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Peter Knight's stories: 

"Creatures of the Sea Floor"

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This story is now available in full as a kindle e-book on, or Therefore (because I don't want to get caught out by Amazon's terms and conditions) this page now contains only some extracts from the full story. The full story is about 10,000 words in ten short chapters. In this extract I've cut out some sections. If you want the whole thing, check it out on one of these amazon links:

Creatures of the Sea Floor at or at or at

If you don't want a kindle version I can supply you with a straight .pdf, but under Amazon's terms I'd have to charge you a little more than their price, so contact me to fix that up.



Copyright Peter G. Knight

Part 1

Diaries, the desert, 
holidays, photographs and friends.

 I.  Diaries

“Sunlight dapples the grass beneath the trees”

 How do you choose what to include in a diary? Soviet leader Yuri Andropov was buried on February 14th 1984. It was my birthday, and friends came to tea. My diary remembers only five people from the day; my three friends, Andropov, and me. How do you decide what to leave out? On February 15th I went to the cinema and my father died. There is no record of either in my diary. If my father had not died I might have mentioned the cinema. Since that time I have not kept a regular diary. Like our range of vision from red to violet, the pages are too narrow.


 Michael is an architect. He is married with two young children, and lives in a house in the outskirts of the city. The desk in his study looks out over the garden, and whenever Michael remembers the view from his desk there is sunlight dappling the grass beneath the trees. He is writing a novel, but he only writes occasionally. How do you choose what to include? How do you decide what to leave out? 
 This is how Michael’s novel begins:

 It was a clear dawn, and the travellers could see the beginning of the desert far ahead of them. Three stunted trees huddled beside a stream, casting a promise of shade defiantly into the day. The ground beneath the trees was dappled in sunlight, bare and well trodden. The travellers were uneasy. Their journey had already been long, and they were far from home. This land was different from their own, and their cargo was very strange.
 Chico was cold. For many days, in spite of the heat, he had felt a chill, and each day it struck him deeper like a dread. He pulled his blankets closer around him and moved his horse down towards the stream, following his two companions. There were villages on the plain where provision could be made for the next part of the journey. They had talked in the night that it might be best to leave Chico in one of the villages, where he might recover his strength. However, as there were now only three of them remaining they could ill afford to separate. They would continue into the desert together as best they could, with as little delay as possible.

 Michael’s wife is curious. Who are these people? What is their destination? What is their strange cargo? Michael says that Chico has a wife: a woman of earth-like beauty beneath her sorrow, who’s sisters and cousins would wear head-scarves and aprons and would work or sing or grieve as the time saw fit.  Michael remembers open-backed lorries packed with peasants. Were they grinning at him or screwing up their faces against the dust? A record sleeve tells him about women who sang in the fields, their voices reaching to each other across the open steppe. Perhaps Chico is sad because his wife, the woman on the record sleeve, is far away and he can never see her. Perhaps she is on the other side of the desert.


 Have you ever had a dream come true? 
 Have you ever been entirely consumed by the fulfilment of a longing? Have you ever turned aside and said “this is just what I wanted, and it is exactly as I had hoped. I have dreamed of this for years, and now it is real”? It is a consummation, an arrival, a becoming. A stream flowing finally into the ocean; slowing, falling, settling. Feeling currents with a new and unaccustomed weight. Looking back at the land, seeing outwards from inside the water a new view of familiar scenes. The pains of loss and waiting slip into memory. Or was that just imagination? This is something that Michael will never experience.
 A few moments before Michael died, his lover appeared at his bed-side. She seemed much older than when she herself had died, thirty years before. She seemed ancient: hundreds, thousands of years old. She was cracked like a glaze and glowed with the pale yellow luminescence of antiquity. Delicious little bruises adorned her body like jewels; deep sweet purple pools marking each place that Michael had touched. She had travelled a very long way to see him one last time. Michael was dimly aware of her presence. At the moment that he died, she vanished.
 Children in the desert use both hands to hold their food. They eat silently with huge round eyes. Creatures of the sea-floor cannot see very far. They discern only large and slowly-moving things. They are only dimly aware of smaller, quicker, lives than theirs. To the creatures of the sea-floor the water is dull and thinly opaque, like air. The tiny things that sparkle are not visible to them.


