This story is yet another sequel to my series Chronicles of the Cosmos, a series of adventures based on plots from Zelda, which I first started writing at the age of 10.
Being the third in the series, this is a sequel to The Master of Disguise, and tells the story of a couple due to marry, similar to Kafei & Anju but without the whole cursed-child thing.
As you've probably guessed, this story is based around Majora's Mask, and even includes the same idea of impending doom. But be warned: this is not a fan fiction, and should not be read as accurate or connected to the Legend of Zelda series!
Without further introduction, here it is...Chronicles of the Cosmos: Approaching Apocalypse.
Chapter 1: Preparations
This is my very first entry. I have never kept a diary before, but now, I feel that things are getting busier, and I must record everything on a schedule. It is the Monday the 17th of July, and just 7 days until Ross's wedding. Already, the whole town is getting ready for the big day, and everyone's invited. Being the son of the Mayor, this wedding will be an occasion for the citizens of Stanton Town, and everyone is getting involved.
For example, the people at Scrumptious Cafe are preparing the food for the reception, including the cake. Holleron at Kwik Fix Garage is preparing the stagecoach for the couple to ride in (and he says it will be a big surprise). Even the people at Drinks All Round are busy, since that is where the reception is being held. As for me, well, I'm the chief organiser. The Mayoress and I have been talking to all the townsfolk, and she has ordered the construction of a monument in the town square to commemorate the big day.
I'm getting excited just writing about it! We can just hope that nothing goes wrong...
Yours sincerely, Ryan.
Ryan closed the pages of the leather-bound diary and placed the quill pen back on the desk. The morning sunlight was seeping through the window of his apartment above the pharmacy where he worked. Ryan was already dressed and ready for a day of labour, as he toasted some bread and checked the clock. It was only 05:30, but there was so much to do. He had a meeting with the Mayoress at 08:00, but first he was going to call in on Skinner at 06:00. Once he had eaten lunch at 12:00, he would have to open up the pharmacy at 13:00. All this he had marked in his diary, which he had only just bought from the book shop yesterday. So much to do...
As soon as the clock chimed for six o'clock, Ryan garbed his jacket and departed from the pharmacy. But no further than five paces from his doorstep was he confronted by an elderly woman in a brown shawl.
"I need my pills!" she croaked. "They're for my chest cough!"
"I'll give them to you after one o'clock, when the pharmacy opens." he told her, and tried to bypass her.
"No, you promised me they would be ready yesterday!" the woman growled. "You're trying to cheat me out of my medication!"
"Mrs Groening, I am aware of your prescription, but the pills must cool for six hours after mixing." Ryan checked his watch, frustrated.
"I will be waiting here at exactly one o'clock, young man!" she warned him. "No later!"
Ryan nodded and quickly sidled past her, heading straight for the Food Court to the east.
The streets were bathed in summer sunlight and the colours of national pride, as bunting and flags were hung from various shops. Not everybody wore a smile though, as it was still early morning and business was only just beginning.
As Ryan turned the corner to enter the Food Court, the fragrance of flora filled his nostrils; flora which had been planted for the occasion. The town had really flourished since the announcement, and the festivities would bring tourists from all over the country.
Finally, he arrived at Scrumptious Cafe. It wasn't too busy except for the workers having their breakfast, and Ryan strolled in. Lauren and Lucy, the two waitresses, were already up and dashing about, collecting and delivering plates of food. He approached Lauren with a smile.
"Good morning. Is Skinner up yet?"
"I would like to think so!" she laughed. "He's supposed to be running this place! Go through to the kitchen and check...but don't disturb him if he's cooking!"
Ryan passed the sleepy men and women and entered the steamy kitchen.
Skinner was leant against the counter, watching over a boiling kettle when Ryan poked his head around the corner. "Ah, Ryan! I was wondering when you'd arrive!"
"I'm not late, am I?" he winked. "I just came to check how the cake was going."
Skinner led Ryan out the back door and into the alleyway. There were piles of wooden crates, all different sizes, but the biggest stood out with a red ribbon. Skinner opened the lid like a door and presented a giant, flat block of icing.
"As you can see, this is only the bottom tier. There are going to be five, plus a model of the bride and groom at the top, made of marzipan. Is it up to your standards?"
"It looks good so far..." Ryan said uncertainly. "...but I think I will have to visit each day to check on your progress."
"If you say so." Skinner sighed, shutting the door of the crate.
Ryan opened his diary and ticked off the entry with a pencil. "Okay, I'll come around tomorrow, same time."
Skinner nodded. "Do you know when Samchu's going to arrive?"
"Samchu?" Ryan asked, as though he had never heard the name before.
"Yes, Samchu!" Skinner scowled. "Remember, our alien friend from outer space?"
"Yes, he's on the guest list." Ryan said. "But how is he going to arrive?"
"Maybe he'll teleport like last time."
"But that was only when we rang the church bells. Does he even know when the wedding is?"
"I don't know! We have no way of communicating with him!"
Ryan pondered, tapping the pencil on the red leather cover. "I shall send him a formal invite." he concluded, and before Skinner could question him, he disappeared into the kitchen. As he left the doors of the cafe, Ryan checked his watch again. 07:00. He had one hour to get to the Upper District of town, which lay to the north-west.
All the way across the Food Court and into the town square, Ryan ran beneath the face of the clock on the town hall. It was only 07:15, but he still sprinted up the steps towards the Upper District.
When he arrived outside the Mayor's Residence, he found that Ross was already standing in the porch looking flustered.
"Hey Ross, what's up?" Ryan asked.
"Oh, you know, just all this wedding stuff." he said. "I can't imagine how much it's going to cost..."
"Well fortunately, the people of Stanton are paying for your wedding with their taxes." Ryan reminded him.
"Oh, of course." Ross said shamefully. "Well I've gotta go, I need to go and visit the...um...coffee shop."
He dashed off before saying goodbye, so Ryan knocked and entered the Mayor's Residence.
"Come in!" the Mayoress called sweetly. She was seated in the lounge with a tray of tea and biscuits, ready for the meeting. On the sofa beside her was a man with a multicoloured jacket, but despite his colourful clothes, he looked rather frustrated as Ryan entered.
"Good morning, Mayoress." he said politely. "May I sit down?"
"Of course, Ryan." she laughed. "And please, call me Angela. I want to make this meeting as informal as possible."
"Are we ready to go already?" the man said impatiently.
"Just wait a few minutes, Fin!" Angela hissed. "We're still waiting for one more guest..."
At that moment, there was a knock on the door. "Come in!" the Mayoress called once more. A girl entered the lounge, wearing a lime green dress and a flower in her hair to match. She gazed around at the faces and smiled, but did not say a word.
"Ah, good morning Sophie!" Angela said brightly. "Come and sit down. We're just about to begin."
The girl selected a seat beside Ryan. With such eccentric outfits either side of him, Ryan felt as though he had just joined the circus.
"The meeting is now in procession." the Mayoress declared. "Please feel free to pour from the teapot and nibble on some biscuits. I apologise for the lack of bourbons."
Ryan took the liberty to pour himself a cup of tea to refresh himself. Neither of the other two guests touched the teapot or the biscuits.
"So we are here to discuss the preparations for the wedding ceremony. Since Ryan and I are the chief organisers of the event, I invited him to take notes and check the schedule. I'm sure you all know that Fin here is the manager of the rock band The Sharks. I must say, my son was a great fan of you're earlier work."
Fin nodded. Ryan had never heard of them. Then again, Ryan didn't know much about music.
"So I trust you invited me here to play at the wedding?" Fin said bluntly.
"Indeed." Angela nodded. "I can assure you, the payment will exceed any offer for a public concert. Will your band be ready by the 23rd of July?"
"Of course." Fin said confidently. "The Sharks always catch the bait."
Ryan cringed slightly at the pun, but Sophie gave a small giggle.
"Excellent. You will be playing in the town hall. Ryan, can you insert the performance into the schedule. Also, I want a sound check before the big day. How about the 21st?"
Fin nodded. Ryan scribbled down the information in his diary.
"Now onto you, Sophie. For those of you who don't know, Sophie is the primary volunteer at the Art Gallery and organised all the decoration for the event."
Sophie blushed at the compliment and began to play with her leaf-shaped necklace.
"So for the big day, I would like several boxes of confetti, for the guests to throw when they walk out the church."
"Any particular flower?" Sophie asked.
"Roses would be nice." Angela smiled.
