It was a quiet suburban street; a family neighbourhood, although you’d rarely see children out playing. Occasionally the leaves of the carefully positioned trees fluttered as a bomb dropped.
Today was a normal day. Clear sky, light breeze. People went about their business, doing whatever it is people do.
Two white-walled houses – Number Six and Number Seven – stood facing each other, as they’d always done.
“You know what I just thought?” said Number Six.
“No,” said Number Seven. “Tell me.”
“I was thinking they haven’t cut the grass for a while. Then I wondered what it would be like if they never cut the grass again. Or if they never trimmed the hedges or pruned the plants. Wouldn’t be long before I’d have green growing up my walls.”
“I prefer not to think about things like that,” said Number Seven. “I suppose it’ll happen to all of us one day.”
“It’s not necessarily a bad thing, you know,” said Number Six. “It’s natural. This is what happens when you leave nature to its own devices. Not always pretty, not always neat. A little untidiness is nothing to be afraid of.”
“I’m not afraid of untidiness,” said Number Seven. “I’m just afraid of being left…”
“To your own devices?”
“You’re not alone. You’ve got me.”
“You know what I mean,” said Number Seven. “Did you hear about that block of flats on Bridge Road? Flattened. The thing just came out of the sky. No warning. Ka-bam.”
“Doesn’t bear thinking about,” said Six.
“Makes you think too much,” said Seven. “Makes you think about your own … what’s the word?”
“Not just that. It reminds you that we’re all constructed. We’re all just bricks, mortar, wood, slate.”
“Oh, come on, Seven. Anyone will tell you we’re more than that.”
“I wonder sometimes.”
“Well, stop wondering. It doesn’t do you any good.”
“What? Stop thinking?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” said Six.
“Stop talking. That’s what you really mean, isn’t it?”
“I didn’t say that.”
The two white-walled houses stood facing each other in silence.
The silence lasted two weeks. Suns rose and set. Occasional spots of wind and rain interrupted the calm.
It was mid-afternoon. Overcast with a thin mist.
Number Seven said, “What the fuck are you looking at, anyway?”
Number Six said, “Who? Me?”
“Yes, you. Who else would I be talking to? You’re the only one standing there staring at me.”
“Where else am I going to look?”
“Oh, shut up, will you?”
“Paranoid? Is it any wonder I’m fucking paranoid with you stood there fucking staring at me all day and all night?”
“It’s just insecurity, really. I understand.”
“Don’t fucking patronise me.”
“I’m not patronising you.”
“Listen to yourself – “I’m not patronising you.” That’s the most patronising statement I’ve ever fucking h- …” Number Six’s voice broke off into a stony crackle.
“Did you hear that?” he whispered.
“Hear? … What?”
The houses stood in silence as the leaves on the carefully-positioned trees fluttered. They couldn’t tell what that sudden rushing noise was, nor the hollow whistle that accompanied it. All they knew was, it was getting louder