Smartly Dressed Violence (part xi)

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Karen Winkoski never went by Dr. Winkoski. She didn’t like the airs and graces that came with the title. She wasn’t one to blend into any background either, she liked for her work to do the talking. She had studied synthetic biology for the best part of her career, finding it hard to tread the fine line of ethics and morality in a corporate capitalist system. She had gone off the radar in the past few years, taking her work away from the mainstream to focus on understating S.I.N and finding a reversal. She had established ‘The Order’ as part of her approach to undo the changes that had occurred in her lifetime, and how the corporate and class system had evolved around S.I.N; relegating many to its crippling societal discrimination.

Having come across resistance and unforeseen battles against agencies and individuals; her work was forced underground. This is where it may have slowly died if it wasn’t for a mystical discovery that was brought to her attention by way of a strange visitor. Unlocking parts of the secret had forwarded both her quest for a cure, and to move the benefits of this magic for all; beyond that of disease. A great equaliser.

Karen led them both around the room, showing them the sequencing and extraction machines and impressive hologram units which broke through codes and displayed eerie glowing vignettes of things that Jess could not make sense of.

“The vault is really the heart of our operation. I’m not sure how much you know Jess, or how much you should know; but The Order is no longer working on the solely on reversal of S.I.N in afflicted individuals, but the elevation of all human cells. We’re looking at what S.I.N does to the body, and moving things to the other end of the spectrum; creating cells and tissues resistance to cancer strains, diseases or immune disintegration.”

“Making everyone a superhero, right Bishop?” Levon said, nudging Karen in the side playfully.

“Kind of. While it’s true Jess that we have only selectively reversed certain people, this is not through any discriminatory process. We found that we can only use our reversal pathogen in certain gene types. The virulence is not stable on all cases.” Karen said.

Jess remained silent.

“I won’t go into the stages of success we’ve had over the years, or failures for that matter as I’m sure you can imagine what results we would’ve come across. It wasn’t a pretty process. But we have made huge advances in understanding S.I.N and its makeup, and reversing certain types and halting the mutation.”

“But you have a cure right?” Jess asked, watching Levon pick up a glowing test tube and shaking it, seeing the colours inside change.

Karen sighed.

“It’s not that simple I’m afraid.” She said, taking the test tube from Levon and putting it back in its holder.

“It’s not simple at all, but get to the magic part….that’s the bit everyone is always interested in.” Levon said.

Karen had walked around to the other side of the large metal table. She looked at them both, placing her hands on the bench before her.

“You know of The Altered, you know what this world has offered us. It has brought about a way of slicing through the darkness in our science, and has shone a light into that void. We call those within the order Saints, Bishops, Teachers and Priests; invoking a religious space and veil of mysticism. And in a way, it is. But the magic is ruled by its own decrees and laws. There are limitations to it and things we don’t understand. With the help of The Order, and the work we do here in the vault, we are marrying the two worlds together to understand the science behind the mutation for those suffering, and moving it to a space where we aren’t all just equal; but better than before. Our vow is to right a terrible wrong, not just for some; but for all. Our work is leading towards one great event to cure everyone.” She breathed out noisily, as if completing an affirmation.

She stared at both of them, letting the gravity of what she said hit each of them. Karen knew Levon’s circumstance, and she knew too of the likes of Jess. Soldiers in a war fighting with only have of the picture. She was brave and an idealist, but making moves with only part of the information.

“So what can we do?” Jess asked, looking Karen squarely in the eyes.

“The first thing is to be baptised.” Karen replied.

Jess scoffed slightly, a look of satisfaction coming over her.

“I’ve already been baptised, for nearly six months now.” Jess replied, cockily. Karen looked over to Levon, he looked away smiling.

“You can read the incantations, and I imagine you can generate the mind projections. Right?” Karen asked her.

Jess took a moment, knowing now where this was heading.

“Yeah.” She said.

“Which is a good start, I bet it wasn’t easy as it can be painful when you first begin.” Karen took out small book from her lab coat pocket, followed by a small viral; its contents glowing blue. “But you have yet to be baptised using anything from the altered I would assume?”

Jess was quiet.

“Levon here is a mystery to us still, what he can do and how his body reacts with the magic is still beyond our understanding. But there are some of us who do react more with the powers and the magic this mystic world offers. We have found ways to enhance ourselves to it, and as a result; can aid our efforts towards our goal. Initial steps, baptism for example, shows a commitment and entry to this world that we must keep secret and safe for now. But it also has physical and practical changes to our bodies.” Karen said, shaking the little vial.

“I want to help, I want to change what this world has come to.” Jess said, watching the vial hypnotically.

“Then you’re in the right place.” Karen replied, smiling. “Are you ready?” She asked.

Jess nodded. She was knowledgeable about much of the Order, having been eager to enter and do her part. She had met Levon this way, the strange cleanser who knew more than her would ever tell. She longed to help, and have a function.

She tipped her head forward and slowly removed both of her eyes.


 

Smartly dressed violence (part x)

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It was just a short trip by air to the processing site near the west port. Flying over the city, you could see a sense of order and refinement. The skyscrapers gleamed, and the roads were angular and planned out. The public transport operated on a level never before seen in the world. This wasn’t dirty congested tubes that racketed around on tracks, here the elegant transit sparkled like the buildings, ferrying commuters in style and luxury to their destinations using the latest magnetised technology.

