Author: Julian Miles, Staff Writer
Do you see the snow as it gently falls?
Can you feel the frost as it climbs the walls?
How do you feel now our world is gone?
Why did you leave us to carry on?
Well, ‘us’ may be a bit of a stretch, but ‘me’ is too cliché. After all, I have the critique of future readers to consider. Whatever they may be.
Excuse me. I’m Giles Rapson Drew, car salesman, stock trader, poet, husband, father, and – of late – childless widower. I’m also the sole inhabitant of Hove in East Sussex, formerly a town, currently an expanse of icy rubble on the southern coast of what used to be Great Britain.
In truth, the only things I was ever good at were writing and being a father. But the pressures of life and career made writing a secondary thing, for odd moments snatched from the month. After all, whoever made money at writing stuff if they didn’t get lucky?
A world heading for peace at last. That’s what we were told. The Moscow Accords, the Pyongyang Treaty, the Pacific Alliance; things were settling nicely.
I still don’t entirely understand what went wrong. Some lunatic I shared a bolthole with raved about ‘legacy automated systems’ left over from the Cold War: never updated and so hair-trigger they would activate even if the missiles they detected were part of a different war.
Whatever happened, it happened too fast for anyone to prepare for. On the Thursday before Christmas, Sandra took China and Grace to shop in London. When the newsflashes started, I couldn’t associate the pillars of white light and rings of fire with a place where my wife and twin daughters had been listening to carol singers and looking forward to meeting Santa. By the time I finished screaming, Europe was aflame. Whimpering, I ran through the house, pulling on coats and overboots, then hurled myself down the garden, levered the padlock off the abandoned power substation and threw myself into the gullies under the rusting machinery.
The blast obliterated Brighton and, but for our place being on the lee side of a hill, would have ended me too. As it is, I staggered out into a world I didn’t recognise and swiftly fell into a semi-feral existence that lasted for quite a while.
Since then, I’ve scavenged. I think it’s no more than three years since the world ended. I see no indication of any other outcome. To pass the time, I write. A stationer on Church Road had a storage room converted from a World War II bomb shelter. It’s got a steel door, air vents, passable drainage, and is filled with paper and pens. An army surplus store up the hill had similar but smaller facilities loaded with dried food and other survival sundries, all of which I’ve dragged here.
Outside, it’s an empty, quiet world. I see crows and foxes, but little else bar a rather aggressive variety of giant cockroach which seems to have done for the rat population and most other small creatures.
There’s a candle under an upturned flowerpot heating the room. I’m bundled in blankets and surrounded by paper: on my left, blank. To the right, written upon. I have become quite prolific.
Here I sit in this hellish survival,
Waiting for sign of humanity’s revival,
In a place that’s not big enough to hold my sorrow,
I still wish my girls would come home tomorrow.