This is the way the world ends

This is the dream in three parts.

Scene 1
We are preparing. We have heard. I am in a lush suburb that feels like the countryside. Unseen, camps have been made. More in concept than being visible. What is visible is the garden, the tree lines, the rich soil, the beautiful blue sky. I have become quite destructive. I have turned soil and this has destroyed something, like a home for a colony of ants. Will I regret this? I don’t know. But if I have done wrong (I have) no one will know for the world is going to end. We have been warned. It is starting.

The sky is clouded over. I climb to the top of a small hillock, so small it might as well be an earthy jungle gym. I look around me. Is this the best place to be safe? Should I go into the house? Or should I submerge myself in the water of the small pool over there?

I look out over the landscape. There is nothing happening. Were the predictions wrong? It is sunset now, a dramatic red sunset under heavy, black cloud. I see clusters of men grouping below. They are arming themselves. There is no end of the world but for war and they are arming themselves. Should I have chosen a band of brothers and walked off out into the terrain? It is terrain now. No suburb. The earth is already rewilding, even before our destruction. I look out of the horizon again. Still nothing.

I leave our vantage point of the jungle gym hillock, climb down and enter the small underground cave building the men have been entering and leaving from. It is a hull of a ship, and I feel like I am half submerged in the water. TVs up on the wall are showing a game show. A special guest has a message for me. It is my dead friend Togi. There are things he wanted to tell me, to ask me. I must join him. I speak back – tap tap is this thing on – but I don’t remember what I say. The view out the portholes is unsettling. Should I stay here when the world ends? No. I choose to go out, climb back up on the hillock jungle gym and wait under the dark sky with my new stranger friends.

We watch the horizon. What would we do now that the prediction was wrong? What will the world look like with our destructive preparations? The men have noticed us but they don’t care. They have other business. I look to the horizon. Should I go with them? Make my life that of a roving bandit? Wait. What is that on the horizon? It is a wave of lava, rolling in across the plain. Slow but unstoppable.

So it is true. We die by fire.

I say: What a terrible and painful way to end. I wish it had been water. I wish I had died sooner, better.

But the wave of lava is pushing forward an ocean of water. It is so close now, there is a new shoreline. The water reaches me before the lava does. I jump into the gentle wave and let myself be taken down softly, slowly by the warm water before the lava consumes and blackens the world.

Scene 2
I am on the hillock. The lava is approaching. I need water but the only water close by is the pool by the house, the deep, cool pool. I leave the hillock, run to the pool and dive in as the lava approaches. This was a bad idea. The lava will pour into the pool and I will burn and drown in a boiling vat of water.

I go the surface to die quickly but the lava has redefined the shoreline and the sea is gone and the lava has stopped at the very edge of my small pool. The edge around the pool where the lava has stopped is thick, shards of black rock like bitter shale layered sharp, sizzling and cracking still. I am so close to it. I look out. Stretching from my eye-line to eternity is a black, slow-burning pitch. The clouds are still heavy but the sky beneath them and on the horizon is the soft blue of a beautiful sunset. It is what we would’ve called beautiful before the desolation. Now there is no beautiful because there is no one to witness it.

This is not what I wanted. I did not want to be alive. I did not want to be the only person alive. I will not be able to move from my spot. Everything is too hot. The house behind me still stands. I should’ve gone in the house. I see the people there. The lights are on. They will never be able to reach me and I will not be able to climb out and go to them. I look out over the cooling lava. An endless landscape of no hope. Of nothing. The air burns. The air will kill me. The pool is closing in on me. It is a sea mollusk; the black edge of the lava its shell; the walls of the pool the walls of its muscle body. It is closing in on me. I am am suffocating and drowning.

Scene 3
We stayed in the house. It might as well be a space ship. It is at least a research base and the area spared, the botany division. I look out the windows, the lava has redefined the shoreline, there is sea close by now. It is almost night. We might as well be in a ship. We have many resources and many opportunities, but we are many and will need to work together. I take the lead, not only because I am the lead researcher and head of this department but because my calm, unbiased demeanor and reputation for wisdom and fairness makes me a favorite with my peers. I start discussing what needs to be done.

One colleague around the table has intimate knowledge of the data bases and I task him with writing up a list for everyone to indicate where information can be found – we must all become acquainted with a little bit of everything. I look around. We are surrounded by plants. We have ample energy and supplies.

A colleague’s bodytech announces we have 31 days at current rate of oxygen use which reminds me. We must stop talking unnecessarily. But everyone around the table is talking talking I start clicking my fingers for attention. I realize this sign language will be the dominant form of communication in future generations. Eventually they hear me and quieten down. I explain the situation. Everyone agrees that it is best that I lead since I wrote a book on leadership. This seems sensible but we agree to a led committee. If we are to survive the end of the world, we will need to work together.

I leave them to take stock of our supplies. I am in a room like a dark aquarium, but the tanks are computer screens. Our main systems are destroyed. How will we survive here. Why are we surviving? For what?

This is the end of the world.

I wake up.

Stories come to me in many ways. Sometimes I dream them. When this happens they’re usually rubbish or not for me. But sometimes, just sometimes, there’s something there.

A few months ago I dreamed a story that will be my first novella. Last night I had this series of dreams. By themselves they’re not a story, but they do help this new experimental novella I’m working on (experimental for me that is; it’ll be totally outside of my usual form of storytelling).

It’s weird to me that although I’ve always been frustrated by our collective fixation on apocalypse – hence The Fulcrum – I still seem bound to it for one small story more.

Image: Rothko, Black, Red Over Black on Red

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