Playing the games that ghosts play
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where nobody dared to go...
the love that we came to know, they called it Xanadu.
Jeremy Fisher glides down the golden hallway of one of the upper floors of the Presario club, taking no heed to the lights above him going out. He doesn`t need them anyway. His feet splashing in an inch thick carpet of water that hadn`t been there a moment ago, he skips along, without a care in the world, until he comes to the large rectangular window at the end of the hallway. He looks left and he glances right and then he merely touches the lock of the window with his long green fingers. No sooner has Jeremy Fisher done this before he is pushing the twin panels open, revealing better the uncertain blue canyon of the city, his home. It`s depths are endlessly black tonight, and it`s unscalable peaks have only the cold flames of the Moon to map them out. How that illumination entangles itself, Jeremy thinks, not quite ready to understand the notion. It is a mad mans sun they say, and it is the only light addressing him as he pirouettes, once, twice and then thrice, before launching his slender body, and large head through the open window.
open your eyes and see...
what we have made is real...
we are in Xanaduuuhuuu.
The candlelit members of the Presario club take the power cut in their forceful stride, not allowing the inconvenience to prevent their enjoyment of the fine dinner, a fine and noble feast served by the faithful and silent waiters of the Presario foundations weekly get-together. The plump and grey haired masters of this society have assured themselves, and each other in the process, that the black out is nothing personal, but a city wide phenomena in which they have merely shared. A simple defect of an over loaded and archaic grid, long past its use. Who would pay for it? Who indeed, for more than one of the honourable members of the Presario club has stock in the production and distribution of power throughout the city. And the others? The others have an inherent and criminal benefit in seeing that stock plummet, to the dry and stony ground beneath. Ripe for quick pocket filler.
So minds are weaving, as the distinguished members try to pick cheese from chicken in the dim fluttering light. They are ticking as the candles drip and ooze, like the swift and automatic waiters in their black attire drip and ooze with the well paid desire to serve. The general perfume of the atmosphere is one of basic terror and paranoia as the city lies black and eyeless outside the many elliptical stained glass windows of the Harvey Glinters memorial dining room.
But this does not in any way, shape or form, prevent the stiff mustached, oily haired and hateful members of the Presario club from enjoying their late evening banquet.
Nothing, that is but the sound of someone singing.
"A million lights are dancing and there you are...a shooting star."
They don`t like it. Who is that wasting their breathe?
"An ever-last-ing world and your here with me...eternally."
They didn`t care for it at all, or the feel of water seeping through their soft leather shoes.
The stained glass windows vanished, taken out by a single piercing note from the hidden singer. The shards raining down on those nearest, ruining their well stocked platters.
The rest of the dismantled glass had its destiny below, way below at the base of Presario Foundations edifice; where stumbling men and women wait for the sanctity of light again.
"Now we are here in XANADU-HUOO."
And Jeremy Fisher was in the room, splashing his merry way to the largest and most central table at the shadowy feast. With a bare flick of his taut legs he is sharing valued space with all manner of tasty treats, managing somehow to spin his way through them without marring them in any way.
"Xanadu, your neon lights will shine..."
He takes something metallic from the pocket of his woodland green tailcoat pocket and holds it out...as he begins to pirouette once more.
"For yooou Xanaduu-uhoo."
And the room fills with more light than the members of the Presario club have seen since they first laid eyes on life.
Screams announce the aim of this oddly attired fellow at last, and screams are what he came for. That and the blindness now creeping into the aching eyes of the dining members. What a task well done indeed, Mr Jeremy Fisher. But the game is yet to be played upon. These clambering socialites will not stay blind for long, take heed dear Mr Fisher. Be about it.
Jeremy Fisher picks up a simple steak knife from the table, turning it so that his large black eyes vanish the blade, for a moment. Then with a flourish of his tail coats he leaps down, amongst the scrabbling wealthy, and the moaning servants of the wealthy.
the echoes of long ago...
you needed the world to know...they are in Xanadu."
Fishers blade is reaching out, a silent scream.
that came through a million years...
that lived on through all the tears...it came to Xanadu..."
The night is a long one for Jeremy Fisher, but the nights are never long enough.
By the time phone calls are made and the duties of the city police registered, Jeremy Fisher is already in sight of Mrs McClavertys Lighthouse.
What a fine example of human technology he admits, passing his time watching the wandering cyclopian eye. It seems to have a purpose, although of course its reason is clear; but it cries out for another recognition. A further means to an end as of yet enumerated. But to what unheeded action can this black tower be invested in, that no man other than he could find word for?
But this is silly, this is the domicile of Mrs McClaverty and has no unseen agenda, apart from that of ship and shore.
He attempted to take in the scent of the fog as he sauntered merrily through the black, ripping tangle of Mrs Mc Clavertys garden. All he could take in however was the insistent clamour of the ocean spray, hanging like a phantom laurel about the neck of the Lighthouse.
And of course her lights are working, being privy to Jeremy Fishers talents with the ebb and flow of the electronic world.
He knocks, the secret knock, upon the sturdy planks of oak with a handle screwed into it. Such a turgid thing Oak is, slow to build and quick to burn. She should profit from his helpful hands; make use if him and his many gifts. But no, she is as turgid and as steadfast as...
"Hello Jeremy. Mister Jeremy Fisher come in and dry your flippers. Come, come."
Her head is but a frilly shadow as she utters her welcome, a doily with substance in command of a voice, and a roaring fire beyond. He can smell it crackling, hear it smoke. Such is the mind of a man like Jeremy Fisher.
"Hello Misses Mc Claverty. Might I trouble you for a glass of milk and a biscuit or two..."
Her plump hand shot out from the creaking, glowing gap of the door and was upon his shoulder, dragging, tugging.
"Yes, yes, yes Mister Fisher. don`t worry I am alone."
And with a skip and a jump and a clang of oak against iron...he was inside, already feeling the log fires benefiting aura against his green skin.
"Lovely, lovely, lovely. What a fine flame you have leaping Mrs Mc Claverty." He remarked, glancing at the regular and unchanging framed photographs of sundry dead people, hung to the white curved wall. His eye was as usual drawn to the well ordered book case to the left of the fireplace. It was here, many years ago that he learned his true name.
"How have you been then Misses Mc Claverty? Have the Mermen and the Hydras been a-knocking this last autumn week?"
"Oh, yes, from time to time I allow them entrance, for a chat about the Sargasso beasts and the churning depths of Atlantis, but it has been rather quiet lately.” She chuckled.
"Ah, I`m glad to say, that for myself, life as been somewhat of the opposite in that regard, just recently."
"Oh, I know full well about you Fisher, I do switch on my wireless, on occasion when I fear for black weather. My Mermen like a calm, homeward bound sea you know."
He took a seat, without any suggestion from Mrs Mc Claverty, in one of the huge tartan armchairs in the middle of the circular room. This was his chair, the chair he always sat in, mostly from default as Mrs McClaverty usually took her seating from the only other armchair. This was part of the fun, part of the ritual of one of his many visits to the Lighthouse. All manner of proclivities adhered themselves to his visits here, including the usual and expected cup of tea.
"Oh, I forgot the tea."
Mrs McClaverty crept around behind Jeremys chair and rattled some china cups for a few minutes. Jeremy wondered what they would get up to after the tea. A bit of the wireless maybe? a game of Chess? A read of the newspaper? He hoped it would be the newspaper.
"I thought we might have a read from one of my books today Jeremy. Something nice."
"Lovely, shall I get one now?"
She appeared again, shaking a tray of white and blue china. A gift from a drunken sailor.
"A got this set from a drunken sailor Jeremy, forty nine years ago, still as fresh looking as the day he gave it to me."
She set it down on a tiny table that looked like it was made from varnished driftwood, and probably was. She set about pouring them both out a cup, muttering under her breath. She wasn`t long for this world, not unless he...
"The book is under the newspaper, if you`ll fetch it. You can read this time, i`ve lost my glasses again. I think it was Sally the Mermaid, playing silly, naughty tricks. I expect they`ll wash up on the beach tomorrow, clean as a whistle."
The newspaper bore a one word headline.
He slipped the book out from beneath and marvelled at the lime green backing. It was the first lime green book he had ever seen in the Lighthouse.
"New is it?"
"Oh? The book? Sally found it on the beach. She finds allsorts of things; hats, masks, shoes. All kinds of rubbish. She pulled in a big pile of seaweed once and told me it was a Mermaids wedding dress. Imagine that."
"What page are you on?"
"Page nine, start of the second chapter. Something about a Bumble Wasp I think."
She handed him his saucer and cup and then a tiny plate of light brown biscuits. He found a niche for them on either arm of his chair and flipped through the book. He expected to find reference at least to a Wasp or a Bee, but not some hybrid...unless...
