The school was always making noises. We boys, being the ones that we were, merely added to the general volume. Most days would see us tempering our explosions, sometimes not. We were like juvenile pressure points that had very little control over themselves. The temperature, the pressure per square inch, was often pre-set before the day began and what happened after that had been determined in those things that neuros called dreams. Like the neuros, we dreamt but we did not realise what dreams were.
Since the first of the outbreaks we were aware that things had changed. The first few weeks had brought about stillness and something that was close to rebirth. There were more animals in evidence in the countryside, more deer, more foxes and more ‘unseen’ birds of prey. “Unseen’ means not seeing them until it was too late. I remember seeing a goshawk tearing a woodpigeon apart on the lower parts of our garden. I think that the woodpigeon was surprised as I was. It was a mesmeric occasion with my eyes being drawn to the way in which the more powerful bird simply pulled apart the lesser one whilst it was still struggling to come to terms with the fact that it was already dead. I tried to tell Dad about what I had seen but he was caught between listening to me and half believing or dismissing what he was being told because it was his son who was telling it. I remember feeling somewhat annoyed at his indifference. Neither he nor Mum thought that it was such a significant thing to comment upon. Mum did say something about nature being red in tooth and claw but I didn’t understand what she was saying.
On the night after I had seen the carnage of the woodpigeon, I dreamt that I was flying through the sky. The night was pitch as it was not lit by a helpful moon. I dreamt that I was in a race against something that was intent upon not just beating me but on destroying me. All of my senses were straining at the edge of my being as I swooped to the left and the right, ascended and descended, strained and prayed. And still my nemesis was close behind me.
My normal plan of defence in situations like this is to curl up into a ball, a foetal position. That’s the position that we are in for a good number of months before we are dragged, screaming into the world. Mum told me that I was a late baby, ‘very late’ my dad added. Mum said that if the midwife, the woman who drags babies out from the womb, had not been so insistent I would probably have stayed in there over winter – and perhaps beyond.