Being The Beginning Sunday, January 23, 2011
1 The Exchange Sunday, January 30, 2011
2 bildende Kraft Saturday, February 5, 2011
3 Gossamer Wings Friday, February 11, 2011
4 Nemesis Saturday, February 19, 2011
5 Odd Shoes Friday, February 25, 2011
6 al-Rûh Friday, March 4, 2011
7 A Love Supreme Thursday, March 10, 2011
8 The Three-Cornered Light Thursday, March 24, 2011
9 Serendipity Tuesday, April 5, 2011
10 The Watchman Friday, April 15, 2011
11 The Upright Way Sunday, April 25, 2011
12 Angels Wednesday, May 4, 2011
13 The Cave of Montesinos Tuesday, May 10, 2011
14 Idols Tuesday, May 10, 2011
15 Nightingale Sunday, May 15, 2011
16 The Perfect Square Sunday, May 22, 2011
17 Haunting Thursday, May 26, 2011
18 The Uncontainable Wednesday, June 1, 2011
19 The Ear of Malchus Monday, June 6, 2011
20 Mauvais Pas Wednesday, June 15, 2011
21 Sinan Qua Non Saturday, June 25, 2011
22 Spirit-Level Sunday, July 10, 2011
23 Witness Saturday, July 16, 2011
24 Alcibiades Friday, July 22, 2011
25 Ney Thursday, August 11, 2011
26 Birdsong Thursday, August 18, 2011
27 The Vanishing Point
28 The Cat Walks
29 The Approximate Likeness of Being
Becalming Unscientific Postscript
“There is enough evil in the crying of wind.”
William Butler Yeats
He Reproves the Curlew
Phyllis Andrew could hear the man moving around in the background, filling a kettle, pulling plates from a cupboard, searching in a drawer for cutlery. This bothered her, the thought of him searching amongst knives and forks. Unable to see she tried to stop imagining a knife in his hand, his finger running along its edge testing the sharpness; stealing closer to her, behind her, pulling its edge across her neck . . .
‘Would you not take off the hood?’ she asked yet again, anxious to see what was in his hands.
‘No.’ The voice was metallic, high pitched, slurred.
It reminded her of her own father’s mutated voice, only much younger. Her father’s throaty voice, that had to be transmitted through a small handheld microphone he had to hold close to where his vocal chords had once been, before they were destroyed by cancer. ‘Please,’ she pleaded, tears forming.
‘Shut the fuck up,’ he rasped.
The words cut through any hope she felt. The room felt icy all of a sudden, and his words echoed and echoed against its walls. Phyllis felt frightened, more frightened that she had ever been. Her wrists were sore, bound down too tight by plastic cords to the armrests of her wheelchair.
Why now, she wondered.
Phyllis remembered waiting in the lobby of the museum, and then sensing a sudden movement behind her. She remembered the cloth being pressed against her face, her gagging, her wanting to be sick, and then nothing. She then remembered as she regained consciousness in the car, being lifted out of the car and then being tied into her wheelchair, her head covered in a hood noosed tightly around her neck. She remembered with absolute clarity that first day, the silence of the man, a silence broken only by the twittering of early season wagtails and a kettle boiling; its whistling; its water being poured; the stirring sound of a teaspoon inside a cup and the moment she had felt her left hand being released from its binding and bringing it automatically to pull at the hood. The man had grunted and immediately slapped her hand down and roughly positioned it around a hot liquid-filled mug before he pulled at the hood just where her mouth was positioned and began to cut at the fabric. She had felt the point of a knife glance off her teeth and had squirmed. He then had put a hand on her neck and push her head forward. A tube, a straw, had come through the small tear the hood, up into her nostril before eventually finding her mouth. He had then pushed her head down further, towards her hand and the mug it held. “Suck” he had said, his first and only word that day. Food had been given to her the same way; liquidised through the straw. That first day also, after she explained her needs the man had been attentive, removing her underwear so that she might empty her bladder. He had waited close by while she inserted the catheter she carried in her pocket and held an old basin to catch the flow. But that had been the first day and the attention did not last. She was more often left hungry, thirsty and sitting in a pool of her own urine, her bladder having overflowed. ‘My name is Phyllis Andrew. What do you want with me?’ she asked again, desperate to engage him.
Phyllis had plenty of time to think about the possible answers to that question when left alone. She wondered what had happened to Joe and whether he was ok? Was it bad luck or fate, she questioned, that she happened to be in the Museum when they came to rob it? Was it bad luck or fate that her back was broken all those years ago by a drunk in a car and she could not escape without help? Even before the kidnapping she had often thought about death, her own death. She knew she had fulfilled her duty to herself after the accident, to survive, to desire happiness, to achieve happiness; luck or fate had nothing to do with it. But each year the physical disability was having greater impact, and she knew she needed to make plans. She had seriously considered moving to Holland, taking up the offer of a job in Amsterdam. She had followed the arguments on euthanasia and how the Dutch Supreme Court had determined that in order to assess suffering it must be abstracted from its cause: from bad luck or fate. How the Court had held that unbearable being: existential suffering, the absence of any perspective on the duty for happiness, could not be entertained as a legal justification for assisted euthanasia because no doctor, no person, is an expert on the true existence of another.
