Brian felt sick. The sort that wouldn’t go away with a lie down or retching. The sort that would dissolve his head before his guts.
Had he left himself wide open for this? He’d done nothing at all.
But perhaps all it takes for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing; he remembered that from one of his mother’s stitched wall hangings- more permanent fixtures in the house than she ever was.
He had to think practically. That was important at a time like this.
He needed to be anywhere but here. Crucial that he have a reason to be somewhere else.
Only he didn’t. He had to go to work.
Thank God he was home alone now. He still had a night to think of a strategy.
He loosened his tie, opened a window and took a deep breath.
Is this what it felt like to be in prison? Not knowing why you wanted your freedom but every bone in your body crying out to not not have it.
There, that was what it was: a double negative. An intangible you didn’t want taken away from you. The loss of an idea. The idea of loss.
He made himself a ham sandwich and a cup of tea. Would these sorts of things even be possible soon? Simple pleasures that didn’t fatten with mutual relevance: Why didn’t you make me a sandwich?
‘Because I don’t feel your hunger,’ he said out loud, slumping on the sofa.
Yes, avoidance was the only answer. If he couldn’t remove himself physically then he’d have to do it some other way.
That thing you were supposed to do with formidable adversaries- turn their power against them- that was what he’d have to do. Really, he was surprised how much he’d learnt from Kung Fu Panda.
He’d have to take the energy and deflect it. Make its very power the reason for his deflection. It was overwhelming, too incredible to accept.
It wasn’t something he didn’t want- God, no!- it was something he wanted so much he was afraid of it.
Too hot to handle. That wasn’t one of his mother’s wall hangings.
But what about the fall-out? Christ, it would be like fucking Chernobyl. If he felt sick now, imagine what it would be like next week.
He’d be walking around under a cloud, like a cartoon.
Maybe prison was an option after all. You can take my freedom but you can’t take my soul. Who was that? Mel Gibson?
It was getting late. Sue would be home soon and he needed to be in bed, pretend snoring.
He took himself upstairs, undressed and brushed his teeth with his toothbrush. His toothbrush, he smiled to himself. Always gonna have that, at least.
Diminished by fear, Brian fell asleep straight away so that there was no strategy, no plan and the next thing he knew he was right there in the middle of it.
It happened slowly, like the part of a dream he wasn’t having.
First a bingo wing resting gently on his back. Then a warm breath on his neck. Finally, a rhasp:
‘Wakey, wakey, Bri. It’s 29th February.’