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PROLOGUE - Catalysts and Origins

I’d thought that when someone said that they had seen everything, it was just a silly, little turn of phrase, a meaningless boast, made in the passing of some silly, little occurrence in a silly, little life.

People throw sayings and phrases like that around all day, every day. They think nothing of it and then one day, you are stood, staring at the most beautiful thing you can ever claim to have seen and all of a sudden, the silly, little turn of phrase, the throw away comment takes on so much beauty, so much resonance.

And you think to yourself;

I have seen everything now, and I can die, knowing that nothing will compare to this sight before me.

The line of the arm, the tiny, little fragile fingers that top off the wonderful, simple yet brilliantly minute hands. The body a light, purring shade of pink that is untouched, unsullied, perfect; the legs that kick gently at the air, and wave around in hopeful abandon; the smile and gurgle of the squat, squashed little face; the eyes, catching the light in an array of perfect blues and greens and browns; the lips, soft and pink, warm and tender; the nose, a button sniffing and sneezing with wonderful amazement at all that is going around it.

Laying there, in a small plastic and glass cot, tubes feeding in and out, supplying life, supplying dreams of yet-to-be-told futures, a little monitor beep, beep, beeping along with each precious heartbeat.

My Son.

My flesh.

My blood.

Imagine, if you will, this vision of absolute perfection. Wonderful, crazy, biological perfection. This being that was once nothing but a “twinkle in your eye”, something so tiny and perfect to you, and you alone, that looking upon it is like looking upon God himself.

Imagine looking down on this being that you created, and knowing that - in your heart of hearts - though you love him more than you could ever love anyone ever again, more than you have ever loved anyone before, knowing all of this, imagine then the realisation that this boy, this perfect baby, YOUR baby, YOUR son, this being of pure love, created by the uncompromising pureness of true love, has killed the only other thing you have ever cared about in your bitter, insignificant life.

Imagine looking upon your son, your baby, your boy, and knowing that he is responsible for your wife’s death.

Murderer,” your mind whispers, taunting you.

He’s not a murderer,” you argue.

Mur. Der. Rer.” It persists.

“HE IS NOT A MURDERER!” You scream.

With tears streaming down your face, you look around, horrified, that everyone is looking at you.

And they are. Horrified, shocked, mouths agape in disgust. Imagine that you look down on your boy, your beautiful baby boy and he looks back, you could swear that he smiles – impossible as that may seem - and then he, too, dies.

Just like that…

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CHAPTER ONE - The Box and Other Stories.

“Before I spoke with people,

I did not think of all these things because there was no one to bother to think them for.

Now things just come out of my mouth which are true.”Bernard Pomerance,The Elephant Man

- 1 -

The way that the sun is shining outside would make you think it was the middle of summer. Bright, cloudless skies and a smart golden sheen to everything you can see outside the window. The treetops, the road, the cars that zoom up and down the street full of busy, little people going about their busy, little lives, oblivious to the other lives they unsettle with their smog-filled vehicles.

But the trick is, the minute you step outside, you get caught short by that curt, nasty, late October wind. Not strong or blustery by any stretch of the imagination, but bitter and biting and deeply, deeply penetrating as it hits you unawares and burrows deep into the core of you, the breath evacuating from you in sudden shock.

Damned, October wind.

I sit in the window of this house, staring out on the world I see from my safe, tiny haven. And I smile at the banality of it all. The sad looking people are hurrying here, there and everywhere in a mad, verminous stampede – like giant bipedal insects, I imagine them like human cockroaches, scuttling around in the way cockroaches do.

Three hundred and twenty-five days now. I have woken up, showered, had my breakfast and sat in this window, with my tea, and my notebook and just watched the world unfold, never getting involved in any measurable way… simply sitting, watching, and noting the things I witness and see.


That’s what they call it, the doctors and the care workers and suchlike, all the busy little people who come round here, bringing the outside in to me, agoraphobia¸ an almost pathological fear of wide and open spaces.

Selective interaction is what I call it. I’m not pathologically scared of anything, I argue, I just don’t particularly like people.

Not anymore, anyway.

But they won’t accept this. They keep coming round here, probing me, delving and digging and bothering, and I tell them every day, ”I don’t like people.”

But do they listen?

Do they fuck.

Three hundred and twenty-five days. Day in, day out, morning ‘til noon, ‘til early evening. I sit, I watch, and I write.

I find it takes my mind off the bothersome little things, the bothersome little worries, the thoughts and the whispers and the…

You get the point.

Three hundred and twenty-five days. I have sat and watched and noted. Doing my little entomology tests and experiments. Watching the neighbours like a hawk. Watching the postman, the milkman, the repairmen and the blah, blah, blah, every day. Going about their headless routines, and all the while they look, and smile, and wave and pretend that I am not scaring them – and mostly I know I don’t, but every now and then I catch a glimpse of hostility, a flash of terror, a spattering of utter fear and trepidation in their eyes, and I have to leave my window and entertain my thoughts elsewhere.

After all, I don’t intend or want to scare anyone; I just like to watch. The whole world is my fish tank, and each and every person who walks past my window play the fish in my aquarium of life.

Golden. Orange. Fins.


Leaving the window always brings the whispers back, and they only upset me, and as the doctors said to me,

We can’t be having you get all upset again, can we?

No,” I’d say, “we can’t.

And I knew I meant it. I don’t handle getting upset well, all sorts of things happen.

A knock at the door.

I have many people call on me.

The doctors and the nurses we have talked about, the day carers and the social workers who call once a month and make sure I am safe and well, awkward talks about feelings and my past – conversations about love, and loss, and motion – painting on smiles and answering questions as passively as I can. Then there are the relatives who come and make small pleasant talk, but who always have to leave - and good job too, as the small talk with relatives always brings the pain flooding back to my head, and the rage burning again behind my eyes, and the words play over, and over, and over again inside my mind.



And I don’t want to upset anyone, but it gets stressful and mostly they only check on me to placate their bitter sensibilities, and not because they give two shits. As harsh as it sounds, with them having lost someone too, I see how they try and handle the memories and the grief, but it just makes me angry. I am an afterthought, and somewhere deep down I know they blame me for her not being here.They blame me for not having a chance to see their grandchild.

I don’t blame them. I really don’t. Grief is a funny thing. You handle it like an angry, unbroken horse. That is to say delicately and with no small amount of fear.

But do they LOVE ME? Hell no, it’s all about twisted loyalty as a fucked up badge of social duty. I feel sick to my stomach, and it takes everything I have to not let them know this.


But no, we must play nice, they mean well, in their own special, little ways.

So this knock on the door. It’s not a normal knock, it’s not a regular knock, it’s a single thud. Dead and heavy. When I go to the peephole, I see no one, and I get that sickly flash of anticipation.

Three hundred and twenty-five days. Every knock, every ring, every rap upon my door I have memorised, and memorised, and memorised. I now know every person uniquely from how they knock. But today, I don’t recognise the knock, and for the first time in forever, I feel a disgusting rush of adrenaline. I realise that my uncomplicated little world has just taken a turn for the melodramatic and new.

I hate new things.

I open the door, and there on the doormat, staring at me, if that were even possible, is a box. A brown paper-wrapped, cardboard box, bound with strings and tape. A label is written in a ragged, capitalised, stickman scrawl, 2nd Class postage and left idle on the doorstep.Just a box..

Mocking me.

A quick look around the street, leaning out with one hand grasped firmly on the door frame, so as not to fall into the big wide world and thus suffer the death of life sneaking up on my isolation, I see no one who could be responsible for the box being there.

No delivery truck, no post van, no postman, nothing. A dog barks as a mother walks with her child gurgling in a pram down by the old social club. An old man steadily washes his car, even as the first drops of rain start to ruin all of his great work, as droplets land in the suds on his windshield.

I look down at this box, sat solitary, alone on the doorstep, and pick it up in a hurry and carry it into the lounge. I place it on the table, sit opposite it, and stare at it for a good hour and a half.

Waiting for something to happen.


* * *

Three Years Previous.

It was a warm day. He remembered it was a warm day, because the memory of children playing around by the park in shorts and t-shirts was pretty enduring in his mind. Everyone was expecting the frost that had been teasing all week, and no one dressed for the warmth – scarves and jackets everywhere – even as the sun shone above. The screech and giggle of the five and six-year-olds on swings and roundabouts and slides. Playing silly buggers down by the waters edge, all on that unexpected warm day in the park.

He was sat with his usual awkwardness on the bench just off the bandstand, the birds were singing, the sun was shining and he was letting every sensation flutter over him as he sat half-reading his daily newspaper, thinking himself an intellectual with his Gaurdian open on the arts section, people watching. He was happy just to be out and about and off work. Of course, there was the phone call he was expecting… But…

Lazy days and all that.

He recalls that the first time he saw her was about an hour earlier, as she strolled past him in the Shopping centre. She made her exit out the back entrance and into the Abbey gardens, toward the war memorial with the copper-tinged soldier staring out over the park, down towards the river. She was singing away to herself, quietly, not quite making a spectacle of herself, but all the same, he can still hear her singing that song.


She smiled as he caught her eye, and he smiled back, trying and failing at keeping his composure after being so blatantly caught in the act of stealing a glimpse of her. He nodded slightly, and shuffled off dizzy and confused, a laugh painted on his lips that smiled as wide as the river. She smiled wider still at the fact that such a brief but glorious flirtation was made so easily and carried on her way, singing and walking.

The next time he saw her was just before the moment that almost solidly set his life in stone from that point forward.

At the top of the hill, as you come past the old Bangladeshi restaurant and turn toward the multi-storey, a young man is stood waiting for some unseen friend. Now and then he looks around, adjusts his hoodie and checks his phone, no messages have come through, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t one on the way.

Suddenly, with little warning, a car screeches to a halt at the bottom of the hill., half abandoned in a pedestrian zone. A man gets out, profanities and screams explode from him as he runs at the Hoodie, his arms flailing, angry and uncompromising, as he reaches for the Hooded man.

The argument and fight break out almost instantly, with little in the way of traded words or banter. Instead the guy from the car, indignant and angry, throws a punch that cracks on the face of the hoodie.

Through a constant barrage of punches, the hooded man doesn’t punch back. Instead he just clings on to the arm of the attacking man - blood trickling from his cheek, arms up as he tries to block the torrent of blows… And then. Suddenly, with no grand orchestration, there is nothing but silence. A silence both cold and deadly.

The man from the car staggers backwards. His arms suddenly by his sides. His legs are weak as they give way under him.“What did you do, man?”The man in the hood stands against the wall, breathing heavily, bruised and battered, unsure what fury of circumstance he had just unleashed.The man from the car slumps to the ground. Still, silent, dead.

The knife apparently entered just below his solar plexus. The twist however was what caused the guy from the car to stop raining punches down on the prone hoodie, as he clung on to avoid falling heavily and unguarded to the floor.There is a crowd now gathering as the man in the hood looks down at the victim, and then kneels by his side. Something happens, someone says something, there is a flash of some sort, and then the whole world comes crashing down around him.

Whatever the flash was – it slapped him into life – his body aching from the beating, his mind on fire from shock, he sees the spurt of blood that has sprayed on him from his attacker. Who then, as if turned off at the mains, collapsed downwards, softly holding his newly-ventilated wound.

The hoodie straightens himself up, his clothes all pulled out of shape, his hair ruffled and the cut on his cheek swollen. He is bleeding from the blows, bruises already showing on his face, and after one brief look of terror at what he has just done, he looks at the silver-handled pocket knife and recognises it immediately as his own. Confused how it ended up here, as he lost it months previously, he bends down and grabs at it. Managing to pull it free, he sets off hurtling down the gangway, in blind panic, towards the river.

The girl is stood alone, a short walk from the rivers edge, next to the swings and park a pedalo pond is seprated by a small decorative bridge. The girl stood quietly at the pond’s edge, watching as the swans and ducks quack and snarl for breadcrumbs. The young man with his paper, sat on the bench just off the bandstand, is still sneaking the odd look down at her.

“She’s beautiful,” he thinks, and she is, he’s right…

Tall, with slender legs and arms, wide heeled platform boots that stop just short of her knees and stretch her calves into oh-so-desirable shapes. Long black hair, that waves in the gentle breeze and flows down to her elbows. A slight heave of her breasts as she breathes in.

He is still looking at her as the youth in the hoodie hurtles down the gangway and, in trying to avoid a small gaggle of joggers training in the park, smashes straight into the beautiful, beautiful woman innocently transfixed on the water.

The sudden crash, of the man into her, sends her tumbling. As she falls, her head ricochets off a canal boat post, and she is knocked unconscious. She falls – as he recalls – ever so dramatically into the murky waters of the pond, built for pedalos, for kids and families, to laugh and enjoy the summer sun.

The man on the bench, just off the bandstand, is halfway towards her before he knows what he is doing. The hoodie is gone, back into the park, blood-stained and guilt-riddled.

Not from the thrust you understand.The thrust would not have done any significant damage.

No, the Twist of the blade as it entered that was the culprit, opening up the wound and leaving the outside to get in and the inside to get out.He bleeds out, on his back staring at the last few gaggle of geese as they fly in squadron formation over the multi-storey and down toward the river, their incessant honking and bleating the last thing he hears before Death grasps hold of him and he dies in a pool of warm metallic scented blood.

The attack was nothing more than a moment of insanity brought about by the heavens, a situation no one was in clear control of – a series of horrible and un-needed catastrophes – based on angry assumption and lack of clarity.

The man from the bandstand is now at the water edge, the small group of onlookers are sent scattering as he flies through their throng, diving straight into the murky water beyond.

