The Anorak

This idea was prompted by a wonderful moment years ago in London, at the corner of a playground in Peckham, where I stumbled across a bunch of the most delicious, succulant and flavoursome blackberries in the universe. It made me think of transient moments of amazing coincidence or beauty, brief cloud configurations, moments of extreme passion or sorrow, basketball hoops scored from amazingly improbable positions and so on. Imagine an individual, or even a group of them, with access to advanced space/time travelling technology (or magic – whatever) that spend their time visiting and cataloguing these incidents, recording them for posterity or maybe some curious ‘Museum of Moments’. Dressed innocuously, possibly with flasks of weak lemon drink, hard-core anoraks waiting for hours in all weather conditions and all terrain for that second or two when the thousand-year bloom finally comes to flower, or the last butterfly of an endangered species lays down to die upon a rock.

Silent observers, we take a peek behind the scenes at their lives, and the ethical dilemmas they might face.

Henry waited. He was good at it. Well practiced, he sat, patiently, on the train platform. He had just Travelled from India where he had Witnessed a street performer juggling swords in the sunlight outside an ancient temple. The blade reflections cast upon the statue of Kali behind him had glinted off pieces of coloured glass embedded in the surface to breathtaking effect. The memory still made him tingle, and he touched his hand involuntarily to the location of the OC-chip implanted at the base of his skull, storing all his experiences. Before that he had tasted the most delicious strawberry of all time, growing in an apartment building window box. The job had its perks! Licking his lips, he focused on the matter in hand: Soon, the first nuclear strike would land, starting the devastating 3rd World War over resources. He was to record the ground zero impact in person.

As he sat, idly watching a passing gull snatch a rogue crisp from the concrete, he noticed another person watching the trains. Similarly dressed, ticking off the latest arrival, the man’s telltale thermos poked out of his voluminous pockets. Shortly after, he came and sat next to Henry. ‘Good day for it’ said Thermos man. He opened up a packet of sandwiches, home-made and wrapped in greasproof paper, produced from another or the many pockets. Slightly squashed, the smell of cheese and pickle was still identifiable. Henry’s stomach moved uneasily. He was hungry, true, and would come off shift soon, but something was putting him on edge. This was a routine shift, hardly difficult or unusually hazardous, and yet… something wasn’t quite adding up. ‘Yes, it is’ replied Henry. He shifted on the bench, uncrossing and crossing his legs again. Maybe it was just the chill wind. It wasn’t an issue with the people about to die. They had already died before, and it wasn’t as if there was anything he could do to save them. Not really. After all, people died all the time and nobody batted an eyelid. He noticed a mother with a pram across the other side of the tracks. She was trying to stop the baby from crying, but all the toys and cajoling were achieving nothing. She was getting increasingly stressed out, and Henry could see the fidgeting distress this was causing to the other passengers waiting nearby. One elderly lady pursed her lips and looked the other way. A businessman tapped his foot impatiently, glanced at his watch, then the station watch, then continued tapping his foot for a moment before reaching for the solace of his mePhone – sorry – iPhone. Leaves scurried in little eddies, dancing at Henry’s feet. For a moment he found them captivating, swirling round and round, a desperate little dance of life and death. The flurry abated, and Henry’s attention was drawn back to his neighbour, slurping what smelled like coffee from his flask, and scribbling away on his notepad. According to Henry’s retinal display, there were only 5 seconds to go now. He idly glanced at his neighbour’s notepad, and his blood froze.

His display had flashed up level 7 priority alert, large red crosshair dancing around the doodles, silent alarm chiming in his head. A moment later the data stream was flooding through his mind. The patterns on the paper were registering with 94% certainty a match with advanced super-luminal theory. 3 seconds to go. In moments, this man and his work would be vapourised. The alert would have triggered an immediate link with the Museum computers, and the reply would be almost instantaneous, allowing for spin-time of the link drive. Henry switched to Hyper-Awareness, standard procedure when Witnessing, and awaited instructions. An entire second passed, and no response came. In that time, Henry had catalogued every person on the platform again, birds in the sky, weather conditions, smells, feeling of the old wooden bench at his back, the smell of coffee, the lingering pickle odour in the air and the missile winking into view. Something had gone wrong. Even worse, the possibility of a return trip was never an option due to timeline disruptions from the first. 2 seconds left. Henry swore subvocally. As the missile came streaking down, he made his decision.

