Actor: Anne Do
Sound Design: Anne Do
Director: Anne Do
Writer: Anne Do
Composer: Anne Do
Producer: Anne Do
SFX: Heavy rainfall. Thunder. Howling winds.
It was a dark and stormy night. In fact, it’s been a dark and stormy night for at least 4 months straight now. Not a single ray of sunlight made it through the dense, angry gray clouds in all that time.
I lay in bed listening to the howling wind rattling against my windows. From there I could see a glistening stripe on the wall, illuminated by the occasional flash of lightning. Ugh, another leak? I knew I needed to get up and caulk the gap immediately, before it got any worse, but my body didn’t want to move.
I was tired all the time. Vitamin D deficiency. Everyone was at risk. A public health announcement went out about a month after the storm started.
A government-issued UV lamp was within arms reach of my bed, but I hadn’t touched it in weeks. Because it’s not as easy as flipping the on switch anymore.
Ever since the power in my neighborhood went out, the process involves getting up to turn on my back up generator, walking back to the lamp, setting up a timer, and then finding more energy to get up AGAIN and turn off the backup generator. You see, a generator can only run for, at most, 3000 hours. That’s about 125 days, and the storm has already lasted longer than that. You can’t fix downed power lines in the middle of an electrical storm. Once I’m out of power, that’s it.
It’s far easier and more economical to light a candle and snort a few lines of coke.
My waking-up ritual completed, I set about doing the bare minimum required for survival, repairing and reinforcing my shelter.
I had slept for long enough for 3 new letters to have been pushed through my mail slot, along with another pack of government-issued multivitamins. Oh yes, the mailman still delivers. Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night, as they say.
Actually, that mantra now applies to anyone who owns a car. Even now, people were still going to work. It’s just “bad weather”, after all. It’ll clear up any day now. People still need to feed their families, and sell life insurance. Money still means something.
I lit a cigarette and read the letters by candlelight. Clients. I’ve got less customers because I only do bulk orders now. But I’m making more money than ever because what I sell isn’t regulated by price-gouging laws.
I boxed up the orders and placed them in my metal waterproof rolling suitcase, keying in the code to lock it. I put on my work uniform, a dark water-resistant jumpsuit, long rain coat and rain boots. I pulled the hood over my motorcycle helmet and sprinted the short distance to my car.
SFX: Sounds of storm increase in volume as narrator leaves interior setting. A car starts up and drives away.
[3:06] First Delivery
SFX: Heavy rainfall. Thunder.
I pulled up to the shuttered casino parking garage. A voice crackled through the tickettaker booth’s speaker. I could see that the person inside was armed.
I rolled down my window slightly.
“I have drugs!” I yelled.
The reinforced garage shutters opened.
SFX: The sound of rain abates as the narrator enters the insulated garage.
I parked inside and let myself drip dry on the garage cement before making my way to the entrance. Two guards were stationed outside, covered head to toe in tactical gear, each holding military grade firearms. They didn’t so much as twitch when I walked in.
SFX: Muffled upbeat jazz music.
The receptionist made me hand over my jacket and helmet. “No face coverings inside the casino,” she explained. “You can get them when you leave.”
“What about my gun?” I asked.
She blinked. “We’re all armed here, so you can keep it. Just don’t do anything stupid. The high limit tables are down the hall and to the left.”
Miss Mabel was already waiting for me in the hallway.
“There you are! Oh, it’s been so long since I’ve seen you!” she exclaimed as she moved in for a hug. Keep in mind, I’ve only met this woman twice before. She was probably on something already.
To my relief, however, she stopped about 2 feet away from me and at the last second turned the hug into a handshake and shoulder pat. I saw her nose wrinkle for a microsecond before it was once again replaced with her wide, strained fake smile.
I suddenly became hyper aware of the grease coating my hair and skin. My armpits broke out in a cold sweat under my jumpsuit as I realized I had forgotten to put on deodorant. Oh God. How long was it since I last washed? You’re not supposed to take a shower during a thunderstorm. And without power, there’s only cold water. Do you know how much effort it is to turn on the generator, heat up gallons of water on the stove, and — nevermind, you get the idea. I’m just so fucking tired.
SFX: Loud upbeat jazz music. Cocktail party conversation ambiance. THE CLATTER of poker chips.
These thoughts raced through my head as Mabel led me through the casino floor, where a 20’s themed party was in full swing. The sounds of all the casino games were overwhelming in that space – the spinning of roulette wheels, rolling dice, poker chips changing hands, cocktail glasses clinking. Men in suits smoking cigars, slamming the tables in frustration or whooping with excitement. Women in flapper dresses performing their drunken version of the Charleston. On a raised podium at the center performed an actual live jazz band.
It was pure, unbridled hedonism. Decadence in its ultimate form. A party to end all parties.
SFX: Party sounds become muffled again.
