It was early morning, the milk light of late Dawn. My husband and I were sleeping in his children’s home in the suburbs of Sydney.
It was December 2019. the house was silent, but nevertheless charged with a weak vibration of anticipation; all still sleep, but slightly. Remi and I had planned a trip to Queensland that morning, where we would camp a few nights on one of the most beautiful beaches in the world and then dive into the Great Barrier Reef. Although Remi spent much of his childhood in Queensland, he had never had the opportunity to visit the reef. It was a dream trip.
It was also a promise of escape. In general, we spent most of our time in a cabin we owned in British Columbia. I wrote books; he ran a film production network. We both worked at home so we could live almost everywhere. During the winters, we sometimes hid at the bottom of the planet with Remi’s parents to escape the cascading darkness. But this year the Plan had turned upside down. For weeks, wildfires had burned in the nearby mountains and elsewhere, the worst fires in everyone’s memory, fires that had already ignited in the pages of history. We had accidentally traded a darkness for a darker, more menacing darkness. After spending weeks mostly indoors and hiding from the smoke, it itchy us to go north, into the wet jungle and sea wind.
That morning I had just woke up and spent ten or twenty or thirty minutes looking at my phone—who really knows the phone time to be slippery-and was getting out of bed and looking out the window when my husband abruptly sat and looked out the window, too. He looked at the wavy branches of a eucalyptus tree whose bark stood out in white shreds. We used to do this, wake up and look out the window at the trees across the street to judge how thick the smoke was that day: weak trees meant bad air.
The Air that day was bad.
He turned to me, then looked out the window again. His face was strangely loose, his lips dangling at the corners.
I thought I woke him up all of a sudden, and he was still groggy and half-dreaming. “Go back to sleep,” I said.
He looked at me, by the window, again at me, squinting, with his mouth open, with an expression almost of curiosity, as if everything looked a little unreal.
Rubber trees wave in a silent, deaf wind.
Spotted pigeons go roo, roo.
Remi’s right hand was bent and held close to his body like a small broken wing. He looked at it and felt it with his left hand.
“Something is wrong,” he says. His eyes were childish. “Something is not ri ight. I Love Lilly mer.”The words melted on his tongue. He tried to get out of bed, but found that he could not stand on his right leg and crashed back.
I felt a fresh and distant wave of panic. I knew I had to call an ambulance. But as if in a nightmare, when I picked up my phone, I realized that I did not know the 911 number here in Australia.
I later learned that there are 000, a number I will never forget: nothing nothing nothing, or void void void, or oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.