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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20. Chapter Twenty

CHAPTER TWENTY

 

 

Tom Bishop lay stretched out on his roof.  He didn’t have his watch, but it must have been after 2.00am, and he was still sweating.  Hot weather was not ideal during the Horror, because the whole of London stank.  It was impossible to get away from the smell, and he was particularly sensitive to smells.  The Red Yank shrugged his shoulders.  It didn’t bother him.  The city was rapidly collapsing.  The population had now fallen drastically, and there probably weren’t enough people left living to service the infrastructure necessary to keep a city as large as London alive.  It was a virtual military dictatorship, as the Roos filled the vacuum of power.  The civilian leadership had already been overturned several times as the structure of the State heaved its shattered remains around, searching for a framework conservative enough to hang itself on.  Which is why the military is always a good default system.  It has an in-built, easy-to-understand hierarchy, and the top of the pyramid is egregiously corruptible.  No elaborate social lies are usually necessary, because might is right.  In the vertical value system orders and edicts drop from the top as supplications rise like swamp gas from below.

 

The revolution had been so bloodthirsty that each successive civilian administration defined itself by its superior toughness and hardness to the preceding administration.  Power was generated from the hatred and anger of the people, so political figures made their names – briefly – by promising more revenge and retribution.  More blood.  More distribution.  More justice.  The will of the people must prevail.  And the will of the people always was an imaginary road laid over the real one leading inevitably to betrayal and indentured slavery.  A circular route that invariably led to the same destination, no matter where the journey began.

Well, Bishop knew the likely answers.  Recent events only confirmed his earlier suspicions.  Anyway, it was past time to give a shit about what was happening to the world politically.  Let the Red Yank worry about the politics.  Bishop had other worries, because he knew they were trapped now as participants in a conflict whose relative values were completely unclear.  This had come about mostly as an accident.  They happened to be sited on an unstable sector which was a part of some unimaginably larger holocaust taking place across multiple layers of universes.

 

Yet he was always suspicious of “accidents”.  So now he was having to search deeply into the question that rung in his ears from the previous afternoon.

Who are you?

 

“Yes, who am I?” he asked himself out loud.  The heavy night air gave him no answer.  He realised he was extremely irritable, and it made him even more irritable to admit why he was irritable.  Roulla was still down in the Red Yank’s flat, and he presumed by now that they were in bed together.  Well, that was a stupid presumption for a start.  Part of the trouble was that he fancied Roulla’s company this evening, and he was narked when suddenly there seemed to be a competitor.  It hit him on the blind side.  When he wasn’t expecting it.  So the verbal homunculus of self in his consciousness was fizzing with resentment to start the cycle.  The next step would be to castigate himself for being petty or intolerant or expectant of her loyalty when he was proud to have none for her – at least in matters of love.  Then he would have a rage about the perfidy of women which would lead to the perfidy of friends.  The Red Yank was probably satisfied with himself for pulling such a handsome woman right out from under his nose.  The cycle completed itself when he in turn felt guilty about laying it all off on Roulla or the Red Yank.  Then it would begin again along the same tracks, each episode as inevitable as the striking hours on a cuckoo clock.

“You’re a arsehole,” he accused himself as he reached for his tobacco and cigarette papers.

 

+His vision suddenly rose above his “self” in an unprecedented out-of-body experience.  It was happening again.  There he was lying naked on the roof, his right hand reaching for his tobacco pouch.  His self had no time to reflect on this phenomenon because the image of his body on the rooftop was receding nauseatingly fast.  He rose to the skies as if he were propelled by smooth, powerful jets.  Ptolemy Terrace itself quickly disappeared, as did London, lit at night now only in patches.  He quickly realised another vital difference to previous experiences.  He was not moving with his own volition.  He was being moved.  Something was moving him, some force.  The light of the sun struck him as he moved out of the night shadow of the earth.  He hovered there for a moment.  He could see the earth now from the approximate height of the moon.  In the distance it was still beautiful, blue, a living creature held magically in the suspension of space.  His attention was drawn to a flash on the surface of the planet.  Some large object had hit it.  Or perhaps it was an exploding volcano or even a mighty nuclear blast.  But the atmosphere of the earth slowly became grey as a misty fog covered everything, blinding and suffocating all life.  When the shadow finally melted away, he could tell immediately the planet was dead.  Like the surface of the moon.  Or Mars.  It was inert and no longer radiated with beauty.  The atmosphere had been sucked away, and the surface was barren.  It was no longer a mother lying underneath the father of the sky, infinitely warm and fertile as it gave birth to all of life.  There were only dry arid bones.  All the rest was gone.

