Canberra, upon the turn of the decade, felt like a scene from some dystopian novel.
As 2019 turned to 2020, smoke thickened the air like the aftermath of a grim event in a science fiction film. The '20s didn't so much roar in as descend like a sinister cloud darkening our future.
The smell of wood smoke and the sting in our eyes was the clearest evidence that global warming is upon us.
We have read about distant islands where the rising sea level threatens homes and livelihoods - but these places and peoples have seemed remote. It's their problem over there, sometime in the future, rather than an immediate concern to us and our children, here and now.
And scientists have spelt it out with figures and charts, all couched with careful caveats. But through all the careful language, their firm view was clear: global warming is happening and it's we humans who did it by burning coal and oil from the age of steam onwards.
But now we really know. It's in our throats and in our eyes, stinging us with the realisation that nature is changing and we are powerless as individuals to do anything about it. Even if collectively we had any political will, little can change this coming decade. This oil tanker will take decades to turn round.
At the smouldering butt end of 2019, the few revellers seemed like sad stragglers at a party to which nobody had turned up. They were revellers without revels. The smoke had destroyed the atmosphere. How do you party in a burning house?
Taxis cruised vainly for customers. One driver in Queanbeyan asked people which was the best pub to park outside, in the hope of drumming up some trade.
There have been bleak starts to new decades, but it's hard to remember one so gloomy.
The morning news shows carried live press conferences from the Rural Fire Service, with long lists of places which remained cut off by walls of fire. Phrases resonated: "blood-red fire", "darkness at noon". Power was out. People had died.
Help lines had been set up, but patience by callers was demanded - in reality, asked for politely by calm, hard-pressed public servants, many of whom had volunteered to give their own time and risk their own lives for the good of the public, or were employed to serve the public with commitment and dignity.
The tone was downbeat, as it was bound to be. It was the tone of people with an immense struggle ahead of them, against a beast which will not be killed, only subdued until its strength returns.
The dragon will be back this year and this decade. Be sure of that.
On the other side of the world, the fires have dominated the news. For the BBC it was the top story on its global networks, which have audiences running beyond a hundred million.
The fires in our corner of this continent are resonating. They are touching a fear. They sound like the canary warning of gas in the coalmine.
The New York Times wrote: "Thousands Flee to Shore as Australia Fires Turn Skies Blood Red. The country's east coast was dotted with apocalyptic scenes on the last day of the warmest decade on record in Australia."
That word: "apocalypse". Apocalypse, defined as a Greek word meaning "revelation", "an unveiling or unfolding of things not previously known and which could not be known apart from the unveiling".
And so it is - a revelation of things not previously known. We knew about global warming. The scientists had presented the statistics of relentlessly rising temperatures and the melting of the ice at the polar caps.
And yet, we didn't really know. A fog of misinformation was used to cloud our eyes and brains.
The oil industry and its allies cast doubt about the chain of causation between humans burning carbon fuels and rising temperatures - and catastrophic bushfires. They say that others do less to end their addiction to carbon.
It's a forked-tongue response that sticks in the throat.
As does the smoke.
Welcome to a new decade.