Stone The Crows


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.


7. Chapter Seven




The Red Yank’s flat was as different from Bishop’s as Saturday night from Monday morning.  Bishop and the Yank were different, too, maybe opposites.  The Red Yank was an out-of-work actor, maybe twenty years older.  Where Bishop was lean, the Yank was big and broad.  His hair was white, and he had a white goatee.  His head sometimes hung forward, like a bull.  Classical music played constantly, and there were double speakers installed in every room, even the kitchen and bathroom.


“Goddammit, I promised it to myself when I was a poor teenager!  Speakers in every room, great music comin’ at you from everywhere!”

His front room was an untidy jumble of theatrical memorabilia, books, racks of pipes.  On the walls hung motorcycle photographs, movie and TV stills, old ticket stubs, BBC and National Theatre passes.  There was a low coffee table with a cigar humidor, ashtrays and a pair of sheer, powder blue nylon women’s knickers.  The music played from the speakers opposite the window with parrot obbligato from the back room.  There was a huge home-made bird cage in the bedroom which housed a wonderful African Grey called Louie.  Louie was Bishop’s little friend, because he looked after the bird regularly when the Yank was away doing a play or movie.  Otherwise Louie and the Red Yank were inseparable.  They lived together, swore at each other and played for hours together in torrents of laughter, flapping wings and rainforest screams.


“Fuckin’ bird keeps me alive!”

The Red Yank was one of the surviving blacklisted American actors who moved to London or Europe after the House Un-American Activities Committee witch hunt in the late ’40s and early ’50s.  They could no longer work in the United States in theatre, television or movies, so they had to move elsewhere if they wanted to continue their careers.  And the London acting community made a little room on the bench for some of the persecuted players from America.

“Most of the citizens of the United States wouldn’t know how to spell ‘democracy’ without cheatin’.There were quite a number of the blacklisted people at one time.  The writer Dalton Trumbo, the producer Carl Foreman, the harmonica player Larry Adler, the actors Ramsey Williams, David Bauer, Sam Wannamaker.  And many others.

“Most of ’em are dead now.  In a few years they’ll be forgotten, along with me.  But I’ll forgive the English just about anything for lettin’ us in when nobody else would.  Hell, I wasn’t blacklisted by HUAC.  Not that old.  But I sure was blacklisted for the union work I did, anti-war stuff, civil rights.  I had a mouth on me.  Couldn’t buy a job when the word went around.”


Bishop and the Red Yank usually met once a week for cups of tea if it was during the day, beer, coffee and opium if at night.  The Red Yank hated cannabis, except for special occasions.

“Goddamn stuff just puts me to sleep.  Speed, that’s what I used when I was young.  Bennies, we called them.  Got ’em from truck drivers.”


The Yank was already living in the house when Bishop moved in 15 years ago.  At first the housing association gave him the name of the street but not the address.  As he scouted the area, he saw the old Triumph motorcycle sitting outside one house in a pool of black engine oil.  His heart sank.  He knew that was bound to be the place.  After all this time and effort, he was going to move into a flat with a greaser living below, some Rocker from the ’60s wearing brothel creepers and playing Elvis Presley and Chuck Berry all night.

But no, it was an older guy, a big American, of all things.  They found out later they developed secret  pet names for each other.  He called the Yank the Grease Ball.  The Yank called him Creeping Jesus.  Slowly, over the years, they found a deep and unusual friendship, one that led to the regular meetings either in his flat or the Yank’s.  It was a discovery that surprised them both.


“I think you got something there, Hambone.  There’s something in the air, somethin’ building up, like a big, black cloud before a storm.  I remember when I was cutting wheat out in Kansas, hitchhiking back and forth to North Carolina where I was born.  The day was bright and hot and dry, the land flat as a pancake.  Over on the horizon you could see something dark, like the head of the devil’s dick just poking up over the cornfields.  That blackness would quickly grow and grow until the whole sky was filled with boiling clouds.  On the ground it was near pitch dark, like night, and some of the hair was standing up on your head from all the electrical build-up…”

