Homecoming /2117 part II
At last, he was home. Miles and miles and miles over the broken wasteland that was once England, past towns still burning and villages already razed to the ground in an effort to stave off the cold and the dark. The horizons had glittered every night with the embers that now consumed the planet, and on the third day, after the great ship had lifted off and begun the voyage into the long dark of space, fire seemed to consume everything. Every house, every office block, every shop and bank.
London had been the greatest of the bonfires, a never-ending cascade of flames that, from close-by, seemed to span the entire world. Every so often, over the roar of the flames, he could hear screams and cries as one of the hopeless, deluded or just careless survivors caught alight. Some relished it, the final burning escape, and some would roar and howl at the pain. Humanity was now united in only one thing- that ancient desire to fight off the dying of the light. Now, as they had centuries and millennia before, the last surviving men and women would sit, huddled around glowing embers in the cold of night, throwing ever more kindling into the flames. Books and boxes, cabinets and cars, anything that could be burned was slowly turning to ashes.
And after the horror and heat that was London, came the long, slow walk across the southern counties, where woods and fields sheltered the cowering remnants of a once-mighty species. Every night, they would look to the stars, and the mad would laugh and the lost would cry. Every day, they would spend searching for more fuel for this greatest of fire, humanity’s funeral pyre. Every man and woman he passed would beg him to stay, to join the relative safety of their various groups and gatherings, but he refused them all.
Through it all he had walked, and finally, after an age, he was home. As he drew closer, he began imagining the scene with an ever-growing anticipation working its way through him. He would walk down the street he had crossed so many times before, still glancing out of habit though no car would come. He would give a friendly nod to anyone he passed, though there would be no one there. And finally, he would open that old oak door and he would see her again and everything would be well.
He would sit down at that table like he hadn’t done for years, he would eat from the finest plates and bowls they had, and he would clear it away like he never did. His apology would come in the arch of the living room door, the explanation would wait until he was settled in that plump leather chair. After that, it all depended on her. He tapped the ring in his pocket, then clutched it tighter.
And, at last, he came to that street. The burnt-out remains of cars littered the roadway, covered in ash, and more fell constantly, the dusty snow that would provide the shroud for mankind’s cremation. Windows had long-since been smashed, houses emptied of their now-worthless contents. Gold, silver, jewels. None of them mattered now. They couldn’t burn. Not a single building stood intact, all since stripped of anything that would ward off the cold. He didn’t look too closely at the old school or the bank, or any of the shop windows. All that mattered was that he got home.
He rounded the corner and turned onto his old street, again greeted by a vista of burning detritus, and as he made out the shape of his house through the ash cloud, a timid hopeful joy began to blossom inside him. Kicking up yet more dust, he ran towards the building, not bothered by the choking ash or the stinging heat or the blinding light. He only cared about home and her.
And there she was, silhouetted against the flames, walking towards him, crying in the heat and throwing her arms around him. Trying to hold him back, almost dragging him away from the home he had spent so long coming back to. Dragging him away from the safety he so longed for. And then he realised, understood the words she cried in his ears, and stopped dead, cursing himself for being so foolish. Because this was the end.
And at the end, everything burned to stave off the cold and the dark. Everything.
- The brief for this one specified the piece be centred on 'home' as a concept and what that means, and I've taken a little artistic license with it to be honest. I've stuck to it in terms of making the setting at large a key part of the story, hopefully laying hints for the ending throughout if you're reading carefully, and I've also focused on what 'home' means, but to a lesser extent.
- I almost feel this needs another sequel to properly tie it up. That, and 'The 2117 trilogy' has a nice ring to it. I think it merits a sequel that is far more focused on character, which took something of a sideline in this section. At some point soon I will certainly round off this story.
- I hope the ending wasn't too obvious, but at the same time I hope there's enough clues in the rest of the text to give you a nagging sense of doubt throughout, so that when the ending reveal comes, you almost feel annoyed for not seeing it coming, or pleased at having guessed it.
As always, thanks for reading, and I welcome any comments or criticism. There's another piece I have ready to post, so that will be up later tonight or tomorrow.