"Really? I thought roses were a little too mainstream. There are many other flowers with a more potent fragrance, such as tulips or snowdrops-"
"Just roses would be fine, thanks." Angela cut her off. "And as for the town hall, I would like banners saying 'just married' and hanging baskets all around."
"Yes, with roses."
Ryan was still scribbling away when he noticed that Sophie was watching the pencil curiously. He quickly finished and closed the diary.
"So are we finished here?" Fin said rudely.
"I should think so." Angela sighed. "I will call another meeting in four days time to check on your progress. I may invite some extra guests too. Thank you for coming, and you are all invited to attend the church ceremony."
Fin stood up immediately and left the building. Sophie said a joyful farewell to both the Mayoress and Ryan, and left with a smile. Suddenly, Ryan remembered something:
"Excuse me, Mayoress," he said politely. "but I have something to ask: do you know Samchu?"
"Samchu?" she frowned. "Is that the young man who rescued my son from that crazed kidnapper six months ago?"
"Yes," Ryan smiled. "but he wasn't just any ordinary man. I presume Ross told you the story?"
"Ah yes, is Samchu the alien boy?"
She laughed. Ryan was surprised that she did not seem scared or shocked by the situation.
"Yes, he is." Ryan sighed. "He is invited to the wedding...at least, I have his name on the guest list. But I don't know how to send him an invitation."
"Well, how did you summon him last time?"
"With the bells, but-"
"-then won't that work?"
"But Mayoress, you've sealed the entire church off for the wedding preparations!"
"Ah, I'd forgotten about that." Angela sighed. "Well, I suppose I can make an exception. I shall write a formal permit to allow you and the others to enter the belfry."
"Thank you, Mayoress." Ryan said, checking his watch. 09:10. "I suppose I must be going now. Thanks for the tea."
Meanwhile, deep in the Back Alleys of Stanton town, the bar was quiet and deserted, except for just three men.
Rooney, the barman, was leaning over the bar talking to one of his friends; Holleron the mechanic, over a pint of beer.
"I'm sort of struggling with the stagecoach." Holleron explained. "It works perfectly...but it just doesn't look pretty."
"I'm sure Ross won't mind. But the Mayoress will rage." Rooney groaned. "I don't see what all the fuss is: people get married every day. Why should this wedding be different?"
Before he could receive an answer, the postman strolled through the door.
"Mr Rooney?" he asked. "I have a letter for you."
Rooney took the plain brown envelope from the man in the red hat before he strolled out the bar again. Rooney ripped open the envelope with anticipation and pulled out the letter with a groan.
"I invited Rocky and Rose to the wedding, but they've declined." Rooney sighed.
"Rocky and Rose?" Holleron frowned. "From that village in the Picarok Canyon?"
"Yes. They said; we are very grateful that you have invited us to this occasion, but unfortunately, we cannot attend the wedding as we are very busy at the moment. Busy doing what? I think it's the least they could do considering I've been collecting money for them all year!"
"You mean the 'Picarok Restoration Fund'?" Holleron laughed. "I didn't know that was still going!"
“It certainly is, and just for saying that, I demand you pay up £1.”
Rooney stretched out his palm while Holleron dipped into his pocket, grumbling.
“Well, it doesn’t matter that Rocky and Rose aren’t coming.” Rooney sighed. “We have more important guests to worry about.”
“Samchu, of course! Have you completely forgotten about him?”
“No, of course not.” Holleron smiled. “But how are we going to bring him down to Earth?”
“Using the bells, I guess. I’m off work tonight, so me, you, Ryan and Skinner can go to the belfry.”
“What about Ross?”
“Ross will be too busy with wedding stuff.” Rooney insisted.
Holleron sipped on his drink again before leaning closer to whisper: “Who’s that guy over there?”
Both pairs of eyes turned to the corner of the bar, where a man wearing a maroon scarf sat alone. He looked up suddenly, and both men turned away.
“I don’t know...probably either an alcoholic or a criminal...or both.”
“He’s been in here longer than me.” Holleron murmured. “I kind of feel sorry for him.”
“I don’t. He looks like the kind of guy who could kill you just by looking at you.”
They took one last glance, before Holleron finished his drink and passed the man as he went through the door. Rooney sighed as he heard footsteps approaching from behind him. He already knew it would be his boss, Pete, who hardly ever seemed to work.
"Rooney, if the Mayoress comes sniffing around, tell her we haven't brewed the champagne yet."
"Why can't you tell her?"
"I'm off out." he grinned, and placed a hand firmly on Rooney's shoulder. "You can take care of the bar on your own until two o'clock, can't you?"
"I'm always on my own."
"Excellent." Pete patted him on the back patronisingly. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Ciao!"
Rooney watched his boss dash out the door, leaving him alone with the stranger in the corner. The man was already staring at him. Rooney was about to avert his gazed when he thought he saw a wink.
Not sure what I think of this. On one hand it does feel a little bit rushed, but on the balance the fast-paced feel kind of strengthens the jovial relation between the characters we've met so far. There's more to go, so it could improve.
Not sure what I think of this. On one hand it does feel a little bit rushed, but on the balance the fast-paced feel kind of strengthens the jovial relation between the characters we've met so far. There's more to go, so it could improve.
Thanks. If you're interested, click my sig and read the prequels, but the first one (the one I wrote when I was 10) is terribly written.
Chapter 4: Reminiscing
Ross sat alone in Mochacinno Coffee Shop, with a steaming latte in his hands. It was the place where he had first met Liz, his bride-to-be, only a year ago. It was strange to think that so much had happened since then. Their lives had changed drastically from the night they went to see Hearts of Cherubs at the cinema.
The bell hung over the door chimed as Liz herself entered. Her brown hair was tied back in a ponytail, something she had been doing ever since she had been applying for a job. She spotted her fiancé and walked cheerfully towards him.
"How did it go?" Ross asked.
"Not too well." Liz sighed. "I was shaking with fear, and all the interviewers would talk about was the wedding. That made me even more nervous."
"You might still get it!" he said optimistically.
"I doubt it." she said sombrely, but her smile shone through. "I never wanted to work in a restaurant anyway."
The restaurant was in fact only across the Food Court: La Nourriture. It was the most rated, yet most expensive restaurant in town. Liz had applied to become an assistant manager, as she could not bear the thought of being a waitress.
"Should I get you a coffee?"
"Yes please." she nodded with relief.
When Ross returned with an espresso, Liz wrapped her palms around it, as though warming herself after a cold winter. She gazed around the shop thoughtfully.
"It's like nothing's changed. Well of course, everything has changed. Even this place was smashed up by aliens once."
"And I took you to the surgery." Ross remembered. "Then you were so traumatised, you wouldn't speak to anyone."
"But I did once I found your dad in a bin." she giggled.
"Yes, but then you went and accused Lauren of kidnapping him. Then we broke up..."
"Which ended up in me being kidnapped by the same psycho! You should never have left me!"
"And I won't, ever again." Ross assured her. He stroked her hand before gazing out the window, looking concerned.
"What's up?" Liz asked. "I can tell when something's bothering you."
Ross turned to face her. His voice lowered so that the conversation could not be heard by the couple behind them. "Samchu visited me this morning."
"Samchu? Your alien friend?"
"Sssshhh!" Ross hissed, and checked to see if anybody was now glaring at them. "Yes, him. He arrived on my doorstep at 6am and told me something..."
"What did he tell you?"
"He told me that something bad was going to happen soon."
"Oh, what a well-wisher!" Liz groaned. "Is something going to ruin our wedding?"
"He didn't say." Ross sighed. "He just told me that I should be prepared. and that he wouldn't be around to help."
"Have you told the others?"
"Not yet...I could be wrong." he said hopefully. "It could have been a dream."
"At 6am in the morning? What was he doing on Earth anyway?"
"I honestly don't know..."
"Let's stop being so pessimistic!" she smiled. "It's our wedding in a week! We should be excited!"
"I am!" Ross insisted. "I'm also excited for my stag party at Drinks All Round...are you having a hen party?"
Liz shook her head modestly. "There's no point. I'd have nobody to invite, except for your mum."
"Don't be silly! What about the girls at the cafe? They'd love to come!"
"They all hate me!" she sighed. "Besides, I don't need friends. All I need is you."
Ross smiled at the romantic words, but felt a little pity for her. He hadn't really noticed until now that Liz was lonely. He felt lucky to have friends.
"I remember when we first met." Liz said, diverting the topic. "I was sitting at this very table, crying, because my loser boyfriend had just dumped me, when you came over and bought me a coffee."
