This is how I began writing Twice the Speed of Dark: By trying to imagine all the people behind the numbers of a real news story. This was a bomb that killed seven in a market place.
26th September 2013
Seven killed in a market place bomb
He is firm, angular, made of subtle planes. A thin beard scribbled on his solid jaw, he rakes it gently with curved fingers when thinking.
He is single, left alone by a woman he loved deeply. For several years he kept his loneliness close, an exclusion zone around his grieving heart. But sun rises, hearts lift to meet it and see the light falling on the turn of a pretty head. With the new season came a sense of awakening, a hope that he may not be after all, forever lost.
His standing posture slips into the curve of a gamer. He sits for hours in the vinyl swivel chair of a local internet shop, winning and losing amongst the twisted black cables and clattering busyness of others. Internally his reactions are strong, emotional. Externally there is only a slow breath out through his nose each time he dies.
This is a holiday.
She is very dark, with a pretty round face, round mouth. She has small hands and feet and a cushioned round body, a toy-like construction that she has used to her advantage when the ruthlessness of her business dealings require subterfuge.
She has a shop, still small but significantly bigger that the shared market stall where she started. She knows what will sell, she warms her customers, nurtures them as a part of her growing business, building day by day.
Her child, a daughter of four. She talks in a constant quiet patter to her inanimate friends. She is shy with other children, leans into her mother’s round thigh in their presence. She sits behind the counter (a happy barrier) contentedly talking with her toys.
Another of her children, a boy just turned six, quiet like his sister but more confident. He wears a hero’s cape of shiny red. His mother made it hurriedly at the end of a long stretch of counting in, counting out, figuring her gains and accounting for her losses. In a bad mood she scantly fulfilled an impatient promise to her son. Since then he has not taken it off. Full of tender love for him, she regrets her resentful haste, wishes she had lavished more care on the making.
An old woman with long white hair tangled freely under a close-wrapped scarf. Eyes slow, as if to shut, she looks sleepy. Her hands move around each other in slow, time-worn choreography.
She has a good sense of humor and delights her great-grandchildren with her sudden animations, awakening bursts of funny observation and sharp remarks. As a young woman she loved to surprise people, to be daringly other than what they expected. The shrieks of glee from the children give her the same pleasure.
A boy of seventeen with ancient beauty, hair lying in ordered curves like a statue of antiquity. Though this is a living beauty, too vivid, too brown to invoke marble.
Once, on a bare field where boys play football, the shadow of a plane crossed the shabby grass, crossed him. He was struck by the ever-living sun, the modern machine, his one short life meeting in a moment as small as a single piece of confetti.