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Andy’s been reading all day. We raided a tourist information centre and he walked out with an armful of maps and guides, brochures and leaflets. Stuff about where to find hot snacks and ice, sites of historic interest or places of unusual scenic beauty. He loves all that bumph. He sits there, cradling it in his lap, reading it out loud as we motor along. Most of the time I can’t hear him above the sound of the engine but every so often, he turns towards me, touches my arm and tells me about somewhere that’s famous for its Devonshire teas, or a small wildlife sanctuary that’s well worth a visit.

I’ve been driving for hours now, longer than I can remember, forever it seems. Not that it really bothers me. The first few hours were the worst but now I feel as if I’m glued to the seat, slowly dissolving, melding into the fabric of the car. I don’t have to do anything and there’s nothing to look at so I just sit there with my foot on the pedal, my hand on the wheel and let my mind drift off. When my foot gets tired, I use the other one.



For a while back there, I was seeing faces pretty clearly – the faces of people I grew up with, people I lived with. People I once knew. And for the first time, I could see the looks on their faces. I could see what they thought of me and I knew what I thought of them. It was kind of scary but pleasant too. I could feel the bursts of adrenalin hit my heart as each new revelation emerged in the brain. It made me think this might be a journey of self-discovery, a voyage to the centre of myself, a personal odyssey. I was wrong about that though. The faces soon stopped appearing and I knew then this journey wasn’t leading us anywhere. We’re simply driving.

I guess that’s when I started thinking about the house.

It’s a big house on a busy city street although there’s nothing special about it. You might drive past it day after day and never even notice it. Inside, it’s dark and cool and I have to wait for my eyes to adjust to the light before I can make out the shape of the rooms and the furniture.

There is a woman in the sitting room. She’s standing over by the window, half turned away from me, lost in thought, and there’s something about her – her face, the way she stands – that reminds me of another time, another place, just beyond the reach of my mind. I hold myself still and wait for something to happen.

Eventually the woman turns away from the window and moves across the room. She stops in front of a square black object and leans forward. There is a soft click and fizz of electricity, and then a silver light floods the room, forcing the darkness back and away. Shadows dance across the walls and there is a sudden murmuring of voices as if a door has opened abruptly on a roomful of people.

The woman sits hunched forward on the edge of an armchair watching the television. A black cat appears between her feet, blinking melodramatically like somebody pretending to be astonished. It starts to lick its paw.

A uniformed man is standing beside a road at night, caught in the beam of an overhead light like a criminal on the run. There are more lights in the background and the man is slowly waving his arms as if summoning people towards the flashing red, orange and blue. A voice says,

And in the news ahead, a tragic accident claims the lives of two...

The woman moves over to a settee and lies back. The black cat blinks at her and continues licking. Colours and shapes are sliding and swerving across the screen. Tiny lights pop and melt as the music soars. The world lies far away, spinning in a soft haze of blue and green. We are falling towards it, accelerating, plunging past towers of silver glass, dropping into deep canyons that reach into the heart of the earth. It is a blinding, spiralling fall from which we emerge into a rosy light that fills me with calm wonder. There is a logo waiting for us here. It sits before us, gleaming and twinkling, silent and portentous, the meaning and destination of our journey. It signals the start of a new programme. Something scheduled is about to begin.

For a long time – I lose track of the minutes and hours – the woman lies motionless on the settee. It is hard to tell if she is awake or asleep, alive or dead. I try to catch her breathing but become confused by the colours flickering across her body, the flashes and shadows of the edits and cuts.

Where did she go? I’ve got to know, Scotty, where she goes and what she does...

A man is following a woman who is pretending to be a woman who is dead. The woman drives slowly through the city. The man drives as well but the city moves around him.

The woman who is pretending to be a woman who is dead jumps into the sea and the man jumps in after her. He can’t resist a jumper. He falls for jumpers, except right at the beginning when he was following a man and another man fell and he didn’t jump after him. Men can fall for jumpers but not fallers. This man is a faller and not a jumper which is why he falls for jumpers.

After the woman who is pretending to be a woman who is dead has jumped into the sea, she falls for the man who jumped in after her. Jumpers can fall for fallers. This allows her to sit in the man’s car and have the world move around her as well. This only happens when she is with the man.

If I can just find the key, the beginning and – and – and – put it together...

The man follows the woman who is pretending to be a woman who is dead into a church and she jumps out of the bell tower. The man is overcome with excitement on the spiral staircase – the world falls away from him – and he is unable to jump after her. This makes him fall for her in a big way but, unfortunately, he can no longer follow her.

Explain it away? There is a way to explain it, you see? If I’m mad then that would explain it, wouldn’t it?

There is another woman who wants the man to fall for her so she paints a picture in which she also pretends to be the woman who is dead. However, she’s not a jumper so pretending to be the woman who is dead doesn’t make him fall for her. They’re just good friends.

