The Liquor Seeker

The airlock slid open with a hiss and Tenaria fell through the yawning hole it had created. She gasped, the low oxygen levels on her own ship making her mind fuzzy and her chest heave with a lead weight. She’d been floating aimlessly through deep space for what felt like a life time and a half with no direction, limited supplies and lacking common sense.

Once her composure was regained and the room had stopped spinning she propped herself up on her calloused hands and scoured the deck with a wary eye. An ST-Bluebird if she was not mistaken, one of the more battered models. The low hiss of fluid steam and the absence of a rumbling engine indicated that a few upgrades had been made relatively recently; the Bluebird wasn’t known for it’s quite operation.

Staggering to her unsteady feet she crept forward, holding onto the sheet metal that covered the walls and drifted aimlessly down the very long, very copper corridor. The twists and turns it made confused her, most ships this age had a structured lay out, this was like nothing she’d ever seen before. Thoroughly confused and turned around she stopped for a moment to lean against the wall. Taking a deep, calming breath she leant her head backwards and sighed, feeling it bump against something jutting away from the cold surface.

Turning to look at it she raised one eyebrow at the painting of a squirrel in a top hat and monocle gazing down at her with a frown unrivalled by any she’d ever seen. Backing away a little from the obscure sight she tripped over a golf club lying clumsily on the floor behind her. Grabbing the wall, she squinted into the half light the emergency lights gave off and noticed the array of stuff around her.

An old typewriter lay on its left hand side, some keys missing and looking like a sullen old man’s face, grumpy and rejected. A top hat, several taxidermy animals the like of which she’d never seen before, a battered hover board and what looked to be a statue of Isambard Kingdom Brunel but without his right arm and a few bullet holes for good measure.

Wondering if she should turn back and take her chances with oxygen starvation her ears began to pick up the sound of soft music echoing down the long corridors. Placing one nervous foot in front of the other she followed the tune, the swell of the classical piece growing louder and louder. She recognised it, she couldn’t place it but she knew it from somewhere.

The dingy lower corridors gave way to bright, elegant rooms filled with brick-a-brack and odds and ends. Stacks of papers slid across the floor in little white and brown mounds, books flung open at obscure pages showed off theoretical physics, mythology, religious practices and music theory. Furniture haphazardly dotted the room and glasses of some odd brown looking fluid seemed to teeter on every edge. Tenaria sniffed one cautiously and recoiled from the sickly sweet smell.

Stepping over the skin of what looked to be a seven foot penguin and climbing over an array of cables she pushed on the wide wooden door before her; giving the golden, worn handle a shove. The swell of music hit her ears with a blasting force and sudden recognition poured in on her. The Star Wars theme screamed into her ear drums, as a live goat pushed its way past her eager to get out of its weird prison. Her mind whirled, unable to process what she was witnessing, but unable to ignore the man in the middle of the room.

“It’s rude not to knock you know!” He shouted over another great swell in the music. His long coat flowed out behind him as he leapt and bound about the space, waving what looked to be a fencing sword before his face. The blade zinged as it whipped through the air, the man’s shined formal shoes squeaked on the wooden floor as he pranced over a pile of books.

“Was that a goat?” Tenaria asked, a little afraid of the answer.

“A Triberian, Fillean Mountain Goat to be precise. My sparring partner, not the best I’ve had but he definitely has more skill than some.” He lunged forward and spiked a stuffed teddy in the gut.

“Haha! Have that Mr Bigglesworth!” Leaving the sword stuck in the bear, wobbling a little at the hilt he swished his coat off and threw it over the arm of one of the dusty old arm chairs. He looked every inch the gentleman in his well fitted suit, the red waist coat seemed to glimmer in the oil lamp light. Reaching a hand forward he gestured for Tenaria to take it; with some reservation she did.

“What may your name be Ma’am?” He enquired kissing her dusty hands and furrowing his brow a little at the taste. “Can’t imagine this is an official visit; you seem to have forgotten your shoes.” Tenaria looked down, a sudden flush of shame filling her as her black toes wriggled and left prints on the equally dirty floor. She opened her mouth to apologise but before she could muster a word, he had pulled her forward and directed her into the chair nearest the hologram fire.

“So, what are you? Criminal, gate crasher, smuggler, intrepid explorer of the stars …. mischief maker?” He cast her a suspicious eye and offered her a glass of that awful brown liquid she’d encountered on her way in from the decanter on the floor.

“A – a wander Sir. I’m lost.” She replied a little unsure of the drink in her hand.

