The whole affair started on January 3rd.
I was off duty that day, but my therapist, Dr. Sandra Helena, had asked me to accompany her on an errand of mercy. Dr. Helena informed me that the Hawthorn Lunatic Asylum had been ordered by the state government to close by December 31st, having released all of the inmates into community care. I was informed that all the inmates of the facility had in fact been relocated, except for one. A young woman who was kept by herself in the isolation wing. This young woman was a mystery, Dr. Helena informed me that no one knew exactly why she had been placed there. So far as she could tell this mystery woman had no criminal record nor a diagnosis. Yet the director of the asylum, Dr. Silverman, was continuing to keep her there even after all the other staff had left and the facility was officially closed down.
Dr. Helena was worried that Dr. Silverman was somehow abusing this woman, however, she had no proof of this. Rather than file a formal complaint against the venerable Dr. Silverman she thought she should confront him herself. However, she asked me to come along, in my police uniform, even though I was off duty. She said it was partly for moral support, but partly to intimidate Dr. Silverman into releasing this young woman whom Dr. Helena was certain was being held illegally.
Continue reading “The Bacillus – Chapter One (Keane)”
The forest is never more deadly than at night. Even an experienced and well armed hunter fears being alone in the prehistoric wilderness after sunset. The painted woman was not only alone in the forest, she was naked, unarmed, tired, and hungry. Although she had leapt at the opportunity to escape from the Bellamani she had also realised that the Matriarch had probably given her a death sentence; and perhaps also a death sentence to poor young Rosha. It occurred to the painted woman that this may have been the Matriarch’s intention: kill off the strongest Paximani woman. In truth, there was a voice inside the huntress that beg for death. After watching all her friends, the men of the tribe, slaughtered and mutilated by the Bellamani, and the subsequent easy capitulation of the remaining women of her tribe, had filled her heart with so much woe and despair that death seemed like a welcome avenue of escape from her current situation. The ultimate way to destroy your enemy is to trick or convince them into destroying themselves. Despair and misery are just another two weapons of war no less important than a spear or a bow.
But another voice also spoke inside her head. A voice of an old warrior, Tannas, she had known him as a little child. She could hear his deep cavernous voice echoing inside her head, “The most dangerous foe is not the one who strikes you down with his spear, and not even the foe who can convince you to lower your guard foolishly, but the one who can convince you throw yourself on the point of your own spear. For this reason you must learn to conquer the despair in your own heart before you attempt to conquer enemy.” Continue reading “The Paximani – Part 4”
The sun was high in the heavens, the wind was low, and the plains verdant. It would probably have been a good day to lie in the sun and have her hair braided by her little sisters thought Allaynah. Too bad most of her sisters were either dead or missing, she thought, they would have loved this place. Wearily Allaynah trudged on with the tip of an obsidian spear hovering menacingly close to her naked back. How long had she been marching through the plains? The sun was almost to the middle of the sky, and it had been deep night when she started out. She heard a grunt from somewhere close behind her and the hairs on her back pricked up around the spot she imagined the spearhead was just over.
She knew her captor was getting impatient with her progress, she’d been slowing down for the past hour and had lost her place at the front of the procession and was now starting to trail. She had had nothing to drink all morning. She didn’t want to look at her feet anymore, not since flakes of torn skin had started poking out from around the edges of her feet. Allaynah had never walked this far in her life, looking around her she could see that all the other women from her tribe were struggling with the pace too. All except the painted woman. Allaynah didn’t know her name, or even what clan she came from, but from her green eyes, long brown hair braided in three ponytails, and the patches of fair skin that weren’t marked with paint, thorn scars, and ink, it was clear: she was Paximani just like Allaynah, albeit an eccentric one to have decorated her body like that. Typically only some of the Paximani men had their bodies marked like hers was. She alone was maintaining the steady march. As Allaynah was gazing at the strange painted woman ahead of her the woman looked casually over her shoulder and glared at Allaynah as though she was irritated by the sensation of being watched by her.
