Sunday, 12 November 2006

The Vagrant God



The Vagrant God



By


Russell C.J. Duffy

part one


god went walkabouts. she just packed up her stuff and went. nobody knows exactly where she went but she is gone. gone the way of legends. gone the way of myth. gone. somewhere else. somewhere far away. god doesn't get lonely like you and me. she doesn't feel the hollow pangs of sorrow gnawing like a rat at your stomach lining. she doesn't feel the desolation of guilt hanging heavy in the pit of your guts. she left her hairbrush and her box of trinkets. left her lacy gloves of cloud. left them all behind her and went. thataway. the girls and boys in heaven found them. they had no time for bric-a-brac. they threw them over the edge of the sky. watched them fall like crystallised rain drops. falling to earth in a clatter of pin pricks. shards of diamonds. a splash of jewels to confuse shoes. down onto the heads of peasants and paupers. some paupers are smarter than others. a collective. a co-operative. a conglomerate. saints to sinners. paupers to princes'. the men of tungsten and foil opened a stall. selling bits of rope and truth. the men of wood and brass opened a shop. selling the promise of perpetual youth. slices of heaven cheap at half the price. neatly wrapped and easily swallowed. and it came to pass. through the ticking of time. through the vaudeville of ritual. through the denial of faith. that peasants and paupers. proprietors and princelings. bought salvation with coins and corruption. and made a new god. a god of muscle. a god of stealth. a god of iron with a will of stone. a phallus in blue jeans.


 part two - The Box


Beyond the veil sits a box, square and black. There is nothing remarkable about the box as it has no adornments or ornate decorations. The only hint to what it might be, or what it contains, lies upon its surface which is a highly polished lacquer that reflects images with a mirror likeness.  As I said, there is nothing outwardly remarkable about the box and yet it is situated on a pedestal within a room with a key and a lock. Of all the things ever created it is perhaps the most secret and the most well hidden.

The box and the pedestal and the room that contains them all are all housed within a bleached bone white temple that sits snugly in the Adriatic. The columns of the temple have creeping golden ivy and creamy clematis that intertwine like lovers and in the summer the temple is a glorious vision to behold. It has all the makings of a myth doesn't it -the box and the temple and the heavy shroud of secrecy? And perhaps that status is correct. Seven monks guard the temple and the box and should the need ever arise the seven monks would each gladly give up their lifeblood to protect the temple but most of all the box. Seven is a sacred number but the box is more sacred still for it contains the soul of the great creator and it is said that should God ever return from wandering the great void and take up residence once again on this green and fertile planet then all the sins and all the ills of mankind would be washed away when God opens the box and takes back her soul. And so the guards maintain their vigil, the same vigil that they, or men very much like them, have maintained for every night and every day of every year for the past two thousand years.
One day, or so the monks believe, they will be granted the status of angels. One day, the monks believe, that God will return, one day, maybe.

part three -The House of Bright Starr



Above him, the steps bent high and twisted and were surrounded by sweet William and dark, damp, green moss. He saw the steps and counted them. Thirteen. The eleventh step was deeply cracked and wet and it looked treacherous. He must remember that. He started to climb. The steps were very old, ancient even and appeared to be carved as though by Norse giants. Various colours and hues ran through the stone steps as though they were veins. Veins of violet. Veins of vermilion and bright, bitter ochre. He could have sworn that he saw the veins pulsating and did a double take to reassure himself that he wasn't imagining things. He wasn't. Warm blood felt cold within him. He felt a dark, sickly taste in his mouth like a vile aftertaste of honey slick bile. He spat. Blinked. Shook his head and looked up again at the steps.

Fifteen.

He moved swiftly so as to cover the steps as quickly as possible while still observing a  degree of care. He climbed spider-like. Hands and knees and claw-like fingers. As he reached the fifth step he saw, nestled among the green sweet William and moss, a freshly severed foot, cleanly cut and with congealed dried blood clinging to the evenly sliced remains. Vomit moved a sluggish finger that wormed its way to his throat. He swallowed and grimaced. He didn't stop but kept going, taking great care not to slip as his strides took him ever higher up. He reached the summit and looked back down at the steps.

Thirteen.

A magpie cawed a greeting. A warning. A distressed sound of broken fingers scrabbling over tin. Before him was a door. Blood red and shiny with a brass knocker but no letter box. He reached out his hand and gripped the knocker. The door opened to his touch and a midget with stone black, blue bottle eyes greeted him.

"Yes?"

"I was looking to find shelter."
"Not here. You'll find no sanctuary here."

A silence descended like the sky at night. Slow and black and tired. A voice called 
from behind the midget.

"Let him enter Casparian. Let me see him."

Together, the midget and the man walked through the door frame. A clock hissed. They walked together, the midget in front and the man following. Down a corridor that smelt of nicotine and sex. The walls looked to be made of flesh. Pink and raw and sentient. The midget led the man into a sparse room that had no furniture apart from an empty leather chair that sat in front of a vast glass window. The glass window looked out upon a mottled land that was bereft of grass and was covered with a dust that could have been ash or black sand. An arid landscape. The voice that gainsaid entry spoke again.

"Welcome friend, welcome to my house. How may I help and what brings you here?"

The wayfarer looked upon this man and was startled to note his beauty and obvious charm. He was tall but not overly so and stood about six foot two. He was grey-eyed with a burnished copper skin tone. His hair was raven black and yet he did not seem old, ageless perhaps but not old, ancient beyond reason but still not old.


"I was looking to find sanctuary from the approaching storm and when I saw your house I thought I would ask if I may rest here awhile."


"Indeed? It is not often that we have visitors here. Would you like something to drink?


Some water perhaps?"
The man was awestruck by his surroundings. A pale blue room with just the one chair and some minimalist art that hung small on one wall. The painting was a depiction of angels who were obviously talking to or listening to someone out of frame. On their faces was the instantly recognisable look of worship or maybe fear.

"Water would be fine. Thank you."
 

He moved to the window and looked down upon the scene below. Something was moving on the dust bowl plain. Something large and man like with a huge tail that kicked up dust so that it billowed out behind him like a cloud. But it wasn't dust that flocked above the man things head but a host of flies that canopied him like a winged umbrella. The man again spoke to the beautiful stranger.  

