The Book of Accidents (an unfinished beginning)
An orca killed a trainer. It rose out of the pool and snatched her from the slippery tile. Her remains floated to the surface like the chum she used to scatter. I called an expert for comment. He coughed and sighed and spluttered. I was the fifth hack to find his phone number that day. “They’re all psychologically traumatised,” he said. “If you were stuffed into a bath for 20 years, don’t you think you’d end up a little cracked?” I didn’t tell him. It wasn’t about me.
I spent 12 years locked in a house. My mother disappeared me. The world thought I was living with an aunt in Australia. I was in the attic. My whole universe limited to a 60ft-long corridor cluttered with boxes of old books. I had a bed, a lamp, an old radio and this exercise bike she bought in the 80s, before the collapse, when she wore headbands, leg-warmers and a smile – just another retro conceit.
She handed my food up through the hatch – when she remembered. Clambering up the loft ladder, she never failed to remind me that Brett still had the strap if I tried to make an escape.
I distracted myself by riding for miles on the exercise bike, travelling down roads I reconstructed up from fragmentary toddler memories. When I got tired, I turned to the books. Among the old paperbacks and cheap encyclopaedias, two volumes fascinated me most.
One was the a small blue Royal Navy guide that had belonged to my father, Some Invalid Recipes, the other was this odd book with no author listed on the cover and no publication date inside. It was called The Book of Accidents.