He regrets this later; his phone damaged beyond repair. There was a call he was waiting for that was incredibly important.

With one hand stroking the dark water, and one searching for life, he finds the woman within seconds and pulls her out of the water,

God, she’s beautiful.

And then he sets about making her live again… deep breath, share it with her, rub her heart… breathe!

And she does and he sobs and the crowd cheer, before the man shouts:

“Call a fucking ambulance!”

The situation snaps back into the present again… after having been playing at what seemed to be half speed before.

But this was a long time ago…

* * *

I sat staring at the box for another hour after bringing it in the house.

The fucking thing rested motionless on the table, not moving, not doing anything, just being a box, serving its lack of purpose with apparent ease.

I sat opposite it, on my green sofa, sipping lukewarm tea, and becoming hypnotised by the sound of my wheezy breathing, all the while staring at it.

Just staring and doing nothing more.

If you asked me now why I did not open it there and then, as you would any delivery – with no second thought or pause for any discernible or considered reason – my answer would be the same now as it was then.I could not – I DARED not open it. I can recall the feeling of muted discomfort, a buzz of angst that emanated from the damned thing that set my hairs on end and a weird shiver of chill that ran through my bones.The same way one feels when you walk into a house and feel the buzz of a TV you were certain you had turned off, or the magnetic and zealous strike of the static that hits from nowhere in a house with heavy carpets.

I dare not open it.

I know instinctively that the box is not right in some way, I am not expecting a package, no one cares or loves me or gives two fucks about my existence in any real way to have sent me anything – The postage is oblique, 2nd class and no area code, the address label a capitalised, ragged stickman-like scrawl.There is no return address, no other clues to where it came from and its packaging is so neat and tidy it looks like a prop from some strange TV fiction.

There is a compulsion which tells me that I SHOULD open it, but a voice of reason wins through and allays my rash curiosity, stating that if it is important, it will find a way of opening itself.A stupid thought, as irrational as the rational voice has ever been. This is the advice that calms me and leaves me happy to leave it alone.

The sounds outside start seeping back into my world, and I snap back to reality. I walk over to the window; one eye remaining transfixed by the box, resting on my table motionless, not doing fucking anything.

With the occasional sip of my tea and the sporadic look at the box, I carry on with my daily routine of nothingness. Staring, watching, note taking and whiling away another dead afternoon.

The box rests there, motionless… I catch myself now and then looking at it, a seductive spell that it carries over me being fought tooth and claw by my fragile sense of self.

I would open it.

But the thing is, if I do, I know I am allowing the outside into my world, something cold and unexplainable and new – and I am so happy being unhappy in my world of old and familiar and I dislike the idea of my fragile status quo being upended by this ridiculous delivery. With its weird vibration and its strange enigmaI try and tell myself It’s just a brown paper box, wrapped in brown string, and it’s just resting on my table.

Motionless, not doing fucking anything.

But it’s no good – I am drawn like a moth to a flame at irregularly lengthy intervals to stand over it, often with a cup of cold and flavourless tea in hand, to simply ponder it.

Tonight the bins need to go out. So, with no second thought or hesitation, I decide rather than to be put out in my home by something I had no hand in having delivered, and never invited in the first place, I shall throw the damned thing away. Out of sight, out of mind, and done.

I pick up the box, so curious and heavy, so nameless and annoying, and I dump it in my waste bin, tie the thing up, and wait until the sun has set, before leaving my secure, safe surroundings to dump the crap and useless waste at the end of the garden path. From where it will take the four and a half mile journey to the town waste dump, which can be smelt from here on a hot summers day.

It’s gone now. Put it out of your mind.” I think as I walk back inside, ignoring my pleasant neighbours hello as he returns from work.

It’s gone… fucking forget about it!

As I walk inside, door slamming behind me, and no longer a care in the world, I switch on the news and see what I have been missing all day.

Whether the item in the box was important or not, I care not, as it’s now consigned to a fucking tomb of used condoms, tinned foods and fucking old tabloid rags… unopened, unimportant, and unneeded.

A plain brown box, with brown string, and ragged, capitalised, stickman scrawl…

No return address and no reason to be here.

It must have been a joke.” The voice of reason in my head says.

Something someone we once knew sent for some anniversary of some event we forgot because we don’t care about remembering.

It’s true as well… It must have been a joke.

Well, fuck you, the joke’s now on a one-way journey to the landfill.Congratulations.

Joke’s on you.

It’s dark outside, the bustle of life and the world outside has become muted and feeble. The streets lights, one by one light themselves and become an orange herald of the Sandman. It’s time to go to sleep…I have a busy day ahead of me tomorrow, hating the world and watching it go about its scurrilous way… Panicked and confused. Mad like ants doused in boiling water.It’s a hard job – being the avatar of fury and indifference. It takes a lot of energy.

So, I brush my teeth, and I shower. I fold my clothes neatly in a pile and throw them in the corner of the room on the hamper, which is my only visual reminder of her, and which has remained unopened since she left and I go to bed.

That night I dream of cars crashing and fires, and I smell the horrid stench of decaying and burning human fat. Of purifying infernos pouring and washing down entire roads, incinerating the world on touch, of human bodies bursting into uncontrollable, raging, green-flamed cyclones of fury and heat.

I dream of me. Standing alone atop a hill, orchestrating this madness and destruction like some stern-eyed, trance-induced conductor.

The entire world burns. Trees, houses and little insignificant ant-like people - exploding into flame as the tongue of fire licks each one.Seduced and destroyed by fire as great and vast as the ocean is deep.

My last abiding memory of the dream is of a postman, stood on my doorstep, flames engulfing every part of him, his hands outstretched as I open my door to him, and in his hands is a box, wrapped in brown paper and string and tape, with a small label written in scrawled, chicken-scratch capitals – he holds it toward me, a smile on his melting face and he whispers: “Special delivery.”Before he explodes into a ravenous ball of flame and fury, transmuting from a person into a pile of ash and dust.

It’s one of the best night’s sleep I have had in weeks. Months maybe.

I sleep like…

Well, God help me.

I sleep like a baby.

* * *

The light creeps in a slow crawl from one side of my window to the other, as the world turns, a shaft of sunlight cuts like a sword through the gap in my curtains and I lay there in bed watching as this obscure laser draws across my wall. How long I lay there I cannot begin to tell you, but, it’s some time as I watch this bright shaft stretch out. Finally, it reaches my face and scorches a warm line across my eyes like some mask of enlightenment.

It is the prompt I have waited all morning for to get myself out of bed.The bed itself is vast and cold. Usually I am lonely as hell in its embrace. The feng shui of the room is off. I have been aware of this for as long as I have lived in the house – she would tell me often that I had to sort out the alignment of bed to the window. I am sure she would have done it before she left, but since she has, it has remained in the awkward corner, where we dumped it and left it after moving in.

I remember falling about on top of its bare mattress, me and her together, out of breath, exhausted and giggling, having just negotiated the stairs in a semi argumentative way. She told me which way to pivot and which way to parry, where to lever and where to rest. And then we carried it through the whole house - from the hallway to the bedroom. Before collapsing in a heap, sweat pouring from us, gasping with laughter as we looked at each other and then – with a moment of sweet rapture and pause – we kissed, deep and passionately, threads of saliva between our lips when we broke – each big kiss followed by two or three little kisses on the forehead, her way of signing her love, something she did since our first tryst.

We made love on the bare skeleton of a bed, in the corner of the room – bodies wrapped together in weird and seemingly impossible contortions – blood and flesh and bone becoming one, her breasts heaving and rising with the rhythm of her heart and glistening with a fine perspiration – a smell of strawberries and vanilla – the smell of her permeating into my skin, lingering. Together we smelled like a cake factory, a sweet, intoxicating bakery smell. Taking me deep inside her.She had a way about her that was gentle, but deeply passionate, when I was inside her I felt like I was merging with her, every breath, every thrust and every moan – we were one and the same, lost together on some heady wave of elation and pure pleasure. Her on my lap, grinding hard and bringing me to an awesome, breathtaking climax.

I remember her staying on me, with me still inside her, for minutes afterwards, as she pulled me closer and gave me more of those signature kisses, her tongue probed and licked and sought sanctuary in my mouth, her body a sticky, sweet dough, moulding and forming around my strong arms.Married for six weeks. Our first house. Our new bed. Everything such an adventure.

I look around the room now and I don’t recognise the “me” from those memories, much like the life I had, that person is erased and all that is left is this bitter and lonely, scabrous shell of a man.An echo. A ghost. A memory of a man that used to be.All that remains is the chest where my clothes from the night before lay.I stared at the clock on the bedside table, its red LED had a nauseating shimmer that meant looking at it could be both hypnotic and sickening, it made you feel woozy and ill with suggestion – the shimmer and flicker a Morse code feeding your mind with dark ideas and invention. 11:37am.A recognisable knock at the door.I only recognise the knock as it was the same as yesterday, a rap and a half, the second knock almost sounding like the caller had given up, or their hand had evaporated upon contact with the red paint of the wooden door.

I was unaware at the time, but I would come to hate that knock, as surely as I hated the world and everyone in it. As surely as I was alone and broken and blackened to my core with negativity and self-loathing, I would come to hate that knock.I pulled on some pants and trousers – catching a glimpse of my flabby, pallid self in the mirror: hint of a belly beginning to appear, the horrendous mid-morning shrivel of my penis, a faint illness in the colour of my pale and waned skin.

A weak specimen for sure.

I casually walked downstairs, pulling on a sweater, its V-neck showing the nape of my neck and collarbone, a tuft of chest hair morosely pouring from the arrow of the stitch. As I reached out to answer the door – the knock came again.A rap and a half.I grasped the handle and opened the door immediately to an empty world.

No one there. Nothing to suggest anyone had knocked at all. Nothing except a brown box, wrapped in brown paper and sealed with string and tape with a label written in the now familiar, capitalised scrawl.

Now though with a bow on it.

* * *

- 2 -

Miniature explosions of rainbow were falling in diamond formations across the walls as the rain came down, hard and menacing, outside the huge arch of the window. The sun snuck in and out of the clouds, playing hide and seek with the world, occasionally penetrating the dark and dingy sky with a vast shard of brilliance that would smash through the stained-glass architecture and bring the ancient facades and murals in the glass to life. If only for a fleeting moment.There were three panes, separated by a three or four foot lead partition, splitting the window into three distinct murals of dizzying size.The first of an angel lying dead before a ring of fire. The second the naked, pert-breasted Eve tempting Adam into life with a dazzling red apple, and the third the angels Lucifer and Michael embroiled in a strange and fascinatingly erotic embrace as Michael cast Lucifer into the pit. All grew from stationary, colourful barrier into life-like reality played across the walls of the great hall with each new shard of light that cascaded from behind the epic nimbocumulus clouds.Then, they were gone, switched off as more clouds covered and muted the sky with a miserable grey hue, dampening the mood all around.The gaunt, dark figure of a man breached the peace, his clothes were of a colour that looked like the sea at night-time, sinister swells which rippled with a sentient peril, velvets and silk, smooth yet so heavily worn it seemed like some pliable armour. The colour had appeared to be black, but as the clouds broke and the dull light did come into the room, it took on a more clearly identifiable green shade, a rich dark jade with a thin vein of silver in the lining and the stitch.

The figure stood with one pale, white hand touching the marble of a table that rested below the window, the tip of his index finger absentmindedly stroking a fissure within the rock. With his eyes closed the man imagined he could feel every finite detail and infinitesimal imperfection. It was a meditation of sorts, calming his mind of the clutter the windows and strobing sunlight had brought on in him.

The room itself was a circle. The stone a clean-cut, polished marble, inherently beautiful and grand, but infused with a sad melancholy that permeated the stone. Its thin purple and grey blue veins taking on a varicose feel, which leant the room a strange organic isolation. At the wall directly opposite the window was a line cut into the rock. A door of some sort?No handle existed. No perceptible means of opening the portal with which the man could use to exit. Instead, just a deep crease inside the wall that went in a foot or two to the stone itself, but did not allow any light between rooms. A thin vein of light occasionally pulsed and flickered from the bottom of the door, as if people were walking backwards or forward. It gave nothing away of the environment or geography of where this room was found, and the light could well have been a reflection of what was happening outside the window. Bleak, empty, strobing cloud and shy sunlight hiding for eternity.

The man circled his finger deep within the crack and let out a faint laugh of sorts. The room was tall, the ceiling a dome, twenty or thirty feet high at the tallest point. It echoed any noise made within the circular walls eerily, and the echo would resonate and fade like a musical note being dealt a slow and agonising death. The man laughed because he realised that he had been toying and probing the fraction on the desk now for an inordinate amount of time, and that the task of doing so was a form of madness in and of itself.He looked at the line, to him cavernous and wide, though tiny and barely noticeable to normal eyes, and then at his finger – examining the dusty tip with humorous madness. He shook his head and turned to see the stained-glass window quickly flash a projection of colour and image, briefly and fleeting once again, on the wall.He smiled and placed his hands on each other, resting them on his stomach, in elegant repose, as behind the creased line in the wall, something stirred. A groan could be heard, and then a shuffle, as a piece of parchment neatly folded, and upon which was some stained ink, slid smoothly across the floor to the man’s feet. He looked down, confused and vacant, trying to discern what was happening, what this could mean? The second turned into anxious, absent-minded aeons until he finally leant down and picked the paper up with long, thin fingers.So long he had been inside this room now with no contact or connection with the outside world, apart from a window that reflected parts of his past, and the arc of a weak sun that came and went in such wanton haste that the man could barely drink the glory quick enough. Barely sipping at its meagre offering.

