Hammerport

December 27, 2008

Hammerport

Thread: Alpha and Omega,Equation,Game,His Silicon Hands,Mission,Paragon

There is an old shack and outside it sits a man in his late forties. He sits not on a chair but on a ground of dry dust. It is a sunny day. God made it so, thinks Earl. His tears are exhausted and anger has left his insides charred. Nothing churns within. His heart is dead.

From within the shack, a man who wanted to be God emerges behind him. Yet he is not God. He is Green. He came here out of what he considered free will, but recognised the deceit too late. He sits down beside Earl. Green is quiet, still holding the bloody, sharp wire between his hands. The wire vibrates.

Earl wants to hate Green for what he has done, but it was what God had wished. But to swallow tragedy as if it was just a sliver of beer is not something he finds easy to do. That was God’s lot. And that was why God had waited with him for so long, telling him stories.

‘It was the greatest sin,’ says Green, softly. He sounds damaged, missing the violent determination that had propelled him to his defining moment. ‘There was no grace in my work. I had only hoped to match the master… but I was one of his animals. Moving in his word, the final sound of his voice. I have done what I was meant to do. My purpose complete, I am extinguished.’

‘I don’t care for your talk, mister,’ snaps Earl. The sun’s rays are cold. The solitude is unbearable once again. His wife has been stored in a jar for two years. And now God is gone, his parables complete.

The Paragon, the Student and the Psychologist are dead, killed when they turned on their gods of Elvis, Bliss and Morta, allowing Nhil to rise once more. Weldon has done his father proud, saving one final life, defeating Dog in his last game. Alison redeemed herself, saving a planet that had disintegrated into anti-technological fever and anarchic chaos, but sacrificed things she didn’t know she loved to accomplish it. Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega’s global pursuit of Morgana came to a disasterous conclusion, as the three of them discovered that all things are terminal; the handle finally turned.

But Earl’s own story has not come to an end. He is still here with the tales he has learnt and no one to share them with.

‘It was his will,’ says Green. ‘I played my part. If I had not done this thing… He would have undone the Project. I carry His blood on my hands, this is my burden. It was His will, Earl.’

‘I know that!’ shouted Earl. ‘I made Him tell me stories for years to keep this from happening! That, mister, was my burden! I kept Him going and now you… you have taken Him away.’

Green stands up. ‘I need to go.’

‘Where to, mister? What’s left for you to break?’

‘The first stranger to cross my path. God returned her to life as part of his blackmail, to force my hand. I want to apologise.’

But Green does not move. Perhaps he is tired, perhaps he is scared. Earl does not know.

Earl says, ‘He was taken from us too soon. He had more stories to tell.’

Green turns slightly, but does not face Earl. Earl is surprised: there is shame hidden on the killer’s face. Green asks Earl, ‘Did He ever tell you about Hammerport?’

‘Hammerport? No, I don’t think so.’

‘It is a story of what men do when they have left their gods behind. He never told you this story because it could only be told once he was gone. It is about how men organise themselves and how this unmakes them.’

Earl looks at the greatest sinner and asks: ‘Would you tell me this tale?’

Green sits down again, careful not to catch Earl’s gaze. He places the bloody wire on the ground before them and stares at his hands.

‘No one remembers the town of Hammerport. Originally it was a small, sleepy town and the people there were neither happy nor unhappy. Little changed between days. This fact was neither resented nor loved by its people. Children were born, grew up, some of them left for bigger places. And then, one day, the shrewd eyes of industry noticed the town…’

The sun holds its position in the sky while the tale is told. Clouds drift overhead in mournful silence. Mountains weep streams into rivers. The human herd sprays signals through the air while the scent of decaying trash floats on a scorched breeze. There are still ashes in the urn but something has changed: a broken watch is ticking again.

These truly are the days of Man, for it was God that made it so.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1413

December 10, 2008

In the Hands of Others (20 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

‘Here is your boarding pass. The gate will be announced 20 minutes prior to the departure, but you’re free to go straight through to the departures lounge.’

The woman didn’t hand the tickets to him directly, opting to put them on the counter thus deferring physical contact. Mr. Alpha was content with this.

Her bright red jacket made her look like a character out of a children’s programme, a sparkling gold-coloured badge attached to it, reading: “Christine, Relationship Manager” She smiled at him, a decent smile full of clean, sparkling but slightly wonky teeth – not stewardess material. Her blouse was low cut, revealing a dark valley of sin; her cleavage disseminated perfumed lies. Pretending to be available to each client, a false prostitute wearing a wedding band. Everyone was a sex merchant these days, whether they knew it or not.

He smiled back, relaxed and friendly. ‘Thank you. Thank you so much. Have a lovely day.’

