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A Rising Fall “love as one, live as you love” Copyright© Cian Sean McGee CSM Publishing ‘The Free Art Collection’ Santo André, São Paulo, Brazil 2013 Second Edition All rights reserved. This FREE ART ebook may be copied, distributed, reposted, reprinted and shared, provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, the reader is not charged to access it and the downloader or sharer does not attempt to assume any part of the work as their own. Free art, just a writer’s voice and your conscious ear.

Cover Design: C. Sean McGee Interior layout: C. Sean McGee Author Foto: Carla Raiter

this short story was written under the iinfluence of: Grace for Drowning by Steven Wilson

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“love as one, live as you love�

CITY: aliteraryconcerto

A Rising Fall

b00k 001

free art collection 3


for keli, nenagh and tomรกs

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00110000 He was sure his arm was broken. The pain from the blow coursed from his elbow through to his fingertips. His legs too were beginning to give way now. They ached courageously and they were so heavy. Each step made a mile of its own and the inevitability of collapse was beckoning. Still he threw off any and all ideas of stopping. On he rushed through the mangled weave of broken cement, ripping skin on plates of loose gravel and broken glass. On he rushed, never wincing for a second, swallowing; in every shallow breath, the agonizing defeat echoing through every fibre of his body. On he rushed, unsure of whom or what it was that hounded his piles of footsteps. On he rushed, certain of his uncertainty but unwilling to challenge his paranoia. On he rushed and he never lost pace. He moved through the maze of concrete structures with a comfortable ease and an unsettled feeling of familiarity. He knew every brick that lay strewn in his path and given time, on any other day; without the shadow of death creeping upon his own, he could tell you exactly how and why it was that each brick came into being and its being where it was; its purpose before the blackout and its purpose now. None of this now though, for now was pressing. The fractured cement beneath his feet governed his stride and his knowledge of every fissure meant that the probability of coming unstuck and losing his rhythm was far less than whatever was on his trail, sweeping him from his feet and devouring him under this choking black sky. On he rushed through the narrow street, his feet heavy, his mind light. The endless night - beleaguering his sight and his mind 5


was of no assurance to him at all, for on his scent was neither man nor beast. He was running from darkness itself. The streets narrowed further now so his hands; outstretched, could run against the walls of the structures that stood unconvincingly to his left and to his right, on the path set before him and of those out of sight. His fingers and his toes urged him in a way that his eyes and ears could not. His left arm swung in a lifeless fashion, catching on exposed nails that lined the walls of these archaic structures. He could pull this limb to his body with his right arm but it would be frivolous and counterproductive. Until this rush subsided, his right arm was his navigator and his left merely a counterweight. The searing pain of tearing skin and broken bones paled in comparison to the suffocating fear that galvanized his perpetual stride. His fingertips manoeuvred laboriously across the crumbling brick work feeling for a shape he could recognise. The pounding of footsteps in his wake reverberated not in his ears, but in his consciousness. The air was completely still; a heavy blanket of nothingness. As has always been, an asphyxiating toxic black cloud flowered from the heavens down to his feet. No light or sound could penetrate yet on he rushed. And his pace quickened; a familiar shape. Now count steps he thought. “Sixteen, left, seventeen, right; left foot will slip towards a crevice. Hold firm in the crevice, spring to the right, twenty eight degrees inclination.” His foot slipped just as he predicted sliding into a crevice but just as he moved to deflect into the opening to his right, something small and agile latched itself to his left calf. He entered the small opening yanking hard on a rusted chain as he dashed through. Behind him the opening vanished, as did the beast that was attached to his leg. He lay silent and discreet, foetal in the centre of the room. Now that he was still, he could feel the pain from his left arm pulsating throughout his every being. ‘Safe’, he thought, as long as he remained still, and so he held 6


onto his suffering. A marching procession moved pass the blocked entrance, their thunderously stampeding footsteps came loud and then fell silent. Neither man nor beast had lost his scent. Not one, not the other, but an execrable amalgamation of the two. His breath though hollow at first began to take shape, and with it, not a sensation of calm but one of calming washed over him like a stream of cold ale on a drunkard’s beard. It impregnated his blood and spawned at his fingertips, his digits twitching rapidly, surpassed only by the incapacitation of his heaving lower limbs. “Dese legs o mine” he thought, “Dey take anchor witout order. Dey listen not ta command but instead determine dis immediate state o misdirection. Damn dese insubordinate limbs. If I could do witout em, I’d be witout hunger, if just for one more day.” He thought of this rebellion, and he obeyed. Still and stupid, he sat in absolute silence. “Girl” he said, wavering his head and right arm towards a crevice in the darkest black of the room. “We have to move” he followed, choking on his own breath, the silence begotten only by the screeching of two pieces of rusted metal turning on one other as the hinges of a nearby cupboard hath said upon the world, “A secret in thine womb seeks absence of thee.” A tiny hand slipped from the darkness into the sight of the man who in a moment jumped to his feet, yanking on the frail arm and taking with him, the young girl in his flight. Run, run, run chanted mind to foot. “Don’t look back” the man urged to the young girl. The man’s hand clenched unyieldingly around the young girl’s dragging her through a darkly invisible landscape of charred concrete. The beads of sweat that ran from their foreheads to their eyes stung wildly but it didn’t fault their pace or direction. On they rushed, through the blanket of black sky that abounded them. On they rushed, vomiting as their breaths gave way to the tremendous waves of bile. Foot after foot, print by print, they weaved and dodged their way down a corridor of decomposing buildings; the man focused on a shadowy image far in the deep-set of his conscience, a destination of sorts. On they rushed and a horde of footsteps rushed with them until they could rush no more. A great structure, a formidable sight; as high as the out stretch of night, beckoned their freedom and fraught their sight. 7


Stopped. Breathing heavily. Turned over upon themselves. Gripping their heaving chests. Exhausted. Beaten. Exposed. Frightened. Coughing violently and disgorging the vulgarity of screams that drowned out the silence and calm in everything. They could rush no more. Fire, then filled the sky.

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day 001

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00110010 On a cold grey August morning under a wisp of clatter, a young man rose from his dirty old mattress and shook off his slumber. Motioning towards an open window, he pulled his arms up over his shaven head, gazing vacantly into the long grey horizon. Behind him a woman stirred, kicking puffs of dust in the air as she contorted her body in her rousing sleep. The squeaking of rusted springs under her shifting weight killed the silence in the young man’s mind. He moved his attention away from the window where outside, the world sat without colour and without life. As he turned, a single drop of rain fell through his reflection on the pane of glass, seemingly as if his ghostly image had shed a tear. He stood over the end of the mattress, his arms at his side, simply watching in silent admiration at the woman before him. Her true beauty for a moment defeated her immediate appearance of emaciation. The young man in that moment saw beyond her fragility and beyond the sores that had ravaged her body. Before him lay a voluptuous woman with pale white skin, warm brown eyes, supple firm breasts, her face; a pillar of affection, proportion and symmetry, her hands; unscarred and gentle with long slender fingers and painted nails, and her hair; elegantly styled, cut to the nape of her neck, midnight black with subtle tints of scarlet and lilac. As she stretched out the sleep in her soul, pulling her arms together outspread beyond her head and kicking her feet up into the air, the young man sat idle, lost in a chimerical stare, outside of reason. A strange sensation became him; a visceral warmth engorging his mind and his loins, smothering that cold zero:one rationale etched into the core of his consciousness; lust, desire, want. The woman pulled a blanket over her exposed body, overcome by a sheepish playfulness completely unbeknownst to her. 10


She; feeling her man’s longing stare peel away her thin layers of flesh and magnetize her catatonic inner self, whisked herself up and motioned towards him with the blanket trailing at her feet. Her man stood there, taken aback. His conscious mind detoxified from its delusionary state leaving him awash with confusion, a grey state so unlike anything he had felt in such a longing of time. His mind felt like an unfinished painting. Once again he returned to the open window but this time he met the colourless landscape with a welcomed familiarity. His eyes focused on the streets below, at the entrance to his building where a young boy wrestled with a raggedy old dog over some scraps of what may or may not have been animal remains. The young boy’s hunger was no match for the small dog’s ferocity and agility. The boy tumbled over on his side clenching his stomach. He rolled back and forth until his tiny body sadly exited the sidewalk with a little thump and he keeled over in the black filthy water that overflowed from a nearby river. The dog marched off triumphantly into the smoky distance, his tail wagging haplessly, grinning with his jaws clenching his trophy; a tiny slither of meat. His fur was charcoaled and matted and his body wore the effects of many a close encounter with man and beast. His big blue eyes scanned left and right as his little paws patted away at the broken cement. Around his neck, a remnant of an obedient past; a red cloth collar still in one piece housing a small silver medallion with the word ‘Ruff ’ engraved upon it. The dog; Ruff, ventured onwards, his senses heightened, his pace quickening, his journey well underway. The Woman; dressed against the skin of her lover, rested her chin on his muscular shoulder and her breasts against his naked back, staring with him out of the window. It was another bleak cold grey August morning, the spitting rain making the air dense, chilled and unwelcome, just enough rain to blotch up your windows, but not enough to wash away the filth caught in the frame. Weather like this was no reason to wake at all. She belonged 11


under the covers; cosy, being wrapped up in the arms of her lover, his warm breath running down the nape of her neck, his right hand gently caressing her long slender thigh as he whispers the words ‘I love you’, and a shiver creeps the length of her spine. They should stay there, under the covers, until the sun reaped enough courage to step out from underneath its own depression. “Not now” said Marcos, negating her sensual address. “Oh wonderful, thanks, way to make me feel wanted, you prick” she said, tearing her hands from his body in protestant disappointment and exiting for the bathroom. She slammed the door shut and sat at the edge of the bath tub with her hands over her face. Her heart started to race and her breath became heavy and it carried with it, her evening supper. As her stomach convulsed she threw herself in the direction of the toilet and as she vomited, waves of heat washed through her mind. She started to sweat and her vision started to blur. As she sat foetal, with her back against the toilet bowl and her head curved into her body, her mind started to drift and she could hear her lover in the other room on his cell phone. He had barely even gotten out of bed and was already attached to that thing. He could barely string two words together to say how he felt or why he wouldn’t let her touch him, but he had no qualms about negotiating extended terms and aligning expectations and evaluating corporate governance and whatever it is these guys actually talked about at six thirty in the morning while their wives’ outstretched hands fell upon absent approval and transparent stares and vacant self-assured smiles and condescending waving of hands ushering them into other rooms and worse yet, the lifting of one finger before the mouth and miming disapproval whilst never breaking from the phone. She could have despised him, but she didn’t. One day was not the sum of a lifetime and she knew his absence had reason but she would never discuss it; and he would never allow it, not with him, and not with herself. She sat on the floor and listened to the sound of his voice as 12


he carried on in his business manner. Closing her eyes she could picture him exactly; he, standing in front on the balcony, his left hand moving between the crème railing and pointing out into the distance over his beloved city, his eyes; focused and unwavering, opened assiduously and his facial and ear muscles flexed pulling his ears up and back like an eagle’s soaring wings and tensing his defined face every time that he rebutted an argument. And the force in his persuasion, in the intensity of his voice, in the construction of his confidence made her heart beat faster and her lips moisten. A wave of warmth flooded her veins and deluged her mind, sinking her heavy stomach and numbing her toes. She turned to the bowl and gave in to tremendous waves of convulsions squeezing her stomach under and over itself and casting her out of conscious dream and into a waking reality. She continued to vomit for many minutes that to her felt like many hours. When finally the tides of unease receded, she collected first her sight, which wavered but then narrowed to focus on the filthy tiles of the dark freezing bathroom and to the silence of her lover, of whom she knew, like every morning, stood in passive conscious engagement with The City he loved, staring out of the tops of buildings, down upon the colonies of people moving below, following the labyrinth of spaces between the buildings where the streets carved a web of accessibility through the grotesquely large structures. She knew too that he stood with pencil in hand sketching away at a tiny piece of paper folded over many times on itself or failing that, etching away at his mind, romanticising and making permanent the contours and epic dimension of the sprawling city at his foresight. She picked her aching body from the floor and ran a cold tap, cupping her hands and nearing her senses as the cold water trickled through the gaps in her fingers, running down her wrist and to the bend of her arm, finally in drips coming to rest on the floor beside her blistered feet. With every drop she felt her heart beating, in tune, in rhythm, falling away from its source, but 13


in her ears she heard not the sound of water touching tile, but the sound of static droning from an old ham radio. “It’s not the hour to be here. We will make a false impression if we have to depend on your self-detention any longer” said Marcos through the closed doors, his voice splitting hairs in her broadening sense of solicitude. She stared into the grimy mirror and vanished into her own reflection. The static grew louder and compounded her conscious listening. It beat on her emotions. It upset her stomach and it settled in her bowels. As Marcos cleared his throat, obviously to call attention to his own needs, his voice too wore a static dress and every word crippled her sensibilities and made her want to scream maddeningly directly into his face, ‘It wasn’t my fault’. “My famine bothers me” she said, her voice muffled by the bathroom door. “Marcos, are you hearing me? I’m sick” she continued. In the other room Marcos continued to stare listlessly out of the living room window at his city and in doing so he felt neither high nor low, neither fine nor foul. He simply rested his sight on the columns of concrete structures that stood defiant yet without meaning. The bathroom door swung open and then slammed shut. The woman, dressed as one, in pale white, walked to where Marcos stood and rested her drawn face once again against his neck, gazing with him at the cold grey August morning. “Love as one” she said in absolute monotony. Marcos’ eyes fell upon the young boy still rolling about in the dirt then looking to a heap of clothes dumped beside him on the floor. From the pile he took a shirt and pants and then quickly dressed himself; he, as zero, in black. Black pants, black combat boots and a black shirt adorned with a white heart. “Live as you love” he said as they walked out of their room and made their way into the foggy and drizzling, cold grey August morning. On their way to where it was they were going, they passed 14


through a myriad of obstacles; some bodies lying about lifeless in their path and many a people standing in line, simply waiting; a common sight to be seen in a city with no light, no name, no power and no purpose. People seemed to wander aimless until they encountered a queue of any sort. Reserved and unspoken, they would simply take their place at the rear of the line and like those before them, wait as their anticipation built and their purpose was defined. Most stood with their hands crossed or by their side, their heads hanged low, lifting only occasionally to acknowledge others passing down the line to enter the queue; nodding acceptingly, offering a quarter smile or simply diving momentarily into their stare, following them with their eyes as the person took the tail of their starving expectation ensuring that in fact they are waiting in the right place. On the rare occasion that a place should be made vacant, the pairs of feet shuffled forward in closing succession leaving nothing but a thin slither of worn rubber between anticipation and disappointment; the head either returning to the end of the line where hope is sustainingly out of reach or wandering aimlessly through the maze of streets and alleys looking for another source, another queue, another locked door waiting to be opened. And on every corner, and in front of every building, and under every crooked sign heaving about on its own rusted hinge, waited; forbearingly, a row of men, women, children, animal and anything at all of whose instinct it was, was to be led. They waited for information; of any form, anything at all; maybe a word, a direction, a command, some advice, a directive, an insult, a plea, a waving hand, a glaring eye, a yielding fist; anything at all. Collectively they shared a tenacious hunger and they fell upon one another, themselves hinged upon a singular hope and a domesticated politeness. Thus they stood, feet to heel, hands at one´s side and one´s breath; present, but never falling on another´s skin. Their primitive obedience strengthened their hope and preserved their expectation of being fed. But like any good dog, they were prone to biting and 15


though apparently docile and innocuous, the fear that furnished the core of their sub conscious being and coupled with their desperation and lack of moral binding and subjectivity meant that these scavenges of information, exhorted by their conscious famine, were always, at every turn, unpredictable. As they were walking, a straggly looking disgrace of a man came stumbling up to The Woman pulling on her arm and collapsing by her feet; drool running down his face, his eyes blood shot, the wiry blue veins in his neck pulsing faintly and his frail bones extruding from his loose blotched skin. “Please lady. You gotta give me something. I need a fix. Come on lady, I’ll do anything. Tell me something. You look like you know something. I know you know something. You know where it is, don’t ya; the place of light and sound. You know something bitch. Come on, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I know, I didn’t mean that, you’re not a bitch, I’m just so… I need something you know. I gotta itch in my brain, come on lady, you can help me out yeah. You look kind. Give me something you stupid fucking bitch” screamed the derelict pulling on The Woman’s arm. Marcos swept the man up in one arm and dragged him over to where a line of Famined waited patiently to be fed and proceeded to beat him into silent submission. And every morning started in this way. Marcos joined The Woman who never faulted her stride, completely unfazed by the wanton desperation that dusted her feet and the brutal violence which swept it away, looking instead to the people frozen in time, waiting one behind the other. “There has to be an end to this. This; this god damned paralysation of people. This can’t be how it ends. It can’t just stop. I mean look at that, at least at the end of the day the sheep was being fleeced or the cow was being milked. What purpose do they serve now?” The Woman said. “You don’t think they’re damning god as well? Under that opiated heavenly stupor. Haven’t they always been damning? Isn’t that their preserve? Sure, we see them still and silent, but what 16


thunder claps hysterically in their sub conscious?” Marcos responded. “I can think of nothing more futile than sitting still, than waiting” she said. “I can, joining them in your conscious mind; thinking still. Your feet move in a different direction to your thoughts. As long as you have them in mind, you will forever be walking to the back of that line. You lack focus. You’re infantile and undisciplined” he replied. The Woman fell silent in thought and her breath fell heavy. His words drained her conscious trappings and siphoned her emotional reserve. She felt lighter though under the weight of this new emptiness. Abjured of her mal-perception, her muscles retracted, her chin lifted, her eyes widened. She smiled and held firm the hand of Marcos. “This new thought”, she said before pausing. “It is not easy.” “This new way”, he corrected her “It is defining.” “When we speak in positive form; as one, we enforce certainty into our sub conscious, then collectively, we drink from that sub conscious reservoir of love to define the right choices for our people. As long as we focus on one simple image, one simple goal, we will not forget what it looks like and more importantly we will be able to tell when we have gotten there. Like the words of a poem or the lyrics to a song, we must repeat our direction over and over until our instinct has it, that we never get lost.” “Still, this is not what I expected” she said. “What were you expecting? What are you expecting?” Marcos replied. “I guess I always pictured, you know, Armageddon, four horses, nuclear bombs, air raids, crazed dictators, nerve gas, zombies, death squads, chicken viruses, panzer tanks, I dunno, something biblical, catastrophic, like in the old stories, some horrendously violent but romantic honorific expulsion of life. The daring proud citizens standing and rebelling against marauding invaders, defending their homes, fighting for their freedom, dying in some 17


some grand display of defiance. Not this. This is just…” she said flatly. “Worse” he said finishing her idea. “If you stop feeding a kitty, it doesn’t die the next day. It sits around and waits for you to come back. And if it ever wanders off momentarily, it always finds its way back, expecting you to be there. It gets thinner, develops infections, and loses its teeth. Eventually it’s just loose flesh on frail bones with big sad desperate eyes. But even when its natural instincts will it to another door, its domestication always calls it home” he said. “Did you have to use a cat? I don’t like that, that’s disgusting. Now I’m thinking of a dying kitten. What the fuck is wrong with you?” she said angrily. “Ok. The cat got fed and lived to a hundred, whatever. My point being, ah fuck it. Seriously just, pull yourself in line. We’re almost at The Nest. Just, just, just focus” he said stuttering; stumbling over his indignation. “These dogs get a treat” he said pointing to a line of Famined just in front of them. Marcos swept to the end of a line and leant into the ear of an old man holding the tail end of this morning’s expectation. The old man then whispered something into the ear of the boy in front and thus a silent echo slipped through the cold morning air. In a moment, feet were moving and the line was gone, leaving the bloodied derelict motionless on the cold ground. “What did you tell him?” she asked, still a little shaken. “I told him about the cat” he said. “Shut up. Seriously though, what did you tell him?” she asked. “The weather” he said. “What do you mean?” she asked. “I gave him a forecast, a prediction. That’s all they want, information. Seasonably cold, damp and overcast with the chance of an afternoon shower. They’ll wake up tomorrow and feel better for a moment. Then they’ll come back wanting more” he said. “So what are we supposed to do, keep feeding them every 18


day?” she asked. “Exactly, ween them off their addiction. Create a new addiction. Habit cures habit. These small doses keep them less dangerous and for us, in the middle of this, it’s a saving grace to which I’m willing to subscribe. Celebrate every conquest, no matter how insignificant” he replied. As they walked about in the crisp air; passing from street to avenue and from avenue to alley way; before, behind and all about them, figures in uniformed dark clothing commanded and detailed; with order and direction, the hordes of queues formed and forming throughout the downtown region. The figures approached each line, sometimes from the tail but in general they walked to the head and stood eye front with the first person holding the queue. The men in black stood staunch with their chests flexed, firm and pushed out, their arms pulled to their sides, their hands straight, and their fingers together. They stood side on to the head of the queue, the enormity of their chests visible in the outline of the dull grey light against the black of their shirts and their vulnerable organs, out of threat’s way. The man dressed in black waited until an air of suspense had quelled within the group for at his sight, anticipation had turned to a fervent uproar as those from the middle and to the rear fought with one another to have their ears just one inch closer and to cast their eyes on some kind of authority. The men carried a cast iron stare that coerced one and all into quiet submission. When the Famined settled, the men would then take a sheet of paper from within their clothing and hold it high in the air in front of their faces and read from it in a loud, controlled billowing voice. At the completion of the passage, the men would fold the paper neatly, put it back within their garments and promptly walk off into the distance. In moments, the faces on the people changed from desperation to relief and they took with them, some information that would see them through the next day or two and quieten the howling of their conscious minds. 19


As Marcos and The Woman walked through the town square, some unruly and unpredictable queuers were being truncheoned into submission. As a speaker stood before a queue, several men in black clothing adorning white hearts on their chests, approached a disorderly part of the line and picked several feral troublemakers, kicking their feet out from under them and pinning them to the ground under the immense weight of their bodies, their knees entrenched in the back of their necks. Upon sight of this, the others immediately restrained their ardent desperation and folded their arms tightly as if to fight some uncontrollable sub conscious infantile desire to lash about in instinctive disapproval. The men with white hearts on their chests brought aboding fear, even amongst the men dressed in black who looked neither to their direction, nor against it. They took the troublemakers by the hair; dragging their lifeless bodies with their allegiant fists clenching unyieldingly and veins thrusting from their arms. The troublemakers put up no fight. They sank into immediate dissention and far from the traffic of people; under the guise of shadowy confines, the men in white hearts committed corporal atrocity to their captors. The Woman pulled closer to Marcos as the shrieks and screams from the near dark reverberated through the still morning air sending a nerved shiver through one and all. Marcos didn’t break his stride. As they crossed the square they came to the outer ring of The Nest, an enormous wall that reached almost from the earth to the heavens above and stretched from the tip of the town square out in the far stretches of The City centre. On the corner they were greeted by two men with white hearts on their chest, both of them looking and nodding in silent salutation to Marcos, who cast not even the slightest glimpse in their direction. Marcos and the Woman continued along the wall passing an irreverent stranger every now and then but more so, quiet emptiness. Every fifty to a hundred meters they would be followed by the subordinate stare of a man with a white heart. The Woman 20


tried to maintain her focus but at every passing was somewhat intrigued by the command brought to her lover and her conscious eye would wander to their direction and sometimes she would allow it to float above them like a flare and she would watch in conscious admiration as her lover walked with her, past an array of obedient soldiers all vying for her lover’s attention or approval. And it was his abandon of care that made her all the more attentive to how much she loved him and how deeply she wanted him. The Nest was enormous. It took Marcos and The Woman approximately twenty minutes of brisk walking to pass from the north western tip to the main entry located in the south west wing. The entry to the complex was heavily guarded. There were nine men with white hearts, all armed with cruel instruments standing shoulder to shoulder, forming an arc around the entry point. The men shifted their feet and the arc opened as Marcos and The Woman came walking into sight. “Love as one” they said in unison. Marcos didn’t respond. “Live as you love” said The Woman as they passed the armed guard. A one armed man stood at the door and above him high on the wall in elephantine letters, large enough to spread out across the sight of the entire city were the words. ‘…when a city fails its people, its people have failed themselves…’ Marcos motioned towards the entrance. “Brand new day sir, love as one” spoke the one armed man holding open the door and ushering them through with his rounded stump. Marcos acknowledged his welcome, holding a direct stare, nodding his head slightly and laying an educated hand on his shoulder. “Live as you love” he responded. The two passed through the guarded entry and arrived at an open foyer. The area was heavily guarded with one man with a white heart and several men dressed in black beating truncheons 21


against their open palms, the sound of which, like the heart-beat of violence. The foyer was small enough to cross in three or four steps. To the front and right were murals of a rising sun peeling out upon an orange sky. The colour made the room feel warm and inviting. The men in black made the room feel outlined and secure. The foyer took an L shape and to the left at the end of the room was another door and in front of that door a desk with a woman dressed completely in white and a man beside her, also dressed in white. The woman was an educator and the man, a poet. They greeted Marcos and The Woman with celestial smiles, resting a hand on their hearts, looking adoringly at the couple and guiding them through into the main courtyard, past the heavily fortified exterior ring. “Love as one� the man and woman in white said as Marcos and The Woman passed through the doorway and then into the open courtyard. The Woman waved her hand royal like as the two entered the belly of The Nest on this dismally cold grey August morning. The courtyard was grand indeed. It spread out in all directions for as far as a spent mind could possibly fathom. Marcos and The Woman walked towards an intersection maybe a hundred meters or so from where they entered. The Woman watched as the colours on the ground melted and morphed beneath her feet. The rocks had been painted with the imagination of the children and as they walked, they passed over rugged mountain plains, forests of spiny trees and oceans of mysterious slimy glowing sea creatures with giant tentacles and bulbish eyes. The Woman loved to follow her feet as they moved above new shapes and eventually; as they neared the intersection, as they fell upon hundreds of happy children’s faces with love in their eyes and the Forever New Dawn radiating from their smiles. Her eyes drew upon what she thought in her heart might be joy when she saw these images, something she never experienced 22


in her own youth, but something as a woman, she could never tire of; the fantasy of child at play; albeit a morose parody to their grey conditioned souls. The intersection split into three separate corridors that led to different regions within the complex. Each section was defined as a state of being; At Work, At Love, At War, At Peace and At Father, represented by earthly elements of earth, water, fire, wind and void respectively. To the left of the intersection were two passages that trailed through the complex and finished at a large open field where children and adults alike attended to The Collective crops, toiling over difficult soil and harsh weather conditions. To the right of the field was an enormous warehouse that was divided into three sections. One was a dormitory filled with over two hundred bunks where The Children, the Mothers and the Fathers all slept together as a collective. The second section which was central to the entrance was a large cafeteria with scores of wooden tables and benches stretching across the entire room and in the back corner a small sink and kitchen to prepare food. The third section was much smaller but was boarded up. There was no way of entering or even knowing what was kept inside. The room had no door. No entry and no exit. To the right of the intersection were two passages that led to the north and south eastern quadrants where the path eventually split into two, with two large buildings housing many rooms serving the heart and the fist of The Nest. To the left was At War, a series of interconnecting warehouses where the sound of stomping feet and crashing fists spilled into the air day and night. On the exterior wall was; painted in white, a massive heart and inside it, a nefarious white skull. It was a place of discipline and violence, of ordered chaos and to its right was At Love; where Children sat with their gentle Mothers and learned of being human; knowledge of themselves, their nature and their promise, in the guise of two fundamental states; fear and love. The north passage at the intersection was guarded by men with white hearts. Not even the men dressed in black could pass through. For a select few Collectivists, this path led to At Father where strategies were penned and the great eye of The Nest; perched far into the blue abyss, observed and conserved the love of The Children as they lived about their four states; Love, Peace, Work and War. 23


The two partitioned, Marcos moving north past the saluting guards along the desolate winding corridor and finally up a rackety ladder then down a series of long corridors to a room with a large door with a chess symbol; a pawn in fact, centred around the ubiquitous white heart and the woman taking the passage to her right, leaving behind the images on the cobble stone courtyard and in the clearing, entering the tranquil complex then motioning towards the first door to her right with a chalk outline of the same white heart, except this time encapsulating in its black centre, a single white seed. Nothing was spoken between the pair as they pulled away from each other´s touch, taking their own paths and eventually pressing through hefty iron doors; the silence in the morning air fallen upon by the creaking of rusted metal turning on worn hinges and the massive clanking sound as the great weighted doors slammed shut. “Brand new day sir”, came a chorus in unison. Marcos welcomed the men as he did the one armed man at the building´s entrance; nodding his head slightly and offering some faint kindness in his eyes. He positioned himself at the head of the room in front of a large dusted blackboard. His fixated eyes; a magnet for attention, scanned the room and each general and soldier standing before him. “Famine” he said. Collectively; eyes widened, pupils dilated, heart rates accelerated, adrenaline flowed and beads of sweat formed.

24


00110011 The Woman entered the room like light creeping into a warm November morning; silent, smooth and of natural tranquillity. She moved towards the front of the class like smoke through an open window, her dress swishing as her bare feet skipped along the cool tiles. The Children followed her every step; their eyes lightening as their smiles widened. The Woman pulled a piece of chalk from her table and drew a large white heart on the board. Immediately The Children rose from behind their desks, holding a small mirror to their eyes and in the weight of their own reflection, they sang in honesty; The Collective creed: I am to eye, As the heart is to lie, But to many, I am one part of all. Love always here, Make no business with fear, And never again shall we fall. The Children moved from their tables and gathered around the woman who was seated on a large cushion on the floor. They formed a circle around her, some lying on their backs staring up at a grand orange sun painted on the ceiling, some leaning against the wall with their arms either folded or on their laps and others sat cross legged and perched upright, leaning forward just slightly; fixated on the woman´s empyreal grace as she moistened her lips delicately and hollowed her breath in preparation to tell a story. She looked up from the book she was holding, breathed heavily and swallowed the children´s pent anticipation as her eyes widened, magnetising the room. When she smiled, The Children could hold back their joy no more. They threw their arms in the air and beat their palms together in a deafening thunder. “Fonafon, Fonafon, Fonafon” they screamed and chanted. “OK Children” she said in a calming tone. “We don´t want to disturb The Fathers next door. Everyone put on their listening mouths and their seeing ears, and set your soul at ease” she said. 25


The Children all ritually wriggled their entire bodies as to exercise their untempered souls, shaking them free of their rigid corporal bindings to move like water from an open stream to the ocean of their waiting minds where their consciousness lit up like solar flares; exploding in bursts of colour, waves, spectrums, atoms, particles and frequencies. The zeros and ones that spoke to them every moment of their lives, those plain white everything numbers etched on that black nothing canvass vanished down the drain of imagination and in their place, rainbows, mushroom clouds, super novae and in finale, the formation of an orange crest, the warm sunrise which accompanied their dreams. Calm washed over The Children as they sank away from their bodies and into the viewing theatre of their mind´s eye, submitting to the will of their sub conscious. When corporal stillness commanded pensive silence, The Woman opened the book, lifted her eyebrows in wonder, widened her eyes, outstretched her index finger, gently licked her fingertip, pressed down on the course paper and slid it across to the first page. The sound of the paper turning under her fingertips made the children smile. Their ears pricked and twitched in effort to cling to the familiarity that passed under a momentary breath, emptying their cerebral stage of its props and actors, erasing the stencilled lines and colours they thought of in anticipation of this moment, clearing the table so to speak, in preparation for the main course. “Jonathon and The Collector� she said Once upon a time, there lived a boy named Jonathon who loved nothing more than playing in the wild forests of his imagination. He had a mother and father who loved him so dearly and friends of plenty of whom he danced with so freely. But one day whilst playing by himself in snow, dear Jonathon met 26


a man he quite surely didn´t know. The man said to him: “My boy, have you the time, for if you have none you can make haste with mine.” Jonathon thought what a strange thing to say, for why would a man count existence away? “A second, a day or a week or a year, are treasures to keep, my boy, nothing to fear.” Jonathon knew that his musings were wrong, that time only is, in each note of a song. And just as a note may be grandiose and vast, a song that´s been sung cannot sing in the past. “My boy you´re so clever, then care you a treat? I have in this bag a prize for your feat.” Jonathon smiled and ran to his side and tugged at the bag to peer deep inside. “My child if you will, reach as far as you can, a surprise for you waits at the stretch of your hand. Wiggle your fingers and tip on your toes, the deserve you desire is beyond your nose.” Jonathon did as the strange man had said, he stood on his toes and he buried his head. When balance was lost there then came a mute cry from a brown hesham bag with a young boy inside. How did I fail? Stranger please tell me why. “You won me with logic but I fooled you with pride.” The Collector moved on and he vanished from sight; into the darkness, away from the light. And inside his bag a collectable toy, with movable parts, a collectable boy. Fear then sprang upon The Children, plucking at their nerve endings as The Woman calmly closed the book over and laid it neatly on the floor beside her. “Keep your eyes closed” she said as she moved over to open the large curtains which had been negating the light. The dull morning light flooded the room and with a click of 27


her fingers, The Children reacted by opening their eyes in the direction of the board at the front of the classroom. The Woman was standing with large boards in her clutch and on each board a horrific image and under each image, a word or phrase. The first image was of a tall man in a dark coat or cloak. The material was torn in many places and it disguised the man´s form completely, transforming him into an aboding tower of darkness. The face too was blackened out by a hood that covered his head and its empty centre acted as a worm hole to nothingness; a vacuum directed into a void that locked onto one´s eyes and from them, extracted one´s soul in a whirlwind of emotional and selfdissipation. Inside the black centre one could see the faintest flickering of light. Should one look longingly and with sustenance, they would see that the flicker was in fact the light in their own eye, for in the heart of vacuity; in that black core of despair and desire, were two tiny mirrors; blackened out, but with the most miniscule of scratches on the paintwork inviting wandering eyes and wondering souls to their peril.

28


00110100 “My concern is that very soon their numbers will be somewhat overwhelming inasmuch as, well…. As it is, our resources are seemingly stretched beyond their limits so to speak and well I’m not sure if an increase of any value will sufficiently…” “No! Shut up and speak the truth. Tell me what is” said Marcos abruptly. “And that goes for the rest of you. I don’t mix sugar with my salt. Don’t waste my time here. It either is or it is not. If you have a doubt, say it. Now, you, what is your concern?” he said sternly, looking angrily at one of the generals seated to his right. Marcos sat at the head of a grand rectangular oak table and to his front and to his sides sat the heads of states, the senior representatives of the states of War, Peace, Love and Work. Behind each man stood a White Heart, their hands pressed to their sides, their chests still and heaving, their breath unrecognisable, their stare; severe and unappeasable and the nature of their intention; as plain as the employment of fire. The length of the table spread out from Marcos’ direction with each man seated to his left or his right. At the far end of the room sat a beast of a man who looked only upon Marcos. His hands never moved from where they lay on the table in front and his look never strayed about the room. There were seven representatives seated at the table; one speaking for each state, one for administration, one a man of science in a white coat with a black heart resplendent on the sleeve and the final, sitting quiet with his head high; his face hidden under the cover of a black cloth hood which pulled from a black cloak which draped his entire body and hid his strangely shaped fingers and skeletal frame from the other men, a Teller. “Sir, more are coming every day. And I think… No, I believe that in the coming days, if these trends continue, we will have a problem. We cannot contain them. It’s simple. We just don’t have 29


the resources. Maybe if The Children were cultivated but they haven’t aged for picking, at least this is what I have seen and what I believe” said the administrator. “What you believe?” said The War General. The Administrator sank back into his chair as The War General slammed his calloused fist on the table startling the other generals. “Let me tell you what I believe. I believe you were the nut that had no screw, an oddly shaped left over when the engine was put together; unnecessary, but kept, just in case. You serve absolutely no purpose. You don’t fit. You don’t do anything. You don’t belong. Yet, you want to tell me what you believe? You think you can judge the quality of the earth from up in the clouds? Fuck you. Marcos, sir, my sons are ready for war. They are war. They have war etched into the fibres of their souls. This imbecile in front of me, he can’t judge war, he bites like an infant. He can’t judge love, for his heart is like that of an intestinal worm. He can’t judge work. What would an amoeba know of work? His labour is to impregnate doubt into the womb of every mind. He’s a fucking parasite. And I vote that his say be expropriated, here and now. All in concordance?” exclaimed The War General standing to attention and glaring The Administrator dead in the eye. “Here, here” said The Love General hitting his palm on the table in concurrence. “Put him on a spit. We’ll have him for supper. He’ll cook well. He has no spine” said The Peace General in a heavy laugh. “Not much meat on this one though. He could barely feed a new born” said The Love General. The Generals laughed heartily at the expense of The Administrator who sat fatuously; his sheepish eyes first looking for some grievant support from Marcos, then falling to the table where his fingers twitched under the oppressive laughter and name calling. Marcos sat staring into the eyes of the bearded man at the far end of the table. Neither man spoke or engaged in obvious communication. The White Hearts around the room were unmoved and 30


unattended by the uproar that disquieted the democracy. The Administrator called upon Marcos’ attention. “Sir and sirs, this is in no way productive; this infantile shouting and insulting. I have numbers and the numbers say that…” “I have a number for you, zero. Zero is your worth. Zero is your potential. Zero is where your weak pessimistic fastidiously doubt ridden asinine brain wants to subtract each and every one of us just so you can say, you were right, that you knew it all along, that numbers never lie, and I fucking told you so. Fuck you. Fuck your doubt. Fuck your clever observations. Fuck your big picture. Fuck your statistics. And fuck you” screamed The War General. “Gentlemen” said Marcos, “contain yourselves. Kiss on your own time. Love, report on the learning?” he asked. The War General retreated back into his skin. He sat perched on the edge of his seat, his hands outstretched on the table, his breath coarse like a resting steed, his stare directed straight at The Administrator, abhorrence billowing from his eyes. The Administrator fought to keep his trembling chin still, gritting his jaw and extenuated the might of his force from his core through his limbs to heavy his hands on the table so as to extinguish their desire to shake uncontrollably and make visible his tremendous panic. He played dead mouse. The Love General shuffled some papers and cleared his throat. “Sir and sirs. Firstly I would like to make a request. We have lost six children in the recent days. Some to sickness, yes, but also we lost one or two during the learning. Now, I firmly believe they came to us unusable. There was sufficient cracking and well, it didn’t take much fright to break the shell. And there’s been quite a few like this, especially the naturals. You know, they´re more brittle, less…… mouldable. As a result, we are losing steady numbers. I would like to request more children. We haven’t had a delivery for over six weeks now. Is there a collection planned in the near future?” asked The Love General. “War, how many times have you collected in the last 6 weeks?” asked Marcos. 31


“Sir” he said, looking to his left at the bearded behemoth of a man. “Sir, we have collected many times, but, that is to say we have collected nothing. There are none, at least none that are not drenched with famine” he continued. “And of your sons At War, what of their numbers?” asked Marcos. The War General looked away from Marcos and at The Administrator disapprovingly once more, then to the bearded behemoth of a man, then back to Marcos. “Sir, we have some empty bunks. We harvest four in every five. These are great numbers. And what can’t live as a fist, can always get by as a heart. That one in five, they go on to be At Love, so I don’t see this wastage that our esteemed administrator keeps hinting at. We are stronger than we have ever been and we are the front of the Nest so when there is a child to collect; obviously, the child will be first nurtured as a fist and failing that, will be run off to Love or Work. If he or she proves infinitely useless and nonmouldable; a complete mockery of flesh on bone, then we’ll send them on to our administrative friend here, you could use some more high ranking number crunchers” said The War General smiling at The Administrator. “This has been the last of our deliverables? Your run-off ? It’s no wonder these children show no empathic growth, they’ve already had their hearts ripped out by you and your thugs. How are you even collecting? How do you measure? What, are you judging? Compatible or combatable? I mean, you said it yourself; you’re collecting with a war perspective. You’re just picking for yourself. That’s not just. Marcos, it’s not just. You´re sending a carnivore to pick fruit” yelled The Love General in outright protest. “Just? What are we here discussing, famine, DeDMeN, yes? What do you plan to do, hug them into submission? You think you can sing your way out of a fight? The right of this nest is to serve its own survival and right now, that means more security. When you can show me an immediate lessened threat; a justifiable reason to unclench the collective fist; for the good of our people and for 32


the salvation of our species, then and only then can we talk about even pickings, hell, I’ll even sing a few bars with ya” said The War General leaning back into his chair, cracking his knuckles and turning back to The Administrator with a dismissive glare. “There is a collection scheduled for mid-morning. We will be joining the team and I will make my own evaluation of the child harvest” said Marcos pointing to The Behemoth at the end of the room. The Behemoth didn’t shift his stare as he hadn’t the entire of the meeting. “Love, how are the children in the learning? I believe today we have something extra planned for the morning’s fear classes, yes? Listen, it’s important that the message remain simple and clear. Love, I don’t want your writers to complicate the ideology or the images. Keep the stories simple. Make them rhyme. Children love rhyme. Remember we’ve only been doing this for ten years. It’s gonna take some time to get a real feel for what we’re doing. Any connection that we can build, any trace of empathy whatsoever that we can grow and help flourish is more than mankind has managed in the last hundred years. It is not in their instinct to be loved. They are children, not animals. But that doesn’t mean they can’t learn how to be loved and for us; men and women, to learn how to care, how to feel and how to grow a child. Ten years. And we are closer than we have ever been, on our path to recovery. I want to hear now from Love and then Science” he said taking his seat once again and casting his glare about the room. The Love General moved to speak fi,rst. He and The War General were the least patient of all in the room and more infantile in their democracy. Each part of the collective functioned on its own, independent of the other, but in theory The Collective as a sum, was all parts moving in unison; collective individualism. The two generals; Love and War, shared the same sense of self assessed worth, believing each was more fundamental to the ideology than the other and the core value of The Nest. Where they did come to terms was their dislike for the men of science, 33


the surgeons of sadism they would joke, and they would never let them speak first. “I believe it’s only right that I have my say and then let the magician here pull on his strings while we generals discuss. This morning we do have a special activity planned in conjunction with our learned colleagues in the state of war. Fear like we’ve never taught before” said Love.

