A post-apocalyptic vision of Dublin in which only Q102 has survived
I wrote this short story on Wednesday afternoon for a ‘performance’ (talking into a mic) at PETTY CASH that evening in the Little Green Gallery in Christchurch. I’ve never written a short story before, so it’s just a bit of …
I wrote this short story on Wednesday afternoon for a ‘performance’ (talking into a mic) at PETTY CASH that evening in the Little Green Gallery in Christchurch. I’ve never written a short story before, so it’s just a bit of fun and considering there is no other purpose for it, I thought: ‘I know, I’ll put it on the internetz.’
Intro: This story is about the apocalypse, which is probably the ultimate in losing everything. I have an inherent problem with the idea of post-apocalyptic scenarios because surely after the apocalypse there is nothing. But for the purposes of this story, let’s stick to Hollywood’s incorrect interpretation of ‘post-apocalyptic’ and we can argue about it later.
Scene: A post-apocalyptic Dublin in which the only survivors appear to be Q102. Finally, the More Music Less Talk station’s location in a former World War II air raid shelter in an unnamed suburb has come up trumps as they continue to play your all time favourites right across the city.
“Live from the Q-Bunker that was Ree-hanna there with her big hit ‘Umberrrella’, and you’d need an umbrella today by the sounds of things going on across city. Ha ha. Acid rain, meteors, several end of days explosions, it’s all gone a bit MENTAL hasn’t it? Ha ha.
“Later in the show Ray Shah will be talking to the charred remains of Dublin shoppers at Airside in Swords about what they would do if they won the lotto. What would you do if you won the lotto? Text us now on 53102, and you could win Michael Buble’s brrrilliant Christmas album, that one’s called ‘Christmas’. Text in here from Kathy in Templeogue, she says ‘Hi Dave, love the show. Please help, I’m trapped under rubble in my garage and my son Jack who was 7 yesterday needs his insulin. He’s gone unconscious now and I don’t know what to do. Please help, please.’ Thanks for that Kathy, and happy birthday Jack! Hope you’re behaving yourself for your Mum. Don’t have any insulin at the moment Kathy, but I do have this classic track for you, enjoy!”
[At this point in the story, you need to listen to - or just imagine - the opening bars of Heart's ‘Alone’ until the line "I'm lying here, the room's pitch dark." Dramatic.]
The Q102 app on Sophie’s phone crashed and the screen went black, the small grey wheel in the middle eventually vanishing. The explosion – or explosions, she wasn’t sure – was still ringing in her ears, the muffled sound of a frequency leaving her eardrum being a familiar feeling from standing too close to the speakers in the Button Factory. In this new reality, the discomfort was oddly consoling. Something she recognized.
Standing in the empty underground car park she felt alone, cold, and confused. The grey concrete surrounded her. She thought to herself ‘This is the most like a Burial tune my physical manifestation will ever be’. Sophie actually thought that in her head. Probably because she went to Trinity. She hadn’t seen what Trinity looked like now, a crumbling wrecked site reminiscent of DIT Kevin Street.
The bolts were blown off the emergency stairwell door in the car park when the impact happened. Sophie couldn’t stand there being all Burial and shit forever. She walked up the stairwell, which led to an unmarked fire exit on to that street the Gaiety is on that no one knows the name of. [Anyone?]
Fast food packaging rustled across the path. A stillness in the weirdly heavy afternoon air was broken by car alarms and the sound of buildings creaking over their ruptured foundations. There were no human noises, save for her footsteps over burned LED fairy wands as she passed the theatre. The Joke Shop seemed perfectly preserved, with masks of Richard Nixon and gorillas staring out helplessly at her as if asking ‘what the actual fuck’.
She saw the first body outside that overpriced news agent. A chugger, eyes wide open, his fixed failed drama student grin frozen in time. Smoke was billowing from Stephen’s Green. Black ash started to fall from the sky.
For a moment, going down Grafton Street, she thought about walking over the broken glass into Brown Thomas and nicking those Miu Miu sunglasses that she saw in Dazed and Confused. ‘No’, she said aloud, ‘I’ll wait for American Apparel’. Inside American Apparel, a few shadows darted around the store and railings rattled with the telltale sign of camel-toe producing leggings being removed. To be fair, it actually seemed busier than usual. “Dan?” a skinny guy she recognized from Trinity’s Rainbow Week where he drunkenly proclaimed his homosexuality at some lame soc party, but then definitely still went home with some girlo was going through accessories at the upstairs counter. “Oh my god, Stephanie.” “Sophie.” “Oh shit, sorry, Sophie.” Dan was clutching a shiny backback and holding a purple beanie. Sophie stared at the beanie. “I just reckon it’ll get cold, you know? You should take one.” Sophie picked up a navy hat, remembering that she’d left her black one she got at The xx gig down in the carpark when she was tying her laces. Even given the circumstances, that irrationally annoyed her.