“Ahah! I knew it! Knew it from the moment I saw you in that little box out there in the black!” He tapped his temple with one long finger, knowingly. He sat down heavily next to her and chugged down the last of his drink.

“Is there a story to go with that unhappy fate?” Tenaria gripped her glass and gazed down into its contents.

“No.” She stonewalled, unwilling to share anything of herself with this odd stranger. He gave her another look, one that was tinged with concern and questioning, but quiet acceptance.

“You should drink up.” He flourished, pouring himself another glass and lightening the mood.

“What is it?” Tenaria asked nervously, taking a tiny, cautious sip. Her face crinkled, she’d never tasted something so sweet, and the sensation! Little bubbles foamed across her tongue and tickled the back of her throat with long fingers making her splutter.

“This my dear, is the nectar of the Gods! Something quite wonderful but no longer in abundance, mores the pity. An old Earth drink, I have never learnt of its name but I believe it was quite the rage at one time in history.”

“But it’s so vile!” She exclaimed, forgetting herself for a moment.

“Pah!” He rounded on her, hand on hip, glass in the other. “You’ve had but a taste, what do you know? This is the soul meaning of everything on this ship. I risk life and limb on a regular basis in my quest for more! Do you want to know why?”

“I …”

“When I was but a young snapper of a boy, barely this high.” He gestured to some vague area, sloshing his glass as he did so. “I was digging through the rubble of forgotten dreams in my parent’s cargo bay, smugglers they were and they transported all manner of things across the stars. You know what I found? A small metal object, rounded and bright gleaming red. Not knowing what it was I hit it, I rolled it, I threw it and coming to no sensible conclusion at last I shook it, placing my ear to the can. Alas! The thing exploded right then and there in my hands raining down a glorious fountain of this perfect fluid. From that moment, I craved it, I longed for it and now I dedicate my life to the consumption of its glory.”

Tenaria was sure he was mad; a likable kind of crazy that she wasn’t sure she entirely understood.

“That’s your job?” She just had to clarify. “Searching for more of this stuff?” She rolled the glass in her hands.

“That’s it Miss! … Care to come along for the ride or shall we be sending you on your way once we come to a destination of your liking?”

Tenaria was not a girl with options. She had naught but the clothes on her back and one worn out ship. For all his flouncing something about the man seemed trust worthy and it was doubtful she’d receive another offer of travel anywhere else in this space quadrant.

“I don’t even know your name.” She said, allowing herself a small smile.

“I am the Seeker and this” he gestured his arms wide at the ship that encased them, “is Cacella. Welcome aboard, don’t touch any big bright red buttons, don’t agitate the goat and never touch my liquor without my permission.”

“Got it Captain.”

“Alrighty then! Onwards, to victory!”

Tenaria had never been so delightfully confused in all her life.

A Little Empty Space

I have a hole in me.

A little empty space,

A tiny whispering plea.

Small, slithering lines of black,

scaring as they go,

this unprotected little sack of soul.

The plod drags on,

a doom set into gold.

My hope not yet been shod,

cannot run to light,

but claws at my heart,

my hope no chance to start.

Yet within this blackness you come to me,

and hold a hand up to the hole.

You see an empty sea,

of despair within, something you can soothe.

You fill the hole with a blinding white light,

of joy to calm my soul.

Dacing on a Sunday Afternoon

I’m no good at slow dancing. I have two left feet at the best of times but at least when there is a thrashing beat I can wobble my body about to some kind of rhythm. My wife on the other hand moves like a piece of gossamer through the wind; all hips and legs flowing one movement into the other.

I always wanted to give in to her whim; to that perfect ideal of the two of us gliding bare foot across the kitchen floor on some lazy Sunday morning. Today I thought I’d indulged her.

I see her in a new light, her beautiful face lighting up with that smile that she saves just for me. She’s whipped her hair up into a messy bun, a few blonde strands falling down around her ears; effortlessly perfect. As I take her tiny waist in one hand and her delicate fingers in the other I can feel a happiness pouring into me, one that I have not felt for some time now.

This is how we should live, in that unutterably absolute moment, enjoying and loving the other in equal golden harmony. Her sweet face and perfect form flutters in front of me in her pure white dressing gown and everything else in this world seems to blur out of all existence.

As we skim across the tiles, the cold seeping into my feet she brings her head to rest on my chest, fitting around me as if she were made to fill up all my empty spaces. I gaze hazily over her head and look around with an unseeing eye at the flowers on the table, a small mountain of white and red. I don’t take in the cards; the scrawled words of comfort and sympathy, but I can’t ignore the urn that’s still sitting on the wooden surface, glaring at me with sharp disapproval for my blatant disregard.