He regarded the parchment patiently, turning it around in his hands, as he examined the material and scent of the paper, before finally taking its delicate fold in his fingers, and with shaky hands, weak and thin, he unfolded the yellowed note. Aged or dirty paper, it was impossible to tell, but its content clearly perked the man’s interest.

To describe this man would have been a task full of paradox and confusion. A beautiful mess he was. His skin the mottled off-white of a person who had been terminally scared of the sun; dirty-blonde, thick, lustrous hair tumbled over shoulders that were broad and yet thin; a perfectly triangular torso as the musculature gave way to an unashamed thinness that bordered on anorexic. If not for the muscle tone and tautness of the flesh around the muscle, or the way that every one of his ribs was hidden behind a tight layer of skin - that gave shadows and echoes of muscle that used to exist – you would swear the figure had been starved for decades. A skeleton which only when looked at closer reveals to be a bodybuilder.The figure swayed where he stood, a vapour, a ghost. The parchment paper was fixed to the figure’s grip as he continued to read intently; his gaunt face maybe pouring over the words twenty or thirty times. Finally, with a confident gesture, his fist squeezed shut and he rolled the paper into a ball which was greedily grasped and kept out of sight, the mottled parchment now useless to man or beast.

From behind him, the crease groaned again, and then heaved a heavy sigh, as the marble of the wall cracked and then broke. The wall gave way to a hole – arched, deep and jagged. From the hole, a glorious shard of pure light poured through and illuminated the man.His skin prickled and fizzed, a stream of dust and vapour oozed from him as his muscles became taut and tight again, his flesh visibly grew around the new frame that was born with the touch of the sunshine and light.

His dirty-blonde hair evaporated into an incandescent and beautiful mane of tangled, beautiful, golden and white blonde trusses and locks.He shed himself of the cloak and stood naked, bathed in the light, and with two clenched fists at the end of two muscular arms, spread his palms open wide.

He glowed with radiance and joy in the warmth of the sun.

From his grip the parchment, now rolled into a ball and desecrated, fell free and landed with a tiny thump upon the floor.The words were chiselled now on his mind. Freedom was restored. Lucifer Morningstar.God’s firstborn son had drank of the grace and light of creation for the first time in a hateful, isolated, exiled millennia.“Finally.” The first words uttered by the man in all that time.A cavernous, hateful whisper full of majesty and menace.Majesty and menace… And celebration.* * *

A little about our man in the house…James Edmunds had been a lonely child. The middle of three children, his elder brother Malcolm and younger sister Jenny were mollycoddled and given far more attention. His brother because he was a careless, adventurous and fearless child that needed protecting from himself, as he climbed trees and rode go-karts down steep hills, jumped barb-wire fences to chase cows and sheep and other sundry livestock. His sister, to stop her from acting like a princess and annoying or bullying other children, poking fun and hiding behind big brown eyes and pigtails and always denying any wrongdoing when collared for pulling other girl’s hair, or tattling on boys who used secret curse words. A shallow, selfish girl, she was never far away from some rumour or another, always quick to make one up where none existed if bored.James - by contrast - was bookish, quiet, and obedient, never causing controversy or trouble. He did his homework without being told. Usually the minute he got in, picking at dinner as he completed the Maths and English work set by his teachers – whom he actually liked.

He would read quietly in his room, listening to the radio his parents bought him for his twelfth birthday – where his elder brother had demanded a BMX or his sister a party full of balloons and cake and entertainment and MORE presents, James simply wanted something on which he could listen to music. The radio was always on in his own Fortress of Solitude as he poured over book after book in the mountain of paperbacks and hardbacks that seemed almost to appear organically as if created by mitosis.

He was never seen far from a book. He was always reading, or pouring, his thoughts, ideas and stories into the pages of some leather-bound tome.

His friends, of which there were few, seemed to like him in spite of the fact he was neither the strongest boy nor the fastest - though he was by far and away the cleverest, this mattered little when climbing a tree or throwing stones into the swamp at the top of the fields, where legend had it hundreds – possibly thousands – of cows had died, like some strange suicide spot for cattle.He was never outspoken, he never lead, barely followed – he simply existed. Never doubting, never believing, just being. His was a life of the other guy; the group would barely ever even notice if he were not with them. But his presence always bloated them with a feeling of ego, each one knowing that he was there simply to make up the numbers and by doing so, he was always helping others feel better about themselves by his being so terminally ambivalent and temporary.James preferred solitary moments in the playing fields - hiding in dens, reading and making forts, where others would pour over found pornographic materials stolen from father’s secret stashes, or pages torn from lingerie catalogues – James would be reading from whatever book he was dedicated to at that time. Where others were climbing rope swings, James was always making sure the knots were of a sufficient standard to hold his and the others weight – he was never happy just following the trend. Instead, he looked before he leapt, he walked before he ran and he sat wherever a seat was available, because in his mind, this was the way the world worked and why make life any harder than it had to be?

The only day James did go against the grain of his nature was the day the fight broke out between him and the gang’s de-facto leader. It was the first giant leap into the shaping of the man the boy would become.

The lives of children are as complex and tribal as any subset civilisation, where the Incas and Romans and Egyptians had their. funny little traditions and ways of getting things done – that made Anthropologists and psychologists crazy - these were nothing compared to the traditions and tribal customs of children. The bigger and meaner you were really didn’t mean anything to children. Big and mean meant you were a bruiser, not a leader, a bully, not someone to be followed. Big and mean was reserved for Goliath-like shock tactics. A final resort when your biggest, ugliest guy hit the other team’s smallest and weakest. No, big and mean never meant LEADER. Leaders were cunning, were clever, were devoid of morals and had impressive little skills to twist and manipulate. Machiavelli himself would have been a leader when he was a child, a sinister, dark minded, blackly-hearted tactician, as uncaring and as unfeeling as any despot. The children who were in charge were not usually the ones who joined the police and army, but those who had high powered jobs in businesses and influence, who could stare down the fear of not knowing what your next action would be, and who didn’t give a single thought to the bad consequences of what was about to happen.

The leader of James’ little child posse was Michael. Michael was twelve, slight in physique, slender and delicate looking; his hair was an immaculate hazelnut brown, his eyes dark circles of deep brown. With his big pupils and the dark, rich colour of his iris, it seemed as though he had pure black eyes, no emotion rang from them. When he smiled it was the smile of someone who painted brushstrokes across his own face and just as quickly wiped them off, no register of truth ever passed his lips, he was a liar in face, feature and voice. What he lacked in physical size he more than made up for in his unrelenting swagger.A perfect leader.

Michael would command the creation of forts – built into gaps in hedgerows that divided the fields that surrounded their estate. Using string and scraps of wood, they would stretch out the nascent holes in the hedge and create doorways, perfectly arched openings that would have structural engineers scratching their heads in wonder at how they were created. They would take salvaged planks and make chairs and seats in between boughs and branches using tools they surreptitiously stole from their father’s toolboxes, nailing them into place in haphazard ways that belied their youth – yet highlighted their abundant enthusiasm. The dens and forts would be dotted around a half dozen areas, the whereabouts crudely drawn on a map that showed where hidden treasures were kept, marked in big red X’s where they could escape at any one time. Each member of the gang had a map, and each X was numerically organised, as the forts were divided into seven designates. In Michael’s street-facing bedroom window, visible from all the other boy’s houses or easily from the road, he would blu-tac a scrap of paper up when he wanted a gang meeting – on it would be nothing more than 5 digits. 51300 was showing on the day that James could not make it to the meeting.

5 – The fort.

1300 – The time they had to meet.

James was eating his late breakfast, picking at a slice of toast his mother had cut into soldiers for a boiled egg, cooked so the yolk was runny, and he could dip them inside. He took his food to his room, his mother smiling as he did, this being the usual routine. “What book are you into this time?” She asked idly, a flutter of warmth in her voice. “I’m reading Cosmos by Carl Sagan… it’s about space and that.”James didn’t turn to look at her, as he carried on right up the stairs, trudging in his half-shoe-shuffle kind of way.

“Seems a bit grown up isn’t it?” His mother, a kind and light-hearted woman, had seen the book on a library shelf once, all she remembered was the bold image of Jupiter on its cover.

Was it Jupiter… which was the one with the rings?” she would think, a thought that would drive her mad for days in the silly little way that she allowed things to do, her mind always obsessing over the inconsequential. Always mulling over the correctness of tiny details that only she cared about. “I like the pictures; it’s never too grown up to know where we come from Mum.”

His reply having a fine edge of reason and earnestness that Margaret Edmunds had grown accustomed to with her middle child. Wise beyond his years, a shy and lonely child he may appear to be, but he was fiercely intelligent – and if shy and lonely did not bother him, so in turn she would not allow herself to be bothered either.

James was gently dipping and gobbling his toast soldiers as he sat in his window. He was sipping noisily from a tepid cup of tea his mother had made him to go alongside the breakfast, when he saw Michael put the signal in the window. James looked down at his little Casio wristwatch, noted the time as 11.37, and thought no more of it.Michael was not one of James’ favourite people. He hung around with the other kids mainly to pretend to his parents that he was interested in having friends. To show that he was trying to be a normal child – running and jumping and climbing trees – but really, they were so ambivalent about his presence, and he in return to them, that he sometimes wondered why he was wasting good reading time hanging around in cold, muddy fields. Playing games he cared nothing about with people who were barely his peers, as much as just being people his age stuck in this prison of geography.Michael saw him from his bedroom window and waved a curt, explosive little wave at James as if to say “You’d better be there!”James ignored the gesture entirely and instead hopped down from the window, placed his breakfast on the bedside table, and with a stone-faced look of utter disdain looked directly at Michael and shut his curtains.“No more pretending.” He said to no one but himself.“No, no, no.”And he went back to his book, his egg and his neat, little toast soldiers, slurping a gulp of nearly cold tea, just the way he loved it.

* * *

The Box was back.

How it had returned he did not understand, and who had brought it back was an even bigger mystery. James stared at his doorstep in perplexed and growing bewilderment. Added to this was a twitch of anger that was slowly crawling up his core, as if affixed like a caterpillar to his spine, slowly shuffling up each vertebrae towards his mind, where it would poke all his buttons and make him a ball of furious indignance.James gave the box a poke with his foot; it did not budge. It was like kicking a concrete block, his foot recoiled in shocked pain, he threw a face like someone who had just been told to watch a video of his own parents having sex, a disgusted, sneered lip grimace that showed the world just how unhappy and put out he was by this turn of affairs. He gently used the side of his foot to try and move it an inch or two to the side but again it refused to budge as if glued to the doorstep. As if it had grown from the step as a solid growth of paper, string and cardboard.

From the street he heard a whistling, an out of tune warble, full of joy and dizzy ignorance. A whistled version of “O, When The Saints” that was barely recognisable in its abject refusal to stay in tune or adhere to any real structure of music at all. Betrayed for the song it was by nothing more than the man whistling it giving up the ghost of his whiny whistling and instead breaking into a happy and even worse rendition of the song in a sung little moan.He rounded the corner of the small hedgerow that surrounded James’ immaculate garden. Immaculate due to James’ insistence on paying for a gardener and landscaper to tend it, even though he would never venture more than to his hedge’s edge to put out bins. His feet never touching the grass for fear of disappearing in a puff of smoke and sulphur.The postman had in his hands two small, white envelopes, circulars of some description, a brown envelope that looked like some form of bill and a larger packaged envelope, with special delivery notes on it.“Morning, sir! And what a fantastic morning it is as well, eh?”He affixed a smiling, cheery little grin on his face and pointed it at James like a deadly weapon. James, in turn looked up from the box, still in his mid-morning stupor, still mesmerised and confused by the box and its unwelcome return, he looked directly at the postie and said “What the fuck is this?”The postman looked down at the box, his smile for a flicker of a second entirely dropping from his face before looking back at James and firing that smile back with blind ingenuity.“Well, that looks like a parcel, innit?”

“I know it’s a parcel, I can see very bloody well it’s a parcel. What is it doing there?”The postie regarded the box, then James and gave a little look around his shoulders to check there were no cameras, that this was not some TV show where he was being pranked. Happy this was indeed just one of those people he was always warned about on the TV and in the Daily Mail, he smiled wider and replied:“Looks like it wouldn’t fit through the letter box, hey?”James stared at him sharply, his eyes snapping up from the box to the postman’s returned gaze, and he regarded the man for a second – the fires of eternity burning incandescently and righteously behind his eyes, he looked directly at the red-jacketed moron in front of him, took a small half step forward as the postman retreated the same distance, and whispered in a white-hot voice that could cut steel,

“What is in it?”

Silence filled the air as the postie looked down again, then back to James, then the box – and finally decided on:

“I haven’t a fucking clue, pal. Now please sign here, I have a dozen or so other mentalists to visit today.”James automatically took the board held towards him, signed his name in a clean swooping cursive and handed it back. The postman gave him the letters and the special delivery and smiled a bigger, wider, broader smile than any he would do that day.“Why can’t I move it?” James said absently.

