I was woken at 6.30 in the morning by a hammering on my door.
Alun didn’t even wait for me to call “come in”, he barged through the door and shouted up the stairs. “The world’s going to end tonight Jed,” he shouted.
“I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that,” I shouted down the stairs as I dressed. Alun could get very depressed at this time of the year and I frequently had to jolly him out of a mental fog.
“It is Jed, the end of our days, the last hours of mankind draw near.”
“Are you sure? They didn’t say anything on the news.”
“Nobody else knows Jed. I’ve only just discovered it. I was looking through the historic documents and found this book of prophesies.”
Alun has taken it upon himself to collect and order all of the island’s historic papers. His work had taken him many years as he was reading every scrap of paper, ranging from the peace treaty signed by Napoleon Bonaparte, to my grandmother’s extensive record of toilet roll usage. But I’d never heard of the little book of prophecy. “So what does this book say?” I asked.
He showed me the last page. On it, in the traditional island scrawl, which few mainlanders could read, was a prophecy written under today’s date.
“Today the world will end. About six O’clock tea time. The Devil will rise and claim the souls of the ungodly. Fire and brimstone will cover the earth. This day is the end of all days.”
“Well, so what?” I shrugged, “every few days some sect or other predicts the end of the world. Why should we believe it?”
“Because all the other prophesies have come true Jed. Look, this one, 1979: “Just as one era begins another must end. It predicts the rise of Maggie Thatcher Jed, nobody else saw that coming.”
“But it’s so vague Alun. It could mean anything. A lot happened in 1979, John Lydon left the Sex Pistols and formed PiL, that’s one era ending and a new one beginning.”
“You’re right Jed, it’s a dual prophecy, the rise of Thatcher and the formation of Public Image Limited. How can you doubt the book’s power now? And look at this one. 1492: “What was always there will be found for the first time.” It’s about Columbus Jed, he discovered what was always there, the other mainland.” A book packed with prophecy, and every single one has come true.”
“They’re all a bit vague though aren’t they? You have to sort of make the event fit the prediction, you wouldn’t know in advance that Columbus would find America, it could just as much refer to someone finding an unusual looking rock.”
“I can’t stay here arguing with you Jed, I must go. People need to be informed.”
“What, you intend to tell the world’s media about the prophecy?”
“No Jed, I’m going to invite the boatman to supper. You must come too, one last meal before we meet our maker.”
When Alun had gone I checked online to see if anyone else knew about the prediction. Strangely, today was the only day in the entire year when nobody had predicted the end of the world, some small religious sect or other foresaw the end of the world every day, sometimes two or three times a day. Some sects predicted the end of the world every other Tuesday. It confirmed my doubts about the power of prophecy.
About 11.00 O’clock there was a hammering at my door. It was Alun.
“The boatman can’t make it Jed, it’s just us. I brought a turkey, we’ll end our lives with a feast. You don’t mind roasting it do you? And doing spuds and carrots. And butternut squash.”
I reluctantly agreed, if there’s anything worst than my cooking it’s Alun’s. He went off to make more end of the world preparations and I got on with cooking the turkey.
About 3.00 O’clock there was a hammering on my door. It was Alun. He had brought beer and whisky, not his homemade vegetable-based experiments at whisky, but the real things from the mainland.
“I’ve been keeping it for a special occasion Jed, and you don’t get more special than the end of the world.”
To cement the party atmosphere I put on Bob Marley’s greatest hits and we made a start on the whisky.
“You know Jed, I never did thank you for saving my life that time.”
“Oh it’s okay Alun, we have look out for each other. Besides, it was only a small shark.”
“Not that time Jed, I thanked you for that. I bought you a Coldplay CD. I meant the other time.”
“The other time, you mean that hot air balloon.”
“No Jed, I thanked you for that too, I bought you the Jamie Oliver cook book.”
“I fitted a new tip on your snooker cue for that one Jed.”
“The time you were trapped down a well and I threw you a ladder.”
“I bought you a new set of crockery for that Jed, the one at the back of your cupboard that you never use.”
“Those are the only times I’ve saved your life aren’t they?”
“Well, maybe directly Jed, but there have been other times when I’ve been low.” He paused mid sentence and started to cry into his whisky, he always found a way to water it down.
“You were the only one there for me Jed.”
“Well of course I was Alun, there’s no-one else here.”
“Island life is hard Jed and I’m glad I’ve got you to share it with.” He grabbed hold of me, gripping me tightly, as if I was his last £10 note.”
“I’m glad I’ve got you too Alun.”
He finally let go of me. He reached into his back. “I’ve something to show you Jed.”
He took out a file of historic documents. From the bottom of the file he removed a photocopy of an official looking form.
“It’s your birth certificate Jed. It clears up who your father was. It wasn’t the boatman after all.”
I stared at the name on the form for some time saying nothing.
“I hate to interrupt Jed, but it’s time.”
“Four minutes to six.”
I put the paper down. Alun filled up the glasses.
“I’m glad to be with you Jed, here at the end of all things.” He raised his glass. “To the last few seconds of life Jed.”
We clinked glasses. Although I didn’t believe in the prophecy I found myself in sombre mood, after all what did I know of the ways and whims of the gods. “To the last few seconds of life.”
Alun started to count down. “Ten, nine, eight, just time for a quick one,” he poured another shot which he gulped down in record time. “Three, two, one.”
Nothing continued to happen.
Nothing went on happening.
Frankly nothing had never been so busy.
“What’s your watch say Jed?”
“Ten minutes past six.”
“Mine too. Damn, I need to pee, I’ve been holding it back.”
He returned downstairs at just after 6.15. “Anything happen Jed?”
“What, like the world ending? Nope, nothing like that.”
“Well, I guess the book of prophesies isn’t as good as I thought it was. I’d better be off, I’ve a busy day tomorrow, I need to do all the things I put off doing today Jed.” Alun left, slamming the door behind him.
Before I went to bed I looked up my father on the internet. He was still alive and living on the mainland.
I poured myself the last glass of whisky and drank a toast in silence.