You are on page 1of 36

WELCOME TO THE GRIND: THE SHORT STORIES

This is a collection of stories that did not fit in Issue II of The Grind. They run the gamut of themes, from love, to death, and back again. I will keep this brief, as these stories will undoubtedly speak for themselves.

ALAN GILLESPIE - BARRIER ANGELA HUGHES - WEARING WELL FIONA MACLEOD - DARK WATER SCOTT MCNEE - TARRARE MARK NICHOLLS - SURVIVING FRAGMENTS FROM THE CONFUSED EPIC, “THE DIGRESSIAD” HUGH REID - LOVE AND DEVOTION CRAIG THOMSON - CALISTO RUN SWISS MORGAN - THE GREEN MERCEDES JOHN FAGAN - THE WITCH LADY NATALIE STYPA - CHOICES ROBERT SMITH - THE OBJECT’S LOSS PAUL BRUCE - PANTHERS EMI JAMES - SOFTLY, WITHOUT WARNING

Covers and Artwork by THOMAS ABERCROMBIE

BARRIERS
by ALAN GILLESPIE

The man nodded. His eyebrows tensed. He wiped one hand across his forehead and in the other hand he held the orchids. A teenage boy was standing opposite the man. The boy had been listening and laughing but they’d ignored him. Just show him your ticket, said the boy. He was smiling and wore earphones dangling round his neck. We all know you’ve got one so what’s the big deal. What’s it got to do with you, said the man. Here, said the boy to the conductor, you can see my ticket. Here’s my ticket. I’ve got mine. I don’t want to see yours just yet. I’m dealing with this gentleman first. Nice job you’re making of it. Been here five minutes. The guy’s not going to show you. Then I’ll have him removed. You’ll have him removed. The man went to put the flowers down next to his plastic bag then changed his mind. Just you keep out of it, he said to the boy. It’s got nothing to do with you. I’ve got my ticket and I shouldn’t have to show it. There’s barriers. Just show him your ticket. Mind your own business. If you don’t show me your ticket right now, said the conductor. The man turned to the window. The train was moving through a housing scheme. Children were playing in gardens on trampolines and dogs were chasing balls and men were cutting grass and women were hanging clothes out to dry in the sun. Right, said the conductor. He walked up the aisle. The boy stepped towards the man. Why didn’t you just show him your ticket? I shouldn’t have to. I know but who cares. Just show him it, he looks, moves on. There’s barriers. I know. But who cares. The man shuffled the plastic bag between his feet. There were grey smudges on his black trousers and jacket from where he’d wiped away cigarette ash. He looked down his white shirt and straightened the black tie so it wasn’t squint. Where you going to, said the boy. I don’t want to talk. The conductor came back down the aisle. His face was red and serious. Lots of passengers were watching. They’d heard what was happening. A woman with white curled hair sitting near the door put her hand out to stop the conductor. He looked down at her. Don’t throw the laddie off the train, she said. It’s a hell of a day. This heat. Don’t throw him off. He’s got his ticket. Hell of a day. The conductor walked past her and up to the man holding the orchids. There will be someone from the transport police waiting for you at the next station, he said. You will be asked to leave the train. Okay, the man said. It was a hell of a day. He took the ticket out his pocket and looked at it. Tilted it towards the conductor. I think it’s too late for that now. Okay. Hell of a day. The man picked up his plastic supermarket bag and stood facing the doors. He waited for the train to stop at the next station and lowered his nostrils to the flowers.

The afternoon train moved away from the station and crossed the bridge. A passenger stood next to the doors, rocking from foot to foot. There was a plastic supermarket bag at his feet and he held a bunch of orchids from a florists. There were seats available but he didn’t take any of them. It would’ve meant sitting next to someone else. The conductor moved up the aisle. Tickets please, he said. When people handed their tickets over he scribbled on them with a marker pen but didn’t say anything. Tickets please, he said to the next row. The sky outside was blue and the sun was fierce so it was hot inside the train. The man holding the flowers fidgeted and loosened his tie. Tickets please, said the conductor. The man patted his pocket then stopped. There’s barriers in the station, he said. Uh huh, said the conductor. Can I see your ticket? But there’s barriers in the station. So? So the train’s just left the station and there’s barriers there. So you don’t need to see my ticket. I couldn’t have got through the barriers without one. I need to check everyone’s tickets. Do you have one? Of course I’ve got one. I couldn’t have got through the barriers without one. Let me see it then. The man opened his mouth and shook his head and closed his mouth. He shifted the plastic supermarket bag between his feet. What’s the point? You know I’ve got one. The conductor’s voice switched. Sir, if you don’t show me your ticket I’ll have you removed at the next stop. What’ll you have me removed for? Not showing you my ticket when you already know I’ve got one. I don’t know that until I’ve seen it. But there’s barriers at the station. The train moved through an industrial estate that had a furniture shop and a gardening centre. All the walls facing the railwayline were speckled with graffiti. The conductor took a step back from the man and looked at other passengers. The man loosened his tie. The orchids were drooping in the heat. I just need to see your ticket. I need to see everyone’s ticket. Why are the barriers there then, said the man. His face was pink. They just are. To stop people dodging tickets? To stop people dodging tickets. I couldn’t get on the train without a ticket. But I need to see it. I need to see everyone’s ticket. And if you don’t you’ll put me off the train. I’ll put you off the train.

WEARING WELL
by ANGELA HUGHES

Our paths may have crossed, yours and mine. It’s possible. You could have passed me on the way for your morning paper; the girl skipping down the street with her mum, dressed in a coat the colour of a daffodil, singing under her breath. Remember? On the day I travelled home from university for the last time, when they mixed up all the reservations on the crowded train, perhaps I offered my seat to you, or you yours to me. Were you the lady who handed me a freshly ironed cotton hanky when I began to cry in the queue at the supermarket? Maybe you were the man with the kind words and scar above his lip who delivered pizza to my flat in Edinburgh the day after my friend’s funeral. Sound familiar? Whoever you are, our paths may have crossed yours and mine. The devil, as they say, is in the detail: allow me to nudge your memory. Feet The nail on the third toe of my left foot grows faster than the others. I noticed right after I removed the blood-blister-purple nail varnish I’d applied for my sister’s wedding; a colour that made my toes look like I’d danced bare-foot amongst a crowd of revellers in steel-toe-capped boots. Not the look I’d been hoping for but then my fascinator hadn’t really lived up to its name either. The point is, I had carefully cut my toenails just before painting them and now in their denuded state, it was obvious one was longer. I kept a watchful eye on it over the summer and there was no doubting it, the nail on the third toe of my left foot grows faster than the rest. I have long toes that aspire to be elegant but fall short of their ambition; confused in their arrangement, the second is longer than the big one and the littlest so insignificant it renders itself almost invisible, even in the most revealing of footwear. Hide the toes though, and my feet hit their stride. Slender with a high instep, they’ve been envied in stilettos and admired during ballet classes. At nine months they supported my first steps: I never crawled. My mum says I just got bored, stood up and walked across the room without so much as a wobble or a backward glance. But my feet weren’t as interesting as Lorna’s. When I moved to Edinburgh we shared a flat. It was early February so feet, for the first few months of our friendship, were kept under wraps. It wasn’t until the sun returned and we shed our socks like reptilian skin, that I took note of my flatmate’s feet. Lorna wandered into the living room with her pale legs sticking out of the bottom of a purple goonie, sat down and put her feet up on the coffee table. They were sleek; elegant. Lorna was all limbs and lip-gloss. A streak of whitewash as my grandma would say. ‘Hey, you’ve got amazing feet. Elegant.’ Lorna blushed but looked pleased. A couple of years later, after we’d gone our separate ways, we met for a coffee that turned into lunch that tumbled into a drunken afternoon in our favourite wine bar. Lorna revealed that her feet were her least favourite body part. She hated them. Turns out she had good reason. A gangly frame and large feet were indicative of a syndrome with a name just weird enough for me to never forget it – Marfan’s. Lorna was dead at 39. The memorial service for Lorna smelt of mildew and cheap perfume and felt as if the radio signal had cut out in the middle of playing my favourite song. I wore sandals and bright red nail polish and toasted my friend with whisky that burnt all the way down. Later, at the end of the wake, I sat on the sofa next to one of Lorna’s cousins, kicked off my sandals, curled my legs up under me, and cried onto his shirt collar. Legs My legs often draw attention, my ankles in particular. Shapely. I have my grandma and mum to thank or so I’ve

been told. I met Joe during my short skirts and high-heels phase. His friends all thought I was sexy so he had to have me; to prove he could. On my part I realised too late that charm, unlike money, is something addicts tend to stockpile. At 17 I was young when we got together; he was nearing 30. I wasn’t quite half his age but he was close to being less than half my intelligence. He delivered books to libraries across the Highlands, brushing up against knowledge without ever making its acquaintance. I don’t know why I said yes. He asked, I answered: we married and moved into a one-bedroomed flat on the road beside the prison. The shower was in a cubicle shoved into the corner of the bedroom, where damp speckled the walls and ceiling with black mould. There was a separate bathroom built on to the back of the flat with a bath so small it struggled to contain even my diminutive frame. I spent lukewarm hours hugging my knees to my chest, listening for his footsteps, eyes on the lock-free door. Not until I was sure he’d left for the pub or the bookies or the snooker club, would I finally get out. It took three years to free myself and my hand shook the day I faced Joe to sign the divorce papers. I returned his name with relief and walked away, legs shaking. Birthmark The birthmark fans out over the top of my left thigh. It’s often taken for a bruise and tends to be more noticeable at times of heightened excitement. For too long it was camouflaged; part of a canvas of bruises and burns, hidden beneath skirts no longer worn above my knee. My first major decision as a young divorcee was to take a sabbatical from my life to study at university. I retreated into my books and baggy clothes; my much-admired ankles tucked into sturdy, lace-up boots. After graduation I left Scotland to teach English in Spain. A two year hiatus in the sun: I unfurled under the huge Mediterranean sky and blossomed amidst the admiring glances. People noticed me. Men noticed me. Greg noticed me. ‘You’re the only woman I’ve met whose pussy is as tight as her ass,’ he said. Greg would know. He got a kick from bending me over the edge of my balcony, lifting my skirt and entering me from behind, whilst people drank coffee and smoked in the plaza below. I stopped wearing panties and watched the people cross the square on their way to and from work or the market or the beach. He fucked me and went home to his Catholic girlfriend. I didn’t love him. He was a musician who’d enjoyed some minor success back in the States, or at least in the state he called home. A German film company videoed him playing one night in the bar below my apartment. He rubbed his nose and sniffed between each song, his foot tapped long after the music stopped. The producer was bleach-blonde and leggy: she wore platform shoes and a PVC mini-skirt. Greg wanted the producer, the producer wanted me, I wanted to see what it was like. The experience was brief; it tasted of vodka and oranges and turned my birthmark deep crimson. Afterwards the producer turned over on to her stomach to sleep. The contour of the creased white sheet followed the curve of her bottom. Arse What defines a fine arse? Mine is small, rounded, and insinuates rather than outright demands. Even now, in my fifth decade, the skin is age-mottled but still smooth. Over the years it’s had its fair share of attention – not all of it welcome. The first time it happened I wasn’t sure if I’d imagined it. He was older with greying hair and a large mole on the back of his neck; he stood back to let me into the classroom ahead of him. I thought it was good manners, a little old-fashioned perhaps but then he was of a different generation. Another culture. He was a film director enjoying the artistic liberties of a newly independent Baltic State. His presence in the classroom caused an outbreak of giggling and strutting amongst several of the Russian students, and feigned disinterest from the Estonians. I had never heard of him before he joined my class; lots of other people had. I wasn’t even sure if it was his hand I felt, it could’ve been the edge of his jacket or the corner of his bag. Did I imagine it? I really wasn’t sure. But I was sure the next time, and the time after that. ‘Sergei, he wants the private lessons with you. One-on-one.’ Lembe, the school’s director, looked at me, back straight. ‘He is very important man. You understand.’ It wasn’t a question. There was no wriggle room. I understood. I understood perfectly. The last of my wages was spent on a journey around the Baltic States and into Poland. On the bus from Gdansk to Torun, I sat next to a woman wearing a black headscarf and a brown knitted cardigan. A faint whiff of boiled cabbage and freshly turned soil occupied the space between us. In Torun I wandered through the town square. When I walked, the base of my rucksack bumped my arse. Two straps across the front of my body helped carry the bag’s load; the lower one dug into the top of my belly. Later,

in the room in the hostel, my fingers traced the large red welts around my waist, rubbing and kneading the aggravated skin. Tummy My hands rest on my tummy. I’m lying prone on the floor, basking in sunlight, the patio doors open onto the lawn. In an upright position I would be able to see across the loch to an eruption of mountains on the far shore. As it is, my focus is more myopic: yogic breathing, follow the breath deep into the pit of the stomach, hold and release. Under my fingers, the skin is taught. My mid-riff defies time with an elasticity commensurate with my status. Childless. First through indifference, then choice, then dictate: thou shalt not bear children. I left it too long to decide. Too long. And then the decision slipped through my fingers and disappeared. No! It was more brutal than that. The decision was wrenched from my hands, each finger bent back until I let go and my unrealised child crashed to the floor with a skull-splitting thud. ‘Look on the bright side,’ my best friend said. ‘No stretch marks or sleepless nights, and the body of a twenty year old.’ Six months later my friend was pregnant. I smiled through gritted teeth at the news. To her fortieth birthday party I wore hipster jeans and a fitted t-shirt that revealed my pierced belly button. I drank champagne, ate seafood and blue cheese, and wallowed in gluttonous envy. Back home I threw up in my white-tiled bathroom. My stomach remained flat and empty and my back ached from crouching. Back It’s in the small of my back, just at the part where the spine curves itself around the top of my bottom. Aah, yes, right there. His lips brush it, followed by several flicks with the tip of his tongue. The sensation eases out and down into my thighs. Only he knows how to touch me there. Only he has ever known. I prefer it this way, face-down on my stomach. This way I don’t have to wince when his gaze flits across my scar. This way my imperfections disappear. This way he doesn’t have to be reminded. Breasts I wake in a cold sweat. The sheets are tangled around me, papier-mâché-cold and sticky. Fear restrains my arms and hands. A week since I saw him. Seven days since he pressed his fingers against the outer edge of my left breast. Six nights filled with hands grabbing at my chest, gouging out the flesh to leave a dark, bloody hole. Six nights of terror. ‘It’s probably a cyst but we’ll arrange for a scan and biopsy just to be on the safe side,’ he said. ‘Try not to worry.’ On the way out of the surgery Sean had squeezed my hand. I turned to look at him. His smile lacked conviction. ‘I’m sure it’ll be ok,’ he said. ‘You heard the doctor, it’s probably just a cyst. Try not to worry.’ He squeezed my hand again. I felt bruised and vulnerable. At home I called my mum. ‘I think it came back,’ I began. My mum listened. I clamped my hand around the receiver and held on tight. ‘You don’t know that yet love,’ she said. ‘Try to concentrate on the facts; what the doctor said. Doctors usually know these things. I know it’s hard but try not to worry.’ The hospital appointment is in three days. Two more nights. Only two. My fists are permanently clenched. I try. Not. To worry. Hands The veins stand out on the back of my hands. The skin is drier now, less buoyant. You can tell a lot by a person’s hands; mine are small but with long fingers. I was told I had the type of hands that could play the piano or the guitar or the clarinet. Turned out my ears were not so musically inclined. Instead I wrote: on whiteboards; for magazines and school newspapers; on banners. I wrote to know that I existed. I wrote to remember. I wrote because I had to. I wrote because I could. My hands are often covered in ink marks and my nails are chipped and uneven. I admire hands that are well looked after, the kind that says a person cares enough to be concerned with details. I’m a bigger picture person but I appreciate the fastidiousness of attention to detail. Mr Perry had beautiful hands; manicured nails and soft skin. Attention to detail. He wore tailored grey suits and a polka-dot dickey bow and taught Modern Studies. I learnt about striking miners and foreign wars. About suffering and slavery and injustice. He taught me to care. He taught me I could make a difference. I didn’t tell him that my dad was a Yorkshire miner nor did I mention that the strike was the reason we had moved to Scot-

land, back to where my mum was from. Back to family. During the class about the apartheid system, some of the boys at the back of the class sniggered. ‘Perry the pansy.’ Half-whispered; not too loud but loud enough. Mr Perry paused. He studied the nails on both hands before removing his jacket with precision. Attention to detail. He hung the jacket on the back of his chair and rolled up first one and then the other sleeve of his pink-striped shirt. Fastidious. The class held its breath. My hands were at rest, one on each thigh. Mr Perry opened the drawer in his desk and pulled out the tawse. One-by-one he called the names of three boys. ‘Front of the class,’ he said. ‘Now.’ Mr Perry didn’t raise his voice, he didn’t have to. He lined the boys up and made them hold their arms out straight in front, palms turned upwards. They each received just one of the belt but one of the belt was enough. No-one sniggered at Mr Perry again. I bowed my head when the boys returned to their seats so as not to catch their eyes. My palms tingled throughout the remainder of the lesson. Face Under interrogation my face would shop my in a second. I have the opposite of a poker face; and I have dimples. But it’s the eyes that give me away. Never trust the eyes. There are other clues. If I am nervous my lip quivers and the outer edge of my right eye twitches. A dot of colour rises on each cheekbone when I’m excited. Embarrassment seems to irritate my nostrils, forcing me to contort my face in an attempt to stretch out the skin beneath my nose. Both eyelids flutter when I’m angry. It would be impossible to see the heat that radiates from my ear lobes just before I speak in public and unless privy to insider knowledge, who would know that the skin at my hairline, right above the forehead, tightens and tingles when I’m afraid? Less surprising are the signs of aging that chart the progress of my life. Soft down that begins at my temples and tracks along the outside of my face. My eyebrows are finer and my fair hair has defied years of coaxing, teasing and outright bullying, to remain resolutely without style. But I’ve worn well. Good genes. I have both sides of my family to thank for that. * These days my hair is beginning to grey around the edges and I wear purple-framed glasses. My hearing may be diminished, but I can still hear the phone ring in the hall. My eyesight may be compromised, but not so much that I miss the look of terror that temporarily rearranges the features on Sean’s face. I stand. My movements are sluggish and laboured. It takes a disproportionate amount of effort to reach the phone. I watch my left hand pick up the receiver and notice the ink ingrained around the nail on my middle finger. ‘Hello,’ I say. ‘Yes, it is.’ The outer edge of my right eye twitches. ‘Yes, yes. Ok, I understand.’ The air whooshes out of my body. ‘Ok,’ I say again. ‘Thank you.’ The line goes dead. Along my hairline, right above my forehead, my skin begins to tighten. Remember me, now.

DARK WATER
by FIONA MACLEOD

Sometimes I looked up and found I had cow eyes. Could see the farmers in the distance, knowing them to be some trouble, with sticks and hard voices at milking time. One day a salesman came, looking for my father. There was no one else on the farm. I was sitting in the straw bales in the byre. Crooning to the calves. I didn’t tell him my father was dead. I said he was out. Everybody was out. At market. His face became sharp and eager. I was wearing my brother’s old sweater, ripped, with holes made by the hay baler. In one quick movement he leaned forward, put his hand through one of the holes and pushed it up to grip hard on my right breast. I looked at him with cow eyes. For a moment neither of us moved. Then he stood back and saying in his salesman’s voice, ‘I’ll be back later,’ he left. I sat on in the byre and listened to his car driving off. Imagined his hand on the gear lever. Beside me, in the half dark of the byre, the calves muzzled against the bars of their pen. I leaned my cheek on the cool metal and gave them my fingers to suckle. Then came autumn and school. Classrooms with edges and glorious traps of dust-swirled sun in the high windows. Another freedom in words, machine-wrought on pages. Occasionally I would turn a page, eager to read on, and be momentarily confused by a fly, squashed. Almost readable. Angular, awkward shape. The reservoir builders arrived, with gleaming yellow diggers and voices sharp in the autumn air, hurrying to finish Phase 1 before the snow. National newspapers appeared in the post office. People took lodgers in the small government crofts. Illegal. But nobody would tell. For everybody benefited. After six months, we got a lodger. A surveyor. Tall and thin with a pale face and a wispy reddish beard. He ate well and stayed in his room, looking at maps. The lower valley was flooded. I watched the brackish water seeping across the land, inking up gradually over the derelict crofts and one rusting plough. People were rehoused, excited by a bureaucracy which could provide them with clean, pebble-dashed houses in return for their rotten, damp-ridden stone. In the day I avoided the reservoir. Didn’t like the rough edges of it. Great cracked rocks lay piled together. Their crumbling soft insides exposed to light. Reddish dust settled on the grass where the cows steadily, unstoppably fuelled up for winter. They crowded around the old cast iron bathtubs in the fields, lowing for more water. But at night, every night, I walked by the water, listening to it. I knelt on the pedestrian bridge and in the dimming light I watched the water making the tiniest movements up and down over the stones, uneasy, shifting, seeking complete knowledge of its new environment. In December, three sheep slipped in, over the icy edge, up on the western end. Their sodden bodies were winched out. Most of the lodgers went, but the surveyor and a management team stayed on to oversee the late spring floods. Sometimes I saw the surveyor at night, checking and rechecking the levels. March came. Nothing happened in the village. People in the new houses complained about condensation. Then a girl ran away from home. Three weeks into April another girl disappeared. Off to that city. Following the workers, no doubt. She’d been writing to one of them. A small rush of resentment against the surveyor and his remaining team went through the village. There was a little awkwardness in our house at mealtimes. As the days lengthened he began to go out more in the evenings to check his work. I began to find it difficult to avoid him. We would sometimes come across each other walking. We would smile in embarrassed recognition and then walk on. Sometimes as I crossed the farmyard he would stand in the scullery door and watch me. Then once I skipped school and came home by an early bus. Summer was coming and the air was light. I felt gladdened as I walked down the track to my home.

I make a slow motion leap off the narrow ledge of the pumping station and swim down into the reservoir with hard, sweeping strokes, feeling the pleasure of my strength, breathing great lungfuls of water as I go. I seek some comfort from the others and, there they are, swaying together by a croft end. I want to laugh. They look like huddling village women, faces blank, waiting for a procession. Only their long hair floating out in the water looking strange. I join them. I stand and wait for the vast movements of the water to accommodate my mass. We drift in and out of consciousness, our faces held up to the light above, our mouths open. Pictures form. Flashing, bright images. My brother trying to put the collar on the dog. Irritating to watch your little brother’s fingers fumbling as yours recently did. Mrs Ogg at the Rayburn telling me and Lesley Ogg never to marry a man smaller than ourselves as it would look ridiculous at the wedding. Me tucking my long legs quietly under Mrs Ogg’s kitchen table. Alan Cooper, a leg amputated after a motor bike accident, climbing slowly on to the bus at Wilkieston. Not speaking to me. Never speaking to anyone from school again. Over to the left the pumping tower rises up through the water. We turn our heads as inside it the great pump engine starts up. A low deep rumble of water, powerful, distant. No wild rushing. Measured. Minute calculations, made miles away. Family christmasses. Easter sacrifice. Of course we got rid of our father. We had a lot of sympathy locally. Five children left. A tragedy. But it was orchestrated. We had worked together. In fairness I didn’t really know we were doing it. But my mother did. Shutting him out, wearing him down. Every meal time their battle for power was waged around our heads. Sometimes we were given bit parts. Perhaps neither of them knew how high the stakes really were. Perhaps it could have gone either way. The night after his death, my mother dreamt that the devil came up the farm road in the back of a car. ‘He came to get Pop. The devil. I saw his goat eyes,’ she whispered. We were standing in the back kitchen, where nobody else could hear. We always shared our dreams. I told her that I had dreamed of a huge, calm emptiness. I thought it might be God. I thought it was a gift, for us all. She gripped my arm. ‘Why should you dream of God while I dream of the devil?’ she spat. Her face was drawn tight with jealousy and fear. But that body in the coffin, sharing the house with us, was too shocking for me to be shocked by her. Then came the hot summer. Without our father’s looming control, our family grew expansive. Dreamed and developed. Butter stained pamphlets from the post office lay around the kitchen. Dreams of rain-black tarmac. Lights. The city. I walked out on the low fields every day. Leaned against resting cows. I read books with the hot dry backbone of a cow pressed comfortably up against the frailness of my own body. I shared the sounds of their double stomachs. Sounding like the halls of great houses, echoing with the footsteps of their owners.

