Richard Pierce

Life, Poetry

Day 269


We’re always looking at puzzles
The wrong way up, and missing the
Obvious answers because our logic
Is opposite to the instinct which
Answers difficult questions.

We had it in our hands, once,
That simplicity of faith, that
Way of seeing everything instantly,
And understanding without
Overthinking the enigma.

And here we are, adding fuel
To the fire. And it’s not vanities
We’re burning, nor books or ideologies.
It’s the whole world in fames,
Our history, present, and future.

The rain is an illusion. Before we
Found fire we had only light and dark,
And caves, and fight or flight.
Those simple equations are beyond
Us now, in our invented chaos.



… Vice-President also killed in shooting, the White House says …

… President and Prime Minister confirmed dead, the Kremlin says …

The newscaster’s voice has become a drifting background to the small group in the back room in Marion’s house, any sense of comfort and safety and conviviality non-existent.

Aggie doesn’t know what she can say in front of the Dean, keep staring at Marion, looking for a signal. Other than sharp looks back, nothing is an obvious signal.

‘There’s nothing I can do about this, is there?’ Aggie says. ‘None of us can. So I might as well go to bed and get some sleep.’

‘Let me show you your room,’ Marion says. ‘We got so caught up chattering, and now this, that I totally forgot.’ Her voice is back to that soft tone, that deceptive register which mimics care and vulnerability but wraps unpleasantness into its core.

‘Thanks,’ Aggie says.

‘I won’t be a moment, Dean,’ Marion says. ‘I’m sure you and Bill have plenty to be talking about.’

‘It’s an impossible situation, Marion,’ the Dean says. ‘And we need to work out how to position ourselves.’

No great emotion there, Aggie thinks as she follows Marion out of the room. Just another power play. She stifles her sigh.

‘We sit tight, that’s what we do,’ Marion calls back over her shoulder. She leads Aggie up two flights of stairs, opens the door into a room that looks nothing like a bedroom, the door itself at least six inches thick. The door clicks shut. Just a table and some chairs. ‘Sit down,’ Marion says. ‘There.’

Aggie sits, tense, ready to fight, fists clenched under the table. ‘No tricks,’ she says.

Marion sits down opposite her and laughs. ‘No tricks.’ She puts her hands flat on the table. ‘There.’ She leans forward. ‘You’re probably wondering what this room is.’

Aggie says nothing, stares at Marion’s hands.

‘It’s totally secure,’ Marion says. ‘Electromagnetic shielding. Swept every day for bugs. Even more secure than downstairs. We don’t want the Dean or anyone else overhearing our little talk, do we?’

‘Why didn’t we talk up here in the first place?’

‘Didn’t want to intimidate you, did I?’

‘I’m not easily intimidated.’

‘I can see that now.’

‘You knew it all along.’

‘Maybe I did.’ Marion sighs, not impatiently, but sadly. ‘He was a good man, despite his age and malleability.’

‘The President?’

Marion nods.


‘It’s not your fault.’ Marion shakes her head. ‘And don’t say it was. You’re making yourself a victim. Tell me what you’re thinking instead.’

It’s Aggie’s turn to put her unclenched hands on the smooth table. She likes the feel of it, the touch of it. ‘I think Cassandra’s still working with Valentine. There’s nothing else to explain these simultaneous assassinations. And I can’t think of anyone else who would have been able to get close enough to Putin and his deputy to do this.’

‘Valentine’s robots?’

‘Then why did Valentine need to be here and do what he did to that woman? It implies someone like that was needed in Russia as well to control what happened over there.’

‘I guess we’ll never find out.’

‘We have to find out. Otherwise we’re just running around in the dark, and feeding information to Valentine through Cassandra.’

‘But wouldn’t he have known you were here if she was still in league with him?’ Marion’s exasperated.

‘The thing is that it did feel a bit like a performance, like he was being overly dramatic for someone else.’

‘Maybe he was just filming it for himself. Or maybe there are cameras in that room.’

‘But that’s horrible,’ Aggie says.

‘Not everyone has a soul as pure as yours,’ Marion says. ‘And I’m not joking.’

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