The Siege of Corinth
by Sebastian Morgan-Lynch
We all stopped loving each other one night around 8.30. Everyone, all round the world, all at once. There was a moment, a timeless moment like the middle of a sneeze, then it was gone. I was watching The Walking Dead with Karen. I’d just taken her hand and squeezed it, and she’d squeezed mine back, and then it happened and we were two bags of breathing meat looking at each other across a vacuum. My hand was still in hers but it felt inert, like a rubber glove taken off after doing the dishes and left, half wet and half dry, inside out on the draining tray.
‘Why are we sitting here,’ said Karen.
‘Shit,’ I said. ‘Shit, shit, shit.’ I pulled my hand back.
The next day at work was normal, but everyone had a provisional uncertain look. Jane, who I’d always discreetly fancied, was just a person sitting in a chair. I typed some words, then erased them, then typed them again. Jane got up and went for a coffee, then didn’t come back.
When I got home Karen had her suitcase packed on the floor of our bedroom. ‘I’m going to go,’ she said.
I nodded. That made a lot of sense.
‘Okay,’ I said
‘Goodbye,’ she said, and lifted the suitcase up and carried it out to her car. She walked like an old woman, I thought. I could see the old woman she was going to be walking inside her.
Eleven days later, we stopped seeing the differences between people. There was suddenly that feeling you get when you sleep on your arm and wake up and it’s numb and belongs to someone else. I was walking along Lambton Quay, thinking I’d like to have a coffee, when it happened, and then I got the feeling and it was like when I was seven and got lost at the fairground. There was a whirling set of shapes and boxes with wheels and people with different coloured layers of fabric on them, and they were all the same.
None of the things we were doing made any sense, so mostly we stopped doing them.
A car ran into one of the trees planted in the flowerbed in the middle of the road, but it did it slowly, almost carefully. It mounted it, bending the young tree down underneath the front of the car and making a crackling, smashing sound. I walked over to the car, which was spinning its wheels in the mud of the flowerbed.
There was a person behind the wheel, with arms and legs and a face, and it was moving the wheel in its hands back and forth.
‘What are you?’ I asked.
The person opened its mouth and said, ‘I’m a person,’ but it didn’t make any sense.
Two hundred and fifty hours after that our bodies stopped loving themselves. I was standing at home, cutting cheese off a block, when it happened. The TV was on in the corner but the channels had mainly stopped. Occasionally a burst of static would blare out from the speakers, but I didn’t know why. I was cutting the cheese and the knife went straight into my finger, cut a deep gouge into the skin on my knuckle. It didn’t hurt. I looked at the gash. There was a filmy, insubstantial quality to the skin around it, as though it was only there because it didn’t have anywhere better to be.
I put down the knife and picked up the cheese, weighed it in my hand. Then I put the cheese back and walked out of my house.
Karen was standing by the letterbox, or at least I guessed that was who it was. She’d written ‘I’m Karen’ on a piece of card and pinned it to the cloth she had wrapped around her body. She looked at me, and I looked at her. Her eyes were red. ‘The cheese is on the chopping board,’ I said. ‘What’s cheese for?’ she asked.
I didn’t have an answer.
A million heartbeats later there was the sound of a stick lying in the dry leaves on the forest floor and the sun stopped loving the earth, and rocks stopped loving the ground, and the roots of the trees gave up their lifetime infatuation with the rich black soil. I was sitting on the ground in a place that seemed like it was a good place to sit, where I’d walked over the days and nights until I stopped walking and sat down and I heard the sound and opened my eyes.
The sun was there but it didn’t make me warm. The trees were above me but they didn’t shade me. The birds weren’t singing because they had nothing to sing for. The earth was under me but it didn’t support me. I pushed the ground and floated up into the cold, ungrateful air, because the earth no longer loved me enough to pull me towards it.
I sat in the air with my legs and my arms around me, pillars of meat that had no meaning anymore and I knew that everywhere, all around, was devoid of love; that love was lost and gone. I didn’t care because caring was love. I wasn’t angry because anger is love. My body didn’t have a feeling because every feeling is a love of the thing that made it, and there was no love anymore.
There were fissures opening up in the ground, windows in the void at the heart of the world, and I knew there was nothing down there, and for one last moment I knew there were people everywhere knowing that too, and I knew, and and and and