smoking man black and white

Humid was the wine, as drank through the iris
René Adams
8,813 Words

Heaven moaned, making highlights in the performing eyes of the world.

“Get your heads down for tonight lads.”

The concierge was a mixture of your best friend with just the right amount of certainty in his voice, and ease in his steps, to make you believe that everything was in hand. His squat frame seemed to be at odds with the doorway he stood beneth, as if he balaned the darkness of late evening on his shoulders, turning around, and taking them into the hall.

The man led the new employees into a large room that had floor to ceiling high windows at the north side, looking out into the black greens of the estates grounds. The men followed him, loosely aware that the layout of the room gave nothing away as to its use. They assumed it was their sleeping quarters, yet, felt the size of the shadows, which swayed on the marble floor, asking their tiredness to do the same, where if not, they’d have to give in to an obscene barage of questions.

“I hope you don’t mind how things are laid out here lads.” The balding man said throwing back a quick smile. One of the guests was way passed his prime and the other was fairly trim, but something in the butler – come tour guide’s body – told them that he could probably back up anything he said if needed to.

“Anyways, I’m here to make sure any questions you have about the simpler things are answered. Hehh hehm.” He said adding a grunt to the end of his words.

“I’m basically one step up from a porter here gentlemen. But I’ll help sort out anything to do with this place, any problems with your rooms or food, or anything like that, don’t worry about all this anyways-“ He said sweeping his hand out to the east of the hall where a large area was covered by a blue tarpaulin, much like a pool would be covered when not in use, but if this was a pool it was shaped organically, and where the dark sheet drooped down it showed how uneven the edges were, like a stretch of rock contained the pool at its sides, more like a natural geezer than anything else.

“This place is just for you fellas,” the butler added, “you’ll be given a full tour tomorrow.”

Clarke felt wind coming from the opposite wing of the room. It reminded him of Singapore airport during the quieter seasons, which was the same as his idea of the after and current life. A place of always awakened calm, always between dusk and night.

The choice of lighting was only enough to illuminate small parts of the hall’s entirety. The side where Clarke felt the wind coming from couldn’t be seen in the light, but you could make out a type of tunnelled opening at the side of the hall, beside several doors. The opening reminded him of old disused train tunnels that someone had turned into an underground night club he had visited when much younger.

“It gets a bit chilly I know but don’t worry – it’s probably meant to be trendy or something you know.” The butler said confusing a sentiment of courtesy with his own disinterest in the style of the hall. A wind blew near the tunnel, not ravaging or wild like you’d expect with one that lead directly out into the open, but separating the sterile smell in the hall with a distant one of rocks and sand.

“You gents’ll be sleeping just over here-“ He added walking over to the west wing of the hall beside the tunnel opening. The men were now shown two doors that appeared as they walked towards them.

“Your cases’ll be inside too, me name’s Ramol anyways, there’s an instacom inside if you need anything.”

Ramol removed his squat frame from the twin entrances to let the new employees through. The doorways suited the stately decoration of the wide hall better than the counter parts at either side of its wings: the tunnel, and the rock pool. The doors were rimmed in polished wooden frames and accessible via a snug metal handle that was shaped into grooves for your fingers to grip.

The taller, more exhausted of the two men looked back at Ramol, “err cheers Ramol, the briefings early on tomorrow isn’t it? My heads finding it a bit hard to handle all this right now you know… just the long flight and all you know?”

“Very understandable, and we’ll all feel better after a good rest and a good briefing. And ready-,” Ramol said trying to turn away and answer at the same time, suddenly looking up and becoming off-balance for some reason, walking backwards, and dissapearing back into the halls darkness, showing the limit of the lighting near the bedroom doors.

“Sorry? Err I, ha-” Clarke tried to say, like someone both equally disturbed and trying to join in with a private joke.

“Understandable Mr Clark very understandable… Don’t worry about tomorrow son, rest rest rest. Res ssd.” Ramol said rubbing his head in the last of the lighting.

“Ok, thanks mate,” Clark said, knowing he had to turn around and enter his room, since watching the disapering figure of Ramol was making him feel sick. But the light bouncing off butler’s lower lip stayed with him, as did the man’s speech. A broken verbatim inside talking putty going out.

He sighed out. Then breathed in through his nose, asking the polyscent of old rich rockery and polished marble flooring to make sense. Clark looked over to the other man that he’d been walked in with and tried to share the last of his cheer with him.

“Night mate.” Clark said to the younger man.

He looked like the type of man his daughter loved to like. He had a tight look in his eyes that was more honest than Clarkes- a truer reflection of the warped layout of the room, or something else linked to the peculiarity of the set-up. The tiredness was there too, alongside his casual black t-shirt and scruffy jeans. A molatto James Martin of types. His face didn’t bother returning Clark’s attempt at being nice- ‘ah, the attitude to go with it too, he thought gloomily.

