Night of the fireflies


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The violent lurch of a front wheel dropping into a crater re-introduced me to my immediate surroundings: we had reached the Parque dos Continuadores. The last person I wished to see in my present condition was Rainer Kruger. I told the driver to drop me off at the Polana.

My hands were still shaking when I found my temporary saviour: Irish Maeve sitting by the hotel pool under a red sunshade against a backdrop of the hazy and languid ocean. She was at a table laid with china cups, a silver-plated teapot and an assortment of Lobel’s biscuits. She wore a sleeveless low-cut floral dress and a straw hat that failed to stop the sun setting her paper-thin skin on fire. Her son and his American cousins were splashing in a chemical green pool under the supervision of a maid in an apron, squatting on a perimeter of cracked cement perforated by tufts of dead grass.

I do not recollect what was said while we had tea together, but I became pleasantly aware of the song of Maeve’s voice, of her eyes which were greener than the ocean as they slid over me, and her fingers which she used like ferns to caress her arms and thighs.

In no way did I plot my treachery, being too stunned for cunning. I yielded to the sexual signals coming from Maeve, who must have already figured out the feasibility of turning them into carnal reality by virtue of a permanent US government – and currently unoccupied – hotel room at the Polana, and an on-duty maid for the children.

Not a single word pertaining to the subject of sex was exchanged, until she leaned closer and asked me softly, “Do you have a condom?”

Her boldness brought a flush to my cheeks. I gave her a feeble Jack-the-Lad smile as I took out my wallet and looked in the side pocket where I keep stamps, toothpicks, pain killers ... and, one condom. Maeve called me a Boy Scout. She gave instructions to the maid, who was no fool and didn’t know where to rest her eyes.

The hotel room smelled of mould and overlooked the pool and the sea. Acting with the speed of someone who had a plane to catch, Maeve flipped the curtains then pulled me down on to the bed where she proceeded to remove my clothes as though I were one of her children, rolling me over to take off my trousers and underpants. She fell upon my sex with her mouth as if it were a mammary gland of which she had been deprived for too long and brought me, rung by rung, up the rudimentary ladder of sexual reflex.

When the time for the condom arrived she asked me about the Chinese lettering on the packaging. I explained that it came from stock given to Tanzania by the Chinese when they built the Tan-Zam Railway Line (along with a lot of toothpaste and thermos flasks with an inbuilt obsolescence of twenty-four hours – although I didn’t tell her any of this as the palette of my mood excluded humour).

She stood before me without fuss, peeling off her clothes to reveal a freckled skin, firm breasts with smooth, unobtrusive nipples, and a pear-shaped figure.

There was nothing aggressive about her decisive actions for behind them was a palpable sweetness. She was going about the satisfaction of her needs with methodical care. I surrendered to the raw material of her desire like a man seeking the miraculous resurrection of his soul.

I remember being embarrassed at my inability to express any feelings towards her: I neither liked nor disliked her; I did not hunger for her, nor was I repelled by any aspect of her. What I was doing was responding to pressure, suction and rubbing. And all that seemed to matter was that the automated irreversibility of sexual performance actually enabled me to step outside the infinite emptiness of myself, for the time it lasted.

Once the rubber was rolled on, Maeve promptly sat astride me and stuffed my member inside her. She brought her body down over mine and began stirring her hips and whining. The sweat we generated lent an underwater aspect to the proceedings and Maeve slid her breasts and belly on me as if she were trying to whisk up a lather. Once or twice I fell out of her and she patiently pushed me back in. She had to work hard to harvest my sexual energy, and I was surprised at how long my pouches took to fill up.

When at last they grew heavier and tighter it was a relief to give in to their clamorous demands to become the centre of my attention. I tried to hold off for as long as possible, knowing that my enemies would stay beyond the castle walls only as long as I remained hostage to the pleasure zone.

Cleverly Maeve orchestrated simultaneous orgasm. The vulgar urge that had driven life forward into forms of greater complexity for 4.5 billion years fulfilled its destined expression with a brief and insubstantial squirt.

She shuddered for a while. I floated on calm waters. Then we lay side by side, breathing freely … motionless. Gradually and irreversibly, a heavy sadness spread over me like an oil slick.

The adventure ended badly. Maeve discovered that the condom had burst. She stuck her hand deep inside herself, and when she fished it out her fingers were tell-tale sticky. Upon which she went to the bathroom, flushed the failed device down the toilet and washed herself for a long time with the hand shower and soap.

