Resolution

A siren blared, deafening, terminals scrolling through data beyond understanding or explanation. Around him, the girls began to writhe, their hands grasping at objects beyond vision, their breathing ragged. One by one they began to scream, agony and ecstasy, their backs arched as the energy flowed through them. At once their eyes opened, deepest black, unworldly, unholy.

Stepney turned to Calvin, terrified. She lay slumped in her chair, twitching, sparks erupting from the electrodes wired into her brain. Her breathing was shallow, her body shaking. Stepney took his eyes from her, surveyed the hall. The followers, the faithful, stood now. Shouting, swearing, cursing heaven and earth and promising a vengeance against those who stood in their way.

He turned to Harlow. Their eyes met, the gaze of old friends. Harlow’s were filled with tears. The young mystic leaned towards him, his voice a murmur amid the cacophony which had overtaken them. “Stepney, I…move!”

Stepney’s head snapped up in time to see the man before him. His eyes were dead, showing neither rage nor love, satisfaction nor regret. His face betrayed nothing. His hand was raised, pointed towards him as if in some grotesque blessing. Stepney felt Harlow push against him, the world running in slow motion.

The knife span towards him, handle over blade over handle over blade over handle.

Stepney saw it all. His memories, the men and women of the city, those things lost which had been found. His time with friends, with those he loved and those who loved him. He saw himself in his office, at work and happy, caring for others in the only way he knew how.

And the knife continued towards him. Handle over blade over handle over blade over handle.

He took in the picture. Omega behind him, unmoving, watching. Calvin slumped, barely moving, her eyes twitching, her fingers grasping. The crowd moving towards him with unthinking hatred, unwavering contempt.

Handle over blade over handle over blade over handle.

Over blade.

Stepney stared downwards. On the floor before him lay Harlow, the knife protruding from his chest. Blood poured from the wound, spurting from his pierced heart, soaking through his clothes and flowing to the floor below. Stepney sank to his knees, took the man’s head in his hands.

Harlow smiled, a wavering, uncertain expression. Yet his eyes kept their glow, the spark of life. He spoke slowly, each breath taking his whole effort. “I…guess…it is our time…after all.”

“I guess so.” Stepney’s voice came to him as if from afar, a script being read by someone else. Another man in another life.

Harlow’s eyes began to roll back, his breathing ever more laboured, his motions weaker, more feeble. He beckoned Stepney closer. “Trust her,” he whispered gently.

And then he laid his head back and sank and was still.

Stepney stood. The crowd before him had become silent, accusative. They moved forward in one body, surrounding him. Their faces were without expression, their gaze without remorse. Still they came, mechanical, unchanging. Yet Stepney stood firm, retreating not a foot, his mind suddenly drained.

He felt rather than heard Omega’s voice as it called from behind him. As he turned, he felt the first fist strike home, felt the rod of iron as it snapped against his spine. He sank to his knees, not blocking the pain, embracing it. He met her eyes, those beautiful eyes, eyes which had driven sane men to madness and mad men to song. Somehow, almost unbelievably, she reached forward and took his head in her hands.

She kissed him once, tenderly, on the mouth. He felt her skin against his. It was electric, energising, a sense of fire and warmth flowing through him from her. He felt her against him, the kiss broken as she cradled his head against her breast. He felt the pain leave him even as the mob set in, and there was only Omega. Always Omega.

Her voice came to his ear, naught but a whisper. “The key. You know what you must do.”

In her hand lay a single white pill.

Published in: on July 15, 2009 at 10:45 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Moment

Omega rested her hand on Harlow’s head, whispering to him gently, soothing him, healing him. Stepney’s gaze remained on the sight before him, girls made machines, technology made human. The speaker turned to a panel on the wall beside him, raising his arms in benediction.

“Our time is now,” he said.

“Our time is now,” echoed the crowd before him.

The speaker’s arm reached towards the panel. Stepney squinted and made out a set of controls, instruments, instructions to be given to the devices wiring the girls together.

Without warning, the speaker fell to the floor, twitching wildly. The room erupted in noise, yet they remained still, expectant, watching for the next stage of this cosmic drama. A pool of blood began to leak from his prone body, his breath laboured. The handle of a knife was visible from his side, piercing him.

