Preview: The Lord of Nonsense. First three chapters.

This is the brand new revised first three chapters as of 7th April 2018. I am finally very happy with it as the intro. After such a long time ( 12 years) everything has to be right!

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The Lord of Nonsense

A trilogy

By Gary Dorking

Book One

The

Liberum

Seed

 

 

‘That they think me a ghost is safe enough, for who would hunt amongst the living, for one presumed dead?’

An excerpt from The Corporis: the collected reference works of the Liberum. A translation of the writing of Ragna Sturludóttir (Female. 13th-century Icelandic).

 

 

 

King of the Island

Today, I made myself king of an island

In the sea

A sandy pile on the beach,

Surrounded by water an inch deep.

I made myself king of the island

And there were no police to move me on,

No sceptics to tell me it could not be so

No thugs to take it over

Nor lions,

Nor tigers to scare me away

Or leave me there for dead.

“I am the king!” I, said,

And I got a big smile

On the front of my head

(Philbert Tench. 1974)

 

 

 

 

 

1

 

 

Somewhere 2004

I must be dreaming.

Davy Koby saw two more of himself and wondered which one of the three might be the real him.
Neither of them seemed quite him. He took a step toward them. Another step, another…

*

In the bedroom next to twelve-year-old Davy Koby, was seven-year-old Charlotte (Charley) Koby. She should have been asleep, but her ‘My Tiny Pony’ needed a drink of pretend water from his own tiny tea-cup. She had just brought the cup up to his little plastic mouth, when she saw someone walk past the doorway – a faint trace of a person taking a step, then another, then another… He wasn’t really there, just like her pony couldn’t really drink. He was often not there, and he looked like her brother, Davy, as usual.
Charley poked her head out into the dark landing, whispered, “Davy?” and got no reply. She felt along the wall with her fingers. She couldn’t see in the dark like he could. Her little toes sank into the carpet and the floorboard squeaked – where it always squeaked. Except, sometimes her brother could walk over it and not make a sound. Only sometimes. Funny that, she thought.
There was tapping and knocking in Davy’s room. It got louder as she opened the door.

*

“What’s with the smoothing thing?” he asked himself as the other Davys stared at each other with tense amazement while smoothing down the black curtain of hair that each had over his left eye.Must be a nervous reaction, he thought, staring with tense amazement at the pair of them, while smoothing down the black curtain of hair over his left eye. All fingers twitched nervously.

Why did they stare at each other and not at him? Could they not see him? He took another step closer.

The Davy on his left was perhaps a year taller, and not see-through, whereas ‘our Davy’, Davy ‘the dreamer’ could see the kitchen floor through his hand. The Davy on the right, his most notable feature was his face.

What was wrong with his face?

Another step.

*

Tap tap, taptap, tap… Charley put her mouth to the curtains and whispered, “Hello Mr. Daddy longlegs, Mrs. June bug and all your friends…”

Outside, a chaos of flying insects and many crawlers lurked on and around the dark window of the boy’s room. They liked to come to his window, only his window.

‘To be near you,’ she would say. ‘They love you,’ she would say – drawing a heart shape in the air with her fingers.

‘Shut up.’ He would generally reply.

*

The other Davy didn’t look good close-up. His face was scarred – deeply scarred. He looked about two years older. The dreamer fought the notion that maybe he had two years before-.

A shout stopped his thoughts dead. “DAVY!” He jumped and turned. His dad was glaring red-faced at the Davy by the door. His mum in floods of tears; and suddenly it all vanished – the kitchen, the other hims – just switched to black as if he’d jumped out of the scene like a hand from a hotplate.

*

Charley moved closer and peered into his right eye. It stared straight ahead.

Tomorrow she would tell him that she’d poked her tongue out at him as he lay there asleep – with his right eye wide open – because she was doing that, and not for the first time. The left eye she couldn’t see: Davy Koby, somewhat moody preferer of black clothing, managed, even in his sleep it seemed, to keep one eye covered with his fringe; a fashion faux pas his mum said, that would give him ‘loppy vision’ one day. A slither of moonlight ran over his right eye and made his pupil all tiny. Softly, she whispered, “you are asleep, so that should be…” She rested her finger gently on his open eyelid and bought it down. “Closed. There,” she said, nodding over him with her arms folded like a caring mummy.

