The Post Fable

0 Conversations

The Post Fables Graphic by Greebo T. Cat

Conversations After Midnight

Metal screeched on stone as the door seals itself tightly behind her.

'You made it then', he says, smiling warmly.

'Ha ha', she answers and pulls a face at him. Turning, she slings her rucksack defeatedly on the floor and slumps down against the rough wall, the dark stone cold against her back.

'Nice isn't it?' He smiles again.


'Admittedly, it could do with a bit of work, but its got history.'

'What do you mean?', she looks up at him suspiciously, strands of black hair falling over her eyes.

'Got you interested now, haven't I?', he grins and strikes a match on the rough floor, making her jump at the sound. Gently, he lowers the flame and a half-burnt candle sputters into life, sending shadows spinning across the walls. The flame wavers in the draught from beneath the huge door until he places a greasy jar over the top of it, filling the room with an eerie green glow.

'I'm sick of this', she sighs and thumps her head back against the rock. Pulling her knees up to her chest, she sways slightly with her eyes closed. 'Every time I listen to you, we end up in trouble. What is it this time? Come on, astound me with your new knowledge.'

'It's about story-telling', he says and starts rummaging through his pocket, pulling out a bit of string and a huge key before he finds a stick of red chalk. Standing, he draws a rough circle around the room and sits within it, moving the candle and jar to the centre. He brushes his hands together, shrugs and sat down cross-legged within it.

'What's that for?', she asks and gestures at the circle with a small nod of her head.

'Protection', he murmurs sagely. 'I get within it if I were you.'

Sighing heavily, she drags herself to sit before him, feeling the exhaustion of the last few days weighing heavily on her shoulders. Raising her eyes from the hypnotic grace of the candle flame, she focuses their intense stare on him.

'What's the worst nightmare you've ever had?', he asks, leaning forward and lighting a cigarette in the candle flame.

'Every time you do that a sailor drowns', she whispers. He leans back and breathes out a cloud of churning smoke.

'Superstitious. Good. Now answer the question.'

'It's easy, but it's personal.'

'There's only you, me and the dead sailor to listen. Tell me your nightmare.'

Lowering her head she watches the flame again, tendrils of his smoke curling lazily in its light.
'I was standing in the garden at my parent's house. Above me the sky stretched out forever, red and black. Big black clouds. The grass was cold beneath my bare feet, wet in the dawn dew and vibrantly alive. Vivid green', she shifts slightly, closing her eyes.
'Planes droned overhead, so low I could make out markings on their dark wings. Round wings like a moth. Somewhere in the distance, a siren wailed and muted explosions were carried by the wind.
'At my feet lay my brother. Blood covered his face, already darkening. His eyes were shut, I think. Yes, definitely shut, but his cheek was pressed tight to the ground and his mouth was open. In my hand was a knife, shiny red blade, black handle sticky against my fingers.
'I turned towards the house, empty windows staring bleakly. Dark within. I began to step carefully back down the painful concrete path, stepping over the body of my sister, also drenched in blood, her red hair plastered to the wet floor. I could hear voices inside, shouting, screaming and the sound of breaking glass.
'As I reached the top of the stairs that led down to the front door, I suddenly stopped myself, determination gone. I fell to my knees and began to scratch at the earth with my fingernails until they split and tore, rubbing the dry soil on my scarlet arms, squatting in the filth like an animal and shaking with my guilt and rage.
'I woke up in tears, shivering because my blanket had fallen away from me as I slept', she finishes with a flat voice and looks at him again, dark eyes glassy with emotion. 'What was yours?'

He carefully draws the last of his cigarette in; watching her closely, and then lays the remains down in the dirt, exhaling smoke slowly through his nostrils.

'The worst? Perhaps I haven't had it yet? Or perhaps I'm living it?' He smiles at her, watching as her forehead creases.

'Why must you always answer a question with a question?' She ploughs the ground beside her, then looks up at him, brushing red and brown dust onto her thighs. 'You infuriate me. You know that, don't you?'

Baring his teeth in a crooked smile, he casually waves his hand over the glowing jar, long shadows from his outspread fingers sliding and striking against the walls.

