Nuclear shadows

You cannot unwind the clock in my skull.
The ticking over time that set the world ablaze.
Who knew the day, when the sky darkened.
And fate eclipsed our shared heart.
Those running for cover.
Scattering like pebbles on a beach.
Lapped at by a sea of hatred.
I cling to the groceries in my hand.
Fruit, dehumidified in my grasp.
Turning to mummies like the bodies nearby.
Burnt in an undignified splendour.
What escaped hell that day?
Let loose by righteous souls who knew better.
A holy war into the mouth of the devil.
As the fire crinkled in the sky, it burnt down upon us.
Imprinting my soul into the pavement where I stood.
Nuclear shadows.
Snapped like the sun shuttering.
God, turning his head away.
God, with tears in her eyes.
The light of an age, swimming around those that twinkled inside.
But how soon those lights were gone.

Heaven is shut

The plane took off, soaring into the sky as the sun died on the horizon. All was safe, all parts working. Wheels stored safely as the streaming sound of pressure encased them. He looked out of the window and watched the ground give way. He sighed. He’d hoped for a failure. Maybe later when they were out over the ocean, no chance of rescue there. No one ever survived a plane crashing into the sea.

Closing his eyes, he saw their face. Lost and troubled as the chaos of the street bustled by. The taxi had hurried them, throwing his bags into the boot hastily before cars honked behind. They’d said their goodbyes already upstairs. Held on to each other as the tears threatened. At least he’d held on. He was unsure now how hard they had pulled into them. Deep inside his brain a voice had whispered ‘they want you to leave’.

Opening his eyes, he saw the seatbelt sign switch off, the little ‘bing’ sounding all around him but nowhere particular. The plane levelled off and he saw the land corrode into the ocean. The lights from the city behind already blurring into a distant memory. People got up, walking up the gangway as if their restrictiveness demanded a rebellion in movement.

He turned again to face the window, the little tears of condensation streaking backward like the ones in his eyes.

The flight was uneventful, and despite his longing, did not crash into a blazing wreck into the sea. He was somewhat thankful, no need for others to descend into nothingness because of his own wants and needs. The country had changed now of course, and he felt like a stranger in his own land. He felt as if he’d outgrown that little island, when in truth, it had all shrunken into ambivalence.

The next few weeks were a haze to him. He slept longer than his body needed. He ate less than what was required. The maddening howls of loneliness engulfed, playing out a wicked pageant each night. Pagan dances of despair trooped through his mind as he imagined the worst. And the weeks fell away into months. The sun rose and died each day, giving way to the moon which seemed more allusive and tauntful. Appearing and disappearing with differing brilliances.

And nothing changed.

No word came. No celestial movement of fate. He prayed of course, every day. Wishing, hoping, threatening…apologising. Words tumbled from his mouth like a waterfall, lost in the roar of tears that welcomed the rising pool of pain. He was confused and sad. These descriptions falling short of the abject horror that they encompassed.

He got up late one Wednesday. His bed had become a grave, and he pushed away the covers like soil from his skin. The weather was grey, and he saw little movement outside his window. He could hear the birds whistling their busy tunes and saw a couple of collared doves pecking away at the grassy bank at the side of his house. The birds circled, one seeming to protect the other as it scoured the grasses for something.

This was his life he thought there in that moment. The tragedy of nothingness. The on repeatness of filling hours that stretched like days.

Sitting down on his bed, he joined his hands together. They had marks on now of course, bloodied scabs that were struggling to heal. Punches to the ground and walls in frustration. His hands stung when he washed them always, bits of skin pealing off and disappearing down the drain to their own hellish adventures. Mostly he would pray in his head, but this morning the words came forth strong, if not shaky. He prayed for others, for those he loved. He asked why his circumstance refused to alter. He prayed to be sent the needs to change his situation. If god was refusing to give him what he needed, then at least give him the chance to change it for himself. He saw the light, felt the feel of god’s hands upon him and trickle into his heart.

This prayer lasted a long time. The doves had flown away by the time he had opened his eyes again, and a light rain had begun to pepper his window. The house groaned around in its ordinariness. Things were quiet. Things were the same.

He went about the day, holding onto something which he would never tell anyone. Like something stolen and now hidden in his pocket, he buried this secret in his heart which struggled to beat in a comfortable rhythm. The day came and went. The tasks and encounters rose and fell with the usual absurdity.

It wasn’t until the following night when what he had tucked away bloomed again. A flower of thought that had grown from the thick mud of despair. He had played the game of this life, by the rules he never agreed to. He was of service each day, giving and giving; yet never receiving. It never used to bother him for he had much to give. But when you lose everything, you become stricter on what you give away.

Now he felt like the coconut husks in his garden, pecked at each day by the birds of life. Strips of him torn away, revealing nothing underneath. His prayers had gone unanswered. But he stopped that thought then. No, this was not true. His prayers had been answered, when he prayed for others. When he gave and prayed and wanted the best for other people. They got what they needed. Even the rotten ones he was obliged to love. As if blood bound them in an unspoken covenant.

Prayer works. But not for him.

When he wanted…no, needed something. It never came to him. It was as if the gates of heaven had closed to him in a display of much unfairness. Why was he so beyond getting what he needed to make it through the day?

This thought stuck in his head, like food stuck in a throat. Uncomfortable and unpleasant. He was angry at God. But who wasn’t at times? But he felt more than anger, a betrayal almost. He fell asleep that night, not pooled in his own tears like always, but shaking into a fevered dream of reckoning.

He woke early, the rhythm of his heart thundering him awake. His phone was silent, barren. Nothing in the night had sprung forth despite the difference in hours. What were they, seven hours behind? They lived their day while he slept dreaming of them. They dreamt of something else while he navigated through the day thinking of nothing but them.

Rolling out of bed he went to the bathroom to wash his hands. Purifying his body, washing away the dreams and nightmares. He looked in the mirror…..

A:

What stared back at him made him weep. A man stood there, but a wasted vision of a human. Sunken eyes, gaunt expression. As if the sadness had spoiled from the inside, wasting away the flesh. He noticed one of his eyes was a milky colour, his once hazel views into his soul fading away into a grey of nothingness.

What to do now, he thought to himself. Brush his teeth, fix his hair. Get changed and through another day for what purpose? The same as yesterday, the same as tomorrow would be. A parade of nothing and inconsequence.

He knew he had fallen into a depression. He had hoped to shake it off or fall out of it again. Why was it so easy to get pulled in, and not the other way around? But something extra covered him today, that final magic element of hope seemed to have disappeared as he slept. A rousing song, or prayer usually helped. Taking stock and being appreciative. But no, something was different today. The same grey clouds outside, but something was different there in his bathroom. He could not even hear the birds that usually chattered and warbled beyond the walls.

He took a razor and made two clean cuts, long and deep. It was the kindest thing he could give himself, and the biggest apology.

B:

What reflected was a surprise to him. A little light glistened in his eyes and more haloed above him. He turned suddenly, hoping to catch a trail of it around his skull. But it seemed to follow him, quick as a flash. He felt it then, a sudden strength lift within his bones like they were being pumped with magical force. He made to pray but remembered suddenly and abstractly that God should not be called upon in a bathroom. Negative spaces.

Running from the room he collapsed onto the landing, the banister casting a ray of light over him like prison bars. He watched as they seem to lift upwards, the sun disappearing behind a cloud. The bars faded, and he closed his eyes.

He pictured the world above in his mind, the ascent of this man who had become so troubled and desperate. Hands guided him; little voices pushed him further until he was at the gates of heaven. With one push, the gates parted. He opened his eyes there and bowed to give thanks. He let the words tumble out, washing appreciation over his life.

How long he remained, he’d not known. The bars of light did not return, but when he stood, he noticed the sun was hovering off in the distance now beyond his window. He wiped the tears away and stood in his new world, just as his phone in the other room began to ring.

Lay me down

To sleep, in a dream that never wakes.
Flying on stars and tears tonight.
Lay me down.
Into the air or the earth.
For that is where my soul seeks silence.
Covered for a hundred years, a thousand tears.
Rusted and weak.
Lay me down, to sleep.
And tell me stories of the future.
A harkening of new truths.
When this time has died into a yesterday.
I will wake and drink the world in again.


TAKEN Everyday nightmares – OUT NOW

book cover burning house

I came to disappear

Through wanderings of a hallowed heart.
That blesses the soil it treads upon.
Within it tolls a silent bell.
Which calls for time and distance.
And leave me not in that harried place.
Of ill begotten souls and woe.
That race about like dying rats.
And burn the imaginative pith to shadows.
We come alone, and all in pieces.
Figuring out where it all began.
I came out of the dark,
Yet too close to the sun.
Struggling to find a path.
Now watch me disappear.

Argue

What did they tell you about this future?
While the TV played on and you half listened.
This heart you mangled and molded.
These flowers died a long time ago.
Who is to blame?
Distance. Family.
Your fake departure, when your heart wasn’t in it.
Made all too easy for you.
Red letter days and disappointments. Plastic friends.
Those that melt in the heat while the kitchen burns.
Who dries your eyes now?
Lazarus lies, housewives. Shopping that ego.
Choking on the need to be right.
All those lies have now been tagged.
Selfish. Self-aware. Convenient amnesia.
All built on your version of events.
Apologies now that are forbidden.
Poisonous to the tongue.
Under rug sweeping.
These broken pieces of a person you once knew.
Only you.
As you blur once more into everybody else.

21:09

Staring down the dark street, he watched as the lampposts flickered in and out of light. Luminous reflection seeming to be running off an invisible heartbeat. Stuttering. Struggling.

He felt the same. He was tired. He’d run the last two miles and his calf muscles now ached. He’d stopped momentarily to ease the stitch that was spreading in his side. Stabbing needles from Satan’s fingertips.

Nearly there.

He saw the traffic had built up on Bower Street, he’d actually heard the car horns and the angry shouts before he saw the rows of taillights snaking away. A great stationary monster of red eyes going nowhere.

Turning left he hurried away from the angry voices and quickly checked the time. 20.45. It had taken longer than he’d expected. The transport had imploded on itself and the city was heaving in unpreparedness that night. He felt the sweat on his forehead, the stingy sizzle of desperation and determination. A light rain now flecked onto his skin as he passed by houses. The glow of life inside reminded him what he was doing this for. The eyes of the buildings glowed with little tears from the rain, happy that people were inside. All together for the first time in years.

He sprinted, tripped and surged on. Finally getting to the door five minutes later. Too little, too late?

