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.