Saturday, 29 December 2012

Short story: KILNEST by David R Lee


Here's a short story. Kilnest is a housing estate, and a curse, a hate-spell that misses its target and claims the wrong life. 

KILNEST

By David R. Lee

Give me Death, he said, looking at his reflection in the car's rear-view mirror. That's what I'll say in front of whatever choice item of 'pagan' femininity takes my fancy. Bravado, skillfully blended with apparent personal depth, that's the ticket. He tweaked the gelled peaks at the front of his hair and glanced back at his iPhone. Pagan Moot, said the Facebook page, friendly gathering of folk from different spiritual paths, blah blah, newcomers welcome. The picture showed a smiling, fiery-eyed redhead holding a silver cup in front of her ample bosom. Earth Mothers, Goths and hippies, Roger had posted. Well, Tuesday night in a strange city, any port in a storm, Darren had replied. The hair looked perfect.

It was the back room of a pub in the centre of town. He stood at the bar, casting around for the best place to sit. Of the three women I can see, none of them rate above a '4'. And that's minimal shaggability on Darren's 0-10 scale. Right, a drink. 'Eyup mate, a pint of lager.' No-one's drinking lager. Have a swig and check out the scene. Over to my right, a blowsy, henna-haired harridan. A 'spread' of Tarot cards joins her to the chinless, furry geek across the table, in a conspiracy of superstitious bollocks.

And to my left: A brace of men, both weirdie-beardies, and a woman I can't see. Manoeuvre round a bit, let's get a look at her. The redhead glanced up, catching his eye with the speed of a shutter click as she turned to face one of the men. She blazed out, hyperreal, a whole lot more vivid, more alive, than anyone else in the room. The weirdie beardies were leaning forward, intent on the girl.
Who could blame you my friends, but you're out of your depth tonight. Darren the Love Muscle is in da house. 'Hey!' he said, to no-one of them in particular, as he took a seat. The weirdie beardies turned and looked (blunt) daggers. The redhead blended graciousness and irony into a smile. Darren smiled back. 'Don't let me interrupt you,' he said, taking a slurp of his pint, vacating the conversation so it could get going again, while he focused on the girl.

Built like a classic statue, a fine, healthy bird. Posture's good, something commanding about the way she holds her chin. The conversation was in full flow. He earwigged, discreetly, and caught the words 'sex magic'. Oh yes, game on. This bird could be well worth my punt on this lame meeting.

He glanced round behind him, so as not to crowd the girl and her interlocutors. The Tarot reader was spreading some greasy cards on the table and speaking with apparent authority. OK, how can I fit this old tart into my pickup stratagem? Then another sex reference grabbed his attention. One of the beardies was speaking. 'So, what happens if you just shag someone and decide it's magick, with a K?'
Darren turned back to the redhead and the two freaks. The beardie spoke again. 'And what about the partner?'

'Crowley seemed to think it didn't matter,' answered the redhead. 'His sex magick diaries are full of shags with street prostitutes, yet occasionally he seemed to get a result.'

Wow. A statuesque redhead who talks about mystical shagging. But the conversation was petering out so he went to the bar and ordered pork scratchings while he Googled 'sex magic'. The stuff that came up while the barman stood holding the snack... Well, that looks a bit deep. Much too much to be doing with right now.

'Cheers mate.' He paid and sat back down, but the sex talk was off. The weirdie beardies watched the redhead. Fookin' pond life, victims, look at 'em.

The Tarot reader looked like she might be packing up. Darren left his pint as an anchor for his return and slipped over to her table. Right, come on like a loser, gain her sympathy. He nodded at the harridan. 'Er, I could do with a few cards drawing, like. I'll be right back.'

He went to the toilet and took a piss while he googled 'Tarot readings'. WTF, too much information. I already know it's not cool to assume the Death card means actual snuffing it and the Devil isn't, like, Satanism.

Dropping back onto his stool, he watched her cut the deck and draw a card. 'Give me Death!' he said.
The harridan's fleshy, red face hardened. 'You what?'

He pointed at the top card in the woman's hand, the one she was about to deal. 'The Death card, there it is!'

The woman looked over at the slim, young, average-looking man seated across from her. The corporate-blue polyester suit and cocky attitude said it all. She took a slow breath. 'You are a salesman.'

'A bond trader, actually.'