"Your home is distinguished and unique. Was it custom built?" 

"I designed it whilst others built it. Do you like it?" 

Not wishing to cause offence the man said he did. 

"Have you lived here long?" 

"For the better part of my life; many years ago I had to leave my home. My lover left and I was charged with looking after the home we had made. After a while I became bored and lonely living there so, together with some others, I set up home here. I settled here and with some friends and built the home you see."

"What about your mother?"
 

"My mother?" 

"How did she take your moving away. Mothers are very protective."

"So I am told. Unfortunately, I never knew my mother."
 

They both stood by the window peering down onto the vastness below. There was an energy about the tall figure, a silent power that emanated in an almost tangible way. From behind them the midget scurried forward carrying a jug of water and a tall crystal glass.

"Ah, your refreshment has arrived."
 

He took the glass and placed it against his lips taking down a large draught of the freshest water he had drunk. 

"You were thirsty. Are you sure that there is nothing else you want? Anything at all?"

"That was wonderful, and thank you, but it is sufficient."

The men gazed at each other like two flamingo's, elegant and pale and then the wayfarer spoke.
 

"Forgive me for being so bold but you are very beautiful. I have never seen any man before who was as attractive as you. You have the look of an angel."

The man smiled an even smile and his eyes sparkled like diamonds.

"Angel indeed, I am the Angel and one who has forgotten the common courtesies. Forgive me. Please allow me to introduce myself for I am a man of wealth and taste. I have been given many names, all of which I have accepted. A multitude of names from as many people. Morning star, Satanas, Lucifer but you can call me by the first name I was given, Samael. Now then, would you like to look around, after all, you won't be going anywhere for a time?"
 

The man looked on with an obvious lack of comprehension. 

"Samael? Is that the name your parents gave you?"

"As I said, I didn't know my Mother and I strongly doubt the name came from my Father but then again it might have after all fathers claim to control all they survey don’t they?  To have created virtually everything there is to have created. Oh, except for my lands, of course, they are all mine even if I didn‘t truly create them."

"You really don't get on with your father at all do you?"
 

"No I don't, and I know that is really bad form but he was such a bastard to me. But let us not dwell on that. Family are often just the people you are born into rather than friends you choose. An age ago, when my lover left, I was left in charge with no real idea of what to do. In many ways, I felt as if I had been cast out of our home. Not just me but some friends of mine also and we fell and we fell for what would be the lifetimes of many men, and the fall was not only long but arduous and filled with terror. We fell from the silent chambers. We fell like white comets but bereft of tails, we fell like the dawn of ages past until there was nowhere else to fall. And then, for awhile, I remembered no more, but tiredness overcame me and I slept and when I awoke it was with a start for I was in a strange place and my lover was gone and but for my friends I was alone. I wept then, long and hard and with much sorrow for I was homeless. So with my friends we built this house and we raised this place as ours and I would like to think that it is the mirror reflection of mine and my lover's home.

 “What do you think of it?"

As he spoke they had walked on down past rooms with ornate doors and they passed one now and from it came a dreadful smell. A rancid, putrid smell of rotting flesh and 
the corruption of excrement. From behind the door came a sound. A buzzing, insect sound as of many wings throbbing. 

"What is that fearful noise and what on earth is that horrid smell? I do not mean to be rude to so fine a host but that has to be the most disgusting smell that I have ever encountered?"

"Do not apologise. It is the room of a friend of mine. Beelzebub. His habits are a bit wanting at times but pay no heed and follow me." 

They walked on past rooms with doors of curious designs. Down corridors that wove in and about the beautiful man's house. Finally, they came to some stone steps that bore downward in an anti-clockwise fashion. The walls were scaled like the hide of a gargantuan fish and moved as though taking shallow breaths. They were wet to the touch and smelt of stale sweat. A creature lay in front of them that vaguely resembled something feline. It was shaped like a large cat but with a beak for a mouth and pendulous breasts. It looked up at them and yawned. Its tongue unfurled long and yellow and its breath was the stench of death.

"This is Bast. We became lovers after my first love left me but now she is my pet."

He ran his elegant fingers over the head of the cat and it let out a low purr. His hand moved down onto the cat's flanks whereupon he lifted the cat’s tail and then bent down to smell its hindquarters.

"She will be in heat soon, very tempting."
 

"Are all these creatures yours? Do you...erm, do you control them?" 

"Control them? No! They are not subservient to me. They, just like you and me, work to and obey only one master. You know what your fellow men call this place don't you?"

"Yes."

"They call it by numerous names and none of them is right but that is the way of mankind is it not? What they do not understand they change to fit the shape they think it should be. Take the roles of men and women for example. Do men really still believe God is a man? That all the angels in heaven are male? It is a form of control created by men who seek to maintain their positions of power."

The stairs bent down and then flattened out into a paved square that seemed to coruscate and ripple as though it were liquid but as he placed a foot onto it, he found that it was indeed solid.

"On our left is another of my many friends’ rooms. The noises that you hear are a parliament of owls. Their raucous noise amuses my friend’s odd sensibilities. Now then, tell me, from all that you have seen thus far, have you as yet realised where you are and more importantly the name of my kingdom?"

The man gave out a curious sound as though he had caught something unpleasant in his mouth, a soft guttural noise that left no sensible imprint but remained a low groan from deep within his throat.

"Hell, this is hell, isn't it? I'm here to be punished. To be tortured for eternity. Oh God,
Oh sweet God help me."

"I am afraid neither option is available and yes, you are right this is hell but follow me and I will show exactly where you will be spending the rest of your days."

Samael walked ahead with the man, now weeping and quaking, following at his heel. They passed many a strange site all of which bled into one blurred and fuzzy vision for the man’s tears prevented him from seeing properly and then they stopped by a large red door that looked similar to the one he had entered.

"Now then this is the hell you will have to endure for the rest of your days. Are you prepared?"

The man couldn't speak but could only stare at the door. His fear was palpable and sweat glistened on his forehead. Samael opened the door and the sight that greeted the man was as familiar as butter. A busy street with pedestrians going hurriedly bout their business. Buses making their ponderous way through the confusion of cars. Pigeons rested upon window ledges and the sun shone a tallow glow. A street sign was set into the masonry of a building. The sign said ‘Regent Street,
W1B 1JA.

