Richard Pierce

Life, Politics, Writing

Day 95

M agreed yesterday to give me a Number 1 haircut (that’s very short, by the way). I had started to feel the weight of my long (for me) hair for some time, and it was starting to feel like hypocrisy of the worst kind that I was basically combing back over my baldness rather than embracing that baldness and showing it. Yes, it’s sad for me that I used to have a wonderful head full of wavy hair when I was much much younger, but I remember thinking when I was in my early twenties that if I did start going bald I’d just shave all my hair off and be bald and proud of it. So, no more long hair (for me), no more staring at the artfully generated single curl dangling dangerously closely to my glasses and imagining I’m a talented fop. Better to look like a talented thug. M has always said that I look like a thug with very short hair. But I’m a pussycat really; everyone knows it. Though it’s advisable to remember that cats are never tamed.

I didn’t sit down straightaway to write this today. I went off and did some research into yoga for the lower back. It’s about time I thought about that side of self-care, too, because the truth is that the only way I’ll get this back to last until I’m 125 is to make it stronger. And I need to push to one side my natural laziness and dislike of being organised, and fit that additional exercise in somehow. I started watching a session and was very tempted to join in straightaway. Later.

We watched the news for the first time in a long time yesterday, and, of course, it was unbearable. Atrocity after atrocity, with journalists saying that although it can’t be verified that these atrocities have been committed by Russian soldiers all the evidence points towards that being the fact. But it’s also a fact that all war is inhuman and inhumane, that states/countries train their soldiers to be exactly that, to not care about the lives of those they fight (and some might say trained not to care about their own lives). Atrocities have forever been a weapon of war. That doesn’t make them acceptable (the opposite, in fact), but it highlights to me that there can be no such thing as a legal war. All war is illegal. All war is an atrocity. All violence is an atrocity. All badmouthing is an atrocity. And I repeat the word not to make it seem without value, to seem meaningless, but to highlight how far beyond acceptable even mental violence is, and that was is happening in Ukraine right now – and Somalia and Yemen and Afghanistan and Hong Kong and China – are crimes against humanity. And, speaking in my own context, the deliberate neglect in the UK of the poor and disabled and disadvantaged and the health care system by the current government is another crime against inhumanity.

I may look like a thug now, but I will never be one.



The car rumbles along the road. Katharina and Marit speak in mumbles. Nothing of consequence. Aggie hears them as clearly as if they were shouting next to her ear. Just words about when to stop to rest, how many hours into the trip, what time they will get to York. She leaves her eyes closed to examine the past.

Anna hadn’t been escaping that night, had she? The mentor had made her believe the camp in the forest away from the house was another part of training, had forced her, somehow to set up outside, another survival game. Perhaps Anna had thought she could escape from there, thought to take some supplies and equipment with her that would stand her in good stead if she went through the night pretending to be another pawn in the mentor’s games, in thrall to those strong arms like the young are always in thrall to those they think physically superior to them, physically more attractive, more developed, more adept.

Aggie’s eyes move ever more quickly under their closed lids. She’d been woken in the small hours, taken by surprise, because that was before she had fully healed, before she’d learned that she didn’t need sleep anymore, that the cure of death had taken away from her the tiredness that living and surviving normally brings with it. She’d been wide awake by the time the mentor was leading her down the stone steps, and impervious to the cold and the damp and the dark. Only one thing had surprised her then, the ability to see in the dark when albinos were known to have problems with their sight. Yet hers was more than perfect, the shapes in the dark sharp and well-defined, waves of heat shimmering from anything living she saw, the almost automatic instinct to see only what was alive and moving, the juddering of her jaw when she detected living flesh ahead of her, the constant swivelling of head and eyes, and her hands clenching and unclenching to keep themselves ready for attack. The almost primeval contraction in her throat, the suppressed growl and bark, the urge to run ahead. And then the sudden stop when she saw the shape through the trees, sitting by the fire, and so obviously on edge and restless, and so obviously suppressing the same growl, and pawing at the ground with her feet. And the beauty of her. She had to be free.

Those words again, that hiss, from the mentor whom she’d forgotten about in her daze staring at Anna, wanting to be back on the window seat with her, lounging in the sun warm through the glass. In between her eyes. Now. Or I’ll cut you open and send you back to where you belong. A snarl as well as a hiss. The gun in her hand. The deliberate miss, the bullet to the shoulder. The chase. The sudden shutting down. The shutting down.

Aggie’s eyes snap open. She doesn’t move. The shutting down. Piece by piece the memory reconstructs. Why now? Why now? Why the collapse? A tranquilliser dart? Waking up in the cell. No strength in her limbs. What was that? The countryside is flat by her side. Anna still asleep. Aggie sits up. A straight road ahead. The car moving still.

‘Welcome back.’


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