34


00110101 The Children huddled together fraught with trepidation, looking to the form as a whole but willing themselves to keep long from the reflection in its eyes. Suddenly, thunder cracked against the silence as screaming protruded from the open windows and a barrage of stones and rocks flew from the courtyard into the centre of the room. The Children screamed violently as The Woman dived to the floor, cringing and foetal with glass shattering and falling upon their tiny bodies as they cowered together in fright. The noise became louder and the sound of pounding fists could be heard against the thin walls of the class. All about them, chaos was enclosing, stamping its godforsaken boot onto their quiet consciousness. “Look to me” shouted The Woman. The Children all immediately raised their heads lightly and their eyes effortlessly looking for some grace or direction from their teacher, their nurturer, their protector, their Mother. The ghastly look on The Woman´s face was formidable to The Children. They longed for assurance; instead they were welcomed by sheer panic. The Children shuffled closer to The Woman as a tsunami of abhorrent tenacity scathed at their ears and pestered their inner selves. “Look to me” she screamed as a blanket of thick smoke encircled the group. Canisters of gas rattled about the floor, their hissing sound penetrating through the children´s screams and unsettling the group further. The Children, now coughing incessantly, passed around a bottle of water to dampen their shirts and pin them to their faces. Their eyes burned horrendously but still they guarded their stare in the direction of The Woman who still held in her hand a card with 35


the image of a cloaked man. “I am what I do, I am where I´ve been, I am what I have, I am what I´ve seen. Repeat after me” she pleaded. The Children all nodded in frail acceptance. They pulled away the soaked clothes filtering the air to their lungs and screamed “I am what I do, I am where I´ve been, I am what I have, I am what I´ve seen.” The Woman continued, “look in my eyes and see what I see, The Collector is you, The Collector is me. Repeat.” The Children did as she asked, opening their mouths to the choking fumes; tears pouring down their cheeks and the conceding urge to cry hysterically swallowed as a ball in the back of their throats; to scream out in solicitous unison, “look in my eyes and see what I see, The Collector is you, The Collector is me”. Their voices broke in the sing of this song, the weight of their fear and sadness crushing them. “Look to me” The Woman screamed once more. Even she, now, was starting to lose colour and vanish in the cloud of dust and smoke that engulfed the classroom. The children fastened their stare once more as The Woman this time shuffled through a selection of cards second by second, exposing The Children to an array of contemptuous imagery. First came a Mirror, below it the word I. Following that came a card with solely the word ‘Identity’, then ‘I am’, ‘I am’, ‘I am’, ‘I am’, then The Collector card; his frightful form gnawing at The Children´s sight, next an image of a turbine, under it the word ‘Vacation’, then a factory and the word ‘Home’, next a baby being born and the word ‘Thank-you’, then The Collector with the word ‘Pride’, then a mirror with the words ‘I am’, then three cards with no image, just the words ‘Desire’, ‘Want’, ‘Self ’, The Collector again, a car, a gun, a calendar, The Collector, a mirror and finally the words; ‘Who Are You?’ The Woman threw the card to the centre of the group screaming ferociously into the black smoke. The image seared in the children´s eyes. 36


“Mother” screamed The Children, to no reply. Their hearts pounded, their stomachs fell to their feet. “Mother”, this time feebly and in apparent surrender. “Father” they thought, “please protect us.” The Children clung to the floor and to each other, their hands intertwined, their hearts beating rampantly. Suddenly a thunderous whooshing sound filled the room and in an instant, the thick blanket of smoke vanished and the air was light and clear again. The Children filled their lungs deeply. The wave of violence had retarded into an eerie silence. The Children opened their eyes sheepishly, still clinging in sheer desperation to one another. There stood in their sight, a Father; a man of great height and infinite strength whose hands alone could choke the life out of a sun and of whose reach could extend for an eternity; his eyes at the same time, maleficent and allaying. He extended his hand to his front willing The Children to turn their heads to the rear of the room. As they did, they were warmed with a sensation of love, belonging and surety as all around them, to the left and to the right, to their front and their behind, in a circular fashion, in each direction of sight, stood many Fathers, shoulder to shoulder, their heaving chests lifted to the ceiling, their calloused fists clenched and stern, their eyes unflinching, looking always into the vulnerableness while the composition they exuded spilled over into The Children´s collective state. “You are never alone, we The Collective are many, but we are as one. Love as one, live as you love” said The Father at the front of the room. The Children, overcome with love and beating their feet on the floor and clapping their hands emphatically, responded in harmony; “Father my father who watches above, we love of your reason, we live as we love” they sang. Then, as the group of Fathers left the room one by one, The Children continued in song; “Love as one; live as you love, love as one; live as you love.” 37


As the door closed, a familiar shape swished back into sight. The Woman swept back into the centre of the room floating about like incense in the still light air; moving about from child to child gently caressing the head of each and embedding the warmth of belonging in their now tempered souls. “You were never alone” she said as she ushered The Children to their seats. Their faces lit up like candles once more as their smiles danced about the room. They all started clapping their hands and singing fancifully. One child though stayed unmoved by the uproar of jubilation. He seemed heavy in thought; pinned to his chair, his head hung low, the life in his eyes visibly extinguished. The Woman moved by his side gently pulling a lock of hair from his eyes. She whispered something into his ear and the defeated boy slowly lifted from his seat a walked unguided out of the room. The Children all looked on, sniggering to one another and finding comfort in another´s difference as the child, greeted by a White Heart was taken for disposal. “We live as one” said The Woman, “and when we do not, we return to zero” she added. The Woman crossed out a name from her roll call and returned to The Children with her arms wide and her smile inviting upon it, theirs. “My children”, she said, “go together as one and play.” The Children jumped from behind their desks, shuffling through the shards of broken glass and wood splinters that lay strewn about the floor and made their way down the winding corridors out into the courtyard where they sang songs of Fathers and Mothers and gave praise to The Collective. The Woman took to removing the class of its theatrical preserve. She swept away the glass fragments and prepared the mid morning´s activities; building and painting. A bead of sweat escaped from her brow and ran down her cheek, physically drained and emotionally spent; she sat in tranquil silence to compose herself before The Children returned. 38


“What madness” she thought, “takes refuge in our genius?” When The Children returned she would greet them in song and they would commence the day´s positive activities, The Mathematics of Love, The Understanding of One. In theory they would be exhausted of their fear and ripe for pure learning. They would return to hear how Jonathon used his logic to free himself from the abyssal clutching of The Collector. She would be spirited and fashion an environment of purity where The Children would build upon their subconscious foundation of love so as to strengthen their emotional reservoir so, as their conscious minds navigated through logical solutions, they would be fed by love as opposed to aboding fear. They would in one day experience the spectrum of existence that all things were zero or one; fear and love; right and wrong; void and eternity, The Collector and The Collective, the endless dark or the orange hue of the Forever New Dawn. The Woman stared at the list of names on her table. She erased the name of the young boy, writing, besides the marking, the word transferred. A peculiar sensation overcame her as she picked tiny fragments of glass from her strawish hair. Her skin felt a tinge of warmth as her blood flushed the cold cynical rationale from her veins and nestled a great weight beneath her eyes. She thought about the boy and how infinitely fragile he was and how she, had broken him, how her love was not strong enough to carry him through. She thought about all the other children, the ones that had come and gone, that had been under her loving and who had suffered a greater defeat than the one they carried with them when they were rescued from those famished vagrant ferals outside of the Collective heart. She thought about the word vagrant in her mind and she didn’t feel so sure at that moment. She pictured one of the Famined, although she was a woman, and she had a name, and she hungered for more than her conscious tidings; she hungered for the child that was ripped from her womb. Beside her too, one, then four, then hundreds and thousands of hollow faces with pained haggard expressions; mouths aghast and 39


screaming primal desperation, arms reaching out, hands clenching at the cruel cold air, their legs bloodied, their stomachs sewn, unable to walk, falling over one another; and a locked door that was black and all the women cared to say was sorry. The thousands of faces came together as one, a young child, his arms out, the strength gone from his body; his heart beating, but empty; his blood pumping, but cold. The young boy whimpered lightly, ‘please’ before he was swept up by a figure in white; a woman, The Woman, who held the child to her breast, forcing his face into her bosom and bracing the back of his head so he could not pull away. The Woman looked at The Woman in such a callous emptiness, swishing her body left and right and squeezing the child tighter against her breast until the child’s flailing arms fell limp. Two men dressed in black with white hearts then stepped out of the shadows pushing a stretcher up to The Woman holding the child and wrenched the hushed boy from her arms, wheeling the child off into the distance. The Woman vanished into the darkness of her delusion as she could see now the body of the young boy lying inert on a horrendous pile of thousands more just like him; used, discarded and loved. A single tear ran down her cheek. Her vision returned to her as she sat with her hands on her knees holding up her tired heavy body that longed to collapse under the weight of something she had never known, something she had never felt, something she would struggle to explain; remorse. The single tear clung for a moment to her chin before escaping to the floor. The Woman felt a wave of sickness become her and she rushed for a basket into which she could vomit. She sat on her knees with one hand pulling back the hair from her eyes. Her vision swayed deliciously as the rush of warmth pulsed from her heart through to her fingertips. Under heavy panting breath, she smiled to herself as the sight of her own hand drew upon and apart her focus, and she felt not scared, she felt not uneven, she felt no less human, no less 40


affecting; and as she sat in the void with her senses fragmented she felt not, unsafe.

41


00110110 “I would like to second my concern relating to the absence of children. Now forgive me if I’m mistaken but, we had been promised that the nest would start its own breeding program” said Love interjectionally. “We’ve been hearing about this for years” interjected The War General. “As I was saying, I’d like to know how far off a realistic breeding model we are. If War is right and what they’re collecting is the pick of the bunch then we have a serious problem. As it is, I say we either extend our reaches, or, we move the Nest. It’s not that unfeasible but it is the only option we have” said The Love General to a mixed reception. “The Nest will not move, not now” spoke The Behemoth in the far end of the room breaking his uneasy silence. “We are not ready” continued Marcos. “But when? We can’t sit here forever. We haven’t the population that we need and yet we haven’t sufficient food to maintain the population that we have. And all of it is dependent on him” said The Work General pointing to The Scientist. “I want to take up the point of Love; the children I receive are useless. They cannot attend the process of farming. They don’t rationalise and commit to action. It’s almost becoming impossible to contain them and we’re losing great numbers” said Work. “That’s true” said The Administrator. “If I could just…” “Shut up” yelled the generals in unison. “The Children we have At Work are finding it impossible to stay At Focus. Their condition demands a result of effort immediately. They put a seed in the ground and expect to see a full harvest within the hour and when it doesn’t happen they start fighting. They get desperate and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to purge this desperation. Man has been separated form labour for aeons. 42


With the state of these children, it’s impossible to expect anything more than the futility we’re trying to reign in. Unless he solves this problem”, he said pointing to the man of science, “we will all starve very soon and without rations, we will lose our control on these children; we’ll lose control of ourselves. Give me a cure for the famine or give me some magic beans, that’s all I ask for” said The Work General. The Scientist shuffled some papers in front of him and tied them to his clipboard. He fixed his spectacles which had slid down his nose thanks to the thick beads of sweat dripping from his forehead just above his eyes, which on a freezing cold grey August morning would be odd to anyone else other than him. This was another peeve that laboured the generals’ patience with the man and as he slipped the glasses forward with the tip of his index finger, the generals all sighed and groaned in unison being hushed into silence by the satellite stare of Marcos at the head and the Behemoth at the foot of the table. The generals, like disciplined dogs, pouted ruefully and bid their attention to The Scientist. “I would like to say that we have found the cure for the famine and that we are ready to start inoculations. I would like to, but I cannot. At the moment we are no closer to finding a cure to this famine than you are to reaping a full harvest” he said pointing to The Work General. “What I can say is that in our experiments so far to date we can unquestionably prove that currently, rehumanisation is more than highly possible, it’s probably possible” said The Scientist. “Can you tell us about your experiments?” asked The Work General. “Yes. What exactly are you doing down there” said The War General being obviously more suspicious and outspoken than the other generals could possibly be. “I shall give in layman then, the gist of our trials. And please, if there is struggle in your comprehension, then refrain from latching on to other’s concentration and dragging them to the murky depths of your schoolboy sagacity. There is no grace in drowning 43


so if you must; be quiet about it” said The Scientist. The generals all looked at each other and in a moment of unspoken concordance, all thought about taking The Scientist by his scrawny neck, out of The Nest, down through the sprawl of towers and bridges, past the safe zone where on the edge of The City centre near the cobblestone bridge that lead to perdition, there passed; under the weight of its malefic presage, the black river, where one bathed in Famine. Each eye dreamt of the same sight, holding The Scientist’s head under the water until his scrawny legs and dainty fingers stopped twitching. Neither man cared for intellectualism and neither for his insolence. “If ever I’m sinking, I’ll use your lungs as a float” said The Love General. The other generals laughed together. Marcos slammed his fist on the table and The Behemoth cleared his throat. Silence returned to the board room. “As I was saying, the bulk of our work focuses on understanding the subconscious model and how best to re-establish physical and metaphysical balance. We are not looking at the famine as the problem as such. More so we attribute the famine to being a red flag, it’s the proverbial fever. If you want to stop the heat then follow the smoke to the fire. And that is precisely what we are doing now. We are following the smoke through every field of scientific research. We have the finest philosophers, mathematicians, physicists, scientists, neurologists, astrologists and immunologists. I have though made a request to our esteemed leader here Marcos for one more resource which I think is fundamental to our negotiating with nature; from a truly remarkable perennial science long thought extinct, a midwife; an order I think difficult but not impossible I’m sure. I know that when we have every intellectual and emotional component working concertedly to comprehend the logic and fallaciousness of this conundrum, we will undoubtedly identify the physical dials necessary that we can transpose to re-assign what we believe is the core of the human crises; the absence of the empathy 44


gene” said The Scientist pushing his spectacles back up the bridge of his nose and snorting in mild self-approval. “Ridiculous. You think you’re better than us. You think you’re smarter than us” said The War General. “I am not handicapped as to whether you think that I think I am smarter than you, or whether you think you are less smart than I” replied the scientist. “Can you cure the famine?” asked The Love General interrupting. “Yes” replied The Scientist. “When?” demanded The War General masking his insult with anger. “And what about food?” added The Work General. “The famine will be cured when the equation is complete. A sad day for you I assume my violent friend. As for food production, the contamination levels in the soil for now; are untreatable. You have to be better with the resources you have. Talk to them. Plants respond to sentiment you know. They have the empathy gene. Funny really, how aborted from nature we found ourselves” said The Scientist ecstatically. “When can we expect some informal result?” asked Marcos. “For now, I would suggest focusing on your activities in the four states. If we can replicate at least the extremity of emotion; this fear and love, and we can recite this process procedurally, eventually it will inseminate some subconscious instinctive learning and we will see gradual change in comportment. Now until we understand better the genetics of this conundrum, we will be a while yet from a natural child and our own breeding program. Without the empathy gene, women will not lactate, and without a woman’s breast milk, our species just cannot continue” spoke The Scientist. “Why not? How can something natural be so difficult? You’re supposed to have the solutions. There were seven billion of us for christ sake” said The Love General. “Were my friend. Are, is completely speculative. I would put it in the hundreds of millions maybe. Who knows? But what we are 45


certain of is that while women are breeding naturally, they aren’t lactating and their offspring that survive the two day buffer are carrying, or rather, not carrying, this genetic deficiency. I’m afraid until we find a cure for the famine and we are able to inoculate women or, given that the loving proves effective and these children of ours through their emotional learning reignite the quenched spark of universal law and then grow to be prime for breeding, then, my steadfast generals, and of course revered sirs, we are many years away from natural production and even when we do reach this point, we are still what may seem like a lifetime away from civilised loving. The kind you sing about in song. Without a cure for the empathy gene, we are looking at no more than seventy years until total human eradication; the last hoorah for our species. If we find this link, we save humanity. Now does that sound like something you want to be a part of ? I think that about answers your questions” said The Scientist closing over the documents on his clipboard. “Thank you that will be sufficient. Generals return to your duties and prepare your scripts, The Dosing will commence midmorning. I think it’s safest if we go with weather again. Everything is as is; focus on what you need to do. The only thing that can change our direction is the map we keep in our mind. Maintain yur focus, your state of one. I want you to be vigilant. If you see any sign of the famine creeping on your children you are to dispose of them immediately” said Marcos. “Sir, what about the rumours? Are they real?” asked The Work General. The men stopped shuffling their documents and all looked to Marcos with childish apprehension, expecting him to deport the absurd idea that this fairy tale was tangible and also partly hoping that he would concede to the idea that its existence was possible, that it could be true. “Let me make this abundantly clear, New Utopia is not real. Look over those walls; The Famined, they come to us. Why? Because we are Utopia. We have the cure. We are humanity, all things come to us” he screamed smashing his fist down on the table. 46


“If I hear one more word of this desire, this conscious wanting, you will be ex communicated, scavenging like the rest of them for dog scraps and weather reports” he said spitting with every word. “Excuse me gentlemen” said The Scientist, pushing his spectacles forward again and sliding his chair back before slipping out of the board room and off to the lower dwellings to put his incredible mind to a more pragmatic use. The generals all lifted themselves from their places and left in the same fashion as they arrived, thinking of their own concerns. The White Hearts held their place having never changed the direction of their sight or attenuated the immediacy of their focus during the entire meeting. Marcos and the Behemoth sat in directed stare in the company of the muted Teller, hidden in the dark cover of his thick black hooded cloak. “How is your woman?” asked the Behemoth. “She’s fine” said Marcos; though he didn’t really know.

47


00110111 Seated behind his grand oak desk, Marcos sifted through an assortment of papers, most of which brought him concern. It was true; they had not the food to see them through the winter. They hadn’t harvested in over a year and a half and the condition of the soil meant that in all likelihood, they would not reap from another seed for as long as they continued to kick about this impotent poisoned earth. The weather too was unrelenting and gave them little respite, sickening The Children and reducing them to an amoebic state capable of nothing more strenuous than wiping the feverish sweat from their furrowed brows. What was most troubling was the mind of the worker Child. The Children couldn´t see the result of their work at the end of the day, and as such, they became bitter and emotionally perturbed. They longed initially for title, for promotion, for recognition of work undone. The span of their sight was dreadfully short and they desired more than they deserved and when they couldn’t bask in the spoils of their labour; if the result of their effort was not immediate, they would move on to more emotionally encompassing past times. In the case of The Nest, this meant downing one’s tools, and in pack, forming a circle around one and any Child and taunting that Child until he or she fell unto tears. Failing that they took to lighting small fires and destroying established crops or infrastructure. The effect of their cause was to become agitated, disorderly, violent and unfocused. They demanded a pure emotional response, like a puppy left unattended and to its own devices. They tore, burned, ripped and smashed their way into and at anything within the immediacy of their sight and found the discipline that came down upon them by The Fathers; absolutely intoxicating. 48


They longed for direction; emotionally charged direction of any sort; be it a pat on the back or a fist to the face, anything at all would suffice. And just as torrential weather and painful open sores were stressful to their well-being and overall productivity; it was their famine that was debilitating. Marcos looked not with concern for that would be illogical; instead he looked engagingly at the results of the past quarter, accepted the outcomes and the probabilities of their collateral effect and scribed action. In the face of such depressive results and the apparent bleakness of the immediate future, Marcos focused his emotional reasoning, thinking only one; no fear, no doubt and no delay. “There does not exist”, he thought, “a problem without a solution.” “How far have you gone?” asked Marcos looking up from the papers. “Alone? Past the bridge; along the tracks that lead to the old station. I sat in the reeds about a couple of hundred meters off. Kept my distance” replied The Behemoth. “What did you see?” “Abandon” said The Behemoth. “I saw nothing, just a few tricks of the eye; you know, faces forming under the stir of blown leaves tossed about by the bullish wind, shadows morphing in and out of barbarity, first one and then many; the form of a monster, the form of a man. I felt their eyes all over me and the generosity of their intention, inviting me to calamity. There is no kind lodging for a mind at wander” he said. “We need to pacify further beyond the bridge. We need more soil” said Marcos. “You want me to take you there? Today during the collection?” asked The Behemoth to Marcos who had his head buried in papers. The sound of a door shutting pulled them both from their focus. For the briefest moment, the numbers on the documents in his hands seemed to float about wavily, dancing in and out of time 49


of one another. He felt a moment of doubt creep on his mind and his stomach to his throat. He lowered the pages and before him The Woman pulled herself a seat and rested. Marcos swallowed against the lump in his throat, reattained his focus and put the documents aside, out of The Woman’s sight. “We need to talk” she said. “Can this wait until we finish our day? I am with a lot of importance right now and I could use...” “Really? You’re with a lot of importance? And what am I? Inconvenient?” she yelled, throwing a piece of paper in front of his face and kicking away the chair then swinging the door open wildly. “Not everything is zero and fucking one Marcos” she said slamming the door shut, vanishing down the stairwell into the mass of moving figures below. Marcos waded momentarily in a sea of tempestuousness; neurons firing in his mind as a torrent of uncontrollable emotion flooded his fingertips. He clenched his hands irefully, until blood trickled from his fingernails down his palm then to his wrist and finally dropping in a tiny pool on a document sitting before him. Adrenaline pumped like light into a new day leaving him staring viscerally and shaking wildly. The Behemoth looked on unmoved. “Women?” he questioned to himself. Marcos picked up the document that lay below his sight and wiped away the droplets of blood on the cover creating a red smear across the page. He looked into the smear, still worn by the emotional rage which overcame him but now stupefied somewhat in an opiated endorphin induced trance. His vision blurred and swam with the mix of reds and whites on the paper and in his ears; torment beckoned. Gone was the immediacy of his sight. Lost was he now, to the theatre of the emotionally and mentally unhinged. The sound of a woman screaming in dire need was paralysing. The sheer force of her desperation tore at the inside of his mind shattering his calm. He pulled his hands up to his head clasping his ears and grinding his teeth. Sweat poured down his face and 50


saturated his body. The eye in his mind awakened and he saw a flood of white, bright blinding luminescence, and from it, a spectre of dark in the distance at first miniscule and non-forming, then blackening and stencilling the light about his sight. The white fell onto the backdrop of black and grey wheels swinging wildly, left then right, left then right and turning with ferocious velocity, forward, forward, forward, vehemency, the fuel that drove its direction. The sound of voices, discoursing with one another, lexicalising the severity of the woman’s screams as they pressed on; her body thrashing about, her arms and legs strapped into place. A set of doors burst open as a knock on the door pulled Marcos from his stupor. He instantaneously pulled upon the reigns of his sanity lashing wildly at his disobedient conscious mind. “All things are one” he thought. Composure became him and he rose from his table, folding the blood stained document into an infinitesimal square and placing it in his pocket. His body looked physically battled; his face was sickly pale, yet his eyes, where every Father, Mother and Child kept their stare, were hardened, clear, convincing, certain and directing. He opened the door to be greeted by an adolescent child; so strange looking; so unseasoned; long straight black hair, fair pale white skin and emerald green eyes, a colour like he had never seen before in his life; one that swept you into distraction and cast you back out into your own reflection. She stood in front of Marcos with apparent sadness and feigned worry in her eyes and yet, the emotion in her voice was so convincing. “Safrine has gone” she said holding a thousand yard stare. “Safrine is your friend then?” said Marcos as he lowered his heaving self to be at level with the adolescent girl’s eyes. It was uncommon for children of any age to be At Father. Their place was below in the maze of corridors and addressing only of the four secular states of being and activity. Marcos rested both his hands on the girl’s shoulder; sensitivity uncommon from 51


from Father to Child, but in the wake of his own recent emotional decline, unexplainably warranted. “What do The Mothers call you?” he asked. “Milena” she replied. “Speak to me Milena. What has happened to Safrine?” he asked without a hint of condescension or mockery in his tone. Any other Father would have walked straight past the child, cursing the lack of discipline being administered in the four primal quadrants below. They would have walked through the girl and disguised her bruising as a lesson and the dislocation of their compassion as education. It wouldn´t be because they were wrong or ill mannered, it was simply the logic of their being that they followed under the philosophical rationale of Marcos; Mother listens through her breast and Father speaks through his fist. One would keep the emotional threat at bay, quelling the sensation of indecisiveness while the other would aggress upon any and all physical threats. Marcos was very much unlike the other fathers and becoming it seemed, quite unlike his self. A group of fathers passing through the adjacent hall had stopped and gathered in curious wonder at their truculent leader on one knee addressing an adolescent child benignantly. Their lingering stares grew that of Marcos who raised his own stern cast of an eye and as such, in an instant, the bulking men lowered their heads and briskly made their way to wherever it was that was not there. Marcos returned to the girl. She looked at him adoringly and smiled. “You are Marcos, yes? You don’t, look, like a giant” she said. “And who says that I am a giant?” “The other children” she replied. “They say you are a million feet tall and that The Fathers had to build a hole in the sky, just to fit your head” said the girl. “They do, do they? And what else do they say?” laughed Marcos with a grin widening and the colour returning to his face. “That you eat children who don’t follow the rules. And that you’re mean and that you stink sometimes. And that your breath is 52


like…” she said. “Ok, ok” he said putting an index finger gently to her mouth. “Tell me Milena, what evidence have you of Safrine’s disappearance?” he asked. “My eyes, Father. I saw her with my own two eyes” she said with a sense of honest panic filling her focused stare. “And where did she go?” he asked. “She was taken.”

53


00111000 The Woman had left Marcos, but he had not left her. Her mind felt stained with his cold reason. As she moved about the complex, she passed many a Child At Peace, running about in a disorderly fashion, in lure of being caught. One Child playing The Collector and; adorned in a torn grey sheet and with filthy brown bag in hand, ran about trying to collect the other children, enticing them into his snare; fouling rhyme and melody with deception and treason. She sat in still wonder for a moment and balanced her conscious thought. A feeling in her stomach was rife with ill-being. She had, since the inception of this City, accepted how her lover had thought and in many a time once past; sensualised over the outcome of his mind, stupefied at first by his mania, then lustful at the force at which it tore many an idea to shreds and reduced many a man to an argumentative end; ungrateful shamed losers. She had, through the course of their relationship, supported and endured the decisions they had brought upon themselves, but of a great many had been directed solely by him. One decision though, of which, was of her own accord, and of her own will, gave him reason to question no more, the wilful acquiescence of his partner and suggested gravely upon her, abidance to his every word. The Woman pulled a plastic crate from beside her and sat herself comfortably in front of The Children At Peace. What a splendorous thing to do, to sit and watch a child simply being. That idea on its own, for an adult, would never suffice. Some description, some adjective, some state, would need to be attached to this simple idea, of being; a label or an imaginary figment of desire, the delusion of intellectual and or spiritual complexity. “In being!” she exclaimed in her mind, “a Child simply is. There is no doubt, no mal-perception. The Child simply is.” It could be of many things and many temporal states, but as 54


long as the Child was being, it had not the burden of conscious buggering; or what Marcos described as, At Distraction, to firstly interrupt its play and secondly to brand this play with an illusionary third person state, a state that was outside of being, one that was transitory, brailed in collective conscious; the state of absence from self; the state of adherence to individualised collectivism; the state of being different whilst being of equality; the state of marginalised being; the state of unbeing. “All things are, when they are being” she said out loud. Some Children turned, pulled from their play; smiling wildly, then returned in under a breath to their focus; mind speaking to muscle and tendon, to shift and turn on a whim, the energy directed from the sub-state, flowing from their mind’s eye to their toes, collecting in their knees and spiring to their fingertips as they dodged and wove from the chaotic flux of bodies and pressing off of obstacles that maligned their path. It had, in an instant, become abundantly clear; or relative to her, the science of one. That being, the teachings and thoughts that were commanded by Marcos; what in fact she had been cloudlessly practicing in her class and disguising her misunderstanding as, in the moments alone with her lover. When a Child was At Peace, a Child was At One. “What irony” she thought, “that we put such great effort into something that in its essence is the absence of effort and that we lose ourselves in the intellectualisation of the absence of thought.” A wave of dopamine released by this revelation brought her to an image of her lover, his physique; chiselled, his eyes; veneered, her state; wilful submittal. She felt lust; she was lust and she and her lover were one. She smiled a grace upon herself, an imaginary weight shedding from her shoulders and the gravity of au courant burden lifting her out of and away from her conscious trappings. She watched; distant from herself, as one of The Children; masked as The Collector, pulled from his filthy bag a tiny thing. What he did next was not what had been done before. He 55


laid the tiny thing in the centre of the group and walked away into the cold shadows that lined the walls. The Woman saw the drama unfold, watching enticingly as the play unravelled into something more unsettling. As the figure vanished, a sharp cold breath became her and a shiver ran her spine as some dark and vile spectre crept on her soul. The sensation was unconscious and it swept over her and seemed to brush over her like a Cimmerian breeze. The sound of metal clanging made The Children conscious to the figure’s absence. Each Child looked at one another in naive assumption that the game had ended. They gathered around the toy in a large circle; The Children locking arms and peering over in wondrous curiosity. The circumference of the circle held nine Children and behind them and through their feet, the remainder of the group scuttled, battled, tugged, and even climbed to get a closer look. The older larger Children took the front ring, their greater strength holding the younger more agile Children at bay. One of the youngest Children; a small boy named Donal, crawled beneath the legs of one the larger meaner boys and broke rank. He moved about in the centre of the group like a grain of sand circling about a sink in the flow of water, moving into the drain. Here, the flow of water was the Children’s curiosity. He, in the middle, was swept up and now conditioned by their conscious desire to fall upon the object and bring it to the surface. The bigger Children took to a new state; At Group. Their unconscious states feasted on one primal action; consume. Logic and reason gave out to the madness of a bloodthirsty pack primed to lynch a weakened vulnerable prey. They pulled at his tiny body, thrusting him this way and that; putting out their legs so he tripped and scraped his hands on the gravel as he protected his face from the impact on the ground. They taunted and jeered as he lay foetal, being brushed about like a wet cloth by the kicking of their heels. Donal picked himself up, dusted off the dry cement that painted his fine black hair, 56


moved about the inner circle, limping on a twisted ankle and finally stopped an inch from the object, the chanting of The Children deafening now his inner contemplation. A cheeky smile became him and then he was gone, through The Children’s legs, out into the open courtyard and off through the complex. “Stupid baby” said one of the larger boys as he leaned forward to collect the object in one sweep of his hand. As he leaned forward, the circle of Children held tighter to one another. “It’s just a stupid mirror” said the boy as he leaned in for closer inspection. As he did, a gasp escaped from his mouth and a fear stifled the circle of Children. The older boy closed his eyes and released his grip of the other Children coming to a ball on the floor, covering the back of his head. A large net fell from the centre of the roof and enveloped the whole circle. The Children all came crashing to the floor, kicking and screaming as a grey figure came out of the darkness with a white cord in his hand; pulling tightly so The Children; ensnared in the net, could move neither hand nor foot. “Live as you love and love as you live, my child all you need is the love that I give. I am The Collector, the keeper of meaning, your link to the past, I free you from being. I am the Collector, the doubt in your mind, the desire in your heart, the peace you can’t find. I am the Collector, your only true friend; never without me, you´re mine till the end” sang the figure in grey, dancing about the circle of weeping children. “Get this stupid thing off me” shouted the older boy. The more he struggled, the tighter the net pulled on his body. The figure in grey limped over to The Woman and sat down beside her; his tiny size sardonic against the backdrop of chaotic and tumultuous screaming that came from the centre of the courtyard. The tiny figure pulled off the grey sheet and dropped the white cord. He smiled at The Woman and walked off into the distance, past the clump of kicking and screaming Children. 57


“Donal” said The Woman. He looked over his shoulder, his tiny frame trumped by the grandness of his stare; he nodded and waved to The Woman. “Yes?” he said wolfishly. “Will you not let The Children free?” she asked. “It is not I who keeps them in bind my Mother. It is their fear that makes a prisoner of them. And I cannot release them from that” the young boy responded. Donal skipped off into the complex and thought nothing of what had been. At One; At Being, he simply was, and moved to prepare for his next lesson of the day, where he would be At War. The Woman lifted herself and went to the aid of The Children entangled in the netting. She freed the group and sent them on their way to their next activities. The Children partitioned into groups of three, some moving to the states of At Work, others At War and the smallest children, At Love. On her way back to her classroom she tailed a group of three girls, holding hands and skipping along the cobblestone path. Her instinct urged to give caution, warning The Children of their immediate danger playing in such absent mindedness on a slippery oddly shaped path. A wave of fear erupted to the sensors in her mind and the urge moved her forward in stance, lifting her arm upwards; her index finger pointed in directive straightness. As she was about to utter a reference of caution, vocalising the word ‘girls’, gravity overcame her, her foot slipped into a crevice and she lost all balance, careening forward and landing on her straightened finger, bending it painfully; not breaking it, just bruising and straining enough to leave a lasting impression. The girls; having turned upon The Woman’s initial call, went rushing to her aid; in deep concern for their fallen Mother. The Woman cursed wildly, words unbeknownst to The Children, but whose heinous display of emotional dis-governance left them overwhelmed; their senses rattled, their state of being, undone. The Woman composed herself, the pain from her twisted 58


twisted finger coursing through every fibre of her being; she was now, At Heal. “Be At Caution Mother, the path without focus is unsure and unsound” said The Children helping to lift The Woman to her feet. “Thank you Children, Mother is welcome to your love and akin to your reason. She was without focus; neither zero nor one. Mother fell into the trappings of distraction. Always At Focus Children, always At One. Now run along, your classes will be commencing any second” she said pulling focus away from the throbbing pain in her hand. The Children made pace and skipped out of distance and out of sight. The Woman’s finger throbbed horribly, the pain bearable though the irony somewhat tiresome on her sanity. She wouldn’t admit it to herself, but he was right; or at least maybe she could accept that he was part right, after-all one must maintain their victim state in every scene. Every pulse from her finger was a siren sounding to the obvious; when one loses focus, they in turn lose command. When one starts being in what do has been done then the did one should do is the do left undone. The Woman entered the class and made her way to the front, seating on a tiny wooden stool too small for her frame. The stool wobbled under her weight but in fact she enjoyed this absence from complacency. Upon Marcos’ teachings was the simple truth that no idea stands without its opposition. That being, when one attains focus in the absence of distraction then how can one know if they have focus, or are; in fact, distracted? In the ages of past, Marcos would ask how a man could preach of his loyalty if in fact this trait had not come into question; that a man is not loyal as a state of permanence but is in fact; whilst in a state of being, portraying the act of loyalty in a moment. The man could not define himself as being loyal unless maybe he made his bed in a bordello and upon every moment of his being, 59


temptation beckoned his distraction but he remained hesitant and headstrong with his direction. In this light, he would not be being loyal as much as he would be being At Focus; or At One. All things were zero or one; At Distraction or At Focus. The same could be said for all adjectives, all colourful postevent descriptive states of being. One could only be At Bravery when it was in that moment that he divorced from At Cowardice and only in that infinitesimal moment would he be At Bravery for the moment his focus shifted and defined new direction, he would be At War and in the age of conscious splendour where self-introspection was deemed the vice of the intellectually superior, he would no doubt be At Contemplation and from there, either At Expectation or At Disappointment. But whilst attending any or all of these states, one will always be At Focus and to not be such would mean being At Distraction; zero or one. For The Woman, being At Focus meant she tested her resolve consistently; the wobbling chair helping her to maintain her stability; for as long as the chair wobbled, it hadn’t fallen, therefore she was still on the chair. The Children started their lesson again with the Collective Creed. As they stood with their faces directed in reflection, connecting with the image and their outwardly selves, The Woman; casting upon her own eye in the shard of grimy glass in her hand, vanished into dream, At Distraction. When she peeled away the mirror she was greeted by an old friend, several in fact, but one in particular who made her smile. She hugged the other girl, squeezing her senseless and screeching sharply. “Whatchya doin’ weirdo, god!!” she exclaimed. The Woman let go of her friend and the two ran out of the bathroom and burst into the classroom laughing. “You two are late; again. Sit down. I’ll deal with you after the class” shouted the burly bearded man at the front of the room. As he turned to face the children, his elephantine stomach swung unattended and knocked over a cup of steaming coffee that 60


sat upon a pile of papers on his desk. “Oh, now look what you’ve gone and done. Stop sniggering! These tests are going to have to be taken again now. The two of you, come to the front right now” he said, miserably shaking the soaking papers, coffee spilling onto the desk below and then onto the floor. The Woman and her friend slid their chairs in and made their way to the front of the room. The fat teacher held in his hand a long wooden stick. “Face the front” he said in rising fashion. The girls looked straight ahead, into the sea of children, their eyes unfearful, their hands outstretched. The fat teacher threw his heaving self to the side lifting his right arm high into the air and came down with a thunderous crack onto the girl’s hands. The sound of sniggering and contemptuous laughter filled The Woman’s ears as she opened her eyes to see The Children circled about her as she lay on her back, the stool’s legs; broken under her weight, and the stool itself, flung to the other side of the room. For the fourth time in one day, she had lost herself, her focus, her state of one. It was the second time she had succumbed to absence in front of her Children. She was aware that there was something scratching at her inside, and by all reason, it wanted out. She sat in momentary worry that her mind was slipping to Famine.

61


00111001 “Our enemy is in many number, but at heart, our enemy is alone, vulnerable, frightened and very dangerous. His physical suffering takes little course in relation to the infant puppet master pulling at the casualty strings of his meta-physical being” he said, pausing to catch his breath and turning his stare at first to the table, then lifting his head to direct his stare about the room. Father and Son were no different in how they looked upon their leader at this moment. Both gazed in apprehensive wonder, fending off their clouded emotion and the weakened vice of pride. They looked on more so, in astute certainty; a state of which their conscious minds had been trained to conform instinctively, like the rattle of a snake’s tail, the burying of an ostrich’s head, the bearing of a dog’s teeth or the suckling of a new born baby. No rationale entered their minds. They listened and accepted truths. “You my Sons are different to your brothers and sisters. You are the future will of our family. In time you will be learned. In time you will be strong. In time, you will be a Father. It is with an open hand that we raise a Forever New Dawn and it is with a clenched fist that we radiate the light of our hearts upon this new world” he spoke in great volume to the room. His voice carried through the complex and the jeers and chants of The Sons fell upon the ears of those in the neighbouring rooms and in the courtyard just beyond the walls. The Sons; young boys and girls aged from four to seventeen, all stood on their feet with their concrete eyes cutting straight through the stare of their enemy and holding their right fist over their heart. As their fists clenched harder, their veins started to colour and then bulge, their faces turned red, their teeth started to grind and then a hideous snarl begat all of their faces. A thunderous deafening roar bludgeoned the silence as The Sons all vented as one, in one state, At War. Marcos’ eyes lit up 62


as he absorbed all of this. The Fathers in the background simply stood with their arms folded over their heaving chests, knowing every word of this honest truth. At the half passing of the sun, an army of men stood gathered and respondent, eager for instruction, in the courtyard of The Nest. They stood shoulder to shoulder, chest to back, their hulking masses stealing the light about them. From shoulder to toe, they dressed in the shade of night; long black sleeves, black combat pants and black reinforced steel capped boots. On their chests, the great white heart of The Collective. Their sheer size was inspiring, their arms; mastodonic, like two great serpent-like freight trains, their heaving chests; planetary, like some volcano splitting from the earth creating a new land, and their faces; glacial, frozen in unflinching stare; showing little of what tremendous chaos most certainly wreaked havoc beneath. Their number was terrifying; hundreds of men and women stood in line with directed stares like savage dogs in the moments before a fight. Their fingers curled around their cruel instruments; an extension of the war in their souls. A sheath of metal covered their free arms; their manner of defence and their free fists; studded and barbed, were clenched, ready to fight. At Father, Marcos and his captains conspired in the office of strategy. They looked upon a series of blueprints and maps drawn by hand; most of which had been inked by Marcos himself as he sat high above the world overlooking the lines of streets and blocks of towers. His men were invisibly shaken, silently taken aback somewhat by the size of the operation and the last minute planning. Something of this scale needed months to prepare, not the light of one day. And where they intended to go, no man should ever need to comprehend. Marcos stared down each one before finally lowering his head to a blueprint that lay on the table before him. “This is the only way; let that be patently clear in your minds. Our team will cross the bridge in three. We push west until we find 63


find our objective. Gentlemen, today, we walk into zero, as one. Never again shall a foul hand take from our plate. In the day that has been, they came and took one of us. She has a name. Her name is Safrine. And on this day, we take back what is ours. We are the ruling law. We are the only ideal. We are the idol. We are the open heart. We are the clenched fist. We are the chosen ones. We are humanity. This is our home. This is our right. Let us take our message to their black hearts, we are one. We will find Safrine and we will bring her home� he screamed; veins bulging from his neck, his face swelling, his eyes bloodshot and unnerving, his voice visceral carrying like a cannonball through glass, not a tremor in his presence, not a doubt in his words. The men all returned their stare to the images spread out on the table before them. There was a large blueprint of an industrial zone to the lower east of The City. The pictures detailed a sprawling desolate suburbia with its weaving maze of avenues and streets, hundreds of rows of stacked buildings, apartments and houses; large industrial warehouses, low hanging bridges and a network of what were thought to be a matrix of underground tunnels; the remains of an abandoned subway system. The collection would play to three movements; the looking of children, the finding of a girl and the mapping of extremity. One division would split into teams of three and occupy the concrete maze downtown, turning over every broken board, every blade of grass and breaking down every door in the desperate rescue of child; saving these vulnerable and mouldable minds from the derelict tenure of their aged despondent brethren and confiscating for destruction; any items of distraction obtained during their searches and the blackening of all reflective surfaces and materials. Their role was one of peace, offering provisions for the saving of the children; always maintaining a venerable firm hand. The second division would move in smaller number, consisting only of White Hearts. They would move in teams of two, feeding off of Intel and sweeping through the underbelly of The City, 64


their objective, recover the girl; Safrine, at any cost. The third division of only five White Hearts, Marcos and the Behemoth would take the winding cobble road to the bridge at edge of town and they would cross it. Each team would return before the completion of the fall of the sun. The generals and colonels took note of their direction studying the maps laid out by Marcos, burning the image deep in their conscious mindsets. One colonel each, stood at the head of a fifty men and women, looking long down the line of grim faces. In the distance, around the courtyard other Children of other states too looked on, magnetised by the force of their focus, hypnotised by the sound of clanking metal as the warriors struck their instruments against their metalled arms in a droning rhythm. As the Sons prepared to collect, Marcos wandered off through the courtyard, his focus broken by passing thoughts of The Woman. No reason commanded his step but still one foot moved in front of the other; away from where he should have been. He reached to his left pocket, patting as if he had forgotten something. He reached in; the papers were there, folded and pressed against his leg. His focus slipped and in his mind The Woman was in another room. She was frightened, he could tell. He had been frightened before and knew all the markings. He walked to the door and turned the handle gently but it wouldn’t open, she had locked it from inside. He could hear The Woman vomiting in the other room through the door and something inside willed him to knock it down and hold her, wrap his arms around her and be with her; at her touch, at her sight, at the mercy of her need and at the want of her weakness which compelled the irrationality of his heart. He pressed his ear to the door and caught every sunken breath that fell to the floor from her exhausted body. He breathed deeply, taking with it, the hurt that she exhaled. He felt weak, exposed and ineffectual. He turned his back, resting against the door and slid down to the cool tiles throwing his 65


face into his folded arms, the sense of care that warmed his blood now boiling, his uselessness engorging his ferocity and at this fingertips, anger urged to speak. The Woman fell silent to his calling. Marcos jumped to his feet and pounded at the door until his fists were bruised and bloodied. Even then, he kept pounding until the wooden frames burst apart sending shards of wood and metal around the living room. Through the holes in the wood he could see The Woman standing over the basin, tears flooding her eyes. Fury clawed at his stomach and poisoned his heart. His eyes glazed as he burst through the door, his hand clenched and high in the air ready to swing downwards; addressed to The Woman turning her eyes and flinching with fright. He exited the eastern passage and came to the split in the road where left led to At War and right to At Love. He washed away the delusion in his mind and was still driven by some primal uncommon sense. As he was about to enter the building, the corner of his sight was caught by a sudden lack of expectance. He pressed his body against the brick work and eased his sight past the corner; a sense, not of suspicion, but one of genuine intrigue cast a spell on him. It was the Behemoth who by all accord should not be expected to be found where he was and of with whom that he was. Marcos fixed his sight and focused on the two shapes in the distance. He couldn’t hear the crux of their conversation but he could make out the immediacy in the voice of the old man wearing a white coat. The Behemoth stood towering over the man but seemed to take in every word that he said, nodding in concurrence and apparently taking some kind of direction. When the two moved from the shadows into the small courtyard that divided War and Love, Marcos slipped back behind the frame and waited until they passed his sight before this new sensation of intrigue silenced the call of The Woman and directed him upon the dusted footprints of the Behemoth and the old man of science walking in conspicuous tandem 66


through the hallways of Love until they came across a young boy holding a white sheet, sitting alone, running loose gravel through the gaps in his fingers. Marcos watched on in the distance as The Behemoth and The Elderly Scientist kneeled down to the boy’s height and The Behemoth laid a hand on his shoulder. They were speaking to the boy but were so far that Marcos could make out not even the intent usually masked in the tone of one’s speech. He found it odd that The Behemoth should only moments before a grand collection, be far from the command of his generals and more so, for him to be abreast with strangeness and secrecy in the confidence of nameless number men and who exactly was this boy. And what words did The Behemoth collect from this Child and keep as note in hand? Marcos was startled by the sound of generals calling into the open air; aligning their Sons to march. The sound of cheering filled the mid-morning as the children of other states clapped their hands and danced about freely. Mothers ran about struggling to keep them under control and to return them to their proper states of Love, Work and Peace. Marcos’ focus was broken by a line of Children who rushed down the passage, through the courtyard and past Marcos, into the main building towards their classes. Their Mother followed shortly behind with a stern look on her face apologising absently to Marcos, careful not to look him directly in the eyes. Marcos pulled his stomach in; backing against the wall, lifting his arms and allowing The Children to run past. When silence returned, he looked to the distance again but the men and the child were gone. He didn’t know of their direction so instead he made his own, heading back through the small courtyard where in its centre, several Mothers fought to free a web of Children tangled in netting. He passed The Children and entered the passage through to the main courtyard where hundreds of readied soldiers awaited their instruction to march out into the cold grey August morning and fulfil their purpose; to kill and to 67


collect. A cumbersome hand slapped on his shoulder. “A mind that ponders has feet that wander. What are you doing away from where I left you old friend?” said The Behemoth. Marcos was stuck for reason. His mind flashed with the image of the two men conspiring, or as he had thought. “Finding my way back” he said closing any curiosity. The two men walked together down the line of Sons and stood at either side of the gated doors that led through the foyer and out into The City streets. The War General commanded the colonels, who commanded their Sons, who commanded their focus, which commanded their feet and as one, they marched through the courtyard, out through the foyer and lined the great wall that divided The Collective, from The Famine, commanding attention, submission and awe. Marcos and The Behemoth followed and out on the streets they divided their teams and sharpened their focus. “Be war, always! There is no safe passage, there is no gingerly threat. Never lessen your focus. One is war! Be always one! Be always war! Love as one!” screamed The Behemoth to the hundreds of Sons and White Hearts before him. The men and women raised their cruel instruments into the air and cheered, “Live as you love, live as you love, live as you love” in constant recurrence with their instruments piercing the air as their boots stomped the loose earth and trembling concrete. Marcos and The Behemoth joined The War General passing first the enormous outer structure of The Nest, and then moving through the centre of town where the morning bustle was steadily gaining momentum. People were emerging from crawl spaces beneath buildings, between the cracks in the sidewalk that every night swallowed the evening rains, from behind mounds of shrubbery and plastic netting, from within burnt out wrecks and from the dark winding alleys that even under the brightest sun; hidden by a cold grey August sky, cast a shadow so grand that one could not see their own palms 68


clasping to their eyes as their fear enveloped their conscious senses and they collapsed into an insignificant heap at their feet. They crawled then from the blackened windows that kept secrets of their residence leaving only the void visible to the morning light as thick metal gratings slid away from the frame allowing its contents to slip out into the day and make business of their absence. They spawned from the giant cathedral where stagnation made its bed with promise and the stains of abandon and disbelief bore mockingly into the last dregs of conscious sanity. They scurried from the outskirts of town where at night, the freezing cold blusters one’s living into death and even under a tower of fire, to close one’s eyes is a gamble as to whether they should open again in the morn. And they loomed from the cavernous wrecks of towers that aligned The City streets and from the nether of bridges and doorways where the wind and viscous packs of vagabonds would never reach. They came from every side; from every up, from every down, weakened by the hunger in their stomach that scathed their skin and muscle but exhorted nefariously by the unrelenting famine in their minds. The three men surrounded by a guard of White Hearts made their way through the traffic of scavenging humans. They learned in their environment; The Famined ones; like obedient pets, and always returned to their same grounds waiting attentively to receive their portion of information each day. With it, they scurried back to their domesticated holes and wished and wondered the rest of the hours in a day away, their minds doped on information, they festered in their dank dwellings nursing their cravings and willing the next half sun to arrive for their next fix. Marcos was no stranger to this sight. He walked under the fall of every sun with The Woman by his side to his dwellings that overlooked the entire stretch of The City from the prodigious Nest whose immense walls cast high into the heavens, to the miscreant bridge; that in the night, shuffled devilry in and out of the darkest regions. 69