 Michael has a friend called Marazin. Marazin is an archaeologist, and lives in a room close to the university. His desk faces a wall of his room where he pins notes. Some of the notes remind him of things he must do, others remind him of things he has done.

 For February 14th 1984 Marazin’s diary had the following entry:

 On a train journey years ago I shared a carriage with a girl, who’s name turned out to be Hazel, and a curly-haired man with a woolly hat and an ear-ring in the shape of a square-sailed ship. I’d seen the curly-haired man at the station. He had a suitcase with wheels that he towed along behind him like a barge. He was reading a pamphlet about the Chinese revolution. The girl sat in the window seat opposite me. I didn’t see her again after we left the train. I saw the curly-haired man again later, in the window of a bus that passed me on the road. I remember them both very clearly.


 Michael’s wife, Susan, always says that she does not keep a diary. However, that is not entirely true. If there were a diary that could tell the strange story of Michael and Marazin and their lovers it would be Susan’s.

II. The Desert

“like a monkey consuming bananas.”

 Marazin, the archaeologist, feels uneasy. He thinks he is becoming isolated from his life. He feels that his life is becoming impoverished, and he wants to find a way to return to the life he believes he used to have. The land here is completely covered. It is covered in fields and towns and roads, all separated by fences and lines. Everything that there is, is marked clearly on the map. Every part of the land is defined, owned, protected, like a creature in a zoo. There are no blank spaces. There are no gaps between the little parcels. Marazin feels the same about his life. He is contained by his office, his room, his acquaintances. There is no space. The cords that bind you to the framework of your life can dry with age, and pull taut.

 Marazin has two good friends. One of them, Michael, lives with his wife near the edge of the city, and Marazin sees him often. The other lives in a different town, but keeps in touch by post. They meet occasionally. The friend asks why Marazin seems so changed. So tired, almost slow. Almost superficial, like a photograph of himself, or a mask. His friend asks whether he is going to South America again. How long is it since he was there? He always used to talk about it when they first knew each other.

 In his office in the evening, Marazin thinks about South America. He takes out photographs. He takes out his field-books, his diaries. He used to do archaeological research in Patagonia and in the Atacama Desert. In the desert there are no lines on the ground. Nothing covers the land.  The land is intimate, like a secret lover. If I come back, will it remember me? 


 Michael, the architect, has a lover. She is a mystery to him, and that is why he cannot leave her. She will not tell him that she loves him. He does not think that he loves her. They meet at her apartment in the city each week. Michael keeps the meetings, and his lover, separate from his life. He visits them, leaving his life behind. Once, unannounced, he called at the apartment on a different day, when they had not arranged to meet. He found the apartment vacant and to let. At their next meeting, on the usual day, everything was as normal. He never mentioned to her that he had found this out. Each week she removes the “to let” sign for a couple of hours, he arrives, and they use the apartment. After he leaves, she replaces the sign and she also leaves. Her name is Eleanor. She works for the property agent, and she keeps a diary.


 Marazin, the archaeologist at the University, has a note pinned to the wall above his desk. The note is small, and half concealed behind other notes and pictures. It reads: “The desert consumes your soul, like a monkey consuming bananas.”

III.  Holidays

“The birds are like fish, 
and I am a creature of the sea floor, exploring.”

 Michael, the architect and would-be author, once saw a painting called “Saint George’s Day”. It showed Saint George, on his horse, battling The Dragon. The painting was very old. It glowed with age. Michael wondered how long the battle had raged. Even Saint George couldn’t keep up the fight for so long without a break; everybody has days off. The pale flag forgets until tomorrow damsels in distress.
 In Michael’s mind Saint George is King Arthur, the once and future King, resting in the earth. The land and the King are one. One day the King will wake, and then good will defeat evil. Not yet, necessarily, but eventually. There is no need to worry, there is no need to rush to be correct. As long as we know that everything will be all right in the end, everything will be all right. Michael feels no guilt about his affair with Eleanor. Even Saint George has days off and everything will be all right in the end. His wife is no damsel in distress. She will never know. To her, he will always be Saint George, and the Dragons all long ago slain.


 In his diary in the desert Marazin had written:
 “The sky comes right down and rests on the ground. When I walk I am walking through the bottom of the sky. It is like walking at the bottom of the ocean. The land is like the sea-bed. The birds are like fish, and I am a creature of the sea-floor, exploring.”


