There's a story there, says I...here it is...
Mr Squidge and I were on our very first holiday together in Yugoslavia. We must have been young - I still had black hair.
On one particular day, we decided to hire a couple of bikes and ride up the coast, taking in a visit to a clifftop chapel. We found the place, parked the bikes and drank in the atmosphere. The chapel was tiny - no more than a roof and two walls with a stone bench running down either side. Yet even here, in the middle of nowhere, there were flowers on the altar. And you could feel God.
There was a wonderful view between the trees, set off by a large stone cross in a clearing near the building. The plinth on which the cross had been built was just the right height for me to sit on while Mr Squidge took his photos. However, the trees kept getting in the way and he decided he needed more height. So he stepped onto the plinth, pulling himself up with the arm of the cross.
However, what neither of us realised was that the cross was not solid - it consisted of three separate parts, held together with rather short stone pegs. Mr Squidge's weight on one end of the arm was enough to tip it - and it fell off - onto me.
The next few hours were interesting to say the least. Mr Squidge managed to lift the stone (about three feet long and 10" square maybe) away and sat me in the chapel while I experienced concussion for the very first time in my life. At least, I think that's what caused the slurred speech and shivers. A passing motorist was flagged down and persuaded to return us to the hotel before the decision was taken to get me to a hospital. A two-hour trip to Dubrovnik followed in a taxi with its front seat down, because there was no ambulance. Believe me when I say I felt every bump on that road...in both directions.
I had some interesting X-rays to declare on the way home (though nothing was broken, fortunately) and some colourful bruises, though the photographic evdence of the black and blue stage was lost for ever by the film lab who cut our 36 exposure film at the 24 picture mark.
Ever since, whenever I'm ill or have been sitting for far too long, I get an ache right across my bra strap line...
Postscript; Mr Squidge had to return to the chapel the following day to collect the bikes and try to repair the cross. It took both him and the rep to reassemble it, because of the weight...He has always wondered since, where he found the strength to move the stone on his own when it was pinning me to the floor...
"There are two people who get shot; one died and the other who survived. The one who died looked down straight away to see the wound, and collapsed. The other one didn't even notice, just kept looking at the attacker and kept going (enter karate chop and loud shout here). Only when they had finished did they look down and realise they'd been shot."
At the time i didn't think much of the story as he's always telling slightly random stories. However, that saying has kept me going this week.
For starters I've been trying to catch up on work because I missed a few days last week. I've had a horrible stomach ache that makes me feel really queasy at times, but I can't miss any more work because i'm already behind. On top of that I've been inundated with friends with boyfriends and guys chasing them who aren't their boyfriends so I've had that voice in my head asking "What about me? Is there something wrong with me that means guys aren't interested?" Which I try not to listen to but it still gets to me sometimes. All I've got instead is people laughing at me on the way home because I have to wear my bag as a backpack while i'm cycling (needless to say, it's not designed to be a backpack). And finally, the icing on the cake: I have a knee problem (don't know what as i've never had it checked out) that means if I walk up too many stairs or have to cycle particularly hard, pain shoots through my knees. They've been particularly tender this week as I've been rushing around all the time and cycling against the wind on most days.
I've been telling myself, "Keep your eyes up" and ignoring all the bad points. The smile I determinedly fixed on my face may have slipped int a grimace once or twice, but i am triumphant. The week is nearly over, I've almost caught up, and during all this, I managed to cheer up a friend who was feeling down as well.
I'm just glad I'll be able to crash at the weekend...
When he’s around, which is always, he treats me like a child forced to stay inside during a thunder storm. From this window, I watch as the tiny crystal blades of water rapidly pierce the sidewalk, the leaves on the big oak tree, and the swing set. The unrelenting hum of the roof being stabbed as I sit without a scratch becomes overbearingly comforting. The comfort feels heavy and forced, like I should not feel this calm while being the witness to such destruction. He tries so hard to keep me sane, no matter what the reality of the storm would do to my mind and stability without the glass shield.
When the roof’s hum is suddenly interrupted by a steady growl, I’m only reminded of how much greater the threat would startle me if it wasn’t for the safety barricade he surrounds me with at all times. Without, this barricade, I would be able to feel. If only the iron bars weren’t there to separate me from the storm, the lightening would electrify my entire body, rushing fiery energy through my veins, leaving me stunned, rather than blinding my eyes from feeling the sensation it would give me if it weren’t for my imprisonment. Still spellbound by the shock, the thunder would sneak up on me, accelerating my pulse, freeing my chained heart from its cage and sending it fluttering wildly while it violently loses control of freedom that it never really had.
From behind this window, the thunder is only capable of causing a little startle that is quickly eased. If I were in the storm, in reality, there would be no recovering from the unfiltered effects the elements would cause me. The rain would launch at me like missiles, each throbbing shot opening a new wound. The surrounding blasts would then force upon me a new awareness of the pain and injuries the storm was inflicting throughout the entire battle in which I had no chance at coming out alive. The insanity would take over me if I were ever allowed to get that vulnerable. He says that’s why he needs to protect me.
This window protects me from that pain. He knows how easily I scar and how slowly I heal. He knows how I have a tendency of revisiting wounds to reopen them in order to relive the rush of their story. He knows I don’t allow my mind to mend itself, instead I pick apart and explore the black spots that should be left alone. Overanalyzing the scene of the storm sends me into a comatose state. I respect his protection, but I just can’t bear to gaze at my mangled soul through a veil that censors all feeling and detaches me from the very content of my being.
