The Write Stuff: Lies of the Land by Chris Dolan

WELCOME to our regular feature showcasing the talents of the nation's best writers. This week, an extract from Chris Dolan's Lies of the Land

Chris Dolan

What happened seconds before the Big Bang? Everything shrank into a tiny, vast, space for an eternal nanosecond.

Is that what it’s like just before you die? If you know you’re about to die. You see it coming, your own personal Big Bang: your heart on the brink of bursting, the final second on the time bomb, the bullet leaving the gun, the nurse holding your hand.

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What do you think? You have a single instant, a lifetime, with only your thoughts. God? What was it all about? Who was I supposed to be? What was I expected to do? Maybe we still think we can get out of this, somehow. Is that how it’ll be, still desperately wrestling with the world, thrashing about inside, even though there’s no time left for your body to do so much as blink?

I wonder about these things. I have to.

That moment of infinite density, unbearable intensity.

They say there was no actual bang. The event – not the first, just first of lots of firsts – was silent. Like a hush in the middle of the endless night. The darkest hour.

Whatever the agent of Death is – the clogged artery, the terrorist’s backpack, the gun – it’s only the instrument. Death plays it. Nobody is truly at fault. Not the fanatic, not the cigarette, the assassin. Death existed before life, and every single thing since that ridiculous Bang is born of it. Everything that has ever happened has led to you lying there on the floor, in your bed, falling, falling. Death knows what to do: when the lever must be thrown, the curtain dropped. The trigger pulled. No point in blaming yourself, or the doctor, or the hand trembling before your eyes holding the gun.

You’re too late. The blaming’s already been done.

• Chris Dolan was shortlisted for the Saltire First Book Award in 1995 for Poor Angels and Other Stories, and his first novel, Ascension Day, won the McKitterick Prize in 1999. Lies of the Land, a Maddy Shannon mystery, is published by Vagabond Voices, £9.95