7:01 hours, February 17th, 2022. And BigHead, AI robot of the University of Reading, finishes the whirring and clunking that’s occupied it for much of a week. A single sheet of paper spits from the out tray. The scientists gather at once to the piece of paper and are impressed. BigHead impresses them. There are things BigHead does that are impressive.
The scientists pass the sheet of paper around allowing the enormity of the thing to diffuse. Words stand for ideas, they figure, and ideas tend to action, so it’s actions that give words meaning. It’s actions that prompt meaning but it’s unclear what is being. One of the scientists thinks its mentioning. That being mentioned is all there is to it (so don’t forget your referencing!, he slaps a back). It’s getting awful chilly says another. A scientist shuts a window. The door opens and it’s the chief. It’s time to tell the chief the good news.
One week earlier and two juniors are all that’s left of the laboratory. It’s evening: they know they should be heading home. They know they should be home or elsewhere and not sat at the world’s most powerful supercomputer wondering what next. The supercomputer is power unearned. Power not theirs. Like a katana sword or attack dog, BigHead promises harm for those wielding its power to gain.
But there is an idea. Next week is the game. Reading University versus the Rovers; campus is all talk of football and next week’s game. Lately, BigHead has been working on other games. It’s dominating chess and has cracked draughts. No one plays Ludo anymore because of BigHead who’s calculated ways to win the lot.
The juniors think: wouldn’t it be a laugh typing football rules up into the computer’s input box? Wouldn’t it be a giggle, sending BigHead on a deepmind scan of football, to see if it can crack that sort of game, too, and who knows, others? The juniors get to work, fuelled by questions and vended Gatorade. Typing the football association manual up into the machine’s data entry log, it’s the juxtaposition of the technical and the trivial that provides their amusement. That keeps them up that night guffawing, tittering, hooting, squealing.
To the junior’s encroaching horror the evening joke carries through to morning and eventually the best part of the week as infuriated senior management look on. “Should we yank the cord out?”, someone says, wondering all the commotion a glitch. “Shhh”, says the deputy - an optimist - appreciating the quiet nature of big things. A week passes under such tension, until the morning of the 17th when BigHead whizzes and whirrs one final time producing in a moment a sheet of paper titled: “The Death of English Football”.
Feverishly, the scientists read the document with keen eyes that dart about the page. It’s a strategy that spites itself. That demands constant re-reading. “Fetch the chief”, says someone. Grimacing, the chief studies the document, hoping for error in the data entry (possibly intuiting the consequences, or more likely, dreading the paperwork). “We’ve cracked it!”, cheer the juniors, opening the emergency wine. “Bring on the Rovers”, they smirk. “Not so fast”, the chief butts in, lowering the bottle. “It’s morning”. And the juniors sigh because they know he is right.
Butch Turnbull snots into the hedgerow one nostril at a time then rejoins his team at the touchline to commence with the briefing. “Time those kids got a real learning”, Butch Turnbull says, peeling slime from his coat that’s missed the hedge. It’s the fourth time he’s made the comment today. The Rovers always do give Reading University FC a learning. RUFC have learnt a lot playing the Rovers, both off the pitch and on. “Get out there and put the boot in: studs and all”, says Butch Turnbull in a tone of voice pandering to a state of affairs not real. The referee blows the whistle. It’s Rovers to kickoff.
A slick succession of passes sends the ball through the RUFC midfield and to the feet of Rovers winger, Barnes. Dummying the left back, Barnes sends a cross into the penalty area. A tussle in the air is won by a Rovers forward who heads the ball down and into the RUFC goal. It’s 1-0 to the Rovers.
RUFC kick-off but something happens that would later be considered a determining factor in Butch Turnbull’s stroke among other revisions of the event as significant in the nexus of future history. Kicking off, ten RUFC players are quick to surround the ball, forming a circle of bodies around bound together tightly, arm in arm. Each putting a leg forward, the ten RUFC players make a tee with their feet on which the ball rests. Rovers players look on. Looking on confused, they look to the referee in their confusion who seems just as confused as they are. “Hack ‘em! Hack ‘em!”, screams Butch from the touchline. But there is nothing the Rovers can do. There is nothing they can do to get to the ball encased as it is by all those bodies!
Things start to make more sense. The RUFC players, satisfied the ball is well in place, begin hopping as a cohesive unit down the length of the pitch towards the Rovers goal. Rovers players skulk the perimeter, anxiously looking on. Others hassle the referee for clarity over what’s happening but that’s obvious. Questions are superfluous when looking can give so many answers.
