BY Timothy moore
1. A History
One day the Green descended over London, and London alone, like a wave, consuming our sky in the bubbly, impenetrable soup. We haven’t seen the blue sky since. We blamed the terrorists. The anarchists. Inevitably, the immigrants. But our fury did little to squelch the ominous green that hung above us like a declaration. Retribution.
Of course, you know about the most radical changes already. The River Thames evaporating into the Green, while the other rivers and streams remained untouched. The strange blue plants and then blue fungus that overgrew in our oldest wood and brick buildings, that proved calamitous for our most elderly, who breathed it into their lungs and who later coughed it out in pools of blue blood, coughed it out until their throats became wretched and their bodies hollow. And the new smells emitting from this mass, a mix of soot and burning pig fat, a constant odor that is still hard to ignore, even to this day. And how could one not mention the children born, cursed, with the red eyes, dark like blood.
Understand that London has faced horrors before.
Our historians will tell you about the Great Smog of 1952, where pollutants in the air, mostly from coal, formed a thick layer of smog over the city for nearly a year. They will tell you about the pea soup fog of the late 1800’s, where the chimney smoke and mist from our long departed River Thames combined to nearly cripple the city, in a fog that had a consistency of pea soup. After they remind you of that, your attention may return back to the Green above us, floating steadily, bubbling, calm. The historians will tell you that with proper air restrictions, and change of habits, the smog and the fog were beaten. And so will go the Green. We wait.
2. The Story of a Boy Named Trout
Victor Trout was thirteen when he attempted his escape from London. He wanted to see the sky beyond the Green. Witness for himself, the Sun. His parents had been killed in the refugee riots, his father of Syrian descent, his mother London born. Though transport by boat and train was still possible for the rich, the Green prevented departure by air, and this made avenues of fleeing London scarce, valuable, and for the privileged, or the desperate.
His ancient grandmother, coughing up blue blood on her deathbed, she had grabbed him sullenly, and she stared into his dark red eyes, and she clutched onto his hands and she clutched at her throat and she died.
With her death, he had no reason left to stay.
Now, Victor Trout was not a child born from love. Victor Trout was born from need. Victor Trout was born into struggle and only knew struggle. He still remembered his parents teaching him to steal food from the nearby Tesco, sneak sandwich packs and chocolates past the guard with a smile from his dimpled face. A distraction. Victor Trout was alone and he needed to see the Sun for himself. He had heard about it from his grandmother, she had shown him pictures of the beautiful yellow ball clutched in a clear blue sky. Though he knew it was impossible, he wanted to grasp that yellow ball. He wanted to feel the hot yellow sneak between his fingers.
3. We Will Prevail
The red-eyed children were cursed to stay under the Green. They were born strangely adapted to live in these new conditions and these conditions alone. When being transported outside of London, most, with a few exceptions, would catch sight of the Sun, and, within minutes, go blind. That was when we knew that the Green was something more than an ecological disaster. Its cruelty reeked of sentience. And that chilled us to the bone.
And still, we continued. The Queen, and then after her passing, the King, remained in London. They reminded us of the old hardships and how the royal family held strong. The London Blitz. The terrorist attacks. The plagues.
We always prevailed. We had to believe we would prevail. All the while, we would never admit that we would look to the Green, and we would whisper: Tell us what to do. Tell us what we did wrong.
4. Trout Steadies Onward
Victor Trout wore stolen blue contacts. He plucked them from the face of a rich young boy leaving a Kensington school and also took his clothing, his suit pants and suit shirt, and identification papers. He tied up this poor rich boy, blonde, with pale skin and a thin frame, and he dropped him into a giant trash bin. This would give him a few hours, if he was lucky. His hair was already cut to resemble an appropriately appropriate young boy, despite his darker complexion and damaged teeth. He had perfected a shy, toothless smile when asked for proper identification.
When he reached the Tube station at Camden, the threshold seemed overwhelming. Thousands of people clogged the station. People trying to burst in, people trying to file out. They pushed and shoved and people were trampled in the onslaught. This was the constant chaos of the city. He had heard stories of the riots that broke out when whole zones were shut down, the fires that consumed parts of the city trapped by isolation. He calmed himself outside, when he looked at the Green above. Every once in a while the Green would emit a strange, melancholy hum. Sometimes the Green would drip tiny green drops onto the city, and he wondered if it was something like tears. And if it was tears, if it came from something like grief, or maybe, strangely, something like love. This horrified him.
5. What We Did With the Immigrants
You know very well what we did with the immigrants.
