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The actor on stage fell silent. Maybe he had forgotten his lines in the excitement, or perhaps he was simply waiting for us to finish before returning to his monologue. He fell silent, yes, but he kept grinning, a wide floating smile in the dusk, and this was his fatal error. It seemed an admission of guilt. In our minds now, he was this farcical superhero, this implausible mutant, and for an unknown reason he was opposed to us, radiating harm from his hub of power. The pause was brief. Invisible and nonexistent arms snaked out from the stage and violated us.

But I am content. I work hard, eat a frugal tea of lettuce — there seems to be a great deal of wild lettuce in the vicinity of my house — and listen to the news on my portable radio. Sometimes a thought creeps into my head totally unlike any other that I have ever had. It whispers that my whole life has been founded on a mistake, a misunderstanding that occurred shortly after I returned from that fateful vacation. That first morning back — always a disorienting experience — I had somehow forgotten the way to the nearest bus stop.

The single ray that shot out pierced her directly in the forehead. She felt its dim warmth and an ironic smile altered her face. Then it died, for the lava had taken over. The caldera was exhausted. The molten rock cooled and hardened, and the walls of the structure, weakened by the pressure and heat, crumbled away. A replica of the apartment block was left in its place, slightly smaller but solid throughout, with all the furniture and fittings, the plumbing and its romantic possibilities, vaporised and trapped like love in gestures, embedded and mingled indistinguishably.

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