The world ended sixteen days ago, and nobody noticed.
* * *
The first day passed like any other. After breakfast I dragged myself to the deli, played Rogues online for a while, then watched a few vids before climbing into bed. A pretty typical day, since the inheritance came through.
The next day was the same, as was the third.
Exactly the same.
Debs, the deli girl, had the same blue bandage on her finger, one edge frayed. The guy in the stupid grey suit who was behind me repeated his unfunny line as soon as I’d paid. And the losers on my Rogues squad got themselves killed by the same snipers behind the same buses, like they hadn’t learnt.
Or like they were stuck in a loop.
Over the next couple of days, I noticed more things. Like how the woman in the apartment across the road stretched by her window at precisely 10:05, her pink top riding up over those gorgeous brown abs. Like the old guy in the dusty brown coat, laughing to himself as he shuffled along. Like the red Audi that roared past, windows down, same heavy beat thundering out.
They were all reliving the same day. Time had stopped for everyone but me.
* * *
Of course, I tried to have some fun.
I tried to chat to Debs, after I’d paid. Said her hair looked nice, but she ignored me, like I didn’t exist. Suit-guy leaned on the counter, said his crappy joke, and she served him. When he’d eventually gone—and he took his time, talking through every little decision as if he never wanted to leave—I tried again. But Debs blanked me and served the little old lady who walked in with her little wheelie basket thing.
That set me in a foul mood. I thought blasting monsters away in Rogues would help, but my team screwed up as always. When they laughed about it, I wanted to send my computer out the window.
Only saw a few good videos, too.
* * *
Next day, I’m outside the deli a whole hour in the afternoon, waiting for Debs to finish her shift. But when she comes out, suit-guy’s there, wearing casuals now. He waves, and she smiles as he heads over to her. They talk, seem to agree on something, before walking off in opposite direction.
The following day I get close enough to hear him ask her out for a meal. Of course she didn’t turn down free food, even if it’s with that dork.
* * *
Ferdie’s is posh, and she’s dressed for it, very sexy-cute. Shame suit-guy’s going to spend all evening trying to look down her low-cut top.
I watch them eat. They talk. They lean in close. I hope he chokes.
He walks her home two hours later. She unlocks the door to her building and I expect him to smarm his way in. But he doesn’t. He walks away. Doesn’t even get a kiss.
* * *
The next day I leave Ferdie’s early, head to her apartment. It’s not hard getting in the building—some middle-aged business dude bustles in, talking excitedly on his mobile, and I sneak through before the door shuts. It’s not like he’s going to notice me anyway.
When she appears, her head’s down, hair obscuring her eyes. But she’s grinning, a big beautiful smile that brings dimples to her cheeks.
* * *
She writes a diary. I look over her shoulder, read about the wonderful suit-guy—his name’s Michael, and he’s so sweet, pays so much attention to her, blah blah blah. Gushy nonsense.
But her eyes sparkle as she writes. Her grin stretches from ear to ear.
And the man on the phone, the one who inadvertently lets me in? Seems he closed some big deal, tells his wife how they can get a bigger place now, with a garden and a separate room for the baby.
I go home and play Rogues, and the crew die then joke and laugh about it. I join in the banter—it’s not like they’re going to change now, so I might as well play my part. They’re not such a bad bunch.
* * *
I follow Michael, too. He lives in a noisy, dirty neighbourhood, but his small place is refreshingly clean. He goes to bed pretty much straight away, but he’s smiling, just like Debs.
Then I start to watch others.
The woman across from me has a girlfriend over, and they spend the afternoon on the sofa, sharing a few bottles, setting the world to rights. The old man laughs and smiles all the way to some musty hall, where he has tea and biscuits and talks to loads of other oldies, reminiscing about all the good times. The red Audi driver goes round the corner, stops at a mate’s house, and they both admire his new wheels.
It takes me a while, but then I see how everyone’s happy. Everyone’s having a good—no, a great day.
Couples cuddle in loving silence. Friends chat and laugh. Children play in imaginary worlds, and old people watch with joy in their eyes.
Even those alone are content. I see dog-walkers, lone strollers, some dude absorbed in his painting, a woman blissfully repeating the same phrase on a violin.
I don’t see a single frown, a single sad face. I come across no arguments or animosity. Just smiles and joy.
The world ended sixteen days ago, when everything was finally perfect.
* * *
And me? I get served by Debs at the deli, play Rogues with my crew, then relax with a few vids before falling asleep.
It might not be that exciting, or anything special, but I reckon it’s a pretty good day.
Freedom At Any Cost?
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