The Famined too were conditioned to The Collective. They moved and cowered out of harm’s way not wanting to draw upon any unfavourable affection; more than what they knew in their rancid degenerate states, they deserved. They were conditioned to The Collective, yes, but they were hardened and savagely frightened of the White Hearts, the men and women who wore atrocity on their chests. And just as sugar disappeared in water, so too did courage in The Famined at the sight of that vile symbol that perforated through the cold grey August morning. The three men under heavy guard came to a square where they were greeted by an old man with a thick grey beard that carried down to his sunken chest. His face was drawn, weighed by the carriage of every day that he had lived, but this old man; a revered collector, would not let go of a single second. He knew everything that seemed so unimportant and his trade was in everything that was. The Behemoth approached The Old Drunk Bastard and shook his hand vigorously almost lifting him off his feet in the process. The old man looked to Marcos and pulled on his long white beard and nodded his head in a show of welcome and respect. The three men walked with The Old Drunk Bastard brushing open a tarpaulin cover that dressed an open doorway that led through to the Child Market. The entrance was long and there was little room to wiggle one’s self passed the traffic coming from the counter way. The path was lit by candles that sat high on the walls flickering under the gusts of wind that snuck through the covering. As they neared the opening, their ears narrowed on what at first travelled as faint whisper and upon the further creeping of tiny steps, unravelled into a raucous banter of laughing, conversing, orating, lamenting and bartering at every corner of the floor. “Welcome, tis a grand day indeed ta deal in fairy tales. Come on in a grab a seat. Can I offer you some Poitin? Tis lethal stuff 70


it is. Till strip da worry right outta ya. Celia brewed it before she died, bless her soul. Sure she’s with me in spirit now, she is” said the Old Drunk Bastard laughing and tripping over the exhilaration that caught at his feet as a matted old dog named Ruff sent him stumbling forward into a pile of boxes leaning against a brick wall. “Watch yourselves gentlemen. Gravity works a little funny in dese walls. Now, take a seat. Hold a sec. Seamus; would ya get rid of dat feckin mongrel, I almost gave me arse a fuckin sun shower. Now, what can I do for you giant fuckers dis morning?” asked The Old Drunk Bastard kicking the dog along. “Children” said Macros bluntly. “I like your boss man here. He wouldn’t fuck a monkey on a Sunday” he said. Marcos looked to The Behemoth who just shook his head in a pay no mind kind of tribute to the ramblings of The Old Drunk Bastard. The old man reached to his pocket and pulled out a metal canister, unwound the lid and poured a yellowish white liquid into a small cap sitting on the table at his front. The old man returned the canister to his jacket pocket slowly, pulled a yellow cloth from the pockets of his pants, pulled the cloth to his bulbous nose blowing furiously then scrunched up the cloth and returned it to his pocket, wheezed several times before retching a sickly cough, reached for the cloth again before shaking his head, lowering both hands, gently pressing his two index fingers against each side of the cap, pressing firm, pulling the cap to his mouth, grinning chesherly and throwing the liquid down his throat; gasping for air as his throat flamed and the oxygen extinguished from his lungs. He threw himself forward as he threw the cap back on the table slapping his right leg with an open palm and stamping his left foot swimmingly on the floor. “Alright, me pipes are clean. Now, if it’s children ya want then it’s children ya get; for children, of dem, I have many. Now can I offer you gentlemen a story at all? I have in my tidings a grand one. I tink you might like it. Will serve you well it will” said The Old Drunk Bastard. “What have you heard?” asked The Behemoth. 71


“Sure twere just whisperings in passing, what one man had said to anudder. Might be nutin, could be anyting. Who knows? Not I. But, tis wurt a listen it is. Excuse me a sec would ya? Seamus!! I told ya to clear those fuckin tinkers outta my house” screamed The Old Drunk Bastard jumping from his seat and waving his cane around stumbling over to where a group of four men lay on the floor passing an opium pipe and listening to the echoes of stories being told around the room. The old man kicked them all with his plastic shoe, stubbing his toe in the process and hopping about in pain. “Feckin gobshites. You don’t pay, you don’t play. Now, fuck off and don’t come back without a feckin child, and not this adolescent shite, a feckin baby. You bring me an infant and I’ll consider settlin your debt. But you even tink about fuckin me widout so much as a feckin cuddle, I’ll sell yer arses to those mean looking cunts over there” he said pointing to the five White Hearts standing behind Marcos, The Behemoth and The War General. The old man took the canister from his pocket and held it to his mouth, spluttering liquid all over his mangy beard as he drank heartedly. “Come ere. Come on. Over ere. Move yer gargantuan arses. Let’s take a wee look at da tings I got” said The Old Drunk Bastard waving his arm and calling over the three men to the far side of the room where guarding a tiny entrance protected by a rusted chain, there stood three towering triplets. “Dere brothers ya know. From da Baltics. Mad as feckin hell dey are, but fuckin loyal. Dey want notin more dan ta watch a door. Give em a door to watch, dey watch it. It’s fuckin grand. I like yours dough. I’m sucker for irony. Now, bow your heads here gentlemen. Not for religious reasons. We drink ta dem. It’s just a low roof is all” he said ushering the men past the giant triplets and into the store. The men entered and inside the room were several cribs, each nursing several young infants, some sleeping on their backs with their legs flush like a frog, others swinging their heads to the left and right trying to see past the old lady who whispered quietly 72


into their waking ears. In the back of the room was a caged cell where inside slept four young children, maybe five or six years old, one could never really know in this age. They lay together on a mattress on the floor stretched across one another in laxed slumber. On the far end of the room was an iron door with a sliding panel. The door was bolted shut. “Business gentlemen. Take a seat. Now, I know what I ave for you. But what surprise ya got for me?” The Old Drunk Bastard asked rubbing his fingers insidiously through his thick beard. The Behemoth took from a pouch on his belt a piece of cloth which he opened on the table. The old man smiled. “Ok den, what can I do for you?” he said folding the cloth over and passing it to the old lady who was still whispering to the infant children in the cots. “We’ve had complaints. The last children…” “No returns gentlemen. You know da rules” interrupted The Old Drunk Bastard.. “As I was saying. The last Children, the naturals; they didn’t condition well and the toddlers, they’re not remembering the dream” said Marcos. “Are ya tellin it right? Ma here, she’s old as fuck, but all she’s ever done is tell stories. Look at er. It’s not what she says; it’s how she fuckin says it” exclaimed The Old Drunk Bastard. “Maybe it’s the dream. Maybe it’s not clear enough. Maybe it’s not written right for Children” said Marcos. ‘Deres notin wrong wit da dream. It’s a damn good dream. Da best I’ve ever written. Da problem is your fuckin Teller. I told ya before. That fuckin ghoul of yers, he can’t tell an apple from a feckin orange” said The Old Drunk Bastard. “Well what do you suggest?” asked Marcos. “Well, what do you want me to do, sell ye me Ma? Ya here dat Ma?” said The Old Drunk Bastard. The old lady lifted her brow but didn’t break from her gentle whispering and the infants, turning their heads to and fro, settled 73


into their skins and closed their tender eyes, resting their little minds. The old woman kept her whisper, sneaking into the sleep of the children and caressing the fragility of their souls with her venerable kindness. “Listen, deres notin wrong with the product I gave ya. Ya can beat a stick all day long but unless ya got ridem, ya won’t be making music. You my friend, you gotta find yer ridem and fast, before the comin storm sweeps ya off yer feet” he said. “What have you heard old man?” asked Marcos. “De sound of tunder clappin hysterically in de subconscious o men and somewhere inside dat cloud, de place of light and sound, singin to de eyes and ears of every man, sayin ‘come ere, be entertained; bring your ma, bring your son a well, we got TV and video games, we got sunshine and Wi-Fi; all the tingy-me-bobs and doov-i-lackys one could ever want, need and waste’. Oh, sure sounds terrific, da sound a tunder. Can you ere it? I’d get yer selves ta higher ground I would before da shite is washed from yer arses” said The Old Drunk Bastard. “What do you have behind the door?” Marcos asked pointing to the far end of the room. “Oh dat, dats nuthin” said The Old Drunk Bastard hurriedly. “Now what about poems, will ya be needin anymore. I’ve got new poems for marchin, I got a great one for bein alone, ya know, fendin off da fright. What is it, somethin like ‘when I am alone ta da ta da and return ta bein at day’ somethin like dat. Anyway, and I got some for yer lovin, some really great ones and I got some for focus, ya know stop dose nasty emotions distractin yer kids. Whatta ya tink?” asked The Old Drunk Bastard holding open a book to the three men. “We’ll take two infants and the four toddlers there in the cage” said The Behemoth cutting the two men off. “What did you mean when you said, fast?” asked Marcos, his eyes cutting through the drunken canter’s stare. “Aye? Oh dat. Twas nuthin. Just da ramblins of an old drunk” he said with worry under every word. 74


“Let me wrap up your purchases. Did ya want ta pick out da child or any will do?” he continued. The Behemoth stood up and walked over and studied the infants lying in the cot. The old lady kept her whispering while The Behemoth tapped on the foreheads of two babies. The Old Drunk Bastard waved his hand and a servant in a corner shadow curtseyed when made present then organised the trade. “Will der be anyting more?” said The Old Drunk Bastard. “Zero” said The Behemoth holding a steadfast eye on Marcos whose own waited on the locked door in the back of the room. The three men; followed by the old man, left the room and made their way out into the open day where the rapid change in temperature chilled the centre of their bones. The old man shuddered and complained while the three Collectivists remained at their readied state of war; alert and responsive. “Tis a lot o movement dis morning. A lot o important and big men for a wee shop. Sumtin goin on?” asked The Old Drunk Bastard. “We’re looking for a girl; red hair, blue eyes. She responds to Safrine. I trust you’ll inform us if anyone tries to palm her off to you” said Marcos sternly. “Aye. Wouldn’t want to piss in me own swill I wouldn’t. Ya can be sure, if I see or hear anytin, I’ll pass on da good word, for a good price o course” said the old man with a cunning smile holding back a nervous grin. “Sure dis will be da last for a while. I’m shuttin da shop in the morn. Had enough o da city. I’m takin Ma out ta da country. Famine’s good business but I tell ya, tis a funny business we’re in, the swapping o wee ones. Just cause it is, it don’t make it right, ya know?” he said. They shook hands; the old drunk sliding his hand down his thick beard in a pensive state as the three men walked off surrounded by a guard of White Hearts. He rushed back into his building with a sense of hurry at his feet, the black tarpaulin falling off its hinges, no longer hiding the old man as he rushed down the 75


hall waving his arms and cursing loudly. The movement in the background went unnoticed as the three men followed by a guard of White Hearts took the east road from the centre of town past the old industrial buildings where large monolithic cranes hanged their heavy heads high above the flight of birds; their long mechanical tongues reaching down to a heap of twisted metal and corrupted earth below and the pistons that extruded from their belly; rusted and immotile like the teats of a dead cow; preserved in a perpetual fustian state. In the distance, a team of White Hearts sat preparative in a semi-circle; their ears trained inwards, their bodies and eyes inflected at every angle covering the colonel at their centre. Still under heavy guard, Marcos, The Behemoth and The War General halted their path and waited in observance of the team as they strategized their entry into a building near to their position. “It’s one of several locations we think the girl may be kept. The team will enter through the grating there; below the side entrance, and access via the ducted air systems. Once the area is contained and threat neutralised, they will signal their position with a white flag in the upper right hand window just there, and with that we will make our entrance through the front of the building. Unless of course you wanted to participate in the initial push, I just assumed that uh…” said The War General trailing off to an incomprehensible mutter. “It’s fine. My days of crawling through open sewers are behind me” said Marcos dulling The War General’s apparent selfdiscomfort. The three men stood at arm’s length watching as in the near distance the small team of White Hearts fell to their bellies and dragged themselves along the crooked road holding tight to the shadows that lined the base of the building until they reached a large metal grating that consumed part of the path. One of the men pulled a tool from his belt and commenced the undoing of screws from the grating and the removal of the object closing their accessibility. The three men slid into the hole like water down a 76


drain and they were gone. “Shouldn’t take too long. We assess a low to medium threat level in this region; completely containable” said The War General in confident song. He was right. In less than a minute, in the top right hand window a white flag appeared; the signal of pacification. Under a guard of White Hearts, the three men approached the front of the building and the smallest of the three; The War General threw his weight on his back foot and propelled forward, breaking the door open. The three men entered the lobby where; next to the reception, five men sat whimpering; bound and gagged on the floor. Marcos looked around the room. Whoever these Famined were, they were not spending their days picking sores and begging for weather forecasts. There was something far more cunning and active happening within these walls and as he gazed out the newly broken window flooding light into the room; staring at the industrial might all about, he realised that this may not be an only occurrence. “What do you know about this?” asked Marcos to The War General. “Sir, this is a first. I never thought… We never thought that this was possible, not this close to The Nest. These crude mechanics sir, they couldn’t put them together, they’re just building blocks. Sir, I stand by the Intel we have, this is a low threat, no reason for concern; obviously a new famine, one that keeps the hands busy; nothing of concern sir, nothing at all” said The War General talking to none but himself as Marcos toiled through the shards of glass, springs, pulleys and metal shafts that lay strewn about on the floor. “What are they constructing?” he asked to The Behemoth. “Could be anything; probably nothing, exactly as our general here just said. Seriously Marcos, these Famined can hardly string together a complete sentence, do you really think they have the intellectual capacity to plan anything greater than their next bowel 77


movement. Your mind is inventing tragedy old friend. That woman of yours, she is a burden, she keeps you At Distraction. You’ve not been yourself of late” said The Behemoth in a low voice to Marcos keeping The War General out of their honesty. “Tell me you don’t see smoke. In ten years we have suffered no greater threat than the violent scavenging of information junkies whose capacity to build only drew upon on their noxious hunger wanting more and more and more. And now this, this clandestine fashioning of tools, more than simple cutting and hitting weaponry, this is the account of a trade. You tell me you look at this and you don’t see smoke, because I don’t see desperate addiction here, I see careful planning and that to me is proof of a fire somewhere down the line. Tell me you don’t see smoke” he screamed to The Behemoth. “I don’t see smoke” The Behemoth replied simply. While the White Hearts, commanded by The War General, engaged in brutality against the five men bound and gagged on the floor, Marcos and The Behemoth exited the building and entered out into the daylight onto the street once again, being no closer to finding the girl. Marcos looked over his shoulder but through the light of day he saw only darkness looking back at him. His nerves were shot, his blood boiled, his senses were less sharp and less defined and his face grimaced as The Behemoth took the road back to the west. Marcos followed suit and the two men under heavy guard found a new path heading towards the outskirts of town on the north eastern road that bridged from the centre of town and would take the men far from perceived pacification to the link between zero and one; a bridge that crossed the fetid black river and fell upon the tracks the led to the old station and from there, perceived nothingness; the void, zero, fear. Behind them, The War General and his men took to the blackening. They had in large metal tins a thick black tar that they smeared over metal finishing, removing any reflection whatsoever. 78


The Famined grew hungrier when they lingered upon their own reflection; this self-adulation made them unpredictable and dangerous so The Collective took to smashing all windows and blackening all surfaces that provided a point of admiration; a link to distraction and a fountain for The Famine. The Collective administered the supply of endorphin and serotonin to The City’s Famined ensuring the levels were controlled and containable. Thus they had to remove anything that could heighten their mood or stimulate the pith of their Famine; that being, anything that could reflect their image, any items of outlandish colour which tweaked their subconscious emotive irrationalities and repressed memories, and print images from the post information age which made their way perpetually over the cobblestone bridge and into The City; smuggled in and traded in the underbelly markets, working outside the influence of The Collective heart and far from the grasp of its fist. The War General and his men tore up every board looking for objects of distraction and when they found nothing of value, they took to torturing the men bound on the floor, beating them into submission; like disobedient dogs of an old age. Marcos and The Behemoth maintained their focus as they walked along the line of industrial buildings. On the path in front, the ground became less fixed with loose gravel swimming under their feet and its sound abating their secrecy. The road was littered with burnt out wrecks; piles of metal twisted upon itself, wrapped over and over until the beginning and the end met somewhere in the middle. Marcos’ mind felt something like this. He tried to focus on the path ahead of him but his concentration was slipped by the sound of The Behemoth’s boots crunching the loose gravel and as he started to consciously drift, his eyes fell on the mangled metal and they too stole his immediacy. Before long he was back behind the wheel of his baby and beside him, The Woman screaming in joy to the heavens as the wind rushed through her lush black and lilac hair, taking with it the 79


flower that dressed behind her ear; high up into the air, back over the top of the car and up along the winding mountain road. She tried to reach for it with her free hand but the lift in the flower was too great and Marcos watched through his smiling eyes in the rear mirror as it took flight, dancing upon channels of warm and cold air, fluttering up to the height of the sun with the brilliance of the day magnified behind the colourful shape, creating a heavenly glow as it poised to and fro in the warm coastal air. The road was thin and winding; the massive cliffs looking out over an endless horizon where the light blue sky met the deep blue ocean with pools of bright green luminescence spotted throughout the irenic sea. The sound of the roaring engine thrilled him as he accelerated hard out of every corner, racing through the gears; over four hundred horsepower screaming to the heavens as The Woman beside him gripped one hand desperately to his right leg and the other still waving in the air for the travelling flower. As the car weaved around every bend, he gazed quickly to the rear mirror, catching his own reflection. He was young and handsome, his face striking. White teeth, sun soaked complexion, piercing blue eyes, trimmed beard that curved to his features highlighting his masculine beauty, a smile that could close any deal and a stylish new haircut. He looked back at the winding road and fixated on the tight curves; so like a woman’s body he thought, touching the pedals delicately, hugging the contours of the road, slowing for every bend and driving hard and deep into every straight. The Woman to his side screamed in fear and delight as the roar of the engine deafened her ears and the power etched at her feet, vibrating her entire body. His cell rang and colours lit the dash. His eyes fell on it for a moment; work. He smiled and accelerated more, pushing the car further into the warm air. The phone rang again. The woman looked nervously at Marcos who was trapped in focus, his eyes barbarous and his veins pulsating. The phone 80


continued to ring. He looked down to the cell that sat vibrating in the centre console. He leaned his right hand to follow his eye to silence the sound. When he lifted his eye to the road, the road was gone. The Woman beside him gripped his leg profusely and her right arm hanged behind her head as her eyes jumped out of fright and her hair swished about in the mix of breeze and headlong descent as the car careened over the edge of the mountain; the sun reflecting off the ocean, onto his bowing bonnet and into his eyes filling him with warmth and eroding the fear from this mount of inevitability; the suddenness of death of whose embrace he found himself diving headstrong into. As the subtle wash of wind wisped through his ears like a kettle coming to a boil, tranquillity attended his reign. He sank into whatever was to come, the gentle blue flooding his eyes, the touch of The Woman’s hand on his leg, the fancy of momentary flight, the relief of leaving and no longer having to play this role, to wear this mask, to bed with this burden. “I love you” she said, as for the moment he felt completely alone. A black hole descended upon their sight as dark red meet with dark blue, the two colours colliding to bring their sight, closer to black, closer to zero. Marcos touched The Woman’s hand with his own in a last grace and let his final breath fall upon the shrinking dash, following it into a cold and grey August morning. At the end of his breath came calm, lucidity; he exhaled deeply; the charred air on this cold grey August morning and wiped the sweat that had formed on his brow, still at the heel of The Behemoth; his eyes drawn on the metallic monstrosities with his concentration morphing in and out of realism. He focused on the light that drank of his sight and less of The Famine that crept upon in his mind. As they neared the end of the road, the carnage about them seemed to escalate. There was a haunting silence that echoed one’s breath loud and pervasively. Marcos focused on slowing his rapidly 81


beating heart pulling long controlled breaths until both his body and mind found their centre. They came to the foot of a long bridge that stepped up into the sky and carried out over a black raging torrent. The men neared the river and Marcos took a long stick from the ground and lowered it to the moving water. The stick fell in to the blackness as the violent currents ripped it from his unprepared hands. “Is it always like this?” Marcos asked to The Behemoth. “I’ve never seen it in any other state. I respect its ferocity” replied the Behemoth. “Let’s cross” said Marcos focused yet impatient. The two men backed away from the river onto the gravel path and made their way along the magnificent cobblestone bridge; their feet never holding flat; struggling to the maintain the slippery surface. The thin leather consoling their feet was easy to bend and contort to the uneven surface making coming unstuck a less probable result but still, the hands and eyes in their toes saw and felt their way over the long sky road. They couldn’t see the end in their sight; the horizon still dangling on massive wires that fed to gargantuan poles that shot from centre of the earth, piercing through the soft white cirrus and onwards to where not even birds knew how to fly. The men walked; still guarded, and they kept their sight firm and ready. As they neared the centre of the bridge they passed a pile of bodies burned and apparently ravaged; lying across the centre of the road. Pieces of them were missing, namely their faces; probably eaten and the smell from their scorched skin hanged in the air making the men gag somewhat; except for The Behemoth who lowered to his knees and rested his hands on one of the corpses. “Still very warm. They were left, no more than an hour ago. It could be a big pack, maybe fifteen to twenty; could be more. It’s not safe for us to go any further” said The Behemoth his hand still pressed against the charred open chest. Marcos looked around. He could see nothing, but it was exactly that nothing which caused him uncertainty and his stomach 82


twisted and turned; telling him to leave. “No, we continue. I need to see for myself. If we are to pursue new grazing, then we need to cross this frontier” he said. The men continued along the road keeping their eyes tuned to the horizon for any false shape at all; any shifting shadow that could alert them to trouble. Along the rest of the bridge there was nothing more than the sight they had just passed lingering in the back of their thoughts. “Why are they coming so close now?” asked Marcos. “The same thing that’s drawing us out is drawing them in. There’s your fire old friend” he said. “The Old Drunk Bastard, he knows more than his wits would let us have” said Marcos running over the old man’s words in his head. There was a likeness in the old man’s ramblings which struck a chord in Marcos; a string vibrating somewhere at his quantum centre, to a different tune. Maybe it was always singing but for the first time in a long time, he was starting to listen. The men, surrounded by a guard of White Hearts, left the bridge and surveyed the surroundings. There was an open field of which nurtured black and repugnant earth. A horrid stench sat just under their noses and as they kicked the dirt from under their feet, the horrible smell worsened. “Do not stray from the tracks. We get no closer to the madness than we need to” said The Behemoth. The men continued onwards more alert than before, The White Hearts making a semi-circle around the backs of the two men, facing out into the distance, holding their cruel instruments sharply and one of the men; inside the circle; walking too in back step, his arms retracting a projectile in a small sling, moving left and right across the horizon, his sight acute, the tension in his fingers; primed. It wasn’t long before, in the distance, they saw a blackened shadow develop from a microscopic dot to a colossal structure that grew out from the tracks and seemingly out of nowhere. 83


The station had a large shell shaped roof that pointed in different directions out into the sky. The colours were magnificent; bright reds, luscious greens and vivacious yellows, and the station itself, its walls were the colour of calm, tranquillity and gradual flow; a beautiful light blue that set the men’s minds at ease as they neared its position; still alert but becoming more at ease. “Focus White Hearts. Be at war!” yelled The Behemoth sounding rattled. The men continued; their senses under fight; an unsettling calm washing over them. Their training prepared them only for a physical threat. In the blandness of The Nest and under the blanket of every cold grey August morning, they had never imagined this. As they came to the entrance of the station, one of The White Hearts collapsed to the black soil, his hands pressed against his temple, squeezing hard. His focus shuddered inside his mind’s eye; the bright colours perforating through the cold plain rationale that conditioned his state of one. His heart beat faster and his head flushed with warmth as his mind flooded with imagery; thoughts he couldn’t control, lashing at his sense of reason. His head thumped. It felt like his brain was about to explode. He pressed his fingers deeper to his temple but nothing was doing. His breath was both shallow and heavy. He sucked deep on the warm air but his stomach felt in a state of constant emptiness while his chest expanded profusely, too much and never enough on the same side of the coin. His fingertips started to tingle and his only response was to press harder until the red at his fingers and the white of his temple spoke of the stress on his mind that cast him into unconsciousness for a moment. He fell back onto the dirt; his tongue sliding down the back of his throat as his body thrashed about on the filthy soil kicking black residue into the still air. His convulsions increased as his eyes rolled up and to the left; his limbs and the back of his head pounding in and out of the dirt. 84


The other men maintained their directive stare as they causally stepped over his body, willing; through mathematical logic, the return of simple white on black, dividing, subtracting and adding colours to return everything to one; back to white; adding blue to yellow, subtracting brown, dividing by green, equalling white; all things when they are everything, are one; and all things return to zero. This logic kept the men focused and their conscious minds at a state of readiness, at a state of one. The four remaining White Hearts rushed through the entrance of the station and held a position inside, calling the two men through. Marcos and The Behemoth entered slowly and as they did, a sound of light whimpering called them to attention. The White Hearts stood armed and primed where; sitting on a wooden bench near the edge of the platform, hunched over something small and wounded, the shape of a woman whimpered, louder now that the men had entered the station. The men engaged slowly, taking caution in every step, looking in every direction, analysing the threat and marginalising any negative outcome. The platform was long. From where they stood at the foot of the entrance, it stretched to the west for over a hundred meters. What caught Marcos was how clean it was. The floors were sparkling white; patterned and cool tiles that caught not a speck of dirt. Even the filth from their boots that they carried with would fall upon the tiles and be picked up by the wind; taken off out over the tracks and back out into the black field where it settled under the contrast of the bright colours of the station’s shell roof. The walls around them were littered with art and poetry; phrases in a scribe that none of them could read but their affectation had Marcos feeling lighter in his reason and thinking aside of the threat and instead, what would be at affect; of The Woman and how it pained to have her close and yet, how the thought of her wounded and alone almost brought him to tear. There was an object in the distance. Marcos couldn’t make out what it was exactly but its perplexing shape brought him closer to distraction. He fought hard to maintain his state of one; thinking 85


hard of the orange hue of the Forever New Dawn, his rationale returning, his state of focus more refined. They edged closer to the whimpering woman with the White Hearts moving like human crabs over the smooth tiles; their fingers gripping their weapons, their teeth clenched and the dryness of their unflinching, unblinking eyes lending them to bother. They passed a grand piano that sat under a sign on the wall that said, “Your station, your art, your voice, your story to tell”. It was an invitation of sorts. Marcos ran his fingers lightly across the keys. The whites were so white and the blacks had not a finger print on them to muster their shade. It was so pretty that he didn’t think as he pressed down on a key and the sound jumped into the air, startling the men into a panicked readiness. The Behemoth looked at Marcos angrily, pulling his finger to his lips to hush any cerebral disobedience. The woman to their front was still whimpering and hunched over something that lay confined under a brown blanket. As the men approached they could see that her eyes were flooded, tears running down her cheek. Marcos and The Behemoth approached cautiously and slowly moved to the front of the woman, keeping their distance. The Behemoth held his weapon high ready to strike down on this unpredictable Famined beast should it attack or move in any manner. The woman’s arms were hidden under the blanket and her face too was looking at whatever was concealed inside. The Behemoth looked at one of the White Hearts carrying a long machete and nodded his head towards the whimpering woman. The White Heart reached his cruel instrument close to the woman’s leg catching the brown blanket on the blade’s tip and swung his arm back tearing the blanket from her body. “It’s killing an Infant” screamed The Behemoth swinging his arm high and coming down viscously to strike the woman. Marcos ripped at his arm, pulling it up and then back, sending The Behemoth crashing over himself with the force of his swing. He jumped to his feet and again moved to strike but Marcos 86


struck him in the chest and he tumbled over onto the ground. “What are you doing?” screamed The Behemoth, the pain from the blows carolling through his broken speech. “Look” said Marcos. “She’s not killing it. She’s feeding it. She’s feeding the infant” he said watching in awe as the child suckled at the woman’s breast while she wept benevolently in a moment of apparent love that shared between the woman and her child; her actual child. The men stood still, shocked, in wonder. The Behemoth struck The Famined woman’s head with his cruel instrument sending her lifeless body crashing to the ground. The infant fell with her mother; secured in her arms, still attached to her breast. “Sequester the infant” ordered The Behemoth to a White Heart. The soldier took the baby from the frozen clutches of its dead mother and ran out of the station back into the black field covered by another White Heart tracing their path back along from whence they came. “What did you do?” screamed Marcos. “She was killing it, look” he said pointing to her exposed body. “There’s no milk. She wasn’t lactating. The infant would have died within a day. We saved its life” he said. Marcos looked close at the dead woman’s breasts and squeezed with his right hand, and he was right, her nipples were cut and bruised from the constant suckling, but they were dry. “We need to go now. It’s a trap” screamed The Behemoth pointing to the west where now shadows danced upon the play of white as in the distance, a pack of wild humans scurried along the black dirt towards the pristine cool tiles where the men stood inanimate; almost unbelieving. Gathering their focus, the men turned. “Run!” screamed Marcos. A White Heart fired off scores of projectiles in a matter of seconds; his hands moving like a blur as he emptied his pockets of 87


sharp metallic balls and fragmented shards of glass bound in barb wire; aiming his weapon, pulling hard on the elastic and releasing at every target, missing none. The projectiles flew through the air and struck the coming shadows sending them scattering back into the distance. The men ran, passing the White Heart who lay emotionally crippled with his head buried in the dirt. As they ran back along the track with the infant baby crying for its dead mother, their hearts flushed adrenaline to their legs willing them step after step, mound after mound, past the threat of shadows, onto the cobblestone bridge, past the line of charred bodies, back onto the loose gravel, past the array of wreckage, down to the centre of town until finally they collapsed in exhaustion near the great wall of The Nest, just beyond the centre square. As the baby cried, the men heaved over themselves sucking in air as hundreds of White Hearts rushed from the surrounding streets to encircle them; readied and alert. “Take the Infant to The Scientist” said The Behemoth. “What just happened?” asked Marcos, his question filled by silence. The men stayed not long catching their breaths before they returned their focus and entered the complex, surrounded by hundreds of other White Hearts and about them, the pacified Famined, circling around the men, shuffled about and arguing amongst one another for their share of information. The sense of harrowing incident stung Marcos’ senses.

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0011000100110000 “Get rid of this feckin mongrel” was what The Old Drunk Bastard had said as he rested his plastic shoe into Ruff ’s bum. The dog went flying through the air and landed in a skid at the far end of the room; his tail tight between his legs and tucked firm to his belly. He wasn’t a big dog and a kick like that from a man even as inebriated and insensible as The Old Drunk Bastard was quite a reckoning. For a second there, as he flew up and over the rows of stupefied humans lying in a den of their own conscious absence; The Nest workers, dissipating their focus voluntarily, it occurred to him; as it would occur to any dog whose arse had just been graced with a tenderly boot, that he had just done wrong. He landed with a thud of guilt slapping on his adorable face; his bum pinned to the ground, his ears pulled back, his brow lifted, his eyes warm and not at all menacing and his whimper; pathetic but forgiving. The Old Drunk Bastard mumbled something to some other men as he stumbled off to the far end of the room. Ruff felt that he meant no foul and returned his body to its strut as the man called Seamus picked him up gently and carried him out under one arm, letting him free just outside the entrance. “It’s ok Ruff. He means no foul. He has a heart ‘o gold just at de moment he’s showin off his brass balls to da men in dere so come back later. I’ll fix ya some supper” said Seamus to Ruff as he lowered him to the ground, scratching roughly behind his ears. Ruff barked in appreciation; a smile lit his doggy face, his eyes widened, his ears sat tall, his tail flung about in joyous swing and his feet took to the cold pavement while in his wake, the young Irishman stood leaning against the doorframe watching the animal pitter-patter up the street completely unaffected by the blistering cold, the civil abandon or the recent foot to his bum. Seamus 89


smiled and returned back into the den and attended to some miscreant clients. Ruff the dog made his way through the town as if the master key to its doors itself was hidden somewhere in his matted fur; confident, assured and belonging. Being a dog, Ruff thought little much of anything. He partook in little to no soul-gazing or self-discovery; those internal journeys where one mapped out and tore off layers of their identity like last year’s winter fashion preparing to assume a new better self by acquiring more timeless garments and expressions that would only be relevant for the following six months. Ruff did no thinking at all. After-all he was fact, a dog. That’s not to say that Ruff didn’t live a life of fancy, one of adventure and one of constant discovery. You see to Ruff, everything seen was everything found so everything he came upon was in fact a brilliant discovery and every walk around a block, an adventure. His survival after the blackout was always going to be without question. Though he had been; in times past, of servitude, obedience and companionship, he was; being a dog, quite adaptable. His instincts had never left him, as of course, they never do. This new city though brought him greater promise and in that it also brought him fame. To know Ruff is to know his mother and father or should one say, fathers; for Ruff ’s mother was at a time, popular so to speak. When his mother fell pregnant, the strays in the street; which once fought for her attention, then made no time for her. She would move about the group looking for some paternal reaction from anyone in the pack but instead she was frightened off with ireful snarls; their noses lifting, saliva, pouring from their glaring sharp front teeth and the hairs on the beasts’ necks standing on end. Their instinct wanted nothing of her dependant madness. Back at home, his mother’s big friends became stranger in their affection as her belly started to grow. Where once they would 90


greet her with jubilation and mania, now they merely sat at the big table and mentioned her name in a low displeasing manner. His mother didn’t warm to this new banter from her friends. Her instincts gave her a sense of concern. In the final months of her pregnancy, Ruff ’s mother was taken out by the big friend while his lady friend stood in the corner crying desperately. With a stern hand gripping the scruff of her neck she turned to the see the crying lady friend and whimpered lightly as if to say, “I understand.” “It’ll be ok, we’ll get another one” were the last words Ruff ’s mother heard as the big friend forced the choker onto her neck and dragged her through the front door; her hind legs split, her nails digging into the grout between the tiles, her back arched and the force of her being positioned to her rump, stifling the misdirected leverage of the big friend who, unsure of his own centre’s balance, fell over himself in a fit of rage. The bitch simply held her weight in her bum and lent her head forwards until the big friend with coarseness in his tongue reached from under her belly and without a hint of sensitivity, scooped her up in one hand, securing her neck with the other and threw her into the back seat of the car. When she finally bit her way through the plastic bag, the big friend was gone. Still, she lifted her heavy body and crawled out from the black bag enticed by the thrill of game for even at the end of her pregnancy she was never shy of play. The sky was now dark and strange sounds completely unknown to her filled the night. The soil beneath her paws was damp and sludgy. She patted about moving away from the upturned bin where she had been placed and found some other dogs in the distance chasing one another and feasting on scraps from the garbage about them. When she approached, the pack encircled her; their necks arched to the ground, their sensitive noses sniffing the cold air, making sense of her scent. The alpha dog moved in and sniffed her entire body as she pulled her tail between her legs, her ears pinned, 91


her legs shaking and her heavy belly swishing against the floor. The alpha barked wildly and she lifted and ran. As she did a large metal thing flew to where she had been laying and smashed into pieces on the ground and just behind the object broke the sound of two humans joking and laughing amongst themselves as they ran off into the distance. The pack formed a circle around Ruff ’s mother once again, each snarling mouth and glaring eye facing out into the formidable darkness; watching, alert, focused, At Being. The alpha nudged at Ruff ’s mother’s belly encouraging her to unfold from her retreated position and lay on her side. The dog, whose coat was sleek and as black as the night itself lowered himself to the expecting mother and proceeded to lick her head, her back and behind her ears. A state of calm became her and in an instant, she submitted to the course of nature. Her labour was quick and without arduous complication. She; like her son, was a dog, so her absence of critical conscious distraction meant that in fact, her entire existence was a submittal to nature. The lack of conscious interplay and internal dialogue meant she didn’t’ succumb to any internal amplifications and reverberations of what she experienced. She experienced pain; she didn’t relive it or dilate it. She experienced yearning; she didn’t objectify and dissect it. She experienced anticipation and joy, she didn’t postpone it. She was a dog. She experienced. That’s it. And in her labour she did not scream wildly, beg for someone or something to take the pain away or wish that it would just all be over right then and there. She merely lay on her side, breathed heavier than usual and experienced a moment, at one with nature, while her children were being born and while nature was in fact; being, As each child was born, the black alpha dog; a shadow by day invisible at night, gently took each one close to their mother’s face. The mother was At Being, the complete presence of herself being now inside her own womb and parting her legs. 92


Every other organ and living vice played second fiddle in this moment like a fingernail to a marathon runner as the weight of his focus drives his legs through the finish. She was no longer a walking, crawling, flea ridden canine fighting for scraps of meat and chasing bicycle wheels, she was in fact her own womb, her ovaries, her perennial, her fluids and her vagina. She was at every moment, holding each child as they made their way through and out of her body, unto life. After the final child was born, she moved her weary head to look to the alpha that now stood above a small pack of tiny children. The alpha; Shadow, had licked each child thoroughly cleaning them and nudging them into wake to prepare for nurturing upon their mother’s breast as nature intended. He stood though, morose, as one child whimpered and blindly found his mother’s teat suckling and then falling into comfort. She had been the birth of six children that night, she had lived six times more than she had lived before, but now only one child suckled at her breast. She looked to where Shadow, the alpha dog stood and before him, at the tip of his long snout, five children lay, still and without being. Shadow’s eyes were heavy and sadness crept about him. The two fell upon one another’s stare for a moment before the mother turned to her nursing child and was At Love, licking his back; lifting him high into the air which each long stroke of her tongue and watching his rear fall back down upon her warm belly; her nipple never leaving the young child’s clasp. The intention of nature was nature’s to attend. Ruff, his mother and Shadow, his new paternal protector, slept through the night; mother and father watching over child as a ferocious pack of canines watched over the resting family. Ruff patted away at the footpath in the same manner his mother had done on the wet muddy ground years before. As each leg kicked out to the side in every stride, his tongue stuck out wide, his mouth pulled back to a massive grin and his eyes widened to take in every moment of this new adventure. His ears flicked back and forth as he moved about picking up on bits of this and that, 93


the banter of stranger friends about the streets and the communication of other dogs echoing through the maze of buildings. Being a dog was about momentum and instinct and the instinct of being a dog was; to be happy. Some loud bangs caught Ruff ’s attention and he moved in a direction common to him. In the centre of town mingled a mix of good and bad friends. The good friends would greet Ruff with congenial eyes and pull him closer to their freezing bodies roughly running their hands and long nails through his matted fur scratching his skin and reducing Ruff to an ecstatic whimper where his knee joints would buckle, his bum would hover just above the ground and one of his legs would ride up to and scratch wildly at his neck as then finally, both legs would beat on the ground rampantly like an exalted doggy tap dance extravaganza. Then there were the bad friends, those whose adaptation in this new world was one of imitation and intimidation. They learned to be more like a dog to find their way through the waste of a buried society to cling idly to the hope of one more day alive. There was no give in their take. The bad friends learned of Ruff ’s prowess, they sensed his state of nature and they followed him hungrily. They would wait until the agile animal had found food through the waste of others and would pounce upon him to claim their prize. They were very tricky and could not be trusted, but it was not to say that all were in that vein. Ruff ’s instincts adapted with the new reason and new ambience to better read the sub-conscious intentions and new instinctual At Being states of these desperate uncivilised friends. “Aye Ruff ” spoke an old scruffy man sitting at the front of a large concrete structure with its walls all lined with sharp tangled stabbing wires. Ruff pitter patted his worn paws and sat in front of the old man, his tongue panting to the side of his mouth. “You been on an venture boy? aye?” The Old Man asked, shaking Ruff ’s head roughly from side to side with his two hands then scratching behind his ears. 94


Of all the grandness existence had on offer, surely nothing came close to this; to be At Being where one’s ears were being scratched rigorously and one’s back leg was kicking away uncontrollably and at the height of such event, one let out a tremendous howl of appreciate. At Love, would have to be the sweetest state of being. “You’re a good boy, int ya?” said The Old Man as he pulled Ruff close to his grimy hairy face and kissed his lips. Ruff; impartial to a good kiss, gave one right back on The Old Man’s lips then walked off in the other direction. For that moment, the old man forgot his hunger; both physical and metaphysical and Ruff, the ache in the broken skin on his paws. Love was grand stuff and like any good drug, the two would be back for more, they could be sure of that. One wouldn’t doubt it and one wouldn’t comprehend it, but their instincts would always cross their paths. Ruff casually moved through the legs of a one armed man taking guard of a door but apparently lost At Distraction; his eyes up and to the right, the theatre in his mind, obviously running the good old repeats. He made his way without much trouble through the foyer where the usual armed guard were not present. Instead, they lined the streets outside, their ordered yelling creating waves of panicked cries out in the distance where for Ruff, the sound played like an orchestra by his side, deafening and frightening. He walked towards the door at the far end of the foyer where a man and woman were locked in stare reciting to one another. They didn’t notice Ruff as he passed under their table and through their legs, sniffing away for scraps of meat or vegetables that usually piled on the floor by their feet. The door behind the pair opened with a White Heart exiting towards the street and before his feet had even crossed the frame, Ruff was already inside the complex, making light his adventure through the land of Children and delicious orange things. He made his way to the far side of the complex where some children were in a group on the floor playing like a big human ball. 95


The adventure in him called him closer. Children were always such great friends and there were so many inside these walls, although more times than he cared to remember, their love could hurt. There was a fine line between a choke and a cuddle, and a dog would call a choke a cuddle until he couldn’t bear being choked no more. His instinct though caught sight of a big friend sitting in watch by the children and so he kept in the shadow sneaking past her back quietly, moving to where the food was kept. When he arrived, there were only a few workers present. He casually moved through the rows of food and pulled at some green leaves protruding though the soil. The orange ones were his favourite. The taste was delectable and they bunched easily so he could easily take a stock back to his retreat and give one or two to his big friend at the front of the complex. One of the workers spotted him pulling at the leaves and ran after him in haste waving a long stick through the air but having no control of its swing. Eventually, the stick caught in the soil and snapped under the pressure sending the small man tumbling over himself. Ruff ran towards the man barking and wagging his tail; prancing about and jumping back and forth, taunting the man into play. The man got up and ran after Ruff, the two darting this way and that, carving circles in the paddock, tearing up what little crop there was in this poisoned soil. The more they ran, the angrier the man got. The angrier the man got, the more Ruff thought he wanted to play so round they went; round and round and round and round until the worker tripped in a wet muddy part of the soil and planted his face in the dirt. Ruff ran back to where the orange things were kept, the play making him all the hungrier. As he pulled on the green top of the orange food he heard a horrible whining sound that contorted with repugnant detestation; like a broken air raid siren being wound in a slow pained manner. Ruff turned his head slowly keeping his paws planted in the soil and his body arched, primed to run or attack. 96


0011000100110001 “There is something wrong about all of this; The Old Drunk Bastard; he said what we’re doing, that it’s not right. It is what it is, but it’s not right. What do you think? Are we doing the right thing, saving these children, laying new stones?” asked Marcos pensively. The Behemoth stood like a great monument staring out of the window at the surrounding streets below. He felt no fear and he felt no love. He was a man of pure rationale, antipathetic on all accounts. “I think the old man is insane. What you’re doing is brave, it is bold” he said. “Are we any different though? To before? They stole children and grew them as their own. What are we doing that’s any different? We pick children like ripe fruit. That’s not right. The old man was right. We’ve lost our way. Tell me, what are we doing that’s any different? What?” yelled Marcos. “We are loving them” said The Behemoth vehemently. “Love. To speak the word sends not a quiver to my heart, not even a ripple. Love. Outside of a word, are we really capable of giving what we cannot receive? Can we really love? What is it, outside of its definition? What does it feel like? How do we know if we’re doing it right? How do we know if we’re actually doing it at all? What if what we think is love, is something worse? We are loving them? What does that even mean?” said Marcos, his hands gripping the railing in front of his, sweat beading above his brow, his voice trembling and his stomach turning on itself. Marcos wanted to tell his old friend about his dreaming, the looseness of his conscious mind and how quickly as of late that he had been slipping in and out of delusion but he knew if he was falling to Famine, his dear friend would kill him in a second. He wanted so much to express his worry but the words wouldn’t form on his tongue, instead he looked still and remained silent, staring 97


out over the top of The Nest seeing his Collective in a more troubling light. “Everything is one Marcos. All of our problems; they are one. The food, The Famine, the rebellion, the lack of Children, the soil, the freezing weather, the missing girl, the coming storm; they are all one Marcos. Our location; it is the one constant that threatens to divide our family. Until now it has served us, but now it is time to take new direction” said The Behemoth. “No, we stay here. We’re not ready to move, not until The Telling is complete. We can’t risk losing everything, all of this work for nothing. You saw that soldier drop. You really think these children will survive passing through the old city? No we have no choice. We need to brace for whatever storm comes our way.” “This is stubborn and wrong Marcos. You’re not thinking clearly. No great achievement ever came from waiting. They rebel because they do not respect you. Respect is earned by effort, not age. All things age without effort Marcos. You need to take your people to a new frontier, lead them to their Forever New Dawn, don’t just sing about it. This is cause for war. Nobody will look ill upon you for making this difficult choice. The night has always been catching up with us. There is nothing more that we can do here. We have to move. You heard the old man and you saw for yourself ” said The Behemoth speaking to the open skyline. Marcos listened but spoke nothing in return. In his mind he imagined himself buckled, on his knees and covered in mud, his hands over his eye weeping hysterically. A great weight of uncertainty settled in his stomach and he started to feel sick. “You can be more than a leader Marcos. You can be their god. Only you can bring light to the world. This is your coming. But nothing will come of this as long as we sit here slowly rotting away. The hour to march is nigh. This will be difficult. They’re gonna make it tough, but we fight; we fight for freedom” The Behemoth said. Marcos visualised himself stepping out from a choking blackness, bruised, bleeding and sore. He carried with him an 98


Infant in his arms. She was weak and frightened, but she was alive. The injuries he carried on his body would have killed any mortal man by now, but he was a man-god and he carried an eternity of suffering in his heart and a lifetime of lashings about his chest. As the fog lifted, he fell to the ground on his knees still carrying the injured infant. She was breathing and because of him, she would survive. The greys give way to bright greens as his eyes were cast on a paradise. He laid the infant gently on the ground and fell onto his back. He held one arm out to the sun while the other stretched out by his side, his eyes wide and his vision flooding white. Shadows moved about him, some of them crying. One leaned forward and kissed his lips. He was dying, but he had saved his people. He had brought them to the rise of the new dawn. His focus returned for but a moment and he saw the infant being taken away to safety, people rejoicing in their liberation and in his near, The Woman, her face in the centre of his vision, a tear running from her cheek onto his chest and about her, in the sky and through the thick of her hair, an orange hue of the Forever New Dawn. His heart started to pound and adrenaline rushed through his body once more and again he felt a wave of nausea lash at his conscious shore. Looking out the window he could see in the courtyard Children playing a game. In the distance he could see worker Children attending to failing crops; running about in circles in aimless fashion and beyond them a group of Sons sparring with their Fathers under a cold grey August sky. His head ached so he squeezed his fingers against his temple to shut out the pain and the grey thoughts. The Behemoth’s eyes seared and his nostrils flared as he clenched his fists swept up by rage. Standing next to Marcos at the window he put a hand on his shoulder in a vice like grip. “You see that” he said pointing out to the streets beyond the nest. 99


Marcos turned his stare to his direction. “More and more are coming every day. Something’s brewing out there my good friend and I think the longer we stay here, the more exposed we leave ourselves. You built a utopian paradise. Free from the disparity of emotion, free of distraction, momentous, progressive, ordered; human. You rebuilt the human race. You saved our species but you knew this day would come old friend, when those diseased vermin; those Famined, would try to make claim on your kingdom, your rule, your Children; to claim your spoil and impregnate it with their ruin” screamed The Behemoth. In that distance, Marcos could see hundreds of people drudging along through the dull light of day. The women carried their possessions in arm and the men carried what to the weakened eye looked like crude weaponry, nothing like the cruel trade of the White Heart but still dangerous nonetheless. They were led by a pack of canines whose snouts married the earth and scented their direction. “I do think my good friend that war is already upon us” said The Behemoth. Marcos gathered his wits and left the room. Something indeed was coming. He left The Behemoth staring out of the window alone and headed down the winding stairs, out into the courtyard and to the North West driven by a desire in his belly. He felt of The Woman while he thought of something else; the clandestine machinery, the old man’s riddling, the tide of Famined in the distance sweeping across the grey plane, the missing girl and then the orange hue of the Forever New Dawn. He focused hard, breathing long and deep, venting the distraction from his conscious state. There was a growing sense of urgency that he had never felt pulling at his sanity, willing him into unsavoury thought and it was this sense that lured him to The Woman’s door where he stood, drenched in uncertainty.

