Apocalypse Dreams (Part 3)
We met in the garden under the shadow of Canary Wharf. The porch looked like a restaurant, with a deep orange glow and a tiled table that was set with candles and half a dozen flimsy chairs. They’d returned from abroad and this was a fortuitous, chance meeting.
‘I didn’t know you live near Canary Wharf.’
I noticed two planes go overhead and took a step inside the house.
We sat and conversed about things we’d done since our last meeting many years ago; tales of other countries, discussions of literature and idle chatter about friends and family. Conversation was light, but it turned to darker subjects after a glance out the window brought the traffic jams into sight. I only acknowledged the distant rumbles and constant, desperate cacophony of car horns after spying the scene outside. None of us knew what was happening, and I’m not sure that anybody else did. Their flight didn’t seem to be the result of a conscious acknowledgement of a threat, followed by a reasoned response to leave. It was more like lava flowing down a mountainside or the slow trickle of blood from a nose. I sharply inhaled and shut the window.
It hadn’t even occurred to us to leave and we just discussed evening plans as normal – restaurant? Bar? Who else shall we invite? The lump in my throat was the only evidence of something amiss. We put on our coats and departed.
Outside, the air was pale blue and the grass was grey-green –it shimmered with the dullness of polished chrome and the sky seemed warped. The usual soft dome had been replaced by a steep bulge, and clouds gathered at its peak in a violent, abstract tangle.
Canary Wharf vibrated on the horizon, closer than it was. As we walked it didn’t move, but the sky rushed like a hologram, its colours subtly changing with each step. London was seething with the heavy air that accompanies thunder and the portentous sounds that signal evening. We arrived at the restaurant too soon and stood smoking on the pavement. Someone’s parents waited inside and I counted four planes flying low.
I had to stoop to get inside and the air was thick with smoke. The place was dark and filled with tables of different heights, just a few of them occupied by people with thin hands and tousled hair who probably always sat in the same places so that the décor matched their tops and the staff, who were actors, didn’t have to learn too many lines. The kitchen didn’t have any food. That’s ok; we’re not here to eat.
I heard a commotion outside and stepped onto the street, which had widened since we entered the restaurant. It was long and straight like an airfield and people stood around looking at the floor or the buildings, but not up. The sun was shining now – a bright, saturated light that drained the colour out of everything and gave off no heat. Over the backs of peoples’ heads I saw another low-flying plane and thought I glimpsed someone running off to my left.