'Listen carefully. My nightmare is short, but for me, terrifying.' He lets his fingers run around the jar, eyes closed, and sighs. 'Coldness. Dark.' He pauses, looking sharply into her eyes. 'Can you imagine that?'

Scratching at her grimy face, and looking carefully about her, she nods, 'Not difficult.'

He grunts in reply. 'Ever the jester.'

She pulls her rucksack over, sitting on it heavily. 'Always. Now Aesop, on with the show.'

Tapping quietly on the jar with a thumbnail, his voice hushed,
'Dark. Coldness. No sounds.' He stops tapping, clasping the makeshift lantern, deadening its light. 'That is the beginning, but every tale has an end and, until recently, every end had a tale. But you don't care for allegory.'

Prising the hand from the glass and clenching her teeth, she rasps, 'Just tell me. I am fast losing my patience. I still don't see why we have to sit here - ' Rising quickly, she grips at her heavy bag.

'SIT. Down. Stories are told for reasons. Yours. Mine. Sailors. Now sit and be still. For once in your life.'

Glaring, she seats herself back down. 'Make this quick. I'm getting nervous.'

Distant echoes seep with the light air gusting from underneath the door beside them. Placing his hands lightly on his knees he looks closely into her eyes, seeing his reflection there.

'I am cold, dark and deaf. Nothing can feel me, and I feel nothing.'

She blinks. 'Another riddle?'

'This will be quicker if you stop interrupting me.' He grips at his knees, whitening his knuckles. 'I have only my sight. Each time I close my eyes to nothingness, it somehow becomes even darker. Then, in an instant, all my feelings flood back and there is nothing but constant bright white light and a roar like the waves breaking onto rocks in my head. That is my worst nightmare.'

She stands, and he sits, head down. Quiet.

'Lovely. And just what is that supposed to mean?'

He blinks, his eyes readjusting to the darkness, a dull ache behind his eyes from the memory and she stands beside him, torn between her numb feelings towards him and her desire to leave. Far in the distance behind the door there is a low rumbling, reverberating through the walls and floor, making her shift slightly where she stands, the hair standing on the back of her neck.

'Why are you afraid?', she whispers, regretting it the instant the words leave her mouth.

He looks up at her. 'You still love me', he says in a low voice, his eyes lost within dark pools of shadow.

'F*** you, Carver', she says suddenly and takes a step back from him, turning and heading towards the door. As her foot moves towards the edge of the circle she lets out a gasp, her arm being pulled back by him, his movement swift and unseen and he does not turn her towards him, but just holds her there for a second, then his hand falls down to his side again.

'Don't leave the circle...', he says in a hoarse murmur and walks back, sitting down. He lights another cigarette from the dwindling candle flame, the orange point of light flaring in the near-darkness and sending a pale amber strobe across his face.

She looks at him over her shoulder, her eyes pale and watery now, her foot resting mid-step towards the circle and somewhere in the night a siren sounds. 'What happens if I do?', she asks and lowers her eyes down to the scarlet smudge on the floor, tears spilling across her cheeks.

'What did you want to be when you grew up?', he says and taps his cigarette, holding it loosely in between his fingers as he looks at her. 'A teacher wasn't it? So very giving of you, wanting to share all the darkness that lurks inside that pretty little head of yours.'

Her eyes remain on the floor, her foot unmoved, the cold creep of fear rising up again, her skin goosepimpling beneath her clothing, blending with the shivering memory of his touch upon her. She looks at him again, turning slightly towards him, her face half bathed in emerald light, wet cheek glowing. Behind him on the wall, framed in a small square of dirty window, a red glow fires in the night sky. For a moment she pauses, a quick wave of nausea rushing up and burning at the back of her throat. 'What's happening?', she asks quietly.

'Oh that?', he says, waving his hand casually. He looks at her, his eyes as much a part of the shadows as his soul. 'That's just the dawn...'

A feeling of desperation overwhelms her and she takes flight, stepping over the border of the circle, her hands gripping the round locking mechanism of the door and wrenching it open, metal screaming and reverberating off the walls. A low roar hisses in her ears, the siren in the distance blending with the heavy boom of machinery that floods into the room like a leviathan's heartbeat. Shoving herself through the small gap, she runs, the last of her possessions discarded behind her.

