Richard Pierce


Day 224

Today has been a much better day, partly because I did radio, which always cheers me up (maybe because I have to be cheerful for my listeners, and definitely because I love playing new music – and some old loud stuff). Although the show did start disastrously because my playout system wouldn’t work. Turns out it was because there’d been a Windows update and that had made the machine default back to an audio output which didn’t exist. I did manage to cobble together the first 20 minutes of the show using other music players until I’d solved the problem. Breathe, breathe!

I also think I’d inadvertently dehydrated myself. And that’s weird and stupid, because I am usually very conscious of the need to hydrate, and very conscientious about hydrating myself. And this has to do with what I was talking to Colonel L on our weekly Zoom earlier – that once again time seems to passing more quickly than I can fathom or cope with. I haven’t done any stretches for two days now either, and I seem to be chasing stuff rather than actually being in charge of my time. It’s all very odd. And there is a novel in all that, about time speeding up but none of us noticing because the clocks don’t seem to have changed speed – but we’re in a closed system, so how would we notice anyway?

One thing that crossed my mind earlier this week is a very First World problem concerning the climate crisis we have created. The office now, and I’m writing this at just coming up to 20:00 UK time, is 30C. Our bedroom, on the other hand, has a nice through-draught, and so is probably at least 5C cooler. And that’s where my vinyl is right now. The plan has been to move it into this office, but now I’m worried it will melt and degrade and warp (at least during the now hotter summers) if I do move it. I told you it’s a First World problem. And part of me wants to move it so I can play it more frequently (well, at all, actually), and I can’t do that in the bedroom. And I possibly want to put together a back-up studio up in the bedroom as well (don’t tell M; she’s already forbidden it once).

The builders are back, and we’re now hopefully looking at the final stretch of being able to get the house as we need it (although the anti-materialistic part of me says we didn’t need to change it in the first place, but just get rid of more stuff, especially if we are going to move to Agios Nikolaos).

I must be feeling better.



Aggie slips the key into each of the ten locks, one after the other, surprised, although she shouldn’t be, that it fits, surprised, although she shouldn’t be, that there is just one key for so many locks. She starts at the bottom, bending forwards, and works her way to the top, where even she has to reach slightly beyond her reach to get the key into the lock. At the final click of the final lock, the door slides to one side, not into the room, and reveals a darkness beyond. Aggie shines her torch into what looks like a void, not expecting much. The beam hits on a wall of red bricks, and as her eyes adjust, she sees that the bricks meet in an arch to form a tunnel. ‘What the hell?’ she says, more to herself than anyone else.

‘A tunnel?’ Lilibet is the first to react. ‘Where to?’

Aggie scratches her head. ‘It looks like it’s leading in the direction of the river.’ She moves to the entrance, feels around the walls for a light switch.

‘There won’t be anything there,’ Lilibet says.

‘I wouldn’t bet on it,’ Aggie says, and pushes down on the small switch she has found. Lights come on, slowly, not very brightly. Bright enough for her to see along the tunnel a long way. It takes a downward curve at the edge of her vision. She turns back to the room, looks at Lilibet silently for a very long time. ‘I need to do this on my own,’ she says, at last.

‘No, you can’t,’ Lilibet says. ‘I won’t let you.’

‘Please,’ Aggie says. ‘I have to. Not just because this might be what Cassandra wanted me to find, but, but because I need to clear my head, need to be able to see clearly, and I’ve not been for the last couple of days. I’m too slow, too hesitant, too scared about what might happen to you.’ She steps to Lilibet, wraps her in a bear hug. ‘I do love you,’ she whispers. ‘I do, I do, and that won’t ever change. But right now, I need to do this alone.’ She undoes her bear hug, and takes a step back. ‘Go cook some dinner, you three, or drink the house dry of wine, or sit in the living room and watch the telly, and see what that damn Vladimir is getting up to, or explore the place. Just don’t leave the house, and don’t come looking for me. I’ll be back soon, probably sooner than we all expect, because this could be just another dead end, just another false trail Cassie or Valentine have laid.’

‘And if it’s a trap?’ Lilibet says. ‘What then?’ Her eyes are wet, and she doesn’t want to let Aggie out of her sight. Every part of her wants to be with this strange woman with the strange accent she only met a few days ago, whom she would never have met if she hadn’t been used and abused by powers she had no inkling of.

‘Then it’s a trap.’ Aggie crouches down, checks the knife snuggled against her calf, even though she knows it’s still there. And she pulls Cassandra’s tiny pistol out of her waistband, checks the magazine, rummages in her trousers for the spare ammo. ‘See, I have everything I need if it is a trap. I’ll see you presently.’ She blows Lilibet a kiss, turns round, steps into the tunnel, and kicks the door shut behind her.

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