Thursday, 13 May 2010

Chapter One

Moonlight came in through the blinds, a shroud of silver across Serima Vesson’s bed. In the darkness her lava-lamp was a strange molten fire on her desk. Rain snaked the windows. She could hear cars as they travelled out on Cromwell Road. Serima loved the swishing-hiss melody of traffic in the rain. Most nights it worked in lulling her, but not tonight. She glanced at the digital clock on her bedside cabinet.
2:09 a.m.
She pulled back the duvet and let air play across bare skin, wondering if her brother would still be awake, half wanting to tell him about the dream.
She left the bed and pulled a grey t-shirt over her head, padding softly down the hallway. There was light under her brother’s door. She knocked and went in.
Jobe had candles burning and was stretched out on his bed, smoking a cigarette and reading something. He glanced up and smiled. “Power went out a little while ago. Couldn’t sleep.”
Serima nodded and fell beside him on the bed. “Neither could I.”
“I think it’s maybe the whole of Wells Gate. Powerful storm.”
She arched her eyebrows at him. “Blackouts are spooky to the maximum.”
He pulled himself from the pages of the book and settled his familiar gaze. Jobe was tall with a milk-chocolate complexion, solidly built, a rough-edged attractiveness to him, with the darkest, most piercing eyes she knew – windows to the soul, for sure. He offered her the burning cigarette in his hand.
“Please,” she retorted and took the cigarette anyway, taking a long pull. It felt good inside her. She exhaled. “Got any weed…?”
Jobe laughed, “Not for you.”
“What’re you reading?” He showed her the front cover. The Big Book of Vampire Tales. A man in a suit and cape was beckoning from a mausoleum doorway. Serima laughed and nudged him. “Chewing the scenery?”
“Of course.” He stubbed out the cigarette and reclined on the bed, watching her face. She tried to stare back with the same intensity and failed. She could never out-stare her big brother, despite her large eyes. “You had it again…right? Another dream?”
She shifted her weight on the bed and pressed her back to the wall. “You always hound me about that stuff…I’m so bored now.”
He didn’t laugh or tease her, he only said, “I don’t believe you, Seri. I think you want to talk about it. I’d bet money on it. Talk to me, dude.”
She nodded grudgingly. “I don’t have the energy that you have, Jobe. Precognition, psychic dreams…I end up feeling so theatrical that I hate myself. Even though I love the theatre. Even though I love all those fucking things.”
“What are we talking about, googley?” Big-Eyed Googley was the idiotic nickname he’d given her as a child.
She laughed and said, “The sight, Jobe. Don’t bullshit me.”
“Right. You see the lightning a while ago? Man, it was pretty wasn’t it?”
“Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about – seeing yourself in the sky. I want it so badly but at the same time I don’t. I hate that place, you know. It’s not one thing or the other. I love it too.”
“Ooh-la-la?” he asked.
Jobe put a hand behind his head, regarding her with eyes that had always comforted but unnerved her. “Listen, Seri, a storm is a storm. It’s beautiful. It’s not foreshadowing anything. Just enjoy it, okay? Don’t try to control it.”
She laughed at him. “This coming from you, King of Dreamless? Whatever.”
As a child Serima had christened her brother the ‘King of Dreamless’, a time when she believed he could move mountains. She once believed his palms could open up like the pages of a tome. He sat up and lit another cigarette.
Exhaling a thin stream of smoke he said, “You gonna tell me or what?”
“Or what,” Serima mumbled.
“Then don’t waste my time. Go back to bed.”
She pinched him hard on his arm, “Don’t be a prick.”
“Gutter-mouth,” he glared at her, not too seriously.
“I miss mum, you know.”
Jobe could obviously hear the yearning that she didn’t bother to mask anymore. He stared at her there on his bed in her t-shirt and knickers.
“She’s not dead, Googley. Don’t talk about her like she’s dead. You want to mourn someone – mourn dad.” He pulled righteously on the cigarette. Serima lay down beside him, drawing an arm around his waist.
“Dad’s not dead either.”
“Oh yeah,” said Jobe, an innocent smile in his voice. She laughed at that because he said it like a child. He would often slip into his ‘cute kid’ persona just to see the look on her face. There was an easy silence between them. She glanced around her brother’s white bedroom in the candlelight, at the collages on the walls, at the small OM symbol that hung above the door, the small crucifix over the bed.
The Hinduism and the Catholicism, repackaged for small solaces.
“Is that what we are?” she muttered. “Are we really that kitsch? I hope it’s not that simple. I hope we’re not…maybe you should just take them down.”
She felt Jobe shrug, but she knew what his answer would be – his aesthetic love of the images. He would say that he was taking back creative control by keeping these religious symbols around. He could be a stubborn horse, like another man she knew.
“I’m nothing like my father,” Jobe said. Serima pulled away from him, smiling, eyes dancing.
“You read my mind…”
The stony facade of his face cracked. He laughed. “It’s magic. Harry Potter’s got nothing on me. I’m the master of the wand.”
She jabbed him with two fingers, “You’re a pervert is what you are!” She leaned over, peering into his face, taking on the tone of a strict school-mistress. “Don’t mess me around, wand-boy. I know where you live.”

