Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Dangerous Beginnings


Click here to return to the contents page
New reader? Best to start at the beginning my friend.
Click on this link to take you to the start of THE RUSSIAN DOLL STORIES:

   ‘They should hand out free water, maaaaan.’ Vicky sighed.
    ‘When did you become such a moaner?’ Spiderfingers said heading up the stairs towards the congested platform, 
    'But I'm burning up down here.' she moaned following him. 
    ‘Moan, moan, moan. Who got to miss school yesterday, with I might add, your mothers blessing? Who got to help me fool a troll into giving us Salabaster’s egg? Whose got effing super powers? Stop complaining.’  Spiderfingers said all this when inwardly; he busily reminded himself that London underground really wasn’t a pressure cooker.   
    Determinedly, he and Vicky scouted for an advantageous standing point along Embankment's platform, working their way into the crowd as the crowd worked itself away from them. For the most part, Spiderfingers was oblivious to his reek and suspected it was fear that kept Vicky in check.  
    ‘It’s boiling.’ she whinged.
    ‘Ignore it and it doesn’t exist.’ offered her friend.
    ‘But it does exist.’ sighed Vicky, completely missing the point.
    Not that temperature of any kind had ever really bothered him, but given his stress recently, the face of chaos could do without added incentive to think, then feel, then whine like a human. He spotted a newspaper flattened on a bench. He reached down.

19FROM26=1OF8 made for one of those unusual tabloid headlines, a grabber that when juxtaposed with a photo of distraught parents charmed even the most casual of readers, literally dragging their eyes past the front page, reeled so entirely into paper-bound horror. Pity Spiderfingers then, the demigod absentmindedly scooping up and discovering explicit details of his night time activity, the bare facts enough to shock the nation and now for weeks ongoing. Standing amongst the Saturday morning throng, Spiderfingers gripped The Sun close up to his eyes, casually reminding himself of his personal connection to Baby Abigail, her brutal slaying: a murder of multifaceted and purposeful intent. A killing quite harrowing given that in this morning’s slow recall, her dismemberment was spliced with new memories; splintered and red showered recollections of Thursday night's victim – a young woman in a pencil skirt. She would soon be discovered and on her forehead the killers latest bizarre message: 21FROM26=2OF8. 
    The divinity would not bring himself to continue reading today's ‘update’, the mass media’s exploitation of sorrow only fraying the thread between his concept of humanity and his understanding and control over of his night time minion, the face of shadow – Rooenn the Terrorsmith.
     Spiderfingers began to turn to the middle pages, ignoring the fiend inside, the drive to rush back to the first seven leafs and salivate over the Metropolitan Police’s bafflement and ineptitude - the animal in him knew the significance of the slaughter and would only share the motives behind each gruesome kill when the sun had long since set. Spiderfingers, he ignored the rustling of the hundreds surrounding him, pretending that they didn’t exist; the calmness of it all – the civilised waiting sedately for their trains, reading about a butchered baby so as to forget their own lives for a while - halted and at the mercy of a tube schedule. The devouring of news that wasn’t news in so much as these words had been printed in varying combinations for weeks now. The rustling of ‘updates’ = the slurping up of regurgitation, figured the divinity; he sought refuge in the arts and entertainment pull-out. Never had a demigod so denied his nature, the devilish intent that went into the severing of meat from cartilage weren’t alien experiences. He had after all inherited Boleraam’s war remembrances, if only he identified more with his godhood; an addiction to serial killing would be easier to accept. And if only I hadn’t seen that, thought Spiderfingers; a woman to his right, covered in lycra and trainers – a sports bag on her back, and she was guzzling a lemon coloured juice from a see through plastic bottle. The chaos gods' mind recoiled to his recent experience of a youth pissing into his mouth.   
    No, he thought – I’m not going back there.
He wouldn’t show, share or lapse into indulging this pain; not yet and not here on the tube platform.
    It was the noise of the girl stumbling that caused him to smile; thank goodness for the distraction of Object Girl.     
    ‘Mind the gap.’ warned Spiderfingers, indicating the drop to the tracks. Vicky ignored him, continuing with her alternation – a mix up of tip-toeing and losing balance.
    ‘Why Steph? What swung it in her favour?’ asked Vicky, ‘Damn!’ she’d once again failed to make it round her vagabond buddy and so, the teen ran to the back of him to start walking her circle again. Tip-toe-tip-toe-tip...
    ‘She’s non pro-active. I trust her ability to keep out of trouble,’ mused Spiderfingers, his eyes momentarily gazing down at the restless youth, ‘...Mmm, being self-obsessed makes her perfect.’
    ‘It makes her unlikeable.’ said Vicky, walking her imaginary circumference ballerina style. The confusion king watched every now and then, skim-reading a film review - the latest Russell Brand comedy was apparently a waste of time.
    ‘I’m alright with that, if it means her survival then so be it.’ he replied.
    Vicky kept with the tip-toeing, seemingly aware of the treacherous drop to the tracks. 
    ‘Poor woman probably thinks you’re mad y'know. Doesn’t that bother you?’
    ‘Nah,’ shrugged Spiderfingers, ‘something to work with,’ his eyes shot down the row of loitering passengers. A man in a bowler hat stared away and back to his parapet of newspaper, ‘b'sides,' he continued, 'being bothered what others thinks’ a waste of time eh Steph?’
