Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Deus Ex-Machina Chapter Two: Confusion

Deus Ex-Machina 
Chapter Two

C   O   N   F   U   S   I   O   N

 ‘Oh Son of Steph, enough stage-time with us and even you will outgrow your petty heroic nonsense.’ – Mr Lime

    I’m on the tourist infestation that is Camden High Road looking about at what so obviously can’t be inside anyone’s head. The banks, the mobile hubbub in and around the clothes shops, the real snow scrunching beneath my very real Doctor Martins – everything as it should be.

No car honk or street light is out of place. I don’t need to tell myself this – I see it. Not a Blunderbus theatre in sight. I force myself to decide that the Saul thing back there was just another minion trying to fuck me over, because that’s what they do. The whole sorry episode had the stink of the enemy all over it, right? I keep looking at the words inside the black card programme. Aside from the address everything written inside is indecipherable. All the fucking letters, they’re completely incomprehensible, icons acting more like marauding ants than signifier's of communication. And damn, I keep seeing Rooenn’s chain-wrapped face in my head.

It’s not safe for others out here, not with me, the way I am at night…so I’ve my sight daggering the pavement avoiding the many windows to souls I wanna punish. I’m walking and walking and soon I’ve gotta stop and push my specs up the bridge of my nose.

A huge long line of people are gathered outside of a building. The queue is snaking right around a block past shops far far into the Camden night. I ignore the various international tongues, all this beleaguered protestation surrounding me,

    ‘Suck my big fat one.’

Nothing like forging my route past a group of photo-snapping vacationers. Then there’re a few geeky looking types in I-hate-Spiderfingers T-shirts. I quickly reason against interrogating them and continue shoving my way through bodies - up the circular steps I go. I push against more queue-makers who give my stink and filth a wide berth anyway.

Never noticed this venue before, and it’s not a new establishment. Nope, it’s all boarded up with warning notices everywhere. Looming doors all rusted and busted and old. So naturally, this being the way my world works I have to break-in to venture inside. The crowd begins to cheer me on as they all rush ahead to join a very different line inside.

O.K, let’s see what creatures are claiming squatter’s rights.

    The foyer has a bustle of elves hunchbacks and disfigured bears. Some are clothed and some are far more primitive – standing on two feet regardless. The air is filled with growls and chirps and human ways of speaking that I can’t quite pick out.

Hmph, pulling myself back from slaughtering and raping them all is like holding a long long breath. I’m sure I can only do it for so long, and I just know that sooner or later the head honcho here is gonna wanna fight me. And he’s gonna get it, right between the legs.

I nearly join the queue behind two young female clowns but then that would be stupid wouldn’t it? Acknowledging a subservient place in this reality would place me in its thrall.

My resolve is that this game won’t beat me so easily, the notion becomes a private mantra of mine as I head to the front of the line. I make a big gesture of pointing at my chest as I jostle some elves out the front of the assembly. The turban-headed woman seated inside the booth facing me stops sowing her purple cape to acknowledge me.

Her hand travels over her nose. A not so subtle reminder of my vagrancy.

    ‘When you see my sister, tell her that I waited for her on the beach for hours. She never came back you know. Tells us half a story and she never comes back.’

I march on ignoring her gibberish as she bows her head, her fingers still pegging her nostrils. I follow her outstretched finger that permits my ascendancy upon a nearby winding stair.

    ‘Tell her she was wrong about Potter,’ hollers the purple turban girl from below, ‘Very very wrong oh yes she was, yes.’

This flight transports me upon a balcony outside the stalls. This is where I find an usher standing. I walk past him, a heavily built middle-eastern man whose muscles ripple through his suit. His name tag says Youssef and his small legs and huge torso say cartoonish. They shout out dreamland. His glare whispers the promise of future pain.

    I tense up.

    I’m readying for an attack. As I march past his bulk stooping my head through a curtained arch entrance I make a promise to myself. Should I need to, I’ll deal with Youssef from a cautious distance.
    In the seats to my left and right are hairy humanoids and a view to the stage below. We’ve a full house tonight, a performance house packed with jib-jabbering half-men and flame breathing dragon ladies.

