Author : Alasdair Stuart

The last morning, we gathered on the beach. Someone made the inevitable Nevil Shute joke and too many people laughed. The noise was braying, desperate and I moved away from it, worried, somehow that I might get some on me.


Vanya was heading towards me, his bald head gleaming against the unnaturally blue sky. I’d been told why it had happened, something to do with too much oxygen, with the plants that were choking most of Europe now. I’d not listened. There didn’t seem to be any point.


‘What did you dream about?’


He smiled, having none of it. ‘I don’t believe you. We all dreamed last night, all different. I checked. Mike dreamt of spacecraft buried beneath city streets, Jo dreamt of dinosaurs being corralled beneath a double moon. Shulta dreamt of a war fought between toys.’

I thought about being annoyed, storming off. My only options were to join the group further down the beach or go back to the hotel, watch the news and see how bad things had got since I woke up. Neither seemed attractive.

‘What did you dream about, Vanya?’

He smiled. ‘I dreamt of riding an escalator through time.’

I snorted. ‘That’s ridiculous.’

Vanya threw his arms wide. ‘As ridiculous as a plague of glass? Or forests swallowing an entire continent? Look around, Leigh. Ridiculous is relative.’

I stared at him for a long time. ‘Why is this happening?’

He grinned, his coffee mug steaming. ‘Because God plays with dolls, not dice. Because creation needs to be reset every once in a while and the consolation we get is here, now.’

I looked at the forty people on the island, the music, the false bonhomie, the burnt sky.

‘Hell is other people.’

‘And heaven is other worlds.’ He looked at me, cradling the coffee mug. ‘You never told me what you dreamt.’

‘That I was married.’

‘Really?’ He tried for disappointment and nonchalance, managing neither.


‘Who to?’


Vanya’s jaw dropped. I smiled. ‘So, I hope you’re right.’

‘That makes two of us.’

‘Could I have some of your coffee?’

‘Oh, sure.’

I walked over to him, taking the mug and letting the warmth ease through my fingers. After a moment, I sat down. After another, he joined me and together we waited for the new world.

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