Richard Pierce


Day 222

Nothing earth-shattering today.

Used my sleep spray for the first time since we moved. Slept well (might have had something to do with having the bedroom door closed for once as well so that no light or sounds from the rest of the house can creep into my attempts to sleep and cause an explosion of colours in my head (because that’s what sometimes happens – the bathroom door opening or closing creates red and blue fireworks behind my eyelids and then I’m wide awake again, or the cats having a go at the scratching post on the landing makes white and yellow flares, and then I’m wide awake).

M, on hols still, has pottered round the garden all day, sanding down garden furniture for coating in wood oil, and sanding down the seven planks of wood which will form the shelves for the library once the extension is done (and giving them their first coat of oil), so we can finally get all the books out of the garden sheds where they’ve been since November last year (I think) as well as thinning out those double-stacked on the shelves in here. And she’s been lying in the sun reading, as she should be on her holiday. And feeding me too much food (best chicken pie ever just now).

For my part, back to the lemon/vanilla breakfast bread I started every day with in Agios Nikolaos (because M baked two loaves of it yesterday), and two espressos in the morning, then work, work, work, and Greek, Greek, Greek. A quiet plod through a quiet day. Then my walk and picking up flea meds for the cats. I’ve got into the routine now of throwing on shorts and t-short when I get up, wearing them throughout the day until after my walk, when I have a shower and change into long trousers because the nights are getting cold already.

It may all be banal, but it’s good like that. Just a gentle day without a racing heart or a racing mind or a raging mind. It’s good to have days like this. Oh, and I did write a review for that slavery/abolitionism novel, and it’s on goodreads. Onto something else now. My 52nd book of the year that will be. Oh, and I’ve ordered 3 Greek grammar text books, because I realise I need more than just an app on my phone to teach myself a language – writing is, after all, the best way to retain things. Interestingly, I’m told there isn’t really a cursive script for Greek – it’s more hieroglyphs than letters (and after all, a triangle, like those of us who have scored cricket matches would use to denote a bye or a leg-bye, is a capital TH, and the pi symbol is a p) – I love it.

There you are. Nothing earth-shattering today.



Aggie closes the folder, notices the big red letters on its front – TOP SECRET US GOVT. She must be imagining things. Opens the folder again. The same scene. She’s not imagining things, after all. The picture blurs, and she slumps against the shelves.

That’s how Lilibet finds her. ‘What’s the matter?’ She rushes to Aggie, takes the folder from her hands, looks at the picture, turns the pages, frowns. ‘This is impossible.’

‘It’s me, isn’t it?’ Aggie says. ‘That story I was telling you in the car, there, in that picture.’

‘And other pictures,’ Lilibet says. ‘Reams of them. How would you pick a folder at random out of all the thousands there must be here, and find yourself.’

‘Implanted memory?’ Aggie says, quietly. ‘False memory?’

‘No, no,’ Lilibet says.

‘What’s going on?’ Katharina says.

Lilibet shows her the picture.

‘It doesn’t mean anything to me,’ Katharina says.

‘It’s Aggie,’ Lilibet says.

‘But … how?’

Lilibet shrugs.

Aggie doesn’t move.

‘Look at other boxes, other files,’ Katharina says. ‘There must be a simple explanation for this.’

Lilibet pulls down another box from a shelf three steps to the right from the gap that Aggie created when she pulled this one out. Lilibet puts it on the floor, takes off its lid, puts her hand deep into the pile of folders, and pulls one out at random. ‘Here,’ she says. ‘What’s in this one?’ SHe stands next to Aggie, still motionless, opens the folder. ‘What the actual cuck?’ she shouts. ‘It’s the sane picture.’ She lets the pages run through her fingers. ‘The same pictures.’

‘I think we need to read them,’ Katharina says. ‘Patiently.’

‘OK,’ Aggie says. ‘Let me do it. It is me, after all.’ The colour is starting to come back into her face. She drops down onto the floor, holds her hand out to Lilibet for the first folder. She opens it, and is no longer shocked because she knows what to expect. ‘Experiment 345,’ she reads out. ‘Date: February 25 1930.’ She looks up. ‘That’s weird.’

‘More than weird,’ Lilibet says. ‘Impossible.’

‘So you keep saying,’ Katharina says.

‘Subject dropped February 10 1930, 05:00 hours. Drone deployed. Camera engaged. Height 10,000 feet,’ Aggie reads, her voice monotone. ‘Drones in 1930? High-definition cameras?’ She shakes her head. ‘Unsuccessful. No contact with locals. Subject did not engage. Locals did not engage. Extracted February 12 1930, 02:00n hours. Terminated.’ She drops the folder onto the ground beside her. ‘Next.’ She holds out her hand again. She can’t believe how tired she feels.

Lilibet hands her the next folder.

Aggie opens it. Same picture, as expected. Ragged child in mud in rain. ‘Experiment 678. Date: March 10 1932.’ She sighs. ‘Subject dropped February 27 1932, 05:00 hours. Drone deployed. Camera engaged. Height 10,000 feet. Interaction with locals on February 28 1932, 01:00 hours. Male locals shouting at subject. Subject stands up and tries to speak. Leader comes within reach of subject, which motions at him. He calls to group. They surround subject. Subject deceased February 28 1932 01:30. Cadaver extracted February 28 1932, 03:30 hours.’ She drops it onto the floor open on the page which shows the body of a small child covered in blood. And this time the picture’s in colour. She gags.

Lilibet runs to what she thinks must be the very last box of them all, on the bottom shelf on the other side of the room, drags it from its shelf, rips off its lid, upends it, and takes out the very bottom folder, toys with the idea of opening it, changes her mind, and just hands it straight to Aggie.

Aggie takes a deep breath, opens the folder. ‘Of course,’ she says. ‘Same picture.’ She shakes her head. ‘Experiment 2,163. Date: June 29 1944. Subject dropped June 14 1944, 04:00 hours. Drone deployed. Camera engaged. Height 7,500 feet. Interaction with locals June 14 1944, 07:43 hours. Subject follows local woman to house. Infra-red imaging commences. Indeterminate activity. Fighting. Subject eliminates woman with knife. Stab and slash wounds to woman’s abdomen. Local cadaver left in situ. Subject extracted June 14 1944, 08:24 hours. Terminated.’ Aggie throws the folder down, screams, and screams again, gets up. This can’t be what she wanted me to see, it can’t be, can’t be.’ She turns away, puts herself into a corner, face against the shelves, and wails.


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