'Very well, a salesman of imaginary things.' She took her time turning the card over. The pasteboard showed a skeleton bending to wield a scythe, Death taking his universal toll on the human race. She lay the card down on the round table, crossing the other card that lay there, which showed a young, androgynous figure in a pastel blue doublet holding a cup. 'That was a lucky guess. Or do you have a touch of the psychic gift, Mr er...?'

'Darren.' He spoke with little attention; he was looking over at the other table, checking the impact his lucky guess and the Death-card bravado was having on the redhead. Yes, she's noticed, and she's smiling. Game definitely on! The harridan laid out more cards for him. He paid barely any mind to her comments; he was watching the redhead, and now he was getting eye-contact.

He turned back to the Tarot reader. She seemed to have finished the reading and was sipping from a pint of real ale. 'Thanks,' he said, crooking his mouth into a half-smile. He stood and moved back over to the table with the redhead and the beardies.

Jade had her unwitting assistant, right there in her sights. Look at him, coming back over and sitting down. Mine to do with as I will, she smiled, the thought hovering just behind her lips, making them move in the shapes of the words. It's right there on my face, what you are to me, can you not see? The salesman smiled back. No, you can't. You really can't.

Tarentina came over and stood behind the salesman. He looked up. The Tarot reader loomed over him like Fate. Her face was soft, beguiling. She brushed a beringed hand over the maroon velvet of the stool next to him and seated herself, carefully. She picked up his lager, raised an eyebrow at him, smiled and took a sip. 'What do you want, most of all?' She replaced the pint.

Darren's character armour, forged in the rah-rah ecstasis of corporate motivation, plus his habit of thinking fast that distanced him from humanity, served him well. And he knew the answer to that one, anyway. 'A two litre Cosworth engine wrapped in a metallic blue 4x4.'

Tarentina flipped over a card. 'The rest of your reading.' She smiled blandly and showed it him. Figures plunge from a shattered tower, ragged lightning against a cracked pall of darkness. She took another sip of his drink and stood up, smiling at Jade. Darren frowned at his desecrated pint.

Tarentina left. Darren looked up to see the redhead gazing over at him. 'I'm Jade, pleased to meet you.'.
'Yeah, cheers, Darren.' Disconcerted, he knew it showed in his smile; even he was finding it unconvincing.

'Are you from round here?'
'No, um, just passing through.'
'Where are you staying?' This man is totally out of his depth. A perfect, naive partner, a fool.

He couldn't quite remember how he came to be seated in his white Mondeo, Jade, still smiling, in the passenger seat. Driving helped him compose himself a bit; he didn't speak until they joined the northbound M1 slip road, swishing through thick curtains of rain. 'What turnoff?'

'Barnsley. It's hard to find, an estate called Kilnest.'

In the car, the silence and the rain helped her focus on planning the spell. The curse that will purge my hatred, that  will set me free. She smiled sideways at Darren's profile. Yes, this one looks good enough. Give him a good shag, fuck my way into trance. Take a little of his energy, which he has no use for, while I get loose and crazy and travel back in time. Just take what I need from him, then kick him out. I've never mixed sex into a curse before, but there's no reason why it shouldn't work, if I keep him from getting mixed up in the actual magick. Don't want him getting in the way, or getting hurt. It was warm and cosy in the car, listening to the sound of the wipers on the windscreen, travelling in their capsule of comfort through the streaming night.

She sat up, alert at the flash of a sign. 'Oh, there it is. I'm not a driver, I'm slow to spot these things.' Darren steered the wide arc of the turnoff, onto a four-lane feed road, hypnotised by the night and the rhythm of the wheels.

They swished through more rain and darkness, in endless serene motion, pointed at somewhere he didn't know. Yellow streetlight pulsed like cool, drowsy music. Then Jade touched his elbow, directing him to the fluorescent blue flare of a sign, arrowing them into the deeper night. He cut the car's speed, turning again at the soft pressure from her hand, then again, and again. The roads they drove on got narrower and narrower, their bends more curved, increasing his sense of lostness, as if they were turning inwards, into a clockwork spring or the windings of a snail's shell. She leaned against his arm. Her half-whispered voice felt like it was inside his head. 'See how it winds in, how there's no through road? It's closure. In good times, that's security and belonging. In bad times, it's a trap.'