Aiko looked now over the cityscape, pondering over the order and the harmony below. He saw his own technology zip through the streets, part of his ever growing empire of business and wealthy assets. His fingerprints lay over much of what he saw and he smiled at the dominance that stretched out before him. There was order and cleanliness, structure and control; gifts he believed he had given the city. And the city had rewarded him, never knowing his true identity or intentions.

His transport landed on atop of the processing plant which churned and heaved below him. Steam and smog bellowed noisily into refinery pipes and containment vacuums. Though the plant was sleek and modern, its processes’ were old and dirty, expelling the residues and filth into areas of the west side that he paid a lot of money hide. Oh course, those who lived there made their own uses for the by-products, and cottage industries had risen up around the site that took advantage of the unwanted.

He made his way swiftly inside, eventually entering a vast circular meeting room that hung with nervous people, eager to see what the visit was all about. Many were smartly dressed, but a few wore clothes tailored to factory floors more than board rooms. Almost forty people filled the room, silently waiting for Aiko to speak. He entered through the circular desks and stopped in the centre of the room, the lights illuminating from below giving him an almost angelic appearance.

“Thank you all for coming to this hastily arranged meeting. I am very pleased with how the plant has functioned recently due to certain demands made, and your overall contribution to Atone-industries. As you are aware, this is only the first phase in our outlined projections for the city and surrounding suburbs. Phase II will begin shortly, and as expressed previously, this will require a relocation to sites in facilities Het and Bet underneath the city. Many of you will be familiar with these sites, but those who are not; you are soon to be amazed by these sites.”

A few pocketed whispers began around the room, reassurance began to seep in and some smiled.

“The timeline has been accelerated due to your success here and I would like to thank you for your efforts. Each department will have a briefing following this meeting, and relocation A.I’s will be on hand to transport and reconfigure all for the next stage. Those of you who have requested additional family cleansing and assessment, this has been approved by myself and will also begin immediately.”

Applause and smiles now filled the room.

“I needn’t remind anyone here that this is a delicate situation and technically takes place outside of the realms of legality. As such, I will remind you all of your legal bonding to the NDA’s and contractual stipulations you have all signed.”

The applause faded, but the smiles remained. Many in the room had been waiting all their lives for this to happen.

“Wonderful. Then let me thank you again for your effort, and here’s to Phase II.”

Applause broke out again, and Aiko bowed respectfully before making his way out of the room. Those who remained quickly dissolved into chatter, and the room filled with the sound of hurried cheerful voices creeping up the walls like happy lizards.

Aiko made his way down a corridor followed by Stefan, he entered an office with a large glass window which looked out over the port.  Stefan came to a stop one side of the desk while Aiko looked out over the sea.

“What is the timeline we are now looking at?” Aiko asked him calmly.

“I would say just under a week. If we are to process everyone and their families. The AI’s are in place so we only need to do a systems check.” Stefan replied, checking a hologram tablet in front of him.

“Good. And the system failure scenario, I have access to that now?” Aiko asked, his gaze locked on the horizon out at sea.

“Yes, your access codes are here.” Stefan said, sending something over to him remotely using the hologram. “The staff relocation….” He began.

“Should be of the highest importance, and secrecy. Building 70 is complete and is ready for the intake. The views are fantastic there, they’ll have a better vista than either you or I.” Aiko said. Stefan smiled and ticked something off a list.

“There are some things that I’m not quite sure of still….” He began, but Aiko cut in.

“Then you are not to know of it yet I would presume. Everything in time.” Aiko replied.

“But the source….” Stefan tried again, confidentially. At this Aiko turned to face him, slipping out a small book from his inside pocket. He held it down in front of him like precious hymn book.

“Is not your concern.” Aiko said. And with than, Stefan nodded and turned to depart, leaving Aiko alone in the room which began to glow a faint blue behind him.


Smartly Dressed Violence (part ix)

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The blue and green lights seemed to call them onward encouragingly, radiating from the walls like a welcoming glow. Jess and Levon descended lower with each step, feeling a warmer air greet them as they went. Jess could hear a pulsating sonic sound coming from the walls, as if large computer systems were speaking to each other through the stone or mutterings of the dead from the graves.

“Is it always this elaborate, going to see him?” Jess asked, minding her head as they came to a low beam section.

“I thought you might like the clandestine way.” Levon said. He had been here before, naturally; but they also seemed to change the systems of entry frequently. “And who said anything about a him?”

Jess looked at him for a moment, confusion and understanding swimming around each other.

“The Bishop is a she?” She asked, hoping to sound less surprised than she was. Levon smiled at her.

“Change anything?” He asked her.

“Not a damn bit.” She replied, lying slightly.

They carried on down the stairs until they came to a less formal but equally solid door. A blue strip of light bathed the space outside the door and Levon stopped just before it.

“You first.” He said, nudging her forward towards the light. Jess stepped into it and suddenly changed to a deeper blue.

“It checks for contaminants, among other things.” Levon said, watching as the light hummed and pulsed over her.

“Let me guess what the other things are, S.I.N markers perhaps?” She said, irksomely.

“You be surprised what they check for.” He replied, noticing the light switch to green; followed by a successful ‘tink’ sound, like the finishing of a coffee machine.

“Looks like you’re good.” He said as she stood back and he stood forth into the light.

“Hmmph.” Came from Jess as she stood back and watched Levon go through the same process. It took longer, but he too received the same acceptance, and once complete the doors before them opened and they could see inside the room.