"Welcome to the rest of my kingdom."

part four - Ishtar


They say that when Ishtar dances that her hips dream rainbows and her ankles sing Bluebells and that for every pirouette she spins a man will bleed semen enough to drown his soul and commit his sins to hell. There was a time when Ishtar meant something to so many but now she is just a vague memory, a name in a reference book, a thing of antiquity, of dim remembrance’s curiosity. Being a curiosity does not bother her although she still recalls those halcyon days when men built temples in her name and women made libations to her but then again when you have lived as long as Ishtar has there is little in this world, or any other, that holds surprises. Upon a time long ago she was a goddess of love and of fertility and some would cast her as a Queen of evil and of being cruel, ruthless and heartless as she, spider-like, killed all her mates and lovers. Nonetheless, she had loved them and had danced for them turning her heels of magic to weave dark lusts within their hearts. They would watch her dance with their jaws gone slack and their manhood’s turned to rigid cock stands. They would watch mesmerised as she thrust her pelvis at them and made her belly and thighs drift like the scent of sex before their faces. Their hearts would burst and their erections would flood their robes and they would die in a fit of sudden, orgasmic

pleasure. Her pride and her beauty had been her downfall, though, and her vanity, for Ishtar believed that she was the prettiest star in the firmament but in fact she wasn’t.  

There was one even more beautiful. One who had power beyond reckoning and beauty beyond belief. But she was nameless and now she is gone but still Ishtar plots and schemes and dances her wayward magic’s for, in truth, there is a prize that Ishtar desires even more than the admiration of women and the lusts of men - a tiny thing, a hidden thing, a thing of untold power, a thing in a box.

part five - Kuan Ti 

The glass goblet smashed against the wall shattering into a thousand fragments that fell onto the ornate marble floor like myriad droplets of frost. The noise echoed throughout the palace of Kuan Ti and then settled blanket heavy into an ominous silence, a silence that held its breath in the belief that whilst it did the storm of rage might abate. It didn't.

"Chung-Li".

"CHUNG LI!!!" 
 

There was the sound of running feet followed by the whispered hush of two gigantic alabaster doors being opened. Chung Li entered the imperial throne room of Kuan Ti and instantly fell to his knees and kowtowed in the time honoured way, knocking his forehead several times upon the heartless marbled floor. Chung Li was a demon and a eunuch and, more importantly, a loyal servant to Kuan Ti. he had served his master for  a millennium and had seen many a fellow demon dispatched to hell by his master's fury. He had learnt the art of appeasement and understood the machinations of his master's mind but of late, even with this extensive knowledge and an even more impressive ability at self-preservation, his master had been acting in ever more mercurial and irascible ways.

"GET UP YOU DAMN FOOL BEFORE I SMASH YOUR WORTHLESS SKULL
TO SMITHEREENS!!!".

"Master," said Chung Li rising like smoke, "How might I best serve his imperial majesty?"

"Give me your fool tongue on a plate so that I need not hear YOUR WITLESS
WORDS!!"

"As ever Master, your word is my command."

And with that, Chung Li turned on his well-oiled heel and started to leave the imperial throne room. As he reached the twin alabaster doors another glass goblet smashed above his head forcing him to duck and cower as a shower of splintered glass rained down upon his head.

"HOW DARE YOU LEAVE WITHOUT MY PERMISSION? COME BACK HERE
YOU MAGGOT!!"

Again Chung Li turned and with head lowered retraced his steps back to where his master sat. 
 

"Apologies, Oh, imperial majesty. Your unworthy servant was too eager in his desire to carry out his master's command."

"Too eager MY ARSE!"

Kuan Ti's rage seemed to be in decline but still Chung Li did not dare to tempt conversation.

"Master."

"I am bored Chung Li, bored and redundant. There was a time when millions worshipped me but now I am forgotten. I have no purpose. There is no point to my existence and I have no power whatsoever. I was born to rule. How can I rule without power or people to fear and worship me?"

"Master?"

"Speak."

"Recently a swarm of beetles returned to me from an island in the Adriatic. They told me of a temple guarded by seven monks."

"What of it?"

"The monks guard a precious secret Master. A box." 
 

"A box?"  

"Yes Master, a box."  

"And what is in this box?" 

"Power Master, complete and utter power."  

The silence returned now pregnant with the pulsating passion of avarice and corruption.

"Get me the box, Chung-Li, at whatever cost get me the box."

"Consider it done Master."
 part six - The Crones

'it is dark in here.'

"treacle black my love, dripping like tar"

{pinch the void to see if it blinks}

you hold out your hands to offer me succour but you are a fake, my friend. as plastic as television. as hollow as straw.

'it is dull in here'

"blind me, bind me, curse and cuss me"

{poke the void to see if it shrinks}

so who now offers that dangerous hand?

the one that proffers friendship whilst wetting the blade.

the one that smiles with white wide teeth whilst his eyes flashes dark.

'it is sharp in here'

"barbed wire and nails my love, and razor blades"

{pull the void to see if it clinks}
 
"TREACHERY COMES ON A BELLY OF SCALES

 A THIN LITTLE ASSASSIN WHO CURLS IT TAIL

AND WITH INFINITE GUILE LIFE CURTAILS

LEAVING SEVEN MEN LYING DEAD IN THE PALE"

"moomstib"

"MOOMSTIB"

"MOOMSTIB"

part seven - Passions


The night had been spent amid sweat and spent juices. He had placed all manner of devices inside her. His fingers, his tongue, his cock and a variety of things that hummed and shook and vibrated. Finally, when he realised that nothing would so easily satisfy this particular woman, he had pushed her over a chair and fucked her arse until she screamed.

The morning had drifted in and late and it was noon before she awoke. A goddess with supine elegance she moved like crystal and looked down at him. Still dressed in man shape but evidently not human for no man had a penis so large. He lay still and asleep on his side. She looked at him and, with a recently growing awareness of men and their inadequate belief that they really knew what women liked, she lifted the syringe from the marble table top and filled it with a milky liquid from a bottle and then injected herself. The effects of the drug were almost immediate and so she opened her thighs and allowed her fingers free access to her feverish self. Her fingers moved with serpentine grace and the self-knowledge that educated her touch.

