A simple enough idea: The world is going to end today. A blogger records the last day on earth… just in case there are any survivors. I read about this story idea on Quick's blog. I asked him if he had written a story on this theme, and if so, could I see it? He said he hadn’t. I said could I pilfer the idea, or would he sue? He said he wouldn’t. So I wrote the story. What do you think?
A million waves crashing against a million rocks
Blog Entry Time: 8.02 13 July 2007
Apparently, the world is going to end tonight. Some big meteor is going to collide with the earth and kill us all.
Like that’s ever going to happen.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind dying, it’s just that I don’t believe this one is going to hit, that’s all. This last year since my sister’s accident has been a lot like being buried alive anyway. I’ve talked and talked until I’m blue in the face, but mom and dad haven’t taken in a word I’ve said. All they do is go on and on about Sophie’s death. And I suppose the way it happened was odd, and that I ought to explain, but seeing as the world might be ending tonight, I don’t want to waste my precious time on all that right now.
Since dad found me in bed with Graham last week, I’ve been grounded. It’s the middle of the summer holidays and I’m stuck in my bedroom, a prisoner in my own house. Dad just burst in on us and started yelling, while Graham scrambled out of bed, red faced. He was hopping around on one leg, trying to get his trousers on, while dad continued to scream. Then, when I wouldn’t apologize – for what, anyway? - dad hit me round the head ‘til my ears started to ring.
Pulling the bed sheet up over my breasts, I tried to find the words to explain that Graham was just a way of taking my mind off Sophie. But I couldn't. Instead I blurted, “Oh, grow up dad. It’s just sex.”
I got a slap for my trouble.
Now the doorbell’s ringing and I can hear the sing-songy voices of all the women in the neighborhood downstairs, gathered for another one of my mother’s religious vigils, designed to stop the meteor hitting earth. Like prayer’s going to stop it in its tracks. It’s hurtling towards us at the moment, only no one really knows for sure whether it will hit or miss. In some parts of the country, New York and L.A. especially, people have been going crazy, having orgies and taking heroin and all sorts. Nothing like that’s been happening here in Baltimore of course, which is just my luck.
Well now, since dad’s at work, I reckon I’ll just slip out. No one will notice in all the chaos.
Descending the stairs, I collide with the swell of women who are pushing their way in through our front door. Mrs Pickering from number 34 takes my chin in her hand and tips it back, twisting it this way and that. I stare into her eyes, an icy penetrating blue beneath over-plucked eyebrows.
“Oh, goodness me, Lauren, how’d you get this bruise on your cheek?”
Mom squeezes past with a pitcher full of iced tea. “Oh, she took a bad dive off the diving board and got whacked in the face.”
“How awful,” says Mrs Pickering, her eyes displaying disbelief.
I walk past her, out the door, not caring about getting wet from the sprinkler that’s watering our acid green lawn. There’s a sprinkler ban at the moment, only who’s going to enforce it when the end of the world is nigh?
I walk down the street to the newsagents, and walk into its cool musty interior. An old woman is chatting to an even more ancient woman behind the counter.
“I don’t believe it’ll come,” says the old hag behind the counter. She’s got on a pink nylon dress and her white hair is done up in little sausage curls. “Didn’t they scare us about a nuclear war? And that ended up being a load of hot air.”
I slink around the aisles, hoping to do a spot of shop lifting, but Sausage Curls is tracking me and it proves impossible.
“Those scientists don’t know nothing,” says the wheezy woman with the fluffy moustache on her upper lip, who we call Hitler. “Same with the stuff they keep telling us about diet. One week it’s eating low fat this and low fat that. The next week, carbs are the devil. You can’t tell me it’s healthy to live on fried bacon and rabbit food?”
“Of course it isn’t.” A long pause. “You know number 78 has built an underground bunker?”
“Lot of good that’ll do him.”
“I phoned my sister in Alabama the other day. We hadn’t talked in twenty years. Just in case the world does end, I thought, well why not?”
“Why’d you fall out?” says Hitler.
“She told me on my wedding day that Dave was a schmuck, that I shouldn’t marry him.”
“She was right though.”
Sausage Curls nods. “I suppose so, but she shouldn’t have said that.”
There’s an explosion in the street. Hitler and Sausage Curls rush out. I nip behind the counter and grab a pack of Camel Lights.
When I saunter out of the shop, it’s clear that the explosion wasn’t the end of the world come early, only some boys throwing fire crackers.
As I amble down the street, music oozes from the window of a passing car.
‘It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it. It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine.’
I used to like R.E.M. but I’ve heard that song once too often on the radio these past few months.
Sticking my fingers in my ears, a blanket of melancholy falls over me. I wonder if I will live to see my sixteenth birthday.