Jobe laughed and pouted, but he realised she wasn’t going to tell him about the dream after all. He suspected it was the one about the army of dead children living within green stars, a reoccurring dream that soothed and terrified her in equal measure over the past few weeks. He decided to drop it, for tonight.
“Can I sleep in your bed?” she asked eventually.
Jobe shook his head coldly. She didn’t ask again. “Face your fear.”
“Piss off.” Serima got up from the bed and blew him a kiss.
“Night, Seri.”
She glanced back, smiling, and nodded, “Night.”
Moments after she closed his bedroom door the standing-lamp and stereo suddenly flickered back to life. A stab of bombastic heavy metal knifed the room with crunchy bass guitars and tortured vocals. Jobe flinched and heard Serima give a yelp of shock.
He leapt up from the bed and quickly shut it off. On the other side of the door, he heard his sister laughing.
He was feeling a little guilty now, for sending her off to her own room when she was clearly shaken by another dream.
Seri had always loved storytelling, just as he did; the ceremony and spectacle of it, the sheer life-blood and drama. She was in her second year at college, studying Theatre. Many of her teachers said she was a rising star, dedicated and professional, and that she would go on to do exciting things. It was a genuine tragedy that their mother wasn’t around to see what her daughter was doing with all those odd childhood stories.
It made him feel like a boy again, seeing his sister there on the stage. Not simple innocence but a spirit of wanton adventure. He craved that divine blend of fear and fearlessness.
Still, he knew how frightening the past few years had been for her. He knew it was why she poured her heart and mind into her college work. He wondered if all the strain was due to ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’; a college production that was only a few months away from debut and way behind schedule. Serima was the director, a responsibility she knew she couldn’t mess up. She wanted to go places, telling her beloved tales of the dreamless.
She needed to share her saving graces, her youthful renaissance.
Maybe she was buckling under the pressure, and she didn’t have the heart to tell him. Serima was stubborn, just like him, though she would call it single-mindedness.
Jobe remembered the look in her eyes a few weeks ago, the first time she told him about the frightening dream. She didn’t even cry. She lapsed into silence afterwards. He tried to get her to say more but she wouldn’t.
The divorce had been hard on her. She was only fourteen at the time, and she couldn’t really accept that their parents didn’t love each other anymore. And then, of course, that terrible night had happened, changing everything, burning away all illusions of a nice, normal family.
He knew first-hand just how dangerous Maya was.
Jobe always refered to his mother by her first name. Maya insisted on it from when he was a child. Names were powerful, she said. Jobe missed her too, just as much as Seri, and yet he was glad that she was locked away. For the first time in a long time he was beginning to feel like a real person. The guilt, shame and the sense of responsibility was something he’d learned to carry. If he carried it not with a certain grace, then he carried it at least with a grim efficiency. He blew out the candles and returned to his bed, crawling beneath the covers. Eventually, he slept.

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