Tom Bishop knew the Red Yank was over 60, yet his appetite for sex never seemed to flag.  Since they first knew each other, the older man must have had a couple of dozen partners, several of them in their twenties.  Philosophy, politics, sex.  Their favourite topics of conversation.  During the first couple of years after Bishop moved in, they just nodded when passing on the stairs.  They only began talking together after an accidental meeting at a fetish fair in North London.  There was a smell of beer, a clank of chains, the creak of leather.  Bishop was examining a leather paddle when a woman in a tight skirt leaned over for him.  He had never talked to her before but had seen her several times at earlier fairs.  She bent over, and he whacked her so hard she squealed.  Bishop heard an unmistakable laugh and looked up.  The Red Yank was waving at him.  The big man wore a motorcycle jacket, and on his arm was a dyed blonde with her hair pulled into bunches.  The blonde wore tight leather jeans and a shirt with the tails tied underneath her bosom.  Both of them carried motorcycle helmets.  He and the Red Yank talked for the first time and walked around the fair together, commenting, laughing, occasionally haggling or trying on gear.  It was one of the things Bishop came to like so much about the Yank.  There was a near-palpable aura of focus and unselfconscious humour.


“Damn it, boy, I love sex – the kinkier, the better.  I love women, like to have ’em around me, all shapes and sizes.  The smell, the softness, the way they move.  I’d like to dive into a herd of them like a porpoise, only coming up every hour to blow air.  Lemme tell you something, Bishop.  Once after I did six weeks on a movie – back in the days when they paid good money – I booked a plane straight to Bangkok when I finished.  I’d always wanted to do this, dreamed about it.  I hit the local bars and whorehouses, and the local currency was fallin’ off me like autumn leaves.  What I did was this.  I rented a whole suite at a hotel – you know, front room, bedroom, separate bathroom and a little kitchen.  Big place.  And you know what I did?  I picked out about 18 girls – yeah, it must have been 18 at least, or seemed like it – and brought ’em all back to the hotel suite.  I got ’em all to wear stockings and high heels, no tops or panties.  They were all lying on their backs on the floor all over the apartment.  Everywhere you looked were waving, billowing legs, like being under water and surrounded by gorgeous, undulating anemones.  I smoked two joints of local Thai weed, strong as shit, and rolled on the floor naked with all those women.  I wanna tell you somethin’ Bishop.  I was in heaven, and I don’t even believe in God.  I swear I did every one of them.  The weed made me hungry, and I ordered room service to bring up some food.  Hell, we had champagne, lobster, shrimps, some local spicy stuff one of the girls put on my dick before suckin’ it off.  Right on the head of my dick, lit up like a light bulb it was so red.  I got ’em all to lick it better!  Haw!  We had noodles and rice and ice cream.  I ate a banana split that was meltin’ in this girl’s crotch.  Oh, yum!  I can taste it now.  This stuff got all over everywhere, the furniture, the TV set, the carpet, bathroom floor, toilet.  We were all laughing and shouting and getting drunker.  There was a tape deck, and the only tape I could find was Bat Outta Hell by Meatloaf, and I don’t even like pop shit.  But it sounded good in this atmosphere.  The girls were dancin’, and their titties were bouncin’ around, as I lay on the floor, spread-eagled, a big bottle of beer in one hand.  I think I was wearin’ a pair of wrap-around sunglasses, and that’s all.

“I don’t know where she found it, but one of the girls brought out a riding crop.  Boy did we have fun with that.  There were two or three of them riding me like a horse, beatin’ my ass with this whip.  No, wait a minute, that was afterwards.  Yeah.  ’Cause I started giving them a few strokes.  You know?  Whack.  I love to see a beautiful, soft round ass with red stripes across it.  So I had a couple of ’em bent over across the bed, and they were crying and promising to do all kinds of things.  I was having a hell of a lot of fun, see?  Then, I’ll tell you what happened.  The whole bunch of them jumped on me.  I’m not kiddin’ you here.  They piled on top of me, holding my arms and legs and took the crop away from me.  Then they whupped me and made me carry them around the room.  Oh, man, feelin’ their little snatches on my bare back!  Little legs dangling.  High heels draggin’ the floor.  In the mood I was in, I’d have carried them all the way to India and back, hands and knees.”


I’m a free bird!” Louie screamed from the back bedroom.  “Freemocracy!  Freemocracy!  Stupid fucker.”

“I love women, but I don’t think I can live with ’em any more.  You need a big house.  Or I do anyhow.  And by big I mean four bedrooms, separate toilets, separate kitchens and one real big sitting room where you can both meet.  Private entrances.  Independent sound systems.  I can’t afford a big place, so I gotta depend on my charm to entice ’em away from the younger men.  Or earlier lovers who need another taste of me before they die.  Occasionally they are forty fucking years younger, one or two of those I brought home from the pub!  Must be my personality!”

