Category Archives: SHORT STORIES


© 2013 by Michael Skywood Clifford

When I discovered my brother was still determined to destroy the horse I knew his venomous passion against it still burned. It was cursed, he said. He had come to believe that having it anywhere near him was bad luck. I have always believed the opposite, my proximity to the horse always brought me good fortune.

I remember my joyous childhood in Westphalia, riding on the rocking horse’s back, dressed in my black and white cowboy fringes, and looking out of the window into the vast fields of sunshine. Yet, when it was left behind in Germany and I returned to England, my happiness fled and my life clouded into a dreadful teenage of mental problems and institutions.

The horse however was eventually returned to our family and instantly again I felt its benign presence. Especially during my years at Brunel University where I came down with a first in Egyptology. My brother, on the other hand, only had bad experiences with it. He had suffered a dreadful fever when it had been stored at his house for merely a fortnight. Two years later, when he stayed in a house where the rocking horse was on display, the new arrival to his family, his beloved daughter, Hanna, died of cot death. Afterwards he always associated the horse with evil and never stopped cursing it.

The propinquity of the horse seems most terrifying to me as I write this history.

According to the information provided by my grandmother the horse originated in Persia and then spent some time in Hanover before coming into our family in the mid Nineteenth century. In 1835, when it was originally carved it was imbued with some special wood joints which, according to legend, became alive with magic when covered with colourful paint.

Yes, it was only four days ago when I learnt again of my brother’s intent on destroying it. It was presently being stored at my Aunty’s and doing neither him harm nor me good, so why should he be so passionate? I believe he resented that its magic would give me some some overall advantage in the run of our lives. We had always been highly competitive with each other and did not care for each other at all. He did not want me to have any advantage if he could help it.

I went up to my Aunty’s – where the horse had been stored – to assess reclaiming it within the next few days. It had to come out of her house because her bungalow was due for extensive building work. After a chat and a cup of tea with her in the lounge, I went into the ‘Majorca room’, so called because my aunty’s late husband, Gordon, had been an advocate of all things Spanish.

The room was light and airy with mats on a tiled floor. It sported a 70s interior bar, exhibiting bottles of Cinzano, Martini and Black and White whiskey, all with their period labels; nothing had been changed since Gordon’s death. All around the room was paraphernalia of his fairground trade: soft wrapped toys, a ventriloquist’s doll and a shoe box in which a fake mouse could be moved with a hidden lever from beneath to scare young women. On the floor were large brown chimpanzees that could play the snare drum or tambourine when their clockwork was wound up.

Then I studied it: my wonderful horse at the end of the room. I hadn’t laid eyes on it for months. Some time in the past the horse had been restored and remained well maintained. Its head arched in a swagger of style. Its leather saddle and rustic bridle contrasted with the dapple grey pattern on its flanks. Its heavy-lidded black irises penetrated me with the brittleness of jade, with the aloofness and deadness of hieroglyphic eyes. Its teeth protruded as if about to bite and the blood of vermilion painted inside its flaring nostrils and around its gums looked as if it had already bit deep. It was impressive and I felt proud to be standing in its aura again.

My auntie had now joined me in the room and asked where it was going in my home. “In pride of position in the front bay window,” I explained. I felt a charge, an energy, a force standing next to it. It had been at my aunty’s too long!

The telephone in the hall rang and my heart began racing. My aunty returned with alarm on her face and the receiver in her hand; it was my brother. He was madly irate. He was coming over, he barked on the phone, and he was going to finish the horse forever. I attempted to calm him but he cut me off abruptly. I grew alarmed. I knew he was now on his way.

My aunty began whimpering knowing the volatility and violence of my brother. But I wasn’t going to put up with any of his nonsense. These days I always travel armed. I always carry my pistol to protect myself.

Even though I hadn’t come to retrieve the horse today, I was forced to bring my plans forward. I set about, as quickly as possible, to get the horse into my car. It was large but its body separated from its pedestal, so I was convinced some combination could be made to fit it into my moderately sized Renault. However I was slow in action and time raced because I hadn’t achieved anything by the time we heard my brother’s car pulling into the drive.

I hate my brother. I regarded this present behaviour of his as intolerable. I became utterly incensed at his arrival. I went into a bedroom over looking the front drive. I put my revolver out of the window and fired a warning shot at his windscreen. It shattered. He jumped out and ran to the back of the building skip at the front of the drive to protect himself from my fire. He carried something but I couldn’t quite make out what.

I went back into the ‘Majorca Room’. I tried to pull the body of the horse away from its pedestal but for some reason the two sections seemed stuck. As I struggled, I could swear I heard the rocking horse breathing heavily, then actually snorting. I stopped and looked at it and its head seemed to have developed an animation. Despite its eyes looking like death from a unknown and dark dimension, they now seemed to want to communicate.

For some reason I became apprehensive, fear brought up the hairs on my neck; my eyes watered, my body trembled. A red horse ran past me, a horse of blood, a horse of war. This made no sense. I tried to pull myself together. As well as my brother closing in, I suddenly felt that the mental problems I had suffered in my youth were closing in too.

I could hear shouting in the hall, the whimpering of my aunty. And then, as expected, my brother careered into the room and stood before me. I turned, I aimed for his leg, but he leapt towards the horse and I mistakenly fired straight into his chest. I swallowed with horror.

He groaned and with stupendous effort he unstopped the bottle he was carrying and poured its contents all over the horse. He then gradually slid to the floor. He sat bleeding on the tiles surrounded by passive clockwork monkeys.

I was frozen with inaction. I could neither move, speak nor think. Much as I knew fast action to save my brother was of the greatest necessity, I was a block of stone. My aunty fortunately had gone down the corridor and had rang for an ambulance.

Now, here in this accursed institution, I despair of my fate. When the ambulance arrived the police came also. My brother was taken to hospital (where I am informed he’s still in intensive care) and I was taken to the police station. Then the damage my brother had perpetrated to the horse became immediately apparent. Paint stripper had eaten its dappled pattern, swathes of grey ooze ran down its flanks, red paint dripped from its nose. This accumulating miasma of colour was causing potential damage to the hardened tiles of the ‘Majorca Room’. The rocking horse was quickly thrown into the skip by two helpful police officers.

And if this wasn’t bad enough, yesterday I received even worse news. My aunt, wearing an expression of woe, came to see me here.

I pleaded with her to rescue my horse from the skip but, alas, it was too late. A father and his two young children had noticed it there. He asked if he could take it to restore it for his children. Vexed by the continual friction it had always caused in the family, my aunt agreed. The man later returned with a van and took it away.

Now I am incarcerated in this asylum. I shake with terror at what may befall me without my beloved rocking horse’s protective influence. It is lost to me as I am lost.



© 1999 by Michael Clifford

Pentatonic, pentatonic, pentatonic, the rail sleepers sang to Millie in swing time, as the train entered urban sprawl. She was beginning to feel a bit edgy.

“Hey babe, you’ll love me tonight, heh?” suggested Ronny the sax man.

“It’ll cost you. You couldn’t afford it.”

“Whadya want, a wedding ring?”

“Nothing as pricey as that.”

They were only getting expenses tonight: it was a big publicity gig for a government-based charity and the boys moaned about it as they rattled towards Birmingham New Street. “I hate playing without our own gear,” scowled Mike.

“The back-line that they provide will be exactly as we specified,” said Millie, hoping she was right.

Coloured neon reflected in wet puddles. Drip. Millie dawdled along the shining city concourse. Chain store doorways sheltered captive window- shoppers. Traffic splashed gutter-drizzle over late night fashion victims. Drip. The boys had remained in the bar. The kit – which was fine – was in in-house and the sound check was over. As she wouldn’t be changing into a glittering stage-fairy until 11.30 – and as the flu of pre gig tension was ailing her – she had needed to get out. It should be ‘Singing In The Rain’ not ‘Crying In The Rain’, but she was a blues singer. I stand at the Crossroads with a vodka in my hand.

In this business you get addicted to everything.

If the claps of one performance could be added to the claps of the next, and so on, then this job would be heaven. But it’s not, she thought, unless you become a star. You have to go out and fill yourself up everyday. The trouble is you always want more, more….

She had woken up that morning to be phoned by agent Charlie Curtis to see if she wanted to front a Gladys’s Night tribute band. He listed the personnel involved. 

“Unlikely,” she said, “but I’ll have a think about it and ring you back. 

With her Modigliani portraits looking down on her, she lay on her ruby-red carpet and discussed the idea with her spider plant. She turned over her press clippings kept carefully in a white wedding album. She sighed when she came to the photos of her time on backing vocals with John May all. Everyone had said big things were in store for her, but only little packages arrived. Her heart warmed at the snapshots of the Ghetto Blues Band recording sessions in the early 80s. They had been fun days. The book closed and she poured herself a small vodka.

After those sessions the hotter opportunities cooled – it was just one jazz and blues club or function after another. Her ambition seemed to desert her when her father died and left her.

She gossiped the afternoon hours away bagging cardigans with the girls at Fenwick’s Knitwear. This deflated ‘Prima Donna’ tendencies, and kept her down to earth for which she was grateful. In the early evening she rang Charlie back. Thanks for the offer, Charlie, but no. She couldn’t let her own boys down. The type casting would restrict her own style. And, anyway, how long could she keep going. She was over 40 and was getting a bit long in the tooth for this wailing business.

In the dressing room she sobered her anxiety with another drink. She didn’t feel up to it tonight. She couldn’t do it. She was tired; she had a sore throat. She felt it coming on during the journey over.

Her body shrunk in anticipation. Desirous of intoxication but fearful of the needle of the audience.

At last. With five minutes to go, she could hear her band on the stage whipping up the audience: the raw jangling rhythm, the open tuned slide guitars, the kick bass comes in, the snare, the brass stabs, the whole grove, and then eventually she could hear herself being introduced by the DJ.

“People. You’ve been waiting. Well… here she is at last! Give a big reception to the Midland’s Queen of Blues, Millie Delton, and her renowned backing band, The Bluenoses!”

She placidly thought of the legendary Billie Holiday. She must have faced this joyful dread every night. Standing up to be shot down; an emotional clown, winding everyone up to the peak of emotion but at the same time exposing everything she had, making herself naked, vulnerable, leaving nothing for herself, somehow leaving herself empty, empty, empty…

Crazy. She was singing such emotionally wild lyrics – yet her own emotional life was simplified.

After three deep breaths she moved to the wings, then as she came on stage, she steadied herself with the microphone stand and felt the vodka slosh around in her legs. Her entire body surged with electricity. Lights came on in her head. Home! The place she knew in myopic sensual detail: the hum of the crowd; the buzz of the amplification; the taste of smoke; the chink of glasses; the low burble of intimate conversation. 

For a micro second she stood there – a woman in a red satin dress, white pearls, red nails and transparent crystal earrings – radiant; beaming to the audience. Behind her where her boys; a tidy crew of black suits, white shirts and metallic green bow ties and glittering golden brass.

Without another second the band dropped their funk groove and fused into a raucous 12 bar blues run down complete with wild crying of electric guitar. Down it came, down, down, down and then the whole band stopped dead.

Smack on time, she hit it, giving it everything she had.

I can wash out 44 pairs of socks and have them hanging out on the line
I can starch and iron 2 dozen shirts ‘fore you can count from one to nine
I can skip up a big dipper full of lard from the drippin’s can
Go out do my shoppin’ be back before it melts in the pan
Cause I’m a woman W-O-M-A-N, I’ll say it again….

The old Peggy Lee classic had the crowd instantly.

Despite her earlier doubts, musical emotion poured from every inch of her skin. She was it: passionate, raunchy. compulsive, raw. edgy, wild, pulsating, hypnotic and utterly dynamic as she worked the stage. She didn’t sing a song, she wore it. Everyone’s eyes were on her. Every man in the audience was transfixed by her passion and sensuality. They wanted her. But she knew they would not approach her. They rarely did – apart from the odd arrogant jerk. Her intensity frightened them. She was the stuff dreams were made of, but not of real life. She was as passionate as a panther in love, with a panther’s bite. Never put your daughter on the stage, Mrs. Worthington. Actresses are trouble.

“Watermelon man everywhere but not one to buy me a drink,” she said to the audience between numbers by Bessie Smith and Willie Dixon. Not long after she was surprised to receive a couple of vodkas in the wings.

There was a fair wind, the sky was blue, rhythm, melody and harmony were in synchronicity. It was a slipstream night. Songs followed from Sam Cooke, Clara Smith, Cole Porter, Howlin’ Wolf, Gershwin, Etta James and Smokey Robinson amongst others. Songs that would move a lot of people’s hearts – and a lot of alcohol from behind the bar.

“…get out of here and get me some money too!” she concluded after her third encore. The house came down again. More! More! More! But she had gone. ‘Always leave the crowd asking’ was something she had learned a long time ago.

She felt great! Adrenaline! The deeper the anxiety before a gig, the greater the release afterwards. She felt clean, guilt free; even sanctified: she had performed her penance.

“We got some good gigs out of tonight,” said Mike. “I’ve had loads of business cards and three definites and two agents. Top dosh.” said drummer Dave in the dressing room.

“Tell me Millie, in ‘Gold Bless The Child That’s Got His Own Bed’ how come no one ever sings ‘bed’?”

“The songwriter couldn’t get the words to fit the music,” said Millie giggling.

“Millie, your tingle factor got up to concert E,” said Ronnie, blowing the note on his alto sax, his eyes widening comically.

Like a cat before a roaring fire, she purred with a cosy vodka in hand. She had learnt something. The whole of her past life had been a rehearsal for tonight. As it would be for tomorrow’s performance, and the next night’s. It felt so good. It was her life. She couldn’t give it up. It was more than a job, or a craft, or an art. Blues was her prayer and expression. It made her completely whole – at least for a short while. Whatever the words, the singing was more than a song. It was a ritual; a catharsis of disappointment in deep love and attachment.

But the most important thing was:- that the catharsis was shared.




©1982 by Michael Skywood Clifford

He had felt it before. Not that long ago. An electricity; a convulsion; a quake of fear; a beautiful nausea – an unbearable tension. A need to impress and a need not to at all. A need to be kind and gentle, yet a desire to kick out and show his wants, to retain his personality – to curb the witchcraft.

He had been alone for a week or two, getting on with things quite happily when she returned from holiday. Work became unbearable again. He felt dominated, dwarfed by her; going out of his way to avoid her. She made him feel so nervous, so incapable, so transparent and inferior somehow. Not at all he imagined how she would want him to feel. She would just want him to be friendly but that he found a strangling but necessary ordeal.

He didn’t want her for sex. Well he did, but it wasn’t just lust. In many ways he didn’t find her pretty at all but she was electric somehow. Yes, it was sexual, but only square one on the snakes and ladders board with a the future of a terrifying snake to slide down from square ninety nine. So he’d keep away, let it die. Her proximity, the thought of her made his breathing quicken; she knotted his mind with delightful anxiety.

What bothered him was that he didn’t want to worry about what she thought of him. He couldn’t afford to speculate it was too dangerous to dwell on such matters.

How much was she a games player? How much did she realise her female chemicals had activated his psyche? Women are never stupid in such matters.

Then later that day – and he had seen nothing of this woman that day – he went into a bookshop. He picked up a book called ‘The Affect of Intelligence’, or similar by Krishna Mirti. It said (wrongly quoted) ‘We all need stimulating things and they are all escape’. Then it said, ‘Relationships are the most important things in life’. Isn’t that contradictory, he wondered. Surely he is saying escape is what we are after then? But Evidently not. Krishna Mirti made it clear on the next page once again that escape was to be avoided.

Our hero left the bookshop most confused, relieved that Indian and metaphysical philosophy didn’t affect him as it used to. However some things he had read stayed with him all day. ‘We all create images of others and ourselves which are wrong and damaging to ourselves and others’. (Actually he agreed with this).

‘… And then we end up becoming isolated and neurotic’.

He didn’t like that. But the book also said ‘seeking relationships, and games with people, clubs, societies and the safety of similar thinking is escape’.

‘What a nutcase!’ thought our hero defensively. ‘You can’t win with him. He is no leader. That’s probably what he’s trying to say through being a leader.’

He met Mike later and told him about it. Mike said, ‘You don’t want to read all that pseudo bull-shit.’

‘You might be right,’ said our hero.

Anyway, who is our hero?

Our hero is the human race who have a compulsion to eat, drink, copulate, smoke, indulge, etc.

…to fast, to restrain, to atone, pay penance, to deify, etc.

Our hero is the middle mast sailing in the eddy between two currents.

Our hero likes to have the permanent pain of stark consciousness blotted out by drink or drugs or distraction, he needs a woman (self evident) – or not – and needs some bond however fragile.

Our hero wants:
To be loved
To feel alive
To be an executive
To own stocks and shares
To fulfill romantic images, stereotypes and roles that all fiction has passed onto him
To talk it out
To be everyone’s friend

But our hero may have some trifling problems:
Self disgust
Doubt of self worth
Fear of people
A growing ego of colossal scale in proportion with his rejections
Falling into the armchair and enjoying being dumbed down

‘But I’m afraid I’m lonely,’ said our hero. ‘Meeting people, even superficially, even nice people, doesn’t kill that loneliness – in some ways it makes it worse. The more I go chasing people the lonelier I feel.”  Well not really. I’ve never actually tried it, but I sense that to be true. Going out to talks, films and shows, I’ve always felt quite stimulating.

“Can you stand to be with people and not become leader, stimulator, organiser?’ he asked me. ‘Can you be merely a quiet but a well considered member?’ I didn’t answer. This all smells of weakness. Whose weakness?

‘Is it surprising I don’t know what I want? One’s ideology can only be an extension of one’s personality

or obviously it will be an ill fitting glove.’

Where are my good manners?

Relationships need development like a melody

With this beautiful thought he left the room.


An hour later he sat next to the woman. It took him by surprise. Everyone sat around. He chatted to her. Funny silences. Then she got up, left the room, returned and sat next to him. Then she got up and left the room again, and someone else – another woman – almost took her seat. Our hero somehow managed to stop this happening. While she was talking to this other woman, the woman returned and he felt she was going to sit elsewhere – but she didn’t. She sat next to him.

The electricity was terrible. Body language; legs pointing this way and that. Then as she kept playing with her plaits, she kept touching him with her arm.


But it wasn’t as obvious as that and sadly our hero probably misconstrued it, and it meant nothing.

He always overestimated women’s evaluation of touching.

But he felt something – it must be true. No. Yes. No. Yes. Sadly our feelings are often wrong.

No, not totally. There’s something there.


Then later as they were driving along in his car towards Reading, she started talking about her husband. She couldn’t drive with his hand on her knee, she said, and our hero said, ‘I wouldn’t object if you were my passenger’. She laughed, embarrassed, but he was pleased with the comment and the inevitable rejection it invoked. It killed some of her power over him, as did all innuendo comments.