Tom Bishop experienced a sense of utter desolation.  It was uniformly bleak.

 

“It’s time to open yourself to wisdom.”  It was not the Voice.  Bishop recognised it at once.  It was Yosemite Sam.  “You must be ready.  You must be prepared.  Alone it is impossible to resist.  But the power is there.  It was no accident.”

Without warning Bishop’s self was shunted from a view of the earth and solar system to…  To what?  How to describe it?  He was solid – within a solidity.  He breathed, but he breathed like a fish, sucking in gallons of the visual array around him, then exhaling it.  He felt strongly the nearness of entities, but he could see no one.  There was plenty of colour and movement and frightening noises.  He sensed the truth and fought desperately to focus, to separate the shapes and masses, the running flows of unknown – maybe unknowable – structures.  Or maybe the “structures” were not like anything he knew as structures.  Maybe he needed to find new references.  But how?  Was he vulnerable?  There was no way of knowing.  It suddenly struck him that his consciousness was most likely similar to that of a new-born child, baffled by the strange condensations he was suspended in.  Was this something like his origin when he fought to find the faces of his mother and father and understand the language they were speaking, along with the meanings and values and dangers of things?

 

Meanings.  Meanings.  WHERE WAS THE ORIGIN OF MEANING?  What was going to give him meaning for the universe where he now found himself?  It was hopeless, and obviously he could not do it alone.  As he could not know how to see or to move or distinguish one thing from another thing – if indeed there were such things as things.  The frustration was driving him to despair.

“Now you are being childish,” said the voice of Yosemite Sam.  “I am not your new father, and it is not for me to give meanings for you.  But remember – calm waters better reflect the light of the moon.  You are a human being, and you have learned from your human meanings a degree of arrogance.  Humanity defines itself badly.  It defines itself as insane in the same instant as it boasts of its rationality.  You are approaching a precipice wildly and blindly.  Go carefully.  Feel your way.  Look for wisdom.  Beware the Pale Rider.”

 

The world Bishop was thrust newly into changed abruptly.  There were darker shadows that lengthened and thickened and flickered like the savage blades of sword-sized scalpels.  Staccato static amid silences and longer bursts of noise, some loud, some soft.  His vision blurred as he breathed in the liquid atmosphere and breathed out something slightly different.  Redness.  Blackness.  The strongest colour together with the absence of colour.  Black was the selfish hoarding of all colours into one framework.

He was out-of-body, he knew that.  Yet there was the sensation of something huge being shoved into his anus.  Noises intensified as he felt himself being robbed of his will.  His vision was pushed down into filthy yellows and browns.  The sensations were not altogether bad.  At the last moment, he let go of his resentment, just allowing himself to float, offering no resistance.  What could he fight?  How could he fight?  Why should he fight in a world without meanings?  He was well aware he was giving things gratuitous values in a spurious effort to try and understand something about the nature of his existence.  What was happening to him was not hurtful, nor did it fill him with fear.  He reminded himself to try and hang on to the words of Yosemite Sam.  Kind beings could be rocking him in a cradle.  Nevertheless he definitely felt some sort of sexual subtext.  Something erotic was being done to his being.  Maybe they were changing his nappies.  Or playing with his transubstantiated willy.

 

He realised he was making up stories.  It was profoundly clear at once.  It was all he could do – at least as a human being.  Perhaps he had to learn another way, a wiser one.  The thing about stories was that they all had a polarity.  A particular spin.  With a thundering rush, he realised his stories of consciousness were…+

“Were political,” Tom Bishop said woodenly as he opened his pouch and pulled out a thin thread of tobacco.

 

*

“Political,” the Red Yank said as he raised the small tumbler of amber liquid to the light of the candles.  It was from an unbroken bottle of Black Bush, as fine an Irish whiskey as he ever tasted.  Quite possibly it was the finest on earth.  Even though he loved Scotch as well.  “That’s what I think Tom misunderstands sometimes.  I mean, maybe there are aliens as well.  But even if there are, they will be political if they are social, as sure as shit stinks.”