    ‘Er Vicky? Earth to Spider, hello? And, hey, you’re telling me this? I don't care what people think of me.’ said Vicky shoving into him playfully, pointing at herself.
    ‘C'mon, O.G,' said Spiderfingers, 'when it comes to clothes and appearances, adolescents are worse than gods.’
    ‘You're so not winning me over,’ said the girl continuing her orbit. 
    Spiderfingers' attention returned to The Sun but the meaning of the print was sidelined for something far more interesting, his mind satisfactorily decoding Vicky's clothes, how they reflected her soul so young to the world.
Vicky wore long gloves that ran under her t-shirt and blazer. No one her age really dressed like she did (Spiderfingers had a good grasp on trends, like how most French students could be identified for still aping Pete Docherty circa two thousand and eight). He suspected that Vicky was no doubt proud, so obviously a Smiths fan whilst her peers supported Muse. The evidence was plain to see and her fake glasses reminded Spiderfingers of some fictional character called Adrian Mole, Sue Townsend's eighties schoolboy that even she had never heard of. He couldn't fathom why, but Vicky loved the Thatcher years, a point that he'd routinely remind her was indicative that she hadn’t been there - to which, Vicky would hastily reply, 
    ‘Duh, I’m like, fifteen.’
    Spiderfingers, he looked down and away from the centerfold of his paper, gazing at his chest. His own clothes held memories of John Clay and they caused him to smile. Youths try so hard.
    Vicky fell forward – she’d lost her steadiness again but too much, and she let out a little yelp as she faced the metal and darkness of the tube tracks below. Spiderfingers arms had successfully arrested Vicky’s descent and quickly, hauling her back and away from the edge; his copy of The Sun falling to the dark place, flat against the front of the oncoming train.    
    ‘You alright dear?’ said an old lady to Vicky, altogether speechless as Spiderfingers released his teenage friend, nodding an ‘its O.K’ to the concerned traveller.    
    'Looks like that was a job for Superman.' said a younger man just behind them. Vicky’s skin reddened. 
    It would take an escape artist to unknot her brow as seconds later the North bound to High Barnet opened its doors. People rammed off the carriage.
    ‘Mind the gap’ said the male voice above as Spiderfingers and Vicky boarded and jostled for seats. With a little bit of negotiation a youngster in a hoodie agreed to swap places with Spiderfingers so that he might sit next to Vicky.
    ‘Did I ever tell you,’ said Spiderfingers, ‘that I used to work nights at Heathrow airport?’
    The chugger-chug of train sounds, somebody coughing. And then, a reply,
    ‘Mean John Clay used to work there.’ said Vicky her eyes straight to the front, still refusing to look at him. The man-god smiled.
    ‘You did that on purpose.’ said Vicky.
    Her drifter companion threw her a genuinely puzzled look before his face muscles relaxed into their permenant smile.
    ‘Thanks for the snack though.’ he said with a thumbs up.
    ‘Thanks for the snack though.’ mimicked Vicky in that childish way that only children can to belittle their foes. I bet she wants to deny the splendour of my hair decided the deity. He felt at his radiant afro mess, a controlled miniature fireworks display for those who knew the truth about his non human biology.
    'Spiderfingers...'
    'Mmm?'
    ‘What’s it like being an opportunist-dildo to survive?’ and she span to face him fully, thrusting an elbow into his ribs. Spiderfingers imagined what Vicky saw in his dreads - November bonfires and unexpected forest infernos, the haze of torched buildings and circus rings aflame. And being a deity, this wasn't the first time he'd considered how someone saw him, and to such a creatively detailed degree.  
    ‘Dildo?,' queried the bishop of bedlam, smiling at the insult, 'Bet you don’t swear when Nightingale's around. And it’s not like I made you fall.’
    ‘She hates that name and hey, you taught me the word dildo. Dildo.’ said Vicky, nudging him again, desperately failing to hide her mirth, ‘I could’ve died.’
    ‘You can thank god you didn’t.’ he replied winking, ‘You’re the closest I’ve got to a sister and I don’t need your parents joining forces to avenge your untimely demise.’
    ‘Didn’t John Clay have a sister?’ wondered Vicky.
    ‘Does it matter? She’s not my sister.’ stated Spiderfingers. The train began to really heave and those in conversation lowered their voices for that little known reason that none can agree upon, least of all Spiderfingers who continued to converse normally, ‘Hey, what was the ticket machine called?’ he said backing off in his chair; a rather large roly-poly of a suited man edged his backside rather too close to the deities face.
    ‘What ticket machine, oh – didn’t chat to her long, just asked for the travel cards?'
    Spiderfingers smiled as Vicky reached out to the demigods head, no doubt feeling for the exclusive roast, the 'believers' fire. 
     'I wish I could get stronger by having people rely on me to save them.’ said Vicky.
    Spiderfingers turned to face the deadpan of his travelling companion.
    ‘Here,’ he said, handing her the abandoned METRO in his corner seat, ‘Check out the sad and pathetic wastrels in the celebrity section and see if you really wanna be anything like them.’
    ‘Spider?’
    ‘Hmmm?’ replied Spiderfingers.
    ‘For a god, you say a lot of dumb stuff.’
    ‘What like, I have a diffuse skill set continuously redefining and appropriating to my moods and those around me? That I come with the ability to help and hinder in equal measure?’
    ‘Yeah, shit like that, basically.’ said Vicky with her finger to her chin mocking her friends pretentiousness, herself a caricature of intellectualism.
