‘Where Have All The People Gone?’

It was the hissing in his ears that awoke him. Or maybe it was the sunlight filtering through the blinds. His bladder wanted him to get up, but it was the hissing that bothered him more. I really must see a doctor about that, he thought. He’d had tinnitus as long as he could remember – sure it had been there when he was, what 19 or 20 and clubbing in London. Anyway it had become a real distraction over the past year or so. He was sure it was getting worse.

He smiled gently to himself, realising it was his only constant companion. Yeah, he really had to do something about it. The sounds of the city mostly masked it, but not first thing in the morning . . or late at night. A country boy who might never be able to live there again – if he didn’t get something done about his constant companion.

Could they do anything about tinnitus? Probably not. But others must be coping, and a doctor would know all about it. Be able to put him on the right track. Lee found himself stood, peeing in the toilet, and couldn’t remember having even got out of bed. Funny how that happened sometimes when you were distracted; out walking, driving, even (God forbid) working. You would suddenly find you were somewhere, or sometime, and couldn’t remember the journey. He washed his hands and declined the optional teeth brushing. Later. First a cuppa and some toast.

The telly wasn’t working, or it wasn’t picking up a signal or whatever. He briefly considered opening the lounge curtains to see what the day held, but grabbed the DVD remote instead. Battlestar Galactica burst onto the screen . . loud! Christ, I must have been shot last night he thought. He struggled out of the sofa and replaced the disk with ‘Goodwill Hunting’. That’d do for now.

It was the hissing in his ears that awoke him. Lee sat up groggily. The DVD had switched itself off and the telly was left hissing at him. Ah, no signal, he remembered. The room was noticeably darker. He must have slept for a few hours. Telly off, check mobile . . 7:18. He moved to the balcony window and pulled the curtains aside. Opening the doors, he leaned out. It was surprisingly quiet for a Saturday night. Swifts reeled over the retail park and south towards the football stadium and railway. Swifts were his favourite birds. He could watch them and listen to their screeching for hours. It always lifted his spirits when they arrived in May, and lowered them when they left in August. Last of the migrants in, and first away. Fascinating birds.

It occurred to him that his mobile must be wrong. The retail park was empty, the barriers down. The supermarket, car park and petrol station were all closed too. He glanced at the supermarket’s digital clock, squinting his eyes to make it out in the distance . . 7:21. What the hell? It can’t be Sunday, can it? I haven’t slept that long, surely? He checked his mobile again. No, it was still Saturday. Very odd.

He was hungry again. Expelling a long, eye-watering yawn he moved back inside, closing the door and curtain behind him. If he ate any more toast he was going to look like a slice. Pity he’d missed the supermarket. He could walk to the Tesco Metro, but that was a quarter of a mile away, and he’d have to get dressed. He really couldn’t be bothered. Besides he really didn’t fancy seeing anybody else just now.

The telly still wouldn’t pick up a signal. He tried an auto-retune without any joy. Bugger it, must be something up with the block’s roof aerial. Have to call the agency on Monday and get it sorted. He could fire up his netbook and watch something online but he simply couldn’t be bothered. Lee Wilde owned boxes of VHS videos and DVDs, and there wasn’t one he hadn’t watched more than once. A quick look through his shelf and he chose ‘Planet of the Apes’ – the Charlton Heston 1970s version. He hadn’t seen it in years and was quite up for a bit of Heston magic.

Heston didn’t disappoint. Two hours later and Lee found himself searching out the 21st Century re-make. A different movie to be sure, not as good but fun nonetheless. By the end of the second movie he was ready for bed again. He pee’d, declined the option to brush his teeth and fell beneath the quilt like a tumbled sack of potatoes.

It was the hissing in his ears that awoke him. Lee felt good, and well rested. The passing drunks that sometimes woke him had either behaved themselves, or he’d slept straight through them. He opened the lounge curtains without looking out and made himself a cup of tea, before rushing a shower and shave. He would do something today. Get out today. Speak with someone today. And he’d write; he was overflowing with ideas today. Today he’d be productive.

The sun felt warm on his balding head. It was Lee’s kind of day; not too hot, just right. He’d crossed the river and was halfway into the city centre before he noticed there was nobody else about; not a soul, on foot or bike or boat. The walk into the centre was mainly on pedestrianised streets, but he passed nobody. And when he reached the centre there was no traffic; no cars, lorries or buses. The roads were empty. The shops closed. Aside from occasional bird calls, and the light wind whipping around the buildings, there was just him.

Lee had planned to grab some breakfast at Frank’s Bar, a fun and friendly place where you could write to your heart’s content but still have a bit of a buzz going on around you. But Frank’s was closed too. The Natwest Bank clock on London St. told him it was twenty to ten. His mobile agreed. The only sound was the birds and the wind, and the hissing in his ears which he now noticed hadn’t left his head since he awoke. Good God, it was so damn quiet he could still hear his bloody tinnitus!

Lee sat on a bench at the war memorial, overlooking the city. The market place, the shops, the castle all lay before him. All silent, and all empty. Pigeons drew his eyes to the clear blue sky. It occurred to Lee that he hadn’t seen or heard a single aircraft either . .


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