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

August 18, 2008

In the Hands of Others (11 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

‘You didn’t listen to me before, so listen again,’ said Fay, resting against the creaky foot board of the bed. ‘Get yourself out of this farmhouse.’

The tiredness, the inevitability of it all was wearing on Ariadne. What difference did it make if she did anything or not? Fay’s voice receded leaving her with warm carpet that oozed between her fingers, inviting more touch. The walls drifted away.

The ‘phone rang and lanky Tin picked it up, Tin of all people who was always bad on the ‘phone, spluttering his way through the call. She was in the kitchen, waiting for their rusty toaster to spit out rusty toast, and Tin was in the room waving his arms: ‘Addie, they want you to be a regular in Khemist!’ Douggie banged on the floor, demanding everyone to leave his firking hangover alone. ‘Tin, flipping heck-’

‘Wake up.’ Fay slapped her face and returned to the edge of the bed. ‘Get yourself out of this farmhouse.’


‘The Cloth looks for anyone who is making attempts to stay out of the system. They’ll pick you up within a year, if they haven’t already got the feelers out to this place. Get back into town, a city would be better. Once there, get yourself a land line, but don’t use it.’

Ariadne let the chill breeze pouring onto her neck revitalise her. ‘What’s the point in that?’

‘The same reason. A household without any kind of phone may be trying to avoid phone calls and that’s just as bad as tryin’ to live in a remote location. If you get the land line, it’s one less red point you’ll flag. Probably best to make a silent call or two just to put something on the bill, but I don’t think the Cloth monitors look that deep yet. Oh and never answer the damn thing, you’ll end up saying “Hello” by mistake and the recorders will snatch that.’

‘Is this for real? They’ve got that level of… monitoring?’

Fay was disappointed. ‘After everything you’ve been through, do ya still not get it? I didn’t come here to fakk spiders.

‘It’s not easy to swallow it all in one go.’

‘One go? This isn’t the first time we’ve been through this.’

Ariadne pushed herself up, against the wall, feeling her fingers move onto the glass. She stumbled forwards and said: ‘Fay, I just gave birth. Stop being such a bitch.’

‘I’d rather be a bitch than dead.’

‘Just… piss off out of here and leave me alone. I’ve got the folder, right? I’ve had enough of you. Go. Get out of here.’

Fay broke into an enormous, beaming smile. ‘There’s just one other thing–’

‘I told you to go!’ Ariadne shoved Fay on the shoulder, much to her own surprise. Fay fell backwards, onto the floor suddenly weak and pathetic.

‘There’s just one other thing, I said,’ Fay continued from the floor, lying flat out and gazing out through the bedroom door. ‘Bobby got to stop selling dope. It’s game over if the police start getting interested in him.’

Feeling just a little empowered, Ariadne said: ‘What are you talking about? Bobby doesn’t sell drugs.’

‘I love the way you say ‘drugs’ as if it disgusts you, doesn’t belong in your world. Just tell him to stop.’

Fay sat up and stretched out a hand. ‘Help me up?’

‘No.’ Ariadne walked back to the window and studied the crumbling barn attached to the house.

Suddenly, her stomach was a storm of butterflies; the hairs on her neck stood on end and sweat prickled down her back. Ariadne could only put one word to this eruption of strange sensations: danger.

She turned quickly to see Fay standing halfway out the door, draped in shadow, facing away. Not a sound, yet she was suddenly there, still as a statue.


There was no response. Fay remained motionless.

Ariadne waited, enduring the fearful silence. She heard a truck trundle over cattle grid on a distant road; some birds flirted in high-pitched song.

And Fay moved. With tiny, almost infantile steps she disappeared into the corridor, still in shadow.

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2041

August 9, 2008

In the Hands of Others (10 of 20)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Mr. Smoke typed the code onto the panel and Mr. Alpha noted it, committing to memory: 23140692. The door slide open with a whoosh noise.

‘Does it have to make that noise?’ asked Mr. Alpha.

Mr. Smoke stepped through into the chamber beyond and replied: ‘No.’

Mr. Alpha was surprised to hear Mr. Omega snigger.

They followed Mr. Smoke into the clients’ room. It was more or less how it looked like on the CCTV video, albeit freezing cold. Row upon row of capsules lay ahead of them, each one a space-age coffin. Blue light bathed the entire chamber. It was noisy; capsules would randomly vent some sort of gas with a hiss.

None of the coffins had windows so they could peer in at the pretend dead. ‘Why don’t these capsules have little windows?’

‘Because they’re empty,’ said Mr. Smoke. He added a quiet something that sounded like an insult.