There’re goblins and warrior women clogging up each and every aisle so I stand tall at the back. Some are jumbled up images, confused meshing’s of sub-cultural tropes, a rakish Goth in a pink body stocking here – an old aged biker woman there.

Many look like extras from the sword and sorcery genre, the excitement or more specifically anticipation of the show is a character in itself, widening the eyes of everyone – including myself.

The etiquette of this place is elusive. I’m not sure how a team of six burly men feel it’s in anyway appropriate to break out Budweiser’s in a theatre. Yet here they are. My innate Englishness recoils at their bawdiness. Glad-to-be-alive-self-congratulatory-North American accents, they fucking grate on me.

Their Handy-Andy-for-Prime-Minister T-shirts just piss me off. It appears that I have arrived just in time because the playhouses ambiance is dimming to black. The stage lights are turning up their flare. The show is about to begin.

So some guy taps me on the shoulder, from out of nowhere, how he got past my super-hearing? A total mystery. This short guy with the blonde hair is wearing a brown cardigan and Sonic Youth T-shirt and yep, he’s slight and bares more than a passing resemblance to Lance Ceaser Young, but he’s not him. More Eric Stoltz as that drug guy from Pulp Fiction.

    ‘Hey man, you’re the new guy?’ he asks me, and he’s already got my hand wrapped up in his, shaking it firm. This is to let me know that our working relationship is gonna be built on trust and warmth. Doesn't matter to him that I smell – this guy will not fear to touch me, not at all. 

Ha, if he could only look into my blood soaked mind, take a whiff of my carcass strewn nightly fancy. I feel my hands shake for there is a barely contained fantasy dying to be born. Just one whiplash, one single aggressive sweep of my violet strands, and I could blind him. My eager hungry hands could just python around his neck and…

    ‘Holy crap,’ he says darting his attention to the stage, ‘What’s with me today, it’s time already!' he shakes my hand again but this time there is something he's handed me.

I don't know what this is. Looks like the front cover of some comic book. I chuck it away instantly forgetting it's title, I only see the picture. This stooge has been sent to confuse me, just like Saul. 

    He bolts off stage bound, ‘I’m due for make-up,’ he shouts over his shoulder, ‘We’ll do this later.’

I’m playing Sherlock Holmes, juggling all the possibilities of which minion has put this event together. A voice distracts me. Its accent is English and it is loud enough to reverberate along the walls of the entire enclosure. The vocal is low, assured, near identical to my own were it not for its innate pomposity,

    ‘Ladies and gentleman put your hands together for a new son of Steph.’

The whole chattering throng of the venue turns back to look at me, erupting with mirth and hardiness, a cacophony worthy of sciences discovery of resurrection. I bite my lip and will myself not to back-step.

    ‘Take a bow,’ booms the commandment tone‘This is all for you.’

The audience celebrates as if Freddie Mercury himself has been lowered onto the empty stage via a crane. The stage curtains, these heavy crimson walls, they open to reveal emptiness. There is no resurrected lead singer of Queen, no happy-faced recipient of medical technology aping Jesus’ favourite miracle. No, there is just the thunder, hand clapping so raucous. Unrestrained. Celebration the likes of which I’ve never heard nor seen.

So I say nothing, ignoring the pang of injuries Eros handed me only hours ago. Even as all the rows of creatures examine me I remain the mute. I resist the urge to barb and claw at the nearest face.

    ‘Come, come – praise the chaos god my friends,’ says the voice much too familiar for my liking, ‘Son of Steph! Recite your lines? Pump your chest out, make yourself known.’

    ‘What, you think you’re funny?,’ I  say moving forward walking down the stairs to the terrace that overhangs the audience below, ‘Doing impressions of me makes you laugh, huh?’

The room detonates with laughter, as if I’ve made a joke, some sort of fantastical quip. All these watching creatures that I don’t recognise, they gossip amoung themselves and I hear some – most - repeat what I’ve just said between full-mouthed guffawing outbursts.

