Stone The Crows

Synopsis


Tom Bishop knows something is happening. But when The Horror begins, it will be too late for everyone else.

The crows outside Bishop’s flat have destroyed the morning birdsong. A vicious, aggressive black cloud of razor-sharp beaks and talons begin to taunt then attack him, a stark warning that the delicate fabric of daily life in the commonsense world is about to be altered forever.

The woman, the Japanese assassin, is pursuing him through the snaking dark streets of London. No matter how hard he tries to shake her off, she is always there waiting for him like a spectre. Is she some kind of shape-shifter morphing into familiar surroundings, lulling him into some false sense of security before she attacks him again? What does she want? Why him? But she is only a small fragment of this apocalyptic puzzle.

He knew they existed. The Inorganics. Flickering around him, as if on the extreme border of his consciousness, corporeally invisible, Bishop felt their presence as strongly as any worldly creature. It was as if energy had seeped into his existence and acquired a predatory soul. He knew some Inorganics could be harmful, but through his training he could defend himself  so far.

Roulla Mavromati, the enigmatic woman he meets one day on the train, craves his knowledge. But these will not be the lessons found in any university surrounded by the leafy comfort of academia. She will be pushed to the very edge of pleasure and pain to discover they spring from the same source. As her thirst for Heaven and Hell intensifies, Bishop has to find new extremes where the boundaries of flesh and consciousness dissolve. Roulla possesses a power Bishop has never encountered in any woman he has known. Unleashed, the potential could be devastating. As Roulla excels in her studies, Tom Bishop realises this is the woman he was always destined to meet and that these are not merely games of master and slave but a frightening prelude of what is to come.

Then it begins

It is during one of the many conversations with another resident of the house, his philosophical sparring partner, the Red Yank, an out-of-work actor with a passion for classical music, pipes and women. His flat is cluttered with chaotic displays of his theatre and film work, and he shares it with the love of his life, a politically incorrect parrot called Louie.

At first it seems like a simple car accident in the street outside with the two drivers in an angry stand off  maybe an exchange of blame, then insurance details? An axe swings, bullets spray from a gun and a man lies dying on the floor. A hate-fuelled mob floods the neighbourhood charged with insanity and chaos as Bishop and the Red Yank unbelievingly crane their heads out of the window to watch as the police, outnumbered and helpless, disappear beneath a tidal wave of blood and anarchy. It could be the beginnings of a long overdue revolution. But this is what Bishop has always known. The Horror had begun.

The landscape has dramatically changed overnight. Dismembered corpses hang from trees, the dead litter the streets as the crows and rats feast on the banquet. At first it seems that the only living creatures are the crows. Patrolled by armed guards, huge razor wire pens have been constructed. Inside, a new breed of animal is being broken in and conditioned to obey their new masters. Naked and dehumanised, the filthy rich, the ex-rulers of the people and the upper echelon, have become the primary fuel as they pull the new order around in makeshift chariots. Whipped into a pulverising subservience, these scarred and tattered people scream out for a system that has crumbled into the bloody filth and human detritus of stinking London streets.

Animals with reborn primal savagery hunt in packs, tearing apart anything in their path and adding to the growing carnage. The Horror is engulfing everything, not just people. The earth is in revolt.

Tom Bishop and the Red Yank find to their amazement they can walk around without drawing attention to themselves while watching the blasphemy of deconstructed humanity at their leisure. But the crows see them. The crows always see them, and the crows haven’t forgotten.

Then Bishop hears The Voice and learns why things are the way they are. Why they always will be. Why The Horror has to exist.







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15. Chapter Fifteen

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

 

The pee was running down the woman’s leg, and it formed a widening yellow pool around her rope sandals.  She and a man stood in harness, waiting at Highbury Corner roundabout.  The taxi driver sat on a bench in front of a pub that escaped the worst of the riots.  The windows were smashed, wired and boarded, but the door was open for business of sorts.  It was dark inside, but laughing, bragging voices could be heard.  The taxi driver was playing dominoes with another man, and both of them were drinking what looked like home brew.

 

Lloyd Buxton’s cheeks were flushed as he looked at the naked bodies harnessed to the taxi.  He didn’t know where to rest his eyes.  A piece of wood yoked the pair together and trapped their shackled wrists at shoulder height.  Reins ran beneath the yoke, and the ends were attached to a knob on the driver’s perch.  A long coach whip stood threateningly on the right hand side of the cab.

