Friday, 1 May 2015

Epilogue: She Who Carves The DollMaker

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… Turning the corner afforded him true relief, Vicky, her father and Samson no longer able to see him, unable to watch his expression as his hand delved into his jacket to discover the broken wire doll.  He felt ashamed of his slight step back the way he came, but he'd halted, resisting foolishness, his over reliance on his cheerleader.  Besides, he thought, I couldn’t ruin the perfect exit.
Vicky’s arms were too small, nowhere long enough to encircle the tree trunk stiffness of her father riding Bertha down relatively clear London roads.  It made no sense to twist her head back, but she did so anyway.  Unsurprised at the lack of chaos god behind them, she turned around again, her face sunk into the tight rubber padding of her father’s jacket.
He won’t survive out there alone, she thought as the bike stopped at a red light.  Lilith will keep watch but this is the end of the world we’re trying to prevent.  I could volunteer for help?
Over the rumble of the motorbike, Vicky heard the scream of a baby.  A bawling new born in a buggy wheeled past them.  Was she asleep before we came here? Wondered Vicky.  Did Bertha wake her up? Her gloved hand moved instinctively toward the seat.  Then it stopped.  She had marshalled enough selfish personalities for a lifetime.  Now all she wanted was sleep.

Hara’s eyes opened, but slowly, taking in the light of her room, her body held down by the unmistakable tough sheets of hospital bedding.  It was time to figure out who to help, and where they might be.
 “Oh, no–no–no–no,” she muttered, “running around interfering is the old way, and your body’s not up for it, Hara, dearie me, no.” She listened out for the beat of her heart.  She made it stop.  She got it going again, speeding it up, throwing the machine hooked to her arm into a bleeping frenzy.  She barely registered the swarm of doctors that descended upon her bed.  Talk of a five month coma couldn’t wipe the glee from her face.  All that power, responsibility and knowledge shooting up her cerebral cortex, astounding.  Do not show your face.  Aronson will seek to throw you into the tarn.  The totality of the Earth Mother revealed her infinite wisdom: Your power must be in the subtle influence of foot soldiers.  Your existence must remain unknown.  
Hara’s mind manufactured the sight of a black woman with long coloured dreadlocks, an albino walking by her side.
No need for running around at all.  Soon I’ll be receiving guests. 
“Are you alright Mrs Carroll?” A nurse leaned in, a doting hand placed upon Hara’s headboard.
“I’ll be fine.  If you could though Dearie, fetch us a pen and paper? I have to write to some old friends of mine.”

Hours stretched into days, which in turn became weeks, then months, the hot Summer nudged Spring from its place, evicting brisk coldness like an unwanted guest.
Spiderfingers writhed delirious.  Lost.  Naked.  Alone, in a forgotten tower block unfit for human breathing.  The stench of him contained in a self-made prison he’d plugged with trash and old wood.  Here meant safety, a place not unlike Bellevue, except in Bellevue there would be no wrecking ball or TNT or whatever men used to knock down condemned buildings, he thought.  His life relied on the mercy of some unknown date of destruction, a fact which troubled him.  Sometimes he bothered himself into an upright position, to only flop down to manky, stained, insect ridden floor.  Often he jabbered, wittering about protecting schoolchildren by not existing.  He blotted out the rationale of fleeing his room, imagining the oncoming explosion tearing him apart.
“I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky.” He stared down a heap of clothes, colourful garments to be feared.  That uniform.  A costume able to breed influence, an influence which worked against him: No more Doctor Chimera, he thought, no supervillain, not whilst I’m naked.   

With every bow Steph made, the intent of her prayer could not have cruised further from the intended respondent.   Each syllable cried out in Allah’s name fell in on itself as the hollow plastic lies they were.  Tonight, she halved the length of her spiritual charade, the longing for the touch of her thick black pen far too great.  She knew this flash of inspiration would make her late for Milo, but no other feeling compared to the sight of all that ink cradling her passionate, unhinged brainstorming.  Just wait till I redraft this, she thought, hand and eye co-ordination pushed to their very limit, just you wait world.  Just you wait!
And this book is for you bad teachers, you rule makers, you swine, scared ex hippies who learnt how to suck hard on establishment cock, just so that you could afford to pay rent, keep up with television shows that featured made-up people you could have been.  True characters, not the ghouls you became, shoving slow burners like me into the fires of doubt and despair.
You shelved aspiration behind C.V’s that unlocked nightshifts behind desks.  So many faders, knobs, buttons, plugins and monitors to keep control of.  Just another night of close ups, pans, front gate, back gate, bathroom B, toilet A, title sequence, cut to break, side boob.  Another night of forever, keeping Real Actors on air.  And don’t forget the controversial spin off, the real time hit that’s got people returning to television in a way the writers of EastEnders can only wank about.  Playing God: low-brow masquerading as the Most High.  Seven method actors given the task of living in a house, each one given the challenge to prepare for their prize: a big role in a fantasy movie funded by the show.  A film about a demigod.
Fifty two days and nights of round the clock rehearsal, because when the red light goes on and a name’s announced, one of these fame seeking leaches has to live in character.  Tune in for men and women playing Him, the Christian deity and every week, there’s a new production.  Every seven days one gets voted off.  Every scene, they each take their turn, commanding locusts, organising a deluge, or last week’s mission – my favourite – because sitting in judgement over an adulterous man with the power to punish him with the death of his child, now that’s real godly.  Playing God: India’s biggest network has bought the rights for the Hindu version.  No one believes in Pop music anymore, let’s play god instead. 
        God on the toilet. 
        God on an ego-trip, because Bartholomew Ward has starred in more plays than the youngest contestant in the house: Foley Edwards, who’s a jobbing actor.  Jobbing, as in two adverts for insurance and a short history of porn.  The opportunity for Foley to cast himself as a working class hero to Bart’s upper class toff is stark, the Etonian ribbing Foley about ‘the realities of industry.’ So then, Bartholomew as God, sitting in judgement of the audience.  Foley, also playing God; deity of the people.  Near enough anyway.
God flirting with the glamour model who entered the house on Day Five.
God masturbating in the shower, doing the dishes, complaining about the cleaning rota, players in real time idling up at the camera and wondering: Have I been miscast?
        God, being adjudicated by Bianca Watkins, her teenage indiscretion forcing her out of High School and hasn’t read past page eight of a book since.  Still, she reads to her son, if only for her peace of mind.  She can’t spell theatre without feeling uneducated and will watch anything remotely connected to Simon Cowell, because then, and only then, Bianca gets to look through the prism of pain his production company creates.  Now Bianca and her friends at work can gossip about the nights they’ve peered down upon the Almighty, criticise his line cuts and bad attitude.  She’ll tune in to watch God read His biography and ask the question, the one that haunts these desperate thespians nightly: Will this job role drive me mad? Has it done so already?
So, just in case you thought you were off the hook, you fuckers who squeezed the life out of me, or worse – saw me drowning but didn’t reach out to the quiet boy at the back – fuck you … bastards.  Once upon a time, I could have written something worthwhile.  A fairy-tale perhaps, one that a few people would read and say, “hey, he really understands the subtle psychosis we deny, but address in our oldest bedtime stories.”  Now I push buttons, told what to do in my ear piece, my link to the real divinity in my life, cos following her commands means I get to sleep in a warm home and watch TV.  How about I tell her to go fuck herself? Find myself back in the unemployment line, telling them to go fuck themselves as well? Spend my days writing that children’s novel, using my television as a stool.  Smash the idiot box first, just to curb the habit of a lifetime.  So what if the landlord wants rent, fuck him and his silly laugh and his ‘naughty-naughty’ plumbing.  Fuck the bailiffs and the police and the arsehole that resurfaces to play the role of dad every few years.  And as you pass me on this street with this pen in hand, these tattered pages quivering in my clutches, don’t offer pity.  This character was my choice.  This narrative is where I play a deity.  Someone else’s little boy can fuck his life up, casually pass the blame when the fury burns right through his lonely skull, cos in this safe snuggly place, where I rule over millions, this windless Nirvana where I’ve achieved a state of all-encompassing forgiveness, somehow struck out all malice – here – in this Heaven, I am in complete control.  All weather and crop maintenance is stage managed by my hand, and the ongoing applause is fucking riotous. – Spiderfingers Stephanie Penny Tent
Just wait till Milo sees this, thought Steph grinning at Danger-Man, her caress of his tall and flaming hat so considered.  Such affection.  After a good few seconds, Steph grabbed her coat, rushed down the stairs and headed out the front door.  She ran into the night.