Slowly, Carver stands and walks across the room towards the door, kicking at her rucksack with his foot, then allowing a small, crooked smile to curve across his mouth, flicking the last of his cigarette into the darkness after her.
'By Astroth and Hargia, everyone knows that you must never break the circle...', he whispers after her and then lets out a short laugh, kicking at the scarlet mark on the floor. Turning to the window, he watches the dawn creep higher, high dark clouds clinging in a dangerous montage against the red sky. 'Just how fast does she think she can run?', he whispers to himself and laughs again, louder this time, low smile spreading into a dark grin.


She races, against what she doesn't know, blind panic having set in, her legs heavy, heart pounding in her breast and ears. Random thoughts enter her mind, but the agonising attempts at retracing her footsteps from before are blocked out by constant images of Carver. And her fears. She reaches up to her face, feeling the stinging in her eyes from her tears, and the wetness of her grimy, sweaty hair disturbing the lines of paleness amidst the dirt there. She licks slowly at her salty lips, looking left and right as she plunges headlong through the maze of aisles and never changing walls.

Feet thumping heavy, the dull pain in her side becomes too much and she stops. Panting heavily she bends over, one hand on her knee, one gripped to her stomach. She tries to listen, to hear anything, but the throbbing at her temples prevents her senses from working properly. Slowly, she begins to hear over her own heavy breathing short animal-like whispers echoing down the corridor. Almost like the muted sounds of children playing, but not. She adds to the whispers with her own, startling herself momentarily. 'Where am I?'

She stands up stretching and moving quietly against the wall nearest her. 'Dammit Carver. I hope you rot in Hell.' She sighs, realising that her running was amongst one the stupidest decisions of her life, then cringes, recalling Carver. She lazily reaches to her waist, searching for her compass. Then realises that it is with the rest of her belongings in her rucksack. Forgetting herself she screams, 'F**k!'

Panic wells at the pit of stomach once again and she coughs down the bile. Suddenly a closer, softer sound makes her wheel around. Nothing there. Slowly she feels a presence behind her, a soft warm breeze gently tickling the hairs on the nape of neck. She swallows hard, not wanting to turn, knowing she will have to.

'You might need this Sophia.'

She whirls around, bringing her hand up in a roundhouse slap, but it is stopped roughly.

'None of that. Perhaps we should stay together from now on? Do you agree?'

Quietly fuming she pulls her hand away from Carver and snatches at the rucksack he holds against his chest.

'Uh-uh. Not so fast. Tell me you will stay close by me now. Do it, and I might give this back to you.' He looks at her stalwart face and grips the pack tighter, her own hand tight about it. Turning away she lets her hand, now a fist, drop to her side heavily. Opening and closing her sweaty hands she growls roughly,

'You'll pay for this Carver. Mark my words.'

He turns away from her, walking some distance. 'Oh, I've heard that before.' She sighs, then he turns and tosses the rucksack at her. She lets it drop to the floor at her feet and glances at him through her hair.

'I suggest you follow me Sophia.' He walks a distance down a leading corridor, then swivelling his head adds, 'Close.'

She bends down and retrieves her rucksack, watching Carver's back darken and fade in the depth of the corridor. Hearing a scrabbling at a nearby door, she forgets herself and rushes to her feet, fumbling in the pack for her dirk. Finding it, she slips it quickly in her boot and picks up her pace to come up beside Carver's side. 'I guess I should thank you.'

He looks at her lazily. 'Later.'


She walks, her footsteps stumbling and loud, his quiet and confident. Looking at him occasionally, she sees his face downlit by the dark glow of scarlet light that oozes through the filthy glass ceiling above their heads, the colour giving his skin a warmth she knows he lost years previously. Suddenly she stumbles, her foot crashing into a piece of metal strewn across the floor. 'Where the f**k are you taking me, Carver?', she says, the pain in her toes making her voice louder than she wants it be, making her sound angrier or more afraid than she is. He looks at her, his eyes dark and cold, and opens his mouth to speak, then closes it again and shakes his head, pulling open a door and stepping into the stairwell, his footsteps clipping lightly downwards in deeper darkness. She pauses for a second and the shadows shift about her, one hand raising to her head as dizziness rushes up and envelops her. Staggering, she slams into the wall, clutching at her stomach and slumps to the floor in the doorway, a hissing rising up in her ears as her eyes close, head thumping against the concrete beneath her.


