Welcome to the End of the World

Well Dear Avid Reader,

I hope you are all well in this year that the Mayans decreed would be the last. Either that or they ran out of stone tablets on which to record their calender. So here’s my take on the End of the World and as some of my friends know I often use the maxim that ‘Everybody Dies’ so why not go with everybody dying! For a while I’ve been wondering about a story regarding ‘what would you do if you only had a day to live?’ And after we entered 2012 the thoughts came together.

So here you go and remember ‘It’s the End of the World as we know it and I feel fine…’

FtF

___________________

2012

Now!

Looking down from the window I can see just a few people milling about the debris strewn streets. Wisps of smoke curl up from two or three burnt out vehicles and the few who now venture out look like ‘lost lambs’ as they pick their way through the shattered glass and abandoned goods from the smashed shop windows. All of them are armed with some form of weapon, be it a simple club or a hunting rifle and they all keep a ‘safe distance from each other unless they are part of a couple. It’s been at least six hours since any sizable gang has walked along the ‘arterial’ feed of our recently booming civilisation.

“Funny how quick all our modern sensibilities fall apart?” I say to my sister-in-law, Jenny, sat on the bed behind me.

“TURNING and turning in the widening gyre The falcon cannot hear the falconer; Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.”

“What’s that?” I ask as I raise the miniature whiskey bottle to my mouth.

“The Second Coming by Yeats” she answers.

“I forgot you studied English your first year at Uni!”

“I always thought that poem was beautiful… and terrible” she replies with a melancholic tone, “Just don’t ask me to quote you all of it, Jim!”

“I won’t.”

“I used to love that poem… it’s been running through my head all this week and now…”

“I know…”

****

7 days ago.

A week and the world fell apart.

We, Jenny and I, had known or at least suspected that something was up for about six months. We weren’t part of any government agency or had anything but the lowest consultancy clearance afforded to us by them but we had seen a couple of worried looks among those two levels above the pay grade we normally dealt with. We also knew about the three satellites that were out of commission.

The loss of any satellite meant huge repercussions in the Tele-communication business but could generally be bypassed or jury rigged until it came back on line. When the first had stopped transmitting and relaying data in March as it passed over the South Pole everyone thought it was just the usual inconvenience that came with having hardware circling the globe. Our company had been part of the conglomerate that had been using it and we were there in the first three days re-routing and bypassing the ‘missing’ satellite.

Although the business runs to the order of hundreds of billions of dollars there are less than three hundred people around the world that actually deal directly with the day to day running of all the communication satellites in earth’s orbit and Jenny and I are two of them. So we heard pretty quickly when the French lost a satellite at the beginning of May and the Japanese towards the end of that month. There were a few rumours circulating within the limited circle that it was ‘industrial espionage’ taken to the ‘nth’ degree but the entire world already was watching the skies with the weekly meteor showers which had provided some amazing fireworks especially about the equator.

If the two of us weren’t worried before, we were after the 15th of June. A meteor of sufficient size made it through our atmosphere to ‘splash’ down just Pitcairn Island in the Pacific. All of the fifty or so inhabitants were killed. What worried both Jenny and I was the fact that the disaster had been attributed to a seismic event where we had heard within the hour from the Mauna Kea observatory (she’d already had suspicions and had nurtured our relationships with the stargazers) that it had been debris from space. Even the World Wide Web had bought the seismic event story so we knew that most if not all of the ‘Acronym’ agencies were using their might to quell anything other than the ‘Official’ version.

Still life went on and although no one was acknowledging the ‘threat from space’ we were all being paid handsomely to keep the ‘machine’ running. So two weeks ago myself and Jenny find ourselves in Washington putting out ‘brushfires’ and suggesting alternative remedies even though all those in those higher pay grades weren’t admitting there was a problem. It was easy to see by their faces that things were going to get worse before they got better. We were stuck between ‘a rock and a hard place’ as the only real alternative was to shut down major sections of the Internet and so reduce the amount of data being transmitted. The fact that ‘Web Traffic’ had been doubling every year for the past five years and didn’t show any signs of peaking was neither here nor there. “You’re only choice is to search out all the Porn sites and cut the fuckers off at source if you want the land-based systems to cope!” I stated finally after six hours of running around in ever decreasing circles.

