There are forces in the city greater than the stream of cars and buses charging through the streets day and night, greater than the parades of pedestrians and rows of skyscrapers towering like giant chess pieces at war, and these forces combined are nothing less than the world wrapped into a fist, lodged just beneath the surface of the earth, ready to explode.
Jarobi manoeuvred his tricycle taxi through these central city streets, unaware, like everyone else, of the power hidden beneath the asphalt. He was too busy hustling and struggling to keep one step ahead of his competition – trying to lure confused tourists for a ride, yelling at them as they fumbled with their Google maps.
Cutting ahead of a rival taxi bike and scooping up a couple of Danish tourists who spoke little or no English, Jarobi blasted Afro beats out of his sound system, and the LEDs wrapped around his spokes sparkled like fireworks at Chinese New Year. He decided to take the tourists through a more obscure route around Soho because he had a feeling a terrorist attack was imminent – like reading runes, he sensed something in the movement of the crowds that night.
Wondering how much loose change he could squeeze out of his customers; he slowed his bike down from a sprint to a crawl as he approached a dead end. He was unable to avoid a small bump in the road that collapsed in on itself, and with the strength of a hurricane rising from the earth the surrounding buildings were blasted into fragments. His tricycle was swept aside and his arm broke in two places. The Danish couple cracked their heads against the pavement, leaving them concussed.
As he struggled to drag them to safety, gunshots thrust through a cloud of smoke and then a band of soldiers dashed across the rubble, firing their weapons at enemies on the far side of the street.
“Stay here,” said Jarobi to the couple, “I’ll get help.”
As he climbed out into a clearing, military aircraft soared overhead, smashing through the sky and dropping bombs on a cluster of tanks rolling over cars and concrete bollards.
He turned a corner and he came face to face with hundreds of men and women in yellow jumpsuits on their knees, chained and enclosed by wire mesh fencing. They wailed as sores festered on their tortured backs. He stepped closer to investigate and grabbed hold of the fence. A prisoner looked up at him and mouthed the word, “Help.”
Jarobi called out, “What can I do?”
Then a guard in knee high boots and a peaked hat reached for his handgun and called out, “Hey you, come here!”
Jarobi scrambled into a side street where he felt the scorching sun attack his skin. On a stretch of sand, naked children with bulging eyes and swollen bellies rested their heads on their mother’s laps, as flies dipped and dodged around their heads.
“I can’t take this,” he sighed, “whoever’s doing this, please stop.”
He wiped sweat from his brow and heard a groaning sound from above and as he looked up, he saw a white edifice dominating the horizon. It was an iceberg slowly creeping into the city, crumbling and cracking as it barged everything out of its way.
As the ice loomed, water swelled around his feet and he heard a roaring sound in the distance. A ten-foot wave rampaged through the city from the north, swallowing pylons, trees and lorries.
He dashed into the nearest surviving high-rise building – windows shattered, leaning to one side – and sprinted up the stairs as the water climbed after him. At the top floor where he was safe, he bent over, held his agonised arm and panted for breath.
He looked out of a crushed window and his heart sank as the lifeless bodies of the Danish couple floated by on the swirling currents – blood seeping from their foreheads.
In that moment, he realised that all the elements of existence were moving within him, tumbling around in his imagination, playing out like rolling news reports, the sun and the moon aligned in the sky guiding everything, and he felt as alive and as close to death as he had ever done before.