After three days, the phone cut out. Not that there was much use in it anyway; the calls all went the same way – the roads were still flooded, the rain showed no sign of letting up, &c., &c….
In a way, it was a nice change – a sort of holiday, really. One could not want for a better excuse to sit about the house and do nothing – there was no other option. It was a pity that the internet went with the phones, but he still had the television, and a healthy supply of books which had been waiting patiently on the shelves for years, looking down on his idle procrastinations with quiet, contemptuous despair.
On the fifth day, the rain was still pounding away; remorseless, end-of-the-world rain, the kind that batters your roof like a drunken friend at your door at 3 in the morning, the kind that inspired biblical authors and thoughts of Atlantis, the kind that usually you revel in, and delight at the fury of nature, and are saddened when, after an hour or two, it fades away and the world returns to normal.
Except, this time, the rain hadn’t faded away.
On the seventh day, during one of those rare periods when the rain relented just a little, switching from a furious deluge to a more pedestrian downpour, some Kookaburras found their way into the trees in his front garden. He was sitting on the verandah, staring out into the dim midday, letting his mind drift amongst the cascading sheets. The days were never brighter than twilight, now, and at night, with the moon and stars blotted out, there was only the impossible darkness of the ocean floor. He was stirred from this reverie by the laughter of the birds. It was as though they were laughing at him – it seemed knowing, malicious. Despite his cardigan, he shivered, and retreated inside, their cackles chasing him as he shut the door.
By the tenth day, he was giving serious thought to rationing his food. By this stage, he had worked his way through most of it, not imagining that the deluge would last so long. He’d watched the news; much more of it than usual was given over to the weather, and the weatherman had dispensed with his customary cheerfulness. He knew that the cloud stretched over five hundred kilometres, that it extended a little out to sea, where a vast column of evaporation was visible, feeding it without any signs of relenting. And though it hung, unmoving, over the coast, each day it grew longer, slowly but steadily encroaching upon the cities to the north and south.
By this stage there was talk of evacuation, but – as the newsreader explained with that impassive neutrality that could withstand the grimmest of news – with the roads flooded, and the rain falling too hard for helicopters, and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of people already trapped, it was an impossibility. There were stories of people taking boats out into the storm, and trying to float their way out, but those that didn’t find their boats filled after a scant few minutes rarely made it far before being washed out of their boats and drowned, or so soaked that they died of hypothermia. “Stay in your homes” was the newsreader’s Aesopian conclusion to the story.
By the twelfth day, the power went out. At least, he thought with a grim cheer, he needn’t worry about anything in the fridge spoiling.
By the fifteenth day, anything resembling food had been consumed, and his lunch had consisted entirely of a bottle of tomato sauce. He was not looking forward to the day he would have to tackle the mustard.
By the twentieth day, so his portable radio informed him, the cloud had covered the cities to the north and south. Many had fled, others had looted supermarkets, those who stayed behind were now trapped in the city.
On the twenty-third day, he longed for a jar of mustard to eat.
By the twenty-sixth day, the city streets had flooded, those left behind were now trapped in their houses and apartments, staring out at the newly Venetian streets. Storms were reported forming on the coasts of all the continents; most of the world’s population was now living under a cloud. By this stage, he spent all his time on the bed, wrapped in blankets, excepting the occasional trip to the bathroom.
On the thirtieth day, the radio announcer, who was trapped in his studio, related that he had lost contact with the outside world, and had no more news to tell, except that he expected the power would soon go out as well. He confessed that he was contemplating eating his producer. Not long after, the station disappeared in a wash of static.
By the thirty-fourth day, he was too weak to move, or think, or do anything but lie in his bed, and listen to the rain pounding on the ceiling.
On the thirty-eighth day, he heard the ceiling in the kitchen give way under the relentless barrage, and the house begin to flood. It didn’t merit much concern – the kitchen had long stopped being useful, and if anything it served only to taunt him.
On the forty-second day, his bed surrounded by water a foot deep, he fell into his final, exhausted sleep.
Outside, in the trees, the birds ruffled the water from their feathers, and watched as the end of the world pounded steadily on.