Bump arose one fine morning fully awake to the eventuality of his morality. He would die, he could plainly see that—not even he, Christopher Downing Bump, QC, Oxford-educated, respected by his peers and comfortably well off—was above that. But the nature of his death and its timetable were now clear to him, as one’s reflection in a body of disturbed water comes into focus as the water relaxes. Thus, he felt certain, he had an advantage over death and an anxiety that had buzzed along the fissures of his skin and gullies and escarpments of his thoughts since arriving at a certain age now eased. He gazed at the freckled paint of the ceiling above his bed as if the bumps and whirls there were a code now deciphered. He sighed, rolled over on his side and slept for another fifteen minutes, so unusual for him.
This incident occurred on a morning in May when the trees in Bump’s yard and neighbourhood had burst open first with leaves, then blossoms, and the air was redolent of cherry, apple and lilac perfume and thick with the buzzing of bees. His refrigerator and pantry were well stocked, his closet filled with clothes that fit him well and his bank account was at a more-than satisfactory level. His children were grown and gone but called regularly, his wife was gone and silent. That was all right, he’d gotten over that. All in all, he was at peace with the world and, in most regards, it appeared to be a good time to be alive. Except that he’d been quite sure he wouldn’t be for long.
When he awoke the second time, the pressure in his chest was gone. On this fine day in May, Bump was fifty-three years, two months and sixteen days old, and the pressure in his chest had first announced itself three years, two months and fifteen days earlier. Angina, his doctor called it, a warning sign but nothing to get too anxious about. He’d given Bump a thorough examination and sent him for a battery of tests. It was, he said again, a warning sign, but not of an imminent danger. He prescribed pills, exercise, a new diet and patience. But Bump was anxious for he understood this pain to be the hand of death squeezing itself around his heart, not so much a warning sign as an introduction. There was no mistaking it, no escaping it. There would be no missed appointment in Samarra.
But this morning, this very fine morning in May, as he awoke for a second time, there was no pressure, not in his chest nor in his arms or shoulders, neck or jaw. Nowhere. He lay silently, motionless on his back in comfort and listened to the beating of his heart, an orderly motion of blood and muscle as regular and reassuring as the ticking of the grandfather clock in his living room, an heirloom he’d inherited from his father, who had, he remembered now, lived to a ripe old age, well into his eighties. No, there was no hand of death on his heart this morning, no sign of death at all. Bump would not be dying today.
He knew that with certainty because he was now in possession of certain knowledge of his death, when and how it would occur. That knowledge was inexplicably calming.
He had seen it all before his very own eyes, like a tableau spread out before him on a presentation able, or the coming attraction of a movie not yet released— or even filmed. It was so clear, or it had been, for now it was beginning to blur. There was a girl, he knew that, and danger, a girl in some sort of danger, and he, like a hero in a black and white movie, was stepping in, taking the bullet meant for her, and…. He faltered here. It had all been so clear, so sharply etched in his mind, but now it was fading and he couldn’t summon it back. It hovered there, this certain knowledge, in the back of his mind, present but as if behind a thin diaphanous veil that allowed him to see its outline and shape but not the details that defined it.
Still, he felt no anxiety. He had seen it and he knew it was there, felt confident it would present itself to him again. It was now as permanently and thoroughly a part of him as his name.
Bump, Christopher… Christopher Something Bump. Never mind, it would come to him.
This is the first act from a story in progress.