*

It was like the TV had been switched off. Where was he now? Nowhere?

He felt like he’d bought a handful of tickets to a handful of tiny random dreams; little snippets of movies running like a movie trailer, as his mind jumped around from one scene to the next, like a flea on a map.

Suddenly another kitchen – a different, bigger one. Half of it was kitchen and the other half contained a pine table with a few strange looking ‘guests’ sat around it.

This must be a dream.

His older and badly scarred self, stood with his hands on his hips, looking a bit cross, as though someone had been a bit naughty. The source, it seemed likely, was sat at the table: A small, four-armed and hairless man-monkey thing with holes for ears and a beak, attempting to eat soup with his fingers. The older Davy looked like he was trying not to smile, determined to be the sensible one, the voice of reason, as he said, “And who is this?”

“He’s a heebee.” The reply came from an old man with a bit of a posh English accent and a three-pronged beard ( which pointed left, right and straight down). He seemed kind of jolly and bounced a little from one foot to the other as if he had bossa nova playing in his head. “So, where have you been, boy? Anywhere nice?”

“Not really,” said older Davy, tilting his head and squinting at the creature before him. “A heebee?”

The old man – hands on hips now – nodded proudly.

“Right…” said the older Davy disapprovingly. He seemed less surprised by the second guest: Also at the table, sat on a high chair, was a heap of ice cream in a green party hat. It had started to wobble, and to chuckle – out of what may have been a mouth, on what may have been a face: folds of ice cream in approximately eye and mouth type locations. This was by no means certain. Davy the dreamer felt pleased to see the thing but had no idea why.

“and…” said the old man, holding his chin, “did you…bring someone with you?” He asked this of the older Davy. His eyes were on the older Davy. His eyebrows were bobbing up and down, and the index finger of the hand holding his chin wagged itself at the dreamer, who jumped back wide eyed and opened mouthed in shock, as if he’d assumed he was invisible. The whole scene suddenly scattered as if it was painted on an exploding firework.

*

Charley stared at a pretend watch on her arm as her fingers pressed into his wrist. Davy was as still as the dead… But with a pulse. Charley knew how to check. She’d found it on the internet.

*

Now, he saw graffiti – in close-up on the back of a desk. He was crouching behind it. ‘We will never surrender’ it said, and ‘beaky is a big nose’, ‘forward to victory’; and ‘Hitler has only got one ba…’ Unfinished clearly. Caught in the act perhaps. Another said, ‘A. Nonymous was ‘ere’.

He was in a classroom, full of ten or eleven-year-old kids in shorts and blazers and the desk was wobbling. Under it, a pair of knees bobbed up and down manically. Davy’s eyes rose over the wooden horizon of the desk to witness a boy, staring – mouth agape – at a piece of paper in his shaking hands. His eyes were wide and worried. Davy glimpsed the title: The Beast on the Bike. By A.Nonymous.

Big deal, he thought, before the room blew away – like dandelion seeds on a breeze.

A dense, yet sunlit forest blew in, in a similar way, and so did the old man again.

This wasn’t quite as random as a flea jumping around on a map. To make the analogy work, the flea would have to have little metal boots on, the map would have to be a map of space and time, and it would have to be more magnetic in some places than others.

“Go and see!”  Said the old guy. He pointed into the jungle while jumping from foot to foot as if he was in goal and the ball about to be kicked at him was made of pure joy, or chocolate. The words were aimed at the older Davy, who looked amused and nervous at the same time.

High up and to the left of the Davys was a deep breathing sound accompanied then, by what sounded a lot like a trouser burp. It was tall, whatever it was.

“Investigate!” said the old man rubbing his hands together and grinning.

“No ta,” said older Davy. Putting his hands in his pockets.

The old man’s eyebrows raised up in the middle, like tower bridge, and he laughed so hard it must have hurt.

Older Davy took his hands from his pockets and folded his arms. He was not going to laugh…

Davy the dreamer walked backward and slightly to his right – to stay clear of the enormous thing to the left, and a laugh squeezed itself out of his terrified face. The old man’s hysteria was the funniest thing either Davy Koby had ever seen in their life.

Davy let out an enormous “Paha!” noise, Charley jumped back, and the old man’s smile turned, slowly, to something heart-breaking.

