I've left it all behind. To escape the loneliness I've gone, on my own, into the wilderness and started walking. This way I can frame my solitude as a spiritual experience instead of a consequence of being unloved, unlovable even. This way my solitude is a choice. It's bearable to be without friends if no one is around to witness it.

So I started walking. It's simple really; just follow the path until you get tired, then set up your tent. The next day do it again. Getting enough food is the only problem, but on a good day there are shepards around to sell you bread and cheese. On a really good day you pass a shop with chocolate and super noodles.

After a while I even turned off my phone, only checking the GPS in emergencies. This way I could go for four or five days on a single charge. I'd long since uninstalled all social media, it was getting too crazy, and no one ever whatsapped me these days. I missed exactly nothing by turning off my phone; except for the empty feeling when I absently took it from my pocket to see a screen void of notifications blinking inanely at me.

Absolutely anything could have happened in the world in the past few days. I would have no way of knowing: maybe the Queen is dead; maybe David Antenbourgh has been outed as a paedophile; maybe aliens have landed; maybe Israel and Palestine had reached an historic accord; maybe world war three had broken out. Actually the way things are going the latter no longer seemed so unlikely.

Perhaps it was hindsight, but I remember on the eighth day an eerie atmosphere had descended. It had been quiet the whole time, but the character of the quietness changed abruptly. It went from background noise kind of quietness to a piercing, deafening quietness that demanded to be listened to. Like how in a crowded bar you could ignore all manner of conversations exploding around you, but if a couple suddenly started whispering to each other then they demanded to be listened to.

The dogs were spooked. They were always scared and always barking at something. They were always in a state of perpetual aggression, fueled by general suspicion of humans. Now it seemed different. They were no longer scared just by me. It seemed as if their fear and aggression was suddenly directed at all of mankind, as if to say, "what the fuck have you done?"

Three of them surrounded me, that was not so unusual, but their aggression was suddenly tinted by desperate fear. I picked what I thought was the dominant male and hurled rocks towards its ugly snarling face, as if it had the face of my girl-friend, ex-girlfriend, I corrected myself.

We had fought just before I left. We had been fighting a lot. Maybe it was just a way of alleviating the boredom. Sometimes aggression was better than silent passive-aggression. Better a hot fiery exchange than a smouldering silence. The fights were a relief. But this one was different. It was not a lovers' tiff, ending in intense make-up sex, we wanted to hurt each other, destroy each other even.

"I still love you, but I love someone else as well", she had said it. That was the first volley in an intense exchange of fire power. At least it was out in the open now. Better to have one's worst suspicions confirmed than to let one's imagination run amok.

She had hurt me, hurled a missile at my heart. Should I return fire? What would be the point, it was already over between us. Why hurt her first just for the sake of it? But then why not?

It tumbled out: "I never really loved you, I was just with you because I was bored". I didn't think that was really true at the time, now I'm certain it wasn’t, but I said it anyway. I had to hurt her as she had hurt me. Retaliation had a hot logic all of its own. A logic that transcended rationality.

So here I am.

Now I'm really spooked. As spooked as the dogs. The last three shepherds’ huts I had passed didn't try to beckon me in and sell me tea and pancakes. Instead a whole group of them were huddled around a radio. I couldn’t understand the language, too many guttural vowels and nasal consonants that sounded just like a wall of sound to my monoglutal ears, but it sounded like a news report, announced in serious tones.

An elderly guy in the last group caught my eye. It seemed like pity in his eyes. That's a new one, I thought. Why would they pity me? Normally there is a sort of dollar lust in their eyes. Sometimes a sort of cautious curiosity; sometimes suspicious. Pity I haven't seen before.

I turned on my phone. It was at 22%. No signal. There sometimes isn't signal, but I can see the mobile mast on the crest of the hill, which struck me as strange.

At the final shepard hut I passed someone beckoned me in to watch a news broadcast on their television. I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing. Many kinds of explanations raced through my head. Is this a joke? A weird new kind of ultra-realistic film. Am I simply dreaming?

The numbers being reported had a sick surreal kind of sound to them. Like being told about the holocaust, or Stalin's Ukrainian famine. Now I was hearing numbers expressed in the hundreds of millions. Meaningless numbers. Pictures of European and American cities incinerated. With images that look stupid and unrealistic next to the best Holywood CGI.

And the mushroom clouds.

I don't know why, but I thought of her. A smaller personal tragedy is easier to comprehend than the festival of human misery that was exploding around me.