“What do you mean? You can do whatever you want with it,” postman said. “It won’t move, it’s solid, how am I supposed to pick it up?”The postman looked at the box, wondered again if this wasn’t indeed some form of joke he was not getting, and bent down. Gently picking up the box with consummate ease, it seemingly weighing less than a feather, he handed it to James.“There you go, sir. Maybe see a doctor about your back if you were having trouble lifting it, terrible thing it is to have back pain.”“Why did you leave it on my doorstep?” James queried, confused by the postman’s ease at picking it up when it wouldn’t move a centimetre for him, puzzled by why the postman had left it and then double backed with more post.“Why didn’t you deliver the other post when you dropped this off earlier?”The postman for a second lost a half of his smile; his face cracked as if his façade of happiness was slipping off and nothing was left but the true person behind the mask.“What are you talking about? I didn’t deliver it. This is my round, I come from number 38, all the way down to number 112. Then I cross over and do the odds over there,” pointing at the houses across the road “then I fuck off home. I started twenty minutes ago, I’ll be done in 3 hours. Then I get to go home, kiss my wife, have some tea and chill out until I do this all again tomorrow – joy of fucking joys!”James’ face was one of abject confusion, like a dyslexic trying to spell any one of the ridiculous town names in Wales, like a numerically challenged child trying to multiply Pi by itself.

“But, the box… it was delivered this morning.”“Not by me, pal and Parcelforce don’t start ‘til 2pm, so whoever did bring it, they ain’t wearing a red tunic, and they ain’t pushing no Royal Mail trolley. Now have a lovely day… And really, I’d see someone about the back.”And like that, the postman carried about his way, the horrible whistle starting again with aplomb, the street abuzz with his discordant dirge.

James walked a zombie-like shuffle into the lounge. He dropped the envelopes and special delivery on the sofa with a cold and distant thump, and then placed the box on his glass-topped table.

The glass cracked immediately, then smashed and the box fell through, cracking the under shelf in two before resting in a heap, angled on the sharp shards of wood.James gave a sudden start the second the glass ruptured and the box fell through, he jumped back in wide-eyed terror when the wood creaked and then gave. A vaporous, smoky waft of dust plumed from the coffee table as fibres and glass settled, a slight, creaky awkwardness still resonated as the remnants of the table took the weight of the box. For a second James did a mental double take, trying to remember if he had a basement, as if the floor were not concrete over solid foundation, he had absolutely no doubt the box would have found a way through this too.He took a step toward the debris and devastation of what was his late grandmother’s vintage coffee table. The glass was a good quarter inch thick and was reinforced, it had taken a lump hammer and several boots slamming against it in its time and never even registered a smudge, yet the box that was picked up by the postman as easily as a coin or a feather would have been, had smashed the glass almost entirely. Nothing really remained, a few large shards here and there, but it had done a good job of crystallising the bulk of the glass and making a powdery glass haze.

He attempted to lift the box again, despite all his efforts, a good grip and proper lifting posture, it would not move even a tiny little bit.

It was Mjolnir; It was Excalibur – and James was very much not worthy of the weight of the moment.

He looked at the whole sorry affair for a few seconds, stroked his beard with absent indulgence, dabbed his sweaty, beady, mottled brow and then retired to the kitchen where he made himself a ham sandwich and a cup of tea in silence.He took the time to eat the sandwich in small, deliberate bites, wiped his mouth with a tea towel, and then slurped heavily on the tepid milky tea.He swallowed it down heartily, noisily and fast. Then sat at the table, without warning, without thinking about it at all…He burst into tears and cried for a good half hour.

* * *


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CHAPTER TWO - Waiting Backstage, our Supporting Cast.

Faustus: Stay, Mephistopheles, and tell me, what good will my soul do thy lord?
Mephistopheles: Enlarge his kingdom.
Faustus: Is that the reason he tempts us thus?
Mephistopheles: Solamen miseris socios habuisse doloris.
(It is a comfort to the wretched to have companions in misery)”

- Christopher Marlowe – Dr Faustus

- 1 -

Static shadows were painted upon the cold stone wall, and there was a throb of intense discomfort permeating the room. The only light was from a half-dozen, oil burning torches, lining the entire length of one wall.A lonely, thin and weakly-framed man stood by a window looking out over a blank domain. Black was all that could be seen on the horizon less for one pinhole of light that stood at the northern most point of the sky. A slight, tender, blue-glowing aura circled it, a solitary star in the sky devoid of anything other than impenetrable darkness.The man had his hand folded behind his back, the skin like a waxed paper stretched out over bamboo bones – so thin and so porcelain that he at first looked like a waxwork left in a position of repose in some museum of horror.

But, the man flexed and closed his hand behind his back into a tight and taut fist, the sound was that of a wet clump of leather being wrung out of water. The click and grind of bones was that of birch sticks breaking under clumsy feet. And the veins, blue, green and deep, dark purple became lengths of tough, gristly rope. A strength existed behind the intense weakness that was on the surface, deep below a strength of some significant and terrifying power dwelt and in the simple gesture of a hand being opened and closed it was evident that it was as honed and ready to be unleashed as a whip in a slave trader’s hand.A door opened with a heavy effort, the static shadows lit up and shifted as if they were alive and trying to hide, for an instant the figures imprinted on the wall burst as if a flock of blackbirds at a gun report, and sought the sanctuary of anywhere that was not in the gaze of the man in red who entered. Standing easily at seven feet tall if he was a foot, the man had a beard as big, busy and thick as a lion’s mane, a deep strawberry-blonde, streaks of white bled from the corners of his mouth, down. The beard followed the line of the man’s chiseled jaw up into a messy burst of golden-red hair, the flame’s light caught it and it too looked like it was bursting at the seams with terrific fury and flame-borne sentience.“My Lord, we have word.” His voice a boom of bass-heavy intemperance, an undulating feeling of immediacy, lacking any subtlety or patience, his voice was a one tone bark of indifference, you felt that if he had spoken to you a question it would sound like a command.“He is dead,” not a question, but a statement came the reply, The man in the window did not move, his pose remained calm and still, his voice a gentle crackle - distinguished and full of fertile authority. A regal timbre. “I know. Of course, I know.”The man in red went to reply as if to ask how, caught the words in his mouth, and swallowed them deep down. Of course he knew. Of anyone in creation, it would be him who knew before anyone else. “Ready the Tribunal, tell them we are overdue a conversation. Tell them to assemble every councilman and woman, every single member of the board, there is much to discuss, and there are other things stirring. I see now that we are behind schedule.”The man in red clipped his heels and barked an affirmation, what he said would be understandable to maybe three people in the entire history of the universe we understand and can comprehend. The man in the window, still stood impenetrably still and calm was one of them.

The red man turned and held the door to close. It was easily three or four feet thick, oak-sandwiched between iron and gold, with thick, iron bolts and hinges and a handle that was fashioned like a horse’ head; sinewy and angular, strong and proud.As he was almost out of the room, the figure in the window turned calmly, hands still behind his back. “And War.” The red man stopped and fixed the pale man with an unsteady gaze, a solitary bead of sweat prickled on his forehead and was allowed to roll down past his eye, the fear of showing weakness preventing him from wiping it away.The figure in the window had deep-set eyes that seemed to be almost perfectly black, but for when the light of the torches caught them, then they were the pale blue of the horizon when it meets the ocean, the intense crystal blue of ice, fixed in a face that looked like it would shatter should it dare carve a line of any emotion, not so much a skull, as much as a waxy, porcelain, china doll mask, young and beautiful, but affixed with a shiny, unsettling hue of the dead.“My Lord?”

“Ready the horses.” The Pale man allowed himself and the man in red a sly, almost non-existent smile, his lips turning maybe a quarter of a millimeter in both corners upwards, a cruel joke of an inflection.The red man caught the smile and returned it with a bright, toothy gape. He nodded curtly and exited, closing the door as if a giant bank vault. A gentle pop sounded as the lock snapped shut, and once again the room was returned to its previous stillness. The shadows, one by one, crawled out of their hiding places and found their homes in static silence upon the wall again.

The pale man raised one thin, slender and febrile arm with hand outstretched. A single finger and thumb reached for, and grasped, the light from the sky, holding it between his digits, its pale blue aura emanating a warmth and hum as it throbbed in his cold and waxen hands.It had been a long time coming, but finally the moment was upon them, they were about to name their fourth, and the stories were about to become a reality. A million lifetimes of work was about to be brought to fruition and the world was about to learn a new destiny.

The pale man smiled deeply, as he gazed longingly at the pale blue dot between his finger and thumb, rolling it gently back and forth, before he closed his fist around it so hard his skin seemed to light up. Waxed paper skin became an amplifier for the light and life, as he closed the window with a gesture, and sat in front of a fire that burst alive in flame as if by magic in his presence. As he paid regard to his hand, a pale blue glowing fist, he smiled slightly wider, a sick movement that shook the room with giddy revulsion. Some things were not meant to smile.Crocodiles and misery were but two. This man was the third and the worst of them all. His smile was a hammer to everything good about the world.

A vicious stroke of a butchers knife across naked flesh would have made a better smile.

* * *

- 2 -

When they went to view the house the two of them could not believe how perfectly it matched and fulfilled all of their silly little criteria: the hidey-holes, the nooks, the little shelves here there and everywhere that allowed them places they could put all the many trinkets and things they hoarded together and individually.The kitchen that was open plan and just large enough for a table and chairs and which opened up to a back garden that was just small enough to be on the right side of quaint. Blocked from view by a high fence, strategically planted fir trees and a large Willow that wept and bowed straight at the bottom of the garden it made a den of secret shadows and occasionally burst into light as the sun pierced and ricocheted through the sweeping branches.The bathroom was deliciously tiny, but filled every need a bathroom could. Two people in snugly, making it just right for the two tactile and touchy feely lovers. A fact they smiled at and shared a tender, fleeting, teasing kiss about, before exiting with childish giggles.

The estate agent was good at reading people, knew when to do hard sell and soft sell and when the house would sell itself. She had been in the game long enough to have become a layman psychologist and anthropologist, and had taken great care in selecting houses for her clients that she felt would fulfil needs from their list of, sometimes outlandish, demands.She was not really a people person, but had flunked out of architecture colleges and had taken what she felt was the next best job, someone who shows the features and finery of architecture and someone who got to sell the benefits without having to worry about ever building it. She much preferred this role to the one she had failed at university.She had seen the house on the road, not three streets down from her home, driven past it most days in fact, and always eyed it with gluttonous, covetous eyes. When she had overheard at the school, picking up her two darling children (note the sarcasm, her real thoughts were “her two great mistakes”), that the house was on the verge of being put on the market, she made the odd decision to go and call-in directly to the homeowner. Inside her a buzz of excitement knowing that she could sell this house and gain a better commission for herself than allowing it to go to some half-arsed agency who could care less if it sold quickly or not, one more house for their overflowing book in a saturated market. Estrella knew this area, and wanted this house for herself, it was sure-money in her greedy bank account.

She called in on one Thursday morning, the homeowner was a sad, lonely widower named Gerald Passby whose wife Patricia had died quite suddenly in childbirth where the baby had also sadly passed away.

She turned on her voracious charm and handed over a card. She stated how she had heard the house was to be put up for sale and had mentioned how she felt as a neighbour, and a valued member of the community. She could help the man get exactly what he deserved from the sale considering how terrible the situation was and how sensitive the circumstances he had been left in.Of course he had agreed to let her be his agent, it saved him from having to do anything to sort it out himself, and left him time to grieve. Truth be told, the man would not of cared if someone had come and taken the damned house and its memories away for free – but this way, the money could go to good use, to the right places, before the man did what he had been planning to do, retire to the coast and a quiet life by the sea, closer to his remaining family. Sisters and nephews.

She had called the young couple, James and Kay, not a day later after contracts for her management had been confirmed, and she was certain, this being the fourth house they had looked at, that it was the one that nailed the entire and lengthy list of needs, wants and demands they had handed to her.She was certain - so much so she had already put the deposit on the holiday away with her girlfriends she had been bleating about to her put-upon husband for months on end about – In her mind it was already booked, already sorted and she was already tasting the fresh Mediterranean sea air.

The young man – James - and his wife, Katherine (she preferred Kay) were hand in hand, walking around and busily touching all the fixtures, running fingers across door edges, fingering all the lights and sockets, and noseying around things that other people would have entirely missed.

Occasionally a silent nod to each other, or a subtle grin and giggle would signify approval, or they would exclaim “That’s lovely” or “Oh Jim, Look at this!”And he would run over in an odd little waddle, and they would examine every angle and inch of whatever they were crowing after there and then, giggle and come up smiling and nodding. Estrella, the Estate agent, would smile back, wiping away the look of disdain for one of abject class and naïve charm, turning the screw with a little “OK!” sign with her fingers or a sage nod of approval a silent “yes, that’s exactly what you think it is” look. She had not spoken once during the entire visit past greeting them at the door. She was already locked inside a daydream of the holiday, mentally three thousand miles away sunning herself, and her cosmetically enhanced attributes, being doted on by a golden-skinned waiter. His arms look like bronzed Adonis’s, his chest wide and barrel shaped, his body cascades into a perfect triangle shaped toward the waist - she would no doubt later suck off this waiter behind the bar, as was her dirty little peccadillo, her guilty secret.

The couple finished the tour by entering the lounge, with its big bay window, its wide sill that you could sit on and while away afternoons watching the world go by, it was a beautiful final selling point for the house. If they had been holding back any doubt about the house until now, it was exhausted and expelled upon seeing that lounge. It was wide and long, with that window overlooking a garden in need of attention - but which clearly once had had a woman’s touch. It was now overgrown and in need of a day of vigorous weeding, but its ample charm and quirk was still bursting through in fleeting dribs and drabs of colour. Like a masterpiece painting that needed restoration, it was under there, you just needed the tools and time to release its hidden beauty. A gentle hedgerow had grown around the perimeter and was green and full of future growth, and the road was quiet and still and controlled.“We’ll take it” Kay had said, her mouth an arc of engaged and dizzy joy.Estrella also smiled widely.