“This ends tonight.” The voice came from one of the girls, wired to the machine, electrodes piercing her skull, sending energy into her brain. Her hand was raised, shaking.

She spoke. “None of this should be. This city, these people. You. All of you.” The voice echoed in Stepney’s memory, prodding, seeking. He felt himself go cold and an enormous weight filled within him.

“None of this is right,” said Calvin. The eyes. Whatever the mutilation, the pain, the travesty which had been inserted into her, the eyes could not be mistaken, the voice beyond imitation. It was her. “None of this can be right. None of this should be.”

“Showtime.” Omega’s voice startled him, shook him into life, broke him from the trance into which the unfolding events had thrown him. The three of them made their way through the door and into the hall, the crowd parting before her, bewildered, angry, yet unwilling to act.

She approached the man lying on the floor, checked his pulse. “He will live,” she said. It was neither an encouragement nor a lament, simply a statement of truth. Calvin’s eyes met those of Stepney and her face broke into a broad smile.

“Calvin.”

“Stepney.” Her voice was unnaturally calm, staring into him with the same still, tranquil gaze she had owned all these years.

“How did -”

“I saw you at the meeting. Hidden in the back, safe from view. Safe from anyone but me, that is. You know what happened. You saw Hypa, saw her step up. I had to follow her. So I allowed them to take me, allowed them to turn me….to turn me into this.” A look of revulsion passed across her face for a moment. “They harmed me, violated me perhaps beyond repair. They forced themselves into my brain, into my mind. The highest violation of all. Yet it was worth it, all of it, if it only means we can stop them.”

“The others. They seem lost, lifeless. Taken over. How did you survive?”

Calvin’s eyes met those of Omega for a moment. “I had some help.” They stared past her and a look of unmistakeable horror passed over them. “Stop -”

It was too late. The speaker moved, trailing blood behind him, scraping his body over the floor. He raised a single hand, shaking, trembling, defiant, and slammed it into the panel.

And the world exploded into sound.

Published in: on July 6, 2009 at 11:39 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Ceremony

Harlow’s voice was barely a whisper. His eyes were rooted to the man on the ground, his head twisted to some inhuman angle, unmoving. “Is…is he…”

“Dead?” Omega continued on her way through the building, stopped, turned to them. “He was dead long ago. They all are. I simply finished the process.” She paused. “There is no time for this. We must go. All will become clear.

“But I -”

“Now!” Her voice came to them, raised, yet without anger. The two men felt themselves rise into action, making their way after her, watching, searching, seeking out hostilities. What are we doing?, came that treacherous voice in the back of Stepney’s mind. Why? The ceremony. What ceremony? More questions. Always questions. Each creating two more of its own, spreading like a vine over the walls of his memory.

Omega paused, gestured them into silence, motioned to a corridor running to the right of them. The chanting was louder now, somehow deathly, voices in unison without feeling, without even the empty rage of the mob. Stepney leaned towards her, spoke to her in an urgent whisper.

“They will notice us.”

“They will not,” Omega replied. “Not at first. Not if we do not wish them to.”

“I -”

Harlow rested his hand on Stepney’s arm. Their eyes met, a discussion momentary, unspoken. Trust her. Stepney paused in contemplation, nodded. Together the three of them made their way through the corridor, to the door at its end, and opened it as best they could, taking in the scene before them.

The room was clean, sterile, the appearance of a hospital or a laboratory. Within it, twelve figures sat in enormous chairs lining the walls. To each chair were attached a variety of wires, cables, measurements. Terminals beeped, reams of information playing across their screens. Figures, charts, graphs, equations. Formulae beyond understanding.

Each of the girls sat in silence, breathing softly, their eyes closed. Their heads were cut open, the scalp neatly removed, exposing the flesh of the brain to the outside world. Wires ran into them, connecting flesh to machine, nature to technology. Their tips disappeared into the girls’ skulls, taking and receiving data, wiring each of them into the system beyond.

Stepney turned his face away, suddenly sickened. Even as he did, he heard the chanting come to a stop, and a man – another in the single garment of grey and white – stepped into view. He spoke.

“On this night our time is come. For we have sacrificed much, worked for an age, always seeking, always searching.

