Townsea was a wind-swept place, too near the coast to be deemed inland, and vice versa. Many people had lived there over the centuries. Now, there only remained the oldest who had once been the youngest. And there were strangers, too, who turned up at night to frequent Townsea’s only public house.


Unlike the Townsea settlers, the strangers had names – and Thorpe Allen was one such. The locals had the sea in their ears, since they couldn’t admit to deafness and Thorpe Allen must have thought he was talking to dummies, because they merely stared back even at his most controversial statements about the battle between life and death. The trees outside shook in one of the many tail-ends of an endemic gale – and the other strangers slapped the locals on the back, despite knowing it was useless to be friendly in a place like Townsea. In fact, there were no trees to shake. It was simply the sound of the locals’ deafness, which bordered on tinnitus coming perversely towards incipient hearing. Nobody could believe that the locals heard anything. But the muffled surges became articulate, like creatures from the deep with dog-whistle mating-calls.


Thorpe Allen and his cronies quit the environs of Townsea, at the first sight of dawn creeping over the treeless hills. The sky held the stain of the middle-distant sea in runnels of weedy grey, tinged over with the eggy jaundice of a breakfast sun. Being drunk, none of the strangers could drink anything else, not even upon the dewy saturations of the morn, nor upon its speechless beauty. The Townsea folk were sleepy, but the wondrous burst of new light was not lost on them. It gave them the feeling that Heaven was only a short step over the horizon.


Meanwhile, the strangers with names, who never sleeped, trekked away from the sun, always one pace ahead of it, seeking the night-life upon which they fed around the clock. They soon arrived in another town too near the coast to be deemed inland, and vice versa. Here the settlers appeared slightly younger than those of Townsea, which meant they would soon become even older. The sea in their ears was a huge communal mating­-call butt, in truth, was as silent as the grave. But, nevertheless, they thought they heard it – and that was half the battle.


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