He had finished work a little early, so Alan went into a charity shop, almost absentmindedly. He looked around a bit, rummaged through oversized suits, admired some ornaments. And then, something caught him eye. A colourful hat. A Rastafarian beanie.
Alan, being one of those people who carelessly appropriates other people’s cultures, (for example, while in China, he got a tattoo in Mandarin which he believes says ‘peace’, but really says ‘arsehole’), of course, brought the beanie. It cost him four cans of Pepsi and a strip of bubble-gum flavoured chewing gum – because the manager was ‘hip’ like that.
On his way out of the shop, he squeezed his bald head into the beanie and felt something hard and leathery inside it. He took off the hat and a snake slipped down from the top of his head, wrapping itself, non-threateningly, around his neck.
“Alright, me old mucker, me old pal,” said the snake.
“You’re a snake,” said Alan. “And you can talk?”
“Of course, what d’you call words that come out of a snake’s mouth?”
“I dunno, what do you call—?”
“Nah, nah, that weren’t no joke. I were only making a point there, mate.” The snake flicked its tongue. “So what’d they call you, round ’ere?”
“Nice to meet ya, Alan. I’m just a snake.”
“Ah cool. You wanna come back to my place? I got a load of photos from my holidays. I keep trying to get everyone at work to have a look, but they’re always too busy. If you’re interested?”
“Of course, I’d be interested. Let’s get there quick.”
With a swing in his step, Alan took the snake to his house, only a ten minute walk. On the doorstep, Alan fumbled around in his pocket for his keys, only for them to seemingly spring from his fingers and fall down a nearby drain.
“Alan, ya daft tit,” chuckled the snake. “No worries, being a skinny snake and all, I can slip between the bars, go into the sewers and find them. I won’t be a minute.”
The snake landed on a sidewalk, just right of a stream of sewage. On the same sidewalk was a group of cats. Interrupted, they turned to face the snake. A tomcat, the leader, had Alan’s keys in his teeth.
“Those keys belong to me new friend, Alan,” said the snake.
“We know Alan very well,” said the tomcat, hatred in his voice. “Alan put cat repellent spray on his garden. Now, we can’t poop their anymore.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, but I just want to return his keys.”
“No, we need them to get into his house. As we see it, he takes away our pooping place, we take away his home.” Two cats wrapped in explosive jackets stepped out of the dark, one each side of the tomcat. “They’re on their last lives too.”
“Explosives! That’s a tad extreme.” The cats remained impassive. “You’re cats, independence is one of your more appealing traits, I don’t see why can’t you just find somewhere else to poop? You’re in the sewers, for crying out loud. There’s shit everywhere.”
“We don’t adhere to logic!” snapped the tomcat. “We see the light from a laser pointer, we go after that tiny dot of light. We know we can’t catch it, but we try anyway – it’s an impulse thing. Same goes for pooping. Now, goodbye, snake.”
A cat leapt onto the snake, wrestling with him while the others made their way to ground. After a violent struggle, the snake flicked his tail with all his might, tossing the cat into a stream of sewage where, upon touching the shitty water, it sprung onto the path and flew after the rest of the group. The snake stood on his tail and slithered out of the drain.
“Alan! I’m sorry, the cats have you’re keys. Now, they’re gonna blow up your gaff.”
“What?” A fireball roared through the house, shattering windows, blowing out bricks and debris. The force threw Alan onto his back. Paper and photographs rained down as thick black smoke billowed into the sky.
A few minutes later, the front door fell outward and sat behind it, was the tomcat, smoking a cigarette. He took one look at Alan – a look of pure disgust, then bolted out back.
“What the —?”
Twelve years ago, they came to earth. The Saviours. An advanced race of intelligent extraterrestrials with one promise: to save us, to save the planet.
They wanted nothing in return. They had been watching for years, seeing our faults and our successes, our mistakes and our victories. They knew what it meant to be human and they saw potential for improvement – they’d show us how.
After months and months of talks, the leaders of the world came to trust our visitors. The Saviours forgave their initial threats and their scepticism, offering in return new technology, new medicine, new science – all of which worked. ‘The Saviours’ was a name we had given them. We were thankful.
Their last gift would heal the world, they said. They released a terraforming gas into the atmosphere, cleaning the pollutants and the greenhouse gases responsible for global warming. Later that day, it rained. Crops grew, grass became greener, water became cleaner. The world was a better place. Then, the Saviours went away. They said they’d return in eighty years (the human life expectancy).
Optimism followed, like that after a world war – everyone went at it like rabbits. But it didn’t take long to notice… Negative pregnancy tests for months. More doctors’ appointments, failed IVF attempts. The WHO wanted to keep everything under wraps, but people are smart, they talk, come to their own determinations. It took less than six months before it became breaking news around the globe.
Nine months on from the rain, not one child was born. No foetus ever developed, even those conceived before the rain. A record year for miscarriages and stillbirths. Regardless of age, regardless of sex, regardless of humanity – we were all infertile. There was something in the rain that day, it mutated us, corrupted us. Now, we are the last generation of humans, but the Saviours counted on that too. Because with nothing left to hope for, we simply destroy ourselves. Anarchy followed, chaos, little fight for survival.
‘The Saviours’ was a name we had given them, but with the language they had given us, their true name translated to ‘judges’. It was clear, to those who were willing to see, that the Saviours deemed earth a better place without us.
City Hall. 5:01PM.
Fly-man, Strong-man and Telekinesis-man were at a loss.
“Perhaps something will just… happen. Something convenient. Anyone feel like they’ve just discovered a new super power?” asked Strong-man.
