The bombs dropped while we threw our money at the poor, all in the name of prosperity. The searing white heat chose then to stay for ever, for nobody had the will (or the power) to change its mind. We raged and screamed, and demanded to know what we had done wrong.
Silently, we all knew.
He had to make the long walk again. The card was clear; on the corner of Liberty and Defence. The card was crisp and shiny. New. New was rare in this day and age. Invitations, even rarer.
He kept walking into the dust.
As much as I stayed with her, cared for her, felt for her, fell in love with her, she couldn't let go. Her conversations irked me, but they were always too important for her to let go. I nestled into the blind spot in the downward curve of her nape, and stayed with her wherever she went. Until she wanted me to leave. I left, and waited in silent chambers filled with empty shells raining around me.
Raindrops hit the window as I waited.
Not much further now, but starvation was creeping in. In amongst the white swirls of dust, there stood a building of dingy brick red. A quick meal, yes. A quick meal would do perfectly.
The parlour was once thought of as well-lit; now, the heat outside brought a deathly pallor to every hollow. Starving eyes silently reproached his entrance; the locals were territorial about rations. He joined the line at the bar, inching slowly to the matron and her ladle. When his turn came, she sneered at him, slopping half a ration into his bowl. He stood there, bewildered, expecting her to pour some more; she stood there, indignant, waiting for him to move on. It wasn't until the patron standing behind rounded him and got served that he understood. He ate quickly and quietly, and left. This was beneath him. He'd be in the world of new soon.
"Wake up. WAKE UP!"
I awoke, barely breathing.
"You're late for your flight. Hurry."
Good thing I was packed, then. Not that I had any idea how that came to be. The doors slid apart as I left my room, wondering when she would return, how she would feel, and who she would be with. So many empty shells, and no explanations. London would have to wait for answers.
The gentleman put me on the plane first, and proceeded to walk past me straight into the first class cabin. I took a seat in the cabin behind him to hear the pilot announce the flight headed for Marrakesh. I panicked, told them this had to be a mistake, I was meant to fly to New York, they had let me on to the wrong flight.
"Relax, my love. We're stopping in Frankfurt. We'll change planes there. We'll both change there."
She slipped her hand into mine, and smiled her self-assured smile. I knew I loved her then, even as I had known I loved her when she cried for freedom, and I was too cowardly to let go.
I love her. It was a good thing I left her behind.
The onyx façade he took to mean that this was the ultimate defiance of ruin. Everything may have lost its colour in paler shades of grey, but here stood a monument of pure black that colour couldn't force to fade. His parched mind conjured wonders beyond his simpleton imagination, his greed deliriously taking in this perfect monolith, rife with debauchery, indulgence, and life. He followed behind a well dressed couple, and felt dazzled by the black silk curtains, the gold trim on everything, the stark smart ensembles playing drunken lurching music, the people tumbling on the floor, people pushing them so they would roll. It was maniacally wonderful.
There lay an untended tray of fruit. He hadn't seen fruit in good memory, and while he helped himself, he couldn't help but manage a cackle at the irony of not being able to remember fruit, when, clearly, he had remembered that these items were indeed fruit. No matter. He could think of such trivialities later.
The nectar dribbled down his chin and all over his clothes, and he thought this must be the greatest meal of his life, just as someone pulled a trigger and the wall with fragments of skull. A few more rounds were let off into the air, as others began to kick his body down the corridor, rolling with the troupe.
We landed in the valley, just as a stewardess pushed open the door and moved outside. We followed. She went ahead of me, smiling with her heart, telling me it would be okay. A dog leapt and barked and frolicked in the grass. We walked a strange median, to the left of which was lush green vegetation with flowers blooming and warm sunshine in the air, and to the right of which the ground was frozen, freezing, arctic, dead. We saw a castle set in the wall, the path leading up to it. The stewardess was already there, in the company of the playful puppy and a sage old man, leaning heavily on his stick, and saying something inaudible to the lady.
By the time I got there, he was done with the stewardess, and turned to speak with her instead.
"You lived a life of sorrow and confusion, but you are finding bliss and goodness in your heart."
It sounded true, and I wondered how he knew.
"And you; there wasn't any hurt for you growing up, but you've seen it, and it has found you now, and life is always a struggle."
I nodded, silent. I didn't know what to say.
"And so it comes to this. What you really want is a matter of life or death. Gamble your life, and this world might just become how you want it to be. Winning is the only option all of you have."