Tell me, dear reader, have you ever stared into the end of the world? Watched on as your entire life shatters into iridescent shards that fall in slow motion around you?
That’s what happened that day in Paris. In both the metaphorical and the literal senses.
It was a cold day. The winds had picked up, sending a biting chill through anybody unlucky enough to be outside. Autumn was descending rapidly into winter, temperatures plummeting with a frost peppering the grass. I remember the sun, just beginning to creep over the cathedral. They set up a street cafe in the middle of the square, right in the shadow. You’ve got the smell of the canal, crisp and cutting in the autumn climate.
I watched people for a while as I let my coffee settle. There was an incredibly flamboyant gentleman dancing down the street. I observed as his neon leg warmers descended, pooling around his ankles, but he ignored it. He continued dancing to whatever techno beat was flowing from his phone and not having a care in the world. It was refreshing to see.
I turned my head, lifted the coffee cup to my lips and took a sip. The steam rolled in front of my eyes, distorting that iconic window before me. It looked like it was bulging outwards, like a can under pressure. Like a pimple on the face of that beautiful building, straining against the forces inside.
The steam cleared. But the window was still straining. There was shouting from across the square, cries and yells from the various passersby. Legwarmers came sprinting past me, tinny music blaring from his headphones, long forgotten .
I don’t speak French, but some things are understandable in any language. Explosion being one of them. I turned my eyes westward.
They told me later that’s what saved me. As I looked westward, that’s when the window blew. Thousands of shards of glass ripped into the crowded square, tearing into all those people.
They pulled fifteen out of the back of my head alone. One piece, the size of my arm, punched through my right shoulder. I fell to the ground, stunned and surrounded by blood. My eyes squinted shut, and as I opened them I felt the heat of the flames. Techno Warmers was next to me, stretching his hand towards me. I reached for him when the second explosion came.
Then I blacked out.
I lay in that field of stars and blood for a long time, feeling nothing but the cold creeping over me. Swaddling me in its icy embrace. Then it all went black.
I returned to Notre Dame a week later. It was no terrorist attack. Where the Cathedral had once stood, all that remained was a pool of ice cold water. No trace of the Cathedral remained.
Geologists were calling it unprecedented. A pocket of water rising through the mantle and the crust, superheated and broiling below the surface. Then, when it breached the surface, it detonated. Explosively.
Four hundred and twelve people dead on that day in Paris. Six hundred and forty seven injuries, including me. All because the Earth decided it was time to get its own back.
All in one day in Paris.
The Idiot in Tin Foil