It was never really dark in my room at night. The curtains were off-white cotton and didn't meet in the middle, so there was always an orange glow from the streetlamps outside, and the occasional flash of headlamps would throw furniture-shaped shadows onto the walls, too brief for me to decide which bits of furniture they were shadows of, wardrobe, chair, dressing-table mirror. This only happened sporadically, as The Squirrels was down a sidestreet off the Shrovedean Road, but it was the unpredictability that made me lie in my vast bed, my head propped uncomfortably on one of the chilly, overstuffed pillows, for hours every night, waiting for it. A flash, a whoosh of engine, and then, I thought, I would be able to get to sleep before it happened again. But then I would find myself listening to the other sounds: the continuous commotion of traffic on the main road, the similar, though wetter, commotion of the sea in the other direction, the coming and going of footsteps and their attendant drunken talking, singing, shouting, scuffles. Most nights about 1.30 there was a roaring scrape just outside the window that sounded like someone sanding the inside of my skull with a Black and Decker, startling me into the awareness that I had been either asleep or something very close to it. By the time could prise myself out of the bedclothes and cross the freezing room in my pyjamas the noise had faded and there was nothing to be seen. After a couple of months of this, I took to putting on my dressing-gown over my dead uncle's sweater and sitting in wait at the window, drinking a mug of my DIY malted milk to make me feel less cold and foolish. It was not till the third night, as I was nursing the dark smear of undissolved malt extract at the bottom of the mug and thinking of going back to bed, that I finally saw her, a small, hunched female figure on a skateboard, dreadlocked hair streaming behind her as she rounded the corner of Shrovedean Road and screeched down the middle of the street towards the black blur of the sea. I saw her face quite clearly as she passed in front of the window: old, about thirty, with an aquiline nose and eyes screwed up in concentration. I suspected the dreadlocks were dyed, though it was impossible to be sure in the sodium light.
Now I found that even the moon could keep me awake. I had never given much thought to it before, but after Christmas its presence became intrusive. When it was within a few days of the full the glow in my room changed from orange to silver, reflecting icily off the mirrors (dressing-table and wardrobe) and counterpane, so that my bed became a sort of life-raft in an Arctic Ocean. Again, I took to getting up and putting myself through all the palaver of dressing-gown, uncle and slippers to see what was causing all the disturbance. The moon was a few feet, so it seemed, above the rooftops on the far side of the street; it was disappointingly small and a bright chemical white going fuzzy round the edges. It reminded me of a Disprin, though it was more likely to cause a headache than cure one. I had the same feeling about it that I had about the starlings. It was somehow personal, a moon that had it in for me. I could see now why some there were always more suicides on nights of the full moon. Not that I was sure whether it was full or not. There was perhaps a sliver missing on the left hand side?
Since Christmas everyone had been afraid.