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0011000100110010 The Woman sat on the edge of her table with her legs crossed. She wore a resplendent smile and the look in her eyes brought calm to The Children, just as the sun hath once upon a time brought warmth to the day. The room was cleared of all reckoning and the children looked on, looking for love. Behind The Woman was an image, identical to that in The Children’s dreams. There was a thin road that weaved through a web of concrete structures. Its path was barely visible but one could just make out the line of brickwork to follow. The path led to the top of the image where an outline of people stood holding hands in a sublime circle. The darkness had retreated into their shadow once more and they stood under an orange hue, as the new sun rose into the sky for the final time; the face of The Collective, the image of one. The Woman handed each Child a piece of chalk and charcoal. They were free to be as they pleased about the classroom; sitting, standing, facing a wall, looking out the broken windows or lying on the floor. Each Child had an instrument of design in their hand and The Woman instructed them to lose their conscious focus and attain that of their sub conscious. She told The Children that the object in their hands was the voice of their subconscious and that soon they would speak without tongue, they would think without thought. As she would sing to The Children, they would submit to their subconscious selves and sing along through the shades in their hands. As The Woman hummed angelically, The Children started to smile, closing their eyes and becoming the tune. Their subconsciousness’ danced and as they did, their tiny hands swayed to and fro, scratching at the floor and walls. The Woman’s humming fell into words as she succumbed to reason. She sang lightly, so much so that the words seemed to lift from her tongue and float about 101


the air. Child my dear Child, untamed, lively and wild, You make your Mother smile; you too make your Father smile, You do; all of the life that shines out from your eyes, It brings heavens down to earth is brings days unto the nights, And my child my dear Child, untamed, lively and wild, You do make your Mother smile; you too make your Father smile. Child my dear Child, untamed, lively and wild, Cast off your shackles and play for a while. The Children listened at first, swaying to the rhythm and painting with their hands then they sang in unison, their melody lifting the mood in the air. The Children then sang as one; I love you my Sister I love you my Brother I love you my Father I love you my Mother I love as one as I live as I love As the love that I live is the life that I love The air in the room was light and breezy. All The Children danced about with smiles on their faces. The Woman sat on the edge of the table, her heart glowing, and her mind transparent. The sound of Children singing made her feel so warm and secure. This was her favourite part of each day; the lessons of love. For now The Children would learn through song, dance and story how love was one and love was all. As she sat at her desk admiring The Children prance and play, a familiar shadow came to a stop at the classroom door. The light from beneath was broken. The Woman paid no mind. She moved from the table clapping her hands to join the children in the centre of the room. She carried with her; under her arm, a tale of love, the second part of 102


Jonathon and the Collector.

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0011000100110011 Marcos stood outside The Woman’s classroom unsure of what to do next. He listened as the children sang along and could hear the sound of his partner’s hands clapping to the rhythm. He couldn’t knock on the door. The class had to be liberated of fear and it was with fear that he stood there, frozen. He wanted so much to hold The Woman in his arms but he couldn’t bear to touch her. Instead he stood listening to the sound of her voice as she called The Children into a circle. How easy it all sounded to her. What a liar! Marcos scratched at the door lightly as he pulled his hands down and away from the door taking with it, his drawn head and his primal worry. He pulled his hand to his side and parted into the flux of people moving through the corridor. He walked back along the halls, his head feeling light and his stomach still burdened probably by something rotten. People passed him in a motion blur as he pulled his hands up to cover his eyes. The sound of their feet shuffling filled his ears like barbed concrete, weighing down his thoughts, cutting into his calm, severing his focus and sending him in back step from whence he came, pushing people aside with his swinging arms as he gravitated towards what his sub conscious would recognise as a safe place to disarm. He tried to think of the Forever New Dawn, trying to conjure and imagine a hazy orange hue but instead everything was grey one moment and flashing bright the next; no colour just intense flashing light that held in the dark long after it stopped pulsating; blinding his vision and making him feel queasy, both shortening and accelerating his breath. He tried to move but fell back against The Woman’s classroom 104


door sliding down to his feet. He felt hands on his shoulders brushing against him, some pushing back and forth rocking him into further inebriation. Then came the voices that seemed to melt in and out of recognisable form, it could have been any language from any time, but it was nothing that made relative in his ears. He shut his eyes fast and firm, squeezing his eyelids and extending his self into that point trying to regain some control over his growing fever and wandering mind. He clouded his mind with white; breathing slow and deep. When the storm subsided he lifted his head to laughter; cruel deafening laughter. The sound was still a muddle but his sight cleared and he fixed his eyes on the front of the room where two girls stood with untroubled looks in their eyes. They held their hands outwards and they were unflinching as that fat bastard came crashing down on them with all of his postulated truths. “You should feel this, you should feel that, you should be here, you should not think that.” His mouth said ‘how dare you’ but his eyes said ‘take that little girl’ and each crack of the wood against their skin brought The Fat Bastard further from their conditioning but all of that didn’t really matter, because he hated her. The Fat Bastard hated her because she made him feel. He hated her because he felt and he hated her more because she felt nothing. He would stop after each swing and after each crack to set his swollen fat eyes across the room finding the fear of other children and swimming in it. He held out her arm to ensure she wouldn’t flinch but he didn’t have to, this was part of her game; she wanted the red sting and more so she wanted to consume the full force of his frustration; the violence in him that screamed like an infant child; “I am not in any way, a happy, desirable, important or affecting man.” Marcos smiled as The Woman focused on him. She was beautiful and maybe he had seen her every day of his life but right now was the first moment he had really seen her and a giddiness 105


washed over him as her eyes teased him and invited him and the smile that etched on her face; in part to spite the fat bastard’s play of power, so mirrored the smile he wore looking back. The Woman sat down at the front of the class completely unfazed by the event having just unfolded whereas Marcos was beaten into emotional disarray. He sat looking at the nape of her neck, how the fine hairs seemed to sway to and fro like the reeds in the river on an old farm he once imagined himself owning that under a light breeze, their gentle movement would calm him into distraction where he abandoned his sense of ill-belonging in the world for but a moment; but for what felt like enough for him to grace another day of pretending. In the moment that he stared at the fines hairs swimming on the nape of her neck, the ill feelings that surmounted deep in his being all flushed away and he laid his head in his arms and his arms across his desk feeling light; feeling at one. He hadn’t the courage to ask her name. He thought about kissing her and holding her hand and as he did, his own filled with sweat. He thought about taking her down to the river where they could just sit and stare into the horizon and watch as the sky falls orange when the evening set in. He thought about her smiling at him like she had just done except her arms were around his neck and her feet balanced on his own. He held his hands on her demure waist; wanting to, but scared to, press firmly. He thought about how she knew this and played to his naivety with a soft kiss. She said ‘I love you’ and he said it too, but all the children heard and outside of his daydream at his desk, he fell embarrassed as scores of fingers pointed and chanted making him wish he could sink into the black of his mind. The Woman didn’t turn. Instead, as Marcos braved his sight from the safety of his arms back to the room he noticed that the hairs on the nape of her neck still shimmered under the light, contrasted against her midnight black cropped hair with delicate lines of lilac running past her soft white skin. Again, his pain withdrew 106


and the other children became invisible. He longed so much for her to love him. The Fat Bastard was yelling at the other children, pulling on his slipping reigns. They were still pointing and laughing but now their attention shifted to the obese man struggling to pull his fat arse from the chair to grasp his favoured wooden stick and commence a tour of table beatings, smacking the end of the stick against the corners of every table hoping the sound alone would will the children like scared cats into submission. But these were children and children loved to upset adults; just because. And the fat bastard screamed louder and louder until he was hoarse and pig, coughing and squealing, smacking and stomping his way around the classroom. In the middle of the chaos, The Woman turned from the front and caught Marcos dreaming of her. She stood up and walked down to the back of the class and just as The Fat Bastard was about to come crashing down on Marcos’ desk with his wooden stick, she put her arm forward and her hand over his. The Fat Bastard came crashing down and cracked the stick against her hand, splitting it into hundreds of tiny shards, then fell forward under the weight of his own surprise crashing to the floor. The Woman kept her hand on Marcos’ and looked him long in the eyes. He felt weak and vulnerable. He said “my name is…” “Marcos. Marcos. Marcos. Marcos are you ok? Marcos look at me, are you ok?” said The Woman kneeling down and holding his hand tightly trying to squeeze life back into him. Her hair was longer and strawish. It was more dirty black than in his delusion. She was the same woman but this one brought him no calm. “Marcos, focus. Marcos everything is one” she said desperately trying to use his own logic to will him to focus. Marcos imagined his thought as a sink and the plug as zero being pulled away. Everything flowed downwards and the colour returned to his thoughts, clarity returned to his mind. He could see The Woman looking long into him with as much concern as she 107


could feign. “Marcos, what happened? I heard a thud and I found you here on the floor. What happened? Can I do something? What can I do?” she asked repeatedly and desperately. “Just shut up. Leave me alone, fuck!” he screamed to himself.

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0011000100110100 Ruff sprang forward, letting the scraps of food drop from his mouth. The vile beast ran through the field darting left and right. Ruff had its scent and kept its trail, turning on a coin trying to keep up with the agile creature. The soil turned beneath his paws and he found it difficult to keep firm footing. About him, clouds of dust sifted through the thin air and settled in his eyes. He stopped his chase when all about him was dark with the hissing and contorted screeching of the vile beast having stopped. Silence played through the brief pauses in his panting, his tongue hanging from the side of his mouth, his stomach heaving in and out. When the dust settled,Ruff pitched his snout to the dirt and looked for a scent. It would only have been a minute or two before his senses were overwhelmed and his instincts heightened. He kept his body low to the ground, his fur upon his neck standing on end. His ears were pinned back on his head and his focus on his scent trailed by his nose. His front paws stretched out slowly, peeling back the air and they touched ever so gently on the overturned soil, digging deep and urging him forward. He moved through the field like a slow moving bullet. His limbs collected energy and were itching to unleash and thrust him forward into a manic finale. The scent brought him to the end of the field to a line of giant metal containers. There were twelve in total and most were nothing more than iron obstructions with no entries on any points, their great hinges turned and held in a locked position keeping a secret of whatever was kept inside. Ruff made his way past each container sniffing hungrily into the infinitesimal gaps at the base between the doors and the frames. The first had been food of some sorts. The smell was not appealing to Ruff so he continued. The fourth and fifth containers had a pungent aroma but it was not food. Ruff sneezed and blew 109


out the scent from his sensitive nose and moved on. The sixth container was open slightly. He bowed his head to the floor and sniffed; the same pungent aroma but within it, a familiar scent. He pinned his ears once more, arched his back and moved quietly past the hinged doors into the container and into the blanket of darkness which enveloped it. His eyes failed him even in the brightest part of the day. Age had been becoming him and started to make wreckage of his senses as of late. The first sight for Ruff had been a great snarling beast whose ferociousness pierced the twilight in an unhinged look from its eyes as he parted from his mother. That same beast, Shadow, would shelve its ferociousness at the moment of his mother’s death and take him into shelter where his tenderness would help the young pup to fall into sleep and survive the cold of the night on his first day of life. The look in his father’s eye served him now and he snuck upon the scent and dived through the voided light and latched onto the wailing beast.

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0011000100110101 Tired of their dance and song, The Children left their instruments of design scattered about the room and made their way to the centre of the class. The Woman was waiting for them, seated on the floor with her legs tucked beside her body and her hands pressed gently in front of her, holding open pages on a book. She tried not to think of what had just been. It was so typical of him to be so damn inconsiderate, but that’s who he was; it’s how everyone was deep down and so, she tried not to think of it. Instead she wore the same resplendent smile as when The Children first arrived, trying to make believe her contentment, for herself and for her apathetic Children who too wore trained smiles but inside, their hearts skipped a beat. “Come my Children, form a circle around your Mother, let the love from my heart warm you” she said as The Children aligned themselves in planetary position; each Child laying on their back with their eyes focused on the ceiling where the loving and assuring orange hue, spreading out over the shadows of the collective in circle holding hands, fell upon their sight. Unlike their morning lesson of fear, The Children waited for their afternoon story without any bustle. Instead, they lay in content submissive trust, into the loving subconscious embrace of their Mother. They did not chant in voice or in mind, instead, they looked longingly into the orange hue, into the collective huddle and put themselves inside the image. Their minds felt warm and The Children were At Love. When The Woman could feel the sense of continuity, she continued: “Jonathon and The Collector” When The Collector got home he dished up a feast, he cordoned his bag and he put up his feet. 111


On an old rocking chair he rested his rump with his tiresome feet on a rickety stump. It was back and then forth that he swayed in delight with a lick of a finger after every bite. He ate cat he ate dog he ate rat he ate frog he ate fox he ate ox he ate minks he ate lynx he ate mice that had lice he ate maggots for rice, twere the nastiest things twere the things he found nice. For dessert what he wished on his grubby old plate was the boy he collected, no older than eight. He cast out his belly and turned on the telly for the air in the room was now thick and was quite smelly. The stench from his farts and his burps and his feet were then made all the worse by the stifling heat. A scary old man on an old rocking chair with long fingernails and grey greasy hair; skinny white legs and filthy back toes; distracted by thoughts of maundering prose. Out of his reach and still far from his sight stirred the making of trouble; the start of a fight. From inside his bag well now wouldn’t you know, there now wriggled a wriggly wriggling toe. Then came a foot and from there came a leg and a hand and an arm and a little boy’s head. Out of the bag the boy jumped for his life and he carried in hand an old hunting knife. He motioned toward the old man and said “I’ve something to tell you before you are dead.” The Collector was startled and screamed to the night for a prisoner was he, of distraction and fright. “My boy if you do you’re no better than me for to kill of one’s will is to set hatred free; for desire it rules from the heart to the hand from the seat where I sit to the stance where you stand.” Jonathon smiled and shook of his head and leaned in and hugged of the old man and said: 112


“To live is to die and to fail is to try and to be an old man is to seldom ask why hath the hole in your heart and the dread in your head be the burden you carry from the road to your bed and these things you collect and forever keep near hath done nothing to vanquish the state of your fear, for this hell you preserve above one, above all; it deepens your downing it heightens your fall. You siphon the past through a memorial sieve as a bitter old man with a life gone unlived.� The Collector sank into a sad empty stare as Jonathon pulled on the old rocking chair and the old man he hummed such a dark mournful note as the young boy he plunged the knife deep in his throat. The lesson to learn in this tale of a boy is to caution of conscious, a dangerous toy. For just as a rattle keeps a child at distraction; the thoughts that one keeps tend to speak of inaction. The Children all cheered in apparent glee but fell empty and silent upon the realisation that the story had ended. Still present on their faces was the common detachment to the underpinnings of the story; unfelt and unmoved, The Children sat awaiting instruction. They had not grown any closer to caring or further from tiding their fears. The Woman rested the book on the floor and the room fell quiet, into sleep. The Children closed their eyes nesting in the orange hue in the depths of their sub conscious dreaming. When they were asleep, The Woman motioned towards the door and slipped out gracefully holding it open with one hand as she looked down the hall, riding once again, the tail wind of concern for her lover, a sensation that caused her great concern, for herself.

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0011000100110110 Safrine sat on the cold floor of a dark room. Normally, on any given day, light would filter from the sky, through the gaps in the walls and allow the room to serve a purpose far grander than the prison that it was this day. She sat against a tiled wall, her legs pulled to her chest tightly, her hands cupped and gripping her knees as the cold damp air slithered underneath her clothes and tickled at her skin. She shook in brief shiver as the cold ran from the base of her spine to her neck, standing her hairs on end and tickling at the nape of her neck. She hadn’t moved an inch since she was taken here. An aboding figure had sent her gently in the pitch black and ushered her to remain quiet. It had kindly asked that she not move for in time it would return to collect her. When the figure vanished from sight, Safrine sank into a state of At Alone. Fear sang to her consciousness and her imagination danced to its melody; inventing the indescribable, and placing it in the pockets of darkness all about her. There were seven slimy snakes slithering slowly by her side; there were two taunting tarantulas teeming somewhere out of sight; there were a million mangy maggots making messes in her mind and a dozen deadly devils dancing dangerously behind. There were a hundred hellish hounds that were hungry for a feast; beckoned by a boorish bellow of a blackened baneful beast; there were countless ghouls and ghosts and spectres, all of whom were dead and they were all within the shadows lurking deep inside her head. Safrine squealed loudly into the dark. Rocking back and forth, she wished to herself that someone would turn on the lights or at least, that all the monsters who were most certainly there, would stop this excitement and just eat her right now. 114


She remembered a song she heard an old lady sing. It was not something she remembered on will, but some instinct that came into call the moment her fear overbore her. She repeated the words over and over. “When I am alone and At Being with fear, I will my delusion away. For the night that is here, will soon disappear, and return me to being At Day.�

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0011000100110111 The Behemoth had not an inch of kindness in his him. At War he taught young boys and girls how to be a fist and nothing less. Each part of The Nest had its function and one should never be as another; collective individualism. For The Sons, this meant learning and communicating only the language of war. They trained by day and by night were kept separate from the more irrational children who leant on their Mothers. Donal was endowed with even less charm. While At Mother and At Peace, he had kept his brothers and sisters at one with torment, likening to the monsters scribed about in the tales of fear and often longing to play the void in game. He would creep upon their beds at night and strangle a child with a grey bed sheet while they slept. When The Child finally broke free, thrashing and grabbing at their throat for air, he would be behind the cracks of light now entering the room, watching the panic unfold. Mothers would rush to their side and The Children would all huddle together in absolute horror. When The Children saw the grey sheet sitting on the floor with holes cut for eyes, their panic would subdue their rationale and they would stay awake for hours screaming hysterically and clutching to one another. When they played their game of trust where one Child would fall back into the arms of another, he would always let the Child fall. “Trust is not earned” he would say “by the closing of one’s eyes. Now get up and rejoice cause love is blind.” It was when Donal was At War that he truly shone. He fought like a bear broken free from its cage. When he sparred with other Sons, his violence would only stop at the behest of several much larger Fathers who would spring upon him and pin him to the ground while he thrashed about screaming vulgarity at his combatant who nearly always lay still and unconscious in a mat of loose soil and dried blood. 116


In their study of physics; the mathematics of War, he excelled beyond all of his classmates. His mind was sharp and eclectic. He learned very quickly and in a very short time he became very dangerous. In the class, The Behemoth took Donal aside. The rest of The Sons continued with their morning Kenpo. He lowered to one knee and kept one hand on the young boy’s shoulder. He had never attempted feigning empathy with another living being before and wondered for a brief moment if he was doing it right. Donal looked him in the eye apathetically. “Tonight you will hunt as a Father. We collect at the fall of the sun. Prepare yourself ” he said to the stern eyed boy. “Yes sir” replied Donal, still without any animation in his tone or any change in his being. Before leaving the room The Behemoth turned to the boy and said, “Displease me and I will make an example of you.” The Behemoth left abrasively and Donal ventured back to his fellow Sons as they drilled threat scenarios. Some of the other boys and girls looked over to Donal inquisitively, wondering in open stare as to what a Grand Father could want of him; a mere illtempered, capricious twit. Other Sons maintained their discipline and albeit aware of the happening, chose instead to focus on their counter-strikes. The Sons trained and sparred through to the late afternoon. When they were done, five of the boys approached Donal in a semi-circle. They were much older than he and of much larger size. Donal was very small for his age but his knowledge of his body far surpassed even the eldest of the Fathers. Thus when the five boys approached him aggressively pushing their chests out and endeavouring to force him back against a wall, Donal did nothing but calculate silently in his mind, the greater part of which, subconscious. The biggest Son, of seventeen years and maybe four times Donal’s size stepped forward and thrust a finger into his chest. “You’re not with the fairies any more, boy. What did he want 117


with you?” he asked. Donal said nothing. He simply looked at the boy and in his peripheral sight, at those in his wake. “You think you´re fucking special” yelled the biggest boy, this time thrusting forward to grasp at Donal’s neck. Donal parried the boy’s hand, gripped the back of his wrist, pulled his elbows to his side, pivoted his left leg, flipped him onto his back, twisted slightly and broke his wrist. The boy screamed in agony, writhing on the floor while Donal quickly returned to a striking stance. The other boys backed away immediately. All had subscribed to the courage of the biggest boy who was now rolling back and forth holding a floppy limb and crying commiserably. Donal stepped over the boy and into the change rooms where he ran a cold shower and dressed into his black attire. Donal had only been studying as a Son for a short period, only weeks to be exact, though there was something in him that stood to account. His ability to adapt and supress made him the perfect weapon and his absence of emotion made him the ideal prodigy; sufficient to one day take over from Marcos and lead the Collective into the Forever New Dawn. Donal thought nothing of this as he strapped on his black boots. In his mind he envisioned an orange sky; the new dawn breaking over The Collective. This was all that the boy ever envisioned. Until sleep stole him away, he was forever At One, At Being and At War. He finished changing and walked over the fractured Son still rolling about on the floor. Nobody had come to his aide and in all likelihood, nobody would. Donal stepped his tiny frame over the young boy’s body ignoring his plight and broke the class’ focus as he barged through the door. The other Sons for a moment were more like Children, in wonder and amazement. Their Father was not impressed. “Focus” he screamed as the class wandered into distraction. Donal walked heavier; with greater threat in each stride, 118


making his way, up the spiralling staircase, to where The Fathers were now gathering.

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0011000100111000 “You´re so distant” The Woman said as they left The Nest, walking once again through the maze of concrete structures and passing the hordes of people invested in queues or hope of some sort whose numbers dwindled by the end of the day. The sun was still sitting high but it was leaning towards its descent into zero; shining bright through the grey and stinging their eyes as they walked along the path lining the outer wall. To their left, an old man sat covered in his own filth, pulling a spotted blanket up over his shivering body. The Old Man watched Marcos and The Woman walking together and thought to himself how nice that must be; having someone who may not understand, but even through mankind’s prolonged prosaic descent to the lower rung of the universal food chain, by your side, still, she stood. It was something to dream, something to want and much more than what he had. The Old Man retreated under his blanket, closed his eyes and thought of things that were warm and cosy while he shivered his way through another night, prolonging the inevitability of his molecular subtraction. As the sun shone its brightest passing through the grey sky and their worn bodies like a river of light, their shadows stretched out far onto the path behind as the night in their souls crept out of their bodies. From above, they appeared as shaded giants, as men perched on the tips of buildings, leaning their sight over the edge, watching the two leave the complex. Their eyes fixed on the pair of dark shapes as they slid along the path until they crossed the town square and then vanished into the cover of the cavernous maze of towers encapsulating the centre of town. The eyes retreated into the forlorn faces that with their creeping hands, pulled back from the seeing ledge and into the asylum they fashioned for themselves to wait out their growing 120


hunger, thinking until the morn, when the men dressed in black brought more news. A sharp stabbing emotion wrecked at Marcos’ well-being, his state of one; his ethereal balance. He took upon himself a breath and held it in his thoughts and when he exhaled, so too removed, was the discomfort in his being. “Why am I distant? I’m not distant, I’m thinking” he responded with slight frustration begetting his state of calm. “What are you thinking about?” she asked. “Nothing” he said coldly. The Woman breathed out heavily in a show of unacceptance and as Marcos continued in his stride, she reached out to his hand pulling him closer. “Do you still love me?” she asked. “Oh god, here we go. Of course I love you. Don’t be stupid” he said bluntly. “I know, it’s just... You don’t touch me anymore. Not like you used to. Do you even find me attractive, I mean, are you still attracted to me? I know I’m ugly. My skin is bad, the sores, they’re horrible and my hair. You used to love my hair. I’m so ugly” she said. “You’ve gotta be fucking kidding me” he said under his own disheartened breath. “Yes you are attractive. You’re beautiful ok. To me, you are beautiful. I love you, isn’t that enough? “You don’t desire me” she said. “We just had sex” he said fuming. “Six weeks ago” she said. “A day, a week, whatever. Do we have to do this now; here on the streets? Can’t this wait?” he pleaded trying not to lose his rationale and base with anger. “It can always wait, can’t it? Fine, forget it, forget I said anything” she said. “No. It’s not fine. Tell me, what’s really the matter? Tell me, I promise I won’t be irrational. I’ll listen to you and we can resolve this. What’s wrong?” he asked slowing his pace, facing The Woman 121


and discoursing in a gentle attentive tone. “Nothing’s wrong. Everything’s fine. Forget it” she said. “What’s wrong? Please, tell me. If you don’t tell me how the hell am I supposed make things right?” he said, anger rising with his tone. “It’s nothing” she said. “Fuck it!” he screamed swinging his head back to the front, clenching his fists, squinting his eyes and feeding destruction through every fibre in his being, willing someone or something to come out of the darkness so he could rip its head off and just get this woman out of his veins. They walked for a few blocks in silence, Marcos drifting like the sun, from a violent bright star set to explode, back to the shadows of exhausted acceptance; unable and unwilling to keep up the fight. When his anger retreated, The Woman once feeding on his energy, lowered her guard and pulled closer to her lover. “I just want to know that you’re not running away that’s all. I love you” she said before pausing. “God, you’re so warm” she continued; holding his arm with her two hands and pulling herself to his body; she, forgetting of the day’s tumult and repressing the concern that had erupted between them. He, painting in his conscious mind a single white dot on a black background; focusing on the dot and returning his state of one; calm, right, rational. She wanted to speak of the incidents, of the distractions, of the uncontrolled and deluded dreaming in day, and of the sickness that baited in her gut, but she let the urge subside and instead settled into his stride. She didn’t want to upset him further. He didn’t need this extra stress, not now, while things were so bleak at The Nest. What she logically thought he needed or at least would suffice somewhat would be for her to do what he needed her to do; to fulfil her role and to not make any mess of his mind or his matter. Marcos wanted to tell her about what he had seen, of his growing concern and of the visions of desire and despair that played to his conscious mind. Instead, he too settled in his stride 122


and said nothing. The two made their way through the sprawl of hope and desperation and arrived at their dwelling, a twenty five storey building on the east bloc of the town centre. The Woman cursed her partner’s choice every time they made their way through the heavily gated entry and passed the open doors of the elevator shaft where time after time, a haunting cold draft snaked its way through her clothes and inside the thick of her skin, chilling her to the bone and frighting her sub conscious. Every time she passed those doors she felt a little death; the ghost of the past age inching its way inside her and tightening its grip on her lungs commanding her to shortness of breath and state of alarm. The elevator itself sat idle between two the floors, although they didn’t know which. Marcos fared not to open the doors and set light into what preferred to stay in the dark. Before its occupation by Marcos, the building had been the vice of idle play. Children would race through the lobby and burst through the stairwell doors feasting their childishness; their primitive play, with competition; running as fast and with as much strength to arrive first at the top of the building. They would at first restrain from barging, building upon their will to power, an impotent and destabilising state of emotional urgency and frustration at a lack of continuity. They would then barge, running over one another, focusing only on their direction, their force, the bend in their knee, the planting of their heel, the spring in their step, the ending in their sight and one pure focused streamlined emotion; one. When they reached the top, they would thrust their arms into the air shouting like savage beasts over the railing, into the core of the stairwell, their voices flowing like a waterfall over the edge and filling all of the floors as it travelled down to the bottom where the slowest and weakest of The Children still sat idle defeated by their own self-disgust. Then they would race back to the bottom, their hands gripping the railing as they thrust upwards and soared through the air, 123


over the steps and over the children coming upwards who then cowered to the floor under the impending force of their hyper confident alpha stated downward momentum. And when they got to the bottom, they would race back up again. By accident; as coincidence and the labelling of luck hath been described many a time, Marcos had just taken flight from a violent tumult that had erupted on an underground train platform not far from where they stood; a place now that was ruled by savage dogs and no man dared to venture. He had taken with momentum; The Woman who shared his life and ran from what would become just another incident, but in reality, for those unable to adapt to flight, would be a bloody violent end to their desperate plight for a return of something fair or common; like sensibility, decency or simple abiding rule. He had put himself in front of several blows and taken the brunt of the attack, pushing The Woman away from the tracks, back up the steps, putting himself again in front of her, pulling her close to his back and holding her tight with his right hand low to his back while with his left, he extended into a fist and lunged forward against a flow of people herding downwards toward the commotion, splitting a path right through the middle by the sheer force of his will, his focus, his state of one. Marcos had taken his direction far from the erupted chaos and made rest through the doors of this grand centrepiece of The City. When he was inside catching his racing breath, he heard the ruckus coming from the open stairwell. Upon inspection, from the foot of the stairs, he looked upwards following the spiral of steps to the ceiling, and watched in learning as a horde of children raced to the ground floor, their eyes unnerved, their emotions charged. He saw there in that moment, the natural innateness of direction and propulsion in an uncompromising environment and the children´s disconnection from self and the physical and psychological interplay of defeat which was ubiquitous everywhere in this decaying city, everywhere except here; in this stairwell. He saw the simplicity of one; the core of his philosophy. 124


It was here that a new rationale was born. It was on this very first step, that a seed was sown and from it, an idea; and unto it, a strategy and from that, the building of a new empire, The Nest and the children who awoke him to this logic, the first new philosophers, and of whom would become, the first of many Fathers to the new dawn. These stairs bore the ingenuity of progression. They were the catalyst for what would be, their only hope. From the innocuous play of child was born the future of mankind. With one in their mind they moved up the spiral staircase and when they reached the final floor, they were greeted by a guard at their door who ushered them in. Marcos moved straight to his throne, the grand window which overlooked The City and The Nest. There he stood in pensive stare, looking out at what he alone had created and the work that still had yet to be done. The Woman crept up on him with distraction in her step. “Can I finish what I was trying to say earlier? Without getting yelled at?” she asked. “We’re back here again are we? Earlier, when, what, finish what?” he responded. The approaching conversation sent him into vocal and mental dissipation. Only she could unglue him and maybe it was her nature to do it, or maybe she knew and she just wanted to pick at the frame, take it apart piece by piece, so that later, when she desired loving, she could mend her misgivings and piece it all back together again and it would look better than before, but every time, it would get just a little bit weaker and one day, maybe soon, maybe long into their future when they are old and still bickering, when they least expect, the frame will collapse under a lifetime of maltreatment and subconscious nit-picking. Maybe it was the former and maybe the latter; one could argue a case for either but one thing was for sure, when she started on this, Marcos always consciously felt like a wet cloth, a little bit less intelligent than what he really was. “The class, The Children, the method. It’s not working you 125


know. I mean, I don’t know if it is and I don’t know if it isn’t, it’s just it doesn’t feel right. And I don’t know what right should feel like, but things feel different recently and I know I know, visualise only the result and equate only what is equitable to achieve the result. I get it. I get your logic. But it’s not that simple. I nearly got hurt today. Look at this; I have cuts on my arms. What the hell was that anyway? Did they really have to smash the windows? I think it was too much Marcos. It was too much” she said. “What was the result?” he responded. “The result? The result? The result was I thought I was going to have a fucking heart attack. Those kids, I don’t know what hell they endured but that is not what we have been working on. You said that the loving condition would work, it just takes time. You said that, you, no one else, you. This was not you; it was not your philosophy. It’s not what we agreed was right” she said coming to tears. “We lost one” she said blubbering. “Only one?” he said laughing. “They seem like good numbers. You shouldn’t invest your emotion on footprints, there’s no logic in mourning a memory” he said. “Numbers? You didn’t see this boy, his face, the emptiness in his eyes. Have you ever felt the true weight of emptiness in a child? Have you ever even witnessed one your experiments? It’s not right” she said. “One should give for the good of many. It doesn’t matter if we lose one, two, ten or a thousand, as long as in the end we cure this Famine and we find a way to repopulate this planet; to keep our blood warm, to father our ideals and to no longer be less than a fucking earth worm in this forgotten shit of a city. Being human should not be a curse, not anymore. It’s not fair that these fucking dogs can breed as they do, can scavenge with such might as they do and can take our claim to this city. It is our right, to be in control. We shouldn’t have to be ashamed of our race. We shouldn’t have to feel inferior every time those beasts whose backs warm the sun pass us on the street. Do you know what it’s like, having those mongrels look at you, sneering? We are human, the sun warms our 126


minds. It is our universal right to be above everything, to father this fucking planet and if I have to sacrifice a million ugly children to make one beautiful again, then so be it. And if anyone wants to stand in the way of my saving grace then do so knowing that my will and the love in my heart will knock you down, one by one. Now, you want to tell me that one child was affected. I ask you, how many were unaffected? We lost one, how many did we save? We are so close right now, I can feel it in my skin” he said, his voice quietening in the end as he leaned back against the edge of the table where they had eaten so many meals over so many nights over the past ten years. “I asked you to trust me before and I ask you to please, don’t stop now” he said. “Can you explain it then? I mean if I don’t get it, if it’s not cruel then paint me a picture” she said. Marcos took a breath diminishing his anger; the force of his truth settled his mind. “I don’t know honestly. I don’t know anything anymore. I’m tired. I’m trying to change the world and it feels like you’re trying to change my mind” he said. “I’m not trying to change anything I just wanna know why I’m bleeding and whether it worked because I don’t get it. I’m not a philosopher; I’m not like you and your buddies. I’m not as smart as you but you know what, it feels wrong and I don’t know why I’m saying this now, but it feels wrong. You can’t do this anymore, not like today” she said, her voice trembling, tears running from her eyes. “Honestly I want to, but I don’t understand really what you’re saying. You say it feels wrong. But what does that feel like? How do you know what they feel? It doesn’t make any sense” he said confused. “I can’t explain it. It’s just something in my stomach keeps turning and I’m not sure, maybe it’s cancer, maybe it’s a virus, whatever, but you have to believe me, a voice in my head says that this is wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong; it’s all wrong. The 127


Loving, the class, The Nest, this world, us…” she said falling desperately into the last word. The Woman couldn’t hold back the wave of emotion that pressed against her heart and she let go, falling to her knees, her face buried in her palms, her cry travelling from a soft whimper to hysteria and her lover, without care, looking out into the distance. Marcos let her words run past his ears as he always had, paying her sight but not a drop of attention. Instead he ran with the gist of what she said and interpreted it to his necessity hearing only that she doubted his ability to save the world. This was no reason to hate her; he had plenty more of those but it was the fuel he needed to continue with his plight. She was his zero. If they ever found common ground, their story would come to an end. “What about the dream scribing? Are the pictures similar? Is there symmetry?” he asked while The Woman quietened her sobbing. “Yeah. Sort of ” she said. “Nothing is sort of. It either is or it isn’t. Pull yourself together. Which is it?” he yelled. “Yes… it’s the same!” she said shouting at him in a childish tantrum. “Good. The dream is fine then. The problem is somewhere down the line. As long as they all have the same focus then everything is working.” “Some of the pictures are different though. It’s exactly like the Tellings but... I mean… some of The Children, they focus more on The Collector than on The Collective. They detail the tower so vividly. It scares me. This is why I question stuff like these psychos from At War this morning. We’re doing this you know; we’re putting this image in their heads. What if it doesn’t work? I mean, what if we’re hurting them? There’s this boy, Donal, I see him play sometimes in the courtyard with the other Children. I was watching him today. He is so unaffected, he worries me” she said. “And why is that?” he asked. “Because he reminds me of you” she said. 128


Marcos remained unaffected. He put no greater thought or connection into her words, simply accepting that she had spoken and allowing her to vent her misdirection. A war is only won when it is never fought. To respond to her would be to acknowledge that her insanity or that this highly contagious state of distraction was true and this of course was not the case and more so, it would perpetuate the frustration of unsuccessfully trying to prove her wrong. When it was that she would return to logic then he would join her in discourse. Until then, he would refrain from being At Being with her for the sake of sinking to her level. In his conversations he always engaged indirectly with his partner. They never spoke of their lives in terms of relation or wishes, only the work being done and that still to be done. They especially didn’t reflect on their past. The strength of the new way depended on the abandonment of the past and one having no emotional assimilation to events having had once been. When Marcos would hold his partner or react to the touching of her hand, it would be almost in the maintenance of a tool; tightening a lid, refitting a glove or oiling a chain. He touched The Woman without touching The Woman and this she felt. Every absence etched a more insoluble fissure in her heart, compounding her repressed discontent and surmounting her volatility. Marcos on the other hand felt none of this. He could see her lingering every now and then, taking pause when she thought his sight was elsewhere. He could see it in her writing, how the tail of her letters seemed to flick and drift whimsically. He could hear it in her breath as he closed his eyes to fall asleep, the slight tremours of air that no doubt echoed some unsettling picture she was painting in her mind. He could see it in her doubt that even now, questioned his logic though the voice of fear. He saw this and he said nothing. He saw this and still, he felt nothing. The two stared in silence for a while out of the window, watching people shuffle about below them and seeing new fires being lit in the near distance. The Nest they had built from an idea 129


and with their own struggle; although crippling under the weight of its own potential, stood as a testament to continuity, new directions, and a new horizon. When they cast their eyes to its foreboding stature; its colossal walls stretching into the heavens and its expanse enveloping the size of a small town, they were overcome with different states; The Woman, lowly pride and for Marcos, dissatisfaction; she, amassing the fortune of her partner’s brilliance, and he, for what it still had not become. Each reserved in the display of their internalisation, unwilling to let the other in. Outside those walls, in The City below, the remnants of a forgotten age clung to their primitive emotional devices. For the most part, they were unattainable; beyond repair and out of Collective influence; so far down the spiral were they that one would have to lose themselves just to find themself low enough to wind them back up. Marcos chose to live in these remnants, high above the flux of stillness that commanded this other existence. He made his bed in their abode and nursed his reason in their insanity. He couldn’t explain it within simple logic, but he needed to be in the midst of this lost tribe. The Woman dared not question his reason or input underpinnings to his logic. She attended, without condition, the direction Marcos had mapped and bore acceptance of their destination, come what may. Her need of him grew like an unattended tumour, but she willed her restraint so as not to contravene the ideals and conscious control to which Marcos adhered. The tyranny she dictated upon her own heart at first by command and then by choice; strengthened nothing of her resolve, in fact, the continuity of such weakened her position and engorged her emotional reserve; leaving her perpetually on the verge of something prodigious. Still; for him, she would tear out her own tongue if it was that her silence would bring him closer to birthing his vision. So devoted was she unto him, as he, obsessed unto an idea. 130


Marcos stood in the failing light, pencil in hand, deep in figurative thought, sketching on a scrap piece of paper. He looked longingly into the distance, into the orange hue pulling over the horizon above the weary city and when it became that his sight had filled with enough colour, shade, form and idea, he turned to the paper and continued to sketch, laxing his fingers and wrist, then scratching away with intensity. When he was done, he folded the drawing placing it neatly into his pocket. He turned his gaze to The Woman who was boiling some water over an open fire in the adjoining room; the iron pot sitting upon a rusted grate and below it, wood and paper scraps, kindling. Under the reflection of light, shadows swam across the shape of her body and invited him to misdirection. Before him now, through the play of light and umbrage he saw The Woman, younger, as she had been, at a time he knew she beckoned to return; when at night, the veil of darkness was just the grander setting for a far greater luminescence, when the exuberant colours of The City brought life to the people, awoken from the drudgery of whites and greys that commanded their days; marching about in expectative succession, acquiring imaginary distance from themselves and the monotony of their tireless pursuit of defining purpose and self-worth in a tirade of imaginary titles, pacified idealism and concurrent introspection. A time when the cerebral senses were overwhelmed with the magic of light and sound and how these two vices in the hands of man, could attain so much wonder. In a world of imaginary ideals, of conscious binds, one could be anything. In his sight now, The Woman; pristine, turned to his direction, her black hair swishing in front of her hazel eyes and her chimerical smile drawing him to his knees. She rushed from where she stood; perched over the bathroom sink, and jumped into his arms. She squeezed so tightly that he thought for a moment that either one of them would break in two and that what he thought to be true; what for so long, he had wanted, to be true, was now palpably real. 131


The two fell down backwards onto the sofa, she straddling him, her hands holding back his forwardness, restraining his immediate desire; forcing his shoulders to an arch taking away his balance and force; burying her weight unto his, pinning him to the cushion, lilac lighting his eyes as her hair moved about and her face pendulated tantalisingly close to his; their lips, not quite touching, but close enough to steal a portion of his breath and to leave a mark of her own. Seduction superseded her state of joy as she fell headstrong into passion; giving herself to him, releasing unto the air; from the touch of her hand, a thin strip of paper and on the floor it lay as their naked bodies intertwined amongst the fading light. Overcome was he in that moment; so involuntarily, now though, of self-control, attainable reason, drawing upon a cold sharp breath, he iced his thoughts, whitened out the expanse of colour in his cerebral eye, unfastened his emotional devices and rationalised his immediacy, abandoning the lunacy of inward travel and memorial divulgences. The lock upon his emotional reserve turned once more. Liberated from the repression of his emotional debauchery, he put momentum in his self, parting from the balcony and returning to a more residentially practical state of being; At Peace. He moved to The Woman and cut some vegetables and heated some meat scraps as she prepared a tea for their supper. The blanket of night drew in and the shadows that danced in daylight, uniforming once again, took refuge in the atramentous filling of space. Above The City, in the open night, a million stars lit the sky; the souls of the dead looking down upon the living. They had taught unto their Children that in the birth of the sun in each new day, the fabric of night was ripped to shreds; spooked into hiding, and clung vehemently to the feet of mankind and that in every eve, at the end of each day, the sun would burst into a billion pieces and scatter into brilliant magnificent forms as the shadows came together to once again dress the night. Every dead sun would be born again in the morn. 132


The night adorned The City and the streets vanished under its veil; here or there, small fires burned and people continued to be, settling into whatever hope nestled in their unconscious sleep. Marcos and The Woman lay on their dusted mattress; he on his side, his face turned to the open window, unconscious and dreaming, and she, listening to his light breathing, on her back, her left hand outstretched, but still not enough to reach his distant body. In her thoughts she travelled not in time; her conscious theatre re-enacted no past betterment, but instead she shifted her head to its side and gazed upon her sleeping man’s body. Her desire and lust magnetised the contours of his muscular shape and her conscious mind filled his cold vacancy with kindness and an adoration of self that gave to the form that now; before her eyes, confounded her. Her conscious eye infused a time that was into a moment that is; indulging her-self in an orgiastic emotionally drunken revelry of, what could be. She wanted so much to feel like a woman again, for him to extend beyond the expected and ubiquitous pleasantries of ‘I love you’, ‘You’re beautiful’, ‘I’m sorry’ and ‘It’ll never happen again’. She wanted to feel special, to feel sexual, and to feel wanted. She wanted him inside her. She wanted to be pinned to the floor, to be subjugated; by his passion, by his aching desire for her womanly sex, not for his usual casual cold abandon. She looked at her lover twitch on the bed realising him still awake, his eyes closed insinuating unconsciousness, obviously to demand solace, but his breath too light for him to be asleep. She reached her hand over to his body and caressed from his neck down to his lower back, running her hand down along the length of his leg and back up his inner thigh until her fingers rubbed against his genitals. She pulled her body closer to his as her warm breath fell on his neck and her fingers; massaging his genitals, woke him into arousal. “Do you think I will ever be a mother? I want to have a baby. Make the world better so I can have a baby” she said masturbating 133


her lover. As she leaned in to kiss his ear gently and erotically, Marcos pulled her hand from his groin and rested it on her thigh. “Why would you want to kill another infant? What would it serve you to know you’re wrong?� he said as coldness swept over her and she pulled herself away from him. Feeling unwanted and disgusting, she pulled away the blanket to cover her naked body and sat at the end of the bed, weeping. Marcos said nothing. He returned to his assumed slumber and let The Woman alone in the dark feeling the hurt of his love. At a time unbeknownst to her, long after an entire city nestled into slumber, The Woman succumbed to exhaustion and the anguish of her partner vanished from her waking thought.