A centaur pole-vaults his spear aloft his coarse locks. A giant made entirely of shadow punches stage-ward. He wails joyously. A creature the shape of a question mark begins break-dancing in his chair.

I lean over the barrier and rest one hand on the smooth varnished wood work. I permit my meta-human strength to crunch into it, and it’s as if the whole crowd can hear and see the action.

All the chattering of the Blunderbus theatre is swallowed up in eerie desolation.

It’s good to take the weight off my legs and exude an air of ease. Mind games are how I’ll weaken the unseen speaker, the one who sounds just like me.

    ‘Care to step out of the shadows Captain Comedian? Huh, Mr Mystery Man?’

Laughter explodes like bombs all around me. I consider unleashing the Terrorsmith. Not yet. 

    ‘Man? Man? There are no men here,’ remarks the voice, ‘Are there good faithful? Only ghosts, ideas, and concepts that believe themselves gods.’

The strangers voice breaths out as if it were standing right next to me, ‘And I am who you think you are.’

    ‘Oh,’ I exclaim to the ceiling, ‘Sure…sure and just who might that be?’

    ‘Listen to this voice,’ I hear it snicker between words, ‘Take a wild guess.’

    ‘No, I don’t think so. There’s only one Spiderfingers here pal, and that’s me.'

Everyone titters. The laughter – you can taste the sycophancy. It’s as though my last statement has begun the recommencement of a private joke. Something risque.

    ‘You’re a son of Steph. My ladies and gentleman can see it. Why can’t you?’

Again, my dream-woman is name dropped. This is a clever opponent but I’m the real thing. I get to unmask grunge god pretenders. I’m the hero here.

The leap down from the balcony is tough. The landing on the stairs leading to the stage? So very very worth it. I hear whoops and hell-yeahs from the All-American-Handy-Andy Fan Club, surely because of the looping pattern of fire that trails behind me.

All the pain that rushes from up my shins and into my legs and back - it’s alive – it wants to birth itself out of my mouth. I sublimate my extreme discomfort, willing the agony through my arm as it realigns my glasses. No, no more superhero-stunt man theatrics. Time to talk tough,

    ‘You’re the lackey of some jealous death god that needs me dead, so they can return to earth – blah-blah-blah - the fighty bit please?’

    The audience claps hard, the whole theatre filling with boisterousness.

    Rooenn’s metal leash is a welcome temperature drop in my clenched fist.
    ‘Blah-blah fighty bit, mmm yes,’ challenges the voice from the space between my head and ear, ‘A good synopsis of your day to day. Tell me, share with us, what’s your first memory? A tad sketchy eh?’

    ‘The amnesia card…’ I say this casually taking a seat on a step, ‘Nice...your Saul-alike tried that already.’

    ‘No sir, no amnesia card, or for that matter any other. I am the spider and you are the fly.’

    ‘Oooh, creepy metaphors now? I’m gone.’ I say this getting up and walking up the steps creaking away from the stage, ‘When you wanna skip to the chapter where I kill you, come find me.’

    ‘Sorry,’ says the mystery man, ‘but in this production Dorothy remains in Oz.’

    ‘Mixing metaphors much? Tell you what,’ I say turning back around facing the stage, ‘I wanna word with Steph. Fix that up and maybe I’ll stay.’

The audience erupts with crackling mirth. Some of them shout obscenities.

    ‘No can do. Stephanie Penny Tent and Alice are captives in the Necrosphere. No scenes with her, not during this shows run.’

    ‘So? What do I care?’ the audience is in a fit now.

    ‘Listen to him lie to himself,’ he replies from somewhere beneath my feet‘As we all know, night-time shadow-self or not, rescuing damsels is locked into his first draft. He merely has to remember to look at his t-shirt.’

    ‘You’ve got my voice spot on,’ I shout out squinting through the dark, ‘But if you were the real Spiderfingers you’d be figuring out a way to save them, not playing mind games with me.’

The audience becomes hysterical now, a tumultuous roar that rolls without end.

