Dire Log

‘We’ve been much in need of a biblical plague for a while.’

‘We have?’

‘Of course – it’s the perfect thing for keeping all those lazy buggers on their feet.’

‘What lazy buggers?’

‘The general public.’

‘Bugger that.’

‘That’s what got us here.’

‘What?’

‘Buggery.’

‘Sod that.’

‘Yes, that’s what I’m talking about.’

‘What?’

‘Sodomy.’

‘What in buggery’s name are you talking about?’

‘We live in Sodom and Gomorrah.’

‘Where’s the harm in that? Names on a map.’

‘Or thoughts from a head – symbols crashing; cymbals crashing. The bell tolls for thee and all that crap.’

‘Make sense man.’

‘They think that the reason society is sinking is the fault of the poofs.’

‘Really?’

‘Really.’

‘I thought they all subscribed to some kind of anti-Semitic Zionist new world order conspiracy theory?’

‘Ah, well, that kind of fits in there too – homosexuals and Hebrews are all targets of the oh-so-rational right wing.’

‘The right wing?’

‘Nazis, fascists and all other kinds of anger management issue troubled groups.’

‘So what is their solution?’

‘Much the same as our erstwhile Austrian friend.’

‘Erstwhile …?’

‘And Austrian.’

‘To whom are you referring?’

‘The author of a little tome called Mein Kampf.’

‘Ah, Charlie Chaplin.’

‘No, he was in a film called the Great Dictator.’

‘And he was a great dictator.’

‘Well, if that kind of thing floats your boat. Anyway – that film was based on the man I’m talking about …’

‘Which was who?’

‘I’m getting to that – Herr Hitler; Adolf.’

‘Ah, him.’

‘Yes, him.’

‘What makes you so sure this is a biblical plague, anyway?’

‘Just a figure of speech.’

‘A figure of speech? But saying that it’s biblical rather than a common or garden plague suggest that there is some intent behind, doesn’t it?’

‘I suppose so.’

‘There’s no suppose about it – when on the biblical plagues kicks off it is generally held to be God making a judgment on the state of man. Whereas if it is just something that is occurring as a natural result of something man did or a problematic occurence in the biosphere then it’s just a plain old plague, or rather an epidemic.’

‘Or rather a pandemic. And anyway, I was just pulling your leg about the biblical aspect of it.’

‘Well, it’s got some people scared.’

‘Yes, I know, which is why my thing about keeping people on their toes resonated with you.’

‘I suppose so.’

‘You generally do.’

‘Do what?’

‘Suppose.’

‘What are you talking about?’

‘My humour is lost on you, isn’t it?’

‘You’re being humourous?’

‘My point exactly.’

‘I wish you would make a point.’

‘Did you see that the first case has been reported in this area?’

‘Where?’

‘About twenty miles away.’

‘How severe was it?’

‘Pretty severe.’

‘And how is that?’

‘The person died.’

‘Just one person?’

‘That’s all that’s been reported, but …’

‘But?’

‘Well, deaths from the plague are like cockroaches – there’s never just one, is there?’

‘Probably not.’

‘Definitely not.’

‘Do they know where it came from yet? I must admit I got a bit punchdrunk reading all about it.’

‘They suspect that there was some kind of horizontal gene transfer from one of the genetically altered livestock they’ve been farming on the West Coast. I heard that this particular strain is more apt to catch certain diseases. Well, something odd about their genetic make-up mutated the virus into something they hadn’t seen before. It laid dormant in the meat and was activated when it was consumed by one of the test subjects – then before they knew what was happening they had no test subjects alive and it had passed into the local community and from there it just kept spreading outwards.’

‘So, we don’t have much hope then?’

‘Probably not. We may already have it.’

‘Maybe.’

‘Well, you have been a bit sniffly of late.’

‘I have, and your eyes are markedly red.’

‘Are they?’

‘Yes, they are.’

‘Oh.’

‘Still, it seems to be taking its time. Who knows? We may have built up a resistance.’

‘Unlikely, but possible.’

‘You have to take possibility where it comes.’

‘That you do.’

‘So do you think they’ll find a cure?’

‘Who knows? Maybe.’

‘In time for us?’