 

They were not in bed.  They were in the Red Yank’s front room, and they had been talking all evening.  The conversation was so stimulating he decided to open the bottle he found over a week ago.  No one else in the house could understand his overwhelming delight in finding that bottle of Black Bush.  None of the others drank at all.  They all smoked dope, even Roulla.

He closed his eyes and allowed the warmth of the whiskey to trickle over his tongue.  Every nerve in his throat joined a chorus of gratitude that swelled with a joy beyond understanding.  The taste and enjoyment was a choral symphony, the music of angels, as he opened his mouth to force the backfire bouquet right into his sinuses.

 

Roulla was chuckling.  “You look like you just had an orgasm.”

He opened one eye.  “How do you know what my orgasms look like?”

 

“Do you think it really tastes that good?”

He held the tumbler in his hand as he placed it on the arm of the yellow chair.  “Some people think they know, others know they know.  I’m your ultimate authority on the taste of whiskey.  This is good in the way bread is good when it first comes out of an oven.  Ah, I can tell by the look on your face that you don’t understand.”

 

She laughed.  “Well, I’m glad you’re enjoying it.”

“I’m enjoying the whole evening.  I haven’t had this much fun in a long time.”

 

“Nor I,” she nodded.  “Why do you think politics is so central?”

The Red Yank took another sip from his glass of Black Bush.  “For the simple reason we are so social.  I have yet to read anyone who has managed to get across the real complexity of socialisation – particularly when you add in the confusing dimension of consciousness.  The socialisation of ants or wasps is fascinatingly impenetrable.  We’re told to think of it as inherited behaviour in insects, but I’m not so sure.  For a start, generations overlap, just like human beings.  Structures can be passed down to our successors.  In addition humans have language and linguistic abilities.  You know what the first problem about that is?”

 

She crossed her legs and stared at the ceiling.  “Men are liars.”

“Right on the money.  With language you’ve got sophisticated use of dissembling and mendacity, so the world is seldom what it seems.  We can be told things are being done for our own good, that government officials are motivated by honour and love of democracy and not by self interest and lobbying of hugely powerful financial institutions.  Well, to quote Groucho Marx again, instead of Karl, ‘Who do I believe?  You – or my own eyes?’  Deception is a primary human characteristic.  It has many layers, from the simple to the profound.  I’m not really saying deception is a bad thing.  It just makes for hellish social difficulties.”

 

She swung her legs up onto the sofa and leaned back against the arm.  “So how would you define humans?”

“I wouldn’t.  I don’t think you can.  They don’t have a nature.  Naturally they can try to give themselves a nature.  People are inherent story-tellers.  Both in the sense of telling lies and creating magnificent fiction.”

 

“So…wouldn’t that make story-telling a definition of human nature?”

“It’s not a definition.  It’s a characteristic.”

 

“I like this idea,” she said.  “It makes the State easier to understand.  It’s not a thing formed by the people.  It’s a series of interlinking stories and deceits that must have a history as long as the human race.”

He thought for a minute, then snapped his fingers.  “That’s it.  Yeah.  You’re a genius, Roulla.  It has to be the answer.  The State has been around since we first began socialising, changing, evolving along with the human race…”

 

She laughed and nodded her head.  “In Tom’s words, this could be an alien spirit.  Look at it like that.  The State is invisible.  Nevertheless it is a web as strong as steel.  We are forever subjects to its morphology.  Is that the right word?”

“Yeah, yeah.”  He was leaning forward on his elbows now.  “It is this changing – yet seemingly permanent – thing that defines us and enslaves us.  We are not free.  We just service the growing monstrosity of an idea fashioned by us and all our ancestors.”

 

“Or maybe…” she turned to face him.  “…someone else.  An alien.  Other entities.  Like the ones we are encountering during this incredible eruption.”