 Michael’s wife is curious about the travellers in the desert. She asks about Chico, about the story. Will there be any more for her to read? Michael reads through what he has written and continues.

 In the last village before the desert was a house with a room to let. A sign hung over the door. In his delirium, Chico thought the house was his home, and he cursed his friends that they would not let him stay. As they left the village he called back to his home and his wife, and his cries echoed across the desert.
 Chico’s wife was very far away.


 Eleanor removed the ‘To Let’ sign from the door of the apartment where she was to meet Michael and went inside. She drew back the curtains and looked out over the city. The apartment had a good view across the central area, with its curious mixture of old buildings and new. It was winter, and everything looked very grey. The river was the same colour as the streets. Eleanor watched the traffic on the road below. One of those cars would bring Michael, and then she could get back to the office. The forecast was for snow, and she wanted to be out of the city early, before the traffic snarled up.

 Michael looked out at the river from the window of a taxi. The river was sniffing its way through the town, sifting out the lowest ground for its route to the sea. Before the city was built the river was constantly shifting its course, experimenting with new directions. When the people came, they put houses along the river and hemmed it in. Now two long, concrete embankments, like rails, held the river tightly in place. Michael wondered if it minded what had become of it. Was it impatient to be free again? How long would the city stay there before the river could go back to pleasing itself? The river was like King Arthur, sleeping; or Saint George.

 Michael arrived late at the apartment, and Eleanor was irritated at having to wait. After they had made love, they sat at the window. Eleanor smoked a cigarette. Michael looked at the view. He noticed how the milky sunlight was reflecting off the river and the edges of the buildings, making them silvery through the mist. He was in a hurry to leave. He was going for a week-end holiday with his wife and children, and he had to remember to pick up a film for the camera on the way home. His wife liked to keep an album of all their holidays. She sometimes said it was like a sort of diary.

 IV.   Photographs

“You can just get up and walk away”

Marazin, the archaeologist, spent that evening writing a letter to his friend.

 “When we were kids, Dad used to take us to the zoo. It was a great adventure. We used to go in the old Austin, and have ice creams and feed the parrots. The funny thing is, I can’t really remember any of that. I was too young. My memories of all those years up to about 1960 are not my own; they are other people’s. They are the photos that my Dad took, and the images in my head from the stories that he used to tell me years later. If I don’t think too hard about it, though, it’s easy to see the pictures in my head and remember them as being the real thing. That is what history is.
 “My own memories begin around when I was about four years old. Even those are like snap-shots, except that in my own memories I can see my arms and legs stretching away from me. Or am I just imagining that?
 “I always used to like the piano because you did not need to get it out or turn it on before you started. You could just do it straight away even if you only wanted to do it for a second as you walked past. You press the key, and out comes the note. Same key, same note, every time. And you don't need to switch it off or put it away when you finish. You can just get up and walk away.
 “I could never take to oil painting. So long waiting for the paint to dry. I like things nice and simple; nice and quick.”


 Michael, the architect, sat at his desk, looking into the garden. Sunlight dappled the grass beneath the trees. He was working on his novel. He was frustrated with the thread of the story. He needed something to drive the action. Something nice and simple. Nice and quick.


 It’s all coming back to me now. Now I remember. I remember that just at the moment before I died I saw Michael, years from now, lying on his death bed. At the moment the accident happened, just as I felt the impact, that’s when he slipped away. Now I remember everything; I remember why I put my faith in God. We used to pray for rain when I was a kid, and it never came, but Mom used to make us give thanks for our blessings because we didn’t know what they were. Dad used to look at her as if he hardly knew her when she said things like that, but now I know what she meant. She used both hands to hold her face and her huge round eyes saw things that the rest of us could not see. God, it seems so long ago. I don’t think I ever told him what I really felt about him. Michael never really understood me anyway; I think he preferred it that way. I guess my Dad understood. Apparently he saw my crash just at the moment he died.

