The last thing James expected to happen when he decided to go down to the convenience store to get milk that evening, was to be shot and killed.
That’s probably inaccurate there are things that he expected even less like the man behind the counter turning into a custard unicorn with a horn made of jelly babies, or even something weirder. But of all the things that were actually likely to happen to James, being shot and killed were probably fairly low the the list of his expectations.
He’d picked up the milk and put it in his basket, half fat because he had to maintain his girlish figure but not fully skimmed because that stuff just tasted like white water, he always joked to his friends; and was perusing the confectionary isle for a chocolate bar that caught his fancy. James figured he could justify a chocolate bar on account of drinking the half fat milk.
He was just thinking that the chocolate selection in America was so much worse that what he was used to in the UK when a man wearing a balaclava burst in through the door of the store.
The man yelled at the poor guy behind the counter to give him all the money in the register.
“I’m sorry I can’t open the register without you making a purchase sir” The clerk was a bastion of politeness and customer service, even given the circumstances.
James wondered if this place got robbed often, maybe the clerk had developed a protocol for being held up, perhaps it was part of the training that every employee had to partake in before they were allowed on the night shift?
The man in the balaclava, picked up a packet of gum threw it at the clerk then and reached into his pocket grabbed some coins and slammed them on the counter.
“There keep the fucking change, now give me all the money in the fucking register!” The man shouted at the clerk, his gun and his focus never left the clerk.
James pondered the absurdity of the situation, the man in the balaclava paying to hold up the store. He also made a mental note that should he be interviewed by the police he would not be able to refer to the man wearing a balaclava as such as he didn’t think that balaclava was a word that they used in America, and he would want his testimony to be as useful as possible, he would henceforth need to refer to the man as the man in the ski mask.
As James was following this train of though he noticed that there was a broom sitting leaning against one of the shelves, while a broom was not normally what James would have thought of as a weapon it occurred to him that it would probably suffice in the case of an emergency, and if ever there was an emergency this was probably one.
The man in the ski mask seemed fully engrossed in holding up the clerk, James wasn’t even sure that given the circumstances the clerk remembered that there was anyone else in the store. Which was fair enough as the poor soul had other things on his mind.
James’ hand reached for the broom slowly but surely. A little voice in the back of his mind whispered to him.
“Don’t be a hero.”
His hand kept on moving slowly and silently, he was like a ninja!
Again the voice in the back of his mind said a little louder this time:
“Don’t be a hero.”
James imagined as his fingers wrapped around the broom handle the interview he would have with the local news caster.
A pretty blonde reporter was interviewing him, the byline scrolling on the bottom of the screen:
“Tourist stops robbery in progress.”
He was answering the reporters questions, with his suave Scottish accent all the while seducing the reporter whom he would ask out for a drink once she was done interviewing him, they’d have a couple of beers, end up going back to her’s and who knows what might happen.
James exited his reverie determined that he was going to save the day, he would singlehandedly foil this deviant’s plan to terrorize the neighborhood.
The voice in the back of his mind was literally screaming at this point:
“Don’t be a fucking hero!”
For some reason the voice in that back of James’ mind had a much thicker scottish accent than his, it was much more gruff than his, none the less James paid the voice no notice, he was a man of action! He’d lived in Glasgow most of his life, the most dangerous city in the world, he’d heard some say. He could handle a two bit American criminal.
The voice tried once to ask him not to be a hero, it’s tone had seemingly gone from self righteous anger to pleading.
“The man has a fucking gun you twat, don’t be a fucking hero”
James shushed his internal inhibitions, he was going to be a hero, the man in the ski mask was a criminal and he was just the man to show him what for and bring him to justice.
James crept round the isle broom in hand, wielding it confidently as he were holding excalibur it’s self, and why not his cause was just. He was a knight in shining amour, or at least he would be were he not wearing scruffy jeans and a faded t-shirt from a gig he’d been to when he was 17.
He turned the corner and made to rush the unsuspecting vagrant.
This is where is all went a little wrong…
To a casual observer, not that one would be able to casually observe a convenience store being held up by a man in a balaclava, or ski mask for that matter, things would have moved too quickly for it to be apparent exactly what went wrong.
It might have been the fact that James in his haste knocked over an entire shelf of cereal boxes as he charged towards the man in the ski mask.
It might also have been the fact that the man in the ski mask noticed movement in the mirror behind the counter that allowed the clerks, in times of peace, to keep and eye out for shoplifters while they had their backs turned towards the store.
It might have been that the man in the ski mask saw a reflection of James running towards him broom raised above his head.
Whatever it was that tipped off the man in the ski mask that someone meant him ill, did not matter. Whatever the cause may have been the effect was the same, the man spun round and yelled a defiant shout of “Fuck you buddy! What the fuck do you think you are doing!” and opened fire in the direction of his assailant.
This brings us full circle to where we began.
The first bang was in fact followed by several others, James had he been in a different situation might have thought to count the bangs, if he were an action hero in a movie, he would have deftly dodged the bullets, strafing from side to side counting the bangs one by one. He’d have known that the gun the man with the ski mask was holding was a 9mm Glock 17, he’d have been able to count out the bullets one by one until it’s cartridge was empty then take advantage of the man’s vulnerability to neutralize him.
James was not however, an action hero, he was an unemployed ex-barman from Glasgow. He was in New York not to fight crime but to see if he could find out anything about his dead mother.
Not that his mother had died in a criminal attack, he was not a soldier of fortune on a mission of vengeance, his mother had died 25 years ago giving birth to him in a New York hospital having gotten pregnant while studying at Columbia University.
He’d been taken back to, and raised in sunny Glasgow by his grieving grandmother, who hadn’t at that point even known that her daughter was pregnant.
None of this really helped James evade the bullets, or indeed neutralize the man wearing the ski mask. As a result several if not all the bullets hit James square in the chest slowing down his charge, and causing him to drop down to the ground.
While it may not have been the means by which James had intended it to occur, his actions did foil the nefarious plan of the man in the ski mask, who yelled.
“Fuck! Shit! Fuck!” And promptly left the premisses.
James last memories before he died, such as one can have memories before one dies, were of searing pain in his chest, being thrown onto a stretcher and into an ambulance, and a rhythmic beeping sound that slowly faded to a single tone.
Perhaps James should have listened to that voice at the back of his head. In fact had the voice not been James’ own self conscious, and had James not at this point been dead, the voice would probably have smugly said:
“I fucking told you so”
But alas James was dead, and the voice was probably his subconscious exercising what little common sense he had. In any case it’s warning and it hypothetical smug retort fell on dead, quite literally, ears, as James had breathed his last breath.
Or had he…
James was sitting in a waiting room, or at least the place he was in had a waiting room like feel to it, it was the embodiment of the abstract concept of a waiting room with only some of the details filled in. He was sitting on an uncomfortable plastic chair, there was a large sign that had a single number illuminated on it in red digits, and somewhere off in the distance he knew even though he could not see it there was a receptionist’s window, probably with an abstract grumpy receptionist sitting on the other side of a pane of abstract glass, with abstract holes drilled through it in a circle so that the receptionist could hear what people on the other side of the glass were saying without having to risk being in the same space at them.
The number on the counter currently sat at 8,068,239,893, which James thought was quite a high number. James’ memory of the recent past was a little fuzzy, he wondered why he was here, and what he was waiting for. Somewhere in the back of his mind he had a faint memory, like a dream of having gone out to buy milk; because he’d wanted a cup of tea and had only discovered that he’d run out of milk after he’d boiled the kettle and poured the hot water into the mug to infuse the teabag.
At the memory of his abandoned tea James became very thirsty and looked around the waiting room to see if there was some sort of drinks vending machine that might dispense tea, or as a compromise coffee.
He could not see one, but it was at this point what James noticed that he had in his hand a slip of paper, the slip had a single number on it the number was 8,068,239,900 he looked up at the screen which now read 8,068,239,895 and though to himself that at least he wouldn’t have long to wait.
He looked around him to see who else was waiting, it was a very strange sensation, although he could tell that there were people around him he could not make out any of their features, it was as if he was surrounded by ghosts.
For some reason James found this less disconcerting than he thought he should, this in its self disconcerted James no end.
James shifted his gaze back to the counter with it’s large red illuminated numbers, the ticket in his hand and the seat he sat on were the only things that seemed tangible in the otherwise hazy waiting room. As he looked at it the 5 gained an extra line transforming it as if by magic into a six, and on cue from the haze around him a figure rose, he could not tell if the figure was far away or close, whether it was a man or a woman, adult or child. He tried to focus his vision on the figure and it was as if his vision was being bent around it, he knew it were, and that it had features of some sort, but he could not bring him self to see them, it was both like and unlike the people that have their faces blurred out in realty cop shows, except instead of having it’s face blurred out this person had it’s entire existence blurred out.
James decided that he had to take some form of action, this being that had been summoned, was the most tangible thing in the room, aside from the counter, his ticket and his chair, he resolved to stand up and try and confront the person; perhaps he, she or in fact it could explain what the hell was going on.
James abruptly stood up, and though he knew he was standing, he also seemed to have remained seated, it was very confusing, it was as if he existed in two different waiting rooms a the same time, in one he was still seated and in the other he was standing, the ground below felt both insubstantial and yet somehow solid, firm enough to stand on he thought, which meant it was firm enough to walk on.
James took one step and then another towards the semi substantial person, with each step James felt the eerie sensation that he was leaving himself behind, he was at once still sitting down on the chair, and standing, he was also still int process of making each and every step he had made towards the ghostly figure who’s number had so recently been called.
James felt stretched thin it was exhausting existing in so many places at once, deep down he knew that he was not supposed to be doing what he was doing, that he was bending if not breaking the rules. What did he care, he had never been informed of any rules, there was no handbook to this place that told him what he was doing was some kind of faux pas and, more importantly, no one was stopping him. James took this last fact to be a sign that what he was doing was probably fine, not definitely but probably. Although in the back of his head a little voice, perhaps the same voice that had previously told him not to be a hero, told him that he was probably going to regret doing what he was doing and that he should probably just sit down and wait his turn.
James had no recollection of previously hearing that voice and at the moment was so hell bent on confronting the figure that was moving slowly in the direction of the abstract receptionists mirror that it might as well have fallen on deaf ears.
As James trudged towards the figure, who was at once close very close to him and very far away it seemed as if he was oddly getting both closer to the person and further away. As with many things that James was currently experiencing he found it very hard to describe what he was experiencing, if he had to describe at that moment exactly what he was experiencing it would be like looking at something through a pair of binoculars where one of the two eye pieces had been reversed so that instead of magnifying what one saw through it it shrank it. Except that it wasn’t magnifying and shrinking what he saw but rather his very existence.
Eventually James reached the point where he was both as close as he could be to the person and as far away as he could possibly be, he reached out to touch it and for a moment, possibly a fraction of a moment, felt something tangible then his hand passed right through it as if it were not there at all. The being or creature of person seemed to stiffen as his hand passed through it, it stopped moving towards the abstract receptionist’s window that may of may not have been there and shuddered, giving the impression that one might expect from a more corporeal being had it just experienced the odd sensation of someone walking over it’s grave.
The being as it were then proceeded to continue walking towards the location of the abstract receptionist’s window, which James assumed now probably existed, mainly because if it didn’t he had not idea where else he was going to go when his number came up. As it moved away James noticed that under it’s arm it had a large green folder, the type that hung from railings in a drawer in a filing cabinet, the kind that doctors used to keep patient records in before they started using computers. The folder was filled with paper, so full that he did not know how it could hold that much paper and still be tucked under the person’s arm. James looked down at his hands, all he had was his little slip of paper, the number 8,068,239,900 emblazoned on it in pure black ink, he has no folder, brimming with whatever documents, forms and records such a folder might hold, he wondered to himself whether or not this was a bad thing.
He decided that there was little to do standing where he was, and given that he seemed to be quite stretched as he was existing sitting down, standing up and in each and every one of the steps that he had taken to get where he was, the most sensible thing he could do was to return to his seat and await his turn.
As he thought this, the many Jameses folded together, converging into one singular James, who was now sitting waiting patiently in his uncomfortable plastic chair.
The number on the the counter now read 8,068,239,898, not long to got James thought, for better or for worse, large green folder brimming with paper or not, James’ number would soon be up.
It seemed that time behaved just as strangely as space in the waiting room in which James found himself. The numbers rolled on one by one and it seemed to happen both at an alarming speed and at a pace that could only be described as glacial.
All of a sudden after what seemed like several eons had passed the number on the counter flipped, the last three digits rolled over and finally the display read 8,068,239,900. It was time, but time for what?
James stood up and took a look round him, looking for some clue as to where he should go to honor his ticket, he knew there was a reception desk somewhere but he had up until this point no concept of where it was.