"But we'd spoken before that." Ross said quickly, trying to make their relationship seem a little less sad. "I said 'hi' to you a couple of times."
"Yes, you were unemployed, lonely and shy." she giggled. "Like I said, nothing changes."
12:00. Just one hour until Ryan would have to return to his daily routine of distributing pharmaceutical drugs to the ill. Dreading the thought, he decided to eat lunch in Scrumptious to stall as much time as possible. Skinner was happy to serve him a quick sandwich for free, so he chose a small table and dined, while watching the world pass by.
On the opposite table, the beefy builders were munching on bacon and other greasy food. They were supposed to be constructing the commemorative sculpture in the town square, but they had been here longer than Ryan had.
'Hard hammer Harry', as he was nicknamed, glanced sharply over and caught Ryan watching them. Ryan looked down at the table, not wanting to pick a fight. The builder's glare soon switched to Lucy, who appeared at the table carrying a further plateful of fried eggs. But Harry was seemingly distracted from his food, and was eyeing her greedily. Ryan almost spat out his sandwich in surprise. What would Skinner think of that?
Suddenly, Ross burst through the door of the cafe and almost knocked Lucy off her feet. "Sorry, but can I talk to Skinner?"
"In the kitchen." Lucy directed him. "Is it urgent? We're rather busy right now."
"It's quite important." he told her, then spotted Ryan in the corner. He hurried over to the table before Lucy could reply. Harry glared at him.
"Hey Ross, what's the matter?" Ryan asked.
"I needed to talk to one of you...'the crew'."
"Oh, what about? I've checked on all the wedding preparations, everything's going well-"
"It's not about the wedding...well, it might be."
Ross quickly recounted his brief meeting with Samchu on the doorstep, and by the end, he was left breathless.
"Are you sure?" Ryan asked in disbelief. "Samchu came to visit you...today?"
"This morning." Ross repeated.
"Did you remind him about the wedding?"
"Ryan, it was six o'clock in the morning. I was barely awake."
"So you could have been dreaming?"
"I'm certain it was him." Ross assured him. "Do you think it's important?"
"If Samchu came all the way down to Earth to tell you, it must be important." Ryan agreed. "We should probably tell Skinner." Ryan checked his watch and suddenly realised that the time was 12:45. "Actually, you go and tell him. I've got to go."
He grabbed his jacket and dashed out the door. Ross turned to find Harry still glaring at him, but he passed by ignorantly.
Outside the pharmacy, Mrs Groening was waiting, just as she had warned him. Ryan groaned as he inserted the key into the shop door.
"I told you, young man, I told you!" she croaked. "Now fetch me my medicine!"
He held the door open for her to enter, which she did, then he quickly dashed into the back room, only to reappear at the counter with a bottle of peculiar pink pills.
"They should be strong enough to cure your cough." he informed her. "Swallow them with water so you don't choke, and if you have an allergic reaction, seek medical advice."
"Don't worry, I'm as tough as old boots!" the woman smiled, before bursting into a coughing fit.
"I suggest you take them once every two hours." Ryan said, leaning back to avoid her germs. "Thanks for your custom."
Mrs Groening did not reply, but left the shop still coughing violently. Ryan seized the opportunity of an empty shop to scribble in his schedule, before the door opened again.
"Rooney? You never visit me at work!"
"I only came to ask if you want to come to the church tonight." he sneered. "You know, to summon Samchu."
"Yes, I will. Does nine o'clock sound reasonable? No one will be around then; not even the workers."
Ryan noted the time in his diary. Rooney s♣♣♣♣♣♣ed. "You must be such a professional to keep a diary."
"I've only just started using it." he hissed. "Shouldn't you be at work?"
"Pete abandoned me again, and the bar was empty, except for a random weirdo. Pardon me for taking a break."
Rooney stormed out the pharmacy, slamming the door. Ryan sighed, knowing he would be spending the rest of the afternoon in an empty shop.
The sun was slowly setting, and even by half past eight, the sky was still in twilight. Ryan closed the pharmacy and headed along the high street towards the town square. The church was at the northernmost point of town, and it was disconnected from the crowded streets and busy shops. It was like a sanctuary, where the bereaved could lay their dead, or couples could unite.
Ryan was just passing beneath the empty slab of stone where the sculpture was to be constructed, when somebody called his name. It was Skinner, still in his chef's uniform, jogging across the town square towards him.
"Are you heading to the church?"
"Yes. I presume Ross told you what had happened?"
"He did...but I'm sceptical..."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I don't believe that Samchu would visit Earth just to see Ross. They barely know each other."
"But Samchu obviously needed to warn him about something. Maybe it's to do with his wedding?"
"But why wouldn't he come and visit us?" Skinner sounded hurt. "Is he trying to avoid us?"
"He's probably just busy, that's all." Ryan assured him. "Let's go, we're going to be late."
The churchyard was silent. Rooney was already standing under the holy statue beside Holleron, looking grumpy. When Skinner and Ryan arrived, he unleashed his temper.
"They won't let us in!" Rooney grumbled. "They say it's a 'private exhibition!"
"Basically, you need authorisation from somebody in charge." Holleron explained.
"Fortunately, that is just what I have." Ryan said smugly. He marched up to the door where a man with a long golden tie was standing. He looked down at Ryan and scoffed. "Sorry, no unauthorised personnel within the building. It is a private exhibition for private eyes only."
"My name is Ryan. I am a member of the ceremonial committee, and I have permission from the Mayoress to enter."
He presented the man with a pink envelope. The man snatched it and scanned the letter. His eyes slowly widened as he came to the Mayoress's signature.
"Is that so? Then, I suppose I can let you inside."
He stepped aside leaving the door vacant. Ryan called the others and they all entered the church.
The marble hall was bare, and reflected the twilight through the windows. The only decoration was a giant teal banner which hung above the alter, displaying a heart crest. But in just seven days, they would be sat in the pews witnessing the marriage of Ross and Liz.
"Come on, the stairs are-"
Ryan turned to see a lime green dress gliding towards him. Sophie wore an ecstatic grin as well as the usual flower in her hair.
"Sophie?" Ryan said, rather embarrassed. His friends were staring at her unusual outfit. "What are you doing here?"
"I work here, silly!" she laughed. "Well, not permanently. But I've been working here all day. It's good to see a familiar face. My name is Sophie." She shook each of the men's hands enthusiastically. "More to the point, what are you doing here? You haven't come to check up on me, have you?"
"No, not yet." Ryan smiled. "We just need to inspect the belfry."
"Oh, we aren't decorating the belfry." Sophie said sorrowfully. "As you can see, me and Martin have only managed to secure the banner today."
"No, we just need to inspect it for health and safety reasons."
Ryan quickly ushered the crew up the marble staircase which ascended to the belfry. Sophie was still waving from the bottom.
"Who was that?" Rooney sneered.
"That was Sophie, a member of the committee." Ryan told them. "She's a nice person...even though she's a little weird."
Ryan opened the ancient wooden door to the belfry. It was a cramped room with a wooden floor, and narrow windows which shed just a little moonlight onto the thick ropes.
"Each grab a rope." Skinner instructed them, taking leadership once again. They obeyed without question. "Three...two...one..."
The chiming begun, ringing a rhythmic tune across the town. After a minute long session, they let go of the ropes one by one and waited. Nothing.
"Why isn't he here yet?" Skinner grumbled.
They waited and waited, for what seemed like forever. Not even the bats sleeping on the rafters above them stirred. Ryan swiftly check his watch. It was 21:10. "I don't think he's coming, Skinner."
Skinner sighed. "Maybe we can try again tomorrow. We have to keep trying."
He opened the door and began to stroll down the marble staircase. The others glanced at each other then followed him.
"We should go and find Ross." Ryan suggested. "He might have heard from Samchu since this morning."
Before he could leave, he was interrupted by a sweet voice. "Are you leaving already?" Sophie asked, sounding concerned. "Is everything okay up there?"
"Erm...yes, yes, everything's fine." Ryan assured her. "I might visit you tomorrow, if you're still working here."
"I'll be working here all week until the job is done." she grinned. "Goodbye, Ryan."
Ryan waved as he left the building, only to bump into Martin, the man with the golden tie.
"I don't know what the Mayoress asked you to do, but I'm sure bell-ringing wasn't an option." he sniffed.
They ignored him as they passed by, leaving the churchyard for the town square. The darkening sky signified the end of another tiring day, and time for a pint at Drinks All Round.