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0011000100111001 The Children all lay in slumber as darkness fell over The Nest, the sun moving backwards towards zero. The choral of heavy breathing and snoring filled the complex. At Peace, in the grand dormitories there slept nine Children together on a mattress on the floor circled about a Mother sleeping at their centre. Mother and Child always stayed close for warmth and comfort while at the entrance to the complex, under a veil of arcane darkness, stood The Teller, waiting for all to reach the depths of their unconscious where all lay in absolute influence unaffected by their waking distraction, open to suggestion; a blank canvas in the mind of every Mother, Father, Son and Child waiting for the delicate brush of their Teller. The Teller had no face and it was as without form as it was without sex. It was simply a voice that spoke through the dark and into The Collective sleep; never seen; not in the day and most certainly not at night when from out of nowhere, from behind the forbidden room that divided At Peace, it came like the onset of a virus; slow but strangling. The Teller only appeared when The Collective had submitted to their slumber and connected wholly to their unconscious states. Then, in the hours of influence, The Teller told its tale. The Teller first introduced the image viewed from above as the eye of a god looking down upon its creation. There it told of narrow streets moving through a web of immense concrete structures where through the smoky glass, things were still as they had been only now an eerie emptiness filled the rooms. While The Collective slept, a mood was being set in their subconscious, the trickles of fear falling faster and harder into their subconscious until horror and panic directed their theatre. The Teller then demented its voice; curling words over one 135


another, droplets of saliva falling to the floor as it instilled vile terror in their sleep. It directed their sight to a greasy window in the distance. It was far, but its occupant was terrifyingly visible. There, looking into them was The Collector. The Teller contorted its formless self and though invisible, its strangeness could be seen in the sound of its voice. It pulled its arms close to its body and twisted its fingers, rolling them over one another, occasionally picking at the skin in its palm and dragging air through its mouth in a low gruff. The Collective all twitched in their unconscious states as fear resounded in the foundation of their subliminal theatre. When its voice again turned kind, The Collective were taken from the silently prosing Collector and guided to the orange hue of the Forever New Dawn where assurance warmed up to their subliminal states and embraced them with certainty. Their eyes flickered lightly and their lips parted to an unconscious smile as the strain in their bodies slackened. The Mother in the centre of the bed glowed as The Children about her moved their closed eyes to her direction, pulling themselves in sleep closer to her warm body. The Children rolled over one another, connected like the links in a chain. The Teller spoke, ranging from a soft whisper to a deep and gentle like hoarseness by the end of the dream. It told this story unchanging, a thousand times in every sleep and in every sleep; The Collective was learned of fear and love; but in this sleep, in the final tell, a different tale was told.

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0011001000110000 One place on one bed for one Child was left unattended, and for this child, the tale of the Forever New Dawn would tonight go unlearned, but it would not go unpractised. Donal marched from the complex with a small clandestine team of White Hearts, all dressed in black and adorning the amorous iconic symbol of The Collective on their chests. Neither man uttered a word. The only sound to speak of their presence was the shuffling of their boots on loose gravel and the whistling of their weapons cutting the still night air. Outside of The Nest they split into three groups. One of which branched off down a small alley way and disappeared into the night. The other two groups took an easterly and westerly direction through the now desolate downtown area. They marched in groups of thirty, kicking their heels loudly and making no secret of their presence. Stray dogs that rested on the sidewalks and in the street quickly wakened and scattered from sight moving in whatever direction likened their instinct. The men walked through the darkness with silver in their hands and fire in their eyes, the force of their will and the ferociousness of their reason lit their path. The Behemoth led the smaller group down the winding alleyway. The sound of clanging metal and turning keys echoed through the quiet in their ears. Where they were was not where anyone would want to be. Here the hungriest made their home. This was the path of Famine, famed as the limit of depravity where desire and desperation made malodorous company of men. Only a certain type of human would have the absence to walk in these parts, for it is said that, ‘in the void, courage would serve no man.’ The group of three stopped near a bend in the alley. The Behemoth gestured with his fingers, a meaning of action and inten137


tion. One of the men, devoid of the white heart and with painted face crawled on his belly to the apex of the bend and waited. He had binoculars in hand and his eyes illuminated green. The invisible assassin scoured the scene while The Behemoth gestured to Donal who dressed himself into a grey hooded cloak. In his right hand he carried a brown hesham bag, in his left, a long shiny hook. The other teams commenced their searches and collection, kicking down barricaded doors one by one, announcing themselves in vocal assault. Inside the dwellings, men feigned guard over cowering women whose emaciated bodies trembled violently in the turbulent dark. When an entrance couldn’t be breached, fire would be set upon it. The people inside would stay in the choking smoke until their breathing stopped. Those who did push through the barricades or throw themselves from a window were set upon and their Children collected in hesham bags. It was a savage affair; the men with white hearts, in the mouth of madness, chewing on the fat of wickedness. As fire lit the night and downtown burned, a tiny figure in grey entered through a rusted iron fence. His cloak trailed behind, dragging through filthy water and chemical residue, sloshing and slapping at the loose gravel as his momentum took him into an old apartment complex. On the ground floor he could hear panicked whispering. Whatever was keeping from him was not doing a good job of it. Donal walked through the darkness, his path lit by his auditory senses; his ears were his eyes and in his mind, the orange hue of the Forever New Dawn. The whispers quietened to dull slow but heavy breaths, but it was the beating of their hearts against their chests that lured Donal to their scent. The cloaked figure swung the iron hook catching on something or someone. He thrashed wildly until the hook was free again. His face felt wet and warm for but a moment before he marched on through the darkness and up the stairwell. A hundred feet took to the concrete stairs slapping away at the solid ground 138


for momentum. Their panting increased and with their presence blatantly known, they abandoned all secrecy and screamed into the black emptiness about them. When the first man reached the top of the stairwell he froze. He reached for the handle but nothing doing, it wouldn’t turn. “What now?” he thought holding out his left hand to the darkness feeling for nothing and gripping the door’s handle with his right. “Oh for fuck’s sake, please” he said, completely petrified, blood pouring from an open cut in his arm. He kept swinging his right hand yanking at the handle willing the door to open. It was useless, the door wouldn’t budge. He was too high to jump so there was only one other way out of this. He thought, “What side would I take? A right handed man will lean ta his left and secure wit his right, in teory.” He took in a deep breath and slowly moved down the stairwell. He could hear the sound of others rushing upwards but he kept completely silent and in the darkness, tip toed back down into the imminent threat. “If I can just sneak past him or at least get close enough to rush him, den maybe” he thought. Halfway down the stairs he was passed by panting and screaming. Their exhausted legs carried them on pure adrenaline, fear their motivator. The group of maybe four or five stamped their way past the man until eventually they found themselves at a locked door. “No!” they screamed. They panicked and argued about what to do, the darkness seemingly endless and death so close at hand. One panicked and pulled on another. That one reacted and pushed the other over the edge. That one fell through the open void hitting their head and back on hand rails all the way to the cold concrete floor below. The one that pushed back was overcome with disbelief and sat foetal in the darkness at the peak of the stairs, rocking back 139


and forth. His disbelief echoed not for the friend he had killed, for remorse was no relative to his conscience, but for the realisation that there was only one way out of this; it started with a scream and ended with a thud. The others continued to beat and bat at the door frantically. Acceptance eventually begot the madness as those above sat in negated silence while the first man continued his slow descent. He moved each leg starting with one toe, each muscle working together like an octopus to careen him forward. He heard nothing coming towards him and he kept his hands in a defensive position. If he were to run into that thing then he would at least try to fight his way out. When he reached the bottom of the stairwell, a mixed wave of confusion and exhilaration washed over him like the onset of a drug. He felt his panic kick back in as his heart rate accelerated, rapidly pumping adrenaline and endorphins into his legs, once more urging him to run. He felt his stomach get heavy and he fell sick for a moment. The lobby was pitch black and silent. As he moved forward he tripped on something that was lying across the doorway. He didn’t lose his balance completely, just enough to rattle his focus. He took another sharp breath. He thought of his daughter, in hiding not far from where he stood. He knew all he needed to do was to get out into the alley and he could find her. He took another strong breath and then a wave of certainty became him. With his girl in mind, he ran and when he ran, he rushed. On he rushed, over the lifeless obstacle in his path. On he rushed, through the vast empty hall, his hands clenched, and his feet light. On he rushed, bursting through the swinging doors and into the cold night air. On he rushed, forcing his aching body through a tear in the fence. The metal pulled at his skin and cool trickles ran down his arms and neck. On he rushed, ignoring the fear in his consciousness and the 140


growing ache in his feet. On he rushed until something knocked him from his feet. He tumbled over himself and rolled down an embankment. He twisted his arm painfully as he came to a stop. Silence was still about him. Whatever hounded his footprints had his scent but for now, it had not his freedom. He pulled another sharp breath. “The girl” he thought. Strengthened again, he rushed on. On he rushed, his left arm swinging on its own accord, hanging uselessly against his body, offering him only consistent bursts of intense pain. Yet on he rushed, focusing only on the face of his daughter, feeling nothing but the need to protect her. It was on that he rushed, on through a maze of alleys and improvised corridors, ducking, weaving, coughing and bleeding. On he rushed, throwing one leg in front of the other, his feet pounding the pavement, his heart pounding his chest. On he rushed, catching his arm on exposed nails, cutting his feet on broken glass. On he rushed, away from whatever beast that haunted his direction. On he rushed, on to the young girl sitting alone in the dark. On he rushed, on he rushed and on he rushed until his hand pulled on a rusted chain and he lay foetal on a cold floor in a large empty room. “Which way did he go?” screamed a White Heart pacing through the night. “Keep running. He can’t be much further” replied an exhausted voice somewhere close behind. The gang of men stormed through the darkness, their white hearts piercing through the dead space. And there were hundreds of them now, such a sight to behold. They followed the settling dust into a tight alleyway. The road was very thin and the buildings closed in further on the men as they steadied themselves and moved gradually down the road. As they passed each building they ran their instruments of iron against the 141


structures, torturing whomever or whatever was inside. The men had no command of fear. What would be would be a result of what is. Each man thought only of the orange hue of the Forever New dawn with each step bringing them closer to a better tomorrow. The sound of murmurs and clanking metal thinned and weakened until once again only the sound of his own gasping breath occupied his ears. The man pondered for a second how long he could hold this state, whether he could fall back into the comfort of the night or whether he have to make haste and take flight. That thing on his trail would not stop until it found what it was looking for. They were coming back, this he knew for sure. The hunt would continue and as long as he was still, his scent grew stronger. ”Girl” he said, “We have to go.” From the silence came the creaking of rusted hinges turning and an old wooden frame pushing open. Little feet made light work of the distance between the closet and the man crouched in the centre of the room. Darkness played no obstacle to the sight of one’s heart. The young girl ran to her father and embraced him. “Dada” she said, “You’re it.” The girl exploded from the man’s arms and raced towards the roller door. The man ran after her and scooped her up. With his girl in one arm, he bit down on the rusted chain and pulled down with his teeth. The door lifted, the turning metal inviting the hounds to the chase. On they rushed, the girl clinging to his right arm as the world on its side flashed past her eyes. On they rushed, as she curled her legs around her father’s body to grip tighter. On they rushed, as she giggled when her father tripped and fell on his left knee cursing into the night. On they rushed, as she pulled on his beard with her left hand and she secured her pretty doll with the other. 142


On they rushed, as the world went upright and daddy fell. On they rushed; on her feet now running by his side. On they rushed; the voices behind getting closer. On they rushed, their pace getting faster. On they rushed; the air getting thinner. On they rushed; her father pulling on her hand. On they rushed; she; lifted in the air. On they rushed; she flung around a bend. On they rushed; the pretty doll dropped to the ground. On they rushed; she looking behind. On they rushed; the fire filled her eyes. On they rushed and the great White Heart rushed behind. The man collapsed in front of an immense wall. “Ah fuck me, not again” he thought over and over in his mind. There was nowhere for them to run. Before them an astounding tower of brickwork blocked their continued path and behind them, the voice of hatred grew more resplendent and the fire in its hand lit the sky. The girl, still thinking in game, stood next to her father holding one hand. The man looked despondent. Tears filled his eyes as he slowly rose to one knee and held the girl tight. “I love you so much” he said holding her close and kissing her cheek. The girl laughed and pushed him away. “I’m bleedin sorry, I really am, I tried, I really did. Ya remember da place I said? Ya go dere, your grandad’s waitin. I love ya, be bold, be exceptional, now go, run, and stop for no one” he said. The little girl turned to the man and hugged around his neck squeezing as tight as she could. “I love you too” she said before kissing him on his left cheek, then on his right cheek, then on his nose and then on his chin. The little girl smiled and dipped her head to his chest, but his chest was gone. “Get the girl” spoke a voice from the orange hue that filled 143


the night sky. Fire was in the hands of many men and the heat that came off their torches warmed her skin. She didn’t like the sensation. A figure in white swept in and took the girl to her breast. “You are with your Mother now. You are At Peace” the figure said. The girl looked over the figure’s shoulder for her father. She could see only fire and White Hearts. Everywhere she looked, flames lit the sky and below the flames, great men stood shadowed, as one; arm to arm, with white hearts on their chests. Just like in her dreams. “Safrine” yelled a croaking voice from behind the light. “Take the girl back to The Nest. Bring her to the scientists for cleaning” said The Behemoth, directing the chaos. “Sir, what shall be done of this drunken trader?” asked one of the White Hearts holding the unconscious man by the scalp. “Keep him alive” replied The Behemoth. The White Hearts collected the man and made off into the night towards The Nest. The figure in white took the whimpering girl in her arms. The Behemoth stood alone with his massive hands on his hips scanning left and right. “Donal” he shouted into the still air. “Donal” he shouted again. His voice deepened each time until a visceral growl rolled through the night. “Donal”. Nothing. Not a sound. Strangeness fell upon his face as an outlandish sensation became him; concern.

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day 011

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0011001000110001 Marcos woke to the bitter cold chilling his bones. His partner had stolen the blankets through the night and in his failing sleep he stayed exposed and freezing. He had spent most of the night in corporal stillness but actively and consciously farming his mind, sifting through the silt of memories and turning his expectations over and over, trying to shed the doubt and uncertainty that been clinging to them relentlessly. A foreboding sense of failure knocked at the vault of his subconscious, demanding to see the light. He had spent the whole night on his side listening to The Woman breathe, knowing too well that she was on her side, listening to him breathe, knowing too well than neither was in sleep but both unwilling to pull the other into wake, for a constant fear and distaste for discourse. At some point he blacked out when his mind had given in to his conscious submission but his sleep was broken in the early hours by the sound of breaking glass and acquiescent screams. It stirred him only momentarily before the weight of the done day heavied him back into unconsciousness. The rest of the night played out like the day before. He tossed and turned, finding no peace in his conscious disconnection; being begged, buggered and besieged by something deep within as a warmth within him slowly started to melt the ice that had for so long, kept the mischievous currents of the river of his subconscious emotions still and abiding; unmoving and non-affecting. But as the ice thawed, so too did the feelings that he thought had diminished; memories he thought had been dealt with and a ligation to his partner he thought he would never have to endure again. The new day was freezing. A blanket of grey settled above the rooftops bringing with it an intense cold that bled through the walls and scraped its way into Marcos’ bones making the first steps oppressive and torturous. He thought about crawling back into bed 146


and lying close to The Woman warming his body against hers. He thought about her hand against his thigh and he felt sick when he remembered how he had dismembered her affection. He wanted to say ‘I’m sorry’. He wanted the reason to exist so he could find it; he wanted a name to exist so he could define it; and he wanted a shape to exist so that he could expel it. He watched over her as she slept just as he had done the day before, feeling so much less like had ever been and seeing her once as she was; before they had started to drift into this quieted acceptance. As he lent in to touch the white skin of her leg left naked against the pull of the sheet, a strong wind roared through one of the open windows of his apartment dragging him from his stupor into a state of alert and awake. As always, he spent the first moments of his new dawn looking out over the sprawling downtown and onto The Nest knowing that at this time, Children would be waking to the sound of an old rooster croaking, Mothers would be calming their anxiety and Fathers would be sharpening their tools to tend to the day’s work. Below him though, a difference moved about; albeit, in that difference, a complete lack of movement. There was an eerie silence below on the street; an uncommon calm as if the sea had been abruptly swept up, only to sit out in the distance beyond one’s sight; in the revelry and naive splendour of one’s complacency, building strength, building number and very soon, bringing a reckoning back from whence it came. He stared below his window where normally he would count the tops of heads as they shuffled past his window, down past the row of buildings until they turned the corner near the old cathedral in direction of the town centre where they would claim their title to a place in line starting their day exactly how they had started the day before and in essence how they had lived out every day of their lives, drudging through the mania of expectation and assuming the onerous and asphyxiating terms of civil servitude, accepting whatever has been handed out. The want in his eyes grew hungrier as he scanned left and 147


there; along the paths below and through the maze of streets out beyond the cathedral that webbed their way down to the momentous outer walls of The Nest. He expected to see to what he had become accustomed over many new dawns; the colonic travel of people through the early morning chill, bustling to get where their expectation urged them to be. This sight wasn’t to greet him. There was nothing, nothing at all but a few tiny specs of sand being pushed around by a strong breeze, swirling up into the air and falling back down only to be swept up once more in the centre of the road, beneath his window. He watched the cloud of dust form and then deform from a solid animate face of the cold torrent that chilled his bones to a quiet emptiness devoid of life and substance sinking back into the cracks where the tangible folded over the surreal. His heart started to race and his blood warmed once more. He gripped the railings, squeezing until his knuckles turned white and around his fingers, burning red. He tried to focus his thoughts before reason once again slipped. It was happening too much in the past days; an abandon of control he had never before endured and the thought of slipping now frightened him. Imagine, coming so far; and ending up being wrong. He looked over at The Woman and what he felt when he looked at her body wrapped in the thin sheet was concern. He had felt many things while with her in the same way a man would feel while entering a cold shower or running one’s hands through a field of bright red poppies or feeling the tantalizing shiver as a cool breeze washed over sun drenched skin; feelings one might feel alone or in the company of friends. Love; he always imagined, was this but for the first time he looked at his partner and saw her fragility as a thing of beauty and in that beauty was a provenance of worry for what may come, for what he may have to do and for what had been left undone and unspoken all of these years. 148


The weight of his responsibility heaved at his conscious mind pulling him in and out of focus, obliging his eyes to confuse his sight between real and delusion, wrong and then right. His hands clenched the cold bars and his fingers; frozen in the morning chill, went numb giving his focus a centre, itself having a latch and remaining at one. He felt that at any moment he would lose his mind and it scared him to death thinking about what might await him in his sub conscious oblivion and which of his clan might be stupid enough follow. What had he done? What did he think he could do? What on earth was he thinking? Damn god? Condemn nature? Save humanity? Everything was falling apart. The threads on his cheap fabric had been pulled well before he thought of dressing himself. All of these people, counting on him, on an idea because they believed in him, because they believed in an idea. An idea; that was all this was. A thought in one man’s head, a shared delusion, an accepted truth; belief. Was there greater truth in a common delusion? Which were truer, the delusions he swung to or those that he clung to? There came rapid banging on the apartment door. Marcos; already concerned, became startled. He reached for a pistol that sat by a counter near the window where he perched. The weapon was only one of two that he knew of, the other guarded with The Behemoth in the heart of The Nest. The pistol had four rounds and had never been fired, at least by Marcos’ hands so he had no idea if it worked or not, he only accepted the belief that it could and hoped that any real threat would be willing to do the same thus allowing the perceived lie to act as a truth. He took the pistol in his hand and marched headstrong 149


towards the front door holding the weapon at corporal height and looking through the glass eye through to the other side. “What is it?” he voiced. “Sir, we have to go, now. There is no time to discourse” said a voice behind the door. Marcos opened the apartment door and before him stood a senior White Heart, his eyes glazed; urgency in his demeanour. “Sir, pack what you can. It is not safe to be here. We must move you and your woman” he said as a team of White Hearts entered the apartment circling the bed where The Woman was rousing. “What’s happening” asked Marcos sternly. The senior White Heart looked to Marcos and repeated, “Sir, there is no time to discourse. We have to go. This is serious.” The White Heart contained a respectful threat in his tone. Marcos turned to his partner who was now covering her naked body in shock at the sight of eleven men surrounding her bed. They held their backs to her but there was still no joy in her state. “What the fuck Marcos?” she yelled angrily. “Shut up and get dressed, now” he said. The two were clothed and out the door under heavy guard in seconds. “Wait. I forgot something” exclaimed Marcos. The White Hearts halted and allowed Marcos to run back up the stairs. He entered the apartment and ran towards a chest that sat near the open window. He opened one of the drawers and snatched a stack of papers, folding them crudely and shoving them into his pocket. He took a quick glance outside and around his dwelling then strapped the pistol to his lower inner leg and ran down the stairs after the others. “What’s happening Marcos, I’m scared” The Woman said, not thinking about how real it sounded this time when she spoke these words. “I don’t know. Just stay close. Everything is going to be fine. I’ll protect you” he said and the love in his voice; be it feigned or 150


felt, carried through to the worry in her heart and she fell still and calm. When they reached The Nest there was rampant commotion at the front gates. Normally four White Hearts and a one armed man safeguarded the entrance. This morning there were over a hundred men lined up against the structure’s walls, along the adjoining streets and completely blocking the only entrance to the facility. There was no salute, not this morning. Marcos and The Woman, completely engulfed in White Hearts, pushed through the entrance and when inside, under lighter guard, made their way through the lobby, then out into the courtyard where this morning The Children were not at play. They then followed a path of destruction that started in the centre of the courtyard and finally came to stop at the foot of the grazing field. The Behemoth greeted Marcos shaking his hand ascetically and directing his attention to the mounds of soil turned over and the distinct lack of colour. “What happened here? And why the added security?” asked Marcos. “Marcos, we are under threat; either from within our own ranks or from outside our walls. Our security has been breached” he replied. Marcos whispered to The Woman and she left the men heading towards the crowded cafeteria where The Children all sat expectant of morning rations. The two men walked over the field inspecting the damage. The crops were in complete ruins, some half eaten and others just torn to shreds. The two men stopped; Marcos held a hand over his forehead to block out the sun coming through a break in the clouds as he scanned the whole field, a heavy set disappointment settling in his stomach. The Behemoth stood with his great hands on his hips. His look showed no expression. One wondered if the muscles in his face could actually hold a smile or whether they had grown and leathered into this perpetual focused yet pensive unimpressed and 151


cynical state. “The time has come to act Marcos. It’s time to move” The Behemoth said. A wave of intense emotion built from his stomach, rushing up to settle just under his eyes. He wanted to cry so much. Instead he stared in wonder and disbelief; his hands firm on his hips, his head feeling light and distant from this blatant disappointment. The tears that welled in his eyes boiled as he turned his emotion to rage throwing his voice high into the air in a long drawn vulgar guttural scream. “How the fuck; in one day, in one night do we get to this state? What the hell happened last night? Why are the streets empty? There’s no one downtown whatsoever. It’s not normal. And now this? Why the added security? Why am I not safe in my dwelling? Why are there a hundred White Hearts holed up on the street? What the fuck is going on?” he screamed straight into the unnerved eyes of The Behemoth. “Look at this Marcos, this destruction. What is going on Marcos is that we are in the wake of change. We can deny it and reckon with the truth. We can build bigger walls and plant better seeds, we can scream that it’s not fair until only the hoarseness in our throats compels us to silence and even then in the deafening thoughts of our injustice we can think that everything is one when in fact, we know, everything is subtracting to zero. We can ridicule the truth and find absurdity in a new direction. We can try and shame it into submission with the madness of our malignant mockery only to find ourselves picking at our own reflection. Or, we can accept that change is upon us and adapt. Marcos, change is upon us” said The Behemoth looking out over the ruined crops towards the containers the lined the end of the field. “We have the girl now, so you can rest on that matter but we really should look at logistics, how soon we can get The Nest mobile. I have thought long about direction and terrain. I think north-west should be our objective. We reach The Amazon, if it still exists, then we can sustain The Collective” said The Behemoth. 152


“You have the girl? What do you mean?” asked Marcos. “The girl, she is in our hands. She is being Loved as we speak” replied The Behemoth. “You collected last night? You weren’t authorised to collect. Why did you go out?” asked Marcos turning glaringly to face The Behemoth. “We had information. It proved fruitful. We found the girl but unfortunately had to do away with her captor, such is the wear of war” he replied. “Where is she now?” he asked. “I told you. She is with a Mother being Loved as we speak. She was gone less than seventy two hours so there shouldn’t be too much influence. I would like to reiterate though the importance of definite action. I suggest we meet with the generals this afternoon and put forward a mobility plan” said The Behemoth. “What happened last night? The streets are completely dead. It’s like the earth just opened and sucked everyone in. Where did you find the girl?” he asked. “The Child Market, ironically. That Old Drunk Bastard obviously has some close ties in here, had some close ties in here.” “You killed him?” “We didn’t find the old man or the woman he called his mother. We found the younger one. He was armed and using the girl as a shield, sick bastard. We had to engage, for the girl’s sake” said The Behemoth morosely. “Why wasn’t I told of this?” “Marcos you choose to bed out there. That’s your choice. What do you expect me to do, shout? You know you can’t go back there, right?” “The infant we found yesterday, did it survive the night?” “No.” “What would you do, if you were me?” Marcos asked running his hands through the black soil. “I’d ask a more appropriate question.” “I can’t think of one. I can’t think of anything. Everything’s 153


just stopped. Someone else has applied the brakes and I’m trying to push this beast along with my will but I can’t. I’m too tired. I’ve got no fight left in me anymore.” “Do not utter such nonsense again. You want to lose everything right now, then go ahead and advertise this pathetic moment of weakness. Marcos we have come too far to roll over and wait for death to catch up. Now is not the time for contemplation. You’re sounding like a Famined” said The Behemoth. “Those people we saw yesterday, the one’s marching out in the distance. They’re coming here aren’t they?” said Marcos. “Yes” replied The Behemoth. “We’re staying” he said looking up at The Behemoth with a sense of hope and reservation in his eyes. “You’re making a mistake Marcos, an incredibly stupid mistake” said The Behemoth storming off. Marcos picked himself up and dusted himself off. His hands were black from the soil and his mind was clouded with indecision. He looked at his comrade with a growing sense of dubiosity. The Behemoth walked back through the field and into one of the buildings. Marcos thought for a moment of following him but instead wandered his stare out over the vacant field. There was nothing hopeful or good about this at all. Whatever was left of their fertile ground was now destroyed. It would take weeks or even months to have this ground working again and until then, what? All they had were the reserves in the open containers at the end of the yard. And when they depleted their reserves, what then? Marcos walked to the end of the field and entered one of the containers. As he opened the door, brightness shone through the rows of shelves and plastic containers, and in the recesses of light, something stirred.

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0011001000110010 Safrine sat on a small comfortable sofa. There were several blankets on its arm for her to warm herself should the cold begin to bother her. In front of her sat a small table and on it a glass of water and a plate with some fresh food; potatoes, carrots and beans. Beside the plate was a single spoon that she could use to serve herself. The rest of the room was empty but it was a small room so it had a cosy appearance and from where she had just been rescued, it was rather comfortable and consoling to a young girl having gone through such a traumatic event. Safrine sat on the small comfortable sofa and looked only into the tiniest flickering of dust that floated through the tiny key hole, moving to her, between liberation and bondage, but to the dust; an object of exanimation, but just one space to another. For like a dog, dust was not bound by conscious plagiarism or self-defined imprisonment. No room was a cell, but merely the space it had to explore. Safrine danced with her eyes as a tiny grain, a miniscule insignificant speck of substance, caught a slight breeze and fluttered about, coming into her room then rushing up into the air, vanishing in the dark and then just as she pardoned her focus, the tiny speck fell down in front of her sight, hovering again in front of the light. It flittered and fluttered and moved up and down, It then flew through the keyhole and hovered around. She quivered and shivered and blinked of her eyes, and then held of her breath as to will it inside. She yenned and she yearned til the grain it returned, and the sight of its flight quickly quelled her concern. She watched the dust sail about with the same detachment 155


as Marcos had; the swirl that had staged a performance in the surreal emptiness that gripped this cold grey August morning underneath his window. The Mother walked into the room with her dress swishing about her feet. The Mothers never wore shoes. There was something ethereal and wholesome about the sound of a woman’s feet against a chilly concrete floor. The Mother too seemed to dance through the room, finally coming to a rest, like the grain of sand, by the young girl’s feet. “Hello my dear” she spoke, coming to one knee and resting a kind hand on the young girl’s leg. “It’s so wonderful to have you home” she said with a chestier smile. The Mother’s eyes were large and warm. They made you want to keep looking long into them and when you did, you unhinged yourself and cast off your indecision, unbuckled your girded apprehension and became of influence; taught, learned and loved. Safrine looked into the Mother’s eyes and almost instantly a state of relief and consolation took care of her unease. The young girl let go of her burdens and forgot of that insignificant speck of sand that she had willed into her conscious prison and instead swam in the opiated milky white eyes and the dreamy blue iris of the kind woman kneeling by her side. The Mother took both of Safrine’s hands; cupped into her own. “Are you not hungry my child? You touched nothing of your meal” she said. Safrine didn’t stray from the Mother’s eyes. She responded only in obedient silence. “That’s perfectly fine my dear. Your hunger will catch up with you soon.” The Mother lifted herself and sat beside Safrine on the sofa. The young girl curled up with the Mother and wrapped herself in her arms, never falling away from her stare. “Your family was with concern. You were gone for such a long time. We are so happy that you are safe and home” said the Mother. 156


Safrine closed her own stare and asked, “Where is Dada?” The Mother held the girl tight against her enormity, almost suffocating her in the process. She squeezed the girl rocking back and forth, shushing lightly as she did so. “It’s ok my dear, you’re safe now. Those men can’t hurt you anymore. You’re with your family now. Nothing can hurt you anymore my love.” “I want my Dada” sobbed Safrine. “You wouldn’t remember the day you were born here in the Nest would you? How absurd of me, how could you? You were just a baby. You were such a wonderful baby. Everyone smiled when they saw you. They still do. You can imagine then, how bleak your brothers and sisters were thinking that you were gone” said The Mother. “Dada” said Safrine. She was curled around The Mother’s waist and gripped her arms, massaging the inside of The Mother’s left palm with her index finger; something she did to help herself relax. The mother ignored The Child’s triste. She let the child exhale her sadness and vent this wasteful emotion and make space for collective love. Between every whimper The Mother would shush The Child, each time more gentle than the last until eventually, The Child returned to serenity; too tired to mourn. “I bet you’d love to hear a story, yes? What Child doesn’t love fancy? Let me tell you, before you were born, we had such a terrible time in the Nest. The seasons had given us such poor condition and we were with at great difficulty. But then we found out your Mother was pregnant and straight away, the whole family felt love once more. As we focused on love, wouldn’t you know it, love focused on us. In each month of your carrying, the Nest grew more and more amorous and the seasons and the tides and the universe, they all reached out to your Mother’s belly for they knew that within her, the light of the world was waiting to be born. And my dear Safrine, you were that light. My dear, you still are that light.” 157


Safrine nestled closer to The Mother. Now she stared out into the dark room away from the white of The Mother’s eye drifting further from her paternal desire and more unfamiliar to its sound. She still held in her mind, the image of her father, but the image was becoming clouded; it was also becoming harder to make out the definition of his face. “The day of your birth was glorious. I remember you came into the world so fast and with such ease. Everyone was so surprised, especially your Mother. I believe when her water broke and you were determined to arrive, your father was out patrolling the Nest. Your Father was such a brave man. One of the bravest, mind you. He was one of the most respected Fathers and the by far the most valiant White Heart ever to defend our lives.” The face in Safrine’s mind; once grand and clear, was gradually fading into the outskirts of her imagination. The face of the man who had taken her was now unfamiliar. The more she listened, the more she thought of someone new. The Mother stroked at The Child’s hair, took a long gentle breath and continued; “Your Father was away at war. We had been at battle for many years and your father led an army of White Hearts into the dead city to fight for our continuity. He fought for you my dear. So you could be born without fear, knowing only love; the love of the Collective, of your family, of your brothers, of your sisters and of your Mother. He died so that you could have life my Child. He died so that we could give you life. He, the rapacious warrior, the gallant leader and your enamoured Father, died at the exact moment you came into the world. At the fall of his sword, light came into the world and the dark kept where it belonged, in the company of night.” The Mother ran her fingers through the girl’s hair, her eyes lit and her smile etched wide as she told the story. A tear came to the young girl’s eye as now in her mind, she could see her Father’s face more clearly. She imagined him falling to one knee, his sword in his hand holding his heavy bloodied body, that even in death he was aboding 158


and emanated an indomitable strength. In her mind, her Father looked up to the sky, at the millions of dead souls that lit the night and shone down upon him, that would guide him to eternity to forever gird upon the night, keeping the dark within reason, within control. When he looked up to the sky, his hand gripped his sword, a tear rolled down his face and a baby’s cry echoed through the night and into his ears. As he fell over onto the cold wet dirt, she imagined herself falling into her Mother’s arms, being pulled to her breast and feeding on her love and life. As the infant’s eyes opened, so too did a dying man’s close. His face was strong in her mind; his large commanding eyes that seemed to pin one into submission, his thick blonde hair that carried in the wind and his chiselled face; a work of symmetry. She felt a wave of love wash over her and as she did, she envisioned her Father; as dictated in The Loving, imprint in her subconscious. Her mind was clean. The Loving was done. The girl lay down on the sofa with her little legs curled to her body. The Mother swished back out of the room carrying the plate of food and after she had long gone, vanishing through the maze of winding corridors; in her place, a man in a white coat came into the dim light and kneeled beside the girl. He took her right arm gently by the hand turning her palm upwards as he pulled her arm closer to his chest. The Man in White pressed his index finger against the pale white of her arm until a tiny blue vein came to surface of her skin. He then took from his coat a long syringe with yellowish liquid and ever so gently; so as not to rouse the girl from her slumber, eased the needle into her vein, drew back and injected the fluid into her arm. The Man in White put the syringe back into his coat and re-positioned the girl on the sofa so that she sat upright; her arms hanging ineffectually beside her still body and her legs; like molecular jelly, completely paralysed. 159


The Man in White then attached tubes to the girl’s arms that connected to dripping bags that hanged above her head. A clear liquid slowly passed from the bag through the tiny tube, drop by drop, travelling the length of her body from above her head to the tips of her feet as it fed through the tiny tube that stretched to the floor, over her feet, up her left leg, taped to her open palm, and buried in her left arm. Each drop could tell its own tale as it slowly wound around her body and eventually poured from the tip of the needle into the contours of her arm, swimming through the girl’s vein, excelled by her beating heart from her wrist, to her brain where neurons fired that hadn’t fired before. The door opened and from behind a man walked in. It was The Behemoth. “Is it working yet?” he asked. “Not yet” said the man. “How long” replied The Behemoth. “Come back in fifteen minutes” he said.