The departing sound of Ramol’s formal shoes clacking on the floor was the last thing Clark remembered before he threw a triple scotch down his neck to calm his nerves inside the room. The vulgar neon colouring of the furniture made him feel strangely at ease, since, he knew that only people with hideous jokes for taste, or, children who should know better liked surroundings such as this. And it took Ramol too many steps to depart from the sound of the night, the steps continuing, and dancing above rain coloured histories of too many miles. He laid back on the mattress, wondering how far the rabbit hole sang. And singeth it did low and languid, small burping whiskey belches, unaudible laughter, and untouchable lovers.

A man of fifty should be past needing booze to sleep, he told himself, as his ex-wife appeared in a dream and a shadow, buzzing inside the doll house décor, where he was twentyish and sharp enough to amaze her. They drank and exchanged disgusting jokes. One about time. One about time and music.

And anyone chosen from that many candidates for this company must have something going, and, it’s all good, few hours sleep, and, the scotch was good, and it was good, to be finally, here…

*

And where we are in this dream of sun
it is less likely to be truer than a bird scream
or fishes poaching water
arguing with the hook.

*

Clark didn’t want to push open his daughter’s bedroom door. But eventually, he would have to. He knew that, sipping both shadow and clumsy drunk song in the hallway.

And In the patience of his own home the anger at his daughter’s lack of respect tore new holes in him, some in space, some in his beard. Did she really think that she could just go out all night, on what was meant to be one of his weekends with her, let some loser fuck in, and just go at it?

Five minutes passed.

Ten.

Clark sipped from his glass without pushing the door open, letting the thumps soar and dip of their own accord. He looked behind himself at his 2089 Nae Marsaed: “Humid was the wine as drank from the iris” It was called. Luce had bought it for him on his fortieth birthday when things had been better, and the hummingbirds agreed with the moon.

“To you, you melancholy old fuck, I love you Dad” She’d written in his birthday card.

Clark wanted nothing more than to be beside that artist of Palomenia. The constructed continent North of the upper parts of New Canada. He just wanted to see how a painting looks during its infancy when it links so well with so many future worlds, the paint is vitallic flesh, and knows no decadence. Clark laughed, and regained some hold on himself throwing open the door. The room was cold where Luce’s window was still open from letting someone in.

None of her silk sheets were still attached to her bed and Clark was still laughing as he announced his humour by smashing his glass against the wall in the darkness. And there was the black shirt and scruffy jeans lying on the floor amongst Luce’s, as he flicked the light on and they both scrabbled out from each other and back against the headboard, exposing themselves in horror and looking around for covering.

And that day it was neither time for reality or dream, since Clark was sick to the gut of he stars, and old James was shooting a film where he saw through a mad man’s eyes.

“Evening. Whom shall I begin with?” Clark said gently, wondering who was who in a badly drawn waltz.

The bleaching whiff of class A Exactica in the air. No doubt Clarke would check his bank float the next day and find it several thousand credits lighter.

Exactica was the pick of the elite socialite classes. The secrete stim of anyone near the top or in the company of them. 100% pure Nor-methonol-flourizine-oxytol. The inhalant affected Clarke immediately, as he hadn’t taken the precursing stabiliser, like James and his daughter had, which allowed for one to still function without being shot into direct instinct too fast.

“Hoooo…”

and

“Faaaa.”

Were the last things he thought and said, before he walked in.

Flicking the lights back off, and closing the door.

*

Leo knew this was a bad idea.

His doctorate was titled ‘The misjudged growth of new islands’, and he was the youngest PhD in the history of academics to have his face shone across the lightening boards of floating adverti-ships, he was the first academic of this level to have a place in the media whilst he did something serious, and good god, and the scope was warmer than all the deserts of the world drinking cognac at the same time, and these were also all: bad ideas.

But there is always the other gem that is required to keep things real, connected, and such. Leo’s was Luce. Daughter of a senior exec in the higher regions of the world’s leading media controllers. Leo skipped and unskipped to her beat, like all members intellgencia do, knowing somewhere that it all fades away quicker if you don’t just enjoy it. Leo knew that her father was another driver in the game, and he tried to calculate ways to break it to him that he was fucking his daughter, although his explorations of deviancy were a kin to a teacher of Marquis de Sade.

The moon was still trying to see past the pollution of the capital, failing, but continuing to emit a low beam of light that transformed the night clouds into a sickly yellow.
Leo felt the cold brick of the estates outer wall, gatherign himself to leap up. Ramol heaved the boy’s foot up, with one hand, caring nothing for the skin or clothing of his employer.

“Come on fella, you’re not gonna get up there with that effort now are you?” His driver said, tiring of his attempts to launch the young man upwards, to the first barbs on top of the wall.

“For great Hellia, is this all fucking worth it…?” Leo said slumping down outside the complex, having fallen back on his arse. Ramol caught his breath in the night, holding his knees, and sighing out with several heavy grunts. The driver laughed through his chokes to regain his stamina and took his cap off.

Always that same damn laugh when he saw his kid – or the young man whom he thought of with more affection than his own kin – always with a simple idea.

“Ahhh. Ok. Tell me about her Leo.” The driver said stepping back from the high wall and picturing Leo grab the first of the barbs.

Leo laughed too.

“You’re a gent Rammy. What am I gonna do when you’re not here?” Leo replied, already involving his body and minds strength with his friend’s question and aim, creating the steps of energy beyond it which the question nudged… Now quietening, and opening the suggestion, and letting it devour his doubts.

