He had fallen unconscious at ten to three on a Friday afternoon - not a good thing to do at the best of times, and certainly not a good thing to do when it's only seventy-seven days after the lights went out and the resulting death toll has been over seventy million so far. He awoke to the sound of a creepy child, who looked to be about nine years old : "To-day is Monday, July twentieth. When I finish this sentence, the power will have gone out precisely one thousand, nine hundred and twenty hours ago." He opened his eyes: there was a pendulum clock, quietly ticking in the corner there. It said ten minutes to four on a rainy morning in the twelfth week of the blackout, and the sky was still dark - not completely black - the sky was brightening in preparation for a brand new day - but still quite dark. The strange, unfamiliar room was illuminated only by a kerosene lamp. A calendar hung on the wall: July, 1970. The man spoke out loud for the first time in sixty-one hours: "Where ... where am I? And what's going on?" The child spoke again: "To-day is Monday, July twentieth. When I finish this sentence, the power will have gone out precisely one thousand, nine hundred and twenty hours and twenty-three seconds ago." "July twentieth of what year?" "To-day is Monday, July twentieth. I am not at liberty to tell you of which year." The man made a quick calculation in his head: yes, July twentieth of 1970 was a Monday, just like July twentieth of the year that he thought it was - the year that everything went wrong, the year the lights went out throughout what was formerly the First World and the year by the end of which many, many more than fifty-seven million people will have died. Today, July twentieth, was also the anniversary, whether first or forty-sixth, of man first landing on the moon. "To-day is Monday, July twentieth. When I finish this sentence, the power will have gone out precisely one thousand, nine hundred and twenty hours and thirty-nine seconds ago." " ... you said the power went out? But ... " As the pendulum clock continued to march, onwards to four o'clock, onwards to another horrific morning in this apocalyptic summer of '15 (yes, he thought, it is definitely the year two thousand and fifteen, no matter what that girl or that calendar may tell me), he thought about the horrible events of the past seventy-seven days - no, he corrected himself, the past eighty days. I have apparently lain unconscious since last Friday ... Friday, July seventeenth, one year since that second plane was shot down. Last year had been a particularly bad year for Malaysia Airlines, with the loss of two Boeing 777s within four and a half months of each other, followed by the loss of an Airbus A330 earlier this year. The quiet coastal town of Broome had cried all of that February day, the rain falling very apt on that Friday the thirteenth in the middle of a boiling Australian summer - but not as much as the world cried seventy-seven days later. On the first of May, of course, as on many other occasions during the preceding winter, the power had gone out across Great Britain. But those other power outages were normal, and temporary - lasting eighteen hours at the most. However, this one wasn't normal, and, by now, the power had been out for almost three months with no signs of coming back on. In those last minutes before four a.m. on that cloudy Friday morning over eleven weeks ago, several planes - it must have been at least five or ten - had crashed on the aforesaid isle. The man had in fact personally witnessed the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines plane, which, unbeknownst to him, was flight 503, which departed from Toronto at four twenty on Thursday afternoon, and was due to land in Addis Ababa thirteen and a half hours later, at twenty to one on Friday afternoon. The plane, along with many other aeroplanes surely including several with Malaysia Airlines livery, never made it to its destination, crashing somewhere short of London just before four in the morning due to some kind of electromagnetic pulse, killing over two hundred people on board that plane, a few hundred thousand on board hundreds of other planes worldwide (it had to have been worldwide, as otherwise surely the Americans or some other country would have sent aid to the starving, impoverished populace of the third-world country formerly known as the United Kingdom by now) and several million more due to hunger, thirst, water-borne diseases and, during those first few weeks of May, looters. At least it's not winter, the man thought. We've got four more months before winter sets in. It was Monday, July twentieth, but he was never quite sure whether the year was 1970 or 2015. He thought it was 2015, but always that calendar showed July, 1970, Monday the twentieth. It was four o'clock in the morning when the man heard the next sound, other than the continuous tick of the pendulum clock and the incessant pitter-patter of the rain: the clock chimed, not once, not twice, not thrice, but four times. He was puzzled by many things: how he'd got to this room he'd never seen before in his life, how there seemed to be no-one there other than the nine-year-old girl, how she was still alive after living on her own for at least seventy-seven - no, eighty - days, how he was still alive - he'd been unconscious for sixty-one hours, for a whole weekend (not that the concept of a weekend existed any more - it didn't really make much difference in the daily lives of the British public whether it was Monday or Thursday or Saturday - no-one worked in an office block from nine 'till five, Monday 'till Friday anymore), and Western civilisation had begun to unravel at the seams, he thought, around the fourth of May when the riots started. That was seventy-seven days ago now, though - in the intervening two and a half months he'd had to endure the death of his dear five-year-old daughter: born on Christmas Day way back in 2009, died of typhoid fever this June twenty-fifth, she was dearly beloved and will be missed by all. He'd seen riots erupt, a thousand times worse than the riots four years ago ... he thought blimey, has it been four years already? Those riots back in 2011, once again over the death of an unarmed black person, seemed like only yesterday. By about day seven or eight of the blackout, he supposed, people had become desperate for water and food in that order; it was Friday morning - two weeks after the lights went out - when they decided to leave their Croydon house for ... somewhere else. Somewhere with a farm - somewhere with a well, or close to a lake or river - somewhere away from the riots - somewhere where they could live to see the year two thousand and sixteen. Wait, he thought, my wife! and my child! Where are they - do they know I'm here - what's happened to them? "Where is my family?" he asked the nine-year-old girl. "What have you done to them?" She again repeated the phrase: "To-day is Monday, July twentieth. When I finish this sentence, the power will have gone out precisely one thousand, nine hundred and twenty hours, thirteen minutes and nineteen seconds ago." "I don't care about how long it's been. It's been sixty-one hours since I last saw my family - my wife and our twenty-one-year-old. I beg of you, please, just tell me where I am and where they are!" "To-day is Monday, July twentieth ... " "I'll Monday, July twentieth you in a minute! Stop saying that - stop saying it's been one thousand nine hundred and twenty hours since the world's ended: I know exactly how long it's been - one thousand nine hundred and twenty hours, but it's felt like one thousand nine hundred and twenty days." The forty-five-year-old man - date of birth December the twelfth, nineteen sixty-nine - had never been prone to violence before the lights went out, but with great regret he'd had to kill someone who'd tried to steal some of their food supply - that happened on day twelve of the blackout. He estimated he'd committed about five murders in the last seventy-seven days: there was no more video evidence of anything and there was evidently no functioning government (the vast majority, well over ninety-nine percent, of the population didn't bother to vote in the general election on May seventh, and from the looks of it it wouldn't have made one iota of difference to his life, the life of Thomas Shaw of Stoke-on-Trent or the lives of ninety-nine percent of the currently fifty million or so people living in the former United Kingdom whether the Conservative party, the Labour party, the British National Party or the Official Monster Raving Loony Party had won the election) so, he thought, he wouldn't be called up to some kind of tribunal in the spring of twenty sixteen. At seven minutes past four on the eighty-first day after the lights went out - on the morning of July twentieth, 2015 - the man committed his sixth murder.