Joe has downloaded a pirate copy of Doctor Who, the first episode of the new series. It’s great fun. The special effects are inhumanly dodgy, and the script utterly whimsical. The series begins with the Auton story that people have waited decades for – yes, it is the manniquin massacre! Christopher Eccleston’s Doctor is not so much timeless as right now; and with dialogue to mine (Doctor flicks through a woman’s magazine: “Well that won’t work, he’s gay and she’s an alien!)

While I was pushing myself on the rowing machine I was overcome by a fear of suffocation, that I was labour so hard I could not get enough oxygen into my lungs. It made me feel very vulnerable. Perhaps it was because of this passage:

And then the universe moved. Through the hard stone of the floor, Danlo felt the pull of the planets and stars as they wheeled about the heavens in their age-old journey. Somehow, then, he moved his left hand over Hanuman’s face. Instantly Hanuman shook his head back and forth in a furious effort to elude Danlo’s grip. But Danlo clamped his hand over Hanuman’s nose and mouth; with his steely thumb and forefinger squeezing shut his nose, he pressed his palm over his lips. He could feel the hot suck of air between his fingers as Hanuman’s belly and chest worked desperately to draw in a breath. He felt Hanuman’s jaws snapping shut and had to keep his hand rigidly cupped in order to avoid Hanuman’s teeth. After a while the muscles writhing along Hanuman’s neck began to seize up and cramp. With a muffled cry of pain, he ceased struggling for a moment. And Danlo pressed his head downwards touching Hanuman’s head, and he whispered, ‘Please, Hanu. Hanu, Hanu – please die quickly.

He almost relaxed his grip upon Hanuman’s mouth, then. For a moment, he lifted up his head and stared down at Hanuman as he watched his pale skin begin to fall blue. He looked at the fine lines of his face and the incredible will to life that suddenly poured out of his eyes. Terrible beauty, he though.

He looked down into Hanuman’s terrified eyes and tightened his grip over his mouth. ‘Mi alasharia la, shantih, shantih – go to sleep now, my brother, go to sleep.’

‘Please, Danlo,’ Hanuman pleaded with his eyes. A last light lingered there as on an ending of a long day of greyness and snow. Ever dimmer it grew, and yet there was something beautiful and bright about it, almost as if, were Danlo to watch and wait long enough, he would behold in Hanuman the rising of the morning sun. ‘Please, please.’

As Danlo pressed his bleeding hand over Hanuman’s mouth, he felt the molecules of Hanuman’s stifled breath burning into his wound. Hanuman, he thought, was a tiny piece of the universe that was literally dying to return to itself. And Danlo was only another tiny piece who must hasten this journey. ‘No I cannot,’ he whispered. And a moment later, ‘Yes, I must. Yes, I will.’ Hanuman, on hearing this, murmured something deep in his throat. He shuddered and whimpered and tried to cry out in all his terrible pain. And Danlo shook his head against the tears blinding him and wanted to cry out too.

‘Hanu, Hanu,’ he whispered, as he watched the light dying in Hanuman’s eyes, ‘please forgive me.’

For an endless moment, Hanuman looked at him with his pale, anguished eyes, and then the universe opened again. A pain greater than any Danlo had ever known swept him down into darkness as if he had been caught in a maelstrom in the sea. He felt his own breath suddenly choke off and his heart stop beating. Thus deprived of oxygen, soon his cells would die, and his whole body would lie stiff and still. Soon, he knew, he would let go of Hanuman…

…His hands tightened into fists, and he felt blood between his fingers, all slippery, hot and wet. A crushing sensation spread out through his belly and chest as he struggled to fill his lungs iwth air. And then he felt his heart moving again in a single agonizing beat, and at last he opened his eyes. Time turned like a great wheel evern as he returned to himself. For a moment, all was light and pain, pain and light. Strange new objects gradually fell into view through the blinding glare all around him. He looked down to see his right hand curled up like a ball as his long fingernails cut bloody gashes in his hand. And his left hadn still covered Hanuman’s mouth. Hanuman lay silent and still beneath him; his skin had fallen dead blue, and his dead eyes stared at Danlo without suffering or complaint.

Slowly, Danlo lifted his hand away from Hanuman’s lips. He gently touched his fingertips against Hanuman’s brow and then closed his eyes. Mi alasharia la, shantih, shantih, he silently prayed, sleep in peace, my brother, my friend. Through the haze of tears burning his own eyes, he looked down upon Hanuman’s face. And he saw there neither anger nor hate nor mad shaida dreams, but only a blessed being who had come into the would and finally left it like any other. He tried to stand, then. From far off, he heard shouts and footsteps echoling through the stone stairwell of the cathedral, and he tried to stand up and turn towards these dreadful sounds. But instead, he collapsed and fell across Hanuman’s still-warm body. He gathered him up in his arms, pressing his head against Hanuman’s head and Hanuman’s heart against his own. He felt himself draw in a great grasp of air, then the breath finally exploded out of him in a deep, terrible cry…

And so he knelt by Hanuman’s side and he prayed one last time. ‘Hanu, Hanu,’ he whispered, ‘mi alasharia la, shantih, shantih – sleep in peace, my brother, my friend, myself.’

And so at last, in wordless affirmation and utter fearlessness, he smiled fiercely and turned to face the fate that called to him beyond the sanctuary’s great wooden door.