I’m fading out of a battered house in the arse-end of Hungary, knee deep in London dry empties and the old hacking bellow chasing me… I manage to crack open something eyelid-like and the house disintegrates fully and finally. The ceiling lurches toward me but I get a second eye open and it all kind of vibrates back to normal.
There’s still the voice to contend with – something like a moulding cask full of mulched-up ice-ridden tractors – and it occurs to me that I might have swallowed the much-fabled last straw and had my liver fuse permanently with my brain. But no… the voice is unfamiliar and sounds much like it might have two legs and two arms and be standing outside the door.
Between knocks I yank it open and find a square jaw in a black suit – no tie, the casual look – giving me the eye. Whether I disappoint him or otherwise I don’t know, but I like to think I’m radiating a suitable level of baleful at this juncture. He scans the room behind me, mutters something and turns on his heel down the corridor.
The window’s open and it seems like a good idea to test the nausea readings, so I stick my head out and get a lungful. There’s a rickety-looking trellis to my right covered in ivy, which I was expecting, and a poet, which I was not.
“Morning,” I say.
He unscrews his eyes and clears his throat in my direction. He wobbles one leg up and down the trellis, thinks better of it and lets it settle back onto the ledge.
“Just getting some air, you know,” he croaks.
“Sure. Listen. I’m going to see what’s edible here. You want something?”
He starts to shake his head, then says, “Orange juice. With ice. And a croissant if they have any.”
I nod and, reasoning that there’s probably not many places the conversation could go, excuse myself. If my dive instinct is correct, there are in any case some finely burnt rashers nearby that warrant much more of my attention.