Peter walked around the many bodies that lay dead on the street – little pools of blood encircled their heads where they had made contact with the concrete. Cars had mounted the pavement, smashing through shop windows – leaving a trail of corpses and shopping strewn over the pavement. One pedestrian, his whole upper body in the lap of the driver, his legs jutting out from the wide gap where the windscreen had once been. Other vehicles came to a stand-still in the road – the drivers slumped over the wheel. One four by four had the two adults dead in the front, with their young offspring in the back, lifeless in their kiddie seats like two rag dolls.
People died in the shops – some draped over clothes rails – others slumped in chairs waiting for their loved ones to come out of the changing room modelling a potential acquisition.
In restaurants, heads were at acute angles, their owner’s eyes staring at the ceiling, or were pressed hard against tables or dropped into plates like a large boulder that had fallen into a small pond – the contents of the plate oozing out from around the offending object or splattering the table cloth like a madman with a paintbrush.
Peter was middle-aged. His hair had receded leaving a thin patch on top and strips of hair on the sides, so he shaved it off – preferring his head shaved; he felt it looked good with his toned muscular body that he was very proud of and always admiring in the mirror. The description of “a bit of a loner” had been tagged on him by his doting Mum when being described to her bowling club friends. “He enjoys his own company,” she would say. The truth of the matter was that he enjoyed nothing more than walking in the beautiful English outdoors for hours at a time on his own, “being at one with nature” he would always tell his few work colleagues when he returned from holiday.
He worked in IT support. There were only a few of them in their department, of which, there were only one or two people he really connected with. The thought of being shut away in an office all day with people he had nothing in common with filled him with dread, so he took any opportunity or made every excuse to work from home, where he could be all on his own.
One of the town’s public houses was beckoning, so he decided to stop off for a pint – taking his time to look at the various ales on tap before sliding through behind the bar and pulling himself a pint, holding up the glass with amber coloured beer topped with a thin line of froth, “Cheers!” he announced out loud.
He reached down for a packet of cheese and onion crisps and went and found an empty seat, carefully stepping over the bodies to avoid spilling any of his beer. He sipped at his beer and leant back in the comfy chair resting his head on the padded head rest. He closed his eyes, aware of his slow, rhythmic breathing. He could hear the blood rushing through his head. This was bliss, just him and no one else to bother him – no noise from loud speaking people or annoying ring tones, he thought to himself. After about an hour in the pub, he decided he would get some food before leaving the town for the two hour walk back to his home. He found an Italian restaurant, which was one of his favourites, and went into the kitchen and tossed himself a steak on the still-burning hob – grabbed some potatoes and veg from the large pots before taking his seat among the dead diners.
He took his time over his food, savouring every bite.
A woman, on a table opposite, out for a meal with her husband, he guessed, caught his eye. Her head was thrown back – the skin on her neck stretched tight like a snare drum. While chewing his food, he slowly let his eyes scan the woman’s features – her long dark hair, smooth slender neck, her breasts pushed tightly against her white shirt – a flash of black brazier could be seen through the gap between the stressed buttons.
When he had finished his main meal, he decided he would round it off with a coffee, so he made his way to where the coffee-maker was. He stopped opposite the woman and looked at her. He felt an uncontrollable excitement run through his body – a fluttering in his stomach, his heart raced and he felt his dick awaken within his boxer shorts. He moved closer to the woman and gently stroked her hair and carefully started to unbutton her shirt – his now swollen member felt uncomfortable in the restricted space – pressure sat in his forehead – he felt like he would ejaculate. He suddenly had a flashback to when, about a year ago, he ate in this same restaurant with his Mum, “No Peter!” he shouted, “what am I doing!” and he headed for the coffee-maker and helped himself to some fresh coffee that was still hot within the filter jug and poured himself one out, before returning to his table. After he had finished his coffee he sat still at his table, avoiding looking at the woman – his thoughts were punishing him, he felt ashamed – why did I touch the woman, am I some sort of weirdo, did someone see me, it would be on camera – “come on Peter, stop worrying, you haven’t done anything wrong,” he said to himself.