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V    O    L    U    M    E    II
Revelations For Some... 
(N.B The comments posted below pertain to an extended version of this story, truncated due to issues of pace). 

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Stage Fright

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He blotted out the rationale of fleeing his room, imagining the oncoming explosion tearing him apart. 

Act I
Spiderfingers considered himself a character in a play written by evil beings, unseen monsters who viewed sentient life as a delicacy, meals of penitence and adulation on personalised menus.  His death meant the opening of restaurant doors.  His reality, so crippling.
Notgoingoutthereyou’remadyoucan’ttrustwhatyouseeandwhatyouseeisallyouare, the eternal loop of thought hung tight about his neck, a devilish noose which proved nearly impossible to sever.  He sought relief in slumber, a bubble of harmless nightmares. The most recent and enduring showcased him, outside, muddled and fatigued.  A trembling figure bereft of the how and why he stood at the water’s edge.  Confused, fully clothed, gawping into the muddy shoals of a canal.  The water’s refusal to offer up a reflection to converse with irked him as he continued to strain his vision for his ripple-riding twin.  That other him, laughing, dropping vague hints as to where he’d hidden a baby’s corpse.  The baby’s corpse ... he began running.
He galloped through dawn’s light, jetting about like a fool, inspecting London’s streets for familiar shops, a road sign, a door, or some other indication of his arrival at the crime scene.  His search delivered nothing.  No landmarks from last night’s evil.  And should his detective work offer success? Tell the parents of his supernatural schizophrenia? A minion of terror leashes itself to my will every night.  I hope that’s O.K with you?
He stumbled confused, overrun by the visions, sleight remembrances of horror, memories of his dealings during the dusk.  He snapped out of the trance when he realised something significant taking place, a gathering inside the electronics shop he shambled towards.  His eyes peered deep beyond the display of cameras and fancy phones to watch the news hypnotising shop assistants and customers alike.  A dam of T.V’s at the back of the store held their attention, fixing them to the spot, drawing attention from all aisles.  He welcomed the compulsion to join the congregation, shuffling tentatively through the entrance, past the glass doors, creeping, till he stood a good few meters behind the huddle, aware of his status as the unwanted browser.  He spent the whole time paranoid of some jobsworth showing him out.
Augustus Roux’s opaque gouging.  1FROM26=7OF8 blazed at the forefront of people’s minds, adorned their water-cooler conversations, pushed the circulation of broadsheets and tabloids alike so as to prompt a new talking point of media responsibility.  The police were at a loss.  ‘Cripplingly baffled’ pronounced the pundit on the screens.  Somewhere within the hullabaloo of graphics and reportage the words ‘age’ and ‘fourteen’ filtered into his consciousness.  His mind did not kill innocents, but his body ... Dizziness grabbed him.  He leaned his weight into the unmanned sales counter.  18FROM26=3OF8 had been inscribed on the genital area of Catharina Chevalier, Augustus’ girlfriend of five years.  The world focused on the couple’s mutilation whilst Spiderfingers double checked his own private deduction.  Out of his dirt caked jacket he pulled out his journal and pen.  
“These are the brandings of ‘The Algebra Killer.’” said the television.
Fucking L.A, thought Spiderfingers.  The birthplace of Noir had so much to answer for.  The thing that had followed him back to London shared the media’s taste for melodrama.  Mere alleyway slayings were not enough to feed his pet.  Now his minion craved limelight.  The letters and numbers told him doggy’s taste was growing and in a few short hours, the moonlit night would glow over everything.  Soon he wouldn’t have any lust whatsoever to put his pet down.
They’ll just feed him.  He’ll just grow, and he’ll ... Christ, they’ve given doggy a name.  The motherfucking Algebra Killer.
Up there, on the television altar, a reporter stood by the bank of a canal.  She spoke to the world, announcing the breaking news.  A new born, murdered in its home.  Numbers and letters written all over it.
“This isn’t murder, this is marketing.” He whispered, though no one cared for his presence, all eyes locked on the drip-feed of ‘updates’.  He couldn’t remember the last time he felt a part of a community this big and could only liken the shared communion with John Clay’s experience of adopting a new soap opera.  The analogy triggered queasiness. 
He lolloped back outside into the early dusk, glancing swiftly one way then the other as the shattering of breaking windows revisited him.  A baby’s room ... with the head of the small little ... He thought he’d been so clever.  Bad enough he’d killed people possessed by the enemy, butchering defenceless children was a little too Old Testament for him.  
Little baby’s body in a loft.  
Little baby’s stench finally informing grieving parents the search ought to be inside the house.  He rollicked through his contemplation, allowing rubbery legs to navigate his path.  His hands gripped his head, a futile attempt to ease the awareness.  The last steel beams of right and wrong fell apart within his mind.  Then they melted.  Dissolved.  Morality oozed under a secret heat as he chuckled at the horror of the Algebra Killer’s real name; a dark moniker which crawled the shattered moral flint of his subconscious, a cracked walkway leading down to his tongue.  Rooenn, he thought, till his lips sanctioned the release of his trusted nocturnal monster-pet, “Rooenn the Terrorsmith.” He smiled before carrying on, “Blood, guts, and age aren’t important.  The brand name becomes stronger with careful advertising, nothing else.  One can’t rely on the product for success, uh, uh.”
