Final Call

Cell phones all over the country simultaneously shrilled that morning. Residents quickly scanned the emergency alert, and then raced to gather their family members, and prepare. Meanwhile, in the national forest, there was no cell phone access…..

That was part of the prompt for the Spring running of the 24-Hour Short Story Contest, which I still enter occasionally. As usual I didn’t win, but had fun anyway with the effort below..


Cell phones across the country, across the world, simultaneously shrilled. People across the country, across the world, raced to check their screens. And across the country, across the world, hearts sank.

It was Judgement Day.

The Judgement Day App had been a recent Church innovation, an attempt to connect with its congregation in the new digital age. They reckoned that a world that demanded to be notified instantly whenever a Royal had a baby, or a celebrity couple had a break-up, or a friend simply had a meal, would be keen to be told if ever the last day arrived, if only so that they could comment on the fact on Twitter.

And the church had been right. Their flock had flocked to download the App, then had promptly forgotten about it. Until this morning, when the App had chirped out its tinny version of Roy Orbison’s “It’s Over”.

At first there was panic, and weeping, and gnashing of teeth. Then the whole human race seemed to heave a collective sigh and, as is our way, just got on with life.

In surveys a surprising number of people say that, if told that the world was about to end, they would have sex. In practice this did not happen, because the same surprising number of people found that facing the end of the world is actually a bit of a turn-off. Millions of pairs of co-workers did kiss, though, finally acknowledging long-held deep mutual attachment. Others gleefully handed in their notice, their bosses being invited to stick their jobs in a variety of improbable places. Impromptu street parties broke out. Selfies were posted of people burning their bucket lists. Others went to fulfil long-held secret ambitions, so tattoo parlours found middle-aged queues at their doors. Ex-smokers begged cigarettes from friends and took long inhalations of nicotine, then went into coughing fits that nearly turned them inside out, reminding them of why they had become ex-smokers in the first place. A man just waking from a life-saving operation swore violently, as did a woman who just the day before had won the State Lottery. A dying millionaire, on the other hand, laughed heartily at the now gloomy heirs gathered around his hospital bed. A group nearing the top of Everest increased their pace, determined to reach the summit before the end came. A man went onto eBay and bid four million dollars for an electric kettle, just for the laugh. The Wikipedia entry for “Judgement Day” was changed to read, simply, “Game Over”. A new Facebook page urged people to download “Michelle” so that the Beatles would have the last ever number one, cementing their place as the world’s best ever band. Many people put on their best clothes. The English patiently began to queue.

Wars across the globe came to a halt, there suddenly seeming to be little point. The New York Stock Exchange kept going, though, a fiscal version of the dance band on the Titanic.

The Mannings knew nothing about any of this. The husband and wife had headed off into the national forest the evening before and spent the day hiking, while the gentle hum of the insects, the soothing gurgle of the river, and the soft crunch of their boots on the pathway drowned out the distant blast of trumpets, and the crack of doom, and the reading out of a very, very long list.

They camped again that night, and next morning they rose, packed up their tent, and hiked out of the forest to the ranger station. To their surprise it was deserted. They wandered around the car-park for a while, calling “hello?”, hearing only the valley calling “hello?” back.

“This is crazy,” said Manning. “I want to return the machete he lent -“

He was walking as he said this, and moved briefly into a pocket of cell coverage.

His cell-phone began to play “It’s Over”.

“Well, that’s not good,” said his wife.

“It’s worse,” he said, looking down at the phone. “The message is from yesterday.”

“You mean everyone is gone?”

“Looks like it,” he said. “It’s just us now.”

They stared at each other for a long time. “What are we going to do?” she asked, eventually.

Manning looked around, and took in the silence, and the solitude, and the idyll of the forest that stretched out before him, like the world’s best garden. Some primeval memory stirred inside him, something passed directly down to him through ancestors beyond number, generations of ancestors going back to the beginning of the world itself. He smiled at his wife, Eve, and took her hand.

“We’ll have to start the human race again,” said Adam. “It’s a family tradition.”



3 thoughts on “Final Call

  1. prenin

    Bloody good work tin! 🙂 ❤

    You may not have won the competition, but I fully enjoyed it all and the twist at the end!!! 🙂 ❤

    Blessed Be my friend!!! 🙂 ❤



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