Friday, 13 June 2014

The city burned, fire lighting up the night sky.

There is petrol, of course. We need that. It makes perfect sense that we have filled jugs and buckets, and even old jam jars, with that.

There are also half-empty squirting tins of lighter fluid, which still smell faintly of barbecues from the summer before last. These have been brought out from the backs of under-sink cupboards. They were kept in amongst the shoe polish and the old feather dusters that nobody could bring themselves to throw away. We might as well have.

We'll never use that lighter fluid for any other purpose now. There were no barbecues last summer. No picnics: planned or impromptu. So out the old tins come. With them, we bring the bottles of White Spirit. Not as good as turps or meths, but we all have plenty of it. In our time, we were good homeowners. We kept our paintbrushes clean in between annual touch-ups of both the interior and exterior walls of our houses.

Not last year though. Last year was when the insects came. They travelled into town in one thick black cloud. Where they came in from is a question that nobody seems able to answer. They started down in the bad part of town. We didn't care too much about them then, besides the change it made on the nightly news. It was nice to get a break from hospital superbugs and the dubious qualities of overworked teachers. We are, for the most part, educated people, and we enjoyed the opportunity to learn about something new.

But then they started to move.

When they got to the river, those of us on this side of it felt confident that they would not cross the water. We had no reason for this certainty. Nothing had been able to stop them up until that point. But for some reason, we were absolutely sure that the river would keep us safe.

It didn't.

We didn't leave our houses aside from essential trips from the front door to the government trucks and back. Stay in your houses, they told us. We'll keep you well supplied with resources. Those weren't their exact words. We only got the gist of what they were saying through their loud-speakers and protective suits.

Beneath those words though, we knew what they meant: you are contaminated, keep back. Nobody knows exactly what the insects do to people, but it certainly isn't pretty. We are already a town that has forgone mirrors.

Now we are a town that is taking back control of our lives. We have stockpiled our flammable liquids. Drained every engine we have and raided every high-shelf. The wind is just right tonight. One match is all it will take.

Nobody knows what the insects will do, but tonight the fire will light up the sky. One way or another, a black cloud will roll out from our land and we will be free.

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