“Don’t struggle. It’ll be worse if you do.”
“What can be worse than this? My life is worth nothing.”
“Is your wife’s?”
Vishal fell silent, his head dropped and his shoulders became rounded. Three words had aged him by decades.
The guard snapped shackles around Vishal’s ankles and they shuffled towards a military vehicle.
“I can’t.” He nodded towards the restraints on his ankles. The guard laughed.
“You think this is hard scum? You wait for the labour camp. You understand why you’re here yes?”
Vishal didn’t but he nodded anyway.
“You wrote a note. You wrote a note to your wife.”
“No excuse. You know the law. No writing. No reading.”
He pulled a scrap of paper from his pocket, spat on it, and threw it to the floor. Two words were visible, ‘Happy Birthday’.
I remember my dad’s laugh. He was a big man with a booming voice, but when something tickled him, he’d giggle like a school girl. As a child, I’d sit on his lap and laugh as he laughed, not knowing why, just enjoying his joy. As an adult, I’ve never laughed like that. I’ve never been brave enough.
Some people tell me they laugh in their homes but they’re fools. If they don’t think they’re being watched there too, they don’t deserve to live. Laughter is outlawed, mirth is deemed a poison to society. To productivity more importantly. Laughter, happiness, joy; robots don’t feel them and all they went us to be is robots. We’d have been replaced by mechanical men long ago if all the metal wasn’t needed for the wars. So on we go.
I dream of laughing so I can die with a smile upon my face.
For a while we thought the world might dry up like a grape in the sun. We thought we’d be living on a shrivelled current, all the water gone, people starving in the dust. We were wrong.
The rains came on in late September, not this September, just a September. The year doesn’t really matter anymore. Once they had started, they didn’t stop. They haven’t stopped. Everything is flooded, and there was no ark to keep the future safe. The future, like everything else, is submerged beneath miles and miles of water.
Everything died, including me. My watery grave lies somewhere down where London used to be. Our planet, our Earth, was special because it had all the ingredients for life, and then those ingredients poisoned us. We choked and suffocated on all that life and now we’re just another lifeless ball floating in the blackness of space.
Smoke, cloud or smog, Sam found it hard to tell what was clogging his throat. There was plenty enough of all of them. Smoke poured out of the chimneys that grew like termite mounds around the city. The clouds had been low and heavy since the weather experiments of the 50s, two decades of rain and grey skies. And the smog came from more or less everything; diesel generators that kept the buildings running, cars, always at a standstill, and planes overhead. Not that you could see the planes, they were hidden by the smoke/cloud/smog.
Sam trudged along in the gloom, his path illuminated by the flickering street lamps. And then it wasn’t. Everything went dark. It had finally happened, they’d burnt through everything there was to burn.
Somewhere an explosion boomed out. Finishing the fuel had started something, but in the dark, it wasn’t clear exactly what.
The grey concrete walls of my tower block perfectly match the grey of the clouds above. They seem to meet with and blur into each other some point before the 40th storey that marks the building’s top. Everything seems to be grey, and I think that’s the way the Authority intends it. Nothing colourful, nothing bright, nothing that might spark imagination or fuel happiness or hope. Just grey. The buildings are grey, the sky is grey and, even more so, the people are grey. Drained of what little vibrancy they once had to better suit their roles, all Authority appointed. They don’t need to be able to think, just work. In the mines, on building sites, in offices; they might all wear a different (grey) uniform, but they amount to the same thing, slaves. And I’m one of them. We are all slaves to mundanity, to the greyness.
The grass is red and still. I’m sure it must have forgotten what it feels like to be rustled by the wind or flattened by some scurrying critter. Not that I really know what a critter is. They said the whole world was going to die, and it did, but what they forgot, or didn’t know, was that it would start to grow back, poisoned by the stains we left on it. Red grass, brittle trees, lakes that bubble up black and thick like tar. I think maybe we would all have been better off dead.
And then I think, maybe we are. Maybe this world, the one upon which I think I stand, is the afterlife. Would it be so unreasonable to assume that what comes next would be the Earth altered only in that it shows the consequences of our actions?
It’s hell either way.
The skies are dark, they have been for years. I once read that a massive volcano in a far away land in a long ago time erupted so violently that ash blotted out the sun and brought years of terrible winters. What we wouldn’t have given for a volcano. I suppose, in a way, it’s ash that’s making the sky so black now, but from no natural source. It’s the ash of humanity after it blew itself up. There never was a war to end all wars, no matter how many times people said it. Until there was. Now we cling to this frozen rock, this Earth, the last remnants of our terrible stupid-smart species. I’ve read science fiction books full of apocalypses and death but they always end on some ray of light. When I look up, there is no ray, there is no light.