Me and my hair.

CHAPTER 1 Jamey D. Rakley Jane Crystal Rakely was born in Brisbane, on March 30, 1954 to Johnothan and Delilah Rakely. At the age of six, she was enrolled in St. Paul Joseph Catholic Girls Grammar where she gained her primary school education. Upon her entering high school, she met a girl with tangled blonde hair who introduced her to smoking. Slowly, through her highschool years, she experimented with pot, pills and heroin. Experimentation became addiction. She fell in love with a kid with a bad family, a bad attitude and simply, overall bad news – Joey Barnstone. Her parents futilely tried to force them apart, but Jane, blinded by love, sought freedom. Finally, following the prophetic signs of a home pregnancy test, she ran away with Joey. Joey and Jane lived in a shack with six other drug addicts. Jane gave birth to a wide eyed and whispy haired baby boy, whom she named Jamey Donald Rakely. Through constant hardships of inconceivable difficulty, Jane managed to feed both her child and her addiction. Through the following years of her life, Jane would experience a battle of almost epic proportions, a battle of immeasurable courage, a battle which would threaten to consume her… However, that’s really not important to the story. ***

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The ladybug paused, shocked and terrified as it was confronted by a pair of stumpy babies fingers, which picked it up. The baby, Jamey, ogled goofily at the bug with his big blue eyes, and made little shlukky noises as he tried to decide what to do with it. On a whim, he stuck it in his mouth, but spat it out as it began to scratch his tongue. Tongue scratched, hungry, and lying in a garden, Jamey began crying. Long seconds passed before the screen door of the house burst open, Jane running down the stairs, head jerking all around, checking to see if anyone was watching. She hastened across the lawn, stuffing a handful of cash into her pocket before picking up Jamey, and holding him close. His mother, Jane, was skinny but strong, and she held her child tight in confident arms, as she ran from the house. On the way home she gave most the money to a man who swapped her a small plastic bag. She continued on her way, without thanking him, then stopped again at a food store, stuffing the bag down the back of her skirt. The white allies and zombified shoppers were alienation. They flowed past her like a river, flicking their eyes up now and then to judge her, to shame her. To the side of the wall she saw a can of baby food, home brand, and snatched it up eagerly, pushing past the miserable hordes of shoppers to the counter. “Have a good one,” said the girl serving her, in a thick ocher accent. “This is about as good as they come,” said Jane, offering up a small smile. Jane arrived back at the apartment. She opened the door, Jamey resting on her hip, can of baby food jammed unceremoniously in her mouth. She felt it before she saw it, as she walked in. Something was wrong.

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Then, she saw him. Joey, black jacket neatly creased, lying against the wall, eyes and mouth open at a strange angle. His skin was a faded pasty white, and a needle was stuck into his vein. A fly crawled into his mouth. Jane dropped the baby food, and nearly Jamey, and screamed. Jamey started screaming. Joey didn't scream. A pair of green eyes watched the scene with a heavy heart. They had been powerless to stop Joey. Joey was unimportant, and therefore out of bounds. Jane, equally so. The eyes had no power, nor rights, to touch their lives. The police soon arrived. Jane went to rehabilitation. Jamey went to foster care. Joey went to the morgue. The eyes continued watching. *** A miserable old couple called Bella and Ted adopted Jamey. This was unfortunate. Bella and Ted were obscenely incompetent, and entirely out of their depth adopting a child. Their cacti plants died of thirst. The last thing they adopted, a Great Dane, had annoyed Ted at night, and was traded for a second hand canoe at a garage sale. Jamey, to them, was an unfortunate thing that they had been forced to look after by the putrid vein of their ‘Christian Good Nature’. Jamey, however, had now reached the age of five and eight months. He wasn’t to know it, but this was the destined age, when somebody else was to gain more extensive rights what measures they were permitted to take in order to ensure his well being. Soon, his life was to be transformed entirely by a series of startling coincidences. Mysteriously winning a trip to Australia in a competition an 'unnamed friend' had entered him in, was an entrepreneurial German sausage maker named Wolfgang Volkers III. He arrived in Brisbane, through a series of 4

unusual events, met Bella, and fell in love. Barely a week later they were discussing secret plans to run away to America and change their names to Brian and Cindi. Ted finally noticed Bella was gone the moment Brian and Cindi jumped off their personal jet. In the following days, he became older and more miserable until one day, aged six, Jamey found a letter on the table addressed to him.

Jamey, I have left home to pursue dreams that you have held me back from. You will not understand - you are too young and stupid. I have enclosed a savings card, with which you are to supply yourself. You will do this, and keep my absence a secret OR I WILL PERSONALLY SEE TO IT THAT YOUR LIFE IS MADE A MISERY. I have enclosed instructions on paying bills. Follow these closely. I will be regularly sending additional money to the card. The number is 24601. DO NOT contact people for help. It will be bad for me, and I will make it bad for you. Ted.

And this is where Jamey met Machine Star.

CHAPTER 2 Where is God?

Standing in the kitchen, staring down at the letter, a confused tear trickling down his nose, Jamey felt a heavy hand on his shoulder. Slowly, he turned his head to peer at it. 5

The hand was a huge white furry paw. Looking up, Jamey found himself peering into the kind green eyes of a large polar bear. “It’s OK Jamey,” he said. “It’ll all be OK.” Jamey stood frozen, hardly able to move. His brow furrowed, as he stared at the creature, heart hammering. Eventually he spoke, in a soft, questioning tone. “How do you know?” he said. “Trust me.” The bear moved over to the table, where his massive paws gently sorted through the papers. “Don’t worry about these. I’ll take care of them,” he said, and tried to grasp a pencil, clumsily shattering it in his grasp. “Snood!” he cried. Jamey was now facing the bear, watching him trying to fix the shattered wood and lead that was once his pencil. “Never mind,” said the bear, turning his head. “Pudding!” Bounding down the hallway came a second polar bear – a lot smaller, with darting blue eyes. “Pudding, I need you to take care of this for me. Thank you. And Jamey – we need to talk.” “Sure.” Pulling up a dusty green chair Jamey sat, still looking at the large bear. His whole body was pounding now, shaking, not through fear – strangely, he felt safer now than he ever had before – but through pure amazement. The bear knelt down in front of Jamey and looked him in the eye. “Jamey. My name is Machine Star. I’m here to help you. So is my son, Pudding. There are others too. Connie-” he indicated towards the couch, where a small black creature, like a feline teddy bear covered in soft black

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fur was sitting, “Rambo the turtle, and Glood-Philip, the soft-mouthed crocodile.” Jamey looked around, pausing for a moment to focus on Connie who waved at him. He gave a small smile. A dull and slow rhythmic thumping directed his attention, to the hall, where he caught the first sight of Rambo’s beaklike mouth, poking out from behind a cupboard. “Rambo’s a rather slow mover, as is the manner for his species,” said Machine Star. “You may need to exercise some patience dealing with him.” “Where’s Gloo… um, Glood-Frankee… the crocodile?” said Jamey, stumbling over his word. “ Glood-Philip, our dear friend the soft-mouthed crocodile, is in the oven. He lives there,” Machine Star said, and touched Jamey’s shoulder gently. “Of course,” he said, “This may be somewhat of an inconvenience when cooking, although I’m sure we will find some remedy.” Jamey gave a short nod. “OK. Cool.” “We are all here to look after you Jamey. Anything you need, call.” *** NINE YEARS LATER Machine Star looked around the corner as Jamey stuffed books into his bag. “Are you OK, Jamey?” “Yeah. I’m fine. Could you chuck us the hat, please?” He tugged at the zip. Machine Star picked up the floppy green mushroom-like hat and threw it at Jamey. “That’s an incredibly ugly hat,” he said

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Jamey caught it and nodded. “I’ll be back late. I’m gonna go shopping. We’re almost out of food.” “Get some salmon,” said Machine Star. “And Vegemite,” said Connie, walking past. “Did you get that form signed so that I can go to Ocean Universe for science?” “Oh…” said Machine Star, sheepishly. “I fear perhaps I may have…” “Star,” called out Connie. “It’s OK, I had Rambo forge your signature. She held it out to Jamey who stuck it in his pocket and hurriedly picked up his bag, swinging it over his shoulder. “Cheers. See yas.” Jamey ran up the street. His house was metres from the bus stop, and the bus driver, Al, was a pleasant kid of bloke, one who wouldn’t mind waiting an extra minute or two if he thought you might still turn up. Jamey climbed onto the bus. “Cheers Al,” he said. “Buy an alarm clock,” said Al. Jamey dumped his bag and fell into his seat. His head slumped gently against the window. “Poetry in motion, Mr Rakely.” Jamey turned. Behind him, sat a longhaired Japanese girl, looking up at him, a bemused expression drifting over her face. Jamey blinked. “You’re Sakiyo, aren’t you?” “Sachico, actually, but never mind. You’re the slightly quiet, slightly cute, strange little fellow who sat at the front left desk in science in grade nine?” “Jamey actually.” Sachico gave a small polite laugh. “Right. Jamey. Nice to see you again.” 8

“Likewise.” The bus started up, moving onto the road. He felt it shudder as it crept up the first of the hills. “What have you been up to over the holidays?” asked Sachico. Jamey shrugged. “Not a lot. Chilling. Eating a lot. Hung out with Thommo and Stank a bit. Pretty dull. You?” “I learnt to dance.” “Really?” “Mmm hmm. Volunteered at seniors dancing. Got to learn some myself.” “Sounds good.” “It was good, mostly. Apart from getting ogled by one or two dirty blokes.” “Ugh.” “You could say that.” The bus pulled up at a stop, a small group of kids waddling on like baby ducks. Jamey kept his eyes firmly focused on Sachico, lying coolly back in her seat, hair splayed out across her shoulder. “What sorts of dances did you learn,” he asked. “Tango, Line Dance, Rumba…” “Rumba?” “Yes.” “What’s that.” “Difficult to explain. How about I show you some time, Mr Rakely?” Jamey grinned. “That’d be cool,” he said. ***

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Jamie checked the notice board once over, to see if there had been any changes to routine. Mostly it was colorless uninteresting crap, sports selections and notices. At the bottom on the left, a small poster flapped loosely despite the still air. WHERE IS GOD? “Look under the table,” muttered Jamey. R.E had never been a particular favourite. He moved to walk off, when suddenly he froze, staring at the poster. He looked closer. There was more writing under it, which he could swear wasn’t there seconds before. It hadn’t appeared or been written there, it was just suddenly there. What the poster had always said, was suddenly different to what it had said five seconds ago. NO. And then – GOD’S WATCHING YOU. Jamey stared at the paper that was different but had never changed. And then he noticed something even more bizarre. The paper was breathing. YOU’RE GOD’S TOY. “What the hell…” muttered Jamey. He felt his heart quickened. Time slowed. GOD’S PUPPET. How could this be real… how could it be possible? GOD WILL MAKE YOU CHOOSE. Out of a tear at the top of the paper, a thin trail of blood began to drool. Jamey stared at it, frozen, eyes magnetized to the point, shivers of ice pin pricking his face. His heart pounded. 10

“What will he make me choose?” IT’S THE END OF THE WORLD. “What…” “Are you OK Jamey?” Jamey looked up, to see Mr Gore looking down on him. He felt strangely calm, despite the notice. Gorezo gave him a look, reserved for those kinds of people who spoke to inanimate objects. “I’m fine sir.” “Good. Give the board a rest. It’s had plenty of conversation, it doesn’t need you yakking.” As Mr Gore left, Jamey hazarded a look at the board. WHERE IS GOD? -it said; just as it always had. *** Lunchtime, Jamey hung out in the library, with his friends, Thommo and Stank. Thommo flipped through a crumpled surfing mag. Stank leant on the bookshelf and occasionally scratched his balls. “You know Sachico?” Jamey asked. “Yeah, the Jappa chick?” said Stank. “What’s she like?” Stank shrugged. “A bit try-hard. She goes to the parties and drinks and shit, but she’s heaps straight edge an’ shit. She acts like the biggest little skank but she’s hell frigid. Y’can’t get in with her. No way.” Thommo looked up from his magazine. “Give up before you start, mate. Girls are too much trouble.” “Can’t live with them… can’t shoot ‘em,” said Stank. “Y’can,” said Thommo. “Y’d just get arrested.” 11

“Could almost be worth it but. If it was Lynda. I could stab her, actually. I din’t tell ya… my dads got a new one, new sword. Not ornamental either, this one. Got it on an illegal import. Swing, swing, and you’d have half a Lynda. Like in Kill Bill” “Oh my God. I hate that bitch. She so fukin’ dumb.” “You wouldn’t shoot her though,” said Stank. “Not really.” “You said you’d stab her!” “I didn’t mean it but.” “Yeah… nah me neither. Tempting but… Oh sir, what’s eight times six… Blam! Knock her dumb head into the next classroom.” Jamey looked away. “It’s a temp,” said Stank. “Huh?” said Thommo. “It’s a temp room, for maths. Means if you shot her, her head would have to go like… like boomerang to go into the next one.” “So shoot her with a boomerang,” said Thommo. “I like her, I think,” said Jamey. “You’re shitting me… Lynda?” said Stank. “Huh? No, Sachico.” “Oh.” Stank shrugged. “Whatever. She’s like… nice enough and all. Just don’t think that like, she’s like everyone reckons eh? She’s not the feisty hard-core that you’re after, like prob’ly eh.” Jamey shrugged. Stank laughed. “It’s all good man. I hear ya. Go get her.” *** Going home on the bus Jamey was hoping to see Sachico. In his mind, he already had a list of discussion topics. A range of clever quips, one liners

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and anecdotes. He could picture her face, as he spun and unspun a story. He could hear her laughing already. She wasn’t on, however. Disappointed, Jamey slumped back in his seat. The bus’s motor clanked into action. As the bus began moving, Jamey noticed a strange looking kid up the front of the bus beginning to rise from his seat. His face was white, pale and pimpled. He wore large dark glasses, and had greasy black hair. His neck seemed almost twice the right length. As he moved down the isle he spotted Jamey and grinned. His teeth stuck out in random directions, and as he grinned, thin lines of dribble oozed out the sides of his mouth. He wiped it off on his sleeve. Dumping his bag on the ground, he plunked himself beside Jamey. “Hello,” he said. His voice was deep and commanding, with an air of viciousness. Close up he looked like he could easily be older, around mid to late twenties. Jamey could see dried crusts of snot up his nose. “Hey” said Jamey, squirming uncomfortably in his seat. He knew something was wrong. The kid felt dark, almost dangerous. There was something sinister about his very presence. “I’ve got something to show you,” said the boy, pulling off his tie. He began to undo his shirt. Jamie shifted uncomfortably, looking out the window, trying not to look, trying not to think about what was happening. Who was this guy? Some kind of pervert? The boy pulled his shirt open. Large blood-filled veins stuck out his chest. On his solar plexus was the tattoo of a mouse. Jamey stared at him. “What th…” he began, then gave a sharp gasp. The tattoo blinked. Jamey stared. The mouse swiveled it’s eye about, three hundred and sixty degrees, then stared straight at Jamey. 13