He suddenly sagged, as though he’d died inside and began falling forward, his head arriving with a light thump against a window that appeared from nowhere. Had it not been there he would have fallen. It was part of a new room, a study perhaps.

“I either have to pretend she hasn’t died, or that she never existed,” he said, and Davy felt like crying but had no idea why.

There was a desk in the room and posters of… book covers perhaps, one described a ‘half lettuce, half terrapin’ – a ‘letterpin’ a really stupid looking thing. Another was ‘The Harrower’. Davy had heard of that. It was the one book his mum told him he must never read; the face of The Harrower was bloody and tortured and its eyes were full of pain and hatred…

Davy was out on the street now, watching the old man through the window; watching him sag, dry up, turn to grains of dust.

Then the building aged by years in a matter of moments. Paint peeled, windows cracked and misted over, and another face came. It was so indistinct at first that it may not have been there at all. It came closer to the glass, into the light – Davy saw a pale young man, with thin blue-white skin pulled taught over a fatless skull. He looked like an undertaker, except his black top hat was surrounded by little silver insects… a belt made of little silver insects with a clock face on one side. He made two eyeholes in the dirt and looked through.

He looked not only through the glass, but through Davy, and he said, “It’s ours now, Alexander,” and his pale hand reached forward and took a book from a shelf, in a bookshop.

*

Charley wiggled the curtains a little, so the light would be out of his eyes, then resumed her watch with arms folded.

*

Davy thought he saw the word Harrower on the spine of the book. The pale hand shook it so that the pages flapped, and from it fell a glob of ink, that, as it hit the floor, wriggled and grew, and the scene was gone again. Blackness now, and a sense of… falling, but backward, rather than down. Slowly, four tiny grey squares appeared against the black. They became larger and stopped ten feet away, ten high: Four windows they were, looking out on to a bleak sky, each misted with insects throwing themselves at the glass.

Next to the window, the moon slowly drew a line and made a boy – the shape of a boy – perhaps nine or ten years old. He stood back straight, bolt upright, with a wishing face, eyes squished tight shut. He lifted a hand. It held a document that caught the light. Its underside glowed amber in the dark and somehow, the dreamer knew to look right, into the room, and to wait. Soon, the dark of the room corrupted and muted colour swirled in from nowhere and formed the older Davy, though not quite solid, not quite there. His face looked like something behind it had been dragged to hell and back…perhaps not back. He waved his hands frantically at the boy by the window, and screamed something hysterically, which made no sound.

Davy Koby sat bolt upright in his bed and said, “Give me a moment will you, Martin? That was a bad one.”

“Who’s Martin?” His sister replied.

“Martin? I don’t know anyone called Martin.” His sister was obviously mad.

She folded her arms again. “Well, you said ‘give me a moment, Martin, that was a bad one.’”

“Look, just shut up, Charley.” He said. He checked the room for… he didn’t know what. The moonlight caught his eye and he flinched and turned back, covering his eyes with his forearm.

“And you laughed – in your sleep.”

“Didn’t”

“Did. I think you’re going to be ill, from a brain underdose.”

His mouth smiled under the arm. “That’s quite good actually,” he said. He lowered his arm and arranged his curtain of hair with his fingers, dragging it to one side; flattening it down over his eye.

“It is good, isn’t it! It’s ‘under’ dose, instead of ‘over’ dose. Your hair is stupid. You’ll get loppy eyes.”

“Whatever you say.”

“Was it, then?”

“Was what what, then?”

“Was it… a bad one.”

“Yeah… a bit bad, Yeah. It was nice… then bad.”

“You should tell mum.”

“No, I shouldn’t.”

“Why?”

“You know why. Just…come here,” he said, leaning forward. His arms opened, so did hers and she took a couple of exaggerated dolly-steps toward him and gave him a hug. “Thanks. Now go to bed.”

She folded her arms again and stared at him like a concerned mummy.

“I’m alright,” he said.

“Goodnight, then,” she said, and she dolly-stepped purposefully out of the faint glow of the moonlight.

“Night, Charley.”

Davy had lots of dreams. He mostly forgot about them in the morning. Most likely he would forget this one too. He wanted to, and they didn’t mean anything, he told himself.

