Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 137

There are juvenile thrushes in the trees. They scream continuously and are scaring the older cat who likes to come down to the bottom of the garden to drink out of the shallow butler sink (which we filled with fresh water yesterday because there’s been no rain to speak of). They are probably the same that were digging around in the vegetable patch before M built the chicken wire cages to protect her precious veggies (and the way the UK is going, they’ll be very precious, though not much help to this last living carnivore). Juvenility has some advantages, mainly the feeling of immortality, but it’s very noisy and annoying. Was I like that when I was a juvenile? I think not – books and sport, that was about it. I was too shy to make the first move with girls.

The flies that are coming into the study are irritating the hell out of me, too. I’m keeping the door and windows open because it’s very warm – it was 27C in here yesterday evening which, although delightful, was a bit too much.

Yesterday, I found out that a dear friend of mine is off work with severe depression again. I texted them (and texted is the correct grammar for those of you who insist on using “text” as the past tense, which is just plain disgusting and wrong) to say I wouldn’t pester them but they knew where I was if they needed me. I think that’s the best approach to take because a constant presence can really be counterproductive, no matter how understanding you think you’re being. One fits all is certainly not a course to be contemplated when friends are in poor mental health.

It’s Norwegian Independence Day today, the second we’re celebrating in the new house. I like it here, honestly, but I miss Norway with every part of my being, despite the fact that there was a very vocal and significant minority of people over there who were just as xenophobic as the British anti-immigrant right-wing brigade. We must never normalise white and nationalist supremacists. And for those who ask me why I’m celebrating a country’s National Day, I never perceived there to be anything inherently jingoistic about this day in Norway. What I did notice was that too much pressure was put on people to join in the marches of celebration. Doesn’t stop me missing the place.

I meander. I’m running dreadfully late today, although I got up early because a skip was being delivered (which then didn’t arrive until mid-morning). Lots of time-sensitive day job admin I needed to get sorted, too, because yesterday’s technological shenanigans had an adverse impact there, too.

And now I’m here, and the day is almost halfway through, and despite the recent self-care and breathing deeply, and making time, I still wish I could get away with sleeping no more than 3 or 4 hours a night so I could get more stuff done. I even did a test recording for some spoken word work yesterday evening (though I wasn’t really happy with it – there’s a thin line between enunciation and stilted delivery and incomprehensible mumbles). Project, project.

This year is flashing by. How I ever found the time to play cricket is beyond me. And this year, I may well not need to find the time.



‘What the actual fuck?’ Zav says.

Aggie puts her hands into the mess that’s left of the man she wanted to question, ignores the warm sticky repellent touch of his blood and insides, feels around inside the area where his stomach would have been. She doesn’t look at him, because that would make her feel sick. Her fingers find something solid, wrap around it, and she pulls it out of the glistening wreck of the body. ‘I thought so,’ she says, mostly to herself, carries it through to the now empty kitchen, leaving a trail of congealing drops behind. She finds a sink, turns on the tap, rinses her hands and whatever she’s holding on to. ‘There.’ She puts it only the draining board and steps back, turns to the others who have followed her.

‘It’s the same as you took out of me,’ Anna says, her eyes wide and afraid. ‘But it’s melted.’

Aggie nods. ‘Any ideas?’

Robert sighs. ‘Control device.’ He picks it up, turns the misshapen blob over in his hands, touches the wires sticking out of it. ‘But it’s not just that. It’s a two-way thing. Whoever implanted it and kept it working could see and hear whatever that poor thing out there was seeing and hearing.’

‘How do you know this?’ Anna says. ‘I thought you were the remote Luddite composer.’

Robert puts the device down, runs his hands through his hair. ‘ We tested something like this on a few, erm, guinea pigs in my day.’

‘And killed people with them?’ Aggie says.

‘No, no,’ Robert says. ‘Never that.’

‘So why did whoever was controlling this wait until we’d got the guy in here before destroying him?’ Zav says.

‘To get a view on who exactly was here, to see who was involved in our little gathering, probably,’ Martin says, scratches his chin. ‘This does make things a little difficult.’

‘What do you mean, a little difficult?’ Aggie says.

‘Well, they’re our devices,’ Martin says. ‘But modified. We never wanted a self-destruct capability in there. Yes, maybe something to stop people talking if they did get captured, like something to paralyse their vocal chords and such, but never a kill function.’

‘So how many people had one of these put in them?’

‘Well,’ Martin draws out the word. ‘We didn’t actually tell anyone about them, to be honest. Just told them they needed a procedure which involved a general anaesthetic, and then put these in without them knowing. Remarkably complex, really.’

‘Remarkably underhand,’ Zav says. ‘I never knew about this. Will I have one?’

Robert shakes his head. ‘Only one person ever volunteered to have one implanted.’

‘Let me guess,’ Aggie says. ‘Valentine.’

‘However did you guess that, my girl?’ Martin says.

Robert shakes his head, a sad and defeated look on his face.

Aggie snorts. ‘And let me make another guess. A few days after the, erm, procedure, it went off your radar and stopped working. And that’s when you two lost Valentine without the Service knowing. And you didn’t have the balls to tell those higher up the chain of command about it, so he was still free to roam around and gather all the intelligence that turned him into this international overlord of God knows what.’

Robert and Martin stand next to each other, stony-faced.

‘That’s what happens when amateurs start playing games,’ Aggie spits. ‘Things get out of control. And you…’ She points at Robert. ‘You didn’t want Cassandra to kill him because you needed to find out what was happening with the missing device. And you never told her about it either. That’s what all this comes down to. You drove her into his arms to cover up the mistakes you made. Both of you.’ She stamps. How bloody stupid can you get?’

‘Well, it’s done now,’ Martin says. ‘ And there’s nothing we can do about it.’

Aggie feels a wave of rage collecting in the pit of her stomach, feels even more acutely her body’s inability to fill her face with blushes of embarrassment or anger, and feels how her hands are balling into fists.

Anna puts her hand on Aggie’s tensed arm. ‘That doesn’t explain why had one of those in me, one that wasn’t working, because I’ve never been one of you.’

‘No, my dear,’ Martin says quietly. ‘You never have been.’



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