Lights Out

By

Henry Hull

The TV screen flickers as the President of Australia delivers the disturbing message to the nation: the world is going to come to an end. All the major world powers had declared war on one another. Very quickly, that war escalated into a nuclear war and most of the world was destroyed. All that remained now was Australia since Australia did not participate in the war; therefore, it was out of blast radius. Australia would soon meet its end alongside the rest of the world, however, since all the nuclear radiation conjured up smoke that is spreading across the globe. It won't be long before it reaches Australia and fries everyone.

The Morrison family sits in the living room as this is going on. Jim's dad sits on his arm chair, leaning forward, elbows on his knees, and his right hand on his chin, and his left resting on his legs. Jim's mom sits on the couch; his younger sister sits beside her, hugging her tightly as she cries. His brother lies sprawled out on his stomach on the floor, resting his head on his hands. In contrast with his family who is seated, Jim stands against the wall, one foot on the ground, the other pressed against the wall.

Sweat pours from his forehead as he watches the television report and as he frantically runs his hand through his hair. Breathing heavily, he gets up from against the wall and places his hands on his head.

"Oh God, oh God, oh God," Jim says to himself, tears streaming from his eyes. "We've finally done it."

"What are we going to do?" Jim's mom asks.

"There is nothing that we can do," Jim's dad answers.

"How can you say that? There's got to be something?" Jim's mom says, hysterically.

"There isn't, we are going to die," Jim's dad said, putting emphasis on "die".

"That can't be it. We have to go somewhere…" she begins before being interrupted.

"Go where?" Jim's dad bellows, standing up as he holds his arms in the air. "The whole world has been destroyed! There is nowhere to go! What don't you get about it?"

In that instant, Jim couldn't take it anymore so he walks out of the room. As he walks to the door he can hear his parents as they scream at each other. Due to being in shock from everything that is happening, Jim cannot make out what his parents are saying. All he knows is that he needs to get out of there. He cannot bear to listen to any of his parent's rubbish any longer.

After Jim opens the front door, he walks off the porch and looks up at the pitch black sky and at all the stars that are scattered across it. The cool breeze of the night air brushes against his faith. All around him is silence. Glancing around, he sees that no one is outside. All the other houses' lights are out. He is all alone. It's almost as if everyone was already dead.

After taking a deep breath, Jim walks over to his car and unlocks it before going in and starting the engine. He then just sits there as the car begins to run. The radio comes on and the AC/DC song "Highway to Hell" blares throughout the car. Quickly, Jim turns the volume down, not wanting to listen to something of that subject matter.

Jim places his elbow on the steering wheel and runs his hand through his hair as he bursts into tears. Bearing his teeth, he allows his tears to fall, not even bothering to fight it. He then buries his face into his hands and releases his pain for several minutes.

Eventually, he sits back up and wipes the tears from his face. After collecting himself, he puts the car into reverse before backing out of the driveway. Pretty soon he is out of his neighborhood and is flying through the street.

As he continues to travel through the town, he sees that the streets are completely deserted. There are no cars, no pedestrians, nothing. It is a ghost town.

While he drives, Jim has no idea where he is going, he is just going wherever the road takes him. Pretty soon, he gets lost, in the midst of the darkness and finds himself on a road that he does not recognize. But he doesn't care. So he keeps heading down it.

The road is in a forest that is devoid of any light. With his hands on the wheel, he stares at the road which is lit up by only his headlights. He watches the yellow line that divides the road as it appears to move, intently and without blinking.

When he looks up he sees a sign that he does recognize. It is an arrow that points left, telling him where the beach is. He takes the turn, heading towards a very familiar place.

Before long the sign that welcomes him to the beach appears is lit up by his headlights. He finds a parking place and gets out of the car. Looking up at the sky, he sees the full moon and recalls a time when he was at the beach as a child. The moon was full just like it is tonight and when he saw it he howled at it, pretending that he was werewolf.

When he finishes looking at the moon, he walks over to the wooden staircase that leads to the beach and heads up it. Entering the beach, he hears the sound of the waves hitting the sand. Aside from that, the beach is completely silent. It sounds peaceful, like the kind of music that a mother would play for her baby to go to sleep.

He walks over to the edge of the beach and stops several inches from where the water reaches. Standing there, he looks up at the blanket of stars that make up the sky and at the beautiful full moon.

He stands there for several minutes before glancing over and seeing that he is not alone on the beach. A silhouette is seen in the distance with a glowing light of some sort near it. Curious, Jim heads over towards it.

When he finally reaches the figure he sees that it is a bearded old man, probably in his 70's, around the same age his grandfather was when he died. Beside the old man's feet was a gigantic fishing pole. The line had been cast and beside the pole sits the man's tackle box.

"Nice night out here isn't it?" the old man asks.

"Um… I suppose. I mean considering…" Jim begins before stopping and sighing.

"The name's Paul," the old man says. "What's yours, young man?"

"Uh, it's Jim sir. Jim Morrison," Jim answers, only saying his last name out of habit.

"Like the rock star?"

"Sure."

"So what are you doing out here, Jim?" Paul asks.

"I don't know… I just drove aimlessly and somehow I found myself coming here," Jim answers, shrugging.

"They say that when that happens you know that that place is special to you," Paul says before offering a chestnut to Jim.