“I still call it a revolution.  I think it is a revolution.  But yeah, OK, there are some other kinds of varmints involved, too.  On the one hand the population was shackled and compressed beyond endurance.  The concept of freedom became just too outrageous, too much of a mockery.  There was an explosion.  The people went berserk and tore to pieces those they felt were responsible.  Since then, though, they’ve just been trying to stick some form of the old structure back together again, like Humpty Dumpty.  The moment they’re free, they hold out their wrists for more chains.”

 

“Maybe there’s no starting again,” she reflected.  “Maybe we’ve had the State too long, and there’s no way to get rid of it.  For all we know, it was imposed by aliens in the beginning and just rolls along with us over the millennia with its lies and stories directing both our future and our interpretations of ourselves from our past.  Revolutions may just give the appearance of change in order to delude the population…”

“If you look at the meaning of the State, it’s mostly evil,” he interrupted.  “But there’s something else here - a spirit of humanity – that’s clean.  It’s something to do with all this duality…”

 

“Do you know of something called unstable equilibrium?

“I don’t reckon so.”

 

She grinned at him, and her eyes sparkled.  “When you are riding a bicycle, you are in constant movement – not just forward but to the sides as well, as it never stops being a balancing act.  Yet this system works very well because of the forward momentum.  If you stop, it doesn’t work at all, and balance collapses.  It’s also a bit like a bird works.  Or even an aeroplane.  They are all constantly in a state of adjustment.  With a bird or a plane, if you stop adjusting – in other words, if you stop trying to balance and just thrust forward, well, you just drop out of the sky.  You fall.  Maybe life is like that.  Not just us, but all living things.  The universe, too.  If it is not actively balancing, then it all dies, it all stops, doesn’t work any more.  On a much smaller scale, maybe we even need the State.”

“We need enslavement?”

 

“No.  What I’m thinking is this.  If we – here I’m talking about the Ghost Society – if we don’t have the State to struggle against, maybe we won’t succeed as a species or at all.  A failed experiment…”

Roulla Mavromati stopped for a moment and sucked on her lower lip.  “You know, it’s so nice talking to you.  Relaxing.  I can push the boat out where I’ve never been before.  And you listen.  You don’t jump at me.  So I go a little further and see things I never imagined I’d ever see.”

 

The Red Yank grinned.  “I’m over the moon myself to find a broad who likes philosophy.”

“I’m Greek!  I am philosophy.”  Her feet were bare, and she swung one foot gently.

 

The Red Yank followed the swelling of her calf to the shaft of her ankle.  Her foot was pretty and feminine.  The arch was high, and the toes were small.  “The State as a permanent enemy.  We’re almost into anarchy here.”

She moved her bottom forward, and the movement revealed three more inches of skin above her knee.  She raised her arms to redo her hair, which was held by a clasp at the back of her head.  “Maybe it can only change in harmful ways, no matter how violent the revolt.  The October Revolution gave hope to so many people in the world.  It seemed as if the poor, the disinherited, the valueless all finally had a vision of power, of taking back what was theirs in the first place.  Then the hope was smashed – first by Stalin, then by western capital.”

 

“I can’t take my eyes off your foot.  I’m excited by what you’re saying, but it’s distracting…”

She smiled as she finished fiddling with her hair.  “Do you like honesty?”

 

He hesitated, then smiled slyly.  “I almost said ‘more than anything else in the world’.”

“I moved my foot to attract your attention.  I’ve got your intellectual attention, and I want more.  I always want more, and no one has been able to give me everything I want.”

 

He licked his dry lips and moved uneasily in the chair.  Her swinging foot still held his attention.  “What are you prepared to give?”

Her answer was immediate.  “Everything.  All of me.  Total.  Mind, body, spirit…”

 

He cleared his throat.  “I’ve got a problem with loyalties.”

She shook her head to loosen her hair.  “What you’ve got a problem with is rationality.  You won’t let yourself go.  In the park you almost did.  I could feel it as I lay next to you.”

 

“We were interrupted by a fist from hell.”

“There’s nothing to interrupt us now.  Are you aroused by my foot?”

 

He hesitated and breathed in deeply.  “Yes.”

“Don’t you know what you want to do?  Without thinking?”

