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?
There was no time to worry about his loss of powers. He needed an envelope, a stamp and a bottle of whisky and a thermostat.
through the halls of Bellevue, the crimson wave of his coat hooking the
attention of staff that no longer ruled over him. Spiderfingers, an
emperor in new clothes, new street scent, the perfume of vagrancy surely the
main reason for the looks. Better these
discreet stares than the blatant inquiries he’d earned on the kerb; the disused
railway station; the underpass in Chalk Farm. Places where people tried
to sell him drugs. He would save these denizens of waste, protect them
from the evils that kept him awake.
“My death seals the fate of billions.”
He muttered with a smirk pasted across his face, ambling through a prison he’d
escaped weeks ago. He felt above his surroundings, parading along the
passages, tapping a slow, steady rhythm against the holdall slung over his back
as the disinfectant smell of his former home sought to remind him of his time
there. He’d always been a contagion, his body odour now in direct
conflict with … Focus. Stay in the fucking moment.
The visitor’s area of Bellevue hospital
consisted of three types of people: Nurses (the majority being male,
stoic, ever moving sentinels who patrolled the many tables), residents (some
murmured in private languages, others were hyperactive, sometimes too excited
for their ever present silent overseers), and then there were the poor souls who
neither worked nor lived there. Families. Mothers, brothers, young
adults – thespians one and all. Everybody cast as the
understanding liberal, he thought. He
remembered how it felt to be one of them, when truly, he wasn’t like these
people. He searched the area, filtering out awkward familial gatherings
till his eyes latched upon the old woman. He weaved through
constellations of people to finally reach Hara Carroll’s grey table, a small
square piece of furniture situated at the back of the grey visitor’s
area. Everything grey.
This whole facility matches her, he thought.
Hara Carroll: sallow skin, shrunken
frame and long crinkled hair. A Retiree, easily mistaken for dead were it
not for the rise and fall of her cardigan. Bellevue had taken someone
colourful and syringed the vibrancy right out. Only Hara’s god could
inject some life into her movements.
“Ah,” she croaked, “the prodigal son.”
Spiderfingers sat on the bench, resting his duffle bag on the table between
“Son, Hara? I’d say our relationship’s
complicated enough as it is.” He grinned, ruffling his matted afro, picking at
the dreads therein.
“Any trouble?” she asked.
Losing my powers – losing my powers – losing
my powers – losing my powers – can’t afford her lack of belief.
“On the way here?” he replied, “Let’s
see: Lava snakes ambushed me on the way through Kingston. I outsmarted a
necromancer in a village a few miles out of town, but he was an idiot. He was nothing like Mine.”
Hara offered a quizzical look.
“A minion called Mine. He’s godless.
Can you believe that? Said he belongs to a tribe called The Free.
Fucking newbie didn’t have a clue who I was. Thought I was like him … a
“Well, it has been seven years. Your typical minion has a lifecycle of a few
months, a year at best. Of course
they’ve forgotten you. They’ve had no
one to fight.”
“And now they fight each other …
branding the bodies for bragging rights.
It’s madness out there. No offence.”
Hara croaked out some laughter.
“None taken, Dearie, none taken. Given your
adventure, I’m a little surprised it’s taken you weeks to come see me.” Spiderfingers sat back in silence, and then, he used his
eyes to indicate the presence of residents, fidgeting, unhinged, some being fed
by loved ones. “Now I’m here, let’s see you perform your party trick? There’s
seven years of supernatural current affairs to whisk through, and we don’t need
any more surprises like Mine.” He tapped the bag on the table with the rhythm
of a steady heartbeat.
“I suppose you’ve brought me a little
gift?” She stared at his hands tip-taping the bag.
“Of course,” he replied, “Only the best
room service for madam.” He produced a flask from his holdall which Hara
snatched away from him, shoving the canister to her mouth, guzzling the hot
drink down without stopping for breath. “Whoa there, a little discretion,
please, eh, Hara?” He stealthily eyed the nurse nearing their table,
whilst Hara continued her loud slurping. With no attempt at
subterfuge whatsoever, the old woman swigged the steaming brown liquid, some
streaming out, leaking the corners of her lips. She drank the
container dry. Hara Carroll: plump with spindly arms, long flowing aged
hair crumpling to her waist. To notice her would be to see that lonely
old woman on every street. At least eight cats for company. The
occasional involuntary movement underlined her mental imbalance. People
pay taxes for these results.
“Oh be quiet, you.” she whispered
left-ways, eyes quickly returning to her table guest. Spiderfingers
pretended not to notice. Poor Hara and her phantoms. “Got
anything for the breath?” she wiped her mouth on a sleeve.