‘Unlikely.’

‘Oh.’

‘Well.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Not a great punchline to our lives, is it?’

‘I don’t know. Could be worse.’

‘How?’

‘We could be one of the stupid bastards who started the whole domino rally.’

‘Yeah.’

‘Imagine having that on your conscience.’

‘I think I’d rather feel bad about killing everyone else than dying myself.’

‘A fair point.’

‘I thought so.’

<cough>

‘Bless you.’

‘Thank you.’

<cough>

‘Gezundheit.’

‘Fuck.’

Grit- Hangover

Fairweather friends were not something he was interested in any more – they left him with a sense that he had been fucked over and that there was a debt unsettled; it was something he was uneasy with. He knew people and that was as far as it went – as far as he was interested in allowing it to go.

Drinking got boring after a while – what was it they said? If the hangover seemed to last longer than the night of drinking then it was time to knock it on the head. Dopeheads were not people he wanted to hang out with either – who the hell wanted to talk about weed until the sun came up? He’d smoked some and sure it was pleasant but he couldn’t get into the attendant obsession with talking about it that all the users he knew had.

People told him that he was anti-social; that he needed to get a life – but if the bullshit he saw on display on a regular basis constituted getting a life then he was sure as hell not interested. He’d once thought of himself as a misanthrope but that took too much effort – he’d much rather avoid everyone; only interact when it was necessary. So, what was he doing here? He wasn’t sure that he could rightly say – sometimes you feel the need to dip your toe in the water again – this was that.

He sat there with the bottle of cheap red wine between his feet, the corkscrew in his hand, and he wondered what had been going through his own head to bring him to this particular train of thought. Was it the wine making him melancholy like it usually did? Or was it the slow dawning of a realisation?

This guy that was sitting next to him was annoying and he wondered exactly how long had he been yapping in his ear about nothing? A long time it seemed – too long. He was fed up. He turned to this verbose individual and stared at him – the kind of stare you would give to a lump of shit stuck to the bottom of your shoe. Most people understood that look and removed themselves from his vicinity – this one was obviously not quite that bright: he tried to stare Grit down.

Whether or not he was anti-social, it was most definitely true of Grit that he was a violent man. He was not without patience though – he characterised himself as having a slow-burning fuse; meaning in his own mind that he didn’t act rashly. He could think on his feet as well as the next man, but very rarely would he act off an impulse – that was the kind of thing that got you into trouble.

He hefted the corkscrew in his hand – tiny little thing capable of so much damage. He could stab this bastard and be out of there before anyone noticed. Would people know that it was him? No, why would they? There were enough violent people here for him to get away with hurting someone.

‘Please be quiet; I am trying to think,’ he said, barely turning his head to acknowledge the guy.

‘What? What the fuck’s your problem? Fuck you – I’ll speak where and when I want.’

Grit smiled to himself – oh well, he kind of knew that it was going to play out like that, just having listened to the guy for long enough. Some people you didn’t have to be a psychologist to understand – they wore their attitudes on their sleeve. This one was simply a prick and whatever was said to him would provoke a prickish response. Grit could have left it alone – could have – but didn’t want to. He wanted to needle the guy, push him, see what he would do. Ah, okay, so that wasn’t exactly true – Grit intended to get a reaction out of him so he could have an excuse to take him apart. He swallowed the smile.

‘I’m asking you nicely, but if you insist on being a prick about it we can do this some other way.’

‘Fuck you.’

‘One more polite request and then we’re done with the good manners.’

‘Fuck your polite request in the arse.’

Grit for a second thought how his violence was like a vampire – you had to invite it in. He didn’t like doing things like this that would not bring him some revenue, but sometimes he’d make exceptions; sometimes he went looking for it like every other predator. Although he had been thinking about the corkscrew he hadn’t actually intended to use it and when he pulled it back from punching the guy in the head and had pulled an eyeball with it he had been just as surprised as his victim. The guy started screaming as soon as the brief moment that shock gifted him with had worn off, but Grit was already at the door. Shit – what a stupid fucking thing to do. He looked down at his feet, looked at his hands – the left one covered up to the wrist in blood, and noticed that he still had the corkscrew with the eyeball on the end of it. He lobbed it over his shoulder back towards the house.

