This story

THE END OF THE WORLD

by Robert Williams

"I've got some bad news I'm afraid everyone," said Des, rushing into the cafe where the other usual suspects were already present. "Dirk and Barry are leaving!"

"OH NO!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"I overheard it in the paper shop just now!" said Des. "They're leaving on Friday!!"

"OH NO!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"Who are Dirk and Barry?" said Mick.

"They're holding a leaving do to celebrate...what did you say?" said Des.

"Who are Dirk and Barry?" said Mick. "I've never heard of them."

"You've never heard of them?!" said Des. "You've got to be having a laugh! I'm talking about the Dirk and Barry!!"

"I haven't heard of them either," said Clive. "Who are they?"

"Dirk and Barry...well they're...they're legends!"

"Yes, but who are they?!" said Mick.

"Dirk and Barry...they're on a par with Little and Large...and Cannon and Ball... I just can't believe they're leaving!!"

"OH NO!!!" exclaimed Wayne.

"I'm so upset," said Des.

"ME TOO!!" exclaimed Wayne, who was close to tears.

"Des, listen to me," said Mick. "Who are Dirk and Barry??!!"

"Dunno," said Des.

There was a long silence.

"Have you heard the news?" said Mick, suddenly.

"Oh don't you start," said Clive.

"It's the end of the world tomorrow," said Mick.

"Oh yeah, heard that on the news this morning," said Des. "Bit of a pity, isn't it."

"Yes, shame," said Clive . "Never mind."

They all hummed and nodded in agreement. There was a short pause. Then suddenly Des gasped.

"IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!" exclaimed Des. He leapt up and started panicking. "DON'T PANIC!! DON'T PANIC!!! OH MY GOD!!! IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!! IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!!!"

"Oh stop being so melodramatic," said Mick.

"What time's the end of the world?" said Clive.

"4.40 tomorrow afternoon," said Mick. "Apparently there's an asteroid headed straight for Earth!"

"I had asteroids the other week, but it's all right, the doctor gave me some treatment for it," said Clive, always ready to pop in a gag even in a time of crisis like this. Pity he didn't bother this time.

"And there's nothing anyone can do about it!" said Mick. "So we're all doomed, apparently."

"So 4.40 tomorrow," said Des. "That gives us just over 27 hours left."

"Yip," said Mick.

"OH MY GOD!!!" exclaimed Des, leaping up again. "IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD IN JUST OVER 27 HOURS!!! DON'T PANIC!!!" He sat down again. "Isn't there anything we can do?"

"You must be joking," said Mick.

"Why don't I transform into that top superhero Chocolate Biscuit Man again?" suggested Des.

"Des, there's nothing we can do," said Mick. "Everyone on this planet is going to die tomorrow, and that's all there is to it."

"Well if that's how you feel about it," said Des. There was a short pause. Then once again Des leapt up from his chair. "IT'S THE END OF THE WORLD!!! AND WE CAN'T DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!!!!"

"Sit down!" exclaimed Mick. Des did so.

"Whereabouts is this asteroid due to crash into us?" asked Des.

"Says here in the paper, Kingsmead Avenue," said Mick.

"Oh my god!" gasped Des. "That's only two streets away from here!!"

"It doesn't matter where it lands, it's going to wipe out all life on this planet!" said Mick.

"Oh no it won't," said Des. "I have a plan..."

There were groans from all round.

Later that afternoon, Des was seen in Kingsmead Avenue heaving a large trampoline down the middle of the road. Mick happened to walking along on his way back from the Co-op.

"Des, what are you doing?" said Mick.

"I'm setting up a trampoline to stop tomorrow's asteroid," said Des. "Instead of crashing to earth, it'll bounce off this instead!"

Mick shook his head in disbelief.

"I wanted to use a bouncy castle, but apparently they're using it at the Tolworth Junior School fete tomorrow," said Des. "So I'm having to make do with this thing. Still, it's quite a big one, isn't it!"

"I don't think a trampoline the size of Swindon would be enough to stop that asteroid!!" exclaimed Mick. He walked off.

"You won't be so dismissive when I've saved the planet tomorrow!" exclaimed Des. He finished heaving the trampoline. "Right, that'll do."

He turned round - and saw PC Plod standing next to him.

"Oh hello PC Plod, how's things?" said Des. "Have you heard it's the end of the world tomorrow?"

"Yes, great pity," said Plod.

