Indie Author Ring

Monday, 1 December 2014

Eventide: Another fragment

   "I haven't seen you for some time," he said.
   It was almost calming.  Sedate and nearly soundless, the voice seemed to emanate from some other distant place that was neither here nor now.  At first she dismissed it as a portion of her mind that had never quite let him go.  She had met him only once, albeit briefly and most definitely mysteriously.  She had thought about him more often than she would ever admit to anybody including herself.  On some level it was wrong even to entertain his image for more than a second at a time.  'Handsome' was not a word she would've used to describe him, nor was the term 'attractive' even applicable, but he had something within him, beyond the skin and bone of mortal man, something hidden and yet so overtly exposed that his mere presence announced it in deafening yells... except nobody had heard it.
   She turned slowly and looked upon Jabez as she would one of her unfinished sculptures.  Again she endeavoured to penetrate and solve the enigma, but even then she knew that sight alone was not enough to unravel the thread.  The eyes, however, imparted a somewhat different story as they had done that night at the graveyard.  What lay behind those eyes was just enough to disclose minor but telling portions of the soul.  He was a page torn from an unfinished tale, the epicentre of a breeding and brooding mystery.
   Mina was speechless.  Her adrenalin levels had already increased, fashioning discernible shivers in her legs that prompted her quickly to reach out for the door frame in order to steady herself.
   "Are you ill?" he enquired as he stepped closer.
   "I'm tired," she lied.  "What are you doing here?"
   "These are magnificent," he replied avoiding the question.  "Did you make them?" he enquired as he looked about the shop.
   "Are you here to buy something?" she asked as she applied a little more firmness to her voice.
   "What would you recommend?"
   "If you want to buy something then look around for yourself.  Whatever I recommend might not be to your taste."
   "Very true," he smiled, "one's tastes can differ.  Would you call the police while I look around?"
   "Why would I do that?"
   "Because you know they are looking for me.  I wager that you are not a simpleton, Mina."
   "No I'm not," she answered calmly.  "Now either buy something or steal something.  Just get out," she told him as her voice shuddered slightly.
   "Steal something," he whispered, "yes, it would be wrong of me to steal something from somebody else," he continued as he stepped closer.  "Perhaps it would not be considered theft after all if the thing I wished to steal was more than willing to be stolen."
   "What's that supposed to mean?" she asked as she withdrew slightly, brushing her back up against the curtain.
   "One should never restrict oneself just to one work of art," he said as his fingers explored the immaculately sculpted and curvaceous figure of Venus, one of Mina's most prized creations.  "One should be able to explore beauty in all of its forms without fear of persecution," he continued as she watched his fingers trace the spine and linger around the base.  "Do you not agree?"
   Mina pressed her lips together and imprisoned a breath.
   "One should be able to venture beyond the curtain that separates beauty from... desire," he smiled as he looked briefly towards the curtain behind her.
   "And perhaps we should remain on the side that pleases us most," Mina replied hesitantly.
   "And in doing so then you would be denying yourself that otherwise distant world of further intrigue.  The key to so many doors would remain forever closed to you."
   "There's nothing wrong with appreciating what you already have," Mina returned slowly as she endeavoured to choose her next sentence wisely.  "Sometimes the more you admire something the more you discover about it.  What good is there in moving quickly from one piece of art to the other without truly knowing the work and understanding its soul?  Knowing art and experiencing it briefly are two very different things."
   "I understand," Jabez replied with a touch of disappointment as he drew closer.  "Yet you have created so much," he added as he further scrutinised her work.  "You have given perhaps more than your soul could possibly permit.  Surely your own personal and varied experience of beauty must have played a role in honing your passion?"
   "No," Mina disagreed instantly and confidently.  "I don't need to travel the world or have encounters with others to find those experiences, and neither do I need to seek experience elsewhere in order to find other forms of... beauty.  I've already found my muse," she said now with resolve as she smiled meditatively, "and he is all I've ever needed."
   This sudden epiphany was an unexpected shock to her own system, but she was more than content finally to acknowledge it.
   "Hal," Jabez whispered as he stepped closer and took Mina's s trembling hands in his own.
   "How do you know his name?" she asked with panic as her nerves weakened.  "Who are you?"
   "You have already asked me that," he said softly.
   "And you never answered me," she tried to reply sternly as she sought strength in failing limbs.
   "We might have been companions in another lifetime, Mina," he said, "exploring the beauties of the world together and gorging ourselves on the experiences it proffers.  In that other lifetime, that other world beyond this one, beyond that curtain... would you have come with me?"
   His eyes became all at once mirrors in which she could see every one of her weaknesses exposed.  Breathing became a burden and the ability merely to focus an irritation.  Below, unwanted sensations forced knots in her stomach and drove seducing spears into the more reserved region of her womanhood, that now fragile place governed by unwanted and guilt-ridden lust.  She didn't answer him.  She dared not answer him.
   Jabez loosened his delicate grip on her hands and ran his fingers slowly up and down her forearms.  He felt the now raised hairs on her skin prickle his own unexpectedly tingling flesh.
   "You are a rare and beautiful flower," he whispered, "and you are sunlight itself over darkening plains.  Be safe, Mina," he said as he leant forward and placed a single and lasting kiss upon her cheek.  "It does you justice to remain on this side of the curtain."
   Mina wasn't even aware that Jabez had left the shop until the door clicked shut.  Slowly her wits returned but, as for the rest of her, it had been left dishevelled and strangely sullied.  She leant back slightly and gripped the door frame, this time with both hands on both sides while the curtain shifted slightly to expose that possible and most likely perilous world beyond.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Eventide. Society falls

