Sunday, March 18, 2007


"And we become," said the hostess, "silhuettes when our bodies finally go."

Nobody seemed to find this statement strange, everybody being busy as they were milling and talking and admiring the fantastically gross art that adorned her walls.

"I want to walk through the empty streets," she droned, "But all the news reports recommended I stay indoors."

Several people wandered off, moving towards the groaning buffet table where explosions of cheese interpolated with grapes and figs stood in variegated baskets. They began to coo excitedly as they closed in, picking up speed, so that they were virtually sprinting by the time they reached the table's edge. Reaching out with tremulous fingers they hestitated, hands hovering before the succulent food like hummingbirds, moving from side to side as they sought something particularly delightful to eat first, but paralyzed by their indecision so that they ate naught.

"I've got a cupboard with cans of food," said the hostess, reaching up behind her head to begin undoing her magnificent coiffure. It was done with amber and bronze pins, and rose like an ornate beehive towards the vaulted ceilings. Each pin was a foot long, and wickedly curved, seeming to capture the light and mellify it, to absorb and jelly the luminescence that was incandesced out of the lambet light that the candle flames phosphorized with wicked radiance. She held each needle up and then plunged it matador style into passing servants, the length disappearing into buttucks, shoulders, breasts. The servants were quite composed, possessing an almost British mien, and did not complain.

"And it won't be a pretty sight," she admonished the remaining group, who broke out into comradely guffaws, bending over as if suddenly cramped with the worst of Montezuma's curses, faces scrawning up and mouths opening wide to reveal carried teeth and long, lizard tongues that unrolled like Oscar carpets down their jaws and chests and across the floor, interlacing amonst each other and soon the whole group was enmeshed in their own tongue web, a throbbing, pulsing mass of spittle wet red flesh.

"To someone," the hostess said, turning to leave, "Someone I used to know."