Allaynah flinched and tried to look away but the thirst brought on by their long march had weakened her too much, she stumbled and fell onto her knees. Before she could pick herself back up a hard kick struck her in the stomach. The blow winded her and she crumpled over face first into the turf tearing a gash into her chin on a sharp rock. Allaynah felt sick from the pain but she was too tired to care, she lay there limp as a pulse of sobbing passed through her. She knew the sharp edge of the spear must be very close to her heart now. She wondered if getting skewered on that dark sharp stone might hurt less than how she felt now as a small trail of blood flowed out from her chin.
“Pick up the pace you fat filthy pig!” Hissed the woman holding the spear to Allaynah’s back. Continue reading “The Paximani – Part 1”
Doctor Agnethea Komnenos’ Journal
When someone started knocking on my door today I thought I was imagining it. I continued working on my computer simulation of polypoid gene expression dismissing the sounds as just part of the normal rumblings of a spaceship’s innards. Alas, because I detest distractions when I am working, I heard the knocking again. Yes, someone was definitely knocking on my door. I started to wonder why they didn’t just use the intercom then I remembered that I had turned the volume down to almost zero a few days ago just to escape these interruptions.
Days ago? Yes… I suppose it must have been three or four days since I last left my cabin. I had become so engrossed with my botany research I hadn’t bothered to even venture out into the ships mess to eat with the rest of the crew. Why bother anyway? It’s not like we have much in common to talk about. I would be a lot happier if I didn’t have to interact with people at all. My computer and my plants are all the company I need.
I opened my cabin door and found second officer Stott grinning at me mischievously with a large rusty wrench in her hands.
“I was knocking on your door,” she said indicating that she had been using the large metal tool. Continue reading “Shattered Space – Part 1”
The evening sun was waning over the abandoned city, and the cats were on the prowl. Leo Socks was walking down what he believed was an empty alley way just minding his cat business when from out of a bin sprang a red fox. Leo regarded the newcomer with consternation. He’d seen foxes before, but few as bold as this one. He was after all deep in cat land.
“Say, what brings you here Mr. Fox?”
The red fox skulked as he crept sideways yet was careful to maintain eye contact with Leo.
“Who are you?” Croaked the fox.
“Socks, Leo Socks,” said the cat coolly.
A broad toothy grin slipped across the fox’s face. Leo instantly recognised the meaning of this grin and bounded forward just as the fox did the same. They connected in mid air except Leo landed on the fox’s back and sprang back off again driving the fox’s nose down into the ground in an dramatically uncontrolled landing. The baffled fox snarled uncomprehendingly at what Leo had just done; cats generally run away from foxes not attack them head on.
“You’re very brave for a cat!” Hissed the red fox. Continue reading “The Tuxedo Terror”
Not a breath of wind touched the brush. The leaves, the branches, the twigs, were united in stillness. Silence was weaved into the black forest like the morning fog. The only sunshine peered in from a road that cut through the trees like a long narrow gash in the woodland. Between the bows the sunlight bled into the darkness and was eventually consumed completely; some two dozen yards therein. On either side of the dirt road the trees stood as though two armies of colossal wooden soldiers were hunched over and facing off from each other. Smaller shrubs and bushes clawed at the edges of the road with their gnarles roots. Slowly the brush was consuming the road and healing the gash in the forest.
From somewhere out of the shadows of the forest crept a man covered in mud and a ragged cloth with twigs poking out of it. In one hand he held an axe, in the other a large circular scythe. He looked first up the road and then down the road. He listened patiently for a while. When satisfied that he was alone he gently placed his axe on the ground and started hacking off the smaller branches of the brush. He worked with speed and skill, but incredibly making hardly any sound. Within half an hour the brush was retreating from the edges of the road and it looked as though the two armies of wooden giants were slowly moving apart from each other. Continue reading “The Horror of Humhyde – Part 1”
Long ago in the town of Marlenburg, there once lived a young woman called Bessica. She was an intelligent and educated woman, but she wasn’t pretty and every day she lamented her lack of beauty. She could not help but notice that all the men of the town ignored her, they liked the prettier women and she was angry with envy. All the men except for Jamie, the fletcher’s son, he liked Bessica and would bring her flowers and sometimes she’d chat to him and tell him of her frustrations. He would listen to her for hours and give her as much of his company he could spare.
