Haruspex: Part 1 – Cherubim

By the time that they realised it was a cherub and not a small bird that they had prepared for the oven it was too late. Their hunger had been great upon them and they had acted without thought — hunger drove them and hunger had damned them. Was God mocking them that he would offer them up such a meal?

Well, they had prepared it, it looked good, so why not eat it? They put the oven on at gas mark 6 and set the timer for about the same amount of time as a turkey would take. How were they to know how long angels took to cook? There weren’t many cookbooks with that kind of recipe in them, were there?

As the smell of the meat drifted into them in their living room, they began to salivate, imagining what it would taste like if it smelt that good. They were watching Calamine Hughbolt, the latest number one televangelist with a direct line to god, what would he do? Who cared? It surely couldn’t be bad, could it?

No, it wasn’t bad. It was beautiful. Neither Hubert or Mary had ever tasted such succulent, flavoursome meat before in their life. What were they going to do if they could never taste such meat again? Surely they would go mad?

But where in the hell were they going to get another cherub? What could lure one down?

That night, as they lay in bed reading their respective books, Hubert and Mary tried to come up with cunning plans they might put into effect.

They were woken as they slept by a strange noise. Unsure what it might be, Hubert went downstairs so that he might get a torch and go exploring. Mary lay upstairs with the covers pulled up to her chin.

Hubert did not return to bed. Mary waited for what she thought was a sensible amount of time and she followed her husband downstairs. She walked through the living room. She then walked into the kitchen.

A man sat there on one of her good seats with his feet up on her good table. He had a broad grin on his face and a wicked glint in his eye.

‘What are you doing in my kitchen?’ said Mary, in an indignant voice ‘and what in the hell has happened to my husband?’

‘Let us just, say,’ said the man ‘That you opened a message that was meant for me and I had to recover it.’

‘A message?’ she said, looking very confused ‘What do you mean?’

‘My little cherub.’

‘Your little …’

‘Yes, now your husband contained the first part of the message …’

‘Yes?’

‘But the crux of it seems to be missing … and I need to read it.’

Haruspex: Part 0 – In The Beginning

In the beginning there was light … the blue touch-paper and stand back. Fireworks! God didn’t make the world in 7 days: he found it at the back of a warehouse he’d been renting and had forgotten about. His PA, Gabriel had been going through the books when he found a few shadow companies masking some secret organisation which, for all he could tell, had been set up for the sole purpose of renting a warehouse to store one object: The Universe.

Once he’d kickstarted it all he wanted to have some fun, so he started thinking about what he could put in it. People were what came to mind. Now received wisdom is most definitely wrong on which sex came first — it was woman. God wanted something to look at and as far as he was concerned men weren’t that aesthetically pleasing (he based this on the men in his own reality, which is outside of our universe, obviously).

Men were created because he was going through a voyeuristic phase and wanted to make women do dirty things. He knew Lucifer would stir it up, so he let him loose on the world. Lucifer got big-headed and stood up to God, tried to change a few things. That was the start of the first war in heaven.

‘What’s that you’re writing, Gabe? Can I have a look? Lemme see.’

‘It’s nothing interesting, sir, just some poetry I’ve been writing.’

‘Poetry? Uurgh.’

‘Yes, sir, poetry. You haven’t forgotten have you?’

‘What, Gabriel?’

‘That Married With Children is showing back-to-back repeats?’

‘Oh, really? Now Gabriel, did you get my …’

‘Yes, sir, the toffee flavour popcorn is in the cupboard over the oven, and your chocolate milkshake is in the fridge.’

Gabriel sighed, went to open his book, The History Of The World, which he had been writing since that stock-check had turned it up in that warehouse, and then closed it again. He wished he had access to that book God had, but he had to settle for knowing about things as they happened and not before. What did he care? Besides, the present was a big enough handful as it was.

Grit – Family Matter 1

Weddings and funerals and all the other clichéd bullshit were not something that Grit bothered with, but this was a special occasion … this was someone he wanted to see them lower into the ground. No one would recognise him he hoped, and if they did, what of it? Who was likely to approach him and tackle him on anything?

