DAY TWENTY-THREE: Tuesday 14th December 2055, London
Mathew stands by the dragon Yinglong’s massive head. She might be sleeping. Her eyes are closed, her neck rests across one foreleg, her long tail curls around her body like a sleeping cat. Though she has been dead many years in the time of this world, she still looks whole. Untouched, her scales will not easily decay, but if he pushes at her with any force, she will crumble to dust. Her mate, Shen, lies ten feet away, resting less peacefully, splayed out on the ground, a broken leg awkwardly angled away from his body.
They rampaged through their world, eating whatever they found, destroying anything they couldn’t eat, until there was nothing left. Then, starving, they turned on one another. At the end of their last battle, Shen came crashing down to earth with Yinglong hurtling after him. Finding him already dead, broken on the ground, she was too weak and exhausted to eat him. Instead, she curled up at his side, nursing her own wounds, and went to sleep forever.
Mathew walks around their bodies until he can no longer stand looking at them. He kicks at the ground, stony and cindered, black with charcoal from thousands of incinerated trees. It crunches under foot. As he steps back, he puts his hands behind his head, and looks about. The whole world is burned.
On the mountain in the distance a line of black tree stumps rears against the sky. Fog rolls down between the bare rocks. Now there are no trees, no living things at all. There is nothing to stop the wind blowing across the hills and the mountains and howling between valleys. The forest that once grew lush and green is all gone to ashes. Behind him the hunting lodge Eva built for him is reduced to its stone foundations; the carcasses of armchairs stand forlornly by the charred stone fireplace. Everything is burnt. Everything is destroyed. He surveys the world Eva left in his care with dry, hard eyes and thinks, bitterly, how appropriate. There is a flat low rock nearby. He goes and sits on it and contemplates the things he made, neglected, and through neglect, destroyed.
Eva has not come. She knows when to leave him alone. He does not want company.
He waits for a long time until it starts to rain, hard driving icy rain numbing the skin on his face, and then he stands and walks back to the lodge, stepping over broken glass, stooping beneath the felled charred beams of the roof, heading to the back of the house and the door out of this world, standing oddly untouched in its frame. He steps through and closes it behind, knowing he will never return.
Then he is sitting in a chair in the Darkroom in his house at Pickervance Road.
It really is my house now.
Initiating the program managing Eva’s world, he finds the delete option and selects it. A prompt is thrown up,
Please enter administration password.
He enters the password and submits it.
Proceeding will delete all files. Do you wish to continue?
“Yes,” he says.