Her orgasm grew at a pace with the drug and she felt her head and vagina explode in a scarlet flush. Ishtar collapsed onto the cool tiled floor where a cloudy unconsciousness overtook her. Later, she awoke but still felt the heat of desire clawing at her abdomen and crutch, a crutch hungry desire that was nearly insatiable.  

She looked over to her still sleeping partner and moved over to him. He now lay on his back and was still and naked so she took hold of his flaccid penis in her hand, a small murmur escaped from his lips, she held his penis away from her face and with her tongue began to ever so gently lick his testicles and then with tender care she lifted his scrotum and licked the sensitive region between his testicles and anus, his perineum. He awoke as his penis grew rigid and as he felt the exquisite sensations that she was creating flood through him. He tried to sit up but she firmly pushed him back down.

"Lay still. I want to play and you are my toy". 
 

He lay back and watched as she tied his limbs to the bed that was shaped in a facsimile of a star. The bed was richly ornate and was decorated with a curious design that featured large teeth and talons and spread wings. He lay with his legs and arms out at angles and his erection standing tall and firm. She smiled affectionately at his erection and ran her tongue up its length and smiled again as she saw, with pleasure, the way it pulsed as it had a life of its own. She took the belt off of her robe and tied it tight around his balls and his thickening cock and watched as the flesh turned a deeper purple and the veins in his manhood stood out like sculptured vines.

"Oh god, Oh sweet heaven", he moaned and tried to thrust himself up but his bounds kept him tethered and in place.

She took his purple passion and greased it with oil watching all the while his face that was shaped by deep desire and a desperate need to ejaculate. She then, with her back to him, climbed on top so that she was facing his feet and lifted herself up a fraction and with her hands opened her buttock  cheeks so that her corrugated anus hung over his throbbing penis. 

Then she then slowly lowered herself onto him until she was impaled by his blood filled erection. She then opened her thighs and with a vibrator started to wander the tip over her labia and his balls. She could feel him straining beneath her trying to thrust but restricted by her bounds, so wanting to cum but unable to. She played the vibrator over her open cleft and his balls again and again.

"Oh, Ishtar, please, please, please." but her play was all for her and he was but a utensil for her own satisfaction. Her pussy was now coated with her own juices and she felt the need to orgasm growing in her belly like a forest fire. She began, slowly at

first to thrust the vibrator into herself and then, as her desperate need flowered, faster and harder, over and over and again and again and.

"Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh."

She came with thunder and with fire and her body shook and her tears flowed. After she had finished and she finally felt satisfied she climbed off and made her way to the bathroom to clean up. Chung Li, her lover, with his erection still throbbing a dangerous purple and still tied to the bed, screamed out to her.
"Hey! what about me? What about me for god’s sakes?"

“What about you?” She smiled as she closed the bathroom door. 

part eight - The Serpent

Moomstib moved with a whisper of grass that opened before him and fled behind him with a shudder.

Let him pass unhindered, let him pass

His eyes moved with a mechanical precision that allowed him to see or be aware of everything that was foolish enough to lay a foot or paw or claw within striking distance of his mouth. A random violence of fangs.

Let him pass unhindered, let him pass

Moomstib was a serpent but not just any serpent. He was the serpent. The serpent of all tales and legends, the serpent who offered temptation, the serpent that had been in one of the oldest myths of all, the serpent that gave all serpents a bad name; a very bad name. It was the time of falling leaves when the sun slides into cooler sectors and the mists rise like a thin memory. When dewdrops hold a frozen moment that in itself holds a promise, a promise of winter and of shorter days and chilly, crystal ebony nights. The day had withered like the ageing of flesh and the monks, weary from a day spent holding sentry over their prize, had grown less attentive and their eyes, so used to scanning the landscape for a hint of movement, had gazed skyward to watch a sunset set ablaze the horizon.

He was noiseless. 
 

Like time passing  

He was swift.  

Like time passing  

He was as deadly as the poison that dripped from his fangs.

Seven monks. 
Fourteen puncture wounds. Seven heels bleeding.  Death by sin itself or at least a servant of sin. Above him, perched in a fig tree, sat a magpie. 

White chalk marks on a blackboard  

The magpie watched him with an attentive stare. Black, impenetrable eyes, eyes that glittered like birth. Eyes that saw with a wisdom borne of ages past and that recorded every last detail of what had happened. Then, with an effortless flap of his wings, the magpie rose into the sky. A dark silhouette on a bleeding sun.

part nine - Samael


Autumn sunlight, spiteful with its low-hung orb, pin pricked the windows and the balcony of the Kensington apartment bouncing razor sharp light onto the leaves and grass turning green to white, invading the shadows of fall with its indelicate glare. The man, tall and lean and dressed in a black sweatshirt and black combats walked barefoot to the kitchen sink. He held in his elegant fist a red kettle which he filled and then placed onto the gas hob. He lit the gas with a push of a button that ignited with a sharp and rapid click click click.  

From an overhead cupboard, he took out a teapot, a cup and saucer, a milk jug and a side plate. He placed the crockery onto a wooden tray and then tossed two slices of toast onto the plate. He then filled the jug with chilled milk from the fridge. The man was beautiful to behold. Not just good looking or handsome but beautiful. Black hair that was neatly trimmed, porcelain perfect features and a face that resembled a Latin looking and youthful Paul Newman, startling grey eyes that could turn as black as pitch at a moment’s notice if angered. He was tall, well over six feet and had an echo of an angel about him albeit a dark angel.

The kettle started to moan an indistinct rattle hiss.

A sudden rush of wind brought a magpie onto the balcony.

White chalk marks on a blackboard. Petrol blue stains on oil.

“Morag. Good morning. What news do you have?”

The magpie cocked its head to one side as though attempting to clear its throat to speak.

“The ancient assassin has struck. Seven monks are dead. The secret is unguarded.”

The bird's voice was a clattering of pebbles on a corrugated tin roof. A sandstone landslide of words. Dry. Raw. Rough. Jagged.

“I see”, said the man, “and who seeks to benefit from this?”

