2.19 James & Charles drink in the saloon, then walk out into the fire JAMES Where were we?” James said. “Oh yeah. I remember. You know James, my character, was writing a story set in the city, all of which happens on one day, which is my version of the Odyssey and Ulysses kind of mashed together. My idea is, what if this James writer guy is himself in a book, it would be autobiographical, and it would seem real to him. But what if he and Charles and Maria start to get the idea that they aren’t real and they are also in a book. That’s where I come in, because actually I wrote both books, and this world is the real one, but now I’m not so sure. Have you noticed it’s on fire?” Charles looked through his pockets. Nothing there. If anything happened, he couldn’t even prove he was alive. Meet me by the sea, she said. Be sure you’re wearing a white horse. CHARLES watched his ossified feet treading gingerly on the road. In the end, there’ll always be jealousy between the writer and the characters. It’s naturally going to be worse in a writer’s first book. Luckily, one is protected, more or less, from an author stepping out of line. They’re very sensitive to textual discomfort. They have to have a very good reason for getting rid of you. On the other hand if it all goes to shit I don’t want to go down with the ship, that’s the captain’s job. Good luck, sailor. He seems to have underestimated Maria. Typical writer. In love with the first person. Hmmm. I wonder if this might not be the time to gracefully exit. 2.20 Maria destroys the world with a nitro-gasoline bomb, then skips gaily off to meet Charles, having planned their escape 2.21 Tom Ryan Shuffling uneasily in his upside-down, crisply burnt chair de wheels Lord Mayor Tom Ryan wondered whether he should finish this ceremonial toast to death’s stinging victory by tossing a little earth over himself with an undertaker’s trowel. 2.22 George McIntyre found the going difficult, severely handicapped by the lack of wall-maps in the sewer system, something he would remember to attend to if he ever got out of here. 2.23 JAMES lurched through the streets, his shirt burn off his back. Only now, after an hour or two blinded by Blind Ned’s, did he realise the city around him was seriously engulfed in flames and that this wasn’t likely to be a good thing. 2.24 DAD As evening turned to night Dad and Ted began searching for survivors, but finding only corpses which they were hauling onto their boat to take back and bury. The water, silver-blue and green, gleamed in the light of the full moon, hanging over the scene like a huge, distended eye. 2.25 maria and Charles It was tomorrow, bright and early. Vague currents of high tide eddied, soon to be pulled away towards the sea by invisible lunar forces. At world’s end, the weather was idyllic, the sun beaming down like the face of a happy child. Islands, dotted the bay like freckles on the sea.