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Kill Switch by Nik Eveleigh

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“You’re looking for some answers. I can understand that. I can relate. Isn’t that what the hippies used to say?”

Joe’s gaze remained flat. He waited for the man to continue.

“Don’t say much do you? I’m guessing you’re all out of empathy as well as words right now but if not, I won’t keep you. Good luck in finding a tree left to hug.”

“I’m not going anywhere until you tell us why it started.”

“Why? Ha!” The old man shook his head and snorted. “Why it all started…let me think now. What set the tumblers in motion? What cataclysmic event poked open the wasps nest until everything was fucked and dust…”

“There must have been something that…”

“There was nothing!” The old man threw up his arms, setting his chains to jangling. “You don’t get it do you? The Great Something is just some fucked up fireside story that held a lot of shit-scared people together. There was no something. Never is, never was. Just the constant, intolerable attrition of the small things. Values, honour, community. Pick away the scab. Straw upon straw upon straw.”

Joe gave the old man a bottle of water and watched him sip. Not gulping it down. Even now he’s in control. “Good?”

“Colder than rainwater at least.”

“If there isn’t a why, what can you tell me about the when?”

“I was seven days short of sixteen when it began. I’d tell you how old I was now but I stopped counting around fifty. Unlike this,” he said, tapping his bald brown head, “some things don’t disappear with age. I remember this part too well. The world got up on Sunday and went about its regular business. People prayed to their gods, played with their kids, watched TV. Straw upon straw upon…boom.

“There was a bomb?”

“No. Not a bomb. Something just snapped. A switch in everyone’s head. It was like the whole world held itself up to a dark mirror and saw the truth of those around them. And it made them fucking angry. Most people at least.

We were at church mumbling our way beneath the fervent and faithful when the kill switch dropped. I know I shouldn’t call it a kill switch but I couldn’t keep calling it the event. Makes it sound like some fucking garden party with gilded invitations, so kill switch it is. I went from mouthing unfelt platitudes to running for the door with my sister in less time than it takes the Lord to ignore His prayer. She started biting my arm before we got more than five aisles so I let go on reflex. She fell to the ground and stared at me. The thing that used to be Chrissy.” The man sat back and sighed. “I try not to let that be my memory of her but mostly it is. By the time I got to the door the priest was getting his head caved in by an altar boy screaming you made me. I ran and didn’t look back.

The stories were the same everywhere. A nanny listens to the kids fighting in the back and drives in front of a truck. A husband punches himself drunk on his wife’s face for spilling the last beer. A mother drops her disabled baby into the pool and watches him sink. Boom.”

The old man nodded in thanks as Joe supplied a new bottle of water. Sipped. Carried on. “When I got home I locked myself in the basement. The screaming was worse at night. The laughter was awful whatever the hour. After a week I ran out of water and had to come up. Through the kitchen window I could see the line of armed men all dressed in red kicking in doors. I didn’t wait for them to kick in mine.

Basically the world broke into three. Those who killed. Those who died. Those who ran.”

“Which group were you in?”

“I wasn’t in the second one.” The old man returned Joe’s level stare as he continued. “After I left the house I went up to Wilders Hill and hid in one of the caves. When it turned dark I watched the ranks of the Scarlet Guard set fire to my town. One hell of a birthday candle to mark my coming of age. Years later I did some burning of my own. But by then I wasn’t alone.”

“What happened after you…”

The old man shook his head and rattled his chains. “That’s all you’re getting until these come off and you bring me something to eat.”

Joe grunted and stood up. “I’ll talk to the others.”

In the dark silence that followed the old man wept as he dreamed of a girl in her Sunday blue dress.

 

© 2015 Nik Eveleigh

16 thoughts on “Kill Switch by Nik Eveleigh”

  1. Great suspense in one of my favourite genres, dystopia. Once again you prove yourself very versatile. The Nik Eveleigh stamp is a promise of quality.
    ATVB my friend
    Tobbe

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That comment gave me a big smile June – have never considered myself as a very dark writer but recent stories seem to suggest otherwise! Thanks for reading and for the lovely comment – always appreciated.