She reels from the blinding light that burns her retinas as she blinks her eyes in confusion. Beneath her the floor is cold, white tiles that stink of stale piss and vomit. She wrinkles her nose and moves, her body aching and weak, realising she is propped inside the cubicle of a toilet. Placing a hand on the seat, she pushes herself to her feet, leaning against the smooth wall, her other hand reaching up and touching her face, feeling the rough stickiness of her skin. 'Shit. Sophia, my girl, you need to get out of this place. Find yourself a nice motel and hole up for a while', she whispers to herself, knowing that wherever she went he always found her.

A thump echoes outside the cubicle and she jumps, fear making her mouth pool with nausea again. Pressing her ear up against the cold door she hears a man's cough and then the dizziness roars in her ears again and her eyes closed and for a few moments all she hears is a heart beating inside her head, its rushing pulse flooding its way through her. The scent of a warm aftershave washes over her, the cloying musk sticking in her throat, her hand slipping over her mouth and pressing against her lips, trying to contain her shuddering.

The roaring inside of her reaches fever pitch as the bitter, full scent of a man's sweat collides with the harsh kaleidoscope of smells surrounding her. Beneath her feet she can feel him shift just beyond the door. Her fingertips can feel his warmth approaching. She can smell him. She can almost see his shape, he is so real to her sensitive mind and she realises with a sudden instinctual throb inside of her that it is his heartbeat she can hear inside her mind, deafening her. Slowly her hand falls away from her mouth and she reaches for the bolt, sliding it open silently, pulling the door free, knowing he is not looking towards her, stepping towards him.

The man lets out a scream as she jumps him from behind as he stands at a urinal, quickly silenced by her hand across his mouth, her mouth upon his throat. Her other hand slips lightly round his waist, pulling him back against her, tight against her body and she retreats back into the cubicle, kicking the door closed.


The sound echoes in the room, a litany to the thumping in her mind. She bites harder at his throat as he struggles weakly against her tight grip, his skin ripping easily beneath her sharp teeth, blood flooding into her mouth like hot, sweet wine as she sucks, drinking it down hungrily, his heat warming through her, deep inside. His body relaxes suddenly and she kneels down, her mouth never leaving his throat as he sags to the floor, the hand across his mouth pulling at his face, turning his head further to one side as her eyes close as she loses herself in the slowing pulse of coppery blood within her mouth, his skin rough against her tongue where he didn't find the time to shave.

The roar becomes silence. The cold fear becomes warm ecstasy. Her skin tingles all over. For this brief second she feels more alive and calm than she has ever felt. All of her memories dissolve in this second. Then bright spots of light shiver across her vision and she pulls away from the man's body, his blood trickling down from her lips, over her chin and speckling on her t-shirt.


She blinks. Her mouth feels sticky. There is a strobing in her vision and she rubs her eyes.


'So much blood', Carver whispers, his face next to hers into the soft, ruby half-dark, and she sits upright with a jolt.

'What the hell happened?' She stammers, her hands reaching up to her mouth and coming away covered with blood.

He smiles and stands. 'You'll live, Sophia. You fainted I think.' He throws a black silk handkerchief into her lap and she takes it warily, wiping at her stinging mouth. He offers her a hand up and she ignores it, pushing herself to her feet again in the doorway, the dark stairs behind Carver as he smirks, watching her struggle to pick up her rucksack once more.

'Keep closer this time', he says in a low, warm tone and turns away from her again, his hand sliding onto the banister as he leads her further into the deeper vaults of the complex, the distant shifting sounds pervading the building, setting her nerves on edge once more. There was something deeply subdued about the place, but it felt as though it were filled with things beyond her sense. Noises scratched at the edge of her hearing as she followed Carver, and she made herself focus on the sound of her footsteps beating out their rhythm on the metal stairs beneath her feet to dispel the cold fear of madness that still snagged like kitten's claws in her mind.