The world around him had seemingly grown more tangible in the fraction of a second it had taken the bright red digits to flicker from 8,068,239,899 to 8,068,239,899 around him he could see the confines of the waiting room, there was a notice board with leaflets and informational posters on it:
“Coping with death”
“Life After Life”
“So You’ve left the mortal realm”
Some of them seemed serious, some of them had cute cartoon like characters on them, that were meant to reassure the reader that no matter how bad it felt it was going to be alright.
It seemed to James that the room had always looked like this, he hadn’t known it before but it had always been this tangible, concrete even, real.
It suddenly occurred to James that he was dead. For a normal person dying is something that is feared; but James had already done that hard bit, he’d already died by the looks of it, and it seemed fairly apparent that there was some form of afterlife.
On the other side of the waiting room underneath a sign that said: “Please remain seated until your number is called” was a reception desk behind a large glass window, with a set of holes drilled through it just as James had imagined there would be. It was so real James wondered how he had not seen it before, it was clear that the window and the reception desk had always been there.
Behind the glass sat a young woman, about 25 years old if James had to place her, she had pale white skin, bright red lipstick, thick rimmed black glasses and an impatient look on her face.
James made his way to the window and presented his ticket to the window.
“I think I’m up next” he said sheepishly.
“Well there ain’t anyone else here is there?” she gestured to the room behind him.
James looked back, and it hadn’t occurred to him since the room had become tangible that despite the fact that the room still felt as it were full of people each waiting their turn that the waiting room was in fact completely empty apart from himself and the pale girl on the other side of the glass.
Now that he was closer to her, he could see that she wore a name badge, here name was Janine.
“Uh, Hi Janine. My name is James…”
“James what?” she prompted him impatiently, as she absentmindedly twirled a pen around her thumb.
“James Park” he said.
She scowled at him, for no reason James could discern and Asked for his date of birth which he duly gave as August the 8th 1986.
Janine tapped away at a computer terminal that James had not noticed had been there before, he wondered if it had in fact actually been there before that point, it was entirely likely that it hadn’t been there, anything was likely. James watched her as she typed, he could see the reflection of green text on a black screen in glasses, as he watched her he noticed a look of puzzlement slowly taking over her face. She was doing that thing that receptionists at a doctors surgery do when they can’t find your appointment, frantically typing hitting enter, then hammering the delete key followed by the function keys to perform some other sort of search that might find your appointment.
After 5 minutes of this, she turned to James and said:
“You sure that’s your name and Date of Birth? You’ve not changed your name or anything have you”
“It’s what they’ve always been” he responded.
She tried again hammering away at her keyboard, rhythmically and then mouthed something which although James was no expert at lipreading he could make out as: “What the fuck”
Janine turned to James and said:
“Do you want to sit down for a few minutes, it’s this damned computer system I can’t find your name, we’re in the middle of doing an upgrade I’m just going to call in my manager he’s had training in this system, he’ll find you”
“Sure” was all James could muster. He turned around as found a seat near the reception desk and watched Janine as she picked up the phone and and made a phone call.
James had sat in the waiting room for the better part of two hours, as he watched various people enter and leave Janine’s little reception area. On the other side of the glass he thought to himself that it was almost like watching the goings on in an aquarium, he wondered if that was how the receptionists saw the waiting room.
First a manager had come down, looking rather frustrated at Janine for calling him down over something so trivial. After staring at her screen for a while hitting keys on her keyboard a look of confusion followed by concern overtook his face and he had picked up the phone and phoned someone else.
This process repeated its self several times, as various managers, administrators and then by their unkept appearance IT personnel had been summoned, to investigate the issue. Initial frustration, followed by confusion and concern.
James was now sat in am imposing office, on an uncomfortable ornate mahogany chair in front of a large meticulously carved mahogany desk. Large was probably an inappropriate term to describe the desk, it was enormous, big enough for a group of giants to have a feast on, there had probably been small independent city states the looked minuscule in comparison to this desk.
It was a pretty big desk…
It wasn’t just the desk that was huge, James wasn’t sure if the room had been designed to accommodate the desk or if the desk had been chosen as the only work surface that would have been appropriate for such a room. The walls were lined with row upon row of book shelves, in where were countless volumes of books all leather bound, James could make out at least 20 distinct forms of script on the spines of the books, and those were just the ones he could see.
Ornate gas lamps lit the room, with those bottle green lamp shades that James associated with the offices of a well paid accountant, one so well paid that they didn’t actually need the light to work as they had subordinates to do the work for them.
In each of the four corners of the room was a large globe, each on it’s own dedicated stand, the globe in the far left corner from where James was sitting was had a depiction of the world as James knew it, but the others seemed at once familiar and yet different, as if the continents were in the wrong places or that they had shifted.
On the desk were piles and piles of paper, some of which organized in trays, other scattered around the desk in a semi haphazard fashion. There was a well loved and ancient looking coffee cup sitting comfortably on a wooden coaster so as not to mark the desk.
And in the corner of the desk sat a beige computer terminal that to James looked like it was at least 20 years old. The computer was positioned in such a way that it looked like it was not used much, a pile of paper was set on the keyboards and thick layer of dust had gathered on the back of the screen, it was an invader to the traditional way of things in this office, who ever worked here liked the way that they had always worked but had been forced to have a computer by the powers that be, but blatantly never used it.
It had been decided that no one but the big boss would be able to resolve whatever it was that needed to be resolved about James’ case, he had been sent to this office through a seemingly innocuous door in the waiting room which he was certain had not been there before they has told him that he was to go through it.
James sat and waited in the room, trying but failing to take it all in. Who needed an office this big, and what were they going to do with him?
After an indeterminate period which James assumed had probably been timed to allow the immensity of the room to completely overwhelm James a small door opened where James was sure there had previously been a book case and a figure entered the room.
The man who entered had a long and wispy beard, a large bulbous nose and wore a monocle. He was wearing a brown suit with a brown waist coat, and held in his hand a walking stick which he didn’t seem to need as he walked quite confidently across the room, which was quite some distance, without it touching the floor once.
He held in his hand a few sheets of paper which he was perusing as he crossed the room and which he set down on the table in front of him as he approached the large leather chair that was on the other side of the large mahogany table from James. Not knowing what the correct protocol was when greeting someone who warranted and office as grandiose as the one that the person who had just entered clearly warranted James stood up to greet the man, he debated extending his hand and offering it to be shaken by way of introduction, but he wasn’t sure that his arm would reach far enough across the table for the man on the other side to reach it. Instead he stood there awkwardly awaiting to be addressed by this mysterious person, whom he assumed he should probably be honored to meet, but he wasn’t sure.
The stood there standing on the other side of the desk looking a little befuddled, as if he were gathering his words. James found this oddly comforting, at least he wasn’t the one who was feeling uncomfortable with this whole situation.
James had heard of people being in situations were the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife, that wasn’t the situation he currently found himself if there was anything in the atmosphere that could be cut with a knife it was the collective awkwardness of the two people sitting on either side of the desk, after what seemed like, and may well have been, an eternity the man finally spoke, his voice was someone had wrapped up the stereotypical voice of every kindly professor, bumbling wizard, and awkward bureaucrat and embodied them in a single person.
“Um, James Park is it?” he glanced down at the sheet of paper he’d just set down on the table “Born 8th of August 1986 by the Gregorian Calendar?”
James nodded in agreement “Yes, that’s me.”
“James, please sit down.” James obliged and the man followed suit and continued “James you don’t appear to exist”he said matter of factly.
“What do you mean I don’t exist?”
“Well…” He paused and fidgeted with his beard. “Clearly you do exist, you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t exist per se. But we don’t have any record of you existing, and without any records we can’t process you. If we can’t process you they we can’t move you on away from here.”
“Where exactly is here?” James asked the question which he realized had been plaguing him ever since he first found himself in the waiting room, but either hadn’t had the opportunity to ask, or it hadn’t occurred to him that he could ask, he wasn’t sure which but he was glad that he had finally asked it.
“This is a place between places” the man began cryptically, then as if realizing the absurdity of what he had just said continued “This is where you go after you die, before you move on to wherever you are meant to go after you have died”
“And where do I go after I die?”
“Well that is exactly the problem, in your case we don’t know, we don’t have any paperwork to work on so we don’t know where to send you, this place is just an in between place, we look at your paperwork and it tells us where you are supposed to go next then we send you there.”
“Where do most people go when they get here?”
“It depends really”
“Depends on what? Whether you were a good person or not, is this where you weigh up my life and decide whether I go to heaven or hell? Is this purgatory?” James didn’t know very much about the afterlife, he’d once considered reading the divine comedy, but he’d been told that once he got past hell the rest was a bit dull so he hadn’t bothered.
“Er, no we don’t weigh up any actions, normally when a person gets here they have their file that tells us what they’ve done, and where they are going, this new-fangled computer system is being slowly phased in…” He pointed to the computer that James suspected was older than he was and probably hadn’t even been switched on during his lifetime “…and every now and then a file gets corrupted, or goes missing, I’m sure your’s will turn up eventually, we just need to find it.” He continued to fidget with his beard, twirling it round his fingers and then pulling on it letting the grey hair run through them. “Anyway where was I? Ah yes, we look at your file, find out where you are going and send you on your merry way”
“So this is like a departure lounge for the afterlife?”
“I suppose you could say that yes, except you don’t need to get on a plane to go anywhere. We just send you there.”
“Where exactly is there?”
“As I said that depends”
“Depends on what exactly?” Were the situation James was in not so absurd, he might have realized that the question he had just asked, possibly phrased slightly differently, had plagued man since the dawn of time, at the present moment though James had other things on his mind.
“Well it depends on what your paper work says for a start, we can’t send you anywhere if we don’t have any paperwork for you”
“Where would you send me if I did have paperwork then?”
“We’d send you where you’re paper work said you were to be sent, isn’t that obvious?” The man looked at James as if he was an utter idiot for asking such a question.
“What kind of places do you send people when their paper work is in order then? Heaven? Hell? Valhalla?” James was getting a little frustrated at how literally the old man was taking all of his questions.
“In a word yes, but those are just some of the places we can send you, all we do here is look at your paperwork find out where you are supposed to go and send you there, it doesn’t matter: Tarturus, Hades, Hel, The Summerland, wherever it says on you paperwork that’s where you get sent, it says you go back as a bug thats what happens, it says you get sent to spend an eternity in Hell that is where you go, we don’t make the decisions, we just process your paperwork which we can’t do with you because you don’t have any.” The man was starting to clearly starting to get flustered.
“So what happens to me if I don’t have any paperwork?”
“Well we can’t keep you here, we don’t have the facilities to keep a person here for any amount of time, it’s not like we have a duty free lounge for you to wait about it in, we try to run a tight ship, if you don’t have any paperwork we’ll have to send you back”
“Send me back? What to earth?”
“Yes, there are protocols for this, we don’t have to follow them very often though because most people don’t lose their paperwork, but we have protocols for sending people back until we find your paperwork”
“What do you mean protocols?”
“Well, we’ve had to establish a procedure, to stop things from going… How can I say this… Wrong”
“What do you mean wrong”
“Well, as far as everyone on earth is concerned you are dead, if we tried to integrate you back in people would get confused, it could cause all kinds of problems. We had one case a couple of thousand years ago where we didn’t integrate someone in properly when we sent him back and people thought he was some kind of messiah, you people are still suffering from that mistake.” He looked at James knowingly “Anyway since then we’ve developed certain protocols, rules of engagement, a code of conduct as it were, we’ve even got a handbook we give you on effective reintegration into the mortal realm… I wrote it” He looked very proud of himself.
James looked down at his lap where he felt a sudden weight had appeared, there on his lap where nothing had been before was a book entitled:
So you are being sent back:
What to do with yourself when you just can’t die
“You expect me to read all of this” James held up the book, it was quite a thick book, in fact he was sure he had seen encyclopedias that were thinner.
“Eventually yes, it starts slow, but it provides a full guide to reintegrating yourself into society while causing the least amount of disruption.”
“Do you know how much paperwork a messiah generates? Lots that’s how much.”
“Okay so what do I need to do to go back?”
“We’ll handle that don’t worry, like I said we have protocols in place for this sort of thing. I’m just glad we don’t have to use them often, I’m still filling out paperwork from that messiah guy 2 thousand years ago…”
“Before you send me back I have one question…” James figured he should probably gain something from this experience. “There are about 50 thousand religions on earth, each with their own view on everything,Manichaeism of them got it right”
“All of them” the man answered matter of factly.
“What do mean all of them? They can’t all be right, they disagree on way too many things, like how the world was created for a start”
“No they are all right, or at least they are now.”
