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Extremely Bad Luck

Mike Pearce's picture

My first ever Oort-Cloud post and my first short story. Your feedback would be GREATLY appreciated!


Small green birds sat on the branch outside my window. They are completely still. The wind gently ruffles their feathers as they sit and stare. If I were a more paranoid man, I would say they are staring at me. But I'm not and they weren't. They were staring at the cat sitting underneath the tree licking his testicles.

I rise from my desk and make my way over to the window. The birds only notice me when I bang on the glass. They fly off in different directions and the cat stops its ablutions and looks my way. This is not an average morning. I don't have average mornings anymore. I wish I did. For me and the rest of humanity, average mornings stopped about 3 years ago. It all happened very suddenly; people started dying. Not in the way you're thinking either. People didn't start to perish after contracting some terrible disease. There was no zombie outbreak and nothing apocalyptic really happened -- well, except the TV preachers and evangelists, the alien conspiracy theorists and the hippies all predicting the end of the world in one way or another. No, it happened gradually. People were expiring as they normally did; heart attacks, car accidents, old age, falling from things, drowning, burning, suffocating, being shot, stabbed, strangled, falling in a peculiar fashion, anything that wasn't out of the ordinary really. They were just doing it in greater quantities than had ever happened before. Suddenly the hospitals were full of the terminally ill, if you went in for a toothache, you wouldn't leave without something that would be fatal. It wasn't that hospitals were contagious, it just seemed like the entire world was suffering from a terrible case of bad luck, it's often said that "luck is probability taken personally" if this is the case, then there was just about as much probability squirting about all over the shop than there has ever been at any time in earths history before and it was REALLY personal, about as personal as a finger up the arse.

I write this from my desk in my flat in London, in the UK. I haven't seen another living human for about eight months. I've seen plenty of dead ones. Well, I say 'seen'. I've smelt them and avoided the places where I think they might be decomposing, but I only see them by mistake. Ok, ok, what I'm trying to say is that dead bodies creep me out. They'd creep you out too given the circumstances.

The electricity and gas is still on, god knows how, or why -- I'm just so happy they are. It means I can exist. Existing is about all I do now. I've got to a stage where I can do it quite well. I go out every day, wander round a bit, find a car I've never driven and go for a drive. I've stopped looking for other survivors now, there aren't any. At least not in London.

Believing you are the only person alive on the whole planet is a difficult business.

I've also stopped obeying traffic laws. That took a long time to do. It's obvious to me now, but I was conditioned to obey traffic laws. I'd stop at red lights, junctions, crossings -- I know there would be no-one else coming and it was perfectly safe for me to go, but something stopped me; a moral obligation I suppose. Anyway, took me a couple of months but now I don't give a fuck, I drive where I like as fast as I like and don't stop for any big red signs.

I have a vast store of food and other supplies (even nappies, not sure why I brought them, maybe for my old age?). I knocked a hole though the wall into my neighbours' flat to store everything. It's all labelled and piled high. I've got enough food for the next 20 years I reckon. I've noticed that there is waaaay more livestock roaming the streets than there used to be. I mean, I saw a cow on the green the other day. I guess with no one to control it, nature is reclaiming what is rightfully hers. It does mean that as soon as I've found a library with a book describing how to kill and prepare a cow for eating and plucked up the courage to actually do it. I'll be able to have the freshest steak known to man, this man, me. Being as I think I might be the only one.

Well, I don't know that for sure. There could be others, I've just not found any, or any women for that matter, none of those about either and I could do with meeting one of those, I haven't been with a woman in about a year now. It's odd when I think back. When it was obvious that something was wrong, the people around me began procreating like there was no tomorrow. All over the place! At work, on the train, in the park. It was quite shocking. Now, I'm no prude, but I wasn't so sure what was going on and didn't want to start fucking if it meant that eventually I would expire from some fucking related malaise. So, I stayed indoors and watched it all from the TV. I'm used to watching people rut on my TV. I'm a writer anyway, I spend most of my days in front of this laptop creating for Joe Public. Although who that is now is anyone's guess. Anyway, I digress. There was much making of love by the good people of earth. Not that it did much good, as you can see -- everyone still died. But I guess they had a great time doing it!

Is this all too morbid for you dear reader? Well, too bad. I'm the judge, jury and executioner now. I'm also the doctor, lawyer, banker, dentist and street cleaner, actually, not so much of the street cleaning, there's not enough people to make a mess.

