All stories copyright xoggoth unless otherwise stated

 

A family affair

She stretched out and turned over. Pale morning light slanting between the curtains illuminated his pale handsome face on the pillow beside her. She rubbed the sleep from her eyes and his face came into focus revealing the dry tracery of fine lines in his skin. Good god, how ancient he looked! She had assumed he was in his late fifties but could he be even older? Her Count Dracula, Chloe called him. Tall, thin, and handsome with thick black hair that belied his age.

So old. It was a family trait, some strange genetic tilt, perhaps. She had never known her father but he too had been a man in late middle age. Her mother was a virgin of barely eighteen when she met him. According to her mother, her grandmother had also fallen pregnant at eighteen by a middle-aged man. Not her. Her first love would be a handsome young man, someone of her own age to grow into life with. Yet here she was in bed, her virginity freshly lost to someone old enough to be her grandfather. Then he woke and touched her and none of it mattered, not really. Old or not, he was devilishly attractive and charming and loving. She loved it when he told her how special she was to him, how long he had waited, just for her.

Six weeks later she found she was pregnant. He told her he was leaving her barely a moment after she told him. He seemed unsurprised. It almost seemed as though he had expected the news and was just waiting around for the formality of hearing it from her. So cold. All the charm and concern, and, she had thought, love, was gone. As if he had never loved her. Not as if. She knew suddenly, he never had. As he turned to walk out of the door she tried desperately "Surely you canít just walk out and never know your child?"

He paused, one thin and pale and long fingered hand on the door. "Know her? You will not see me again but yes, oh yes, one day, one day I will know my daughter". She did not understand. He looked briefly and contemptuously at her tear stained face and with a gesture of annoyance, walked to the dresser and pulled out her motherís stained brown leather photo album. Opened it at a page without looking at the album or even glancing at it and thrust it roughly into her hands. "You see?" The photo showed a family wedding. Her mother, then about her own age in the foreground, in the fashion of the late 80s. She shook her head in bewilderment. "Look closer". Among the people in the background, a tall dark thin middle-aged man that looked like him. She didnít understand. They were related? Her half brother? But how could he have slept with her knowing that? "Related?" She had said nothing but he knew her thoughts. "Oh yes my dear we are related but I am not your half brother. You see, I have had an interest in your family for a very long time. The female side of it anyhow." What was he saying? surely not Her own father? but he looked no different in the photos. He saw the recognition and the bewilderment. "That's right, my love" The last said with contempt. "Your father and the father of your unborn child". The album was snatched from her grasp, opened at another page, again without a glance, before it was thrust roughly back at her. Another family gathering, this time the fashions were of the late 60s. Her grandmother. And in the background a tall dark thin middle aged man.

"And your grandfather. And your great grandfather. And your great-great grandfatherÖ"

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Getting the knack

In "The Call of Cthulhu" the American pulp horror writer H.P. Lovecraft wrote:

"The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents."

Being an HPL fan (as you may have guessed from the xoggoth tag) I hate to contradict the great man, but it might be worse than that. Maybe one's mind does not need to correlate anything. Maybe one does not need to study arcane law as his characters did. Maybe sometimes no effort is required at all. Perhaps it is all down to just how you look at things. Literally.

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He had always been imaginitive as a child, but in the worst possible way.

"You managed to see ghosts and monsters behind every cupboard" his mother had told him, "Just trying to get you off to sleep was a real nightmare. You needed a nightlight until you were ten". What she did not know was that he had needed one long after that. It was only the shame of being ridiculed by a schoolfriend for having it on the wall over his bed that had made him insist he no longer needed it. He must have been at least fourteen before he stopped sleeping with his head under the bedclothes and that was only because thoughts of all those ghosts and monsters had been relegated by the more urgent bedtime thoughts of an adolescent schoolboy.

Even now, a creepy horror film on the TV had him starting the night with his head all but buried under the quilt cover. His mind conjured hideous leering faces from the the swirling patterns of the bathroom tiles. Did any other adults do that? He assumed not but it was hardly the sort of thing he could ask anyone; he would look a fool.

Sitting in the smoking room. "Have you seen these?" A colleague had produced a small book of stereograms. This was about the time they had started to appear in books and he had never seen them before nor even heard of them. No matter how he screwed up his eyes or advanced his nose towards the page, retreated it from the page or looked through the page, he was the only one who could not seem to get the knack of it. All he saw was a mess of small dots. It crossed his mind that it was a joke but nobody seemed amused so he supposed not. Oh well, not being able to see stereograms was not exactly a great handicap.

It was some years later, in a small backstreet second hand booksellers near his hotel, that he had come across a much thicker dog-eared book of stereograms. He was stuck in a small hotel near Cardiff and had to be up early and sober for an important presentation to a prospective client the next day so there was not a lot else to do with his evening. He would master the art of seeing stereograms! He read the tips at the front of the book but it did no good. He looked at every picture, stared at them for over an hour and got nowhere. Waste of time! Next morning, showered and suited, he reached for the open book to put it in his suitcase, glanced at it briefly and there it was! A snowman standing boldy out from the christmas wrapping paper background! The next page, a lion. The next, two runners. He flipped briefly through the rest of the book and he could see every one without effort. Maybe that was the secret, don't try. Let them surprise you.

He was on form and the presentation went rather well. He knew he was through to the next stage of the bidding at least. Only one of the directors noticed his slightly distracted air during drinks after lunch. He apologised. A touch of heartburn. The dining room walls held a number of reproductions of paintings by French artists including Cezanne's "Les baigneurs au repos" Not really his favourite artist or art movement but he glanced at it briefly as he moved away from the drinks table, still talking budgets and support contracts. And almost dropped his drink. He knew the painting slightly, or thought he did. Since when did it have those deformed and rotten figures clutching and heaving at the bathers?, a revolting combination of carnality and putrescence. It looked more like some obscene Bosch painting, the sort the galleries hide from public view in darkened cellars. Saying his goodbyes, he glanced at the painting again. Just scenery and the usual lumpy nudes in the foreground. Maybe he really was overworking recently. His wife was always telling him.

His company got the contract a few weeks later and he went away for a few days with his wife to try and unwind before the hard work really started. They went back to their favourite guest house near Exmoor. It was a romantic return as they had gone there fifteen years earlier soon after they met. This time around and after twelve years of marriage they saw more of the countryide. There was a beautiful spot overlooking the rolling moorland of Dartmoor, one of the few places they had got out of bed for all those years ago. The only place that was almost worth it the wife had said. Sitting on the dry stone wall gazing at the hills, he felt relaxed. Then suddenly it came into focus like an explosion without light or sound. The figures in the painting had been unexpected but they had been unmistakably just paintings in Cezanne's own impressionist and undetailed style, as if the artist had painted them in himself. This thing on Dartmoor was something else. It straddled the entire landscape, covering it and being an intricate part of it at the same time. And it was alive, an immensity of pulsating flesh and malignancy. It was a dam breaking. He saw crawling evil and oozing corruption and obscenity in everything and he could not shut it out. It seemed like he screamed for ever.

It was an unusual case but not unknown, the psychiatrist said. With proper care he should make a full recovery. It seemed to be true. Three months later he came home and despite the drowsiness from the tranquilisers he began to feel a little more like his old self. The world appeared mostly normal again and full of mundane things like cars and televisions and white clouds with little hint of alternative hideous truths. When he did see something others did not, he accepted it and did his relaxation exercises until it went away. After a while it always did. After six months he was off the tranquillisers and thinking about trying to pick up the pieces of his business. The world was back the way it had been.

It took a long time to get his business back on its feet but it was happening. Life was starting to get back on an even course again. He and Gillian had for the first time in months splashed out on some household gadgets including a top of the range sound system to replace their ageing stereo. "Third generation surround sound" the saleman had called it. Whatever the terminology it was amazing quality, when he played his favourite Wagner it was like being right there in the orchestra pit. Amazing that speakers on one side of the room could create this illusion that sound was coming from all around. An illusion. Some tiny edge of panic struck him and he could feel the fear imediately in his stomach like a whole swarm of butterflies. Illusion. What if? No, he would not think it; he was still too fragile. Something beyond himself asked the questions for him. What if illusions are not just visual? What if illusions like the sterogram can encompass all senses? What if they are not the illusions?

And as the opening notes of Siegried hit his ears, just as he had with the stereograms, he got the knack. He got the knack of experiencing everything that none of us are born to experience. With every sense and feeling he suddenly knew all the horror that the universe holds and which has festered within it for ever and that nothing else truly exists. Every form of evil which stretches to infinity and from the beginning to the end of time. All those things that for you and I, so far, have stayed just outside our ability to perceive. He heard the sounds of hell, saw all the terrible never ending ugliness, smelt the burning and foulness and corruption, felt all the pain and fear that has ever been known.

This time, somewhere deep inside, he knew he would never stop screaming.

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Newsletter of the LMGS

My fellow members

Welcome to the 4th quarterly edition of the Lower Malmsly Ghoul Society newsletter.

Well, it scarcely seems like just a year since our society was founded. Hard to recall now that it is only a few short years since our mutual enthusiasm was something we had to keep secret. How is it that an interest shared by so many could have somehow been a taboo for so very long? Like most of you, the only time I could really indulge this great passion of my life was on those rare fortunate occasions when, travelling on the motorway to some dreary family occasion or the like, I was privileged to witness one of those major road accidents that we then had to pretend we found so terrible. Back then we drove past as slowly as we could, hoping to see every morbid detail, while pretending to the world that our tardiness was a concern for safety or perhaps arose out of some sort of respect for those whose lives and/or happiness had been so tragically cut short. Ah! the joy these brief chance occurrences gave to our lives.

Thank god for the Human Rights Act and that historic decision of Lord Keithley in the Jacobs case which paved the way to the enlightened laws we have today. It was the inalienable right of every individual to find pleasure where they could, provided only that no other was placed at a disadvantage. Of course the dying, like Jacobs in that historic decision, will die anyway and there is no true disadvantage. A few emotional types argued that the nearly deceased suffered loss of privacy and dignity perhaps, but the far sighted Keithley dismissed that trifle as a minor thing in the face of an overwhelming public need. The rest as they say is history, which brings us to the fortunate position we enjoy today. That of a thriving and growing society, one of many affiliated societies in the UK at the peak of popularity.

To the present. At our meeting last month we were honoured to have as our guest "departee" Mrs Doreen Williams. In accordance with our rights under the Public Access To Human Expiration Act more than thirty members were able to attend her last moments at the Willows Sanitorium. I know all our members will wish me to extend our heartfelt thanks to Mrs Williams, wherever she may be (if indeed she is anywhere other than in St Judes Cemetery) for a most interesting and stimulating departure. Although Doreen was clearly handicapped by the many tubes and machines to which she was attached, she gave a most stimulating exhibition of shuffling off her mortal coil which should be an inspiration to us all. Our membership clearly appreciated the shear entertainment value of Doreen's evident terror at her imminent demise, despite the tranquilisers she had been given. Thanks are due to the Willows's Dr. Hibert, who is also one of our earliest and most supportive members, for his moderation in this regard. Doreen's evident embarrassment at her olifactorily obvious loss of bowel control, despite her dire condition, was also a great hit with our members. Thanks Doreen!

No "live" performances at next month's meeting I'm afraid, but we do welcome Mr John Maynard who was a UN observer during the recent bloody tribal conflicts in Beninge Masso. Dr Maynard assures us he has some most fascinating photos and even some short video clips, taken at great risk to himself apparently, of the amputations and disembowellings that they do so very well in that part of the world. Members may regret with me that these skills seem to have been lost in our unnatural society.

In closing I would ask you all to remember to sign our petition (sheet attached, please return to our secretary at the address overleaf) for a return of public executions. The prospects for the act passing in the next parliament now look promising but we need your support. Who knows? Perhaps if the enlightened attitude persists in British politics we may see a return to the golden age of punishment in the next ten years. Not just public hangings but burnings at the stake, boilings in oil and hanging, drawing and quartering. A great future awaits and you can be sure that your committee members on the National Ghoul Society will play a full part.

J S Ransock
Secretary
LMGS

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The frozen threat

This one has been contributed by No 1 Son who is rather odd. Not sure where he gets it from. I blame his mother for her lamentable opposition to necessary character-forming cruelty. Spare the sledge hammer and spoil the child, that's what I always say.