“I’ll tell you later.” Leo said looking up the wall, as Rammol moved beside him laughing, and they tried again.

The shout of exertion was louder than sensible caution permitted outside the complex, but Leo’s grip was good, as he willed a leg up slow, and around to his right hand, like a man that can’t decide whether he’s a burglar or a dancer, onto a standing space only big enough for two ants to lay back to back, and allow him to balance on the tight rope, spreading his arms and creating the biomechanical requirements of the leap and roll in his mind, as it occurred.

He made a thumbs up for: no, the performers shall not be slain in the coliseum today after he tumbled out from the fifteen meter drop and collected himself, locating the entry point from cover in the undergrowth, staring at the wide and flat modern complex.

The “() () () () ()(…)() () () () ()” facia of the front of the building was beautifully sculpted.

There was a dissipating effect within the architecture of the entrance like vertical shells growing out from themselves in scores of white stone.

The alarm matrix opened in Leo’s mind as he mapped out the motion detectors and places to avoid as Luce had told him.

He let his hand die from thumbs up to his friend as Rammol lifted his own thumb up driving away in his stretched Dodge Charger in the night, chuckling at the things his young employer asked him to do. And Leo knelt down, moving quickly now over the lawn, dodging within specific parts of the securities schemata that Luce had mentioned to him.
Clarke knew as he watched Nae Marséad paint in his Palomenian studio that something was wrong.

The middle aged artist thrashed at the canvas as it replied with his ex-wife’s slamming sound that was the door slamming of his home as she left. Nae stood up, his squat balding features handing him the canvas as Luce did on his birthday. The torture spread through him saying cancer was love as he gripped all throats.

His wife’s, his own, his daughter’s, and her Leo’s.

There were more luke-warm executive meetings than love.

And Clarke hated that. So he continued to explain what he was doing as he did it as blood was released and gorged upon in the room. The eclipse frightened Clarke so deeply that he made a sound of wilderness higher and lower than a human should be able to make. And he needed help. His back ached like a wide thorn was piercing him through the mattress.

He arched up and reached around upset, certain that he was awake again as always and that it was over. He looked around with half old and scotch battered eyes. He told his entire self to drip back to sleep, heavy and gone, because he knew that he would need it, and that the sight was only pain in an imagined way, like a dog seeing its put down before it comes. The knife in his back was mist, and if he rolled over it would drip away too.

But the thorn was real, and coming from the middle of his mattress dripping with two inches of his own red.

“Holy fucking fucking fuck fuck faaa () () () () ()(…)() () () () ()” He screamed.

*

The young man next door hadn’t been very affable, but people don’t think in such ways when among despair.

Clarke backed away from the bed, overloaded with the disgust of knowing that the thorn had been inside his body. He didn’t dare look at it in the mirror, but he knew that there was a small pock-sized hole in the middle of his shoulder blades. It was seeping, and his rugged grown arms, half made from a life-long commitment to weightlifting, half fat, couldn’t reach it, but he could feel a trickle walking down his back.

He walked back step by step, until he knew that no more threat was about, and felt for the door handle behind him. He opened the door, stepped out, and slammed it holding the handle tightly as if that would lock the panic inside.

He felt the currents of air in the hall outside. They mixed on his half-naked body as his mind shook.
His room and his neighbour’s were side by side in the corner. Far behind him was the long reaching geezer pool draped in rubber tarpaulin. To his left was another creation that seemed more natural than man-made in the form of a tunnel entrance, that connected to the cold marble floor of the otherwise ornately decorated room.

“Daddy got pissed off eh?” Leo said leaning against the side of his door beside near Clarke, smoking with one hand whilst tightly gripping the handle of his door with the other, trying to hide how freaked he was at the same time.

“Your-your-your your name’s Leo – but I don’t know that, I haven’t been told that, we weren’t introduced, HOW DO I FUCKING KNOW THAT? I know the flight here took ten hours from Berlin, there was no-one else on the plane, they were playing Dune on the overhead screen, and it freaked me how they knew which film I would have chosen… I met you at the entrance to this place – you’re scruffy – how the fuck am I working with a scruff like you, you were with my daughter, and I have not seen you, before this, your name is Leo, your name is Leo, I hate- I killed- I saw- Iwalked-

They were playing Dune on the overhead screen, it was Friday day day day. Wednesday. I was thinking-you’re a wanker-we weren’t introduced

we weren’t introduced
we weren’t introduced
we weren’t

introduced.”

Clarke kept on saying things in this manner until his shaking overcame his verbal ability to communicate, shaking his head and holding the door while tapping his forehead. Remembering irrelevant articles of the journey to the grounds, like how the stewardess rememinded him of Michelle Yeoh, and his second wife, and how the air had no scent, just a humming which lapsed into a light melody.

“Easy…” Leo said as Ramol struck Clark on the head from behind, both hitting, and catching the man in the same precise sweep.

*

Clark opened his bedroom door to the morning light, as it came in from the windows on the north side of the hall way.