We were ushered from the room shortly afterwards and retired to our hotel. Jenny didn’t reprimand me for my outburst as she knew it was the truth.

****

Six days ago.

We organised flights home to the UK for the following day. If only we had caught the ‘red-eye’ the previous evening!

Reuters sent the data-stream around the planet instantly before the CIA or the NSA or MI6 or the SVR could do anything about it. The International Space Station had sustained irreparable damage. Reading between the lines it sounded as if the Solar Array had been decimated by a meteor shower, the astronauts and cosmonauts aboard had survived but the station couldn’t support the five people on board for more than a week, two at the most, without the power from the Sun. Three hours later a large meteorite impacted fifty miles west of Sydney, Australia. Casualties were high. The ‘Cat’ was out of the bag!

The President of the United States announced the severity of the situation. A ‘rogue’ comet had entered the asteroid belt and had ‘knocked’ several asteroids into deteriorating orbits. Jenny and I had smiled at each other when he had used the term ‘rogue’, what it really meant was that it had been a previously uncharted comet and the budget for watching the skies was so small it would have been a chance in a thousand of spotting it earlier. It was a day for reading between the lines and both Jenny and I knew that several equated to hundreds if not thousands. The two of us being involved in the business of keeping artificial satellites in orbit around planet Earth knew that this meant a ‘shitload’ were still headed our way. Of course the smaller asteroids had provided the heavenly spectacles of the last few months and had been responsible for the three (we knew about) communication satellites being disabled if not destroyed.

Not that it’d really make that much difference unless we’d known about it years earlier. Jenny talked to her friend in Hawaii, not hundreds or thousands of meteors! A cloud was how he had described it and he could tell us that there were at least five or six sizable chunks of rock within it, none he reckoned by themselves capable of an Extinction Level Event but who knew what three or four of them in quick succession could achieve. With the huge number of asteroids of varying sizes and relative speeds with the entire spectrum of tumbling vectors it was impossible, even for the super computers at the NSA, to predict any impact scenario that was any better than the simple roll of the dice. “Actually, a roll of the dice is generous, it’s more like the flip of a coin” he stated before wishing Jenny all the luck in the world. She heard him curse the Mayans as he hung up.

Flights were cancelled except for official use only. Getting home to one’s families was above our pay-grade. Two days later they shut down the World Wide Web. It was a relief not to hear anymore ‘Doomsayers’ telling anyone who would listen “I told you so!”.

Yesterday I managed to talk to my wife, Liz (Jenny’s sister) just before the phone networks were shutdown. You couldn’t blame them, the world was being increasingly bombarded and with every impact civil unrest was growing.

****

6 hours ago.

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I’m fine, Frank hopes to be here within thirty minutes” Liz answered. I let out a small sigh of relief glad that Jenny’s husband had gotten out of London and was headed to my home outside Salisbury.

“Is there any trouble in the town?”

“There was a little… but I don’t know if there is any now. Just official broadcasts… they’re keeping us in the dark!” Liz replied sounding anxious.

“They’re keeping everybody in the dark. Probably the best option… journalists have never had the ‘Public’s’ welfare at heart!” It was a weak response and I knew it but it was all I could think of with my wife the other side of the Atlantic. For the first time in my life I regretted not owning a firearm of any sort that could be there now to protect the woman I loved. To be honest I’d have probably shot myself at some point or the neighbours chickens. At least the Farmhouse (that didn’t have a farm) was better situated than I found myself with Liz’s sister.

