“Those are the sounds of your body-fat dissolving under the piercing heat of this sun!” he said; the tour guide not realising if there was anyone actually there… yet to come.
“Those are the sounds of your body-fat dissolving under the piercing heat of this sun!” he said; the tour guide not realising if there was anyone actually there… yet to come.
The real landscape of Mars isn’t red, not really. It’s the colour of a fox cub lying in a carpet of dry, auburn, autumnal leaves.
I’ve seen that fox… sometimes, playing, or staring directly into my eyes, searching for god knows what.
A creature clearly unaffected by the boiling, poisonous atmosphere; the fox would be almost entirely camouflaged if it were not thickly outlined by darker, Martian mountains, that appear bloodied and broken, like beaten gums.
On my last sighting of my impossible friend, the fox ambles towards me, and as I bend down stiffly to greet it, its head cocks to the right, and on anticipating my touch; crumbles like stale, birthday cake.
‘Well of course’ I speak morosely. I then return to my position with all the headlines, clinching a flag none the less; with all the feel and comfort of a dying hand in a useless glove.
The Island was now like a vision of every colour imaginable, mirrored by the water that underlines its form it was a floating diamond on the sea, luring him. He has never seen these colours before. Just the occasional fleeting of blue from a human-like’s eye has pierced his landscape screen of grey. The whiteout has bleached his memory of colour. He is like a completely blind person from birth that could only rely on the description of colour from someone with perfect 20/20 vision. He now sees all vibrant colours at once, if only it could be believed to be seen he thought. To the Man with Glasses, the Island was as real as the slow torture he had endured till that moment. He felt complete and uncontrollable exhaustion in swimming to the shore of this unknown Island. With the hypnotising magnetic pull of the colours, somehow, with his body, not belying his own, he finally succeeded.
Now on the shore of the Island his human-like battery-life flickers on again, he manages to pull himself by his insect limbs. He realises he is no longer wearing his glasses. He smiles a wonky smile as he finds to his bemusement that he no longer cares for them. Already, the world before these golden sands was distancing itself from him. He summons the strength to stand and turns around, stares at where he has swum from and opens his mouth, revealing a shrivelled tongue that flicks out, “How?” but no sound brakes from his lips. He hopes he can see his friends somewhere, but he sees nothing but the cold grey blanketing fog that he has succeeded to escape. Sees enough he knows he will never be able to tell the woman and boy that he survived after all and this Island is for real. He thinks to himself that he would drown on the way back to tell them his unbelievable news. He finds this as funny as it is tragically sad.
The Island is no salvation to him yet, not until he discovers exactly where he is, some food, something to drink and then a place to rest. Then on awakening, his plan is to explore, find a boat in the hope to help the Woman and the Boy to his Island. He begins to walk shakily, as if in a little earthquake, and staggers away from the sea to a clearing. The clearing is between the welcome of fluorescent leafs of trees that he can just make out through his unadjusted slit like eyes. If he knew what a welcome banner was he would have half expected it, along with your our first ever customer. The colours are so dazzling and disorientating for him that he feels again like a new-born baby might, this Island has just given birth to him all over again.
Suddenly in the clearing, the shade the trees cast act like a sudden power cut to his new floodlit world, while his eyes adjust he hears a voice he immediately recognises; from somewhere and everywhere, this voice surrounds him. To his extreme annoyance he can’t make out exactly where or what words are being spoken, and then the voice grows as close as a whisper to a listening ear. In his exhaustion, his legs buckle and collapses face first like a tied up dinosaur.
The Woman and the Boy stay on the beach for two more rotations of the cheap lamp sun and watch it like a bouncing ball in slow motion. After, the man’s disappearance into the sea, they feel more drawn to that sea than ever. They visualise the man with glasses bloated with food and new facial muscles, he now has the opportunity to pull a true smile. He now owns the power to row a boat he found to save them. Their curiosity makes them want to swim even though they can’t hopelessness is full.
After they pick up their pitiful belongings they trudge up the coast, not sure why they should bother or what to do next. Careful words are their only comfort to each other. They walk and rest, then walk some more, continuously, for as long as yet to be, re-invented time. Between them they then begin to hope for anything, even the cannibals would be some break in their monotonous routine.
