Red sky at night... Writer's delight

It's strange sitting here in the soft autumn sunlight, looking out at a cool blue sky scattered with white clouds, to remember that just over a week ago the sky seemed apocalyptic. The red haze caused by storm Ophelia, smoke and sand smothering the sky, turning our world into something else for a while... we're unaccustomed to such phenomenon here in the UK. It had an otherworldly quality to it and something in our basic reptile brains felt uneasy. Felt threatened.

Whilst the view here in the east wasn't quite as dramatic as some, I was drawn ouside to see how our sky was affected. I left the house and at first thought a street light was reflecting in the windows of the cars and houses, only realising it was the sun's orange glow as I reached the top of the hill and this ball of red edged fire appeared above the trees and roofs. It was strange enough that it was beautiful.

I walked through some of the local parks as the sky darkened hours earlier than it should have. The sky amber as if touched by fire. It felt extraordinary and terrible; it felt like the start of something or the end of everything and I wondered how many artists and writers would be inspired to create something equally extraordinary or terrible?

Here's what I wrote:

The dust came from nowhere and was everywhere at once, in our eyes, our lungs, along our streets, inside cars and offices and homes despite closed windows and locked doors. It was a orange as the setting sun and it turned our world into another place.

We fled inside, an entire globe of people becoming shut-ins at their governments insistence. Taping up the edges of doors and windows, blocking chimneys and air conditioning units, and turning our homes into claustrophibic boxes of warm stale air which still managed to smell of rust.

No one knew where the dust had originated and the storms which shuffled the orange air around within the atmosphere seemed to have no relation to the dust's progress. It was as if it had come from beyond our planet. From the dark. From the stars.

After the first few days the scientists began making headway with testing the dust for toxins and after a week in our amber world people began returning to work regardless of the results. Things stubbornly returned to normal in our abnormal world.

The results returned fast; the dust seemed non-toxic, a fine powdered mist of minerals and seemingly benign obscure radiation clusters. After a few weeks everything was as it had always been barring the burnished sand which drifted in the gutters and against walls. It snuck into our homes on our clothes and in our breath, and only the most dedicated continued to attempt to irradicate all trace of it from their dwellings.

No one commented as everything we ate began to taste of rust and as the milk from all mammals, including human breast milk, turned a pale creamy orange. The dust was in everything, everywhere and there seemed to be no end to it.

With the colour filling the skies and dust drifting through the oceans to coat the sand and rock below; the forests and mountains being coated with this delicate infinite dusting of minerals; our world changed from blue and green to red. The rain fell orange and red, the rivers ran russet and the taps emitted a gush of amber which burnished our skin, clothes and property. Time passed and this became the norm. Our species globally became one as difference and race became impossible to distinguish when everyone was the same clay colour of earth.

As the generations who had known what a blue/green jewel we had been passed on, babes were born who had known no different and so our world changed.

Technologies adapted to filter the dust where necessary and the water systems no longer choked with the endless red silting in pipes, although the colour never returned to what it once had been. The fine dust was found to be rich in minerals which allowed huge technological advances and the notion of space travel beyond our red cloud of existence became more and more likely. If only we could see beyond the dust, see the stars.

One hundred years after it arrived the dust began to dissipate one warm summer's eve. Patches of purple, blue and void black emerged from the clouds. And the stars... There were few alive who had ever seen them with their own eyes and it felt like God was turning his dark glittering gaze upon us. It felt like a blessing. To many they feared it to be a curse as the roof of the world cracked open and peeled back, exposing us to the universe beyond. Like a rock had been lifted and we were the minute creatures vulnerable and shivering beneath the passing shadow of a predator.

The scientists rushed to calm and reassure; this was how the world had always been before. They turned their orange dusted telescopes towards those dark patches in the sky and they saw the universe as it had always been before, the planets and the stars and...

A world of scientists conferred; there was something aparently missing in the night sky, something which had been there since accurate scientic records had begun and now was just... gone.

Mars, the red planet, was gone.

The dust which had been coating us for a hundred years had once been another world. Our universe was forever altered.

But, to outside eyes, to another sentience, did our sloar system look that different from before? After all, we had always had a red planet.

We were now the red planet.


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