Friday, 17 October 2014

The Gallery Of Mirrors

P   R   E   V   I   O   U   S   L   Y      I    N 
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S

I greet the old couple on the doorstep, but in my mind it’s not me standing there. It’s a character. We just happen to share the same name.

Spiderfingers jogged towards the chime of the bell. He opened the door to set his vision upon a happy-to-see-him old couple, dragging upon the drug of inner resolve, binding himself to a ruthless tunnel vision that would prove addictive and dangerous.

My life is a book and I’m somewhere far off turning pages. I’m not the calculating divinity that must commit itself to stark evils for the greater good. I’m just a witness reading.
    Spiderfingers’ demise meant the God-Hex tumbling down, and he couldn’t have that. Regardless of what humans did to one another, they didn’t deserve to be left vulnerable to slave driving sky-lords.

Spiderfingers had to take the Buchanans to Po Village; there was no escaping the logic. My plan to secure us safe passage is sound, he decided,

Inviting a newly-converted old couple to join the expedition to Po? Perfect!

‘Perfect?’ said Florence from the first floor landing, her hands clutching the sides of her face,

What if you found god near the end of your life? What wouldn't you do to please him? Faith was Spiderfingers' chief concern and senior citizens possessed the fuel by the gallon. 

‘No, this is where we draw the line. We’re not doing this. You heard me, show them out.’

Spiderfingers stood in the hallway next to a wheelchair-bound old lady and her husband who had his hat removed, held close to his chest. Awkwardness spread the scene. 

‘There’s no way we’re bringing converts with us.’ said Florence, avoiding the eyes of O.A.P’s waiting silently, obediently.  

‘The Oma is dangerous; we can’t take you,’ said Steve sitting on the steps, his eyes meeting the guests directly, ‘We…we just don’t work that way anymore. Remaining humane, it’s the most important thing isn’t it? Otherwise, what are we fighting for?’

'But dad,' said Saul, 'we can't afford to be human right now. If we want humanity to survive, we need to start living with the tough choices.'

‘Our lord didn’t tell us what we’re fighting for,’ said the woman in her wheelchair, her hand gripping the hand of her husband. Both their palms quivering, ‘he just told us to meet him here, so we did.’

‘We don’t care what it is,’ said the old man standing next to her. His voice was full of dread terror failing to pass itself off as devotion, ‘We will do anything to serve you my lord…anything.'

Steve’s hands gripped his knees. He looked into the floor, for some answer to unearth itself there.

'I don't know what method Spiderfingers used to recruit you,' said Florence, 'All I know is, I've got a fifteen year old daughter upstairs who equates the idea of making friends to handing out death warrants on the innocent. I'm not going to stand by and watch anyone else go through hell to save the world. Certainly not an old couple.'

‘Mum, we don't have a choice,’ said Saul on the landing next to his mother, ‘You know how much I hate Spidertwat, but if he dies, we all die. We need as many soldiers as possible.’

Spiderfingers crumpled a little into the wall of the hallway. The bonfire that crackled above his brow burned brighter than the sunrise as he struggled to attack Steve’s ode to humanity.

Remaining humane, it’s the most important thing isn’t it? Otherwise, what are we fighting for?

The man-god bit his tongue.

‘Your mum and dad are right Z-Boy,’ Spiderfingers said as his eyes gauged the family, realising the shift in mind-set, ‘It’s one thing to convert them, but a blind old lady and her husband are not soldiers.’

‘It is one thing to convert them.’ said Lilith as she sauntered down the flight of steps winding past Steve and up to the place where Spiderfingers had slumped into the hallway wall, ‘It’s another thing to invite them here, eh, my lord?’

She disappeared into the living room to reemerge into the hallway with Ruby and Flints silver pail of chopped liver in hand,

'Did you invite a cross section of demographics, or did you just want to give the disabled and the elderly a chance at worshiper of the year? Seriously, I wanna know.'  

‘Mum, dad…’ sang a little voice from upstairs, ‘Cooooome ooooon! You’re missing the lights!’