Damn – he was going to have to lay low for a while because of this. He was hoping the fact that he was at a party and everyone seemed either stoned or drunk would severely cut down on the number of reliable witnesses. He hoped that he looked as anonymous as he thought he did – that he blended into the background; not many people had talked to him, so that would of course limit the number of people likely to step forward and mention him.

Man, if he hadn’t got too far away – walking quicker than he realised – he would want to go back and do it all again – this was going to cost him. Laying low meant no money which meant hard times which meant when he resurfaced he was going to have take some shit job that he wouldn’t normally touch with a bargepole. Fucking stupid bastard. He was banking on the shock of losing an eye debilitating his main witness and if not he didn’t think it would be too hard to track him down and finish what he’d started.

He stopped off at the local off-licence and picked himself up some more booze – two bottles of Glenfiddich, some dark rum, and a six pack of cheap beer. Time to get wasted. If he was going to have a hangover in the morning he might as well make it a memorable one. Couldn’t be any worse than the one from that bloody party.

Tales Of The Knotlands: Nor Witch, Nor Folk – 1. Which Lights?

1. Which Lights?

The witchlights burned bright; skulls burned black, stripped of skin, and used to hold small pots of oil that were lit to keep the witches away. She’d travelled about three days by foot to get there and it made her nervous to see the lights still in evidence. Hopefully they wouldn’t try to get too close a look at her because if they did then they might see the markings – then it would be her skull that was hot with righteous flame. Everyone out here was scared – more scared than usual since the news had spread around the country about the passing of the Great Bittern.
She’d been sent to meet with an elder of the Untied Knot, the sisterhood who had been charged with the care of the weapons of the Middlelands. They had need of some help in the North and she had been chosen to come and make their petition. She brought offerings – stories, spells, and other things of value to her tribe; and she had the gift if the silver tongue. Daughter of a poet and a High Mage – she was seen as the perfect ambassador; she only hoped she could live up to the faith that they had placed in her.
Maylor was nervous – no one that she knew or had heard of had ventured this far from home and ever made it back. She loved her home and the thought of never seeing it again weighed heavy upon her.
The fear had thankfully never spread out as far as her home – in their region they were held in high esteem and seen as protectors of not just a disappearing way of life of but of the very lifeblood of the land. They had refugees in their coven from all over the place and it puzzled her that one of their number was here, so close to the bosom of the enemy. She knew though that she did not understand all that was going on in this world but if she waited and was patient then an answer might come to her.
She gave the town guard the name she was furnished with and it worked like a skeleton key – perhaps this witch she had come to see had some kind of glamour over these people.For a second she felt slightly safer, but then she reminded herself that if she were to get too comfortable because she was in the presence of someone powerful she might get careless when she was out of it – then she would end up dead. Time would reveal all – this journey may bring nothing but pain to her people; she would be patient.