Sometimes if I beg, he lets me crack the window and stick my hand outside, only for a second. The drops sting like acid burning my flesh, and the wind whips across my face bringing tears to my eyes, and then he quickly closes the window again. “Thank you,” I whisper, letting him know that while the ache stunned me like a poisonous shock to my mind, I appreciate the short contact I had with my real self that I have been unable to reach. I also thank him for the ignorance to what reality would do to me without this window shielding me from the natural disasters of myself.
I think he only does it to show me a minor glimpse of the intense ache and destruction he is saving me from. He thinks he’s saving me. He must think he’s some kind of narcotic with the ability to ease all of my aches and happily relax my body into a trance. But he should know, from experience, that the mask of the Oxycontin can only make things all right for a short amount of time before you end up completely down and out. All he is doing is keeping me from myself. Being kept from myself makes everything in my life seem so fake. I lose sight of who I am and what I feel. But maybe he knows that keeping me from myself is the only way to stop the all memories and feelings from ripping my sanity to shreds and throwing me off of my life’s track. He allows me to watch the memories, but not feel them. Feeling them would instantly send me into a severe madness that would utterly destroy me, as if I were being thrown into a thunderstorm or a hurricane. It’s as if he is feeding me painkillers as my only form of life support, giving me his old addiction that he gave up just before giving up. Maybe he knows that keeping me from myself is simply the only way for me to stay alive any longer… but what does he know about living anymore?
I hate the way he longs for her. It’s sick, and almost twisted. Some days, I believe he nearly worships her. Her, of all beings, it has to be her? The bleakest part about it all is that even if I knew how, I couldn’t send her away; even if I tried, I could not remove her from this disturbing masterpiece of a picture I had no desire in painting, or even being a part of. Damn the artist.
The artist is a deceiving one. Their creations can capture a part of you that was unknown, beneath the surface, tucked away from reality and all the destruction it is capable of. Safe. And once this creation has grasp of this formerly buried part of a person’s mind, the artist is able to grant life to that hidden part, life it was never meant to obtain. Provoking thoughts, feelings, emotions, actions, all of which that were never meant to be exploited in this particular realm, meant to stay hidden in the depths of which it came from, unavailable to human access.
It’s almost like a violation of one’s mind. How is it that an artist, a total stranger, is able to tap into the dimensions of another human being’s psyche that was never able to be discovered by that person themselves? Just as a journalist uses different “tools”, such as trickery and spy mechanisms, to unveil all of the details of a person’s private, secret life, to the entire audience of the world, an artist uses one “tool”, a beautiful yet wicked and lethal work of art, to rip out a person’s concealed identity and emotions, bringing this once hidden portion of a person into light. Violating in a way that the victim had no say in whether this part of them was to be acknowledged or not. No, these victims had no choice, never stood a chance.
So when I started painting this picture of a boy and a girl in love, I had no intentions of summoning this creature inside of me, which, prior to this portrait, had no involvement of any kind in my reality. Is bliss that comes with a burden always worth the price? When I painted this picture of a boy and a girl in love, I had no idea that the new dimension of me that would be brought to life, would also be added to the painting that I prize more than any other possession, which I so carefully constructed, and corrupt all that it once stood for. I, the artist in this case, most certainly did not paint these feelings, thoughts, emotions, and actions that came with this newly born entity onto this canvas that I handled and formed with such care. No, the idea behind the work, the piece itself, added those components to my portrait. With that said, could it be concluded that perhaps the artist is not entirely guilty for all the messes caused by the masterpieces, the “beautiful disasters”? Could the masterpieces and the ideas from within themselves be responsible for adding fragments to the portrait, fragments in which, the artist had no say in adding to the portrait? Violation of the violating. Damn the artist?
This is the case with my painting. The only difference is that my canvas can not be renewed; I, as an artist, can not start my portrait over. Whatever was added by the work itself can not be erased or thrown out. She can not be erased or thrown out. I guess it all makes sense, her ability to haunt me and to control me from within my mind, and my inability to ban her from this realm and dismiss all of her orders she gives me, it all comes from a logical concept. My painting, my painting of the boy and the girl in love that was meant to bring joy and meaning into my life, instead, brought her to life; and here she is to stay, troubling me, interfering in my day to day reality, unable to be contained. Not that I know if I would want to contain her, this demon like part of me. He would be devastated. And his pain pains me, far more than his initial pain could ever affect himself. But the pain that she causes me and puts me through doesn’t seem to distress him. That doesn’t mean that he loves me any less though, it’s her fault. It is all her fault. She hides the truth. He is unable to see what is past the blindfold she so cleverly fixed upon him; he’s left oblivious to it all.
While I know he is oblivious, so can therefore not be held accountable for my suffrage, I still often times can not help but resent him. But I love him. So I just ignore the disgust I feel, put on a smile, and let her do the talking. She’s good at that. He likes it when I let her do the talking, it makes him look happy. Sometimes I don’t want to hide my real emotions though, I’d like to share with him the love that I feel, but she doesn’t allow. She says to just stay back or I’ll ruin it for both her and me. “We’ll lose him…” she claims, “I’ll lose him.” As if he only belongs to her? She’s convinced that he has love for only her, but I disagree. I know that deep down he would love me more than he loves her, if he had the chance. But her manipulating, overbearing ways and her use of the retched blindfold cause him to act in ways he wouldn’t normally, had she not been there to interfere. But here she is, to stay?