The surveyor appeared, coming out from the woods by the side of the track, ahead of me. I hesitated and then walked on. He was holding a map and waited for me as I walked up. He needed information. Under the water there should be a rise, a hillock, only drowned. It was there on their map but not when they sounded the depths from their boat. It could affect the flow. I knew about it. It had been flattened down so that the men could use their tractors on that field. Where would it be in relation to the eastern bank? I would show him. It was only ten minutes walk. He thanked me and we moved forward. As we walked I became aware that he was looking at me. He was holding the map and walking but all the time his face was turned to mine. Out of the edge of my eye I could see the white blur of his face merging into the red of his beard as he looked constantly at me. How did he not fall or trip? I walked on and then I felt that he was moving nearer to me. I changed the angle of my walk and moved away. He continued to move closer and I continued to move away. Soon we were off the path and pushing through the rough grass which stretched around the reservoir’s edge. The ground was uneven and I had to concentrate or I would stumble. I could hear my breath coming hard in my throat. I was afraid that I would fall. But then I found I had to look at him. I lifted my gaze from the ground ahead and looked at him. He looked back steadily. I could see that his eyes were gold with sandy eyelashes and a slight pinkness around them. There was something strange about them, but I couldn’t place it. His mouth was shut. I found that, if I kept my eyes on him, I could walk without looking at the ground. We seemed to be able to glide along together, always moving more to the right, looking at each other. But now there was no insistence in him, only in my own legs, constantly moving me closer to the water. The smell of water rose up to meet me. Peaty, acrid. I ran my tongue around my dry lips. My shoes sank into the soft loam of the reservoir bank and as we both began to slip, I pulled my eyes away from his face and looked down at his feet. And I saw, in a surge of knowledge, of expectation, of surety, what I expected to see. Clearly these were the ridges of horn, the matted hair at the sides. Hooves. The cloven hooves of a cow, a goat, of a legendary creature. The stuff of myth, the stories my grandfather told me, as true as Gallipoli and the Glasgow trams. Kelpie. Water devil. My heart thudded steadily and heavily. The light summer air became cloying and difficult to breathe. I looked beyond these slithering hooves and my mud clogged shoes and saw into the water. Saw stones and pathways and dark figures moving. I looked up desperately and saw the bright red post van driving through the village, on the far side of the reservoir. Then the picture became brighter, too powerful to look at. I couldn’t look any more. I didn’t want to look. He took my hand, pushed me, I stumbled and the water closed over my head. As I sank I felt the hair gently lifting from my scalp. In panic, I sucked in the first cold draught of water and it slowly, sweetly filled my lungs. My heart slowed. Two hands reached out and tugged me further down. I half closed my eyes. Through my dreams I hear the sound of the pumping station and by the croft end our three bodies shift with the changing direction of the water. I moan up through the water in my chest, the water in my throat. The others feel my cry and sway closer. Then we part and rise up through the dark water to lie on the edge. To watch and wait.

TARRARE
by SCOTT MCNEE

Catherine the Great, I am, I am. There might be another claimant to that title, but let’s face it – she wasn’t anyone special. A product of her time and station. Whereas I, if you’ll believe it, am a wonderful aberration. I have no pretence of aristocracy, although I am disgustingly middle-class, and I cannot claim rule over anything larger than my bathroom. But my time and station will be a product of me. I arrive at the McDonagh house at three in the morning. Under both a wool hat and the intense humidity of the summer air, my hair frizzes and itches rebelliously. I resist the violent urge to scratch it and head down the driveway. They left an emergency key under the mat at the side door, so it seemed rude to forcibly break in. The windows are all too high up anyway, and the cellar – -the cellar, don’t go in- is impenetrable. I enter the house, close the door behind me and relish the dark. The rush is as brilliant as ever. I lean back against the door, breathing heavily, heart tearing against my chest. Fucking brilliant. I nearly slide to the floor as my legs threaten to give out on me. It’s like entering a club – the slow approach, heightened by the muffled thump of the music, feeling the vibrations travel through your body, catalysing the buzz you already have from the alcohol. The shaky nerves the first time you have sex mixed with the orgasm itself. “Fuck,” I whisper to myself. I dab at the speed in my pocket and rub it on the gums. The entrance was only the starting whistle. I don’t steal often, and nothing in the house is catching my eye, so I keep moving. The house is wooden-floored almost everywhere I prowl; sleek, modern and clean. In the hall, the orange burn of a lamppost outside stretches across the floor until it is swallowed by the dark stairwell leading to the bedrooms. It’s like an arrow, a pointer, the world conspiring to show Catherine the Great her way. I oblige my inanimate subjects and skip up the stairs. The soft cream carpet bounces underfoot, even as the stairs themselves groan in protest. At the summit, I bow to no one in particular and press an ear up against the door. It sounds like Mrs McDonagh is stirring. “John,” I hear the murmur. “I think I heard something.” My cue has arrived. I raise my hand and drum my fingers on the bedroom door. In the panicked silence that follows, I am perfectly still, my excited shaking halted at the precipice, tilting over the edge. My hand remains on the door, my face fixed in a grin, the speed coursing through me, the adrenaline building in the space between tracks. Then it all bursts into a flurry of club music – a pounding symphony of action as the panic gives way to rage and Mr McDonagh comes roaring from his bed, thundering towards the door I hide behind. I laugh and fling myself backwards before the door blows open, and catch a brief glimpse of the furious man of the house bearing down on me. All my built up excitement and energy surges and I dart back down the stairs, a deep frantic drumming behind me. He’s faster than I’d expected, but he’s big, so at the bottom of the stairs I easily slide round the corner, still laughing. He slips on the wood, just regaining his balance – I look back and see him seething in the orange light of the hallway. He doesn’t stay that way long, and lunges at me, snarling something like ‘fucking wee prick’. I reach the kitchen, fully synced with the chase – blind excitement guiding me now. I tear open the side door and launch myself into the driveway. A jolt shoots through my leg as I land, an impact that I know will hurt later, but I keep running. Time is distorted. I don’t know if he’s still behind me as I fly down the street, leaping past static cars and empty windows. My laughter is broken by heavy breathing, but I don’t stop until I’m at least a kilometre away, where I flop onto a grass verge. In the summer heat I lie there, biting my lip and still chuckling.

* I have a real interest in anomalies and eccentrics, whether they be physical (like Johnny Eck, the man without a lower body) or mental (the Monster of London). Wonderful little deviations in world history, the people born to inspire stories. I’d like to be one of them. I like to think I am one of them. One figure in particular had stuck in my head at this time. One name: Tarrare. It goes like this. In Napoleonic times lived a soldier with a monstrous appetite. Tarrare could never stop eating. I don’t mean he was greedy – I mean that this man would not stop. His mouth was freakishly wide, and his teeth were stained with blood and anything else that remained of his prey. His skin sagged from his skeletal frame, and when he was full, his stomach ballooned with visible contents, like a snake. He would eat cats and dogs alive, regurgitating fur and bone as an afterthought. He prowled the halls of his military hospital, eating anything when heads were turned; a living fairy-tale giant. Fee-fi-fo-fum. The final straw was when a two year old child disappeared. Tarrare was hounded out of his home and into the woods, never to return. In modern medicine, there has never since been a case like his. The closest equivalent is Pica disorder, where sufferers are compelled to eat things like dirt, wood or even stone. I don’t think Tarrare had a condition. Obviously, doctors these days would diagnose something. But let me be clear – Tarrare was a monster, a one-off abomination. He existed so I could tell you about him. * “Morning Catherine,” says Mum. It’s one of her little digs, and she nods towards the clock as if I’m unaware it’s two in the afternoon. “Morning.” My hair’s in my face and I must look like a ginger Cousin It. The term ‘adrenaline junkie’ is well deserved – the next day you feel like absolute shit and spend all your time immobile on the couch, watching Phineas and Ferb. “Did you have a nice night?” Again, that tone. I’m starting to suspect she thinks I’m a prostitute or something. “Yeah, alright.” I can’t be arsed with cereal, and settle with an open box of jaffa cakes. The tangy awfulness threatens to come right back up, but I figure I need something. I think my gums are bleeding. Chewing is proving a grim effort. “-school shooting in Colorado,” a newsreader drones from ancient speakers. “As bodies are identified, a nation mourns.” A nation mourns. Does it fuck. I heard that a nation really did mourn when Conan Doyle offed Sherlock Holmes. Imagine all those Victorians sobbing about the wretchedness of life while still sending kids up fucking chimneys. It’s the same now – I’ll hear more about the latest Game of Thrones than I will about this massacre. Hey, some kid just decorated the walls with his classmates – the cellar – but hang on, did you see all that sexy wizard bullshit on Monday, what was that like? “Did you hear me?” Mum snaps. Woman could get a career as lighthouse foghorn. “Huh?” “I said when you’re coming in late, use the backdoor. I don’t want to be cleaning up all the muck you leave when you come in the front.” “Sure thing boss,” I say, with absolutely fuck-all sincerity. Going round the back puts me right next to the cellar door, and believe me, a dirty floor is nothing next to that. “Have you checked your registration today?” She means my university account, which should be up and running soon. “Not yet. It’s on my list, like,” I say, and a crumbled bit of jaffa cake jumps for freedom. “I’m pretty busy today.” “For Christ’s sake, clean that up, Cathy!” she’s wailing as I head out. I know this doesn’t cast me in a favourable light, but come on – she doesn’t work, at least doing the cleaning makes her useful to someone. And I’m in full time educación. Catherine the Great has no tiempo for such nonsense. Okay, so I don’t have a real excuse for that. Adrenaline junkie come down. I need something to occupy my time until night calls. Time to see if anyone’s kicking about. * Lewis Hackett has an empty all weekend. His front door is open, although I have to step over someone lying in a puddle of sick. Lightweight’s probably only been there for twenty minutes. A curtain pole has come down at an angle in the front room, half-sunk into the carpet like an explorer’s flag. Draped in the purple of the curtain,

coughing and spluttering, sit Lewis Hackett. He’s been wearing a jacket most of the night – the trail of his puke has formed a distinct v-shape. His congregation lie all over the room in various states of inebriation. “Cathy!” he toasts, and gets a few half-hearted cheers from his guests. “Welcome to Crossmyloof! I am your…” He thinks. “Host! To this… fine establishment.” “Aye-aye,” I say. “Assuming you’re still open for business.” “We’re always open,” he says, stumbling to his feet. “But we’re out of vodka,” a girl says from the couch. “But Dazza’s gonnae be back wi weed, so there’s that.” I can feel my ears twitch at the thought. Lewis motions for me to follow, and the curtain comes with him part of the way, until the whole thing clatters down in the middle of the room. He ignores it. “Alright for you,” he grumbles. “Girls never have to pay for any of that. I don’t even get mates rates.” “If you say so,” I clap him on the back and he winces. “Point me to the cider.” “Are you fifteen or something?” “You’re out of vodka, and beer is for middle-aged baldy bastards” –Dad – “so cider it is.” “There’s more to booze than that,” says Lewis, but he obliges anyway. Lewis is pretty sound – most of the Hacketts have delusions of strength and legend, while Lewis actually remembers that they’re a bunch of bourgeois arseholes that go to the poshest Fenian school around. And fuck it – I’ll admit he looks good with that mad black hair and skinny jeans, all lean and stringy like a starving artist. “You see Barry on the way in?” Lewis asks, and winces as I crack open the can. He’s probably seen enough booze for the moment. “Barry?” It takes me a moment to realise the figure in the doorway had been Lewis’ little brother. “I think he drowned.” I jab a thumb behind me. “Small loss.” “Ah fuck.” He runs to his brother’s attention and I sit down to wait for the reliable weed delivery service. Forty minutes or it’s free. It takes about an hour, but I only manage two cans in that time. A poor effort, but I think it’s becoming clear I’m feeling shitty. The weed better improve things or some poor hopeful bastard isn’t getting burgled tonight. One of the girls from St Phaeton’s has stuck on a reality show thing, and I try to make small talk to block it out, but most everyone there’s either too engrossed or too out of it to hold a conversation. When Darren turns up, a proper cheer starts and I’m joining in. Some of these people have been here since yesterday night and you can tell they were getting desperate for anything. Although I guess that’s already clear from the reality jungle crap still blaring onscreen. Darren (or Dazza, if you’re a prick) is a right slimy weasel of a boy – but he’s got my weed, so I don’t care if he’s bloody Tarrare. It takes some weaselling of my own to get him to roll me a joint, and he presses right up against me as he ‘shows me how to do it’, but at least I get a result. His hand contemplates snaking up my side and copping a feel, but he seems to realise I’m not wasted and backs off once I’ve got it lit. The stupid bongo music from that show is cutting through my head, so I walk out and smoke on the stairs in the hallway. Discarded jackets were everywhere, but it was too busy for even the briefest money search to go unnoticed. Further up the stairs the house began to smell of sweat and sex. I wonder if Lewis had been one of the lucky few, or if he’d been stuck in the sad position of being chucked out of his own room. I sit on the landing and look down. The weed’s got the right smell and everything, but I’m feeling bugger all. It had better not be oregano again. No- wait- ah, there it is. Just got to learn how to relax and wait. It’s why speed’s always been more of my thing. All this lying around isn’t in my nature. Still, I let it droop my eyelids and I watch the blurred outlines of people going by. “That weed?” The question takes a moment to register, and I turn my head to make out the vague shape of Barry Hackett, fourteen year old and established lightweight. “Oregano,” I start giggling. “Cool,” says Hackett, plopping down beside me. I wonder what he thinks oregano is. Actually, when you think about it, it’s a weird word, oreg- “You offering?” My heads still pounding despite the effects, but I shrug and weakly stab the joint towards. “Yeah, I guess, go for it.” He has even less experience than me, and when the coughing starts, I can’t stop laughing. The sight of this little guy, all bleached blond hair in a polo shirt, struggling with the fumes while trying to maintain his cool- it’s just brilliant. He’s getting embarrassed too, peely skin consumed by a burning red that even stretches up to his ears. “It’s a shite sample,” he says, but it comes out as a squeak and I start gutting it again. Give the boy credit; it’s

taking away from my headache at least. “Just relax,” I offer, like I hadn’t had the same trouble. He finally manages a draw that isn’t completely embarrassing. I grab his shoulder supportively and then flop backwards onto the landing carpet. Looking up to the ceiling, I’m reminded of last night’s escapades and start laughing again. “I’m doing it now, shut up!” His voice hits one of puberty’s bumps and shoots right up. “It’s not you, Hackett,” I manage between flashes of Mr McDonagh decking it on his beloved modern flooring. Barry Hackett considers this, and leans back next to me. “Cause I’ve done this before. Just a bad batch, ye ken?” Ken. The universe weeps. It’s such a transparent affectation that it brings my headache back with a vengeance and stops my giggling fit in its tracks. This is the sort of shite the Hackett clan brings with it. This, and blind loyalty to Celtic Fc, and I’m not sure which is worse. “Sure,” I say, “Just stop talking.” I’m a little bit surprised when he does shut up, but I’ve returned to staring at the ceiling and I can’t be bothered saying anything else. God – this thumping won’t stop. Constant bass line, no matter what’s going on. I try to drift out of the physicality of the whole thing, but an unpleasant thought – cellar – jolts me straight back into reality. Hackett’s right next to me, shaking hand on my knee. I can feel his hard-on pressing up against my thigh, and his sharp breaths stink of puke and desperation. I wonder if he got all this into his head because I told him to stop talking. He’s looking at me, all big eyes and acne. Any fucking distraction though, so I grab a fistful of that dyed hair and kiss him roughly. He tastes vile, and I gag at the memory of him lying in his own mess, but I keep going anyway. Typically, his hands are all over the place, but as soon as I knead his cock through the jeans he jerks south, finally brushing nervous fingers over his intended destination. Sordid, yes; but I’m feeling another rush that’s blocking my headache, even with that horrible tongue in my mouth. Pretend he’s Lewis. He slips under my belt and starts rubbing unevenly, and he breaks the kiss to position himself on top of me, finally slipping in a tense finger and“Ah!” I jerk back from the sudden pain and through the haze of the weed. “Jesus! Use some nail clippers once in a while.” Fuck, just looking at him now I remember how young he is. “Sorry, sorry – I meant-” I wave my hand hurriedly. “Away and get to fuck.” “It’s my house!” He says petulantly. “Then I’ll get to fuck,” I mutter, and stumble down the stairs like McDonagh before me. I’ve started an avalanche of jackets on the stairs, all tumbling sleeves, loose change and keys bouncing down to the hall floor. Lewis is standing in the doorway, blank look. I aim to give him a friendly pat, but end up slapping him in the chest as I push past him into the street. In the open air I manage to turn my head for the briefest of moments to slur, “Great party, mate,” and then I’m out, breaking into a run, knowing Crossmyloof station can’t be that far away, and hoping fervently that I’ll be able to hide my embarrassment somewhere. My head is screaming, squirming conscience battering the walls of my skull. In the flash of a blink, I catch sight of black teeth and sagging skin, – tearing, rending, death, cellar - and suddenly I’m recoiling, cringing wildly. I’m backing into the road but it’s as deserted as the pavement. I take stock of my surroundings again and greedily suck at the air. Weed doesn’t make you hallucinate. I don’t think it does, anyway. Why can I hear someone breathing? * The Monster of Glamis is a Scottish legend, although it can be a fairly grounded one if told right. The core of it is always this: the lady of Glamis castle gave birth to a monstrously deformed child. His name was Thomas Lyon-Bowes, and they buried him that day. Officially. Unofficially, Thomas lived in a secret chamber, feral and deranged. The poor boy lived and died in secret, uneducated and unloved, howling through the stone walls and scratching at secret doors. Maybe servants heard laboured breathing through floorboards. Think Quasimodo, but with David Cameron’s upbringing. So eventually, the story goes something like ‘and he still haunts these very halls!’ but that’s bullshit. That’s the story. Here’s the interesting part. Decades later, when Thomas was long dead, hidden in secret confinement or not, some serving women be-

came interested in the legend. While cleaning they devised a plan that I honestly think was quite brilliant in its simplicity. They took all the towels, sheets and linen they were given (I guess the family must have been away) and hung them from every window of the house. They were thorough – every room they entered was marked. Then, they walked outside and looked at their work. Several windows were empty. In various different places, all over the castle. No towels, sheets, anything. All of them were above the ground floor and unreachable. Whether or not the Monster was ever real, someone had concealed large sections of the towers. And if the Monster was just a legend, then what were the rooms used for? * “For god’s sake, Mum! I’m not at home, how can I check it?” “Catherine, just come home.” Her voice is squeaky and distorted over the phone, like an old radio signal, and it’s not improving my headache. “You saw the letters, I’m in uni! Just got to wait till it starts, like. Go away.” She takes a sharp breath, one that sounds much worse over the phone, as if all the air is being sucked into some vacuum. When she talks again she’s reigned in the whining and just sounds defeated. “Catherine, please.” “Piss off, busy.” “Have you taken something? Please tell me you-” I hang up and switch my phone off. No time for this nonsense, although I’m not entirely sure what I do have time for. I had stumbled off the train after what felt like an age, but it turned out I only made it one stop to Pollokshaws West. I’ll put that down to being more stoned than I realised. Still, I’m in the fresh air and I don’t know anyone around here. Free for the time being. It’s been raining, and the fading daylight is sinking into marshy grass. The pavement is dotted by a fence of trees, like some London suburb instead of the arse-end of nowhere. I don’t know if it’s intentional, but the paving around them is uneven and cracked, making it look like the tree came bursting out from below, escaping god-knows-what. Hell is down there, most likely. I don’t need to go to St Phaeton’s to tell you that. I wouldn’t have said something like that this morning, but it’s hard to shake the idea now. I’ll be headed there. Someone’s watching, judging. I can hear them breathing. I make it past the roundabout, although I panic at the notion of turning my back to the trees. But I keep going, following the train line towards Thornliebank, but I’ve never been there before and couldn’t tell you what it looks like. It’s still technically daylight, a red sunset. I won’t be safe until I can slink around in the dark. Hands in pockets, I discover some trace of speed powdered around the lining. “Belter,” I say, and stop to scrape what I can onto my fingers. Some woman hurries past with her pram, nose in the air but eyes rolling wild. Snobby and terrified. Given she lives in Pollokshaws, that can’t be a winning combination. I shoot the middle finger at her back with my free hand. Most of the speed’s caught under my nails and I have to inhale deeply to draw it out as I rub it on my gums, but it’s not happening and“Fuck!” I shout, and the world disappears for a moment. When it comes back I can taste blood, and realise my nails have carved into my gums. The pain wasn’t nearly so bad as the flash of rage. There are people looking. I hunch my shoulders and hurry on, spitting blood against an abandoned wheelie bin, where it splatters and rolls to a cracked pavement. * Dad was a soldier. He’d never been a soldier while I was alive, but he liked to tell us that he was a soldier as often as possible. And he liked his little reminders – uniforms, giant tomes on military history, medals from various wars, the odd deactivated pistol. He kept a lot of these around the house, but we were always aware of a larger collection lurking in the cellar below. I was officially banned from the cellar. My mother was unofficially banned. I always assumed there was something valuable down there, or dangerous – or both. My thoughts always revolved around unexploded mines, grenades and the likes. Maybe Dad had gone the full hog and brought home one of those old isolated Japanese soldiers who still think it’s World War Two. I’d always been an impulsive sneak. In primary four I stole the teacher’s purse, shared the cash among friends and kept the credit cards as a trophy. But the cellar was my first break-in. It wasn’t much trouble getting the keys or the opportunity. Dad was never home until late, and Mum wasn’t anywhere to be seen. The door didn’t creak, but it opened with a rush of heat, like an intake of breath. The dank brick walls were as cold as you would expect, but when I closed myself in, the pulsing warmth remained. The light switch at the

entrance didn’t work, but as I made my way down the stairs I could make out a dim red light. I thought of a huge heart, the source of all the heat and movement. I was more than a little disappointed when I stumbled into a heater and nearly burned my leg. I supposed the pulsing had to be my own breathing. The light source turned out to be a fluorescent red lamp that had seen better days. It created the amateur effect of a photographer’s dark room, although it required direction if you wanted to actually see the photographs pinned to the cork board beside it. I walked up close and could discern nothing but blurry black and white. With the pure white borders and the hazy contents, the pictures looked like a row of huge stained teeth. I reached out for the lamp and burned my fingers on its surface. “Jesus!” I sucked at my singed digits, but it didn’t do much for my pride. At the point of contact it had felt like my heart had tried to escape out of my back. I masked my other hand with my sleeve and gently guided the lamp’s gaze towards the photographs. The burning was nothing compared to this. The first image – the centrepiece, the eye-catcher, was a nun. She had been shot in the face. A soldier stood over her corpse and pulled at her head like he was plucking a carrot from the ground. Her head was raised in his grasp, but at least half her face stayed on the floor. I didn’t register that at first. At first I thought the stringy mess was grilled cheese. Through it, her exposed jaw grinned, the madcap grin of a stand-up who knows his last joke was bound to divide the audience. Most of the pictures were of women and children, but they tend to fuse into one for me. I think it’s because I was moving back, swinging my head side-to-side, confronted by the same type of carnage at every turn. Children missing legs, women strung up by their ankles, an old man with a hammer buried in what used to be a chest… Pulsing in the heat, shaking with me, the illusion of movement, corpses rising and falling and laughing and coming towards me, for me. One of them was a girl my age. She was crawling, but she’d left her legs behind. She was screaming to me, at me, and she wouldn’t stop. Even as I backed away, falling and crashing onto the frozen concrete floor, she kept inching towards me. I don’t know how long I was down there, but as it was Dad that heard my screaming and came running, it must have been a long time. He stood at the top of the stair in silhouette, worry shifting to confusion and then anger. “If you want to snoop around,” he said, “you can stay down here.” He slammed the cellar door shut and locked it behind him. I sat at the heater and shook. I didn’t dare raise my eyes to the light, knowing what they’d illuminate. When the shock left and only the fear remained, I only had one question. Why could I hear someone breathing? * I try phoning Rana, but there’s no sign of life. I reckon she’s right at the back of an H&M, where there’s no signal. Or she’s with her boyfriend – she has to turn off her mobile to leave her dad behind. Overbearing parents, what can you do? In fact, that reminds me why I had the phone turned off in the first place. Besides, I’ll need it turned off for what I’m about to do. It’s near midnight. I don’t know this neighbourhood, and I haven’t scoped out the house in question, but fuck it. I need this. I need the distraction. The house is massive – one of those Georgian stone ones that look vaguely like tiny castles. It stands right in the middle of its land, surrounded by a circle of hanging greenery. You can tell it looks beautiful in the sun. Something that was crafted rather than built. It reminds me of a church we used to go to back in Edinburgh. The Catholic churches are never as nice as that. I feel something course through my body, and can almost hear the singing. I’ll fear not what men say, I’ll labour night and day, To be a pilgrim. There’s power in old buildings. The path to the house is all stones, which hampers any stealth approach, but the crunch of my feet as I wander through all this winding foliage is brilliant. Ivy forms a dark, grasping shadow on the walls. On all sides, giant hedges block out prying eyes. You can tell the house has its own name. There’s even a gazebo, for Christ’s sake. It might actually take me a while to scare the owners. The house is so big I could be playing drums in one room while they sleep peacefully in their roost. The crunching stops abruptly as I hop onto the stone steps with a light slapping sound. The door is made of rich wood, but most of it is made up of distorted glass, in which everything looks like a shadow. As I check under the mat for keys, I feel the adrenaline rush. No more thoughts of cellars and violence. The club is open and the first track’s coming on. Not just extended pop music remixes, real club music, the kind that’s twenty minutes long and has everyone popping something and bouncing off the walls.