His fingers mistakenly slipped down to his pocket.  The metal doll, broken.  Which fight led to its damage didn’t matter, because Vicky’s fear had come to pass.  Time for Plan B.
He’d spent so many weeks tracking Steph’s movements.  He knew her day to day, her hour to hour.  He’d become more effective than any forties Private Investigator on a stake out, seeing as the dividing line between occupation and social life proved forever elusive.  The true legends, they don’t get to have them. Relationships and all they involve, they’re for civilians. 
When he finally arrived at Pratt Street, he only took a quick moment to reminisce at the bus stop, that first place where he’d told Steph wild tales.  He snaked the corner down Gower Way.  Milo’s building.  Wednesday night.
Steph’s taxi always delivered her between six and eight.
He spied a group of youths walking his way.
Time to start a fight I can’t win, he thought, before pushing into them, puffing the sails of young pride with each casual punch aimed mere inches off target.  He went down smiling, playing the scene back over and over, but from an imaginary external point of view, popping pretend popcorn down his throat as fantasy curtains closed in on the manic violence.
He awoke throwing blows at people he’d left behind in his head.  Here you are still, he thought.  You’re a naked mad god on a floor in a flat about to go kerblewy.  You’re not the Algebra killer.  That’s just something else you made up.  He almost closed his eyes again.
Then he heard the music.
Flickering between the fixed points of despair and altruism, there burned a fiery cacophony of triumph over adversity.  His mind required the steady torching of baggage in order to lighten him, help him levitate up, up and away from the dirty, cracked floor, a hard bed scattered with rat droppings.  The music: unhinged strings sung to him.  You’ve taken your rest, he thought.  You’ve taken your break between acts.  The unmistakeable transformative effect of sound spurred him into suiting up; once again compliant with the application of trust woven into his appearance; the insignia on his chest threading a subtle connection in his psychosis.  Should it arrive, should his skulking one-armed nemesis plague him, he rustled up the bravery, prepared to jostle his creation to the borders of consideration, for the music in his head reminded him how much Miss World desired a hero.
And so it came to pass: his subconscious played the role of a supreme D.J, spinning the Batman Animated Series theme over and over again.  A euphoric selection, spinning riotously, a nostalgic force which trumpeted between his ears, awakened the child in him, a boy able to see off evil doers despite their mass, weapons or powers.  I’m more than this, he thought cracking his fists, I’m Spiderfingers, and I won’t die in here.  Despite the sealed windows of his disused tenement, regardless of how little hair-smoke escaped through the cracks, he fought occasionally, smashing the skulls of creatures who’d tracked his scent to the hallway outside.  They would sniff at his door, and he would invite them to their doom.  But with each sporadic visit, his guests increased in size and number.  Be proactive or die, he thought as the mantra sliced through his fear of the outside.  Weariness concerning the re-emergence of Doctor Chimera lost out to the pressing impracticality of staying in one place.  You’re not in Bellevue anymore, he thought, thrusting shaking legs through torn weathered jeans, besides, you’ve been lucky: this building is scheduled for demolition.  Beating all your enemies to be killed by TNT? Ridiculous. “Be proactive or die”, he mumbled into the Superman hoodie, pulling the scummy top over his dreadlocked mess. 
He bobbed and weaved down the high street with a colossal scheme in mind, the details revisiting him, towing him away from his time of nudity and madness.  So many months inside his putrid flat, now free of his concrete cocoon – an unchanged beast – yet – recharged; a well-meaning monster exposed to the heat of the season.  Men and women sported shorts, skirts, flip-flops and summer hats.  Little humans licked ice-cream.  He barely noticed this new environ.  He only saw the plan his dream inspired.

When the brutal face punts and elbow drops ceased, he experienced only soreness and a ringing in his ears.  This is what it’s like to be human, thought the demigod, smirking through the agony, comfortable with injuries he’d sought after, each bruise, cut and flesh wound cheaper than any prosthetic effect.  Fake blood could never achieve this look, he thought, remaining on the concrete floor, curled up in a ball, the footsteps of passing strangers closing in before their rapid departure.  He congratulated himself on escaping his hideaway.  Stage-fright dispelled, he thought.  Ancient history.

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Unluckily, this drunk had taken the wrong bus home, and now she’d become lost in North London with no one to blame but herself.
...So she takes a short cut down an ill-lit underpass. 

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

The Splicing

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“Even the empty air can contain a rival to be destroyed!” Hara said this, her arms aloft, hands flapping, “Destrooooyed!” Two nurses jogged toward the table.
“Damn it Hara, you know where I’m headed if you can’t help me …”
“Hahahaha … Woohoo!”
“You know what she’ll do to me.” 
When Hara fell off the bench, he grabbed his bag before dashing out the room, rushing past confused staff, making for the stairs, then down through the lobby in a streaking Technicolor blur of velocity. 
“You know what she’ll do to me.”