Often times, when she’s not listening, I fantasize about the love him and I could have relished if only she had not been added to the painting. Damn the masterpiece. I even try pursuing these dreams when she’s not around, which is very rare. But every time I get the chance, when she is not paying attention and watching me, and he and I are finally alone and I attempt to show him what he’s missing with me, all the love we could share, I detect a certain glint in his eyes that reveals pain and confusion, almost as when a young child returns to the exact spot his or her favorite toy was last placed, only to find it missing. Then, I begin to sense a longing in his guise, which seems almost discouraging to him, and with those sudden indications taking place the moment I step into the forefront during her disregard, he instantly invites her onto the scene as soon as she detects a hint of his disappointment her absence has caused him. “He missed me,” she’ll coo, and snatch the only chance I had to let him love me the way I love him right out of my grasp, as if it was never even there in the first place. She thinks it was never there in the first place.
I know I can’t blame him for this, but I can’t help it. How could he be so foolish not to recognize the awaiting chance presented for the both of us to achieve a true, pure love when he and I get our rare alone time? How could he be so foolish to dismiss that opportunity the moment it is set forth by signaling for her return, calling her onto the scene to, once again, snuff out the only chance he and I had to be, like a flickering candle burning in a black room who’s luminous glow becomes executed before it even gets to fill the sinister space with its potentially radiant flame? I try to remind myself how he doesn’t know any better, and it is her who is causing him to behave this way. But sometimes the truth just isn’t enough to alleviate the deception I feel from him when he fails to take the chance to rid our lives of her, and make room for a life of ours, together. Someday he’ll understand, and until then my love will prevail through all else before that day comes.But for now, it’s “Hush-hush! Stop that nonsense babbling of a fairy tale life you and I both know you will never lead,” she stops to taunt my thoughts, quickly, without him noticing, then goes right back in to her conversation with him about the wedding, the wedding in which I must end, somehow. So I hush my restless mind and tuck away my exhausting thoughts that cease to be confined to the clever hiding spot in which she was brought about from. I can not send her back to that realm, now that she is alive, I am unable to do that in order to save his and mine’s love; and I can not send my feelings of hope and belief in the thoughts that all my desires can one day be a reality to that hiding realm either, as she wishes me to when she orders me to dismiss my “delusions” of him and me. So for now, she (whom I wish to dismiss) and my passion (which she wishes to dismiss) will have live in unison, in the same world, in the same mind, until one of us is destroyed.
Read all the details here:
for the moment when your absence isn't welcome here any more,
I'm waiting for the tinkle bell, for the yowl and the yawns,
for the desperate meow when we mention P-R-A-W-N-S,
I'm waiting for you to shove your head through the stair bannister,
for the adoration of the highest caliber,
I'm waiting for my cat,
for the cat flap to snap,
for you to come home and make the hurt stop,
Mr Lolifus, for you, i'm saving all of my yoghurt tops.
Today's blog post turns the spotlight on European Publishers, looks at the share that e-books have captured there, what's holding back growth, what's hindering self-publishers, how Amazon have failed to achieve dominance, and how European publishers are doubling down on the mistakes that US publishers have made.
Read more here: You Can Go Your Own Way: European Publishers Double Down On America’s Mistakes
Colors split in two.
Every corner filled with vivid colors.
Worlds unknown to us, a path leads in front of us,
to explore every part of this maze of the vast universe.
Eyes that watch your every move
Chains that bind you to your sins
Colors of the night and day that go,
hand in hand as the paint to the bold paint brush.
Voices of unknown community , share their world on a blank canvas.
A single stick tells a story.
A quilted pattern world with works of suspended soft, red velvet cloth.
Behind our backs are paintings,
up for all to see and to tell who they are.
Listening closely you'll hear the voices.
The voices of words, sounds, feelings, thoughts of many memories,
and lastly the sounds of chains clinging to the last breath of life.
We all split in two, life and death.
Dark and Light.
White and Black.
Eyes bright and bold scan up and down and pierce into your soul.
Life is full of color in a dark world.
Death is nothing but a dim light in the darkness of colorful lifeless eyes.
Only the eyes of the beholder can split you two and you can
experience the parallel world of the story unknown.
Torn between what is real and what is reality.
This magical life of the loveless morning pathway brightens the day.
So the beginning in the end of this lost confusion of art
on the black night wall, all bare and exposed.
It’s there to tell us a story that has no end.
The Painting, by Andrew Williams
July 17th, 1910, England.
In the years it has spent here, an accumulation of more than just household dust has found its way within the Eternal Night’s burnt-black frame.
James Kutuzov was standing in the entrance hall of Waterston Manor, staring up into the high wooden ceiling. It was night outside, and the full-moon was shining brightly through the huge tinted windows which illuminated the uppermost reaches of the Waterston household, giving the whole entrance hall a faint bluish-grey colour. A door creaked open about twenty feet ahead of him, causing his gaze to fall immediately over it. Flashlight held high, he approached the doorway keen-eyed and alert. The warped wooden door had been carved out from a lump of ancient driftwood, James wondered how it managed to still hold its form. Some unreadable text had been scrawled all over it, the same series of characters repeated hundreds of times. James recognised it to be early Norwegian - for he had studied ancient Norse poetry in university many years beforehand - but could not for the life of him translate it. The door was only slightly ajar, yet the vacuous blackness of the room behind it sliced through the meagre opening and seemed to pull him towards it, challenging him to enter. A sudden noise behind him caused him to glance backwards towards the entrance door, it had slammed shut. ‘It has me now, I’m at its mercy.’ He thought, whilst shuddering in fear.