Better late than never he supposed, rapping frantically on the door.

The door swung open hastily. The smell of candles and coffee greeted him along with the flood of a welcoming light and a relieved smile.

“Thank god.” They said to him, as he collapsed into their arms.

Tears, sweat and rain ran unabashed down his cheeks. His heart, which had threated to give up on him, pulsed to a different beat. The feeling he got whenever he saw them. The tingly skin sensation that tickled around his ears and neck. He smelled them, hugged them. Taking these new feelings deep within himself.

“I can’t believe it.” They said as they broke apart and he stepped inside.

The small house threw its arms around him, beckoning a safety.

“It’s pandemonium out there”. He replied, stepping further in and following them up the stairs. He glanced quickly at the front room; the warming sweet-smelling candles flickered within while the television screamed out silently with the volume down. The news informing no-one to things that everyone already knew.

“I’m glad you made it; I was getting worried it would be too late.” They said, settling down onto the bed. He took in the vision, the moment and tried to keep himself together.

He followed, not bothering to take off his shoes but throwing off the jacket which the light rain had clung to.

The clock on the side clicked over to 9pm.

They drew into one another, kissing tenderly. Touching each other’s hands and diving deep into one another’s eyes. Tears swelled, wiped away by fingers that trembled with tenderness in the glowing room.

“I had to be here. I had to come.” He said. Knowing that they already knew.

“I didn’t expect it to be like this. I’m just glad you’re by my side.” Their voice stuttered. “I love you.” they said, as they closed their eyes. Not out of shame, but to a sad realisation it would be the last time.

“I love you.” He replied. “And I will find you again.”

They held each other closer as the lights died.

21:09, the time the world ended.


Taken from Dislocated: A Short story collection – Out now

Who let in the rain?

Underneath that crystal water
Of crushed stars and dreams.
Dwelling like a memory that won’t die.
Lies a soul.
Frayed and tattered.
Filled with thoughts of eucalyptus leaves and saffron.
Tide up in heartstrings and self-made knots.
Tackling the torrents soundlessly.
To drown silently in a rising tide.
This was their gift to you.
Keeping the truth and the pain out of your eyes.
Packing soot and coal into the sockets.
Trembling inside and yet still.
Like a sewn up teddy bear.
All glass eyed reflective.
Placid.
Who let that rain in, to wash the hope away?
Deluged in dopamine and on the brink of decay.
Each drop inched closer.
Under the door and down their spine.
Exploding the sky with a grey that blocked out heaven.
God made the rain, the floods and the tide.
To wash away the sinners, the soulless and already sunken.
Yet she was always destined to float.
Catching stars in pockets and wiping the salvation across our mouths.
But the rain came in.
Straw ladened and camel shaking.
Soaked in misery and shame.
And now she is lost under the surface.
Ripped away in the undertow.
Growing gills and thicker skin.
Crashing on someone else’s shore.

Fundamentally a confused period of wheel spinning

A mud that clings, sticking like the saliva of sin.
Was just darkness.
Covering completely.
Rooted, yet lost.
What miracles could be made in the dark.
When we had forgotten how to spark.
Collectively they comforted.
Wrapping words around like arms to keep us safe.
Yet the fires were still burning.
The neon plumes of dangerous magic.
All out of control.
Nothing moved but danger.
Nothing thrived except fear.
And death crept on near.
Inactive seeds of hope.
Littered the floor once more.
Those hands of light crept back into the void.
And we were once more, covered in darkness.

Gravitate to grief

Listen to this episode.


Watching the clouds roll over the sky outside my window, I can’t but think the world is changing to fit my mood. My consciousness seeping out of this skin and manifesting my universe. If only I were that powerful. An alchemic touch to turn the things that are as cold as stone and black as coal, to a wondrous gold.

I touch the place, where my heart used to be. Wondering where this chasm came from. Wondering why it was taken. This wondering keeps me from other things; making copious cups of tea, looking at pictures of you; dancing that kitchen knife across my wrists. (Bury me where you find me)

Nothing has begun to matter. The phone has rung insistently on and off all day. Souls looking for connection. Checking in on me, to see if I’m okay; to check if I haven’t done anything silly. To save me from myself. Silly was always my nature.

I watch the clouds more as they roll on and war with one another. I used to look for things in the cloud patterns. Their bursting explosions that would turn into animals or faces. I don’t see anything there now that I wish to see. Now I only want to tear my eyes out. To stop viewing a world I wish to have no part of. A world without you, is not something I want to be within. It tore my heart out that day. The departure day I have come to know it. Wednesday…. why not?

My skin aches and my head is heavy. I feel gravity’s pull now more than ever. The sad disposition is not my usual sensibility. Hope could always be found by the turning of a page, the rolling of a new day, and beyond the heartache. But someone has drained the colour from my life and washed it with a headache grey. Placed it on repeat.

I pretend to be asleep when they come over. The ones whose phone calls failed to find an audience. Their good intentions on the other side of yesterday grow faint. Like a voice in the distance calling me back. They mean well, and I love them. They have gone through the same, the similar. The maddening familiar. I smile and nod as they place the flowers and rearrange the plates. Not noticing that all the flowers will be scorched now. They do not see that I am breaking away. This recalibration to a life I was apathetic to before, is really me crumbling into something else. Something so selfishly encompassing even God will not forgive.

Sleep. I need this.

You. I want that.

I smash my inner skull open and dive into memories of you. The smell of your collar bone and the way you used to wear me out. A side glance as you cheat at scrabble. Everything there is central. So certain like the rain. This skull begins to crust over, covering those memories with the sickening smell of death. Like being trapped in a tiny kitchen and burning the toast. These memories catch fire and smoulder, choking me and making my eyes water.

They come around again, touching me while I dream and sweeping away the reflections of myself.

Piece by piece they pick me up. I put myself back together. Banging once more on the doors of heaven but turned away. Shivering out the cold of my core. Watching as the bruises heal and the days fade into years. I will not be the ghost that haunts this space. I will not be the body on your hands that weighs you down. I will be the scar on the surface of life, with empty eyes; replaced with tiny pebbles. Taken from the river of remorse.

MORE FABLES HERE

Bord / Edge

Debout sur cette rive une fois de plus.
Sur le bord de l’existence.
Je voussens dans le vent.
Je me sense arrosé dans le marée.
Est-ce que je me vois marcher sur cette plage?
Ou je me sens perdu dans un million de grains de sable.

Stand on this shore once again.
On the edge of existence.
I’m standing in the wind.
I feel watered in the tide.
Do I see myself walking on this beach?
Or feel lost in a million grains of sand.

Recapturing

The silent soul who wades this world.
With brittle bones and sad inclinations.
Arrives at a place in a memory.
Strung up with words that bind.
Does he fall deeper into the despair of an age?
Of that turning sun that snatches all that lay in his hands?
Or does he shift, arch his back to the march of time.
Following from the front, the best laid plans?
A solider in a war of change.
Corrupting from within.

Death in neutral

Death comes, not in the sudden felling of your tree of life.
That monumental crash in the wooded realm of existence.
Or in an avalanche of silent demise,
Crashing into white off a precipice that follows a climb.
Death never leaves a new life.
It breathes silently on your skin.
Like a misty voice, cold and condensed.
Dew dropping its pain along the way.
Watching as your petals of life fall.
A new one each day.

dead rose skull


Taken from
Seasons of a wandering heart

book cover snow and tree


 

Something to stay awake for – Stain

Listen to this episode.


It had begun to rain, a light drizzle that peppered the people as they walked along Bradley Way. Not the prettiest street in the world, and today it was overcast with a churning grey cloud that dampened the mood and made things ever more ordinary. People walked up and down the road, seeking out the local small supermarket that had opened just last year. It was housed in a former pub, the Bull and horn; the cigarette stained walls and beer marked floors long since ripped out. Outside, the faux Tudor design was kept, hoping the inn-like appearance would entice more customers. But people shopped here anyway out of convenience. The newsagents across the street had closed a year ago also, the owner packed up and moved away after a red Ford escort had rammed into his shop and robbed him late on a Sunday afternoon. Unless you were willing to cross the giant playing field at the back of Ashen road to go to the giant superstore, the pub-turned-metro shop was the easiest option.

Just near to the store was number 46, and though it was starting to rain, Mrs Taylor was found scrubbing the pavement. She had swept and tidied already, and now she was striking the wet brush across the path like she was toiling the earth. She worked with determination, scraping and scrubbing the ground over and over. She never dressed for cleaning. She was made up in her Sunday best, as if she had just gotten back from church. Though the fine rain had settled on her hair, giving it a web like crown, her hair was in place as if she had spent an hour on it. She was an odd sight to those making their way down Bradley road. After a while, she packed up her cleaning materials and went back into her house, number 46, the one with the red door.

It was grey again. It had rained in the morning, and the streets glistened like slumbering snakes. It was Sunday again also, and the local football club had finished their practice over on the giant field. A few kids had wandered off on their way home, stopping in at the local store to grab a drink and some much-needed sugar.

Mrs Taylor watched them as they walked down her road. She was scrubbing again, hot water and bleach burned away at the pavement. The added soapy suds flowed down the kerb and washed up to the drain, down into the darkness. She watched them, and they stared back at her as they walked by. She did not frown; she did not glare. There was no smile on her face either. Just a determination to scrub and wash, and get the job done. By the time the kids exited the store, Mrs Taylor had finished and returned inside her house. She had gone to make herself a cup of tea, her hands stinking of bleach and had become pale. The kids thought no more of her, and carried on their way home, their hands a healthy peach and holding the chocolate bars like tiny swords.

​-

The whole street knew of course. They watched her every week. She used the same bucket, the same brush. She would start by sweeping up the dirt and leaves that had fallen from the huge oak tree that loomed over the garden from number 38. Joyce, who lived with the tree, had never cared form Mrs Taylor. Joyce was a generation away from the woman, and tutted and shook her head to her antics in private. But if she saw her on the street, she would always nod her head in quiet recognition. To which Mrs Taylor would always nod her head slightly back.

It was Sunday again. No rain today. Just thick dark clouds above threatening the worst. A nasty cold breeze blew in from the south, ripping through Bradley Way like an arctic arm reaching from the poles. She resigned herself to a coat today. She had lost more weight than she would care to acknowledge, and her frail body would shiver in the conditions now. Underneath her plum coat, she wore her Sunday best again. The pearls her mother had given her hung over her dress, little eyes gleaming out into the cold. She had also decided to use some gloves, not because of the cold, but because her hands were now so raw from the bleach. She sat at night picking at the loose bits of skin around her fingers, peeling away the hangnails that had appeared, paled underneath from all the toxins. They stung and hurt.