Before I have time to savour the moment it is over, vanished an slipping from my grasp as she has slipped from me like water through a sieve. Now I’m just a widower, dancing on my own.

There

There’s an old Earth book, I forget what the title was, but it gave me the best advice a lonely little girl could ever have hoped to absorb.

“In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

“Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,” he told me, “just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.””

I liked it because it reminded me of my father. Every time my eyes skipped over the bold black lines that formed the words on the dull, yellow page I could hear his voice. Now, it drips with nostalgia; thick globs of memory trickle down through my brain and his face invades my waking vision.

My childhood was such a happy one, it seems like such a shame to spoil it. When I think of how we lived, free and easy, flying above the clouds in our little floating ship; I want it to stop there. Like re-reading a book you have devoured time and time again, knowing something terrible is going to happen to your favourite main character. Wanting to stop before you get to the part where it all goes horribly wrong but unable to put it down, entrapped and enslaved by the horror that binds you to the spot.

I never really understood what happened; I was only ten. We’d been sailing out from Eranta’s space port into deep space. We’d been in a hurry, I don’t really know why, I think Mother was a little ill. For a long time we drifted in space, in quiet blackness that was so different from the love and laughter I had known before. I’d been told to keep to my room and like the good girl that I was I didn’t question it; trusting in my kind Mother and Father to the fullest extent of the word. It was only when a whole day had passed and I hadn’t seen hide nor hair of either of them that I ventured out into the darkness.

A blue light above me flashed down the corridor, bathing everything in a sickly glow. Somewhere off in the distance I could hear the grinding, whining of an alarm bell screeching its endless siren.

“Da?” I called out, suddenly a little afraid. “Da?”

No one answered. My Father’s work boots sat outside my bedroom door, I’d been wearing them when the soles broke off mine. I used to sit in the hammock in my bedroom keeping them on with just the ends of my toes as I swung through the air gently, reading some old book or another. They felt comforting and familiar on my feet.

We were listing slightly, a tiny touch of the gravitational field wearing off as I have walked, half bounced down through the ship down into the living quarters.

“Mumma? Are you down here?” I pushed on the door to the living quarters and shuddered at the cold breeze that was rushing across the back of my bare little legs. The fire was smouldering, some embers left but nothing else. They always stoked a fire. It was so unusual for Mother not to have one going that it made my stomach sink right down into my Da’s boots and settle there, like lead.

I crept from room to room, questioning at every door and finding nothing. I finally reached the bridge; I wasn’t allowed in there, too many big enticing buttons for a young girl to push. I didn’t think they’d mind, not this once and it had been such a very long time now. So with shuddering hands I pushed open the door.

The alarm was louder in here, blaring into my ears and the shaky AI voice was screeching a warning through the rusting old speakers Father had never got around to replacing.

“Escape pod ejected, escape pod ejected.”

My eyes grew wide and I turned to look at the escape pod exit, through the square hole of glass I could see the air lock open into outer space on the other side. Straps and insulating flapped free in the still vacuum outside. I could feel the prick of tears as it suddenly dawned on me that my parents had abandoned me, for no good reason at all they’d left me here, ten years old and floating in space.

That was five years ago now. Five years of endless drifting in deep space, not a soul around, no sign of a habitated planet. I asked the AI to send us to the closest planet with registered life; she estimated it would take us twenty years. We ran out of fuel two months ago and even for all my rationing I used the last canteen of water and tin of food yesterday morning. I’d been feeling ok about it actually, knowing it was the end but when AI finally gave up two hours ago I decided to call time on everything. I can’t drift forever, with no food or water, no fuel, no comforting voice and companionship even if it is an artificial lie. I can’t drift with no hope.

I have had advantages, I’ve had caring and loving parents until something drove them away. I can’t help but criticise though, all the pain and the suffering and the abandonment I’ve endured does not bow to the philosophy I once held so dear. It is that quote that reminds me of my Father and how much of a hypocrite he was.

This will be my last entry. I’ll leave it unlocked on the system for you, whoever you may be. Maybe you can find the answers that I never had, maybe there are no answers to be had now. Whatever happens now, at least I will have a legacy. Even if my parents didn’t remember me, maybe you will.

Terry

I really should have picked up on the first hint. It was staring me right in the face but it was so subtle I just didn’t cotton onto it at first. Something in my life has changed; everything and nothing is different, I don’t know what happened but now, I feel like an imposter in my own skin.

