Saturday, 18 October 2014

Meeting The Cheerleader


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’ll become a better, stronger, harder idea to kill.  I’m going global.  I’m gonna become McDonalds.  Give up hunting me, you antiquated small-minded assholes, because I’m Spiderfingers.  I’m the new Coca-Cola.”
Act II
Breaking into Vicky Buchanan’s house wasn’t tough.  Littering her room with the pockets of grass? Difficult.  Alarm bell worthy.  You’re not crazyyou’re sane.  Idiots like Dr Kwame need you to do this shit, so they can live in ignorance.  As he chucked the green mess on her bed, Spiderfingers mumbled the mantra, “You’re perfectly sane.” He poured his hope into his belief even though he knew hope would not be enough.
Before smashing his palm through her basement window, hours before his break and entry, he’d spent a good forty five minutes lounging in Rowberry Park.  Stinking dishevelled him, cross legged on the frosted earth, clumps of greenery in his hands, swilling the dry taste of nothing in his mouth.  He held the pickings close to his face, speaking to them like one would a tape recorder: 
“Vicky – it’s me – Spider.  Sorry about the break in, but I had to collect some stuff from the house.  Meet me in Rowberry Park tomorrow afternoon, at four?  I’ll be at the East gate.  Come alone.” He’d sprayed the topiary all over her room.  This way, she would have no choice but to pick the mess up and ‘talk’ to them.  Ha! If the doc could see me now! I should be so lucky.  He glanced at the fish tank, searching for the worm creature curled at the bottom.  Wiggles, all coiled up, barely moving.  His need to examine the creature lost out to nervousness.  If her family catch me, I’m fucked.  The walking refuse heap in the mirror shocked him into action, the immediate and sobering realisation.  There was no way anyone should come home and meet him like this, regardless of the humanitarian nucleus to his vagrant lifestyle.  The dirty, jagged, troublesome piece that Spiderfingers had become would never fit comfortably in a teenager’s bedroom.  He fled the mirror, running downstairs to the cellar window to climb out, awash in a mixture of impending success and uneasiness.  He’d stooped to yet another moral low.  As of last night, a door marked NEVER had been opened, spewing terrible solutions to his oldest conundrums.  These black resolutions clung to his brain, babbling and scowling their way into his decision-making.  Remember, he told himself as he stepped back onto the high road, regardless of your night-self’s motivations, mankind reaps the benefits.  He passed an alleyway, gazing down the narrow street when he ought to have kept his attention forward.  He caught sight of a parked garbage truck.  The slight return of last night’s maiming unloaded its gory existence upon his awareness.  So, he set about in his self-deception, delving into the billboards of this new London, posters advertising bands with aesthetics that confused him.  There were so many beards moulded to reflect a very different time to his native two thousand and four.  Sub-genres once considered bleeding edge had long since died out.  Their most prominent faces underlined his absence via their reinvention.  
Singer now a T.V presenter.  Bassist now a farmer.  
Sci-fi dystopian action flicks echoed an economic downturn, a time of cultural upset he’d been shielded from.  The hip of his time now referred to as retro.  Even humour had evolved.  He walked by three teenagers in fancy dress, more animation than human as they clowned together jabbering through dialogue at speed.  They were hyper, rattling through a comedy routine, each line more lewd than the next.  London stand-up had experienced a transgressive evolution, a bizarre irreverence espoused by new faces on magazine stands: a fresh batch of borderline sociopaths he was supposed to find funny.  This is what it means to be a relic, he thought, unable to escape the simple fact: I am a creature released from amber.
The late afternoon sky flicked the sleet of October in his face as he weaved in and around London’s populace, citizens busied with late shopping, unaware, so utterly unconscious of the arduous walking he’d committed to.  Life without a car resulted in a day filled with travelling from Vicky’s house (Turnpike Lane), all the way to Rowberry Park (Hammersmith).  The great distance between the rendezvous point and her home all but demolished any chance encounter with her family.