“What’s the big occasion?” I joked as we entered one of the backrooms. I was surprised to see that they still had an enormous stash of… recreational substances.
“The End of the World, of course!” Mabel exclaimed.
“You think this is the end of the world?”
She considered this for a bit.
“Did you know the longest ever recorded storm only lasted for 31 days? And that was just because it never hit land! You’ve felt it: this storm is special. Darling, I hope it’s the end of the world. I’ve never felt so free in my whole life.”
We made the exchange. A few bricks of cocaine for a few bricks of cash. We chatted as we did a few lines together.
“You don’t want things to go back to normal?”
“And stop the party?”
“I mean, It can’t last forever. Don’t you think you’ll run out of… anything?”
This made her laugh.
“Oh, how do I explain this… a lot of those people out there have been planning for something like this to happen for a long, long time. It’ll go on until we get bored; then we’ll change up the theme again. Honestly, the only reason I keep buying from you is to check if the post office is still working!”
I got up to leave.
“Wait just a moment!” she said. “I have a little gift for you. A token of appreciation for sticking by us during these uncertain times.”
An attendant wheeled in a huge metal keg. Some kind of fancy booze in there, I guessed.
She caressed it lovingly. “This was imported from Japan, before the storm. Specialty alkaline water from a volcanic spring. It feels amazing on your skin!”
“Oh. Thanks.” I replied.
“Javier will help you take it to your car. Buh-bye now!” She flashed her perfect, straight white teeth once again in her exaggerated smile and gave me a little wave.
[7:49] Second Delivery
SFX: Heavy rainfall.
I parked as close as I could to the police station to minimize the amount of time I’d have to run through the rain. Inside, there was a set of hooks that I hung my rain jacket on.
Officer Goodchild was lounging behind the front desk, feet propped up on the table. She lit up when she saw me and handed me a thermos of coffee.
“Fuckin finally! Do you know how long it’s been?” She pulled out a small joint from her pocket. “This is my LAST ONE.” she stressed.
“I don’t know how long it’s been, actually. I don’t even know what time it is right now. Don’t complain. You’re lucky I still have connections at the post office at all.” I replied.
“I know, I know. It just feels weird to order drugs through the mail. What am I, a caveman? I miss when you had a phone. By the way, you know it’s okay if you take the helmet off, right? No one gives a shit about the War on Drugs anymore. No one gives a shit about anything, really.”
And it was true. As she led me through the station, I could see that the entire force had given up even the facade of professionalism. They were openly smoking, playing board games, and drinking straight from the bottle. But the mood was markedly different from the casino. Their eyes were sunken, their laughter hollow. I recognized it immediately: Vitamin D deficiency.
“I’m keeping the helmet on. You don’t care right now, but you’ll start caring again when the storm stops. Also, I look like shit right now.”
Her smile dropped. “The storm is never going to end,” she said flatly, with no hint of humor or exaggeration in her voice.
“How can you possibly know that?” I asked.
“Because I saw it.”
“…The End.” And that was all she would say on the matter, for now.
We entered the contraband room, where drugs were neatly ordered on the shelves like we were at a grocery store. In the middle of the room were a few air mattresses.
“I sleep in here,” she explained. “A lot of us just started sleeping in the station, for a lot of different reasons. Some folks lost power and water in their homes. Some just hated the commute. As for me? I can’t stand being around my wife and kids no more,” she said with a wry smile.
I wasn’t sure whether or not to laugh at that, so I just got down to business. As far as the cops are concerned, I only sell weed. She placed the drugs on the shelf, in the section labeled “cannabis”.
There was an extended silence between us as we slowly organized our things. Pre-storm, I might have felt more awkward about it. But I didn’t want to leave just yet because I was appreciating the company. I was starting to feel like a normal person again.
Then she said, “I want to show you something.”
SFX: Sounds of rain fade as they enter a more insulated room.
She took me to the archives. There was a guy in there. He was sitting on a cot without a shirt on, and smoking from a ridiculously large bong. He seemed to be muttering something to himself between puffs.
She ignored him and waved me over to a corner with a glass case. Inside was an ancient leathery hide, folded in half. As I got closer, waves of nausea threatened to overwhelm me.
“What even is that?”
“I guess you could call it a book. A prehistoric manuscript, written on the skin of an early hominid. Almost human, but not quite.”
“Why is it making me feel sick? Is it radioactive or something?”
“I don’t think so, but there is something wrong with it. You feel sick because your body is instinctually afraid of it. It’s a primal fear, as ingrained in you as our fear of predators in the dark. Your subconscious is telling you that it’s dangerous to be near it. This was turned in to us by a private investigator. He was working on a case, trying to find a missing girl. He found her, but he was too late.”
Mercifully, she led me to a different section of the archives. I sighed in relief.
She grabbed one of the case files and opened it on a nearby table.
