Hi, everyone, what I’m posting here is the first draft of a short story (approx 3000 words) that I’ve been working on. The point of the project that I had set myself was to see if I could portray enough emotion without using any dialogue. This is the result, I hope you enjoy it. If you don’t, please feel free to tell me why you didn’t.
When Daniel switched on the TV and sat down at the kitchen table with his bowl of cornflakes and his coffee, the news had just begun the final countdown to the end. This was it, the most important day in human history.
While he ate, he watched as the newsreader cut to a computer-generated image of a large asteroid. A planet killer, they had said.
It had made its presence known two years ago when NASA had spotted it hurtling through space at thirty kilometres per second, but there had been no cause for alarm. Even with a diameter of ten kilometres, they had promised that it was possible to deflect it, that warheads fired from the earth and targeted at just the right location, would be enough to knock the asteroid off course, assuring the safety of the human race. Just a little nudge, they had said.
That had been the plan announced to the world, the hope of human beings everywhere who had believed in it. As it turned out, this was hope falsely given.
When the world’s governments had come together to discuss what to do about the giant lump of space rock heading their way, they had quickly discovered that they could do nothing at all. A global disaster, unprecedented in the whole of human history was going to occur, and it was going to wipe out just about all life on the surface.
They had, of course, chosen to keep that information secret and sent the nuclear warheads to intercept the asteroid regardless as a strategy in preventing panic, a show put on and performed to placate and retain control of the people. Clever really.
Now though, everyone knew that the end was nigh. The truth, as it always manages to do, had come out, leaked by sympathetic ‘insiders’ who felt that people had a right to their fates. Once that had happened there had been no point in pretending anymore.
Over the next eighteen months, the asteroid rushed towards Earth and all day, every day the news networks reported on it. People could speak of nothing else.
The experts had given it the name Thanatos after the personification of death from Greek mythology, which Daniel had thought was quite apt.
With the passing of each day, fear and panic had begun to erupt on the streets as people started to realise that their time was running out.
Before, they had been clinging desperately to the hope that their governments would be able to devise a last-minute solution that would save everyone, but now people seemed imbued with clarity; a knowing that this was it, they were going to die.
Many had taken to looting from stores and stockpiling their ill-gotten gains, barricading themselves inside their homes in desperation and hoping they would be able to survive if they just wished hard enough.
Others had run in droves to their respective places of worship, begging their gods to spare them.
Daniel had refused to allow himself to descend into panic. What good would that do him? He knew what was coming and he knew that fighting against a certainty was just plain stupid.
He watched as the CGI depiction of Thanatos sped towards the blue-green representation of Earth. It splashed down in the middle of the Atlantic, displacing tonnes of water and sending the largest tsunamis humanity had ever seen washing inland for miles and miles. For most, the chances of survival were dismal at best, though as a species human beings would definitely survive, though only just.
Six months ago, a lottery was drawn. Names were selected – apparently at random – and those who had had the good fortune to ‘win’ had been swiftly packed off to shelters and bases carved into the sides of mountains or buried underground, built as a precaution against such a catastrophe.
At the time, Daniel had wondered exactly how randomly those names had been generated seeing as those selected were scientists, surgeons, engineers and those of a similar ilk, while only a small minority were those who were homeless or jobless or whose skill set may be deemed useless to a closed community. It didn’t matter though, not really. He knew that they would need those kinds of people when it came to rebuilding society and that the lottery was just to give the illusion of fairness.
Daniel had not been one of the chosen. But that was okay. He understood that he simply wasn’t important enough. He knew that his life mattered less in the grand scheme of things than that of a nuclear physicist.
He was after all only a lowly barber, and a fresh new look was hardly going to be on the mind of anyone whose world had just collapsed. Knowing that some semblance of human life was still going to exist helped him to keep going, to accept what was going to happen.
He wasn’t the only one; many of those not chosen for the shelters had endeavoured to carry on as normal and live their lives while they could. Others, the ones who could not accept the finality of the situation had already relocated to higher ground in an attempt to evade the destruction of the water. Just like those who had decided to hole themselves up in their homes wanting to fight for their survival, Daniel thought they were mad. He was all for surviving if you thought you had the slightest glimmer of a chance, but for two years the experts had appeared on every news program explaining, in great detail exactly what was going to happen.