But she did not care. She wanted to carry on, so she used the gloves to keep the feeling in her fingers to get the job completed. To feel the work.

And she scrubbed and rubbed and washed the pavement.

Bundled up against the elements, Mrs Stokes, and her daughter Ivy were walking along the other side of the road. Mrs Stokes lived down on Humber Way, but she knew Mrs Taylor from the primary school morning mums run. She had seen her at the gates with the others, a gaggle of women with their precious little birds waiting for the gates to part.

Ivy watched her as she scrubbed on her hands and knees, the warm water cascading over the lip of the pavement. Ivy broke free of her mother’s hand and crossed the street without looking, going over to Mrs Taylor. Her mum called after her, following her onto the street.

It was quiet that day, few cars littered the road and there was a peaceful calm.

​“Hi.’ Ivy said to Mrs Taylor, who looked up from the floor. Her eyes were glassy and tired.

“Hello.” Mrs Taylor replied, friendly. Ivy’s mum came up to them, grabbing her hand.

“Ivy, don’t bother her. Come along, we have to get to the store. And don’t run off like that. I’m sorry.” Mrs Stokes said, looking down at the woman. With that, Mrs Taylor looked off slightly, as if searching the road for something.

“Why are you cleaning the path?” Ivy asked suddenly. They all shivered there in the cold. Ivy’s mum began to pull her away.

“Don’t bother her. I’m so sorry, she’s always curious. Come along Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, eager to get away.

Mrs Taylor stood then, much more agile than her demeanour would suggest. She popped up like a dog ready for a walk.

“Its fine, kids are curious. I’m just doing a spot of cleaning. The council seem to neglect this part of town, and the road is filthy.” She smiled then, a warm smile as she looked at the little girl. She turned her head slightly, as if she heard something, then turned back towards them.

Mrs stokes, eager to get going smiled back, hoping it would be the end to the conversation.

“But, no one else cleans the pavement. I’ve not seen anyone do it like you, scrubbing away.” Ivy said, determined to understand. Mrs Taylor was silent for a minute and then replied.

“Well, you see there where you are standing; I just can’t get this bit clean. It’ll take some time, but it will lift.” She said, reaching back for her scrubbing brush, having looked more at the spot where the two stood.

Ivy looked down at her feet, seeing nothing but the black road.

“But there is nothing there.” Ivy replied.

“Come along now Ivy. Leave her to her cleaning.” Mrs stokes said, vigorously pulling the girl. Mrs Taylor laughed a little. A small laugh, brittle from its long hibernation.

“You kids think everything is already clean. I bet your room at home is a mess and yet you think its fine. No no, the stain there, it spreads up and across the pavement. I think it is oil, but it’s taking ages to go.” She sighed suddenly, as if reminded of the huge task in front of her.

“There you see. Sorry to bother you. Come now Ivy.” Mrs Stokes said, and this time successfully moved the girl who walked on still puzzled.

They made their way to the store and Mrs Taylor watched them for a few seconds before scrubbing a bit further and then packing up her things and heading back into her house, closing her red door behind her. She took off her coat and went upstairs. She always did this. She went into the front room of the house, the second big bedroom. Hers was at the rear and was slightly smaller, but she liked the view of the back garden. She liked the green. She went across to the window and looked down at the pavement.

“It’s still there.” The little girl said.

Mrs Taylor pulled at the sleeves of her dress.

“I know. I’ll buy the super strength bleach next week. That’ll do it.” She said to the empty room.

She looked up the street as a few people came out of the store. The old newsagents across the road had been turned into kitchenettes. She looked in through the ground floor window, a huge TV screen the size of the wall flashed away in blues and reds.

“Maybe in time, it’ll fade on its own.” The girl said.

She looked down at the spot again. A huge stain on the floor seemed to pulse before her. She closed her eyes and watched the red ford escort zoom away noisily like thunder down the road. She hoped she would never see it again, but she knew she would.


MORE FABLES HERE

Comes back to then

The red country hung before us.
Our life now a great adventure.
Your love was all I needed.
Your smile I planned to treasure.
Days crumbled, eyes tightened.
We were no longer tender.
The gulf began to widen.
I couldn’t stay.

Ten years in, I hoped you believed.
All of my love and my heart on this sleeve.
I cannot cry, I cannot lie. All I can do is die inside;
On the day that I had to go.

You told me to meet you.
Down by the Yarra river.
I wanted to keep us.
In my heart that had begun to quiver.
Life shifted, dreams folded.
My instincts ignored for worse or better.
We cried and imploded.
And then I left.

In all of my time, I barely ever touched what really was mine.
Life briefly showed me, everything that never really ever could be.
A cruel revealing, a maddening feeling of seeing all that would never last.
The joke from above, putting such beautiful future quickly in the past.

Echoes in arbitrary flow

Through this darkness, you felt your way.
Fingers in decay, while you groped for something.
I told you, you knew it then.
I would always be waiting.
As the moon rolled away like the end of a film.
And the sadness reeled you in.
You held your breath and counted the silence.
Little drops like chips in teeth.
Tiny shifts, the tectonic plates of deciding.
I hovered above.
My eyes light like a dove in its pirouetting flight.
I stripped your mind like a Christmas tree in January.
Shed. Cold. Naked.
And ready.
Placing candles in skulls to light your way.
The bodies of your old self, at use after all.
We swim out of the concrete and into the sky.
Minds now alive and deliberating.
Of which wing to fly upon.
Which sky to pull down and cover us.
To disappear into forever.

Kill the moon

How dare you illuminate and steal my heart.
You glisten there with your tide of treachery.
Luring many to the edges.
My heart was strong, yet you broke it apart.
Forcing the pieces to drift in their gravitless state.
You are a thief and a liar.
For the light you shine is not your own.
Stolen and reflected from the sun.
One that gives much warmth and life.
You are cold and capricious.
Showing different faces to all below.
Keeping your dark side at bay until it’s too late.
I wish to break free, to kill you completely.
Or at least break away from your orbit.

Try

The vessel inside overflows.
Screaming to expand.
The trying, the tearing.
The overcometh of each battle, each day.
As those warriors say.
We leave nothing but our trail.
Blood and candles to light the way for others.
A legacy gilds the petal of our history.
The bloom of overcome.
The fragrance of succeeding.
In the skin that sheared from the bone.
And tears the weep from eyes that have seen tomorrow.
We sleep an eternal rest, knowing that we tried.
So now sweet moment, which I gather in it’s lustre.
I be present with you, and smile at the strength it took to make it.
Where I fall, may there be lilies and lotus flowers.
Marking the space as sacred and inviting.
An organic tombstone to one, who did nothing but try.

Something to stay awake for – Turn of the tide

Listen to this episode.


[SPASH!]

It had started out as such a beautiful day. The tangerine sun above glistened down unknowingly on the little boat that bobbed on the waves like a cork. The vast expanse of ocean to one side of him shimmered into the distance, being pulled into a far-off string that he knew led to anywhere. The steep cliffs on his other side gleamed, the enamel of the sea that burst forth and up high like teeth of a sleeping beast. The occasional rocks would tumble down into the unusually calm waters beneath, kicked over the edge by the people, families and dog walkers he saw now wandering along the cliff edges. He watched as they called out to him, their faces blurred in the distance of separation, but their jolly waving arms and outstretched hope of the children’s excitement did nothing for his mood.

He returned those waves of course. The friendly little sailor off on his boat on the Elysian morning, dropping all troubles in his wake as he sailed towards the sun.

But they didn’t know.

The day betrayed his thoughts. The sun that stared down at him seemed to mock his melancholy. He didn’t begrudge the happiness he saw that day. The happy families walking, the smiling people on the beach who skimmed some stones and took in the fresh salty air. The woman with the flowers at the water’s edge. He wasn’t even jealous of their carefree attitude that warm August day.

He wanted to forget. He wanted to forget that he’d been that happy. That each day by day moment, of making a cup of tea or driving to the store was now riddled with the memory of them. The happiness clung to him like a terrible oil, never washing off. Reminding him each second, he would never have it again.

Now that they were gone.

He tried to shut the world out at first. Keeping to himself and the shuffling of the indoors life like a caged bird. Wallowing in his own droppings of depression. Nothing had helped. No conversation to make him make sense of it. No well-intentioned trip somewhere to change his environment or to talk to someone who had been through it before. His world had been darkened, as if someone had placed a veil over his source of light, and now he stumbled around just surviving.

But what for, he’d begun to wonder.

They were no longer there to share the happy times. The little moments that string together for a life. The Sunday morning lay-ins while you run your fingers through their hair. Disappearing into each other’s minds and being lost forever in the eyes that had always drawn him in. Beckoning him like a sea siren that he’d eagerly given himself up to. The beauty in their heart that he longed to only touch for a moment.

And now, each day was a collection of those little moments. But turned ghastly. Like a kebab of mud and dog shit skewed into a new day.

But not today. Today, he taken out that little boat of theirs and set out to sea with the intention of never returning.

[Oh please God. Please, let someone come. Let them come by.]

He began to drift further out to sea now. The tide pulling him on that cord to the horizon. He cursed the sun, its blazing intensity itching his neck and blinding him as it caught the waves. The beach behind him began to melt away, and he felt the creeping peace of the detached. He wasn’t sentimental, but he had brought the ring. The ring they wore, and his own of course. He’d put it on this morning. It didn’t fit comfortably on any of his fingers, they were just so different. Thrown together in a cosmic joke of opposites. Like orange juice to his toothpaste. Oh, the fights they’d had. He twisted the little silver thing now on his finger, turning it round and picturing the last time he’d seen it on their hand. That angry day. He shook his head and found a nicer memory. But this made him more restless, remembering again that it had vanished, never to be seen again.

It was then that a plump grey cloud floated across the sun above him. He looked up curiously, then he felt it. The wind had changed, and a fierce breeze had picked up. He looked out to sea further and he could see it now, the billowing thick black clouds that threatened a storm.

[The waves crashed and swallowed him over again. Spinning him around and throwing him back up to the surface where he gulped in the air and heavy rain which pounded down. He knew these were the last moments, but inside a fire kindled still. Please God. Please, let there be a way.]

He smiled then. Perfect, what a way to go. He wasn’t ashamed of what he was doing, but this way it will look like tragic accident. Less people hurt. Less questions. Less self-analysing on every interaction people had had with him. Could they have done more, should they? What was he doing out at sea in the first place? Of course, they’d ask that. ‘Oh, don’t you remember, they had that boat. Oh Yes, they both loved those little adventures. Oh dear, how terribly sad’.