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0011001000110011 The container door burst open and the morning light haloed a figure standing in the frame. Ruff scattered at the first sound of movement. He bolted in one direction while the cat bolted in the other. The two had been fighting through the night until it was that exhaustion had summoned them to slumber. The container was like a metallic freezer, lacking any insulation and the past nights in The City had been getting progressively colder. Ruff didn’t have a thick coat and the matted fur that was displaced on his body was usually wet from rain or puddles as being a rambunctious dog, he could never resist a moment of play, even in the midst of a chase. When he lay down sleep that night, he curled tightly in a ball, shivering but happy. He had spent the previous hours running about and playing in the dirty soil, something he loved to do as much as or even better than chasing his own tail or arguing with his own bark as it echoed through the cavernous streets bouncing off of walls back into his sharp ears. Last night he had an adversary, an agile and yet somewhat submissive aging Persian whose collar read the name Rubble. When Ruff tired of play he curled up on the floor and in the cold of the night, his adversary, the agile and emotionally turbulent Persian called Rubble, snaked his way over to the shivering dog and curled up in the crest of his arching body. The two spent the night cuddling on the cold floor; Ruff wrapping himself around the fluffy, warm and cosy Rubble. The screeching of the door shocked the two into immediate attention and sent them darting in different directions. Rubble used his agility to scale the towers of racking inside the dark of the container moving in urgency but never losing his step. Ruff ran in the opposite direction and straight into a rack of empty cans sending everything crashing to the floor. 161


The cat and the dog did not share the same grace, but they were matched in cunning. Ruff bit a piece of string, securing it in his jaws, then backed away from the mess of cans slowly, retreating into the dark at the rear of the container. The figure standing in the frame walked forward into the darkness and the light flooded in behind him creeping up on Ruff ’s privacy. Rubble, the fluffy orange Persian, slowly made his way through the far end of the container walking from rack to rack at the absolute height of the container itself with soft elegant steps. As light came rushing towards Ruff, he pulled in the direction of the cat with the string still in his mouth, pulling from underneath a rack of cans to the bottom left of the container. The cans fell to the floor in a roar of clanging and banging. The figure swarmed on the noise rushing to its direction. Ruff ran and as he charged through the container door, his orange friend Rubble jumped from the racking and shot after him. The two ran in leaps from the container, through the soil where they had played the night before and past a group of humans dressed in dirty overalls who engaged the two in play chasing them down the passage of hallways. Rubble sprang left and right and leapt over this and that as he ran in fright from the hordes of humans hunting his life. Ruff ran in bounds, his tongue hanging stupidly from the side of his mouth, his eyes wide and playful and an immediate joy of existence rushing through his veins. He looked back smiling as the men cursed and threw the objects in their hands but none of them fell near. Ruff followed the orange cat as they ran into an open door to the sound of cheering and laughter from scores of Children who were seated in front of empty plastic plates on large wooden benches. Rubble ran under The Children’s feet while Ruff followed, instead springing onto the benches then onto the tables and flipping plastic plates into the air as The Children roared on in laughter and approval. The men in chase stormed into the cafeteria screaming obscenities while the seated Mothers quickly fought to gain control of The Children’s focus starting rhyme after rhyme to no avail. 162


The men chased the animals clumsily tripping over this and that and eventually falling to a heap in the middle of the room. Ruff and Rubble stampeded onwards, out through an open window for the cat and sliding head first into the wall for the dog, who couldn’t quite navigate the whole height/weight ratio. The Children were all on their feet clapping and cheering while the Mothers were waving their arms up and down to fan the enthusiasm back to a reformed whisper. Once again, to no avail. Ruff lifted himself and looked back in the direction from whence he came. His heart pounded and though his legs were weak, he let not that truth break his enthusiasm. The men were of no threat, out of the game, so Ruff took one more run up onto the tables, past all the smiling Children and was out the door and down the corridors back from which place he came; passing under the legs of distracted passers-by and dodging the odd Father here or there as his direction brought him back through the field and under a cloud of black dust; swept up by the will of men wanting his blood. He raced onwards, past the containers that lined the end of the field to a small burrow in the ground at the foot of a chain link fence. Behind him, the sound of confusion picked to his new direction and before the men’s voices could fall upon his scent, he lowered his body into the dirt and crawled underneath the fence escaping outside of the facility; the thrill in the game of chase still rushing through his veins. He ran around the length of the great wall in great strides; throwing each leg out behind his body and tucking them back in as he wound up energy for his next bound. It was effortless and it gave him an overwhelming sensation of joy. He didn’t rationalise it because he is after all, a dog. Even if he could, I’m sure he wouldn’t ruin the moment by trying to evaluate it. When he reached the road there were hundreds of large men all dressed in black and they stood in groups, some walking around a perimeter, others just engaged in talk. One thing Ruff enjoyed 163


since he was a pup was listening to big friends speak. The sound was so unusual. It was hard to imagine that they were communicating. He might have thought this were he conscious; instead, he enjoyed just sitting and allowing the words and tones to pass his ears, as opposed to the sound of growling dogs which had always unnerved him since he was a pup. So unnerved was he even in adulthood that even the sound of his own growl would cause a shiver to chase up his spine. As long as he was a dog it wouldn’t be explained, not by him at least. And just as the sound of an angry dog caused him caution and worry, the sound of big friends talking made him comfortable and merry. Ruff sat down next to a group of big friends but they kicked him on calling him a mangy mongrel. Ruff received a boot to his bum which sent him through the air and crashing back to the ground. He lowered his head slightly and backed away from the pack. His instincts warned of threat and his body followed suit moving back towards a large wall where a filthy man was shuffling through some cards in his hands. “Ruff ” he yelled happily. The scruffy friend’s eyes lit up as Ruff skipped towards where he was lying, his tail once again wagging haplessly. The dog sat right in front of the man with his eyes and mouth wide, panting heavily and his tongue bouncing up and down from the side of his mouth. The man leaned forward and grabbed Ruff roughly with his two hands shaking him wildly. Ruff closed his eyes as his head flung back and forth, up and down. The Old Man was laughing hysterically and a sensation of love washed through the senses of both man and beast. Ruff finally broke from the man’s grip and dived onto his chest with his front paws throwing the old man backwards. “Missed you old buddy. Thought they might’ve served you up or something. Did you come back with anything for old Bluey?” asked The Old Man to the dog. Ruff looked the man into his eyes, panting and smiling. 164


“Me thinks they’re planning something big. Never been this commotion. Not since my arse wore this bit a dirt here” said The Old Man. He pulled Ruff closer and patted his body while the two watched at the hulking men ordered one another around. “That one there, he a boss. That I know. He important he is. You can tell you know. Look how de other men, they, they gravitate they do, around em. You see?” The Old Man said pointing Ruff to a bulky figure in the near distance. The figure was the Behemoth and he was aligning his men along the perimeter of the complex. The White Hearts gathered in droves for as far as one could see. They were awaiting instruction and by all means waiting for something grand. The Old Man sensed suspicion and he was right. There hadn’t been movement of this nature ever, in or out of the Nest. Old man and dog huddled together invisible to the army for they were no threat. “Have your teams ready to despatch on my command. Love as one” yelled The Behemoth as he backed away from the saluting men. “Live as you love” the men chanted back, then moving about hurriedly planning something, following instruction. “I tell ya old friend, to be a fly on the wall in there, or to be a fish in the sea. Don’t know which’d serve better an old fart like me. Don’t think I wanna know what they’re planning. Can’t be good ya know. Ya never in your life seen a pack a men together and doin good. Especially not a pack like that. They’re out to break bones. Make some history. Delete some history. And watabout you boy?” The Old Man said snuggling against the dog’s face. “If I had half the legs you got, I’d not be here that’s for sure.” The Old Man pushed at the dog’s face ushering him to walk off but the dog wouldn’t budge. Every time The Old Man nudged the dog would nudge back. “Ah I don’t ave the force no more. Ya can’t be here Ruff. Go on. Be happy in another pace. This one’s gonna come to da ground. 165


Go on, fuck off dog, fuck off ” he said pushing at the dog’s face. Ruff tilted his head feeling strange towards the old friend’s demeanour. The old man continued with his cursing and pushing, spitting as he did, his toothless gums nattering against one another. “Fuck off ya mangy cunt and don’t come back” he screamed. Ruff, wearing a new instinct; one of alarm and awe, fended off from The Old Man and backed away down the street. He scanned the roads and picked a path to the left that led through to the old markets and plodded off with his tail wagging and his tongue hanging out of his mouth. Behind him, The Old Man sat with his head in his hands catching a deluge of tears. “I love ya Ruff. I didn’t mean those things. A good life to ya old friend” he said to himself, wiping his eyes. He lay back down on the ground and gave in to his own fragility, tossing aside his blanket and exposing his old tiresome weak body to the elements, too sore to keep up the facade and not strong enough to put up a fight. As the cold wind rushed over his bony body, The Old Man shivered his way into unconsciousness and slept his way into death. Ruff left The Old Man lying behind and ventured onwards through the hordes of White Hearts who lined forever through the surrounding streets. They made maybe three or four rings around the Nest itself and after several blocks Ruff was finally liberated of their threatening presence, once again light in step, sifting through the feet of The City strangers. Some would turn their heads to follow his smile as he patted on by while most would ignore his passing and wait in their patient queue. When Ruff reached the outskirts of downtown he came across a small winding alleyway and his instinct took him in that direction. There wasn’t any movement on the path, not a soul, not a print, not a displaced speck of dust. It was still and eerie. To Ruff, it was just a path and so on he went down the winding track until he came to a row of old warehouses near the Child Market where saw a little boy holding a little hesham sack.

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0011001000110100 The Behemoth entered the room and sat on a stool in front of the girl who was still upright and immobile on the sofa but was now rousing from her sleep into a drowsy but responsive state. The girl’s sight melted from black to milky white as the blurriness gave way to defined shapes and before her, the sight of two men; one frail and bony in a white coat, the other gargantuan; frightening and with a tyrannical look in his eyes. The girl felt no fear. The blood that pumped through her veins felt cool as the fluid hanging above her head dripped slowly from the tiny tube into her arm. “You can start now” said The Man in White. The Behemoth leaned towards the girl, looking hard into her eyes and watching as her pupils flickered bigger and smaller. He kept his eyes married to hers, waiting to read her every response to his every question. “Where is New Utopia?” he asked. The girl’s pupils dilated like a black balloon filling with air. The Behemoth watched as they fluttered and returned to tiny pins where they stayed; the drug having now taken effect. “No” said the girl oddly but in truth, she wasn’t lying as her subconscious recognised only zero and one, right and wrong, yes and no. The drug was working. It was impossible for her to lie. Still, The Behemoth perched almost on top of her sight wrestling her indirect stare, waiting for the gesture of lie to surface. Without empathy a lie and the truth are one, there is no sign that gives one away as the other, making knowing one from the other, an art. Safrine though was different and The Behemoth looked long into her eyes waiting for the truth to come in its subtle guise. “The old drunk knows?” he asked then falling into focus on her eyes. 167


The girl said nothing. Her pupils stayed as pins, her eyes didn’t flutter and her breath stayed light and unaffected. “She didn’t register a question. Her subconscious will not respond until it is prompted with a question. She cannot read your intonation in this state so form a proper question, no propositions and avoid ambiguous assumptions” said The Man in White. “Does the old drunk know?” asked The Behemoth again. The girl said nothing. The Behemoth looked to The Man in White. “What now?” he said. “Your questions aren’t clear. Does the old drunk know what? No linking questions, no assumptions of fact. Make every question clear and definite and her subconscious will respond. Remember only closed questions” said The Man in White. The Behemoth exhaled heavily and returned his sight to Safrine who sat still and emotionless on the sofa, her arms flat by her side and her tiny legs, hanging from the seat with her toes barely touching the floor. “Does The Old Drunk Bastard know where New Utopia is?” he asked slowly and certainly. “No” she responded. Truth in her eyes once again. “Is The Old Drunk Bastard going to New Utopia now?” he asked. “Yes” replied the girl. “Is The Old Drunk Bastard alone?” he asked. “No” replied the girl “Is The Old Drunk Bastard with his mother?” he asked. “Yes” she replied. “Does The Old Drunk Bastard’s mother know the way to New Utopia?” he asked. “Yes” she replied. “And what about your brother?” he asked but she said nothing. “Do you know where your brother is?” he asked. 168


“Yes” she replied. “Where is he?” he asked raspingly. The girl sat still. “Fuck” he screamed. “Is he with The Old Drunk Bastard?” he asked. “No” she replied. “Does he know where The Old Drunk Bastard is?” he asked. “No” she replied. “Does your brother know where The Old Drunk Bastard will be?” he asked. “Yes” she replied. “Will The Old Drunk Bastard wait for you and your brother?” he asked. “Yes” replied the girl. “Is it far from The Nest?” “Yes” she replied. “Do you know the way to the place where The Old Drunk Bastard waits?” he asked. “No” she replied. “Can you find your brother?” he asked. “Yes” she replied. “Will you take me there?” he asked. “No” she replied. “Ask her ability not intent” said the scientist. “Can you take me there?” he asked. “Yes” said the girl. “Is your brother still close by?” he asked. “Yes” replied the girl. “Is New Utopia real?” he asked. “Yes” she replied. “Does New Utopia hold the cure for the Famine?” he asked. “Yes” she replied. The girl’s eyes were unflinching through every question. In any other person this would mean nothing for without empathy, one’s soul mourns neither the absence of truth nor the compromise 169


in the selling of one’s self. Safrine though could not mask so well the failings of her heart. She couldn’t lie like other children. And her brother too, was different. The Behemoth pulled back from the girl and sat in thought. The man beside him finished the notes he was scribing on his clipboard. Safrine sat completely still; awake but by no means conscious. “Get in her head. I want a map. I wanna know where The Old Drunken Bastard is. You have until the end of the day” ordered The Behemoth.

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0011001000110101 When his eyes finally settled to the dark, Marcos could see the extent of the carnage inside of the container. The wild animals had escaped and in doing so, had turned the storage facility upside down. Whatever remnants they had of food reserves were now wasted. The Behemoth was right, they couldn’t hold here much longer. They had the physical force to fend off any attack, but inside, The Nest was weak, undisciplined, starving and all too human. It would only be a matter of time before their Famine fed on their philosophy. He picked up a bag of old rotting fruit and carried it over his shoulder out of the container, down the field and into the cafeteria where Mothers struggled to contain Children who were laughing hysterically at Fathers, picking themselves up off the floor sheepishly. Marcos looked over to The Woman and nodded his head inviting her over. He gave the bag of fruit to one of the Fathers who divided it out amongst The Children who quickly sat in their places ready to be served. The Woman came to Marcos with apparent love in her eye and could see that there was fright in his. “What’s wrong?’ she asked. “Outside” said Marcos coldly. The two left the cafeteria and headed out into the field where The Woman tried to embrace her lover only to have her advance pushed aside. The Woman took the rejection as she did the many before. She kept the hurt somewhere safe along with a lifetime of neglect and miscarried expectation, and didn’t allow it to spill to the surface. Marcos stood with his arms folded looking her dead in the eye. The Woman had hers by her side but her empathy was too strong and she lifted one hand to rest against Marcos’ arm. “I had a dream” Marcos said, looking down at the floor now 171


as The Woman stood expectant. “It was before all this. Before The Nest, before the blackout; some time ago. I was younger. I felt younger. My body felt strong. You were beautiful. Your hair was so full and the colour played terrifically in the daylight and nestled into the eve. Your breasts were firm. Your skin was dressed by the sun, so silky and soft. You smiled more than I ever remember seeing a person smile, like you had the charge of a sun in your heart. We made love at the fall of day, through the night and into the new dawn. You had something to tell me, but I woke before you did” he said. The Woman stood staring deep into her lover, her skin warm and tingly, shivers racing up her spine, warmth at her breast and between her legs. Marcos kept his eyes to the floor. “Marcos what’s wrong?” she asked with concern for her lover. Marcos took a heavy breath, kissed The Woman on the cheek and walked away. “Marcos, what’s wrong?” she said, this time with concern for herself. She ran after him and took his hand, keeping his pace and pressing her body against his. “Tell me Marcos. This is unlike you; this evasion, this compassion. What’s going on?” she asked desperately. “It was just a dream is all. The girl, Safrine, have you seen her since The Loving?” he responded. “No. I didn’t know she had been found. Is she ok, did they hurt her? Poor girl” said The Woman concerned. It was becoming harder to tell if she was feigning or being genuine now. It was as if she was stepping into her soul and finding her voice. “I’m not sure. The Behemoth tells me nothing. Did you know about the collection last night? I think they’re conspiring against me, the committee. They want to move The Nest, all of them but they can’t without my vote. Have you noticed anything? 172


You see them all day from your window” said Marcos with a nervous tone begetting his speech. “No, nothing. Marcos who is this girl? Who is Safrine?” she asked. “She is one of your Children. The girl, her friend; Milena, she is the one who told me Safrine had been taken” he replied anxiously. “Who is Milena?” asked The Woman. “She’s a Child, one of yours as well; the strange looking one. The adolescent, long straight black hair, fair pale complexion. The one with the green eyes. You can’t miss her” he said. “I don’t know. She’s an adolescent you say? I’ve no idea” she said genuinely puzzled. “Whatta you mean you don’t know her?” he asked desperate. “Marcos, I don’t know any Milena; or Safrine for that matter. We have no pubescent children, you know this” she said sternly. Marcos felt empty. His mind collapsed and hit the core of his consciousness, shattering into a billion pieces that all danced around one another and then hanged in the air, billions of tiny colours, undistinguishable from each other. A buzzing befell his ears and his sight went to static. “Who is Milena?” he said to himself smiling. “Marcos, what’s happening?” she asked worried. “It’s fine, it’s ok, don’t worry, it’s probably nothing, just, don’t tell anyone about this conversation, ok? Especially not The Behemoth, do you understand” he said. “Do you understand” he repeated forcefully. “Yes, yes I understand. Marcos, Can I tell you something?” The Woman asked, thinking this was the right time to confess about her distractions. “No” said Marcos bluntly. The Woman stopped in her tracks as her lover continued callously into the distance. His dance of emotion left her rattled. She stood in his footsteps fading quickly into distraction. She sat back into the theatre of her mind and transported herself to a time long 173


gone when she was no older than thirteen. She shared a home with some other girls who had completed their Industry Learning. This was their coming into the world where they would model their identity; shape themselves into someone appropriate, someone desirable, someone fashionable, someone marketable and someone valuable. The house in which they lived was massive; property of The Industry, but theirs for the final years of their practical testing. She used to love running up and down the stairs and sliding on the bannister. In the boarding house during her lower schooling, she lived in single story houses and always dreamed of being older so she could see the world from a different height. She was always jealous of the older children. Not in a spiteful way, just that she wanted so much of what they had and she tried so hard to wish her youth away so she could have an identity, so she could influence others, so she could have a career and one day in the far future, so she could give her body to The Industry and give one child to The City. One she always thought was enough; enough anyway to be thankful for the life she has been given. Any more would just soften her body and that was just ugly. For now though, in this grand house, it wasn’t enough. She saw all the other girls so overwhelmed and thought “oh god, how last season.” And she was right. She had wanted this when she was learning to crawl. By the time she was out of diapers she wanted a summer dress, by the time she was walking she wanted a car, by the time she was talking she wanted a cell phone, by the time she was reading she wanted it all; everything that could be hers and more hungrily, that which couldn’t. Still, she couldn’t quell the child within her and every morning she would lie on her stomach over the bannister, close her eyes, free her hands and slide down the twisting staircase until she flew through the air and landed, always on her feet. She had the grace and poise of a gymnast, the drive of a serial killer and the thirst of 174


a drunk. When there was something she wanted, there was nothing and no one else in the world that would ever get in her way. She would look beautiful, determined and dangerous as she came to collect what was rightfully hers. Today though, as she stood at the top of the staircase gripping the railing, she felt disdain for what waited for her below. “Thirteen” she thought. “This body ages so much slower than my heart. I can’t be thirteen today. I want to close my eyes and when they open, I will be eighteen.” She closed her eyes tightly and envisioned herself much older, more refined, more elegant, being welcomed into many stares, being followed and praised everywhere. She smiled to herself, stood up on the railing and let herself fall backwards onto the floor below. The Woman crashed into consciousness waking to the call of her name as Mothers pleaded for her to return to the cafeteria. She had a way with The Children that the other Mothers did not. She could focus in a way that seemed like distraction, as if her mind was wandering far from reality and picking up trails of memories to use in song. She would disconnect from her conscious settings and connect directly to her sub-conscious mind and submit to the reasoning and calculations of her mind. What songs would come were just a measure of her sub conscious reasoning, how her mind; connected as one, understood the needs of The Collective and spoke not to the conscious wailing but to the quiet whisper of their substates. She knew that a Child’s cry was merely an alarm, but not so alarming. She would cure the solicitude in their souls through her voice, through her song and through the gentle touch of her hand against a Child’s head. When the fire in their heart was quenched, the smoke in their eyes would clear. The Woman entered the large hall with a gentle shush falling from her lips and in an instant The Children all returned to their 175


seats and attended to their bruised fruit. Marcos caught a glimpse of the Behemoth speaking to a man in a white coat. He stopped quickly and watched from behind a corner as the two men spoke in apparent secrecy. He could see from the distance that the men were speaking in a low hush. There was no one else about so one could assume the secrecy was in their intention and not in their word. The Behemoth was not an intelligent man. He was very loyal, on occasion quite brutal, but he was focused and extremely dependable. More so, he was Marcos’ friend. It made little sense then as to what he was doing speaking to that man. Marcos stayed behind the wall until the two men finished their girded whispers and parted down the halls. When The Behemoth was alone, Marcos took stride and joined his side. “We’re down to the last of the reserves” said Marcos as the two weaved through the complex. “The soil, it’s ruined. How is it that we can keep out an army of marauders but somehow a dog can just stroll in unannounced, eat all of our rations and dig up the rest? I mean, seriously. Smell this” he said lifting his right hand to the Behemoth’s nose. “What does this smell like to you?” he asked. The Behemoth breathed deeply and shook his enormous shoulders. “I can’t pick it. But it’s everywhere in the soil. I don’t know if it’s table residue or what but you can smell it everywhere in the field. It must have all come to the surface with those fucking animals. I’m going to take it to the scientists and see what they think” he said looking for any reaction. The Behemoth nodded his bulky head agreeably. “Do you remember the first day we met? How we met?” asked The Behemoth. “Of course, don’t you” replied Marcos. “No, I don’t and this is the problem Marcos. You are not sane. The past days I have witnessed you showering yourself in distraction; this sensory masturbation. You are getting further from the reality that is screaming in your ears. You refuse to see things 176


as they are. Instead you infuse the truth with a bushel of aspiration, of blind expectation. This is not the markings of sanity Marcos. You’re coming unstuck. You’re becoming more like them every hour; Famined. And that woman of yours, she is no Mother, not at all. I told you it was a danger to have her so involved in The Collective teachings. She’s undisciplined; a poor example to The Children and her attempt at feigning love, it’s just plain awkward to watch. Compare her to some of the elder Mothers, the ones that are real performers, you can see she is wasting time, ours and The Children’s. If she can’t fool me, then how is she supposed to fool nature?” he said rhetorically. Marcos was silent. He didn’t respond to The Behemoth with hand or tongue; his gestures lifeless and unaffected, his words restrained by the force of his will. Something within him clawed at his belly and he wanted so much to turn around and lash at The Behemoth’s face with his teeth and nails. The anger filled his stomach and swelled within him, boiling his blood and tickling his fancy for violence. He gritted his teeth, pressing hard to force the rage back down to his core. “Save it for later” he thought. As they walked through the corridors, there was no reaction from him whatsoever as to what was being spoken. For all he knew, The Behemoth was right, but something unexplainable shouted within him resonantly to defend The Woman; a feeling he had not felt in such a long repressive time. “Time is pressing Marcos. Do you agree to move The Collective? I want you to think clear, as one; get that woman out of your head. There are no rations. The soil is dead. The Famined are getting more desperate. And you saw yourself, in the distance; more of them, they’re coming and they’ll be here in hours Marcos. What is your plan of action?” asked The Behemoth. Marcos kept his cold face and eroded the warm cloud of doubt in his mind. Behind the walls, The Collective was vulnerable, but with the right defences they were more secure here than on the run. 177


The run; to where? The Nest helped to contain The Children. In this controlled environment they were swimming in adoration; albeit false adoration, but nevertheless, they were constantly engaged in what nature would recognise as the language of empathy; in word, in song, in play, in gesture and in sleep. If they ran, they would not be At Focus for their focus would sit at the foot of their step and they would be anchored consciously to the print of their foot looking not at the Forever New Dawn, but at the shadows that spawned from its ascension. The only chance they had to fool nature, to deserve its empathy, to re-establish this connection and to save humanity was to stay; to continue their work and to weather the storm. “We stay. Nothing changes. When the sun sits at its highest we will send out our men and present messages to The Famined, they will receive their weather prediction and their danger will be quelled. What is within our grasp shall remain in our control and we will attend to it and show it love, whatever that means. Nothing changes, do you understand?” he said adamantly; a crisp certainty in his voice. “So be it. This is your command. I have a work to do then” said The Behemoth coldly and parting immediately. Marcos stopped in his tracks and watched The Behemoth quicken his pace and fasten his stride and like an avalanche, he pushed forward knocking over Mothers and Children in his path, halting the force in his focus, like a bullet; non-negotiable. Marcos wondered for a moment if he was right. One again his stomach started to turn on him and he felt a mix of emotions wash over his reason, painting a thousand shades of grey on the white of his conscious canvas. Was The Woman affecting his judgement? There was some sense in what The Behemoth had said. These days had been so unlike any before and his thoughts; so derailing. In his mind he visualised The Forever New Dawn, the orange hue peeling into the tenebrous night sky that cast long 178


shadows across an expanse of broken winding roads and monolithic concrete coffins reaching out into the lightening sky. As the sun rose over the urban jungle hanging high above its head, the long shadows retreated into the heels of The Collective as they stood under the blue sky; hand in hand; loving as one. As the heaviness in his stomach returned, the friendliness in the image retarded as each of the faces turned to look at his conscious eye and he could see that they had holes where their eyes should have been, they had flies aborting in their mouths, they had their hands pressed to their ears and the women were feeding cancer to infants through their swollen breasts. The faces screamed and a cloud of locusts swarmed his sight and then everything was black with the buzzing drowning out the voice in his head that whispered that this wasn’t at all real. Something drew his sight, away from the screaming faces. He looked to one of the buildings, like in the dreaming. And like in the dream, there was an unlike image emanating in the distance, its form shadowing against the yellow greasy pane of the twelfth floor window. His eyes fixed on the shape as fear orchestrated his comprehension; the eyes from the yellow pane looking down into his soul knowing what he knew; maybe a truth, probably a secret, promising to tell no one, threatening to tell everyone. The image pulled him closer; the window occupying his full sight. There was nothing else, only the window and it was massive against the pane of his conscious eye. A demure hand smeared the yellow grease and behind the glass he could see a figure in grey. The hand then pulled on the hood that covered the knowing invisible eyes casting light onto the void. From within the blackness came an explosion of white like a dying star, sucking his sight into its vortex, shredding his senses into unusable molecular waste. Behind the bright star a menacing shadow of an elephantine figure; maybe man or beast, maybe both walked up to the light and cast its right hand on the bright star’s shoulder and its left cradled somewhere below. The face of the bright star turned and the light shone upon 179


the shadowy menace; The Behemoth pulled his index finger to his lips. “Shhhh” he said and then brought a child into the light; an infant, the cord still attached to its belly, the placenta sitting on the floor. The Behemoth released his hand from the figure’s shoulder to take the placenta from the floor in his right hand, smearing it against the pane, bringing a cloud to Marcos’ conscious eye, the reds and browns coming together, swirling into a black until everything was zero. When he came to, awaking from his delusion, the courtyard and corridors were quiet. He could have been out for some time, he would not have known except for the sound of forced laughter coming from the room to his right. He went to the door and leaned in his ear, listening to The Woman welcoming her Children At Love. The heavy sinking sensation in his stomach started to wane as the sound of her voice filled his ears. He wondered for a moment if The Behemoth was right in his evaluation of his sanity. Was he losing his mind? Did he choose only to see what he wanted to see? The Collective. The Nest. The Philosophy. The Forever New Dawn. The Woman. The Girl. And why the girl? Why was everyone so focused on this one girl? And what did these delusions mean? Was he losing his mind? Was he right all along? Was he becoming like them? Is this what it was like to be Famined? Did anyone ever answer these types of questions? “Am I really special?” he thought. 180


Marcos stumbled away from the doorframe and headed down one of the far corridors to his right; where he had seen The Behemoth and the scientist colluding the day before. He kept his sight firm focusing consciously on one: forming the sink in his mind, pulling the plug and allowing his conscious filth and stains to wash down the hole into oblivion. His mind returned to a metallic shine; a state of one. When his focus returned; with it his determined state of assured brilliance; he caught sight with his conspiring eyes of four men in white coats speaking at the end of the corridor where he was. One of them was The Elderly Scientist he had seen yesterday. The four men turned and walked down another corridor, one that seemed completely unfamiliar to Marcos. He followed, driven by a sense of discovery and mistrust.

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0011001000110110 The four men came to a small door with a picture of three dots aligned in a triangle. At Science, the men were greeted by The Scientist and The Behemoth who both had impatience twitching at their fingers and disappointment glaring from their eyes. Their voices weren’t loud but Marcos could see that their whisper carried with it a great weight; enough to have the four men trembling at their knees and holding their hands pleadingly in front of their faces. The Scientist and The Behemoth then left the men in white coats, walking back along the corridor out into the courtyard and towards At War where they both moved in separate directions; The Behemoth into a sparring room where a group of Sons were honing their defences and The Scientist, up the stairs to the top of the War complex to where the laboratories of mathematics stayed. The four men in white coats entered briskly the room with the three dots aligned at a triangle and Marcos followed in tow, introducing his presence with a cough. The four men turned and saluted him with a long drawn stare, their brows lifted, surprise the theme of their perception. One man asked to be excused and made his way through a gated door while the other men arranged themselves in front of a covered glass window, blocking whatever had been in view behind. Marcos tilted his head to sneak his sight past their frames but the men swivelled to the right and left, only making the want of his know, needier. “Who is in charge here? What is this room? Who sanctioned this space?� asked Marcos. He had not designated any space that was unknown to him and any unsanctioned action that could contravene his ideology would certainly come into question. And for the first time in a great time, he was finding himself at question with one and everything. 182


“What are you doing here? This is not your lab. This is not an anything. What is this place?” he said in a demanding and urgent tone. The men looked at one another, shook their shoulders and then back at Marcos. “Please do not find us rude but you have to understand we have no idea who you are. We have been instructed to converse with no man, woman or child. You will forgive us then if we ask you to leave so we can go about our work” said The Elderly Scientist. “Do you know who I am? Open that window; now. I want see what is going on here” he yelled. The men once again turned to one another somewhat confused and then back at Marcos who by now was ready to strike. “Sir, please” The Elderly Scientist said holding his hands in front of his chest. “Do you know who I am? Open those curtains now” Marcos yelled; rage washing over his rationale. The Elderly Scientist went to the window and pulled on a black cord that hung by its side. The cloth covering the window dropped and exposed a room with two crying infants in a cot and a Mother, sitting on a white rocking chair. Marcos looked on as The Elderly Scientist instructed the Mother to commence. She took one of The Infants, the quieter one and sat back in her rocking chair, lifting it to her breast to feed. The Infant massaged at her breast and fell into an awkward slumber, closing its eyes then awakening to screaming and a desire for food knowing the breasts it suckled were dry and worn. The Elderly Scientist tapped on the glass and nodded his head. Another man in white took a syringe from the table and stepped behind The Mother rocking The Infant and inserted the syringe into her vein, pushing a clear liquid into her arm then he did the same to the crying Infant; pushing the needle into a vein in its neck. “What is that? What did he just give them?” asked Marcos. 183


“Oxytocin. Well a synthetic version. We’re trying to kick start her love for this infant. We provide the external elements; the crying baby, i.e. the gears for her to drive her vehicle. This here, this shot, is a jolt of electricity to jump start her engines. The brain produces it naturally but without the empathy gene it doesn’t call it into action. Right now she is receiving an overdose” said The Elderly Scientist. The man in white injected more fluid into The Mother’s and The Infant’s veins and timed as the fluid made its way to their brains. He watched for shifts in their pupil dilation, any sweating, any tremours and more notably, he stood on one knee watching The Mother’s left breast intently as The Infant suckled waiting to see any milky discharge. The Mother hummed peacefully swaying back and forth on the old rocking chair, the creaking of the treated wood helping the infant to fall into ease, comfort and sleep. “She’s feeding The Infant?” asked Marcos shocked. “Shhhh” replied The Elderly Scientist, “just watch” he said. A different man in white then entered and took the other Infant which by now was screaming desperately for food and a Mother’s love. He took The Infant into a division within the room where behind Perspex; The Infant sat unnaturally upright, watching its sibling being nursed in apparent tranquillity. Its despondence grew unruly, its face burning red, its voice crackling under the extent of its screams. The Man in White turned to The Infant and pulled a white cloth over his face screaming abhorrence into his ears. “I hate you, you´re ugly, no one ever wanted you, you ruined your mother’s body, I wish you had miscarried, you are not my son, you are not my son, you are no one’s son” The Man in White yelled disgustingly at the crying Infant as it looked on at The Mother, far from reach and bawling hysterically. “What are you doing here? This is fucking sick? What is the point of this? None of this was sanctioned from my philosophy. Who sanctioned this?” Marcos asked. The Elderly Scientist closed the curtains and nodded to the 184


other two men to leave the room and go about other business. The two men skipped away and The Elderly Scientist offered Marcos a seat. “Please sit” he said. “Can I offer you some tea? We have a synthetic version here. It really is quite delicious.” “I don’t want tea. I want to know the meaning of this; of that” Marcos said pointing to the window. “Sir, we are men of science here. What you saw was merely the acting out of an equation. It was the cause to an effect. It would serve neither of us for myself to explain the elements in this part of the equation. I think it would be more fitting and far more comprehensible, to show you the effect. Forgive my manners, my name is Arthur” he said extending his hand. Marcos leaned forward and shook the man’s hand, a state of caution becoming him. Arthur stood up from behind the desk and invited Marcos to follow him through the locked door, turning to one of his colleagues and nodding. “Are you sure I can’t interest you in a cup of tea? It really is a shame for a pot to run cold” he said gesturing to the beakers and containers on the table. “No, thank you” Marcos said, completely forgetting The Elderly Scientist’s name. “Yes” replied The Elderly Scientist smiling. “Who are you responsible to?” Marcos asked. “We concern ourselves not in who binds our feet for as long as they liberate our minds” responded The Elderly Scientist. “How long have you operated down here?” “You never told me your name. You asked if I knew of you, as of apparent that I should. But you never told who you are. I imagine of great importance, yes? Important men usually ask questions that need no answer” The Elderly Scientist said with not a hint of sarcasm in his tone. “My name is Marcos. And yes, I am of importance. I built this Nest” he said. “Then it is you, Marcos of Importance, who sanctioned this 185


area” The Elderly Scientist responded. The two continued walking down a claustrophobic corridor which seemed to compress on all sides the further they ventured. There were small openings in the wall along the way and they were numbered in zeros and ones. “What do these numbers mean?” Marcos asked. “Why, they are binary of course” The Elderly Scientist responded. “Binary, what is that?” “It is a language, a beautiful language; all that’s really left of the information age. Zeros and ones are everything. In fact, if you are who you say you are, then this philosophy of yours, it is a binary philosophy; At Focus, At Distraction; At Being, At Not; zero, one; fear, love; death, infinity; black, white. You, Marcos of Importance, you speak in binary” he said. “What was the point of that back there? An equation for what? This is not part of my learning. This is not the Collective philosophy” exclaimed Marcos with a heavy hand of uncertainty ushering along every word to its place. “You said something interesting before. You said it was; pardon my cultural snobbery I find these words grotesque, fucking sick, yes? I wonder if you find the act being inflicted upon the infant as disturbing as in the interest of an affected human or whether more logically you find the abandon of your philosophical rule disturbing; either way, a very strange thing to say. You know I never bought that adage that man could be altruistic. It’s just simply infeasible. Given that is, that every action, be it physical or metaphysical has some cerebral reward. It’s safe to say that every human lives and dies alone and therefore every human experiences alone. Two humans experiencing the pleasure of sex are each experiencing an internal comprehension of an individualistic act, regardless of the conscious interpretation. The act of sex with another woman is in fact masturbation. A hand, a vagina, a tree trunk; the act is experienced internally and therefore the external factor only relates to the application of internal desire” said The Elderly Scientist. 186


“What does that have to do with anything?” said Marcos bewildered. “Sorry. Layman. OK, to put it another way, if I were to help an old lady cross a street my brain would provide me with serotonin for the act, I feel good for helping, I set a goal, I achieve said goal and I am rewarded for the effort. Now, if by helping another human my brain was to provide me with electric shocks that ran through my body then most certainly I would not engage in these altruistic acts. Logic really. In this instance we can see that the doing of good deeds for altruism is merely the doing for the receiving of cerebral narcotics. A+b=c. Now should I decide that the pain is worth the ideology, to sacrifice and martyr myself for an ideal, then yes I would endure vile torture while helping the old lady cross the street, but also what guides me through is the metaphysical reward of knowing I’m suffering for a greater good; therein I receive once again a cerebral reward, for the brain doesn’t conserve pain in fact, in large amounts it provides strong doses of endorphin, natures heroin fulfilling two rewards, physical and metaphysical; thereby contravening the rules of altruism. So what does this mean? Humans are not altruistic, we are individual self-serving universes, we can interact with other universes, we can even collide, but we can never be another universe, we can never think like another universe or feel like another universe. Where man is now, without empathy, is where man belongs; a universe getting farther from itself. Altruism cannot exist and empathy was just an error in our code. What does that mean? Without empathy, we cannot lie to one another. We have no desire to lie to one another. There is nothing physically or metaphysically for us to gain. We are better people for it. We are more humane than what you will us to return to. I subscribe to a certain Socratic logic and honesty. I don’t love you; I love myself when I am with you. That kind of honesty isn’t packaged in your empathy my friend. That’s why you have to understand how reserved I feel about giving the scissors back to the infant knowing to well it’s just going to take off at high spirit and fall again, cutting itself and having to be emotionally bandaged. But I’m just the 187


scientist. Which brings me back to what you said before, what was it? ‘This is fucking sick’, that’s right. Well Marcos of importance, you haven’t seen anything yet” he said with a sly cynical wink. “Now you asked why. Why, why, why? Always the reserve of layman. Demand a progressive response to a one syllable request. OK, let me put some reason in your mind, we tried many times, to focus on one. That being, that Infant you just saw At Mother, being loved and fed so to speak. Well, she doesn’t really feed mind you; how absurd an idea. I don’t need to tell you how long it’s been since a woman has actually lactated. She does stimulate The Infant though, to the suckling action to try and engage some bond with The Infant and nurse it into sleep. The injections we give her every forty five minutes are designed to jump start her brain, to start the process for it so all it needs to do is remember, feel and repeat. We have to give greater amounts each time. The brain just doesn’t respond” he said. “You see; now did you have a car, before the blackout? Well I did. I had horrible a commute made no easier mind you by those metallic coffins. Actually a colleague of mine, my meta-friend, he has this whole philosophy about how cars were the extension of a woman’s womb, that a vehicle; aside from a bath tub, were the closest to safe most humans felt in the old city. They could lock their doors and keep intruders out. They could turn up the sound and make themselves warm, just like those nine glorious months in the womb. Of course this theory didn’t take into account seventy thirty peak traffic on Nove de Julho watching the windows of the car in front of you being smashed in and waiting, like grazing cattle, for gun wielding junkies to slowly cross the plain and milk you dry. In theory, it’s a sound philosophy. He has one for water and drowning as well which I find just dandy” said The Elderly Scientist. Marcos continued looking on confused, trying to follow the scientist’s teaching but finding himself completely lost. “What was I saying?” asked The Elderly Scientist. “You asked me if I drove a car and before that you were talking about, well, oh the drug and…” said Marcos being cut off. 188


“The drug yes, oh the car, yes now I remember. Well, countless times I found myself in the position where my engine just wouldn’t start, especially on cold mornings. Now I would tie up some cables from the battery in my car to another and use the other vehicle to charge mine and jump start it. What we’re doing with the Oxytocin is no different. The problem here is that the car we’re jump starting, doesn’t have a battery. Without the empathy gene, there is nothing to charge. Think of it like having no fuel tank and to get your car going your just pouring ethanol all over the engine. We’re just washing her brain with Oxytocin. We started mixing with oestrogen as well and some other compounds like mdma and amphetamine. We inject The Mother and The Infant and try to recreate a birth moment. I read in a journal once, the mystic Parteiras, they called it the moment of love; when The Mother and Infant overdose on Oxytocin after birth, creating the self-preserving bond and more importantly, starting the lactating process. Obviously empathy was the key factor but so far we haven’t been able to recreate this moment. Instead, The Infants and Mothers just seize, convulse and stop breathing. Very disappointing” he said. “Anyway, trial and error brought us no closer to understanding our error. You see, a century of behavioural disassociation separated humans from the empathy gene; a century of repetitive thought and action; digital technologies, sciences, games, stimuli, music, fashion, you name it. Eventually, the human was conditioned to not need this gene and as such, nature has always had its ways of adapting, so to speak. Take language for example, another organic feature of nature and like empathy, one learned through repetition of emotional cycles; one that; If you don’t practice it, eventually you sweat it out. Like language, one can absorb and learn empathy by being surrounded by empathy, in that one can assimilate a language by being immersed in it and eventually their subconscious will acquire some emotional context. Like standing in the rain, eventually you will get wet. Now if that is your outcome then congratulations but if the heavens dry and you’re not in the company of water any more then you will dry. That can be said for 189


the occurrence or rather lack of, empathy” he said. “We evolved, as you know and nature spliced this empathy gene from the reel. Undoing this natural evolution is proving more arduous than we first thought. We believed that the gene remained, but was hidden and that all we would need to do would be to try to make instinctual its necessity; for example, leaving a screaming crying baby; so hungry it will die if it doesn’t have a drop of milk, in the lap of say a young woman in what would be a prime breeding age; firm supple breasts, emotionally responsive. The idea initially would be that nature would call the gene into function, the woman would start to lactate and she would nurse The Infant. We have seen it in cats and dogs but humans just don’t learn. So many times we had to watch the infant die. It was upsetting you must understand, watching that Infant close its eyes and edging further from the solution you know is just beyond your reach. We never like to lose an infant, we simply don’t have the resources currently to lose samples willy nilly. Nature really made humans incapable of survival. I mean you compare to any other animal. Now dogs, that’s a superior species. Humans, they just lie there, crying, whereas the dog is born crawling to its mother’s breast or failing that, to a crevice or rock face, out of reach of circling predators. “You’re doing it again” said Marcos frustratingly; cutting him off before he went on another universal plain. “Sorry I do get excited some times. Anyway from our initial research, we found that re-learning the gene would take as much time as it took to unlearn it. This is why we have other departments now working at a more quantum level to find a solution. What we did realise though from our early tests was the influence on the other half of the equation; zero, one; love, fear; good, evil; up, down; etc, etc. We thought; what if we amplified the gap in the genes? How could we use this to an advantage? And so, our experiments have led us now where we focus on zero as opposed to one. When life hands you lemons, make a caipirinha. What if we could fill the genetic gap with something else? Empathy has the potential to influence so much subconscious interplay with ability and 190


natural connection. The gene alone, or at least that space in genetics which is now void is a link between the sub and conscious states as well as the direct link with nature, universality; at least one of my colleagues is adamant on this, and more arguably, god. This void, this part of the human genome, this missing splice is the ethernet of the universe, the connector for the subconscious umbilical cord feeding directly to the cosmos and mankind. Imagine then, with that universal link, if in that gap we inserted for example the paternalism of a penguin, the awareness of a mountain goat, the decisiveness of a wild boar or the rationale of a cruel dictator; or a little bit of each” said The Elderly Scientist. Marcos felt lost for word, trying to comprehend exactly what The Elderly Scientist had even told him and how and why it came to be. An emotion swept through his conscious state willing him to question everything he was seeing and leading him to question everything that he believed. It felt wrong; this sensation and what he was seeing before his eyes; the antipode to his north, the centre of his philosophy; in his mind, the right he was doing to save mankind. “There is no waste in science. The more we help one the more we help the other. In this case, by focusing on the zero Infant; heightening its fear and compounding its abandon, we in turn heighten the other Infant’s sense of need and belonging. Equality. We also, make better use of the once abandoned Infant or Child. We make them into something beneficial. We can’t make the Mother love, but if we make the other one frightened enough then maybe nature will kick start its self-preservation again. It would be a shame, like my tea, for the zero Infant to serve no greater purpose than being a parallax to its opposite, trying to awaken a genetic response to its human disconnection. You’ll see what I mean, through here” said The Elderly Scientist. The two came to the end of the shrinking tunnel; the backs of their necks scraping against the cold concrete roof that was so low it almost kissed the earth. They entered through a crevice in the wall which took them 191


to an unexpectedly large opening. Marcos was taken aback, The Elderly Scientist swelled with pride. “If you think this is impressive, you really should have tried the tea� he said.

