Richard Pierce


Day 112

Nothing really happened yesterday. This is the going round in circles I was talking about the other day. Of course stuff happened; at work, at home, in my head. But nothing out of the usual. I got a phone call. I ploughed through the oldest end of the constant stream of emails that work is. I like to have conversations with people on email as if I were talking to them in person. It’s important to me. I stayed up late to get A from a late shift. I did some personal emails whilst waiting to go to pick her up. Perhaps I should have written, perhaps I should have started editing the most recent two or three chapters of The Mortality Code to find that missing characters, or at least to work out if he had really gone missing. It was dark outside and I wanted a Mediterranean evening out there rather than the cold and blustery night April was delivering for me. When I turned the study light off to go back to the house to get ready to pick up A, I couldn’t at first see my way across the garden, despite the fairy lights on the fence on the right. The outside light isn’t working because of the building work. I seem lazy and restless at the same time.

A dog is barking itself mad and hoarse a couple of doors down. I get irritated by dog owners who let their dogs bark endlessly. Like parents who let their children cry endlessly and lonelyly. There. I’ve made up another word. I’m allowed to. I’m a writer. The world mutates into another one made up entirely of new words. I always wanted to invent a new language. I’m doing it, piece by piece. At the end of this year, I’ll read through this entire blog and make a list of the new words I’ve invented, and my ghost can come back from the other universe it will inhabit in a hundred years’ time and see which have been adopted for common usage, which have become the vernacular. And I’ll write them down again into my by then very virtual notebook (read that as infinite brain), and repeat the exercise every one hundred years thereafter.

I have changed the name of Marit’s father in Aggie because I decided I needed to. To protect the dead and innocent. To stop people from thinking I was writing about myself. Writers of fiction get asked so often, too often, which character in a novel is them. None of them, and all of them, is my standard answer, because it’s true. Separate characters will carry separate parts of us. Perhaps that’s the origin of the madness of artists, the origin of the insanity of creativity, of creation. We write and paint and sing because we have to let out all these different people which inhabit this single body and brain of ours. We have to let them out so they can sing their songs to every universe, tell their stories to every star and moon and galaxy. Because even if we never have a huge real readership, our words will still stretch out into infinity and make a new Kuiper belt of ideas around everything that has existed, that does exits, that will exist. And when the sun has gone, our streams of consciousness will still find new places to be.



‘How much do you know?’ Aggie says when no-one else says anything into the silence Robert had let develop in the hot room.

‘Oh, everything,’ he says, with a sweep of his arms which encompasses everything anyone can ever have thought or said. He smiles, the cleft in his chin deepening, and the wrinkles around his eyes moving as if independently of him. ‘Sorry. I couldn’t resist.’ He gets up and his knees crack under his dark trousers. ‘I’m not very good at monologues,’ he says. ‘Sherry anyone? It must be the right time for it somewhere in the world.’ He doesn’t wait for an answer, turns six glasses the right way up on a silver tray on the sideboard, pours a modest measure into each of them, walks round the room with the tray. ‘Here. Take this. This is the elixir of the gods.’ He puts the empty tray back on the sideboard, sits down, with the tiny sherry glass and its amber contents dwarfed by his hands. ‘Cheers.’ He takes a tiny nip from the glass.

‘You’re very good at avoiding questions.’ Aggie says.

‘I am, aren’t I?’ His eyes twinkle. ‘First lesson I learned.’ He looks across at Anna and Zav, next to each other on one of the squishy sofas. ‘You never denied that you were in the Secret Service.’

‘I can neither confirm nor deny,’ Zav says, keeping his face straight at the same time as Anna says ‘He is, but I’m not.’

‘And I didn’t even have to torture you, my dear,’ Robert says. ‘How quaint.’

‘But you don’t know whether or not she’s telling the truth.’

‘I don’t really need to,’ Robert says, and drains his glass. He looks at it. ‘That is a very fine wine.’ He puts the empty glass onto the mantlepiece. ‘I’ll stop playing games now.’ The avuncular look is gone, and he sits up straight in his rocking chair. ‘Cassandra deliberately didn’t tell me where she went this morning, although I think I can guess. I’ve been out of circulation for some time, although I do still have some connections to the Service. They do say you can never retire, that it retires you, so I suppose it must be a relief to me and others that I haven’t been retired yet.’ He presses the fingers of his hands against each other to make a steeple. ‘When I was a very young man, I thought it would be a good thing to defend my country, but not by leaving my body needlessly on some bloody battlefield, but by being able to carry out manipulations, as it were, behind the scenes. A misguided vision and passion, as it turned out, because politicians always try to manipulate things to their benefit, not to the benefit of the people they are meant to serve.

‘If you go into the study across the hallway there, you’ll find a grand piano. It’s even in tune. And on the piano you’ll find mounds of paper. It’s the score for a new choral work I’m composing. I like composing music. It’s almost like mathematics, filling intricate formulas with even more intricate numbers, finding the balance between reality and imagination, proving and disproving theories, making a magical whole out of essentially very practical separate components. It’s also a very useful disguise when you’re travelling round the world conducting pieces you’ve composed, talking to violinists and cellists and pianists and entire choirs of heavenly voices, none of whom want to do what their politicians tell them to do either.

‘And so I came to be in some dark service or another. And one day I came across this bright young thing who I thought could do great things for the cause of goodness. And his name was Valentine.’

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