And it immediately cuts off. There’s no key. I don’t always need a key, but I want in now. I need to get in as quickly as possible. I feel exposed here, even with the hedges barring the outside world. There’s a crawling sensation in my neck. Anyone could be out here. Suddenly my game doesn’t seem all that important. Not when I can hear breathing. I scramble around in the porch, hoping that maybe a key fell down somewhere, even though I know it didn’t, but then glancing behind me spurs me into action and I leap up and kick at the lock as hard as I can. There’s a loud cracking sound, but nothing happens. I look at my distorted figure in the glass and imagine a dark figure over my shoulder, and the shiver that induces is enough to wipe out the tingling impact in my leg. I kick again, and again. Again the crash, again no result. The owner must be awake by now. “Help!” I shout through the glass. “Wake up!” No one’s coming, and the next kick sends a horrible jolt into my thigh. I don’t lose any time – as soon as my leg’s back down, I’m punching at the glass, kneeing it, head-butting it, anything. I even scratch at it. It seems even stronger than the wood, but then there’s a crack and my hand is on the other side of the glass. I stop and look. It doesn’t make much sense. I can see it moving, twitching, looking like an impressionist painting behind the warped barrier. Then the pain. There’s glass all up my arm, sticking out at all angles and I start to scream. Instead of running, I push forward, still screaming, and the whole pane comes apart. I fall through, the shock of hard wooden floor and scattered shards rushing up to meet me. One arm in front of my face. There’s a crunch as my fall grinds the remnants of the pane into my body. “Fuck!” I drag myself along. Still no other sound. I grip at the floor in front of me and it comes away in my hand, black and crumbled. I blink stupidly, but the pain keeps me moving. “Help!” There’s someone behind me. I know there is. I’m almost sliding along the hall now, slick with my own blood. The house keeps getting darker the further I go in, and it doesn’t look so grand from the inside. The stairs are almost rotted away, the same black colour as the floor. Ahead of me stands a door the colour of ash, but the door handle is long gone. I think I’m bleeding out. A few more feet and I’m there at the door. I have to bite down on my lip as I get to my knees. “Help!” I scream, and thump on the door as hard as I can. With each knock I feel the glass in my hand stab deeper and deeper. I lean against the door and keep yelling. Not looking behind me. Never looking behind me. With no warning, the whole thing gives way, and the door swings open to a black pit. For bout a second, I wonder how that could possibly make sense, and then I’m falling forward, and down. There’s a clang as I hit something metal (steps?) but I fall further, my back, face, head all battered and knocked in different directions. My teeth are chattering together inside my head and the next impact strikes me right above the eyes. By the time I land on the cold stone floor at the bottom, I collapse into a heap. There’s someone breathing down here. When I finally open my eyes I see him crawling out from under the stairs. A moving heap of canvas reveals itself as impossibly loose skin, leathery and bat like. His skeletal fingers dig into the stone as an anchor, and he pulls himself out into the open. He’s completely bald, near translucent, and naked. His spine visibly curves as he moves, each vertebrae popping out through the skin like a visible seam. He takes his first gasp of air, sucking in noisily, then turns his head to face me. His eyes are black, and he has no eyebrows. In the dim light, his mouth is nothing more than a line drawn with a pencil. Then he grins. His whole face expands to the side, and huge teeth descend into view, rows of black gravestones. Again he breathes in deeply, but exhales gently, the breath that I’ve felt for most of my life. One hand slaps onto the metal staircase, and he pulls himself to his feet. I can’t move. When he straightens, his skin sags even more, pulling down to the ground. His midsection is painfully thin, and hasn’t yet distended. Which means he hasn’t eaten. Bony hands clutch at my arms, pushing the glass further in. I still can’t move, or speak, or scream. There’s a red light shining on us and I can feel his stinking breath. His smile widens again – somehow – this endless grin fronting an abyss. His putrid flesh is coming closer, black eyes staring through me. His jaw dislocates, and I think of all the cats he skinned and ate alive. When he breathes out this time it brings up the heat and stench of rancid meat, like there’s a furnace within. I gag, and wrench my head away. I gag and wrench my head away. Movement restored, I push back, screaming profanities. I kick out and feel my

boots punch into brittle bones and soft targets. Tarrare reels back, but makes no sound, and still grips onto one arm. I pull towards the stairs and he rushes towards me. Feeling the glass with every hurried motion, I slip of my jacket in his hands and feel freedom. I hit the stairs and cry out, and start crawling instantly. There’s a tiny light at the top, the cold light of the moon or stars. Behind me, I feel the red photographer light swivel round and burn into my back. There’s a clatter as I reach halfway, and know he’s on the steps with me. Instinctively I flip over, ready to lash out, but he flashes past me with the sound of tearing fabric, and before I realise what’s happened he’s reached the door. Tarrare stands there in the doorway, fully lit in the red. It glints off him, darkening every groove, outlining the sags of flesh and highlighting his jagged ribs. His eyes narrow, reflecting nothing. “If you want to snoop around, you can stay down here.” I don’t. I grip the next step and inch closer to the monster. There’s so much blood I can barely remember what my skin feels like. It slides on the cool metal, each time sending me thudding to one side. The edge of my vision is blurred and shaking, but all there is to see is Tarrare and red. Last step. I’m level with his clawed feet. There’s no space, and I reach weakly for the summit. He stamps my fingers down onto the metal and kicks. There’s a moment where I’m hovering, ready to fall back to where I belong. Then I watch my own fingers grab his ankle and I swing forwards, head bowling into his other leg. I bite with all the strength I have left and take a chunk of flesh with me. He screeches, his spare skin flapping uselessly from his arms, and then I’m through his legs and into the house. I don’t look back. I can hear him falling. There’s a red light up here too, but sometimes it’s blue. It switches between them, flashing slowly, round and round, like the mobile above your cot. There’s a policeman standing over me. He says he’s calling an ambulance. He says no one’s lived here for years. He asks what I’m doing here and where my parents are. He asks my name. “Catherine. The Great.” Monster-slayer.

SURVIVING FRAGMENTS FROM THE CONFUSED EPIC, “THE DIGRESSIAD”
by MARK NICHOLLS
Wilhelm ate the 1990s. It was a mistake. He’d ordered a banana fritter but didn’t want to bother the peevish waiter so ate the 1990s instead. It tasted as could be expected: saucy, overly seasoned and disappointing. All things said he would have preferred the banana fritter. He returned home that evening with wind and terrible heartburn. His wife Herta suggested he pop two Nurofen and take to bed. This he did. He watched The Apprentice, hoping the pain subsided. But no such luck. Around ten o’clock Wilhelm heard melodies emanating from his navel. Herta pressed her ear close and identified the music as Elastica, a short-lived rock quartet from the mid-90s. Wilhelm’s headache increased along with the music’s volume. The songs came from their self-titled ‘95 album. Herta preferred that record to their lacklustre follow-up The Menace, which Wilhelm hadn’t heard since it was released in 2000 (although the songs were written in the late 90s). The next morning Wilhelm was sick. He threw up parts of Tony Blair’s smile, wilted posies from Diana’s memorial and John Selwyn Gummer’s beefburger. Herta rubbed his back, wondering if the restaurant had cut costs and only served him Britain in the 1990s. He took to his bed and waited for the doctor. When GP Jack arrived Blur’s The Great Escape was blasting from Wilhelm’s navel and earmuffs were required. “Some of the 1990s has gone down the wrong way,” GP Jack said. “What to do, Wilhelm, is immerse yourself in culture from the present year. Listen only to music, films, programmes recorded this year. Avoid the past. It should be gone in a few weeks.” Wilhelm was relieved. But five days later, as the vomiting had subsided, he experienced acute discomfort in his rectum. Herta, ever the obliging wife, checked the area for him and noticed the head of Justine Frischmann poking prominently from her husband’s anus. She was the lead singer of Elastica who’d had a famous relationship with Damon Albarn, the lead singer of Blur. “It’s Justine Frischmann!” she called to her husband who was straining over the toilet in case unpleasantness should emerge. “Oh, how delightful!” he said. “No picnic for me, buddy, let me assure you,” Justine said. “How about you stop staring, little wifey, and pull me out of here?” Helga paused to assess the situation. 2 Where does Saddam Hussein keep his biscuits? Does he keep them in an old-fashioned circular aluminium tin or does he keep them in packets in a cupboard or inside packets inside a larger aluminium tin? How many biscuits does he consume in an average ‘working’ day? Do biscuits form a part of his daily snack strategy at all? Does his erratic dictator’s lifestyle eliminate biscuits from his list of necessary eatables? Does he restrict himself to red meat and alcohol as a show of masculinity, or does he happily nibble on a custard cream without the slightest worry of appearing effeminate? Does he prefer ‘white’ biscuits (Rich Teas, Digestives) to ‘black’ biscuits (Bourbons, Jaffa Cakes)? Is he a biscuit racist? When he executes somebody for questioning the imperial rightness of his dictatorship, does he like nothing better than a cup of tea and a delicious hobnob? Or does he munch furtively under the covers at night? Does Saddam Hussein’s being dead for several years impede his enjoyment of biscuits? 3 JILL: What is it? JARVIS: It’s nothing. JILL: Come on tell me. JARVIS: I said it was nothing.

JILL: Come on. JARVIS: If it’s nothing I can’t tell you. If I told you about nothing that nothing would become something. JILL: Stop being a smart arse and spit it out. JARVIS: But that’s it. It’s nothing. That is it. JILL: If that’s what it is, then hasn’t that it become something? JARVIS: Hmm? JILL: That nothing has become something since that’s what it was . . . the it that was nothing has been identified as nothing and so has become something. JARVIS: No. If you have nothing to begin with the nothing remains nothing. JILL: I started out asking what it was. That it therefore had a value—it became a something. You said it was nothing so you agreed there was an it—a something. The nature of the something had yet to be identified until you made clear that it was nothing. So nothing became something. JARVIS: I see now. JILL: Not so clever now, are we? JARVIS: Actually, there is an it. JILL: What? JARVIS: I’m sleeping with your father. JILL: Oh. JARVIS: Now wouldn’t you have preferred it to have been nothing? 4 Jim committed suicide by taking forty aspirin. His body was buried and his soul arrived in Hell. It assumed the shape of a methanous octagon spitting poisonous ash. When he got to Hell HQ’s entrance he was told to take a number and wait until he was called. Five months later he was summoned to a desk where a stocky bald man with a retroussé nose pointed to a chair. Due to the overcrowding problem and trivial nature of your sins, you are to be returned to your body immediately. There is a penalty for any additional suicides after you have returned to your body. Thank you. Jim returned to Earth. He was fully reinstated. All memory of his death and burial among his family and friends had been erased. He was back in the miserable life where nobody loved him and he lived in a shoebox beneath the railway and no one would employ him and so on. It occurred to him he’d need to expand his portfolio as a sinner if he wanted to get into Hell, so he went into Dixons and tried to walk out with a DVD player. An assistant blocked his path. What are you doing there, sir? James blinked. Walking out with this DVD player. Do you think that is a good idea, sir? No. Would you like to put it back, sir? All right then. Jim thought the attempted theft was good enough and went back home and took forty aspirin. Back in Hell he was a methanous octagon spitting poisonous ash again and was kept waiting for a year before being seen. Stocky bald man with the retroussé nose again. Sorry, but due to the trivial nature of your offence you are to be sent back to your body with the penalty of permanent blindness for wasting our time. Thank you. He was returned to his body, bat-blind as stated. It wasn’t fair. How could he find the aspirin to top himself if he couldn’t see anything? He’d need to get someone to help him and there was no one in his life who cared about him enough to help him commit suicide. After a few weeks adjusting to his blindness, he decided to smash the window of a large department store by throwing bricks. This would get him into Hell. He chose eleven o’clock at night to pick up a large brick from a nearby building site and hurl it at the window, where it bounced off making no impact on the pane. He had several tries, but his arm soon hurt. Eventually, hoping he’d made enough of an impact on the pane, he found his way to the train station and leapt under the 1.12 to Manchester. Back in Hell (a napthous solid this time, a two-year wait) he was returned to his body with another penalty, no arms. He finally cottoned on to their plan. This was a ruse by the devilish administrators to make it physically impossible for suicides to even gain access to Hell’s reception area! At his wits’ end, he pinned his guide dog to the ground and, knife in mouth, gouged out its entrails. Then he leapt under a train. He was put on the waiting list for a place on the first floor. In the meantime he would have to wait on Earth until he was called, with the additional penalty of no working legs. He sat, a blind, limbless torso, on his bed, waiting for the call-up to Hell.

5 This is a realistic story. In this story, based on true-to-life events, Kevin sits in a pub and watches the football. Kevin enjoys the match until it becomes clear (having been written into existence only a sentence ago) he is a fictional character, so he decides to leave the story like in those clever metafictions by Flann O’Brien and Gilbert Sorrentino. Kevin says that, in real life, if he found out some bastard writer had written him into in a story without his knowledge, he’d be out of there so quick, the bastard would barely have time to wet his quill. This is a good point. It keeps the story true-to-life. But this leaves us with a dilemma. Since Kevin has left, there are no characters in this story. Any new character would soon become aware of his role as a fictional character and walk out. No narrative would take off. This is essential for a story, you have to have willing characters. The solution is simple. I will put myself into the story, like in those clever metafictions, and watch the football. So there I am, in the pub, watching the football. But then it dawns on me that I hate both pubs and football, so I leave my story. 6 dude you suck dude you suck even more than me dude you suck even more than I could possibly ever suck thanks dude don’t mention it dude 7 I once asked a beautiful woman out on a date. Her name was Christina. She had long black hair and the silky, divine cheekbones of a French actress. I wanted to have sex with her and nothing else. I wasn’t interested in her as a person. I wanted to writhe inside her sweaty, naked body until she shrieked in ecstasy. She was waiting for me at the restaurant. “I will have sex with you,” she said. “But first, I want you to cut off your pinkies. If you cut off your pinkies I will be willing to have sex with you for the rest of my life, even if we never become a couple.” I cut off my pinkies, rushed to the nearest A&E and ran back to Christina’s house where we had sex all evening until our respective naughties ached. Christina kept my pinkies in a box above the mantelpiece as a symbol of my devotion to my desire to have sex with her because of her physical attractiveness. As the months progressed I considered buying artificial pinkies so my hands looked less weird. Christina said if I considered any replacement pinkies her legs would be forever closed to me. I did not replace the pinkies. A few weeks later Christina was badly burned in a fire and was no longer physically beautiful. I was unwilling to have sex with her but she pleaded with me to have sex with her because no one else would. I said if she cut off her pinkies I would have sex with her as long as she kept a bag over her head. She said that wasn’t fair, as I was hideous and she’d never asked me to keep a bag over my head during sex. I said OK. She cut off her pinkies, rushed to A&E, then returned to have sex with me. We are now married and have sex twice a week, wishing we were sleeping with other people and wishing we still had our pinkies. If I had kept my pinkies, I could have cut them off for another beautiful woman who wasn’t burned in a fire and I could be making love to her instead. 8 Tim decided to kill himself because he considered the world a barbaric, cruel and pointless place. But he realised his suicide would simply reinforce his notion of the world as a cruel and barbaric place, deepening the truth of this for his family, leading to potential copycat suicides. So he decided not to kill himself but to kill people who caused universal misery instead. At first he went to Uganda where he shot the psychopathic torturer and child abuser Joseph Kony. Next he went to Nigeria where he shot the psychopathic torturer and child abuser Robert Mugabe. He travelled around Africa killing all the zealous maniacs known for their murder and enslavement. When he returned to Norfolk he expected to be treated as a folk hero but people were saddened he

had turned into a psychopathic murderer simply to brighten up the world by removing all the psychopathic murders—he had become the very thing that made the world so barbaric, cruel and pointless. Depression returned. He wanted to commit suicide again. His family soon cast him out of their home for reasons of fear and disappointment, so it seemed easier to carry out his task. However, it dawned on him the shame of having a genocidal suicide as a son was so appalling it would be easier to kill his family now, and spare them the humiliation of having this brute in their brood. He slaughtered his family, reluctantly, on Monday, planning to commit suicide on Tuesday. However, he grew accustomed to his peace and isolation outside the family home and not having to answer to anyone, so he delayed this until Friday. His happiness having exponentially increased at his family’s demise, he felt increasingly guilty and decided, despite his happiness, to do the honourable thing and commit suicide as planned. But his life had become so happy, he decided the best thing he could do would be remove himself from Norfolk and live in exile, in an African country like Uganda, where he set himself up as a dictator. If he became a legitimate tyrant, this would excuse his delight at his family’s murder, so he did. His first policy was to slaughter all children under five and to gouge out the eyes of Christians or anyone passing. 9 In the following story, an architect drops his pencil at the feet of an attractive lady, Teri. He’s reluctant to reach down and pick up the pencil in case Teri thinks he’s looking up her skirt. Let’s start the story now. Michael is an architect. He is sitting at a table with several other architects at a convention of architects. As a speech is being made about architectural matters, he drops the pencil he was twirling in his hands on to the floor. It lands at the feet of Teri, an attractive fellow architect wearing a slightly skimpy skirt. He is reluctant to reach down and pick up the pencil in case Teri thinks he is trying to look up her skirt and embarrassment ensues. In the story you have just read, an architect named Michael was sitting twirling a pencil in his hands at an architects’ conference. He dropped the pencil at the feet of Teri, an attractive female fellow architect in a short skirt. He was reluctant to retrieve the pencil in case Teri accused him of “peeping” up her skirt. Thank you for reading the story. Join us again next time. 10 Claire was sitting writing her thesis on astrophysics or something when she became extremely distracted by her breasts. My, what pleasant lacteal dugs I have, Claire thought. I could spend my life nourishing parched infants with these beauties and sending unsexed males into pitches of priapic madness with these well-proportioned milkbags. I will abandon this thesis on astrophysics or something at once and share my delights with the rest of the world. She moved to Newcastle, where she opened an office for those with infants needing succour and males needing a nippled orb to fondle for their amusement. She made over seven million pounds in the first week and opened a karaoke bar in Nigeria. Jeremy was an actress who longed to play the part of a teak cabinet on the stage. He decided, one day, to create the part for himself, since the role hadn’t come his way. He wrote The Teak Cabinet Monologues in nine minutes. In his potting shed he built a teak cabinet from scratch with a backdoor so he could sit inside and fully, and literally, inhabit the cabinet. On show night, five stagehands lifted him (as cabinet) onstage, before a microphone. For two hours, the audience sat rapt as the cabinet made no sounds except odd creaks or coughs from Jeremy inside. The play was a runaway off-Broadway hit, dahlink! One day, eight-year-old Alice Leeward from Devonshire thought ‘I am the Trade Union leader Bill Callaghan!’ She became the Trade Union leader Bill Callaghan. One day, the Trade Union leader Bill Callaghan thought, ‘I am a talking plastic chicken on a Nebraskan farm!’ He became a talking plastic chicken on a Nebraskan farm. One day, a talking plastic chicken on a Nebraskan farm thought, ‘I am a paperclip!’ He became a paperclip and so lost the power of thought. 1b The presence of Justine Frischmann in Wilhelm’s anus was not entirely unwelcome. When she recovered from the initial shock at her surroundings she was willing to sing a cappella versions of Elastica favourites such as

‘Connection’ and ‘Only Human.’ She didn’t, however, for obvious reasons, treat them to a rendition of ‘Your Arse, My Place.’ Wilhelm was having other problems wallowing in 1990s nostalgia—his illness was getting worse. The lips of the original Labour line-up—Blair, Mandleson, Prescott, and Blunkett—had grown on his chest and were making pronouncements on public sector borrowing requirements. They kept him up all night with their inane prattle. It soon became impossible for Wilhelm to stop thinking 1990s. Herta invested in earplugs but the cast of Friends had wormed into his head and were killing him slowly with their irony. According to his doctor, the simplest option for Wilhelm was to be cryogenically frozen for several months until all bacteria of the 1990s were killed off. This would involve freezing Justine Frischmann’s head. “She’s not the real Justine Frischmann,” said GP Jack. “She’s the 90s Frischmann. A bacteria. Don’t listen to her complaints. She would kill you if she could, inhabit your body, spread the 1990s to other hosts.” So Wilhelm was taken to the nearest hospital where he was frozen in the cryogenic unit with several dozen people afflicted with nostalgia parasites. Herta waited patiently at home. She tried to mount a lawsuit against the restaurant that had served him the 1990s, but Wilhelm’s negative reaction was a fault of his own internal biology, so she had no grounds to sue. They offered her two free meals which she haughtily declined. One day, while tidying the bedroom, she discovered the lips of Liam Gallagher effing and blinding in a pile of socks. She caught the snarky, vicious lips in a glass and flung them into the outside bin. She carefully scoured the house for other remnants of the 1990s. Finding none, she waited patiently for her husband to defrost. -6 When I began this story, I had six friends. In the first draft the protagonist was Michael Vincent Smith, the managing director of Clarks for the East Lothian region. The plot centred around Michael’s fear that the shoeshop chain might become obsolete in the East Lothian region due to the harsh economic reality that people were too poor to buy shoes directly from a retailer—it was cheaper to source second-hand (or second-foot) shoes from £1 shops or branches of Oxfam. The story ended with Michael stepping down from his position as managing director after a nervous breakdown. I showed this story to my friend Michael Vincent Smith, the managing director for Clarks in the West Lothian region who had recently had a nervous breakdown due to economic pressures. He explained that the story took certain aspects of his life that he wasn’t comfortable being made public. I told him I had changed his location from East to West Lothian and that should be sufficient to protect his identity. I also explained no one would likely read this story, since I was an obscure writer unpublished by major presses or magazines. He wasn’t satisfied and threatened to end our friendship if I continued with the story. I stuck to my artistic guns. We parted as enemies. After receiving a threatening legal document from Michael I rewrote the story around a couple, Sara and Bob Fenton, two cake decorators from Niddrie who caught diphtheria on holiday last year. My story was about two cake directors from Riddrie who, etc. I pleaded with them to remain in the story, but legal documents were issued yet again. My three remaining friends were part of a Bulgarian soccer team. In 2009 they won a local tournament, let the success get to their heads, and ended up sacked from the squad for taking too much heroin on the pitch. I put them into the third draft, to the same outcome. I now have no friends, no one to write about, and no story to tell.

