Richard Pierce

Life, Sport

Day 193

It’s warmish, but the sun hasn’t really been shining today, which does put a bit of a downer on the whole thing, and makes it feel less like summer than ever. The warmth is nice, but it’s too humid and muggy, that sort of no-man’s land of a summer that England seems to specialise in – irrelevant, insignificant, mediocre; a bit like the country itself although, in its own little mind, and the little minds of the Tory politicians fighting over who can be the next corrupt czar of this pimple on the backside of the world. Will the next Prime Minister be a convicted criminal before he even accedes to the throne bolstered with friends’ and a certain Russian’s money? Probably. That says a lot about the current state of the country, doesn’t it? As does the fact the government, unjustifiably, and without precedent, has denied the Labour Party a motion of No Confidence in that government, despite the Commons clerks approving the motion. This is in the same league of illegality as the proroguing of Parliament was. It is a dictatorship we live in. I am still predicting that Johnson will be in 10 Downing Street in December. Watch this space.

My first acupuncture treatment since we got back. After I’d told my practitioner about the week we’d had since we got back (bear in mind this is 5 Elements acupuncture, which includes a lot of talking, almost therapy), she said she was pleasantly surprised at how resilient I was, and that it was obvious the holiday had been good for my mental and physical health, and that me continuing my stretches is also supporting my mental health. I’m very pleased about that. Interestingly enough, when she’d put in the needles and left me for 20 minutes, I automatically got a vision of the beach in Agios Nikolaos behind my eyes rather than the invented safe place I’d developed when I went to a monthly meditation class (which I miss) when I still lived in Stradbroke. This really chimes with this feeling I had when we were in AN (and since we’ve got back) that it is a special place, not just because it gave us a holiday, but intrinsically. I want to dig out a lot more about its history.

One change in my life that I’ve made that I think is supporting this resilience (although I must admit I am still not that sure that I am being particularly resilient) is the decision never to play cricket again. It has taken a distraction and preoccupation out of my life that had been an ever-present since 2006. Without getting boring and going into too much detail, I hadn’t really enjoyed specific aspects of the game itself for the past few years, and was always asking myself, when in the field, why I was wasting such a long time doing something that wasn’t fun for me anymore. I am now not dreading Saturdays, not feeling all churned up on a Saturday morning, not shaking with nerves, and not berating myself in the aftermath of a game. Written down, those really are stark negatives that I’ve removed from my life. The thing is, and I spoke about this with my practitioner this morning, I don’t know how long I have left in this life, and I want to be able to spend my time doing things I enjoy and am good at. It is a relief, this. And, actually, I’m fitter than I have been for a long time. I saw a couple of the lads at the Radio Stradbroke Music Day on Saturday, and they said how well I looked – I said it’s because I’m not playing cricket anymore.

This is progress.



‘No, please. No.’ Lilibet down on her knees, her hands in Aggie’s blood, blood pooling around her, blood everywhere. She buries her face in the crook of Aggie’s lifeless neck, sobs, puts her hand on her love’s abdomen, there where the blood is still running out. And her other hand, round Aggie’s face, reaching for the mouth that has smeared blackening blood around it, the mouth that spoke in that gentle foreign lilt, made the words sound special, and as if they were meant to last forever. Lilibet lets go, her tears falling and mingling with the blood, puts her head on Aggie’s chest with no hope of anything. And there is nothing, just the limpness and cooling of death.

She stands up, looks across at all those collapsed humanoids, those lifeless shapes that were once normal humans like her and Aggie. Her legs shake, and she has trouble holding herself upright. The door is still closed, and it won’t move when her blood-slimed hands try to pull it open. Lilibet gasps, puts her hand on her heart, and sits down again next to Aggie’s body, not caring about the blood that seeps into her trousers. She runs her hands through her hair, caking herself in more blood, wants to be entirely covered in Aggie’s, and wanting to never wash it off again. She breathes as slowly as she can. She has no idea what to do but sit here and mourn, but to sit here and wait for her own death. She stares again at those hundreds of figures, all jumbled up in their collapse, as if they had just fallen in on themselves. She forces herself up, walks across to the nearest, feels for a pulse. Back down to three a minute. Back to where they had been when Aggie was still alive. She drops the arm she’s holding.

A sharp inhalation, a gasp, a gurgled breath behind her. She turns sharply.

‘God, that was close.’ Aggie’s sitting up now, blood dripping from every part of her. One of her hands is under her shirt, moving in circles around the wound Lilibet couldn’t close. ‘I thought we were goners.’ She looks at Lilibet, tries a smile, but it doesn’t quite come off.

Lilibet runs to her, skids in the blood, almost topples on top of her. ‘I thought you were dead!’ she screams. ‘You were dead.’ She wraps her arms around Aggie.

‘Ow,’ Aggie says, quietly, hugs her back as best she can. ‘What a mess.’ She laughs out loud. ‘I thought I was dead. That someone had been feeding me lies.’ She closes her eyes and remembers the infinite universe she’d seen in those moments after she’d ripped the box away from her nervous system again, the malicious smile on Valentine’s face when he’d thought he’d finally captured her, and how the smile had fallen at that precise moment her virus had destroyed his network. ‘They’ll wake up in time. And he won’t be able to control them. Unless he finds some workround I haven’t guessed at.’

‘How can you be so fucking normal?’ Lilibet shouts. ‘I thought I’d lost you.’ Her tears start again, and she rubs at her eyes with the backs of her hands, smearing more blood all over her face. ‘All this blood. All your blood.’

‘It’s replenishing right now,’ Aggie says. ‘Biological anomaly, remember.’ She pushes herself onto her feet, pants heavily. ‘We’d better get out of here. I’m not convinced he’ll not try to destroy this place.’ She picks up the black box, its wires heavy with coagulating blood. ‘ANd then I need a rest.’

‘The door’s still locked.’

‘I’d better sort that out first then.’ Aggie sighs. ‘So many bloody obstacles.’ She turns round at the door to look at Lilibet. ‘You look so cute with my blood all over you.’

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