    ‘Stop laughing at me!’ I shout as I notice the hand and foot prints of black fires light up on my left side, ‘Don’t you know who you’re fucking with?’

Then his voice is above me again, some place in the rafters, hidden, ‘yes of course we do! You are the..?’

The whole theatre’s creatures take up the invitation to pantomime, ‘The son of Steph,’ they all cheer, ‘The son of Steph!’

    ‘What are you -

    ‘Meddling with Steph’s unconscious required…space. Spiderfingers lent her his diary as a tool to carve out all her mother’s love.’

I’m speechless, running toward the stage with the streaking grey that is the Terrorsmith at my left. His needy glacial stare seeking mine.

    ‘She couldn’t help it. She scooped a cavity inside her heart, a crevice to pour his worth into. You are their lovechild. You are their continuation. The creation of egoists.’

I’m charging like a blinded wild bull. I just need to run someone through as I shout,‘Your thinking is nuts, your playhouse is nuts. The programme warning people not to look inside it for fear of rejection is utter nonsense. You’re not the kind of villain I have to work out.’

Laughter from all over the Blunderbus Theatre makes me jump a little. Fear on a god is not a good look. I can't help but hear a triumph in his reply, ‘How many enemies have you called insane simply because you didn’t understand them?' he says, 'How many misunderstood loners fill your rogues gallery?’

    ‘Where are you huh?’ I scream, ‘I’ll show you some understanding.’ I shout this climbing up onto the performance boards. I search behind the curtains. I look up into the blaze of the lighting rig. I don’t catch a body that belongs to the voice. I just get more chiding,

    ‘If you’re the confusion king - Zeus' rebel boy-god - then tell me,' says the voice from somewhere in the audience, 'Tell us all – exactly where is the Necrosphere?'

I freeze. I know I’ve been there, but I just can’t see the way. Necrosphere, a title for a place I’m supposed to have been...

    ‘Try to think outside of your recent adventure.' he says laughing, 'You can’t.'

Necrosphere. Only the phonetics ring through my head now. No images at all.

    'Your life is confined to this story. One event surrounded by the scribble-work of vain survivalist’s. You see my point? You're no more the chaos god than I am?’

Necrosphere. No events no people no anything and I have to shut it up, my voice knifing out of nowhere, a menace drilling through my leaden confidence...

    ‘Fuck the mind games!' I shout,

    'What does your real voice sound like? Where are you?!' 

    ‘Where I’m from is far more interesting than where I am.'

I'm bathing every nook and cranny of the Blunderbus theatre in my most extreme X-rays. Nothing. The monster's speech continues its evasion of my desperate searching. Under seats, in the backstage dressing rooms...I hunt around the wings where patient production staff smile and giggle. I'm sure one of them mouths the word Necrosphere as I rush back through the curtains. Back under the lights I go. Barely a spark singes along my cheek as my self-faith begins to blow itself out,

    ‘Now,' announces my invisible host, 'how about a little peek, view one of my short works of progress?’

The backdrop has a sheet of olive green fall down upon it. Emblazoned across the fabric is a title, The Evolution of Aronson the Terrible. There is a list of production staff and characters, all of them accredited to a Mr Lime.
    The performance is flanked by my invisible enemy’s whistling. The melody is unknown to me yet its peaks and troughs are catchy and somewhat memorable.

    Spewing out of wings left and right is the flowing fabric of blackest black, floating materials that ripple across the floorboards. From offstage, black clad handlers create a wondrous mimicry of dark aquatics. Splicing through the ‘waves’ are the long nailed pointers of an elderly man, he’s entered from underneath the stage via the obligatory trap door. The illusion that he has emerged out of a black river is however quite marvellous. I remind myself to keep an eye on all the exits and the audience. I won’t forget that this isn’t a performance area. This is a hastily constructed slaughterhouse. I notice the cages being lowered from above me and I gasp.

    ‘What’s this now?’ asks one of the girls, her hair long and black, her coat green and wrapped about her tightly. Steph. She has grey eyes filled with sadness.

