1 September 2015.
Global share prices tumble as visa checks are waived and bodies are washed up on a continent’s beaches. Dead. The stations and sports halls are full of refugees. We are learning new names and new vocabulary. There was no vocabulary for this. Old words are not sufficient. Very old words might just be. The images pile across front pages, television screens and media streams. They are not past or future, they are now. We are history and horror. A corner is turned. We plead for hope. Barbed wire barricades are to come.
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I am looking at the sky despite the clouds. I will not miss these moments. It is just me and my eyes. I have no telescope, no binoculars. I am looking at the sky, the night sky, through a mist of light pollution, into the occluded dark, here, so late and so early, standing alone for this fleeting chance. I am gazing into the stars to see fractured pieces of rock and ice as small as grains of sand. I am waiting for them to flare, to illuminate the ghost of a speeding comet. I am waiting for the gods.
Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. Onwards. _nwards. O_wards. On_ards. Onw_rds. Onwa_ds. Onwar_s. Onward_. *nwards. O*wards. On*ards. Onw*rds. Onwa*ds. Onwar*s. Onward*. **wards. O**ards. On**rds. Onw**ds. Onwar**. ***ards. O***rds. On***ds. Onw***s. Onwa***. ****rds. O****ds. On****s. Onw****. *****ds. O*****s. On*****. ******s. O******. *******. _******. *_*****. **_****. ***_***. ****_**. *****_*. ******_. __*****. *__****. **__***. ***__**. ****__*. *****__. ___****. *___***. **___**. ***___*. ****___. ____***. *____**. **____*. ***____. _____**. *_____*. **_____. ______*. O______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______. _______.
From the sand. From the swiping of palms on commuter runs. From the tossed-off free-sheets. From the grinding trucks on dirt tracks. From the furnace hulls and eyes and mouths of salt. From the white hunchbacked desks. From the discounted cocktails and vapid pavements. From the tortuous late-night news-talk. From the canvas cells with torn copies of Les Trois Mousquetaires. From the idling security and high wire fences. From the shell-shocked and the white shell beaches. From the atomised to the atomised. From the blood histories and the sorrowful tomorrows, here, now.
Please help us.
The waiting is worst. He can feel the tension beneath his fingernails, his throat parched, dry with dust. There are maybe twenty of them loitering, shuffling off the attention of security, trying not to look as if they are eyeing the trucks and trains.
Night is soon.
Some of the jostling is for distraction. Four guys run as a decoy. There are only seconds to spare. Sprinting, leaping, hiding in one swift, planned move – executed to enter the tunnel. The trick is to keep clinging; the trick is to not fall; the trick is to not run out of breath.
// INCOMING/SUPPRESSED: the commander of ****’s Battalion ******** Militia, announced that scores of fighters have returned to *****, Western ****, from ****** to join the fight against the **** terrorists.“180 **** ****** are now back in **** to help the popular forces in their fight against the **** and defend the city of ****,” **-**** Press news website quoted the commander as saying on Tuesday. He underlined that most of the fighters of the Battalion are also present in some regions of ******** and ***** provinces. The ******* are planning for a major battle against the **** in *****. The **** has links with ***** intelligence and is believed to be indirectly supported by the ****** regime. // ENDS
A giant flag draped behind the nation’s leaders. A faded flag hanging limply in an antique shop in a small town. A book of ensigns on a shelf next to tea sets and cracked crockery, medals and vinyl records and gas masks.
A woman standing proudly in front of a house. A family on the beach. An old motor car. The car of a man and woman. The house and family of a man and woman. A woman standing proudly in an old photograph in a tatty album, on a dusty shelf, forgotten beside the flags, in an antiques shop.
“The wee fat man: the Mittel-European; the guy with the cheeky smile; the captain of the ship; the Boss. He’s the one you want. But you’re starting from the wrong place. You are at the door of his castle, but you can’t enter. You must speak with his agents. His agents are not here. I can’t tell you where they are, but they will tell you if you are likely to be granted some level of permission. It would be best not to try; it’s best to wait. They’ll come for you. If they don’t, then that is an answer.”
Charles had bunked off. There was some story about his mum, but they were only told that he had terrible hayfever. While he was away friends started telling tales, bad things. And though not many would have known Charles’s influence, in his absence the playground became raucous. There were fights. The girls goaded the boys. The boys got rowdy. The teachers stepped in and were mocked. Lessons became chaotic. One lunchtime, a game of British Bulldog was turning violent. A punch was thrown. Against the brick wall of the school Andrew flicked back his hair. This time would be his.
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.