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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13. Chapter Thirteen

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

 

“Never felt better in my life,” she said as she ran her fingers through her wiry black hair in an effort to control it.  “I know.  I know.  It’s ironic.  OK, it’s even mad.  But I don’t care.  No, honestly.  I don’t care.  I know there’s a lot going on that’s…too much.  Over the top.  So much killing.  But the world was out of control.”

 

The three of them were sitting around an undamaged metal table on three chairs.  The furniture belonged to a little open door café just off Hampstead High Street in Perrin’s Court.  Like all the rest of the businesses and most of the residences, the café was fire-gutted.  But Linda Burrows was rosy-cheeked and radiant.  She was wearing a navy blue track suit and trainers.  She pursed her lips when she finished talking.

They had found a few undamaged cans of fruit juice in the rubble.  It was warm, but Tom Bishop took a swallow of his straight from the can.  “What about the girl round the corner.  Know anything about that?”

 

“The one in the stocks?  Yeah.  No.  I know she’s the daughter of some titled lord or knight.  Or maybe a bishop who lived around here.  You may have seen her picture in the papers – you know, before the Horror.  One of the clubbers, always getting in the tabloids and prancing round Hampstead and the West End.  What I heard was that her father was made to watch as she was gang raped by the crusties who crawled out of the woodwork after the shit hit the fan.  Then he was disembowelled and beheaded in front of her.”

“She’s still alive,” the Red Yank said.

 

“Shit!” Burrows exclaimed after pushing her hair away from her face again.  Making a sudden decision, she pulled a bright red ribbon from her pocket and proceeded to tie her hair into a kind of massive ponytail. 

“No,” she went on as she worked on her hair.  “Someone told me – from one of the Revolutionary Units, I think – that they’re all over the place.  You know, when they find one of the modelly type women or pop singer types, they knock up a set of stocks, bend them over a table or something, cut off all their hair, strip them naked and set them up in public places.  All around London.  In squares usually.  I’ve been to the West End.  Three or four – maybe half a dozen - in Piccadilly, same in Trafalgar Square.  I think they’re sort of on offer for whoever wants them.  They change them round every week or every month, can’t remember…”

 

She looked away, searching for words, continuing to purse and relax her lips.  “I mean, the way it was sort of explained to me is that these girls, these women, just prostituted their bodies, sold themselves to the highest bidder.  Before the Horror.  So.  The thinking was to offer them round to everybody now.  Parasites are parasites.  Well, look at the walls.  You can see the graffiti.  When you can find a wall standing.”

The Red Yank leaned forward, putting his elbows on the white metal table.  “Do you approve of this?  Leaving women out to be raped by the survivors?  I’m not tryin’ to be moralistic, what with everything else that’s going on, but I find it interesting that you don’t seem to be disapproving.”

 

Linda Burrows blew out a lungfull of air and spread her arms.  Her left foot was tapping under the table.  “Disapprove?  I disapproved of the old world, and what good did that do?  No good.  Nothing.  What value does my opinion have?  None.  Not now, not then.  Nobody wanted to know what I thought because they thought I was crazy.  Therefore my view was weird.  The constructors of the world never asked my opinion about anything.  They talked about me in the third person, like I was a piece of furniture or a piece of shit.  My view never had any value and neither did I…”

She held up her hand as the Red Yank tried to interrupt.  “No, wait, let me finish.  I’m not bitter about what I’m telling you.  Frankly, I’m as happy as I have ever managed to get.  I feel sorry for that girl out there and all the rest I’ve seen as well.  Of course I disapprove, but you tell me what good my disapproval is going to do.  I punch much lighter than featherweight in this world or that one.   I feel sorry for those pulling the taxis now and those who have been killed.   But, wow, no one’s asking me my opinion.  They’re just doing it.  Just like they were before the Horror.  They had wars.  They killed people everywhere.  They took money from some and gave money to others.  Women all over the world were raped, mutilated, napalmed.  Who cared then?  Why should we care more now?  They fished all the fish out of the sea, killed the whales, cut all the trees down, ate most of the animals.  You know, in a way that girl out there is lucky.  She wasn’t napalmed.  They didn’t disembowel her.  You know.  When you think of all the things that have happened in the world…”

Bishop smiled wryly.  “You seem to have blossomed.  Maybe mass slaughter is good for you.”