“The human mind is the most complex computer ever devised, capable of understanding on a level beyond conscious comprehension. A billion billion circuits interacting at once, the energy of a thousand terminals flowing unceasingly through the mind of a single man or woman.

“Or child.

“For many years, this energy has been wasted, cast aside, thrown down the twin wells of emotion and reason, expended for meaningless pleasures or put to work on the most mundane of tasks. We take mediocrity and call it progress; we take a delusion and call it revelation.

“Tonight, through the magic of science and the science of magic, we shall cast off that which restrains us. We shall attune our minds with the universe, become one with it, and become gods.

Published in: on June 28, 2009 at 8:54 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Plan

“It must be tonight.” Omega’s voice broke the silence Stepney and Harlow had fallen into, shaking them from their contemplations. Those of Stepney concerned the girls, missing and scared, his responsibility. Those of Harlow were beyond comprehension.

“Why?” Stepney found himself lost in her eyes for a moment, dazed. He shook his head, as if trying to dislodge some blockage. “What would you have us do?”

“It happens tonight. We must be there to stop them. Whatever the cost.”

“We are three.” Stepney stared into her deeply. “We ought to be four.”

Omega inclined her head slightly. “Do not worry. All is in hand. Their base is in the outer reaches of the city. We must reach them, infiltrate the building, interrupt the ceremony before it is too late.”

“Ceremony?” Harlow’s voice came up, inquisitive, filled with energy once more.

“All will become clear. Trust me.”

Stepney smiled weakly. “We would hardly seem to have a choice.”

“There is always a choice, Stepney.” Her voice soothed him, reassured him. As his eyes closed, he saw her still, outlined in stars, raising a hand in benediction. He nodded gently.

They rose and made their way from the bar. As they moved, the girl on the stage paused for a moment. She stared into Stepney, freezing him to the spot, his body aflame. Almost imperceptibly, she winked at him, blew him a tiny kiss. Good luck, Stepney, came her voice, almost lost amid the rumble of the assembled patrons.

And with that they left, making their way out of the bar and suddenly, without warning or notice, finding themselves in an empty street in the city of Celestis. Stepney wrapped his jacket around him for protection against the cold. Weather rarely troubled the people of the beautiful city, yet tonight it seemed invasive, intrusive, almost aggressive. The street was empty of life, the buildings looming above, somehow threatening, intimidating. It had been morning, yet now the stars were out, the sun disappeared, the moon shining down on them. All was illuminated with an unworldly light. He shuddered and made his way forward, Omega and Harlow beside him.

They turned and Stepney beheld the hall. It was filled from within with a glowing, blinding light, its spire reaching into the clouds, an enormous letter G emblazoned on its front. Voices emanated from within, chants unending, without life, without feeling. He paused, thrown for a moment. Something about this place, in the city yet locked away from it, its scale, its mass, conveyed a sense of absolute power. A power beyond reason or regret, a power beyond control.

He glanced about him. Harlow had sunk to his knees, weeping bitterly. Omega cradled his head in her arms. She kissed his forehead once, softly, the mark of the carer. As Stepney watched, a thick black mist began to pour from the mystic’s open mouth, vanishing into nothingness. It lasted but a moment. Harlow returned to his feet, glowing, the picture of health.

Omega turned to the two of them and nodded once before making her way into the base. They followed her in silence.

As they entered the building, Stepney tried to take in his surroundings, yet it was too much. He felt as though he had been plunged into some lost city, deep under the water, surrounded by shapes which approached familiarity yet skirted on the edge of identification. A building, a desk, a man. Posters on the doors. Little else.

A man. Omega approached him. He stood silent, enraptured, as the crimson woman filled his vision. For Stepney, around her the world came in and out of focus, shimmering lightly. The scene was surreal and mundane in one. Her beauty seemed to transcend the world around her, made it more crisp, more clear. More real. The man, dressed in his single garment of grey and white, stood spellstruck.

He let out barely a moan as Omega stepped forward and, in a single motion, snapped his neck.