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There are many so-called experts who periodically predict threats to our way of life, from planet destroying meteors to global warming. Iím not a professor of anything at a university, but I do believe I have found a catastrophe in the making that appears to have been overlooked by everyone else. The problem lies in cryogenic freezing, which is essentially the removal and freezing of a human head after death, kept in storage in the hope that one day medical technology will be able to thaw it out and re-attach it to a new body, be it a human one or a giant cyborg elephant, I know which I'd prefer.

So here is the problem scenario. A child 2 years of age dies and gets frozen, he may undergo the resurrection process 70 or 80 years later (beating Jesus's resurrection period of a few days well into 2nd place), and be released as the same 2 year old he/she was before death. Age isn't decided by height, appearance or any other anatomical factors, itís decided by paperwork. So now you have a small child released in society with a registered age of over 70. A child that can apply for a driving licence, smoke, drink, have sex and worst of all....draw a pension of 80 pounds a week that he/she has never contributed anything to! The whole world would be turned upside down, elections would be won not on policy or charisma, but on factors like which candidate looks most like a Telly Tubby (hope for Prescott hmmm?:). Paedophiles would need to request ID from children before they conducted their seedy business, just to be sure they're getting the real deal and not someone old enough to be one of their parents.

You would have to conclude from the above that this is very bad for all concerned, except the children in question! Imagine being able to live the high life as soon as you were out of nappies, and being owed decades worth of birthday presents before you were 3. If any of you have children that you really care about and want the best for.....Kill them (with an axe if possible, save on head removal bills at the clinic), they will thank you for it in the end, even though you'll have been dead for 50 years.

Copyright Tim - son of xoggoth

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Your time python

Wouldn't it be annoying if...

...your past really caught up with you. Literally.

Who knows why?, perhaps you buttered your toast in a way that happens just once in any galaxy once in a trillion years.A bit like that mouse setting where the cursor leaves trails on the screen or the time lapse effect they are fond of in commercials where the runner leaves a blur of after images to indicate speed, except that your past selves are an absolutely solid and totally continuous record of all your life in correct relative position to your current self tapering back to an invisible point at conception.

It would look horrible. A sort of grotesque deeply grooved python, with great jutting ridges and flaps, reasonably smooth lengthwise during the times you are resting, a nightmare of spikes and lumps when you were playing tennis. Fortunately, most of it would not be recognisably human except during the odd times you advanced in one direction and then backed up the way you had come, when the python would have a huge excrescence with a person stuck on the end of it. Unfortunately, backing up the way we have come applies to some of the more private activities in life and it would be very embarassing as many of those bedroom and toilet moments would no longer be in private or even in bedrooms or toilets, they might have been demolished years ago. You would have irate people tracking down your python's front end (your current self) raging "Do you know what you are doing in my front room right in front of my telly?"

It could also disrupt the entire world. If you were a well travelled type your python would cross continents, blocking roads, seas and airways. Planes would have to divert to avoid you travelling 25,000 feet up thumbing through that boring BA mag because you arrived too late to buy a paperback at the airport shop. There would be nothing else they could do because, although your previous selves can affect the present and future, the reverse is not true. Your past was what it was. Your python would be entirely invulnerable to chainsaws and even nuclear explosions.

What are the consequences for Newton's laws? How did your previous selves occupy space already occupied by something else? I am still working on these technical points just in case it happens. One thing is sure, the authorities would soon suss that they could not let your python keep on growing. Since you yourself could not go where your past selves had been, only total immobility could stop your python growing.

If your pasts came back to haunt you you would have no future. Be careful how you butter your toast, or indeed how you do anything else today.

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A Christmas Carol in August

They say we journalists have no honour when it comes to a news story but that isn't true because I have kept one of the biggest stories of the decade inside me for nearly six years because of the promise I gave to someone who I had then thought of as a truly great man.

He was more than that; he was an inspiration, a living example of the way that even the worst of men can rise above his own cruel and selfish nature. Now, his state funeral over, I am free to publish and I don't know where to start. I don't even know if I should publish at all because it was not out of honour or respect that I kept my promise, but because I had no wish to destroy that inspiration for the rest of humanity. Should I destroy it now? Perhaps. The reputation of all great men begins to be destroyed sooner or later and maybe that is the natural way. We move on to a new icon who is more in keeping with our times. Listen to my story, or rather, to his story and tell me what you think.

I heard it when I went to interview him at his modest Munich home in the spring of 1959 just after he had turned seventy. Back then I was one of the rising stars in the newspaper business and the literary world. He liked my column and my books, and although I was an Englishman, I was the man he wanted to be his biographer. I sat in his lounge facing him, a seasoned reporter with over five years experience and feeling as nervous as a complete rookie. Here was the longest serving German chancellor, the man who steered his country from near ruin and anarchy into the longest period of peace and prosperity that it had known. A respected artist and writer. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and numerous other honours and awards for his well known efforts on the world scene. Nobody would have believed it just twenty years earlier. You know the story I am sure; everyone knew of the nature of his speeches, the annexation of Sudetanland, the ruthless and brutal nature of his regime there and in Germany. There was violence and intimidation against anyone who dared to disagree, mass rounding up of political opponents, the removal of rights from those with Jewish blood. In that summer of 1939 the German army was amassed on the Polish border and there was hardly anyone who doubted that a major war in Europe, fueled by his lunatic ambitions, was only just round the corner. Suddenly, in late August, it all began to go into reverse and we saw the diplomatic initiatives abroad, the start of democratic reforms at home, the beginnings of a negotiated settlement in Czechoslovakia. In a few short years Germany had became a decent place for everyone and a major force for good in the world.

Why? Many had asked him the same question before and had never had a proper answer. He either ignored the question or gave some vague answer; he had simply awoken one morning and seen the light. And why did he tell me the real story? I am sure it was because it was shortly before he went into hospital. Although he did not say so, I think he was worried that he would not survive the operation and just had to tell somebody. So here it is, from the notes I took that day. The story from that much loved and now greatly missed man, Adolph Hitler.

"It was close to the day we had planned for invasion. We had been finalising our preparations well into the small hours and I was dog-tired. I wasn't sleeping well. Anyone who had mentioned such a thing at the time would have been arrested of course; I was the indomitable Fuhrer. Since the term came into use, some have said I was a psychopath but I suppose even a psychopath will have his anxious moments ahead of such a momentous event. I felt excited and exhilarated too, we were confident of victory, but the excitement was blunted by an odd feeling that something was coming, something fearful that was still just out of sight. There even seemed to be a sort of patch of darkness at the edge of my vision. As I say, I put it down to pre-invasion nerves. When I went to bed that night, I went out like a light and just before dawn the darkness came with a rush. I sat bolt upright and in the slight gray light, a tall thin dark figure stood before me. It said nothing and made no gesture but I knew I had to follow. You do know Dickensís 'A Christmas Carol' I assume? Well in a way it was like that I suppose but nothing in the book would have prepared me for the total reality of the experience. It was more than reality because I saw and felt with abilities well outside my normal senses"

"I saw the Jewish Ghettos that were springing up, by no will of the inhabitants, among our cities. I saw the miserable way they lived. I saw the great queques waiting for passes to enable them to leave Germany and the fear on the faces of those quequing and it seemed I was one of them, that I felt with them. Then I saw ahead in time. You will never believe what might have followed had I continued on my course. We created vast death camps where millions were gassed or exterminated through starvation. It was all my doing" He paused. What he said was probably nonsense of course but who really knows?

"So it was your vision of the suffering of those millions that changed your mind?"

"No, not that. I have never been described as an imaginative man" He looked ruthfully at one of his paintings of Nuremberg on the wall. He was a good but not a great artist. He knew that, what galled him was that one of the few criticisms this much loved man got was that his paintings lacked feeling. He once said he had poured his soul into that picture, it expressed all his passion for his beloved homeland and all the critics ever saw was the slight flatness in the perspective. "Yes I felt for them, we all feel for those who suffer when we can see their suffering, but that faded away in the light of the morning sun and the vision I had. I could no longer see those images in my mind. My vision was for a thousand year Reich, a glorious Aryan wonderland and at the time a few million sub humans seemed a small sacrifice."

"The next visitation came the next night. This time I saw the devastation of Europe. Not details at first. It seemed like some gigantic war game was being played in outline newsreel form except that it was totally real. A newsreAl perhaps" The fuehrer smiled, his love of terrible childish puns was one his endearing characteristics. "Tanks rolling into Poland. Occupation of France and Belgium. An invasion of Russia. The massive destruction of London and Coventry in your own country under the onslaught of the Luftwaffe. Great victories in North Africa. Our enemies being strangled into defeat by our submarines. My heart soared. It was everything I had hoped for. Then I saw the detail, all the millions of dead and felt the agonies of the injured survivors. I saw every one of the burned bodies, the rotting corpses, the devastation and loss of so much that had been once been alive or beautiful"

"So it was more to do with the scale of the havoc that your ideas would reek?"

"Not that either. On the third night I saw the endless destruction again but this time, and I knew it was just a few short years later, it was of Germany and her allies. I saw Dresden in flames consumed by a huge firestorm, a Berlin that was so devastated I could barely recognise it. I saw cities in Japan consumed by an atom bomb, that bomb that only a few countries, including your own, now possess and which, thank god, has never been used. It was the end of all my dreams. In a miserable wasteland surrounded by the Russians the messenger showed me my own end. Just another corpse on a fire"

So that was it. It was not a rediscovered passion for humanity that reformed the Fuhrer, rather just the revelation that his dreams would never come to fruition and would only bring about his own death before his time. Another of my cherished ideals had just died within me. Was any man what they seemed? He must have seen the disappointment in my face. Some need to confess all ahead of what he thought would be his end drove him on to twist the knife a little deeper.

"No, that still isn't the reason. My life must surely have told you that I have never really feared death. You still haven't had the whole story. In my summer Christmas Carol there was one last visitation." The Fuhrer paused for a long time, searching for words, or perhaps trying to raise a memory that was too painful. Abruptly. "You know of Churchill in your country?" It seemed an odd question as Churchill had been a rather obscure man. It was only because of my studies into the life and times of Hitler that I knew that Churchill was a politician who had been one of the few to warn against the Fuhrer but in the end, although Churchill's warnings had appeared to be spot on right up to that summer of 1949, they had turned out to be false predictions. After that and the scandalous revelation that he was being treated for syphilis, like father like son they said, he had retreated into obscurity and drank himself to death a few years later. "The last visitation came on the next night and I saw the future much further ahead. In this vision I saw your Churchill, not as the disgraced politician you know, but as my enemy, the leader of your country and the man who eventually led you to victory over my own. I saw that overweight cigar-smoking man feted by the world. I also saw how everyone had vilified my own name. I saw his amateurish daubs and his pompous books given a respect greater than any of my own attract, even here in this real world. I saw my own paintings buried away in cellars where nobody could ever see them. Worst of all, I was seen as a failure, one who had even contributed to and perhaps even caused the failure of his dreams by an arrogant and amateurish pursuit of the war."

He looked at me and I knew that he was finished. Not even the fear of his own demise then, which was at least human and understandable. His ambition had been something wholly less natural. The usual failing of his kind. "So your reformation, all the good you have done for the world? All that? It was all just about your place in history?"

"Hell, yes" Another of his endearing characteristics was his adoption of John Wayne mannerisms when speaking in English. The Fuhrer paused to light one of the small cheroots he occasionally allowed himself. The shade of his cupped hand fell across his moustacheless upper lip and he peered at me with narrowed eyes. For a brief moment he appeared as evil as he had done all those years ago.

"I'm a politician"

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A Christmas Carol in April

It has been almost twenty years now since he died. I never did publish anything of what he told me. What would be the point? Why destroy peoplesí memories of that miserable little man?

I hated his memory. At first I hated it because this man that I had idolized had revealed himself to me, not as one who had discovered some core of good in himself, but as a vain man who had made a self-seeking decision. Much good had flowed from that decision but I was young and idealistic then and practical outcomes did not seem enough. I have come to despise his memory since for an entirely different reason. But I am jumping ahead.

It was the mid seventies and already I had come to recognise much of my youthful idealism for what it was. Ignorance and naivety. Like many others I was already concerned about the direction that the world and our own country was taking. The way that ordinary people seem to count for so little in an increasingly global world, the one Hitler used to rail against in his unreformed Mein Kampf days. Like many others too, I was concerned about the transformations that immigration was bringing about in our society. Where before I had been a darling of the liberal left, my writings now found most acceptance among the right.