"Right, well I'll be off then," said Des.

"One moment sir," said PC Plod. "I'm afraid you can't leave that thing there. This is a public highway!"

"PC Plod, I'm only trying to save all of mankind!" exclaimed Des. "Anyway, it's not as if this is a very busy road..."

"I'm sorry sir, I'm going to have to insist that you move it right away," said PC Plod.

"Fine!" exclaimed Des, raising a finger at Plod. "But when the world ends at 4.40 tomorrow afternoon, don't come running back to me!!"

PC Plod gave him a funny look, and walked off.

"Hey, I've always wanted to have a go at a policeman, but never dared..." thought Des. "That gives me an idea!"

Des moved his trampoline onto the grass verge, and rushed off to tell Mick his latest plan.

"Since PC Plod won't let me put my trampoline where I want, it's the end of the world tomorrow after all, so I've decided in these last 24 hours I'm going to do all those stupid, insane, bonkers things that I would never have even dreamt of doing normally!! Like...um...watching ITV! And...eating cucumbers on toast!!"

"That's interesting," said Mick.

"Aren't you as well?" said Des.

"No," said Mick. "I think I'll read the paper."

Later that day, Des was seen with his Fiat 126 in the front drive. Nothing unusual in that - but what was unusual was that there was a sign in the window with 'FOR SALE - £5 ono' written on it, and Des was showing some young fellow round the car. When Mick saw this he rushed round.

"Des, what on earth are you doing?!" exclaimed Mick in astonishment.

"Sorry Mick, you're too late," said Des. "I've already found a buyer!!"

They watched as the car was driven away by the youth.

"Poor impoverished student," said Des. "This was the only car he could afford."

"Am I seeing things?!" said Mick. "You've just sold your car!!"

"That's right," said Des. "For £4.50. Come on, it's not as if I'll be needing it any more!"

"Neither will that student," said Mick.

"Mick, it's the end of the world, it's time to do all those stupid things!! Anyway, gotta go, things to do, people to see!!"

"Where are you going?" said Mick.

"To our local branch of PIGwear!!" exclaimed Des, rushing off.

"Oooooh arrrrrrrr!!!" exclaimed Farmer Files, who was manning the counter at PIGwear when Des arrived. "Good mornin' sir, what can oi do for you?!"

"Morning Farmer Files," said Des. "I'd like to buy a jumper."

"Ooooh arrrrr!! You be comin' to the roight place!! We 'ave jumpers aplenty!! What in particular does sir 'ave in moind?!"

"I'd like something from your Noel Edmonds Collection," said Des.

"Certainly sir!!" said Files. "Step roight this way!!..."

Ten minutes later Des emerged from PIGwear carrying several bulging bags full of jumpers.

"Des, what have you bought?!" said Mick when Des brought them round to the cafe.

"The entire Noel Edmonds Collection from PIGwear," said Des. "Look!"

He reached into one of the bags and pulled out some of the multicoloured pullovers.

"Look at those!" said Mick. "There's no colour co-ordination, the patterns are dreadful and they're just plain horrible! You've wasted your money there!"

"I know!" said Des. "But it doesn't matter!!! Now I've had another good idea."

Mick buried his head in his hands.

"I think we should have a party to mark the end of the world," said Des.

"Oh no, do we have to?" groaned Mick.

"That's a good idea," said Clive.

"What?!" said Des. "What did you say?!"

"That's a good idea," repeated Clive. "Because it is! If we're all going to die tomorrow, we might as well go out having a good time!"

"That's settled then," said Des. "Following on from the success of our Jubilee party, we'll hold it in the street, in Kingsmead Avenue, exactly where the asteroid is going to land! And we'll invite everyone we've ever met! Like...um...err..."

"Me!!" said Wayne.

"Yes, you," said Des. "And we'll get Mrs Greasy to do the catering!"

"It'll be a pleasure!" said Mrs Greasy.

"Des?!?!" exclaimed Mick. "Have you gone raving mad?!"

"It's the end of the world, it doesn't matter!" exclaimed Des for the umpteenth time. "Anyway, as long as we time it right, we won't have to eat any of it anyway!"

"We'll need some drinks as well," said Clive. "What about some bucks fizz? Des, would you mind organising that?"

"Eh?" said Des. "Bucks fizz?"

"That's what I said!" said Clive.

"Well, fair enough then..." said Des, a bit confused.

"You know, I'm quite looking forward to the end of the world now," sighed Mick.

