Richard Pierce


Day 232

It’s always quite weird listening to myself on the radio when I decide to put up a pre-record rather than doing a live show so I can get on with other things. But I do b=play some banging record, it must be said. Today, we’re airing Episode 1 of my 12-inch vinyl collection. Episode 2 is already in the can and will go out next Saturday, and, some time, this coming week, I’ll record at least Episode 3. From what I recall, there’s enough material for five episodes, and I’ll try to record one a week. Why do pre-records instead of just doing it live? Isn’t the time investment exactly the same? Well, for one it gives us an ever-expanding library of pre-records. For the other, it does give me more time with M on a Saturday if I pre-record stuff during the week while she’s working or otherwise engaged. And it gives me time to do other things as well, like write this, like editing the podcasts and uploading them, etc etc, pp. Which includes a lot of waiting for the machine to save the files. And it’s all very bitty.

We’re off to a wedding later. I am trying to stay off my feet as much as possible right now so we can dance a lot. We like dancing with each other. I have written a poem for the lovely couple, starting out on their joint path. Maybe I’ll share it tomorrow. It made M cry, although I’d told her it wouldn’t. Whoops.

I’m writing nonsense this morning (well, it’s gone noon, actually, by now). I’m still playing great tunes; my disembodied self, that is. Maybe it’s not nonsense, but just words filling gaps between activity. Is that what life is? The activities between words?

I was going to put the running order for the pre-record here, but I’ve changed my mind. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you. I just heard myself congratulating Radio Stradbroke on its 5,000th birthday. When I was doing the pre-record, I did have some fun imagining people listening to me and my tunes in 5022. I wonder what the world will be like then, and if people will be listening via implants or if we’ll have an FM licence by then, and people will be listening on solar-powered radios. And online. Or perhaps the Internet will be dead by then. Who knows?

It’s actually a nice lazy-ish day so far. Enough.

Much later. Afterthoughts.

This is what happens when you start something but leave it only half-finished. More stuff happens. Like a foot pump for tyres not working. Like printing out a return label to the Beast. Like phoning the nearest car parts shop to se if they have them. Like driving down there, opening the box to make sure the pump doesn’t have the same defect as the one you’re sending back, and then buying it when it obviously doesn’t have that defect. Then popping in to a pet store to buy the cat litter we need. And then popping into the DIY store to buy two more paving slabs and some ballast to put them on. And doing some more Greek when you get home. And all the time thinking about what Aggie will do next. That reminds me of a series of books one of my sisters read when we were kids, but the girl’s name was Katie not Aggie.



Body scan complete. The red letters shine through the brightness which is part blinding Aggie. The silence is complete except for her breathing. The red letters disappear, and another row of letters appears. Handprint scan required. She wonders how the machine can have recognised her body. She’s never been down here. But she approaches the machine again, this time without violence. An orange square the size of her hands appears, and she puts her right hand flat onto the surface, and still doesn’t feel as if she’s making contact with anything. The other hand now please. She swaps hands. All scans complete. Please remove the key. She turns and reaches for the key, pulls it out of the lock. There’s a slight draught of air behind her, but still no sounds. She understands why. Sound travels through the earth, even if we don’t think it does. She holds her breath.

The intangible material has slid to one side, and a warmer kind of light breathes through the gap in the rocks which now appears. She steps over the threshold, and it slides shut behind her. A narrow corridor, arrows flashing on one side, at ground level, directing her forwards. She follows them. The corridor ends, and another sliding door opens to let her into a room about twice the size of the cellar, computer screens on the walls all the way round, above the grey desks that run all around, too. Just two standard-looking office chair, with wheels and headrests.

‘Sit down, please.’ It’s Cassandra’s voice. ‘In the left chair.’

Aggie sits down, and the monitor ahead of her flickers on.

Cassandra’s face appears. She nods at Aggie. ‘This is not real time,’ the face says. ‘I’m a recording you have automatically triggered by sitting in the chair, and I assume therefore that you found what I left for you in York.’

Aggie nods, although she knows Cassandra can’t see her, and smiles at herself for that silly instinctive reaction.

‘You will be asking yourself why you’re here. Not Robert, not Marit, not Katharina.’ A pause.

Aggie nods again. She can’t help herself.

‘Robert’s too flaky, and too much in love.’ Cassandra is counting them off on her fingers, looking down and up between her words. ‘Katharina’s too angry, and always has been. Marit is too immature, and doesn’t understand the need to stick to rules, even if they’re self-imposed.’

Aggie smiles and can’t stop herself from speaking. ‘Agreed.’

The pauses in Cassandra’s sentences seem too well-timed to be artificial, to be recorded, not real-time.

‘I worked out what pauses to leave to let you react,’ Cassandra says. ‘I know you better than you know yourself.’ Her eyes sparkle, and she allows herself a smile. ‘You’ll be here, now, asking yourself what those files in the cellar were all about.’ She shrugs at Aggie. ‘I don’t know either. I found them when I was doing some research into what Valentine might be up to, and there seemed to me to be some sort of link, albeit tenuous, because I’m sure those experiments were about mind and body control, much as Valentine’s devices are.’ Cassandra leans back, and as she moves away from the screen, her black catsuit comes into view, so tight it looks poured on.

Aggie raises an eyebrow.

‘Don’t look so outraged,’ Cassandra says. ‘I need to be able to move easily and quickly where I’m going. No room for dresses or the like.’ Cassie grunts, and her lips form a sneer. ‘Nor washing either, but sacrifices have to be made.’

‘But what am I supposed to do?’ Aggie says to the moving image.

‘If there is a link, what I don’t understand is why they all look like you. I don’t know if you’ve ever been in such a place, been put in that dreadful position those children were, but even so.’ She pauses, looks past the camera at something Aggie can’t even guess at. ‘I had all this material before you came to us. And when I saw you in town a couple of times, I had to work out how to get you to me. It worked. I didn’t know at the time that this would all have to be played out so soon. What I need you to do is to find all the other files I haven’t got. Because the more I started digging, the more obstacles were put in my way. And one day, half the room they were in was empty.’ Her arms mimic an explosion. ‘I just salvaged what was left.’

Aggie doesn’t even bother asking how she managed to remove all the files without being noticed.

‘Perhaps they’re digitised somewhere,’ Cassie goes on. ‘But I’ve not traced that either.’ She looks down at the desk she’s sitting at. ‘In the drawer below this screen there’s a ticket for you, an open ticket out and return, to Washington. I think that’s where the next piece of the puzzle is, and I want you to go there.’

‘Now? With everything else that’s happening?’

‘As soon as possible,’ Cassie says. ‘I think this will inform everything that’s happening. And I will keep hunting Valentine and his crew.’ She looks straight into the camera. ‘I will find a way to be in touch when I can. And I’m relying on you.’

The screen clicks off.

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