Before them a laboratory had been made up around the stone coffins, clearly down deep in a crypt under the church. About four people peppered the room, working at stations and swirling strange coloured liquids in tubes under lights. Computers and machines clicked and hummed and the same blue and green lights gently lit the space; washing the walls with a calm and sanctuary like illumination. Coming towards them suddenly came a woman dressed in a lab coat. A red face mask covered her mouth, but Jess could see she had kind gentle eyes. She pulled the mask down as she approached them both.

“Nice to see you Levon, a treat indeed for you to come down into the vault and see us.” She extended her hand towards Jess who noticed the red gloves that extended up to her elbow. “And you must be Jess, so nice to meet you. I’m Karen.” Jess extended her own hands and shook them.

“Nice to meet you too.” Jess said, looking around the room.

“Not many get to see the vault, so please excuse the mess.” Karen said. Jess noticed little mess, but large extraction machines, screens scrolling through vast amounts of data and blueprint plans tacked up on a board on the other side of the room. The effigy of a saint looked down upon them from above.

“Jess doesn’t know anything, I thought it best to leave it to you to explain what goes on.” Levon said, with a smirk across his face. Karen sighed, leading them in further to the room.

“I hope you don’t have the same disdain as Levon does for what we do here then, his attitudes become quite tiresome sometimes.” Karen said, smiling.

“Not just his attitude, he’s quite a pain most of the time.” Jess said, returning the smile to her.

“Siding with the Bishop already, who’d have thought?” Levon cut back to her. Jess looked surprised.

“Oh Levon, you and your names for people. Should I call you The Cleanser then, or do you prefer your usual name devoid of the implications or grandiose expectations?” She asked him coyly. Levon smiled back, enjoying the teasing.

“You…you’re the bishop then?” Jess asked, folding her arms both defensively and from an anger.

“I’m afraid I am, for all my faults.” Karen said, he face remaining warm and open.

“And you’re not ashamed for what you’ve caused people, what your system of selection has done. Playing god the way you do?” Jess was angry, but she was trying her best to stay calm.

“I understand you have a personal qualm with me and what we do then?” Karen replied.

“Not just me, many. When you can help the all and yet only choose the few.” Jess spat back. “You have the means to cure everyone, but you limit to whom you feel are warrant of changing. How are you any different from the others, or the likes of Akio?”

Karen let her speak, understanding of her compliant. She then calmly took off her gloves, revealing a blackness that stained its way up her arms.

“I will show you how.” She said, her eyes flaring with an excitement.


 

Smartly Dressed Violence (part viii)

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Jess was by the front door of Levon’s apartment, she seemed eager to go.

“Come on then, I assume you’re ready?” She asked.

Levon stood and watched her a moment, his mind navigating through what he had seen and trying to work out if it was achievable.

“You think that will work?” Levon asked, his face subduing tiny flickers of hope.

“You got a better plan?” Jess asked before adding. “Unless you want to just hide away and let this unfold without you?”

“Don’t make out you don’t need me for this.” Levon cut back.

Jess rolled her eyes, expecting this type of reply.

“Come on, we can get there before they shut.” Jess said with urgency. Levon walked towards the door, taking a biker jacket off a hook and putting it on. He stopped in front of Jess.

“Fine, but we’re not going there. You want my help, then I need make sure I can give it.” Levon said.

“What do you mean?” Jess asked, surprised.

“You’re coming to see the Bishop.” Levon said, intrigued to see her reaction. Jess took a moment, looking away as if looking for the right words over on the wall. She turned back to him, her eyes wide.

“About time.” She said, hiding the feeling he knew she had. And with that they both set off out the door, each holding their own little books tightly to them as they made their way down in the elevator.

They sped down the twenty eight floors quickly, not talking as they went. The exited out into a small lobby and then to the street which was moving with a bustle of city life. Well-dressed men and women crowded the sidewalk, each going off to their own little space and place to be. Levon and Jess attracted a few stares, their clothing did not fit and their overall look of rough and readiness did not blend in well. They moved on through the crowd, making their way to the tram stop.

As the tram came to a stop, more people exited, brushing past them both; the two of them together seemed to double the disgust of the others. Some of them tutted as they passed, while others barged into them purposefully. One woman stopped and jabbed her umbrella into Levon’s side.

“You two should fuck off the streets while decent people are about. Shouldn’t you be driving the tram, not riding in it?” She said, scornfully addressing them and looking them both up and down. Others smiled and nodded in agreement as they went on by.

Jess made a move forward, but Levon pulled her back.

“It’s not worth it.” He said, quietly to her. He then spoke to the woman who had jabbed at him.

“We’re sorry, it’s an emergency. We wouldn’t be travelling now if we didn’t have to.” He said, noticing how busy it was. The rush hour was always the worse for this type of thing. Levon could pass sometimes, he would blend in with his outfits and manner. But Jess stood out like a sore thumb, dressed in casual combat gear and dyed hair. Conformity was not something Jess subscribed to.

“I should think not. We don’t want to see your lot, I thought that was clear by now. Get out of my way.” The lady said, pushing past them with her umbrella. Jess mumbled something under her breath, but then made her way onto the tram; followed by Levon.

They stayed at the back while it snaked its way across the city, emptying and refilling as it went. They received more unwelcomed looks, but no one else approached them. Finally they reached the stop they wanted, exiting out by some gardens that sprawled off into the distance. They waited for the tram to move on and quickly crossed the road on the other side. More gardens greeted them as the huge black church loomed above. They turned left, making their way down a side street that looped around the back of the church. Here they found a small building opposite the left transept. It had a large ornate wooden door with a knocker in the shape of a cross.