Maybe it was this shift in my own perception that triggered the visitation. For some days I had been strangely anxious but quite unable to find any obvious reason for it. It seemed as though something terrible was about to arrive but I had no idea what. I remembered the Fuhrerís words when the patch of darkness arrived at the edge of my vision but I dismissed it as coincidence or perhaps just some new symptom of the migraine that we both suffered from. I had never believed in the reality of what he told me, that was just the delusion of a man who had brought more pressure on himself than he could handle.

Delusion became fact for me a few days later. I awoke to find the figure at the foot of my bed. Just as Hitler had described, the experiences were not just real, they were more than real. I had no doubt whatever of the truth of what was shown me. I was shown a possible future with my England inhabited by a mongrel breed, a vassal of an international Jewish dictatorship. The next night I was shown the future as it could be if I had the courage to help shape it.

Hitler was a weak and little man. I now know why he was shown those visions of the future his actions would bring. It was not that some foolishly benign force was showing him the human suffering that would flow from his actions. Rather, it was because a wholly more glorious force wanted to deter him by showing him the failure his limited vision would bring about. Germany never stood a real chance of of bringing about Hitler's dreams, not with most of the world, including the rest of the Aryan world, arrayed against it. His incompetent meddling in the conduct of the war only made defeat more certain. After his failure, all those ideals he held so dear in his earlier days would have been covered in ignomony, the Jewish conspiracy would have seen to that, and our cause would have been set back for a hundred years, perhaps destroyed forever.

I know too why that force chose me. Because I was a man who combined vision and practicality and I would not repeat Hitler's mistakes. Instead, I have found common cause with the other white nations and we have gone forward together to start establishing the racially and ideologically pure realms that were always our birthright. We have come a long way together, you and I, since those first steps to take back our own country. Now most of the blacks and the worst of the other inferior races have gone and the few that are left are being rounded up. We have a solution for those. All over the white world those who think like us, in The United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New zealand and Russia, we whites are taking back our lands and our cultures. In a few minutes I shall go out there before the thousands who are cheering for me. Shortly, I will be speaking of my vision for obtaining the living room we need, those wasted lands occupied by sub human breeds. Our forces are poised and ready to go.

We, the united white nations, are a far greater force than Germany ever was alone and we cannot fail. Tomorrow, together with those other white nations, we will begin to build that future. A necessary first step my friend. As I say, I am a practical man but it makes my heart ache that for now we must ally ourselves with those we despise. For now, this must be a white crusade that includes those inferior Slavs and has men visibly tainted by negro blood in our high command. It makes my gut crawl that we must even call the Jews our friends, there are too many who have wormed their way into positions of influence and power in our great nation and we need them. How easily those avaricious worms were brought onside by the cleansing of Palestine and the creation of the tiny Jewish state of Israel. How muted was their indignation about the fate of the Arabs we slaughtered and drove off the land when they themselves bleat so continually about anti-semitism. Is there anything so low as the morals of a Jew?

We must be patient my friend, this great crusade we begin tomorrow is only the start of a great journey and we must compromise to reach our goals. Nothing matters but that glorious future and we must not lose sight of it as that little man Hitler would have done. We must be patient for it may be a decade before we can begin the next great journey, that journey that only you and I and a few others know of and have planned for. To take the great white empire we will have created and to shape it into the true Aryan empire that is our dream. To start to cleanse the Jews and other inferior races, to eliminate those contaminated by impure genes, to breed the pure Aryan men and women who will be our future.

An Aryan realm, an empire that will last a thousand years.

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Dear diaries

Dear diaries number 6 and 14

Don't tell my other diaries, but I went round Bob's house last night to find out why they'd been spying on us all and passing details of my bathroom habits to the FBI. My voices argued bitterly with his for over half an hour but we prevailed in the end, something that would never have happened a year or two ago when he was more like his normal selves. Bob had not been any of his selves for over a year. One of his wife's personalities said he had been behaving strangely, walking confidently in daylight, looking cheerful, talking to people, he had even taken up a hobby. Overwork maybe. It's always the noisy ones you have to look out for. I killed him, or rather Eli did, (yesterday being Tuesday) with one of the firedogs from his living room, the one that barked the most, and smeared his brains over the full length of the kitchen wall. I thought it would help to ward off the alien mind melds; traditional Baco-foil seems to be losing its effectiveness recently. When his wife Hecate/Ruthvenna/Cratorella/Zorastra/HatShepSlut/Mavis came back from the cemetery she approved. "He always was a narrow minded bastard," she hissed "you seem to have broadened it considerably". It was a decent sized kitchen, so I had broadened it by a good 18 feet I'd say.

I declined the cup of tea they offered, as I knew the story with their kids. A pretty common story. Munchies we called 'em, victims of Munchausen Syndrome by proxy. So many kids were Munchies the survival to adulthood was nearly zero and of course the government was very concerned about that as it left so few potential victims for the future. Life expectancy generally was falling at an alarming rate and there was talk of rationing victims. No more than 1 a year had been mooted, with a complete ban on murdering under 16s. It was an alarming prospect. Already, serial killers with a gerontophilic bent found themselves almost victimless. Most of them without the funds to secure the few elderly left had to make do with much younger people with masks on. That new skin shriveling acid was supposed to be quite good, but hell, not my bag really, but so much of the thrill is in the mind I could well understand why that wasn't satisfying.

So anyway, me and Mavis (it was after lunch and HatShepSlut had clocked off) just had some normal sex, taking it in turns to suffocate each other until the other was near death. That was the agreement anyhow but I always cheat as it was Friday and I got a dispensation from god. All of you other bastards who claim to speak to god on Fridays, especially the one that follows Tuesday, are being fooled by minions of the devil, god speaks to me alone on Fridays. So after 5 goes each she never got her next turn. I left her head in the oven. I couldn't find it in Dehlia but Gas Mark 4 seemed about right. Unfortunately, it didn't quite fit in the microwave. What is the point of labour-saving devices if they don't design them properly? Same with shower basins. They say small children can drown in less than two inches of water. Crap! My sister tried for twenty minutes to drown their youngest in the shower last year, had to give up in the end and drive it to the reservoir. The bath was in the grip of satanic forces that day apparently, so was out of action.

Off to work. After washing myself eighteen times and then wrapping my knees in cling film as usual (for a Sunday) I ran for the car. "They" were watching me again but for once I had to grit my teeth and let it go as my shotgun was in for repair. Too much trouble trying to get them with the chainsaw and anyhow it made such a fearful mess of my lawn last time. Note to self: Try luring them onto the rose garden next time, dried blood is supposed to be good for roses and it's very expensive at B&Q. I am the senior nursing manager at the local psychiatric unit. Not well paid (the bastards will pay some day in blood for that, let their guard slip just once) but very fulfilling. It's good to feel you are doing something useful with your life.

We had a really bad case admitted today. If you knew the details, I daresay many of you would wonder how this guy had managed to move around in society for so long without anyone noticing his deviance but I have seen it all before and regrettably it isn't really all that uncommon, especially these days. Something fundamentally rotten in our society in my view. Or the conspiracy. You know to whom, or what, I refer. These abnormal types are often masters at concealing the extent of their deviation and to anyone not skilled in recognising the tell tale signs they can appear totally normal. I knew one of them personally once, not just the straightest chap you could hope to meet but a pillar of society and immensely respected by all who met him. I well remember his entertaining story about burying his wife and kids alive inside some old oil drums in the garden. Everyone does that now I know, yawn!, but back then it was quite novel and he was he first to do it in our little village anyhow. It was all lies as it turned out. His wife had actually run off with a salesman from Cleethorpes, taking the kids with her. When they were all murdered it was miles away and he had nothing to do with it! What a fraud! So when the gnawed remains of their bodies turned up at Mabblethorpe and the Police ran a DNA check on saliva and found it wasn't his, the game was up. Turned out he had not murdered, maimed or even sexually tortured anyone for years. I hesitate to describe what they found when they searched his house. Books like "Principles Of Accounting For Small Companies", The "Readers Digest Book of Home Repairs". You get the picture. As for the images on his PC!! Sunsets over the Taj Mahal, snapshots of his Mother at Land's End. Quite sickening! Not a hint of normality anywhere, not even a dog being kicked to death.

Anyhow, this new case we had in was a similar deviant. We applied the usual remedies, ten hours of ECT, 20 minutes to his forehead and 9 hours 40 minutes to his genitals in accordance with standard medical procedures. (Not in that order of course as we did not wish him to miss out on the fun). Then we ate his liver with baked beans and a nice cup of tea.

It's been a good day all in all.

PS. I will not have you all plotting against me. If I find you have told any of the other diaries about any of this...

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EVIL WORM II - THE MUTANT SLUGS FROM THE FIFTH DIMENSION

This will make even less sense unless you have already read The horrid tale of EVIL WORM
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Oh, it's you. Come in if you must. You want to hear what happened afterwards I suppose, that business with the MUTANT SLUGS. Is that wise? Just how much horror can the normal mind take without being driven to insanity? Come to think of it you should be ok though. If not, well, it isn't as though I like you anyway. Sit down, no, not that chair, it's clean, over there on the log box.

Yes, I suppose it would seem unlikely to you that one tiny vegetable patch should see so much terror. It isn't really, because the events were entirely connected and the terrible sequel came about because of Clarence, the earthworm that grew from EVIL WORM's bum end that had previously wielded the terrible WORMCAST OF DOOM. No, of course he was not more evil and powerful than EVIL WORM. Tchoh!. You are forgetting about the mystical power of seven. Have you ever heard of an eighth son of an eighth son being able to tell the future? Of course not, eighth sons of eighth sons are just as likely to be boring accountants or unimaginitive insurance brokers as anyone else. Here in the UK anyhow. In Azerbaijan, apparently, it is the ninth daughter of the twelth son of the fifth cousin of a man with a club foot who gets the mystical powers. Quite rare as you might imagine. Well, not that all rare, I expect most Azerbaijanis have huge families and severe limb deformities, but unusual enough. What do you mean, that's a racist statement? I am not a racist! I would never dream of singling out any race or nation for adverse comment. ALL foreigners and dusky people have something seriously wrong with them! Can I be more inclusive than that? Can we get on now?

Clarence would not have been the life and soul of your cocktail party but as earthworms go he was really quite amiable and just went about his peaceful business munching earth like any other earthworm. Parted from its satanic master the previously formidable WORMCAST OF DOOM comprised nothing more sinister than nutrient depleted soil with a faintly poohy aroma. Now the serial severings were past the fateful seven, even the nastiness had departed. Clarence was not totally normal though. Let me tell you what happened next.

It was about a week after the happy demise of EVIL WORM from constipation. All the tiny invertebrates from the old vegetable patch had just about got over their traumatic experiences. The free counselling from the "Victims of Satanic Annelids" support group had helped, but small creatures that live a few months, or a year or two at best, tend to MOVE ON WITH THEIR LIVES a lot quicker than humans in any case. But like you, they were terrified that Clarence would take over where EVIL WORM had left off. (Understandable in their case as they are primitive creatures with pinhead sized brains, what's your excuse? Oh, I see!). So they armed themselves with tiny cudgels, worked themselves up into one of those B movie - angry - mob- storming - Frankenstein's - castle sort of group frenzies and rampaged over the vegetable patch looking for Clarence.

Poor old Clarence, he got a right bashing and only just managed to retreat deep into one of his burrows before the stinging wasps arrived in force and put paid to him. He lay in his burrow and nursed his wounds and his greivance. He wasn't too badly hurt but even minor wounds are very embarassing to an earthworm. This is because they are almost entirely composed of horrible gooey stuff which, being under enormous pressure (the internal pressure of a large earthworm is some 2300 psig), tends to squirt out in inordinate amounts through even small abrasions . Rather like being a human teenager but much worse. The more he thought about it the madder he got. It wasn't fair blaming him for EVIL WORM's misdeed's. As he gazed down at his horrible gooeyness he got madder and madder. He would teach them. They had tried to kill him because they thought he would unleash the WORMCAST OF DOOM. Well...that's just what he would do! He would be avenged!