"I can`t see anything about a Bumble Wasp Mrs McClaverty, but I`ll read anyway. Right..."
He bought a newspaper of his own once he reached his part of the city, and changed into his normal clothes. He took it to the small park by the Library, and as ducks wobbled on the silvery pond, he absorbed the information. It was a late edition so there was plenty about the Presario club meeting. Forty nine dead? Seemed like less. But of course, he had forgotten the bodyguards. He had despatched them as they came running, guns blazing and spitting. How could that slip his mind?
This was going to take some balancing out. He would have to go out again, tonight. Shame, he had planned to work tonight. The batch were ready for the Phlogiston, and then release. Five weeks of nurturing come to an end. Would they cope with the cold weather?
A group of men wandered by, slitting their eyes at him. They had all the hallmarks of drug abuse about them. Not that they needed to stand out so obviously; Jeremy Fisher could spot them a mile underground. Still they adopted the grizzled demeanour afforded them.
He looked further into his paper. Page two, page three, page four, five, six. Ah. Here you are.
Six Prostitutes in one month, dumped into rubbish bins with similar wounds. No description of assailant. Terrible that they should end up on page six. Have to do something about that, keep an eye out tonight. Corruption leaks from all levels of society, polluting the people. That`s what he always said. He would deal with it all, in time.
It would be his pleasure.
He peered through the skeletal trees at the edge of the park to find the librarys verdigis covered clock face. Time to head back home again and eat, check on the batch.
And get changed for the night ahead.
Alice woke from a dream, but the dream, refused to wake also. It refused to stop playing, albeit in a dimmer format, as she raced her eyes around the room. She was alone again, with her TV covered in dirty hand prints, and her chipboard drawers with the pile of newspapers on top, waiting to be tossed in the fire. The fire had chosen not to last the few hours she spent asleep. No matter, the bed was cosy. She drew up the duvet, groaning, and smelled the booze, and the fags, and the dream.
She had never ran so fast in all her life, except to maybe get out of the way of a car in the dark. That`s what the dream was remembering for her; the blackout, and the guy with the bottle of booze, his face a shock once he was by the fire.
She felt sick. She had to pee, but not just yet. She wanted to find the guy who got her drunk and cut his balls off. Well, at least bruise them a bit.
Which reminded her.
Yep, he went and did me. Bastard better not come back, not unless he`s carrying two bottles next time.
Sleep gradually took her over, making her vanish from herself. Until the dream swept her off her feet again.
How awful to be so high up, floating away, all the city a dirty chessboard of roof tops. How deep the chasms looked, streaming with cars. How odd she felt being so light, free to be carried along by the next polluted zephyr. Could she see her old school building? The houses she once lived in? She would have to travel far, out of the city, beyond its presence to the mountains. Beyond the mountains, where the even the tallest tower could not see her, was her home. She couldn`t say its name. Why couldn`t she say its name?
She wasn`t beyond the safety of the mountains, not really, she could feel her cold feet where the duvet had fallen short of covering her. No she wasn`t beyond the mountains at all; strange machines didn`t fly above the mountains. And anyway, she had never even seen a real mountain. Just the hill at Glastonbury maybe. Yeah, Glastonbury. Everyone naked and sun tanned, shaking their hands and rattling their bangles. Hair so long you could shove the ends in the pockets of your jeans. Or even wipe yourself clean once the men had done with you?
No, she had never done that. Who would do such a thing?
She remembered Glastonbury. She saw the bands strutting, the tents sagging in the heat like the naked breasts. She had smoked the pipes and dropped the tabs, seeing the colours begin to swirl and come alive.Yeah she had done it all, she had taken every ride. She had even climbed the steps of the strange machine. The machine like a missile, with its three legs. Legs like a metal insect and its body an old style rocket? Nah, she had never seen that. But there it was. Shining with the Glastonbury sunlight, all the hippies bowing before it and screaming. Even the bands were screaming now, letting their guitars wail along.
What had it been? What?
But she wasn`t at Glastonbury. She wasn`t anywhere but in her bed. She could feel the bed spring digging in her again, pinching her belly. She would have to wake now and roll over. But how could she if the dream hadn`t finished with her? It still wanted her to see the machines smooth shape as it began to hum like a washing machine. It was in her Mothers back garden now, and her Dad was attacking it with a spade. He was young again, alive again as he struck that things legs. Struck them and struck them as he screamed. He was so angry, just as Alice was angry with the spring in her belly. Why was Daddy angry? Why Mummy? And she knew why. Somehow her Mothers green eyes just told her with a simple lowering of the lids.
The machine was telling Daddy about her dirty little life. Every last monstrous detail.
No, don`t listen Daddy. It`s lying to you, it`s lying. But she couldn`t stop him listening, and couldn`t stop the machine from telling all.
She had to wake up now and pull the spring from her belly, her bleeding, aching belly.
And at last she was back in her room, crying as she grabbed the wet blade; noticing, as she tried in vain to stop it sinking any further, that the strange machine was at the end of the bed. And its door was opening.
Julian could hear his parents laughing downstairs. They were probably serving drinks to their guests now; to Misses Marsh, and Dr Fittters.
They would have finished their main course and would be 'adjourning to the billiard room' for yet more drinks and more thick cigars that would make the baize smell of adults for days to come. Father would be leaning on the gold streaked marble mantelpiece, telling another story, his mouth distorted around his clenched cigar. Mother would join him, after making a bad shot at the nine ball, and stroke the back of Fathers hand.
Dr Fitters would show Misses Marsh his silver lighter, as he put its sudden flame to her cigarette. She would thank him and he would shrug it off as he slipped the hot lighter back into his breast pocket.
Then they would laugh as they were all laughing now, as he sat in the dark, waiting for Jeremy Fisher.
Hurry, Jeremy, hurry.
He made sure his bedroom window was wide open, for the seventh time in five minutes, and crossed the wide expanse of the room to his fish tank. It had a small light so you could watch the fish slowly fall through the water, even when it was night. It was a sign to Jeremy that he was alone, and would be alone for sometime,until his parents came up to wish him goodnight. Jeremy only visited once a week, usually on a Wednesday night when his parents entertained guests; but he often switched it on, just in case Jeremy needed him.
He knew he would come in useful someday. He had been promised that. And men like Jeremy Fisher never lied.
"Indeed I don`t partner."
His voice was like no other, a song in every sentence.
He was a spinning shadow by the floating veil of the drapes, then he was an arabesque silhouette blocking the glow from the fish tank. With just a hint of effort he was leaping through the black air, and landing by Julians feet without even a creaking of floorboards. Then he was off again, filling the space of the room with swift glimpses, that shot away without mercy.
"Your making me dizzy Jeremy. Stop it, please."
"So sorry partner, just happy to see you, happy, happy, happy to see you."
And then he was sat in the old armchair in the corner, switching the lamp on.
"Are your Pater and Mater having their fun again? Dear dear. Those Wednesday nights will be the death of them, and half their circle of compatriots.
"What`s a compatriot?"
Jeremy held his big green head in one of his long green hands and thought for a second.
"I don`t know; I think I just made it up. Never mind eh?"
Julian sat on the edge of his bed, hearing the clack of billiard balls below. Father would be just warming up for his latest story from the bank. Mother would be pouring absinthe into crystal glasses.
"I heared about the Presario job Jeremy, that was you wasn`t it. I can tell."
Jeremy crossed his long slender legs at the ankles and crisscrossed his fingers over his chest.
"It was you,so was the blackout; you can`t trick me, I`m like you now. I`m different."
Jeremy covered his wide smiling slit of a mouth and laughed through his fingers, his great smooth head bobbing with mirth.
"Indeed it was me partner, don`t tell the cops on me will you? I was only having my fun with some bad guys."
They both laughed.
"I am like you now aren`t I? You said I would be. Things have started to happen."
"Oh yes? Tell me tell me tell me, quick quick quick."
"I could do my maths assignment quicker than ever for a start. And I scored a goal yesterday, after fighting through all the defenders AND Dave Parish."
Jeremy clapped his hands silently, kicking his legs about with such speed that the armchair began to roam across the floor.
"What else have you done that`s special?"
"I joined the violin class. You miss dinner time break but it`s only once a week. Anyway I played a song without even reading the notes."
"Wowwie! I HAVE made some improvements, haven`t I. You`ll soon be ready to stalk the night with me, administering justice to the corrupt and the evil."
Julian had been promised this before. He knew he was too young for going up against gangsters and murderers just yet, but Jeremy said 'once you were sixteen years old, you were an adult, and fully capable of taking responsibility into your own hands.' He had been thinking about it for two and a half years, ever since he caught Jeremy in Fathers den, looking for evidence in his desk.
"I`m sixteen next month Jeremy, I`ll be able to come with you, fighting evil on the rooftops, destroying corruption in the streets. You said I could once I was an adult."
