Ten Minutes Left

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‘Please stand by for a special announcement.’

Ten Minutes Left


Susan Brown


‘Please stand by for a special announcement.’

Kath looked at me and she had an enquiring look on her face. I just shrugged my shoulders.

We had arrived at the cottage just the day before. It was our holiday home and we tried to visit as much as possible, work permitting.

It was the end of October 1962 and we were lucky as the weather was still quite warm for the time of the year. Up there in the Peak District, with all the kids back at school and most people remembering their holidays as a far distant thing in the past, we had decided on a late break to get away from everything and everyone. The news had been depressing, to say the least, for some time, especially about Cuba and it would be nice to take it easy and forget about the cares of the world. We were both accountants, I know, boring stuff for some but for us it was a career that had led to many rewards, one of them being that as partners, we could decide when and if we had a holiday.

We had a competent staff that had been with us for many years and we could rely on them to keep the wheels turning while we had our well earned break.

The cottage was a bit sparse, but at least we had a comfy bed and chairs, a decent kitchen, electricity and a lovely log filled fire place.

There was no phone as we valued our privacy and up there in the peace and quiet overlooking the hills and woods, it was if there was no one else around and we liked it that way. We had just turned on the radio for a bit of background music while we ate our tea. All thoughts of food left us as we listened to the radio.

'This is the Prime Minister; I regret to inform you that we are in a dire situation. Russia has launched a nuclear attack on the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other countries following the bombing raids on Cuba. We have little time left. Our forces are trying to counter the threat, but due to the high levels of missiles aimed at this country, we do not think that we will be able to stop the ingress of large numbers of these missiles.

'Please stay in your home and take what shelter that you can. Please do not try to leave your home, as to be frank, there is nowhere that you can go which will be safer than where you are now.

'We have very little time left and expect the first attack in approximately ten minutes. May God have mercy on us all.'

'Oh John,' said Kath as she came into my arms, the full import of what he had been saying sinking in fast.

I was numb, not knowing what to do or say. What do you say to someone when you know that you are both on the point of dying? Our world had turned upside down in moments. We had looked forward to a long and happy life but now, our dreams and wishes would be in tatters.

We went over to the sofa and sat down holding hands. There was a man screaming away on the radio, he didn’t sound like an announcer, more a reporter. Why didn’t he go and hide? I suppose that there was no point really.

‘With maybe nine minutes to go, there is pandemonium out in the streets as people try to escape on foot and in cars I will stay on air for as long as I can.’

There were tears on Kath’s face and on mine too; we held each other close.

‘I’m glad that we didn’t have children now.’ she sobbed, ‘what a world to bring up children.’

‘Thank you for being my wife and lover.’ I said kissing her gently on her lovely full lips.

She looked at me, her eyes red and her face pale but oh so beautiful. She was trembling and looked absolutely terrified–that was probably how I looked to her too.

‘I’m scared,’ she said.

‘So am I, we are all too young to die; it isn’t our time yet or anyone else’s for that matter.’

‘Seven minutes to God knows what. We have had reports of rioting in London, Manchester and Birmingham. I will stay on the air; I don’t know what else to do. If you are listening Marion and little Peggy, I love you both with all my heart.’

Already my ears were straining for sounds of engines, although whether we would actually hear anything when it happened, I didn’t know. My mum told me that during the Second World War in the blitz, you evidently didn’t hear the one that was coming for you...

‘John,’ said Kath, her voice full of emotion.

‘Yes love?’

‘I ... I need to tell you something. I don’t want to die with the secret still in me.’

‘What is it love?’

‘Y...you know when I worked at Sackvilles Solicitors for about a year after we married?’


Where was this going, we didn’t have time for all this...

‘And, I went to the office party in the Manchester office and stayed over?’

‘’Yes,’ I replied, one ear listening to the increasingly hysterical reporter.

‘I....I got drunk and there was this co worker. I didn’t know what I was doing and I woke up next morning in his room, naked. We had had sex, I think, though I can’t remember. He had left me a note on the pillow that just said “sorry”. He was married, I think and I never saw him again as he left the firm. I am so sorry, I should have told you but I was ashamed and scared about what you would think.’