Clarence tried. He concentrated very very hard on his bum end and imagined it unleashing a tidal wave of burning acid. It released some poohy earth. He clenched his sides, strained until the gooey stuff ran in rivers, thought dark thoughts of molten lava and razor blades, and released... a thin trickle of soggy (and poohy) compost. He tried relaxing, he tried chanting, he tried scrunching himself up into a ball and then flinging his rear end out suddenly, he even had a go at cracking it like a bullwhip. Nothing. His bum end just emitted what bum ends emitt the world over, and not even that after it ran out of ammo. It was hopeless. Clarence was very tired after his efforts and his anger had cooled. He nodded off for the last time, thinking he had acheived nothing and that the diabolic power of the WORMCAST OF DOOM must have died with EVIL WORM.

Not so, as anyone with even the tiniest smattering of knowledge about maleficent bumholes would know. Do they teach nothing in schools these days?. Clarence's bum end performed nothing more than its natural task because poor old simple soil-eating Clarence did not have sufficient evil knowledge to control it. But the power was there, once you have evil of that magnitude lodged up your bottom nothing is going to remove it, not even the finest Vindaloo from the Kuma Montaz Pak in Wapping. His efforts had not been entirely without result. The dreaded WORMCAST OF DOOM was like the centre of a giantic spider web with strands to other "Earths" in many dimensions from which it stole its power. EVIL WORM had known how to channel and control this power. Poor old Clarence knew nothing, his best efforts had twanged the web slightly and briefly opened a few random portals to some of the nearer dimensions. As any fool surely knows there isn't much power to be had from these, it's the ones with the biggest serial numbers that have the greatest potential difference compared with our own. An inhabitant of reasonable size in any of these dimensions right next to one of the portals that Clarence briefly created would have noticed little more than a sudden chill and a brief dimming of the light.

In the first dimension (we are dimension 0 obviously) they would not have been bothered. First dimension inhabitants are very very laid back. In fact so laid back that they never do anything at all worth speaking of. A typical day for a first dimension inhabitant is to get up, scratch several of its bellies, (a different selection every day, that is one of the few things they are picky about) eat its cornflakes and go back to bed. It's a damn good thing that cornflakes grow naturally in that dimension and hop into bowls of milk by themselves or they would all starve to death. They might have got a little miffed in the seventh dimension. You can tell when a seventh dimension inhabitant is miffed because its recycle rate speeds up. Some scientists believe that aeons ago they were much like us but then they started recycling and took to it with such green fervour that it became the purpose and way of life and eventually became life itself. I'm trying to put it as delicately as I can - they recycle EVERYTHING in the most direct way possible. Oh for heavens sake, what do you mean, what do I mean? I mean, every orifice on a fifth dimension inhabitant that is used for output is connected directly to another orifice used for input. No it doesn't violate the laws of conservation of mass, not there anyhow, as they repealed all the laws of conservation a million years ago. Their weekly bills at Tescos are way down on ours I can tell you.

And then there was the fateful fifth dimension. For all its political failures the fifth dimension is really not very sinister and, had it not been for the VORTICES OF MINNNGE, the little vegetable patch would have been quite safe. I am jumping ahead here. In the fifth dimension the inhabitants are fervent socialists. Like human socialists they believe in fairness and equality and would be totally opposed to the idea that any individual should personally benefit from some chance accident of birth such as bigger teeth or longer legs. Unlike humans who came to this lunatic philosophy late in evolution, the fifth dimension inhabitants discovered socialism not long after emerging from the primal soup. Since a competitive advantage shared is not a competitive advantage at all, evolution in the fifth dimension had halted almost entirely. Although life first appeared there many hundreds of billions of years before it did in our own world, its inhabitants have not yet managed to evolve beyond tiny crawling black blobs. For want of a better term, I have called them slugs after the familar creatures they most resemble, although they are a lot smaller.

Some of these little slugs had been attending a gay and lesbian disability awareness meeting right next to one of the portals that Clarence opened. As I said earlier, the portal would have been a pathetic affair compared to one EVIL WORM would have created, but the fifth dimensional slugs were tiny and during the few seconds it was open, a couple were sucked into it due to the pressure difference between their world and ours. The term wormhole was very apt in this instance as it twisted through time and space before dovetailing seemlessly into Clarence's real life wormhole. The little leftie slugs gazed in dismay around this gloomy miserable composty tunnel and at the oozy pink monster it contained. Being the typically cowardly little GAY COMMIE PINKO things they were they would have been terrified. By the time they had recovered from their disorientation the wormhole, i.e. the interdimensional one, had closed and they fled, albeit in a very slow sort of flight, in panic along the wormhole, i.e. the earthworm-made one, to the far end, where they huddled together miserably expecting that the long gooey monster would come along and eat them at any minute.

And there, in the normal way of things, those little TROSKIEST AGITATOR POOF slugs would eventually have died of starvation. Good riddance too, the ghastly MAOIST QUEER LEFTY little bastards. But by a rare quirk of fate the wormhole (i.e. the interdimensional one) had happened to snake its way through the top corner of the VORTICES OF MINNNGE in the farthest flung reaches of the galaxy, close to where where god (the proper Christian white one) puts his bins out and where the mysterious JOHNWAYNE radiation is at its strongest and deadliest. There is nothing known that can resist its penetration and a couple of little RED FAGGOT slugs had no chance. In the few milliseconds it took for them to pass through the vortices they received 50,000 times the usual lifetime exposure of those rugged individualism rays. By the time they reached Clarence's hole the changes had aleady begun deep in their DNA and 800 billion years of raw red-in-tooth-and-claw evolution that had been so lamentably repressed by the DEAD HAND OF SOCIALISM began to flower with a vengeance. Their mans-gotta-do-wotta-mans-gotta-do-1-2-rivoflavinic acid began to form a complex helix with their amino-d-stand-on-your-own-two-feet peptides and dog-eat-dog glycerides. Emerging normantebbit nucleic acids began to create unbreakable bonds with ronaldreagan proteins. Strange alien thoughts of strike breaking and making a fast buck and screwing the scum-sucking lower orders began to fill their tiny heads. Their little bodies began to expand and grow in complexity. Bewildering varieties of appendages and organs - tentacles, beaks, claws, spikes, suckers, poison fangs and many other things grew from them and were immediately re-absorbed as their tiny frames tried to run through billions of years of adaptation in a few hours. Strangely, it was at 10.30 the next morning, the exact same time when a chance thrust of the old gardener's spade had created EVIL WORM, that the greatly swollen MUTANT SLUGS burst forth from their underground lair onto the vegetable patch. Poor old Clarence had already been well digested as had much of the surrounding earth and all the other life it had held but they were still hungry.

After millions of genetic experiments their DNA had returned to its roots and decided that, with a few adjustments, the slug shape and means of locomotion was actually very efficient. (Just as ours will one day - it has already made a start with John Prescot). Although they were vastly more advanced, the MUTANT SLUGS still looked superficially much like large Earth slugs, although there were many visible differences for any who dared to investigate more closely. Have you ever wondered why our slugs and snails move so slowly? It's obvious really, their speed has to be matched to the rate they can produce slime to slide on. If they try to go any faster the poor little sods sandpaper their tums something horrible on rough surfaces. The MS had solved this problem, they could squirt out graphite-enriched slime at up to 0.5 gallons per minute that would lubricate their course even at great speed. A MS could accelerate from 0 to 60 in 6.5 seconds and had a top speed of almost 85 mph. Naturally, to produce this amount of slime, they had to ingest large volumes of food. Here their DNA had taken its inspiration from Clarence. Earthworms do not waste energy chasing down individual prey, rather they simply munch their way indiscriminately through their environment and let their digestive tract extract the goodness at its leisure. So with the MS but they did not eat just earth, oh no. They ate everything.

Just a few of the numerous tiny inhabitants of the compost heap had a glimpse of their doom as a slight sheen on the surrounding vegetation and a gossamer thin film in the air but by then it was too late, the MUTANT SLUG had them enveloped. The living net, a single cell in thickness but immensely strong, started to contract and it was all over. Soon the powerful digestive juices had extracted every ounce of nutrients from the compost heap and every living thing it contained - weeds, ivy, worms, woodlice, centipedes, beetles, spiders, frogs, slow worms - even an unfortunate nest of baby rats. And this takes us to other adaptations the MS had that no Earthly creature has ever evolved - they could digest food and convert it into body tissue with astonishing speed and efficiency and their growth was limited only by their food intake. The MS excreted a huge ball about half the size of the compost heap and its own size was now that of a large slug plus almost half a compost heap. Meanwhile, the other one had eaten the garden shed and the old gardener's hover mower. There wasn't very much nutrition in either of those but after a long struggle (excreting a largely undigested lawn mower is bloody painful, believe me, I know!) even that was the size of a small cat.

By noon, doom had come to the entire vegetable garden and all its tiny inhabitants save only a few who had escaped through the hedge to the woodland behind. It was now a desert devoid of any life. In the middle, having a brief kip after their efforts were the grotesque MUTANT SLUGS, about 190 lbs each of black sliminess. MUTANT SLUGS don't need much sleep either and given another twenty minutes their depredation would have continued. The more they ate, the bigger they grew and the bigger they grew the more they ate. Had they been allowed to continue in this exponential vain, all life on dry land would have been consumed within 15 months, or to be exact, 436 days, 4 hours and twenty nine minutes and at the end of that time the mutant slugs would each have been the size of 2,603 Everests. The horror would have ended soon after as they would have died of starvation, having nothing left to eat but rock, each other and billions of tons of MUTANT SLUG poo, but this would have been small consolation to all the former land dwelling flora and fauna of Earth, I think you will agree.

Indirectly, it was the old gardener who saved the day again, although it was a great tragedy that he was too late to save the tiny invertebrates of the vegetable garden this time around. I am really still rather upset about that. Well, yes, he did save humanity I suppose, but that's not much of a consolation in my view. Did you know that over 99% of humanity are BLOODY FOREIGNERS in any case? More importantly though, he saved all the little several-legged or no-legged creatures in gardens throughout the world. Nice they are, not like people, millipedes don't run off with the bloody washing machine repair man like my wife did or give one the sack for a few unfortunate misunderstandings over internet usage. LOLITA is an acronym for Large-scale, Object-based, Linguistic Interactor, Translator and Analyser - look it up on the net yourself. I thought it looked just the approach the client needed, hardly my fault the bloody internet cache stored a few inappropriate images found by accident was it? Must have been a computer virus that put them on the CD. Yes, sorry, off topic again, where were we this time? Oh, yes, the gardener. The old chap was frail but no coward and had distinguished himself in three world wars and killed loads of KRAUTS and JAPS and other nasty greasy foreign sorts, but I doubt even he would have tackled the MUTANT SLUGS had he appreciated the full horror of them. When he saw that his beloved veggie patch had been decimated and that someone had apparently left two damn great slimy black sacks in the middle of it, he just assumed his scummy neighbours on the North side were trying to steal his vegetables again.

It was too much! The old chap was livid!. Mr Scum-to-the-North happened to be in his garden at the time playing with his grandchildren when a half used pack of Homebase Bone Meal hurtled over the hedge and hit him right in the mouth. Retaliation was not long in coming. There wasn't much else immediately to hand on Mr Scum's manicured lawn and his fury was too urgent for delay. He was a big man. The smaller and uglier of the two grandchildren flew over the hedge, missing our old war hero by a foot and landing plumb in the middle of the nearest MUTANT SLUG where she immediately sank without trace. Her name was Jessica by the way, I always think horrible fates are so much more fun when you know the victim's name, don't you? The MS woke up, shuddered briefly, spat out clothes, bones, NHS glasses and a mouthbrace and was instantly bigger by almost a full small ugly child increment. The old gardener was even more livid than he was when I said he was livid a moment ago( I have mislaid my Thesaurus) and did not notice. Over the hedge went the plastic watering can, right through a pane of Mr Scum's greenhouse. Back came the retaliatory strike in the form of the second grandchild, missing the old chap by a bare few inches this time, plop into the other MS. The MUTANT SLUGS were ecstatic; everything in this marvellous new world was just getting better and better, now it was raining delicious ready meals that tasted even better than insects, vegetables and compost heaps. They reared up ready to catch any more of this manna that came their way. Our old war hero was in great danger but the STALE OLD PERSON smell of the octagenarian put them off while there was more tasty fare to be had. His hearing not being what it used to be and he had not noticed they were right behind him. (The DEAF OLD TWAT)

Mr Scum had run out of young relatives and had decided on more direct action in the form of a good slapping. He charged towards the hedge and began to force his way through the Leylaandi. The old gardener was begining to regret his hasty action, but in true Desert Rat spirit he gripped his rake and prepared to defend his life in exactly the same way as, half a century earlier, he had faced the guns of Rommel. He had pissed and shat himself then too. Mr Scum freed himself from the broken stems of the hedge and took two steps towards the SILLY OLD FART. He stopped and his face froze in an attitude of terror at the sight of the two monstrous black creatures behind him. Hideous black ridges and flaps dripping with grey-green slime covered the creatures and gigantic maws seething with needle teeth opened and shut expectantly. Hanging from a corner of one maw was Jessica's half digested slime covered skull with a few bits of face still stuck to it. She looked nearly as ugly as she had when she was alive. The old man felt as proud as punch when his bully neighbour turned and began to frantically fight his way back through the hedge. He must still cut a fearsome figure! (SENILE OLD GOAT) Mr Scum had no chance, the MUTANT SLUGS were on him in an instant. When the old gardener saw his neighbour disappearing into these hideous creatures his limbs went weak and he sat down with a thump on his skinny bottom.

