Richard Pierce

Life, Writing

Day 68

Self-censorship doesn’t merely happen in the moment just before the words hit the paper, or the immediate moment afterwards. It happens all the time. I have developed this unfortunate capacity for cutting off the stream of words in my head when I think something else that needs doing is more important. Sometimes it’s because I think people will be tired of hearing what I’m thinking, tired of reading what I’m thinking, that the physical manifestation of my thoughts and ways of thinking is monotonous. The only problem is that a lot gets lost that way, and that I’m curbing my creativity in some way. But (and even having moved the cursor back a few words to correct a typo just now) I’m trying to balance the significant demands of my job with the demands of my creativity with the finite time there is. I do criticise myself for watching too much TV, but at the end of most days I’m too tired to even produce (or should that be reproduce?) words coherent enough to make prose or poetry or journal. And I feel that sometimes I do actually need to keep up with the news in moving pictures rather than text and still pictures.

This morning has turned manic. Dealt with some urgent work emails first thing. Realised I’d forgotten to charge my phone overnight, so plugged that in while having breakfast and my early-morning reading fix (crime novel this week). Then I pick up my partially-charged phone to see messages from four separate people telling me the news has broken that Shackleton’s Endurance has been found and filmed (and was actually discovered on 5th March), so scrabble to catch up with that news, because the whole Antarctic story is so important to me. The thought scurries through my mind that it’s about time to find a publisher for Ice Child, the sequel to Dead Men, which is all about Shackleton’s aborted Nimrod expedition in 1908. That’s another action point for today, I suppose, to add to the list of things to do. It’s at times like this that I think writing this daily journal/blog/draft/madness is yet another unnecessary burden I’ve lumbered myself with.

In the background, a war in Europe simmers, and other wars crowd in on my consciousness that illustrate the inequity and isolationism in which we live, deliberately or accidentally. On some levels it’s deliberate. On others it’s because our thoughts can only stretch so far geographically, because we limit the functionality of our minds. I did say to M the other night that it’s a source of great regret to me that there isn’t a pill that can keep me awake permanently and counteract the adverse health effects of sleep deprivation. Just think what I could do with 24 hours a day instead of 17.



Aggie’s mind has this ability never to get bored, to always keep itself occupied with something or another, to tick away like a perpetually mobile clock, to be perpetually in motion. And so the journey to London seems like a few minutes, not almost two hours. She feels the final slowing down of the train, the turn to the right and then the left as it wends its way through the last few obstacles, the welcome messages in various languages still draped from the sides of the viaducts and tunnels, remnants of the 2012 Olympics when this country was still open to the rest of the world. And as the train slows even more, captured now on both sides by main platforms and maintenance platforms, she gets the feeling that something’s amiss, that there is immediate danger, that she won’t have a straightforward passage into London. She winds her internal spring even more tightly.

The front carriage is about a third full now. The train skids to a standstill. Aggie waits for everyone else to get off first, gets up, and moves backwards through the train, two or three carriages further away from the engine, from the barriers, watches the intermittent stream of people on the platform through the window, her slouch keeping the top of her head away from the ceiling of the carriage. One more waggon back. A particularly dense crowd of commuters passes the open carriage door, and she glides out, hides herself behind them. Even with her new gait, she’s half a head taller than them. She has her hands in her pockets now, having transferred a gun from the satchel into each of them, left and right. She senses movements up and ahead, pinpricks of red light in her mind. A few metres from the barriers, she shears away from the crowd, behind the back of the concession stalls, and the maintenance booths, all the way along the front of the platforms, all the across to Platform 1. She can’t detect anyone tracing her.

The barrier swings noiselessly open. She strolls through and picks up her ticket in one motion, one step. She saw him in the gap between the stalls at Platform 8, makes her way back now through the sparse crowd on the main concourse, confident no-one will recognise her. She can see, too, the police snipers up on the mezzanine. They’re trying to look bored and inattentive, but she knows they’ll be looking for the tall albino. They’ll be watching him, too. His eyes are still trained on the passengers coming through the barriers from her train. She wraps a long arm around his waist. ‘Hi, Zav,’ she whispers into his ear. ‘It’s been a long time.’ She kisses him whilst pulling him gently, slowly, to a space under the mezzanine. Her lips leave his. ‘They won’t shoot you, will they?’ she says.

‘They won’t shoot you either,’ he says, wiping his lips with the back of his sleeve. ‘I almost didn’t recognise you.’

‘I could just have walked out of this place without anyone recognising me.’

‘Then why didn’t you?’

‘I saw you. And them. I’m obviously very predictable.’

He shrugs. ‘I hadn’t expected the disguise.’

‘I nearly left home without it.’

‘That would have been a mistake.’

‘So you’re a policeman now?’ she says.

‘Always have been. Just not a normal one.’

‘Unlike your commandos up there?’

‘A bit.’

‘And everything else was a set-up? You just wanted to herd me to London?’

‘I want you alive,’ he says.

‘Is that concern or necessity?’

‘Both.’ He looks around. ‘There’s no way you’ll get out if here.’

She raises a now black eyebrow. ‘You doubt my invincibility?’

He smiles sadly. ‘No-one is invincible.’

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