It was my decision to start writing this late today. There was so much I had to do, wanted to do, day job-wise, because it is the first day of the month, that pushing this out well into the afternoon seemed the most obvious thing to do. Although I have also decided to work Thursday and Friday – extra bank holidays to celebrate figurehead as much part of the Establishment as Boris Johnson is a ridiculous way to run a country. The next thing they’ll want to do is bring back Imperial measurements – oh, wait… Britain is obviously the biggest open-air comedy show ever. An international laughing stock. An estimated £28 mil for this weekend of celebrations from our taxes – how much difference that money would make to the NHS or the cost of living crisis. But, never mind, we have to party. There’s a ring of familiarity to that, and not a good one.
I spotted some appalling typos in yesterday’s post which I can only apologise for, and blame my keyboard. One thing that always happens when I go to work in an office I have at my disposal in London is that my loud and furious typing is commented on. It has always been this loud and furious. I was brought up on my father’s old Adler manual typewriter where you had to depress the keys about an inch to make them register on the paper (I even wrote my first novel on that beast), graduated onto an Olivetti portable (half-inch depressions only to make shapes on the paper) which travelled round Europe with me, and then onto an IBM golfball electric typewriter that needed no hard typing at all, but the habit was by then here to stay. That’s a long way round of telling you that the letters wear off my keyboards extremely quickly, and Dell (and other computer makers) still don’t have the wherewithal to make them harder-wearing, and nor do they accept over-quick wear – this keyboard, for example, started showing signs of wear after just over a month – as a reason for a free replacement. Which strikes me as ridiculous and just yet another way of them making more money.
The study is still a mess. Not just because there’s stuff in here that was moved out of the garage while the builders built (and that building is not yet quite finished), but also because there are day job notes, notebooks, and pens strewn across the desk, as well as – on the peripheries of the desk, and on the armchairs, and on the chest of drawers that’s the base of my broadcasting desk – writing notes, broadcasting notes, bits of paper ripped from magazines that may be the next inspiration, or the next thing to stick on the wall, the next thing to kick off a train of thought, the next thing to send me scurrying off down another blind alley of activity. And yet I’m a week behind with sticking these scribbles into my journal, three months behind with a phone call to an old friend, three months behind with arranging an appointment with the hygienist, a life-time behind with making lots of money from writing. I am sure I remember a time when it didn’t feel like this. I do honestly think time is speeding up in its entirety, that we’re being sucked into some kind of vortex where the planets are moving more quickly, and our clocks with them, so that the instruments we measure time with don’t actually show the speeding up of time because they’re speeding up as part of the entire system – it makes sense to me.
So much for struggling for words.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 106
No time has passed. Not dreaming this time, Not in a trance this time. There’s no-one other than Anna in the room. The pain is a sign, an alarm call. Aggie ignores it, the searing depth of it, the feeling of blood dripping, uncoagulating, from her stomach onto the old floor. She jumps up, the stiletto out of its sheath as part of the same smooth movement, slides across to the window, eyes adjusted to the dark outside, sees nothing but the Minster walls in front of her, no movement, nothing. She creeps, in one bound, to the bedroom door. Nothing there either, no unusual sound, no sheepish Zav crawling up the stairs to lay waste to Anna with his uncontrollable lust and emotions, no murderous ex-spies with silenced pistols in their hands. She tip-toes out onto the landing, follows the stairs back down. All the lights out now, and still no sound or movement. She stops. Holds her breath. No mistake. Still silence. She knows she can’t afford to make any more mistakes. Even those memories just now could have been false. She moves again, up close to each of the bedroom doors. Vigilant. Nothing. The dark is complete, the walls grey in her night vision, the air vacant even though her ears are attuned to it. Next floor down. The silence feels heavy, unnatural. The familiar rooms, the warmth seeping slowly from them into the cooling air. Piano stool empty, scattered papers, empty glasses. All shades of grey to her in her hunter mode. Nothing there to show the heat of a breathing body.
A draft, from nowhere, a caress across her white cheek. She turns as suddenly as the breeze, one bound to the front door, sees the keys hanging on a hook next to it for the first time, registers what she couldn’t register in the haste of Robert’s bonhomie earlier, nor in his subsequent fear and depression, that cloak of sadness he wears turned inside out like a cloak of many colours. That’s what it is, this heavy silence, this bearing down of air on time, this bearing down of regrets on dreams and wishes. And she wishes she could help him, but only he can help himself, the old man asleep now upstairs with any number of ancient and modern songs in his head. She never wants to grow old like that. Better to die hunting than live mired in sadness. She grabs the keys, puts them into the first pocket she can find, pulls open the door that wasn’t locked. Why didn’t he lock it? She creeps out of the dark house into the muted orange light of the lamp outside, reflecting mutely from the black metal of the fence, a timid reflection of modesty, understated, mute, ancient, keeps her head down. Voices now, barely carrying to her. She touches a finger up to her right ear to increase its sensitivity.
‘No-one will know,’ a voice says. ‘They’re all asleep anyway. And I’ll be back before it’s light.’
‘Do you mean it?’ A different imprint, octaves lower.
‘I wouldn’t have got in touch otherwise, would I?’ Aggie recognises Marit’s voice, a quiver of barely-contained excitement in it.
‘I didn’t think I’d see you again so soon.’ It’s a man’s voice, very young, not so practiced in speaking lowly as a spy’s would be.
‘This must be your lucky day,’ Marit says.
‘Every day I see you is my lucky day.’
‘Flatterer.’ The rustle of clothes, the wetness of one set of lips on another, of tongues touching and mingling, of hands desperately seeking places that are best found in a state of undress.
Aggie rises to her full height, appears out of the shadows like some vengeful spirit. ‘Get back in the house now,’ she hisses, and her eyes are red with anger.
‘How dare you?’ Marit hisses back.
The red spot alights on the youth’s forehead, and the back of his head comes off in a mess of blood and bone.