Jeremy shot up into a flying leap, back towards the pool of moonlight issuing through the open window. Julian was afraid he was going to leave, without giving him an answer. Never to come back for him. He didn`t like that feeling; he felt like that all the time Jeremy was away. That`s why he liked to listen out for his antics on the TV. To prove to himself that he was still out there, doing what he had to.
"Where are you going Jeremy? Don`t go yet. You said I could go with you, fighting crime."
"I thought I heard a scream Julian, no fear, it will wait. First we must make sure that once your sixteenth birthday comes around, that you are fit to join me in my endless fight for justice and purity."
Jeremy approached Julian on the bed, his hand slipping something shiny from his waistcoat pocket. It made Julian afraid, as it always made him afraid. But he calmed himself with the promise that in thirty more days he would be swooping down on corrupt business men and filthy drug peddlers, with Jeremy by his side, forever.
"Roll up your sleeve partner."
Julian did as he was instructed, rolling his shirt sleeve up to his bicep, where the needle would be inserted, as it always was.
"Just a few more of these and you`ll be just like me Julian. Just like me."
And Jeremy Fisher thrust the slender needle into the back of his own hand, and began to fill the syringe.
The woman was still screaming when Jeremy Fisher danced into view. She saw him with her murky eyes and waved the knife around for him to acknowledge. Behind her lay a writhing form, squirming against the corner of a house.
The woman, dressed in tight jeans and a mans shirt took a step towards Jeremy.
"You leave my husband alone frog man, or i`ll cut you like I cut your mates."
Somewhere in the dark he heard the threat of running feet. Not receding, but arriving. The police? Unlikely. Good Samaritans? He laughed.
"How many of them are there fine lady? Are they armed?"
She was not prepared to furnish him with details. He would have to wait and see. But not for long; vengeance came swift on these dark streets.
Already it was racing into view, swinging chains and a cricket bat.
They were young, thin and hungry. But a three course meal wouldn`t satisfy their appetites. Only whatever drug their wasted bodies and minds were in awe of. Sad to see a man brought down by desire for joy. Still...he had to live by his own convictions.
"Can I help you three gentlemen at all? Maybe I could show you the quickest route to a cricket pitch?"
They stopped in their tracks, thirty feet away from the protective wife and her groaning, supine spouse. The one with the cricket bat began to laugh.
"It`s only a fuckin` frog innit. Oi! Froggy, fuck off back to your pond!"
"Mmm, in that case maybe I could guide you to the nearest headache? Agonised scream? Crippling blow to the spine rendering you a potato forever and ever?"
The three men ran at him then, chains swinging like the blades of a helicopter, cricket bat held up to send Jeremys head out of the reach of even the most pessimistic fielder. They struck together, three on one, screaming their hatred away. Jeremy chuckled and span out of their reach, somehow ending up behind them, aiming a kick in the bum of all three before they had rearranged themselves.
"FUCKING KILL HIM!"
"I was only trying to help."
A chain rattled towards him, just a sound in the air. Jeremy bobbed its swing and leapt up,up, onto the mans left shoulder. In a second he was coming down again onto the thug with the bat, at the same time giving his mate a back hander that broke his nose.
"Maybe I could draw you a map to the nearest hospital my friend?"
Chain swinging at him again, missing and wrapping noisily around his fellow junky.
"You should have more respect for your chums. They`re your only route to self-awareness."
Jeremy punched the swinger in the throat and leapt away, hearing the bat collide hollowly with the ground.
The man in bat came at Jeremy again, his chums on their knees.
"I`m gonna` FUCKING KNOCK YOUR BIG HEAD OFF FROGGY!"
Jeremy had never seen an uglier face. Anything he did to it could only be an improvement. So he swept the mans feet from under him with a single low blow with his green foot, and wrenched the bat from his hands. The man went down, crying out, more in rage than pain. Although Jeremy Fisher guessed that pain had something to do with it.
"You have blood on your Willow sir. You know that will never come out in the wash. I suggest you use a fine grained sandpaper.."
The man grabbed Jeremys ankle, sinking his uncut nails into the fabric of his leotard.
"You just won`t listen to advice will you."
The bat slammed hard into the mans wrist, producing a snap and a sickening cry. The second blow was further up the arm, near the elbow, making the man cry even louder this time. He at least had the good sense to draw his shattered arm back under him, out of harms way.
"Please? Please what? Show you to the nearest police station so you can spend a few months in hospital, high on prescribed Morphine? Please release me, won`t you let me go?"
"I want to sing now, dear junky boy. I`m going to sing for you and your sleepy chums. But what? What fine opus will send you off to the land of Nod? Did you know that the land of Nod is where Cain went after he killed his brother? Did you know that? At all? No? Oh well...Friday night and the lights are loooooooww, looking out for the place to goooooo, where they play the right music, getting in the swing...you come in to look for a king, anbody could be that guuuuyy."
Jeremy slammed the bat down on the mans skull.
"Night is young and the musics hiiiigh...with a bit of rock music, everything is fine, you`re in the mood for a dance....and when you get the chaaaance..."
Another smash of the bat, and he dances over to the other two, still trying to get to their feet.
"YOU ARE THE DANCING QUEEN, YOUNG AND SWEET ONLY SEVENTEEN."
Smash with the bat.
"FEEL THE BEAT..."
"FROM THE TAMBOURINE. OOOHH YEA-AH-AH."
"YOU CAN DANCE, YOU CAN JIVE, HAVING THE TIME OF YOUR LIFE. OOOOOH-UH."
Slam, slam, slam.
"See that girl, watch that scene, digging the dancing queen."
He tossed the bat away, and took a bow.
"Good night folks, god bless."
The sickness couldn`t stop Julian going to school, he wouldn`t allow it to. It was all part of Jeremys improvements and he had to take the bad with the good if he was to reach anywhere. It would pass anyway, like before; It always did. And it never really made school work difficult, on the contrary, it made it easier. But he did feel bad, a little dizzy maybe whenever he turned his head too quickly, or stared off in to the distant tree lined edge of the playing field. It would wear off by home time, and by tomorrow morning he would be running to school, with the songs running through his head.
"What are you doing Cressy? You look like your talking to yourself."
Julian looked at Stepney, his best friend, and made a face.
"I`m going mad, Stepney, I`m a lunatic with a blood thirst."
That got Stepney laughing. Not that it was a task to get Stepney laughing; he would laugh at a funny shaped vegetable if he saw one.
Julian saw the slender frame of Catherine Jones strolling to the school gates. He could just see the names painted on her small rucksack.
But trying to read them made his head spin. He figured she must be off to the shop.
"Lets go and buy some cola, Steppy."
"Oh yeah, still feeling bloodthirsty are you Cresswell? You dirty fiend."
"I just want to see what she`s buying. I bet she`s buying fags."
"Yeah we could black mail her for a threesome, good idea."
They set off across the wet expanse of grass, swinging their bags over their shoulders. Julian watched Catherines blonde hair swishing with each step she took as Stepney tried to interest him in the film he watched last night.
"...and these three guys right, they had her over a table..."
All Julian could see was Catherine Jones.
"...whipping her with canes..."
"...and she was crying for it harder, HARDER, HARDER!"
"...four more women in suspenders right..."
"Let`s get on the path, my trainers are leaking."
"...this dirty great big Alsatian..."
Catherine Jones vanished as she turned left at the gates, the ivy veined wall hiding her from view. The open gates sucked Julians vision down the long avenue to the park, taking with it his balance. He grabbed onto his friends arm.
"Gerroff pufterboy, what`s up? Has she drained all the blood from your head eh? get it?"
"The old ones are the best. I`m ok now, just felt a bit weird."
"Queer more like. Come on she`ll get away. I`m dying for that drink now."
Stepney made slurping noises until they were passing through the gates. Then he gasped.
"She`s gone. Have you scared her off Watercress sandwich? She could probably smell you coming."
Stepney awarded himself a painful burst of laughter for his jokes and rattled the change in his pockets. Julian had more to think about, he could still just see Catherines pale hair flashing between two large parked vans across the road.
"Did you watch Nighthouse, Watercress? It was the last one. Jasper turned the house into a dolls house and just let it float down this river."
"And all his family were just like these dolls trying to move, screaming. It was a right laugh."
"Did you? Well? No you were probably wanking off over Catherine Jones."
"I had to stay in my room. Bloody Dr Fitters came over again."
They crossed the road and the newsagents came into view, a tiny fleck of yellow and red. Catherine was nowhere to be seen. Maybe she had gone left on to Holstern road. Didn`t she live at the end of Holstern road? He had never seen her get on or off a bus outside the school. But his bus took him down Holstern road and he had seen her there, quite a few times. She lived close to Holstern road anyway.
