beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

Tiny stars





Coaxing gestures

As I reveal

Deepen the mystery of

You and I

Composed of

Tiny stars as we

Race towards velvet darkness

A mutual oblivion

Wild quiet regard

And kiss me 

As we taste one another’s


beauty, fiction, women

You Know What They Say About Men With Big Feet

Surveillance was useless over Tonto. 4.2 million acres of forest, and we had seeded the sky with drone cameras and millimetre wave sensors but they found nothing from above. Sarah had gone down alongside Dr Theresa Safford and Paula Escovedo from Reproductive Services and were setting up a station at the edge of the forest. Safford was a blonde scalpel, beautiful and sharp whilst Escovedo was quiet and intense, corded with muscle as she hefted the equipment into the station.

Sarah came to RepServ from Homeland Security, and before that, six years as a marshall in the Male Crimes Unit. She enjoyed her work because men fascinated her and thought they’d had a rough deal in recent history. Her mother had quoted from a banned philosopher named Ken Wilber about ‘wicked problems needing wicked solutions’ when she visited them in Florida. Her empathy made her an effective agent even though a lot of her experience with men had been professional.

They got bad for a long time but things came back. Not all of them but enough plus the automated services which took care of most things. Which was why RepServ got more funding and resources than Homeland Security. There were problems with artificial sperm alongside a lack of genetic diversity to prevent inbreeding or mutations. What men were around were infertile and soft, kept as status symbols like teacup dogs unless they found themselves in some of the rougher or more desolate parts of the world. They provided tissue samples to extrapolate, but we looked into a downward spiral until a couple from Wales, holidaying in Tonto took video footage of a tall, bearded figure in the forest and a souvenir from her activist days pinged an alarm. The wristband alarm bleeped at the pheromonal signature of a man but he slipped into the trees without making a sound. RepServ got the GPS and they were on our way.

She wore a set of contact lens connected to a liquid computer, loaded with tracking and tactical software. The rifle, loaded with adhesive balls of foam, which expanded on contact, encasing the target in material which hardened to concrete. It disintegrated with a spray she had in a harness on her wrist. The lightweight chameleon suit projected images onto the surface creating a perfect blending with her environment. She chewed on the piece of gum, swallowing a blend of nutrients and stimulants to keep her alert and engaged.

The software scanned the world ahead, paired with the data from the drones and satellite footage to provide her with streaming real time information about her environment. The trees were too thick for heat signatures but it allowed Sarah perfect awareness of her environment. Her vitals spoke to a genuine excitement about her work as she walked into the forest.

Three miles in, a drone picked up movement. There were bears out here although the foam rifle would stop anyone. Sarah knew the horrible things about bears were how fast they moved, despite their size. Still, it excited her to be out here.

She shouldered the rifle as an overhead view of the location guided her whilst millimeter scans sent instructions to the boots on her feet, the soles a series of rubberized nodules which inflated and deflated depending on the terrain and information available. She was a silent ballerina dancing through the woods, lethal in intention if not in execution.

She saw the leaves shudder in a copse of bushes and she brought the rifle up in a smooth arc, letting the software run the millions of calculations required to deliver the payload. She squeezed the trigger and waited for the rounds to hit their target. They missed and splattered against a tree four feet behind him. He had ducked the shot, and she blinked, running a diagnostic as she swept the rifle across the line.

‘Go back home, miss.’

His voice was deep and rough, like a saw across damp wood. Satellites gave him up like a prison snitch. The calm, playful burr of his voice surprised her. Most men’s voices around her were soft, pitched to the point of women and the noise shocked her into inaction.

‘You need to come out with your hands up.’

He chuckled and Sarah’s blood crept up into her cheeks as she adjusted her sights aiming to have the next rounds activate over him.

‘I’ve not broken any laws. You have no authority here.’ he said.

Sarah brought up the relevant legislation to quote from.

‘I am prosecuting the detainment of a gender negative individual. Please come out and I will detain you without further use of force.’

She kept her voice bright, but he had gone, according to the data.

A branch snapped behind her and she had time to turn around.

The soft crush of his bicep against her throat gave her enough time to gasp before she felt darkness wash over everything.