It was a million to one chance. He never even noticed it but he had sat on a tiny pink blob half buried in the slimy soil. It was the rear end of Clarence, and therefore also the rear end of EVIL WORM. Nothing in the universe could digest that and one of the MS had spat it out, it gave it heartburn. The old gardener's skinny and poohy old rear end thumping onto that tiny rear end did what Clarence had failed to do; it triggered the WORMCAST OF DOOM and opened a portal to dimension 4,867. That dimension is regrettably limp-wristed I'm afraid to say. This time it was the POLITICALCORRECTNESS radiation that bathed our slimy black villians. Once more their immature and sensitised DNA began to change. Strange contradictory thoughts again crowded their tiny brains. Everybody knew that crime was due to poverty and lack of education. On the other hand, poor uneducated immigrants ENRICHED our society and were NEVER criminals. These same paragons, despite lower pay and poorer health than average and financial support for families abroad, nevertheless managed to defy the laws of mathematics and raise the standard of living for all of us while simultaneously paying for our future pensions. Asylum seekers were all genuinely fleeing state oppression. It was just bad luck that they all mislaid any documents that might tend to prove this just before applying for asylum. Everybody had a right to their own culture and to determine their own futures but white British people were racist and xenophobic to want such things. What was wrong with our society was a lack of democracy and the best way to ensure proper democracy was to appoint lots more tiers of politicians to tell people what it was correct to think and do while handing all real power to an unelected body in Brussels. Their brains started to make no logical sense at all and very soon their bodies, right down to cellular and then nuclear level, followed suit. When nothing in your body makes any sense you cannot survive for too long. The poor MUTANT SLUGS writhed in their agony and slowly the little solidity they had began to vanish.

Barely an hour later, the sun shone on puddles of formless jelly with no power over anything. The MUTANT SLUGS had become LIBERAL DEMOCRATS. Soon they would dry out in the August heat and be blown away in the gentle breeze. That particular threat to our dimension was over. The old gardener? He didn't survive as he was sat right on the WORMCAST OF DOOM and got the full force of some deadly but short range radiation from another dimension, probably 890,134,505. Look on the bright side. The old chap had been waiting for a prostate operation for over nine months. It was just a little vigorous that's all, removed his inflamed prostate right up to his forehead. Good value if you ask me. Mr Scum? Who cares about neighbours? If you really must know, everthing of him, with the exception of his right knee, got thoroughly digested before the MUTANT SLUGS were halted. Once the knee had become a little ripe it attracted the attention of his Great Dane, Lucy, who had gone hungry for three days. Lucy pushed her way through the hedge and ate it. There was so little left of any of them that nobody ever knew what became of the old gardener, Mr Scum, or his grandchildren. For a few days the mystery was in the news but it was soon displaced by the latest tale of a celebrity who was found to have 36 dead schoolchildren in his swimming pool. Well, it was news as he did not have a licence apparently.

What did I mean by what? Oh when I said that particular threat to our dimension. Well of course there was yet to be the problem of the SPIDER WEB THAT CAUGHT NO FLIES but that's another story. Can you get out now please? you are starting to smell up the place and I have to catch my dinner before it gets dark.

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Adam (contributed by Trinity)

This story had been contributed by Trinity. As you can see, the woman is quite depraved. What's a vibrator???

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She still couldnít believe she had got away with it.

All that damn stupid security and she had got through it with a six-foot trunk so easily. Mind, it hadnít been easy using the lifter to get it in the trailer. She had watched it used so many times over and over again but when it was time for her to engage it, her hands had shaken so much and her brain had been so frozen with fear of discovery that it had taken far longer than she had anticipated.

She had driven past the security guards with a wave of the hand and a smile. They were used to seeing her there. She was the chief designer at Cybernetics Inc. Security class A1, but that did not give her permission to take the main project out of the complex. Oh no! It certainly did not. Her employment with the company was now hanging on a very thin wire. "Well, to hell with them" she thought, ĎI have given my very whole for those assholesí. And she drove on into the night putting her foot down on the gas pedal, delicious anticipation filled her very soul and her senses tingled expectantly. As she neared the house she pressed the button for the electronic garage door to open. The house looked warm and bright as she approached and the car slid quietly into the safe little haven. The doors shut effortlessly behind her. She was home. Once the trailer gates were opened she unlocked the metal trunk and stood back to view the contents inside.

She drew a deep breath as she always did when she saw him for the first time in the day. They had named him Adam, from Adam and Eve theory. Adam was Janeís project. The first android build to satisfy womenís sexual needs. Jane had worked on Adam for the last five years and was pleased with what she had designed. Gradually the mannequin had been built and perfected to her highest classification. She had hovered over him like a mother hen. She was a bitch to work for; expected 110% and was driven by this project. Some say she was obsessed. Others said she was a lonely woman who had nothing else in her life.

Who cared what they said, she had become enamoured with Adam. She would stand and watch him for hours. Feel his arms and chest. Run her hands down his tight strong legs and when she thought absolutely no one was watching , she would examine his penis, letting her fingers linger over each and every wrinkle. Seeing the skin go taunt and flaccid again, marvel at its perfection. It was so damn real, so special. And now at the moment of testing they were going to bring in some Sheep for AdamÖ she was appalled. It brought a whole new meaning to the word Laboratory Animal.

No, her Adam was not going to be used in this way. It was obscene and indecent. She gently and deftly removed the tiny control panel from behind Adams right ear and inserted the tiny electrode. Replaced the panel, and held her breath. ĎHello Janeí Adam seemed to jump alive. His first few movements were slightly jerky but it soon settled. She felt his head with both hands and inspected his face. Yes it all seemed to be working. Damn he felt so real, he was even warming up. He stared at her and looked into her eyes. "My, you look beautiful tonight Jane". She took his hand and beckoned him out of the garage and up the pine stairs to her house. She felt like she was floating. She was so excited she could hardly breath, her heart seemed to be thumping out of her chest. At the top of the stairs Adam stopped and took Janeís face in his hands. "may I kiss you Jane?" He gently pulled her face towards hers and took her soft lips onto his own. Jane felt on fire. Her vagina seemed to have come alive and was thumping and bumping. As he pulled her closer she felt his penis bulge. She remembered that any contact with the lips or penis i.e.; stroking or touching caused Adam to have an erection. She pulled away and led him to the sofa. Adam was in love mode now and he was hot. His aim was to remove her clothes and pleasure her. His prime directive was to fuck, and fucking was what he was going to do. Janeís dress slid off easily and underneath she was naked.

Adam took her breasts in his mouth and kissed and caressed them until Jane moaned and shouted with frustration. She wanted sex and she wanted it now. Adam gently pushed her to the floor and Jane guided him inside of her. At the moment of penetration Jane felt that the earth had given way and she was in heaven. Everything except Adams delicious cock and luscious mouth didnít matter anymore. She was complete. Adam was in full love mode now. He pumped and rocked contently. This was what he was built for; this was his prime directive. This was his life. After what seemed a very long time and after several orgasms Jane asked Adam to slow down, take his time, but the Adam Android didnít respond. His face was set in one expression, that of lust and enjoyment. For a while Jane got back in the groove, then she began to worry a little, She tried again to stop him, but it was futile. The Adam Love android seemed unable to stop he didnít want to stop. This was why he was here. This was his aim. He continued on and on and on. Jane began to cry and shout, after a few hours she blacked out.

They found her three days later. There had been a major alert when they found the Android missing and when Jane also went missing the state police were sent to her home. The scene was one that shocked the poor young 23-year-old officer into needing counselling. The android was lying on top of the now well dead Jane. He was short circuited by over exposure to sex.

The headlines screamed ĎWoman fucked to death by machineí There was a huge outcry about misuse of public money for such research. Cybernetics Inc went into liquidation. But the research went on underground for many years afterwards. I believe there are many of the Adam Love bots infiltrating our society at present.

Beware women, vibrators are a much safer option.


Copyright Trinity

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Outside the walls

This story had been contributed by Trinity.

It needs no paragraphs. For once I have no stupid comments to make.

************************************************************

Once Long Ago there lived a girl She was a happy friendly girl with lots of friends and seemed to have a full and contented life. One day she came across a Castle. She had never noticed it before. It stood tall and proud. It was beautiful with magical turrets and a wonderful wooden drawbridge. She didnít know why she hadnít noticed it before. She went back to her home but it seemed so insignificant and small now she had seen the castle. She began to visit the castle every day sometimes two or three times. She would sit on the banks of the huge moat and talk to the walls. She dreamt that they spoke back to her, wonderful warm words of love and security and of a world she never knew existed. Then one day something magical happened. She was standing By the drawbridge when it suddenly dropped. She walked inside with nervous excitement. Inside was everything she had ever dreamed of. She forgot all her worries and problems and felt happiness like never before and security and peace. It felt like it was meant to be, like she was meant to stay there all her life. But it could not be. The powers of the land only let her stay a very short while and she had to leave. She cried for days, even weeks when on her own. She wanted to return inside the castle walls, but the drawbridge wouldnít drop down again. She worried and fretted and thought hard. Maybe if she gave it gifts it would see how much she loved it and let her in. So everyday she would come to the walls and throw gifts over the turrets. The castle seemed to like them, it made encouraging noises and she felt overjoyed. The gifts became more and more elaborate and expensive. The castle fretted but she was still encouraged. She would listen for a need, a book, it needed a book and she would scurry off. Nothing else mattered except finding the right book for the castle. Her whole essence would be consumed into finding just the right thing. Often the gift was not appreciated and she would feel hurt and rejected, but after a day of misery she would see the beautiful walls again and, nothing else mattered. She brushed the rejection away and started again. After all this was her life and if she didnít get to live in that castle then, life was not worth living any more. The gifts turned into money. She heard that the castle was expensive to keep so she started to send money, not huge amounts as that would have been impossible but enough so as her own life became meagre and poor. Then on one such visit she heard the drawbridge lower and saw to her horror another being allowed in his walls. She was destroyed, but the castle whispered to her that it liked her still and to keep sending the gifts and this Ďotherí was only a play friend. She fretted over it and was wildly jealous, but she loved the castle so much that she would have forgiven anything at all, and so she kept on. She KNEW that one day the castle would realise that it was foolish and open its bridge for her alone and her life would be complete and happy forever and ever. Her life in her meagre home was suffering and money was tight. She needed to move home and still see the castle so she borrowed money, money that wasnít hers to keep. She knew it was wrong and she felt she should burn in hell for what she had done, but she couldnít help herself. She was all consumed and all infatuated with the beautiful Castle of her dreams. Sixteen months later, is a sad scene. The girl still sits by the castle walls, but now out of habit more than anything else. She fears the drawbridge has seized with rust and will never come down for her. She thought about swimming the moat but it's full of crocodiles and sharks. She would certainly die if she did that. So that would be the final act. She always had that to fall back to. She knows in her mind that she has no hope of ever living in that castle. But her heart wonít let her depart. Her heart is broken into a million pieces and emptiness is left and confusion and apathy. What is to become of her? Without the castle to dream about all seems so grey and misty and unsure. So she continues to sit on the banks of the moat. She stares up at the sky and cries and cries until there are no tears left.