Grit: Allowance

He pressed the muzzle into the back of her neck – he was watching her face in the mirror and he saw her bite her lip because it was hot. He’d just shot it into the air to put the shits up her and he knew it had worked. Her eyes were liquid but he knew that she wouldn’t cry in front of him – he’d dealt with her before. They’d both been around the block and they had both worked for different people whose line of work had meant that their paths had crossed on more than one occassion. She’d generally been on the wrong end of a shafting and he had been the mouthpiece of whatever bastard it was that had her over a barrel. Part of him wondered if she ever learned from her mistakes; part of him didn’t care.
Sure, she moved around and got into bed with different business partners, but these people she gravitated towards were all the same at the end of the day — everyone else could see that they weren’t to be trusted, so why couldn’t she?
‘We’ve been here before, Sheila, haven’t we?’
‘Yes, Grit, you know we have.’
‘And every single time you have managed to worm your way out of being shot.’
‘Yep. Never did make much sense to me – I know you don’t like me like that, and I know you very rarely have any sympathy for anyone, so what is it? See something of yourself in me, maybe?’
‘Maybe.’
‘Recognise something of your mother in me, perhaps?’
‘Shit, Sheila, you knew that old bitch – if you reminded me of her I’d shoot you dead on the spot; might even get some kind of substitute sense of vengeance from it.’
‘So, can we work it out? We always do, don’t we?’
‘Not this time – I know you don’t have the money; I have a healthy balance in my bank account because I agreed to take you out, and Tommy Genoa is not Mick Spiner. Mick Spiner was a pussy and Tommy isn’t.’
‘Got you scared, huh? Never thought I’d see the day.’
‘Ah, well, then you don’t know much, Sheila. In this line of work I’m scared all the time – makes me sensible; gives me an edge too. Only fools aren’t scared or idiots that don’t have anything to lose – I like myself so I try to keep a hold.’
‘I have someone waiting to shoot you through the head, Grit. Soon as your finger tightens on the trigger.’
‘Didn’t we do this before as well? So this is what they call deja vu, eh? I hope it’s not the same muppet as last time. That dozy fucker couldn’t hit a blue whale from point blank range.’
‘No – he is no longer in my employ. This guy’s French – you may have heard of him – Difficile.’
‘No kidding? I am slightly impressed. But I bet he didn’t tell you about his drink problem, did he?’
‘What?’
‘Oh yeah, shakes like an epileptic under a strobe light when he’s dry and how long’s he been dry?’
‘Fuck.’
‘Fuck indeed, Sheila. Fuck indeed. You know that I don’t usually spend this long nattering? That I generally just blow someone’s brains out and leave?’
‘I enjoy the special treatment.’
‘Not this time.’
‘Come on, Grit, if you were going to do it it would have been done already. You know you don’t want to kill me – for whatever reason, and I think it may be that you actually see someone like you sat in front of you, you can’t do it. Give them the money back and walk away from it.’
He lifted the muzzle from the back of her neck. For a second she looked down and not directly at the mirror – he stepped back into the shadows and he was gone.

Rhett Herring 1: Have Faith

They didn’t believe me when I told them that I had found Jesus masturbating in the vestry – I said I had kicked the dirty fucker in the nuts but he must have crawled away.They sent me to Heil Mary – the result of a genetic experiment combining strands of DNA from the mother of Christ and Hitler; supposed to be the harpy who would herald the coming of a new age of racial purity. I couldn’t stop staring at her thick black moustache and the swastikas where her nipples used to be as she beat me with a riding crop she told me had been sancitifed by the ejaculate of Judas Iscariot.
Given the integration of so much insanity into the fabrics of our daily life, why were they so vehement that my sighting of our lord and saviour was so preposterous? There were a lot of castratos in the order – the results of a mass pact to perform peotomies on themselves; the resulting stash of amputated penises were stolen and fetched exorbitant prices on the market as holy magical objects. I think it had given them an even stranger attitude to sex than most members of holy chapters.
I really didn’t believe in God but the monastery had seemed as good a place as any to hide out while the pogroms against my kind were carried out. When I say my kind I mean mostly people that had an opinion and were not afraid to voice it. Having a mind of one’s own had been pretty much declared illegal around about ten years ago.
Before I stayed here I was rooming above a knocking shop that specialised in women tugging off donkeys for the pleasure of a small and very select clientele. Everything was about sex just like it always had been and when tastes got driven underground they became stranger and stranger as if in protest at being shut away.
I used to be the PA for a very outspoken politician who advocated sex with everything, taking all kinds of drugs, and personal freedoms the likes of which your average simple-minded hayseed from the backwaters of conservative-land had never even conceived of. They assassinated him the day before voters were due to go to the polls and as a result the opposition party, pushing a line of being the lesser of two evils, won by a landslide victory. I was still sat there in the hospital, almost comatose with shock, his brains all over me, as they made the announcement.
It was a victory for the invisible man embodied in the form of the corporation. The country became one more shell company in a shell game that shuffled things about in plain sight and still managed to hoodwink your average joe.
I knew I had to move on because the sanctuary that this place offered was becoming unstable – it represented to the flipside of the insanity outside in the sense that a coin with same face on both sides with one slightly defaced has a flipside. How much longer could I convince these people that I was on their side?