Jess and Levon looked around. The sky was getting dark, but they could still see the street from the doorway. A few heads bobbed along, but no-one was really watching. Ignoring the knocker, Levon put his fist into a small alcove at the side of the door as a little blue light appeared and scanned his hand. A click and a whirl, and a chain dropped for him to pull, which he did and then stepped back. The door opened before them as the ground also dropped away, revealing a staircase down into a blue and green lit corridor.

“How cool is that.” Jess said, noticing the marks on Levon’s hand; tattoos she’d always thought meant nothing.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Levon replied, stepping forward down onto the stairs. Jess followed him as the door quickly closed behind them and they descended.

Let the dead in

Those little lights above my head.
Calling the skin to murmur.
It prickles the spine to know, I’m not alone.
I can’t remember when I was lost.
Wandering in the fog on a wavering strength.
These pulsating voices call, welcoming me back.
Those faces remain.
Allowed in to suffocate the bloodstream.
Occupying every darkened corner.
We let the dead in.
Taking everything but understanding.
For they are welcomed by an impulse.
An idea that creeps in when the darkness takes hold.
Better to be surrounded then end up alone.
Yet I was the last to know.

SMARTLY DRESSED VIOLENCE (PART VII)

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Across the city, at the time Levon had come out from the altered, Akio Tsutsumi sat at his desk high up in the 101 building. The skyscraper on the south side of the city looked off over to the port where, if he was looking, he would see the ferries leaving the docks and making their way out to the ocean. Akio wasn’t looking out at the view, high up on the 101st floor, he was finalising a document with a smile. The final flourish of his signature completed the task and he set his pen to the side and sat back in his chair. Akio Tsutsumi was impeccably dressed, he had to be; he was at work. His business, his building, his empire here on earth. Or at least the headquarters of an empire that stretched far across the globe. The problem with empires, and to those that want after them, is that they are never enough. There is always more to conquer, more to have, and more to consume.

This notion of greed had plagued Akio since he was a child. Growing up in conditions he would let no-one privy to now, he had been incensed by his circumstance. He had watched as others had excelled, moved on and up with all the niceties that a life could offer. While he had remained, reduced down to an allotted placement and allowance in the order of things. But Akio would dig himself out of the circumstance, he would bloom like a flower out of the mud of life and never forget where he had started. For many, this would have led to an understanding of the unbalance, perhaps even campaign to end the wrongful ways the world was turning in. But for Akio, he had been damaged and maligned. Broken and used by both sides of the system. He removed any shame that might stick to his cells along with the S.I.N, and in its place he filled it with anger and contempt. Not entirely however. Akio’s secret could indeed be his undoing; a fact that he was well aware of. And he took great care to protect and hide this, whatever it took.

A further step in this direction was what was contained in the documents, now signed, sitting on his desk.

Akio pushed back form the large wooden desk before him and stood up. He straightened his smart expensive suit, a suit that cost more than his assistant Stefan earned in a year, and called him into his office. Stefan looked agitated as he entered, uncertain perhaps of what was happening. Akio usually set very strict routines, ones you could set your overpriced watch by, and today’s activity so far had changed many of them.

“Yes sir?” Stefan asked, lingering in the door area of the huge office space.

Akio had now turned away, looking out of the window. He watched the boats out to sea, the huge ferries passing the smaller ones seemingly not to notice them bob frantically as they passed. He remained staring off out the window.

“How long have you worked for me Stefan?” Akio asked, pleasantly.

“Almost a year sir.” Stefan replied. He loosed the top button to his Oxford shirt.

“And in that time, have I asked you to do anything for me that goes against your, shall we say, moral compass?”

Stefan paused for moment before answering, he reached inside his own mind both looking for a truthful reply and balancing it off with the correct one.

“No, not to my knowledge. I find you to be a very honourable person, and if I might add; someone to aspire to be like.” Stefan said sincerely. And it was true, many of the others would trade places with him in a heartbeat. Akio was the epitome of success and class.

“You’re very kind Stefan. You’ve always spoken honestly, which is why I trust you.” Akio turned now to face him, offering him a smile. “I trust then you feel the same as I with the west side.”

Stefan looked at him, unsure.

“How the west side of the city is a blot on our greatness. A pebble in the shoe of our progress. A blight, a cancerous tumour in all we wish this city to be.” Akio said. He stood proudly, hands folded down in front of him as if posing for a magazine cover.

“Well, yes the area there is very dilapidated. It could all use some gentrification in my opinion. Some nice suburbs and a change of clientele.” Stefan said.

Akio beamed.

“Exactly, a change in clientele. That’s what is needed.” Akio said.

“But it’s been proposed for years, and nothing ever came of it. The sinners have legal protection for their ghettos and housing projects. We’d never be able to have them removed.” Stefan offered.

“No, I agree. They will never leave. They are stuck to that area like a barnacle on a ship.” His voice was soft, devoid of any emotion. “But then, accidents happen all the time. Don’t they?”

Stefan stared at him. He shuffled his own expensive shoes nervously.

“All the time.” Stefan replied, his own hatred massaged by unfolding suggestions. A hatred which he was free now to express, with the privilege of position.

“Accidents and calamities. Acts of God.” Akio added, pulling the cuff to his suit down, straighten it.

