Else City 4: This Shit That Is Reality

Pursey was head of the Clean Up Crew and he was a famously bad tempered bastard; he did not like dealing with people from other departments: dealing with the inanimate and decimated had fractured his mind into compartments where quiet horror constituted the biggest drawer and social niceties had one of the smaller allotments.
He hawked up a healthy wad of phlegm and targetted the ground just in front of O’Halligan. Normally O’Halligan would have cracked him upside his head but he just thought to himself how this guy was going to fit right in with whatever it was residing in that place.
As Pursey and his men entered the property there was an atmospheric shift – it felt as if the space they were occupying was collapsing in on itself; everyone looked as oppressed as they obviously felt. The high pitched whine which pierced the air had been building so gradually a few of them had thought they were suffering tinnitus, but it became apparent that all of them were hearing it, and then it turned into a hybrid scream / drill noise that had them all clutching their heads. A few people started to leak blood from the ears – they were all paralysed by the pain, all looking towards the place where Pursey had gone.
O’Halligan was expecting the place to explode and all of them to come stumbling out aflame and shrieking in agony but it was much more mundane – Pursey looked totally unfazed, as if he dealt with this kind of shit everyday, and in some ways that was exactly what he did.
He exited with a large specimen jar, a huge grin spread across his face.
‘Know what we have here, ladies and gentleman?’
When he got no response, he continued: ‘We have a pocket universe – that thing which started to dissolve O’Halligan’s suit was not acid, but a supercondensed pocket of reality, one antithetical to our own universe. Whilst it is held in what, for the moment I am going to call an egg, it runs just like our universe would (an hermetically sealed continuum) but when the thing is burst or broken it becomes something less stable – a hybrid entity which can no longer subsist by itself and which attacks that around it.’
‘Ok, Pursey, so where does this little scientific miracle come from?’
‘Glad you asked, O’Halligan, where it comes from is the anus of the thing which consumed those people in there.’
‘Run that by me again.’
‘OK, so the thing which ate those human beings in there digested them and shit out brand new universes.’
‘And how is that possible?’
‘That part I haven’t quite worked out. One has to wonder, if reality is the waste product this thing craps out, then what exactly is it that it is digesting?’
‘Forbes, tell me this isn’t fucking with your head.’
‘Oh, I can’t tell you that, O’Halligan – it is a skullfuck and no mistake.’
‘So, what do we do about it?’
‘Well, while Pursey takes this boil back to the lab and looks at it, we go and have a drink in some dive bars and see of anything doesn’t float to the top.’
‘Sounds like a plan.’

PLayed Your Eyes 4: Human Interest

You don’t have to be old to be a veteran these days – barely have to be out of short pants to have been dragged into the war. They aren’t handing out any medals so don’t expect any, but you might get to eat better than anyone else in the country right now.
Sid was twelve, joined up somewhere around Chester when the Midland Boys swung through and razed the place to the ground. He’d been living rough, chased out of his home by his drunken father who said the country was going to the dogs and he was damned sure not going to keep a mangy pup in the house who might turn round and bite him at any moment. It was a common story reiterated a thousand times, more – it bound them close.
He made his first kill in the battle for Cambridge – his tally grew quickly thereafter. He didn’t even think about it now – point, squeeze the trigger, re-sight, squeeze the trigger. A thousand yard stare from a stone cold killer. And Sid felt like he was burned out already – like this PEACE shit was all well and good to talk about, but in truth how did they just expect everyone to shift gears so quickly?
Killing people had given his life some kind of meaning and purpose – it had become as natural as breathing. What was he going to do now they had won? Sure he had heard the plans the same as everyone else, but he found it hard to imagine a day where he didn’t wake up, march, find an enemy and kill them.
He was thinking that he would volunteer for the clean-up operations because there were bound to be stragglers from the other side who just didn’t want to get with the program. People who were the enemy who, like him, didn’t know how to let go of what they had become.
He sparked up, drew deep. He looked around him – who here wasn’t fucked up and lost to the seduction of the war drums? It was messed up, but he didn’t think he wanted it to be over. What would he be without this? What could he ever do after having done this for so long? They had made him and now they wanted to take him apart, and to be honest he wasn’t sure he could live with that; wasn’t sure he was willing to sacrifice himself for the greater good.
For Sid the journey wasn’t over and he felt that it never would be, until he had either killed the last of his enemies, or they had killed him. That made sense to him – the idea that he would go out like that, fighting bravely for something he believed in – that made him happy. He just didn’t understand the other option that they were offering him; they hadn’t built that possibility into him.