The pair plunge deeper into the catacombs, not a word breaking the steady thump of mechanical sounds around them. Their silence has a matter of fact ness to it, Carver calmly stepping out his way, Sophia lost in thought.

'Carver.' Her voice echoes dully off the walls around them.


'What happened?' She dabs at her mouth again, and then scratches at the drying blood there. He pauses, and she hardly notices, bumping into him softly.

'You fell. That is all. It was lucky I was there. You may have come to grief.' She nods, too lost in her own mind to respond. 'If you feel faint again, please let me know. I had gone on a fair way.'

This time anger boils up within her. 'Christ Carver! Do you actually give a damn?!' She pushes past him, following her inner compass.

'Sophia...' He trots after her, grabbing at her arm above the elbow. She pulls away, turning angrily on him.

'Where are we going? I thought you knew the way out. Everything is starting to look the same...' She squats down heavily, tears welling. He kneels down in front of her, lifting her head with a loose hand.


She glares at him, eyes sparking in the dim light. 'Don't EVER call me that again.' He smirks casually.

Yes. Hard to forget isn't it?' He stands abruptly. 'Get up. We have to keep moving.'

She rubs at her eyes, images bouncing in front of them. 'No... I forget, I just...' Again she feels the room sliding about her, but this time she is ready. She rocks back onto the coldness and tilts her head back, closing her eyes, letting the darkness wash over her...


'Soph?' A hand touches her shoulder lightly. She smiles, recognising the tone.

'Hello again.'

'When did you get here? I've been waiting for about half an hour at the usual spot.'

She cringes, the guilt seeping into her stomach. 'I'm so sorry. I got sidetracked. I have been looking for you Marcus.' He grins.

'Okay, Soph. Who was it this time?' Her brother folds his arms across his chest, tipping his head to one side and tapping his foot, a wry grin spreading over his face.

She huffs. 'Cheeky sod!' She lays an arm around his waist and they amble over to a nearby bench. 'You know it's hard for me to make time Marc. It's not all glowing praise and easy recipes you know.' He smiles again, and sighs.

'Oh. Sophia. Oh, I do lament so!' He raises the back of his hand to his forehead and coughs gently, 'Woe is me! Fetch me a pillow madam, I feel faint.' She slaps him softly.

'Stop that. I'm serious!' He nods.

'I know that. I'm proud of you, you know?' She smiles at him. 'I brought you a present. Hope you don't mind?' She looks down at his hands, trying to guess what he might have found her this time.

'I don't mind Marc. But later? We should get something to eat first.'
They stand together, arm in arm, his hand tight about her waist.

'I missed you past few months Soph. Mum hasn't been well, she keeps asking for you.' He looks at her quietly, trying to hide his worry.

'I'll come back when this last section has been done Marc. I promise.' He nods idly, reaching into his pocket and pulling out a dull silver coin. He tosses it high in the air, sunlight glinting off it softly.

'You better or you won't get your present.' He catches the coin, rolling it lightly in his fingers. She stops and grips his hand, looking up at him.

'What have you found me now Marc? I hope it's nothing expensive. You know I hate that.'

'Just something I picked up. Literally. I found it on my last dig.' He tosses the coin again, and this time she follows it with her eye, and she suddenly feels a pain, an obscure sharp jab behind her temples. She puts her hand up to her face, and suddenly feels the need to be sick. Bending over she lets the grinding of her stomach work. Marcus puts a hand on her shoulder,

'Are you okay Soph?' She flicks her eyes towards him, a fire burning in them. Her hand snakes out, fast and grips his arm, fingers clutching at the coin in his hand. He pushes it into her hand.

'Okay, you can have it. Just let me go, you're starting to hurt -' Unaware, she reaches around with her other hand and pushes her fingers hard against his ribs.