This is a story I wrote ages ago, but for what it’s worth here it is in its original form. Winged vampires, witches, but with some interesting twists worthy of a look. Be warned: There is a brief rape scene, but payback comes quickly.

~Part One

Sweet chill. The briefest caress, then he emerged from the cloud. He spread wide his pinions as he dipped, rolling languorously in the sunlight. The wind’s touch and the golden warmth bathing his flesh soothed his mind somewhat. He could feel the moisture leaving the surface of the skin, and a shudder of exquisite delight ran through him, from the nape of his neck to the soles of his feet. As he turned the sun shone on his eyelids, turning his inner world alternately into light then shadow, and his fingers grasped the air. He reveled in how tangible it felt at this speed, and how it filled his wings and bore him away from the hard, unyielding earth.

Alive. Full of the firmament, and its lover; gyrating with absolute joy in the freedom it offered, time spun into an endless stream of sensations. Slowly, memory returned. He frowned in annoyance, but there was no ignoring it now. His eyes sprang open, focussing upon the dying sun, shrouded in a crimson veil.

How could she?

His ascent grew steeper, his chest becoming washed by the bloody rays of the distant orb.

How could she refuse him? He had loved her so much. He had waited so to ask her. The memory of her had kept him alive though the frozen months, huddled for warmth in the northern caves.

Though his gaze remain fixed on the sunset, his mind was full of her image. She was so beautiful. Even when her face had hardened at his words and her perfect lips had forced the denial into his awareness; he was hers.

He had walked to the edge of the Gathering mountaintop, and simply dropped over the edge. He had plummeted, yet his rage had driven him from the rocky mountainside and into the distant skies. His pride had turned into an all consuming inferno, impotent screams torn from him by the force of his flight.

How could she? He would have made her so happy…

His eyes welled with salty tears, and he grasped his head between his hands. His flight stalled, and there was a brief moment of absolute weightlessness before he started to fall. The world around him became a silent mockery, turning his torment inwards, leaving nothing but the seething foam of his rage and remorse. He flattened his wings about him and clutched his arms across his chest, fingers digging into his flesh. He abandoned himself to the descent, faster and faster, eyes tight shut, spinning against the buffeting wind whistling past his ears. His awareness floated, drifting away from the trauma, welcome disorientation smothering his thoughts.

Faster, images bombarding his mind; places, faces, one face…

Faster, and then he broke from the dive with a roar. He spread his wings and tore himself from the welcoming arms of the approaching trees. Teeth gritted with the strain, and levelled his path onto the horizontal. He dipped closer to the trees, avoiding their grasping branches by a hair’s breadth. A few twigs lashed his body, but the pain was insignificant. He raced towards the vanishing sun, a sliver of radiance above the horizon. He was beyond caring, an avatar of anguish, unable to fly fast enough from his pain. Treetops, clearings, streams, more trees. Distance became meaningless.

Some time later, as his aching wings threatened to give way, he banked sharply towards a clearing, wings wide to catch the air, and slowed towards the ground. Narrowly avoiding a treacherously placed branch, he landed awkwardly, tumbling through the thick grasses into a sprawled heap. He lay, spread-eagled, dazed, and slightly indignant upon the grassy earth.

A small insect buzzed past, attracted by the glow of his wings, and then flew away. The sounds of dusk slowly returned. Sitting up, he rubbed his jaw and looked about. He was in a meadow, the sound of running water signalling a stream’s presence. Shaking his tired wings clean of the debris, he walked towards the water.

The stream was shallow, but sufficient for bathing. He started briefly at the biting cold, but persevered in his washing. The light from his wings was quite bright by now, filling the water with dancing ripples, and illuminating the clearing about him. As he knelt to wash his face, he gazed at his shattered reflection, bathed in light and tears, and wondered if he was so ugly for her to have rejected him. This uncertainty was quashed with the frigid water, and he stood, reborn. He still felt hot and angry, despite the cold, and fervently scrubbed the moisture from his skin with a handful of grasses. He huddled down beneath a nearby tree, wrapping his soft wings about himself, enfolded in their downy warmth. Sleep washed over his exhausted mind, eyes too tired to cry another tear, throat too sore to whisper another curse.