We were on the fourteenth floor of the Washington Hilton Hotel with a view across the city. The hotel seemed to be pretty empty now, anybody within a reasonable distance had left to go home; even some those further afield had ventured out. Both Jenny and I had thought it prudent not to even try and when a riot had broken out at Dulles airport and over twenty people had been killed neither of us felt particularly clever or lucky. Most of the staff had left two or more days ago and those that were still here were holed up in the anonymous just like the two of us. We’d moved into one of the larger suites by the simple act of slipping across the empty concierge’s desk and taking the keycard. At the same time we had visited the vast kitchens and taken what we could before retreating upstairs. I’d grabbed all the local fire extinguishers and then set about the main door to the suite with the extra item I had brought up from the kitchens. Jenny hadn’t needed me to explain why I was charring the wood and the surround to our door with a small blow torch only ever used for Crème Brûlée previously I imagine. She stood beside me with one of the fire extinguishers just in case.

The next thing I did was to break into some of the nearby empty suites at random, do a little ransacking and provisional gathering before returning to our own. Finally I smashed the lock on our door and piled up the numerous mattresses I had gathered behind it wedging the door partially open. Jenny checked the tag on one of the mattresses and pointed out it was lucky that they were all fire retardant. I blushed slightly at this oversight on my part. Finally a large cupboard was upended and now we were secure at least from looters or worse.

Hopefully our efforts at camouflage would cause any roving parties to look elsewhere. I looked at the makeshift barricade as I talked to my wife and thought of our ‘desirable’ residence and how flimsy it all seemed now. “Have you seen the sky?” she asked through the crackling line. I turned about and looked up at the sky above Washington knowing that where I was looking into the fading light of evening she was watching the sun rise above the Downs above Salisbury.

I imagined hers was as such a sight to behold as was mine. “It’s something else here… there are bright trails of white and red and orange racing across it here, some of them ending in bright flashes… others just petering out…”

“Of course… I forget… I wanna forget you’re half a world away…” I heard a stifled sob through the crackles, “It’s like the Red Arrows have been… I don’t know… on steroids I suppose” I laughed quietly at the picture formed in my mind, “the sky itself is the brightest blue… but it’s criss-crossed with vapour trails… purples and dark blues… even some pink ones as well as evil looking black ones… I can’t think of a painter who could have ever imagined this…”

For a few seconds the line went dead and then I heard a voice again, “Jim! Jim are you still there?”

“I am my sweet, I am” I answered loudly although all I wanted to do was whisper softly.

“I need a promise from you, Jim” she stated “before we lose the line.”

“Anything and everything” I answered.

“You’re to take care of Liz…”

“Of course I will” I replied mystified.

“Oh Jim… I mean…” again there were more sobs and I felt my heart aching badly, “I mean take care of her… this is probably our last days on earth… and if-”

“Don’t talk like that… I’ll see you again” I’d been going to add that it was a promise but I knew better.

“Don’t lie, Jim… you were never any good at it…don’t start now” I could almost hear her smiling through the miles of wire, “You two are good for each other… I always wondered that you didn’t hook up with her before you met me… take care of each other… in every way!”

The tears were rolling down my cheeks as I stared at the incredible spectacle outside, I felt a faint tremble through the soles of my feet and wondered if a small meteorite had impacted nearby or a larger one further away. “And you’ll make the same promise, Liz?” If I’d ever been asked before or told that my wife was having an affair let alone with Frank, her brother-in-law, I’m sure I would have lost the plot completely, possibly even become violent, probably have walked away. The world had changed and in my soul I needed Liz to survive and I knew that survival was only half of the need. I needed her to be happy and safe.

She had remained silent on the other end of the phone and I feared the connection had been broken. Still I said the words that had formed in my head anyway, “I pronounce you Husband and Wife, Liz… and I do mean it, with all my love…” My answer came as I heard her crying down the phone although I wondered and hoped that there was a relief in those tears.

“And I you!” she replied between sobs, “Be safe, my love. I will-”

The line went dead, the monotone sound echoed with finality in my ear and then died in a stutter. I looked at the expensive satellite phone and watched as it searched hopelessly for another carrier signal. After three minutes of staring at it I dropped it onto the couch in front of me. Almost to the second the phone bounced on the cushion the bedside light, although set low, went out. Both of us gave involuntary yelps of surprise followed by a second one as the emergency lights kicked in, at least twenty times brighter than before. I looked out across the city and where most of the windows had been dark or had the tiniest glimmer of lights behind curtains now there was a sparkling random ‘star field’ before me. As if mankind was saying to the cosmos ‘look how bright we shone, a beautiful diamond in the void!”

