We Are Now Beginning Our Descent


            Only twenty years earlier people of Kellas’s age had wondered whether, should they get as far as the 21st century, it would be to write by the light of rags torn from the bodies of the dead, on scavenged paper, with precious pens, leaving crumbs of their own petrifying flesh across the page to be brushed away. Instead the lights had only become brighter, and the diversions more wonderful. The invasion he’d agreed to take part in had been scripted for an audience that knew as much about orcs and Sauron as it did about Iraqis and Saddam; yet for his own country, it was more. Everywhere this morning he saw new tokens of public wealth breaking through, a new European rail terminal emerging at St Pancras, a new hospital in a skyscraper rising above Euston, the cranes circling the old Wembley stadium in preparation for its demolition and the construction of a new one at a sumptuous price. As his train left the city, one of the new, faster trains that would replace it shimmered past, like an emissary from the year 2000, which, although it was now in the past, Kellas still nostalgically thought of as the future. An unnecessary war where the only victims were volunteers or foreigners was the last luxury of a society which could not accept that it had more money than it knew how to console itself with. It was an attempt to buy seriousness with other people’s blood; to taste the words of high tragedy in your mouth, and savour your own doom and hubris, yet skip aside at the last minute and let a spear-carrier take the knife your flaws had summoned for you.

Kellas was impatient for it to begin.

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