Then later she talked to him over a cup of coffee about what it was like to be female.
She said she had a violent relationship with a boy. She hadn’t exactly consented to making love on this occasion and had become pregnant. Bitterness, resentment, a refusal of marriage on her part, then off to abort. The lover sped after her in a stolen Rover with a crow bar to stop it, but he was unsuccessful. A mess; a pain; who and where is Heathcliffe? I presume he is yet to arrive.

Our hero spent five days in her company, driving her to and from a course. She was a captive in his car; she was inside him, inside his car. He couldn’t put his arms around her but he could softly immure her into his metal world.

One day they had a conversation about literature and visual art. He was staggered by it. That night he lay in bed and made up a picture in his mind and she was in them all. He considered her physical insubstantiability; a ghost with blonde ringlets. She was particularly light on touch, and sometimes light on sincerity. On heavier matters her sincerity wasn’t in question. She was a sad person, or she projected herself to our hero from such a stance. Perhaps it was personality marketing techniques – perhaps she was delivering what she thought he wanted. No, a sad person.

One day she told our hero she was leaving, she had got a better job. He was surprised and happy/sad about it. He liked her very much, respected her, he told himself. Then he had a few days off with the flu and she’d gone by the time he returned to work.

Three weeks later he left as well and returned back to the home counties.




© 1998 by Michael Clifford

An entry to a competition in Foreward, a writer’s magazine. Write a story called ‘The Season’ using no more than 1450  words.

Gradually, May rambled into June, and rambling was how Lana and Jerry met.

The late snowfall had melted and the bleating of newly born lambs had faded. Diehard bluebells sapphired the woodlands as buttercups gilded the meadows. In the village gardens, daffodils had given way to pansies, forget me knots, blazing baskets of fuchsia, all parading within the dreamy spray of rosebud scent. Turned-on clocks created an English scenery of light nights and vowed days without end.

Lana, an English art teacher had read ‘A Brief History Of Time’. Jerry, an American physicist, had a daughter who wanted to be a sculptor. So they found – as they made footprints together around the common – they already had something in common.

She liked him. She wrote that evening in her diary: ‘It is a time to reveal and a time to withhold, a time to reach out and a time to hold back’. In the next week, struggling with these paradoxes, she joined him on a canal walk and a museum visit.

Then came blistering July: blue sky, white clouds, blue lake, white swans. Feeding white crumbs to orange beaks, Jerry and Lana told each other of their lives. “All was devoured,” Lana later wrote in her diary. “The ripeness of our own understanding of who we are, now shared.” The March-wind loneliness of each other’s divorce became touchable to the other, as the long shadows of a Constable painting cocooned them in the warm yellow evening of the solstice.

All over the community, as the heat-wave defied local radio statistics, pullovers, cardigans, boots, electric blankets, hot water bottles and heavy clothing were buried out of sight. Winter had been abolished, the word was stuck out of the dictionary. It had never existed.

Balancing on the edge of things, between worlds, Lana sketched by the water side, with ladybirds, midges, thunder-bugs and the lilt of the lapping reservoir for company. It’s rippled surface mirrored the reeds, the grassy banks and the oak trees. “Perhaps a lover is like a mirror,” she mused aloud, “throwing back to me my own reflection.”

Caterpillars had shed their unwanted parts and the mad dance of butterflies exploding from hedgerows had begun. The summer hummed as metallic dragon flies glinted in the sunlight. Lana watched ‘water-boatmen’ insects skate on the surface of the village pond as Jerry reminded her of the miracle of surface tension.

Sunday cricket, village fetes, gymkhanas, agricultural shows, stately homes and garden barbecues. Jerry and Lana became the tourists of their own lives. At other times, they would banter in the garden of the Bull’s Head, a stone’s throw from his rented cottage. Here, much of the entertainment was in the form of observing Ibiza-hopping, chocolate-skinned locals in their white fineries and brand ostentatious sunglasses – always with glass in hand – boasting of something they had acquired, or of somewhere they had been.

Lana and Jerry ventured south to the hot urban capital. She stepped over the cracks of London paving stones, noticing the weeds maturing between. He fed her strawberries and cream at Court number two. At Henley Regatta they couldn’t stop touching each other.

Later, back at home, she read him ‘Wind in the Willows’ and he once again tried to explain the importance of The Big Bang.

But what came before the Big Bang?” she queried, “The Big Foreplay?”

While the bees buzzed from flower to flower, unwittingly executing nature’s design, two cold showers a day became a necessity for Jerry in the heat.

The interior upholstery burned through his shirt. His sweaty hands slid over the slippery steering wheel, as his four wheel drive cut through the moorland, taking Lana home in the afternoon. The radiator gasped of thirst. Tyres bulged near to bursting with expanding air. The asphyxiating stench of petrol. He stopped and opened the sun roof.

He laid her down in a field of golden corn and kissed her passionately. Soft breezes touched him, rustling wind spoke to him.

Later, with windows open, the smell of neighbours new cut grass, insects adrift, the duvet on the floor, under the whirling fan, their thirst was quenched again. “This summer you will need to keep on top of my garden,” she said.

You are an English Rose in bloom,” he said to her, in August, in a country lane, placing a wild raspberry in her mouth.

Whatever you do, don’t quote me a Shakespeare sonnet about being as fair as a summer’s day,” she said, pointing to the bags under her eyes.

I love you,” he drawled.

But, as the English roads wind and as the English hills roll, English love rarely runs straight.” she laughed. “One out of three roads end up in court.”

One Sunday, he played her Gerswin and she introduced him to Vaughn Williams. Next day, as a lark ascended in a meadow, she could hear the passionate voices of Summertime moving with the breeze.

Another fine day, he e-mailed her, from the University research lab, in the form of a telegram :I SEND YOU MY LOVE STOP.

She replied by telephone in a metallic computer voice: “But when you send me your love do you send it in particles or in waves?”

Brown slippery skin on white sand. In the dog days of summer, in the noon of the year, in Terracina, he applied Amber Solitaire to her back and poured Italian Secco Bianco Vino down her throat.

I’m dancing on sunshine’, she sang. “Thank god for summer holidays from school.”

One evening, in the Bull’s Head garden, his joke about one of the local poseurs made her literally cry with laughter. By the light of the harvest moon, they could both see within each other a core that ached with desire – and they both enjoyed the suspension and anticipation of that desire.

One afternoon, returning home from the library, she found a flock of squawking crows in her front garden. Having fought her way to her front door, her attention became focused on colonies of arts forming around the entrance paving slabs. In the kitchen she noticed an over-ripe banana and a mouldy tomato rotting in the vegetable rack. She felt vexed for the first time in months. It had been a day of irritations, negative appraisals, insect bites and itchy heat bumps; even her period was late.

And leaves gradually begin to discolour.

One weekend, they laughed all the way on a rail ‘Saver Ticket’ to Skegness. Families, beach balls and over large grandmas. A storm battled with the sun, as a torrential downpour welcomed them. Looking at the rainbow after the warm rain Lana remembered a quote, “No one cares what the weather is like if they are happy.”

In these Indian summer days, when they were not at Jerry’s cottage, they spent much time in the garden of the Bull’s Head. Tonight, both had been uncharacteristically quiet.“Building up courage has a restraining effect upon verbosity,” a ‘Wildeism’ she wrote later. She knew she had to tell him, she couldn’t put it off any longer. She flicked away the wasp from a spilt pool of lager and turned to him.

September has blown in and I’m with child.”

The wasp began on a flight path that would inevitably end up at her face; she knocked it away. Then, watching it fly off to another table, she added calmly, “I’m 36 and I’m having my first baby – yours.”

He was looking down into his whiskey sour. She noticed how sweat had claimed areas of his white cotton shirt, turning their colour to a disgusting shade of peach.

He said, “Well….there’s something I haven’t told you. I’ve been meaning to…. I have to leave Britain soon. I have to return to the States. My company wants me back – and so does my daughter – ”

– So your physics is taking you away from my biology,” she interrupted. Her delivery was deadpan, emotionless, calm, reasonable.

No….I’ve been meaning to ask you to come with me, but I’ve been frightened….

How can I expect you to give up your roots, and your career – and these English summers? I want you to come with me. You and…. You will? You must.”

And the only summer they spent together in England ended. All others were in Syracuse, New York State USA as a threesome.



 ©2009 Michael Skywood Clifford

Jesus had arrived in Eastbourne on Monday at eleven o’clock in the morning.

Earlier that day he had been happy sitting on his dependable garden chair in Heaven surrounded by his favourite four cherubs. Each one had a different face: a man, an eagle, a bull and lion and they all sang beautifully. He had looked at the happy people walking by in their grey robes inhaling the air as if it was music. He felt their joy in catching the aroma of roses which swirled in the musical ether. He lived in a house of many rooms, neither indoors or outdoors, where the atmosphere was sublime. Since the beginning of time it had always astonished him, it was always fresher than it had been the day before.

But happiness had left him later that morning, for when he looked down the stairway between heaven and earth where angels continually ascended and descended, he saw and heard how in the world of men things were changing. He had spent his earliest hours sending out love and healing but now he fell to weeping and was savagely reminded that after the fall of mankind, thorns or thistles had grown voraciously on Earth. He felt a deep pain of sorrow in his heart. “Forgive them for they know what they do,” said his mother, but he could see his mother had tears in her eyes too.

He looked more deeply and his sense of grief overwhelmed him. It seemed that men’s open hearts had been clamped with black padlocks. Greed, avarice, a lack of compassion and a motivation was exacerbating in human activity bringing greater and greater greed and consumerism? He knew the answer but spoke not.

A deep resonant voice suddenly came down from the depths of infinity: “I will watch and wait but I will not be prescient. I will boom and send a thunderbolt.”

“Thank you, Father,” said Jesus.

Then rays of light came from above, emanating from a bird flying overhead. “Is this to be the second coming?” it asked in series of loud squawks.

“That you shall see,” said Jesus, looking up and catching a white and grey bird out of the corner of his eye as it flew off.

Jesus ‘s heart was smitten with pity and sadness. He saw a cosmic golden ball of wool unraveling. He was shocked and upset to see that so much previous good work was being undermined. He had to act in a very direct way, yet was concerned because this was something he very much wanted to avoid.

* * * *

At around half past eleven, in the cellar of Nicholas Partnership Estate Agents in Eastbourne, a strange unearthly creature sat at a bench boiling pots of multi-coloured liquids, scrutinising them with great intensity. He was a demot, a creature who differed from a small naked man only in that he was covered in long black hair from head to foot, more in the way of a cat than a monkey. His ruddy face fought off black whiskers on either side, invading its central features which also shared feline qualities. He had little ironical eyes lost in fat that always looked as if he was squinting.

The demot was safe here, but when he went out into the streets he disguised himself to look like a short human by using spectacles, a long coat and a scarf.

Evian, a tall young woman sat across from the demot on another table. She was conversing on the phone. “That’s right, pull the plug, we don’t want that hospital. And make sure the Post Office and library are closed down too…”

“He’s here! Christ has come to Eastbourne!” said Moloch the demot excitedly in sniffy sort of voice. “I knew he would come eventually, didn’t I say?” He leered at Evian and swept back his black whiskers that were entangling his nose.

“I wish you didn’t make so many smells, Moloch, when you are casting spells,” said Evian looking askance at the demot. “It’s foul – and don’t be so ridiculous…” Then holding her nose, she returned to her phone call, “..and make sure those satanic metal groups are coming back into fashion and getting TV time. Okay, call you tomorrow.”

“It’s true!” Moloch screeched, becoming so animated at not being taken seriously, he pulled a boiled sweet from the copious supply in his shoulder bag and rasped and ground his teeth into it.

“Oh you are such a vile creature,” said Evian.

“I must do something! He’s really here! Look!”

“I think we have a few more decades before the apocalypse,” said Evian sighing as she got up.

Moloch crunched on his boiled sweets again and pointed to a flask of blue bubbling liquid as if his proof lay there.

“No, I’m going out to the shop. I can’t stand your stench in here.”

After she had gone Moloch stood up. “He’s so close, he could be standing outside in the street. I have to do something. I’ll put my coat on and go hunting. I’ll take my camera bag.”

* * * *

Jesus walked along the busy Eastbourne street and sat on a bench by the library. Two little boys and two slightly older girls, came and sat near him on the seat and began talking to him. He told them several stories before their mothers came over. One gave Jesus and his strange dress a withered look and took the children away. “Must be an actor or something?” she said to her companion as they walked off.

A clock struck the half hour of twelve so Jesus got up and crossed over to the Timeout Cafe. He ordered tea. He had milk but refrained from sugar.

He knew that Satan’s agents were already onto him; he had been photographed already by a strange creature near the library.

He sat at the cafe window table and continued to be entertained at the activity in the street: cars, buses, pedestrians, shoppers. Everyone moving about with such great intention in Terminus Street.

At the back of the cafe, by the stairs, a door opened and a tall youth with a birth-marked forehead came out. Jesus immediately turned to the young man and beckoned him.

“You want me, mate?” The young man was about nineteen or twenty, with a spiky hair cut. He accent had a pronounced London twang.

“Do you think what you do is the right thing to do?” asked Jesus

“What do you mean, mate?”

“You know exactly what I mean.”

The young man looked uncomfortable.

Jesus began talking to him, and soon ‘Street’, for that was what he called himself, had joined him at his table.

“Extortion, I didn’t know it was called that,” said Street. “It’s about making money. You ain’t the police is yous?”


“No one will employ me, see. I can’t read or write. I lost my parents when I was young and have to fend for m’self. People talk to me about minimum wages, but they’re crap. Who could survive on those? It’s ‘spensive out there you know.”

“Come, I will buy you a book called the Bible.”

“I said, I can’t read,”

“You will learn to read it, I promise you.”

“You’re weird. You’re not some sort of perv are you?”


“Well okay then, I ain’t cared. I’m walking down to the Arndale Centre.”

“The shopping centre?”

Street nodded.

“We will go in there, and after I have given you this gift, I will address the crowd,” said Jesus.

* * * *

Tony Newham couldn’t believe his luck. He wrote a column for the local paper and also worked as a scout for local community TV. Amazingly he had stumbled across a man dressed up in biblical clothes sermonising to people in the Arndale shopping mall. Tony couldn’t quite understand how the man’s voice communicated so crisply and audibly in the drowning reverb of the shopping mall’s corridors. He was also wondered how this man had collected such a mass of shoppers. He decided he had to talk to this chap.

* * * *

Evian was still making her frenetic phone calls, pleased to be in the cellar on her own.

“Yes that’s right, if we could get the Jerry Springer Opera on for the whole season we would be very pleased.” Suddenly she felt a door slam upstairs and she jumped up. She cut the call short. “Must go, boss is back. Taataa.”

She could feel the dark energy as he paced the floorboards above her. Didn’t sound like he was in a good mood. She thought for a moment, and then went up the stairs to the Estate Agent’s shop.

Satan stood alone in the shop. He was an extremely big man, six feet four and broad across the shoulders. He wore a purple shirt, tie-less but with black braces, although these were hidden on this occasion by his voluminous black jacket. His head was solid and block like, full of solid bone and his Doberman jaw warned of a dreadful bite, should he ever decide to restrain you. His eyes, which were now burning into Evian, were horizontal slits of bloodshot fire. He fingered nervously his somewhat overlong and over groomed moustache as he looked at her.

“Hello, Prince of Darkness.”

“Not right, something is not right!” he barked.

“I’ve managed to sell of a lot of old people’s homes off this morning, and much else.”

“What’s happening? Something’s happening? Where’s Moloch?”

“Our mission to replace the Virgin Mary in the hearts of young men with botox bimbos on page three of the tabloids seems to be going well.”

“Where’s Moloch!”

“He was here earlier. He left me a note that he was going out with his camera.”

“Look at me.” He  came close, gripped her shoulders and stared into her eyes. “I am the sweet thing you desire. You want to make love to me but as you do you discover I am devouring you, like a preying mantis. Now tell me what’s afoot…”

“He said something about… about… Christ arriving in Eastbourne.”

Satan’s head suddenly jerked up, he stepped back and let her go. Then there was a slight convulsion all the way down his body, like a minor nervous earthquake.

“So that is….” He became quiet and paced the floor.

“This I will not put up with!” he suddenly shouted enraged, slamming his fist down on the counter, making several house leaflets float to the floor. “What is he after? Surely not… A CONFRONTATION! …by his very nature he could never win it.”

Evian thought it best to say nothing.

“A confrontation…” he said more to himself than to Evian, and then the nervous tremor repeated itself. “I would say it’s most unusual, but I can feel him.”

“You mean it’s true? Christ really has come to Eastbourne? I thought Moloch was making it up this morning just to get some attention.”

Just at that moment the shop door opened and in came Moloch. He came quickly round to face Satan. He got down on his knees and spoke to Satan’s kneecap: “Oh my lord, the accuser, the evil one, the tempter, the old snake, the great dragon, the prince of this world, and the god of this world… Oh my lord, who seeks to hinder the establishment of God’s dominion through the life and suffering of Jesus Christ. .. the time has come.”

“Get up you snivelling stenchball. Tell me what’s happening about this arrival!”

Without getting up, Moloch looked up with utter devotion at the seething face of his master and said, “It is true. He is here. I have seen him. I have several photographs of him sitting on the bench outside the library talking to children. I did some predestination spells this morning and the fates told me his arrival was writ. My spells rarely fail me, and I felt it must be right, but it was so difficult to believe. But now I know! I have had the terror of actually seeing him!”

“Where is he now?”

“Not far away, I think. I came here as soon as I had the photographs to confirm to you my lord that we must act.”

Satan curled his moustache in his finger, “I see your thinking. The photographs will be useful,” he said.

The shop door opened again. This time it was Street.

Satan was horrified. He recognised the Bible in his hand at once. “Take that out of here!” he shouted, his face purple with rage. “That book is for the damaged, the handicapped, the sick, the weak, the misshapen, the ugly, the ill fitting. I – I- I -” he fell to stammering in his rage, “I am for the rich, the beautiful and the have-it-alls. Jump on MY back and you will make money and be successful – all for the bargain basement price of leaving me your hopeless soul. Read that book and be a poor failure who pursues hopeless struggles hopelessly. That is for those who sweep the factory floors, I am for the kings and rulers of the world! That book is for masochists, I am for sadists!”

The Street – who had only come in pay some money he owed – terrified, turned to leave but Satan called him back.


“Seen who?” he said shaking.

“The man who calls h-h-himself…”

Satan was too emotional to speak.

Evian spoke for him: “…Jesus.”

“Does he work for the police?” asked Street.

“Tell us where he was.”

“I met him in the cafe. He bought me this book, which I told him I can’t read, and then he started talking to the shoppers in the Arndale Centre. He gathered a large crowd. As I left him he said, ‘Go and sin no more’. He was a weird guy.”

Satan rushed at the Street in fury. Grabbing him by the throat with one massive hand, he opened the door with the other and physically threw him out of the shop. Street dropped the book in the process, but picked it up and ran off.