The long square of green dubbed Rowberry Park boasted three sets of swings, a merry-go-round, a see-saw and elaborate multi-coloured climbing frames, the smooth metal twisted into the shapes of spaceships and aliens.  Hip high hedges formed the circumference of the play area which featured gates East and West.  Both exits led users out of the park and back to the high street.  West London: car showrooms, supermarkets, restaurants and sky-piercing office space.  Given the winter weather, Spiderfingers expected infrequent usage of the cities brief illusion of undisturbed nature.  He sat at the rear of the lawn, beneath the park’s one tree, beyond the tape surrounding it, his back resting against the trunk, feet kicking at the base of a plaque, a gold coloured board with faded inscription along the bottom.  Some eulogy to someone unremembered, he supposed, his belly rumbling, his half-human lineage crying out for attention.  Shutting out its wanton burbling, he returned the stares of occasional dog-walkers as they passed through the gate to his left, sauntering along the frosted grass, exiting the other side.  He counted the hours, relying on the odd pet owner for the time.
“Two forty nine.” Smiled an old lady with her pug.
When visitations of his nightlife arose to engulf him, he reached for the folder of stories from under his arm.  A perfect distraction.  He marvelled that after seven long years, the Buchanan’s had taken his advice and steered clear of the basement.
“I should be so lucky, lucky, lucky, lucky.” The folder and its stories were exactly where he’d left them.  On the work bench, coated in nearly a decade’s worth of dust. “The Russian Doll Stories,” His palm swiftly leafed through pages, his concentration filtering out sub-cultural obsolescence, the occasional snatch of nocturnal slaying. “Who needs superpowers when you have tales of the unexpected?” He felt eyes upon him, but dismissed the feeling for paranoia, easily forgiving himself for the suspicion.
“Superpowers, John?” Spiderfingers span to find Doctor Kwame standing by a bench to his left, smoking pipe in hand, his white lab coat riding the breeze.
“Doctor Kwame?” He got to his feet, worrying how long the Doctor had been present.
        “So, here you reside, the great barrier between the planet and the gods who wish to own it.  The celestial warden, walking as a man, needing no sleep, nor food to live.” Doctor Kwame looked his former patient up and down, “Oh, John, you’ve completely regressed.”
“What the fuck is this shit?”
        “We’ve come to help you.” replied Doctor Kwame his emphatic head-tilt boiling the blood of his former patient.
“We?” Spiderfingers searched the park.
“Doctor Silbermans’ just over there, see?” Doctor Kwame pointed to a hedge and sure enough, Spiderfingers made out the balding man immediately behind it, correctional shades pulled over half his face whilst he bent at an awkward angle, comfort taking a backseat to the obsessive jot, jot, jot’s of his pen, the implement injecting furiously into his notebook.  He looked up for a brief moment, Spiderfingers taking an unsteady step back as the insect-like Silberman snapped his head back down to resume the breakneck scribbling.
“This is hardly orthodox, Doc.”
“Nothing about you is.” the Doctor puffed his pipe, “Don’t fret, a few more observations and we’ll be –”
“– Fuck your observations.  I’m not going back to Bellevue.”
“Wouldn’t you like to see things as they really are?”
“I can do that without a straightjacket and padded cell, thank you very much.”
“Padded ...? What do you mean, John?” Spiderfingers wrinkled his face up in disbelief.  Then he ran.  Fast.  He put the incident out of mind as he left his observers far, far behind him.

He wandered through estates built for young professionals, so many houses with warmth and togetherness, he thought as he battled on, out of place and out of time, the main road offered his demographic-of-one nothing, just the awareness that none of its consumerism bore him in mind.  The fucking High-Street, he thought, trying to keep his head down, hiding away from the glare of towering temptations.
