Belarus Floot sat there, a small coney cooking on a spit, barely any meat on the poor thing, and this was what passed for a good day here, now. It was no nightmare, no bad dream to be woken from; it was purely what was … that left after fire.

Across from him sat Charlie Gank, smoking what he claimed was a cheroot, nursing his ever-leaky eyes. Berenice, or Benny Fred was reading the rescued scrap of a piece of paper, said to contain the last words of one of the chiefs they pulled from the bunker.

‘Is that good,’ asked Peril Dewberry ‘Tell me if it’s a funny joke.’

‘Didn’t know metalmen had a sense of humour,’ offered the Dragon Melmice.

‘Give her a break, Melmice,’ said Tenken, The Metaphorman.

This small grassy knoll, high enough above the ruins of a city that remembered. So many cities that remembered. And as many men that remembered the same.

And what did they remember? That The Cuckoos stepped down through the clouds, and were driven back? That The Time Wars found themselves gravitating here and almost obliterating the planet – anchored at Greenwich and sending waves out through the Chronon Sea? That the Reality Wars birthed 666 anomalies that scattered out through the distributed network consciousness of five fictional characters become tulpas, that popularity had granted with powers beyond those described in the books? That all the machinations of the secret organisations stretching back through time had led to a point where extinction was more definitely on the cards than at any other point in time.

‘I heard,’ said the green-eyed Living Element, ‘That Quint Essential is helping to hunt down Ardenti In Mundo with the help of Carter Brecht, and that Spay was around again; reiterated, reconstituted, or however you would like to phrase it.’

‘Funny, that even here, with nothing left, with it all terminating, to expect peace is asking too much.’

‘Says the man with Weapon Eyes.’

‘Ah, shut up, Needler. Can I have some rabbit, Belarus?’

‘Sure, why not. Look, over there – there’s Martello, drawing another damned map. Go and stop him before he pulls someone in through A Slice.’

The streets were buried, shadows burned down to nothing, people gathered about trying to muddle on. It didn’t feel like there was a next waiting around the corner – this felt like the place you came to watch the world drain out the bottom. Stories must have an end, or the appearance of such, and this place was the knocked down kingdom of an ending; the toppled remains of a dream; a period at the end.

All these buildings fallen into their own footprint; set alight and burned down; a candle reduced to a wax seal. And who was going to say this wasn’t little more than epilogue? Little more than fade to black.


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