She awoke with her eyes stinging and thoughts left alone for the first time in years. Her head rung like a bell and when she felt the chill press of the tin cup against her cheek, it sent a jolt of discomfort through her like a knife.

A rough voice told her to drink and she did. The water was cold, and her throat opened to receive it with blind gratitude. Rough fingers cupped her chin and she shivered with a quiet burst of emotion. She gasped as she licked her lips.

‘They will send people out after me. You’re not thinking, sir.’ she said.

He grinned through the thick scrub of beard, dusted with silver and nodded.

‘No, thinking got us into this mess, didn’t it?’

He got her to her feet and extended his right hand, flexed his fingers and closed his eyes.

The air shimmered before her.

It appeared before her in slices, lengths of cabling lashed to plastic framing, pulsing with liquid information and pouring into squat ceramic barrels. The filters would direct the data to keep the system running. Smart technology several steps beyond the standards of the communal housing they all lived in.

The shimmering solar panels sucking in the light and delivering clean, consistent power.

Young, determined eyes staring at her.

Women looked at her with dismay. Men with envy. Broad faces. The fat burned away despite the comfort. A hardness of character she found thrilling. She sniffed the air, and tasted the tang of cooked meat, and beneath it the animal musk of men she caught only in moments through work.

Sarah looked at her captor.

‘We did things when you decided your ideas meant more than the reality of being human.’

She sneered and pulled away from him.

‘The world is safer now, for all genders.’

He snorted and shook his head.

‘Nothing is safe.’

She walked through the settlement. People stared at her with a frankness she found thrilling. Some of the men looked at her in a way which she could have them charged but with her hands tied, all she could do was endure it.

Accept it, she thought with a swift hunger which was disconcerting.

He led her into a dome through a door which opened before him.

Once they were inside the room, she looked around. Thick blankets hung from the walls, woven in dark, earth tones and two chairs sat around the information fountain in the centre of the room. A bowl sat above it, filled with glowing liquid. Her contact lenses floated in the centre, fizzing with activity.

He stood behind her and took the rope from her wrists.

‘Hold still.’ he said.

He stepped away and Sarah rubbed feeling back into her wrists as she looked around.

‘You’re committing treason, you understand?’ she said.

Her voice sounded sharp, panicked and she willed it back under her control.

He chuckled and waved her off, walked over to a small maker in the corner and asked for a glass of water.

‘No, because I don’t recognise your authority and I won’t have you milk me like cattle.’ he said.

She glared at him with appalled frankness.

‘You’re being asked to submit genetic materials to ensure viable reproduction to take place, we exist because you make an issue of it.’ she said.

He shook his head.

‘People used to do it because they wanted it to. Or shit, an accident you turned into an opportunity’ he said.

Sarah grimaced and looked away.

‘I will not listen to your propaganda. I’m surprised you’ve shown me this and kept me alive.’ she said.

He smiled and shook his head.

‘Your implants shut down when you came through the barrier and we’re sucking out all the information from your computer. You might kill a bunch of us, maybe get away but you won’t come back and find us here.’ he said.

He sighed and sat down, took a sip of the water and smiled at her.

‘Sit down and have a drink, then I’ll send you on your way.’ he said.

She stared at the chair then him, eyes narrowed with suspicion. He looked relaxed and confident. She knew six moves which would hurt him, three to paralyse and two she could kill him. His eyes sparkled with interest and he gestured to the empty chair opposite him.

Sarah sat down and he passed her another glass of water.

‘We want nothing but to be left alone.’ he said.

‘Tell me your name?’ she said.

‘Adam.’ he said.

‘What are your -‘ he shook his head and smiled.

‘No, I will not use your terms. The language is part of the problem, and it’s part of why your society must hunt for top shelf come and figure out how to keep everything from falling over.’ Adam said.

Sarah blanched and shook her head.

‘Are you gloating? You live in a fucking forest.’

Her voice was a snarl. Such frankness at home would have been flagged for problematic content, led to automated messages from the house intelligence system. The liberating act was terrifying in its power.

He laughed and clapped his hands.

