Monday, 17 November 2008


Anna-Mix moved quickly, her carpet-bag pulled tightly against her hip. The carpet-bag was blue, and wriggled now and then. She clutched it at the top like an outsize purse in a single hand, even though it was large enough to fit a child inside. A string of yellowed fake-pearls rattled around her neck, and her dress, long and white, floated on the air around her.

She moved along old paths, fast paths, paths that weren't hidden from sight but somehow went unseen amongst other people. She crossed the park in eighteen seconds, leaving behind her joggers for whom the traverse took several minutes. There was a scent of bonfires in the air, and a crispness like an October morning in the north, and then Anna-Mix had stepped off one path and onto another and the park was gone, a fleeting memory of much space condensed into something intense. The new path wound by the river, lengthened by the presence of flowing water and unable to cross it. Anna-Mix quickened her pace, aware of something in the water that was just as aware of her. An old pact was being remembered, and a decision being taken about whether it was too old to be honoured.

Another moment of transition, another couple of seconds back where everyone was, where people could see her as clearly as she could see them, and then she was on yet a third path, one that threw tiny sparks up behind her wherever her feet trod. She glanced behind her now, every few seconds, scanning for a hunter. There would have to be one, because there always was. She would outrun the hunter because she had no choice.

Just for an instant the path wavered and faded and a busy road emerged from the background trying to instate itself and she felt her grip slip. Something twisted, and her breath caught in her throat. Her eyes stung with acrid tears and she almost reached for a hand that wasn't there, a suggestion of a friend who would stand her aside from the chase and hide her until the hunter had gone by. The siren of an ambulance wailed and she heard a voice shouting.

'For the good name of paediatrics you must die!' screeched a man nearby and she believed him.

The path faded. The sparks from her steps hung again in the air, tiny burning embers, emissaries of a hell long unseen, and the ambulance stayed its course, Anna-Mix frozen between its headlights.

The carpet-bag wriggled and Anna-Mix blinked. The path reappeared like an elastic band snapping back and the siren of the ambulance wailed away somewhere else. She turned, and looked behind her again, and although there was no-one watching, no-one waiting, she turned back to her path forwards and started to run.

In the Excess Cafe, Dax walked through the door, and looked over to the table where the writer sat, tasting the rage in the salt.

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