End of Days

When he learns that he only has twenty four hours left to live, Rick asks himself the question of what he should do with his last day alive......

Originally a short story that I entered into a competition, it isn't as great as I had originally planned, due to a word limitation of the competition. I am not going to go back and revise my old works at this time, however, so this is the original submitted version. I may one day release an extended version however......

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1. Section 1

To be, or not to be? That’s what Shakespeare once said was the question. That’s not the real question though. The real question is what would you do if you only had twenty-four hours to live? The question has been around for centuries, with people always asking each other hypothetically. For me though, it wasn’t quite as hypothetical.  And my answer? The same thing I did every night, go down to the bar and try my best to drown myself in liquor.

            My name is Rick. No last name. No middle name. Just Rick. I went to the doctor for a cough, and as my reward, he told me that by nine o’clock tomorrow night I’d be as alive as the cavemen. Medical science is a real fragging miracle you know. They can tell me down to the hour how long I have to live, but they can’t cure a simple disease.

            He called it “the pox.” It was supposed to be some mutant form of a disease that existed a couple of millennia back that had been supposedly eradicated. Yea, right. I think they just couldn’t come up with a better name for a disease that was incurable and always fatal. He claimed it wasn’t contagious, and that the odds of me getting it were a trillion to one. Sounds about right.

            Ever since the moment I was born, the world had been out to get me. I was born an orphan. My mother died in child birth, and would have taken me with her if the doctors hadn’t cut her open and yanked me out. She was a hooker, and my dad was a customer. Needless to say, I never met him. So, what are you to do with a newborn baby who’s mother just died and has no father? Apparently the doctors thought shipping it to the rattiest orphanage in the seediest town in the world was a good idea.

            Growing up there wasn’t exactly a picnic, and by the time I was old enough to walk, talk, and think, I had run away. The streets weren’t much better, but at least the rules were easier to follow. On the streets, the only rules were, steal what you need, kill anyone who tries to steal from you, and save whatever cash you could scrounge up, so that you had something to bribe the cops with. By the time I was thirteen though, I had already forgotten the last rule.

            It came back to bite me one day when I was nabbing a purse from an out-of-towner who had lost her way in the wrong alley. I was making a clean get away, but she was screaming, and there happened to be a cop car going down the road I was headed towards. There was my luck showing its ugly head again. I still remember the words the cop said to me as he pulled me out of the back seat of his car about a mile from the police station.

            “So you don’t have anything to compensate me for all my trouble, huh, kid? Now I don’t feel so bad about that beating I had to give you when you resisted arrest,” he told me right before he bashed my face into the side of his car. I still have a scar over my right eyebrow from that, and I don’t think my ribs ever healed back right. Then again, they’d been broken so many times since, who could tell?

            And all that was just the first few years of my life. I’d been sent to prison for ten years, and it had been five years since I got out. Still, I’d survived this long in defiance of the world’s desire to kill me. But at twenty eight years old, the world said enough was enough and gave me something I wouldn’t survive. So, I told the world to frag off, and kept on doing what I did every day. I wouldn’t give it the satisfaction of seeing me squirm.

            I had come into the bar to drink, and that’s what I’d been doing for the past five hours. I was planning on being here for at least another three. You drink the kind of hard swill they make in prison for long enough, and you build up a tolerance. This was my favorite bar, not because it was cozy or because the company was good, but because this was the only bar in the whole fragging city that let regulars keep a tab.

            The barkeep had apparently decided to remind me of this when I asked for another shot of whiskey since he said, “No more for you Rick. You’re overdue paying your tab as is, and if I let you run it any higher, people are going to start thinking I give drinks away.”

            “Relax, I’ll pay you tomorrow night,” I said, a hint of cold humor in my voice. I looked down at my watch and saw that it was already two in the morning, “Well, I guess you could say ‘tonight.’”

            “Then you can drink more when you come back.”

            I didn’t even bother arguing. I didn’t know the barkeep very well, despite the fact that I had been coming here for the past two years. I also didn’t feel like testing whether or not he was willing to use the shotgun behind the counter on me, because I was certain he wouldn’t hesitate. He didn’t put up with any frag, and didn’t hesitate if he thought someone was going to cause trouble. Though, I suppose that’s how you have to be if you plan on running a bar that’s open from nine at night to nine in the morning.

            With nothing more to do at the bar since I had been cut off, I left. The joke was on the barkeep though, because I wouldn’t be back to pay my tab. Stepping outside, I looked around me at the city. It wouldn’t change one bit after I bit the dust. It would still be just as grimy, just as sleazy, and just as dangerous.

            An old man, who was another inmate back in prison, had once told me that a millennia and a half ago this whole area was farmland, with only a few houses and barns scattered about. When I asked him what happened, he told me that it was because we had perfected cloning. Mankind decided that the best thing to do with the ability to perfectly recreate any organic material was to end world hunger. And we did.

            The problem is that once we could simply clone all our food, we didn’t need farm animals or fields full of crops, and the human race was constantly growing in size, so we always needed more places for people to live. The old man told me to put the rest together myself. When you’re walking through the city though, you find it hard to believe that anything besides criminals and disease could ever have thrived here. I still think the old man had just gone senile.

            I made my way down random streets, slowly heading in the direction of the small apartment I called home for now. There was no rush. After about half an hour of walking, it started to rain. I just looked up at the sky and laughed. The world was trying its hardest to speed up the job, wasn’t it?

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