Richard Pierce


Day 122

M drinks a massive mug of Americano with a bit of warm milk each morning (and two at the weekend). Now I’ve started drinking coffee again, I’m drinking it the only way it should be drunk – a tiny cup of black espresso just as it comes. The biggest mystery is how the coffee machine actually differentiates between a big mug and a tiny espresso cup. I think the answer probably lies in the button on the machine which says Calc, though exactly how is beyond my impractical mind.  Not that it’s actually important, as long as the coffee comes out and is good. M is busy looking for holidays to book so we can escape to somewhere hot for the first time in a long time later this year. Let’s hope she finds somewhere that gives me good espresso in tiny cups.

Coffee & cigarette

As you can see, I was very indulgent this morning. The only problem with drinking coffee again, though, is that I crave more than one cup of the stuff now as soon as I’ve finished the first and only cup. I hasten to add that I don’t shot the coffee in one, but sip it slowly and carefully so I can savour the taste I’d been missing for the last 14 years. I had been worried yesterday that I wouldn’t be able to sleep, but I did, and only woke twice in the eight hours I was in bed for. That’s another first, actually. A very odd thing.

Although it’s very grey this morning, the day smelled of ripeness when I walked out into it first thing this morning. A scent of well-roundedness and contentedness is how I would describe it. Where the air envelops you without you noticing its touch. That’s why I had my coffee outside, why I felt at ease. Even though both times I woke up in the night the first thing on my mind was what I was going to write here this morning. Well, now I know. And perhaps this is what TS Eliot meant when he said “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

I will stick with the one cup of coffee now. It gives me a feeling of luxury and time gained, makes me feel just a little bit more alive in a time of uncertainty, a time of questioning, a time of change. And maybe it’s the change I need, one that harks back to when I was on the Ice, when I was slightly more nimble on my feet and in my head, but without a feeling of nostalgia, and instead with a feeling of renewal and hope.



‘Are you paying your bills?’ Zav says.

‘That’s a childish thing to say,’ Marit says.

‘I know,’ Zav says. ‘But I don’t like this sense of the supernatural he’s bring into this, so I made a joke of it.’

‘You need to learn not to be afraid of anything,’ Aggie says.

‘Like you just were,’ Zav says.

‘I don’t know what that was,’ Aggie says. A warning? A sign?’

‘Oh, spare me,’ Zav says.

‘In that case, Macduff,’ Robert says. ‘Lay on.’

‘Lead on, surely,’ Zav says.

‘Commonly misquoted,’ Robert says, and there is a smile in his voice.

‘Oh,’ Zav says. ‘Once more I stand corrected.’

‘Oh, just let’s get this over with, you damn public school boys,’ Anna says, squeezes past Aggie at the same time as squeezing her hand. She reaches the stairs down in the floor of the south transept, surrounded by glass panes on two sides, and an ornate reiling on the other, sparkles in the dark. ‘Ready?’ She clasps Aggie’s hand even tighter, once, twice, lets go and starts on down the stairs.

‘Careful.’ Robert’s voice, edged with concern. He lumbers down the stairs behind them, past them, reaches around a corner with one long arm, clicks on some invisible switches with no effect. ‘I told you.’ He breathes deeply.

‘It doesn’t matter,’ Aggie says, ducking her head so it doesn’t hit the ceiling. Everything down here is so compressed compared with the infinite height of the Minster above them. Her voice is muffled by the lowness of the cavern, the roughly-hewn rocks swallowing most sounds. There’s an indeterminate glow ahead of them. ‘What’s that?’

‘Interactive terminals for visitors,’ Robert says. ‘We don’t turn them off.’

‘They work and the lights don’t?’ Aggie says.

‘Maintenance have looked it over again and again, and they’ve not found anything wrong.’

‘So you’re saying there’s something at work down here that’s not logical,’ Zav says.

‘The Devil’s pretty logical if you think about it,’ Marit says. ‘Though some might argue it’s not exactly clever of him to be hiding out in a cathedral.’

There’s flash at the back of the void.

‘The crypt,’ Robert says. ‘That’s where things moved in front of the cameras.’

Aggie takes two massive strides, head down, across the glass floor. ‘And a city below us.’

‘The Roman fort,’ Robert says. ‘All this time hidden under the ground.’ His voice is calm. ‘Time grows vertically, not horizontally.’

Aggie is in the crypt now, past the glittering artefacts of the Treasury, to where burned-out candles stand silent. ‘There’s nothing here. Just an old grave.’

‘Isn’t that concern enough?’ Robert says. ‘Fragments of the past. The dead and the devil? The grave of the man who founded this place. St. William. Is he really the devil?’ He’s next to her now, and she smells his old man’s aftershave, not unpleasant.

‘There has to be an explanation,’ she says. ‘Things don’t just happen.’ The black demons have gone from her head now, reason clicked into place again. ‘Someone’s been playing you all for fools.’

‘Tell me how,’ he says. ‘When we’ve been through all the electrics and walls and floors over and over again.’

Aggie kneels down next to the tomb, feels round its base with her long fingers, burrows into its joint with the stone floor. ‘Who blows out the candles?’

‘Whoever is the last in here after Evensong,’ Robert says.

‘Always someone different?’ she says, working her way round the tomb on her knees.

‘Yes,’ Robert says. ‘What are you getting at?’

‘Nothing. Just gathering information.’

Everything goes dark, an impermeable dark that wasn’t there before.

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  1. Ren Powell

    2nd May 2022 at 13:02

    I am about to fall out of my chair. Two days ago I realized that because of this new medication I have to cut back to a single cup of coffee a day. And learning to savor it.
    Go figure.

    1. Richard Pierce

      2nd May 2022 at 14:25

      How weird!!!! Talk about parallel lives moving in strange directions to a single point of intersection that is one cup of coffee a day! Life is a wonderful oddity. Rx

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