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    1. Thanks Vic – appreciated. I’ve got to give a nod to Adam on this one – the original submission of this piece to Literally Stories was a first person POV monologue and his assertion that it’s a slightly out of date mode of storytelling inspired a rethink, a rewrite and I believe a better story. If it’s given you a vivid picture then I’m very, very happy with the result and it was worth the extra effort! Cheers, Nik

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  2. Hi Nik, You have captured the inherent lurking madness that we all fear, when the whole world descends into anarchy. (as if we are not there already). But we feel some relieve with a sense of reassurance at the end – somehow the situation has been suppressed and we can sleep safely again – until your next installment. Good read.
    James.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi James – apologies, somehow I managed to miss your comment when replying last night! There are a lot of scary things happening in the world right now and a lot of unease I think regardless of where you reside. I hope it just makes for storytelling inspiration and nothing more. Thanks for your thoughts – always appreciated. Cheers, Nik

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    1. I think that’s a great way to sum it up Des, thank you. Thanks for reading and for the positive comment – any time I see the words “well written” it makes my day! Cheers, Nik

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  3. I have read the comments and the adjective dark surfaced several times. I prefer to say realistic, Nik, and this story, IMO, can be set in the past, present, or dreadfully, our future – with the world’s social infrastructures unraveling at such a rapid rate. ‘The old man threw up his arms, settings his chains to jangling’, is a very intriguing sentence, as well as, ‘…the old man wept as he dreamed of a girl in her Sunday blue dress’, which injects a sense of compassion to the story. It is a sad and tragic story, but one that was well written, engaging, and enjoyable to read. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Willie – great to hear from you. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. You make a very good point about past, present and future – I hadn’t really considered the fact that there is so much darkness in the world right now that it’s seeping into my subconscious and my writing, but it clearly is. I like writing short pieces that work on their own but have the potential to be expanded, or raise questions in a readers mind – I mentioned in a previous comment about rewriting this piece to make it more dialogue based and I think that made it a lot easier to inject some compassion and humanity. Very glad to know that you enjoyed it. Cheers, Nik

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  4. Hi Nik, Tobias has already used the word. I do believe that you are one of the more versatile writers on this site. For so many different reasons, I have enjoyed the diversity of your work. I think it is such a shame that books of short stories are so difficult to have published traditionally. Due to the quality and skill that you show I think a book of your shorts would be a breath of fresh air.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Hugh. I often wonder to myself if not having a set genre or style is a blessing or a curse – positive comments like this convince me that it’s the former. I’m thinking of self-publishing my older stories from SBS with a central narrative holding them together – when it’s complete you get a free copy!! Cheers, Nik

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  5. Nik, this is a refreshing departure from the typical dystopian story. The idea of a collective breaking point being reached is scary! ‘…the whole world held itself up to a dark mirror and saw the truth of those around them.’ I know what you’re saying there though I think you’ve changed the subject from the world, singular, to them, plural, within the sentence and I think that reads poorly. ‘…Those who killed. Those who died. Those who ran.’ There’s a lot to think about here: those who died, did they deserve it? Those who killed, were they justified. Those who ran, did they burn (yes) and kill later? I found a lot more in this than in the usual, ‘Oh, Lordy! – post apocalyptic nightmare, I better hadn’t venture too far from my poorly-lit cellar’ type of tale.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good spot that Richard re: the whole world – now that you’ve pointed it out it sounds quite clunky. Will make sure it gets edited on my local copy! I know from other comments that dystopian fiction doesn’t tend to grab you so it makes it all the more satisfying for me to know you enjoyed this one I try very hard to make things interesting even if I’m treading a well worn path so it’s really heartening to get comments like this. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment – appreciated. Cheers, Nik

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