He dreamt that he had a fly’s eye view of a town set in a valley, flanked by low cypress-clad hills – an old town, half Middle Eastern, half European. Church towers shared the skyline with the dome and minarets of a mosque. In the crowded bazaar men in fezzes mingled with women veiled in black, while barefoot boys ran from stall to stall bearing tiny cups of mocca coffee. A river ran through the town, and the houses along the bank were decorated with flags and garlands of flowers. Along the pavements a crowd waited eagerly. Suddenly a cheer went up as two large, black, open motor vehicles approached. There were cries of “Long live the Archduke!” In the rear seat of the second vehicle sat a large, thickset man with a wide handlebar moustache, waving to the crowd. He wore a magnificent white military uniform and a helmet with a plume of green feathers. Beside him sat a woman, also in white, holding up a parasol against the fierce mid-morning sun.
The fly perched on the plume of the Archduke’s helmet as the vehicles turned into a side street and then stopped, the engines idling. The Archduke started to gesticulate and shout at his chauffeur, who looked around with a confused expression. Evidently the cars had taken a wrong turning. Just then a skinny young man with a pencil moustache, dressed in a rumpled black jacket, stepped forward from the crowd, a pistol in his raised right hand. As he took aim at the Archduke everything and everyone seemed to freeze. A woman standing beside the young man merely stared at him open-mouthed. Only the fly moved, impelled by the knowledge of what would happen if the would-be assassin succeeded. In its mind’s eye it saw a relentless war machine of hideous power, ploughing through Europe and crushing everything in its path. The fly was only a stone’s throw from the man with the gun, but something was slowing it down, as though the air had thickened to the consistency of treacle. The young man’s finger tightened on the trigger, but someone moved between him and the Archduke, and he had to wait until his line of fire was clear again. The fly, with all its remaining strength, flew the last few yards and landed on the young man’s nose just before he fired.
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