Within the hour we were back at the pool. Through thickening veils of tension, Maeve fussed over the kids and ordered more drinks for them and for the stupefied maid. Then she took a scrap of paper from her bag and handed me the phone number of an engineer who had offered to put me up for a few days. I had completely forgotten about my request for alternative sanctuary. I thanked her.

She drank half a cup of cold tea, then asked me to accompany her round the pool. On the third lap she speculated on what would happen if she fell pregnant: “If the baby comes out pink all over, it will indisputably not be my husband’s, and that will be the end of me and him.” I told her to stop worrying about such an unlikely occurrence – a comment she did not appreciate. Her apprehension broke the fragile calmness that I had garnered from our unspectacular sexual encounter.

It was a relief when we all got into her Jeep and left the hotel. She dropped me off discreetly at the end of the Krugers’ jacaranda road, then drove away with her host of children and her morally disturbed maid.

At that moment I hit my lowest point since my arrival in Mozambique. I was so engulfed in my sense of personal catastrophe, that I gave no thought to the distress I had brought upon Kudzi by the violence of my behaviour, and certainly I had no thoughts for Maeve.

After only a few paces along avenida Francisco O. Magumbwe, a cat with spikes of filthy fur dived into the road and stopped me dead. I instantly identified with this threadbare survivor of war and famine. Hunched on high legs, it stood and stared at me for some petrified seconds, before bouncing into a gutter on invisible strings.

As I proceeded towards the house with a lumbering tread, my Mirrors theory came back into operation. It was not just the cat that resembled me, but the city itself. I was a nowhere man in a nowhere place, both on their way to ruin. Maputo was an unhappy mix of African and Portuguese traditions and religions, while I was an ill-defined hotchpotch of races and cultures (in happier times I had generally accepted this as an enriching factor). Furthermore, the communist and capitalist forces that were tearing the country apart and reducing the capital to a non-functional zone where garbage dumps remained the only treasures for man and beast, were also at the centre of a personal turmoil that had left me stripped of a political belief system, wrapped in self-pity and unable to cope. On top of this, Maputo had dumped me in the lap of Rainer Kruger, both of us lost in a confusion of our own making while attempting to identify solutions: my gaps, his blocks – my mirrors, his time-place correlations … infantile appellations by maverick analysts clutching at straws. All in all, my condition and that of the city filled me with disgust, and I thought: If I am to die in Maputo with Rainer, it won’t be a bad thing.

Sweat was raining and breath was short when I rang the bell at the gate. I was astonished to find Rainer himself opening it. He, too, was hot and breathless, his face drawn tight like that of an over-extended athlete.

“Hello!” he barked.

A terrible thought occurred to me that he had returned from launching his rockets – and it had all gone wrong.

He shut the gate and trotted beside me shouting as if he had just emerged from a discotheque. “Millions to one, millions to one! Slicing this way and that!” – delivered while punching the air. Behind his belligerent stare lurked that “elsewhere” look that always put me on my guard. I made for the kitchen, and he stuck to my heels.

Tossing the doily from the ever-filled jug I splashed water into a glass and downed it. Rainer repeated my action using the same glass, which made me feel even more invaded.

Screwing up the folds around his eyes like a rhino’s, Rainer burst forth with: “Our tails slashing ... cutting each other to pieces ...” – punctuating his words with sharp twists of his shoulders – “Kill or get killed ... the dead lie everywhere ...” – babbling away strangely in a semi-trance (I say “semi” because I was sure that the performance was being staged for me and that part of his mind remained ever present watching his effect) – “Butting! Butting! Crocodile heads full of poison butting each other to death – only the strong survive! ...” and on he went about alien armies, in brief and often incomplete sentences.

Rosa, meanwhile, sought shelter under the table, but her master’s frenzy made it impossible for her to stop shaking.

In the midst of all this brouhaha, the image of Kudzi, her expression shocked and dismayed, kept circling the periphery of my consciousness like a predator. In an attempt to banish the memory of the unforgivable scene at the institute, I sat down and buried my head in a kitchen towel.

A sudden silence from Rainer prompted me to peep out: he was moving around the table, his body compressed as if he were about to attack invisible enemies. Catching my eye, he uncurled a fist and began tracing a slow path through the water I had spilled on to the soft wood of the tabletop; the tremor in his fingers was more than sensual, it was sexual.

