Authors: Brent J. Griffiths
Copyright © 2016 by Brent J. Griffiths
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used
in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the
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Table of Contents
The rook sitting on a branch of the Queen’s tree
took flight, flew over the aged university town, and landed on the wall of the
bishop’s ruined castle. From its vantage on the castle wall, the large black
bird could see the very spot where its ancestors had witnessed the death of a
student five hundred years earlier. If rooks could talk they would have passed
down the story of how the student had been tied to a stake, set alight and been
rendered down into ashes, smoke and blackened bones. The student’s crime was
difficult to understand for both rooks and people. He had believed that you
could teach people how to be good without having to build a church. For this
mortal sin he had died in agony.
Although the rooks had
forgotten him, the students of the town still had a vague recollection of him,
more myth than historical fact. The cobblestones outside the castle had been
arranged to spell out the unlucky student’s initials. Student superstition said
that the initials were cursed. Any student who stepped on them would not obtain
a degree from the university.
The legend was, of course,
untrue. The initials did not cause failure, they merely predicted it. Bad
students usually managed to step on the initials at some stage of their
academic career. It attracted their wayward feet like bees to honey. Or should
that be bears to honey or possibly bees to pollen?
The ruined castle with the
initials in the cobbles sat on the edge of the sea in an ancient town that
should be known across the globe for its superb university. However, this is
not the case. The town was better known for being the birthplace of a sport
that ruined the family lives of minor executives and salesmen across the globe
as they dedicated their weekends to attempting to get a small white ball into a
marginally larger hole in the grass.
The sea was cold, even in
the summer. This was a tragedy because the beach was superb. In a warmer
climate, tourists would flock to its powdery, yellow-white sands to spend their
time flirting with melanoma. Although the beach was often sunny, it was more
likely that they would flirt with pneumonia and hypothermia — conditions that
are slightly more benign than melanoma, but without the pleasing side effects
of giving one a tan or, more importantly, exposing vast amounts of well-toned
flesh. The normal result of frolicking on this northern beach was hacking
coughs and copious amounts of phlegm. Those brave souls who did expose their
flesh were not what one would call well-toned but more, shall we say, well-padded.
The cobble initials
outside the castle, the lodestone of failure, are at this very moment
attracting a student. They are pulling him in. Finn is not unintelligent — the
very opposite — he could very well be the brightest person in the town. He is,
however, extremely focused on a particular endeavor.
He walks with purpose, not
looking where he is going. Some of his fellow students see him and wave. Finn
walks past without noticing. He is working on a problem whose solution had
eluded him for weeks.
As he steps on the
initials, his frowning visage is transformed. He has an idea. “Scrotal warts,”
he mutters and hurries off to his flat without noticing that he has stepped on
Finn is destined to fail
at this university.
The rooks observe this
occurrence, as they observe all such occurrences, without comment.
Andy was having a blast at
the beach party. He was drunk enough to not feel the cold and the foul shroom
tea he had choked down an hour before he hit the beach made the jewel-like
stars throb to the beat of the Stone Roses.
Everything would have been
perfect except for the fact that Kirsty, his girlfriend, was there. Recently he
had been resisting the urge to use air quotes when he introduced her as his
girlfriend. He didn’t hate her — he just didn’t like her all that much.
They had been going out
since they had met on Raisin Sunday the year earlier. A night of drunken
passion had been converted into a long-term relationship through her neediness
and his apathy. This year, he promised himself, he would find some way to get
her to dump him. There was no way he would dump her; the thought of her tears
and pleading were too much to bear.
He wrenched his thoughts
from Kirsty. If he kept thinking of her he would have a bad trip. He needed to
think of something more pleasant, like a beach party in Scotland in October. He
pushed his way into the crowd gathered in front of the DJ. He would lose
himself in dance. If that didn’t work, he had a flask of the “water of life” in
That was another thing
about Kirsty; she would roll her eyes when he called whisky the “water of life.”
That’s what the word meant in Gaelic, so he could fucking well call it the
“water of life” if he wanted to. In fact, since he had noticed her rolling her
eyes, he refused to call whisky anything else, even if it meant that he needed
to explain what he meant to every barman in town when he ordered a dram.
His train of thought
screeched to a halt as he noticed a petite tanned girl with brown eyes looking
over her shoulder at him as she danced. He locked eyes with her and could not
look away. She turned to face him and he saw the rather impressive cleavage
that she sported. Then, he had trouble returning his gaze to her eyes.
She danced over to him and
pressed her body against his. He wrenched his gaze to her face. She was smiling.