With his ticket and pass, he returned to the cluster of seats to which a group of restless children and tortured parents had attached themselves. Mr. Omega sat on the other side, twitching as if on a caffeine high, pretending he was unaffected. Sometimes the old man was transparent.

‘Done.’

One of the children whose clothes looked like they had been coloured using lurid highlighter markers, gave a high-pitched scream. A woman retorted: ‘Jeremy!’ Children’s names are commands, not appellations, Mr. Alpha thought. His own birth name would be a command for death.
Mr. Omega stood up and said, ‘Got a call from Supply. Seems like-’

‘Jeremy stop that!’

‘-we’re good with the Saint. More perturbed by the possibility that Morgana was in the vicinity. No hard feelings. We move on.’

‘Alright, good to hear, Mr. Omega. Good to hear. Nice note to end on, even though this trip has been a bit of a fanny’s arse. So, Dubai then?’

‘Dubai.’

They headed to the security checkpoint separately and Mr. Alpha cast his mind back over the incident again. What would have been the real consequences if things had gone tits up?

After killing a Saint and possibly her switchmen, the Cloth would have ordered instant excision against their pairship. Mr. Omega would have probably walked his arse back into the nearest school for his final duty, whistling into death, but Mr. Alpha would not have given in so easily. Really, how the fuck were they supposed to know who was Cloth and who was not? He would’ve gone on the run, refusing to take the fall for something that was not his fault, something he had been deceived into, the Cloth’s own secrecy used as a weapon against him.

This was what Morgana wanted. For Mr. Alpha to be like her, to suffer the same fate. Forever on the move, never able to take a breather, glancing over his shoulder every minute, half-expecting to see the dark muzzle of a Foundry gun pointed at his head, a life in the hands of others.

He joined a queue and waited his turn.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1536

November 29, 2008

In the Hands of Others (19 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Ariadne stood in front of Bobby. She couldn’t stand for too long; aches and pains gripped her abdomen whenever she was upright.

Bobby looked up, his long black pony tail flicking across the back of the rocking chair, his jet black eyes meeting hers. He had a tall, strong face with a jawline that stood out like a pair of symmetrical scars. His pointy canines sometimes made him look like as Count Dracula but now just gave his smile a bit extra charm. He wore his usual camouflage jacket, as if he’d once been in the army. He smiled. Theo had drugged Bobby into a silly, new father stupor; Bobby had been relaxed and content ever since Theo had popped out in the bath.

‘Bobby,’ she said.

‘Yeah?’ He stared back down into the white, unmoving shape in his arms. A chubby red face with closed eyes and dotted with acne was the only part of the exhausted new baby that was visible.

‘Fay told me something else.’

‘Yeah? She did?’

Ariadne glanced behind her. Paul and Kelvin were poring over the blue folder in silence.

‘She told me you were selling drugs. I told her she didn’t know what she was talking about. She said you had to stop because the Cloth would catch us. I mean, imagine that.’

He looked down at Theo again. ‘Yeah? She did?’ She could hear his smile disappear.

‘You wouldn’t do that, right? You wouldn’t risk everything, I told her that.’

‘Yeah. Right.’ He gritted his teeth; the sound of enamel grinding against enamel put her on edge.

‘God do I know we need the money. But I know you wouldn’t-’

‘Fuck you and your whining. Do you know how much baby shit costs?’ He spoke towards the baby rather than her.

‘Bobby, you shouldn’t talk like that in front of the Theo.’

‘Then don’t piss me off. Don’t fucking piss me off. I’m sure Fay talked all about the weed. Yeah, I’m sure you said nothing at all. Not a god damn fucking thing.’

Ariadne glanced behind. Paul and Kelvin pretended not to hear anything.

‘I’m sorry, Bobby. I knew she was talking rubbish. I knew it, I told her. Sorry to annoy you, I didn’t mean it. I mean, really, I didn’t mean to irritate you. I know how you must feel, this isn’t easy at all, having a baby while trying to keep a low profile.’

‘Alright, shut up. I fucking forgive you.’

Ariadne leaned over to stroke Bobby’s hair, even though she wanted to sit down. The pad between her legs was cold and heavy; she needed her own nappy change. After Fay turning on her, Ariadne wanted comfort from someone. Kelvin was the only one who had shown kindness to her so far today but, from an emotional perspective, he was unreliable. Most of the time, he’d go into a distant far-off stare, eyes glistening, replaying some tragic scene in his mind. Bobby was the only one who could make her feel good.

‘Bobby,’ she said. ‘You do… care about me, right?’