Faraway, on an island off the Corallin Coast, a woman watched the sun set from the sandy shore alone. The colours were vibrant and reflected off the tranquil ocean waves, creating a romantic and enchanting image…but all she could think of was home.
A pink flash of light distracted her form her thoughts. She leapt up instantly and narrowed her eyes with suspicion. A man had appeared; short brown hair and an anxious look on his face.
“Samchu…” she sighed wearily. “Have they sent you to check up on me again? Do they not trust their own security measures?”
Samchu stepped forward with caution, and his foot crunched in the sand. “I have come by choice.”
The woman scoffed. “You don’t honestly expect me to believe that? A Legendary Warrior of the Pokolympian Protection force; a free man; come to visit me; a pathetic prisoner?”
To demonstrate, she selected a stone from the shore, and picked it up. With an accurate but aggressive shot, she launched in onto the water. It bounced once; bounced twice; and then sizzled against an electric force field.
“You might complain, but this is probably the best prison in the whole galaxy.” he said. “Would you rather be here, in paradise-”
The woman forced a cold laugh.
“-or in the Fortress of Trixodi?”
The smirk was wiped from her face and she turned to the sunset. “I would rather be free.”
Samchu groaned. “You committed a crime, Erichu. Therefore, you must serve your time.”
Erichu sniffed and kept her eyes focussed on the sinking red eye. “Now tell me why you’re really here.”
“Zeochu sent me.” Samchu confessed. “Apparently, he has finally found a use for you.”
“A use for me?” she hissed. “Am I just a useless object to you? A burden on the precious reputation of your planet?”
“No…if that was true, Zeochu would have sent you straight to Trixodi. But Zeochu has kept you here, safe and sound. He needs you.”
“Information. Zeochu wants to know about your past.”
“I don’t know why. Maybe he wants to help you?”
“Nobody can help me!” Erichu roared, and launched a stone in his direction. With a flick of the wrist, Samchu deflected in so it landed in the sand. She scowled and turned away to face the purple sky. Samchu hesitated, about to speak, but he detracted himself, and instead faced in the opposite direction, to face the mainland. He gasped in horror as he witnessed the gathering of enormous clouds. Erichu’s head turned to see what the fuss was about.
“Just a storm…nothing to cry about.”
“That’s no storm.” he warned. “That’s trouble.”
Ross was sitting alone in the crowded bar swirling the contents of an almost-empty pint glass. Suddenly, the four men burst through the doors and greeted him with disappointment.
“Samchu never came.” Holleron sighed.
“But we’ll try again tomorrow.” Skinner said optimistically.
“We were wondering if you might have heard from him since this morning…” Ryan explained.
Ross opened his mouth to reply when the whole bar shook violently.
“What was that?!” Rooney frowned. “An earthquake?!”
The building quaked again continuously. Customers began to panic.
“Everybody, evacuate the building!” Pete called, as he rushed past with the cash register.
There was a swarm of people all converging towards the doors, almost trampling one another in a race for survival. Ryan grabbed Ross and they followed the others outside…
In the midst of the confusion, they paused for breath. The townspeople were instinctively rushing towards their homes. All around them, soil was shaken from hanging baskets and a banner fell from the roof. And in the background, a haunting melody echoed.
“That music…” Skinner murmured. “Follow the music!”
The five men ran in the opposite direction to the rest in search of the source, through the twisting alleys all the way to the town square.
The musician was a man, a distant figure standing high atop the town hall’s clock tower. His instrument was shaped like an oboe, brown with copper-coloured reeds. The notes echoed through the still night air. Then, gradually, the notes became stronger, louder, at a faster pace, a tempo, a beat, an endless torrent of music which captured all those who listened. It paralysed them, reaching into their soul; they could not move.
Then, it happened. The moonlight burned bright, like an icy cold sun. It grew bigger, much bigger until with a flash of brilliant white, it showered a cloud of silver particles over the dark musician. It glowed just as before, high above the clock tower, but much more ominously.
The mysterious musician stood with his arms wide open, embracing its cold face, with his oboe in his hand.
“It’s the man with the scarf!” Rooney cried. “The man we saw today!”
The man heard his mentioning, and turned to his audience. His maroon scarf billowed in the wind, as he sported a dark smile, reflected in the moonlight.
"I give you one week. Seven days of mercy, to say your goodbyes, and if possible, evacuate this planet. This diseased, vermin-ridden rock that was destined to be nothing more than a few asteroids, floating in space. I will be here, on the final day, to watch the moon collide with its brother, and crush all its inhabitants to stardust. I will take great pleasure in doing so."
Without even a cackle, he vanished in a flash of pink light. That was confirmation. This man was no ordinary lunatic with a pipe. This was a sinister alien, with a sinister plot.
Holleron turned to Ross. "Ross...seven days...your wedding..."
Before Ross could respond, Liz and the Mayoress came running to join them. "Darling, are you alright?"
"I'm fine, Mum…” Ross replied, but his face was paler than the ominous orb above them.
"I heard everything." Liz said, shivering. “This can’t be happening.”
“More aliens!” the Mayoress screeched. “What has our town done to deserve this? I‘m going to find your father!”
She disappeared up the steps which led to the Upper District of town. The remaining few turned to the engaged couple. A tear slid down Liz’s cheek. “This is it, isn’t it Ross? The-the end of the world?”
Ross stood speechless, and reached out to hold her tight as she sobbed into his arms. Skinner, Holleron, Ryan and Rooney gazed up at the gigantic boulder in the clouded sky, filled with fear.
"We need Samchu." Skinner said. "More than ever before."
This is only my second entry, and already things have taken an unexpected turn. Yesterday, at 21:30 exactly, an earthquake hit our town, disturbing the various decorations and causing havoc in the streets. It turns out that a curious piper on top of the clock tower was the source of this disruption, playing a pipe which summoned the whole moon to rest right above our heads! I’m no physician, but I know that once Earth’s gravity takes hold, that lunar mass is going to come crashing down. And it won’t just squash Stanton. A mass that wide should cover a good 10000 kilometres! (I should get the figures from Tony) What’s more, the impact alone will break the Earth’s surface and shatter it into pieces! This is it: the apocalypse. In just seven days, the world will end (Or so we’ve been told). I’m not even sure that Samchu could handle something this catastrophic. What about the wedding?
Yours sincerely, Ryan.
Ryan sat in silence for a moment, in the cold light of the summer morning, which was darkened by an ominous shadow. He stared at it with curiosity. Was it possible that this was an illusion? He still couldn’t be sure.
He wandered aimlessly down the stairs and swung his lab coat over his shoulders. The door was swung open and just as he was about to walk to the Food Court for breakfast, his ears were split by the sound of a nasty cough. Ryan groaned and spun round to see Mrs Groening wearing her usual grim brown shawl and grumpy frown.
“Oi! Doctor, if that’s what you call yourself!” she hissed. “Those pills did nothing! I demand a refund!”
“Mrs Groening, you cannot ask for a refund on a prescription.” he said wearily.
“Then I want compensation! Look!”
The old woman hobbled over towards him and opened her mouth. Ryan looked at her with distaste at the raw-red soreness.
“All those pills did for me was crack another tooth!” she croaked. “I want something stronger!”
“Mrs Groening…I really think you ought to see Doctor Taylor. about your throat…”
“I already have! She’s not there! Gone! Without even a note!”
Ryan suddenly realised that the doctor must have taken flight. And she wouldn’t be the only one. Had Mrs Groening even realised the plight they were in?
“Well Mrs Groening, I suggest you go home and rest.” Ryan said carefully. “You ought to stay there too…you don’t want anyone else catching that cold.”
“Don’t tell me what to do, young man!” the woman scowled, waggling her finger. “I’ll have you know that I’ve suffered more illness than anybody else in this town! And I’ve survived them all!”
“Well done…” he said, forcing a smile. “If only we were all survivors like you.”
“Don’t bet on it, young man.” the old woman finished, and hobbled down the road, still coughing and spluttering. Ryan departed for the Food Court feeling a little guilty…
When Ryan arrived at Scrumptious Café, he noticed an immediate difference in the number of customers, though the builders had once again turned out. They glared as Ryan made his way straight to the kitchen without even a glance.
In the kitchen, the three members of staff were leant against the worktops having a meeting when Ryan intruded.
“Ryan! Just in time!” Lucy cried. “What’s this I’m hearing about the sky falling?!”
“The moon.” he corrected her. “Have you not noticed the shadow yet?”
“This had better be a joke.” Lauren grumbled.
