Saturday, 2 October 2010

Chapter Thirty-One

Darkness swallowed them. They were frozen, afraid to move at all. Serima could hear her brother breathing behind her in the blackness. She knew Jobe had seen him. It was the driver of the white Transit; a cruel but intelligent face. Her heart began to beat so fast in her chest that she thought insanely that he might hear it.
There was the sound of movement down below. He kicked something out of his way and it clanged loudly.
“Jobe Vesson,” came the powerful voice, and Jobe flinched at the sound of his own name, almost trembling in the dark. He remained silent and as still as he could.
“Age 26, of mixed-race decent. Skipped a grade in primary school, achieved his GCSE’s a year early. Was noted by teachers to be an exceptionally gifted boy with an aptitude for both arts and sciences. Showed a keen interest in writing and painting. Currently runs a bookshop, purchased and technically still owned by his mother.”
Jobe shook his head in the dark, a fear laced with anger. He grit his teeth unknowingly.
“Serima Vesson,” the voice called from below, “Age 18. Sister of Jobe. At school was also noted for exceptional intelligence, displaying keen interests in both Music and Drama. Currently studying a National Diploma in Theatre, at Wells Gate College of Arts.”
Serima was trembling too, tears in her eyes.
“Rebecca Cole,” the voice continued unabated, “Age 19. At school was also noted for exceptional intelligence, an unusual capacity to learn foreign languages. Fluent in French and Spanish. Also displayed a unique gift with writing. At 14 years of age she was institutionalised after attempting to murder her father. Was diagnosed as a paranoid sociopath, with a predisposition to extreme violence against others. Reprimanded several times for attacking patients and staff. Currently listed as dead, following the attempted escape and ultimate suicide of one Terrence Gaines, in which she was murdered…”
Silence. Silence and blackness. The scent of old smoke seemed even stronger. They heard him again. “Rebecca, I know what you are…I know what you can do. You’re a very famous girl.”
Prayer called out fearlessly, “If you know what I can do…then you better stay the fuck away from me!”
He called back to her, “I can’t do that, of course.”
“Stay away, sir, I’m warning you!”
“There’s others coming,” he called out. “They have a way to contain you. You’re a generator. They have a way to shut down your charge; stop you generating.”
“I’ll kill you,” she shouted, still more a warning than a threat. “Didn’t they tell you what I did at Ensler? I’ll cut you to fucking ribbons, sir…”
He didn’t answer at first.
Silence filled the blackness once again. They waited.
“They told me, yes. Everything becomes dust. The whole world is dying, little one. They say the air is thickening. They say the aliens pity us, that the fairies pissed off a long time ago. They say the image will crucify the word. They say all kinds of weird shit. They like to talk and dream, you know?”
They waited silently again in the dark, afraid.
“The sad thing is that the aliens do pity us, many of them at least. And many of the fairies have abandoned us. It can feel kind of bleak sometimes, being awake. I’m not afraid of you Rebecca. Are you afraid of me? I doubt that you are.”
Jobe and Serima waited. Prayer’s voice came next, quiet but filled with energy, different somehow. “The image will crucify the word? I’ll show you words, you fucking moron. I’ll show you a perfect conceit. We are keepers of voice; the world is eternal conversation. To speak life, to life. We are but words. And words; they are not what they seem to be…”
A scream came from beside them, their breath icing in their throats, and then the sound of Prayer’s scream swelled into an inhuman pitch, as if distorted and amplified, filling the charred darkness for a moment like a subterranean storm. Something brushed past Jobe and then past Serima in a blink of an eye.
It quickly fell away down below.
Jobe dropped to his knees where he was, scuffing his left one on something broken. Serima’s eyes were wide in the darkness. She was frozen. Prayer’s scream came again, an unholy cry that sounded like nothing they had heard before.

A thing made of shifting black rain, leviathan, impossibly tall and thin, its head and shoulders near the ceiling of the charred darkness, looking down at Prayer. Salvation. Freedom. It scooped her up in its monstrous hand, and hurled her down into the dark. She saw how love was born. She saw the home of pain.
She saw the driver in the darkness, but he couldn’t see her. She was moving too fast. The blink of an eye. She shoved him and circled three times in the space it took him to draw a single breath. She heard his scream, long and quaking, like a volcano to her. She shoved him again before the scream had ended.
She stood still and watched him run, wild and unhinged. When she decided to move again it was as if he became frozen. She punched him as she blurred past, laughing, and he was thrown backwards by the blow. She circled him twice as he hung suspended in the air, drifting slowly through the darkness.
She tore his heart from his chest before he even hit the ground, and ate it, greedily.
Now you will read. And you were right. Everything dies. We scream together.