‘Hold on Vicky,’ replied Steve, ‘Be up in a minute,’ he hefted his great hulking weight up the stairs, slowly. The wood creaked beneath him as he turned about to face the old couple, ‘Best you people stay on Earth. You’ve got an effigy?’

The old man produced a Superman doll from the inside pocket of his blazer. The figurine's face had been blacked out. His wife’s feeble hands began their search through the purse on her lap. Spiderfingers’ teeth sank into his own flesh.

‘Good. Use your faith in him. My family will need it out there, now more than ever.’

Steve carried on up the creaking stairs. Lilith waded past Spiderfingers following him.

‘Wait, take us with you,’ said Anthony D’Angelos clutching the Superman doll in one hand, his hat in the other. Spiderfingers couldn’t meet his eye. He bit his tongue.

‘We see the fire in your hair,’ croaked Celia D’Angelos clutching a wood carving with an S painted on its chest, ‘whatever you need my lord, command us, we’ll do it.’ But her flamed haired god continued wheeling her out through the short corridor towards the front door.

Her belief in his eternal paradise would have to fuel him from afar.

Spiderfingers thought of Gaia's warning.

Do not show your face. Do not spread your faith. Protect humankind from the shadows. Gods bring suffering to the apes

He remembered how he had argued that the Buchanans would be the few exceptions. He needed protecting so why not allow him a clergy? If only he wasn't so persuasive, he thought.

Gods need people to see their faces, don't they? They can't help it, and they'll use any justification.

They'll need...abilities Gaia. Special ways to protect themselves. The gods will try to use this poor family to get to me 

The creature that invited the D’Angelos' here – aint me. I'm no longer the manipulative fucker who converted these old folks, deep underground, just concrete and no constant stare from Gaia. No Pseudologoi around to gas the couple's memories of my existence to death. I’m just reading his story from far far away. I’m devoid of empathy, and my tongue’s been bit so many times I’m deciding on a new portion of my body to take the sufferance.

It had been a long seven years since Spiderfingers had stood in that gloomy space. The Gallery of Mirrors. Like any other attic, the place was overrun with boxes and cases and cases on top of cases, all of them filled with the junk that families never properly catalogue let alone throw away.

What made the Buchanan attic special was its size.

The space was almost as large as the living room thanks to the ‘refurbishment’ Spiderfingers had taxed out of reality-shifting minions years ago. What made the area doubly special were the four mirrors that adorned the walls. Each one being at least six foot in height.

Spiderfingers couldn’t shake the eyes of the old couple from his mind. That look they gave him, they could see the fire in his hair. The adoration had been almost too potent for the demigod to resist.

He tried to distract himself by standing with the Buchanans, watching Vicky run a circuit round the large attic, rubbing her fingers across the six foot mirrors that lined the walls.

Vicky Buchanan was as sassy as she was diminutive. Sporting long gloves under her dad’s old school jacket and wearing over-sized specs to check her heavy boots for scuff marks, Vicky Buchanan massaged each mirror with gusto.

She paused now and then to wipe the bleeding of her nose, bleeding that Spiderfingers' existence had indirectly caused. 

Gods bring suffering to the apes

In each of these four mirrors, reflections of herself and her kin disappeared. The sheets of glass began to swirl with colour, not dissimilar to the way sunlight breaks down when shone through oily water.

‘Presto!’ said Vicky smiling at Spiderfingers.

The smile was odd. There was something she wasn't telling him. He ignored his hunch reckoning that as the comic relief of the group, coupled with her age, Vicky was just under too much pressure. He offered her a grin in return, though he suspected it looked horrible.

There was no amount of teeth scrubbing that could fully eradicate seven years of abysmal dental hygiene. 

Spiderfingers reckoned Vicky calling the attic ‘The Gallery of Mirrors’ was her way of colouring out its mundane drabness. But there was no way she would ever admit to coming up with the name now.

Soon, one after another, the shiny surfaces revealed themselves to be portals to an identical looking room waiting on the other side. Each piece of dusty luggage, every folded rug and raggedy doll was no longer reflected in the golden frames. The mirrors were now doorways to identical houses, and these residences were not Earthbound. 