RUFC march straight at - and into - the Rovers goal, to the stunned silence of both stands. It’s thirteen times and 13-1 before the Rovers walk off at half-time, and just after their coach, Butch Turnbull, is escorted from the premises. Somewhere in the stand, a covert scientist snaps a camcorder shut then puts a call through to headquarters. “All good”, they say. A fight breaks out in the parking lot. Cars are flipped and burned. Rioting goes on into the night and order is restored by cannon hoses and morning.
The following day an article appears in the roboting rag, Locomotion Loco, titled “The Death of English Football”. Explicating the maneuver which led to the defeat of the Rovers by RUFC, the BigHead team christen it ‘GURT X’ in reference to a compulsive saying of one scientist to abate insidious thoughts. Footage from the Reading riots lends international interest to the BigHead project, as people scramble to understand what the changes mean not simply for the game, but society at large.
Before GURT X would go on to leave football to ruin, a debate would first run over the legal validity of the maneuver. Those with an aesthetic appreciation of the game were quick to suggest GURT X were illegal. That it constituted obstruction, or, there existed some clause in the rulebook prohibiting the creation of structures from players. Others more anarchistically inclined were happy to accept the result of the BigHead laboratory. They drew amusement from all the disorder GURT X generated and pointed to previous times the old way was flattened to bring in the new.
An independent ruling committee was put together, which took to the archives to determine the legality of GURT X. They emerged days later with the news GURT X was legal and that the defeat of the Rovers by RUFC was an entirely valid result, if not somewhat underhand. Moreover, it was decided that any amendment to the rules - to purge GURT X from the playing inventory - would not only be a concession of defeat to a computer but would also constitute a blasphemy to the essential essence of the game, that is, as beautiful.
The columnists decried: this is the game’s road to Damascus moment. That the intrusion of GURT X into the footballing landscape constituted a crisis from which the sport may never recover. Strategists were employed at the major clubs to see whether GURT X could be stopped. Thwarted with the kind of poetry for which the game had been renowned.
But there was little the clubs could think to do other than playing GURT X back on GURT X, which had the tedious result of producing repetitive high-scoring football matches. Soon the players realised they needn’t bother with all that work, either. That the team who kicked off could stall GURT X until the last minute of the first half, penning the ball in then making for the goal just before halftime. The opposition could respond the same way in the second half such that games routinely ended in a 1-1 draw. Viewing figures plummeted as stadiums began to empty. Within a few weeks the commentariat had nothing left to say. It was all over.
After a flood of death threats ascending in tone suggestive of volatile inhibitions and real capacity for violence, the scientists went into hiding. Forced to resign their academic posts, they issued a statement through the university’s press relations department. “It was never our intention for science to undermine the great good of the game”, the statement began. “We learn from this, that progress can come at the expense of happiness. That progress is not a synonym for the spread of good around the world”. Before they handed their lab coats and key cards in, the team crowded around BigHead one last time to try something. “Let’s see if we can run a simulation against itself. Perhaps BigHead can tackle GURT X for us!”. The juniors got to work, tapping in lines of code as the chief looked on. Once finished, the chief crossed himself then pressed the ‘return’ key. The building shook before it was plunged into darkness. For several days there was no electricity as half the server base was irreparably destroyed. The scientists fled as BigHead was shut down. The world entered a new orthodoxy on the distrust of experts.
Xeno II, the famous choreographer and flaneur, emerged from exile some months later and watched the swallows drink from the stream he followed through the valley down towards the town. Although Xeno II had been without news from England for ten years, something in the wind told him misfortune had swept the land. Xeno II was a choreographer and flaneur because it was the best the people could come up with; the little piece of him they had words for. The rest they didn’t know, didn’t want to know: for how could they? Senses merely recognise what the mind has an idea of, but they had no idea what Xeno II was. No clue as to the whys and wherefores. And so they had forced him into exile to escape what they themselves were without, which was something tantamount to soul. Soul, not just in the heart and mind like you and me, but also in the fingertips. Even in the flats of the feet, all the way up to the nape of the neck and down, perhaps, to the redundant coccyx.