“That’s not right,” said Jamey. The boy laughed smugly. The tattoo moved, scurrying up to the boy’s neck, then looking back at Jamey. “Who are you,” asked Jamey. “I’m just doing what I have to do,” said the boy. “What’s going on?” “I can’t tell you” Jameys blood was pricked with slivers of ice. “The note,” he said. The note that he’d ignored, discounted as another strange fragmented piece of his life, suddenly jumped into the bigger picture. “You know, don’t you? Why is the world going to end?” “Because it must.” “What the hell does that mean?” “I don’t think that’s really your concern at this stage…” “Where does God come into this?” “God made you for a reason. There is a plan for you.” “Again, what is that supposed to mean?” “Ninety percent of the iceberg is underwater…” “Jesus, just give me a straight answer!” “Give me a hand.” “Huh? With what?” “Put out your hand. You want answers don’t you? Rave will give you them over time.” “What? Rave? What the…?” “My mouse. His name is Rave. Your hand please…” Jamey put his hand out. His head spun. He knew the life he saw as normal was strange and unfathomable to most people, however, today was warped,

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even to him. Threatenings of the end of the world, God, mouse tattoos – he was scared. The boy reached out his own hand to touch Jameys. The mouse ran across the boy’s arm, over his hand, and onto Jamey’s, before running up his arm. Jamey felt a brief, unpleasant sensation as the mouse crawled into his ear. “What the…” “Rave will tell you when the time has come. He will lead you.” The bus stopped, still a way before Jamey’s stop, and the boy stood, running forward and jumping off the bus, disappearing into the bushes. Al shook his head. Jamey’s could feel himself sweating. His head was buzzing with a foreign energy, encompassing him, his mind falling apart. He felt like he was about to vomit. Jamey stumbled off the bus, walking down the streets, wobbling like a stick in the wind. His muscles burned and… He was in his house, and the walls were melting… the floor felt damp and sticky, the lights were shining like blasts of fire over wartorn skies… he was dying but never dead, falling forever without landing until he was being pushed against the carpet, enveloping him, swallowing him… The next thing he was aware of was Machine Stars warm embrace, holding him tight, telling him it would all be OK. Telling him the world would not end for a long time. Promising to protect him to the best of his power. He felt the soft touch of Pudding leading him into the mouth of Glood-Phillip, the soft-mouthed crocodile, where he slept deeply until the first moments of morning warmed his weary body.

CHAPTER 3. 15

An Angry Little Man.

Jamey woke, pleasantly surrounded in a tight, peaceful cocoon of warmth. Yesterday was barely in his thoughts, just a mess of blurred distorted fragments. He tried to roll over, but felt his bed hold him tightly in it’s grip. He opened his eyes. Looking up he caught the eye of Glood-Philip. Pieces of the night before floated back, and he remembered being lowered softly into his mouth. “Good morning,” he said. Glood-Philip winked, and opened his top jaw enough to give Jamey freedom of movement. Stretching, he yawned and looked to the table where Rambo and Connie sat, completing the last of Jamey’s homework. Machine Star stood beside Glood-Philip, watching Jamey, who hoisted himself quickly out of Glood-Philip’s mouth, and landed on the cold tiles. Glood-Philip crawled back into the oven, shutting the door noiselessly behind him. “Good morning Jamey,” he said. “Listen to me. I don’t want you to worry about anything that happened last night. I’m looking after it.” “Rave…” muttered Jamey, still half awake. “It’s OK. I have him. You don’t have to do anything.” “Why… What’s going on?” His eyes suddenly shot wide open. “The world! End of the world! I saw…” “Settle down. The world is in no present danger. As for what is going on right now, well… I can’t tell you that Jamey. You’re relatively bright. You recognise that your life hasn’t been quite as ordinary as other people’s. Very shortly, perhaps shorter than I’d have preferred, you will find out why. However, that’s not something I can tell you. It’s not my role. Presently, all you need to know is that you are safe. Don’t let yourself worry.” 16

“Why can’t you tell me?” Machine Star smiled sadly. “I want to tell you. Believe me, I do. But there are forces in this world, different to the ones you perceive, that we are all, in our way, bound to.” “Like what?” Machine Star closed his eyes and shook his head. “I’m not allowed to tell you Jamey. I’m not allowed to tell.” *** Jamey sat on the bus. Aside from a deep confusion as to what these promised ‘revelations’ would be, he felt a deep sense of ease. The end of the world was no longer preying on his soul. He trusted Machine Star. Star had always known what was happening, and what had to be done. A great weight had been lifted off him. “Are you cool with people touching your back?” He turned and looked behind him, to see Sachico leaning over the seat, that same cool, content expression over her face. “What?” he said. “Are you cool with people touching your back? I do massage. My mum taught me. You mind if I try it?” “Um, nah… Nah, it’s fine if you try it…” “Cool,” said Sachico, moving into position, behind him. She put her hands on his shoulders. “Lean forward more so I can get your back. And relax. You’re so tense. Relax your back muscles. Good.” She began to move her hands on his back, pushing in firmly and pleasantly. “You’re really good,” he said, concentrating on her hands. 17

“Thanks. I practice a lot.” “Mmmm,” said Jamey. Sachico continued working on his back. “Whatcha doin at lunchtime?” she asked. “Aren’t we supposed to be going on that science trip?” “Oh, yeah. Forgot about that,” she said, moving her hands further down his back. “What about Morning Tea?” “Nothing really. Just hanging out with mates.” “How would you feel hanging out with me instead?” “Yeah. That’d be tops.” “Great,” she said continuing to massage his back, until they reached school. She moved her hands off his back and touched his arm. “Thanks for that,” he said. “The pleasure was mine, Mr Rakely,” said Sachico. *** Back at the house, Machine Star sat, talking to Connie. “You can’t keep this up Star,” said Connie. “You can’t do this to yourself. You’ve already gone way beyond your call of duty.” “I have to protect Jamey. That is my job. I will not forsake that.” “Star, you’re good to him. You’re there when he needs you. You managed, against all odds, to lure Rave out of his ear, without being taken over yourself. And now after all that, you’re worried about him again! You can’t burn yourself out like this!” “The only reason I exist is for him. To protect him! I can’t abandon that duty just like that!” “The choice, as much as you may struggle against it, is not yours. This is not your decision to make, and it never was…” “The point is…” 18

The conversation stopped with a knock on the door. Machine Star looked towards it, suspiciously. “Hello?” he called. The person knocking remained silent. Slowly he moved towards the door and twisted the knob. The door swung open. Machine Star looked out, into the empty yard. “Hello?” he ventured quietly. No reply. Slowly, Machine Star walked outside, looking around, trying to find whatever, or whoever, had tapped against the door. The door slammed. He turned. A large metal spike on the end of a chain shot forward and stuck in his neck. He felt hot liquid entering his body, and his vision grew distorted. Sounds turned aquatic. He saw his attacker, and swung at the blurry form, which jerked to the side, pulling the spike out of his neck. He swung again, the attacker ducking, Machine Star’s paw taking out part of the brick wall. The attacker swung again, Machine Star ducked, and the spike flew over his head. He moved to bat his attacker away. He felt the spike, and another burst of liquid thunk into his leg, and everything faded to black. Connie, waiting patently by the table heard the door open and slam shut again. She jumped off her chair and ran to the front. “Who was it Star?” she asked. The person greeting her was not Machine Star. His face was white, pale and pimpled, he wore large dark glasses, had greasy black hair, his neck seemed to be almost twice the length it should and he held a spike dripping blue liquid on the end on a chain. He grinned, his strangely angled teeth letting drool dribble across his chin. “Just an angry little man,” he said, and swung the chain forward, where the spike stabbed instantly into the middle of Connies’ chest… *** 19

Sachico sat, waiting for Jamey on a peeling green bench beside the bushes. When he came along she smiled, and stood up to walk with him. “What’s happening in your round little world, Jamey?” “Nothing. SOSE was boring. Gorezo’s such a Nazi. He got mad at Stank for no reason today, and when he asked why he was in trouble Gorzo said not to question his authority. I hate people like that. Demanding respect without returning it.” “Stank was doing nothing wrong? Sounds suspicious.” “He’s not bad, really.” “He released a bucket of mice in the computer room” “OK, so he’s not the brightest.” “Mmm.” “He doesn’t mean anything by it.” “Really, one would think....” “You know you’re beautiful.” Sachico blushed for a second. For a moment, she couldn’t think what to say. Caught entirely off guard. “Thank you Mr Rakely,” she said, regaining her composure. They continued walking, in their own little bubble, pleasantly separated from the outside world. Jamey chewed his lip nervously. “I imagine we should probably ask each other out,” he said. Sachico looked amused. “Yes. I imagine we probably should,” she said. They kept walking. “Will you go out with me?” said Jamey, quietly. “No.” “Ah… oh…” “Idiot. Of course I will.” 20

The bell rang. *** The limp, unconscious bodies of Connie, Machine Star and Pudding were tied to chairs, around the kitchen. Glood-Phillip was locked in his oven. Rambo was simply upside-down, his short stumpy legs flailing in the air. Searching around the house desperately, was the long necked man who had attacked them. The man who had presented himself to Jamey as a school student. His name, was Y’rassecen Live. Y’rassecan had been, like the rest of them, assigned a duty to Jamey. Only his fundamental duty, was quite different. Presently though, he was focussed on reclaiming the means to his ends. He was searching for his mouse tattoo, Rave, that Star had inconveniently succeeded in removing from Jamey. He could be kept very few places. Rave was made of ink. Where could ink possibly be imprisoned? Even an airtight vault would leave escape, unless welded shut. He opened the door to the freezer. There, between the peas and pies, was a piece of paper, frozen in a block of ice with Rave on it. Clever, he thought, picking it up. He closed the freezer door and turned around, where Machine Star’s large fuzzy paw belted him over the head and knocked him over. He smashed into the tiles, sliced cheek spilling blood onto the ground. Rave hit the tiles, the ice smashing. Ink poured out, splattering over the ground before recomposing the rodent form. It fled. Ignoring Y’rassecen stumbling to his feet, Machine Star ran after the mouse, smashing furniture out of his way as he went. Rave shot into a pile of paper. Machine Star held up a can of deodorant, and in front of it, a lighter, and blew a stream of flame onto the table.

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The pile of papers, once stationary, turned into a living, moving thing. Fire raped the pile, bursting through the sheets, blasting apart thick wads in a fast all-consuming fireball. Ashy stars flew through the air, flittering across the house in a dirty choking grey snow, pouring out from the flaming pile. There was the faint stench of smouldering ink, before what was left of Rave fled, the ink glittering as it sacrificed its size to replace the destroyed limbs. Machine Star moved to chase, but a sudden jerking tightness across his neck stopped him, as Y’raseccen swung the chain across him, and stabbed the now-empty spike into his back. Machine Star screamed in pain, blood staining his fur. He jerked sideways, slamming Y’raseccen into the wall, plaster collapsing, then ran after Rave, knocking down the door ahead of him. He was now in the storage cupboard, Rave somewhere around him. He touched a box, and Rave shot up his arm. Machine Star reeled back, then jerked the lighter and deodorant across to his shoulder, singeing across his own fur, searing his flesh. Burnt hair stank into the air. Rave veered, shot down his leg and onto a box, where a line of fire cut through and devoured his existence whole. Y’rassecen screamed, and ran at him with the chain swinging madly. With a swipe, Machine Star knocked the chain into a fan, and with a second, broke his nose. He then grabbed his hair and pounded his head on the tiles, rendering him unconscious. “Well,” said Machine Star. “That was fun.”

CHAPTER 4. It’s Beginning

Kenji was in the shower at the time, scrubbing his thick black hair, humming that old Regurgitater song he loved. He poured a blob of shampoo 22

into his hand, and massaged it into his head, before twisting off the water and stepping out of the shower, still naked, and dripping. He leant down and picked up his electric razor, turning it on. Kenji was one of the few individuals at Marabou Mental Health Institute afforded such luxuries. He was nuts; according to everyone at the facility, entirely off his tree, with his delusional beliefs on dimensional portals, conspiratorial memory editing and the like. However, he was a model patent, and could carry on with everyday life, in the opinion of nearly the entire staff, with exceptional ease. Despite this, every application for his discharge had been rejected on grounds of… well, the grounds changed, it seemed, like the weather. They’d prefer him to have another six months of heavy monitoring. The evidence of his readiness to leave was inconclusive. Some incident back a few years wasn’t sufficiently covered in the reports and they wanted a revised copy. Always, some tiny thing, prevented him leaving. It became common knowledge that the powers that be, had decided Kenji was to remain in Marabou indefinitely. To what ends and means, was everyone’s pet conspiracy. His room was one of the largest and, due to the amount of time he spent in it, best furnished in the Institution. His bed was covered in black and maroon black squares, Kanji written over the top. Long blue fake velvet curtains draped themselves delicately across his small barred window. To the side of his bed was a small bedside table with one drawer, a brush and a leather strap messily left on top. Inside the drawer, he kept a few of his most precious things. Barely a metre from the table, on the ground, to one side of his bed, lay a sinister looking Octopus – glinting red eyes the only part of it not covered by vicious iron fish scales. However, this creature was not a usual part of the room’s setup. It was, instead, an anomaly. 23

The octopus listened carefully to Kenji in his bathroom, noting the gentle buzz of the razor. It moved one tentacle gingerly forward, and pulled the drawer open a centimeter. The buzz stopped and the octopus froze. “I’m your blubber boy, you should love me,” sang Kenji. The buzz of the razor restarted. The octopus breathed a sigh of relief, and reached into the drawer, pulling out a small green marble, throwing it in its mouth, then slid up onto the bed, squeezing itself hastily through the barred windows, climbing down the side of the building, landing in the bushes. In front of the octopus, waiting beside the road for a client, was a cab driver, smoking a cigarette as he leant up against his car. The thump in the bushes caught his attention, and he checked his watch, wandering over to the bushes to investigate. “What the bloody hell was that…” he muttered, stepping closer. Suddenly from out the bottom of the bush, a metal tentacle shot out, stabbing him in the leg. He screamed, the octopus jumping out, gripping his chest, and solidly belting him over the head with a tentacle. He fell to the ground still screaming and yelling, the octopus running over to the cab and jumping in, the driver trying desperately to stagger to his feet as the car started up, and drove off with a screech, and a whiff of burning rubber. From around the corner came Nurse Gillespie, running to check on the commotion, making sure everything was OK. The driver was still jumping about, holding his head, ankle dripping blood, yelling incomprehensibly. “Excuse… hello, excuse me… what’s the matter?” “He took my car! He took my bloody car! A fucking octopus stole my fucking car! Big bastard! Covered in bloody, iron scales!” Nurse Gillespie took a closer look at the gentleman. “Perhaps you’d best come inside.” 24

