Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Deus Ex-Machina Chapter One: Denial

    The cavern outside my cage is flooded with steam laced black water whilst the surrounding air is rank, spoiled by a putridness that buoys along an arid humidity.

The sweet jasmine incense that rolls out of my fire hair helps smother the stagnant awfulness of the cave, an area with no discernible wildlife. There are distant but palpable mechanical sounds emanating from beneath the surface of the vast stretch of the lake. Me being able to smell again not least my ability to question my sudden placement here, well it indicates one thing, an inescapable fact: I’m in one of my special dreams, yet, I've never felt more awake, so present.

Handy Andy is crawling about impatiently in his cell, and there is Alice in her own barred confinement, a few widths to the right of me. I spy two more prisoners in cages across from mine, five foot high sphere holding cells, each held aloft by the muscular arms of warrior dilfs. 

These giant shaggy guards, they don’t move. Hell, they could be statues if it wasn’t for their breathing, the slow fall and rise of my horizon. Behind the bars of one jail-ball squats a black woman with rainbow coloured dreads. Her demeanour is a cocktail of subdued anger and proactive assessment. There’s something familiar about that face.

There is another, a captive in the confinement next to hers. She's not human, not at all. Nope.

This figure is genderless, no genitals or mammaries as far as I can detect. This life form has flaking skin the colour of chocolate gateaux. The figure's arms wave slowly, every gesticulation that hangs outside its prison bars act as expressive aids for its voice. Languid. Female. The small morsels of her nakedness fall through the gaps in her captivity and she helps them make pretty shapes on the inky flood that flows beneath her lock-up. Unlike the rest of us, this clay-like creature is nestled cross-legged atop the droppings and the piss of previous detainees. She has no mouth that I can see and yet I hear her speak. Languid. Female.

    ‘…However, it is ill advised to think of me as the Gaia in your stories,’ says the female creature, ‘I am the flowerbed from which your fantasy has burst.’

The woman whose body I’m in won’t take her focus off the soil being. The eyes I watch from behind are narrowed and the voice that flows from out the mouth I share, it sounds sarcastic, so suspicious of this earthy humanoid that calls itself Gaia,

    ‘Riiiight,' I hear myself say, 'I'd like a little more information. Speaking as the walking powder keg for a potential invasion of idols, I’d feel safer hearing a little more of the flower-bed's history, right guys?’

    ‘Observe,’ announces the humanoid holding up a soil palm, ‘Imagine my hand to be called Gaia. See this small portion come off at the edge?’ Her small finger breaks away into her lap. The earthy digit wiggling up and along her chest, slug-like, ‘I am that edge.’

Across from me, Alice nods sagely. Her countenance creates a sharp contrast to her attributes. The height of her, the sight of her little girl-features.

    ‘O.K,’ I hear my mouth confirm, ‘You're a corner of Gaia’s psyche - got it, but that doesn’t change the fact that Rooenn’s still at large and it-’

    ‘Rooenn can wait,’ interrupts Alice before turning her attention to Miss World’s compost-smelling featureless face, ‘We need to know what Aronson’s plan is.’

The pale hands wrapped around my prison bars tighten and the tension in my voice - in Steph's voice - it shakes each syllable that escapes her lips,

    ‘No, it’s all about Rooenn. Guys, we can’t forget that if I die its game over.’

    ‘Rooenn is not the immediate problem,’ huffs Alice looking directly into my dungeon, ‘Aronson’s the wild-card, acting out of character. What has he got in store for us? He normally gloats but now? Now he's not sharing anything.'

I feel my body flinch and begin to blab about how Alice should formulate an escape plan, that I must be protected at all costs. What was once a discussion hastily descends into a chaotic babbling murmur complete with shouty high-lights. The hair in front of my face spikes and reddens as the dank compound swells with the discordant anthem of unrest and barely heeded opinion. A distance begins to form between myself and the skull from which I observe the drama.

All the facts I’ve obtained about this topsy-turvy world, I sense them become murky and near impenetrable. Only names remain as I remember the fact: This is not my true reality. I don't belong here any more.

Deus Ex-Machina 
Chapter One

D   E   N   I   A   L 

‘Listen stutter-boy, you’re gonna disappear before I count to three…’ - Spiderfingers

    The winter draft sprays dirt into my weary waking eyes. It's still night time, no light at all piercing through the gaps of wood that cover my windows. Yeah, my abandoned toy-factory home is lit up only by the flames in my hair, and as the drone of distant London drive-time rumbles in the near distance, something nudges me on the one side and then the other.