She was close now. Her earthy scent filled his nostrils: A ground-dweller. He had woken to her gasp of surprise and lay, feigning sleep, waiting. His heart beat faster. No doubt his nimbus attracted her. He had been foolhardy to sleep in the open, but as luck would have it she was alone. She would certainly find more than she bargained for.

She was hesitating, a brief whiff of some pungent herb, and some soft murmuring. Just a few feet closer… Almost as if responding to his silent bidding, the woman took another step.

Mattias moved explosively, with lightning speed, his hands seizing her before she could open her eyes wider in astonishment. They tumbled onto the ground, her scream stifled by his hand, her body pinned beneath him. He paused for a moment, looking into her eyes as they opened, wide in shock and pupils tiny with his radiance. He grinned, breathing heavily, pointed teeth inches from her face. She squirmed briefly, then seemed to relax beneath him, her eyes growing cold. Somewhat disappointed by the lack of resistance, Mattias licked her face with his slick tongue, feeling her warm breath heavy against his palm. She was of mothering age; pretty with long dark hair and a haughty set to her jaw. Her body was soft, and he used it. He vented his rage, frustration, sorrow, and fear upon her defenceless form. His wings beat the air, his naked form glistening in the light, his snowy hair ruffled in the breeze. As he raped her, he scarcely noticed how she rubbed the crushed herbs across his back. The odour was pungent, and mingled with his sweat. The moon hung balefully in the sky, impassive witness to the unholy act.

When he had finished, he bent to Kiss her, and she bit his lip. He jerked his head back, and slowly licked off the blood, all the while watching her. Her eyes were tight shut, and he could smell her fear. He rolled off her, then stood.  The woman began muttering. Probably some prayer to her god, he supposed, and moved to finish his work.

A crippling agony swept from his lower back, swiftly paralysing his entire body in a contorted whimper. His mouth was open, but could only manage the barest of strangled cries. He felt the faintest touch on his back as he lay sprawled there, some pattern being drawn. A few moments later the pain receded, and thought returned. He opened his eyes, and realised his nails had drawn beads of blood on his palms. He turned gradually towards the woman, and simply stared in astonishment. Had she done this? She was pointing two fingers of her left hand towards him. She smiled for a moment, then brushed herself down with her free hand, trying to regain some semblance of dignity from her ripped bodice, all the while watching him. Soon he found himself capable of moving. Staggering to his feet, he bared his fangs, and spread his arms wide for the grapple. She shook her head, then pointed off into the woods. This having no effect, she shrugged and flexed her left wrist once.

Once again, the world exploded, claws of cold flame rending his back and ripping into his lungs. He vomited violently, and again, wailing pathetically; fingers tearing at the unforgiving soil. This time he learnt his lesson.

He half walked, half stumbled, along a winding woodland path; rough bark and vicious thorns tearing at his unprotected form. The bitch walked behind him at an insultingly close safe distance. Occasionally she kicked him forwards when he stopped for breath, a few unintelligible curses, and he resumed the journey. His mind was spinning, unable to understand what was happening. This should not be happening. Not to him, nor one of his family. They were noble creatures, graceful and mighty, not scurrying creatures of the dirt. He licked his lip absently, the salty tang unnoticed amongst the rivulets of sweat pouring from his brow. Eventually the path entered another clearing, and wound its way towards a small log cabin. A light flickered in one of its windows, and lichen coated its weathered surface.  Mattias’ feet dragged furrows in the surrounding earth, before he was motioned through the doorway.

The clutter inside was lit by a couple of candles, and resembled some ancient battleground of kitchen utensils, vials, strange plants and stuffed animals, and a large pot set over a dormant fireplace. The sight that truly horrified him was the iron cage, suspended from the eaves by a chain, its door wide open in a perverse gesture of welcome. He turned, leaning on his bleeding elbows for support, pleading for mercy. Salty cuts stung like wasps, waves of nausea riding through him. The woman simply motioned towards the cage, and pointed at her left hand. In the candlelight, something glimmered upon her finger. Slowly, still not believing what was happening, he crawled into the cage, setting it rocking with his unsteady movements. Swiftly, the woman slammed it shut behind him with a resounding click, almost trapping his wings. She sighed heavily, and collapsed backwards into a rocking chair. She studied him for a while, face cold, yet with a touch of awe. The wings had dimmed somewhat in their glow, and despite the soil and dirt upon them they were as shockingly white as his hair and skin. Mattias’ red eyes scowled at her, distrusting and frightened.

~End of Part One