Colin Hayes bolted up in his bed, gasping for air as though someone was sitting on his chest. It was 7:09 am on September 3, 1970, and he had just emerged from a nightmare sweating profusely. As he cast the damp bedsheets aside, the horror replayed in his mind; a pickup truck slamming into a blonde-haired woman, sending her reeling onto the sidewalk and landing with a hard thud. She was dead.
The terrifying part was that Colin was driving.
He had only slept five hours that night, but he wasn't willing to take a chance. He turned on all the lights in his apartment and prepared himself a cup of tea. He drank tea; he had a caffeine addiction when he was 15 and it resulted in a lifelong chronic migraines. Today's flavour was earl grey, and he sat on the edge of his bed observing the early morning Boston skyline through his window.
After indulging in his hot tea, he dressed himself in a suit and set off for work.
On Milk Street, a man smoked a Cuban cigar while listening to an update of the war in Vietnam on a portable radio, and two women exchanged gossip while sitting on a bench. The confetti and beer cans from the Labor Day parade still lined the roads and, across the avenue, a blond woman began to cross the road.
The woman from his dream.
It was no coincedence. A drunk college kid sped forward in his pickup truck.
"Run, lady! Run! Run! The truck's...." However, a migraine flared up and he winced as he keeled over onto the sidewalk. The pickup sped up even faster and the woman was hit, sprung 10 feet into the air. She then richocheted off the windshield of a Chevy and landed in the middle of the intersection. The traffic stopped instantly, and time slowed down. The college kid hit the brakes and hit his head on the steering wheel, only to be dragged out crying by two older men and kicked into submission. Colin stood there, staring at the broken woman and the bloodied Ford. He sat down on the bench and cried.
For the rest of the day, Colin stayed in his apartment, flicking through channels and occasionally gazing out the window and to the intersection of Milk and Oliver, where September 3 pivoted on a dime. He didn't know her name, though, and that would haunt him for the rest of his days.
That night, Colin 'finished off' the bar's supply of bourbon before he was escorted out of the bar kicking and thrashing, insisting that it was a 'violation of privacy'. Call it depression or recklessness, he arrived home with two products of his imagination, scantily clad in matching red bikinis. He was halfway to unconsciousness as he took Luella and Clarinda to bed, kissing and caressing them both until they vanished, leaving nothing behind. He still tried to kiss the air, but he fell back into sleep.
His dream was especially vivid. In the dream, he saw a street sign - Batterymarch Street - and a diminutive brunette get cut down to size by an axe-wielding giant, hidden by the shadows of the alleyway. The shadows clung to him. He was the shadows. At that moment, he woke up, but he swore he was still dreaming.
Standing in front of him was a horrifying figure of 6 feet wearing a black cloak and holding a scythe that measured up to his own height.
Death had come for him. He pinched himself, and he felt it. He wasn't ready; he was barely 37 and was the poster child of health since the day he was born.
Death spoke. The words came and went. The sound was unlike anything he'd ever heard, and his mind reeled. He felt like an observer, watching a movie in an empty theater.
In 49 days, 19 hours, 57 minutes and 23 seconds, the world would end. Everything, just....gone.
Colin woke up and he wasn't himself. In 49 days, 9 hou...no, 18...no. He couldn't remember. 49 days....he checked the calendar....would be October 24. He couldn't think of anything special with that certain date. 10+24=34. Hmm/ 34. 10+24+70=104. 1+0+4=5. 5 was an ordinary number. 1+0+2+4+7+0=14. 1+4=5. 5 again. Hmm. Maybe the number 5 had something to do with it. He was unsure and confused. He waddled to the counter, and fixed himself some Sterno and grape juice. The law of the jungle. Luella and Clarinda were clad in those bikinis again, dancing as a cascade of roses fell from a non-existent sky. They jumped in slow motion, almost hovering in mid-air. Colin reached out. They disappeared. That wouldn't stop him. He started to jump on the bed. He started to laugh. Slowly, Luella, Clarinda, and the roses came back.