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A Magazine for Sheffield

A World Lit Only by Fire

On a world lit only by fire, a cold wind blows across a continent ravaged by war and industry. There is nothing green, no signs of life. What water can be found shimmers with petroleum rainbows in the light of a dying sun. The smashed hands of dead cities claw silently at a sky the colour of static. Decapitated skyscrapers lean drunkenly askew, like broken teeth rotting in a crumbling concrete jaw.

At the centre of the continent is a vast flat plain, as if some machine of unspeakable size and power had scraped it clear. At the centre of the plain is a vast factory. The factory is full of machines whose purpose and function is not apparent, engaged in the production of products unidentifiable, for a market unimaginable. Steam hammers and presses slam, boom and hiss with sullen, rhythmic malice. Wrist-thick metal cables thrum and buzz in the darkness above the machines, vibrating in time with the banging below. Every now and again, metal scrapes shrilly upon metal, like the punctuation of an alien grammar.

At the centre of the factory is a room with no windows but 99 monitors, flickering with images of the blasted landscape beyond. At the centre of the room sits the last man on the planet, with the control cables and data feeds crudely spliced into what were once his eyes, his ears, his brain. His wrecked mouth mostly barks orders, but sometimes what's left of the mind inside mutters and murmurs to itself, trying to remember where it all went wrong, or howls “I told you so!” to a dead, uncaring world.

This, dear reader, is what it sounds like.

Paul Graham Raven