Since it appears that we are not at this stage going to get much out of Bill – or the wild, slim alien as I began to think of him – I suppose I could tell you something of my life, and how I come to be here, alone, in Cornwall. After all, one of you asked me about my nightmares, what they are, and why I have them. I will be sparing with the nightmares themselves, but much less so with their genesis.
I lived in a big city as many young people do when they are young. I studied then I worked. I had one relationship, another, which was itself followed by a third. This one stuck. He was not the marrying type, and I wasn’t sure that I was either, so we didn’t get married. I watched the years and the non-anniversaries stack up, amusing myself with possible markers in the absence of the dress, the cake, the barely contained hostility between close family members, the bridal suite, and the honeymoon. So was it the first time we saw each other, there on the landing of a shared house? Or when we first sat alone together in a room, my room, months later, after he had moved rather inconveniently and against the natural flow of the relationship to another city? Or should it be the day of the night we first made love, after our first shared meal together? Or to conclude the sequence, when two years later he responded to my ultimatum by moving into the flat I had bought in the sprawling suburbs of a third city?
You choose. I don’t care to think about it any more.
We were happy, certainly satisfied, and only occasionally dissatisfied with each other. The depression to which I had been subject since my teens visited less frequently, and we rolled along, merrily drinking with the few close friends either of us had, going out at other times to listen to music of his choosing, sometimes of mine. I worked hard, and he worked less hard, though he compensated for this with regular handling of the hoover and a degree of ability in the kitchen which sometimes even approached flair. He often used to speculate that being a vegetarian had held him back from his true vocation, that of chef.
After ten years of failing to celebrate whichever anniversary you want to go by, life seemed more or less the same, though each of us was earning more year on year and this coupled with increasingly discerning taste buds meant that we drank better wine and ate in restaurants which verged on fine dining; at least I no longer submitted to the greasy spoon he originally had a predilection for.
There was something missing, and my body told me – eventually begged me – that it was a new life form. I resisted the notion for a time, realising this was a point at which we might come unstuck. I waited until his cookery had brought off a particularly good meal and little was left in the bottle that accompanied it. He was his usual cautious self, warming only slowly to the idea, at pains not to appear negative, even though I knew he was coming to terms with the end of something and was finding it hard to contemplate quite what would be beginning in its stead.
‘Yes,’ he said finally, draining the dregs, ‘let’s.’
We went right to it. That was never the problem.