“No pity is shown – never” – snatching up his hand he made chopping motions with it – “We are born to slash kill swim, faster and faster. Chase the heat of the Queen! Like famished dogs we dance to her rhythm. I am vicious with desire!” – and he slapped at the water on the table, splashing me with it. I leapt to my feet, but he took not the slightest notice. Raising his dripping fingers high, he began to shake them, tremolo, speaking now with a quaver in his voice – “Her pulse drives us mad … There is a frenzy of killing ... Her odours come to me, riding in on the spray ...”

I was saved by a loud squeak of the back door as Agi came in, causing Rainer to stumble in mid-sentence. She no more than glanced at him, judging at once that he needed to be left well alone, and started preparing dinner.

The clatter of pots seemed to clear Rainer’s head. Finding his bearings he shook his head like a dog, and the sweat flew off him. I sat down again with a sigh. In the end there was always something real and dangerous behind the games he played. Solid foundations underpinned the stage he set for his theatricalities. My problem was deciding where theatre ended and reality began. I had no doubt he was planning his suicide; no doubt, either, that weapons were stacked up in the derelict tank; but as for the destruction of his factory, and now this “frenzy of killing, vicious desire” and so forth …?

I re-filled my glass and I filled one for him. Which caused his attention to shift ponderously from my hand, up my arm, to my face. In a more recognisable voice he said, “Dramas, Miguel. There exist such dramas behind ordinary events. But you do not see them. Yet they are right there under your nose.” He rolled his eyes, and announced, “Good God, what a scramble and a fight I have had today!”

I searched his face for signs of a bar-room brawl at the Búzio perhaps, but did not pursue the subject. “I must take a shower,” I muttered.

He took his glass, and I watched his throat cords jerking as they pumped the contents. Then he squinted at me and said, “Sorry it did not go well with your girl. It is written all over your face.”

I got some satisfaction from knowing there was one secret I could keep from the intrusiveness of his uncanny perceptions – the episode with Maeve.

He picked up the towel heavy with my sweat and used it to wipe his own. “Ah, my friend,” he sighed. “How my filamentous form did tremble today!’ (the expression as odd in English as it was in Portuguese: forma filamentosa). I caught him grinning at me: an unexpected development that extended to shaking his head in disbelief and sniggering … apparently at my expense.

“Certainly sounds exciting, whatever it is you’ve been doing,” I said testily.

With incredulity, he asked, “You have not guessed what is going on?”

“You’re probably on about flies or crickets or those Zeegans of yours.”

“Not at all! I talk of hybrids. Real-life hybrids, not the ones of your dreams” – tripping over his words so exasperated was he by my inept discernment – “Half beast, half human … beings with a fibril tail and a head which is almond shaped and sly. Half a creature of the liquid realms, half a humanoid able to design rockets, write symphonies ...” – whirring to a halt like a failing machine – “Now, just now, I found the First Polar Body in the Hairy Zone. It was dead of course – suicide. Killed itself in the right-hand funnel ...”

I was heading for the inner door. “It’s hard to take you seriously, Rainer, when you’re ranting like a schoolboy. Whatever you’re on about, it may be Star Wars to you, but telling me about it isn’t like seeing the movie.”

The smell of peas from Agi’s pots filled the kitchen. Looking all beaten up, Rainer struggled to his feet, rubbing his forehead. “Head ... aches ... must lie down!” He moved forward falteringly. I went to help him, then stopped myself: Damn it, I was as washed out as he was!

He glanced at the kitchen clock. “Couple more hours – then it will all be over.”

“By the way,” I said. “I have a place to stay from tomorrow – an engineer friend of the Irish lady.”

He raised his eyebrows as if to say, “Do as you wish”, but I could tell he was hurt. Like an ill-assembled manikin with clothes in crumpled folds, he shuffled off down the passage, mumbling, “Heavy poisons fill my crown. Hold them back! – to the last, to the last ...!”

I went and stood under the shower for a long time, using up a lot of water. Straight after, I fell into a numbed sleep on my bunk bed.
It was night when Agi knocked at the door and announced dinner. Raising my eyelids was like prizing open a coffin. By some miracle of science the electricity had come on, and the ceiling fan was struggling to stir the hot air like a spoon thickening soup.

Neither Rainer nor António was at the dining table. Agi served tomato salad in olive oil with leaves of basil. The Greeks were full of small talk, which was fortunate. Mr Kruger remained sullen with the usual murderous overtones. When he finally cracked open his mouth it was not to eat but to snap at me: “When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow,” I shot back. Like birds after the gun’s retort, the Greeks fell quiet. Mr Kruger was unhappy to have been so quickly disarmed.