We saw each other one last time before I left. The cold cordial detente was harder to bear than the hot aggression. We exchanged our meagre possessions and divvied up the rest. It felt pathetic. It was already over. We had destroyed each other, all that remained was to build a life for ourselves, two separate lives, from the ashes.

"To see the things you gave your life to, broken, and stoop and build them up with worn out tools". It was a big if. I'm not sure I can rebuild after this. So I simply ran away.

The first coherent thought that ran through my head was "shall I carry on walking." A strange first thought to have under the circumstances. I couldn't summon an emotional response that was proportionate to the situation. So what else could I do but keep walking? So I carried on walking.

My life hadn't changed all that much. I was walking before “it”, and now I'm walking after “it”. “It”, the unimaginable catastrophe which reality had somehow imagined. Before “it” I was alone, after “it” I am alone. Before “it” I was emotionally numb, after “it” I am emotionally numb.

The strangest thing. I feel guilty about eating or sleeping. How could I partake in such self-indulgent acts now? I don't deserve food or sleep after all those people... all those people... I couldn't finish the thought.

So I kept walking without sleeping or eating, which was of course not sustainable, but at least I felt physically atrocious, which could act as a rough surrogate for my woefully inadequate emotional response.

The GPS was down. Or at least it was asking for a password now. So I had no idea where I was. I also had no idea where I was going. So not knowing where I was was of no consequence.

The battery died. The useless electronic device in my pocket blacked out; gave up the ghost.

I needed to eat after all so I went down to the town. The streets were empty. The supermarket was not locked, but unattended. The shelves were stripped bare of everything edible. It felt wrong to walk out of the supermarket without taking something; so I took some coconut shampoo and toilet paper.

That was it then.

I tried to withdraw some money, but the cash machine was, of course, offline, and it was otherwise crowbarred open and stripped bare of cash. In anycase what use would money be now; it had not decreased in value, it had, with an unceremonious puff, simply ceased to be money; without shops selling food money had simply turned into paper.

Back to the hills on an empty stomach. I still have the emergency 50 euros that I kept in my money belt. I persuaded a farmer to part with two loaves of bread, some cheese, biscuits and a few boiled eggs. I gave him the 50, expecting some change, but he took it all with a look that suggested he was doing me a favour; exchanging food for paper.

I came across another tourist, not unheard of to date, but not exactly a daily occurance. I sat with him, because that seemed like the decent thing to do. There are heavy bags under his eyes, and a sort of feverish wet-rat like desperation to his demeanour.

I asked him some trivial questions but he refused to speak. Maybe he was in shock, so I built a makeshift fire and sat with him in silence. He seemed nervous, I'm not sure he appreciated my company, but it had become too dark to move.

I halved the chocolate that I still have and thrust one half into his hands. His half closed eyes bulged almost out of his head and a single word tumbles out of his mouth.

"Spasibo", then he realised his mistake, dirty hands pushed almost into his mouth, trying to gobble up the word and make it unsaid. If he hadn't reacted I might not even have noticed the significance of the word. But I did. He is a Russian. Are we at war now? Is he, by extension, a sworn enemy of mine? Should I throw myself on him and begin to punch his lights out? Should I try to slit his throat with the blunt camping knife I have secured deep in my backpack. I do neither. Instead I stare into the fire. In the morning he is gone.

It's been cold for a few nights. Is this nuclear winter? I think about reaching into my pocket and quickly googling the effects of nuclear war, but obviously I can't. Maybe it's the hunger that is making me cold, or maybe the unseasonable cold is just a coincidence.

I'm still technically walking, but it's turned more into an aimless amble. I don't know what to do. I can keep myself alive if I put my mind to it, maybe even for years; it's finding something to live for that is the hard thing.

A woman walking the other way appears over the ridge. Right in front of me before I know it, and I become acutely aware that I'm talking to myself. I hadn't realised until another being brought my mutterings into self-awareness.

She flashes me a smile, a tired emaciated smile, but one not without charm, and asks me my name. I tell her, but forget to ask hers.

What good are names when you know exactly one person in the whole world? Who else could you be talking to? Who could you be talking about her to?

We camp together and share the last loaf of bread and some souring cheese. We share a tent because it is cold, and fall asleep in each other's arms. In the morning we leave my tent untouched on the frosty ground, assuming that we won't need it any more. We set off in any direction up the next hill and down into the next valley, together.