Sun. Apr 21st, 2024

Apocalyptic Noir

By: Bruno Masse 2009

Bruno Masse, aka Raven, is a radical author and anarchist hailing from the bleak shores of Montreal. Better known for his research on radical environmentalism and otherwise known as ‘Canada’s darkest author’, Masse has published several novels, plays and poetry collections alongside visual artist Samuel O’Breham Rondeau.

You said cities will fall
Cities will fall
Have no regrets
In spite of it all

– Jennifer Charles

It snowed black on Friday, Lily.

Just like you said it would.

And I couldn’t help but smile, somehow, wandering through the chaos and the rubble.  Didn’t think it would end like this.  Screams and smoke and weeping babies.  Funny way to go, for a place like this. All blaze and fireworks.

“Like a carnival,” you said, “a great fucken carnival, with clowns and jitters and candied apples, sweet to the very brutal end.”

You and your twisted sense of humor.  Can’t say I blame you, though, the way they came from all sides, the way they turned us all in and out.  I mean, they had it coming for sure.  Motherfuckers. But to end it like this, centuries rolling round the drain, circling the very brink, it was insulting really, you’d think it would go on forever.  But then it didn’t. One day, it all just got sucked down into the dark – a great thundering slurp and there you go.

One pull and out of sight. Just like you said.

And all the while I roamed these bleeding streets, these crumbling visions of any other future, instantly darkened by the great advent, that final tug, and there I knew the Red Circle Hymn welcomed aeons of deadened peace.

The Red Circle Hymn, Lily.

It snowed black on Friday.

I couldn’t help but smile.


You were gone by the time I woke.  Your side still warm.  White light shining through the roller blind.  Heavy scent on the pillow, perfume and detergent and sweat and I remembered your tears the night before. We’d hit the bourbon hard, you wanted to celebrate.  I was just happy to see you smile.  But then it turned ugly, real ugly, some bit about the end of days and vengeance and how I should understand how important that was.  And you were blaming me, Lily, you said I didn’t get it… and you were right.

We must have dozed off at some point.  Can’t remember how the argument stopped.  It probably went on without me.  Last I remember was the red sun looming over the high-rise horizon: a burning ball of indifference in the urban skyline.  That was Wednesday morning.

Never told me what we were celebrating.

When I managed to get out of bed and out on the balcony there was something odd about the air but I was too shit-faced to notice.  There were no kids playing in the alley, Mrs. Stevenson nowhere on the porch and some weird-ass newsfeed coming across the cheap plaster wall to the other flat.

I remembered you saying everything went through – there was no going back we just had to face the day. “The moment of truth,” you called it, “after thousands of years of deceit and domestication. One single moment of truth. No more hiding.” You laughed, then.  But that grin faded when you saw I couldn’t catch on.  You got so angry. I just wanted you to be happy, but that wasn’t enough and I guess I know that now.

Something about a circle and the way everything connects even if you don’t see it, like a great fucking domino set, all set up.  “Doesn’t matter if the dominos don’t know they’re lined up,” you blurted out, “there’s no stopping it, once you get it going, it just goes on, you know, but the music is what’s important, the sound it makes. This is the pattern of life revealed solely upon death. The Circle Hymn.”

And I guess I got upset then, too.  Wasn’t just the booze.  I envied that, the way you talked about that circle thing you were so passionate, so alive.  If only you could have felt that way for me, or because of me.

Why did you leave, Lily?  I didn’t take it seriously, you know, none of it.  I had no idea.  If only you’d shown me.  But you couldn’t.

I had to see for myself.


It was late, then, well into the night by the time I got down the lobby. Late for work, as usual – pawnshop peddling, graveyard shift.  Rotten bottom of a dead-end barrel.

But there was no one down there – I mean, not a fucking soul.  Papers lay everywhere, random junk littered the already disfigured carpet.  There was this feed again, it was coming from a radio unit on the security desk.  Screeching.  Something about emergency personnel and civilians and some such.  Standard PR shit.

I couldn’t give a fuck.

By the time I got through the doorway all I could hear were screams and sirens, howling in the night.

