19 October 2012

The Long Garden

I am seven, and I am in the yard at Brosscroft. I am playing near the house, near the back door. Something makes me look up, some shift of the light. My eyes are drawn to a spot beyond the yard, beyond its gate, in the long garden. It is, let us say, some fifty yards away among coarse grass, weeds and bracken. I can't see anything, not exactly see, except the faintest movement – a ripple, a disturbance of the air. I can sense a spiral, a lazy buzzing swirl of flies. But it is not flies. There is nothing to see. There is nothing to smell. There is nothing to hear. But its motion, its insolent shift makes my stomach heave. I can sense, at the periphery, the limit of all my senses, the dimensions of the creature. It is as high as a child of two. Its depth is a foot, fifteen inches. The air stirs around it invisibly. I am cold and rinsed by nausea. I cannot move. I am shaking as if pinned to the moment. I cannot wrench my gaze away. I am looking at a space occupied by nothing. It has no edges, no mass, no dimension, no shape except the formless. It moves. I beg it: stay away, stay away. Within the space of a thought it is inside me and has set up a sick resonance within my bones and in all the cavities of my body. I pluck my eyes away. It is like plucking them out of my head. Grace runs away from me, runs out of my body like liquid from a corpse. I move from the spot. My body weighs heavy. My feet have to be hauled up from the ground as if they were sticking in gore. I walk out of the sunlight, through the glass place, into the enclosed dimness of the cold kitchen. I say, 'Mum, I want to come in now. Can I do some drawing?'
-- from Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel

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