The Unilever Series: Dominique Gonzales Foerster - TH.2058


158 Days

By Rachel Stevenson

158 days, that’s how long it’s been. 158 days, at least according to the Royal Meteorological Office and we have no reason to doubt them – their minute by minute 100% accurate weather predictions are appreciated by all. Today we’ll have rain, sleet, 90% humidity, cloud, hail and, at 18:17, a heat-storm. All of these atmospheric conditions will take place at exactly the time the RMO has decreed them to happen. I suppose that weather is better than no weather. What there won’t be is sun. Not for 158 days.

They say that there’s something wrong in the troposphere, although some say it’s the fault of the hydrosphere. People think our planet has failed, although in reality it’s only half the planet, the antipodes still has sunshine, and a giant queue of people trying to gain entrance through immigration, but their summer is coming to an end: it’s expected that once the sun goes down at the end of March then it won’t rise again in April, just as ours didn’t on 1st October and doesn’t look like it will ever again.

Scientists have blasted off probes into the clouds, the satellite-stars have reported back reams of information, none of it useful. Some think that a meteor hit the earth, maybe somewhere out in a desert, and that governments have covered it up in order to stem panic about this nuclear winter. Successive emergency governments say that they can solve it; even hardened optimists don’t seem to believe them.

Apart from food shortages, looting, muggings, newly formed gang violence, religious mania, fuel crises, power cuts, and a rising suicide and murder rate, everything is quiet. In yesterday’s 14:08 pea-souper snow, flickering neon streamed into soggy gutters, streetlamps’ light pooled like Saturn’s rings. Venus, or one of the satellite-probes, hung low in the brown-black sky. People used to talk about feeling small and insignificant when looking at far away stars, but it makes me feel comforted that we’re not the only things here, that some other planet or galaxy or universe could exist and could run life there better than we have, could even come to save us.

God, I miss the red electric shock of sunset when seen from the wrong side of night, the violent sky just as it sets again. I think I miss that more than plants and light and food and normality, I just miss the colours of the firmament. Oh, you god-damn low down sun of a bitch – rise, god-damn it, rise to morning-time.

I think it’s night time again. The stars shine their dark light. Some birds are tweeting but most are silent. They are as confused as we are. But my next door neighbour says that her cat is adapting, it sleeps when it wants to, goes out when it wants to and is bringing home more mice as a result of the permanent night. The cats and cockroaches will survive. I haven’t spoken to anyone else for a week.

I sit out on the balcony, smoking, more for the red tip glow than the nicotine. I don’t want to have to venture out to buy more. I don’t want to have to venture out. The Employment Opportunities Office is shut until further notice. I heard that the employed are demanding that their companies bus them in and out; no-one wants to walk or use what little public transport is still running. It doesn’t take much of a catastrophe to cause a crisis.

Fuck it, I’m going out. What good is sitting alone in your room?

Despite my anxiety, I could still feel the glorious momentum of motion as the three-quarters-empty train finally set off after a driver had been found. My fellow passengers sat heads down, paying no attention to me or anyone else. They obediently filed on and off at each stop. The streetlight bounced bright off the train at Cambridge Heath station and into the tornado shaped clouds when I alighted. I walked into the slinky silver mist haze of pollution on Hackney Road.

I headed in the direction of the canal, but my eye was snagged by something going on in the park. The gates looked like they’d been jimmied open and a large crowd had gathered – another religious meeting. Or the eco-terrorists blaming our ex-decadent western lifestyles for the sunlessness. All of those enviro-types are glad that this has happened. It just proves them right.

But as I nosed further in, I was suddenly choked by orange and green smoke and then could smell shooting stars. Loud screams hit my ears. This is it, then! This is how the world ends, not with a whimper but with a horrible, frightening bang. I turned, panicked, and bumped into the boy behind me. He reached out his hand and held my arm to steady us both.

It feels like I’m on the bridge of a spaceship, he said, his eyes illuminated with delight, watching a planet coming toward me and then disappearing, supernova-style.

I turned around. The gunpowder left its remains in the towerblock windows, in the sky and in my eyes. Frosted blue electric explosions came nearer and nearer until they seemed just outside of my eyes, until they were in my eyes, until it was my eyes exploding, leaving spider-snake-smoke trails, my optic nerves becoming combustive marigolds, glitter snakes
and red comets exploding, fizzing stars and diamond chandeliers falling into our eyes.

Isn’t it wonderful, the boy said, still holding my arm. I don’t know who arranged it, but it’s such a brilliant idea.

I suppose that there has to be dark to have the light, I said.

Listen, he said, looking at me, there’s a rain-storm due at 20:58. I know an
i-bar near here, The Kropotkin.
It’s, er – he laughed. It’s Soviet themed. You can download 20th century avatars and virt-fight the cold war all over again. But it’s safe, the owners are my friends. I’m not an apocalyptic attacker, he added.

I looked at him. I thought about cats and birds and dark and night and snow and
light and fireworks. What the hell, I said, adapt and survive, right? Mutual aid. Co-operation, right? Live together, die alone, yes?

Come on, he said, linking his arm in mine, I’ll buy you a Tequila Sunrise.

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2 Responses to “158 Days”
  1. Commonpeople Says:

    Great story. Reminiscent of Ballard and McCarthy’s “The Road”, but with more hope and humour. Can we have the sequel “159 Days” please? :-)

  2. Chris tells an Apocalyptic Tale | The Fantastic Christopher Eccleston Says:

    [...] respond to her apocalyptic vision of the future by writing a short story. We chose one of the best entries to be turned into a short film, narrated by Dr Who’s Christopher [...]