“Sure.” He replied, and pushed a
pack of strong mints across the table. Hara snatched them up. She
popped two in one go, speaking as she sucked.
“Honestly it’s a miracle the gods
didn’t kill you. How you survived without Miss World’s advice, I don’t
know.” She played with the empty flask in her hands.
“After that drink we won’t need
miracles, will we? Be sure to get every piece of info she offers up, and for
God’s sake, do it quietly?” he hushed, “Once they find out it’s me that’s
brought you the Irish coffee, it’s game over.”
“Did you say for God’s sake?” she chuckled, “At least this place hasn't killed your
sense of humour. Right then, Dearie, whilst we wait for the drink to do
its work, tell me ... what’s it like – you know – out there, in the future?”
“Beards. Big massive, no
nonsense, I’m-a-twat-and-I-want-you-to-know-it beards. They’re everywhere,
like there’s some competition to be London’s most authentic Dickensian villain.
Anyway – that’s the future. See anything?”
“Besides Mildred and Tommy over there?”
Hara raised a quivering finger to the empty table. She shook her head,
fingers returning to her knees, rubbing, but only for a moment. He
quietly observed her hands move the empty flask to the side, lazing her
body over the table, her eyes searching for something in his. He knew
“Oh, please, don’t.” He said to the ceiling,
“Didn’t you read my letter? I couldn’t say bye, cos if Kwame saw me with you
“Oh dear, or dear, oh dear,” Hara
replied with giggling, “I’m not some lonely old biddy pining for relatives who
never visit. Spiderfingers, it’s me. I knew you’d be back, but only
because of what I can give you.” He folded his arms, before swiftly unfolding
them. He bit his lip, silently peeved at his textbook body language. “It
must be rubbish out there,” She rested her palm on his elbow. “Not knowing
which god is working with whom. Was the voice quite so bad? Don’t you
miss being here, off the radar?”
Disbelief and anger robbed his features
of the calm persona he’d worked on for the meeting. He lifted his elbow
away from Hara’s touch, leaning back on his visitor’s bench.
“Perhaps you don’t recall, but two days
into my residency, I was cracking the skull of one of Hanuman’s monkey
guards. Next attack came a week later.” He wiggled his fingers as he
raised an eyebrow in mock surprise, “Forgotten the lice of Medusa, Hara?
I had to eat them off my skin … before they ate me.” He bit into his
knuckle, his voice barely contained, “Radar, Hara? There is no‘off
the radar’ – Jesus. Outside I don’t hear Vicky – at all, and I prefer my
saviours clinically sane, agreed?” Hara began to speak. No words came
out. She began again, her hands unstringing a thread on her long sleeve
“Listen, Spider, the voice has to be supernatural
in origin. The Loki-Brenna? Perhaps it’s the enchantment of an old
England river wraith? You’re not crazy.” She pulled at the loose hemming.
“I’ve her voice in my skull. If I
stay here much longer I’ll go mad.”
“No, you won’t. You’re not mad. You cannot afford
to be.” She yanked the stich out of her top, her arm knocking the flask to the
floor. Spiderfingers picked it up, donating his best smile at a passing
nurse. He turned his attention back to Hara, keeping his voice low.
“Hara,” He edged a little closer, eyes
searching the room for eavesdroppers, “I imagined her, pleading, begging for
help, like she’s my Lois Lane. My kind, we just can’t
“You’re not like the other gods,
Spider. You denied yourself hero-worship for the better part of a decade.
Now, if you’d just reconsider Operation Genie B –”
Spiderfingers shot a harsh stare across
“O.K then,” said Hara. “I’ll take that
as a firm no.” She began playing with a long lock of her straggly old woman’s
hair, “It’s just that you’re the only High-Borne to outsmart the High-Father,
who’ll do anything to kill you. Your death means –”
“– The death of billions – I know, so
don’t tell me about safety. I think
about nothing else. No one else. If you dropped dead right now, this very
moment, this thing that you’re talking to – it wouldn’t know how to grieve.”
“If you felt for every flower in
mother’s garden, you’d be no good at cutting her weeds.”
“You don’t get what I’m saying,” he
said jutting far forward, his face inches from hers, “What if Gaia contacts you
right now and orders me to use Vicky?” He watched Hara recline in her chair,
understanding how bad his breath had become. He withdrew his grimy hands
from the table.
“Oh come on, Dearie,” she stared him up
and down, “I’m
eighty nine. I know homelessness when I see it. Now c’mon,
think big. Walking around aimlessly is not a plan; it’s
a ticking death sentence. Perhaps …”
Spiderfingers searched her face for the
end of a suggestion he feared.
“You could … maybe …”
…A suggestion that he considered only
briefly, before realising its madness.
