The elastic dark loops its fat threads about me.
Earlier, she is sleeping beside me, the susurrus of her breath a mockery. The bedclothes rise and fall with the softness of her sleep. Around my eyes is that scratched graininess of the overtired. My skin is dry and tight as a tribal drum. Keening folk forest rhythms: howls, drones, yelps, from somewhere far beyond this urban waste. My senses are heightened. Egyptian cotton is as subtle and soft as a wire saw. Light grins sallow beneath the curtains. I shut my eyes.
Later, the elastic dark loops its fat threads about me. I am in an open field. Everything is flat; there is so much sky. Lincolnshire: land of fen and marsh, of the dumbness of partridges, of moss-jacketed men, forever distant, mere punctuation on the horizon, and the crack of their guns. Birds limp like socks in dogs' jaws. I am cold, standing in this field. Another crack, and a smack, like a pillow punched.
And I'm moving. Not walking, but borne. Away from the field, to the road and its thrum of traffic. Big long flat roads. Motorcycle rasp and lorry rattle. A big white sign I can't read. The sun is low and sullen. And now I am on the road, moving as though in the back of a truck, fairly bouncing along.
And my little girl is in my arms.
She looks at me, and her face wefts. Her eyes look everywhere but mine. Tribal drum, the graunch of wheel on road. Wind like ice on the wrist. Truck bucks, my spine flexes stupidly. My hands are not strong; their grip is loose. What kind of man are you. A crack, from the field far away. Something falls from the sky.
And my hands are empty.
My little girl tumbles, road-bound. Soft smack. Light bends and hits the road. She does not bleed, just crumples. I cry out wordlessly, reaching a rictus of fingers out, out.
And still I bounce on.
We must go back for her.
There is nothing in my throat. So I take my hand and I reach down there. But there is no blockage. So I reach further down, gagging on my first, but jamming it down still further and further. The slick packaging of my guts, wet and warm.
I am trying to pull myself inside out.
And now I cannot see her. Tribal drum. Crack. The old ways: throbbing of ley lines, blood rivuleting down stones. Sacrifice.
Some ghost dislocates itself from within and the scream turns me inside out.
A wash of light. Fool. The eye of childhood fears a painted devil.
But when I close my eyes again, I know I'll have to watch her fall again.