"How come you don`t have a TV in your room, with rich parents like yours?"
They like to make sure I`m not watching anything dirty.
"I did have a TV but I threw it out the window `cos I was angry."
"You got angry and chucked it out the window? What did they do to you?"
"They said I would have to buy a new one, or I`d never get a TV in my room again."
"Fuckin` `ell, give `em a slap, tell `em to fuck off."
I`ll be getting one for my sixteenth birthday.
"I`ve saved up enough to buy one anyway, been saving my dinner money. I should get one in a few weeks."
Stepney swung his bag off his shoulder and slung it onto his other one. Then he rattled his pockets again, as if he was playing an instrument.
"What did you get angry for in the first place?"
"There was nothing worth watching on, so I slung it."
When they reached the top of Holstern road, Julian risked looking down its endless length for Catherine. There was no one in sight, other than a bloke jogging towards them. Maybe she lives in one of these houses, nearer the school? He thought. Maybe that blue one with the big garden.
"I need a bloody piss now. I won`t be long."
Stepney trotted across the road to an alley behind the derelict shop on the corner, a few houses down from the newsagents where Catherine may well be being chatted up by the kid who worked there.The derelict shop was an eyesore of a building, painted black for some reason, it`s windows boarded up. He had seen it a billion times in the last three years.
You dirty bugger Steppy.
He checked his digital watch. They had a good half hour to go yet, before assembly and double RE. Bloody RE? He had never stepped into a church in ten years and his parents didn`t try to make him. Not that they forced themselves too hard either, although they were good friends with Father Hasterson. Father Hasterton with his fat red hands that looked like balloons when he was praying.
Stepney appeared from the alley, looking at the side of his bag.
"I bloody pissed on it didn`t I."
"Hey Catherine Jones is down that alley, Cresswell. She just sucked me off for ten pence, says she`ll do you for a fiver...no, a tenner."
Well there`s more of me to work on isn`t there.
"Scum bag, get a move on, we`ve only got half an hour you know."
"No honestly, she`s starkers...with an Alsatian on top of her."
"You make me sick you dirty...man."
You dirty bastard whore.
The rest of the day swept past as if unable to keep up with him. Mrs Tattingley was impressed by his understanding of the extreme unction and let him go to the toilet when he felt sick. He didn`t tell her that he just wanted to get away from her low cut blouse, and her big earrings. Something about them and the crease of her cleavage made him dizzy again. He was sure he was about to vomit.
I should have puked on her tits, covered them up, for once.
The stark blankness of the toilets calmed him down, emptied his mind. He had the place to himself, so he dared to look in the long clean mirror over the row of tiny sinks. His light brown hair was a mess, and his large blue eyes seemed to be trying to tell him something. Like what? He checked his shoulders, looking for signs of strength. Nothing more than usual. He held his arms out like he was lifting a massive bar bell, and tensed his muscles.
Wimp man to the rescue.
He wondered if he dare take his shirt off, and found himself doing it, concocting an excuse as he undid the buttons. Once it was off he scrumpled it up in one hand and flexed his arms. He was as thin as a corpse. His ribs were curved shadows under his armpits and nipples. He knew he was no beefcake, but surely just yesterday Steppy had called him Chubby Checker and the fat boys while they were in the shower after games. Mind you, Steppy had a go at anyone if they didn`t look anorexic, or English. Or male.
As he moved his arms about he thought of sticks, pale twigs with hands. Maybe it was the mirror, like in a fun house. Maybe it was just the light. Oh well, Better to be skinny than to be fat. Better to be called Skeletor than...fat bastard. He tensed some more, noticing the veins in his forearms. Never had veins before. Look like thin snakes stuck under wax, or rubber.
I bet I could smash my fist through that mirror, like in some cheesy horror film. I bet my blood will be green too. Maybe not though eh.
He wondered if he could leap up onto one of the sinks, it was only a few feet. I should try it, he urged himself, and then he was. He was bobbing down, bending his knees. What had Jeremy called it? Fondu? Wasn`t that a kind of sofa? Whatever it was, it was giving him the feeling of strength, the ability to leap up onto the slippery looking bowl of the sink. He could do it, he could. He just knew it like he knew he could take a breath. So he tried.
I must weigh next to nothing, he decided, as he shot up and planted both his feet on the thin edge of the sink, which proved to be as slippery as soap. Terror had him reaching for something to grasp onto, but his hands found nothing but the slightly yellow wall and the top of the mirror. It felt sharp, he thought.
His head exploded into dizziness then, and before he could cry out with joy he was slipping down the front of the sink, banging his gut.
"Aw, you fuckin` cunting, knob head sink!"
He could have done with that extra roll of fat now. Still, he had done it. He`d bloody done it. Only a trained gymnast could do a thing like that, surely. He wanted to repeat the jump, better it.
Footsteps in the corridor. womans high heels. Mrs Tattingley on the look out for someone to show her tits to? He unfurled his shirt and struggled it on; it looked a mess. He started to do up the buttons, quicker than he thought he could. Still panicking.
"Julian Cresswell? Do you need the nurse?"
What, to put a bandage on your shiny tits?
"I`m ok Miss, just been a bit sick. I`m feeling better now."
"Hurry along then, you can`t miss out on your education because you fill your belly with junk food, can you."
And her high heels tottered away, towards the stairs, and then eventually vanished.
Julian followed on soon after, feeling like he had never felt before. He was actually happy to see the school corridors, the tall Rubber plants at the foot of the shiny granite staircase. The sun shone through the wide windows as he climbed, and he dared to outmatch its stare. He failed, but only for now.
A month to go before I`m truly responsible for my actions.
The bell rang through the corridors, and bounced up the stairwell. It was time for another session of RE.
A whole month of waiting, and preparations. And fun. Harmless fun.
Jeremy bought a cheese sandwich and took it to the park. The leaves looked like tiny models of the trees, complete with slender, tapering trunks. If he stared hard enough he could imagine them as such, and truly believe it to be so. He could breakdown the world into its component parts and have them floating around before his eyes, reacting and dissolving and bonding again. He could see the sky as an atmospheric falsity for poets to lie about and he could ask the sun to stop spinning.
No, he couldn`t do that, but he could free a world from its dehumanising slumber. If he so chose. He could also crush it like a spider; a spider that had strayed onto the pink wall of his boudoir of peace. His head was spilling over with plans.
He had plans that made even HIS heart thump faster.
But right now, he had to feed the ducks. He pulled a scrap of bread from his sandwich and carefully pressed it into a ball around a small black seed. The seed is one of many. It`s brothers and sisters sat warm and snug in a plastic container, safely stored in his coat pocket.
"Here you go little Jemmima, food for thought."
And he tossed the ball of bread on the ground, by a duck with its beak tucked in its wing. The duck had been aware of Jeremy since he sat down close by, and avidly pecked the white morsel from the grass.
You don`t think I`m being generous feeding you, do you Jemmima? You just think I`m another messy eater, like yourself.
Jeremy put the rest of the sandwich in his pocket, and looked around the park and the shiny surface of the pond for another duck.
He found Mrs Mc Claverty on the beach. She was swathed in a red blanket, playing tug of war with something in the rock pool. As he raced to help her fish it out, he wondered if he should; it looked like a foul stretch of seaweed, and old fishing nets. She was talking to herself again, and swearing.
He called her name, and it was drowned out by the charge of the sea against the pebbly shore, and the outcrop of dark stone. He nimbly leapt up onto the smooth grey plateau of the old rocks and sidestepped some of the smaller pools, seeing his reflection, or was it a shadow, played out on the rough bowls of sea water. Mrs McClaverty had lost her struggle with the new treasure by now, and was wiping her white hands on the tails of the blanket, audibly annoyed with herself. He had never heard such words from her lips before. Not even when the council had deemed her too old to work the lighthouse anymore. Strange that some mysterious benefactor should come up with an automated sytem before she could be evicted to some old folks home. Jeremy wasn`t too concerned that his name wasn`t on the patent. Anything to help Mrs Mc Claverty.
Jeremy crept up behind her, seeing the ragged length of seaweed still sliding back into its watery home.
"What have you found today Mrs McClaverty? Another gift from Sally?"
"Oh! You silly boy," She grabbed him by the arm, which he used to guide her towards him."You gave a me fright. I thought I saw my glasses, but it was just an old bottle."
"Shall I get it for you? It may have a message from Atlantis. Or even a ship inside it."
"Don`t be silly Jeremy, If the Atlantians wanted to contact me they could find a much easier and safer way...but get it for me anyway; you could be right about the ship. Old Mr McClaverty used to make them himself before he lost his sight, and passed over."