Fluid 1

Kent had to stop before the dogs collapsed — dangerous as it was for him to do so; weighing it up against trying to cross the flats without a sled team though it seemed the best option. Traversing the salt flats where the lakes had once been was always difficult and required far more water than they could comfortably afford, but what was there to do? The Swamp Rats had been hitting them hard for the past two months and the supply lines were soon going to be irreparably damaged if they didn’t get help. They would have to pay whatever mercenaries they found in H2O too, but the costs would be far less than losing to their enemies.

He placed some meat in the processor and waited for it to extract the liquid he needed to keep the dogs alive. It was frustrating that they always had to balance one resource against the other but it was a way of life now. He looked up at the cloudless sky and for a moment was transported back to the Pre-Burn days. How people had once complained if the sky got grey and rain fell to spoil their day? Wouldn’t happen now.

No nuclear holocaust had delivered them into this place, just greed. Not that people were any less greedy nowadays — no one had learnt any lessons or had any great revelations: people rarely did. Anyway, the dogs had had their fill and seemed ready to go again. He couldn’t afford to waste time.

He replaced his goggles and got the dogs on the move again. This white expanse was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. He was old enough to remember snow, old enough to remember when salt had been considered benign. Didn’t do to daydream too much. Hard as it was to believe there were people who lived out here — survivalists who’d adapted to the arid conditions and lived off what scant resources their aging tech could provide them with. Survivalists who would cut your throat and plug you into the Drains they had and drink your body’s water content like vampires would.

Time stretched out before him like the geographic amnesia he had been pulled across and he prayed for it to go quickly. Liftpoint was further than he remembered. Could the theories about the expansion of the salt flats be correct? If it were it didn’t bode well for any of them. What use were desalination plants if there were no water content there at all?

The dogs were starting to whimper again but they would just have to carry on. If any of them fell they were going to be used to assuage the thirst of the others; he hated doing it but that was the way it was going to have to be. Thank god they had got out of the habit of naming animals — they were just resources now. If he had to kill something that he’d named he wouldn’t have been able to do it.

The sun was low in the sky and the shadows were lengthening. If anything were going to happen this is the hour where he would expect it. He reached down to his side and brought up his gun and began checking it to make sure that everything was in order.

Grit: Sonshine 1

Twenty years ago he made a mistake – another mistake; some of them evaporate in an instance and the rest of them hang around to dog you ever after. Grit tried not to make too many mistakes because the ones he did make were fucking momentous. How the hell could he shake this one off? He never wanted a son; he never embarked on that path, and if the bitch had let him know he would have told her to get shot of it.
‘So, son, what exactly do you want from me?’
‘To get to know you.’
‘I’ll be honest, I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I mean I live, by most standards, a pretty fucked up life, and it’s just not safe to bring anyone else in on that.’
‘I know about you.’
‘Oh, and what do you think you know about me? What your mother told you? Son, I can tell you that whatever she thought she knew about me was pretty limited. I never spoke about my work to anyone; especially not someone that I was having a casual affair with. Why? Because it was dangerous for them and it would complicate things for me. I just don’t need the aggravation.’
‘That’s what you see me as?’
‘Yeah, it is. I don’t know what the hell you were expecting but this was never going to be some great touchy-feely reunion. Shit, from what little your mother did say she must have painted a picture of me that was in some way accurate? That I am, at heart, a cold heartless bastard who would sell his own mother out in an instant.’
‘She did say something along those lines, yeah.’
‘But you thought she might just be bitter about me leaving her high and dry, and you’d come and see for yourself, eh?’
‘Yeah, that’s about it.’
‘Well, she wasn’t being bitter – she was being honest. She never hunted me down in all these years and it isn’t that hard – look how easy you found me. Now, bearing that in mind you have to ask yourself why that was the case? The simple answer is because she knew that it was a bad idea to have kids around someone like me.’
‘But I’m not a kid anymore.’
‘Yes, son – you are. Juts because you have some hair on your balls it doesn’t make you a man, and most men are underqualified to exist in the world that I live in – you have to be a fucking monster everyday to survive. You don’t want that for yourself, and I don’t want to have worry about someone who I put in a place that they never belonged. What do you do with yourself most days?’
‘I paint. I’m studying art at college.’
‘Good – go back to it. Fuck off and never come back here again – this place is not for you.’
Grit got up and he left the cafe; walked away and did not look back once.