Blog Entry Time: 12.03 13 July 2007
As I approach Graham at the playground, he’s sitting on a swing, telling a joke, surrounded by some of the popular kids from school. All the A students turn and stare disdainfully at the cigarette pack I’m holding.
“Want a cancer stick?” I say, waving it at them. The kids scatter, like I was going to throw acid in their faces.
Graham and I share a cigarette, passing it back and forth between us, not saying a word.
He’s had his hair cut short since I last saw him. All the blond tips have been shorn off. I run my hand up the back of his head. It feels soft, like a teddy bear.
“I keep seeing Sophie’s face,” I say. The words are out before I can stop them.
“Want to talk about it? You never did, you know, not really. Maybe you should.”
I wonder how much I will tell him. But he’s right, I do need to tell someone, so I begin. I tell him how, last summer, we were at Ocean City on a family vacation, and how I was meant to be watching her. She was only eight and I know I ought to have known better but Christ, do you know what a pain an eight year old is to have around? I’d met this guy, see, much older than me, called Chuck. He drove a car, for fuck’s sake. I’d met him in the check out queue, while I was bagging my groceries.
“Hey Peachy,” he said, staring at me as I placed ripe peaches into a brown paper bag. “How’s it going?” Only I know that isn’t much of a line, but he was so good looking, dark touseled hair, a bit like Johnny Depp. His eyes undressed me, peeling off my clothes. I let him take me for a spin in his car. When I got back to our rented condo the peaches were squashed at the bottom of the bag, on account of the fact that I’d lain on them while we were making out on the back seat. And I hadn’t really noticed the strawberry ice cream either, which had liquefied and oozed its way through the bag. I’d been mesmerized, caught up in the way he was working his hand between my legs. Sure I’d had guys touch me there before, but they were just boys, and their fingers felt like popsicle sticks, jabbing into my tender flesh. But Chuck was different. His hand was warm and big, and he didn’t even put his fingers in that much, just kept rubbing away on the outside. And he just did that for a long time, until something broke inside of me and a warm gush of pleasure radiated out, like the way a ray of sunlight suddenly beams through the stained glass window at church.
But before I can tell Graham any more, my dad’s car pulls up. What the hell’s he doing home?
“We weren’t doing anything,” I protest, as dad gets out of the car and grabs my bare arm, hard. “We were just talking.”
He throws me into the car.
Blog Entry Time: 20.58 13 July 2007
I’m back home and looking out the window. The street is deserted. There’s a terrible wind blowing the plane trees in the garden, whipping the branches back and forth. An unearthly roar fills my ears. Like a million waves crashing against a million rocks. The sky is dark, dark as the bruise on my cheek. I can see Sophie’s face, the way we found her.
Chuck was with me. We’d lost track of time, grinding up against each other in the sand in our damp bathing suits. And then we’d gone back to where I’d left Sophie, it seemed, not five minutes ago. Although maybe it had been hours. Neither Chuck nor I were wearing a watch.
We saw her body at the same time. She was bobbing about, mouth parted, eyes wide open.
“Shit,” he hissed.
I splashed down in the water beside her and cradled her head. Her eyes, usually a bright chestnut brown, stared up at me, irises the color of mouse fur.
“But she could swim, goddamit! She could swim!” I said, starting to shake her by the shoulders.
“I might be able to do something,” Chuck said, taking her from me and lifting her out of the water. In her shimmery green swimsuit, her long dark gold hair hanging down, she looked just like a little mermaid.
He laid her on the sand, pumped her chest and kissed her mouth, but there was nothing doing. It was over.
“I’ll come with you and find your parents,” he offered.
“No, no. Don’t do that. They’ll know I was with you. They’ll know I wasn’t watching her. What the fuck am I going to do?”
I wanted him to say, “It wasn’t your fault.” Only he didn’t. He just stood there, running his tongue over his dry salty lips.
Then he kissed me. A swift, impersonal kiss. I never saw him again.
My parents believed me when I told them I only turned my back for a moment.
My mother said, “These things happen.”
My father said, “We don’t blame you.”
Well, it makes no difference whether they blamed me or they didn’t. The life went out of our family after that. Behind all the forced smiles, I knew they did blame me, and that whatever I did, however good my grades were, I would never be able to replace the daughter they had lost.
So, seeing as that was the case, I figured, why shouldn’t I enjoy myself a little? And that was all I was trying to do, that time dad found me in bed with Graham.
But in the end, none of it really matters, you know? In the end it’s just you and the dark inky sky and the blackness. And the sound of a giant’s hammer smashing down on your head.
Who am I? Displaced Londoner now living in the States with my two little girlies and long suffering husband. Co-author of hilarious parenting book Cocktails at Naptime www.cocktailsatnaptime.com
My mom's an Austrian, my dad's a Brit, which makes me a Britaustrian, or possibly an Austrish?