LOVE AND DEVOTION
by HUGH REID

Rick had been working for Fluorsene for six months the evening he met Amèlle. He was already on a high and she was the icing on the cake. Earlier in the day, his boss had offered him an exciting new project: a feasibility study into their shelved products. George Radcliffe had called Rick into his office and told him that the company were impressed by his understanding of drug theoretics and their practical applications. “This is a set of reports and a lab journal,” George said, “They belonged to Bill Simington, who retired a while back. They’ve been gathering dust over the years, but we think there might be gold in there.” He handed Rick a ring binder and a black hardback notebook. “Bill kept the files from all the drugs he ever worked on. These are the ones which never reached the market. They have no commercial value, most of them, but they’ve all been fully tested. They’re pretty safe; side-effects are listed in full in the reports.” “How did he get to test unmarketable drugs?” “Ha! Those were different days, Rick. We had bigger budgets, and people like Bill – mavericks – got much more freedom than today. But he was thorough and he ran his trials to modern standards; he insisted on p-value less than point zero zero one.” “What were they like, these drugs. What effects?” “Em, let’s see. Well, there was one – Fideipidem, I think – which cures atheism. No market for that nowadays.” “Really?” “Believe so – no pun! - gives people faith. Anyway, are you interested?” “What faith?” said Rick with a smile. “Not sure if it’s that specific. Anyway, are you interested? We’re looking for anything at all. Pathology has moved on since Bill’s days; some of these drugs may be useful now; look at combinations; look at ameliorating side-effects to currents drugs; and think beyond illness too. You get the idea, I’m sure. And if do you find something it will be a real boost to your career in Fluorsene.” “Yeah, I’ll take it.” Damn right, he’d take it. Fideipidem? Damn right. That evening Rick and Stewart admired the blonde girl and her friend dancing. “She fancies you,” said Stewart. “You think so?” “If you’re not sure we can do the elimination test?” “Hmm. Dunno.” “Well, it’s my round anyway. You don’t have a choice. Give me your glass.” Rick handed over his pint glass and Stewart, to avoid the dancers on the floor, walked around the room towards the bar. He weaved between groups of lads, arms crossed, watching the dance floor, each with a pint in one hand supported on the crook of the other elbow. Rick watched the blond- haired girl talking while she danced. If she looked over knowing that Stewart wasn’t there, then it wasn’t Stewart she liked – by elimination. He watched her smile happily and laugh with her friend. Then he saw her glance in his direction and turn back to her friend. Seconds later she looked straight at him, with a calm expression on her face. Shit! Smile now, he thought. Shit! He forced his lips to stretch. She responded immediately with a broad grin, showing her perfectly white, perfectly gorgeous teeth. She held his gaze, still smiling. Stewart came back minutes later carrying two pints. “You were right,” Rick said. “No. Say: ‘Stewart was right. Stewart’s always right’!” Rick raised an eyebrow. “Shall we dance?” said Stewart.

They placed their pints on a table and walked towards the two girls. The blonde girl saw them coming and spoke to her friend. As they arrived her friend turned and faced Stewart, just as the music stopped. Damn! This was awkward. “Do you want the next dance?” Rick said to the blonde girl. “Of course,” she said smiling. The DJ had lost his place. He blabbed on while he tried to find the next track. This awkward glitch looked like stretching into minutes. Rick turned to the girl and smiled. She smiled back. “What’s your name?” “Amèlle,” she said. Her accent seemed French. He felt a thrill. It was the way she extended the first syllable of her name. Then, needing support, he glanced to his side, but Stewart had already gone to the bar with Amèlle’s friend and was ordering her a drink. “I’m Rick. That’s Stewart.” “That is Angela.” “Angela.” They were still smiling. He he didn’t want to say it, it was so clichéd, but he was stuck for anything else. “What do you do?” he asked and the sweet conversation began. Sweeter still that she seemed utterly contented to stand beside him. She told him she was a student of English from Marseilles. She was teaching in Lawside Academy. She was twenty one. She loved her pupils but was astonished that their French was so poor. The music started again and they danced the next two dances. At the end of the second he got her phone number. He hadn’t had the audacity to ask about religion. Rick was still smiling as he lay in bed that night. This time, please, he thought. No more disappointments. God, please, this time. He blessed himself and started his prayers. This had been his routine since childhood: one Our Father and a silent conversation. He had always believed, not blindly, but thoughtfully, intelligently. To him Faith seemed self-evident. If you accepted that the Gospels were authentic all the rest followed. Yet this teaching, dear to his heart, had recently been opening a fault-line in his life. How to find a catholic woman. Well, how to find one he fancied. Surely that mattered? And one he could talk to. Dear Jesus, one he could talk to. He had prayed about this since going to University. He wanted love, like anyone would, but in his upbringing there had always been so much talk about vocations. Was there a reason he hadn’t met someone? Did God want him to be a priest? It did have a certain appeal, a certain glamour. Saying Mass. Visiting parishioners. Hearing confessions. But celibacy, really, God? Is that what you want? And is this how a vocation shows itself? Well, he’d grasped that thistle. Tomorrow morning he would be seeing the bishop. But tonight he’d met Amèlle. Incredible, sexy, smart. He had her number and, damned right, he would phone her. Yet he knew not to get his hopes up. So, please, God, no more disappointments. The meeting was an embarrassment. The Bishop more or less told him not to be so silly and sent him away feeling like a fool. But, to his mind, it confirmed his decision to phone Amèlle, which he did as soon as he arrived home. He apologised for calling the day after meeting her. It made him appear too keen. But she was delighted. “It is not how I believe,” she said, “I like to show what you feel. Why should people play something, some game?” He smiled happily at her almost English. He smiled at the way she said somesing. He continued smiling, on his own in his flat, as he talked into an inanimate unseeing handset. Eventually he asked her. “Would you like to go to the cinema tonight?” “Yes, of course. I would love to.” His project at Fluorsene was fascinating. The task was huge but he tackled it methodically from the start. And he had refrained from seeking out the Fideipidem dossier straight away. He had a job to do after all. But one day, a couple of weeks into the project, he opened the ring binder where he had left his bookmark the day before. The entry was headed SCN: 93647/5 Name: FIDEIPIDEM Class: Hypnotic Effect(s): Induces and/or activates spiritual credulity Efficacy: 50% of subjects report disappearance of prior obstacles to belief re supernatural phenomena within 12 hours of administering. Remainder report no noticeable effect. Duration: Within period of human trials (13 months) all positive volunteers retain effect with no apparent reduction. Unaffected subjects report no change.

Safety: no reported side-effects. Mechanism: Uncertain at time of investigation. Putatively: anatomically specific neurotransmitter. He slipped the file from the binder and put it in his desk drawer. Then he checked the location of the samples before returning to his desk and moving on to the next drug. Amèlle and Rick hadn’t been seeing each other for long, of course, before disappointment struck. Amèlle didn’t believe. “I learn it in school, this religion,” she said. They were sitting on the sofa in his flat, holding hands, sitting close. “But it does not make sense to me. My mother and father, you know, they are scientists, both. I learn from them that religion is not rational.” “I know, I know. But it makes sense to me. If you accept the Bible, it makes sense.” “I don’t believe the Bible. I can’t. Do you stop liking me now?” “Oh, no! I still like you. Oh, yes, of course I do. I like you a lot, an awful lot.” It was no lie. Amèlle was a dream. There was nothing more he could ask for in a woman, other than belief. Where did this insistence of his come from? The Church? But the Church had relaxed since Vatican II. They allowed mixed marriages much more easily now. Yet this niggle, this feeling of imperfection, this grit in the eye. Why was it always like this? He could accept Amèlle as she was – gorgeous, sexy, smart, loving – and live the rest of his life with this niggle. Could he? Or he could give her up. Or he could take a capsule from a sachet in a components drawer labelled 93647/5 and offer it to her. If the drug worked, if it did indeed change her neurophysiology to that of a believer would she have lost her free will? What if she took it in full knowledge of what it could do, would that not count as free will? Six months passed and something had to happen. They were hardly ever apart, and their sweet conversations regularly turned to long-term, nesting talk. A decision had to be made. One evening, after work, Rick phoned Stewart to go for a beer. They carried their pints into an empty snug in the Speedwell bar and sat down. “Are you fucking crazy?” said Stewart, “What if they searched you?” “They don’t. For narcotics, yes, but not Simington’s stuff.” “You’re still an idiot. Does Amèlle know?” “No. I haven’t told her yet.” “Don’t. Put it back where you got it from. And if I ever found out you slipped it to her, I’d break your fucking neck.” “Calm down, Stewart! What do you think I am?” “An idiot, that’s what I think you are.” “Look, I’m going to tell her.” “What? What will you tell her?” “I’ll just tell her what it does. What the risks are – and there’s none – and what the success rates are.” “And don’t you think telling her will influence her?” “Look, I’ve thought about this, about her free will. I’ll just tell her what it does. I won’t ask her to take it. I won’t pressure her.” “Jesus, Rick, this drug will change her brain. What the fuck does it matter if it makes her believe? What the fuck does it matter if your petty scruples are calmed? What does it matter if you and she are deliriously happy for the rest of your fucking lives? It will change her fucking brain. Do you think that’s OK?” ** * Amèlle held the small capsule between her thumb and forefinger. She was smiling. “This will make me believe?” “Fifty fifty chance.” “And it is safe?” “One hundred percent.” “And you will like me more if I believe?” “Oh, Amèlle, I couldn’t like you more. I’m totally in love with you.” She leaned over and kissed his lips. “I am totally in love with you also.” “You don’t have to take it. And I didn’t ask you to. I just told you what it said on the report sheet.”

“And if I do not take it, you will still love me?” “I couldn’t stop loving you.” “And if it doesn’t work?” “I will still love you the same.” “So why?” “Why? Because it would be easier, easier in our ... easier if you could come to church with me.” “Hey, a drug cannot do this,” Amèlle said and popped the capsule in her mouth. She lifted her glass to her lips and washed it down with red wine. The next day was Sunday and as Rick was getting ready to walk to eleven o’clock Mass when the doorbell rang. It was Amèlle. She was wearing her best grey skirt, a cream blouse and blue jacket. She had put on a light lipstick, not obvious, but enough to looked dressed. She smiled at Rick. “I come too.” He smiled back and said, “OK. Two minutes and I’ll be ready.” Heads turned in St Joseph’s R C Church at eleven o’clock Mass when Rick proudly took a seat with Amèlle at his side. They sat close throughout and he helped her with the responses by pointing to the place in his missal. He couldn’t help turning to look at her, her beautiful face, really present at Mass with him. She smiled at him every time. “Will you marry me?” he said when he had cleared the table after lunch. She burst into tears. “I’m sorry. Was I wrong to ask? Is it too soon? It’s too soon.” “No, no, no. It is not too soon. Yes, I say yes.” “Oh, thank God. Thank God. But why the tears?” “I was afraid you would not ask me.” “But you knew I would. I love you.” “That was before, before this drug. It has worked. I believe. I believe in God and yesterday I did not. Yesterday I have thought it was not rational and today I believe. Today at the Mass I was happy. I am happy. I am happy to believe, but I cannot help it. I do not think I can be again as I was. And so I was afraid to be like this without you.” He stood up and walked round the table. She stood to meet him. They embraced and kissed slowly. That evening he walked Amèlle to her flat then strolled home. So that was it. The drug had worked. He had the perfect woman and she was now a believer like himself. It was a miracle, it truly was, an answer to his prayers, his years of devotion. And she had taken it freely, hadn’t she? He began to think about their future together. They would marry soon; they’d already started to talk wedding plans. And they’d have children just as soon as they arrived – no contraception, of course, none of that. They’d bring them up in the Faith and she’d be at his side. She’d be unwavering. He recalled the look in her eyes as he left her after their last kiss. There was something more now in those large pupils. A stronger love, a deeper devotion? Something more. Oh, she’d be unwavering! He breathed in deeply and sighed. Then at the end of his sigh he felt a tiny niggle, without reason, from nowhere, inexplicable, just a tiny niggle.

CALISTO RUN
by CRAIG THOMSON

Sasnyen 2Horatio’s radio chirped at him with the uniquely annoying tone that signalled a direct communication from control. He let the thing waffle impotently in his back pocket and finished skewering the junk food wrappers littering the gutter before picking up. ‘… protein recycling truck smashed on New Glasgow and Tesla. Everyone in the area report to mop up and see what can be reclaimed; tech support with bio-salvage gear will meet you on site.’ Sasnyen sighed heavily and poked at a shred of foam burger box, pushing it between the slats of the storm drain grating. There was no point arguing. The cold sun beat on his face. The piece of burger box disappeared between the slats and became somebody else’s problem. Sasnyen pushed open the door to his apartment several hours later, his muscles aching from the heavy vacuum gear they’d been lugging up and down the street all afternoon. At least he hadn’t had to stick around to work the hosing down team as well. Even after going through decontamination he couldn’t get the stink of dead meat out from his nose, and bundled himself straight into the shower for a long soak in a pungent aromatherapy solution. The sun was setting over the rim of the crater when Sasnyen finally hauled himself out of the shower. He ran a broad hand over the rough grey stubble on his chin in front of the bathroom mirror, and sat down to open a cold beer from the balcony. The balcony had seemed like a good idea at the time, but Sasnyen had soon realised its inherent limitations when temperatures this high up the rim stayed sub zero most of the year round. At any rate it saved him running a refrigerator, he conceded, and the view wasn’t all that bad either. The late red sun slanted across the back wall and Sasnyen switched on the modest television set, allowing a numbing cascade of game shows and sitcoms to wash over his weariness. The evening wore on and the sun dropped silently below the opposite rim of the crater. The sedative procession of evening entertainment was interrupted only by the ten o’clock bulletin, bringing news of some particularly gruesome murders that reminded Sasnyen too much of the shit he’d been cleaning up only hours ago. He fell into a surly daze around his fourth beer and almost let the phone ring out before picking up. It had better not be control asking for more overtime, he thought to himself, resolving to tell them what for if it was. He half stumbled to the receiver in the kitchen recess and was surprised to hear the sound of a female voice asking politely: ‘Hello, is that Mr. Sasnyen?’ Control was never that nice, and anyway they already knew who the hell he was. ‘Yeah’ he ventured, warily, steadying himself against the kitchen wall. ‘Mr. Sasnyen 2Horatio?’ ‘Yeah it is. Who’s this?’ ‘My name is Namati3, Mr. Sasnyen, and before I go any further, I have to let you know that this call may be being recorded for training purposes if that’s alright with you?’ ‘Uh, yeah I guess.’ Great, he thought, some charity or other cold calling this late? But he hadn’t the heart to just hang up on the girl. There was something about her voice that compelled him to keep the receiver to his ear. ‘Great, well Mr. Sasnyen, I am delighted to be able to inform you that this is your lucky day.’ ‘It is?’ He said. ‘Yes sir! Let’s see. Have you ever heard of the TV show Calisto Run?’ ‘Well yeah…’ He said. Of course he had – he’d been watching it only a couple of hours before. It was one of the biggest game shows on the network, though in his opinion not always the most entertaining. He had the suspi-

cion that it was all rigged, but then so was most of everything on the network, he reckoned. ‘That’s great! Well I hope you enjoy watching as much as we do making it. I’m with the board of producers behind that show you see, and you have been chosen by our random selection process to appear on next week’s show!’ The enthusiasm in her voice was strangely infectious, and Sasnyen found his mood lifting unexpectedly as she spoke. Him? Appear on the show? ‘That’s right, what do you think about that?’ Sasnyen 2Horatio, waste disposal technician extraordinaire, had never been asked to appear on a television programme before. In fact, he had never been asked to do anything much beyond sweeping, shovelling, skewering, vacuuming and just plain humping from one place to another every piece of junk the city put in front of him. He was, as his mother had so frequently made clear to him, just about as close to nobody as nobody could get. Would he consent appear on Calisto Run – the biggest show in town – and compete for a cash prize that could finally turn his life around? One long look around the dirty kitchenette gave him all the answer he needed. ‘Fantastic Mr. Sasnyen. Now, here’s the thing.’ The woman’s tone darkened in a way that made Sasnyen’s ears prick up immediately. ‘I hope you’ll understand why I couldn’t tell you before you had formally agreed to the contract! But you see, well let’s just say that not everyone has the same odds of winning at this game yeah?’ He had to laugh when he told her he’d already expected as much, and Namati3’s voice let out a conspiratorial giggle in return. ‘Well, ok, maybe it is a little obvious.’ She admitted slyly before continuing; ‘So, if I do say so myself, I think that your chances of winning this particular game, Mr. Sasnyen, are pretty damn good. Now don’t worry about the catch – the prize money is as good as yours, exactly as if you really had earned it yourself. No catches here! The only thing is that, as I’m sure you’ll agree, we can’t have any word getting out to the wrong people about this. You wouldn’t believe the encryption we’re running on this line as we speak. Sure, a lot of people like yourself might have their suspicions about the way we run things, but if the gaming standards commission could prove anything, we’d quickly find ourselves out of a show!’ Sasnyen quietly agreed; his pulse quickening in his throat at the thought of the illicit dealings he was now privy and party to. ‘Well then. I guess that settles things. The show is being put out live at our studio downtown next Friday night, and naturally we’ll want you to do a little rehearsal with the other contestants; but before then I think it would be best if you and I could meet in private to discuss certain matters it would be better to keep away from prying eyes…’ Sasnyen breezed into work the next day with only the barest trace of a hangover clouding his mood. The mysterious Namati3 had hung up after giving him the directions to her private office – very discreet she’d said, well away from the actual TV studio building – and Sasnyen had been left with an excitement whirling in his veins that had taken several more beers to calm before he could sleep. The money; the money of course! But there was something else in the TV woman’s voice that had excited him more than the prospect of money… The hours crept by as Sasnyen daydreamed his way along the downtown gutters. Today was his lucky day for sure. He was going to see Namati3 tonight, and control hadn’t even buzzed him all day, leaving him to sweep litter in the hard sun much at his own pace. He zigzagged down to the entertainment district, where the diamond faced spires clustered so close together you couldn’t see the rim in any direction. Some of the peaks poked so high out of their little bowl that you could look out over the perpetual winter plains from summits that stood like willowy blades in the gales. His mind reeled with the vertigo of possibility and it took an effort of will to crane his neck back down to the gutter. No, he thought, Sasnyen 2Horatio wouldn’t be staring into the gutter for much longer now. As sun set over the rim, Sasnyen 2Horatio left the warmth of the 82nd floor bachelor apartment that clung halfway up the crater wall, and descended by the high speed lift to the esplanade of the commuter tram platform. He was wearing his best suit – old and only slightly worn blue cloth that his father had brought with him from high orbit – and his hand traced out in the lift window the smooth contour of a chin he had half-forgotten since his high school days. The ailing maglev shuddered its way across town, picking up a handful of young

mid-week partygoers who trickled out of the carriage at the usual nightspots. The icy air crept up through the fabric of his suit, and by the time Sasnyen had covered the block and a half between the tram stop and the address he’d been given, a hard chill had settled into his extremities. His breath puffed out across a deserted plaza lit by a number of tall amberglow pines, beckoning him towards an industrial looking office block. A sprinkle of lights glimmered out of the concrete façade, and he couldn’t say whether it was just the cold that made him shiver when he wondered if Namati3 was already watching him from one of those windows. In an instant he imagined himself from above, a tiny figure shuffling across the concrete expanse, huddled into the thin blue suit that caught tight a little around his paunch, and felt suddenly preposterous. His eyes flicked from window to window and he was glad to pass beneath of an avenue of bare and lightless birches. The entrance was around the side of the building, and closed over with a heavy roller shutter. She had told him not to go in the front way, too many cameras, she’d said. All this secrecy; but the thrill he had felt at the thought of it last night was dulled by the painful cold in his hands and feet, and Sasnyen almost wished he had swallowed his vanity and put on his heavy work coat and gloves before he had left. He pushed the buzzer the woman had described and waited stamping his feet for a reply. Thoughts flitted unbidden in the dark: what if it was all a hoax? What if the only reply came from some nobody waste tech just like himself? He stamped harder and puffed into his hands. ‘Hello?’ Came the voice at last, crackling warm and familiar, and Sasnyen felt a wave of relief pass through his frozen limbs. ‘Hello, it’s Sasnyen here.’ The intercom fizzled and clicked before he could say any more, and he stood for a minute or more alone in front of the shutter, feeling his pulse rising again. The motor whined and the shutter rolled unsteadily up to reveal a small maintenance bay. An electric forklift, like many he had used before himself, stood in the gloom at the far end, loaded with a bale of nondescript cardboard boxes. He took a tentative few steps into the bay. ‘Hey, I’m really glad you could make it Mr. Sasnyen.’ The intercom started suddenly. ‘Sorry for all the hassle, but you know how it is. I’m sorry I couldn’t come meet you in person down there, but I’ve been very busy this evening. If you could just follow these directions you’ll find me no bother. You’ve got a good memory right?’ Sasnyen nodded in time to the disembodied voice and made a mental note of Namati3’s instructions, repeating them back to her just as she asked. ‘That’s great. Exactly right. Just come on up and I’ll see you very shortly.’ The intercom puttered out and Sasnyen turned to the sound of the shutter rolling down behind him. He felt like he should be nervous, but the smooth voice delivering those precise instructions had rekindled in him something of the mood of excited elation he had felt on the phone before. Yes, it was easy now, he could see. He snorted at the inert forklift as he strode past and turned into the hall. The lights were automatic and flicked on every few feet as Sasnyen made his way down the deserted corridors of what seemed like a separate maintenance network. He had been in many buildings that used the same sort of double circulation before – it kept the underlings like him out of sight and out of mind – and as he passed each piece of old cleaning equipment, he laughed to himself and gave it a solid kick with his neatly polished shoes. Eventually he came to a service lift, exactly where Namati3 had indicated, and rode it up to the 34th floor, almost to the very top of the building. The doors slid open with a bell, opening onto a space that receded darkly before him. He stepped forward expectantly and was taken aback a moment when the lights failed to switch on. He paced around a little, but to no apparent effect. Was he on the right floor? 34, certainly. He glanced back at the glowing digits hanging above the lift doors. They slid shut with a scrape and he heard the lift begin to descend as the counter ticked steadily back down. For a moment his confidence wavered in the dark. Then the voice spoke softly to him from an unseen distance, its harmony now ever purer and more compelling as it poured across the space, free of the confines of signal compression. ‘Mr. Sasnyen, how nice to finally meet you in the flesh. I wondered whether you would lose faith in my instruc-

tion, not everyone would be so willing to meet with a stranger under such unusual circumstances.’ He recognised the glint of truth in the words, though it seemed distant now, like a pin stuck in a frost numb hand. His eyes searched the gloom as his blindness slowly receded. Plastered pillars and pieces of abandoned furniture covered in dust sheeting. ‘Yes, you have been very well behaved Mr. Sasnyen. And for that you have our gratitude; it is not easy these days to find such suitable candidates.’ His body stiffened in anticipation as he made himself see by force of will the angelic presence from which that voice must emanate. ‘But when we came across you, we saw straight away that you suited us right to the ground. You might be a nobody to everyone else in this city, Mr. Sasnyen; but to us, you’re a real life saver.’ The ambiguous compliment resonated in his mind. Something shuffled in the dark, between what Sasnyen now saw were the pillars of an empty and cavernous office floor. What a strange place to work in, he half thought, but still he saw no sign of the source of the voice. ‘I suppose that some rational remnant of your sweet brain is wondering what this is all about? I’m sorry to have to tell you that things aren’t quite as I said on the phone last night. My name is Namati3, for what it’s worth, but you won’t be winning any game shows any time soon.’ The voice seemed closer now, its timbre sending waves of excitement pulsing through Sasnyen 2Horatio. More shuffling, and something moved between the pillars, something that bristled and loomed and melted back into shadow. ‘Maybe you’ve already heard of us, indirectly. I hear that news of our work is getting around the city; hence all the secrecy getting you here, you see. The encryption on that phone line was real too, I can assure you: we’ve taken a lot of trouble to be able to meet you face to face like this.’ The form between the pillars was approaching, and Sasnyen saw that it stood almost as high as the ceiling. He registered dimly the arrival of a scent like putrid vat sludge – a flash of a tanker turned on its side, belly torn and gushing as they suckled like greedy pups in their rubber suits. ‘I apologise too for the unpleasant odour; we haven’t had a good meal for some time now, and I’m afraid some of our more delicate components have already started to degrade unacceptably. It is a real bind having to go about things like this, and honestly, it’s nothing personal, only your city doesn’t take too kindly to our sort. If we were to come out in the open, we’d surely be ‘decommissioned’ on the spot, and I don’t doubt that the security force would take some pleasure in doing so…’ The form rose out of the gloom, near enough for Sasnyen to make out the surface that rippled and glistened like flayed beef, and the glint of hard steel embedded where there ought to have been ribs. Something else caught his eye too, something smaller moving now between the thing’s legs – too many legs, he thought with abstract curiosity. ‘I can only hope that you find my voice more pleasing than our admittedly unconventional appearance. One has to make do with what one can in these hard times.’ The smaller thing bristled impatiently, as if urging Namati3 on. ‘But of course; where are my manners – I keep talking about us.’ The voice filled the air around Sasnyen, seeping into all of his senses. Dazzling colours flew from the shadows and clouded his vision with twisting shapes. ‘This is my daughter, Calisto, and you can try to run, if you like.’ The joke was lost on Sasnyen 2Horatio behind the roar of pleasure that passed now through every part of his body. As the creature pounced on him, tears of dumbstruck joy were rolling down his pink shaven face.