'Soph?' Pushing the coin back into his hand she grunts 'Hold this.' He looks at her, his eyes widening as her fingers push deeper against his skin and ribs. A soft cracking is heard. 'Sophia!' His hand grips at her arm, pushing the heavy metal coin to her arm, but she ignores the sharp ache there and pushes her fingers deep within her brother's side, feeling his skin and flesh melt around them. He gasps, and then faints, and she shoulders the weight of his body. To onlookers it appears they are simply lovers, holding each other in a happy embrace. She digs deeper, clawing inside of him, feeling for his life and finds it. Sighing she takes it gently and grips quickly, then lets his body fall away from her. People turn, as his body slumps to the ground. She stares down at the still form of her brother, peeling away his fingers from her arm, feeling the hard cold metal against her skin. The coin drops away, clattering loudly on the ground, the noise ringing in her ears like the pealing of a Sunday bell.



Little Sophia runs down the stairs from her bedroom carrying a toy gun in her hand, the green plastic warm beneath her sticky hands. Mother answers the telephone and the girl runs up to her and tugs on the soft lilac cotton of her skirt.

'Thank you for telling me...', her mother says in a soft voice and replaces the receiver gently, one hand reaching up and touching her bottom lip, where her teeth have bitten so hard there is a small blush of scarlet welling on her lips.

'Bang!' Little Sophia says, pointing the gun at Mother and grinning. Mother looks at Sophia and tears spill across her cheeks, leaving watery black trails on her pale skin, blood bubbling as she gasps as she covers her mouth, turning away.

'Don't turn away from me', Carver commands and Sophia stops brushing her long black hair and turns back to face him on the bed. He lays, back propped up against the wrought iron bedstead, covered below the waist with a crumpled red blanket, his chest bare and scattered with thin dark hair. A single shard of sunlight cuts through the heavy air that he has thickened by his smoking, a half-full ashtray on the bedside table, dust motes spiralling and sparkling slowly.

'Why?', she whispers and leans back against the dressing room table, her gauzy black camisole riding further up her pale thighs.

'You are so beautiful, Soph...', he says and pulls back the blanket. 'Come back to bed.'

She frowns a little. 'Why don't you ever ask me to do things? Why do you always order me...' She is distracted by the brush falling off the edge of the dresser, where it falls, slow motion onto the warm red rug.


Little Sophia climbs out of her bed, small pale feet silent on the cold floorboards. It is dark and there was a noise at the window. Her heartbeat flutters as she paces towards the window, moonlight glowing through the translucent yellow curtains. Her hands reaches out and she pulls back the light fabric and in the grimy dust on the glass she sees the smudged silhouette of a bird. Putting both hands on the cool glass, she presses her nose against the pane and looks out into the silver darkness. Beneath the window on the flat roof outside she sees a dying thrush, its speckled breast sticky and pricked with blood. Frowning and exhaling, her breath mists on the glass and the bird looks ghost white amongst the dark asphalt and soft spiky tufts of moss. She leans back and pushes at the flaking paint of the frame and the window slides up noisily. Taking hold with one hand, she swings her leg up and hoists herself out the window, moss cold and damp beneath her toes as she lands. Wrinkling her nose, she squats down, the hem of her nightdress staining with dew. Gently she slides her small hands underneath the bird and picks it up, standing, feeling it shiver beneath her fingers. 'Poor little birdy', she says and it turns one eye towards her, blinking its amber eye and wriggling in her hands, one wing fluttering and spattering the front of her nightdress with crimson speckles.

Frowning again, she holds it in one hand and then strokes its breast gently. As she does, her finger passes through it and she shivers, suddenly cold. Poking at it again, she feels a delicate joy brush against her skin and she grabs hold of it and clenches her fist, pulling it away from the bird. In her excitement, she casts the thrush's useless body to one side and cups both hands around the fluttering, weakening happiness that she's managed to trap within her fingers.

'Let me go, you Son of a Whore!', Sophia shouts at the man driving the truck, struggling to free her hands, black rope binding digging deeper into her pale skin. He ignores her and pulls the vehicle over to the side of the road, tyres hissing on the wet asphalt. She hears his heavy footsteps thump the road outside. The door clicks and he opens it, rain pouring down his wide face as he grins predatorily, seeing her dress ridden up round her waist, the pale glint of her panties, a hunting knife held in his big right hand.