The flea, in its metal boots being magnetically lured from one place on a map of time and space to another, would, of course, be confused. There could be no obvious link, no sense of direction and the idea that it might be jumping backwards in time…well, time, that is a can of worms is it not? Best leave the can opener in the drawer for the time being…

For now, he can believe they are all simply disconnected dreams. He has two years…

Sooner or later he will understand that it all started with the boy standing by the window in the dark.

Okay, take the can opener out of the drawer.

2

 

London, July 5th, 1945 11.45 pm.

Four squares of grey, late-night sky sat in the black. Next to the window the moonlight drew itself upon the very edge of a boy; upon rough-chopped black hair, a shirt sleeve – bright-white and dim-dirt grey, and a hand that held a document. It glowed amber on its underside from the light upon its words. The boy’s other hand clenched nothing in the dark, released and clenched….

Why he did not acknowledge the two men who watched him from the darkest corners of the room, cannot be said. Perhaps he could not see them; perhaps he feared them. They were after all, see through. Neither showed any sign of acknowledging the existence of the other. They kept their eyes on the boy.

The invading moonlight was striped with long, thin shadows that crossed each other constantly: the shadows of insects at the window, growing in numbers thumping, tapping and swirling in clouds, like kamikaze starlings. The light danced upon the carpet, upon the threadbare path that ran from side to side, made by a short lifetime of constant pacing.

The boy brought his heels together. He straightened his back, his neck. And lifted his other hand to hold the document steady.

He looked over to his ‘toys’ and he said, “We know how you died, but what about me? How will I die?”

His toys did not respond, for they were dead. He had killed them.

This was Alexander – Alexander Havelock, and this would be his last evening.

*

Below the boy’s window, London was still exhaling – a sigh of relief at the end of the war. Pubs were restocking, blackout curtains slowly being removed and the remaining dust from a thousand bomb blasts moved on the backs of low, slow, dry summer evening breezes, creeping through alleyways like soldiers in the trenches: heads down, feet lost in the mist, occasionally pierced through by shards of light from gaps in blackout curtains that looked to Alexander, like the laser beams of a future world, of a better tomorrow.

I might, in describing that night in 1945, ask you to imagine post-war East London, not as part of a city, but as a scorched forest; to think of buildings as burned and razed bracken and hedgerows; and to imagine one tree in that forest that stood above them all; not a vigorous, life-affirming tree… No leaves cover it, no birds sit in its branches, and it has but one fruit, one strange unidentifiable thing, growing sour on a blackened limb.

That tree, is black, not from fire, but from something within. That tree is the old workhouse – now known as ‘Havelock Mansion’. It had been converted into a ‘luxurious dwelling’ and remained untouched by the bombs – as if they chose to keep their distance. And that thing in its branches – that strange single fruit on the sixth floor – Alexander – was a dark and solitary child whose spite alone was stronger than his conviction that love was a game, and kindness a myth.

Was it nurture or nature that made this rotten fruit? Had the tree been different would it have still formed this way?

Havelock Mansion, converted, supposedly, into a ‘home’, was, in fact, a soot-blackened monolith of some seven floors, each floor coldly decorated to say ‘we have style, we have wealth, we have success,’ rather than, ‘welcome.’ Way below the boy’s room, on the lower floors, were the living quarters of Gloria and Frederick Havelock. The boy’s parents.

*

To introduce Gloria is perhaps to introduce the nature and the nurture.

If Alexander misbehaved, it was Gloria who gave the command that his toys should be removed, as a ‘corrective measure’. He never had toys and the maid was instructed not to remove insects from his room. This was imagined to be a further punishment; but was not the case.

In the space behind the wardrobe, the furthest reaches of the expanse under the bed, and on the window ledge – inside and out – there were strange galleries.

‘New creatures’ crowded these places. Formed from parts of old creatures they were and the best works ‘lived on the outer window ledge, safe from prying eyes: a variety of strange figures with ant bodies and spider heads; snails with chicken bone legs and beetle faces-eyes staring forever into the heavens; and mouse skeletons with daddy long leg wings fluttering in the breeze as though trying to defy the laws of gravity and physics, perhaps in a vain attempt at escaping the freak show…

They came to him often enough – insects – and he never shied away from killing them; in fact, he enjoyed it. He grinned as he did it – chin in the air, eyes bearing down on the victim and a sweet taste of superiority upon his lips. He flattened; bludgeoned, separated.