“Are you embarrassed?” Bishop asked the boy.

 

“Uh, I don’t think so.  Just haven’t seen them close-up before.  I feel a bit sorry for them.”

“Sorry?”  Bishop stopped and looked at him. “Why?”

 

Lloyd Buxton shrugged.  “Well, you know, they’re human beings…”

“Arguable.”  Bishop walked towards the pair.  “Human beings don’t treat other human beings like dogs.”

 

“But, don’t you see – that’s just what we’re doing…”

They stopped in front of the harnessed pair.  Lloyd shuffled his feet uncomfortably as Bishop pulled a small box from his jacket pocket and extracted several sugar lumps.  The woman and then the man opened their lips eagerly as he dropped in the lumps.  He stepped back and studied them.  It was mid-afternoon, and both smelled of sweat and urine.  Their breath, too, was foul.  They appeared to be in their mid-thirties.  The sides of their heads were shaved, leaving a mane of longer hair running from their foreheads to the napes of their necks.  Both had lean but stocky builds.  The woman’s breasts were not a bad shape, but they were a little leathery-looking, probably as a result of abuse with the whip.  Their genitals were shorn.  Bishop noticed that shaven genitals were as fashionable now as the haircuts on taxi slaves.  Each of them was branded on the right buttock.  The woman was 36/5g, and the man was 36/7a.  The wounds were healed and showed as red scar tissue.

 

“I think a certain amount of retribution is called for,” Bishop remarked as he fed them more sugar.  “These two once treated others as scum.  Now it’s their turn.”

Lloyd was embarrassed again.  “I think it’s rude to talk about them to their faces.”

 

“Why not?  They talked about us in the third person, all the time pretending to be kind as they stole our money to spend on life’s little luxuries.”

Bishop turned to the man.  “Were you rich?”

 

The man hesitated before shaking his head.  Both of them kept their eyes on the ground in front of them.

“How much did you make?  Over fifty grand?”

The man nodded.

“Over a hundred?”

Again the man nodded, this time slowly, as if he wanted to add extenuating circumstances.  He began grunting around the bit in his mouth which kept his tongue from working properly.  The woman joined in with strangulated sounds.

Bishop gave them another sugar lump each.  “Let me guess.  City trader?”  The man’s head neither shook nor nodded.  He simply continued to stare at his feet.  “Right first time, eh?  And you’re still lucky.  You survived the first weeks of the Horror, and now you have regular employment.  You’re a slave – same category, different level.  I wish you could see what you’ve done to the world.  I could tell you a story of my visit to Borneo a few years ago, but I won’t.  You wouldn’t understand.  And your new masters probably wouldn’t understand, either.  In this world no one wants to know their own responsibilities.  That’s why it’s being destroyed.  All of it.  Is this woman your wife?”

Both of them shook their heads immediately.

“Were you both married to other partners?”

 

They nodded together.

“Oi!” shouted the taxi driver from the pub.  “Leave me team alone!  I don’t want them spoiled, won’t eat their dinners.”

 

Lloyd shrank back, but Bishop stepped forward towards the men playing dominoes.  “Sorry, mate.  Thought I recognised my old boss.”

The taxi driver waved his beer bottle.  “Oh, fair enough, right.  Give him a thrashing, if you want.  But he’s got to be able to pull me up to ten o’clock tonight.”

 

Bishop stared into the gloom through the doorway.  “Is the pub open?”

The driver was a traditional London cabbie.  The tradition probably stretched all the way back to the Romans.  “As much as anything at all is open.  Or works.  The water comes on, goes off.  No lecky most of the time now.  Tell the truth, I’d have it back the way it was before.  In parts of London the sewer’s backing up.  Soon nothing will work, I don’t care how much the Roos threaten people.  From last week I don’t take paper money.  Only tobacco.  Or goods.  Silver and gold very welcome…”

 

“We don’t have silver or gold,” Bishop smiled as he moved on with Lloyd Buxton.  “So we’ll walk.”

*

 

“How many, do you think?” Lloyd Buxton asked.

