They sat on green folding chairs at the top of the hill, staring up at the sky. Nick had pointed out the constellations he remembered from school, and Emma had listened, eager for any word he could offer her. It was not that cold, given the time of year, but they had still wrapped themselves in layers and donned the obligatory woollen hats and scarves. James was asleep, curled up on Nick’s knee, chugging happily on his tiny pink thumb, and Emma smiled at the idyllic image they portrayed. But nothing was truly idyllic. She knew that now.
They’d been there since midnight, joining the hundreds of others scattered across the dome shaped hill, some with small tents, others with deck chairs, sharing bottles of wine and tins of biscuits bought for a Christmas that they would never see. A mishmash of ages and cultures and beliefs, gathered together for the last big event. Some people talked quietly, others stared into spaces where conversations had once been. Most here were acceptant.
An elderly couple stood elegantly from their candy striped chairs and began to dance to the music of their memories, whirling and waltzing over the brow of the hill, surrounded by tiny pricks of light, eyes full of passion and heat.
‘How lovely,’ said Emma, ‘To grow old together.’
James shivered slightly on his father’s knee, a tiny movement, but one instantly noticed by Emma.
‘Do you think he’s cold? Maybe we should have brought a blanket. I don’t want him to catch a chill,’ she said.
Nick opened his mouth to reply, then offered her a half smile.
‘Oh,’ she said, ‘It doesn’t really matter now does it?’
Further down the hill, people were beginning to pray in the darkness. The humming of their personal pleas drifted on the winter current, merging and mingling like flakes of coloured snow, before rising up to their destinations. A young voice began to sing, something choral, probably in Latin, Emma wasn’t sure, but the voice was so pure and free that an older woman near by began to sob, long choking sobs that hurt your heart to listen to.
‘I wish we could have spoken to our families,’ said Nick at last.
‘Me too,’ said Emma, ‘I miss the phone.’
Below them, all around, they could see the orange fiery glow from the towns and villages, destroyed by man before nature could do her worst, destroying every trace of that which had made man, man.
‘When will it come?’ Emma asked Nick.
‘Soon.’ Was all he could say.