Xeno II inhaled his first full breath of non-exile air and delighted in what it said. He got much of the news from it, too, which it shared like a sombre exchange between old friends over the fate of loved ones. They still sent the boy with the papers (had they learnt nothing?) who ran from the city to greet Xeno II, calling him to meet with the mayor. “Is it really that bad?”, said Xeno II to the boy, who struggled to keep pace with the bounding flaneur. “Well, well, our leaders learn nothing”, Xeno II spat. “Ten years - pah! As if they could learn my little toe in that time!”.
In the square in front of the people, the mayor embraced Xeno II and shared with him perfumes and little trinkets. In the privacy of the mayor’s chamber, the dynamic switched to that of two predators crossing in the wild, as each sized the other up with cautious distrust. The mayor spoke first but said nothing. “I hope you’re well, Xeno”. Xeno II nodded and sniffed a lemon water. It was a good lemon: like him it had come a long way. Now it sat with him and diffused through water that had come a much shorter way and told them both stories of its journey. Later, it would sing songs. All this happened at the same time the mayor had only the single sensation of a tickling wen on his pate.
“I gather you’ve heard the business up in Reading by now”, the mayor said. “The wind told me”, said Xeno II. “Looting, pillaging, it’s all very Viking”. “Indeed”, said the mayor. “When the worst spread here, it was only natural we thought of you”. “Naturally”, Xeno II replied. “Of course, we can hardly expect your assistance”, the mayor said, fidgeting on his chair. “But I know that your heart is large. That your love for man is not so easily waylaid by the will to vengeance. Weaker men - with all that’s stood between us - wouldn’t have made it to the front door. As for the common good, bah! There are few around who know what that is!”. The mayor forced laughter hoping to encourage reciprocity in the inscrutable flaneur.
Xeno II yawned. The mayor’s chamber was stifling. Town air was coarse to breathe. Like the land and sea, Xeno II knew the air an extension of the organism. The person who sees the great connection cannot unsee it: the person who sees the great connection spends the rest of their life mystified by the actions of those that don’t.
Xeno II leafed through the papers spread out on the large mahogany table in front of him. “It’s as bad as I suspected”, he said. “Quite”, nodded the mayor, glumly. “What do you make of it?”. “Well it seems obvious, mayor”, Xeno II replied. “We’ve unlodged a vital keystone of our culture. Every society has one, a so-called cultural keystone by those interested in such things.”, “That is?-”, “The focal point of various energies and outlets manifesting in some cultural entity. A symbol of something bigger than itself supervened on the minds of the plural. These cultural keystones are fundamental and infectious, yet on the face of it, banal. It’s usually only on their destruction that their significance is appreciated. For the Greeks it was the flavouring of their yoghurt; the Romans were undone by the humanising of the Colosseum. Take a society’s cultural keystone away and a certain chaos ensues that seems at first unfathomable to be produced by it. I must admit, I didn’t think ours was football”. Xeno II smiled. “No mayor, it was a thirst for colourful drinks that had me worried!”.
The mayor felt unwell as Xeno II spoke. Sweat ran from his brow and darkened his blue suit in all the usual places. Since their last encounter, Xeno II hadn’t aged a bit. He looked younger, even; leaner and hard. Fatty tissues coating the eyes recede last as the human body subtends to 0% fat. Xeno II’s eyes looked like hard luminescent pearls sunk into the hollows of his skull. At once, the mayor realised his aging was a descent into water. That life is part of the water cycle more than anything. That the sky, truly, is the greatest graveyard and the rain is the best we have for ghosts.
“Can something be done?”, the mayor spoke up, now petulant. Xeno II reclined. “Not really”, he said. “GURT X is a truth as light as day and progress is never to ignore the truth. Reconcile, yes, adapt: of course. But challenge the truth? Now mayor, that would be blasphemous!”
The mayor stood up, for he was still the master bargainer (had he not, after all, negotiated the exile of Xeno II for the people?). He poured himself water from the cooler then rejoined Xeno II at the desk, repositioning himself, now demanding power over the pair’s exchange. “I know it’s only a game of football to you”, the mayor said. “But they fear this is just the beginning for them. That next it will be the women or their jobs. Needless to say, they took great pleasure in kicking that ball around, or at least, watching it be done. Now that’s gone they can only think to fill the void with all this wanton destruction”. The mayor paused as he let the words take on images in the mind of Xeno II. The mayor considered empathy to be Xeno II’s chief weakness. He abused his capacity to affect Xeno II by invoking such appeals for the wrong reasons.
“We ask for five days of your efforts”, said the mayor. “Then you’re free to go. But five days of your efforts will not go unrewarded. For too long we’ve been discourteous to your needs, Xeno. Now it’s time we negotiated a city fit for a man like yourself!”.