“… Have a word with Doctor Kwame?”
“You must be drunk if you think moving
back here’s an option. Take another look around you. Ask yourself
why it’s taken me weeks to come play the visiting friend.” He watched Hara’s
head sink into her bosom, her hand clutching beyond long grey hair. “Is
it starting? Tell me, what’s she showing you?”
“There’s nothing, absolutely
nothing. I can’t feel her at all.” She blinked away
tears, gawping at the steam still rising from the thermos, “Oh Spider, I hope
I’ve not lost it?”
“Unless you know another shaman with a
link to the Earth’s consciousness then – no – I really, really hope you’ve not
lost it. Let’s get you to some grass or better still – a tree? It’s been
nearly a decade. Trying some old school
techniques might …” He noted the sea-change in manner. Hara’s mouth
released a little guffaw. Then another, and another. He leant in conspiratorially. “Think of
lakes, animals … Fight for Gaia’s connection.”
“Look at all these idiots,” Hara
indicated a young lady at the table across, “I love nature, but I can’t
stand it when people pretend it’s some sort of Disney fantasy.”
He caught Hara’s train of sight.
The twenty something she glowered at wore a Bambi t-shirt. “Take
the gardeners friend, the humble Robin that follows you round foraging for
worms in the topsoil you clear. A constant companion, man and nature in
harmony. That’s the idea, right? Wrong.”
“Hara, on behalf of everybody in the
world: build that psychic bridge to Gaia.”
“He is actually sizing you up, to see
if he can take you on.” She span to her left and jabbed her finger toward an
empty seat. “He wants to peck you to death Mildred,” she stuck her crone pointer
out at her imaginary victim, “Peck, peck, peck, peck n’ pluck out your eyes.
Perform a little singsong over your mangled corpse, eh? This is
what he would do to you, if he could.” Spiderfingers gazed about the hall. Hara’s outbursts didn’t come close to the
loudest in the room, but envisioning his downfall came easy; the nurses calm saunter
over; an elevator ride and a short mission to Doctor Kwame’s office. A
detailed record would be taken on the conversation and the pomposity of his
outfit, the same costume he’d originally arrived in seven years ago. Then
the flask would be found and …
“Hara, please? I’ve travelled a long
way for this and –” A nurse walked up to the table. Hastily, he lovingly pulled
Hara’s hands out the air pinning them to the table.
“You O.K here, Mrs C?” The nurse asked.
Spiderfingers beamed, “She’s
fine. Hasn’t had coffee like this in ages, have you, eh?”
“Even the empty air can contain a rival
to be destroyed!” Hara said this, her arms aloft, hands flapping,
“Destrooooyed!” Two nurses jogged toward the table.
“Damn it Hara, you know where I’m
headed if you can’t help me …”
“Hahahaha … Woohoo!”
“You know what she’ll do to me.”
When Hara fell off the bench, he
grabbed his bag before dashing out the room, rushing past confused staff,
making for the stairs, then down through the lobby in a streaking Technicolor
blur of velocity.
“You know what she’ll do to me.”
The few visions that erupted into Hara’s awareness were mere fragments
of darkened paintings, sights that Bellevue’s staff had unknowingly purged from
her through all that caffeine. Images she hoped would aid her god were
now broken, lacking context. Still, she wrote them all down:
Twins. The boy shares the face of
chaos and terror. The girl has rainbows in her dreadlocks and her closest
friend is a black man with white skin. He has a white Mohican hidden
under a black hat. First, the Ceremony of Knives and then, the Time of
Such broken visions. Redacted.
None of them as clear as the odd narrative filling her every
thought.Such a stark recollection of a
story.Vivid.Like the retrieval of a strange dream.Her power always fashioned itself thus, each
fragment of the internal happenings felt real, as existent as her wailing, for
the scenes of her vision howled with the innocent selfishness of hungry
new-borns.Silencing them required pen
and paper, before their bawling maddened her further.Tears rolled down her reddened face as the
feeling of helplessness took over. You should have stayed in
Bellevue, Spider. You should have remained inside so I could share my
story. She’d written the narrative down, clawing at the ridiculous
faith that Spiderfingers might return and read its importance. I’m no
use to him, not like this, not stuck here, out of practice, too old to draw out
info about where is safe and where isn’t. He’s gone. I taught him
too well, Hara decided. Gods cannot afford to empathise,
not when they’re at war.
N E X T T I M E I N
S P I D E R F I N G E R S
The Great Lizard wailed the music of
furious anger and irreconcilable vengeance that only beasts and children
understand. She scorched the ground around the warrior’s legs with her
sulphuric volcano breath. The battle was short.