Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Apocalypse Not Now

Anna cautiously drew back the curtains and tried to peer outside, but the anti-bomb film on the inside of the glass was opaque and when she peeled a corner away the adhesive left a sticky smear which, if anything, was even more impenetrable. She shivered, stuck the film back down, reclosed the curtains and turned away. The room was in darkness but she knew there was no point in trying to turn the light on; the electricity would have been out for days now and anyway, a spark might be enough to set off a gas explosion, although she couldn’t - at least she thought she couldn't - smell any leaking gas.

They had been warned of all this, of course, at the same time as they had explained about the other post-event disasters. Food would run out in hours, fuel stations, pumped dry in advance of the expected civil disorder and looting, would stand forlorn and the high street shops were obviously all boarded up. The collapse of the banking system would have precipitated mass rioting and unless you had taken out expensive security contracts nowhere was safe. Behind walls and barriers, in compounds protected by armed guards, the elites would survive, for as long as they could pay off the guards. But how would they fare when money itself became meaningless?

No transport, no travel, no school, no medicine. The hospitals would have been overwhelmed in the first forty-eight hours after the extinction event and when the sickness came it would swiftly take those gathered, immobile, in such high concentrations. And of course the camps themselves. ‘Concentration’ was perhaps hyperbolic, but what would be the fate of those rounded up and interned in the repatriation camps? Would they have been processed and removed to a place of safety, or would they have been left to rot? It was all too horrible to contemplate.

And as Anna contemplated their demise, what of hers? She had tinned food for a few days and regretted not having stockpiled more, but what was done was done. Soon she would have to venture outside and forage for her survival, as the pre-event training videos had warned. Without her smartphone – the network would be down and in any case her battery had died some time ago – how would she manage to contact other survivors? She was going to have to find out sooner or later.

Suddenly a harsh noise interrupted her reverie and she was startled... confused. The phone. The landline phone, which she rarely used these days was demanding that she answer. Could it be that some resourceful and determined freedom fighters had managed to get the network up and working? Or was it a trap? The phone rang again… and again. Wound up like a spring, Anna slowly advanced towards the ringing, whose sound now had a touch of urgency about it. Again and again it rang and she hesitated, her hand trembling as she reached for the receiver and paused.

Gathering her strength she grabbed the receiver and held it to her ear. “Hello?” she ventured. “Who is this?” Then she listened as the voice at the other end solicitously inquired about her health. “I’m fine. I feel fine… for now,” replied Anna. She listened for a while, occasionally affirming that she had understood. “Yes,” she said, and “aha, I see…” and “Are you sure? I didn’t realise… I thought…” and eventually, “Okay, I’ll be there as soon as I can.” She put the phone down. Work. How odd.

What, no monsters?

Anna flicked the switch and the light came on. No gas explosion. The same experiment was repeated in the bathroom, where she took a hot shower. After three days of darkness and cold it was good to wash the itch out of her skin. A few minutes later she was dressed and stood by the front door, listening for the sounds of violence outside. There were none. As the bright sunlight flooded in from outside Anna blinked. The distant hum of traffic from the main road at the end of her quiet, neat cul-de-sac serenaded her ears; the melody said nothing was wrong. As she backed her car into the road and began her journey the soothing tones of the Today programme on Radio 4 told her that all was as it should be. So much for the horrors of a no-deal Brexit.