He could hear it all now, playing out like the end of a film. He didn’t really want to die. But he had nothing left to live for. They weren’t coming back, and he’d built a life around that. He couldn’t change things; they grew into a horrible thorny bush that refused to be cut back; and for that he’d given up. He watched how fast the storm blew his way, his little sailboat rocking heavily in the building surge. He knew there were terrible currents in this area. It seemed nearly every week in the busy season swimmers were dragged out to sea, like invisible seadogs pulling them out and down to meet Poseidon. Hidden riptides were a real killer in this stretch of the coast, and too many people found this out the hard way. He watched the swells and waited for the rain which began almost instantly as the clouds took hold and choked out the sun.

It fit his mood. The rain, the darkness. He imagined some slumbering monster to come up from the deep and seize his boat. A great leviathan that he could stare into the eye of and succumb to as it tore him to shreds. The sweet relief of death.

[Gasping. Aching. Lungs heavy. He struggled to open his eyes as the salt water washed through them like an unabated flood. Time to shut off. Time to shut down. You cannot go on, the tiny voice in his head said. That opponent who always brought the worst. God, why won’t you help me? It spluttered…. Wait. I will not end it like this. There is a way. Someone will come. Hope in hope. He told himself, and pictured a boat drifting hauntingly towards him, outstretched arms to come and rescue his weary bones.]

He took off his shirt, letting the sea spray splash against his chest. He wanted to feel something, anything before the end. He wanted to curse the sea for what it was doing and embrace it all at the same time. The conflicting light and dark that was within him and shifted like a sand in a pot of water. Swirling in a confused state of inaction. He wanted to be brave and turn his boat around. He wanted to be strong and dive headfirst into the waves and drown a million deaths and be gone.

And then he spotted him. A tiny head, no bigger than that of a pebble, floating on the sea like it had been placed there by God.

He shook himself, trying to dislodge the image. The trickiness of life, trying to get him to reconsider. To go home, procreate. Settle down and carry on. He rubbed at his eyes, but the image didn’t change. Instead it now came with sound. The shouts of a boy calling for help.

In his head, he’d always wanted to be good. That he’d be a good person no matter what was thrown at him through life. That he would do the right thing when called for. But he was ashamed to say he did not move straight away. His first thoughts did not fly to steering his little boat over to the boy and rescuing him. It wasn’t fear, shock or any other rationale response. He simply watched the scene for a few minutes for the sheer disgusting beauty of it all. The tragedy at his hands and before his eyes like a great Greek scene played out on a canvas before him. The rolling waves, the heavy rain. The black clouds like a collapsed volcano above. He had no notion of being the hero, but there was something there. Like the beauty of a funeral in the ugly face of death that he savoured. Momentarily.

[There! Is it? Of course, it is, I knew they’d come. They just had to.]

He steered his little boat over to the boy and reached into the sea and helped him out. He was heavy and broken. Battered by the waves and exhausted by staying afloat for so long. The riptide of course that had ensnared him, pulverised him into the eyes of death. Plucked him away from the beach that he was swimming by, his dad napping under a sun umbrella the last time he saw him. It had felt like an age, and he couldn’t guess how long he’d been out to sea for. Safe inside the boat now, he smiled an exhausted smile and thanked the man before passing out, waking up later in the hospital with his dad by his side.

After pulling him into the boat, the boy had thanked him and collapsed into a heap. He rushed to get a blanket from down in the cabin, hurrying back and covering the boy. He must get back as quick as he could. But the wind and the rain, the sea and his early wishes of disaster were too strong. Ensnared in the thick of the storm, the boat was pulled out further and further. The land but a distant blur to him now. He watched as the waves crashed over his bow, the sleeping sea monster now fully awake, causing havoc.

He had set out that day with a simple wish. To disappear completely. But something inside him shifted, something he knew was there all along. He never wanted to live just to live. There was no reward to just surviving in a life. Too many people shuffled day to day, along the road of an unchanging existence. Being the same person when they die, to how they lived. His own God had died in him long ago. Swept out to sea in the sad goodbyes and people he could not keep close. He wasn’t swayed by the sentimental timely appearance of the boy in the boat. The young life so innocent and full of years ahead.

He would save him, yes. But it hadn’t melted his heart in the way that was expected. Instead, as he’d looked into the scared and thankful eyes of the boy, he saw a hope, a thirst; a need for something that he recognised. More than survival, but of a certainty of living and being. It was as if a layer had peeled off his heart, and just a crack of light had shone inside. This boy, who had everything before him, could be snuffed out on this sea, without the course of a life to change from what he had come to this planet as. He himself had sunk lower than the depths of those shipwrecks beneath him now. Not seeing the sun or the light. But a stirring within him whispered of change. Of a great reveal of something. He no longer wanted to die. He wanted to return to the coast, for reasons he now understood.

He swung the boat a hard turn to port and screwed his eyes in a determination towards the storm. He hoped to make it towards the inlet on the eastern side of the bay. He knew this to be better protected, and it might give him a chance. He hoped for a small break in the weather so he could get his bearings a little. His hand dug into his pocket, and he felt the ring inside there, strangely warm in his hand. He looked off into misty rain and he searched for a way, hoping for a change. And then, suddenly the rain halted.

He smiled. Not on his face which was soaked in spray and tears, but inside, feeling a little bit of the black melt away.

“So, did anyone catch his name?” the doctor said, scratching copious notes onto her clipboard. She struggled to believe much of what she had been told. The boy’s condition did not fit the events of the day. He was sleeping now, but what his body had been through, did not show on the tests or in appearance.

“No-one did, no. He just appeared, calling for an ambulance. I knew it was Michael there though, and I was just relieved to see him again.” His father said, sipping the black coffee that had appeared moments before from his daughter who had returned from the hospital canteen.

“Quite the mystery then. But it looks as though Michael is out of the woods.” She said, clicking her pen and putting it into her pocket. She wasn’t one for fairy tales, she was busy; and had no time to indulge in mystery angels or heroics. She saw heroes every day in her colleagues, she knew there was a reality to miracles they performed that went unnoticed. “We’ll monitor him overnight, but I would advise getting some rest yourself. The events of the day have probably taken a toll on you also.”

“I just hope we can find him is all. I want to thank him for saving my son’s life.” The man said, snuffling a little, not used to being emotional in front of strangers. She smiled a fraction, her heart always warmed by appreciation.

“Hope in hope.” she said, and turned to leave the little hospital room, which had a view of the sea from high up on Bartholomew hill. The waves now much calmer, the gods of the ocean pacified it seemed for the time being.


More fables here.

Smartly dressed violence (part xxx)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 XXX

SIN first appeared in the city in the guise of poverty, the weakened condition against the affluent. Cases were initially put down to malnutrition, poor hygiene and terrible living conditions. The age was presented with such a vast gap between the affluent and the poor, that sanitation, health care and all manner of civil services benefitted those least needing of them. A virus began to spread in the lower end of the populace, weakening them and forcing them to become more physically dependent on services.

It didn’t take long for those in power to descend on this arising circumstance and to manipulate it. Screenings were made mandatory, and a classification of conditions were regulated. The virus worked fast, spreading through at a rapid speed, almost like a plague from God. It changed people in an instant, forcing them into lives that they would not be able to break free from. For those smartly dressed souls who seemed resigned in their reason and status, their lives seemed to be validated by this new wave coursing through the land. Almost justifying what they always knew.

The Altered, a place of such wonder, was the harbinger of all this darkness. A place that offered such goodness and possibilities gave birth to something so maligned. In an allegoric tern, it was the fact that something so good released something so terrible perhaps to show that people could overcome darkness. It was the Altered that set forth SIN into the material realm. Not wantingly, but by the malpractice of those going in and out of the world and not understanding completely what they were doing. SIN came from a mishandling of the magic, set free and loose from a mind that did not understand what it was doing.

But in the poison, so in lies the cure.

When the light had finally faded, and the scene before them came into view once more, they all stood there unsure of what to do. Jess had tumbled back with Aiko, taking a hit of both his and Nina’s magic. When Akari had run and touched the Holy water, the reaction had catalysed everything in the vicinity, surging through her and Aiko. Akari lay on the ground by the Pandora machine, and Nina and Daniel went across to her as Jess shook herself to, sitting up and piecing things together. Aiko lay on the floor, his eyes closed. He was no longer the huge entity that had fled from the Altered. He was once again his usual size. Little sparks of white light snapped about him, like the aftermath of an electrocution.

“Jess, are you alright?” Eva asked, coming over to her now and helping her up. Jess nodded, her head still raging with an odd static sensation.

“Yes, I feel fine. Great even, just my mind is swirling like duelling dragons in there.”  Jess said, seeming to shake her head as if the beasts would fall from her ears. They both looked at Aiko on the floor, the little lights emitting from him.

“What about him?” Eva asked, nudging his feet with her boot. Nina walked over to where they were now. They could see Daniel and the other members of the order going to where Akari stood, light also still emitting from her.

“Are you okay?” Nina asked, her tone calm yet concerned.

“Yes, yes I’m fine. Really. That was something though.” Jess said.

“Your bravery indeed is something Jess, amazing.” She said, putting her hand on her back tenderly.

Aiko began to stir, his head that was lulled backward began to move from side to side until he opened his eyes. He looked around for a moment, then pushed himself up, sitting still before them.

“What is going on here?” He asked, groggily.

The others looked at one another, before Nina spoke.

“A lot is going on here Mr Tanaka.” She kneeled down to him, looking directly into the eyes which once were black and dead. They now swirled with a different light, a human window to his soul.

“Tanaka?” He said, quietly, puzzled over that word for a moment. Then he looked across to see the machine, and the order members. On spotting Akari, it was as if a realization had been set loose in his blood.

“Oh god.” He said, his head falling forward as if in shame.

“Aiko, it’s over. Everything is going to be fine.” Nina said, and she too put her hand on his shoulder, comfortingly.

“But, I…” He began, but stuttered off, shaking his head.

“Come, we all must leave now. This place has done what it was meant to, but now it is time to leave.” Nina said, and she helped Aiko up with the help of Jess.

Outside of the building, the divine light from the Holy water was ebbing away in the distance. The streets and the city below them shimmered as if it had been scrubbed clean and bathed in celestial bleach. They took their leave, making their way back to the temple, Karen’s team following; leaving the pandora machines where they stood.