V.   Friends

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 ...Susan sat on a bench in the park, watching the children playing on the swings. Today I am especially aware of my own mortality. This day more than most I can imagine the world without me in it, after I am gone, when I am dead. Susan is writing a book. She started it after Michael’s death so that she would not forget. Sunlight dapples the grass beneath the trees like a monkey consuming bananas. The birds are like fish and I am a creature of the sea floor, exploring. You can just get up and walk away. Gregory is full of shit. I remember him very clearly.  People treasure memories like jewels in a vault. Like a complete world, or a whole lifetime. Long, slow falls of the heart. The threads that bind us are not strong.

Part 2

Time, memories, possessions, deception 
and the truth.

VI.   Time

full section available only in full version...

 ...The sky, I think, is made mostly of air. It is a substance, a tangible medium, with weight, and viscosity; a stiffness like water, or metal or stone. It obscures the view.  Birds push through it, lean against it. Stones fall; quickly through air, more slowly through water. A helium balloon rises through the air like a cork; like a life-belt released under the water clawing gasping bursting its way upwards to the surface. To the top. A wisp of spider’s web rests comfortably on the breeze, like sea weed, drifting. The birds are like fish.
 The wind is just made of air. Like the sky. The wind is just the sky, moving around us. Trees are anchored to the ground, and waft in the currents. The diver is pressed on all sides by the water. He is not squashed  flat to the floor, he is supported, held together like a snowball in my hands. I am pressed on all sides by the air; supported, held together. Far, far below the surface. No more clawing, no more gasping. No more dreams of bursting upwards through the surface. A creature of the sea floor. Resting; like a stone. Settling, like a fine rain of silt. Or snow.

VII.   Memories

“People treasure memories like jewels in a vault.”

 Do  you remember the curly-haired man from the train? Of course you do. He had an ear ring in the shape of a square-sailed ship and a pamphlet about the Chinese revolution. I remember him very clearly, from real life. You remember him from earlier in the book. But is your recollection any less valid or less real than mine? Now, years later, the man only exists in our minds, and on these pages. Neither recollection is better than the other. You have your curly-haired man, and I have mine. Whether or not the curly-haired man himself really still exists does not matter to either of us.

 Michael began to work on his story again just after the death of his lover. He had been struck by a sudden fear that he might himself die. He wanted to have left something behind, something to be remembered by. He spent less time with his family, and worked for days at a time on his story.

 From their upstairs room the travellers could see far across the surrounding area. The room occupied the whole of the top floor of the house, and tall windows all around the room opened onto an outside walkway. The walkway stretched like a balcony around the outside of the building, and from here the travellers could see in all directions. It was a magnificent room. While Chico was alive they could never have won such a room. No landlord of such a room would have taken him on, and anyway they could never have managed to get Chico up all the stairs. He would have died soon anyway and he would have gladly sacrificed his last few days to win his comrades such a reward. They had feared that they would feel a sense of guilt after Chico’s death, but strangely they felt only relief; for all of them. And it was a small sacrifice for such a room. Such a view. And it was not as if they had killed him themselves. They were making sacrifices of their own, too. All the cargo, and the animals, had to stay down on the street.
 From the balcony, they could see across the town to the country beyond. A track wound its way through the fields towards the sea, and far away the travellers could make out a cross-roads close to the shore.  They planned to head out along the track towards the cross-roads one day soon, but they had not yet found a way through the town that led out to the start of the track. From their balcony, the route seemed clear, but as soon as they got back down to street level, the mazy confusion of streets filled with people and animals seemed to blur the senses both of direction and of purpose. Each day, an attempt to find the route out of town was postponed by the discovery of some new quarter to be explored, or some hitherto unthought of provision to be acquired. At the end of each day, looking out across the dusk as the town twinkled into evening lamplight, the track towards the cross-roads on the horizon became clear once more. 
 Down in the street an argument was brewing. Some youths had been haggling with an old man. “It’s only a scarf!” “Look, I won it, and I want a good price for it. It was his. Before he died. I got it from the man they gave it to.” “It is fine cloth.” “The finest. Hey.... no! Stop!” The youths had grabbed the scarf and were running off. The old man tried to follow, but quickly lost them in the crowd. He stumbled across the cobbled courtyard. “My scarf! My scarf!” The travellers looked down anxiously from their balcony. “We had better check that all the cargo is safely packed.”


 Michael looked back at photographs of his lover. He had only a few. In the photographs she looked younger than he remembered her. She looked quite petite, almost vulnerable. In life, she had appealed to Michael as a strong, self-assured woman. He had never had to worry about her being able to look after herself. Suddenly, in these photographs, she reminded him for the first time of his wife.


