The faces in anguish. The screams of a horse. The door of no exit. The eye of the blistered sun low as a ceiling bulb. The gasping bull that looks away. A glove for a hand – palm deep-lined. The screeching bird. The heavy mortal stagger of feet, the trampled flowers, the limp child in a mother’s paralysed arms. Flames from the rooftops and burning slate. A solitary candle thrust into despair. The cleaver pinned to the earth.
The dread contortions of life are frozen. That we made this altar is absurd. That we can forget it is the horror.
After they tore open the skies there was little left to protect. No more checkpoints. No more sanctions. No more barriers. No more disputes. There had been nowhere left to go on sovereign land. No way through the impasse of government and state. There was nowhere left to grow. They looked upwards instead, above the law. The sky was empty. Half of the wealth of the world down below could be lifted up there, into the light, above any regulations. Everything of value could rise into this untethered new world. The word ‘corporation’ could finally be divested of its meaning.
I was told that water has memory. I can believe it. I think of how a drop – the cold moisture of a cloud, somewhere a continent away – might precipitate itself upon an azure sea. That it might get pulled this way and that, become submerged, forgotten, embroiled in the waves and the churn of marine life; that it might be lifted and fall again, that it might enter rivers, cross countries; that it might finally be taken along by a tide, that it might beach itself on closer shores, that it might pour from our taps, with its memory intact.
He stands in the empty doorway of his roofless house. Inside is only landfill.
The storm has passed.
They drive the sheep up to the mountains where they graze through the summer.
The blizzard continues.
They came to the streets to protest about land reforms and were met by police.
The water cannons flattened them to the dirt.
The pelicans land on the wooden platform and wait for the fishermen.
The fish are thrown into the sky, under the razor sun.
He dangles above the craters; a scientist confronted with mystery.
He hangs from a rope above ice and snow.
Picks up a coffee, checks her Facebook at her desk and feels angry. Sits through two hour+ meetings. Emails Robin. Looks through the glass at the boys on the floor becoming animated, arms waving, pointing, voices raised. Now, now, they seem to be saying. It is to do with Russia. Before lunch the office empties. The boys go to the gym and then to restaurants and bars. Polly eats salad and watches a comedy. It is the same as pre-crash, she thinks, except everyone is more stressed, more suspicious, more aware that they might need to get away, soon, fast.
The air conditioning blows against the office cold while the mice scuttle in the dust of the ducts.
The flagpoles of opposing buildings are wrapped tight with their blind standards.
A solitary gull circles above the white towers; above the dripping lights of theatreland.
Cars choke the arteries all the way to the estuaries where the mud has frozen for the oncoming night.
Dog walkers, somewhere, reel in the leash and head for home.
Against the hallway’s silence, the letterbox rattles only with the empty wind.
The year closes up, squeezes us out, out towards the barren ghosts of tomorrow.
And so what if they thought she had nothing to offer and nothing to say? If they thought she had no place in the modern world, then what? She would ride it out, keep going, fix herself on being there, again, always. What would they know about independent thought? They dieted on whatever fodder they were thrown, gorged themselves and got fat. And if it was said she was a figure of repression, then it was just a spiteful cry of envy, heard only from a miserable few. She thought of the flags that had lined the Mall, yawned, smiled.
She fell asleep worrying about the tremor in her heart. She awoke wondering about the tension across her skull. Maybe she really was critically ill. Maybe she should see the doctor. Those late-night and early-morning hallucinations of gunshot riots, rabbiting politicians, redactive summit meetings, those rabid howls of the naysayers and cynics and dreamers and do-gooders, the sheer wall of white noise as rhetoric reflects ceaselessly around an almost voided mind and beats hard through the bloodstream in a fast, mounting surge. She was dying. She went to the doctor. The doctor confirmed her suspicions. Everyone is dying, he said.
The off-stage scream terrorises.
We are caught off-guard. On-stage actions cease.
Whose scream is it? Why has it occurred? What will the consequences be? What awful truth awaits us?
What does it mean?
It means things occur elsewhere.
It means we have been diverted.
It means we have been looking in the wrong place.
It means we are unready.
It means there are things we do not understand.
The writer or director has held back information. Or lied.
For a few moments we are convulsed with the realisation and horror of our own not-knowing.
The beheading was not filmed.
The little man at the side of the road where the hearses do their U-turns is pointing at passing pedestrians and shouting ‘You’ll never get out! And you’ll never get out! But you’ll get out! But you’ll never get out!’
I fall into the ‘Never get out’ category.
My coffee has gone cold and I am hungry, having skipped eating again. A caffeine/calorie trade-off. I should know.
Later, as I leave for home, water gushes from a pipe, soaking the reinforced concrete embankments by the train station where I spot a new piece of graffiti. It says, ‘City of sludge’.