Akari had been the key it seemed; she was the one that had been able to turn the dark to the light. Though they had successfully released the Holy water and changed the city forever, it was because of her that Aiko had been subdued. Once back at the temple, they were all able to take stock of the event.

Karen set about monitoring the effects the pathogen was having on the city, flashes of screens and machines flooded her lab with data. Other members saw to helping those hurt in the battle and arranging for everyone to be taken care of and comforted. It was a member of the order by the name of Sally who discovered them. She had gone to get some additional medical supplies from one of their containment units and had stumbled across the Tanakas. They were asleep at the back of the unit, huddled together but safe

Nina learned from them, once they were woken and had joined the others, that they had appeared in the temple when the events in the Altered had climaxed. With a flash they had been expelled, and sent to the temple, landing unceremoniously in one of the storage units. Dazed and bewildered, and scared for what was happening; they had remained there where it was safe. It seemed once the pathogen had been released, it had plummeted their energy levels after their transition, inducing sleep.

Aiko had embraced his family when they had entered the room. He and Akari hugged them, tears coming easily and copiously to all the eyes of the Tanakas. Anyone suspicious on Aiko’s change needed only see how he greeted his family to know that a paradigm had indeed shifted. Not only was he changed, it seemed he’d reignited the empathy within him that he had tried so hard to exorcise.

Nina looked on, seeing how Akari and Aiko embraced their family. Akari was the key, the siphoned off bits of Aiko that he thought he could control, but what was made in the Altered seemed to overflow into the material realm. She had indeed magnified Aiko’s power and magic, but he had not counted for the goodness and reasoning that was still apart of him, and prevalent in her. Though the light was tiny in regards to the overwhelming darkness he wielded, the tiniest candle it seemed would always banish the deepest dark. She looked at her now and smiled, knowing that hope was always worth having.

“So how did the Tanakas get back here?” Jess asked, coming to stand with Nina. She was happy, a sense of elation not abating inside of her. Nina thought for a moment, looking over to the happy embraces of the family.

“I guess it was The Pope, he must have tried to save them in the final moments.” She said, smiling.

“He must have known more about the Altered then anyone, knowing how to use it.” Jess offered.

“Indeed. Unlike Aiko who sought to control the power, Samuel always respected and understood the power and the magic of the Altered. It was like he took such blessings from merely being able to caretake the magic, He always use to say…..” But what, Jess never did find out. “I need to check something.” Nina said, touching her slightly on the arm and disappearing away.

Jess was stood alone only for a short moment, before Eva came to talk and help her process all the events. They were both happy, and proud of what they had accomplished. Both their fights had occupied their lives for years, much as everyone’s had in the order. Jess now not only had something to be happy and proud of, but she had a sense of belonging too. Her tribe, so to speak. And her thoughts turned to her own family, hastily making a call to them.

It wasn’t long for Nina to find Karen. She was sat down in front of a huge holographic screen, numbers and images flashing in front of her, the glow of which dousing her in a ghostly blue light.

“All good I’m hoping?” Nina said, coming over to her friend. Karen looked up and greeted her with a smile, one of relief and elation.

“I can’t belief this data. Well, I do believe it but it’s beyond what we had hoped for. Everything seems to be stabilised, all persons seem to be responsive. The was a cluster expansion in the west side, understandably, but the readings are off the charts. SIN is gone, it’s evolved into the best-case scenario.” She said, beaming.

“Wonderful, that’s such good news. It was as we hoped then?” Nina asked.

“And more, we can’t tell from the data the emotive responses from individuals naturally, but the cognitive recalibrations would suggest a higher state of empathy.” Karen said, scanning through a diagram before her.

“So people will give a shit more then?” Nina said with a grin.

“You better believe they will. And it’s about time. Nina, this is it. We did it!” Karen said, her eyes on the brink of welling. Nina stood forward and hugged her friend deeply. It had indeed been a long battle, with many casualties along the way. But it seemed that everything was worth it..

“So, Samuel…” Nina said, as she and Karen broke apart.

This shook Karen’s smile.

“The greatest loss.” Karen said.

“Maybe not. Jess just reminded me something he said once, about the magic and the Altered. There’s so much really with all this and what has happened, and no one is an expert. Except maybe you now.” Nina said. Karen brushed the comment aside humorously. “Samuel once said to me that we needed to embrace the death of death, that because things are always an illusion here in the material realm, nothing is what it seems.”

Karen began to shake her head.

“I know where you’re going, but it’s not possible. It happened in the Altered, there was no illusion there. He used to speak of things moving to stages, how we are all the same underneath really; and that when things die, they merely move on to something else. There is proof with the science, how atoms don’t die but reassemble. Death is an illusion I suppose. But Nina, this happened over there. The same as Levon. They’re gone I’m afraid.” She said, sombrely.

“I know it happened there, but that’s what makes it odd to me. I’ve been Levon’s teacher for years now, I know his level of magic and the gift he had. It was borrowed from there; it came by way of his father and the unlocking that was done for him. But Karen, Samuel came from the Altered. ‘’To it, he shall return!” She said, almost urgently, adding. “The blue light….”

Karen looked at her, realisation slowly spreading across her face.

“The light we saw, of course. Things from the Altered don’t ever die, they realign on the basis of consciousness.” Karen said, a new light dancing in her eyes now.

“He’s waiting.” Nina said, almost silently as if to utter it, might undo it.

FIVE YEARS LATER

Jess crossed to the midway section of the road as a huge gleaming tram silently slipped by her. The car was full, the people inside in good spirits as the sun beat down and called them to the sea. A boy inside waved to her as it passed, and she waved back, chuckling to herself. She crossed over to the beach side of the road. The tram stopped some way up and lots of people disembarked, heading to the sands and the refreshing waters of the bay. The day was hot, the temperature had climbed to record levels the past few months, signalling alarms across the city and the state that the climate had begun to turn on them.

Jess walked up a bit further, being sure to put some distance from herself and the masses. Despite the weather, she wore her army jacket, the green fatigue blending into the palms that she passed which punctuated the shoreline. Whereas before the pristine beach area was an ordered place of affluent control, since the great change the beach fronts had opened up to more creative expression and controlled chaos. Little areas now pocketed themes and cultures, with an eclectic mix of fusions and tastes. Jess made her way along the path, past a community hub which seemed to be having an outdoor art exhibition. Canvases and works peppered the boardwalk, where eager eyes were enjoying the artistic flares and social gathering.

She saw her brother Den first, then Akari, sat on a bench with a huge palm above them, shading them from the sun. Their spot looked out over the beach, elevated slightly as it looked down onto the sand and out into the bay. She knew this spot was good, as it gave an excellent view to the peninsular where you could see the lighthouse and marine club where the sailboats would dock.

“Hey guys.” Jess said reaching the bench.

“Hey, he’ll be back any second…” Akari had said, but just that moment Aiko came walking around the palm from the other direction that Jess had come.

“Hey! Speak of the devil.” Jess said, embracing him. He hugged her back, carefully trying to hold the ice creams away from her weather defiant jacket.

“Good to see you, do you want one of these?” He asked her, handing both of the ice creams over to Den and Akari, little spots of the red and white dripping then blotching the floor beneath.

“I’m fine.” She said, smiling. “You guys been waiting long?”

“No, not really. We took the tram down together, but we’ve only been here about five minutes.” Den said, already tucking into the ice cream before it melted into nothing.

“Shall we head up the beach then?” Jess offered, and they agreed, getting up and making their way down onto the warm sands.

“How have you been?” Jess asked Aiko. Den and Akari were off in front, drifting down to the water where the tide was slowly throwing itself against the shore quietly.

“Really good, it’s been busy this year so far but we’re making some headway I think.” Aiko said. He looked refreshed, and content. Gone were the deadened eyes of apathy, in their place were little coffee coloured pools which seemed to absorb the light from all around.

“The legislations have made it easier i imagine. It was surprising that so many wanted to forget the past.” Jess said, the sand sinking easily beneath her feet.

“I think everything came so quickly to everyone, back at the change. They were so fundamentally moved and disgusted with how they had been living and allowing. That goes for me also. It seemed everyone wanted to throw it all away and start again.” Aiko said.

“Oh yeah I know, they wanted to get rid of St. Patrick’s remember. Anything that reminded them of the old ways. It took a lot to convince them.” Jess said.

“Well, Nina still holds a lot of sway.” Aiko added, smiling. “But yeah it was hard to keep anything, and from Atone too, to show them all that there could be some good salvaged from all of it.” They watched as Den and Akari splashed in the water, the ice creams already consumed, part of Den’s washed out to sea.

“Well, I’m glad things are better now. We have to remember what we’ve come from; we can’t remove the uncomfortable for ease of minds. I think a lot comes out of guilt, but it won’t help to erase the struggles, nor should they. I’m glad the Towers have been preserved.” Jess said.

“Have you been there since they opened?” Aiko asked, referring to his two towers where the Pandora machines were stationed.

“Not yet, I said I would with Eva and Daniel, it will be interesting to see them as museum pieces.” Jess said.

“I still can’t believe it all to be honest. Part it feels like a surreal dream that I merely watched. I can’t mentally take myself to the place that I was the cause of it all.” Aiko said.

“It’s probably best not to, the past doesn’t offer you a future, or any of us. What happened needed to, without it we wouldn’t have what we have now. This understanding, this fairness. This was what we all worked to get.” Jess said to him, adding. “Well, you were a little late to the party.”

“Better late than never.” He said.

“Exactly. You were there to show that people can change, that things could be so different. Not just inside the genes but in their minds. It’s not perfect, it never will be. But we are all collectively moving forward with a shared consciousness now.” Jess said.

They walked on a bit more, going down to the shoreline and kicking some of the water playfully at the others. The beach was busier now, the heat and the time of the day luring people like a siren’s song.

“Your technology will have to find a way to sort this heat out you know.” Jess said, wiping her forehead.

“Well you aren’t really dressed for the day.” Aiko added back, pointing to her jacket.

“I go everywhere with this jacket; it’s brought me luck.” She said, and just as she was pulling at the cuffs, a beeping sound came from her left one. “Excuse me a second.” She said to Aiko and slid her finger across a sensor on her watch. Nina’s face popped to life, faded in the midday sun which shone through the hologram.

“Hey Nina.” Jess said, greeting her friend.

“Ah, you’re with Aiko. Good. Hi to you both.” Nina said, spotting Aiko. He returned her greeting cheerfully.

“Hope you’re both well, nice day to be at the beach.” She said, friendly.

