There won't be any in-depth, pretentious self-flagellating attempts by me here to try and justify my work, not just yet. Cos I figure if anyone is reading this, then it'd be better if they just read the stuff and decide for themselves whether it has any merit or not.
With that in mind, here be chapter two of 'The End Of All There Is' which I think is going to be the title its stuck with for now. The plan is to do an audio version of it in coming months (unless it goes and gets published - watch this space very slowly), so in the meantime you lucky people can have an exclusive peep into the tumultous universe contained within. Except it'll probably be more fun to listen to the audio cos I'll be doing all voices and that.
Unless you can't stand the idea of listening to a stranger tell you a very long and weird story about an coming apocalypse that doesn't ever really happen (spoiler alert in relation to title).
nb - I'll probably only do the first two chapters for now. Different and newer stuff is waiting up just around the bend. Plus, it has been scientifically proven by several accredited bodies that too much of my novel at one time can threaten the very fabric of the internet. And let's face it, no-one wants their fabric threatened. Not even for a moment. Cos if that happens, you lose your connection and all your clothes fall off. Which is not a pretty sight for anyone, no matter who or where they are.
Anyway. Lock and load!
THE END OF ALL THERE IS
CHAPTER TWO: CODIFIED
CHAPTER TWO: CODIFIED
Without wishing to dwell on her cut hand or the sounds upstairs any longer, the girl in Cluskey Hall known as Saira abandoned the blank security window and stepped unsteadily away from it, trying to think where to run.
Up the stairs? To the common room, upstairs? It
is upstairs it
is waiting for me it called my name I heard
Where could she even hope to hide in the common room? It was empty - there wasn't a thing in it. Just chairs: chairs, and nothing else.
Where could she hide there? It knew everywhere. Knew every point in the building. Knew every corner of every single room. It knew her.
She wasn't getting out and she knew it. She was cannon fodder for them; for what they knew. For what they would do. For what it would do.
No I won't think like that I won't think that is the way it’s supposed to be
She hesitated on her feet; only silence. She had thought -
She was only wearing her pyjamas. Why was she only wearing her pyjamas? Whose bright idea had that been?
I am only eighteen, Saira thought deliberately: but I am in this place and it is dark and there is no one around and it is coming to get me and it is so very cold and I am wearing pyjamas I didn't wear pyjamas last year it was cold so cold ohgod
Shaking, she ran back to the building's front doors. Without thinking, she rammed them with her scant shoulder; feeling another smart of pain that under the circumstances Saira didn't feel the need to regard as anything other than a very minor concern.
The doors didn't budge.
They were only glass with wooden frames. Small things. Why wouldn't they yield?
And it was still dark outside. What was the time, anyway? What was the time?
had brought her.
Brought her back. Back. To here.
Who had brought her back? What in God's name
don't take his name in vain he won't help you
was she doing?
She had been at home. At home. In Newcastle, for chrissakes!
Okay. Right, okay. Sane. Let's get a grip on ourselves here, she thought quickly, thinking, why ourselves?
There were six floors. No, no - eight. Shit, no; nine. Nine. Six floors for the students. First floor, union offices, and down here, the foyer, the lecture hall: the canteen, the shop, security: all here still. All dark; all hidden.
And on the ninth floor, Dr. Takahashi.
Takahashi. Was he still here?
She could get to him. He could -
No; he couldn't. She would have to go up; it wouldn't matter anyway. Wouldn't make any difference.
No one had liked him. Saira hadn't liked him, and Saira liked everybody. Saira was a good girl. There had been stories.
Could be here, she reasoned feverishly, hugging herself and her numb shoulders: down here: Up there. On any floor: any floor. It can go anywhere.
on any floor on any floor
Saira ran over to the other end of the entrance foyer and into the main part of the hall. The place looked exactly the same as it had last year; exactly as she remembered it.
Last year. Was it really only last year? Why don't they change it? Why do things never
Saira looked around - thinking of all the girls on the sixth floor from Freshers Week, and beyond. Karen and Carol: Nadja and Jess. And Stace. And Elizabeth II. Lizzy the Second.
And Fereda - always. Ferret to her enemies. Best mates.
Not a nightmare: not. Knew it was all real from the outset. All the fairies came and told me. Said it was cyclical: a closed ring. Like a movie.