‘Just a few minutes to go now. Lots of jets are flying over the capital and there is an uproar in the streets and everywhere is gridlocked. Where do they think that they can go? There are no hiding places. Sirens are blaring out and people are just running about aimlessly or clutching on to one another, it’s so sad to see.

‘Children are being trampled underfoot, oh God, this is terrible!’

‘Our radio links to Paris, New York and Rome are down now so I can only think the worst.'

My heart was beating loudly as I clutched her and regretted so many things.

‘I am so sorry,’ wept Kath.

‘It doesn’t matter now; it wasn’t your fault, it just happened.’ I said and then I took a deep breath; it was now or definitely never.

‘I have a secret that I have kept from you too. I ...I like dressing as a woman. I can’t help myself. I ... love you so much and didn’t want to lose you. I thought that I had beaten the urge when we got married, but I hadn’t and I started dressing again in secret. I even sometimes tried on your things, not panties and other under things, but skirts, blouses and dresses. I was so worried about getting caught out but I just couldn’t stop myself. It doesn’t mean that I’m gay or I don’t love you, it’s just something that is part of me and will never go away.’

‘Only a few seconds left. Can I say how much it has been a privilege to work for the BBC. Marion and Peggy I love....’

Suddenly, without warning, there was a static noise as the radio cut out, but I only had eyes for my darling Kath.

She looked at me and smiled sadly.

‘John, I have known that you have been wearing my things for years. Do you think that I wouldn’t have noticed that my clothes were not exactly where I had put them in the drawers and closet? I love you for who you are and if you wanted to wear dresses and then so be it.’

‘Why didn’t you confront me?’

‘Because I was waiting for you to tell me.’

‘Sorry love.’

‘Oh you silly man!’

There was the sound of a jet or something overhead, and we clutched at each other tightly. I was scared of dying but if I was going to die, I was glad that I was there with the one love of my life. I had so many regrets and the secret that I had buried in me for so long–oh, things could have been different, why, oh why didn’t I just tell her?

I could hear the loud beating of her heart and I am sure that she could hear mine too. We closed our eyes in the last embrace that we would ever have...

I love you darling!’

‘I love you so much too!’

The hissing on the radio stopped, then a silence. Our ears listened for that last final awful moment as the world ended...

The radio came to life, making us nearly jump out of our skins.

‘That was a drama entitled, “Ten Minutes Left” by James Trenton, with Peter Miles as the announcer and Clive Watson as the Prime Minister. Next, the news, followed by “Workers Playtime”.’

‘Here is the news, reports from Washington state that the Cuban Missile Crisis is now over as Mr Khrushchev announced over Radio Moscow that he has agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba. The USA has downgraded its alert status from DEFCON 2 to 3. A Washington spokesman has just said that we can all sleep easier in our beds tonight’

The End

Dedicated to Orson Welles

My thanks go to the lovely and talented Holly Hart for editing, and pulling the story into shape.

Please leave comments and kudo thingies...thanks! ~Sue

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10 minutes

I about expected the story line to go like this, with a twist at the end, but a radio show was totally unexpected. Thanks. Makes you wonder what life changes they might wind up with next.

Good. I sorta was suspicious

Good. I sorta was suspicious too, but one never knows with you lot of writers.

My grandfather told me about the Orson Welles broadcast. They were so poor they didn't have a radio, but the farmer down the road did and he came over on his mule, without a saddle and with a shotgun to spread the word (a regular Paul Revere!!). My grandfather didn't believe in things from space, and was a total skeptic, and then his eldest daughter came running home from another neighbors with the same story about an invasion. He started to get a bit worried and was looking at their place and thinking about relocating the family to a coal mine he worked in for a little cash, when another neighbor from several miles away came by and offered to move them there with his family. They were gathering some things up in a bit of a panic wnen other neighbors showed up that had heard the parts about it being a radio drama, and not real. It remained the talk of the area for a bit, and several people would have willingly punched Mr. Welles in the nose, at least, and others were in favor of lynching him. ;). It's not nice to fool with people with shotguns!!!


Too true!

Back in 1975, there was a TV movie which looked at the Halloween Eve broadcast of "The War of the Worlds". It was called "The Night That Panicked America", and showed how many people were snookered into believing the broadcast was real.

I've listened to the radio show, and it's just as good now as it was back in 1938.