“Bonjour,” she said. He could hear her clearly in spite of the pounding waves
of sound radiating from the six foot tall speakers flanking the DJ.
He groaned a little. She
was petite, buxom and French. He knew from a school trip to France in sixth form
how hot the French could be. He started to get hard as she ground herself
against him. She noticed and her smile got wider.
He cleared his throat and
then spoke. “I’m Andy from Madchester and I’m mad for it. Who are you?”
An image of Kirsty rolling
her eyes flashed through his head when he said “Madchester.”
The little French honey
shook her head and did not answer as she backed away. She turned and walked off
the sand dance floor. He stood watching her, not moving and not dancing. She
looked over her shoulder again and blew him a kiss.
He shook his head and
followed her off into the darkness.
Andy died screaming a few
He only went out in the rain and usually at night.
In the rain, no one paid attention to his hunched, lumbering gait. In the rain,
his large rain hat obscured the horror of his face.
When the weather was poor,
as it often was, he would emerge from his stone clad home just off the Royal
Mile, walk up to the courtyard in front of the castle and look out over the
city. He became anxious if a rare, extended period of fine weather kept him
bottled up in his large home. He wouldn’t get anxious enough to go out without
rain, unless the Festival was on. Nothing seemed out of place during the
Festival, not even a hunched, one-eyed, one-legged, one-armed wreck of a man.
Half of a man.
He pulled on his boots,
his hat, and his heavy rain slicker. He called it a slicker even though the
Burberry label claimed it was a vintage rain cloak. In any case, it covered
him, comprehensively obscuring his most obvious flaws and irregularities.
He quickly patted his
pockets with his remaining right hand to confirm that he had his custom-built
phone and his plain leather wallet. He then grabbed his umbrella with his left
hand, a prosthetic that he had designed and his company had constructed. The
few people who got close enough to examine the hand usually assumed he was
wearing a flesh toned rubber glove, so well-made was the prosthetic.
He passed through the
heavy inner door of his abode. It was a door that would not have looked out of
place sealing a bank vault. It closed with a meaty thunk behind him, followed
by the whir of servos as the inch-thick bolts slid home. He moved down a short
hallway and opened the ordinary-appearing outer door and looked outside. It was
lashing down, lovely.
In spite of the rain,
there were a few pedestrians outside. It rained too often for the residents of
the city to stay indoors merely due to bad weather, though the rain did keep
their numbers down. He hobbled purposefully up the street to the castle
courtyard, glancing into the well-lit pubs as he passed them. Seeing people
enjoying each other’s company always made him feel a little sad and angry —
mostly angry. Most things made him feel angry.
The rain eased a little as
he reached his usual vantage. He was able to drink deep the sight of the
ancient city. All grey stone and greenery. He could see the park and the train
tracks that ran beside it. He could see the beige- and black-streaked thorn of
the Scott Monument thrusting up from the edge the park. He could see orange,
yellow and blue lights of the shops on Princes Street. He could see the ever-present
buses, shuttling in and out crowds of busy shoppers. While the rain did keep
down the foot traffic on the Royal Mile, it never seemed to impact the shoppers
on Princes Street.
Lightning flashed across
the sky, adding to the gothic charm, followed a few seconds later by
“Beautiful, isn’t it?”
He started and then winced
in pain. He turned towards the slightly husky voice to see a young woman in a
short black raincoat standing beside him. He had not sensed her approach, which
was odd. The raincoat ended at the middle of her thigh. Ivory skin was visible
between the tops of her knee-high black boots and the hem of her raincoat. Her
hair was short and appeared to be ginger. It was hard to tell, as it had been
plastered to her head by the rain.
Her face was pretty;
however, most people would have considered it unremarkable. Not him.
It was a face he knew.
It was the face of the
monster that had made his body a prison.
Baby’s hair was long and
blond at the moment, but that could change, maybe next week, maybe next month,
maybe tomorrow. Hairstyles were transient. She would never be locked into a
particular look, as many people were. She had noticed that most people over a
certain age seemed to lose interest in change. They reached age thirty or forty
and then their personal sense of style froze. Their hair remained the same:
short, long or bobbed. Their makeup stayed the same. Their clothing changed but
that was more likely due to the fact that their favorite clothes wore out and
the sweat shops in the Far East that manufactured them had moved on to
producing different styles.
She was different from
most people. She was a creature of change. Boredom and apathy were always
snapping at her heels. They were nightmare creatures that hunted her, much in
the same way that she hunted other people, the Herd.