“Go on?”, said Xeno II now cast in the slitted light of the afternoon sun that came through the blinds.
“Well”, said the mayor. “I remember your aversion to the toilet brush”. Xeno II laughed: “Indeed mayor, it really is an aberration. Now there’s a joke from the gods!”. “Quite”, said the mayor. “As part of a deal we would see to removing them from public institutions. Banning them, even. As for precinct music - you always lamented how out of touch we’d become with our silences. There’d be an exclusion zone for all mall noises around your house. To say nothing of people who eat pasta sauce from jars!”.
Xeno II was no longer listening. Outside on the window ledge, a crow cawed. Half a mile east, a litter of fox cubs succumbed to a hunger exacerbated by cold and their fear. Underfoot, thousands of tonnes of earth rippled and quivered as millions of tiny organisms vied for rarer pieces of the clay. At every scale, the same thing could be found such that it was meaningless to demand it reveal itself. It was all there and there for anyone who knew how to see.
Xeno II snapped out of the reverie. He knew better than to bargain with the mayor. Good actions exist independently of motive. “Enough mayor”, said Xeno II, rising. “GURT X offends my art with its adversity to dance. GURT X says: there’s no poetry in motion. I beg to differ. Although it’s the coincidence of Xeno II with the time that compels me to act, for how could it be said, Xeno II did nothing? You shall hear from me in time when the hour is due. But for now I bid you good day!”. With that the door slammed shut and Xeno II was gone.
Outside in the marketplace, a crowd had gathered. When they saw Xeno II leave, the people worried a deal had not been made. Xeno II sensed their disappointment, putting them at ease with kind reassurances. “Bless you, Xeno II!”, an old lady cried. Soon the whole crowd was chanting his name, as the children fought to touch the cape of the generous flaneur. Within a short time, the crowd had ascended into a general euphoria as Xeno II was free to slip away unnoticed. He escaped the town through an alleyway and by evening was back in the country. No news was heard for some time.
Reports arrived on the seventh day that Xeno II had been seen out in the hills. That lost in meditation and dance, he’d been mistaken by a hunter for a buck, so lithe and of the earth he had become. Others reported seeing him at sea. That he’d made communion with the water and had nearly been dragged up by fisherman, so dolphine he was in stroke. Still, others rumoured Xeno II had never left the town. That he roamed the streets disguised as a beggar boy or coal merchant. An eye on the people: gauging who deserved his efforts and how far they might extend.
The people spent much of their free time discussing Xeno II’s possible movements. Gossip turned to fact as fast as superglue hardens and there were so many competing facts it bred tension and animosity between the people. Theories of the whereabouts of Xeno II became the foundation of tribes within the town as many claimed to be in correspondence with the elusive flaneur. Everyone, it seemed, had their own theory of the fate of Xeno II and it seemed every theory had some self-serving aspect for its proponent. Who hadn’t been his friend sometime in the past? And yet why had they been so keen to have him banished all those years ago?
The fanfare surrounding the whereabouts of Xeno II escalated to its most dramatic before the situation was resolved, when newly-appointed guru, Chieftain Dory, claimed to have news of Xeno II’s death. In an email allegedly from him, Xeno II spoke of ill-health out in the country; that he did not think he would make it through the night and so all authority in his remit was to be bestowed on Chieftain Dory, the man he considered the fitting instructor for the people. Times are regressing as before, whispered the disbelievers, as a procession was organised for Chieftain Dory in the square. How quickly we unlearn, someone cried, who was shackled and beaten.
Nineteen days after the meeting in the mayor’s chamber, Xeno II appeared at the airport with a suitcase and good tan, having spent some time in Ibiza with a cousin. At the airport, he was duly met by the town’s administrative body, who racked him for news that was immediate and definitive. “All in good time”, said Xeno II with an unreadable air. “First let’s rest. We have hard work before us!”. Checking into a Holiday Inn, Xeno II was given the night to prepare for the day ahead.
During the night, Xeno II dreamed a dream. Another dream about his friend. He’d had many since the events of all those years ago. The dreams were rarely fruitful. They were often painful. Still, Xeno II persevered in the conviction that his own representations contained answers that were within him somewhere. That things might still be revealed in the quasi-reality of the dream world and that people exist in minds as more than the sum of memories.
