, perhaps like the name of God. These names, he realizes, are far more fragile than he once thought. Since no color exists but ashen gray, why should anyone remember the name of red, orange, or yellow? For all intents and purposes, these colors will no longer exist. Birds will be extinct and their names forgotten. When the world dies, language will die with it. This quote expresses the sadness the man has for this loss. He may know the names of things that the boy does not. The death of language is certain, and it is happening all around him.

“He knelt there wheezing softly, his hands on his knees. I am going to die, he said. Tell me how I am to do that.”

After the safety of the bunker has passed and man and boy are on the road again, the man coughs up blood and wonders how he will die. In this heartbreaking phrase, the man questions not why he will die but how he will do it. He knows he will not last long, and that the boy will have to keep going without him. But how will he accomplish this? This phrasing sets death as a task like any other, and the very last one at that. The man is so focused on keeping the boy alive and continuing toward the coast, his death seems almost incidental to him. A vague annoyance. It is striking that he treats his own life with such disregard, when he treats the boy’s with so much devotion. But this underscores the point: he will die no matter what happens; it is inevitable. Death is coming for him, if not the boy, and it is a certainty he must face. 

“Out on the roads the pilgrims fell over and died and the bleak and shrouded earth went trundling past the sun and returned again as trackless and as unremarked as the path of any nameless sisterworld in the ancient dark beyond.”

This bleak passage near the end of the story implies an insignificance in the deaths of all humans in the grand cosmic scale. The path of the Earth is described as “trackless” because the death of humanity means the loss of keeping track of days, months, and years. The planet will spin on without humanity, just like any “sisterworld” in the cosmos, devoid of life to document its passing. This passage is a perfect illustration of the theme of the certainty of the death. The lives of humans will run out, and all the things they kept track of will be lost. Everything will continue in the “ancient dark” of space but no one will be there to see it.