 “Oh no you don’t. Not with all that cargo you don’t”
 “But this is the only gate on this side of town.”
 “That may well be, but you don’t come through here with all that baggage. What is all that? Well I’m sorry, but....  No I haven’t but.... Well that’s the whole thing, you can’t....  No. Sorry. No.”
 “Perhaps we can wait a few more days.”
 “Wait all you like, you’re not bringing that camel through here.”
 “Well, whatever. Not through here!”

 The travellers were uncertain of what they should do. Clearly they could not leave their precious cargo behind after they had brought it all this way. The journey had been so long. And what about Chico? Apart from that scarf they still had everything of his to take on to his wife. Well, may be some of Chico’s stuff they could leave behind. May be that man at the gate would take some of it. May be that was what he was after. They could try that tomorrow, after they took on more provisions for the journey.


 “Michael? Hi! Marazin. I just wanted to say thanks for the other night. Yes, uh-huh. No, really. Look, I thought about what you were saying about South America....  Yes, well may be we should do it. Yes, yes... I know, but even so. No, she would be fine I’m sure. Well she can come too. Well look, I will come over on Saturday and we can talk about it. Yes, it would be fun, really. I’ll see you on Saturday.

 On Saturday night, after Marazin left, Michael and his wife lay awake in bed, discussing what he had said. There would be so many things to sort out. Lots of things to organise for the trip, and lots of things to organise for leaving the house and the children. Susan was against the whole idea. “We just aren’t in a position to make that kind of trip. Two months away from everything just is not realistic. Your mother won’t take the children for so long, and what about the house? And we have none of those things Marazin said we would need: clothes and tents and everything. We would need to buy so much. And the flight is so expensive, too. No. With so much to worry about we could not possibly go. No.”

VIII.   Possessions

 section available only in full version...


“Marazin, hi, it’s Susan. Are you still ok for tomorrow?”
“Hello, Susan. Yes, everything is ok. What time shall I come?”
“Can you get here by about nine thirty? I’ll have the kids in bed.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll see to them. I can tell them one of Uncle Marazin’s sleepy stories! Oh, I’ll be able to recognise you; Michael gave me one of your photos.”
“Oh no! Not the ones from the machine. They were terrible.”
“No, they were beautiful. I mean, it’s great. Anyway, I’d better dash. I’ve got someone coming in a minute. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“OK, Marazin. Bye.”

 Marazin put the phone down, and put the photograph back in his wallet. 

IX. Deception

“Long, slow falls of the heart”

 Sometimes a moment or an event, or even an extended sequence of events, shared by a small number of people can be encapsulated, or isolated, as something independent. Like a complete world, or a whole lifetime, entire in itself, with a beginning and an end,  it stands outside the rest of time, like a secret world. For a long time, Marazin thought that it was especially important to remember these moments, because when everybody who shared a time forgets it, it ceases ever to have happened.

 Years later, Marazin and Michael were looking at the slides that Michael had taken on their trip to Patagonia. They had returned from the trip just a few days before, but what Marazin saw on the slides was a completely different world from the world that he remembered. He saw himself on the slides in situations that he did not recognise. The people looked different; the relationships that the photographs implied between them were not relationships that Marazin had been aware of. There was Katie, smiling at Robert like a girl smitten with a love from beyond the ends of the world. Marazin had never noticed that. And there was Robert, looking straight at the camera as Michael took his photo. What was that look in his eye? It was something Marazin had never seen. Even the hills and rivers and lakes and the glacier seemed somehow different in Michael’s photographs. It was like a dream where everything is familiar but not quite right. This was Michael’s world, Michael’s time in Patagonia. These photos meant nothing to Marazin, as they did not recall his world. Only his own photographs would do that. When he got home, he took out his own photographs. There was Katy in the background, talking with Jodie. There was Robert, looking right at the camera, but with nothing of the expression that Michael had seen. And there was Yvette. Yvette was not in many of the photos that Michael had shown, and always in the distance, or with her back turned. Here she was. Looking straight at the camera. Marazin held the print close, studying  her face. No, she was not looking right at the camera. She was not looking right at Marazin as he took the photo. She was looking slightly past him. She was looking at something else. Marazin stretched back his mind, like memory clawing downwards into the earth, but found nothing. Eventually he stretched his memory so far that it became imagination, and then he knew that he would never know for sure.