“Wanna come down here? It’s a little busy but still nice.” Jess offered.

“Well, I would, but there is something here at the Temple which has taken my attention.” She said, mysteriously.

“What is it?” Jess asked, curiously. Aiko looked on too.

“You both know the Altered’s protection order allows it to complete it’s recovery without any interference. It’s taken longer than we thought, but it’s finally getting there.” Nina said.

“It has been much longer than I thought it would need, or anyone would’ve supposed. Thank god it was able to repair though.” Jess said.

“The fractom robots should show recovery levels and produce a completion timeframe.” Aiko added, having provided the technology to monitor all aspects of the Altered from a far.

“Yes, of course. They have been a treasure. It’s just, with the near completion of the recovery, we have had a bit of a discovery this morning.” Nina said.

“I hope a good one.” Jess added.

“Oh, I would say the best kind. In the realms of religious metaphor, it would be of a resurrection kind.” Nina said, and they knew what she meant.

“The Pope?” Jess asked.

“We think he’s back.” Nina said, a smile seeming to escape the bonds of the holograph and capture both of those looking on. Covering them in sparkling fashioned happiness.

THE END


 

Smartly dressed violence (Part xxix)

Click here for previous entries  or  Listen to this episode


 XXix

“What the hell is that?” Karen said, staring with Nina at the huge orb that spun and shook in the far corner of the room. They were back down in the temple, having left the topside church area for the more militant and scientific surroundings of their main sanctum.

“Oh my god, look at that.” Nina said, her usual calm voice wavering.

As they stared at the shaking orb, which represented earth, the Altered and everything in between, a violent green light erupted from part of the Altered. The swirling mists and fog of that realm had been blasted outward, like a huge mushroom cloud.

“What is happening?” Nina asked, unsure if an answer could be found. Before Karen could reply, a terrible boom shook the orb, and the point where the light was being emitted seemed to collapse in on itself, sucking up all around it like a monstrous green black hole.

“Something terrible is happening there, what do you think it is?” Nina pressed. Karen looked on, in horror too but with her scientific mind turning.

“My guess is that Aiko has unleashed something, a weapon we don’t know of; and it’s obliterating the fabric of the core structures. Look, that is where the bridge and the markers are.” Karen said, pointing to the orb which was humming and shaking frantically.

“We must do something! What if they’re still there?” She said, referring to Levon and The Pope.

“We can’t send anyone, it’s not safe. Besides, look what it’s doing to the fractom points.” Karen replied.

These were jumper points through to the Altered, over time they had learnt that the world was made up of a membrane of power, or magic across the landscape. These fractom points were how people could get across from this world, these points were congregated hubs that allowed movement. You could leave anywhere in the material realm to get across, but these points were where you would appear on the other side. Nina looked closer; the points stuck up across the globe like little pins. She could see the green glow pulsing through them now, pulling them away from the sphere like nails being pulled up by an invisible hammer.

“Shit. Well, we have to do something, what are our options?” Nina asked, a frantic level in her voice now that Karen had never heard.

“Well, I think our only choice is to go ahead with the Holy water. If Aiko has something planned, then now is our only chance to achieve our goal and hopefully by then it will be too late for him to change anything back. We have to move on and hope Samuel and Levon are okay. They’ll make it back if they can.” She said the last part with a faded hope, perhaps already knowing it was too late.

“You’re right, and we need to warn the others so they’re on their guard. We can’t get anyone over there, it’s too dangerous and unstable like you say.” Nina said, referring to the Altered. “But we can prepare them here.”

Karen nodded.

“I think it’s time for you and I to get our hands dirty.” Karen said. Nina agreed and they both made their way to where the militant suits and armour were kept.

The light on Jess’s suit began to glow, indicating an incoming call. She scanned her hand over a sensor and a hologram of Nina appeared, emitting from her wrist.

“Jess, how is it there?” Nina asked, Jess could see Karen in the background, suiting up. Nina was busying herself too as she spoke.

“Hey, well we’ve learnt that Aiko plans to bring some sort of weapon over from the Altered. We apprehended his assistant who has told us all he knows. Any news your side?” Jess asked, hopeful.

“Well, that makes sense. There’s been an event over in the Altered, we’ve monitored it from our Obs orb. We have to think the worst Jess, the world seems to be collapsing there. We’re putting the Order on its highest alert and we’re proceeding now with the Holy water. Karen and I are coming to the towers, but we need to move forward as soon as possible with our plan. We can’t wait any longer.” She said. She wasn’t matter of factly at all, in Nina’s way she seemed to convey much depth in her words, and each one struck Jess at different emotional points.

“I see, we’ll get things started then. Was there any word from Levon or The Pope before this event?” She asked, the hope shrivelling on the branch of her stunted sentence.

“There’s been nothing I’m afraid. The world is being engulfed in the green dark magic, there was only a faint flicker of a blue dot; but Karen seems to think this is residual energy from the bridge. It’s all being destroyed Jess.” Nina said, sorrow in her words.

Jess was stunned, not only at learning that she will no longer see Levon again; but that also the world she longed to understand was now collapsing in on itself. Never to be a place that she could go, or one that would be of a benefit for anyone this side of the realm.

“I, I…Can’t believe it. It’s been so quick.” Jess said, almost dazed. Nina could see her pain, but she was quick to act herself.

“Jess, we will have time to mourn and grieve. My heart is equally as heavy. But now we must act, time is a precious thing. I will be there shortly; Karen is heading to the other tower. Please start the preparations with the others.” Nina said, smiling. Letting Jess know that she was not alone, and that there was still some good left to source. Jess seemed to come back from the ledge, her mind returning to the now.

“You’re right, and of course. See you shortly.” She said, and Nina signed off.

The others had heard and seen the conversation and knew what needed to be done. Daniel set about calibrating the machine while others began the transportation of the Holy water. Nina arrived quickly, entering from the roof which had been cleared of all security. It seemed all the robots and security personnel from Atone had stood down, they had not had any altercations since they had secured the floor and the machine, this was mirrored in the other tower as the group there reported. Karen arrived there also swiftly, and they all set about to release the Holy water.

Though the pathogen was prepared, as with the test jess had done with her family, an incantation was also needed which would transfuse the Holy water. The Pandora machines would duplicate and project this out over the city, expanding the reach and infect everyone. It would move through all elements, so no one would be able to hide from it; but the magic and the science it seemed needed the elevated height to mix correctly. As was true for the virus Aiko planned to release. The pulse would flow like a giant egg had been cracked atop these towers, flowing across the city and changing everyone’s lives for good.

The little head of Karen bobbed on Nina’s wrist, her hologram swaying in the wind now that the huge glass doors had been opened and the machine had been pushed outside further. Daniel explained how it sucked the energy particles from the atmosphere like the giant turbines across the city, but few cared at this stage how it worked; just as long as it did.

The pathogen had been poured into the giant chambers, sloshing around like unicorn milk; glowing and changing form like mother of pearl beauty. It was a sight to behold, and as Nina coordinated it with Karen, there was a tense air all around those of the Order now. Years of battling and fighting had come to this moment, so much now rested on these machines.

“Ready when you are.” Daniel said to Nina, who gave the order to switch the machine on. This was done simultaneously at the other tower across the city. They could see it now, the tallest point in the landscape, Aiko’s tower scratching at the sky. Once the machines glowed to life, they could see from their own tower the luminous glow from the other groups Holy water, a giant lighthouse across the skyline.

“Karen, begin the incantation and release the pathogen.” Nina said. Much like Levon had, she had intricate markings on her arms, the powerful tools that bled the magic in this realm. She then rolled the sleaves up and tapped the black forms that peppered her arms. They began to glow blue as she recited, from memory, the incantation as the great machine whirled to life. The contents within churned and hummed, and with a blinding flash, a phosphorus luminescence began to drip out of the huge prongs, slow at first, then with much speed and haste; leaking over the side of the tower and massing in pools frozen in air. As Nina continued her spell, the globbing mass seemed to stretch and thin before crawling out over the city like a giant divine pancake.

The same was happening at the other tower, and when the two masses met, they sizzled with a blue electric before forging outwards into the surrounding areas and smothering everything beyond that the eye could take in.

Nina stepped back, catching her breath. She lowered her arms which she had held up, brought together during the end of the incantation. Instead of drained, she seemed fused with energy and life. Her eyes glistened, the white luminous reflecting like those of the others all around her. Jess too felt a cellular shift inside, like little workers were crawling inside of her, fixing broken pieces, and patching holes. She tingled and smiled, the energy humming in her bones almost lifting her off the floor. They all embraced each other, feeling a connectivity to each around them, a genetic tie and a shared existence as if the same light flowed through their own veins.

Only then, in this euphoric moment of completion did Aiko appear, a swirling cloud of dark mass bursting forth as if spat from a cave.

The Obs orbs were very useful objects, showing the viewer the state of both the Altered and the Material realm at that moment. It dispensed with the surrounding space or indeed the centre, the insides of these orbs revolved on a magnetic field, swirling at the centre like the molten core of the planet. The best example of these was the one Nina had in her library. The one Levon and Jess had sat by not long ago. It was able to be shrunk or expanded, and at this time Nina had left it in an expanded mode, dominating the space.

Currently it was showing the disorder of the Altered as it was sucked in on itself, the green and dark lightening playing havoc on the outer sphere. As the glow from the Pandora machines swept out through the city and surrounding areas, this was shown on the Orb in a delicate white glow, oozing organically across the surface. It was dispensing the dark that had gathered and coiled. A strange thing also began to occur.

The little blue dot which was barely recognisable had begun to shine up through to the material realm. Like a laser pointer, it began to draw a line from the Altered to the Material. Along this line the white glow from the Order’s pathogen began to feed down into the Altered. It crept slowly, like a small spider along the blue line, finally breaking forth and pouring outward towards the black and green hole. The crater left by Aiko which was destroying all there.

The glow fed into this hole, but instead of being swallowed into nothingness, it began to fill it. Spiralling downward until it had eventually stopped the destruction, and then began to lift out of the darkness, coursing over the Altered landscape with a blue and white glow. It seemed to be repairing, restoring and stabilising the space.

Aiko stood like a cobra, huge and ominous. His darkness and use of magic had transformed his body, growing it to twice his usual size. He loomed before them, the hatred and blackness spewing from his eyes. He held before him Akari, one hand menacingly gripped on her shoulder. The girl was not scared though it seemed, there was an awareness in her own eyes, and a movement that seemed to be looking for opportunity.

