At six it was a black mirror capturing and framing the first settled shapes of rising sun, but by seven the reservoir held ten thousand triangles of light that reconfigured themselves across the surface like a shoal of rising herring. There was a light breeze too, and birdsong from the curlews and house martins as they rode the unseen currents of air.
Last summer, I saw a digital ghost. I was walking around the Ring of Brodgar – a neolithic stone circle in Orkney – in the early hours, at the first light of dawn. I raised my phone to take a photograph of the standing stones silhouetted against the sunrise and saw, on the camera screen, a dark figure moving across the heather at the centre of the circle.
I have never liked myself as a smoker. A full decade and a few thousand cigarettes in, I still don’t. But what keeps me at it, with fondness, is that I might not have him were it not for the fags. When I was very small and his beard was still black, he would kneel by the bathtub and I would sit happily in the warm water. His eyes would swim as he babbled to me and I babbled back.
I have been thinking about shame, or perhaps, guilt. I understand the difference between the two as being that which is public and perhaps, humiliating, and that which is suffered in private. But you might feel differently about this and I can’t see that being a problem. My grandmother, a practising – if somewhat flexible – Catholic had no patience for either emotion.
Ella & Tim have been a couple for 2 years. Ella is thin and Tim knows the stylist. Both work in content and enjoy taking photos of each other’s feet. Every Friday, Ella and Tim invite friends over for dinner. This Friday, Tim has bought the ingredients to make pasta vongole, as instructed by Ella, based on a recipe she found on a friend’s food blog.
For longer than I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with stuff. The sort of stuff you keep because you think you might need it at some point down the line. I’ve got stuff in drawers, stuff shoved under the bed, stuff stuffed down the back of wardrobes. There’s stuff in bags; stuff collecting not just dust, but weird damp residue; stuff buried under more stuff.
I frequently think of my life as a never-ending race, in which I am up against the man I should be for the prize of the life I desire. I hold the sharper mind, but carry a permanent injury, so I mostly remain two steps behind. Occasionally I may draw level, thanks to a combination of sheer bloody mindedness and support from others, without which I would undoubtedly fall even further behind.
He had to get out. That thought came through louder than what he had done last night, louder than the anxiety over another day in the office with a hangover, louder than the uncertainty over whether he had been smart enough to use a condom with the girl that lay next to him. Chop.
It’s the middle of the night. I’ve just woken from a bad dream. In it, three lynxes in the garden of my childhood home are chasing my parents’ scrawny runt of a cat. He makes it to the safety of the kitchen, where I’m sitting cross-legged on the floor, and leaps onto my lap. The lynxes paw at the cat flap, but can’t get through.
The Museum Of Extinct Animals is many things. It is a labyrinth of dusty secrets. It is a fortress of fallen totems from another time. It is a symposium of ghosts. The Museum Of Extinct Animals is a cathedral-sized capsule containing stuffed creatures of rare distinction. Mythical creatures, post-extinction.