Brian Aldiss

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The Homeless Mind

The fifth instalment of exclusive short stories written by brian throughout September 2012.

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On a fine spring night, the moon was all but full. The countryside was hushed and a wind blew across Southern England.
That wind carried unusual micro-organisms, brought from a Kent laboratory. The micro-organisms, harmless enough, induced a temporary increased intelligence in all it met with.

Wolfgang was a mongrel dog of medium size. He had a rough white coat marked with two patches of black. Wolfgang was lying in his basket in the kitchen. His lead was still on, its handle tied to the oven door. preventing him from wandering about in the small hours.
He sat up, sniffing.
Quietly, methodically, he began to gnaw at his lead.
He had it in two in no time. He padded over to the door; it was locked and he could not open it.
Wolfgang scrambled up on to the window sill. The window was ajar, letting in the fresh night air. With a fore-paw, he pushed it wide open.
It was nothing for him to jump down into the garden,
to cross the lawn, scale the wattle fence, and be away.
Soon he was down the street and into a field – and
from the field was into open countryside.
He ran for the pleasure of it, front and rear legs almot meeting under his body and then immediately stretching away, as far as possible, fore and aft, before returning. He was aware only of movement, of freedom,
as he rushed ightly, alight. across the untenanted turf.

Clairey Baker lay awake in the double bed, her husband, sleeping restlessly, lay close by her. It was too close. She pushed him away and then sat up.
A slender bean of moonlight cut between the two willow curtains.
Holding the palms of her hand against her eyes, she reflected on how stupid she was, Her job down at the employment office reminded her every day that she did not talk properly and had a whining accent. She had once been proud of it. She spent her evenings with an ice cream from the fridge, watching silly TV shows.
And then – Lorry beside her. Gormless. She had once thought him a comedian because he laughed at everything.
She and Lorry – it was Laurence, she remembered – had got together over drinks at a friend’s one night. For Clairey it had been the height of romance, ‘Romance’ – how she had loved the word; so grown up! Now they still had a go, Saturday nights, but it was no fun any more. She did not like Saturday nights much.
Clairey climbed out of bed. Cautiously, quietly, she got dressed. Lorry slept on. She went down stairs. The third and fourth steps creaked loudly as usual.
She put on her shoes in the hall, unlocked the door, and went out into the fresh night air. She walked determinedly down the street towards the post-graduate school.

The River Deane ran smoothly between its banks. To one side was a small reedy pool, separated from the currents of the main stream. Here, water was calm. Here lived the tadpole. It was alone. One by one, its contemporaries had been swallowed up by a visiting perch.
The tadpole swam lazily among the reeds. It had suddenly realised there was a great future ahead of it – a transformation, and then an intense freedom of an entirely novel kind. She tried to visualise jumping…
These thoughts filled her with a kind of infant joy.
Suddenly the perch was back and the tadpole was gone. But there was always hope on such spring nights.

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