Tom Bishop listened, staring out the kitchen window.  The Vietnamese who lived across the street, Mr Two Many Noise, was guiding his family towards his double-parked car. Some of the Red Yank’s stories he had already heard three or four times, so occasionally his mind wandered.  Even though it left him open to the blinding time flashes.

+ The nurses held the man face down on the floor.  A third male nurse loosened the patient’s trousers and pulled them down before plunging the hypodermic into his buttocks.  Bishop turned away.  His lip curled, and he snarled quietly to himself.  The man’s screams diminished as the injection took hold, and his eyes rested on the rocking figure of Linda.  Her thick, dark hair looked back-combed and stood away from her head as if held there by electrical voltage.  And she had plenty of that.  She was under section and pleaded with the consultant not to give her ECT.  Her wishes were ignored, and she had already been given over a half-dozen fry-ups on Sparky.  That’s what he called the machine.  It was over fifty years old and hadn’t been checked or tested – or probably cleaned - for almost as long.  It didn’t matter.  Just plug them in and fry them up.  This was what the shrinks called Treatment.


Looking back over his shoulder he watched as the male patient was dragged by two of the nurses back to his room.  His body was limp and uncoordinated, but Bishop noticed he was still able to cry.  His cheeks were wet with tears.  More Treatment.

He sat down in the chair opposite Linda and leaned back, trying to relax.  She didn’t acknowledge his presence, just continued rocking back and forth.  Her fingers and feet were tapping, as her eyelids squeezed shut intermittently.  It looked like she was winking at him.  But he knew it was akathisia – motor restlessness.  When she was first brought to the hospital she was loud and abusive – but she had no jerky movements, and she didn’t rock back and forth.  Treatment again.


That was Bishop’s first big argument with Dr Philip Primm, the consultant psychiatrist.  He remembered it well.  Bishop was their new clinical psychologist at the hospital, and he loathed psychiatrists in general and Primm in particular.  Even though he was still in his twenties, Bishop never had much respect for social or professional rank.  It was part of his problem.  He never knew his place.

“I don’t think she should be given ECT,” Bishop snapped.  Primm sat behind is desk peering into a file, shuffling the contents.  He wore a pair of reading glasses.


“Hmmm?” He hummed without interest and without looking up.  He was a small man, and everything about him was neat and tidy and boring.  He had shoes with thick rubber soles.

“Linda Burrows.  I recommend that she has no ECT.  In my opinion she isn’t really ‘ill’ in any clinical sense.  She’s a highly-strung woman.  Creative fantasist.  Family problems.”


“Hmmm,” he hummed again, still not looking up.  His voice was soft, and his inflection was tinted with scorn.  “Her section was signed by a relative.”

“Exactly,” Bishop retorted.  “Family problems.  She shouldn’t really be here.”


Primm peered at Bishop over his reading glasses.  “I advised her sister to sign the section because she is a paranoid schizophrenic.”

“No, she isn’t.”


“I’m not soliciting your opinion, Bishop.  I’m telling you.”

Bishop folded his arms on his chest aggressively.  “The only reason you give her ECT and major tranquillisers, including a depo injection, is to make life quiet for you.  Or the ward.  She’s noisy, that’s all.  And she tells me that ECT in particular damages her long-term as well as short-term memory…”


“You can’t believe anything a patient says, Bishop,” Primm remarked with a patronising smile.  “Particularly a paranoid schizophrenic.  They hear voices.  They have at best a tenuous hold on reality.”

“I don’t even know what a schizophrenic is myself,” he answered testily.

The consultant raised an eyebrow.  “Perhaps I better have another look at your qualifications, young man…”

Bishop snorted.  “I know the definitions given in the literature.  But I’ve never met anyone who fits the categories.  I suspect it is a diagnosis invented to cover areas of ignorance.  I suspect ‘schizophrenic’ really means ‘I don’t know.’  Then the patients, now conveniently defined, are given ‘treatment.’  I’ve watched.  I’m not stupid.  Psychiatric hospitals are dedicated to control of patients, not their cure.  Suppress their symptoms with enough drugs and ECT, and you say ‘they are now controlled on their drugs’…”


“You’re wasting my time now, Bishop…”

“Have the decency to hear me out, Phillip.  I promised Linda…”


Primm was contemptuous.  “You can’t make promises to patients!

