Monday, 14 June 2010

Chapter Thirteen

Jobe and Serima didn’t speak during the drive back to the back to the flat. He kept glancing at her but she just stared vacantly out of the window. He could still see the surreal blue police lights in his head. Inside the flat the red light on the phone was blinking. There were four messages. He switched on the lamp and Serima stood beside him as he played them. They were all from their father, his voice pregnant with the hushed and deliberate tone that betrays terror.
Jobe’s heart sank immediately but Serima just turned away. “I’m not speaking to him.”
“I’m not,” she declared coldly. “Mum’s not dead. And I’m not going to listen to some crap about how he always loved her and that’s why he had to leave.”
“I’m calling him.”
“Go ahead.”
“He’s gonna want to talk to you.”
“Fuck him,” Serima muttered, and disappeared into the corridor. Jobe stood alone in the living-room, staring at the blinking message light. He couldn’t envision the killings. Things like that didn’t really happen did they? But of course they did, he reasoned. They happened every single day.
He restarted the messages and closed his eyes, listening to his father’s voice again. It sounded like he’d been crying. At that moment, Jobe wanted nothing more than to be holding his father. Despite everything he dearly loved the man, and hearing his voice like that was horrible. It sounded a lot like himself.
Serima stalked back into the living-room, her eyes suddenly filled with rage.
“What’re we gonna do now, Jobe? What the fuck are we supposed to do! What if she is dead? We have a funeral and everybody cries?”
Jobe stared back at his sister. She looked so angry with him.
He shrugged gently. “I don’t know what you want me to say, Googley. I’m just as scared as you are.”
The rage slowly left Serima’s expression and she sat carefully down on the sofa, grimacing, “I dreamt all this. I would’ve known if it was mum…right?”
“I don’t know. Are you gonna speak to dad?”
“No,” she said, closing her eyes. Without a word, Jobe grabbed the phone and hurled it across the room, instantly plucking the cord from the socket. Serima’s eyes snapped open and stared.
“He didn’t do anything,” Jobe almost growled, surprising himself.
“He didn’t love her,” Serima chimed immediately, like there was no room for any other belief. “He didn’t love her like he should’ve done. You know it.”
Jobe gave a slow inward sigh, then said quietly, “I need a fucking cigarette.”
He went to his room, searched his dresser and found a pack with six still inside. Serima came and stood in his doorway. She watched as he lit up, perched on the edge of the dresser. She held out her hand for one and he threw them to her. She lit one and stared at him.
“I’d know if it was mum. I’d feel it. The gods wouldn’t do that to me, to us.”
“Yeah? Lets hope,” muttered Jobe.

The phone was somehow still working, and his dad sounded afraid.
“Jobe…have you seen the news?”
“I’ve been calling and calling. I haven’t got through to the hotline yet.”
Jobe nodded to himself, holding the handset to his ear. “I’ve been trying too. I drove down there with Seri. The police couldn’t tell us anything. Gave us the number of a psychologist working with CID though, so I’m gonna call him tomorrow.”
His dad’s voice sounded blank and shocked. “Good, that’s…good. I…uh…”
“How’s Charlotte?” Jobe asked quickly. Charlotte was his dad’s newest girlfriend, one of many, a nurse at St Francis Hospital.
“She’s been crying. I hadn’t told her about Maya. It’s weird. She just keeps trying to hold me.”
Jobe’s thoughts darkened. “Dad, was Charlotte on her shift when they brought the bodies in…?”
“Yeah,” he said quietly, “She’s a mess.”
“Shit…dad, I’m sorry.”
He heard his father take a breath. “She said there were soldiers there. That’s crazy, right? She said the hospital’s been placed under military guard. They sent all the nurses home. I think it’s really frightened her. Everyone I know has been talking about it. An old man stopped me in the street just to tell me. It’ll be all across the newspapers tomorrow.”
Soldiers, at an NHS hospital, guarding dead bodies? His mind groped aimlessly.
“Son, is Serima there…?”
Jobe tensed, waited a beat, then said, “She doesn’t want to talk to you, dad.”
He heard the pain in Peter Vesson’s inhalation of breath. “Fair enough. Has she been crying?”
“She’s okay.” There was silence on the line between them. “Dad…?”
“You know, I should never have let them put her in that horrible place.” Jobe wanted to say something. Instead he said nothing. “Son, I’m going to go…I’ll call you tomorrow if I get any information.”
“Yeah…yeah, I’ll do the same.”
His father hung up. Jobe tossed the handset onto the sofa.

