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?
For the next few months, Spiderfingers threw himself into the character that would convince his doctors to declare him sane. Soon his keepers would set him free. At least out on the streets he could keep moving.
Bluster swept dust from concrete mixers into the eyes and mouths of
pedestrians battling through walls of wind, rushing through doors of café chains
and the electronic shops of Tottenham Court Road. Men and women from
Japan held surgical masks in place, desperately wiping away more London dirt as
they struggled to keep sight of their tour leader’s Day-Glo herding
stick. Spiderfingers noted none of this.
He paid no heed to floating carrier bags riding airstreams. The unnecessary
revving of a sports car failed to snag his attention and build a wedge
between the coupling of his diary and pen. Sometimes however, the lovers
A bearded woman shoved the entire
length of her arm inside a bin. There’s one person who wouldn’t
mind the world ending tomorrow, he thought, turning away from the
woman’s re-emerging fist, the half-meat of burger clenched within. An old
meal. All those flies. Had it been
a fortnight since he’d ended the charade of requiring food?
He couldn’t tell. He vowed not to care, his will power
thrusting through his pen, filling his diary with as much black ink as
The freedom from routine dislocated his
perception of time. He only cared for his journal. None of the
tourists, siren blasts, backfiring of trucks, or the constant gales held his
attention. Pen on paper. Lovers
Entry Two Hundred and Eighteen
He hadn’t sought Samson out, they just
Spiderfingers: What is the Oma?
Samson: The world of the gods.
Spiderfingers: What do the bastards
Samson: They want to live off our
Spiderfingers: What stands in their
Samson: You do, Mr Spider. The
minions want to kill you so that the barrier between the world and their
masters comes down.
Spiderfingers: Why did I leave London?
Samson: The gods think you are addicted
to popularity. They searched every major city in the world.
Spiderfingers: Surrey being way down on
their list. Good Sammy, good. Now, who is Herculia?
Samson: Daughter of the High-Father,
Lord of the Oma.
Spiderfingers: Why does she hate him?
Samson: The High-Father had Herculia
re-written as a man in Earth history.
Samson: He wanted her story to be a
success and Earth culture was heavily patriarchal.
Spiderfingers: Why does she not seek to
overthrow her father?
Samson: The last time she tried, she
was tricked into killing her own children.
Spiderfingers: At ease soldier.
Not good. Despite the thrill of
leadership, any continual loitering with humans marked said humans for death.
“Gotta go Sammy, keep warm, alright?”
“Ah? Come on, Mr Spider? Have some?”
Sammy lifted the beer in his direction. Spiderfingers gave him the thumbs
“You keep it. You need the
Samson, an African, well-educated and
well-meaning, his eye-patch being a testament to what well-meanness could do to
someone on London’s streets. He had terrible mouth ulcers and though his
beard made him look older, Samson was not long past the age of twenty two.
“Don’t forget, Mr Spider –”
“– A smile is a powerful thing, I
know. See you Sammy.” Spiderfingers walked away, leaving Samson plucking
his Tao of Pooh from his rucksack,
pawing it like a restorative talisman.“Violence is my
power.” Spiderfingers ambled down the street, fighting the pride in him, the
inherent dominator in his soul from walking back, approaching Samson with his
tongue, a tool to adjust the boy’s life stabilising spirituality. Let
him believe the lie, that minions are sane creatures to be reasoned with.
Don’t challenge his worldview. He took a look back at the one eyed
boy, his cardboard sign reading: A Smile is FREE, so grin with
Samson, with his Tao of Pooh and three
string acoustic guitar. Samson, with his humility, a one eyed kid who
always – somehow – regardless of rain and wind sat with a beer at his
feet. Samson: homeless, keen to believe in other people’s spirituality,
so long as their belief ultimately celebrated love.
Saving him from muggers was an act
which kept on giving. The boy’s belief
in him rushed around his body, like blood through the veins of a vampire.
The boy had witnessed enough hardship.