They sat in Highbury Fields, and Bishop had slung his arm over the back of the old park bench.  “I don’t know.  You have to just take a guess, and I’d say we’ve lost about thirty to forty percent of the population by now.  At least that’s what the Red Yank and I have come up with as a working estimate.  But how can you know?  Thousands could be hiding.  In holes, basements, underground.  Thousands more could have fled to the countryside, even though in Britain there’s not a lot of countryside to flee to any more…”

 

+He opened his eyes and expected to see the open jaws of a bear.  But it was a heavily tanned and lined face accentuated by high cheek bones.  His mind raced as it tried to piece together memories of the immediate past and the present.  He was running from a bear, a black one, a mother with cubs – one he accidentally disturbed while he was walking.  Yosemite.  He was in Yosemite National Park.  He fled from Los Angeles where the madness and evil spilled out like a slick of rancid grease on the coast of Southern California.  America was a sick country and Los Angeles a pus-bloated cyst.  In Yosemite he found sanity and magic.  He also found an angry bear.  They exchanged stares.  Then suddenly the bear became a four hundredweight furry black ball of menacing fury rolling towards him at speed.  Bishop accelerated to Olympian sprint speed in an instant, all bony elbows and knees.  The bear was gaining, and there was only one thing to do…

“It was the best thing,” said the gravel-voiced face above him.  “No other choice.  Dive off cliff, and you have chance.  Stay, and the bear kill you.”

 

Bishop dragged himself into a sitting position, wincing at skinned shanks and the heels of both palms.  His head was splitting.  “Who are you?”

“Most everybody call me Sam, but my real name is Broken Arrow.  Or maybe Busted Arrow.  I am second son of Yellow Wolf.”

 

“Who was he?  Red Indian chief?”

“Yellow Wolf was a great warrior of the Nez Percés.  Killed many white men – many, many.  In great war of 1877.   Never had one wound, never shot once.  Because he had magic medicine.  Died of old age.”

 

The old man reached over and placed his hand on top of Bishop’s head.  With his thumb, he raised his left eyelid and then peered at the exposed eyeball.  “You have a little concussion maybe.  Do you want to go to white man’s hospital?”

“Definitely not.”

 

Sam left his hand on top of Bishop’s head for a few moments after dropping the eyelid.  “You have good spirit, strong spirit.”

The old Indian stood up slowly.  He was ancient.  He wore battered jeans, boots and a pale blue work shirt fastened right up to the top button, even though it was a hot day.  “Come home with me, if you want.  I’ll cook you special tea, make you well, OK.”

 

Without waiting for an answer the man turned and walked away.  Bishop got slowly to his knees, staggered upright, then followed him.  His head was light, and the back of it throbbed.  He felt slightly nauseous.  It was a struggle keeping his balance, but the old Indian never turned back to see how he was.  He just kept walking, and Bishop followed as best he could.

It was a shack, and it wasn’t that far.  They only walked about twenty minutes.  The shack was backed into a flat granite rock.  It was made from corrugated tin and old wooden drink crates, but, as it was sited in a shady area, the air was cool underneath the makeshift tin roof of the “porch”.  Bishop sat down in one of the two old cheap folding chairs.  He closed his eyes and watched the spinning nothingness punctuated by the metronome throb of pain.  He was definitely feeling sick and wondering if he should move away from the shack to throw up.  He imagined himself already on his belly, gripping tufts of crabgrass with both hands, vomiting into the cold earth beneath him.  He rocked back and forth as the images flickered electrically, pulling him down, down…

 

“Drink this.”

It was hot, and Bishop held the mug with both shaking hands.  It was sour-tasting and as thick as old cream, but almost as soon as he swallowed the first mouthful, the sickness began to fade.  He forced half of it down before pausing for breath.  After a short rest, he finished the mug.  It coated his mouth and gullet and thickened his spit.  But he was definitely feeling better.  Nestling the empty mug in his lap with both hands, he closed his eyes and breathed slowly into his belly, held it for a moment then carefully emptied his lungs.  Visualisations were bold as he imagined breathing through his stomach and exhaling through his crown chakra.  With each breath he felt stronger.

 

“There are not many of us left now,” the Indian said.  He was sitting in the other chair, staring out at the surrounding trees.

“Your people?”  Bishop’s head was clearing.

