I can’t tell if the hissing is from the wind through the ruins, the crickets that balance on dead stalks or from her dissatisfaction. I look over my shoulder and she looks happy enough but that means nothing. I’ll grant you, this isn’t the most romantic location in the world. We’re standing in the ruins of an old brick building, rotted into piles here and there, with plant life clinging to rubble and metal bleeding rust into mortar. This place, long disused, feels connected to everything around it – not dead yet but on the most powerful kind of life support.
I had to lie to get us here. I told her long tales of supernatural beasts and phantoms who flit over nettles and discarded white goods. Ever since her Auntie died, one window in the house is permanently clouded by condensation. She insists it was her favourite window, her favourite view, and now after death she continues to breathe against the glass. I can’t logically explain why this window is suddenly covered in moisture when every other pane of glass in the room is clean and clear. But then I cannot explain why this old building, in which we wade and explore, still smells of sweat and tar nearly a century since anyone last worked inside it. Which is why I have brought her here.
She once said:
“Do you think buildings sleep?”
And I replied, well what the fuck, buildings aren’t even alive to be able to sleep, the fuck are you talking about….
Yet here we stand, in a relic, and what is now covered in moss and creeping ivy feels as alive as it ever could be. Even the drunks and the junkies don’t come here, because they are scared by it’s vitality. Not my words, but hers. I won’t claim credit for them, and neither will I accept the blame.
I have to be careful though. The Boy was only buried last month. I know that she has a count beyond him. I keep having these fucked up dreams…. where myself and The Boy are climbing mountains, where myself and The Boy are slightly older and sinking beers in a strobing bar, where myself and The Boy are walking hand in hand and I have a raging boner that I am trying to hide inside my trousers, because I’m not a homosexual and never have been, never will be, but I can see him smirking out of the corner of his eye and I just want to let go and beat him into a mess of red and silver brain fluids…. and then I wake up, covered in sweat and semen, blood pulsing around my arms, neck and shaft. I lie in my bed, letting the frozen winter air purify the droplets on my chest and stomach until I shiver myself flaccid and I pretend that it was just a dream, just a terrible dream, just a dream with no basis on….
….and now I’m standing under a dense tree. Back to reality, as it were. Tar and diesel fill my nostrils. The leaves of this thing are wide and dark, so I light a cigarette out of the wind. It began as a seed on a corner of the building, but it has grown and pushed the bricks aside. Now it seems to sprout from within, leaning away as though ashamed of mankind, coiling and clawing. I stand under the night and I look across to the sun, to lighter greens and horses and I see her… oh jesus do I ever see her…. standing on the points of her toes, her arms out like a fluid Jesus, laughing as the Romans try to hammer nails through a waterfall, face pointed towards all the vitamins, a human satellite dish of emotion, poise, pose and grace. I can only sit back on the crumbling shoulder of an interior wall and take a deep drag. Everything on the outside feels so alive and I fill my insides with plastic, death and hacksaw smoke.
It was at this spot that we witnessed the End Of The World. At least, it was the End Of The World to us. If you are reading this, then clearly something survived.
But we sat, side by side, as I looked at my watch counting down the seconds. We were ready. We knew what was coming. The previous week, we’d walked through a town centre covered in broken glass and blood, layered with regret, lust and every petty argument known to our ridiculous species. For the first 48 hours it was dangerous to leave the house, but once the Alpha’s had settled their scores they slunk back to their bases, lairs and hovels to die in whatever manner they saw fit. Every cuckhold, disgruntled neighbour, ASBO and golfer had ventured out to cleanse their soul. With nothing to live for, everyone seemed to fall into a nihilistic atheism, and took the opportunity not to say goodbye to loved ones but to destroy those who had wronged them. I watched as men and women battled other men and women, many of whom had not seen each other since their school days, just because of an isolated incident of bullying that had clouded their existence ever since. I watched as men left their houses with sharpened garden tools and their faces covered (why were their faces covered?) to exact revenge on individuals who’d sat behind them in pointless Geography classes two decades previous. I watched as men and women walked naked except for slabs of metal hacked from car bonnets, like so many turtles learning to walk for the first time. No one had electricity but everyone had fire. The town felt warmer than the sun gave us.
Afterwards the streets were filled with broken glass and the dead. All the shops were destroyed and yet the cafes remained untouched. When I asked her why, she shrugged and said no one knows how to make a decent coffee these days.
I didn’t think of our echo as the grass turned to yellow and then red, and the shirt on my back caught fire and my trousers melted and clung like a scared child to my legs.
Just before that, I watched as the sky turned from blue to turquoise, and we had about two minutes left as the atmosphere of the Earth found itself invaded by new and hostile elements. She stood like a tuning fork, still and straight, and then bounded over to me.
‘They’ve done it!’ she beamed.
‘They’ve actually done it!’
I climbed up the crumbling ruin, perhaps the bravest thing I ever did, and placed one foot firmly on a fragile iron roof and one on a yellowing tree trunk and I looked across to a world stocking up on supplies for something they could never survive. No traffic moved, but the pavements were full like disturbed ants and I could hear the distant roar of dissatisfied voices, crying and bumping, shouting and bemoaning, shoving and shiving. It struck me in that moment how I hadn’t noticed…. there were no background noises. No sirens. No aeroplanes. No sports cars or superbikes. In the face of annihilation, everyone had decided to rely on their legs, a base human instinct. The roads were almost empty, the pavements almost full. And then the gasp came, and it was too late for me to analyse whether it was a gasp of horror or acceptance.