Bobby jumped out of the chair and thrust Theo into her chest like a battering ram. ‘You’ll never let it go, will you? Just the once. I lose my temper just the fucking once and I hear no end of it! If you carry on like this, I might lose my temper again. It was just a fucking tap on the face.’ Ariadne took Theo who flinched at the shouting, but did not wake.

Bobby stormed out of the room, kicking chairs and tables in his path, waving his arms and muttering obscenities as if arguing with himself. A moment later, he was outside, rushing past the window, still exploding as if batting at a horde of angry bees.

The air in the room seemed lighter after Bobby had left. Ariadne sat down in the now vacant rocking chair, warm with Bobby’s heat.

She stared at Theo’s ruddy face trying to picture hope, but it seemed like some cruel joke. Maybe Bobby had been right all along. Why had they bothered bringing Theo into the world? What kind of upbringing would Theo have? He would never be able to be free, enjoy youth like she had. Theo would be kept indoors, under lock and key, having no real home. He would never go to school and never have friends. He would live in this grotesque family of broken people for the rest of his life.

An awful realisation struck her. The best thing for Theo would be if they were caught by the Cloth. If Theo were an orphan, free of his hunted parents, he could return to the system. Then again, maybe he didn’t have to wait until they were dead. Maybe they could give him up for adoption, leave him on the steps of a local hospital.

Tears patted onto the baby’s cheeks, but they were not Theo’s tears.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 0842

November 15, 2008

In the Hands of Others (18 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

The projection flickers across the brick wall of his cell and 3152 watches a slim naked woman writhing on a naked man, lean breasts rippling against jerky vertical motions in crisp black and white. A soundless wail is carried in the woman’s round mouth as if in pain. 3152 touches the projected breasts as instructed. They are rough and cold, abrading his fingertips. 3152 is crying. He cries out for Mummy. He is the devalued one, the degraded one, the disintegrated one. And the pedagogue behind him whispers: ‘Angel is dark.’

‘Oh God, oh Jesus God,’ said Mr. Alpha putting his free hand to his head, trying to expunge the memory from his mind. It remained there, rotten and putrefying, spraying its dark scent over every thought and emotion. The woman stared up at Mr. Omega’s face with intensity, her head tilting from one side to the other, an amused cat considering how next to toy with her disarmed prey.

Mr. Alpha’s heart thudded. They had lost and were now at the whim of these three people. Who were they? Would they kill him and Mr. Omega? Lost. None of it seemed to matter right now. He was naked and vulnerable, a cloying terror in his lungs demanding escape.

‘Get out, if you would be so kind,’ said the woman. Mr. Alpha had no idea if her cohorts had moved or not, he couldn’t focus on them. He had to get out of here.

Mr. Omega backed away in slow, shuddering steps. He mumbled, ‘Sorry. I’m sorry. Sorry.’ The quaking grip on his weapon was loose, as if he was about to drop it. The old man turned around on his heel, unable to look at the woman in the face, and nudged Mr. Alpha backwards out of the room. The phone in the unused reception kiosk stopped ringing.

The air in the corridor was easier to breathe and the Clothmen remained silent as they made their way to building’s exit, returning weapons to their holsters. They remained silent as they crossed the campus, under the shadow of the Campanile. They kept walking until they had put enough distance between themselves and the college, stopping only once they reached a boardwalk beside the Liffey, forcing them to pause.

They leant forward over the curvy metal railing that rode the edge of the river and caught their breath. While the river was almost silent, licking its walls with gentle waves, the road behind them was cacophonous. A cool breeze danced across the river’s surface, caressing the Clothmen.

Mr. Alpha was the first to speak. ‘Mr. Omega, who… who were they?’

The old man struggled to speak, still not himself. ‘They…’ He stopped. ‘A moment.’

Mr. Alpha could still feel the memory himself, scurrying around like a rodent beneath the layers of the recent, but it was gradually quietening, tiring.

‘I think most likely,’ said Mr. Omega, ‘we just threatened a Saint and her two switchmen.’

‘Holy mother of shit.’

‘Yeah, I know.’

‘We were that close to killing a Saint?’

The river calmed Mr. Alpha and he buried the memory again, shovelling soil onto its face. Rest in peace. The past was the past. He was what he was now.

‘That was a trap, mate,’ said Mr. Alpha. ‘I just knew it when she led us in there.’

Mr. Omega shook his head. ‘I don’t get it. Where was she? I saw her go in. Where was she? Was the Saint protecting her?’

Mr. Alpha swallowed hard and gazed into the water. ‘I don’t know what we saw. I think it’s possible she fooled us.’

‘I saw her go in, lad. Are the Saints protecting her? This doesn’t make any sense. No fucking sense.’