   No one knew how it happened; they only knew that it had and that they had somehow become part of it.  One simple act from someone somewhere may have ignited something else from somewhere else.  Perhaps it was a large group or merely a meagre few who first initiated what politicians would come to call a global insurrection.  Perhaps it had been an ideal gone awry, a demonstration of rage against a regime that had misled the populace with understated remarks concerning the threat that Eventide was posing against the Earth; but then perhaps it had been just one man, woman or child who had thought fit one day to pick up a rock and hurl it through a window.  Nevertheless it began seemingly within a matter of hours.
   A fire had broken out in the pre-dawn hours of December 18th close to the River Thames in an old abandoned building, derelict, cold and empty.  The fire lasted little more than seventeen minutes but managed to consume most of the supporting beams, which amounted to an impressive and thunderous cave-in to disturb anyone sleeping within a two mile radius.  The fire department was quick to act; there were no fatalities and the damage was inconsequential being that the building itself had been condemned.
   It was the ensuing fire twenty-eight minutes later and half a mile away from the first that began to unnerve the department.  Initially believing that a single arsonist was at work, the police were quickly on the scene alongside SOCOs and reporters.  No evidence was discovered to link the two fires simply because there had been no time for any evidence to be gathered.  A third and much larger fire had broken out just under an hour later, this time a little further inland on Bridge Street.  The flames shooting from nearly every window of Portcullis House were reflected in the slumbering river, lending the water the semblance of still molten lava.  Motionless and luminous, the eerie glow was arrested only by the adjacent black and leering shape of Big Ben, whose distorted silhouette against the dawning sky stretched across both the water and the growing wide-eyed faces of those who had travelled from their homes to witness the event.  Plumes of dense smoke rendered the multiple chimneys atop Portcullis House as levitating monoliths.  The south facing windows began to detonate as though being fired upon from the inside dispatching shards of tempered glass towards the ground as fire-fighters continued the skirmish against a seemingly relentless monster.  This was merely the beginning of something that would soon become quite indescribable.  It became a thing, a happening and an alteration of the human race into something unrecognisable.  People had become angered not from the thought of their approaching demise; rather it was the all-too-brief time they had been allocated to offer their cheerless farewells both to life and loved ones across the world.  The plaster had been ripped too quickly from the skin to expose a deep and penetrating wound that had no time to heal.
   Just hours later the ten Parliament Square statues of statesmen had been beheaded, knocked down, dragged around the city by cars and left to drown in the Thames.  By mid afternoon the following day groups had been formed by no one in particular.  It was easy to find common ground amongst those whose fate had been sealed not only by the approach of Eventide, but by the very government whose indubitable foreknowledge of events had immediately separated them from the common man.  As for that common man, it now seemed that his goal was to turn anger, panic and the fear of death into one insurmountable force, a force that began slowly at first, forging a momentum, acquiring strength in numbers and each manipulating the other until the other became themselves.  The destructive force of the mob was only just beginning to be understood by those who also began to panic, to secure their houses, their families and their wits during a time that would undeniably stretch into unyielding mayhem.
   Over the course of three days the majority of all political discussions regarding the state of the nation had halted.  Self-preservation had set in.  Politicians, after all, were also people with families and the desire to remain breathing for as long as possible.  The Prime Minister could no longer plead to the nation to remain calm.  The truth was out; it had taken to the streets and run amok.  The people had listened, the people had reacted and, for just one moment stretched into a few dark days, the people had been united.
