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The Last 3 Days (04): The First Falloutby@thatchristophergrant
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The Last 3 Days (04): The First Fallout

by Christopher GrantFebruary 25th, 2023
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On a Friday afternoon in June, an asteroid is discovered that will end life on earth the following Monday, the day Nick Burns turns eighteen. Nick has more important things on his mind, though. His crush will be on her own at Prom and his friends are counting on him to supply the booze to make the evening one to remember. But his younger brother is waiting for Nick to walk him home from school. He chooses to get the alcohol first, a choice whose consequences snowball and strand Nick far from home without his phone, wallet or even the slightest idea where he is. Will he see his girl or his family before earth is destroyed?
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Previous Chapter - The Last 3 Days (03): Decisions, Decisions

All published chapters can be found here.


62:14:57


Nurse’s aide, Anne Burns, leaned slightly forward, napkin ready in her hand, watching an elderly patient slip a spoonful of mashed potatoes past her lips.


Lifting the spoon from a trembling hand, Anne said, “There. That wasn’t so hard was it, Mrs. Clyde? It’s one more step towards independence.”


Mrs. Clyde nodded. There was still a chance she could go home. She wanted nothing more than to leave the hospital. The staff were all rude, well, except Anne, and treated her like a senseless child. She had lived twice as long as any of them and so what if she needed both hands to guide a spoon to her mouth? She opened her mouth as Anne filled the spoon with more potato.


As Anne wrapped Mrs. Clyde’s fingers around the utensil’s handle, another aide leaned through the doorway.


“Anne. Phone.”


Shifting her body so could see her fellow aide, Anne said, “Can you please take a message?”


“It’s Jack’s school. Line 2. And bed 34B won’t let anyone else feed him — just you.”


“Any chance you can send it here? 38A.”


The bedside phone rang. Satisfied with Mrs. Clyde’s sudden determination to feed herself, Anne lifted the receiver. “This is Anne Burns. Is Jack alright?”


Tucking the receiver with her shoulder, Anne retrieved the empty spoon.


“No. His brother walks him home.”


She wiped the corner of Mrs. Clyde’s mouth.


“That won’t be necessary. No. I’m coming.” Anne moved the phone from her ear, but the voice on the other end was still speaking. In her practised ‘no argument’ tone, she said, “I’ll be there in 15 minutes. Thank you.”


62:03:45


Jay Taylor’s mother, Eileen, was dressed to go out. Clad in her favourite dress and just enough make-up to hide the toll of the last year, she stood in front of her empty fireplace, studying the sole item on the marble mantle. She caressed the framed black and white photograph of her family as it was. Now, her husband was dead and for all she knew, so was her son. She hadn’t seen him for months.


Eileen turned towards her empty home, loathing the worthless treasures tastefully displayed on her walls and the glittering crystals littering the shelves, each one individually lit. She stepped between two leather sofas of meticulous German origin and wondered how she ever liked them. Or the designer dress she wore, though her hand straightened the way it draped her hip.


She raised her other hand to her face and stared into the barrel of a semi-automatic pistol, ironically her husband’s last gift. She placed the barrel under her chin and pulled the trigger.


Nothing. She lowered the weapon and released the safety. As she raised it once more, she heard the backyard gate close. A sudden rush of hope flooded the crevice of her despair. Jay?


Eileen crossed to a window and drew the curtain enough to see her neighbour, Nick, hide something in the bushes and then push through into his yard.


62:00:32


A growing desperation among rush hour traffic went unnoticed by Police Officer Don ‘By the Book’ Burns as he copied the details of Ryan Bellows’ license into his notebook, having deputized the Cadillac’s roof as a desk.


Officer Burns replaced notebook and pen in their respective pockets and leaned over to hand Ryan his license.


“You weren’t really going to hit her, were you, son?” He asked the young man. “That’s assault. That’s the weekend in jail. Besides, when you hit a woman you’re admitting defeat.”


Straightening, he hesitated, then slapped the door ledge. “Hold on a moment.” Officer Burns walked behind the Cadillac to the passenger side and opened the door. “Step out of the car please, miss.”


Becky gave the officer a relieved nod and swung her legs out, then stopped when Ryan’s hand gripped her arm. “Becky, wait — “


The policeman’s head and shoulders darkened the passenger side. “Leave her be, son. I’ll see she gets home. You concentrate on not losing your car the same day you bought it.”


