New Years Eve, 1999, and something changed. So small at first it almost went un-noticed. It was cold anyway, normal for a December night, yet anybody outside at the time will tell you the air grew colder at midnight. As Big Ben chimed twelve all the lights in Piccadilly Circus crackled and blinked, a couple of illuminated signs went out. ATM’s didn’t work the next day and computers took longer to boot up. Technical sorts bit their nails and nervously assured us that ‘The Y2K issue has been rectified. These are obviously just teething problems. They’ll sort themselves out within the week’.
January, 2000. Epidemic warnings are issued by the National Health Service as hospitals and surgeries are over-run with Influenza cases and, disturbingly, over 3’000 cases of Necrotizing Fasciitis and Leprosy in the United Kingdom alone; Five passenger airliners are lost in storms over the Atlantic; Global Internet services are suspended as 90% of servers across the world crash, Virus alerts cause technophobic panic across offices and IT departments; Christ and Virgin Mary figurines the world over begin to weep blood; Heavy storms and strong winds lash all continents.
At some point everybody noticed it was colder. It kept getting colder in spring; micro-climates, somebody said, but not very convincingly. Stuff stopped burning as well. Gas became next to useless. Fires smouldered and spat, dull red embers giving off little heat and less light. Chemical reactions slowed down, almost to a stop. As a by-product most wars petered out as bullets flew a good ten feet before becoming as threatening as hail.
Every single domestic light bulb blew in late June. It became a struggle to warm food, let alone cook it. 756 committed mass suicide in France, possibly to beat the traffic.
Slowly, breath by breath the world was dying. By September there was snow in the streets. Cows stopped giving milk and chickens stopped laying. It was about this time the cranks and the weirdoes came out – prophesising the End of the World, Judgement Day, the Time of Reckoning, Aliens. The whole lot. Maybe even Atlanteans. And the Psychics and the Mediums and the Saints and the Cynics too. As everyone seemed to be slowly dying, some people had the privilege to watch it all happen, to sit by the sides of their loved ones as the cold hand of death closed around them and took them far away, never to return.
The ‘lucky’ ones soon became the only people in their houses, then their street, then their town. By the end of 2000 there were only a handful left. Most of them were weirdoes too. You can’t watch everyone you loved or wanted to love grow old and die in a matter of months without it having some sort of effect on you. You go a little mad. You start questioning things about Life, Death, Heaven and Hell. I mean really questioning, and sometimes shouting those questions as loud as you can at the dark clouds that block the sun all day everyday.
Everywhere smells. Towards the end there weren’t enough people to bury or burn all the bodies. Food rots in fridges and larders and supermarkets. Animals lie in the fields. Only rats and insects and half starved cats and dogs survive, eating as much diseased flesh as they can stomach before falling ill.
It’s no wonder we started seeing ghosts, feeling things brushing against us as we slept. Some of the madder ones kept saying they could still talk with their old friends, that it was like seeing them from underwater, and they were stood above the surface looking down on us.
Like fish in a barrel.
Then your old school friend, who you know for a fact you buried nearly a year ago, turns up and is really pissed with you. More pissed than he was when you slept with his sister, more pissed than he’s ever been in his life, and that’s the problem: He is dead and he just doesn’t like people who aren’t dead. He’s in a whole new club now; he wants you to be a member. Absolutely nothing personal…
It wears you down, and sometimes it seems easier just to give up. There’s no hope. There are more of them than there are of us. Most of us are dying, some of us are mad and then there are a few that.. that are already touching the otherside. Only a couple of ‘us’, and they’re not to be trusted. Ghosts can get to them, and through them to us.
Death & Taxes
“There are only two things certain in this life; Death & Taxes!” A 20th Century truism, now laughably out of date. Death is most definitely certain, but I think many of us can safely say taxation is a thing of the past. Well, it is in this Community.
The act and idea of taxation presumes that an individual has some property or income that can be claimed by the state or ruling elite. We have no property, and currently no ruling elite, although I’m pretty sure that’ll change once a few more ‘specialists’ (a.k.a. creeps and weirdoes) find us.
No, it’s death and the machinations of death that concern us nowadays. Always on the move, never resting, never letting up. Death is inevitable, but I guess that’s not such a handicap these days, as you can just get right back up and carry on with ‘life’.
