• Vol. 05
  • Chapter 06


Today the sun was signalling its arrival by flooding the sky with graduated layers of orange as Martha rode the intercity to work. Dusky near the earth’s surface, getting lighter the higher her eye rose. She caught a glimpse of something startling. A figure, standing on top of the needle monument – a man, a silhouette, black against the glow, an outline like the skyscrapers behind him.

Evening. She’s alone in the apartment. She’s eaten her portion of the noodle salad she made with chillies, spring onion, and cashew nuts in front of the large-screen TV. She dozes before CNN.

The sound of the door wakes her. Dan walks in, shrugs off his shoulder bag, and opens the fridge.
‘There’s noodle salad,’ she says.
‘I ate at the bar.’
‘I’ve forgotten who you were meeting.’
‘I didn’t tell you. The Austrians. We did the deal this afternoon, all sealed.’
‘What time is it?’
He doesn’t answer, but walks towards the bathroom, carrying a beer.
She listens to him pissing, not washing his hands, coming back into the room.
‘Can I have a beer?’ she says.
They hold each other’s gaze.
‘This is the last one. You should’ve drunk it earlier.’
She continues to watch him. He continues to drink the beer.
‘I saw a strange thing this morning,’ she says. ‘There was a man on top of the needle monument. Just standing there… I wonder how he got there.’



‘It’s public art. It’s been all over Twitter today. Look up #Needleman. He’s doing it for twenty-four hours.’
Dan walks out the room again. She picks up her phone and opens Twitter, typing #Needleman.

#24hours on top of the #needle. I’ll be answering your questions. Send them through.

She scrolls down.

#Needleman do you need a pee yet?
#Needleman don’t sneeze
#Needleman any pins with your needle?
#Needleman how much to stand on one leg?

And his answers.

@JimBob Not yet. It’s only been 20 minutes.
@CheekyMonkey Bless you.
@KingArthur No danger of that. I’m not sitting down.
@ProgTheCat $200 would be fine.

Martha rests the phone on the arm of the sofa and looks up at images of bombed-out Syrian houses on the muted screen. Then she types.

#Needleman Can you fly?
And waits. For his answer.
@OnlyMartha Can you?