The lights stayed dim. Low enough for non-existent guards to see criminals by: low enough for general reasons of security, of law; but not bright enough for anyone to be able to see her.
remember what's important
Never mind, Saira thought: at least I can see everything. Where are you, Fee? What happened with that bloke? Fee?
The wide staircase with the pitted stone on the steps waited. The lecture hall over to the left waited. A sign indicating the way to the canteen over on the right waited. The balcony going up and round to the union offices above waited.
Fee, it's dark. It's dark and I don't know why it should be this way I didn't ask for this Fee I didn't ask and it's all the same
Saira looked at the decor. At the chipped paintwork; at the posters on the walls.
The same. It's dark, it's different, but it's all the same. Fereda
Fereda didn't answer: nor did any of the other girls. Instead of trying to do anything, the girl called Saira stood there in the foyer of the building called Cluskey Hall: with a sore hand, a sore foot, and a fuzzy head; trying not to think of the thing upstairs; trying not to think of something to do.
Anywhere. Oh God protect me.
ANYWHERE, the beast in the walls of Cluskey Hall thought, coiling and uncoiling, in its nest of vipers; and of stone.
In the shack alone at the edge of the woods, Gregory Hunter opened his ringed eyes and looked at the back of the envelope.
His endeavours had again yielded a succession of fruitless non-words. For a few more moments, Gregory persevered in searching the skein of lines; desperate in the hope that something approaching empirical evidence might venture itself forth and assist him.
Vellodol... Gregory considered; momentarily noticing something decipherable. Seeks - vellodol?
Daffodil. That makes me think... looks for... daffodils?
Gregory clenched his fists at the desk and shouted at no one. 'Daffodils have fucking nothing to do with this! You useless piece of...'
Useless. He crumpled the paper up and threw it away.
Someone had to be saved and something had to be found. That much Gregory was sure of; the information was scant, but the vision had been momentous enough to convince Gregory that tonight was the night that something had to be done. And Gregory was fairly certain that this something involved him, others, and the girl called Saira.
On the way to this, it had been necessary to set it out, Gregory remembered; the tactics and manoeuvres lost and won: everything he had learned so far: everything they had learned together. All the stuff about icebergs and pyramids; and, of course, about mountains and molehills. About how big the enemy was; how large the opposition were, and how, in the cut and thrust of it all, it was never really all that clear cut.
It had been necessary. And they had done it; implemented it. All the necessary steps had been taken; all the paths to the chosen goal plotted.
Useless. An impasse.
But what was this, struggling to focus, swimming around in his mind? Did it actually make sense? Did it gel? Hold together?
Is it even a word?
Outside of the hut the wind muttered dryly, whispering mantras and gathering leaves; dumping them down: picking them up again.
Three girls. Three words?
Was it like a boat? If he threw it in the ocean, and left it there to fend for itself, would it float? Or would it sink?
Or isn't it real at all?
He paused in mid-thought, stared temporarily at the ceiling with all of its multifarious tiny cracks and holes that were so very good at letting the rain in, and then banged his head against the desk. He could feel the tiredness closing in: coming down.
There was nothing he could do. Nothing.
There is still time. Even without me there is still time.
I know it's three - it's always bloody three, isn't it? A triumvirate. Trinity. Fathersonholyghost.
He was going to have to sleep; as ever, there was not a thing he could do about it. For no discernible reason other than that it might loosen up some of the unoiled cogs in his head, Gregory banged his brow on the desk one final, half-hearted time.
They might do it, he wondered. If they still can.
Christ; what am I thinking? - don't even know where they live now. Never even really seen one - Not really. Who's to say they even actually exist at all? All we've got’s subjective. Circumstantial. Balls in the sky. Nothing. Nothing at all.
He reached for the lamp and switched it off before laying his head down on the desk; just a little left of where the backwards swastika was scratched into the wood.
Children, he mused, beginning to drift comfortably off into some parallel world. Never knew what they were trying to invoke.
Can't rely on them. Can't. It's useless. It's me. Just me
Some difficult-to-quantify moments went by. Gregory's head remained on the desk, the heat of the lamp warming his rapidly widening bald patch.
Cannot let her die
She must not die; she must be saved
She cannot be saved
Only it can be saved and then she will go on
One for all. All for the price of one. Buy one get all free
They had got in. Got in
Like putting a knot in a baby's umbilical cord right in the womb so nothing comes out. Don't kid yourself, Hunter; it's all totally bloody over if we don't save her.