The floury scent of fresh dough and savoury goods wafted out of a baker’s shop, the aroma reminding him of his empty stomach … an old lady’s bakery in a distant country … the smell unlocked the memories of a child he’d never been, for John Clay helped create half of him, but he could never be John Clay.  The realisation returned from time to time, but never had it triggered such an awareness of emptiness, a cavernous overwhelming few seconds of insatiable hunger ravaging his every thought as he lingered at the shop glass.  Seconds, piranha-like instants fed upon his remaining cognition as he leant the entirety of his face against the windowpane, his wide eyes mere inches from what he couldn’t afford.  A quivering hand clutched his gut, that lonely barren hole denied the divine relationship between food and itself.  He ran from the temptation of theft, escaping the promise of cake and muffins.  The aimlessness became irritable, like an itchy scab on his scalp.  A sore buried under too much hair to scratch.  The annoyance of his doctor’s surprise appearance pushed him into a jog, which became a sprint back to the park.  Doctor or no doctor, he couldn’t afford to miss his appointment with Vicky.  He returned to the spot under the tree, tentatively keeping watch for any Bellevue medical staff that had no place there.  He waited.
He waited counting blades of grass.
Vicky was late, the sun had begun to set and yet … he waited.  He felt for his diary and began to ease his anxiety.  There had been a good while between entries:
Entry Two Hundred and Twenty Three
He sat motionless on the green, the setting sun shining through the branches of the tree overreaching him, the black folder marked The Russian Doll Stories in his lap.  The winter had covered everything in a sugar frost, but Spiderfingers had no time for registering the cold.  He had no time to consider the bizarre appearance of the doctors, even though he couldn’t wrestle away the notion of their watching him.  Eyes in the bushes, writing up their discoveries, detailing ticks and quirks that might
There was ONLY the thought of Vicky.
No longer able to play cupid between his pen and paper, his concentration lapsed from one tangential subject to the next.  Rules of a particular type of story captured his imagination.  New words found him and swiftly, the lovers ceased their overlong separation:
1. Hero turns up after long absence to deal with new threat.
2. All/most of team reject hero’s help based on past conflict.
3. Hero reunites with cheerleader who seeks to assist hero.
4. Despite good will of cheerleader, verbal and/or physical conflict takes place on the team.
5. New threat intensifies thus forcing the team to stop fighting and work together.
6. New alliance is tested through saving world one last time.
7. During final battle, Cheerleader is hurt/dies which lends emotional glue to the group.
8. The world is saved thus vindicating hero and cheerleader’s P.O.V.
9. Hero’s most vocal antagonist submits renewal of friendship.
10. (Supplementary) Hero must leave/sacrifice well-being to sustain new equilibrium.    
 In Spiderfingers’ world, regrouping wasn’t so simple a task.  Striding up to Vicky’s front door, a complete no-no.  He’d hurt her family enough without going back on his oath to stay out of their lives.  And yet, his success hinged upon Vicky’s unique abilities.  A written letter might be found by her mum and even if he had the cash for an internet cafe, he didn’t know Vicky’s email (The last time he’d seen her she was an eight year old).  With speed, he reached down to his side, angrily ripping up the icy undergrowth.  Hara’s failure to mentally link to Gaia still rankled him.  If he wanted to catch up on the ever-changing landscape of the gods, he’d have to venture into the Oma himself.  Pity the doorway was in Vicky’s attic.  He hadn’t the courage to go back there and “Howdy Spiderfingers.” He instinctively placed one hand on the folder in his lap, his body twisting toward the outskirts of the park to locate the voice’s origin.  He locked onto a girl, a teenager staring back at him between the park railings.
“Sorry I’m late.  Sooorry!” She’s got so tall, he thought, stuffing his journal and pen into his pocket. “Still dressing as Superman, I see?”
Vicky Buchanan: chunky NHS glasses, short black hair (a few fusing into dreads) and those rosy dimpled cheeks of hers.  Then there was the element of fashion, that ever fickle transfiguring phenomenon.  Sure, it was October, so there was nothing abnormal about her winter puffer jacket, bobble hat and scarf, but he’d taken a glance into Vicky’s wardrobe.  All those long velvet gloves hung in her dresser helped to manage her powers better, but there were so many colours and cuts.
“Someone’s grown up, eh?” There she stood, outside the park examining him through the railings, as he examined back.  Her blue gloves wrapped around the black bars.  Suede.  Just begging for an artist to draw them; for a colourist to anoint them with the perfect shade to capture and keep a reader turning pages.  Ten digit iconography in need of a monthly title.  When a superhero customises a tool into their clothing with artistic flair, then they start having fun, he decided, instantly regretting how many nights he’d wished her voice away.  He hiked toward her, unable to conceal his wonderment.  There were so many years to catch up on.  Get with it, he told himself with every step, don’t mention your failing powers – she needs to believe you’re still the man.
