Scroll Down, Don’t Look Up | Ash Warren

Such a shame about Tony


Scroll Down, Don’t Look Up

Ash Warren

For the 21C Megadeath Award


Fact: One hundred and four billion people have at one point lived on the Earth.

Fact: Ninety-four percent of them are already dead.

I kept thinking he would suddenly appear in my bathroom mirror like he used to. Like when I was shaving in the mornings and he would sometimes sneak up behind me and kiss the back of my neck, very lightly.

‘Hey, I could’ve cut myself!’ I’d yell and brandish the razor at him, but he would just grin or twerk his cute little buns at me.

He was light, dancing like a dust-mote in the sunshine, optimistic, always happy, always with the positive suggestion, the brushing aside of difficulties, the let’s-worry-about-it-later line.

That’s actually why I dumped him though. It just got on my nerves, all his brightness and bonhomie. Then two weeks later, just as I was about to call him and say I missed him, I met Phil at the coffeeshop.

This morning Phil is wearing his serious face when he sees me.

‘Such a shame about Tony.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Oh, shit. You haven’t heard?’

And that’s how I found out you were dead.

I saw your mother the next day, she was at your apartment with your sister. She was sitting on the bed with a dazed expression, as if she didn’t really understand what had happened. As if she was just waiting for you to come back into the room with her cup of tea. Instead it’s your sister who does that, putting it down on the bedside table.

Seeing your sibling here, seeing the likeness of you in her was unnerving, like your ghost had come back in mufti.

I made my excuses and left.

You gave me a sprig of willow once and told me that in your country that meant’‘stay’. That you gave them to those who are departing. And I am thinking about that now, about how soft it felt in my hand.

I should have given it to you.

I imagine what your last moments were like. You are lying there on your hospital bed. A machine is blinking next to you, and on your lips I can see your soul. It’s just there, hanging like a drop of dew from a leaf, brilliant and glistening and glowing with the urge to fall, to break free.

And yet I see hesitation in your eyes, like you are hanging on, clinging by the tiniest bat’s squeak of a thread, waiting for permission.

It’s OK, I whisper to you.

You can go.

There’s a slight breeze and, just like that, you are gone. The lights change, something falls, someone moves, the doctor speaks, the brakes fail, the wind changes, a single petal falls and you are gone. Just like that.

The world is still there though, especially now, this world of information, this internet of things. My world.

That’s twenty years now I’ve spent staring at a screen along with everyone else, a screen which just keeps rolling on and on like the credits at the end of some long film which you only realise later you didn’t have to watch. When you look around and realise you are the only one left in the cinema.

This is the way the world ends:

Not getting better, just getting more efficient.

Not getting wiser, just drowning in information.

Not actually living, just passing time. Entertaining yourself, sitting and watching it all scrolling past you until one day, you look up in horror. Or you don’t.

‘What are you reading my lord?’
‘Words, words words.’

Time to go. The other Ninety-Four percent are waiting.