International Writers Magazine: Afterwards
telephones work without a receiver or base station without a transmitter.
Those hollow floating satellites alone like dead fish in a bowl. Down
here our moneys not good enough, not anymore. Although its
everywhere, its hard to keep count when someones shouting
louder than you are.
Life (in a nuclear winter)
And the skies
above the City bleed down upon the earth its overcast haze. Quiet
below, sinking beneath the mist, a stale darkness pervades. With
streets aloof, atom-bomb atonic. Red
flashing twelve oclocks light a humming wave of out-of-order
signs and sequential blinking green men below the anodised phosphorescent
burn of street lighting. The City was a sin atoned, realising their
related misery to leave panic a take-over. The glitch in its life
cycle; an axe in an itch frenzy; a scratch within an embrace of
power. In this fair City.
Their numbers are meaningless with no computers left to account and credit
cards work better as lock picks for door jams.
CDs instil digital music we can subscribe to and, instead, are left
to collect coffee rings and dust ingrained. Our memories are wiped of
a virus we contracted, installed upon our brains by the programmers of
Media hungry obsessives counting their calorie intake between soap
operas and reality TV because thats what theyre told
to do. Watching what they eat, while someone else is eating it for them
on TV, putting on the pounds they shake off with supplements and silicone
and sedatives and cell phone headsets.
This death mask face of fear and contentment, of toxins and Botox that
exfoliate and suffocate your aura of where you know yourself. Remembering
words you heard on a commercial to a tune you recognise from somewhere
else in another voice, like a fairy tale that actually makes you think
about avoiding bridges and woods and bears and wolves and sweets and strangers
and people you met at lunch.
Its all gone, everyone and everything you hate about the world is
a memory you cant forget. People that sat next to you at work or
on the train, who watched the same soaps as you and used the same deodorant
and said the same words as you, were still there but are now silent and
smelling and idle and still not doing anything, anymore. Just like you.
Youre all dead now. You and everyone else around you.
Your cars; your homes; your designer clothes with someone elses
name sewed into the hem; your jewellery and face creams; shampoos and
conditioner; your LCD, high definition, wide screen, flat screen, hard
drive, digital TV ready revolution are all for nothing; it all belongs
to someone else who doesnt exist.
Your loans; your debts and credit cards, with zero percent transfer fees
on new purchases for stuff you never really wanted or needed anyway; your
lottery winning tickets; scratch cards and online Bingo accounts; your
saved games and mobile phone books; SD cards full of friendly faces of
the dead; MP3 players loaded with illegal music tracks and shelves full
of burned DVDs and copyright infringements, all lost in the dust of a
All the power gone to the severed head of one man. All the survivors dead.
All of everything, suddenly nothing.
Thats the world you awake to this morning. This is your life. Your
alarm call is the sound of other peoples anti-burglar systems springing
to life when theres no one left around to break in.
You hear this and think its Monday, its 12pm. Its too late.
Its quiet. Between screams, its silent. Yet the ringing in
your ears remains at exactly the same pitch.
If its Monday, then why was yesterday Tuesday? And why is it so
dark outside when its day? My world, why is it so different this
morning? Why is my Vodafone switched off when my stomach is still empty
and my bladder full?
Did I miss this on the news? Will I catch it again later, on the hour
or have to watch it again the next? Is my boss at work when I cant
get a dial tone? Or will his voice mail take a message? Will the food
in my freezer still be okay if I reheat it? Will the best-before date
still count? Will my statutory rights still be unaffected?
The coffee is still freeze-dried but the water isnt working and
the gas is not lighting. So you eat it with a spoon from the jar next
to the kitchen window, counting the dead birds on your grey lawn. And
think that at least dinner is still fresh for those creatures that live
underground. Looking up at the sky but not seeing it through the smog.
Wishing you could flush the toilet as the smell is starting to get in
the room youre in. While you try to shave away a days worth
of stubble in front of a dull mirror because the lights dont work.
Turning the dial on the old portable radio, waiting for a signal but getting
nothing but elevator Muzak static in Dolby pro-logic.
Eating the food thats perishable over the sink, waiting for the
sky to clear so you can try the neighbours to check if theyre
dead yet and maybe if the car will start. Then getting dressed because
it passes the time, like waiting for a bus. And, trying the TV because,
at least, Jeremy Kyle will know what to do. Before going outside and finding
it difficult to breathe the cold air.
And, as youre
driving, everywhere else seems to be the same; so you drive, following
the road signs, but ignoring the cameras as they shoot out radar light
into the empty seeping fog.
your neighbours stiff in their beds and their IKEA furniture,
splayed out like the catalogue cover draped across the coffee table.