6. Victor Trout’s Grandmother Speaks to Trout on Her Deathbed, Before Succumbing to the Blue Fungus Later that Night
I’ve lived a long life. Long enough. You live long as I have, you see things that aren’t worth seeing. The things that get ingrained in here. That wad of meat in your head. I wish I could choose what I remember. Like my baby girl, your mother. I want to remember her at her best. Before all that poison she put in herself. Like after I worked all those doubles at the plant. Just so she could get that chiffon dress. She was seventeen, Victor. But in that dress she could have been thirty. Slim. Graceful. Confident. I could see her then growing up to be actress or an ambassador. She loved that dress. Didn’t want to take it off. I was jealous. I wanted her to love me as much as that dress. Or at least love me more because of it. But that wasn’t her way. I want to remember that dress. Remember that love. That feeling. But for the life of me I can’t remember – I can’t even remember the feel of the fabric, or if it fell below her knees. All I can really remember is the color: yellow. Golden yellow. Like it was from the Sun. Like if you touched the dress you would sear your fingertips.
7. Trout Nearly Almost Makes It Through Safely
Just when Victor Trout made it into the Tube station, and his blue contacts were able to fool the exhausted guards, and his papers were able to pass himself off as the rich boy, and his smile seemed to charm the elderly women who curiously stared at a boy alone, just when he thought he was going to make it, a news feed streaming by the pole to his left reported that a young boy, traumatized and stripped naked, was found in a trash dumpster at Kensington. It would only be a short time before they traced his papers back to the Tube, back to where he was standing. As the train made its stop he knew that he had to make it to Brighton. He would have to use different methods. That was when he ran from the train, slid through police and crowds, and made his way onto the tracks and into darkness.
8. What We Would Have Told Trout
You insult us with your devotion to abandonment.
Do you think we haven’t dreamed of leaving?
Do you think we do not feel imprisoned?
Victor. Understand. If we leave, we will be the first. We will be known as the generation of cowards. The traitors to our beloved city. If we abandon London, the Green will win. We will be nothing better than the dirt that is devoured by worms at our feet.
Don’t you understand? This is more than what we want. We are here because London needs us. If we did not believe that, we would not endure. So we believe.
You could ruin us all.
9. Trout On the Tracks
Trout descended the tunnel, lying flat against the wall while the trains flew past. The small gust of wind the trains would create was a cool relief in the sweltering heat that matted against his skin. The walk was so long and dismal that Trout felt like he was losing parts of himself, which he was. His shoes began to break apart. The clothing he stole would catch on formations of blue fungus, mutated and sharp and angry, growing from the wall, and the blue fungus would tear at the clothing as he snuck by, and the clothing would fall from his body. Even his blue contacts fell into the darkness, rejecting him.
That was when he heard noises. Others. They were lying against the walls, waiting for the next train to pass. Eight of them. Naked, covered in black dirt and grime. But Trout couldn’t see that. All he could see of them were their red eyes, glowing hungrily.
10. London is About Remembering
London will remain. Through fog or smog, through bombs or plague, under a soup. We will not understand how it remains, but it will remain. Someday, the Green will be gone. And we will be relieved, for a time. But we’ll always be waiting for the next thing to happen. Because we will remember.
Take Victor Trout, for instance. He was in the tunnels for days, crawling through pathways long abandoned. With the other children. They were naked, ugly. He found it remarkable to find so many in worse conditions than him. One night he spent cradling a baby girl, a daughter of a girl not much older than himself, crying in the sweltering darkness of the tube tunnels. He whispered a lullaby to the baby, trying to calm her. This lullaby was sung to him by his grandmother, when he asked about the Sun. She would kiss him on the cheeks and lift him above her face, and she would cradle him as he was cradling the baby. The lullaby went:
Day is done, gone the sun
From the lakes, from the hills, from the sky
All is well, safely rest;
God is nigh.
When the others heard him sing this, and saw the tears that came from the young boy, they used that as their mantra as they made their way through the black. Trout led them. He loved them, he realized.
And do you know what happened when they entered the light? When they saw the blue sky and the strange yellow ball? When the Green was just a memory in the distance? Trout held his hands out, and he reached for the Sun. He waited, with the others, to see if their eyes would flicker and fail. And he tried to loop the Sun in his fingers, and fall into the blue, his eyes breathing it all in, a new, perhaps final vision, and he kept telling himself, in a frenzy of ecstasy: Remember! Remember! Remember The Yellow!
Timothy Moore has had stories, reviews, and interviews published in McSweeney's Internet Tendency, the Chicago Reader, Chicago Review of Books, and Entropy. He is a Kundiman fellow, has been awarded a Luminarts Fellowship, and has participated in the Hinge Artist Residency. He writes and sells books in Chicago.