“Hook in!” yelled Thommo, from up the back of the bus, and laughed loudly. Jamey glared at him, and held up his GRADE 10 SCIENCE QUESTION BOOKLET so teachers up the front couldn’t see him giving him the finger. He moved back to his conversation with Sachico. “It’s like what they did with Rat Park,” she was saying. “You heard of that?” Jamey shook his head. He had quickly discovered that when Sachico was talking about politics or Maths C or anything else intelligent, the best system was to let her keep talking, nodding or shaking his head occasionally. “What they did, was get a group of rats in cages, with like, miserable rat lives, and some rats in a huge rat heaven called Rat Park. They gave them both two water feeders. One with clean water, one with methadone, like, heroin. The rats with bad lives took drugs. Rats with good lives took less or none. Even caged junky rats moved to Rat Park would wean themselves off methadone.” “Wow. So like, what does that actually mean?” said Jamey. He felt daft for having to say it. Outside the window, he could see the giant plastic crab at the entrance to Ocean Universe. “It means that the best way to deal with drug issues is to focus on the causes of drug abuse – like poverty, unemployment, poor health systems; people who live life like the caged rats – rather than treating drugs like an objective evil that must have a war waged on them.” The bus slowed suddenly, and the driver began to grumble loudly. “Some idiots parked his cab in our spot,” he told Mr Gore. “Of course, that didn’t happen,” said Sachico. “Most the research was just totally ignored by the scientific community. People don’t like it when they

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can’t see things in black and white. They always need an enemy. And if they don’t have one, they have to make one. It’s just the way we are.” *** The octopus climbed into the octopus area of the opening ‘look, touch, learn’ exhibit, and squeezed itself best it could, underneath a rock, red eyes glowing in the darkness, staring out, intently, waiting. Soon, they came, a mob of school students, following in the two teachers, noisily. “Put your bags over here, just along this wall,” said one of the teachers, and the students began to pile up the bags. The octopus stayed frozen, eyes flickering back and forth, keeping track of which bag belonged to whom, searching for the right person. Eventually, he spotted her, Japanese, long black hair past her shoulder, walking with the boy, a head of fine blonde hair, looking almost awkward beside her. “Come on,” said the teacher. “Let’s move on, we’re late already.” The students branched off, the teacher still yelling instructions, mostly ignored. Eventually he too shook his head and walked off. The octopus pulled itself carefully out of the tank, sliding over to the piles of bags, pulling open the girl’s, into which it spat out the green marble, before running out of the building, hurrying back to its office. It had some Security Camera footage to edit. “Go this way,” hissed Sachico. “Which way?” Sachico pointed to a darkened corridor. Above it was a large sign, THE CAVE written in a kind of glowing blue. “What question is that for?” “It’s not written in the book.” 26

“Eh?” “Don’t be a sap, come on, follow me.” Sachico wandered into the alley, Jamey tailing behind her. The darkness was almost overwhelming, Jamey almost loosing his footing, then… “Oh woah.” In front of them were a serious of huge round windows, each lit with a different colour, metallic blues, reds, and greens. In each hole, floating gracefully in circles were hundreds of tiny jellyfish, the background light casting a graceful luminescence over their tiny gelatinous bodes. “That’s pretty nice,” said Jamey. Sachico touched the side of his chest. “My dad is going on an overnight trip,” she said. “It’s over the weekend. I want you to come with me.” “Really?” “Yeah.” “We haven’t even… we hardly…” “I have liked you before you could say my name properly,” she said. “It’s nothing sudden from where I stand.” “Oh… OK…” “So…?” “Oh, yeah… sure… I’d love to.” “You sure your parents will be cool with it? “Yeah, It’ll be fine.” “OK cool,” said Sachico. “Cos mine don’t know.” She put one hand and placed it gently on his chest, looking him straight in the eyes, challenging him, daring him. “This is the part…” she said quietly, “where you kiss me.” “Is it?” 27

“Yes.” *** Pudding’s eyes flashed open. “Connie…” he began, urgently. Connie put a hand up, stopping him. “I know,” said Connie. “He’s found her. It’s beginning.”

CHAPTER 5. Have You Ever Heard of Portals?

Jamey arrived home and looked at the crumbled corner of the brick wall. He pushed the door open and saw a chaotic mix of various parts of chairs, lamps and glass. Ash littered the floor. Machine Star walked towards Jamey, a bandage across his shoulder. Pudding trailed beside him, looking slightly dazed and doughy. “Jesus! Machine Star? Are you OK?” Machine Star, waved a dismissive paw. “There’s nothing to fuss over Jamey. Everything is fine.” “What happened to the house? And your shoulder?” “Oh nothing, really. There is an ancient Polar Bear game you see, called Erif Enil. You basically throw flammable liquids, and set them of fire before they land. Beautiful game. It’s origins date back to 1824, when a freak accident involving a lightning storm and a large amount of wood, gathered…” “You burnt down the house playing Erif Enil?” “Well, burnt down is an exaggeration, but Pudding got over exited, and this led to that, things broke, and caught on fire, and Connie got a piece of 28

wood in the chest – it’s OK, I’ve cleaned it – and well, you know things got a bit wacky. We’ll clean it up Jamey, don’t worry.” Jamey stared at the mess, shaking his head slowly. “Ahh, OK… I’m sorry, I’d love to talk, but I’ve got homework. Back soon. Would you like me to get the vacuums cleaner from the basement?” “No! No, thank you Jamie. It would spoil the tradition of Erif Enil.” “What tradition?” asked Pudding. “The really important one,” said Machine Star, subtly sticking his paw over Puddings mouth. “OK then… see ya.” “Bye.” Machine Star knelt beside Pudding as Jamey walked off. “Pudding. I know there’s no tradition involving cleaning up, after Erif Enil. But what’s in the basement?” “Ah,” said Pudding. “So if Jamey went down there it’d be kinda bad?” “Yes Pudding. Kinda bad.” “Hey Star?” “Yes?” “Can we have a real game of Erif Enil sometime?” “Maybe later.” *** Sachico lay down on her bed, hair splayed out across her pillow. “Oyasumi nasai,” called her father. “Oyasumi,” she called and rolled over. She sat on her hand until it was numb and slid it from her neck to her stomach, to feel a foreign hand on her body. It was a pleasant sensation. She thought back to last night, when she had prayed to God for guidance. God had told her to meet Jamey. She had. She asked God when she would 29

die, hoping to make certain she would do everything she wanted in time. God had told her – you will not die until you have reached your destiny. Stretching her arms out she drew a large question mark of the page, stuck the book under her bed, and fell asleep. *** In the basement of Jameys’ house, Y’rassecen was on his knees, praying. “Lord,” he said, “Give me freedom. Give me a means of escape. I am trapped here. I cannot perform my duties.” He paused for a second, then continued. “I don’t want to perform my duties either. I hate them. I hate you, you filthy sack of scum. But I will obey you, as I must. You are my master. I will do your biding. I just need a way out, and I can make up for the loss of Rave.” He paused again, wiping drool off the side of his mouth. “After all… Jamey is by no means the only one who could be guided.” Suddenly his eyes jerked open, with the feeling of sudden inertia, as a wormhole through time and space opened only metres in front of him. It looked like a head to toe mirror, edges of time and space piled into milky blue slime, hovering above the ground. Through the center, he could see into Sachico’s bedroom. He grinned. “Thank you Lord.” He walked through the wormhole, which disappeared with a sound like spaghetti going down a plughole, sending him blasting through a raging tide of space and time. The world began to slow again, allowing him to exit the portal. Slowly, confidently, he stepped onto the soft carpet of Sachicos’ room. Y’rassecen pulled off his dark glasses and placed them in his pocket. His eyes were a deep iridescent purple, which glowed slightly in the darkness. 30

A glint of light caught his eye and he turned to look. On top Sachico’s bag, lay a single iron fish scale. He knelt down, gingerly, almost silently pulling the zip down, reaching into the bag, where his fingers fumbled with the green marble, before pulling it out. He smirked. “Eduardo,” he muttered. “You never do let me down, do you?” He stood and turned, watching Sachico breathing, her chest rising and falling. He grinned, his horrible crooked grin and leant over her ear. Slowly, he slid his tongue out his lips, slipping deep into her ear, and into her brain, holding the marble against her temple, controlling, with ruthless efficiency the very fabric of her unconscious state. He closed his eyes. It was time to share a few visions. *** Sachico was walking across an icy plain. The cold winds stung her exposed flesh. Looking down, she saw entire cities clearly embedded in the ice below her. She walked above New York, Tokyo, Paris, London, Sydney and Hong Kong, all the time knowing she was the only human alive. A flash, an explosion of energy, and she was lying in sodden grass, on a sodden field at night, and the red sky was raining blood, soaking and staining all it touched. In front of her stood her brother Kenji, thick black hair, stark jaw. “This is the end,” he said. “This is the end as it shall come. We must stop it.” “How,” she asked. “Bring me to Jamey,” he said. “I have something to show him.” “What must your show him?” “Have you ever heard of portals?” “Yes. What about them?” Her brother grinned. 31

“I make them.” He threw something at her that she caught in her hand. It was a green marble. Her hand closed around it. “So did you read in the paper the other day, there was an article written, suggesting reality TV is damaging the minds of six to eight year old children…” “What?” Sachico stirred from her sleep. “Apparently, what’s happening is kids as young as six are copying the most appalling of behavior from shows like Big Brother uncut, and the like…” came the voice, from her radio. It was her alarm. She leant over and turned it off. As she did, she felt something fall from her hand, landing on the carpet. She leant over to get a better look, and froze. The green marble from her dream. *** Thommo and Stank sat on the Secondary Schools lunchtime table, watching Jamey and Sachico talking. “There y’ go Stank. He’s been kidnapped by th’ enemy.” “Don’t sweat it Thommo. He’s a mate. He won’t forget about us. He’s just sending time with his girl. Is that too much to ask?” “Th’point…” “No, seriously, is it? Was it too much to ask that you spend time alone practicing tennis? Or that I spend time alone catching the class turtle?” “That y’try t’ catch the class turtle.” “Yeah well, how was I to know it could climb trees?” “Th’point is, that y’can’t trust women,” said Thommo. “Thommo, not all women are the same bloody way your mum was.” 32

“What’s that s’posed to mean?” “It means just cos your mum was a bit… friendly with other blokes, doesn’t mean y’can’t trust chicks. It’s just stupid.” “Mate, I’ve been with chicks b’fore. I got in with a few.” “But you can’t just say they destroy men.” “Yeah s’pose not.” He paused. “It’s true but.” “Yeah, sometimes.” *** “I had a strange dream,” said Jamey. “About Johnny Depp. He wanted to eat me, but a guy with blue hair told him not to. So he ran away, into the mountains, to live with Buddhists.” “Cool,” said Sachico. “It was really odd.” “Oh no, don’t even try to compared dream weirdness with me.” “Why not?” “Well, um…” She paused. The marble was in her pocket. She wondered how much she should entrust to Jamey, how much she could entrust to him. If she was loosing it, would he be there? Or would he freak out? She took a breath. The strangeness of the marble – that could wait, maybe until they achieved a greater level of trust. Until then, she figured, she’d keep her uberweirdness out of the conversation. “Well, OK, it wasn’t really all that weird last night. I met up with my brother he told me he wanted to meet you,” said Sachico. “Really? That would be fine.” “Well it was just a dream. He didn’t really say it.” “Oh. Gotcha. It’d be cool to meet him still.”

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Sachico gave a short, uncomfortable nod. “Cool. It’s just… he’s got problems and that.” “Like what?” “He’s in a mental hospital. He says he can pull and manipulate time. He says he is looking for the one who will do Gods’ biding. In my dream you were the one he wanted. It was… strange.” “Oh,” said Jamey. They sat in silence. Sachico looked down, almost wishing she hadn’t mentioned it. So much for skipping the weirdness. Jamey leaned in to kiss her on the cheek. She jolted, surprised, and pushed a quick hand up against his chest. “Stop it. That’s private.” “I’m sorry.” She touched his hair. It was soft. “It’s fine,” she said.

CHAPTER 6. Talk to me.

Time moved, and it was Kenji’s curse that he could see it. He stared at the wall in front of him, crushing his fingers together. He was used to the comfort of rolling a marble between his finger, but with his favourite, the green one, no where to be found, this wasn’t even an option. In a way it was ironic. Here he was, in a mental institute, and what had he done? He’d lost his marbles. He felt a sudden jarring sense of discomfort and looked to his side. There was a twist, a slight unnatural bend in the fabric of time. He moved his hand, and straightened it out, and the feeling went away. 34

Time was not a constant, it changed, and moved with the physical landscape. However, he could often feel rips, tears and twists like that one. Tiny waves of manipulated time were causing ripples and affecting the overall shape. Every so often one would pass him, and he would wipe it clean. Yet time, he noted, was growing increasingly unstable. The physical world was being influenced by an outside power. The shape of the world and the shape of time were changing in opposite directions, and he knew all too well that if everything should try to shape itself the opposite way to time, it would make a new shape that would have no control or restraint. Time melding into the physical world would be like a truck plunging into a wall. Only in this truck, the cargo included the population of every human in existence. *** “Hey, Star,” called Jamey, entering the house, dumping his bag on the ground. “Hello Jamey,” replied the bear. Jamey noted, with some satisfaction that his shoulder was healing. “Sachico invited me over this weekend. I just wanted to let you know.” Machine Star paused for a moment. He looked Jamey, concerned. “Jamey… I know you are possibly… the most mature person of your age. And I’m well aware of the levels of freedom you are used to. However, on this one particular occasion, I don’t think you should go.” “What? Why?” “I cannot tell you many things Jamey. It is against my restrictions. I cannot let you go, without warning you. I think it will be dangerous.” “How so?”