She waits for him to climb in and when he reaches for the doors to close them, she kicks him with both her feet, bound at the ankle by the black rope, her feet bare, shoes discarded outside a petrol station further back down the road. He falls out of the truck, smashing his nose on the door, then crunching it again on the wet floor, blood smearing across his face as he sits up blinking. By then she is beside him, the knife in her hand, the bindings discarded, her other hand slipping gently through his hair and grasping hold of it, wrenching his head back, steel slipping smoothly down onto his throat.

Putting her mouth close to his ear she whispers in a low voice: 'You don't even know what dangerous means.'

He blinks again and says in Carver's voice: 'We used to be so close it was hard to know where you started and I began...'

She pauses, knife pressing against his throat, fear spilling through her. 'What did you say?'

Carver is above her. He is touching her. His face is one of worry and concern, but she doesn't care any more. Her body is numb. 'Don't leave me', he commands her. He leans in close, pressing his mouth hard against her mouth and she feels even weaker, the energy to resist him failing her.

'What did you say?' she says to the truck driver again, the blade shifting slightly, leaving behind it a small trail of scarlet, making him gasp with pain.

'I said that you was the whore, Missy. F***ing piece of crap', he mumbles, and his big body tenses, ready to fight her.

With disdain, rage and a new, brittle coldness, she moves the blade again, its sharp edge gently easing through his skin.


Carver is upon her. She can feel his body pressed tight to hers and there is an aching in her body that she almost cannot bear. She shoves at him viciously and he falls away from her, landing on the dirty floor in the red dark, watching her as she sits up slowly.

'What the f*** do you think you were doing to me?' she shouts at him and pulls the filthy handkerchief from her pocket, wiping the warm brown, smoky taste of him from her lips.

Calmly, he sighs and stands, wiping his gritty hands on the back of his trouser legs. 'I was saving your f***ing life', he says in a quiet voice and the tense silence is broken only by the high pitched ring of a silver coin tumbling from the crumpled handkerchief and onto the hard floor beside her.

Sophia looks down at the coin and reaches for it, but Carver's boot heel is quicker and he slams the metal coin into the floor.

'Rabbit foot not good enough for you Sophia?' She looks up at him slowly, her eyes still full of fire and rage.

'Take your slimy foot off my property.' Carver looks down at her, then moves his foot away. She snakes her hand out and takes the coin in between her thumb and forefinger.

'Your property Sophia? Yours?' Smiling, Carver bends down and grasps her chin forcing her to look into his face. 'Don't forget who gave you that.' She slaps his hand away and grabs his neck tightly with hers. She deftly slaps his attempts of freedom away, finding an inner strength she didn't know she had. She watches as her fingers seem to slip under his skin, then loosens her grip ever so slightly. She smiles back at him in return.

'You're doing an awful lot of reminding lately Mr Carver.' Sophia tightens her grip as he kicks out at her his hands flailing lightly at his sides. 'Nothing to say to me now? Remember THIS Mr Carver. I am not your poppet.'

She lets go and he chokes, unsure of himself just for a moment. He drops to one knee, fighting for breath and looks across at her, eyes wide with shock.

'Get up Carver. I want to go. And since you seem to know where I guess I need you for the time being. So. UP.' She stands over him and he fumbles in his pocket, trying to avoid her gaze.

'I said get up Carver. Lead me out of here. I'm tired of history... in fact I'm just tired.' Carver finds what he is looking for and quickly scratches a circle about him with the dull chalk, muttering slightly as he does.

'What are you doing Carver, tell me.' He glances at her, sweating, then breaks off his quiet babble.

'Protecting myself.' Sophia reaches towards him and Carver shrieks, darkness seems to collapse in around him and he sighs, then all is black.

