the night of 3 cockroaches.
As far as your eye can make out in the limited gloaming it is smooth rock.
Not the kind of rock you need to dust yourself off after sitting on, this is a perfectly smooth cementlike surface. It is cool to the touch where your foot presses against it, under your cheek that you sit on. Your other leg is out in front, crooked up with your chin resting on your knee. Right hand holds a staff, bent but serviceable.
Although you cannot see it, you know there is an edge to the surface you are on just twenty metres or so ahead. Abruptly the surface falls away, perfection giving way to fissures and ruptures, scree sitting on shale.
A small fire flickers in front of you and the faintest image of it can be seen in the smooth rock surface a few feet away.It struggles to warm you but its effort is somewhat lost in this vast openness.
The sky is black, starless except for the few first exhibitionists, and they could be planets anyway.
You sit, silent with your thoughts for hours, or what seems like hours. Alone, you have realised, the human need for small-scale slicing of time disappears. Days are still important, but time has fallen away at both ends of the spectrum. The idea of a minute seems as silly as the idea of a decade. Seasons are the maximum scale you work at.
Your chin rests on your knee, just near a one inch scar. A memory unbidden presents itself as chin meets smooth scar flesh. You remember running up four stairs to the verandah and tripping on the last. That exposed nail, catching your seven year old knee. Copious blood. Your parents' reaction scaring you more than the fall. No need for stitches, you grew up in a family that self-treated everything. Bruises, headaches, bee stings, there was a remedy on hand for all that.
The few trips to hospital were affairs populated by stiff parental masks and clanking great beasts of hospital machinery. Early days of radiotherapy. Lots of rooms with apis-mottled warning signs, people leaving you sitting alone in chairs too big as they hurried outside, away from the danger zone. Buzzers sounding, then the terminal click-clunk of a gateway being opened to something you feared, but only for a moment. What had been released?
You remember the colours of those machines more than anything. A pale blue, mocking skies you probably weren't going to see again, and they were always so big. Expanses of metal sheeting hiding the inner demons that controlled the emissions of lethal radiation.
The energy of the bomb dropped only a few decades before trapped, commercialised and refocussed right here right now in this moment in this city in this hospital at that person, your mother.
In the dreams though sometimes it is you getting the treatment not her. How can you have memories of such things? Why would a four year old child understand the mechanisms of irradiating the human body? And what mechanism is it that substitutes the recipient of the poison in dreamscapes. You can never discern a purpose in the replacement other than to terrify you. So you put these thoughts behind you while looking straight ahead, an old conjurors device.
On the rock cantilever, a cool wind catches the edge of your wraparound and lifts it, bringing you back from the memories. You tend to the fire, another branch fed, you poke the roots wrapped baking in the embers. Eating is not far off.
You are alone in the night.