‘This isn’t the first time she’s managed to fool us…’ Mr. Alpha stopped, realising he couldn’t explain anything. The Ambleside hotel room. The plot to kill her parents. ‘Think about it. There was nowhere she could’ve been hiding in that room. She wasn’t in there. She was not in there.’

At first, Mr. Omega shook his head vigourously unable to reconcile what he remembered with what rationality demanded. But he soon came around. ‘I guess so. I just… I guess so. She couldn’t have been in there.’

‘Yeah, you see. She just wanted us to go in there and kill the Saint.’

Mr. Omega was nodding. ‘She probably wanted us dead. Get us back for chasing her. Killing her parents.’

Mr. Alpha nodded back but didn’t agree. She didn’t want them dead. That wasn’t what she had wanted.

A strong burst of wind scraped across the river, disturbing the surface tranquillity, breaking waves before they had a chance to form. But then it was fine again, the wind subsided, as if nothing had happened.

The river had no memory. The river was content.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1147

November 9, 2008

In the Hands of Others (17 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Ariadne sat at the long oak dining table mispositioned beside the front window, preventing everyone sitting around it at the same time. Never had such an occasion arisen previously. It remained there because they didn’t expect it to happen again. Sunlight bled through patchy clouds and illuminated the whorls of the table’s surface, eddies and currents in something that appeared permanent and solid.

In front of the sofa, the blue folder sat on a crippled coffee table with one leg shorter than the other three. Four of them were squeezed on the sofa.

Tamsin grimaced at the folder, her hard features sharper than usual. Paul, the teenage runaway with lost puppy dog eyes and a bald scalp was just a skeletal fragment of a human being, still wearing the same ripped jeans, jacket and jumper that he refused to part with. Clarice, the obese member of their group who acted like their matriarch, spied the folder with eyes buried in a lumpy face, long brown hair swishing around it and over the dark cleft of her breasts. She wore another of her chintz tent dresses that she vocally hated, complaining it was all she could afford on the meagre kitty divided amongst them. Kelvin was perched on the arm of the sofa, a pile of rocks shaped into a hulk of a man in his late thirties, a black T-shirt and jeans strapped to his thick body. His beautiful green eyes glistened on the edge of tears as always, short greying hair, an ear-ring hanging from one ear.

Bobby sat in the rocking chair in the far corner, holding the fluffy white cloud in his arms that was their baby. The blue folder held no interest for him. Ariadne didn’t know why found him so handsome. He had Mediterranean looks, olive skin, dark eyes, long hair in a pony tail, the kind of thing she’d always hated, reminding her of greasy Greeks, slimy Spanish. Antonio Banderas did nothing for her.
Tamsin said, ‘Are you sure you didn’t hear wrong? She wants us to go blow up some place?’

Ariadne said, ‘Yes.’

‘That’s fucking crazy. I’m not doing this. Count me out.’ She adjusted her position on the sofa trying to relieve discomfort, but simply crushed Paul.

‘We have to do it,’ Ariadne said. ‘She said if we didn’t, she’d tell the Cloth where we are.’

Agitated, Clarice said, ‘Who the hell does she think she is? Really, now? We all have to stay alive. That is the most important thing.’

Ariadne raised her voice. ‘I think it’s obvious who she thinks she is. She thinks the fact she didn’t kill us means she owns us.’

‘Then we’ve got to get away from here. She’s been good to us, really good to us, right? But this is betrayal. She’s turned on us, on all of us. We can’t do this. This is bloody stupid, mad.’

Tamsin nodded, ‘Hear hear. Absolutely fucking stupid. Has she lost her mind or what?’

Paul was content just to listen and be crushed; Bobby said nothing. It took Kelvin to speak up and represent the menfolk. He stood up in silence and came over to sit opposite Ariadne.

‘Ariadne, love, you don’t agree do you?’ the Scot said softly. Ariadne didn’t say anything. ‘Come on, you can tell me you think.’

Ariadne studied the pattern on the table instead of acknowledging Kelvin. What had to be done, to her, was obvious and could not be refuted. He put his hands out onto the table, to reach for hers. She met his hands and they joined.

‘It’s true that Fay saved us before. But I think…. I think it’s also true that if Fay stops looking out for us probably we won’t last long. So if Fay tells us to do something then…’ She stopped. The same feeling as when she was on the landing. A piece on the board, at the whims of players with little humanity. Fay was still very much a Clothman; the only that had changed was that she’d gone freelance with her insanity.

Kelvin turned towards Clarice and Tamsin. ‘I agree. You see, ladies, you think that we can survive without Fay. I don’t think it’s easy to stay out of the Cloth’s clutches for long without inside information. If you think we got this far by ourselves, well, you probably need to re-think.’