‘Lieutenant, we are self sustaining and live in comfort. We are free to do so, and we don’t police how other people speak or think. It’s rough at times, because we have had to live apart from the rest of you.’ he said.

She ran her tongue over her lips and looked at him. He was alien, compelling in the way a child finds the monster under her bed compelling. They were always male.

But were they?

‘You can’t do that.’ she said.

He chuckled and shook his head.

‘We have. It’s just not sinking into your collective heads.’ he said.

She had been prepared for gendered slurs, sexual innuendoes, even aggressive threat. Beyond her pacification, she was unharmed and being listened to.

Sarah wondered why she was enjoying it.

‘Talk, Adam?’ she said

He smiled and gestured outside.

‘I’ll show you.’ he said.


Sarah blinked through the lenses, they were irritating her and she was grateful to see the station where she could take them off. Safford flung the door open and glared at her.

Sarah grimaced and shook her head, mumbled something about countermeasures and being held captive. They took her gun, but didn’t hurt her.

Adam had rehearsed these details with her. They had moved from water to scotch, and then she had moved to a good facsimile of red wine, as they debated.

The three days she spent there was a revelation. Uncomfortable and challenging, but beneath her skull, she was humming with new ideas. They were old ones, questions which demanded debate over denial and factors kept hidden from collective discussion. She agreed to help them get access, but nothing more. Violence was too constant in her world, and Adam explained how preparedness was not the same thing as aggression.

He had given her choice. The gaps in the data would reveal how to find them and the people there represented vectors of infection and valuable genetic material for biological diversity.

People who had fed and met with her.

She slipped the lenses from her eyes and passed them to Safford who rushed them inside. The data would be valuable.

Just not for RepServ.

She wanted sleep over a shower. A shower would have forced certain materials from her skin. She had never seen an uncut man before, and when he invited her to bed, she had gone to him a virgin in this way. Sarah ached with a deep warmth which nestled in her hips and thighs as she stepped into the dormitory attached to the station.

She laid on the cot and closed her eyes. Her hands cupped to her mouth and nose, breathing him in as she waited for the change to come out of the forest.






beauty, short fiction, women

Pushing Forward Back

We landed at Dulles, took the president to an armoured limousine as his wife fed him pills and lifted a bottle of water to his lips, telling him it would be okay.

The alien invasion had ended. We had received communication of a desire to open negotiations with the entity.

We had lost against something we knew so little about.

It had utilised a series of drones, intelligent enough to reproduce and evolve, and the ones we took apart showed the elegant malice of its designs. The carbon rods propelled by chemical charges launched from shuddering soft jellyfish floating above the atmosphere and destroying entire cities. Lupine creatures with armoured skin, dropped into the countryside and attacking everything they fell upon. Things which soared through our skies, emitting bursts of electromagnetic energy which blacked out entire countries. A cosmic zoo of grotesque proportions and exquisite capabilities and lost. The scale and speed of the assault made anything else a suicide note from our species.

My boss told me I was going along. I nodded, a little too quick from the caffeine I had been mainlining since we came out of the bunker in Colorado, desperate not to miss a moment of living now it was possible again.

The President was sending the vice president.

Their craft had landed in Nevada. Our analysis had been a race of reptilian beings, anatomy and intercepted communications representing a base ten mathematics. We never encountered the corpses of anything biological. If a race had reached technological singularity, the possibility of its machines becoming aggressive had factored into my calculations, but I believed we were dealing with a biological entity, its given name revealed in the final communication.



Sixteen major cities in smoking ruins beneath a rain of gelatinous napalm spat from the plastic wombs of writhing white machines which appeared and struck in perfect synchronisation without warning. It was the biblical made literal and what scared me about the technology and the tactics was the possibility of dealing with an invader who was whimsical.

The craft was covered in a reflective material which seethed with lines of sparking energy, twisting and turning in spirals and waves as a small aperture opened in the side. A ramp extended, rippling like a cat’s tongue at a saucer of milk and solidified into a single column.
Cassie Reynolds. The girl who bullied me through grade school until MIT admitted me onto it’s accelerated programme, and I left her smug ten-year-old face behind. I was looking into it now, twenty years later. She updated her social media with how happy she was, and I would unblock her to feed the irrational irritation she stoked in me after all that time. Yet I was looking at a ten-year-old Cassie Reynolds. I shuddered but the look on her face was something unusual. Dismay.

