It was fairly strange, the fact how long those four point seven seconds between when the bomb detonated down in the foundation and when he actually started to feel his office floor shifting could stretch.
One instant he stood by his desk with a hand on the edge, pristine black glass – he detested mahogany, like he detested all kinds of wood made into furniture – and leafed through a report that now wouldn’t matter anymore. There were numbers, a flurry of spider legs frozen in mid-pursuit of one another. As he brushed his fingertips over them, he found none of them to be particularly warm or cold. None of them to be particularly alive. None of them particularly anything at all, except for black, and still, and scenting perhaps a little bit of his secretary’s perfume.
He used to smell that perfume whenever she’d walk up too close to him to drop one of the reports on the glass of his desk, whenever she’d bend over and smile that luscious little smile that gleamed like a bloody crescent, whenever one ebony tress of hair would slip from her courtly tied knot and slither over her shoulder like a snake from a tree.
He used to smell that perfume when he’d be thinking Biblical allegories in one moment and nothing at all in the next, when he’d reach out and bend her over and slide up her skirt and unbutton his pants and all the rest, waves of perfume and bristling sheets of paper and his own, agonized moans.
He caught the whiff of her odor like a ghost from the report.
The next moment he took a step towards the window. No window at all, to be precise, because a window by definition would be an opening in a wall, and there was no wall at all to speak of, just one continuous pane of mirror glass, transparent from where he was standing but opaque from the outside. Trees and ponds, little hills with artificial grass far below, a few people on picnic blankets sipping what looked from up there like champagne. The silhouettes of skyscrapers shadowing it all, like godly blades cleaving the overcast sky.
Always overcast in this city, always heavy and grey like a field of iron molten and then cooled again in the middle of a wave. People down in the park were wearing sunglasses even though there was no sun to be seen. The sun in this city was but a legend, something you knew from pictures, or business trips, or from your childhood home out in the countryside where you’d watched apples be created from flowers between branches swarming with bees.
The first rumble was too faint for him to even process it in time.
There was a smaller coffee table in the corner of the room, adorned with a whiskey decanter and half a dozen pictures in black frames – all of them himself, all of them with some puissant person or another: a president, a chief executive, a four-star general, a busty blond film star. The latter had also worn perfume, cherry blossom, and had had the words Live for Love tattooed inches above her cunt. Of that he also possessed a photograph, albeit not in a frame.
The ground tilted. One of the photographs fell over, but the floor moved away from it so it took unnaturally long to reach it and shatter its glass upon the cold tiles.
His eyes widened. He uttered a quiet “what the …” before the tilt become too much and his feet started slipping to the side, towards the window front, towards the park. He became aware of a noise that had already been there seconds before, a deep and droning noise like a men’s choir howling somewhere in the caverns below the tower. He became aware of a force tearing his world askew, lifting him and pushing him and sending the rest of the framed photographs up into the air, lifting his Montblanc fountain pen and the whiskey in its decanter and the decanter itself, smashing one of the window panes and sending thousands of iridescent glass stars into the open where they reflected fire, something red and bright and bestial from below, and they were the most color his city’s sky had seen in a long time.
He imagined screams as the mouths of the people in the park below gaped, but he couldn’t hear a sound.
The noise had swollen to a roar, equally hungry as the fire, swallowing all other sound that there ever had been.
He didn’t know why or how or for what obscure political idealism. He didn’t even know that it was a bomb, his mind was too absorbed by the beauty of more window panes bursting into fiery clouds and hanging frozen around him in the air, as he fell, and he fell, and he fell.
Seven point nine seconds had passed from when he had still thought everything to be perfect to there being nothing at all anymore.