THE GREEN MERCEDES
by SWISS MORGAN

all relatives have been contacted but it is believed that at least two were family men. Hospital spokesmen have refused to comment on the condition of the survivors who are under heavy police guard. The bombing is believed to be in retaliation for the recent shooting of the terrorist fugitive who remains paralysed and in a critical condition in the maximum security hospital wing of the eleventh district detention unit. So far no group has claimed responsibility. summer the white sun at last refuge with you hand in hand we walk safe to walk the streets here where no-one knows where no-one cares the past is left behind on the road before before the green mercedes took me away we walk the sun hot kicks up the white dust a landscape hungry for water but you are there your refreshing presence ask no questions I do not know you where you come from why you are here I am floating beyond the reach of the past I look over my shoulder and see only tourists redfaced and peeling children loll in the sea the distant sea on the rocks we sit in the morning boats sound across the bay chorused by gulls a white trail of squawking behind the nets your silhouette in the dawn I rest my head on your arm the summer over the sea on the horizon a blurring of clouds I turn my face away fill myself with you eating the bronze noise of pots white bread in the dusk you touch my face you say you look so sad and I say I am not sad not here with you not here not now as long as this lasts as long as you are here here now now I dare not think but I smile and you do not ask again I look at the door the knock at the door but it does not come not now but the children notice they are always the first my mother sits me at the door to watch for the police the children are always the first to know to notice in the street the children and the old women dressed in black they start their whispers and the children follow their harsh language I do not understand their words cruel stones thrown at us but we do not pay attention we walk the white streets greet the priest in the morning fat hands pink and soft we walk to buy bread the morning bread white and warm he is there in the darkness the baker frowning book in his fist the dark eyes hear the children they scatter with one word his liquid movement he stands on the steps he looks he looks but says nothing she gives him the money they speak I do not understand they are sharing their words exclude me he looks and he looks the children running I am gone the background woman my bag with the bread the men they never suspect never suspect their blood the past I look away he does not see me and we are home I sit at the table you are smoking the scent of flowers and the knock at the door I hear it the knock at the door I am opening I am opening you do not look and the door opens and he is there he holds up his hands ‘Red wine. Wild mushrooms. A gift.’ he pushing past me you rise put your arms around him ‘You must cook for us.’ I am a stranger on the dead white of the plate he serves us you laugh the burst bodies of the mushrooms grey the sauce slick as blood he says you look a little pale you touch my hand I say I’m fine in the company of the unknown there are conspiracies I see them look at each other the history in their eyes on the plate the blood and brains of dead men I cut with a youthful knife but my palate is old the food sticks in my mouth choking I hide my discomfort they do not notice I hear the weeping of the women in black the police rifles in the funeral gardens I look towards the door outside the car is waiting he is a constant visitor the summer drawing towards a close the autumn cold change of the seasons fading fading I say thank you for his gift he says there is too little love in the world what there is we must share you are laughing I trust him a little in the darkness he frowns there is no past for him he comes from nowhere we are kindred drinking wine in the long night but the morning must come the cold autumn morning and he is there she moves away I see him then in that long moment I hear shouting I say to him ‘And you. Have you loved?’ his voice distant the same story again and again his life repeated

here on the road white curve of dust you the grasses hollow burnt by the sun whispering their desert tongues full of dust your name your approach the white heat the heat of you coming now I see you open the door and I am here waiting waiting here for you so much running in the distance the sound of a car eyes cracked with sun it is you the white landscape dressed in dust feet drag chorus of bones engine there in the white curve I see you your smile the car approaches I see it is you we meet we are here always here in the meeting here is the car I see it now my eyes pinched there the green you open the door the green door I see it the green mercedes you open the door the green mercedes stopping in the car your shadow moving you open the door I see your eyes the door opening I see your eyes green the green mercedes stopped your smile your eyes green still I look into your eyes not speaking I cannot speak waiting waiting for you such a long time I pick up my bag I do not think your eyes green flecked with fragments of a melancholy autumn your dry lips on mine I am in the car you are looking at me this desolate place I know already I love you you ask with your silent smile I hear you speaking and you are asking you asked me and I am there always I am there and you are asking I am in the car the green mercedes your hand in mine you say ‘Would you like a lift?’ and when you first touched me I said ‘I am not afraid.’ you you the long you standing by the window your shadow the first time I see you your skin on my hand by the window you like a swimmer you stretch your tongue in mine hand on flesh hot like stone and I am you become you in me gasping and you and you and we are one as you stand at the window and you turn your hand in mine and we look and we look the bed the morning white I am here I am always here in you with you your green eyes the scent of coffee the morning you as I wake watching you turn and I hear you asking in the darkness you hold me I am safe here I am gone gone to you to you I have come and I am safe in your long touch as you hit the water swimming you are golden you turn in the fresh water we could never leave I have appeared here without warning and again with you in me me in you becoming becoming you are beautiful and love there is love here the love of you and you turn I see your shadow the autumn window and you turn blue-black the approach of clouds I hear rain and you turn autumn words and you say ‘We have to go.’ and I say ‘Yes, it’s time.’ Newspaper excerpt : Three policemen were killed and a further four injured in a bomb explosion early yesterday morning at the headquarters in the eleventh district. No warning was given. The names of the men will not be released until

‘In my line of work there’s not much time for love. When I was younger perhaps I was in love then but the love of a young man is rooted purely in desire, it has no substance no strength, it is vulnerable to whim and has no need for experience. As a young man I thought I knew love, I even married.’ the scrape of boots on the floor he lights a cigarette. ‘It didn’t last. How can you expect a young woman to cope with the hours that we work. Too many nights spent away from home. My companions were largely older men who had been in my position before. They warned me, keep up with this work and you’ll end up alone, but I didn’t listen, didn’t see. Those of us who were my own age, we had a sense of duty, a purpose, we were the guardians of the state, we were ready to sacrifice. I did not ask my wife if she felt likewise.’ ‘My wife worked in an accountant’s office. Her problems were those of a reluctant client, an awkward tax audit. How could I explain when I returned home, for instance, that the Judge, the man I worked for and respected, had been killed in a car bomb that morning, beheaded, that I had pulled his body from the site of the explosion and taken his personal effects, still damp with his blood, back to his wife and child? Of course I could not. We drifted apart. She left. She married an accountant. They have three children now. It was the life I gave up on.’ ‘My work takes me to many parts of the country. It’s easy to form relationships. You understand that what I do gives me a certain glamour to some women. After my wife maybe this felt a little like love but even then I had my doubts. I wanted peace, I wanted an escape. These women thrived on stories of assassination and murder. Gradually I left them alone to the charms of the other recruits. Listen to me, I sound like an old man. You don’t last in this job.’ ‘Small things became significant. After ten days stuck in a small room with nothing to do but smell each other’s guts, hear the same stories you’ve heard a hundred times before the outside world becomes a magical place, the colours, the sounds. You feel like stopping people in the street, telling a joke, take them for coffee, just to hear their voices. But then you remember they have not seen the things you have seen.’ ‘There was a bombing, you must have seen it on the television, the railway station, dozens killed, many more injured. I was there. We had been tracking the bombers for weeks but that day they had fooled us. Or maybe we had just made a mistake. I was standing in the smoke and wreckage looking for evidence and I realised it was becoming like a game to me, this chase and capture. I needed a break.’ ‘I was transferred to a low priority surveillance job in the South. It was a beautiful little place, all painted white, only a few tourists, a rocky coast, perfect for fishing. We knew also that the terrorists sometimes used it to move their people overseas. My cover was as a baker. My father was a baker you know, so it wasn’t difficult for me. I stayed for a couple of months, got to know the locals, started to settle down.’ ‘Then she came. I recognised her immediately. Strange, at the time I thought she would recognise me, know my moves, but she stayed none the less. I visited the house where she was staying. It was a summer house for the woman who owned it. She had businesses in the North, you know how the Northerners are. How they met I couldn’t say. Maybe I was made reckless by the sun but I delayed making a report on her. I spent time with them, cooked, drank wine. It was all a pretence but here I was, just a baker.’ ‘It couldn’t last. Eventually I checked in. They sent an intervention team on the next plane.’ ‘I remember it well. The end of summer, the autumn storms due. Clouds were gathering, you could feel the lightning in the air. We surrounded the house, no fuss, standard tactics. I brought some bread as I always did, some red wine, mushrooms. I walked to the door, knocked. She answered, not the Northerner, suspected nothing. She opened the door and stepped out into the sun. There we were, just for that instant. Two people.’ ‘I heard a shout. She looked at me, almost surprised. In that instant before the first bullets hit her and the sound

of the guns I realised I loved her, from the first moment I had seen her it had been this way. And that is why I had waited. I stood at the door as she fell, her blood on my hands. Most likely she never suspected, thought it was the other one I came to see but it was her, always, the quiet one, choosing her words, watching.’ ‘The rest you probably read in the papers. The Northerner, well it was all lawyers with her and she went back to her apartment, this little adventure over. The house is boarded up. I can’t go there. And here she is still. Shot in the head. Not a movement. Not a flicker. No visitors except me, and me at best what, an interrogator? Maybe it would have been better if she had died. Would I have told her? Could I? It would have made no difference. I’d do the same again. We are different people. Different tastes. Enemies. I was lucky to get a glimpse of the possibility of a life. Maybe we both were.’ ‘There is too little love in the world.’ the story the story always repeated his voice the only voice there and there she never comes he never tells I cannot see I cannot the knock at the door and he is there I am saying his name and there are others the guns the guns and at last it is over over but no no I am here where is here lost nurses voice it’s time to go now officer I’ll be back in six months no change no no change but I am still here without her without her the story always repeated there is too little love in the world and I am waiting waiting on the road the green Mercedes her touch here her touch blood and mushrooms and she is here the white sun waiting and she and she and she

THE WITCH LADY
by JOHN FAGAN

The sun. Closed her eyes and opened them again. Was it morning already? Looked over. The clock said it was almost two in the afternoon. Iris slid her legs over the side of the bed and got dressed. She sipped a cup of tea in her kitchen. Shivered. Forgot to boil the kettle again. Poured it down the sink like yesterday. Opened the back door and walked out into the garden. Over-grown grass and weeds had choked the life out all the flowers. She bent down a ripped out a weed where her lilies used to be. Pain washed over her skin. Dropped the nettle. A line of red appeared on her hand and wrist. Back inside she held her arm under the cold tap water. Mike loved that garden and had it perfect every summer. Now, it was a mess just like everything else in her life. A voice at the front door. Katie’s voice. Hadn’t seen her since the funeral more than a year ago. “Hello, Mum. Where are you?” Katie shouted opening the door. “I’m in the kitchen, dear.” “What happen to you hand?” Katie asked, holding out her own. “It’s just a wee sting from a nettle - that’s all.” “Look.” “What?” “Look at my hand! I’ve got a new ring. Scott bought me it.” Iris stared at the chubby hand, with seven rings on it. “I see. That’s lovely, dear.” “The next one will be an engagement ring; he’s promised me by the end of the summer. Then we’ll have a big party to celebrate. Obviously you’re invited, but I’ll need you to cook and serve food for my guests. Scott says he has a friend that you can buy good party food from. You can pay Scott just now and he’ll sort you out with everything.” “Katie, I’m not in a position to pay for anything like that right now.” “Eh? You’re only daughter is getting engaged and you won’t part with a penny? What sort of mother are you?” “Things haven’t been easy since your dad died.” “He left you money in his will. He left me nothing!” “For the last time, there was no money.” Silence floated between them. Katie’s mouth was twitching. “Well, Scott says you are lying about that. It’s fucking disgusting.” Iris sat by the kitchen table and sighed. Katie moved towards the window. “Your garden is in some mess. I’ll get Scott to come round and sort it out for you. It won’t cost you much.” “No it’s fine, dear - I’ll make a start on it today. Your dad never liked anyone else messing with our garden.” “Suit yourself, but get it sorted. You are embarrassing us all living like this. I tried calling you three times this week but your phone isn’t working.” “Yes, well it was cut. I forgot to pay the bill. Your dad always took care of those things. I’m just taking time to adjust, but it will be back on tomorrow the phone company said. I went to the post office and paid it this morning.” “Jesus! You can’t even pay a phone bill?” Katie fished a brochure out her pocket. “This is for Gordon Elder’s nursing home. It’s cheap and they’ll take care of you.” “I’ve told you before, Katie - I’m fine here. I don’t want to go live in a nursing home. This is my home. I lived here with your dad for 44 years. I’m not leaving.” “You won’t even take a look? You live in this pig-sty, and anything I suggest to help you just throw it

back in my face.” “I don’t want to leave.” “Look, Mum, I grew up here. This is my house as well. You’ll be happier there.” “I’m happy here.” Katie closed her eyes and sighed. “I want you to move out. I’m selling the house. We both could do with the money. Scott wants us to go on a cruise. You know I have a bad back and I can’t work. Don’t be so selfish.” Silence filled the room. “Katie, I—“ “Jesus! You are going to that home whether you like it or not. I’ve already called them and booked your place. I don’t know why I’m being so nice to you and pretending like you have a choice. In three weeks you’ll move there.” Iris looked at the floor. “I’m not moving.” “Don’t you ruin this cruise for me. We’re going to Jamaica and three other islands in October. Isn’t it wonderful? We are both so excited.” Katie clapped. “Okay, well I best be off - Scott is waiting on me in the car.” “He didn’t want to come in?” “Oh you know what he’s like about all the Catholic stuff around this house. It makes him feel uneasy. To be honest, it’s fucking disgusting all this dead guy on a cross stuff.” “Your dad never did like him, you know.” “Who?” “Scott.” “He never said that. That’s a disgusting thing to say. Dad loved Scott like the son he never had. It’s only you with the problem.” “Was the before or after Scott broke four of his ribs?” “Don’t you dare! Everyone knows that was an accident.” Katie grinned. “We all wish it was you that got sick. I feel like I’m an orphan now.” “You’re 43 years old.” Katie slammed the kitchen door. “Three weeks and you’re out,” she shouted from the hallway. “Goodbye, Katie.” Iris sat in the garden. Mike’s favourite chair. Stared at the chestnut tree. A long piece of old blue rope was tied around the thickest branch. It swayed with the breeze. It was for a tyre swing for the son she miscarried. The voices of the local children broke her thinking. A yellow beach ball bounced into the garden and landed at her feet. A little boy with white hair and a stream of freckles appeared at the gate and walked towards her. “Hello, son. Is this your ball? You can have it back.” The boy looked petrified as he edged towards the ball. “It’s okay. You don’t have to be scared. What’s your name?” No reply. Three older boys and a girl crept up to the gate. “Ahh - the witch lady has got Thomas!” one of the boys said. Thomas turned back to them and shook his head. “Witch lady! Witch lady! Witch lady!” the children screamed, as Thomas grabbed the ball and sprinted out of the garden. Iris stared back at the chestnut tree. They were only children. They didn’t mean any harm. Her eyes wandered towards Mike’s shed. She got to her feet and walked towards it. Inside she found the photograph album under his tools. Pictures of when they were first married and of Katie when she was a baby. Had looked at them too many times to remember since he’d died. She held the album close and sat on his workbench. The shed still smelled of Mike. Eyes closed and he was there with her again. “I don’t want to be here anymore. I can’t live without you. It’s getting too hard.” Iris stood up and her legs wobbled. Her face wet with tears. She carried the album back to the house and flicked through the pictures once more. Iris sat in the living room eating dinner. Didn’t feel like turning on the TV. Steak pie was Mike’s favourite.

Made enough for two out of habit. Could eat the rest for lunch tomorrow. She took a drink of milk from her glass and threw it up over her dinner. Looked at the carton - the milk had been out of date for more than a month. Didn’t realize. Couldn’t smell much since last winter. Ran the tap in the kitchen and washed out the taste. Decided just to go to back to bed. The sun. Morning again? The clock said almost twelve in the afternoon. A headache spread as she moved to her feet. There was broken glass in the kitchen. The window had been smashed. A brick with a piece of paper tied around it lay in her sink. WITCH LADY GO BACK TO HELL! It was written in a child-like handwriting. She got the brush, swept the glass from the floor and put it in the bin along with the note. A knock on the door. “Hello there. Are you Iris Grennan? “Yes. How can I help you? “Mrs Grennan! Nice to finally meet you. It’s taken us a while to track down your current address. Well, Mrs Grennan, my name is Graham McFarlane. I work for Yellow and Blue Debt recovery. I’m here to discuss your unpaid bill.” A tall, heavy set man stood at the door. He flashed a name tag and a badge. “Oh I’m sorry, son, but I paid the phone bill yesterday at the post office. I got out a postal order. It’s all paid for now I promise you. Hold on and I’ll show you the receipt.” “I’m sure you have, but that’s not the reason I’m here. This is for another one of your debts. It says in our records that you owe three thousand pounds for a car finance loan.” “Car finance? I’m sorry but you must have the wrong person. I don’t own a car and neither did my husband.” “I’ll refresh your memory. Ford Fiesta. Registration number L910 TNS. White. It’s from when you lived in Easterhouse.” “Oh. That was my daughter’s car. She must have sold that over five years ago. I’ve never lived in Easterhouse. Katie did a few years back with her first husband.” “Well, it says in our records that you owe this money not your daughter. I need full payment on that today, Mrs Grennan, or further action will be taken.” “Please leave now. I do not owe this money. I have never in my life taken out a loan. This has nothing to do with me.” “Mrs Grennan, don’t use that attitude with me. I’m trying to help you. Maybe you have forgotten that you had taken it out for your daughter. Either way, I don’t care. It was never repaid. The finance company needs that money paid back today. Have you got a credit or debit card?” “No.” “Well, go get your bank details for me.” “I will not. You had better leave before I call the police.” “Oh and say what - help, help me, officer. I have a massive debt and the company who kindly leant me this money is asking me to pay it back. They would tell you to fuck off, Mrs Grennan, wouldn’t they?” “I beg your pardon?” “Don’t make this worse for yourself. I tell you what, I’ll be back at the same time tomorrow. That way you can get yourself sorted, refresh your memory and get me the money to pay your debt. That’s your last chance.” “This has nothing to do with me. And anyway, I can’t afford to pay that money.” The man sighed, and rubbed his chin. “You know we can put you in prison for this. It’s classified as theft. Is that what you want? You’ll spend the rest of your life in a cramped prison cell if you don’t pay this. It’s in your name. It’s your debt. Tomorrow, okay? I’ll be back tomorrow.” Iris closed the door. Tears streamed. The sun was setting. Iris sat in the living room trying to eat the remaining steak pie from yesterday. Had no appetite. The window suddenly shattered, covering the floor with glass. Children’s laughter from outside. Another brick with the same ‘witch lady’ message tied to it. A crowd of children popped up from below her fence. They were all holding bricks. “Witch lady! Witch lady! Witch lady!” A tall boy threw another brick and it smashed more of the window.

Iris ran for cover. They were going to get in the house. She locked the back garden gate and hurried into the middle of the garden. Could hear more glass breaking. The chestnut tree could be safe. Iris struggled to lift herself up onto the first branch. She grabbed hold of the blue rope and pulled herself one branch higher. Then another. Arms ached. Hadn’t been up so high since she was a child. She steadied her legs and sat on the branch. Felt queasy looking down. She pictured Mike with her in the garden. They were eating breakfast on a summer’s morning, with Frankie Miller singing ‘Caledonia’ in the background. Heard more glass being smashed. She smiled and tied the rope around her neck. Heartbeats slowed. Iris looked at the red sky. Jumped.

CHOICES
by NATALIE STYPA

Abby has been calling me, one day she just appears in my room, Alright you soppy cow, enough, get out, she snatches my duvet, Bloody hell, I try to grab my covers but they are already out of reach, she yanks the window open a rush of air turns my arms into gooseflesh. What the fuck, I sit up with a jerk, What are you doing, Allowing some fresh air to reach your brain so it can pull you out of this self-induced state of delusion, she’s standing in front of the window with her bum against the heater, wearing lace stockings and a sequin miniskirt, Self-induced, what do you know you know nothing, you- C’mon, she comes over and sits down next to me, No need to bitch at me, she stretches her arms out, I don’t want to be hugged but I have no energy to fight her off. C’mon you skank, she pulls me into an embrace and holds me, I feel her hands stroking my back, It’s okay it will be okay I promise, you just need to get out of this room get back outside okay, now you go take a nice hot shower and then we’re gonna get all prettied up, I’ve got some fab new nail varnish just bought two bottles and we need to try them and then we’re gonna go out and hit the city and party our arses off, just the two of us just like we used to. First we’ll go to Marco’s and stuff our faces with chips and gravy and then you know where we will go, we’ll go to Exxotic we haven’t been there FOR EVER. Remember the cocktails we always had there, just plain old pineapple and coconut and they even had little paper umbrellas, we can get pitchers too and then we’re gonna dance like crazy, it’s gonna be one of our wild girls’ nights out, just the two of us so c’mon now, get out of bed. She takes my hand and leads me into the bathroom, Who let you in anyway, I ask her, Your Mum of course she said I should treat you to some fun, looked like she was about to go out and treat herself, must have left by now, Abby grins and puts the shower on hot, I cringe but let her push me. Water starts drumming on my body, my head shoulders face tits, I close my eyes when I open them again there is steam rising around me covering me like a vaporous blanket, Abby was right the water begins to chase things away, I watch it swirling down the drain. When I step out of the cabin and look in the mirror, I don’t see the pale figure that has been there for weeks, just fog, I blow-dry my hair without looking it feels nice to have clean hair. Pounding bass beats are coming from my room, Let me make up for the things you lack, a voice sings, Abby has put on the album that we always listened to when getting ready to go out, she is rummaging through my wardrobe. How about this, she holds up a silver sequin strappy dress, I haven’t worn it in a while probably not since the last time we’ve been to Exxotic but I nod, she’s already looking for some leggings. When I’m dressed she does my make-up and then shows me the nail varnish she bought, one is a violent shade of orange, neon almost, the other a pinky coral red, Which one do you want, she asks. I look at the colours, Don’t care, I say, Oh come on choose one, she’s holding the little bottles in my face, I shrug and point at the orange one. Rad, Abby squeals, So it’s stage dive for you, she says and tosses me the bottle, Which leaves war paint for me, What, I ask, Don’t look at me like this, Abby grins, I didn’t come up with the names. I put the varnish on my desk, I’m just gonna get something to drink, I say, downstairs I see that Mum’s coat is missing she must have gone out like Abby said, I nick a bottle of red wine from her supplies that are stored away in a kitchen cabinet behind the flour. I go back upstairs with the wine and two glasses, Abby is lying spread out on my bed waving her hands, I pour us wine and start painting my nails too. When the varnish is dry and the bottle empty we slip into our heels and head out into the night it’s a Saturday night the bus is full of people a crowd buzzing in the streets, I force myself not to look closely, I squint my eyes so everything looks like a blurry picture. There is already a queue in front of Marco’s the girls have long very straight very blond hair some with dark roots, all of the boys have short hair but it’s gelled and they are not tall and I see no grey hoodies so my heart has no reason to beat faster. Abby and I order cheesy chips and cans of coke and the chips are dripping fat and diet coke is sold out but we decide not to care, we

wolf it all down and then we head over to Exxotic it’s just around the corner. Our first time we were probably 15 or so we went there every weekend, only when I met my first love the boy I almost killed myself for I didn’t anymore cause he didn’t like the place and sometimes Stuart made us go somewhere else and we did cause he’s our best friend, but apart from that Abby and I spent almost all our Saturday nights at Exxotic. But then we left school and started college and I dropped out and started working in a shop and things changed we went to different places but now we’re back and it looks exactly like it used to, all white and glass or chrome or whatever and it’s jam-packed but there is a little space at the table of some guys and Abby asks if we can join them and of course we can. We order the same cocktails we always ordered, pineapple and coconut, they serve them in longstemmed glasses with little paper umbrellas in yellow and turquoise stuck to the side and the guys have short spiky hair and wear striped shirts. They are playing vodka roulette, you get shots of vodka they have vodka flavoured with anything you can imagine, marshmallow blueberry pie pink grapefruit and all, and with vodka roulette you get twice as many shots as you got players but one is chilli or mustard and you pick shot after shot and the one who picks the chilli shot loses and has to buy the next round. Abby is smiling at the boys and batting her fake lashes, she convinced me to try them too it works, You ladies want a drink? one of the boys asks, his shirt is white with blue stripes, we nod and he buys us beer and next round we play with them. The first glass I pick is cherry vodka sweet and sticky next one is vanilla maybe but I’m not sure everything tastes almost the same sweet and fake but at least I’m not the one who picks the chilli shot. It’s the boy whose shirt is striped grey and green, he drinks and tears start streaming down his face and his mates whoop and cheer and Abby and I giggle and then we go downstairs to dance. Let me make up for the things you lack, I hear the voice singing again, the beat makes my bones vibrate faces are swirling around me closing in drawing back. I look around, Abby is pressing her body against the boy in white and blue, suddenly the one in grey and green, the one who chose the chilli shot appears right in front of me moving closer and closer, he puts his hands on my hips and draws me against him, our bodies start moving together everything is swirling around me I feel so light so light as if I’m The next morning I wake up cause it’s too light in my room I must have forgotten to draw the blinds last night but I don’t want to open my eyes, someone is lying next to me I feel it there is a naked body close to mine. I try to drift back into sleep but my right arm starts hurting, I must’ve been lying on it all night. The other body stirs and wraps an arm around me, a hand gets put onto my thigh, the position is strange and the body that is pressing against me from behind feels way too flabby and the smell of cigarettes is missing. I can’t go back to sleep I open my eyes, the harsh morning light makes me squint, I push the arm away turn around to face the body, I see it transform becoming someone, I squeeze my eyes shut again. He wakes up too, stretches, he puts his hand between my legs I keep my eyes closed, he rolls onto me and we start shagging again. When we’re done he says I should get going, I nod, we get up and he puts on his shirt and jeans and asks me where the loo is. I go downstairs, Mum’s coat is still not hanging on the hook, he comes downstairs too and puts on his trainers. We are standing in the hallway facing each other, his trainers are dark grey with black laces, my feet are naked and I shiver, See you, he says, See you, I say. I close the door behind him and go back upstairs to call Abby but she doesn’t answer, I’m just about to hang up when I finally hear her voice it sounds breathless, How was your night, I ask her, Smashing, she giggles, Can we talk later, Okay, I say and push the button to disconnect. I crawl back into my bed lay face down with my arms around the pillow, it smells like some cheap after shave I can’t go back to sleep. I’ve got my right hand close to my face I see that stage dive is peeling off already, maybe war paint was the better choice.