There’s a cosmic conspiracy working against us. Seemingly unrelated forces and principles acting in tandem to ensure we all die as soon as possible. It took us awhile to see it. We were distracted by everybody dying and then getting back up again. I think it’s not a fault, I mean, how can you prepare for a thing like that? But anyway; The Conspiracy…
Ok, so at first it’s just “everything’s dying!” and “we’re all doomed!” but then you realise that not everything’s dying. Bacteria are thriving. All the big things are dying, that’s true. People, cattle, fish, birds, they’re all choking in their sleep, and getting sick and having aneurysms and stuff, but the worms and the insects and the bugs and the bacteria are just loving it.
Ask yourself – why are the birds starving to death when a fresh corpse will be worm ridden within an hour? Why have all the bacteria and viruses in the world suddenly become super contagious? Why is the grass dying but cockroaches and slugs carry on just fine? I can’t explain it.
Then there’s science. Everybody has noticed it’s colder, like 5 – 10 degrees Celsius colder, but not everybody realises that accepted laws of science have gone all weird. Chemical reactions require more prompting, and react so slowly. The classic example is the gun; gunpowder needs three or four times the excitation to ignite (which is hard in and of itself, seeing as fire gives off about a half less heat than it used to), and then it only fizzes and smoulders. Whilst before it would have been consumed in an instant of explosive glory it now burns like paper and a barrel full would propel a bullet about six inches in as many seconds.
Now, I’m obviously no scientist, but even I can see that what we have here is two fingers in the face of empirical observation. I’m still looking for reasons why.
We all are…
80’s horror movies
Why don’t we hang around the towns and cities? How many reasons do you want? I’ve never heard of an Oasis in a municipal area, not even in those nice planned suburban villages that the middle-classes bred in. I have heard of one in a small ‘last of the summer wine’ village in Yorkshire, but most are in areas of woodland and grass and fields. Some are in the hills, some in marsh and bogs (although I’d be very suspicious of those ones, just don’t seem right…). Yeah, you wanna find an Oasis, look in hard to find places that modern society didn’t really touch.
Next reason; how many people lived in the small town near your house? Hundreds? Thousands? I’m betting somewhere between the two. They’re all dead now. Now try and guess how many got up again? I’ve no fucking idea, but I know that just one is too many. So we like to stay out in the sticks where you’re only going to meet a couple at once, not dozens.
But surely buildings are defendable? Couldn’t we just take a supermarket or shopping centre and live comfortably for years? We could, but life isn’t quite like the zombie films of the early 80’s. For a start, some of these corpses are just as clever (or dumb) as us. Some are even smarter. Dead geniuses, fantastic! Then there are the ghosts that can walk through the ram-raid proofing and freeze the life out of us without breaking a sweat. Also, the food won’t last forever, and then we have to fight our way past them.
And they all died in those movies. All of them.
If you’re stuck out on the road at night, and you can’t find an Oasis (as if – I haven’t found one yet) or a settlement then you find a Speakeasy: Safe houses run for travellers, inns to weather out the storm, as it were.
Nobody travels at night, that’s when the more dangerous ghosts come out. So we have Speakeasy’s for those caught out when night falls. They’re not very safe, all really, but they’re better than nothing.
The best ones are run by Resistants, the worst by Death Cults who lure the unsuspecting traveller in then feed them to their ‘hungry gods’. Some have been going for months now (a long time nowadays) some barely last a night before a Spectre drifts through and chills everyone to death.
No Sensitive has ever run a successful Speakeasy, wither the cliental don’t trust them (with good reason) or they draw every ghost and corpse within a 20 mile radius down on their heads.
They’re a good spot for trade – Neutral ground for discussions and barter, but then the bandits hangout there too. Hives of scum and villainy, somebody once said. Not far wrong. I’ve seen more people be killed in a Speakeasy than by a ghost (4 vs. 2. It’s close, I know).
You’ll never find a Speakeasy in an Oasis. That’d just be dumb. Why not just invite the raiders and the ghost in? It’s pretty much the same thing.
My Survival Kit
1 x Can opener – For opening cans. Duh. It’s the only source of food I trust.
1 x Pocket knife – Generally handy.
1 x Hunting knife – For killing.
1 x Pair of Dead Mans Boots – They keep the Ghosts away.
1 x Long black coat – Lots of pockets, warm, looks cool.
1 x Large hiking backpack – Keeps my happy things safe.
1 x Thick woollen blanket.
10 x Candles – For light & warding.
2 x Sticks of chalk – Again, for warding.
1 x Holy Bible – For solace, and throwing.
1 x Bell – For flushing spooks.
2 x Water Flasks.
1 x Camping Cantina.
1 x Pack Fire lighters.
2 x Boxes matches.
Nook – Tool using higher primate