A teenagers account of earths finale days
Normal 0 Normal 0
A summer to die for
I sat by the open window in my bedroom, pen poised in my hand as I tried to think of what to write for my English essay. The warm breeze flapped the curtain hypnotically and lulled me into a dream like state, my thoughts far away from the task in hand. It had been a lovely weekend, which I had spent out with my friends on the nearby beach, even swimming in the sea much to their amusement. The water had been warm, much warmer than I remembered it from previous summers. I sighed and looked at the blank piece of paper before me. I’ll get a drink I thought to myself, an obvious distraction, but it passed the time before I set to work on the inevitable. As I passed the lounge I could hear the weather report on the TV,
“Monday would be another fine dry day, with temperatures well above normal for the time of year.” Great! If only I didn’t have to go to school.
That summer was just the beginning, no one was aware of what lie in store, no one cared back then. Everyone enjoyed the long hot summer, beaches were packed, the aroma of steaks sizzling on garden barbecues drifted on the wispy smoke in the early evenings. The English tourist trade made a bomb, who wanted to go abroad with weather like this? By the end of the summer the novelty had begun to wear off, it hadn’t rained for weeks and the gardens suffered. Lawns turned brown and bare, plants wilted and gardeners prayed for rain when a hosepipe ban was enforced. People sported tans to match the dried earth, wearing skimpy clothes to proudly show off their endeavours. There had been other summers like this, few and far between, but they existed. It was a temporary situation, relieved no doubt soon, by autumn rains. Only this autumn the rains didn’t come.
The climate change that was occurring was insignificant to me; I was fifteen, young and carefree. What did I care if it didn’t rain, why was it so bad to have hot sunny days and blue skies? Life went on as normal at home, the only thing that deteriorated was my mum’s garden, so what? Nature would spring back into life once it rained. The media spoke constantly about the issues of water shortages on the news, with threats of cutting off the supply to households for several hours each day. Stand pumps in the road were suggested, but not enforced. To be honest it was all becoming a bit of a bore, with the government over dramatising the problem as usual.
Winter arrived, if you could call it that. There were a few days of light rain, hardly enough to soak through the baked earth. We were still wearing t-shirts into December, and the temperature never dropped below 60f. It was great, no need to be muffled up in heavy coats. Winter didn’t seem to exist anymore, but were people happy? No, they still complained. Flu viruses increased, the microbes not being killed off by the winter cold and everyone, including myself, had time off school sick. The elderly were badly hit, and many succumbed to the illnesses that ran riot in the mild unseasonal weather.
Things improved by March, health wise anyway. The mercury began to rise again to the low 80’s and once more hoards of people took to the beaches, many skipping work for a few hours of sunbathing. It was too hot to do school work, even with the windows flung wide open in the classroom. The teachers gave up trying to get our attention as we slouched listlessly over our desks, our ties and jumpers abandoned in untidy heaps on the floor. I had no interest to go to the beach anymore, and preferred the cool shade of my room with the fan going full blast. The attraction of being burnt red raw to get a tan that washed off in the shower within a week, was beyond me. So was a blinding headache and vomiting due to sunstroke! Been there, done that and no wish to repeat the experience.
When I did venture into town I noticed how quiet it was, the once thriving town centre was almost deserted around midday and well into the afternoon. Life returned after 4pm when the air-cooled, with a throng of frantic shoppers trying to get their shopping down before the stores closed at 5.30pm. Some shops opted to close in the afternoon and re-open at 4pm until late, like in Spain. The move appeared popular and more stores all over the country began to adopt this new continental lifestyle.
It wasn’t just England, a once green and pleasant land that was suffering this extreme heat. Countries around the Mediterranean and across the states were also experiencing high temperatures, with wild fires rampaging across acres of forestation all over the world. Homes were destroyed causing more hardship for people to endure. The media blamed pollution, the scientist’s climate change, and now the astronomers were jumping on the bandwagon with claims that the sun was omitting unusual solar flares. What did this all mean? The sun was burning up? We were all going to fry? I tried to remain calm and think rationally, but the first doubts and fears began to creep into my mind…supposing they were right?