To my right there’s an apparition that has the look of someone I know. Hooking my glasses round my ears helps me take in Saul’s particulars, the dark blue trench coat; the red streaks in his raven haired ponytail; all that pasty undead skin with grey on white eyes – Saul - or so it seems.

Considering my luck, all this could be a dream, and Saul here could be another henchman to some jealous idol. He keeps shoving his left and only hand into my ribs. This would be a piss-take in it itself (I’m busy healing here) were it not for his stuttering cockney flightiness, an irritating bombardment, a constant demand for answers. And every question he shoots at me is nonsensical.

    ‘F-f-fake your death n’ retire in your avatars b-b-brain, yeah? Selfish wanker.’

On my left side I feel the icy coil of Rooenn’s chain tighten round my left forearm. The doggy wants walkies. The doggy's gonna have to make do. More jabs to my right side earn Saul my full reaction,

    ‘I see, you personify my regret or some shit, don't you? Whatever, Piss off.’

I’d like to say that that’s the end of it, and that I get to fall back asleep. The truth is, my ex-team mate with the silly emo-hair? Mother-fucking persistent, I can tell you. Can’t recall him ever being so bloody passionate.

    ‘I’m real,’ he argues,‘Look at m-m-m-me. This,’ and he pulls a layer of cardboard from under me, ‘This is St-Steph’s imagination, b-b-but I’m real.’

I pause at the name. Steph. This one-handed person that looks like Saul is privy to the name of someone, the woman in my semi-lucid dream world. I do the right thing and try to lose myself within the eternal sensation of pain that riddles my broken-tired-war-worn body.

With enough time my bones will have mended and…

No chance. Couldn’t calm down even if I wanted to, which of course I don’t.

    ‘Listen stutter-boy, you’re gonna disappear before I count to three! One…Two...’

    ‘Hey wait,’ he says with a realisation in his patter, ‘Maybe – and I’m not being funny – you could be my dr-dr-dream mate? Maybe y-you’re the fa-fa-fake?’

I sit up with care because my back and shoulders are on fire. Within the distracting agony of recent battle I find myself staring the fucker down, this decrepit annoyance that’s bent its gangly portion over me. My fringe is flowing like a lava slide and he still doesn’t get just how much he’s set me off. I lunge, ramming fists into his chapped gangrene face. Saul shields his cheeks with his hand as he tries to step backwards to safety. In the effort he only manages to stand on the edge of his coat. Watching him teeter to the side and then plummet downwards well, it goes some way to filling my face with satisfaction. I dive at him, strategically re-directing my strikes to his belly,   

    ‘These punches real enough for you, huh? How'd you like em?' I spit the words piling into him, body-blow following body-blow, 'Just how real can we get here?’

I grapple my enemy’s head, wedging it between forearm and bicep. I tear it clean off, punting the blood hissing orb into the ceiling. All this exercise hurts, and I wince…but the sound of roof-rumble, it’s worth it.

And so I tell him, ‘If you’re really Saul then Nightingale will put you back together again. Shame really, I could get used to you being headless.’

I have to laugh a little at Saul using his lips to roll his face on to its side.

    ‘Mum’s n-n-not here to sort me out though, is she? Cos she’s out there in the real w-w-world!’

    ‘Damn it!’ I scream pounding my sore fist into my own chest, ‘Stupid fucking dream-thing, you can't fool me, this is the real world!’

    ‘Nah, nah m-m-m-m-mate,’ he says as I keep a casual eye-lock on his body, the stupid thing meandering pathetically on all fours, ‘This is Steph’s subconscious. Wa-wa-wake up, sme-sme-smell the coffee.’

    ‘Steph?’ I ask shuffling over to the head of the zombie, my foot rolling the fuckers face over so that I might look him in the eye, ‘Fess up.’

    ‘Th-th-th-this is her brain, she was in here. She can enter here whenever her unconscious senses she is in m-m-mortal danger. That’s her p-p-power.’

Another thing in my life that isn’t so fucked up, but should be. Saul A.K.A Zombie-Boy, he’s looking upwards past my boot as he asks, ‘Why did you f-fake your o-o-o-own d-death?’

    ‘Not this again.’ And I shake my head into my palm, as if I can find relief in my bruised digits.

    ‘B-b-b-but I was there!’ shouts the head, ‘Y-y-you and me - all of us - we were fighting th-th-the Dilfs, Vicky…Vi-Vi-icky…’

    ‘What? Spit it out stutter-boy.’

    ‘Sh-sh-sssssh-she’s dead innit,’ he says this too quiet and too note perfect to be a shape-shifting minion, ‘Y-y-you saw it ha-happen.’

