Apocalypse 2020: Two Sunsets
And like a little girl cries in the face of a monster that lives in her dreams - Maroon 5
Once upon a time I was scared of aircraft flying overhead.
When I tell people about it, I also point out that this was Before. Last century. Back when being scared of an aeroplane crashing into a building was a ridiculous phobia, and not a whole-of-society nightmare. Strangely enough it started to get better, After.
A bit over a year later we had terrible bushfires here in Canberra. I was working part time, but it was uni holidays and I was still healing after some bad burns to my hands (completely unrelated to the bushfires). My flat was positioned so that the waterbombing helicopters flew back and forth overhead dozens of times a day. I spent weeks sitting under my dining table having rolling panic attacks while my hands and arms itched under the bandages.
Flash forward to now. We've had bushfires and constant aircraft. The smoke and worry, along with the heat, has sapped my resilience. A couple of weeks ago I was startled by a helicopter flying overhead, and managed to pour some boiling water onto my hand, and that threw me into a flashback. Flashbacks are fascinating: instead of a mild scald over the back of my admittedly sensitive, scarred thumb, I felt the full agony of flaming oil up both hands and arms, far more painful than it had been in the moment, masked by adrenaline and damaged nerves. The smoke in my nose already had the rancid tang of burnt suburbia, but in my heightened state it took on the very particular scent of charred skin. All I could hear was my own internal voice screaming at me to get down low and go, go, go.
I've been very careful since. Breathe, slowly, count. Keep counting. Breathe. The helicopters fly over all day. Thursday an air tanker crashed half an hour's drive south. The rest of the day was a blur. Breathe slowly. Count. Keep breathing.
Tonight, driving home after dinner, there were two sunsets. The ominous puce glow in the west, through the smoke. The angry orange flare across the south, the Orroral fire as it burns through the remains of the Honeysuckle Creek Tracking Station.
Night has fallen, and so has the smoke. To the north of me the smoke is lit up from underneath by the lights of the city, 20km away. To the south the sky is lit from underneath by bushfire, 20km away.
It's getting harder and harder to breathe.