The End of the World and Everything That Comes Before it

He looked at me funny, the delivery van driver I mean, when he realised that the only things that I had ordered were canned food and bottled water. I just smiled politely like I’ve learnt to do. After I had closed the door I opened the logbook that I keep on the little table by the phone and wrote the time and the date followed by the words; Tesco man acting suspiciously.

I watched out the window until he drove away and then I stripped down to my underwear and began putting everything away in its right place. Once that was done I vacuumed the whole of the downstairs paying particular attention to the doormat and the couple of foot of carpet onto which the man had stepped. After I had done this I ran myself a shower as hot as I could stand and scrubbed myself down for fifteen minutes.
These are unusual times we’re living in.

When I had dried myself I dressed in my favourite pyjamas and put the towel into the machine and ran it at a high temperature.

In my bedroom the television is always on. And I mean it is always on. And it is always on the twenty four hour news station. I think it’s important to keep up to date with what’s going on in the world. When I go to sleep I turn the sound down and watch the people mime out the stories of the day. I have taught myself to sleep with my eyes open, always watching. This way I don’t have to worry about missing something important. You never know when something important is going to happen.

I take a bottle of water upstairs with me and sit on the end of the bed and watch for fifteen minutes just taking in the headlines.
The Hospitals are overcrowded.
There are more cutbacks to the Police force.
There is another suspected case of Ebola in Scotland.
They are predicting more extreme weather over the next six months.
The terror alert is still on orange.

The terror alert has been on orange for three hundred and five days. Orange means severe. Severe means an attack is highly likely. This doesn’t seem to bother people as much as it should. Orange is one colour removed from red and red means that an attack is imminent.
It is important to be prepared.

Sometimes I think I’m as prepared as I can be but then something else happens and I realise that I’m nowhere near as prepared as I should be. My mother used to say “To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.” That still sounds like good advice every time I say it.

When I’m finished watching the headlines I sit down at my computer which is next to my bed so I can still see the television and I look at the twenty four hour news website, just in case there are any details that they have missed. Or in case there is another story that they haven’t shown that I should know about. It’s important to be proactive about the news; you need to do your own research. Everybody has an agenda it’s just a case of figuring out what it is.
I do this for thirty minutes.

I only drink bottled water. Two litres a day, every day without fail. It is important to stay hydrated. The human body is approximately sixty percent water. The average human being loses about eight cups of water a day through urine and sweat. It is important to replenish the amount of water in your body everyday otherwise you will get headaches and feel tired. I don’t drink tap water because, and you should know this, because it contains fluoride and fluoride is very bad for you. They started putting fluoride in the water, and when I say they I mean the government, in the 1950’s. They did this because it makes your brain soft and susceptible to suggestion. Soon after they did this adverts started to appear everywhere and I mean everywhere. People stopped being just people and they became consumers. People started buying things just because they could and the whole world went mad.
Tap water also gives you cancer.
I know this because Sophie used to drink a lot of tap water and then she got the cancer and then she died. Sophie was my wife. Sophie was my friend first and then she was my wife. We got married on the fifth of September 2011 and she died the year after. I still miss her. Sophie used to say that it was very important that I look after myself so now I only drink bottled water. Two litres a day.

At exactly midday I eat lunch. I usually have soup. Today I had tomato. Tomato soup is my favourite because it is smooth and it tastes good. Canned food is the safest food in the world and it lasts a long time too. I once read that a boat called the Bertrand sank in the Missouri River in 1865 and it was carrying a whole cargo of canned peaches. When they raised the boat up in 1974 they did tests on the cans of peaches and found that they were still perfectly safe and fine to eat. One hundred and nine years old and still good to eat. I can’t remember where I read that but I haven’t ever forgotten about it. My cupboards are filled with canned food. You never know what is going to happen next.

After I have eaten my lunch I wash up the bowl and spoon and leave them to drain. They look untidy there on the rack next to the sink but I know how many germs get harboured on the average tea towel so I don’t use them.