Putting all his weight on his left foot, James kicked the door open with his right, shining the flashlight inside as he did so. Dust from the top of the door’s frame drifted down and disturbed his vision for a second. Once the dust had cleared, James' eyes darted around the room, following the flashlight’s beam over rugged and broken terrain. Mound upon mound of old newspapers littered the floor. There was nothing else in the room, or at least that was how it appeared from his current perspective. Unsure of whether to step inside or not, he cautiously leaned through the doorway and looked left, shining the flashlight along the floor and wall as he did so. ‘Nothing but more papers…’ He turned to the right and repeated the same procedure.
A shiver shot straight from the top of his neck, right down his spine and ended up at the back of his legs, turning them to jelly. First, he noticed the fireplace: resembling something pulled straight out of the dark ages, a heavy scorched lump of black, badly-cut marble. It was so low and wide that it could easily have been mistaken for an altar; had it been in the centre of the room rather than against the wall. Smoke billowed out of it, as if the chimney were blocked off causing the grey clouds to backfire into the room. However the fire wasn’t lit and he failed to smell anything burning, the only scents were that of mould and decay. The room was pitch-black aside from James' flashlight, so no matter how hard he tried, he could not find any logical explanation for the smoke’s pattern. It continued rising, as if it were being sucked into a vent or fan on the ceiling.
James stood for what seemed like millennia staring up into the bleak painting, trying to work out what he should do next. ‘No.’ His mind corrected him; ‘You know what to do, you’re just too afraid to do it.’ He bit down hard on his bottom lip until he tasted blood, then forced himself into the room. He walked cautiously to its centre, one step at a time, shining his flashlight at the floor as he did so and paying close attention so as not to trip or fall. He came to a stop in the centre of the room, the painting began to swing and sway in its chains; reaching for him. It hung directly above him now and he could feel its pull growing stronger and stronger, still with each fleeting moment.
‘I want my wife, I want Jess back.’ James spoke, and it shocked him. He was confused at the sound of his own voice and was embarrassed with realisation of how foolish he must look; standing on newspapers, talking to a painting. Moments passed and nothing changed, he began to grow restless and even considered leaving.
His flashlight grew immensely hot and burned his hand - reflex made him throw it to the floor. It smashed and the light was extinguished, he was buried under blankets of darkness. James grinned as the door he used to enter the room was slammed shut. ‘Please Jess, forgive me.’ he prayed.
‘Greetings, James.’ The voice was cold and upon hearing it James lost all confidence he had retained - it felt like his spine had turned to ice. This was so far beyond goose-bumps. It had came from above him, from the painting.
‘Who goes there?’ James asked, through a broken voice.
‘My name is Legion: for we are many.’ It replied.
James' arms and legs were on fire, it seemed, for he burned whenever Legion spoke.
‘I came for my wife, I’ll do anything to have her back.’ James announced, biting his lips, awaiting the burn which was sure to accompany Legion’s reply to his statement. Moments passed, he almost thought it would not come. But then it did.
‘Those who fall unwillingly but retain a virtuous soul will ascend up into Heaven. Those who choose to fall are not caught by He-Who-Currently-Rules and enter Hell. You dare taint this holy place with your snivelling, filthy carcass, then go as far as to ask me to simply hand over what is mine by right?’
The burning sensation returned, coursing through his veins causing him to fall to his knees, wreathed in pain. Once the pain subsided he spoke, anxious to get this over with. ‘Please, I can’t leave her there. We have 3 children together, they need their mother more than anything. I’ll do whatever you wish’ he pleaded, getting up off his knees.
Then Legion’s tone changed, he really did have this man where he wanted him.
‘Would you murder to have her back?’
James’ response was cold and took almost no deliberation.
‘I’d slit King George’s throat while he prayed at Westminster Abbey, if need be.’
‘Well then, we offer you the chance to save your wife.’
Although it pained him still, his excitement and joy could not keep his tongue chained much longer: ‘Thank you so much, what must I do to see this happen?’
‘The painting is a doorway to my kingdom. Use it, wait for Archon, he will be expecting you. Bow to his every will, follow his orders exactly as he gives them. Do not deviate from or object to any command he issues to you, for if you do; I will take your children.’
James' face was swiftly whitewashed. Could he really put his children’s lives up as collateral against the Devil himself?
‘I need time…sorry, I’m just not sure if I’m ready to decide yet, it’s a hard decision to make. I love my children with all my heart, I couldn’t possibly….’
‘You wholly misapprehend the position you are currently placed within.’ The Devil barked, interrupting James mid-sentence. ‘We are Legion. Your wife is broken, your children and yourself could just as easily join her in the pit. You’re lucky I haven’t taken everything that is yours and cast you down for your wife to feast on for all of eternity. What are you failing to grasp about this?’
‘Sorry, my apologies.’ James bowed cowardly, then stopped half-way as something triggered a thought in his head. ‘Wait, sorry, that’s ridiculous. No matter what you could have done to her, she would never even dream of such an abhorrent thing!’
‘We told you, We broke her. The damned will do anything if it means being spared for even a single day the torments inflicted upon them. See for yourself.’
Darkness still wrapped around him, but James instinctively knew to raise his hand. It was immediately clutched by a cold, skeletal claw and he was pulled upwards into the deep, voided canvas of the painting. It was an incredible sensation, similar to diving underwater, but instead into a strange new substance. It felt as though he were rising through quicksand and would soon reach the surface, but the surface never came. It was cold here, cold and dead. He could hardly breathe at all, the air was so scarce. It felt old, as if it had been here since the beginning of time passing through the lungs of the uncountable damned.
