I was disoriented to say the least. My best friend was off flying round the world, discovering untold secrets of the ancient mysteries (maybe the greatest mystery of all – that of where we all came from). I was in a strange town, in a stranger’s house, drunk, and what’s more I hadn’t had any dinner.
I sneaked a look at the news before I shut the computer down. Maybe out of idle curiosity, maybe out of some need to feel grounded in the world and what was around me. Who knows? In any case, I wished I hadn’t. It didn’t give me any more sense of belonging in the world, or of certainty. In fact the next few days were going to give me quite the opposite.
I punched up the BBC. There were hurricanes and flash flooding going on in the Third World, all of which was apparently the fault of the affluent in the First World causing climate change and ruining it all for them… or was it? Didn’t all of those things happen even before we invented climate change? Were we just modern day ascetics scourging ourselves for things we couldn’t change anyway? Sure the world was over-populated, but that was only because if you had more people you invariably had more problems. Having news media around us all the time and the internet made us hyper-aware of what was going on, and of the terrible contingency of life for 99% of people on the planet as disasters invariably occurred.
I felt sorry, then, for people who had grown up earlier than the 1970s, for whom talking to the present generation must be like trying to address someone from the far-distant future: the world they had adapted to seems alien to the present one. I supposed that I was somehow immune from suffering the same fate, as I was one of the first of the digital generation. I am sure now that this will turn out not to be true.
The other stories were about a gay actor who had come out because he had a new TV series to promote, and a mission to Mars that would attempt to ascertain why catastrophic climate change seemed to have once occurred on our solar system’s fourth planet. This was because, they said, Mars showed evidence that it had once been similar to earth, with abundant running water and, presumably, an atmosphere, that had now dwindled to a few lumps of frozen icy water at the poles. All this was apparently known in HG Wells’ time, but it had fallen out of fashion to discuss it, as other scientists had disputed the facts, or perhaps people didn’t want to think about such stuff as the death of entire worlds. I suppose people had been thinking about more important things, such as killing each other and the business of war, instead. Reading between the lines it was pretty clear that this was about to become fashionable once again – only this time people would probably blame it on climate change instead of the Russians or Germans or whatever it happened to be before. I am sure you know, unless you read this hundreds of years in the future, that man made climate change on this planet was considered to be such a potentially massive problem that it would soon end civilisation in the early 2000s unless something very dramatic was done collectively by humanity to mend our ways. Although if you are reading this hundreds of years in the future… obviously that didn’t happen.
I idly wondered again, as the voices from the other room reached me, if Mars might have been where Professor Fripp’s little alien moon baby had come from. But the whole thing was too much like one of David Bowie’s fevered cheese dreams to even contemplate. There seemed to be a heated discussion going on next door, and I thought I should go back into the other room and see who was there.
The last news story, however, caught my attention.
The final news story concerned how a group of backpackers had apparently been slaughtered by mercenary guerillas in the Bolivian jungle. The name of one of those being reported murdered was Diana Jones.
That was my name.