Apocalypse Dreams (Part 2)
Another square, another crowd.
The square is where we gather, it’s a ‘no-place’ that is merely context. The scene of the action, with seats encircling the tragedy played out upon a lowered floor.
A tenement block, a modest tower.
This is a domestic building where life is separated from art and attention is accustomed to being dispersed from within its impervious walls. Nothing happy was taking place inside this edifice, and the crowd was comprised of its own fear. We all wore heavy clothes: wool, muslin and thick cotton covered in dust, with boots and overcoats the colour of aerial photographs. Each one of us faced the tower, motionless.
The truth appeared in my head, as it does in dreams, written into the protagonist’s mind with an abrupt genesis; a spontaneous mutation. There were people inside that building. One family, cowering. Cowering from us.
Their Gauguin-brown faces were only visible in my mind’s eye, but they were covered in terror and each member of the family was an archetype that spoke to the theatrical origins of this dream, with its overtones of tragedy and the staging that seemed so deliberate: a vista created by the focal point of the tenement block, hemmed in by the concrete stairs upon which we waited, surrounding the pale square. The father was stoic, the mother was concerned and clutching the crying baby and consoling her other children who dealt with it all in their own individual ways.
I looked down at my gun and felt its weight.
A breeze shivered through the square and ruffled a few hairs and shook coats like damp flags. The noise of the wind was the only noise save the occasional crunch of feet on gravel and the whirr of my own nervous system. They were mostly men with legs cocked and looking sure of themselves that seemed to be waiting for a signal or a decision from someone, none of us knew who, and the women were there with shawls on their heads and rifles pointed low.
There was a crisp, wintry, featureless sky that could have been a painted screen since it offered no sense of depth, just an arbitrary transition between this terrible foreground and everything else.
I don’t know why they wanted to kill them – this town had turned on them, and they had been made scapegoats by men who sat in rooms with no answers and strange beliefs. The moon was missing, and it had been for a long time.
Who knows if other towns had gathered like this, to kill in the name of vengeance or sacrifice or desperation. A lot of regrettable things happen when planets disappear.
The wait continued, and I began to feel a deep sympathy for the family – a sympathy that turned to dread and now spilled over into panic. I noticed a dog barking but I couldn’t hear it; the noiseless bugle shaved my reverie in half and sent sweat to the tips of my fingers. I recalled the family’s faces blinking quickly somewhere once.
Unheard and uncaused, my gun fired.
The shot was like a breath that crept through the square, restoring life to all those men and women, whose guns also fired in a volley of cracks and flashes.
As the dust settled and I felt the crunch of broken glass beneath my feet, the smell of burnt concrete and dried blood filled my nostrils. The tower looked much the same as it had done before and we all looked to the sky, waiting for the moon to return.