Suddenly, they came to a halt. Despite the severity of the situation, James couldn’t help thinking of the children’s tale Alice in Wonderland. ‘I wonder how far down this rabbit hole goes…’ Legion relinquished his hold on James' arm, this shocked him, he had grown used to Legion’s grip and now, realising it was lighter than before, decided he would turn and observe the Devil’s appearance. James was shocked, this man looked normal and, in every way, distinctly average. He wore a brown jacket with grey jeans and a white shirt. His hair was long though and, rugged. He said nothing at first, but pointed at a wardrobe-sized metallic box, a few hundred feet in front of them.
‘Once you have seen her, Archon will find and talk with you. Remember my words.’ Legion turned to face James, his eyes were voids. Jet black, they drew smoke into them like the painting did in Waterston Manor. James couldn’t take it anymore, his gaze faltered first and Legion departed. He then turned and ran towards the casket. Running was hard, all movement here was. It seemed as if he were heavier, as if gravity itself were stronger. This, coupled with the scarce supply of oxygen; made him instantly regret the sudden burst of speed and his childlike excitement once he reached the casket; and collapsed unconscious over it.
Minutes later he regained consciousness, rubbing his eyes and standing over the metal box which encased his wife like a children’s doll in its packaging. The casket was thick and made of un-even, badly forged iron. There were slashes all over it, random holes here-and-there and its entire left-side was covered in rust. Carefully, he ran his fingers around the handle of his wife’s tomb and opened it with caution. As light from outside filled the metal prison, it rested on his wife’s features.
His mind raced; ‘Jess! It’s her! It’s finally her.’ A smile seemed to ambush him as he saw her and it now controlled the entire width of his face. For the first time in over two months he was happy…But his smile soon departed as he noticed the first signs of torture. She lay motionless inside the metal coffin, scrunched up in a ball, hands covering her face. Cowering, expecting it to be someone wishing to cause her harm, it hurt him deeply to see her this way. Her clothes were much less than rags, they had been ripped and torn at so much she was practically naked. Her hair, once James' favourite of her features, was now mostly ruined and missing random patches, as if it had been torn out by a savage beast. She was thin now, too. Not only thin, but starved to a point were she should have died days ago. He could see bone. It was a wonder she could move at all, James suspected a sewer rat would have more meat on it than she currently did. There were scars, too; scattered all over her body - deep and black they were, James envisioned demons ripping her apart with their claws and then using dark magic to rebuild her body from the pieces. You can’t die to escape the pain of Hell, you’re trapped here to endure it day in, day out. There is no escape.
Being unable to just stand and stare at her in this shape for much longer, he stood over her, placing his hand on her head and began to whisper as softly as he could, while ordering his tears to not show his sadness to her: ‘Jess, it’s me, you’re safe now. Don’t worry, it’s James. You’re safe, I’m going to get you out of here. I love you.’
She came alive when she heard his voice and, slowly, lowered her hands from her face. James dropped to his knees and wrapped his arms around her, burying his head in her chest. He just couldn’t hold it any longer - he burst into tears when he saw that they had taken her eyes.
‘Jess, what have they…I don’t…I don’t know what to do.’ He managed to say through an onslaught of his own treacherous tears. She made a faint groaning noise, causing him to pick his head up off her chest and he wiped his eyes. Looking up again, he noticed that she was smiling, and it was a cruel, toothless smile which tore through him like a tank-shell through a cobweb.
‘I missss-seh-seh-seh-d yuh-yuh-you.’ Jess said, through broken speech. James' jaw dropped even further, her tongue had been sliced into shreds, it was now over 5 ripped pieces of flesh. He couldn’t cope. ‘Duh-duh-don’t leh dem…’ she began having a panic attack and couldn’t finish what she was trying to say. Her breathing became furiously fast-paced and she cupped her head in her hands again, and began rocking back and forth uncontrollably against the outside of the casket, groaning as she did so.
‘Jessie, you’re safe now. I’m here, you’re safe with me, I won’t hurt you. I’ll protect you. You’re safe now. I’ll get you out of here; I promise…What in blazes did they do this for? Jessie I am so sorry. I’ll get you out of here, don’t worry. Everything will be better soon, you’re safe now - you’re safe.’ James continued whispering soothing words into what little remained of her only surviving ear, with his arms wrapped around her, rubbing her lower back to help drive the sense of safety home.
Moments passed and Jess fell into a deep, relaxed sleep. However James decided to stay awake and remained holding her close; rubbing her twisted and broken back, his fingers felt the abnormal lumps and scars littered around her body whilst still whispering softly. Shock was still washing over him like a tidal wave, he truly didn’t know what to do. He hoped he hadn’t spoken a promise to her which he couldn’t keep. But he had her in his arms and that was good enough for now.
Hours passed and Hell grew a darker shade of rust-brown. James’ eyes grew heavy and he began to wonder whether Archon would show up at all. He had been commanded by Legion to talk to Jess and await Archon for further instructions; yet he wondered if he would have enough time for a few minutes rest before…
James awoke several hours later to the sound of drums on the horizon and a distant roar from a Hellish monster, growing nearer and nearer with each passing beat of the unholy percussion. The noise from the unseen creature disturbed Jess’ sleep. She awoke and sat up instantly when she realised what it was. Noticing that James’ arm was still around her she smiled, then shook her head and managed to mutter; ‘No good’ before leaning back into his chest and covering her one remaining ear with her free hand, so as to isolate herself from the oncoming scene.