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“She is being led by the forces who wish to destroy. They will use her. They’re the same forces that have control of you.” “What the hell are you on about?” “Jamey, listen… I’ve said more than I should have already.” “I want the truth Star! What’s all this crazy shit about, I don’t get it.” “I told you I…” “Can’t tell me, yeah. Big fucken’ help” “Watch your language.” “Screw you.” There was a brief silence, as they stared each other in the eyes. Jamey stood angrily chest constricted with pent up anger. Not just the past days, but years of confusion, were shaken up, heated and poured out in a venomous rage. “I don’t think you should see Sachico. It’s dangerous,” said Star, with an air of finality. “What? Why? This is freaking stupid!” “Like I said, they will try to use her.” “She wouldn’t let that happen” “Do you want to risk it?” “I love her.” “Which is why she is perfect for their needs. They need you. She is their pawn.” “Who are they?” “I cannot say! I am not able to!” “How do you know they have her?” “It is a guess…” “Oh, great…” 36

“An educated guess! I know how they are commanded, I know their restrictions…” A thought occurred to Jamey, one that had never even brushed against his mind. “You all have the same commander. The same as them. Don’t you?” “Yes Jamey. My commander requires you to perform a duty, one you can not do if you are dead. That is why I exist; to protect you. However, I am going beyond my expectations, as far as I can. I cannot force you to trust me, or to obey me, but I will not leave you!” “If you’re in the same crew, the same crew who put a tattoo rat in my ear, the crew who are telling me the world is ending, and God is talking to me, the how the hell am I expected to trust you any more than I am them?” Machine Star stood back for a second, a hurt look in his face. His eyelids closed and opened slowly over his big green eyes. “I don’t know Jamey. I thought after nine years perhaps it would be instinct. Perhaps I was wrong.” Machine Star turned around, leaving the room. Jamey looked away, feeling a creeping sense of guilt as he let him walk off without even trying to stop him. *** Saturday morning, a miserable silence hung like black silk over Jamey’s house. Machine Star placed a plate of bacon on the table, avoiding eye contact. Jamey sat staring at his meal. He felt miserable, almost guilty for the atmosphere, but at the same time angry for Machine Star’s reaction, the way the bear seemed to be sulking. Jamey resented it. “I’m sorry,” he said, looking into his plate. Machine Star looked at him and he returned the look. 37

“It’s OK Jamey. It’s not your fault. Your life is mine to try and protect. However, it is not mine to control.” Jamey took a breath. “I’m going to see Sachico. You can’t stop me.” “Please. Please Jamey, listen to me. You shouldn’t see her. It’s too risky.” “I love her.” “Romeo loved Juliet. You barely know her. You’re obsessed with the ‘romantic’ view of love, excuse the term. Love is not some perfect magic, it is a primitive urge to ensure humans pass on their DNA.” “Wow Star, you Casanova, you. Chill out. I’m going to her house, and I’m staying the night.” Machine Star sighed, looking into his hands. Jamey thought he might have seen him wipe away a tear, and a thick sense of worry returned to his guts. “Anything suspicious, get the hell out of there,” said Star, coldly. “I don’t like it. I think you’re putting the both of you in unnecessary danger.” “Can’t you just tell me what’s happening? You have the same commander. Why won’t you tell me?” “We all have restrictions placed on us from the moment we were created. Because of the way you are, you cannot fly. Because of the way I am, there are things that I cannot tell you. There are powers I do not posses. There are rules. And breaking rules is not one of my powers.” Jamey stood to walk away. “Jamey,” called Machine Star. Jamey turned around. “This isn’t a game. This is big. A responsibility is on you. Do you understand that?” “I don’t understand shit Star,” he said. Machine Star took a breath, and looked down at his paws.

38

“Perhaps I’d best be totally honest with you, Jamey,” Star said, and locked eyes with Jamey. “Perhaps I’d best tell you everything.” Jamey nodded. “Perhaps you had.” Machine Star took a seat, clearing his throat. “We didn’t play Erif Enil,” he said, and spread out the whole story of the man who came to the house and tried to take back Rave. He told how Rave could control the mind. He told everything that happened, up till the point he was locked in the basement, and managed to escape. “I didn’t want to scare you,” he said. “So even some of the things I could tell you, I didn’t.” He drew a breath. “This is the last I can tell you. The End of the World – it is coming. It is possible. And it is you who will be the one to decide what happens. You, are responsible for billions of lives.” *** Sachico waited by the door for Jamey to arrive. She wore a white singlet and tight jeans. She saw Jamey moving towards her. “What the hell,” she muttered. “He walked here?” As Jamey moved closer, the features of his grinning face became clearer, his eyes always directed either at her or the ground. Eventually reaching her, she swung her arms around her neck and he hugged her waist. “It’s good to see you Jamey.” “I wouldn’t rather be anywhere else,” he said, and meant it. They walked into the house. It was large, with white walls and marble pillars. A curled marble staircase glistened in the middle. Fountains gargled. Jamey wandered over to the large screen TV, leaning on an armchair. He pushed it slightly. “Don’t move the chairs,” called Sachico. “They’re set with good Feng Shui.” 39

“Oh. Sorry.” Sachico poured two glasses of lemonade, and brought one to Jamey. “Thanks,” he said. He pulled off his backpack and held it in his free hand. “Where do I put this?” “I’ll stick it in my room. Come with me.” Sachicos room was large. She had a double bed with colorful figures dancing on the quilt. A fan lay in the corner, beside a computer and a radio. She had a full CD stack, and a wardrobe. A giraffe clock ticked hypnotically. She pulled out a phone from her pocket. “I’ll phone for pizza,” she said. “Then we can watch a DVD or something. Or just talk.” “Talking’s good.” They leant against the wall, speaking away the darkness in between mouthfuls of food. Jamey liked Japanese animation, movies and army hats, wanted to be a director, was an atheist (as far as he was anything), wanted two children and wanted to know when he was going to die so he could do everything in time. Sachico liked ice-cream, the feeling of wearing ugg boots and photos of shoulder blades, wanted to be a masseuse, a strong Christian, hated America’s foreign policy and cruelty to animals, supported the death penalty, wanted three children, and wanted to die heroically, or at least something she believed in, before getting old. Sometime, around three o’ clock, they fell asleep, Sachico lying on Jamey, his arm around her chest, feeling her heart beat. Jamey took longer to fall asleep than Sachico, thinking over and over about the things he had been told. As he drifted to sleep he realised he had already known, he had felt it, that something had been set into motion. 40

*** In the mental ward, Kenji could hear a voice in his head. I know what you can do. “Go away,” he said. He didn’t want voices. Voices happened to the real crazy people. He was always worried that being cooped up with crazy people would send him the same way. You know how to create a portal. Only one. It is one you must save for another time, yes? I have something to show. Another portal. Another place, well hidden from the rest of the world. Pay attention. I have something to show you. Kenji’s room twisted, as a mass vision, information of space and time calculations, times, numbers, calculations shot through his eyes in thin slimy lines of silver. A tiny room, with a paper-covered desk appeared in front of him. The walls were a deep wooden brown. Most bizarrely of all, in the middle of the room, on top of a stool, sat a long tentacled octopus with a small head, covered in what looked like iron fish scales. It looked at him with glowing red eyes, and winked. Kenji began to chuckle. CHAPTER 7. Who’s Responsible for this?

Machine Star didn’t sleep. He could, but he didn’t need to. Plus, with Jamey away and Y’rassecen escaped, all he could do was think. Outside, the bushes rustled. Machine Star sighed, slid his reading glasses off his nose and lowered the book he was pretending to read. A window exploded, echoing down the hall. Dropping the book, he began to move towards the window. 41

“Snood,” he muttered, dropping the glasses and moving down to the room. Shattered glass and splinters of wood lay, shimmering like a moonlit ocean, sprinkled across the floor. He looked outside. With a violent crack, a second window exploded into the house, then a third and fourth with alarming efficiency. From the fourth came a splash of green over the floor. Slowly, suspiciously, Machine Star moved closer to examine it. Gingerly, he dipped a claw into it and pulled it out. It was definitely… Paint. Machine Star frowned at this. He was confused. Why windows? Why… The final question never fully completed itself in his mind as it was suddenly replaced by a jerking, burning motion, lurching onto his neck, brutally pulling in on his flesh and cutting off his air supply, as a rope noose closed in across his neck. He stood up, trying to scream, only loosing more air. He swang, claws out at the rope and his attacker but he didn’t have to see who it was. Y’rassecen Live. The pestilent Y’rassecen Live. The peanut butter stuck to the roof of your mouth. The roach infestation that would not die. The mosquito in your ear. Buzz. Machine Star held desperately onto consciousness, his legs gave way and slammed into the ground. He was barely aware of the pieces of glass stabbing into his legs. The last thing he saw before black closed in and encompassed his everything, was a pair of glowing misty purple eyes. As Y’rassecen focused his attention on Machine Star, the screen door silently opened and closed, as a tiny black figure escaped, running towards a street, where the shiny green eyes of a young polar bear waited patiently. 42

“Pudding,” whispered Connie. “He has Machine Star. We have to get help.” *** It was around four o’ clock when Jamey woke, Sachico lying on his chest, his hand lying gently on her stomach. He smiled gently as he touched her hair, watching the individual strands slide off his finger. He twitched, and his smile went away. There was something not right… a feeling that had come over him, that pulled urged him to move away, that beckoned him further into the house. It hung over him for a moment, then dispersed, like a cloud collapsing into rain and falling into nothingness. Then it was gone. He allowed his attention to return to Sachico, sliding the smooth of his palm down her shoulder, enjoying the sensation. He slid the backs of his fingernails up her neck, and she stirred slightly. He began to play with her hair again when the feeling returned. It was stronger this time, more insistent, more powerful, urging him further into the house. Slowly, taking care not to wake Sachico, he moved out and lowered her to the ground. He stood and began to slowly move down the hall. His chest tightened. He felt like he was stuck in a horrible maze, not wanting to cross the line between not knowing enough, and knowing too much. Still – he needed to find this. Even if it was a trap, even if the ‘bad guys’ (if indeed they existed as such) had planned it, it was too late. His mind was engaged. He was ready to explode. He had to know what was going on. Navigating carefully, he found his way through the house, always following the force that was calling him, like a thick thread pulling from the centre of his solar plexus. Eventually he saw it. From a distance it looked 43

like a tiny green shimmering dot. On closer inspection he saw it was a glowing green marble. He moved his hand out towards it, feeling energy run through him like electricity. He touched it, and the world shot off in a different direction, thousands of miles an hour propelling him into a giant field of light. *** Kenji slowly walked into the centre of the mental hospital, avoiding the eagle eyes of the nurses. He took a deep breath. He had never felt this powerful in his life. Drawing a deep breath he summoned huge scream, roaring at the top of this lungs. The world exploded into sound, with the horrific dreams of sufferers being disturbed. A man began to yell nonsense, a woman cried. Two hospital workers ran towards him. “You thought I was crazy!” he screamed, aware he was doing nothing to demonstrate the contrary. For the first time he didn’t care. “You don’t believe me! You don’t think I can make portals! You don’t believe it!” The man reached him, needle in hand, and swung his arm, trying to grab him. Kenji shot his hand forward, socking him in the middle of the chest. The man shot backwards through the air, before hitting the ground and sliding further across. The second man hesitated. Kenji grinned and jerked his fingers forward, feeling the jerk of inertia, as a wormhole burst open, just below his hand. There was absolute silence. Looking through the hole, he saw an iron octopus on the stool. ‘Better than nothing,’ he thought and jumped in, disappearing just as fast, the portal slurping away in front of the eyes of the shocked, silent audience. *** 44

On the top of a grassy hill, hidden away by trees, sat Pudding and Connie, focusing their energy undisturbed by the constant swarms of birds overhead. The pressure was building. The world was on the very edge of something, and nature, with all its sensors going into overdrive, felt it coming. “I’m lost, Connie,” said Pudding. “Control it. Concentrate.” “I can’t. There’s too much interference. Everything can sense what’s happening. I can’t distinguish between life forms.” “OK. Concentrate on me. Yes. That’s it. Move on, further out. Find the dog barking. Got it? Find Machine Star…” “I’ve… ouch… I’ve got him… ouch… it hurts…” “Keep it up. Move from Machine Star. Find the one we want. Find him.” “I’ve got… almost…He’s on a train, I think I’ve…arrrg! Ow! I’ve lost it.” Pudding dropped his head in his hands, shaking. “Try again, Pudding” “I can’t. It hurts too much.” “Redirect then. Put your pain into me.” “Connie…” “Just do it! Hurry up” “OK… I’m searching… I’m getting somewhere… I’m… I think it’s him…. Yes, got him, I’ve got him! I’m… I’m trying to connect him up to the energy. I’m trying… It’s hard…” “Just… push it…” “OK… OK… done!” “Arrrgh!” Connie collapsed backwards. Pudding jumped over to her grabbing her hand. 45

“Connie!” “I’m OK, Pudding.” At the base of the hill a small portal opened. A sense of well being and hope radiated from it. Connie looked at Pudding. “Wait,” said Pudding. “What about dad?” “We’ve done all we can Pudding.” Connie put her hand on his shoulder. “Let’s go home.” *** Jamey looked around him. Everything but his own body was white. He stomped. The ground felt solid. He walked forward and surreally, nothing changed. He walked backwards to where he had been, or at least where he thought he had been, and turned around. “Do you need help? I am The Guide,” said a voice, and Jamey turned around to view a man in a while coat. “Where am I?” asked Jamey. “The same place you always were, technically. However you are touching an object that has manipulative ability. It could be a chair, table, fork, anything. This object was used to manipulate a human conscious through dreams, or hallucinations, or daydreams, any form of not realistic perception alteration. Do you follow?” “I think so. You’re saying there marble was used to… to make dreams?” “Possibly. Dreams, hallucinations, daydreams, visions, that kind of thing. Good. To alter perception, the alterer must mentally connect to the object. Your mind is now connected, to the item, and is translating the leftover knowledge from the last user.” “Who was that?” “Are you familiar with the name Y’rassecen Live?” 46

“No.” “He knows you. Follow me.” The man walked behind him, towards a newly appeared blue door. He opened it into a room filled with displays. Jamey followed him inside. To the left, on a wall was a full length poster of Y’rassecen, and Jamey recognised him instantly. “Him! The bus freak! He tried to manipulate Sachico…? Why?” “To reach the checkpoints.” The man opened a drawer, with one folder in it, labeled CHECKPOINTS. He pulled out three cards. “Checkpoint one. The Savior must meet the Restarter. Completed.” “Savior?” “Yes. You are defined as the savior. Sachico is the Restarter.” “Restart what?” “Help you to restart the world. She is a biological miracle. Any children she has will not hold their parents DNA. Prevents incest, and mutation and the like. Nasty stuff.” “Why restart the world? I have to save it don’t I?” “Oh no. As it is, the world only has two thousand years left. You must create a new dimension and restart the world. This world, and everyone in it, will be killed. The new world is like this, only without all the people. Fresh start.” “Why will the world end?” “Because it is willed so. Y’rassecen must help to do this. It is his duty.” “What? You can’t do that to everyone! You can’t just kill everyone. Killing children! Killing children for fuck sake! You can’t do that to me! You can’t do that to Sachico!”

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“Her parents are dead. They have been dead for years. She imagined them, as an illusion, for many years, her memories are routinely manipulated by Y’rassecen. Now what this demonstrates, is the level to which we control her existence. The reason I’m telling you that is to demonstrate that she is only a creation to aid us. And so are you. It must happen.” He shifted cards. “Checkpoint two. The Savior must meet the Time Keeper, and have him create a visual portal. Uncompleted. That portal will release the power to send you to the new dimension. The Time Keeper is Sachicos brother. This portal must be entered without the vision within being completed. If the portal is completed for your unwillingness to sacrifice several billion lives for the sake of trillions of lives that would come from the new beginning, then humanity will face its eventual extinction, and nature will crumble down the remnants.” “You’re insane. If the world is to become extinct then it’s not my responsibility. I’ll just complete the portal. That easy, and billions of people will not be killed, and billions of others will have a chance at life.” “It depends on what must be completed for the portal, as to how simple that will be, wouldn’t you think? Also, I hardly thing you’re even allowing yourself to take into consideration the extinction of the entire human race. Nonetheless, Final Checkpoint. The Savior and the Restarter must enter the second dimension without completing the portal. In other words you go to the New World, and this one is destroyed. That simple.” “Did Y’rassecen design this?” “Oh, please. Y’rassecen is as much a pawn as you are.” “Who’s responsible for this? Who wills it so, as you say.” “God.”