Tired and bleeding from yet another alleyway battering, the god of chaos lent against a phone box, marvelling at the otherworldly smog as it levitated down to street level.  Living white gas in search of victims.
He gazed the snaking fumes slither out of the afternoon sky, sentient trails smoking along the tarmac and in through the door cracks of the pub with the broken window.  The spectres travelled up orifices, wafting into the brains of the unlucky folk who stood agog at the bar.  The spirits performed their role in keeping order, reverse engineering memories of a street fight, a crazed conflict that brazenly rollicked into The George.  When the constable questioned Miranda Jones, she leant against her mop and said: “There were four of them.  Three ugly men – vicious-looking.  Beating up this poor skinny fella, had a Superman hoodie and big red coat on.  Kept warning them about his dog and after smashing up this place,” Miranda pointed at the open port with jagged glass, the pool of broken glazing beneath, “they went through the window.  Scariest thing I’ve seen.  Those men were so ugly, like, not being funny.  Maybe down-syndrome?”
Neither Miranda nor the police would report the green blood on the floor.  Nor would anyone notice the severed three fingered claw in the middle of the pub. 
Miranda would throw it away, dispensing it without question, her recount of the action muddied, the Pseudologoi would see to that.  Their wispy vigilance eternally poised to rearrange memories around the existence of divinities and the brutes that served them, or in this latest skirmish – didn’t serve them.  The world would never believe in Spiderfingers, how his war now included young and restless enemies that happily caused accidents to draw him out of hiding.  A small, famished, dark part of his soul ached for these circumstances to erode into nothingness. 
I’m going to become the new Coca Cola.  This shadow growth inside him, it multiplied in size and influence as the night fell and the world presented him with new opportunity.  I’ve got to become the new Coca Cola.  Success demanded assistance.  “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes!”
Wars such as his could never, would never, be fought alone.
“Turn and face the strain, ch-ch-changes!”
He sluggishly trooped toward the gates of St Martins Gardens, bracing himself for the arduously long expedition.  A trip straight down.  Last time, he’d wound up in L.A and even though he despised the fact during the day – he couldn’t argue, the changes that Hollywood had triggered in him had proved invaluable on many a level.
I need to become McDonalds.  
He fell to his knees, hands grinding into the icy grass.
“I know how to save the world.”
Hara’s life could be summed up with the one word.  Sacrifice.  The woman had given everything to the cause, the gambit, a day by day, night by night, war on behalf of an innocent planet.  Hara equals giver, she decided.  And now she was a frail thing sitting on a bench of a mental hospital’s garden, the taste of bitter treatment rode upon her tongue.  The tale of Ungumpo fluttered in her hand.  She remained still.  When the breeze stole Blackest Black from her shrivelled fingers, she didn’t blink.
Overlooking the flowerbed of Bellevue’s front lawn had been a privilege since she’d arrived, although, there was something about this particular instant, this midday unlike any other.  No, she thought, chin resting upon her chest, your ego wishes it were different.
“Do you want to join us for cake tonight, Hara?” Nurse Patel waited a while, but when no answer came she continued pushing the wheelchair of her main concern: “Hope you change your mind.  Don’t want to be alone on New Year’s Eve, now do we?” Nurse Patel’s voice may have well been a broadcast on a muted television.  Hara didn’t see her.  She attuned to a force much older, much more complex than the residents and medical staff that occupied Bellevue’s gardens.  She continued private communication: Every time I call on you, you ignore me, until now.  She summoned the courage to kneel down, deserting the wooden seating place for the freshly mowed greenery beneath her slippers.  So many battles won, so many evil minions slain because of the advice intended for her chosen deity; psychic messages delivered through her alcohol-fuelled shamanic practices.  She rubbed her hands across the grass, kneading her fingers deep down past the ice of the winter.  You bent my mind, twisting it innocently so that it could hear your will with increasing clarity, none of us realising how you neglected to fold my brains back the way you found them.  No one knew till it was too late.
“No one ever wants to be an old woman, much less an old hag whose lost her marbles.  And what is this?” She shoved her hand into her cardigan pocket for the crumpled notes there.  As nurses made their way to pick her up, Hara read her writing out loud:
“Twins.  The boy shares the face of chaos and terror.  The girl has rainbows in her dreadlocks and her closest friend is a black man with white skin – what in heavens have you made me write?” A nurse crouched down to console her.  It may as well have been a ghost. “He has a white Mohican hidden under a black hat.  First, the Ceremony of Knives and then, the Time of Tides.  What does it mean?” She chucked away her papers.  She drove her delicate hands into the vegetation, sure that her answer lay below.
“Hara?” asked the nurse, “Let’s get you inside, shall we?” Hara: completely lost in a world of shadows, spirits sprawling atop the grass, copying her finger raking.  Translucent men and women stroked their palms across the lawn.  Echoes of the long dead paraded in a show only she could attend.  A lone nurse half her size used ineffectual bartering to draw her out of it.  Life with the departed had been a hefty price to pay for her regular commune with the Earth Mother, a relationship forged on necessity but resulting in the madness of the weaker mind.  Instances of clarity proved burdensome.  The tarn in Blackest Black had devoured Ungumpo.  Through booze, the inner self of the world had leached Hara’s lucidity for its own longevity.  How she hated parallels.  No, she thrashed to straighten her thought process, attempting to concentrate through all her medication.  It’s only this one I can’t stand. 
“You’ve taken so much,” she whimpered, ‘grubbing on my brain, making me more liability than asset.”
“C’mon, Mrs C.” said the nurse quite unable to handle Hara’s spindly flailing arms, “We’ve been doing O.K, haven’t we? Just in time for New Year’s Eve, yes?”  
“You may as well have your fill.” Hara clawed at the frosted hard soil, shoving clumps down her throat.