Published in: on June 22, 2009 at 7:38 am  Leave a Comment  
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I am

I am the law of the criminal
I am the cold in the flame
I am the conscience of murderers
I am the pride within shame

I am the sunshine in winter
I am the star in your sky
I am the hope of the hopeless
I am the truth in your lies

I am the spark within darkness
I am the sacred profane
I am the one who will slay you
I make you live again

Book of Hymns 5:1-6

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 7:18 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Goodbye Ground Control

Would I be a space cadet
Step through heaven’s gate
Would I be a space cadet
Another step to take
Would I be a space cadet
I think my shuttle’s wrong
But still searching
Searching for Major Tom

Ground Control, the count hits three
Ground Control, can you hear me
Count hits one, just let me say
Ground Control, the Major never went away

Step outside the atmosphere
Black of space beyond
Spirit lives within here still
The everlasting bond
Dust to dust, a world apart
I dream an angel’s song
But still searching
Searching for Major Tom

Ground Control, the count hits three
Ground Control, can you hear me
Count hits one, just let me say
Ground Control, the Major never went away

Now the light
Shines within this stone
Starry night
Spacemen growing old
Something right
A beauty to behold
This is space cadet
Saying goodbye Ground Control

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 7:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Bar

Note: the lyrics in this post are taken from the song Mrs. O by the Dresden Dolls. http://www.dresdendolls.com

He couldn’t explain it. Stepney followed the woman, hauling the unconscious Harlow behind him. The crowd beyond stood unmoving, unbreathing, frozen in time and space. As they made their way through the door, there was no sensation of change, no blazing moment of transference. They simply went from one place to another. Nothing more.

The bar was crowded, smoke-filled, hot. Men and women bustled around, the men in suits, clutching glasses and laughing heartily. The women sat gathered around tables, earnestly conversing on a million subjects at once. At the bar itself, a group of young men and women saw to the needs of their patrons, while along the wall, ageing men in older clothes sipped glasses of a green spirit, dreaming of a brighter future.

The walls were festooned with yellowing posters from days gone by, the latest entertainers, the news of the day. Wars and rumours of wars, comedy and heartbreak, gossip from the Empire. A serviceman beamed blankly from the wall at the assembled patrons, his grin too broad, his eyes too cold.

To the front of the bar stood a stage, filled with musicians playing their tunes. The music was something Stepney felt sure he had heard, long ago, yet it seemed somehow lost, adrift. An echo of something long since forgotten. The singer was a woman, young, filled with life. Her face was painted an unearthly white, her eyes outlined in black, her appearance that of a precious doll. Through the din of the crowd, Stepney craned an ear and listened for her voice, the tinkling of piano keys guiding him to it.

The truth won’t save you now
Mrs O
The sky is falling down
Mrs O
Everything they ever told us
Shakes our faith and breaks their promise
But you can stop the truth from leaking
If you never stop believing…

She fixed him with a stare which chilled him to the bone. For a single moment, it was as though the rest of the world ceased to exist. There was her and him and an infinite emptiness. What of you, Stepney? Will the truth save you, lost in this hall of smoke and mirrors?

“Stepney.” The voice came to his ear, soft, comforting. He turned and saw the scarlet woman, her eyes dancing before him, her smile taking him in. “Come. Sit.”

She gestured and he took his seat at the table. Beside him, Harlow lay slumped, moaning softly. His skin seemed back to normal, yet he was far from well. Stepney took the glass before him and sipped it cautiously. Its flavour seemed full, rich, filled with life, product of an age of wonders beyond his own. He took a moment to check his body. Nothing. He frowned. There was no pain, no injury. Nothing.

He cast it to the back of his mind and turned to Omega (as he had begun, unconsciously, to think of her.) He gestured to the woman on the stage. “Who is she?”

Omega smiled. “A girl against time. As are we all.”

Harlow dragged himself upright, blinking, taking in the scene around him. He turned and saw, as if for the first time, the vision seated beside him. The confusion, the terror, the sickness left his eyes and was replaced by a sense of deep calm. When he spoke, it was with quiet deliberation. “Where are we?”

“Safe.” Omega gestured about her. “They cannot harm you here.”

“Who are they?” cut in Stepney before he could help himself. “And who, for that matter, are you? Really?” He paused. “I’m sorry, I -”

“You have no need to be sorry.” Omega folded her hands before her, her fingers locking together as a pyramid. “Events occur. Now is our time. You saw as much last night, at the meeting.”

