This novel is limited to 100 free copies due to its part in Inkitt’s Novel Contest.
Multiverse -The hypothetical set of multiple possible universes (including the universe we consistently experience) that together comprise everything that exists: the entirety of space, time, matter and constants that describe them.
William James 1895
“Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.
Stephen Hawking 2011
Yeah right! If you believe that you’ll believe anything.
A story about the people next door
Awake! I raise my head slightly from the pillow and can just see over the duvet clad mound of Alice to the small illuminated clock on her side of the bed. It reads 3.12 changing to 3.13 as I watch. The room glows with a strange unnatural light. This, along with every damn dog in the neighbourhood barking, and birds shrieking in a dawn chorus from Hell has woken me.
I have a vague recollection of hearing a muffled distant boom, but I’m not sure if this was real or part of my interrupted dream with Rosslynne slamming a door as she left. I look at Alice breathing rhythmically in her sleep beside me; ‘wake up, it’s late we’ve overslept.’
She wakes with a start, ‘what, what time is it?’
Don’t know, the clock says 3.13 but that can’t be right, the batteries maybe? Look it’s daylight must be at least eight, god I’m gonna be late again now.′
‘Can’t be eight,’ she mumbles, ‘too tired,’ already going back to sleep.
I open the bedside drawer and take out my watch the time says 3.13, puzzling? It can’t be pm. I mean I had a few last night and this light does have a late afternoon mid-winter quality, but at this hour of a January morning it should be pitch black. Maybe a newly installed security light has been triggered by a late night drunk or prowling cat, that would explain the birds, perhaps just a stationary car headlight? I get up to look, moving clumsily to the window that as always has the curtains drawn back.
From this second floor bedroom on the South coast, according to the Letting Agent, you almost have a sea glimpse, though not quite. I don’t really know the point he was trying to make when he told me this fact, but for some strange reason I was impressed. Sometimes, especially if it’s stormy you can hear the sea, but definitely no view. One time I even thought there might be a way to build some structure or extension on the roof, we have a small private terrace up there, just to get that mythical sea glimpse. But Alice ever practical said the landlord wouldn’t go with it, we wouldn’t get planning permission plus it would cost a fortune. Of course she was joylessly right as always, but nobody likes a know it all especially not me, who according to most people, knows sod all.
As I stagger towards the window, too late I realize I’m naked, not a pretty sight at the best of times but now unprepared, gut hanging out exposing myself at a window in the early hours of the morning definitely not a good look. I cover my crotch with one hand, easily done, while making a grab for my bath robe hanging on the bedroom door with the other. I stand on one of Alice’s shoes trip and half fall, steadying myself by leaning on the bed by her head.
She opens her eyes stares at my dick dangling just three inches from her face and says; ‘behave yourself Michael, I’m tired and have a bit of a headache.’
‘Look, I’m not— I trod on your bloody shoe while trying to put my robe on and fell over, why do you always leave them in the middle of the floor?’
I regain my balance put on my robe and return to the window to see what’s going on, peering owl like into the eerie light of a bizarre false dawn. The strange light covers the whole sky, diffused by a thick sea mist which is just hanging in the still air. Looking east I can see a brighter glow on the horizon where the sun would normally rise some four hours later. In the communal garden of the block I can see two foxes mating frenziedly. For some reason I feel it necessary to bang rather feebly on the window I don’t know why. Neither of the in-flagrante foxes take any notice of me, anyway even if they did what would I do? Look disapproving, wave my arms, say shoo? Why not just let them do it, lucky bastards. After all it’s not my daughter being screwed out there, not that I’ve got kids anyway thank Christ. The foxes break free, one barks and they’re gone. The floor show is over.
The light seems to be getting steadily brighter and despite the heavy mist I can tell the sun is still below the horizon. Also, I swear that when I went to bed last night it was freezing with a frost forming. Now with the gardens illuminated by this strange light I can see that any ice has melted and the grass and trees are steaming almost as if on fire, adding to the general haziness caused by the mist.
With the light perceptibly increasing I’m feeling some concern now that the glow maybe something sinister. Perhaps a nuclear strike, Iran or North Korea comes to mind, or one of the reactors on the French coast has melted down and exploded. Napoleons revenge, ’take zat perfidious Albion, blow east wind blow. My fears are not eased as I try to turn on the television and get only static hiss and white noise. I try the radio but get more of the same.
I’ve read somewhere that an electromagnetic pulse would precede a nuclear explosion and this pulse would disable satellites and electricity. My already feverish speculation is only further enhanced as I switch on the bedside lamp and nothing happens. I try once more get another click but no light. I nudge Alice, who has gone back to sleep lying on her back eyes spastically twitching beneath closed lids, REM sleep, dreaming a woman’s dreams of who knows what.
‘Wake up, something’s happened, it might be serious.’
Bloody hell Michael why did you wake me ? I was having a lovely dream, children on a sunny beautiful beach, they were mine. I was happy.
‘Was I in your dream?’
‘No I said I was happy. Go back to sleep and turn off that sodding light.’