The dream that night was different. From its beginning, Xeno II sensed finality to the encounter. A quality to his dreaming that was simultaneously lucid yet instructive. They were back around the fireplace again, like they had been the last time. Xeno II stoked coals. “Here”, said his friend, removing a scroll of paper from his coat pocket. “Written on this piece of paper is the universal truth. The distillation of everything; the conclusion of my methods”. Xeno II put down the poker. He took the scroll and read the short sentence written on it. He read it a fourth even a fifth time. “I don’t understand”, he said. “I know these words and understand how they’ve been put together. But what this means in action eludes me. Its spirit is wildly unknown”.
His friend smiled. “How does one learn to ride a bicycle, Xeno? Through studying a bicycle manual and taking lessons in classical mechanics? Or by observing those who can ride one? Watching, replicating their actions patiently: always self-evaluating one's method?” Xeno II nodded. “There is no lesson in reading a code”, said the friend. “Codes represent lessons to be learnt and learnt experientially. The ten commandments; the five pillars: these should be the conclusion not the beginning of man’s moral endeavours. How arrogant are these men!” Xeno II laughed but his eyes were brought back to the scroll. He craved to understand its message and to show his friend he understood, too.
When Xeno II next looked up, his friend was gone. He was alone in the room with the crackling fire and that feeling of emptiness which can so easily follow good company. Xeno II woke sometime later. However hard he tried, he could not remember what had been printed on the piece of paper. He would not dream of the friend again.
Later that morning, Xeno II was chaperoned to the University of Reading, where he was met by the BigHead scientists who had come from hiding to be with him. Their suffering is palpable, Xeno II thought. Their health has been expended at the mercy of their plight. Is it just I that sees the great connection? Who understands the value of good health in the hour of duty? The scientists were joined by the mayor who sat with the rest of the town’s administrative body at the back of the lecture theatre. Xeno II was curt with the officials, who looked on indifferently. Who only knew the passive recipience of spectatorship and who took pride in the fact they had never danced for anyone.
“Many of you know me as the master of dance”, began Xeno II in an impromptu address of the theatre. “But fewer of you know me in my capacity as a musician. My talents here and experiences in the dance tents of the Ibiza megaclubs have led me to discover a new sound. A terrible sound. A sound hostile to all we know as decent. Research has taken me to study its relationship to the brain. Particularly, its influence on balance and motor memory, where its effects are marked. To make the sound, we start by pressing into a particular part of the larynx, like so, using the little finger”. Xeno II placed a pinky on his voice box. “At the same time the neck is rotated about the horizontal plane, across an angle of roughly 140 degrees symmetrical about the line of sight. On each downbeat, the head must gyrate once about the z-axis in a figure of eight. All the while the following sound is repeated over and over, which I can only describe as resembling the 2nd stave of frère Jacques delivered an octave lower and in 1.5 speed”.
“Produced correctly, the result is a noise so affrontive to the listener, no one in GURT X formation could possibly retain their sense of balance long enough to carry out the maneuver.” Xeno II paused. “I can see though this might be difficult to believe. Who will be my volunteer?”
Chairs creaked and throats cleared before a junior was coaxed forward by those sitting around them. “Excellent”, said Xeno II, taking from his pocket, a yellow ping-pong ball. “Now, try to balance the ball on the palm of your hand”. The volunteer held out their hand and balanced the ball as the flaneur instructed. “Easy”, said Xeno II. “Let’s begin”.
The sound did not come for a while. When it did, it began as a soft cooing, only gradually ascending in tone and volume. Next, it became an irritating moan: afterwards, something akin to the deranged shrieks of a wild beast riddled with infection. With all but the last part of the maneuver completed, the crowd agreed that the noise was abrasive. But the intended effect was notably absent. It was not until Xeno II began twisting his neck in a figure of eight on each downbeat that the sound took on a new and demonic form, in a moment producing a noise so offensive the spectators were forced to wince and cover their ears. When they could bear to look again the ping-pong ball was in front of them on the floor next to the body of the passed out volunteer. “Fetch them water”, someone said, but Xeno II treated the volunteer quickly and they were all right.
“Moving on”, said Xeno II, addressing the audience once calm was restored. “FA rules permit an upper bound on jersey sizes of 1.25 times the chest girth and 1.15 times the length of the torso. A team of large-bodied individuals would do well to provide a second prong on the fork with which to strike GURT X: fanning at the football with their jerseys, adding to the oppositions sense of imbalance!”