Copyright Trinity

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Proceedings of the Westheath Branch of SBA

Hello, my name is Ahmed and I'm a suicide bombe

Hello, my name is Nasim and I'm a sui

Hello, my name is Karim an

From the monthly newletter of the Westheath Branch of Suicide Bombers Anonymyous. Will all members please refrain from blowing themselves up at the weekly meetings. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find suitable venues for our meets.

Hello, my name is Muhammed and I'm a s

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A chaotic end at the Blackpool conference

The peeling sign on the drab little building said "The Hurricane Foundation" It was funded in a small way by various companies looking for tax offsets and therefore indirectly by taxpayers' money, and in a rather larger way by a Columbian drug cartel as means of laundering money, although none of the handful of worthy geeks who worked there knew anything about that. Some of the small number of souls who ventured down the small cul-de-sac wondered what it did. Some of those assumed and questioned briefly why anyone would research hurricanes in a small trading estate at the edge of a small town in Berkshire.

Its sponsors were mainly interested in what it really did and didn't really care too much what it ostensibly did, although it had to look convincing. The research was therefore well funded and organised and taken deadly seriously by the eight staff that worked there and the geeks in the labs were five of the brightest misfits that UK universities could produce.

Being largely devoid of any human charm that could appeal to others, the geeks hung out together. They had common interests in cars, online gaming, porn and politics. Or rather the absence of politics; our geeks were all fervent anarchists. Like many who are both practical and intelligent but entirely powerless and lacking in influence, they resented what they saw as the control of their lives by those of inferior intellect and the donation of the fruits of their industry and abilities to those who neither exercised the first nor possessed the second. Most of all, as all of us of sound mind do, they hated HIM. The one who is never off our screens with his pointless charming soundbites and his half thought out philosophies that are never taken to the realistic conclusions before being acted upon and his endlessly floated impractical initiatives and his moral crusades that cost so much to the donor and do so very little for the supposed recipients.

Their research was about the practical applications of chaos theory and the name on the peeling sign was from that well known idea about the flap of a butterfly's wings triggering a hurricane on the other side of the world. The specific area of research at the present time, for no better reason than because it sounded worthy to the shadowy backers, was application of chaos theory to spread of contagious diseases in human populations.

As the geeks got tired of pointing out to their very few other friends and acquaintances who learned of their occupation, one hardly needed to be an expert to realise that the old butterfly/hurricane saw was at best an impractical concept. If it was indeed true that the minute air disturbances from the wings could have an effect around the world, it was equally true that the disturbances of a piece of paper falling off a desk somewhere else could have an effect preventing the hurricane or countering the tiny perterbations from those tiny wings long before they even got near the hurricane site. There is no such thing as "almost infinite" but the limited human mind would perceive it as that - a near infinity of events with equal or greater influence so that no single one could ever be isolated as a determinant of another, yet alone controlled to create it. All chaos theory really was was a mathematical method of understanding apparently random events which were related at the micro level.

At least that was what they had thought back in those early days. These guys were very very bright but it has to be said it was perhaps just a leap of imagination, perhaps a half remembered dream, by the dimmest of them, George, that took them on to the realisation. It helped too that they had just started to lease time on one of the new and still rare super nano-computers. The annual leasing charge paid to a company in Miami was satifyingly large for their backer's purpose but to our naive and spotty geeks it was the astonishing simulation power handed to them that mattered.

George's realisation had been a simple one. Most of the disturbance of those tiny wings had been lost in the noise by the time it reached the other side of the world, but it was still finite. Yes, it was true that for every tiny effect, the fluttering of those bright wings for example, there were an unimaginable number of other random effects that would counter or nullify it. But each of those effects would also counter each other, meaning that the effects of all them together were essentially not much more than neutral. What if you could introduce a pattern into several selected events that would introduce a bias? Further, what if by choice of those effects in the immediate locality you could act both to neutralise the damping events and augment the reinforcing events creating a chaotic event amplifier? What if, with only a broad mathematical knowledge of chaos theory and without having a detailed knowledge of any of those "nearly infinite" sequences of events, you could somehow select the events so they would propogate and grow and spread to acheive a desired result. In short, was it perhaps possible to build a chaos amplifier and link it to a chaos transmitter?

It took them over a year of hard work, both their own time and the foundation's time; work which they had no trouble disguising as research on transmission of diseases as their backers could not understand the difference. They spent impossibly long hours on it but our geeks had very little else in their lives but their maths, each other's company and their increasingly bizarre hatred of authority. George's theory was sound. They discovered that not only could the amplifier and the transmitter be created by a carefully timed combination of trivial events in one locality but that they could even focus the chaos result in space and time with precision. Better still, the desired event could be switched on or off by one single causative event in the chain and this event could be one local to the site of the desired result. The maths was stupefyingly complex but the conclusions and the methods were simple.

It was the last day of the Labour Party conference and the PM mounted the podium to loud applause. The security at every event involving the PM was intense. Every hotel he stayed in and every conference room he went near had been thoroughly searched. Every delegate at the conference has been checked out beforehand to obtain a pass and they were still searched on entry to the hall. Every road he travelled on had been cleared, every manhole sealed and every vantage point overlooking his route monitored. He was totally secure and any terrorist would have had to be mad to even go near the place.

Two hundred and fifty miles away. George got up from his seat where he had been watching the news. He took the broom out of the kitchen cupboard and dropped it on the tiled flooring. In the next room Joseph started the stopwatch when he heard the clatter. When it reached 68 seconds he lifted the vase and tossed it against the wall. Shortly afterwards Sue gently kicked the armchair and then went over to the light switch. She flicked it on and off on a count of 27. Just down the road, Kieran slammed the front door. Standing on the steps of the public library a hundred yards away, Reg dropped the tissue. It was done. There was a sudden slight murmour of wind that scattered the litter of wrappers outside the McDonalds and then it was gone.

When the conference ended it had been a resounding success for the PM personally. As usual, his enormous charm and eloquence had triumphed over the emptiness of his promises. Many in the army of newshounds believed his troubles were behind him. An hour later, the PM, flanked by security gaurds, started quickly down the back steps of the conference centre to the waiting armoured limousine. He was ecstatic at the success, of the conference, and especially of his final rousing speech to the party faithful. The PM looked towards the small selected group of reporters, paused and waved. His mouth opened in that well known flash of straight white teeth and for once his grin was sincere.

It was an inevitable event and it was what George called "the enabler". High up above the road, out of an almost still sky, a sudden squall of immense power struck the cracked chimney stack of the Armada Conference Centre and 3 tons of victorian masonry began its brief and rapid descent.

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The path to heaven

He turned to god after the death of his beloved wife. He was only 25 and embraced his faith eagerly.

His new found religion was his consolation in the dark days that followed his loss. The only thing that stopped him following her by his own hand was his knowledge that some day he would see her again and in a far better place. Knowledge or hope? As his loss receeded he realised that his failure to follow her had been more about doubt. He was just one of the many who, in times of despair, had cried "Help me god and I will believe" and who forget their promises when life improves. He tried to enforce his faith with prayer and mediation and devotion, to truly believe in god. Whatever he did, he could never wholly shake off those doubts.

Another thought haunted him. What was it for, this faith he so desired? He tried to be honest to himself. Because he wanted a place in heaven, he wanted to see his wife again. It was all about his desires and needs. His faith, shaky as it was, was about nothing but serving his own ends. He directed his mediation and prayer towards finding a love of god without thought of his own rewards. His failure seemed even greater in this area. There seemed to be times when he was coming close. Then those others when his whole thoughts seemed to be of his own eternity in paradise.

There were those few times too when he felt confident and strong in his faith and it was at those times that he sometimes felt contempt for those who had none or who followed the superstitious beliefs of other religions. He knew it was not his place to judge, that judgement was for god alone when the time came. He could only try to guide. Yet there were times when he caught himself feeling triumphant at the fate their own willfulness or venality would bring down on them.

Perhaps that did not matter so much. Jesus has required him to love his fellow man. Maybe his doubts and poor character would be forgiven him if he did all he could for others. He became involved in a number of charitable concerns and spent many of his free hours in their service, helping the elderly of the parish, fund raising for the poor abroad. Some nights he got home tired after evenings spent at these events and all his doubts about his own motivations flooded back. He had done his duty but surely mere duty was not what Christianity was about. Where was the love?

This was much more difficult because in all honesty his fellow man were not always terribly loveable. The smelly incontinent old gent in the village he visited and sometimes helped to clean up, the inhabitants of countries abroad who created so many of their own problems. But he tried hard to equate their own frailties and failings with his own and to forgive them and to feel genuine love. Yet there were many times when he would search his heart for tolerance and love and and could find nothing but exasperation and contempt.

But everyone who knew him thought him a good man and he was not unaware of their opinions. Was that, deep down, what all his charity was really about? Was he just a modern Pharisee? He tried to exorcise the pride from his own soul, to lose his sense of his own worth. In this most difficult of all inner struggles he failed dismally. He could not eliminate that sense of personal pride he felt when his efforts and abilities led to a sizeable donation to his charity. He could not even totally expunge the knowledge that he was so much better than many of the charity's recipients or the indifferent majority who did nothing to help.

At 55, on the the same stretch of road where his wife had died 30 years before, his car collided head on with a lorry. In the short period of lucidity while the fireman where cutting him out, he knew he had failed in everything he had attempted. He realised, now that eternal darkness beckoned, he had never even really had any faith.

The darkness came and went and he found himself journeying towards the light. God himself as the son was waiting to welcome him. "I never thought I could be here" said the man "for I have failed in everything I did to make myself worthy of it".

"You did all that could be expected of you" said the Lord "for man is a frail and fallable creature and I expect very little of any of you. This is the paradise I made for you and for all men who would just make a reasonable effort within the limits of your own capabilities. For those who would try to believe in and love me with just some thought beyond their own place in paradise. Who could hold their version of faith without feeling contempt and hatred for those who followed a different path. Who would try to love and serve their fellow man without being solely motivated by a love of praise or a secret sense of their own worth or a need to think themselves so much better than other men"

They breasted the small hill and gazed down on the glory of paradise. An endless landscape of unbelievable arcadian beauty. "You will find all you need there" said the lord, gesturing at a magnificent temple in the valley. The man looked, Perhaps his wife would be there waiting for him. But there was no sign. Looking around he saw no sign of anyone in the whole beautiful landscape. The Lord knew his thoughts and smiled sadly. Even in that place of perpetual light it seemed that a darkness of sorrow fell upon the land.

"There are no others" said the Lord, "you are the only one who has ever made it."

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Time and time again

We are writing this from one of many tediously similar futures.

As in the film of HG Well's novel, the time machine was invented by an individual in England and the first prototype really did look a bit like a bath chair with a big wheel on the back but apart from those coincidences almost nothing about time travel turned out as fiction, or the physicists, had told us.

We had all read the dire warnings in sci fi stories about altering the past and we all knew that a single butterfly stepped on in the Jurassic would totally change the course of history. We would suddenly exist, if we or even mankind were lucky enough to exist at all, in a totally changed world and be completely ignorant of any other possibilities. There was therefore considerable panic when attempts by the government to take over the patent and prevent any use or disclosure of details of the invention were thwarted by the courts due to recent badly worded enhancements to the European Human Rights act, especially when production of the machines was funded by a well known media company who owned several newspapers and TV stations in Europe and America.

The first commercial model came out at Easter and it was too good an opportunity to miss, Judas Iscariot "My side of the story". Judas was paid 800 pieces of silver by the News Of The World and with all that money in his pocket it hardly seemed worth becoming history's greatest villian for a mere 40, so on betrayal night he never bothered to turn up, preferring to get drunk on the Famous Grouse whisky they had given him and spend the night with a whore. The Roman soldiers wandered about a bit looking for Jesus but in those days all male Jews looked like Jesus and they could not spot him. Peter did suggest he should wave and go "oi! I'm Jesus!" but he did not want god's plan for mankind to look too obvious, things have to be a bit more unfathomable and mysterious to attract religious types, so he decided to put it off for a while and look for another betrayer. A couple of days later he got run over by a runaway mule cart carrying crucifixion crosses for Barabas and others and was buried in the tomb from which he never emerged. The Almighty presumably decided there was not much point.

