To begin, energy, matter and Time expanded into nothing which did not exist. A uniform universe acquired a history, mutating parameters, a wobble in the maths made gravity greedy for stuff, which coalesced like lumps in custard. Stars, planets, suns, moons. Air, water, earth, oceans and trees, love and me. Born and dying in my time passing, the future already knows my end; my agency is in doubt. I am a completely random, absolutely unique, perfect imperfection. I cried when my mother told me I was a mistake. Now I understand the universal joke I laugh with all my heart.
First word she’d scratched on slate. Shaping her days and dreams, she loved sound, colour and stone better than her name. ‘Yes love – our Cornish sea be turquoise.’
Daddy held Anna’s hand tightly on clifftop walks. Her enthusiasm made her careless, he said. ‘So does yours,’ she told him, at his funeral, on her fifth birthday. ‘You an’ Sharkey an’ your stupid fishin’ in the turquoise in the storm.’
Years later, Sharkey’s lad proposed. ‘Nah,’ she said. But then she saw his ring.
The dog barked, and tried to nose them off their route.
He forced them down a narrow path. A woman lay unconscious and twisted. The dog ran round her several times. She had a broken leg and was bleeding heavily. Anna dressed her wounds to stem the bleeding. David climbed to get a mobile signal. He returned and they waited.
She stirred and started talking. The dog watched. The team arrived.
‘What dog?’ she asked.
‘I have no dog.’
They looked. Now they could only see sheep. The dog had gone.
He drove slowly, conscious of the dodgy wheel on the livestock trailer, not wanting to give the police an excuse to stop him again.
The holiday traffic was heavy, on the brow of the hill a deer and her fawn were crossing the road.
He heard the impatient anger of a foot on an accelerator behind him – the BMW raced past but did not stop.
He gently cradled the crushed body, its velvet head against his stubbled cheek – the mother turned, hummering. The fawn struggled, helpless to answer her call. He drew the penknife from his pocket. It only took a minute.