“I thought you may” was all she said, teeth white and deadly like a shark hungrily probing a beach full of paddling children. The grammar of the sentence all wrong, but fulfilling all the right purposes nonetheless.Kay looked out the window toward the garden again, made an excuse and wandered out. James looked at Estrella, who smiled that great white smile and said,“Let’s talk numbers.”It was a good day for Estrella. The sun on her skin was warm and refreshing, the Margherita on her lips was cool and tangy and the waiter would later slide into her with ease and power and remind her that she sometimes didn’t mind not being in control. As she stood there in the lounge, opposite the bay window, opening her folder to start discussing basic terms needed and required by the homeowner, she could already hear the tide rushing in, the almost impossible sound of the sunscreen boiling on her already too-tanned skin. She could smell the cheap and wanton sex of the waiter from the night before all over her…

The beach had never been so close.

* * *

- 3 -

Seven days to create a universe was propaganda neither wanted nor appreciated by the Gods in the multiple Heavens. It was a lie, a myth and a fairy tale.It is true, there had been seven days at the start – but as time in those days was something like treacle, seeping and oozing, rather than running like the water we have nowadays – days could seem like months, and months like years. Yahweh had always seen his position at the beginning of creation taking a prominent and important role, and this was good and true. He had been the first to take the emptiness by the scruff of the neck and paint upon it impressions and ideas that had been pregnant in his mind no sooner had he woken up. However, though he took on a dual capacity as Creator and Destroyer – his role was just one of many hands and many Gods.

No one could doubt his importance as being both Doter and Carer of Mankind and the universe. Nor his voracity and speed in being the vicious Corporal dishing out punishments and lessons both miserable and glorious. At the end of it all he was trapped within those rules he had had a good hand in creating.One of many, one of a council of Gods who had all taken a share of the eternal oblivion, witnessed from their thin shard of existence, and given to them all with carte blanche to build what they may.

The abridged version had it that at the beginning there was nothing, darkness. And from the darkness born was the word, and the word was the light and the lie of it all. From the word came the planets and the stars and the truth, and the heavens slowly but surely began to take shape and form.From this was born a countless aeon of infinite possibilities and consequences. God had crafted this from nought more than from the air in his lungs – unfolding a handful of dusty breath onto a table cloth of night and shadow and upon which he unpacked his smorgasbord picnic of life.

Or at least it was in his little corner of creation.

The thing about God was, no matter how much he argued to the contrary, he was just as lost in this sea of uncertainty, in the mystery of this ephemeral existence and life as any one of his flock. One day there was nothing, no light or creation or being, the next a pop and there was God. Full of wonder and memory and idea and confidence, his hands huge powerful tools which could build form from nothing and could work on a design so infinitely small in scale to himself it was scary to even him.But, He was not the first.

When God opened his eyes that first morning there was a plethora, a literal superfluity of others like him who were just as confused and lost, yet, just as powerful. All looked just like him in the flesh, but their shadows would tell different stories – animating differences that were infused in their souls. Some had heads like nothing yet known in this wide expanse of nothing, others had multiple arms, others were naked and chiselled in shapes he was confused and aroused by, others still were not constrained by shape or conscience instead were mists of idea and emotion.Each one was conjured from the space between spaces, born of the breath before idea. Each staring at the other and each looking for a leader amongst the throng.God spoke first.

“I am Yahweh,” he said.How he knew his name was beyond his ken, he just knew instinctively that he was.

“I am he they will call Allah, Jehovah and The Lord”A silver haired man, whose skin emanted an aura of steely warmth stood, he loked around and helped the other men and women around him to their feet, looked at Yahweh and bowed gently.“I am Zeus.” Was all he said, as he helped more to their feet, creatures of every shape and size, every colour and creed.One such man, a huge, bearded boulder of a man, one eye missing in his head, a blank of scared skin had been placed where the eye should have been took Zeus’s hand, and gave a laugh, loud and boisterous.

“I am Odin. He they will call Allfather.”A creature, not man, not animal, a strange tusked beast whose frame was made of multiple arms and a long trunk appendage on his face stepped forward and spoke in a language and timbre that would be impossible to emulate using mere human voices, he stated he was Ganesha, and that he was one of many Gods, that “This is a grand day, the beginning is now and even though the end is now in sight because the beginning is here, at least,” (he said with a smile as ugly and impossible as anything seen then or since) “That the beginning is now here. Little blessings.”Yahweh was the first to ask the question that made them more than lost husks with a name on their tongue, and elevated their minds to a new plateau – one of thought and reason and question.“Where did we come from?”Odin looked at him and smiled.

“Who knows? … Is it not enough that we are?”

Odin was right. It was enough they were there. This multitude of lost, confused and infant Gods. Each full of raw power and energy, each hungry to stretch and flex the creation they had within themselves.There was time enough for this. At this point, there was only time. Time and space and void.

There was only the thought and the space in between.Time was a true concept then, a malleable and melting concept of liquid and shape, manipulated easily and controlled with idle gesture and annoyance.It was also a creature of its own right, invisible to these Gods, but witness to the day they woke. Working and pulling infinite cogs and strings in shadows and isolation.

The Gods were hungry and restless, and something inside screamed of them that they work. Before them was the beach, and beyond this the plan. Between them, they made the plan, to divide the world and the creation, and they made an accord upon which they could begin their duties… whatever they showed themselves to be.In the time that followed, the Gods, so many and so varied, so powerful yet so childlike, decided that they were family, born together, they would live together.

No harm from one God to another could ever be dealt – their cardinal rule.

The second rule, that the part of creation that was taken by them was theirs and theirs alone. Others of their kind could not take the land upon which they built.

They would live and let live. Or thus bring into question the first and cardinal rule.

This was not to say in future times they would find ways to damage each other using their own flock – sometimes with control, other times purely at random with the flock deciding this action against other Gods purely of their own reason.

The final rule – given to them by someone not of their Ilk, but of something far greater and stranger – was this.Gods found they could die.No matter how much they wanted dearly for this to be contrary to reality, it was not – they died just like men died, sometimes easier. When these creatures had woken, having shaken the first stirrings of sleep and confusion from their minds – after they spoke their names for the first time – they found there was One who had been awake long before them. If indeed he ever had been asleep. Someone and something that stood amongst them.

Mayhaps he was a God himself.He would never be so bold to suggest or promote this idea. No.Instead, he perfectly lacked in pride, lacking any self-righteous ego; he was a creation of muted indifference and utter ambivalence.

So much so it was terrifying.

His name was death.

When language came into being, people would learn to capitalise him and make him Death.

The hard D always capitalised, always prominent. Always unnecessary. He was purely and simply “death” - no pomp or ceremony, much like the act itself when filtered down to its pure essence.He, Lord Death, sat amongst them.The Gods shook the webs of sleep from their heads and eyes and began to take the first tentative steps toward the bright white luminescence of birth. He touched each one deep inside with nought more than a thought, and he said clearly,

You are Gods and you are born, each a creator and destroyer all, yet, remember – whatever you do from here on out there was once a darkness and a nothingness from which you came, and in that I was king. I was here before you came and I will be here long after you leave – and one day, we will meet face to face again and we will not have quite such as pleasant a chat as we did this day. I am death. And you are all my children.

Gods have little to fear, but one day, worship and tribute will dry like a riverbed in a heat-wave, and the tokens and the gifts and the ceremony will die like a fish out of water. The feeling of imbibed love and attention will calcify in the veins of the God. Blood will crawl like desert sands across plains, edging slower and slower into despair. All the goodness of the praising and love of their minions will end as one after one their people die and forget and lose themselves in chaos and apathy. The God will turn around, and the dark, ice-blue eyes of death will be before them, staring deep within their souls. Death will hold out a thin white hand and the God will follow him into oblivion, never again to be seen and spoken of, except only as a hushed whisper, once a brother or a sister, now a fleeting burst of dust on a passing wind.

As forgotten as a wink or a yawn.

So it was that Creation was made, not a one-man affair, but a labour of many hands and many minds and painted many colours and using many tools. To say there was a grand calculated design, a “Master plan” would be a bold-faced lie. What there was in spades was an observance, that there would be order, and from the order chaos of a more natural kind.

The Gods came together and carved the blackness into slices of fabric which they could wear and could toy with. Each creating a plane for their own senses and desires. Odin ripped his fabric into nine sheets and thus was created the nine realms; some Gods came together and built as a team, sharing duties and strength, pooling ideas and intuition. Others still carved the fabric into images of themselves, mirrors of their Godhood and hung it loose in the darkness, alone and free. When they were done, this first Pantheon brought all the fabric worlds together and shared what they had created. It was stitched together into the Cosmos we know now.

Eclectic, eccentric and real – different pantheons joined to breathe life and form into different areas of the universe, and the vast blueprint was the result of many hands from many deities.

Mankind was Yahweh’s own contribution. There would be other attempts from many other Gods after. Some copying the template, some experimenting in ways that would birth monster and beast.

But Yahweh was first – this much is undeniable.At first was only the beach and the lapping tide.From whence all Gods woke.Now, thanks to Yahweh, built from this tiny fragment of land, he had built Eden.The infant Earth.

He made the garden from elements of other Gods ideas and inside the garden, this lush and perfect green circle of life, he placed the first two humans.

Adam and Lilith.

At first Lilith, the first Daughter amongst the new world, who lay down with animals and roamed free amongst the many hills and rivers, plains and mountains, showed signs of subservience. She was a wife to Adam, she lay with him too in the shade of the vast oak that sat in the forest. She bathed in the waters of the lagoon that sat at the top of the mountain, with its massive waterfall cascading clear, blue waters into the lagoon and drying naked and beautiful on the banks of the lagoon steam rising from her in the warmth of the early sun.But soon, without ever having been designed, she took a fancy to curiosity and question. Looking at things in a strange skewed way, head to one side, a notch of puzzle on her brow and she would point and ask “why is this?” and “why not like this?” One day, whilst in the forest following a stag that was bounding across the mud and moss and darting between trees and bush, walking side by side with God she dared to ask the question that she had been obsessing after for so long, she dared to ask him that which he was struggling with.“Who made you?”

“From whence did you come?”“When you are gone – what will be left?”In Lilith, God had found his first and most significant mistake – a mistake that would follow him always.

He had imbued her with just as much soul as himself, with this came intuition and promise and adventure – she tempted, and she seduced. She spun yarns and stories, and her constant questioning was a revelation to him - it being all of her own making. As well as also becoming a thorn in his side.

Questions he would never be able to answer, questions that plagued and bothered him - questions, questions, questions – buzzing and berating him, the wings of flies boring into his expansive and omniscient mind. Permeating every neural pathway and vein, a deep, brown poison drip, drip, dripping into his very being.But, he was on the whole in the early days, a mostly merciful creator. Before he knew what vengeance or retribution or anger or hate or violence was (because these were man-made constructs he simply adopted later, as one would an accent or a mannerism) God was, above all else, also curious.

One evening, Lilith came to the mountain. Her flowing golden mane of hair, the only protection she had from the elements, she sat cross-legged and quite naked amongst the lonely roses that grew upon the mountains peak, amongst barren patches of grass and a gentle stream and waterfall, the lagoon alive with fish and light. God’s daughter came and sat and silently, wantonly, Lilith called out to God.

She had a way of bewitching him.

Watching them together – Lilith was born of the dust and soil of the world and the breath of the ocean’s wind. As much a child of Gaia as himself, she being the designer of the ground upon which the garden grew and the winds which moved his Trees and flowers. If God was the father, she was surely the Mother of the Earth and the life born from the seed of it.Adam, created second, was born from God’s own hair, twisted and manipulated into shape and life. Ignited from a kiss from God’s own lips.Yahweh could see the vast gulf in difference between the two of them. Adam so dull and dutiful, so blindly optimistic and full of vacant charm. Lilith with her sultry stares and her serpentine figure, her breasts that rose and dropped in dramatic and energetic fashion when she ran in the rain. Her long slender arms that contorted into strangely spellbinding shapes when she danced in the waterfall. The wildfire that existed behind her eyes, sparkling and bursting into vivid and voracious life when her mind fixated upon a detail or an idea.The life that emanated from her, like an aura, of rich, invigorating energy.

God found that he cared little for Adam’s moronic love. So constant, so bothersome, so annoying – constant wasp stings whenever he prayed.

Never allowing a moment of peace.

Adam who would watch the animals in dumbstruck wonder, patting their backs and guffawing and laughing as though it was the most wonderful thing in the entirety of his little slice of creation.His eyes so distant and dull, never showing an iota of the curious and beguiling fire that Lilith hid behind her pupils. Adam, who would wander naked and cumbersome around the garden slowly touching the trees and the grasses and giggling in imbecilic chuckles and barks of laughter for no specific reason or spur. Just laughing his redundant and indifferent laugh at the surroundings, unaware himself why he laughed – but carrying on regardless. How could God love this creature when his attention was stolen by the Nymph that was Lilith?

Adam’s smile was a blunt, unusual slash across his square jaw lacking any real engagement or understanding. God looked upon his son as being a functional creation, but one that he was rarely proud of.

Lilith was different. She rarely – if ever – prayed. She never mentioned God in name or verse when she did. Instead thanking nature for its beauty, passing grace to the weather for its clemency and offering appreciative murmurs towards the deer that Adam had struck down and cooked, forever grateful for its sacrifice.