    ‘Dear oh dear O.G, first with the dildo and now with the shit; what makes you think I won’t tell Nightingale?’ he said leaning back with his arms folded.
    ‘What makes you think mum will believe you?' she replied mirroring his posture.
    ‘Non-belief is better than nothing.’ stated the rogue.
    Vicky's eyes widened as she had to ask, ‘Can you feed on that as - ’
    ‘Depends who I’m focussing on.’ His grin was so mischievous.
    ‘Dildo. Remember to call mum Flo when you see her. She hates Nightingale.’
    Vicky leafed slowly through the paper and in this moment of silence, Spiderfingers leaned back, closed his eyes and wished himself an audience. He had so many stories to tell and have told. He settled for sleep though his body didn’t need for any and in fact, would never require it. His mind however was quite attached to all habits human. He played with the wire doll in his pocket and out of sight because the blood all over it was altogether unsightly. 
___________
    Saturday was twenty nine degrees and soaring, the city now a massive armpit, a pungent sweltering area – stinking and playing host to eight million ungrateful parasites. One of them was Stephanie P Tent – a woman on the run from the void.
    Unable to sleep, Steph had given into the conflict, dashing and slicing away at her blank page adversary – garrotting with weak lines and bad grammar, ruining its pallid slate torso. Many words unloved, many thoughts, all so terribly misplaced as she wholeheartedly permitted her pen to homicide:
    Steph, she lay in her over familiar emptiness; foggy and unsure how to spell. The tragedy being that she had never truly addressed a long term solution for this cavernous neglect inside, that even when applying multiple remedies, she always felt carved out. Vacant. You see, the luxury of forgetting her hollowness was slowly being snatched away, stolen with the last winks of R.E.M. Steph groaned at the rolling in of it; the wakefulness - her silent duel between comprehending time and the blissful ignorance of the measure. Her alarm would sound and fumbling for the snooze button again just felt plain wrong. Then a mild panic rose from beneath her breast plate causing the woman to sit at attention. She began taking in the office around her; Milo gone, no longer snoring at his desk, the aroma of Jack Daniels (Milo drinks too much) and the now faint and unforgivable stench of derelict from Thursday night, not as overpowering but still, his bad smell lingering in the air, wafting over everything. Steph couldn’t afford the doe eyed recollection: Leave now, avoid detection. You’re a sixties T.V spy. A silly thought, but Steph knew a relaxed attitude and the mistake of believing herself untouchable would prompt those who had business in the A.B.A high-rise to subtly interrogate her. She could only trust Clive, Milo’s trusted head of security. Herself and Milo would both trust him at least twice a week, always leaving the building separately and in fresh clothes liberated from the filing cabinet. It was out on St John’s Walk whereby Steph made the necessary connection: A gaggle of teenagers, followed by a few groups more. And where were the people in work clothes and suits bustling about? 
    Saturday, realised Steph.
    No school till next Monday.
    She remembered her joblessness then.   
___________
    Before the trip to Po village there were a number of errands to run: Spiderfingers and Vicky had completed the first, the obtainment of Salabaster’s egg, the troll living on the bank of the Thames and so now? Now, Spiderfingers and Vicky Buchannan had changed at Leicester Square for the Piccadilly Line. Their stop? Turnpike Lane. The re-grouping would begin there.
    ‘It’s so hot.’ groaned Vicky.
    ‘Stop whinging, you’re starting to sound like your brother.’ replied Spiderfingers. Why hadn’t he thought of using Saul to shame her into silence before? Oh well.
    ‘So’, and Spiderfingers removed a crumpled up sports section of early-morning paper from under his boots, chucking its messiness to the seat opposite, ‘you been asking buildings about me?’
    Spiderfingers watched Vicky nodding at her reflection in the tube window, how smug she looked.   
    ‘Of course you did,' said Spiderfingers, 'Our city - filled with your silent witnesses; the walls really do have ears.’
    ‘And eyes,’ Vicky added ‘Guess what told me about the egg?’
    ‘Erm...hmmm. Tractor, abandoned bike? Like I’m gonna get it.’ said Spiderfingers, pride preventing eye-contact
    ‘C’mon. Give you a clue?’ said Vicky ribbing him with her elbow.
    ‘What?’ said the demigod fixing his gaze just above her head.
    ‘You build with it.’
    ‘You can read palms now?’
    ‘What? No! It was a brick, duh.’ said Vicky pushing her glasses up.
    ‘A brick?’ repeated Spiderfingers, facing her in mock interest, though he was sure she didn’t pick up on the sarcasm.
    ‘Yeah! He’s called Joe; took me ages to find him. He’s part of Tower Bridge.’
    Spiderfingers leaned back and right into the laughter. Then he stopped, looking at his friend, team-mate, and accomplice – the daughter of his former landlords.
    Vicky Buchanan: a little too precocious for her own good. A Smiths fan and dressed in the drainpipe jeans, fake NHS issue spectacles and the dads blazer to prove it – Vicky was a girl out of time and she had grown up so quickly, thought Spiderfingers as the train jostled them both in its frantic motions. 
    ‘Hey O.G, if there was no egg, absolutely no way to bridle me at night, would you guys have gone on to fight Aaronson on your own?’
He wanted to reach into his rucksack and hand the shiny amethyst egg to Vicky. Maybe one more try at communicating with it? Alas, there were too many people around to be indulging in such activities.  
    ‘I was hoping to enlist the services of Gaia.’ said Vicky.