West Africa cursed thousands of Samson’s, good boys who were born
into the wrong family. Victims of innocence. One too many countries
using witchcraft and devil worship as a way to punish those born
different. Playing house with the girls over playing murderer with the
boys, and when they did so, they joked with tear tracks under their eyes,
evidence of beatings. Such boys grew with a precociousness, always well
aware that neither parent nor peer group would accept them as living
breathing individuals. The diploma’s on daddy's office wall, the picture
of the student in his graduation garb and the video of the day itself proved
themselves precious displays of achievement. They received much
praise. Samson: a good Christian name for a long suffering boy. His
home and kin cut from him – a necessary clipping – by his own hand. No
more belt lashings disguised as spiritual healing. No more church visits
for the sissy boy. His life no longer measured in a long line of
exemplary grades that acted as credit in the eyes of a future
mother-in-law. Samson’s tragedy was enough to crush ones spirit
completely, to kill it, marginalising its status so that being out of the way,
on a kerb, under a bridge, in a building crawling with bugs became the poor
bastard’s natural habitat. Sure, the runaway jangled out tunes on his
three string acoustic, but his music was quietly played. His voice and
chords were a semi-private coping method, a device to negotiate the cruel harsh
way of the world. The jig of his partner brought badly needed showmanship
to the act. Spiderfingers would dance a
little dance to Samson’s busking, the proceeds shared out between the duo in a
fifty-fifty split. Samson taking performance notes, moving from merely
staring at the guitar to head-bopping with his eyes closed. Often they
would open to see the dancing Superman.
A larger than life protagonist, far too
broad for any Surrey stage. A true character, often confused but always
on the move. Listening to all these new sounds, new technology buzzing
about him, delivering strange genre busting music to his ears. Slang he
didn’t recognise, clothes that baffled him, making him resentful, not at all
comfortable in seeing their garishness move around him. Not like seeing
them in a magazine, sitting comfortably in a room that used to beHe stopped scribbling, throwing the
bookies pen and diary to the road, grasping at his head. Each beep of a
car, every trundling mechanical cough of a lorry – the very air he breathed in
– all these forgotten variables decoded as attacks. He pressed his hands
into his face as far off JCB’s drilled into thick concrete. Thumbs dug
into his ears, but they didn’t push deep enough, not nearly enough for music he
didn’t understand to stay out, keep to the insides of moving cars on a
Tottenham Court Road he didn’t recognise. This inner London, a world that
had left him behind.
Get it together. Fetch your
notebook, before the wind steals it: He alerted
himself to the thick book with the aquamarine covers, his journal flipping
through pages, skidding along in the persistent gale. He scooped it up as
he pushed aside concern as he mistook a passer-by on a hands-free to be schizophrenic.
“You’re the only crazy man round here.”
He rushed his hand to his mouth, hiding the action as he stared about him.
Now the pen, quickly, dickhead: He refocused on his retrieval task, his filthy palm encircling the
pen he couldn’t afford to lose.
Look after the pen, damn it. Can’t go back to the bookies. The smell
in there: The unholy mix of long burnt tobacco and
cheap beer lingered in his nostrils even now. He gave a moment to
consider how bad he stank, but the thought displeased him. He forced himself to look ahead. He tucked his writing gear firmly in his
pocket, his hand clasped about the items during his stride to the
off-licence. He headed straight for the whisky section, hoping not to get
caught, praying, with images in mind. Pictures of Nubian dolls clothed in
A small crime to save the planet posed
no moral dilemma for this Superman.
He made his way out as smoothly as he’d
entered, his plundered bottle of Jack Daniels clutched tight in his other
pocket as he grit his teeth to the swirling cacophony of the now. The
euphoria of his hospital discharge swiftly crumbled into a constant state of
awareness, the unavoidable reality of life without full power.
I can’t fly.
He still felt the steel in his bones
and skin. His speed far outclassed that
of an Olympian. There was the punch – days ago – a solid jab through inches of metalwork
that granted him access to a filthy maintenance room, a temporary home under a
block scheduled for demolition. But he toured the street bowing under the
crushing inescapable heft of recent disability:
I can’t fly. As he walked, he glimpsed dishevelment in a phone shop window.
Even fainter than yesterday, he reckoned, eyeing the
reflection of thin, unimposing wisps of smoke.