“What do you mean they are now?”
“We’ll to start with there was nothing, then there was something, lets call it the Big Bang if you will, then you humans came along and made up stories about how everything started. The power of your belief made those stories true”
“But they contradict each other”
“In some ways yes they do, but we’ve made it so. They don’t. Think of time like a tree, it all starts with a seed which grows a single root, once the tree matures though its got hundreds of thousands of roots hasn’t it?”
“I guess so”
“But those roots all converge into a single trunk, you now live on that trunk, all the possible histories are the roots, they merge together to feed into the now”
“That doesn’t make any sense”
“You think that’s complicated don’t ask me about the branches”
Mondays, if there was a day that Belphagore hated more than any other day it was Monday. Monday was of course shortly followed by Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on the list of days he loathed. He wasn’t really sure that Saturday and Sunday escaped entirely unscathed from being disliked, after all it being Saturday only meant that it was another 2 days till Monday, and Belphagore hated Mondays.
Today’s thankless task was to go through a pile of applications, Belphagore reckoned with great certainty that not a single one would pass his scrutiny and be accepted. It wasn’t that he was cynical, he’d worked for the institute for over something like six to seven thousand years, and he’d not used his “ACCEPTED” stamp once in the last two thousand or so years. He’d actually been through two to three hundred “REJECTED” stamps, they wore out every couple of years, what with the constant use they received, the “ACCEPTED” stamp was sitting there unused, unloved, and were it not for his meticulous nature it would have been covered in a thick layer of dust.
Belphagore’s occupation was to serve as a filter, he worked for the institute for the assessment of nefarious plans. His task, a thankless one at that, was to review applications from persons or beings wishing to bring about the end of the world. The thing is that his heart just wasn’t in it anymore, the quality of the plans that passed through the office had taken a nose dive after the boss had gone on sabbatical, without out his influence people just didn’t seem as evil as they had once been, and a plan to end the world needed to be evil.
Were a plan not truly evil, it was doomed to fail, one ounce of compassion was all it took, the flaws in the plan would become apparent to anyone scrutinizing, and if a plan was obviously flawed no one would want to invest in it.
The boss of course was Satan himself, Iblis, the dark lord, he had countless names. Belagore had thought he was a fairly sound chap until all hell broke loose a couple of thousand years ago.
Satan had tried to seduce the son of god, which in it’s self was probably a bad plan, one that had it passed by Belagore’s desk he probably would have rejected, the plan had of course failed.
In his failure Satan had seeming lost the will to do evil, there were rumors circulating that having been cast from God’s light had finally gotten to him. Belagore didn’t see why one would want to live in the light of God, the one who had cast Satan out or any other one, it all seemed rather boring to him, everyone was too good and pristine, and they were a bunch of smug assholes in heaven too. Whenever Belagore had met an angel at a mixer they had been intolerably arrogant, self righteous even.
Surely there were more interesting places in the multiverse, even if one got tired of the den of sin and depravity that was hell, and Belagore wasn’t sure if that was possible.
But Satan had apparently gotten his heart set on returning to the kingdom of heaven, and knowing that he could never do so had sent him off the edge, he fell into a fit of depression and hell pretty much froze over.
It didn’t help that while he was at his lowest Lilith decided to up and leave him, rumor had it for a mortal man. That must have been the final straw, one day Satan was holding court, whispering evil thoughts into the hearts of men, planning his ascension and leading the war against heaven. Next thing he just up and left.
All hell broke loose, there was a power struggle, various demon lords vying for the top spot it must have lasted at least a good couple of centuries before everything fell into an equilibrium.
The 6 remaining princes of hell had resolved that open warfare was counter productive to spreading corruption hate and sin, and had formed a council of 6 to rule hell in Satan’s absence.
Of course there being an organized council didn’t stop them from plotting against each other, and stabbing each other in the back at every opportunity, it just meant that it didn’t happen in the open.
Things never returned to normal, no decisions were ever made, whenever something looked like it was going to be happen one of the dark lords would veto it because it conflicted with their long term goals.
Hell had essentially stopped working, no one admitted it, no one dared admit it. Anyone caught speaking out against the council was swiftly dealt with, or rather they were swiftly captured and then very slowly and very painfully dealt with.
Belagore didn’t care much for the politics, all the in fighting had however made his job nearly impossible. He was tasked with vetting plots, schemes and plans to end the existence of the mortal realm, on in some way take it over for the benefit of those on hell.
Without the influence of Satan acting as a muse the quality of submissions had fallen drastically, and even those that might have been acceptable would have been vetoed by one of the 6 princes because it conflicted with one of their interests, or because they wanted to annoy another of the princes.
It was to say the least frustrating, and Belagore was convinced that had the Boss been about they could have gained control of the mortal realm several times by now.
Belagore turned to todays pile of submissions he flicked through them, it was the usual drivel:
At least five plans to use various artifacts of unmentionable power to open a gate to hell allowing the armies of the underworld to enter and create a hell on earth. These would either fail because of the location of the item, the fact that the item no longer existed as it it had been used in a previous failed plot, or that there was a small group of goody two shoes do gooders waiting for just a plan to happen. Even if all of these issues were bypassed, plans to lead an army of hell to earth always ended up being dropped by the council as they could never decide which of them would have the honor of leading the armies. They were like a bunch of children.
Another plan, slightly more creative, sook to destroy earth by ruining its ecosystem. The plan revolved around releasing a genetically engineered bacterium into the oceans, the bacterium would the proceed to convert all the waste bio-matter in the waters into gelatin thus solidifying the earth’s water supply and slowly causing life on Earth to starve because the disruption to the water cycle would mean there would be no rain on the land, and the gelatin layer on top of the oceans would block out all light thus stopping oceanic photosynthesis.
On the surface it looked like a good plan, there were diagrams and everything, Belagore loved a good diagram not enough of these plans had diagrams in them. The problem with the plan was that it just wasn’t viable…
The thing about gelatin is that it’s highly nutritious, bacteria live off the stuff, there is no way that the gelatin producing bacteria could produce enough gelatin to get the desired effects before it was consumed by other bacteria.
Shame, it would have been an amusing way to end the world, death by jelly. Belagore stamped it as “REJECTED” and carried on through the pile.
A zombie apocalypse that would never work because people had grown wise to them now due to the prevalence of the genre in cinema.
A plan to blot out the sun by altering the moon’s orbit so that the earth would be in a state of constant solar eclipse, they just didn’t have the budget for that kind of plan anymore.
As he reached the bottom of the pile the plans started to get ridiculous, ending with a plan to create a race of sentient cake monsters who would infiltrate the world through it’s grocery stores.
With that he stamped the final “REJECTED” and looked at the clock, he’d been going full tilt for 8 hours and gotten through 846 applications, not a single one had been accepted unsurprisingly…
It was probably time to head off. Tomorrow, he was going to have to go through an audit of his department’s expenditure, it was approaching the end of the year and if the figures didn’t add up there would be hell to pay.
As Belagore was leaving the office he’d run into and old friend, Ganyrax was as close to a friend to Belagore as any two demons ever could be, what with the loathing and the hate intrinsic to the job. They had both been part of the same brood, they had gone to the same demonic college, only Ganyrax had joined the officers training core while they were at college, a fast track program to becoming a ranked officer in hells armies, he’d continued on to the army when he graduated and was now some striped rank that Belagore couldn’t remember.
They exchanged small talk in that way that friends who hadn’t seen each other in a couple of millennia did, Ganyrax’s career was apparently going swimmingly he was on shore leave, they were preparing for the next attack on the mortal realm, which would be any day he was certain of it. Belagore didn’t have the heart to tell him how unlikely it was that the forces of hell would ever get a chance to attack the Earth. Hell had been building up armies since the concept of hell was dreamed up, but it had been years since any of them had seen active duty, yet still they continued to recruit.
The thing was that there were so many demons in the armies of hell, that if they dissolved even a small fraction of them on the grounds that it was pointless there would be a huge unemployment crisis in hell. Hard working demons like Belagore would have to hire meat heads who knew nothing but war to do menial tasks, and that always went wrong. Being in hells armies changed a demon, they lost the calm demeanor and were seemingly imbued with a boundless rage. Boundless rage was not an attribute that aided one in filing paperwork…
Through the course of the conversation Ganyrax had mentioned that he was going shooting with a couple of his army buddies and he’d invited Belagore along for the evening.
Belagore hadn’t had time to think of an appropriate excuse before his silence had been taken as a sign of acceptance by Ganyrax. These army types, even in their spare time they enjoyed violence, all Belagore wanted to do was go home and read a good book.
“PULL!” Ganyrax yelled.
There was a scream and the severed head of some poor soul was launched into the air from the trap. Belagore was never sure that he agreed with the practice of shooting. It did provide a way for the various demons to blow off steam, but for the people who’s heads were used in place of the clay pidgins it was not ideal.
A few seconds spent flying through the air then Bang! their heads were blown to bits. Where was the torment in that? Sure if they were afraid of heights the whole experience was probably horrible, and there was the anticipation before they were launched into the air to be used as targets, but some people actually enjoyed that. Belagore had gathered that modern humans actually created contraptions on which they rode in small carts that rose to immense heights and then plummeted as fast as gravity would let them, the people who enjoyed that probably garnered the same pleasure while waiting to be launched into the air.
It wasn’t exactly eternal torment though, pain so horrible you wished you would die. Things had gone downhill since the boss had left, it was as if hell had forgotten it’s mandate to be a place of suffering.
Belagore supposed that there was the pain and suffering of being eternally detached from one’s body, but he supposed after a while one would get used to that.
Lost in his reverie about the pointlessness of this exercise, Belagore didn’t notice that it was his turn to shoot. Ganyrax and his military buddies were looking at him expectantly as if he’d made them wait for centuries on end, when it cant have been more than a few seconds.
He moved to pick up his gun, and checked that it was loaded.
Two shots and he’s be done for that round, he hadn’t been doing well, so far he reckoned he’d hit maybe 1 in 3 of the heads he’d shot at? he wasn’t keeping score or paying that much attention, this was the last place he wanted to be. Why hadn’t he managed to come up with an excuse when Ganyrax had invited him? He didn’t mind Ganyrax so much, at least coming from the same brood they had something in common to talk about, or at least they did when they were alone, his military buddies on the other hand were everything he hated about demon kind. They lacked any intelligence what soever, they existed to fight and when they didn’t have a firm enemy to fight they fought anything that happened to take their attention. Everything was a slight against them, saying the wrong thing was like to get you mauled, and not saying anything that was even worse. Had it not been for Ganyrax’s intervention Belagore was sure he would probably have found a simple excuse for not being there, in that he probably would be recovering in an infirmary somewhere or near fatal wounds.
“PULL!” He yelled and braced himself for the scream, he traced the head across his field of vision took aim and fired. Much to his surprise the head stopped screaming, mainly because it had proceeded to explode into a fine mist of blood and gore. He’d hit it! He couldn’t believe it, maybe he was getting better?
One more shot and he could relinquish the gun for another round. Belagore braced himself and opened his mouth to yell pull, but nothing came out.
Something strange was happening to him, it was as if his hearts were beating in two different places at once, once here and one somewhere very far away. His vision started to blur, what was happening to him? This was not normal, his legs started to feel weak as he felt himself being torn apart, the last thing he saw before a bright flash blinded him was the ground falling towards him and his gun hitting the ground. There was a loud bang, and a scream of pain from someone who sounded like Zepeldax, one of Ganyrax’s squad mates, Belagore hoped that he wasn’t going to be about to find out that whether it was or not, Zepeldax was a very angry demon when he was in a good mood he didn’t want to see him when he’d been shot let alone be the demon that had shot him…
Terra was running late, or rather Sophie was running late. She probably would not assume the persona of Terra until she met up with Luna and Venus, or Jessica and Holly respectively, at the Necropolis.
Sophie wasn’t entirely sure how she has gotten herself caught un in this whole situation, Luna and Venus were the only friends she had to speak of at university despite having been there for 3 years, she hadn’t managed to gel with anyone else. At first she’d tried, the girls she’d lived with in her halls of residence seemed to have no interests other than consuming as much alcohol as their withered livers could handle and going home with whatever boys they seemed to flop onto when they finally lost the use of their legs. Not that Terra didn’t like the odd drink, or the company of boys. She only really liked wine though the spirits that the other girls drank just made her vomit.