Bishop laughed.  “Why not?  Aren’t they human beings?  Most human beings I’ve known are entitled to promises.  As well as respect, if we are to give benefit of the doubt.  Linda doesn’t yet trust me.  She doesn’t trust anyone.  On the other hand, no one has given her any reason to trust them.  They’ve done the opposite.  They’ve given her ECT against her will.  She has acquired akathisia since she arrived, and you must know some of the drugs in her ‘treatment’ can cause tardive dyskinesia – in other words, permanent neurological damage…”


“Rubbish,” the consultant snapped, looking at his watch.  “Now I have to…”

“Many psychotropic drugs are quite simply addictive.  If the patients try and come off them, the symptoms return fortissimo, and they go back on the drugs that caused the symptoms.  And if they won’t take them, they’re sectioned…”

“Bishop, I’ve had quite enough of this now.  I’m going to make a formal report of this incident to the Board, and my advice to you is…”

“Philip, give me a chance with Linda.  Suspend the ECTs, lower the dosage of drugs, let me have a go.  I won’t do a thing, just talk to her.  It won’t do any harm.  She may be a little angry, a bit noisy, but she’s not going to do anyone any harm, and she’s not suicidal – at least not yet.  Linda Burrows is not mad.  If you want the truth, she is massively pissed off at being slammed into a hospital and comprehensively mentally and physically ruined….”


Dr Phillip Primm had the file under his arm, and the reading glasses hung from his neck by a cord as he brushed by Tom Bishop on his way to the door.  He opened the door and looked back.

“Do leave any further comments you have with my secretary, and I will give you a selected reading list that will address most of your questions.  In the meanwhile, I’m locking the office, so please….”


Tom Bishop’s own office was small and cramped by comparison to Dr Philip Primm’s.  His desk was made from MDF flatpacks, and the two chairs were straight-backed, plastic and uncomfortable.  There were no messy files and folders.  It was Spartan, and there was no window.  Linda Burrows had meekly followed him in from the Fellowship Room, and she sat in the chair on the other side of his desk and stared over his left shoulder.  She hadn’t said a word.


Bishop looked at her.  His feelings of frustration was overpowering.  “I’ve done my best.  I’ve talked to them.  I’ve submitted reports.  I’ve gone over their heads and appealed to other authorities.  All I have to offer you is my failure.”

She didn’t answer.  Instead she sighed and leaned back heavily in her chair.  Her head was still bobbing.  She crossed her legs.  Her foot twitched involuntarily.  Her right index finger tapped the back of her left hand.  When not talking she continuously pursed her lips.


Bishop was gripping the edge of his desk.  He looked down at his knuckles, which were white.  “So all I can give you now is advice, Linda.  I know you’re not crazy, but they’re going to make you crazy here if you let them.  My advice is this.  Do whatever they want you to do.  Be submissive, polite, even.  Pretend you are an enemy prisoner of war.  You’re right.  These people are out to hurt you.”

He looked up at her.  For the first time she was looking him in the eyes.  Bishop took a deep breath.  “I’m telling you my honest opinion, Linda.  Pulling no punches.  I know you can hear me.  I know you understand – somewhere.  The only success I’ve had is to get them to back off on the ECT.  So long as you continue to behave yourself.  So that’s your chance.  Give them another 30 days or so with complete submission.  Talk in a quiet voice.  Agree with everything they ask.  Be polite.  Smile.  Crawl.  Snivel.   It’s an act.  That’s all they want.  Normally I know you’re noisy.  You shout a lot.  Because you’re angry and because you don’t quite realise how the world is structured.  I’m asking you to suppress that tendency for long enough to get you out of here.”


She looked down at her tapping forefinger.  Her voice was a whisper.  “Thanks.”

“Meanwhile,” he continued, “we’ll still have our sessions here.  When the section is lifted, you can leave.  I’ll give you my home telephone number on my card.  Call me.  I’ll see you privately.  I think I can help.  But right now you’ve got to help yourself.  What I’m saying is very important.  You must really try and understand as much as you can.”


Her nodding head was still fixed on her lap.  She was silent, but Bishop knew she wanted to speak.  So he waited.  One minute passed, then two.  He tried not to look at his watch.  It seemed like an hour, but after nearly ten minutes she finally spoke.

“I don’t have the money to pay you privately…no money.  Benefits…”


Bishop laughed wryly.  “Money.  It’s the first point of reference.  Even in an insane asylum.  There’s no charge, Linda.  You don’t need to bring money.”