They all turned to look at him, some members of the order firing off their strange weapons towards him despite the presence of Akari. He flicked his wrist towards these, and a green emittance stopped the shots and disintegrated the weapons which lurched from their grips.

“Ah, the teacher.” Aiko said, but his voice was strange, devoid of any human traits. It echoed sinisterly like a cry inside a cave. They all shuddered, all except Nina who stepped forward towards him.

“Aiko. You have no power here now, your time has past.” Nina said, her commanding yet calm voice almost beating down Aiko’s presence.

“Is that so? Yet here’s me thinking it’s just about to begin. Maybe the teacher is misinformed for a change?” Aiko tauntingly jabbed.

“It’s too late.” Nina said, her eyes darting to the Pandora machines, showing him the Holy water had already been released.

“Congratulations, you took something someone else had done and made it your own. So the pathogen is released, and everyone is changed? Everyone down there in their little expensive beds or flea-bitten coverings are now the same? Too bad it will only be momentarily.” He said, the other hand now on Akari’s shoulder.

“You can stop whatever it is you plan to do now and just remain Aiko. We don’t need to destroy you for us all to win. Can’t you see this way is the very essence of the Altered, the magic?” She asked him. Jess could see it was in vain, and Nina herself knew it was also; but she had to try. Samuel had never given up on him, and she followed his path.

“Enough. Enough of it all; this, you, them. It ends here.” And he began to incant above Akari, who took on a green glow, something taking hold. They all stood back, unsure of what was going to happen. All except Nina who stood firm, her arms coming together, her own magic at the ready. Little blue sparks beginning to bristle from her fingertips. The force seemed to build further and further around Akari, Aiko’s power and hatred, all his darkness manifesting in that innocent body, waiting to explode onto this world.

Sometimes it takes just one action to tip the scales. One little moment to shift the paradigm. The moment Nina aimed her magic towards Aiko, was the same moment that Jess chose to plunge into the breach.

Jess took a run and dove towards Aiko, knowing she might take the force of his power that was building in Akari. She did not close her eyes in one last desperate act, but instead flung full force into him with her eyes peeled back. Nina had released her own magic, her own generation of positive power which launched towards Aiko and impacted just as Jess made contact. It short circuited the connection he had made, sparking off in jets of green and blue. As Aiko tumbled back with her, Akari seized her own moment, now fuelled with his strength. She connected to the essence of the holy water, touching it like the ‘creation of Adam’, gentle moments which begot such wonder.

As the explosion of light blinded them all, a powerful silence captured the moment, halting their heartbeats there in time for those few seconds. The power of the magic, and that of the human heart seemed to reach up and touch the infinite, washing over everything.


 

Something to stay awake for – Grace & Josh

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It had rained all morning and a small stream of water now ran down the slope of the playground outside. Miss Carbine stole a look out of the darkened window from the warm classroom she inhabited, seeing the water hammering down the pane. She sighed to herself knowing they would have to have the lunch break inside today. Her class were currently in pairs, going through the textbooks that she had put out that morning, hoping the eager minds would devour them greedily.

It wasn’t too big a class, and she found she was able to manage the five- and six-year olds reasonably well with her wispy ways and mild manners. They hadn’t yet lost the awe of having a teacher, that special entity that was there to bestow wonders upon them. Indeed, many still seemed to want to impress, which she cherished as all too soon this seemed to fade.

Grace had been reading her book with Josh, going through the story of Finders the dog and his adventure in the supermarket. She was a good reader and was able to point out to Josh where she felt he was going wrong. Josh was slow and he didn’t much care for the stupid dog or why it was even in a supermarket. He’d only ever seen one dog in a shop before himself, guiding a man around who his mum told him couldn’t see.

The dog buying cereal seemed stupid to him and he lost interest quickly and began to pinch Grace as she tried to read. If they had spoken more about the story, Grace would have agreed with Josh. The anthropomorphic antics of Finders seemed stupid to her also, and she did question its applicability to their development, further wondering if Miss Carbine; who was busy checking her phone, had given them the correct course book that morning. But she persevered and tried to ignore Josh as he pinched her, pushing him away and trying to finish the story for them both.

The rest of the class didn’t seem to have any problems with the book or Finders, indeed some seemed to be enjoying it. Before long though they had all finished and it was time for lunch. As it would be indoors today, they were allowed to sit on the carpet and have their food. An indoor picnic Miss Carbine suggested, helping them retrieve their lunchboxes from the tidy trays and bags. Grace went to the hallway where her bag was and retrieved a cup from the side also for some water. Josh had pushed passed her, knocking her into the wall as he attempted to put something down Amanda Hartly’s back. She scowled at him as she steadied herself, a small red mark appearing on her elbow where she’d banged into the wall.

With her lunch and water Grace sat on the carpet, eager to begin her food as her stomach growled. She heard the rain outside their classroom and watched it drip down the glass like a hose had been aimed at it. Her best friend Michael was not in today, and Miss Carbine had told them he was unwell. She looked at her teacher now, who was helping Robert with his lunchbox that wouldn’t open, missing Michael.

She had just started to tuck into her sandwich when she felt water pouring all over her. She momentarily thought the windows had smashed open, the storm breaching the small stronghold their tiny school offered. Then the laughter rose about her, coming strong from behind. Josh stood there, with an empty jug in his hand having poured the contents all over her. His fat face sporting a smile that reached from one chubby cheek to the other.

​“Oh, Josh Devonport what do you think you’re doing!” Miss Carbine yelled, stepping the short way across the carpet to where he stood.

“That’s horrible Josh. You’re so mean.” Amy Standhall said, who was sat next to Grace but had escaped the projectile of the water. Grace sat there, the water pooling in her dress as she sat crossed leg. Her sandwich now a sodden mess and a cold chill slithering over her body.

“Get over there right now!” Miss Carbine said, ordering the boy away from where the others sat. Miss Carbine, lovely as she was, was not really prepared for the antics of children. She had the priorities of the situation confused, and though she acted with Josh; she somewhat neglected Grace as she sat there with the water in her knickers and the fat boy laughing on at the other side of the room. Amy got Grace to stand up and shake off the water and she even went with her to the bathroom to help her dry off. Grace watched Josh as she left the room being reprimanded by Miss Carbine. She doubted he really cared.

A while later Miss Carbine appeared in the bathroom and helped Grace dry off completely, asking her if she was okay and not to worry about her dress; or her lunch for that matter. She would see to it that some food would arrive. But Grace was no longer hungry. She was wet, cold and angry at being humiliated.

She returned to the classroom where everyone had carried on with their lunches. Some of the kids had finished and were playing with the building blocks near the blackboard. Josh had been ordered to get some paper towels and was mopping up the water that he spilt on the floor where Grace had quietly sat waiting to eat her lunch. He smiled at her as she came back into the room. The taunting face of someone who would do the same thing again.

Teddy Evans came up to her and asked if she was okay, she nodded in reply; thankful that all boys weren’t as horrid as Josh. Miss Carbine suddenly whisked herself away to go get Grace some food, despite her protest. While the others played, Grace went to the back of the class where the storage cupboard was. She opened the door quietly and went inside. The small cupboard was stacked high with boxes and games equipment. They weren’t really allowed to go in there on their own, but everything was stored safely and there was no real danger. Silly rules to keep them in place she guessed. Unless you were locked in with the light off perhaps. Grace found what she was looking for quickly, and a few minutes later slipped out of the cupboard and approached Josh.

“That wasn’t very nice what you did you know.” She said to him, hoping to find remorse there in those fat brown eyes. Josh scoffed and pushed her away.

“Buzz off. You smell like a wet dog.” He said.

​“Aren’t you even sorry for doing what you did?” she asked him, giving him one more opportunity to apologise.

“I said buzz off!” He said again, pushing her hard. Grace stepped back; her eyes burning a hole through him. Then she smiled and said.

“You know with Miss Carbine away, there’s nothing stopping us getting the footballs and tennis balls out of the cupboard and playing quickly. Shame we didn’t get to go outside today, huh?” She said, innocently. She knew Josh wasn’t too stupid, but even at her young age she knew how to manipulate certain people. She had said the magic word too, football.

“Why me?” Josh asked, somewhat suspicious.

“Well, they’re on the high shelves aren’t they, I can’t reach them.” Grace replied, hoping the seed would manifest in Josh’s stodgy brain.

​“Right, outta the way then.” He said, reaching his own conclusion that the break time indoors was dull and kicking a ball around would be better. Grace knew Miss Carbine would be returning soon, but she watched as Josh went over to the cupboard where the sports equipment was and saw him go in.

It seemed that fate was eager to help Grace that rainy Wednesday while the other kids played in the classroom, and Miss Carbine chatted absently with one of the other teachers by the school kitchen.

​Once Josh had entered the small cupboard the sports boxes had tumbled onto him and the lights had gone out, plunging the whole school into darkness. No doubt the storm had downed a power line mile away, knocking the electricity off and unleashing chaos upon the small primary school. But the skipping ropes had found their way around Josh’s neck in the tumble of the boxes, their disordered storing knotting quickly and completely in the frantic blackness of the closet.

Her earlier placement up into the vent made it an inevitable trap Josh would not be able to escape from. When the power sprang back to life, Grace quietly flicked the switched outside the small cupboard which kicked the extractor fan on that resided within; left over from recent renovations when their classroom used to be part of the old bathrooms.

The ropes worked quickly around him, tightening hard around his fat little neck. He lifted slightly off his feet as the light bulb above him blinked in and out, mirroring his consciousness; the ropes choking him into regret.

Grace returned to the others, pretending to be scared by the lights and the storm. Secretly smiling to herself as his howls of help were drowned out by the chaos enveloping their class.


More fables here.

Smartly Dressed Violence (Part xxviii)

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 XXVIII

Nina had been part of the Order as long as she could remember. As long as there had been injustice there in the city, she and her family had worked tirelessly in countering all the abuse and mistreatment that those smartly dressed others unleashed on them all. Her pockets were deep, and her heart was deeper, and though she had little title within the order itself (she left the organising and structuring to others), she was a cornerstone in the fight for change. She trusted and loved those she worked alongside, offering her knowledge and tutorage to those she hoped could make a difference also. It pained her to see the world the way it was, the way it had been for too long. When casualties began to come, those kidnapped and executed, tortured for their cause; it moved an anger in her that needed to be directed somewhere positive.

With those members working on the science behind the change, and those field operatives who would expedition into the Altered for sources, Nina adopted the role of overseer. She put her own faith in the work of Dr Winkoski, and the lab team based in the temple to come up with something that could change things on a genetic level. Their task was long, and fraught with many setbacks. The Order needed to continue its assault on the deviant minded in the world, and especially the works of Aiko Tsutsumi and Atone industries which were the target of their rage.