“The Street’s got money belonging to us,” said Evian.

“Money is not important now,” said Satan. “We are in the mother of all wars and we are going to win it.” Suddenly his eyes lit up. “This is my greatest opportunity to completely dominate the universe. We need the kryptonite of sin to finish him off. Get those photos printed.”

* * * *

But Satan was in for another shock. At 5pm he had a phone call from the President of the Chamber of Commerce.

“Who on earth is this man on the local Community TV channel? Why is he talking down consumerism? For Satan’s sake get him off, he’s bloody persuasive. How did he get the rubber stamp to get on local TV? Get him off Satan, you can pull the right strings. You invite all the councillors to your New Year’s Eve party. So use your influence old chap.”

Satan quickly replaced the receiver and grabbed the TV remote. He was horrified to find Jesus talking on full camera. He quickly turned it off, finding it too painful and odious to bear. He shivered and rang the police superintendent.

“There’s a guy on Community TV network and he’s upsetting me. He has been loitering around Terminus Road all day, he’s a Communist, and has been seen chatting up children, of which we have photographic evidence. Make out he’s a terrorist and bang him up for 28 days. Do it now!”

The Superintendent quickly switched on the television. There was a man there, dressed like Jesus from the New Testament, taking up the whole screen and in full flow…

“…What does it profit a man to gain the world and to sell his soul? And when the soul is dead, what does it profit a generation to consume their whole world?

“While you live in the garden, you eat from the apple of knowledge to service your comfort, and in the process you destroy your garden. How much comfort does a man need? How many beds can one man sleep in, or how many cars can one man drive? Is the man who only has two cars a tramp? How many distractions do you need to avoid the facts that what I say is true and has always been true?

“The public words your generation say are good, bountiful and spiritual, yet your lips are at the service of the prince of darkness because you do not believe what you say and you do not do what you say you will do. You do not believe that what you say is good and you do not do the good that you say you will do.

“Once only corrupted rulers spoke with forked tongues, now the whole nation, young and old, are reared to believe in the lie. The lie is now at the heart of selling. The lie is at the heart of creating false needs where there is no need. Beware of the wrath of God. I will not have thieves in my father’s house!

“There is absolute truth and I will declare an absolute truth: the garden is finite. The garden is being destroyed by avarice, greed, gluttony, wealth, sloth and lust and a plethora of public and private broadcast and published lies. Within the lie, the system you have created will merely make a mere mustard seed of people rich and destroy the habitats of the multitudes as you rape the world.

“Everywhere man is born free to love his God and love his neighbour but he is in chains. He is a slave. His heart has no life. Does one sign one’s soul away to a strange organisation for 50 years to get goodies like a fitted kitchen, air miles and a flashier car than the neighbour?…”

The Superintendent had heard enough.

* * * *

On Tuesday, at 3pm, thanks to the Superintendent’s intervention, Jesus stood in the dock of Eastbourne Crown Court. He stood there staring into space, the pupils of his eyes looking at some place far distant of the courthouse walls.

In the public seats at the back of the court sat Satan, who in contrast to the defendant’s tranquility was highly animated. He vacillated between sneering at the dock and breaking into one of his six-foot shivers, which made Evian and Moloch, sitting either side of him, rather jumpy. Apart from reporter Tony Newham and a few court addicts, most of the public seats were empty, as it had been decided not to over publicise the court trial.

“Now I’m informed that the accused is charged with terrorist charges, for which he will be remanded for 28 days,” said the judge, as if he was asking himself a question.

Send him off to Guantanimo Bay,” shouted Moloch. “Put him on a plane for rendition!”

“Be silent at the back there or I will have you removed from the court,” said the judge.

But Moloch was still talking, leaning across to Evian: “Now when the judge says to the court, ‘do you want Jesus given bail or do you want consumer comforts?’ we all know what to shout.” Evian started giggling.

“Quiet I say.”

“Your honour, could I step forward before this case is heard,” said the defense attorney, with a pleading look on his face.

“You may,” said the judge.

“And may I?” said the prosecution attorney.

“If this is going to take a while, gentlemen, I suggest you come into my office.”

* * * *

“This man is innocent. He has done nothing apart from air his views,” said the defense attorney when they were seated around the judge’s desk. He continued: “The whole prosecution case is nonsense. First they tried to trump up a conviction with loitering with intent, which we rubbished. The paedophilia thing is also ridiculous. And now incitement to riot because of the things he said on television. Again, a non starter.”

“He should be banged up for 28 days,” said the prosecution attorney.

“This is a hot potato for you, judge, because the press will bury you. Reporter, Tony Newham, is not happy about this at all and will be writing a condemnatory report of the way this man has been treated. I’ve never seen a man brought so quickly before the courts in the whole of my professional life.”

“Take no notice, judge, this man is a terrorist. He’s a religious fanatic, I can see it in his eyes.”

But the furrows on the judge’s forehead displayed he was not entirely comfortable. He looked down at his desk and thought for some time. “I really don’t know what to do about this. I really don’t see how I can punish him, he really doesn’t seem to have done anything illegal, and from my brief meeting with him he doesn’t come across as a terrorist.”

He thought for a moment and then picked up the telephone. “Send the defendant in here will you please.”

The judge looked up waiting for complaints but neither lawyer spoke.

Jesus was brought in and seated around the table.

“Now your name is Jesus Christ, is that right?”


“And what is your address?”

“Wherever I lay my hat that is my home,” said Jesus.

“I like that song,” said the Judge.

“That means he’s admitting to being a vagrant,” claimed the prosecution attorney quickly.

“This man has done nothing illegal,” countered the defense attorney.

“Never mind about that. Now, Jesus, what gives you the power to say buying consumer goods is bad? What gives you the right to take away peoples’ livelihoods? Are you some kind of communist?”

“You’re a religious fanatic, aren’t you?” snapped the prosecution attorney

“I ask the questions around here!” snapped the judge.

“Sorry, your honour,” quickly whimpered the recalcitrant lawyer.

“Now sir, answer my questions.”

“Which one?” asked Jesus

“What gives you the right to criticise global capitalism?”

“It’s a corrupt system. If you should cut it in half, like a stick of seaside rock, the word C-O-R-R-U-P-T would run all the way through it. The system, whatever you call that system, has become designed to lead the people into sin to finance the pockets of the corrupt. The people’s real needs are subverted. All of its values are against my values.”

“I told you he was a Communist,” said the prosecution lawyer.

“I’ve told you once before -“

“Sorry, judge.

“For example,” said Jesus, “the only reason I’m here in court is because a network of influential and powerful people find it uncomfortable that I should have the normal freedoms of any human. That is a form of legal corruption. I am refused freedom of speech, freedom to wander where I will and freedom to gather with people. Surely if anything is tyrannical around here it is the restrictions that you have placed me under. I am being withheld against my will despite having done nothing wrong in the eyes of other people and nothing that is considered illegal in this country.”

“The judge scratched his nose. “He’s right you know. I’m throwing this case out of court.”

“You can’t!” whimpered the prosecution attorney.

“You just watch me.”

* * * *

When Satan heard the judge proclaim there was no case to hear, and that the case was being thrown out because of an insubstantial charge and a lack of evidence, he became very solemn indeed. Evian and Moloch instantly froze in seriousness. They knew heads would roll because of Jesus’s release and were keen to get out of Satan’s space as quickly as possible because those heads were likely to be theirs.

“Where’s he gone?” said Satan gruffly when the three of them were standing outside in the dying sunshine.

“From what I was told he was released minutes before the judge notified the court,” said Evian, “he could have gone anywhere.”


* * * *

Jesus had, in fact, been offered a lift by the reporter Tony Newham, but Jesus declined and said he was going to go for a walk. He wandered down to the pier and enjoyed its painted signs, seaside amusements and its strange architecture. He occasionally looked down through the floorboards to see the sea beneath his feet, and he realised how high up and how precarious was the state of man. He was in a strange place.

At the end of the pier were many fishermen, most of them had assembled on a platform down some steps, perilously close to the crashing waves licking the pier. Many were beginning to pack up, and he went over to one lone bearded fisherman and tapped him on the shoulder. The man turned to him and looked at him with an equal measure of wonder and of fear.

“You’re Peter aren’t you?” said Jesus.

“Yes, that’s right. I know who you are. I saw you on the telly.”

“I’m Jesus.”

“Good Lord.”

“Perhaps you would like to come for a pint?” said Jesus.

“I know a good place, help me pack up and we’ll go in my car.”

* * * *

Several minutes later they were sitting in the Wetherspoon’s of Eastbourne, each drinking a pint of Harvey’s Sussex Ale.

“There’s such waste in society,” Peter was saying. “There’s a Chinese place here where you pay a set fee for one and a half hours and you can eat what you like from a massive buffet range. So if you eat quickly you can refill your plate over and over again. If that isn’t a recipe for gluttony and waste I don’t know what is. And look at Gambling and gaming casinos. It becomes an addiction for distraction and avoiding depression. The winnings are never enough.”

“Yes,” said Jesus, “I always thought tax collectors and drunkards were better than gamblers. I’ve seen with my own eyes how man turns to the casting of lots to divide property. I remember when Roman guards threw knucklebones to win my own garment. But what I focus on today is not the sinner, but the people who set up the machinery that suck people into sin. These sinners astound me, it never used to be quite as bad as this.”

* * * *

He’s in Wetherspoon’s with a fisherman,” said Moloch on his mobile phone to Satan.

“I’ll walk down. Follow them if they leave, if they split up, follow Jesus. Where are you?

“In Cornfield Street. Just across the road.”

Satan thrust his mobile phone into his pocket. He stood tall looking out of the shop window.

“I gradually steal into people’s heads and hearts. If a man does not believe in me then how he can he see me sitting on his shoulder? How I enjoy this. The minds which don’t believe in absolute truth, minds that believe evil is just some random commonplace misfortune, are the easiest of prey. I destroy a mother’s love and hope by having her child murdered. Then she loses all faith and grows embittered, resentful and vengeful. No one is as strong as Job these days.” He rubbed his hands with glee. “I make people too scared to love, too timid to fight, too cowardly to tell the truth. I’ve subjected humans to terror in order to defeat their belief in any form of goodness. Gradually I poison their hearts. In so doing I plant a seed inside them to hate God and humanity and to do to others what I’ve done to them. And you must remember: he cannot win! It is not within his capacity to fight!”

He stood there like a black monolith, now motionless, and then suddenly a distant roar came from his throat, and he shivered again, but this time the effects of it rolling down his body was electric, convulsive, and shocking. His face convoluted like it was made of melted plastic.

* * * *

Jesus bade goodbye to Peter outside of the pub, turning down a lift in Peter’s car to anywhere he might want to go.

“No the hour beckons, I need to be alone.”

But as he walked along Terminus Road back up to the library he knew he was not alone. He knew he was being followed. He also knew that someone who had been walking towards him had suddenly turned back in the opposite direction. He was walking into a trap, but it was the trap he knew he must enter.

Nothing had happened nor anyone had approached him by the time he passed Catch a Snack and turned into York Road.

Evian, who had come up from Seaside Road, could see him approaching. “He’s going along on the side of road near the bookshop” she whispered into her mobile phone, “he’ll soon be at the police station.”

“I’m near there, I will cut him off”

She silently skipped across the road to join Moloch who was following someway behind Jesus.

As Jesus crossed the Mead Road in the falling dark a figure came out from the right. “Hello Jesus. I want a word with you.” It was Street.

But Jesus had slipped into a doorway.

Satan had now accidentally interposed himself between Jesus and Street, and Street was closing in on him. He decided to hide. Best not to reveal himself yet.

“Wait, Jesus!” shouted Street, “I’ve still got your book,” waving the Bible high.

The sight of the Bible was too odious for Satan to bear, and as he had no desire to be discovered yet, he slipped to his left and opened a nearby door and hid inside.

“I think he’s gone in that door,” said Evian.

“He must have. I can’t see Christ at all now,” said Moloch.

“No, it was Satan who went in the door.”

“So where’s Christ gone?”

“I don’t know I can’t see anyone now.”

The two of them eventually came to the wooden door, opened it and went into a dark corridor.”

“I hope this place isn’t what I think it is,” said the Moloch beginning to shiver.

“It is,” said Satan, leaning against the wall shivering. “Help me get out.”

But as he said this, they heard a key turn in the lock.

“We’ve been locked in. There’s another entrance round at the front,” said Evian.

“I can’t possibly go through a church!” whimpered Satan.

“We’re in Our Lady of Ransom, that’s where he’s lead us.”

“Moloch, use your spells to open that side door.”

But suddenly it was raining, drops of water were coming down from above them. “It’’s…get me out of here!” screamed Satan.

“It’s i-i-incense!” squealed Moloch.

Above them a bird flew along the corridor, a seagull, holding an incense stick, splashing incense down on them. Now shafts of light were beginning to emanate from the seagull, one shaft spreading downwards and illuminating the evil trio. They ran along the corridor into the waiting darkness hoping to come to an open door. Shivering with pain and disgust Satan and his cronies ran into the main aisle of Our Lady of Ransom Church. In front of the altar stood Jesus. Satan, covering his eyes, hustled past him. He passed several pews but his energy was utterly depleted by the time he saw Street in his way holding out his Bible. Moloch and Evian had gone round the perimeter of the church and managed to pull open the heavy front door and escape out into the street.

* * * *

Satan turned away from The Street, and found himself facing Jesus.

“Who is it in my father’s House?” asked Jesus.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” said Satan trying to regain his composure. “I am Satan. I am the destroyer of worlds; I am the serial killer on the dark moor; I am the young psychopath with baseball bat; I am the con-man knocking on the house of the elderly; I am the stockbroker embezzling pension funds; I am the demon’s face at the window of every child’s nursery.”

“I thought it was you.”

“Who asked you down here! This is my world! I am better than everyone, especially you, and don’t I let you know it. Cain, Judas, Delilah and Salome are my disciples.”

Suddenly a bolt of lightning flashed down from across the roof and hit the confessional to Satan’s immediate left.

“Shock and awe, eh? We can all do the fireworks, I’m not intimidated.”

“I’m sure you’re not.”

Jesus put his hands together and began to pray the Lord’s Prayer.

“No, no not that. I’m getting out of here,” said Satan, but instead of running away, he sank to his knees, and gradually as the prayer continued, fell forward, outstretched, prostrate on the tiles, his hands only inches away from Jesus’s feet.

“I need you to hear my c-c-confession,” he stammered.

“Don’t listen to him,” squawked the seagull, “It’s a ruse.”

“Rise and go to the confessional,” instructed Jesus.

Satan grabbed a pew and hauled himself up. With Jesus following behind, he headed to the confessional, as he did so the seagull now continually flicked Holy Water on him causing him to regularly flinch. He groaned outwardly as he passed the Stations of the Cross.

The aged door creaked as he pulled it open and Satan knelt down on a red cushion. His face was adjacent to the veiled opening where he would speak to his confessor. “I don’t think there’s any need for a veil to hide my identity if I’m to confess my sins to you,” said Satan.

But the veil remained in place because Satan was wrong. It wasn’t Jesus that went into the priest’s cubicle but the seagull. Yet Satan heard a young adult voice, not the squawk of a bird, to ask him to confess his sins.

“I always wanted to be the best,” he began, “yet I have rained troubles on people’s lives, I have brought misery and misfortune to people, I have destroyed good people and brought them low to be laughed at, derided, despised, abused and brought down. I have sent good people mad.”

“Go on.”

“I have turned good hearts bad and relish when black hearts succeed. I have sought to degrade the human race, to crush its decency and to and bring it down to the level of a gross animal.”

His voice began to strengthen and warm up to its task.

“In my world I am ubiquitous. I am the Lord of atheism who changes the culture by massive persuasion. I run the newspapers, the TV stations, the magazine press. I am the boss who creates all the bosses, especially the psychopathic bosses, the ones who have more desire than exists is in the entire universe, the big egos who only know control. After all, I’m a man of wealth and taste. I am the ultimate controller, the lord and master of all lands, kingdoms, realms and reigns and much more besides.

“And the most amazing thing I’ve created is the infrastructure of sin: the gambling casinos, the stock exchanges, the weapon factories, the brothels, the drinking houses, the pharmaceuticals, the tobacco fields and the opium dens, and the profiteers and finances behind these,” The speed of his voice was now accelerating. “I have created corrupt legislation, child abuse, paedophilia, abortion, scientific aberrations and monstrosities, pollution, outrageous power and wealth, animal cruelty and…..” He stopped to gather his thoughts.

“And what of this?” asked the faltering voice.

“I have changed the culture by using the media to drop gradual drips of persuasive poison in peoples minds to believe it is good to gorge yourself, to take substances that remove you from responsibility to yourself and others, to treat other individuals as chattels for your sexual pleasure, to murder babies if they are inconvenient to you, to murder the weak, the infirm and mentally ill in hospitals in the name of tax-saving euthanasia. But the thing I’m proudest of is that I have created unquenchable desire. An addiction that can never be satiated. Ha ha!

“I persuade rulers to go to war and mutilate and kill innocent civilians, that by destroying vast areas of land, and decimating cites and towns, their industries will grind again to create buildings, waterways, roads, infrastructures, and everything else, so that the warlord’s industries will turn faster in reconstruction and profit. The four horsemen of the apocalypse, war, famine, plague and death are my creations; The sick, the orphaned, the widows and young children have reeled with my disease, hunger and wounds. I inform everyone that life is utterly meaningless, they are meaningless and that they are not even important enough to be a small cog in a big machine. Soon everyone learns that war is the greatest for making money. I have established that a man’s worth is measured by how much money he has or how much he owes, certainly not by how he acts, thinks or believes. I tell everyone to consume, consume, consume despite knowing the world is suffocating from over production, and all of our land for growing food becomes landfill.

“But you show little remorse?” queried the voice.

“Ha! Ha! You have it right there! I am no shrinking violet. I am proud of all these things. I have so much filth inside me, the filth I am and have done is eternal, I cannot confess it all. In fact I cannot confess at all! It is not in me. By the power of blood, puke, bile, vomit, sweat, snot, excrement, I am DONE with this farce! Why do I confess? I can never be forgiven. I loathe myself so badly I could never forgive myself in a trillion eternities!” and so saying he grabbed the veil and pulled it away to reveal the intensely disturbed face of a young angel.

Sinner and confessor looked at each other with considerable recognition and terrible shock. Satan instantly recognised the young angel. It was himself at a young and impressionable age. The face of young Lucifer was contorted with dread at the image of what he was to become. Satan, who had been boasting of his sins, was confronted with remembering that once he had not only loved God, but he had been God’s favourite angel.

“I never EVER want to become that!” screamed the young angel. “Ever! Ever!”

Satan jumped up and ran out of the church, out into the dark streets, howling all the way.

The seagull danced out of the confessional.

“I was going to forgive him, but he hopped it,” it squawked.