He shakes his head and looks about him. He is cold, not helped by the fact he is perched on a snowy mountain ledge, wind whipping around him and only a light jacket to shield him against poking, prodding icy fingers. He looks down and notices the footprints in the slush leading away from him into the grey and white blizzard ahead of him. He pushes onwards into the deep winter and slides around a corner, his fingers numbing. He chances a look down and sees nothing that appeals to him. Just white swirling whirlpools of wind and snow. Catching a glimpse of something moving ahead of him he trails after it, ignoring the pain in his feet and the aching in his chest. What the hell are you doing here Jackson? The girl isn't this important. He pushes the thoughts away and trudges on, leaning close into the mountainside. Mumbling a few choice words, he pulls his jacket collar up around him and blows into his blueing hands. Inch by inch he reaches an outcrop and shelters underneath it. Carver thrusts his hands deep into his trouser pockets and rubs his fingers against his skin, trying to force some warmth back into the digits. The hair on his neck prickles and he knows that he is not at all alone, a fearful image enters his head and he feels himself being pushed out into the snow, out across the mountainous ledge and into the darkening whirling abyss...

Jackson Carver wakes screaming.

'Mother!' He pulls at his sheets and feels warmth spreading down his legs.

'Mother!' He tries to force his eyes away from the shape at the foot of his bed, slowly creeping away as light pierces into the room.

'Just another bad dream my sweet?' His mother takes him in her arms and lifts the child from the bed, taking him away from the stubborn blackness he can see. Shivering and whimpering he clings to the strong solid shape of his mother, tears and sickness welling in his eyes and in his mouth. A whispering reaches his ears and he shudders, not wanting to hear but there is nothing there. He can't hear the sound anymore and he stills his heart for a moment, nestling into the warmth of the shoulder and breasts so close to him. He closes his eyes and feels sleep...

Awakening Carver sees Sophia kneeling by him, pulling at his shirt and hauling him close to her. She has been crying and whimpers softly,

'Jackson... please, tell me. What is going on?'

He sits and glances about, the dim light seeming to make the wall shiver about him, then realises that there is something wrong. In every shadow something shifts, formless, but swelling like a dark cancer and shrinking the vast room rapidly. Saying nothing, he stands and grabs her hand, pulling her towards a distant doorway, the dirty green and white arrow of an exit cracked above it.

Somewhere in the darkness a voice begins to whisper, more voices, fragments of yesterdays he doesn't remember, her voice joining them as she screams, feeling the burning heat of the walls rushing closer as she stumbles and he turns to face her, watching her face bubble wetly, blisters popping across her skin. Picking her up, he flings her across his shoulder and he runs, the roaring howl making him lose his breath, hand stretching out before him, feet thumping heavily on the uneven concrete floor.


The sunlight is blinding as the door concedes and he bursts out into a spring morning and Sophia is gone, the weight suddenly lifted from his shoulder, the silver coin tumbling to the floor and ringing loudly in a terrifying silence. Blinking, he looks about, unsteady on his feet.


'Don't call me that', the reply comes, but he doesn't know if it is a memory, or whether he heard her whisper from the sliver of darkness that aches behind him, his eyes remaining on a tatty white tarmac line between his feet. He takes a deep breath, his heart racing within his chest, exhaling a soft cloud in the bitter air. Without looking back, he stoops and picks up the coin, twisting it over in his fingers, feeling the stain of her warmth upon it, and heads for his car.

Carver lays in his bathtub, the warmth of the water slowly stealing away the chill that had remained after she had gone. Closing his eyes, he sinks deeper, the music drifting from the lounge muted, his skin tingling as weariness envelopes him. As he rests, Sophia arrives in the room, her skin burnt, her clothes filthy, flinging her rucksack down as she steps towards him, blackened fingers sliding into the water and scratching upon his skin.

His eyes open and he sees her, letting out a scream, limbs flailing as she presses her mouth to his, climbing upon his prone body and there is a roar of water as he hurls himself up, flinging her away from him, the cracking of bones sounding as she hits the wall and he is running, leaping over her and out the room, his eyes scanning the mantelpiece where he knows he put the coin. Behind him there is a laugh and he stares at her, backing away as she smiles, then sticks her tongue out, a bright disc glittering upon it. She smiles again and spits it at him.

'I suppose that we both thought that would buy some freedom', she whispers, her voice surrounding him, unspoken, reverberating in the air itself. He realises that the clock on the mantel has ceased to tick, at the windows no air stirs the gauzy curtains.

'Soph... Sophia...', he stutters, naked before her, cold. 'Just wait a moment...'


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