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THE LAST NIGHT ON EARTH

Installation using 111 oil on canvas paintings as well as a series of drawings and written pieces on paper, two hand-bound books, and two hand-written journals. 2022.

EDITH
          Are you sure it’s here?
 
DEAN nods, not looking even a moment to the side but continuing his sights forward, his pointed and pale profile bright against the increasingly dark evening sky. His platinum hair is slicked against the sharp ridges of his skull, shining to highlight its bony definition and light up his nonchalant grimace. Just a way out of the village, the pair have come to a gate of dark, wrought iron only visible by the little light its curves reflect off the newly risen moon. The two doors have been swung open, a redundant welcoming gesture when no walls or fence connect to the gate’s pillars. It appears a strange unused monument - or apparition - rather than a functioning portal.

DEAN

[seeing EDITH’s reaction]

Houses like this, they’re dying out. It’s a shame, I know. But things are changing, I suppose, and those families that looked after and cared for these houses are kicked out - of their own homes! Onto the streets! And these places, they’re just left to rot.

Before she’s got her bearings of the place, DEAN has already weaved them through to the back of the hall where double doors open to the loudest part of the manor and the party’s primal cell: the ballroom. Entirely too large for the house, to almost an illogical degree, EDITH attempts to rationalise what she can see of the space above the swarming floor; she could make out at least two levels of balconies (again absolutely crammed) leading up to a massive barrel-vaulted ceiling, curving over a stage at the other end with magnificently gilded gold proscenium again stamped with that familial shield and strange script. Here is housed the band who, from this distance, appear a jumble of shadowy and almost inhuman shapes. The music is now quite deafening as DEAN drags her out onto the dance floor to join the smiling and uninterested masses.

Shutting the door behind him, he walks to the window and looks out over the clear night’s landscape as the stars’ light speckles down over the viridescent moors north of Willowfield. The green is so intense it seems to be absorbed into JOHNNIE’s pink 

skin…or perhaps his sickness has not quite left him. A single tear drops off his bizarrely grassy cheek. And so it is here in this isolated retreat that JOHNNIE remains while awaiting the party’s end, the sound from the band seeming only to increase in volume.

EDITH is growingly uneasy amongst the churning cycles of the dancefloor. She has been waiting for a break in the music to make an escape but, with none apparently coming, she is forced to create her own.

 

EDITH

[eyes still darting around the room]

          I’ll just find the powder room; I’ll
          only be a moment.

 

DEAN doesn’t seem to notice, and if he does he doesn’t seem to care, plucking another girl from the crowd at random and continuing to dance.

The roast is placed on the table and the woman strains over her plate to take the red apple from its mouth. She takes one bite, her mind clearly elsewhere, before casting it into a napkin aside.

 

ESTHER

[finally noticing EDITH she swivels around in her seat]

           Would you like to join us, dear?

The smell hit first: lemon, but it wasn’t a fresh scent, it was as though every inch of surface had been drenched and scrubbed with a sickening citrus stench. The maximalist approach continues in the décor: yellow lampshades hurl warm yellow light down onto the yellow floor below, on which a round yellow mat sits central underneath three oval sinks each with their own oval mirror above. Either side of these is a symmetrical arrangement of similarly shiny yellow cabinets topped with yellow clock and tissue box and little novelty soaps, all flanked by yellow towels hanging on yellow tiling underneath wallpaper patterned with yellow illustrations of fables or fairy tales that EDITH can’t make out. A small circular table stands in one corner topped with a bowl of daisies so fresh they look almost artificial resting on a lace doily. And, eeriest of all, two yellow-haired women dressed in gowns not dissimilar to EDITH’s own – although (of course) in yellow fabric - facing the mirrors either side of the one directly opposite EDITH as she rushes in.

Just as EDITH is becoming lost in thought, THE YOUNG WOMAN’s nose begins to bleed, trickling and then flooding out of her nostrils into a thick stream. It mixes with her scarlet lipstick like tributaries forming a river. The occasional drip splatters onto her dress, staining the immaculate yellow red.

Map of Willowfield

Flustered and alone, EDITH turns to take one last look at the house, tilting her head up at the entablature she didn’t get to have a proper look at before. A shield adorned with a cross of thin but leafy branches framing a simple ‘O’ above a sternly carved phrase:

‘SEMPERVIRENS ET AETERNUM’.

 

She frowns and turns her back, lifting her skirt as she calmly walks away into the darkness. She doesn’t turn back again.

The green wallpaper seems to have lifted a bit at the corner, so JANE – unable to resist – reaches to pick at it and slowly peels it back. As it comes away, her eyes widen. Behind the paper she is shocked to find not plaster or stone or brick, but nothing. Not blank wall - absolutely nothing. She lifts her arm to it and tries to press against it, only to watch her hand disappear into the void. JANE jumps back with a cry, unable to comprehend what is happening.

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On the sill sits the smug red fox, grinning at JANE in her hysteria. Her anxiety turns to rage that bubbles over, running and leaping for the animal only for it to hop out of the way. JANE hurtles out into the night and falls to the ground. Even with all the weeds, it is not enough to break her fall.

It’s funny how things work out.

It’s funny how things work out as they should be.

It’s funny how things should work out as they should be.

Should it be funny how things should work out as they should be?

Everything is as it should be.

 

Willowfield’s ballroom has emptied out. The floor is speckled with deflating balloons, puddles of spilt drinks, bits of broken glass, the odd lost shoe, forgotten purses, crumbs, napkins, cigarette stubs. Up on the stage, the band plays on with aching and dragging fatigue. The garlands tied around the room’s perimeter sag and droop, falling in places like confetti over the other debris. None of this disturbs the young couple at the floor’s centre, her with yellow hair and light blue dress holding tight onto him, face leant down to hers and only millimetres away, pieces of his dark, curling hair hanging over his eyes as they gaze towards his partner. They continue to dance for the rest of the night, which may as well be eternity.

 

 

 

Everything is as it should be.

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