Codex

The girl makes scribbled adjustments to the formula which has consumed her for the past few days. The pencil in her fingers cannot match the speed of the chemical reactions racing the labyrinthine corridors of her mind, so she begins writing in improvised shorthand in order to retain the thoughts before they slip the net.

It is a futile task, wholly absurd, like trying to write a diary on LSD. Even if there were words to express what she perceived, the actual formation of the blackened graphite symbols on the white page creates a rainbow vapour trail. It alters her reality further, forcing her tumbling into the letters themselves.

She knows what she must do, she knows that the bubble waits to be burst, but all her theorizing has little to offer for practical application and in truth she fears the consequences. She writes the final line and in doing so accepts the challenge.

She checks on her sleeping husband and gently kisses her two daughters, smiling at their tranquil sleep-blessed faces. Returning downstairs, she checks the time out of habit more than necessity and settles on the sofa. The disk already waits in the drive, she presses the button and forty five minutes later she hears a faint pop from inside her cranium. She slumps forward as blood pours from her nose and stains the page on her lap.

The secret of life resides in pulp fiction.

In the critical nanosecond before her heart flatlines, time is stopped. Two cloaked figures emerge from the shadowy corners of the room. One walks straight up to the limp body and pulls a black box from the depths of its robes. The other lingers nervously behind.

‘Is she dead?’ The Second questions.

‘Clearly not. Otherwise our purpose of being here would be entirely futile. Hurry we do not have much time. Open this. I can never remember the sequence.’

The First tosses the cube across the room and it is caught by shaking hands which immediately begin twisting and rotating the cube’s faces. Shades of black, barely perceptible but clearly present like the sheen of a raven’s wing, begin to realign.

The Second looks up from his work, ‘How is it possible that we do not have much time, if we have stopped time?’

The First sighs, ‘Have you been paying the slightest bit of attention? We have stopped time for her and ipso facto the rest of the world. The earth has stopped turning. It will not be long until that is noticed so hurry up!’

The last combination is executed and the cube begins to unfold itself. The Second emits a faint whimper and lets the developing creature fall to the floor onto its newly emerged feet. It narrows its blackened eyes focusing on the inert figure before it, before inhaling deep the surrounding air. Its appetite whetted, it lunges at the motionless girl. It catches the droplet of blood suspended mid-air between her chin and chest and then growls in a sub-sonic pitch. From its groin what appears to be a fern leaf uncurls.

‘Is this strictly necessary?’ The Second asks.

‘Not strictly but I felt that it was appropriate. Activation is such a messy job and he so enjoys his work. It is nothing she has not experienced before.’

‘It is something I have not experienced before,’ The Second declares, watching in fascinated horror as the beast enters the girl. Her lips part as his tip exists through her mouth. The Second begins to gag but cannot avert his eyes from the scene.

‘We are not here for your personal gratification demon!’ Fulfil your orders and get out!’ The First commands the beast and then turns to the Second. ‘What is wrong with you? If either of us succumb to sentimentality we’re fucked. Even more fucked than she is right now. She won’t even remember it, the R.A.T. will take care of that’.

‘It wasn’t her memory I was concerned with,’ The Second says feebly.

The tattooed skin on the nape of the girl’s neck is lifted. A demonic digit is inserted, piercing the vertebrae and travelling up the spinal fluid into the base of her brain. The slumbering rodent is located and awakened. The beast sneers in satisfaction and withdraws from her.

Quickly the First hits the button on the beast’s back and the demon reconfigures into the original cube, emitting shrieks and gas like a deflated doll. The girl enters cardiac arrest.

‘Time has been restarted, we must go.’

The First picks up the smoking cube, grabs the shaking Second and they disappear.

A Forest

The sun is high above me. I trek through a golden ocean of ripening corn until the strains of a familiar tune float to my ears. Something stirs within me and I head towards an orchard to my right, intrigued to find the source of the melody.

The notes guide me amid the mottled red glow of the sunlight streaming through the branches above. An apple sweetness  intoxicates me and I come to a glad of yellow fairy lilies.It is in this space that music is being made and it is coming from you.

I stand watching, letting the vibrations of the lyre strings wash over me. Observing, yet unnoticed, I sink down in the shadow of a tree, savouring every note of your music.

I am so mesmerized by you that I do not notice the unicorn until it is halfway across the glade. She is as beautiful as the legends and more. She lays down before, mindful of her silver horn as she rests her head upon your lap. You play on unfazed; your song is all that matters. Her eyes close and her will is yours. You do not see it because you are gazing at the stars.

Mirroring you, I lean forward out of the shadows to do the same. A twig cracks under my weight. At once the unicorn springs up and gallops away. A streak of white against the darkness. You stand and look at me. For a second I can see the constellations reflected in your eyes, then the spell is broken. You turn and run.

Before I have time to chase I am awake.

Where is the Love?