 “Is Wiggles O.K?” he paced toward her, “Didn’t look too good in his tank.”
“Wiggles is cool,” replied Vicky, “Just needs feeding, that’s all.  Oh, Reddy!” Vicky reached through frosted park railings, her blue velvet snagging his flaking trench coat. “Reddy, what has he put you through, eh? Fess up.  Spider, you so need to take care of your clothes man.  Seriously, this lady needs some serious tailoring.”
“I’ve never been much of a gentleman.”
“So she says.  This a band?” Vicky dragged at the back of his coat to get a closer look at what she’d seen.
“What are you on about?” He tried to glimpse over his shoulder.
“M.I.N.E” stated Vicky.  A chill went through Spiderfingers as his mind recalled his battle with Mine.  The branding iron, the dildo must have hit me with it.
“Yeah,” he said, pulling away from the youngsters touch, “Mine’s a band.”
“You’re sleeping rough?” He drew his jacket away from Vicky’s gloved fingers.
“Reddy talks too much.” He replied, eyes not quite meeting hers.  He preferred to stare through Vicky’s condensation.
“She knows what to say and when to say it.  Wanna look after that one mister.”
“I think you’ll find you’ve got that the wrong way around.  Wind, rain or shine, she’s the one supposed to be looking out for me.” he placed his hands in his pockets.
“That’s the thing though Spider: it’s always the stuff we take for granted that goes missing.  I’ll give her a stich if you like?”
“No time for that.” He began walking his side of the park-divide.  Vicky followed. 
“Oh, yeah, Mum’s well pissed about the window.  Doesn’t know who or what done it.  Don’t worry, I kept my mouth shut.” She mimicked the locking of her mouth and the chucking away of a key.
“Under no circumstances can you tell her we’ve met.”
“Sure, sure … How’s Granma?”
“Coping.”
“Spider, you can’t stay out here.”
“Reddy,” he said tugging his jacket collar, “you’ve got a big mouth.”
“Er, don’t need superpowers to see you’re homeless.  Spider, they say it’s gonna snow.”
“What is it with the pity? Hello? God walking here?  I’ll be fine, but listen,” he stopped in his tracks, “… when I was in Bellevue I heard – thought I heard … Look, Vicky, have you been calling me?”
“Fuck.”
“I knew it.  I thought I was mad – I mean, not that I cracked, but –”
“– Shit, no …” Vicky looked downcast, her pair of blue suede gloves caressing the metal poles between them, “You thought you’d made me up? Spider, I’m so sorry.”
“It’s all good.” His whole body relaxed so much that he nearly lost his grip on the black folder. “It’s O.K, now I know I’m not going –” he stopped walking as the conclusion swerved into him: Now I know I’m not going crazy, I should head back to Bellevue, right? That’s the right thing to do, right? Or should I –
“Spider?” asked Vicky.
“Sorry, I’m a bit tired … er – yeah – you kept talking to me, saying things were weird at home? You said you might need me to come back?”
“Did I? Don’t remember,” He wanted to question her lie, but he lacked a starting sentence to address any household drama.  Minimal family interference, he promised himself.  After what happened to Nat …
“Tell me about your powers Vicky? How’ve they grown?” He quietly listened as she detailed what he suspected, how they’d become more honed.  Vicky Buchanan a.k.a Object Girl had been able to divine knowledge through touching an object, even dredge up info on its history.  She could ‘ask’ a boot about its past, who had worn it last or specifics of its origin.  Through her unique power-set, Vicky had been instrumental in giving an old master plan stronger legs.  And now her abilities had evolved: she could emit her thoughts through objects and project her inner voice into the minds of others.  Provided she could locate them through a network of inanimate, matter, Vicky B could send a message to anyone, anywhere.
