Long Read


Agenda | Fiction


Soaring ever higher up through the clouds, white frothy bubbles cleansing their cares, a collective silent sigh rumbles from the plague army. The Coronavirus warriors escaping from the apocalypse now look, omnipotently, down upon the world, with all its worries and woes, gazing from the heavens, free as the roaming gulls below, gliding far, far away from all that they have borne. Copper balloons and cotton wool puffs hug and dance aside them, portals to the great escape. She etched them in quicksilver for posterity.

The shores never looked so seductive, the estuary as exotic, the archipelago not so much trying to forget, but rather never having known the injustices of fate. The mainland seldom seemed so inviting before they had deserted as humanity alone.

Solitary in their thoughts but unified in their abandon, the slim masses form the privileged minority up on high in the skies. The pilot pulls above sea stunts promenading in the sunset, as the coastline waves a sleepy salute, marinas wink and the shoreline ebbs. Low hanging clouds cast their paltry adieus, sad as damp cotton wool; salient as a smoke signal.  The mist’s voluptuous veil lifts as the procession descends, its netting parting, the runway aisle clear to welcome life anew.

She drew clouds in all the colours of the disco – exuberant and fantastical and full of hope. She spoke in the patter of the orchestra, and her laugh bubbled like alchemy. She dressed with all the optimism of a rainbow and wore her hair like a halo, eyes smiling bright beneath technicolour bangs.

The battalion marched stoically out from the battlefield of loneliness, running for the beach then crumpling onto sand-dusted knees, heads in hands.

She sketched sherbet margaritas as the field marshall, face gnarled and eyes frowned by the mildew of stewed promises, dampened hopes and skewed memories falls from his sunlounger and spews his venom, hissing, deep into the sand.

She traced seashells as the man who couldn’t feel began to share. The eyes frozen in pain started to blink.  The brigadier who’d forgotten how to speak bellows a howl: a cleansing, soulful cloud of tears and fears that puff from his body like dragon smoke.

She threw her paints into the sea, cast it cyan. Waves muffled her howls. Silver sailboat foil.  Shades decoy. Lips upturned into the mask of the grimace. Birdsong lifting. Sea soothing. Children jesters. Sun salve. Waves purging. Seaplane sauntering. She baptised the lockdown regiment in the glassy waters of the bay that day.

As the disease deserters rise the next morning, the tendrils of paranoia unfurling from basil beach towels, the tumbleweed of resentment rolled around the prison of inequality is thrown carefree as a kiss in a Mediterranean alleyway, far, far away into the scorching June sky. The army has retreated, supine on sunloungers, the shackles of ennui evaporating, all that festers on is their war torn souls. The global uniform of disinfectant, face masks and furrowed brows is seared away by the halo of the sun, dusted down by sea froth, only shadow memories linger on.

As pina coladas around the pool and evenings spent once again in the company of strangers soak away the sour detritus cultivated in the petridish of fears, fermented in isolation, they rise up. No longer zombified, broken and haggard, but revived and buoyant as a warm embrace under an August awning. Bathing suits bob like balloons in the crystal waters, the armour of a life better lived upon their return

She had missed the apocalypse; hidden out in a monastery learning the laws of mankind. She had coursed around the sun three times not so much as glancing at a headline. All she did was draw, and as she drew, so it became… She wished to suspend her squadrons in nirvana, for them to never have to revisit the fetid wounds of mundanity again, so that night she used the last of her paints to decorate her face with all the wonder of the carnival and flew to the horizon on a silver unicorn, as the coronavirus army rise and rejoice.

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