One two three
Somewhere In the distance an owl hooted: eager for answers, or news of any kind. Waiting for owl news; spoken in an owl language.
anywhere oh god protect me fereda
Gregory leapt up and balanced the lamp. It fell to the floor with a thump, landing on a pile of papers. Ignoring it, Gregory spun drunkenly around, gazing off into a specifically envisaged nowhere lying somewhere in the darkness.
'Saira?' he called. 'Saira?'
Gregory stood as still as he could. No response came. A despondent silence tickled noisily at his ears.
'Saira,' he said, not wanting to move; addressing the dark walls quietly in an owl-voice. 'If you're there - tell me. Tell me what it is. Is it three words? Oh, Saira, my love, please just tell me! Help me to help you.'
Nothing happened. The hut creaked out boredom beneath his feet. The walls went pop.
As if on cue, a bush rustled bushily outside.
Gregory raised his head, cocked it, listened again and then discounted the noise. He returned his attentions to the empty air.
No time left, he thought, feeling a familiar dread weight descend slowly onto the back of his mind and fall gradually down like an indiscriminate veil. No time at all.
Oh fuck. I can't remember. She's going to fucking die and it's going to go and I can't fucking
There was still time, he thought drowsily, swaying dizzily where he stood. Before they switched him off.
There was always time - a tomorrow. Gregory knew that it was simply a matter of reminding oneself on an hourly basis that this was actually still the case; that, and that there was always more to come.
More. But different. Without her, so, so different. Come on. Fucking
A further noise distracted him from his desperate incantations.
Outside the shack? Rustling: loudly.
It was too late. Too late, surely, even for one of...
They can't have...
The noises came again - only this time louder, and significantly closer.
Bushes rustling; definitely bushes. And bushes don't rustle unless there's someone in them, Gregory thought slyly, grimly pushing the sluggishness in his brain aside and going ever so noiselessly over to the door.
Saira glanced around, not really thinking, not really considering. Something. Heavy. Smash the doors. Come on, come ON
But then, of course, there was
(the only vase is made of gold my love)
She jogged around a corner; yes - they were still there, up on the wall. Saira snatched at the nearest receiver but then stopped herself - realising.
What the hell am I supposed to do with this? she thought crazily; insane bells going off in her head. Is this supposed to break it? It's a phone - a fucking phone. Oh God oh shit
Phone the Police, a quiet voice said, rising clearly out of the mud in her head: Simple, dumbass: the cops are the best option. They deal with whacked-out shit like this rather more often than you'd care to think. Don't you know how many call-outs the local station gets in a night just for chicks stuck in towerblocks? What a silly girl you are, Saira; you never listen. What would darling Trevor think? Come to think of it, what would your father
999, Saira thought - at last feeling realistic. Free call. Easy. Easy. Thank God.
She looked behind her. Up the stairwell: all around.
Still not coming: still not coming. Thank God. Thankgod nineninenine
Saira pressed the receiver to her ear and jabbed the numbers in. There was a dialling tone, and the familiar sound of the connection being made: the little bips.
Thank you, she enunciated to herself: Thank you so very much come on
He won‘t save you, you know, the Quiet Voice said; sparkling with unexpected peacefulness in Saira’s head. He's a total dipshit. Don't ask for him. Don't count on him. He's ex-directory. Doesn't even know where he is half of the time.
Yes. He will, Saira replied noncommittally to the air. In her other ear, the bips continued to bip. No one was around. A poster on the wall said Lion Dance.
No he fucking won't, girl, the Quiet Voice whispered; seeming to emanate down the line and come out through the receiver.
Are you quite sure any of this is even real?
The line went dead. Somewhere above her on the first floor there was a crash; the sound of someone tearing at corrugated iron. Feeling her stomach turn over and collapse in on itself, Saira dropped the receiver, noticing with only the faintest amount of surprise that the noise the thing upstairs was making sounded exactly the same as it had done in her dreams.
The bicycle man the bicycle man oh God protect me, Saira thought; neither meaning nor believing her plea.
GOD PROTECT YOU, the beast that lived in the walls of Cluskey Hall thought, and slid noiselessly through impermeable stone and into some heating pipes; not making a sound: not a sound.