THE OBJECT’S LOSS
by ROBERT SMITH

“What’s up?” Propped on her elbows, fingers stroking my arm, she looked concerned, a droplet of perspiration dangling, so precious, liquid hesitation under her pretty chin. And dipping to catch salt drip on tongue tip, I hadn’t a clue. Martin was scuffing the linoleum, throwing one of his legendary wobblies. “Nothing’s up. That’s what’s up,” he screams. Then, slinging his phones at the sound guy, “We got ourselves a goddamn slinky here, people.” And what was bothering me was that Rhiannon reminds me of Cara. Not just her little elf face, or the way her eyes slit when she laughs, but how she says things with that trace of lisp (her “thuck” is just darling). And just five minutes before, I’d been crouched over her, gripping her thighs, jerking her up and hard into me. Rhiannon, I should mention, is major cute, with her pixie face and waterfall cascade of curls and how her lips swell like raspberries when she’s into it, so I’m stiff as a Popsicle. (Don’t get me wrong: I like her too as a person). In no time she was giving me these gorgeous little yelps, which is her specialty, and tipping her hair back into the arc-light, skin glossed with sweat, a line of spittle dribbling out the corner of her mouth, which needs to be edited out later but is not bothering me to the point of distraction. She’s a Jewish girl Rhiannon is, that not being her given name, and with that ski- jump proboscis she’ll never cut it as a box-cover, but cute as all get out, great toned body, magnificent sculpted tits with a smidgeon of silicon bracing the scoop, a hint of softness to her frame still, a real pro, and I was right there slapping it to her, picking up the tempo, eyes squeezed tight to concentrate, her pushing against the rhythm sticky moist, and we’re well lost in the merge when she stops dead, and Martin hasn’t yelled cut, and I see it’s me that’s lost it. One minute I’m in the girl and the moment, the next I’m shellacked to the Pioneer Valley back in the day. We were done, no question. Otherwise we’d have been waiting for wood till midnight. Martin scowling like a jackal, which is what he is. “Don’t you be starting this shit now too,” he snorts. ‘That’s all we need.” That hurt. For if there’s one thing I pride myself on it’s performing on demand. I’m old school, one of the last of the hardcore troubadours. I’ve a genetic predisposition. So if I could sue those Pfizer bastards for restriction of trade I so would. A few years back, when the V-Boys drove into the Valley in their convertibles, buff blow-dried Chippendale wannabes every one, amateur g-string, the cell quit chirping. I lost three of my prime years, like Ted Williams, till the producers wised up, realized that those individuals care more about how they look than the girl they’re with. What the V-boys never learned is that we’re fillers for the guy at home, set decoration. Your female star earns ten times more, conservative estimate, but she’s nothing without a cornerstone, and a V-Boy is never that. You take me. I love women and most everything about them, so stimulation occurs smooth and regular as frost on the Adirondacks. The girls know that. It relaxes them. If you have to drop a blue diamond first, or inject caverject powder or such, they feel like they’re not attractive enough in and of themselves. Plus, that stuff makes guys red in the chest and beetroot- faced, which is disgusting. This is the reason your V-Boy is referred to in the industry as a Tonto. And because it takes a Tonto about a decade to come means longer hours. You’re talking overtime. Only time I worked overtime was summers back on the student paint crew, a job I took so Ed Silva and me could do serious academic exploration. Mostly, tunnelunking the underground campus steam channels, mapping the heat duct system for future researchers, us the Lewis and Clark of vadding. Nighttime elevator rodeo was cool too. Hike the car to the sub-basement and jam it with the emergency button, boost and pull, pry the hatch, shimmy the hoist cables, duck the counterweight, you’re good to go. Levering off the guide rails, we’d ride that sucker till daylight leaked the grid channels, scaring the shit out of late night meat cargo, conven-

tion kid campers mostly, when we slammed the roof. The best was riding a virgin to the top, one you’d never jumped, flashlights pooling the steel machinery of the shaft, the sheer smooth of metal sighing in the dark. We rode the freight up eight weeks straight that summer, dreaming big, the library tower, twenty two up, vertigo central, never been done. This time last year we’re running late on a Vivid set, not ready to wrap by midnight even though it’s standard doggie-doggie-missionary, and I’m chatting to Rhiannon, who’s leaning over the sofa, about the best angle for the money shot and what I should get Jenee for our anniversary, Malcolm and Henry being busy changing the blown bulb in a 1000 kilowatt C-light, that one reason for the serious delay, when Laird sashays up behind, flips her robe up, and starts right in. Now, that happens on set and it doesn’t distract Rhiannon any since it’s a fluff deal, and she keeps right on nattering as if there’s nothing going down behind her. Meanwhile Laird’s eyes keep straying to the monitor where he’s checking himself out and making weird toothy grins. But me, I’m getting ticked because he’s one of the newbies so proud of his stamina and all, and here he is needs refueling. So I say “Laird, elsewhere.” And he gives me this look like whatever and off he strolls to look for something, a mirror probably. Then last week, I’m up at the crack, driving Jenee over Sepulveda to Trac Tech for a Wicked shoot, a coffee-table job. The soundstage is buried deep in this prairie of electronic plants and industrial park tilt-ups, every one metallic, windowless and low to the ground. And the Pacific dawn is no bluer than me. Some days, Jenee is a dreamboat queen. I kept looking down at her legs sheathed in these smooth black pants tapering to exquisite Manolo fetish pumps, stiletto sharp perfection, and up at her breasts, high and motionless against her turquoise tight-fit blouse, and her lips appliqued in softest pink, and her hair, damp still, smooth and careless, a blonde map of wet strands on the hood of her sweat-jacket. I’m a lucky man, all things considered. My girl is the object of desire for thousands, millions given statistical evidence, and she is all mine, technically. It’s worth holding onto even if, on the job, I can’t ever shake that I’m the accessory, the object of the object. So she goes off to costume and I take a stroll on the set. They still have a set, and that’s cool. With digital, the director needs a DP and a boom doctor. But there’s a full crew at Trac, assistant and technical directors, cameramen and focus puller, a stylist, the usual strung out hangers on and fluff chickens, Ricki the caterer at his table rolling ham. Bill the Irish and Atkinson by the monitor watching yesterday’s playback, pizza boxes from the night before on the equipment. I was just settling in for a cold slice of pepperoni myself when who struts by in a purple and gold dressing gown but Nautilus Boy himself. “Hey Donovan,” he says. “What up? Not yesterday, but the day before, I had the best scene with your wife. Absolutely excellent fuck.” And he makes this O shape with his middle finger and thumb. “What a worker. You’re a lucky man dude.” Then he bobs off outside to preen or something. Me, I’m staring off in space, nerves scraping like fuses, and Atkinson throws his arm round my shoulder and says, “Ignore that one. It wasn’t so long since he was breaking down on the set all the time. Them new guys come apart like a bad suit.” The Irish shakes his head. “Did youse hear they’ve begun mass marketing a mold of the Laird man’s dick? Unbelievable. What will those individuals think of next? Crack the dildo market and you’re set up for life I hear. ‘Get Laird’ is what it says on the box. It’s a pun of some kind.” That tears it somehow. Next thing I know we’re outside and on the ground and they’re hauling me off him and his nose is bent and his gown ripped, and blood, some of it mine, soaking my fingers and I’m gripping the broken links of his St. Christopher’s medallion while he’s screaming fit to bust how he’s going to sue my impotent pretentious college boy motherfucker ass to kingdom come and Jenee is mixed in there too, shrieking like a banshee, clawing at my eyes with bright red nails and sobbing and her hair, up in curlers, not looking too good and, hell, if I’m not in the car and off and up over Mulholland in no time, looking down on puffs of smog ring, surveying all the valley, all this sweaty empire of my senses, through a mist of salt. And I was embarrassed as the night I took a stroll with Cara to see a dead poet’s resting place. Wasn’t much to see, four grave markers, two big, two small, square fence framing them. So we’re in the dark, looking at a bucketful of nada, when Cara says this weird thing. What she says is, and I quote because I looked it up, “Perception of an object Costs/Precise the Object’s loss.” I’m trying to wrap my mind around that, and failing obviously, thinking too how there’s something weirdly romantic about this situation: poet’s grave, night, boy and girl, shrill whirr of dying crickets. So I feel I’m obligated to make a gesture and what I do is touch her shoulder, and she turns towards me, and I bend over and kiss her, this tender graze, and she up and whacks me flush across the chops.

“No,” she says. “Don’t do that. You don’t love me.” And I say, “Hello? What’s love got to do with it?” And I’m pretty mortified about what’s gone down and am making nice. “You don’t love me,” she says again. “Well. . . “ I’m at a loss, my ear ringing like firebells. “You’re in love with Ed.” Just like that. Cool, collected, direct. What a bitch. Days like these, cruising down Lankershim Boulevard, past the Yoshinoya Beef Bowls and the King Bear car lots, the sad-ass tag sales and thick-powdery curry shops, wall-to-wall subdivisions stretched like transistor circuits out and up the San Fernando Valley, I get to thinking about it some. How happy we were together surfing that metal machine above stack upon stack of unread books of poetry, and knew then, arms outstretched in the updraft, that all we mean by youth is smooth velocity and the only way up is up.

PANTHERS
by PAUL BRUCE

Reuters : 08/01/1983 The Wild Animal Registration Act takes effect from May, requiring owners of non-native, predatory animals kept as pets to register them with the Home Office. ------------------------------------------------Martha Kipp winced. She flung out her finely sculpted mahogany arm, tossed her ‘Daily Express’ onto the onyx coffee table - a gift from the Emir of Bhutan, for whom she had once sung The theme from ‘Fame’ wearing only a fur coat and gold lamé trainers - and clapped her hands. ‘Matti!’ She called, her voice echoing down her hallway, out of her IKEA doorway, to the four-car garage, where Matti, her hulking Finnish man-servant, was washing down the Maserati with dutiful attention. Matti looked up, as the call drifted faintly across where he crouched by the gleaming hubcap of the red sports car, dabbing at the wheelnuts with practiced care. He rose slowly. ‘Matti here.’ Martha gestured at the newspaper, without looking up. ‘Have you read the news today, Matti?’ ‘Matti not like to read.’ Martha sighed. ‘They’re going to take my darlings away from me. Or make me pay large sums of money for the privilege of keeping them.’ ‘You want Matti hurt someone?’ Matti asked hopefully. Martha purred, eyes suddenly shining. ‘How thrilling!’ A vision of Matti pounding his meaty fists into the Home Office Minister’s face and turning over his desk flashed before her. ‘But no Matti, I think that would be the wrong thing to do. Unfortunately.’ She tapped her front teeth with her platinum crossword pencil. ‘Take me to them.’ She draped her arms around his neck as Matti lifted her from her chair. The cellar door struck a false note amidst the hallway’s banal furore of chinoiserie, with its steel reinforcement and sinister heavy bolt. With one muscular arm still bearing Martha’s weight, Matti slid the bolt back,

swinging open the door. Stooping, he stepped inside, and paused, letting his eyes become accustomed to the darkness. Inside the pitch-dark room like a string of glow-worms, hovered five pairs of glittering eyes. They swivelled, following Matti as he stepped down into the vault. He reached out with his free hand and a strip light on the ceiling flickered into life, revealing a cage and it’s idling occupants, four black panthers and a chubby brown puma. ‘Closer.’ Martha snapped, and Matti took a step nearer the mesh cage. ‘My loves, how much I wanted to keep you here, where you would be safe and protected..’ She cooed, ‘but I can’t keep you any more. They will make me kill you all. Don’t worry, I’m not going to kill you, I’m going to set you free! Isn’t that wonderful?’ The puma snorted moodily. ‘Yes, Lionel Blair, soon you will be roaming free across the moors! And you, David Attenborough, will be wild once more! My last gift to you, darlings!’ After the Blackpool panto had finally run it’s course, and while Matti was driving her home through a January squall, Martha flicked idly through a Motoring Atlas of Great Britain. ‘Order me a hired van for next week, Matti. And some heavy chains. The time has come, we go North.’ The journey began uneventfully, and around midday, they crossed the border. ‘Soon, my children.’ Sighed Martha dreamily. She remembered her own childhood, abandoned by her mother, a foundling discovered in a shoebox behind Tesco’s. How ironic, she thought, that only now could she feel an understanding with her own mother and could only wonder at the unknown disaster that had impelled her to discard her child like some unwanted old jumper. ‘Matti hungry.’ Intoned Matti. ‘Very well. Stop at the next garage.’ Andy watched the odd couple roam around the deserted aisles, the tall, blonde fellow loading his basket with pizza slices, while the short, dark woman gazed disinterestedly about her, idly flicking through the CD rack. Suddenly, he recognised her. ‘Hey! Are you no’ Martha Kipp?’ He called. Martha glanced up, a slight smile of satisfaction playing over her lips. ‘Yes I am.’ ‘Mah Ma is a big fan o’ yours. Ever since ye done that Bond theme.’ Her smile vanished. ‘I never did any Bond theme.’ she snapped. ‘You’re obviously confusing me with someone else.’ The doors hissed open and a policeman walked in. Matti and Martha froze, staring open-jawed at the Officer, who, ignorant of their attention, approached the counter. ‘Hello Andy, are ye busy the day?’ He asked. ‘Jist the usual. Are ye after yer snacks? Ah’ve kept them tae one side again.’

Andy pulled up a carrier bag, stuffed with packets of crisp and sandwiches. ‘Guid laddie.’ Officer Baxter pulled out his wallet and handed over a note. Andy returned his change, and in doing so, leaned over the counter and whispered in his ear. The Officer turned and looked at the couple, who began browsing furiously among the motoring magazines. But it was too late. Martha flinched as she heard the heavy footsteps cross the shop floor in her direction. ‘Excuse me, Miss Kipp?’ Martha turned around, clutching an unwanted copy of ‘Caravan Owner Monthly’ and smiled graciously. ‘Yes.’ She said, as Matti slipped around the policeman’s back, clutching a spanner in his coat pocket. ‘My mum is a big fan of yours.’ He said removing his cap, ‘It’s a rare honour, so it is.’ ‘Thank you officer.’ ‘Have ye got some show on?’ ‘No show. Madame Kipp go to Rannoch Moor.’ Matti muttered. Baxter turned around and looked up, the giant Finn loomed a good few inches taller than himself, his cold blue eyes shone with menace. ‘Rannoch Moor?’ Officer Baxter was surprised. ‘Yes, officer. I’ve heard it’s very nice this time of year.’ ‘Rannoch Moor in January?’ Baxter frowned. ‘Ah think someone’s been havin’ a wee joke. Ah wouldnae recommend it.’ He looked over at Andy. ‘They’re goin’ tae Rannoch Moor!’ Andy laughed. ‘Ye shouldnae be drivin’ around there at this time of year. It’s wild.’ Martha hesitated, ‘..but I love the untamed wildernesses, they revitalise my soul.’ ‘It’s dangerous.’ Baxter repeated. ‘If ye get intae trouble, there’ll be naebody tae help.’ ‘We’re only going to look at it from the windscreen.’ Suddenly, a banging sound interrupted them. They turned and looked out onto the forecourt where the van was parked. It was rocking gently as some unseen force threw itself against the sides. ‘Is that your vehicle?’ Martha winced. ‘Yes’ she said, reluctantly. ‘What’s going on in there then?’ Baxter asked, replacing his cap. Matti stepped around to stand beside Martha. ‘Two hippies fucking.’ He said. ‘What?’ ‘Two hippies in back of van. They fuck.’ Andy’s eyes bulged. ‘Why yes, Officer. We picked them up a while ago, and..er..they’ve obviously got a bit bored.’ A muffled roar drifted across the tarmac. Baxter started.

‘I see. Dae ye want me tae nick them for ye?’ Baxter asked, staring at the van with distaste. ‘Oh, I find it quite romantic. Don’t you?’ She smiled patronisingly, as the vehicle settled into silence. ‘Frankly, no I don’t.’ Officer Baxter frowned disapprovingly. ‘Look, would you like me to sign something for you?’ Martha pulled out a CD from the rack. It was ‘Martha Kipp: Solid Gold Mamma’ the cover of which depicted Martha, clad in her trademark fur, descending a wide staircase with two panthers on a long chain. ‘Add this to the bill, young man!’ She shouted over to Andy, before ripping open the cover. She snapped a finger impatiently at Matti, who produced a gold fountain pen. Hastily she scrawled, ‘To a very kind Officer, Number 1465, from his bestest friend, Martha Kipp.’ ‘Here.’ She thrust it at him, hopefully. ‘That’s guid o’ ye, Miss Kipp.’ He paused, before glancing over at the van. ‘You be careful on they roads now.’ ‘Matti lost.’ Martha cursed and peered through the inky darkness at the road ahead, while Matti scrutinised the map. ‘Matti not know of this land. We need speak with a person.’ ‘Scroonge’ Reilly was waiting by the roadside, his thumb had chilled thoroughly and he was warming it over a rollie-up. He thought about trudging back home, but one good lift could see him to Pitlochry. He remembered how he’d met Eileen, who, halfway through a charity walk, was resting in the snug of the ‘Royal Inn’ enjoying a refreshing pint of real ale, when Scroonge spied her from the far side of the bar. Incredibly, she had succumbed to his oily variety of charm, and despite serious misgivings, had accompanied him back to his flat above the Ironmongers. The next morning, he saw her off on the Old Mearns Road, promising to visit her in Pitlochry. A promise he had easily made and could just as easily break. Still, here he was, and the weekend was yet young. He gave serious consideration to the possibility that Eileen might have some younger, and more attractive, sisters. A rumble alerted him to the approach of a van. Quickly, he stuck out his thumb and it juddered to a halt slightly ahead of him. Scroonge loped towards it as an over-sized man’s head popped through the driver’s window. ‘Hey!’ Matti intoned, ‘you local boy? Which way is Rannoch Moor?’ Scroonge’s eyes narrowed, lizard-like. ‘Ah’m goin that way mahsel’ likes.’ He paused to suck noisily on his pin-like rollie-up, ‘If ye gie me a wee lift, ah’ll show ye the way.’ He winked cheekily. Martha glared at him from behind Matti’s meaty shoulders. ‘Your suggestion is absolutely unacceptable to us.’ She hissed. ‘How no? Ye’ve got a spare seat in the front.’ ‘It’s out of the question.’ Martha spat. Scroonge’s teeth gleamed yellow in the darkness, a ghastly parody of a smile.

‘Aye, well. Mebbe ah dinnae ken the best way tae Rannoch Moor, then.’ Martha grimaced as though swallowing an unpleasant cough mixture. ‘Ah’m goin’ the same way.’ Scroonge repeated, raising an eyebrow suggestively. ‘Oh, allright. Get in.’ Scroonge jogged round the front of the van, it’s lights briefly highlighting his tatty leather jacket and paint-marked jeans. He opened the door and slid inside. ‘Keep straight on.’ He gazed at Martha briefly, in vague recognition. ‘Are you no’…?’ ‘Yes.’ Interrupted Martha coldly, ‘now shut up.’ Matti tugged the keys and the van jerked forward. They slunk into a deep, wintry silence, which lasted until a loud yawn from the back of the van broke the silence. Scroonge’s ears pricked up, ‘Whit’s that noise? Is somebody in the back?’ ‘Sound like David Attenborough.’ Matti grunted. Scroonge’s eyebrows lifted. ‘He is restless. Pull over.’ ‘Have ye got David Attenborough in the back, then?’ Matti pulled the van over onto a layby and stilled the engine. They sat in silence, listening. ‘Are youse doin’ a show the gither?’ Scroonge asked. From the rear came a muffled groan. Martha turned to Matti, ‘That was Lionel Blair.’ ‘Him as well?’ Scroonge was impressed. ‘They getting angry.’ Matti monotoned, as a series of stentorian moans rattled the rear partition. ‘Wait here. I’ll calm them down.’ Martha snapped open the door and a wreath of lifeless cold wrapped itself about them. Outside, she paused, checking the road for traffic, before pulling open the rear doors. ‘Why all the noise?’ Scroonge queried. ‘They been fucking all day. Now they get tired and angry and start fighting.’ Scroonge shrugged. ‘I didnae ken they were gay, like.’ ‘They always having sex and fighting. They have nothing else to do.’ Scroonge nodded sagely. ‘Aye, that’s Setturday night in Kirriemuir fir ye.’ The passenger door jerked open and Martha jumped inside, slamming it behind her. ‘They’re hungry.’ She sighed. ‘They should’ve brought a packed lunch wi’ them.’ Scroonge suggested. Martha purred with frustration, ‘we’ll need a butchers.’ ‘Butchers?’ Scroonge snorted, ‘there’s nae butchers open noo. It’s half-nine.’ He paused to lick down a fresh rollie-up. ‘Ye’ll maybe get a fish supper in Blairgowrie.’ ‘No!’ screamed Martha, ‘we need raw meat! Scroonge shrugged, ‘Aye, well there’s nothing open this time o’ night.’

