Nothing much grew around the village any more, except yellow nettles, giant hogweed, and twitch grass whose roots strangled the weaker plants before they could flower. Both of the shops had been closed for ages, with net curtains hung in the display windows, barely concealing the dusty emptiness of the redundant shelves, the avalanche of unopened junk mail below the letter boxes, and the ghosts which left no footsteps on the dirty linoleum floors. Faded typescript taped to the inside of the door of one shop explained the falling-off of trade, the lowered profit margins, the forlorn blame laid at the automatic doors of the out-of-town supermarket thirteen miles away. I read this notice many times, as if one day it would explain more. There was no such explanation on the door of our house, though perhaps there should have been.
Things had been going awry between us for some time. We had difficulty in understanding one another somehow; as if we spoke different languages and our interpreter had more lucrative work elsewhere. We moved around each other in something approximating silence, in a wan ballet that owed more to exclusion zones than elegance or grace.
Often it seemed as if we were the only inhabitants of the village. On my aimless perambulations I would see no-one at all. No dogs, no cats. I saw only birds; crows circling high overhead in the white sky, calling out in the air, laughing, or perhaps crying. Their nests were knotted cancers high in the tallest trees. I watched them as they wrote indecipherable messages against the clouds. Not for me. No messages. I went home, and our front door was heavy as lead.