Finally, they turned up to where a hill rose on their left, the upward slope just disappearing into total blackness. A row of council houses curved down to their right. She pointed, 'Here.' She began to zip up her jacket. 'You coming in?'

'Sure.'
The rain was total, blinding. Wet weeds lashed him as they ran, up a path, and through a side door she just pushed open, like no-one lived there. The tiny entrance area had a faint aroma, like leather, but burned. She flung her coat on a peg and crossed another darkened room, exiting into deeper darkness and calling back, 'I'll get you a towel for your hair.' He saw a bare wall, bare wood floor, yellow-dark shadows of rain playing on dust, a few sheets of paper stuck to another wall around a framed picture. As his eyes adjusted, a line appeared on the floor, dark and shiny, the painted limb of some geometrical design.

She reappeared, framed against faint light from the further space. She was wearing a large bathtowel, and handed him a smaller one. He dried his hair. She approached him and took the towel. They kissed, and he was incredibly, extraordinarily excited, dizzy with desire for her. When he reached between her legs, it felt as if he himself was opening up, as if there was no resistance in him. A sensible thought surfaced: Condoms? Check the back pocket... Fuck, they must have fallen out in the car. No, I'm not going to stop... She led him up bare, creaking wooden stairs, to a room in the streaming, yellow light, to a mattress where they fucked in a storm of urgency. 

The room was pale, the light through net curtains, the marbling, yellow light of the rain. As soon as he'd come, Jade got up and ducked out of the room, stooping, wiping between her legs. She returned, silhouetted, slow and poised against the window before she spread herself back on the bed. He noticed the pendant round her neck; she was stroking it, something dark and shaped in a pointed oval, a bit like a cunt.

He glanced at her as she laid beside him. He'd seen a TV programme about AIDS the other night, and the unsafe sex was bothering him. There didn't seem much point in saying anything, though. What's been done has been done.

In fact, he wasn't really that bothered. He said, 'I think I'd better be going.'
She faced him, smiling in the streaming light. 'OK, suit yourself.' She seemed to have been about to offer him something, and to have changed her mind so as not to risk being turned down. To fill the conversational vacuum, he said, 'I'm round these parts for a few days.'
'Call in for a coffee, then.'

'I will.' Darren felt sleepy. Before he could get himself going, he suddenly found his thoughts drifting like a rudderless boat, the image that came to him. 'Yeah, got to...' He fell into a dream.

He is propelled along a dark river. His small boat runs with the flow, in a dark landscape peppered with points of yellow light. The stream he rides joins another, and the current carries him faster, headlong into the night. Under a sky of scudding clouds, he enters a distributory of the river, the boat lurching in the eddies. Again he races on into darkness, the yellow lights fewer now, new patches of emptiness on either side as the channel narrows. Finally, the current hurtles him out of the river into a side limb of stagnant water. The vortex ends, but he is still being swirled, on his way to a darker, emptier place.

He sat up, frightened, the dream evaporating like the sweat between his shoulder blades. The woman snored softly. He got out from under the quilt with care, almost holding his breath as he pulled his trousers on and stuck his arms through the sleeves of his shirt. He tiptoed to the door, glancing round as he shuffled his trainers on, at the woman in her halo of thick, red hair.

It was Friday. Darren went to join ex-colleagues Steve and Wayne at the Casino for lunch and a drink. Membership was free; Steve used it for entertaining clients away from the hoi-polloi, like Darren used to, before he'd moved up in the world, moved to London and the selling of imaginary things. In the lobby, Darren spotted the swollen nose and unhealthy bloatedness of Steve, hiding with his bulk the tiny figure of Wayne. 'My fellow Poets!' cried Steve. Darren and Wayne chorused, 'For it is we, and we will Piss Off Early, 'cos Tomorrow is Saturdee!'

They took stools in the bar. The croupier girls, retro-dressed in halter neck, formed moving wallpaper. Darren reappeared from the Gents, flourishing condoms. 'Forgot last night.'
Steve lifted his drink and muttered, 'There's more to life than fanny. Grow up.'
'Mister Happily Married, congratulations, you old cunt.'
Wayne leaned forward. 'What's she like?'
'A statuesque redhead.'
'Club, like?'

Darren wasn't about to 'fess up to how far he'd trawled into fringe culture for a shag. 'New club, near Sheffield.' Wayne's face suggested interest, so Darren added, 'Not much good,' forestalling any further questions.

