The rain punched holes in my trenchcoat, and that’s where it got in. The war raged on for weeks, until red sores opened up in the land. We sat like gargoyles, scouting for movement or the flash of a muzzle. The only sound was that of the rain, as our guns were perfectly silent. We found out who had fallen at the end of the day and that was that. The battle was ended not because any side won, but because no man’s land sprouted hellishly red toadstools over the corpses, and we started finding it on our skin too.
They are hard to catch on film, for reasons that are or will become obvious. They have never been given a formal Latin double-name, but they are known as stormblooms or the shipwreck daisies: the flowers that grow and blossom just before a disaster. Captains of sunken ships write about them growing in the rotting parts of the vessel. Gorgeous shimmering colours that are not quite real and not quite there, and huge petals. Supposedly they wilt and that’s when the disaster strikes, or perhaps picking them is what brings on the death and no human can resist picking them.
It’s the end of the world; it feels like a practical joke. People are standing still, slack jaws gaping, gazing at the sun as if they are tricking me into doing the same. Did you know that ‘apocalypse’ is not in the dictionary? I refuse to look it up. I refuse to look up, but the contours of my shadow begin to contort and everything glows blazing red, as if it is only ever going to get redder. Experimentally, I closed someone’s eyes and he crumbled into red sand. Experimentally, I close my own eyes and I see the sun.
Take off your clothes, and take this paint and brush. Paint little faces all over your body and smooth out your features. Open your mouth; don’t open your mouth. This is no way to breathe. Be calm. Where is the air coming from? No, listen. The faces have begun to talk amongst themselves. Their voices are drowned out by the way your heart drums in your ears, you must stop it.
You are in a room with no-one else. They are moving. When your features return, the faces will be gone. You must hear what they are saying now.
Plumes of tar hanging in the sky, so thick you could probably scoop some of it out if you got close enough. It is always night under Nemuttemachi, the trail from the sky factories. Shantytowns are constructed anew every time the wind changes direction and relocates the sky. Inside the smoke, ever-shifting patterns of light move like dancing constellations, pale blue and yellow. It is said to emulate a night under the open sky in the times before light pollution. It is as if the heavy cover of black clouds cuts through the blue paste and reveals the real sky.
In ancient times, the sky was full of suns, cold and far away. Jealous of their beauty, mankind built their own cold lights on the ground and mirrored the darkening sky. At first, the faraway suns still outshone the earth, but the humans in their cities put more and more blue lanterns by their bedframes and in their windows and to light up their streets. Eventually the sky was not only matched, but its beauty was beaten and the pinpricks of light faded away.
When we developed space flight to visit other worlds, we found that there were none there.