'I thought you said this was all finished with,' my mother said, breaking up a plastic cup, dribbles of coffee staining her clothes and fingers. 'And poor Hannah, she didn't know what to do. If she hadn't brought you here I don't know what we'd be doing. She said she thought you were doing it deliberately. She said she thought you were trying to kill yourself. I told her you weren't. You're not, are you?'

'I've never felt better.'

'But you're so...'

Her words resolved themselves into liquid which she swabbed from her eyes with tissues.

'Look at you!' she says. 'The doctors said you could die.'

'The doctors don't know anything.'

'Of course they do,' my father says, turning the corners of a newspaper in solid fingers, 'that's why they're doctors and why you're here.'

'We brought you some clothes, too,' my mother says. 'Nobody wants to have to wear hospital clothes. Hannah sorted out some of yours, and there's some of your dad's there, too. I still can't understand it. You used to be so healthy when you were little. There was nothing you wouldn't eat.'

Yes. Me stood by the living room window, watching the day disintegrate under the weight of night. Father home from work by six. He trimmed rogue hairs from his ears and nostrils with nail-clippers, let his body sink roots into his chair, at perihelion to the television. My mother still in the kitchen. The beer can in my father's hand, the television, his chair, the plate on his lap, were a mass that swelled to engulf the space that surrounded him. On the other side of the room, away from his spillage, I sat pushing a loaded spoon into my mouth.

It's morning. I stare at the plate of food the nurse brought in for me. More like Caesar's feast than breaking fast. Two slices of toast, two tubs of margarine, a bowl of corn flakes and milk, a glass of orange juice and a glass of milk which I sniff then know is full-fat. I poke amongst the cornflakes, find one that hasn't yet liquefied. Turn it in the tips of my fingers, can't imagine it in my mouth, chewed by my teeth, slithering past my tongue, swallowed, ingested. I sip the orange juice twice, dribble one sip back into the glass. It's easier to eat nothing than to only eat a little.

I put the tray on the floor by the door, close the curtains. The nurses and doctor always open them when they enter the room, and I always close them when they leave. Back in bed I pick up the package I received in yesterday's post. An A4 envelope of photocopied sheets, and a covering letter.

"...Hope the enc. are useful. Why do u want this stuff all of a sudden? You never seemed that interested before. Not sure what you're looking for, hope you'll find it here... Whatever. Anyway hope you're back w. reality soon. Steve."

I can't get comfortable. My pillows are solid blocks. The sheets scratch against the tips of my bones. I can feel that orange juice wriggling down my oesophagus like a tapeworm. I put the letter aside, look through the pages that accompanied it. Four chapters in all, headed The Nature Of Space And Time, Hertzprung-Russell Diagram And Main Sequence Stars, The Chandrasekhar Threshold - Neutron Stars And Black Holes, and Inside The Singularity. I turn the pages, read lines and paragraphs that catch my eye.

"...In 1930, Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, an Indian student of Physics, calculated that if a moderately large star exhausts its hydrogen supply, and consequently begins gravitational collapse, it will continue to collapse without limit... It should be remembered here that when matter is compacted into a smaller area it's mass and consequently its gravitational attraction becomes greater... Even after having ejected most of it's mass... The star's enormous mass will cause it to shrink, getting smaller and smaller under the sheer weight if its own gravity until it is literally crushed out of existence at a single point. During this implosion the gravity around the star becomes infinite, space and time fold in on themselves, and the star literally disappears from the universe. What is left is known by astronomers as a black hole."

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