“You saw us there?”

“I see you everywhere, Stepney. Both of you, and so much more besides. I care for you as best I can.

“Reality is only that which is agreed upon. We can agree only on what we perceive to be true. Our perceptions of truth are based on our understanding of reality. And so the circle continues. Yet here, in the world of paradox, our perceptions may be lifted. Close your eyes. Recall.”

Stepney did as he was instructed. A million memories rushed into him, inconsistencies, confusions, moments of change in the world which had gone unseen and unheeded. People out of time, knowledge out of place.

“We have entered a time of change – a cosmic shakeup, if you like. The universe is in flux. As we move from one stage to another – as the world turns, as a society is born, killed, reborn, men and women living and dying by the day – we see changes begin to occur, and little inconsistencies begin to arise. People out of time, artefacts which should not be. Dimensions slip. Time melts. Paradoxes are able to occur, bringing with them their own upheaval.

“Those who have come to understand what is occuring may take advantage, navigating through shifting planes of time and space. Entropy rises like a wave; those who can understand its patterns may ride it where they wish. One place becomes another, one time becomes the next, objects, people, thoughts, becoming real and unreal in the blink of an eye.”

“What does all of this mean?” Stepney was awed, overwhelmed, somehow understood the essence but not the content.

“Harlow knows.”

“I do?” Harlow’s head snapped up.

“You do. Think.”

Harlow closed his eyes for a moment. “The first principle of magic – true magic, high magic – is this: thoughts have power. It is a truth used by rulers and rebels, priests and populists, through all time.

“The second principle is this: as above, so below.

“And the third is this: precision. Precision in all things. The mind must be trained into a particular model, must be taught to operate in a particular manner.

“I – we – are the embodiment of these principles. Reality shifts, time distorts. We are attuned to the wave of entropy, we rise with its peaks, we fall with its valleys. We are one with the order and disorder of the universe, and so can see it in ways others cannot. We are in the universe and it is in us – through us – all of us. The neurophant is simply one who has become aware, whose mind has been revealed. We are born with our minds aligned with the universe, and with it, gain understanding.

“Thoughts are given power and arise within us, searching, teaching. As the world changes as a whole, so the change is born in our minds. We feel it, understand it, and share it with those who have wisdom.”

Stepney sat spellbound. He managed to struggle out some words. “And the others?”

In spite of their setting, in spite of Omega, in spite of their safety and the comfort of the scene around them, little could mask the sense of fear which crossed Harlow’s face, a cloud dark enough to blot out the sun. “They are without soul, without feeling, without spirit. They seek the wisdom of the universe, yet have no heart in which that wisdom may be stored. They seek power and power alone. They are without humanity.

“They have dulled their emotions, denied their essence, in the hopes of freeing the mind for some greater purpose. They would carve out a lung in order to free space in their chest. Their path leads to pain, heartlessness, power without compassion, knowledge without wisdom.

“They seek to use the current upheaval to their own ends, to use the force of chaos to reorder the world to their advantage. No good can come of this. The girls are central, though I do not know how.

“We are opposed forces, they and I. The closer we are, the stronger the tension, the greater the opposition. The greater the suffering.”

Stepney glanced at Harlow’s glass. His knuckles had locked around it, trembling, his teeth gouging into his lip. Stepney reached out a hand and touched that of his friend gently, comfortingly. The trembling stopped. Harlow glanced at him with gratitude.

Omega stood. “We have much to prepare. For now, stay. Rest. You have earned it.”

As she turned to leave, Stepney cut in. “Only one question. Again. Just who are you, Omega? Who are you really?”

She laughed softly, gently. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you, my love,” she said with a smile.

Published in: on June 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Previously…

In the knowledge that new readers could arrive at any time we provide this reminder of what hasn’t been going on with your humble authors…

Hidden in a dark Singapore alleyway, international man of mystery Dave Jackson hugged the shadows, his precious cargo clutched to his chest. He had killed for this tiny package, risked the wrath of insane Eastern crime lord Junius and all for king and country.

He peeked his head out of the alleyway in which he had been waiting out the daylight hours. The night had closed in and he had only hours to reach his rendezvous and sanctuary.

