A dream remembered upon waking

From an old journal

New York was finally destroyed in a miraculous blast. It was like the buildings were suddenly candle flames blown into nothing but ash and memory. The whole moment was over in a flash of an eye and all that was left was the grey of loss. The city, once filled with vibrant colors, lights, ambition and power was now an empty shell, like the creature who lived there had stepped out, leaving behind only this floating husk upon the earth.

I remember sitting in a pub, days before, after the first wave hit. A few blocks to the East had taken the brunt of the damage, but even here, in the heart of the city the signs of the water were clear. Debris filled the streets. People didn’t drive anymore, the abandoned cars filling the roads made it impossible. Inside the pub, I went to order my usual, but the waiter made excuses. Glancing around, the place was bustling with people in every corner. Where they didn’t have enough seats, the management had put up collapsible tables and folding chairs. Everywhere people came out to eat. Whether it was an escape from the memory of what had happened, or perhaps they had lost the ability to cook at home, whatever the reason, from here to Chelsea every restaurant was filled with people. The waiter looked anxiously at me, ordering a meal that took long preparation time. “Just a Guinness, then.”

The hours were getting closer, I knew. I could feel the pre-tremors of the next warning, of the next sign. People were oblivious, walking in fear of another tidal wave, more of what had already happened. I knew, however, that it was only the beginning. It was a precursor to what would come. Soon, everyone would see the end.

I didn’t say anything to anyone. Perhaps it was part of the unspoken arrangement that let me knew what was to come. I couldn’t tell, and I couldn’t leave. I was tied to this place until the end. I would feel the pain of a city dying. Of a city already dead. The faces in the crowd were masks upon masks. No one talked about the wave. No one talked about the damage. They talked of theatre, of bands and music, of dancing, of drinking and dirty jokes. The eyes of the room saw nothing. Emptiness filled them like a void threatening to engulf the world before it had time to turn on itself. Everyone was a piece of this death. It was their arrogance, their blindness, their lack of faith. They thought the world was theirs, but it would show them otherwise.

The days were filled with omens. Earthquakes, insects, heat waves and hail in the same afternoon. When the fog settled over the city, so thick it stuck to your skin, clung to you like it was trying to suffocate you, to hold you embraced and touch your lips, to draw out that last bit of life left inside, the city called it a relief. Though they must have felt it inside by then, they were already empty. It was too late to change, too late to admit they were wrong. The twinge each person felt that day was a subtle remorse, and echo of God’s sadness, perhaps. The earth held itself huddled by the fire of the sun, trying to warm away the unbearable cold, too ethereal to be felt by these people, yet somehow present in each of them. It was as if they were the cold itself, chilling the earth, God, the very spirit of life.

When the moment came every knew. They stopped, in their cabs, in the schools, restaurants, clubs, bars, bedrooms and bathtubs. They stopped and looked up, whether inside or out, and they saw. No ceiling, rooftop or subway could block their vision. No mortal structure had the power to block out that light. It fell slowly, unbearably slowly, and caused such anticipation that more than one New Yorker felt the familiar tingle of watching the new year’s ball drop. They cried out, silently, for the light to touch them, forgetting for that last instant their insolence, pettiness, sarcasm and scorn. They cried out, silently, and were forever silent.

A young man walking in the airport cried a single tear, thinking of his sister across the sea. An old woman, too pained from arthritis to crane her neck, sobbed without sound as she thought of her grandchildren a few blocks away. A lawyer sitting on stone steps with a sandwich and her briefcase let her livelihood fall to the ground and lowered her face. In an instant it was done.