Lilith was a different being than God had hoped or dreamed for, something he watched and regarded with odd pride and a pang of perpetual, curious lust. When he met her atop the mountain, her nakedness was betrayed by the lily-white tenderness of her beautiful skin, her hair the same colour as a fresh carpet of snow. When he was in her presence, he never had control and felt like she was driving him. Like her being was entwined around his being, her every smile, her every sway in the cool, indifferent air of the mountain was in and of itself a beckon and a nudge to lose himself. His mind a heady drunken mess of confusion and impulse, his clarity dipped in misty, murky instinct.Daring him, goading him into surrendering to his appetite and hunger rather than standing as the pious and steadfast Deity he would want to be seen as.Inside his mind, he could hear the begging of surrender to his instincts and emotions.

And then, one day, he did.“Father, I do not covet Adam anymore,” Lilith said when she heard God appear behind her. His silent, preternatural ability to exist in the spaces between spaces, and, therefore, move unseen around the garden was never something that worked around this white-haired beauty. Her skin prickled and came to shuddering, shivering life in his presence and she was always aware when he was around, often before God himself was aware she knew.“His skin is weak, shallow, it does not warm me as I wish it too. His heart is so full of folly and bemusement, he cares not for a woman such as I. He is happier to wander the fields and forests, picking fruit and making fires, than he ever does with my flesh, with my heart. How can I learn to love him if he does not know who I am if he does not care?”Yahweh shifted again, folding in on the space and dimensions around them, and came from out of the waterfall. His nakedness shimmering with a silver ripple as the water evaporated from him, wafts of platinum steam circling his aura and dispersing into nothingness. He reached a huge, welcoming hand out to Lilith. She regarded it and its strength, smiled, and lay her dainty, delicate hand in his palm and allowed herself to be pulled into the water, lead by him into the waterfall.Yahweh took her gently and rolled her into his chest, she reciprocated by throwing her arms around his waist. Her head squeezed tightly against his breastbone, as his hand circled her shoulder, gently cupping her neck and hair.

“Adam is Man. His attention is on that which is unknown, that which is fleeting.

His mind will slow, his body will hunger, his passions will find you, patience my daughter.” He had to swallow hard on the ‘My Daughter’ as the word bore some new significance. Lilith’s hand had found the small of his back, and she gently pushed away from his arms to look him directly in the eyes. She half smiled, a line in her grubby, yet so delicate and beautiful face, from where she had cried.“If to love you is unconditional, and you are love, why then do we need to dress our praise of you in tribute and gifts and presents? Why can we not just be and shine out our love for you to see?” She held his gaze. Yahweh stood silent, momentarily lost in her green eyes. He could not remember ever making them this beautiful or dazzling. They were a rich aquamarine. The colour seemed to sparkle with untold adventure in a way that stole him. Making his mind heavy with the sense of insanity and angry need.

“I love you with my everything; I am sure you can see that?” Lilith said, her hand gently stroking his cheek.

“I would do anything to show you my love, but surely the fact the love exists is all you would need for you to know. Am I not correct?”Yahweh looked at her, her naked body glistening in the spray from the waterfall, her eyes a magnet of emotion and heady love. Her breasts still rising and falling. Rising and falling with each of her heady breaths.He broke the gaze, dropping his head slightly to look away from her eyes. The colour was doing something to him. The waterfall cascaded around them in loud, warm torrents; the froth and steam made the cave behind the curtain of water a warm and welcoming retreat in which to have this conversation, away from prying eyes and minds. Lilith was made from the dust of the Earth and brought incarnate by the breath of Oceans, but the spark that made her real was tempered with parts of creation he did not have a hand in, though she was most definitely one of his toys, built by his hand, she was tainted with elements under the rule of other Gods.

He realised; he had made a mistake in her.Her hand was still on his cheek, he rested his head gently on her palm, gently stroking his electric golden skin, his hand framed and held her face gently, and he drew her to him. Their skin entwined in gentle static bursts, her hair became a fizz of life, as his ardour became elevated, and his skin shone brighter.She held a hand around his waist and pulled him close.He in turn, cupped a hand around her shapely rear and slightly lifted her toward him, the damp glisten of the waterfall on her skin fizzed and disappeared upon contact with his skin. The two of them were alive now in static ballet, light and water dancing in elliptical arcs around them.

“I love YOU. I want YOU; I do not want this half-man you made for me.”Lilith said this with her lips so very nearly touching Gods, he – in turn – seemed to mirror her mouth moving. Swallowing her words as though they were rich and filling morsels of food, the taste of her breath invigorating him in the most delicious and wonderful of ways.So close to his flesh, her lips merely brushed his. In this lightest moment of contact images and emotions exploded in vivid colour inside her mind as God’s mind also became awash with emotions he had had no part in creating. He was in no way controlling or expecting or ready for this alien side of her, born of nature created by the hand of some other God or Goddess. This imp, this demon he was no part of had filled her with curiosity, impertinence, adventure and defiance – she was a vampire, an animal, a hybrid of two worlds – and he could no longer help himself. He fell into her lips, as one would fall into sleep, simple and unexpectedly his lips and hers touched and the kiss became all that there was.

Her kiss was as beautiful and as revelatory as the day he was born, hacking and spluttering though he had, so naked and alone upon a plain of darkness. Before the sound of others dotted the collective unconscious and he was staring at a plethora of Gods – his pantheon - all who had been brought to creation by an unknown hand, some unknown power and who had left them, alone, to figure their own way. A scary, incredible feeling of unknowing, of a future unwritten, of a beginning yet to come, the feeling of being able to do anything and knowing it was yours to make of as you wished.

The birth of the Gods and this kiss was one and the same to him, his mind was sure.

Her lips and her kiss were as shocking and as terrifying as the day Death had told them he would one day come for them, one by one, and that even Gods were mortal.

He was filled with a cocktail of unbalanced emotions, revulsion at his action, excitement and a need to know what would happen if they continued this path.So…As he lifted her up in his strong, taut, golden arms, she wrapped her legs around his waist as though they were tendrils of root. Unexpected strength squeezed him, and she sighed as her sex nestled on the electric golden edge of his. As he entered her in a single gesture, her face came away from his and her eyes took on a fiery aura around the brilliant aquamarine, her mouth a circle of surprise and desire, her eyes wide and staring at him. A single hand scratched at his solid, muscled chest, cutting and gouging a line of light into the flesh that healed in a dark, golden brown reminder of the deed. Her breathing rapid and ecstatic, the chest heaving in deep gulps of life-giving air, stifled by gentle moans and a warm giggle. Her hair fell in heaps across her face as she held his face lightly, squeezing him deeper into her with her thighs as He nodded gently in approval. God grew in power and passion inside her and drove on to an orgasm of such magnitude and power that the land around them cracked and broke. As it shook the waterfall lilted and a great deluge came as they did. Lilith screaming and scratching two lines of four deep scars into his shoulders, as though the scars were the skeleton of wings. He pushed harder one last time and groaned a deep rumble of appreciation into her hair as he held her head against his chest. The two collapsing, laying upon the bank of the shadowy, warm beachhead inside the waterfall, the sound of the lagoon suddenly all they could see and hear around them. God allowed himself a single tear to run from his eye in silent abandon, the tear evaporating within seconds upon his beautiful, golden skin. His being twinned for a moment of pure, unquenchable joy with hers. He looked up, breaking from her grip, a fine sweat upon his brow. He was much like Man in those days: discovering new things, feeling in new ways – he was struggling to find the sense in what had just happened, and then he felt a sudden burst of a new emotions, feelings of shame and guilt and regret.His previous ardour and romance for the situation was dying like an aging rose as he separated from her embrace. Instead of the heavy spell of her intoxicating skin and love, all that remained was the reality of his action, the shocking realisation of what had just happened.He rolled away and regarded her.Her naked figure lay upon the bank, the warmth of their labours still gently smoking off her skin, and the glow of her white hair and the lily whiteness of her skin for a second stained golden with his energy and his love.He stood, and one hand raised to his mouth as he fully realised the horror of his actions, she looked at him with a curious and confused poise, her eyes slowly coming out of the spell of intoxicating lust, and instead awakening to what was about to happen. God looked at her with a look of disgusted and brutal judgment, his warm eyes falling into a deeper, darker look of disdain and his mouth curling into a downturned sneer of revulsion.

“How you bewitched me. How you tricked me with stories of love, of need, of desire… How you lie to me. This is not love.”He barked the last word, flecks of spit flying from his snarling mouth.“Do you call this LOVE?”Lilith, for her part, simply laughed.A deep, rich, fertile laugh which shook the heavens and reverberated across the hills and mountains and valleys of Creation.She stood up, stretching her limbs in a sultry and sensual way. Her breasts heaved again, and fell. Her arms stretched high above her head, then came down in alluring patterns as though in a dance, the arms slowly curling into a cross low and lovingly in a cradle across her stomach. She smiled widely and with a smouldering intensity as she simply said.“No.” her hands squeezing gently across her stomach, nurturing her abdomen.She smiled at God, and her eyes welled with tears and a look of victory.“This is Love.”Her belly churned, there was movement there, and the flesh of her stomach swelled and shifted. The skin became pinker and warmer. It started to stretch and become swollen and round, and behind the flesh, there was movement.Lilith smiled and held herself, tears rolling down her cheek, her eyes red with happiness.“What gift is this?” She laughed, her lips contorted into a painful, happy grimace of surprise and adoration.Yahweh stared, one hand still on his mouth, cupped, holding in his terrified guilt.

A dull but poignant understanding grew in him.He pointed at the woman, at her belly, now full of the pangs and spark of birth – so quick, so sudden – and it dawned on him what he had done. Realising how easily he had been used, his own terrible pride twisted and used against him, his desire manipulating his sense. He roared with unrequited rage and burst through the waterfall, shifting in on the space where water molecules met oxygen in silent alchemy, and disappeared to a place where he could be alone to gather his thoughts.Something else within the curtain had been dwelling and had seen everything.Hidden and contorted in the shadows of the cave.Just as shocked, just as surprised.This entity skulked further into the darkness to gather thought and plot.Yahweh had not seen it, nor felt it, but as surely as the deed had been done – the entity had been watching.Lilith was alone, behind the curtain of water, her arms slowly slithering out cutting a swath in the water as she left the cave, hands returning to her belly and a gentle, mournful laugh upon her lips. She looked to the clouds, and to the cliff face above where blue water tumbled into green lagoon.Her laugh became a louder, more hurried one of frenzy and madness.She screamed at the heavens three simple, significant and powerful words.“THIS IS LOVE!”

And she left the water, to make her way to the beach.Something inside her mind was telling her that this was where she had to be.The beach and the lapping tide beckoning her home.

* * *

- 4 -

The box was still in the centre of his lounge. It had burst through the table neatly and with minimum effort. James had managed with clumsy and panicked haste to clear the remnants of the table. Taking the broken shards and fragments he had put them in black bags and put them out in his garden - half for a bonfire, the rest for recycling.

He vacuumed the dusty glass and fibrous chips and then sat on his sofa, a pair of scissors in hand. He idly counted in his head to gain some control of his wits, waiting for the perfect moment of clarity to try and open the box.As he was staring at it – ready to make his first move – a fly landed on the box and began to noisily buzz and flap its wings. The fly was the size of a thumbnail, it had a deep mottled green and blue hue, its eyes were oily and dark and full of deep illusion of filth, its hairy little legs were like fir pine, dipped in treacle and each carried a billion illnesses in James’s head.He stared and stared at the thing. Its translucent wings like petrol in a sea, so beautiful and cataclysmic, they fizzed a retort in fly language, as James sat forward in curious disgust. His glasses perched on the end of his nose, he moved slowly and calmly forward to regard the insect closer, and in turn, the fly hopped on the spot and looked at James right back. They met a glance at each other, and all was still for a second, before the fly took off and buzz-bombed right at James’s face.James jumped from his seat, the scissors bursting from his hands. As he tried to catch them in mid-air, for fear they would damage the upholstery of the sofa, he grabbed them by a single blade and gouged a deep gash into his index finger and palm, the rich red blood flowed immediately. Instead of scissors marking his pale blue sofa cushions, the arcing drops of blood did the same job, only quicker. A dotted arterial spray left across the seat.James rushed into the kitchen to run the gash under a tap, drips followed him, his injured hand was being squeezed tight in his other, the scissors were resting on his floor now, a fine line of blood settling under the blade.The fly was gently buzzing around the stainless steel of the scissors edge and then rested in the blood, puckering deeply around the red elixir. Its wings seeped up the colour, its eyes glimmered as if in a stupor, drunk on its iron and tang. It took off, dizzy and loaded, and full of rich, fresh blood. Finding a dark corner of the kitchen to rest in, its many eyes all focussed on James washing his hand under the water and ripping off kitchen roll to stem the bleeding. The hungry, unquenchable thirst of the metallic blood was still on the flies’ mind. It ripped into its very being, and filled the fly with new purpose and zeal, making it pregnant with new ideas and a single-mindedness.

James wrapped the towel around his fingers, bit open a fabric plaster and tightly wound it round the cut. Luckily it was not as deep as he had feared. Instead, it had just caught him at that perfect place where the vein was most vulnerable.

He threw the towel down, discarded and finished with. The fly saw it and its rorschach of blood. As James left the kitchen, armed with an antiseptic wipe to clean the blood-soaked sofa and carpet, the fly landed on the counter top and got stuck into the blood on the kitchen towel… getting bigger and fatter with each pucker of his proboscis.As James came into the lounge, the first thing he noticed was a second fly sat on the top of the box. This one was black, with bursts of brown and orange under its wings, a common housefly; a little, black, pea-sized dirt magnet. James felt a surge of revulsion and deep miserable hate – he hated flies like he hated people. Parasitic, useless and bothersome, they were one of the few things he hated as equally as he did the general populace. He wanted to swat them all and kill them dead, a bursting sense of accomplishment filling him every time he did so.