“Oh, no, no.  Stop! Stop it Hara! Do you want some cake? We don’t have to wait till midnight.  Let’s get you inside and fetch some of that lovely Victoria Sponge.  Wouldn’t that be nice?” Hara didn’t notice the nurse grab for her radio.  She could only fall, flat against the cool frosted undergrowth, releasing herself into the Earth.  Her life-source oozed through the mud.  Personality, dreams, heartache’s and every electrical impulse that constituted Hara’s character, they drained from her, swiftly, through the skin of the planet.  In her corner vision, the nurse and all things Bellevue slowed in their movements.  Each of its many controlling efforts time lapsed into a freeze frame.  The still shuffled itself to the back of her mindfulness, filed away as an irrelevant experience, and for the most part, the outer world may as well have been a long extinct dream.  Since Hara had always been a giver, it came as a wonderful surprise that her final twinkling defined itself by a supreme receivership.  Mother Nature was giving back.  Hara’s essence blasted back through the ground and into her physicality.  Her soul realigned with her body.  It didn’t travel alone.
Facts regarding wildlife, both studied and unknown poured their details into Hara’s mind.  Particulars of landmass soaked through the grassland, the statistics travelling in the form of sound-waves, invisible High-Frequencies, every single code depositing a fragment of the planet’s history into her brain.  The data-stream transmitted instantaneously.  What lived and died on each continent; what species and sub-species relied upon the Earth, what aliens had helped terraform the planet and thus be responsible for the cosmetic make-up of its forests, deserts and mountain peaks; all this primeval information became a part of her.  She smiled throughout the process, scarcely aware of the nurses who towed her off the lawn.  Her mind responded so well to the private whispering, the clandestine incantation travelling via the mud stuck beneath her nails.  She became optimistic, absolutely sure, that when the primordial mother-mind could detail these visions further, she would, and with extreme clarity.  Thank you, oh Lady of the Flowers, thought Hara, nurses laying her body onto the hospital bed.
Thank you!
A rolling river of thought raced through the old woman’s mind, sensations unique to her transfiguring mentality.  She could sense the slow movement of tectonic plates, the ebb and flow of great oceans, all those creatures that swam beneath their waves.  She sensed that her slide into the black of a coma had been her body’s way of shutting people out.  All those little doctors and specialists, they would spoil their underwear should they ever become privy to Hara’s evolving psychology, let alone the humongous breadth of the entity splicing itself into her, expanding her very consciousness.   
The old woman obtained a new centre.  A hidden sphere.   One encased under tonnes of rock and filament.  Recent memories of the Mother-Mind exuded into Hara’s mindscape.  Spiderfingers shouting at her green foliage skin:
“Let me in!” she heard him call, “Let me in! I can’t live like this anymore.  Let me in so you can arm me.” Hara felt Gaia’s relief.  In fact – she shared the contentment that Spiderfingers’ admission meant for the safety of the globe.  The magma filled internal realm loosened itself to Hara’s curiosity, allowing her transfiguring sentience to witness the anomaly searing beneath.  Burrowing deep within her crust, pushing rock and mud out of their way, powerful hands ploughed towards the middle of her.  She felt the purge of the diggers, localising her cognizance in order to identify the species that dug away at her body, for she ceased to consider the planet to be a large far-off concept.  
Aha, it’s him she realised, the return of the son ... Wait, she thought, inspecting closer, he isn’t tunnelling through me.  I am pulling him in.  It’s as if he’s not strong enough to do it himself.  Oh yes – his powers are fading, aren’t they? Thank goodness he’s relying on me now.  If only he’d submit to the logic of initialising Operation Genie Bottle.  Gaia’s knowledge melded with her own, suddenly, absolutely.  She shared the warmth of new found faith.
When Spiderfingers reached her fiery innards, his plea was immediate: “I’ve given it a lot of thought.” she heard him speak, “Hara’s been right all along.  Gaia, you both were.  The only way to defeat the gods is to go ahead with Operation Genie Bottle.  So let’s do this.  Give me what I need so I can defend you.”
This admission filled her entirety with warmth, as spires, flaking brown stems of rock, they shook.  The ground beneath him rumbled as the earth’s caverns erupted with steam and gas, the likes of which surface dwellers and their scientists would never see.  Accompanying these propulsive vats of release were the scurrying and rampaging movements of life, many a subterranean beast surrounding he that was Boleraam.  He that was John Clay.  He that is Spiderfingers.  Hara used her connection to the Earth Mother to monitor the man-god as he ducked reptilian wildlings, feral critters leaping and zigzagging about him.  She watched him snag one; a large worm with ridges along its purple spine, glassy eyes swivelling this way and that, frenzied and insistent on escaping his grip.
        “Thanks Miss World.  Thanks a lot.  Now tell me, what’s been happening in the Oma? Are the Dilfs of village Po still safe?” Hara felt the pang of the Earth Mother, for she could give him no answer.  Then, the worm in his hands opened its fanged jaws and said, “Gaia’s connection to the Oma is eternal, but like Hara before you, it would take at least six of your Earth months to learn the sufficient words to interpret Gaia’s quakes.  Do you have that time?”  Hara distressed at his inability to comprehend the hiss and snap of the creature.  She only gained relief when her comrade crawled out of the inner Earth.  Even though he is unaware of the troubles of Po’s people, the birthing chamber had given up something that would aid him in his fight against the gods.  The Grapple-Worm in his possession can save the garden, but only if he is prepared to sacrifice a few of its flowers.  Through the lives of microbes and plant-life, Hara sensed his ascent to her over-crust.  She thought of a Dilf warrior’s similar ascendance, his large dragon’s egg firmly within his clutches.  She hoped – an anxious, feverish hope – for the journey of her protectorate deity not to end in death.  She wished the bad thoughts away, freeing her mind to mutate for new purpose.

