A tour of an abandoned Russian city. Tanks patrolling the remains of Gatwick airport. Petrol fumes rising over chipboard. ‘Remember Finkelstein!’ The remains of an obliterated mosque, the dome cracked like a blue skull. Conspiracy theories about the second autopsy of Tom Cruise. ‘boy_13_first’.
One evening, Morgan and Elena walked in the gardens. She led him down to the maze, past the residents, even now, tending to the vegetable beds, where the damp earth was the blue-grey colour of faded ebony. ‘It’s why we’re here, after all,’ Elena laughed as she walked towards the entrance. ‘Isn’t all of this a quest?’
They spent an hour inside the maze, tracing the paths formed by the high box shrubs. At the centre, a bench stood upon raised podium, a frieze of the words ‘Cultiver Notre Jardin’ arranged in seashells and stones. Morgan sat down, while Elena remained standing. Beyond the wall, a stretch of stubbly grass led across to the cliff-face. He could smell the sea.
‘Did you know the hotel was abandoned?’ Morgan said. ‘A resort town along the coast flooded ten years back. When I asked about it, one of the elders said the hill was too far above sea level to worry about. Nice to know they have so much faith…’
Elena wasn’t really listening. She stood staring up at the sky. The sun had slipped beneath the horizon and the stars were now distinct. Finally, Elena seemed to remember that she wasn’t alone. She sat down beside him on the bench.
‘How long do you think we have left?’
Morgan shrugged. ‘I have no idea. A hundred years? I don’t think anyone does, really.’
‘I always thought that we’d escape,’ Elena said. ‘That we’d build ships and head for the stars. But that doesn’t look very likely now.’ She let out a sarcastic laugh. ‘Of course, there’s always the eggs.’
‘You don’t approve?’ he asked, while thinking: I’m living through something that I’ve already seen.
‘No. Not at all.’ She shook her head. ‘The very people who trapped us to this planet turning themselves into gods? I don’t find anything comforting in that at all. In the old days the rich would preserve their heads in a California freezer. Now they send their DNA up into space. Tell me, what’s the difference?’
She was quoting herself: the part about gods came from her clip. Morgan didn’t reply. They sat in the growing dark, listening to the sea, the sound of the waves like amplified silence.
‘Come on,’ Elena said, finally. ‘Let’s head back to the house.’