192


0011001000110111 The figure in grey sat idle on the side of the road with his hesham bag in his hand and a cruel hook sitting by his feet, dried blood on his fingers and specked upon his face. He was out of The Nest; finally after years of torturous repetition and servant desperation from those about him, smiling wondrously but inside he knew they were all hollow, he could feel it. He had helped his sister escape their clutches and he sat waiting to meet her, a place their father had told them of, that at the end of the coldest day, when the grey sheath pulled back over the fawning city, they would meet, before the new dawn, and they would go together to New Utopia, as one. It had been many years since he had heard his father’s voice; since he had said good bye and been traded to The Collective. The whole deal of their trade and of The Child Market was for this; to get close enough to The Collective, to enter their business, garner their trust and to take back what was rightfully theirs; a father’s daughter and a brother’s twin. He had to train his voice to be not like his father’s so as to to be able to pass as just another Child, ripe for the picking without any suspicion. His goal was to infiltrate the impervious Nest, find his sister, no matter how long it took and get her out, no matter what that meant. He had entered The Nest as a young boy and he had escaped a young man and though he gave himself to their teachings - to their strangled will - he never once cleaned himself of his father’s face or of the sound of his assuring voice and what hurt more, was spending so many years inside that prison and feeling his twin so close yet not knowing where they kept her and what insanity they were administering to her. When he found her, he only had time to quickly hug her before he took her out of the laboratories and to the end of the 193


field where she escaped through a small hole in a wire fence probably dug by the animals that made passage in and out of the field scavenging the crops. His escape would require much more in the art of lie; walking out with The Collective as one of their own, slipping into the night and waking to meet his twin and his father; waiting, where he waited now. Donal waited for so long that he fell in and out of dream, his head dropping to his lap as his consciousness crept away from the cold that pestered his skin. In his subconscious dreaming theatre, he stood alone in a pit of blackness. He could sense hungry wolves snarling and salivating somewhere in the distance. His senses told him that he was surrounded and the slightest movement would invite them to murder so he stayed completely still, trying in vain to calm his beating heart and shallow his breath. With his hands pinned to his side, the tremor wanting to build in his legs suppressed in the caverns of his mind; willing upon himself, absolute paralysis. A bead of sweat formed, just above his brow and it trickled down his nose to his inner eye, flooding it and blurring his vision. His every sense focused on ignoring the desire to move his hand and wipe away the water from his eyes. His every desire wanted to see what wasn’t coming. An itch started in his foot, in the arch and he told his brain it wasn’t real. The itch then ran up his leg and at the base of his spine, the fine hairs on his back started to tickle. He felt a million bugs crawling all over his body and as much as he wanted to squirm and shake of the sensation that he knew wasn’t real, he couldn’t, for the beasts that he knew were not really out there, would eat him alive. The snarling grew louder as the itch turned to burning at the nape of his neck and his focus compounded blocking all signals to and from his thalamus until his rising temperature brought another bead above the other eye and the bead ran slow and thick down the length of his nose and down to his lip. He tasted sweetness on 194


his tongue. That made no sense. He licked his lips and fell to the ground under the incredible force of the charging wolves. He screamed; “father” but the weight pushed harder forcing his face into the cold ground. He screamed again, this time clinging to the tail of his desperation and following it back out of his subconscious state into wake where before him and hanging over his head sat a matted little dog, its tongue hanging from its mouth dripping saliva onto his face, his maniacal panting, stealing the empty silence from the cold grey August morning and his tail wagging haplessly as it did throughout most of his life. As Donal opened his eyes, Ruff barked appreciatively, prancing forward and back, throwing his front paws forward and inviting Donal to play. The boy screamed and jumped back rushing for the claw that lay on the kerb just out of his reach. “Get back beast” he screamed waving the hook with his right hand far from his body and leaning to the left away from the dog trying to get his leverage to run. As he swang to the left, Ruff dove to the right and so on; the young boy in a sinister grey cloak brandishing a cruel instrument of torture trying in desperate vain to protect himself from an agile forceful beast whose only increment was to cause him pain or at least in his moments of panic, so he thought. As he waved the hook back and forth trying to fend off the savage beast, trying to hide the fear perpetuating through his defensive screams, what the matted dog heard from his action was “Yes, I would like to play” and thus Ruff sought no threat in his demeanour and no danger in his dialogue. Instead, he took upon the young boy’s invitation to play and wove and dove about, dodging his grasp, coming a little closer to tease the boy into chase, then running away exhilarated when his body just came out of reach. Eventually Donal stopped swinging the hook and stood upright, screaming at Ruff to stop. Immediately Ruff ’s ears fell flat 195


and his bum hanged low to the ground. He lowered his body to the wet earth and crawled slowly over to Donal, his big eyes looking up to the boy remorseful and obedient. His little paws pulled the earth that separated them under his cowering body until his snout touched upon the boy’s shoe. Ruff lowered his bum to the ground and sat upright, slowly lifting his head but the entire time, never taking his eyes of Donal’s, the dog, who had never for such a long time, sensed himself lower than a human and of the human, deserving of respect and of his wilful obedience. His ears stayed flat and his head moved forward to where the young boy now sat on the floor. The boy shook nervously, and as he should. Dogs were never kind to humans, not in a very long time. Ruff pushed his head forward until it lay on the boy’s lap and the heat from his body filtered through the boy’s clothes and warmed his body. He felt a shiver run up his spine as he and the dog sat completely still, seated by the kerb once again, waiting for Safrine and his father. Donal rested his hand on Ruff ’s head and ran his fingers through his matted hair. The sensation brought him to ease. He let go of his conscious panic and just stared out into the distance, waiting, with the dog. He had spent the previous night hiding in the stairwell of the building behind. He didn’t remember much, everything had happened so fast, it was a blur. His heart had been racing and adrenaline had rushed through his every sense. He had only thought of one thing; escape and he would have done whatever he had to, to be back with his sister and his father; and if that meant lying, then so be it; if that meant living as a monster within a den of monsters, then so be it and if the effect of this had made him a monster, then so be it. He stared at the splotches of blood on his hands. He remembered walking from The Behemoth under the acuminate eye of two White Hearts wondering if they could sense his lie and whether the architecture of that night was just for his elaborate execution. 196


Everything up to that point had seemed so simple; the infiltration, the learning, the studying, the pretending and the building of trust. But as he walked off into the night dragging the hesham bag behind his body, every beat of his heart seemed to scream of his treason dissentingly. Every breath seemed to carry with it, the breach of his trust and every step, in his own paranoid ears, seemed to spell of his exact direction, even though he crept off into a different part of the night. Inside the building, his memories fragmented, the heightened nor adrenaline rushing through his body scattered his immediate perception making it more difficult to form solid memories, images with emotional reference; smells, sounds, sights, senses on a canvas of conscious conception. All he could remember was swinging wildly into the dark with the cruel instrument in his hand, catching on something, what he thought was some cloth, maybe the bark of a tree. Feared by the sound of whispering in the blackness, thinking that The Behemoth had caught wind of his treachery and was waiting like heavy sleep; to sneak upon him, he swang that hook to and fro, his eyes pinned shut even though they were already painted closed by the darkness, his mouth clenched, gritting his teeth, thinking only of one; his sister and his father; family. He had heard screams but assumed they were what would come from the collection, keeping completely lifeless, clinging to the steel railing and at times ducking as he heard the rampant rush of feet pounding the steps, clearing his tiny body as they leapt into the darkness and away from something obviously more frightening than he. What came after that could have been anything and could have happened to anyone. His mind offered him little support and maybe for the better. Maybe he shouldn’t know what lived in the dark of his mind, in the recess of his memories. Maybe a boy should only feel that kind of fear once in their life. Whatever the reason, when it was he found himself clinging to the metal railing on what he knew must have been a stairwell because of the cool draft running through the 197


centre of the room, his mind failed to make a back-up. But finally after what felt like an eternity, he was free and he despised that hornet’s nest so much. The Collective and especially those White Hearts were viscous savages. Under the guise of well-being, they committed daily torture on the innocent and weak Famined. They would speak of love, while they tore out your heart, they would speak of liberation, while you were bandaged in their binary bondage, they would speak of peace while they whispered sweet insanity into your dreams and they would speak of war while they cowered behind great walls, feverishly domesticating their enemy but never fighting for anything greater than the keeping of their own specific delusion. He hated everything they stood for. He hated the white heart they wore on their chests. He hated the orders that commanded their focus and the men who gave their orders and he hated what they had done to his family, what they had done to his sister. But she was free now and she was with their father and they would be together soon and they would go to New Utopia and they could be happy again, away from the remnants of a squandered humanity. He longed so much to see his sister smile again and to be held in his father’s loving embrace; the three, united and complete; a family.

198


0011001000111000 There was an air of difference fermenting throughout the complex. As much as she would have liked, she couldn’t remove the morning’s confusion from her mind. She kept visualising the complete abandon of the city centre, something she had never witnessed or even thought probable. For even in the absence of movement, all things seemed to gravitate towards the centre. It is where they were, it is where everything that clung to the last threads of civilised humanity; or at least some primal learned understanding of what it meant, gathered and waited for normality to return; for ‘they’ to fix everything and make it all better. For The Woman, to see this City structure so hollow, vacant and erased was haunting to her. All the necessary parts were there for a living breathing City. It looked alive and functional but there was no blood pumping through its veins, there was no pulse and there was no energy; regardless of how tenuous it might have appeared in the better sight of contrast like an aged body that had never been lived or had never had a soul; that had never been occupied but of whom looked just as tired as everyone else, or like a suit that had never been worn; affected by time but curtailed beyond its yearning. As she sat in her class midmorning; watching The Children draw images of fear and disillusion she thought of many things. She thought of the empty streets. She thought of being woken to the sight of war at the foot of her bed. She thought of their ushering through The City amidst a circle of black; seeing only shards of The City’s vacuity through the gaps where the men’s bulky frames curved to and away from each other letting light and peculiarity sneak into their sight. She thought about the difference in her lover’s eyes; how the milky white seemed to invite her into drowning; their gravity, heavier than a thousand suns. And she thought of her own reflection; how in the mornings and in the eves just been, 199


how she, for what seemed like the first time in her life, had found recognition in the face looking back. She had seen the repugnant scars on her belly and her face; the ones that centred on her alienation from her lover and from which drew the stellar part of his grievance, darken to the colour of her skin and her cheeks flush and pinken like a spring flower until her beauty and symmetry had returned. And she thought of how the sickness that curdled in her stomach, made her feel homelier than the learned, practiced, fabricated and fictitious plastic smiles that drew wide upon her every passing of Mother, Child and Father inside this philosophical circus of the bizarre. The Children all had their eyes tied to their pencils, leaning their faces onto their resting outstretched arms; drawing in one hand and losing feeling in the other. They all stayed in the same artless posture scratching away in absent intention at the paper while The Woman sat emotional; looking at, but also through, each and every one; caring not for what they did, but unto them, what might be done. She thought about the violence they endured. First the passive violence of being born into this pathetic forgotten city and then being ‘saved’ by these self-proclaimed philosophical thinkers who treated these Children’s minds like scraps of paper, etching away at the depths of their subconscious influence and thinking that when they made a mistake; regardless of how deep the impression, that they could just erase it all with some ‘Telling’ or ‘Loving’ or some inane rhyme that if they repeated over and over would; like a fracture on an arm, make them stronger and more resistant to the stresses of their sick mind experiments. Then secondly of the direct administered violence by the hands of those loving them, thrusting them head first into a well of dizzying trepidation that should they fail to surface, would; without a moment of indecision or supposed care, count them off as an objectionable number, a transposable statistic for a fraudulent mathematical agenda attempting to trick mother nature into giving back something that they in the first place had willingly given away. 200


A sense of compassion washed over her. It flooded first from her belly to her toes and as she squeezed, the warmth rushed through her veins and filled her face bringing tears to her eyes. She started to really love The Children and in that loving she thought about setting them free; free from the reach of these maniacal scientists; free from the grace of her lover’s heart. But what did it mean to be free? She thought of drowning The Children. She remembered how the screaming in her mind would vanish when she submersed herself in water, holding her breath until she burst upwards choking for air like a new born baby. When she remembered being under the water, a sensation of calm washed over her, just like it had in that moment; one of tranquillity as if returning to a natural universal state; immersed in essence. She returned her thought to drowning The Children and a smile swam upon her face. There could be nothing closer to freedom than returning them from whence they came; back into the waters of nature’s womb where every particle and atom wrapped itself around their trembling bodies and carried them away from this unjust existence. When The Woman pulled herself from her magnification, she clapped her hands and signalled The Children to put down their pencils and be At Peace out in the courtyard. The Children all left in single file, passing by her table and stacking their pictures on top of each other on her desk. When they were gone, she sorted through the papers taking each one and looking at the extent of their fear. They drew so marvellously but it was so wrong that they should have such a grip and connection to absolute fear. Neither Child attached this much clarity and definition to love. All of the pictures were the same except for one; where a Child had drawn their fear and the image although scratchy and weak was very clear. In the picture sat The Child’s mother, staring listlessly into a void with a tear running down her face while behind 201


her stood The Collector, with his slicing weapon drawn, held high above The Mother’s head with only an air of chance standing between her bare white neck and the glistening blade.

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0011001000111001 “What are they?” asked Marcos in a mix of wonder and dismay. “They are a solution; maybe not the solution but one of many until we are fateful enough to stumble upon the one and only. What you see here is order and progression. Now, the result may still need some tweaking but the effort on our part, on the science itself, is undeniably splendorous if I might say so. This here is evolution; theoretically it is what nature intended all along. You see that splice of our DNA, it has so much potential and in theory it had perpetually gone to waste” said The Elderly Scientist. The two men looked out over a railing where below them a giant area was segmented into glass boxes where in each box of differentiating size, a human in white clothes was being exposed to a variety of regimented tests and experiments. The humans in white had tubes coming from their temples that were tied off to boxes at the far ends of the rooms. The boxes had dials and digits and men in white coats sat by the dials, augmenting them gradually as the humans in white underwent physical stresses. “This is what you’re experimenting on? This is your version of a cure; perfecting the disease?” Marcos said. “You’re looking at this through a glass eye. You saw yourself, in the previous rooms. We are working hard to re-establish the empathy gene focusing on the re-learning and loving of Mother to Infant. What you see here is the recycling of our knowledge and resources to focus on understanding better how to make the caipirinha a little bit stronger. If this is evolution then it will not go in reverse so we need to adapt our thinking to nature’s intention. Man went back into the jungle yes, but not with a banana, with a shotgun and man went back to the sea, but not with gills, with submarines. We all want to get back to the same place; some of us are just designing more efficient ways of getting there. Nature took us from our womb, so we built The City. Nature took us from our 203


Mother’s breast and so, we conceived an Industry. The Industry was nature” said The Elderly Scientist. Marcos stared vacantly out through the glass cubes. “No? Okey dokey, take this picture frame for example” he said, pulling an empty broken picture frame from a table near the two. “Now a long time ago this frame had a value, it was property, a symbol of identity and it was sold in a store and I assume along the way someone bought this frame and well, somewhere down the line it ended up here, in my hands. Now the life of the frame is not important but when this frame was sold it came with a picture inside; a charming family frolicking in a park, the happy young couple doting over their blonde haired child, picking flowers from a garden bed; or something like that. Now the picture in the frame wouldn’t serve the frame’s ultimate potential. The idea was that one would be enticed into the design, take the frame home and replace the photo with one of your own; your family, your pet, your lover, whatever the occasion may fancy. We’re doing the same thing. We see the empathy gene as not essential to the frame but merely an average representation of human idealism that could be easily mass produced for the sake of species replication; like having a system whose only intelligent command is to back up. Instead of the cute blonde haired boy, we envisage a picture of a young Adolf Hitler, Ivan the Terrible or a sardonic Jesus Christ. We are removing the back-up command and replacing with something more appropriate. For instance, in this room you will see one of our first experiments. This infant is only a day or two old. She was collected yesterday I believe. Now for the first weeks; now I say weeks only if it responds to our formulae, if not than these experiments run anywhere from three hours to one and a half days, until it is officially brain dead. Anyway, in the first weeks its sight is not very functional so we expose it to sounds. The Infant’s ears respond very well to hissing, creating a sense of calm. We try to assume the complete opposite. Our focus is to incite pure terror and have the infant nurture this sensation as the foundation of their emotional 204


reserve. Now our goal is not to frighten, we don’t want to weaken or inhibit the child as it grows. Our aim is to galvanize the infant’s subconscious state into one of absolute abomination and have the infant grow around this state so that its being; its state of one, is in fact, pure unadulterated evil; as my charming meta-colleague would put it. You know, it wasn’t so much the image, but the usage of colour that made religion so interesting, but that’s a direction we can take at the end of the tour. Anyway, where were we? Oh yes the car. No wait, that was before. Oh dear. What were we talking about again?” he said, left of focus. “We talked about religion, I said that religion was colourful and that’s not bad and before that we, ah, yes, unadulterated evil. You know I could have just said evil but its adjectives that make communication special. Accessorise your speech, that’s what I always say. Well I don’t say it. I mean, not all the time, well never really but, you know…given the right context I could see that as being a great moniker. Do you ever think about this sort of thing? Anyway, umm… ahh yes, oh this is beautiful. Look, here at this Child” The Elderly Scientist said, pointing to a window beside Marcos where an infant lay on the floor in a sticky tar substance that covered its back and neck. The infant sank just up to its ears; enough so that with every movement, its skin pulled agonisingly as it tried to return its cry back to the ceiling. There was a man being choked next to the infant’s ear as it cried hysterically into the air and a couple engaged in sadomasochistic sex at the far end of the room. Marcos couldn’t look any more. It was perverted and horrific. “What do you hope to achieve? What is the result of this science?” he asked. “Sex and death are everything. Zero and one, love and fear, the void and infinity, production, destruction, creation, extinction, I could keep going. The infant, is exposed to both elements in its most, humanely bizarre, to put it laymanly. The sex and death are perpetuated throughout the experiment. Each party stays in a state 205


of unremitting climax. This man never goes and that man never comes” he said laughing. “Sorry, bad taste, but yes we extend their suffering. Neither experience is pleasurable. I am really eager to see the outcome of this experiment. The idea here is to replicate or manipulate some gene that could assimilate as for instance, the Stalin gene. It’s still is in its infancy, I want you to see some work that has been running for some time now” said The Elderly Scientist, leading Marcos down a set of stairs where they came to a set of wrought iron doors, one on either side, both evasive about what they kept inside. The Elderly Scientist pulled open a sliding grate on one door showing a girl; an adolescent, sitting on a chair with her head looking to the floor. Her long hair hanged down over her face and her arms rested on her legs, coming together just in front of her knees and her fingers; laxed and open, catching the cool breeze coming from the ventilators behind her on the walls at the back of the room. The girl was dressed completely in white; white pants, a white shirt and bare feet; her pale and fair white skin dressed against the filthy concrete floor and on the girl’s chest; barely visible under the swish of her long straight black hair, a large black heart. Marcos stared through the window at the girl as if he were staring at the devil incarnate. The hairs on his neck tingled, his stomach felt heavy and his head light. His heart pumped waves of adrenaline through his body, fastening the go at his feet. “Who is she? What is she?” he asked shakily. “She is the first Black Heart” said The Elderly Scientist proudly. “What have you done? You’ve ruined everything. This was not what I imagined. There is no humanity in that Child” he said angrily. “Yes, she is amazing isn’t she? Her name is Eve. We are all very proud. She really is quite remarkable. It took a lot of research and a lot of science to create this girl. She is evolution; the next human, our replacement” said The Elderly Scientist. 206


“But what does it matter? It’s all ending, we all know. Without the empathy gene no infant can survive, there can’t be more than fifty years left; until we’re no more present than a blue sky on a cold grey August morning. You wasted your time, you’ve wasted all of our time; for this, monstrosity” said Marcos; an accepted defeat serenading in his voice. “It is true, the current dilemma addressing mankind does assess some limitations but this is the beauty of our creation” The Elderly Scientist said, clicking his fingers towards another man in a white coat standing back at the top of the corridor. The Man in White entered the room with the screaming Infant and interrupted the man being choked advising the administrator to halt for a few moments. The choking man fell to the floor gagging for air, his neck raw from the cord that tore through his skin, enough just to perpetuate his suffering, but not enough to kill him, at least until the influence was at its completion. The man in white took the crying infant and dressed it in a white cloth enveloping the tar that for the moment would be too difficult and time consuming to remove. He took The Infant down the corridor to the door where Marcos and The Elderly Scientist stood then opened the door and left the crying Infant on the floor which by now was red all over from constant screaming in underived frustration and desperation for sustenance; be it from a Mother’s breast or the gentle kiss of a Mother’s heart. The Man in White left the room, locking the door behind him and The Elderly Scientist invited Marcos to attention, the two men watching through the window; a double sided mirror, as the girl dressed in white with a black heart on her chest stood up from the chair and took the crying Infant into her hands and held it high in the air so its screams passed through the ventilation and out into the hallways where The Elderly Scientist and Marcos stood. The Black Heart lowered the infant to her sight, her mouth dry with not a flicker of emotion on her face at all. She took the screaming infant and sat down on the chair. The Black Heart lifted her stare to the two men looking through the window and hissed 207


vilely, her saliva spitting from her mouth onto the window and diluting their sight. Marcos flinched overcome by surprise, not at the girl’s hissing but at how she nursed the infant out of its frustration and into sleep. “She isn’t pretending. This is real” said The Elderly Scientist smiling to himself. Eve lifted her head to look at the two men she knew that were peering through the slit in the door. With one hand she pulled the hair from her face and her emerald green eyes pulled both men into distraction. “Milena? That’s her. That’s the girl” said Marcos pushing his face against the glass. “Who?” said The Elderly Scientist. “She came to me. She told me about Safrine’s taking” he said. “Oh, the twin. Her trials are fascinating. No, Eve doesn’t leave these laboratories” The Elderly Scientist said. “Are you sure? It’s impossible. Her eyes. She was in my office” he said before punching at the door, beating with the hammer of his fist. “Milena” he screamed. “Please refrain from creating a ruckus. She cannot hear you. Any outside stimuli could interfere with the cerebral experiments so her room is completely sound and light proofed. Please just refrain from hitting the door, I don’t like loud banging. I have an irritable bowel and well, loud banging causes this glitch in my brain like a domino that runs through my whole system and you know, for all the gizmos we have down here, you’d think they could put in one accessible toilet. I have to go all the way to the main office and you saw yourself, that’s just ridiculous. In the new place, I want a toilet on every floor” he said complainingly. “But that was her, in my office” he said, ignoring the scientist’s rambling. “It wasn’t her Marcos of Importance” he replied. “You mentioned a twin. What twin? Safrine? The Child?” he asked. 208


“Oh, she is no Child. She is special. She’s the reason we’re moving. A very long time ago, some wonderful physicists split an atom, the effect was marvellous; such universal power. Well, we intend to split a twin. We still have to find her other half to finish the equation but when we do…. Well, let me tell you the science we are achieving in this new age is so far beyond the conscious limitations of the empathic era” said The Elderly Scientist boldly. Eve smiled as both men continued speaking but remained profoundly lost in the magnificent colour of her stare and with her free hand pulling away from the hair that she tucked behind her ear, she rested the back of it against The Infant’s cheek, stroking it lightly before reaching around the back of its head to the other cheek, clenching firm and pulling her fingers over The Infant’s chin whilst smiling at the two peering men. She then ripped her hand back under the Child’s head, breaking the infant’s neck in one swipe. Both men jumped back in shock. “What the fuck?” screamed Marcos. “That, Marcos of Importance, is perfection. She did that just for you. You really should say thank you. I tell you, it’s never easy to witness; the sleight of hand from one extreme to the next and her senses; wow, I think she could be omniscient. If she knows everything, would that make me the father of everything? She has so much potential. This is just a start mind you, but one hell of a start wouldn’t you think? Obviously with the move in the coming days, we don’t have the time frame we would like to wrap up this experiment but for the meantime, she is close to perfect. In another month, I firmly believe she will lactate as for the moment she merely cradles the infants to their death. So much better than what some us have received from life, yes? In time, she will be ready to conceive. That is of course when we can create an ideal partner for her. This may take some time. The male gene has proved more difficult to produce solid results but we are highly confident” said The Elderly Scientist. Marcos was speechless. They had taken his intention, his philosophy and turned it on its head. They had found a cure for 209


The Famine; to start again but this new human, was it better or worse? “We’re not moving. The Nest stays intact. And this, this bizarreness, it stops now. Do you understand me?” he yelled. “Rhetorical I assume but nevertheless, Marcos of Importance, I admire you. Your ideas were very naïve, but with them look what we have managed to achieve. Not even a god could do what we have done with our limited resources in such an oppressing environment. You have the god gene in you Marcos of Importance. Whether you accept it or not, creation is in no way born from womb of intention. This girl, she is your genesis” said The Elderly Scientist. Marcos looked through the window. The Black Heart held the infant close to her breast gently rocking back and forth. “How does this help the rest of us? What about The Famine? How does she cure The Famine?” Marcos demanded. “There is no cure. The best hope is what you have. Your philosophy is perfect Marcos of Importance. You will not create a new hope or a new gene with your song and dance, but you will sustain the hunger until you bargain with death; you can continue to live in some sort of a society. Has it not been fun? It’s no different to what was. This burden you wear of always sustaining and containing the feverish Famine from destroying your City; this has been the adage of governance since the dawn of man. You don’t remember do you; the lights, the sounds, the images? They worked tirelessly, the governments and advertisers and churches; day and night, just as you do now, to feed a Famine just like we have now. Nothing changed. They thought they were saviours too. The conscious mind is a baby’s rattle, nothing more; a device for distraction; like a pinball machine. Insert the right information and it will bounce around in there fooling the participant into thinking they are doing something; participating. There is no cure for this Famine. There is remedy and in all honesty, I like your approach. It is very intellectual, very refined. You were an artist before; in the days of identity, yes? You have the god gene Marcos of Importance, 210


you are special, like her” said The Elderly Scientist. “What is in the other room?” asked Marcos. The Elderly Scientist smiled and turned on the round knob opening the door to their right. Behind the door was a massive room and inside an arsenal of weaponry and crude ammunition. “Welcome to liberty” he said. Everywhere Marcos looked stood machinery of some sort. There were vehicles fashioned like metallic war horses and catapults and cross bows and guns; they were uncouth looking, but they were guns, hundreds of them and on the tables in the distance, what looked like bowls of black powder. The machines interested him more. He walked into the room with The Elderly Scientist in tow, running his hands along the sides of the metallic beasts. There were scores of them. He imagined they could carry several hundred through any environment, and bring unto it, the grace of war. “How did this come to be?” he asked amazed. “The large one, the one with the booming voice and calamitous hands, he brought us the parts. We have an engineer in our team. I must say I was very sceptical about the whole science of engines, I mean a monkey could put one together but I must say he has done an outstanding job” said The Elderly Scientist. “But how do they run? There hasn’t been petroleum in over fifty years” said Marcos. “These here, the larger ones were adapted from early models of Norse fighting vessels; leg power. This vehicle seats a hundred men at its core who provide man power to project the vehicle. It still amazes me how after all these years, the power of simplicity. Once these vehicles are in motion, it will take a great deal of convincing to bring it to a stop. The final parts arrived yesterday. These smaller vehicles, combustibles. Those drums in the corner there, ethanol. Quite impressive wouldn’t you say?” said The Elderly Scientist adopting a hubristic tone. “How long has this been in production?” Marcos asked. “Well, I have been here for at least twenty five years, but 211


before my time, who knows exactly” said The Elderly Scientist. “What? But that’s impossible. The Collective have been here for ten. This didn’t exist before me” said Marcos in disbelief. “Said The Child to The Father” replied The Elderly Scientist. “At a guess, the machines, maybe for the last eight years and the laboratories have been functioning for more than fifty, I couldn’t tell you exactly but what I can say is that a lot of hard work and preparation has got us to where we are today” said The Elderly Scientist. “Why didn’t I know about this?” Marcos asked. “We thought it wasn’t necessary until now” said The Elderly Scientist. “Who sanctioned this? What is the reason for this?” he demanded. “Isn’t that the universal question; purpose, identity, belonging? You know I once…” Marcos pushed The Elderly Scientist into one of the machines leaving him hanging on by a word and he stormed up the stairwell and into hallway and followed the winding corridor out into the main room where several men in white coats sat around a table drinking tea. Marcos was white, completely unsure of what to think or say or do. He looked down at the scientists sitting at the table. “Tea?” said a man in white offering the flask to Marcos. “Please” he said extending his hand. One of the men in white coats leaned to the bench beside and pulled a cup bringing it back to the table and filling it with amber fluid. He passed the cup to Marcos excitedly. Marcos put the cup to his lips and drank long of the hot liquid ignoring the pain as it seared the roof of his mouth and throat on its way down. “This really is impressive” he said as he lowered the cup and left the room in blatant self-preserving negation of what he had just seen and heard.

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0011001100110000 As he walked back along the corridors the flux of people passing his sight seemed to melt into one another, creating a blur of an off white colour swirling in and out of the blacks of the soldiers marching up and down the halls. His head felt light and swimming, he couldn’t sustain his focus, trying to visualise the metallic sink so he could flush all of this distraction down his conscious drain but it was no use. His mind was stained, dividing upon itself infinitely, never reaching zero, severing every inch of reason in half and in half again and in half again and in half again and all he could do was ride the wave of nausea that broke against the shore of his trembling gut, riding up through his centre and disgorging from his mouth and for a fractal of second, taking him with it, out in to the air, free of his corporal bind, free of his subconscious rebellion, free of being proven wrong and free of knowing it the whole time. The force in his stomach burst like a volcano and he vomited profusely. He listened to the reprise of laughter and Collective prose. Love as one, live as you love, love as one, live as you love. These words were his own but now they echoed through his being and fell shy of definition. A feverish sweat billowed from his forehead. His eyes glazed, his mouth parched. His ears screamed the distortion of humans chanting. He couldn’t make out a word. As he tried to focus, another wave of sickness enveloped him, sending his heavy stomach to his mouth again. He could feel a thousand hands all over him trying to straighten him or move in in some direction. His mind floated above his body but still his sight fell on the black lines and the zeros and ones. He fell back against the wall dropping to his knees, holding his hands to his eyes and he threw himself into every breath wishing to spring from his mortal coil and evaporate; into the nothingness, into the cold air, into the dark 213


expanding glue of the universe; into a dream. His sight spun in all directions, the sound killing time in his ears, just an audible blur; and then everything turned to black. When he woke, he stepped into his already open eyes. They had been open for some time; maybe they had never been closed. There was a blinding light coming from above, nothing natural and not something that could or should exist, not now, when for so long, night had been an ineludible acquaintance; the emotionally repulsive parent who kept coming home. The light burning his eyes was warm like the sun but it was whiter than the white in The Woman’s eyes; it felt like a thousand bees were trenching their stingers inside his eyes. He tried to blink, to close his eyelids but he couldn’t find the controls. He tried to scream and he did so, but nothing came out; he was couldn’t find his voice. No sound came from his mouth and no sound travelled through his conscious mind where he stayed, watching through the luminescence, listening more intently now to the sound of familiarity. “It’s worse than we thought” said one voice. “What can be done?” asked another; it sounded like The Woman, she sounded almost honest in her care. “At this point, there is not much we can do. It’s acted extremely fast, as you can see; he is in a vegetable state. We haven’t seen The Famine this aggressive before and it’s worrying. We will try everything we can, but I think at a certain point you will need to accept that the Marcos you knew is no longer with us. We are looking at right now at the best case scenario” said the first voice. “So that’s it? He’s just going to lie there staring at the roof ? How did this happen?” she screamed in a different direction. “You must have seen it’s commence. Was he acting funny with you? At Distraction, dreaming, irrational?” spoke a third voice, hauntingly familiar, deep and booming; The Behemoth. “He was seeing people. Two girls. One he said was an adolescent. And he was talking strange; really paranoid” she said. 214


“When was this, the speaking in delusion?” asked the strange voice. “Today; before. I could have helped him. I knew something was wrong. He’d never spoken to me like that before. We hardly ever spoke. I should have known something was really wrong. I should have helped him” she said. “How could you have known? You share no empathy with this man; your love in theoretical. Now, you shared a bed with him, yes? At this point we won’t need to quarantine you but we will ask that you remain under protection, at least until after the move; until we can assess better your situation. We still aren’t completely sure, the limits of infection but this type of Famine is completely new to The City and I can only imagine the ease in its wing. Had you engaged in sex recently with Marcos?” asked the strange voice. “Why? You think it’s transmittable?” asked The Woman frightened. “Now I know this will sound silly and repetitive but have you been enjoying the sensation? I mean afterwards, did you feel any likening to Marcos after the act; any pardoning of transgressions, any false appreciations, anything at all?” asked the strange voice. The Woman’s mind instantly filled with the closeness she had felt; the tenderness of Marcos’ firm hand on her breast, his spread fingers then running down her chest and the length of her body to her inner thigh while his delicate breath splashed across her bare skin, her hands outstretched; running through his hair. As she screamed in delight, a shudder of electricity parted from between her thighs to her heart which beat rapidly a warmth that rushed through her veins which then tingled at her toes and numbed them, leaving her conscious mind alive; exploding with colour and forgiveness. “Nothing” she said, knowing too well what cruelty was dressed upon The Collective should anyone show the stresses or the psychological rash of The Famine. “To be sure, we will keep a White Heart with you at all times, to protect you from yourself ” said the strange voice consolingly. 215


“We can’t leave him here though. We have to take him with us” she said. “With us, where? Where are you going? Don’t trust him. You can’t go with him. What is going on here?” Marcos screamed; viscerally into his own conscious, but his body stayed still, his corporal voice; silent. “I’ll have The Engineer prepare a device to secure the travel of his body. I promise you, we will find a cure for this horrible affliction. For now, according to Marcos’ request, I will convene with the generals in the coming hour and we will make preparations for moving The Nest” said the Behemoth. “Moving, are you sure? Is it necessary? Marcos never mentioned anything about relocating. He was so confident, so assured at least, that’s what he had me believe” she said. “There was a lot you didn’t know about this man. For instance, did you know that he was thinking of leaving you behind with the greater part of The Children? He said they; and you, didn’t function in his grand design and that you were an anchor to something that he couldn’t transcend; something you both lived once before. He didn’t say in any detail. He didn’t have to. The passion in his voice spoke of treason, his words and his heart painted you as his Judas” said The Behemoth. The Woman looked over Marcos’ still body at first in shock and then with contempt and an expected want of surprise. They had been pulling apart for so long; like a universe from one event running farther from itself, until like their love, it was cold and distant; slowing and painfully drifting to its inevitable end. The Woman leaned in and stared him deep in the eye. Marcos was screaming but she could not hear. She leaned close to his ear and a tear rolled from her eyes as she confessed. “You were right, I’m sorry. I wish I had of said it sooner. I wish I could take it all back. I’m sorry my love, I’m sorry, goodbye” she murmured. She kissed his cheek and her tear ran onto his face sliding down the length of his neck and pooling just near the tip of his 216


spine. She composed herself and moved away from his body. “Do what you need to do. The man is dead, but his philosophy is king” she said giving permission to the scientists to dispose of his lifeless body. “Organise your things. Organise your Children. We leave on the fifth new dawn, on a cold grey August morning” said The Behemoth to The Woman, resting both of his firm hands on her shoulders and directing his assuring sight to hers. Marcos was screaming and writhing but his body wouldn’t move; he was trapped in the vacuum of his conscious mind; aware, awake, but unable to communicate. “Dump his body in the black river” The Behemoth said to a White Heart guarding the door. The Behemoth looked over his still body and like The Woman, leaned down to his ear to whisper quietly. “It really is impressive tea, isn’t it?” he said, collecting in a small canister, a single tear that had run from The Woman’s courageous heart, down her lover’s cheek and pooled just below his shoulder; on the cold steel table.

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0011001100110001 As The Woman sat in her class she thought of Marcos lying there on the table, snuffed of life. Worry gripped at her breast for she knew that she too had been succumbing to the illness and that in these past days, like her lover, she too had been slipping in and out of distraction. Even now as she sat in front of a class of Children all beaming in her direction, she was still and not At Focus. She could see that they were there, that they were looking straight at her, waiting for a command and waiting for her attention. She could hear the sound of ruffling paper as The Children scrunched sheets between their fingers and she could also hear the sound of tapping feet on the cold floor. She could see and hear reality; she could sense it and map it out in her mind. She knew where she was and what was expected of her and she didn’t care, not in the slightest. She envisioned Marcos; his body laid out like some ornament with everyone about discussing what should be done, how it should be dressed and where to adorn it. His exposed and naked body was still and white, his face numb. As she stared into the image in her mind, the face contorted until she saw her own looking back at her from the cold metal tray with sunken cheeks, sores ravaging around her mouth and her neck with her depleted breasts sagging like two empty sleeves and her weak bones extruding from her pale blotchy skin. She looked over her dead body and felt as if she had passed beyond life, beyond the denial they dressed as optimism, beyond the fear they dressed as love and beyond the addition of ones that amounted to nothing. She felt light and kind at heart but as she returned to her skin, she felt scared. “What if this happens to me?” she thought. She had never been alone; not for as long as she could 218


remember. They had done, since the blackout a great deal of memorial repression. It was the will of Marcos that for them to survive they had to let go of their past and establish new horizons; to abandon expectation and a desire for things to be like they once were. When the darkness fell on The City, so too darkness fell on her memories; The Woman she was before all of this and The Woman she was, before Marcos. And although she had felt like they were moving farther apart, she cursed at the thought of them never being together. Being alone scared her. Being alone, now; in this, terrified her but she couldn’t let on, she couldn’t let anyone know or they would leave her behind; worse yet, she would be tortured and excommunicated, sent walking into the land of the dogs with her tongue in her hands. She pulled a smile over her face and led The Children in song.

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0011001100110010 In the interrogation room, The Man sat strapped to a chair; his hands and legs bound. His face was drenched; his hair stuck over his eyes and his beard dripping freezing cold water onto his lap and then onto the floor. His neck was red and looked painfully sore. His head hanged low with his eyes rolling to and fro. He was conscious, but barely. An array of cruel looking instruments lay scattered on a metal tray on a portable metal table that sat behind him. To his left sat an odd looking box with many dials and colourful displays. There were wires coming from the box and they travelled to the far end of the room and disappeared under a sheet of black plastic. Also attached to the box were several marked wires that led to two sets of metal prongs with plastic bulbs on the end of each one. The ground was covered in rubber matting except for where the man sat. His bare feet pressed against the cold concrete. The water rushing from his hair rushed down his legs and pooled at his feet. The Man’s clothes were removed and his skeletal frame shook fractiously as a strong cold breeze swept in from a vent behind him. His teeth chattered unendingly and reaching out from the leather straps, his fingers twitched and scratched at the metal grating covering the arms of the wooden chair. The sound of both hollowed out the silence that permeated through the room. The Man lifted his head up. His eyes were blood red, tears and broken capillaries. His wet hair no longer covered the scores of thick red marks across his chest. There was little blood but quite a great deal of swelling. When the cool air touched his worn skin he thrust about in agony. Behind the man a metal door opened and a White Heart entered the room with a small container. He walked from the door, 220


around the front of the man and back through the metal door without missing a beat. As he passed the man, he emptied the contents of the small container onto his bare chest. The Man screamed harrowingly, his tongue sticking far from his mouth as if to guide the torment out of his body. He thrashed about for several minutes before falling into unconsciousness momentarily. The Behemoth pulled a seat from the far side of the room and positioned it in front of the seated man. He sat down with a cold look on his face, the mask he wore every day of his life. He waited patiently and quietly until after fifteen or twenty minutes the man woke up panting and screaming again. “Safrine” The Man screamed. ‘Can you hear me? It’s your Dada’ he yelled into the air shaping his soul into the sound of his voice and willing it through the concrete walls to wherever they took the young girl. He remembered the sound of closing doors as he was being beaten horrendously only hours before. The two were taken down together to the same part of the complex and he knew that she must be close. It must have been her in one of those rooms. She had to have been able to hear his heart cry out. But why couldn’t he hear hers? Surely nothing this cruel would be done to a child. “Welcome back” said The Behemoth as The Man lowered his stare from the ceiling to the gargantuan man sitting at his front. His eyes opened and shut rapidly trying to squeeze out the water that flooded them and to attract some focus in his perspective. An undefeated smile bravely worked its way onto his face. He tried to retract his mouth but it was agonising. Several of his teeth were now missing and those that weren’t were more painful than the spaces left behind. Still a sense of worn accomplishment dressed his beaten face. He breathed heavily and spat in the direction of The Behemoth. One of his teeth bounced off The Behemoth’s knee and onto the floor skidding from the cold concrete onto the 221


rubber mat where it came to a stop next to what looked like a bloodied fingernail. The Man breathed in and sighed massively, and The Behemoth leaned forward to pull the hair from his eyes. The Man tried speaking but could only make nonsensical sounds. There were three cups of water on the table. The Behemoth pulled one of the cups from the table and offered it to the man, holding it to his mouth and securing his head as it lent back to take in the liquid. The Man coughed and splurted water and blood through the air. Some of it landed on The Behemoth’s shoulder, chest and face. He wiped away the red liquid from his chin with the sleeve of his shirt. The Behemoth took a sip of water before saying, “It’s ok, I’m not going to hurt you anymore than you already are.” The Man laughed, jerking his head forward and choking on some blood in his mouth. “Dere’s no pain worse dan what I carry in me heart” he said. He tilted his head to the far wall and returned to Marcos with an anguished look in his eyes. “I know she’s dere. I can’t hear her, but I know she’s dere. She’s near. She’s so beautiful, me daughter. Like her mudder” he said choking on air and spitting blood onto his lap. “Exactly like her mudder” he said smiling. This time his smile pulled across his entire face, the joy in his heart surpassing any pain his mind could conceive. The man lifted his head again to his left, his eyes rolling far to the side. As he did his smile widened. As he thought of the girl, his blood warmed, his heart thundered and his veins bulged from his lacerated skin. “You wear dat heart on your chest. Why? A bit fuckin ironic, no?” asked The Man. Under a sheet in the far end of the room, tied to a metallic table, a body lay still in the confines of shadows far from the light of the two men conversing. The body was still, but ‘in conscious’, Marcos fought to manipulate his state of corporal disconnection, 222


willing his fingers to move but only doing as much as flooding his conscious prison with screams of disheartenment, like a puppy, suffocating in the backseat of a car on a blistering summer’s day; unable to undo the locks in its confines. Marcos focused on the two men speaking and travelled closer than the sound of their voices. He attached himself to the sound of droplets of blood, falling from the man’s wet mouth onto the pool of water below his feet. With every tiny splash, Marcos washed his conscious drought and tried to find some current that would drag him from his state and carry him anywhere far from here and as he reached with his every being he caught the tail of a warm droplet that ran into his conscious theatre coating the screen red. He sat in the only seat reaching towards the screen to touch the thick residue that poured onto the floor and puddled at his feet, like the man at the other end of the room. His ears tuned now to the sound of the man’s beating heart; every thump squeezing his conscious theatre in around him. The man’s pulse sounded like the beating of a child’s heart. “Do you want to know the model?” asked The Project Manager. Marcos looked at The Woman who was gesturing to say yes but Marcos spoke for her, shaking his head. “No” he said. The Project Manager looked at him oddly. “Marcos, don’t be strange” said The Woman. The Project Manager then put a kind hand on that of The Woman’s. “It’s ok my dear. I’ve heard stranger. Now the process has just started so we have a long wait ahead until we extract the product so I want you to take this pamphlet here and read through in your own time.” He handed the pamphlet to Marcos who looked at the cover briefly before folding it in his back pocket. “Is that it?” asked Marcos pointing to a small discolouration 223


on the screen above them. “Yes it is. It’s just a mix of cells now” replied The Project Manager. “Still it’s exciting though” said Marcos animated. “I suppose” replied The Project Manager hesitantly. “Marcos please, you’re embarrassing us” said The Woman trying to hush his insanity. “Now let’s see if this cell is active or not” said The Project Manager putting a microphone to the Woman’s attenuated stomach. Marcos stared at the tiny discolouration and lost himself in the thumping of the product’s heartbeat. His blood felt warm, his heart felt heavy, he was awash with love. “Sir” spoke The Project Manager. “Sir” he spoke again. “Sir” he spoke. The thumping echoed in his ears as the man clenched his fist. “Sir” he said again looking straight through The Behemoth. “Can I see her?” the man repeated for the fourth time. “Who?” replied The Behemoth. Marcos was now woken from his delusion and brought back to the two men in conversation outside of the plastic that wrapped around his body. “My daughter” replied The Man. “Tell me about New Utopia and I won’t torture her” demanded The Behemoth “You’re kiddin me. You’re doin dis for New Utopia? A story? You’re fuckin right crazy aren’t ya? Where’s de udder one?” he asked. “What other one?” “Your boss man. De tinker, de smart one. Where is he? He doesn’t know I’m here, does he?” said The Man. “You see that black bag, behind you over there in the corner?” said The Behemoth twisting the man’s head to the rear of the room. 224


“That’s what we call a democratic shift. Now, my time is pressing. Your daughter is in a room down the hall, completely alone. She is drugged and connected to a host of tubes as we speak. Whether or not she comes off those tubes and walks again without the aid of surgical intervention depends entirely on how you answer these next questions. Do you understand?” asked The Behemoth. “Yes” replied The Man. The fight in his voice that had welcomed The Behemoth was gone. He only thought of his poor daughter, suffering alone in the dark, something a child should never have to do. The man was willing to do or say anything to bargain her release. “Do you know where it is, the city of light and sound?” he asked. “No. But I heard about it since I was a boy. Me grandma, she told us tales about dis place where de lights never dimmed and where de sound of yesteryear, de endless echo of speakings once spoken reverberate endlessly troo de bustle o deal and play; and where man and machine come togedder like da tide unto da sand. It’s just a story, it’s not real” he said. “Your daughter seems to think it’s very real?” said The Behemoth. “She’s a child, of course she does. I told her dose stories just like me grandma had done ta me. It’s fantasy it is. Designed ta occupy the fright of children, take dere focus off o dis” he said shaking his head in a circle hinting to the world and destruction that abounded them. “You’re very interesting. I haven’t seen a father, a real father in such a long time. You would give anything for her, yes?” “Of course.” “And you would say anything to protect her.” “Of course” he said again. “Even lie to me?” asked The Behemoth. “No I wouldn’t do dat. I’m tellin ya the troot. On me mudder’s soul I’m tellin ya the troot. I don’t know where tis. It’s just a 225


feckin stupid story” he said fumbling over his words as tears filled his eyes and a tremor danced at his chin. “You’re a man of religion as well? Well, you are indeed a surprise find. I really wish I had more time with you, to study you. Do you believe that I will violate and torture your daughter?” said The Behemoth coldly. “Please no. For christ’s sake please, she’s just a wee girl. She’s innocent in all dis. I’ll tell ya where it is. I’ll tell ya but please, let er go. For da love of god, let er go” pleaded The Man. “I believe you. You don’t know where it is, but I know a secret. A drugged little girly told me you know where the old man is, your drunken disgrace of a father and his bitch mother. How old is she anyway?” he said not expecting an answer. “She’ll outlive you mate” replied The Man. “Where are they? I know you know. I know the boy knows but he’s not with us anymore” said The Behemoth. “Whatta ya mean? Ya fuckin killed him? Ah fuck, son, Jesus fucking christ, ah fuck, this is not how did was supposed ta play out. Ah son, I’m sorry. Jaysus” he said, his guilt beating his consciousness into submission, an apology, the only thing he could offer. “What da fuck is wrong wit ya? Did ya not get hugged as baby? Did ya not get ta watch da telly? Someone fucked you up royally as a boy. I feel sorry for ya, I do. It’s not yer fault. Yer just a big fuckin baby. Yer sad; and dats sad ya know. A man o yer size hurtin little kids, da same way dey hurt you. Just fuckin goes in circles” said The Man. “Shut up” said The Behemoth, taking buzzing cables from the table and pushing them into The Man’s groin. The Man’s body straightened violently as every muscle in his body tensed. The final teeth in his mouth shattered under the stress of electricity coursing through his body. The Behemoth held the cable to his groin for fifteen seconds, enough for the man to soil his pants again and the skin on his crotch to boil into large blisters. “Now, I am going to ask you to focus just a little bit harder. 226


If you don’t, I will strap you to this cable while I rape your daughter and eat her bony little body in front of you. Do you understand? Do not push me to certainty, you will not like me” he said horribly. The man nodded his head. “Now, where is the old man” he said. “There’s a path that starts past the old station, over the bridge. Follow that path for a day or two. You’ll come to a fork in da road; take the left hand path along da trail o skulls towards da black city. Ya gotta cross troo da city. Pick yer own pat. Deres only one way out but a lot o ways ta get dere and a lot o bad tings along da way. At da end o da suburbs you’ll come to anudder fork in da road. Dis time, go right. Follow dat path until da river. Me pa and grandma, dey’ll be waitin by a boat. Dere on da road now. Dere old, but dere not slow. On dis journey, ya need more dan strong legs to carry ya troo. Ya need sum fuckin fait. Dats all I can tell ya. Dey’ll wait until de tird sun kisses da clear sky, den dey take de boat on up da river. Dats it. Dats de honest troot. Let her go, please” pleaded The Man, coughing blood and falling short of breath. “She’s dead” he said coldly. “She died screaming for her father. She died alone” he continued. The Man surged with a visceral warmth, his eyes swelled and tears flooded his face. His scream ran through the room and bounced off of every wall. The Behemoth leaned in and took his tears in a small canister; winding the lid tight and putting it into the pocket of his pants. “You love your daughter. I mean you really love her; unconditionally. These tears are not yours. They are hers. It is amazing. Now they are mine” he said. The Behemoth stood up and took the cables that were on the table and dropped them in The Man’s lap. As he walked out the door heading towards the general assembly, hundreds of volts of electricity soared through the man’s body, lifting his skin from his bones as a foul odour filled the room and invaded the conscious prison of Marcos who remained trapped, in cerebral limbo. 227


“Your children survived” he said in finality to The Man in his last conscious moment. The Man died painfully but quickly, his body was already in massive defeat having been trampled upon since the early hours of the morning so the last stand was more of a rapid fall and before The Behemoth could close the door, his screams silenced as his life travelled along the open currents and scattered into the open air mixing with particles and molecules to attach itself to new life. The Behemoth left the room and passed a scientist waiting outside. “Prepare Eve” he said.