“I think it must be.” Skinner agreed. “I mean, if this were a real emergency, Samchu would be here by now.”
Lucy and Lauren exchanged glances, before Lucy spoke. “Well apparently there’s a meeting in the town hall at noon. We’ll soon find out is this is all some terrible prank.”
“Not a very funny one at that.” Lauren said. “Just look at how many customers we’ve lost because of it!”
“I’m telling you, it’s just an illusion.” Skinner assured them. “Now get to work: we still have customers to attend to.”
“Luckily…” Lauren muttered, as she and Lucy exited to go and serve the ravenous workmen. Skinner turned back to the stove as Ryan shuffled forward. “Do you really believe there’s no danger?”
Skinner was silent for a few seconds, and stirred the pan to distract himself. “I believe that if Earth is in danger, where is our hero?”
Ryan did not reply, and considered this notion. Skinner strolled to the back door and opened it wide, allowing the morning mist to float in. “I’ve been working on the cake since five in the morning. The second tier is complete. Care to take a look?”
Ryan nodded his head and obediently followed Skinner out into the back yard.
It was almost twelve o’clock. The sun was now at its peak, high in the sky, but it cast a vicious shadow as its rays were blocked by the boulder which cloaked the town in darkness. The townspeople gradually swarmed towards the town square in hope of answers.
The Mayor was standing inside the town hall, nervously clutching a handful of paper with some scribbled notes. He knew that the citizens of Stanton wanted an explanation. They wanted to know what was going to happen. They wanted the truth.
Angela, the Mayoress, was by his side wearing an equally anxious frown. Suddenly, the back doors opened and the young couple strolled in; Ross and Liz hand in hand. The Mayoress stormed over to them before they could speak.
“Where have you two been? This is a compulsory meeting!”
“Mum, it hasn’t even started yet.” Ross said, but was drowned out by her flood of scalding water.
“As the son of the Mayor, you should be here to support your father! And what if something happened to you? In times like this, you need to be careful…”
“Mum, we were at the church.” he explained. “We just wanted some time alone.”
“There’s no time for explanations, it’s time for your father to make his speech.”
She glared at her husband impatiently; he smiled weakly and hurried out of the door.
Outside, the crowds had gathered on the steps in anticipation, and as the doors opened, broke into chaos. The Mayor took his place at the front and began to speak.
“I am here today to-”
“Excuse me Mister Mayor, but-”
“-to discuss the events of last night-”
“Is it true? Are we all gonna die?”
“-I will answer questions at the end-”
“As if! It’s just some massive prank!”
“I thought it was a decoration…”
“It’s the moon, idiot!”
“-which has left our town-”
“How long is this gonna last?”
“Should we evacuate?”
“Save the children!”
“What about the wedding?”
“Is that seriously all you care about? We‘re going to die!”
“Don’t be so stupid!”
“What about all that money we spent?”
It was not the Mayor, but his wife that roared into the crowd, silencing them in an instant. Ross and Liz were behind her, keeping a slight distance, as the Mayoress made her speech.
“I can’t believe that you’re all behaving like this! Do you not realise the seriousness of this situation? Look above you! What you see is not just some elaborate illusion or exaggerated decoration! That chunk of rock is our doom! Seven days! That’s all we have!”
There was whispering amongst the townspeople, sharing the details of the situation with sudden realisation.
“What do we do?” Lucy’s voice squeaked from within the pack.
“We have a choice.” the Mayor said, stepping forward to take the stage once more. “We either evacuate…or we face our fate.”
“Evacuate?” Rooney called. “Where to?”
“As far away as possible.” the Mayor answered. “To the village of Ember. Corallin Plaza. Even as far as Picarok Canyon. But if you remain here…then be prepared for the impact.”
An eerie silence settled over the audience. Then, Pete’s voice called out: “Well what are we doing here then? Let’s get out of here!”
In a rush of panic, the townspeople dispersed, fleeing for their homes to collect their belongings. The Mayor stuttered in an attempt to retain order but his listeners had escaped him. Instead, he turned to his loyal wife.
“I think that went well…”
The Mayoress gave him a hopeless glance and turned to the couple behind her. “Well I don’t know about you, but I say we still go ahead with the wedding.”
“What?” Liz cried in disbelief.
“Mum, this town is going to be crushed!”
“It doesn’t matter. Nothing can crush true love. And we’re going to get you married in less than seven days.”
“Darling, I am the Mayoress, and the organiser of this wedding. Anything is possible.”
She smiled sympathetically. Ross and Liz were speechless.
“Now you two go and check on the church. Tell them the show must go on! I need to have a word at the Post Office…”
The Mayoress strolled away to the business district to the north east. The Mayor approached the young couple.
“I don’t know about you two, but I have decided to stay here.”
“Dad, no!” Ross protested. “We have to evacuate!”
“No, no, no.” he said firmly. “I’m going to stay here and see this through. This is my town, and I need to be here to support the people. Besides, without me this town will fall into chaos.”
“I think it’s a little too late for that, sir.” Liz sighed. “Come on, let’s go and find Sophie and Martin. They might have evacuated already.”
Liz pulled Ross away from his father. The Mayor stood on the steps of the town hall and waved to them until they were gone. He took one last look above him at the shadowy sphere above him before returning home.
Ross and Liz ran to the church which lay on the edge of town. Only half of it was in shadow, and the afternoon sun still shone on the holy statue like a sanctuary. They dashed into the building and found Martin and Sophie each standing on a ladder either side of the giant teal banner.
“Don’t take it down!” Liz cried. “The wedding is still on!”
Both of them stopped, and stared at the couple.
“Are you saying that you’re still getting married?” Martin said with surprise.
“The Mayoress insists.” Ross declared. “We’re going to be married.”
“But you’ll have to finish in six days!” Liz warned them.
“Impossible!” Martin scoffed. “There are only two people decorating this church!”
“We can do it.” Sophie said optimistically. “Nothing’s impossible.”
Ross and Liz gave her a warm smile which she returned with enthusiasm. Suddenly, there was a thud from above. Martin stumbled on the ladder and clutched the banner for balance. “Good God, what was that?”
Without a second though, Ross let go of Liz’s hand and sprinted up the spiralling marble staircase. Once at the top, he opened the door to the belfry to find a man standing in the light of the sun which glinted through the windows of the ancient room.
“Ross!” he said with a smile. “I haven’t seen you for a while!”
He stepped forward and shook Ross’s hand, who was still bewildered by his arrival. Samchu marched down the staircase and into the church, where Liz, Martin and Sophie were waiting.
“Who the heck are you?” Martin frowned.
“Well that wasn’t the welcome I was expecting.” Samchu sighed, then spotted Liz. “Ah, Liz! It’s good to see you’re well! Preparing for the wedding I see…”
“Do you know this man?” Martin said, stepping down from the ladder.
“This is Samchu!” Ross called from the staircase. “He’s the man who’s going to save us all!”
Sophie descended the ladder and glided over towards him and curtsied. “Hello Samchu, my name is Sophie. I‘m decorating the church for the wedding.”
Samchu shook her hand warily. “Well in truth, I’m not here for the wedding. I’m more concerned about the whole end-of-the-world business. Sorry about that guys.” he said offhandedly to the couple. “So where are the others?”
The group gathered in Scrumptious Café to meet the Legendary Warrior. A kettle was filled and mugs were poured. After a few rather awkward welcomes, Samchu got down to business.
“So I’m sure you’re aware by now that your planet is at risk of collision with its own satellite?”
“Just tell us how we can stop it!” Rooney groaned.
“Well to figure out that, we need to start at the source.” Samchu said thoughtfully. “So what happened?”
They each took turns in giving their own individual accounts of what happened on the night. From each recount, Samchu gradually compiled a story.
“A man in a maroon scarf playing a pipe…” he sighed. “I think I need another cup of this potion.”
“It’s called tea.” Lauren said simply. “I wonder if men can do things for themselves on your planet?”
Samchu accepted the cup of tea and ignored the comment. “I think there’s some dark forces at work here…but why Earth?”
“Don’t ask us; we were hoping you’d have the answers!” Holleron moaned.
“Unfortunately, I don’t. But I know someone who might.”
Samchu retrieved his Teleslide form his pocket: a thin glass device that could do practically anything from long distance calling to teleportation. He activated it with a tap of his finger so it glowed for them all to see. The circle was in awe of such technology as he began tapping the screen.
“Great.” he groaned. “I can’t communicate with that thing hanging above us. It intercepts the signal. It looks like we’ll have to return to the church.”