He needed to find somewhere to wash up and he was surprised at how little concern he had for today’s plans. The night had taken a bunch out of him.

Automatically, he reached behind himself under his shirt feeling for the middle of his back.

He scratched away at a painful dot that was trying to form a scab on his back, with some effort, looking more like a struggling contortionist than a man easily able to move his limbs. He subsided in a low murmering of curses, finally conceding to spin a few times, and grab an ashtray from the nightstand, which didn’t suffice as a scratching instrument due to being curved, where, he then knelt down on his haunches and scratched his back on the corner of the stand itself.

“Oh christ all mighty oh christ…”

The estate’s grounds curved outside for a few hundred yards of perfect lawn.

In the middle of the patch a long tower stood, about as wide as a female torso ten to fifteen feet high. And beyond the lawn, dense tress encapsulated the scene suggesting the stately home backed out onto immediate countryside.

Turning to take in the rest of the hall, his eyes were drawn to a disturbance in the long organic rocky pool that permeated through the middle of the hall, and descended into the east wing, as far as an Olympic pool length wise, but natural in origin, or a very good imitation.

The tarpaulin was removed, and the pool was in use.

A man’s head floated up and down through the spine of the water, in a casual but vigourous butterfly stroke, as Clark observed the hall’s new guest. It wasn’t his moody neighbour or Ramol. The man’s eyes spotted Clark, and sent him a ravenous smile in-between his strokes through the rock pool, as his face emersed, then dived back up.

Leo sat on the edge of the oversized geezer swinging his leg beside the brown rock.

The man Clark would come to know only as: Tirmere, the caretaker, rose from the pool climbing on invisible steps below the water’s surface, continuing to shoot his smile at him.

Clark had lived long enough in the peculiar spectrum of macho shows to know the type: hyped up on the limitless pleasure of his position, filled with gregariousness from the lack of boundary in his desires, built in a similar fashion, maybe six five, and still growing, a death filled god of grandeur, a self made illusion of perfection, so glowing and furious that you felt it. The swimmer rose from the rock pool, as both steam and light seemed to evaporate from his skin, smiling, speaking from somewhere in his solar plexus, filling the strange hall with a type of low singing hymn, a low devouring barritone, high and deep, odd and even, like thunder inside a flute.

“And it’s a good morning to you Mr Clark isn’t it?! Isn’t it best that we explain these large appendages that hang in our living hall and what exactly shall today shall cover?!” Tirmere said in a verse that lay on heavy intonation, delivering a peculiar drama and song to his voice.

The warmth of the day made Clark feel unclean.

He had a craving to dive into the pool where the swimmer had just appeared, and cleanse himself from the 24 hours of sweat he’d accumulated in his journey there.

The “appendages” that the large man was talking about as he motioned towards them were basically: the long pool he had appeared from, an old fashioned blackboard that stretched from the floor and up to the marble ceiling that Leo was now walking towards- chalk in hand, in the corner of the east wing, and the tunnel behind Clarke beside the bedrooms.

The man’s song continued, like a body being dragged through heat, like a canvas bought from hell, and like a harmonizing strike to all other sounds. Low and rocking. Bucking in the wrong places. And shattering the normal line of intonation with deeper songs, in the shape of language, albeit, at the behest of a bright and dark sun.

“Definitely a fine morning FOR a… (briefing…?) Mr Clark… Here is yours, coming now…”

Clark looked towards the tunnel where Tirmere was pointing, as water dripped from his finger.

The black that Clark had looked into when Ramol lead him past the mouth the previous night, had added details now during the day, with the circling red rims inside, showing you the beginnings of the tunnel, and further details of its throat and shadow.

Clark wanted to speak as he stared in.

Words cycled in his mind to best hide his discomfort – checking where his feet were – he decided to walk towards the side of the room where the tunnel began to see what the strange swimmer was singing about.

Yeah, nothing should be unfamiliar to me, boss boy’s naked, and the little moody cunt looks like a rent boy. Lets play, he decided as he walked towards the opening.

He slowed down the variables that were occurring around him, changed their size, space, and colour, which had a direct impact on his apprehension towards them, just as his P.P.A. (Perceived Path Analysis) counsellor had taught him when feeling out of place.

Now, Tirmere’s commanding suggestion was a silly bird, flying away, in a black and white film, that he watched in the perfect harmony of his last wife’s company.

The present was just five minutes of this scene. And the technique was easy, and made him laugh, this being the main thing.

Of course, Tirmere must weight over 250 lbs when thin, and Clark was way past the point where he could match his physical presence himself, but hey- “Man I love this song,” Clarke said leaning into Jessica and walking towards the tunnel, for his “briefing”, oh fuck you man, you’re a just a lil bird, he thought.

In one imploding dive that Clark felt happen behind him- Tirmere launched back into the sweating pool.

Clark realised that the water was not clear like water should be, and must be sourced from somewhere far underground. A dream must be lower, he thought, there must be a source, and this source must be abundant, as even the air shakes with the gravity of this water. It has heat, a low growling heat, and my eyes know better than to be swayed by such things, but this room, this day.

