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.
Dreaming of Cairo, so I thought, and I was on some concrete balcony at the edge of the desert, with the city in the distance, illuminated by explosions – and the death-rattle of guns and screaming missiles echoed across the void between me and… them.
I peered harder and saw that the explosions were fireworks, lighting up the sky with their crackle and kaleidoscope wonder. And the city was maybe Romford, somewhere not quite London.
I woke up. It was still night. Deeply so. A blackbird was singing. It sounded so frail and confused, so beautiful, and so full of dread.
Late on in the evening – and a man walking somewhere, wrapped in his own world, humming a tune. The way that he moved, you could tell what he was like as a little boy. A big boy now with his puffer jacket and trainers.
Coming back from the pub on a clear cold night in November and the sky is a canopy of candles, a cathedral with it’s roof arcing to infinity.
* * *
I am awake and from across the houses I hear a neighbour’s voice. He is shouting into the dark, something indecipherable, yapping at the night like a dog.
Across the sky, flitting light. Not stars as such, but gilded shards. They continue to fall, piercing horizon upon horizon. Some say they will ignite briefly over the deepest darkest parts of the ocean, to be seen only by the whales and the dolphins as they break upwards from the blue. Some say the shards will spark and burn their way through the atmosphere, burying themselves blackly, finally, into the cold tundras of the Arctic north. Some say they will flicker like fireworks over Hawaii. But no human should worry. The death of one more satellite is of no concern.
It never got dark any more. At night, streetlight would filter through the blinds and cast shadows on the walls. You lay awake, wondering how long it would be before you would fall asleep. You remembered nights of total darkness but they were gone. Now everything was fuzzy and grey. People didn’t sleep much. They lay awake and worried about the planet and about the apartment, how it needed cleaning. All the surfaces were covered with dust. No matter how much you cleaned, within a day or so it was back. Dust to dust. Awake with things on your mind.
The road was quiet and amber in the street light. She could hear the sound of violins and voices from high in one of the office blocks. Someone was playing Verdi. She looked upwards. There were no stars in the sky. Beyond the clouds would only be the vapour trails of aeroplanes streaking across the night. Beyond them, satellites beaming TV shows to nations round the world; satellites distributing information about the location of individuals; rockets testing the limits of technological power; defence shields that cost citizens dear. And what was beyond that? Perhaps it was only daydreams and notions.