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S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S
The world had left him behind again, the proof flapping in his hands: a free newspaper, the date six days wrong.  So that’s how long it takes to travel to the centre of the earth and back.  That’s one thing Jules Verne messed up.  His hand let go of the paper, as he wheezed, out of breath, eyes stinging from the extremity of his tunnelling.  He took a little over an hour to acclimatise to the air, lines of a new performance running through his brain before he pulled himself to his feet.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

When Characters Seek Crucibles

P   R   E   V   I   O   U   S   L   Y      I    N 
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S
She hoped – an anxious, feverish hope – for the journey of her protectorate deity not to end in death.  She wished the bad thoughts away, freeing her mind to mutate for new purpose.

The world had left him behind again, the proof flapping in his hands: a free newspaper, the date six days wrong.  So that’s how long it takes to travel to the centre of the earth and back.  That’s one thing Jules Verne messed up.  His hand let go of the paper, as he wheezed, out of breath, eyes stinging from the extremity of his tunnelling.  He took a little over an hour to acclimatise to the air, lines of a new performance running through his brain before he pulled himself to his feet.
It had been many weeks since meeting Vicky in Rowberry Park, so much time devoted to practicing his role in saving the world via a complex enterprise, a plot that showcased his acting chops.  He tried to run through his lines, such deft sentences that he’d committed to memory, his folder of Russian Doll Stories no longer whipped out for consultation.  The part he’d written so long ago benefited from intense revision that the resultant acting restored a certain piece of mind to the vagabond player.  Each mannerism, tick and nuance felt like restorative gulps of air.  However, the frustration that followed him from his failure inside the Earth dragged him out of character, like a fish snatched from water.  He kicked an empty coke can along the road, hoping to rid himself of the fury.  With every clanging punt, he grew increasingly malevolent, incensed over his second failure to obtain an up to date understanding of cosmic factions.  He would never hear of the latest Godheads to sacrifice willing concubines in honour of fragile pacts.  He missed the gossip column nature of these doomed agreements, the laughable alliances that fell apart with comic regularity.  Kicking the can didn’t help.  Neither did the winter sun.  The omniscient orb shone its rays through the cloudy sky, day enough then for Spiderfingers to feel the heavy weight of shame.  The bursts of red and hacked meat and all those distraught relatives unable to escape the media coverage, all these factors wore him down.  He kicked the can chiding himself for the self-pity.  He puffed out his chest with the knowledge: I won’t have to do this job much longer.  Soon Operation Genie Bottle will set me free.
“What’s that, Mr Spider?” the voice startled him, his palms balled into fists as he became aware of his current location.  He’d wondered from the mouth of the long tunnel in St Martin’s Gardens.  He’d returned to the hub-bub, the blaring, relentless, cacophony of Camden’s main High Road, now churning all about him.  He looked down at the man who’d snapped him out of his daydream.  It was the guitar-boy, the twenty something black kid: Samson.
The young man shifted the acoustic instrument in his lap as he straightened his back against the supermarket window, cautiously leaning away, pointing at the large bloodshot coat worn by the man stood over him.  The pocket of that big long cape of a jacket, it had something alive inside.
“Oh, you mean this? Wanna know what this is?” Spiderfingers tapped the fast-moving bulge of his pocket before plucking the Grapple-Worm into the dying December light.  He held it out: “This here is a creature that lives far under the earth – ready – to help people defend her.  Sweet old Mother Nature, Sammy, our beloved Lady of the Flowers.  This worms’ merely one of the many wonders beneath her folds.”
“How can your worm defend Earth? Does it scare off minions?” Samson’s one eye bulged wide whilst his arms folded over his three string guitar.  Spiderfingers studied the eagerness in the boy’s face.  He detected the multitude of questions that riddled his features; the hope for answers to deliver him from the loneliness of inner city destitution.
“Nah, Sammy, you can’t use a slug like this to scare a minion.  Not directly.  You see that over there?” Spiderfingers directed Samson’s one good eye towards the golden arches of a McDonald’s, “See, now that over there Sammy, that’s a powerful symbol.  It means something to you and me.  Before we really understood what that house of malnutrition was, we bathed in its impression.  Ronald McDonald was the Christ of the children’s restaurant party.  Lotta power under that clown make-up.  See this?” and Spiderfingers pointed to a Coca-Cola sign above a newsagent, a shop way down the high-road, “That can of sugar is more than a drink, you get me? I can see it, and you can see it, all red and white familiarity, almighty in its sweep across the west and the east.  The known world, undeniably penitent, worshipping at the altar of a tooth-eating-black syrup.  These creatures –” he held the Grapple-Worm further out towards Samson, “– are attracted to symbols we take so seriously.  We’ve trained ourselves to love them and all they promise us so much, that these creatures that Gaia has deep within her, waiting to bond with us, they hunt out the properties of what a great icon bleeds.  They glug up the power we’ve given them, then, they vomit it into our brains.  Useless waste-matter to those who’ve never spoken to Gaia.  The energy that these worms collect can be focussed, harnessed by a simple system of prayer.  Such power manifests as paranormal properties.  Superpowers, Sammy.  Superpowers.”
“Like the Tao.” Samson strangled the neck of his wooden acoustic in frustration, leaning a little more forward to inspect the creature Spiderfingers displayed.
“I’ll find a Waterstones that stocks your book, Sammy.” replied Spiderfingers, scratching the S on his chest.  Sammy’s Tao of Pooh had disappeared from his rucksack days ago.  To help him over the loss, Spiderfingers had been filling the boy’s brain with even more mythos than usual, anything to distract the boy from the hole in his life; so many nights of misdirection; the telling of tales from the old country; how the Oma and all its many queen and kingdoms came to be.
“Hold up your sign Sammy, wave it high.” Samson pushed his guitar aside.  He thrust his sign above his head smiling, sharing his rotten dentures without a care:
A smile is FREE
So grin with ME
