The filing system was large, dense and complex. They always are, in your head, but ask modern archivists and they will tell you about well-lit rooms with motorised carousel storage that shrinks the world to a two-digit number on a keypad. But in your head, the filing system was filled with shadow and indexed by a demon.
We pushed through on the dawn, ragged banners tilting skyward as the sun’s dust punched holes in our eyes and set our clothes ablaze in gold. At that moment we could go no further, feet tangled in long grass taking root as our minds set out branches with fat, flat leaves to catch the light. Were we rescued now, as the heavy sky rolled without thunder and the last of the wind from the battlefield carried the last of the screams over the long horizon. We were haunted now only by the ghosts we brought with us; slumped on our shoulders, arms hooked around our ankles as they crawled to safety too. May we never find it – the last words of the dying, hissed out of empty lungs. Never safety, never peace. We watched the sun rise and there in the cold its warmth passed over us; the distant heat of violence, an unending explosion in the silence of space whispering to a stop on our skin. We sat, and peace flowed from us. We would turn to stone, our stations presenting a riddle to future generations passing by this spot. We would watch the sky and guard the Earth beneath.
We tore it down.
It was debated,
we should leave it. A flag,
planted in the dead soil
of a planet that does not permit our life.
A grave marker
A finger pointed at the sky
pointed at the hearts
of those who let it happen.
Yes. He sat back and looked around at the house. Neat and tidy. Clean. Swept top to bottom and left to right. Nothing… he jumped, and peered at a lamp. No, not done.
He sprang from the chair and flew to the table on which there stood a small desk lamp. Clicking the power off, he reached in and unscrewed the bulb. Few years ago, he thought, I’d have burnt my fingers.
He held the bulb up to the window and turned it over. What was he lookiing for? Hard to tell these days, but he knew he woud know it when he saw it. He swiped at the bulb with a duster, then ran a finger round the socket. It came back dusty but otherwise there was nothing to see.
Can’t be too careful, he thought, screwing the bulb back in. Never know who’s listening and to what. Don’t give them a chance to hear, Still, a clean sweep for devices meant no-one was trying to listen to him. But… Wait.
“He find the device?” asked the man in the truck parked just around the corner.
“Nothing,” his female partner looked pleased with herself.
“Dammit, he’s got to find SOMETHING, he’s expecting us to be watching everyone. He’s a mole, he’s going to be EXTRA paranoid,” He thought about it. “With reason. No dummy?”
“There’s a dummy! He just hasn’t found it. I think,” she added quietly. “He’s not as good at cleaning up after himself as he thinks.”
“Is he still talking?” I asked of my partner, picking through my abominable hand. She looked over at the fireplace, where a somewhat wild-eyed young man was hunched over something. Lipiarz, playing dummy, was listening politely.
“Keep writing,” the tone wavered between hope and command. “No. No that. It wasn’t that.” She flipped past another postcard, reached for a cigarette and took a shaking drag.
I was in Matlock Bath, because people from the Midlands are a bit odd when it comes to holidays, and my brother gave me a book.
“Read this for me,” he said. “and let me know if it’s any good.” OK, well, since you asked.