The role of god is a maddening twenty four hour experience complete with overtime and few rewards. A job where there is no clocking out, no in house psychiatric care and no chance of early retirement. When the thing in the big chair loses the plot, whose job is it to save the world?
Up there, on
the television altar, a reporter stood by the bank of a canal. She spoke
to the world, announcing the breaking news. A new born, murdered in its
home. Numbers and letters written all over it.
isn’t murder, this is marketing.”
The sun’s retreat behind tower blocks seemed an age
ago, its absence freeing Spiderfingers from the dry humid walls of the evening,
the friction in the air quite palpable. Amoral thinking patterns drove
his behaviour, warped his mood and bludgeoned the demerits of dusk’s
tampering. His conviction remained the
same, and yet, his hand rummaged his pocket, groping for the diary,
determined to force the past under his eyes. I will remain true
to my character, he thought, flicking for a paragraph powerful enough to
keep his night-self from going too far in its mission.
Broken, bleeding, he sprawled, flat like
road kill, one cheek nuzzling the filthy London kerb as if it were some
malformed, milk-less teat. He’d become a phantom, pinned to the pavement,
the smear of a memory, an echo cloaked in a red jacket, untameable lightning-coloured
dreads spiralling out from his bloody scalp. The motivation to use the
journal completely drained from him. He slipped the bent and ripped
binding back into his jacket for some other more valuable time, a sure moment
chugging his way.
“Can you hear me? Rumple? Are you ok?” Someone
checked for breathing. He obliged, pushing out his chest rhythmically,
letting his ribs fall and rise, fall and rise. Inhale. Exhale.
In. Out. He opened his eyes a little and saw the
blurred shape of a shadow kneeling beside him. The shadow had eyes.
He reckoned his sudden
face-palm looked good, not because of his acting ability, but due to his
exploitation of a latent fear of blindness. His hand grew bored of his
features, floundering to the ground around him till he gripped the jagged
puzzle pieces of glass at his right elbow. Crumpled wire frames, crushed
beneath some bastard’s boot. No matter though, he thought,
finding a slight humor in his foolishness, wearing glasses being an abstract
activity, best filed under the label ‘residual’. His peripheral vision
noted a fickle, uncaring audience. He
would have delighted in the explanation of his unique physiology, but all
people weren’t people. Not to him.
They were a school of departing extras. Gods forbid any of them
possess the temerity to break away from their A to B. No one wants to
stop and help a wounded stranger, he thought. Not like this
old guy here: he still gives a shit. An old fellow stopped to set his
briefcase down, wide eyes peering over Steph’s shoulder, asking how he could
help. But Spiderfingers heard Steph shoo him away spouting lies, pure
falsehood on her behalf: “Poor Mr Rumple,” she touched his filthy Superman top
and weathered trench coat, “He’s fallen on tough times. No need for
police. We’re fine – we’re like family – thank you.”
The air conditioning filtered throughout the car,
the artificial breeze whooshing round his face, slinking up his nostrils,
filling abandoned lungs. Stripes of gold and green neon flared through
the windows as the vehicle travelled expensively and silently through the
gathering darkness. In the front seats, Steph and some man fretted and
murmured, parried and debated, because there was police involvement to
consider. This man has to be Milo, he thought. He
wants to let the authorities step in, but Steph, she’s been praying for this
kind of drama. Her muse’s life, his twenty-four hour stage-play requires
further viewing.You don’t want the police to take me away
just yet, do you Steph? He thought.
You want more stories. As a matter of fact,
you need them. I didn’t kill her Steph. The only Jehovah’s Witness
I’ve ever killed died in the wild confines of my imagination. Get me? If
I killed her, dontcha think a passing policeman might have cuffed me by now? I
mean, it’s not like my red, yellow, and blues’ are hard to miss, are they? He wanted to tell
her to have a little faith, but he fought the compulsion. How much
stronger would she be if she figured that out herself? Strong enough,
he thought, strong enough to save a god. When Nat appeared on the passenger seat next
to him, he closed his eyes, ignoring the vision’s insistence to ‘put him back
in the story.’
“Go on, Spider.” Nat’s
mouth lolled revealing lost teeth, blood dribbling into the hole in his chest,
“Tell your priestess all about me.” More drool poured from his lips, the life
force dripping downward, feeding a wound the size of his head. The exposed ribs protruded at odd
angles. They mimicked a giant set of
inhuman jaws guzzling on blood. Nat’s
not here, decided Spiderfingers, closing his eyes, forcing a distant macabre
truth out of mind.
The scene changed on
him, like non-linear experimental theatre. Two men dragging the vagabond
along a caramel-coloured floor. He could smell Milo’s aftershave, but the
other guy? He smelled of cheap soap and cigarettes. The uniform, the name
badge, and the radio at his hip marked him out as a night watchman.
Another moment of blackness, and they were shooting straight up in a
glass elevator, listening to Bach straining through concealed speakers.
Milo and Clive – the sentinel – they propped Spiderfingers against the rear
wall of the lift. He watched Steph as the fingers of her left hand
worried at the hem of her skirts. He slyly observed her study of him,
capturing his entirety with a keen observer’s eye, taking mental notes: the colour
of his boots; the congealed blood on his forehead; his expression. He
imagined her guess his age. Probably
in constant reassessment of the estimate, he reckoned.
She believes age to be a clue to character.Writers.
