Not stable or continuous, but the tap tap tap from air-shaft or hull, the last sound in the series possibly the very last sound. The air is running out, we did not see ourselves as rescuers.

The maps, having proved deceptive, also prove susceptible to flame and to the sudden inundation of saltwater. Not the beech trees, as was promised. Not the harbour. Not the gold.

On the moors, where we search for the children, mounds and tunnels and scree remind us of our forebears, activities, now moribund, that bound ancestors to this location, their evenings very short with such inadequate access to light.

Messages from forgotten legions, stores hidden in long-abandoned forts. Lonely guards on great walls, working their bodies after duty, bereft of family, posted for years.

In far-off cities, where digital spirits trudge the treadmill of flash and celebrity, dissatisfied crowds hide their emptinesses among each other, buoyed by vapour, labouring for fossil codes. The earth is running out, we still have time to find a new cliff.

Sense, intermittently made, permanently deleted. Abstinence from meaning. Putting bodies down at the end of the working day, the engines of neurons idle in dreams, the flesh dissolved to warped memories of Persia and Siam.

If the past would stay still, we could find our place in the present. Moments, though, each one, are tiny insurrections. The years, like fallen trees, gem with luminous green moss, rot and shard to the delight of ants, mush with rain.

As the drowned sailors float past, the children stare from the edge of the river. Eyes no longer see. Mother, leaning her back on the trunk of the soaring pine, enjoying the shade, murmurs lullabies. Elsewhere, politics happens, taking the mouthless and sending them on.

The enemies are running out, growing too much like human beings, too detailed with freckles and football and daughters. We must keep them as enemies, however, because what would we do if they became friends?

Under the flags we inherited, our special music plays. Will the emperor hear of our sacrifice? The Party has no one inside it: the law is made by us all.

Moments, though, each one, are tiny states, massive with established orders.

I have joined the Doomed Explorers Club. Piccadilly. Passing the port: click, crack, bump and ceramic roll of snooker, among languid talk, ghosts in cigar smoke of dervishes and foreign devils.

Arguments arise. First it is the wrong map, then the wrong place on the map.

Off the map, just here, a cat freezes. Stalks a white butterfly. Just off the word, there, a pounce and claws lash.

As the land dissolves into the map, the conquerors congratulate themselves, and History, behind the screen, puts her hand to her ear, and listens.

Tap | Tap | Tap

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