As alterations of history went, time travel could hardly have got off to a worse start but that's where the Sci Fi stories turned out all wrong. Christianity never happened but it got replaced by something almost identical founded early in the 1st century by a Roman chap called Janus who claimed to be the favourite nephew of god. Like Christianity it was a religion of peace and love and thus spent most of its first 1500 years burning and torturing people throughout Europe who did not follow its principles before becoming enlightened and just having them thrown in prison instead. That was lesson number one of time travel, whatever anyone did, things turned out pretty much the same. It seemed as though there was a structure and pattern to the course of history and only insignificant details of it could be altered. Even in those details there are numerous immutables, for example, no matter what is done to alter history, Ken Livingstone will always end up as Mayor of London.

After the time machines became slightly cheaper and more readily available there were all sorts of organisations who tried to alter history according to their view of what it should be and they were all disappointed. French activists attempted to change the outcome of Waterloo and create a French dominated Europe by assassinating Field Marshall Blucher. Due to his horse rearing at the crucial moment the modern bullet only injured him and his rage only reinforced his resolution causing the French to lose half an hour earlier than they usually did. Attempts by American Indians to sabotage Christopher Columbus's discovery of America appeared on the brink of success when he was disgraced by a trumped up scandal but then it was discovered only a few days later than formerly by his cousin Colin. No matter what attempts were made to change history it would cling obstinately to something very close to its usual course.

Even in small things, after the machines became available to the masses, those who wanted to change their lives by doing things differently found their lives not greatly altered. Why, oh why did you not get married to Harriet when you had the chance? you would not be stuck with fat neurotic Julie and you would be happy! So you go back and propose to Harriet only to find after a few years than she is even more fat and neurotic than Julie. Why did you not study harder and pass your A levels? you could have been a vet instead of a garage mechanic. So you go back and study harder, drop out after the first year at university and end up servicing vending machines because you were always a lazy bugger with no real ambition and fixing machines was all you were any good at. Those who say life is predetermined were very nearly right.

But the main departure from all the theories is illustrated by the fact that Judas's story in the News Of the World proved to be a considerable boost to their circulation. I can see the reaction from my pre time travel readers; how was that possible? If Christianity never existed then Judas would be a nonentity, just a sidekick of yet another messianic Jewish character that nobody outside of a few historians of Roman history had ever heard of. Not so, for although Christianity had never existed in the current time stream people still knew who he was from the memories of the former timestream. The time machine did not tap into and alter a single thread of time, creating a branch that evolved from that point. Rather it did something that natural laws had never done and simply killed one stream and swapped everyone, complete with all their memories, into another. That was another of the immutables, although their lives could be altered slightly, prolonged or cut short by the odd week or two, everyone (and this probably applied to all living things although that has not been proven) who has existed in one stream will still exist in the other at much the same time.

Naturally, this proved a boon for contact websites like formerlifefreindsunited.com who specialised in putting people into contact with those few they did not still know in the current one. It had many drawbacks too especially given that most people's different life streams were so very similar. It was really hard to remember which was which. Perhaps you should go to Malaga this year as a change from The Algarve, or did you normally go to the Algarve and it was the previous life where it was the other way round? Was the wife's name Vera this time round or was it Veronica? No hang on, Veronica was three lives ago, perhaps it was Valerie?

It came as a great relief when a small band of intrepid men discovered that one major event could be altered, perhaps because it was an anomaly and had never had a place in the timestream at all, the invention of the time machine itself. After a hard knock on the head the bearded genius totally forgot all his plans and it was never invented. Everyone was deliriously happy that life could follow a regular stream and they would not be continually shifting into a slightly different world, waking up to find a wife with a bigger nose, starting to eat toast and marmalade for breakfast and ending it eating toast and Marmite, tripping up on steps because there were three treads instead of the two there were when you started down them. There was a huge celebration in every capital of the world to mark the fact that the time machine had never existed.

Time travel is a preposterous concept and some day, when you reach the future we live in today, you will all realise it.

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Christmas is coming

It all started on a very dismal day. Back then he had not thought it could get worse.

It had been spitting as Ryan drove through the ugly 1980s yellow-brick sprawl of Chesley Bank village and it was bucketing down as his tyres crunched onto the gravel in front of the Victorian mock-gothic ugliness of St. Gunters.

Damn Ray. "As you're down Chelmsford way I wonder if you can drop by and look at something an old friend of mine has found". If he didn't owe him a few favours he would have told him to stuff it. He could be eating lunch at Mason's by now, discussing some profitable business, not outside this red brick abomination in a drab London overspill area.

Father Jack Brennan was pleasant enough and couple of whiskies saw Ryan in a slightly mellower mood as he was led down into the whitewashed crypt. "We had just started doing it up for a youth club and found this bricked up room behind the old wooden cupboards. Nothing in it except this." "This" was a large wooden chest that stood open in the centre of the room. "Well, as I say Jack, not likely to be anything worth a fortune in a Victorian church and there isn't a great market for ecclesiastical stuff but maybe we can help pay for your youth club"

The chest did not disappoint in its disappointingness. As he removed the collection of mostly well-thumbed hymn books, small church ornaments and cheaply plated communion wares he reflected that the chest had probably been left in the sealed off room because nobody thought it worth removing. Cleaned up, the chest itself was probably good for about £200, the rest looked like about a k's worth at auction on a very good day.

"Ray said there were some rather ungodly history about St. Gunters?" he started tactlessly, "Always a good market for occult stuff if we can find any". The Father sounded thoroughly disapproving of society's relative values. "Not really, just rumour, people love to create mysteries out of nothing. A wealthy Prussian industrialist built St. Gunters in about 1850 for his family and estate workers and it was bequeathed to the parish after his death. There were also unverified rumours about St Gunter himself and the reclusive monastery he set up. He wasn't a real Saint you know, we wanted to change the name if only for that reason but the terms of the bequest didn't allow it."

The last item in the chest was flat and so similar in colour to the bottom of the chest that he nearly missed it. An oak slab about an inch thick and 18 inches square intrically carved with leaves and with a regular arrangement of small squares each with an abstract symbol. This looked more interesting. There was an inscription at the bottom. " Zwanzig vier Tage bis er kommt" If he remembered his school German correctly, "24 days until he comes". An advent calendar? For the first time since he had driven into Chesley Bank he felt interested. The German connection fitted and if this came from around 1860 like the other items in the chest, it would be one of the earliest purpose-made craftwork advent calendars ever found, of considerable historical interest and quite valuable. Father Brennan was very pleased with the possibility. He could never have been comfortable with the idea of funding his parish work from the sales of Satanist paraphernalia but now the lord had provided out of his own righteous bounty!

Ryan took the chest and its contents away with him and dropped everything off at his London shop for examination and valuation by one of his most junior employees, except for the advent calendar, which he took home. He would need to do some research. Sitting in his study, he examined the board more closely. The slightly raised squares with their odd symbols did look very like small doors, there was a small gap round some revealing what appeared to be the edges of tiny hinges, but he knew that was impossible. Even though it was not his field, he knew the idea of opening a small window for each day of Advent was a commercial invention of the twentieth century. The squares on this board would have been for the placing of candles. Still. He tried to lever up a couple of the squares with his nails. Just as he expected, no movement. Ridiculous trying.

As he had told the good father he was not an expert in eccliastical relics and he found nothing in his extensive book collection that was any help. This would be a job for Tony Cuelho when he saw him, more his area. A check on the Internet yielded very little. The church had been founded by Han Claas, a wealthy Prussian philanthropist, who made his money from armaments manufacture. He had set up communes in Prussia based around his own reclusive Christian sect and supported several orphanages. He had purchased the British estate in 1851, employing mostly Prussian workers from the same sect, and ran an orphanage on it for the children of East London.

There was even less on St Gunter. An obscure 14th century figure that founded a monastery of ascetics. The church had begun the long process leading to it but Gunter had never been canonised, St Gunter was a title conferred only by his followers. It was not clear why his beatification had not proceeded but one suggestion was an association with one Baron Canthus who had been accused of being a devil worshipper and was subsequently burnt at the stake.

Business took him away for a couple of days and he had no time to consider the calendar. He had forgotten all about it when he came home late and tired on Sunday. He was sitting having one or two very strong nightcaps to unwind before going to bed and the calendar was on the coffee table where he had left it. Tomorrow, he would do something about it. December 1st, an appropriate time to find an advent calendar, if indeed it really was. Pity he had not got it ready for sale already, proper timing really helped in the antique business.

He picked idly again at some of the raised squares. When he touched the bottom right hand square it opened instantly. Rather, it flew open as if spring loaded although no spring was apparent, releasing a small puff of dust and a slight smell of old wood. Something else too, like burning and rot together. A calendar of the modern style with opening windows from the 1860s? Impossible surely! Yet he himself had taken it from the bottom of the chest beneath a pile of books and other items that he could date with certainty from that decade and earlier. Father Jack had showed him parish notes of the period that had suggested the chamber was probably bricked up at that time. How convenient! Was the good priest or somebody else was trying to con him? They must be damn fools if so, he knew experts who could tell him pretty exactly when the thing was made. He would get onto Tony Cuelho in the morning, if this thing was a fake or a later artefact secreted in the chest there would be hell to pay. He left for bed in a foul mood.

At the bottom of the stairs it occurred to him he had not even looked to see what was under the tiny door and turned back. Nothing. The recess revealed was painted matt black. Not too interesting even if it was genuine but on the other hand he had been in the antiques business long enough to know that amateur forgers usually went over the top, maybe the lack of a picture was a good sign. It would be more in keeping with the supposed date if you were supposed to stick the picture in yourself. Another thought struck him. He picked at the other doors, each one in turn from top to bottom and left to right. None would open. Just this one, but surely that was one he had tried a couple of days earlier? Or perhaps he had had a few too many nightcaps to think straight. That was it. He sniggered and swayed slightly. Of course, it was only December 1st today, you can't open advent calendar doors before the proper day!

He slept badly and awoke to a headache and a faint sense of unreality. He really should cut down on the booze. The calendar lay where he had left it. He would do something about it tomorrow; he really wouldn't have the time today. As he got ready for work he could remember a little of a strange dream, of being crowded in by many tall people and an enclosed darkness from which he could not escape. Perhaps it was the darkness under the little door. Funny how minor things can get into your dreams and grow into monsters. On leaving he glimpsed a small blond child watching, motionless. He hoped the kid did not belong to the new neighbours, the expensive but tiny Mews was not suitable. He loathed kids.

He got back late and tired but pleased at a profitable day. Too much whisky again. He really should slow down, he had enough to retire comfortably even without the money his fashionable London Antique shops would bring, but he no longer knew how to live any other life. Damn it, he would try. He had said it a thousand times. He promised himself a day off tomorrow. He had said that a thousand times too but relaxing was something he no longer knew how to do. The calendar was there again on the coffee table. The first window was open although he thought he had closed it. December 2nd. Maybe another door would open today. He picked at all the little doors and none budged until he got to the second right on the bottom row. It flew open with a puff of dust and that faint smell of decay. For some reason he wasn't even surprised, had half expected it. It wasn't possible but it was somehow certain.

It was a strange week and it was not just the way that the previously opened doors were open each morning even though he had closed them before retiring or even the oddly inevitable opening each day of the next tiny door which he felt somehow compelled to pick at. Several times he awoke to the grey dawn in something like panic and had to go downstairs, make himself a coffee and pace the kitchen for twenty minutes before the stark normality of the tiles and stainless steel under the cold strip lighting chased away the feeling of terror and claustrophobia. An echo of a feeling he had not had for a long time, since his breakdown ten years ago. He seemed to have been in a cold pitch-black place, unable to move. Somehow, he had known he was not alone, that he had been there for a long time and also that he would be there still for a very long time afterwards. There were other vague recollections. Of being crowded with many other people as before, a bearded face that was there and then somehow shut out as the darkness closed in. Then there were those damn children. He kept catching glimpses of small kids hanging around the mews but they were never in full view. What were they up to? Round at the King George he asked Harry if the latest arrivals to the Mews had children but it seemed not. A divorced lawyer in his 50s heíd heard.

As he had expected, Tony Cuelho had not been able to help a great deal without seeing the calendar. He had felt unable to explain the strange circumstances of the opening doors and you donít put superglue on what might be a valuable artefact so he had made an excuse about being in a rush and forgetting to bring it. Privately, he doubted if the superglue would have worked, he had tried closing the doors using a non marking adhesive and the next day they had all been open again although they all closed very easily and stayed closed when one was looking at them. Tony did tell him a little more about Claass and St Gunter. Baron Canthus, that sinister acquaintance of the almost Saint, was apparently one who believed in the principle that far older pagan gods, identified with Satan by the Catholic Church, had created and ruled the universe before God had cast them out. Since that time each had been looking for a way back and the negation of Christian sacraments by similar but opposite rituals was a major part of the process of countering Godís power.