The crowd was silent. The officials looked on with folded arms and dissatisfied faces, resenting things for being simple, tricky though they still were. The scientists cast fawning looks at Xeno II. There was hope, finally, after all the months of despair. It took some time for the event to be digested by the plural, before emotions began to swell and spill over as a round of applause for the dextrous man of dance.
The chief official - a round man with a leathery pink head - spoke first. “It’s all very well”, he said, pulling at his braces, which looked painful the way they squeezed into him. “But how does your average football player achieve such vocal feats? You’re the master choreographer, after all. The man with soul on his tongue and jazz in his feet. How do the clubs make use of all this when half their players can hardly string a decent sentence together?”.
Xeno II looked at the crowd then back to the chief official and smiled a thin smile. “With respect, but what use does your average football club have for your average football player, now? If it were up to me, I’d be looking away from the academy next transfer window”. And he nodded beyond the crowd towards a neighbouring concert theatre, from where light opera music emanated.
At once the crowd cheered ‘Xeno’ like they had done before. The scientists, relieved at once, embraced him as the faces of the senior officials warmed ever so slightly towards contentment. The mayor stepped forward, shaking Xeno II firmly by the hand. “Time will tell if you’re right on this”, he said. “Now, I have some men from Chelsea I’d like you to speak with, and Mateo here from Madrid-”. Xeno II swatted the mayor away. “My work here is done”, he said, handing the mayor the blueprints detailing his efforts. “It’s time to return home”. Slipping away from the crowd, Xeno II walked and walked. He loved the birds and the streams and the insects that sang from the grasses. He would not be back to man for some time.
The first fixture following the transfer window came around amid great speculation, as the top clubs made all sorts of strange signings over the winter break much to the bafflement of the commentariat. That most of the new recruits had absolutely no professional football experience whatsoever confused those who were paid to talk about the game. That many of these players had disproportionately large torsos compared to legs, only added to the questions these activities raised. Much was revealed in the opening fixture between Man Utd and Tottenham Hotspur. Kicking off, Hotspur - immediately assuming GURT X - were dispossessed by Utd’s most controversial signing: 65 year old sopranino singer Dametrius Matheus, who wowed the spectators with his guttural noises that sent the Hotspur players spinning from formation.
Within weeks the anti-GURT X maneuver had been taken up by all the major clubs, as GURT X became unattainable and football matches were played as before. Satellite subscriptions were re-engaged as stadiums swelled with spectators. The hashtag: “Don’t tread on me!” trended as a statement of defiance against powers that had conspired to see the game run to ruin. The statement was printed on club memorabilia for some time until all novelty was exhausted and the sentiment only partly remained. The badges that could not be cleared in bargain buckets were disposed of in landfill where they would resist biodegradation for hundreds of years.
By the end of the season, reports were beginning to emerge that the anti-GURT X maneuver (now called SKY B after its sponsors) had certain troubling side effects. Psychologists from across the country reported intense night terrors in players that had been subjected to it. Patients told of midnight liaisons with the devil as well as other horrors that stalked their hours in slumber. The effects resisted several potent pharmaceuticals and numerous therapeutic methods. One player was admitted to an emergency unit for attempting a self-inflicted exorcism using crude iron-age techniques rooted in pagan dogma.
A distaste for an ad-hoc shifting of the rules, which had seen GURT X proliferate, meant the football association was reluctant to allow an intervention on SKY B. A non-verbal agreement was reached, where both were to be avoided out of a regard for decorum and respect for the fact that nothing will ever be perfect.
So what happened to the scientists? Their laboratory was phased out as BigHead lost its funding. The huge supercomputer was moved to Devon, along with several members of the team, where it was put to use investigating the spread of bovine tuberculosis. The rest of the scientists disbanded and found new positions in the fanfare. As cleaners and cooks, taxi drivers and milkmen: leading modest lives in comfortable anonymity surrounded by small circles of company. One or two tried to defend themselves by way of memoir, but we hardly fall for that anymore.
I put a request in to the team at Devon. Six weeks later they got back to me outlining the optimum morning routine for a writer. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much other than there’s reason to believe it works. And what of Xeno II? No news yet. There are the occasional reports, of course, but then there always were. Just the other day I heard he’d gone to the shadow world to learn the darkness, and I can believe that. I swear I saw him just the other night. Something in the shadows as I drew the shutters. A flutter and a twinkle and… those eyes. His eyes, looking back at me from the dark. But then he was gone because he must have known how I felt about him.