“Satan seeks to seduce man into sin,” said Jesus. “He tries to disrupt God’s plan for salvation; and he appears before God as slanderer and accuser of the saints, so as to reduce the number of those chosen for the Kingdom of God.”

* * * *

The next day, Wednesday, in the early hours of the sun, Jesus walked along the sea shore. As he stood watching the tide come in, a massive image slowly, gradually formed in the entire blue sky, visible across the entire northern hemisphere. A cross, more than a cross, a crucifix. The body of a broken and twisted Jesus Christ hung from it, yet strangely the image was not tragic, but of more a conclusive nature. Across the sea could be heard myriads and myriads of angels singing praises to God.

Jesus, dressed in a golden robe, knelt on the stones and looked up to the cross with considerable veneration. “My father has come,” he said. After several prayers he said aloud to the empty silent beach, “Satan has not gone, only subdued for a short time. This is not yet the time for my actual reappearance, so this will be writ in a story for people to take heed,” he said.

* * * *

And gradually as the months passed, all men’s hearts began to liven, turn red and to beat with normal human blood, and they all felt relieved that they had regained a sense of priorities. They needed each other. They needed natural weather not a scientist’s version. They needed clean soil and land. They needed good earth to grow healthy food. Now, they needed IKEA furniture, Tate Modern prints and Cosmopolitan magazines like they needed toxic landfill. They no longer needed adverts that told them they were out of date or that they were inadequate should they fail to buy certain products. Much more important was home grown food, good company, working on the land, camp fires, looking after their locality and enjoying their short time on the raft of life.

No longer did they feel inadequate because they didn’t own a castle with a heliport, or have a need to go to the wine bar and boast about the enormous amount of holiday excursions they went on (even if it was by the seaside).




by Michael Skywood Clifford © 2010


As the vehicle sped along the main road, a smear of raindrops on the window pane obscured Ruth’s view of the rugged landscape as it climbed to peaks in the West.

“I vaguely remember coming to Scotland when I was about five,” she said to Francis who sat next to her. “I don’t remember much about it. Amazing all this, isn’t it? We were going to the Monte Carlo, now suddenly we don’t know where we’re going.”

He looked at her for a long admiring second but said nothing.

A few miles further along the people carrier began to slow.  It came to a halt. Rain tapped noisily against the windows.

“Chief!” shouted the driver.

“I hope we haven’t broken down,” conjectured Francis dreamily.

“We’re not out in the sticks at least, we passed some suburbs not far back,” said Ruth.

A man at the back of the vehicle, whom had earlier introduced himself to the passengers as a security official, got out of his seat. He had been looking out of the rear window scrutinising a mini had been following them all the way. He was about 45, black haired, and wearing a coat similar to the duffle coat style of Sixties students. He walked up the gangway to the front of the vehicle.

“The road has divided, sir; forked. I’m not sure which route to take,” said the driver.

Another man, who had been sitting behind Ruth and Nigel, quickly rose out of his seat and went to see what the problem was. He stood looking over the shoulder of the security man. He was taller, younger looking and wore a dapper suit.

“Because you took out the sat nav, chief, I’m not sure which way it is. Shall I carry on along the main road or turn off to the left,” said the driver apologetically.

The dapper suited David Hornbeam was hesitant, “I’ve been here times before but I can’t remember which route to take.”  He turned to the security man: “Dan, should I put my battery back in my mobile and make a call. These security things change every time I come up here.”

“Don’t do that,” said ex-policeman, Daniel Bond. “I asked everyone to take the batteries out of their mobiles, their laptops and removed the sat-nav so that satellites or trackers cannot trace us here.” He looked up out through the wide windscreen at the forked roads that presented themselves. There was no signpost.  The main road carried on, but the road to the right, although in reasonable condition was quite narrow. “That leads to the beach,” he said, “You won’t be able to get through. It’s the next right turning.”

” Are you sure, Chief?” said the driver looking nervously at his boss.

“We’ll turn on the second right road.  All roads eventually lead to Rome,” said Daniel Bond, his voice pregnant with a Scottish twang. “If we don’t meet a road block on that road then we’ll come back.”

Near the back of the people carrier Ruth giggled quietly into Francis’s ear, “You take the ‘igh road and I’ll take the low road and I’ll be in Scotland afore yee,”

Then, above the noise of the rain, Ruth heard the engine start  and they began to move off.

* * * *

Ruth was surprised at the seriousness of everybody on the people carrier. True, she had been briefed, but she never expected such solemnity. Then, from the seat behind her, the chirpy voice of David Hornbean was addressing them. His head raised over the seats.

“I’ve been abroad since I came down here, so I can’t be expected to know every twist and change of direction. I’m a bloody good International Secondments Officer, not a bloody navigator. They’ve only got a back up car, a lead one is standard and would have saved us this stupid embarrassment. Cuts I suppose.”

Although his words seemed more aimed in the direction of Ruth, Francis turned round and nodded in support.

* * * *

After another two miles, the vehicle turned right and followed a narrow track towards the sea but this normally observable blue horizon couldn’t be seen in this leaden sky and pouring rain. The sky was getting darker by the minute, and Ruth felt an ominous, portentous atmosphere. It made her think of Biblical epics. For a second she shivered, but then she regained her composure.

“I’ve got it, Chief!”  The driver shouted. A smidgeon of a smile ran across the face of the security chief. “Yes that’s it.”

Daniel Bond was relieved to see a hundreds yards along, a security gate. Standing next to this temporary barrier, stood a guard in camouflage dress with both an umbrella and a machine gun. Behind him stood a small white shed-like building, the size of a temporary classroom. As soon as the vehicle stopped on reaching it, Daniel Bond and David Hornbeam stepped down out of the dry vehicle into the driving Scottish downpour. Through the window Ruth saw the security man show the man a badge. The three men went off into the white building.

Not long afterwards the Mini that had been following pulled up behind the people carrier.

* * * *

Now Inside the shed, the guard stood in the corner near the door, his machine gun slung over his shoulder, his umbrella left in the intervening porch. Daniel Bond sat on a chair and looked intently out of the window, studying his men in the Mini. David Hornbeam was at the desk.

“Let me have a look at the list,” said the fleshy man who sat behind it. He had long grey hair hanging from an inch bald parting and dimpled cheeks that gave him the appearance of a hangdog.  He pressed a button on a lap top and checked through the names. “There’s only three. Read them out and I’ll tick them off.”

“Francis Carridge, 28, quantum mechanic from CERN.”

“Check. Who’s this tart he’s brought with him? Washington only just heard about that.”

“Carridge insisted on bringing along his girlfriend. They had planned to go abroad over the weekend, so I had to offer. I didn’t argue.”

“That doesn’t sound too clever. Details?”

“She’s 26 and an NQT, Mr. Cummings. ”

His politeness cut no ice.

“You can call me by my first name,” said Bernard Cummings sarcastically. “Now David. What’s NQT?”

“She’s a newly qualified teacher. Mature student. English.”

“Teacher?”  The hangdog Bernard Cummings took his eyes off the screen and stared at Hornbeam. “We don’t even employ ex-teachers as cleaning staff in a place like this!”

“We PV-ed her and it’s says on the file…,” Hornbeam tried two pockets before successfully pulling out a pad from his suit and began to read it: “I quote… she’s never been involved in anti-government riots, associated with social workers, miners, Union workers, or belonged to organisations like Animal Rights, CND, SLP or Respect.”

“And where did you get that information. I don’t suppose it was from her.”

“Of course not.”

“Well they won’t be happy at all, Mr. David Hornbeam. I hope there’s no fuck up, or the British government will be on the line again. Maybe it’s because you haven’t been in this job for long?”

“There won’t be any mistakes… Bernard… it was mere expediency, I was told to bring him at all costs. The PV information was passed by telephone from the a stealth NDPB yesterday. ”

“Well, I ask you…” said Cummings exasperatedly

Are you going to come out and do a palm test?” enquired Hornmeam.

“No. Bloody machine’s broken.”

Hangdog looked back at his laptop. “Hammersly?” he barked.

“I couldn’t get Hammersly.”

“Oh, this gets worse, why ever not?”

“He’s not in the country. He’s been sent on some educational swap to China.  I’ll have him for you next time.”

“If someone hasn’t got to him first. Okay, you can go through but be warned we may pull you back.”

Somewhat ruffled, Hornbeam turned and headed to the door.

“Oh wait,” Cummings called.

David Hornbeam looked round, but found the request addressed to Daniel Bond, who had now stood up. “My officer here would like your signature, if you wouldn’t mind.”

“Why do you want my signature?” asked the security man.

“Not every man is the son of Kissy Suzuki and – ”

“Ha ha! No signature from me. ”


“Wrong man. My surname is more common that you think.”

As they were between the white shed and the people carrier – a place where no one could have heard, especially in the rain – Hornbeam said to Daniel, “She is so beautiful, how could I refuse?”

“Never seen a woman like it,” grinned Daniel, trying to find a comparable beauty in the vast number of women he had known.

* * * *

The narrow road now formed a junction with a wider road, which they followed for a short distance. Despite the rain – and having to look between heads on the other side of the people carrier – Ruth could see a beautiful hotel in the most expansive setting coming towards her. Neither Francis nor herself had been told of their exact destination, Hornbeam and his team hadn’t allowed it. However he had had told her she was going to a superstar hotel.

Suddenly she began to receive more details from the seat behind her. Hornbeam was enjoying the pleasure on her face.

“It’s the Westin Turnberry Hotel. The last time I was here was May 14th 1998, I remember it well.  Yes that was the BBG. It’s a wonderful place.”

“It’s very grand,” said Ruth enthusiastically. “Is this the place where they have golf championships?”

“Yes, there’s a slip of sand down by the vast golf ranges over there.  In better weather you’ll see the nearby islands,” said Hornbeam feeling very pleased for some reason.

* * * *

The Hotel

As they were stepping out of the bus Daniel Bond said quietly to David Hornbeam: “I’m off duty in an hour, could you take the two guests down to the Stagioni while I check their luggage.”

“Will do.”

“Could you put them through the detector as well?”

“That’s not protocol, is it? It’s a bit of a downer.”

“In light of what Cummings said, security is security and these people are initiates.”

The security man lowered his voice and looked around. “When you’ve done put your battery back in your mobile and I’ll call you when I’m through. Or you can get me on my pager.”

“Alright,” said Hornbeam. “Incidentally what was all that about your signature at the barrier?”

“Oh that.” He laughed. “My dad was in the SIS and his real name was James Bond. I’m called Daniel. These idiots don’t seem to realise that they want is a signature from a fictional character. I’ve had all sorts of loonies after me.”

“I see,” said Hornbeam.

It was plain to Bond that if he did see, he saw it in a linear way and not with any colour or shape.

Once inside Hornbeam called over a member of staff in the hotel reception and instructed her to take his luggage to his bedroom. “They’re all labelled,” he said.

Hornbeam then collected Francis and Ruth as they were coming into the hotel. “Sorry but you’ve got to go through the metal detector over here. Put all your cash and metal objects in those trays and walk through the scanner.”

Ruth was still buzzing after going through twice. A young officer, with a hand scanner, found the culprit. A tiny metal key on a beaded necklace. After its removal she sailed through.

“He only did that because he enjoyed scanning you three times,” scoffed Hornbeam quietly to himself.

“I always forget I’m wearing jewelry,” she apologised, replacing it around her neck.

“Sorry about that. I’ll take you to the restaurant to get some food, its a fabulous place with amazing views.”

“I’d quite like to freshen up a bit and eat a little later,” said Ruth.

“Of course, but come and have a look at the restaurant anyway, it’s on the way,” said Hornbeam. He took them up a marble stair case and along a wide corridor. This opened out onto a large balcony that encircled a large inverted conical pit with circular seating below.

“That’s the Evolutionary Seminar Chamber,” said Hornbeam to Francis. “You’ll be down there tomorrow.”

“It’s a bit like a wall of death,” said Francis stopping and looking over the balustrade.

“It’s like the a circular House of Commons,” commented Ruth.

“Indeed. Or a small version of the EU,” said Hornbeam, his usually upbeat voice quivering with emotion and some pomposity. “The existing delegates and specialists all sit on the inner ring of seats and the new blood, like you Francis, sit on the next tier, and then visiting dignitaries sit on the tier above.”

“It’s all very democratic…” said Ruth. It was neither a statement nor a question.

“Of course.”

“Isn’t this a great hotel, isn’t this great fun!” said Francis excitedly, moving his head around like a ventriloquist’s doll and planting a butterfly kiss on Ruth’s cheek, his antics surprising her as much as it did Hornbeam.

“And those computers on the inner row, what are they for?” she asked.

“Most of our international friends speak English, but for those who can’t this is a two way headphone translation system, it’s all wired into the Public Address System. Actually it’s rarely used as almost everyone who comes here can speak English. The stenographer’s have tended to use them recently because it virtually automates their work.”

“What’s the enormous statue painted in gold, that’s a bit rude?” enquired Ruth.

A large sculpture of a naked man with a sizeable erection hung down on chains from the ceiling. A large eagle and a serpent stood either side of his head connected by to his shoulders.

Hornbeam leant over and put his hand on the figure’s shoulder. “That’s not painted, my lady, that is real gold. He’s a  philosopher: Nietzche. Have you never heard of him?”

“Not really,” she said.

“There’s one of his famous books in all the bedrooms. Have a look at it, it’s beautiful poetry. He was a pure genius. He aspired to get the human race to drag itself up by its bootstraps.”

“Didn’t he have something to do with the Nazi’s?” As soon as she said it, she knew she had said the wrong thing.

Hornbeam turned his frown into laughter.. “No, that is a mistake. Nietzche hated the Nazis. His sister Elizabeth Forster Nietzche, and her husband, mismanaged Nietzche’s works and letters after he had died. By a manipulation of emphasis and omission they corrupted his works in such a way so as to propagate their own Nazi ideas. She told Hitler in 1935 that her brother had been Nietzche’s Superman. In fact Nietzche believed in God.”

Ruth’s eyes opened wide for a second. “Oh, is that right?” she muttered.

“Isn’t is great that we’re in a five star hotel for the weekend!” said Francis dancing around on the balcony.

* * * *

Hornbeam carried on walking, now having weaved into another corridor where they could see the rolling golf courses out of the windows. The view was impressive. Eventually they came to a pair of modern swing doors. Hornbeam, who had been leading, held back and allowed them to enter the Westin Turnberry Stagioni restaurant before him.

Hornbeam radiated at other people’s pleasure. He could feel the enjoyment of the youngsters. Massive glass windows looked down from a modern setting across a plain of grey-blue sea to show the islands of Arran and Ailsa Cragg. As the rain had ceased to a drizzle now visibility had greatly increased. Superlatives were abounding from both of them.

They weren’t in the restaurant alone, several – mainly middle aged – men – and one women – were sitting over on the far corner admiring the view and equally gushing superlatives.

“Come and meet some of our other guests,” said Hornbeam.

* * * *

Other guests

“Hello Gentlemen, I’d like to introduce you to Francis Carridge, Quantum Doctorate and working at CERN.”

Everyone nodded or muttered a collective greeting.

“Hello.  Pleased to meet you both, I’m Paddy McDeal from Sligo,” said a man with puffy cheeks offering his hand. “And who’s the beautiful scientist?”

“I’m Ruth,” she grinned. “I’m no scientist.”

“Hello Francis and Ruth. You are both brilliant and beautiful. Sergey Podrovsky at your command. Physicist. Moscow Institute,” said the brown suit with gold cufflinks and a deep voice.

“Hi. I’m John-David Levitte, I’m afraid I’m out of my depths with the science. I’m French USA ambassador and advisor to Sarkozy and Director of Economic Affairs at the UN.”

“Hello, Mary Lloyd, genetics, MIT. Pleased to meet you.”

Ruth and Francis kept smiling all around the introductions.

“Hello. English boffin, Derek Abbot. Heard a lot about you. Pleased to make your acquaintance.”

Hornbeam had been moving chairs from a nearby table for them to sit down.

“I might have met you before at the Hadron,” continued David Abbot, “I came over when it was being switched on. Heartbreaking that was. When is the date now for it to be back up and running?”

Francis laughed. “I don’t have a date, there has been a lot of damage caused.”

“Well that will please the guy who is trying to sue the American Government for creating black holes in Switzerland than,” said the English Scientist.

Paddy McDeal interjected: “Did you hear abut the string theorist husband, whom, when his wife discovered he had been philandering, said to her, “Honey I can explain everything!”

They all laughed.

“And will they found the Higgs Bosom?” asked Podrovsky eagerly.

“We can’t run that experiment yet, as it will take so much power, almost four country’s combined electrical usage. It’s a shame it will be delayed,” said Francis. “The experiments they have been able to run, have been small matter, if you forgive the pun. I haven’t seen all the results, there is still a lot of number crunching going on and statistical analysis going on.”

“You mean they don’t want to share it?” laughed Paddy.

“And where are the British with Nuclear fusion?” asked Podrovsky

“we’re always getting closer but –

“Not more. You can’t talk on that subject until you’re are in the Evolutionary Seminary Chamber,” stopped Hornbeam, “All in good time.  The energy you spend on talking on these matters must be heard by everyone who is here this weekend, so I can’t let you waste it. Anyway, these young people need to go off to debrief and unpack their cases.” Hornbeam’s phone rang. It was Daniel Bond. “Perfect,” he said and cut the phone call.

Hornbeam took the couple to reception to get their room key, and then took them to a lift. “We’ll see you later.”

* * * *


“This is a big deal,” said Ruth quietly in the lift.

“It’s fun,” said Francis trying to plant another kiss on her. She dodged it, and put on a smile.

He looked at her in her blue crystaline knee length dress. She was gorgeous, bringing to mind his father’s early press cuttings of a young and full Bridgette Bardot, but with more elegance and movement.

As the lift doors opened, she grinned and beckoned him with a finger, flirtatiously. He followed. He thought she knew where their room was, but couldn’t work out how she knew. She found stairs along the corridor and beckoned him down them. His face a mask of perplexity, he followed her down the stairs like he was part of her game. She walked almost backwards, teasingly, all the time flicking her head around to see that she was not going to trip.

At the bottom of the stairs she gazed out into the corridor, as if trying to see something she recognised. Then she came and grabbed Francis’s arm and lead him down a long corridor into reception, without stopping she took him outside.

“I though we were going to the bedroom,” he said

“Let’s just have a quick look at the golf course from outside,” she said pulling him along by the arm as briskly as she could.”

The drizzle was on its last legs, the sun was trying to come out and the breeze was seeking less attention.

When they got fifty yards out over the golf course – which seemed deserted – she stopped and pulled Francis towards an oak tree.

“Let’s hide behind that.”

“You’re funny, you are,” he said grinning from ear to ear.

“Do you know, Francis, unless you told anyone, no one would know you are have a Phd in Atomic Physics.”

