Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Chapter Fifteen

Katherine Reece left Locus Point behind, seething with rage and fear. She braced herself for the pitiless drive back into Battersea.
When she finally got to her flat she pulled off her coat and switched on the lights, bolting the new locks she’d bought.
She went to the kitchen and the first real thing she did was fix herself a drink. Her home was large, in a block of luxury loft apartments built only two years ago. She was seven floors up, and from her living-room windows she could see the Thames, the tiny jewels of orange from the lights along the embankments. The night sky was exceptionally dark and the moon hung like a silver disc. Drink in hand, she stared at her blue walls, her leather couch-set, her expensive TV, DVD player and music system. A cruel smile touched her lips and she began laughing, at herself, at all this gorgeous junk. She lit a cigarette.
She wasn’t really home. She hadn’t been home since Sean had died.
Little Red is tired now, so very, definitively tired.
Christ, she had battled with that boy. The drug thing, it was only an aside to his intensity. He was exceptional but young, and it frightened her how he could burn up experience with just his eyes. She couldn’t remember the amount of times he brought girls back to the house. The pretty ones, the not-so-pretty ones, the bold and the mousy ones. Even Robert was phased after a while. It wasn’t that he was a young lothario, because Sean was exceptionally quiet. In his teens Katherine realised he would be mercilessly personal about everything.
Mum wouldn’t be allowed any concessions.
A very dark-minded child. At first Katherine enjoyed this and took it as a sign of a solemn intelligence that might border on genius. He really was her son; quick, lean and sharp, with a dirty laugh. It was when he turned thirteen that he first began to scare her. It was like living with a stranger in the house whenever she was home, which wasn’t often. She supposed it hadn’t helped that his mother had been a ‘police officer’ and a ‘psychologist’.
So educated, so self-controlled. Katherine gave a short, sharp laugh.
Sean wasn’t a fool. He was her son, and he didn’t have a lover’s trust like Bobby did. He suspected, he probed, his fertile young mind analysing it all. He didn’t want to believe it at first, but she’d seen in his eyes that he did believe. He watched movies, he read books. He had imagination enough to realise what his father would never suspect. Her work created too much tension in him, an unwelcome reminder of love’s chaos staring him in the face.
He asked her outright one day, when he had just turned sixteen, and he said that if she lied to him he would no longer consider her worthy of his love.
Oh, Sean, you relentless sweetheart. She should never have told him the truth, her secrets, but in that dark and perfect moment she’d been unable to lie to him. She told him things she’d never uttered to her husband, and then it was like a river. All the words came. Sean sat with her, listening, appalled and enraptured. He held her when she began to cry. Katherine talked for hours that day.
Her son had asked her what it felt like to kill someone.
And she told him that it was to hold a flame in the palm of your hand, feeling its light and heat though it doesn’t burn you, seeing the miracle, then closing your fist around that flame and snuffing it out, in doing so claiming it as your own.
She told him that killing someone felt strangely like suicide.
It was the final straw. She had ruined her beautiful boy, murdered him indirectly, set him on the knife-edge of clarity. The price paid for such insight was a thing that marked the soul. If indeed, as Katherine suspected, humans actually were souls. The sex, the drugs, and the self-cutting. When he finally showed her the scars. Christ, the scars down his arms. She remembered her heart sinking as she wondered how he had it in him to press so deep with the knife. Her doctorate meant nothing. She had never healed anyone. She was a soldier, nothing more. A killer, really. Katherine sipped her drink, wishing she had known Sean better, known the young man behind her son’s dark eyes.

She had a long, hot bath and then warmed some Chinese food in the microwave. As she ate, watching the moon through the window, she felt tears rolling down her cheeks. It crept up on her this time. She thought about going through the photo-albums but then decided against it. She wasn’t going to keep doing that to herself.
Instead, she fetched the MP3 player from her bag and searched the recordings. The sound of Prayer’s hands drumming on the table top. Her disturbed breathing. Katherine closed her eyes and listened.
“…I don’t see it, Kathy…I know it. He tells me all this stuff. He says he knows you, says you were close once, that you played mother and son. He’s not your son though…he’s borrowed some stuff…some memories even. You don’t know him like I do though. He says I’m the girl that all girls want to be. He says that all girls dream of being raped by their father, and I’m inclined to believe him. Victor abused me, sure…but I wanted it. Not the way you think though. I bet that disgusts you, doesn’t it? I’m not making any apologies for believing. I never wanted him to hurt me, but I did fantasise about rape. It helped me, in a way, to see invisible things; spirits, and doors, and ideas. You think I’m sick…there’s other girls out there like me, you know. Real girls, with lives and stuff. Not just the crazy ones either. Only joking. I hate him for what he did to me. I fucking hate him…”
The tears rolled down Katherine’s face as she listened. It was like Prayer’s voice was in the room with her, perfectly clear.
“…I wasn’t strong enough to stop him, but I’m slowly getting stronger. Akin says that the universe is made of pure love, despite outward appearances. He says that love is the most powerful force in the universe. He’s correct. He’s older than the world, Kathy…even though he dresses in the face of a boy. You should see his eyes. He’s my demon prince. Even though he only looks like ten or eleven…I want him. We’ll be lovers some day. Not in the flesh, of course…but still…”
The sound of a photograph being handed over.
“Wow…this is him…this is Akin…my God. I’d know his face anywhere. This is your son, isn’t it? I wonder why he chose your son’s face…? Can’t be just because he’s beautiful. Akin must like something about him. He’s seen dreams die, you know. He says the empires of the Earth will soon crumble. I love him. He’s my truest friend, and he comforts me. I’ll never give him up, Kathy. He’s my baby boy.”
A sob burst from Katherine’s lips and she slowly doubled over, crying from somewhere deep inside.