Sophie was also undecided on the subject of boys, she liked them well enough, but she was fairly sure that they weren’t the be all and end all of it. This was how she had met Luna, who still went by the name of Jessica then, she had in an attempt to explore he conflicted feelings about boys and girls and sex in general gone to a meeting of the universities lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender society and Jessica had taken her under her wing. A few months later “her wing” was by far not the only thing that Jessica had taken her under, they had split up mostly amicably or at least that is what Sophie told Jessica. The truth being that she still had feelings for her, feelings that Jessica didn’t really reciprocate except when she was really drunk. Sophie kept telling herself that it was a bad situation for her to be in, she was only hurting herself, but she didn’t care. She got to be with Jessica every now and then, when she wasn’t seeing someone else, and maybe some day Jessica would see that she was the one for her. A girl could dream…
As far as Sophie was concerned Venus had always been Venus, she’d found out her real name was Holly when she’d gone round to her flat with Jessica for a party. Venus portrayed herself as a practitioner of Wicca, she had abandoned her real name in favor of that of the Roman goddess of love beauty and sex, and she had cast her spell on Jessica who very quickly adopted Venus’ Wicca ways and changed her name to Luna the goddess of the moon.
Sophie didn’t believe in Wicca at all but Venus and Luna were obsessed with it and the only way she could stay stay around them was to at least feign interest in the practice. She’s chosen the name Terra the earth mother in keeping with their celestial theme, or at least that was what she had told Luna and Venus. Her real reasons for choosing the name had been twofold, it was partly a joke on the fact that the moon or “Luna” orbited the Earth or “Terra” as she really wanted Luna to “orbit” her, although in reality she was probably more like an asteroid Hayley’s comet passing near Venus and Luna was Venus’ moon, that was where the metaphor broke down as Venus the planet didn’t have any satellites or moons. Terra reconciled this sadly by thinking of Luna as an artificial satellite that was sent out by the people of earth which had been caught in Venus’ gravity and started orbiting it but would one day return to Earth with new discoveries.
Maybe she’d put too much thought into that justification, she has notebooks with diagrams and everything justifying it, she had even written a short story about how the people of Venus had stolen the Earth’s moon, and how that had wreaked havoc on the Earth and left the Earth in a state of turmoil and chaos.
Sophie thought it was quite clever, and had debated submitting it to a short story contest, but she was worried that if it were ever published Luna might read it, and having read it she might read between the lines and think that it was really creepy.
The second reason she’s chosen the name was that she had always liked the name after playing a video game in which the main character had the name Terra when she was a kid.
She sat on the bus pondering if she would ever be able to get Luna away from Venus, she didn’t think it was highly likely. When Venus wasn’t around all luna did was talk about her, Sophie was sick of. In contrast Venus, was ironically given the fact that her namesake was the hottest planet in the solar system, quite cold.
There was no denying that Venus was physically “hot” even Sophie grudgingly conceded that Venus was one of the most attractive girls she’d ever met, the fact that Venus knew this had probably stunted her emotionally.
Venus had never had to try to get people to like her, people liked her because she was cold and heartless, consequently she had perfected being cold and heartless to an art form.
Venus being indifferent to someone was a compliment of the highest order, it meant that she tolerated your presence, which meant that you might be allowed into her inner circle, and woe betide anyone Venus didn’t actually like, the venom Venus could summon was immense, she had some kind of sixth sense for picking out peoples faults which she used to tear people to shreds for her own amusement.
In short Venus was a class A bitch, if only she could get Luna to see past this, she might be able to loose her away from her and then maybe she could rekindle the flame that they had once had. It was a slim hope, and deep down Sophie knew it. Jessica had changed when she became Luna, she had bought into Venus’ cult of personality and had slowly metamorphosed into a disciple of Venus.
Part of her wondered if the Jessica that she had one loved still existed somewhere in Luna’s core, of if she was Luna through and through.
When Sophie was alone with Luna there were sometimes brief eruptions of Jessica, Sophie lived for these moments, but they were becoming rarer and rarer.
In her heart of hearts Sophie knew that she was probably better off distancing herself from Luna, but she didn’t think she could.
For one thing, she didn’t really have very many friends aside from Luna and Venus, and the few that she had once had had been slowly driven away by Venus. She wondered if she called up one of her one time friends from her life before Venus had come onto the scene if they would welcome her back, or if she had been tarred with the same brush as Venus and had lost those friends forever.
On the one side she hoped that they would welcome her back, maybe she could forge a life that didn’t involve Venus and Luna/Jessica, but deep down she was afraid that she would be shunned by her old friends, that it was too late and the bridge burning had already taken place.
She’d have have not choice but to move into a small one bedroom flat, get a cat and live life vicariously through characters on TV.
While the idea of living alone with a cat wasn’t entirely repulsive to her, she had in fact always liked cats and thought they provided very good company, she didn’t think that is would be very healthy for her state of mind. Cats weren’t very good conversation, and Sophie worried that if she went down that path she would probably die alone in a house full of cats, no one would find her for at least a month when the landlord came knocking at the door asking why she hadn’t paid her rent.
It wouldn’t be an elegant way to go, she was probably better off with Luna and Venus, at least for now. And you never know, Venus might eventually get bored with Luna, or decide that she had elapsed her in coolness, and then Sophie would be there to pick up the pieces.
A girl can dream…
The bus drew up to the bus stop by the necropolis, and Sophie disembarked, she took a deep breath to steady her nerves, she had to become Terra. Terra was confident, Terra hid her affection for Luna, after all if Venus suspected that she was a rival for Luna’s affections, event if she didn’t have a chance in hell in usurping her she would drive her out of their coven. Then she would be Sophie once more and she would have to fall back on her cat plan.
As a Wicca Terra was actually quite adept, when Jessica had become Luna after getting together with Venus Terra had made it her mission to become as knowledgeable on the subject as possible, she’d bought books on spells and pagan worship, and she’d spent an inordinate amount of time on the internet researching Wicca practices and rituals. So much so that her university work had suffered.
Sophie didn’t actually believe in any of the stuff she’d researched, but she was determined to stay at least on the periphery of Jessica’s life and it that meant that as Terra she had to obsess about witchcraft then that was what she would do.
She made her way up the round and rounded a corner to a quiet side street that bordered the necropolis and when she was sure no was looking she gathered up her skirt and squeezed herself through the fence where one of the bars had been removed, probably by teenagers who used the Necropolis as a place to get drunk without their parents knowledge, or Sophie suspected in the case of some of them with their parents full knowledge.
Terra had never been to the necropolis before, neither had Sophie for that matter but she felt that Terra probably had more reason to have been there than Sophie did, so it took her some time to make her was up to the crypt where Venus had told them to meet. When she finally found it she saw that it was a large building in the shape of a four edged pyramid, it looked like it was modeled after one of the pyramids in Egypt, with fake stonework carved into the stones that made it to make it look like it was made of many more stones. The top of it was a single stone pyramid about a foot tall with a huge eye on each side staring into the darkness.
Terra looked around hesitantly, Venus and Luna were nowhere to be seen, it was at this point that Terra felt a chill go down her spine, she was all alone in the middle of a giant graveyard, and there wasn’t a living soul in sight.
This was the kind of thing that horror movies were made of, sure she wasn’t your stereotypical blonde teenage cheerleader, and she wasn’t in the grave yard trying to get it on with the captain of the high school football team, but she was none the less alone in the middle of the night, on a fill moon no less, in the biggest grave yard for miles.
What if the dead rose up about her? There could be hundreds, no thousands of zombies shambling silently towards her at this very moment. She wouldn’t know untill it was too late, she’d hear the deep moan of “BRAAIIINS” as the walking dead came out of the shadows around her, she’d be surrounded with no where to run, would they eat her? Or worse maybe she’d be bitten and turn in a zombie?
She wondered what it would be like to be a zombie, would she have any memory of who she had once been? Would she be trapped inside her own slowly decomposing walking corpse, with no control over her actions, unable to fight the primordial instinct to feed? Or would she just die and more on to whatever was next, assuming that there was in fact a next?
Worse still what if it wasn’t Zombies, what if there were vampires living in the various crypts dotted around her, one bite and she could be enslaved forever, unable to venture out into the sun, she’d never see a sunrise or a sunset ever again. Sophie wasn’t sure that this would be that much of a problem, she lived in Glasgow and the sun rarely actually shone in Glasgow, although in the summer time she would have to contend with 20 odd hours of daylight, which would put a bit of a dampener on her social life.
Sophie reckoned she could probably deal with being a vampire, so long as she wasn’t the sparkly kind. Sh already wore a lot of black, and she enjoyed sleeping in whenever she could, being a vampire would be the ultimate excuse to sleep in.
“Sorry can’t go into lectures today, the sun will cause me to immolate”
She smiled wryly to herself, maybe it wouldn’t all be bad, also if the films she’s seen were anything to go by Vampires got laid an awful lot, maybe she could find Luna, and turn her in a vampire too and they could live together in the necropolis praying on unsuspecting people who wandered in, she could have her forever. She briefly considered whether she’d turn Venus as well, but decided that it would probably be a bad plan. While she didn’t think she could actively kill Venus, she wasn’t that kind of person, if Venus was mortal she would eventually die and any residual feelings Luna or Jessica had for her would eventually fade away.
She wondered if she’d have to assume another persona when she became a vampire; would she be Sophie, or Terra, or someone else? Would Jessica change for that matter? Would she have to live an eternity with Luna would she get Jessica back? Or would she have to spend the rest of eternity with some other person/vampire that looked like Jessica?
Vampires did seem to lose a little of themselves when they changed, otherwise they wouldn’t fight against the vampires one day and then having turned go completely mental and go on killing sprees. What if “Vampire Sophie” didn’t get on with “Vampire Jessica”? What if either “Vampire Sophie” or “Vampire Jessica” was straight? That would, she thought, royally suck. To have completely changed what you were, to have transcended life and death to become a being of ultimate evil so that you could be together forever. Then to find out that, actually, now that you’d changed you didn’t have that much in common.
Terra nearly jumped out of her skin when she heard a the loud CRACK of a branch breaking in the shadows.
She screamed at the top of her lungs, this was it, Zombies, Vampires, or Werewolves, she hadn’t even had the chance to think what might happen if Werewolves found her!
“What the fuck are you doing there? You’ve been standing there like a fucking idiot for like 5 minutes!” The vampire sounded an awful lot like Venus…
“I was…” There was something about speaking to Venus that made Terra, and Sophie for that matter, completely lose her ability to form coherent sentences. It was like she knew that Venus would criticize whatever she said, or find some way to use it against her, and because of that she have to very carefully think about what she said. This of course meant that Sophie often stopped mid sentence, like a soldier walking through a mine field trying to figure out where she could safely step without blowing herself up.
Stopping and trying to figure out where you were going to next step in a minefield was all fine and dandy when you had a metal detector to find the mines and you could take your time figuring out where was safe. The strategy fell over however when the enemy was on your tail and they had machine guns trained on your position, you had to pick whether you were going to be riddled with bullets or blown up by land mines.
That is what talking to Venus was like, take the wrong step and she’d rip you to shreds of it, but hesitate too long and she’d also rip you to shreds for being an idiot. She really wasn’t a nice person, Terra found herself wondering again what the hell Luna saw in her.
“What the fuck is wrong with you, can’t you fucking talk?” Clearly Terra had fallen for the machine gun fire rather than the mine field.
“I was… I was just looking for you guys, you said you’d be here but I couldn’t see you so I… I guess I uh was just waiting for you to show up”
“You were waiting for us? Do you know what fucking time it is? We’ve been fucking waiting here for a fucking hour you fucking late bitch” The way Venus littered her speech with profanities unsettled Terra, it’s not that she was a prude, she was prone to swearing, but only when it was warranted. The way Venus spoke it was sometimes like swearing was a form of punctuation.
“I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean to be late. The bus never showed up then the one I got on broke down and we had to wait for another one, I tried to call Luna to tell her I was running late but all I got was her answering machine, I left a message and sent a text and everything.” The words poured out of Terra’s mouth, as she were a toddler that had been scolded by it’s mother she finished off with a final meek “I’m really sorry”
“Sorry are you, fuck you and your fucking apologies, It’s just as well you weren’t any later we’ve only got a half hour to get stuff ready. Did you at least get all the shit I asked you to bring?”
“Yeah, I got everything” Sophie had been given the task of getting pretty much everything for the ritual tonight. The various herbs that Venus had told her to get had been easy enough to find, and she’d managed to pop out to the botanic gardens to get the tree bark she’d needed, but finding a butcher that did rabbit had been really difficult. She’d ended up going to six different butchers before she found one that had some, going to the butchers shops had actually been quite harrowing for Sophie as she was a life time vegetarian, and being surrounded by the displayed corpses of so many animals hung up on hooks had actually really creeped her out, it was all she could do to stop herself from throwing up at the smell of dead animal that wafted into her nostrils every time she entered a butchers.
Terra took off her backpack and opened it, she gingerly took out a shopping bag and handed it Venus.