Jeremy let her hand slip off his cuff and he looked for the bottle in the rock pool. The vine of seaweed had murkied the water with some kind of oily mud, spreading fractured rainbows on the surface. He could still see the humps of the seaweed poking through like a knobbly serpent, but he could see no glint of glass. He would have to shove his hand in.
"This is where I found you Jeremy, in your boat. Do you remember?"
It was cold, and gritty. The vine getting in his way.
"You were washed ashore and I dragged you out of your broken boat and got Mr McClaverty to put some air in your lungs; he knew how to do it."
It wasn`t a boat, it was a ship.
"I remember. Where abouts was this bottle?"
"Mr McClaverty did well for a blind man, and at his age. Mind you he never got to know you as I have."
She patted him on the shoulder and then ruffled his hair.
His hand grabbed the slimy vine again and he ripped it out of the pool, tearing it`s roots, and tossing it out to sea.
"My, you are strong Jeremy. Comes from all that...exercise you get at nights. Have you found that bottle yet. It was further out."
The pool was a good seven feet wide and Jeremy had to roll up his sleeves to eventually find the new treasure. It was a green bottle, just starting to lose its transparency to the seas constant wash. He recognised it as one of the old ones with the squarish shoulders and long slender neck. He poured the brown water out of it, shaking it free of the last droplets, and handed it to Mrs McClaverty.
"Oh, no ship and no message, Jeremy. Still, it will make a fine flowerpot for my kitchen window."
She looked out to the grey horizon, just a shade lighter than the haze of the sea beneath and started to pick her way across the rocks.
"Come inside and I`ll make you some nice Shepherds pie."
Jeremy sipped hot tea as the daily play came to a crescendo on the wireless. Daisy Lee was having her weekly sessions with Dr Randolph Hurst spoiled by her blackmailing younger brother, Dave. Who also had his fingers stuck in other minor criminal pies. It was at least something to occupy his ears as he thought about his role in the cities release from crime and impurity, and while he waited for his Sheppards pie to cook.
She does make a good Sheppards pie.
He could hear her moving about upstairs in the kitchen, rattling pots and pans and occasionally giggling. Maybe she had the play on up there too. It was a silly play, full of people who just wouldn`t exist in real life. Although he knew full well that adultery was prevalent.
He sipped his tea and listened as Dave described the photos he had of his older sister and Dr Hurst, and what he would do with them if he wasn`t allowed to live at the family mansion she had inherited from their good old Uncle Jerry, who had been crushed to death in a lift accident.
A likely story. He was obviously bumped off by nephew Dave, or his sister.
"Don`t you dare fax those pictures to my husband, Dave. How could you be so spiteful after I gave you half of Uncle Jerrys investments?"
"Yeah, fat lot of good they did me; who wants shares in nuclear power?"
"It`s an up and coming business Davey, you could make millions if you just waited a few years. But no, you have to go and sell them for a pittance..."
Pittance? Who says pittance?
"...a pittance, to that fool Jenkins. He`s about to buy the land next to the mansion and put up a sewerage farm. A SEWERAGE FARM DAVEY!"
"Well maybe you shouldn`t have fired him as the grounds man, Sis. Smart move. Now I`m going to make a smart move too."
Dave was about to push the send button on the fax machine, when the news break cut him short.
Oh, very clever. Put the news on during an outlandishly silly play, so the listeners will react to the atrocities less seriously than they should. Very clever indeed..
Jeremy put his cup of tea down on the arm of his chair.
Unless it`s designed so that they view the PLAY more seriously.
He didn`t know which was the more sinister. It didn`t matter at the moment, such evils were as yet beyond his power to usurp.
"....thirty pence to the pound...Queens visit to Australia...still no leads on the Presario slaughter...Lib Dems lose a seat in Ipswich..."
Nothing of interest at all.
"...Oldest man alive to become woman...top ten hit for Sleepy Funkmeister...new slaying in city whore tragedy..."
"...seventh lady of the night to have become the victim of what the press now call The Bin Man. Alice Foster, 47 from Yorkshire was found dead in her dustbin with what police have called 'a deep and single wound from an unknown implement.' Anyone with vital information is urged to get in touch with..."
The dirty money fed Presario mob get top heading and yet poor working girls have to go unnoticed, at the bottom of the pile. I will have to put a stop to this injustice, once and for all. The police may not put these prostitutes at the top of their list, but I will.
Justice isn`t for the rich alone, it is for everyone. Purity is the flower that always needs feeding. And I shall feed it tonight and every night until those poor dead girls are the number one news item of the month. Then people shall sit up and notice the degradation in our unholy streets; a degradation which has been allowed to rot the very woodwork of society, and threaten its stability.
"OH, DAVE! how could you do such a thing?"
"Easy, I just push this little button here, sis, see? like this."
He heard Mrs McClaverty on the stairs and rushed to help her. He could have smelled her Shepherds pie through the stench of a sewage farm.
Julian had to hide a full ten minutes in the school library before Stepney gave up waiting for him. He had peered through the window between the fiction shelves and the English lit archives, where he had a good view of the schools rear gates, urging Stepney to go home. Now his unmistakable yellow jacket had vanished with him, allowing Julian to venture out. He wanted to walk home, and by himself. Stepney was a good mate but he had a big mouth, which often got them both into trouble.
The school corridors were almost empty as he jogged through them, towards the exits in the main playground. The cleaners had begun their work, sweeping and wiping, preparing the school for tomorrows dirt. They barely noticed him as he passed the art rooms and the dining area. Maybe he was invisible to their clouded minds, he thought, maybe I make no sound as I lurk in search of justice and purity.
Maybe I won`t need to wait another four weeks.
Jane Lockart was still outside when he pushed through the main exit. No doubt she was waiting for her father, Mr Lockhart, who taught French. He hated French most of all and dared himself to say something in the language as he ran past. But he couldn`t think of anything, so he just smirked at her instead. Then he was trotting across the playground feeling his heart pump. He was excited, and he knew why. The sickness had lifted completely, leaving his mind and body to spring forth in anyway he saw fit. He leapt one of the pebbly bollards at the edge of the playground and cleared it without even trying, just to prove he could. What else can I do? What did Jeremy do? Well he danced and span about really fast, he recalled. Maybe later, in his bedroom, he would try it.
The caretaker was just sliding the gates shut as he turned the corner.
"Hang on, wait up."
The caretaker, who as far as Julian knew was nameless, turned his white head. He didn`t look pleased. Julian quickly put on his innocent face and voice.
"Sorry, I had to stay back and tidy my desk."
The man grimaced, and waited for Julian to slip through the gap.
"A likely story. Come on get a move on."
You old peasant, I could knock you over that fence if I wanted.
The gates rattled shut behind him and he carried on running to Holstern Road. Once he was staring down its infinite depths of colourful house fronts, he stopped in his tracks. What would be the tell tale sign? There were so many houses to choose from, it was impossible. It could be this one behind the derelict shop, or the very last one on the corner of the park. There had to be a mile of houses, two if you counted both sides.
Maybe she would be stood in the window, maybe she would invite him in and...
Somehow that frightening thought seemed unlikely. What was he doing anyway? He should be at home, waiting for his parents to arrive, watching a bit of sly TV. Like what? Kids TV? A dull quiz on channel four?
No, where was the harm in just walking home for once. He would need the extra fitness one day. Jeremy would be proud of him for thinking ahead. Plus the bus fare would come in handy.
And he took one last glance at the black mass of the derelict shop and began to walk, as slowly as he could, down Holstern rd.
Karen took a few more tablets once she was back in her dressing room; which was really just somebodies bedroom, probably whoever Franky was shagging at the moment. It looked bare though, just a sheetless mattress shoved half-heartedly into a corner, and a full length mirror. In fact the mirror was more than full length, and could easily cover the bed if it fell; which wasn`t totally unlikely the way it was propped up against the wall. At least she could see herself, bruises and all. Frankys mate got a bit rough tonight, probably because he wasn`t performing as he should. Of course it may well be one of Frankys 'improvements to the service' he kept banging on about. Normal sex wasn`t enough anymore, as if it ever was. Their clients were going elsewhere for their jollies, which meant more of the rough stuff, and more of the kinkiness.
Karen popped another two pills and shoved the rest into her purse.
If he was going to improve the service then he should improve the money he paid her. She might not be a girl anymore but she could fuck like one.
The bedroom door creaked open, startling her.
"How about we film some credit shots darling? Make this a real production."
Franky crept into the room, his tiny digital camera covering half his tanned face. His thick biceps bulged, like the thing rearing from his shorts.
"I have to go Franky, put it away or you`ll break it."
She found her black skirt and stepped into it.
"Aw come on Karen, Shauns had his, where's mine?"
"You get yours later when you put the tape in the machine and press play, now fuck off I`m busy."