“Are we all going to die?” I asked my mum after reading another headline that scared me half to death.
“No of course not” She replied, but I could see that she too had her doubts. We all had our doubts. I retreated to my room and closed the curtains. How I wished it would rain, to feel the cool water on my skin, the air fresh and renewed … to be able to breathe again. Flinging myself down on the bed I began to think of my future, my GCSE exams were coming up soon and I wanted to stay on at school for my A levels. Was it all worth it? Did I have a future? I wanted to get a good job, get married, and have children, the usual stuff. Should I waste my time taking further exams for a job that would never materialise because we were all going to die anyway? A tear trickled down my cheek and slid onto the pillow … I didn’t want to die. Please God please make it rain.
A rumbling sound outside drew my attention away from my negative thoughts and I threw open the curtains. A water stand pump was being deposited outside of the house and already several neighbours had congregated with various buckets and containers. A large notice on a billboard beside it informed the residents that the mains water would be turned off until further notice. I ran downstairs and met my mum in the hallway holding two buckets.
“Here take one,” She said handing me a large black bucket. There was concern on her face as I followed her outside to join the queue of people waiting patiently for their water rations. No one said much, but I knew what they were all thinking. As mum filled her bucket I could feel the sun’s rays burning relentlessly onto my arm and I looked up briefly at the sky with loathing. The sun was no longer a welcome sight in our skies; instead it was fast becoming an entity that spelt death and destruction to all mankind.
We soon adapted to this new way of life. It was hard at first not having showers or flushing the toilet after every use, and having to wash plates in the same dishwater several times. We learnt to use the water we collected daily carefully, it was precious. Although the governments warned people not to panic buy bottled water, it fell on deaf ears and the shelves were soon cleared of every kind of bottled or canned drink. The back garden now resembled the Sahara desert, every plant had died accept the hardy cacti like specimens. It was hard to recall the times when Roses and Delphiniums adorned the flowerbeds and the lush green grass flourished. The insects had all but disappeared, I hadn’t seen a butterfly or bumble bee at all this year and dead birds kept appearing on the ground, victims of the heat or just lack of drinking water.
The temperature crept up to 95f and with it the death rate among the elderly. The hospitals were seriously overstretched trying to cope with the constant flow of people admitted daily from heat exhaustion, sunburn and breathing difficulties. The schools and universities closed down, which meant my brother would return home soon. Leaflets were distributed to all households advising us, if we were not working, to stay indoors between the hours of 10am -5pm.
My brother came home the following week, but he did nothing to alleviate my fears, in fact he made it worse. The university course he had chosen included Astronomy, and he was able to explain to me, in great detail, the significance of these solar flares. Nothing was proven as yet as to whether this was just a passing phenomenon, or the beginning of the death of our sun.
By mid July the daily temperature was just over 100f, I didn’t go outside anymore, it was just too unbearable and I became a recluse in my room with the curtains pulled. I could still talk to my friends on the computer, but the topic of conversation was always the same. Was this really Armageddon? It said in the Bible didn’t it that the end of the world would be ‘fire from the heavens’.
The newspapers no longer carried the headlines “The end of the world is nigh” it was way past idle speculation that could later be passed off as a joke. This was fast becoming reality, and no one needed to be reminded that the human race was in grave danger of extinction.
Mum told me that the army now patrolled the supermarkets, rationing people to small amounts of milk as the cows were dying in vast numbers across the country. Meat was rare and expensive for the same reasons, as was vegetables and bread. Nothing would grow without water, and it was no longer allowed to be used for growing crops. Fish appeared to be the only commodity not yet affected, but that would be only a matter of time before the seas dried up. Already the levels were dropping despite the Artic ice shelf having completely melted.