Screams and sirens.

My blood started to boil, across my veins and up to my head – still reeling from that bourbon smash.  My hands started to shake.

Before me lay the sickly-spawned metropolis, cast into a whirl of dismay.  A large crowd had gathered upon the boulevard. Stark faces in the orange streetglow.  At their feet lay black silhouettes: humps of soft flesh bent at impossible angles.  Streaks of dried blood on concrete.

On the corner, an ambulance stood deserted, headlights still on. Stained sheets hung from the rear opening. No sign of the paramedics.

Sirens were getting nearer.  Screams rose down the hood.  Twin police cars suddenly roared across the intersection, red and blue lights reflecting on skyscraper façade.  For sure, the pigs weren’t headed here.

If anything, they were getting away.


Where did you go, Lily?

None of it made sense, the riots, the blood, the smoke… the wails of agony, rising higher and higher into the night, pools of inner depth drained over the artificial landscape, like colors melding over canvas.  Meaningless and present.

It was too much.

Had to leave, too.  Couldn’t stand there so I ran – I was scared and I wanted to see you, just hold you.  I wanted to be there.

The streets flittered at an alarming speed.  I was going fast as I could.  The echoes were coming and going, dead quiet and then lashing out from all sides.  The city was having a nightmare. Feverish.

Banners rolled down high windows spelled “Repent”.  Homeless huddled together, prostrate in dark corners.  Children gaped soundlessly from poorly lit doorways.  Women stared at the sky, weeping.

They saw me, you know, just looked as I ran by, like cattle grazing in a field.  Was-I out of reach? There had to be hope, still. They should have been running.

I only stopped to catch my breath. Reached for my phone. Out of service. Might have known. Sweat oozing down my neck.  Wasn’t much of a jogger.

A faint click caught my attention.  Two corners down rose the marble stairs of the World Trade Office.  This one suit sat there, lighting a cigarette with a silver butane lighter.  Young guy, round my age.  Taken a different path.  Briefcase cracked open, papers cascading down the stairs like a waterfall.

I walked towards him, already limping from the strain. “Hey, man,” I started, “the fuck’s going down?”

The suit wouldn’t answer.  Didn’t even move.  I got up to his side and lowered my voice.  “It’s ok, calm down, I just want to know what’s happening, that’s all.”

That clean-shaven, gel-haired icon of a man just stared blankly into nothing.  Sinews real tense. Jaw locked.  Temples pulsating.

“Who are you?” he suddenly spat out, more a statement than a question. “You’re nobody.”

Then I saw this next-gen taser gun in the briefcase.  I froze.  What had he done?  What had he seen?  “Ok, man, I don’t want any trouble, I’m just gonna leave, ok?” I started backing up.  The suit sat still.

I was headed down the stairs when I noticed the sprawled papers read “Terrorist Attacks – Security Directives” in bold print.

“They want us to stay in,” the other guy hissed through clenched teeth. “Keep us tight.”

“But why,” I asked, dumbfounded.

“Chaos. Chaos all over.  From the docks to the suburbs.  Highways blocked.  Airways jammed. Total grid lock.  At first the body count was just standard shit, you know, random fuck up.  Hell, even some promise in that, you know, opportunities.  But then it skyrocketed.  Nothing anyone’s ever seen.  Coming from all sides.  No stopping it.  Worldwide, man, world fucken wide.”  He was shaking. “That’s no terrorist attack. But it can’t be a coincidence.”

“But then what…”

“Goddamn Centaurians!” he blurted out. “Get in your head and make you to do stuff, just to fuck with you, you know?  Just for show, cause they can blow it up to shit, man, anytime they want. Little sadists.  Don’t want to get their hands dirty.  Sending our own to do their work.  But not me, no –” he reached for his briefcase, “I got prepared, see? Clean, bro. Gotta make sure you’re clean.”

I turned tail and ran, that exact second.  Flew down the marble stairs like a fucken rat.  Didn’t want to stick around.  Thought he was gonna fry me, Lily.  In the back.

Didn’t.  Fucker must have been saving charges.  Sounds like something a suit would do.

I fucking hate suits.

