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A short story inspired by the first few minutes of  ‘Working Man’s Death: Lions‘. It’s about the dissonance between feelings of futility and the desire to do good.

You’re in a desert. The horizon stretches out before you on all sides. It’s midday; the sun, too hot to be viewed directly, casts everything in so bright a light it seems to sit in the earth itself. You are alone.

A sound. To your right. It’s very loud. You turn and glimpse a motorbike tearing furiously over the plain. The face is anonymous, hidden behind a helmet. Of a sudden, the body is torn in two, the torso tossed in the air, the legs locked helplessly about the bike as it cuts a scar in the long-dead stone of the desert.

Silence. As the dust settles, you peer closer at the scene of the accident and notice a hazy image taking shape in the air. A long, thin, taut piece of line has been strung about waist-height along the whole span of the desert. It was this that tore the body of the rider in two. You decide to break it; fewer horrors like this: you reach in your pocket, feel a knife, take it, put it on the clear line and cut.

To your left, a crash. An enormous, roaring boom. Tonnes of sand and grit begin to flow at you in waves. Way off in the distance, on what seems the very edge of the earth, a mushroom cloud, huge, black and slow, inches forth into the sky to smother all the heavens.

What have you done?

Frightened, confused, you turn away your head. The distant behemoth creeps toward the sun, and things long hidden beneath its light begin their slow reveal: dozens of clear lines criss-cross the plain in gross profusion, waist-height, shoulder, some at the height of the neck. Too many to count. All of them taut. And some of them already red.

A sound. Moving quickly. You’ve heard that sound before. Only this time you don’t bother to turn round. The mushroom cloud subsumes the sun; the lines all dance in the gloaming; the roar resounds from every direction.

What can you do?

“The horror.”