Robert Pimm

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Biotime 7: The Dying Dutchman

Here is the seventh droplet of my novel Biotime.

Feedback welcome: on content, frequency, style or anything else.  I’d love to hear from you.

I’m also publishing a “story so far” post for infrequent readers, bringing together the excerpts published up to now.

Ghanaian market 3, Nov 04

Ghanaian market – Photo SDT

 

Biotime.  The future, today.  Excerpt 7

[Part 1, Breughel vs. Jones, continues]

Two hours later, Breughel was beginning to understand that his humiliation had barely begun. In the sweltering minibus on the way to the Church, Wilhelm explained what he called the paradigm of his channel’s coverage.

‘We are casting you as the victim. So it is good if you are arriving at the church looking weak and exhausted. It is also good if your suit makes you sweat, or if your disease is making you tremble. If you were looking like a rich Dutch businessman coming to enforce a contract against a poor Ghanaian girl, our viewers would hate you. Actually, everyone would hate you.’

‘I have nothing. But people hate me anyway,’ Breughel said.

‘That is why we are calling you the Dying Dutchman. When we reach the church, people must see you suffer.’

The Church of Christ is Risen was a modern concrete structure with a tall, angular spire which reminded Breughel of his own church in Amsterdam. News crews crammed the road. A row of nuns sat blocking the stairs up to the entrance, singing hymns and ululating.

The music was beautiful.

Close to the nun-barrier a group of police officers sat under an awning, fortified with a cold-box full of drinks. A news team was interviewing a cheerful fellow holding up an empty leather holster.

When Breughel climbed down from the minibus and leaned his weight on his stick, the heat hit him like a hammer. He staggered. A dozen cameras turned towards him.

They sensed fresh meat.

Journalists surged forwards, yelling questions. The nuns on the stairs sang louder.

Breughel’s suit, made for the Haarlem winters of twenty years earlier, felt intolerably hot. His legs were sticky from the spilled drink.

He closed his eyes. How good it would be to die here, now. To retreat forever to a place of peace. To leave Lotte to a dignified end in her hospital bed.

To confront the nuns seemed unthinkable. Yet to walk away was impossible.

He opened his eyes. Everyone was still shouting questions at him.

Then he realised. He did not need to answer.

He took a step forward, leaning on his cane. Then another. The crowd of camera crews parted. Hunched and trembling, he approached the nuns on the steps, who were singing and swaying to the rhythm.

‘Excuse me,’ he said. ‘I wish to see Lumusi Jones.’

One of the nuns rose to her feet. A dark mountain of a woman, she towered over Breughel.

‘I am Sister Truth,’ she said. ‘I am sorry, old man. No-one can pass.’

Breughel fingered the cross around his neck. ‘Tell Lumusi that Hans Breughel has come to see her.’

‘I will tell her that.’ The nun turned and whispered to a girl standing behind her, who ran up the steps into the church. For a long moment, nothing happened.

Sister Truth reached out a hand and held Breughel’s bony shoulder. ‘This Biotime is a terrible thing,’ she said.

‘Yes,’ Breughel said.

‘It is too strong. It can destroy you.’ The nun squeezed his shoulder. ‘But it exists. We must learn to live with it.’

‘Let him in!’ There was movement by the church. An older nun, her face as creased as Breughel’s own, stepped into the sunshine. ‘It is time.’

She spread her arms and the nuns gave way. Breughel struggled up the first step, then felt merciful support as Sister Truth put her huge arm around him. He sensed a hubbub on all sides as camera-crews forced their way up the stairs.

Breughel entered the Church. News teams swarmed in behind him. Ahead, the nave was full of people, staring at him with anger in their eyes.

Then he saw her.

[Excerpt ends][Next episode]

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this excerpt from my novel “Biotime”.   If you’re interested in hearing about further episodes, follow this blog by e-mail (top right, “click here”); or follow me on Twitter @RobertPimm (left hand side).  I can promise you a fun ride.

If you’d like to read some complete fiction by me, see what you think of my “wonderful, feminist and dark” Hotel Stories.  

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