Friday has crept up on me like the bad end of a surprise. I’ve been working such long hours, for so long that I barely knew what month we were in anymore let alone the day. The moment I cracked my eyes open against this morning’s six am sun I knew something was wrong. Sitting up and rubbing a hand across my eyes I took in the familiar sight of my bedroom, wardrobe door slightly open, the same bedspread, the Terry and Lea matching dressing gowns that I hated hanging from their hooks on the bedroom door, last nights clothes slung across the chair in the left hand corner; everything in its usual, messy place. I shrugged off the uneasy feeling that had taken up residence in my stomach and slid my way downstairs, stuffing my legs through my creased up trousers at the same time.

Gliding triumphantly into the kitchen, I tightened my belt to its usual fifth notch in and smiled at the back of my wife’s head for a brief second before it hit me, the second hint.

“Hey, er, darling. What did you do to your hair?” She turned her face just a little so I can see the side of her face in the morning sun, she’s juicing some smoothie thing for lunch later. I don’t need to see all of her face to tell that she’s frowning.

“Nothing. It’s been like this since forever, dummy.” I want to reach out, to take a strand of that short, brunette hair and tug on it, wanting it to come away and reveal the long, golden blonde locks I know so well. Not once in our ten years of marriage have I ever seen her with any other style.

“Very funny. Did you dye it overnight or something? That’s some dedication Lea.” She turns around fully now, frowning, as I knew she would be. She sticks a finger in her mouth to lick off some blitzed fruit and cocks her head to one side.

“Terry, did you leave your brain upstairs asleep? Look …” She gestures to the wall behind me where we have a few pictures from our wedding hanging. I peer at them, expecting to see the same thing I’ve seen every single damn day for the past ten years.

“I’ll be damned.” I whisper to myself as I take in endless pictures of us together, and Lea on her own, sporting that brown bob. The lengths change a little, one right up under her chin, another to her shoulders but it’s not long and it certainly isn’t blonde. I feel the bottom fall out of my stomach.

“Terry?” I feel a comforting hand on my shoulder. “Terry, are you ok, you’re a bit white.” I take a gulp of air and gather myself.

“Yeah, yeah I’m fine.” She doesn’t look convinced. “I must have just dreamt it, you know one of those lucid things.”

“Uhuh.” She says and kisses the end of my nose before sliding my lunch along the counter to me. “Get your butt in gear then or you’ll be lucid dreaming about getting a new job if you’re late again.” She slaps my dazed and confused ass on the way out of the door and before I know it I’m in the car, driving absent mindedly.

I fucking know she had never had brown hair, I know it in my god damn bones and yet here we are, all brunet and shit and I don’t know what happened. My brain chews it over, everything just feels wrong, the colour of the houses I drive past everyday seems different, the stop sign that I swear was never there before. I shake my head a little bit to clear my thoughts; these damn dreams getting in my head.

I pull into my usual space in the parking lot and hot foot it up the steps of the building two at a time, the office is quiet, Friday mornings are usually worked from home, or so many of my lazy ass colleagues thought. I reach into my pocket as I see my office door approaching on my right and swipe the shiny piece of plastic through the chip reader. It beep a couple of times and a light flashes; pushing on the door I heave in surprise when it doesn’t open. Scanning the card again I watched with round eyes as the light flashed red, my entry denied. I stepped back, confused, head darting left to right. This was my corridor, my floor, fifth door in on the right, this was my office without a shadow of a doubt. I scanned the card again, something akin to rage beginning to bubble up inside of me.

“Hey Terry!” Someone called me from behind me, I felt a clap on the shoulder and turned to see Jordan Stenmark hovering in the corridor.

“Hey man.” I muttered before turning back to the door.

“Trying your hand at a spot of breaking and entering?”

“Something’s wrong with my card. Damn thing’s broken, it won’t let me in my office.” My fuse is short today, super fucking short.

“Well, call me stupid and all but wouldn’t it help if you tried it on your actual office door?” I stop, card mid swipe and glare at him. Jordan frowns a little and gestures to the name plaque I’d not even thought to look at yet. I raise my angry eyes to the golden lettering that leered down at me, mocking me.