They wavered out of his dreads, each lock grown to shoulder-length in
the weeks since independence. The fiery crown of his birth flickered,
threatening to fade out. Seven years of Bellevue had reaped its damage
over his belief. He glared past his frailty, to lock eyes with a lone
assistant, a pretty blond girl at the back of the shop. Her face full of
pity. He averted his eyes, shambling, leaving the window behind as he
continued his aimless journey.
People’s taxes had paid for his
self-assassination. People in need of his protection. He ambled
along, slowly, inspecting his reflection in the glass of businesses, afraid of
his death, the oncoming fit surging through his muscles as September’s brutal
squalls and the technological chug-a-chug of humankind conspired to madden him.
He focussed on his appearance, trying not to laugh at the clown-like
swing of his flares, but the gash on the left leg tore beyond the boundaries of
his Punk Rock aesthetic. His Superman hoodie appeared more black than
blue. So much street grime. So many punctures. Only his flowing
dreads and long red coat remained majestic. Despite the breakaway of
flaking crimson, his ankle low jacket flapped luxuriously in his wake. He
pushed on as the loss of his powers evolved into another mystery, an enigma
great enough to halve his pace. Perhaps flight
would return once he’d bested enemies in combat? He couldn’t be sure.
He’d have to figure that out on the move:
Stay too long in one place and they’ll
catch a whiff of your hair – the bastards will come a-running.
A bad-milk smell invaded his nose as
the thump to his upper back thundered pain all over him. He fell forward,
slamming into something taller than him made of metal. He blinked his daze away as he gathered his
bearings, his hands gripping the seat of a bicycle chained to a lamppost. He stared down through the double vision,
fixated upon the puddle of Jack Daniels, a glass peppered spillage whirling by
his battered apple red boots. A trembling hand riffled over his face,
instinctively folding his specs and shoving them into his pocket. It’s them, he realised.
They’ve found me.
Another waft of expired milk stench and
– BAM! The attack sent him through the windshield of a car. The driver
must have hit the brakes hard, because for a moment, Spiderfingers thought he
could fly again. A brief airborne moment of wonder right before the
inevitable crash landing, headfirst, a brutal nosedive into the tarmac littered
with hooting cars. He rose to his hands and knees retching phlegm.
Something that stank of stale dairy product kicked him hard, in the face.
After a somersault and a number of rolls along the road, he felt
something warm and hard track over his hand. His life the play felt all
too fleeting: anything for a stunt double right now, any price for
someone else to have their fingers squashed by a careening car, its skidding
and crashing followed by screams. Shifting onto the balls of his
feet, Spiderfingers arrowed his physique from the chaos his ears alerted him
to. Leap a tall building in a single bound.
His rooftop landing wasn’t as messy as
he expected it to be, but still, he moved through barriers of disorientation,
the wash of pain flooding his figure with throbbing intensity. Then
returned the noise of London: all those sirens forever indicating the fragility
and multitude of human life. The soundtrack of the capital dialled up a
notch. Quickly, with self-preservation pumping the blood, he chanced a
peek over the ledge of the office block his jump afforded him. A
splintered flower stall’s floral contents laddered along the pavement; a herd
of traffic behind the ruin of a car; bawling children being rescued from the
passenger seats; the vehicle lacking a windshield. A fluffy bunny rabbit
toy pancaked behind a van whose black tire marks measured in meters. The
steady wind robbed glass from his red trench coat, as he peered downwards,
spying workers’ heads pop out of windows, everybody pointing up, at him.
Soon they won’t remember a damn thing, he thought. Now, where’s the fucker
who hit me?
The reek of his enemy found him too
late as the brick to his cheek woke him out of his supposing, his shuddering
frame tipping over the edge of the high-rise.
“Uh, uh,” said a screechy voice as an
arm coiled round his waist. “If you’re unrecognisable street pizza, you’re no
good as a trophy? Hmm, Fellow-Breed?” Spiderfingers felt spittle hit the back
of his neck as the arm squeezed air out of his abdomen, lifting him up into the
air and then over. He felt his neck crack as his face took the majority
of the throw to the roof.
