You turn your body away from the window, quickly, just as the glass gives in, bursting back under the pressure. When it breaks it’s in your ears as the shards fall in a stream, raining into carpet and skin and they land too heavily and it’s this that you notice and not the stomach shudder of a weight-bearing wall giving way beneath you. You ride the slab until it breaks into the cold air and you’re thrown clear onto the gravel with a cloud of smoke and debris catching you before you land in a long runway scrape, your undercarriage ripping as you roll.
Recovery is metallic tastes of dust and blood, seeing spots of yellow, but the only real colour is grey. Buildings and houses bombed into helpless suggestions; a chimney or a set of stairs left pointing back to the sky. A gust of wind makes your shoulder sing with pain. You imagine your raw uncovered muscle straining in the air, peeled back like baked meat.
Everything’s been exposed. The barriers are gone, and their reasons. Why start again, you think, when this is all that happens.
It’s the night the bombs fall. It’s a well-worn place in your favourite seat. In the studio shadows, the buttons blink their constant patterns, and you wonder if it’s wrong to feel so familiar. The news is only four hours old: a dormant darkness above a city of sleeping heads. You flick open the audio channel. You place the foam caves over your ears. Then you lean forward, and you open your heart to whoever’s there. You plea and you argue and you reason and you rage and you incite and you pacify and you smoke and you burn and you laugh and you cry and maybe no one—or maybe everyone—listens:
Let’s start again, my midnight friends. Let’s reboot the system. Let’s start again, go back to the start of things, even while they’re still in motion. Do it better, an improved history that catches the present—a tail that eats the head.
Let’s annihilate those cobweb minds, ignite those tinder thoughts—with wide-open pages, with unheard voices, with painful truths. Let’s tunnel under our fears and let them all cave in. Watch them implode, into dust, under their own weight.
It’s the night the bombs fall. It’s a new view out the window. Not a different place (still the lawn stretching green to the white shining gate, still the crisp sun of a spring morning) but a different perspective. Your hands clasp themselves sweatily behind your back. You’ve done it, and maybe every part of your body has turned against you. And maybe it scares you to have stitched the sky with a poison and hurled it so far with unnatural antipodal speed. All with the power of a word.
But it’s good, it’s graceful. It’s the ring on your finger.
And when all your reassurance has left you, and you’re spent like a fuel casing, you slump into your high-backed chair. The weight of ownership: responsibility—of this power— belonging to you, and you alone. You are alone. Waiting, with your fear stored in expectation. Your doors are locked from the outside, and they’ll come for you when they want you. Prop you up with mechanic’s eyes, find what they want, replace what they don’t. They reprogram you easily, because naivety has its own rewards. You know this well. You had your choice.
It’s the night the bombs fall. It’s your chance. It’s a crush of bodies struggling to hear who’s speaking. People you know, people you don’t. All in this together, a solid wall of resistance. But still—still, a taste of tension. Like animals, we are, waiting for our cages, ready to throw ourselves against the bars. We’ll wield our claws. We’ll snarl. We’ll make them think we’re going to escape.
So you stand, waiting, longer, in this afternoon of pre-arranged impunity. The younger ones, you notice, have painted their faces like it’s a sports match; they’ve ripped up their uniforms and made them into streamers; they shout words they shouldn’t have to know. Then a megaphone appears, and you can finally hear the voices of freedom. We’ll do all this again, they say, and again until things change. Your hands grow tired from constant clapping, but soon there’s the promise of movement. A march. Hear our voices! Watch our actions!
The tide of people pulls you along, ripping your feet from off the grass. You can’t help but wonder what it is you’re doing. What role you’re supposed to be playing. How this will pull back the bombs. Why you’re still marching even after the event—the thing you were supposed to have stopped—has occurred. Before you know it, you’ve slipped into a rhythm of stamping shoes and repeated phrases. Can we start again, you wonder. Can we reverse the weight of history?
It’s the night the bombs fall. They fall regardless of the victim or the voice or the leader of the follower. They fall with their fearful power stored in expectation.
When they hit, nothing changes. Nothing begins again. The sky that holds them keeps moving, inexorably, through its pattern of light and dark. And it covers us up, watertight.