“The cannibals would be better than absolute nothing.” The Woman moans.
“Don’t say that…please.” The Boy mutters, tears flood his eyes.
“I’m sorry, I…I didn’t mean that, I’ll think of something, I promise.”
And then in the distance, along the aluminium coast, they see a man. The man is tall and wearing glasses, he is staring out to sea. Pointing out to the grey endless sea he senses their presence and calls out to them, “Hey! Can you see what I can see?”
It was the turn for the Man with Glasses to lookout. Weak and bony limbed, he raises his branch like arm in slow motion. A finger that seems as long as his arm points to his discovery, an unidentified floating object.
“You see that?” he asks carefully, his mouth as dry as the dust he inhales, his words sound broken, like a faulty hi-fi speaker.
The Boy throws his eyebrows down over his eyes. He directs his expression towards the Man with Glasses. “Don’t be weird, it’s cruel.” Why did this happen to us?” the Boy asks.
Sitting down and looking away, the Woman looks is a bored student, “You better be right about this, I don’t know if I can take too much more, neither the boy.”
Angered by their dismissive attitude, the Man with Glasses looks at them, and with his enlarged eyes says, “Do you really think I have the energy, the need to joke about it? You can at least, do me a favour and look with me, help my eyes? I’ve been staring so long I don’t know if this is real or if it’s a trick of my mind.”
The Woman stands alongside the Man with Glasses, her eyes now follow his long skeletal finger out to sea. In rising hope and unbearable anticipation, she wants to see something, anything that resembles an Island and with the purest of joy scream Oh yes! Yes, I see it, I see it! But alas she cannot see anything to expel these words.
The Man with Glasses doesn’t need words for her answer; the contorted expression and the wrinkles that appear like trenches on her face say it all. He looks once more and feels a growing sense of excitement, “You must see that? Look carefully… Over there, do you see?” For a moment the image dies, then appears, “Now! Can you see it?” In a sound that of a man scared for his own mental state, more than what he actually believes he can see.
The Woman says, “Yeah I see it!” in mock jest, “but then, I see well. Good even, but at the same time…Nothing at all!”
Growing increasingly frustrated, the Man with Glasses calls the Boy over to where they stand. He bends down and whispers in his ear, “Can you see anything, anything at all? Please say you can?”
“Yeah”, the Boy whispers loudly in his reply, “I can see the sea, and the clouds and I forgot to tell you, I can’t swim!”
Feeling a little delirious the Woman can’t control her short hyena fit of laughter; it doesn’t last long though the woman is already well on her emotional slide her downer. “I can’t swim either.” She says.
“That’s just great!” Exasperated, the Man with Glasses is becomes tearful, his face soaks his tears up like a drought. Sitting down on the cold, drab, sand he ages as if any life he had just escapes him like air deflating a man shaped balloon.
“Don’t worry,” says the Boy, “it’s bound to happen. I’ve dreamt about this Island, I can see everything on it, mum, dad, there with me, but it is just a dream.”
Trying to lift spirits the Woman says “Look you two this coast is very long. We may just be looking out in all the wrong places.” After a long pause, she questions the man, “What exactly did you see anyway?”
“I saw what I wanted to see I guess. Maybe I do believe in it, more than you, that’s why you both failed to see it”.
“Are you saying this Island doesn’t exist?” The Woman is now welcomed by renewed fear.
“No it exists, I definitely saw an Island, I just need to get there, I can then send some help, maybe find a boat.”
“I’m confused,” says the Boy kicking the sand, “What should we do?”
“There’s nothing else to do, I’m gonna swim for it!”
“You can’t swim that far you’ll die! You’ve only been eating crocus veg! It’s barely keeping you alive let alone enabling you to swim to your imaginary fucking Island!” Gathering her breath after her outburst, her energy for such powerful emotions has to be spent more wisely it seems.
“Well, I’d rather try. I can’t wait any longer to dissolve, leave my bones, add to this dead beach of ash”. In his anger the man with glasses decides that he has to go know, so he makes for the sea. Convinced of his belief he moves with such haste that neither the woman nor the boy required such actions, with no hope of stopping this man with his determined flailing of sharp tools of which he is determined to swim with. Whilst striding out into the waves the voices behind him become whimpers, muffled cries of ‘come back!’