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With that, The Guide lifted his hands, and the room shot away, the real world shooting back as quickly as it had disappeared.

CHAPTER 8. I Just found the Meaning of life.

Stank sat on the train, beside his father, who closely resembled a short fat hedgehog. He would often hum, and occasionally tap his fingers. Very occasionally his toes would join in, and he would get louder and louder until he had been possessed by an entire symphony. He grew Jonquils in his backyard, was a former hippie, an advocate for animal rights. Besides his father was his fathers girlfriend, Elvi. She was an accountant. The less we know about her, the better. The three of them were traveling to the theater, to watch a play about teenage life and drinking which Elvi claimed to be a thoughtful and discouraging tale of caution. Stank was considering whether her could sneak away at interval, when he felt a tide of energy blasted him. It filled him, then relaxed him. He was, far, far too relaxed, like a calm before the storm. Suddenly he was involved in it. Whatever the hell ‘it’ was. *** Kenji stood in the office. The octopus sat on the stool, a pen in each hand, writing several letters. “I’ll be with you when I’m ready,” it said. “I just have to finish a few of these reports.” It continued to scribble away and, once finished, turned to face Kenji, with its intense red eyes. “You would be Kenji then?” it asked. “How do you know my name?” 49

“Nineteen years of continuous correspondence with the outside worlds’ events, I have managed to keep a very close eye on those who will shape the future.” “You were watching me?” “Yes.” “And my sister?” “Sachico, yes. She still has quite a part to play.” “And my parents?” “You know what I know. You have abilities. With that came an exceptional ability of perception.” “I was right then. I have no parents. They were an illusion.” “They were killed when you were four. From that point, what you saw was an artificial memory.” “How did they die?” “They became impaled. It was a violent death. You would feel better if I did not describe it.” “I have to know everything.” “It will all be clear in the end. But now, look at this.” The octopus showed him a photo of a small park. “It is abandoned most the time. Take me there.” Once more, Kenji felt the sticky silver lines cover his mind. “Will you tell me everything?” “I promise.” “I’ll take you there.” *** “Jamey?” said a soft voice. Jamey turned from where he stood. “Sachico?” “What are you doing out here?” 50

Jamey edged backwards. “Stay back.” “What?” “You can’t come near me. You or your brother. You’re in danger with me.” “What? What the hell are you on about?” “I’m meant to destroy this world. That’s why I exist. You are part of the plan. Your brother helps end the world. You’re meant to… to help me restart it.” “What the hell… you don’t make sense. You’re scaring me Jamey.” “I saw it in the marble. Y’rassecen showed you stuff… like in a dream… the dream, the one where you saw your brother trying to meet me! He left part of himself there and now I’ve seen the plan. Your brother will begin the end… and we will finish it. He will create a portal.” A slow silence leaked across the room. Sachico stared at Jamey. “Did I tell you last night?” she said, at a harsh whisper. “What?” “I told you about the portals didn’t I? I must have, he, he used to say he could make them… I kept it a secret from people… How did you know? Jamey?” He voice was low and wobbling. Jamey stepped forward and stretched his arm out to touch hers and she jerked back, staring him off. “Who’s Y’rassecen?” “He’s a part of this. He needs us to end the world.” “Jamey. Listen to me. Cut the bullshit. Why are you being so strange?” “You have to believe me, he’ll make the portal! If he makes it, we have to do what it says!” “We… what what says?” 51

“What… we have to copy what we see in the portal!” “Jamey! Stop it!” Suddenly there was a feeling, like a rush through the air, pounding into them, a kind of shock wave. Sachico stiffened and looked at Jamey. “What was that?” Another wave of energy burst through them, and they turned to the source. The marble. “Jamey… What the bloody hell are you doing? What’s with this? Jamey?” Jamey leant forward and pulled out a large knife from the cutting board beside him. Sachicos eyes became huge. She moved backwards. “Stop it. I’m scared.” Jamey continued moving, slowly. Sachico stared at him. “Jamey… Jamey. Jamie! Jamie! Jamie, put the fucking knife down! Listen… LISTEN TO ME! JAMIE!” Jamey turned, and with all his energy, swung the knife down on the marble. The marble emitted a sudden bright light as the knife hit and a deafening crack of silence drowned out all noise. Then, exploding in the night, the knife sparked and snapped, a crack of thunder and Jamey was launched into the air, shooting backwards and landing on his back on the table. The smoldering knife dropped to the ground. “Jamey!” screamed Sachico. His face was still, his arms twitching. A trickle of blood ran from his hand to his wrist from where the handle had torn the flesh of his palm. “Jamey? Wake up, wake up Jamey! Wake up!”

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She shook, him, and his muscles tensed urgently. She slapped his face, which was covered in clammy cold sweat. Urgently she felt for his pulse and couldn’t find it on his wrist. Near panic she tried to find it on his neck and thought she could feel it, faint, but there. Were you supposed to use your forefinger, or did that have your own pulse in it? Why was it weak? Was he dying? She held a hand over his nose to feel for breathing, but no breath came out. She took a breath in, and closing her eyes, she opened his mouth and put hers over the top, breathing into him. Nothing. Again, she breathed in and gave him her breath. This time his body lurched violently, Sachico jumping back as a glob of lime green ooze began to pouring out of his mouth, sliding across the table and landing with a ‘P’thluk’ on the floor. He coughed, gasping in for breath, as his eyes widened. “I… Sachico… I saw the dream. The cities in ice, your brother. I saw it all.” She stood, eyes wide and shocked, backing away slowly from him. “How? How do you know about the dream?” she said. Her mind searched every single possibility. What was happening? “What the hell are you trying to tell me?” she said, her voice deep and angry. The edge of her words were lost in a mild fearful tremor. She backed away a little, head clouded, nearly ran off. Deep breaths. “What do you have to tell me? How can you know this?” Stay calm. Stay collected. “What are you?” “I’m still Jamie. But I’m caught up in something. I’m part of something big. I’ve been given the task of destroying everything. I’ve been given a task. And so have you. Can’t you feel it? Can’t you sense it?” “Shut up,” she said, coldly, leaning back against the wall, closing her eyes. He was right, she knew it. She had always known it.

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Jamey looked at her closely. He touched her face, and she jerked away impulsively, smacking her head on the wall. “Ow!” “Sorry.” He paused. “Are you scared of me?” “Jamey… Jamey I don’t know about anything right now… you can’t… I mean, fuck, you can’t just throw this all on me. I’m scared. And… shit, confused. Lost. And you’re talking about the end of the world and all, and talking about things I’ve seen, and saying things… things I know, that I feel by intuition… that nobody I know has ever known…” “Are you scared of me?” “Yes,” she said, near silent. “Yes, a little bit, yeah. You’re saying this true stuff, and then this weird stuff, and then swinging knives and getting shot into the air, and vomiting green stuff… that’s scary Jamey. That’s really freaky.” Jamey moved his finger forward again, touching Sachico’s face. This time, she stayed still, and he slid a strand of hair from her face and pushed it behind her ear. He touched her ear, slid his hand down her cheek. “I want you to tell me what is going on,” she said. “I don’t even know half of it myself!” “Then tell me the half that you do know.” Jamey took a breath. “You have no parents,” he said. “They are dead. They were illusions.” “What…? That’s crazy” “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. You don’t even know their names. They never had them.” “I do…I know... shit… oh Christ.”

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“You make your own dinner, cleaning, own everything. You’ve never noticed. You’ve been programmed not to. I saw it all in the last blast of the marble.” “If I have no parents, where doe the money come from?” “Cash account. Refilled weekly.” “By who?” “Machine… my carer… we receive weekly cash flow from my ex-foster father. We take the little we need, send the rest to you. It’s what Machi… my carer has to do. It’s part of his path.” Sachico took a breath. A lone tear fell across her face, and she wiped it away. “What else,” she said. “What about this ‘apocalypse’ business?” “The world is going to end, somehow… there will be a portal created, and we will look into it and see something.” “Like what?” “I don’t know… like a car blowing up maybe. If we do what we see in the portal, and blow up the car, for example, then the world will be saved, until year 4000 or so, when humanity will become extinct.” “Why will it become extinct?” “I don’t fucking know! Meteorite, Ice Age, shit, Nuclear war maybe! That’s what I found out!” “Don’t yell at me! I don’t know anything, you can’t get mad because I ask questions!” Sachico took a breath. “And the portal? If we don’t blow up the car? Hypothetically?” “The end of the world. We go into a new dimension together, and restart humanity.” “Why us? Why me?” 55

“You are made…” Say it. “…to help me create a new world. Your children would share none of their parents DNA; that way there is no interbreeding… to create a new utopia… it’s their plan.” Sachico stared at Jamey, an expression of shock and disgust. “Please… Please don’t Jamey… don’t make me do this…” tears were sliding down now, unable to be held back, her face red. He was telling her what her own brother had said. He couldn’t know by chance. And the knife, the marble, the dream, and the feeling, the cold lifeless feeling in her heart that told her it was all, all of it true. “I don’t want to do this…” he said. “But I don’t know how to stop it. I have no power!” “So… I’m created to be… your wife. I'm made to deliver you children. I’m your sexual necessity.” “What the hell is that supposed to mean?” “Come on Jamey. If my purpose is to have children, then they're not coming from a stork. Don't be so Naïve.” “You know I'd never want you to do anything you don't want to do.” “Bullshit! If I’m made to be a root, than that’s all I am. There’s no sense pretending you’re not waiting for your fuck.” Jamey snapped his fist down, pounding hard on the table. He looked at her fiercely, and she felt a jolt of fear. “I don’t want it. Any of it! You could take the world from me! All I want is a good life. Not easy, but anything but this. And I want to be with you. Even if you swear eternal celibacy y’know, I’d still want you, as you were. The fact that everything’s changed hasn’t changed anything. You’re still the one. I love you.” Sachico bit her lip. “I love you too Jamey Rakely.” 56

“I’m sorry… I’m sorry this is happening…” “Why though? Why does this Yerskin person want this?” “Y’rassecen. And he doesn’t want this. He’s a pawn as like me. Powerless.” “Then why does it happen?” “Because of this God.” “What?” The room developed a sudden uncomfortable silence. “Don’t bring God into this Jamey. You can’t just blame it on something you don’t believe in.” “I don’t think I have to believe in God. I think God believes in me. I’ve seen so many things that say this God is responsible.” “What do you mean, this God? There is only one God.” “If there was one God, why would this be happening?” “God has a plan for everyone. We are all part of the plan Jamey.” “Hey - God's trying to cancel about six billion of those little plans right now!” Sachico was silent. She remembered prayers to God, all ending in the feeling that she knew what to do. And every time she had received an answer it had fitted in, almost perfectly with the plan Jamey spoke of. Slowly, Sachico slid to the floor, arms hugging her legs. Jamey lifted himself off the table and knelt beside her. “I’m sorry Sachico. I’ll fix this. I know I can. You won’t have to do anything you don’t want to.” “Of course I will. If God wills it, it is law. Why are we left? The two of us? Why so many others… everyone Jamey. Everyone will die. It’s from everything to nothing. It’s death without reason.” 57

“They said the world will end in two thousand years anyway. They said if we don’t act, humanity will end.” “That’s no justification.” Jamey, leant over, and touched her back, rubbing his hand across it. She, grabbed Jamey, holding him tightly and sobbing uncontrollably. Jamey held her tight, trying to be strong for her, but he too soon degenerated into tears. Sachico fell asleep again, and, despite his chaotic, over crowded mind, Jamey felt his body relax, his brain shutting down. Soft dark tendrils wrapping were him. A calm slide into oblivion. Problems. Yes, problems can wait. Tiredness. Slow. Calm. Beautiful, it’s sloooow… Four options. Jamey snapped back to reality. Four options. That was it. One, work the system. Complete the portal. Why would this be so hard to do? What would the portal show him? And this was, of course, without considering the ultimate extinction of humanity. Was this a choice he was willing to make? To decide the fate of the human race? Two, Enter the portal, and kill every living human on Earth. Not something he was willing to do. Three, prevent the situation. How? By killing Sachico? By killing her brother? Jamey couldn’t do that. The fourth option was just as poor. To kill himself. Was it a price he was prepared to pay? Stanks dad owned a gun. Stank and he had found it searching for his fathers dirty magazines. To let everything go. To leave everyone he loved. Was that to be his gift to the world? Could he make things any better? Could he make things any worse? The world was spinning too fast, and he was straining to hold on.

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No matter how hard he tried to return to sleep, one fact remained painfully obvious. Stanks dad still owned that gun.

CHAPTER 9. What would your Mother think?

Jamey swore as he trod on a hoe, tripping over and landing on his face, on the grass. He was sneaking around Stanks house, trying to find a way in. Elvi was paranoid about home security, and Jamey could see little way to enter. Unfortunately, she made the one security mistake that beat all others, and before leaving, left Stank in charge of locking the house. Jamey, having failed to open the front door tried a side door. It opened, unlocked. Jamey entered. The empty house was deafening in it’s vast, intense silence. He snuck a quick peek through the bedrooms, making certain the house really was abandoned, as Stank had said. He approached Stanks’ dads’ room. The door was locked, but Jamey pushed up the handle and fiddled with the metal. The door clicked open. Stank had shown him that one too. He knew there were a thousand ways to go. There were knives and Panadol in Sachico’s house, but he couldn’t afford to loose his nerve. In one second, on sudden definite moment, it would be over. Everyone safe. It was the right thing - If God truly wanted to save humanity, he had another two-thousand years to do it. All this death, pain, destruction and misery was wrong. It didn’t have to involve Sachico. She had the right to live life as well as anyone else.

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Entering Stanks’ fathers’ room Jamey pulled a shoebox out from under his bed. Inside sat a well polished gun, which he picked it up, testing its weight. He opened it to see if it was loaded. It was. Walking out, he pushed the barrel to his head. This was the end of everything. His heart beat harder and faster than ever before. He felt tears dripping off his nose. He would pull it. Now on the count of three. One. Two. *** Sachico woke with a start, cold and alone on the kitchen floor. Jamey seemed to make a habit of leaving. She yawned and stood up. The sharp half of a knife was stuck in the roof. A small stain of dried blood was on the ground, from Jameys cut hand. Near it, was the dried crust of the green blob that had shown Jamey her dreams. She found herself sniveling as she stood, tiny tears still dripping off her nose. “Shut up,” she muttered to herself. “Shut up idiot. Get over it.” She sniffed hard. She felt sick, ready to vomit. She needed Jamey with her, now, immediately. “Jamey? Jamey?” Looking across to the table, a letter caught her eye, written neatly on a piece of notepaper. She reached forward with one goosebumped arm and grabbed it. I’m so sorry Sachico. For everything.