The letter box opens and from the kitchen I can hear letters scrape through and fall down onto the doormat and I hold my breath. A week after 9/11 there were Anthrax attacks across America. Nobody ever remembers this. I go to the cupboard and pull out the claw thing that I keep in there. I don’t know what you call it. It’s what people use to pick up litter, a claw thing on the end of a stick with a trigger on the handle that controls the pincers. Next I put on a disposable face mask, like the ones that surgeons wear and I pick up the plastic box which I keep next to the little table by the phone.
They never caught whoever sent those Anthrax letters.

Slowly, very slowly I walk over to the little pile of letters and one by one I pick them up and very carefully place them in the plastic box. There’s a lot today. When this is done I take the box outside to the passageway down the side of my house and empty the letters into the black bin followed by my face mask.
I can’t remember anything before 9/11.

I had just shut the door behind me when I hear the phone ring. I feel my heart beat quicken up and the blood buzz hotly in my ears. Slowly and quietly I creep over to it and watch it until it stops, after this I go around the house and make sure that all the curtains are closed. You can never be too careful. Once I have checked the curtains I open the logbook and I write the time and the date followed by the words; Phone call.
Do you know about the Mayans?

You should probably know about the Mayans. They were an ancient people in South America and they’re all gone now. But the interesting thing about them is that they predicted the end of the world would happen in 2012. Of course it’s now 2015 so you probably think that they made it all up or were wrong or whatever. I have this theory though, I have this theory that something happened in 2012 that will lead to the end of the world, like something was put in motion back then only we don’t know what it was. Not yet anyway.

It’s my birthday today. I know this because first thing every morning I cross out another day on the calendar on my wall next to my bed. I don’t celebrate my birthday anymore, I used to when I was a little kid but it doesn’t feel right to celebrate things, not these days.

In the living room I sit down in my favourite chair which has one of those plastic covers on it and I just sit for a while and listen to the comfortable noise of the clock ticking and stare at the empty fireplace.
I do this for fifteen minutes.

I open the top drawer of the chest of draws next to my favourite chair. Inside there is a stack of sealed envelopes. The one on top of the pile has 2015 and a kiss written on it in pretty handwriting. Very carefully I open the envelope. Inside there is a card with a picture of a frothing bottle of champagne and HAPPY BIRTHDAY! written loudly in capitals, in an arch, like a rainbow but without all the colours. The background is blue and the writing is white and the bottle of champagne is dark green. I open it up and read what’s inside.

“Happy Birthday Bobby, hope you are having a good day and have done something nice. Remember when we went and fed the ducks? That was a really good birthday. I enjoyed that a lot and you did too. I’m sorry I’m not there with you to celebrate but know that I am always looking over you. Please look after yourself and stay healthy. All my love always, Sophie.
P.S. remember to take your medication.”

It’s nice to get a birthday card from Sophie. I read the message over and over for fifteen minutes. It’s a funny thing, I can remember when we fed the ducks but I can’t remember what medication she means. It’s a funny thing memory.

I put the card up in the middle of the mantelpiece above the empty fireplace and go back to my chair and look at it until the clock chimes one.

In my bedroom I sit on the end of the bed and watch the headlines. There is nothing new and I begin to relax a little bit. I allow myself to flop backwards and lie there just staring at the ceiling with my legs dangling off the end of the bed. Suddenly I feel very tired and I think about taking a nap.
Downstairs the doorbell rings

My body twitches and stiffens up. My breathing becomes shallow and I can feel panic fluttering around in my chest. I sit up and breathe deeply for sixty seconds, counting it out in my head.
The doorbell rings again.
I stand up and put on my dressing gown and stare at my hand until it stops shaking and then I go downstairs.

I can see the distorted silhouette of somebody standing the other side of the frosted glass and each step I take to the front door feels heavy and straining and final. I force myself to take one last deep breath and it judders out from my chest like crumpling paper and then I open the door.
There’s a man standing there who I don’t recognise.
“Hello mate,” he says, “Got your shopping delivery here; do you want me to bring it through?”
These are unusual times that we’re living in.