The Woman and the Boy can do nothing. Neither can swim so as to drag this poor man from his certain death, drowning from hope, they would all die. They fall to their knees clutching each other like old mantle-piece figurines. They kneel motionlessly in voyeurism. Before long the Man with Glasses is nothing more than a floating black speck on the seascape, true to form he vanishes at the vanishing point and from their view he is seen to be drowned.
From his perspective, though, he was out of their view but most definitely alive, considering his wasted physique he was more than a little surprised at the progress he had made and how calm the sea was. A mill pond mirroring his demeanour it was purposefully acting to help achieve his quest. The Island could only be a hundred breaststrokes away when he hits his so called ‘wall,’ Any rivals to his marathon swim could quickly swallow him up like a swarm of locusts on a crop, only the crop recovers, ever more flourishing. As he begins to believe that his friends were right all along. For all he knows, which for now is unclear, the Island could be mimicking the UV light of an electric fly killer. Flies aren’t this Islands prey. If he knew what a spider was, he would suddenly know that he would resemble this spider with its legs pulled off and heading down the plughole of nature’s cruel bathtub.
Somewhere along the east coast stands a man, the man wearing glasses. He stares out to the grey sea, it disappoints him greatly. He is blinded by the extended nothingness that confronts him. The sea laps at his feet like wet time soup. He barely notices how cold his feet are. As he stands there he is as still as a flagless pole, moving only to make a small canopy of intertwined branches from the surrounding dead trees, these trees replicate his stature so well he’s invisible in his foraging.
Unknown to him, a woman and a boy that live amongst the trees are looking on, fascinated, in safety, hiding from cannibals that they have recently escaped from. They’ve been keeping an eye on the man with glasses ever since his arrival to the coast. For now, they believe he will not venture where they are sheltering.
“He doesn’t look like a cannibal, does he?” says the Boy. “He’s too bony I think, I hope we can trust him as he’s been eating crocus veg, I’m sure of it, the man’s been eating it from a hole in his clothing.” The Boy grows large disc like eyes from the encouragement they bestow.
“One more night I reckon, if he is still there by next light we’ll go over, I wanna know what he’s looking for.” The Woman is more cautious and only just survived from her mistake to remember it. The Woman adds, “Of course, he could be completely insane.”
“Ok.” the boy replies duly.
By next light the Man with Glasses is still there, he is looking out to sea, once more.
The Woman and Boy take their small bundle of belongings along with their rations of crocus veg and begin to walk nervously towards the Man with Glasses.
“Stay close boy, I don’t trust him… Anyone. If he gets aggressive and we get separated, don’t run to our shelter ok? He’ll know where we’ve been staying; we won’t be safe there again.”
“Ok, I won’t.” He squeezes her hand intensely, for he suddenly feels less confident than ever.
“If he’s a cannibal, he’ll go for me anyway as I’m bigger.” She says in belated and ineffective reassurance.
“Now I am scared, if he catch’s you first what will happen to me? I’ll be on my own again!”
“You’ll be fine, trust me, by the looks of him he is too weak, I’ll hit him hard with this branch,” she pulls out the thickest branch from the nearest tree to their camp and says “we’ll be ok, ok?”,
“Ok then.” He replies.
By the slow fade of the no-light, The Man with Glasses senses them approaching, he turns his head and moves his right ear like a satellite. His eyes are well rehearsed in fatigued focus. He sees them well enough and decides that they look more scared and confused than he does.
He is first to speak, “I won’t bite. You can trust me. If you have the strength, you can help me find the way out of here… if you like?”
“Don’t talk in riddles. If this is some kind of trick I swear to god I’ll hit you with this branch so hard you’ll-”
“Please, I’m no threat to you or…” he pauses to access them, seeing them so tired and pathetic, “you’re wasting your energy anyway. Is he yours?”
“No, no he’s not-”
“She’s not my mum. She’s been looking after…Out for me.” The Boy interrupted, he was feeling ignored.
“Ok, look we should stick together, it’s not safe. By your manner, you know of cannibals around here, right?” hoping for a warmer reception he cracks a smile his face is unused to.