Constraint

Traded in for bruises that fade.
Caught between fists that flurry.
But if you could see yourself.
What control has been sacrificed?
Rolled over into shame.
Mastered nothing but regret.
This secret life, lost in your dreams.
What does any of this mean?
Domestic in the normalising.
Abused yourself by remaining.
Worried now, they know it all too well.
Pull the blind down and shut your eyes.
Count to ten.
As the clock ticks closer to midnight.
And you look a little more worried.
A solitary cry in the night.
From a boy mirroring the wolves.
At your door.

Diagnose

All this bubbling inside my veins.
Feels like angels spitting in my brain.
A feverish swoon overtakes me now.
The silent prayer and misplaced vow.
That swirl and flick of the finger of god.
Dilutes this blood to something odd.
More like a lick from roaming devils.
Who cough and sniff, and silently revel.
This outbreak which defies prognoses.
And nudges for spiritual diagnoses.
For though my body and mind is sick.
Inside the soul this illness licks.
And leaves me now mere bread and wine.
My soul and spirit, drenched in turpentine.

SMARTLY DRESSED VIOLENCE (PART VI)

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He wasn’t surprised, she had done this before. She had a key after all and would sometimes come by without telling him. It had been a while though, and their last meeting hadn’t been too pleasant. Home truths, on both sides, hadn’t landed well and he was glad of the distance and space as a result.

Jess sat opposite him now, her face friendly yet revealed nothing. She was holding a book herself, smaller than the one Levon had used to go into the altered, but it was similar in design and he knew what it was. Sweet trickled from his head after his journey over and back, and he was thirsty too, like always. She pushed across a glass of water, which he took up quickly; emptying it before talking.

“And what do I have this pleasure for?” He asked, setting the glass back on the table and wiping his brow.

“Pleasure for you, but a chore for me.” Jess said, toying with the book in her hands as she sat forward.

“I was being sarcastic.” He replied.

“Oh course you were Levon, as you always are. You can never be direct, or sincere or transparent.” Her words hung over the table. He looked away.

“What do you want?” He asked, the irritation sticky in the words.

“I want you to do what you do best. There’s a family I want cleansed, and I need it done quickly.” She said.

“I figured as much. And you always want things done quickly, and specifically…and to your specification. It must really annoy you that you don’t have this ability, having to rely on me and my…what was it, pathetic and backward ways of handling life.” Levon said. He bore his eyes into her own. Jess looked away, irritated.

“Once again you put your own needs in the way of others.” She said, smiling in satisfaction before continuing. “For your information, this isn’t about me or what I want. This will change everything, eventually.”

Levon paused before replying, searching her eyes for the reasons. He found them tucked in there between the iris and starlight the he could always see in the honest.

“Who and why?” he said.

“They are the Tanakas, and they live over on the west side.”

“They’re always on the west side.” Levon blurted out.

“And we all know why they’re all in the west side, we know who’s pushed them there. Geez, listen will you. The Tanakas live in a shared house, there’s five other families there with them. They live on the top floor. The place is a dump, the usual. We need them cleansed as soon as possible. I think they are the answer to all this.” Jess said. She got up now and moved across to the bookshelf. She clutched her own small book still, but ran her fingers across the spines of the others on the shelf. It came to rest on a book, which she tapped before sliding it out of its place.

“And what is the answer to the question we all know then?” Levon asked.

Jess turned to face him. Her eyes wide, yet filled with hope.

“Because the Tanakas are the dirty little secret of the one and only Akio Tsutsumi. And I think we have a way of getting your amazing abilities to a much wider audience.” Jess said, suddenly alive with more urgency.

Levon looked at her, wondering what plan she had formed in her mind. Jess moved, not on impulse; but from a place of strategy and calculation. Her anger from all the injustice was ploughed into ways of overturning the system that had raised the few and lowered the many. She herself, a product from the tainted world of S.I.N where her blood directed her supposed path. That anger and disillusion spread, forcing her into the revolutional world of the likes of Levon. Levon, a lone wolf in a rising group of defiers. Of lights in a darkening world. Their alliance was problematic, but they wanted the same thing in the end. Equality.

“The asshole of the year you mean. What’s Tsutsumi got to do with your plan?” Levon asked, also getting up and moving across to where Jess stood. He took the small book she was clutching, opening it up. It shimmered too with a familiar blue light.

“Take a look for yourself.” she said, and she whispered over the book he had held open. The book flickered forward through some pages before a mist began to seep out; wafting upwards. The blue light seemed to charge through the cloud like an electricity circuit before images began to appear and move, like a floating screen. He saw what Jess had in mind.

SMARTLY DRESSED VIOLENCE (PART V)

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Peace. That’s where this magic always took him. Away from the city, from the guilt. Away from the eyes always searching for him, or the others that hung with pity. He sometimes came just to escape, though he was told he could never linger. He felt the blue light wash through his veins as he passed over into that world, out into the altered. He dropped all constraints of the world that bound him. Up was neither down nor above, it simply was just. Time had no possession of the place, the space itself was both endless and contained. It moulded to the mind of those who entered.

Today in the altered, the world was cavernous. The blue light that exploded in each moment sucked to the invisible walls that surrounded him, as if in a large cave. His mind was clouded and blocked in, thoughts echoing within him from some past voice. The space mirrored this now, his footsteps resounding back as he made his way further forward. He felt grounded, yet nothing lay below him; like walking on air. Only the electron blue particles that buzzed in their infinite gave any dimensions until he forged what he wanted, what he needed. Now the cave took shape, a pool and stone island appearing before him as some ancient Neolithic alter. Voices danced in his ear, tantric sounds that soothed and caressed him.