Clarice shouted, ‘She’s asking us all to become killers. Bobby is the only one here who has killed. Do you think you can do that? I’m a teacher. I don’t want to hold a gun. I want to put as big a distance between us and the Cloth as possible.’

Ariadne realised she didn’t need to fight the others; Kelvin was onside. His hands were rough, but warm and comforting.

‘Nowhere is safe, Clarice,’ Kelvin said. ‘Tam and yourself are welcome to go find some safe place if you want, but it’d be better if we stuck together through this. Most of us wandered into this by accident, but we’re here now. We don’t make our rules anymore, Fay does.’

Tam leapt up, bursting with anger. ‘Fuck Fay, fuck Fay, fuck Fay!’ She walked out the room repeating the curse.

Clarice ground her teeth, pushed herself up off the sofa and shook her head in disapproval. ‘We’re all going to get killed. I hope you realise that.’ She also left the room.

Paul, alone on the sofa, picked up the blue folder and flicked through its pages. Bobby also continued to say nothing, making silent faces at Theo.

‘And the motion is carried,’ whispered Kelvin.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2236

November 2, 2008

In the Hands of Others (16 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

An open hand descended through the chattering, snapping darkness.

Mr. Alpha reached forward, grabbed it and the crowd dissolved. Mr. Omega lifted him up and the street was just the street again. The tourists that had appeared from nowhere disappeared just as quickly, back whence they came.

‘What’s fucking wrong with you boy?’

‘I… I must’ve just tripped up.’

‘Can’t do knots, can’t do your shoe laces, hey boy? Come on. She went into Trinity College.’

There was no more caution in their approach; they sprinted down the last leg of Grafton Street and the crowds gave way this time. Mr. Alpha felt unsteady, unable to put his feet exactly they should go.

They blazed into the grounds of Trinity College, onto the grand open space of Parliament Square in which the Campanile stood. The tall bell tower, with drizzled white surfaces and four stumpy legs, seemed to watch them from above, an overwrought cross extruding from a scaly scalp.

A wedding entourage was milling around on the right, the bride a white puffy cloud and the groom a grey matchstick figure perfect for the top of some cake. Well-dressed guests surrounded them, taking pictures. Mr. Alpha thought he heard the sound of cameras clicking.

Mr. Omega seemed to know exactly where he was going, but Mr. Alpha couldn’t see the dark silhouette of Morgana. ‘Where is she? I don’t see her.’

‘There, right ahead, going into that building!’ Up ahead was a building that didn’t match the encroaching architecture, looking like the concrete skeleton of some beast. A black figure approached the main entrance then slipped inside. Few students were congregating around the building.

Mr. Omega was panting. He was too old for this. Mr. Alpha picked up the pace, getting ahead of his senior; not to prove a point, but to make sure they wouldn’t lose her. He was trying to avoid thinking of their pursuit as futile. He knew she was too far away; they’d never catch her now. Then another emotion sprang up: the fear of the strange crowd. They had to approach her together. He couldn’t do this alone.

‘Come on, Mr. Omega. Come on!’ He slacked off a little, to make sure Mr. Omega was with him.

They reached the concrete husk the figure had entered. The building, although still under construction, looked complete at this point – although hideously ugly, concrete masts and half-baked abstract designs jutting out at wrong angles. Signs were plastered all over a door before them: “UNDER CONSTRUCTION – KEEP OUT”, “HAZARDOUS CHEMICALS”. Not a second was spent considering the health and safety issues. They threw open the doors and plunged in.

Inside, an empty reception kiosk to the left was missing paperwork and a receptionist; a chair wrapped in plastic, fresh and unused, awaited a grand unveiling. A phone in the kiosk was ringing with a repetitive scrum of high-pitched beeps. A bench against the right wall was missing visitors. A noticeboard was missing notices, but it bore some pins. Corridors moved off to the left and right.

Mr. Alpha thought they would have to split up – they would still be close enough together not to break the pairship rules and face excision – but he didn’t welcome the prospect.

Mr. Omega shouted, ‘Come here, you bitch!’ and scarpered down the right-hand corridor.

Mr. Alpha followed and was amazed at what he saw. The old man was racing down the half-finished corridor, dissolving into scaffolding and construction materials at the far end, towards Morgana who stood calmly outside one door, smiling at them.

She looked how she did before. The black top and leggings made her look like she wore a catsuit, lithe and ready for action. Her face drenched with contempt yet there was still a place there for some mirth. Something around her neck; a pendant of some kind that looked like a hand. She seemed indistinct somehow, as if he couldn’t focus on her properly.

Mr. Omega had his weapon out and was preparing to fire.

Abruptly she dived through the door and slammed it behind her. The entire corridor reverberated with the sound as if something throbbed deep beneath the ground, stirring from slumber. It gave Mr. Alpha pause.

