Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Hold On

By Jay Stringer

Just something i've been kicking around for awhile. A flash piece about the end of the world. It's not a full flash challenge, but if you want a stab then link to your story in the comments.

***

When the world ended it took us several days to notice.

Somehow that news seemed to pass us by. Our lives continued, we commuted to work as normal. Some people talked about a crisis, about international news, but most of us ignored it.

We were so used to the imagery and the fear. Flames and bombs on our television screens. Scrolling news on our computer screens. You begin to ignore it, to live with, to accept it. Sitting in the bar, or riding the subway home, you tune out to the images and the sounds. Some far off place is in trouble again, why should we care? As the days passed, fewer and fewer people were commuting, but unless it affected me I wasn’t going to stop listening to my ipod.

The horror finally set in when the screens went blank on day four. Our news, our voice. Our knowledge, our comfort. We woke up one day to find it had been taken away without warning.

No television.

No internet.

No phones.

There were no battles or dust clouds, no speeches and no sirens. Just silence.

A few hours after that we lost the street lights. All of them. We’d gone to bed in our own world and woken up in a whole new one, a world of darkness. People ran out into the streets and hallways, forced to talk to strangers for the first time in decades. We all asked the same questions;

“Are we under attack?”

“Has the economy collapsed?”

“Are we at war?”

A city full of people asking questions, and we’ve still not heard any answers. We got scared in a hurry and soon forgot how to be anything else.

On the fourth day I tried to open a tin of beans. The electric opener wouldn’t work anymore, and all I had was a pen knife. It had an attachment on it that I knew, somehow, was meant to be a tin opener, but I didn’t know how to use it. I had to hit the tin with a lump hammer until it burst open.

And it started getting really cold at night. More than usual, though I don’t know if it was because the world had ended or just because the electricity was off. An apartment block down the street burned down, because the family in 14C started a fire in their living room to keep warm. There was no fire service to call, and we couldn’t spare the water. People just watched it burn.

A week later the noises started. Shrieks and howls after sunset. They were distant at first, but they got closer of the next few nights until they were coming from down in our streets. My neighbour said he saw some of them. Howlers he called them, and said they were us, “Just people like us, but crazy lookin’. Like animals. Saw one carrying a lump of fresh meat. Hope it was a cow.” He said maybe they were just people who'd listened to the silence for too long.

People got too scared to go out at night. We stayed in our apartments and listened to the Howlers.During the day we met out in the streets, talked about simple things like heating and plumbing, medicine. Simple things, yeah, right. Not so simple now that we didn't have wikipedia. If the world ever comes back, if we live through this, I'm going to make changes. All that stuff that's on wikipedia? I'm going to write it down in books. More, some of us are going to learn it, know it, just incase.

My boyfriend went out to get some food the day after we ran out. He hasn’t returned. That was three days ago.

I think I heard some of the howlers a moment ago, but it’s still daylight. That can’t be, can it?

I’m scared. I’ve forgotten how to be anything else.

5 comments:

Ron Earl Phillips said...

Nice bit, Jay. Indeed the age of electronic information will be the fall of us all.

Sue H said...

This piqued my interest - and altho' it wasn't a formal challenge, I wrote a story in response back on my own blog:

http://irefusetogoquietly.blogspot.com/2010/06/last-day.html


Thanks for the inspiration, Jay!

John Hornor said...

You know what I like about this piece? It reads even better backwards, last paragraph to the first.

Mike Dennis said...

Fine, fine piece, Jay. Concise and horrific. And John's right. It does read pretty well backwards.

Jay Stringer said...

Thanks for the kind words folks.

Think i'll try horror next time.

And Sue, like your story, thanks for sharing it.