Apocalypse Poet

Author: Jae 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.

13 Comments

  1. djl

    Nice. It doesn’t follow you’d be sole survivor – lots of leesides of hills, lots of rural boltholes, even bomb-proof Worthing!

    • Jae

      Thank you.

      Oh, not the sole survivor of the blast. Sole survivor (in that area) of the aftermath.

  2. Clapboard

    This made me sad. Sad sad. Good story tho

  3. SimonJM

    Just plain sodding good 🙂

  4. kohlersc

    As per usual, I quite enjoyed your writing. I did get tripped up by the names for a moment since it was coming up on the destruction and one of the girls names was China going to London.

    • Jae

      Thank you.

      I was hoping leading with China in pairing with Grace would get past that. Hey ho, another lesson in clarity. 🙂

  5. Hari Navarro

    I’ve always found the post-apocalypse world rather enticing. That fanciful notion of being alone, being answerable to no one, and not having the pressure of acceptance or having ones work accepted would be radiation riven bliss – up until the agonizing internal bleeding and septicemia set in that is.

  6. xdhz8

    Very nice. Really like the concept of an “apocalypse poet” and the originality of having lines bookend the piece.

  7. OlgaH

    A lovely story. Only one flaw, Hove is in East Sussex (source, am a Hovian!)

    • Jae

      Thank you.

      No need to source it; I live in Worthing!

      This is a fine example of why a writer needs proof readers. Some things will just evade your scrutiny of your own work, no matter how many times you check it (seventeen times, in this particular case).

    • Jae

      And now fixed, as it was such a glaringly stupid error.

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