Anyway, I move away from the window and head into the bedroom, time to get dressed. As you can imagine, I've, ahem, purloined quite a few bits and pieces of clothing recently. It's not so much looting as I don't actually have to smash anything and I can't tell really if it's stealing either as there's no-one to actually steal things from. It's a moral enigma. Still, I try and avoid thinking about it as much as I can. If anyone mentions it in the future, I'll apologise and give it all back. I doubt anyone will come knocking though. I select a particularly fine pair of Armani jeans, my favourite t-shirt and this bad-ass pair of cowboy boots. I have to admit, I had these long before the world went to shit and they are FINE. My favourite footwear. My peers all believed I was slightly foolish, actually, they all thought I was a wanker for wearing cowboy boots. But I love them. Comfy and I love the style. Once I'm ready, I open the new wardrobe I have in the bedroom. This new addition is something I particularly enjoy owning in my new found lifestyle as a loner living in a Mad Max world. It's where I keep all my guns.

Now, contrary to popular belief, finding guns in London isn't very easy. I suspect it's made harder by the fact I couldn't find any teenagers from which I could enquire about the purchase of a 'shooter'. However, I visited all the gun shops. Most of those I had to 'loot' in traditional use of the term, by smashing my way in. Many were barricaded up and more than one had an absolutely starving dog to contend with. Most of the dogs were too weak to attack me, but I took along tins of dogfood and biscuits just in case - it's amazing the things you pick up from cartoons and childrens cinema that actually works in real life. I am now the proud owner of some serious hardware that I am unable to tell you the names of, unless they are stamped down the side. I have a Magnum Desert Eagle, a Vinnie Jones special which I am particularly fond of, but it's bastard heavy. I also have a number of shotguns, automatic weapons and even a hand grenade or two. It was also a special day when I found an anti-personnel mine. Although I have no idea how to set it up or use it. They're not the kind of things you can use without knowing how - you might blow yourself to shit.

A rucksack with the Magnum and some hand held machine pistol. I grab my camera and leave. It may seem peculiar, but I still lock my house when I leave - actually, since all occupants of the planet started dying and morals and decency went out the window. I kind of barricaded my house up into a kind of fortress. So it takes me a good ten minutes to unlock, leave and re-lock everything. It is worth it for the peice of mind and I'm too lazy to change it all.

Believing you are the only person alive on the whole planet is a difficult business. I'm lonely and gagging for some conversation, so I set off in search of others. I'll need to go further afield this time though, I've been all over London, well, mostly, I don't know it that well. It's a nice day. The sun is shining and there is a light breeze. It's very pleasant and I look for a car without a roof. I'm not fussed which, I've never really been that into cars even when I was a kid. I'm more into the size and volume of the stereo which you can cram into it! Anyway, I find a convertible of some German make parked on someones drive a few doors down the road. I spend some time standing out on the street watching the house, just making sure there really is no one in there and then I peek in through the windows. It looks fairly unexciting in there, like a normal living room -- TV, sofas, bookshelf. The back door appears to be open, so I'll let myself in there, I don't have to kick the front door in then.

As I round the corner into the back garden, it occurs to me that the back door wouldn't be open unless, at some time, someone had been home. I think this just a fraction of a second to late as the image before me burns itself into my brain for ever.

A gentlemen of perhaps 40 is hanging before me, completely naked. His feet and lower appendages, including his cock, has been eaten away by fuck knows what kind of animal. His skin is shrivelled and taught for having been out in the sun for way to long and he has a patio umberella inserted into his arse by about two meters. It was so far inside of him that I could see the top of it poking out through a hole in his throat. The patio umberella was still in it's white plastic stand and was supporting the entire weight of the guy so it looked like he'd been hung on a meadieval pike.

I swallow to keep my breakfast down and look up. There's a ladder resting against an open window. It could indicate that he fell onto the umberella from the ladder -- but there's no explanation as to why he was naked.

I told you, some people had found probablility very, very personal indeed.

After wrenching my eyes away from the scene and deciding that I could indeed take the car without reprise, I entered the house by the back door and head toward the front door. Grabbing the keys from the table in the the dead guys hall, I let myself out the front door closing it behind me and opened the car.

Some time later I'm cruising through the streets of London. Many apocalyptic films will have you believe that after something as devestating as the human race winking out of existence in a short period of time, the streets of major cities are strewn with burnt out or overturned cars, big piles of rubbish and shops with smashed windows and looted contents - this isn't what happens at all, at least not in this winking out of human existence. The streets are fairly clean, the big piles of rubbish are replaced with large piles of leaves and the burnt out or overturned cars are not here. The roads are cracked with plants and small trees growing through them and the most I have to steer round is a dustbin that's been blown out of someones front garden - it's less than exciting. I have to drive very quickly, screaming round corners and honking at innappropriate times to get that Mad Max feeling. It leaves me feeling hollow. I've rented almost every DVD in the local newsagent now, well, I say rented, I borrow them, just in case the owner returns and wants the back, anyway, I've watched all of them now and none of them describe the reality I'm living.