Those fallen in this charge did not pass lightly through Nina’s mind. She remembered all those gone, and the latest with those who had died in the recent transporting of Levon and the Pope, and those securing the Pandora machines.

Nina lit the little candles that were encased in red glass in a small alcove in the church above the temple. To the world it was just another church, but to those in the Order it was their sanctuary and headquarters. Their operations ran from beneath St. Patrick’s cathedral. If she would have stepped outside its huge wooden doors, she would have been able to look up and see the looming towers of Atone industries which housed the Pandora machines. Secured now, but which had claimed some members. Though the battles were more muted than expected, the technology of Aiko and his robots were powerful and deadly.

She lit the candles respectfully, bowing her head in a silent prayer for those fallen.

Karen appeared behind her, Nina hearing her shoes echoing off the stone walls as she’d entered the cathedral from their secret door below. She did not turn to her, instead allowing her to come to her side and look at the candles that now glowed and bobbed in the cold night air.

“Too many now, and over the years.” Karen said, referring to the little flames that indicated a life.

Nina Sighed.

“Too many yes, but lost to a cause they believed in, and one that is just.” Nina replied. Her heart was heavy. They were close to something; she could feel that. But there were too many variables in play at the moment for her to be at any peace.

“It will be over soon; our work is coming to an end.” Karen offered, sensing Nina’s sombreness.

“I know, and I have hope for the best outcome. I just wish no others need suffer.” She said, quietly in her calm fashion. Karen understood, she knew how much Nina had lost personally in the fight over the years. They all had really. Nina was such an attuned soul, sensitive to a fault perhaps. It weighed on her heavily, having recruited so many in the past.

“Nina don’t lose hope or sight of what we are doing. This will correct everything, once it’s concluded. Think of all the good that will bring.” Karen said, hoping to lift her spirits.

“Yes, I know. I just hope we’re not too late.” Nina replied.

“What do you mean?” Karen asked her, confused.

“I hope that the people can still be changed, to something better. Their hatred is so ingrained, we do not know the psychology behind what they do. We can change the genetics and their make-up, but their minds and hearts. That I don’t know.” Nina said. Karen thought on this for a moment.

“ I’m sure Samuel will know what to do with that, he always has an idea about things out of the box.” She offered. Nina nodded to her.

“He did, he does. That’s why he has gone to the Altered.” Nina said.

“Then why are you so uncertain?” She asked her. There was a pause before she spoke again, as if caught in the dance of the candle flames.

“Because I fear it will cost him his own life to forward this change, and too many good souls have already fallen.” Nina said. They both remained quiet for a short time, staring at the flames, knowing that the end had perhaps begun.

“What is he going to bring back, what has he gone to get?” Jess asked Stefan, already anxious and now worried about what was happening. Stefan’s breathing was erratic, and it took some time to catch his breath before he answered.

“Before I managed to get away, he told me what he planned to do. He was so cold, detached almost. It was frightening to hear and witness. I knew I was about to die as he’d just murdered the doctor. He came up to me, and I saw it there in his eyes. Those black dead spaces filled with an essence so evil, evil is the only word I can describe it as. He told me his plans had changed, that the machines of god would now be the machines of Satan. He plans to bring a force from the Altered, bathed in this negative cloud that will destroy everything living.” Stefan said, now slumping to the floor.

Jess looked at Eva and Daniel, the other members surrounded him in rapt attention.

“Is this the dark entity that had been polluting the Altered?” Jess asked. Stefan shrugged.

“I don’t know too much about that world. Aiko was very secretive about it all and who had access to the information for his plans. I know he was to secure an essence originally, so I assume this is something similar. But he’s changed, corrupted. His eyes are poisoned by this darkness. I believe he will do anything now to have his revenge, or whatever he views it as.” Stefan replied.

Jess turned to Daniel now.

“Can this be done, over in the altered? Can a force be harnessed or weaponised and brought over?” She asked desperately. Daniel thought a moment. All members had been trained in understanding the Altered and its magical properties. With Daniel’s obvious technical proficiencies, she hoped he would know what Stefan was talking about.

“Well, we all use the magical to some degree as a weapon, but it’s scale is hard to quantify really. In theory he could manifest something from his own darkness if, like this man says; he has been so far corrupted. We know of the darkness there, but it wasn’t able to overcome the Pope’s power in the recent battle. He would need to defuse it into something from there that could be transported back, something of its construct.” Daniel offered, thinking things over.

“Like what, an organic object?” Jess suggested.

“Sort of, but it would need to be multilayered, able to contain and transition.” Daniel said.

“Like a person.” Jess said, a statement more than a question.

They all turned towards the bridge as they saw Aiko. The dark cloud that swirled above him was like a concentrated tornado, spinning and churning at a furious speed. It drew up into the fog of the Altered like a finger, blended away into the grey and the unknown beyond.

“Ai!” Exclaimed his mother, shocked by both his appearance before them and the sight of her son. His face was gaunt, shrivelled almost as if the cloud above him were sucking his insides out. He held a little green flame in his hand, the same he’d used at the Gates of Asher. They watched and waited to see what he would do. Aiko merely stood there, surveying them all; a hatred leaving him incapacitated it seemed.

“Ah, Ai; so good of you to join us.” Samuel said, in a jovial tone.

“Ai, what have you been doing?” Akari asked him, her eyes wide; perhaps prepared for anything.

Aiko turned, aiming his hand at the bridge. He let out what appeared to the others to be a scream, but to himself was a directed channel of energy. The green fire leapt from his hand, swirling in the black clouds from above and pulverised the bridge and the marker stones. The vaporized particles seemed to hover in their dismantled state for a second, before lifting off into the fog above like sand being tipped away upside down. A fracturing seemed to stem from the space, huge green cracks crawling out across the ground and reaching the others.

“Ai, stop this!” Akari screamed at him. But it did little good. The dark cloud, now energised further by the destruction of the bridge loomed toweringly, sparkling with Aiko’s green magic. He aimed it towards them, directing the force and the power straight at Samuel and Levon.

Levon was as quick as his father, tapping his wrist and uttering a spell. The words had just left his mouth as blackness covered them, washing over like a black tar.

Inside the vortex, a blue light glowed. Faintly at first, but it grew stronger. It thronged and pulsed as Aiko moved forward, closer to his family and Akari who were grouped together cowering from the onslaught before them. The fog of the Altered had peaked upwards, as if blown away by giant lips. A strange lightening storm raged up in the atmosphere now, strikes of green, white and blue punctured the clouds. Spitting and hissing like a giant snake coiling around them.

Out burst the white light which seemed to halt the dark which had attacked Levon and Samuel. It projected outwards, turning the dark matter to globs of stringy ash. Levon aimed his arms towards Aiko, a blue light streaking outwards towards him. But Aiko was quick and unrelenting, he aimed his own power back, slamming hard into Levon’s spell, stopping it in its tracks.

Akari rushed forward, breaking from her family, calling for Aiko to stop what he was doing. That it could all be better, but he must end this.

“It ends with me!” He yelled to her, aiming a strange green and orange fire towards her.

Levon reacted, lunging in her direction to protect her from what Aiko had sent her way. But the glowing fire had split, the green and orange separating. The green part of the spell shot towards Levon as he pushed Akari out of the way. The Orange part however caught her as she fell, encasing her in a strange, almost crystal-like confine.

Her family rushed forward, but Aiko aimed again. He was battling Samuel but managed to fire off further magical elements towards his family. Caught from his previous attack, Levon stumbled, half firing off some elements from his arms which now burned and singed green from the markings which ran up them. He missed his footing but dove with all his might to block the spell which was flying towards Aiko’s family. It collided with him in an array of green and black, and much like the bridge, Levon was broken outward into particles which hovered for a moment before pouring upwards.

“Levon!!!” Samuel yelled. He turned towards his son, but it was too late. In that moment, his own magic enchantment broke, and Aiko’s green and black torrent of cloud pushed him backward.

“All wars have sacrifices.” Aiko said, dryly. His words drifting over the strange landscape which now hung with loss. His family were scared to move, though his mother looked desperate to go towards Akari who was encased in her orange shell.

Samuel was on his knees, but he was not defeated. He spoke directly to Aiko, less tauntingly than previously.

“Aiko, please stop this. No one else need die for this.” He said, his hands out imploringly.

“Everybody needs to die for this. That’s what you don’t understand. I’m done with everything, none of this matters now.” Aiko said, twirling the green flame once again in his hands.

“It’s never too late to change, no one is ever too far gone. Despite what they have done.” Samuel said, casting an eye to where his son just stood.

“You’ve always been the ruler of this kingdom, and what a place to be king of. But look at it now, dead and empty. Just dust and fog. Why do you wish to save all this?” Aiko said, in almost a whisper but it tickled everyone’s ears.

“Because I believe this place can help change the material world and make it a better version then what it currently is. It’s not too late to do that still, with what you know Aiko; you can help also.” Samuel said, earnestly. But the others could see it was in vain.

“I don’t care.” Was all he replied, and he aimed his arms towards him once more.

In that moment The Pope surprised everyone. He leapt up from his space and dove towards Aiko’s family. He muttered a spell as he snaked around them pulling the ground up with his hands. The floor beneath reacted like elastic, moulding upwards to create a dome over them.

Enraged, Aiko fired off his own green flame and cloud once more, but it could not penetrate the forcefield that Samuel had created. Inside the dome, he suddenly produced a bright white flash and a few seconds later the family had vanished, and Samuel stood there as the dome broke away in patches, revealing him once again.

“Noooooo.” Was all Aiko could say as he charged towards him with such fury and anger that he leapt huge strides like a charging beast. The flames and the clouds bellowed forth, the storm raging above seemed to descend towards them in that moment. Samuel once again shot out his bright white light from his arms, the almost divine illumination shone through the dark, piercing it like tiny swords. A Little blue flash popped above his head and flew towards Akari, bursting at the top of her casing and slithering down like a broken egg.

Aiko charged and concentrated his full force towards Samuel, stopping moments before a concentrated pulse of his power emitted outwards and travelled towards him. Aiko dove out of the way of the retaliating magic and landed next to Akari. He muttered some words and dissolved away with her, leaving the space. It all happened in the blink of an eye. His final view of the Altered was of his powerful magic exploding with the Pope who fractured and erupted into a bright white flash. Just like the bridge and just like Levon.