Dogleg Hinterland 4

That night was a strange one – her mother came to her as she slept; arriving as the Whispergate Sentinels always arrived: as a rumour of smoke that wrapped itself around an idea, gradually cinching its grey ribbons more tightly until it became solid. Why would she choose tonight of all nights to manifest herself, after so long of being an absentee in her daughter’s life? She did not say anything but it looked as if she was involved in some kind of mummer show, her hands moving in a suggestive manner that Madrigal could not quite decipher. She tilted her head back, held her hand to her mouth and appeared to silently howl; once this act was complete she began to flap her wings and she flew away.

In the dream Madrigal looked down and saw that her mother had left her shadow behind: an inky pool in which a bird seemed to be struggling. What sort of bird was it? Madrigal knelt to lift it from the oily substance, thinking at first that it was dove – the black patches being merely the stains of the fluid. The bird did not coo like a dove however, it let out a cackle like dry twigs breaking, and she knew that it was a Magpie. It spoke: “One For Sorrow,” and then it flew away.

A second Magpie appeared, told her that two stood for joy, and dropped a picture of a strange looking man with two straight blue lines tattooed beneath his eyes. The bird wandered around after making its delivery, which strangely made Madrigal feel more uneasy than the first message.

Why was her dream in this particular form? Birds were no friends of hers – was the Nest playing fames with her? She hoped not. The third Magpie wore a gold chain about its neck with the name Lorelei carved into it. This bird seemed to laugh at her. Three for a girl.

Four for a boy came, and if a bird can be considered solemn, this bird was so. The Myomancer – this was who she was told to expect. A smiling face shimmered for a second in her mind and then dissipated. A Myomancer? She was not sure that she even knew what that meant? Some form of divination? How and where she was supposed to meet him she couldn”t fathom.

Magpie number five landed and reached into the pool of umbra – it withdrew a small silver ring and it told her: “You will pay your way to the moon with this.” This bird dived into the pool – something she would never have imagined a magpie doing, and it disappeared.

Number six merely flew over her head and dropped the ring that it was its duty to deliver – shouting as it passed “This is to pay the sun.” She watched it as it flew into the distance, seemed to reflect the sun upon the blackness of its wings and then, like a coal, ignited and burned away to nothing.

Number seven wished to hang around for a while. “I can’t tell you much,” it said.

“I thought you couldn’t tell me anything.”

“Well, not directly, of course, but I might offer to you a tidbit; a hint; a shiny gew-gaw. There’d be no fun in not getting you a bit worked up, after all, am I not the most important in this charm of magpies? Of course I am.

“Okay, here goes – things in the nest are hatching for you. A sage fool sings the blues but you will be carried away on the back of another harmony. While the cats away the mice shall play. The moon is an egg. The sun is an eye. And lastly, as an extra favour at no extra charge – a wolfskin is worn by one you once knew. Fare thee well, traveller.”

Madrigal then seemed to wake, but she knew that it was not a true waking – just another level of the dream: in one hand she held a canine tooth and in the other a small bird skull. She woke in this strange bed in this strange merchant’s house and she tried to figure out what it all might mean. If the day were as interesting as the night it would definitely be one to remember.

Grit 4

The map was good. Who knows, perhaps Gary was worried about Grit coming back for him? This was not going to be one of those situations where you could sit there and work out the best line of approach – this was going to be a case of walk in armed to the teeth and empty clip after clip of bullets into whomever the fuck walked towards you. Well, shoot them if they looked like they might shoot you. Uncle John was not a nice man – he was well known for that fact. John was a rung down on the ladder from Grimoire but he had muscle and he had brains so it wouldn’t be too long before he was ready to make the move up the foodchain.

Why the hell John would take in someone that Grimoire was after was anyone’s guess. Perhaps he thought the kid deserved a break, or maybe he thought it might draw Grimoire out and allow him to make a move on him. Could just be a fuck you to Grimoire; could just be a fucking stupid mistake. He supposed he would find out soon enough.

He was scoping John’s farm house out, making sure that it wasn’t going to be any more complicated than it first appeared. He was lighting up a fag when he heard a twig snap behind him. It was sloppy as hell to just turn into the swing of a club though. Grit’s last thought was: what the fuck is wrong with me? And then he went down into the dark curl of unconsciousness.