Mr. Omega fell against the door but it wouldn’t open. ‘Help, twat!’

Mr. Alpha got his own weapon out and ran towards the door.

‘After three,’ said Mr. Omega. Mr. Alpha tensed up his shoulder. ‘One, two, three!’

They threw themselves at the door and broke it off its hinges, only just able to stop themselves careering into the room.

Inside was a dingy office with an overhead window, a desk upon which a middle-aged woman sat facing them, and two men flanking her. None of them were Morgana.

The woman was trim with untidy brown hair and leered at them behind a pair of thin-framed glasses. She wore a pair of jeans and a blank cyan T-shirt. The two men beside her were wearing similar casual clothes. One was a bald black guy in hooded navy jacket, young enough to look like a troublemaker on one of the East End estates; but he was well-groomed and clean. The other wore a denim jacket, over a weathered T-shirt bearing the words Hell’s Angels; older but more unkempt. Long scraggy blonde hair spread out over his shoulders. A scar was posted over his right eye.

Mr. Omega raised his weapon at the woman. ‘Alright, where the fuck is she?’

Mr. Alpha raised his weapon too, pointing it at the hoodie. He noticed there were no other exits from the office and the office too small to hide in. A bad feeling swelled in his stomach. Something was wrong. Again.

The woman cocked her head to one side and took her glasses off. She rubbed her eyes. She spoke calmly with a thick southern Irish lilt. ‘There is no one here. We are not here. I’d leave while you still can on those bony legs of yours.’

The two men either side of her didn’t move at all. They stood there, unmoving, as if waiting for instructions.

Mr. Omega took a step forward and placed his black gun a few inches from the woman’s head. ‘You don’t know who we are. You will tell us where the woman is. You will do this otherwise I will pull this trigger. Belief is rock.’

Mr. Alpha was tense. Wrong. This felt like… he struggled to articulate it. He could still hear the phone down the corridor, ringing like an alarm bell, trying to tell him something. Morgana had baited them here. It felt like a trap.

‘Mr. Omega,’ he said.

‘I’m going to count to three,’ said the old man ignoring him. ‘And then I’m going to be very tired and bored with this. I get trigger-happy when I get tired and bored. One.’

‘Mr. Omega, hang on.’

‘Two.’ The phone continued to ring.

‘Mr. Omega, don’t you think-’

‘Three. I am so fucking bored.’

The woman jerked her head up, still not wearing her glasses, staring directly into Mr. Omega’s eyes and screeched in anger: ‘Angel is dark!’

Something deep in his mind burst like an artery, splashing bloody memories across the ordered structure of the present, demolishing his resolve. The brutality of it. He hadn’t been prepared for this. Not this!

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2009

October 18, 2008

In the Hands of Others (15 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Tam said, ‘The handle turns.’

Ariadne opened her eyes. She thought she’d only closed her eyes for a moment, but her internal clock told her that minutes had passed. ‘Sorry Tammy what did you say?’

Tamsin’s young but indented face swelled before her, pock-marked through bad food and bad vices, breaking what should have been delightful feminine features into edged, masculine ones. Dark, lifeless hair fell around her ears. Her scratchy voice asked, ‘I asked if you’re okay love. What are you doing sleeping on the stairs? You should be resting in bed.’

‘Why didn’t anybody come and help me?’

Tam helped her up off the floor. Ariadne was a little giddy but okay; still exhausted. Tamsin said, ‘I didn’t hear you call or anything.’

‘Fay attacked me, she-’

‘Fay? Fay’s not been here.’

Afternoon light was still streaming through the windows so she’d hadn’t dozed off for that long. ‘Fay was here.’

‘Ariadne, I swear to you, she ain’t been here. You must’ve been dreaming.’

Ariadne touched her face; it felt bruised where Fay had attacked her. ‘Someone hit me. My face hurts. I didn’t dream that.’

Tam peered at Ariadne’s face. ‘You do look a little swollen, but you’ve also been crying. Did Bobby…?’

Ariadne was irritated. Everybody seemed to bad-mouth Bobby. ‘Don’t be stupid, Bobby wouldn’t hit me. Listen to me. Fay was here, she was here. She said we had to do something. I didn’t dream it. She left me something by the bed.’

They both moved as one yet for opposing reasons; Ariadne wanted to prove Fay had been here while Tam wanted to prove she hadn’t. Beside the bed, on top of a cabinet, was a blue A4-sized ring bound folder.

Ariadne hesitated as if it were booby trapped. Tamsin picked the folder up without concern, unaware of what it contained. As she read some of the details, her eyes widened.