 

“The Ghost Society.  You know them, white man.  I felt it through my hand.  Many, many years ago – long, long before your people came to this country – there were those with good spirit on the earth.  There was evil, but evil was the moon, not the sun.  Over the years, night became day.  Day became night.  The moon burned and the sun was cold and dead.  All that is left of those people of long ago is the Ghost Society.”

Bishop’s vision cleared.  He was filled with energy, and as he looked at the landscape around him, he realised it was luminous, alive, benign.  With a sudden surge of awareness he was a whole himself and a continuum of a whole.

“Yes,” he said finally.  “I know.”

“Listen carefully.  I am an old man, and this is my home.  It looks like a shack because they used to always make me move it.  So it’s easy to move.  I took it down and went away and put it up until they find me again.  Finally they leave me alone.  Not see me any more.  I don’t harm the land.  I eat only what I need.  I’ve been waiting for you.  There are a few more, and they have come and gone…”

 

A thrill travelled down Bishop’s spine.

He stopped talking, but he hadn’t finished.  The silence seemed natural.  Seconds ticked away, then minutes.  Bishop sat as motionless as the Indian.  Both of them stared out at the beautiful landscape.  In the distance it seemed a mist gathered, and in the mist the shadows of people were moving.  They were travellers or settlers, farming and hunting.  There were eagles and elk, bison and bears, hot summers, wintry winds.  There was joy at birth and keening at death.  The mist faded slowly, but still the silence between the two men - one young, one old – was unbroken.  Bishop knew there was more, so he waited patiently.  Finally the mist came again, and this time it was a red and pink mist with slashes of blackness.  There was fire and the stench of burning.  Cries and pleas tore through the mists like jagged belches of thunder.  The hair on the back of Bishop’s neck bristled, and he was afraid.  Because the mists began to clear then, and he could see the faint outline of a figure on a horse in the distance.  Instantly, in the depths of his soul, he knew this figure was real.  It was not something happening in his head or even a vision.  He found himself breathing shallowly and sweating.  His eyes protruded with fear.  He was shaking.  Slowly, slowly the figure faded, leaving only the bouquet of terror.

 

“It was the pale rider,” the old Indian said quietly.  “I never seen him before, but I’ve heard.  When the pale rider comes, the earth shivers.  Some say dragons rise up.  Others say the sun turns to blood.”

Bishop waited, but Sam did not continue.  “It’s very scary.  Is it evil?”

 

The Indian drew a long breath and turned down the corners of his mouth.  “Beyond evil, I think.”

“Do you know the meaning now?”

 

“Not wise.  Know little.  But I know when pale rider comes big things happen.”

Bishop cleared his throat.  “When?”

 

“Soon.  Very soon.  You see the fires and the blackness?  They come over everywhere, no escape.  I have dreams, too.  I think it is the end.  That’s what I think.  When wine is sour, not wine.  Vinegar.  Something bad happens.  Only Ghost Society is left.  All go in flames.”

“The Apocalypse.”

 

“And then prairie dog and beaver must mate again.  You are not from this country.”

“No.  I’m English.  I live in London.  London, England.”

 

“I am old.  I am sad.”

“Have you always lived here?” Bishop asked quietly.

 

The Indian sighed.  “I leave reservation.  I do not work for white man.  Over many years I have nothing to do with those who measured and sold all the land.  Young man, I ran away.  No army, no nothing.  They want me to work, I say no.  I am free man.  Owe nothing.  I came to what they call Yosemite when they had no rangers.  Then rangers came, move me on.  Now the rangers no come.  Listen, Englishman, I tell you a secret.  Listen…”

Sam leaned forward on his elbows, but his eyes were still on the horizon.  “The white man wants science, but there is magic…”

 

“I know…”

“Yellow Wolf was never, never shot once.  Many battles.   Not one wound.  So one day after rangers come and tear down my shack, I seek out Great Spirit.  I tell Great Spirit there is plenty land here, plenty game for one man at peace.  I do not harm the land, take only what I need.  Other people come here, wreck, trample, throw paper and cans.  I live here.”

Finally the Indian turned and looked at Bishop.  “From that time, all rangers leave me alone.  I wear this.”