She put her arms through her white blouse and watched herself in the mirror. She could put her bra on later, once she was out of the view of Franks camera. Having sex was one thing, but being filmed in your own time was perverted.
Franks well built reflection joined hers in the mirror. He was touching himself, just as he always did when he was filming; it gave him inspiration apparently.
"I`ll give you an extra fifty Karen, fifty smackers. Where will you get fifty squid for half an hours work eh?"
Karen checked her dirty blonde hair in the mirror, trying not to look at Frank.
"I`m sore Franky. Your mate needs a fucking good hiding. Look at my thighs, bruised like a fucking apple."
"Aw Karen, he was only getting into it. He fancies you. He wants to take you out. Tell you what, I`ll give you seventy extra."
She slipped on one of her trainers.
"Seventy? For what?"
He moved in close behind her, his camera humming ever so slightly.
"Seventy for a special, as long as I can film it."
Anything but that. She would rather be pissed on than do another special today. In fact her strict rule was only one special a week, and only if she was doing it with someone who knew the ropes.
"Forget it Frank, I`ve gotta pick the kids up from my mums. She thinks I`m working at Asda."
"I`ll drive you over, it will only take ten minutes, come on I need a special on tape. The last one was crap...HAHA get it, crap."
HA HA HA Fuck off.
"That`s gonna look good, you dropping me off in that daft looking car. Looks like a girls car."
"I`ll pay for a taxi then, come on just a quickie special. I`m half way there anyway."
"Ha, yeah, and then I`m stuck under you for half an hour like last time."
When would these fucking pills start to work?
"How about later tonight then? You can come back later. Get Sandra to look after the sprogs. Seventy quid would buy them something nice eh?"
One last look in the mirror, bit of fluff on her skirt, make-up a bit smudged.
"No, Franky. I have to take them to the pictures tonight."
"Oh, yeah? What you gonna see?"
"Hunchback of Notra Dame."
She picked up her bag and strung her arm through the handle. Then she heard Frank shouting.
Karen opened her eyes and winced. Her face was tight with pain, like someone was biting it. She tried to touch it but her hands would not appear. Her head hurt and she couldn`t even feel to see why. She might be bleeding to death, he head split open from some fall. She was on her back, so she must have fallen, she decided. But fallen where? There was little light, just a small but bright bulb in the middle of the darkness. It was low, not attached to the ceiling, dangling on a thick cable. She could see things lit up by its sparkle; she could see the black walls and white shapes painted on it. No, not white, silver. Tools? Metal implements?
God my fucking head hurts.
This was like some cellar, where was she? She didn`t know any bloody cellars.
But the smell gave it away. She knew exactly where she was. She had come here to get her car fixed a few times; a favour from Franks mate. What was his name?
What the fuck am I doing here?
What the fuck has happened to me?
"FRANKY YOU BASTARD!"
Somewhere a metallic rattling answered her. Or was it mocking her? She tried to see what was gripping her wrists so tightly. They were lost in the shadow of the badly lit room, which looked no more than the dungeon it was, empty of broken cars, and fat men in overalls. Somehow the shiny spanners and other tools hung on the walls made her begin to sob. There seemed to be hundreds of them. The walls were covered in them; they were swaying on their hooks, coming alive.
No, her head was spinning. She was going to be sick.
But Karen, the garage is in the middle of nowhere, under a railway arch. Under six feet of brick in the middle of a bloody wasteland.
She could see the expanse of concrete and weeds. The archways bearing simple hand painted signs. Franks mate owned four of the archways himself. Four archways in which she was now waiting to die, or worse.
Her mind began to play out the scenes of torture she had seen in films. The sort of films that Franky had on his shelves, next to the home made porn. She could see the titles, written in thick black ink. Tight asses. Open her wide. Sodomy: The international language of pain.
She had laughed at that one. Didn`t seem so funny now.
"Oh, fuck, oh God. No, no. shit!"
The metal door, or whatever it was, rattled again. She could just make out a chink of light where she knew the sound was coming from. It burst open wide and dark figures came through, one by one. They had torches in their hands, searching the thick shadow for her.
"Franky? Get me out of her you bastard!"
"Rip her clothes off, Wolfy. You too Dracky. Make sure you keep the lights on the good bits."
One of them crouched down on her legs, shining his torch in her face. It hurt. She was sick of hurting.
"Hang on, I forgot to inject her."
"Aw fuck it Franky, she`ll do as she is."
And he turned the light on to his own face; his snarling, glaring wolfman face.
She screamed as loud as she could, pulling her arms about as far as they would go, which was nowhere. She screamed as the werewolf grabbed her breasts and tore her blouse down the front. She screamed and closed her eyes as another of the fiends came at her; this one a vampire with no eyes.
"Fuck her mouth Dracky, you do her cunt Wolfman. Just leave the special for me. And take your time, I`ve wanna` get a few films out of this one."
She opened her eyes and there they were, all three of them: The Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankensteins monster.
Franky you idiot. you fucking idiot.
She knew that they were just masks but she continued screaming anyway.
Her skirt was tearing, her arms aching, her legs squashed and her body naked to these perverts with their camera. She had more than enough reason to be screaming. More than enough.
This is it Karen, you`re dead, this is the last thing you`ll know before you go to hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell. Hell.
Fingers inside her, something sliding over her face.
"It`s just the wind blowing the shutters, it does it all the time, keep filming."
Nipples being bitten through rubber, still hurting.
"It might be those bloody kids again. They tried to break in last night."
Hair being torn out, fingers around her throat.
"Stop her fucking mouth will you!"
Thickness invading her, ramming her pelvis.
"What happened to your fucking dog?"
Ramming. Ramming, Ramming.
"It fucking ran off didn`t it. Fucking coward. You owe me Franky. You said it was a fucking killer."
Throat closed off, choking her, choking.
"I`m telling you, there`s someone outside."
Darkness, pain, pleasure, voices. The hum of the camera. Louder. Louder. Louder.
"There! Look! WHAT THE FUCK?"
Lights going out, pain ending, pleasure shrinking. The sound of screaming, screaming men fighting.
Could she lift her head to see? She could move her legs now. God they ached, they wouldn`t work properly.
Something still moving in the dungeon. Floating, gliding, humming like a washing machine.
Karen watched the silver machine as it moved over the bodies of her assailants. She could see from the dangling bulbs light that their masks had come off in the battle. But when she looked for their faces she found nothing. Just a sickly absence.
Why should she feel sick for them? They would have killed, and made money from other men getting off on it. But they had failed, she was the one alive at the end of it, gloating.
So why didn`t she feel overjoyed about it? Why did her mind still seethe with fear?
Maybe it was because the machine was there, hovering. Shiny like a new bomb, faceless and waiting.
For what? A thank you?
"Thanks for that."
Her words were punctuated by a stab of pain, that sent her mind instantly black, and she was gone.
Only she wasn`t.
"Oh, this is more like it. Yeah, I LIKE this. THIS is good."
A shooting sensation through a white world. Whoosing through a tunnel of peaceful light. All is bright and fluid. All is soft and with a thought she is on her way, through an eternity of loving dreams.
"I can`t believe I made it to heaven. They must let anyone in. I don`t deserve this."
Soaring and turning, gliding and rising in any direction she chose. Up and around until she lost all sense of where she was; was she swimming up or down? Left or right?
"Who cares, this is so safe...and look, there is something shining like me. Do I look like you? Hello?"
Karen zooms towards the blob of pink light, until she is touching its transparent tendrils.
"Is this what I look like now? I look like an alien. Hello?"
The pink blob begins to spin, it`s hundreds of hair like tendrils dragging behind it. It looks strange but beautifully simple. Karen likes its dance.
She attempts to copy it, and does so perfectly, spinning and spinning until she is dizzy, and forgetting where she is.
But then she is elsewhere.
Just for a second.
Just for a second she was back at home, with her mother. Her adoptive mother, not her real mother. She had barely known her real mother, not unless being haunted by a face could be called knowing.
"Forget her, what about what just happened? Was it a dream? Will I dream like that again, it felt so amazing. I want to go back there, please God, let me."
The other blob had stopped it`s spinning now. It had seen her fretting, and was going to help her, speak to her. She should introduce herself.
"I`m Karen. Who are you?"
It had no face, presumably neither did she, but it spoke all the same. In a voice she almost knew.
"I`m Alice. Where are we? Is it Hell? Are we in Hell? Have you come to hurt me?"
"No, I`m like you. This is Heaven, not Hell. Why would you think it was Hell? It`s so lovely and warm."
Alice began to swim around Karen. Karen somehow recognised this as suspicion.
"Have you seen God yet? I would love to see him. How long have you been here?"
Come to think of it how long had she been here? It felt like days.
"God? I`ve seen God. And he`s seen me. But he never says anything. He just smiles, then he makes you dream."