“I think he’s got writer’s block,” said TK-man.
“What?” exclaimed Strong-man. “No, he’s just –”
“Written himself into a corner,” said Fly-man. “I mean, subatomic-nuclear-universe ending bomb, encased in the heaviest, most impenetrable material in, like, ever… with a minute to go? That’s overkill. None of us can stop this.”
“I feel a lot less super than usual,” said TK-man.
“He knows better than to deus ex machina his way out of this,” said Fly-man, “that’s all. He’ll come up with something that’s been there all along – a Chekov’s gun, it’ll be fired any minute now. We just didn’t see it coming. Maybe the reader did, we’re just characters.”
“I think we’ve found Chekov’s bomb.”
“Will you be quiet? Have a little faith.”
“This is an extract,” said Fly-man. “You know where you said that thing about ‘something convenient’? Yeah? That’s where this guy chose to start writing. There’s no story. We don’t have backstories. I mean, who did this? Who planted the bomb? How are we in this situation? Why do we have such shitty superhero names?”
“It’s called in media res – happens all the time in films, books, comics. We’ll save the day and our story starts there. This is basically a pre-title sequence.”
“I think we’re all going to die,” said TK-man.
“That was his plan all along,” said Fly-man. “He’s put us in a shitty situation, just to kill us off. He’s like George R.R. Martin, but he’s a bigger dick about it.”
“Well, he does enjoy writing stuff that’s pretty bleak,” said Strong-man. “Often maintains a dark sense of humour throughout. I guess it would fit with his M.O., his style.”
With ten seconds on the countdown, the superheroes exchanged looks of frustration and sadness. I could tell you how much they hated me at this moment in time, but they’re right – I just want to kill them off. And the whole universe is collateral.
“Well, I guess we’re fucked.”
The bomb detonated and earth cracked like an egg. End of the universe, too. Now there’s nothing left. Just blackness and cold. I’m afraid, there’s no happy ending. I guess, it’s a bit of an anti-climax. But, in my humble opinion, I feel you need them every now and again. It’s good for the soul.
If you’ve got one.
“You want to die, so you can be with everyone you’ve lost. Live for the same reason.”
Submitted for second year creative writing coursework; graded: 72/100.
I was struck by lightning a few days before my seventeenth birthday. It killed me quite badly. Scorch marks, a complete shutdown of my respiratory and cardiovascular systems and my favourite shirt was ruined.
It was the hottest day of the year and our dads decided to have a picnic at the local park with me, my younger brother and sister, and our surrogate mum. On the scale of weirdness, the subsequent storm comes second to the picnic. We were a family under an unspoken social stigma, lacking most social skills in a social environment, so you can imagine the awkwardness. I guess it was Dad 1’s way of dealing with that. “No wi-fi here,” he said as he set out the sandwiches. The rest of us exchanged a look of horror – Dad 2 included, and we promptly turned on our mobile data. It was a far more expensive day out than any of us could have anticipated.
About an hour in, the fluffy white clouds bled to dark grey. They hesitated for a moment as if to say, “watch this”, then unleashed heavy raindrops that stung our skin. Dad 1 scooped everything up in the picnic blanket and we raced back to the car for shelter. I was two–maybe three–steps away when the first bolt of lightning struck me down. In that moment, I smelt overcooked chicken, wet dog and piss.
The thing I remember most about my little death was hearing everything that went on outside my body. Dads, mum and my sister were screaming, bawling their eyes out. I even heard my emotionless mess of a brother hiccuping with fear, “Is he –? Is he… dead?”
I’m not sure if I speak for all corpses or if this was some strange precursor to… well, I’ll get to that part. But, if that’s not the case, then, the dead are conscious. And in my opinion, that’s seriously messed up. Like, how long are they conscious for? Is it just while the brain activity ceases? Is it forever? Imagine being on your deathbed, your wife’s telling you how much she loves you, wishing she could spend more time with you. All that soppy shit. You’re convinced you’ll die a happy man. You close your eyes and you die. Then you hear her say, “Thank fuck.” You’re rightly confused, maybe even pissed off, but you’ve got to be pissed off blind and paralysed for goodness knows how long.
Fortunately, my parents only complimented me in death.
“My beautiful boy,” mum said between her wailing.
Dad 2 was sobbing on top of my chest, praying like I’d never heard before. “Please beat again. If there is a god, I’ll do anything. Just let him live.” Maybe someone heard him. If I had to place bets, I’d say Zeus. Not long after the ambulance arrived and my family had been told to move away, lightning struck twice. My corpse doubled forward and like that, I was alive again. Heart racing, ragged breaths, all seeing, all feeling again. Weirdly my first thought was not that I’d just died, but how undignified I felt lying in a puddle of piss. Sure, it was the last thing anyone else noticed, but it wasn’t something I was in the habit of doing. But, I digress.
I turned to face my family, their mouths hung open in disbelief. The paramedics shared the same expression. “He was dead,” one of them said. “I checked. His heartbeat, his pulse – I swear, there was nothing.”
“It’s a miracle,” mum said.
That was one word for it.
I made the news. You know, the light humoured, less depressing segment towards the end. Footage of my reanimation (someone had been filming me when I died) was watched all over the world. I became something of a global sensation, everyone’s favourite talking topic and the latest meme. From showing off the lightning shaped scarring from the back of my neck to my torso, to attempting to answer questions the experts couldn’t, this life was a little crazy. “I’m just a freak of nature,” I joked on one television show. A roar of laughter from the audience ensued.
The fun and games eventually died down. But that wasn’t the only thing dying.