With anticipation, and a streak of unadmitted fear, he set off for the motorway. Kilnest Estate wasn't easy to find. He hadn't set his satnav that night, and hadn't asked Jade her address; he was back in the stone age of maps and memory. No main roads led to Kilnest, even though it was almost in the shadow of the motorway. Jade's voice echoed in his head, like a soft buzz-saw. 'See how it winds in, how there's no through road?' A wound-up spring, a filthy curl of stagnant water, the last, tight turn of the spiral. This was a place you went to, not through.

Finally, he recognized the hillside road entering the estate. In daylight, he saw that the ragged hill to his left was crowned with a closed-down mine. The stone tower, topped with its winding gear, the cluster of stone buildings, shuttered and dilapidated, the long, dark track, loomed over the close, loomed over him now. What a fookin' dump. He turned into the close and located the house. He approached the red door, raising his arms above the nettles waving from the weed-choked garden. He tried the bell; no ring. He took a deep breath and gave the door a friendly, salesman's kind of knock. No one came. He hesitated; knocked again, louder.

He sat in the car and glanced at the timetable on his iPhone, almost empty for this seeing-old-pals break. He'd made a special effort to visit this girl, and she wasn't in. I didn't call her though. She might just be at the corner shop. He felt sleepy. The sunlight dazzled him; he yawned, and dozed.
Again, he's in a boat. He mustn't touch the water; it's full of little dancing motes of light, which he knows are poison. But the boat is rocking, wider and wider, the lethal water splashing up. He lurches from side to side, trying to steady the motion, but an unseen hand is rocking it.

He woke with a start, and stared at the blank, round face grinning through the windscreen. The child was rocking the car. A fat adolescent with a shaved head looked on. Thugs. Loonies. Violence. They saw him start awake and ran off, giving him the finger.

This time he tried Jade's door. Fuck. It's unlocked. He stepped in, called, 'Halloo.' That leather stink. Then she stood in front of him. She smiled. Her hair was tied up with a scarf. She was wearing a patterned cotton skirt, unfashionably long, and a plain white blouse. The loose fabric brushed, clinging, to her long thighs as she crossed the room.

She led the way up the stairs, to the bedroom. Deep red, heavy velvet curtains closed it off from the day. The warm, fusty darkness was spiced with incense, like the smell downstairs, but pungent, oppressive. She lit a candle. They undressed, and got onto the mattress. She kept the fanny-shaped pendant on, and its point dug into the skin of his chest while they were fucking.

When he'd come, she got up. He dozed for a while. She brought up some coffee. Music seeped through the wall from next door, a pop song he'd surfaced into, mumbling nonsense words to its tune: One for his eyes, one for his mouth.

Making conversation, he told her about his wait in the car. She laughed when he said he'd thought she might be out at the corner shop. 'There's no shop for miles. Everything stops here.'
'So what're you doing here, then? You're educated, this is a dead-end dump, and your neighbours are a few steps short of a flight.'

'I'm finishing a task. Trying to end a part of my life.' She glanced up at a framed picture over the bed. 'It was my father's house. He... died here. He worked at the pit. It killed him. Literally.' She reached across the bed, picked up a pack of cigarettes and lit one. 'In 1984, they sent in thugs, police in un-numbered uniforms. They crushed the area, beat everyone down.' Her eyes flicked sideways. He followed her gaze: trails of paper rayed out from the picture, stuck to the wall, like the crime walls you saw on TV cop shows - yellowed news clippings, a crumbling bus ticket, a circular chart with colourful geometric shapes on it. Her voice was dreamy. 'Someone ought to pay.'

'You political, then?'
She shook her head. 'No. Politics is... broken.' She looked at him for a second, her lips parted slightly. 'He was a shift foreman, too old and sick for coalface work. He sided with his co-workers. His manager sold him out, made sure the un-numbered thugs found him, alone. They killed him.' She drew on the cigarette. 'Said 'heart attack' on the death certificate. But that's always just your last gasp they write down, isn't it? Not the underlying cause. Some people knew. Nobody listened. And now it's too far in the past.'

She looked up at the picture, then at him, as if deciding whether she should tell him something, then smiled and shook her head.

'So what about all these other bits of stuff, right over your bed?'
She smiled, her hand reaching down to his cock. He moved, uncomfortable. 'It's my time-travel wall. When we fuck, I trance out, I travel.'