Ten to fifteen minutes passed and the drums grew louder as the unholy cavalcade grew closer. James could now make out the shape of a wicked looking beast and its rider, leading a column of chained humans - the damned, and escorted by 40 or 50 armed soldiers of Hell. The beast looked like something straight out of a nightmare, a Hell-horse of monstrous build. Dark black was its colour, heavily armoured from head to tail with chain-mail forged from voided-steel. The horse itself was huge, comparable to an elephant in both size and shear muscle, but better formed, more stream-lined. Just as a champion horse ought to be. An odd sensation struck James as he watched the monster approaching. There was fear, obviously he was threatened by its ferocious appearance; but also, escape from the guilty feeling of admiration for such a unique creature seemed impossible, it was simply breathtakingly impressive. His emotions were weighing scales, with curiosity and excitement for the beast lifted high in the air by the heavy weight of fear. He couldn’t wait to get a closer look at the unholy beast…But not so much its rider, who was now within ten paces of the cowering forms of Jessie and himself.
The man atop the great horse held a long, metal staff with a banner attached to its sharp point. The banner was blood-red with a white, upside-down crucifix at its centre. The exact opposite of the ancient Templar Knights emblem used during the crusades in the middle-ages. He wore a red robe, with the same inverted white cross embroidered exquisitely on its reverse. He wore his robe hooded to conceal his facial features, James thought he preferred it this way, some things were better left unseen. Although now his imagination was free to run wild and he wasn’t sure if he liked where it was taking him. He thought up rotten flesh beneath the hood, tusks and bloodthirsty teeth, maggot-filled-crevices, a treacherous, snake-like tongue and the cold dead eyes of a man who had spent the past eon torturing and breaking people. He did not wish for their lifeless gaze to fall upon him, such an arduous burden would those icy spheres bring to his already laden shoulders.
‘Listen, mortal,’ The rider began with an air of command to his voice. ‘My name is Archon. Your wife is ruined, but she can be mended back to full health and returned to the surface-world with you, if you do as I say. If, however, you do not follow my commands as swiftly as possible, your children will be taken and mutilated far more abhorrently than your wife has had to suffer so far.’
James took a deep breath and looked down at Jessie, who was still covering her ear and burying her head in his chest. He had no other choice now, he would have to agree to Archon’s request. ‘Okay, what would you have me do?’ he gulped, expecting the worst, unable to do anything but wait for the storm to hit.
Archon lowered his hood and smiled. James was taken aback, the face he saw grinning in front of him was nothing similar to what he had imagined. The governor of Hell had deep blue eyes, short, stylish dark hair, perfect teeth and a charismatic smile - capable, he imagined, of charming the most heated of opponents into submission. He looked to be in his mid-twenties, but James knew this to be naught but a mendacious ploy. ‘Nothing in life is free,’ Archon began in a cooling, very precise voice. ‘So, in return for your wife you will deliver for us two souls. Simply burn the bodies alive in the fireplace at Waterston Manor. If you kill them first, their souls will go to purgatory. So they must be alive when you burn them to stop this from happening. The fireplace…no, the altar, will act as a gateway - transporting their souls directly to Hell. ’ Archon stopped speaking, awaiting James' response.
James looked at Jessie’s crippled form clinging onto his chest and sighed. He then looked to Archon and enquired ‘What if I refuse?’ Archon barked out a rough, insane laugh. ‘Then we’ll take your three children, James. We’ll have their souls instead.’ Knowing there was no other choice, he reluctantly accepted the deal with the Devil named Archon and bid his wife farewell. ‘I’ll see you soon, Jessie. I’ll be back for you before long, don’t worry. I’m coming back. I promise I won’t leave you here for much longer.’ Jessie grabbed his hand and began to groan woefully, and was obviously distressed.
‘I’m ready now, Archon. I’ll do what you want.’ James said, still holding Jessie. He embraced her tight and, kissed her forehead. ‘Got to go now, Jess. I’ll be back soon though, hang in there. I love you’
‘D-d-don’t leave me!’ She cried out, but James had already disappeared. Leaving only a cloud of smoke where he had been standing. In a few moments, maybe ten or twenty seconds, he would be spat out of The Eternal Night painting and land in an undignified lump on the newspaper-covered floor of Waterston Manor.
The transition from Hellish to Earthly oxygen was like a splash of water to James’ filthy face, it revitalised him. For a few moments he sat solemnly on the floor in Waterston Manor; embracing the fresh life that the air provided to his exhausted lungs. His thoughts were hectic and blurred, they crashed and collided within his mind like rocks in a meteor storm until he couldn’t take it any more, he had to act now. There was no time for deliberation of whether or not he’d have it in him to do the dreaded deed, his family depended on him to save them from eternal anguish and torment, he would not let them down.
The cold running down his spine and the shiver of his blood gushing through his veins gave away his fear, yet he was determined to fight the daunting urge to flee and decided he would persevere. Rising to his feet, James began the long walk out of Waterston Manor. As he approached the ancient library door, it creaked open of its own accord, as if some grim invisible man-servant was holding it for his master. He walked through it, smiling. ‘As you were, Jeeves,’ James’ face grew dull and lifeless, ‘I‘ll be seeing you soon’ he concluded, then continued walking and as predicted the library door closed shut behind him.
