May 26, 2008

In the Hands of Others (3 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Startled at the clatter of the mobile’s destruction, Ariadne leaned forward and said, ‘Fay, I’m sorry, no really I’m sorry, I just wanted to be able to get hold of Bobby if I went into labour-’

Fay stepped toward the bed with an inferno dancing in her eyes, jabbing at Ariadne with a sharp finger. ‘Listen, girlie, I haven’t got time for your boo-hoo stories. Dontcha geddit yet? These people want yew dead and if yew don’t follow my advice then you’re going to be dead. You, Bobby, Tamsin, the whole crew. They’ll order a black fire on the lot of yew and Heaven fakking help you then!’

Ariadne drew her knees up against her stomach – a strange feeling as she’d been unable to do it for months – and hugged them. She looked down, sorry for disappointing their benefactor. She pulled the sheets up over her shoulders, but they didn’t make her feel any better. The Cloth swirled around them like a pack of wolves on an eternal hunt, looking for prey. Fay was right. Complacency was lethal.

‘I’m sorry, Fay. I was… not thinking. Bobby did tell me… maybe it’s just all the hormones… so tired…’ Ariadne leant back against the headboard, unwilling to continue the conversation. The exhaustion was back. She closed her eyes.

‘You’re still thinking like some petty agony aunt. I’m not hear for sorry or excuses. They will come here with purpose,’ Fay continued, relaxing a little, her accent losing some of its hard edge. ‘They’ll shoot Bobby in the face; his beautiful looks will be splattered across this dirty carpet here. They will shoot you in the back first and while you lie there entertained with the numbness of paralysed legs they will advance and finish it, wiping the brains from your skull with two bullets.’

Bad images in Ariadne’s head forced her eyes open again. She turned away from Fay’s childish outburst. ‘Stop it, I understand alright?’

Fay grabbed Ariadne’s neck and yanked her off the bed like a naughty child. Fay slapped her once across the face with her free hand. Ariadne’s cheek burned. She struggled, confused at what was happening, Fay’s iron grip forcing her into a hunched position. She’d just given birth, for Christ’s sake. She’d just given birth!

‘Get off me, Fay! What the-’

‘Do you really understand? Do you? What this is about?’ shouted Fay.

Fay slapped her again, this time even harder. ‘Do you understand me? They will kill you.’

‘Fay!’ Ariadne screamed and her arms and legs convulsed trying to fend off Fay’s blows, but Fay timed each one with precision. Slap. Smack. Slap.

She started screaming, tears pouring down her face: ‘Bobby! Bobby! Come quick!’ Ariadne tried to pound on the floor with her hands.

Fay released her, and Ariadne scrambled over the bed to the other side of the room. She watched with salty eyes over the unkempt dune of bedsheets, waiting for Fay to make a move. She thought about making a break for the door. Her heart pounded. This day was supposed to be joyous, happy, pleasant… memorable.

‘Weak,’ Fay said, the word bulging with scorn and disgust. ‘Riddled with woodworm, rotten and dead. You hoard your guns and you make your plans but a l’il bit of foreplay and a scratch or two and it’s poor me. Belief is rock.’

Fay took a step back from the bed, as if trying to calm herself and buried her mouth into an open palm as if something tasted bad. She turned away briefly but suddenly dived across the bed like a black panther. Ariadne tried to duck but was too slow: Fay’s punch caught her jaw, driving her to the floor.

Ariadne retreated into the far corner of the room, crying, sobbing: ‘Please, oh God, please stop, Fay…’ She started banging on the floor again. Come on Bobby, where are you? Why don’t we have a gun up here?

Stretched across the bed, Fay leering at her like an angry lover, swiping at the air just out of reach, growling. Fay spat a glob of phlegm onto the floor, turning away from Ariadne as if her very presence nauseated her.

Ariadne cowered, burying herself deep in the corner. ‘Please.. stop it…’

‘Stop it? STOP IT?’ Fay screamed, getting to her feet on the bed, dirty trainers muddying the sheets. ‘There isn’t a single Clothman who isn’t looking for me. You, however, are off-watch and no one round here knows who you are. You’ll stay safe – s’long as you don’t make a stupid mistake like use a bloody phone! You’re no good to me dead!’

Fay paused, looking down at Ariadne as if she owned her. The expression of disappointment set in her dark eyes morphed into something harder, controlled and cold. ‘Maybe I chose wrongly. Maybe you’re a waste of my time and effort. Maybe you’re no good to me alive. I’m supposed to love you. That’s your job. You’re not supposed to anger me.’

She leapt off the bed at Ariadne, claws outstretched.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1350

May 18, 2008

In the Hands of Others (2 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

‘Another sighting,’ Mr. Omega said, eyes hidden behind his clip-on shades. The bus rumbled and coughed.


‘Uh-huh. Another sighting… another break-in.’

Mr. Alpha studied a garden that had paused beside them. More stone than green, a cross-shaped pond over a wavy turquoise mosaic pulled his eyes toward the back of the garden. A statue stood there, at the top of some steps, depicting several figures collapsing to the ground as swans emerged from their backs, ascending towards the sky. ‘What’s that?’

Mr. Omega tilted his head. ‘You have the guide.’

Mr. Alpha flicked through the guide quickly to a description of the “Garden of Remembrance” in Parnell Square. The statue was of a local legend known as The Children of Lir.

‘So the legend tells of the King Lir having several children with his first wife Aoibh, but then she died…’

‘I don’t need to hear this.’