 

The metronomic swinging foot was mesmerising.  It called to him in a language he had never heard before.  It was visceral, guttural – yet it relaxed his shoulders and spine.  Literally without knowing what he was doing, he slid forward onto his knees and leaned over.  The foot, now directly beneath his lips, had stopped swinging.  He closed his eyes and enjoyed the smooth, clean smell of her flesh.  It was like a newly opened poppy of opium – earthy, addictive, compelling.  With the greatest tenderness he took the foot in both hands to steady it while he kissed it.

One kiss was not enough.  He covered it with kisses, taking in her ankle as well.  He began licking.  He wanted to eat it, push the foot right into his mouth and down his throat.  Let it become a part of his being.  His hands caressed her calf as he continued to lick her foot, and she slowly uncrossed her legs.  Unknowable elixirs rushed through his body.  Words dissolved in wild, cartwheeling imagery.  He realised he had become a part of something that was destined to have its own shape and value.  There was no longer any point in resisting the overpowering urge to let himself be torn away from reason by the tides which would take him to other darker, more alluring places.  Places where the fruit was ripe and moist and large red suns dipped low in the sky.  The fauna was secretive, with big eyes, and padded noiselessly on the soft undergrowth.  Shadows of strange birds flickered over the landscape.  The gods were seeking devils as partners in fornication.

 

Still holding her foot, he licked her calf.  It was warm, soft and tingling.  It glided to the side as his head rose between her legs.  Above, he could hear her breathing deepen, accompanied by a sultry hoarseness.  She was a strange animal, and she was drawing him in, closer and closer.

With a frightening suddenness, she clamped his head between her knees.  It was painful, and he felt as if his skull was being crushed by a giant hand.  He could hear nothing, and his eyes were squeezed shut with pain.  In that position, she rolled off the sofa with him, his head clamped by her knees between her legs.  He held onto her thighs with his hands but did not try and pull them apart as they fell to the floor.  The Red Yank was on his back.  She was above him, kneeling, her lower legs pressing his shoulders down.  She grabbed a handful of his hair with each hand.  Her lips pulled back to reveal her clenched teeth.

 

“I’ve got you, you big bastard.”  Her whisper was coarse and aggressive.  “Open your eyes!  Open them now, or I’ll tear out two fistfuls of hair!”

His eyes opened as if by her will.  Directly above him, between her thighs, almost hidden in the dim light, was a vision of dark moistness.  He could smell the paradox of revulsion and demented lust.

 

“Easy.  So easy,” she gloated above him.

At that moment the Red Yank would have given his life for access to the woman holding his head in the vice of her legs.  Yet he realised he was far too weak to resist the swift and vicious currents tugging him relentlessly onto the shores of the strange and disturbing continent.

 

She still held his hair as she leaned her face closer to his.  “I’ll tell you this.  Never.  You will never have it.  Like a hopeless knight in search of the grail, you will always seek but never be fulfilled.  Never.  Never.”

*

 

Tom Bishop let the smoke out of his mouth slowly, and the night air was so still the cloud stayed in a tight ball as it rose gently above his head.  Only slowly did it begin to dissipate, several fingers curling away, like a crab galaxy.

He was relaxed now.  This was his second spliff.  The slowly changing ball of smoke above his head reminded him of the gentle and opulently repetitive nature of the world.  Beauty fitting inside beauty like an infinite set of Russian dolls.  The heavens above were neither flat nor curved.  It was hard to grasp, and he had to let himself go, free himself up, in order to take in a minuscule portion of its beauty.  It was something he desperately wanted to be a part of forever.  Maybe as a captain of a ghost ship, like the Flying Dutchman, damned for eternity to drift through never ending space, yet freed by eternity to eventually see it all.

 

He inhaled again and realised his petty jealousy had shuffled on past.  Roulla was a free woman.  He was a free man.  Both of them could do what they liked.  She wanted love.  He suspected this of all women.  What he liked, though, was warm meat and the meeting of two consciousnesses in the cruel theatres of pain and ecstasy in order to create an escape velocity to shake off the gravity of mortal limitations.  He suspected this was the underweaving of most human desire or lust, and he did not want to be distracted by love.  Love was another story.  Love was there, but love was special, something different again, something far beyond plans and planners.  Love would snare him.  It snared him once before.  Love was completely unpredictable.  And he did not love Roulla Mavromati.  He liked her very much.  He certainly enjoyed the sessions with her.  But she was not a chattel.  Nor was he.