Jordan Stenmark 

Head of Sales 

I stared at it for the longest time, unable to take it in. First Lea’s hair and now this, something was wrong with me, really wrong. Jordan reached across me, his suited arm snaking past me to pluck the card out of my quivering fingers, placing a hand on my arm he led me across the corridor and swiped us in; I caught the name plaque on the way in:

Terry Harding 

HR Manager 

“What’s up Terry? Are you hungover or something?” He looks concerned, the same way my wife did. The office I’m in is definitely mine, just on the wrong side of the corridor. What the fuck is going on here?

“Do you want me to call someone, Lea maybe?”

“No, no. Just give me five minutes, I’ll be fine.”

“You sure, buddy?” I nod back at him, unable to speak through the whirring cogs of my mind.

I don’t know how long I sat; head in hands, staring at the water cooler bubbling away. There is a little crowd gathering outside my office, I can see their shadows outside the blinded window. Hushed whispers float through the cracks in the door, it sounds urgent, pressing. Maybe something has happened, maybe someone is ill … maybe it’s about me. A shiver runs across me and a great need to know what is being said fills me. I’ve never been the sneaking type but today, I have no self control.

I slid along the whitewashed wall, keeping to the tips of my toes desperate not to make any noise. I don’t want to be seen so I keep myself away from the window, and make it to the door. Pressing my ear to the crack, I hover my head away from the wood, the door moves in the frame and I don’t want to make a noise. When did I get so paranoid?

“He’s in there now?”

“Closeted himself in the first moment he got. I didn’t really get a chance to speak to him.”

“You could have pushed him a little harder!”

“Or yeah, sure and have the whole thing blown apart. I’m not that clumsy you know!”

“Fighting won’t help us now. Will you two calm down. How much does he know?”

“I’m not sure. I think he’s picked up on something, I’m sure of it.”

My heart is racing now. God what is this! What do I do? Jordan that dick, he’s setting me up in something, if only I knew what it was. I think about locking the door from this side and waiting it out but where is that going to get me? There’s no way out up here, no street facing windows. I keep listening.

“Did Lea do her bit this morning?”

“From what she told me he woke up shaken, but otherwise fine. She thought we were all on track.”

I take myself away from the door, unable to compute what I am hearing. Lea, how can it be true? Maybe she was coerced, forced into taking part … or maybe she is in on whatever is happening to me. I’m scared now, frightened to leave and frightened to stay. I don’t know what to do but I have to do something, and do it fast. I decide to make a break for it, it’s the only way. They don’t know I’ve heard them so if I just act cool, keep it together I can do this. I straighten myself and, rearrange my tie and ruffled hair; taking a deep breath I grasp the door handle with purpose and push myself out into the corridor.

The chatter stops instantly. Silence pours into the corridor and no one moves a muscle. I keep my hand on the door handle, not quite wanting to let go if it’s comforting metallic shape.

“Hey Terry!” Jordan says, a little too cheerfully. “How are you feeling buddy?” I do a quick scan of the people in the hallway, all faces I know; Janet from reception, Vince from tech support, Lance from security and a few others, about six altogether. I can’t outrun this many.

“Fine, I just want to grab a cigarette and a coffee.”

“Are you sure you’re ok Terry, you look awfully white.” Janet pipes up.

“Yeah Terry, you don’t seem too well.”

“Terry, is there anything I can get you?”

“Terry, talk to us.”

“Terry?”

“Terry?”

Time seems to stop and all I can see is this sea of faces pouring in on me from every angle, bleating my name and they just won’t stop. It’s crazy, they look crazy, heads all cocked to one side in mock concern. They’re my co-workers, people I’ve known for years but they’re not, they’re different now, something has changed.

I mumble something about needing air and making a dash, walking just a little too fast down the corridor and around the corner; shouts of “Terry, wait!” ringing in my burning ears.

I make straight for the car, keys fumbling in my hands, rattling, ringing with my desperation and fear. I jam them into the lock and throw myself in. I lose no time in jamming it into first and peeling out of the parking lot. I don’t know where I’m going, I have no money, no clothes, nothing but I can’t go back, and I can’t go home.

I wish I’d noticed that first clue earlier. I don’t know how I didn’t register, how I didn’t know. My name isn’t Terry.

Grinding Cogs

Peeking, and poking, and prying.

Fingers and eyeballs and pins and needles.

Crying babies and sobbing old ladies,

creeping and slipping their way into the square.

Little white circles, euphoric sensations,

pilling in like a motorway.

Redundant and proclaimed,

bitter faces swimming in a sea of pretentious Gods,

masquerading as good will.

I bend my face towards the sky and take in the clouded mass.

I fuzz and say:

“There’s music in the clatter of the clogs”.

