We watched from the mezzanine, the gathered crowds lighting fireworks, bellowing their goodbyes with acronyms and capitals— a long road, love and hate. We bore witness the end of our own world, the pixelated dragons and glitched armour, the empty houses, alcoves laden with trophies. We looked up from the fading sand— other worlds where others gathered beneath iron horses and green pyramids. Some sat beneath towering trees, or alone, in swamps, in snow, in ash and fire. We counted together—farewells, a brief message, and then, in a flicker—nothing. It was gone. The all-nighters as hopeless undergrads, the itch while backpacking in summer, the gentle rise of the welcoming refrain— I hear it still, on quiet nights, when screens are dark. There was a day I stood in that place that doesn’t exist— I walked, out beyond the sandstone walls, out beyond the desert steppes— it was still there, deep within the valley of bones, as if untouched by greed it stood, clear and bright. I sat before the doorway, and looked upon the empty tracts. Will you return? I promise. Those were the last words we spoke.

James O'Sullivan