The bird ruffled its crisp feathers and defecated.
The kettle blew an irritating and tin shrill whistle.

“Ishtar and Kuan Ti but I know not who hired the assassin.”

The man took a mouthful of toast.

“No matter. Both are culpable and both have the desire. Has either of them made a move for The Box?” 
 

The bird hopped forward to pick up the fallen crumbs of toast.

“As yet no but they will and soon.”

The man poured boiling water from the kettle into the teapot.

“Indeed, time for me to make an appearance then. To the devil his due after all.”

“And what of me master? What shall loyal Morag, your servant Pica do next?”

“You will take a message for me once you have rested and refreshed yourself.”

The man poured the tea from the teapot into a bone white cup. He then poured the milk from a jug and stirred the beverage with a bronze teaspoon.

“I have always been misrepresented by humans Morag. Cast as a demon with horns and a tail, a fork and a fistful of brimstone. Cast from heaven like a misbegotten misfit. As I said before, now the devil will have his due.”

The sun, brandishing a new day with a curious eye, rose a fraction higher. Heaven looked down on earth with a fearful gaze. 
part ten - The Wisdom of Crows

1. Ballad In Dust.


The wind blew a lick of dust. It blew around her head like a halo, like a galaxy of dirt orbiting a sunken star. She felt like a ghost, a ghost that haunted the deep dark hollows of the night and this night all she had to offer was a confusion of thoughts and a skerry of emotions that rose out of the distant frame of flirtatious nods and winks. A dangerous game, a game of lust and longing and make believe. Pretend. As fake as the concrete cattle at Milton Keynes. Somewhere below a car changed gear and a red light changed to amber.

"technology. remote and distant and calculating but oh, so effective. erotic even. we humans rely upon the cold heart of our created science as though it were mothers love when in reality all it is a series of binary codes. digital counters that effect the way we think and behave."

She knew the remote love of computers and worshipped at the cruel screen of a cold machine.

"my lifeline. my bold infamy." 
 

Her hands trembled as she touched the passionless glass of the window that held her to this world, beneath her the traffic rumbled, a clarion call from the romance of suicide. She thought again of moist love, of fingers and tongues and the rumour of his loins but a rumour is not reality and remote lust rides chill vectors. Her thoughts drifted a paper cup that floated upon the sewage of failed sensibilities. Gravity is but a sulky mistress and she felt icy fingers clutch at her ankles and her wrists and she knew the call of gravity was as remorseless and inevitable as the seasons. 

The wind blew a lick of dust that flew around her like a halo and the dust of her dreams followed her down like a trail of tears.


2. Crow Blues in Black


I sit beside a swollen old crow whose beak has cracked more shells and skinned more bones than time has time to tell. His eyes are of jet and are so deeply black that they reflect my own face back at me. Within his eyes exists another universe with galaxies and constellations all of its own where the daily doings of any intelligent life forms are observed by a bird. A bird as black as famine. I wonder that for every crow that lives and breathes, is there a parallel universe existing in each birds eye and when the bird dies, as every bird must, does the universe that spins its unique existence within that black environment die along with the bird or does it go spinning on in an independent life cycle? Spinning and turning and burning its own bright stars and suns? Who knows? The evening drags a charcoal blanket across my sky, a blanket infused with the distant glitter of time blessed stars, stars that speak in silent flickers of ancient days. Days of dream triumph. Whenever I watch the snow fall it makes me feel like I am falling into a wealth of stars, stars, fallen heroes or forgotten angels? Who knows? Maybe just lights hung within the Dreamtime.
 
I look at the crow and the crow, with head crooked to one side, looks back at me. We know where we sit and who we are. We know our place in this world and we know how the fates confide not in the doings of man but in the ways of birds and beasts and insects.

Below us, the traffic grumbles a discordant sound, the sound of brakes being applied and horns being punched. Life is a blur of tail lights that fade into a rapidly moving wide angle screen. Above us, a murder of crows moves down like a dark storm cloud with the coming together of the carrion fowl. A sudden wind blows a halo of dust that converges above our heads and then spirals away  below us to where a woman sits with sunken eyes and talon fingers that cling in quiet desperation to a glass pane. The crow shakes his heavy wings and with a practised ease takes flight. I follow him down, my blue-black wing feathers pushed back and I fall like a stone. Worlds spin in the eyes of crows and the days of men are numbered but even a single life matters. 
 

Dust swirls into nebulae of infinite possibilities that froth and fail in the winds currents as the crow plummets like a dead object, head thrust forward, wings pinned back, a black missile with a singular focus in its ebony black eyes.  

The ramshackle congregation of crows all wait with baited breath and beady eye as the old crow plummets. The woman falls like blood spilling from an open wound and is surprised to note that time slows as if to make the moment of freefall last, punishment perhaps or a time for belated reflection. She sees the earth spin and rush to greet her whilst her own body falls in slo-mo time. She hears a roar of sound, like blood in the ears and then she sees the crow beside her, wings now open with wingtip feathers held out the like a clawed hand. She sees in his eyes wisdom beyond reckoning and briefly she smiles as heaven gazes into her and lights her pallid face and then she smashes into the cold, hard, uncaring concrete of the pavement sidewalk. The heavens turn black and the sound of wings fills the air. 

Later, when the crow has settled back down beside me and I have finished shaking from the shock of it all he turns to me and with open beak says.

"No one should pass from this life alone"

I nod and consider the wisdom of crow's but I know, as I reflect upon this knowledge that I have a task still to perform and I take off into the night.

part eleven - Willow Walking

The willow tree stands like a Rastafarian in the spectral silver moonlight. Shimmering and shivering beside the lake with its roots buried years deep into the soft soil. The moon haunts its upper boughs and flickers of light touch the candle yellow bark. It stands like a sentinel guarding the portal of some otherworldly kingdom, a solitary giant who has lived for many lives of men and who has borne many a man-child upon his arched limbs. I settle onto its gnarled limbs my wings weary from the long flight I have made. This is the tree, though, this is the one. 

A lifetime of gazing at a lake becomes monotonous after a while and this night, this singularly special night, the willow, with some assistance from me and my master made up its mind to go a walking. And, having pulled its roots away from their long time nesting place with a squelching sound a walking he goes. Down by the muddy Thames where history bleeds into the vast wet spaces and where rats run free whilst, rodents of a different variety harbour mysterious secrets.  

