I staggered upright and surveyed my surroundings.
I was in a cornfield. At least, I was guessing it had once been a cornfield – right now it was wild.
I stumbled across to a gate. My attempt to climb over it caused it to collapse. It was rotted. I clambered over the remains and found myself on a small country lane – although again, I could only guess that was what it had once been.
At present, it had almost been reclaimed by nature.
What the hell had I done now?
I began walking down the track. Since I could not see any signs of life in either direction, I elected to go downhill. As I walked along, something dawned upon me – there was no bird-song. All was as quiet as a nun’s fart.
After a mile or so, I came upon a vintage car. It was covered in rust, had four flat tyres – and yet there appeared to be someone sitting in it. I walked up to the driver’s window and peered inside. A skull stared back at me.
At the bottom of the hill, I turned a corner and was presented with an extraordinary sight. A village – except that once again, it had been utterly overwhelmed by nature.
The street was overgrown, several houses had collapsed rooves – and what had once been the village green was now a jungle.
I saw the place boasted a library, so walked over and went inside. A sign said “Reference Section” – which I figured might give me some answers.
Entering the room, I found more skeletons. One was slumped over a newspaper. Not wishing to disturb him – or her – I looked around the place. In a corner was a rack of newspapers. Figuring no-one would mind, I gathered the lot together and took them out into the street.
A welcoming pub was opposite, so I crossed over to it.
As I walked into the bar, I realised it was not so welcoming. There were more skeletons, this time draped in bizarre – even lurid poses. And all of the booze was gone. It must have been some party.
Stepping back outside, I tested a bench. It had apparently been made of better quality wood than the farm gate and seemed unlikely to drop me on my arse. So I sat on it and began to read the papers.
They were dated 7th July, 1947. It did not take me long to find out what had happened.
The Nazi party had swept all before them – helmed by Wolfgang Schröder. Damn, I had forgotten about him.
Freed from the oppression of Alois, Wolfgang had gone through the educational system like a dose of salts, picking up more degrees than a thermometer – including ones in the sciences.
This had led to Germany developing its own nuclear bomb. And after annexing every country in mainland Europe, Schröder had then turned his attention to Britain and America.
The resulting battle had been fierce and fatal to all sides. Again, little had been known about fallout – and it seemed that once the world’s air currents had dispersed the silent killer, the quantity of radiation had been enough to wipe out all life on the planet.
No wonder I had heard no bird-song, while walking down the remains of that country lane.
Now, decades later, levels had doubtless returned to normal. But unless I wanted to spend the rest of my life as The Last Man On Earth, I needed to do something. Again.
My purpose seemed clear. Return to Ranshofen yet again and this time, nail Wolfgang.
This was becoming monotonous.
Then suddenly I heard a voice, “You cain’t hardly win, kin ya?”
I whirled around. A tall, lean guy wearing a huge Stetson stood there, laughing.
“Who the hell are you?” I asked – my voice sounding strangled.
In the blink of an eye, he turned into a short, chunky man in a suit. “Sorry about that – just my little joke. If you saw what I actually look like, you’d crap yourself. I could have appeared to you as Burt Reynolds – Debbie Reynolds – you name it. That bauble you’ve been playing with is mine.”
“Where… do you come from?” I ventured.
“Somewhere far, far away,” he replied, airily.
“This device is yours?” I asked, taking it out of the bracelet.
“Yes. Sometimes I drop it on an inhabited planet, just to see what will happen. You’re my best experiment so far. Oh, that interesting car of yours!”
“You mean the Aston?”
“Well, I didn’t mean your old camper.”
“Yes… well… I’m glad to have supplied you with some entertainment, but look what it’s done to my bloody planet.”
“Oh I wouldn’t worry about that. The device, as you call it, has a reset button.”
“No it doesn’t – it’s solid.”
“Really? Let me have a go.” So saying, he took the thing from my hand and pressed it in the centre. Nothing happened.
“Sometimes they’re a little stiff,” he said, pressing it harder. It gave a little click. “There you go.”
He returned it to me.
“I must be going now,” he said, “Have fun.”
“Aren’t you going to take it back?” I asked, weakly.
“No – I think you’ve got the hang of it now. I have plenty more. Look after it – it’s the only one on your planet. Bye!” Then he blinked out and I was alone again.
I stood there for some time. Finally, I put the pesky thing back in the bracelet, re-attached it to my leg and went looking for water. I found a stream and figuring the water was now safe to drink, doused my parched larynx.
Then I went back to the pub, found a bed and got in it. Bloody cheeky alien.