The Silverlight Dome – Chapter 2

“That bitch is around here somewhere. Keep your eyes open, if we don’t have her by sunrise I will personally skin every last one of you sorry motherfuckers.” The big burly ring leader that had held Lilth hostage towered over the small pack of ruffians gathered around him. A little stream of angry spittle swung from his chin to mingle with the blood from his broken nose. They shifted nervously from one foot to the other, every man knew what Bolath was capable of and they didn’t want to push their luck.

Sneaking through the shadows the group of six moved like water, silent and sure footed. Not a sound could be heard as their soft, clothed feet padded across the soft sand street. Like cats they surrounded the first door, jimmied it open with an old, rusting screwdriver and flooded inside. A few seconds sweep of the building gleaned no results. Old, worn out furniture was tipped up, cupboards and closets ransacked; nothing. This process was repeated all the way down the street, the homeless and destitute dragged from their make-shift beds, dazed and confused.

They reached the fourth door. Grappling with the door handle the scrawniest of the group twisted and turned the rusted door knob to no avail. The group behind him began to titter and his cheeks flushed an angry red. Bolath, used one large, furry hand to yank the smaller man out of the way, impatience brewing up inside him, making his agitated. Using a little of his strength he ripped the door from its hole in the wall and threw it some way down the street, no longer concerned with the noise it made.

Forcing his way inside he filled the dark room with his vast body. Stooges poured in around him and searched the place.

“There’s nothing here!” One called from the back room. Bolath’s temple twitched and the men closest to him took a few quick paces backwards. In two strides he was in front of the speaker, grabbing him around the throat and forced him back against the wall.

“Nothing?” He snarled. “Is that what you said?” Before he could go on something fell from above, tapping him lightly on his naked head. A few bits of roof tile rolled down his back and plopped unceremoniously onto the floor. He looked up, still gripping his accomplice in a vice, his face turning a nasty shade of blue-purple; he caught the flash of a heel as it disappeared up into the rafters onto the roof. He dropped the man, now unconscious onto the floor and forced his way outside.

“Lilth!” He bellowed into the night as she leapt from her roof onto the neighbours, crumbling abode. His face become a beautiful shade of purple and blue mottled rage as she turned to blow him a kiss before disappearing off down the street; canvas bag draped over on shoulder.

“Get her back!” Bolath screamed at the men already scrambling after her. Pulling out their light dividers they shone the bright beams across the rooftops, catching a gleam of red hair and shinning brown boots.

Lilth could hardly breathe, the stitch in her side rendering her almost incapacitated. She pranced like a deer over the last few rooftops before she came clattering to the end of her tiled road. Without missing a beat she gripped onto the rusting old drainage pipe that was just clinging to life and swung herself around and down the side of the rickety structure. The pipe crunched and swung, the screws that held it in place flaking away from the old walls. Leaping the last two foot Lilth rolled into the dust, losing her bag in the process.

“There she is!” Someone shouted just behind her, the sound of running feet beginning to gain on her made her heart pound in her chest. Snatching up the bag she cursed as a few precious gems rolled out into the street. She gave them a longing look before pelting off down a side road, leaving little skids from the heels of her boots in the dust; oh how she hated anyone else touching her bounty.

Crashing into the next street she headed for the docks, there was a boat leaving for the Outreaches at sunrise, if she could just make it there before the sun started to peak over the horizon she’d be ok. Picking up the pace she ignored the screaming cramp in her calf muscles and carried on. She could smell the clean atmosphere of the air lock. This was it just a little further.

Something whizzed past her, grazing her arm. Yelping her bag slipped down around her elbow; a sudden pain in her upper arm and a warm, flowing sensation apparent to her. Reaching around she touched the hilt of a knife embedded in her flesh, puckering the once taught skin where it pulled and warped it out of shape. She didn’t have to pull it out, she knew if she took even a second longer they would catch her and she’d be dead meat.

She could see it, the great ship filling the dock like a great, flat dinner plate suspended in space. It was gently spinning, getting ready to depart, she was a fraction of a second too late. She was limping now, unable to keep her pace. Skidding to a halt at the end of the dock she cursed her bad luck, the goons were behind her, blocking her in, forcing her towards the edge. A face she recognised peeked out of the crows nest as it began to float down beneath her.

“Jaspen!” She called out, waving with her good arm. “Jaspen, wait!”

“Can’t now lassie! She’s afloat!” Lilth swore at the little old man staring up at her with confusion abound on his face. There was nothing for it, glancing back one last time she knew she had no other options left to her. Her wide eyes took in the sight of the great disk, rotating, floating down towards the hatch in the great glass dome they called home, its shining silver exterior cold and uninviting. It looked like her death. She took a deep breath, shook herself twice and jumped.

