Dust. Everywhere dust. In your hair and your eyes and your clothes, on the floors and the roofs and clogged in the machine vents. Thick and red and burned, the colour of death, the nauseating texture of a disintegrated civilisation. Eleven years of dust, and no sign of abatement. By the time I’ve got to the end of the corridors in the Asylum, the beginning is already coated. An infinite task. I remember the vacuum cleaners of old, they’d be dreadfully useful here, if only the dust didn’t choke every machine it entered into obsolescence. Still, it’s work isn’t it? Better than doing nothing. Busy hands equal a busy mind, and I find that labour numbs reality, takes the edge off of life.
I dreamt again last night. I dreamt of food and I dreamt of him. It was so very real. I could actually taste them once more: fresh fruits, roasted meats, mature cheeses, pungent curries, gooey chocolate cake. I never even liked curry, but oh, what I would do for a mouthful now. As you know diary, I am not a true survivor so to speak, but my disability is not noticeable. An inability to taste, to smell, to enjoy food and flavour and fragrance is not apparent to anyone but myself. And besides, I don’t like to complain, many others have it plenty worse than I.
He was there, in my dream, vivid as if it were yesterday, un-aged and unhurt. First thing in the morning, in that hazy moment when I am neither awake nor asleep, my subconscious pushes me to return to my slumber, to revisit my dreams of him. Eleven years he’s been gone. I talked to one of the world builders about it today. Never told anyone before. Her name is Inara, young and pretty, she nodded as I spoke and stroked my arm when the hot tears came. How very thoughtful she was to speak to a humble cleaner like me.
I told her about when it happened. When we were lying asleep in bed, and in that split second when the world trembled and blazed we jerked awake and gripped each other’s hands, as the walls collapsed and the ceiling caved in. In the ruined darkness he wasn’t there anymore, just an immense slab of concrete next to me where he once was, his lifeless hand still interlaced with mine. I clasped it tight in the rubble as he grew cold and stiff. Three days I held onto him in the wreckage, waiting for death to claim me. It never did, and when the rescuers dug me out they had to prise me away from him, what was left of him anyway.
I miscarried a week later. Our son would have been almost eleven years old by now. I can imagine him, a little boy with scuffed knees and messy hair, his father’s eyes and his mother’s mouth. But I am forty-six now and will only ever be a mother in my dreams.
I like the world builders. I listen to them as I work. There are a few new ones this week. Mister St Gelais seems nice, he has kind eyes. He gave that poor little girl a good death. Despite everything that has happened, I see that there is still some good in the souls of humankind, glimmering like diamonds in a sewer. As I scrubbed, on my hands and knees, I listened to him talk of blue skies and yellow grasses, and when he described the cherry tree in blossom I quietly sobbed and hid my face as the silent tears amalgamated with my dust clogged eyelashes and fell in dirty puddles on the floor.
There are others. Mister Peterson arrived a few days ago. I wonder how he got that scar. His heart is angry and he is troubled by the white lies, but after what happened who could blame him? He is sceptical of the world builder techniques. Can he not see that the blind go along with what they say out of choice, not out of belief? They know that we have destroyed our beautiful world, and they choose to live in nostalgic dreams, just as I do.
Ms Coleman is strong, and fiercely protective of her niece, Danna. In this tainted, harsh existence, I can understand why. I have quietly watched that little girl transform into a young woman over the last seven years, and though some might say that she is not like the rest of us, I can see her eyes glow in the most astounding violet colour, unlike anything I have ever seen before, and I have heard her enchanted laugh shattering fear and making the world new again. Mark my words; there is hope yet, although maybe not for me.
The cough is getting worse. There was blood on my hanky again today. Perhaps I am being called to reside in oblivion with my husband and my son.
I do not mind.
I am so very tired.