The intense heat that would be accompanying the tidal waves would be no picnic, and the suffocating debris thrown up into the atmosphere would block out the sun for up to a year, possibly longer. Survival was going to be extremely difficult, if not impossible. Then there was the water vapour that would be injected into the atmosphere adding to an already out of control greenhouse effect.
Finishing his cornflakes, Daniel sat for a moment listening to the television as the newsreader continued her minute-to-minute update.
A lot of newsreaders and reporters had volunteered to stay at their posts so that the public would have somewhere to turn for all of the information they would need. They appeared to think it was their duty to stay put. Like captains going down with their ships, they had vowed to remain until the very end.
Daniel was amazed that even in the midst of the ever-increasing chaos sweeping across the globe; they had been able to keep their composer. At least for the most part. There had been one or two televised outbursts of anger and despair, and to those few, Daniel could relate. He’d run the gamut of emotions himself, though most of them were of a negative nature of late, and he knew that trying to carry on as normal in the face of certain doom was no easy feat. More power to those who struggled on, succeeding in presenting a calm exterior to the world while all the while falling to pieces inside.
Draining the last of his coffee from his cup, Daniel couldn’t help but feel a pang of sorrow at the thought of never again feeling the warmth and sense of calm his first cup of the day always brought. Strange that this should be the thing he feels sorrow for on his last day, but the human mind was often unpredictable like that. He had many more things to feel sorrowful about, not least was the fact that he was about to die. He would miss coffee though.
The clock in the bottom right corner of the TV screen ticked into the final hour. The newsreader announced it and then went about repeating everything she had said since Daniel had turned the TV on.
Time was getting on.
Daniel stood, pushed his chair under the table, crossed to the sink and washed his bowl, spoon and coffee mug, placing them all neatly on the drainer. He looked out of the kitchen window above the sink. Hordes of people were leaving their homes and congregated in large groups in the middle of the street, some panicked, some crying but most simply staring at the sky, waiting.
He grabbed a photo from the top of the microwave beside the TV and gently slid the back of its frame off, lifted out the picture and turned it over in his hand. He smiled sadly at the image.
His wife, Lisa.
A car accident had taken her from him, a scenario that would be downright laughable to him now if he were a little more emotionally coherent. Considering the impending cataclysm, dying in a car accident just seemed ridiculous.
Pulling on his black, leather jacket which had been hung over the back of his chair, he folded the picture in half placing it in the inside pocket, so that it sat close to his heart. Then he headed for the front door.
Outside, his neighbours came together, hugging each other tightly. Families clung desperately to one another, mothers and fathers trying to be brave for their children who clutched their pets close to them not able to understand the looks on their parents’ grief-stricken faces.
Daniel was sure that scenes like this were happening in every city, town and village the world over and the irony of the situation was not lost on him; people had been fighting about what made them different since the beginning of time, be it religion, race or even land. Now, in their final moments, all people were the same. They were all equal in death.
As he moved from his front garden into the street, he spotted Mrs Patel, the old Indian woman who had been his next-door neighbour since he and Lisa had bought their home almost a decade ago. She smiled dolefully at him and grabbed him in a silent mournful hug.
Releasing the old woman, he stopped to take a final look back at the place that had been his home for the last ten years; at the houses that sloped down the hill and out towards the beach which lay about a mile away. It was a shame that the ocean was going to wash it all away. He put a hand on Mrs Patel’s shoulder, and she grasped it, holding it for a brief moment while they looked into each other’s eyes, each of them knowing they would never see the other again. Then Daniel was off again, making his way to the park around the corner.
The park had been where he and Lisa first met. He had never believed in love at first sight before that day, but then their eyes had met as they were crossing through the park from opposite ends and that was that. Some spark had ignited something within each of them, connecting them in an instant and they had been married within the year.
It had been their place, a place to have picnics on warm, sunny summer days or where they would go for extended walks in the early autumn. Then when Lisa died, it had become his place, a place to mourn and remember the woman he had loved more than he had ever thought possible. It was the place he felt closest to her, and that’s why he had decided to come now. There was no place else he would have rather been.