A walking he goes. 

Past the statues of war heroes whose chests heave with posthumous praise for the crimes, they committed against humanity for the sake of queen, empire and the self-satisfied belief of their posterity. Past merchants fat and wealthy who stagger beneath the weight of their own proclaimed divinity whilst poets and painters still linger on the south bank with spectral whores and tinker's who, in times past, had their heads removed and displayed upon wooden stakes to let a cowering world know that this is no place for your foot to fall.

A walking he goes
 

Down corridors and alleyways built on the backbone and blood spill of the underclass of Ireland. And of Scotland and India and every other damn continent or country you would care to name. Down streets with cracked pavements covered with the sin of son's and the shit, spit, old blood of fathers who sat in cold rooms at wooden benches and scribbled elegant notes into ledgers broad and thick with only a tallow wicked candle for company and dim light. Where Dickens and Collins would pace gas lit avenues to seek inspiration. And further back., much further back, Will Shakespeare supped ale with both Sir Francis Bacon and Christopher Marlowe whilst a hidden audience, not yet born,  would, years on, dispute who wrote what and with whom.

A walking he goes.

Through the fog of time that clings like a pilgrim to the architecture of saints, past high rise blocks and low life scandals, past palaces and playgrounds and cathedrals tall 'n squat 'n vast 'n beautiful and ugly. Wren and Hawksmore: Beauty and the Beast. Past the clock of freedom that chimes its toll loud upon the hour of every hour of every day for now and forever more while beneath its bells peacock’s parade as if they were druids wrapped in the sanctuary of politics who bandy sharp words with dull-witted ease but with little regard for those who pay their wages.

A wandering he goes.

Past fields of green where flax-haired maidens curtsey and tombombadillo's doffed their quaint little caps with subservient ease and willows fingers scrape the grass and  ponies and paupers lead each other around and down with nodding heads and belly’s that rumble. Past tents and pavilions and the merriment of ages that pours out a music
to praise false gods. He nods,  sage-like, to the other willows and walks on.

A wandering he goes.

Up mountains and hillsides where vagabonds gather armed with passion and hope and brute ugly pistols that pump out destruction in the shattered belief of nations dreaming but without their dreams all hopes are false. Past the sand dune out backs where children go barefoot and the world's riches are fought over with falsehoods and threats while tribes still gather in group herd mentality to curse the stranger who looks nothing like them. Where religion constrains you and places only more shackles on the human heart. And God has no face and God has no humour and God has no soul.
 

A wandering he goes.

Over cumulus and nimbus that gather on high to bless us with rain that feeds the world but cannot wash away our sordid stains. Past stars bright and distant that sparkle like cocaine. Onwards and evermore he strides past constellations and supernovas that burn brighter than memory and wormholes that shrunk star systems from infinity to over there in a blinking of an eye. And onwards he walks past angels and demons of perfection and purity with wings that span suns and eyes that match the deepest night.

A wandering he goes until finally he comes to a tree so vast that the eye cannot hold it and from its cradle of roots life falls like raindrops.

"Hello," he said

And the vast tree replies.

"Hello"

"Who are you?"
  Asked the willow.

"Everything and always, but let's not worry about names and stuff I am the creator, you know the one that spun all these stars and suns and planets, I made it all happen"

"You are God?" he said this with a degree of awe.

"I guess so although that sounds suspiciously like a man made concept to me. Don't worry though I don't get so easily offended as their particular invention seems to."

"But if I was rude to you or called you vile names and besmirched your name then you would be offended right? Then you would send down pestilence and famine as by way of retribution?"

"Do I look like a psychopath to you? I may have created everything but I sure as hell do not rule my creation like a savage and primitive king. You are beginning to sound less like a tree and more like a man by the minute. You see, man's problem has always been to try and shackle me to their tribal logic. I do not go in for revenge and nothing that mankind does can offend me except for perhaps their random, ritualistic slaughtering of each other. I do wish that they wouldn't attempt to make me seem so like them, man-like and low."

The willow looked long and hard at the magnificent other tree and said, "You are very big and tree-like."

"I can be whatever size you want me to be and I am all shapes to all things but I am not a man and man is not created in my image. Life is the most precious of my gifts and you and every living thing should remember that and live their lives accordingly. If you need to understand my laws then simply look around you. They are there for every living thing to see."

The willow tree nodded in affirmation and perhaps grasped the wisdom of truth that mankind has thus far failed to grasp. Life, in all its varied aspects, is diverse and living with all that diversity takes a deal of love, understanding and tolerance. There are no wrongs, there are no rights. There simply is. Life.

"What about religion?" asked the willow tree.
 

"There is no religion on the moon and I created that too."

“I have been sent to ask you a favour,” said the willow.
 

“And who sent you?” 

“Morag the Magpie”. 

“I see, and what was the request?” 

“That you come back to earth now as a matter of urgency. Something about a box.” 

And with this, the willow tree turned back the way he had come and returned to his home by the lake. The large tree, the creator of all things trembled and then began to change its shape to that of a swan.

part twelve - The Waking Man  

The sun played down like a cat's lick. Its tongue rasped the promise of noon with an eiderdown compromise that carried the scent of jasmine upon its perfumed kiss. The waking man laid down the hollow tube with which, moments before, he had blown the spirits a sound that had sent their feet dancing down dusty canyons and across arid plains that stretched beyond the vision of the human eye to the barebacked fury and glory of the sun. Blackbirds had gathered upon a Wedgwood sky.  

grains of dirt in a giant’s eye.  

Their raucous voices carried the melody of the dead as if a cacophonic symphony. Blending as one with the waking man's throbbing sounds. Wingbeats, talon scratch. The clickety-clack of beaks opening. The waking man blinked, eyelashes the rustle of dry leaves. The sun hung proud and stubborn in an optimistic sky that had not even the rumour of a cloud to spoil its blazing view. The whispered hush of the faraway grass spoke in sibilant sighs whilst the dust rose and fell in a contortion of sculptured grit from the breath of the breeze that blew soft and low.  

hushabye, baby, don't say a word, mama's gonna buy you a mockingbird.  