“Yes, sorry. I do act a bit daft. I’m not very good at concealing things, everything I think is written on my face. I’ve had discussions with friends about this.”

“I think this place is weird. I want you to tell me again what it’s all about.”

“Hornbeam briefed you on it as well.”

“I know it’s a science conference of world importance that you are being initiated into. You remember how he said I had to keep a low profile, not to mix too much and keep mainly out of the way. He said it was essential I did this as it would boost your career into the eleventh dimension.”

“That’s all there is to it,” he said grinning again. “I also said I wouldn’t come unless you could come with me.”

“Yes I know that.”

“Shall we go to our bedroom? I want you so bad.”

“I’ve brought you out here because I suspect our bedroom is bugged. And probably videoed as well.”

“Really. I wouldn’t have thought so. That’s a bit paranoid. They seem like an eminent bunch of chaps to me.”

“The guests may well be, but the organisation, what is it?”

“It has a strange palindrome, PNAC it was, but then it was changed to WOATPO.”

“And that stands for… World Order… what?”

“….Advanced Technology Planning Organization, I think. …and I’ve just remembered PNAC: ‘Project for the New American Century.'”

“You don’t think there is anything odd about it?”

“Don’t think so. There are different nationalities here.”

He caressed her fringe which was flickering around in the sea breeze. “I get paid shedloads just for being here. It means we can get married very soon and honeymoon anywhere we like. We can afford a mansion in Geneva and London.”

Her eyes sharpened in concentration. She suddenly looked worried and stopped. “Look. There’s one of those military chaps coming up from the sea.  He’s coming towards us. Listen, Francis, let’s amble back before we forced to. We won’t say anything about this conversation in the hotel.”

“I think you’re being a bit paranoid.”

“Possibly.” She laughed and put her arm in his. “Just do one thing for me?”

“Don’t expect me to sabotage the whole thing.”

“No. Just quietly and as secretly as possible put your battery back in your mobile when you get back into the hotel. I’ll do the same.”

“They told us not to do that.”

“Just for me, Francis.”

He shrugged his shoulders and they walked back over the grass.

The guard walked off in another direction.

* * * *

Ailsa Bar

Meanwhile in the Ailsa Bar, which also boasted splendid views of Ailsa Cragg and Arran, Daniel Bond and David Hornbeam had just sat down together with a bottle of vintage white wine. Daniel was off duty and was enjoying the ambience.

“I think you might have a lemon there,” he said.

“You mean Francis Carridge? I’ve met other’s like him. They’re useless at everything except what they specialize in. He is 95% physics, you can’t expect him to have grown up as well.”

“He’s certainly got a grown up taste in women.”

“I’ll drink to that.  She is astonishing, and yet she doesn’t even seem to be aware of it.”

“Perhaps that’s part of her charm. Wasted as an English teacher, she should be in films or modelling.”

“Carridge is a little naive. He doesn’t seem to realise he’s ascended to the rarest mountain air of human power. He’s at the top of the world and is completely unaware of it.  He had an alcoholic mother, who died when he was 13, so he needs intense distraction to forget his childhood pain. Entanglement mathematics should give him plenty to get distracted about. The question is, ‘Is he ambitious, or merely and only obsessed?'”

Suddenly Daniel Bond’s pager buzzed.

“Bond here. Hello Sir. I’m in the Ailsa Bar. Oh shit! Sorry Sir.” He had sat up, his body back on duty. ” Very well sir, I will wait here. Yes, he’s here with me now, I’ll tell him.” He switched off his mobile.

“Bad news, I’m afraid,” he said quietly sitting up.

Hornbeam’s face twisted in anticipation.

“They want her out. Too much of a hot potato.”

“Surely not.” Hornbeam sighed. “Bloody Americans. This will be messy, and will cause awkwardness.”

Minutes later Cummings came into the bar and pulled a chair up to their table.

“The Americans won’t take the teacher under any circumstances and want her out. She will have to go back, she’s a hot potato. I did warn you, Hornbeam. The Americans are very tight.”

“What has she done that’s so wrong?”

“Wrong profiling to be here. Firstly, they wouldn’t have invited her anyway. Secondly they’ve discovered she’s a Catholic  –

“Tony Blair’s a Catholic,” protested Hornbeam.

Cummings looked sharply at Hornbeam and continued, “and thirdly, she lived in Spain for three years and no one can find out what she was doing there.”

“Oh,” muttered Daniel.

“That never came up on the PV we did.”

“The CIA has got better files than your boys. We want her out now. Pronto.”

Hornbeam just stared at him, aghast. What happens now?

“It’s true we have some people who were going to be teachers in WOAPTO, but not with her profile, she’s latent. Get me an orange juice, Mr. Bond, will you.”

Daniel came back shortly after he had ordered the drink. Cumming’s tone became more heated. “Also a guard saw her walking Francis on the golf course.”

“They went outside already? That’s a bit silly,” said Hornbeam realising he was in trouble.

“At first it was suggested that we properly debrief her here, because of her character profile. But they chickened out. So the story is to say that her mother has fallen over and is hospital. It’s a complex fracture and she needs to go back at once. She will be escorted back to the airport at Preswick International to fly to London, someone will pick her up and correctly debrief her. ”

“She’ll phone her on her mobile.”

“No she won’t, we’ll take her mobile off her.”

* * * *


As Ruth and Francis were coming back into reception physicist Derek Abbot waved to them. He came across.

“I’ve got the agenda here for tomorrow. As you’re new on the block I thought you might like to get it a little early, just so as to take on board some of the discussion.”

“Thanks, sir,” said Francis, taking a white A4 envelope off the physicist.

In the lift Ruth asked to have a look. He gave it to her. The document was 25 pages of complex information, some scientific, some political. However at the front was one loose page of briefing on tomorrow’s discussions. ”

* * * *

* 09.00 am. The importance of Nietzcheian thinking on future societal decisions/ Frank Weiss PhD

* 10.00 am. The development of teleportation of small particles/ Angela Broadhead Msc

* 11.00 am. The various ways forward for the development of Nuclear fission/ Professor Derek Abbot

* 12.00 noon. The implementation of world food price increases until Monsanto GM food is accepted by the world.

* 13.30 pm. Discussion on imagineering the commercial applications of Anti gravity.

* 14.30 pm. The global plan for a social paradigm shift to reduce global costs, intrusive state fiscal costs and create faster profit turnover for governments and government friendly organisations.

* 15.30 pm. Quantum Mechanics and DNA computers catch up.

* 16. 00pm.  General Biotech catch up and overview.

* 16.30pm. Technologies of control for mass social unrest.

* 18.00 pm. The leaps ahead in Nano Technology and their potential.

* 1900 pm. Up to speed (of light) with black holes, strangelets, DeSitter space transitions.

* 20.00 pm. Robotics, cybernetics and covert robotics and the importance of invisible surveillance.

* 21.00 pm. Cloning, Cryogenics, industry and the way forward.

* 22.00 pm. Discussion on ecological plastics.

* 23.00 pm. Technology and abstracts from commercial space travel experimentation

* * * *

“You’ll have a tiring day if you to listen to all these.” said Ruth

“I’ll only go to the ones that I want to go to. I’ve been asked to contribute to the eleven o’clock lecture.”

The lift doors opened and they were surprised to see, waiting outside, David Hornbeam, Daniel Bond and another man – the fleshy Bernard Cummings – waiting for them. Cummings and Hornbeam split the couple up by taking charge of Francis as he came out of the lift. “We need to see you a minute, Francis,” They led him off down the corridor.

Ruth looked at the security man and the security man looked at her. Something was wrong.

“I’m afraid we have to collect in everyone’s mobile phone and keep them for a short period of time. You’ll get it back soon.”

“When, why?”

“Directive from my line managers. It’s happening to everyone, not just you.”

She handed over her mobile phone. He looked at it, smiled and put it in his pocket. “I see you put the battery back in.”



“I’ve opened your room door for you. No 37. It’s the 6th one along,” he said and walked off.

She walked along, looking around the sumptuous hotel, with its tiled ceilings, hanging tapestries and deep piled carpet. She got to the door of the room just as David Hornbeam came running after her and called her. “Ruth, Ruth!”

She turned and faced him. His face was red, hot and sweaty from running back up the stairs.

“I thought you were talking to Francis – ”

“- Your mother has fallen down the stairs. She’s in Fulham hospital. They believe that she’s broken her hip and she might have concussion. We’ve arranged for an escort to take you back straight away.”

“Oh God,” she said, her blood colour draining from her face. “Is she really bad?”

“I don’t know, but it sounded as though she had had a bad fall. Get your case. There it is, you haven’t even unpacked.” He stepped inside the room and picked it up for her,”

“I need to tell Francis. Does he know?”

“You won’t  have time for that. We’ll explain everything to him. If you want to catch the next flight to from Prestwick to London you really ought to move now. He’s in a meeting at the moment but we’ll put him in the picture. I’m sure we can find the resources to pay for a flight back up again when you’ve been to see your mother, we will be here till Late Monday.”

Ruth looked down at the carpet, then stepped into the room that she hadn’t even been in yet. It wasn’t a bedroom, but a lounge lobby, with a door to a bedroom, the most palatial hotel suite she had ever seen. She scanned the room.  She picked up a book off the coffee table. ‘Thus Spoke Zarathrustra’ by Frederick Nietzche. “Goodbye room. I’m sure you won’t mind if I take a memento,” she whispered to herself.

Hornbeam looked at her crestfallen face. He hated doing this.



Within 20 minutes Ruth was sitting in the front passenger seat of the mini, the mini that had followed the people carrier to hotel. Hornbeam was talking to her through the open window. “I really hope your mum’s okay. We’ll give you a call this evening. I’ll inform Francis directly what’s happened of course. Have a safe journey and it’s been very nice to meet you. Sorry you didn’t have the chance to stay a little bit longer.”

She didn’t look at him. Her beautiful face didn’t change its expression at all.

“I’ve put your suitcase in the boot,” he said.


Oh, and here’s your phone, I’ve put the phone battery in your case, because you won’t be needing it for a while. Security requests you don’t use it until you are in the airport. Malcolm and Terry will stay with you until you are on the plane. ”

“I want to phone the hospital,” she said.

“A little later perhaps,” said Hornbeam with a wan smile.

The man called Terry got into the back of the mini and Malcolm sat by the wheel. The door was slammed, a knowing nod was given and Malcolm drove out of the estate of the hotel.

* * * * *

Ruth did not feel well and groaned and sighed as they came out on to the main road.

“A long sigh,” said Malcolm. “I’m sure your mum will be okay. You’ll be in London in a couple of hours. We have enough time to get to the airport.”

“I’ve got terrible stomach ache,” said Ruth clutching her abdomen.

Another mile further along, she said, “I’m feeling very ill. A bit travel sick as well.”

“Only about half an hour,” said Malcolm trying to cheer her up.

“Is there a toilet I could use along the way. I’m really suffering.”

“I don’t think we’re allowed to do toilet stops.”

“What you do mean? Hornbeam said you were escorting me, surely you’re not to restrict me when I’m having a period are you? What am I? Your prisoner.” She vented anger.

Malcolm didn’t say anything. Terry leant his head over and tried to ease the mood. “There’s a small town further up with a public convenience,” he said. “We can let you use the toilet, but we don’t want to be late at the airport. Please be as quick as you can,” he said.

“I’ll need to get some stuff out of my case,” she said.

There was an embarrassed silence for a minute. “Okay,” said Terry.

Ruth had a plan. As soon as she was out of the car she would run and shout rape if they chased after her.

* * * *

Several miles later the outskirts of Laigh Glengall –  the beginning of Prestwick itself – began to surround them. The car stopped. Malcolm got out and opened the boot. He pulled out her case. “I’ll take it with me,” she said.

The public convenience was old, post war and was attached by terrace to a number of buildings, a disused Salvation Army hall, a disused NHS clinic and unfathomable knots of alleys and jitties ran behind these. She went in the ladies and Ruth’s first reaction was to look for another way out. She found a blue door which lead out the back but it was locked. None of the windows were assailable; not only were they closed, but one would need to be the size of a goldfish to slither through. Her mind was racing furiously. Then she heard the noise of mop and bucket and looked over at the closets. A woman wearing a blue council top was emerging from one at the far end.

“Excuse me,” said Ruth, “but I’ve a psycho ex-boyfriend outside waiting outside for me. Is there any other way out of the toilet?”

The woman looked Ruth up and down, blew a circle of breath from her mouth and stood frozen for what Ruth thought was an age. The woman walked away from Ruth towards the blue door, took out a key and unlocked it. “Thanks,” said Ruth as she made her way through.

“Taxi rank just around the corner. Go right, left, right, left,” said the woman in guttural Scottish.

“I think you should go as well, now,” said Ruth earnestly, “He’s dangerous. Don’t leave by the front door.”

* * * * *

Ruth went along the jitty as instructed and came out onto a busy high street. Immediately in front her was a taxi rank with one car pulled in and a driver behind the wheel. She jumped in the back seat with her case. “Take me five miles to the East of this town, but – whatever you do – don’t drive past the public convenience around the corner. Please go immediately.”

“Robbed a bank?” he grinned. “Do you want to put your case in the boot?” asked the bespectacled young man, curly hair, he looked nerdish but in a Clark Kent type of way.

“No. Just get me out of here quickly.”

He switched on the engine and pulled out. “Shall I take you out to Patna. It’s 13 miles east.”

“Yes and do it now!” shouted the Ruth, looking through the windows, quite terrified.

“Are you looking for somewhere to stay,” he shouted.

“erh.. no, just take me there and drop me off.”


* * * *

Back inside the Westin Turnbury Hotel, Francis was now taken into a third interview room that afternoon. It looked like he was going to a job interview this time. Daniel Bond sat behind a desk with another man he hadn’t seen before; he had grey hair with flicks of white, angular facial features and a lazy right eye. He wore a grey suit and a yellow tie. He was introduced to Francis as Mr. Hennesey.

“It’s important that we keep security 110 percent tight, Francis.”

“You’ve got me to sign all the papers, I’ve never seen so many documents.” This, they had been getting him to do in the second room.

“Yes, that is a mere formality,” said Hennesey, “anyone privileged enough to be asked here has to sign all the security forms.”

“We have a slight problem,” said Daniel.

Francis didn’t know what to say so he beamed his ingratiating smile at them.

“How long have you known Ruth?” asked Hennesey.

Francis was slightly taken aback. It must be some game. But his smile had gone.

“About two months, perhaps a little longer, why?”

“Where did you meet her, because you’re not in England very much of the time are you?”

“I met her at a party given by the institute in Geneva. She was holidaying there.”

“I have to be blunt, Mr Carridge, but your girlfriend is proving to be something of a security risk.”

Francis laughed incredulously. “You’re joking.”

“What can you tell us about her?”

“She said you were all out to get her and I told her she was being paranoid. She was obviously right.”

“Did she express any political opinions?”

“No. She didn’t.”

“Why did you both go out on to the golf course?”

“She just wanted a walk.”

“What were you talking about out there?”

“This and that.

“Please be specific, Mr. Carridge, we don’t have all day.”

“We were talking about getting married, and what I was going to be doing here over the weekend.”

“I am informed that she thought Nietzche influenced the Nazi’s.”

“Oh yes. I remember. That was some conversation with Hornbeam over the seminar chamber.”

“Just for the record, Nietzche was not a Nazi, that is a historical misunderstanding,” said Hennesey.

Francis couldn’t care less. “Where is Ruth?” he asked quietly.

“She’s fine,” lied Hennesey, who was very well aware – by now – that no one knew how or where she was, “she’s gone back to London.”

Francis was alarmed. “You’re joking!”

“Mr. Carridge, you have signed global security papers committing yourself to the propagation of the good works we do here. Now, without us sounding in any way extremist, we do have a problem, and because of the massive responsibilities we have, I’m sure you understand that we have to deal with the problem quite severely and effectively. Nevertheless, your girlfriend is fine, she has merely been sent to her mother’s in London.”

“Can I phone her?”

Hennesey looked at Daniel Bond and they exchanged looks.

“You may do as you like, but before we conclude this interview, can you tell us more about your girlfriend. We would much appreciate it and also it is your legal duty to tell us anything that will help us with our security.”

“She’s just a lovely girl, and we clicked when we first met. She’s not that scientific but she’s very intelligent – ”

“Could you tell us about her past, her education, her travels?”

“I think she was educated in London. I don’t know much about her travels.”

“Did she mention living in Northern Spain for three years from when she was 20.”

“I’ve heard her talk a bit of Spanish, but I never realised she lived there for that long.”

Hennesey sighed and looked down at his clasped hands. He wearily looked at the security officer.

“Okay Francis, you can go. Try not to worry about it, and when you telephone her, let us know how she is and if there is anything we can do for her.”

* * * *


Up into higher lands they drove, and occasionally when she looked out the back window to see if she was being followed, she caught a sight of the sea. It was not raining now, but it was dull and windy.

Eventually they pulled into a small village.

“Where do you want to be dropped?”

“Near the centre where the shops are.”

“There aren’t many.”

The driver dropped her on the corner of the small high street.

She paid him and walked off with her case up the street. She found what she was looking for: a pub. inside she located a landline telephone. She discretely took off her shoe and removed a rubber insert from it. Then studying the back of the insert in detail she dialed a number.

“Hello, it’s Ruth,” she said, putting back on her shoe.

“Who is Ruth?” came a brown Spanish voice.

“Ruth for the truth,” she said.

“You’re a mover?”

“That’s right.”

Where are you?”

“I’m in the Red Lion in Patna.”

“You’re not okay?”

“I’m vulnerable but alone.”

“Wait there, you’ll be picked up in about half an hour. Are you a redhead?”

“Blue dress, black hair and I’ve got a suitcase.”

“Check. Goodbye,” he said.

She thought about calling her mum, but decided it would be best just before she left.

* * * *

About half an hour later, a tall man, thirtyish, unshaven and with black hair approached her. “Hello. I’m Phillipe, and you are Ruth?”

“Good to see you. Phillipe?”

He looked around the pub first before he nodded. There was no one in there, and the landlady had gone outside temporarily.

“Is this all you have, just the suitcase.”

She nodded. “Can I make a quick phone call to London before we leave?”


“They said my mum was ill and I want to check.”

“I don’t think that would be wise.”


“Do it quickly here on the landline, I’ll wait outside for you in my car, it’s just around the corner.”

* * * *

Avoiding the use of her mobile, which was still in her case, she found her mum’s landline number in her pocket diary.

“Hello, 547295,  Angela Festoon.”

“Hello mum, it’s Ruth. How are you?”

“Hello darling, I’m fine. How are you? Where are you?”

“I’m in London, mum,” she lied, “So you’re okay. I had this feeling that you were ill?”

“No, just the usual twinges.”

“I had this feeling that you had fallen over.”

“Not at all. In fact I’ve just been weeding.”