She opened her eyes wide and shrugged.  “Maybe it is.  But I’m not going to feel guilty about it…”

 

“I wasn’t being sarcastic.  People have been begging for this.  Gagging for it.”

The Red Yank filled the empty space.  “How did you survive?”

 

She shrugged again, pursed her lips and winked.  “Well, they came to the door of the bin.  Must have been thousands.  From the windows it looked like a moving ant hill.  The streets, the pavements were filled with angry, raging people.  They had big pieces of machinery, tractors, even tanks – knocking everything down, setting fires.  If you had a rent book, they let you go.  If not, you were hanged on the spot – from a tree or lamp post.  Then, if the house was fancy, it was smashed.  They nearly burned down the bin.  I had to talk to them.”

Bishop raised an eyebrow.  “You talked to them?”

 

“Look, all the doctors and nurses were underneath the beds.  I’m not telling porkies.  They were.  Me?  I’m so coshed down by Largactil that I don’t even care what they do.  They’re swarming around in reception.  I came down the stairs and told them it was a lunatic asylum.  I said they were welcome.”

She laughed suddenly, loudly, rocking back in the little metal chair.  Her big voice bounced down the narrow street like a basketball.  “As soon as they realised we were lunatics, they were out of there like shit off a shovel.  Even revolutionaries draw the line at lunatics.  Because you can’t believe a word we say.”

 

The Red Yank was grinning.  “You’re clear as a gong, Linda.”

“Clear.  Yeah!”  She banged her fist on the table, and two cans of juice jumped.  Her lips were pursing and unpursing.  “That’s not what I said.  You didn’t listen.  I said, ‘believe’.  You can’t believe me.  No, not even you, Tom.  Well, I don’t care any more, because I’m having a ball.  It’s not going to last, I know it won’t.  But right now…”

 

Bishop raised his can of juice.  “We’re dying to know.  What are you up to?”

Her mood swung from anger to confidentiality as she leaned towards the two men.  “Well, you’ll never guess.  Our bin became an asylum for the shrinks.  The psychiatrists.  I think every one in North London is there.  And you know what?  I’m in charge!  It happened.  We took over.  Now we run things our way.  You remember Primm, Tom?  Your old boss?”

 

“Couldn’t forget him.”

“Well, here’s the situation.  They’re trapped there in the bin, right?  They can’t go anywhere outside, and anyway we might just tell the Roos…”

 

“Who?” the Red Yank asked.

“That’s what everybody calls them now, the Roos.  Revolutionary Units.  RUs .  Get it?  If we tell the Roos who these people are, what they did to us, well…  Put it this way – they’d be gutted!”

 

Linda Burrows was already laughing at her own joke, pursing and unpursing her lips.  “So, they’re prisoners.  They ain’t going nowhere!  And you know what?  I am Big Nurse.  Primm gets at least one ECT a week – and whenever I feel like it, really.  They all get ECT, and you know what?  Every former inmate comes in to watch every one of them.  And you know what else?  The shrinks hate ECT as much as we did.  But it’s a good learning curve for them.”

She leaned over on her elbows, and she winked at Bishop.  “Now, I’m going to tell you a secret, Tom, and you can put it in that big book you’re going to write one day.  Almost every inmate has noticeably and steadily improved.  Now we’re looking after the shrinks.  And they are at least as crazy as we were.  We give them all their favourite drugs.  In fact, it’s a much nicer place now that the whole thing has been turned upside down.  Primm pleads with me – down on his knees with hands clasped in front like this – he pleads with me not to give him any more ECT.  And, you know, I just give him his own medicine, the same as he gave to me, maybe a little less.  Nothing wrong with that, is there?  Why shouldn’t I?  That’s what bins are for.  I pretend not to believe him when he tells me his memory is going and he can’t think properly any more.  I tell him he’s just making it all up…”

*

They both waved goodbye to Linda Burrows, but the Red Yank stood rooted to the spot.  He stared at the young woman trapped in the stocks at the junction of Hampstead High Street and Fitzjohn’s Avenue.  She was bent over a waist-high, purpose-built bench, and her head and wrists were trapped in holes cut in the two pieces of timber holding her in place.  He couldn’t see her face, but her bald head hung as limply as her wrists.  Her inert body was covered in dark bruises, dirt and what could have been bites outlined in dried blood.

