The Last Day
by Mark Dunphy
November 15th 2002.
That was the day when my life would end. I would be twenty-three years old.
I had just finished college and gained immediate employment with Gardeners Mills
two weeks after graduation. My job was in the payroll office busying myself with
the complexities of payroll management through a software package that seemed to
be designed for super-intelligent humans or not-so-intelligent aliens.
The job was three miles from my front doorstep where I lived with my
Mother, Father, Josh and Sherie. On Friday October 11th, I arrived
home from work punch-drunk. Overtime not paid, bonus schemes calculated wrongly,
subscriptions wrongly deducted from the wage slip. It seemed that some Fridays,
not one of the 500 employees got paid the correct amount.
'There's a letter there for you Bobby,' cried my Mother as I made my way in from
the shed where I had set aside my bicycle. I didn't want to see it again until
'Sure thing Ma,' I replied, 'who's it from?'
'I don't know but it looks official.'
It was in a brown government-like envelope with a window through which I
could clearly make out my name and address in bold font. There was no stamp or
frank on the front. Nonetheless, it had reached its destination. But before I
could open it I smelled the dinner. 'Shepherd's Pie tonight Bobby,' said
my Mother, 'your favourite.'
I forgot about the letter until midnight.
I was undressing in my room and ready to hit the sack when I saw the brown
corner of the envelope sticking out of my trouser back pocket as it hit the
bedroom floor in a crumpled heap. My curiosity wrestled with my fatigue and came
out on top. I took the letter in my hand and tore it open. There was one plain
A4 sheet inside. I unfolded it and read.
FAO: Bobby Dillon
This letter is to inform you of your upcoming death. Do not throw this away. Do
not dismiss this as some kind of joke. THIS IS REAL! You will die on Friday
November 15th 2002. We are expecting you on this date. Tell loved ones that you
love them, treat your family members with humility and respect and also, if you
wish, take out some insurance policies. Do these things not
to serve yourself for your fate has already been decided but to leave those you
leave behind in a comfortable position, financially. This letter is not a hoax,
IT IS THE TRUTH, and you will be extremely foolish to ignore these claims.
Because of the sheer importance and weight that this letter brings I have
outlined a number of events that will happen in your future. I will state one
event that will happen to you personally, one that will happen to a member of
your family and one that will happen on a worldwide scale. All three will occur
on Saturday 12th October.
1. Bobby Dillon: You will meet a girl called Yolanda Sykes. She will be five
feet ten inches tall with blue eyes and blond hair. She will also be blind. Do
not even try to quiz her, as she knows nothing of this letter. She is merely a
person you will meet just once in your life.
2. Josh Dillon: Josh will score the first goal in a 3-0 win in his
soccer match. The goal will be a header and will be scored in the 26th minute of
the first half.
3. Worldwide: The ferry ship - 'The Heart of Midlothian' will sink in
the North Sea with the loss of 213 lives. The final figure will not be
announced until the following Tuesday.
I have left your own personal forecast a little vague, as I do not
want you to avoid a certain place at a certain time. Don't dismiss
these prophecies as a joke and don't try to lose heart when you find that they
are indeed true.
I was so shocked I almost fell off the bed to the floor. I read the
letter again and then a third time but still the words were crystal clear and
yet no clearer. It had to be a joke, a prank, some sick pervert's idea of a good
time. After all, nothing could predict the future with that clarity. But yet my
own arguments fell upon my deaf ears. I wanted more than anything to reject the
claims that lay before me, but I could not do so. All night I tossed and turned
trying desperately to get to sleep but not able to turn off my mind to the
strange correspondence. There was no signature, no
address, no signs of any sort that could be used to possibly trace the origin of
the letter. I finally dropped off to a fitful sleep at around 4 a.m.
I woke at seven and had showered, shaved and had breakfast before anybody else
even stirred. Josh was next to rise and I made him breakfast before walking with
him to the soccer pitches. Ordinarily I didn't go to watch Josh but today I had
to. I waited on the sidelines and started the stopwatch exactly when the referee
signalled for the beginning of the match. I didn't really believe the
letter but I didn't really disbelieve it either. As the match wore on and
it remained scoreless my stomach began to tense up.
A gnawing sensation in my abdominals was getting more intense as the minutes
ticked by. I constantly looked at the stopwatch, willing one team or other to
score before the 26th minute ending all this nonsense and opening a way back to
my ordinary humdrum life. But nobody put the ball in the onion sack.