“Anyway this is a very short call because I’m very busy with something. I just wanted to say look after yourself. I love you, mum. Goodbye,” and she put the phone down immediately.

Ruth turned round to notice the Landlady, who had stealthily returned, looking at her oddly. Ruth didn’t think the woman could have heard any of her conversation from that distance.

Even if they tapped her mum’s landline, it would only lead to a pub in a village. She was hoping that she would be untraceable for at least 24 hours. If she put the battery back on her mobile they would have her location in seconds. In fact, anyone on Google could find her in seconds.

* * * *

So what was it like in the hotel?” asked Phillipe when she got in his car.

“So you’ve figured that out have you?”

“Didn’t take much working out.”

“There are some very impressive people. They worship Nietzche and Darwin and modern technology and see themselves as modern saviours. They make out that Neitzche was not a pro-nazi, and that he believed in God. What a whitewash. Listen to these random quotes i’ve been reading in the pub.”

She leafed through the book she had taken from the hotel rooms.

* * * *

‘We build our nest in the tree: future eagles shall bring food to us solitaries in their beaks.’

‘The winged creature values many things higher than life itself, yet this evaluation itself speaks – the will to power!’

‘Oh my brothers, he who is first born is always sacrificed. Now we are all first born.’

‘Yes, my friend, you are a bad conscience to your neighbours for they are unworthy of you, thus they hate you and would dearly like to suck your blood.’

‘For my wisdom says: where power is there number becomes master; it has more power.’

‘And he who declares the Ego healthy and Holy and selfishness glorious – truly he is a prophet.’

‘Man is evil – all the wisest men have told me that to comfort me. Ah, if only it be true today! For evil is man’s best strength. ‘Man must grow better and more evil’, this do I teach. The most evil is necessary for the Superman’s best.’

‘He who wants to kill most thoroughly – laughs. One kills not by anger but by laughter.’

‘How many a thing is now called grossest wickedness which is only 12 feet broad and three months long. One day however greater dragons will come into the world.’

‘This new law table do I put over you, O my brothers: Become Hard!’

‘But we certainly do not want to enter into the kingdom of heaven;  we have become men, so we want the kingdom of the earth.’

‘The god who saw everything even man this god had to die! Man could not endure that such a witness should live.’

‘God has died. Now we desire  – that the Superman shall live.’

‘You highest men my eyes have encountered! This is my doubt of you and my secret laughter: I think you would call my Superman a devil!’

* * * *

“I am going to have to ask you to stop reading and ask you to shut your eyes.”


“So that you can’t be traced back to me, or where I live.”

“Is that where you are taking me?”

“It’s the only place that would be safe to take you. You need to rest for a while and we need to decide how to get you out of the country.”

“Blindfold me if you wish.”

“Put on the sunglasses in that compartment near you, you’ll see them.  You will see nothing, but anyone who notices us a man and woman in a car will not think anything is out of place.”

She pulled out the sunglasses on put them on. They blocked out everything, even side light. She talked with her eyes closed, as she could see nothing.

“Have you been living around this place for a while? Do you know your way around? Do you think you could get me back in to the Westin Turnberry Hotel? ”

“I have been living here for over ten years. I do know my way around and I have many contacts, but they do not know who I really am. I am not a mover, but a sitter. As for getting you into the Turnberry Hotel, I would estimate that as 110% impossible.”

“Think about it, I  need to get back in.”

* * * *

Eventually they arrived at a small detached house in the countryside and he pulled inside the drive. He told her she could remove the dark glasses. He had a good look round before leading Ruth inside. He took her up to one of the bedrooms carrying her suitcase.

“I’m sure you want to freshen up and have a rest. I’ll leave you for a few hours, come downstairs and find me when you wake up.”

“Thank you,” she said. “If I’m not down by 9.30pm come and knock on my door.”

* * * *

Once inside the room, she drew the curtains together, shutting out the woodland view and the afternoon light. She threw off her metallic blue dress, removed her bra and pants and went into the miniscule ensuite bathroom and showered. Hot and refreshed, she toweled herself dry with a towel that was already in there. She made liberal use of available talcum powder and shower gel. She slipped into the sheets of the double bed. Her mind was racing but her nervous exhaustion engulfed her in sleep quickly.

Then a dimension later she was awake.

“Who’s that?”

Someone was near her.

“Phillipe?” she asked.

She rubbed her eyes, something wasn’t right. There was something, somebody sitting on the edge of her bed. It was a big man. It wasn’t Philliipe.

She rubbed her eyes again.

“Do not be afraid,” it said gravely, solemnly.

“It was a ghastly size. He had an angular chin and his skin was grey, death coloured.

“We have taken the wrong road,” it said.

She sat up thinking she might scream.

“I am an angel from Peckham Rye,” it said, “I also come to bring you strength. I also come to tell you that some men are so bored that unless they surround themselves with evil and danger they sleep. ”

“Go away,” she winced, “I’m dreaming.” She had noticed its large white wings trailing all the way to the floor.

“Behold, the world of the Demiurge. The Industrial Revolution bites mankind. The garden of Eden is foul with weeds.”

She put her head under the covers, but its masculine voice droned on.

“Man has forsaken God for Unizen. I repeat I come to give you strength.”

She kicked at the point of the bed where he sat, but her foot went straight through the point where he was apparently sitting and out of the cover. There was no weight there. She cautiously lifted her eyes from out of the covers. She was astonished to see him standing eight feet high beside her bed. “I leave you fair wind and high tension,” he said and vanished.

She was lucid dreaming. She must get out of the dream. Yet she couldn’t get back to sleep. She looked at her watch. It was 8.15pm. She turned over and tried to sleep, but the rain had returned and was making so much noise on the windows she decided to get up.

* * * *

Much earlier in the day, in late afternoon, Cumming’s department were doing everything in their power to trace Ruth’s movements. They had expected her to refit her mobile battery back in her mobile but so far their electronic detectors had not registered any such move. They had all assumed she would call her mother, but there had been nothing. Cummings ran over the listed calls to both her mother’s mobile and landline. There was no history of communication.

“We have a list of numbers who have called but no idea who they are. Can we bloody sort this out!” Cummings shouted at Daniel Bond who had just come out of a meeting with the distraught Malcolm and Terry, who were in no one’s good books. Neither of them understand how she had managed to get out of the toilet without being seen, and were under a bit of suspicion themselves.

Cummings didn’t wait for an answer. He pressed a button on his mobile. “Find out the individuals who sent calls to Festoon’s mother since lunch time! A list of phone numbers is no bloody good, she could be using anyone’s phone. Why hasn’t anyone had the initiative to do this already?”

“I can’t understand it,” said Hornbeam limply, who had been moping nearby. “I felt sure she was okay.”

“Not fucking okay!” screamed Cummings in blood curdling tones. Daniel had never seen him shout like that. “We have the world’s greatest crop of scientists and politicians here and you bring in a lefty twat like that! You’re not fit for purpose. A bit of skirt and you are a security walk-in! Get out of my sight!”

Hornbeam’s psychological bottom lip went up to meet his nose, quivering and tearful. He showed no actual physical emotion though as he went off to the bar. His career was in tatters.

* * * *

Just after 5pm, Cummings was brought another list giving the names of all the callers to Ruth’s mother. He called for Francis to be brought in and asked him if he knew any of these people. Francis knew none of the them and Cummings dismissed him. Cummings once again rang Mrs. Festoon herself, as he had before that evening, but she was still either not answering or out. She had no answer phone attached.

An hour later, Daniel brought more sheets of updated information that had been emailed through, this time with some of the addresses registered to the landline numbers.

“That’s it,” said Cummings. “We’ve got her. She made a phone call at the Red Lion in Patna. It’s the only Scottish address.”

* * * *

Later, downstairs at Phillipe’s house, Ruth sat on an armchair opposite Phillipe. The TV was on with the sound turned off. He had dressed up a bit, he had on a new jacket and a white shirt – which even sported a tie. She hadn’t mentioned her strange dream.

“I’ve an idea,” she said.

“No doubt you are going to tell me what it is,” he said. He noticed her in detail. She was in jeans and a black tee-shirt. She looked good even in the simplest of clothes.

“A small  boat. You know, with some oars.”

“I see.”

She yawned. Then her eyes opened a little wider. She looked at her watch. “Could you get one this evening?”

“I could borrow one from a friend, but that would link directly back to me. It would be better to break into one of the boat houses on the beach and steal one. ”

“Let’s do that.”

“The weather is so bad, I really wouldn’t recommend it. Anyway you’d never get back into the hotel.”

“I have to. Organise the boat.”

“No need to. I already have the equipment. But what you are doing is madness. Remember, the answer to ‘Enframing’ is the pursuit of Fine Art. Why not do that instead.?”

She laughed. “Heidegger eh? Not the Freedom Club? Both manifestos lead to same thing.”

He laughed. Then he said seriously, “I don’t want you to die tonight. The weather report is bad and that place is more secure than Fort Knox when they have these conferences on.”

“That’s my problem.”

“You’re a beautiful girl. What do you want to go back there for anyway? Why don’t you just publish anonymously what you saw on the internet.”

“Anonymously! They’ll pick me up as soon as they can find me. I’m no longer anonymous, softie.”

“You will need to leave the country.”

“I’m going to the hotel and you are supposed to support me.”

“Very well. I’ll drive you to Girvan – about seven miles from here – there is a suitable boat that is moored there. It has a motor and oars. I’ll help you get the boat out into the sea when it’s dark. I assume you want me to come with you?”

“Of course not.”

“I am surprised. Are you sure?”

“Yes. Carry on.”

“You will need to head north and keep close to the cliffs for about five miles. Then you’ll cut the engine and negotiate – with oars –  around a rock that sticks out. The hotel beach is just after.”

She smiled. “Okay.”

“You are a mover.”

“I hope I’ve earned the title,” she said.

She changed the subject. “I need to put something on that keeps me warm and dry, can you help?

“Yes, It may be slightly large but you can have an old one I have. It belonged to an ex girl friend, she left it here. I will check it for any identity tags.”

“Also I need a new mobile. You can take my mobile and lose it somewhere to put them off the scent.”

“I thought of that. I have an old mobile over here but I need to put a blank unconnected Simm card in it”.

“Could you put these two numbers into the list of contacts.” She showed him a number from her pocket diary. “The first one you list as 01 and the second as 02.  Don’t get them mixed up.”  He tapped in the numbers. He passed her over the phone for her and asked, “Where did you conceal my phone number?”

“I kept it hidden here,” she said, putting down the phone and taking off a shoe and removing a sole insert. “What do you want me to do with it?”

“I’ll destroy it,” he said.

“So when do you propose we leave?” she asked after a prolonged silence.

“The longer we leave it, the greater the chance of success, but the more noticeable as night-drivers we will be on the road and the worse the weather will be. It must be your call.”

“If we set off about midnight? I don’t think they will be expecting me,” said Ruth.

* * * *

FInd the girl

At 7pm Bernard Cummings and Daniel Bond went inside the Red Lion in Patna. Two military police sat in their car outside.

“Yes,” said the landlady, a woman came in during that afternoon. She had an orange juice and used the telephone a few times. She was here for about 40 minutes. She was alone most of the time and then she was talking to a tall man with black hair. No he didn’t have a drink so I never spoke to him. He wasn’t there while she made a phone call. I’ve no idea if she left with him.

“After you’ve got the boys to check all the bed and breakfasts and hotels, see if we have any aerial, satellite surveillance around here. Also check the number plate cameras, and see if we have any unusual numbers, or oddities,” said Cummings to the local police officer, and then waited for Daniel Bond. The security man was frittering away his small change in the one man bandit. They then drove back to the Turnbury Hotel.

* * * *

It was approaching midnight. As Phillipe drove Ruth to Girvan the light of the day had gone. Rain splattered the windscreen and from a distance could be heard the low boom of thunder.

“Weather conditions not good,” he said, “If it gets any worse the boat could fill up with water.”

“I’m used to boats,” she said quietly.

“You don’t look like you do.”

“No. Sailed alone a lot when I was young. If you push me out and start the motor off, I should be okay. I’ve only got to follow the cliffs until I get to a beach with a golf course.”

Phillipe felt like he wanted to be gallant and it was beginning to make her feel uncomfortable.

She said, “You go off somewhere with my phone, connect the battery and make phone calls. That will confuse anyone who’s trying to trace me. That’s really what I want you to do.”

“I could connect your phone to its battery and put it in a plastic bottle or something and let it float off down the river.”

“We don’t want to suggest I’m heading for the sea.”

But Phillipe had already come up with a better idea. He pulled into a transport cafe. He asked at the counter if the girl knew of any trucks that were going South soon, as he was desperate for a lift. She referred to a driver tucking into his food at the end of the room.

“Charlie’s in the Eddie Stombard wagon. He’ll be off in about 15 minutes.”

“Great,” said Phillipe. “I’ll come and have a word with him in a minute,” and he left the cafe. Quickly, he found gaffer tape from the tool box in his boot, connected the battery to Ruth’s mobile, and taped it to the bottom of this truck. He felt quite damp as he got back in and started the car.

“it’s not going to Girvan, but to Leicester,” he said. “And it’s due to set off in about 10 minutes.”

* * * * *

On the tail

At 12/50 Cummings phone rang to tell him that they were getting a global location positioning on Ruth’s phone. It seemed to be in a vehicle travelling south on the B742. There was no data that she had used it, but the mobile had received a couple of calls, neither of which had been replied to. The calls were from Francis and her mother.

“Get the sky cameras tracking it. Get a car, track it and stop it,” he said and ending the call.

“She’s put the battery back in her mobile?” said Cummings to himself. “Why now?”

* * * *

Phillipe drove down a tarmaced slip road that lead down to the beach. He knew many people in Girvan who owned boats. An ideal one was housed only metres away from the sea here. “Stay in the car until I wave,” he told Ruth. Getting an enormous sized pair of metal-cutters out of the hatchback he walked off down the beach.

In the blustery wind and rain, Phillipe cut the chain of the padlock locking the rolling roof of a rotting boathouse. Once the chain was removed, as quietly as he could, he rolled the roof back to reveal a small boat sitting on a trolley. He rejected the idea of donning the rubber waders that were in the shed. They would restrict his movements and he might leave DNA. Checking there were no more chains or restrictions he hauled the boat and trolley down to the sea. He waved to Ruth to join him.

He pushed the boat out to a three feet depth, leaving it in the confused state between grounded and sea borne. He attached one end of rope to the boat, the other end to a metal pole and firmly spiked it in the sand. He decided to return the trolley to the shed, so that aerial surveillance would not pick it up. Ruth then waded into the sea – lifting her arms above the lapping waves. As soon as she had clambered in, he released the rope and pushed the boat several feet further so that the sea took the weight. “Hold on to those oars, don’t lose those,” he shouted.

It was raining and blustery.

She pulled the cord on the motor. Nothing happened. She tried again. She breathed a sigh of relief when the engine took up the spark at the second attempt.

He wanted to shout ‘Good Luck’, but restrained himself. He silently waved her off, and then walked discretely in the shadows back to his car. He then drove a thirty mile detour back to his house.

* * * *

In the drenching rain, Ruth steered her vessel out into the vast Firth of Clyde and then turned northwards.

She was in another world. Immersed in a heavy good quality waterproof walking jacket, she had her arms folded about her, bracing herself against the wind. The waxing moon, in its last quarter, was mainly obscured by rain clouds, but occasionally its light broke through and illuminated her, a noble Goddess on the prow of a Viking boat, her hair blowing back before disappearing into the dark night. The moonlight often came out and froze her but these random shafts of light only made her aware how conspicuous and vulnerable she was as the boat made a bee line along the coast to the beach of the Turnberry hotel.

* * * *

“It’s a HGV vehicle sir. We following it now, right behind it,” said Malcolm.

“Are you in a vehicle?”

“Yes, the superintendent let us use one.”

“Put on the siren and stop the wagon. Let me know what happens.”

“Will do,”

Cummings rubbed his unshaven chin. He thought this was a trick by the clever little bitch. Why had she put her battery back in her phone and then not used it? That seemed very odd.

Five minutes later his suspicions were confirmed.

“She ‘s not in the articulated wagon, sir. We opened it the back of the lorry but there were cartons of furniture in there.  We put a hand tracker on and it would seem on further investigation we think the phone is somewhere underneath the lorry, Terry’s under there now with a torch.”

“Yes, okay. You’ll find it stuck to the bottom.” He ended the call.

Cummings was now certain – for the first time – that Ruth was a serious terrorist. Nevertheless, this realisation was not what he had hoped. The stakes were suddenly higher and he had a dearth of ideas on what to do next. How could he get to this dangerous bitch? And what was her plan?

Something about Ruth disturbed him. He couldn’t quite get into her head. He didn’t really understand her purpose.

How could anyone be hostile to a world government think-tank trying to solve the problems of the world’s future, future, future technologies? Wasn’t it obvious to any intelligent person that the world had no choice but to progress with better and better technologies. Things could never be go back to the country idyll. To jettison existing technologies would lead to chaos, economic destitution, starvation and war. Once something is out of Pandora’s box it can never be put back. Yes, to go forward with untested technologies was utterly dangerous. But you must when you’ve got a tiger on your tail – he accepted totally that present technology and its inherent problems had become a man eater. You can’t go backwards, you MUST run forwards. Treading water was death. New technologies are created to fix the fuck ups of the old ones, surely everyone knew that the road forward was an ever-diminishing availability of choices, a contracting conical spiral staircase that we climb. if we get it wrong, we’ll all be dead, but there was no other choice. For some reason this bitch reminded him of his wife. That cow, and she had gone and married a lefty teacher.

* * * *


The sea had become choppier and the rain had increased its fervour. The rumble of thunder had returned, and the ever increasing appearance of lightning turned the sea into frame after frame of black frozen magma.

She switched off the engine, and the boat seemed to rock even more. Her feet were immersed in water that was beginning to flood the bottom of the boat.

She changed her mind and decided to leave the engine on, she didn’t think anyone would hear it in this squall.

But suddenly a bone-shaking boom tore through the sky rapidly pursued by three flashes of forked lightning, and then more booms followed, crashing on some distant anvil struck by Neptune himself.

The spirit of each wave took umbrage against its neighbour.  Under the eerie black sky each peak was topped by the next eddy of turbulence. Chaos splashed to new heights. Storm was the shower of death; anger soaking itself to the soul. From the Cliffs came the explosion of liquid mass against rock. The sea-god was taking no prisoners. The spray and miasma must vanquish the moon and stars. The lighthouse looked imperturbably on, seeing nothing, not being seen and helping no one, pathetic in its man-made impotence.

She fired the engine, but this time two, three and four attempts failed to start it.

In the spume, the boat began to fill with water. She rowed for her life.

Like an ambulance escaping a barrage in the First World War, the boat came round the final cliff, slowly, slowly, ever so slowly.

The cruel cold sea –  the biggest thing on the planet – demanded attention. Everyone knew her well, knew her tricks and everyone hated her when she behaved like this.