‘Ariadne,’ she said, ‘what the fuck did Fay say we were supposed to do?’

‘I think we should all talk about this together.’

Tam kept fingering the pages in the folder, but now her carefree attitude was gone. She held the binder as if it were soiled, fearful that something might come off in her hands, something that wouldn’t wash off with soap and water. She shook her head, shuddering. ‘Christ.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 0901

October 4, 2008

In the Hands of Others (14 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Morgana followed the downward curve of the street, moving around the shoppers as if she were one of them. She politely apologised when bumping into someone’s shopping bag. Amongst the sinners, like one of them.

Mr. Alpha hugged the left side of the street, trying to keep a safe distance. He glanced across at Mr. Omega on the right side; he was a little closer, a bit too close. Morgana might catch him in a reflection or turn a bit too suddenly, catching the old man in her tracks.

They couldn’t lose her again. Not this close. He could go back to finishing his twenty, go full robe, and earn the respect of his fellow Clothmen. Mr. Omega would stop giving him a hard time. He’d have a mobile to Supply. His heart pounded so hard with the thought that all the trouble of the previous months was almost at an end.

But he was too excited and was likely to make a mistake. He tried to calm himself, reciting the meditations of The-God-To-Be in his head, but it had little effect. Mr. Alpha was giddy. He was going to beat the living fucking crap out of the bitch and shoot her in the head many times, slit her throat and cut her goddamn head off, making sure she was dead dead dead. He’d do it right here in the street if Mr. Omega would let him. Fuck her! Fuck all these people!

Christ. Self-control.

Then he realised Morgana had sped up, her walk turning into a fast tango around each tourist and shopper. Damn; she’d made them.

Mr. Omega picked up his pace, trying to close the distance between them, dancing around the shoppers. He made a mistake and plunged into a group of kids of bright colours and elderly disrespect. His punishment for disturbing a hive of bees was obstruction. One of them barked: ‘Git out the way, you old focking tool!’

Morgana was putting more distance between them; Mr. Alpha accelerated from a fast walk into a short jog and crossed the street to take up Mr. Omega’s position. It didn’t matter as she’d seen them now. It might be time to wave his badge around and get the public to help him take down Morgana, but it was very risky. He was not to make decisions like that. The Cloth did not approve of mavericks.

From nowhere, shopaholics and tourists flooded into Grafton Street from side roads, completely blocking Mr. Alpha’s path. He pressed on, diving into a flood of inane multi-lingual chatter and beeping digital cameras.

The outer layer of the crowd was light and fluffy and Mr. Alpha edged his way through the sinners. As he pushed them aside one after another, foreign-accented apologies sliced through the air around him. He could still see Morgana. It was still okay. Still okay.

The crowd intensified, becoming more dense, as if he’d waded into hardening cement. A pulse rippled through Mr. Alpha’s left arm and his breathing became heavy and laboured. The crowd was crushing him, preventing him from moving at all.

Morgana was now just a speck in the distance. ‘Please,’ he shouted. ‘Let me pass. Let me pass!’

His words swallowed in the crowd’s white noise, the tourists constricted him even more, cutting off his ability to speak. They continued to crush the Clothman until he could no longer breathe. His legs collapsed, but the crowd pinned him upright, a puppet amongst the many. Mr. Alpha drifted in their tide for a moment, then he slipped through them to the road surface.

From the tarmac, he watched the tourists swirl around him like the mouth of black tornado descending. They rotated around him, cameras bleeping and clicking, chanting: ‘The handle turns! The handle turns!’

The tornado closed in.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 0955

September 7, 2008

In the Hands of Others (13 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

There was something else that had gone unasked; Ariadne had to know. Taking a deep breath, she dashed out of the bedroom to catch up with the ex-Clothman and almost ran into her.

Fay was just around the corner, resting against the wall. Ariadne’s fatigue took its revenge and she found she couldn’t focus on Fay’s face again. Fay’s features were blurred, airbrushed. Ariadne blinked a few times to try to clear her vision, but then noticed the red-rose-and-thorn motif on the wallpaper was crisp and sharp.

‘Speak,’ said Fay, turning to face her.

Addressed so directly, Ariadne just came out with her question. ‘Fay, uh, what if we don’t do this? What if we just walk away if we think it’s too dangerous?’

‘They will be told where you hide.’

The enormity of it, the matter-of-fact way that Fay would dispose of them if they didn’t do her bidding, hit her hard. Her eyes stung as the tears stormed out and she lurched against the wall. What good was being on the run if they still had no control over their own lives?

One question and its bad answer begged another question. Her heart was falling, tumbling over, helpless down a shaft without end. ‘Will… will you take care of Theo if anything happens to us?’