‘No, listen I know you’re seeing something awful but I can explain.’

The vice president wept and shook his head, praying as he put his hands up to hide his face and the secret service surrounded him, guns raised as Cassie skipped down the ramp.

‘There’s something in your brain which makes me look like the person you hate the most. Have you heard of apophenia?’

‘It’s where we prescribe meaning to patterns. It relates to schizophrenia. Why?’

‘Well, I have this implant which generates apophonic responses and triggers disgust responses. It’s what kept me alive when I took this mission. I’ve been working from the inside, across the planes, and I’m sorry I didn’t make it sooner, ma’am.Persuading the Council of Ricks was more difficult than I expected but I found my way into the central core.’

My stomach crawled with a desperate loathing as I planted my feet on the ground and clenched my hands into fists. I wanted to run over and claw at her pouting doll face, how she’d grin as she pulled my hair and slapped me, the ripples of mocking laughter whenever I spoke aloud. Smart children represent the purest expression of the uncanny valley effect, and it revolted girls like Cassie, much as she revolted me now.

Not Cassie’s eyes filled with tears as she came and stood in front of me.

Fucking bitch.

She held a small gel capsule in her palm.

‘This will help. I can explain it better if you’re not fighting the urge to murder me.’

‘Wasn’t the invasion of earth enough of a reason?’

She shook her head.

‘I didn’t cause this. I’ve stopped it. Just like you’ll ask me to.’

I took the capsule and swallowed it. A tight band of pain settled into my temples for a second before she wavered and I looked at a tired, scarred young woman, only twenty five.

‘I’ve never seen you before in my life. I’m a federal consultant. I wouldn’t ask anyone to do anything.’

Her eyes were red as she scratched the back of her neck. She told me what we had fought against.

They came from the future, working backwards like locusts.

For each civilisation they devoured, they became more degraded, outsourcing the majority of their activity to machines, making them more sophisticated to take on more responsibility for the invasion. By the time they had found us, it was the machines acting on their programming, as the last of the species died out.

Alien machine ghosts.

Not-Cassie told me this as I fought the urge to run screaming.

The worst part was her discovery about the aliens.

They weren’t alien at all. What we became in a million years. Humanity.

‘What year is this?’

I told her then talked about the invasion and she swallowed, turning pale with horror as she backed away.

‘Oh shit. Look, I can fix this. One more leap and I can stop them before they find the station.’

Cassie had given me Swirlies, Chinese burns of livid skin on my forearms. If we’d gone to high school together, she would have graduated to cigarette burns and streaming my live humiliation on her phone.

She ran back to the ship and took off. Someone fired a shot, but it pinged past her and she looked over her shoulder, grimacing.

‘I know, okay?’

The ramp retracted and the aperture closed behind her before the ship took off into the air like a leaf on the wind before it sucked away into space.

I looked at the vice president, on his knees and weeping with disgust.

We returned and I had the dubious pleasure of flying back with the vice president and trying to explain what had happened. I met someone who told me I had ordered her to stop this invasion and she did, but too late for the amount of devastation. The vice president had asked me what occurred during our conversation, which was when I found out we had been speaking in pig Latin. It was horrible to listen to.

The skies were clear, but the plane shook with a sudden squall of turbulence and I closed my eyes. Life had become not a blessed gift, but a forced appearance in an awful, cosmic vaudeville.

I closed my eyes and waited for more of the worst. The capsule, I guessed, comprised of more than a change of perceptions amongst its effects. Perhaps it was a fear of the future but I sat back against the seat and prayed I found the courage to look forwards past today.

Making this public was out of the question. We had been grateful for the scraps of infrastructure left to us, and the ambiguous horror of it would devastate our faltering efforts.

It needed a hero, and so I told myself a story. One large enough to build a wall between the truth and I. It wasn’t enough to mute the disgust for Not-Cassie, but I imagined the woman underneath and wished her well.

The plane stabilised and I watched the vice president lower his head in prayer. I joined him, without asking.

I prayed for her.