Trusting in the concealing darkness, Agent Jackson ran out into the street and straight into the arms of two of Junius’ chief enforcers.

‘Well, what have we here?’ asked the smaller of the two men, a scrawny devil in a sharp suit clutching a shotgun in his hands. So this was the infamous James Ashelford, a stone cold killer without mercy or better nature. Behind him stood Matthew “Legbreaker” Charman, rumoured to be the power behind the throne in the Junius organization now the old fool was losing his grip on reality.

‘The boss wants to see you, Jackson,’ Legbreaker said, hauling Jackson up by his shoulders. ‘Agent Jackson.’

Now read on…

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 3:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Doorway

Stepney and Harlow made their way from the house cautiously, looking out for strangers, checking and double-checking the door. A silence had grown between them, neither willing to ask the reason for the other’s nerves; neither willing to admit to his own fear. They made their way through the streets of Celestis swiftly, examining every stranger with a mixture of relief and suspicion – relief at the sight of others, suspicion towards their motives.

Why? Stepney could not answer. He had seen Harlow’s reaction at the meeting, the pain, the disorientation, the fear. The sickness. While unaffected, Stepney had felt something in that place. Something unreal. Something without spirit. Something that should not be.

And who are you to say what should and should not be, Stepney? He tried to silence the inner voice, always critical, always judging. Sometimes it would be softened, muted, yet always it remained, lurking somewhere within him.

He gestured to Harlow as they reached his office. The two men approached the door, glancing about the street. All seemed normal. Perhaps it was simply nerves. Perhaps it was nothing. Stepney turned the key and pushed at the door.

Not so lucky, Stepney!

The door stopped. The key was in the lock, yet the door refused to open. Above him a window opened and a woman leaned out. She was of evident age, her eyes bright, seeking, judging. She spied him out; he could hear her snort in disgust even from where he stood.

“How many times have I had to tell you, Stepney? Get out! Leave!”

“What the…who are you?” Stepney stared at her in confusion. Behind him, unseen, the people in the street drew to a standstill, watching as the woman harangued Stepney from above. “What have you done with my office?”

“Oh, your office now, is it?” The sarcasm dripped from her tongue, soaked in acid. “How many times do we have to go through this routine? How many times?”

“What?”

“You don’t work here, you have never worked here. I live here. This is my house and I would thank you to get away from it.”

“What?”

“Not one of life’s great debaters, are you, Stepney?” The sarcasm was back, doubled, pouring mocking scorn on the man before her. Stepney half-turned as he heard a small moan escape Harlow’s throat, but his confusion took charge.

“But -”

“Get lost!” The woman slammed the window down with an enormous crash. Stepney remained frozen to the spot for a moment, dumbfounded, before being dragged into the waking world by Harlow. He turned. Behind them, passersby, the men and women of Celestis, had stopped dead, staring at the two men outside what had once been Stepney’s office. Some were pointing, others talking in hushed tones.

The two men made their way from the building as best they could, Stepney holding up the young mystic with one arm as they ventured down the street. Yet the crowd would not part for them, would not move. They simply stood, immobile, their eyes hollow, their expressions a vacant, hateful stare.

“It’s him. It’s them.” Stepney heard the voices coming to him from all around as he made his way as best he could through the throng. “It has to be now. Their time is now.”

Without warning his head exploded in pain. He turned; a man stood before him, already preparing for another punch, his face a hideous, emotionless sneer. A hatred stripped of all humanity, a mind stripped of all compassion. Stepney staggered, slipped, felt Harlow slip out from his arm and fall to the floor, unconscious. His skin was becoming grey, trickles of blood appearing from the sides of his mouth. Suddenly, Stepney’s vision flashed white as the fists came down, slamming into his skull, his stomach, his legs. He gazed at the faces of his tormentors with fear and confusion.

I know you, came the message screaming in his ears. I helped find your child when he was lost, two years ago. We have not met since. What is this? Why is this? He screamed as the man’s boot made contact with his chest, his lungs exploding, every breath agonising. He tried to shelter his head from the blows but it was of no use. Time’s up, Stepney!

