Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 229

For as long as I can remember I have stepped onto thresholds rather than over them. Always the threshold in the middle of my foot, my right foot at that. And because of this ongoing problem with that foot (something to do with the connection of the ligaments to the fifth metatarsal, apparently), I am trying to consciously avoid stepping on thresholds. Now, the paving slabs outside one of the back doors to the house are loose, and make a bit of a noise if you step on them. I therefore try to step onto the the bricks between the slabs (and apparently M does the same, which tickled me when she told me about it at the weekend). Just now, when I went back into the house for a glass of water, Florence (the older cat) was in the library and jumped away from me as I walked in. I apologised to her for my aggressive last step into the house, and explained to her that I was doing this to minimise the noise AND to step over the threshold rather than onto it. I’m not sure she understood, but she did miaow at me in that indecipherable and invariably condescending way in which cats acknowledge human conversation. That’s what made me question this age-old habit of mine – extending my thinking into why, perhaps it’s because I do change with difficulty, moving from one sphere into the next. Difficulty letting go (references yesterday’s 5E treatment again).

One thing I’ve realised about this whole learning Greek endeavour is that I’ve taken it a step too far. Despite many comments to the contrary in my past (mainly in the cricket sphere), I am actually very competitive, and the language learning app I use (I don’t want to promo it, but I’m sure you can imagine which one it is) puts people in league tables and awards points and badges and all this stuff, so I’ve become distracted by, and addicted to, measuring myself against those yard sticks rather than just focusing on learning the language and its words. And last night I realised this was a bad thing, that I’m spending too much time trying to outdo others rather than being a student. I have always said to everyone who’ll listen that comparing yourself to others is not a good thing, because the only competitor worth measuring yourself against is yourself. So I’m cutting my time on the app to just half an hour a day, not looking at the ridiculous league tables, and am going to go right back to the beginning, do things very slowly, and actually start writing into my book (the front will be for vocab, like in my good old school days, and the back, with the book turned the other way up, will be for verb declensions and the like). That’s the learning plan.

And now that I’ve written down those thoughts, it’s back to work.

Later, much later. So, after therapy, I look at my phone. My reunion with Stephen Bumfrey and the BBC Radio Norfolk studios tomorrow has had to be postponed due to circumstances beyond our control. That’s sad. Let’s hope we manage to rearrange soon.

But, in a spare moment caused by my discombobulation, I managed to remember how to link to individual sections of a different web page, so now I can direct you, individually, to the signed books you can buy from me. How clever of me.

Dead Men

The Immortality Clock

Bee Bones

Tettig’s Jewels

The Failed Assassin



The face Aggie sees is not not she would have expected to see. The marks on it are horrific, the skull pieced together by some kind of alien magic, it seems, the shattered thing she last saw the contents of splattered all over the road outside Robert’s house. She struggles to control her breathing. How could they? How can they have reconstructed Marit’s dead boyfriend, the boy who had been paid to mislead her and then decided he wouldn’t? She puts her hand under his shirt to where the controller would be, but finds nothing, not tell-tale lump just under his skin. He’s still breathing. It’s an impossibility. And it messes up her plans to explore the tunnel further, to try to find out why that tunnel surfaces just here, and not the ancient reason, not the reason it was built in the first place, but the reason for Cassie having bought that house with that entrance to this tunnel, and why she would have wanted Aggie to find it. Valentine must have known about it, mustn’t he? Or was he just hedging his bets that she would surface here at some time, some night because this is where she always goes.

Her hand goes under Tom’s shirt again. Perhaps she’s missed something. How else would they have resurrected a dead man if not with a control device? How else would they be controlling him if not with a device. And then it hits her – they’ll have put it somewhere she can’t get to it unless she breaks her vow never to kill, somewhere she’d have to break into to find it, somewhere no-one can go unless they’re a surgeon with a bone saw and a subject under general anaesthetic. She cradles his head in her hands, and knows the device is in the constructed head, and that it’s probably replaced his entire brain, and that he’s nothing more than a corpse puppet, and that she can’t ever take him back to Marit, and she can’t ever tell Marit that she found him here, and that he was trying to kill her. And she wonders what to do, and she asks herself if it would count as breaking her vow if she killed someone who had died once already.

But that’s not her only problem. Because, if she’s right about it, and she’s certain she is, then there will soon be an army of Valentine’s robots that she can’t disarm, that she can’t simply wrest from his control, because Valentine will have, will already have a brain surgeon and a bone saw and general anaesthetic, and a full supply of new fourth or fifth-generation devices so tiny, they can be inserted into anyone’s brain. And soon Valentine won’t need the brain surgeon or the bone saw or the general anaesthetic because he’ll think of smaller and better ways, but he’ll always choose the inside of a skull, because he knows she won’t be able to do anything about it. Aggie laughs grimly. ‘You’ve given yourself away, Sir,’ she says into the darkness, the boy in her arms, carrying him down the stone steps into the Choir. ‘Because you’ve told me you’re afraid of what I can do to you and your army, because you’ve had to invent something new much too quickly.’ She lays Tom out on the altar, as if he were a human sacrifice. ‘And you can probably hear me, too. Right now.’ She keeps the emotion out of her voice. ‘But the battle’s only just starting, Valentine, and you’d better beware.’ She closes her eyes as she wraps her left hand around Tom’s head and starts to squeeze.

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