Every tragedy is a story; we’re all just material to them. The
story in his head cut again. The next time he opened his eyes, he came
face to face with Milo, a tall man, even when sitting down. A big man, a
good few inches over six foot, not fat exactly, more like a WWE wrestler gone
to seed. His hair was completely white. Old man hair. What’s
with that ridiculous handlebar moustache? Spiderfingers stretched out,
languishing in a black swivel chair whilst Milo sat behind his desk.
Steph paced the thick brown carpet between them all. Clive the
security guard was notable only by his absence.
“Drink?” Steph offered.
“It’s only water I’m
afraid,” Milo, shrugged apologetically. Steph nodded as she glided out
the door. “Sorry about your evening, lad.” Spiderfingers affected a false
smile. He noted Milo’s milky blue eyes
flit between his slovenliness to the phone in his giant hands and back again. “Nasty
business out there.”
Spiderfingers offered a wry smile, numbers and letters piercing his
forethought. Silence until, “You’re Steph’s dad, then?” Milo’s moustache
dropped and his lips chewed over the question while his white eyebrows
registered shock and resentment, the furrowing hair crawling across his aged
face. Electrified caterpillars. Spiderfingers didn’t try to hide
Steph returned, handing Spiderfingers a glass of water withdrawing to Milo’s
side of the room. “What happened, Rumple? Did you see who did it?” He shook his
head gulping down the water. Then, turning to face the window, he gazed
out over London with a practiced portrayal of stoic wistfulness. The light of the room offered him a
reflection of Milo and Steph behind him:
“You read the papers?
Horrible stuff about Baby Abigail, eh?”
shocking.” The Walrus agreed, shaking his jowls in righteous indignation whilst
he laid his phone to rest upon his desk. He locked his giant hands into a
church steeple as he leant into the conversation with morbid glee. “D’you think
they did it?”
“Their own daughter? How
should I know?”
“Well, y’know … ” Milo’s
eyes flashed. “You are a god, aren’t you?” For a brief moment, the room filled
with statuettes. “Oh yes,” Milo continued, “Steph’s been telling me all
about your little Russian Doll stories. I must say, they are rather ...
Steph squirmed in the
corner whilst the homeless man’s failing X-Ray vision revealed reddening cheeks
beneath her niqab.
“So Rumple,” she
squeaked, “what happens after ‘Invisible?’ What did Spiderfingers say to the
Jehovah’s witness?” Spiderfingers shrugged and ran his thumbs over the wet
glass in his hands.
“I don’t know, what did
the Spiderfingers say to the Jehovah’s Witness?”
“No seriously, tell
me. I’d really like to know.”
“Can’t we all just get
pissed?” he announced, winking at Milo, shaking the empty tumbler.
“As I said old chap,
there’s only water.”
“How about you give me a
tenner if I’m right about the half bottle of Jack Daniels in the second drawer
of the table?” Milo raised an eyebrow whilst Spiderfingers nodded, carrying on,
“Actually I’ll settle for just a drink. I’ll forego the money.
Might even show you how to do that magic trick later, if you’re lucky?” Milo
smiled, nodded, fished a full bottle of Jack Daniels from the drawer and turned
“Come on, help me fetch
some glasses.” The caterpillar above his left eye hunching its back, “For our
guest the magician.” They shuffled out the room. Only takes one
person to fetch two glasses, thought Spiderfingers. He scratched the
S on his chest grinning. These are the moments the hero is
allowed to feel smug, he thought. Also the moments where
he must remain on point, for these are the small victories – mere skirmishes
leading toward the bigger battles of his lone war. Music filtered
through his head: A track from the nineteen eighty nine Batman
film. He almost didn’t register Steph and Milo’s return, the pull of
nostalgia being so strong, so powerful.
The bombastic score drew him fully into the teenage years of John
Clay. Such music. A character
in itself, a belligerent all-seeing eye, able to locate downtrodden heroes and
remind them of their duty to … Focus, he told himself. Get
lost in John’s past some other day – first – the plan …
“How about you tell the
story, eh Steph?” He said, “Tell us the tale that follows Invisible.” Steph
clawed instinctively at her black fabrics as he noticed her eyes widen.
She couldn’t possibly tell a story (she said whilst digging in her bag
for her notebook). She wouldn’t know where to begin, she insisted, as her hand
leafed through pages, resting on the perfect spot. Without further
prompting, she began:
“The bible – being the
weightiest of brochures – fails to mention the reality of the resort it
advertises. The one place we would all like to go, but only if we’re good
and do not disobey. Oh, Heaven! It exists, but it is empty.” When she
finished telling a story she thought she’d created, Steph smiled like a proud
cook. But this meal wasn’t hers.
There were no words to describe
the relief he felt when Milo passed out. The old walrus had tried the
protective-knight-in-shining-armour role, ‘til the masquerade was just too
heavy for him to carry. Probably convinced himself that Steph
will be fine with me – the weirdo tramp guy – that it’s alright to nap.It’s
just Steph and me now, he realised. The poor woman in black,
chattering about unsympathetic characters when really, she is a walking wound.
Going on years unhealed. Hating her face, that crooked birth defect
underneath her mask. Soon she’ll feel justified in drawing up a long list
of Hollywood actresses to lead in her biopic.
... All the while he buried
the pleading in his head. Vicky’s woe wasn’t allowed to exist.Not in his world, not anymore. There
isn’t even a V, he thought, in my alphabet there is only the
letter S, and S is for survival.
N E X T T I M E I N S P I D E R F I N G E R S
Unluckily, this drunk had taken the wrong bus
home, and now she’d become lost in North London with no one to blame but