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With the grid still down, John’s wall mural was casting its own shadows, ripples and tropical storms around the candle-lit living room. He got up decisively from the only seat that he owned and took the plastic aquamarine bucket into the bathroom. Placing it under the bathtub faucet, he listened to the water hiss as he filled the bucket up to about three-quarters full. Taking it to the living room, he brought a couple of the candles closer and got to work. Dipping the sponge into the water and squeezing it, he began to scrub the mural off the wall – but with very limited success. A giant, hazy wet smudge of blue crayon was all that he achieved, before deciding that it was probably time to head to bed. It is much easier to create disorder, than to undo it. The latter only happens when the ripples have traversed half the world and back, only to realize that there was nothing to see. That the world was much less exciting after all, much simpler than they thought it was. Disorder is undone only when the waves become exhausted, stop beating themselves up and start listening to the silence – instead of attacking it. They become less active, and more curious. They even begin to question their existence.
John took one last look at the mural and blew out one of the candles, taking the other one with him to the bedroom. Tucking under the sheets, he picked up his only copy of The Veil and opened it on a random page towards the end of the book:
“People were dying on the streets before they could even understand what was happening. They were put down by the noxious fumes that the southerly wind brought in from the far stretches of The Veil. The invisible fumes left no other trace behind them except for the tens of millions of bodies of those who were gassed within just a few hours across major global coastal urban centers.”
He closed the book and stared into the flame of the candle as it swayed lazily left and right like a curtain. He regretted ending the book with a massive die-off of humans. It was too dramatic, too sudden, even though it may still be a plausible scenario. But most of all, it felt selfish to center the book around human extinction: the world doesn’t end just because one species, the human species, has disappeared. The world continues. The book goes on and on. For some species, the book had ended already, because of humans. For others, it was only just beginning.
(from the upcoming novel A New Earth) – PRE-ORDER NOW:
to be continued
to read from the beginning, go here
George is an author, researcher, podcast host, chemist, molecular biologist and food scientist. You can follow him on Twitter @99blackbaloons , listen to his Spotify podcast George reads George, sign up for blog alerts below, or enjoy his books