Blood sprays stencilled along the walls, which cover the colour
and scent of magnolia. And the food edible in their freezer. And
your car wont start but the one next door does. And this car
has better seats and a number one record on the TV and the boot
space is enough to almost fit a full size adult inside on top of
Maybe outside the City will be different. Somewhere in the Country there
will be clean air and people to breathe it. Maybe the next service station
wont be a graveyard tomb of roadside survivors and over-priced
meals that were reheated this morning just like you. And the hospitals;
theyre all we have to care for the dead, a mausoleum with back-up
generator flashing lights and pay and display meters, emptied by the hour.
Driving slowly past your office building to see if your space is clear
and your managers is, too. Wanting to stop in to check your emails,
but deciding not to, just in case the phone rings and its something
urgent you forgot to take care of yesterday.
Weaving through abandoned traffic into a free way. Traffic signals obeyed,
just slightly, as the junctions clear anyway. Rolling out into the
beginnings of nowhere, watching the needle fall and garages pass. Seeing
no one else alive. Waiting for the wait to end.
Shivering at the side of a deserted toll road or bus lane scared to death
of being alone or being attacked by savages, desperately forcing yourself
to urinate while theres still some fragment of light remaining.
Then realising, too late, that theres still a hefty breeze and your
dry-clean only trousers are now wet with piss and a huge amber sign behind
you flashes your number plate to anyone who cares to see that you are
Getting back in to the car and driving for miles; switching through the
radio station static airplay, searching for life apart from your own;
cursing yourself for not renewing your RAC membership or returning your
moms phone call; thinking back to that time when you passed up the
opportunity to run away from it all and back pack around Eastern Europe
with that hot Swedish girl you met on the train from work or that other
girl, Kristy, you cheated on with some slapper that you really didnt
like and, when she found out that look in her eyes made you feel the worst
you ever felt about anything. Even worse than this. That youd give
anything to go back and make it all right again; rewind the past to make
it present and make it count.
And colliding into the first person you see driving into the City. A lonely
girl, searching for someone else, anyone; another life to share with their
own miserable little existence and regrets. Your Soul-Mate. Head on.
And as your vital life signs dwell and peter out, the horn blares dwindle
with power and screaming dies out. The fog, it falls, and covers this
all over. Forever.
And, its all gone; this whole day and repressed memory of a life
worth faking. Of people and panic and the police and Councillors
all trying to flee their responsibilities and pass the buck to the trainee
below them or assistant that gets minimum wage for a short epitaph in
the future history books of another civilisation of nobodies.
Scientists, somewhere near the epicentre, destroying the data they worked
so hard to gather, all of them at gun point, tossing handfuls of
printed pages into black flaming metal bins wishing their wives and children
were still around to apologise to, while the women lay shackled to the
desks or research beds wired up to monitors that may keep them alive,
long enough to sell the rest of the world their secrets and breed forth
another bastard race of wannabes and dont wanna cares.
Everything that everyones ever done is gone and what a waste of
time and effort and energy it all was; all that time and money you spent
on psychiatrists and therapy and cosmetic enhancements or adjustments;
all those nights you lay awake and worried about the present, past and
future; of the people you loved and lost and couldnt really give
a shit about, was all for nothing; a complete and utter waste of life
Those wish lists and life assurance; mortgage indemnities and cash back
schemes; pensions and futures, stocks and mergers; that private clutch
of porn magazines and dirty pictures you had hidden away in an innocent
looking file, somewhere on your computers hard drive at home or,
maybe, at work.
The war on terror, finally given a crushing blow, is terrorised and terrified,
as theyre all dead, too. For real this time; not just hunched beneath
some bunker or cave somewhere, lying on the white tile floor of a cell
or buried alone in an unmarked grave.
The seven wonders of the ancient world and top twenty places to
see before you die or things you should do before youre thirty;
all the myths and dangers about travel and people that have done it all
have nothing more to prove, except, maybe theyre death was, somehow,
worse than yours; was much more painful and traumatic experience which
they should be congratulated on or documented or, probably even, compensated
Everything else is left to the worms to re-inherit or dolphins to reclaim;
cockroaches, mice and the vermin left on the earth as it spins in its
orbit all have the last laugh on a mankind that left it all to chance
and missed the deadline by a knats hair.
Religion and wonder, science fiction and fantasy are all just titles of
books of a race left to ruin; your Gods and sorcery and super-computers
and secret surveillance societies and political conspiracies; they all
still exist but are lost to the cause of something much more mundane and
hollow, like reality.
This birds eye view of total desolation and complete annihilation
lingers in the senses just long enough to feel the pinch of some once
felt emotion that might have been regret. Floating higher, now, flying
lighter toward the empty sun suspended above Heaven and God and everyone
whos ever prayed and now its all but gone.
The sky above the City bleeds down upon the earth its overcast haze. Quiet
below, sinking beneath the mist, a stale darkness pervades.
© Mark Robinson
need your help. My wife; shes cheating on me. There, it was
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