This is how it ends:
At some point, after the real rain has come, all the lamp posts will be fixed, people will once again walk in the street without fear of the dark and the urge to party will become less insistent.
Shortly after this, all the lamp posts will be turned off and the music of the party silenced: the sun rising and the birdsong replacing the noise of desperate revelry. The party-goers will return to the street, awestruck at the thing of beauty it has become and, even so, walk on – leaving it behind with its lamp posts and biscuits and cups of tea and all the other reminders of the dark and the need for comfort: walk on towards, and past, a hope-filled horizon hidden from us by this new and glorious light.
There is a man. He is sitting in a kitchen. The only light in the kitchen comes from the tiny red bulbs above the high voltage sockets and the cold blue glow of the cooker clock – four zeroes: an incessant reminder of a power cut long since ended. The only sounds from the kitchen are the humming of the fridge, the ticking of the needlessly loud kitchen clock, and the scratching of the man’s chair legs on the cheap and tattered lino.
He stands up and, in the dark, fills the kettle and switches it on. He opens the fridge door and checks the milk – it seems fresh enough. As if reminded by the light inside the fridge, he turns on the kitchen light. Finally, taking a mental inventory of tea-bags and biscuits: enough for now, he steps out into the the street.
All along the street, as far as he can see (and far beyond that, he knows) there are people at the feet of broken lamp posts – some collapsed in heaps, some clutching at the posts in a vain quest for support, others standing with their heads almost bowed to their chests. And the noise! The noise is terrible. People are crying, screaming, cursing and vomiting in their distress, some are, even now, dry retching over desiccated piles of discarded stomach contents. But it is not the noisy ones who worry him.
He approaches an old lady: she is kneeling in an almost-dignified position at the foot of her lamp post, silently staring up at the broken glass, her body fused to the pavement by a matting of cobwebs, dust and dead spiders – she looks almost less solid than these whispery vestments and it is with great care that the man kneels beside her and ever so gently that he reaches over and places a hand on each shoulder. He too, stares upwards – first at the broken lamp and then far, far beyond it.
It takes such a long time – gradually the woman becomes less ghostly and, as she fades back towards a proper existence, the man begins to cry: the quiet tears of desperation, the tears of one who, once these tears have been cried, has no more to give. Time passes and he feels the woman’s body begin to move as her own tears start: at first, the quiet controlled sobs mirroring his own; the dust and cobwebs gently uprooted from the street. His own sorrow builds up – feeling every unanswered prayer and each misplaced hope from over the years – an observer would be hard pressed to tell him from any of the others lining the street and wailing. The woman’s weeping continues to follow his and the cobwebs and dust shaken to the ground, forming grey trickles of mud where they meet the tears.
After some time, she no longer needs to be led, and the man’s tears die down. He continues to hold her, soothingly whispering to her as she cries and cries and cries. And, just like that! She’s done. Wiping a dusty sleeve across her snot-covered face, she beams at him and says, “I’m ready. Now, how about that cup of tea?”
Holding each other, they walk back along the street to the kitchen where, strangely, the kettle is just starting to boil.
This is how it begins…