Serima was sobbing in the dark, hands pressed to her ears to block the sound of Prayer’s distorted shrieking, aware that nothing human should ever sound like that.
“Jobe!” Dropping to her knees and scrambling blindly between the seats, something cut her hand and she grimaced, still moving, out onto a cold flight of steps. Jobe’s hands snaked around her and she gripped him, pressing her eyes shut in the darkness. She still saw the darkness.
All she could thing was, Dream, dream, dream…dream yourself to sleep.
Prayer’s shrieking came from further down this time, writhing and boiling, like no human larynx could create. And then the scream of the Transit driver, deep and raw, as though he realised his soul was about to be disembowelled, the soul of a fool. The sound of wild running down below. He screamed again, cut short this time. And then all was silent.
Serima had her face pressed into the leather of her brother’s jacket. “Oh shit, oh shit…” The silence seemed to ring with an echo of the sounds.
“It’s gonna be all right,” Jobe whispered into her ear. He turned and shouted into the darkness, “Prayer! You handled it? You okay?”
“Jesus Christ,” Serima murmured, trembling.
“Prayer!” Jobe called out again, “Talk to me!”
The voice came from down below, human again and strangely humble. “I’m okay, guys. I’m all right…”
“Come on, Seri, get up.”
“No…” She held her brother tightly.
“Get up.” He pulled her to her feet. “You still got the torch?” In the dark he touched her hand and felt the Maglite gripped tight in her fist. He took it and clicked it on, illuminating his sister’s blank face in front of him. He hooked her arm. “Come.”
They went carefully but quickly down the cold steps that divided the darkness. At the bottom, Jobe took the torch from Serima, sweeping the beam across the floor. Blood, darkest red, almost black. And then something that he realised quickly was the broken body of the Transit driver, lying near the first aisle of seats. “Oh…God.”
The man’s torso was twisted at an impossible angle. Jobe thought he could see ribs torn through the man’s bloodied shirt. He inhaled deeply and turned the torch beam away. “What the fuck did you do to him?”
Prayer was standing near the doors they had come in through. She wore black, but in the torch-light her fists looked dipped in blood. Her neck and the lower half of her face was slick with crimson. She wiped some of the blood from her mouth. Jobe heard himself laughing and it frightened him. “Very cool…” he murmured uneasily.
He glanced back at Serima, putting the light on her. She was standing with her eyes closed. “I don’t want to see it,” she said quietly. She reached out a hand for Jobe to take. “This is really happening…?”
Jobe took her hand and they hurried towards Prayer, who pushed open the scarred doors. “Blood seems to follow you around,” he muttered fearfully, somewhat aroused as he passed her.
“It does,” she replied, smiling, her teeth stained pink in the torch-light.

They hurried out onto Halpern Road. It was dark and cold. It had stopped raining. Night had taken the sky and all the streetlights were on. Across the road, Jobe realised the white Transit was parked behind his Escort. He hurried, sweating, still clutching Serima’s hand. Prayer hurried behind them, hands in her pockets. He glanced at her and saw her trying to hide her face.
She looked like a ghoul and he realised sharply what madness he’d slipped into. “Jobe.” He glanced again and she tossed him a set of blood-smeared keys. He caught them and looked at the Transit. “He bugged your car,” she said, putting her hands back in her pockets. “That’s how he found us.”
Jobe hurried round to the back of the van and unlocked it, glancing for passers by. A man walking his dog, further down the road.
He opened the doors and pulled Serima into the back of the van with him. Prayer quickly stepped up behind them, closing the doors behind her. Jobe sagged against the wall. A shuddering breath escaped him. He glanced at Serima in the half-light created by the partition window. She was crouching beside a stack of boxes. Once Jobe’s eyes began to adjust he read the sides of them - DVD players, laptops, camcorders.
“Are you okay?” he asked his sister. She swallowed and nodded. “Aliens…?” he muttered, but Prayer just pulled off her sweater and began wiping the blood from her hands and mouth. Jobe stared, wiping sweat from his brow. “You killed him.”
“I saved our lives. Get us out of here, majestic.”
Jobe scowled, “The bags are in the car…”
“Fuck the bags, just drive.” Prayer reached into her jeans pocket and removed the large gold coin. It flashed in the half-light. “I got it. Let’s go. They’ll be here any second.”
“Where…?”
“Wells Gate Public Library.”
“What?” said Jobe, as anger began to flare, “Don’t you dare bring Monica into this nightmare…she doesn’t deserve this.”
She grinned and laughed as she continued to wipe the blood away. “I have no idea who Monica is. What I need is inside the building itself. A stone seal for the pathlight, like a security program on a computer. This coin is the key. Let’s go.”
Jobe said nothing to deter her. He left the back of the van and moved round to the front, glancing about. Serima hurried out right behind him, staring at him with hooded eyes. The man with his dog was on the other side of the street now, ahead of them, turning off onto the main road. Jobe’s breath froze in his chest as a he recognised a police car coming down the street. Serima just stared at the ground. He looked pointedly at his keys, his heart suddenly pounding, but the police car passed by and the two officers inside didn’t give him a second glance.
“Shit…” He exhaled deeply, sweating slightly. He unlocked the door and climbed into the driver seat, popping the lock on the other door. Serima went round and climbed in. Through the tiny partition window in the wall behind their heads, in only her bra and jeans, Prayer had taken of her t-shirt and was using it to wipe the blood from her hands and arms. She smiled weakly when she saw them watching her. Jobe started the Transit and pulled away.
“The library?” Serima asked after a few minutes, a tremor in her voice.
“Dad’s place first. I need to know he’s all right.”
“Jobe…this whole thing is utterly insane.”
“I know.”
“She came back to life.”
“I know, googley.”
“She’s a monster,” Serima muttered. “I feel like I’m under a spell.”
Jobe almost burst into tears but somehow stopped himself. He nodded again instead. “I know…but she’s all we’ve got. They’ll find us.”

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