 

“No,” Bishop whispered at his side.  “Don’t even think about it.”

“Hell,” the Red Yank said angrily, “I’m not thinking of screwin’ her!”

 

“I know.  You’re considering a rescue, aren’t you?”  Bishop only waited a moment for a reply before continuing.  “You can’t bring her home.  It would jeopardise the whole house…”

“Why?  Roulla came in, and I wouldn’t have turned her away for anything.”

 

“She’s one of us.”

“What makes one of us?”

 

“Well.  She isn’t.  Take my word.  You can’t pull in every stray, and letting her go will just provoke the Roos.  It’s a real risk.  I feel sorry for her, too.  Looking at her is painful enough.”

“Maybe she deserves it, maybe she doesn’t,” the Red Yank growled as he scratched his white beard.  “But then again, maybe no one has a right to judge her sins.  Or even if they do, then I can make my judgement as well.  Right here and right now.  I’m not saying take her into the house, either.  If it comes to that, we’ll vote on it.  But I’m going to get her out of that contraption and let her go.  That’s a decision I can make, and I don’t mind if you go on home without me.  I’ll come later.”

 

Bishop grinned and shook his head.  “Go on.  Go for it.  Meeting Linda in the middle of all this mess pulled me out of orbit.  I just wanted away from here.  It’s a spooky place.  A burned-out Hampstead with no people, just some poor fuck-hole strapped to the middle of the road with her head shaved.”

The Red Yank spotted a long piece of clothesline and leaned over to pick it up.  One end of it was charred, and he looked up, wondering if it had been used to hang some resident from a lamp post.  He also picked up a half-burned piece of awning and what had probably been a tablecloth.  Then, without further ado, he walked over to the woman in the stocks.  He had to squat down in front of her to see her face.  Her eyes were closed, her face was badly bruised and her lips were swollen.

 

“Hello, there,” he murmured in a soft, reassuring voice.

She didn’t reply, and the Red Yank reached out to touch the bald head.  There was quite a bit of fuzz growing back on the scalp.  Tenderly he moved his hand over her skull.

 

“We’ve come to take you away.  This shit’s all over now.”

Her eyelids fluttered, but he could see they were encrusted, almost sealed shut.  Dampening the edge of the tablecloth in his mouth, he wiped gently at her eyes.  He was careful to avoid the nasty swollen abrasions on her cheeks.

 

“Can you hear me?” he asked in a low voice.  She nodded slightly, so he continued.  “I’m going to take you out of this contraption, but if the folks who put you in here see what I’m doing, they may get mad at us.  So we’re gonna have to do something to hide you.  Somehow.  Do you understand that?  I’m not trying to hurt you.  We’re gonna get you away from here…”

Bishop carried a shovel and a handsaw on the way back to the stocks.  He was holding up a lump hammer.  “I found this at the old hardware shop round the corner.  Just what you need.”

 

He aimed carefully and, with a single blow, knocked off the lock and the hatch it was attached to.  The stocks were open.  Checking the holes trapping her head and wrists first, he gently lifted the top of the hinged stocks.

Her left arm dropped out loosely.  A moment later her right one fell.  They watched as the muscles in her back and shoulders began to move.  Finally she manoeuvred her two hands onto the bench and tried weakly to push herself upright.

 

“I can’t,” she said, her voice a whisper.  “I can’t move…”

His joints groaned when the Red Yank stood up.  Again he stroked her head as he moved slowly around her.  He glanced over at Bishop who was pulling a face to indicate how badly she smelled.  The Red Yank nodded and shrugged silently.  He could see streaks of dried shit staining the backs of her thighs.  Taking a deep breath, he leaned over and put his arm around her chest.  She moaned as he raised her slowly into a standing position, and then he only just managed to catch her as her legs gave way.  Holding her under her armpits, he looked around helplessly.  The woman was whimpering loudly.

 

Bishop trotted over to the dark Underground station.  From inside the gloom he fetched a bent, wobbly shopping trolley and pushed it back across the street as he glanced furtively in one direction after another.