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More than anything else, I want you to know that I love you. I always will. I want you to be safe, and the world to be safe too. I want everything to be perfect for everyone. If God is indeed as true as He seems, I hold no doubt we will meet again. Tell them all that I am sorry, and that everything will be OK. Call the police, and tell than they will find me at Stank’s house, but please do not come, remember me as I am now. Not as I will soon be. Make your life extraordinary, Sachico. Love, Jamey. Sachico ran to the door. She knew where Stank lived, she’d seem him walking out of his house on the way to the bus stop. Her mind was clouded, fear, sadness, anger… every emotion available kept surfacing and plunging unpredictably. As she ran out, grabbing her bike, her stomach jerked, and a foul spitfull of clear vomit jerked out onto the ground. She hardly paused, jumped on the bike, and rode down the driveway. The last she saw of Jamey would not be a crappy teenage love letter. *** “What’re you doing there, champion?” Jamey hesitated, then moved to pull the trigger. His hard beating faster than he could breath, he paused again, then, turned around and lowered the gun. In front of him stood Y’rassecen Live, dressed neatly in an open collar white shirt, and long blue jeans, with a leather belt. Large dark glasses covered his eyes. “I’m ending your mess, Y’rassecen,” he said, trying to sound confident. Powerful, like a hero. Like Custer’s last stand, or Neo facing off to Agent Smith.

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“You know my name. I’m honestly quite impressed,” he said calmly, and began walking, knowing he possessed Jamey’s full attention. “Let’s see what else you know Jamey. What will I do after you die and screw everything up?” He opened a cupboard and Machine Star, all but his head entirely bound in chains, fell out and slammed into the ground. “For starters, I’ll kill your teddy bear.” “Don’t give up Jamey,” said Machine Star. “Don’t give up.” “Listen to your bear Jamey. He’s very wise. If you’d listened to him, Sachico would still be happily clueless. It would have been better if you had done things his way.” “Machine Star will die if I begin the new world anyway,” Jamey said. The gun weighed down on his hand like an anchor. “It doesn’t matter if I live or die. He can’t be worried for his life now… only for mine.” “Well…” said Y’rassecen. “Goody good, loophole boy. Let’s play another scenario. You shoot that bullet. Die. Off you float, up to happyland. You look down to Earth, and peer at your bonny love Sachico. Instead of being sweetly sleeping in her bed, she’ll be dying. I will seek out Sachico, tie her up to a tree. I will beat her. I will hurt her. Then I’ll kill her.” Jameys head exploded into fire and hate, heart and emotions melting and burning in a thick black acid of chaos. He gripped the gun tighter. “You… you fucking beast. You knob! How can you even think of that shit?” Jamey was speaking with pure venomous hate. “You scum!” He took a breath, face veiled in sweat, veins filled with fury. “I’ve changed my mind,” he said. “I’m not killing myself.” “Really,” said Y’rassecen. “Glad to hear.” Jamey gave a snide, fake smile in return. “Yes,” he said “Instead, I’m killing you.” 62

It all happened in slow motion. He lifted the gun, effortlessly, aiming directly at Y’rassecens heart and fired. A powerful explosion blew out the main barrel, there was a crack, and an explosion of blood splattered out the new hole in Y’rassecens chest. Y’rassecen screamed, head waving back, long worms of saliva splashing out his mouth from his grotesquely crooked teeth. He fell to his knees, tongue hanging out to his shoulder, both hands gripping the wound furiously. He curled into fetal position, and began crying. Blood flowed out, staining his shirt red, filling his hands, dripping into a puddle on the carpet. Jamey stood back staring at Y’rassecen. I just killed a man. I just shot a man. Y’rassecen’s blood kept dripping onto the carpet, still sobbing. Jamey moved to go towards him, them paused. Y’rassecen was not sobbing. He was laughing. Slowly, Y’rassecen stood, helping himself to his feet. His shirt was stained red from the wound, still belching out blood, vibrant red with no end. “Jamey, Jamey, Jamey. You just tried a little thing called murder, Jamey. Don’t be so righteous, to think you have the right to decide the fate of humanity. You and Sachico, to restart this world, must be mortal, and therefore are able to exercise free will. Don’t let your arrogance abuse that privilege. Silly little boy.” “You’re wrong. I’m all grown up.” Y’rassecen cackled. “Y… y… you’re all what? What B-grade movie are you in? You’ll kill my girl but at least I’m all mature! I’m a real boy!” He continued to cackle. “You won’t touch her!” “I can touch her whenever and wherever I want!”

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Jamey moved the gun and pounded two more shots into Y’rassecens body. He laughed even harder, belly laughs. Jamey’s next bullet hit his eye, half his glasses shattering and falling away, the bullet rebounding off his eye, hitting the roof. He stopped laughing and instinctively shot a hand to his face. For the first time, Jamey saw his misty purple eyes. Y’rassecen stepped forward menacingly, and knocked the gun out of Jamey’s hand, grabbed his shirt and lifted him. “You, can’t, kill, me. You and Sachico are the only mortal Createds!” Slowly he pulled a strange murky blue glowing weapon from his pocket, like a gun without a trigger. “What? We’re the only mortal what’s?” “Createds, you dumb little shit. What? You thought you just lived with talking animals? Though I was just a particularly durable fellow? We don’t die like others, we don’t live like others, we don’t act like others, because we’re different, moron.” He waved the glowing weapon. “This is a Drun,” he said. “It can kill Createds, including Big Ted. And for your stupid little skit, that’s just what you can watch it do.” He aimed the Drun and it gurgled. Jamey struggled, sticking his finger into Y’rassecens eye, and hitting the hand holding the Drun with his other fist. Y’rassecen, caught off guard as he jerked his face away, tripped. The Drun hit the ground. Y’rassecen dived for it, but Jamey tackled him, falling in a heap, both trying to reach it. Jamey crawled on top of Y’rassecen and punched him in the teeth, sending a jar of pain through his hand. Y’rassecen screamed, and lurched upwards, head-butting Jamey, who fell back. Y’rassecen grabbed the Drun, stood up and aimed it at Machine Star. A tiny blob of energy built at the weapons tip. Jamey slammed himself into Y’rassecen, sending the blob burning a trail across the carpet, Y’rassecen 64

punched Jamey’s nose, picked him up, and threw him into a cabinet. As Y’rassecen picked up the Drun, a samurai sword fell beside Jamey. He unsheathed it and threw it at Y’rassecen, where it plunged into his side. He dropped the Drun, tore the sword from his body, and retrieved it. Jamey tacked him, and wrestled with him over it. He forced it in Y’rassecens direction, and jerked on the trigger. With a gurgle, the Drun fired, sending a blob of blue energy straight through Y’rassecen. Everything went silent. Y’rassecen stepped backwards, only just staying on his feet. He looked down. Thick wafts of white smoke poured out the three bullet holes on his chest. A thin line of white also trailed from the sword wound. He opened his mouth is a furious sneer, his crooked teeth letting smoke pour out. “You rotten little punk,” he said, then fell back, landing with a thunk on the ground, smoke still wafting from his body, his blood staining the carpet red in a slowly growing pool, his eyes still glowing misty purple.

CHAPTER 10. What will be. On the train trip back home, Stank leant back in his seat reading a surfing magazine. He had actually ended up enjoying the play. As a result, Elvi had thought it was rubbish. Especially the bit with female nudity. Funny – Stank and his father hadn’t minded that part. Guess Elvi shoud have checked the warnings. Elvi and his dad were still at the apartment. Stank took a sort of satisfaction in knowing the distance between the three of them was increasing. They were staying there ‘without the son’ another night, maybe two. The longer, the better. 65

A wave of energy hit him. It was happening again. Stank knew it, something was happening. Something huge and he was part of it, but what? Where? He could punch straight through the window with infuriation. He felt it encompassing him. The train wobbled. An old mad in front on him snored loudly. Towards the front, a group of teenage girls talked loudly and laughed. The girl in the red pants was fully sexy. For a moment Stank considered moving up to them, but stayed where he was. His mobile beeped, and he looked at it. TJHOMMO LOVES YA MATE Thommo. Obviously more pissed than usual. Stank shook his head and put the mobile in his pocket. The train continued rocking, the man kept snoring, the girls kept giggling, and the pants kept being sexy. Another wave of energy flowed through Stank. “Bloody hell,” he muttered. It was going to be a long trip home. *** An old bushy bearded man lay asleep on a park bench, bottle of alcohol empty, lying on the ground. Slowly he sniveled and looked out across the park, muttering curses, out to the world, as he scratched his legs. “Hello day,” he muttered. “Another day, like any other day. Another bloody day.” He threw his empty bottle at the bin, where it bounced off the side and hit the ground, shattering. He let out another few grumbled curses and rolled over. As he did, from behind him, in the middle of the park there was a gentle flash. Like a flower blooming, a portal opened, elegant and glistening, the slimy, shimmering blue piles of concentrated time and space gleaming, in the morning sun. Out of the portal came Kenji, a strange lump visible under 66

the back of his shirt. He pulled a small map out of his pocket, and examined it. “Paper St, number 12,” he muttered, addressing the bump on his back. “She still lives there, right?” “Definitely,” hissed the back, nearly silent. Kenji moved his neck side to side and cracking it. He brushed his legs off, and looked around, examining his surroundings. He breathed in a huge breath of air, beautiful, perfect, oxygen. He began to walk down the street, the spring in his step of a prisoner leaving jail. As Kenji wandered off into the distance, the old man sniffed again, and felt his stomach growl. He sat up, spitting on the ground. “Another day,” he muttered. “Another bloody day, where nothing happens. Another bloody day like any other bloody day…” *** Sachico’s bike hit the ground and she ran up to Stank’s front door, trying to open it. It was locked. Suddenly there was a thump on the other side of the door. A deep voice boomed out. “Sachico?” “Yes! Who’s this? Where’s Jamey?” “Jamey is safe. He is in no danger. I want you to stay calm when I open the door OK?” “Who are you? What’s…” The door unlocked with a sliding sound, and Sachico saw Machine Star standing in the doorway. She quickly stepped back, staring at the bear. “I won’t hurt you,” he said. “I care for Jamey. Come inside.” He walked inside, and Sachico followed him. Entering the house, she saw Jamey siting on a couch, looking down at his feet. Blood was splattered 67

across the floor, and Y’rassecen’s body lay smoking at the side of the room, his open eyes still glowing purple. Sachico ran over to Jamey, and hugged him. He looked at her and she kissed him on the mouth softly. He kissed back, stronger, and soon they were deep in each other’s embrace. Jamey looked her in the eyes. “I tried to stop it. I can’t. Your brother is going to come here.” “What’s going on Jamey? Who’s the bear? Who’s been killed?” “I killed Y’rassecen. I had to. That’s Machine Star. He cares for me. It doesn’t matter. It’s over now. We’ve gone too far to turn back.” “Jamey,” said Machine Star. “You can’t give up now. Everything that happens, is for a reason. Everyone involved has a part to play. We are still to see what your part truly will be.” Sachico began to touch his hair, and he kissed her deeply. They leaned in to each other, holding on, each other the only thing they had left, when everything was broken. “What will be, will be,” said Machine Star. “It is true. You cannot force fate away. You have the power to change the world, and you will… but whether it is for better of worse is yet to be seen. Pudding, Connie, GloodPhillip and Rambo. Their roles are over now. It is you Jamey, Sachico and Kenji that still shall play a part in the events yet to unfold. There will be another yet to play a role in the events. I have a hunch.” Machine Star stood and stretched. He picked up a bottle of wine from where it had rolled, and tried to pull the cork out. It stayed in. He broke the top off the bottle and poured three glasses, offering one each to Jamey and Sachico. “A toast,” said Machine Star. “A toast to the future in hope that the changes shall be positive.” 68

They drank. “The world changes, everyday,” continued Machine Star. “Some days the change is tiny, some days it is huge. Today it will be huge. The portal will be created – no doubt - and you will have to work from there. From what I understand, your choices will decide whether billions are killed now, or whether all will someday become extinct. Remember, this too shall pass. And then, a new day will dawn, and you will see beauty where you could once see none.” There was a knock at the door. *** Sachico was waiting inside for her brother to enter. Machine Star and Jamey were out of the room, as she had requested. He entered the room, jet black hair, soft yet commanding eyes, darting sharply around the room. He looked at Sachico and smiled. She lowered her head, slightly. “Kenji. I knew it would be you.” “My sister? I only just recognise you.” For the moment, the chaos of the present was forgotten. It was a reunion. They walked to each other, and grabbed each other in a tight hug. He kissed her hair. “I missed you…” she whispered. “Jesus I missed you.” “Me too,” he said. “Everyday.” They stood back, looking each looking the other over, seeing how they had changed. “I’m sorry I saw you so little. I’m sorry we had so few visits.” “Don’t stress. Not your fault. Hey…” he kissed her on the cheeks, and then on the forehead. “… everything is OK. I love you.” 69

“I love you too.” Kenji turned his head, his eyes gazing down on the smoking body of Y’rassecen. “What’s up with this?” “Oh… um, it’s not… what it looks like…” “It looks like a body to me.” “Well, OK, it is what it looks like then… I didn’t kill him! He attacked Jamey… they fought, and he was killed… I don’t really know…” “Shhh… it’s OK. I knew that this was going to be a strange visit, it’s OK, I’m ready for it.” “I just… I don’t know if I am…” “Just enjoy the moment imoto chan. Who’s this Jamey? A new boy on the Western front?” “Oh, yeah. He’s, um. My boyfriend, yeah. He’s cool. You’d like him.” “When do I get to meet him?” “Soon,” she said. She felt herself sink, her soul weighed her down. Too soon. She knew what was to come. She knew that this couldn’t last. “Hey, on the subject of said boyfriend… I have been given something. They said it was a gift, for you and him.” “No! You can’t give us the portal,” she said. Her heart was beating hard. If she could stop him… convince him to stop maybe, they could all escape the situation escalating. “How do you know?” “I know more than you think.” “Don’t be scared,” he said. He smiled and stretched out his hand. Sachico quickly reached into her pocket and pulled out the gun. Christ, she thought. Don’t make me do this. Don’t make me do it. 70

