‘Parabola’

That winter was the worst anyone had known. This weather, people would exclaim at the roadside as they lashed ropes to towbars. Never known anything like it.

When the snow melts, there are branches across the paths; whole trees fallen under the weight of the snow. It’s gone now, I whisper to them, you can come back. It was only water. But they won’t come back. That’s what breaking is.

Now the papers won’t stop talking about orbits, satellites, scenarios. We’re starting to realise something’s not quite right. You can see it in the mothers’ eyes at the school gates, in the way cars drive, in the contents of supermarket trolleys: we’re going off course.

The summer goes by. I forget to lift the potatoes. When the sweet peas flower, I don’t cut them for the first time since I’ve lived here. They wither in the heat. Then the news bulletins start to talk in days, and the number is sixty.

My jumpers lived in the bottom drawer, and then in boxes under the bed. One day, I empty them into those big blue bags and leave them outside the charity shop. I don’t know who’ll want them now.

It’s not really about the jumpers. It’s about the cars they find running in garages, the kids dressed for school, looking like they’re asleep. The bloated things that appear in the river beds when the water’s gone and then burst open under the sun. We all had a decision to make that last month, and for most of us, it was how.

Some time in the future, before it all ends for good, one last voice will say, hello? Anyone? Won’t you come back? And all she will hear is silence, and then she will go too.