Bolath came to the edge of the causeway and looked down as the ship was swallowed up in the cloud that lingered at the bottom of the great glass bowl and howled with anger. He turned and strode away, rummaging in his pocket for his cigarettes and pocket communicator. Lighting a tar black stick of smoke, he kicked the smallest of his bunch of henchmen off the edge to alleviate his rage. Feeling somewhat calmer he raised the little black box to his face and pushed a series of buttons. An electrical crackle emitted itself from the speaker on the bottom of the box. Giving it a swift whack with his palm the static settled down.

“Sir. My most sincere apologies Sir.” Bolath began.

“Did I not make it clear to you how important it was that you recover that gem, Bolath? Perhaps I was not making myself clear?” A whispering, rasping voice echoed out across the musky dock. It sounded distant, far away and muffled.

“No Sir, I understand. It was, just that …”

“Oh Bolath. I am disappointed.” The voice hissed, a little louder now that it had been before. “I’m afraid that I can’t stand for such a thing. I might have to let you go.”

“Sir, please.” He coughed and pulled on his collar.

“I simply cannot afford anymore blunders at this stage, you understand I’m sure.” Bolath heaved, suddenly unable to take in any air. The blood vessels burst in his eyes, filling them with little strings of red. For the last time he flushed his trademark shade of purple before falling unceremoniously to the floor, to the great delight of his crew. As they shied away into the new morning the radio crackled to itself, keeping the cooling body company in the still of the dawn.

Curtains

Clock runs, predator, prey, defying.

The pause in the tick leading fast into the tock.

Keep to the light the Demon whispers,

Death seeping in the ear, crawling, lying, dying in the brain.

Carbon copies rolling one after the other,

the production line full, choking, smoking, filling the gaps.

Black faces in a sea of green.

Nothing stands out, nothing is new.

Crosses and bread and the fingers in the wine.

Pouring and dabbling and giggling in time.

The giant grey face, skin chipping away hanging,

dim and lethargic from the great city gates.

She speaks to me, the high and the mighty.

The night and the day, the light and the dark.

Anything and everything, just roll with it my dear.

For God only knows they’ll crucify you anyway.

The Silverlight Dome – Chapter 1

Lilth spat a mouthful of blood onto the dingy, dirty floor; a little mushroom cloud of dust floating lazily up around her expelled bodily fluid. Her eyes drifted hazily about the room, a little dazed by the force of the fist that had connected with her jaw. She grinned up at the swaying black figures that surrounded her.

“You’re one stubborn bitch Lilth.” Her tormentor leaned over her, both grubby, bloody hands resting on the arms of the chair she was tied to. She tugged again on the ropes that pulled her wrists tightly together behind her back. “Just tell us where the gem is and we’ll let you go. It’s that simple.”

“Like hell, dickhead. I sweated way too hard for that thing, and I broke at least two nails in the process.” She craned her head to wipe the blood from her chin on her shoulder. “I’m not telling you shit.”

Her captor sighed; his breath reeked of bad scotch and bad decisions. Leaning back a little he cracked his violence weary knuckles. The guys behind him chuckled a little to themselves in the shadows, excited by the promise of another beating.

“Wait, wait.” She sighed, leaning back a little further in her chair, shifting her weight off her dead left leg. The man before her grinned, yellowing teeth protruding from a dark, tanned face that was hard lined and scarred. “I’ll tell you something, but you have to come a little closer. I don’t want everyone knowing what I do with my stash.”

He leaned in a little further, too eager for the information he’d been paid to collect. The promise of a large hoard of treasures an eagerly awaited bonus. The smile that crept across her face matched his own, corrupt grin.

“You should really learn to tie a better knot.” She whipped both hands forward, balled into powerful tiny fists that she slammed into both his ears making his head ring with the force. Her stumbled backwards with a roar, clutching his large, meaty head with both swollen hands. Swinging her body up and away from the chair she perfectly distributed her weight through her hands. In one swift motion she delivered an unrelated kick to her interrigator’s solar plexus, bringing him to his knees.

Three others leapt forward from the shadows, their reactions slowed by her unexpected attack. The distance between them disadvantaged her opponents and she used those few seconds to her advantage; grabbing two implements from the torturer’s table. A scalpel and long metal rod gleamed in her hot hands.