“If you don’t do it, it will be easier. Please.” “Sachico… naze… nani o shimasu…? Why are you doing this?” “Don’t have me shoot.” “It is a present. For my sister, and her lucky boyfriend.” She felt the room jerk as he stretched out his hand. Closing her eyes… She pulled the trigger, the main barrel exploded, Kenji doubled over, clutching his stomach. She screamed, dropped the gun, and ran to her brother, grabbing him. Had her eyes been open as she fired, she’d have seen a spark when the bullet blew a hole in his shirt. On closer observation, she’d have seen a line of iron fish scales, and closer still she'd see they were shaped into a tentacle. As she grabbed him, the strange lump on his back shifted. Bursting out the back of his shirt was the steel octopus, quickly wrapping its tentacles across Sachico’s neck. Stretching up it grabbed the ceiling fan, and pulled itself up, hanging Sachico by the neck. She tried to scream but no breath came. Kenji stepped backwards in horror. Jamey ran into the room. “Sachico!” he screamed. He pulled at the tentacles as she began spasming. “Create the portal you fool!” yelled the octopus. Jamey faced Kenji, horrified. Kenji moved his hand forward, and Jamey felt a sudden jerking sensation as the wormhole was created. Instantly the octopus let go, Sachico hitting the ground. Jamey grabbed her, as she convulsed, her lungs gulping in air. The portal shook. Inside, Jamey saw himself standing at the top of a building. He picked up a samurai sword. The scene changed, and he saw the sword stab straight through Sachicos heart. She hit the ground, blood splattering across the concrete. The scene changed, and he saw himself standing there, and saw with shocking clarity, the same sword pass through his neck. 71

The portal ended. There was nothing but a shocked silence. This was the choice - him, Sachico, and the ultimate end of humanity. Or the murder of every living human, and the reborn existence of humanity. Sachico and Jamey simply stared at the space that it was in. Kenji looked shocked. The octopus jumped off the fan, landing on the head of Kenji and clambering down his back, and then, unexpectedly, Jamey and Sachico could only watch as a tentacle burst through his stomach, forcing him to his knees. “They became impaled,” it said. “It was a violent death. You would feel better if I did not describe it.” It looked up at Sachico and grinned. “My work is complete,” it said, red eyes fading into black, it’s crumpled form thudding to the floor. Sachico ran forward and grabbed her brother. “I’m so sorry…” “Shhh….” She said. “It’s OK” Jamey stood back. Sachico held her brother, tight like she could never let go, her body shaking with sobs. His blood soaked her singlet. “I love you,” she said. He smiled. “You’re special,” he said. “Not just… ow… not just special like me, but as a person… I want you to know…” “I don’t think you know how much you mean to me…” she said. It was a pointless thing to say, almost. Words were useless. All she could do was hold him. She could feel his warm, sticky blood against her. His hands, clumsily pressed against her shoulder. “You’ve seen two options,” he said, forcing the words out. “There is a third…” “What?” “I don’t know. There is always a third option… you have try… you understand… there’s many answers to every problem… it’s...” He stopped 72

abruptly. Sachico lowered him to the ground, letting out a slow, pained moan, a sob torn out of her misery, tears wetting her face. As silence filled the veins and cracks of the room, Sachico touched his warm forehead with a trembling hand and softly closed his eyes. “What do we do now?” she asked. Machine Star stood. “You have seen the choices,” he said. “I’m afraid… I fear I must go now. My duty was to protect you Jamey. I can no longer perform that duty.” He began to walk off, motioning for Jamey to follow. Jamey followed him into the bathroom. Star pushed himself up gently onto the bench, and touched the mirror, which engulfed his paw like sticky, silver sap. He pushed his other hand in, and began to force his way through the mirror. “Star, I…” “It’s OK. You’re welcome. I understand.” He pushed through, the surface of the mirror shucking and rippling like a disturbed pond, slowly smoothing to a stop. Jamey reached to touch it, and felt solid, cool glass. Slowly, he walked out, to where Sachico sat, alone amongst the bloody bodies of the dead. *** Stank closed his eyes and took a deep breath, as he walked up his driveway, stopping for breath as he leant against his door. He could feel his shirt sticking to his buzzing flesh, dampened by his own sweat. His head ached. He felt like his was about to explode into a violent blast of blue, crackling heat. The feeling he’d had on the train had grown, seeping into his muscles and infiltrating his bloodstream. The power, the energy that possessed him, the ‘quest’ he had been given (there was little other way to describe it) was 73

all peaking somewhere in his centre, blowing him apart. Words, information, concepts, ideas flooded about his head. He could catch glimpses of it all… Createds… Live… Machine… Amadeus… Portal… but it was useless. It meant nothing to him. He pushed open his door, and his whole mind collapsed, streaking him up and down, with cold shock. “Shit!” he yelled. He stared down at the splatters of blood and bodies on the floor, the octopus next to it. Slowly he walked into the room. He stared, taking in everything. Jamey… Sachico… Bodies… Octopus… Blood… Gun looking thing… Sword… There was a sensation, like some huge ethereal stick snapped apart in his backbone, and information, everything, came rushing towards him, all the knowledge of what was happening, flooding into his brain. “Jesus tap-dancing Christ…” Sachico and Jamey stared out at him, frozen to the spot, uncertain of what to do. “It’s not… not what it looks like man…” said Jamey, falling over his words. “It’s not.. it’s, he’d… shit man… you might need to… we might need to explain… this guy here… he was… like evil like… no wait…” “That… that…” Stank stared. “Y’rassecen Live.” Jamey’s flustered look of panic turned to one of awe. “What?” said Jamey. “How do you know?” “I… ow, my head… I don’t know… I need to sit. You’re hurt,” said Stank collapsing on the couch. “Me?” said Jamey. “I’m fine, I didn’t get hurt.” “Your foot’s cut.” “Oh, I just trod on a hoe in your garden.” 74

“Probably Elvi,” said Stank darkly, then grabbed his head. “Ow… Kenji. That’s his name. Sachico’s brother… And the octopus is called Eduardo Amadeus. And… you’re both Createds.” “We’re what?” said Sachico. “Createds,” said Jamey. “I’ll explain more later. Stank, how do you know all this?” “I dunno… ow… It’s like physiological transmissions.” “You mean psychological transmissions?” James heard a brief grunt of agreement. “What else do you know Stank?” “Wallis building,” he said. “You need to be at the Wallis building. Soon.”

CHAPTER 11. So he is gone. The feeling of something powerful hung in the air, a thick sense of malice. It was stronger than the fragments of darkness the animals had picked up on. People stayed in bed. All over the world, streets were silent. Humanity had cottoned on to the impending sense of fear and terror. Those who were close, became closer. It wasn’t a conscious thing, not really. It was instinct. It was a deer’s last moments of stock solidarity, before the car hit. It was a long, stiff calm, a sense of connection, of the good that was left, when all else was bad, fearful, and evil. Humanity were connected again, as solders under a war torn sky. Like a child’s embrace to her mother, surrounded by a blurred and indifferent mass of sirens and bombs, screams and fire. That good in humanity that must be reached through dark hours, bled solidly into the stream of mass consciousness. The world did not move. *** 75

Jamey and Sachico sat in the back of the car, the Samurai sword across their laps, as strange wind, a wind of swirls, of sweaty heat and cutting chills blew across the bushes outside of the car. Stank drove. “I’m driving youse to the city,” he said. “The Wallis building is around Third Pavilion.” Jamey and Sachico stayed silent. There was nothing to say. Buildings, towers, shops passed by, empty like never before. “What’re you two gunna do?” asked Stank. “The third option,” said Jamey. “What’s that?” “I don’t know.” “What if you can’t find the third option?” “I will.” Sachico looked at Jamey. “Jamey,” she said. “We have to accept it. There will probably be no third option.” “I’m not giving up without a fight.” “I’m not asking you to, I’m asking you to be realistic.” “Listen, I…” “Jamey.” “Yeah?” “If there is no third option… I’d be prepared to die.” There was a silence in the car. Jamey wiped a layer of sweat off his forehead. Rows and rows of buildings shot past them. As they approached a corner, Jamey felt a sense of overwhelming dread. “Ow!” said Sachico, as the car jerked violently. “Sorry,” said Stank. “I don’t ‘ave th’ corners down pat yet. I’m still learning.” 76

Truth was, Stank hadn’t been planning to take that corner. He had no idea where the Wallis building was supposed to be. He had just felt the flow of energy turn, and followed it. He was hyperactively aware of everything. Jamey turned to Sachico. “Is that your choice? To let the human race become extinct?” “Jamey… something’s amiss. Why would God destroy the Earth? He promised He wouldn’t. How can I feel in my heart that God wills the wrong thing? If God is in your heart, you can’t go wrong if you follow your heart.” Jamey took a breath. “Stank?” “Yo man?” “If we can’t find a third option… I’ll kill…” his neck constricted, choking his words up into an unintelligible clump. His facial muscles jerked and he lost self-control, head falling back on the seat. Tears ran down his face. He clenched his fists. “…Sachico… I’ll kill… her. And you’ll kill me. I need you to…” A horrible feeling spread. Stank stopped the car. The energy could almost tear Stank apart now. It was that intense. Outside it stood, white twisted metal reaching into the sky. Wallis & Co. it said, in huge kitsch blue letters. “Y’want me t’ go up with youse?” said Stank, heart-pounding. “No,” said Jamey. “Stay down for a while.” “Jamey, don’t be stupid,” said Sachico. “Stank… you should come up with us. In case the worst… in case we have to finish the portal.” They walked up towards the building, pushing open the wooden doors, and entering the tiled expanse. Footsteps echoed, as they made their way towards

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the huge spiraling staircase in front of them, and began the long walk to the top, walking for eternity, towards forever, the top of the skyscraper. *** A small hatch opened, and Sachico and Jamey clambered onto the top of the tower. Stank waited in the room below them. The breeze hacked away at their exposed skin, violently chilling it red raw. Epic dark storm clouds gathered in the air, looming menacingly. The very surface they stood on hummed and trembled with gentle vibration. In the distance, another tower stood, with the blackest most brutal clouds, thick and wet, twisting like sooty mucus, drawn to it. The clouds their were black like coal, a pitch darker than evil. “What the hell is that?” yelled Jamey, struggling to be heard under the crushing blow of the wind. Sachico yelled back something like ‘I don’t know’. As they stared at the clouds circling the building, the entire structure began shaking. The top clouds began spinning, twirling and untwirling, as the building wobbled, splatters of dust and, crushed concrete raining down. With a sonic boom, the structure blew apart, windows shattering like torn paper, Jamey and Sachico falling, pounding down on the roof of the building. Roads shook and crackled. The buildings shattered skeleton stayed still one moment. Then, the clouds turned and streaked across the sky, blasting back with renewed fury. Black mist belched out from the cracked widows, pouring out like dark phantasmagoria, swallowing roads and cars, lapping up like an oil slick sea, pounding up in grimy waves at the edge of buildings. It rushed towards them, blasting up against the Wallis Building. A static like crackle emitted from the black, and Jamey thought he felt it tell him something, a song of power. The sound of an energetic, powerful purity. 78

Slowly, Jamey and Sachico rose towards their feet. They stood and stared. “We have to have a third option!” said Jamey. “We have to!” *** As Stank stared up at them, he felt a strong hand grasp his mouth. He tried to struggle, but went tense as the knife pressed against his throat. “Turn,” said the voice. Stank turned around. “Y’rassecen.” “Do yourself a favor,” said Y’rassecen. “Get out of here. This is my domain. I don’t want to kill you.” He threw Stank against the wall. Stank jerked around, far too fast. In his desperate haste he tripped, landing flat on the carpet. He looked up at Y’rassecen as he clambered through to the roof. Y’rassecen looked back at him, and then did something totally unexpected. He winked. *** A green bolt of lightening crackled across the horizon, casting an emerald glimmer across the darkening sky. Jamey grabbed Sachico’s hand. His forehead dripped sweat. He felt a wave of energy unintentionally bump into him, and tried to focus on it, but it escaped him, like a forgotten dream. Another explosion of shot out, hitting the collapsed tower, sending green worms of energy shooting through the mist. “There needs to be something!” Jamey said, almost breaking down in desperation. “Kenji said there was another option! He said there was another option!” “Jamey. It’s time. We have to accept it.” “No!” he screamed. His eyes were red, pupils wide with fear and anger. “No! He said there was another fucking option!” 79

A snorting sound came from behind. Nasty, snorting laughter, amused by their futility. “Unfortunately, your friend seems to have made somewhat of a mild err of judgment,” said Y’rassecen Live from behind them. “Of course, when you’re kneeling on the ground with a big metal tentacle stuck out your gut, such mistakes are easily made…” Sachico and Jamey moved closer together, shocked. Y’rassecen wore a black suit and, blood red tie. His eyes were uncovered, glowing a furious bright purple. A cigarette drooped between his lips. He stretched his arm out, and his long bony fingers, poured silver goo, which formed into a portal, with the familiar sensation of stretching time. He plucked the cigarette from his lips and put it out by rubbing the burning end across his eyeball. He dropped it. “Do you really think your death will save anything? You would only sentence humanity to extinction!” “Why doesn’t God make a better way? Why doesn’t he save and serve those who still live?” yelled Sachico. “You are naïve,” said Y’rassecen. “and somewhat narcissistic. This isn’t about you. It was never about you. It’s about what must happen, and the way in which it must happen. How about you consider an all-seeing, all knowing entity above your own ignorant, emotion driven selves. I pity you to have this job. But you must obey the Lord.” “No,” said Sachico. “Not if this is what he commands.” She gave Jamey the sword, and a knowing look. Jamey didn’t even notice the sword in his hands. He felt himself surrounded by the energy that had passed across him before. He felt…

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everything. He could suddenly connect, sense, touch every flicker of energy reverberating around him. The mist. A song of power. The Lord. Jamey dropped the sword and ran. Sachico and Y’rassecen looked on in horror as he ran towards the end of the building, turned and faced Y’rassecen, who began to walk towards him at a leisurely pace. Jamey jumped, plummeting into the sparking green, black mist below. Y’rassecen turned, a cruel, sinister grin across his face, a small line of spit slipping across his chin. Behind him came anther deafening crack, as the sky flashed emerald green, the lightening shattering down. He addressed Sachico. “Well. Now that young Mr Clark Kent has decide to take the short-cut to the portal, perhaps you might consider entering the new dimension through more conventional means. You have no last hope. Get in the portal.” “There has to be hope still.” Y’rassecen shrugged. He walked over to her and she swung the sword at him, Y’rassecen ducking, the sword zooming over his head. He grasped her arm solidly, and walked off, Sachico tripping as he did. She was dragged across concrete, grazing her leg. Quickly regaining her footing, she thrust the sword, plunging it into his chest. He barely noticed. She closed her eyes and did the only other thing she could think of. The sword plunged into her stomach. Y’rassecen dropped her wrist, turning around and staring. “No…” he whimpered. He touched his own stomach and felt a fresh wound. “God will not let me die unless my job is done…” she said to Y’rassecen. “If Jamey is still alive, then I will not die, and we can still close the portal.” 81

