Tag Archives: Judgement Day

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..

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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.”

 

 

Lest You Be Judged

*

There’s no book. I found this disappointing. I believe in tradition, and on Judgement Day there should be a book. A Book, in fact.

Instead, when I reached the top of the queue God flicked through a filing-cabinet, held up a sheet of paper and looked me in the eye.

“Your sins,” he said.

I looked at the sheet.

“That doesn’t look too bad,” I said.

God lifted it higher. It turned out to be like that old computer-paper. Sheet after sheet unfolded, the whole thing stretching out like the toilet-roll after the Andrex puppy has run away with it, leaving the kid sitting on the toilet yelling to his mum.

When it finished God was visible only from the waist up, his lower half looking like a Jane Austen heroine sitting down in a ball-gown.

“Bloody hell,” I said.

He started to read. White fibs, pulled pig-tails and knick-knocks filled the early pages. The teenage years featured smoking, underage drinking and desperately hoping to get off with girls, which God said qualified as “coveting thy neighbour’s ass”. The adult pages mentioned tax returns with small “errors” – he actually made the quotation-marks sign with as fingers as he said this -, speeding, and a hatred of the song “The Fields Of Athenry”.

The list seemed to go on forever, which unfortunately we had. Eventually, though, he reached the very last line.

“Swearing,” he said, “by saying the words “bloody hell” while standing in front of the Lord.”

“Hang on, that doesn’t count,” I said. “If this is Judgement Day then the contest is over. Adding stuff on now would be like the judges giving an ice-skater a load of 5.8s, and then changing them to 4.1s because she slipped onto her bum on the way off the ice.”

God considered my argument. God saw that it was good.

“Very well,” he said. “We’ll work with what we’ve got. What do you have to say for yourself?”

“The Devil made me do it,” I said.

“Get stuffed,” said the Devil, who I hadn’t noticed sitting behind God, like the other bidder at an auction. “You can’t blame any of it on me. I was too busy starting wars to make sure that you farted on a crowded bus.”

“Have you any other argument to offer?” asked God.

“I’ve done some good things,” I said. “I’ve held doors open for people, I’ve given directions to lost tourists, I’ve put money in the collection-plate at mass – well, I never took any out, like my friend Jimmy used to do.”

“A bit feeble,” said God. “Anything really impressive?”

“I fought in the French Resistance,” I said.

“You were born in 1957,” said God.

“Ok,” I admitted. “I root for the French Resistance in war films.”

“That’s not enough.”

I knew when I was beaten. I began to gather up my worldly goods, ready for my trip down the Stairway From Heaven.

“Wait a sec,” said God, “you play the harp.”

“How did you know?” I said.

“I know everything,” said God.

“Yeah, right,” snorted the Devil. “The shape of the case he’s carrying is a huge clue, it’s probably not a ukulele.”

“You’re in, so,” said God.

“Really?” I said.

“Yes,” said God. “Since the invention of the bloody guitar no-one plays the harp anymore. I’m running out of angels.”