This is a short story; to learn more about the Whisper & The Hurricane short stories ans see the other entries; please click here.
This story is an accompaniment to a song – to hear this song, click here.
As he looked down on the city descending into chaos, Arthur felt an odd sense of nostalgia. In a way, he longed to be there. He fancied himself as a man of action; he wanted to be seen as a hero. He wanted to be admired from the sides as he pulled loved ones from burning buildings and walked off into the sunset, tossing his cigarette into the fires around him.
But he’d had to make do with saving just one person on this occasion, and hiding like a coward. But Lydia was worth it. He loved her. He was sure of that. He’d taken her out of the city where she’d have met her death, and now they sat on a hillside, watching the city burn in the distance.
‘My God, this is bad!’ exclaimed Lydia, ‘you found out about all this from a tip?’
Arthur worked with the police; he was a junior detective. He’d told Lydia that he’d received a late tip about the bombing, of course this wasn’t really true. He just wanted to impress Lydia, to get her to look at him the way she did at other men. So he’d swooped around and taken her out of the city; away from danger.
‘Art, I’m supposed to be looking after my friend’s kid tomorrow; she works down there, in the financial district… you don’t think…’
‘I’m sure she’ll be fine. Look, Lydia, you’re safe now; that’s all that matters. Your friend wouldn’t want you to put yourself in danger for her.’
‘It’s my choice, not hers! Or yours!’
‘OK, calm down, I didn’t mean anything by it; I just want to make sure you’re safe’
There had been some manner of terrorist attack in the city’s financial district. They could see that a bomb had been detonated inside one tower, and smoke plumed out of the building. Sirens provided a soundtrack to the scene, but they were too far away to hear any other commotion, and so their imaginations filled in the blanks with a profoundly disquieting horror.
‘I’m going back there…’
‘No, Lydia, please!’ He grabbed her arm.
‘Art, let me go!’ She wrested her arm free and slapped him. ‘Look, Art, thank you for looking after me, but you must understand that I don’t feel the same way about you as you do about me. You’ll find someone better for you than me, if you just keep looking. Now, I’m going back into the city to find my friend. I’m thirty, I don’t need your protection! Good bye, Art!’
The harsh candor of Lydia’s words stunned Arthur into silence. She didn’t even want a lift; she kept walking past his car, heading back downhill on foot. Arthur cursed his foolishness. She’d wanted him to stop the car, to see what was going on – if only he had refused, if he’d kept going, maybe she’d still want to be with him…
Arthur had met Lydia at University. They both lived in the same halls during their first year. The repeated exposure of seeing his housemate every day made Arthur fall in love, or rather become infatuated, only he saw it as having fallen in love.
He’d studied Accountancy, before deciding that he liked the idea of a role as a protector and joined the police. She’d studied visual arts and after getting a lucky brake as a set designer for a semi-successful indie film she’d dabbled in teaching and lecturing.
Arthur remembered the first time he met her, seeing her blonde hair bounce off her shoulders as she manoeuvred around their house’s small kitchen. She did not remember the first time she met him. Arthur had seemed to pledge abstinence if he couldn’t have Lydia, and, though he did not talk about his sex life; nobody thought he’d seen anyone else since starting his degree.
Lydia, on the other hand, had an almost comical amount of failed past relationships. She went into each with the best of intentions, but things just seemed to fall apart very quickly. She’d never fancied Arthur, though and his obsession frightened her for her own safety around him. She didn’t think he’d rape her, but then again, he was unpredictable. She worried that as she’d had a fair few lovers, that he’d feel even worse for her rejections, or maybe not take them seriously…
Arthur would not hear a bad word against Lydia, even from herself. He idolised her as a creature of perfection, seemingly with a lack of understanding for the human condition. The bombing was a go-for-broke final chance for him to impress her by saving her life, but deep down he’d known it wasn’t going to work. He just wanted to take solace in the fact that he’d now tried everything.
Lydia’s figure was becoming difficult discern, far away at the bottom of the hill. The sky was overcast, but not unpleasant and the morning dew made the grass shimmer; in stark contrast to the drab and grim city laid out at its base with the smoke pouring out of its heart. She stumbled out of view into the city’s haze, that now separated only Arthur from the end of days…
She was supposed to have been meeting with some banking execs in the financial district this morning and designing their branding. She didn’t like her clients, but the job was necessary. Arthur didn’t seem to understand this compromise; it was all black and white to him.
Having been momentarily lost for what to do; Arthur realised how he’d always been intending to draw this scenario to a conclusion. If Lydia wouldn’t love him, nobody would. If Lydia rejected all he felt for her, then he would make her feel his pain; make her regret.
Arthur returned to his car, opened the boot and retrieved a pipe he’d taken from his vacuum cleaner and attached it to the car’s exhaust. He wound down the backseat window just wide enough to fit the pipe’s other end through. He got into the driver’s seat and turned on the engine. He then reclined and contemplated the scene unfolding in front of him.
He could have prevented the bombing, but he felt it had been necessary regardless of the outcome of his failed attempt to woo Lydia. The people who worked in the city were emotionless slaves of the economy. He was one of a select few who actually experienced emotion in his opinion.
He imagined people screaming for their lives, their careers, their possessions down below and felt a moment of catharsis as he accepted his responsibility in putting these poor devils on their path to emotional righteousness.
He saw flames lick out from the smoke, demons stoking the fires and awesome horrific lizards emerging out of the once unimaginative city. His consciousness failed soon after these hallucinations.
Far below, Lydia had no idea of the tragic circumstance she had left behind. Her only thought as she descended into the chaos of the city was how merrily these tragedies danced before her.