"No thanks. Who is "they"?"

"I don't know," the old man says, laughing, "The gods maybe."

Jim also chuckles at this.

"Do you believe in God, young man?"

"I don't know. Sure. I guess. I dunno. I haven't really given it much thought. But yeah, I'm sure there's something out there," Jim answers.

"I can see that Australia is following Europe into becoming a Post-Christian nation. The world really has changed hasn't it? And for the worst," Paul says.

Jim gives Paul a funny look. He doesn't know does he?

"Sir, um…"

"Please, call me Paul."

"Okay, well Paul, have you been watching TV lately?" Jim asks.

"No, I'm afraid not. I don't watch TV. Hell, I don't even own a television set. I haven't for thirty years now. I prefer reading and going outdoors. But most of all I enjoy the ocean. That's why I live out here. It's lonely, but hey it's also peaceful," Paul answers.

Should I tell him? Jim asks himself. Is he better off just living the short remainder of his life in blissful ignorance? Then again… he's going to find out eventually.

"So you haven't heard?"

"Heard what?"

"About the war, the war that just went on. I guess it's technically World War III even though there aren't any more historians around to call it that," Jim answers.

Paul stares at Jim blankly for several minutes.

"So we have finally done it, huh? What you are saying is that we finally had a nuclear war, right?" Paul asks me.

"Yeah, that's… that's what I'm saying," Jim says glumly.

"How much of the world has been destroyed?" Paul asks after a long moment of silence.

"Everything except for us, you know, Australia. We didn't participate and we weren't in blast radius so we were spared at least for now. The nuclear dust is swarming the earth and within several more hours it will engulf us. I'm sorry to tell you this sir but… this is your last day, our last day." After Jim finishes saying that he looks down at the ground before looking back up again to see what the old man's reaction is.

"Sounds like this one movie that I saw several… well this was back when I was a young man. It was called "On the Beach". It starred Gregory Peck," the old man says.

"I'm sorry sir, but I've got no idea who that is."

"Ever seen To Kill a Mockingbird?"

"Yeah… in English class we had to watch it."

"Well he was Atticus."

"Okay."

"Anyway, the movie is about an American submarine crew who arrives in Australia and informs the Australians that the rest of the world has destroyed itself in a nuclear war and they will soon be next."

"So how did the movie end?"

"The submarine crew decided that they would rather die on American soil and so they go there and expose themselves to the radiation. Meanwhile, Australia accepts their fate and well… you know."

"That sounds depressing."

"Little bit," the old man says, laughing.

"You know, sir, you are taking this well…"

"Yeah and I guess that's odd to you?"

"Yeah… aren't you afraid to die?"

"Not really. But then again, I'm old. I've lived my life to its fullest potential. I've done everything I set out to do; I became who I wanted to be. And I've got no regrets," Paul says before giving Jim a sympathetic look, "I pity you though. You're young. You had your whole life ahead of you. All that potential that you probably have, all your goals, all your dreams, whatever future you had is all gone now. I'm sorry."

Jim nods silently at this.

"The best advice I can give to you is for you to just be happy with what you have done with what you have accomplished."

"I haven't accomplished anything. I guess all I've are regrets, you know. Stuff I wish I had done differently."

"Like what?"

"I don't know, I…" Jim shrugs. "I guess it doesn't really matter anyway," Jim says. Tears coming from his eyes as he forces a smile, "I mean we're all going to die anyway. And there's nothing that we can do about it. I'm not just talking about the war. I'm talking the inevitability of death."

The old man nods.

"And you want to know what the sad thing is?" Jim asks, wiping his tears away.

"What?"

"That the universe wouldn't even miss us, it will just go about doing whatever it has been doing since whenever it started," Jim says, his red eyes staring at the old man with bitterness as his odd smile transforms into a gape.

"Well that's one way of looking at it."

"What other way is there to look at it?" Jim asks, giving a sad laugh.

"You can just be happy with what has been given to you. Just appreciate the life you had. However brief it may have been you have been able to experience all of this," the old man says, waving his hands up at the sky. "So my advice to you is for you to go home. Reunite with your family. Spend your final moments with them."

Jim nods at this before sighing. "Okay, I will. I guess there really isn't anything else to do. Thanks."

He then holds his hand out which Paul accepts. They then shake hands.

"I guess this is farewell," Jim says.

"Farewell, Jim Morrison, it was nice meeting you," Paul says, smiling.

They then conclude their handshake, after which Jim returns to his car and Paul goes back to fishing.

Jim starts his engine and pulls out of the beach and heads down the path he came from. Before long, he reenters town. It maintains its bleak and lifeless look as he passes by. When Jim reaches his home the lights in the house are out.

Using his key, Jim goes inside. The house is completely dark and there isn't a sound. Confused, Jim heads up the stairs. Walking passed the bedroom of his family members; he looks inside their room to see if they are in there. Sure enough, they are all sleeping soundly in their beds. All of them are, even his overly pessimistic father.

Jim is taken aback by this. And then he understands. After taking one final look at his family, Jim retires to his bedroom and finds that he had neglected to turn the light off earlier that night.

Jim then goes over to his bed and gets in it before pulling the covers over himself and turning over to his lamp.

"Lights out," he says before turning the light out.