   A mob can include members from all faculties of life since it is so often the defence of life and liberty, their continuation or threat of termination that becomes the common ground rather than links to occupation, class or creed.  Each member bleeds effortlessly into the other until a single voice is born, one that screams not from the mouth but from the soul.  Here were many souls each housing fear, panic and trepidation while others of a more drunken inclination announced proudly that they were more than happy to be present at the world's end; after all, they had been absent for its beginning.  It would be an event, a concert of apocalyptic chaos to which all had been invited.  Tickets were free and it was front row seating for everybody, but before the doors opened and the show began the mob would have its day and seize its one-time opportunity to release its inhibitions.
   So it was that crude barricades were set up by clerks, accountants, bus drivers and lawyers.  Missiles were hurled at the advancing riot police by small business owners, shop windows were smashed by pensioners and house windows shattered by children.  The majority sought comfort in destruction, each joining the other to form a ruinous indestructible beast that roamed the streets seeking destructible prey.  Every new member was an extra limb, another appendage to lash out at everything and everyone that opposed it.  The beast was without conscience; its attention had been diverted from what approached and its hunger was seemingly insatiable.  It fed greedily from distraction and digression, never contemplating and never pondering the real cause of its hunger until, finally and perhaps inexorably, it cast one of its many eyes towards the sky and to that one relentless immovable and enlarging sphere.  Only then did the beast begin to consume itself.
   Where previously shoulder had rubbed against shoulder in an effort to affect an uprising, soon the very reason for that uprising became unclear.  Where would it end and what exactly would it achieve? The once angry and unified voice screaming for answers had suddenly acquired internal rational dissenters each posing a much simpler question: "Why?" It was an uncomplicated enquiry that remained unanswered.  The meaning of everything was at stake.  Life itself had arrived at a turning point within a tapered tunnel.  There was nowhere else to go; there was nothing left to do but wait and, in the days that remained, mankind announced all too loudly that it would not seep quietly into shadow unheard and unseen.
     By December 23rd London had become a dark and ominous labyrinth.  Street lights had been smashed and shadows dwelled within shadows, amassing in thick immovable clumps that dominated every corner, every street and almost every man's heart.  Some who had accepted their fate remained in their homes behind locked doors, and behind those locked doors was furniture, heaped, broken and stacked, once used for comfort and now used for defence and security. Others, however, still fuelled by anger, vented it indiscriminately and mercilessly, aiming rage at whatever or whomever crossed their paths.  They looted without purpose and then turned on each other like unruly animals borne from some dark place. The breath of the masses was suddenly everywhere, permeating the walls of every office block, house and heart.  The very air itself became rotten with rage, spoiled by lungs heaving with fear ready to air itself in screams of fury, which were more often than not accompanied by random acts of violence first across London, and then the world.
   The major cities were the first to fall.  After the global reports of London's upheaval, fear and panic began spreading wildly from one country to the next like an infectious agent snaking its way through the streets, targeting homes and mutating many of the occupants into misshapen souls with barely a memory of themselves. Governments across the world rapidly lost their hold upon their now distrusting populations that no longer cared for pointless precepts and nonsensical authority.  Few barely recognised friend from foe.  Civil liberty had been drowned in the asphyxiating smoke from smouldering flames and the gallop of gunfire.  Most of mankind devolved while the world revolved seemingly faster, quickening the hours and turning the hands of every clock with a sickening swiftness that facilitated the final countdown, that interminable tick heard in every human heart.  Many innocents had already begun to flee the cities in cars and on foot, either for the countryside or anywhere where people's eyes and souls had not yet been blackened.
   All that was once good had been siphoned from society, tapped rapidly from cities previously swollen with life, only then to be scattered throughout the surrounding dying land like failing roots eager to discover a place in which to scream: "I still exist!" All that was once good was now bound to those fleeing millions whose homes had been ransacked and robbed.  All that was once good was gone...

