Richard Pierce

Life, Poetry, Politics

Day 262


The country falls
Silent. Christmas Day
On a Monday
In September.
The nation mourns

The hundreds of thousands
Dead from covid,

The excess deaths caused
By underfunding the
National Health Service,

The carnage of high
Energy prices,

As the clouds are chased
South by the wind
From the freezing north,
The icy showers falling
On hunched shoulders.

The country falls
On its knees
Before the guilt
Of centuries of
Slavery and pomp.

But that’s not the truth
In these hours of
Forced silence and
Obeisance. Any
Voice is persecuted.

The country falls.
There is an empty
Chest of gold
Called tradition
That’s bankrupt.

The country falls.



Albino Generational Abnormality Transmission Agency is what it says, at the foot of the final page. What does that even mean? Aggie lifts her eyes from the folder, stares across at the rows of uncomfortable chairs that face her raised position. A jolt of recognition runs through her, and she jumps up, puts the folder on the chair, kneels down beside it, probes with her fingers around its base, discovers some tiny cables she hadn’t noticed before (even her eyes can’t see everything when there’s no light). The cables descend into the floor of the dais, again through tiny holes only her fingers can sense, her eyes not see. She jumps off the platform, walks to its curved back, where her hands and fingers set to work again, and find a slit set into the light wood, wood she realises now is albino white, and its veins red and furious and skewed. She crawls into the space she’s found, reaches for where she thinks the cables will come through the floor from above, the ceiling of where she is now, finds them, follows their path, until they terminate in some contemporary-looking machinery with a couple of switches on it. She gets her tiny torch out of one of her many pockets, shines it on the switches, sure that the light won’t escape this confined space, sees one is red and one green, flicks the green switch, hears a low hum course from the machine up out onto the platform above her. She leaves the switch where she has levered it to, crawls out of the space and jumps back up onto the dais. The chair is spinning, and a pair of cuffs has sprung out of the armrests from a recess in each she hadn’t seen or felt. The folder has fallen onto the ground from the spinning. She picks it up, turns it over and over. Is it different from any of the others she has read? Or has she just missed the small print in all the others? She stows it in her backpack.

The thoughts still scurry through her head. Did they stop the experiments in 1995, the date on the file now in her bag? She crawls back into the space, flicks the green switch into the now obvious off position, and instead flicks the red switch, hopes that no-one in this entire complex is monitoring energy usage in its parts, not sure even if there would be such a monitor, not sure anyone up there even knows this room exists, never mind realises someone is down here and playing with machinery that looks like it has just been installed rather than having been here for more than eight decades.

Back on the platform, the chair has stopped spinning, but the cuffs cast a bright silver cascade of light into the room, an unearthly light that stops Aggie from wanting to even get up there to inspect it. She doesn’t know what might happen to her if she did. Instead, she shuts off the machine, throws her bag back over her shoulder, makes one last circumnavigation of the room in the hope of finding something which might give her more of a clue as to what happened here, and what might still happen here. But most of all, she thinks of the acronym of what she read on that back page, something that threatens to turn her insides into liquid, that single, all-too-familiar word, AGATA.

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