We’re all young at some point, some earlier than others. I was later than many. You ushered me into proto-adulthood and you introduced me to alcohol. I wonder where we would have gone together if the world hadn’t ended.
The First: Snakebite+
Method: Pour half pint of lager into a pint glass. Add shot of vodka. Top up with cider. Drink remaining cider. Enjoy the rest.
We drank these while bombs fell from low orbit and we laughed, unknowing, at the pyrotechnics sparking in the distance. In the morning clouds of thick smoke drifted up from what was once Birmingham, and Wolverhampton, and Telford. I cycled back to work along Shropshire’s quiet lanes. The ache of my calves almost matched that in my thighs and groin, and I thought of you and grinned, oblivious in desperate youth.
The Second: Beer
Recipe: One pint of beer (4.5-5.8%)
Method: Repeat until money is depleted or cognitive functions recognise imminent shut down.
I mostly supped these alone, in dark hovels with curtains where now rubbled walls once stood. The material flapped in an ever present breeze. Flickering candles did little to disperse the ever present gloom. There was reputation to be gained below Shrewsbury’s castle walls, but I waved away the belligerent souls who considered my considerable height a challenge, scorning their threats with self-deprecating wit and a smile of such tragic sorrow they were compelled to supply my next round. Now the ache was in my chest.
The Third: The Angel’s Share
Recipe: A mug of whisky (40-95.6%)
Method: Tap a cask and decant into the hot water bottle hung down your back. Try not to get caught. Drink in the variable heat of an open fire at your hillside camp.
When the second invasion came I fled north. The further I went the more disconnected things seemed to become. Cheery drivers gave me lifts and looked surprised when I asked how they were being treated by the aliens. One even said, ‘Aye, they’ve no the ba’s tae come up here. We kicked the Roman’s airse, an’ we’ll kick their’s tae.’ I settled near a small town on the edge of the highlands and truly you would think the world had not ended. Sure, their was no internet, T.V., radio, or cell-phone. It was like the town had been dumped back to nineteen-fifty-five, and they coped fine. They didn’t like strangers, I didn’t blame them. They were peculiar to me and I didn’t like any of them, or their parochialism. But I had skills the distillery could use, and uisge beathe still flowed freely. I was never sure who drank it now. Us? Them? Could they even drink? It didn’t matter. I had work. I had drink. Mostly, now, there was no ache.
The Fourth: Whatever
Recipe: What doesn’t make you blind or kill you. (?%)
Method: Open a battery; Find an untapped pharmacy; Brew and hope.
Eventually they moved north. A slow rolling slaughter disguised as acclimatisation. Bombs no longer fell, they stopped after the first invasion. Now it was called integration and not enough understood to do anything about it. Would it have mattered? Maybe. A co-operative against evil worked against the Nazis; A small determined force in Vietnam fought off the old USA; Mars took its independence with a population smaller than a Caribbean island. But that first wave took the planet by surprise. By the time the aliens got to rural Scotland it was purely a mopping up exercise. By now there was no ache but the one that covered me from head to toe, which permeated my organs and scraped my soul as raw as the fish I scooped from icy rivers, or the unwary rabbits I plucked from the entrance of their burrows.
I saved a special bottle for our anniversary. Fifteen years since we saw the West Midlands burn, since I felt your warm breathe on my neck. I drank it in a small bothie high in the Cairngorms. Outside, snow fell, a shroud. The supply of firewood burnt out on the second day, the snow was still falling. We were all young once. I don’t think anyone is anymore. I know I’m not. I need to sleep so bad. Sleep and feel the dream of you when the sky was only filled with stars, and our only ache was joy.
Clive Tern lives by the sea in rural Cornwall, England, and writes short stories and poetry. He has been published by Zetetic, Pidgeonholes, & The Quarterday Review. Occasionally he blogs about finding writing tough at www.clivetern.com.