Agi changed the plates, then crept round the table serving us another chicken from the back yard. When she arrived next to the old boy, he rumbled, “Where’s António? Why’s he not serving?”

Without baulking, Agi answered, “Master Rainer is sick. António look after him.”

“Is António a nurse?” raged Kruger. “I don’t pay him to fuss over that wet lettuce. Get him in here!”

“I will try, Master,” Agi said as she exited barefoot and soundless over the perfect tiles.

Mr Kruger never uttered another word, which left the way clear for the Greeks to twitter on throughout the consumption of the main course. António had not made an appearance by the time I slipped away before dessert, blaming the heat. For once the weather had some use.

The moment I lay down there was a tap on the door, and a distraught António came in. He spoke softly out of the side of his mouth in his faltering English. “He wants you to come. He told me to tell you he has arrived at the Second Polar Body.”

“This means not a thing to me, António.”

He shifted awkwardly – it was difficult for him to ask for my help. “It is not good for him to do this thing. He is not strong. Please, you should come now, so he can finish what he wishes to show you. He says, bring your tape recorder.” António had never before spoken so many words to me. The anxiety with which he infused them was enough to make me believe he was genuinely concerned about Rainer, so that I found myself feeling sorry for him in his position as the harassed lover of a maniacal person who treated him uncaringly.

I followed the faithful one towards Rainer’s bedroom. As we passed the card game on the porch, Mr Kruger threw me an ugly look that trailed me across the living room.

Rainer lay fully clothed on the bed, his eyes wide, his muscles taut as rods, the patchwork of his veins throbbing: such entrancement was impossible to fake – this was the real thing. Hastily I suggested to António that we might best wait for morning to do any recording.

Stirred by my voice, Rainer slipped from the stranglehold of possession and strove to speak, without success. Further encouraged by António to stay, I decided that I might as well assume my role of writer and researcher. So I gave in, sat down gingerly behind the desk and switched on my pocket recorder.

During the next half hour Rainer ebbed and flowed across consciousness, erupting into jumbled sentences in that special disembodied voice he used on such occasions. Whereas earlier in the kitchen he had been recalling events that had already taken place, he was now apparently living them out blow by blow.

His constant point of reference was an exotic female creature, which I found odd in view of his sexual preferences. António soon joined in with direct references to her as though he, too, knew her with almost the same intimacy as his master. After much gibberish from Rainer including exclamations of a rich emotional range, António caused me to sit up by asking his lover, “Are you descending upon her?”

From their next set of outpourings I learned that the object of Rainer’s desire had “crimson filaments” which were “swaying”, and that the creature was of vast proportions. With his voice rising in impassioned excitement, he announced that he wished to destroy himself upon her “flushing yellow folds”, António all the while encouraging him to slide into her, not head on, but “at a creamy slant”.

I thought to myself: Now he is going to wish me to believe that he’s in the throes of a passionate romance on Zeega with an alien.

There was an unsavoury moment when my host went rigid, leaving his mouth open with a loop of spittle wobbling over his chin. António cleaned off the mucus soon enough. But when Rainer continued not to stir for several seconds, António began calling his name, then slapping him harder and harder until this cataleptic phase finally gave way, and the vociferous and spasmodic one returned.

I was not unaffected by my host’s emotions during this extensive session, for the bedroom was invaded by them, and they were validated by António’s concern and increasing involvement. I even felt a certain envy for Rainer’s capacity to be overwhelmed by such powerful feelings that swung from hot desire to icy terror. It was the pitch to which Rainer could stir himself, and the intimacy of the dynamics between the two men that were more fascinating than the dense and fragmented story which Rainer felt the need to convey to me for some unknown reason.

As António’s participation in Rainer’s drama became more intense, he took on a new role – another in a growing list in which he had moved from servant, to friend who shared his master’s secrets, to devoted lover, to possible psychic who brought petrol when summoned from afar, and now to the “familiar” of a shaman of dubious intent.

Rainer’s randiness rose to ecstatic proportions. As he began caressing the bare skin on his chest and stomach, he glowed with delight at what he poetically described as “her gaseous touch” and being licked by “her ripe pink granules”.

This particular stage of the saga came to an end when he lurched so violently that he struck his head on the wall (I thought he might have ejaculated in his trousers). António leapt forward, and finding blood on the back of Rainer’s skull, hastily dabbed at it with a towel, asking, “What happened? What happened?” several times.

