The bells called in quick succession but I couldn’t break through the fog closing around my thoughts. Recognition of the shrill tone hung just out of reach. Turning restless from side to side I cracked an eye to Sophie’s shadowed outline, her gentle breath rolling in my direction. I willed the unrelenting tone to pull back as cotton wool clouds of merlot stung at my brain. With the noise unrelenting I pulled up the cover, exposing my bare chest to the chill air. The phone downstairs snapped into focus.
Sophie stirred and I quickened my pace with my eyes widening to collect every morsel of light. The boards reported each step to the hallway. Silently cursing, I could hear the twins moving in their beds as I tried to soften each placement. They would be up early tomorrow no matter what and I had promised to take my turn to feed them whilst trying not to sink into a slumber as they watched cartoons so Sophie could sleep away the struggles of last year.
The stairs screamed with my weight, cracking and calling with every placed foot. I cursed the caller, rage built in my chest for fear of Sophie hearing the loud complaint of the wood. Still the shrill call rang through the night as I hurried to silence its shout in the vain hope I wouldn’t need to start my promised care for the children any earlier than I knew was inevitable. Not waiting to land at the bottom step, I whipped up the receiver. Thankful when the stinging halted its resonation in my head.
Taking a moment to bask in the silence, I barely took note of the woman’s voice on the other end of the line. Putting the round of the receiver to my ear, I could tell from her tinny voice she was pre-recorded, reading from a script and wouldn’t listen to the tirade I’d been planning with every footfall. Still when the message went by in an instant, surprise was my first thought when her only reply to my silence was to repeat the same message for a second time, then a third when I shook my head still confused in the darkness. It was only when she spoke for a fourth and final time did I put the words together and sigh with relief, shaking my head and huffing air out to the prank call.
I held the silence to my ear for longer than I should have before I looked around the dark hallway just to make sure nothing seemed out of place. I replaced the receiver with care and planted my foot to the second step, pausing as I rolled the woman’s voice though my head once more.
Regretting the rattle of my brain, I dropped back down, moving into the living room and pulled back the curtains only to shake my head even harder as I stared out into the pitch darkness of the road and the hill opposite. Leaving the curtain to the side, I climbed the stairs with the rolling voice already disappearing from my head. Listening outside the girl’s door, I heard only their gentle breath and I stepped back into our room to stare to the space calling beside my wife. My eyes already falling heavier as the prank call had all but gone from my mind.
With careful steps I slowed my chest, looking to the red digits on the clock. The leading two told me I had at least four hours to sleep away the growing pressure in my head. Passing the shrouded window I pulled back the covers, but before I could slip back into the warmth I paused, teasing the heavy curtains to the side. Squinting my eyes, I sought to reassure myself of the late night trick.
Light greeted me from the horizon. My eyes grew wider at the village over the hill lit up like it was early evening. The neighbours to the left and right, their houses only visible from the first floor, were burning electricity like they were partying into the night, despite having said they would be in bed seconds after leaving through our door. My eyes stung at the corners as they lingered on what I thought for a moment could be slow shadows moving in the road.
Heavy lids blinking, I only just opened them from their fall, despite all appearances I’d kept them closed. Greeted with only the moon’s light, the town lay bathed in utter darkness as if it had vanished before my eyes. The neighbour’s lights had fallen too and the first words of the message flashed in my mind. There was only a few minutes of power left.
She’d repeated the words four times to make sure I’d heard. I could feel the beat of my heart rise. If that part was true then perhaps all her words had meaning. I turned from the window, letting the curtain fall and watched the dull, blank digits of my bedside clock. Watched Sophie’s breath as it came out in slow rolls, then deep pulls as her eyes widened in alarm with my shouts for her to wake, for her to get out of the bed so we could evacuate.
From the world of In The End
COULD YOU SURVIVE THE END OF CIVILISATION?
What if you woke to find the electricity off, the internet down and the streets deserted? What if you were forced to run for your life, no longer top of the food chain? What if the government had no interest in keeping you alive? Those around every corner were intent on hunting you down, but you’d found a reason to struggle on, a new meaning to this life?
Meet Logan. That’s me. The first to believe the world had changed forever. The first to urge our friends to run. The first to kill, but not the first victim. I was the first to see for myself as nature bent before my eyes. With death surrounding, getting ever closer, they looked to me for answers.
Can Logan overcome his fears and find what it takes to get them all to safety, or will it be the end for humanity?
In The End is the debut novel from GJ Stevens, a compelling apocalyptic thriller that will leave you breathless, immersing you in their fight for survival.