We were in the tunnel when they blocked it. Perhaps they knew we were in there as they set the charges, perhaps they did not. Someone must have seen the train go in at one end or the other but both sides decided to detonate at the same time, and schedules are schedules.
He bites down and it tastes of wolves, jaws clashing in the deep of the woods, it tastes of soured milk spilled carelessly across stone, it tastes of the copper-coin heave-inducing flatness of his own blood. He bites down, pressing his teeth together, feeling them meet in the middle. Harder, and his teeth begin to crack and splinter under the pressure. He whimpers and shrieks, voice muffled and tortured by his self-inflicted pain. The creature in his jaws squeals likewise, squalls like the sea. Strands of muscle shear through and he continues to bite down.
Seed money, he called it. The few coins tossed into the violin case at the start of the day. No, the viola case. He would always correct me on that, and eventually it became our joke. How’s the violin practice going? It’s a viola, and I need as much practice as you need lessons in cheek. At that I would put whatever change I had into the case. Always I had some money, carefully preserved from whatever I’d bought earlier that morning.
She sat with me as the birds began to circle. They knew the tower; to them it was a source of fresh food, easily taken and safe from competition. Because they are birds, they never stopped to wonder why or how. Because I was like them, neither did I. It just happened. When we die, we are placed here for them. Not an offering, not a sacrifice, there is no meaning for the birds and the birds have no meaning for us. We are, in the end, meat, sinew, bone. A meal. I hope I was a feast.
I left him tied up outside the polling station while I went in to vote. The queue was short, but there were only two booths and a lot of slips of paper. More in hope than in expectation, I voted Labour all the way. I’m dyed-in-the-wool, I’ll never change and it almost doesn’t matter what the party does. Is that wrong?
The phone didn’t so much ring as bleat, a shrilling electronic honking accompanied by a steady pulse of light. Emergency. Come quick. Pick up the phone. In daylight, or on a clear night, it meant as much as a night-time projection on the clouds.
The idea of it pricks his conscience, if he has one. It certainly interests his wallet. He sinks back into the chair and pulls at a loose thread on the embroidery of the arm. He looks blankly across the room and away from the hopeful faces, shining in the lamplight. He is relaxed, unreadable. Inside he boils. A girl, the age his daughter was.