Daniel was surprised to find that the park was empty. With its lush green, grassy areas and large amounts of various trees and plants, it had a natural picturesqueness that, he felt would lend itself well to one’s final moments. He had expected to see throngs of people, cramming themselves within the confines of the park’s wrought iron railings choosing to take their last breaths embraced in the arms of Mother Nature.
He moved to one of the wooden benches lining the central grassy area and sat with his back against the nearest side of the railing. He took the picture from his pocket and kissed the image of Lisa’s face, before putting it back. With nothing left to do but wait, he laid back with his eyes closed and replayed all of the memories they had shared together, both good and bad.
For twenty minutes, he sat lost in his own thoughts, feeling calm and at peace. That was until a sound he had never heard before forced his eyes skyward. A thunderous roar, so loud that one might have thought it was the sky tearing apart. The huge rock, all smoke and flame had begun its deadly descent.
With all coherent thought banished from Daniel’s mind, for a few seconds, the world around him spun. He clasped his hands firmly over his ears and tried to calm his suddenly racing heart. It would just be his luck to die of a heart attack seconds before armageddon.
He leant himself back against the coolness of the bench and closed his eyes. He could just make out the sounds of terrified screams coming from behind him, and he tried to block them out as best he could by humming the song he and Lisa had danced to at their wedding. He couldn’t hear the melody above the din, but he sang the lyrics to the song in his head in an attempt to keep his mind focused.
Daniel had never believed in God or a higher power of any kind, but he hoped with all of his broken heart that Lisa would be waiting for him, that something existed beyond this life. He tried to keep her beautiful face in the foremost part of his mind, sure, that if he concentrated hard enough, she would come, take his hand and lead him into whatever lay beyond.
The roaring became almost unbearable and the small strands of fear that he had managed to keep at bay for the past two years suddenly grew into large slimy, black tendrils inside of him.
An almighty explosion replaced the deafening sound a few moments later. Daniel knew what it was right away; they had talked about it on the news earlier. It was the sound of impact; the sound of a crater more than one hundred kilometres across being punched into the earth’s crust, vaporising most of the asteroid and sending rock and water vapour into the air. Thanatos was dead, killed on impact, but he had taken the earth with him.
At brief moments when his concentration would break, and those black tendrils of fear began to grip tighter and tighter, Daniel could hear people running and screaming. He was tempted to open his eyes just to see what the end of the world looked like, but he decided it best to keep them closed; what he might see could cause him to panic uncontrollably, to lose his composure. Daniel didn’t want to go out like that. He wanted to go as peacefully as possible. After all, didn’t everyone want to go this way? Besides, the CGI model on his TV over breakfast and the hundreds of Discovery Channel specials about the end of the world had shown him more than enough.
Soon the air over the whole planet would begin to get hotter and hotter, and those unprotected would start to bake to death. He hoped that the wave would get to him long before then.
He didn’t have long to wait.
Minutes later a huge racket filled his ears, and his whole body shook with the vibrations of what he knew must have been the wave making its way across the beach and towards the hill close to where his house was. Some people in his street had hoped the water wouldn’t reach them, but Daniel had seen the computer models and the numbers.
Screaming all around grew ever louder, letting him know that his time was almost up. He strained to keep Lisa’s face at the forefront of his mind, trying to hold on to it so as not to imagine the carnage going on behind him.
The sound of the wave grew nearer and nearer, growing into a rushing sound, just like that of a river, only magnified a thousand times. He steeled himself almost feeling the coolness of the water as it rushed towards him.
The wave hit him with such force that he felt his ribs and arms break as the water blasted him forward off the park bench, wrenching it from the ground as its steel bolts gave way like Velcro.
He had not felt pain like it in all of his life, and his lungs burned for oxygen. Incapable of holding his breath for more than a few seconds, he had no choice but to surrender himself to what, in a few more moments would become his cold, watery grave.
With the planet awash and the human infestation rinsed cleanly away, Mother Nature would be free to reclaim her Plane Earth. At least until the waters eventually receded and the few that had managed to survive began again.
I am incredibly grateful if you made it all the way down. I appreciate the time you took to read this, which let’s face it, was a lot, so thank you very much!
Until next time,