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What I did for the weekend. Some guy who was mad at me went off and turned into a nuclear bomb. Read on for what happened...
Their eyes bore into me, haunting my every thought. The pale afternoon glow clings to their sunken sockets like a waxy glaze. A deep wonder is etched in their expression like a long discovered ancient carving that has lost its novelty. For one moment of perfection they form the basis of an oil painting, like something Van Gogh would have tortured himself into spreading across canvas. A huddle of hunched silhouettes with their curled up backs to a greying, deprived and poisoned landscape. All thick brushstrokes of olive grimy green and pale pollution yellow. One of them shakes her head from side to side never breaking eye contact.
'You've done it now' comes a speedy rasping whisper from the cavern behind her slanted angular mouth. The words hit me as I hunch down in the grit and dusty leaves. I can still feel the stare of the crowd before me. I glance up. My eyes look past them, past the silhouettes with curious egg white eyes. The horizon forms a crisp heat curled line between the dead landscape and the melting sky. It was over that line that he had gone. Was it an hour ago? Was it a minute? I have lost track of time. I sit, hunched, searching for nothing in the dirt. They stand around me all this time. I don't know why, they could be getting away from this place. But they remain, staring. Cold curious stares.
'You've done it now'. The words rouse me from the fuzzy pink nothing in my head. She steps forward and has apparently grasped the mantle of spokesperson. She cuts a desolate figure. I knew what she said was right. I had questioned him and he had had enough. White hot rage flickered through his expression for the briefest moment. He left us and gathered his things, which numbered very little, and set off at his own pace across the barren, depleted ground. No one spoke, inevitability was recognised. He walked as if he was en route to a warm bed or healthy feast. But he was not, he was trekking out into a sparse haze of nothing, alone against the whims of a desolate world. The last I saw of him was a grainy silhouette being consumed by fog and ash amidst the decaying skeletons of two neighbouring hawthorns. He did not pause and look back, there was no hesitation. He had nothing with him but the same clothes we found him in. His presence in our lives ended with that last step into oblivion. But we all knew that was not the end. He would have to surrender to himself and allow the anger inside him a way out. This was the only point on which we were now united; awaiting his anger.
He had made allusions to his anger before, in the quiet hours when thoughts stalk through the moonlight, sizing you up. How it worried him, always had. It would come to a head one day, and he would not be able to control it. No-one knew why but he was made up different than the rest of us. His presence always left you feeling like you were itchy on the inside of your skin. Something just sat differently with him. We had come across him one day while foraging through the ash scattered hills. He was on his own, sitting underneath the charred skeleton of a hawthorn, ash alighting on his shoulders. I noticed his eyes first. They looked like tinder, easily sparked or roused or something like it. Never could put my finger on it. He had no belongings with him and was wearing a tough old set of clothes. Mucky and stained, but heavy gear, good for the cold. It was a sight I knew I would always remember. Sitting there watching us warily approach, with ash gently floating by him, some of it settling. And the ominous hawthorn filled me with dread. We took him in all the same. I got the feeling if we hadn't he'd have just sat there underneath the hawthorn same as we found him, misty eyes watching us shuffle through the ashen misery.
He had surprised us all with his stories though and he became a popular figure round the campfire on lonely evenings. The fact that he could hold your interest added to the mystery of this wanderer. He had stories for all occasions, some would make ya well up till you looked at the crusty ground waiting for the feeling to pass. Others made you laugh, deep shaking laughs that came from the tips of your toes. For those few months we always had entertainment from him. His sad stories always seemed like real to me. As if they'd glint in the night they had so much presence.
I'd watch his face as he told the sad stories. It would quiver and contort as he recalled details from this and that. One night when he was alone I asked him why he told them if they affected him so much. He turned his head and looked me straight in the face. 'Tryin' to make peace' he said.
'Peace?' I asked. He nodded slowly.
'With who?'. His eyes examined me and then relaxed into a faraway look.
'The world. And then, if I'm lucky, myself. I'm kinda hoping it's a cycle. Every thing's got a cycle, even people. It's just, some people, their cycles are more destructive than others'.
The hours trickle by, welling up until a day has sloshed its way by. They have still not taken their disbelieving eyes from me. I have alienated and infuriated him. And now he is gone.
Soon the cold feelings toward me substitute for feelings of self preservation. They ready their possessions as best they can, and with the setting of the weak sun they set off in single file, away from this cursed place. I watch them, I will not budge, I will stay and face the consequences of my action. Like a mournful funeral procession they make steady sullen progress away from me. None turn to look back. Now I have never existed.
On the twenty fifth hour it happens. From some lonely place over the crisp line of horizon comes a roaring silence that sucks up every sound within consciousness, as if it is taking them to fire back in an almighty spew of noise. This ripple of rumbling silence traverses the landscape in a devastating whip of wind. Then the crack. A deafening crack. My ears seem to crumble with this noise. From my hunched position facing the horizon, I raise my arm and dab at my ear. Blood. A thin horrible streak of blood pulls itself from my ear. I gaze at my bloodstained fingers. With my hearing gone I examine the deep crimson. My focus is suddenly taken up with blinding white light. Shooting, surging upward, from beyond the horizon. It rushes toward the sky and curls outward at the edges, like paper curling up to die in a midnight camp fire. I shield my eyes with my bloodstained hand. I can't take it and turn away to save myself, lest I lose my vision as well as my hearing. As I turn away I see them. Their single file funeral procession halted, as if an imaginary corpse has suddenly sat up and asked to be taken home. The light sears their features, isolating their gaping maws and sunken sockets. They are frozen, muted, in a light painted state of awe. Some pointing, some dropping to their knees. I watch them try to comprehend the deaf explosion that is taking place behind me. I feel the wave of grating heat pulse through me, fleeting, wobbling quickly across the landscape, without a care for anything.
I turn when the light has dimmed. A sight greets me that arrests my soul. A mushroom cloud magnificently expands. A rupturing giant reaching to the heavens, all seems within its reach. It billows majestically as a wave of violent destruction tears toward me swallowing all it touches. When it hits me it swallows up memories of stories by a campfire. When it hits the funeral procession it will swallow up their anger toward me. All too late. The world is ablaze.
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