“There’s the herbs you asked for, and here is the willow bark” she handed over a folded napkin that had some shavings of willow bark neatly tucked inside it.
“What about the rabbit? You did bring the rabbit didn’t you?”
“Yes it’s just here…” Terra reached into the bag and pulled out a blue plastic bag that had a sealed paper bag inside it. “They asked if I wanted it chopped up I said that I needed it whole.”
“What the fuck is this you stupid fucking idiot?” Venus shouted at her.
“It’s the rabbit, you asked for a rabbit didn’t you?” Although Terra was certain that not 5 seconds ago Venus had asked for the Rabbit she was doubting herself, had she asked for something else?
“I can see that you retard. But how the fuck are we supposed to have a blood sacrifice if the rabbit is alread? fucking dead!”
“Oh… I didn’t… You didn’t say that you wanted a live rabbit, you just said a rabbit… I er… Sorry…” Although she was on her metaphorical back heels apologizing to Venus, Terra was kind of glad that she’d misinterpreted Venus. As horrible an experience as going to a butchers shop had been for her, she didn’t think she could have stomached actually seeing a rabbit killed in front of her.
“Well that fucks everything, I guess we are here now we’ll try the ritual with the dead rabbit, maybe we can use it as an offering or some shit, I don’t know. But if this goes wrong I’ve got half a mind to make you the blood sacrifice you stupid bitch” Terra really hoped that Venus was just speaking in anger, but deep down she wasn’t sure. No Venus might be a horrible person, she might be a total bitch but she couldn’t have been evil like that.
Luna loved this person, Luna had to at least be a good enough judge of character to see that somewhere behind the self centered veil of bitchiness there was a good person.
Come to think of it… Where was Luna? It wasn’t until that very moment that Terra realized that she had only seen or spoken to Venus.
“Where’s Luna?” She hoped changing the subject would divert Venus’ attention away from thoughts of using her as a human sacrifice, assuming she was entertaining such thoughts at all and wasn’t joking.
A horrible thought occurred to Terra at this point, what if Venus had seduced Luna so she could use her as a human sacrifice and had done so before Terra got here, she looked around nervously, trying to figure out how which way she would run if Venus decided to attack her, after all she probably knew too much already. Even if Venus wasn’t going to use her as a sacrifice she might just have to kill her just to keep the fact that she had killed Luna, no now that she was dead she would call her Jessica, a secret.
“Luna get hurry up and get your clothes back on, we need to get ready for the ritual!” Venus shouted back at the crypt, there was a rustling sound from the direction of the crypt and about thirty seconds later Luna emerged from the shadows, adjusting her bra. Her makeup was smudged all over her face and her hair was a tangled mess.
“Luna are you okay?” had they been in a fight? Terra hoped that that was the case, maybe there was a rift forming between them, if there was She would have to do everything she could to widen that rift, Venus might have proven, for now, that she wasn’t actually a killer just a class A bitch; but you could never tell.
“Of course she’s okay you fucking idiot. You took so long getting here that we had to find a way to keep ourselves entertained.” Venus’ words hit Terra in the gut, and it struck her that she should have known. She hadn’t clocked it when she’d said it but Venus’ earlier words suddenly hit home “Get your clothes back on” they had been screwing in the crypt while they waited for her, probably while she stood there waiting for them.
Terra wasn’t naïve enough to think that Venus and Luna were not “intimate”, after all Luna, and her had done all manner of sordid acts together when they had been a couple, or rather she and Jessica had, Luna was a creation of Venus. Terra just didn’t like to think about it, it was the elephant in the proverbial room of her mind that she never acknowledged was there, because if hurt to think that her Jessica was with someone else, especially someone like Venus. This was probably why Sophie insisted that Luna and Jessica were two different people, it hurt less to think of it that way, not a lot less, just enough less to stop her from going completely crazy.
Luna emerged from the shadows and sheepishly smiled and waved at Terra. Terra looked at her trying to hide her emotions, it wasn’t anger she was feeling, not towards Luna anyway she was blameless in this, it wasn’t her fault that Venus had seduced her. Maybe it was anger, but Terra couldn’t figure out where the anger was directed, whether it was towards Venus or, and she was worried that this was the case, towards herself for being hurt by this.
She looked away from Luna, she could actually feel the tears welling up, she had to stop herself, she had to get a grip, if Luna saw her break down she’d think she was weak worse still if Venus saw her break down she would go through her, it wasn’t a good idea to show any weakness to Venus, in fact it could be said that it was a very bad idea.
Terra took a deep breath to steady herself and turned to Venus.
“Well are we going to get ready for this ritual or are we going to stand here” She had to take control, the little bit of confidence this afforded her stopped her from falling apart completely, at least on the outside.
She looked to Venus for a response, it struck her that Venus’ hair and makeup were still pristine, in complete contrast to the disheveled state that she had left Luna in.
“Yes, lets get a move on.” Venus gestured to a cleared area by the crypt “Set your shit down over there”
Terra obliged setting down her bag and taking off her coat which she gingerly placed over a cruciform grave stone, she didn’t want to get any dirt on it.
“What exactly is it that we are doing tonight” It hadn’t only just occurred to Terra in fact she’d wondered what the ritual was going to ever since Venus had suggested it. It was just that she’d not had an opportunity to ask Venus what the ritual was going to be. Venus could be very confrontational, and also very secretive, she was especially confrontational about things that she wanted to keep secret. It was also the fact that although Terra had studiously studied the art of witchcraft she had done so only to appear knowledgeable to Venus and Luna, she didn’t actually believe in any of this mumbo jumbo.
If participating in Venus’ a “ritual” made Venus like her more and by implication raised her in Luna’s esteem she didn’t really mind, and if she got to dance around Naked in a graveyard with Luna so much the better. Terra had noted that despite what one might think a disappointing number of actual Wicca rituals involved dancing around naked, the ones that did generally involved some kind of offering to fertility goddesses, which would be kind of pointless for the three of them.
“We’re going to do a curse” Venus said nonchalantly, curses was one thing that Terra hadn’t really studied, she hadn’t seen the point. Even if she had believed in the power of magic, and she didn’t, she wasn’t the kind of person who would actively wish harm one anyone else.
If she was she would have long ago put a curse on Venus, one to bring her down a couple of notches, maybe give her horrible acne, or make her hair fall out, that would teach her. But no, as much of a bitch as she was, even Venus wasn’t deserving of evil done towards her, be it real or imaginary. Terra wasn’t a vindictive person, she was quite jealous of the fact that Luna had chosen Venus, but there was nothing she could do about it apart from hop that eventually Luna would see how horrible a person Venus was for herself.
“A curse, who are we cursing?” Terra half thought that Venus would say that they were going to put a curse on her, it would be just like her to make Terra get all the stuff required for a ritual to put a curse on her.
“There are some bitches in my tutorial at uni, they are so stuck up, all they talk about is themselves and they keep on talking shit about me when they think I can’t hear them. I’m going to put a curse on them to cut them down to size, I’m going to make them annoy the shit out of each other till their little shitty clique breaks up and they have not friends” Terra had to bite her tongue to stop herself from pointing out the irony of Venus, thinking that someone else was a stuck up bitch. It occurred to her that maybe Venus acted the way she did because she was really insecure, maybe she was actually a nice person deep down in there, maybe but it was very doubtful.
“So we are going to put a hex on them to make them fall out?” Terra didn’t want the fact that she was correcting Venus to be too obvious less she invoke her ire, but strictly speaking there was a world of difference between a curse and a hex.
“Yeah, and make them less popular, those stuck up bitches wont know what hit them”
If Terra had for one second believed in any of the witch craft mumbo jumbo she would have had reservations about this, they were essentially going to be casting a spell that would if it worked ruin the lives of some poor young girls whose only crime had been to be a little snooty to Venus, and Venus was herself a complete bitch, she probably deserved a bit of her own medicine.
“So what do we need to do?” Luna asked, it was the first thing she’d said since Terra had gotten here, the sound of her voice sent a chill down Terra’s spine, she really missed being with Jessica.
“Here I’ve written down the instructions for you guys here, it’s a relatively simple ritual, it’s just it’s an old spell the words aren’t in English.” Venus handed Luna and Terra each a piece of parchment, it looked as if she’d copied the spells down on some fancy paper she’d bought at an art store, she’d even ripped the edges of the paper and coloured it to make it look really old. Terra remember watching an episode of blue peter where they had made a pirate treasure map by ripping a bit of paper round the edged and then rubbing the paper with a used teabag to make it look like old parchment. It was evident that Venus had also watched this episode of Blue Peter.
Terra pictured Venus sitting there in her her room meticulously copying down a spell that she’d found on the internet, in Terra’s imagination she was using a large feathered quill, dipping it smugly every now and then in an ornate ink well she’d probably bought in a charity shop.
While Terra gave Venus an A for effort, she couldn’t help but think that there was something false about her witchcraft, almost as if she did it purely as a way to differentiate herself from every other attractive girl.
In some way the parallel between their two fake brands of Wicca amused her, they were both pretending to be be witches for their own reasons, Venus to be different and Terra to conform. Whether Luna believed any of it Terra did not know, she certainly seemed more genuine about it than Venus did, it was as if by pretending to be a witch they had made Luna believe in it all, Jessica had always been a simple soul, not in a bad way she was just a little naïve to the ways of the world and this made her quite gullible. This was perhaps one of the things that had drawn Sopie to Jessica, she was outspoken and committed to her beliefs, but she was also very innocent to the ways of the world, much more so than she let on. Luna had no reason to believe that Venus was not a witch, and venus said she was a witch, and acted like she was a witch, so why would Luna believe that she wasn’t one.
Apart from the fact that as far as Terra knew none of them had shown any evidence of the existence of magic in any way shape or form, but that might change tonight.
Terra quickly ran through the instructions on the ritual, pretentious though she might be, Venus had lovely handwriting it flowed along the page. Terra found herself wondering if she’d taken calligraphy lessons in school, maybe she was just a natural, everything about Venus had to look beautiful, at least on the surface, no doubt she had spent countless hours perfecting her calligraphy just so she could use it to intimidate people just like she did with everything else.
The ritual was simple enough, sit in a circle, rings of salt, fire in the middle of the circle, crumble this, burn that, offer the other thing.
Two things seemed a bit odd about it though; the words words of the incantations, as venus had said, were not in english, if Terra had to guess she would have said they were in Gaelic or maybe Welsh? There were too many consonants for one thing and the vowels were all in the wrong places, she wasn’t exactly sure how she was supposed to read them out, not that it mattered, it was after all just a charade.
The other thing that struck Terra was that the instructions called for 5 people to sit in the circle on the five points of a pentagram. Of course they couldn’t do that because there were only the three of them.
“Uh, Venus, it says here that we need 5 people for this ritual. How are we going to do this” She wasn’t entirely sure why she risked Venus’ wrath, it didn’t matter after all they were just playing at being witches, each trying to convince the other that they were a real witch.
“Oh yeah, I asked that on the forum I found this on. They said it would totally be fine if you had three people and put them in a triangle. It’s the fact that it’s an odd number that matters apparently not how many people do the ritual. It won’t be as powerful, but it’ll be enough to make those bitches lives really shit” Venus had apparently done her research.
Luna looked up from the sheet of parchment:
“Uh Venus, I don’t think I can read out these incantations, the letters are all in the wrong places.”
“Don’t worry about it petal, we’ll get through it all it’s not so hard” Venus moved over to Luna and put her arm over her shoulder and ran her finger over a piece of parchment and started speaking in complete gibberish.
“See it’s easy, just say the words as they are on the instructions, you don’t have to understand them, just feel them the meaning will come to you it’s part of being a witch”
Luna nodded “Okay, I guess I’ll try”
“That’s a good girl” How could Luna put up with Venus being so condescending to her!
Venus turned to Terra “You start pouring the salt in a circle over there, we’ll position ourselves there, there and there” she pointed to a relatively clear patch of ground. And under Venus’ instructions Terra started preparing the ground for the ritual.
Terra sat cross legged in a small circle of salt, at the corner of an equilateral triangle of salt, which was it’s self surrounded by a large salt circle. Venus and Luna were each in their own little circles at the other points of the triangle, and in the middle of the triangle was a fourth larger circle which touched the edges of the three outer circles.
Terra was was actually quite impressed with the geometric beauty of the configuration, but was a little worried what might have happened to any poor slugs that might have been covered in salt so that they could perform this pointless ritual.
She actually felt really guilty about this, her older brother had once shown her exactly what happened to a slug when salt was poured onto it, she had been horrified. It had actually been a life changing moment for her and although she felt a little silly when she told anyone this she thought it might have been the catalyst that turned her into a vegetarian. It did make perfect sense to her though, if the thought of a slug suffering had sent a shiver down her spine, then how could she justify the death of higher creatures like cows or chickens?
