memo to self

Must push the story below the fold somewhere further on

The despondency clock had woken Brian silently. The green radium-painted glow of the alarm clock by the bed showed ten to three. The hour had a flat changeless quality, as if it had always been there, waiting for him, and would always be here waiting for his return. To his left, more remembered than seen, a long still mound of bed clothes smelling of eau de toilette marked his wife. It seemed almost as tangible as the facts that pressed against him. We are the kind of people, he thought, who buy their own furniture and second-hand at that. The still, dark room around him smelled of polished shoes and polished mahogany full of shifting configurations of darkness, that changed with a mechanical symmetry as his thoughts revolved.

As a boy, he had dreamt once that he lived in the peel tower at the foot of Strangford Lough, where his parents had kept their yacht, the Marjorie, and that one clear winter afternoon the wolves had come. They flowed like smoke across the grey-green hill as evening fell, and then, all through the northern evening, they had leapt at the windows. In his dream the fluid leaping of the wolves had made no sound at all. All he could hear was his own breathing and the clatter of his shoes on the rough plank floors as he ran around the tower, shuttering the windows. The wolves were always close. He could see their muzzles twisting at the broad stone window sills. But he managed at least to shut and shutter all the windows on the ground floor, and ran up the stairs to watch from the floor above. As soon as he looked out, the wolves stretched up to reach the story he was on. He must rush round and shutter all these windows too. But no matter how far he retreated up the tower, the wolves could always almost reach him. By the third floor, he could hear them, their whuffling grunts of effort; the clatter of their claws against the stone. He heard this, and thought of the stories still above him. Then he realised that if the wolves could jump to any height, they might just as well have leapt into a floor above, and be running heavily down the spiral stair towards him.

Struggling, panting, he had burst through into wakefulness, but the light of his dream had seemed much clearer and brighter than the room he had woken in and though the dream had never recurred, he had never forgotten it, as if in some part of his mind he was always running up the spiral stair in the tower towards the moment when he realised that the wolves were already above him.

He lay in the stillness and then with a grunt of effort pulled himself wholly awake. He walked down the corridor for a pee. The board at the bedroom door creaked, as it always did, and later, the board outside the upstairs lavatory. Both his wife and son slipped awake at that familiar noise. They heard him grunting to himself as he returned. She lay as still as if she had never woken. He reached out and touched her with his fingertips. She kept her breathing regular. Lulled by the accustomed sound, he fell quickly asleep, and started to snore. But she was now completely awake. First she moved carefully away from his fingers: his arm flopped into the gap between their beds, and he turned over and stopped snoring. She lay very still. After half an hour, she switched on the light, and read until a blackbird started singing in the dawn outside. Then she rose carefully, and padded in her silk dressing gown to the kitchen, making no more noise than a heavy cat, registering a flicker at the end of the corridor as a light was extinguished in a teenage bedroom and a cigarette crunched into an ashtray.

Thus the nights passed all that summer, with everyone pretending to sleep well.

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