One of my favorite pieces of writing advice comes from Richard Price, who says to write big issues, you write small things. That was my focus while this little piece.
The end of the world didn’t look anything like we thought it would. There were no fires. There was no screaming in the streets. No gunshots aimed at brick facades teeming with armies of the unruly dead, or extraplanetary life that had for some reason decided that humanity was to be systematically eliminated. There were no world leaders corrupted by their position into beginning nuclear Armageddon. No, it was nothing like that.
The end of the world was…quiet.
One day, some of us woke up to find that the rest of us weren’t there to do the same. There were no wars or riots because there weren’t enough people left for there to be.
We woke up, and the world was silent.
Of course, this doesn’t really mean that there was no panicking. I know that I panicked. I woke up, and Mum and Dad were gone. Mum wasn’t calling up the stairs for me to hurry up or I’ll be late, and Dad wasn’t singing off-key ‘80’s music in the shower down the hall. Juno was still locked in his cage, unfed, needing a wee horribly, not licking my face with a grass-stained muzzle like he should have been on a school day.
I spent all morning running down the high street, screaming for them, for someone, for anyone to answer me. No one did.
You learn to live with it after a while. The quiet, the pain, the sadness. They come in waves, crashing over you like a tsunami until you can’t breathe anymore and you can’t see the surface. But eventually, when you’ve cried as hard as you can for as long as your body will let you, you stand back up and you move on. There’s work to be done.
My first stop in the morning is usually Mrs. McCready’s, to pick up the milk and Juno’s food. He’s getting big, and I can’t carry the huge bags into the house on my own, so I pick him up a little packet of food and the occasional treat from the glass jar on the counter, calmly telling the empty air that I’ll pay my tab off when there’s someone to pay me.
The treats are running low now, and I don’t know where she keeps them to refill it. He’ll be sad when they’re gone, and so will I.
From there, I walk up the path to my back garden and let myself in through the kitchen. There’s Juno, barking in the window again. Mum’ll be upset that he’s getting up on the counters. I make my breakfast and take him out for a walk, always on a lead unless we’re going to the beach. After that, I’ll haul out Dad’s lawnmower and get to work trimming the place up, or I’ll sweep the church, or pick up the litter.
There isn’t much litter anymore. That’s a nice side effect.
When I’m tired, I’ll call into Mrs. McCready’s again, or if I’m particularly put out, I’ll sneak into the Awl and Grindstone. I always look at the taps behind the counter, but I haven’t had the courage to try any yet. Jim the Barman always said it tasted like gone-off bread. They have the best place for making pretzels, though, if I remember all the measurements right.
Then it’s home again, and I’ll take Juno out for another walk, or I’ll play with him in the yard, or when it’s cold, I’ll stoke up a fire and make a toasty while I read out one of the books I’ve borrowed from the library. They must be way overdue by now.
We usually fall asleep in the den. Juno doesn’t fit in his crate anymore.
There’s always a part of me that hopes that when I wake up, Mum and Dad will be frowning at me and asking how I’ve gotten so bloody tall, and why I kipped on the couch instead of in my own perfectly good bed. There’s always a part of me that knows that someday, I might just not wake up at all, and finally find out where everyone has gone. The rest of me knows that probably, I’ll wake up, and I’ll take Juno on a walk, and I’ll go to Mrs. McCready’s for the milk. Sometimes, I know which one I’m hoping for the most. Sometimes, I don’t know if I’m hoping for anything at all.
Sometimes it’s quiet.