After a while, the man finds another woman to follow and he persuades her to pretend to be the woman who was pretending to be a woman who is dead. He doesn’t realise that she really is the woman who was pretending to be a woman who is dead. She was only pretending to be a woman who was pretending to be a woman who is dead and now she’s only pretending to be dead when, in fact, the woman who jumped was the woman she was pretending to be who had been murdered by her husband and didn’t jump at all. The husband knew that the man was a faller when he asked him to follow the woman who was pretending to be a woman who was pretending to be a woman who is dead. The man falls for her again and the world moves around them once more.

Go up the stairs, Judy, and I’ll follow...

Eventually the man realises that the woman really is the woman who was pretending to be a woman who is dead and this makes him want to follow her up the bell tower again except this time she doesn’t want to go because she was only pretending to be a jumper. She’s really a faller as well. Unfortunately the man realises too late that they’re both fallers and is unable to prevent her from going over the edge. Perhaps if he had known she was a faller and not a jumper, he wouldn’t have forced her up the spiral staircase. But then again, maybe he wouldn’t have fallen for her in the first place.

The black cat blinks and licks.

The woman lifts her head and stares at the screen.
A long line of cars is snaking its way along a road, braking and accelerating, jostling for position. There are fields and forests, grassy slopes and multi-coloured banks of people. None of the cars can break away. They spin, swerve, slide and skid but nothing can stop the cavalcade. There are armies of men in orange, red and white overalls but even they are unable to hold the cars for long. The road has hairpins and chicanes, esses and doglegs but all the obstacles merely seem to incite the cars to go faster. The procession is interminable. There is no escape, no way out. A tiny, far-away voice shouts,

This is tragic, absolutely tragic...

Eventually the light in the room becomes brighter and the television screen pales. There is nothing but music now. I see empty roads and flat parched landscapes. Dilapidated rustic buildings stand out against the blue sky. A woman dressed in white walks beside the road and at a rundown old service station, a young man in overalls shields his eyes against the sun and looks into the distance. It is all so shockingly familiar – I know that place, these people – but none of it makes sense. Everything seems connected to a part of my life that exists only in the moment of recognition. Then it is gone and something else – a faded photograph, sand in an hour glass – takes its place and I’m left with the same vague, uneasy sense of having seen it all before.

I look across at the woman. She is still staring at the screen but barely seems to notice it now. It is as if she is able see beyond the images and has travelled to a far-off place where no one can touch her and events are ordered according to her own internal logic. I try to stay perfectly still, knowing that the smallest movement could break the spell, pull her back to the surface of the screen and the room and the cat.

I guess that’s why I don’t see the man straightaway. One moment it’s just the woman and the cat and then, all of a sudden, he’s there, standing behind the settee, staring at the screen as well. I didn’t see him come in – he came from nowhere – but now that he’s here, I realise that we’ve been waiting for him all along.

‘What’s this?’ says the man.

The sound of his voice takes me by surprise; I hadn’t expected these people to speak. His voice is loud and thick, too full and resonant, even though he is barely whispering. The woman seems disconcerted as well. She looks up at him distractedly, as if trying to guess where she is and what he is doing here. Even the cat lifts its head and stares at the man briefly before settling down again with a slow, dismissive blink.

‘I dunno,’ says the woman eventually. ‘Some crap.’

The man and the woman continue to stare at the screen together. The man says,

‘It’s going to be a hot one today...’


Hey Kate. Listen to this Kate...

Andy’s voice sucks me back into the car like the sudden opening of a vacuum. He’s growing excited with the sound of his own chatter, happy now that he thinks we’re going somewhere instead of only driving. It makes no difference to me. I don’t care where we go or what happens to us. Even so, I feel a tiny lump of fear and anger well up, as if the atmosphere inside the car has been tainted by something malevolent, something unseen that neither of us will ever be able to understand.

Sweat is trickling down the inside of my arm like a thin bead of molten wax. I open the window and stick my hand out, fingers stretched apart and, for a few seconds, it feels cool as the sweat evaporates. Then there’s only hot air again and I can feel it pummelling my face, drying my eyeballs. I close the window.

In the morning before we leave, Andy empties the car, unpacking all the boxes and bags until everything is spread out on the ground. Then he puts it all back again while I sit and watch. We can’t leave until he is finished.

What are you doing? I ask.

Rationalising, he says.

He won’t me let touch anything. He doesn’t want me to help.

Later on, he gets out the road atlas and starts to plot a route. He flicks through the pages, tracing the lines with his finger until he can go no further. Then he starts all over again. This is where we are, he says, and this is where we are going. He rubs the surface of the page over and over as if trying to engrave the route or maybe obliterate it before we’ve even started.