As they didn't have much time, they got busy organising the party straight away. But Des did manage to find some time to pop along to Dickie the Vicar's final charity disco at the church hall that evening. He was the only one there.

"Hi there Des, nice to see you here tonight!" said Dickie.

"Yes, not very nice to be here, but since it's the end of the world tomorrow I'm doing all the most ridiculous things that I would never usually think of doing," said Des.

"Very good, very good!" said Dickie. "Like your new jumper, by the way!"

"Do you?" said Des. "I think it's hideous!"

Dickie laughed, and Des laughed along with him. However he stopped laughing when Dickie slapped on a Max Bygraves LP.

The next morning Des decided to throw out his entire stock of chocolate biscuits, since they would no longer be needed. Then he popped round to Mike's Manic Motors.

"Hi there Des! Come for a new car?!" said Mike.

"Yes!"

"Come on Des, you know you want one, I've got a superb nearly-newish 1974 Ford Capri...what did you say?!"

"Yes!" said Des. "I'd like a new car!"

Mike was caught completely off guard by this.

"Well...er... what about your comedy Fiat 126?"

"Sold it," said Des. "Now what was that Ford Capri you were talking about?"

"Err...it's a superb nearly-newish 1974 Ford Capri 3.0 Ghia with full body kit, power assisted furry dice, quadruple exhaust, heated handbrake and even a radio/cassette player!"

"I'll take it!" said Des.

"Take it?" said Mike. "You haven't even seen it yet!"

"Never mind that, how much?" said Des.

"Er - £8500," said Mike. Des wrote out a cheque and gave it to him. Mike then showed Des round to a revolting luminous pink Ford Capri with a garish body kit.

"Oh god," said Des. "It looks awful...I mean, it looks fantastic! Thanks, Mike! See you later at the party!!"

Mike handed the keys to Des, and Des drove off leaving a plume of smoke behind him. He arrived in Kingsmead Avenue where the others were busy setting out their party. Much like their street party a few months earlier, they had set out some tables, bunting and a stage in the middle. Most of the rest of the street and the surrounding area had also turned out to take part, since the day had been declared a bank holiday.

"What have you bought now?!?!?" exclaimed Mick when he saw his car.

"This nearly-newish 1974 Ford Capri 3.0 Ghia with full body kit, power assisted furry dice, quadruple exhaust, heated handbrake and even a radio/cassette player," said Des. "Awful, isn't it?"

"I don't know, what's worse," said Mick. "Your car or your jumper."

"Or what's still to come..." said Des. Mick wasn't quite sure what Des meant.

"Got those drinks Des?" said Clive.

"Yes, I popped into the Co-op on my way here," said Des. He unloaded some bottles of lemonade and orange squash from the back of his Capri. Clive didn't look too impressed.

"Oh..." said Clive. "Well what about the bucks fizz?"

"Coming later," said Des. "I'd better get the party started!" He walked onto the stage and took to the microphone.

"Good afternoon everybody, it's almost midday, which means we've got just over four-and-a-half hours left before that asteroid hits us and wipes out all known life on this planet. But on a lighter note, I've got a new car!"

Before long the party had got going. Mrs Greasy had turned up with the food, but despite that everyone was having a good time. Most of the people they had invited had turned up, including Mick's former boss Doug Whitehouse, their old milkman Dennis Switch, Farmer Files, Sherlock Bones and Dr Whoson, Dave Presley, Ralph Berkshire, and even Eamonn Holmes.

"Well I think everything's going fairly well so far," said Des, who kept looking at his watch.

"What's wrong Des?" said Mick. "Starting to get a bit worried about you-know-what? Only a few hours left now!"

"No, it's not that," said Des. "I wonder where they've got to..."

"Wonder where who's got to?" said Mick.

"Nothing, nothing," said Des, going off to chat to Eamonn Holmes.

By the mid-afternoon the party was in full swing. Most people were resigned to the impending fate (I mean the end of the world, not the fact that they would have to tuck into Mrs Greasy's cookery) and were generally enjoying themselves. But Mick had doubts.

"You know," said Mick, "I have an awful feeling about this end of the world business. What if the scientists are wrong?"

"Don't be ridiculous!" said Des.

But just then things got worse. Much worse. An MPV with blacked out windows drove into the street, and parked by their party. To the others' astonishment, out stepped David Van Day, followed by a man and two girls whom they had never seen before.