    ‘It’s him,’ answers the other girl. She’s blonde. She’s definitely the Alice girl from my dream, ‘Aronson’s come to gloat.’

    The old guy, he’s dressed in grey tunics and in his hand a sceptre is grasped. I walk among cascading dark textiles not daring to touch or interact with the shadowy backstage operators wielding them. I don’t know the rules of this place that seems so separate from the Camden I know. That place outside the exit doors may as well be my far distant homeland to this alien of landscapes. I’ve got my attention transfixed on these cages as the off-stage help flick and whip their ‘river’ faster. To the lilt of a dark whistle-tune the action expands, Aronson’s head lifting slowly out of the black cloth masquerading as dusky waters. I’m certain of just the one thing – it’s gonna be a long night.

    ‘How far will one go to transgress against their baser instincts? What steps are they prepared to climb? Tonight I get to win. Tonight, villainy rules.’

    And Aronson takes the blade to his tongue. He cuts. The noises that erupt out of him sound like mutated laughter. Alice nods as I see her mouth the word,


    The whistling stops. The crowd goes wild.
    I storm the stage hunting the actor with the Aronson costume on. Throwing him to the ground I begin my interrogation, ‘Talk!’ I say as Rooenn scratches him on the face. The resultant blood-letting elicits concerned murmuring from those who've been invited to watch us. The actor keeps his trap shut. I yell into his face as he just points to his mouth shaking his head,

    ‘Script got your tongue?’ I didn’t say act dildo, I said…’ and I pull a thread of my fire hair and wrap it round my knuckle, ‘Talk!’

    ‘I don’t know what you want to know.’ he lies blinking tears away.

I let him have it in the eye. The squeal he elicits causes the crowd behind me to scream in excitement.

    ‘I’m just an actor,’ he cries facing away in anguish.

    ‘Do you know what I do to actors?’ I spit back.

    ‘I only do what’s in the script!’

    ‘So who’s the genius that writes it, talky?’

    ‘Mr Lime! Mr Lime!’

    ‘Ah yes, Lime!’ I say this looking about the stage area, the rafters above us‘Hear that? Now I know your fucking name you cowardly bastard.’

    Silence from my enemy’s unseen mouth. Disturbed whispering from his voyeurs.

    ‘How about we get to see your face, Mr Lime? Come on out, tell us all about yourself.’

    From just over my shoulder Lime hisses, ‘An idea like you is nothing without an idea like me.’

    The theatre somehow picks up on Lime’s retort. Severe loud hand-clapping makes me jump a little as I bellow, ‘Who are you?’

    Titters from the audience...

    Lime continues, ‘What is the dancer without his partner?’  That’s when I feel them. All of them. I can just sense all the audience lurch forward. Them, shooting accusatory stares. I can’t see them because of the glare of the lights up here, but I feel them.

    I let the guy with the Aronson costume wriggle away from me. He's just a stooge. I'm done with him. I squint to confirm some of the front rows are doing what I’m sure everyone else is doing. They’re all pointing in unison, pointing at me. These creatures are not individuals. Each member of the audience is a fang, an extension of the voice that prefers to remain hidden. I start committing the seating arrangements of the more ferocious-looking fangs to memory.

    ‘We were created to be loved,' he says, 'loved, for our vicious choreography. You fight for the sake of the dance. Your part has been hastily sketched. Hmph. You're a poor excuse for an understudy.’

    Lime is so good with words. He sounds just like Boleraam did, before Prometheus…before the war of freedom. A war that has defined my lifestyle. A war I can’t recollect, not at all. My life is a story and I'm only just now able to question its boundaries.

Whoever I'm based on is dead and I'm...I'm...losing it.

No, don't go into shock. Say something observational to catch him off guard:

    ‘Steph, right? Since the real Spiderfingers died, she's what keeps the hex whole, yeah, Lime face?’

    ‘Finally,' he drawls, 'we’re all on the same page.’

    ‘You’d let her die? Why would you - '

    ‘If you weren’t so flat you’d know the pleasure in watching something you’ve created reach its full potential.’

    ‘What are you? Did Aronson conjure you to help him?’