 Marazin arrived at Susan and Michael’s house just after nine o’clock. It was already dark, and there were flakes of snow in the air. 
 “Marazin. Oh God! I’m sorry. I tried to ring you but you must already have set off. They cancelled the meeting so I don’t have to go after all.” Susan pulled a quirky little “would you believe it?” face and held her hand to her forehead. She was wearing a short-sleeved blouse, and warm light from the hallway spilled out across her arm. “Come on in. I am sorry. And it’s snowing. Oh God!” She stepped back and gestured Marazin into the house.  He stamped his feet on the doormat and  stepped though the doorway.
 “It’s all right, really. There’s no need to be so worried. It’s no trouble. I wasn’t doing anything. If you are busy the bus will still be at the station, I can leave you in peace.”
 “Oh no, it’s OK. Come on in for a bit.”
 Afterwards, Marazin would think back over every word they had said. Reliving the conversations, dwelling on what they might have meant. Looking for clues.
 “I thought you might not have eaten, so I warmed up some stew. The kids are in bed. They are supposed to be reading but I expect they’re playing with their computer games. I told them you would go up and say goodnight.” She pulled that quirky little face again, and held out her arm to take Marazin’s coat.
 After Marazin had seen the children, he and Susan sat around the table in the kitchen, sipping stew, and then coffee, and then wine. 
 “I suppose I really ought to be making a move.”
 “But I thought you were going to stay over.”
 “Yes, but since you haven’t had to go out...”
Marazin stood up and carried his glass and coffee cup over to the sink. Susan stood, too, and stepped across to intercept him. She took the coffee cup from his hand and put it down by the side of the sink. Then she took the wine glass from his other hand and put that back on the kitchen table. 
 “If Uncle Marazin isn’t here when they get up, the kids will crucify me!”
 She put her hands on Marazin’s shoulders and steered him back to the table, then pressed him gently down. 
 Marazin resisted just long enough for to feel the pressure of her  hands slightly stronger on his shoulders, then slowly allowed himself to be eased into the chair. 
 “Careful,” he said, quietly, “I bruise easily.”
 Susan was behind him, so he could not see her face. Later, he was not sure if he could remember her expression or if he imagined it. 
 Marazin said: “The children might be disappointed; if Uncle Marazin drinks much more of Mummy’s wine the kids will be away to school before Uncle Marazin sees the light of day tomorrow!”
 Susan refilled both their glasses, and shrugged. “If Mummy drinks much more she won’t be there to send them off to school!” 
 Marazin began to fall in love with that quirky little look.


 Marazin could see that something terrible was about to happen, but he was powerless to prevent it. He fell in love with someone with whom he could not allow himself to fall in love. And he fell with a sweep and scope that defied all reason. He was at the mercy of this love like an ocean at the mercy of the tide. He was consumed. He was overwhelmed. It was the consummation of his life, and it devoured him. Longing filled him like a flood, easing in and out like the sea, and he gulped it in until there was room for nothing else. He spiralled inwards, coming slowly to rest like a breeze. Like a creature that drowns; struggle, a turmoil,  panic, and then the calm still falling with the silt. Storms subside though their elements persist. The wind rests like a stone at the bottom of the sea.
 He kissed her only once, lightly, on the cheek. He knew at once that it was a terrible mistake. She closed her eyes. Her skin was cool against his lips; and soft. She turned her face towards him, and opened her eyes.


 Sometimes a moment can be encapsulated, or isolated, as something independent. Like a complete world, or a whole lifetime, entire in itself, with a beginning and an end,  it stands outside the rest of time, like a secret world. Like a sequence of events set apart. For a long time, Susan thought that it was especially important to remember these moments, because when everybody who shared a time forgets it, it ceases ever to have happened.