He left for home, his stomach full and walked back along the open country lane – not encountering many people, save a few dead joggers and dead people with their dead dogs – some still had the lead on. The sun was shining and he could not feel better.
After a few weeks at home and following the same routine every day, which was walking into town during the day and reading at night, he decided he would pack up and go for a holiday somewhere.
Cornwall, his favourite place, was the destination – the journey taken in one of the abandoned cars he had found – it was real fun having to drive off road in places to avoid the miles and miles of jammed cars.
When he arrived in Cornwall, he visited a few places offering bed and breakfast –having to kick in the front door to let himself in. They were not to his liking. Eventually he found himself a suitable one and signed in the visitors’ book, reached for a key behind reception and went and found the room.
He was in Cornwall for two weeks and he was enjoying the long scenic walks all on his own, but it had been two months since he last spoke to someone. He was starting to get edgy – constantly talking and arguing with himself. Before he used to find some of his best conversations was with himself – he could talk for ages without being interrupted or people getting bored – now he was finding he was disagreeing and arguing with himself over trivial matters – like the broad beans he cooked for himself being not quite done.
“I’m sure these broad beans aren’t cooked, no they’re fine, stop going on, they’re like bullets!” and he spat it out.
He sat there staring at the wall. His face unshaven, dark rings appeared around his eyes, like mascara – his high cheekbones were accentuated by the hollowness in his face. His hands were trembling. He reached for the remaining wine in the bottle and poured it out – the liquid only filled half the small glass. He swallowed the wine in one large gulp and went and helped himself to a whisky from the optics in the bar. He downed the drink in one.
“That’s better, right, I think I will go and relax on the bed and watch a bit of telly, don’t want to be too late getting to bed tonight, I want to be up early tomorrow, get myself out and do the coastal path again.”
The next day, he was up, nice and early – he felt quite refreshed and was looking forward to his walk – he opened the curtains which filled the room with bright light – the sun was full in the clear blue sky.
“What a beautiful day, right, let’s get some breakfast, and get out, make the most of it.”
He walked the coastal path – a feeling of hope was always with him that he would come across people, just to say hello. He stopped at the edge of the cliff – the white foamy waves crashed against the rock, the vastness of the sea dazzled his eyes. His chest felt tight, he struggled to breathe, his head felt like it would explode from the pressure, the sky appeared to be pushing down on him; he could see large angry faces in the cliff.
“I’m going mad, I’ve got to get out of here!”
He ran as fast as he could along the uneven path, losing his balance and falling over – grazing his knee and elbow. When he finally reached his hotel, he threw everything into his suitcase, not taking a shower, and headed straight for the car and sped off as quickly as he could. He had to get back home to his familiar routine which he was happy with.
The feeling of relief was immense when he finally arrived back home and shut the door after him. He started to read again and went into town for new books. He felt happy again, but the dreams started to come back of the times when he was with the people that he loved and got on with – his Mum, his only best friend; he missed their calls and talking to them on the phone and their e mails.
He was starting to go mad. The magnitude of being the only person left alive filled him with a deep anxiety that he just couldn’t rid himself of. He could be out in the vast open space of fields and trees but he would be suddenly gripped with panic that everything was closing in on him – the clouds appeared to be all around him, so that it was like walking through a thick fog, the large trees would bend their thick trunks – pointing their long limbs at him when he walked by and looked at him with angry faces, the grass would wind itself up his legs.
When sitting in the security of his own house, the walls would move in and the ceiling would gradually drop down so that he was convinced he was becoming trapped in a tomb-like room with no way of getting out.
Eventually he could not stand it anymore. He went into the garden and hung himself with a bit of old rope.
Months before, he had had a strange encounter with an old woman while out walking and he got talking to her and she said to him, “if there is any wish that could come true what would it be?” and he had said, “to live completely on my own without anybody around.”
He obviously did not expect it to come true to the scale he had witnessed – he would have been happy to have been alone, maybe, when he clicked his fingers, when he felt like being alone, not all the time.
Be careful what you wish for …
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