Without a word, the Red Yank lined the trolley with the piece of awning before picking up the girl from where she lay on the top of the bench.  He sat her in it, knees drawn up to her chest.  Then he stood back looking at it.

 

“It’s not the best solution, but it’s a solution,” he said finally.

Bishop put the tools in the rack underneath the trolley basket.  “This was about all that was left in the hardware shop.  You can never have too many tools.”

 

The Red Yank leaned over and caressed the girl’s head again.  “Look, honey.  I’m going to put this tablecloth over the top of the trolley.  Then we can push you along and nobody at all should take any notice.  OK?”

She looked up at him with startlingly wide bright-blue eyes.  “OK.”  It was no more than a whisper.  Her whole body was trembling.

 

The American didn’t move.  “What’s your name?”

The big blue eyes had closed, and her head rocked to the side.  She was unconscious.  The Red Yank spread the tablecloth over the body in the wire basket, then went round to the bar to push.

 

Tom Bishop moved to the front, grabbed it with one hand and pulled.  “Alright, bright boy.  What now? She needs healing.  More than anything else, she needs hope.  It’s like looking at a completely empty vessel.  I can’t detect any will at all.”

The Red Yank pushed the trolley while Bishop pulled.  “I don’t know, Tom.  The future is the future, and I can only decide about the present.  Look at this place.  Empty.  Silent as a grave.  And her bent over that bench, still breathing.  Probably only night people left around here.  They probably come out of their holes like rats to fuck her while they loot the shops.  No street lighting any more.  Naw, I can’t leave her.  I don’t care what happens.”

 

They staggered down the hill using the road instead of the pavement.  It was marginally easier to push the trolley in the road.  It was eerie.  Apparently there were no people anywhere, but Bishop sensed eyes were following their movement down Rosslyn Hill.  They were being watched.  And there was a heavy atmosphere of fear hanging like thick fog in the air.  He felt the hairs on his neck bristle.

He looked back at his partner.  “I don’t like it here.”

 

“Yeah.”  The Red Yank nodded gravely.  “Hampstead used to be one of my favourite places.  Look at it now.  Uninhabitable.  Burned, destroyed.  You can practically taste the hatred that raged through these streets.  When it does happen, it’s so merciless.”

They approached the police station, and the stench of decomposing flesh grew stronger.  As if in embarrassment at the horrible smell, the sun hid itself behind a dark cloud.  Immediately it was chillier.  The stink was coming from what was left of the station.  Instinctively they slowed the trolley as they approached the blackened ruin.  Trees were knocked down, and there were holes in the brick walls left standing.  Earth was blown from the ground and debris covered the roadway.

 

“Looks like they had a bit of a battle here,” the Red Yank said quietly, almost to himself.

Bishop raised his right arm, pointing with his index finger.  “Look.”

 

He stopped the trolley.  “What it is?  You younger sprats have better vision than I do.”

“No, look.  There.  Along the pavement where the police station used to be.”

 

The American stared.  Now he could see what it was.  There was a row of police helmets turned upside down and placed in earthenware pots.  And there was something inside the helmets…

“They’re heads,” Bishop said flatly.  “Chinstraps are still in place.  Full of maggots now.  All set out like spring flowers.  Well, hallelujah.  Glory be.  Maybe it’s the survivors who are watching us now…”

 

The Red Yank grunted.  “I don’t think there were survivors, Tom.”

“There are always survivors.  Look at us.”

 

They turned up Downshire Hill where the properties were even more devastated.  Attempts had been made to flatten every dwelling.  The mob was reacting to instinctive emotions pressing them to erase from the face of the earth the disease that was killing it.  Obviously the people who had lived in the supremely desirable and expensive homes in Hampstead had not caused the illness.  But they fed off it.  They thrived, and by thriving they made the cancer grow larger and juicier.  For those who wriggled like burning worms at the bottom of the pyramid, it must have seemed as if the rich were solely responsibility for their agony.

With few housing structures left standing, the Heath could be clearly seen as soon as they turned into Downshire Hill.  Still there were no people.  There was plenty of action in Archway and Holloway – only small groups here and there, but they were visible, even noisy.  Here the rage and anger drove the survivors down deep into the earth.  People were hiding, waiting, suspicious.  And in the distance they could hear the rattle of an occasional Land Rover pulling up the hill.  But they felt it.  The hidden eyes still watched them mutely.