Monday, March 5, 2007


Evening hour in Northern Ireland, and dusk was quickly settling over the city of Belfast like an ennervating blanket. The past week had been rocked by a series of attacks and beatings, the Protestant English launching raids into the Catholic ghettoes, dragging out victims and potential informants to club and brutalize them in the street, all in a vain effort to get them to betray their own.
At the O'Malleys in the South East, far from such violence, the drinking was beginning in earnest. The bar was crowded, Molly handing out ales as fast as she could pour them, her large son Jack looming over her shoulder and ensuring a modicum of good behaviour. In the back of the inn, away from the bustle and with his boots up on the table sat Sir Lawrence Temple, Viscount of Palmerstone, inverterate gambler and dissipated nobleman. At the bar stood his sometimes accomplice, a courtisan by the name of Stella Watson, paramour of such societal luminaries as the Chief Magistrate, the Bishop of Belfast and various members of the House of Parliament.
Sir Lawrence surveyed the bar casually. Already several drinks into the wind, he was carefully paring dirt out from under his nails. A plate of half eaten roast sat by his elbow, a glass of wine just beyond it. All added onto his prodigous bartab. A slow night, but perhaps later he'd meander down to the docks. Try his hand at some cards, end the losing streak he'd been on. He was going to get lucky tonight. He could feel it.
The front door opened, and sharply dressed gentlemen entered. Wearing clothing of an enviable cut, clean faced and toting a leather brief case, he stood out as an anamoly in the rough crowd. Stella's gaze caught Sir Lawrence's, and a subtle nod was exchanged. The man approached the bar, and with an artful step Stella insinuated herself by his side.
"Good evening," she said with a smile. Confidence she had in spades.
The man, handsome in his way, returned her smile. "Good evening, miss."
The pair began to exchange words, and Stella quickly learnt that he was a barrister, in the area to inspect a recently acquired purchase of a residence for a client, and not perhaps the most of exciting conversationalists. However, she couldn't get a read on him - coward? Easy mark? Too hard to tell. Losing her patience, she signaled for Sir Lawrence to approach and try his hand.
With a sigh, the nobleman lifted his feet off the table and rose unsteadily to his feet. An attempt to drain his glass of wine failed upon his realizing it was more than half full, so goblet in hand he crossed the bar floor and approached the man from behind.
Loudly, he addressed the man. The barrister turned, face civil, and acknowledged Sir Lawrence. In a moment of drunken clarity the nobleman discerned his foe for a weakling, a coward who was already intimidated at being caught with his 'wife', and so decided to press his advantage. In loud and angry tones, he accused him of attempting to cozen up with his wife, and challenged him to a duel.
To his surprise, the man readily accepted. Taken aback, but determined to press him to his breaking point, Sir Lawrence followed the other outside into the dark street. If he but had his sword, he'd no doubt make short work of the man. His confidence remained high, however; the craven would break before real fists were thrown. Watching the barrister remove his coat calmly and prepare to fight, he couldn't help but feel a greater sense of disquiet. The man was remarkably self-possessed.
Seeking an opportunity to back down, not intent on really brawling this early in the night, Sir Lawrence demanded a full apology. The man turned to Stella, ignoring the nobleman, and received a light slap across the face as a result.
His reaction was instantaneous. If Sir Lawrence had hoped to push him over the edge, he had succeeded admirably, but in exactly the wrong manner. With a scowl that barrister leapt at the nobleman, heavy fist swinging towards his temple. In desperation, Sir Lawrence lashed out with a blow at his neck, and connected solidly. The blow knocked the man off balance, and with a heavy thud he fell to the muddy ground.
Turning to Stella, Sir Lawrence flashed her a grin. See that? he seemed to ask, Not bad. Sir Lawrence turned back to his foe, ready to finish the job, and froze in horror. The man had gathered himself, and turned a face wracked by hideous passion and hatred towards him. His lips writhed back from bared fangs, and his eyes slit into an viper's gaze. It was the face of a demon, a devil, a creature of evil, and Sir Lawrence could but croak out an oath and fumble for his pistol as the thing gathered itself to leap at his throat.
Sir Lawrence had but a moment to draw his gun, the alcohol lubricating his movements so that he was able to fire off a shot right at the thing's head before it could reach him. The gunshot was deafening. All sound ceased from with the pub. The barrister's head snapped back. And then slowly righted, the bullet embedded in its forhead. But stopped by the bone. Sir Lawrence gaped. Turning, he spotted Stella moving towards the monster's brief case.
"Stella!" he roared. "Run!"
And then it was on him, bearing him to the ground. Struggling, Sir Lawrence pressed the muzzle of his gun against the demon's temple, and fired twice. The second shot did as little shot as the first, and the third caused his gun to backfire into an explosion of metal and fires, searing his hand and face. And then the creature dug its fangs into his neck, and tore free a hunk of steaming flesh.
Stella needed no further urging. She ducked back into the pub, and was met with the surprised gazes of all those within. The gunshots had been clearly heard. And while Belfast was a town torn by sectarian violence, gunshots were still a rarity in the streets. For a long, frozen second, Stella stared back at all the frozen customers, and then pointed back out the doors and yelled, "Sir Lawrence is in trouble!"
The crowd rose to its feet. One of their own was being attacked. Jack rounded the bar, catching a wicked, spike shilleleagh that his mother tossed him as he went, a half dozen other men at his back. Pushing out the front doors, they paused, shocked: blood had splattered everywhere from Sir Lawrence's hideous wounds, the creature still astride him, ravening and inhuman.
Of all those assembled, only Jack didn't hesitate. Moving forwards, he brought the spiked head of his club down as hard as he could between the monster's shoulderblades. The effect was instantaneous - the demon turned its bloodied visage to the hulking youth, and bared its fangs. Jack took one good look at the Devil's face, and ran.
Pinioned beneath the creature, shocked by blood and terror, Sir Lawrence passed out. The tableau was frozen until Stella stepped forwards, disgusted at the paralyzed men, and picked up the shilleleagh herself. With a cry, she urged them to act like men, and attack the beast. But it was her cry itself which sent it running, and with admiration and increased respect the five men helped her bring Sir Lawrence into the bar.
His neck was a gaping mess. Blood slicked his clothing. A doctor was summoned, and in the hubbub Stella slipped aside to examine the contents of the briefcase. A legal contract. Pages written in Latin, detailing some mystic rite. Over 4,000 pounds stirling in bank notes. Pocketing the money, Stella stuffed the papers back into the briefcase. Sir Lawrence was being moved to the loca hospital. The night was just beginning, and trembling, feeling the after effects of adrenaline and shock, Stella rose to follow. The night was just beginning, and she wanted answers.