Bessica appreciated Jamie, and although she had no romantic interest in him, being a poor boy, she decided to teach him how to read in return for his companionship. Jamie struggled at first, but soon mastered the alphabet and could read a few simple books and letters by himself. The love and respect for Bessica grew deep and strong in Jamie’s heart, in his eyes she was indeed the most beautiful woman in town. He told her one day that he was so thankful for teaching him how to read, that he wanted to marry her. Bessica told him he was sweet, but that they were not meant for each other.
In truth Bessica felt ugly, she felt insulted that she an educated woman was being completely ignored by all the gentlemen, and she could only be courted by a mere fletcher’s son. She would howl with rage at her mirror Continue reading “The Tragedy of Bessica”
Oriana perched on the seat of the bus shelter like a cat ready to pounce. Soon enough the object of her interest appeared almost precisely on schedule: A tall skinny man with red hair over burdened with a hiking backpack that was obviously well loaded with goods, and carrying a case of a dozen tins of beans. The man’s clothing was simple, it was also well worn, and his hair looked tangled. It was a rather warm day and the man was clearly suffering from the heat of the day, but still he pushed on with determination. He came to the road he always turned down at this time of day. This was the point Oriana had chosen to intervene. She skipped across the road and brought herself up alongside the man dragging the heavy load.
“Hi!” she chirped
The man looked up at her and blinked before allowing a friendly smile to grace his lips. He returned her greeting politely, but pushed on without asking her any questions. Oriana, who wasn’t used to not being paid attention to, was not sure what she should do next. She found herself just walking uncomfortable next to him. They had walked about a hundred metres in silence before she decided that she hadn’t made this bold move to learn nothing. Continue reading “The Monk – Part 1”
There are few other memories of note that I have of the nursery. Certainly few that are particularly distinct. But in the days leading up to my seventh birthday there was one memory that stayed with me indelibly. I recall feeling terrified and sad for my leaving the state nursery soon. One of the nursemaids noticed and she asked me what was wrong. I told her than I didn’t want to leave, that I was afraid of being thorned. This nursemaid was called Agatha and she had been thorned in her right cheek. The thorn was not a small spot or blemish on the skin. Where the thorn was inserted into the flesh a large black welt appeared. From this black protrusion of the flesh emanated a network of black veins so that Agatha’s entire right cheek was covered in black lines. If I had only had the experience of the other children who were free from such blemishes, I would have thought the sight of a thorn to be disturbing, however, as all the adults had at least one thorn somewhere on their head and so I was accustomed to the sight of them.
Agatha looked anxious for a moment, looking over her shoulder before smiling kindly at me. “This place has become your home hasn’t it?”
“What’s a home?” I asked innocently.
“It’s an old word, long ago people used to live in just one place to grow up in. It was a really small place, nowhere near as big as this nursery. But children would stay with their parents.”
“What are parents?” Continue reading “Thorns – Part 2”
My earliest memories were from the nursery. I might have been four or five years old at the time. Guards had come into the building. They were men, big tall men, I don’t remember ever seeing a man before in my life. They came for Mariam, one of the nursemaids. I remember them dragging her kicking and screaming out of the building. Then one of the guards punched her in the face. Her slender frame crumpled to the floor started jerking convulsively. She was silent from that point one. They just dragged her out. I wouldn’t see her again until my first thorning years later.
The other nursemaids gathered us together in the main play room. They gave us children a lecture about the dangers of favouritism. Mariam had been guilty of treating some children better than others. I don’t remember feeling any guilt at the time. Years later though I felt horribly guilty when I realised that I was definitely one of Mariam’s favourites. She used to sneak me in extra biscuits and cuddles at night through the bars of my crib. I would eventually conclude that I was the reason why the guard had punched her. That it was my fault she was gone. Continue reading “Thorns – Part 1”