He stopped suddenly and looked at the blank wall where a window should have been.  “I’m beginning to believe it’s impossible to heal the sick and lame if there is an exchange of money.  It corrupts.  It corrodes.  It cheapens.  It sickens.” +

“Another coffee?”

Bishop nodded, and the Red Yank got up and lumbered over to the kettle.  He poured from a pitcher filled with filtered water.  Then he opened the cupboard looking for the instant coffee.


Bishop peered back out the window.  Mr Too Many Noise was just starting his car.  “I’ve been having flashbacks recently.  Some sort of time warp.”

The Red Yank poured the boiling water over the coffee and added milk.  “Yeah?  Like what?”


“Well…”  Bishop started then stopped.  He took the coffee mug from the Red Yank and held it in both lean hands.  He stared at the coffee and realised the Red Yank had put in too much milk.  “I’m not even sure what a ‘normal’ flashback is, but these are – without a doubt – different.  They have a strong flavour of déjà vu.  However, déjà vu is temporally linked to this universe.  What happens in déjà vu happens in ‘real’ time.  My flashbacks don’t.  They must open out into some other universe before folding back into this one.  What is happening may take hours.  Days.  Yet when I re-enter this time zone only a second or two has passed.  If that.  The details of the flashback are as clear as now, even if it happened many years ago.  Every connecting memory is there, everyone else’s words…”

A crow screamed noisily past the kitchen window.


The Red Yank sat down in the chair.  It creaked.  “Goddamn crows.  They’re everywhere these days.”

“You’ve noticed them too?”


“You can’t help but notice ’em.  More aggressive up at the park, like they’re gonna take the food right out of your hand.”

The big man paused and stared out the window past Tom Bishop’s shoulder.  “You know, for years and years I thought very little changed.  Other people saw changes, but I didn’t.  Oh, yeah, the furniture was rearranged every year, moved around into different places.  But it was the same furniture, maybe a different coat of paint.  I’d return to my home town in North Carolina.  Maybe the old movie houses were closed down or turned into Baptist churches.  The old Dairy Queen was a parking lot for a shopping centre.  The main street wasn’t as important as it was then.  But the people were more or less the same.  School buses, kids playing – high school’s a little different but still there – cars of young fellers cruising at night lookin’ for girls.  Plenty of TV, plenty of stuff on TV – same kind of stuff, a little different, but still mostly mediocre crap.  New cars taking the place of old cars but pretty much the same, except shinier.  People going to work, eating too much, fast food joints, drive-ins….”


He tailed off.  But Bishop was still staring out the window so he continued.  “Then, suddenly, it all seemed to change.  Bang, bang.  Done.  Wham.  Slam.  Finished.  Gone home.  And you know what I think that dates from, you skinny asshole?”

He waited briefly for an answer, but Bishop didn’t move.  “The fall of the USSR.  Don’t laugh.  I’m serious.  If anything dominated the 20th Century it was the commie menace.  October, 1917.  Ten days that shook the world.  And it did shake!  The windows of every banker on earth rattled and rolled.  Every landowner’s set of teeth chattered.  For the first time in over 200 years you saw fear in the faces of capitalists.  The workers had just taken over the biggest land mass in the world!  Everywhere else there was only the smell of shit as the wealthy loaded up their drawers.  How did it shake the world?  Well, it started happening fast.  They closed down World War I because the Russians were passing out political literature in the trenches, and allied and enemy units began a series of mutinies – most of these were hushed up.  Fascism was invented shortly thereafter as an alternate nationalistic attraction for the workers.  Hitler and Mussolini were rushed to the foreground while the bankers rebuilt Germany so it could be used to crush the new Soviet Union, but Hitler was as crazy as a lard-assed loon.  He made a deal with the USSR and hit Poland and France instead.  When he did invade the USSR it was like toy terrier bitin’ the ass of a two-ton bear.  The Red Army disembowelled the Nazis and laid their guts out on the Eastern Front to dry.  Hitler had done the impossible.  He united the USSR and made it into one of the two mightiest countries on earth…”


Tom Bishop was grinning.  The Red Yank was into his favourite subject.  “So what has all that got to do with how things changed a few years ago, you old windbag?”

“Aha,” the Red Yank held up a wagging forefinger.  “What happened in the rest of the world after the ten days that shook it?  You had recognition of trade unions, you had socialist political parties, you had Keynesian economics and the introduction of the welfare state.  Free medicine, free law, guaranteed pensions, dole money when you’re out of work, and I don’t know whatall.  Big change, huge change – and then the collapse of capital in 1929.  They wanted to give the workers something before they took it all!  That’s what Roosevelt and the European welfare states were all about.  Revolution was happening.  Wars were ignited.  Hell was breaking loose….”