Leo followed in a further smaller splash behind him swimming too. He looked better active, as supposed to in the night, where his form seemmed lesser adapted to being out of water, or away from the fluid.

Mixed with the panting sounds of flesh on water coming from the pool: another came, distinctly away from the pool, pulling Clark’s eyes back to the tunnel, as a small patty of flesh on rock sound came. Rock and sand. Dragging, and trully dragging, more of a cadaverean life over sand than form over mineral.

It was the sound of a: flipping.

A small drag on sand inside the gaping crevice, and then a flip! And a draaag, every few seconds.

A churn in Clark’s stomach shot upwards, like an old root that had decided to shake its head unwelcomely near his heart, and touch it.

We only realise that we’re paralysed, begrudgingly, when we are, knowing only consciously what to do next, where, all of that is gone. Conscioness blown through the eye hole of fear, a remnant left, more of a twitching husk than a mammal with lungs, heart, and a way to traverse. To move is the ideal option. An option that may make us strike, run, scream, adhere to training, cry, or other variables that rise up from true character.

But there’s that head-fuck two seconds where we can’t do anything, which Clark was now in, watching what was coming from the cave.

Clark watched the small unlimbed creature move towards him. Unlimbed as in unrecognisable by all of the true sights he had seen before. Watching it, made his skin, eyes, and life, feel like weeping. Not in the regratable way of mortality, but in an older way. The ways of a sphinx rolling its shoulders, the way of a lover becoming a stone inside a bladder, and the endogenous ways of large mites, more heavenly in their knowledge of your skin inside a pillow, than reality, or ways to abstract the things that run.

It was the size of a small debilitated cat and a similar colour of flesh to the sand cave it crawled from.
Pity.
A terrible, endless, creeping pity, tied Clark’s senses to the creature’s struggle to move itself.

It used its prominent thorn at the front of its soft cloud body to drag itself forward.

Since the protruding thorn from its sack (that appeared where its head should be) was the only movable appendage it appeared to have – – – “Come now little Lathe, DELIVER!… (divulge…?) THE briefing… hinggg hing heeeEEing…!” Tirmere howled behind Clarke from the pool – – it had to put a lot of effort into using it to move, now on the marble floor, away from the sandy mouth of the cave that allowed it proper and easier traction- it suffered on the smooth surface.

It’s one shiney thorn scraped on the marble like a long feminine nail tapping impatiently.

It was obviously blind, but soon changed how it moved.

Now the nail curled down and withdrew below and under itself, just once, and it propelled itself forward at Clark with a sudden speed using its thorn as a spring board, meter by flying meter, flipping over and forwards in the hall towards him.

Clark’s mind emptied of all things apart from the rotten question of why it wanted: him.

“Don’t worry, she just wants to read you young Clark, we all need to be BRIEFED you see… sir?” Tirmere boomed as he made large flowing breast strokes gliding back into the pool.

Back, back out onto the lawn was the only possible way out.

He was fit, he didn’t work-out like a beast for nothing. He witnessed the disgrace of the hall, and like he never admitted in his corporate meetings: asked the stars for help in the corners of his eyes. There was some punch left in the engine, some struggle left in the bowl, and he was damned if he would let the creatures in his senses overcome him. So. Like all creatures which believe nothing but the street, the old street, and the street where they have lain in decimation, he growled. And as the fire needed no asking inside of him, it did what fire does, and began to burn his fear, designing what fire is, and is not.

Clark’s survival assessment told him that nothing here could be right as long there were caves with small creatures and rock pools with naked executives swimming in them in the morning. It was a bad job choice, I have enough savings to fly to Miami tomorrow, live for ten years, and perhaps reconnect with my daughter over ten years of cocktails, and I’ll be fucked if anything’ll get in the way of that.

The trees… yes the trees, and through! He thought turning towards the light coming in through the tall windows at the side of the hall. It was maybe 6am-ish daylight.

The baroque panelled glass of the central door shot up to the roof, where another separate frame half way down provided a door and double brass handles to release it.

Locked.

Clark knew that if he looked at the creature again he would faint.

So he focussed his mind on the task of opening the door.

Nothing.

The glass felt like old style single pains that could be smashed easily, over and over, a flip, a time before the pouch landed in a sick slump, a flip: Clark looked down and realised the doors he’d been shaking were latched at the bottom, flip: { : FUCK : } – then pushing the doors open he began to run.

The sun lit the cherub statues that decorated the patio watching him flee. And said insane things to the morning. The first things he said were linked to where he departed from man and into animal, the second things he said were more of a movement inside his muscles, where some memory inside their senses controlled them, and gave him a speed he didn’t know during conscious life. There was a small attack from doubts too, but: blood is the colour of life, and dance is the steam of life as well, only settled when we create gods from our movement.

Clark made use of his treadmill hours, sprinting into the lawn and passing the curved pavings surrounding the exit.

He let out a mixed shout as his heels felt the company of the creature.

It was now keeping up with him, and made small dog leap attempts to rise up his legs as he ran. The creature wasn’t like the cats or dogs Clark knew how to handle, it was more like a sloppy nightmare, drenched in god knows what fears you hide: painting them in leperous waves of familiarity: you are me, I am you, and no matter how hard you run, I am ambivalent to your skin, except

here
here
and here

*

If the animal that matched his speed so easily was a pet, this would have been playful, even the small dips of its thorn into his ankles would have been jesting bites.