I remember a night when we walked under the stars. We talked of love. You had been its victim and I was a dreamer seeking adventure. You said that you had parcelled your heart up in a cage, put it on a train and you were running as fast as you could in the opposite direction. You didn’t care where you were heading as long as it was as far as possible from the pain and chaos of love.

I begged you to reconsider.

I told you that love was the most exquisite drug, the only high worth chasing. You said it was like heroine, a temporary fix that would wreck destruction upon my world.

I said love was the air in my lungs and its breath set me free. You replied it was the sickness consuming us from within.

I thought love was the divine spark that set our souls on fire. You told me it was it was an inferno that burnt everyone to ash.

‘That’s your pain talking,’ I whispered. ‘It doesn’t have to end like that.’

‘Love is pain. There is no alternative ending.’

‘I can’t believe that.’

‘You will. One day you will.’

‘Love is worth the sacrifice.’

‘You don’t know what you are talking about.’

‘Then show me’

‘You don’t want that. I don’t want that.’

‘You don’t want me.’

‘You have no idea,’ you sighed.

‘You don’t want to believe that I love you.’

‘You love the idea of love.’

‘You love pushing me away’.

‘I’m saving you from yourself.’

‘I don’t need your protection.’

‘If only that were true.’

‘Why are you being like this?’

‘Love did this. I’m trying to stop it doing the same to you.’

Under Egyptian Skies (Part 1)

The priest watched as the sun slowly began its descent into the west bank of the Nile. Ra was entering the underworld. The hour was approaching.

He entered the temple alone. Inside, the camphor lamps were being lit. The sacred hieroglyphs adorning the walls danced in the firelight. On the ceiling silver stars sparkled in a lapis sky. He approached the alter and held a torch flame to the pile of incense that had already been laid out. The air was filled with the magic of frankincense and myrrh. The scene was set. All he had to do was wait.

He crossed to the temple’s far wall and pressed one of the carved symbols, a dot within a circle. A door swung open and he passed into the hidden chamber. He, Djeuti, a boy priest was about to fulfil his destiny and become a god. He let his robe fall to the floor and sunk into the milky waters of his bathing pool. His assistants emerged from the shadows and scrubbed his body with boar hair brushes. His blood tingled beneath his skin and his pulse quickened.

When they had finished, he climbed the steps and stood there naked and dripping whilst he was fanned by fronds of palm until dry. Jars were brought full of fragrant oils which melted easily into his hot skin. When his was fully anointed, his body was dusted with powdered silver and he glowed like a fallen star.

A low chanting began and the ceremonial kilt was brought and fastened around him with protective pins. A beaded belt of jasper and turquoise was knotted over the stiff linen. Bracelets and armlets were closed over his limbs, binding him to the temple and his duty. The sacred mask was carried on a strecher of woven reeds and placed before him. It was shaped like an ibis under a crescent moon. The face of God. Djeuti took it in his hands and gazed long into the hollow sockets. He imagined his eyes, the colour of waxed ultramarine filling their void. He wondered what she would feel when she looked upon them.

A royal mile to the south, the final preparations were made and the princess left her chamber.Her body was weak from fasting and trembled with a mixture of fear and thrill at what was to come. She leaned on her handmaiden for support as she descended the stone steps. Her voice was whisper as she spoke, “You are married Padme. Tell me, will this hurt?”

“It is love that hurts you Princess, not the act of making it,” her servant replied squeezing her hand in reassurance.

The entourage passed through the botanical gardens in silence. The exotic plants were drained of their colour by the twilight, reduced to monochrome shapes rooted in soil far away from their original home. Soon I shall be like them, thought the Princess. A trophy flower displayed to show the might of my King.

They moved into the avenue of sphinxes and she searched their stony gaze for clues to unravel the riddle of her life. They gave her no answer. Too soon the party reached the dock where the royal barge waited upon the water. Torches burned bright along the length of the boat, their fires reflected in the black water below.

She stepped onto the wooden deck and the drummers aboard began beating a slow pulsing rhythmn. The princess took her place on the golden throne, her heart pounding louder in her chest than the men could beat on their stretched drumskins. Padme sat at her feet and the princess leant down to her. “Sing me a song,” she whispered.

“What shall I sing you?”

“The Song of the Raven”

Padme’s voice echoed in the air and as the notes floated higher, the men adjusted their beat to match her rhythmn.

The princess closed her eyes and breathed deep, letting her mind drift away into solitude, carried by the dancing words. She felt the boat move below her as it was cast off from the dock. Oars were slid into the obsidian water and they left the bank and her innocence behind them.

In the darkness of his inner sanctum, the awakening God sat deep in silent meditation. His mind projected out from his body, ascending higher and higher into the sky above. He become a bird circling in the air. He could hear the music carried on the wind and her soul with it. His eyes snapped open. She approaches

He sat motionless as the drums and song grew louder and closer. Now she was alighting the barge and entering the complex itself. He could feel her gentle vibration resounding in the earth beneath him. She was walking between the towering pillars carved to resemble papyrus and lotus blossoms. Her eyes were downcast but he could feel her awe and how her heart marvelled at the temple’s beauty. He could feel something else too: her fear. He could sense it in the hesitation of every step.