Hopefully no slugs would have been harmed during the performance of this ritual, but she had been in quite a hurry laying down the salt so she couldn’t be sure.
In the center of the inner circle of salt was a small fire, they had meant to use twigs and wood that the had found in the graveyard for the fire but it soon became apparent that due to a recent rainfall all the twigs that they found were too wet to burn. Terra had ended up having to run off to a newsagents and pick up a newspaper so use as kindling for the fire.
She’d bought the cheapest newspaper she could find and had looked on with some satisfaction as she had watched the page vacant smiling face of the page 3 model slowly go up in flames. Despite her views on nuclear proliferation and the Middle East peace process the fact that Candy, 22 from Shrewsbury, was willing to take her clothes off just so some guys could ogle her tits before reading about the football match that they had, no doubt, watched on TV the night before offended Terra no end.
Venus had taken a jar of powder out of her handbag and poured some of it over the fire, as a result the fire was now burning an eerie green rather than the normal fiery colour that fires normally burned.
What had struck Terra about this was not that the flames had started to burn green, that was probably simple chemistry, but that Venus had managed to get a jar that large out of a handbag so small, it wasn’t that the jar was massive, it was that Venus’ handbag was miniscule. It was the kind of handbag that a kept women might have, because she didn’t actually need to cary anything other than some lipstick and a small compact makeup kit. Her husband would handle paying for things, and anything else that needed to be carried.
Terra hadn’t thought of Venus as a “Kept Woman” sure she probably leached off Luna, but Luna probably wasn’t able to maintain both of them.
It occurred to her that Mary Poppins had been able to extract things from her bag that should never have fit in it, she was supposed to be a witch too.
But Mary Poppins was a character in a movie, and Venus was just a stuck up girl pretending to be a witch, the bag was probably just made to look smaller than it actually was, it was amazing what people could do when they put their mind to it.
“It’s time” Venus said matter of factly, signaling the start of the ritual, she stood up and gestured for Luna and Terra to do the same she held out an artificially aged piece of parchment in front of her and began to read, as she did Luna and Terra followed suite.
At first it felt like they all of them stumbling over the words, they had sat for a good half hour going over the spell trying to figure out how to pronounce the seemingly gibberish words on it, and had come to some consensus on how most of it should be read. But even still they all seemed to stumble over the first few words, then something odd happened.
The faulting stumbling mumbling of their voices seems to coalesce, as one they started chanting the words as if they had known them all their lives. If you were to later ask Terra what the words she had spoke meant she would not have been able to say, but as she read them out, she knew their meaning, it was deep dark meaning, she was calling forth powers not of this world, channeling them.
A tingling feeling filled her body, Terra was afraid the words kept on coming out of her mouth but she had no control over them she could not stop if she wanted to. She first to Luna then to Venus, Luna had a terrified expression on her face, as if the words were being ripped out of her. Venus on the other hand was a vision of calm, everything was going according to her plan.
The tingling sensation grew stronger and Terra could feel the her hair starting to stand on end, some sort of energy was building up inside her she felt herself filling up, causing herself to stretch, she felt like what she imagined a balloon felt like when it was inflated almost to the point of bursting, if a balloon was sentient that is, she could felt like she was going to burst but the power kept on building up inside her she could not stop the flow.
The energy in her felt at once both wonderful and agonizing, she was at one with the universe every one of her sensed tingled with power it was amazing, but at the same time she didn’t think that her body could contain it, there was just too much… Too much everything, if it went on for much longer she knew that she would burst.
Then just as Terra was sure that she could take no more, that the power inside her was going to drive her insane and cause her to lose herself, she felt all the energy that was contained within her burst out in a bolt towards the green flames in the centre of the salt configuration, she heard a deafening scream and realized that it was her own voice, she felt empty completely drained.
Terra’s vision was a blur, she tried to look around to check that Luna and Venus were okay, but she couldn’t see through the haze of her vision, she couldn’t hear anything over the ringing in her ears, every inch of her skin tingled.
It took her a few seconds to bring her senses back, as her vision cleared she saw that she had fallen to her knees, she saw a the blurry outline of Luna was also on the floor but it looked like Venus was still standing and she was talking to a fourth figure in the middle of the circle.
Terra, rubbed her eyes, trying to clear her vision, even her mind was clouded after that experience, had there been four of them all along? No she was certain it had just been herself, Luna and Venus.
Who was this fourth that had joined them?
Belagore’s world imploded on it’s self, he could feel his very essence being stretched as if her were being unwoven, fed through a hole the size of a needle, then knitted back together. He looked around him, he was standing in a pile of ash in a circle of salt. Around him were three humans, it had been a long time since he’d actually seen a human but he was pretty sure that they were females, two of them were on the floor one of them was standing addressing him.
What in the hell? Had he been summoned, what kind of idiot summoned an administrative demon?
He racked his mind, there were protocols for this, procedures he was supposed to follow, but he couldn’t for the life of him remember what the hell they were.
Then he remembered, he’d been enrolled in a class about the mortal plane, its creation, how it worked, the how it was governed by a set of rules called feeseecs, that all of it’s inhabitants were bound to follow. There had been a class on how these rules of feeseecs were supposed to be followed by a creature from the outer planes, how one was supposed to act when one was summoned, there were certain expectations to be held up, was he supposed to grant them three wishes? No, he thought that was the Djinn, was he bound? Did the persons who summoned him have any control over him? Was he supposed to perform some task for them? He tried to remember what had happened in that class, then he remembered…
He’d skipped that lesson, six hundred years at University and he’d skipped one class and it had to have been this one… It was of course Ganyrax’s fault, he’s dragged him out drinking with his Officers training buddies, Belagore had as with every time Ganyrax had dragged him out with his buddies, had a horrible time and had drunk an inordinate amount to try and blot them out. The next day of course Belagore had been violently ill, so ill he couldn’t drag himself out of his bunk to get to class. What use would he have for the protocols to follow when one was summoned he’d thought through the haze of his hangover, after all, who the hell summoned an administrative demon?
These three human females did apparently, damn them, he had half a mind to kill them for causing him such an inconvenience, arguably they had managed to extract him from his shooting session with Ganyrax’s buddies, so it wasn’t all bad, but still…
By summoning him to the mortal plane they had disrupted his plans for that evening, not that he’d had an plans that evening, but if he had had plans they would have been well and truly disrupted.
The solitary standing human female appeared to be addressing him, he felt no obligation to listen to her, but figured he might as well see what she had to say for herself, he could always kill her later.
“I bind you in the the name of the three eyes that do not see, in the name of the wind that does not blow, I command you to do my bidding. These two souls I offer to you in exchange for your servitude, feast on them, and serve me”
What was it about humans and sacrifices, they were obsessed with them and for som reason thought that killing a squirrel, a cow or even another human meant that they could bind anyone they wanted to do their bidding. No where in any of the demonic scriptures had it ever said anything of the sort, the fact was that sacrifices had been invented by human priests. If they convinced peasants that they neede to give a sacrifice to he gods of some tasty fruit or a sheep, they could then take the sacrifice for themselves once the peasants cleared off and say that “The Gods” had accepted their sacrifice, human sacrifice had started as a way to get rid of troublesome people.
Sure some demons like the taste of soul, personally Belagore found it a bit stringy, but offering a demon the sacrifice of a human soul no more compelled them to do your bidding than offering someone a cup of coffee did, sure it was a nice pleasantry but it wasn’t going to force anyone to do anything they didn’t want to.
“Did you hear me? I Said I bind you to my will! You are my slave now eat those two dumb bitches souls and lets get on with this!” Was she really address him? He looked around, aside from the two human females on the floor there was no one else she could be addressing.
“What exactly do you expect me to do young lady?” There was no point in not being civil.
“By the pact of the first come I am now your mistress, you will serve me!” She yelled at him, Belagore wasn’t privy to any pact by any first come, nor was he under any obligation to follow it.
“So you summon me to this shit hole plane of existence, offer me a couple of souls and expect me to serve you”
“Yes, you are my slave from now until eternity!” the human female was starting to annoy him.
“I don’t know who told you that would work, and I hate to burst your bubble, but thats not how it works.”
“You will obey me! Or I will will have you destroyed you insolent demon” She was an arrogant little sack of flesh.
“No, I wont and there will be no destroying. While I’m impressed that you managed to get me here, I don’t really think a life of servitude meshes well with my career plan.”
Belagore saw the human female reach into a small bag she was carrying and from it she drew out a quite large ornate knife, one that really should not have fit in a bag so small. She brandished the knife in front of her.
“This is the vermillion blade, bow before me or feel it’s bite”
Really? Vermillion blade? What was this human playing at.
“I’ve got half a mind to tear you in two young lady, first you rip me out of my plane of existence to, where are we? Is this a grave yard? Then you offer me two measly souls in exchange for eternal servitude, and now you are threatening me? Do you really think that is a good idea?”
At this she charged at him with the knife clearly he had offended her, there was a flash of green light as she stepped out of the circle of salt that she had been standing in, the flash momentarily and unexpectantly blinded Belagore and the next thing he knew feelt a searing pain in his left shoulder.
He looked down there protruding from his shoulder was the knife and attached to it was the human female. Belagore bellowed in pain, it had been at least a few thousand years since he had last experienced pain, and to say the the least it hurt.
He smacked the human female down the the floor and pulled the blade out of his shoulder and threw if to one side.
Despite the act that Belagore had dedicated his entire life to investigating proposals to destroy the human plane he didn’t actually hold any grudge agains them, it was just his job. But if they were all like this then he could see why other demons wanted them wiped out of existence. What kind of inconsiderate being summoned demons then tried to force them to do their bidding, then when they refused, stabbed them? It was just impolite.
He advanced on her, he had to dispatch of her before she tried some other trick, that knife had hurt a lot more than it should have and was probably magic. Maybe he’d underestimated her? Belagore had never been good at combat, it was one of the reasons he’d not joined the Officers training core with Ganyrax, he just didn’t hae the knack for killing things. But he had to denfed himself; Belagore swiped at her, expecting her to dodge nimbly out the way, it was inevitable. To his surprise he struck her square on the jaw and sent her flying, or rather he sent her head flying, her lifeless body just slumped down to the ground.
He looked down at her body in amazement, then in the direction her head had flown off. Surely humans were made of sterner stuff, the armies of hell trained day and night for the day they would have to wage war on them. There was no way they were this fragile.
All the stories he’d read of humans that had singlehandedly defeated hoards of demons could not be wrong could they? What did the armies of hell have to worry about if all of humanity were this fragile? Were they all this fragile?
It occurred to him that there was a simple way to find out. He turned to one of the humans that the now deceased human female had “offered” to him in exchange for his service, slowly but surely he advanced on it and raised his fist to strike. It seemed too easy, this human was lying prone, but he had to know, maybe that last one had been some kind of fluke, maybe he’d hit some sort of weak spot? He’d heard that some pretty mean beasties had spots on them which if struck would cause them an immense amount of damage, dragons for example apparently often, but no always, had a soft spot on their underside which if struck with an arrow would kill them instantly.
He always thought this was a design flaw in dragons, especially since their main mode of transportation was flying, with their belly facing the ground. A dragon could be flying about, minding it’s own business, looking for a city to burn or a farm to pillage and all it would take was one inconsiderate person with an arrow to take it down. Why didn’t they wear armor? They accrued enough gold and the like from their escapades, and all they did was sit on it.
Belagore swung at the human just as it started to get up off the floor, the human raised it’s hands up in front of itself in defence, maybe this would deflect his blow, only one way to find out. He followed through with his strike, there was a crunch as his blow connected with the human outstretched arms which crumpled under the blow, the momentum of his fist pushed caused the human to fly several feet backwards, it was only stopped by the wall of a great stone crypt at which point and fell to the floor limp.
It seemed to him that humans were indeed frail creatures, it also occurred to him that dispatching of them in this way was actually quite fun, he could almost see what Ganyrax saw in military service, the armies of hell made it look like it’s foot soldiers were fighting the evil fight, but it seemed to Belagore that destroying humans was mere child’s play, he turned to the third human, might as well finish what he started…
James had had some time to acclimatize to being immortal, to be honest being immortal wasn’t very much different from not being immortal, sure he’d heal a lot faster if he got hurt; but it would still hurt.
He’d not been given much in the way of rules to follow, keeping a low profile was the main rule he’d been given, he wasn’t the type to blow his head off on national TV though so that was going to be fairly simple to maintain.