Serima was lying on her bed in the dark. Only her orange lava-lamp was lit.
She watched it, the way it looked like molten fire in zero-gravity, like in ‘Serpent Rising’; the glossy sci-fi movie she’d seen this evening with Michael, where a schizophrenic boy, an alcoholic ex-cop and a disgraced Catholic priest were thrown together by fate. All three were witnesses to the fact that the Earth was in the grip of an alien invasion that had spanned thousands of years. The rag-tag trio eventually succeeded in blowing up the reptilian mothership, saving all of mankind from spiritual bondage, aided by a shimmering entity who mused on the power of ‘Love’.
Serima laughed sadly. If only dreams were that simple.
To her mind Catholicism was a religion of absolutes, of utter certainties, and Serima suspected that all Christians were secretly in love with their serpents and demons. In the movie the priest regained his faith in Christ, though now tinged with a fashionable metaphysics. Despite this new found gnosis, might still made right in the end. How could you enforce an image of divinity onto another soul? How could you tease and seduce someone into sanctity?
Madness, but then…if bread and wine became body and blood, then it followed that all else was idolatry. And in the eyes of true believers everywhere, idolatry was a corruption that needed to be vanquished not healed. ‘Serpent Rising’ was filled with stylish destruction, pop-mysticism, the aliens were suitably lean and lethal – but it was the redeemed Catholic that provided the key to saving the world.
We haven’t come far at all…it’s still the fucking middle ages.
Serima laughed out loud in fear. Mum would be okay. They would scare themselves into a frenzy but they would eventually learn that she was alive. They would breathe a sigh of relief, sweeping away fake concerns for all the others, the murdered ones, and this would all become another strange story to muse in secret like fugitives, as they had done so often in the past. That’s how it would play out.
At least, that’s what the idealist in Serima wanted to believe. A deeper, older part of her knew that this was the beginning of something.
It wasn’t that she was just shocked and horrified and afraid. It was that she was also kind of excited. When the water had touched her skin under the shower she was snatched up into the reflection on the eye of a beautiful boy. Eleven or twelve years old. Dark brown hair that was almost black. He had been trying to speak with her.
He wasn’t one of the Gossamers; the endless tribe of imaginary children that lived in the green stars, who she feared had dogged many of her dreams since mum had been sectioned. No, this boy was something else altogether, something far darker than the spirit of a genuine child. Reminded me of Jobe…I can’t expose him to this. He’s been through enough.
She heard her brother step into the doorway, throwing his shadow across the bed.
“What did dad say?” she asked him without turning over to look at him.
“He said there were soldiers at the hospital where Charlotte works.”
Serima felt a suggestion of coldness. She turned over. “Soldiers? Doing what?”
“It’s where they took the bodies.”
He came in and sat on the edge of the bed. “This is crazy,” she muttered, and then laughed at what she’d said. Her laughter made her want to cry. “It was a girl that did this, Jobe. I know it. And this girl is friends with a boy. A beautiful boy. I don’t know who the man they showed on TV is, but he didn’t kill those people.” Jobe just stared. “You believe me, right?”
“Yeah.” He lay down on the bed, beside her, and she drew an arm around him.
She kissed his neck and Jobe said, “This is all fucked up. This is like Aquinas all over again.” They lay in silence for a while.
“We should’ve gone to see her more,” Serima muttered at last.
“Maybe,” he muttered back. “I don’t think it would’ve made a difference.”
“She loves us.”
“I know that.”
Serima put her arms around his waist, nuzzling him, holding him tight. They were silent for a while and Jobe could feel his sister’s breath against his ear.
“This girl,” Serima said softly, “She’ll find us. She needs us for something. I saw her rip those people apart. They were so scared, Jobe, but she was loving it. I really don’t know what’s gonna happen to us. If mum’s dead…I think I’ll just die inside.” She realised the foolishness of her words because she felt Jobe wince against her. “I’m sorry…that was…dumb.”
“It’s okay,” said Jobe, coldly, like he no longer cared. “I’m a man of steel, right? Stabbing my own mother’s just a walk in the park. Ooh-la-la…”
Serima didn’t know what to say to that, wincing at the sexual undertone. She imagined that she could feel her brother’s thoughts darkening, feel him slipping away. She tried to hold back tears but couldn’t. Some of them found their way down onto her brother’s neck. He felt them but didn’t say anything. Eventually they both fell to sleep.

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