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.’

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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.