A man wakes up to the smell of smoke, the acrid assault stinging his senses and propelling him to consciousness. Eyes shooting open, he fully engages with the situation at hand, brushing off immediately the groggy blanket of sleep. He is in his bedroom, and it is hot. Too hot. Thick, black smoke billows in from the open window and seeps in through the gaps around the door to the landing. Wasting no time he bolts out of bed and bursts through the door, head kept low to avoid contact with the thickening layer of poison lurking near the ceiling. One hand over his mouth and nose he runs barefoot downstairs, instinctively heading for the front door. On his frantic dash for the exit he sees the extent of the damage. Smoke is escaping from every door downstairs, and the heat is nigh-on unbearable. It hurts to think the thought, but there’s no use dancing around things: The house is doomed. Its only fate is ruin. The man makes it outside into the pre-dawn light, not stopping his run until he’s reached the end of his front lawn and the cold surface of the pavement. His eyes water from the smoke and he coughs. He turns to survey the situation, and the image of it all sends him staggering a few steps backwards, bare feet sliding across the rough tarmac of the road. He collapses to the ground, into a seating position more often associated with children or teenagers, his hands propping him up from behind, legs splayed out in front, mouth hanging open. He stares at his house as the fire gathers strength, methodically dismantling what once felt indestructible. It doesn’t make sense. None of this makes sense. Could he be dreaming? Somehow in his despair he thinks to tear his focus away from the rapidly immolating ruins of his life and to turn his head, only to be met with a sight he struggles to believe or understand. His neighbours are all out in the streets too. The same horrible fate has befallen them. He looks left, he looks right, and all around he sees the same story playing out. It’s not just his house. The whole neighbourhood is on fire, the road littered with distraught figures dashing about and weeping. A dread thought enters his head as he realises that there are no sirens to be heard: ‘We’re all fucked. There’s no one coming to save us…’ He lets out a rueful laugh and looks up at the sky, where the only clouds in the gently building light are those born of the bonfire around him. As he gazes up, a sight suddenly catches his eye. There, in between the towering plumes of smoke, two moving specks dance around each other in a beautiful, beguiling pattern. A pair of birds, high up, engaged in a ritual the nature of which is only known to them. The entrancing sight, so far away and removed so as to be completely alien, nevertheless makes our poor, stricken man momentarily forget about his plight. Here on the ground the world burns, destined for ashes, with no hope of salvation. But for just a few minutes the only thing that matters is the dance of the two birds up on high.
In other words…
I ship it:
(Pictures courtesy of Getty Images)