Sunday, 25 January 2015

Mine


P   R   E   V   I   O   U   S   L   Y      I    N 
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S
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 quarrelled.
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 possible.
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 united:
Entry Two Hundred and Eighteen
He hadn’t sought Samson out, they just kept meeting.
Spiderfingers: What is the Oma?
Samson: The world of the gods.
Spiderfingers: What do the bastards want?
Samson: They want to live off our worship.
Spiderfingers: What stands in their way?
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.
Spiderfingers: Why?
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 down.
“You keep it.  You need the warmth.”
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 ME!   
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 be He 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 crimson sheets.
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 visible:
MINE
Spiderfingers froze as Mine seized him from the 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.
My powers.
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 thermos.
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 radar?”


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