    ‘As my friend Elemeno knows,’ a spot light falls upon a three foot question mark with cartoon gloved hands and heavily inked cartoon shoes, ‘I have aspirations that demand a partner,’ the question mark begins to dance the rumba, ‘Your questions are off-mark but however, I find them intriguing, much more so than your predecessors. And isn’t Elemeno a star?’

    The kind of applause that greets a well won tennis point begins to fill the great volume of the Blunderbus Theatre. And of course the surreal existence of the question mark that is Elemeno, it dances on.

    ‘Predecessors? What predec - '

    ‘You only hope to shine as bright. You're quite dim. I can see it: You recollect Aronson in the same way a playwright half recalls the look of their weakest character. You're not only a bastard child, you're a terrible father.’


    ‘Little more than a waste product, residue from an epilogue half-finished.’

    ‘Show yourself.’

    ‘…And we’ve all been watching you...’

    From the far rear of the auditorium I hear a door clank open and close. Above me, from way back there, I hear it, the unsettling groan of something big lumbering down the stairs in my direction.

I will myself not to do or say anything reactionary.

Idols like me don’t fear Youssef. Idols like me take their steamed eye-wear off to clear them against their trench-coat lapel. They place them back on and consider the hulk that is Youssef to be nothing. I'm everything a well-written god ought to be and this Youssef, he's just an idea of a strong man. I must believe that he is surmountable.

    ‘Fucking gods! You’re all so selfish,’ I say gritting my teeth through the painful cracking of my knuckles. ‘You only care about your own survival.’

    The ensuing hard laughter of the audience buries Youssef’s creaking steps, but only for a small-moment.

    ‘Oh Son of Steph, enough stage-time with us and even you will outgrow your petty heroic nonsense.’

    ‘I sincerely hope not,’ creak, ‘Fuck the mind games, face me. Fight me.’

    The ongoing croak and groan of Elizabethan wood…

    ‘Even if you win, you cannot venture into the real. You cannot exist there.’

    The sound of wood taking on heavy leaden steps...

    ‘Oh yes he can.’ says an old voice from above and to the left.

    My attention swivels to the box seats just up and away from me. There is a guy with red skin in a gangster’s suit. He’s got a blue man’s head under one of his four arms. Next to him is a big yellow baby-thing, elephant huge and swathed in puss.


    ‘Ghosts, whimsy’s, archetypes...jailers,' says Mr Lime, 'one more run of the show tonight then? One more death for a son of Steph! One more death for a son of Steph!’

    A little brown monkey creature swings down from the rafters, all soaking and wet he clamours up onto the shoulders of the red man’s gangster suit. He claws out at the blue man’s head in the red man’s hand.

    ‘I can’t tell you a story yet Dave,’ says the monkey in a little boy’s voice, ‘it isn’t time. You have to wait.’

    The monkey starts waving a pamphlet. A comic book I think. Of course it does. Everything here is a riddle, even the people that I think are on my side, they let their pet monkeys wave puzzles my way. Blotchy-can-hardly-read ones. The red man, he just carries on as though there isn't a monkey round his neck. Like he isn't even there. And his Scottish tone is almost completely devoid of emotion.

    ‘We’ll be outside waiting for you,’ he intones, ‘we’ll be aboard the Matryoshka.’

    ‘And he will join you,' interjects Mr Lime’s voice, 'If – and only if he is able to survive me. Why don’t you stay here and watch the proceedings?’

    ‘We’ve seen enough of your plays, prisoner,’ says the blue head, ‘Enjoy your lime light whilst it lasts.’

    ‘Vanish!’ shouts Mr Lime. And they do.

    With the absence of my mysterious would-be benefactors I see no innocence left in this room. So, with no need for specifics and my desire to scare the shit out of them, I’m easing my specs off my face and with the same hand - I’m standing there, crushing my spare eyes into a plastic and glass mush. The audience gets the message and with crazed abandon it rushes over the seats toward the stage. Youssef? He’s standing at the foot of the steps smiling with folded arms.

    The long night just got a whole lot longer.

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