***

In a small government office building in Whitehall, Angelina Rose was standing before a window at the end of an oak-pannelled hallway. Her hands were behind her back, her gaze tilted up at the moon. From here the moon looked like a perfect circle, but she knew that it wasn’t. There were no perfect circles. Her ashen face and hair was almost luminous in the sable light. Thoughts of an old friend and lover danced through her head. A deep sadness began to tug at the shores of her mind.
Footsteps was dead, and all the magic in the world couldn’t change that now.
She wondered instead about Rebecca Cole; the girl’s rage, a power that was the closest thing she would ever get to freedom. Prayer would consume that freedom if she was wise, she would savour every moment. Prayer was beyond all of them, Miss Rose knew that. Angry girls were powerful weapons, she knew that too. With a sad chuckle she wondered if Rebecca Cole was menstruating, glancing at the moon again.
They studied her blood and hair samples extensively at Clarevaux, an unlisted C-SOL facility. It was there that they conducted some of the most sensitive Black-Light experiments. They were very interested in DNA, as was Miss Rose herself but for more personal reasons. Spiral Helixes of the girl’s life were somehow able to mimic mathematical vortices. The staff likened it to the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen Bridge; a theoretical wormhole in the space-time continuum. People talked in hushed voices about it. Cole’s DNA was mapped from something else and spiralled down into an atomic structure, from somewhere else. Locked sequences of genetic code that were opening somehow, almost as if an unseen scribe were rewriting Rebecca Cole, re-stitching her through blood and bone.
Many of the C-SOL staff began using holographic metaphors to explain it to themselves, which led to tentative talks about ‘energy’ and ‘spirit’. On a subatomic level her genetic structure seemed like shadows on the wall of a cave, or heavy rain seen in direct sunlight. Studying her DNA was like studying an optical illusion.
It scared them all badly.
It hadn’t scared her though, she’d known about these things for a while. What she had long accepted as magic, they were beginning to call Black-Light science – a multidimensional understanding of consciousness, and the complex forms it could create. The flesh and the bone and the rock and the water…all of it was pressed into being through intimate conversations.
Nothing stood alone. Not Man, not God. Not Prayer.
“Miss Rose.” She turned at the voice. A young man was standing with his hands behind his back, in a mechanics blue jump-suit, handsome and broad-shouldered. Carl was a curious beast. His eyes were his best feature, playful yet piercing. “They had the house covered, ma’am. She’s there now. She thinks we can’t see her, but naturally we can.”
“The parents?” she asked.
“It was done in the way you instructed.”
She smiled tightly. “Okay…good. We’ll see what damage she does.”
“Won’t this just push her over the edge?”
“She’s already over the edge. She’s falling. Down the rabbit hole. I presume you’ve read Lewis Carrol?”
He stared at her, deadpan. “Of course. One of my many bibles.”
“Good. I like a learned man.”
“Do you know what Cole’s going to do?”
She turned back to the window, glancing at the moon again. “No, not really. But I’d love to find out. We all have theories though, Carl. Personally, I think she’ll seek out a trapdoor. We can’t stakeout every possible trapdoor in London, but I can’t wait to see what she does.”
“The extraction team is ready, on your mark.”
“Not yet,” she told him, “The coil isn’t ready. We won’t attempt an extraction without it. I know you’re eager, but no one goes in naked.”
“There’s a slight problem.”
“Hit me.”
“Certain parties are talking about a corruption in the Nekyia system. Maybe an inside sabotage. They’re saying an embed-program was engineered.”
“Nonsense,” she balked, “I’ve had three different lucid-programmers search Nekyia. She’s clean. Rumours and paranoia achieve nothing on this side of the business, sweetheart, they just muddy the waters. And the waters are dark enough. Have some integrity.”
“What about Dr Reece?”
Miss Rose was quiet for a long time, and then: “Speak with the police and have her stripped. Take the cards, keys, and home.” She turned to face him. “Freeze her accounts. She has to be left with nothing. If she resists, have her arrested.”
“And if…she retaliates?”
“Then fucking kill her.”
Carl chuckled broadly, “Okay, it’s as good as done.”
“And I want you to show Deacon the file on Sean Reece.”
“Why?”
“Just do it. We’ll gather tomorrow. He has my cell-phone number.”
Carl nodded blankly, turned and walked away down the hall. As she watched him go, Miss Rose closed her eyes.
If there was a corruption within Nekyia it was too late in the game to do anything about it. She made them search meticulously. Though only a select few were aware of it, a resistance group did exist inside the Interregnum – a loosely knit group of global friends. Or as Footsteps had once said, ‘a patient thorn from Demeter; a nightmare of natural light.’ She could almost sense the running water of a golden river nearby.
Miss Rose laughed, as terrible thoughts darkened the sky of her mind.

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