Air Cancer

It hovered above the pub. It was dark green and misty. Impenetrable. There were small, winged creatures buzzing in and out of it. Thousands of them. It was late summer. People stood around and looked. They were stupefied by the presence of the mist. The men urinated through their three-quarter length trousers onto their flip-flops. The women screeched and snorted at the men. One woman said ‘man-flu’ and the others fell about. One, smaller woman laughed so much she defecated. A small, round replica of herself in shit fell from her shorts and rolled down an open drain. The drain gobbled it up with a pronounced ‘gulp’. The smell of old beer and death snaked from the drain. A family of rats lived down there. They waited. A single, urine coloured lightening bolt leapt from the mist. It hit a man as he climbed out of his seat waving a twenty pound note. The bolt burnt a hole in the note and connected with the mans belly button. His stomach began to swell. A tentacle grew from his three-quarter lengths. A tail. The mans face buckled and a green olive slime drained from his nose. In the slime were small, pip-sized eggs inside which tiny, insect larvae were already hatching. A large rat ripped through the mans colon and, as his body fell, scurried down the drain. The black insects hatched and joined the others in the sky. The cloud of mist grew larger. Those that could speak said they could detect a sound like a heartbeat coming from its core .
When it grew to the size of the town they sent in the fighter jets. All were lost. The television broadcasts soon followed. The government blamed other, so-called ‘rogue states’ for the ‘disturbance’. And the entity doubled in size. A targeted exchange of military hardware between bickering nations ensued. We told that our sense of ‘Britishness’ was under attack. When the leaders began to realise that the threat did not come from another nation, they decided that the phenomenon was of extra-terrestrial origin. And the world now focussed all its hatred out into space. Orbiting the Earth, a ribbon of the mist grew a thin tentacle. The tentacle penetrated the atmosphere and connected with the mass below.
Citizens took to the streets and ransacked government offices. They set fire to small businesses and homes.
Diplomatic relations deteriorated and the ‘air-cancer’, as some were now calling it, covered one-third of the Earth’s surface.
The price and regularity of air travel has been dramatically altered. No plane can fly through the air-cancer. Imported goods are now out of reach to all but the most wealthy.
Now there are people alive who know only of a world infected with this plague. And no one knows how to stop it.
Perhaps the world has to accept it as part of a new paradigm.
Today I saw a group of tourists posing for a photo. “Make sure you get the air-cancer in the background!” one of them said.
And I watched as the thing grew like a cloud of green ink in water as the flashes went off.


The Cloud Said

The man stood by the road and he thought about who he was, what he was doing and what it meant. He could not find a single answer in his brain that would resolve these questions in him. His was not a sorrow born of any particular idea, nevertheless, it consumed him.
He thought about waste.
The cars heaved by, coughing smog into the already sour air.
He thought about family.
He thought about love.
He wondered many things. He despaired.
The night is the night he heard, or felt. Was this his spirit talking to him? An ancestor perhaps? Was it the words of people in the street combining to form this sentence in his head. Was he, as an imperfect organism, failing in the very core task of getting on?
What did it mean to ‘get on’; if getting left him feeling empty, left him wanting to stay in bed, to ignore time, work, affections, sunlight, even love? What was love?
He asked himself many questions.
The night is the night.
Then something remarkable happened. The people in the street transformed. Taking on the visage of bobbing, grey, almost cartoon like, clouds. They passed him as thoughts; not thoughts, entities…shapes. These new creatures, without human form, chattered into the air, at nothing. Clusters of them chanted, single forms mumbled as though in prayer.
Either baying, or praying. Maybe it was the same thing.
One cloud had a dogs lead coming out of it with a young pup on the end. The lead broke free of the balloon cloud, which now had an exclamation mark throbbing inside it. The dog was momentarily free yet, at the same time, trapped by its newly acquired instinct to obey for food and shelter.
The cloud said, ‘Little shit,’ and consumed the animal, eliminating the pup it was, the dog it might become and a small piece of the world, turning it, in turn, into a yet smaller cloud; this time with a cartoon bitch inside it, then a cartoon bone, then a cartoon bitch.
The shaped moved on without faces, and attached by a lead and a leader.
The man stood there for a moment longer and felt the Earth moving underneath him. It was fast and he felt dizzy. Small droplets fell from his being onto his shoes and he knew what had become of him.
Now, incorporated into a new paradigm of the world, he awaited the next struggle with terrifying indifference.