February 6, 2007

The Crane (5 of 19)

Thread: Alpha and Omega

Mr. Omega dashed forward and jumped into the lake, shouting, ‘Come on!’

With the Cloth regulations shackling them together, Mr. Alpha had no choice but to comply and he stormed into the water. As the cold hit his legs, he felt sharp knives skewering his head like a stunning magic act gone horribly wrong. But it got worse: as his face slid into the water, the sensation became one of the intense pressure, with cracks etching across his skull. He would have done anything to escape the swim but the old man was already a couple of dozen metres ahead of him and, on the other shore, a Clothman sat injured, perhaps dying. Maybe even…

The swim was a blur, a vibrant, rural landscape alternating with a cold, numb blackness as his head bobbed with every stroke. He knew the pain was still there and acknowledged its presence but the pedagogues had done far worse to him during school. They had made him suffer so that he could endure. A part of his consciousness receded, giving him the freedom to do what had to be done. It trapped the pain within it, keeping it contained and secure.

He thought only of his duty. This was what it meant to be a Clothman. Detached, focussed, effective. Each complaint he threw at Mr. Omega was just a pearl formed from the irritations of their relationship. Mr. Omega was nothing like the Clothman ideal he had grown to respect; they were supposed to be perfect. Belief is rock, stroke. Truth is ghost, stroke.

Once the water became shallow on the other side, Mr. Alpha stopped swimming and waded towards the shore. His water-logged suit was pulling him down but he kept moving at a steady pace. To his surprise, he felt refreshed by the exercise, as if cured of his cold. The symptoms were still locked away in a strongbox at the back of his mind.

Mr. Omega was standing before him in the water, shoulders sagging, still. He faced the bench while obscuring its secret from Mr. Alpha. Leaning to one side with his suit clinging to his lanky structure, grey hair flattened against his scalp, he looked like a mooring. There was sadness in his poise and it reminded him of the lonely pier, all ready for action, but no visitors to provide it with a purpose. Impotence.

Mr. Alpha sidestepped so that he could see the bench clearly.

Mr. Mogdred was as described, dark suit, black hair gelled flat, a little small for a Clothman. His inert body leant back against the bench, exposing a bloody smile carved out of his neck. Blood had drained down his shirt, onto the bench between his legs, and through the beams onto the grass beneath. His pale face was not distressed, as if the kill had been made in his sleep. His arms were stretched out onto the seat of the bench, his hands resting on two books. The one on the left was a copy of the Qur’an, the other, the Bible.

Mr. Alpha’s focus wavered and began to feel the icy chill of the water against his skin. He never expected to see a Clothman killed in such a way; they were supposed to be invincible. ‘Mr. Omega,’ he said. ‘Sweet fucking Jesus shitting Christ of Nike. Do you think Ms. Morgana is injured or dead as well?’

The senior Clothman shook his head slowly, responding to the situation and not the question. Without looking away from the mutilated body, he said, ‘Ms. Morgana did this. Morgana did this.’

‘You can’t be fucking serious, mate.’ The cold made Mr. Alpha shiver; at least he thought it was the cold. ‘How can you know that? How can you think that?’

‘Our assignment. Escort them to the Keswick school. Mr. Mogdred had flagged suspect behaviour. Had to be investigated.’

Mr. Alpha strode out of the water and knelt down in front of his late comrade. A whiff of something sweet drifted on the air.

It was a memorial bench, a marker pinned to the landscape to force any passing rambler to remember someone they never had a memory of in the first place. This one bore the commemorative message “For Trevor Elwyd Jones (1925-1998) who waits forever the ferry.” The bench now commemorated not just Trevor, but Mr. Mogdred.

He patted Mr. Mogdred’s right hand and whispered, ‘Take it easy, mate, eh? Take it easy now. Belief is rock, truth…’ His voice faltered but he was determined to see the blessing through. ‘Truth is ghost.’

Posted by: The Harbour Master @ 2238

Leave a Reply