On Monday evening, my sister got decapitated by a tube on the Northern Line at King’s Cross. We’d heard a story about that happening to some poor unfortunate a few years ago; apparently, the head rolled around the tunnel, shot through the open window, and ended up on the driver’s lap. It was exactly the kind of flourish that appealed to Viola, but I think it might have been a bit of an urban legend. As far as I could tell, her head was more or less vaporised on impact.
Points for killing things are awarded on a sliding scale of time and effort, which currently goes from Easy (ants, spiders) to Moderate (elephants, faith in God, some particularly tenacious species of cacti) to Hard (Keith Richards, certain viruses, the Pope). Killing yourself doesn’t usually rate very high at all, but I had to give her extra for innovation; neither of us had ever died quite like that before. This is the trouble; there are always variations. It makes it hard to strategise.
I took to crossing the road without looking, since I’ve always wanted to get run over by a bus. There’s a sort of poetic amusement in it, especially if you say something like “I don’t see the point of worrying about cholesterol, you could get run over by a bus tomorrow” just beforehand. Instant irony bonus.
But the angels (or Viola, sneakily cheating? I wouldn’t put it past her) must have been looking after me, because all I got was a broken leg after a collision with a cyclist. Poor old cyclists, they do seem to get the worst of everything.
“I’ve broken it before, plenty of times,” I told him, trying to be reassuring. I started to show him my scars (I’m proud of this particular collection, it’s earned me a tidy number of points) but he fainted before we even got past the upper thigh. Some people have such delicate constitutions, bless them. I ended up calling an ambulance for him, and the little crowd that gathered around us applauded my bravery. A young girl wanted to video me for her You Tube channel, but I declined. By mutual agreement, Viola and I have always penalised vulgar self-aggrandisement. Pseudonyms used to do the trick (my best: Jane Austen. A goldmine, even after all these years), but we’ve had to adapt for the Google Age. Appearing on any kind of reality TV show, for example, instantly forfeits all points earned in the last five years. Which is kind of a shame, because the one with all the insects looks like fun, but there you go. There have to be rules, or the whole thing devolves into chaos.
The paramedics gave the cyclist oxygen. I gave him my phone number. I’m sure this counts as a meet cute, and there are points for making life imitate art. Or rom coms, at least. Not all genres are equal. (Top ranking: science fiction. The first of us to make contact with an alien will win that round on the spot).
I arranged a cremation for Viola, and scattered her ashes at fifteen different tube stations along the Northern Line. It felt like a fitting send off, and would hopefully buy me some time to catch up. Reassembling when you’ve been deconstructed to that level isn’t easy. But Viola’s always enjoyed a challenge (and a good jigsaw puzzle) so I didn’t think she’d mind.
The next week, I decided to change tack and aim for expiring of old age. If you can manage it, this comes with a large bonus for patience and tenacity. Although of course, it’s not officially called dying of old age anymore. Old age, natural causes, senility — that’s not enough, these days. You’ve got to have a specific pathology.
The one I really wanted was myocardial infarction, which is something you’ve got to say out loud to fully appreciate; it has wonderful mouthfeel. But, even though I’d set my heart on it (pun points!) I decided to play fair and let the cookie crumble (or the blood clot form, to be literal again) where it may.
I fantasised about the cyclist; imagined us sitting side by side in nursing home recliners, celebrating our fiftieth wedding anniversary. We would eat cake and smile beneficently at our hordes of adoring descendants, and at the end of the day he would peacefully pass over, and I would romantically follow five minutes later.
But he didn’t call me, which rather put a crimp in my scheme. I staked out the scene of our accident for two solid weeks but there was no sign of him, so on the third Monday I threw myself under a Tesco lorry (because there’s never a bus when you want one) in a fit of impetuous pique that I immediately, albeit belatedly, regretted. So much for that longevity bonus.
When we finally met up again, Viola and I decided it was time for a reckoning.
It took three years to calculate the totals, but when it was done there was no more doubt: Viola had one more point.
“Fine,” I said, grumpily. “You win.”
She grinned. “Best of three?”
“All right then,” I said. “You’re on.”