Makes you dream? Who would mind that?
"But it`s nice to dream, Alice. I had a dream and it was wonderful. I just span around like you were doing and I started dreaming."
Alice came to a stop, her pink tendrils catching up with her after a second. She was looking at something. Something behind Karen.
"The dreams that God give you aren`t so nice Karen. Not so nice."
Karen floated around to see what had taken Karens attention from her.
And there was God.
He was large, immense and vague. A veil of fluid still lingered between them, but it was clearing. So very slowly it was clearing. Was he swimming towards her?
He was happy. Happy to see her. Happy that she was safe and sound. Just plain happy was God. She had never seen such a smile, but she had seen his face before, hadn`t she? In a book? Not the Bible though. She had always known what a loud of rubbish that book was. No, not the Bible. Maybe not even a book at all. It was driving her mad.
And now the face was clear, all the mist and fluid parted.
"Hello Karen, that is your name isn`t it?"
"Oh yes, my name is Karen, Karen Tucker. It`s a silly name isn't. Tucker sounds daft. Can I have a new name please God? The name of a flower? I would love to be called Orchid. Call me Orchid."
"Orchid is a beautiful name indeed. Orchid you are, from now on."
"Oh thank you, thank you God. You are nice. Not like they said at school. They said you were nasty. Alice is scared of you too."
"Oh, how sad. Maybe she went to the same schools as you did?"
"It could be, God. Can I dream now? I want to see my mother again. Is she here too?"
"If you`re here, then so is she. Ok Orchid, time to dream, time to dream for me some wonderful games to playtime to see what`s inside you, what`s really inside your dark little soul."
And Karen began to spin again, faster than she thought she ever could.
Julian gave up by the time he came in sight of the park. He wasn`t so sure he should have started this in the first place, whatever it was he was doing. What did he expect to achieve from walking past Catherines house? Did he think it would bring her closer to him in someway? All it would do is prove he was a prat like Stepney. Besides, he had peered through so many hedges and bay windows that he had earned himself another dose of the dizzy spells. He couldn`t find her. Not like this. And he doubted he would want to know where she lived, considering some of the thoughts that had popped into his head, every time he had seen an open window.
Got to talk to Jeremy about this, if he`s even real.
Of course he was real. If he wanted to prove that he could pull up his shirt sleeve and see the puncture hole in his arm. He was real alright; he could even sense him nearby. Or at least that was how it felt, as he strolled through the chill of the park towards the duck pond.
It`s like he`s close, and I can feel it. Why not? I am like him now. We are the same person, more or less. I have his blood pumping through my veins, his thoughts running through my head.
He looked out across the dull surface of the pond. The ducks had fled, to a warmer climate. If that`s what ducks did. The only signs of there having been any life on the pond were the masses of feathers amongst the reeds.
What a mess? Didn`t anyone ever clean up around here?
He encircled the pond, hearing loud plops in the water. Fish catching flies, poking their smooth snouts out into the air. At least the fish can`t fly away, unless they could and no one ever saw it. That was the sort of thing Jeremy laways said. He tried to catch a glimpse of the fish, and was awarded one. They were larger than the fish he had at home, much larger. They were pink too. What kind of fish was pink? A Coi maybe? In a park pond? Didn`t they need warmer water. What did he know anyway? He didn`t even know what fish he had at home, he didn`t even feed them. No his mothers maid did that.
Julian sat down on a bench and checked his watch. His parents would be just arriving home from work. Dad would have another story to tell and Mum would have more shopping stuffed into her boot. They wouldn`t notice him gone for a good hour as they took showers, and baths and then had a drink or two.
He`s been here. I can feel it like he`s sat next to me.
He looked around him, at the bright dial of the library clock, at the naked black trees and the old houses that lined the park. This is just the sort of place he would live. It`s the very centre of the city. I can feel it.
He decided to walk the perimeter of the park, starting at the library, which was issuing light onto the deserted, darkening pavement.
Orchid liked the new dream better than the other one. She was a God, or a Goddess, part of some ancient high counsel that had authority over masses and masses of empty space. What a difference that was to her real life; the life that was now just a fiction to her. She had more power than she knew existed. More power than she knew what to do with. What could she do with such a gift? The others on the counsel seemed to have no scruples. They just floated and floated through endless space, a spinning circle of light so bright it made you want to sing. So she decided to sing. But what? There were no songs. Just the simplicity of perfection, forever and ever.
So she waited. She waited century upon century. She waited till the very depths of space had carved a niche into every dream she had. Every thought was of the darkness and the blazing incandescence of the counsel, as they span and span and span.
Onwards and onwards and onwards, through the depths of nothingness.
And the burden of power did not ease. It did not even subside. It grew, as her power grew.
That was when she realised something vital. Something so vital it sent out waves of panic to her brethren, and waves of relief.
This wasn`t a counsel at all, for who was there to advise? They were not a collective spinning through perfection for perfections sake, they were at war. At war with each other and themselves. It was a game of waiting that had gone on for aeons, echoing, screaming eternities. And the aim of the game was...to not be the one to use their power.
Because perfection does nothing, and has no need of nothing.
Orchid decided then that she would gladly be the loser of this pointless game, she would lay her cards on the table and toss in her chips.
And she used all her power.
And the power of the counsel.
And the planets were born.
She named them after the members of the counsel, as a joke; a joke they refused to acknowledge as being in any way amusing.
She herself found it be utterly hilarious.
The planets grew and this took time, so she used the time up with her power, just like that, in the blinking of an eye. Then of course she wanted to mock her fellow counsellors further, and she did this by making copies of them. Effigies that she gave life to, eternal life. A life that could not be snuffed out, as hers had, in a dream so long ago. No, they would be an eternal mockery of her brethren, forever and ever, expanding and evolving. So, there they were: Breeding, eating, thinking, and killing.
Killing, and killing for sport.
This she could not have. No matter how much she wanted to mock her brethren. She would not let them kill one another. This went against her decision, her use of power.
But how to stop them without seeming to be regretting her use of power? The counsel would find THAT amusing alright, THAT they would laugh at. Proving them right all along.
She would just have to sort them out herself. And so she used her power on the rest of the counsel, who put up no visible fight, as she consolidated all the power they shared into one divine object. A ship to sail away in. Her silver nemesis of evil.
It wasn`t long before one particular house stood out from the rest. It wasn`t an odd looking building, not in any sense. It showed no more affluence than any of the other homes, and no less. Its garden was no more cared for and no less. In fact to look at the white walled house and to say the words" Jeremy Fisher lives here" was preposterous. But then Jeremy Fisher was preposterous.
It wasn`t a logical assumption that drove him to leap the small yellow gate, it was no carefully thought out deduction that had him walking up the path to the red front door.
No, it was a feeling so intense and so odd that he found himself unable to go against it. He had no choice but to believe, to know that his special friend, Jeremy Fisher, did indeed live at number 12 Park grove.
"So you see Orchid, that when you played the game, my game, you had no problem in making the choices that I had to make. You do see that don`t you?"
Orchid swam up against the flat, hard face of God, her mind torn in half still, by the choices she had been subject to. Was this a game then? To be a killer of worlds? To have your face and name etched with fear into the hearts of entire galaxies? Solar systems she would never even see?
"I don`t want to play that game again God, please? Let me play another. Let me be a movie star, let me be loved by all. Let me be with my family."
"Soon. Soon dear Orchid. And then maybe, maybe I will let you crawl the earth again, perfected with the knowledge I have bestowed upon you."
He stared at the door, at the brass knocker shaped like a mans face, at the four panes of frosted glass sunken in to the thick shiny wood. He peered at a miniscule blob of paint on one of the panes of glass, willing it to tell him he was wrong, and wondering why he would want it to be so.
He`s real then?
He pressed his ear to the cool wood. Nothing but the sound of the sea, the blood rushing through his head. And boy how it rushed. He was more terrified now, than when he had first found Jeremy, going through his fathers things in the middle of the night.
Just do it. Yeah, just knock, right now.
"Sleep now Orchid, sleep and dream of all the things you wanted from life, and all the things you will have."
And Gods face was gone, and so was Orchid, lost, spinning at her own pace amidst the pink fluids of Heaven.
It took only a few seconds between knocking and the knock being answered, in which time Julian had lost his mind; lost his mind in a good way. The red door opened and out stepped a man.
A man Julian had never seen before. But he knew him alright, yeah he knew him.
"It`s about time you found your way here Julian. I was about to give up on you becoming my partner."
And he beckoned the speechless Julian in to his delightful home.
But it was an empty home. No carpet on the floor of the hallway, no pictures on the walls. All he could see were naked stairs caked in dust and cobwebs and a clear view of a kitchen ahead. Somehow he knew that if he were to walk into that kitchen, he would see no sink unit, no cupboards full of food. And if he were to dare use the stairs to the next floor, he would discover nothing but empty rooms. Many empty rooms.