Gloria Havelock, neurotic disciplinarian and heiress to the ‘Verminate’ pest control company fortune (‘exterminate with Verminate!’) had not managed to correct Alexander in any positive way. Currently, she was wearing a neck brace thanks to the boy: she had recently made a concession to him that he be allowed into the lounge and had quickly paid the price, but that is another story.

On this, his last evening, they hadn’t quite finished with each other.

 

This evening 11.30 pm:

Gloria’s tall, black hair resembled the love-child of a rugby ball and a crash helmet. Solid with lacquer, it had, as its main feature, one single curl wide enough to put a small fist in, that glared at the world like a hellish third eye from a central location above her forehead. Alexander often imagined sending a party of insects into its cavernous interior in search of her brain. She had large bright white eyes set in dark circles – they looked like they were glowing in certain circumstances, and her cheek bones and chin looked sharp enough to cut glass.

He could hear hair now, scratching against the door as she pressed her hypervigilant ear against it; could feel the heat being sucked out of the room where her fingers touched it and he’d heard the scrunching sound of her red patent leather shoes compressing the carpet as her weight shifted restlessly from place to place.

He could hear a pin drop two streets away if he wanted, or be deaf to the bells of the local church – the spire of which was virtually opposite his window.

He even heard his mother’s fear and loathing: an empty vacuous echoing space in the air where love should have been. It was her fear that kept him isolated in his room.

Gloria’s hearing wasn’t as good. Her hearing was… normal. So, it followed that he had to place the piece of paper against the door and scratch extra hard with his pen, to let her know he was writing. This would annoy her because he always wrote ‘gibberish’: ‘the product of a sick mind’.

If she ever watched him writing, he’d start a sentence with small letters and do the rest in capitals, let the pen veer around like a cockroach on a moped, use double negatives…

Gloria’s hand and ear were on the door, but her feet, they were pointing down the corridor – prepared for a quick exit, and the stimulus for such an exit was imminent.

He finished his little message and slipped it under the door, heard the air course through that tunnel on her head as she bent down to pick it up, and then after a brief rustling, he heard her feet hitting the floor, getting further away… quickly.

“Poor mummy.”

The message – by the way – had said, “The see-through people are behind you mummy, in the corridor: watching.”

He smiled a sideways smile. He’d annoyed her, again. It was what he wanted. The idea that he might have liked her to feel something else for him-something other than fear, loathing and anger – he buried far inside, to make it silent.

In that silence, he could make his next masterpiece.

*

As he turned the two figures appeared behind him. Alexander walked to the window with two shapes graduating from not there to almost there, taking up positions in the dark corners of the room. From there, they watched him; Alexander, the boy with raven-black hair shorn into thickets and stumps by the fraught hand of a barber who sought to cut and run; Alexander, the unkempt boy who smiled a smile no one should have – a smile as cold and as fragile as porcelain and even sharper when broken; Alexander, the boy with the tweezers…

It was only the moonlight that lit the tweezers that held the tiny limb. That child, he could almost see in the dark.

“Keep still,” he said to the fly for whom – even in life – standing up on two legs had not been natural, “I’ve already killed you, but I can still take your dignity. How would you like your head on backwards?”

The figure in one corner of the room smiled at the boy’s sadistic streak. The one with blue-white skin, who wore a black top hat with a belt around it made of embossed silver insects. The hat, like his black frock-coat, merged with the shadows in the corner. It looked like that white, bony face was just hanging in mid-air with a sinister metallic halo glinting above.

The other figure was an older man, and the boy’s grim nature seemed to sadden him. He had a white, three-pronged beard and wore a bright red baseball cap and yellow vest (with the words ‘Eat at Ma’s bar, the best bar on Mars’ printed on it) He stood out a little more in his chosen corner, yet remained unacknowledged.

 

 

11.35 pm

The fly was upright, stuck to the spot with glue that had yet to dry. Bright as a thousand thoughts and dark as a cave: his eyes glared at the (stone dead) fly through the magnifying glass.

“Stay put, or I’ll flatten you, and find another co-star.”