A brief moment of hesitation passed over her; her choice of weapons didn’t exactly fill her with confidence, but taking a deep breath she arched her arms into a wide throw. Connecting hard with one beefy bicep the scalpel found its mark, eliciting a high pitched howl of pain from the man attached to it.

Bringing the other arm around from the left she took a two handed grip on the metal rod and swung it around her head as the second man reached her. The metal hit his skull with a dull, but satisfying crunch. A horror filled his eyes as blood started to pave its slow trail down his forehead and into his eyes; he crumpled to the floor as Lilth leapt over him. Ducking under the flailing tree trunk arms of the man she struck with the scalpel she bolted towards the door to her small cell in a bid for freedom.

Shoving her shoulder hard against the tough wooden door she threw it open. For a second the bright light of the sun blinded her and she staggered out into the world dazed as a newborn. Rubbing her face she kept moving, feeling her way until her eyesight came back to her. She ran.

Throwing a look over her shoulder she took in a fleeting glance at the one roomed shack she’d just escaped from. The field it sat in full of bright blue grass that waved in the fake summer breeze. She wasn’t that far from home. She’d never seen her captor before but it was a safe be to place that someone from the slums had called him in. She’d have to be more careful about bringing her loot home in future.

Skidding out onto the road at the edge of the field she looked left and right wildly. She knew exactly where she was, she could run left, straight home, grab the loot and hop on the next ship across the Skylands. Or she could go right, they wouldn’t be expecting that, into the wilds to hide out for a couple of days until the hubbub died down and she could sneak back into to town to claim what was hers. What if they got there first? What if they knew where she lived and they ransacked the place whilst she was still hiding out of town like a nervous cat? Fuck that, no one stole from Lilth.

She raced down the road, feet thumping, bright red blazen hair flying out behind her in a long plait that reached to her waist. Her heeled boots clicked and clacked on the rough tarmac and the waistcoat she’d left undone flapped about, skittishly in the wind.

It wasn’t long before she reached the outskirts of the shanty town. Broken down, beaten up houses leaned jaggedly from side to side, crashing into each other like drunk men. Holes in the old cement walls leaked bricks and dust like fat silent tears into the street below. The whole place stank of despair and poverty. Lilth hated it.

“Hey Lilth!” She groaned as a group of local street kids popped out from under a pile of bricks they’d been playing in at the edge of the street.

“Hey.” She muttered as she wandered past, trying to make herself look casual. Her green eyes darted around, looking for any hint of a jump, giving away her nervous demeanor.

“What happened to your face?” One of the grubby little girls asked, eyes wide.

“Did you get in a fight?” One of the boys piped up, excitement flashing in his tiny eyes.

“I bet she did! I bet there were at least ten of them, all huge and disgusting!”

“Yeah! With big muscles and bulging eyes!” The chattering group began to swell in volume. Two of the oldest boys began a convincing reenactment of the fight, rolling around on the floor taking pot shots at each other.

Lilth groaned a little to herself. She loved all the local kids despite that annoying, gnawing anger that they always brought out in her. They always appeared at exactly the wrong moment.

“Look guys, I’m kind of busy right now. Why don’t you come back later and I’ll tell you all about it?” The group groaned aloud, little faces of disappointment swam around her knees like irritating puppies. She felt her eye twitch a little. “If I give you a couple of gold rottles will you go find yourselves some cake or something?” She hated parting with money but needs must, and they looked like they could do with a big cream bun each.

The group burst into bunch of clamouring hands and squeals of delight. She couldn’t contain the smile that crept, unchecked across her bloodied face as she quickly dolled out one gold coin to each eager hand and watched them scamper off down the road towards the bake house, pushing and shoving each other in their excitement.

The street grew quiet. The night watch bell rang out from the city centre, loud, ominous and deep. She braced herself for the artificial, shivering wind that she knew was coming. Looking up she took in the sky and watched as the pixels of colour that once made up the false blue and white fluffy clouds fade. A shimmering ripple of black moulded itself across the great glass dome that they lived under and fizzled out all the light the fake sun gave.

A few seconds passed before the street lights, flickered lazily into action . The half light they made casting long fingers of shadow across the street. She kept to the walls, hiding in the sudden darkness and felt her way, one, two, three, four doors down. Feeling for the round door handle she wriggled it, twice to the right and once to the left and gave two good pushes on the left hand corner before it gave way.

Time was running out, they’d be after her by now, using the cover of night to their advantage. She needed to pack up and go as soon as possible, she cast one last nervous look out into the night and slid the door to her house shut behind her.