Clark neared the centre of the lawn where the totem pole stood, out of breath, awake, but fucking out of breath.

If he stayed on foot for much longer – even at full sprint – Clark knew that the creature would make its way up his legs, so he opted to jump the first meter onto the statue and depart from the wet lawn.

The perspiration on Clark’s hands and the morning wetness made it hard to grasp, but the thought of that small sorry body touching him again helped him to drag himself up in jolts of panic.

It could have been a Monday, where solace is more like a droning owl.

*

Tying his red silk dressing gown around himself Tirmere came out on the terrace and shouted across the lawn to the climbing executive, puzzled at his actions.

“They’re called ‘LATHES’ – ELLL AE TEEE AIIITCH – (aitch?) – EEEEE ESSS ESSS ESSS ESSS old boy, don’t worry! It doesn’t hurt, and it’s faaan-TASTIC for the morning blood…” The man said making his voice carry out like a chaotic song across the well kept landscape.

And there was some use in the suggestion of the strange heavy weight’s words.

It was damn cold.

And there would have to be something done about it. It won’t involve me letting a small creature penetrate me with a thorn for a head, and it won’t involve me shaking up here like some damn fool, Clark thought to himself.

Which film should we watch love?

That one where everyone’s mouth is connected to everyone else’s arse and nothing makes any sense? No. I don’t want to watch that again either. Oh, and now I know that this question is crazy, but I need a little help here love, or lovers. I don’t know where I am, and I have a fight on my hands, would you mind making this morning a lil less cold? It’s biting my balls. Fucking hell, thanks, bloody hell, I remember that heater, it was all we had in that cheap place, but it certainly did the trick – – – relaxing.

Apes and the moon.

Clarke stopped shaking as he said his strange prayer, and sat down on the totem pole.

There was a good ten yards between him and the upper most limit of the things attempt to reach his feet – – – ok what have we got, this lumbering fool walking towards us on the lawn, that creepy guy from my dream behind him, something weird down there – – – Clarke said aloud, sending a large, slow, globule of spit down on the thing – – – yeah, you’re right, he said to himself, if that thing’s thorn can propel it that fast, and can leap that high, it must have some pretty powerful musculature connected to it, and there’s no way I want a taste of that in my arse.

What? Yeah. That works.

Letting his body dangle from the top of the tower, holding himself on its side facing forwards with arms behind, Clark aimed his feet at the excited sack trying to leap up, and timed his drop in time with when the thing dropped back down, and retracted its black thorn back underneath itself for another leap at him, and – – – DROP.

Clark took some good time stamping on the thing after he landed on it.

Punishing and spewing out a controlled set of vitriol into it, until its life was gone, and he concentrated on his next target, Tirmere, the smiling weight of Tirmere standing near, or in another gasp of vitality.

Leo stood beside him, dressed in the same black t-shirt and jeans he’d seen on his daughter’s floor.

“K guys. I’ll tell you how this is going to go,” He said as the thing spat its thorn into his ankle finally delivering the “briefing” with an after beat of its death.

“BRIEFING MY FUCKING ARSE,” Clarke said ripping the thorn out from his ankle as a day, then century, then annexing eons became one thought booming loud in his lobes.

Nah. Not today lover.

Clark forced the pain and time to walk on all fours away, like the Dalmatian pup he bought with Jess as his ankle bled into the lawn.

He saw the thing’s that Tirmere called ‘Lathes’ journeying in sentient craft across empty space, where Tirmere was a dumb caretaker in a ship that changed as it moved without knowing distance, and Clark knew the animals of the ark, Noah made decent coffees, Jobe wrote the book of Jobe,
and his girl had gorgeous thick hair and eyes waiting for him on the other side
And the credits smelt like their blood, flowing up the screen, warmly, and the drive home was a calm one as always.

“K. I’m not going to win here. I’m not even going to come close I bet.” Clarke said making a ‘V’ sign with his index and forefinger pointing at the men.

“But one of you will lose an eye.”
“And one of you will have something bitten the fuck off before I’m done.”

He said as the sentiment of his adrenalin turned back into humour.

*

“K?” He said listening to himself, laughing, and getting ready.

Tirmere opened his dressing gown exposing the multiple Lathes attached to his giant body, that milked from his teats and all the parts of his body, creating a spectacle of disgust- hanging off by the sucking thorn that protruded from their fronts, letting their bodies hang from him limp, like a clown selling joke chickens under his coat.

Clark took his shirt off and began wrapping it around his left fist.

And took off his belt wrapping it around his right fist.

Tirmere listened to everything the fiftyish media exec said, and nodding nodding, “Yes YES! Why… we weren’t wrong here were we…” His face said with movement and nods as the animals milked, some dropping off, as if drunk by his boundless energy.

Leo’s face was also content, although not showing it, agreeing with his boss.