As a way of making up for the “clerical error” the administration had set up a bank account for James, into which a stipend of $3,500 was deposited every month, and he’d been provided with a new identity. The new Identity was very similar to the old one, they had somehow managed to get him both a British and a US passport so he could stay in New York if he wanted to or go back home to Glasgow, there were subtle changes, he was James Parker now not James Park and his date of birth was now the 5th of December rather than the 8th of August 1986, why these had changed he didn’t know.
The stipend might not have been “mega bucks” but it meant that he could afford the rent on a one bedroom apartment in the city, and not have to live on a diet of rehydrated ramen noodles.
Being a dead man walking was a little weird for James, he wasn’t really allowed to talk to anyone about it, in fact he wasn’t sure he’d want to to be honest.
“Hi I’m James I’m dead but I’m still hanging about for a little bit, do you want to go for drinks?” Wasn’t exactly a good pick up line.
Then there was the matter of how he rationalized it, he was dead, or at least he had been and he was now no longer dead. He didn’t really see himself as being undead though, he wasn’t a zombie or a vampire or anything like that, he was just a regular Joe, or James as the case may be, who had been brought back from the dead.
James didn’t really know what to do with himself, he could go out and get a Job, rejoin society and continue on as if nothing had happened. But something had happened, he’d died and seen the afterlife, he’d been reminded that nothing lasted forever and that his time on the earth was limited. As soon as his paperwork showed up they’d come and get him and move him on for “processing”, that could be today, it could be tomorrow, it could be in a hundred or even a thousand years. One day he would have to go back to that waiting room, who knew Janine might even remember him, he’d hand over his paper work and he’d be moved on.
This knowledge filled him with a certain sense that he had to enjoy what was left of his life, he’d once joked that if he could live in total isolation with nothing but books he’d be happy, so he wrote down a list of 100 books he had always wanted to read but had never had the time and he bought them all. He’d felt really chuffed with himself, he had a comfortable chair and a stack of books what else could he need?
For three weeks, the only social interaction James had was with people who either existed solely between the covers of a book, or on the other side of a door with a pizza to deliver. To start with James thought it was bliss, he was a fairly fast reader and with nothing else to take up his time he’d managed about book a day.
As the time passed the cabin fever started to set in, he stopped washing, started having conversations with himself, the toaster, his toast. He started to relish the coming of the delivery man, he’d order Pizza when he wasn’t hungry just to have thirty seconds of human interaction. He needed to get out of the house and see some people pronto.
It might have been the cabin fever, or the fact that he’d spent too much time living in the world of fiction but James figured that he would try to take advantage of his “gift”, he thought he could maybe be a crime fighter or hunt demons like John Constantine in the Hellblazer comics he’d read while he was a teenager.
As soon as James had this idea he marched out the apartment and bought himself a trench-coat, a packet of cigarettes and a brown fedora, it was then that he discovered that he couldn’t handle smoking, the cigarettes made him cough up half a lung every time he tried to smoke one, he persisted for a few days but eventually decided that the dark and mysterious image he was trying to go for was completely ruined by his splattering cough.
He soon gave up on the trench coat too as without a skilled artist to make it look him look cool in it he just looked like a creepy guy in a trench coat.
The fedora on the other hand he decided he would keep, he saw it as a statement about who he was, and it kept his head warm.
James set off on his newly acquired mission, he had once more gained a purpose, but where the hell would he start? In books and films demon hunters tended to stumble into the jobs, or they were somehow established at the start of the story and they’d find out about a new case when some old flame or long defeated nemesis turned up on their door step asking for help. James didn’t really have any old flames, at least not in New York, and he certainly didn’t have any Nemesis’, at least not that he knew of.
He tried to stake out seedy bars, listening into conversations, this really didn’t get him anywhere. The word on the street was no where near as interesting as years of watching Hollywood noir had lead him to believe it would be.
Most of the conversations were just people moaning about their bosses, people convinced their wives were cheating on them or people boasting about how they were cheating on their wives.
He needed a case, but it seemed that there weren’t any about or at least if there were they were all taken. Maybe he was looking in the wrong places?
James took his search to the internet, surely if there was weird shit happening in New York he’d find some reference to it there. He tried to follow up leads that he found in blog and forum posts. He found a woman who had posted a request for help on an occult forum asking for help, she had a giant tentacled demon living in her spare room, she was afraid for he life, she needed someone to exorcise it, or better yet kill it.
This was his chance! He contacted her and said that he would help her get rid of the demon, he didn’t even need a fee, his first job would be gratis as he was learning the ropes, he didn’t tell her this or course, to her he was just a freelance demon hunter. Things were looking like they were going to get interesting.
James was filled with anticipation as he stood in front of the apartment door, he could feel his heart racing in his chest and a bead of sweat slowly made it’s way from his hairline, down his temple and onto his cheek where he wiped it away. This was it! His first expedition into the world of the unknown, his first step towards becoming a paranormal investigator, a demon hunter.
He psyched himself up at the door, practicing his knock in the air in front of the door, miming his introduction. Did he go for flamboyance? Was he a dark brooding investigator? Should be eccentrically manic? There were genre conventions to adhere to, which would he adopt? First impressions mattered, and this was his first first impression so by inference it was the most important of all.
After about a minute, of standing there, pretending to knock on the door and mouthing various introductions, James realized that it was probably time he actually did the deed, the horrible tentacled monster that was living in this poor woman’s spare room wasn’t going to slay it’s self, and if he delayed who knew what it might do.
One deep breath in, out, and he knocked on the door just as he’d practiced, a casual rat-a-tat-tat.
No one answered, James waited, maybe she was in the toilet, or worse maybe the horrible tentacled monster had finally consumed her! He knocked again this time more urgently.
“Mrs. Winchester!” He voiced through the door, can you hear me? Are you okay.
He continued knocking but there was still no answer. James was starting to get worried, what if the beast has consumed her or worse? He had to get in there, she could be fighting for her life this very moment! He took a couple of steps back, squared his shoulder and charged the door, like they did in the movies, there was a resounding thud that echoed through the corridor but the door didn’t budge an inch.
He stepped back again and rammed the door a second time with his shoulder, the thud was louder this time but the door was completely immobile.
James thought to himself that if he was a real demon hunter he should really have a gun, then he’d have been able to shoot out the lock and make his was in for his daring rescue, it was at this point that he realised that he didn’t actually have any of the trappings of a demon hunter on him, he had no weapons, no holy water, no verses from scripture, he did have a very dapper hat but that wasn’t going to be much use in fighting a tentacled horror from a another dimension.
Just as he was thinking this there was a sound on the other side of the door, a the click of a bolt being undone and the door opened to reveal a woman in a bath robe.
She was stunning, richard judged she was about 5 foot six, pale blue eyes, her hair was glisteningly wet, indicating that she had not in fact been eating by a demon but had been in the shower, which would explain her not being able to hear his carefully orchestrated knocking.
If this was his client he’d struck pay-dirt, he’d rescue the damsel in distress, she forever be indebted to him, maybe he’d casually ask her out for coffee after slaying horrible demon thing that had been tormenting her, and one thing would lead to another.
You never know, a guy can hope…
James stepped forward to introduce himself just like he’d practiced, but before he could even open his mouth he was was struck mute by the woman on the other side of the door screaming at him.
“What the hell do you think you are doing doing!” She shouted angrilly, “Are you trying to knock the door down! Why the hell are you doing that! I’m calling the police!”
“No… Wait” He put his hand forward gesturing for her to wait “I’m James Parker you asked me to come her, to solve your… Er… Problem.”
“I don’t know who the hell you Mr. Parker and I’ve never asked you to solve any problem for me. Even if I had what god damn right does that give you to try and batter down my door?” She was still shouting but at least she wasn’t screaming.
“Mr’s Steinburg, you emailed me saying that you had a problem that you needed my expertise to resolve? Don’t you remember” He handed her his card, it said simply:
PARANORMAL INVESTIGATOR/DEMON HUNTER
Maybe the demon had taken over her, and he would have to perform some sort of exorcism, he hadn’t the foggiest how he would go about doing that, in retrospect this whole endeavor probably required an awful lot more thought and preparation than he had initially anticipated.
She looked at the card, and read it for a second,
“What kind of a loon do you think I am? I’m not falling for this mumbo jumbo” then a look of realization passed over her face “What did you call me”
“Mr’s Steinburg, that’s what you said your name was”
“That’s not me, Mr’s Steinburg lives one floor up from here, go try and scam her” with that she slammed the door in his face.
Rather embarrassed by the exchange James made his was up the stairs, he stood outside the door that he hoped this time was Mr’s Steinburg’s.
He went to knock on the door with what he decided would be his signature rata-tat-tat, with each knock the door creaked open a little, it wasn’t even locked. He peered through the crack that had opened in the door, and gave a meek “Hello?”
As his face neared the crack a foul smell wafted into his nose, was it Sulfur? Commonly known as brimstone it was often associated with demonic acts and gateways to hell, was he too late?
There was a screeching sound as he pushed the door open, and a cat bolted out the door. No it wasn’t sulfur, it was ammonia, or rather the place smelt of cat pee.
The apartment was an absolute state, James guessed that the carpet had once been a navy blue color, but he could only barely see it’s colour through the layer of shed fur that covered it, there were claw marks in the walls, and as he entered the house the strong smell intensified.
“Hello, Mr’s Steinburg” James found himself hoping that he’d made yet another mistake, he really didn’t want to do battle against a foul creature from another dimension here, it was disgusting.
“Yes yes coming” came the voice of an elderly lady from round the corner, she had the kind of thick nasal New York accent that was always parodied in movies and TV shows, until James had moved to New York he’d thought that it was purely the product of the media, but he had very quickly become all too aware of it’s existence.
As she came round the corner with a mug of coffee in her hand, there was an exclamation of “Owh Mah Gawd, aren’t you a handsome maaaayn” She was almost a parody herself, the thick glassed, the her large head of white hair, the pastel cardigan, and her leopard print slippers. At her feet was yet another cat, this one a long haired persian, which James suspected as being the source of most of the hair that had formed a 2nd carpet over the one that had originally been installed in the apartment.
“Mrs Steinburg?” Given his past experience James decided that he would ascertain that he was in the right place straight away rather than wait for the confusion to build. He really hoped he was in the wrong place, in all the detective novels and comics he’s read the client was always a beautiful woman, who desperately needed his help, true life was not living up to fiction.
“Yes, That’s me would you like some cawfee?” She grabbed him by the arm before he had a chance to escape and lead him into the living room, and gestured to a large sofa.
“Sit daawn, I’d go get the cawfee, how do you take it? milk? Shugga?” She set her own mug of coffee down on the table and released his arm.
“Just sugar please” James didn’t really ever drink coffee, he was more accustomed to tea, but here in New York he’d found that it was nearly impossible to get a good cup of tea, the Americans didn’t seem to understand the concept of tea, instead they seemed to live in some sort of parallel universe where everyone drank a foul tasting bitter black liquid, the sugar helped in taking away the bite of the coffee but he’d long ago given up on asking if people had tea as an alternative.
“Oh you’re English, how quaint!” she said, putting he hand onto his face in that way that grandmothers did do children when they had done something that had amused them.
“I’m Scottish actually, not English” the bane of any scotsman in the states was constantly being referred to as English, in the grand scheme of things it didn’t really matter but it was the principle of the matter.
“Oh you’re from Scotland? That’s adorable, you speak English so well! Where did you learn?”
“I’ve always spoken English, it’s what we speak in Scotland”
“You must have such a good education system there, they must start teaching you English at a very young age. I don’t speak any Norwegian, you make me feel so ignorant.”
“Yes, that’s what you speak in Scotland isn’t it? I suppose you have to learn English though, it’s the global language of trade isn’t it. You can’t get anywhere without speaking English”
“Mrs Steinburg, In Scotland we speak English”
“Oh please call me Janet, I know you all speak English so well you foreigners, it’s amazing kids over here they barely speak English, you probably speak better English than half most people round here, and I’ll bet none of them speak Norwegian even half as well as you do”
“I don’t speak Norwegian Mrs Steinburg… I mean Janet… No one speaks Norwegian in Scotland at least not as a first language”
“They teach you English first then your own language, that’s crazy, you should write a letter to the president to complain, if they don’t teach you Norwegian in your school’s then the language might die out”
“I’m sure Norwegian won’t die out, they speak it in Norway, I’m not from Norway I’m from Scotland”
“Isn’t Scotland in Norway?” James couldn’t believe she’d just asked this question.
“No it’s part of Britain, where we speak English”
“Isn’t that in France, shouldn’t you speak French?”
James was dumfounded for a second he honestly didn’t know how to answer that question, they he realised what she meant.