My dad was working abroad and I overheard mum talking to him on the phone one evening. They were discussing whether he should come home. I could hear the anxiety in mum’s voice, which she valiantly kept from us. He evidently didn’t think the situation was as bad as the media made out, and decided to continue working where he was unless things got really bad. How bad did he want them to get for heavens sake?
People began to stop going to work in ever increasing numbers; it was impossible to carry on a job in the heat, even with air conditioning. The countries work force was grinding to a halt, which had a knock on effect. The government had to do something, and hatched a plan that would get us back to some sort of normality and reduce the risk to us from the rising radiation levels. They decided to turn the day around; people would go to work, school, shops or whatever they did in the day accept now they would do it at night. The day was for sleeping, if that was at all possible. So the school’s re-opened at 9pm until 4am, shops from 9pm until 7am, and the working day 9pm until 5am. It was so weird at first going to school as it was getting dark, the lights in the classroom continually on and breaks taken looking up at the stars. It was fun, a novelty and for the time being took our minds off the more serious problem facing life on earth.
It was November now, and the temperatures had dropped to 85f in the day, which was a welcome relief when you were trying to sleep. Maybe things were returning to normal? But I had to remind myself that this was winter and this was anything but normal temperature.
The polar ice had now completely gone, along with the polar bears and other artic creatures. In fact many species of animal life were becoming extinct, unable to cope with the changing climate and lack of water. The scientists observing the sun had noticed a change in its appearance, it was increasing in size and becoming what was known as a red giant in astronomical terms. This had happened to many suns in the universe as it began to finally burn the last of its fuel, devouring any neighbouring planets in the searing heat. They talked endlessly about what was happening on TV, held discussions and told us about the next stages in our inevitable destruction. I couldn’t bear to listen. There was nothing they could do to prevent this global catastrophe, other then evacuate the planet and take us all to another one whose sun was millions of years from dying. We all knew that wasn’t an option, and we were all destined to die sooner or later.
Why did it have to happen in my lifetime? Why did I have to be robbed of a normal life enjoyed by mankind for millions of years? I would never marry now ... never have children … never grow old. The tears I had shed so much recently had all dried up, like our earth. So what now, do we all just wait until we can no longer survive? I began to see that getting us to go to school was just a ploy to stop us panicking and pretend that there was a future for us. What was the point of it all? To take exams for qualifications that wouldn’t be needed, to learn about stuff that had no relevance to our lives. By January the numbers attending school had reduced dramatically, including the teachers and they were forced to close down, as was my brother’s university. As the temperature began to rise again we all dreaded the summer, how high would it go this year? Water was now limited to drinking water only, the stench from sewage and household waste was stifling. Decease became rampant due to the unsanitary conditions and people began to panic. Our built in instinct for survival came to the fore and slowly the government lost its grip on order resulting in looting and ugly riots as the population fought over food and buckets of water. This was it; this was the beginning of the end I thought wearily. I told mum to get dad home, I wanted us all to be together.
The power was cut off for several hours each day in an effort to save energy, so I could no longer use my fan to cool down. It was a vicious circle, the more hot you got the more you perspired. The more you perspired the more water your body needed. I began to feel dizzy and faint but only took a small amount of water; it had to be shared around the family.
Dad came home, and he and mum had long discussions behind closed doors. I could hear mum crying…but there was nothing we could do. My brother tried to comfort me, but he too was frightened. The TV news showed scenes worldwide of total ciaos, especially in the big cities. The death toll was rising daily and mass burials were taking place to keep infection down. We hardly went out now, the streets were unsafe and you were highly likely to be attacked and robbed of your small amount of shopping. The water pump outside was not topped up regularly, and when it did arrive there was a frantic scramble to get what we could, leaving it dry for days on end.
