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Apocalypse Delayed

'My bread didn't rise!' cried a woman from the back of the crowd gathered outside the church.

A woman in front of her rolled her eyes. 'Your bread never rises, Jules. You don't knead it enough.'

'Well I'll tell you something else: I couldn't find a single pair of matching socks in the washing,' said Jules, not to be deterred.

The vicar lifted his arms. 'Ladies and gentlemen! Please, let us be calm!'

'You can be calm if you want,' said Jules, her face flushing. 'What's Seb going to say tomorrow morning when he hasn't got any matching socks?'

An elderly gentleman sitting on a bench to the side of the path snorted. 'He won't say anything, will he? Not if there won't be a tomorrow.'

Jules sought for a suitable retort but failed.

The vicar summoned his best reassuring smile, which fell rather short thanks to the constant twitching in his right eye. 'Now then, I'm sure there will be no apocalypse. And if there is, well, we shall all rest in peace. God will welcome us into his kingdom.'

'Blow that! I'm due in Bridport at noon tomorrow!' joked Alan, delivery man for the local building supply firm. 'There'll be hell to pay if I don't get those timbers to the customer on time.'

This was greeted with a series of polite laughs, to which Alan beamed broadly.

'This is all just a misinterpretation of …' began the vicar.

'Well, I saw a black cat this morning.'

'There was a magpie on my lawn. I never get magpies on my lawn.'

'My car flat refused to start.'

'Your car always refuses to start. You have to bump start it every day.'

'Yes, but today it sounded different.'

'And what about this weather?'

'They've got flooding in Potswash.'

'We had an earthquake the other week too.'

'That was just a tremor.'

'Maybe, but we've never had one before.'

'I saw six crows flying backwards last night,' said a slow, thoughtful voice.


'Flying backwards?'

The old man on the bench was, by now, laughing so hard that tears were streaming down his face.

'Oh yes, they were flying backwards. I saw them from my bathroom window,' continued the slow voice. 'They flew in reverse from the left of my garden,' the voice paused waiting for the rest of the thought to arrive, 'to the right.'

'Crows can't fly backwards.'

'These ones did.'


The old man pulled a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his face. 'What were you doing at the time, Trevor?'

'Well,' began Trevor, frowning with the effort of remembrance. 'I'd got home from work …'


'And I'd had my cup of tea …'


'And I'd had a shower …'

'And, what were you doing when you saw the crows fly backwards, Trevor?'

There was a long pause as Trevor replayed his activities. Those standing nearest to him witnessed the performance of a detailed mime involving the turning off of imaginary taps, a brisk rub down with an imaginary towel, and the navigation from an imaginary bathtub to an imaginary floor.

'I'd run some hot water in the sink …' the mime played out the scene. 'And I'd opened the window to let the steam out …'


Trevor thought for a moment longer, then nodded emphatically. 'I was shaving.'

The old man smiled. 'And tell me, Trevor, when you shave, you use a mirror, don't you?'

'Oh yes, because I always cut myself if I don't.'

'So,' said the old man patiently, slowly walking Trevor through the memory. 'You were shaving, looking in your mirror, and the window was open?'

Trevor ran that part through his mental video player. 'Yes.'

The crowd let out a groan. 'Silly sod! Saw the bloody things in the mirror!'

'Oh for crying out loud!'

The vicar, seeing one of his flock about to be ridiculed by the mob, stepped forwards hastily. 'Now then, it was a simple mistake I'm sure,' he said, standing beside Trevor, who merely looked confused.

'Even so, there's people gathering at all those temples in the jungle. If you ask me, those folks know a thing or two.'

'It was on the news. They're performing all sorts of rituals.'

'They had fires blazing when I was watching.'

'Probably going to sacrifice some virgins or something.'

'They'll be lucky!'

The vicar plunged his hands into his pockets and looked down at the ground. He had thought his training would have given him the tools to handle this sort of situation, but the people of Spearswick were a determined bunch when they got hold of an idea.

'I heard one man's put a bet on it all ending. If the world ends, he'll collect £50,000.'


'Well, I suppose he'll have the satisfaction of knowing he was right.'


There was a moment's silence as everyone considered that.

'The man on the news said it was all due to happen at half-past one this afternoon.'

'Oh, well at least we'll get lunch.'

'Will there be an explosion, or is all the oxygen just going to be sucked away?'

'No, I heard it was aliens.'

'That's right. They're already here, but they're going to leave.'

'Good. That should ease the housing crisis.'

'They don't live in houses, idiot. They live in a spaceship inside a mountain just outside Merthyr Tydfil.'

'I thought it was in France.'

'No, Merthyr Tydfil is in Wales.'

'Not Merthyr Tydfil, the spaceship mountain!'

The vicar bit his tongue to stall the howl he could feel rising in his chest. 'Okay, what I suggest is that we conduct a service of prayer and thanksgiving. That way, if anything does happen, and I assure you it won't, but if it does, at least you'll be communing with the Lord.'

The crowd fell silent and everyone shuffled their feet, looking slightly awkward.

'Well, it's a nice idea, vicar. I have to go and peg out my washing, but I'll pop back if I get a minute.'

'Got a load of bricks to deliver to Apton.'

'I can't leave the dog too long, he tends to fret.'

The vicar and the old man watched as the crowd melted away like vapour in a stiff breeze. When the churchyard was empty, the old man hauled himself to his feet with his stick and winked at the vicar.

'And there's today's lesson for you, father. Always issue the threats at the start of the argument. It saves a lot of time later.'


© 2012 Kay Lawrence.


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