"About time!" exclaimed Des.

"What the..." said Clive.

"Hi!" said David Van Day. "Bucks Fizz here!"

"DES!!!!!" yelled Clive.

"Sorry Mike, we don't need you," said Des, turning to Mike the Manic Mechanic, who was just setting up on the stage with his band.

"Huh?" said Mike.

"We've got Bucks Fizz instead!" said Des. "(Well, actually it's David Van Day's Bucks Fizz with none of the original members)." Mike groaned, and he and his band made way for the 80s popsters to take to the stage.

"I'm not sure why you wanted to invite Bucks Fizz," said Des to Clive. "Even Mike's band would have been better than this. Still, not long left to go. By my reckoning, that asteroid is just under half an hour away!"

They spent the next 25 minutes or so listening to the hits of Bucks Fizz and trying to avoid eating any food. It was not much fun.

"Are you going to have anything to eat?" said Mrs G. "You must be starving by now!"

"Um, later, later," said Des. "Oh my goodness, look at the time! It's 4.39!!"

He rushed up onto the stage, and barged in front of Bucks Fizz, who were halfway through 'The Camera Never Lies'.

"Sorry Bucks Fizz, I've got to make an announcement," said Des. Bucks Fizz ground to a halt, and Des took to the microphone. "Can I have your attention please everybody?" He tried his best Private Frazer impression. "We're doooomed!! We're all doooomed!!! Well anyway, it's 4.39, and we've got one minute left before the asteroid hits us. So, um, let's all now stand and wait for it to come, and, er, that's all I've got to say really. Ta-ra!"

Des stepped down from the platform as everybody in the street started hugging each other and saying goodbye.

"Goodbye Des, it's been, well, interesting knowing you," said Mick.

"I'd like to say the same, but my mother always told me never to tell lies," said Clive.

Then, as the final seconds ticked down, everybody stood in silence, staring at the sky, waiting. The atmosphere was electric.

"Would you like a sausage roll Des?" said Mrs Greasy suddenly, breaking the mood in a way no one else could ever do.

"Sorry, no time, Mrs G, the asteroid's due in ten seconds...nine...eight...seven...six..."

"Hold on Des, I can't keep up!" said Wayne, counting on his fingers.

"...three...two...one...now!!!"

Nothing happened. They all continued staring at the sky.

"I don't believe this," said Des. "Where's our asteroid? It's late!"

More staring at the sky in silence.

"I'm getting really worried now," said Des.

"About impending doom?" said Mick.

"No not that," said Des. "If that asteroid doesn't turn up soon we might have to eat some of Mrs Greasy's food!"

"Oh no!" said Mick. "Come on asteroid, hurry up, hurry up!"

They continued waiting.

"Honestly, this is typical," said Des. "You wait 100 million years for an asteroid, then it doesn't even turn up on time!!"

Several more minutes passed. Gradually, people started talking to each other. Then they started tucking into some food. Then they started wishing they hadn't started tucking into some food. Then David Van Day's Bucks Fizz restarted their performance.

"I don't think this asteroid is coming," said Mick, over the strains of 'Land of Make Believe'.

"You are correct," said Dr Whoson, suddenly appearing by his side. "I've had a call on my mobile telephone from Dr Whats-On. It seems they made a miscalculation. One of the scientific team used a quadratic equation when he should have used a simultaneous equation."

Clive tutted.

"The asteroid isn't in fact due until 6.12am on 5th October 3458," said Whoson.

"Great, that means now I can enjoy one of Mrs Greasy's meat pies!" exclaimed Sherlock Bones who was with him.

"So the world isn't going to end after all," said a rather dejected Des.

"Thank goodness for that!" said Mick. "Aren't you happy?"

"No!" said Des. "You know what that means? I've sold my Fiat 126 and I'm lumbered with a load of horrible jumpers I don't want and a horrible Ford Capri I don't want!! And I told off a policeman yesterday, so I'll probably be in the cells tonight!! And I've thrown out all of my chocolate biscuits!!"

Mick couldn't help but laugh.

"And to top it all, we're stuck with Bucks Fizz playing all their hits for the rest of the day!"

"Oh god," said Mick, who stopped laughing. "Can it get any worse?"

"Raspberry blancmange anyone?" said Mrs Greasy.

"Yes it can," said Des.

"Is it 3458 yet?" said Mick.


Copyright © Robert Williams
Random story: The Circus