“Which … god do you … work for,
arsehole?” Spiderfingers lay flat on his back, slowly rolling over.
“Even if Mine worked for a god – it
wouldn’t matter. You’re dead.”
Even if he … What? Stall for time,
stall for time!
“Kay, Mine? … tell me your lord’s name,
so I know who to pray to. I’ll even kiss your feet as I do it.” Spiderfingers
looked up, knowing that in beginning a dialogue, he had time to gather his wits
and size up whatever possessed the power to defeat him. Past the smell,
beyond the dense waft of milk left to ferment under long summer heat, he beheld
the aggressor. Mine, a short stocky
figure with blood red pupils squinting on either side of a pencil long nose
covered in pimples. The minion wore
orange luminous builders’ uniform, the material torn and grimy, the wearer
sporting a humourless grimace as he advanced, arms stretched out, a knuckle
duster smoking red hot upon the nubs of his left fist. The letters on each finger-joint clearly
Spiderfingers froze as Mine seized him
rooftop gravel, struggling, wheezing helplessly, hoisted by the neck until he
came face to face with Mine’s bloodshot stare, an unblinking, inhuman sight
covered in a constant shower of sweat lathering across, a pimply creased ripple
of visible stress. Raised off the
ground, high up and helpless, he inhaled through his mouth as he noted the red
hot brilliance of the branding iron. The minion smiled humourlessly
throughout the experience, indicating toward himself as he made the
self-regarding statements his kind were known for:
“Mine serves no god because Mine is one
of The Free, and we stalk the lands unowned. What tribe are you from?
Hmph, not that it matters.”
He squeezed Spiderfingers by the neck
harder, drawing blood.
“Mine has six months of life left. Mine intends to have the greatest kill count
since Boleraam. So beg, cry, scream. You will bear the mark of Mine.”
Choking, bleeding, crying and squirming, Spiderfingers glared down at Mine’s branding
fist as it pulled back for a punch. He
couldn’t look at it, not anymore. He
focussed on Mine’s rat-like face, gazing with a stark intensity, a glare
brighter than the sun.
“Argh!” He dropped from Mine’s powerful
clutches. The air filled with a squeal
not dissimilar to swine. The smell of
charred flesh triggered slight remembrances of battlefields. He rushed to his feet and charged, legs
pumping as fast as he could so that when the strike to Mine’s side occurred,
the adversary flew several feet off the end of the building, before heading straight
down. The racket of his landing caused Spiderfingers to retch. If
his life were a movie he’d say something like, “Hope you enjoyed your trip.
Next time, don’t travel economy class.” But he refused to reimagine extraordinary
events reshot as cinema. He shaved the wisecracks from these moments of
combat triumph, believing himself a more nuanced character, a far deeper hero than
the lone warriors Sly and Arnie made popular.
The only thing that stopped Mine from
killing me immediately was that he must have been born here, without purpose,
only seeking blood for sport, not on the orders of High Command. He didn’t
even know my name.
Bad enough his abilities were so weak,
bad enough his environment caused severe panic attacks; there were new pieces
on the game board.
“Only one person can help me now.” He
fished his glasses out surprised they sustained only two new cracks. He’d
need these things when his vision really failed.
He gripped the hand that had been run
over. Fine. Felt at his arms: bones where they ought to be. He concentrated on floating up,
buoyant like he used to, but his boots stuck to the roof. He grumbled and
searched the rooftop for a door inside, far too weary of a jump down.
Regardless of his desperate vault to his present height, descent scared
him. He located a staircase, running down quickly, ignoring the need to
find a car and test his strength via a bench-press or two. Power checking
could wait. His run past the glass of the office building granted him the
sight of flames atop his head. The flickering
mark of his divine birth, they entranced him.
Vanity, that could wait too,
he thought. For now, he needed an envelope, a stamp and a bottle of whisky and a
Lives were in the balance.
“Mine didn’t know my story!”
There would be busking.
“I’m the only deity on Earth, and he
didn’t even know my name!”
There would be shoplifting.
N E X T T I M E I N
S P I D E R F I N G E R S
“Was the voice quite so bad? Don’t you miss being here, off the