“This is what happened to the girl. Where he found the book.”
There was a photograph of… seven dead bodies arranged in a circle, heads pointed towards the center and legs facing out, like an octopus’s tentacles. Their throats were slit, and because they were lying on an incline, their blood flowed to the center of the circle. There, I could see a large stone altar with strange symbols carved into it. The blood from the bodies had filled the grooves of the carvings. For some reason, I couldn’t keep the symbols in focus. When I tried to look more closely at them, they became blurry, but just the symbols. I could see them for a split second if I looked away and then back, but always they would blur again.
She watched me trying to make sense of it all. “You can’t see the symbols because your mind knows it should censor them. It’s like how you don’t see your own blood vessels all the time even though they cross in front of your retina.”
“Can YOU see them?”
“Because I touched the book and I read it.”
“…What does any of this have to do with the storm?”
“You see how that blood is still fresh? This happened a day before the storm started.”
“That could just be a coincidence. You don’t seriously believe that some doomsday cult managed to perform a ritual to bring about the end of the world, do you?”
SFX: Sounds of rain slowly get louder as Officer Goodchild describes her visions.
“It’s not a coincidence!” she snapped. “Sorry. It’s not a coincidence. Ever since I read that damn book, I’ve been seeing things. Nightmares. Of being washed away in the Flood. Capital F, Flood, like the one in the Bible, but there’s no ark… Only the water, the wind, and the storm. And the bodies.”
I began to hear muffled sobs from the guy on the other side of the room.
“Everyone who’s read that book has seen the same things. If you don’t believe me, if you still think it’s just a coincidence, I’ll let you read it too. If it’s not real it can’t hurt you, right? What’ll it be?”
[13:55] Third Delivery
SFX: Heavy rain throughout the meeting.
My last, and lowest priority, delivery had me meeting my client under a bridge. A small crowd of homeless people had taken shelter there, huddled around a bonfire, shivering in the cold. The storm was so loud, I had to take off my helmet and lean in close to hear anyone.
Todd was shaking my hand with both of his.
“Thank you, thank you so much,” he said over and over. “I knew you wouldn’t forget about us. The shelters are full. We used to survive on the kindness of strangers who crossed our paths. The only people walking outside now are the same ones with nowhere to go.”
I shrugged. “Money still means something.”
“For now,” Todd said.
I hadn’t seen Todd since I started doing bulk orders only. So I was surprised to get a letter from him. I would have expected it to be a trap, but he actually sent the cash with the letter. He trusted me enough to prepay, with no guarantee that I’d follow through.
But I’m no thief. And Todd was, quite literally, my oldest customer. If I had been out of stock, I’d have met up with him anyway to give him a refund.
“What’s one guy going to do with all this heroin anyways? You looking to start selling?” I asked, holding up the package.
He looked down at his feet. “It’s, uh, not just for me. It’s for everyone here. We combined everything we had.”
“…Todd, there are kids under this bridge.”
“Those kids are also tired, cold, and hungry. Most lost both their parents. They wanted to come with us.”
“I’m not getting kids hooked on heroin!”
“They won’t be getting hooked. We’re all going to take enough to end our lives. If we’re going to die, we want to die painlessly.”
“What the FUCK, Todd? You could have at least lied to me.”
He shook his head. “That would be unethical.”
“It’s unethical for me to let you have this package! There’s got to be another way.” My hands were shaking.
He looked right into my eyes. “Are you going to open your home to us? Share your precious food and water? For how long? Lots of people let us live with them, back when they thought the storm would only be for a few days. But it kept going. And there’s only so long you can stand having a stranger in your home.”
He continued, “I’m telling you exactly what we’re going to do with the drugs you give us because all parties involved in this must consent. The person who flips the switch for the electric chair must know that it’s for the electric chair. You can’t just tell them it’s a regular light switch. I don’t want you to find out tomorrow and wonder for the rest of your life if you should have just gone home instead.”
I didn’t know what to say. I was so tired. My body felt so heavy.
All I could think to ask was, “What if the storm ends tomorrow?”
“Then we’d still be homeless.”
SFX: Heavy rain.
So that’s it. I finished all my deliveries today. Well, I can’t really say that because I don’t know how long it’s actually been. I could have been at this for more than 24 hours. Let’s just say that I managed to finish all my deliveries before I went back to sleep.
Sleep. I was beginning to dread the idea. All I wanted was to take off all this heavy gear and self-medicate with my stash until I passed out. I didn’t want to lie awake with my thoughts. But I didn’t want to see what I would dream about either.
Because I knew in my bones that I would be having nightmares. Of Mabel’s unnaturally white teeth. Of ancient humans screaming in terror of knowledge so alien it marked them physically, changing their bodies in ways they could not comprehend. Of the cold blue faces of children and the elderly, washed away by the storm.
Of the End.