"I had to come and see you Jeremy, it`s important. I think I`m ill."
Jeremy put his hands in the pockets of his beige housecoat and smiled, looking into Julians eyes.
"You`re not ill partner. I can tell. You`ve just been changing faster than I expected you to. Don`t worry, come and see my world...just through here, in the living room. Come, I want you to see my friend, MrsMcClaverty."
MrsMcClaverty? He had been told of her before, on the first night.
Julian pushed the white door to the living room, and it opened. Beyond was what Julian had been waiting for. The secrets of Jeremys power, and his identity.
At first he thought it was a missile, stood up on its metal flights, ready to be shot off into the ceiling, which it very nearly touched.
Jeremy went in first.
"That`s why I chose such an old house to live in. High ceilings. Do you like it?"
Julian walked over to the thing, taking in all its details; its three legs, its three steps to what might, must be a door. It was such a simple design; he could have drawn it from memory after only getting a glimpse at it. Still it was beyond his ability to describe.
"What is it? Your spaceship?"
"In a manner of speaking, yes. It takes me places. Would you like to meet MrsMcClaverty now?"
Julian looked around the bare room, at the cobwebs slung up in the corners, at the paint stains on the floorboards.
"Is she inside? Can we go inside it?"
"But of course. She will like you, that`s why I chose you really. She likes nice people. Come on."
Jeremy put his foot onto the first of the ships steps and the door to the ship whispered open. Now revealed was the white, glowing interior of Jeremys world, or the ante chamber to it.
When Jeremy turned to face Julian, his human face had gone. In its place the green head of a frog. His hands too had returned to their natural green tinge, and their natural slender length.
"I can change at will, of course. So will you one day."
And then they were both climbing up to the machines open door.
Julians heart was thumping away, but his head was racing faster still. How was he ever to take in all this? How was he ever to carry the wonderful burden of this revelation? And to think, it`s only just begun.
"Take a seat partner; you can sit on the left I think. I always like to sit on the right."
It was as small a space as it had appeared to be. Barely enough room for them both, but once they were seated it all made sense; the joystick in the centre of the room, the glowing dials and switches within easy reach. They were a mystery to him but he tried to absorb their meaning anyway. He wanted to flick them and turn the silver dials right now. He wanted to fly.
"Can we fly? How does it get outside?"
"Oh, of course it can fly and no solid boundary can halt it`s flight, but that`s the least of what it can do. Take a look into that viewer."
There was no viewer he was aware of, just the control desk and the smooth, white walls.
And a screen lit up on the wall above the dials and the switches, lit up and began to show them another place. To Julian it looked like the beach. Not a beach on another planet, not even in another part of this world, but a beach not far from here. He recognised the greyness of the water and the roughness of the shore. He also recognised the lighthouse. Definitely not something you would see in Spain.
"Where is it?"
"Where? Nowhere, right here, in there."
And he pointed to the screen with his long green finger. Then he pushed a button on the control panel, and the door to the ship closed.
"Close your eyes and think about nothing partner. Go on. I`ll race you to the lighthouse for a jammy scone."
Julian tried to visualize nothing, and found it harder than he thought he would. At first he concentrated on the darkness under his eyelids, but it began to turn pink with the ships lights shining through them. Then he tried to see white, a blizzard of snowflakes against a whitewashed wall. But a little Robin shot into view and began to sing.
He was about to give up, when he was there, standing on a sand dune, smelling the sea. Jeremy had beat him to it, and was racing comically across the sand towards the dark tower of the lighthouse. Julian looked about him in all directions, terrified. Here he was, on a beach, still in his usual clothes and still feeling as he usually did.
He began to run to the lighthouse as fast as he could, afraid of losing his guide. He bumped into him outside the great wooden door of the tower. Jeremy was knocking loudly upon it. Judging by the look on his large face, it wasn`t the first time he had knocked.
"Where is she Jeremy?"
"I don`t know. She`s usually at home. We`ll have to go in, she never locks it in the day time. Likes to get a visit off the Mermaids."
"I can`t believe I`m here. Where is my body? Still in the ship?"
Jeremy pushed open the lighthouse door and peeked through the gap.
"Yep, safe and sound. The mind transferor will only work if the door is securely locked you see. Hello! MrsMcClaverty?"
They ventured in. The fire was roaring away, the wireless too.
"Oh, Dave has had his comeuppance as he. Good. Come on we`ll look on the beach."
"Are there really Mermaids in the sea?"
"Of course, don`t you believe in Mermaids, and Mermen?"
"Nope. Well, not in the real world anyway. Here is different, wherever we are."
They took the sandy path to the beach, keeping an eye out for MrsMcClaverty as they felt the wind on their faces. Julian also scanned the movements of the sea for possible Mermaids. Nothing presented itself.
"I don`t see her Julian, I don`t see her at all."
"Who is she anyway? Is she real?"
Jeremy put his hands around his left eye like a telescope, and trained it on the distant grey stretch of shoreline, curving away to a fine point.
"She`s an old friend, from long ago. But she doesn`t know that. We used to sit next to each other, in this committee. I can`t think where she might be, there is nowhere for her to go. Unless...no, it can`t be."
"Will we have to go back to our bodies? Maybe you can track her with your computer?"
"Computer? Oh, yes, computer. Ok, we`ll do as you suggest partner. Close your eyes and think of a blue polar bear."
No sooner said than done.
"It was easier getting out than getting in Jeremy. What will you do now?"
Jeremy looked at him, and shook his funny head.
"I don`t know partner, this has never happened before. She has to in there some...what`s that?"
He pointed at a small flashing light on the dashboard. It flashed from green to red to green to red.
"Maybe it`s her, MrsMcClaverty?"
"No, not unless she`s outside the ship trying to get in. You didn`t bring anyone with you by any chance, not that I think for a second that you would."
"No Jeremy, I was totally alone, I`ve never said anything to anyone, honest."
"It`s ok, I think I know who it is now, I`ll just be a second."
And the door slid open again, allowing Jeremy to leap down. Julian was surprised at how good the outside world looked to him. He wanted to go out and do something normal, like watch TV, even go to school. He was sure Jeremy would let him carry on as normal. His parents must be worried about him.
He followed Jeremy, and leapt down, making more of a noise on the floorboards. Jeremy was gone, perhaps at the front door, scaring off some door to door salesman or something. He crept up to the living room door and peeked out into the hallway.
He was on the doorstep, talking to someone; someone who was responding as if trying to speak normally. Was it someone disabled perhaps? Collecting money for their charity. It would be amusing to hear what Jeremys response would be. He listened harder.
"You have come back to me dear ones, you have come back enhanced by the knowledge I have bestowed upon you."
The persons reply was almost nonsense, apart from one or two words."monster" and what sounded like"awfulness."
"But, have I not given you the chance to crawl the earth again? Haven`t I? "
"Crawl." and "animal" and possibly" deal with you and your...." something or other.
Then a fight broke out.
Julian froze. The fear was sudden and overwhelming. He didn`t want to freeze up, he wanted to rush out bravely and help. But his body was still that of a fifteen year old boy. A boy.
He heard Jeremy try to say something. It may have been his name, calling him to battle. Then whatever was going on out there, it managed to frighten some ducks. They were quacking, monstrously, and just outside the door; for the empty hallway amplified the sound tenfold.
Then something was coming. It was sliding against the wall, slowly approaching.
His body allowed him to retreat at least, back towards the ship.
Oh God, Jeremy is dead? How? By whom?
But Jeremy wasn`t dead. He was stumbling through the door, throat a mess of blood and feathers. A horrible look in his big black eyes that said nothing to him. Behind him something moved,several things that may have been naked people, or some kind of animal; he couldn`t see what, Jeremy kept getting in the way.
Jeremy pushed him towards the ship, and in doing so a flow of blood escaped from his neck.
Julian began to clamber up the steps of the ship, wondering if he was to go alone, wondering if he could remember the button that activated the door. He thought he might do.
And then, sat in Jeremys seat, he had to make the choice. There weren`t that many and he knew it was one of three. He began to press them all.
In the time it took for him to hit the right switch he witnessed the most horrible thing he had ever seen. A thing, lumpy and winged and fleshy, falling onto Jeremy Fisher. It began to do things to him with its black beak as the door swished shut, leaving Julian with just a glimpse at its human eyes, full of madness.
The ship was totally soundproof. Whatever was going on outside was gone to him now. The fear would remain though. The fear of the thing outside and the fear of the ship. It was down to him and him alone now, to work out how to use the controls; if he was to get out of this alive that is.
All he hoped was, that he didn`t accidentally open the door again, before he was many miles away.
Get used to it? No, you never get used to it.