She felt energy leaving her body. Her life ebbed. “He is gone” she whispered, and felt herself dying, a cold ash tied around her, crushing down on her ribs. Her limp body collapsed onto the ground. Seconds later, Y’rassecens limp body did the same. *** Jamey plummeted towards the swirling mass of black mist, which enveloped him like a cloud, until there was nothing but black. He stopped falling. He didn’t land but he stopped falling. He felt different. Surrounded by a deep black power, like liquid royalty. “Hello Jamey,” said a voice. He turned. Behind him he could make out the general form of a woman, made of the blackness, like a magic eye picture. “Who are you?” “You know who I am. I am you.” “You’re not me. That’s stupid.” “I am you. I am Sachico. I am the sun and the moon. I am the love of a mother, and I am the fury of a killer. I am sex and violence. I am music and magic. I am everything, and I am nothing. I am power and weakness, order and disorder, man and woman. I am Purity. I am Creation and I am Destruction. I am very pleased to meet you.” “What’s your name?” “Name... names mean nothing when everything is as one. But as you asked… if I may be so indulgent… I think I was Laura… maybe Lauren… I can’t remember. It has been eternity since I had a name. Let me explain something to you, if you will be so patent. You see Jamey, time is a constant line. But there is more to it than that. A circle of time surrounds this line, and from this point, the line, and all that happens within it can be reached and manipulated from this wheel. If you create yourself, just once, in anyway 82

inside this wheel, then you will exist for the whole wheel, meaning you always have existed and you always will exist, effectively making you…” “God.” “Correct.” Like a circle dug in the ground, he thought. Fill the circle with water. You have the circle of time, going around with neither start nor end for eternity. You create yourself once in the circle of time from the world in the middlelike a drop of blue colour in the water. Soon the blue has coloured the water - and the blue is there without neither start nor end, going around for eternity. The blue always was and always will be. Like God. He felt Her pull the strings of energy, and the darkness around them burst into colour. He could see forever, everywhere, and all throughout time. He found he could see anything he wanted to. He found knowledge that he had never held, of everything and everyone... He was as She was, He was everything. He was power without limit. His body was animal, vegetable and mineral. He could view the world as a whole, as a part, in it’s epics and microcosms, in its light and darkness. He could peer in, and discover everything… and he realized – he could see this God’s influence on everything, where She had twisted and manipulated the world. He could see those whom she had created – apart from himself, Kenji, Sachico, Y’rassecen, and all the speaking non-humanoids he knew – not one person on this Earth was created by this ‘God’ he was with now. He continued to observe. Why humanity would become extinct? He had the power to find out. His vision shot through the years, through hundreds of years. Machinery, computers, wars, regrowth, plantations, tragedies shot past his vision. 2000 years. 83

2468 years. 2890 years. Jamey stared at the sight before him. Humanity was not extinct. What the hell? Suddenly he felt a pang of darkness, and he searched to find it… the vision shot across to the top of the building above him. Sachico and Y’rassecen lay dead on the roof. “No…” said Jamey. “Please, no….” God grinned at him. “Watch this,” she said. He felt her energy reaching into the line and manipulating the world. Jamey simply stared at what she did. *** Sachico felt a violent shot of energy burst into her body, like an electric shock, her eyes wide open, her body gasping in a massive breath, chest heaving and limbs quivering. She was dead… she had died. And now she was back. God had kept His word. In front of her, she felt a jolt of fear, when she saw Y’rassecen do the same. Slowly he gathered to his feet. He coughed twice into his hand, speckling it with blood. “So…” he said, looking over at her, face exhausted, pained. “Are we going to do this over and over again until we get it right, or are you going to get into the portal? Because…” Before he said anything else, a violent explosion blew a gash through the middle of the roof of the building, sending a fiery selection of debris, concrete chunks, burning furniture and Y’rassecen hurtling towards the ground. Sachico was thrown backward. “Jesus!” yelled Stank, as the roof above him, literally, was blown off. 84

“Stank!” yelled Sachico, averting her eyes as the powerful wind shot tiny missiles of debris at her. “Get down! Get the hell out of here!” He hesitated, then turned to run out of the room, dashing down the stairs. Sachico was now on the left side of the roof. She pulled herself to her feet and turned around, face to face with the shimming, wobbling portal. Below her, the building supports of the broken left half of the roof strained under the weight, on the verge of breaking. “Come on Jamey,” she whispered. “Bring me a miracle.” *** Jamey felt God look upon him. “How the hell did you do that?” She said. “I can do anything you can do,” He said. “I’m as powerful as you are. I’ve existed forever. Remember?” “Smart arse,” She said. Jamey stared, shocked, as God jerked energy, and rammed it into the building, blowing apart concrete and wood. Slowly the entire roof began to tip to the left. Sachico jumped to the ground and grabbed onto the concrete gash in front of her to avoid falling into the portal. The scene vanished as God sucked it away, opened a portal behind Jamey, and threw his struggling form into it…

CHAPTER 12. Snood. Sachico gripped desperately as the top of the building continued to tip backwards. She lifted herself up, half lying on the broken concrete edge. She tried to stand. She could feeling the portal drawing her in, adding to the gravity. 85

She heard a crack, and felt the ground beneath her lurch. As it did, she jumped up, the roof slipping downwards, She moved up to the gash of concrete, catching a broken chunk of metal coming out, and pulling herself up to the right side of the roof. The entire unsupported top left broke off, flying through the air, towards the mist. She forced herself along the nearly vertical roof, and pushed onto the now horizontal side of the building’s side, literally running across it. She could see the windows beneath. She had to get to Jamey. She had to get to the mist with him, to see if he was OK. To save him, if she had to. As she ran, she over-estimated her position, stepping on a window. It shattered, the glass slashing across her leg as she stood. Blood trickled onto her white socks. She tried to stand, but fell, missing the building side, and falling towards the portal. No… not after all this… not after everything we’ve done… As she fell, the portal came up, over her body. She fell through and landed, suddenly, unexpectedly on the grassy land of the world within the portal and looked up to see the opening of the portal begin to shuck away… *** The scene vanished as God sucked it away, opened a portal behind Jamey, and threw His struggling from into it, Jamey jerking energy away and making a second portal inside the first, jumping through, back into the blackness. He felt God shoot energy, and He countered, knocking it away. He saw Her general humanoid form approach him. “What the hell are you doing?” screamed Jamey. “I'm doing what must be done,” replied God. Jamey felt the outside world jerk, unstable and unable to support itself any longer.

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“You can't destroy the world! You're a psycho! An egomaniac! You can't handle the thought that maybe you're not the only one who has power! If there is another God you have to destroy His work! Isn't that it?” “Conflict, Jamey. That’s all we’ve got here. Conflict like U.S Vs Iraq. Student Vs Teacher. God Vs God. It’s all part of the deal. That’s all life is. One fight after the next. Only this time, Human Vs Mortality, mate, I won. I’m winning. I’m doing just what needs to be done. And you’re just pissing me off.” Jamey ran towards Her form and jumped, thrusting his hand into Her chest where Her heart would be. He felt a vibe of energy jerk through him. “Let go Jamey!” “No! God Vs God remember? Me Vs You, dickhead!” “It's over! The world has ended!” “No!” He felt another more violent surge of power shoot through him. He held on. “Damn you! This is impossible! I’m stronger than you!” She screamed, maniacally. He felt Her loose strength. Another jolt, Jamey began to levitate, held up by his feet as he gripped on. He felt empowered, like he was twice his mortal self. He couldn't let go. There was too much at stake. A third surge of power, and Jamey felt cuts form across his body, blood dripping upwards. He tasted it in his mouth. He felt his hair falling out. His free arm began to straighten. His cuts grew bigger, and burnt, like filled with salt. God screamed. His free arm strengthened and with a sickening crack the arm reversed on the elbow, bone piercing the flesh. Jamey screamed with pain, barely holding on, feeling his fingers slipping but just hanging on.

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“You fool!” She spat. “What if I'm the only God? What if I always was? Did you think of that?” “I’m willing to bet against it.” An explosion burst out, a force made of everything, heat and light and cold and darkness, every existing force tearing apart, thrashing and destroying with ruthless malice, God, her being, her pure unforgiving energy exploding into everything and nothing. Jamey felt his body burn, and crash to the ground. He was alone. The world wobbled, and He put up his hand, time cracking with a deafening snap, releasing the Earth from its convoluted grip, running back into its natural patterns. It would not end today. As the dark clouds began to fade, there was silence. *** Jamey woke to the soft touch of Sachicos hand on his cold sweating brow. His eyes opened, and he looked to the side to see her standing over him. He lay in a hospital bed. His arm was in plaster, and he felt cuts bandaged. Even as he woke though, he knew where he was, or at least where he wasn’t. He wasn’t home. He wasn’t back in the world, back in his own dimension. “Hey,” said Sachico. “I did it Sachico,” he said, almost mumbling, still trying to wake himself. “They aren't dead. They're all still there.” “All but us,” she said. “We’re still away from them.” “I know. I’m so sorry.” “Don't be. It's not your fault” She paused in thought. “I love you Jamey Rakely.” He reached up to touch her face, kissing her forehead. “I love you.”

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A slow passing silence quilted the room. Jamey cringed as he tried to move his wounded arm. “I found you here like this,” said Sachico. “I found white hair on the quilt.” “Star?” “I think so. I don't know.” “He’ll be here. Looking after us. He always was. I’m so sorry Sachico, for everything.” “Hey, it’s not the end of the world,” she said. “It's the beginning.” *** Almost eight kilometres away, in a nearly abandoned hotel, Machine Star walked around the corner to come face with Y'rassecen Live. “Star! I’m so sorry!” “Be quiet. I’ll hear nothing of the sort. You had no more choice in your quest than I in mine.” “I hope you know… I want you to know, I didn’t mean any of it. All the horrible things I threatened to do. I made it up, I could never do that. You understand. I wouldn’t touch Sachico, let alone kill her. Nor anyone else. I just…” “Y'rassecen… Please; shut up. Do you want to make it up to me?” “Yes.” “Good. Grab me a beer, and drink with me. This is about the most successful conclusion we could have hoped for. Not exactly a miserable state of affairs. The world’s been saved, it’s a lovely day, and the beer is cold. Let’s dwell on the mistakes of the past some other day, OK?” Two hours later, Machine Star and Y’rassecen Live sank into their chairs. “A toast!” said Machine Star. “To the preservation of life.”

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“To the subversion and glorious death of filial piety,” said Y’rassecen. “Cheers.” Their glasses chimed, and they drank. From across the room came a puzzled groan. Machine Star looked across, to where Connie was playing chess against Eduardo Amadeus, the octopus. Suddenly there was a voosh, and an explosion of heat. Everyone looked up to the ceiling, where what looked like a tiny star hovered in the air for a second, then burnt away. “Nice,” said Pudding, his paws black, and the tips of his hair bristling with soot. Glood-Phillip and Rambo looked on in approval. Pudding motioned towards a red bucket. “OK, second rule of Erif Enil is…” “All playing must be done outdoors,” finished Machine Star. Pudding blinked innocently. “Is it?” “Now it is. Go play on the roof.” Pudding led the way upstairs, Glood-Phillip picking up Rambo in his soft mouth, and carrying him. “Well. I think there is little else to do for now other than bask in the glory of our success,” said Machine Star, raising his glass. It cracked. “Snood!” *** In another dimension, in school, on Monday morning, there was a heavy silence during assembly. Most the students looked placid, some solemn. Several of the high school students were crying. The air was draped in an omnipresent sense of loss. The birds above were silent. The principal, a balding man called George Jonkers, stood up nervously in front of the student.

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“Good morning students,” he said. “I come to you today, not with the usual content, that we are used to, for a School Assembly. I find it important, today, to acknowledge certain events that have touched our lives quite significantly, in the past few days. We all know the events of Saturday - the unexplainable global wave of fear. This may well be a reminder, at this point in out lives, that there are forces in this world that we are unable to control. Such an event cannot pass without causing various and intense emotions in us all. The important thing is to remember to look out for each other. No matter how little any of us may feel we have, as long as we have each other, we have hope. And hope, is all you ever need, to begin to rebuild your life. Last Saturday, another tragedy occurred. A building collapsed, with three of our own students inside. Two of them, Jamey Rakely, and Sachico Yamada, were killed. I understand that we have lost two very, very special lives. Jamey and Sachico were both good students, and more importantly, incredible individuals, well known and respected amongst their peers. Personally, I believe in heaven. I believe they are watching down on us…” Stank blinked, as he listened to Mr Jonkers. Reality seemed so confused now. His abilities to sense the outside world had left him, and he was wondering if any of it had even been real. What was the alternative? Posttraumatic stress syndrome? His brain protecting him from the truth? Could this all be a lie? The memories were so intense, than even the obvious implausibility of what had happened, couldn’t convince him that it was false. The image of Y’rassecen winking. Himself running down the stairs into the black mist, and feeling Jamey take control of him, sensing the world through his mind, leading to that one moment where, Jamey, and of course, he, sensed the 91

essence of the black mist. A sensation of pure power and might, like a solid punch of adrenaline. These feelings – terror, sadness, ultimate power. Could memories so powerful be fake? Stank sighed, cracked his neck and looked towards Thommo. They were still mates, but there was something between them, a kind of rift, that was almost pushing them apart. Only Stank had been there for what had seemed to be the final moments of Jamey’s life, and Thommo didn’t understand why he couldn’t talk about it. They would still be OK, but nothing was ever going to be the same. His knowledge could never be seen as anything but insanity from this day forth, yet he felt strangely content. He watched the people crying, and thought just how strange it was, the way these things work out, and just how normal and simple everything else seemed in comparison. *** Me and my hair Once were both there But now we are apart A part is what I do not have Because my hair won't start To be on my head where it belongs where it be long, or short I have no hair but I have you I have the sky and world to sort through, to sort through all sorts of things To seek from you your love And I think I'm watched by a polar bear bare, like my head above.

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“Whacha think?” Sachico read the poem slowly. They both sat, on the edge of the Wallis Building, watching colours move through the clouds as the sun set on a new world. “Honestly?” “Yeah.” “You'd have to be the second best poet alive in this dimension.” “Thank you. That bad?” “Nah, not really. I’m taking the piss. It's OK. It's worth a read. Very clever.” She reached up to touch his head. Half his hair remained, thin and silky, as soft as ever. “You over exaggerate your baldness.” “Nobody like a poet who doesn't suffer.” “Then maybe I’m just a nobody.” She kissed him, and he closed his eyes, and for a moment everything was OK. In the dark of a shadow, a pair of green eyes blinked. There was a flash of white grinning teeth, before the eyes faded into darkness, leaving Jamey and Sachico on the edge of their New World, sitting in the rays of the fading sun.

The Beginning.

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Author’s Note; The text was written when I was 15, and has been updated periodically since then. Instead of continuing to do so I’ve decided to let it run free and free myself up to pursue other works.

This work (besides the cover art) is licensed under a Creative Commons Share-Alike Attribution Non-Commercial License.

You can see some more of my work, essays and fiction on
http://placiddingo.com.

The cover (not CC licensed) is by Mel Roach, who blogs at
http://melaphantastic.blogspot.com/.

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