It is here. Which means it is too late. Who knows whether we could have resisted it? Ten cases of the disease are already local to us. It is in the hedgerows and the woodlands, brought by visitors, carried on the wind. The infection spreads, stains appear, the flesh wilts and limbs crack and split. The scientists have isolated diseased samples in labs. The government says eradicating it could cost tens of millions of pounds. In austerity, it sends a shiver. But these are our ash trees and the ecosystems they support are our lives. They must live. Or else?
The hotel lobby is cool. The internet connection is slow and staff are hovering, scowling, grumbling. There are no flights out of Africa for days – news reports say a week, airlines say nothing until next month.
At the rooftop pool the air is choking thick with smog and the ten-lane jam of traffic across the dusty bridges of the grey Nile is incessant. Horns blare all around, drowning a tuneless call to prayer.
No one reads their airport fiction. They gaze across the sandy sprawl of city, thinking only of maps of Northern Europe – and ash.