I take my foot off his face to steady myself from a sudden dizziness. When I answer it’s with a whisper. It’s with a denial, ‘Vicky’s not dead…She can’t be...’

I stumble back against the wall and all its cobwebs. 

    ‘A-A-Aronson has this black pool - throw someone into it and out cr-cr- crawls their evil copy which acts as his body guard. Nat’s copy killed V-V-Vicky.’

    ‘Right, now I know you're some shape-shifting fake. Nathaniel Buchannan is dead. Asshole.’

    ‘E-E-Evil copies, r-r-remember?’

I stride over and heaving his gangly body up, I lob it a far distance away from his head. I heave it with such force that when it collides with the dusty vending machine I hear bones crack. Spinning my attention round to the head, I adjust my glasses marching over towards Saul’s begging drooling face,

    'See my face?’ I use my foot to apply heavy pressure to the forehead, ‘This is my serious face, and this - my pretend-dead comrade - this is my serious boot,’

I push it down till I hear a slight popping sound, ‘Now who the fuck are you?’
    I hoist his head into my arms and make an awkward journey to his writhing body. I shove the package into its grateful chest. One last task to perform before I sleep.

    ‘H-hey look,’ he pleads as I stand him up manhandling his zombie-self to the exit, ‘Aronson attacked the eff-eff-eff…the effigies in Po, fucking up our bodies....our powers. We went to stop him. Snap out of it! H-h-how can you not remember?’

He holds his stump against the side of the rusty door that I’m about to push him out of, ‘We were ambushed! The baddie Nat - E-Eraser - he-he-he-he - fucking hell – he helped!’

    ‘Oh yeah,’ I say halting briefly, ‘how come a dildo like you survived?’

    ‘A-A-A-Aronson promised me that…if I could just get –

    ‘You made a deal?’ His face becomes a mould of panic, ‘With him?’

The head’s worry-lines multiply as he worries aloud, ‘Hear m-m-m-me out!’

    ‘Damn it Saul!’

    ‘He was g-g-g-going to throw me into that black liquid stuff!’

    ‘And the others? Lilith, Steve, what about Nightingale?’

    ‘Aronson had everyone else carted a-a-away. Dad mum…e-e-e-everyb-b-body.’

This is elaborate for a minion posing as Saul. Hell, this is elaborate for Saul.

So I ask him, ‘The deal was? Hey, Andy let you deal with Aronson?’

    ‘Andy was kinda fucked up in the ambush. I kept him in my pocket to recover, he doesn’t know a-a-about the deal. Get me food man? I’m really l-l-l-osing it.’

    ‘The deal Saul.’

    ‘That I give him your a-a-avatar.’

    ‘My…my what?’

    ‘Back in the day I’d follow you and Vicky, finding people. Tossers that proper loved –th-th-themselves like. C'mon man, I'm S-s-s-so hungrrrry.’

I revolve away from Saul’s body, that beanpole mass just slumping to the side of the entrance. I'll back off. I'll let him tell his story with dignity. I giveth so I might taketh away.

    ‘Tell me about my avatar, then I’ll get you your meal.’

    ‘You knew that it would be just a matter of time before the gods killed y-y-you. You needed a vessel arrogant enough to l-l-l-live through.’ My aching fingers rub against my temple as he continues to ruin my world, ‘You found a-a-a-actors, directors, painters. You settled on a writer – Steph. She’s made you famous. You’re her main ch-character in her blog story.’ Today is not the day to find out how abstract and non-existent I am.

    ‘Why can’t I remember this?’

That’s when it happens. Something blowing in from under the shutter behind me, the one that separates my hiding place from the Camden streets outside. A folded black card with bold text, instructions to those admitted to a play. I clean my glasses on a portion of my t-shirt and inspect the programme one more time.
    ‘Hey,’ says Saul, ‘seen that. It’s well g-g-good. Y-you should go check it out. See this world with your eyes wide open. Be good for you.’

And I feel compelled to keep looking at the card in my grasp, ‘Blunderbus theatre on Pratt Street? That can’t be right.'

Time to put my detective's hat on. Time to go outside.

    ‘Time to welcome the new neighbours then? Hey, find me a bite to e-e-eat? Stray dog? Cat? Gaffer-tape for the neck before - W-wait! c’mon, m-ma-mate!’

    Listening to him plead I can’t lie, I let out a laugh. Even as I realise what his hunger might drive him to do I keep with the limping, the shuffling outside and away. I'm laughing hard, deriving dark pleasure from the gory scene playing out in my headspace.

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