Sunday, 19 August 2012

Lay me down to sleep

Sometimes in life you're the last one, last in line, last person to know, that sort of thing that just happens to you, strange really. So now there's never quite enough coffee in the pot to keep me going, to keep me writing. Here I am, the great so-called diarist, the watcher of the skies, the final man on earth documenting the thoughts, needs, movements and observations of that final, lonely human being on earth. I look out across these land, sea and town scapes, devoid of any human or animal life, empty sky with no birds, no insects, nothing moves unless the wind blows it over, or the water cracks it or some of the spindly weird vegetation gets to it. Rain falls once in a while, I gather the water in cups and drums, to filter for later. The rain when it comes is thin and dirty, it catches the dust and particles and feebly tries to clean the air, the air that did such damage, the air we traded for time. The time that we had an squandered before we understood the consequences.

A while ago I passed the points of madness and philosophy, I spurned religious and other fantasy answers, there were no answers for anybody. I read some science fiction looking for a familiar plot that matched our bleak reality. Of course there were plenty of dystopian destroyed worlds, people and horrors, things eating themselves, tyranny and mutation and the structural decay I was now witnessing. But fiction is fiction no matter how well written and apparently influential or bent to shape it is to match the current perception of reality, still the whispers of fiction's memory persist. Nothing to worry about any more now. I couldn't hear the final whisper.

I couldn't read, I couldn't listen I could only write. I was thankful that the power reserves were holding up, the laptops and building systems still hummed. I'd never expected there to be power available in the last days but it was still there, crackling and sparking out from time to time. Once in a while a tremor would crack a cable and there would be a sound and a flash, I'd look up and maybe see the smoke drift away, maybe notice the light has gone out but maybe I'd not. Things went on.

I was in Ibiza, a white hot island in a warm blue sea. I had arrived there early in the rumblings, looking for a refuge. Everybody else was leaving, running home or away or into the sunset. Some people stayed, they were like me, stoical, determined, unattached, lazy. We worked and went about business, we watched the disasters play out on TV, we saw the webcasts, heard the radio and the messages. The final days were strange, we sat in the sun, in a bubble of sunshine as the bad air bit across the world, as the slow sleeping and choking and unconsciousness happened. There was this slow motion panic as the bits and pieces fell down. Sometimes a camera would be broadcasting, then the dialogue would cease and it would sit, pointing to the horizon or a blue screen, vacant. After a while it would time out and then just disappear, a blank new correspondent. The Chinese Channels went first, they had the worst air and the worst strategy. Slowly it moved West. Our satellite disk tracked the changes.

Aeroplanes and vehicles stopped quite quickly, the wrong mix or air in the intakes, limited adjustment, no internal combustion, movements and escapes were thwarted. There were tales of desperate battles over sail boats, here in Ibiza most had already sailed. We considered those left in the harbour, where would we take them anyway? They still sit at their moorings. The anecdotes about escaping rogue boats slowly stopped arriving as the air moved across. Short wars and pointless riots. Broadcasts became rationed, time was precious and human energy weak, too weak to bother with blame. Then after some short and uninformative official messages in English and Spanish the media shut itself down. We were alone. Spinning still.

For some of those on the island the realisation and acceptance of “alone” wasn't easy. There were fights, suicides, people disappeared, a little looting went on. After about a month we believed that there were about a hundred people left in circulation, sometimes I heard gun shots in the distance . We discussed the future in local groups, we agreed to agree, we tried to honestly list our resources and holdings, there was sharing but there was fear and mistrust. A strange new society stayed stillborn. Then a second wave of sickness came upon us. It was all over quite quickly. I went to bed, I woke up the next day, nobody else did. I took and bicycle, some water and a gun. I traveled along the coast, nothing nobody. Inland, nothing, nobody alive, not north not south. I took about a week to cover the island, there was only white noise on the radio. I returned to to my house, I sat on the veranda, I blocked the thoughts of the dead in their homes, the eerie stillness, too many people to check or bury. The dead animals, the vegetation creeping back, the crippled air that I alone could still breath. Why that was still possible I didn't know, science doesn’t have an answer for everything. Everyday I expected not to wake, as it had been for the others, but I was always waking up and breathing. Crazy.

I had an idea. I propped up a mirror on the nightstand, I took out some paper and charcoals, put on a collar and tie, I sat for myself. I started to draw myself, as a caricature in profile. I spent some time, I wasn't a quick worker, crayons broke and were sharpened. I took time and tried to get a likeness. It seemed appropriate, a silly, jokey, maybe cruel representation, a picture of the end, the last man. I shook it out and sprayed it with Spray-Mount so the crayon would stick. I posted it on the pin board and looked at it. I had a glass of wine and toasted the drawing with a silent speech. I was somewhere, sad and happy, my mark made on the paper. Me, on my own, a self portrait. It seemed to mean more than a web cam shot or anything techy, this had a final, human hand made connection.

So I stay on the veranda and write, eating out of cans, slowly drinking up the remains of the wine cellar. The sea comes and goes, she still obeys the moon, the sun circles us in 24 hours as always. Sometimes a cloud comes and I mark the calendar and take more notes. When the sky turns dark and the Mediterranean night falls you cant light a candle, I feel my breathing getting harder, the chest gets tight. The power back up might be squeezed for a last little light and a buzz but I let it go out, I close my eyes and sleep that blank sleep of resignation filled with hollow dreams I cannot recall. There may be more to come, this may be the end. I hit the save button on the document software, descending to 55% says the graphic at the top. Now I lay me down to sleep...

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