“Yeah, you’re right about them, you look sane enough, but we’ll keep our distance for now if it’s all the same to you? What are you looking for anyway?” she asks while eyeing a misshapen sea. Being so curious to care was a mixture of emotions she hadn’t enjoyed for a long, long time.
The Man with Glasses looks back to the sea and says suggestively, “An Island” He wasn’t sure of the reaction he was going to receive, “I was told, by someone, that there’s a way out of here, what we live in, what we have become…That is.”
“Let me get this right, you seem to think there is some kind of answer out there?” she points to an empty horizon. “Are you serious? How would you know that? And who told you?”
Looking down, he felt foolish, “Well… I know, I don’t have the answers. I don’t’ expect you to believe me either, really. I’m not sure I believe it myself, but, I am here — when I thought I might never move my feet again.”
Suddenly, “I’ll help!” blurted the Boy “I know what you’re looking for.” He didn’t know, but it felt like a game and that was ok by him.
“Great, welcome aboard!”
“Aboard, aboard what” The Boy didn’t understand, right now, he felt he didn’t need to. He felt he could trust the man with glasses, despite his vague answer to the Woman he felt all the better for this.
The three of them now camped by the sea, they take turns to look out, hoping the fog will clear. By the third new light rations of crocus veg are seriously low, the rain keeps his spare boots topped up, extra spare pairs from the new recruits come in handy, no-one asks as to where they have come from.
The group of three have now come to know each other in simple terms. They don’t care for names. In such horrific conditions, the dementia like symptoms that comes with their depression is like an unwanted buy one get one free offer. This small group of one man, one woman, and one boy are now an unrelated family, brought together by a myth. An island of salvation, they imagine its beauty, resonating colours, all the discoveries and treasures of man. Some remnants of their past lives must’ve survived in their dreams. Being in a trusted group is a small blessing, a vital power up capsule in a computer animated game of survival.
For my one hundreth post I thought I’d share my apocalyptic short story with you. I’ve enjoyed many stories/films about a decaying, semi-destroyed planet; when survival takes people to surprising places, and hope is all we really live for. I hope you enjoy reading mine, I shall follow it up with part two for you very soon.
In the Midland Territory, amongst the choking white dust, is a blemish on an otherwise invisible horizon.
Sitting alone on the ground, cross legged, elbows on knees, his hands are clenched into adjoining fists that have forged themselves to his chiselled jaw. His heart thumps to remind him he is alive, he can almost hear it throb while he sits. His clothes were once high-street fashion; they’re now dusty rags with mystifying labels. Balancing precariously upon his sharp nose; thickly rimmed glasses, they loosely connect him to his past with unbridled loyalty; the past that is forgotten, deleted. His fingerprint smeared lenses magnify his two weary windows of perception of what remains.
Ahead of him is something moving, a dark form that seems to bleed over the oppressive grey backdrop. On first observations what lies ahead appears indefinite, levitating. Blinking rapidly his eyelids caress the little moisture he has around his eyes; creating a strobe effect of what is now a human shaped blur. As he observes, The Blur seems to enlarge, as if an aggressive and multiplying cell. The man with glasses battles hard with his concentration and rubs his eyes as if he was awoken, ‘stay conscious!’ he pleads. For a moment he closes his eyes, his face wrinkles belying his real age; showing evidence of his chronic dehydration. His head slumps forward invitingly as gravity succeeds in its pull.
Suddenly, he hears a voice, the voice blares at him to get up!
The two words rattle within his head, looking for somewhere to settle and be registered. He shakes his head as if any information could fall out of his ears as easily as the dust that chokes him.
The Blur repeats itself, “Get, up!”
The man with glasses responds by jerking his leaden head skyward; like a baby in search of its mother. His eyes scan for some identification.
“What? Who are you?”
“That’s not important right now!” The Blur rages,
“Search for The Colourful Island, get up off the dust and walk!” The Blur then strains for breath like an elderly asthmatic.
The Man with Glasses hadn’t prepared himself for any conversation of any kind. Clearing his throat he croaks, “I don’t understand what you’re talking about. Walk on stranger! I don’t need you and your–“
“It’s the way out of here you miserable fool! The…way…Out! Do you hear me? The colourful island, that floats off the coast!” The Blur spitting words out as if any explanation was futile.