Samson seemed genuinely at peace with destitution, a state of calm that Spiderfingers couldn’t quite rationalise as he mentally ticked off all the places he’d sought refuge.  A mental home: couldn’t stay for fear of madness.  A dumpster: couldn't stay inside.  Why?  Too evil to miss out on my pet’s barbarism.  And though the heart of the earth housed no minions, he couldn’t live there.  That evil beast he commanded at night, the fiend he himself became – they could not be trusted to live contentedly at the earth core.  He couldn’t bear to think what horrible things he could do to people – let alone to exotic wildlife – and all for the sake of dark battle-pride.  So, out of that magma coated crucible he’d journeyed, ascending into the Coliseum that was his planet.  People in comic books are not created to stay out of the way.  Spiderfingers clutched the Grapple Worm, the snaking thing squirming in his hands, I got the idea for holing up in Bellevue from a comic, so what other stupid ideas have I got? What other foolish thoughts are endangering my sanity and in doing so – the world?  He shuddered at the idiocy of his inspiration.  There was no way that troublemakers like him – fictional or otherwise – could avoid situations that weren’t perpetually, relentlessly story-worthy.  The problem with life imitating art is that it’s no life at all.  He felt a small pang as he bobbed between herds of twenty something’s running along with bulging bags of alcohol.  Real people – with real lives, all of these civilians about to see in the New Year.  Samson was a real person.
“Going for a walk Sammy, see you later.”
“Eh, but, Mr Spider? You’re coming back, yeah? For the clock strikes?”
Too late.  His god had walked away.
Up the High Road, a turn at Camden Loch, along the canal, no particular destination in mind as he patrolled, ever vigilant, unable to shirk the depression of feeling like some cut-out-of-a-story-non-person, a character being watched.  His thoughts became interwoven, twirling him in circles, each circumference drawn with the excited unsteady hand of a child.  As he passed a Big Issue seller trying to flog his last two copies, he couldn’t help but remember how he’d sold Hara the idea, that taking refuge in Bellevue, far from London, made sense.  Anyone that could concoct a plan as cold and ruthless as Operation Genie Bottle ought to be locked away, for good.  That was his thinking, for he had grown.  The abandoned building he now called home had to be in Camden Town: this place would be the setting for phase one of his strategy to save the world.  His time of playacting far from over, his method of defending the globe evolved, he considered his day to day a trial. A period when champions would test their mettle; when characters sought their crucibles.  He would survive Miss World and her labours based on how he’d allowed the perceptions of others to fuel his self-worth.  His true super-power would always be his ego, the actions of friends and enemies offered him eternal refinery.  He gave a moment’s thought for the old lady that accompanied him into the hospital, all those years ago, her recent words charged his mind: “If you felt for every flower in mother’s garden, you’d be no good at cutting her weeds.”  He felt entrenched in his opinion.  
Success is all about who you know, how they see you.
He reached out to feel the bark of a tree, Thank you, for all your guardianship, thank you, thought Spiderfingers.  Now I see things the right way.
“Had a nice walk man? Want some beer?” asked Samson, as Spiderfingers took his forefinger and thumb to the crown of his nose, his other hand waiving Samson’s donation.  It wasn’t just his thoughts that were going in circles.
He’d been walking in them.
“You got any resolutions?” Spiderfingers shook his head.  He squinted, as if that would dispel the fatigue he so obviously suffered.  Then, he noticed it.
“Where you going, Mr Spider?” Spiderfingers left him, crossing the road, shambling in a near stupor, traffic from both sides honking and braking.  A car swerved him as he jogged in a trance.
“You’re dead,” said Spiderfingers as he reached the opposite side of the high street, “You, you can’t be alive.” High above, shining illuminate from an ever-changing billboard swayed a man in a black suit.  His crumpled white shirt, torn, several buttons missing.  The large cavity in his chest gushed blood and more blood as he glared downwards, mouth opening and closing out of time with slurred speech.
“Be a better friend than you are a god.” said the man as the billboard began to segment and flip, “Stay away from my sister, please, my god? I beg you?”
“Nat!” Cried Spiderfingers, grabbing out at the man, but his hands reached for a different image, for the mechanics of the revolving billboard dictated constant change.  He scraped around at thin air.  He waited.  Through pictorials of the latest handheld gadgets, then the obscure photo-shopped advert for a band he hadn’t heard of … Spiderfingers blinked in anticipation.  His billboard apparition had vanished.  So, this is what it’s like to be Hara, he thought, this is the price she pays for conversing with Miss World.  
He span at the use of the name. “Are you alright, John?”
Where Doctor Kwame had sprung from, Spiderfingers couldn’t be so sure, he just needed to get away from all that forced concern.
“Do you really have to interact with your former patients?” he said, turning his back on the psychiatrist, almost immediately locating Doctor Silberman.  The medical man skulked, jotting in his notepad from his hiding place: an open manhole cover on the side of the road.  His correctional shades made a well-kept secret of his expression.  “Can’t you watch my Hyper-Psychosis without breaking the fourth fucking wall?”
“You’ve got Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  Hyper-psychosis? There’s no such term, John.  You should come back with us.  We can celebrate the strikes to twelve.  You’ve still got two hours.”
“Sorry!” he yelled, moving away from the medical man, “must be all that subscription to childhood trauma, huh? Making me all confused, right? You’re not real either.”
He left Doctor Kwame befuddled, shrugging a ‘What now?’ across the street to Doctor Silberman.
“I’m putting on a production,” announced Spiderfingers, patting the Grapple-Worm in his pocket. “and the lead actress needs a prop delivered,” He bellowed the news as he skipped through a pack of revellers on his street cross to Samson, “Might need that guitar actually, mate.  Yeah ... How’d you feel about a part in saving the world, eh, Sammy?” He had the script (in a black folder), he had the venue (London, soon the world) and he had the star.  He would travel to her home to make preparations, and he would act.  No unorthodox psych evaluations were going to endanger his major work, not if he could help it.  He hadn’t memorised his lines, practiced his part, shaved the bad edges off for the last two months for nothing.
“I got a New Year’s resolution, Sammy.  I’m gonna put on a play.  It’s called, ‘I’m Not Taking Any More Shit.  Not From Anybody.’ Like it?”
“The title is too long, no?”
“It’s that or ‘I’m Spiderfingers the Immortal, So Don’t Fuck With Me, Motherfuckers.’ Still not decided, but just you wait, Sammy, it’s gonna be bigger than Book of Mormon.”
“Here’s to opening night!” said Samson, practically forcing the bottle into the hands of his friend.
Opening night’s just around the corner.
Spiderfingers surveyed the world he’d been created to protect.  A bouncer asking a woman for her number, his arm bracing for another of her falls to the pavement; a gaggle of bike taxi’s arguing over the right of way:  An old woman singing Jesus loves you at two lovers holding hands, both men in practiced denial.
“You still have time.” She shouts as both parties travel in opposite directions, “Jesus loves you!”
“And look at that shit over there, Sammy.” Spiderfingers pointed his beer in the direction of five or more policemen searching through the pockets of a black couple – no older than fourteen.