He got to the church early so that he could choose where he got to sit. Pick the perfect entry and exit point. You would think it was a military exercise the way he treated it and in some ways he found it as dangerous to his personal integrity as any job he ever went on; in fact the jobs were easier because all you had to do was go in and kill someone and he knew how to do that. He didn’t know how to do social situations so well – it was why he was perfect for what he did. The lone wolf with few attachments. Thank god he didn’t know too many people so these events were few and far between anyway – that narrowed the field, then the fact that he cherry-picked from them meant it was barely a problem. Still, he surprised himself that he was even bothering with this.

John was a criminal too. Not a good one but good enough to have put food on his family’s table for this many years – you had to respect that. John had done time and not bitched about it once – it went with the territory as far as he was concerned. It was a while since Grit had spoken to him – their father’s funeral he thought. Grit had put a bullet in the back of the skull of one of John’s friends. He knew it before he took the job: it paid to do your research, and he had known it wouldn’t sit well with his brother but he was a business man and it made good business sense. John sent him a message to the effect of honour among thieves. Grit left him a one word message: business. And that was that.

And now this. Cancer – what a fucked up way for a warrior to get taken out. They always talked about themselves like that. That old samurai saying: truth is a feather, honour is a mountain. Grit had come to consider it a childish inconvenience – he hooked himself into the capitalist ideal – filthy lucre all the way. Morality wasn’t such a point of concern given that he was almost exclusively killing criminals. John was too fucking precious about the whole thing.

Grit: First Round 1

His hands were shaking and his mouth was dry – he needed to get a grip or he was never going to be able to fire that gun. Baker had shown confidence in him that he could do this job and he had sold himself well – much better than he had thought himself able. Grit had no patter but he had more brains than most of the guys who ended up as muscle. He had ambition. He had been in a few fights and he had a flair for violence. It was strange how this leap from hurting someone to killing them was affecting him though. It was not something he had expected this hesitance.

Baker had vision as far as Grit was concerned though – he had told Grit that he saw him doing well in this business and that this job would be the first of many. Baker was old school and didn’t bother with all the bullshit that the newcomers went in for; Baker wasn’t flash – he was down to earth and straight forward. Baker was a proper hard man. Hard men – they could see something in you that soft men couldn’t; those men who never made a life-altering decision, the ones who hid from life in the comfort of their routine, Grit had never understood them. Men who exerted power over others, who took what they wanted – they were the ones that he had always looked to for answers. His father was a peaceful man and he didn’t make any sense to Grit. The real world walked over pacifists; ignored them; they rarely made the history books as far as he could see. Most of history was filled with the warriors – the brave men who had defended their countries, conquered others. They were all hard men. Grit knew what he had to become: what he was already becoming.

An untraceable gun, a full round, and a folder full of information. He had not thought it would be that easy for something like this to be arranged, but then he supposed he didn’t think in the same way as his bosses yet. He was good at spotting flaws in a plan though: he had prevented several heists going down badly. Why? Because he didn’t trust entirely to another man’s word and he did his own research. That is what he had done here. He had been tailing this guy since he had been given the folder – double-checking every nuance of his routine to make sure that he could pick the best possible time to kill him.

writer’s block 1: starting block

Directive 451 was passed to halt the dissemination of ideas in print. There was still a small enclave of people, so it was rumoured, who could pick up a pen and knock out a story, but most of the writers had been gathered up and dumped in one place: Block I, or Writer’s Block as it became known.

Persiflage Interlocutor had been held there for what he thought was three weeks. there were no books to read, obviously, there was no paper to write with, and the drug they took knocked out their speech centres. What could a writer do? Well, if he was blessed with an eidetic memory and an imagination that could help God out if he had to repopulate the universe, there was a fair amount you could spend your time doing.

Pers sat in the corner of the communal room watching all the inhabitants move about in their daily bubbles of boredom. He watched JJ, the renowned linguistic acrobat banging his head against the wall. Floris, the attractive romance novelist rocked back and forward in an attempt to find comfort. Countless others circumnavigated normal behaviour as their minds deteriorated through prolonged lack of use. They had been here much longer.