The man hears uneven footsteps, noticeably distancing from him; eerily without echo. Then a powerfully foul scent causes him to flare his nostrils, he winces in disgust as the stench hits the back of his throat; the smell of death. The heavy stench loiters like a flock of starving vultures that stare upon him; these vultures take flight and follow the blur, somewhere, to the island perhaps. Consequently, the Man with Glasses pushes the ground with his hands, gathering the strength to stand. At first he shakes like a shambolic crane. ‘The blur,’ he thought, ‘the island,’ it makes no sense. He is then up on his feet. He steadies himself and mumbles, “If only I didn’t feel so wasted.”
With so many questions unanswered, he feels branded, part owned by this new mythical island. The man with glasses knows he can’t afford to be cynical, he cannot allow that; the Island, a cruel mirage to others maybe, but hope floats! If the blur chooses to float…then so can he.
Previously, The Whiteout came like a wave upon wave of delayed lightening, an effective and devastating wipe of a vibrant world. No computers operate, no libraries exist; the ruins that remain stand amongst rubble are deformed man-made rocks. Important text scatters itself amongst the dust; therefore, it has become the very dust that completes the overlapping and shifting dunes of anagrammed deserts. A vast and deserted stage is set under a cheap lamp sun, with cities of remaining residents who wander aimlessly in their destruction site milieu.
Suddenly, somewhere there’s a rip on the skyline; it hovers, flickering like a vibrant, attention seeking neon sign. It is surrounded by a 360 degree horizon and forever served above a constant and lethargic grey tide. Therefore, human-likes are gathering around the coastline, some like scavenging pack animals, some resemble lonely and independent aliens, others cower in shrivelling miniature armies having lost their war; trying to press pause on their ever-decreasing circles of friendship.
Meanwhile, after his blur encounter, the man with glasses yearns for the coast. He visualises nothing else other than seeing the sea, and more importantly, his island.
He follows the Blur’s footprints; formed in a dry, off-white snow, they seem new and have a purposeful print as if there they’re purpose is to arrow a direction. He hopes he doesn’t find a body at their end. He walks in the new-light and rests in the no-light. The air that once burned has since cooled, though it leaves it stuffy and opaque. Any scattered materials he discovers help camouflage his reducing mass of a body. His rations consist of crocus veg, the water he collects for drinking are from the spare boots he has hung around his neck by their laces. One desperate humanlike would kill for a pair of good shoes. The cabbage-like crocus veg only grows in the Midland Territory; this is unexplainable.
Crocus veg has little nutritional benefit. As for the Animals, they soon died. ‘The Whiteout’ seemed to blot out their natural instincts. The man with glasses meets nothing on his journey until the smell of sea-salt. He can taste its bitterness on his cracked, weathered lips as it kisses him as a once beautiful but evil woman did.
Daryl hadn’t seen a full open sky for nine, whole, working years; un-retractable visors had been fixed above his eyes to protect them from the elements, to focus his attention on his work. His perfectly symmetrical, amber, tear-shaped eye-slots were unable to look up; limiting him to sporadic glimpses of a pixelated horizon.
It seemed that the sun set and rose perpetually, kaleidoscopic in their beauty but increasingly cruel to Daryl (something incomprehensible to human thought).
Over the recent days, gradually Daryl felt oddly distant, and a coldness had bred; invading his core, it was like he was viewing himself slipping away, into ever-more denser, industrialised fog. He felt his visors would soon be taken off him, only to be fixed upon another; his younger brother.
Seemingly, his hardship was nobody’s fault, just the way things were, part of growing up as a simulacrum; in a brutal, un-empathising, nonsensical world.
By his calculations, he would be free in hours, to take in as much sky as he had desperately yearned for — only that moment never arrived, because he broke down that very moment his visors were to be removed. He was left in numerical order amongst faulty prototypes, lying against his predecessor, in a stuffy, dark, windowless room; to desperatly decay without burial or ceremony, to be replaced by a newer and more advanced unit.
One of Daryl’s amber eye-slots still inexplicably flickers in the otherwise overwhelming blackness; momentarily revealing some evidence of limp limbs that filled the room poorly.
Visors were never to be fixed upon his brother…