“So who’s going to hold down the fort?” Lucy asked naively. Skinner gazed at his sister with a hopeful expression. “What? You want me to take care of this place? On my own?”
“Not on your own, no.” Skinner said. “We’ll split into two groups…” His eyes swept across the circle of people and selected at random. “Lucy, Liz, Ryan and Rooney can stay here, while Samchu, Holleron, Ross, Lauren and I go to the church.”
“I’m not going anywhere without Liz.” Ross said firmly. Liz smiled as they clasped hands.
“Fine.” skinner sighed. “Liz can come with us. Lauren, I guess you’re staying here.”
“I’m not sure that’s a good idea…” Samchu uttered.
“It makes perfect sense!” Skinner insisted. “Let’s go. We haven’t got much time left, remember?”
The team of five left the café without a goodbye. Lauren was fuming but turned to the remaining four. “Right guys. Have any of you ever made tuna casserole?”
They glanced between one another before shaking their heads shamefully.
“This is the worst day of my life…” she sighed.
Erichu waited on the shores of her prison, gazing out to the mainland across the sea. The perfectly formed orb hovered steadily over the clock tower, which peaked into the sky. Soon it would smite them. She knew this. Finally: revenge. Hopefully, the Pokolympians would pick her up and move her to safety before the impact. That was when she would make her escape.
A flash of pink light startled her. Erichu spun round with a snarl to find five people intruding into her cell.
“Where are we?” Holleron asked in awe of the afternoon sunlight.
“If you were planning a party, I hope you brought cake.” she sneered.
Ross’s eyes widened as he spotted the prisoner. “That’s the one who kidnapped Liz! What is she doing here?!”
He lunged forward but Samchu grabbed him by the collar. “Don’t be too hasty!”
“But Samchu! It’s her!” Skinner cried. “We can capture her and hand her in to the Caninian Police Force!”
“She’s already serving her time.” Samchu explained. “This is her prison cell.”
“This isn’t a prison!” Liz sniffed. “This is a tropical island honeymoon destination!” She marched forward with her fists clenched. Samchu reached out to pull her back but missed. Liz stood right before Erichu and glared coldly into her eyes. “I don’t know what sort of joke this is, but you should be dead by now.”
“Honey, after I locked you in that basement, I let you live.” Erichu smirked. “Rather than throwing death threats at me, you should count yourself lucky. Enough of the chat: why have you come here?”
“For answers.” Samchu said. “You were with me when the moon appeared.”
“Are you accusing me of doing it?”
“Of course not-”
“How can I possibly explain that? It must be a natural phenomenon…”
“So a man in a maroon scarf plays a pipe and leaves the moon hanging over our heads: is that natural?” Skinner sneered.
Erichu’s smirk vanished. “Did you say…a man in a maroon scarf?”
“Is he one of your psychopathic friends?” Ross asked.
“No…well yes…once upon a time…”
“Now we’re getting somewhere…” Samchu smiled. “Tell us more.”
“No!” Erichu snapped. “It’s history! It’s private!”
“Erichu!” Samchu pleaded. “That man has sentenced Earth to its doom!”
“Good.” she sniffed. “I hope they’re all squashed.”
“You don’t mean that…”
“I do. Every word. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some time to serve. I‘d rather do it alone.”
She turned her back on the group. The five looked from on to the other before Samchu fetched his teleslide from his pocket. “We’ll be back, Erichu. To see if you’ve changed your mind.”
They vanished in a flash of pink light, leaving Erichu alone to sulk. She gazed out to the pool of darkness beneath the moon and wondered.
“So now what?” Rooney said after they had explained the situation. “We keep harassing her until she’s gives in?”
“Erichu is the only one who knows who this man is.” Samchu explained. “Therefore, only she holds the answers.”
“But what if she doesn’t?” Holleron said anxiously. “What if the moon falls before we can do anything?”
Samchu sighed. “We have six days. We have to try.”
“And what about the rest of the human race?” Lucy asked. “Will we all perish?”
“You can’t let us die, Samchu!” Skinner pleaded. “Take us to Pokolympus with you.”
“Maybe…” Samchu muttered. “But until then, I have a plan: each day, I’ll take somebody to the island. Each day, that one person will try to break her. She’s bound to give in to at least one of us.”
“And until then?”
“…You must continue with your normal everyday lives…”
“Should we evacuate?” Lauren asked.
Samchu gave her a shameful look. “You must know as well as I do that this planet’s entire surface is going to shatter. Nowhere will be safe.”
Lauren looked at the floor with sadness just as the Mayoress came bounding in to the café. Her eyes passed over the circle. “Oh, is this a meeting? Why didn’t you invite me? I’m the chief organiser here!”
“This isn’t about the wedding, Mum.” Ross told her, but she had already pulled up a seat.
“Well I’ve just visited the Post Office, and the staff there are willing to remain as my formal messengers until the day they evacuate.” she explained, enthusiastically. “So I’ve sent a letter to inform all participants and volunteers that the wedding will still continue, and we must hurry!”
Her head turned to see Samchu sat beside her. “Oh, hello there darling! I’m Angela, do you remember me?”
“Ross’s mother; indeed I do.” Samchu said, and shook her hand. “I will be attending the wedding.”
“Excellent!” she shrieked excitedly. “Now, I believe that this quaint little café is responsible for the cake?”
“Um…yes…” Skinner said, quickly jumping from his seat. “Lauren, Lucy: let’s get to work.”
The two waitresses obeyed and disappeared into the kitchen. The Mayoress swivelled to Ryan: “I have a job for you, Ryan! Could you go and check that the construction workers are still erecting the memorial statue? And if not, give them a good scalding from me!” She chortled. “I’m going to go and visit the garage. I hope this stagecoach is looking nice.”
Holleron’s eyes widened as he leapt up to the door. “Allow me to lead you, Madame.”
He took her hand and she rose form the seat, then the pair left the café.
“I’ll be back to visit tomorrow.” Samchu informed the remaining four. “…Good luck.”
Ryan arrived at the town square, and found the vacant slab of stone exactly how it was the previous day: and no builders in sight. He guessed that they were probably heading to the bar to end their day, but he dreaded having to go and hassle them. Ryan flipped his diary open to check what his schedule ought to have been, when the sound of fast approaching footsteps on the pavement. He looked up to find Sophie in her lime green dress with a sparkle in her eye.
“It’s a nice evening, isn’t it Ryan?” she smiled, and gazed over the shadowy town square. “I was just heading home when I found you here. Are you heading home too?”
“Um…not exactly.” Ryan said awkwardly. “I have some business with the builders in Drinks All Round.”
“Is that the bar in the Back Alleys?” Sophie piped. “I’ve never been there before. Would you mind if I joined you?”
Ryan felt slightly uncomfortable around Sophie’s eccentric character, but he could tell that she was also very lonely, despite her ever-present smile. Also, he felt more intimidated by Hard Hammer Harry and his lackeys…maybe having her company wouldn’t be such a bad idea?
“Of course.” he nodded with a smile.
The pair walked side by side down the high street. The bunting fluttered in the breeze, and balls of scrunched-up newspaper bounced along the empty roads. It was cold, and deathly quiet.
“Everybody must have evacuated already…” Ryan suggested to break the silence. “Or they’re just scared to leave their homes…”
“Possibly.” Sophie agreed. “But I like it this way. The silence is very serene.”
Ryan was suddenly reminded that Sophie was the primary volunteer at the town’s Art Gallery. She saw the beauty in everything.
“I know it must feel very dark under the shadow of our doom…” Sophie said. “…but just imagine that we’re walking under a giant parasol. It shades us from the intense summer sun.”
Ryan considered this notion and suddenly felt a lot more relaxed. “So how is the decoration going?”
“Today, me and Martin finished the rose vines on the pillars.” Sophie grinned. “We’re going for a sort of fairytale-theme to make Ross and Liz feel like prince and princess.”
“And what about after the wedding? Are you evacuating?”
“I haven’t decided.” she said simply. “I could go to Ember. Though I have always wanted to go to Old Ember…I imagine there’s a lot of history there…”
“Have you considered staying here?”
“If I stay here, there won’t be much for me.” she sighed. “Martin is going to the Wheyford Country to stay with his family. I don’t have any family, so I guess I’ll just go and visit the art gallery and wait for the inevitable to happen.”
“You can stay with me.” Ryan said suddenly. “Or you can come and stay with my sister. She lives in the jungle.”
“That’s sounds nice…” Sophie smiled. “But I wouldn’t want to intrude into your family. I don’t think I‘d fit in with any family. I as an orphan, you see.”