Mr. Alpha looked up at the lighting. This was different to the two previous blue centres they’d been in; it looked like the set of a science fiction movie.

As they continued to head towards the back of the chamber, Mr. Alpha asked, ‘Is this ultra-violet light or something? To eliminate bugs or shit?’

Mr. Smoke stopped and turned around. ‘Listen up, you fuckwit, it’s all for show. We lost a lot of business to Karma Cryon when they started up three years ago. We were efficient, relatively cheap and didn’t mess around with lots of theatrics. Those Karma fuckers went all Disney on us, with doors like Star Trek airlocks and flashy lighting. They even had big stupid machines with pointless coloured lighting you’d expect to see in a B-movie from the sixties. We had to compete and ‘modernise’ otherwise this outstation was going to go out of business.

‘So this is the play room. Nothing in here is important. Clients are actually batched in the basement below our feet, in a proper cryogenic facility. No one ever gets to see that any more. Got it?’

‘Yeah, sure,’ Mr. Alpha said. ‘We got that didn’t we, Mr. Omega? I’m a fuckwit.’

Mr. Omega laughed. ‘He got that right, boy. You’re a fuckwit.’

Fuming, Mr. Smoke marched over to the smaller metal door at the back of the room, the one that Morgana had gone through on the video. Mr. Alpha and Mr. Omega followed. Above the door was a small metal plaque upon which the words “BLUE NINETEEN” inscribed.

Mr. Smoke tapped in exactly the same code as before into a keypad beside the door. The door clicked and he pulled it open.

The blue centre was a much smaller room and looked exactly like the previous centres they had been at. Dim fluorescent lighting illuminated seven metal coffins on the floor, strange apparatus covering each like a metal fungus. An umbilical cord of wires and tubing connected each coffin to the ceiling; maintenance looked like a nightmare.

In the video, Morgana had gone to each coffin, one by one. She had looked into each one for a few minutes, then left the building.

Mr. Alpha copied her actions; the same order, the same pose. Perhaps she had been fiddling with something she shouldn’t or left a little gift behind. Nothing had turned up in the previous centres but Mr. Alpha still had hope. Morgana wasn’t stupid. She was either doing something or misleading them. Or both.

Through the window of each coffin, a frozen, deathly face lay. None of the faces were familiar. None of the faces seem to have any common attribute apart from being old men. Four white men, one with a beard; two black men; the last one had some bloke with slitty eyes so god fucking knew where he was from.

Mr. Alpha reached the last one and he paused for longer, desperate to work out why Morgana would come here. He began rapping his fingers on the coffin, trying to think like she would. See what she |lusting and sexed| was seeing.

‘Oi,’ Mr. Smoke shouted. ‘Be careful with those things, you break that, we lose one body!’

Mr. Alpha stared at the closed eyes of the Asian man. ‘Who are these people? Why are you keeping them?’

‘I’m not permitted to–’

‘Oh come on, Mr. Smoke, do tell. That’s the one piece of this bloody puzzle we don’t know. You want us to stop that whore of whores, but you’re not willing to tell us everything.’ Mr. Alpha turned around. ‘What kind of fucking organisation is this? We want her dead as much as you do. Who are these people?’

No one had answered the question before, but maybe Mr. Smoke might; he was agitated and off-guard.

‘I’m not permitted to reveal that.’ On the other hand, he was still a Clothman with nerves of steel.

The people in these coffins were important. Who would be important enough for the Cloth to secure in freezers for the future? Who…

‘Fuck it,’ said Mr. Alpha. He’d got it. He had fucking got it. ‘I know who they are and why Morgana comes here. This is a message. She’s fucking around with our minds.’

Mr. Omega was standing near the entrance biting his nails; he hadn’t bothered to look at anything since they’d entered. ‘So tell us, Mr. Alpha, what is she doing?’

Mr. Smoke seemed nervous, like he’d made a mistake but didn’t know exactly what.

‘These are Saints; they’re probably cooped up here waiting for The-God-To-Be to bring them back to life. Morgana is sending a message: she’s looking for the Saints.’

‘What a load of poppyshit,’ said Mr. Smoke, throwing his arms into the air in despair.

‘Well done,’ said Mr. Omega, clapping. ‘I did wonder when you’d work it out. Took your merry old time about it, but still it’s a pat-on-the-back and a free burger for you. Third time lucky I guess.’

Mr. Alpha’s euphoria dissipated. ‘You knew? You arsehole! You could’ve told me!’

‘Oh no, I don’t know for sure, but it’s the conclusion I came to at the first break-in. I told you that we don’t get told anything we don’t need to. And sometimes they don’t need to. Cheer up, junior, there’s hope for the two of us yet.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2210