Click. Cornelius lay in bed. Clack. Unable to sleep. Click.
The infernal clickclack came from the billboard outside his window; neon winking on and off until midnight. After a month of broken sleep, Cornelius raised a petition. His movement gained momentum – Power to the People! – a nationwide boycott sent the company broke.
The billboard came down. Cornelius slept well for the first time in weeks.
The following month, a new billboard went up. With its competitor gone, a rival company expanded its empire. Their profits paid for a billboard twice as large; one than never switched off.
ClickityClackity. ClickityClackity. Clickity.
“It was the empty sky that first set me on edge.
“Hundreds of birds huddled in overcrowded trees, despite the late hour and the crisp morning air. I was sufficiently unsettled to restock the bunker and still inside when the radiation sensors sealed the door. But I ramble.
“If there’s anyone still alive out there, I’m in a bunker on Mount Dandenong. I’m transmitting on UHF and will scan all frequencies for as long as I’m able.
“I’m at coordinates 37.8311° S, 145.3600° E, with food and water. Is there anyone out there?
“I don’t want to die all alone.”
Dane glanced at the somber gathering, all dark suits and dresses; he shouldn’t have come. As the ceremony finished he approached the broken couple, crumpled together in their grief.
“Mrs and Mr Bowen, I’m so sorry.”
He’d expected harsh words, a slap even. Their response was worse: they pushed past him and left, like he didn’t exist.
Grief mingled with guilt. He’d been too drunk to drive, she’d told him to slow down. “I should’ve died too.”
“Should’ve? You did.”
Startled, Dane looked up. A shadowed form stood before him in the suddenly dark cemetery.
“I’ve come to collect you.”