It was May now, and the sun blazed down relentlessly during the day sending temperatures over 140f. There was no end in sight as they predicted a weekly rise of two degrees. In other parts of the world, where it was usually hotter, it was bordering 200f and rising. The population in these countries had fallen dramatically, no one knew just how many still survived…if any.
Dad became ill, and we gave up our share of water to help him. I began to have visions of all my family dying and leaving me on my own to fight for life, eventually dying, alone and frightened. Discussions about suicide crept into my conversations with my brother, he was thinking along the same lines as me. We talked about how we would do the deed, who would go first and above all …when. It was not something we were seriously contemplating at the moment, neither of us had the nerve. Although there would come a time, in the not so distant future, when it would have to be discussed with greater sincerity. It is difficult to share my thoughts right now, how do I feel? What am I thinking? To be honest I feel dead inside. I cannot hope for an end to this misery because there is no hope. It is not something that can be fixed, cured or will improve in time. We are all going to die ... it is as simple as that. How is up to us to choose.
June the first and my dad passed away last night, in a way he was the lucky one. We were upset of course, but also resentful, that he had left us alone to cope. There was only one TV station still in operation and it came on air at midnight every day. I don’t know why I bothered to watch it, it wasn’t exactly
encouraging news. The government were now talking about issuing tablets to every household, suicide pills to put you to sleep when you could no longer carry on living. I thought it was a good idea, a way out, just to go to sleep and never wake up. I went outside and lay down on the ground, staring up at the clear night sky and its twinkling stars. For a while I remembered how it used to be, the cool green grass beneath me on a warm summer evening. The perfume of mum’s flowers drifting on the breeze, and the birds singing the evening chorus in the leafy trees. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to wake up from this nightmare and realise it was all a bad dream? I pinched myself hard to make sure… but it was really happening. Rolling over on to my stomach I took a handful of the dry dust and let it trickle through my fingers. The air smelt of smoke from numerous fires that raged in dead woodland, together with the stench of death. I thought about the human race, soon to be extinct. Would another civilisation out there in space ever know we existed? There would be no trace our planet left after it was consumed by the sun, exploding into a billion fragments and scattered throughout the universe. Maybe some little microbe would survive, a seed perhaps that would one day live again on another planet and begin the whole process of evolution all over again. A comforting thought … a hope for the future.
Today it reached 180f at midday. The hard plastic window frames began to buckle in the heat causing the glass to shatter, letting in the hot air. There was only a small bottle of water left for the three of us until the next delivery…if it ever came. Mum had taken to her bed and was slowly fading away, she refused to take any water from us and I knew she had given up. The house next-door caught fire and burnt to the ground in minutes. The four occupants took shelter in the house next to theirs, whose elderly owners had died two weeks ago. The TV station closed down ...we were on our own now. Their last promise before they went off air was fulfilled and a plain brown envelope containing 6 pills was delivered to our house.
My brother and I looked at the small insignificant white tablets inside. Cyanide? Who cared, as long as it was quick and painless.
“When shall we do it?” he asked avoiding my eyes. I shrugged my shoulders, when is a good time to die? We decided to wait a little longer and placed the packet on the kitchen table next to the water bottle.
The water in the bottle slowly diminished until at the end of the week there was a mouthful left for each of us. We both knew how we would use that last mouthful. Mum died peacefully in her sleep and I think that was the moment we decided to join her.
Together hand in hand, we climbed the stairs clutching the bottle of water and the pills. Mum still lay on her bed and we sat beside her in silence. Tears started to flow as he undid the packet and handed me one of the pills. Then he unscrewed the cap of the water bottle and offered me the first…and last sip of water we would ever have. I put the tablet on my tongue and swallowed it with the water without hesitation. He did likewise. We stared at one another for a moment before putting our arms around each other in a tight embrace. We didn’t let go, we held on until we could no longer control the overwhelming tiredness that engulfed us and the world’s lights finally went out for all eternity...
Most Recommended Comment
huntsville, Alabama, United States