There are always times in your life when you haven’t got a clue as to what is going on. Mostly the fears and doubts evaporate quickly and the way is cleared, or at least muddled through until life throws up another hurdle. I feared, on waking to my second day of solitude, that this time it was going to be a big one.
I set out in the morning to look for human beings, alive or dead. I was trying to brace myself against the idea of coming across dead people, trying to work out a plan of action. However, by the end of the day I was almost disappointed that I had not even seen a corpse.
I trawled the shopping centres. Lights were on, music was playing but nobody was about. While I was at the supermarket I picked up some groceries. I left the money sitting on the till with a hand written list of what I had bought and wandered back to the car.
It did occur to me that if no-one appeared soon that certain services would become unavailable: electricity, water, gas, fresh food. I let these thoughts simmer quietly at the back of my mind as I was sure everything would be rectified and back to normal in the next day or so.
The afternoon was spent knocking on doors. I encountered lonesome dogs and wandering cats. I filled some water bowls and promised to come back to see how these animals were fairing. I guessed some of them would be hungry. How odd not to take your pets if you had been evacuated, it must have been so sudden. But why had no-one tried my door? Was I so deeply unconscious that they believed my flat was empty?
I couldn’t eat that night, I was tired and worried. I tried my phone contacts again, I tried the internet again and the television and the radio. Over and over I tried them in an obsessive attempt to force an acknowledgment. When I went to bed I didn’t sleep, not properly. When I did doze off I had dreams of searching for people, friends, family members who were no longer alive, strangers. The responses in my dreams were bizarre. I was told everyone was leaving town but I had to stay, I hadn’t paid enough taxes. Another time I found myself running after a bus that was driving away. My legs wouldn’t function and my voice wouldn’t sound: I was left behind again.
Then I fell into those dreams where you find the animals had been left neglected. In these dreams you never know how long you have forgotten to feed them or water them and a great guilt engulfs you.
It was this last lot of dreams that formed my plan of action for my third day alone. I would systematically visit every house and make sure the animals were catered for. I filled the station wagon with tins of pet food, all paid for at the supermarket. I noticed the money from the previous day was still sitting there. I used a plastic bag from under the counter and put the money and my adding’s up and contact details into it and put it under the counter for safety.
I knew in reality I wouldn’t get to every animal in one day but I thought at least I could make a start and just continue until everyone had something. I doubted many pets would be left totally without water.
The dogs were frantic for attention. I braved all the yards and only received growly threats, no bites. It was heart breaking to see so many sad brown eyes. Food, water, pat and reassurance of further visits and I had to move on.
One or two houses had animals that appeared to be infested with fleas, several were chained up and these I released. I noted down the addresses and what they all needed. I’d visit the vet on the way home and buy medication. How long my account would hold out remained to be seen, but surely most people would recompense me when they found out the care I had given their pets.
The cats were the best off although I did find some locked inside their houses. I’m afraid I did break in and made sure they had water and food. I left a note each time. It occurred to me that I should type a generic note up on the computer and print it out, would save time the next day.
As I drove home, truly exhausted, I noticed the petrol gauge was getting to the half way point. How would I get petrol? Were the pumps at the petrol station electrically operated? I would look into that in the morning.
I ate a huge meal not thinking about being on my own this time. I was too concerned about looking after all the animals in town. And then I thought about the ones out of town, the farm animals. How wide spread was this thing?
A plan of action was needed. I typed and printed my little notes, basically my name and address. These I cut into separate pieces for easy handling. A map of the town, long stuck under the telephone directory in a draw, was pulled out. It was a bit like a military campaign and this idea helped me cope with the things I didn’t dare ask.
The fourth day dawned and I was up to see it, packing bottle of water, snacks for me, carry bags, blankets and my list of things to do.
The petrol station was open, well I suppose it had never closed. The first bowser didn’t work, I guess it whatever button needed to be pressed hadn’t. It was another thing to investigate. As the doors were open I would be able to get behind the counter and try to work it all out. How hard could it be?
The second pump clicked in and I filled the tank as full as it would go. I left my little note with an IOU scribbled on the back. I had taken several litres of milk as well. Milk is one of those products that have fairly short expiry dates and I thought it better to give to the animals than have go off in the fridge. And who knew how long the electricity was going to last.
Picking up from where I left off I spent less time this day on the patting and comforting, it was about food and drink. I began to leave doors open for the poor things to go in for shelter and comfort and to go outside for toilet. Too bad if anyone got burgled, I was beginning to feel angry at the thoughtlessness of the people who had upped and left their pets like this.
The caged birds and the aquarium fish I did very briefly thinking that I would have to find an easier method if this was to continue. The odd hen coop I raided for eggs, these would only go rotten too. I could perhaps feed some of them to the dogs and cats.
If, by the end of the week and no-one had returned I would let the mice, rats, guinea pigs and rabbits all out of their cages to fend for themselves. I didn’t want to do it but I just wasn’t going to manage this routine every day. Hopefully it wouldn’t come to that though.
In none of the houses was there any reference to what had happened to make the population disappear. Televisions were still on, radios and computers. I switched all these off and unplugged them.
Working late into the night to get round to every house I thanked God, who I didn’t believe in, that I lived in a relatively small town. My last stop before I went home was to the local pound. Thankfully it had only five occupants all together: three dogs and two cats. Perhaps I would let them free too before it was all over, we’d see.
Food, bed and into a deep sleep hoping against hope that I’d wake up and find it had, after all, been nothing but a dream.