Lauren Bell: The Beginning of the End!

The news was full of it. Unidentified blue object falls from the sky. I turned the TV up, not sure whether I had heard correctly. The newsreader hadn’t got a clue what was going on, his large vacuous eyes like plates wiped clean, but he went along with the script anyway.

‘Reports on Dover beach confirm this blue object dropped from the sky.’

Here, the screen revealed a simple picture of what appeared to be a turquoise stone sitting on sand. It didn’t really look that unusual so why all the fuss? Cut to wind-swept reporter on beach, his trench coat billowing around him like some giant cloak of darkness.

‘At approximately ten past two this afternoon, this blue object fell from the sky on to Dover beach. Eyewitnesses claim it literally fell out of nowhere, and one woman has even hailed it as the beginning of the end.’

This is ridiculous, I thought. The stone or rock or whatever it is could have come off something, a bit of shrapnel soaring through the air which appeared to have fallen from the sky. Simple.

‘Besides’, I muttered aloud, ‘we’ve got more pressing things to worry about. Namely, the widespread drought we’re currently in the midst of leading paranoid citizens to stock up on obscene amounts of bottled water!’

I inhaled deeply and surveyed the fifty or so bottles currently holed up with me. Fifty bottles wasn’t that much when you considered how long a drought lasts. And where the hell had Mikey got to? He went to the supermarket hours ago. I exhaled quickly, expelling the air from my lungs and the thoughts tearing around in my brain.

It felt good to get everything out in the open; it made things truer somehow, more real.

Just then, Mikey ploughed through the front door, tumbling into the living-room like a man half-cut. His cheeks flushed pink with the effort.

‘Ross, man, you gotta come down to the supermarket quick. The whole town’s gone bloody mad!’

‘They went mad ages ago. What are they fighting over now? Who’s going to cadge the last baguette?’

‘No seriously. There’s hardly any bottled water left! They’re like bloody maniacs though I managed to swag these.’

Mikey disappeared with his flyaway hair into the hall and around the corner. Cue – the rustling of several plastic bags. He returned a minute later with half a dozen bags fit to bursting.

‘Is that all water?’ I asked.

‘Yep. I had to be fast though. There was this old granny and usually you think they’re harmless old dears. Not this one, though. No siree. She was mental, Ross, bloody wild, clawing her way through the crowd with her old crone hands. I’m sure one of her nails touched me.’ At this, he shuddered violently. ‘And you should have seen her – picking up four or five packs at a time.’

‘So, the old woman was strong and wanted bottled water? Big deal.’

‘Ross, you would not be talkin’ like that if you’d have been there. She cackled like a witch too!’

I rolled my eyes.

‘And did she have two children locked away in her cottage located deep in the woods called Hansel and Gretel?’

‘Piss off, man!’ He paused for a moment, his face lined with deep concentration. ‘Though, she did start spouting some shit about this being the beginning of the end. Of course no-one responded but we heard her all right.’ He suddenly went quiet, his mouth closing like a Venus fly trap savouring its meal. In a much quieter voice, he said, ‘And you know something? I’m starting to think she’s right.’

‘Mikey please,’ I said, and picked up a six-pack of Evian. ‘Just because bottled water is dwindling doesn’t mean Armageddon is coming.’

‘It does when our water supply is contaminated with some flesh-eating bacteria, which in case you’ve forgot, Mr I-have-my-head-in-the-clouds, it is.’

Said like that…we really were in the shit.

*

Over the next few days, the world officially went mad. Mikey and I included. We sat inside our bottled water fortress counting each and every bottle stacked around us.

‘What do you make it, Mikey?’

‘One-fifty.’

‘One-fifty? More like two-twenty.’

‘Where did those extra seventy bottles come from?’

‘My imagination!’

‘Fuck you, Ross!’

‘Aw, come on, Mikey. Just messing. Nowt wrong with that.’

Mikey’s face took on a much deeper hue – not quite crimson yet not far off it.

‘We’re down to just one hundred and fifty bottles of water. What happens when we run out?’

‘We won’t.’

He shot me a look which said How so, Einstein?

‘We can always drink our piss.’

Mikey’s face fell.

‘No way, man. I’ll do anything but I won’t do that.’

‘Didn’t know you were a fan of Meatloaf.’

‘Be serious, Ross. We’re facing death here.’

‘We have one hundred and fifty bottles of water! I’d hardly call that facing death.’

‘I’d prefer it if we had two-twenty’, Mikey grumbled.