    ‘If she’s in, I’m out.’ stated the confusion king.
    ‘She misses you y’know.’
    Spiderfingers said nothing. He wasn’t quite ready if ever to chat about his ‘mother’.
    ‘Holy shit!’ Vicky said, hardly keeping her voice down at all.
    Spiderfingers looked at his chest, a place where Vicky’s finger trembled pointing. The S on his T-shirt was bleeding.
___________
    Steph ceased knitting together her masochistic indulgences, closing her notebook and hoping to sway her mind to a more progressive train of thought. What a waste of time. Battling the voids desire proved - inside Milo’s office anyway – a desperate and doomed endeavour. So, after donning her coat and hefting her rucksack to her back, Steph had taken the long walk to Camden Underground. The journey to Covent Garden wasn’t too long and it being Saturday, body-poppers and jugglers were about and all along between the row of expensive eateries and clothes shops that made James Street a magnet for tourism. 
    She mopped along the crowded high-street in a vain bid, a silly half hope even, that the street performers of James Street could somehow cast said void, that empty sheet of brilliant white to some forgotten limbo. And in every blues busker and every acrobatic duo, Steph could only see vibrancy and inventiveness cruelly mocking her lack thereof. She stopped in front of a performance artist – he had an army uniform on; his whole body a statue, completely painted in Bronze. A slow minute passed and staring at the copper covered soldier on the plinth wasn’t a distraction from her creative troth - Steph located a bus stop. She waited, soon boarded, and then paid her extortionate fare rushing to the top and back of the transport. Steph rested, staring dispassionately out at the to and fro from the top of the double-decker. She wondered where the vehicle might be going, but only briefly. And for a seamless eternity of moments Steph glared down, the people below on London’s streets bargain hunting. 
    A bee sound travelled from her pocket; a buzzing creeping upon her thigh. Steph ignored the irritant in favour of perfecting a mental note: Her phone began to vibrate in her pocket; she felt it, still on silent because it might be the Thomas the Tank Engine ringtone. Steph needed to be just a woman for a while. No secondary characters right now, scribbled Steph, immediately feeling cold and hard and that the armies of the world should conspire to take her out – striking out the sentence not being enough to atone for this manifestation of her selfish imagining. You’re a mother, wrote Steph, stop thinking like a bitch.
__________
    Between these two, many talents hissed and coiled awaiting usage. 
    Yes, their powers were formidable and coupled with the shared experience they’d had in the spraying of them, Spiderfingers and Object Girl, they were a problem for any self-respecting super villain. However, the girl teen and the man-god had an unspoken understanding that the fight later would require help; help from EVERYONE.
    ‘Erm, Saul still hates you?’ said Vicky caressing the vacant seat next to her, whilst her other hand clutched at the bloody hanky administering her nose.
    ‘I said news.’ replied Spiderfingers laughing to his companion.
    ‘Well, I said about mum and dad, but I don’t think mum’s gonna sign the papers.’
    ‘It was her idea, right?’ wondered Spiderfingers.
    ‘Mum’s,’ voiced Vicky, and Spider evaded her chocolate coloured eyes to ignore the push. The insinuation, ‘can’t live with em, and you can’t live em.’
    ‘Hey, I see you, what you’re doing.’ said Spiderfingers, as he pointed at Vicky’s stroking of the carriage seat.
    ‘Who are you, conversation police?’ she replied, ‘Bloody hell.’ she said wiping at the left lapel of her blazer, ‘Does blood wash out easily?’
    ‘I dunno,' Spiderfingers replied, 'I don’t wash.’
    ‘It’s getting worse.’ said Vicky spying about her, challenging the curious. 
    Spiderfingers had to decide upon a subtle distraction,
    ‘So, what does a train seat have to say to you?,' he propositioned, 'Unvoiced opinions on old ladies farts? hmm?’
    ‘No,' answered Vicky, 'Betty says the train drivers called Emanuel. Forty one, from Sierra Leone, likes to wear women’s underwear to work. All the carriages are giggling about it.’
    ‘Carriages don’t giggle.’ stated Spiderfingers.
    ‘I can speak to them. You can’t,’ Vicky said wagging her finger playfully, ‘so I should know. So there.’
    Whatever it was that Vicky Buchannan A.K.A Object Girl did, well, it was undeniable and it had proved useful from the very beginning. If her relationship with inanimate material was so threatening to her conscious mind that she saw fit to grant personality traits and names to objects, then so be it, thought Spiderfingers. He looked up at the tube map. He scanned across the navy blue line. Wood Green. Almost there, surmised the chaos god. His left hand went on fumbling something in his pocket - anything to take his mind off the knowledge that his chest was bleeding and that this was only the beginning of the end.
__________
    Steph, she hadn’t noted the bus’s number as it didn’t matter - she had nowhere in mind and was unreservedly open to surprise destinations, anything that might inspire something, anything to pin down and flog to anyone that would publish her. Publish her, she thought again, except in a different way. Same words but different meaning. 
    And Steph nearly screamed, deploying her glee to the relatively packed bus. 
