|Creative Writing Competition 2012 India|
Short Story on End of The World – The last day: A few moments from the life of a dying man
The room was lit brightly. Blinding lights focused on a shiny white stage. A gleaming black desk stood right in the middle of it all. Everything shined obscenely. Everything seemed to be waiting with bated breath for something.
A man walked in wearing a dark blue suit, a suit sharply cut. He had a folder tucked under his left arm and had a shiny candy wrapper in his hands which he was struggling with to eat. It was quite a long walk from the end of the room to the table right in the middle. The man struggled all the way even as the cameras followed his progress. He finally was at the desk, the candy in his mouth as he flicked the empty wrapper away from him and set the folder down. His mouth moved a few times as he swallowed the large piece of toffee he just ate.
“Hello!” he smiled for the camera. A row of pearly white teeth shone in the glaring lights. “I am your host for tonight so just let me look up the agenda!”
He opened the folder and sifted through the pages. “Well apparently the Earth is coming to an end just like it has been coming to for the last 100 days!” he let out a piercing laugh after that. “And on the agenda is the same god damned thing that’s been there for the last 100 days!”
“WE ARE THE CHOSEN ONES! And by that I mean we are the ones who are left behind while the important people moved away from the disaster zone-EARTH! Yes folks, we are going to be dead soon. and the governments have decided that WE are going to die in comfort. So get your drugs from the nearest shop around you. Get stoned, get drunk, get weird! It’s an exciting time in our lives. Do ANYTHING! Just don’t despair. We have no hope left! But HEY! At least it ENDS TONIGHT!” Another shrill laugh. The transmission cut.
A new ad appeared. “Do you feel down? Do you feel the end of the world is getting is overwhelming you? If yes then you’re a loser! Just go get your drugs and forget. Get high, get drunk, get stoned! It’s all free. We are the chosen ones! Death and destruction and chaos chose us! We are gonna have a fuc-”
“I can’t listen to this anymore.” I said to no one. Actually I did say to a few, they were just too stoned to hear me anymore. I looked around the room. People sat around like zombies. A 100 days of celebration and it showed. A 100 days of free drugs and free booze and free what not. They were all locked in their own small world.
I snatched my overcoat from the make shift bed and picked up my book. Navigating my way through the mass of stacked and stoned bodes was easy enough. I just trod on them. No one noticed.
The streets were dead quiet. A few men and women moved around like zombies, most probably headed to a shop to get their next hit. I navigated my way through the ever growing crowd. The sun was barely out but the people were on a different schedule. A hit schedule. A schedule that was now completely warped by their addictions. A few people were lying around on the few streets near the shops. And when I say a few I mean dozens. Hundreds. Thousands. The earth stank. The stench was too powerful but I had gotten used to it. It was hard now to approach any shop since every store was authorized by the government to carry free stuff, free booze, free drugs. Drugs now mostly but groceries too. I pushed my way through the zoned out junkies and found my way to the few tinned edible items. I filled my pockets with as much food as I could. The over coat with it’s deep and plentiful pockets came in handy. I now had candy bars and tinned cans of fruits, pickles, condensed milk with me plus a few loaves of bread.
I didn’t need the drugs, I didn’t use them. I had decided early on that I liked my mind too much to let it go waste so quickly. Plus I wanted to see and feel the moment before I died. That moment of…whatever. I wanted to feel it. I will not be stoned out of my mind to not feel a thing. I looked at the counter where the drugs were piled up. The store clerks were there but they were zoned out. Or dead. Two of them were resting with their backs to the wall just behind the counter. I couldn’t see their chests moving. Dead then.
I walked out and again had to push my way past the clamoring idiots, the rotten apples, the dregs of society. Except they all were like this now. They had all succumbed. At the end they had decided to die a pitiful death.
I walked away from the shop. The bodies moaned and gesticulated. They thrashed and turned. I don’t know how many of them are dead already. Or how many of them are dying. At this point it didn’t matter. The streets had become a mass graveyard.
I found myself walking the same path I have been walking since the first day of this madness struck. The first day the news came in that the world was going to end soon I walked into the library and headed straight to the fiction section. I did that today too. I picked up a few books and headed out. It was quiet in here. The signs “Please keep quiet” and “Silence is golden!” stared back at me all too depressingly. I think even the signs missed the shuffling of feet and the whispered chats shared by the libraries patrons. The library had become unnaturally quiet. There was no need for signs anymore.
I had decided on my previous journeys out that there was no need for me to look up . The area I was headed to didn’t have as many bodies since there weren’t as many shops around. The people had decided to leave for the shops permanently and now this part had essentially become a ghost town. I buried my nose in one of the books I had picked up. Sifting through it’s musty old pages was a relief. A relief I had needed more and more since the day the world started degenerating into a madhouse. A perverse colony.
My foot struck something and I fell hard. I barely stopped my fall as the ground came rushing up towards me. In the end I had to fling the book away and use my hands to stop my fall. I was on my knees with whatever that made me stumble lying near my feet. I got up and looked once. It was a bundle of clothes, or so I thought at first. There was some hair on top so I decided to stop my investigation right there. Whatever it was, was dead. I gathered my book from where it lay and walked on. Nose buried in one of the chapters, completely oblivious to the outside world. I had to be.
I stopped at the rusted old gate and pushed. It was always hard to get this opened. I was always worried I would get a cut but not anymore. It was the last day. The very last. Nothing mattered anymore. Nothing mattered but the fear.