 

Those eyes just saw two men passing with a shopping trolley.  One was an old man with a white beard bristling underneath rosy cheeks.  A soft leather cap covered some of his shaggy white hair.  He wore jeans, check shirt, leather waistcoat and trainers.  The other man was younger, just pushing middle age.  He was lean and blond and wore a bomber jacket and black boots laced to the knees.  Who were they to alien eyes?  Tramps.  Loonies, possibly.  They walked with their trolley, talking, pointing, almost at ease.  The eyes watching them were not that curious about the two tramps.  Nor were they threatened.  They just passed by…and were forgotten.

But, thought Bishop defensively, there were other eyes.  And maybe those eyes were windows for still more distant eyes in other times and places to see through.  And there were always the crows, perching in the trees, calling incessantly to each other.  A single crow was sitting on one of the police helmets they passed coming down the hill – no doubt about to sample the rotting brains of a young constable who chose the wrong job at the wrong time.

 

He felt one thing strongly.  If the crows knew where he was, the others knew as well.  He sensed they were tracking devices – CCTV cameras for different worlds.

The Red Yank stopped the trolley.  The wheels were wobbly, and it was hot work keeping the thing going in the right direction.  He pulled out a handkerchief, took off his cap and wiped his forehead and the inside of the black cap.  Then he returned it to his head before lifting the tablecloth to see how their passenger was coping with the rough trip.

He leaned over and spoke quietly in her ear.  “I hope you’re OK there.  We’ve got a long way to go yet, so if you want to move around…”

He put his hand on her head to stroke her and suddenly stopped speaking.

 

Bishop looked around at him.  “What?”

The Red Yank looked up at his friend with sad eyes.  “I think she’s dead.”

 

“Are you sure?”

“No.  Just a sudden, overwhelming, sinking feeling.”

 

Bishop felt the girl’s neck for a pulse then shook his head.  “I think she’s gone.  Poor, fucking stupid, pretty little butterfly bitch.”

They buried her on the Heath and took turns with the shovel to dig her a shallow grave about fifty yards above the first pond.  They decided it was a nice site, a quiet place.  A few song birds could still be heard in the Heath.  The grave was shallow because neither of them had the energy to dig a deep one.

It was the Red Yank who lifted her out of the trolley.  He stood holding her in his arms before looking up to the sky.

“I give her back to the Earth Gods.  I don’t even know her name.  I’m sorry we couldn’t save her.”

His eyes were damp as he kissed the top of her head.

 

They lay her on her side in the foetal position, and the Red Yank put a clod of earth underneath her temple for a pillow.  Then they covered her with about a foot of earth.  Bishop found an old interesting tree branch to use as a grave marker.  Neither of them spoke as they stood there in silence.

+He looked down from his kitchen window.  Mrs Nit-nit was on her doorstep nit-nitting with a passer-by.  Mrs Nit-nit lived next door with the ghostly apparition of her husband, who was slowly disappearing as she sucked away his vital juices.  She was a heavy woman with a jaw like a blacksmith, a jaw that could crack brazil nuts.  A bus roared by taking a shortcut to the garage but her jaw continued to move.  Nit-nit, nit-nit, nit-nit, nit-nit…  The passer-by was nodding her head, then shaking it, nodding again.  Mrs Nit-nit did all the talking.

 

He tried to avoid Mrs Nit-nit, and anyway she didn’t like him.

The Red Yank was talking to him about his recent visit to India where he was playing the part of the US ambassador in a British-Indian TV co-production.

 

“In effect he told me that Monsanto have already planted huge acreages of genetic crops.  The pressure on New Delhi was made through the WTO and the World Bank.  In other words they had to do it or their loans and grants would be withdrawn.  Remember India has coped with both floods and drought during the past few years.  Other deals relating to arms purchases would be torpedoed.  Pressure is pressure.  After the collapse of the Soviet Union, there is no other source of finance to turn to.  So India has to do it.”

Bishop was still looking out his window.  “I wish some country had the nobility to resist.”