‘Jesus, look something’s wrong. Maybe a nuclear explosion or war or something there might be fallout or a Tsunami.’
‘Lucky we’re a long way back from the sea then.’
‘No we’re not you can almost see it, if you went up to the roof and had a little platform or something you can hear it— sometimes.’
‘Yeah right, anyway stop panicking, the TV and lights aren’t working I told you to fix that dodgy fuse.’
‘It’s not the fuse, it’s everything. ’
’Haven’t we got one of those electricity emergency cover things that fixes faulty wiring and stuff, give them a call in the morning.’
‘This has got nothing to do with Southern Electric, British Gas or Sky TV, its outside maybe the sun? I don’t know.’
Alice fully wakes, pulls back the duvet gets out of bed and pads across the room to join me. She looks great standing in the gentle glow by the window in her short silk nightie, hair sleep tousled downright sexy, in fact the complete opposite of me when I’ve been woken at three in the morning. As if by accident I let my robe fall open and stand behind her pressing my hardening cock into her backside and gently squeeze her breasts and nibble the back of her neck. She wiggles provocatively. I become hard and hopeful. Temporarily forgetting about Armageddon just beyond the window I go for it and move my right hand from her breast and try to place it between her slightly open thighs. My fingers brush her pubic hair. She brings her legs together sharply and I know with a familiar certainty that it will go no further.
Despite this strange false dawn, the uncertainty and my growing fear I somehow manage to have a raging hard on and nowhere useful to put it. I look down at my vaguely ludicrous redundant boner and think, if this really is the end of the world and I turn up at the Pearly Gates. St Peter will take one look at me and say, ‘sorry mate but you aren’t coming in here with that.’
There seems no point in going back to bed as I know sleep will allude me, besides I will have to get up for work soon anyway. I’m frustrated and restless so I’ve decided to get dressed and take a look outside. Alice says she won’t be joining me but will be going back to bed, adding rather unnecessarily, to sleep as she has a busy day ahead.
I think I’ll head towards the beach. I doubt there will be a Tsunami after all, though with visions of the Indonesian Boxing Day and Japanese catastrophes still fresh in my mind I think if the tide’s out a really long way I’ll leg it to higher ground quickly, or as we’re on the coastal plain climb a tree at least.
Leaving the communal entrance lobby and heading down the three steps to the path I’m immediately struck by the fierce heat, this is January yet it feels more like a burning hot day in July. The mist hangs in strands and patches and where I can see the sky fantastically it appears to be undulating, which is the only word I can think of to describe it, erudite for three am, with green lemon and lilac hues. Large numbers of seagulls are wheeling at very high altitude and several bats skitter and chitter across the lawn. With their hibernation disturbed they’re desperately searching for insects that won’t be there, weird.
The beach is about three miles away and I reckon it will take me under an hour at a reasonable walking pace to reach. I considered taking the car but it’s very low on fuel and I’m planning to stop at the garage on my way to work. Anyway, I’m in the mood for a walk and can observe far more on foot than from my ageing Golf with its dodgy clutch. As I leave the communal gardens of Blenheim House, a ludicrously grand name for a weathered three storey block of flats built in the early seventies and enter the surrounding streets, the situation seems surreal. I appear to be the only person up and about and this only adds to the overall post- apocalyptic feeling that this strange light and mist engenders, another impressive word, I’m on a roll that thesaurus has certainly paid for itself.
I’m sweating in the heat and remove the jumper I’ve put on out of habit and tie it around my waist. All the houses have their curtains drawn and apart from the distant cries of the high altitude gulls and the occasional single bark from a dog it is disconcertingly quiet.
The mist appears to have thickened diffusing further the eerie half-light. It reminds me of the total eclipse of the sun experienced in Britain in 1999. My twin brother David, Davey to everyone who knew him, was found in a coma just before that event and died without regaining consciousness just days after. It was me who found him I panicked tried giving him the kiss of life, tasted the vomit in his mouth and gagged, banged his chest I didn’t know what I was doing, probably made it worse. Tears spring to my eyes every time I think of that scene they spring to my eyes now, my failure, my loss. I press on through the spectral dawn.
I’ve decided that this light is similar to that experienced just before the eclipse totality occurred, alien other, unnatural. The portents now, despite the death of Davey, seem somehow far more alarming than anything I felt back at the end of the last millennium complete with its cardboard eclipse glasses given away free in The Sun newspaper. Then it was just one personal tragedy, but this I can’t quite put it into words. It seems bad like something terrifying and unstoppable may have been unleashed and I, we the whole human race, despite our science and technology are mere fragile bystanders waiting to be swept away by powerful pitiless forces. Stop it get a grip it’s probably something that’s happened before but I didn’t notice. Even as I think this I know it’s not true.
