Whilst I was busy trying to concoct a suitable reply, an alarm sounded. If I wasn’t mistaken, it was the same type of alarm that would be sounded during the Blitz. It was a siren that screamed out that the enemy was coming and the one that ordered rightminded citizens to douse their lights, run for shelter and then pray. I looked to the nurse for reassurance but she was gone. I looked around my space for anyone who could share my panic but none appeared. I prayed for movement, but only my innards responded. I tried reaching for the bedpan but my haste pushed it off the small trolley on which it had waited.
The now familiar sound of gunshots followed by screaming. My stomach jumped. I remembered that I could be killed in this world. And if I was killed, I was dead to any other. I was an easy target, a duck that could only sit and invite pot-luck. It was then that it occurred to me that the nurse had prepared me for this. I had been cleansed before my final act of sacrifice to the novel, and I welcomed it as an escape from the challenges that I had been set. The very worst thing that any writer should accept is resignation. To be resigned to your unfortunate end was the ultimate defeat, an open acknowledgement that the story just wasn’t up to scratch, didn’t meet the grade, would go unread. I had been thrown from the book in the same way I had been separated from my bike. I was going nowhere and had already reached my destination.
“Hey, man,” it was the guru. “No time for self-pity, just get up and run.”
There was no time to protest as he grabbed me with a force that dwarfed any that had previously existed in the text. I was up and running, out of the window and into the courtyard. Behind us was the tread of a giant stamping out anything that wold not be needed for the conclusion of the piece.
Sometimes your characters surprise you.
It is easy to fall into the obvious escape narrative. We are all running away from something just as we are all running towards something. The arrival of a deadly plague, a pandemic that a fifth of its intended victims chose to deny, just sharpened the picture. As somebody pointed out, death happens to us all – there is no escaping it. Regardless of that throw-away wisdom, on that night, in that dream, with my guru, I tried to outpace the coming apocalypse.