Through the wall, he could hear the same pop song, being played again and again, someone too young or stupid to change the theme, someone who never got tired of repetition. He gave up on the conversation. Fookin' serious bird, no fookin' fun. He finished his coffee and left.

That evening, he felt tired, too tired to go out to a pub or club. He went back to his hotel, stripped off and pulled one of the thick-pile bathrobes round him, feeling weak enough to enjoy its soft comfort. Looking round for his phone, he found a folded square of paper in a trouser pocket. It was pale yellow and stiff; a special kind of paper, like they use for certificates. He opened it up and saw a kind of monogram, a mixture of letters, like old-school businesses had for their logos. It dawned on him that Jade had put it there, and what it meant. Fuck off, I'm not afraid of that bollocks.

He drove to Kilnest the next day. This time, she was different, kind of brisk, but odd, giving him long looks. As soon as he'd come, she disappeared. She came back, knelt upright on the mattress and unhooked one of the pictures from above the bed. 'Do you know what magick is?'

'Assuming you don't mean Paul Daniels, then we're talking witches with broomsticks, ritual sacrifices, satanic orgies?'

'That's the newspaper shite,' she said. 'I'm talking about real magick. This...' She put the picture in front of him. It was a collage, stuck together from newspaper cuttings, yellowed with age. The main one showed a photo of a chubby middle-aged businessman or administrator in a smart suit, getting out of a car. The face didn't ring any bells. Stuck next to it was a curled Polaroid, faded to noise. She was looking sideways at him.

Her silence was creeping him out. 'It's not real, though, this witchcraft stuff, this magick, is it? Not grown-up real?'

She looked at him, eyes hooded. 'It's real enough. A coven of witches asked a friend of mine to do a curse for them. They wanted to curse veal production, but they didn't have the balls to do it themselves. You won't have read about that plane that came down a few weeks back, near Birmingham. Just a freight plane, full of calves for the French veal market. But two humans were killed too. My friend caused that. Curses can miss their targets.' She paused, her eyes narrow. Again, she seemed to be about to say something else, then shook her head. 'I don't want you mixed up in this, any more than you already are because I'm fucking you. That's why I gave you the talisman.' She took a deep breath. 'I'm channelling a legacy of hate. Everything round here is soaked in it. It's about vengeance.'

Darren turned away from her. 'Fuck off, Jade. Sex is just sex. I tore that piece of paper up.'
She looked searchingly at him. 'Why did you feel the need to do that? You could have just thrown it away.'

He had no answer to that. He got up and dressed, unhappy. Jade stood as he went to leave. 'Take care. You... you're more caught up in this than you think.' She went to kiss him. He turned away. 'Magick makes sense of life,' she said, 'sense out of all this anger, and loss, and hate. Gives it somewhere to go and rest, makes use of it.'

'It's stupid, expecting things to make sense. None of it does.' He pulled away and left. Her voice carried down the stairs, soft, concerned. 'Maybe you shouldn't come back, Darren.'

He is alone, on a bleak, empty hill top, under a full moon. A river of darkness winds around him, a spiral course of utterly black water, made visible by the poisonous yellow lights that swarm within it. A figure crouches by the watercourse, a naked woman who dips a shining cup into the lethal flow. She stands up; it's Jade, and she walks slowly towards him, bearing the cup of poison. Around her neck is a strip of something, in the shape of a vesica, the outline of a vulva, anointed with something slimy, that glows silver in the moonlight. She raises the chalice; a tremor shakes the ground she stands on, and starry gouts of poison shake out of the cup, splashing over him.

Darren spent about thirty seconds sweating, thinking about the dream, which was thirty seconds longer than usual. Normally he remembered nothing at all from the hours of sleep.

'Darren, you look terrible. That bird of yours must be keeping you up all night.' Wayne put down his fork and underlined the 'up' with a penis gesture of fist and forearm. Darren managed a weak smile. They ate their roast beef lunch, just the two of them. Steve was in hospital, gastrointestinal unit. Darren got in the car, started driving, then realised he was heading north on the motorway, away from home, away from his friends.