He made his way forward to the large stone slab and placed a book upon it from his pocket. It was the same book he used to enter this realm. It was his key to all the wonder. He opened the book to an appropriate page and rolled up his sleeves. He dug his hands then deep into the rock which was soft like sand. He pulled his fist up, creating two stone flasks that slowly turned transparent. He made the flasks similar to those found in laboratories that contain a host of nature’s wonders, as a child he loved seeing the different coloured liquids swirling in the base, waiting to be mixed into a kind of magic. Out of his pocket he took a thimble with a small spike at the end and dug it quickly into his wrist. His face registered no pain, only the calm that had found him when he entered the world. He drained his blood into the flask on his left, filling it almost to the brim. Already the blood had begun to change, flecks of red crystals had begun to form; darkening the blood and forming lumps in the flask. It slowly got darker, turning to purple then to a blue.

In the other flask, Levon whispered over the rim some words he read from the book. Softly, as if lulling a child to sleep, broken bits of a language tumbled from his mouth. The flask began to radiate and come alive, a strong neon brilliance filling it up. He took this flask and poured it into the other. The reaction was instant. The space exploded with a pure blight flash and the flask churned with a blue and white liquid which seemed to dance inside it. Levon smiled, another successful transformation. He looked at his wrist, it had healed. Nothing showed where he had dug so willingly into his skin.

He popped a stopper into the flask, and bowed in appreciation. He muttered a few more words, which rebounded off the walls of the cave and seemed to disappear up beyond, collected by winds that blew a soft smell of eucalyptus. Levon picked up the book, and put it once more into his pocket and began to retreat his steps; mumbling some words under his breath. The world collapsed and he returned back to his apartment quickly, his hand gripping the table once more. He opened his eyes to find he was now not alone at the table.

“Hello Levon, long time no see.” She said.

Rush

Humbled, caught in such rapture.
Clinging to joy like a root to a tree.
No longer myself, yet loved still.
Understanding fate’s anatomy.
Chaos now silenced, calm like a church.
We pray in the days that unfold.
Burning them fully like candle wicks of life.
Threatened each day by the wind that is blowing.
From mouths that don’t know how to kiss.
How to love.
Let the world caress, and slice you deeply.
Allowing the wonder-kind to slip in.
Soaking in the blood, underneath your skin.
For these are days of letters unsent.
Of feelings unkempt, not knowing how to unfold.
Now time is falling like sand in a jar.
Borrowed, like a promise never meant to be kept.
And tomorrow is never guaranteed.

Cataclysm and collapse

Dipped in honey and gold, the future is sold.
Shimmering in the moon which tumbles to the earth.
Spread this skin out, count each cell.
Pick out the cancer and the coughing of indignity.
The devil licks at the wounds.
As angels weep sticky red tears.
I tremble in my state of knowing.
Feelings escape like weighted balloons.
Tomorrow stubs them with its cigarette days.
Covering us all in ash and despondency.
Where did the light go that shattered.
Who stole the hope that I hidden out of reach.
These day, this time; when all is lost and circles like a fish in pond.
Around nothing but the headache same as yesterday.
The truth is not stale, yet seems so familiar.
And time has run out, and so the world burns.
As I look into the eyes of change, I know now they are dead.
I know now, so are we.
A wreck in that pond where the fish swims in circles.
Collapsed and afraid.

Manifest the everyday nightmare

Partie un:

You motioned for me to quietly enter the room. I could feel the tenseness of the air. The walls seemed to contract and wrap themselves around me. You sat there with no expression on your face. That face, the one I had touched so many times. Kissed it, smelt it, longed to be near enough to it to count your eyelashes. Now it glared back at me like an empty pool. The lights began to flicker, stuttering out their watts in a rhythm I can only attune to the beat of your heart. The gun didn’t bother me, it was aimed at my head throughout but I knew this was all leading to something. The beginning of the end.

(I noted that it was aimed here and not my heart…maybe you’d finally figured out, there wasn’t one in this body of mine)

This part of the Jeykll and Hyde, this side of crazy. You asked me to sit down, the first time you’d spoken. Little daggers aimed at my ears, rushing with the blood and fresh thoughts to my head. You were so cordial, yet each word spat at me like kids on a council estate. I chose to stand, my one last defiance in our petty war. You told me there was something for me on the table, I looked down to see a wooden box.

You told me to open it.

This was not what I expected. Your look gave nothing away. Nothing except hurt burning from your eyes and an anger that could not by concealed. The box lay in a pool of blood, thick and viscous, floating on this horrific sea.

Deuxième partie:

Your eyes dared me to ask you what it was, like I didn’t know. The deluded pleas of the guilty, while all around the judges think of what punishment would be best fitting. The dying cat of curiosity rose and fell within me, and I turned away. I could not look, I could not commit to the ending so willingly. The metal felt cool against my temple, though it was your smell that made me aware of what you were doing. It crawled over me like the scent of the sea.

The gun clicked. I felt your soul near and shut my eyes, longing for you to turn my head and kiss me. Those days were long gone. A quick stab in the back. The knife that had, but till a moment ago, seemed mysteriously absent sent the tiny nerves in my body cascading like fireworks. Your mouth came close to my ear and you whispered the words I never believed you would utter. As if pulled from a dream.

(Truth is, you never said these three words with any conviction that would render it believable in the past, yet something told me this was the cold hard truth that my mind was digesting).