I moved out of my water bottle throne and switched the TV on. The news popped up.

Breaking news flashed across the screen – a carmine banner with milk-white words flooding the audience’s vision. Cue a montage of various British seaside resorts pitted with these as yet unnamed blue objects.

‘They actually look kinda nice,’ I said. ‘Like dragon’s eyes. Plus, they’ve done wonders for Western-Super-Mare. It looks less of a shithole –’

‘Dragon’s eyes? What the hell would you know about dragon’s eyes?’

I shrugged. ‘More than you, I bet.’

On the TV, the newsreader began speaking.

‘The South and West coasts have been hit the hardest with hundreds; yes hundreds of blue objects descending from the heavens. So far ten people have been admitted to hospital with what doctors call serious head injuries, although no-one has succumbed to these…yet.’

‘Did you hear that?’ Mikey screeched. ‘They’re talking about fatalities now! Death by unknown flying blue object. It’s madness.’

We sat in silence for a while, both of us chewing over the latest developments. I recalled the initial picture of the blue stone on the sand, and remembered how peaceful and charming it looked.

There was nothing to fear from them, was there?

‘So we’re safe here, inside our bottled water fortress?’ Mikey asked, his eyes like tiny glittering diamonds radiating hope.

‘Looks that way,’ I said. ‘Personally though, I don’t think these blue objects have a vendetta against the human race.’

‘No?’

‘Uh-uh.’

‘Well what do you think they’re for?’

‘I’m not sure but the news’ll keep us informed.’

*

And it did.

After another week had elapsed, Mikey and I were down to one hundred and twenty bottles of water. In another few weeks, we would be well and truly stuffed.

Mikey inclined his head towards the blank TV screen.

‘Do you think it’s time?’ he said.

I glanced at my watch. It was three thirty on a Saturday afternoon.

‘I don’t think it matters to be honest,’ I replied. ‘Would you like to do the honours?’

He flicked the switch and our ever familiar friend, the news, popped up. This time the breaking news story shed some much needed light onto the situation.

‘Scientists have now revealed the mystery behind these blue stones, and folks, I think you’ll be surprised.’ The newsreader paused while everyone at home sat on the edge of their water thrones (or equivalent). ‘Our experts have confirmed these stones harbour the gift to bestow water on their owners. Those who take one into their home will never be without water again.’

‘Come again?’ Mikey said. ‘Did I hear that right?’

‘I heard that whoever takes a stone into his or her house is never without water again.’

A pause ensued as Mikey allowed the words to fully sink in. Then, ‘That’s what I heard. It’s gotta be a joke, right?’

The TV screen depicted an overcrowded Dover beach with hundreds of people scrambling about. The camera panned in on one freckled boy’s face; his eyes the colour of the waves, his tongue stuck out in an act of complete meditation. This was quickly followed by a close up of an old woman whose skin had lost its elasticity years ago. Her teeth looked like rotten pieces of cheese and I imagined her breath to be a whole lot worse.

‘Holy shit!’ Mikey screeched, reeling back in his plastic bottle throne. ‘That’s her, Ross.’ He jabbed a finger at the screen.

‘Who?’

‘The old crone in the supermarket. The one who clawed her way through the crowd with those nasty nails.’

He shuddered again.

‘Oh…her,’ I said and watched as she shoved one of the blue stones in the cameraman’s face, cackling evilly. ‘God Mikey, you were right. She is a witch.’

‘And she’s got one! Look at her. She looks like all her birthdays have come at once.’ Suddenly, Mikey jumped to his feet. ‘Come on, man. What are you just sittin’ around for? They’re gonna bleed the beach dry if we’re not careful. We have to go NOW.’ He gestured to the reduced stacks of bottled water around us. ‘These babies aren’t gonna last forever. We go down now while it’s still light. You grab one. I grab one. We get outta there pronto before some loon tries to get fresh with us.’

I got to my feet. Despite all the hysteria on Dover beach, Mikey was talking sense.

‘You make it sound as though we’re about to pull a bank job!’

‘Hey, this stone is precious. It means survival.’ And with that he grabbed his jacket, pulled on his shoes and practically yanked the door off its hinges. ‘Come on man, let’s get going.’

‘Alright, alright, I’m coming. Jeez!’

*

Inside Ross and Mikey’s house, the news report continued.

‘…important announcement people. Scientists confirm that only one blue stone should be brought into any one home. I repeat one blue stone per household. Failure to do so will result in what can only be best described as the beginning of the end…’

black tree

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Photo by Tomek Dzido