He held out his closed fist.  When he opened it a thin piece of rawhide encircled a beautiful quartz crystal.  It had a hint of smokiness.  Bishop took the crystal and carefully held it up to the light.  Inside was a slight fracture, a kind of spiral that broke the light into spectrums.  It was like looking at a floating galaxy in space.

 

“Beautiful,” he murmured.

“After my vision, that is what I found.  My eyes were drawn to it, lying on the ground.  Almost covered in sand.  Made hole with bow drill, and it keeps me well.  You first other man to touch it.”

 

Bishop folded his hand round the stone and its hide necklace.  “I feel energy, strength.  And warmth.  I feel something of you, Sam.  And this beautiful place.”  He opened his hand.  “Thank you.”

The Indian took the stone and replaced it round his neck. +

 

Lloyd was looking at him with a faintly puzzled expression on his face.  “Yeah?  And then what?”

 

“What, what?” Bishop asked playfully.

“Well, you just stopped in the middle of what you were saying about all the people you thought were dying..”

 

“I stopped talking because I went somewhere else.  Do you want to know where I went?”

He grinned.  “Sure.”

 

Bishop settled back into the bench and told Lloyd the story of the bear in Yosemite and how he met Sam, the Nez Percés Indian.  He left nothing out, and it was over an hour later when he finished.

“In my memories,” Bishop said, “I call him Yosemite Sam.”

 

Lloyd didn’t laugh.  Instead he was staring at his knuckles.  “That was it.  He was invisible to the rangers after he talked with the Great Spirit and found the stone.”

“I think so, too.”

 

“And he predicted what is happening today.  The fires, the death.  Kill, kill, kill.  Do you think we are invisible because he was invisible?”

Bishop thought before answering.  “You know, what struck me as strongly as anything else was the Ghost Society.  When you were going to school, I bet you felt like an alien.  Not made for this earth.”

 

The boy grinned and nodded.  “Oh, yeah.  And how.”

“Well,” he replied softly, “we aren’t alien.  We are made for this earth, and the others are not.  We are the Ghost Society.”

 

“Me, too?  I’m a member?”

“Yes.  Yosemite Sam described it as a kind of skeletal humanity, all that’s left.  Personally I think an invasion took place maybe hundreds of years ago.”

 

“Gosh.  Do you really think that?”

“I don’t like any of the other answers,” Bishop replied.  “Besides, it’s the one I feel is true.  I’ve seen it in my own visions…”

 

As he spoke three large crows landed in formation a little over twenty-five feet away.  They did not even pretend to forage.  They just stood and stared.

Bishop clenched his teeth before continuing.  “To be absolutely honest, until now I wasn’t sure my meeting with Yosemite Sam ever really happened.”

 

The boy was incredulous.  “What?

“I had to jump off this precipice to get away from the bear.  Just jumped, didn’t know whether I’d fall five feet or five hundred.  Well, it was about fifty feet, I think.  And I bounced several times before I got to the bottom, mostly on my head, I think.  Everything about Sam had a completely different texture in my memories, as if it could have been fantasy.  In my own mind, I often wondered.”

 

“But now you think it did happen, after all?”

“Yeah.  I had one of my instant flashbacks.  Here I was only gone for a few seconds, but I actually lived the events again.  And Sam was there, alright…”

 

Bishop stopped and held up his hand.  The crows had hardly moved.  The three of them stood in a triangle about three yards away.  They were just staring.  He searched in his pocket and found a couple of stones.  “I don’t know what’s going to happen, Lloyd, but those crows are definitely not friendly.”

“You don’t like crows, do you?”

 

In one smooth movement, Bishop stood up and threw one of the pebbles as hard as he could.  As the stone left his hand, time and motion slowed right down.  It was like the moments before an accident when space inflates and each action is recorded in deadly detail.  When the stone was halfway to the crow at the top of the triangle the birds began to move in unison.  Like mechanical birds, Bishop thought.  They jumped straight up as their wings unfurled, and at that moment the air was filled with static electricity.  The internal stress hit Bishop right in the solar plexus, and he was nauseous with sickness and grief.  The stone he had thrown passed harmlessly underneath the first crow.

Then it happened.