'Not bad after all this time, yeah Spider?' said Vicky using a tissue to wipe some blood from her nose.

Only Saul’s jabbering could ruin the majesty of the moment.

‘Look,’ said Saul checking and double checking the straps on his football helmet, ‘what if Spiderfingers is an alien? A terrorist alien. What if we’ve been fighting off Interstellar cops sent to take him out?’

‘Saul,’ said Vicky spinning from a mirror to face him, lowering her large rimmed NHS specs down her nose, ‘you’ve sooooo taken my escaped mental patient alien idea to some like, random place? Leave the walking tent alone?’

Spiderfingers laughed a little, but it was true. Now he’d changed into the ceremonial crimson of Boleraam, he looked like an abominable tepee. Even though he’d rather wear his trench coat. Although, it didn’t bother Spiderfingers when Vicky teased. When he left all those years ago, Vicky was the only Buchanan to shed tears. 

‘It looks like a dress.’ said Saul picking at Spiderfingers’ robes.

‘This dress is gonna help pass me off as Boleraam,’ said Spiderfingers his hair flickering out at Saul, ‘A little respect please?’

‘You’re nothing without your powers,’ said Saul patting at his knapsack, the knives clinking inside, ‘So don’t try to scare me. It’s pathetic. Bad enough we have to follow you into Po.’   

‘Don’t pretend you haven’t looked forward to going back,’ said Lilith scooping more raw meat out of the bucket, ‘we’re celebrities there. Being a superhero is better than clocking in and stacking shelves. Your words Saul.’

‘We’re not superheroes Lils,’ he replied tightening his knee pads, ‘We never were, right dad?’

Steve shook his head, as he rummaged through a trunk of throwaways and trinkets.

‘Don’t listen to him Andy,’ muttered Spiderfingers patting the severed hand on his shoulder, ‘You know more than anyone else that Saul’s only an authority on masturbation.’

Saul looked dumbfounded as the detached palm on Spiderfingers shoulders speedily hopped up, leaping into the air so Spiderfingers could slap him a high five.

The hand had seen better days.

The paleness and the two remaining finger nails were evidence of such. But still, if the Discordians were attacked on the way to Village Po, Handy Andy would prove invaluable, especially with enemies that mistook the errant knight’s size for fallibility. In fact, Handy Andy's only weakness was that he hadn't a mouth. And gods love mutes.

Spiderfingers was sure that Handy Andy loved him.

Handy didn’t treat the existence of Spiderfingers as a problem or a tool.

That’s why Spiderfingers let Andy perch on his right shoulder.

‘Not being funny, yeah,’ said Saul moving around the front of the group between himself and the mirror directly in front, ‘But if your god hadn’t bothered to visit your village in seven years, you’d go barmy. The Dilfs might have turned their back on his almightiness here,’ said Saul smiling his gangrene humourlessness at Spiderfingers.

‘Guys…’ Lilith pointed out at dark humanoid shapes clouding the mirror in front.

Steve raised his fists. Lilith placed her hands to her forehead as Vicky backed away from the mirror to hold her mother’s hand. Saul rummaged his holdall settling for a meat cleaver. Spiderfingers moved a little closer to Steve, a man surely bracing himself for violence. A sickly father forced to battle past the pain of a debilitating condition.

'Dad,' said Vicky pointing at her god, 'You should stand in front of Spider.'

Steve didn't budge. His face equal parts fear and shock.

'Well if you don't,' and Vicky let go of her mother's hand to join him. She didn't get far before being yanked back,

'I don't think so young lady.' said Florence not taking her attention from the shapes moving toward the mirrors.  

Unable to find some other part of his body to punish, Spiderfingers forced his front teeth down upon his swollen tongue.

Gods bring suffering 

‘Spider, this place is a secret, right?’ Vicky asked as Florence undid Saul’s helmet and strapped it to her daughters head.

'No mum, give it to Spider.'

‘I don’t know what mess you’ve got us into now,’ said Florence as she pushed Vicky further behind her, ‘But when this is over I won’t be held responsible for what I do to you.’ 
N   E   X   T      T   I   M   E      I    N
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S

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