I felt Liz brush against me and follow my gaze out through the window, “A terrible beauty…” she whispered. We stood there for over two hours as we watched the lights die a final time. Batteries struggled to power lights designed to help us escape but of course tonight there was nowhere to escape too!

****

Now!

We sat on the bed our arms wrapped around each other for comfort; in all honesty as much for mine as for Jenny’s. The light show continued above us, washes of purple and orange and red light flowing across the floor next to the window. I thought that the phantasmagoria of the dawn sky had done as much to quell the looters and rioters, if not more, than the police and the army with their Tear Gas, Baton rounds and eventually ‘Live’ ammunition had done. Still everyone had homes to go to and perhaps when all is said and done there isn’t much point in stealing a 50” TV if there isn’t any electricity or channels to make it work.

 I stroked the thick luscious hair of the head that was resting on my shoulder, easing it around the shell of her ear wondering if this was our last day on earth. I felt a nail scratch through my shirt between the buttons and the whispered words, “That’s nice…” followed by a soft purr. I back stiffened slightly as I remembered this was my sister-in-law and not my wife but only for a brief hiatus did I stop stroking her long hair. “Jim…?” came the next whisper.

“Yes, Jenny?” I whispered back.

I could feel her bosom rising and falling against the side of my chest and even though I’d seen her on a shared holiday in only the skimpiest of thongs I wondered what she looked like completely naked. I felt my loins stir and remembered the ‘promise’ I had made to her sister. Guilt rushed over me and I almost got up off the bed when she answered, “I know what Liz said…” I stayed silent totally at a loss as to how to answer. “The two of us talked about it after the flights were all cancelled…”

I couldn’t help but smile. Liz and Jenny had always shared a pragmatic nature and also seemed to share a similar taste in men. When we had been out socialising together strangers had often thought that Frank and I were brothers whereas Liz with her tall stature, long red hair and Jenny being a lot sorter and brunette were rarely taken for sisters until people compared their faces. “I also talked to Frank… I gave him my blessing.”

“I…” I bit my tongue as I felt the rashness of jealousy rise within me.

“He said something similar…” Liz unfolded herself from my embrace and sat beside me looking me straight in the eyes. “He vowed that he wouldn’t agree to it unless you did” her steel blue eyes gleamed as they searched my own in the brightening morning light and I wondered if she was close to tears. “Did you?” she said after looking down at her crossed legs.

The surge of jealousy seemed to dissipate as the sun breached the crest of the building across the street. “I… I did” I admitted.

“I’m glad” she whispered at her legs.

That first kiss seemed almost alien, our social restrictions still fighting our need for comfort. And love. Only as another tremor shook the building and dust motes descended haphazardly in the still air did our passions overcome our reticence. We gradually undressed one another and I have to admit that it was the tenderest love-making I had ever been a party to. Tears streaked both of our cheeks as Liz lowered herself onto my erection and when we came, we came together. And the earth moved with us once again.

****

The next day…

The world didn’t end that day. Or the next! It changed but it struggled on. We spent almost a week in that hotel room and gradually the light show from the heavens diminished and eventually faded to nothing. We made love two or three or more times a day whenever the fear began to take hold.

The army reappeared on the streets and began collecting the remnants of society.

Those following months were every bit as bad, if not worse, than those days and nights beneath the ‘screaming sky’. The two of us remained together as ‘husband and wife’ through the squalor of the Relocation Camps and when bureaucracy reasserted itself and our skills highlighted we were assigned to the Rebuilding Program. Liz was pregnant and already entering her second trimester and if our living conditions hadn’t improved I doubt that she would have been able to carry the baby to term. I was ‘over the moon’ at the thought of becoming a father but I had seriously feared whether she herself would have survived the birth in our mutual weakened states.