 

He had, this evening, been trying to ‘realise’ in three dimensions, a scene he had imagined. There were three characters in the scene: two flies and a dog. The dog would be suggested rather than shown, but he would use two actual flies. The fly having been made to stand with its ‘hands’ up by its eyes, was due to have binoculars fitted.

To make the binoculars, he whittled a blackened matchstick into two short lengths and glued them side by side. He glued them between the ‘hands’ and eyes of the fly and wrote the title on a small piece of card. Somewhere, in a secret location under the floor, was the writing that went with it:

 

‘The Optimistic Bluebottles’:

I saw two bluebottles on the window sill. One of them was looking out of the window, through a large pair of binoculars.

It was watching a dog in a distant field, which having assumed itself to be in a private location, was preparing to poop.

The other fly, the one without the binoculars, asked the first, “How’s it looking?”

The dog at that very moment entered a state of production, so the fly with the binoculars responded, by saying, “Very promising.”

So, it was done, and for a moment, something akin to a smile came to the boy’s face.

Behind him in the corners, the two figures withdrew further into the shadows, as if they knew that now he would turn, his smile would fade and he would stare at that door, where his mother had been. He stared for several minutes, then turned to the wardrobe on his left, and stared at that with both hands clenching, relaxing clenching, one foot tapping, eyes scrunching up.

*

11.40 pm.

Hands rummaged in the dusty depths at the back of the wardrobe, where odd socks hid with old newspapers, apple cores, glue jars, string… He drew out a small box. In the top of the box were ‘deterrents’: neither the maid or his mother would dare to touch a mouse skull or some of his old teeth; a broken and soiled Pidgeon feather, something red, wet and fresh… Beneath the deterrents was the document. Many more were hidden under the floor, but this one had to remain accessible.

Soon he was standing next to those four large, sky-grey squares – ready to read – and the tapping of insects began.

*

He whispered one word:

“Olivia,”

and in that word was something that seemed to soar above him – a mood that took him past himself, above himself. What he was about to do; the question he was about to ask, it came from desperation, and from the depths in which his mind thus dwelled. Circumstances had squeezed him like a bar of soap in a wet hand. The question was of the air that such a jump might take him to. He might perhaps, with a little more thought, have asked, ‘what is to become of me?’ Perhaps he expected something other than what he was to get: something better, some reason for optimism, but he asked that question, that way, and sought out that answer.

“How will I die?”

 

3

Olivia.

Had it been a blessing or a curse, seeing Olivia, learning from her? Perhaps he had lived in a frying pan and she helped him jump into a fire.

The infant Alexander had been quite entertained by the anomalies of his early life. He was too young to recognise the impossible when he saw it. He saw strange people that couldn’t possibly be there, strange places he couldn’t possibly see, and more; and it was fun. Things change.

Eight-year-old Alexander had a different perspective. He learned over time, the impossibility of things he witnessed. Watching the clock going backward or flit from one time to another lost its appeal, and those strange people: they were strangers. The places he found himself in: they made him feel lost and scared, and Mummy: for every glimmer of abnormality she detected, she made him feel more like a freak.

Olivia made sense of it, but did that make it alright?

He had seen Olivia only once. Six months before this evening a bomb blasted the hell out a house in his street. He could see it from the window. The brightness of it scorched his eyes, as it spewed burning debris out of its screaming inferno of a mouth. He relished the fire’s mastery of its subjects; the way it made slaves of the civilians, of the firefighters who ran this way and that at its beck and call, as it reared up at them, crackled, threatened, spat.

The names of the missing filled the air.

“Jimmy!”

“Katy!”

“Grandad!”

Distant clouds of displaced birds raved, hollered, and flapped… And yet for all their ferocity, these sights, smells, the sounds; they faded from his mind, became vague, background mumblings. There was something else out there. He searched and found, her. On the street, there was a woman in dark glasses looking up at the window of the sixth floor. Looking up at him.

Her name was on this document, indeed, most of the documents said,

‘On behalf of the Liberum, Olivia De Santis.’

That name… Just staring at it made the insects worse, more chaotic, more frenzied, and it always took him back to that first and only time.

