The day the world ended

on Tuesday, 13 March 2012
After a flash of inspiration I typed out this short story, but I swear it feels like I've plagiarised some episode of the Twilight Zone or something because it seems so familiar. Awaiting a lawsuit as soon as I press Publish Post:

The day the world ended

There was a man who knew when the world was going to end. He didn’t question how he knew, or even how it was going to happen. He just knew a date, and time, after which there would be nothing. At first it was disconcerting, as you could imagine. Imagine if you knew when the world was going to end, an absolute certainty in your mind. Like the man, you would first dismiss it as a bad dream or an over-active imagination. Then, as realisation sets in that it was an undeniable fact, panic sets in: you try anything you can to try and prevent it, but knowing that you can’t leaves you wondering what else is there to do. If the world is going to end, what is the point of living? The man had almost given up everything at one point, almost ended his life just to relieve the burden he was carrying. Finally, though, he accepted the fate and saw himself with a responsibility: to warn others.

It all started on an ordinary day, as things often do. Every day is an ordinary day until something extraordinary happens. Nothing extraordinary happened this day, however. The man had awoken from a decent night’s sleep, enjoyed breakfast and set off to work as he did every week day. On the bus ride to work, suddenly he knew. The date and time appeared in his mind like an unwelcome smell. He looked around the bus for some sign that anybody else had had the same realisation: there was none. A young mother tried to pacify a screaming child at the front of the bus, a teenage boy sat oblivious to his surroundings blasting music into his ears from a pair of tiny earphones, and several elderly people were taking the ride into town to collect their weekly pensions. Nothing out of the ordinary, no screaming, no running, not even a flicker of horror on any of their faces. The man was alone, surrounded by people, with that date flashing in his mind: 17th June, 3:34pm. He knew for certain that there would be nothing of the world he saw passing by the dirty bus window in a little over a year from now.

The next few weeks passed without incident: no major wars started, no spreading pestilence, no famine. The man began to wonder if he was going insane, but as time drew on, the date became only more certain. When it was all too much, he decided to confide in a close friend. He told his friend about his moment of clarity, about the date, about how certain he was. The friend didn’t believe him and laughed it off as a joke. For a while, the man was satisfied, allowing himself to believe that his friend was right, that it was just his mind playing tricks on him.

A few months later, his condition had worsened. His close friend had spilled his secret to other acquaintances, and the confidence he shared with his friend spread like wildfire. Suddenly everyone he knew was aware of his secret. At first he tried to deny it, explain it away as a prank, but it was tiresome. The knowledge of doomsday weighing heavily on him for months now was too much, and he stopped caring about his image. He told everyone he knew: his friends, his family, his co-workers. Some laughed at him, most didn’t: most people thought he had gone mad. As word spread around the man’s workplace that he was insane, he began to lose interest in the work: there wasn’t much point anyway was there? Six months after his revelation, he was fired.

The man now had to find something else to fill his time, what little time he had left. He briefly thought about getting another job, but decided against it; by the time he had applied and gone through the interview process, it would all be over, and it all seemed pretty pointless. He also considered living the last of his days in a hedonistic drug fuelled orgy, enjoying life to the fullest before the big finish, but his meagre savings and (now significantly reduced) social connections wouldn’t allow it. He contemplated suicide, even had the pills and alcohol ready, but in the end he couldn’t go through with it. He decided that he should spread the word. There didn’t seem much point, the date was a certainty, but what else could he do? Besides, perhaps that is what he was meant to do; something, somewhere in the universe had entrusted him with this knowledge, there must be a reason. Perhaps by spreading the word, telling people that the end is nigh, someone, the right someone, would listen and be able to prevent it. Hope was just about the only thing he had left.

For the next six months, the man made fliers, posters and banners and littered them about town. He kept it simple; after all he didn’t really know anything other than the date and time. They simply read “The world will end 17th June 3:34pm.” He adorned a placard with his message and wore it about his neck as he stood in the streets, shouting for all to hear about the end of the world. Everyone dismissed him as a run of the mill religious lunatic, walking swiftly past him, trying very hard not to make eye contact. He had expected this, but he carried on regardless: there had to be that one person out there who would hear his message and save everything. There had to be.

On the morning of 17th June the man awoke at his usual time: bright and early so he could go canvas the town. This morning he was filled with dread, but also a sense of ennui. Had he failed? Today was the day, after all. Maybe he was not meant to achieve anything with this knowledge. Perhaps it was all just some horrible punishment for a past misdeed. Perhaps he was crazy: nothing seemingly world-ending was going on in the world at the moment. He resolved to go about his normal day-to-day activities: he’ll know for certain at 3:34pm, or not as the case may be. He stuffed a bundle of fliers into his coat pocket, tucked his placard under his arm and set off to town. The day went by as usual, dirty looks, being ignored. He had attracted something strange though: tourism. After months of his campaign to tell people of the end of the world, he had become something of a local celebrity. Everyone in town knew him, as a crazy man of course, and people from neighbouring towns came to see him in action.

Lunch time and still nothing unusual, no volcano, no asteroid, the sun wasn’t threatening to go nova. The man racked his brains trying to figure out what could possibly happen to end the world. He took a long lunch; in fact he did not go back to it at all. He ate sandwiches on a bench in town, throwing crumbs at pigeons, his placard leaning limply on the bench beside him. He had given up; there was nothing he could do now. It’s too late, the world is going to end in less than an hour and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop it. He sat staring at the sky, watching wispy white cloud float across the blue sky. That was all he did for a while, just staring at the sky, not thinking anything, just enjoying the peace of the moment. He had had little in the way of peace for the last year. At 3:30pm he started walking: he wasn’t sure why, he just perhaps wanted to be on his feet when it happened. He walked through the busy town centre; even after abandoning his placard at the bench, he still elicited stares from passers-by. At 3:32pm a young boy called out to the man as he was crossing the busy main street: the man didn’t catch what the boy said, it was no doubt an insult of some sort, but the sudden noise made him snap out of his trance like state for a moment. The world came rushing in, the noise of hundreds of afternoon shoppers filled his ears, the singing of birds and the bright, sweltering sunshine. The man closed his eyes and stopped, almost pained by the sudden sensory overload, just as a bus was coming down the road: the road that he was stood in the middle of. The bus collided with him, sending him sprawling across the tarmac for what seemed like forever, leaving behind a long, sticky red trail. There were screams and people rushed towards him, lying prone in the middle of the road, limbs bent at awkward angles and thick reddish brown blood oozing from all around him. The man was conscious enough to notice the smashed face of his watch: the time read 3:34pm. He smiled, and at that moment, the world came to an end.


Mark said...

That was pretty good. I liked it, and I don't think it sounds that familiar to me.

Andy Santana said...

Obrigado pela visita,
estou te seguindo aqui.

Daniel said...

That was a good story, the end was a bit predictable but I liked the way it was written. Good job :)

Tenment Funster said...

Quite, quite.
I really liked the whole idea, I don't care that it is similar to Twilight Zone.

Remish said...

That was pretty damn good. The ending was an interesting twist, even though I did expect that a little bit. I'm no writer, but at moments it seemed that you used the word "man" a bit too much. Other than that, good work :)

teganwilson said...

Thanks everyone, I appreciate it.

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