“So,” Sophie said as they wandered outside and Dan set about rolling a cigarette while sitting on the edge of a now decapitated Molly Malone statue, “do you have any idea what the fuck is going on?” Dan looked up and shook his head, the tag he forgot to remove on the beanie jiggling. “No fucking clue. I was in the jacks in the library and the last thing I remember is this massive bang, like huge, like Skrillex loud. I think I passed out or something because when I woke up all the lights were off and shit. I made it out, but I don’t know if anyone else…” his voice trailed off. “There’s defo people around though. I saw Jack from BESS hiding under a desk. Fucking knob before this, and still a knob during it, clearly. This must be like Sellafield or some Mayan shit. Fucked. Up.”
“So you didn’t see anything else?” Sophie asked. “Fuck sake Stephanie” “Sophie” “Sorry. For all I know it’s God’s revenge for opening Abercrombie.” Sophie started to walk towards Westmoreland Street. “Where are you going?” “I don’t know,” Sophie said, “but I think we need to get out of town.” “Word.” Dan followed her down the street.
When they got to the Liffey, the gravity of the situation became clear. To the east, the neon tubes were dangling into the river from the conference centre, faintly buzzing and throwing up sparks as the electricity met the water. And upstream, coloured shapes were bobbing gently, flowing slowly with the exiting tide. “Oh Jesus,” Dan clutched his stomach and puked on the path, an appropriate reaction to the dead people that were crowding the water. Sophie thought of the Radiohead song ‘I float down the Liffey / I’m not here / This isn’t happening / I’m not here / I’m not here.’ They crossed the bridge and walked along the Luas tracks, the buildings to the left of them blocking the horrors of the river.
Liffey Street was crowded with crashed cars. Capel Street was worse – shop fronts blown out and gigantic potholes peppering the road. The hoarding at the back of the Four Courts was lying along the tracks. They walked gingerly over it, interrupted by the thud of falling seagulls.
“Oh my god!” Dan yelled, “Check that out, it looks like a bomb has gone off!” Sophie turned to where Dan was pointing, “No, that’s just the Cobblestone.” Dan paused his selection of an Instagram filter for a photo that would further dramatise the damage. “Oh. But don’t you think it’s eerily quiet? The shops are all shut, there’s no one around…” Dan’s surveillance of the area drifted off in Sophie’s thoughts, as she began to wonder whether Smithfield was an appropriate barometer for a ‘before and after’ examination of an apocalyptic event. “Let’s get out of here,” Sophie said. And they walked towards Stoneybatter.
At Lilliput stores, Sophie noticed the high number of cats that were wandering around. Perhaps whoever was always nicking cats in Stoneybatter had their warehouse blown up and they were finally freed. Or maybe the cats had all left their lesbian homesteads in search of food. She was walking quickly until she noticed Dan was no longer with her. He’d broken into Lilliput. She looked through the window and saw him filling his backpack with olive tapanade, Dublin Kombucha and bread that is frankly inappropriate for making sandwiches. “Are you coming or not?” Dan didn’t look up from checking the expiry date on some sheep’s ricotta. “I’m gonna stay here. There’s enough food to at least last for a bit… Maybe just for me though.” Sophie had already turned on her heel by the time he exposed his selfishness.
Further down the street, a radio crackled from a car garage, Q102’s traffic report; a giant chasm opening up underneath the UCD overpass on the Stillorgan Duel Carriage Way, the Rock Road crumbling into the sea, the Spire, cracked in half now blocking all of O’Connell Street…
She thought about In Search Of Lost Time, Proust’s masterpiece she had read books about, but not the actual thing. She thought about those questions that are asked on stations like Q102: if the world was ending, what would you do? When there is no end in sight to life, it’s just a thing that’s there. We only become attached to it when its conclusion suddenly jolts into focus, she thought, shuffling through recent examples in her mind; an especially dramatic bump on a transatlantic flight. Palpitations when you’re trying to sleep after one cheeky half too many. A bus’ wing mirror brushing past your ear. The death of someone you know. Sophie wasn’t sure if the death of loved ones really encouraged us to reevaluate our own lives, considering there’s so much grief to wade through first before you get to any realization about your own existence. Until then, you’re just thinking about what’s gone, not what is left.
She thought about her friend who was a copy writer who told her about the booklet they have to print as guidelines for people who win the lotto. About the research that they have to do for it asking people the question ‘what would you do if you won the lotto?’ She thought about the answers that were given by people that her friend forwarded to her in an email. She thought about how so few of the answers – go back to college, go traveling, set up a business, spend more time with family, quit your job, have a massive party – actually necessitated winning the lotto.
She thought about Dublin being a blank slate now, a city of charred possibilities, burnt down ideas, crumbling establishments and decimated buildings. She thought about how seeing all of the cats roaming around Stoneybatter definitively proved her theory that there was someone in Dublin 7 stealing cats to make a giant coat*. She wondered if the coat would end up in Siopa Eile.
Most of her friends were safe. She knew this for a fact, because most of her friends were in London. By now, they were probably hearing rumblings about what happened on Twitter, and turning on Sky News, and would be frantically posting status updates asking if everyone they knew was ok. But her phone was dead. She felt free.
*Theory stolen from @EmerTheScreamer