Overhead, outside of Waterston Manor, he could hear a storm raging; its monstrous fists of wind and rain pummelled the building’s ancient structure in an unstoppable onslaught of Mother Nature’s prominent power. From time to time there would be a crack of thunder or a bright flash of lightning. As he opened the main door and stood under its protective frame, James glared dismally into the foreboding night stretching out ahead of him. As he stepped out into the heavy downfall, there was a tremendous crack as heavy slate tiles fell from the rooftop and came crashing down at his feet. Deciding it was unsafe here, James began to sprint through the puddles and out into the bleak darkness of the night, heading for the quiet streets of Bridgestone village.
That’s when it hit him, the warm, un-earthly glow of the pub on the corner of South Waterston Street, the busiest public house in Bridgestone - The Rocky Hearth. It was inside this bar more than thirteen years ago, that he had first set eyes on Jessica. She was so bright and full of life back then, at the tender age of 22 her heart was whole; not yet had she been tainted by the cruelty of the universe and its wicked, godless inhabitants. Deciding he needed a drink to calm his nerves, James marched with waterlogged boots into the Rocky Hearth and gazed around the room. A dog raised its head and snapped its jaws, growling as he entered.
‘Shut that ruddy door, you’re letting the heat out.’ Some gruff voice aimed at James called out from across the room, the source of it was buried deep amongst a sea of men in tweed hats, waterproof trousers, warm fleeces and heavy overcoats. The thirty or so farmers in the pub all appeared to be in their late 40’s and all wore the same style of clothing. Several of them were drenched and dripping wet, warming themselves by the fire in the far corner of the room. Though most were sat around the bar in deep conversation with one-another or the barman.
‘Come on in, lad. Lets get something strong down your neck to warm you up some.’ With an out-stretched arm, the rosy-cheeked barman beckoned James towards him. He was only too keen to comply. As he made his way forward, the crowd of men moved aside to let him pass. His hat and heavy leather jacket had helped to keep the rain at bay and, thankfully - with the exception of his hands and legs - he could barely feel any wetness at all.
‘Thanks for the warm welcome, friend. It makes a nice change in these most dreary of days.’ James said, adjusting his jacket and taking a seat at the bar.
‘Aye, the weather is terrible,’ the barman nodded toward the large window next to the front door and James grunted in agreement. ‘But something tells me that it’s more than this cursed rain dampening your spirits.’
‘You’re right, friend. But please, just get me a bottle of vodka and I’ll be on my way.’ James glared almost pleadingly at the barman, for a while the pair just stared at one another. The barman, unsure of whether he would regret it, solemnly reached behind the bar and pulled out a bottle of Verdi’s Vodka and, blowing the dust off from it, stood it up on the bar.
‘That’ll be two shillings, sir.’ The barman presented his open hand in front of James, awaiting payment.
‘But the bottle says five’ Protested James, feeling somewhat ashamed that he was being treated as a charity case.
‘I know it does, friend. But it looks like you need this more right now than I need those extra three’ With a gruff laugh the barman smiled as James handed him the two coins and slapped him on the back heartily. ‘I’ll be seeing you here more often hopefully, take care of yourself mate.’
‘Aye friend, you have shown me much kindness, yet you don’t even know me. Such a rare occurrence in today’s turbulent times.’ James rose off his chair and placed the bottle in his inside jacket pocket. ‘For your generosity I thank you, take care.’ The two men shook hands and James made his way through the crowded room and out into the unrelenting storm that continued to reign outside.
Downing one third of the bottle, he fastened the top and put it back firmly into his jacket. ‘Come on, come on.’ he spoke out loud through grinding teeth, looking towards the night sky as nature continued beating down on him with tireless fists of water and wind. He walked around the muddy village for around five minutes until he reached a dark street he had strolled through as a child once, there were less lamps here, about twenty yards ahead of him, James could see the dark black outline of a man leaning against one of the lampposts with his hood up over his head.
As James drew closer to the lamppost, the hooded man noticed his presence and walked out to cut him off and deny him passage. James noted this movement and brought the bottle out of his pocket and began to swig the rest of it off. As he drank, the hooded figure had made his way to him and now stood a few steps in front of James and soon began to speak. ‘Hey mate, you got the time?’ James pulled a solid-silver watch out of his front pocket, ‘Yeah, hold on,’ James struggled in his drunken state and blurry vision to read the time, but eventually continued. ‘It’s twelve-fifty…’ but was soon cut off as the hooded figure sent a fist flying his way. James took it to the chin, he was expecting conflict to occur but in his drunken state his reaction time had severely depleted; thankfully however, the opposite had occurred to his pain threshold and the blow seemed to be as that of a child.
Retaliating swiftly, James sent two drunken fists sprawling into his attacker, sending him crashing to the floor, landing in a muddy pool of water which had amassed in the deserted road. Swigging the rest of the bottle of vodka, James smashed it against the wall and lunged at the man, holding it menacingly against his shivering neck. ‘Right you horrible parasite, you’re coming with me, alright?’ The man looked like he still had some fight left in him, so James applied more pressure on the bottle and forced it harder into the man’s neck, just slight enough to draw blood. ‘I’m not going anywhere mate, you’ll kill me no matter what I do!’ the man wailed and spat blood aimed at James. Picking up a loose cobblestone from the ground near his left hand, James shook his head, ‘Wrong answer, mate.’ he said with disappointment as he sent the fist-sized stone hard into the man’s temple, causing him to slip into unconsciousness. James then proceeded to bash the man’s arms and legs until he heard them crack and buckle as they broke.