She would stay in a place
with a particular name and then, when the ennui started to creep up on her,
when she could not squeeze any more enjoyment from where she was and who she
was with, she would move on. She would change her name, her hair, her clothes
and her accent — anything that felt right.
The only constant in her
life was the presence of her adoptive family — her coven. They did not like
each other much but they kept close for mutual protection and, of course,
Leader did not let them stray too far. As she was the youngest, she was called
Baby. She would be Baby until they added another to their number.
At the moment, Baby’s
boredom was being kept at bay by her rather overweight, rather old and slightly
bald neighbor, Albert, who was on top of her grunting and straining. She was
not getting a lot of pleasure from the act itself but the anticipation of what
was to come (nudge, nudge, wink, wink) was making her hot. Even though she
appeared to be an extremely attractive twenty-something woman, it had taken
some coaxing to get her neighbor into this situation. His age, diabetes and
semi alcoholism had been challenges that she had needed to overcome. It took
some work, but it would be worth it in the end.
She had surprised Albert
an hour earlier when, instead of providing him with the cup of sugar he had
come by to borrow, she had suggested that they fuck instead. At first, he had
laughed off the proposition, not believing that his beautiful neighbor, who he
knew by her current cover name, Rachel, would want to sully herself with him.
Her intimate touches eventually convinced him that her suggestion was serious.
He had then asked about
her husband, the young, muscular and reputedly violent Ray. Again she was able
to overcome these objections and then merely had to overcome his physical
Her incredibly sharp
hearing picked up the sound of a key in the downstairs front door. Her
excitement built. The climax of months of work and effort was almost upon her.
She first met Ray four
months ago and encouraged him to clumsily seduce her. To win Ray, she could not
just sleep with him; she needed him to work for it. You see, Ray was your
typical good-looking misogynist. He did not understand the concept of love and
spent his days looking for the next wet hole to fuck on his journey through life.
Her goal had been to convince him that he was in love and then shatter his
heart. It beat watching
This was not as difficult
as you may think. She did the usual things to make a man fall in love. She had
held off on being intimate. She had arranged for him to help her with a minor
motor vehicle emergency. She had allowed him to beat up someone on her behalf.
A month after she had
started her little project, he proposed. Two months later they married and
moved into the terraced house beside Albert, a lonely, sad older man who looked
after his severely disabled wife. The very same Albert currently was huffing
and puffing on top of her on his way to release.
She started to shriek with
pleasure, to make sure Ray would know where to find them. Her first shriek
startled Albert so much that he popped out of her. She guided him back in as he
muttered apologies and then she screamed some more.
The bedroom door creaked.
She turned her head to the side and saw Ray, standing there with his mouth
She winked at him.
At first he was too
surprised to feel anything, but as he started to comprehend the situation she
could feel exquisite emotions build in him. Her drug was emotion and she had
orchestrated a masterpiece of misery that would feel better than heroin. The
initial feeling of surprise was followed by heartbreak, which was in turn
followed quickly by rage. She clamped her legs around Albert; no need to
pretend ecstasy anymore. The crystal pendant she wore as a necklace started to
heat up as it captured some of the overflow of emotion. She would share
emotions recorded in the crystal soul catcher with her coven at their next
A primal scream burst from
Ray, full of betrayal and anger and loss. The scream made Albert acutely aware
of Ray’s presence. He tried to struggle from Rachel’s embrace. She held on to
him, lost in the sublime flow of emotions. She felt him shrivel inside her,
adding some embarrassment to the mix of terror and guilt that he was emitting.
She let Albert go as Ray
grabbed him and threw him to the ground. Ray pulled Albert up by his comb over
and pounded him in the face. Once, twice. Blood splattered the floral print
duvet cover that was bunched at the bottom of the bed. Blood spurted down
Albert’s face from his flattened nose.
Ray reached down and
picked up Albert and did a standing press, so that he held him horizontally
over his head. She was impressed. She knew Ray was strong — the ’roids made
sure of that — but she’d had no idea that he was that strong.
Ray held Albert that way
for a second then heaved him at the window. The white veil curtain was briefly
tangled in Albert’s flailing limbs as his body burst through the glass. The
sound of a car alarm indicated that Ray’s prized BMW had broken Albert’s fall.
Ray stood at the window
looking down. The rage was subsiding and fear was starting to set in. This
little incident would send him back to prison for sure.
Rachel, trembling with the
delectable waves of emotion, hit him on the back of the head with a lamp.
She then dressed, stepped
over the supine form of Ray and left before the police arrived.
Her work was done and she