He grabbed a nearby tea towel, drying on a radiator, spun it in a slow lasso and then let out a whip that struck with a snap at the top of the box.He flicked the bow off in a single shot. The bow, which was a cheap piece of plasticized paper dressing available from almost any shop, flew off and smashed a vase that was sitting on a nearby side table near the window. As fragments hit the window with a thud, James honestly thought the window was going to give, but it did not. Instead, it just made that dull noise that assured him – strangely – of their quality.

The fly was now nowhere to be seen. Not entirely convinced he had hit it, he kept the tea towel with him, stuffing it in his back pocket as he walked over to the bow. He gently and with a real reluctance, remembering how hard it had hurt to stub his toe on the box that morning, poked a solitary finger of his – now – good hand at the bow. Expecting, for the singular reason that it was easier to accept what was going on than question it, that the bow would weigh an extraordinary amount.

Instead, the bow moved as if made of plasticized paper and then, quite suddenly, evaporated into a fine dust like the life had been dragged out of it with cool, dark efficiency.It reminded James of Christopher Lee as Dracula, hiding behind his cape while someone pulls open the blinds and scours him with sunlight.

He looked at the dust for a second, a look of bemusement written all over his face as if the day could become any weirder.He turned to face the box. Now sat on top was now not one, nor two, but three flies,all of them looking at him with beady, buzzing and goading looks. Mischievous and full of mockery.They were laughing at him in their own little way, James was certain of it, and with a bilious rage in his throat, he burst a “GAH!” sound and swung his lasso tea towel at the box. The cloth immediately ripped into two fragments as it made contacted with a whipping crack noise. Like the velocity had done the damage, which James knew to not be true, where it was instead the box, and nothing more than the box. Its bold impassivity had ripped it in two, and he let out a little laugh. Seeing a half-drunk fly stunned by the tea towel crawling in a listless and stupefied manner toward the chair in the corner of the lounge, James’s half smile disappeared entirely and he marched over to stamp on the thing, double time.His foot came down with a satisfying crunch, like a peanut being stood on, the fly left a mucousy splotch on the carpet. James didn’t even care, he just felt a glow of happiness that he had got the bastard thing.

As he turned around to leave for another wet wipe for the mess on his window sill, and now his carpet, there were four flies on his sofa arm, including the blue bottle. Its green and blue hue had doubled in size, and he felt sure he saw some strange luminescence in its eyes. It paced hungrily and angrily on the arm, and hopped down onto the sofa, its head bobbing up and down on the splashes of blood.James felt a wave of sickness. Inside or outside of his body that was still his blood, and he felt sick knowing the unclean mess was crawling around his fluids. It felt like the worst kind of violation, the worst kind of betrayal of his body to allow itself to be used so.

He remembered that he had packed a box of knick-knacks and useless household rubbish into a box in his shed, and he recalled inside there was a swat. He shuddered with revulsion at the memory of all the wasps and flies he had swiped out of existence like a crazed Wimbledon tennis champ as a child. He could see the bright pink thing now, handle sticking out, a perfect tension in its surface, a handle that bent like a whipping birch, he smiled.It was exactly what he needed.

* * *- 5 -

I stir, not quite awake, indeed – I am never quite asleep, damned forever in a half world of insomnia, existing on a diet of idle restlessness, catching the brief moment of gentle peace on the wing.Like a swallow.

Then, just as soon as I rest my eyes and welcome the blank coldness of sleep, I am struck as if beaten or shocked by powerful bolts of electricity, blind agony crawling through my skin and I am awake, dull-eyed and desperate for the seconds to while away into slumber again.

In my slumber, I missed the sunrise, its fleeting arc across my skyline being all of a minute before it makes a dwindling dawdle back into the horizon again and drowns me once again in darkness… My grace of God and bath in light lasting no more than 10 minutes a day, before I am left alone in almost perpetual darkness, and abject misery.Such is my punishment. Such is my spiteful regret.

I stand in front of the beautiful stained-glass window, now dreary and mute as the sun lingers behind the caustic clouds that smog my view. Grey, dead and cold.Full of pity and yet so full of self-righteous mocking.I would laugh, but, you know what? I outgrew it.Laughter, I outgrew it - Many a good year ago, now I am serious, hewn of pallid flesh that betrays my frustrations like a canvas painting of Prometheus.Laying chained to a rock and allowing birds of prey to eat my flesh every day, as I watch it heal and then wait for the flesh and liver to be ripped from me once again.He is a cousin of mine.He is dead now. Long gone into the Ether with the shadow of Death. Another fallen and aged God fed to the Carrion in the darkness.

The window is a triptych today - it shows an Angel, dead and fallen. Laying at the circle of fire. Of the tempting of Eve with the Apple, Adam taking the fruit from her hand and the desire for that first tantalising taste. The final stack of the window is reserved for the beautiful if inaccurate, depiction me being cast out and thrown into this prison by my brother. Of Michael and his fiery sword and his ridiculous piety and his “heroism,”

Of his victory in the early days of this creation, as he threw me down to the marble cell I now call home, also banishing the kin I helped our father build.Easy to be a hero says I when you have twenty score of our brothers kicking seven shades of faith out of me on the Elysian Fields.

At first I could watch this window day in and day out. Awake with a new vista every morning, fall asleep with a new one every evening.Now, it seems to be the same three or four frames and images every day. Lots of my mistakes, lots of my errors, haunting me.Back in my days in the garden, I would watch, and I would learn.I did a lot of watching in those days. Of the children, of the land forming and shaping to the west and of the plain and the land forbidden to the husband and of the wife.

I watch still now, as mental pictures fill the gaps left by my three window memory box painted upon the wall. My mind my prison within my prison. A constantly evolving maze of regret and despair and sadness, fleeting glimpses of hope always just out of reach, just like the daylight.Hungry for the grace of the morning light. So transient and vacant. Much like my father. A glimpse, a burst of its light like a flash of his smile, taken away by the clouds and the mood and the fucking drama.

I, Lucifer Morningstar.The Adversary, the Great Enemy, the Tempter, the Immoral. I, Lucifer; The Lord of Lies, the Firstborn and Harbinger of the New Day.I sit here in my castle in the heart of a void and wait for the sun to burst for those brief seconds soaking as much light as I can, as much of the suns goodness as I am able and I watch you all.It’s a funny thing to know that I can never do all the things that I am credited with. The tempting and what not… It’s annoying thinking that you all sit there and whisper hushed prays to ward me off and I am sitting here like a bitter exile from the promised land, My father and siblings holding the keys to my freedom, left with morsels of crumbs and scraps. My father telling me I will have feast enough when I have learnt my lesson.Only my father instead forgets about me altogether. I am forever, eternally punished, and I am never let back, forever a beggar at the gates of the dining hall.That’s what Hell is…A big absence of a brilliant parental figure – you and your thoughts and all the things you love - just one inch away from arms length and therefore, always seen never held, never adored, never touched.

A witty comeback two minutes after the target leaves. Forever wasted and never able to be used.

It’s the apple and pitch of water for a starving man, left to rot and spoil an inch away from his grasp. A bastard’s practical joke for a bastard son… The punch-line being it’s NOT funny, but you are forced to laugh at yourself all the same.By the window, there is a table, it is crafted of the same ageless, perfect marble as this prison, it has seen aeons of history. My constant companion, stained dark with the scent of the open fires and shadows, one-half is bathed sporadically in light, the other the dark of the moon, its surface is rich and deep with silence. It is perfect except for a line of fracture no more than an inch or two long; whose topography and shape I cannot stop obsessing over. The only solitary, unfixable imperfection within a room of perfect architecture and a geometry. As I absentmindedly toy with the crack with my index finger, running the pad of the digit up and down the fissure, I hear the sound of the object being slid under the crease of the door shape, scratched deep within the wall. Unable to be opened and unable to be moved.I open the papyrus parchment with trepidation and fear.The item in question is contraband, nothing is given to me ever, and I have never seen another living creature the entire time I have been isolated within this pristine, abandoned marble hell.I open the sheet and gently flatten the crease.Reading the paper several times, with hurried comprehension and a dawning realisation of what this means.Upon the parchment are simple words in a neat, unfussy script.

open the door, you’re free. it’s time.

It was not the words that surprised me, nor the fact that it was left without me sensing or hearing or being aware of a messenger. No. This all made perfect sense when you saw the signature.Indeed, it is the signature with which I am taken aback. We did not always get on – and though he owed me a favour, I never once thought he would return it so…The signature simply read.

ego sum ​​mortis

I am of death.”

The crease behind me rumbles and shakes, and then folds, turning instantly to dust and rubble, as the pressure of space opening up in the atmosphere crumbles its matter to powder.A shard of incandescent sunshine. Pure, white light of redemption, pours through the open wound in the marble and soaks me and my mind.The green tunic is shed quickly, and every inch of my body and frame greedily drinks this bath of light.

My saviour, opening the door to Hell and freeing the number one son.

It’s time.” The parchment says.“It’s time.” The end of days.

I take the first tentative steps toward the hole and daylight. I can see this scene play out in my mind like some overblown stage-show.The curtain draws, I take the stage, the audience are going ecstatic, I take a dainty little bow… I hold it long enough to let the blissful shivers of adulation run over me. As my skin becomes alive with the presence again, I am imbibed with a new vigour, the colour returns to my skin, and I am alive once more.In my mind, rampant imagination paints the picture… The crowd carry on with the clapping and yahooing and whistling. I am a someone, and everyone wants to be associated with a someone.My time is here.I am finally free… And I can finally have my revenge.

* * *- 6 -

What started as a persistent lo-pitch hum had soon developed into a constant, tumultuous whiny of buzzing. He couldn’t tell where they were coming from, nor why they were here. He had no pets, could not envisage a neighbour’s cat or something bringing in a mouse or something similar to rot and fester under some cupboard somewhere.He had scoured on hands and knees looking for the source, but nothing was found. James lay a drooling mess of exhaustion and grime, he had not bathed in days, was in fact scared of entering his bathroom for fear of what would be in the tub.He pulled the bed sheet higher over his head, and with the light of his mobile phone, curled up in a foetal position to hide from the cataclysmic drone that was outside his manmade, uteral fort.He had used something like a can and a half of the Raid he had put away in his cupboard under the sink, and sprayed another two cans of air freshener to hide the fug and bitter tang of its scent. He had swatted and smashed his way around the house for two whole days until he had broken the antique swat he had found in the shed by smashing it on a doorframe.He had killed somewhere in the region of twenty or thirty flies, but still, they came. And the blue bottle, the big green and blue beast that had arrive as patient zero on the first day, was now bigger and filthier than ever. It had a vendetta in mind against James, James who felt he was being stalked by a bloodthirsty ghoul…How close to the truth he was.

There was a housefly in the window, and as it rubbed its forelegs together, a harsh, caustic sound of industrial sandpaper being scrapped on shiny metal would pierce and shatter James’s quiet. His wings fluttering, like two sheets of cling-film stretched over a coat-hanger, so delicate and translucent, made the noise of a turbine stuttering into life. The two noises together sounded like a cruise liner starting its motors, a gigantic propeller starting on dry land, in a dock full not of water, but glass and scrap metal.James had dealt with this all night. One fly causing nothing but irritation and noise that, in James’s head at least, was amplified twenty or thirty times more brilliant than could ever actually be real.But he heard it OK, he heard it. Each rub of the leg, each flutter of wing, each lazy buzz, just as easily as if it was in the bed with him, and the fly was the size of a man.A ridiculous thought.

A terrifying and ridiculous idea.The noise carried on regardless – and with each new wave it sent those familiar and disgusting waves of fear, those ghostly shivers up James’s spine, swelling like a fever and wave around the base of his neck, and shaking through his hairline. He felt like he was bathing in insects, their strange alien proboscis all over him – and a new wave of revulsion and sickness came over him.

He had not slept in some time, at least 30 hours. Instead, he had stalked between rooms, a rolled up newspaper in hand to replace his antiquated swat he was genuinely sad to have broken. His other hand wrapped in reversed tape, to make a sticky mitten, swatting at air and sashaying his paper at imaginary enemies, all the size of a pea, and all as black as slice of obsidian itself. All except Patient Zero.He had seen the blue bottle bastard three days previously, sitting on a windowsill in the kitchen. Not unusual, with his little compost tub next to the sink, and the window always slightly ajar to allow the soft peat-like smell escape. But it was when he was sat on the toilet that it had really caught him unawares, when he was reading the newspaper, wistfully digesting a story about a foiled armed robbery in a post office in Kettering, when the fly landed on his hand. Not moving, not flying away or freaking out as is the way of flies in their transient nervous little lives, it was happy to stay where it was, sitting pretty as James brought his hand curiously all the way up to his face to get a closer look through his glasses. Glasses so thick, when they were removed James’s eyes seemed a good quarter of the size smaller than they would usually seem through the lens.The beast sat and gently turned to face James – and for a moment, a genuine moment of understanding came between the insect and the man, eyeballs on lenticular legion of eyeballs – they struck a moment of brief rapport and understanding.The fly looked at James, and then buzzed his wings, and scratched his forelegs together, and then buzzed his little, see-through, oily wings again, and James for his part gave a little huff of curious glee. As he did so, the fly took advantage of the situation, and darted into James’s mouth. A mouth that maybe parted lips for all of a second in brief, happy idling, which was exactly the time needed for the insect to commit his mad dash for suicide-by-gullet.James had been entirely un-expecting of the beast’s inherent, kamikaze attack, the spring made for his open mouth, indeed, the idea of it did not register as anyway likely or something one could ever expect in a universe of possibilities that existed – the idea of a fly deciding off the cuff to kill itself by flying into your mouth would never have occurred to James – his being an analytical and scientific brain or not. It was beyond anyone’s ken that a fly would willingly commit Hari-Kari in such a way.