He was just watching another smoke ball unfold above him when it happened.  The spliff, only half-smoked, fell slowly from his fingers.  He was completely thunderstruck.

 

It was the clarity that astonished him.  Every detail was as clear and clean and hard as chrome.  The images were sharp.  There was no shadow, no greyness, no fuzzy edges.  Which made it all the more terrifying.

The heavens opened.  Literally.  As if they were a giant vault, rounded, a half globe.  If the sky had been curved, then the opening would have been about twenty degrees past the apex.  The parting was at first just a slit above him, as if a bright day were separating the dark shrouds of night.  There was, however, no sound of moving curtains.  Nor were there any shafts of light which increased the illumination of the rooftops or the night around him.  It was just blank brightness, but it was alien and scary, because Bishop could still see the glowing stars right beside the cut of the new opening.  His stomach turned over when he realised something was materialising in the bright blankness, something black and twisting without an axis.  It was like a giant Gordian knot of muscle continually folding in on itself.  And it was growing larger and larger.  Alarmingly.  He was absolutely certain the thing was coming straight for him.  From where, he had no idea.  But this was definitely meant for him alone.

 

There was a crackle.  Then a Voice spoke.  He had heard it before.  It was mechanical, chilling.  “Dip-dip.  Dop.  Wrong.  It’s for you and those of you cluttering this sector.  We are to inform you that we have now won the struggle with our foes.  We have come to punish you, to introduce the bit to your mouth and the whip to your loins.  As we said before.  You will be our slaves and will know you are slaves, and yet you will serve us greedily…”

In mortal fear, Bishop began converting the terror to laughter.  He didn’t chuckle.  He went directly to howling spasms of laughter that curled up towards the heaving black muscle twisting now like a spacecraft above him.  It was gigantic and blotted all the beauty of the sky.  It was all he could see, and it was getting bigger still, as if it were going to land directly on top of the Terrace, engulfing him in its noxious bowels.  He laughed.  He rolled from one side of the roof to the other, laughing.  He chattered his teeth and beat his hands on the tar-sealed surface.  He closed his eyes to the boiling underbelly mass above his writhing body.  He laughed, he fought his fear, desperate to earth it somehow to give himself strength.  But this time, somehow, the laughter sounded hollow.  Meaningless.

 

The Voice was now a large presence in his head as it spoke again.  “Dip-dip.  No good.  Our enemies have been…dip-dip..”

The delivery was interrupted by a long rip of static that filled Bishop’s head in a whiteout of thought.  He couldn’t think.  He even lost his homunculus of self, the “I” he used to speak to himself.

 

“Dip-dip,” the Voice continued as the static cleared.  “Our enemies have been extinguished completely, and there is now no force to oppose us.”

“You are a fool!” Bishop shouted insanely as he regained momentary control of his consciousness.  “You need opposition.  You will perish without it, and only your arrogance keeps you from seeing this!”

 

Bishop was uncertain of the origins of his words.  They seemed to come from nowhere.  “You are a lie.  But a lie is necessary for the truth to exist because it defines the truth.  You cannot become what is with your values infesting everything.  If you have exterminated your enemies, then you need to immediately re-create them before you yourself cease to exist.  Do you understand?  You have no hope of taking this sector, because this sector is your only hope.  It is the paradox of existence, you dark-sided imbecility!”

Now Bishop was convinced he was speaking for the other Voice.  These were not his ideas or his words.  Or were they?  Had he now become a part of something else?  His being felt transformed.

 

The motion of the churning, dark, knotted muscle hovering overhead slowed in its descent.  The trapdoor to the roof was suddenly flung off.  With a single smooth motion Roulla Mavromati pulled herself through the hole.  She stood and looked upward without casting a glance at Bishop.  He watched in grim fascination as she raised her arms and moved her fingers.  Shafts of light glowed from her fingertips like white lasers.

She opened her mouth and started talking.

 

And a supernatural chill spread through his bones.  Roulla was not speaking words.  There was a kind of static coming from her mouth, punctuated by the odd dip-dip…doc.  The gigantic moving bowel above them stopped its movement completely.  Something like a door opened, and a shaft of green light flooded the Greek woman’s figure on the roof.

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