Fay’s face came into sharp focus for an instant, another inscrutable smile on her face. She said, ‘Okay sure, why not?’

Her face blurred again. ‘Got to leave now.’ Morgana walked away, turned the corner towards the stairs and disappeared out of view.

Ariadne lost all her strength and slid down the wall, teeth chattering. Her china emotions shattered and she wept without restraint, scratching at the roses in the wallpaper.

The sounds that escaped her mouth were not words. No one would have understood them.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1904

August 23, 2008

In the Hands of Others (12 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega strode down Grafton Street, a fashionable albeit mainstream curve between Trinity College and the crowded haven of St Stephen’s Green. Commerce, the pursuit of the false prophet of coin, inserted itself wherever it could. Vivid styles clamoured for attention, where somehow the multiplicity of brand identities rendered them a single, homogeneous mass. Shoppers leant on windows, occasionally popping into stores to see how much they could spend, if only their credit cards could take the strain. A band of failed singers sang at a crossroads further down, pretty young girls sweating behind snorkel jackets, vocally revealing why they had failed. Flower stalls seemed to be everywhere.

‘You have to stop hating everyone so much,’ said Mr. Omega. ‘You’ve got to be more detached than that, almost clinical, mate. Rail against me if you must, you disrespecting little shit, but come away from the people. You are above them; you don’t need to hate them.’

‘I don’t hate anybody, mate.’

‘I’ve seen the way you look at people. Sin is natural. Our long-term goal is reduce sin, control it, save them from themselves. Hate the sin, love the sinner.’

‘The cliché cowboy strolls into town.’

‘So, look at the girl over there. Have a good look.’

Outside one of the brightly-coloured fashion shops, in front of inviting sexed-up mannequins, a solitary teenage girl stood. The short-haired blonde, clasping a mobile phone as if it held the cure to cancer, was dressed in a short, tight magenta skirt; her arsecrack peeked out and it was not clear whether she was actually wearing underwear or not. A dark tattoo stood guard over this domain, a Chinese character of some kind that probably meant ‘whore’ or ‘fucks here’. A tight, white top was wrapped around her breasts, making no attempt to cover her midriff. Nipples shone through its surface.

‘Now,’ Mr. Omega said, ‘your average man is looking at her, thinking about poking her up that skirt. They probably wouldn’t even take it off. We’re trained not to think like that. What are you thinking?’

‘I’m thinking about stabbing the slut up it with a knife.’

Mr. Omega shook his hands around his head, as if pretending he hadn’t heard. ‘Holy fucking Jesus, Mr. Alpha. That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Can you tune down the volume a bit? Jesus Christ.’

Mr. Alpha shrugged.

Mr. Omega grabbed one of his shoulders, to shake the shrug out of him. ‘Look, mate, there are many stories of Clothmen gone bad, who took the urge to cull sin too fucking far. We’re not meant for normal life – a world full of Clothmen is a dead world – we’re just the harbingers of the future. We’re bringing the future to the people today, because they’re just too whacked out to do it themselves. Clothmen who can’t see the wood for the fucking trees have to be put down like the ones who run out on us.

‘Ten years ago the big Cloth scandal was that of Mr. Carve and Mr. Chop. They tortured ordinary people who weren’t of interest in the grand project. They would pull people off the street every day, torture them, convert them to a “pure” lifestyle and sometimes kill them afterwards anyway. The kind of insanity they used to get up to is legend, boy. Ever thought of tying a bloke’s wife to the underside of his car but only telling him after he’d driven to work? Ever thought of injecting faeces into a sinner?’

‘Shit,’ Mr. Alpha said. ‘That’s just fucking bonkers. Mental.’

‘Exactly. Eventually, the pair of them were executed. They had screwed up too many Cloth plans, lost them a number of snags.’

‘Well they probably deserved it.’

‘Oh yeah, for sure.’

‘But I call it as I see it, Mr. Omega. Mr. Carve and Mr. Chop were off the fucking scale but, come on, how on Earth are we are going to make The-God-To-Be out of this shitty band of sinners?’

‘Who said The-God-To-Be had to be sin-negative or even sin-nought?

Mr. Alpha stopped dead. ‘What kind of cockjerk thought is that? And how does any of this explain what we did to that old guy in Grimmer’s hidey-hole? Was that clinical and necessary?

‘Nothing in the lessons…’ Mr. Omega started, but said no more; something had caught his attention. ‘No way.’

Mr. Alpha followed the old man’s eyes, but couldn’t spot anything out of the ordinary amongst the fleets of shoppers tacking across the road.

‘I swear that’s Morgana. On the right, just past the alleyway, beside the lamppost.’

Mr. Alpha looked and he saw. ‘No way.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1658
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