Manual Death of an Ordinary Man: A Novel

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Nathan had this at his disposal, to be produced on demand.

Death of an Ordinary Man

Then the next thing would happen. Loop completed. Now he was back at the starting point. The real starting point. Something was wrong. You started off knowing something was wrong, but time passed and you started thinking everything was all right. Even now, if you let yourself drift. He could feel himself approaching it again, the untroubled state. Slip into it and the loop would have him.

How many times already? No way out. Except — intuition precise and fierce as a paper cut — to remember the thing immediately before this.


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The last footprint would be the first in the trail leading all the way back. Immediately before this was. Immediately before this. Warmth, that loosening, things not mattering. Have another. Afore ye go, as the label said.

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It almost seduced. Then something had exploded from his chest and skull, a double birth of pure light followed by total darkness. Silence in himself. You could make your mind all but blank. You could roll up the incline right to the edge from which your identity, your self, your consciousness, you, could sheer off into the void, atomised. But sooner or later you rolled back.

Your birthright. And fell. Light coalesced, below and to the left. Down and to the left. Not a lift shaft but a curved chute. A torque of colour. Your mass would. Implosion threatened, or some irreversible fragmentation. He tried sheer will as a brake and found to his surprise that it worked. He slowed. Chance to think. Whether he really wanted to do this. The luminescence dilated — pink in there, pale yellow, flecks of amethyst and aquamarine — then contracted, shrank or pulled away from him. You go through at its pace or not at all. Of course. If you want the way back.

Death of an Ordinary Man

Last thoughts flickered, distraction from the one thought that this would annihilate him: This is nowhere. Will I remember when I wake—— Then the light engulfed him and sped him on towards darkness. Janice When he emerged the people he knew stood below him in negligible rain round a freshly dug grave: Cheryl, Luke, Gina, Adrian. His father. A handful of others. Nearby, a bulbous conifer tilted like a giant microphone awaiting a quote from the sky.

The body goes back to dust, his father had told him, in the after-Mass-and-three-whiskies voice, but the soul is immortal. At death it would curl from him to slalom up towards Heaven or to be sucked down towards Hell. Whereas in fact. Whereas in fact what? List the facts. A grave. In spite of his injunction consciousness threatened to petrify, to reach a state from which nothing, surely nothing could follow. He started again. He always started off not believing her.

No, that was a lie.

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The familiarity of the ritual tortured him. The moment he most dreaded was when in his heart he believed her. Until the next babysitting, when the whole thing would start again. This rain was the soft rain Cheryl said materialised around you rather than fell from the sky. Taking the moment was to let the obvious in.


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  • His funeral. Best for now to accept what there was, suspend disbelief, assume that what appeared to be the case was in fact the case. Someone had said, the world is everything that is the case.

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    No arsing about. Never been able to lose the image of himself wide awake despite diagnosed brain death, watching in horror as the doctor reached for the switch and his loved ones bowed their heads. Think about it: you never die in your dreams. The deep habit of thought dictated that there must be someone, an authority he could consult.

    Then listened as for the sound of a dropped stone hitting the bottom of a well. Or rather not quite nothing. Something was being withheld, he thought. To trip him into a mistake there was a quick and suspicious way of thinking ready to work for him , to trick him into falling for it, whatever it was. Like treading water. You could go on for a long time but not for ever.

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    With babysitting Janice there was always a period of treating it as a joke they were both in on. He remembered the frailty of his laughter, the way it caught in his chest. Her careful cruelty and how he was childishly in love with her, white shins and that greasy blond bob. His dad had laughed. Never ever. Gina was in a black skirt and blouse and carried a bunch of irises by their stems, like a club.

    Luke still looked too young for a suit, for adulthood, would for years. He used to lie on the bed, watching. Nothing better than this, no. Then her eyes went sideways to look at him in the mirror, the little acknowledgement that she had this power. Is there any history of mental illness in your family? You ticked NO. His father, his wife and two surviving kids, his best friend as well as a couple of other people he Read full review. This was really hard to get into, but I'm glad I'd stuck with it. So beautiful and sad. One of the rare books that actually made me cry. Definitely something I'll read again someday.

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