Friday, 4 April 2014

'Eventide' fragment

   The sketch before them appeared as old as the paper itself.  Faded to the point where squinting was essential, the picture was beyond bizarre.  All three men systematically brought their candles and torchlight closer to the article, an image that was as bewildering to the eye as it was displeasing.  It resembled a dark but contained explosion of tusks, fangs, spikes and claws.  It was a spherical splintering of black nightmarish fancy manifestly formed by a mind set to snap.  Although discoloured and timeworn, the picture still maintained a level of breeding unease that had already left the page and permeated the wits of those now looking, now speechless, now cold in a rapidly cooling room.
   A minute passed, and then another until the very silence itself begot restlessness, siring a sense of inexplicable fear that tormented each of them in the deathly quiet, which was interrupted only briefly by a circulating draught that seized and slaughtered the breath from their lungs.  Each man fought the quiet and lost before succumbing to its conquering and accompanying chill.  This thing, this object, this faint and terrible monstrosity had already wedged itself into the coming dreams of approaching nights.
   "What is it?" asked James nervously after an uncomfortable breeze seemingly hailed from nowhere and dispersed beneath his skin.
   No one answered.
   "Is it a thing? I mean... is it or, rather, was it alive?"
   Still there was no answer.
   "Is that a tail hanging beneath it?" he asked as he brought his face closer to the page.  "I think it's a tail."
   James was now talking merely to hear the sound of his own voice and to disrupt the festering silence.
   "Could be," answered John as James puffed a sigh of relief.  "It looks braided, though, like a cable or something."
   "You think it's a wire?" asked James.  "Perhaps the whole thing is some kind of machine," he postulated.
   "Well if it is it's unlike any machine I've ever seen," John stated.
   "It looks like a sea urchin to me," added Benson.  "I stood on one when I was a child.  We were in Spain and..."
   "An interesting story for a more dreary time I'm sure, Officer," John mumbled as Benson halted his dialogue before sporting an accompanying sneer.
   The attachment did indeed appear wired to the barbed object and dangled beneath like some inanimate spine, a dark pendulum affixed to a concealed clock face.  John began biting the inside of his lip, a custom he had inherited from his father whenever his wits were challenged.  He bit hard.  Had he been alone, he would have most likely reached inside with thumb and forefinger to tear loose the flesh from his mouth until it bled profusely.  It was cathartic, a temporary release and reminder that he was still in control of a body that already had begun to sweat even in such a chilled environment.  He restrained himself and allowed his hand to linger just inches above the image.  Never before had he sustained so many injuries to nerves that suddenly felt exposed and threadbare.  He experienced tremors in his fingers as they turned the page slowly.
   The following images were met with the same forbidding silence...