“Lets all go back inside. This bit always bores me. Especially if you lose it. We don’t want anyone to get hurt.” Leo said almost completely without passion, but with honesty.
“Brom pom pom! Brom (pom?) pom POMM POMMM!” Termer was now saying aloud, as if a brass band was was trying to escape from him, and the Lathe’s dropped from his skin on command, exposing the small sucking sores where they had fed and began to poke into the dewy grass politely.

The two men turned and withdrew immediately, as if familiar with such moods, walking back to the terrace, as the Lathe’s parted where they collected on the grass suggesting that they would not try and jump up at Clark if he walked inbetween them, where they played and grazed amongst themselves.

Clarke stood there in breathless silence, still gripping tight on his shirt and belt, then lesser, and lesser…

And as the morning and the stately grounds transmitted their quiet message to him.
And it was time to pop his shirt back on, and maybe do what Leo suggested.
And anyways, he was hungry.

*

“We call the “Lathling’s” (…do we? Silly name…) Tirmere said looking at one of them as it flipped itself back into the geezer pool inside the large hall, and stirring the water with his toe thoughtfully.
It was terribly off putting for Clark- the way Tirmere left his dressing gown open all the time, with nothing worn underneath, but as the adrenalin left its usual deposit of relaxation in Clark’s system he was able to ignore it to a fashion.

“Fuuuck me. If you think I’m staying here…” He thought to himself, wiping his hands on his shirt, as if trying to remove an invisible dirt and correct himself.

Leo made a cupping shape with his hand, then brought his spread fingers towards his face with an exact motion, which brought the black board off the wall and into the middle of the room above the stretching rock pool, a magician and his normal tools of obedience, or just heaven multiplied by hell.

The chalk scribbles faded from white on black into hypnotising blinks of image, as analogue notes gave way to a crisp picture of Clark’s home from his and Leo’s shared dream the previous night.

“They were probably here first, I dunno, placed here,” Leo said holding the viewing screen still with one hand and adjusting further parts of its spectrum with his other hand.

Clark watched the young man alter the density and time of its light and further data commands that were many times beyond his understanding.

“What you saw, we shared,” The student said numbly, “The most powerful thing, is shared dream, we cannot do it alone, if you’re interested, it’s all in the briefing, the data is with you now.” Leo said as if his words were disconnected to his heart.

“WHATEVER? (hmm…? I know I know…),” Termer said butting in, pissing into the warm pool enjoying a musical leak over the Lathe’s as they flicked like peaceful grey hands, “Whatever we are, when we interact, they release us, what you saw has not happened. We are the media centre of the world.

You are tied to us now Clark.

Tomorrow, Leo’s face will be shot across the globe in the biggest scandal of latent years… We are where it happens.” Tirmere said in a tone more like his partners.

“I came here for a job, if you think I’m gonna sleep in a place with, with: Clark said surprised at his ability to even speak, finding the proximity to madness a thing which wasn’t so mad, since it was so visceral, so in-front of him, touchable, “kept” somehow, almost: ‘average’, in its loyalty, and reality here.

“No. You won’t have to go through that again. My old man used to say ‘If you feel the bite first, the bark is never so bad.” Leo said, border lining on joviality, then switching it off again, “It’s the process here, I take the hits, I must have had two dozen “interactions” with them.” He said adding a mild tone of distaste, “Count yourself lucky you weren’t here before we had a system, Hieronymus Bosch actuality he was one of them. A living and walking painting of hell. That was one of our failed attempts. Not Bosche himself, he roared harder that any god, just a simulation you see.” He said, unable to fight a small chuckle from finally appearing.

Dead man’s throat laughing.

*

Clark couldn’t cut down Leo’s ability to out weigh his security system with gymnastic leaps around the unseen sensors, although: he shook his head miserably and slow in how easy it was for him, as he watched the screen.

“****.” He thought.

*

The next flick of fingers took them to the painting Luce had bought for him. And Clark instantly remembered what came next.

The pain was the ecstasy of old and passed terror doubling itself in tight unknown XX’s and YX’s in his tears, and the suffering of boundless future memory.

*

“If you fucking hurt my little girl…” Clark said finally breaking down on the floor. All of his techniques of fighting gone in the hovering nonchalance of the viewing screen.

“If you…” He said weeping.

Knowing why the screen was going black.

Knowing what was happening now inside the room, after he smashes the glass and finds his daughter with Leo.

“If you… (oh no, no stop it…)” He said inaudibly, under the last skin.

“Hey hey Hayed, (- – – hi? ooohhh! later later, GOOOO back go back… shhhh…)” Tirmere said kicking one of the excited Lathes back into the pool as they were summoned by Clark’s tears to the surface. Like an average unraked pool. With white leaves drifting upon it, appearing up from the bottom, “Knock KNOCK (um hm).” The giant said tapping Leo’s shoulder with his knuckles softly.

“Yeah yeah, I know I know.” Leo said in his perfectly unexcited tone, placing energy into the cupped set of fingers in-front of his face, then grimacing for some reason as his eyes shook before his hand, the viewing screen linked to his gestures – – unable to turn it off.

“Tirm.” He said quietly, as Tirmere paid more attention to taking off his gown and swishing away the Lathes with his hand above them, where he wished to dive in next.