“It’s okay. I never knew my parents.”
They finally arrived at the Back Alley bar and Ryan held the door open for her to enter. The bar was in fact fuller than ever. Working class men and women alike had decided to rejoice, and take a last drink. However, what was even more concerning was the fact that there were no staff. Not even Pete had stepped in. Ryan and Sophie shuffled through the cheery crowd to the bar.
“It’s not usually like this.” he assured her. “Who’s serving the drinks?”
A glass smashed on the other side of the room. When Ryan glanced over, he found that it wasn’t the first. There was a pile of broken glass littering the floor beneath the dartboard. Another glass flew through the air and hit the dartboard so hard, it fell from the wall.
“BULLSEYE!” a rough voice boomed. Hard Hammer Harry had removed his hardhat and fluorescent jacket, and was letting loose on the pint glasses, to the delight of his colleagues.
“Are they the people you had business with?” Sophie asked innocently.
Ryan swallowed nervously. He didn’t want to lose face in front of Sophie. Boldly, he approached the crowd of wild men.
“Excuse me.” he coughed slightly, to get their attention, but the noise was too loud. “Excuse me!”
One of the men spotted him and tapped Harry on the shoulder. Harry spun round with a snarl: who dared interrupt his fun? When he saw the pair, his snarl became a smirk.
“You two obviously don’t come here a lot!” he laughed. “What are you supposed to be, love? A carnival dancer?”
“Actually, I’m going for the exotic look.” Sophie said, oblivious to their laughter. “I chose the flower to compliment the lime dress so it appeared to form the image of a fruit.”
“I just came here to ask how the work is going.” Ryan quickly intervened.
“The work? What work?” Harry howled. “This is the end of the world! We’re hear to have fun!”
The crowd in the bar rejoiced in agreement.
“Well, the Mayoress sent me…” Ryan pressed on. “She told me to inform you that the wedding is still taking place, and that the commemorative statue should be ready within six days.”
“Well, tell her to take her ‘commemorative statue’ and knock herself over the head with it!” he boomed with laughter. “Our contract is finished! We’re leaving this town, and there’s nothing you can do about it!”
The builders nodded in defiance. Ryan was losing the argument.
“I don’t think that’s a very nice thing to say about the Mayoress.” Sophie interrupted. “She’s only trying to make her son happy.”
“Look, flower, I haven’t got time for arguing with freaks like you. Now get the hell out of here, and take your boyfriend with you.”
Ryan blushed and turned to leave, but Sophie stood defiantly. “Your aura is red, but sparkles every so often. You’re not usually this vile, but you behave differently in front of your friends.”
This time, it was Harry’s turn to blush. “What are you talking about? Don‘t tell me who I am, freak! I told you to get out of here! Or do I have to kick you out?”
Suddenly, the bell behind the bar chimed. Everyone’s attention turned to Rooney who was standing there. Ryan sighed with relief.
“Alright, everyone, party’s over.” Rooney called. “Now go back to your lousy lives before they’re crushed.”
Harry hissed. “Since you’re just the messenger, I’ll let you go. But tell the Mayoress that I’ll be evacuating to Ember tomorrow morning. I still want my pay cheque.”
He and his colleagues stormed out of the bar together, slamming the door behind them.
“That was a close call.” Ryan sighed. “Let’s get out of here.”
“Do you think my outfit is too much?”
Ryan smiled. “No, not at all.”
Rooney waited until all the customers had staggered out the door, before investigating the back room. There were two doors: one that led downstairs to the cellar, and one that led upstairs to Pete’s office. Rooney opened the door and heard voices from upstairs. He ascended the staircase as quietly as possible, and the murmuring became words:
“So that will be £50 per litre.” Pete said.
“Not in a million years!” a stranger’s voice laughed.
“This town expires in six days, so take it or leave it.”
“Definitely leave it. We’ll find business abroad. Come on, boys.”
Rooney heard the doorknob twist and retreated down the stairs.
“No! Wait!” Pete cried. “I’ll drop the price. £30.”
“£25.” the voice answered.
“Fine. That’s £375 for the lot.”
“We’ll be back tomorrow to collect the stock.”
The door opened and four men descended the stairs. The passed Rooney without a second glance, until a small, nimble man at the back gave him a curious stare. They vanished out the back door and Rooney burst into Pete’s office.
“Boss, what’s going on?” he demanded. “Who are those men?”
“They’re just some businessmen, nothing to worry about.” Pete assured him. In his hands, he counted a wad of £20 notes. Rooney eyed him suspiciously. “What did they buy?”
“The champagne in the cellar.” Pete replied. “Since the wedding’s off, we won’t be needing it any more. And I’m not selling it to our regulars for half the price.”
Rooney’s eyes widened. “Boss, the wedding is still on!”
“What do you mean? We‘re all going to evacuate in six days!”
“The Mayoress wants Ross and Liz to be married before then! She‘s going to flip!”
“It’s too late! I’ve made the deal and I’ve took the cash!”
“You’re going to have to give it back! Tell them the deal’s off!”
Pete clutched the wad of money like a baby’s rattle. “But…the money…this is what‘s going to get me out of the country!”
“I don’t care. Unless you give it back to the businessmen, it‘s going into the Picarok Restoration Fund.”
Pete groaned. “Alright; they’ll be here tomorrow to collect the barrels. I’ll tell them then. Lock up for me, would you?”
Rooney narrowed his eyes suspiciously at his boss before closing the door.
Today is another busy day. It is Wednesday the 19th of July, now 3 days until the wedding. Because of the rush, the cake will have to be cut short, the Sharks will need to have an earlier sound check and the church should all be set up.
As well as that, I will go with Samchu today to visit Erichu on the island. Hopefully I can extract some information from her, though I’m not good with women. Which reminds me; I will have to get in touch with Ashleigh somehow. She lives with the Piniti tribe in the jungle with Norman, so it will be almost impossible to get to her. I wonder if she even knows about the apocalypse?
I haven’t decided whether or not to evacuate. I will definitely stay for the wedding, but after that…I don’t know. I would love to go and join Ashleigh in the Garden of Hothrai, but what about the others? What is Sophie going to do?
Yours sincerely, Ryan.
Ryan stepped out the pharmacy into the cold morning air. The difference in temperature was obvious. The shadow had grown overnight, and the moon which blocked out the sun dominated the sky. There was also a less obvious difference; for the first time in a week, Mrs Groening was not standing outside, pestering him about pills and the like. Hopefully, she had recovered and evacuated like everyone else. He doubted that she would have stayed for the wedding.
First on the schedule: at 09:00 he would visit Scrumptious and check on the progress of the cake. Then, he would have to visit the Mayoress and inform her about the flight of the builders. Then, in the afternoon, he would visit the church about 14:00 to check on its completion…also to see if Sophie was well.
Ryan strolled towards the Food Court, trying to keep a smile on his face. The shape of the moon still hung over him, but he tried to remember Sophie’s analogy.
When he arrived at Scrumptious, he found it was empty. Not a single customer in sight. The place was usually booming for breakfast. But today, it was bare.
“Good morning, guys.” Ryan said cheerfully as he wandered into the kitchen. He stopped when he found a suitcase in the middle of the room. Skinner Lauren and Lucy were all circled around it in discussion.
“You can’t leave, Lucy!” Lauren cried. “We need you!”
“There’s nothing left here.” Lucy told her. “There aren’t even any customers. You won’t miss me.”
“Of course we will! Tell her, Skinner.”
“It’s her choice,” Skinner explained. “and she’s right: without any income, I can’t afford to keep you all.”
“But what about the wedding?”
“I don’t know Ross and Liz personally.” Lucy said. “Besides, I want to be with my family.”
“They live in Ember.” Skinner added.
“Then how come you don’t want to go with her?”
“I’m staying for the wedding.” Skinner said. “Also, I’m going to help Samchu solve this mystery before doomsday.”
Lauren held her head in her hands and gave up. “Lucy, if you leave…what will I do?”
“You can come with me if you like.” she offered with a smile. “My family won’t mind.”
Lauren turned to Skinner. “But I can’t leave you behind to die!”
“Lauren, I’ll be fine.” he assured her. “We’re not going to die. Samchu will save us.”
“I hate to interrupt,” Ryan said quietly. “but I need to see the cake.”
Lucy leant over and hugged Lauren tightly. “Look after yourself, okay?” She turned to her brother, and hesitated, wondering whether it was appropriate to hug him. “Good luck, Skinner. I believe you can survive this. Once this has all blown over, I’ll come back and we can start again.”
