Nobody could explain where the lights had arrived from, it all passed so quickly, but those that had the opportunity to speculate, they said they were something deriving from some alien place, a type of counterfeit prophet sent in one final deception of mankind.
Only once the sun had gone out on that first day did people see the lights for the first time like rebirth. In the same manner that the dawn light will pale a lantern in the early morning, the lights were invisible in the light of the day. But for most it was too late. Cities, towns, whole valleys, were left intact and completely deserted, as if everybody had decided to just give up.
The survivors remained indoors and existed in dark windowless rooms, living for some undetermined hope. The only safe time to leave these hiding places was at night, where in the dark the lights burned like magnesium flares. They lived nocturnal lives and tried to remember how the sun felt on their skins.
He lived in a garage, adapted so as not to let a fraction of light in or out. He’d chosen the garage because of the number of exits it provided him. Should the lights find him, he could escape through the house or directly to the outside. The garage was big. The cold hard floor was covered with blankets, mattresses, pillows, towels, cushions, sheets, until the garage looked somewhat like an Arabian brothel. He’d furnished it with a desk he’d taken from the house, a shelving unit on which he kept books, eating tools, torches, candles collected from dead houses and empty shops. Food was kept in another unit, almost all of it canned. There was enough rain in Wales that he didn’t have to worry for water.
He was comfortable. He had plenty of food and candles and solitude. It was the boredom that was the problem. The boredom is what got him. He’d read all his books, over and over, and the nearest bookstore or library too far, and his neighbors not one good book among them.
He had always wanted to write a book. Most of us, we go through life as a passenger. It makes no difference if we live now, or two thousand years past, no marks or sounds, to be forgotten as if we weren’t even here. He wanted to leave a legacy for himself, create something worthy. He never did get around to it because there was never time, or there wasn’t a good story, or always some other excuse, and he was so aware of it too, that his chance was going, going, and time was passing him as if on fast-forward but still he did nothing, a frozen man, and now all he had was time. Fundamentally, it was still a valuable and finite commodity like oil, but it was as if he was a pioneer oilman in the California fields and he had more of it than he would ever need. He didn’t have that much to say. And anyway, what’s the point of creating art if there’s nobody around to see it?
Even now he was finding excuses.
And so he practiced waiting, waiting for the hollow sound of the rain so that he could replenish his water containers, waiting to sleep, waiting for somebody to knock on the garage door and tell him that it’s all over, the lights are gone, you can come out now. Meanwhile the grass grew longer and the weeds thicker.
He’d read somewhere once that there is no happiness to be had in isolation. That we’re all part of one big soul. Well, he admitted, sometimes it does get lonely but most of the time it seems pretty good. But perhaps another person would solve it for him. He did miss a conversation, one of those really great conversations that were so hard to come by. He could probably count on two hands the number of those conversations he’d had. Just don’t give him one of those tossers that love the sound of their own voices and never listen, jesus christ, don’t they ever feel lonely in their long speeches?
He looked at the cold grey breezeblock walls and all of a sudden he felt sick, very sick. He realised that he was tired, tired of crapping in a bucket, tired of living on memories, and tired of simply existing and waiting for something to happen. What was the point of it all? Why do we insist on going on simply for the sake of physical continuity when there is nothing else, is our instinct so strong?
Sure he was comfortable, but he wasn’t happy, certainly not innerly, and he didn’t want to be left alone with his mind, always preoccupied with its thoughts.
He was tired. Somehow he was glad at the decision.
He would walk out of the house when the sun was at its meridian and he would wait for the lights to come for him. He didn’t want a warning, or any knowledge of it, he might panic and try to run. No, he would sit and enjoy the feeling of the sun and he would wait. He was good at that. He was practiced at it.
When the time comes he walks out of the garage to the middle of the street, and looking out over the city still and quiet from his place on the hill, he sits, and the sun burns down on him and he listens to the birds, and there’s nobody, they are elsewhere, in basements, in garages, or maybe in old bedrooms, and he waits, waits for the lights to find him.