Is this what they’ll see, when they come to excavate our time? Those unfortunates from future History faculties or departments, who opt to major or specialize in twenty-first century Western society? After they’ve finished trawling the Twitter and Facebook archives, read through page after page of rage-fueled political debate or social grievance, studied the writings of our days to gain a sense of who we were as a people, what drove us, what our passions were, examined them to form an impression of us in the same way historians in days past looked at cave paintings or hieroglyphs or beautiful manuscripts. After they’ve sifted through the hatred and intransigence and bile, and ever-increasing polarization. Will they see us as a collection of angry, trapped faces, locked in eternal silent screams, howling our fury out into echo chambers where no-one is actually listening, paralyzed within our own resentment and self-righteousness, as surely as those granite expressions are fixed to the wall?
I shiver, as I turn away from the concrete scowls, this group of evil visages fused forever into the stone, seeming to send a rush of cold air through the church even though no door is open. The sight of them haunts me. Makes me want to wrap my arms to myself and run home to the little corner of safety and refuge I mercifully still have, in my (for now) somewhat peaceful part of the world. The idea that they might be our representation. That this might be the lasting impression of us that future academics commit to their books makes me want to curl up in my bed with the blankets huddled to me, and hide from the very thought of it. Because, it’s hideous. A horrid, grim, dark depiction of humanity, that seems to me to shout condemnation at every last one of us.
Is it what we deserve, I wonder, as I make my way quickly down the aisle, past the rows of empty pews, past the silently judging statues of saint after saint, another cold burst of air blowing out the last remaining candle behind the altar marking some unknown soul’s anniversary. Is this what we’ve brought upon ourselves, through years of complacency, of quiet oppression, of lack of certainty, of (apt to wonder as I make my way through a church) inflexible ideology? The anger, the toxicity, the nihilism, the near-madness we seem to have descended into, has it all been the result of trying to impose control over the world around us? Of those who benefited from nothing changing for so long refusing to do anything to help those who didn’t? Does ordered evil always, in the end, give birth to more chaotic, unpredictable darkness? It’s not like it hasn’t happened that way before.
I don’t know the answer. The only thing I know for sure, as I continue to sense the eyes of those snarling faces at my back as I flee out into the night air, is that I’m terrified it’s already too late for us to change it.
Christopher Moore is a Northern Irish writer, and a graduate of English from Queen's University Belfast, as well as the MA in TV Fiction Writing at Glasgow Caledonian University. Alongside a number of playwriting achievements, including being longlisted for the 2019 Bruntwood Prize, he has had several short fiction pieces published in the UK, Ireland and US over the last few years.