I laughed

Okay you got me Sue! I should've expected this, but no it got by me. :) I remember a lot of shows in the 70's that had warnings space throughout that they were only TV shows and that it wasn't real. As always, so very good!

Same here

Remember the 1983 TV movie Special Bulletin? It was about a fictional TV network covering a group of scientists falsely accused of terrorism when they built a nuclear device in Charleston harbor and demand that all the detonators to the nuclear bombs from the Navy ships.

There's The Day After, also from 1983, which also dealt with a nuclear war, this time what might happen if a nuclear strike hit the city of Lawrence, Kansas.

cyclist's picture


Sue puts up 'Ten Minutes Left' and totally by chance I post 'Extra Time' immediately after!


Interesting turn on what happened back then ,,I was in the Navy & was on the blockade of Cuba then .. My oldest son was born on Oct26 while I was there .... you kickstarted a lot of memories good & bad but it was a good story Keep up the good work

littlerocksilver's picture

Alternate Universe

I guess you got me, too. I was thinking this might have been a 'what if'. I remember the day Pres. Kennedy made the speech to the nation. I was getting gasoline (petrol) at a neighborhood Shell station. We were so close to war. The thought of assured mass destruction made Kruschev back off. That war lasted a long time. I fought in it from 1967 to 1988.



Of course I was also trying to imagine just where in the Peak District the cottage was as it's my stamping ground :)

I also liked the cartoon (which seems familiar) and the dedication. Thanks, Sue.


peak district

Lovely day in the hills today, been working on a house looking out over kinder scout feeling maybe too much sun, hard to imagine that we used to think the fate of the world hung in Reegans hands, and other less erratic characters before.

Wow, you really got me

I understand that 'War of the Worlds' caused some panic as well.

Now, if all world disputes could be settled by locking the protagonists in a room with orders to agree a strategy for peace....

oh. boy!

What an amazing little story. I bet they are going to have some interesting conversations now that they know the world isnt going to end ..


Talkin' Cuban Missile Crisis Blues

Excellent story that could just as easily be set in a stalled jetliner losing altitude, any immanently fatal situation that puts one's choices, actions or lack of actions in life in perspective. But for those of us that were there (even as young and clueless as I was) that was a scary time because it wasn't just your own life it was the whole ball of wax. We hadn't quite worked out the concept of nuclear winter, but everyone except for a few crazies ("Now Mr. President, I'm not saying we won't get our hair mussed, but I can guarantee you ten to 20 million American casualties, tops!") knew it would be bad.
~~hugs, Veronica

And folk singer Phil Ochs wrote a song about it:

It was just a little while ago I glued my ears to the radio
The announcer was sayin' we'd better beware
A crisis was hanging - a wave from the air
crawlin' on the ground
swimmin' in the sea
headin' for me

Well, I didn't know if I was for or agin' it
He was yellin' and screamin' a mile a minute
Well, he said "Here comes the President
but first this word from Pepsodent:
Have whiter teeth
Have cleaner breath
When you're facin' nuclear death"

And then President John began to speak
And I knew right away he wouldn't be weak
Well, he said he'd seen some missile bases
And terrible smiles on Cuban faces
Close Pictures
carryin' land reform too far
Giving land to the USSR

Well, he said we mustn't be afraid
We're settin' up a little blockade
Put our ships along the Cuban shores
And if the Russian bear yells and roars,
We'll let him have it

From Turkey and Greece, Formosa and Spain
The peaceful West European Plain
From Alaska and Greenland we'll use our means
And twenty thousand submarines
We're gonna teach the Russians a lesson
For trying to upset the balance of power

Now most Americans stood behind
The President and his military minds
But me, I stood behind a bar
Dreamin' of a spaceship getaway car
Head for mars
Any other planet that has bars
Like Gerde's Folk City

Yes, it seemed the President's stand was strong and plain
But some Republicans was a-goin' insane
And they still are
They said our plan was just too mild
Spare the rod and spoil the child
Let's sink Cuba into the sea
And give 'em back democracy
Under the water

Well, the deadline was set for ten o'clock
For a cold war it was a-gettin' hot
Well, the Russians tried, the Russians failed
Homeward bound those missiles sailed
Mr. Khruschev said, "Better Red than dead."