As I continue my walk to the beach it’s obvious there’s a power cut covering the whole area. Traffic lights are out and this will cause awesome chaos and delays in the rush hour later. I pause at the electricity transformer standing inside a barbed wire topped fence that borders a residential back garden. It bears a stark yellow sign with a lightning bolt and an electrocuted stick figure man along with the warningDanger of Death. There is a rustling in the grass, probably a rat nosing through the dumped remnants of takeaway food. I can see a used condom, the semen like some toxic faintly glowing residue clearly visible inside. Anaemic looking tendrils of bean sprouts spill onto the grass from a foil carton someone has lobbed over the fence, a rat banquet for one. ’You want fried rice with that?’ I wonder as always on the negative effect such a device will have on the sale price of this property. I mean a house sign saying,Danger of death, doesn’t have quite the same charm as “Rose Cottage” or “Fairview.”Normally a low hum can be heard but now it’s silent, an ugly utilitarian structure impotent and without purpose. A bit like my long deflated hard-on from earlier.
Ahead walking, or rather dragging a small dog on a lead I can see a stooped elderly man who appears to be wearing a dressing gown and slippers. As I draw alongside, the dog, a runty type of mongrel terrier with fleshy diseased looking nodules poking through its greying fur, bares its teeth and growls at me.
‘Stop it Prince,’ says the man, a salt of the earth type, to the incongruously named mutt , ‘It’s alright he won’t bite, just a bit old and grouchy like the rest of us.’
Speak for yourself granddad I think, taking an instant dislike to the dog. ‘He’s a lovely old boy, aren’t you lad. What do you make of all this?’ I spread my arms skyward indicating the day.
‘Strange, the dog barking woke me up I think there was a loud bang that set him off.’
’Yes; I thought I heard that what do you think it was?
‘I don’t know it came from the direction of the sea.’
‘I can’t get anything on the radio or TV I thought I’d take a stroll down to the beach see if anything’s going on. This light it’s so strange.’
‘Do you think there will be anything going on down there? I’d come with you only Prince gets knackered after about two hundred yards and he’s already done his business,’ the man holds up a plastic Tesco bag full of dog shit.′
Thank God for small mercies I think, but say; ‘Oh dear what a pity, still never mind there’s probably not much to see. I’ll be off then, goodbye.’
Prince growls again cocks his leg and pisses on a child’s glove lying abandoned on the pavement, reminding me why I would never own a dog. Though if I ever do it will be some sort of huge magnificent hound not a runty little bastard like that.
The walk to the beach takes just over half an hour I see a few cars and one or two other confused looking people but don’t stop to talk. It has become both hotter and brighter and the mist has begun to lift, now just mere wisps. The tide’s coming in and gentle waves lap the coarse sand that borders the shingle and pebbles of Aldwick beach. The unseen sun is creating spectacular though decidedly strange light effects and I’m starting to wonder if I might be having some sort of flashback. There are pale spectacular pulsing trails of colour, lilac yellow and green chasing across the sky. I know that you can occasionally get auroras in southern England. I have a picture in the bathroom at home of the northern lights over Corfe Castle, but they look nothing like this, in fact maybe not there at all. Just a bit of overexposure cleverly sold as the real thing to gullible tourists, of which I am apparently one.
I’m starting to feel both excited and terrified by the spectacle overhead now, an almost ancient primal fear of the unknown. About a mile out to sea I can see a collection of boats, some of them quite large gathered together in one spot. I assume these are fishing boats maybe taking advantage of the benign conditions and unexpected early light to cast their nets for lobsters. There’s also a riot of blue flashing lights reflecting off Bognor Regis pier some two miles distant. There’s obviously been a major incident and not just a standard brawl amongst Poland’s finest in the dodgy nightclub sited on the remnant of the pier, still just long enough to hold the Bognor Birdman competition. What a town.
On a whim I’ve decided to take off my shoes and socks roll up my trousers and take a paddle in the sea. As I wade into the calm water with its surface psychedelically reflecting the sky above I wince. It’s bloody freezing even though the air temperature must be in the high eighties it is still January after all. The mist clears further and I can see trash floating on the incoming tide, lots of it. Jesus, no wonder English seaside resorts are struggling when you see all this crap floating in the water. I look down and see a child’s shoe bobbing in the barely perceptible swell, there are scraps of paper, foam cups and a piece of white linen emblazoned with a green and gold logo, TANZAN-AIR. I can see a bigger chunk of something slowly approaching the shore, large and dark covered in seaweed. I examine the thing out of curiosity but recoil in shock and scream like a girl as I realize I’m staring at a dead body, a large black man floating face down and scraping on the sand as the tide brings him in closer to the beach.
The corpse is naked except for wearing one white sock and a Nike trainer on the right foot his arms are stretched out in front with the head between them. In my shock I manage to fall over landing on my backside in the shallow water which causes the body, cold and stiff to nudge into me. I try to move away escape this horror, but just manage to kick and splash and move backwards in a crab like motion which only causes the cadaver to follow me as if by magnetic attraction. Then suddenly as if a switch has been thrown it goes dark and I’m left sitting in the sea involuntarily cradling the head of the dead man in my lap under a winter sky that’s now full of stars. ‘Oh Jesus Christ, somebody help me please!’
The time is 5.22 am.
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