Musings of a Stargazer
Ink’s favourite hobby is stargazing. She sits at her telescope night after night and stares up at the stars and the planets, and at the lights that flitter between them, moments of sparkling intensity where people live their lives and await that moment of arrival when they can
finally see their dreams coalesce into reality.
They’re all up there, the progeny of Earth – celebrities, politicians, and even the everyday folk like herself. Each of them is nothing beyond a man or a woman, but the world is only just beginning to see what a person can accomplish, can really accomplish, when they put their mind to it. What came before – the wonders of the world and the rise and fall of empires – all that was the prologue. This is the future.
Her boyfriend doesn’t understand that of course. Boyfriend. Such a ridiculous word to use when one is approaching middle-age. It sounds so transitory, like she’s going to dump him at any moment and get herself a replacement. It doesn’t encompass everything he means to her, all the things that he is and can ever be.
Years before she met him he was the victim of an industrial accident. Equipment jammed and fell, crushing him beneath. Prosthetics saved his life, and these days he likes to make jokes about his genitals and her penchant for machinery. She never tells him how close he is to the truth.
During the day she works on building sites. She’s not building anything though, nobody is, what they’re doing is taking the city down bit by bit, starting with the housing estates and working their way from there.
There are protests against the work. People who think the city should be kept the way it is despite the fact that there’s no need for this much housing anymore. They come and they stand out beneath the grey of the sky, hoods and hats keeping off the endless London rain, and they shout their slogans and hold their banners up high.
What they don’t understand is where the materials go. They don’t get dumped in a landfill, not
anymore, they get recycled and most parts end up heading into the sky, just one more piece of the exodus. Scavengers filch some of it. But the artists are the real trouble.
They are a problem all across London, a prolific infestation that can’t be stemmed. They creep through the night in their hundreds and cut security fences and take what they need.
They weld steel and mould concrete, and the results are bizarre and macabre, more so because the dawning of each day sees new sculptures lining the roads, joining the teeming thousands that already exist, drops of rain glittering like oil on their curves. They are changing things, the artists insist, they are giving the jaded tourist a look at something new. They are modernising the metropolis and it’s not their intention to stop. Not ever.
The city council is not impressed. Waste disposal has become a war balanced on the teetering edge of alliance and betrayal. The artists have the actors and writers behind them. Their campaign is fought in the theatres and the daily papers. The council uses more pedestrian means and has government funding behind it.
The war goes on but the artists are losing ground bit by bit. Slowly, the parks and roads of the city are being reclaimed, Wimbledon Common and Hampstead Heath and all the little greens
that fill the between places. Workers in fluorescent jackets treat them as though they were weeds to be kept from growing. They clear away the sculptures while the rain patters down all around, flooding their boots and trickling into their clothes.
It is a judgement, some say. The rain is life-giving, and there has certainly been a frenzy of creation over recent years. It is wrong to stem the tide. The artists put their all into the
city and work at making it something new that defies definition. But all that those hard-nosed labourers see fit to do is to cut it and kill it dead.
Ink does not see why it matters. The artists insist they will never leave, but some of them will, she knows. Perhaps on a day when the rain finally gets to be too much and risking the guard dogs to forage for scraps no longer seems worth it. Some of them will look up and see the planets turning in the sky, beckoning them to a new beginning.
Her boyfriend feels it. He comes over and they eat together and talk about the future. She mentions children and maybe a pet or two, and he nods and then glances at the window, his eyes turned up.
Even she fantasises about leaving it all behind and going somewhere new one day. She listens to the propaganda and the testimonials of all the people who are already there. They glow
with the excitement of it all and chatter about their new lives. And she is tempted.
She won’t act on it. Not because life is life wherever one happens to be and is filled with the same old worries, but because this is her home and she loves it.
She loves the way it feels to tear down those empty estates, knowing that she is bringing an end to an era. She loves wandering along roads that once thrived with traffic but now lie empty, looking up through drops of rain at the architecture of Wren and his peers. And she loves the rain.
It lulls her to sleep and sends sweet dreams her way. It whispers of all the people who ever lived in this city – strict Victorians and spoiled royals; philanthropists and their opposites; the poor; the dispossessed; and the foolhardy. The rain tells her about the city and what it is and what it has always been. It would go on even without her, but she will not leave. She would miss the rain if ever summer came again.