I trapped a spider/ Underneath the glass / I kept it for a week to see / How long he’d last / He stared right back of me / He thought that he could win / We played the waiting game / He thought that I’d give in
—England Made Me, Black Box Recorder
There are no dogs here, which is good, because he hasn’t really had the stomach to even be in their presence since what happened with the Alsatian. Oh, and now he’s thinking of it again — it’s one of those horrid thoughts he’d dearly like to tamp down, force the lid over, watch the box judder — and he knows he’ll have to look at it again played in slow-motion again.
Here is a train platform. There is the barest definition between concrete and sky and this makes him angry. This is what people think England is now. People. There are people here. They all have the same glassy faces of the Alsatian. They are all living tiny little lives. They are little machines, respirating to later shit or fuck or laugh or cry. In, out. In, out. They are English people in England. But England is green. Do they not know that this land used to be mostly lush forests? But now the rain does not fall upon the green; it is not drunk but the pouting earth. Instead it slides down the surface of things. There is no reception.
He knows that the people here will not distract him from the Alsatian. The Alsatian belonged to his neighbour and he did not hate it at all. During the day he would see it being walked and he would say hello to it and dig his fingers into its neck and joy at its lolling tongue, its childish grin. But it awoke him every night with its barking. It had to be dealt with. He knew from his extensive research just how important sleep was. So he went into the garden when the house lights had all gone out. By low torchlight he petted the animal. He put the plastic over its head and said There. There. The next morning he woke with mud in his bed and heard a child scream.
He was seeing it all again. He regretted it. And he still couldn’t sleep. And now all of this daytime waking-sleep, everyone’s days a fuzz of passivity. But, as he scans the platform again for some sort of distraction, he sees a woman he hadn’t noticed before. She is not looking at her phone. She is just waiting, it seems. Her hair is bobbed blonde and her face is like an apple. She smiles at him.
This smile makes something cut through him. He approaches her, tells her his name. She tucks her hair behind one of her ears. They talk. But a train clanks up to the platform and hisses to a stop. That’s my train, she says.
Time has almost stopped anyway. It’s not like anyone will notice. He takes the silver scissors out of his pocket. She looks a little surprised, but he says. There. There and her face seems to set, to hold in lengthened moments a smile. It’s barely there, but it lives still. He draws the scissors up above her head. Snip. Something falls away. He cuts an arc around her head, then her shoulders. As she comes loose from space and time, she falls forward like cloth. As he cuts he gathers her into his free arm, rolling her like a bolt of silk.
With a final snip, he cuts her out of the air completely.
The train leaves the station. He stands on the platform, a bolt of cloth in his arms.