Richard Pierce


Day 98

Last night I dreamed of I missed my broadcasting slot this morning, and that someone had put my broadcasting desk into a classroom that already had a party with separate music going on. I dreamed of school children burying their books in mud and having to dig them out on the last day of term, and that teachers were sending notes home with the students telling their parents what terrible children they had for burying their books like that, and that I told the kids that I’d just tell the teachers to stop being so petty. I moved my broadcasting set-up into the school attic, and under the table I set up on, two lizards had made their home on a discarded cotton tent and were running around making sure everything was ready for them to lay their eggs. And still I couldn’t connect my radio set-up to the internet and got on air at least half an hour late. And when I asked someone to bring me my mobile phone, it turned out to be an old clamshell one that was falling apart and wouldn’t work. In the final part of the dream, I was in the school canteen with one of my arch enemies, and we were competing at who could eat the last huge piece of cake the quickest. It had lots of chocolate button in it. And then I woke up. I’m not even going to attempt to analyse that little lot.

I was out and about yesterday. Trains. People without masks on trains despite the flashing message on the train screens over the aisles that you had to wear masks unless you were exempt. Loud phones and music. The landscape flashing by in sudden sharp showers of hail. People in the streets with no masks, people with no idea of personal space never mind social distancing. Seeing two or three old friends by coincidence (not that coincidence exists). Sunshine. Grass under my feet. Different accents and languages. Working late when I got back. Dropping into a cricket committee meeting for 30 minutes in between the work I had to do. Streaming services not working properly. And the wind raging around the garden office, louder than ever. And then those dreams.

It will be another busy day. Another busy weekend. I spread myself too thinly a lot of the time. I don’t know why. I wondered aloud last night with M why I hadn’t stayed in academia. Part of me thinks it’s because I’m not clever enough. M said it was actually because I couldn’t find a subject that fascinated me enough. Maybe that’s why I spread myself too thinly. Because I’m still trying to find something that draws me in entirely and that I love to do with all my being. I’d have thought writing was that. The only thing I always leave out of al these equations when I’m trying to be good at everything is that I actually need to earn a living. So I need millions of you to buy my books. Then I’ll be able to write all day every day.

Actually, I’ve always loved history, but maybe I didn’t love it enough.



Katharina comes across with the coffee. The smell of it makes Aggie feel sick. She grabs Anna’s hand, gets up, drags her out of the cafe with her. Anna doesn’t resist. Aggie breathes in deep gulps.

‘What’s the matter,’ Anna says.

‘You knew what Zav was going to say.’

‘I have that uncanny ability.’

‘You knew I was going to shoot you that night, didn’t you?’

‘Only a few seconds before,’ Anna says.

‘You could still have started running.’

‘There really wasn’t enough time.’

‘Did you know I wasn’t going to kill you?’

‘I’m not sure. Something just told me to hold still, that moving at that instant might be the wrong thing to do.’

Aggie paces up and down in small steps in the dust and wind. ‘Is it something you can control?’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Have you ever thought of trying to use it to predict something that’s more than a couple of seconds ahead?’

‘You mean see into the future?’

Aggie nods.

‘I’ve never tried.’ Anna holds up her hands. ‘But I don’t think this is some sort of superpower, if that’s what you’re thinking. It can’t be used t manipulate the present and change the future.’

‘But you’ve not tried.’

‘ You’re odd. First you tell me that you’ve not taken me along as a weapon, that you’re trying to save me, and then you ask me about something that’s just a knot of feeling, just a tiny shift in consciousness, because you want to use it for something you’re not telling me about.’

‘No, no. Sorry. That’s not what I intended, not why I asked. I just suddenly realised that you’re even more special than I thought you were. And that if you knew I was going to shoot you, you were raver than I’ve ever been.’

‘Did they torture you for missing, for letting me run away?’

‘They stopped me chasing you, probably because they thought I’d try to run away with with you. And I would have. It was like someone had switched off all the power in my body. And they kept me locked up in an electrified cage for at least four weeks. And the whole time I felt like my body was too heavy for my strength, that I wasn’t strong enough to carry myself around.’

‘I’m sorry.’ Anna hugs Aggie in that awkward way that shorter people hug very tall people.

‘Don’t be. None of us were to know they’d do that.’

‘I should have guessed,’ Anna says.

‘Then so should I.’

‘What made them let you out in the end?’

Aggie sighs. ‘Probably that they needed me to be a weapon again. They were all apologetic and nice. Told me it was for my own good. That you’d obviously gone wrong in some way and wouldn’t survive out in the wild. So I thought you were dead, accepted you were dead, and tried not to think about you at all. But I couldn’t forget you, and in my day dreams I’d see you flying through the air outside the big window turning those mad somersaults of yours.’ She smiles. ‘Those memories made me happy.’

‘Well, I’m alive,’ Anna says.

‘And still turning somersaults?’

‘When I need to. When someone’s not quicker than I am.’

‘Do you forgive me?’

‘There’s nothing to forgive.’ Anna kisses one of Aggie’s massive hands. ‘Come on. I can sense there’s some coffee.’

‘That’s cheating. It’s already happened.’

‘I will try, Aggie, I will. To see the future.’

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