Here’s a timely one from the private archives. The first I ever wrote of Yolanda was her last appearance in Alpha: standing alone, atop her city, savouring the bitter aftermath of the night that very almost killed us all. I can tell I wrote this a while ago, I was even double spacing new sentences…
Chapter Sixteen Nocturne Apocalypse
Des armes bleues comme la terre
Des qu’il faut se garder au chaud au fond de l’âme
Dans les yeux, dans le cœur, dans les bras d’une femme
Qu’on guarde au fond de soi comme on garde un mystère
Praying silently to the wind, Yolanda felt the cold of Rome’s winter’s night. From the high rooftop of her office, alone, she surveyed the skyline of the immortal city so fragile in this of all times. From her light summer coat, she pulled a small box of cigarettes and selected one for her comfort.
The clouds painted the strangest picture above and around her in the sky. The city lights lit them, and in curving fibres they lay all about the visible horizon, curling off into everywhere. A seeming ring of storms flashed sparks about the very edge of the sky scene, as far as she could see from this one precious and imperious point in the world. Tonight such forces had been laid to bear, and now like chill breathed across the sky, lived the physical repercussions.
Yolanda’s world too was in turmoil. Holding the cigarette in her mouth, she had difficulty lighting it. The wind was chaotic, and the flame weak in her unexpectedly shaking hands. The sight of her vulnerability came as an added fright. She less than anyone knew how this night had affected her. And drawing on the eventually lit fire, she felt her first relief at the noxious soothing inside her, and dared to close her eyes from the tearful wind.
From the back of her mind, hidden so far behind the layers of her will, came the image she had secretly known ever since this fateful day had started. That the marks and lightning in the sky were telling of history repeating itself, transposed simply in time and space from almost a hundred years before.
Call Rome Aria, call Earth the land to be erased, compare the living of today with the dead of yesterday and you would have made no mistake. The hands of a man beyond anyone’s ability to understand were but a proxy for the weapons of their own kind, in that moment in history before. The drives that moved the dark prince, a metaphor for those that drove a woman to speak the words “raise it to the ground”. The horror of unstoppable forces, identical with the missiles of their own making, pounding by their thousands into the city of a world of living souls. Whether the killer is from near or afar makes no difference in the long or the short of it all. Genocide is but the same thing in all places.
She saw the glowing surface of a plasma swept world. She saw the intense white glare of one nuclear impact merging with the next, their flashing rhythm that of a macabre and hysteric dance to evils not known before. She saw the fighters and their pilots, streaming bloodless effortless death to unsighted all before them. She saw the battle overwhelmed by the orchestrated chaos beneath it of a world being fully destroyed. Destroyed coldly and meticulously under the revellers’ searing madness. And she saw the faces watching from the sister moon, held in terrifying stasis, silent, still and spectating awestruck on this, the greatest fireworks show in all of human history.
Under the confused, deceived and perhaps wilfully imperfect leadership of President Yolanda Toure, four hundred thousand souls had been thrown to the fire. She winced, as she did at her most painful private memories, and now too at the thought of this deadly night. She could feel the immensity of events that had transpired, not being a woman without imagination and insight, and indeed even heart. She knew what a hole had been blown in the surviving lives now of surely more than a million, not even to speak of the calls to come once sunrise lit tomorrow. But more than even the crushing perception of that, she could feel her culpability in this act of supreme foolishness. And knew this was probably the end of her career, signed in the failing dark of this night. No matter the acts of her generals, or the total sacrifice of her pilots, man had been but a spectator in this. Chance alone had saved them.
It went to a well fit song of the same name, by the French group Noir Désir. Only now I find out this album was to be their last. Indeed, it all must have been a while ago because I recognised one of its other tracks a few times playing on the radio in Italy when I was there in 2002. Such old tales, both. But they age well, I think.
Anyway, I may include this scene yet. I like the brooding feel, and Yolanda’s thoughts rebalance Andala’s power. This scene introduces the Aria Incident, where nuclear haze annihilated millions on our daughter world, courtesy her mother. And Yolanda knows she has that power, too; if she were to ever spite herself and take it. They meld nicely to the song, but a character’s fantasy is not the sharpest of expressive tools. Well, I suppose it is just simple narration. Roll the montage!
I’m also unsure which side of the Act III / IV divide it should sit on. In fact, I’m thinking of pulling that back a bit from earlier plans and having it end sharp with Jocaster’s exit; if written acts make any sense at all. The other parts of the story have clearer boundaries than this one. Does aftermath go with the climax that preceded it, or get shunted into the next? Act IV has important content of its own, and its feel is different as most everything takes place on Andala.
Perhaps my biggest qualm of the whole “Nocturne Apocalypse” is just what Yolanda is doing up there. Reliving the events of that traumatic day, as we all do when thrown into such chaos, while smoking a cigarette. I’m about as anti-smoking as it gets, being allergic to the fumes. So I’ve no love to see the dirty old practice perpetuated into the centuries ahead. I’d rather show no such thing, not least at the heart of the world’s effective capital. I’ve been cautious about showing glasses, too, as I suspect they’ll seem as bizarre as eye patches come the time we fix sight instead of giving it a crutch. My hokey futurism is getting in the way again, as I lose touch with the fact that all fiction is about the present, no matter intent.
But I do like the vision of the scene. I may just have to hold my nose.