Ten Minutes Left

Orson Welles panicked America with his live radio broadcast of "The War Of The Worlds".

May Your Light Forever Shine
joannebarbarella's picture

I Agreed With Portia

I thought you were doing a bit of Alternative World SF and was waiting for some kind of a different twist at the end. I should have picked up on the ten minutes, because the fact was that the Fylingdales radar in Yorkshire only gave the famous "four minute warning" to Britain in the event of a missile attack.

Well, Sue, you can say "Gotcha" to me!

At the time it was very real. I was at work and somebody came into the office and breathlessly announced that they had just heard that the Americans had sunk a Russian ship which was transporting more missiles to Cuba. It wasn't true, of course, but we all believed it. I packed up my gear and went home because I thought the end of the world was coming and I might as well be there as anywhere.

When I got home I switched on the TV and soon found that what I had heard was just a rumour; talk about relieved...and feeling slightly foolish,


Another Aspect of It

This story was very well written, and evocative of how it was back then.

Yes, I remember well the "Cuban Missile Crisis". I was living in the UK at the time, my lifepartner and our two daughters were at home and sticking sheets over the windows, getting the cellar ready to hide in, there was a month's supply of bottled water and emergency food reserves down there.... Most British people did not believe it would happen and were just going on as usual.

In those days, most people in the West really did believe that the Soviets intended to attack us to take us over, when the opportunity arose,, and most people living in the Eastern European countries genuinely believed that the West, led by the Americans, really did intend one day to attack the USSR and take them over.... In fact, neither side intended anything of the sort and each was just trying to defend its own homeland. What a silly waste of time and money!

Later on, well after the Cuban Missile crisis, Russians monitoring American activity using satellites, detected the first of an apparent missile attack from the USA heading for Moscow. All the indications were that it was the start of a massive attack. The "Red Button" was about to be pressed, when one technician/scientist just would not believe it was happening, so decided to check the evidence again.... He found it was a computor error, and cancelled the launch of the many missiles being prepared for a counter-attack. The World was saved, Armaggedon was cancelled.

This was after Kruschev and Kennedy, but just before Gorbachov.

People growing up these days face other problems - it is obvious to both big countries now that they never really had serious intentions to conquer the other, we face more serious and difficult to sort out problems, like what we all are doing to our poor planet, the financial crisis, overpopulation, famine and starvation, lots of little dictators in far away, backward places, climate change, and religious lunatics...

Sometimes one could even wish to go back to the simpler situation ! At least MAD seemed to have worked...


War of the Worlds...

So reminiscent of Orson Well's radio show... (without the periodic notices that it was a fictional event).

I can actually see loving couples "confessing" like this - comming in on the middle of such a dramaticization.

Thank you,

Hi, This is a great story,


This is a great story, but I have two minor quibbles:"gridlock" first appeared in print in 1980; and a microphone that is being melted by a nuclear fireball will give off a rising-pitched shriek until the wiring finally melts.

The first person recorded to have used the term gridlock was Sam Schwartz, chief traffic engineer at the New York City Dept. of Transportation in 1980.

God only knows where I read about the effect of an atomic blast on an open mike, but I'm sure I heard about it during the '60s.


cyclist's picture

The melting mike

Ab effect used in the film 'Failsafe' as Moscow is nuked.

My Father

Was a commander in the UK navy a little before that time and was the chief evacuation officer for Liverpool.
He'd been tasked with a plan that allowed evacuating the centre of Liverpool in 2 hours - which was like asking for a plan to drain the Mediterranean Sea before lunch.

Consequently he spent a lot of time evaluating survival rates for populations - and when he failed to come up with a survival strategy ended up with his children in boarding school in the country and commuting as far as he could! (the rest of the time he spent rather drunk)
The threat was very real and most people totally unprepared.

This nice little cameo is testament to the real life values we place on confession.
Personally I would confess nothing, my partner would die feeling a lot better!

Extravagance's picture

*Awakens from a catnap*

Oh, did I just sleep through a nuclear war? Mmm, time for some three-eyed prawns! ^_^

Catfolk Pride.PNG
Ray Drouillard's picture

I love it!

End of life confessions. I wonder how many of those were uttered for real when War of the Worlds was broadcast so many year ago.

This is a very touching story with a happy ending.

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