Illuminating a timeless scene; the noisy crowds thronged the square, merchants filled the air with their imprecations to buy as their would-be customers tried in turn to beat them down to a more acceptable price. The bright sunlight only heightened the riot of colours of the wares on sale, from bright piles of aromatic spices to a veritable rainbow of bolts of finest silk.
Into this crowded and cacophonous scene entered an unobtrusive figure clad in a linen suit and Panama hat. He seemed neither to hurry nor push but gradually made his way through the heaving mass of humanity which, as he progressed, flowed over his path, swallowing up each and every trace of his passing (though this was not difficult when they merely consisted of footprints in the sand and the occasional drop of blood).
He paused for a moment and put his hand to his eyes as he looked for suitably tall building; locating one, a hotel of a dozen or so storeys a few blocks away, he resumed his unhurried journey. Time was not on his side but why rush? No-one was going anywhere quickly on market day. Accepting this at least kept the blood pressure low, even if it didn’t result in faster progress.
On reaching the hotel he checked his smartphone more out of hope than expectation; the bars, as ever, seemed resolutely determined not to reveal themselves so he made his way through the revolving door to the cool of the interior. Noting that the lift was, of course, out of order, he allowed himself a momentary pause to gather his forces. Strange, he thought, that it should be so light indoors, even after he had taken shelter from the heat of the day. The occasional shooting star made its progress in Brownian motion through his field of vision but seemed to die down as he took a few deep breaths prior to taking the stairs, leaving his involuntary Hansel and Gretel trail as he did so.
He sat with his back against the wall of the flat roof and panted his exhaustion. Sweat streamed down his face, and dark patches had appeared on his usually pristine suit. One was darker than the others but the keeping up of appearances was hardly his main concern right now. He turned the phone on once again, saw the longed-for bars appear and proceed to tap away at the screen.
Finally, it was done. The message sent, his mission accomplished, he allowed himself to relax. Even though he was deep in the shade the world seemed ever brighter. As he watched it incuriously the brightness seemed to increase as, one by one, the details of his surroundings slipped away until, finally, he closed his eyes and followed suit.
A pair of collared doves alighted on the ledge and regarded the figure sprawled below them in the ignobility of death. Had they the curiosity or the brain power, they might have posed themselves some questions.
Why would someone to whom sartorial standards were clearly so important favour such a garishly-beaked bird on his cufflinks?
What was the meaning of the message he had taken such pains to send:
“IT’S STARTED! THEY’RE COMING FOR US! GET OUT! GET OUUU…”?
Why cut off his own message when it was he who had chosen to hit the ‘send’ button?
And, above all, why send a message at all when no-one reads the comments?
Being birds of little brain, they did not concern themselves with such matters and instead took flight, gliding down to the square below in the hope of spilt grain.
And despite the lack of readership for the cryptic missive, all over the country, the world and, indeed, elsewhere, emergency bags were taken from the tops of wardrobes, suitcases pulled from under beds and triangles placed into reinforced carry cases as the Postallers prepared to make their way to (continues BTL).