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It's us or the world
I sit wordlessly, gazing at Emilia as she sobs, the river curling round our dragging feet. I grip the branch, my knuckles turning a distinctive white.
My hands slip, splinters digging into my vulnerably flesh. My fingers slip under the tough cord of the one of the nooses tied firmly to the branch. I panic, afraid of falling.
Emilia looks up at me, tears streaming down her thin face. She looks past me at the over-flowing river. I follow her grief-stricken gaze to find the Titanic, the Mary Rose, the Thistlegorm, the Queen Mary, and thousands of other ghost boats floating across the murky water past us. High above us, the destroyed planes of 9/11 and other horrific crashes line the sky, the mangled metal birds leaving thick trails of black smoke after themselves.
I turn back to Emilia. She wipes her bloodshot eyes, staring back at me.
“It’s us or the world,” she whispers, the voice crackling with fear.
Taking one last deep, sorrowful look into my eyes, she slides from the branch, toppling into the dark, unforgiving waters below.
I stare around at the never-ending liquid surrounding me, stretching into the horizon. Chimneys and slanting slate roofs poke out of the water. The riff of a guitar echoes through the empty air around me. Voices mash together, the words impossible to tell apart. They stop abruptly, as if someone had pulled the plug on the speakers, letting one single, lonely voice be heard. “The world.”
Taking a deep breath, I plunge into the waters after Emilia.
I float, just below the surface, terrified. The bodies of thousands of people lay thickly over the bottom. Some are skeletons already, others still intact, reaching towards me, their blue fingers pointing back up at the tree.
I turn, following their direction.
Instead of the nooses floating on the surface above me, they hang down, as if the land is dry as a bone. In the first hangs Emilia, her neck bruised, her wide eyes staring at me, begging me for help. And in the second, I see myself, limp and lifeless, my fingers caught in the rope as well as my neck.
Terrified, I kick my legs furiously, trying to swim away from this horrific hallucination before me. A hand clamps around my leg, dragging me down into the darkness.
The water turns red around me. The last thing I hear is Emilia’s voice, bubbling through the water.
“It’s us or the world.”