* * * *

She was now only a quarter of a mile away from the sand at the back of the hotel golf course. The engine off, she rowed until the boat began to chaff the sand. She slipped off the boat with great dexterity, making little noise and no splash. She pulled the boat along behind her, until it was sitting virtually on sand, with little risk of the waves returning it involuntarily to the sea. She wouldn’t be here long, the tide would not steal her boat, nor leave her stranded.

Then as she turned back to the hotel an amazing thing happened. Forked lightning spread all over the sky, followed almost instantaneously by an enormous boom. Suddenly the whole of the hotel, which had had a few bedroom lights on and outer lights went completely dark. The hotel could be seen in the distance as a dark silhouette, occasionally picked out when the clouds parted to allow moonlight through.

She looked around for movement, for figures, for guards, for dogs. She could see nothing.

In the pouring rain she slowly made her way up the beach, and onto the golf course. She tried to obscure herself in the best way she could from the windows of the hotel, although at times this was impossible, and here she got down on the ground and crawled, forcing herself to move very slowly. Eventually she closed in on  the back face of the hotel, There were still no signs of life, although she could hear some shouting. That the lightning had put out the electricity in the hotel was too much to hope for! Technological breakdown!

She had left the golf course now and was coming over the heather patch that stood between the course and the hotel. She stood against the tree that where Francis had been flirting with her the previous afternoon. She placed her hands around the middle of the tree, a metre from its base and massaged it. Eventually she found a loose piece of bark. Flickers of moonlight gave her occasional assistance, but most of her extraction was done by touch. She took off the evenly carved rectangle of wood from the tree and removed a vacuum flask that had been concealed behind it. She removed her necklace and by a sense of touch placed the key inside the top of the flask. When the cup had been removed she placed two battery like objects in a pocket. She unscrewed the top of the flask and pulled out two clear plastic bags with soft material inside. She put the flask together, leaving it unlocked, and put it back in the tree. She replaced the covering bark.

Her plan had been to phone Francis to get her in through a window, or some other entrance, but now, convinced there had been a power cut, she thought she might be able to just go in the main entrance. Nevertheless it was more risky than mobiling Francis.

It was still a night of dark deep shadows and no lights, so she decided to run up to the building. She tried a side door. It was locked. As she went round to the front she gradually heard a voice getting louder. As she got closer she realised someone was making a phone call.

“Everything’s still down. We’re trying to get the generator going, but its not been used for years and we’ve got James and Emerson looking at it. It’s terribly embarrassing. Fortunately as most people are asleep, they may not find out about it. Yes, Mr. Coultard, I’ll come down to your office, it may take me a little while in the dark.”

He had gone and left the entrance unguarded. She slipped round corners, her eyes aware of any figure or obstacle, but there was no one around. She went through into the marble foyer. Of course all the lifts would be out of action but Hornnbeam had taken her up the stairs this morning. She could remember. Past the colonades, up the left, through an archway and up the stairs. And then round again to look over into the Evolutionary Seminar Chamber. There in the dark, Nietzsche hung in his dark and solid gold. Listening intently for any danger, she hauled herself up on the balustrade and pulled the soft plastacine material out of the clear plastic bags. She attached one ball of the material in between his buttocks and the other under his left armpit as his head was out of reach.

Suddenly rapid footsteps were behind her, she almost lost her balance. She quickly turned.

A dark figure spoke. “Goodness I thought you were another statue standing up there! Do you know where the toilets are? I can’t find any lights, and I’m not quite sure where I am,” said the woman.

The voice was recognisable, but she couldn’t place it. “There’s a bathroom just around the corner,” said Ruth gently, pointing, having committed the navigation of this part of the hotel to memory.

“Thank you, Ruth. You are such a pretty girl,” she said, and walked off. Ruth surmised it must have been the woman in the Stagioni bar this morning when they talked to the scientists.

Ruth quickly took out the battery shaped detonators and placed each one firmly in the putty balls.

Ruth slipped her feet back on to the ground and began to descend the stairs. More feet were heard downstairs. She kept slipping into shadows as figures would go by, shouting orders to each other. As she came within eye view of the reception her heart raced. A lot more figures were standing talking to each other, effectively blocking her exit.

She had a big decision, the most difficult of her life. Should she go and find a safe corner and fire the detonators and die, and execute her orders, or try and escape before she fired the detonators? If she got caught her mission would be discovered and her mission would have failed.

* * * *

The finding

There was no way she was going to get out. She went back upstairs and went into the public bathroom.  Fortunately, the woman had gone by now. Ruth went into one of the cubicles, locked it and sat down. She got out her mobile phone and found the two numbers that Phillipe had put on for her. O1 was for Francis, in case she needed his help to get her in the building. 02 was to detonate the Semtex. She tried to empty her mind of all thoughts, and all emotions, but her mother’s face kept coming back to her. She wrestled and wrestled with moment. She had to do it now, if she left it any longer, the whole plan would fail and her life would be meaningless.

Instantly she pressed the 02 number. It came up on the screen.

“Hello Superman, meet Superwoman, Angel of Death,” she whispered.  She pressed the green button, and let the mobile fall to the floor.

But nothing happened. There was no explosion. The mobile was making noises, she picked it up. “Hello? Who is that? Is this to do with the power cut?”  A man’s voice.

“Hello Francis,” she said, her voice shaking.

“Ruth? Good heavens. How is your mother?”

“Mum’s alright. I’ve come back to the hotel, and I’m a bit of bother. Do you think you could rescue me, without telling a soul about it?”

“They said you were a terrorist,” he laughed.

She laughed too.

“Come up to my room.”

“I don’t know where it is.”

“where are you?”

“I’m on the first floor in the bathroom near the Evolutionary Seminar Chamber, but I don’t want anyone to find me. In fact I’d really like to get out of here. Can you get me out of the hotel without being seen.”

“I don’t know. I’ll come and bring you up here. I won’t say anything. I’ll call you on this number when I’m outside the bathroom. You should be alright because there’s a power cut.”

* * * *

Cummings had eventually gone to bed in his room on the third floor of the hotel. It was a room for security services, and so it was not ostentatious in any way, but it was comfortable. Nevertheless. He kept waking. He was disturbed. Something was not right. That bitch must have allies around here. She had somehow disappeared into the water table of the locality. After Patna, there had been no sign of her. All the hotels and B&Bs had been checked. Car registrations, odd vehicles had come up with either nothing or far too many to check. Where had she gone? What was her plan? He remembered his wife. Silly cow. Were they going to strike the hotel? Were they going to mortar it from a few miles away in the early morning. It seemed a good plan for the enemy.

He got out of bed, he needed a pee and was a bit sweaty anyway.

But he couldn’t get out of his head the idea that Ruth was likely to return. Yet that would be stupid. Maybe not with this power cut. But she would never get in unobserved.

* * * *

Minutes later Ruth got a tremor on her mobile. Ruth went straight out. Francis grabbed her and tried to kiss her, but she whispered insistently they move to his room. He led her up two staircases until they reached the floor they had been on that morning. Soon she was back in the suite from which she had taken Nietzsche’s book. As soon as the door was locked she allowed Francis to show his affection, and she reciprocated with hugs and kisses.

“You’re not really a terrorist, are you?” he said. She couldn’t quite see his face in the dark.

“Of course not, but that’s not the point, they think I am, and that’s just as bad.”

“Come to bed,”

“Alright. Make it quick. I really do need to get out of here.”

They went into the sumptuous bedroom and tore each others clothes off with no foreplay. They went at each other like animals, like gladiators to the death, like discord to concord, like tension to entropy. They made a lot of noises in the process.

“I’m going to tell you something,” said Francis looking down, he could just make out her beaming face.

“We need to get up and go,” she said.

“I’m a socialist, you know,” he said seriously.

“Great. I don’t suppose there’s any hot water in the system is there?”

“There might be, but without electricity at least they cant bug or video us in here.”

“I’m going to have a wash, then we must go. You must come with me.”

“I have some great socialist contacts all round the world,” said Francis. “I never went on the miner’s strike but I used to support it.”

She had pulled herself to the end of the bed. “But have you heard of The Unabomber Manifesto and the Freedom Club’s ‘Enslavement of the soul’, or Heidegger and ‘Enframing’?”

“No. What are those?”

“Interesting bits of philosophy, but not now. You’ll have to give me your contacts later.” She went off into the Baroque bathroom with her clothes. About eight minutes later she returned dressed. Francis was not there. Then he suddenly came bursting in.

“I’ve been told the lights are going back on in about five minutes by one of the caretakers. Let’s go. I’ll lead the way.”

She grabbed her walking jacket, flung in on and followed him out the door.

“You must come with me,” she said, “I have a boat.”

“A boat? You’re mad. Okay, let’s have a look at it.”

He led the way, exactly as planned. Luckily no one seemed to around at 4.30am, despite the urgent need to get the electricity fixed. She was buzzed down each stair case, and then after a slight delay, when Francis was spoken to by one of the electricians, she came down and they both fled out into the blustery night.

* * * * *

Cummings, despite feeling desperately tired, decided he needed to wander the corridors. He was short on ideas, and just the nature of going on the beat and taking observation would make him feel more secure in himself, something was definitely amiss. Perhaps he should check on Francis’s bedroom. That would be the only place that this woman would be able to go to.

He heard a noise as he came down to the second floor, but when he looked over the balustrade he saw nothing. This did not increase his confidence. He followed the noise down the stairs, but once again, he saw nothing. The front door had been left open, which at this time of the morning was strange, but he knew he had men posted around the building.

He went back up to Francis’s bedroom. The door was ajar and, without knocking, he went in. As he did so the light came on. The electricity was back on again. There was a smell of roses, women’s scent. He felt deeply worried. He checked the bedroom, the duvets were disheveled all over the mattress. He found something on the floor. He picked it up.

* * * *

Ruth and Francis got to the boat. Francis laughed at it. “Do you expect me to get into that.”

“That’s how I got here and it was dark and stormy then. The sea has calmed down, and the light is now coming up. Let’s go. Oh my God!”

“What’s wrong?”

“I haven’t got my mobile.”

“Oh sorry. I took it out while you were in the bathroom. I was going to bluetooth those Socialist contacts of mine on to your phone but got sidetracked when I heard the caretaker calling my name. I went out to see what he wanted and I forgot to put it back in your coat.”

Ruth was incandescent. “We must go back to the hotel! We must go fucking back!”

* * * *

As Cumming pressed the green button on the Ruth’s mobile to call 01, he made a connection in a split second, and then he began to completely disintegrate. At the same moment, half of the hotel blew to smithereens and much of the gold in Nietzsche’s statue melted, splashing all over the building rubble and the golf course. A moment later, two people rowed away on the dawn tide.


13,899 words






By Michael Skywood Clifford November ©2004

Paul was struggling to write his epic love poem. It had peaks of sex, giggles and sugar but, like his relationship with Joanna, it was going nowhere. He was relieved to put it aside when the doorbell went.

“I saw your car outside. I’d thought I’d call in,” said William in his soft tones, slightly raising his spectacles.

“I’m not teaching today,” said Paul.

I wish I could get away with working only three days a week,” said William. As he came in, a black cat writhed past his legs into the house.

“Harry!” said Paul with emotion. “Thank the Mother Mary you’re safe!” He lifted the cat to his face. He could feel the damp of the early morning dew on its fur. The cat purred.

Ah! Your cat flap,” remembered William. “I’ll get to round to putting that in this weekend,” said William.

When’s your next gig?” asked William minutes later, sitting down at the kitchen table and blowing on his mug of hot tea.

“On Friday. At the Bluebell. Joanna won’t be coming, we’ve split up. I think.”

Oh, I’m sorry,” said William.

* * *

On Friday, at the Bluebell, Paul had finished his first set, so with drink in hand, he joined William, whom he noticed earlier had come in with a very attractive woman.

“Your solos are really taking off these days,” congratulated William, beaming. Paul grinned and then looked at his escort.

“Oh, this is Elaine,” said William, putting down his glass of beer and fiddling with his spectacles, “she lives round the corner from me.”

Elaine was striking. How on earth did William managed to hook this one. William was no looker, in fact he was a bit of a fumbler in most departments.

“Hi,” said Paul, giving her a smile.

“I really enjoyed your playing, it was really good,” said Elaine, looking directly into his eyes. He couldn’t help noticing her flawless eggshell-blue eyes – not the slightest blemish. “William tells me that you’re a photographer too,” she added.

He referred to her first comment. “Thanks,” he said, sitting down. “Yeah the band’s good. I’m not too happy about that new clip – on mic I’ve got for the sax.”

“No, really Paul, your alto sounded great,” said William emphatically.

“So you live in Baddersly near William, do you?”  Paul asked Elaine.

“Oh we know some mutual friends.”

She had black hair – blacker than Harry’s fur. It was tied up in a prissy birthday girl kind of way. She had the beauty of an aristocratic senorita, but equally striking was her posture – as if she was a exponent of the Alexander technique. Every move was perfection. He discovered later she was big in amdram.

After the late night encores, as he was packing up, Elaine asked Paul if he would like to go over and see her on Sunday afternoon for a bite to eat and a drink.

“What about William?” he asked.

“I think William is busy,” she said, smiling.

He agreed more out of politeness, than anything else. Afterwards, he decided he wouldn’t bother.

* * *

William called on Saturday lunch time as promised. He spent just under two hours putting the cat flap in the kitchen door. Paul stayed at his computer trying to push his reluctant poem uphill.

He was pleased to put it aside when William finished and joined him. They inevitably got around to talking about Elaine. “She used to live with Wain, the guitarist in AZX, that rock band that used to play down at the Bull and Bear,” said William.

“I think she’s very beautiful, but I don’t know whether I can handle it at the moment. I’ve just split up with Joanna and I can’t get her out of my head,” said Paul. He moved over to look out of the bay window and said, “I’m going to Jeff’s garden party this afternoon, are you coming?”

I’ll try and get there.”

I bet Joanna will be there,” sighed Paul.

“You must go and see Elaine, it would lift your spirits,” said William emphatically. “And she’s not been with anyone for a while. Her last relationship ended a long time ago.”

“Why don’t you take a crack at her?”

“Out of my league, old man. She keeps me at a firm distance.”

Paul changed the subject again.

I’m thinking of getting rid of my old Austin and getting another cheap car. Can you ask around to see if anyone’s got anything for sale?”

Those old cars can be worth a lot of money if they’re done up.”

I just want one with brakes that work.”

* * *

Paul’s feeling that the garden party at Jeff’s was going to be a disaster wasn’t far from the truth.

Jeff’s lawn hosted bushes, lawns and washing lines, but no flowers could be seen anywhere. This afternoon it boasted a sea of faces, most of them having been familiar to Paul at one time or another, the in-crowd from the local town scene. He spotted Joanna immediately. She was sitting on the grass talking to her older sister. No doubt, thought Paul, she had been brought as guard bee and protector. Joanna’s two young daughters, Emma and Michelle, were also with her. Paul made the effort and sat them on the grass for a while, the ever present aroma of Jo’s ‘Obsession’ invading his nostrils. The conversation, however was – like the tinned lager he had picked up from the kitchen – strained. Joanna addressed most of her passing remarks to her sister. The only time she looked at him was when she was complaining about the amount of swearing she could hear around her in the garden. “I don’t like this sort of thing when there’s children around,” she said as if he had planned it.

Frozen out on this sunny afternoon, he went off to play at the bottom of the inexorable garden. A make-shift net had been strung around two trees for the purpose of entertaining guests with bats and a shuttlecock.

William arrived an hour later. He looked for Paul and was told he had gone inside. William went through a small lounge where two  women cackled on a settee, playing a game of dissing other guests. He found Paul in the front room, standing by the window, a glass of red wine his only company.

She’s been chatting up a toy boy in the garden for the past hour,” seethed Paul.

William had noticed when he arrived. “He’s the chap exposing his tan and biceps. Hardly her type, Paul.”

Get me another,” said Paul holding out his glass.

When William had gone out of the room to fetch him another drink, Paul became consumed by impulse. He strode off by a side door into the garden. He was going to have it out with Jo.

But not so. It was too late. She was gone. So had her sister, her daughters and the toy boy.

She’s got a lift with Andre,” said one of the settee harpies giggling. He wasn’t sure if the giggles were due to spritzer or shadendfreude.

He went back inside to find William. William proffered him the  drink in his left hand and his mobile telephone in the right.

It’s Elaine,” he said, “She’s just rang me. Have a word with her. She wants to know what time you are going over tomorrow.”

Paul grabbed the phone and began chatting.

   * * *

On the Saturday, he might have been eager to visit Elaine, but on the Sunday, he was not. They had swapped landline phone numbers on yesterday’s phone call, and when he woke his first thought was to call off.

Instead, he showered, washed his hair, put on fresh jeans and a tee shirt; he did these things in a resigned way, in the manner of a man going to the gallows. He planned to have a pint before he arrived at her house, to assuage his hangover and boost his flagging courage.

But only a few streets away, the rocking motion of the Austin exacerbated so much that it forced him to stop and get out. A flat tyre.

That’s done it.”

He drove the car onto the forecourt of a nearby factory and jacked up the car and began to replace the tyre. For the best part of an hour he cursed at misplaced spanners, sweated into his pristine clothes and blackened his palms with swarf. When it was done he drove back to his house and cleaned himself up again. So much for his trip.

He was putting another pair of trousers on when his phone went.


Where are you? When are you going to arrive?” It was Elaine.

I had a problem. I’m setting off now. See you in a bit.”

  * * *

Driving to North Warwickshire lifted his mood a little. The countryside around the Baddersly area was like entering an alien world, an ancient world. Even the Village streets rolled with the hills and the ever disappearing horizons, which gave them a haphazard quality. The place names seemed to take him to a dream place in the past.

Elaine’s terrace was set back with its garden off the arterial road that cut through the large village. He knocked on the door and waited mere micro seconds before she opened it. She was beaming and effusive, and eager to show how very pleased she was to see him. He apologised for being late.

  He was having to be ‘in the play’, not watching it as he usually did, and her enthusiasm and excitement overwhelmed him a little. His forehead furrowed at the amount of flesh she had on display. She was wearing very little – a skimpy bikini. Still, it was a hot sunny day.

  They chatted in the kitchen as she made him a drink, and then she led him out into her small back garden. She placed him in a garden chair and then lay before him on a camp bed like she was some feast he could gorge on. Most of the time he talked to her he averted his gaze and looked away into the garden finding her forwardness a bit gross, too eager.

 She was telling him about the things she’d done and been. “I have a fantastic mega horoscope, I can do anything!” she was saying. “I’ve been a nurse, a mayoress, a reflexologist; I used to walk a tightrope.  I could do anything I wanted,” she repeated.

After a while he began to tell her about his photography school background and about his published photographs. He went on to explain that after his divorce his interests had changed and now he was more interested in writing serious poetry than taking photographs.