The Red Yank stopped suddenly and went out of the kitchen.  When he returned he held a cigar in one hand and a cutter with the other.  He continued talking as he clipped off the end of the cigar and lit it.  “Then you had fifty years of the so-called cold war as the Soviet economy was hammered and battered from every which direction.  The collapse was so quick and final it surprised everybody, including me and every general and politician in the west.  Whoosh.  Gone.  In a matter of months all the wonderful ideals lay crumbled and rusty and corrupted in the gutter.  The red flag still waved in other parts of the world, but the biggest foe was being shredded by rats and vultures.  Whatever wealth had been transferred to the many – not all of it, you can bet your ass - was pretty quickly grabbed back by the few.  And then they started here.  Europe hasn’t been hit by anything like this since the Vandals and Goths sacked Rome.  Now you got change, buddy.  Change is coming at you faster’n shit off a shovel.  Look at the streets!  Covered in beggars!  I never saw that when I first came to this country.”

The Red Yank held out his hand with the cigar clamped between two fingers.  “Any spare change?  Buddy can you spare a dime?  Soon we’ll be up to our ass in cripples as well, Oliver Twist all over again…”


“And that’s only the beginning,” Bishop said as he turned back to the Yank.  “That’s what I feel.  We’re cattle.  Or pigs.  Billions of us now, rolling around on top of each other covered in our own filth.  I don’t know about your commie crap, but it’s certainly a market.  We’re reaching some kind of saturation point.  The demons are waiting over the crest of the hill.  I can hear them sometimes.  Gobbling and hooting, hopping around in horny, one-eyed ecstasy in anticipation of the coming slaughter.”

The Red Yank laughed as he sat with the cigar in his mouth and puffed smoke up at the stained kitchen ceiling.  “These flashbacks you’ve been having.  I think I’ve been having ’em too.  Or something like that.  But mine are kind of elusive fuckers.  Can’t remember ’em as well.”


“You’ve had them?”  Bishop leaned forward, more intense.

The Yank took his cigar out of his mouth and flicked ash into the ashtray.  “Well, I think so.  What you tried to tell me sounded familiar.  Like I’ve been there.  Or was it déjà vu?”


He shrugged his shoulders and sucked on the cigar before continuing.  “As you know, I lie on the bed for a couple of hours each day, thinking.  Or sleeping.  Or fucking.  But mostly thinking.  I go into a kind of meditation, a trance, and it’s during these episodes that I feel something happens.  Ping.  Ping.”

Bishop was propped on his elbows.  “Do you recall when they started?”


“Not really,” the Red Yank shook his head. 

“Maybe it’s this house,” Bishop murmured as he leaned back and sipped his coffee.  “We’ve talked about it before.”


“Fiction is a funny thing.”  The Red Yank propped his foot on the extra chair.  “Which is why I listen to you.  If I close my eyes, though, and let my mind go, it does sometimes feel as if we’re on some kind of vector.  During those moments I feel like we’re building up for a battle, the good guys against the bad guys, light against darkness, a showdown of some sort.  I don’t think the earth is full of pigs.  There are some pigs, that’s right enough.  But most people, well, they’re not riff-raff.  They’re just floatin’ along on the water trying to keep their heads above the waves.  Not really thinking what’s happening to them…”



“Yeah, slaves.  That’s right.  Whether we’re talkin’ about capitalism or feudalism or the Roman system, one thing’s for certain.  The only safe place to squeeze is the bottom.  If you try and take from those who’ve got plenty, you get your hands bitten off.  In many ways I’d rather have been a slave back then than a slave now.  For a start, you knew where you were.  Today everybody thinks they’re free, and the stress of trying to force that kind of reality into this kind of illusion must damn near overwhelm human ability…”

Bishop had just finished rolling a very thin cigarette.  He examined it carefully without lighting it.  “You won’t believe me, but that’s the important factor.  Stress.  It’s not just part of the equation, it’s part of the answer.  It’s true.  Slavery today is much worse than slavery was in Imperial Rome…”


He finally put the fag in his mouth and lit it with the Red Yank’s lighter.  “I’ve got a theory I’m trying to fit round my experiences.  It comes from an old legend.  We could be fallen angels.  Something like fallen angels.”

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