His lover squeezed out fragments of a reply – “cracked head ... broken on her envelope” – his torso jerking like that of a footballer heading an imaginary ball.

Poker-faced, António clasped him tightly in his arms and asked about “the struggle of the poisons” – an issue that caused Rainer’s eyes to pop open.

It was hard for me to keep a straight face as the performance veered towards the burlesque. In the strong light from the single ceiling bulb I could see that Rainer’s eyes were completely dilated, shot through with red veins, while their surrounding pouches of flesh were swollen and dark. More than ever he looked like a creature that had crawled out of the primordial soup, and the thought of ever again getting ensnared in his monster-filled microcosm was a dreadful one.

Throwing up a finger at the wall behind António, he shouted, “Look! Look! I blow out my poisons!” his expression growing bright with wonder.

“Pull your tail in!” António trumpeted in a voice that was less like his own. Rainer obeyed by contorting convulsively in António’s embrace. They looked like a couple of wrestlers; and when António started to contort in rhythm with Rainer, the wrestling evolved into a sort of outlandish sexy dancing.

Voyeurism is not my vice, but this event had certainly become hilarious enough for my depression to completely abandon me.

In a crescendo of excitement, terror ran through Rainer’s expression. “I am not alone!” he shouted at the empty wall ahead.

I stood up. “What the hell’s going on here?”

With the muscles in his back bulging under his sodden shirt, António fought to push Rainer down on to the bed (in the trance state Rainer had mustered colossal strength – far more than his puny body seemed capable of). In the end António had to climb on top of his lover in order to pin him flat on his back.

In this position the two men remained united in a common struggle for some joint goal, incomprehensibly calling back and forth to one another in unrecognisable voices. Whatever Rainer had become, António was now also one of them. I dared move a little closer. António was definitely “gone”, his eyes having flipped into sightless mode; both of them united under a common spell, locked in each others arms, shuddering like an earthquake.

I felt cheated … left behind. The acolyte had joined his master in a far-off place where I was unable to venture. Had they both been devoured by the voracious “She” like characters from the Alan Quatermain novel?

Suddenly it seemed to me they needed help or they would be lost forever. I grabbed Rainer by his collar and António by his hair, and shook them both as hard as I could. “Hey! Wake up!” I shouted. “Wake up!” ...

A booming voice resounded behind me: “What’s all this!” Had the monster of their quest come alive? … But it was Klaus Kruger himself who was the monster, standing in the doorway, his eyes on stalks.

Any normal parent would have found the position of their son buried under the body of their servant to be a compromising one. Lifted by a wave of fury, the father advanced, moving fast for a man of his age. He seized António by the back of his shirt, which ripped instantly … quickly shifted his grip to his abundant hair, and wrenched him off his son.

“Filth!” yelled Mr Kruger. “Get to your quarters!” And he rained blows upon the servant while letting fly insults on the theme of prostitution, such as “Puta de merda! … stinking whore! … filthy slut! … etcetera!”

I have mentioned António’s unusual strength, evident in the carrying of suitcases and boxes of armaments. The thudding blows from the old man did not, therefore, appear to cause him any significant discomfort, but they did succeed in drawing him out of his trance. Cumbersomely he raised his arms to protect himself and gradually rose to his feet. When he became aware of who it was that was beating on him, his face automatically resumed a servant’s deference. Like a punch-drunk boxer he waved towards Rainer and mumbled, “He is not well, sir. He went crazy.” I was appalled by such obsequiousness; if he had wanted to, António could have picked the old man up and tossed him out the room.

Kruger’s thick eyebrows soared. “Not well? We shall see who is not well!”

Rainer, who knew nothing of all this, and whose hands were still clawing at the walls of his vision, was dragged off the bed by his father, to fall like a dead man on to the floor. Whereupon Kruger Senior set into him with his boots. “Get up! Useless! Pervert!”

Rainer did nothing, he lay face down, his body limp, all he did was groan a little in unison with the blows.

António protested, “Please, stop, sir!” which only intensified Kruger’s attack. Hearing no more cries of pain or pleas for mercy from his son, the old boy conjectured, “Perhaps he is dying? I hope he is dying!” And summoning further reserves of strength, he enhanced his kicking to such a frenzy that I found myself placing a restraining hand upon his shoulder.

