I awake; yawn; stretch like a cat. Light shafts in through the window, catching sparkling motes of dust like fairies stirred up by my movement. I take pleasure in the feeling of my muscles complaining as I shrug out the kinks in my body, knotted up from unaccustomed exercise the day before. Curled next to me, you tilt your head up sleepily for a kiss, and I oblige, soft lips meeting and hesitating briefly, breathing the same air. I raise my hand and trace my fingertips lightly across your cheekbone and down the smooth skin of your neck, and you purr, your eyes flickering closed, nuzzling into the clean sheets.
I brush a few strands of hair from your face, tuck them gently behind your ear, and rise nakedly, picking my way through discarded clothes to the kitchen. A butterfly beats against the window, trapped outside, soft body knocking futilely against the glass. My thoughts are dissipate as I reach for the cafetiere; the Kenyan coffee, the brown sugar, dun crystals catching the light and my eye as they tip lazily into the cup, disappearing in the whirlpool raised by the spoon. Contentment, happy piecemeal snapshot recollections of the night before: the restaurant, the club, the taxi home, the front door opening beneath your keys as we swept through into the bedroom, discarding clothes and shoes and bags and falling together into the bed, holding and moving urgently together of one mind and body, skin melting into skin, then falling apart exhausted with your arm across my chest as if you could not bear to lose the contact, and my face buried deep in your slightly smokey hair.
My gaze lands on the crumpled packet of cigarettes on the side table; shrugging on your dressing gown I crack open the window and lean out on my elbows, coffee steam and cigarette smoke coiling lazily in the slight breeze, aware of the breath in my throat and the stretch of my lungs, and the sharpness of the air makes me shiver just enough to feel my skin, feel alive, and the sun snaps through the trees at the bottom of the garden making me squint across the lines of fire to focus on the gate at the bottom, where something is moving…
..And then violence and pain and darkness and blood. Something punches me back from the window with unbelievable force, caught tearing between my ribs and even as I fall backward another blow snaps my head backwards and I am lying on the floor warm and damp and broken and stunned and paralysed with shock, and the world ebbs around the edges and my vision grows darker and smaller and less defined as I hear your voice raised in a sharp wail from the other room, and the bubble from my throat as i try to call out to you to comfort you is the last thing I hear..
I awake; yawn; stretch luxuriously. Shards of light shaft in through the window, catching bright motes of dust like snowflakes stirred up by a flurry of wind. I take pleasure in the sensation of my muscles aching as I shrug out the kinks in my neck and shoulders, knotted up from overenthusiastic exercise the day before. Curled next to me on your side, you tilt your face towards me for a kiss, and I oblige, drawn to your soft lips, holding the touch for a heartbeat, breathing the same air, imagining electricity flowing between our mouths. I raise my hand and trace my fingertips lightly across your beautiful face, tracing the bone delicately, and you purr, your eyes flickering, nuzzling into the clean sheets with your mouth turned into a contented smile.
I brush hairs from your face, tuck them gently behind your ear, kiss you featherlight on your brow, and rise nakedly, picking my way through discarded clothes and shoes to the kitchen. A butterfly beats against the window, trapped outside, soft body knocking futilely against the glass, and the soft thumping sends a chill of pity and apprehension though me. I reach for the caffetiere; the kenyan coffee, the brown sugar, dun crystals catching the light and my eye as
they tip lazily into the cup, forming familiar patterns as they disappear in the tiny whirlpool raised by the spoon. My thoughts follow the spiral, forming patterns of their own – piecemeal snapshot recollections of the night before: the restaurent, the club, the taxi home, the front door opening beneath your keys as we swept through into the bedroom, discarding clothes and shoes and bags and falling together into the bed, holding and moving urgently together of one mind and body, skin melting into skin, then falling apart exhausted with your arm across my chest as if you could not bear to lose the contact, and my face buried deep in your slightly smokey hair.
The tapping.. the moth on the window. A movement in the garden, masked by the snapping brightness of the rising sun. Blackness. Fear. Pain. This has happened before. Terror as i look up, and catch sight of my own hand moving inexorably towards the packet of cigarettes, ignoring my frantic compulsions to stop, to run, to call out to you in the other room, and my body shrugs into your gown and walks calmly to the window and leans outside into the danger taking deep and claming breaths while i scream and i scream and i tug at my
muscles but I cannot change a thing, not a tic of a muscle as my movements are predestined, and i know that I have precisely four seconds to live even as I squint through the sunlight to catch a glimps of a figure, a van, and, in the fraction of a second as the first bullet rips painfully into my unprotected flesh, a gun cocked against a swarthy face –
“Gotcha!” says the forensics specialist, hoary finger hovering over mouse button to zoom in to a blurry smudge of face. You gasp, reddened eyes widening through tears. “Recognise him?”
You hesitate, looking at the image, and frown and squint and shudder. “Its not focussed enough – I think – I couldn’t be sure – ”
“Well, I think we have a few more reruns left before the nerves decay irreparably. Maybe 10, 20… Lucky we got there so quickly, really. And lucky most of the frontal lobes are still there – we might even get the numberplate of the van..” He reaches out and resets the machinery, refining the focus, changing the search pattern minutely. “Lets try with this one..”
“Are you sure this doesn’t hurt?” you ask nervously. “It seems wrong, somehow – those last few minutes over and over again..”
The specialist smiles reassuringly. “The brain is dead, you know. Consciousness has fled. We’re simply replaying old memories from an organic chip. There’s no awareness, don’t worry.”
He reaches forward and clicks a switch.
I awake, screaming silently with terror as my mouth curls into a beatific smile.