Martha slipped Matti a sly look. ‘Perhaps you would like to meet them?’ Smiled Martha, innocently, as another trembling moan rattled the partition wall. ‘Ach naw, they’re busy shagging. Ah dinnae want tae get in the way.’ ‘It will be no trouble, I assure you.’ Martha gestured impatiently at Matti to pull over once more. ‘They like meeting their fans.’ ‘Dinnae bother.’ Martha flashed him an ugly look. ‘But your smoking bothers us. If you want to smoke, you’ll have to get in the back.’ Martha thought about how exquisite it would be to feed this peasant to her lions, like Cleopatra or Catherine the Great. Scroonge paused. This all sounded a bit out of his league. Still, it was a long way to Pitlochry. ‘Okay, but they’ll need tae get dressed.’ Matti slapped the partition wall. ‘Hey! Get ready boys! Asshole coming on board!’ The van halted at a layby. The three travellers jumped out and walked round to the back of the van. Martha pulled open one of the double doors. ‘Go on! Say hello to the naughty boys!’ ‘Hiya! Hope ye’ve got yer breeks on.’ Scroonge called out while peering into the van interior, as he did so, Matti chopped at the back of his head. Scroonge dropped like brick. ‘He’s out cold. Throw him inside!’ Matti leaned over and lifted Scroonge’s body up with one arm, using the other to heave him into the back, where he landed with a dull thud. Martha closed the door. ‘Who needs the butchers now, eh Matti?’ Matti laughed. Ahead, the road vanished into the black, glimmering wilderness, flanked by low-slung hills, lurking like slouching fiends, dark immutable giants, waiting to feed. The ground around them lay shattered into fragments, like the bones and viscera of some vast, slaughtered beast, rendered and dismembered in some unfathomable feeding frenzy. Among these bones lay scattered black pools, like oil slicks of heavy, thick blood. ‘Over there. We’ll go beyond that hill.’ Matti gathered three chains in his massive right hand, each chain attached to one of three panthers. He tugged sharply and the cats roused themselves, jumping over Scroonge’s unconscious body and out of the van. They padded ahead, crossing the road and slipping into the black undergrowth. Martha followed with Liberace and Lionel, straining at the chains as they forged into the brush. With her first cautious step into the blackness, her foot disappeared into a boggy clump of long grass, re-emerging shoeless and covered in black ooze. She screamed, her foot dripping, freezing into a small block of iced meat. Matti turned round and wrenching back the chains, pulled off his boots and tossed them over to her.

Later, they were still struggling up the low incline, smeared with mud that clung like a coat of paint, Martha’s fur coat already clotted and sodden with the murky slime. Tripping over a clump of heather, she fell, landing up to her elbows in gunge. Raising her head, she squealed like some farmyard animal being dragged from a filthy sty to its final, merciful slaughter. Overhead, a vast, dark cloud gathered, blotting out the wan moonlight, like some gigantic maw, waiting to engulf them. ‘Bastards!’ Screamed Martha, as the moon vanished into the jaws of a godless darkness, ‘Let me free them!’ A light rain began to fall. Martha fell to her knees and bowing her head, still clutched the chains as Liberace and Lionel waited patiently ahead of her, snorting and sniffing the night air. ‘I’ll be back!’ Yelled Matti, as the wind rose. He stumbled ahead, his torchlight wobbling around as he inched his way upwards, while a gust froze Martha motionless, the intensity of the cold shocking her breathless. Eventually, Matti returned. He took the chains and turned to trudge back up the hill, but Martha shook her head. ‘No, release them now! We’ve got to get back, or we’ll never survive.’ She pulled the cats towards her and buried her face in their manes. Goodbye, darlings! Enjoy your freedom!’ with that, she pulled off their collars and they bounded off into the darkness, vanishing immediately. The rain and wind grew stronger and Martha cried, her tears mingling with the mud on her streaked, frozen face. Matti bent down and picked her up, throwing her across his back and began the slow trudge back to the main road. Gasping, drenched, covered in mud and peat, they finally reached the road. Matti swung his mistress down, and she fell, spread-eagled onto the shining wet tarmac. He bent over her and raised her head, wiping away the mud from her eyes. Slowly, wordlessly, she got up and limped the few paces to the back of the van. ‘Merde!’ She screamed. Martha turned away from the van, squealing in a tone so high-pitched that it was almost inaudible. Matti crossed over and looked inside, catching his breath and cursing. There, in the back of the van, sat all five of the big cats. Liberace licking his paws, Lionel, Frederic and David sleeping, and Lulu, sitting on Scroonge’s face, sniffing at his chest. An approaching car broke the silence and its headlights swept the van interior, startling Liberace, who slunk into the shadows, and Lulu, who lifted her black snout and glared at the intrusion. Martha turned, shielding her eyes against the dazzle, and through blurred and reddened eyes, made out two dark shapes emerging

from the car drawn up beside them. As her eyes focussed, she could see that they were policemen. ‘Merde.’ REUTERS 29/04/1983 CAGED: A WILD AND DANGEROUS BEAST A Scottish court today sentenced Martha Kipp to 10 years imprisonment, for attempted murder and trafficking in endangered species. The singer was discovered with five panthers secreted in a Transit van, along with a kidnapped man who was found unconscious in the rear compartment. The prosecution claimed that the victim was intended as feed for the cats, Lawyers for Ms Kipp and her Scandinavian butler, who was charged as an accessory, have stated their intention to appeal.

SOFTLY, WITHOUT WARNING
by EMI JAMES

Through an unforeseen and unexpected turn of events I find myself living in a particularly beautiful building in the centre of my city. Beautiful, I should say, by my standards; where the uniform lines and stark contrasts of modern architecture are preferred to the more ornate, classical designs. I’m not sure why contemporary architecture excites me, perhaps my privileged upbringing in coffee shops and cash and carries has instilled an appreciation of modern luxuries into my subconscious, or maybe my subtle fear of the old inspires my contemporariness. The polished marble and blue-tinted lobby leads to a staircase that spirals upwards through the spine of the building like an angular helix clinging to the clinical white walls. Though the building is a mere six stories high, standing at the bottom of the stairwell and looking up gives the impression of almost limitless vertical depth. The steps are flanked by a stainless steel handrail that is inexplicably devoid of smudges or fingerprints that would belie the uninhabited and lonely impression the building exudes. Beautiful, sterile, and desolate. I climb these stairs every day, a vain attempt at exercise, to my fifth floor apartment where I eat and sleep and exist. I never see anyone in the corridors or the stairwell, yet when I sit alone at night I can hear the sound of footsteps on the wooden slats and doors opening and closing in the other hallways. I work erratic and irregular hours, so my not bumping into my neighbours is of no great surprise or worry to me. While not opposed to human interaction, I do enjoy the relative solitude and anonymity afforded to me by living in a densely populated city. Not so much hiding in plain sight as it is hiding where nobody cares to look. Nobody looks here. I exist in the crack between two worlds; the world outside with its thieves, scum and rapists and the world in here, a world of footsteps and sullen halogen shadows. The walk ascending the helix is as uneventful as it is exhausting. Five flights of blue carpeted stairs with dull grey doors every twenty steps leading to the concourse of each floor. I have never visited the other floors because there seems little point. The virtues of modern architecture dictate that they will be identical to my own down to the last copied and pasted detail. The mind does not enjoy chaos in design. Four times a day, twice to and from work and twice for food, I traverse the helix. This cardio-intensive regime has rendered my slight frame more toned and athletic than I have been in the past. I do not make much of this as I do not expect it to last. My fits of productivity are notoriously short lived, almost like clockwork. For now, though, I climb the stairs. It was during one such ascent that I noticed the door on the third floor was slightly ajar. Through the newfound sliver of space I could see faintly illuminated exposed brickwork. This somewhat innocuous detail caught my attention only because the rest of the building was finished in such a way as to completely mask and disguise the composite materials of the structure. The bricks on the third floor were large grey blocks, roughly one and a half times as long as they were tall, with lighter grey cement binding them. They seemed entirely unexciting, but the mundaneness of my life and my diabolical boredom bullied my subconscious into believing this discovery to be of greater significance than is likely was. I gingerly prodded the door to expose the interior by a further few inches. A waft of dry air cause the hairs on my arm to stand on end, the smell of plaster and dust followed close behind. Overcome by curiosity to find out why the third floor of this building deviated from the sterility of the other five, I pushed the door open fully and held it in place. The foyer of the third floor was similar to others in floor plan alone. Where the floor I live on continues the white and stainless steel aesthetic of the lobby, this floor was barren; the large grey bricks made up the entirety of the walls and the floor was plasterboard, thick with dust. The room was lit by a solitary strip light propped against the far wall. It would have had the feel of a construction site were it not for the atmosphere of dereliction and uneasy completeness. While clearly unfinished, the room felt like it was unlikely to ever resemble the others. The musty smell was pungent and I could feel the tiny particles of discarded skin and atomised

detritus sticking to the back of my throat. Despite this discomfort, propelled by my morbid curiosity, I stepped through the doorway. My feet left impeccable prints in the stour on the floor. Upon my third step into the room I felt the rush of displaced air breathe against the back of my neck as the door to the hallway swung shut behind me. Transfixed like a moth to the flame, I approached the light on the opposite side of the room. With each step I absorbed more of my surroundings. The ceilings were high and vaulted, completely divorced from the aesthetic of the rest of the building. They appeared to be made from the same material as the walls, but the poor lighting made it impossible to tell. The air was dry and cool, undisturbed. There were two large boarded up windows on the wall to my left, the frames matching the style of the roof, which consumed the walls from floor to ceiling. The boards appeared to be scorched and chipped in places. They had clearly survived some attempt at removal. Other than the windows the room was devoid of features. Where on the other floors there was a second door that led to the apartments, in this room there was no such exit. I was now halfway across the room. I estimated that there were twenty feet from each wall to its opposite partner and at least thirty from floor to ceiling at the highest point of the vaults. It gave the impression of being far larger than it was, but I am not sure what made me feel like this. By now I was close enough to the strip light to see that the wall it lay against was not as the others. I reached the light and crouched with it to my left where is reached the height of my shoulder. The wall in front of me was covered in tiny, scratchy handwriting, written in chalk, with at least a few hundred words per brick. I leaned closer to the wall, balancing on my toes and straining my eyes against the inadequate light. My nose was almost touching the surface by the time I fathomed the jagged, frantic writing. My heart immediately crawled into my mouth. I could taste bile burning at the back of my throat and I am certain that the blood drained from my face. In shock, I fell backwards from my crouching position and landed on my back. A huge cloud of dust leapt from the floor and quickly engulfed my slight frame. Scrabbling and spluttering, with the dust and decay settling in my lungs making my breathing laboured and painful, I attempted to find my feet and escape this foul, decadent space. In my haste to rid myself of the situation I must have struck the strip light with a wayward limb as I saw it slide towards the floor where it smashed upon impact and plunged the room into darkness. Not complete darkness, however, as there was now a dark red glow emanating from the edges of the boards covering the windows. I ignored this new luminescence and flung myself towards the door I came through to enter this terrible room. I found the door to be locked, or at least immovable by any one man. Frantic and coughing, with clouds of dry waste spiralling around my legs, I stumbled towards the windows and began to scratch wildly at the edges of the boards. Tiny splinters of wood detached from the mass, but the board did not budge. The light coming from outside grew more intense and cast a sickly maroon shadow over my skin. Now, completely within the throes of panic, I looked desperately around the room for something to aide my escape. In a flash of panicked inspiration I picked up the metal brace that once housed the strip light. I barely noticed that a large shard of glass plunged into my palm and caused a river of viscous, crimson blood to flow down the metal strip and drip onto the floor as I ran back to the window. I wedged the brace between the board and the wall and threw myself against it with a strength that was not my own. I heaved and heaved until the wood began to give way and flood the room with a dizzying red glow. I discarded the metal and pulled at the board with my bare hands, leaving smudges of blood streaked across the surface. With a final tug, and the last of my strength, the board came away from the window and exposed the vista before me. Glasgow was burning. Far off into the horizon flames hundreds of feet tall consumed every building and structure. The air was thick with the smell of sulphur and burning flesh. Below me was Buchanan Street, once the main thoroughfare of the city, now a river of blood. Men up to their waists cruor waded against the flow, screaming until their tongues melted from their mouths. I saw a man, removed from his skin, fall to his knees and be swept away by the current. The flames were encroaching and the sound of guttural screaming grew nearer. I tried to scream, but my body must have lost the ability; a futile gesture against the evil that played out in front of me. I dropped to my knees and slumped to one side, wondering what we could have possibly done to deserve such despicable punishment. I could see clearly now, illuminated by the inexorable fires now at my doorstep, the wall on the far side of the room. About two feet off the ground, in susurrant chalk with a few drops of my spilt blood beneath it, my question was answered in cathartic and unforgiving detail.