 

“And be turned into a Third World refuge and way station with tumbleweed blowing through the streets?  Look at Cuba.  Not likely.  It’s a world of master and slave.  Those who would be free are destroyed.  So now India will produce a seed for Monsanto that grows crops that are infertile.  This indentures the peasant to the company.  Now.  Listen to this…”

The Red Yank leaned forward and chuckled ironically.  “Monsanto has already lowered the wages of their workers and increased their hours because they say they are providing all the food for the workers – like a welfare state, they claim.  But get this.  Traditionally the peasants eat lots of rice.  A staple crop.  Monsanto says rice is too expensive to give away, and they’re gonna provide their workers with extra-nutritious pellets…”

 

Bishop burst into laughter as he turned back to the Red Yank.  “Pellets!”

“Yeah.  Like that dry food you feed to cats.”

 

Both of them were laughing now.

“It gets worse.  This is the part that can’t be supported, but they told me the pellets have been analysed by Indian scientists, and there has been some leakage in the research department of Monsanto.  The provenance of the protein is quite possibly the remains of their fellow workers who have died.  It’s like the cattle that were fed with ground-up feed made from other cows…”

 

True or false?  Probably true, but how could you tell?  The story told by the Organism lay obscenely over the hidden realities.  Nothing could be proven, because governments always controlled the people – for those who controlled the governments.  The Red Yank continued talking as Bishop looked back out the window.  Mrs Nit-nit was still nit-nitting with the passer-by, and now Mr Turnaround was making his way slowly up the street.  Bishop willed him to make it to the top of the Terrace without having to turn around once.  And he did well, too.  He nearly made it to the junction before a driver swerved his car from the Gardens into the Terrace and gunned his engine to knock a half-second off his journey time, a mobile phone stuck to his ear.  It was too much for Mr Turnaround.  He stopped, waited, hesitated.  No, he couldn’t make it.  He turned around.  Then he continued to the kerb before turning around again.

 

Bishop shook his head.  He was listening and even still chuckling at the outrageous arrogance as wealth stalked the planet in search of the weakest to squeeze.  The masks were beginning to come off now, and the real faces of the aliens slowly resolved before their eyes.  The Red Yank thought it was wealth they were after.  It wasn’t.  Wealth was only a tool used like a rake or a hoe to deepen the furrows in the human soul.  War would come.  He could feel it in the air.  He didn’t know how, but everyone had been misled.  This was not a reasonable world.  It was a facsimile copy stitched together with clumsy seams.  War would come, bringing pestilence, famine and death.  Behind all the fakery was a reality beyond his imagination.  He anticipated that all the stupid facsimiles would be ripped away to reveal some kind of mighty tumescence.  Quite possibly the tumescence belonged to Satan, and maybe he had been fucking the earth for millennia, ejaculating oil and plastic everywhere.  They all sought out Satan to suck on his cock, and now it was time for a reckoning. +

The Red Yank was staring at him.

“It’s happened again,” Bishop said.  “Another of one of those disappearances into the past.  How long was I gone?”

 

The Red Yank shook his head.  “I didn’t notice anything, really.  I was just thinking.  Who she was.  Daughter of a knight or bishop, Linda said.  Such a struggle over so many generations.  For rank.  And yet she is nothing more than earth, as we will shortly be.”

He stopped and looked up at the sky.  The sun had just emerged again, and he shaded his eyes with his hand.  “Do you remember that old, old verse handed down from the hidden mists of time?  ‘When Adam delved and Eve spanned, who was then the gentleman?’  Such illusion.  Even when their world was holding together.  Now she’s nothing.  Her family is nothing.  All that struggle.  For nothing.  Ever speculate what became of all the noble Romans?  All the families of Caesars and the noblemen of the Roman senates?  Over time they all became Italian peasants again – probably what they were before.  And then new orders emerged, new families, all fighting for the illusion again.  When will they decide not to waste their energy?”

 

The silence was broken by snarling and howling from the trees.

“The dogs will dig her up,” Bishop said slowly.  “I suppose there’s nothing we can do about that.”

 

They started down the hill towards the pond.

“Well,” said the Red Yank, “the dogs will die one day soon and return her to the earth.  I wish we could make her safe, but it’s all the same in the end…”

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