My intervention proved as futile as António’s. So I levered my body between the father and son, receiving several kicks in the process. Eventually I shoved the big fellow: he staggered rearwards while striving to focus his bilious eyes on the person who had dared intercede. Then he raised his fist to aim it straight at my head, and shouted, “You think I will allow this house to become a brothel for queers!” raising his voice to top “C” on “queers”.

This comment appeared to be the apotheosis of Klaus Kruger’s thinking. I waited, ready to duck the blow. The quivering fist held fast for several seconds … then, to save face, he cursed me in German and stumbled out of the door.

No sooner had he gone than Rainer started giggling and squirming on the floor as if he were being tickled. I realised that he had not emerged for a single second from the drama of his own covert saga, and that the blows he received from his father had served merely as a complement to those that reigned upon him in his psychic war.

The withdrawal of the old man appeared to coincide with a reprieve in his private fortunes. He was soon squealing with delight, while covering parts of his body as if to ward off the invisible fingers of his passionate “Queen”. “Ah! She rips me to pieces! Here! … And here! … Ah! António, can you feel her?”

“Let’s get it over with,” António answered with a weary slur as he locked the door, then set about struggling to contain Rainer’s flailing arms. This time I came to his aid. We lifted the entranced body back on to the bed. But no sooner had we got him on to it than his spine snapped straight and his body started to judder again.

“This is interminable,” I exclaimed. “What’s happening? Goddam it, let me in on this!”

“Blending takes only a minute,” António answered.

In roughly that amount of time, the juddering tapered off. But I had little faith that it was over. Rainer’s eyes opened hesitantly and settled upon his friend. When he recognised who it was, he smiled and said breathlessly, “I am chosen!” In a posture of surrender he let his arm loll over the side of the bed. Then he whispered, “Thank you!” several times in an incredulous tone, not to António, but inwardly to his mysterious Queen. And at last, with the eyelashes of his hooded eyes fluttering like the wings of a moth, he fell silent, limp and still.

“Right,” I said to António. “You owe me a clear explanation.”

Looking at his lover with consideration, António surprisingly attempted an answer. “He is very united with you. It is he who must explain.”

“He’s the one who’s dragging me into his affairs. What’s this all about?”

He sighed and shook his head. “I do not know the names of the things.” Making a supreme effort, he continued, “He wants you to see that even acts you think are small – how do you say? – are with small importance … even those must not be overlooked.”

“Rainerspeak!” I crowed. “Bravo, António! You do the Svengali act as well as your friend does.”

He tenderly mopped the star performer’s face with the bed sheet, and added, “My master thinks you must learn to see your own powers before you can understand his.”

“Is that supposed to be your explanation?”

Before António could say anything more, Rainer’s voice came up from the other end of time, base-toned and dreamy. “Ah, António! I alone herald the future.”

“God has spoken!” I mocked.

Rainer searched again for his lover’s face. “António! ... Does this not confirm that I carry the atom of change?”

António carried on mopping his brow. Rainer’s gaze wandered … and found me. “Ah, Miguel,” he wheezed. “You and she are spinning a net ...”

António said sternly, “Tell him what is happening!”

“Pale, freckled skin. Green eyes. Not her clear emerald ... with brown flecks from your genes, Miguel. XXY – a girl it is. And the chromosome reading of her hair is ginger – like yours. Will you be happy to have a little girl, Miguel?”

These words ran down my back like a blade. What in the world was he implying? That all this sexual hullabaloo was supposed to be about me and Maeve? And I yelled something to this effect.

Caralho!” He swore with vigour. “Idiot! Grasp the immensity of what you have done. Her egg is five kilometres high next to your triumphant spermhead. In the scale of moving masses you swam the equivalent of twenty thousand kilometres. Yet you felt nothing for her when you had sex – you feel nothing now! Vai-te foder!

“You go fuck yourself! Pregnant! A few hours after I pull out of her! You made it all up – this rubbish sperm story!”

He looked as if he wanted to attack me if he could only get off the bed. “An insignificant fuck, Life-Lines start flying across the universe and you create a new world from dust. Go! Go ask her! Women have a way of knowing these things.”

He fell back on the pillows. The stammering phrases he used in his final condemnation seemed to rise from his boots. “Can you not see you are chained to us all – to the Irish girl, to Kudzi, to me? You will not escape. Try to hide! Run! … Go! ...” He broke off, coughing and choking.

“He must rest!” António told me.

António’s tone, Rainer’s scorn, the circles they both ran round me – it all fell in on me. I left the room, passed the dark abandoned porch, and returned to my haven.

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