“Spider, if I’d known I was freaking you out –”
“– I didn’t freak out.  I’m fine.” He listened to her talk about experiments with transmitters and custom made receiving beacons. “Bloody hell Vicky, communication out of trinkets?” He took note as she confirmed the inappropriate nature of a young child wielding psychic powers.  She’s compartmentalised her mind in order to defend it, he thought.  No one can talk to objects.  She just uses the talking part as a way of dealing with the trauma.  He adjusted his elaborate scheme accordingly, his fiery locks shining in the fast approaching dark.  He cautioned Vicky on the risks, the penalties of any mistakes and above all, he clarified how much his plot relied on detachment.  He handed her a rip of paper through the metal bars.
“Hey, keep this safe.” Her tentative handling of the scrap alerted him to his rank mouldy vegetable smell.  I’m only thinking about this now? He thought, investigating her fumbling the torn sheet, her fingers ‘listening’ to it, “I remember this place.”
“You ought to.” He replied, “Without you we couldn’t have done any of this, let alone find the right person for the lead role.  I know the plan’s hard-core, but I can’t have last night happen again.  I just can’t.  I mean, after Hollywood ...”
“Hollywood? As in America?” she began stroking the paper in her hands.
“That can wait.  Look, there’s just one itsy-bitsy thing I need, before … Vicky?” Vicky reached into her pocket turning her back on him. “Vicky?” he gripped the metal bars from his side of the park divide, watching over her as she used a tissue to dab nostrils dribbling blood.
“It’s nothing.  A nosebleed is hardly Aronson the Terrible, is it?” she laughed as they recommenced their stroll.  She blew her nose, crumpling up the mess into her pocket.  “So, what’s this itsy-bitsy thing you need?” Her large brown eyes blinked through thick rimmed specs.
Can we go stop someone and see if they can see you? Y’know, just so I’m sure you’re real? Cos I’m seeing things Vicky.  Dark things.  Things that make me wish you were your older and able to take hearing the mad shit I’ve been through.  But how much can I ask of you? I’ve managed to tear your family apart.  Vicky …
“C’mon daydreamer,” Vicky punched him playfully through the metal bars, “what’s up?”
“I need you to make a pinky promise not to tell Florence and Steve about me.”
“Whoa, I’m gonna stop myself from telling you that I’m not a kid, just cos I don’t wanna sound like, er, a kid, O.K?”
“Ouch! Where’s the sweet little girl I used to live with?”
“Mate, she never existed.  I was born with the sass.” They walked in silence a while and he could tell: his words reminded her of his well-being.
“What you’re doing, staying on the streets cos you think you’re dangerous, I get it, but I wish there was somewhere you could stay.”
“The good soldier gives up what is good for them.  The good soldier just remembers what is good for their people’s survival.”
“The money I’d give to be a fly on the wall as you practiced that in the mirror.”
“I ruin lives Vicky, more than I ever, ever did.  Besides, the cold doesn’t affect me, not that much.” he lied.  Bad enough that he’d resurfaced as a down-and-out.  His night time transformation wasn’t something she had to know about, and his depleted superpowers problem could wait.  Street lights flashed into life.  He had to leave.
“Why can’t you stay? If I say I’m fifteen and that you should take me seriously, you’re gonna laugh right?”
“Yup.”
“If I remind you that Boleraam and John Clay merged to form you in nineteen ninety nine, that your basically ten.”
“Eleven, Vicky, going on twelve.”
“Sorry, eleven years old – making you younger than me which means –”
“– Eleven year old gods trump fourteen year old girls every time.  Dems the rules.”
“Fifteen actually … going on sixteen.  You always said superheroes keeping secrets from each other was bad.”
“I said that?” he clutched The Russian Doll Stories folder close to his side. “See you on New Years’ Eve.  Keep the paper, you can’t afford to forget the address.”
“Oooh, tell me a story before you go?”
You gotta tell her a story, he thought, ruffling his baby-dreads.  She loved your stories.
“Herculia is remembered for her completion of the twelve labours, but modern audiences never consider why the Lightening Bearer gave them to her.  Herculia killed her own children in a fit of rage, did you know that?”