As for the rest of the world there was very little information available even when we became integral to setting up new communication systems. London had been the only large population centre to be hit directly by a sizable chunk of space debris and very little information was forthcoming from the country formerly known as the UK. Very conservative estimates reckoned that as many as one in five of the World’s population had died during and in the following months after the ‘Rain of Fire’.

Adam was born to the two of us exactly ten months after our first night together. Both mother and son proved tougher than the world or the heavens could throw at them.

****

It was five years later before the three (soon to be four in four months) of us were allowed ‘home’. Home! It seemed almost an alien word considering how the world had changed.

The military machines across the world had taken their arsenals of WMD’s and thrown them up against the oncoming hailstorm of approaching asteroids and although they hadn’t destroyed a third of the oncoming destruction they might have just made the difference between annihilation and survival. Bruce Willis it wasn’t but none of the survivors were complaining. It’d be a good many years before any ‘Power’, be it First World or Third World would even think of having desirable thoughts on another’s territory.

 Politics and business were almost a thing of the past. Treating others as you would wish to be treated was the ‘common law’. Greed was despised and anyone caught ‘lining their own pockets’ to the detriment of others was severely punished. The USA had fractured somewhat, Texas and California had declared themselves independent and the rest of the country had simply said ‘go fuck yourselves. The ‘Land of the Free’ had suffered a sea change, it still upheld the rights of the individual but God help you if denied another person the Right to life. In some respects the bastion of democracy was almost a Communist state but it was the ‘Will of the People’ who decreed that everyone was truly equal and had the right to equal health and happiness.

Nature, it seemed, had decided to give humanity a break as well. The two major impacts that had occurred on London and at the southern end of the South American continent forming a brand new island archipelago had thrown enough debris into the atmosphere to create a mini-ice age. Although the winters were hard it seemed that in one ‘fell-swoop’ global warming had been put on hold.

****

There was no information regarding my wife or Liz’s husband available when we arrived at a military airport just outside of Oxford, the ‘new’ capital of the UK.

We arrived with a huge sense of trepidation in an Armoured Personnel Carrier at the Farmhouse. The lane leading down towards my formerly desirable residence had a huge crater in it filled with stagnant water that caused the APC a brief moment of trouble before it crested the other side. Adam hugged his mother tightly seeing and sensing the fear in both of his parents. We had decided between us not to tell him of the reason for our journey.

We stepped out into the bright sunshine of that April day to gaze on the weather worn exterior of my former home. It appeared to be abandoned, the windows were dark, boards that had been nailed across them hanging down untended and the steps to the front door rotted and collapsed. The sergeant who had driven the APC for us appeared through the hatch in the top of the vehicle lifting an automatic weapon into view. He seemed relaxed but his eyes continually scanned the area as both mine and Liz’s focused on the skeletal remains of a cow or horse that lay off to one side of the entrance.

Adam stood beside his mother his hand firmly clasped in hers as he wondered why his parents had brought him to this place. His eyes were also focused on the skeleton but with the curiosity of an innocent child rather than the dread of an adult. All of our focus had been on the Farmhouse and the skeleton and none of us had seen the small girl simply walk up behind us and take my son’s hand. “Hi, who are you?” she asked Adam with an innocence that simply melted your heart.

Liz and I looked at the young girl as Adam turned towards her. She had the same flowing brunette locks that her sister bore. Her eyes also seemed to be exact copies of Liz’s steel blue ones. We smiled at each other before returning our gaze to the young girl. “Are you friends of my mom and dad?” she asked.

Adam looked up at the two of us before releasing Liz’s hand and turning back to the girl, “I don’t know, maybe… My name’s Adam, what’s yours?”

“Jemima.”

The End

____________________________

Okay, Avid Readers.

How many of you thought Frank and Jenny’s child would be called Eve???

 And I hope you appreciate for once I didn’t adhere to my favourite maxim. Here’s to seeing you in 2013!

FtF

xx

~ by ftfagos on January 4, 2012.

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