Turning off for Kilnest, the deep roar of a big engine grabbed his attention. A metallic blue 4x4 cut right in front of him, tyres screaming as it took the roundabout. He swerved, caught his nearside wheel on the kerb, then regained control. He was sweating, and he thumped the dashboard with an uncharacteristic loss of temper, momentarily furious that his life was being disrupted so.

He resumed his journey, following the inward spiral of the turnoffs. He took the curve that wound round to the entrance of the close, then spotted the blockage across it. Someone had piled some dustbins, the remains of a divan bed and a rotting mattress into a kind of barricade. He had to park on the road below the pit head tower. The sun was just going down through a slit in the leaden sky, and the stone building with its shuttered windows sat on the horizon, a long-doomed castle of industry overlooking the decay of the streets beneath it. 

He put the car alarm on and crossed the road to the cul-de-sac. The side door of the house was wide open. He stepped in, and glanced into the sitting room, which looked even emptier than before. He mounted the stairs to the front bedroom, calling 'Hi.' The curtains were open, the dull light showing the shabby wallpaper and the mattress they had used yesterday. There were no covers on the bed. There'd been some books on the floor; they were gone. It dawned on him: She's left, gone away.
He felt annoyed. Above the bed there was a design drawn on the wall in felt tip. It was a triangle, with some sort of monogram made from bits of letters in the middle. Walking over to look at it, something crunched under foot. He stepped back and bent down. A glint of dusty light caught his eye: a shard of broken mirror. Stuck to it was a tiny piece of white paper with a daub of brown blood on it. He glanced up at the wall, where a paler rectangle of old wallpaper outlined an absence.  The silence flowed out around him. Wrong silence; bad absence; incipient disaster walking on his grave.
In a dreamlike tension he looked down again and saw another scrap of paper with another monogram, parts of a name arranged into a design. Something in the corner of his mind threatened to make appalling sense of these grubby conundrums. The pop song next door started up again. His heart was pounding and sweat already starting on his face when he heard the crash. He jumped to the bedroom door and opened it.

The fat boy he'd seen the day before was at the bottom of the stairs, a lump hammer in his fist. He spotted Darren, and leered up at him, his face a caricature of brute stupidity. Pulling at his crotch, he hollered, swinging the hammer up. Darren dived back through the doorway into the bedroom and slammed the door. There was a sound of smashing glass, hooting laughter, and running feet. Darren breathed deeply and leaned against the panel.

The cause of the second crash took a couple of seconds to register, then he was on his feet and down the stairs. A car alarm was sirening from the end of the road. Keeping close to the fronts of the houses, he plunged through the overgrown gardens and through scrawny, scratching hedges, hands over eyes, breath near-whooping in panic, until he reached the end house in the close. It was boarded up, and he crouched in the doorway, getting his breath. As he dropped down, his hand touching something soggy in a carrier bag. The dead puppy must have been there a few days, and Darren jumped up, whimpering, and ran out over the T-junction.

His car was a wreck. The windscreen was smashed in, all the tyres had been cut, and there were big dents all over the bonnet. The fat boy and the moon-faced child were running up the service road leading to the pit head, making monkey noises. Something snapped in Darren. With little idea of what he was doing, he grabbed a brick and ran up the colliery track. The youths melted into the complex of shuttered buildings. He reached the darkened tower at the top of the hill and spotted a broken doorway, a hole into pitch darkness blowing out a freezing draught, a collapsed shaft into nothingness. Then a sound made him turn, a deep, powerful engine.

He watched, enthralled, as the metallic blue SUV swung around the curve of the main estate road and screamed through the wreckage of the fence onto the pit head track. It was coming right at him, this ugly-beautiful car, in the last tight curl of a long, looping curve, the tyres letting out intermittent yelps of protest. He caught a glimpse of a face, eyes glazed with acceleration as the driver tried to wrench the car out of its skid. The tyres screamed, the car swerved, regained forward movement then spun out of control on the grease-slick cobbles, tyres singing, wheels tracking side to side, hypnotizing him in its skipping-gripping death-dance. Too late, he flung himself aside, and the fat, rectangular nearside wing of the wondrous car glowed blue in his eyes as it smashed into his ribs, hurled him through the doorway, hurled him into the windy dark.

Bright shards of imagery flared and died as he fell: the girl - what was her name?... a city in rain and dusk, seen from above... a broken hoop around him, sliced apart by hot light... a talisman shaped like a vesica, a cunt, discarded in the mud.

It made no sense at all.

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