I walked in and closed the gate behind me. I didn’t want anyone to stumble in. I kept on walking then, past the small guards cabin to the graves behind it. And there they were, the people. The alive and healthy ones, waiting for me. The graveyard had become the last resort of the living. Or the ones still left with the will to live. As I walked in a few of those who were reading looked up at me and smiled. I fished in my pockets and started handing out tins and books. I was the supplies guy here, the “scrounger”, a term I fondly remembered from the movie “The Great Escape”.
I chose an empty corner, my usual corner, and sat down next to the grave of someone whose name was now not visible but apparently he had been ” A great friend, a great husband and a great man.” I always looked at that inscription and I couldn’t help but wonder, I will have no tombstone, no grave, no one to grieve after me. It was harder to swallow in the early days but now I have come to terms with it.
One of the children came running towards me and sat down to hear a story. It was a routine now, everyday I read the children a story and in return they got candy bars.
“It’s just you today?” I asked her, tickling her under the chin. She giggled at that but replied nonetheless. “Their parents didn’t want them to come today.”
I nodded at that. The attendance was poor enough. Still, she was here, so I read her a story. “Do you remember Harry Potter?”
“The boy who lived?” she said with a smile.
“Yes that’s the one. And do you remember the villain?” I smiled back.
“It’s you-know-who!” she squealed out, a squeal of both fear and excitement. She is 6.
“Oh you need not worry. You can say his name!” I said. She just crossed her arms in front of her and said nothing.
“Hey I’ll keep you safe. You know I will.” I said fondly.
“I don’t like him, no nosey. What do you fear? I don’t like men with no nosey.”
I sighed inwardly, what would I tell her?
“Ok I’ll continue with the story then!” So I read her the last part of Harry Potter till lunch. To her credit she did try to stay awake till the very end but by lunch she was fast asleep. I smoothed her hair a bit and then walked over to where the others were sitting.
“So what are you guys planning to do?” I asked. It was the last day, it meant nothing now to almost the whole world but to us few, the ones who had resisted the drugs, it meant a lot. We muttered among ourselves for a while. We all said our farewells. Some of the more religious ones sat down and prayed. We shared lunch. I got up then and went back to my own corner. The girl was still asleep. I knew she’d wake up soon and she would be hungry so I kept two candy bars handy.
I read one of my own books, I had used the 100 days to catch up on my reading. I was an analyst when the world was sane. Now I was a guy who read as many books he could before he died. I thought, if I have to die soon then why not live as many lives as I can? So I read books and the people with children who had decided not to go crazy with the others followed me to my graveyard. Followed me and sat with me and all of us gave each other a little comfort. It was all we could have done. It was all anybody could do.
I know that mankind will survive the day. The 100 day warning had come only when the REAL chosen ones had been shipped out of the planet in tiny spaceships. One night the sky was set ablaze as many spacecrafts took off at once. The next day we got the news. So the CHOSEN ONES had all departed. All of them already gone. We were left stranded, unable to survive. That was why of course they gave away all the free drugs. They had been stockpiling them for months, years even. Who knew? All I know is there will be no tomorrow.
I fondly stroked the book in my hand. Foundation by Isaac Asimov. I want to see the future so bad. It’s probably why I had been reading so much sci-fi lately. A world which I could never see, which I could only yearn for but one which these writers made possible for me. I kept reading for a while but I really wanted to walk. I gave the girl the candies, put them right in her tiny hands and then walked away. I waved goodbye to the others and just headed out.
I found one of the taller buildings and walked straight to the roof. One last sunset.
It was a glorious sunset.
The last one.
A wonderful one.
A beautiful one.
He wrote down the last lines in his diary, something he had started maintaining since the world went mad and crumbled. He threw it away from him. It didn’t do him any good. He found the remote and flicked on the TV. A few grumbles erupted from the sleeping slumped junkie hordes. He wanted to see what was happening. He couldn’t sit still, he was feeling agitated.
“HELLO FOLKS! IT’S ME! Your host! And I AM STONED! It’s the end of the world PARTY! And it’s INSANE! We are all gonna die in one glorious spurt of power! A billion voices crying in anguish! Oh what a brilliant chorus it will be! Oh what lovely sound! Oh what music!”
The host weeped a little but then the drugs kicked in. “I wish you all!” now his eyes shined with madness, with lunacy, “I wish you all a merry merry death! I wish you all to be so stoned you don’t feel a thing!”
The transmission didn’t cut this time. The host had gone mad it seemed. He was jumping around and celebrating. A bizarre end to life. The earth rumbled then, the sky screamed. IT was beginning, IT was happening. The host could feel it too and was laughing his high pitched laughter, no, he was screaming. Shutting off the TV he glanced out of the window. The world was changing, he could feel it. He could see it was affecting the junkies too, some of them were standing up and gazing at the stars while some of them stood up to see what was happening. He could see their confusion even through the high window. He could see they were tense, tense and terrified. But strangely enough he wasn’t, he was calm. Calmer than he had been before.
Something about the hosts madness had calmed him down. Somehow he knew that if he let go of his sanity now it would be worse than the drugs. He would loose his mind, his one precious commodity. He wanted it to be with him till the very end. So he sat down and waited, closed his eyes as the world went mad around him all over again. HE could now hear the people around him howling, screaming. More sounds came from the open window. But he just smiled, it was the end and he was the only human left who could rationalize, who could still think clearly. In the end, as he felt the searing heat and the flesh burning of his skin, as the building he was in began to crumble, he just smiled. He had no fear anymore, he was at peace.