Mr. Alpha read the rest in silence. Lir then married his dead wife’s sister Aoife, who became very jealous of her stepchildren/nieces. Most women in these kind of legends are horrible, spiteful creatures and, keeping with tradition, Aoife wanted to do away with her competitors for the King’s attention. In the end, she couldn’t quite bring herself to do it, so opted for the next best thing. She used magic to turn them into swans. Mr. Alpha wondered if the same thing could be done in the present day. He glanced at Mr. Omega, lurking behind his shades.

‘What? What now?’ the old man responded.

The brats of the legend were to remain swans until they heard a Christian bell, heralding the arrival of a new God to the Isle. It was all rather sad and irksome. Just the kind of thing the Cloth might have used a few hundred years ago. Or whenever this legend came from.

‘It’s a nice statue,’ Mr. Alpha noted, turning back to Mr. Omega.

The old man hacked up some phlegm and spat it onto the bus floor. ‘Right. Triffic.’

‘Fuck, mate. Do you have to do that here?’ He turned back to The Children of Lir, observing the rash of tourists, chattering away, snapping pictures. ‘She gets about. She really does get about. Is it another-’

‘Yes. The third now.’

‘Could you let me finish a god-fucking-damn single question?’

Mr. Alpha leaned backwards against the coach seat, squinting through hot sun reflected from the road. The journey from the airport to the city centre had been just too long. The heat and light were giving him a headache, but Mr. Omega was just sitting pretty as usual. Nothing seemed to bother the fucker. The bus trundled forward as the traffic began to flow again; they turned into O’Connell Street and everything looked more like city.

Either side of the street was lined with hotels and stores, but the feature that stood out was the Spire, an enormous silver splinter of metal that just looked like a giant had misplaced his javelin. That, apparently, was the city going modern. Jesus Christ, Canary Wharf look out.

‘So tell me, mate, if we hadn’t got mixed up with this Morgana wild goose chase, would I know what a blue centre is? What a blue centre is for?’

‘Look, Mr. Alpha,’ the old man whispered. ‘I didn’t know these places existed either, not until we got told that Morgana had broken into one.’ He cleared his throat and added, ‘There’s something you need to understand about a Clothman’s role in the Weave…’

Oh, another lecture. Mr. Alpha rolled his eyes.

‘The Saints know everything. The Saints plan everything. But never ever do they get their hands dirty. They just dole out orders that eventually filter down to the foot-soldiers, AKA you and me. Information and action are kept separated. It keeps the Saints at a safe distance and confers, how shall I say, longevity to the Cloth. Even when you get promoted to full robe, you won’t learn much more other than special orders like quarantine. It’s not our place to know these things.’

Mr. Alpha then asked, ‘But what about that stuff that Morgana wrote about Christianity and Islam?’

‘It might be true,’ the old man answered, ‘but it might just as easily not be. That’s the table I sup at, a veritable fucking crash diet of fact. You’ll learn to live with it. There is no such thing as knowledge for us. Even though it’s not becoming for a Clothman to chatter away like an old hen, pretty much every one does. The Christianity and Islam thing is a popular rumour and I suppose it passes the time, but don’t put too much stock in any old fanny you hear.’

‘Well, Hell’s fucking bells,’ said Mr. Alpha, wiping sweat from his face with the back of a hand. ‘If there’s barely any difference between full robes and probation, why can’t I make a call to Supply on the mobile?’

Mr. Omega lost his easy-going demeanour and turned towards Mr. Alpha. ‘Don’t fucking start that shit with me again, junior.’

Mr. Alpha slouched in his seat, still feeling an oppressed minority, the permanent probationer. He’d been through more scrapes that any normal junior would’ve experienced in the same period. ‘We getting off here?’

‘No, over the bridge first. We get off around Grafton.’

The bus was just reaching the bridge that Mr. Omega had mentioned; Mr. Alpha gazed into the choppy waters of the River Liffey, the heart of Dublin.

‘Great,’ said Mr. Alpha. ‘Paddyville.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1814

May 12, 2008

In the Hands of Others (1 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Fatigue smothered and blinded her, trapped her beneath iron eyelids. A footstep; someone was in the room.

Blood rushed through adrenaline-scorched veins but failed to break the torpor. Maybe the Cloth had come to claim her at last; maybe she wanted it to end, too much running, the numbness begging her to be made permanent.

Then she thought of her baby. Suddenly she was smashing out of her tomb of exhaustion, eyes wide open, hands ready to attack, to kill. She launched into bolt upright position in a single movement and found herself staring into a woman’s eyes.

At first, the woman’s features were blurred, distorted, as if the air in the bedroom was desert hot. Ariadne blinked a few times; the visitor’s face came into focus.

Short dark hair, shorter than she remembered, hovered over curious eyes and a beguiling smile. The visitor wore tight-fitting black clothes, possibly a lycra tracksuit. A necklace hung around her neck and from it a Hamsa pendant dangled.

‘Oh God,’ Ariadne said. ‘I didn’t realise it was you. I thought it might be the Cloth.’

Fay continued to smile.

‘Did you see Theo with Bobby downstairs?’

Fay snapped into a disarming frown. She yanked something small – metallic shiny – out of a pocket and pointed it at Ariadne.

Ariadne jerked herself backwards against the headboard.

‘Didn’t I tell yew?’ Fay shouted, the harsh Aussie accent uncomfortable on Ariadne’s tired ears. ‘Didn’t I bloody tell yew? No phones, at all. Fakking period! No bloody mobile phones!’

Fay threw the mobile at the floor. It exploded into fragments across the carpet, a horde of shiny spiders scuttling away in fear for their lives.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1633

May 4, 2008

The Weeping Maw (11 of 11)

Thread: Mission

you will suffer the greatest sin

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 1453