Scene 3

For this scene, the quality of the image changes, as though filmed in DV with a camcorder. We are no longer in Cambridge - or are we? STORYTELLER and four OTHERS – two males, two females – clot around a campfire. Our angle is behind Storyteller, over the top of his head, so we can't see his face. The fire lights the dirty faces and messy clothes of the four listeners. They are covered in scratches and bruises and look like they could use a meal. Yet there is a kind of powerful resolve about them – they are not only exiles, but also, survivors.

STORYTELLER: Asawonwonswere!

This noise has a ritual quality.

The listeners wear expressions of extreme absorption. Most of the time Storyteller commands their alertness. From time to time, in response to some evanescent unease, the vigilance of one of the listeners moves to the space around the camp fire – woods? – and he or she stares, or pricks an ear, till the alarm is assuaged, and he or she returns intent focus to the tale.

STORYTELLER: I parked. Mist over the harbour. Beer trucks rolled by, up to their foo-foos in the reeking foliate wash. This is getting old.

STORYTELLER: I hurried across the road.

STORYTELLER: Dr. Zemeckis had huge lapels and intense, smoky eyes. Her heart-shaped face was framed by generous ringlets of unruly, Autumnal hair. She shook my hand curtly, pursing her tempura lips.

STORYTELLER: I didn’t want to descend that staircase with Dr. Zemeckis. I didn’t want to think what lay at the bottom. My motion was pseudopoidal, was toe hegemonikon. Every step was a triumph of will. Dr. Zemeckis was patient and discreet. I had to hammer the blood through my blood vessels exactly like Heinz. In particular I had to beat on the back of my left elbow like a exultant peasant. The final steps were a triumph of internalised oratory. I had to exhort my left foot forward with the figure of exergasia and down with expeditio. I used bespoke combos of litotes, conduplicatio, synzeugma, ratiocinatio, dirimens copulatio and bdelygmia to cobble together a temp minimum coalition of the toes of my right.

STORYTELLER: Dr. Zemeckis circumspectly raised the cerements. My friend and my friend’s friend, and my friend’s friend’s friend had died in this fire. I said, “Yes that’s him – that’s my best friend. This one, although he’s no more badly burnt, I can’t be so sure about. But I am pretty sure it’s him. And this one, I’ve only met once or twice at parties and I can’t say, with complete conviction, that we’re talking about the same – never going to give you up, never going to let you down, never going to run around and desert you.”

STORYTELLER: This was probably the first time a positive ID on the corpses recovered from a tragic farmstead fire had been used as the run-in to a Rick Roll.

STORYTELLER: “Brilliant,” said Dr. Zemeckis, when she had composed herself. “Anyway, you’ve been incredibly helpful. Listen, how busy are you this afternoon?”

STORYTELLER: “I have to be at the gym at four,” I said, “but what can I do for you?”

STORYTELLER: “I don’t want to impose any more than I already have. But you seem like a really well-connected guy. Would you consider giving the rest of the morgue a quick once-over, to see if there’s anyone else you can postively ID?”

STORYTELLER: “If it’ll save the family members a trip, I’d love to,” I said. “The bereaved have enough on their plate – or slab!” I joked.