Stepney did his best to move over Harlow as the crowd moved in, to spare him agony beyond what he already suffered. He covered his companion’s head with his arms, ineffective against the violence, the blows coming more quickly now, from all around. He craned his neck up painfully, trying to see who was responsible for the attack. Suddenly, in spite of the violence, the pain, the anger, the world slowed to a standstill as he looked into the street before him.

A door.

A single doorway, open in the middle of the street. Standing, impossibly, outlined in an indescribable light.

The door opened, showing only blackness beyond. Into it stepped a woman. She was beautiful. Her eyes of deepest red, her hair, crimson, flowing over her shoulders. Her skin was pale, delicate. She was fascinating, almost hypnotic in her beauty. Stepney felt the pain drain out from him, dissipating, evaporating into nothingness. She approached him, parting the crowd with ease, their faces contorted in heartless, unfeeling rage.

She stood before him, smiling, her eyes burning sparks leading into infinity. A sense of peace radiated from her, filling the world around with tranquillity. Stepney felt himself filled with a sense of calm beyond experience.

“Omega,” he said, his voice but a whisper.

She smiled, beckoned him closer. “Come.”

And with that, she turned. Stepney raised himself to his feet, took up Harlow’s unconscious body, and followed the mysterious woman as she approached the doorway and entered, vanishing into nothingness. He took a final look at the world around him and followed her into the unknown.

Published in: on June 1, 2009 at 11:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Respite

Order and chaos. Chaos and order. Erupting, a million fractal images in a single glance. A world out of time, out of place. The City, the tower within, a rebellion, violence and freedom, tyranny and regret. The proud, the scared, the defiant. Men and women reaching beyond their grasp.

Bombs fall, explosions rip. Children run, alone, scared, parents sacrificed for the sake of tomorrow. The tyranny of violence and the violence of tyranny, exploding all around in a purple haze.

The mystic, the murderer, the chaotic, the lawful. Somehow they are one, aspects of one mind, insanities in one consciousness.

As are you.

Stepney shook himself awake, sweating, frightened. Slowly the world came into focus. His room, his life. He glanced to his side; Harlow lay sleeping, content, his mind far afield. They had made their way home in safety. All was as it should be.

He seldom dreamt, and when he did it did not trouble him. Simply echoes from the waking day, surrealisms, the mind amusing itself in the absence of a world to play with. He glanced at the clock. Morning. The time since they had left the meeting seemed somehow unreal, more a haze than a memory.

Stepney snapped to himself abruptly. The meeting. Memories of the night before rushed into him, what he had seen, what he had heard. Calvin. He had had no time to speak to her before leaving the lab. She had to know. Perhaps she would be able to help. She should be told if nothing else. And soon. Stepney inched out a foot, then reconsidered, and prodded Harlow gently.

Harlow stirred into consciousness. “What…I…you?” His eyes blinked a moment as his mind sifted through memories. Eventually the appropriate match was found. “What happened? We were at the meeting, then…”

“I cannot say,” Stepney replied swiftly. “We attended a meeting. Seeking the girls. You were unwell.”

“I…yes.” Harlow’s face darkened, his face taking on a sinister, troubling turn. “That place. Those…people.” He shuddered. “Nothing was right there. Nothing. They bring evil. Worse than evil. They bring a void, a nothingness. So cold. So very cold.” Harlow swallowed, his eyes wide as the memory returned. “I…we…can feel these things. We understand the pattern of life, the rhythms of nature, of the world, of society, of men and women. The people at that meeting. They did not match. They were wrong.”

“Wrong?”

“Wrong.” Harlow shrugged. “I can say no more than that.”

“I see.” Stepney grasped, seeking some wider meaning. He found none. “We must go.”

“Go?” Harlow’s expression turned to panic.

“The office. I must contact Calvin. She must know of what happened last night.” He paused. “Whatever issues you may have, she is wise and she is willing. She must be contacted.”

“I know, I know,” said Harlow absently. “Only…we must be careful. All is not as it should be.”

“Surely that much is obvious,” replied Stepney. “But still. We must go.”

“We must,” agreed Harlow. Yet somehow his eyes read a different message, one of wisdom, confusion and an all-consuming, inescapable fear.

Published in: on May 27, 2009 at 11:08 am  Leave a Comment  
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