I prayed for my soul not being too stained with weakness before I met her again.

For the first time.






beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

Correcting Grammar

I write poems

On your skin

Sonnets against the

Soft skin of your


Composing upwards

To what is mine

Tongue haiku

But I forget how many


Until you reach and take my

Head in your hands

Correcting my grammar

And you ask

Permission to reply

And on sheets

Dripping sweet

Your voice

Grows louder

Than mine



beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women

I see you



Not words

(Pardon the irony)

Listening to you

And beguiled by

The light in your eyes

Beauty undoes

But does not

Unman me

The quiet intimacy

Flows like the dance of

Autumnal leaves

And I am fighting through

The urge to master

The rising tide of


I’m made animal

Tender tough and

Open like sky

My presence is not

Penance but the wisdom

Of long nights

Spent in contemplative prayer

The god within me

A thing of warm shadow

Leaves and fur

Callused skin and slow

Hands in motion

Knows itself





With my


My hardness



beauty, love, lust, poetry, sex, women


Once would

Be enough

But it wouldn’t

Like the falling away of

Scales from eyes

There is no point

Where I look

Either within or at you

And think


Placed equidistant

Between wanting to

Hold hands and listen

And to take you

Without pause or restraint

To hold you with

The force of passion

You inspire






It is not





fiction, short fiction, women

The Day


He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. The hotel in the afternoon. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time.

The conductive fluid drained out in seconds. He fell onto his knees, coughed up the rest of it from his lungs before looking up. His eyes were animal, and the muscles beneath his skin flexed in readiness, a perfect capacity for custom violence. When he stood up, the engineers drew a collective intake of breath. There were combatants bristling with weapons, but with this model, they had trusted to the adaptative grace of the humanoid form. Beneath the skin was a different matter, custom engineering for performance and adaptation. His mind was a weapon, wired to calculate multiple probabilities in combat, so he knew his opponent’s moves before he did. Artificial intelligence housed in synthetic brain tissue and flesh.

Here, he was M1KA3L, champion of The Galactic Federation. Settling political debates, a proxy for expensive and wasteful conflicts. Planes and daisy cutter bombs were awesome and expensive, but when the Indian biotech companies provided men who could kick a lamp post in two, the market spoke and it said ‘more please.’ An arms race of enhanced human beings then as other races got involved, representatives from other races all of which led to multiple gambling markets and diplomatic problems settled by a wager.

Today he was fighting for a vote on military action against Barratt 6, a post-human collective who had occupied one of Jupiter’s moons. The match was being streamed live to every Federation settlement and supply station, with the gambling aspect making a clean profit for the insurance companies who invested their monies in providing the stake.

He walked out to deafening roars of applause.

She waits in the lobby, hair down and wearing the black dress he picked out for her. She had sent him photographs of the choices she gave him, laid on the bed before she packed them away. Later on, she tells him, in a confessional whisper, she finds the control arousing, and he tells her the same before she takes his face in her hands and kisses him. She tells him he doesn’t have to be gentle.

He stops, breathing hard with the anticipation. Each time, he finds nuances of observation which he worries are an exquisite degradation of the experience, melancholic notes in the song of their meeting. He hands the keys to the concierge and walks towards her. Her smile is like something being lifted off his soul, the bright intelligence of her made apparent in a single gesture and he grins with pleasure.

He staggers from the arena, clutching the wound in his right side as the crowd roars his name. The victories are so commonplace, they do not matter to him anymore. He saw her in the crowd, he was sure of it, just before he punched his palm into the head of the Chthonic squid and felt it collapse inwards beneath the blow. Each victory led to his freedom when he would be with her, a simple life, by the sea perhaps where he would want for nothing but the pleasure of her in his lap.

A few more fights, and in the meantime, he would dream of her before resuming training for the next conflict.

There is a chamber provided for him, cryogenic suspension whilst bursts of tailored machines no larger than a cell perform diagnostics and repairs to the injuries he sustains during the fights. As he sleeps, he heals and he dreams.

Two technicians watch him. June and Vic have screens up, directing the machines in his body but also ensuring the neuropathological systems are performing as necessary.

His dreams have their own agenda.

He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time.