     Despite the bump and unpredictable rhythms of the transport, Steph began to spike down the day she said goodbye to her old life. Yesterday morning – a Friday:

    On the way to School that morning, on the bus from Milo’s office, and all the way to the gym of Palmers Green Secondary school, Steph detested the unseen grooves, these tram lines of destiny that she had long ago latched upon; that she would forever be locked on this route was a no-no. Some neurons were firing differently this morning, she decided scribbling with a fury -
Rows of people listening to her read from her latest book were just vagaries in her mind when in real life she taught students. Phone conversations that ought to be made to editors and publishing houses, where were they? Calls that she’d agreed to take from journalists and agents and web designers, where? Steph inked these words and heavily, as if seeking to spike crisp thin arteries flowing under the healthy resplendent skin of exercise book:
    All these pleasures and sights and ‘inconveniences’, they had been barred from entering her life by magnificent and unswerving gods. And now today, her environment had reconfigured itself to a whole new level of evil as all about her instruments that didn’t belong on any patch of workplace had arrived; eager to be tripped up on, minded, moved from this place and that. All these fucking leads and monitors, they angered Steph. Machines and whatnot, they swamped the horizon; camera’s and lights and those white umbrellas used to create special lighting for a film shoot were taking up space designated for gym equipment and school gym users i.e. School children. So Steph waited by the side nodding away to,
    ‘I think it’s a bloody disgrace.’ voiced Leonie, eyeballs popping out at the preparation, ‘But if I’m going to be on Television Stephanie, you must, must be honest with me.’ she said, moving to face Steph square on, her massive hands riding her hips.
    ‘Fab. Very T.V worthy.’ nodded Steph, a little relieved that Leonie’s ridiculous floral affair had again demanded assessment, it being the fourth and hopefully final change that her colleague had made for today’s filming of ‘Skool Daze’. In moments though, Steph would go back to her inner chastisement – her commentary on the unnecessary.
    ‘And you look cool as ever!’ nudged Leonie. Like a child awaiting her parents to come in singing with a birthday cake; her green eyes took in Steph. In truth there were two Leonie’s, reckoned Steph pausing, idly glancing out the bus window, a steel band outside a train station getting smaller and smaller. One Leonie judges the scene as ‘a bloody disgrace’, just wanting to teach the kids to cook. The other Leonie is no better than the star-to-be, Alistair McAdams from class 10 G; rumoured to have wowed the producers during the research month - there had been talk of a spin off show. Why go through years of medical school when you can become a reality T.V star? Since the world became a village, the love of family and god and lovers are simply not enough, now the internet. Now the hits on your website, your votes on your dance act, pop song or YOUTUBE video.
    Steph put her pen down satisfied. Then, in flooded some more: I wonder how long this page will remain without fierce annotation and the eventual rip-out-crunch-up-and-bin reflex?
    A buzz against her thigh: Despite her inclination for space, Steph reached for her Nokia.
    One missed call – Milo.
__________
     Like all people with such an emaciated frame, Saul Buchannan’s skeletal appearance was so stark that his Sainsbury’s uniform seemed to be in fact wearing him. Also, the young man of twenty four stood no higher than 5ft 8 his black hair tied in a ponytail behind his back holding the whiff of marijuana, Saul was a stoner and he hated the awareness that wedged into the working week.
    But his employment funded his habit.
    Unlike anyone else working the checkouts that day, Saul preferred to stand and had developed the head high confidence of someone used to being stared at for his level of disability, his only hand scanning his sisters shopping.
    ‘What’s he doing here?’ demanded Saul under his breath, his hand pulling out the red strands of hair that no dye could hide. To his eternal distaste, the follicle would grow back again in the morning.
    'It's kinda obvious.' said Vicky raising her eyebrows towards the direction of Spiderfingers chest, the S spilling globs of primary hue onto the shop floor.
    ‘Spider’s coming with us tonight. Duh.’ explained Vicky dabbing her fingers on her tongue, opening orange shopping bags.
    ‘But he’ll - ’
     Spiderfingers lowered a purple egg on to the conveyor belt along with the other food stuffs that Vicky had previously laid out on it.
    ‘The egg of Salabaster,’ hushed Saul using his one hand to scan and pass to Vicky on packing duty, ‘But we don’t know if it’ll work, we don’t know if Rooenn will still show up and-’
    ‘The egg can’t work on earth Z,' corrected Spiderfingers, 'That’s why I’ve never gone looking for it before. But on the Oma - ’
    ‘What are we all stupid or something? Vicky, ask the egg if it can stop fuck face here from becoming our friendly neighbourhood psycho, huh, would you?’
    ‘Eggs a mute. Sorry bro.’  said Vicky handling the egg, placing it in her blazer pocket.
    ‘Neighbourhood psycho huh? Thanks for the hate Z.’ said Spiderfingers with his thumb up.
    ‘No problem,’ said Saul totalling the cost, ‘Don’t call me Z.’
    Spiderfingers moved around to help with the packing, his left hand fumbling inside his pocket at something.
    ‘That’s fourteen ninety five,' said Saul to his sister. She went through her pockets handing him the two notes she found there.
    ‘This is wrong,' said Saul quietly, his whispering an obvious attempt at deflating the interest the rest of the cue had developed for the trio, 
    'You promised to go away. You’ve done enough fucking damage. The Oma - you could slaughter us all.’
    ‘I just wanna lend a hand Z, you need all you can get.’ said Spiderfingers nodding to the stump at the end of Saul’s right forearm.
     ‘When you on break?’ asked Vicky collecting her receipt and change from her brother.
    ‘Ten minutes. We need to talk about this and...’ his voice trailed off.
    'Saul? What is it?' asked Vicky as Spiderfingers offered her some tissues he'd taken from the fresh box they'd bought.