Her flame red hair swept back over her head and settled in shining waves on the shoulders of a blue military uniform – perhaps a Women’s Air Force uniform. He asked himself if he would ever in his life see another soul as beautiful, then realised he had used the word beautiful for the first time as it was meant: not sarcastically, not in worshipful lust for the ugly… Her cupid’s bow lips were painted deep red and as she noticed him looking at her they made a smile. It was a new expression to him. Somebody was pleased to see him. Even through those dark glasses of hers, he sensed her…was it respect he sensed? Somebody saw him as…somebody?

And then she waved a package at him and beckoned him.

He ran to her, and at the same time consciously left something behind – a part of himself he didn’t want her to meet; a part of himself he had never been without – his malice, his darkness…his armour. He spilled out of – escaped through – a ground floor window, fell on his back like a swatted fly, flipped himself like a cat, and then stared quite frozen, at the place where she had been.

Something told him where to look: on a corner that was once not a corner, next to the rubble that had been someone’s house, she was waiting. She caught his eye, then pulled an apologetic face; a pouting sad face, and moved out of sight, behind what remained of a wall.

He knew as he ran that he wouldn’t see her again, and he knew there was a reason for this.

He searched the corridors of rubble. Searched among headless dolls, teapot lids, drawer fronts, roof slates, shards of glass that sat in mutual disenfranchised heaps with fragments of curtains, and clothing, with floorboards, and pipes: and there they were: those documents, in a thick brown envelope tied with string. Inside, they had been grouped together, each group bound with a red ribbon, and all were marked,

‘To A.H.’

Alexander Havelock wanted never to forget her, nor did he want to forget the person she thought he was.

 

11.45 pm.

The Deed

“How will I die?”

Perhaps it was optimism that nudged him over that edge – perhaps he thought he would find a better tomorrow. The documents had shown him so much – perhaps more than any boy should see.

Tap, tap, thump. A bat collected another moth.

“I ride the ripples of the water. I follow echoes to come. I create the path I amplify.”

These were the words on the document. He read them as he recited, though he knew them well.

Again, “I ride the ripples of the water. I follow echoes to come…” and again he read it, and again…

Why the two figures would leave now is yet to be known, but leave they did. Just when the main attraction was beginning – you might say – they faded to nothing, and despite the pleasure, the pale man had taken in the boy’s sadistic side, both he and the old man left with heads lowered, eyes diverted.

“I ride the ripples…”

As he read, so Alexander’s voice became quieter. His lips moved less. A hand lowered the document slowly to his side. He did not fall and the vein in his neck beat in time with his heart. These were now the only signs that he was still alive.

At the window, a mayfly joined the assembly, a hawk moth, a large cardinal spider, and countless small wolf spiders; marching black ants, woodlice, and centipedes formed small veins that marched across the glass and more thumps of bat’s mouths picking off the spectators. These were fat bats.

The insects created a gentle rhythmic overture. Wings and strange faces with bulbous eyes and spiraling tongues; legs and furry insect bellies; bat mouths and teeth… all tapped, scraped, and knocked, and all built to a crescendo conducted by some invisible force.

He could feel it now – the change – the loss of the space around him, a deafness, a numb sense of detachment from sensation and… Just before it happened, he glimpsed a boy in his early teens with a curtain of black hair over one eye, shouting something, waving his arms like he was desperately trying to hail a cab…

He wore a long black coat, a white shirt, a crimson tie and…

Alexander then became so still he could have been made of wax, and an entirely transparent version stepped out of his body. It turned briefly, to look at itself, and over the course of its second and third step, it vanished, leaving the solid, yet ghost-like figure of the boy’s ’empty’ body stood to attention in the dark, like a dead sentinel guarding the gate to who knows where.

At the window, the insects’ flights became suddenly random – directionless. They scattered back into the night. Silence fell.

The boy with the curtain of black hair over his eye had never quite become anything other than transparent; now he had gone. A brief visit it was, that, had it come sooner, may have changed things. The boy, whose voice could not be heard, was trying to say, to scream, ‘no’.

The silence in the room persisted for a minute or two, the waxwork-like form of Alexander waited, waited and then the ghost-like figure of Alexander threw itself back in. He fell back as if hit by a train, wrapped his arms around himself for a moment and stared at the floor, before he finally threw himself down, crawled under the bed; and whispered, “Murdered. I am to be murdered.”

 

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