James at first choked in wonder and surprise, the beast disappearing into the bowels for all of a second, before he span in his throne, and hacked and gagged and eventually spat the poor, bastard bluebottle out in a sea of vomit, all over his own morning shit. The fly gave a final indignant twitch of his legs and a buzz of his pearlescent wings, before James vomited again, and then quickly flushed.He was left a heap leaning over the toilet bowl, his boxers around his ankles, the newspaper in ruins across the entire bathroom and his still unwiped arse staining the white, bathroom toilet mat.

He strained out one final hack of sick, and then cleaned himself as best as he could, before showering.


Once to clean himself, the second (so he told himself) to clean his soul.There had been other flies in the advancing days, admittedly none as big as the beast, but there had been others. One was watching him from the corner of his wardrobe as he changed. It barely moved, had barely been noticed until a brief flicker of the wings and a half turn three millimetres to the left was seen as James put on his socks.“I see you, you fucker” Had been all James had muttered as he carried on regardless – pulling his socks up, lacing his house shoes, before swinging wildly with a belt, succeeding in nothing more than chipping his wardrobe’s beech effect veneer.The fly simply hopped on the light fixture and carried about his idle twitching.“Fucker.” James had said, his belt dinked and dented with the impact.

There was another fly in the kitchen, which was soon joined by a couple more, all three were flying spirals and DNA shaped pirouettes around the compost tub, occasionally dive-bombing the Tea Bag Graveyard by the kettle, a drip tray ramekin James dumped squeezed bags into.There were three or four – it was difficult to tell – in the bathroom, each one slightly bigger than the other, the largest of them another bluebottle that moved around like a lazy airship, its wings barely able to lift its bulk, but the noise that of a chinook transporting the SAS into Afghan killing fields. James was certain it couldn’t be the same one who had dived into his bowels… But, it had a lazy insolence, a keen obsession with James that he found to be weird and disconcerting.

There were five in the lounge later that morning, as James went to drink his cold, flavourless tea and curse the passing world. The largest of which would constantly dive-bomb him as he sat in the window cross-legged, annoying him so much that - in a rare moment of all of his control being totally abandoned – he threw his tea everywhere in surprise, an arc of grey, milky water arching in slow-motion before impacting with a devastating Rorschach ink explosion upon the carpet. This was followed by James throwing his cup as hard and as fast as he could at the fly, the handle clipping the wings and torso like a coconut at a shy, and both cup and fly smashed with wild, chaotic precision against the wall. Fragments of dark putrid flesh and white bone china careening into a thousand, million pieces. It wasn’t the first time he had killed one, the pile of dead flies now resembled a pyre of filthy, black boogers – however - it swelled him full of pride and filled his insides with a sense of warm, curious accomplishment with every one he swatted, struck or maimed.Then the irritation became too much for him too bare. Their constant buzzing and dive-bombing saw James rechristen himself as a mythical fly hunter, resplendent with an arsenal of rolled up newspapers and slippers and a sticky, homemade sellotape paddle he made by stretched the sticky tape over two coathangers he had bent and folded and which was now fashioned into a weird hybrid of swatter and tennis racket, a sticky baton of death.The flies, however, would never just go away – they remained, and for every one he killed it felt like three took their place. Like an insect Hydra, three heads for every one dead. The toilet had never been flushed as many times in a day as when James had swatted and chucked the black, speckled bodies into the bowl.

His sanity fraying with each new kill.

On the fifth day of the invasion of the flies, James had woken from a particularly bad nightmare – sleep had been in fits and starts anyway for the last week, he felt like his skin was crawling with disease and dirt. He hated how the flies had made him feel unclean, a shudder of awful revulsion had stretched out over his nerve endings and flattened into a pulse that gleamed and dragged fine tooth, pin-bristled combs over his skin like his body was being dragged over red-hot coals and then doused with ice-cold jet-wash.

The dream had started in the kitchen. He had opened the fridge to get a beer, and upon popping the cap and taking a swig of the cold, bitter liquid, instead he had taken a deep and awful swig of nothing but bottle flies. Great buzzing, ugly, devilish looking monsters, filling his mouth and dancing and jostling over his tongue, hiding in every salival pocket, squeezing themselves into every filling and cavity and had not stopped pouring, even when the bottle had hit the floor and shattered into untrustworthy daggers splintered across his smooth, shiny, granite floor.James had pulled open the door to the fridge, gagging and spitting flies out of his mouth, an abominable retch of puke had seen to a great deal of them, but the rest were now crawling out to escape the horrendous reek of bile and death and stomach.He pulled open the fridge door to grab the nearest thing he could use to swill out his mouth, but, instead of finding sweet relief and tonic, he found a fridge full of flies and cockroaches and bugs. Teeming with black, irascible life, every item was being attacked, the cheese had turned to an unsettling green mulch, the meat had putrefied and gave a sweet, unbearable stench of death and rot. Maggots were writhing on every surface, a strange alien tundra had replaced his once largely normal fridge freezer – filling his mind with invasive, instinctual, caveman recollections, he gagged again, and another fly fluttered on soggy and saturated wings from his lips.He opened the cupboard to see if any red wine was left, and this too was a hotbed of activity and terror – flies and mold and sticky, speckled, spit ravaged the cupboard’s warm veneer. Flies poured out like molasses and the counter top was awash with sinewy, throbbing buzz, like the world had come alive.Flies of every size and colour congregated in the kitchen, doors of every appliance and cupboard shuddered and then burst open as more specks of hate cascaded, and flowed like black water from shelves and Hidey-holes and nooks and crannies, and James was knee deep, then elbow deep, then chest deep, then neck deep in the sea of filth.His eyes were now banging a drumbeat of confused agony in his skull, and then, like someone popping a champagne cork, they burst in milky gloops of ambivalence, as a magnitude of flies, an absolute hell-borne legion, rode forth from his sockets.It was at this he had woken. He vomited hard at the edge of his own bed, the hardwood floor taking the impact with a colossal splash, and he hacked and spat the remnants of his stomach lining , a bedraggled string of bile and spit bungeeing from his lips, he was face to face with what he knew was the Beast. Its mottled green and blue belly now easily the size of a bumblebee, its eyes were oily, oozing alien mirrors. The beast hopped greedily into the bilious stomach contents rubbing his forelegs, and probing hungrily with its proboscis and even then, James could hear his beady psychic laughter, as he guzzled on the vile vomit.

Like someone pulsing a blender, and crushing glass, a cacophonous and jagged sound that bore into his soul and clung to him like bitterness.James had never felt such hate.

Such venom.

He fell out of bed, and slammed his foot down hard on the blue bottle, the beast popped with a audible crack, and a white, mucous membrane spluched over the floor, in amongst the creamy white fluid, poured a viscous red stream… Blood.James’ own blood.James tried to back away from this mess he had inflicted upon his own bedroom. Suddenly aware of the evil stench of his sick and the thick, black speckling on his own foot, he shifted around, retching, and slipped into the bathroom. He barely made it, the vomit caught somewhere between his heart and his teeth when he collapsed into the bathroom and knelt by the toilet bowl.As he raised the seat to release the jet-stream of stomach contents into the bowl, he was met with an absolute hive of thriving, buzzing houseflies. An explosive mass of black and brown. Flashes of light reflecting translucent pearl from the wings. He could not hold it in any longer, and he released the contents of his stomach, a chugging hacking noise escaped his throat, and instead of bile and vomit, James coughed up a stream of angry black flies. At least five hundred of them burst out of his mouth and crashed with violent pitch against the mass of flies inside the bowl.From inside the bowl, a stirring took place, and James barely had managed to cough up the last dregs of his stomach - spitting a final fly out of his mouth - before the army of black-winged devils swirled like a hurricane upwards and outwards from the bowl, filling the bathroom with a sound of thunder and destruction.

A cacophonous orchestra of darkness and disease.James’ psyche and his patience had been a fragile house of cards for days now, but this was it as far as James was concerned, this noise brought the foundations crumbling down and James finally lost any charade of control he had tried to maintain. For days, buzzing and dive-bombing could be tolerated, but a maelstrom of insects exploding from his mouth and toilet bowl was the pincher.Still wiping away the taste of chemical and crude oil and raid from his mouth, the cocktail of flavours that had burst forth when he was gagging out an entire hivemind of black death, he swiped and swatted wildly with his hands as flies invaded every aspect of his pristine and brilliant bathroom – such a small room, so intimate, just big enough for two people – he recalled the first time he and Kay had been in their smiling and holding each other so gently, laughing and sharing an innuendo or two.

That shower would be good for a show or two, he had whispered.“How on earth are you going to know when you’ll be in there with me?” she replied.“I have cameras… I can film, and she had smacked him good naturedly on the arm, and he had pulled her to him and they kissed…He had always done this when the estate agent was around, half to affirm his credentials as a lady-killer, and half because she always looked at him with hungry eyes, and it had made him uneasy. She wore too much make up and skirts that were barely able to be described as such. Less material than one of his work ties he had said. “Which is what she used to gag her victims. Kay had laughed, and snorted in that naughty, dirty way she was inclined to do.It had always made him love her so much more.He flung open the door, and just as quickly shut it again. He ran through the lounge, careful – even considering his state of mind – to avoid the box, still there, still mysterious and still unopened, what with James’ preoccupation with the flies.He ran to the back bay-windows and pulled hard on the latch. It gave with minimum effort and he ran outside, his pyjamas dirty and wet within seconds around his ankles from the damp grass.His garden was a small square, long enough that it was a gentle walk toward the willow that bent and bowed and provided a hidden canopy for kissing or sitting or shade. He slung the door back shut, taking care to lock the dead bolt so it could not shut him out and he paced back and forth. Shaking and swatting imaginary flies from his hair and body, kicking at the air like a lunatic scarecrow, spitting deep, phlegmy wads of saliva and stomach onto his shaggy, untamed grass.It struck him immediately that this was the furthest he had been outside without immediately returning back in for almost a year. He suddenly felt very small and insignificant as his eyes became dizzy and his legs heavy. He fought the urge to throw himself back into the house, and instead, his mind simply uttered one word:“SHED.”

It made sense, a man with his peculiarities, whose agoraphobia had been a by-product of feeling trapped beyond his own control due to what had happened, sometimes, it just needed the perspective of a small room to steady his gaping, expanding mind, to drag him back into the here and now.

He opened the door to the shed, and was met with a wall of flies. They went off like a house of fireworks in every direction, and as they did, James let out a yelp of terror, and ran back toward the house. He threw open the bay-window, stamped in, and slammed it shut. As he did, the flies all smashed against the window, dropping down dead like someone had thrown a box of raisins at the glass.He laughed uncontrollably, pointing angrily at the glass and gave a triumphant HA! at the final dead fly. He put both hands on the glass and rested his weary head against the pane as a voice behind him suddenly made him start again, banging his head against the double-glazed glass. The voice simply said, “What’s in the box?”

James turned around slowly, and sitting on the single chair, matching the sofas so well, in an impeccable suit of perfect onyx black that rippled in the sun with a muted but brilliant sheen of emerald green was a man, smiling at him, above his head a swarming halo of houseflys. His grin toothy and wide and full of sinister sincerity. He smiled heavily. A hard smile; a luminous smile of deadly, weird knowledge and creepy, good intention - like he knew a secret he knew you really wanted to know and he was about to tell you with a salty half story peppering out the details.“Who?... What?... Just who the bloody fuck are you?” – Was all James could muster by way of reply, “I’m Lucifer. First born Angel of the Host, King of Hell, Father of Lies”

His smile broadened, and he motioned for James to sit. When he smiled, there were too many teeth in his head, and his eyes burned with an intoxicating edge.“And, I would like to know…” he smiled broader still, “What’s in the Box?”James looked at him, his fingers went to his eyes and rubbed, then to the temples either side of his eyes, and they massaged deep and slow circles into the tender flesh of his skin. He gave a long and burdened sigh of complete, confused retreat.“The truth?” he half asked, half muttered, quietly, under his breath.His eyes were fixed upon the crown halo of flies that swarmed in a circle above the Lucifer’s head. The droning humming like a fridge motor that was about ready to burn out and give up the ghost.The man in the suit, Lucifer, smiled both broadly and menacingly at James.He liked this question, it was one of his favourites.“Always.” He replied, keenly.James looked at the box, heavy on the broken table fragments, and then to Lucifer, then to the insect halo over his unexpected guests head. “I haven’t a fucking clue,” and James melted into the sofa, hand over his eyes and rubbing temples with his thumbs.“And right now… I can’t say I give a fuck.”Lucifer looked at the bedraggled mess before him and simply nodded and smiled wider and more deadly than before.“Gods love a mystery.”

And he sat back in his chair and stared at James’ nervous, exhausted face.And he smiled wider.

This was going to be interesting.

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CHAPTER THREE - Childhood, And Other Disasters

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CHAPTER FIVE - Wiping The Slate Clean

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CHAPTER SIX - The Passion

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CHAPTER SEVEN - Nothing Lasts Forever...

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CHAPTER EIGHT - All Is Fair In Death And Life.

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