7 Short Stories About the End of the World
Would you survive? Would you want to?
Writers have imagined the end of the world as we know it in many different ways. Be it man-made or natural disasters, at one time or another most of us have wondered how, or if, we’d survive.
This week’s stories included:
- someone reminiscing about how things used to be
- a time when the rain doesn’t stop
- cloning a mammoth
- a new star appearing in the sky
- a man who wakes up and finds he’s the only one left alive
- rewinding time to avoid an asteroid collision
- a couple who may be the last people alive.
These are the stories I read this week and what I thought.
** I’m not here to criticise any writer. The fact that these writers have put themselves out there and made these stories available for me to read for free is amazing and I thank you.**
Sunday: Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale
Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale by Sunny Moraine. Read on the Shimmer website.
Tell me the story about the light and how it used to fall through the rain in rainbows.
What it’s about: A woman implores her partner to tell her stories about when life was so different.
This is a bittersweet monologue by a woman who juxtaposes memories of the old days with the days of her present.
The writing is evocative and draws the reader in with its emotion and yearning. This is a bleak look at how life on this planet could change for the worse and how survivors might need to remember the old times so they can live in the new reality.
This is a great example of a short story written using a pattern structure, where many of the sentences begin with ‘Tell me”.
This is my pick of the week and the one that defined the theme of the stories I read this week.
Monday: Storm Clouds
Storm Clouds by Harshavardhan Rangan. Read on the 365 tomorrows website.
It started raining on a Thursday afternoon.
What it’s about: The world turns dark, then it begins to rain non-stop.
The unnamed narrator takes us from the skies turning dark to when the lights go out and all hope is gone.
This is a neat flash fiction story that tells its tale with a minimum of fuss.
Tuesday: A Case for De-Extinction at the End of the World
A Case for De-Extinction at the End of the World by Lyndsie Manusos. Read on the SmokeLong Quarterly website.
Because at 25, I was part of the somewhat-secretive group of scientists tasked with growing a cloned mammoth fetus in a womb created from spinach leaves.
What it’s about: A child feels a connection with the long-extinct mammoth. She grows up and becomes part of a group that clones a mammoth just before the end of the world.
The story quickly dips in and out of the unnamed narrator’s life as she moves from child to adult. The world begins shaking, signalling the end of the world, but the narrator stays with the fetus even after everyone else flees.
This is another great example of a pattern-based short fiction story. Every paragraph, until you get near the end, begins with the word ‘Because’.
Finis by Frank L. Pollack. Read on the Project Gutenberg Australia website.
All the streets were crowded, as they had been every night since the fifth of the month, when the great new star, or sun, was expected to come into view.
What it’s about: The world is waiting for the day when the light from a theoretical star that exists at the centre of the universe reaches Earth. Then it does.
Eastwood and some of his friends wait in a state-of-the-art university physics building to see the new star appear.
When the new day dawns, death and destruction follow the new star’s arrival. Eastwood and Alice, a girl that he doesn’t know well, survive the first day but are sure they won’t survive the second.
Published in 1906, I don’t know how the science of this story stacks up to reality, but the explanations of what’s happening and why sound reasonable to me.
This is an interesting tale of the end of humanity being caused by nature rather than man.
Thursday: The Man Who Lived
The Man Who Lived by Raymond F. O’Kelley. Published in Weird Tales, Volume 36, Issue 1, September 1941. Read on the Wikisource website.
The first body was outside a store at the corner. It was an old newspaper-seller’s, in a greasy blue suit that shone … Penderby, determined not to be an inquest witness, hurried past.
What it’s about: Edward Penderby wakes up one evening and discovers everyone is dead.
Penderby lives in London. Unemployed and hopeless, he’s “tired in body and mind” from looking for work but being rejected. He wakes up and heads out into the street and finds that everyone is dead except him. He travels around London trying to work out what’s going on. Along the way, he tries out some things he’d never got the chance to, like eating in an upmarket restaurant and staying in a luxury hotel.
This is an interesting story with a surprise ending.
Rewind by Chloe Ly Grimont. Read on the Reedsy Prompts website.
Seven minutes left. Seven minutes until an asteroid crashes into the Earth, decimating ten billion people in one clean swipe.
What it’s about: On the verge of the end of the world, scientists come up with a way to rewind time.
Written in journal format, the unnamed narrator describes what happens in the short term and longer-term. Events don’t all happen in reverse. For example, people continue to age normally, however children disappear on the day of their birth.
The narrator is introspective and waiting to see what happens when it gets to a day in the past where a loved one was lost in the sea.
This is a sad story with an interesting twist on time.
Saturday: The Watcher
The Watcher by Ryan Law. Read on the Ash Tales website.
He didn’t need to watch, but sometimes, he liked to remind himself that they were alone, and safe. That they were gone. That everyone was gone.
What it’s about: A couple live in a valley after an unnamed apocalyptic event.
The husband spends time outside, watching and gathering food, taking pleasure in the small things, like rainwater falling into an open mouth or singing aloud when you know no one else is going to hear you.
Not much happens in this story, but it’s more of a sad, Adam and Eve love story about hope.
This week’s short ‘end of the world’ stories, in the order that I enjoyed them.
I’m fascinated by short fiction. I write it and I read it.
As well as reading longer-form fiction, I try to read at least one short story every day. I select out-of-the-way stories and authors I’ve never read and sometimes never heard of.
Sometimes I pick competition entries, often ones that didn’t win. Sometimes I find random personal websites where someone has published their own stories. Sometimes I seek out professionally published stories from hardcopy books or online magazines. Sometimes I look for really old stories that are out of copyright and available online.