 

The crows glowed a violent orange and became transparent.  All the internal organs were mechanical.  They looked exactly like real ones, but he could see the invisible wires of circuitry pulsing as messages were passed from the tiny motherboard at the base of the skull.  As the crows became airborne they fell in line and flew at him.  The colour of their eyes changed from orange and black to electric blue. 

Bishop saw the leading bird’s beak open wide.  “Don’t worry.  We’re coming for you.  We haven’t forgotten.  We’re coming for you…we’re coming for you…we’re coming…”

 

He threw himself across Lloyd at the last moment as fear gripped every sinew.

The boy was terrified.  Bishop finally pulled away and carefully checked the skies for crows.  A gob of black and white bird shit hung like snot from a slat of the bench were Bishop had been sitting.

 

“What happened?” Lloyd asked in a shaky voice.

“Are you OK?” Bishop asked quickly.

 

“Yeah.  I think so.  Were they attacking us?”

Bishop controlled his own fears with an iron hand.  His voice was steady and even.  “Let’s start back.  We can talk as we walk.”

 

Lloyd Buxton joined him as they moved warily away from the bench.  Bishop used his breathing to cool the wild flares of terror in his belly.  Like radar, his eyes constantly swept the sky for crows.  There were some in trees they passed, but those appeared to be ignoring them.

“Tell me what you saw, Lloyd.”

 

“Well...what you saw, I guess.  Those three crows standing there on the grass looking at us.  You threw the rock and it looked like they flew straight at you.  An attack.  Scary!  Why did they do that?”

“You didn’t see…inside the birds?  Or hear them say anything?”

 

“Uhhh, no.  Don’t think so.  But it all happened so fast.  Wish you had your pellet gun.  Could have got at least one of them.  Did they say something to you?”

Bishop decided not to answer the question.  “We better get home.  I think we need to have a meeting tonight.  Everybody.  Your mum and dad, the Red Yank and Roulla.”

* * *

Tom Bishop sat alone and naked on the roof.  The night was very cool, but he was not cold.  His legs were crossed, and he sat with his back to the chimneys with the palms of his hands on his knees.  His eyes were closed.  It was not too long before dawn, and he had been sitting in that position for over three hours.  Without success he had been seeking the Great Spirit.  He had no knowledge whom or what the Great Spirit was, but Yosemite Sam talked of it with great reverence.  It helped Sam, and now he needed help.

 

Before he entered the meditation he put all his crystals in a circle before him.  His hand seemed guided as he placed each stone.  When the circle was complete he waited, looking at it speculatively.  Suddenly it was evident an addition was needed, and he put down two round uncut pieces of malachite.  Like two green eyes.  In the centre.  Instinctively he realised it was finished.  Complete.  It was as much as he could do.  Then he began his meditation.  Or really it was a kind of vision quest.  He was looking for something and knew he lacked even the wisdom to form the right questions.  He was in mortal danger.  The house was in danger.  So was the Ghost Society.

Earlier that day they saw the first signs of panic as the rumours spread.  Pestilence was coming.  Famine had already arrived.  The social substructures of the city were now in a continuous state of collapse.  Everything was intermittent, and emergency services were hit and miss.  There had been a huge fire which gutted part of South London.  The fire services were inadequate now.  Too many people were killed in the first and second waves of slaying.  The Horror was too much.  It frightened people to the core of their souls.  The sewer and water treatment systems were collapsing.  Radio had been restored, but TV was only on for an hour or so in the evenings.  Even so, most couldn’t listen to either because electricity was unreliable now.  There was little food to be scavenged, and the water was becoming untrustworthy.  Rats moved like silent wraiths in the day as well as the night.

 

Some said it was the Black Death again.  Others claimed more exotic origins.  Like the Ebola virus.  Whatever was coming was not nice, and it was bound to take another huge gutfull of humanity with it.  If not all of them.  After the massive release of what the Red Yank called “the revolution”, tension was building again.  The dark shapes of the inorganics flickered between being and nothingness as they waited eagerly for another harvest.  The encounter with the three crows unsettled him completely.  He was now convinced that the birds were controlled by…by….  Dark Forces.  That’s all he could think to call them.  In other words, elements of the Ghost Society were invisible to some.  But not all.  It surprised him the crows – or their masters - had the ability to disguise their communication from the boy.  Which would normally undermine belief and encourage instability and uncertainty.  But Bishop saw and heard what he saw and heard.  There was no mistake.