I'm planning on heading down to Surrey today, see if there's anything or anyone down there. I'm not holding out much hope. Like I say, I've not seen or heard from anyone in about 8 months, but you never know.

Leaving London I'm suddenly overcome with a sense of peace, I'm not sure why, it must be leaving the city thats causing it. It's a warm feeling and something I haven't felt in a long time. My heart fills up and the day seems brighter and more colourful. Perhaps it's a sign? Maybe I'll find another survivor today. The sun is still shining and the I've got the roof down, as I round a corner something catches my eye and I slam on the brakes and screech to an awkward stop slewed across the road. I stare for some time at the sign that is straddling the street.

'You are not alone.' It says. Then it gives an address.

Shit. My heart races, I can feel it in my throat, I feel giddy with excitement, trepidation, nervousness and a whole gamut of other emotions. I'm overwhelmed and for a while I sit and weep, unable to take my eyes from the sign.

You are not alone.

You have no idea what those four words mean to me. None at all.

I key the address into the Sat Nav of the car and wait a moment. The machine plots the route and pings to tell me how long it'll take to get there.

Three minutes. It's very close.

I sit for a little longer, unsure what to do. Finally, I start the engine, put the car in gear and pull off. I'm going to visit the address, see what's there. For the last god knows how many weeks all I've done is hunted down other people. Believing you are the only person alive on the whole planet is a difficult business. As I drive I spot things that are out of the ordinary, I know it's difficult to decide what is out of the ordinary in a situation like this but a group of shop window dummies, posed to look like they're dancing on the middle of a roundabout is out of the ordinary. Hundreds and hundreds of garden gnomes lined up along the edges of every road I drive down, is out of the ordinary. The house the sat nav tells me is my destination, is out of the ordinary. The front garden is covered in outdoor Christmas decorations, hundreds of them, all flashing away - there's dancing Rudolphs and inflatable santas, signs requesting that "Santa stop here" and all sorts of other seasonal gaudiness. The whole front of the house is covered in fake snow, from the eaves to the windows. The roof has had big sheets of something white and fluffy attached to it. The whole house looks like something from a winter wonderland. It's the middle of summer though.

I switch off the engine and climb out of the car. I'm just going to stand for a while and listen. I can't hear anything except the tinny music emitted by some of the glittering christmas decorations. A deer runs past me on the other side of the road. The front door of the house is open and after a while I walk towards it.

Standing in the doorway I shout hello and wait. I notice that the lock is missing. It appears there's nobody home. I step over the threshold and walk up the hallway. The living room is on my right and I push open the door to be greated by a small dog, wagging it's tail and smiling at me, desperate for some attention. I bend down and give him a tickle as I survey the room. It's completely covered in every imaginable type of snowglobe. Every surface, including most of the floor is covered in the damn things. They all lie still, unshaken for some time. Most of the room is covered in a think layer of dust, except where the wagging dog has been sleeping, you could see it spent a lot of time by the door, perhaps waiting for someone to come on, or waiting to be let out. I open the door wider and the dog bolts into the hall and up the stairs. I watch it fly up the stairs, it's small, stubby legs pushing it deftly up the wooden staircase. It's claws make scrabbling sounds, then silence as it runs on the carpet. A door opens, closes and then silence. I stand for a bit and listen, just in case there's someone up there, but I hear nothing.

Making my way down the hall, I enter the kitchen area, off to one side is a small round dining table with the places all laid. The dinner guests appear to have never arrived though, the flowers in the small vase are dead. The water jug has rings all around the inside, visible through the glass as the water had slowly evaporated and the bread had once been mouldy, now it was just like small peices of rock in a wicker basket. The table looked dull, grey and lifeless. The kitchen showed that there had been some activity here, not recently though. Things in pots had long boiled dry and evaporated, or gone mouldy, the bowl of tossed salad was now just a bowl of black goo. There was an unopened bottle of wine on the kitchen counter. So I reach into the cupboard above and select the cleanest glass, rub it on my tshirt and uncork the wine. As I'm pouring it into the glass, a noise from upstairs startles me. There's a bang and what sounds like a very un-canine shriek. I put down the bottle and unholster my gun.

I pick my way slowly up the stairs, selecting places to plant my feet that are the least likey to creak. I fail on more than one occasion. I guess whoever is upstairs has already been alerted to my being here, so I walk up the rest of the stairs oblivious the creaks and groans.