It appeared she lived with her young son, Zak, and there was some problem there but Paul didn’t fish.

She was fiery, excitable. “Sometimes I go out, go nightclubbing and go the whole hog. I don’t drink alcohol very much, but I love to dance.”

He was trying to calm her rapid and zealous disclosures down a bit, allow a bit of space between them, emotion, mystery. He deliberately threw water over her fiery output by telling her that he was presently going through hell because the woman he loved had just split up with him. He knew the involvement of another woman would make her more pensive, and he was right. She stopped talking and listened more attentively.

“I have never been hurt,” she said, looking hurt. “I have never had any help from anyone. No one can look at me in the eyes and lie. I always tell the truth. I never get angry – ever.”


“Sometimes I feel fire but I never get angry. I give all the time. I love everybody.”

Paul had been right in calling her a senorita as she claimed she was of Spanish and Irish descent. She looks Spanish but she talks Irish, he thought.

As he drove away from Baddersly that evening, Elaine’s presence in his head faded and Joanna’s face came back like a virus, forcing itself into the vacuum.


However, he did go back to see Elaine the following Sunday.

Dressed like a hippy with torn jeans, she looked attractive, sexy. She would take him on a walk around Hartshill Hayes Country Park.

Her son was being looked after by her mother, and she would pick him up early evening.

She said. “My mother offended me but I forgave her.” She didn’t explain and he didn’t pursue it.


When did you split with Zak’s father?” he asked as they walked round the boundary path of the wood.

“When? You’re always concerned about time and place, you are. You and your logical mind,” she scoffed.

He was continually trying to find some emotion he shared with her so there could be some sort of bonding. So far he had failed miserably. He tried her past.

“What sort of things did you do when you were six?” he asked.

“When I was six I used to get fed up with things. I had this gingham blanket and I used to sit under the table and put it over my head and hide away.”

Elaine stopped suddenly and, walking behind her, he bumped into her. She pointed at the ground. “This is my special place,” she said. She pointed to five oak tress that made an untidy circle. She asked him to sit down in the middle of the circle on the green moss. She then sat down beside him.

“This is where the ground is spongy. It’s a good place to enter the underworld.”

He was going to say something but then stopped, then he said, “What happens if you get trapped in there?”

“We’re never trapped,” she began.

Suddenly she looked around and began squealing. “Hide! People!” She leapt to her feet.

Paul followed her quickly along the wood-edge path.

“I want to take you to the water,” she said conspiratorially. Paul thought this was very much like actually being six and playing in the woods, but he was enjoying it. Cowboys and Indians and Big Chief Eye Spy.

“I didn’t see any people,” he said.

“It’s not just people,” she said, “There are things in the countryside that you must learn to see. You must learn to feel, to be one with nature. Everything is full of electricity.”

She suddenly stopped and turned round to him. “I walked this way last week and smelled death. I found a dead chicken further on.” She mentioned death again on the way back. “This is an evil house and at the back is a barn which smells of death. I discovered it’s an old burial ground and nobody will buy it. Further on is my little church.”

“Really?” said Paul, and they walked back to her house.


On their next meeting he took her to a diver’s club. They drank lager at a gate-legged table in the sunshine, a reservoir beneath them, visible through the gaps in the wooden planks.

She talked about Zak. His father had left two years ago, and she was left her to take full responsibility of her son. Zak had adenoid problems. Paul felt sorry for her.

“I want to go with the water. It pulls me. I want to be at the bottom of the lake.” she was now saying. “In a previous life I drowned at the bottom of a lake. I remember. When I see the sea I want to go with it, I want it to take me away.”

Later, he talked a lot about the poems he had completed and the poems he was currently writing. She said she wanted to see his photography, and that he ought to do a portrait of her.

Then she said, “I’m not free to write. I have to fulfil my quest, and then I will be free and have the energy to write. I am a playwright.”

Then she suddenly turned and kissed him; it was aggressive, hungry. Afterwards, he resisted the inclination to wipe his mouth with his hand.

“I need a Paul, a man who had a revelation,” she said. “I’m a very sensual person. I’m not emotional. I’m not passionate. I’m fiery and very sensual. On the luxuriant world. You couldn’t take it. It would be too much for you. You need someone to look after you but you won’t let me. I can help you, Paul, but you won’t let me.”

  * * *

The following Sunday he brought her over to see his house in Barton. The Edwardian semi-detached was situated in the heart of upper class suburbia, and boasted many large rooms.

“What a lovely house. But it’s empty, there’s nothing in it.”

I’m a bit of a minimalist,” he said.

“No, you shouldn’t fill it but you should fill it,” she said paradoxically. He hadn’t a clue what she meant.

Harry came up to nose her, and she greeted him tenderly. “He is well loved,” she said.

“He’s great,” said Paul.

“I see with my hands,” she said.

He spent half an hour showing many of his exhibition photographs, both published and unpublished. At the end of her private viewing she demeaned, “Is that all your work? Where’s the rest of it? You’ve not done it. Tell me why?”

“But all that’s old stuff. I’ve spent the last ten years writing poetry. I’ve become more interested in language than images,” he said.

“You’ve wasted time. You make me feel very sad. When I met you I knew you were deprived of beauty. Real beauty. Now you need to do some work. I’m not interested in descriptive things. You’re not a poet, you’re a photographer,” she insisted.

“Well I’ve published some of my poems.”

“Being published is not important. You should get down to your real work. You’re stupid you are.”

Paul drove Elaine back over to Baddersly.

Back at her house he had intended to drop her off and go for a pint of beer, but she wanted him to come in to see something. In the kitchen she offered him hand-picked strawberries and fresh yoghurt but he declined.

She invited him upstairs into a small side bedroom. She pointed out the dried flowers on the window sill. “I would never have real flowers in the house,” she commented, “they remind me of death.”

It was a disorganised storage room, full or rubbish and  many boxes and folders. She opened one of them and showed him what amounted to eulogies to Elaine, testimonials of her: of the love, appreciation and gratitude she had received from people she knew, or had known, birthday cards, letters, and even press cuttings.

She then took him into her main bedroom. Standing in front of her dressing table, she enthused about some large semi-transparent crystals which were placed on it. She picked them up and held them out, allowing him to study them. She said nothing. They stood there looking at them, not speaking. A wave of apprehension flickered across his face.

He suddenly turned and headed for the stairs, saying he had to get back to see Jeff, a member of the band. She shouted to him, as he began to descend the stairs, to make himself a drink and she would be down shortly. He did as bid.

A few minutes later, he was sitting on the settee downstairs, drinking coffee, and leafing though one of her strange Egyptian books, occasionally checking his watch, when she appeared in the doorway. He was taken by complete surprise. She had changed into  a glittering costume, a ballet dancer in green and silver, the cut of the costume revealed her amazing body. She was very beautiful, this Irish Senorita. She came and sat on the left hump of the settee, and brought her metallic green shoes up on the cushions, facing him. “I’ve got something very important to tell you,” she said.

“Yes.” He wasn’t sure where this was going.

“It’s very important that you understand this,” she said.

“Um,” he said positively.

“I’m… the last of fairies,” she said.


The Silence lasted for about twenty seconds.

“Is that difficult for you?” he said after a few moments.

“It’s sad in a way,” she said looking at her pointed shoes. “Power comes in many forms. You see, power is understanding. It is wisdom not knowledge. Having power is enablement to act and with some degree of control. My real name is Elijah. I am going to do something that will change the world, and also change the entire universe, from the underworld to the top.”

He made some appropriate noises, tried to look as interested as he could, and then made his gambit for escape. “I really do need to get back to see Jeff and I’m a bit late,” he said after a while. “Let’s meet up next week, I’ll phone you.”

In his old Austin A50, he trundled as fast his engine would take him back to Barton and went straight in his local pub. He drank two pints in great hurry. To the barman he explained his thirst. “I need another,” he said, “I’ve just met a fairy.”

    * * *

 Paul had two women on his mind. One had stolen his heart, the other was shredding his brain.

The world had been spinning around him of late, but the time had stood still. When he sat, transfixed in his chair, he got so involved in the cogitations of the mind that hours passed by unnoticed. Harry landed on his lap many times, which forced him, at last, to get up to feed the cat. Over the weekend he had received a phone call asking him to extend his temporary contract, teaching history, for a couple of extra days a week and he needed to do a lot of preparation, but every time he tried to focus on it his mind fled back to his intangible obsessions. At times he felt as if he was dancing with madness.

One day at school, during a rare free period, he tried to note down all the pearls of wisdom that Elaine had poured on him. He knew she was probably right; he wasn’t a serious poet, and his photography was of no value whatsoever. And where was his real work? Perhaps he should read the poetry on the wall and go out and earn some real money in a job that held no interest to him, like most folk.

His epic love tale went in the bin. He couldn’t find any motivating questions to inspire its recovery; he had neither the concentration nor the belief.

Joanna had made him feel a failure as a man and Elaine as an artist. And to corroborate this negative attack on his confidence, he had received letters that morning from literary publications, rejecting two poems. Perhaps everybody else could see what he couldn’t.

He spent the Monday night in a pub, drowning his sorrows, but by Tuesday morning he had resolved nothing, and he had a blinding hangover to boot. At some moment he remembered there had been an arrangement made to see Elaine at the weekend – he couldn’t remember when it had been organised – and he was bringing her over to Barton as his escort for Jimmy’s party. Oh well, let the show go on.

On Tuesday morning he got a load of bills through the mail, which he tried to pay by credit card over the phone but there was some technical problem. He got to school late (fortunately it wasn’t far away) and had a sequence of difficult classes, which, being low on energy and confidence, he was ill-equipped to deal with. At school, he wandered around in a confused state of Surrealism, wondering who he was, where he was and how he had got there.

After school he went into town to do some shopping and to visit the bank before it closed. He came back in to his house to be greeted by Harry, weaving between his legs. He sat by the kitchen table drinking a cup of tea, the cat banging his head into his chin. “Oh, alright, Harry.” He got up and as he opened a tin, the cat leaped across from the table and on to his shoulder.  Paul laughed – the first time for days. “You ought to be in a circus,” he said as the cat gorged on his bowl of tinned meat.

Why do I feel so bad? He asked himself as he watched the cat. Why am I so hopeless when I’m without a woman, and yet so half-baked when I’m with one? This has got to stop.

At that moment a pop tune came on the kitchen radio, ‘Baby Love’, by the Supremes. Despite knowing the lyrics well, he listened intently to them again. “It’s all about romance,” he said out aloud, as the cat scurried across the lino and banged out of the new cat flap.

  * * *

Two days later, Paul was upstairs in his loft searching for old teaching visual aids when suddenly his cat arrived beside him.

How on earth did you get up the step ladder?”

Paul was just about to pick up the cat to carry him down when Harry knocked over a pile of books beside him. Out of curiosity he picked up the nearest book and blew off the dust. It was a Catholic catechism. “Blimey, a relic from my childhood.”

Both safely downstairs he leafed through some of the pages.

What are the six sins against the Holy Spirit? Presumption. Despair. Resisting the known truth. Envy of another’s spiritual good. Obstinacy in sin.  Final impenitence.

What are the twelve truths of the Holy Spirit? Charity. Joy. Peace. Patience. Benignity. Goodness. Longanimity. Mildness. Faith. Modesty. Continency. Chastity.

He looked thoughtfully at his cat, “Serious stuff, this,” he said.

The cat opened his mouth as if to meow but nothing came out.

  * * *

  Elaine went upstairs to her bedroom. “Why won’t Paul love me?” she half sighed.  She sat in front of the mirror and applied the lightest touches of make-up. After she had finished applying more eye-liner she stared at herself expressionlessly and then slowly broke out into a big grin. “Ice and fire,” she purred to herself.

With grace of movement, she descended the stairs and curled up on the settee. She picked up her current book, written by her favourite authoress, Dion Fortune, and read avidly while she waited for Paul to arrive.


Paul collected Elaine from Baddersly on the Saturday and he took her along the A5 towards Market Bosworth where Jimmy Bird’s garden party was happening.

Jimmy is an art teacher,” explained Paul as they were driving over. “He has friends from all over the place.”

Elaine was silent most of the journey and then she said, “You’re wary of me.”

What are you on about?”

Paul likes to think he’s dominant.”


I make you nervous. You’re in love with love.”

You seem to know me better than I know myself,” he commented but she didn’t read the sarcasm.

You are not unconventional enough.”

I think you mean I’m not conventional enough.”

You make me feel very sad.”


Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’, was blasting out into road when Paul and Elaine arrived. The party had been in full swing since the pubs opened at lunch time, and many people were entering, leaving or just ‘being’ in Jimmy’s house.

Once in the back lounge, Paul introduced Elaine to Jimmy. He was with Tina, his girlfriend.

I like you hair like that, Tina,” remarked Paul, “It really looks great on you short.”

“Why won’t he say things like that to me?” interjected Elaine, her eyes squinting. Tina looked down at her feet, obviously not quite sure what to say; Elaine had long hair.

The newly arrived couple wandered into the garden, which was amass with bodies reclining on garden furniture, coming together in small gatherings and feasting on black offerings from the barbecue. Quite a few children were running about. The sky was as blue as ever, this summer just went on and on.

Over the next hour, Paul and Elaine moved about the party independently of each other. He occasionally noticed her joining small groups of guests as he was leaving others. He also began to notice that Elaine was behaving as a completely different personality.

He watched her in the front room, joking with a load of guys, and visibly flirting with a tall sporty guy called Andy. She was being the life-and-soul, and putting on vibrant laughter and an appreciation show. Paul once again thought she was tasteless – as he had when she dressed in a bikini on their first real meeting. He regarded what he saw here as a sort of factory girl routine.

Joanna was never like that: she would be friendly but reserved, observant and beautiful. He left Elaine to it and went into the garden and joined a group of the guests. Someone said they had a car for sale and Paul’s ears pricked up. He never saw Elaine again that afternoon.

In a somewhat inebriated state, Jimmy came outside about an hour later and said to Paul that he was sorry, but he thought that his girl had gone off in a car with a load of other guests.

“I bet Andy was one of them wasn’t he?” said Paul.

“Yeah, ‘fraid so.”

“Oh, I see,” he said.

  * * *

Elaine phoned him on Sunday late morning. She apologised for leaving the party early but Andy had offered to drop her home as he was heading out to Tamworth and she couldn’t find Paul when she came to leave. “Come over this evening, I’ll make it up to you,” she said. He asked her how she got on with Andy and his chums. “Ha! I know what Andy’s like, but he’s a laugh,” she said. Paul didn’t like the implication of what that said about him.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ve bought a new car, I’m going to sell the Austin. Vintage cars are cute but they don’t fill me with confidence.”

“Okay. I’ll see you at seven,” she said, in a cooing voice.

She came out to see him as he pulled up. He proudly showed her his shiny black Ford Escort. It had cost him peanuts because it was old, but it was in great condition because it had been maintained regularly by the military. She wanted to look inside. “Yes, I’ve felt the energy – you’ll be fine in this – no accidents at all.”

“Oh good,” said Paul, quite grateful for her comment. She had this authority of conviction which he always felt grateful for.

After a meal they sat on the sofa and she was in a very happy mood. “I’ll do your tarot,” she said.

But Paul declined. “No I’m not into that, let’s just drink the wine and chat,” he said.

“I’ve rejoined the Nuneaton Dramatic Society and we’re going to be doing a play at Christmas. I’m so excited.”

“That’s great,” he said, pleased for her. “My mother was a drama teacher.”

You don’t understand pantomime,” she responded.

He didn’t quite know how she’d come to that conclusion, but once again he let it go.

She began telling all about the part, and about the number of people in the play, and many other details. He was surprised to find that she had done a lot of Amateur dramatics in her time, although later he thought his perception about this rather naive. From her disorganised box room she retrieved a folder and showed him pages and pages of press clippings: she had been the belle of the ball, the leading the lady, the prima Donna.

Of course.

While they were talking he asked her to tickle his back, but she kept forgetting what she was doing.

Then after a few glasses of wine and another poor attempt at Paul getting his back scratched, they were canoodling, kissing, snogging, and then she hauled herself on top of him and began literally licking his face. For Paul it was like being attacked by a very large and hungry winner of Crufts. He felt powerless in the engagement – it was like being invaded by Napoleon. He couldn’t do this.

Not long after, he was speeding in his black car along the Roman Road. He couldn’t exactly remember how he had extricated himself. He put his foot down and heaved a big sigh.

  * * *

Two good things happened to Paul that Tuesday. For some reason, he had found some motivation and interest to revive his epic love poem, although he was far from completing it or still knowing entirely where it was going. He had thrown away the hard copy but fortunately he hadn’t deleted the original from the hard disc. And secondly, he received a letter from a small poetry magazine, based near Brighton, accepting three of his ‘nature’ poems. He was even paid for them – which was very rare. The money wasn’t much, but he was over the moon they had all been accepted..

William telephoned him and he asked for the latest news on Elaine. Paul explained what had been happening.

William sighed and confessed, “She’s had problems. They say that when she was raided in the 80s for drugs the sniffer dogs got high on LSD.”

“Well you could have told me she was a flake before you let me get involved.”

William laughed.

“Actually, I saw her today very briefly and she says she’s putting the house up for sale and moving down to Cornwall; somewhere near Tintagel because that’s where her real power lies.”


Later in bed Paul was trying to figure out why he had been so fascinated by this beautiful woman – which undoubtedly he had been – and to some extent still was.

Arty people in general, had supposed to be wild, reckless, passionate, impulsive, rebellious and selfish. Yet, despite being a saxophonist, a photographer and a poet, he realised he was boringly steady, cautious, prudent, and philosophical. He also had consideration for others in his plans, which was not in the wardrobe of the bohemian. These days he had lost his attitude, not that he ever had much of one; he wasn’t passionate, impulsive, or devil-may-care, and he didn’t live for the day. And he knew that was no loss, he had absolutely no desire to be childish anymore.

It had dawned on him that his fascination for Elaine was not born of love and romance at all. As a teacher he dealt with hundreds of individuals, and he had to assess very quickly their aptitudes, virtues and vices. His fascination for Elaine was not born of romance but of voyeurism; a fascination of psychopathology.

He kept returning because he had a sort of compulsion for her wildness, her imagination, her zaniness. She painted colour in his chiaroscuro world. She served up the hot sauce to his prosaic boiled rice. He liked her feistiness, her assuredness, her sense of absolute conviction of being right in this lip service world. He kept going back, like a soap opera fan, goes back to the next episode. It was an ideal combination. A form of displacement, a distraction taking him out of himself, yet also, a form of education.

He had not been Elaine’s leading man, but her audience. Despite her physical beauty, he had felt little inclination for physical contact with her, and had made minimal commitment to disclosure. Why? Because somehow he had known in the first few minutes of being in her house she would be impossible for him.

Romeo and Juliet? Romantic love is not greater than death, he scribbled onto a sheet of paper.