    'Oh.' said Vicky, quickly cleaning at her t-shirt where the blood had sprinkled.
__________
    For a moment, the trail of words evaporated, causing Steph to plummet, falling from these last twenty odd minutes of rare creative frenzy. For no good reason she remembered leaving her umbrella with Spiderfingers months ago –and she was flying up again. Inside her skull, recent memories and sentences with which to house them erected marvellous and bold, seemingly of their own accord. Steph could not write the flashes quick enough and she hated her brain for coming up with these ideas on a moving bus. Still she wrote, unable to stop the writing - the grip of whimsy had crushed all common sense out of her, the jockeying of the vehicle rendering her longhand shambolic and near unreadable:     
    ‘You’ll really stand out y’know Steph what with the – you know.’ said Leonie pointing at Steph’s head. Steph caught herself touching her dark burgundy Burqa again. Immediately sliding her palms to their pockets, her latest move to monitor them, she wrote this as she began praying internally, wishing for the bus to change drivers, get a flat tire, have to deal with ruffians refusing to pay, stopping needlessly and every few moments in a traffic jam – Steph’s brains were open to the valleys and mountains of imagination, a place seemingly no longer empty – she called on her god to wedge its borders open and forever: The irritating and cacophonous chit-chattering of children, a sonic disruption that Steph had never adapted to, it swelled around her; but not loud enough. She could still hear the music. For some reason somebody had elected that youth still listened to Britney Spears and that whatever god awful album that spawned the Hit-Me-Baby-One-More-Time tune was in some way appropriate ‘vibe music’. Hadn’t they heard of Lady Gaga? Then Steph realised, how thank Allah she’d been spared a greater hell.
    Thank goodness for my I Pod, she reasoned.
    But...
...what little comfort her headphones afforded was simply and unceremoniously erased because along came Charles Stephenson: the world’s most hated T.V presenter surely, decided Steph.
    Tall and muscular, he briefed her.
    Good looking in that boring angular faced way, he showed her to the chair she’d answer his questions in.
    His knowing elocution and love for unnecessary verbose word choices made her want to gag. Steph didn’t want to believe that most television presenters were self-serving egotists with a slippery clench on the rung of reality, but here was retired footballer Charles Stephenson with his perfect teeth and toothpaste advert smile to show them. Does he smile like this in his sleep, wondered Steph.
    And Steph felt there was something to tell.
    A something she wanted to tell everyone, all those in the building and for quite some time too but had somehow told herself that it had no place coming out of her mouth, let alone grow up tall and slender, an athlete of a thought going mad - a notion going crazy on the laps it ran upstairs. The idea couldn’t stay in and wanted out. Sitting down in her chair, Steph’s lips curled a little before the blurting.
    Out shot her track-star,  
    'I quit.'
    'Sorry?' spluttered Charles.
    'I don't want to do this anymore?'
    Charlie looked about nervously half smiling.
    ‘I quit.’ she repeated.
    ‘Just like that?’ asked Charles.
    ‘Yes, just like that.’
    ‘You can’t.’
    ‘Just have.’ stated Steph catching the eye of Mr Stickler whose face was attempting to fire off his beanpole body. It wanted to rocket to the moon.
    ‘But you can’t!’ Charlie exclaimed.
    ‘Yes. I can and I have. I quit. This is me. Quitting.’
    ‘Frankly Miss Tent, we need you. Think of the kids.’
    ‘You need the Burqa.’
    ‘The what?’
    ‘Mr Stephenson, you and your camera people need racial diversity. You see the Burqa on a white woman and you’re thinking ratings, right?’
    ‘I don’t think that’s -’
    ‘You want viewers and they want Soap Opera and these kids need education and I need-’
    Steph couldn’t speak. And then she held it in for favour of,
    ‘I need to quit.’
    Down the stairs Steph ran. Out into the playground, already texting Leonie, that if she could collect her stuff from the staffroom?
    It hadn’t quite been as dramatic as that, but Steph was happy to have something to indulge her need to create, to place ideas and words where they had never been before because that was her full time job now. What she’d always wanted, Steph would not be returning to Palmers Green. She would make money another way. So, she ran out the school gates thinking about freedom and taking chances and of course ringing Milo back about his offer.
    __________
    ‘Great complexion,' said Spiderfingers, 'You still get O.G here to find the bad guys, or have you fallen off the wagon?’
    ‘I’ve always eaten criminals.’ stated Saul.
    ‘You sure Z-Boy?’ asked Spiderfingers, ‘See, I remember your origin being marred in your classic hubris, oh and you just love having that Peter Parker back-story dontcha Z?' said Spiderfingers grinning.
    ‘Stop calling me that. Where’re your glasses? Lost em?’
    ‘He got mugged,'  interjected Vicky, 'On purpose.’
    ‘You know what; I really don’t wanna know.’ Saul stated as he continued puffing on his rollie. And then his face seemed to register the thought sinking in a little, and Saul turned to his sister asking, ‘How bad?’ 
    ‘I let myself believe in their pathetic body blows, a few cuts,’ said Spiderfingers looking about at the shoppers walking in and out of the supermarket, 
    ‘Not that it’s all that bad here but I hear Po’s lovely this time of year. No place like it right Z-Boy?’
    ‘Right.’ said Saul after a long inhale.
    Spiderfingers ruffled his matted afro as he said, ‘So what if we’re picking the same holiday destination?’
