With one small bag and no note he became the next of the disappeared. He was seventeen. They searched for him on maps but the maps were empty and sand covered them. They searched for him across websites but found only redacted rhetoric. He was gone. And he was gone before he was gone. The government said they were liaising with other governments to see if anything could be done. The police said they had monitored him, but he was untraceable. His school said it was a tragedy. His parents said he was a perfect son. He had said nothing.
Here it comes: the football back on telly, the root around the wardrobe for a jacket, the predictions for the bank holiday weekend weather, the TV trailers for autumn’s best viewing. It feels like a final sign-off. You will hear no more from us until Christmas. What you haven’t got done won’t get done. And it has come early this year. As if hibernation is a given. We are not done. We cannot sleep. We cannot rest. We are still blowing craters into history, watching an endemic virus become pandemic, rescuing the refugees. Our nights cannot be darker, not yet.
We played word association games:
Is this working? Sorry can we go back to Stump?
Ice the Levant.
Isis, the Levant?
This is misleading. Stump’s ‘Ice the Levant’ single featured on a shared EP for Sounds magazine, titled Track On, No1, but on standard weight black vinyl. Other artists on the EP included the Triffids, Happy Mondays, Head and Sonic 3.
This journey, if it is one, in all its shock and awe, seems more a repeated weekly horror than a narrative of years.
Statues toppled in cindered market places. The dead forgotten.
Some things, simply, exist. And others don’t, didn’t. It is decade through a looking glass. A decade of mangled language where lies were revealed as one of the few truths. The reports are being buried. It has been a long winter. We are in poverty.
Street lights go out. Daffodils begin to bow their heads. Early sun burns the mist from the water. Next year, the same?
As a reminder, he wrote the words ‘Human Rights’ in red ink on the palm of his hand. They were there when he showed his passport; there when he pressed the flesh; there when he clinked crystal glassware; there when he lifted a knife during dinner; there when he signed the lucrative contracts, there when the fighter jets and bombs were received; there when he waved goodbye; there when he pocketed the money. In every wash room in every hotel suite, conference facility, sales floor and banqueting hall, he scrubbed his hands hard. The damned words would not wash out.
“Long after I am gone, when the desert sands have buried the broken towns, the blistered ancient holy buildings, the decayed bodies of ages, and all is dust once more, and rivers have diluted every drop of our blood and washed it to oblivion, and the memory of this history is a forgotten series of ones and noughts, and the seeming swell of new terrors have long since been targeted and again waylaid, or denied, and hypocrisies have risen and been suppressed, and lies like tombstones have founded the cities of the future; then will you see I was right.”
Before he left the house, after kissing his wife goodbye, he turned to the mirror and smiled, stretching his lips wide so that he showed his teeth. He liked to set off for work confident and, seeing for himself that satisfying glint in his eye, felt rather proud. When he was convinced that the world needed him – loved him – then everything would go his way. Of course, his hair was now whiter by the week, his spectacles prescription stronger and the palms of his cold worn hands looked like raw flesh. But always, always, his faith in himself would prevail.
The men had gathered round a table so shiny that, had they wanted to see themselves, they would need only to have looked at its polished surface. But they didn’t. Instead they looked at each other warily. One frowned. Another blushed. Another grinned.
We are not here to judge, said one: We are here to consider possibilities and facts. The possibilities and facts are of prime importance. What are the possibilities? Where are the facts? First, we shall discuss the possibilities, which we shall find endless. Facts are considered more problematic – and should remain out of reach of us all.