Thursday, 26 April 2018

The blade will come

The pre-dawn light made the world look cold, although the sweat already trickled down the back of her knees in the stifling humidity. She walked briskly, her confident stride disregarding the instability of stiletto shoes and a pencil skirt, the gunshot echo of her every step shaking the dawn chorus from its smug performance.

There are no shadows at this hour - or rather, everything is equally shadowed and your eyes are so attuned to the darkness that the influx of light seems overwhelming. Had there been shadows, he would have lurked in one.

His breath rattled from his open lips, laden with tobacco he'd inhaled over the decades. The deep pools under his eyes told of sleepless nights, heavy drinking and a need for stimulants to keep him moving. He was a man who once lived on his wits and adrenaline, reduced now to a presence that could not menace her.

She drew up to him and eyed him coldly. Her eyes passed over a suit that had once sat across broad shoulders, a shirt that began as a glistening white. Without being stained or dirty, he was clearly unkempt, ramshakle, run-down.

"Report?"

Her question was met with a sullen shrug.

"He's dead."

"Dead?" The question is flat. No surprise, horror or disbelief could come near that crystal clear voice.

"He was driving carelessly." Her expression asked when they could get the theatrics over with. "Out of a plane."

"Do you recall what you were tasked with?"

"Release a microbot into the Russian banking system."

"So why did you feel the need to take a plane ride?"

"It was a lovely day for a trip somewhere su-" Her eyebrows raised, forestalling his quip and he sighed. "The bank clerks were talking about a dirty politician and I recalled his name from the file. I followed him. He made a beeline for the airport and was on the phone talking about the bot. I had to take him out."

"On the basis of gossip, you chose to stalk a foreign government official, without first consulting the department?"

"It was the job that needed to be done!"

"The job that needed to be done was the installation of the microbot. Did you do that?"

"Yes, of course."

"You released the microbot in the correct location?"

"Yes, but it was a waste of time. It didn't do anything."

"Did it occur to you to turn it on?"

Silence.

"Following your mission, you have jeopardized our information gathering by leaving a crucial piece of our hardware to be discovered and tampered with by Russian forces; you have almost killed a member of the Russian government who was passing vital information to one of our ministry when you were spying on him; and by virtue of crashing a private jet into a city stadium you've single-handedly wiped out five percent of the Andorran people."

Further silence.

"You have always been reckless and careless, Bond, but this is as far as you can go. These days we need men we can rely on."

"Moneype-"

"M, to you, Bond. And not that either, any more. Your time is over."

She turns and walks away. The rising sun has begun to paint the brickwork around him in a warm golden hue. It seemed somehow fitting that he should go out in a blaze of glory, but he wasn't yet ready to leave. Before he could cry out to her, a business man rounded a nearby corner and bumped into him. He cursed, and gasped.

Hours later a policeman tried to move the homeless man along, only to discover he had been impaled on a rusty penknife. Just as well, the autopsy would confirm. If he hadn't gone out so quickly, so kindly, he would have fallen to systematic failure of multiple abused organs. Another John Doe who had destroyed his life via drugs and alcohol.

Monday, 23 April 2018

Memory eater

Silence falls like fog and through the stillness I swim, seeing the truth of people when the weight of time is lifted from their frames.

An ancient man, bowed and broken over his zimmer is released and the shadow of his self becomes known - a man of dignity and composure. A man of peace. Thankfully, he is living in the moment, not reflecting on his glory days. That will help me.

There, where the children play, even they bow to time and their freed spirits are reaching out, pushing their physical boundaries and mingling as a crowd save one. One girl sits alone, a battered spirit shrinking and afraid, delicate as a spring blossom. I will help her, but she is not why I'm here.

The man with his arm around the woman - he is spring sunshine, she is scaly malevolence. That will end poorly.

It is the silence that unsettles me most. Light is not bound by time, and wouldn't it blow the minds of physicists if they knew? But without time, sound cannot form. I cannot hear my heart beat. I cannot hear my breath. I cannot hear any of the murmuration of bodily functions we take for granted day in and out.

There. I see it. A quicksilver flicker, seemingly all around. I hunt, and so does it.

My body closes its eyes and breathes deeply. the seconds that pass in its physical form akin to years and nothing in this space without time. The purpose of the action is to settle me, nothing more. I am focussed now.

I cast a lure - all these people around me are focussed on the here and now, but what it wants is the memories that are not yet formed. "I mustn't forget to water the plants," I muse. A pulse of light. It has heard me. "I won't need my phone for this," I think, deliberately moving my hand towards my purse.

A ripple shivers through the stillness and in the silence I fell it hone in on me. Now for the tricky part.

It strikes, faster than I could imagine, but I am ready and turn away. It catches me a glancing blow and I cast my net wide. It is caught.

Guilt catches me off guard. I know they don't belong here, this environment is killing them and harming us, but they are so beautiful. Being forced into captivity is a horror when you stand outside of time. As soon as possible we will release them into their natural habitat, but while we transport them they will be suffering terribly.

Perhaps not. Perhaps they can stop being aware. Perhaps it doesn't affect them.

I gather my net with the squirming beast inside and quietly grieve. My journey is long and instantaneous. The gateway stands guarded now, but these creatures came through before we knew of it. I approach with my burden which stills. Perhaps it can hear the soundless cries of its people.

At the gateway I release it. I don't force it through. We thought in the beginning that maybe they were escaping something to come here, so it is the rule to give them the choice. As always, there is only a pulse and the beast is gone, passed over to its home.

I return to my self as my exhale completes and think of Twitter. I can't remember where I left my phone. Frantically I pat my pockets then search my purse and find it there, where I always put it. Why can I never remember?