Always practical, Phyllis had many times on dark nights, driven out to the old docks and after getting out, wheeled her chair to the edge, always at the same place, an old disused quay that had once berthed the coffin ships. She had gone there so often she knew the sounds and smells of the place and the rhythm of the tide that slapped against the disintegrating wooden piles. She had become part of those rhythms, no longer an intrusion and looking down into the waters she knew what she wanted to do was neither selfish nor selfless. She had changed her mind when Joe had asked her to marry him. She had said yes. That decision had been their secret for two months.
‘What are you going to do with me?’ she asked again, quietly.
‘Shut the fuck up.’
She listened to the kettle boiling, whistling, water being poured, then, a stirring sound – a teaspoon inside a cup. At least its not a knife, she reasoned, reassured by the apparent normality. Tried again to imagine what he is like.
‘Please let me go,’ she whispered.
His footsteps got closer. She felt her left hand swing free and the mug being placed. The straw poked through the hood. She started to bend down but then suddenly threw the cup, in the direction she thought he was at. She spat out the straw.
‘Do that again and I’ll stick you,’ he warned.
‘Please let me go,’ she pleaded.
The silence returned as he tied her hand to the wheelchair again.
‘Oh God no. Please don’t,’ she whispered.
A mobile phone rang at that point and kept ringing. The man’s footsteps receded and Phyllis heard the door opening and then close again.
‘Don’t go. Don’t leave me here,’ she shouted after him. Somewhere above her head there was the sound of birdsong: two wagtails calling out to each other, familiar. And in the distance she could hear two voices. They were muffled but also sounded strangely familiar. ‘Please come back. I’ll do anything,’ she shouted again. ‘Please.’
A motor bike engine started up.
‘Please come ba . . .’ She broke down at that point and tears began to course down her cheeks, dampening the hood.
The door opened. Phyllis cried out, ‘Oh. Thank god. What’s happening?’
Footsteps approached. They sounded different. Heavier. She sensed him draw up beside her, very close as if he was examining her. She felt his breathing near her ear.
‘My name is Malachy MacGaoth and I have a message for you,’ a bittersweet voice announced.
Phyllis wondered why there had been a change in her jailer. ‘What? Who are you? Are you letting me go?’
‘In a matter of speaking, yes,’ MacGaoth said calmly.
‘Oh God. You’re going to kill me,’ she said as she realised.
‘Yes, but as kindly as I can.’
‘Why?’ she asked.
‘Because I choose to.’
‘But why would you want to kill me?’
‘Your living or dying makes little difference to me,’ MacGaoth dismissed. ‘Somebody else wants you dead.’
‘Who? Why?’ Phyllis was angry. It was all she could be.
‘No reason that I can think of Miss Andrew but that I’m being paid for it. And his name is irrelevant, as he has not the balls to be here himself. He is nothingness. Only you and I matter now, Phyllis.’
Suddenly, something that she had increasingly desired was now being offered, but it was not at a time of her choosing. She started to cry. ‘Please get a message to Joe Reilly. Tell him I love him.’
‘The security man Joe Reilly is dead, a heart attack, as unfortunate as you are, Phyllis. Bad luck or fate, who knows which!’ MacGaoth said matter-of-factly.
‘Oh Christ!’ she whispered, and the tears flowed again.
‘I’ll try to make it as easy as I can.’
‘I want . . . want to see your face,’ she sobbed.
‘No point! There is nothing to be seen.’
His words were not harsh but understanding. Phyllis knew then that he knew and that he has given her back a choice. ‘In that case do what you have to Malachy MacGaoth . . . and God save your soul.’
‘Unlikely!’ he laughed.
Malachy MacGaoth's footsteps moved behind her. They shuffled and suddenly his hand was on her forehead, pulling her head back. The hood over her nose felt wet and she felt liquid dripping onto her skin, stinging. Phyllis tried to pull her hands up but the ties cut into her wrists. She thought of the waters of the old dock and of drowning. She kept her mouth closed and tried not to breathe in the wet. He pulled up against her jaw, forcing the wet patch tight against her nostrils. Nausea began, and she gagged against the cloth as she began to retch. Then suddenly she relaxed and inhaled deeply. At that moment she heard the wagtails again, but this time they were urgent calls, an ecstatic song variant as if mobbing a sparrow hawk. She felt dizzy and then . . .