. Fi ngr he flames of hell, recently doused to a state of “nothingness” The mathematical by the Church framework of England, ofare quantum to be reignited. theory. By the time a key i ical intuition ce s i r e t t s sin f maingredient class okey von rea except for an arbitrary transformation [5], Although rarely quoted The wave nature of matter o, it ha ctrons es our of quanatuis g a fi n e y e d r v t a u i t w it defies ele d yetclassical The yet The Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawn up by the Evangelical Neumann started Alliance, hissays investigations while on biblical the formal images framework of burning of lakes should not be taken e a cen iFirst as that such, this theorem, which was already known to Dirac and Stone tum physics and es from -conogliintuition. l r sics an our c y B The wave nature of matter is a key ingredient of quant h r e a p d p since high ofhas uis tum de Broglie mechanics this theory was known in two different literally, they symbolise the horrors that are in store for quantum people who reject Christian [ó], isteaching. really fundamental for the understanding of many quantummechanical proposed by Louis ago, iety it ew var d by Lo a century e tum physics and yet it defies our classical intuition. First a s o h trate n massive tait p i s o n w o pr with a variety d mathematical e m investigations where the theoretical analysis is exclusively been confirmed of particles from electrons e ed and nfirm proposed by Louis de Broglie a century ago, it has since he flames of hell, recently doused to a by state of “nothingness” by the Church of England, are e ton be reignited. co he flames of hell, recently doused a state of “nothingness” the Church of England, are to be reignited. Here wnew h large eld interferom . t s b e i e The report, published next week, claims that sinners consigned formulations: to hellthe will “matrix face unimaginable mechanics” of torment Heisenberg, based Born onto the severity of sins they commit in l w based on the canonical commutation rules in their above form or up to molecules. Here we demonstrate high-conu s c t en ole re r-fi been confirmed with a variety of particles from electrons erimand a nea ve natu up to m ntum exp n a i life. and Jordan, and the of “wave mechanics” of reignited. Schrödinger. form The w s he flames of hell, recently doused to a state of “nothingness” by the Church England, are to field-theoretical be the equivalent trast quantum experiments with large massive taie l m u u ec taken to up to molecules. Here we demonstrate new high-conThe Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawnAlliance, up by the Evangelical Alliance, says that while of burning lakes should ant not be taken ol quaimages m The Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawn up by the Evangelical says that while biblical images of burning should not be st lakes c ra i tbiblical the qu posed of up an mathematical e g Ai Af At A, = Mjh 2™ A, = P, iQ,. lor-made organic molecules in a near-field interferomv r o o r e p s up d m trast quantum experiments with large and massive tailiterally, they that symbolise the horrors that who are in store for people who reject Christian teaching. literally, they symbolise the horrors are in course store for people ds co ments wave iquantum , masse o nnature lor-ma r u e  Å Hell, according to the study, is “a sphere of damnation, punishment, equivalenceAlliance, of anguish these formulations and destruction”. had been established by In o p 0 The Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawn up by the Evangelical says that while biblical images oftheory. burning lakes should not be taken reject Christian teaching. Statistical aspects of quantum the of his formulation eter. Our experiments prove the p x 6 e m o lor-made organic molecules in a near-field interferomr. Our ization of co l size of up t gths down t and they had both been embedded as special cases and operators of ignited. ken ete e literally, they symbolise the horrors that are in store for Schrödinger, people who reject Christian teaching. of quantum mechanics in terms of vectors Hubert and delocalization of compounds composed to avelen a l r t a e e b b ma of up t o ms, t o xiseverity n unimaginable a re eter. Our experiments prove the quantum wave nature The report, published next week, claims that sinners consigned to hell will face torment based on the of sins in deloc a ld w they commit , m u d d e o The report, published next week, claims that sinners consigned to hell will face unimaginable torment based on the severity of sins they commit in a n i n h l x syste s la a h g g e s t l e n i o k E r p The Evangelical Alliance was formed in 1846, and represents Christians from all denominations, including many Anglicans. It claims to represent a w f la space von Neumann also gave in complete generality the basic 430 atoms, with a maximal size of up to 60 Å, masses up B o , m g s e h o d rnin tom , can en c and delocalization of compounds composed of up to life. ” by the Churc life. U and 430 a ages of bu M eedom ell that ev s im r s million Christians, and campaigns on contemporary social issues. l  A f e a The report, published next week, claims that sinners consigned to hell will face unimaginable torment based on the severity of sins they commit in w statistical rule of interpretation of the theory. This rule concerns to m=6,910 AMU and de Broglie wavelengths down to 0 n f c g o 1 li o h in 9 ib s , s h b w e ee =6 430 atoms, with a maximal size of up to 60 Å, masses up of “not to m hat whileon a system al degr e sufficiently ce  pm. W a stateof mit in ays tquantity rn ≃1even s o life. m the result the measurement of a given physical λdB=h/mv≃1 pm. We show that complex systems, t e , v o t e d c c e n m . y n s i / r e g u ia n a h h o 0 ll in t e 0 s destruction”. λdB= to m=6,910 AMU and de Broglie wavelengths down to recently d Hell, according to the study, Hell, according the study, is sphere of damnation, punishment, anguish A toof ch a alBible sinand tepunishment, that is “a sphere damnation, anguish and destruction”. lic of arbitrary n “a coher n 1,0rarely ge yan es can ia e a t n t it , a r d is h a ll The study, written by a party of five people - includingean Oxford theologian and a senior lecturer at the London College details the fates e v except for transformation [5], Although quoted r t t e v E h s in given quantum state and expresses its probability distribution with more than 1,000 internal degrees of freedom, d h e e i e s C f r h o t o e t m c o s v m on th λdB=h/mv≃1 pm. We show that even complex n up by uantuand n who reje familiar formula involving he flam systems, nt to a q with states in oplecompletely mewell in a e ent based rt draw that sinners canto expect to face the next as such, this theorem, which was already known to Dirac Stone d p o m Hell, according the study, is in “a sphere ofworld. damnation, punishment, anguish and destruction”. by means of a simple and now be prepared in quantum that are sufficiently o e r r p r r e o . represent a fo i r t a e v e le p r c g n b o e a st with more than 1,000 internal degrees of freedom, can ell, a 140-p The Evangelical The Evangelical Alliance was formed in 1846, andfrom represents Christians from all denominations, many It claims to re eren e e pr It claims eiAnglicans. e inAlliance was formed in 1846, and represents Christians all denominations, including many Anglicans. to represent ac bincluding h imagina oh tavoid t ar n a u h general formalism, often called “transformation theory, ” developed t m t e H [ó], is really fundamental for the understanding of many quantummechanical c c s o f a r the vector representing the state and the spectral resolution isolated from their environment to decoherence e f r o f o f l r e r il r d pe ell w Natur well bolise the ho be prepared in quantum states that are sufficiently million Christians, and campaigns on contemporary social issues. hcontemporary o The million Christians, and campaigns on social issues. isolate coherence. ed t n almost igmany by Dirac and Alliance Jordan. This however, was rather clumsy s ym w 1. God is Infinite because He formalism, is Beingin and Existence iny Himself, and because all things in the universe have their being and existence from Him (n. investigations where the theoretical analysis is exclusively s n o The Evangelical was formed 1846, and represents Christians from all denominations, including Anglicans. It claims to represent a of the operator which represents the physical quantity [2]. This and to show almost perfect o y c h e s s h r t e , inn isolated from their environment to avoid erall mathematical nd to decoherence lit that soriginally and it was hampered by its reliance upon ill-defined 28). based on the canonical commutation laims rule, present a arules in their above form or in c million Christians, and campaigns on contemporary social issues. statistical proposed by Born in 1926, was for von e , r k o ”. e t n e s w io t t im c which and to show almost perfect coherence. The Revelation ofliJesus study, written party of things five people - including an Oxford theologian and a senior lecturer atby the London Bible College - details the fates u ex The la c Christ, which God gave unto him, to untoby his servants must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it his angel the str Itat study, written by aThe party ofshew five people -a including an Oxford theologian and a the senior lecturer the London Bible College details fates ed n objects, the famous delta-functions of Dirac and their derivatives. equivalent h and de is nglicans. field-theoretical form t, pub sh u A r g o y n p n a e a , r t that sinners can expect to face in the next world. m n e enext unto his servant John: times Th m ing Ai Af - At A, = Mjh 2™ A, = P, - iQ,. that sinners can expect tovarious face in the world. - details At the time, atomic was in a state of crisis, to which camps responded in different ish Although von because Neumann himself attempted at first, in collaboration pun 2. God is Infinite He was before the was, that is,physics before and spaces arose (n. 29). The study, written by a party of five people - world including an Oxford theologian and a senior lecturer at the Bible College the fates n, London ns, includ io tio t a a n in m . a m [1 d fe o ] [2] Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. f li n U o ntoapproach de a hybrid ways. Bohr’s best be described control : his quantum theory the angel might all was with Hilbert Nordheim [l], to next edify the quantum-mechanical ates ftheory. Statistical aspects of quantum In the course of his formulation that sinners can and expect to face in the world. om he the tin “a sphere as damage1. s frand of th n , isGod y tails ia d e t e u d is God is Infinite because He is Being and Existence in Himself, and because all things universe have their being and existence from Him (n. c t [2 r h s u ] h [3] Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand. e e r I g C c 1. is Infinite because He is Being and Existence in Himself, and because all things in the universe have their being and existence from Him (n. h k h e t s n t ll ofspace classical mechanics adjusted by means of ad hoc quantization rules, whilst keeping electrodynamics o ow th o f n o t E e C g s p 3. Since the creation of the world, God is in without space and in time without time (n. 30). of quantum mechanics in terms of vectors and operators of Hubert e h y in r le e s w d p u ib r e o s r o B r w k c d n s c r ,a it ne e , ato do and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits nd th ,;a ll Th 28). [3 6 ed 4 ]A H [4] John seven churches which in Asia: Grace unto you, peace, from him which is, e and was, y la 8first se be ues.and 1 28). n th is b except an arbitrary transformation [5],Existence Although rarely quoted the Lon classical at all cost.34 Einstein, who had been the physicist to recognize the need to quantize l in o in h ur g a ia d r, stthe s c e r at which aare space von Neumann also gave in complete generality the basic s o b n as m s r 1. God for is Infinite because He is Being and in Himself, and because all things in the universe have their being and existence from Him (n. orne it d u h y th t r fo h c a y , e s r le a p a th o n a r w d ti p a t holdeth enceGeneral ioof a h elight [4 ac em st enis t ]to n . which are before his throne; s , Ne n p ia a (ntheory. a a o n ll ti v c as such, this theorem, which was already known Dirac and Stone d d classical electrodynamics, in the of his triumph with Relativity nonetheless dreamt e e A th r n h n im n l th c o e a o a e w e s c , s 4. In relation to spaces God’s infinity is called Immensity, while in relation to times it is called Eternity; but although it is so related, there nothing statistical rule of interpretation of the This rule concerns n le even stars in thou ct ss mH 28). eli o gia g I have somd campaign and for my nam r f n lo a a e o v n c e s E n h t e e n t 2. God is Infinite because He was before the world was, that is, before times and spaces arose (n. 29). [5 h o d is is t r ] e Th n [5] And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed x b w R e r a e e fo ’s ig 2. God is Infinite because He was before the world was, that is, before times and spaces arose (n. 29). h e , a x m a s s r d h [ó], is really fundamental for the understanding of many quantummechanical t a classical field theory with singular solutions as the ultimate explanation of quantum phenomena. Born t th O n e n against the mber hathe athe measurement of a given physical quantity on a system enhast labou em which a tia nd, result g of space in His Immensity, and nothing of time in His Eternity (n. 31). of is in th wb hre he dingka r o e e, le fo lu w re evil: an be-cin red, and ha on C alk re fr illi aneed eth [6 e their uc omblood, v ] Bradical s m a e us from our sins in his own in th h th w p u d t o e h o investigations where the theoretical analysis is exclusively s th s e led the camp, which included Pauli: he saw the for an entirely new mechanics replacing th e u em t r n Given an observable A and a state | i, we define the dispersion of A in the state p is n o h e c o u a e e thois, id t fainted st left thy fi vou in quantum state and its probability distribution th hasgiven st expresses niv 2. God is Infinite because He was before the world was, that before timespand spaces arose (n. 29). uh u f fi o t f th o e tr a a h r ie s y . t t t, t . e seve d fa r ld th a th in r r ll s a e o s e t [7 t 3. Since the creation of the world, God is in space without space and in time without time (n. 30). n m g lo a n th w , ] a v g t [6] And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. y w H o in n e o x u b 3. Since the creation of the world, God is in space without space and in time without time (n. 30). h . h e d ld e t ic h th n based on the canonical commutation rules in their above form or in r en cformula n discrete classicalreason mechanics,35 which was to be on quantities difference equations.36 ate epent, satisfying h say at ha | i of a simple and temany e it andlesticinvolving tbased t ra 5. The Infinity of God may be seen by enlightened from very things in the world (n. 32). by means now completely familiar th th they w and do ehd in ,n a cause all e e er dy a eds eye e rehim. ks; facs r, le th aposEven dalso o o n t e stu f th ebfi tespecially [8][7] a tclouds; h , tl c Th e im e e s lf he cometh with and every shall see him, and they which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of so, AnBehold, t N s e p , w s ic h x a d o n e e the equivalent field-theoretical form o This was a leap in the dark, because of Pauli’s frowning upon the correspondence principle r a u d im la k r to be n n s a it w a H to in ; r a c o e h n the vector representing the state and the spectral resolution r th a n s in s t e 3. Since the creation of the world, God is in space without space and in time without time (n. 30). r , o e ls e th w e t, a c e I willImmensity, hic n ngel of the e Spir an en h I alsGod’s t harelated, t sBeller, itE come9 st fo [9] Amen. 4. In relation to infinity is called in relation toh(A times italthough is called Eternity; although isd so there is nothing sx ha ais o hate. t it d Ik h chu4. nspaces relation God’s infinity isspaces called Immensity, while in relation to times it is called Eternity; but it is soirelated, there is it nothing u u no a nits Ai Af - At A, = Mjh 2™ = P,and - iQ,. rcIn (Hendry, 1984; 1999). to while ).n g to to them w h(A) 2i := −represents hAi) 2i = h |A 2| − but h |A| i 2 = hA 2i − hAi 2.und he th in th 2 th in e . e y wor 6. Every created thing isA, finite, the Infinite is in the finite, as in its receptacles, and is in people as in images (n. 33, 34). e of the operator which the physical quantity [2]. This e B S n liars: c ( m q h is u u e y ic s r r k c n s k o h , a H r ly e a a w , s e n ; a s s r d T n it [1 e u of space in His Immensity, and nothing of time in His Eternity (n. 31). tr o d e c a 0 ib hin will re(also ] ThesBorn.37 [8] am and Omega, beginning and the ;ending, saith the Lord, which is, and was, and which is statistical to come, the Almighty. im ecuthe pa (n. F swhich of space incalled His Immensity, and nothing ofis time His Eternity 31). lati binterpolate eI ar th Statistical aspects of quantum theory. is In the course of formulation d e e It was Heisenberg’s genius to between Bohr and The meaning of his Umdeutung o m n a it nhis th The dispersion called the variance) is a non-negative real number which n t a oAlpha o n , in o ne v s a fi v e rule, originally proposed by Born in 1926, was for von n g e e n s th d o r 4. In relation to spaces God’s infinity called Immensity, while in relation to times it is Eternity; but although it so related, there is nothing I c f saith th po erty, (b y candlestic g ometh will those thing tim e d is rr o fo G crow fi .the bee 1 ut st , mathematical I s wh ink [9] IfJohn, who also am your brother, and v companion in tribulation, in the kingdom and patience of Jesus was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the isand g an n keep th iv t o ou d thsymbols a e to Christ, of mechanics in terms of vectors operators Hubert ic was to classical equations of whilst reinterpreting the h li h motion,38 characterizes t a fe . e r , ) thou e t . of s la a 0 r a t s ic 3 re is noth out of his place, excep o t, of quantum space in His Immensity, and nothing of and time in His Eternity (n. 31). w . h e f s w ) n th h h ( ld h a t a e r n ic lt , e d tr o d h s . u e e I w w ) im t e ff k t [1 8 e a e o n la 5. The Infinity of God may be seen by enlightened reason from very many things in the world (n. 32). t ) s dea r: matrices. 2 t th 1]word eby th life w threason bmay heoflames of hell, recently doused adstate ofworld “nothingness” of England, are reignited. and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. ou He thof ehold ou rebe) 5. The Infinity of God be seen enlightened from many things in 32). d,to so, r w ex it space von Neumann also gave in complete occurring generality the basic rep therein were later recognized to Thus Umdeutung 7! ah (n,m an hicthe b w the uncertainty of the observable Ato inbe the state | i. To see that a la , th t God, ent.the itfis e h is Church s ha is the p e deby h(n. h th as ali emy very tim in th an (what v vhis e was befo ougstatistical e il in ; h o e H e s d a f h lt m e r, th a n a s ll id a le t e [1 u c m t s e u a a 2 t h c c b s ] o w im t a e ; [10] Ito was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, A f s h p b y th o n s ic h it m e d e t statistical rule of interpretation of the theory. This rule concerns h e S = — k I flnfdcoj ƒ distribution f unction in phase space. was a precursor of what now would be called a quantization map f 7! Q~ (f ), where f is a classical n it e a p u r s dispersion r n o a a radise of G thefrom y they are Je f you into p ha Ete n itho I a 5. The Infinity of God may be seen by enlightened reason many thingsw in the (n. 32). t thworld d in ngis e llo elvery e ce w a Spir a o o c p ffi o34). r sis w th d. is is it [1 s, an e cand 2. G 6. Every created thing is finite, and the Infinite is the finite, asis in its receptacles, and is in people as in its images (n. 33, it sin 3] n a s , th h it The Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawn up by the Evangelical Alliance, says that while biblical images burning lakes should [11] Idam Alpha Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Epheis I e urc d h ka 6. Every created thing finite, and the Infinite is in the finite, as in its receptacles, and in people as in its images (n. 33, 34). a d a u ncanonical t im r h o the He result of the measurement a given physical quantity on a system n oSaying, further wrote down the of density matrix for ensemble t e observable, function on phase space, and Q~ (f ) is a quantum mechanical observable, in the y to w i.e. in e is indeed non-negative, note that the expectation value of theof square of any n G o m o , t thya th P t, a e ld n e y b r r w g c u b io o h a o t t e m u r a w tr la r k r o d. c e s e e ie ite s h , r gn th h e d a w rei t s n ; be e r ; f y in a d to it H s o n o e are y e w u , d e ; n nd il Sardis, ,w n The agoteaching. literally, they symbolise the horrors thatLaodicea. are inHermitian store forypeople Christian gla sus, and unto Smyrna, and unto and unto Thyatira, unto and Philadelphia, and unto er h e shall who En at h of clear-cut formal framework for the the Infinite numerous investigations Q~(qj) xj ;e tio e space w san e gue of Sata ch ah in aat given quantum state and expresses itsne probability distribution e th thoPergamos, o ur r temperature T: sense an operator aits Hilbert or, more abstractly, element of some Cth -algebra. See e veunto Ch r S it the c ud rco in have reject afinite, by ta e ss” gsand we meth shall n h en 6. Every created thing is finite, and isof in the in receptacles, and people as in its images (n. 33, 34). t= sy dw tribulation llis a,it m eon n. “nothing esin cas 1).seven h m te of t, e ll I 3 sta in h a e . to e S th d v ed n . e [1 e w us . ( n n 3 do ll h 4 o y tly a w ic ] te t en c it B h [12] And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw golden candlesticks; h rec b n . en ll, e u n e )of th hath he re which were needed to now clarify the implications = −i~ days: be tho 2 h.u er ld not be tak I by means of a simple and familiar formula involving y is bu p = Z~l exp (~H/kT), Z = completely Spphysically [exp ( - # / & all-important r )t ] ,h 3 Section 4 below. As Heisenberg recognized, this move implies the noncommutativity of the quantum tou Sa r it operator C is a positive number: E ave Q~(pj) t th ta n n sh ( is n es fi e ’s lak a s H in h ld ing s fe e rn e r a ’s a w r s u faithful u o in of p t e d th cand is: of w stw ond girt in e al imagesing anman, Go or imeunto lic h g cof tlike s bib d s the o dw de e ile . to m a thoreport, c wh of like tthis, g in a m ith tw a th tha nto The published next week, claims that sinners consigned hell with will face unimaginable based on sins [13] And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one the Son clothed with garment down to the foot, about paps a golden girdle. torment scame sa in pa 34)the u it say . g s , for the nature physical measurements, @ e, s h fo nc t dethe 3 the of vector representing theoperator. state and the spectral resolution o in o Hquantum being thephenomena Hamilton Two years later von Neumann h lia mechanical observables; it is rather than something a “quantum postulate” (see Subsection th t 3 r t o Al ld h h |C 2| i = h |C†C| i; ath,severity n al . o t e e lic n e ic e n ge d n s y , a an ( t g io Ev ti b and I wof n t e d fa s e o s nausthe st my name ; s image n by the ac ela upand ma .to n , r 1. Omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence pertain the Divine wisdom from Divine love (n. 50, 51). aw y y e dr n r t il it I or th e s l . rep [1 v give . e o n 4 ag ing it u e 5 ch 0-p ] m 14 h tea , a m n S o in a a life. [14] head and his hairs were white like wool, asswhite as snow; eyes were as a flame of fire; n ll, operator tia o ris fr his f He tmechanics. most essential of which is Niels Bohr’s concept of complementarity. @xj .a (2.2) hwh Ch there a of the which represents the physical quantity [2]. This nand ect hle back to quantum thermodynamics with a op contribution to much 3.2 below), that is the defining characteristic of quantum most later work sHis rej is Im asa o to the th t snot denie H asIndeed, le op th o em ed pe re u in for p a re d e ls sto e c th in in o a n are a t th e p is t t tha s d rs e h h f d m m [1 rro o g o ho ld y faith, eve 6] that new the of e th R1926, in bolis enli equa[15] And his feet like unto fine brass, asSchr¨odinger’s if burned in a eri furnace; and his voice the sound it e mm e sym h p The results the paper discussed were immediately used by theorem This provided for dor co oldbasis cfles, anof many waters. ent; by y statistical rule, originally proposed by Born in was for von more difficult problem : just the formulation and proof an ergodic cas ta s the tr th p en n in those d oof e re ty of sin ea cin sethey e dy e sev lseGod o ent o theit ctr b s on B I 2. The omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence of can be clearly understood only when is known what order is, and when it is known that it a sed in w ba la il e a in me l aysstrength. m m o [1 tor c s f o d , ble a 7 th m w wher ina o , ] ag e h e e H im G Hell, according to the study, is “a sphere of damnation, punishment, anguish and destruction”. [16] And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his o N un it u e e f n ta ic n ein Antipas fac the quantum author to systems lay the foundation for quantum thermodynamics [8]. tion42 th o ll to u fi o wi for [9]. The basic principle of this work is to a ll y la g he tinto eic th ht Balac to itthe h ee qu ed to an nit aththe thh ign fi ns s co n in , a rs I w ne n ic is was my fait sin e t k e God is order, and that He introduced order both universe and into each and all things of it at time of their creation (n. 62-65). tha e ly a s r, h c , Th im it a a cla . le th , n s m n ek t 5 t fi d in we a a h xt n n w g ne im s I tu ed k il I hful martyr, [17] And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: sh e n l m h bli hear what th e, and th fight again oweth sav pu He gave the quantum analogue 0 ate. blingblock in s who was sla it t g e b n th e S h fi fo p e e m ir th is r e it [1 w a g th s t 8 it a ] An[18] re ith u h th ea hin chdenominations, cand The Evangelical Alliance was of formed in 1846, and represents Christians frome all including many Anglicans. It claii I am he that liveth, was dead; and, behold, Inam alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys hell and of death. tth ee iv il d unto e S = — k Sp (p In p), p statistica @− ~2 d d e s to r t w e n o th it r o r . d e th f c c o Is e hurches fm rael, to eat a rfy n e y g 3. God’s omnipotence in the whole universe, with each and all things of it, proceeds and operates in accordance with the laws of His order (n. 56-58). v e m E l o o . ; [19] I kn u 6 T n”. th th o tio uc e th . h str im c de in million and be campaigns on contemporary social issues. [19] Write theish things hast seen, and the things which are, and the th things which shall hereafter; hurcthou and which gs sacrifice 2m o w th aChristians, an h in Th t ove en hm yt,w rcome , punis orgu on yatira write d unto idols ks, and cha of damnati[2 th candlesticks. w il 0] Notw l ; I a right hand side is just the length-squared of the vector C| i, which must be nonnegaTh , t r g [20] The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and en it iv res e y ing to the study, is “a sphere Xn e , s rep e and service to ithstanding to s th im cla e in It a s. t g can of the hidd s saith th Angli nymost ma , 4. God is omniscient, that is, He perceives, sees, and knows each thing and all things, even to the minute, that take place according to order, and from I ing a n h lud d a inc unto ido , e v ns fa e tio S e na n it o a mi n h fe maan nothin tive. - including The written by a party of five people theologian and a senior lecturer at the London Bible College - de of study, the seven candlesticks which thou are the ,seven churches. w and th nnOxford ls God, w . Ch ns from all de a, and w ristiaj=1 gs agsawest y patience, ho hath resents ainst thee, rep ill give him and [2 46,place these the things also that take contrary to order (n. 59-62) 18 in d h a n me is for d 1 s e ] wa b th y e A e e nc Setting C = A − hAiI, and noting that hAi must a real number (exercise), aw y c s lia n that sinners can expect to face in the next world. a Al li w d al use thou su ke unto a fl lic hite sbe @2 orks; and th I gue a s. v ton e iss l h cia e so e, and in th r ary ff a or s e p m e mp r a nte la e e c co s e s o t on t [2 s f to th to ign fi 2 pa a r r ] e stone a ne t b e, epent of he Behold, I w @x2j wls e more than we conclude that 2i 0. andh(A) om es fat istians, and cam the a h n tai is de Je fe ge z w name wr r lle e e il fo Co t b l le th a e c r Bib r l, n a e e on s ic w nd fi t li 5. God is omnipresent from the firsts to the lasts of His order (n. 63, 64). Lo a r h h k s ti the ic e e t. at o [23] Andright r fin h callHe itten, w in ; anvector lecturer ofn eb to ior sen Note the dispersion vanishes if and only if the state | i is an eigenvector of A. Youand existen e d a r a 1. God is Infinite because is Being and Existence in Himself, and because all things in the universe have their being th a d b s s an h n s e hand side is just the length-squared the C| i, which must be nonnega+ V (x) I h ; e d gia e w , olo r r a e the il s d n p e l kill her ch lf a prophe d them tha ented not. an Oxfor ing lud inc le op pe [2 il e te t fiv d c 4 s of r ommit adu s, to tethe ] But u en with dea can easily verify Let me show you the “only if ” part. Write 28). tive. ach “if 1 written by a party nto you I s an” ltery with h th; and all th d part. to seduce m .[25] B order ay, and unto rld wo 6.ex People were created a form of Divine (n. 65-67). xt ne e the r in e e in fac c y servants to to to h ct h(A) 2i = h |(A − hAiI) 2| i ut th urca (n. the rea Hi Setting C A − hAiI, and noting hAi must be number (exercise), hreal A = i~ s can pe m e at whic t tr rest inthat ss istencegfro h ibm ex a d ula ll an commit for h= ing Th k ti be n y ir o e have alrea ngs y o the n a w ve ti , ha e th r rse [26] And h x a ive c , a ept th t I am as many as nication, an in the un = h |(A − hAiI)†(A − hAiI)| i d thi 2. God is Infinite because He was before the world was, that is, before times and spaces arose (n. 29). e all y h y se we conclude that h(A) 2i 0. @ e h e cau r o w e be th d ld p h an h , e a ic elf a d to eat thin n fa t ve not th mspower h s ea t of their de ove stfrom in Hi till I c ce r en c ist r o c Ex 7.eFrom the Divine omnipotence people have over evil and falsity; and the Divine omniscience has wisdom respecting what is good and true; d h m an e is o [2 e ing th m th Be d gs sacr 7 is e e o ] th , He d . c A a s e tr n . nd h = ||(A − hAiI)| i|| 2. r d in e in k e Note dispersion vanishes if and only if the state | i is an eigenvector of A. You @t nfinit because e , e shathe s e a p and hearts: nd which h eth m ll to rule y w th o and from the Divine omnipresence isA in God, just the extent that he lives in accordance with Divine order (n. 68-70). a a r e v k n [28] m e su dIw wit ot ntothe ha ila knworld, nd I can The norm of vector if and only if thetime vector the lg the“only of the is in space without in time without (n.is 30). own thGod ive uspace the “if ”r part. Let show you if ”hpart. Write 3. Since the creation n , od of will easily end, to nvanishes e dep to evand irome ive hverify n; (n im e th im the mor a r s y s w th o o il [29] He thah(A)g2i ). n f e 29 l . e S I v a o se e give power tan, as they ssels of a po f you accor aro sr. ace nin sp and = he|(A − hAiI) 2|g ista es th tim for thbe over the na ding to you is, speak; I wil ta tter shall th an e rld was, tha a wo r, the e le for ti t be r works s l o e h wa p y n im He u s b se t : e u bro 4. In relation to spaces God’s infinity is called Immensity, while in relation to times it Eternity; but p ear wh . although it is so related o = h |(A − hAiI)†(A − h hAiI)| i at the nfinite becau n k e y n ouis to shivers: ncalled o n e S p o ir th it e e ). r s v 30 a . e b it (n n u e h r tim a d ut u s e of space in His Immensity, and nothing of time in His Eternity (n. 31). tho n I n wi to the chur e received of . = ||(A −an hAiI)| i|| 2. d in tim ches. my Father. d is in space without space ng thi no is The norm of a vector vanishes if and only if the vector is the e creation of the world, Go re h it is so related, the called Eternity ; but althoug is it es 5. The Infinity of God may be seen by enlightened reason from very many things in the world (n. 32). tim to on ati rel in is called Immensity, while ion to spaces God’s infinity n. 31).

images of burning lakes should not be taken The Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawn up by the Evangelical Alliance, says that while biblical literally, they symbolise the horrors that are in store for people who reject Christian teaching. Church of England, are to be reignited. flames of hell, recently doused to a state of “nothingness” by the based on the severity of sins they commit in The report, published next week, claims that sinners consigned to hell will face unimaginable torment of burning lakes should not be taken life. Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawn up by the Evangelical Alliance, says that while biblical images The reject Christian teaching. erally, they symbolise the horrors that are in store for people who ent, anguish and destruction”. Hell, according to the study, is “a sphere of damnation, punishm sins they commit in to hell will face unimaginable torment based on the severity ofs. The report, published next week, claims that sinners consigned It claims to represent a was formed in 1846, and represents Christians from all denominations, including many Anglican e.The Evangelical Alliance million Christians, and campaigns on contemporary social issues. ell, according to the study, is “a sphere of damnation, punishment, anguish and destruction”. at the London Bible College - details the fates The study, written by a party of five people - including an Oxford theologian and a senior lecturer ta next world. in the to face expect sinners that and represents Christians from all denominations, including many Anglicans. It claims to represen in 1846, formed was Alliance calcan Evangeli The million Christians, and campaigns on contemporary social issues. have their being and existence from Him (n. 1. God is Infinite because He is Being and Existence in Himself, and because all things in the universe London Bible College - details the fates 28). study, written by a party of five people - including an Oxford theologian and a senior lecturer at the The hat sinners can expect to face in the next world. 29). 2. God is Infinite because He was before the world was, that is, before times and spaces arose (n. because all things in the universe have their being and existence from Him (n. God is Infinite because He is Being and Existence in Himself, andand in time without time (n. 30). 3. Since the creation of the world, God is in space without space 8). Eternity ; but although it is so related, there is nothing is called times it to spaces in relation while ity,is, Immens called infinity God’s (n. 29). spaces He arose relation 4. Inis times and before was, that world the before is was because Infiniteto . God of space in His Immensity, and nothing of time in His Eternity (n. 31). in time without time (n. 30). . Since the creation of the world, God is in space without space and 32). 5. The Infinity of God may be seen by enlightened reason from very many things in the world (n. relation to times it is called Eternity ; but although it is so related, there is nothing . In relation to spaces God’s infinity is called Immensity, while in in its receptacles, and is in people as in its images (n. 33, 34). as the finite, inEternity and the finite, isand thing created 6. Every 31). (n. His time in is of Infinite nothing ity, Immens in His f space

. The Infinity of God may be seen by enlightened reason from very many things in the world (n.

The Nature of Hell, a 140-page report drawn up by the Evangelical Allian ce, says that while biblical images of burning lakes should not be taken literally, they symbolise the horrors that are in store for people who reject Christian teaching. e flames of hell, recentl y dou The report, publis hed next week, sed toclaims sinners consigned to hell will face unimaginable torment based on the severit a statethat y of sins they commit in of “nothing life. e Nature o ness” by th f Hell, a 14 e Church of 0-page rep erally, they England, a ort drawn symbolise re to be reig u p b th y Hell, according to the e th nited. horr e Eva study, is “a sphere damna or tion, punish n s th ment, g anguis e h and destru li at are of ction”. c a l Alliance, in store for s e report, p a y s that whil people wh ublished n e biblical im o reject Ch ext wwas . The Evangelical r ages of bur Allian is eek, forme ce ti d in 1846, and represents Christians from a n denom claims that te a all c h ning s, includ inination ing many g. Anglic It claims to represent a lakesans. sinners con shou million Christians, and campaigns on contem ld not be ta igned issues. poraryssocial to hell will ken face unima l, accordin g in g to the stu able torme nt based on y,party The study, written is “a sof byda five people includ ing ph an Oxford theolo ere o gian and then a senior lecture r at the Londo f se Bible d Colleg verity a - details the fates m n ation, punis of sine that sinner can expect to face in the next world. E vang s they com elical s h ment, angu Alliance w mit in ish and des as formed on Christia tr u in c ti 1 ns, and cam on”. 846, and re 1. God is Infinit pr pa e becaus esen ig e He Being ns is Existe nce ts in on Himse lf, and C becaus e all h conteand things r in the universe have their being and existence from Him (n. is ti ans from a mporary so 28). ll denomin tu cial issues. dy, written ations, inclu by a party ding many of five peo nners can ple - includ Anglicans. expect to fa It claims to ing anwas, 2. God is Infinite becaus ce in e He was O the the world x that fo is, before nexbefore times represent a rd theolog and spaces arose (n. 29). t world. ia n and a senio is Infinite b r lecturer a cause He is t the Lond 3. Since the e creatio n of the Bein world, is in space withou on Bible C g andGod t space and in time without time (n. 30). Existence in ollege - deta Himself, an ils the fates d because a 4.In In ll relatio n to th spaces God’s is infinit in y is called g Immen s sity, finite b cau while in relation to times in th it called e is ty; but although it is so related, there is nothing un iverseEterni se He wsity, have th of space in e His Immen as be and g of time in eir being a His forenothin Eterni ty (n. 31). the world w nd existenc as, that is, the creatio e from Him before tim n (n. o f th e s a w n o 5. The Infinity of e d r ld s God may pa , Gbe by enlightened reason from very many ces aro od seen is in s things in sethe (n. 32). (n. world pace witho 29). ut space an ion to spac d in e s ti G me withou d’s infi 6.H Every createdothing is nfinite, n ity is cand t ti Infinite is in the finite, as in me (n is Imm its recept acles, alledthe and . 30is ensity, and Im ). in people as in its images (n. 33, 34). m e nsity, while nothing of in relation to time in His times it is c Eternity (n nity of God alled Etern . 3 1). may be see ity ; but alth n by enligh ough it is s tened reaso o related, th n fr o ere is noth m very ma ated thing ing ny things in is finite, an dt t

he flames of hell, recently doused to a state of “nothingness” by the Churc h of England, are to be reignited.

he flames o f hell, recently doused

. Every created thing is finite, and the Infinite is in the finite, as in its receptacles, and is in people

he flames of hell, recently doused to a state of “nothingness” by the Church of England, are to be

32).

as in its images (n. 33, 34).

reignited.

he flam e hell, r s of ec ly dou ents ed

Softly, without warning

Thank you Twitter: Facebook: w w w . t h

for e g r

reading

The Grind @thegrindjournal facebook.com/thegrindjournal i n d . c o . u k