“No, no, no, you are thinking of Brittany, which is in France”
“Oh yeah, my husband, Mr Steinburg, fought the Nazi’s there. He Never came back”
“I’m sorry for your loss Janet”
“Don’t be, son of a bitch ran hooked up with some french slut and decided to stay with her when the war ended. He got a dishonorable discharge and decided to stay with her in France, I’m better off without the ass hole”
Again James wasn’t really sure how to respond so he just said nothing, this lady was as far as he could tell the Mrs Steinburg who had contacted him, the name matched the address matched, but there didn’t seem to be an form of demon in the house.
James figured they should probably get around to business but just as he was about to open his mouth to ask Mrs Steinburg about her demon problem she started talking again.
“How is you you want your Cawfee again? You want milk in it don’t you?”
“No, just one sugar, no milk please”
“Okay, I’ll try and remember, my memory it aint what it used to be these days I used to be sharp as a fiddle but these days I just don’t know”
“You mean fit as a fiddle?”
“That too, I used to play the fiddle you know.”
With that revelation she doddered off to the kitchen to make some coffee.
The large sofa that looked like it was as old as Mrs Steinburg, it like the carpet was covered in cat hair. There were three cats lying curled up on the sofa, they had spaced themselves on the cushions in such a way that James couldn’t sit on the sofa without moving them. One of the cats raised its head and fixed James with a look that said “Just try it”.
James decided not to risk the ire of the cats perched himself uncomfortably on the arm of the sofa, on of the cats sensing his presence extended a single paw towards his leg and affectionately dug its claws into his leg.
Cats had a strange power of people, James didn’t know why but he reached down and started stroking the cat, despite that fact that it’s request for attention had actually hurt quite a bit, the cat immediately started purring and rolled onto it’s back. James knew he was treading on dangerous ground, because although this was cat talk for please rub my belly, it was also cat talk for if you come near me I’ll claw your hand to ribbons. He decided to risk and was rewarded with an even louder purr, apparently it meant the former, for now.
From the kitchen he could hear Mrs Steinburg singing to herself, he didn’t think it was in English.
Eventually she came back with two mugs, evidently she had forgotten about the coffee she had had when he had come and had made herself another mug.
“I see you’ve made friends with Flick, she’s such a lovely cat, such a good judge of character too, you must be a really nice man other wise she wouldn’t let you touch her” As if on cue Flick decided that she had had enough of having her belly rubbed and simultaneously grabbed his hand with her front paws, bit it and started kicking it furiously with her back legs.
“Aw look she wants to play with you”
“Yes, she does” It had taken a lot of self control to contain the yelp of pain that he so wanted to exclaim. He looked down at his hand the back of it was bleeding a little, and it was starting to sting.
He tried to carefully extract his hand from the whir of claws and teeth that had only seconds ago been a cute fuzzy cat, as he lifted his hand out the cat came up with it hanging onto him with it’s claws gnawing on his fingers for a few painful seconds, before it lost it’s grip and fell back onto the sofa.
On contact with the sofa Flick started licking herself furiously, looked up let out an annoyed “mrrraaaaawwww” as if she had only just noticed James interrupting her bath time and then got up and strutted away.
“They never make up their mind do they, that’s what I love about them. Here’s your cawfee.” she said passing a mug of coffee to him.
“Thanks” He took the coffee from her and took a sip, it was boiling hot, and almost burnt his tongue, it also had milk in it and no sugar.
“Sit yourself down, why are you perched on the sofa like that, you look so uncomfortable” She gestured to the now vacant space on the chair.
James obligingly moved to the space on the sofa, he wanted to get down to bushiness, but he didn’t want to be rude, he didn’t know what an acceptable amount of small talk was acceptable before one could get on with business, he suspected it varied depending on the type of business one was conducting, you’d probably want a door to door salesman to just get on with it, you might want to have a quick chat to get comfortable with a psychiatrist before exposing your innermost secrets, and you’d probably just slam the door in the face of Jehova’s Witness who’d come to your door to talk to you about the true path.
Exactly where paranormal investigators or demon hunters lay in this spectrum of small talk vs business talk wasn’t clear to James, he found himself really wishing he’d read a book on how to do this, although he wasn’t sure where he would find ‘Hunting Demons: For Dummies’ if such a book even existed, which he doubted. Maybe he should be taking notes so that he could write the book when he got more experience, surely there was a market for it? The only problem was that he would have to use a Pseudonym, and he’d never be able to do any publicity himself on account of having to keep a low profile, maybe the mystery of no one knowing who the author was would help the book sell more copies?
“Would you like some cookies?” James was snapped out of his introspection by this question.
“I was expecting you so I baked cookies, it isn’t right to have guests and not have anything to offer them, so I baked a batch of cookies.” She got up and headed back to the kitchen without waiting for a response.
Truth be told James did like cookies, but this wasn’t really the time for cookies, there was a tentacled horror in the next room and he was here to deal with it. But James had been totally disarmed by Mrs Steinbergs offer, she had left the room now he regained his composure, he decided to take charge of the situation, if ever there was a time to move onto business it was before cookies. He could indulge in cookies when he had defeated the other worldly horror that had been tormenting this poor lady, they would be his reward, James was willing to do a lot for cookies.
He stood up and brushed off the cat hair that had somehow accumulated on the front of his trousers, he didn’t recall a cat sitting there, it must have been in the air or something. Having regained his composure James strode confidently to the kitchen, demon slaying first cookies later.
“Mrs Steinberg?” He said as he reached the doorway to the kitchen.
“Yes dearie? You do like chocolate chip cookies don’t you? I was going to make peanut-butter cookies, but I didn’t have any peanut-butter, so I figured I’d make chocolate chip cookies, because everyone liked chocolate chip cookies, they’re the best selling cookies in the country you know.” James didn’t know this, the thought of what cookie was the best selling type in this country or in fact any other country had never crossed his mind.
“Mrs Stienberg…” James tried to interject but she completely ignored him.
“Well I mixed everything together, flour eggs sugar, then I found out I didn’t have any chocolate chips either. I almost threw the mix out and made oatmeal cookies, but then I thought to myself. I said Nobody really likes oatmeal cookies, those that do are only fooling themselves that they like them because they they they are healthy. I tell you they aren’t that healthy I’ve seen what goes in them, they aren’t healthy at all, cookies it cookies and if you are going to eat a cookie then you should eat one that tastes nice not one that pretends to be healthy but isn’t really.”
“Mrs Stienberg…” he tried again.
“So had to I go down to the store and buy chocolate chips. If I’d known I’d have had to go to the store I’d just have gone to the store to buy peanut butter in the first place, and not bothered with the chocolate chip cookies, but I was sure I had chocolate chips, only I didn’t so I had to go to the store and buy some”
“Mrs…” he didn’t even get to finish his sentence this time she just kept on talking…
“Anyway I went to the store bought the chocolate chips, came back here put the cookies in the oven, and then I had to clean up the kitchen, I’d bought too many chocolate chips, so I put them back int he cupboard, and what do I find in the cupboard?” She looked at him questioningly.
“What did you find in the cupboard?” James had given up hope of interrupting her now, hopefully when she finished the story he’d get a chance to ask her about the unmentionable horror that was plaguing her spare room.
“Peanut butter! I had 4 jars of the stuff sitting there in cupboard! Can you believe it? So anyway once I’d finished the the chocolate chip cookies I decided I’d bake some peanut butter cookies too, I guess I figured I didn’t know whether you’d like the chocolate chip cookies, so I’d have a backup plan, do you like chocolate chip cookies son?”
“Yes… Yes I do, but Mrs Steinberg, you asked me to come here for a reason, you have a problem you want me to solve for you”
“Oh don’t worry about that, we can solve it once you’ve had some cookies” She was oddly nonchalant about having a demon in her spare room.
“I’d like to see to it now Mrs Stienberg, if I survive I’ll have a cookie” It wasn’t until after he said this that he realized how ridiculous it sounded.
“If you survive? I don’t see that being a problem big strong man like you”
Was she looking at the same person he thought she was?
“I’d like to get this out the way if that’s okay Mrs Stienberg” Be assertive, get the job done.
“Well if you are sure, they really are good cookies, are you sure you don’t want one before you start?”
“No thank you Mrs Stienberg”
She lead him to her spare room, the room was all but empty but for a pile of boxes and a large washing machine.
“There it is” she pointed in the direction of the washing machine.
“I beg your pardon?” What was she pointing at?
“That there thing its possessed” She continues to point to the washing machine.
“But that’s a washing machine Mrs Steinberg, in your email you said that there was a monster with huge tentacles coming out of it in your spare room”
“Did I say tentacles, I meant pipes, yes that’s right pipes, I guess I couldn’t think of the right word, tentacles are like pipes aren’t they?”
“Um, no they aren’t”
“Well all the same that thing is possessed and I was rid of it. You said you could get rid of deamons, and ghost, I don’t know what’s in that thing but it ain’t natural”
“How exactly is the washing machine possessed Mrs Stienberg?”
Well I haven’t used it in months when when I do, the darn thing walks about the room, and it screams like it’s dying. Darn thing doesn’t even get my clothes clean, I’ve had to buy another one and have it installed in the kitchen” She pointed back to the kitchen.
“Let me get this straight you think the washing machine is possessed because it walks about the room and screams? How exactly does it scream, is it saying anything?” James was trying to maintain a professional attitude, trying really hard.
“Well it doesn’t say anything so much as it just screams, it makes a god awful racket, I’ve had the neighbors complain woman downstairs even called the cops on me because of the noise” She had a pleading look in her eyes, James didn’t have the heart to tell her that her washing machine wasn’t possessed, that it was just broken.
“Okay lets see this thing in action, you said it ‘becomes active’ when you switch it on?”
“Yeah, darn thing is pure evil”
“Okay, do you have any clothes that I can put in it I’ll start it up and see if I can exorcise it.”
“Sure I got some stuff I was going to send to the homeless shelter, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to try it in that machine” She went left the room to get the washing.
James shook his head, this was a ridiculous situation, here he was trying to build up a career as a demon hunter and his first case was a senile old lady with a broken washing machine. He didn’t have the heart to tell her that it was probably just broken, with any luck he’d find out that the fan belt was loose of something, maybe he could fix that and she’d end up with two working washing machines.
Shortly thereafter Mrs Stienberg came back with a garbage bag full of clothes.
“Here, you can use some of these, I had to wash them anyway before sending them to the center, not that that thing will wash them” She handed James the bag and he took out a load of washing and put it in the machine.
He looked at the dials on the machine trying to figure out how to switch it on.
“You’ll need some detergent hang on a second I’ll go get some” Mrs Stienberg left the room again, and James tried to figure out how to get the machine switched on, the thing was probably as old if not older than he was, and it didn’t seem to make any sense, he turned dials and flicked switches but none of the lights seemed to do anything.
“Here’s the detergent son” James nearly jumped out of his skin, Mrs Stienberg had come into the room so silently that he hadn’t noticed her do so.
“How do you get his thing started, none of the dials and buttons seem to do anything?” he asked her.
“Is it plugged in?”
James went round to the back of the machine, an followed the power cable to the wall socket it was plugged into.
“Yeah it’s plugged in” He looked at the switch “But it’s switched off”
“Of course, I forgot, I switched it off in case it decided to do anything in the night you can never be top careful”
“Sure” James was no expert in demons, yet, but he sincerely doubted that they ran on electricity.
He flipped the switch to on, there was a satisfying click, and he moved to back to the front of the machine. The ON light was powered, he moved the dials to wash cycle, 40 degrees no prewash aught to do it, unless the ‘demon’ was particularly picky about it’s settings, he closed the door and hit the start button.
Nothing happened for a couple of seconds then there was the sound of gushing water as the machine filled with water.
“How long does it take before it starts to act abnormal?” James asked Mrs Stienberg.
“About a half an hour or so, it screeches when it’s washing but it goes all crazy when it gets to the spin cycle”
It took the machine a good couple of minutes to fill up with water, then it slowly started to whir, every 5 seconds there was a little screech, and the machine would judder, James had never repaired a washing machine but that seemed to make sense for a slipping fan belt.
“We’ll just have to wait for it to do it’s then then, how about you bring some of those cookies, we might as well have some if we are going to have to wait”
“Oh I can’t have any, I’ve got the diabetes, but you go ahead son. Eat as many as you want” James hadn’t counted the cookies when he’d been in the kitchen, but there must have been over a hundred spread across several cooling racks. Had she cooked them all because she was expecting him, poor old woman, James wondered if she hadn’t made this all up just so she’d have someone to talk to that wasn’t her cats.
The cookies were delicious, James had never had cookies this good, he’d munched through at least 5 or 6 by the time the spin cycle started.
The motor in the washing machine started to whir like crazy, causing the whole unit to shake and in doing so it started to rock or walk around the room, also as the motor was now spinning much faster the fan belt was slipping more often and a loud squealing noise started emanating from it.