No mockingbird, thought the waking man, just crows, crows and spiders. He opened his pocket and from it poured an army of blood red spiders that threaded their way up his arm and down his thigh. Two columns of spiders, weaving and marching like drunken revellers after a bawdy night in a dark, back street ale house, weaving and marching like a mariachi band. He watched them as they left him and continued their bombastic swagger over to the burnt, dead tree that threw a shadow the length of time. A shadow that hooked and beckoned like a finger to the outside world, calling the past and the future toward it in the shape of scorched, fallen leaves, that tumbled backwards in a mock ballet of retard nature. He licked his lips and clicked his tongue as the shadow swept its elegant shape forward like a wine spill staining the scorched earth.

this could be forever or this could be right now.

In the distance before him, a gaggle of rocks opened their craggy mouths and with stone drift pebble tongues spoke a legion of pilgrim fathers dressed in long black frock coats with faces sombre and dreary that drifted over the sharp wastelands like a fog, a fug of figures that moved like a procession of pallbearers, from then until now they shimmered by and with a gust of wind were blown away like ash, their furious faces calling out a silent “No” as particles of their spirit rose and drifted autumn leaf free.

tumble down twig blown. 
 

He felt his soul rise and fall with the tumultuous ash that hung like gravity defying sleet and watched as it formed a perfect mouth. The mouth of god perhaps? A dry smile in a dry land. And then, before the image of a mouth had time to purse its lips, the mouth vanished as a fragile latticework of skeletal bird bones formed from the shivering dust in the shape of a stairway that ran from the mud ball sphere of the earth to the unicorn splendour of heaven.

a bird rib, bird bone Bifrost.

He ascended the bone bridge and with humble feet walked up its length and from the dizzying heights looked back to the ground below where he could see himself sat crossed legged. He could have been a rock. He could have been a tree. He could have been the dried husk of some prehistoric animal but he was just him sat in dirt browns. He sighed a long mournful breath and allowed himself to return his corporeal form to the body that sat stock still below. 
 

The waking man or the dreaming man, which world is the one world, perhaps both, perhaps neither? Perhaps sleep is where we really come alive and leave behind this frenzied existence, or maybe only death can bring the peace and tranquillity we seek. He turned his gaze away from himself and looked up to the sky where a huge white bird with massive wings sent out a throbbing sound like a slow pulsating of a river running. It was a sound not dissimilar to the noise he had been making.  

A white bird. 

A hollow tube. 

A large white swan with stone black eyes. Maybe he was dreaming still.

part fourteen - On Earth as it is in Heaven

The lake was a mirror that reflected the pale, autumn sky with a flat reference. The colour of the sky appeared to be fading as though the rich colours of summer were draining away like the dye from a pair of levis as if the sky was being bleached of blue in slow Pantone shades. A fine lace of cloud hung across the horizon like skeletal bones that were giving a structure for the sky to hang from. Nailed to the sky as a bird. A white bird. A swan. The swan's wing beat made a deep throbbing sound, its powerful wings flattening the air currents into passive submission. It landed, after several clumsy attempts, with a rush of water and a hush of feathers. Silence subdued the swan’s intrusion and it glided with the elegance of a faerie boat to the shore whereupon, and with a silken liquid movement like mercury, the bird shape-shifted into a naked woman. raven haired, copper-skinned and with sapphire blue eyes. Upon the branch of a eucalyptus tree perched a magpie. The woman shook herself sending tiny droplets of water flying like jewels.

"I believe you want to talk to me?"
.
On an island in the Adriatic a dark cloud, small and ominous, moved across the green

tundra like the threat of death, a dark cloud rumbling with an angry heart. Upon seeing the prostrate and lifeless bodies of the seven monks the cloud parted and then dissipated.  

Kuan Ti stomped across the island as thunder over the silent sands, his ambition burnt fierce within him and the words of Chung Li echoed in his mind.  

"The way is clear master. Your time has come"


'your time has come'

He could see the temple now in the near distance, white, hallowed, holy, empty of anything, anything except the box. The hour was his, his time had come and he had now but to walk in and claim the prize. But feet away lay the prize, the secret to all things, to power, to the future, to the end of days and the start of his gargantuan myth. A myth that would rage like a forest fire for an eternity and more and all he had was to lift the lid of the box and to steal the prize. 
 

The soul of god.

' your time has come' 
 

"Your time has come master; this is the hour, your final hour." 

"Chung Li? What are you doing here?" 

"As I said oh illustrious master, your time has come." 

Chung Li plunged the knife firmly between Kuan Ti's shoulder blades and Kuan Ti collapsed with a grunt and a barely audible sigh. "Bitch Spider", his last words left his mouth like vapour. The death of a god, even a forgotten Japanese deity has fierce ramifications. .

Ishtar stood now as proud and arrogant and as sensual as the embodiment of original sin. Her skin was perfection, her smile the radiance of the moon by starlight, her plans and schemes were reaching their bitter conclusion. The web was nearly complete. Ishtar smiled her most seductive of smiles and started to dance. She spun on her heels and her hair flowed behind her as when the sun chases the day. Her hips gyrated a hypnotic sway and her belly rippled like the swell of the sea.  

dancing like a ballerina wrapped in electric hues

with all movement trapped frame by frame

frozen in cut and paste sticky back sequence

she spins upon the mirrored steel spotlight clean and precise floor

with time a mesmerised spectator unable to blink

in the blinding gaze of her blazing super nova
sunlight shimmering shifting sensual spin and thrust
with ankle and wrist razor blade sharp
and cutting imaginary semaphore lines
across the stark bleached backdrop of vacant space
as time and meaning collide with bone bruising brutality
and finite feather tendrils that spark and shine like sex
chase down history across the benign canopy of vision
that blurs with emotion and visual violence
that confounds thought and confuses sight
and confirms the knowledge that beauty moves
with precise and limitless grace like angels weeping
and sighing at the dazzling creation of a divine starburst dance 

Ishtar turned and went to enter the halls of the temple when from its shade a male form emerged.  