The sound of birds filled the room, and forced me to open my eyes. I turned and saw you there, eyes aflame and a soul locking its door forever on me. Never to be seen again by my pathetic searching pupils. Feathers fluttered down upon us as the ceiling filled with vultures, gathering and yearning with their hungry beaks. Their black hisses and calls split my ears. The box on the table flew open and out poured the remaining blood that flowed towards us like sticky lava. The contents bobbed on the surface momentarily before submerging into the crimson depths.

I sighed, you grabbed me and kissed me full on the mouth. You then sighed as I turned the gun and shot us both.

Partie trois:

No reasons, all feelings. Moving in a spaced state devoid of structure and responsibility. Bloody and weeping like the tears of a god. Wounds can split like the red sea. A hatred is awakened. After this, just indifference.

You watch as the violence hangs in the air. Feathers fly like tuffs of snow. Little teeth roll in my head like a stone in a can. A jingle like Christmas bells. The red of the season. How many times had you pulled that trigger? Which one of us started the fight? A rage had descended months ago. Welcomed in to the cold like a long lost cousin.

(If you were to ask me if love was still a figure in this theatre, I would have nodded a reply that confirmed my sad loyalty to the romance of death. Still, love can save the day right? Love is a weapon of choice.)

The room feels small and crowded. The bodies on the floor gasping for air and space. What died there that day, was only hope. Lust would always remain. Tragedy was the best re-frame for boxing that moment in our history. I pulled you off my skin, and spat out the tooth that had pierced my tongue. Like many words that came off as daggers, the tooth had left its bloody mark.

The box remained, the contents gone. Washed away in the crimson chaos. I would find it again, I was sure of that. But for now, agony and pain were to be swallowed and sanctified.

And as our ghosts left the room, stained in red, their heads hung down. Pulled by shame and gravity, wondering where it all began. Two little shadows quietly wept in the corner. Is this you and me, is this all the good that is left? Broken and crumbling in sad pathetic tears?

I would never know, because you shot them too.

Dislocate

This life, that fear of loving.
Of believing what is all around here.
A junction in your bones, fragile and misdirected.
Second hand bodies that fall like sad embarrassed eyes.
Only when the lights are out.
These fears call out your name.
Swim into your dreams and pollutes this bloodstream.
Who touched that velvet treasure?
You take rib, and scream a pleasure.
I feel the truth like each vertebrae.
You dislocate.
You propagate a new feeling within me.
A love so tender and tasty, it reeks of construction.
Of chaos and completion.
Slid off the bone of life.
All the noise seems to fade away.
To a coffin quiet existence that allows me to hear the future.
While you cover this love in salt for protection.
And I hold your bones in mine.
Counting the path of your spine.
Silently whispering to the angels a thanks.
For returning what once was ours.

Hemorrhage

Only fire can cure this itching.
Rushing down this soul.
Sinking ships now ablaze.
Smoke hiding the land that’s conquered.
The corn and calm destroyed.
That beauty is now broken.
Manifested in this defected dream.
Threads tugged, spun undone.
The flag now flutters, white like your lies.
Not a kiss or a smile full of emotion.
Could make everything okay.
Yet I admire you for the words you said.
You hate me now for the love I bled.
Pooling on your astral floor.

Before we drown

Smell the blood on the fingertips.
Flaring nostril over sips of coffee.
Institutional hatred awakens; so easy now.
Swim, and sing for that dying summer.
Hanging up days like the hopes of refugees.
To dry in the sun. To crisp and crack.
Then fall apart.
Move on, with your shark eyes and deadened heart.
Circling and spiralling.
These lies you tell, on repeat as if tapped.
The louder you are, does not make them true.
Collapse is blue.
And freedom coverts all colours.
Drifting out of these infested waters.
To the Promised Land.

Prepare a path

This heart in distant forms.
Washed with the dawn break and sudden mark of existence.
You were my candle in the night.
Silencing the lies they told me about god.
Names for you count like the stars in the heavens.
‘Eternity’ is one; ‘salvation’ another.
Sweet, like pouring honey into my ear.
Covered in gold and heavy in my soul like sand.
The wardens of this sky still call to me.
Shadows and light flitting across the clouds.
But I am not ready to fold.
This blood is still warm and runs through us both.
A matter a million times true.
For the end comes when there is nothing left.
And for now, I’m still covered in pieces.
Finding ways to fix what was broke.
Making ways to your heart.

Bleed in backwards

It was packed so tightly that it all got stuck.
A love weeping in the sediments of us.
You can feel it rushing down that valley inside.
Crimson boats on a disappearing tide.
And though your mind seeks now to triumph.
This heart still whirls its stark defiance.
Against a gulf that keeps exceeding.
A pain that hurts and keeps repeating.
It calls upon sweet ancient magic.
The spell of love, to vanquish tragic.

Tsunami

We stand on the shore, called down by the ocean.
The sweet swell motions the blood.
Reminds me I am human.
I feel safe in this storm.
As the wind rushes these bones.
Threatening the inevitable damage, I wait for the change.
Holding out for such wild destruction.
This land knows me not, we are but visitors here.
Collecting coconuts of contempt that we store for every season.
Each man an island. Each one built on sand.
Atlantis parading in peril.
Off on the horizon the ship struggles.
Souls shuffle, towards that great divide.
For that I cry.
But the tempest suffocates.
Throws away my tears, out into the eye that hovers.
And weeps only painful laments.
God watching on, lifting no finger.
Remembering the flood.
Soon we are drowning, smashed by the waves.
Broken on the shore of our lives that already began to recede.
I crawled once from the sea.
And too it now, we have returned.
Scattered and in pieces.
Littering the ocean floor.

