Zone Of Alienation
The cordon contains us. Sure, it’s killing us slowly; better to die slow than die fast. Ironic, right? The Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Zone of Alienation, to keep… well, you know. Them. Out. Give us a little bit of community; we get it: A little community and getting smaller, but a community. All those –ity suffixes, in fact, community, humanity, unity, city. The last of each. What does it matter? Classic little account here of course – yeah, I’ve read the books – I’m not a legend, I’m not witness to a war, I’m not the last man in Europe. Well, I, that last one, I, I, I might be, at some point but it wouldn’t be a literary reference. So I sit here and tell you – one day a calamity happened (-ity, I get it) and now we ride around the Dead Zone Checkpoints on our Prz-horses, because, hey, no oil, gosh what a parable for our times, but…
Well, I don’t know. When something’s ending you’ve got to mark it. You kind of hope for some epilogue or some appendix that proves it all works out, or at least you’re borne witness to. You know that’s how I used to feel OK about 1984 – people used to say how could you have an appendix on New Speak unless it was written after New Speak got torn down. Like a wall. Or whatever, I was a baby for all the good it did. Who even knows, it makes me feel good. That’s what matters. May as well make the best of it all. Enjoy a bit of wisent. Enjoy a bit of boar. Feast in the present! Easy not to think of the future when it’s a) cancer and b) vaporising heat rays or lasers or who even knows. Go up the Woodpecker and take a look. City looks good. Trees look good. Air tastes good – sure, it isn’t, but why tell my tongue what it doesn’t know and my lungs what it can’t help? Strontium – tasteless, plutonium – tasteless, caesium – tasteless. That’s the bit that gets me – we’re going to die out here, of course, like the proper die, the die without a legacy, die without being remembered, die and be forgotten, and sure, we die on our feet and not on our knees, it’s a comfort, but it doesn’t feel bad. Whatever’s twisting up in my organs, whatever’s ruining the air I breathe, whatever’s turning the children inside that bit further from healthy, it doesn’t hurt and it doesn’t stink. It’s clean to the smell and the touch; it feels alive! So alive out here – nature cry like, well, there was such regrowth here but now you get to the edge and there’s glass and dust and silence.
Such silence. That’s why there’s got to be a story. All the stories of man, all the books we’ve saved, that sure, some might bleach and some might rot but some of the words will be saved. Stories are our sacrament against the silence. Stories are our meta-, self-referring, self-obsessed, self-describing revenge on the silence and on death. And we’ll save them in the Black Zone, really make sure it’s the last place they get to. This’ll be the last, perhaps, half-thought-out, stumbling, conversational, with no real thread, no twist (what a failure in the form of the short story – be like Asimov, have it like a joke, and a killer punchline!) but it’s here at the end. Looking out at the blasted plain, our city in the heart of the forest/forest in the heart of the city, and putting pen to paper while we still have ink to write and paper with blank space.
Draw us to a close then. Let us end with a measure of dignity. That we recognise our time. That we remain devoted to that fundamental part of humanness – to tell stories, to record them, to hold them. That even in truest ending, nothing is ever truly gone, that was once told as tale.