“These kids are young enough to be Vicky’s age.  How will the shit the authorities put them through change their soul? How will this officialised gang make them better products for society? Sometimes,” he handed back the beer to Samson, “Sometimes I don’t know why I do this.”
A man with a scar on his face walked up to the two of them:
“You got some weed Superman?”
“Not a seller, mate.”
“You sure?” replied the man, as Spiderfingers looked closer at the ravaged face, finding a woman with no teeth smiling at him, “suck your dick? Gotta feed my baby and –”
“Please, go.”
The lights behind her eyes faded as she scurried, mumbling something about black men and the state of the country.
“You do know why you’re doing this, Mr Spider.” Samson slurped on his bottle, “You’re the good guy.”
 “No, I saved you because of how it looked.  Fuck, I don’t know … That smile on your face, how the fuck do you keep it?”
Samson thought long and hard for a moment.  Then, upon the approach of a group of girls, “Ladies, I’ve not had the pleasure of playing to an audience as well dressed as you, not in a long, looooong time.  Permit me the pleasure?”
“Yeah?” said one of the girls to her two friends.  They giggled in agreement and somehow, through sheer passion not to mention dexterity long accustomed to the London cold, Samson Owusu managed to play a heart-pounding, soul wrenching Little Richard number.
“Keep on knocking but you can’t come in! Come back tomorrow night and try it again, woooooh!”
Spiderfingers danced, the fingers of his free hand rubbing together behind his back gesticulating over his open hood.  As the song came to a close, no fewer than six gold coins dropped behind his neck.  Questions followed the passionate applause whilst Spiderfingers emptied the coinage into Samson’s bag:
“Where did you get your coat from Superman?”
“You’ve got such a lovely voice.  I mean that, honest to god.  What part of Africa are you from?”
“Where do you sleep?”
Samson collected the change from the rucksack in which they were thrown.  He handed them back up to his fans,
“No ladies, I insist.  Just do me a favour?” They stood waiting, as Samson held up his sign:
A smile is FREE
So grin with ME
When they left, after posing for a picture, insisting they leave him with a beer and a bag of chips, Spiderfingers said: “So you smile because you like bringing out the happiness in others?”
“Billions of people will die with doubt in their hearts.  Even the most die-hard of my country’s reverends, he will die not knowing where his soul is going to go.  I know for sure that there is more to life on Earth,” he pointed his guitar at Spiderfingers, ‘and that knowledge makes me … smile.”
“Hey, know what’s cool about transport being free on New Year’s Eve?”
Samson shook his head.
“We get to go on an underground adventure.”
They began with a stroll to Camden Tube.
“Happy New Year!” The man at the ticket barriers returned the saying, grinning contentedly as two obvious vagrants made use of the twenty four hour no charge policy.  Hours of tube surfing (a fantastic moment of introducing the carriage sport to a sprightly senior citizen, an eccentric gentlemen dressed in clowns gear, his rendition of Auld Lang Syne oddly moving), station busking and random conversations ensued.  Sometimes Spiderfingers would break into some rehearsal.  Two months of tweaking and honing his lines:
“Come again? You mean, you’ve never heard of Babushka Doll Lit?  That’s like saying you’ve never heard of Nirvana!  We’d better do something about that then.”
Oddities that he tried out on Samson.
“… More of a game than a series of stories.  You ask me the right question at the end of this tale … you … you – shit – what’s the line? Ah, yes! Ask me the right question at the end of this tale and you unsheathe another story.”
Samson clapped “Wonderful, Mr Spider.” He said, “Well spoken.” Spiderfingers doubted Samson’s complete comprehension of the play, which was fair enough since he’d refrained from outlaying a detailed plot synopsis.  He figured Samson applauded the snappiness of the delivery, the varying tones of his speech.
“Ah, c’mon, what’s the real name of your play, Mr Spider?” Spiderfingers smiled at this pal of his, hiccupping throughout his answer as he bent down, drunkenly mishandling the release of the eye-patch strung to his kneecap.
“The Russian Doll Stories, Sammy.  Here you go.” And Spiderfingers wrapped Samson’s patch around the head of its rightful owner.  The smile his friend afforded him elicited a feeling he thought his twenty four hour job had surgically removed.  He dug his pockets for his notepad and squiggled down words his character denied:
“Sammy, about your book …”
“Aw, no more writing tonight, Mr Spider, unless you want to write about me? Oh, did I just say that? I’ve been hanging about with you too much.  C’mon, put the pen away? Live a little.  Smile a lot.”
But Sammy’s mood was too jolly, so when he didn’t quite catch him over the din of an approaching tube, Spiderfingers pretended not to have said anything.
“You ever tried just talking the bad guys down?”
“Oh, you had to spoil the evening.”
“But seriously, you can’t solve all your problems with your fists.”
“There are only monsters round these parts, smiley.”      
The pair ended their adventure outside the entrance for Morden station, singing Come As You Are.  Every time one threatened to pass out, the other would begin a new song, regardless if Samson new the chords.
“Not saying you should just sit there like a buffoon.  Trick them.  Tell your monsters lies.”
“Violence doesn’t have to be my way?”
“Exactly! The best weapons you have are in your mouth.”
Most of the time, the correct playing didn’t matter, the unintentional comedy to die for.
“If I had your smile Sammy, maaaaan.”
“You’d not be kissing any girls soon.”
“No, no I wouldn’t.  I wouldn’t be selling any chocolate bars either, but I’d win votes for a smile like that.  In the right election, I’d win big time votes.”
“Do you miss girls, Mr Spider?”
“Do you miss cock?”
They laughed heartily as Spiderfingers returned a wink, shoving playfully into Samson’s ribs.  
“No, c’mon, Mr Spider? With your charm, you could have anybody.”
“Yeah, well, that’s not how Gaia sees it.” He paused, unsure about the merit of discussing the way his body worked, “Hey, we didn’t sing Auld Lang Syne, did we?”
“We missed the strikes, Mr Spider! It’s twenty twelve and we’re still alive.”
“Never trust a Mayan Sammy boy.” Samson’s laughter became song as Spiderfingers crooned through lyrics his friend bluffed through:
“Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never thought upon;
The flames of love extinguished, and fully past and gone:
Is thy sweet heart now grown so cold, that loving breast of thine;
That thou canst never once reflect on old long syne.” 
When the evening became morning, as the final chords to badly sung lyrics died upon the new dawn, he left Samson to his napping.  He had to meet ‘Object Girl’ for ‘opening night’.  She better have that Play-Doh, he thought taking a glimpse at his snoring friend.
        “Success is all about who you know, Sammy, how the poor bastards see you.”

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His latest role demanded the poise and self-assuredness of a Master of Ceremony, much like a young deity, overly comprehensive in his conversation, so as to render the replies of others redundant.