Earlier that evening they had a meeting in the downstairs flat.  The whole Buxton family was present, the Red Yank, Roulla and Bishop.  He turned over a few leaves of his memory one by one.

 

They were all seated in the kitchen.  Except for Bishop, who was standing at the window with his back to them.

“It’s a conspiracy,” he said evenly, “and it has been all along.  It fits together too well.  OK, capitalism is certainly a part of it.  I’m willing to give you that.  But capitalism is an alien importation.  Because it dovetails completely with the agenda of the inorganics.  They fit together.  Don’t you see?  The capitalists farm us for money every day, the inorganics farm us for stress every night.  They work together perfectly.”

 

“The problem is,” said the Red Yank, “that I’ve never encountered an inorganic.  I have to take your word for it.  I’m willing to accept it as a theory, but that’s all.”

“I think I’ve seen them,” Lloyd Buxton said suddenly.  “Inorganics.”

 

Glenda Buxton clucked her tongue.  “I just believe it’s all going to hell in a handbasket…”

The Red Yank got up to make himself some more coffee.  They were using a butane gas cooker now, and the dark kitchen was lit by candles and one paraffin lantern.  He lit the fire underneath the pan filled with water.

 

“In my gut I feel bigger forces involved,” he said.  “But what’s happened is a revolution.  The poor of the earth have been squeezed enough, and they reacted with psychotic fury.  It appears that they have killed or enslaved the entire middle class.  And everything above it, if any is left.  Now all this has happened before in history, and – if we manage to survive this one – it’ll no doubt happen again.  If you ask my opinion, we created States.  States.  These were organic four-dimensional social webs supposedly necessary to focus and control larger and larger masses of people…”

“I’ve heard this so many times…”  Bishop was trying not to be scornful.

 

The Red Yank turned and grinned.  “You haven’t heard it enough.  I mean, I believe you about the three crows this afternoon.  It’s something you experienced.  I know we are connected with the crows and every other damn thing in the universe.  Individualism is crap invented by our enemies to keep us apart.  We are integral parts of cycles…”

“Of what?” Lloyd Buxton interrupted.

 

“Hell, I don’t know,” the Red Yank said as he turned to pour out the hot water on his spoonful of instant coffee.  “I’m only a human being.  So let’s call the cycles Life and Death.  They are rhythmical and, as far as I can see, infinitely recurrent.  This revolution is an example.  Personally I’m pessimistic about our survival, but it may be a necessary…uh…”

“Cleansing,” Bishop offered.

 

“Yeah.  Cleansing.  That’s another cycle – or another view of the same cycle.  Corruption and cleansing…”

“Good and evil?” Dirk Buxton offered timidly as he held on to his tea mug with both hands.

 

The Red Yank scratched his head.  “Good and evil?  I don’t know.  All human terms, words.  They fit together somehow, but I don’t have the answer.  Order and chaos.  Even sanity and madness.  Fluctuations.  We can never view the same thing in the same time in the same place because we’re inside the process…”

It was one of the Red Yank’s more articulate, lucid moments.  Tom Bishop still could not agree, not really.  It was necessary to pursue his own path.  He was linked to the Red Yank, and they were linked with the Buxtons.  It was never chance that manoeuvred them all into the same house.  And, he added mentally, in the same space-time.  These were concepts he found it very difficult to explain.  Then again, self-explanation was a meaningless way to seek justification for belief.

 

He realised his mind was hovering like a magnet over a pile of meaningless metal filings.  With a visual sweep, he cleared his mind and his energy body.  As the curtain of trivia fell away, the only thing he was aware of was the first faint lightenings of the sky around him.  The beginning of dawn.  It was beautiful.  The only word to describe his feelings was harmony.  He became more aware of his breathing.  Taking in.  Letting go.  The sensation was exhilarating.  His consciousness opened and brightened like the skies surrounding him.  He was filled with a sense of awesome beauty.  Without being aware of what he was doing, he began speaking to himself in the third person plural.  His voice was his voice.  And the words?  The words were not his at all.  They came from some other being, from some other place.  But he had no overview to question their origin.  In fact, he had no option but to listen to his own voice and try to understand what he was saying.

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