Minute 26 was twenty seconds old when the ball was floated in to the box and met
viciously (for a nine year old) by Josh's forehead. The ball flew into the top
corner of the net, 1-0. Josh was delighted, running towards me as if the goal
had just won him the World Cup. I smiled but it was an effort to do so. Inside I
was hollow. That goal shook me to the roots but I remained at
pitch-side until the end of a 3-0 victory for Josh.
By then my nerves were frazzled as I spent frantically paced up and down
outside the dressing rooms whilst my proud brother got dressed inside. Just
before he emerged, I spun rather sharply and bumped into somebody causing them
to fall to the wet
grass. Immediately I bent to apologize. 'I'm sorry,' I started, 'I'm not
myself. I'm miles away, just not paying ...' My body froze as I helped the girl
with the blond hair and blue eyes up from the sodden ground. She was beautiful.
She was also blind. Her cane
still lay on the grass, her dark glasses alongside it. She sensed my hesitation.
'It's okay,' she replied, 'really it's fine. I guess I wasn't looking where I
was going either.' She laughed at the irony of that but I remained silent. Then
she seemed to panic just a little.
'Hello, are you still there?' It took me second or two but I managed a
response. 'Sure, I'm still here. I'm sorry but you're so beautiful.' It
was corny and trite but yet it was true. Also, it bought me a little time to
bend down and pick up her things.
'Why thank you very much,' she replied, not really knowing what to say to some
guy who had just literally bowled her over and then called her beautiful, all in
one breath. I handed her the cane and glasses, apologized and then asked
what her name was. I had to know. 'Yolanda,' she replied, 'Yolanda Sykes.'
By now Josh had appeared and I grabbed him and walked briskly away from
the pitch, towards home. Once there, I turned on the T.V. and caught the
lunchtime news show. Sure enough, a ferry ship had gone down in the North Sea
with the loss of many lives. The newscasters did not know how many had perished
in the disaster but I did. I went to my room and took the letter from my locker
to study once more. I reread the lines as my mind
whirled. They had all been true - right down to the minute of Josh's goal. I
couldn't comprehend it but now I believed it. What else could I do after all?
The unsigned letter with no postmarks was still as mysterious as ever but it had
found a follower.
I did hardly anything that weekend. I didn't sleep, didn't eat,
didn't leave the house but I did think. I thought about my upcoming end. I
thought about tying up all loose ends before I'm whisked away from this life.
Monday came and I took a half-day from work to see Mr. Hatfield of Greenway
Insurance. I set up a policy that only paid out to my family upon my death.
There was a 21-day initial period whereby if anything happened to me then no
money would be paid out. October 15th fell just outside this
range so my family was safe. With their monetary future pretty much secured I
felt a little better but not much. The knowledge of death is far worse than
ignorance. What you don't know won't hurt you, as my Dad always said. Not
knowing when your end will come, living on a knife edge of existence whereby
life could be snatched from you at any time was far better than the
cold calculating understanding that you would die on a certain date.
My last weeks were spent trying desperately to right any wrongs I
had done in my life, doing whatever I could for my family and wallowing in a
fair deal of self-pity. Who could blame me? I cried like I've never cried
before, hard, heavy tears drowning my face. And yet all people are aware of
their own expendability but because they do not know the exact day of their
demise, they lived life instead of preparing for death. I, though, fell heavily
into the latter section. Every night I ended up looking at my brother and sister
as they slept peacefully in their beds. Their innocence
of the world was a joy to see. They were distracted only by mundane activities
like school, soccer, Sherie's ballet lessons and more lately her distinct
interest in boys, and the two of them were full of life. I pitied and hated
myself all at the same time but my heart was lightened a little bit by those
early morning glimpses of my siblings. I loved them both so much. As for Mam and
Dad, well, I have always loved them as they have loved me.
I tried not to make it too obvious over those last weeks and it was
all I could manage not to let anything about the letter slip. I had told them it
was a tax form from the government and they had believed me. It was more
credible than a letter foretelling my own death.
The fateful day came, the last day, and I prepared to go to work as
per usual. I could have stayed at home, and hid under the covers but somehow I
figured that death would find me no matter what. I left earlier than usual. I
kissed Sherie and Josh on the foreheads as they slept and simply glanced at my
parents before sneaking out the back. I cycled down the road, my mind
working overtime trying to take in everything and managing nothing. The wind
swept through my hair as the bike trundled along.
I was in another world.
I never saw the truck that had jack-knifed as it spun too fast
around the corner.
My last day had come.
I was gone.