I hear a small, quiet voice behind one of the doors. I push it slowly open, the room is dimly lit as the curtains are drawn. I step across the threshold and smell a sweet perfume. I flick the light switch and a bank of spotlights slowly fade up, but not so the room is brightly lit.

My eyes are quickly drawn to the bed, lying on top of the rich, dark covers is a woman of such staggering beauty that it almost takes my breath away. She is lying back staring up at me, smiling. Her hands slowly rubbing her legs, perhaps a nervous action. She is the first woman I have seen in a very long time. I may be the first man she has seen in a very long time. The woman is wearing a white silk slip, one of the straps has slipped down her shoulder. I can see her nipples through the soft white silk and wonder whether she is aroused, cold or scared. Under the slip I can see she is wearing red briefs with black trim. Her long, auburn hair flows round her shoulders and over the pillow on which her head is resting. She breaths quickly and deeply. I hesitate, the air filled with an expectancy.

I say hello and ask her name.

"Amelie" she says, her voice is sweet and quiet. Her breathing still fast. "I saw your car from my roof." she finishes.

I ask her how long she's been here.

"All my life, my parents died during the epedemic and I'm on my own."

I sit on the bed, holster my gun and ask her how old she is.

"I'll be 20 in two weeks." she hasn't moved from her prone position. "I haven't seen anyone else in eight months."

I ask her if she's sure. She replies that she is. The last person she remembers seeing was her neighbour walking up the street, getting into his car and driving off.

"I can't drive, " she says, "otherwise I'd be long gone. I'd walk, but I've seen lions and other animals that I don't want to get eaten by."

She puts her hand onto my leg and strokes me nervously.

"I need you, " she says, "make love to me."

Later, I roll the girls body from me, I rise and use a pillow to wipe some of the blood from my chest.

Believing you are the only person alive on the whole planet is a very difficult business.


Creative Commons License


Extremely Bad Luck is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike 2.0 UK: England & Wales License.

Dameon's picture

Some technical comments: You

Some technical comments:
You have a tendency toward long paragraphs and run-on sentences that you're going to need to conquer. A good example is your second paragraph: 286 words in a single paragraph! When you're editing, big blocks of text like that are a big red flag, especially that early in the story.

As for run-on sentences, here's an example of a single sentence that should actually be its own paragraph:
It wasn't that hospitals were contagious, it just seemed like the entire world was suffering from a terrible case of bad luck, it's often said that "luck is probability taken personally" if this is the case, then there was just about as much probability squirting about all over the shop than there has ever been at any time in earths history before and it was REALLY personal, about as personal as a finger up the arse.

This is how I'd rewrite that sentence:
It wasn't that hospitals were contagious; it seemed like the entire world was suffering from a terrible case of bad luck. It's often said that "luck is probability taken personally." If this is the case, then there was more probability squirting about all over the shop than there had ever been at any time in Earth's history before.

You have a habit of slipping between past and present tense, as well, which needs to be ironed out.

Also, some notes about the story's content:
Gratuitous violence is for movies. Even in horror magazines, a story with this much unnecessary violent imagery is going to be a real tough sell. An entire paragraph dedicated to a corpse with an umbrella up its ass is just one example.

It's also a stale setting, which will make it a tough sell. The "last man on Earth" bit has been done to death, as well as the "last man on Earth (not really)" bit. Granted, your proposition for HOW everybody died is original, but that wouldn't save this story from an editor's slush pile.

You've got a good start. Get stronger grammar skills, and a less overused setting, and I think you could get to the point where you're selling you stuff.

paulbhartzog's picture

Disjointed reality

I think that you have an opportunity to do something interesting here.

1. Start with the last sentence.

2. check out The Demolished Man by Bester

3. read some short stories by Delany

The key element in your piece that works is that someone who believes he is the last man on earth is going to go through some seriously twisted reality-warping psychological contortions just to be able to keep functioning.

There is a famous piece by Delany about a guy narrating that he is a starship captain encountering aliens, when in fact he is having sex with stangers in subway bathrooms.

Read up on reality-distortion stories and you'll find lots of directions to take your ideas. Hope that helps.

MikePearce's picture

Thanks paulbhartzog, that

Thanks paulbhartzog, that helps a lot!

Content matters, too.

You write well, but the contents repel me.

MikePearce's picture

Thanks Dustin!

Thanks Dustin!

Nicely Done

Well written, good pace. But it is disturbing. However, I'm guessing that's exactly what you were going for. Also, the last man on earth story line is a bit tired . . . but you've done something unexpected with it.

Write more, but without the post-coital killing.

;)

-Dustin

Well...

No problem with the style or mechanics, but the ending creeped me out.