I must admit that yesterday’s post was a struggle to put together – and Aggie’s chapter. It took me almost 2 hours. The words just weren’t there, and visualising the cathedral, although I’ve been there, was almost impossible. Tired body, tired mind, I suppose. And I’d gone to sleep with a phrase in my head I was too tired to get up to write down (and I didn’t want to wake up M), and was determined I’d remember – needless to say I didn’t. It was something that seemed to wrap the value of marriage into four words. I’ve scribbled three of them down, but the second one is missing and remains a question mark.
Yesterday’s big surprise was that I didn’t have to pay for my sight test. Because of my age. Uplifting on the one hand. Yet another reminder of it on the other. Covid-19 protocols in full force, and rightly so. The crinkle of plastic, masks and gloves. I was told to take my mask off during the test to ensure the lenses didn’t mist up and skew the test. Apparently I have very good vision for someone my age with such a strong prescription. Which hasn’t really changed in the three years since I had my last test, surprisingly. I usually had a test every year because I do so much screen work, but covid…
Writing two novels at the same time is quite an unsettling experience. Changes of pace, changes of voice, change of locations, two plots (if I can ever be said to have conscious plots in my mind when I just let the characters drive the action, let them do what they want, follow them rather than them following me). In The Mortality Code, I’m just halfway through a scene where two amateurs are performing what they hope will be a life-saving medical procedure on someone else. I know. Outcome unknown. And I’m still searching for a suitable soundscape for Aggie; she’s doing everything she does either to absolute silence in this writing room, or to the radio (which has too much talking in it too often to lend itself to quick words). I do have a partial playlist for her, but I’m not convinced, and part of me thinks classical music/instrumentals might be better for her.
Absolutely still here this morning, and the sun is shining. Perhaps it’s a good omen. The fact that I really struggled to get my left sock on this morning didn’t augur quite so well. That was a case of third time lucky. Small victories, they say.
Since I wrote that, the wind has come up. So much for that.
AGGIE’S ART OF HAPPINESS – CHAPTER 11
Aggie curls herself into a small ball, her hands and feet by each other. It’s the best position from which to unwind herself quickly to either attack or defend herself. She closes her eyes so she can hear even better. Are you him? she thinks. Or someone else, someone who’s watched me before, or someone who’s broken in here by chance? She doesn’t hold her breath, learned early on that holding your breath only means you need to breathe more heavily when you’re done, and there lies the greatest chance of discovery, the greatest likelihood of giving yourself away. The secret of staying hidden, the greatest chance of success in stalking your prey, lies in merely slowing everything down; breathing, movement, thought, of binding all your strength and reactions up into a tiny coil of almost inactivity, and letting it explode into action almost automatically, when your learned instincts allow it, when your spirit tells you to let it all go.
A slight rustle at the far end of the chapel, by the screen to the Ambulatory. A thief? There are no real treasures here, not ones which are easily carried away, unless they’re spiritual, and they are the most moveable treasures of all and will go with you wherever you go, and weigh nothing. Aggie smiles to herself. There’s the art of surviving. A minute clang of metal, still far away. What sounded like a growl hasn’t come again. Perhaps she misheard, and it was just an expression of effort. But she must have passed whatever it is when she came in. Perhaps the screen is open. Perhaps whoever, whatever, this is, went out into the soaring hallway around the inside of the cathedral, closed the screen while she came past it, and has now opened it again. She tries to make sense of it, but no sense will come, and her smile fades away. She smells danger.
No point waiting. She opens her eyes, uncoils rapidly, a snake across the stone floor, writhing through the narrowness of the pew row, reaches the screen before she’s taken another breath, before the silence has even noticed her moving, her eyes fixed on the source of the noise, and up onto her feet, attack position, hands reaching out around the shape, her stiletto pointing forwards then inwards in her left hand, her right hand fixed around the throat of the shape, dragging it down to the floor without effort, without sound, without mercy. She can’t remember learning this, just does it.
‘Not very good,’ she says, pinning the figure to the floor, her arm on the shape’s throat, her hand across its neck, the stiletto touching a point above its heart.
The shape struggles, tries to kick at her, without success.
‘If you scream you die,’ Aggie says through her teeth, releases her hand but not her arm. The sinews beneath it shift.
‘I was sent for you.’ A male gasp.
The shock of the words almost makes her release her grip. But she’s too good for that, too in control. ‘Who?’
‘Trash. A name.’ She increases her pressure on his throat.
‘No name. Just … a message.’
‘How do you know me?’
‘The message.’ Every word an effort. ‘Get the Albino.’