“Yo. Hear the bell?” I say over my shoulder to Thorndike, who's lying spread-eagled on his bed, face down. The only parts of him moving are the bright yellow soles of his trainers, bobbing up and down erratically like headlights. He’d cleaned them last night before bed, as he always did. Scrubbing and picking and brushing any specks he’d picked up from the linoleum. Like he was determined not to carry any of his day into the next.
“The DNA sample that you have provided does not match any of our records. Please return another sample to us.” He paused and read it again. Without saying anything, he flipped it over and skimmed the other side. It listed the countries: 0%, 0%, 0%. Another small line at the bottom: “Your DNA sample has not returned any matches.”
Through the knees of his suit trousers, woollen and scratchy, the child could feel the wet soil seeping. He had found a snail to watch.
He kissed me with the kind of urgency you only really see in the movies. It was only now that I started to detect the slightest flavour of something charred and earthy in his tongue. He was definitely a smoker.
When he died, a big part of Peter thought the rest of the world would too. He’d thought about how it might happen, many times. Not the way he’d die - that seemed fairly obvious to him - but how the world would cease after he was no longer there to watch it. Would the earth disappear with a bubble-wrap ‘pop’ at the moment his main artery finally clogged? Would the colors in the world start to drain as his vision swam? Would the roads, forests and oceans, some that he’d travelled across and some that he’d only read about, start to fold up on themselves like giant monoliths in the sky as his own heart constricted and failed in his chest? Most importantly, would anyone know why it was happening?