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Apothecary Birds by Vikki C.

I: Transition

I wrote my name in the dust for the last time. You knew my habits well - an ailing language that led us both astray. My flesh salvaged from a warring wilderness, now distilled from the womb of addiction. How dare they try to meddle? Upon duskfall, they moved me to shelter, the derelict barn haunted by former affected beings, but I broke free, the way sentences deconstruct in a poet's desultory mind.

Seeing in the dark, always a vision of you on your knees outside the ruined cathedral, where others were buried. Those of agate bones, desecrated "by accident". Miscalculations of men, again. Everything calcified, shocked, frozen, the day the earth let out its last exhale. A blue-green child's marble fogged by a hellion's hot breath. Remains of giant cedars and endangered creatures piled high into headline news. They pulled me from the wreckage. "Raven-hybrid", they whispered with disdain - as if a taxidermist's specimen condemned to a pariah district. As if the code branded on my inner wrist could identify such profound damage. Cancel culture aside, the city remains in me, neon humming across the last vestige of conscience - a lilacing of delirium.

They say memory is a distillation in a rogue apothecary. But, I remember every vivid detail. How Mother's bronze oval locket reflected the moon, rendering it into Venus, a haloed image of what humans denoted as "love". This is the faith of a zeitgeist I'd tell them about. Something uncultivated by a tyrant. They promised us a letter a month, to be sent anonymously by encryption - evidence we were never terminated.

What they tell the old world is propagated - perfection like a snowflake, fractals of a fish fin, small miracles branching into infinite chaos. A theory, nothing more. Still, we sit it out. Waiting long for the imminent thaw. As if such beauty was worthless until traded for another hypothesis, or light relief like a loan of time - the hourglass misplaced beside an unmade bed of aspirations.

Memory is the nemesis of tender things. I hold them to my throat and feel lifespans contract against my pulse, the way a bird disowns its nest once adulterated by humans. You recall a bent wing, a lost feather. Flight, merely a distraction. The aesthetics of endless absence.

Sustained notes of an opus eventually become silence - the orchestra perishes mid-performance. I'm the last in the audience. The amphitheatre, a ruin, displaced by epochs of failed governance.

What I recall is non-fiction. It recurs, intensity growing with the need to persist - Fibonacci in the whorl of an ammonite cast into albion cliffs. It is there, I pulled my body ashore in another life. Walked through the burnt heather and disappeared - as a girl. An abstraction for surrealists to debate over a bottle of whisky, in end times. "Who is God on the other side?", they never ask. Does it matter now, when in the blue hour, Europa shifts to another order, an alcove of this wretched Anthropocene, the birds dominating our paltry landscapes? Erasure comes easy but reminiscence never lets go.

I deny hallucinating that skyline of flame trees - an afterglow of something mildly erotic. Soilent limbs seduced by a wayward sun in a cemetery south of utopia. It slumps like thick honey over our graves. But we resist, hovering light, with something like salvation tattooed on our frail bodies. We, the last ones, deserted, smoking Mary Jane at the edge of sanity as swallows drift overhead in V-formation. "V" for victory, surely? And the questions beg. Would you save me for a final ride to satori? Would the morning-after see us turned? Waking in another's fresh skin in an aftermath of ash and blown glass confusion? Would you hear the static of that analogue radio, signal dying beyond crystal mountains and know why free will was vanquished? "Why?" I asked, like a silent prayer spoken aloud. But like an orphaned child raised by a deer post-apocalypse, generations of grace devolved - wordless - the night stared back at me.

II: Europa

If ever there had there been a day to forgive, this would have been it. As if a comfort blanket, the soft ivory fog hung low over still waters. Obscurity and a rare calm had transformed the cold anvil of living into enchantment, gifting a welcome respite from the hard hammering of humanity. I merely admired the sky turning a blind eye on our behalf. All had settled inside the soft bones of a strangerland, the vernacular of newfound liberty - this Kingdom of Aves. Polzeath Bay curved like the perfect arched spine of a lover and I sat there at the edge of the earth, observing ghost ships gliding, swan-like, on distant horizons.

I lived for the coming and going of purpose - if such noun still persisted in the bedlam of post-war destruction. All the way to Europa, something vespertine had compassionately left a pale gold light on in the gloaming - champagne spilling in celebration of this secret voyeuristic life.

It was always the swans and their silent ways. The carrier pigeons had long become extinct with no true message to deliver to people like us. The last perished before ever reaching home - a dignified erasure conveniently timed in the blue hour, as foretold. Upon its final wingbeat, Earth assumed the divinity of an alcove. A huge shrine to house the new order and its values.

Roughly translated, we could still taste love if we found it in all its altered forms - residual faith from an act of annihilation we dare not speak of. If we wanted to risk a slow measured death for the forgotten pleasures of erotic encounters, the way I am by writing this. On a good night, I count silver fish to sleep, luminous planets spinning in delirium. But yes, I grip it in my palm, that last fragment of truth - a garnet sunset to die for, salvaged in the aftermath. A precious swansong of its own, worth memorising, if anything for a chance of another future with you.

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