But he must have been right about something.  People were told to stay inside.  Lock themselves up.  Turn places into prisons.  And it’s funny, you know, because that’s what you said would happen the second this city went south.

And I was just thinking about that, Lily, about the way we talked about it, the stuff you said the night before.

But then I lost my trail.

I had come to Union Square.  And there in the opening were graffiti, freshly done in every direction.  And as I walked alone in the Square I began to shiver.  Wailing sirens and cries of despair echoed from the recesses of this great metropolis, burning rage festered in its bowels and the great beast was going mad, I could sense it crawling under my skin.

There were circles, Lily.

Great red circles.


You were crying when we first met.  All the way back in that pub, one plastic glass of wine in front of you, lined by three crumpled napkins.  The neon light so dim, but I swore I could see tears in your eyes, and you know, Lily, I just couldn’t bear it.  So much pain in this world and you, looking so sad.  It didn’t seem fair.  I guess nothing ever was.

You kissed me first.  Wasn’t expecting that.  Hell, I just wanted to listen, hoping you could find… something.  Release, a friendly face to talk to.  A shoulder to cry on, maybe.

But you kissed me and you didn’t want to quit, and that’s why I didn’t stop you.  And it’s weird, thinking back on it, the way you always seemed to know what you wanted, even when you were weeping all alone at the end of some stupid dive in the middle of nowhere.

You never were miserable, Lily.

Asked me if I felt it, too, the way this world was rotten to the core and we were just slaves to the system – not to nature, mind you – but to culture, and just getting farther away from the essence of things, each and every year, just slipping away to the only logical outcome.

Every time we were together we’d joke about that, how it didn’t make any sense, this modern life, no matter how you looked at it, from any angle it was obvious… School was shit and church was worse and work was constantly fucking us over.  And we hated them all, these fucken bosses and landlords and preachers and politicians.  All different faces of Authority – that fucken plague upon the Earth and that the bloody racket had gone on for ten thousand years.  Yeah, all so fucken obvious, it was everywhere and in everything, anyone could see it and they could see it all the time, like us.

So how come things always got worse?

It made you so fucking angry, every time you heard about it, or saw it, or felt it.  New laws, more species going extinct, corporations ass-raping human rights on a daily fucken basis and getting away with it.  We hated the jobs we worked and the people we worked for and the things we needed to buy with the money.  And they were all in league with it, everyone in power, everyone important.

“It’s the only way to get ahead in this world,” you said, “use, abuse and exploit, there’s no other way. People will love you for it.”

And you specially hated those who tried to do things differently: left-winged activists, social democrats, lobbyists, mainstream environmentalists.  You said they missed the point, and even worse, they made people believe you could actually change the system, that the system was even fucking changeable.

That was the biggest joke of them all.

Every time we met we came to the same conclusions, we’d laugh about it.  It felt good to just say it out loud. Get it out. But in the end nothing ever changed and we didn’t know why.  Least, I didn’t have a clue.

But you figured it out, somewhere along the way.  Said I had to look at the big picture.  Dig deeper.  It started getting weird, then.

And I lost you.

You were always talking about hope, about the end of things.

“Hope is mediacy,” you kept repeating over and over. “And chaos is the truest form of freedom.”

But I had no idea what that meant.  You lent me all these books and they were boring as shit. They were just words.  They were vital to you, but not to me.  It’s you that was important.

And as I stood in the empty Square I remembered, then, that note in your bag I’d seen once – it had fallen down the chair where you’d put it and I’d glanced at it, quickly.  It was a gnarled and greasy receipt, but you’d drawn that on the backside.

Over and over again.

To be contd.


Design and layout by Samuel O’Breham Rondeau

Cover photography by Gaurakisora Tucker

Backcover photography by Max Potega

Special thanks to Karlsie & everyone at Subversify Magazine

Read part II here

Read part III here

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5 thoughts on “The Red Circle Hymn”
  1. Your literary hand is exquisite. It reads like poetry in motion, while still keeping a grip on action. And what an aching, contemporary piece! Subversify loves sponsoring your writing and looks forward to a great deal more creativity.

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