‘God forgive me’ he muttered as he lifted the unmoving and broken wreck over his shoulders. Then James began the long walk back to Waterston Manor. His journey back to the painting was, not including the four or five times he had lost his grip and sent the man splashing to the floor, thankfully without incident. The rain had softened now and only a slight drizzle diluted the air, though the night still retained its skeletal, Legion-like grip on England.
The manor struck a daunting sight; perched atop a hill with a full-moon shining eerily overhead, silhouetting the building’s highest black spire, like a ring of ice levitating above the Antichrist’s horned head. Heaving the almost lifeless body of the un-named man up the muddy path and through the open hallway, James approached the library door and stopped momentarily outside to recoup his energy and think through his unholy deal.
Moments passed, and finally the man regained consciousness. ‘Ahhhhhhh!’ He screamed out while writhing on the floor in agony. ‘What have you done to me!?’ James wasn’t going to reply at first, but the pleading and hurt look in the man’s eyes triggered the last drops of conscience remaining in him, and so he told him of the painting, his wife and of the deal he had made with the governor of Hell. ‘Ironic really, you attempted to attack and steal from me,’ James kicked him lightly with his foot, ‘I guess just this one time, somebody else got the drop on you.’
‘You’re insane, let me leave!’ begged the man. James only shook his head in reply, and then picked the man up over his shoulders and kicked open the library room door. The Eternal Night glowed with a somewhat pseudo-holy light. When he previously saw it, the painting was as black as the space between stars, but now it shone an eerie white light into the room, illuminating it slightly, but just enough to allow James to meander his way through the piles of newspapers and assorted junk, and make his way toward the painting.
When James reached the centre of the room, he dropped the man ungraciously in a heap on the floor. As would be expected, the man never complained, he just stared open-mouthed at the painting hanging above him.
‘Legion! I’m back with my side of the deal.’ James called out toward the painting. Moments passed, then that same icy voice he had first heard what seemed like a lifetime ago, replied.
‘The deal was for two.’
Legion’s voice hurt the man, it was obvious, for he screamed out and wriggled about on the floor. However, for some unknown reason, it no longer had any effect on James. He could not feel its icy-burn surging through his body, this bolstered his confidence and gave him the courage to press on, he was so close to saving Jessica from that wicked place, excitement and eagerness would make him a fool here. He had to remember who he was dealing with, and that any false words or movements would blow the whole unholy agreement.
‘Take this man now, I will present you with the other when Jess is safely back on Earth and in full health.’ He said with a cool and concise tone, hoping silently that he had not made a bad move.
‘As you wish.’ Replied Legion, again his voice not even tickling James but devastating the wounded man. Then, Legion’s black skeletal arm reached down from the painting, it was longer than James had remembered, almost seven foot in length, and it managed to reach right the way to the floor. As it gripped the man offered to it, he screamed out ‘No, please! I’ll do anything!’
‘Silence.’ Whispered Legion as he tossed the screaming man to James’ feet. ‘I’m sorry’ whispered James to the man as he dragged him roughly towards the fireplace and held him in place. The man’s voice broke as his body was engulfed by the flames and he managed to scream out, cursing James with his last breath before being taken, along with Legion, into the void. James waited.
It was two hours later when finally something happened, the sun was rising outside and the room was filled with a soothing, orange ambient glow. James had grown incredibly drowsy, and it was hard for him to stay awake. Just as he closed his eyes for a few moments, a massive thunder-crack followed by a light thud awoke him out of his sleep-like state and he was fully revitalised. Standing in front of him, with the warm glow of the morning sun behind her, was the angelic-figure of his wife, Jessica.
Tears filled his eyes and James could no longer hold back, nor did he want to. He ran straight towards her, arms outstretched, and fell into her. Wrapping his eager arms around her he hugged her tight as tears from his eyes stained her exquisitely white gown. For ten minutes the lovers embraced each other and kissed, and all the while words and sound failed both of them.
Then Legion’s skeletal hand swooped down out of the painting and wrapped itself around Jessica, lifting her into the air.
‘Our deal.’ Legion spoke, and James fell to the floor in agony. These two words had cut through him like a lance and left him pinned to the floor.
‘What deal?’ Questioned Jess in a distraught tone.
James burst into tears. ‘I’m sorry Jessica, I wont ever see you again…the children are with your mother. I love you.’ He then looked upwards into The Eternal Night and bellowed out his last words before stepping into the fire; resembling a mythical warrior, fighting to the death against certain defeat, ‘Legion, my soul is yours and our deal is complete. Release her.’
But sadly, the scenario seems to epic fail on certain products relating to my favourite reading material--manga seems to have a love/hate relationship with Amazon.co.uk and it came to head on three epic manga's I pre-ordered months in advance at what they were. Trigun: Volume 14--the final volume of the series, Lucky Star Volume 1--epic Slice of Life series to finally be released in english and Lucky Star Volume 2--more epic Slice of Life stuff.
I waited a month after the release for my copy of Trigun--a whole month longer to find out how the series ended. Lucky Star 1 sold out before it was even meant to be released and I forced to wait a month longer for it. Lucky Star 2 was meant to be sent two months ago and now they're telling me I got to wait until feburary for it.
This occurances are pissing me off and aren't improving a aready detoriating view of Amazon.co.uk--and before you ask, I only order from then because of the whole "they seem to be the only one's who sell these manga's". Don't ask how close I am to going Postal on their asses for this multiple failures on their part. Pre-ordering should get me in line for these products sooner, not a far flung later that might be the year 2012 if I ever get Lucky Star 2 in the mail.