The lathes had grown attatchment beyond his control, like so many dogs growing their own mind.

“TIRMERE.” He screamed, as the viewing board began to do another thing, as Leo gripped his wrist and he held it in front of his face. Magician, wrist, and bone going insane

But instead of obeying his tight limb, it began to rotate, only by an amount that could be noticed by a delicate instrument, but moving itself all the same, which wasn’t meant to happen.

It was the first time Leo had experienced this, and it was the first time that the hall, and the Lathe’s, & Tirmere had witnessed him loosing his shit, as he began to scream…

Clark was over powering the screen, connecting, instead of viewing, it flicked back onto the visions of illuminated destruction he remembered from that night.

Evening. Whom shall I begin with?” Clarke said gently.

*

Forgetting to be afraid of himself as he rose from his turtled position on the floor, and stood speaking to the screen, as he smashed his glass against his daughter’s wall and entered, shattering all the windows of the hall and taking the sun out of service.

Giving in.

Then not.

Tirmere jumped from where he was beside the geezer pool and tried to support Leo’s hand with his own as the viewing screen cooed with an excellent wax of projected reality in the hall.

The singing giant care-taker trying to aid the student, so fluidic and certain of his controls over the screen and the process, but unable to do anything more than place his large hand on his back and hold his wrist with him.

The Lathes cowered as they felt their caretaker afraid for the first time.

They weren’t so keen on Leo, he was a little mean, but they were scared for him too now anyhow.

They asked between themselves in the sandy tongue of the tunnel where some retreated, and below in their geezer home, if their servants were going to succeed, or yet another era would die from the expanding thoughts provided by their wine via thorn drip. The Inuit’s use it well, they thought, dismerging down into the hot black safety towards their always home; the howling babes could use it well if we could be accepted by this era’s current trends, they would cause less pain to each other if we were introduced earlier; “Ah yes,” one of the drifting things said, more awesome ballerina with one leg, skilled in the silkened water, not horrific thing above surface.

One leg dancing in timeless cut through depth, “But we must not create another race in servitude to us, it has always failed before this way, we nearly found oblivion ourselves that way,” they said together.

“Clark, Clark, CLARK – it hasn’t happened yet, you stupid fuck!” Leo said, as Clark accepted the old fate of his future mind.

“K.”

Clark said wrapping his belt around his many fists again, as the world’s belt also tightened and billions of lives gave up, also, either dying from catatonia in the middle of rice fields mysteriously for no reason, slapping their children instead of speaking, and men and women dancing to enslaving songs like marionettes sick of the strings and reaching for blades instead of making long bows from it all, that could pierce it all, and do.

And even Tirmere bled.

Even though he was as big as a cluster of bulls.

Leaving Leo to struggle with the coiling screen where Clarke now accepted the dream that the Lathe had catalysed inside him.

He put the last of his increasing frame into laughter, which attracted the Lathes from the hole in the wall and from the bottom of the dusky pool.

His lungs called them as he accepted every leap of their bodies upon him, each one piercing him fully, not milking – from – him anymore, but injecting him with themselves until he became a seven, eight, twenty foot mound of clumbersome agony, crying in laughter as they centralised their gift to his strain of humanity.

And turning, back towards his friends, the being, now beyond size, wept gracefully from the Lathe thorns that now spoke in place of his mouth: like the flowing tendrils of sea annenema speaking on the lightless sea ground: saying:

“Listen Clarke, juhhs—HA (ha?)… haaa haa…”

And then it was too much even for him. And it was hard for anything to touch Leo, but he felt the death of the caretaker like someone de-boning him beyond his cold take on the world that only Luce lit. It took his attention away from controlling the screen as Clarke lifted.

Arms raised and spread like a still doll in the static power of the hall.

“Look you fuck, you’ve killed Tirmere.” Leo thought and screamed becoming an aching child as the effort of controlling the screen tore his hand down into a small, weed-like thing of nothing, still aiming its twigs at his face as he gripped his wrist, and fell to his knees overcome.

By the by, why didn’t you listen to me when I told you you couldn’t bring Leo back? Some dreams said inside the chaos. Then departing in autumn, where all dogs, rabits, foxes, and dances die if not said alloud: Clark said sitting on the edge of the mattress, as his daughter, and Leo lay in different parts of the room. Limbs parted in blood, like the stuff his favourite artist painted.

Ohh.

Don’t look at me like that. Clark said stroking the head sitting beside him.

(I hope I get this job).

Clarke thought drifting back down to the marbled floor in the large hall as another day came.

Turning away from the mess of creatures lying around a large man’s corpse and perhaps his assistant.

The Lathe’s teetered near the tunnel to the west where they were always born, and pulled themselves over to the geezer pool where they always would swim, in need of a new caretaker, to the east, west, or whatever would be the voice calling them.

Ramol pushed open the ornate doors linking the hallway to the living room and walked in.

“Do you know how shit works around here?” Clark said opening his 80’s filofax, and making a note in pencil about hiring new staff.

Ramol nodded once at the new employee, as he retired to his room, knowing that it wasn’t a question.

Beginning to sweep.

**

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