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0011001100110001 And where is Marcos?” asked The Administrator. “When do we part?” asked The War General. “We leave on the new dawn. We are still waiting for The Engineer to complete some final parts. The machines should be ready by the close of the sun and we can commence the rounding at the darkest part of the eve. You should all prepare your command. This will be done with order and with progression” said The Behemoth. “Are we taking everyone?” asked The Love General. “This is absurd. We’re not prepared to move The Nest. The numbers are too great. It’s logistically unfeasible. You’re all speaking like animals. This is not what we represent. We are The Collective, we stand together; united under the orange hue of The Forever New Dawn. We’re working for humanity here. You can’t do this. You can’t just leave them all to die” screamed The Administrator. “Nobody will be left to die. There will be a humane cull. The Teller will ensure that those affected are entrenched in their subconscious slumber. They will feel and know of nothing. Each of you will be given a number at the end of the meeting. This number will reflect the amount of space you will be given aboard the vessel. I will not interfere with your better judgement. You alone decide which of your states are necessary and which can be left behind. There shall be no panic, so refrain from allowing the nature of our activities to become mass conscious” said The Behemoth. “Where are we going? And where is Marcos? Why am I the only one here asking this question? Where is Marcos” asked The Administrator. “Marcos is dead. Unfortunately he is no longer with us. The Famine took him. But his philosophy, his vision, the Forever New Dawn, lives as our direction; as our faith, and we owe all of what we are today to this great man and we shall honour his greatness 229


by living in excellence and taking his word with us into the new frontier” said The Behemoth. “Here here; to new frontiers” said The War and Love Generals; raising their fists into the air. “What about the Mothers, they have no representatives here. What of their say? What will happen to them?” said The Administrator. The War and Love Generals looked on disapprovingly. Both thought the same thing, how timely this opportunity was to rid themselves of this molecular parasite. Neither put their thought to prose but both knew from the look in their eyes what the other was thinking. “We have no need for them where we are going. We will hand them over to nature and let her scandal determine their purpose” said The Behemoth. “How long is this voyage? What of rations? Our containers are bled, the crux of our rations are almost entirely depleted. What will we do for food?” asked The Work General. “Improvise” said The Behemoth. “Cannibalism?” said the Administrator shocked. “I can’t eat another human” he said. “Then you will die hungry. But don’t worry, we won’t eat you. I couldn’t stomach the taste. We’ll feed you too the dogs, and eat them” said the War General laughing fiendishly. “The test of our faith is upon us. Let me say that it is true, it could be easy for us to try and save everyone and in doing so, lose everything we have fought so hard to construct. We do not wake to knowing of our fate; it calls on us with its own intention. For some to die, for the good of many, is a noble cause indeed. Think of them as your mast rides high in the wind, as your liberty sails at your back. Gentlemen, attend to your focus. We assemble before the birth of the new sun. Saddle your selves with reason. Love as one” said The Behemoth. “Live as you love” the generals said in unison as they all parted from their tables and made their way down to their 230


prospective states.

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0011001100110011 As the sun pulled high above the day; the minuscule of light trying to bore through the thickness of the cold grey cloud that suffocated the skyline, Donal sat with the matted dog beside him, staring and waiting still, for his father and sister. Time had passed and they should have come by now. The sun was now moving into its final passage, escaping the reign of night. He wondered for a moment if he was waiting in the right location. It had been so long since his father had shown him these streets and these places and he could have quite easily gotten confused, especially in the absence of light and in the drunkenness of being rife with exhilaration and fear; the state he had been in escaping from the clutches of these mad scientists. He could have entered any building and now under the guise of daylight, he could be sitting on any road and he wouldn’t be any the wiser, except for a feeling in his stomach, like a stone that kept him pinned to the ground, anticipating and expecting. The Woman sat; held down by something heavy in her stomach or in the back of her mind; whichever it was, its command was duly accepted and so halcyon like she sat, obedient and expectant. Her ears quietened and she watched The Children running about the room, in complete detachment; an absent stare that had become her dressing room in the past days. She tried to contain her thoughts, to avoid the conscious slippery; the type that had undone her lover, but she couldn’t contain her misdirection. She thought about what The Behemoth had said; that Marcos had planned to leave her. Everything rushed about in her mind; the coldness of his touch, the sight of his back always to her when they slept and his focus; the strength of his focus, always on an idea grander than their love. Why couldn’t he think of her in that light? Why couldn’t it be just they; the shadow of enamoured lovers embracing under the orange hue of The Forever New dawn? 232


Why did everything have to be so ideal? Marcos; trapped ‘in conscious’ continued his will to move, to return to the controls and stop this madness. His sight was blackened by the sheet that covered his body but he could hear the rampant footsteps of hurried scientists rushing about following directives and the confused murmurs of White Hearts as an air of difference past through the minds of all and sundry. He writhed and wriggled and stretched and squirmed but he couldn’t fit his soul into his body. Instead a moment became him where the sight of The Woman came rushing upon him. A thousand images flashing in the life of a moment; The Woman with her hands outstretched, the defiant look in her eyes and how it stilled him, brought him to desire. The Woman; from behind, walking down a long winding street, her hesham bag over her right shoulder slipping down her arm, her books hanging tentatively and debating with gravity the height of their fall. The Woman alone in a park; reading from a book, the lush green grass enclosing around her soft white skin. The Woman having fallen; looking up to him and holding out her hand, seeing him for the first time. The Woman looking over her shoulder and leading him down an alleyway smiling as her black hair bounced in the light wind and her lilac fringe swished about her hazel eyes, never seeming to bother her. The Woman; tied to a table screaming. The Woman; on the dark end of a poison bottle. The Woman, like a cancer, all over him, her hand clutching and digging in, so full of emptiness until finally, The Woman; under a grey cloak, her hands bloodied and beside her, The Behemoth, faceless, concealing something in his great hands. The image shuddered and blackened, then emptied like a kitchen sink with a great thud. He didn’t feel it but his corporal vessel had for a moment been listless, floating through the air, cast out into the night by four great hands, swung low at first then 233


thrust upwards into the cold draft where it seemed to fly about until gravity took its orders and pulled his molecular vessel downwards, splashing into the freezing waters of the black river where the mischievous currents took it in their along the winding ring around The City, leading past the old station, along the highways that linked to the forgotten suburban sprawl and eventually channelling their way out to the Pacific like the roots of old oak bursting through the sidewalk crawling down the promenade looking for an open drink to quench its gargantuan thirst. As his body floated light on the rapid waters, his conscious struggle continued until his vessel caught on something and the torrent of water pressured his still body, flowing up and over the black plastic sheet; the head; his conscious prison, being pushed forward by the weight of the river, tickled, and he felt it and as the plastic sheet tore away and a shiny silver blade touched the grain of his chin, he jumped into his body, his eyes opened and he gasped for air, scaring the wilful intent out of an old woman’s hand. The Scientist sat in front of Safrine and gently started removing the hordes of tubes from her arms. The girl was groggy, still under the effect of the drugs that had been swimming in her system all morning. Her arm was bruised where the needles had been placed and when it was freed she pulled it against her body, squeezing to neutralise the pain that pulsated annoyingly. She was still bound to the sofa and seated upright; tight leather wrapped around her ankles and from it springing metal circles weaving in and out of link with one another; one, two, three, four, many links and many more, tied off somewhere out of sight, somewhere foreign to the cool breeze that swept under the door, the cool breeze that carried with it, the smell of carrion and to her, it awakened a sense of danger as the first state to address her conscious being. She started to thrash her legs wildly and scream but with her mouth gagged, only a faint muffle made its way to the scientist labouring to remove the tubes without rupturing a vein. In her mind she thought of her father and was haunted by the image of his voice at first assuring and calm, then mutating 234


into a contorted pig squeal as his warm chest was torn from her face and catapulted into the darkness. She loved him so much. As she fought her way into negated submittal, finally collapsing from exhaustion into her shackles, The Scientist called to one of his colleagues at the other end of the room. “The needle” he said, pointing to the table. The subordinate man in white brought over a large needle. The Scientist took Safrine’s free arm and gently caressed above one of her veins, flicking lightly against the skin until the blue rose from the white, past the yellowy brown bruises. He pushed the needle gently into her vein and the girl squinched, squeezing her eyes tightly before letting them go again, her body in seconds falling limp, her consciousness retreating beyond the sub-state. “Prepare the green liquid. She must receive the injection eight hours prior to departure. I have removed the fluids from her arm. If you can, stay with her and wet her lips with that water every fifteen minutes. I will return at the fall of the sun” said The Scientist to his subordinate. The Scientist left the room where outside the door The Behemoth waited impatiently for information on the girl, his mind raced, his veins boiled with nor adrenaline and his focus was sharper than ever. None of this came as a surprise, nor should it. The omniscience of a creator does not lend one to surprise but that’s not to say that one doesn’t attend to the marvel of one’s own genius in the coming together, of a plan. “Is everything in order?” he asked. “Everything is according to the script sir” responded The Scientist. “Then you know what you to do” replied The Behemoth. The Scientist went in his own direction while The Behemoth walked back along the winding corridors back into the open courtyard where Women and Children frolicked about in the open sky completely oblivious to the coming storm. He took the north path up the winding steps to the office of strategy where he took from a canister sitting by the oak table, a sip of a vile concoction, brewed 235


by the old drunk sometime during the rising fall of the age of information. The alcohol burned his throat and stung his lips. Only a few sips were enough to settle his mind and warm his stomach. Any more would have him drunk. The Behemoth stood in front of the window in a room that sat in a tower high above the Nest that overlooked the entire City, from downtown to the outer regions, to the old bridge that crossed the black river and out into the horizon where to the west, the barren land met with the cold Pacific Ocean. He could see in the distance that people were coming. Not some, not many but a great many, hundreds of thousands of many. People of all colours, people of all sizes, people of all descent. They all trenched along wet sludgy mud paths, cold concrete roads, cobble stone streets and gravel laced alleyways. They moved in all direction in a slow staunch unwavering rhythm. It was like watching a tidal wave gradually creep across a plain, sweeping up everything in its path, leaving only a sea of faces and the destruction to which they commit. They came from all the rounded edges of the horizon, men with their women marching as one, marching along with hordes of raucous children, marching with hungry venom in their eyes. In the distance, from the sea, moored thousands of boats and hundreds of ships and from them marched hundreds of thousands of men, women, children and dog. An entire ship of hounds had led the fleet, captained by an old sea scavenge, to the shallow reefs where man and beast dived into the waters and fed by their Famine, made their way like thirsty fish through the last kilometre of water to the rocky shoreline and up onto dry land where they followed the pungent stench of ideology onwards through the blistering cold and the clouded grey mask of day. At first they marched in group; the couples holding hand and garnishing weapons, the children; feverish, the plenitude of youth, of incredible number, volant and violent, moving through the human tide like an oil slick through the open sea. 236


In the distance, waves of desperate humans collided; coming together on all fronts like the joining of seas. They pushed into and trampled over one another trying to keep their direction and their pace. The groups fought and tore at each other’s skin with their nails, teeth, fists and whatever they could fashion as weapons. Eventually, the thrashing mesh of bodies came together in a new direction, pushing forward, driven by their need to be informed. The new fluxes flowed from all points, led by a revenging pack of hounds, their pace quickened and upon the Nest they came. Below him, The Behemoth looked down upon what had at first seemed like an inexpugnable army of men. But now in the wake of his foresight, they seemed paltry in comparison to what was about to wash up on their ill-gotten shores. The White Hearts spread out across the entire complex and out into the distance flanking in great number, several blocks creating an external wall of protection to the complex. They had been well educated and loved for this moment. Though their numbers were many less, their readiness for war was all the more transcendent. The men stood shoulder to shoulder, their eyes fixed at their front, their minds light, focused on their instinctive state of At War, ready to react, already a fist waiting to strike. Inside the ring The Behemoth’s eyes followed a team of commanders who had made their way from the complex and were out taking stock of the situation on the front. The men shouted orders and directives amongst one another and then split, yelling these directions to the men lined up about the region. There was a sense of approaching incident in the air, a climate of immediate volatility and imminent disaster.

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day 111

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0011001100110100 In the darkest hour of the eve, The Teller told his tale of tantalising terror. It whispered itself into the sleep of all the Mothers, Children and Fathers who lay together At Peace; its voice at first no louder than the sound of a tiny gust of air passing gently through the slips in a doorway; a sound that was sweet and curled into their ears, creeping into their thoughts to mask as their own conscience before forming to fill the space in their minds and to inturn paint their perception, describing the dream in avid detail; the despair that fed from the erasure of this City; the sprawl of greyish emptiness, their conscious purgatory. As The Teller finished its readings, its voice had contorted and built to a calamitous shriek as The Collective, in their suggestive sleep, tossed from one side to the other, unable to escape their cerebral torture as new truths unfolded in their minds until a word was spoken which invoked a gentle calm that fixed them into a longing slumber, one that would have their conscience quiet and at ease. Outside of the dormitories, in the highest part of the complex, The Behemoth prepared, pondering over the coming dawn. Below him men were circling and building fronts while beyond them, the stampede of desperate legs gained velocity and volume. They would only have several hours before the wave of violence was spilling at their shore. There was no time for complacency. “Have The Woman brought here� said The Behemoth to a White Heart who stood guarding the entrance. The soldier left his post and stormed through the complex, sneaking into the dark of the dormitory; from where The Teller had just been and not where it now was. The White Heart grabbed the woman, holding his hand over her mouth to quieten her fright then carrying her over his shoulder out of At Peace and through the complex while she continued to bask in a deep unconscious 239


state, led to water by The Teller’s tantalising tale. He then propped her lifeless body on a leather sofa next to where The Behemoth stood. A man in white entered and passed some salts under her nose which dragged her violently from her unconscious state, kicking and punching at first the man in white, then the White Heart trying to hold her back until he was ordered to leave the room. The Behemoth leaned down and undid her binds then returned his sight to the window. “This must all be very confusing for you” he said. “Is that supposed to comfort me? Is this you reaching out? You’re not very good at it” she said directing her stare around the room. She could see so much of Marcos everywhere she looked and she felt so angry; not for his intention, but for fulfilling it. He had wanted to leave her behind and no matter where she went or how far she got, he would have succeeded in his wish. She wished he was alive so she could scream at him and tell him that’s it’s not fair, that despite what happened, she didn’t deserve this. But, deep down, further than the echo of narcissus in her immolated whining; her first passage of truth where she negotiated through all the terms of negation, she knew that wasn’t the case. They both deserved this. Maybe not he; he didn’t deserve any of this but she; she most certainly did and her second wave of negation brought her to the belly of her subconscious where she confused herself into thinking she was accepting of the truth; recovering, but this fancy was just the other side of the same coin. It wouldn’t be long until her mind told her she was wrong again. And so, as quick as she found peace and reason, she lost it again; thinking that he was gone and would never come back, turning to anger and spite to protect herself from the sapping neediness of her yearning. “You will be travelling with myself and two Children. You will mother them through this change” said The Behemoth. 240


“What reason do I have to leave? My husband is dead, his idea; his grand creation is dying and the people he loved are tearing the last of it to shreds. Why should I run? So that I can perpetuate this foolish evasion and be chased by my own shadow and inevitably fall and die, with panic and desertion as my premise? Is this why I should run? Is this what you are running for? Marcos would never have run? His life was in building this nest, this home that has served us well for a decade and one that you abandon without an inkling of guilt. How can you not feel it? Why the fuck should I go with you?” she screamed, throwing a glass through the window and sending thousands of tiny shards showering down on the men below, causing them to cower to the floor, their skin cutting, their hands tied to their heads. “Why should I go?” she said. “Because one of the Children” he said, “you carry in your womb” he said.

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0011001100110101 As the darkest hour faded into the faintest light, the small matted dog curled up with the young boy on the side of the road, still trespassing through expectation, waiting for the boy’s father to come walking up from the horizon so the two could lift themselves from their stiff frozen slumber and start their voyage unto wherever it was that the love in their hearts could take them. Ruff lifted his head; his eyes were still glued shut but his ears pricked backwards and his nose starting working away at the shift in the air picking up a scent that caused him to marry with instinctual concern. A low growl became a natural way to rouse the young boy from his state of vulnerability. The boy pushed the dog and continued with his dreaming. In his mind he stood lost inside a garden maze. He could hear his father breathing somewhere through the mesh of trees that wrapped around one another and blinded the contours in their shifting direction. The greens of the trees flowed like a river; shadows of dark green floating across the constant of its lighter part; like the journey of a wave through the open sea, skipping over colliding currents riding the birth of a rising swell. The shades of green ran over and through one another, taking with them, the shape of the trees until before his sight and about his reach, every turn that had once been, closed its path to the young boy who still sat idle, in a shrinking maze. The sound of his father calling fell dimmer until there was nothing except for a girl’s whisper. He thought at first that it might be his sister. A shadow formed at the end of the green block where he was imprisoned. The shadow came closer moving with its head low, its hair hanging to the ground. It wasn’t his sister. He paced backwards, looking over his shoulder for what escape he had behind him or how far had had until there was nowhere to go. 242


He backed against the wall; the thorns digging into his skin; all the flowers that bloomed about him, withering in his immediate sight; everything was turning black. The shadow continued and the whispering worsened; settling in the recess of the weakest part of his being; the part that cared. The shadow stood at him now and reached out its hand resting on his shoulder. He screamed but his voice was lost in the gentleness of the shadow’s shushing. “It’s time to go” said the shadow leaning into his ear, pushing its way into his mind. “Go” it said again. Everything quickly reduced to nothing; a canvas of black, then the nothing divided; a tear in the void where a scrap of light shone through. Donal rushed towards the light and dove inwards.

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0011001100110110 She wasn’t shocked as much as she was simply uncomfortable in a truth that she had heard whispering from her sub-state for some time now; a feeling she had had once before but tried so hard to forget. The first time she fell pregnant, the news was devastating; in her youth, this meant the end so many things and she had tried on numerous occasions to rid herself of the of the virus camped in her extremes, unhinging her emotional state and ruining her preservation. The first time she tried deleting the pregnancy was maybe a day or two after she had broken the news to Marcos. They had just moved in together and their life had so much potential, it could have moved in any direction. They were young and the world was ideal and they thought about doing so many things, about changing everything. But that all changed and like a forest fire chasing the tail of a shifting wind, their world caught ablaze and the extremity of it all, the enormity of the challenge ahead sent her running straight into the inferno with nothing but the spit in her mouth to douse the flames. And the day following the new truth; when the sobriety of their celebration brought with it the cold thud of reality and the sense of desperate isolation, she panicked and locked herself in the bathroom with a thousand pills of a thousand names but only one solution when they were added together. She had been in there for only a moment or two with the door locked before the concern in Marcos’ voice turned from gentle persuasion to climatic coercion; screaming at the top of his lungs while beating through the wooden frames with his fists and smashing the lock from the door with the heel of his foot. By the time he burst in; his hands high in the air swinging down to strike at her face, she had already consumed a great deal 244


tablets; her mouth, a swollen sea of white pills that spilled out onto the floor as his hands grasped her throat cutting her supply of air and tearing her by the last breath of her will, from the roaring fire and back into the choking reality where all the possibilities she had known were no longer carved in her name; they would equate for everyone else. She didn’t think of running for a bottle of pills this time, something inside her, other than the thing growing in her womb, fed on her compassion; an uncommon emotion and preserving state that she could not comprehend but with it, she could not argue. Instead she left The Behemoth on a note that she would attend to her sickness. She was excused with the guard of a White Heart who walked with her down the winding stairs and out into the open air of the courtyard where now the darkness was peeling away and the thin light of day was claiming its right. The Woman gazed upwards and stood for a moment without rush and in silent appreciation. The sky was a light blue, something she hadn’t seen in so long. As light crept over the stretch of night and it brought with it an open sky, free of the cold blanket that divided their aspirations for an amount of time one would not dare to collect. It was beautiful, to see a new day being born and to see into the depths of the heavens. As The White Heart lowered his arms and disengaged his defences along with all those in the courtyard; bewildered and catatonic, staring up into the cerulean sky, The Woman slipped from his guard and stepped surreptitiously away into the retreating shadows against the walls of the complex and then ran through the winding corridors looking for the science rooms where she had last left her love. Whatever would happen, she wouldn’t let The Child die, but before whatever was to happen, she insisted on seeing her lover one more time before the currents of fate swept her into their direction and took her further than her fight ever could. As she entered At Science, she could hear the furious 245


passing of ideas and commands coming from one of the rooms at the far end of the corridor. The men sounded confused, rushed and desperate; always a poor combination. There were a row of five doors to her left and right. As she crept along the corridor, holding her breath to her heart, she heard the sound of a man cursing. She stopped suddenly in front of the door which was partly ajar and to assure the absence of her presence she peaked through the gap, pushing the door slightly to allow more light to fill the darkness. What she saw next was as much less expectant as what she then did, bursting into the room and from the table beside The Man in White, taking a length of cable that curled next to some cutters and a row of empty syringes. Not a thought entered her mind as her hands roped around The Man in White’s neck, digging her left leg hard into the ground, pulling her elbows close to her body, her left arm dead straight and her right arm circling the man’s head with the length of the cable, pulling it tight against his neck and leaning backwards, her left knee pushing into the man’s spine, her face glowing red, her eyes searing with hatred, the veins in her arms popping through her white skin and the man, flailing his arms uncontrollably trying to find the cable at his throat and end his play of death. The Woman pulled tighter and tighter until The Man in White fell completely limp, the syringe that was in his hand falling to the floor, rolling beside her feet. She didn’t let go of the cable until the rage that swarmed her had completely subsided, the young girl tied helplessly to chains with frightened eyes, watching the incident unravel. As her rage subsided, her veins; in its place, took flight with adrenaline and her hands started to shake uncontrollably; her heart pounded weakening her stomach yet again and directing her legs to run. What had she done? She looked desperately around the room for a key, something to remove the shackles from the small scared little girl. 246


She leaned down to the man in white brushing his legs with her hands trying to feel for something that could undo the locks; keys, a knife, a pick, a fucking hack saw. There was nothing. “Where is the key? I need the key, where is it?” she said to the girl. The girl didn’t reply; she was in a semi-catatonic state. The Woman ran to the table and scoured through the metallic objects throwing them around the room, her urgency lifting, in the back of her mind; standing over her conscious state she could feel The Behemoth and his army of goons rushing after her wanting to kill them both. “Where the fuck is it?” she said screaming to herself. She ran back to the man lying dead on the floor and brushed against his entire body. “They must be here” she said to herself again, this time tears welling in her eyes and her voice crackling under her growing dismay and negated defeat. “No, no, no, no, no” she said. “Where are the fucking keys?” she screamed. Her heart pounded faster, her hands shook more uncontrollably and her tears were impossible to hold back as she saw the young girl willing her to run with a muted cry from her wide sad blue eyes. The Woman stopped; her panic unyielding. She fell to the floor. She grabbed the length of the chains and pulled on them drastically trying in vain to tear them from their mooring. She couldn’t leave The Child, not like this. There had to be some way to free her. As she got to her feet a door outside closed and the sound of marching loudened in the hollow corridor until it stopped outside her door. The handle turned and light flooded into the room.

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0011001100110111 “Go” she said, her long hair covering her face, her hand reaching down to the boy curled on the floor pushing him into waking panic. Ruff was on all fours barking at the girl, pouncing back and forth with saliva pouring from his mouth, his fur on end, his ears pinned back and his tail low to the earth. The boy jumped from the floor and reached for the hook but it was too far from where he stood; leaning backwards with both hands held high defensively, protecting his face. The girl stepped around the dog who avoided her direction and instead continued pouncing away and barking, far from the potential swing of her arms of legs. The boy was stepping back and cowering. The girl laid her right hand on the boy’s shoulder and her left on his face; the warmth from her hands healed the cold disappointment that bored its way from the centre of his heart through to the pores of his skin. Her hair covered her face but he could see the morning light reflecting in her eyes and there was a colour he had never seen before; an emerald green and skin so fair; unhurt by the age of abandon. “Donal, we have to run, a storm is coming” she said. “I don’t know who you are. I’m waiting for my father and my sister. They’re meeting me here. I have to wait” said Donal, his bravery taken away from his voice, now sounding like a forgotten Child; stranded by the side of the road, catching every second that passed by, waiting for mother and father to remember that they had left their son behind. “Your father has gone on without you. I saw him; I spoke to him and you’re your sister, Safrine. They are safe, but we must go, we are At Danger here. They will meet you by the boat. Your father asked me to help you get there. You have to trust me Donal, we have to go” she said with urgency. 248


The dog was still barking but his eyes were out in the distance where the sound of thunder roared louder and from the horizon, a thin line spread up over the sky, growing like the rising of a black sun; a wave of uncelebrated devastation; coming, as one, with destruction as the principle of its canvas. The boy stood aghast and not believing; he had never seen such an amount of people in his life. His grandfather had told him about this; that this would come, but he had counted it as just another drunken tale, something to keep the Child at fright so they didn’t wander off alone in the night. There was a poem he would tell the kids to scare them into sleep; “When the tide of man lashes upon the tragedian shores, only the flight of love will carry you to salvation’s door” said the boy, recanting what his grandfather had sung to him as a young boy. He looked out in all directions, and felt the stampede vibrating to his feet through the loose gravel and shifting earth. He looked down to the dog which was by his side barking and growling at the coming threat, then looked at the girl standing before him, pulling her long black hair from her beautiful face, her emerald green eyes glimmering against the morning light, and a large black heart, drawn upon her chest. His eyes cast on the heart as he recanted the song again. As he sang, his mind filled with the words while his eyes followed the girl’s moving lips, but there was no trace of her words. “The flight of love” he said, looking at her chest. “Donal, we must go” she kept screaming eventually getting through to the boy who took her outstretched hand and ran with her back along the alleyways out in the centre of town where hundreds of White Hearts paced nervously and ran about shouting incomprehensible orders. They ran past the Child Market where Donal quickly turned his sight hoping in vein to see his father or hear his voice and then again, as the flood rushed upon them, he hoped that his father and sister were safe, far from this imposing danger. As they passed the cathedral they saw an old man in black 249


with a white collar around his neck; on his knees speaking to his palms; the heels of his feet shaking wildly in the air behind his body as his head bowed into wilful submission and fustian prayer. The girl pulled on Donal’s arm and; with the dog in tow, they continued their dash past the cathedral, down along the winding streets, past the tallest building downtown where the main entrance stood for once; unguarded. Down they went for several blocks with the horrendous roar on their shadow still deafening and urging them on. They ran until the boy collapsed under a sign reading Metro; out of breath and accepting of whatever fate scoured through the streets glued to their scent. The boy keeled over, the strength in his body obliterated. The dog lay down beside him, its hind legs pulled flat against the ground stretched out behind its body and the girl in white with a black heart on her chest, standing upright, seemingly unfazed, watching as the dog and boy fell into needed rest. “My name is Eve” she said. “I’m Donal” he said. “I know” she replied.

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0011001100111000 “Sir, she’s gone” said the White Heart. “What do you mean she’s gone? How did she escape your sight?” said The Behemoth. “The sky sir, the sun, I’ve never seen anything so….” “Find The Woman now. Focus. We don’t have much time. War is already upon us. She can’t have gotten far in the minutes she was out of your sight. Take as many men as you can and scour the complex. She must be with me on that vessel, do you understand?” screamed the Behemoth. “Yes sir” said the White Heart. “Love as one” said The Behemoth. “Live as you love” he said, marching out of the room and running down into the complex desperately with several other soldiers, screaming directions at one another and tearing through every room, turning every stone and hacking at every blade of grass as The Behemoth, staring out of the open window, felt his grip slipping. Everything was happening too fast. The Behemoth took some objects that were lying on Marcos’ desk and filled them into a black rucksack. He took one last look outside the window. The wave was coming; and fast. Below him, hundreds of White Hearts stood prepared for war but their preparation was not for this. They stood in rings around the complex to shield the initial blows as the wave with all of its feverish force swept obstinately, upon their roost. The White Hearts; all in a state of one; a readiness for war, were never meant to be anything more than a human sandbag, slowing down the initial impact, to give the generals time to man their vessel and set their course, and none of this was in their training. 251


The men below the entry stood staunch expecting only mild violence and for which they had a driving thirst. The White Hearts in the outer rings focused their minds on the orange hue of The Forever New Dawn but with every second the thumping of feet pounding on pavement grew louder and closer and with every breath, a dark ominous shadow fell over their minds as the orange hue gave way to a pitch black as their Forever New Dawn became a quickly setting sun. “Prepare to launch the vessel” screamed a general below. Men were running in every direction, pulling cables and clearing the courtyard. The Behemoth left the window and motioned down the winding staircase, a sense of anxiety burdening in his stomach. His mind was focused on The Woman. She had to be aboard the vessel. He stormed through the courtyard and towards At Peace thinking she might have made her bed with compromise and put herself with the other Mothers and Children. When he arrived at the dormitories the Mothers, Children and Fathers were deep in disconnection. The Teller had taken them to a subconscious hermitage; somewhere quiet where they could sleep through the thunder. The Behemoth entered the quarters and moved through every bunk looking for The Woman but she was not to be found. He left the dormitories knocking over White Hearts along the path that led towards At Love and At War. The classrooms were empty except for the remains of the day’s love and fear taking up the space in the room; pictures of their leader drawn in tiny hand in chalk and charcoal on the floor, on scraps of paper and spread out over all of the walls. Everywhere he looked; those eyes followed him, speaking to him. “Traitor”, they said. “Enough” he screamed, “I’m only taking what is mine. You would do the same thing if you knew what I knew”. The Behemoth turned viscerally and stormed back into the courtyard where a White Heart was waiting with impatience as his mentor. 252


“Sir, we can’t find The Woman anywhere and there’s been an incident; At Science. There’s been another breach” said the lieutenant. “Sir, The Scientist, he’s dead. We found his body lying beside a man in white. He was strangled. Both; I mean, they were both strangled. And sir, the girl is missing. Her shackles were untied. What do you want me to do?” he said.

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0011001100111001 The first wave hit the outer shield like a rock through glass taking with it, the men caught in sheer surprise falling over themselves in great number being swept up by the force of hundreds of thousands of men, women, children and dogs stampeding forwards, driven by their physical and psychological hunger and some unexplainable celestial reason to gauge an old assembly factory in a tiny insignificant town in one speck of the earth; as their north. The first layer broke without any fight whatsoever; the White Hearts folding like paper and the roar of The Famined; building in deafening ferocity as they sensed the nearing of their salvation. Onwards they stormed, the swell of bodies building and pushing the crest of the wave further and faster. With every step one would fall; a man, a woman, a child, whatever, it wasn’t important, not at this point. They would lose their footing and spill onto the loose gravel as hundreds of thousands of pounding feet stamped them into the dirt and continued pushing forward with new momentum; the face of the wave never losing its depth or force for behind it, the rest of the world, the last scraps of humanity fought with one another, fought with themselves to be the first to arrive in paradise; and claim its spoils. Onwards they stormed; a human flood, crashing against walls, crushing skulls and breaking bones, melting body with brick and taking with it, the structures that could not stand to human endeavour. Onwards they stormed seeing in their sight a line of White Hearts and silver weapons bracing for something lesser than this. Onwards they stormed through and over the White Hearts; some shrieks harmonising the bellows and animalistic roars as shards of metal pierced through the fragile skin of the wave, but with not enough wrecking to rechannel its direction or to slow its 254


celerity. It was like trying to stop the ravages of time with the power of denial. The wave continued, taking with it once again, the White Hearts who rolled about the dirt being beaten to death by the crushing of feet like hammers; swinging down hard from all angles, tiny feet, massive feet and paws catching on their bodies and propelling them backwards into the core of the flood to build their forward momentum; onwards, through the winding streets that now brimmed with starving humans, the agrarian and voided DeDMeN, Famined and without empathy; onwards, to their saving. The White Hearts surrounding the outer wall were now swept away by dread, before even the wave of Famined was in sight. The men looked at one another in trepidation and like their brothers before them, the focus in their minds; the orange hue of the Forever New Dawn blackened as a swarm of locusts molested their conscious minds; the buzzing stinging their ears and blocking the commands of the lieutenants and colonels screaming commands to flank left and to hold their position and for the love of the Nest and for saviour of The Collective and to love as one to be a fist and to look their enemy into their soulless eyes and to be war and to be one and to be At Focus and to be a fist again and again and again and then stand your ground men and then love as one and then we are war and then we are war and then oh my god, there’s so many of them and then be as one and then god help us and then fight as one and then die as one and then this can’t be happening and then only the screams and taunts of the growing wave as it pushed straight through the White Hearts defending the last piece of earth before the wave crashed against the outer wall; fracturing the structure but slowing the wave. “Launch the vessel” came a scream from within the complex. “It’s too late” screamed another.

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0011010000110000 “Over there. That’s where I got out. There, behind the big box” said Safrine directing The Woman to the containers at the end of the field. The Woman was exhausted but adrenaline kept her feet running and her mind alert. She could hear the pounding against the outer walls and the screams filling the air and it willed her on pushing her further as he feet sunk into the sludgy soil; she, trudging step by step, the eternity it seemed from where she was to where she needed to be; beyond the field, behind the containers where a tiny tear in the chain link fence would take them out of The Nest and on to some kind of freedom. Her legs gave way and she fell to the dirt, falling over Safrine who was crippled in her arms. The two collapsed in the mud only fifty meters from their escape while behind them, chaos ensued. The crack in the outer wall started as a small pressure burst; a tiny black line near the entry to the foyer, but in seconds the rear of the wave caught up with the crest and an incredible force pushed forward. Hundreds of thousands of hands launching forward into hundreds of thousands of backs; the crest of the wave crushing under the impact; the sound of suffocation and breaking bones echoing through the complex, sending a shrill of absolute fear through the White Hearts and generals rushing through the complex to board the vessel. “It’s gonna break” screamed a voice from near the foyer. The White Hearts standing guard dropped their weapons and ran towards At War where a hundred men dragging on a hundred cables were pulling a monumental metallic machine into the morning light. The sun shone down marvellously and even in the height of the fury, looking up and seeing a blue sky was the kind of bliss 256


worth abandoning one’s freedom for. Most of the younger White Hearts had never seen a blue sky. All they knew of was a cold grey August morning; as it was when the lights dimmed, as it had been when they were taken in by The Collective and fostered for this very moment. The wall broke and thousands of bodies fell flat on the ground while thousands more spilled over the top, crawling and clawing their way into the foyer and bursting through the main doors of the complex into the courtyard where White Hearts tripped over one another trying to find some direction; their stomachs sitting in their mouths, their legs trembling, being nothing like a fist. The Woman dragged her body from the dirt and wiped the mud from her eyes. The fence was just a short run away. She took the girl’s hands in her own and started her run, dragging the girl behind her like a sled. They made the last fifty meters in no time and she dropped the girl to tear the hole in the fence wider to be able push her through. The sound of screaming and breaking in the background felt like it was right at their feet. The Woman clawed at the chain link fence, screaming to the blue sky as she tore upwards. Her blood boiled, the energy in her veins was pure rage and preservation. In her mind she envisioned her lover lying dead on a table. She filled with anger once more screaming ‘It’s not fair’ into the morning air, tearing her fingers and throwing herself backwards as the fence bent and warped under the focus of her will but not enough to allow her to sneak through. She could only fit the small paralysed girl, pushing her tiny frame through the gap in the fence to the other side; and then what? She sat on one side of the fence in tears while the girl lay still on the other and in the distance, becoming increasingly less distant, chaos reigned down on the people she had been using to learn how to love. She rested her hand on the girl’s foot which still dangled 257


through the chain link fence and settled into the dirt in absolute defeat. As black smoke crawled up into the blue sky a giant hand reached down ripping her from the fence and dropping her body a meter from the girl’s foot. The Woman screamed. The hand grabbed at the loose chain link fence hanging freely over the fraught girl’s paralysed foot and ripped it up and back shredding the links like dried leaves. The hand reached out to The Woman with an open palm. She looked behind and saw nothing but her own fright. She had no choice. She took the open hand and was lifted from the muddy ground and was one her feet running through an open field; her left hand being pulled by The Behemoth and the paralysed girl secure on his shoulder. “Brace yourselves men” yelled a general from aboard the vessel. The wave pushed through the courtyard and along the paths that led to the four states of Collective being. The hounds moved first, through the corridors and into the dormitories where The Collective slept, deeply, at complete disconnection. The dogs rushed upon the sleeping bodies gnawing and tearing with their sharp teeth. They were followed by thousands of Famined who entered the dorms and tore everything to pieces, filling the space and bursting straight through the walls and continuing their destruction through the complex to At War where the wave rushed upon a giant metallic vessel; the force of the impact propelling it forward. The impact threw him from his seat and sent him crashing to the floor. The War General steadied himself and returned to his feet looking out from one of the windows high in the vessel where below him, the great metallic beast gained momentum rushing down through the complex smashing against and then through objects of all dimension and small buildings and people aligning the complex. 258


The wave of humans that had thrust into the vessel continued to flow but far from their reach, falling over and fighting one another but following intently, the vessel’s direction and momentum. In the lower quadrants of the vessel, hundreds of men attended pedals chanting and screaming as they pushed their legs forward, their hands gripping the railings beside them, their faces burning red, their state of mind, one, while a general on the main decking directed the vessel turning wheels and pulling on levers. While the White Hearts cheered and jeered in panicked celebration; in his chair, The War General sat holding a black device in his hand, sombre, assuming his command and watching a red light flickering faster as their vessel made its way under the open blue sky; its mast pulled high into the air to feed off the morning’s breeze and to rest the men’s tiresome legs after the initial sprint. The vessel pushed through the complex with the force of a god parting the skies ripping apart the outer wall on the north east quadrant, losing no momentum, heading through a grass range, trampling houses and people in motion; on the trail of Eve, the Black Heart. “What do we do?” said The Woman panicking. “Let me think” said The Behemoth. “We’re on our own. The generals are following the boy. We have to find him first” he said. “What boy?” she asked desperately. “My brother, will they hurt him?” said Safrine, waking from her frozen state. “Can you move your legs? Can you walk?” demanded The Behemoth. “No. Will I soon?” she said. “The drugs will wear off. We need to find your brother. He is with your father, they’re going to the boat. We need to find them, to help them. Do you understand? If the generals find your brother, they are going to hurt him. You need to focus Safrine. Will you save your brother?” he asked. Safrine looked at The Woman wanting some sign of 259


assurance and then back at The Behemoth looking at her like a father would to his child. “Trust me” he said, as the three started their search for Donal. “Let’s go, down there, we have no choice” said Eve pointing to the Metro entrance; its innards completely blackened, the dim sonance of low growling sat just above the broken tiles that piled up behind the boarded up doorway. Donal nodded, knowing too well that he needed to follow the girl to survive; to find his father; to find his sister. He lifted his broken body and ran towards the boards with his leg kicked; outstretched. His leg hit the boards and the shock shot through his body and he collapsed on the floor. Eve smiled kindly at the boy on the floor and then took the boards with her hands, tearing them off the walls like peeling a banana. “Come” she said offering her hand. “What about the hounds?” he asked distrait. “Trust me” she said. “What choice do I have?” he thought. Eve, Donal and Ruff dived through the doorway and entered the subway, heading down below The City where the dogs ruled; on their way to New Utopia.

260


0011010000110001 “His skin is so firm. Look at the contours of that face.” “Oh it will do for weeks, maybe months.” “It’s mine.” “No you silly billy. You’ll stretch it out. This one’s mine.” “We should tell the others. We could get in trouble.” “Shut up. Don’t be so weak. I found it. It’s my face. I deserve it. Besides it will look more beautiful on me, don’t you think?” “Can I wear it, just for a bit?” “No!! It’s my face. But I will let you borrow this one here when I’m done with it, but you have to promise to look after it. It has such a pretty smile. I don’t want you stretching it out.” “I promise. I’ll look after it, I will, I will. Are you going to cut him now? Can I help?” “Just hold his arms, in case he wakes; this one looks strong.” “Ok ok. This is so exciting. What will you tell the others?” “What do you mean?” “Well when you come back wearing this face, what will you tell the others? I mean you left this morning as a girl and you come back as a man, it’s a bit suspicious. They’re going to know you cut without permission. We’ll get in trouble.” “You let me worry about the elders, just hold his arms. Where is the scalpel?” “I thought you had it.” “No, I gave it to you. I specifically told you to keep the scalpel in your sheath when we came down the hill. You know how my hip plays up on inclines.” “Oh, here it is.” The Fat Old Lady wearing a young girl’s face leaned down with a shiny silver scalpel in her hand edging ever closer to the sharp jaw line of Marcos’ face. As the blade touched the cold white skin, his eyes opened 261


and the old hag shrieked, throwing the scalpel back behind her so that it sank into the impervious mud of the river bed.

262


end of b00k 001

263


husband, father, son, brother, philosopher, artist, writer, teacher, recluse

Also by C. Sean McGee: UTOPIAN CIRCUS (CITY b00k011) HEAVEN IS FULL OF ASREHOLES COFFEE AND SUGAR CHRISTINE ROCK BOOK VOLUME I: THE BOY FRM THE COUNTY HELL ROCK BOOK VOLUME II: DARK SIDE OF THE MOON ALEX AND THE GRUFF (a tale of horror) THE TERROR{blist}

StalkerWindows: BedroomWindow: http://cseanmcgee.blogspot.com.br LoungeWindow: www.scribd.com/c_sean_mcgee BathroomWindow: www.facebook.com/cseanmcgee LibraryWindow: www.goodreads.com/c_sean_mcgee 264

A rising fall (City Book 1)  

A Rising Fall is the first book in a dystopian trilogy entitled City:aliteraryconcerto. The story starts ten years after the blackout as a g...

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