“Herculia?”
“You know, Herculia?” he searched her face for a spark of understanding, “Didn’t your parents tell you about the Pseudologoi? Don’t believe that claptrap about Hercules.  He has always been a she.  Surly Florence and Steve –”
“– They don’t talk about you, Spider, not these days.  Sorry.  Tell me more about Herculia?”
He gave her a weary look.
“Or you can explain to me why on earth the Earth Mother – ha! See what I did there? Why on Earth – get it?” Vicky’s been stalling, he thought as she prattled on, “Sorry – I’m your side-kick: bad puns come with the job.  Anyway, why does Gaia care about humans being enslaved by the gods? It’s not like we treat her well, is it?” … Keeping me here, hoping I might wanna talk about a night in the life of a fucked up, desperate … “I mean, it’s a bit suspicious.  How can we be sure it’s the spirit of the world we’ve been talking to all these years?” Vicky’s groping of his coat flashed through his mind. “Hey, look Spider if you don’t wanna talk for a while, that’s cool.  Just wipe that look off your face?  It’s kind of creepy.”
“As creepy as the monster Reddy’s shown you?” he sped into the park, heart racing, self-image thoroughly dented, in need of maintenance.
“It wasn’t Reddy … Spider!” he slowed right down, turning, peering back over the distance he’d covered.   There she stood, waving the ripped page in the air.  His shame subsided along with his anger.  She’s the kid here, he thought, “Show a little fucking maturity.” He mumbled. “See you in two months.” He shouted, turning to recommence his running away. “And don’t forget the Play-Doh.”
“New Year’s Eve though, Spider?  How am I gonna get past mum?”
“You’ll think of something.  And hey, bring your needle and thread.  I’ve got a friend who needs mending.” The wind picked up and the rain began to pitter-patter against him as he bolted, unsure of the damage a piece of ‘talking’ paper could do to his renewed friendship.

When Ungumpo eventually lifted his head out of the pool, he laughed, like a mad man.  His setting swirled in and out of focus.  He sucked at the air, flustered with heat.  So maybe winter had passed now? The village of Po would be waiting for him.  He tried to move away from the tarn, when the old man’s ghost sat up from its sitting place.
“She is still hungry.  I brought you eggs, gave you the gift of battle.  I have given you access to alien stories.  But my pool is still hungry.”
“I must go home.” whimpered Ungumpo. “Po must eat.”
“No.” He lacked the muscle power to resist the sorcerer’s hands as they yanked his hair, leading him steadily into the tarn.  The pool bubbled, as though a great furnace boiled from deep down under. “Great Ungumpo: the only creature that could have defeated me.  Now you’ve no strength to defend your villagers or warn them of my weapon.” Ungumpo thought of his children and all he had not yet taught them.  He thought of his ninth wife’s bloated belly and he cried out as he thought of his village.  The mind-pool had erased all gumption to carry out his blood oath to protect Po.  He could merely let slip the name of the ghost sorcerer that had bested him:
“Aronson?”
The ghost answered with a slow nod.  Poor Ungumpo.  He had let his god down.  It was then that the winds of Un began to blow something atonal, something new.  He couldn’t shut out the wind’s new tune: Chains draw him into the bubbling pool, the darkest mass, the blackest tool.  This song is sung for the people of Po, Blackest black has come for you.
Squatting in her living space, Hara tried to quiet her mind.  The story had been a wild one, and she wasn’t sure if she’d allowed her imagination to dispel any murk.  At any rate, the revelation was a mosaic fit for a god, or at the very least, an information laden majesty for his chief priestess to behold.  If only she could hand it to him. There was no mystery to this fairy-tale, reasoned Hara.  Po is in danger, in need of a champion.
N   E   X   T      T   I   M   E      I    N
S   P   I   D   E   R   F   I   N   G   E   R   S

The tarn in Blackest Black had devoured Ungumpo.  Through booze, the inner self of the world had leached Hara’s lucidity for its own longevity.  How she hated parallels.  No, she thrashed to straighten her thought process, attempting to concentrate through all her medication.  It’s only this one I can’t stand. 

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