Nodeshell rescue, nodeshell rescue. Nodeshell nodeshell rescue rescue.
The wind turns them. We can't spare the electricity. They still shine, though, flashing out the Om Mani Padme Hum. The old ones worked fine, wood and leather. But one of the men in saffron had this bright idea, and now no-one wants to make an issue of turning them off. There must be a thousand of them, nestling amidst the golden roofs and the dhvajas. Atop the Potala, the Tibetan flag flies again. The sun rising over a snow-covered mountain. Turns out that didn't account for the reality of the situation very well.
Lhasa. A city of one million, holding ten. Perhaps the last one left. We stopped hearing from La Paz months ago. They tell us everything is fine, but word got round quickly. With this many people, crammed into every free space left, how could it not? I don't know what's stranger, that so many of us made it here, or that of all these people, so few of us saw it coming. It was in the 30s that things started getting difficult. I was too young to remember most of it, but by the time I was in high school we were fighting three different wars abroad just to keep the lights on at home. I remember seeing the footage on the news. The Argentine air force bombing one of the oil platforms off the Falklands. Grainy gun-camera video. When it finally went up it seemed to turn the world white for a few seconds. After that, the leaks. There was so much oil in the water you could see the black mark on the ocean from space, they said. I wondered about the astronauts up there, flying round in the ISS. What they thought of us.
Somehow I ended up a journalist. Managed to dodge all the recruiters. 'Join the real Tartan Army
'. Aye, right
. I didn't want to end up on the beachhead at Archangelsk
with the Black Watch
, thank you very much. Thank God for old wounds; went out without paying attention one day as a kid, lost most of the sight in one eye to the rain
. I was good for typing, but shooting at Russians just as starving as us? Forget it. When it all went to shit in the end, I was in Shanghai
, drinking overpriced martinis in a reinforced westerners-only bar and trying to rewrite a piece about food riots. The message had come back from London
, 'unwant thinkpieces'. They wanted pictures of some policeman getting dragged into the crowd and torn to pieces. Fuck knows where the photographer is, I thought. Last time I saw him he was sitting in his hotel room crying. I wasn't going looking for him. Going out of the compound at that time of night would've been suicide, and the fella from the Times (smarmy fucker he was) said the army were pulling in reinforcements from all over, into the big cities. Martini vs gunshot wound was not a hard decision to make.
We knew it'd been getting worse for years. The EU had been pouring enough money into reclaiming the bit of sea that used to be the Netherlands, after all. But I don't think any of us expected it to be so sudden. Later, we found out that some ice shelf the climate people had missed was further along than they'd thought. One fissure in the wrong place, and then all of a sudden it's tsunami o'clock. And me without my waders.
Shanghai lasted another couple of weeks. Everyone thought that once they'd started, we could weather it out. London was gone, along with any hope of my getting paid, not to mention most of the Eastern seaboard. But the waters just kept coming, and every day you'd wake up to hear somewhere else you knew was underwater, the authorities desperately trying to evacuate millions of people, without really having considered that there was nowhere to evacuate them.
I was on the last helicopter out. By then, most of the city was already flooded. As the chopper shook itself into the sky, I could see the Oriental Pearl looming over the city. People had been fighting to get in there. I didn't think it'd be tall enough.
How we ended up in Lhasa, I don't know. Closest place high enough, I suppose. The Chinese army had already gone, redeployed to fill sandbags in Szechuan or whatever. They'd left a lot of equipment behind, though. In all the chaos, it didn't take much for someone to decide to seize a few old rifles from a barracks and declare the state of Tibet open for business. With so many refugees, space was at a premium. A nation of mendicants. I ended up with a corrugated iron shack, built in a hurry halfway up a hill. These days it's beachfront property.
There were a lot of us. Refugees, I mean. We more or less ended up as second-class citizens. After all, we weren't the ones with the rifles, and the ones that were started deferring to the men in saffron. It wasn't too long before the lama came back. That's what he does, after all. The best of us, the useful ones, got shacks in the garden of the Potala, the massive red and white palace that towers over Lhasa. The rest of us... well, we made do. Once you've had to kill a man for trying to steal part of your roof, you gain some perspective on these things.
After a while, the waters were up so high we started seeing boats. Sailing right up to a city thousands of miles inland. Most of the time they just drifted in, filled with bodies. Sometimes people made it. But it wasn't too long before the order came down from on high. The next one that came in, they sunk out in the water with gunfire. If they drift in anyway, they set them alight and push them back out. The last ones to have come in alive told stories. Some Americans had taken an aircraft carrier. They said it was still floating around, cattle grazing on a flight deck covered in grass. I think they were delusional. Hunger will do that.
We had a scientist. Lau, I think his name was. He was the only reason we've lasted this long. Under his direction, they built greenhouses. The glass came from every window they could find. And now they grow enough for us to get by. We still lose thousands every year, but it's something. Actually, that brings me back to the wheels again. Maybe the monks are onto something. Lau went to the palace, asked if he couldn't use them to generate electricity, phase out the treadmills. The lama didn't like this idea. And given that the lama is eight years old and capricious, we didn't hear from Lau after that.
But day follows night, the prayer wheels flash out their song, and we endure.