X.   The Truth

“The threads that bind us are not strong”

 Michael finished his story in the days just after Marazin’s death. It was a long, slow labour. He squeezed the words like gall from a wound. The meanings choked him. 
 When Marazin’s body was examined it was covered in bruises. They seemed to have had nothing to do with his death, but no one had seen them before. Susan said that they must have appeared at the moment of his death, as an expression of pain released. They were the scars of all the terrible falls he had suffered, falls that had left no outward sign in life. Long, slow falls of the heart. Susan said that such pains must be released at death for the soul to pass to the next life. Michael had looked at her as she said this, and had not recognised her. He was looking at her from the side, and could not see in her the woman that he knew. In what Susan said, she robbed Michael of all he had remaining of Marazin. What Michael thought he knew, and could now keep forever, she pulled away. She might as well have said:  “Marazin, not the one you saw, the real one, the one I knew. If you had known him, you could have remembered him too; but you didn’t, so you can’t.” She did not say that, but Michael felt it.


 For years, Michael had admired a mobile sculpture that hung high in the dome of the Metropolitan Gallery. It was a sculpture of an angel; huge and yet vanishingly small beyond the dust-specked sunbeams that traversed the gallery beneath it. For Michael it was a highlight of the city. One day he visited the museum and found the angel was gone. He enquired of the curator, who seemed shocked and looked abruptly upwards to where the angel had always hung.  The curator smiled, and still looking upwards stood behind Michael to place his hands on Michael’s shoulders. He steered him a few paces to his right across the floor of the gallery. 
 “There. It was simply turned to the side.”
 Michael was stunned. The angel was flat. Two-dimensional. And he had never known. Turn it to the side and it could not be seen. That’s why half the people he mentioned it to said they hadn’t seen it. How could he not have noticed such a thing?

 How could he never have known the extent of Marazin’s falls? How could he never have seen his wife?


 There was a knock at the door of the room where the travellers were staying. They were unaccustomed to visitors. 
 “You people have been bothering my men at the gates. What exactly do you want?”
 “We want to go out along the track through the fields towards the sea. You can see from here, look.”
 Yes, I know. The view from here is very good. You are a long way up off the street.”
 He leaned out over the balcony to look down at the street below. Teeming, seething. He looked at the crowd.
 “These people are full of shit. You can go through, but you will have to leave all your stuff.”
 “Your cargo, your baggage. You cannot take that with you. You have to carry it all up from the street,  then leave it here in the room when you go.”

 It was a massive job. They struggled for days to get crates and boxes up the flights of stairs to the room. They had not realised how much cargo they were carrying. Such strange things. Awkward shapes jarred against their shins; their elbows grazed the walls of the stairway. It took both of them working together to carry Chico’s body. Chico’s wife was a shapeless brown package, very light, quite small. “We never sent her his things.” Often they stumbled, bruising their legs and chests. Before they were finished they were both covered in bruises.

 Marazin died yesterday. It was years ago, but I have not used the days in between. I have put them aside unopened, one by one. Like pieces of a fine bone-china tea-set, they are individually wrapped in soft white gauze. Eventually, if I forget them carefully, they will never have existed. How do people live so long? They do it by just carrying on, by not choosing to stop. I see people in the street who have carried on not choosing for tens of thousands of  days. They are no different from me. They are me, just carrying on, years later. All the days in between me and them may as well not exist. If I try hard to forget the days in between, I will be as old as them. If  I carefully forget the days since Marazin died, he will not be about to die until tomorrow. I should call him. I should invite him over before he goes.
 They say that when you die your whole life flashes before your eyes. It is not true. All of your days are laid out like tiny squares in a mosaic. Each one is clearly outlined, and numbered, so that you can see where it was placed, and what became of it. For some people the mosaic comes gradually into focus in the later years of their life. These people add each day as it happens as a new tile in their mosaic. They can shape the final picture. They can decide when it is finished.


 Michael is sitting at the desk in his room, looking out at the garden. This is many years later. Everybody that we read about earlier is long since dead. Michael exists only in his own imagination. It is that interlude in which life clings to us after we have let it go. Leaves are falling from the tree outside. They settle on the carpet, they cover the surface of the desk. Michael sifts through them as if they are the wreckage of his life. The leaves pile up like memories. Deep in the pile, dark and moist, the leaves are fragile. They are faint, like ghosts, like ancient sun-drained lace. And there in the pattern, imprinted like a watermark in the gauze of each leaf, is an image. There is Marazin. There is Michael’s lover. There is Susan. Turn each one slightly to the side and they are gone.