Filter

With a tapping on these hollow bones.
Echo excuses.
Yet the tender skin, pulls you in.
These eyes blink as they reconstruct.
Speaking words that silently fill the air, with one harvesting look.
It’s these systems that are used, drummed out of fallen trees that stood watching over the dinosaurs.
Pouring that sticky sap into golden ears.
It’s seems delicious that movement.
Skin that sways like a moon tide, drifting into aching harbours.
Wooden bones, felled in a Pisces rising.
The sweetest time to hew and marvel.
Yet a switching off of this world leaves you vacant.
Wandering in that pasture where the insects buzz and sting.
That filter you use offers no clemency.
As poison needs no audience to flood the blood.
And you are now too far from home to be saved.
So we’ll bury you where you lay.
Covering you in shells and sweet kisses.
Eternally disconnected.

Precious tempo in hesitation

A prick to the fingers, bleeds a sigh.
Such evacuation of robust memories.
The red smeared over lips so fragile, that a moth would imprint its life.
With such delicate fearful steps.
You came from lands so distant that it makes society ache.
Thinking of that time and space.
Yet resided all along, you have remained dormant in our eyes.
Young was the world when you began to smile.
Now changed to veiled cathedrals where you refuse to pray.
Fragrant embers of long forgotten hymns.
Wrappings of words fall like orange peels.
You drop those curious glances like pearls on sandalwood floors.
Scattering and chasing the other.
Rolling into the void.
Yet with the midday sun you retreat from our view.
Into the shell of shelf, where we dare to touch you like a forbidden treasure.
Encased in framed beauty.
Those smashed church walls surrounding you.
Warning others of your divine right.
And inaccessibility.

40 Portraits of Pain

By June Okochi
http://www.juneokochi.co.uk/

I love telling stories. I write about my experiences of life, art, travel, culture, poetry. I even journal about living with my genetic condition.But one day I decided it would be great to express in a different kind way. I wanted to tell mine and other’s stories of living with our genetic condition through visual imagery.I wanted to use photography as an art form to express the different motions that come with this condition.How we deal with pain and suffering every day of our lives. To express how we battle fatigue levels, how we live with anxiety about when next we will be sick and back on a hospital bed, how we have become accustomed to discomfort and pain that we are no longer afraid of it. We have normalised it like the air we breathe. How we deal with broken bones, broken cells, strokes, suffocating pain, damaged organs and fight early mortality. Sometimes the pain is so excruciatingly unbearable, we chose death over life.We are born with it and we die with it. There are no easy ways around it.We deal with the impact on our social lives, our physical, mental and emotional lives. It takes its toll on our childhood, education, careers, professions, everything, until we end up borderline depressed and broken but we keep going, we keep living, we smile, we hide behind our pain, we cry at night, we keep smiling, we keep thriving, we keep popping those pills, we pop them until we die, we take your blood and exchange them into our veins to have life, to live. We need your blood donations, it fixes us for a short time until the next time when we need another fix. We take opiates to keep us alive, pain free. We use oxygen to keep us alive, we use surgery and chemo treatments to keep us alive. We do everything we can because we have no choice, because we didn’t choose this, because we were made to deal with it.Some of us do not know what a decent quality of life looks like.We fight, we fight, we win, we lose. Some fall and don’t make it, we hold their memories, recognising that they are in a better place, pain free, others keep fighting until we make our mark, find our legacy and our legacy may be as simple as just surviving.Sickle Cell…I am a warrior. We are warriors.World Sickle Cell Day, 19th June 2019Watch out for the full online photography series exhibition coming soon.#40potraitsofpain
#worldsicklecellday
#sicklecellinlondonCreator: June Okochi
Photographer: Jim Higham
Creative Director: Ijeoma Okochi-Agwu
Production: Mica Marshall and Tommy Okochi

RED #4: A methemoglobin state of prayer

A half-light silently wanders into sight.
It’s the beating throb of the world.
Now masked in shadows which crept out of us while we slept.
When the ghosts departed.
A dying embrace of an old lover.
The bottled words of a mother who told us to keep out of the road.
While we played, with such abandon, in the town.
On the steps of a church whose windows we’d smashed.
This lumbering giant of trouble, draws our blood.
While we stretch out our hands now in prayer.
To a god no longer there.
All in the shadows of broken mosques and beloved vampires.
Which we willingly idolize.
These empty hands reach for a comfort.
Waking up in pain.
Bruised and bloodied like knees of school kids.
Us in our youth, climbing the tree that hung over the stream.
Dripping the merlot drops into that crystal clear water.
Blurring our own reflections.

Red #3: Red like my heart

If I cut myself, will I find you?
Red, like my blood.
Swimming in ecstasy.
When the darkness prevails, you abandon us.
Leaving me alone with such lonely beats.
Of a heart struggling.
Like a clock unwinding.
You think this heart naïve?
It knows, but is unready to act like you wish.
To thump and rise, as you bang then blame.
Or tell it to stop completely.
Naivety makes way for inability.
Of acting against this sabotage.
Yet you are beyond such human fragility.
If I cut you, do you even bleed?
Would you leak a love all over me?
Flooding this space with such sweet honey.
Or should I let you fly.
And find you only in those heartbeats.
That synthesise a disappearing.
A pattern of a death so complete.
That it stains the world forever.
And heard across your universe.