The Long and Spectacular Life of Agnes Magnusdottir 12
I insisted Eldur drop me on the edge of town. He had already gone to enough trouble on my behalf and the last thing I wanted was for him to become lost in the interminable maze of streets that acted as a barrier between my flat and the rest of the world.
As I opened the door I heard the sound of screaming. The voice, I was sure, was Zara’s.
My first thought was that she was being attacked. The previous year dear old Mrs Dukovski on the top floor had been targeted by a group of jewel thieves. They had beaten her quite badly in order to make her reveal the combination to her safety deposit box and had managed to get away with quite a substantial amount of diamonds and bonds. On top of this she claimed she had been raped. Two of the men had held her down while the third had ‘gone at her’.
I was gearing myself up to do something, although how I could alert the police not being able to speak I wasn't exactly sure, when I heard another voice, a man’s this time, speaking in an overwrought declaratory fashion.
“There will come a time when everybody will know why, for what purpose, there is all this suffering, and there will be no more mysteries. But now we must live ... we must work, just work!”
It was Russell.
The ridiculousness of the scenario I had been imagining swept over me.
What on Earth had I been thinking?
We had nothing to steal, nothing even to be envious of. If anything, we had less. Russell and Zara were simply doing some last minute rehearsals of the Three Sisters before they jetted off to Lausanne.
Grabbing the half finished bottle of whiskey from where it remained on the kitchen table and pulling the duvet off the spare bed I went out to the balcony slamming the door shut behind me with a decisive bang.
It was some hours later when I awoke. The duvet was wrapped tightly around me like a rope and I had a Post It note stuck to my forehead, its bottom edge flapping idly in the gentle breeze.
"Off to Switzerland, don't forget to feed the cat."
We didn't have a cat, only an imaginary one, talked about as a precursor to having a baby. The imaginary cat would teach us responsibility, feeding patterns, what it was like to have another being dependent on us. I wasn't sure if Zara’s mention of it now was to rub salt in the wounds or an offer of hope for the future.
On arriving at the library I passed Eldur a note of my own. In it I thanked him for his help the night before and said I owed him a meal. Then I wrote that I needed an access code for one of the computers the library had available for public use.
As I sat before one of the machines I tried not to think of Russell and Zara, at the airport, travelling in a metal tube across the sky, their fingers intertwined across an armrest and maybe more. Zara’s fingers slipping down the back of his trousers and up his hole. She would leave it there for some time and the sensation would not be unpleasant. I knew that from experience.
Was it really so easy to replace one person with another, to do with this new person the things that the other one discarded so wished for?
Yes, I thought, it was.
And this is what made us human. And also inhumane.
What did the good soldier say?
Take me quick, but do it slowly, so I may savour this life I had, might yet have had.
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