Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Chapter Twenty-One

When Jobe ushered the girl into his flat he watched silently as she raced straight into the kitchen, dumped her duffel bag and began raiding the refrigerator. She cut thick wedges of cheese and scooped dozens of slices of ham, stuffing them between slices of bread, cramming bites of it into her mouth as fast as she could chew and swallow. She ate like someone who was dying of starvation, ravenous and equally consumed.
Jobe watched the beautiful girl, with narrow eyes.
“Careful you don’t choke,” he told her but she was barely listening. She only glanced at him before grabbing a carton of apple juice and gulping it down. She raided the cabinets next, finding packs of biscuits and crisps that she tore open, crushed in her hands and stuffed into her face.
“Jesus,” he muttered, watching her. Eventually she seemed sated and sat at the kitchen table, crumbs and bits coating her mouth and chin. Jobe couldn’t take his eyes off her.
“Didn’t realise I was so hungry,” she said with an almost embarrassed smile, wiping the stuff from her face with the cuff of her suede jacket.
“How do I find her?”
“What?”
He continued to stare. “My mother. How do I find her?”
She rubbed at her midriff and frowned. “I don’t know that you can.”
“That’s not good enough.”
“I’m sorry. I know it’s not what you want to hear. You’re dealing with very powerful ideologies, and I don’t know that these acolytes can be stopped.”
Jobe sat down at the table. “Look, Rebecca…Prayer…what happened to her?”
“You need to focus on the task at hand. If they learn anything from Maya they might send men to kill you and your sister. I’m not joking. I’ll sense them if they come…when they come. This isn’t a movie, you won’t be able to survive. They’ll kill you before you even realise what’s happening.”
Jobe felt a coldness drape his shoulders. He leaned back in the chair and let out a careful sigh. This girl. A vision; sweet and seemingly harmless. Telling him about death and messages.
“Don’t worry, Jobe.”
“This is fucked up,” he murmured, placing clenched fists on the table top. “I need to find her. You’re going to help me. At least if you want my help.” He stared hard at her.
Eventually she nodded and glanced up over his shoulder. He turned in the chair and saw Serima standing in the kitchen archway, eyes wild. “Seri-”
It’s her…”
“Seri, listen –”
Serima bolted from the archway and lunged across the table at Prayer, striking her hard across the face. Prayer’s chair tipped backwards and they fell to the linoleum, entangled. Serima struck her again and Jobe shot from his chair, hooking his sister under the arms and dragging her away. She stared like a laser at the other girl. “I saw you, bitch! I saw what you did!”
Prayer nursed her cheek. “I saw you too…”
“You’re fucked…I felt what you felt! It sickened me!” She pulled herself from Jobe’s grasp and snatched a knife from the sharpening-block on the counter. Jobe backed away.
“Seri, this is crazy…just stop!”
She raised the knife without glancing at her brother, staring at Prayer with feral eyes. “Get out of my home before I cut your fucking throat!”
Prayer winced and pulled herself to her feet. “You liked it almost as much as I did. You can’t lie to me. Certainly not to yourself. I’m a guest in your home, Seri.”
Serima turned her gaze to Jobe. “You let her in here? Are you insane?” Jobe was made speechless by what he saw in his little sister’s face. She looked away in disgust, taking a few steps towards Prayer. “Get out of here, now! Or I’ll do to you what you did to those people!”
“I didn’t kill your mother.”
Serima cocked her head. “No? Well you killed someone’s mother! Right? And someone’s brother! Someone’s son! Am I wrong…? Am I wrong!”
“Seri, just – ”
“Shut the fuck up, Jobe,” she warned in a hissed whisper, “You didn’t see what she did. She tore them apart! Tore them apart like they were dolls!”
Serima lunged at the other girl – driving the kitchen knife into her throat. A ragged fountain of scarlet. At first Jobe couldn’t process what he was seeing, then a wave of paralysing horror engulfed him. The girl snatched at the knife handle with both hands, stumbling backwards, blood spilling down her chest, across her little black t-shirt and suede jacket. She tore out the blade, tossing it across the room in a single motion. Jobe could only stare as she tried to keep the wound closed, spilling red life between her fingers. She glanced up at Serima, tried to speak, and then fell sideways to the floor.
Jobe sagged to his knees. “Oh my God, Seri…what the fuck have you done…”
“Oh shit,” Serima mouthed, the rage draining quickly, feeling a streak of warmth rolling down her cheek, “Oh shit…”
You killed her!” Jobe screamed. Serima dropped to her knees and pressed a blood spattered fist to her forehead, mumbling something inaudible. Jobe stared at the beautiful girl lying sideways on the bloodied linoleum. Even amongst the dark red, her face was still a picture. Wave after wave of greasy horror rolled through him. The universe had suddenly collapsed in on them, burying them alive, entombing them without so much as a warning.
“That’s it,” he muttered, “we’re fucked…”
“Shit,” Serima said again, rocking slowly on her knees, “I didn’t know what I was doing…I didn’t know…oh my God…Jobe, you have to believe me…”
Jobe felt all the strength leave him in an instant, like he’d been frozen in a gruesome tableau, a sickening image etched in stone. “We’re fucked,” he murmured again. He couldn’t take his eyes off the dead girl.
And then she blinked.
Jobe opened his mouth but there were no words.
She lurched up quickly, hands still gripping at her throat. Jobe heard himself laugh with naked confusion. Serima looked and saw the girl sitting upright, bathed in her own blood. The look in Prayer’s eyes was something neither of them had seen before. Wincing, she carefully pulled her hands away from her neck. There was no wound in her throat.
Jobe scrambled away across the linoleum, sliding up beside Serima. “God help us…” he murmured, but he knew that God didn’t live here anymore.
Prayer stared into the middle-distance for what seemed an eternity, opening and closing her mouth soundlessly like a dying fish. Eventually, she turned her blank gaze to the two of them. Her eyes seemed to shimmer as though caught behind a heat haze, and then they darkened to black – as deep as an empty, sunless corner of the universe.

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