110 What it's like to die by gunshot

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110   What it's like to die by gunshot

Frowning with a terrible foreboding, I wrench my attention away and hurl it out towards Pippa ... and it's just as they said, Pippa. Trust you to have been caught in the cross-fire and wrongly assumed dead. So here you are, lying on your back at Kingsley Street and Fourth Avenue, dying by the carcass-building, all dressed in yellow. Three dead male bodies lie nearby. I start to make a move, to help you out—but I stop, because I notice through my shock that you're glad this has happened. In any case, it's too late: you're fading, and I see you will be gone by the time I or anybody else can arrive.

I therefore remain sitting here, tuning in. You are in pain, but as soon as the bullet entered your torso, your system kicked into gear and shut off most of the pain sensors involved. You know you will be dead within the next few minutes, and through your confusion you're content to die. This should not be news to me, in light of what I've witnessed of the life you've led inside yourself. So here you lie dying, and here I am privileged to watch. You see fires and explosions on the far-away horizon, where a nest of lethal Ferris wheels grinds through the night above a funfair of cotton candy, grinning clowns and death machines. You smell your own death now, uncoiling from inside you. Your mossy grave lies ready, up behind the night in a field of its own, with the cracked grey headstone bearing your name—can you read that?

You wonder what the person who searches you will conclude when they find the note that lives in the envelope in your rear left pocket. I frown, as I can feel something new and odd here... With awkwardness you reach into your back left pocket with your black-gloved hand, fetch the envelope, bring it to your face, pull the old piece of paper out and read it for the last time. At its left edge are small stains of blood, wet and dry, presumably from the gunshot wound in the right side of your back, where blood is soaking widely through your bright yellow sweatshirt. It's a brief note scribbled a few years ago by Angel, addressed not to you but to Lucan, with urgent kisses along the lower edge. The text reads simply, "See you tonight!" Some years ago it came somehow into your possession: you have crossed Lucan's name out and put your own instead, and several intervening years of your own obsessive kisses onto Angel's signature have smudged his name with lipstick and many tears.

So here's quite a secret, at the very last minute, lit in red... You nearly took it to the grave. How did I fail to recognise that you housed so intense an instance of what I suppose could be called an Angel-shaped emptiness? You were more unusual than I realised. Not that unrequited passion is rare—but what a spectacularly oblique direction yours assumed. And of course: all those angel ornaments throughout your apartment, in every room... Perhaps your few visitors assumed them to be religious statuettes? If so, how fitting that such sacred-looking angels were standing in for another one so profane! I must never have tuned in to you in the right way to perceive this. How bizarre—I didn't think I was missing things as major as this, in people. If so, what else have I missed? What other unrequited love might I have tuned in towards, but then right past, never hitting it?

For the last time ever, you plant a fiery kiss upon his signature and place the note back inside its old envelope.

For the first time ever, you lick what glue remains upon the envelope's flap and seal it up.

Then with care and discomfort, you fling this sacred object away from you, as hard as you can, down Fourth Avenue towards the sea.

The force of your throw, a collaborative breeze and lucky aerodynamics all combine to carry it far down the length of the strip of litter-strewn dirt and scrappy grass beside the carcass-building, halfway to Ocean Avenue and anonymity. You lie back, exhausted, your mind slipping out of your control. You see a convoy of cars in northern India, their headlights painted over with cartoony eyes. Beside it, a line of swaying poplars turns into a line of stunted poles stretching across the plateau into dim haze. At the end of the line is a graveyard ringed by statues of ash in crumbling colonnades. A sad human head like a marsh-flower swims through the air among the graves, where the long grass weeps. The sky dims and churns. White drizzle falls out of grey light to black snow. The wind dies, and far away, dust blown from distant lands falls to sea in silence.

Your system is sluggish now; the fog grows within you. You're standing in an Arverne alleyway, with sad social housing all around you under damp sky. Across the grassy mud a small pig trots on pointed toes, its flank stained umber, like ceramic. Lights flicker on among the high-rise tower-blocks. Wind makes the telegraph wires in the alley sing, as fog rolls along its narrow length to engulf you.

Faintly you recall Pippa Vail on her balcony, asking who am I? Beneath Pippa Vail were the lights of a small town somewhere on the coast and the swashing of the sea. You swell with compassion for this Pippa you are seeing: for her passion and her dreams and her vulnerabilities, for the heights she aspired to and the depths she feared to think about.

You're all alone, lying here. No one will wake you up, no one knows you're here—and that's fine, you reflect, as a smile lights your face.

And so you die, my lovely Pippa, whom I've watched through a frosted glass—you simply end. I feel my attention gently nudged from within you, dislodged from your carcass, to float past the carcass-building, back to my bed here. I'm glad we knew each other. I shan't forget your angels, and I shan't forget our picnic with the Laughing Cow cheese.



For some nice reviews and interviews about The Imagination Thief, in The Guardian and elsewhere, see http://www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-imagination-thief-reviews-media/

For a quick synopsis of it, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/synopsis-and-characters-list-the-imagination-thief/

For the 12 Films in The Imagination Thief, see http://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/

For the Audio-book version and the Video-book version of each of its 120 mini-chapters, see http://www.rohanquine.com/home-the-imagination-thief-novel/audiobook-tumblr-wattpad/

For links to the retailers, see http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-ebook/ and http://www.rohanquine.com/buy/the-imagination-thief-novel-paperback/

And for its Amazon pages, see http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909 and http://www.amazon.com/The-Imagination-Thief/dp/0992754909

The Imagination Thief is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people's imaginations and memories. It's about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split between beauty and happiness in the world; and the allure of various kinds of power. It celebrates some of the most extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and language, exploring the darkest and brightest flavours of beauty living in our minds.

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