His mind stayed with her, unseen and unnoticed until the party stopped before the temple of Al-Khemia. The moon was rising behind her, its silvery light directed through a gap in the outer wall. It was tracing a path along the ground towards her. Soon her feet were bathed in moonshine, then the curve of her ankles. It was time. The ritual was beginning.

Inside the temple, in the place where the boy Djeuti had sat, the god Thoth rose and took his place.

The princess felt the blood rise in her body as the power of the moon goddess, Nut, washed over her skin. The drums and song had stopped. Everything was silent. The night was still as though holding its breath, waiting for events to unfold. The air felt heavy and tight with latent energy. She shivered.

Her entourage had disappeared into the darkness and she stood alone at the entrance to the temple, watching as her shadow grew in the puddle of light. The ethereal silhouette of a slender young woman cast upon the stones. The moon rose above her and the shadow of the princess crossed the sacred threshold. Its head lay upon the feet of the waiting God.

The princess drew a deep breath and held it as her gaze was drawn higher. She saw the glistening skin, the beaded kilt, the honed chest. She wanted not to look but she couldn’t stop herself. Black, braided hair rested on broad shoulders leading to a graceful neck. The face of the ibis shone like a pearl in the moonlight as she looked upon the eternal eyes of God. In them, a distant fire burned bright. Her heart skipped a beat.

“Come Keshet’anan. The time is now”.

Her God knew her secret name and she had no choice but to obey.

The Scientist

Our steps are slower as we return to the station. It is as if we are both walking towards something that we don’t want, but neither of us knows how to stop it. There are a few seconds of silence. The air is heavy with words left unsaid and no time to say them. Both of us are contemplating the thoughts inside our heads. Out of nowhere, a voice in mine urges me not to waste the precious few minutes remaining.

“I was thinking that our book should be a trilogy. All the greatest stories are. Lord of the Rings, His Dark Materials, The Divine Comedy. Remember I said that I was basing it on Dante’s journey and that Virgil was his guide? Well in Purgatory the reader gets to learn more of Virgil’s story…” I let the words tumble out before i can stop them and wait for you to realise what I am trying to say.

You glance at me with fear in your eyes. “I told you. I can’t write anymore”.

“Can’t or won’t?” Because you should, I feel that so deeply. I know it is the truth. And I think that deep down you do too.”

You are quiet. I don’t want to push you too hard but I feel compelled to tell you this.

Too soon we are stood by the train. There’s still ten minutes before it leaves. The doors are stood open and after the coldness of the night air, it looks warm and inviting.

“Come and sit with me?” I beg, pulling on your arm.

We sit next to each other and I turn towards you trying to catch your eye. You won’t look at me. In deference to your feelings I lower my gaze and focus on your hands. I take them in mine and suddenly everything I have wanted to say comes tumbling out.

“I know that you are scared you will become that person. I know that those memories pain you. But I think that it is hurting you not writing because that is what you are. You are trying to deny your god-given talent, to mask what is underneath, but you should know that you can never find true happiness that way. It took me years to work that out, please believe me. People care about you too much to let you become like that again. I care about you too much…”

Unconsciously I have been stroking the back of your hand with my thumb while I have been talking. It is madness to talk more. I know you don’t want me to. This is not what you want to hear and I don’t want to be the one saying it. I am paining you and that hurts me. But with utter certainty I know that no-one else will say it.

For whatever reason this has fallen at my feet and so I carry on my words regardless.

“Whoever you were back then, I don’t think it was really you. It was just your reaction to a bad situation. You cannot be afraid to love because you have been hurt before. It is not the making of mistakes that is the problem; it is whether we learn from them. Please, at least consider this. Please”

“It might be a little abstract,” you murmur.

I can see my reflection in the tears that glaze your eyes. Tears that you still won’t allow to fall. My heart breaks that I am the one who is forced to cause you this pain. I wish I could take it all back, that I could make you forget that I said it. I want to make it better.

I kiss you.

Without thinking, acting totally on instinct, I kiss your lips. I have waited years for this moment; wanted it so much it hurt. None of that matters now. All I care about is you and trying to fix this wound that I have reopened.

I expect you to push me away, or pull away, as our lips touch but you don’t. For one perfect moment nothing else in the universe exists except us and the love I have for you. It is a love that runs deeper than romance or friendship or anything else in Creation. It is a love that existed before time began and will last until the world fades.

It is a love I try to give you with a kiss.

Our eyes meet as I finally move away from you and I wonder if you felt it too.

“I should go,” you say.

In a flash you are out of the doors and walking through the station. I watch you all the way, longing with every fibre of my being that I could follow you with more than my eyes. You look over at me and raise your hand in goodbye. I smile and wave back and then you are gone.

You are gone.