They didn’t need any guards. The automated system sufficed. Writer’s Block caused the symptom it was named after in most and the creative block seemed to extend to escape attempts. Persiflage wasn’t exactly keeping quiet about his different situation: how exactly could he talk? But had he thought about escaping? No, he needed some peace and quiet and this place was perfect: he would think of it as a writer’s retreat.

Roulette Reality 1: Fire

Roulette reality one, spin and fire. They called it a hammer, a trigger: it was in truth a massive burst of energy drawn off from a caged singularity that they used to slice and dice reality into chunks that their quantum computer told them were there. Comparing it to a gun seemed somewhat childish to him, but what could you expect when the military were all over them like white on rice? You got fucked out of originality and creativity by people who either wanted to shoot everything or beat it up.

Thank god their theory about there being a certain amount of elasticity in the fabric of spacetime was holding true otherwise they were just forcefully smashing their way into places that they shouldn’t be. It didn’t feel like exploration – it felt like invasion, and that gave him a somewhat bad taste in his mouth. How did you get rid of that shit? Find a way to scupper the experiment perhaps? Screw yourself out of a cushy job? Wasn’t there some other way?

Perhaps if he fired himself into one of these places he might discover an answer. He an idea that they may be doing some kind of permanent damage to whatever overarching structure they were failing to see due to their limited perspective. Was an instinct enough to act upon? It was all so unscientific. Sometimes you couldn’t rely purely on logic in some situations – why? Because it took too damned long to weigh up all the pros and cons; sometimes you knew you just had to act.

He drank some specially prepared fluids to adjust his electrolite balance, suited up, and began to fire up the machine. He had a re-call device attached and he had the redial code transcribed into his memory tablet just in case. He was more than slightly nervous but he had been through this procedure a thousand times.

The Insertion Cannon hummed, its iris like a whirlpool with a heart of fire, and then it released its stream of energy. The snag protocol kicked in fifteen seconds later and he felt the punch of the propulsion knock the breath from him. He was journeying into one of the multitude of worlds – off in search of answers. A true empiricist.

word gains 1

I know that when they sit there and they read the words that I have put down that they are not reading the story, they are reading me. It is good to sometimes have the distance of anonymity between you and your readers. If every described suicide, every murderer, and every zany idea expressed reflects on you then how can anyone get used to the shifting geography of what you are? Where does the truth of your survive?

I know that when some people think of me they think of a sad fiction; a tale that spins out from the impetus of a tear-drop lost amongst raindrops falling in a puddle and sending out ripples. Do they imagine me sat there on the edge of the curb watching trash floating away to an unspecified somewhere? Writing haiku post-it notes that I fold into cranes and set upon the flow. I am a watercolour under the spreading stain of spilt ink – a vision used as a blotter.

I try to imbue some of the passages I write with the quality of sunshine but they are few and far between. It is strange – the mood of my fiction is generally no indication of where I am at mentally or spiritually but it is often taken as such. People read the poetry and make that into metaphor and idea and miss the obvious messages. These are the things that happen to a writer I suppose. Strung between the intention and the interpretation; though put like that it doesn’t sound much different from everyone else’s life, though it represents another layer of the onion perhaps. Are you trying to communicate or disappear behind a equivocation? Are you playing word games?

The bad things are taken, turned around in the head, chewed over, purposely made more sharp and then left there for people to cut themselves on. The good things are polished, held up to the light, flashed at people like a momentary brilliance of sunshine bouncing off a window, and then spirited away. We glory in the shadows – they are the playground in which we exercise our minds. It is inevitable that this can colour the world.

Sat hunched over the keyboard, all the pieces of literature I have read, all the films I have watched, all the paintings I have enjoyed, all the music I have listened to, pressing behind the filter of my mind’s eye and trying to escape. It all blends together, ricochets off the events of the day that are prominent in my short term memory and ends up in whatever twisted form I wish to call the story I am working on. Always a different story – always the same story. I drink coffee, surf the internet, read, listen to tunes – all of this going on as I write. It is an act of chemistry – a living process.