    ‘Listen, we’re gonna get this straight,' said Saul pushing off the wall to face the chaos god, 'Dad’s not around, so mum’s the leader and since she’s not here right now that makes me in charge. Wanna know what I think about you coming?’ asked Saul just before gobbing at Spiderfingers’ feet. The spittle landed, a slimy streaky mark on both of the deities faded maroon boots.
    ‘I get you Z but I’ve no intention of fighting you, getting myself arrested,’  said Spiderfingers wiping his hand over the spittle. He rubbed it against his chest, smiling all the while, and ‘I’m coming with you guys to save Po. It’s my fucking holy ground for crying out loud.’
    ‘No you’re not.’ said Saul throwing his rollie to the ground, stepping his bony frame up to Spiderfingers. Vicky snuck between their chests, holding them apart.
    ‘Stop being a dick. He’s gotta come,’ pressed Vicky standing between them, ‘If it were you, you’d want to. Not gonna be any trouble.’
    ‘He IS trouble,’ Saul hocked up more phlegm, ‘No way.’ Saul’s missile of spit hit its mark, the foamy green residue running down the tramps chin cleft.
    ‘Sorry,' continued Spiderfingers, 'but I didn’t come here to ask permission. I came for the acknowledgement mostly...the hate,’ Spiderfingers then proceeded to lick off Saul’s saliva, ‘You know how I feel about hate. I went on some of our best missions because of it.’
    ‘Disgusting.’ whispered Saul as he looked away continuing to puff on his cigarette.
    ‘Must really piss you off that you’re too hot headed to master indifference to your ‘friendly neighbourhood psycho huh?’ said Spiderfingers.
    ‘He’s not coming.’ Saul hissed at Vicky.
    ‘Must really grate on you to know that hate is just as powerful a fuel for my existence eh Saul? Eh Zomb - ’
    Saul punched Spiderfingers square in the wet of his chest, globs of goopy cyan, crimson and cornflower blue all mixing into a green sludge, hardly an S any more.
    ‘Yum. Any chance of seconds?’ said Spiderfingers as the disorganised emblem began to transmute back to its intended form yet still, it was messy - bleeding.
    ‘Saul! We need him. We’ve no heavy hitters since - ’, Vicky looked to the ground, 
    ‘Nathaniel’s...gone,' she carried on, 'and dad’s not around so we need all the help we can - ’
    ‘Z’s sold,’ cut in Spiderfingers, ‘He just doesn’t know how to say it.’ And Spiderfingers hauled two bags of shopping over his shoulder.
    Spiderfingers stroked his chin, as though in thought before asking, 'Hey, O.G's got the nosebleeds and I'm going all Picasso here.' he took his finger to his chest swirling it around the inconsistency of the emblem, 'so what's been going wrong with you?'
    'Big brother's -'
    ‘Shut up Vicky!' shouted Saul. He turned back to the half god in the red trenchcoat,
    'You so much as give any of us a dark look and I’ll, I’ll...’
    ‘Shake on it?’ offered Spiderfingers his right hand extending. 
    Saul didn't smile. 
    'Ha. Ha.' said the young man, his right hand-less arm remaining firmly behind his back.
    ‘Yeah, I am funny aren't I? Let’s go O.G.' he said turning his back on Saul heading away, 'we’ll see you back at the house Z. Say your goodbyes, I trust you've got at least one friend that'll miss you.’
    ‘Hey mum just text me,' said Saul to Vicky,  casually raising his middle finger at Spiderfingers' back.
     'Bread.’ he said.
    ‘I’m going now,' shouted Vicky back to him not bothering to turn her head around, 'You buy it.’
    ‘Fuck sake.’ muttered Saul.

    The familiar left turn out off the main road took Spiderfingers by surprise. He hadn’t quite prepared himself for seeing the house again. Odd to think that there had been a place for him to feel safe and that it had no holes in the roof or rats that would nibble at the granite nature of his skin during London’s cold night, but there it stood; Number 3 Forrest Avenue: Discordian HQ.
__________
    Thousands of writers had attended better courses and read more classics. Probably. All of them were privy to Shakespeare’s cannon, storing all his plays and sonnets in their disciplined memory banks. Other, more able writers, they’re all penning and typing and dictating. Every writer in every room, at every desktop is punch hammering with no cause to pause, for they’re more prolific, incisive, and clear; far more self possessed than I, Steph decided. They’re all autographing original and fantastical works RIGHT NOW. The next Joyce, a new Wolfe, they’re all collecting ideas, honing compendiums of judgements brave and true; literary pillars of achievement to withstand the menace of mistress time’s tidal power; all these works, seeking to defy her, towering over her waves, defying erosion. And all because the craftsmen that drafted their pages were the new masters. All this creation whilst I’m so - she sucked on her pen before releasing it against her ego, Shit? Mundane? Rudderless? Not Spiderfingers?

Spiderfingers' mangy grin graced her inner space for a small moment. The instance grew, erupting into a fancy that threatened to wing away from her. Steph began tethering it to the page; each pen jab was a peg for a rather stubborn animal, its attempts to leap back up into the ether so insistent, so many. And this was where Steph began to think of the near perfect manuscript that Spiderfingers had handed to her, the writing in tiny block capitals in a blue notebook. Unlike the back pocket it had come from, the story didn’t stink. No plot holes at all. Steph placed her notepad back in her rucksack so as to begin her re-read of Spiderfingers’ story. ‘Hero-worship,’ she mused aloud, ‘Good title. Good story. Its author mad - for all intents and purposes off the grid. Crazy. A good story and in need of nurturing and proper nourishment – fit for the keeping and rearing. It need not die forgotten and wasted like its creator. Who knows what subconscious drive had forced Spiderfingers to, and on a mature level entrust Hero-Worship to me?’
