Monday, 14 June 2010

Chapter Fourteen

The trees were impossibly tall, miles high. They looked burned, although he realised this was how they looked naturally here. There was a diffuse indigo cast to the air, back-lighting a sky of immense organic chaos. No temperature, only a silent wind. Leaves beneath his feet rustled like pages. He kneeled and realised they were indeed pages, brown and curled, scribbled with ink. The words were not human. Thousands of dead pages, fallen from these leviathan trees. Story-trees, he supposed. This place was unnatural and yet seemingly perfect, as if there were a genuine ecosystem hidden here.
He intuitively knew this place. He hadn’t seen it in his dreams before but he had sensed it somewhere in the reaches of his imagination, at the cross-roads of symbol and reality. It wasn’t like coming home. It felt far too sinister, like something he had once known, had feared too deeply, and had gratefully forgotten. There were deep memories here, sunk in ancient burial chambers, and clusters of fallen things. The leaves were pages. And there were things here that harvested those pages. For what purpose, he didn’t know.
There was no discernible love in this place. If there was any trace of compassion he should have at least sensed it on the silent wind.
Things moved amongst the trees, things without mercy or pity, and he felt that these things sensed a foreigner had entered their secret space. They would want to know if he had found his way here through his own volition, or whether he had been pulled down into deeper frequencies and thrown here through the spiral eyes. He knew there were truths here, so many that truth was utterly valueless in this place except as bounty to trade.
The knowledge here was vast and wild. It didn’t bend to law. It didn’t pay respect to duality. It knew nothing of civilisation. He felt that even the darkest things stayed only long enough to gather what they needed. Few things could survive here. Terrible things had become lost in these trees and had wept, walking until their spines crumbled and their pages turned to ash. Ghosts they became. Many of them wondered where their spirits had gone.
Perhaps only one considered this place home. Perhaps it was here with him. Jobe could sense it. Not a man, but a definite presence that seemed male. It wasn’t native to this place, but it had been here a long time and knew it well. Jobe sensed he was being watched by this thing. It frightened him. He realised he was dreaming.

***

Prayer felt more awake than ever. Everything was sharp, clean, as if she were seeing things through a crystalline lens. The colours were crawling with other colours yet there were deep blacks in all the night shadows, through the leaves, in the corners, hiding here and there.
She took two tube-trains, sitting huddled amongst the other passengers, flicking through one of her books. A dog-eared paperback copy of ‘Frankenstein’. She first read it when she was fourteen, with a sense of dread so deep that she had panic attacks throughout it. Her father often spoke about Mary Shelly’s novel; how Hollywood ruined it by turning the monster into a shambling joke. He would talk about the original Prometheus myth; tales of divine fire, what C-SOL now called Black Light – stolen from dangerous gods, secretly shared with the Elect of Men.
She had seen a few of the black & white movies as a child, sneaking from her bed on the nights that daddy didn’t pay her a visit. She wanted to understand him at first. The Frankenstein films confused her because there was something painful about them, a cloaked and lunatic theatre that made her want to die. The courage to read the book had gathered slowly. On reading it, only fourteen but with a grasp of language that surpassed most of her peers, she became paralysed with sorrow. She realised then that her father saw himself in Shelly’s novel.
It frightened and disturbed her more than what they actually did together. Nathan Cole was a monster, but, more importantly, he was also Victor himself; genius, giver of life, narcissistic and wretchedly self-serving. The sense of betrayal was what frightened her. She should’ve killed her father, for his lack of imagination disguised as literary allusion, but in the end her youth made her love him too much. She couldn’t deal the fatal blow back then.
This was something she could rectify now.
She noticed a group of boys watching her, all baggy jeans, hoods and chunky trainers. They were good-looking, lounging in their seats with an air of bored grace. She stole drifting glances with them. They were obviously drunk. One of them gave her a sexy, bleary-eyed smile. A rush of excitement went through her, at remembering how apparently beautiful she was. She did look like the models in the magazines. A mixed blessing, to be sure.
Now was a time like all other times, except now she was choosing something else. She’d gone over it all in her head; what she would say to him, how she would stand, the look he would see in her eyes. She’d perfected it all. She knew it word for word. A message for her father.

Remember how you used to touch me, Victor? You did things to me that made me love you. I couldn’t live with it any other way. I mean, daddy, you know…I don’t even have to say the words. Do I? It’s something we shared. Just like you said. And all this time, I’ve thought about destroying you, for so long. I’d tell you how it would be better than touching.
I’d say that it was my gift to you.
I fed off that idea. You couldn’t possibly understand. Although deep down I wanted you to because of what we shared. I wanted you to see Prayer, and call her by her name. But you couldn’t and now I can’t let you. Because you just took. You had no romance about you. It was me who shared. I shared everything with you. You don’t understand, but you do remember. How could you forget?
See, the only way I can forgive you is if I take you inside of me. You can be next to me in the painting, but I won’t have a slight smile on my face. My face is a hole in the painting. You’ll weep, and the colours will run. Mum will look away. I fed off it. It kept me alive in that place, when all the doctors and nurses doubted me. And I don’t really understand irony, but I sense that it’s ironic. Or at least it fits. I finally have the power to show you the truth. Prayer’s truth.

But she wouldn’t get the chance. The house was large and plush, in a secluded Close not far from Queen’s Park Station. She destroyed the lock on the front door with a glancing blow, and walked in like she’d never left this nightmare place. Her home. A curious but pleasant throbbing inside her and an echoed ringing like ghostly bells. The front room was dark, with only hazed streetlight coming in through the net curtains. In the shadows, she realised someone was sitting on the sofa. She wasn’t afraid.
Her dad’s face was a grimace.
Nathan Cole’s throat was slashed through so deeply that Prayer could see the white scrape of his spine. His blue cotton shirt was soaked with blood. When she touched it, it was still wet. She realised that tears were rolling down her cheeks. Her father couldn’t have died like that. They had posed him, like a meat puppet. She kissed him as gently as she could manage.
She found her mum in the hallway, her shirt blown open, three bullet holes in the chest, nestling tidily between her exposed breasts. Sara Cole looked shocked and almost irritated that she was dead. Blood on the carpet, but not much. There had been far more at Ensler.
An indulgent stab of disappointment hit Prayer, but she didn’t feel the emotion the tears on her face suggested. In truth she expected that despite the message for her father, the moment she laid eyes on him the oldest chamber of her heart would be thrust open, releasing a black torrent of shame, need, and love.
Damn, she’d loved him. He’d given her no real choice. Love him or die inside was the only real choice she had. She thought that on seeing him her carefully crafted message would scatter in the wind and she would fall to her knees, aching to be held by him again.
But she felt none of this. In fact she felt clearheaded, utterly cold, and the feeling thrilled her. She would’ve liked to hurt them, her mother especially for wilfully ignoring it all, toy with them both in spectacular fashion, allude to Shelly’s novel in ways that would push daddy over the edge, but that possibility was gone.
She realised with some trepidation that she could finally let go of Nathan Cole. She didn’t have to feel ashamed, corrupted, perverse and special anymore. She could actually say goodbye. She wouldn’t let this shocking realisation divert her from the larger purpose. She could begin in earnest now.
With nothing to hold me back.
She would take Jobe inside her, but she would make Akin proud of her. She would show him that she wasn’t just a girl. She was his new pledge, the new keeper of his world of living words. Akin would be the new reason she was special. Oh, fuck yes, she would be so special for him. She grinned wide, filled suddenly with a fluttering but cautious joy in her belly. He would love her.

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