Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Chapter Seventeen

The photo of Sean was contained in a plastic sleeve, taken when he was eleven years old. It was Katherine Reece’s favourite of all of them; when he was still a boy, before the young man in him began to frighten her. A beautiful image of a face that had long since decayed.
She remembered taking it so clearly. By the window, while ‘X-Men’ was playing on morning television. Sean was glancing at Wolverine every other moment, muttering about how cool his metal claws were. Katherine had to crack a joke to get him to look at the camera. Even at that age he hated having his picture taken, worried that the lens of the camera might somehow steal his soul because he’d seen it in a film somewhere. She still remembered the smell of brewing coffee in the house when she’d finally snapped it. She touched the photograph again. He looked intense even at that age, like he might suddenly attack someone in a silent, iconoclastic frenzy.
Something in Katherine shuddered.
According to Rebecca Cole her invisible friend wore this image as its own face. She wasn’t sure what that meant. She’d questioned it many times over the years and still came up wanting. She was sure of only one thing; that this invisible friend, who said its name was Akin, was a real entity. He wasn’t simply an intricate delusion woven from memories of sexual abuse. Perhaps he was some of that. But it wasn’t the whole story. Katherine had seen enough to believe there was more here.
There was something here greater than just the girl, or her PSI abilities, or Interregnum. Something greater than all of them. An intelligence of some kind was present amongst them, a non-linear consciousness that was alien. For some bizarrely obtuse reason it had chosen her son’s face as a medium, a point of contact with this world.
Prayer shared her delusions with Katherine, trusting her at first. She spoke in soft whispers about a foretold global holocaust; an intricately detailed fantasy concerning the end of the world. The dawning of the ‘Altar Sun’, as she called it; heralding an event that Prayer had described many times as the ‘War of Miracles’. Katherine cringed to herself. She couldn’t record any of her genuine beliefs. It was all far too fringe, even for Locus Point. Prayer’s whispers were juvenile, ridiculous, yet they made Katherine tremble. Something terrible was being hidden from her. Wesley was a bastard and had casually thrown her to the lions. She knew that, she just couldn’t deal with it. She couldn’t deal with any of it.
The grey morning light flooded her bedroom through the net curtains. Katherine was sitting topless in her jeans, on the edge of the bed.
She caught sight of herself in the dresser mirror. Thinner than she had once been. When she was younger there was a sexier fullness to her curves. Now, without those curves, her height made her look slightly angular. She stared. Her dad called her Little Red when she was a child. It seemed funny as a girl because she had always been so tall. Not so funny now though.
Shit, how long had it been since she had last seen her parents? Nearly a year. It felt like ten years. They still lived at the house in Nottingham. She missed them both terribly, especially mum. The Reece’s had been married forty-four years. They shared passions and a sense of humour. Comedy, simple fun, had been the crown of their years together. From what she could tell they were still in love. She couldn’t understand it. She admired it though.
Katherine tossed the photo onto the bed.
She raised the semiautomatic that was clasped in her left hand. She watched the reflection put the gun to her head. She could never do this. She stared at the mirror.
Why can I never do this?
Her reflection stared back, looking just as perplexed. Maybe she would try to get back this Christmas. Everyone would eat, laugh and get pissed together. She lowered the gun from her temple and threw it onto the blue duvet with the photo.
“You look so hunted, Little Red,” she told her reflection, who told her the same thing. She laughed out loud.

***

Prayer had slept on the couch of her childhood home, her head resting in her dead father’s lap. His throat was still cut when she woke in the morning and she went into the garden, picked wet flowers, leaving one in the mouth of each parent. She enjoyed that. It seemed darkly artistic, the kind of thing one of those evil geniuses in a crime thriller would do. Her father, sitting there, throat slashed, a flower in his mouth; he had never been so beautiful, never so absurdly romantic, even whilst playing Victor.
“Touch me,” she whispered in his cold ear. Of course, she knew who killed them and why. C-SOL were probably still watching the house. She wasn’t a prize to be obtained. They wouldn’t rile her with these childish things. She was beyond it. She was beyond pain now, thanks to her baby boy. They would never get her tied to a table again, never.
She saw them when she left, expertly concealed in plain sight; a jogger on a ten minute circuit, a postman delivering letters at one end of the road, a man eating a sandwich in his car at the other end. Even to the keenest eye they would have been invisible. Not to her eyes, however. They hadn’t seen her enter last night and they wouldn’t see her leave this morning. She couldn’t allow them to trail her, of course. They called themselves professionals. She laughed at that. They were boys, really. Dangerous boys to be sure, but they were still boys, intently playing their hide & seek games. They didn’t know who on earth they were dealing with.
How could they hunt what they couldn’t see?
She thought about Ensler. There was only one person in that absurd, bleak place that she called a friend.
Maya Kistori.
The woman was far older than her – fifty-three, but Prayer had seen a ruinous knowledge behind her eyes. Eventually, she learnt everything through a kind of shared dreaming. They would cut one another, slightly, taste the blood of the other. They would kiss for minutes at a time. And then when eventually they slept, their dreams would be shared. This went beyond all reasonable knowing. Words that were not words. Maya had painted a vivid picture of her children in this way. Prayer had come to feel it first-hand.
Jobe Vesson.
A brilliant but haunted young man. A lateral thinker fearful of his own duplicitous nature, his ability to find metaphor in even the most brutal of realities. A person of depth who feared that he was empty, spent, useless. He was possessed by the sight, though not in the same way that Maya was. He was a visionary, an intuitive, sensitive to hidden connections and perceptions. The unwilling son of a quasi-prophet.
Prayer had sensed this deep inside herself, confirming his mother’s rendering.
Maya had given her the keys and Akin had given her the reach. Thus when she let her soul blur its edges with Jobe, she realised she knew him, though she’d never met him. An empathy, allowing connection. There was a dark strain running through the undercurrents of his sight. She felt it before with Akin. She had thought Akin one of a kind, but now she realised that they shared distinct similarities. This intrigued her. Men were so often shallow, vapid creatures, without even the instincts to be titled beasts.
Prayer had seen Jobe's face in her dreams. Dark, intelligent eyes. A full and somewhat sexy mouth. She wondered if he would be as discreetly handsome in waking. Maya told her everything; how she wanted to spare her son his destiny, how she had tried to disembowel his fate with a kitchen knife. How it had come to nothing. Maya told her that he would perhaps one day understand but never forgive. Later, she asked Akin about him.
Akin told her that Jobe Vesson tried long and hard to blind his sight, to bury his voice, screaming deep into the earth. Akin said he was watching, and that the young man sensed his presence. This in itself was strange, he told her.
Akin suspected he was a Keeper of sorts, a guardian who would play a significant role in the coming rebellion. Images of things hidden under the signs of others. Jobe was apparently quite skilled in the art of war, though he would go to his grave denying that fact. Prayer couldn’t wait to meet him, to pleasure him. She was quite excited. She didn’t want to disappoint this son of a prophet with a bad show, this son of her only friend.
And she wanted to meet the other one; the girl who had been watching her from the branches of a burning tree.
Serima Vesson.
The daughter. A Deliverer, Akin had said. A reluctant warrior now grown soft and afraid of her own sword. The one that might secretly want to fuck her, horrified and illuminated by what she’d seen, what she’d felt that night high in the burning tree. I’ll dazzle them both…a star is born.
When Prayer finally arrived back in Wells Gate, an hour later, she was ready to come apart with the most exhilarating sense of freedom. She hugged herself and laughed wildly, wandering the streets, searching for Thornsett Road. A life that was finally worthy of her imagination now lay within her grasp.

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