"Very impressive Ishtar, very impressive indeed, not sure that Kuan Ti would approve though. Clever the way you had Chung Li embroiled in your web of deceit"  

Samael stood, the avatar of darkness, the prince of nightmares. Suave, sophisticated.  

"Samael, what brings the fallen angel to this godless place?"

"Not a very good turn of phrase my dear given the location we find ourselves in. This 
is the one place that categorically is not godless. As for why I am here, for the very same reasons that you are here, the box."  

"The box is mine Satan Lucifer, and even though I would not wish to have to fight you over it, I will if I have to."

"I am confident that you would but worry not, it is not me that you should fear this night. You see, with all your plot hatchings you forgot some of the base principles of being a deity. Deceit spins further deceits and, like the tacky cobweb it is, the strands become ever more complex. You were so busy patting yourself on the back that you forgot the rules. You forgot that for every betrayal there is a counter betrayal. You should have considered Achilles for  he too left his weak spot uncovered" 
 

As he said this there was a sound as of silk upon silk and a sudden movement that was as sharp as it was swift, the serpent struck and bit into Ishtar’s heel. She screamed her dismay and grabbed at her ankle.

"You despicable, loathsome bastard. Why? Why?" 
 

Ishtar fell, like Kuan Ti before her, face down into an inelegant dead heap.

"Oh, but I didn't my dear,. that was Kuan Ti, his insurance so to speak." 
 

The snake lay still beside the dead seductress, his eyes a malevolent glare.

"Trust me you noisome little reptile, if you even think about biting me I will wither your fangs to grass and turn your worthless skin into a handbag. Go, now, I have other
business to attend to." 

The snake departed watched by the magpie and the woman who moved from behind the cover of the trees nearer to Samael and the temple. The woman smiled at the dark angel.  

"Hello my erstwhile captain, it has been a very long while hasn't it?"  

"An absolute age mistress."  

“We have much to discuss”  

“Indeed we have mistress, indeed we have.”  

The day was failing and the first star was revelling in an empty sky. Now was the time for reunion and explanations, now was the time for the devil and god to remember and recall and recount the way of things on earth and also in heaven.

part fifteen - Of Snails and Magpies

The coffee had grown cold, mud thick and stale. The percolator sat friendless on the side. The coal fire had spat its blaze but now was just a memory of a heated room, its fading embers remained like a hangover.  

Beneath the covers God and Satan lay entwined in each others limbs, a tangle of flesh to rival the knot of Cordium. She awoke, yawned and stretched, sliding out of the warm comfort into the cold reality of another day. A glow hung around her and she padded upon silent feet to the luxury of a warm shower. The water cascaded over her, it felt good, it felt refreshingly human.

Outside a fine drizzle fell. A snail wove a silver trail over yellow patio slabs. From a tree the magpie opened its wings and glided noiselessly to the ground. It hopped twice and then stopped by the snail. The bird cocked its head, it observed the snail with its grim shell as though it were a riddle or a piece of modern art.

She stepped out of the shower and her skin dried, by the time she had moved from the
bathroom and into the lounge she was dressed. White shirt, blue jeans, red sneakers. Samael sat dressed in a robe on the sofa. 

 "Enjoy the shower?"

"Mmmm, delightful, a rare luxury for me."

"You are meant to use a towel to dry."

From the kitchen a clock ticked a slow rhythm, time passing as a footnote to the conversation of gods and angels.

"Privilege of position, were you watching me?"

"Oh, yes."

She passed her long fingers through the mass of her hair.

"How has it been in my absence?"

Samael sniffed and threw his head back as though looking at the ceiling, little spots of
rain fell against the glass of the window.

"Creation continues as creation must with random acts that perplex some and give rise to questions in others. Life forms have come and sadly gone but then again, you know that. Mankind have evolved at a fierce and even frightening rate yet it is mankind that has proven to be the most problematic species.”

"Why? I was very proud of them; I thought that they numbered amongst my greatest of creations?"

"Well, they certainly are inventive, inventive and wilful. They have wireless communication links that span the globe but still haven't found ways to stop flood or famine. They have discovered how to slow the aging processes with silicone but still haven’t a clue how to stop the common cold. They have turned warfare into a work of unrivalled brutality and evil and seem incapable of leaving behind their brute ugly and primitive, tribalistic past. They certainly seem to worship you, in all your myriad forms, but even then seem unable to agree upon who is right and who is wrong. They then spend a curious amount of energy and time killing each other rather than following their declared creed to love each other."

"Wouldn't it be easier to simply agree to disagree? To live and let live?"

"You would have thought so wouldn't you?"

Outside the rain grew heavier, the magpie moved closer still to the snail and with a sudden movement picked the snail up in its beak. It held it there for a moment as though testing to see how tough the shell was and then, with a flick of its head, it tossed the snail high up into the air. The shell spun. A strange object spinning with no control of its flight or fall. Tossing and turning bereft of any reference point. Spin, spin, spinning. The snail fell onto the cruel floor with a sharp crack and the shell shattered into tiny fragments.

"You have had it hard haven't you Samael? Mankind never truly understood your role 
here have they? Condemned as the lord of evil, a creature to be feared and to be hated, the dark to my light. I am very grateful to you for all you have done, mankind is my finest achievement but they are still, as you said, primitive in oh so many ways. They are flawed, so attached to ritual and dogma and the dusty lessons of the ages past and still unwilling to take responsibility for themselves and blaming you for all their shortcomings and ills."

The rain grew heavier and fell against the panes with a whip smack of sound.

"I cannot stay here much longer Samael, I only returned because of your concerns over Ishtar’s plotting but again, my greatest friend, you were on hand to take care of things just as you have these past five thousand years. I cannot stay much longer, mankind and this planet have come of age surely, time to let them stand on their own feet."

"Let me come with you."

"No Samael, I need you to remain as custodian to this place." 
 

"You said it was time to let them stand on their own feet?"

"No Samael, no."

"Please?"

"Samael."

"Please? I love you.”
 

 The magpie snatched up the fresh and succulent snail, threw back his head and swallowed. The rain fell in large droplets. Stars and rain.  Magpies and snails.

Holding hands God and Satan left and walked with starlight steps away from here.
The end 


The Vagrant God is a Utility Fish Shed Publication

The Vagrant God is © Russell C.J. Duffy

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