The student hall.


Through the grounds.

The high spiked fence around the perimeter.

Holding the horror back, I say.

Only just, Gita says. It’s scary out here … There’s a bad moon rising, Donny.

It’s always bad, I say.

There it is, showing its face to us, Gita says.

That’s not a face, I say. That’s the opposite of a face. That’s just death, staring out.

Funny no one goes up there anymore, Gita says.

What – to the moon?, I say. Why would you bother? What’s up there?

I thought they wanted to build some giant telescope on the moon’s dark side, Gita says. To see further into space. And further back in time. All the way back to the Big Bang.

The Big Fucking Mistake, more like, I say.


Looking back at the hall.

Imagine it without the student annex, I say. Without the refectory out back. Just the old mansion.

Sure it’s pretty, Gita says. It’s a real idyll.

They use it as a film set in the holidays, I say. They film exteriors here. Old cars crunching up on the gravel, and the like.

It’s a real let’s-pretend place, Gita says.

See the way the old mansion pulls the whole setting together?, I say. The way it gathers the grounds around it. The lawn? The trees? …

It’s like my old school, Gita says.

This whole place is like an island, I say. A little patch of green in the midst of all the horrors and the terrors. And do you see the way they laid this path – all winding? There are corners you can turn and suddenly everything opens up … They had a real sense of drama, back then.

I’ll bet you’re the only one who sees this place as what it is, Gita says.

As what it was, I say.

Maybe you’ll become warden one day, Gita says.

I can’t, I say. That’s for professors at the uni.

So maybe you’ll be a professor, Gita says.

The uni will probably sell it off, I say. It’s always being threatened. These places can’t survive.

You should just be Lord of Manor, Donny, Gita says. You could wander the grounds, hands behind your back.

I’d rather be a groundskeeper, I say. I should have been a landscape gardener instead of … whatever it is I do.

Do you know the names of the trees, Donny? Do you know their names?

That’s a horse chestnut, I think. And that’s an old English oak.

My favourite bench, by the flower beds.

Sitting, smoking.

Looking into the wardens’ conservatory.

Beautiful, Gita says. It’s like some National Trust property.

See, it isn’t horror everywhere, I say. There are exceptions. There’s a real expanse to this place. An ease. It suspends the law of the world. It’s like you’ve pressed a giant pause button on … everything else … There are views that matter – that’s what I think. That lift you out of everything. There are landscapes …

You’re a real nature-boy, Gita says. Someone’s going to love you for this kind of talk. You’re going to fascinate someone. Someone will rally to your cause. Someone’s going to love you, and someone’s going to love me. We’re both very loveable.

I’ll dream of this view in fifty years’ time, I say. It’ll be the last thing I see before I die.


I’ve known things – terrible things, I say. In the home. I’ve seen real evil.


People talk about the banality of evil, I say. The evil of pen-pushers, just following orders, just being good Nazis or whatever. But this wasn’t banal …

The horrors and the terrors. I’ve seen them. I’ve known them. They’re insatiable, I say. You can’t give them enough. It’s just … greed.  And we were like … trapped animals.

I’m sorry, Gita says.

It’s like Antichrist – did you ever see that?, I say. Chaos just fucking … reigns. One day I’ll go mad from … chaos.

But you have your vistas, Donny. You have your grass and your tennis court and your trees …

I see a darkness, I say. I see a fucking darkness, swallowing up the world. Putting out the stars. Swallowing up the sky. Swallowing up me and swallowing up you.

God, Donny …, Gita says.

I see a darkness – that’s all I see, I say. And sometimes I can forget it, and sometimes I can’t. Sometimes it feels too thick, and that it’s choking me. And sometimes … It lets me breathe.

Silence. Gita’s hand on mine.

I shouldn’t have said those things, I say. It’s too much, I know that.

Say anything you like, Donny, Gita says.

I’m about this far from insanity, I say. This far … Will I have to go mad? Is it inevitable? There are these distances … in my head …

You’re not going to go mad, Donny, Gita says. You’re never going to go mad. Look at the moon. Look at the night. It’s all dead, but you’re alive. And sane. And here. You survived everything … I love you Donny.

Don’t say what you don’t mean, I say. Don’t say it.

I love you, Gita says. Not in that way, but I do.  And one day, someone’s going to take you away from all this. Someone’s going to love you and save you. Someone good, who knows what beauty is. And truth. Who knows what truth is, too.

— Spurious, from a novel in progress

Comments are closed.