Officer Burns closed the door behind Becky and offered some final advice to Ryan. “Drive safe, now.”


61:58:36


The radio host’s voice filled the tow truck’s cab, stalled in rush hour traffic.


“ — who you ask, so it’s all rumours and theories right now. But, damn. Could this be the world’s last weekend? OK. Say it is — has there ever been a better reason to party? As for me, I’m gonna stay awake ’til the end, listening to K-RAD Rock Classics. Here’s some classic Bowie — “


The bearded, heavyset driver took a long swig of his beer then pressed it between his thighs before he leaned out the side window to scan the sky.


When he next glanced forward, the cars ahead were making their left turns. He stomped on the pedal as the light turned yellow. It was red before he entered the intersection, the cross traffic already moving. He served to avoid the cars, but his speed was a problem.


61:58:32


Standing on the sidewalk beside his cruiser, Officer Burns wrote his mobile number on the back of his card and handed it to Becky.


“Thank you,” she said accepting it. “He’s not usually like that.”


“Call my cell next time you feel threatened. Or maybe find a new boyfriend. Are you OK with being driven home in a police cruiser?”


Suddenly, alarm registered on his face. He grabbed Becky’s arm and yanked her away from his car. The force of it drove both to the sidewalk just as the tow truck crashed into the cruiser, punching it over the curb where they had just been standing.


The driver jumped out, dropping his beer bottle. It shattered on the pavement as the man ran across the busy road and disappeared into the crowd.


61:51:51


Nick’s bedroom reflected the history of his childhood. Rock posters competed for space with exotic cars draped with equally inaccessible women. Batman and R2D2 stood guard behind a Lego parapet on a shelf between stacks of comics and car magazines.


A six-pack of green pop bottles sat on his desk, the caps off but still ganged together in their plastic harness. A glass of milk, the remains of a sandwich, a single paperclip and an empty vodka bottle shared the desktop.


Nick knelt in front of the desk, his eye checking the fill levels of the pop bottles, moving a funnel from one to another as he topped them up with alcohol. Satisfied, he stood and set the second vodka bottle next to the first. He replaced all six caps, screwing each one tight.


He took a bite of the sandwich. As he chewed, he partially straightened the paperclip. Using a lighter from the top drawer of the desk, he heated the tip and used it to spot weld the caps to their rings.


His bedroom door opened. Jack.


Over his shoulder, Jack called out, “He’s here, mom.” Looking back at his older brother, he asked, “Hey, why didn’t you come for me? Mom’s pissed — “


Startled, Nick spun around. His mother’s voice approached. “Nick? Are you home?”


Jack entered, leaving the door wide open. “What are you doing, Nick?”


“Nothing,” Nick answered. “I was coming for you but I had to — “


Anne strode into the room. “What’s the matter, Nick? Are you sick? Where were you? And what’s that smell?”


Nick perched on the edge of his desk, hiding the vodka bottles with his body. “I had to do something first. I was just about to leave to get him.”


“You didn’t answer your phone. I had to leave work — which I may or may not have come Monday.”


“I didn’t have it with me. That’s why I stopped here.”


Anne knew her son wouldn’t volunteer the whole story. “And what exactly did you have to do that was more important than getting your brother? You’re eighteen in what — three days — and we still can’t count on you. Where were you?”


“I wanted to ask a girl to the dance tonight. It just took longer than I thought.”


Anne’s anger melted away. She stepped closer, forcing Nick to move subtly to keep the bottles hidden.


“What’s her name?” Anne asked. “Do I know her?”


Nick shook his head. ”Her name’s Becky. She’s in my shop class.”


“Still, you had to do it now? Did she at least say ‘yes’?”


“She has a boyfriend.”


“Oh. I’m sorry.” Anne spied the dishes on the desk. “Well, I have guests coming for dinner, so I should get started. Let me take your dishes — “


Nick held his arm out to stop her. “It’s OK, mom. I’m not finished. I’ll bring them down. And I need to shower.”


Satisfied, Anne turned to leave. As she moved to the doorway, she gestured at Jack to follow. “Fine. Jack, come get a snack, let your brother get ready.”



Also published here.