Steph took up her pen, immediately striking out the wording because she wanted to get the metaphor just right and this wasn’t it at all: She would be more than a guardian. Steph would be its mother. Hero-Worship need not die a forgotten sickly child.
    Still, Steph began to smile as plans for her adopted work began to coalesce. Steph imagined herself to be some special key to a master plan that could affect London or maybe even the entire planet.
    Her phone began to ring. Milo again, and Steph thought what the hell, 
    ‘Hey you,’ answered Steph. 
    An old but smooth voice chortled back,
    ‘One would have thought that those released from the nine to five might be easier to reach.’
    ‘Sorry, blame the muse.’ replied Steph looking through the copious indulgences on her lap.
    Milo chuckled, ‘Glad you’re happy and writing again,' he said, 'I told you.’
    ‘Yeah,' replied Steph, 'you told me. Listen thanks for the office and the money.’
    ‘Not a word,' replied Milo, 'helping you is a pleasure. I feel rather light headed knowing that a wonderfully talented scribe such as yourself is duty-bound to craft her own voice in one of my offices.’
    ‘I have my own voice; I just need a place separate from home to work.’
    ‘Of course, of course,' said Milo apologising,  'Who needs to be plagiarising some mad man’s ravings. You’ve got talent Stephanie and now’s the time to hone it; get something finished.’
    ‘Yeah, thanks,' said Steph, 'So, how’s your day shaping?’
    ‘This is a first,' replied Milo, 'Don’t want to tell me about your latest slasher fest?’
    ‘It’s not quite done.’ said Steph clinging ever tightly to another author’s notepad.
__________
    He closed his eyes and reached out at the potted plant. The leaves began to move.
    ‘You know what that means right?’ Vicky began.
    ‘Me moving the plant makes me the coolest Discordian?’ replied Spiderfingers.
    ‘No, it means that you’re not the god of chaos.’
    ‘How many times are we gonna have this conversation?’ he replied sighing, watching the leafs of the plant shimmer and bend within the forces manipulating it.
    ‘Not denying that the god of chaos merged with a human and created you,' said Vicky, 'but let’s face facts – chaos means disorder and disorder means you shouldn’t be able to levitate a plant.’
    ‘I am the face of chaos.’ replied Spiderfingers.
    ‘What’s the diff - ’
    ‘The main difference,' said Spiderfingers cutting in, 'is that of all the known concepts of man, chaos is one of the few that demands it must see life, interact with it on a physical level and...’
    Spiderfingers turned to face Vicky whose eyes were glued to some Facebook page.
    ‘You’re not the slightest bit interested are you?’ he asked.
    ‘In the crap you’re talking? A little. Hold on.’
     Spiderfingers thought on it and knew better than to wait on a fifteen year olds attention span - metaphysical reasoning versus the lure of the internet.
    ‘God of chaos, face of chaos? Those titles are misleading’ said Vicky who’d turned her seat to face him.
    ‘And? Your point is?’ Spiderfingers asked as the doorbell rang.
    ‘What the?’ said Vicky spinning toward the hallway.
    ‘And that would be the mislead.’ said Spiderfingers heaving himself off the sofa, ‘you’re about to get a demonstration of what great marketing can give you.’
    ‘Who’s at the door? asked Vicky.
    Spiderfingers turned on his way though the hall and said smiling,   
    ‘I ordered out.’
    ‘You mean food right? Please say it’s something normal like food.’ muttered Vicky, ‘please let it be pizza, for me.’
__________
    Night time and back home in her own bed with her own company, she lay – her mind a factory of industry yet producing nothing satisfactory or in anyway complete. This over thinking had kept her awake and for hours now. Every now and again she would awake after having dozed for not long at all, because incomplete stories are always screaming in the night for their single parent to give them the necessary comfort; to feed them some nourishment. Steph hadn’t been asleep long and instinctively reached for the note pad, that cradle for catching tales crawling out of her sleep, infants that demanded rearing lest they shrivelled away - gone. She grabbed at the collection of papers eyeing the list in the timeless light of dawn:
Bradley the Boy Wonder
Invisible
Man is the Meal
The Fate of Flare
    How did The Fate of Flare link up to Man is the Meal? The sense crept in then, that Spiderfingers had tasked her with writing the connection herself. Maybe he’ll tell me next time, Steph hoped. She began listening to that quiet part of herself that craved sleep and escape from all considerations and success requiring logic. Sleep then. She’d chosen to have as many days off as she’d need to find her voice, so why the restlessness? The ex-teacher laid her head back down upon her pillow staring at the character she and Gideon had made out of play dough. This was months ago and it was Gideon's idea to dub the figurine ‘Danger-Man’. And Steph hadn’t spoken to her son all day. 
    She remembered her phone in her coat, still on silent. 
    Alas, guilt wasn’t enough of a motivating factor to go and check for Howard's miss calls and he would no doubt call her in the wee hours to ask her to come back to him out in Surrey. She closed her eyes to the action stance of ‘Danger-Man’ and his long and pointy red hat.


No comments:

Post a Comment