The Day After

“What’s a karaoke bar?”, asked Leo.

“Well, I’m embarrassed to tell you that, but I am not quite sure either, honey bee”, I said, “I’m assuming there’ll be a microphone, and if we get lucky you might be able to sing, too. There may or may not be a pianist. That’s all I know.”

“What will I have to sing?”

“Huh. I’m not sure. Not really anything you want. I think they’ll have a list you can choose a song from. What would you like to sing?”. He didn’t know any songs, apart from the ones we used to chant on Monday mornings.

“Goodnight, Irene”, he said.

I laughed.

“How do you know that song?”

“I heard some Newcomers singing it.”

“Right. So you want to sing that.”



“It gives me a nice feeling. I think it’s a very dissolving song. It talks about changing your mind and things not really mattering much, and it talks about sitting down by the fireside bright with your family.”

“That is right.”

I guess it must have been a fairly unusual karaoke bar, but I can’t really say, since it’s the only one I’ve ever been to. The walls, floor and tables were all a blindingly luminous white. The walls were curvy and the ceiling was really, really low. The stage was a small, blindingly luminous white cube. There was a xylophone player. He was wearing a pink wig, a red clown nose, a blindingly luminous white tailcoat, a glittery turquoise bow tie, and white, but old and muddy Wellington boots. Leo walked in and walked immediately towards the stage, tested the microphone with his fingers, and announced, facing his audience of nearly empty tables – I was still standing by the door, and there was a couple making out, surrounded by many empty shot glasses, on one of the tables furthest from the stage – “I’m going to sing the old folk classic, Goodnight, Irene”.

The xylophone player started hitting his metal keys, noticeably out of tune.

“Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams”, Leo waved his ass slowly from side to side, like a windshield wiper.

“Shut up!” one of the people in the couple tried to shout at the top of their croaky voice, immediately giving their companion a hysterical laugh attack.

“Last Saturday night I got married
Me and my love settled down
Now me and my love are parted
I’m gonna take another stroll downtown

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams”. Leo was smiling now. He started moving his hands. He was inviting us to sing along.

“Sometimes I live in the country
Sometimes I live in the town,
Sometimes I have a great notion
To jump in the river and drown!” I didn’t know the lyrics very well, but did my best to keep up. For the chorus I stood up and waved my arms in the air.

“Rambling stop your gambling
Stop staying out late at night
Go home to your wife and your family
Sit down by the fireside bright”

Irene goodnight, Irene goodnight
Goodnight Irene, goodnight Irene
I’ll see you in my dreams”

The Night Before

Was he going to? Yes. It had started. We were going to tell people. And here’s how we were going to tell them:

“Because I had never been out of the big fields, I didn’t live my life for anyone else. I lived my life for the fields, because they were all that existed. It’s hard to explain. You’d have to be there. They are infinite. They are not infinite when you’re outside of them, that is true, I’ll give you that. But trust me on this one. When you are in them, they are infinite.”

“Well, that’s very interesting, tell me more about that. What was it like? Living your life for some fields? I mean no offense by this, but that does sound a bit unusual. You know, no matter how big they are”.

“When you live your life for the big fields, and not for other people, your whole life revolves around two things. One of them is watching the light change. You see, it is always sunny, back where I come from. Every single day. It’s just a naturally very regular place. Every day is exactly the same. Every day the sky turns pink again in the morning, and then blue again in the afternoon, and then black again in the night. It’s true, we have been blessed by the way the light changes. But that’s not all we need. Human beings are messy, you see. It takes a lot of effort for things to stay the same. So the other thing my life revolves around is everything else, everything else we have to do so that the mornings and the days and the nights can stay always the same. The same, just like the way the light changes.

“But”, he continued, “That kind of effort is not always what you think it’d be”. I held my breath. It was coming.

“We’re building a bomb”, he said.

Theo had fallen asleep on his chair and was wheezing softly.

“Building a bomb? Why would you need a bomb in a place like that?”

“Beats me”, I thought.

“We’re building a bomb”, Leo said, “To wipe mankind off the face of the planet. The reason why we are doing it is because most of us believe that the end is near, that since the Unification what is happening is no longer evolution or progress, or rather, if it is evolution or progress, it is evolution or progress towards the end. Of course, it’s different in the big fields, because things are always the same there. People who grew up there, most people who grew up there, don’t seem to feel the same weight of responsibility that people who come from the Outside say they feel. Their weight is a different one. It is the weight of being a gear in some sort of universal, unknown, eternal mechanism. Yes, the whole of human history is a gear in this mechanism. It’s just that some individuals are more aware of it than others. And now we believe it’s time to forcefully accelerate this global process of, huh, of dissolving, as we call it, of perceiving ourselves not as separate bits with different perspectives and needs but as different parts of the same engine. That makes the sky turn pink again and then blue again and then black again, every single day without failure. We need to start seeing progress as the process of dispersing things, dispersing our affections, our convictions, our longings, our passions, rather than accumulating them. When the end is as near as we believe it is – as we know it is, for we are the ones in charge of it – then things start mattering in a very different way. There isn’t the infinitely distant line of the imaginary future to be running towards. What you see as progress becomes indissociable from your ability to accept things exactly as they are. That is why we need The Bomb. We need it so that things can matter in this new way.”

“But does everyone need to die?”, she seemed upset like a child who doesn’t want to have a bath before bed.

“I’m afraid that’s what most of us – of them – think, yes. But that’s why I ran away.”


“To alert people about The Bomb. I’ve decided it’s wrong and I want to stop them.”

“Why have you decided it’s wrong?”

“Because the truth is that it makes things matter in exactly the same old way, with the difference that people have to die in the end.”

“People always die in the end.”

“That’s bad.”

“Yes it is, boy. Well!” Viola got up from the sofa, wiped some imaginary bread crumbs off her skirt, as she did every time she got up, and started gathering dirty tea cups and such things from the day. “That was very interesting, thank you for telling me all that. I hope you two get what you want. I am sorry about Theo, he’s an early riser and an early-to-bedder. Is your room ok?”

Leo look at me in confusion. “Yeah, it’s great”, I rushed to say.

“Very good then, I hope you two have a very good night!” Viola said cheerfully and disappeared through the kitchen door.

Leo and I walked up the stairs in silence.