Lucy sniffed, and grabbed the handle of her suitcase. “Goodbye Ryan.”
She gave a wave of farewell and walked out the door. Lauren hid her face and broke down in tears. Ryan looked to Skinner for his reaction. “The cake is in the crate outside.”
Ryan took the hint and opened the back door. Skinner put his arm wearily around the waitress and sighed.
In the Mayor’s Residence in the Upper District of town, Harold sat in his armchair before his son, and a line of guardsmen. On his lap was a newspaper: the final edition of the Stanton Gazette. On the cover, the bold headline accompanied a pictograph of the shadowy sky: “Doomsday: Loiter Or Leave?”￼
“Sir;” the sergeant spoke. “We came to ask your permission…do we have the right to flee?”
The Mayor flipped the newspaper over and laid it on the teak table. “Of course. Why would I not allow you to go?”
“But Sir, what about our duties?” another soldier piped. “Should we protect the town from injustice until the final day?”
“No, no, no, we’ll be fine.” the Mayor assured them. “Besides, everybody should have left by now.”
“What about those in prison?”
“Let them go. You’re all dismissed.”
The soldiers looked to one another in surprise, then one by one, they began to file out. The sergeant lingered a little longer.
“And what about you, Sir? Are you evacuating?”
“No, sergeant, I’ll be sitting through this one.” the Mayor said sombrely. “It is my duty.”
The solider nodded admirably. “Then good luck to you, Sir. Thank you for your guidance.” He stood to attention with a salute, then departed.
“Dad, Liz says that her family are leaving for Corallin Plaza.” Ross said. “We’re also going on our Honeymoon there. Do you want to come with us?”
“Ross, I have told you before; as Mayor, it is my duty to this town to remain in my position until the end.”
“But you’ve just dismissed all your guards!”
“I don’t need guards. All I need is my family to support me.”
“But what if Mum wants to come with me?”
“She doesn’t.” he explained. “I spoke to her this morning. She just wants to see you and Liz happily married before returning here afterwards.”
“No!” Ross cried, just as there was a knock at the door. The Mayor rose from his seat to answer it. Ross quickly contained himself as Ryan entered the lounge.
“Oh…I was hoping the Mayoress would be here…” he said as he saw Ross.
“Oh, she’s just gone to visit the Post Office.” the Mayor explained. “I must say, they’re doing a great job of keeping everyone informed.”
Ryan nodded and turned to Ross. “If you see Samchu, could you tell him I’m at the Post Office?”
Ross nodded as Ryan left the house, bidding both of them farewell. The mayor closed the door and rejoined his son in the lounge.
“What about your friends?” he asked. “Are they evacuating too?”
“I don’t know…” Ross sighed. “Not if they can help it…”
When Ryan arrived at the Post Office at 10:15, he heard the Mayoress’s voice chattering away endlessly to the woman behind the counter.
￼“Are you sure you sent all participants a letter?”
“Madame, we checked the list that you gave us and did all we could.”
“Oh…you see, I still haven’t received feedback from the construction workers, and that statue still isn’t finished.”
Ryan stepped up to the counter to explain: “Madame, the construction workers have evacuated.”
“Really?” the Mayoress exclaimed. “Well I order them to return at once!”
“They’ve quit the job.” Ryan reluctantly explained. “They still demand their pay cheque.”
“When the job is incomplete? How dare they!” she shrieked. “I refuse to pay those buffoons until they erect that statue in the town square by Sunday!”
“If you like, we could send a reminder to their manager.” the woman suggested in an attempt to be helpful.
“Indeed! I shall address a formal complaint to them right away!” She turned to Ryan. “Where have they evacuated to?”
“Ember, I think. You could try sending a letter to the inn.”
“Good idea.” the Mayoress said, and retrieved a piece of paper and a pencil from her handbag. “While I’m here, I must ask you Ryan: have you thought of a present to give yet?”
“Have you never been to a wedding before?” she said with surprise as she scribbled the letter. “You know! At weddings, you’re supposed to give a present to the newly wedded couple! Not only that, but it is traditional for them to receive four things: something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.”
“Oh…” Ryan said, a little confused. “Well, I would go and buy something…except all the shops are shut.”
“Hmm, that could be a problem…” the Mayoress agreed. “…but I’m sure you’ll think of something. By the way, I‘m calling a meeting at my house tomorrow. How about 08:00?”
“I’ll be there.” Ryan said, and quickly opened his diary to insert it into his schedule.
“Excellent.” the Mayoress folded the letter inside an envelope and handed it to the postal worker. “Make sure it is delivered by the end of today.”
“Of course, Madame.” the woman nodded, taking the letter. “Have a nice day.”
The Mayoress left the Post Office with a cheery farewell. Ryan checked his watch: 10:40. He could go home and relax for the rest of the day…but instead, he decided to go and visit the church. Even if the decoration wasn’t complete, he could still talk to Sophie.
The church was almost cloaked completely in darkness, except for the north side, which contained the belfry tower and the holy statue, the white marble still reflecting some sun rays. Ryan held his coat tighter to his skin as he opened the creaking wooden door of the church.
The building was cold and bare. The giant teal banner still hung over the altar, but a shadow cast upon it. Beneath it, Martin stood wearing a gloomy black suit, holding what appeared to be a Bible. Sophie sat on a pew to the left, wearing a silver dress and a hat. Ryan wandered over and sat beside her.
“What’s going on?”
“We’re just about to begin the sermon.” she whispered.
Martin flicked the pages of the book and coughed. “God of hope, we come to you in shock and grief and confusion of heart. Help us to find peace in the knowledge of your loving mercy to all your children, and give us light to guide us out of our darkness into the assurance of your love,
in Jesus Christ our Lord.♥Amen.”
From behind him came the sound of a moving conveyer belt. A piano black coffin drifted by as a hymn played on a phonograph. Sophie and Martin closed their eyes in prayer. Ryan conformed, and respectfully listened as the coffin departed. He opened his eyes.
“A funeral…for who?”
“A stranger.” Sophie explained. “The soldiers brought her to us early this morning. They said she died by the Laundry Pool yesterday. Alone.” She hung her head. “Martin and I offered to perform a funeral service for her, since the vicar has fled. I think we did a good job.”
“How did she die?”
“We aren’t sure.” Martin said. “But she was old. No remaining relatives. ‘Edna Groening’, it said on the death certificate.”
Ryan caught his breath in shock. Mrs Groening. He had only seen her yesterday morning…yet she had died that afternoon. Was it a result of her illness? What if it was something more serious? Was she in pain? How long had she been left by the Laundry Pool? His face turned pale with guilt. Sophie placed her arm around him.
“Did you know her?”
“Sort of…” he confessed. “A patient of mine…”
“I’m sure she was a very nice lady.” she smiled.
“It’s just a shame that nobody could come to her funeral.” Martin piped. “Maybe they all fled? That’s life, I suppose.”
Ryan nodded, but still felt the shadow of her ghost hanging over him.
“If you came to check on the decorations, then you’ll be disappointed.” Martin continued. “As you can see, we were a little busy today.”
“We’ll be finished by tomorrow.” Sophie assured him. “We just need to add some candlelight.”
“We’ll need it, if it’s going to be this dark by Sunday.”
Ryan nodded again, carelessly. Suddenly, the sound of light footsteps was heard on the marble staircase. All three turned to see Samchu slowly descending into the hall.
“That was a nice tune.” he said with a weak smile. “A funeral hymn, I assume? Very charming.”
He approached Ryan and Sophie, who rose from the pews. Martin frowned at Samchu’s unsympathetic attitude. “I shan’t ask how you got in here, but I think you should leave. You do not have authorisation from the Mayoress.”
“I’m sure she won’t mind. Besides, we’re leaving.” He turned to Ryan. “That is, if you’re ready?”
Ryan looked from the Legendary Warrior to Sophie, who gazed blankly at him.
“I guess I‘ll see you tomorrow?”
“Of course.” Sophie smiled.
He turned back to Samchu. “Let’s go.”
Samchu led Ryan outside into the churchyard, specifically to the sunny side. There were a few ancient graves which surrounded the statue, and Ryan was reminded of Mrs Groening’s death.
“Okay, you know the drill: take my hand and we can go.” Samchu stopped. “What‘s wrong?”
“Nothing.” he lied.
Samchu eyed him suspiciously, but grabbed his hand. In a flash of pink light, they vanished.