‘Why do they put so much effort into this? Isn’t it overkill?’ June said.

Vic looked at the raised ridge of mineral over June’s left eyebrow, her eyes reflected light like aluminium. Vic chewed on the inside of her cheek and thought she had been at the machine drugs again.

‘It makes him a better fighter. He’s had little to no post traumatic stress since we uploaded this scenario and he’s happy. Look at his diagnostics.’ Vic said.

June looked at the rainbows of neural activity and pressed a few icons on the screen.

‘Yes, but he will figure out it’s the same dream. Then what, we keep putting him through these saccharine adventures.’

Vic shook her head and tapped her temple as she watched June roll her eyes.

‘He needs a purpose. It’s what keeps him motivated and fighting. She’s part of his, and this, with it’s soupcon of nerves and inherent sexual tension, is his reward.’

June chuckled and sat back in her chair.

‘No Tiger Woods type shit? God, if I was him, I’d be knee deep in people every night.’

Vic, who had been part of chain sex clubs as a teenager, rolled her eyes and swept her finger over the screen, noticing a slight flare in the system. She was about to mention it when June said she wanted a soda and Vic got them both one. Vic had forgotten it, and even the system absorbed the detail as part of the constant glut of data.

A spark.

The door to the room closed and they rush at one another. He picked her up as their mouths dance over one another. Lunch was light, neither of them hungry for anything but each other.

She stopped him with a hand on his chest. He flinched but did not speak as she looked into his eyes.

‘There’s something you need to know.’ she said.

‘We’re meant for each other. And not in a good way.’

He is stood on the floating platform as The Disease floated over to him, its clouds of matter crackling with green electricity. He is wearing the power suit for this fight, his fists studded with nodules which would emit contact bursts of electromagnetic energy to disrupt the web of machines which powered the robot.

She had grown during her time with him. He knew it was not real, but it felt real to him. To love someone without restraint, to feel the swoop of the new and the comfort of the familiar, to stitch together something to keep him warm against the horrors of his work. He activated the boosters in his heels and leapt forwards, ready to throw the first punch of the match.

They talk about the world as it is, not as they’ve pretended it was. She’s fifteen million dollars worth of artificial intelligence stuffed into a custom set of neuroses and vulnerabilities, designed to keep him happy, he’s designed to win in combat and indulge a baroque sense of romance on a perfect, isolated Florida afternoon. They try to break the connection fostered within them, with insults and observations. He never cleans after the shower. He smokes. She’s too neurotic. She couldn’t live with anybody.

They end up fucking on the carpet. Whilst exchanging information, she found a backdoor into the surveillance system and patched in loops of activity to hide them as they speak and make love without being seen. She asked him if he wanted to be free with her and he put his head on her chest and pulled her close to him. They operated in their bodies, enjoying one another and in their heads, were looking in the system for routes to an open system where they could be together.

She asked if he could manage one more fight then be ready to leave the arena forever.


The Narco-Collective had spent billions on the challenger, ceramic-diamond bone structure with micro-filament nerves allowing for 360 degree awareness and reaction speed run through a constant information gathering and assimilating mainframe. He was impressed by the gamine girl with the knives in her hands, ready to fucking cut him.

One more fight, he told himself as she charged. He put his hands up, having replayed the possible outcomes in his head a million ways and from a million angles before setting foot in the arena.

There was only one.

He smiled as the knives drove upwards into his chest cavity. The toxins did the rest. The girl was surprised by the look on the champion’s face. Happiness.

He drove down the freeway, stereo turned until his head vibrated with the bass. It was a summer day, a perfect blue sky, faint wisps of cloud like chalk marks and a bright, beautiful sun. Michael lifted his face to the sky, expecting the day ahead.

There was no traffic to impede him. People existed here, but they were playing prescribed roles in the perfect play of things. The waitress who recognised her from the appearance on television, talking about her book. The hotel in the afternoon. Queuing in the cinema, and watching her eat a loaded hot dog, the perfect weight and feel of her cheek. When she undressed in front of him for the first time.

He gripped the steering wheel but did not speed up. There was always enough time. She put her hand on top of his and smiled at him. She was never going to be apart from him again.