"There is a similar principle in what we call Satanism of course" said Tony, "The use of the black mass with communion celebrated using blood or excrement instead of wine and so on but the idea that good and evil have superficially similar but countering principles and rituals is much older and has roots in the Sumerian mythology. This Baron Canthus supposedly worshipped several evil gods led by Zu, a storm god represented as a black bird. Hans Claas? Not much about him Iím afraid, there were local suspicions of the closed sect and gossip about what went on in St Gunters church but nothing concrete. There were also rumours of orphan children disappearing but this was still Dickensí time and proper records were not kept. There was probably no great concern about street urchins in any case. I think it was mainly the third hand association with Baron Canthus via Gunter that damned Klaas in the eyes of the locals, plus he was a foreigner of course. Essex was a backwoods in those days"

Tony called on him with a festive bottle just before Christmas but there was no reply to his ring. Ryan was lying on the bed as he had mostly been doing for two weeks, dog-tired but unable to sleep; he wanted nobody to see him like this. Those dreams of being locked in a dark place came to him now whenever he started to nod off. It was easier to take another pill and stay awake, to flick through the TV channels and just watch anything. The children were everywhere, peering in through the windows, even inside his flat hiding behind the furniture, He could never seem to see them properly, they were shadows at the edge of his vision, behind the furniture and in the corners but never there when he looked directly at them. He knew he should get some help but had no energy.

Christmas Eve. He knew there was one thing he should not do but he no longer acted under his own volition, he was no longer sane. Last night the dreams, so vague before, had filled his mind with total reality. He saw the dark cellar of St Gunters and its chanting congregation. He had seen the tiny figures of the orphan children, twenty-four ragged little urchins, one for each night of Advent. He had seen each one bricked up alive in a tiny square space beneath the floor, one of twenty-four spaces laid out just as on that square of oak on the table in front of him. The pitifully thin children were drugged and passive when they went into these apertures but he knew and felt with them the panic as the drugs wore off and they screamed and kicked and hammered fruitlessly on the walls of the coffins until they bled. And he knew that that was the purpose, that the power of each sacrifice to an evil being was being harnessed and stored in this slab of oak in front of him, waiting to be released. Who knows why it had not been released already? Perhaps just the mundane circumstances of Klaasís sudden bankruptcy and his death soon after had prevented the necessary ritual. When Christmas had next come to St Gunters the estate had been derelict.

It mattered little, for what is 150 years when you have waited for thousands? For every ritual of power, for every symbol of good and hope there must be an equal and opposite ritual, a symbol of evil and despair to counter it. Klaas, Gunter and Baron Kanthus had disappeared into history but that matters little too. There are always those who serve, willingly or not and he no longer had a will. Ryan reached for the last of the tiny squares on the little wooden board and it opened at his touch. Outside in wealthy Mayfair there was a sudden chill in the unseasonably warm air and the overcast sky darkened further as if some huge black bird was unfolding its wings.

It was Christmas Eve. Something was coming and it was not Christmas.

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I am what you are

Lady Sarah Gormon poured another whisky; some of it hit the glass, the expensive rug received the rest. Christ, she must have had more than she thought.

Just as well that a couple of the maids were in the room getting things set up for Sir Chesholm's visit and one of them, she forgot the name, scurried over from the table where she had been arranging the cutlery and then went off to find the sponge or whatever it was that these people used. The other, Davies, she knew all too well who SHE was, stared disapprovingly. Did she know or not? As she looked at her, wondering whether it was wise to rebuke her insubordination there came another of those strange shifts. The dark wood-panelled room was garishly bright and full of shambling figures and then winked back to normality so quickly she was not sure if she had imagined it at all. In its wake just a slight sense of dťjŗ vu, as if she too had once stood laying cutlery on a table just like that one.

Nurse Larkins tchohed impatiently at the sound of splashing on the vinyl floor, not her now! Mary had always been one of the less problematic patients, lucid much of the time, and when she was away in whatever world it was that these people went to she just sat quietly. Just recently though, the normal periods were becoming shorter and now it looked like she would have to go into pads like most of the others. Leaving Nurse Carlisle to continue handing out the medicines she scurried off to get one of the cleaners.

Thank god her husband was away on business for a while. She had really needed the whisky but then again it was the last thing she needed, she had to think, the rest of her life depended on it. Life was like that, just so many things you didn't need that but you just had to have them. Like Harry, the assistant estate manager. She was not entirely sure she even liked him, he was a shallow man and not a patch on her lovely old husband Lord Richard Gorman but her life yearned for more excitement, just a little more youth and humour before she crossed the twinset portal. And, she should be honest, a lot more physical passion and there Harry was tops. It was contrived and predictable like most of Harry's humour but when he called her his Connie and became her crude and grunting Mellors she reached heights, or perhaps it was depths, she had never experienced with anyone before. She found him sunbathing in the small garden behind his estate cottage and kissed him passionately. The words left her mouth the instant her mouth left his. "What the hell are we going to do?"

There was once a time when delusions were carefully refuted with the idea that this would somehow prevent recurrence and hence diminish future distress but it almost never does. For the insane, even more than for the rest of us, reality and sense are like the waves breaking on a granite lighthouse, they come and go in roaring fury and leave the decor within quite untouched. If there is a murderer hiding in the cupboard today's carer goes and arrests him and if there is another murderer in there tomorrow, well, they'll arrest him too. In 18 years of psychiatric nursing Clive had had his share of humouring infatuations from slightly odorous 60ish ladies and when she grasped him again just outside the dayroom he disengaged her gently enough. He did not think to ask "About what?" It meant nothing.

Harry knew what she meant. He was not the sort to pass up any sexual encounter and an affair with a lady, in the aristocratic sense of the word, had a sort of kudos that more than made up for the fact that she was a good twenty years older. The problem was that he had not passed up the lush younger body of Tessa Davies either and had not had the wit to hide the signs of his "Mellors" encounters. Tessa was not sure who her rival was but in the blazing row they had had the previous day she had made it clear she was going to find out and she was damn well going to make both of them sorry.

As anyone who has ever been caught out in an infidelity knows, the guilt flows much more easily after the catching. Why had she done it? She loved her husband for all his seriousness but he was a prudish, proud and unforgiving man and she knew she stood to lose all that made her current life. Why had he done it? Harry loved his job and the estate manager's position had been as good as his when old Phillip retired at Christmas, Lord Gorman himself had told him so. Neither of them cared for the other and they both knew it but they clung to each other like frightened children and an observer would have thought them lost in their passion. "You fucking old cow, I knew it was you" Tessa was in the doorway.

Afterwards, neither of them could fully recall how it happened. Tessa was a hysterical woman by nature and the row of cheap and tasteless ornaments on Harry's mantelpiece bore the brunt of her hysteria before she started to calm down. She should have left it to him, it was her offer of money that started Tessa off again, she was "going to go out of here and tell the entire effing estate". When Harry pulled her back she hit him and when he pushed her away she fell and struck her head against the fireplace. Groggily, she rose and headed for the door and Sarah struck her with one of the brass fire dogs, one of Harry's few tasteful possessions. And although neither of them had intended to do it, the fear inside drove them, the matching fire dogs rose and fell in their right hands, matching strike for strike, until they dropped, still matched in their redness.

At the weekly meeting there was no disagreement when doctor Heins proposed changing Mary's medication. It was a shame that one of their brighter patients had started to go downhill so quickly but the safety of staff was paramount. Nurse Davies fingered the faint bruise on her forehead from Mary's assault, it was lucky that Dr Heins had been there at the time to pull her off so quickly. What on earth had set her off? She had been shouting "You can't tell him, you can't tell him!" It was pointless even wondering what was in her mind.

The law abiding imagine that in these days of forensic science there is no possible chance of getting away with a murder. Real criminals know different and luck was on their side. Tessa had not been a mixer and nobody knew of her affair, let alone that the same man had been tupping the employer's wife. She had also been a drifter and had abruptly left jobs and accomodations without any notice before. Had the butler not been so enchanted by her figure and checked her references properly she would probably not have been employed at the manor. Tessa went on the missing persons list, but the police never took it too seriously. As for the numerous traces on Harry's floor, not to mention the fire dogs, they could only have been found if anyone had had the slightest notion to look there.

Mary's symptoms in that period were unusual in Dr Heins's experience, in one sense she seemed more aware of the real world but in another sense she became more withdrawn. The oddity was it was a withdrawal more usual in relatively sane people, the withdrawal of those with acute anxiety and depression. Those with the sort of diagnosis she had were usually too far out of the real world in their bad periods to suffer such things. They tried to get out of her what it was she feared but although she responded to their sympathetic questioning the response would only be a shake of the head followed by more tears and exhausted sleep.

Life for the next couple of months was hell for both of them, a hell of guilt and fear of discovery and had her life with Lord Gorman been rather more intimate or if he had been at home more often she could never have kept it from him. No matter how she tried to distract herself, her thoughts kept running on the same tracks with all the precision of a tram following the rails, that day in Harry's cottage and what crumbled in the hidden well in an untended part of the estate. Thoughts repeating and repeating and repeating. And she was sure she was losing her mind, at times when at last she started to slip into an exhausted sleep she seemed to see figures standing by her bed and they were questioning her. "What is it that you are afraid of? What is it you think you have done?

The slow passing of the season did nothing to take away the dread. It was late summer. Sarah looked out of the bay windows of her bedroom window as the early morning sun glanced on the great row of Oak trees beyond the lawn and for the first time in a long while thought how beautiful they were. She had made a decision.

One Sunday, about four months after the start of her abrupt decline, Nurse Larkins was astonished to find that Mary had washed and dressed herself and even more so to find that she seemed lucid and aware of her surroundings. She even seemed to have a purpose although nobody but Mary could know what it was.


The slow passing of the season slowly took away the dread. It was late summer. Sarah looked out of the bay windows of her bedroom window as the early morning sun glanced on the great row of Plane trees beyond the lawn and for the first time in a long while thought how beautiful they were. She and Harry had got away with it. She could start to live again.

She was in bed with Mellors, AKA Harry, when the police came. That too chimed rather well with what the letter said. Her resistance did not last even as long as the journey to the station. "How did you know?" she sobbed as soon as she sat down. "We got your letter madam or at least one that is signed with your name" She looked at the photocopy they gave her, the large childish handwriting that looked like the letter of a near illiterate. "I didn't write this" But, if she had not who could have? Not Harry, there were something there, among the accurate details of the murder, that only she knew. Had guilt and worry made her insane? Had she somehow written this herself without being aware of it? It didn't make any sense.

It didn't make sense to the police either. The cheap paper and the handwriting hardly went with the signature and it had looked like a malicious hoax but things it said about the missing maid chimed with what little they knew and the location of the old well was described in the letter. After only four months the young constable they sent up to look hardly needed years of expertise to know there was something down there.

Police can never view confessions as the end of the matter. Who knew but that each defendant would not seek to blame the other at the trial? The authorship of the letter mattered. Although the poorly scrawled address said HighField Manor the letter had gone out in an official envelope marked St Mays Hospital. It was a small hospital and it did not take long to track down the one patient who had been lucid enough or trusted enough at the time to send a letter outside. The more normal patients, as Mary had been until recently, were encouraged to be creative and the staff found a few scribbles that confirmed her authorship.

How on earth could this woman in a secure psychiatric unit have known about the murder or known the things she did about Lady Gorman? Had she ever worked at the manor? That was the strangest thing. The secretary confirmed that she had once, for about a year, almost 40 years ago and it was during that time that she had started to become delusional. The notes did not state the nature of her delusion, the claim that she was the real Lady Gorman.

Real, fake, imagined, does it really matter? All that counts is how things seem. In one of these worlds a Lady Sarah Gorman sobbed in her cell. In another, back in the Manor, a Lady Sarah Gorman felt happier than she had in a long time. Somehow it seemed that the self she had known for so long had been an impostor and now, quite how she could not grasp, there was a new her. She felt as if she had been set free from something. Thank god she had not confessed as she had intended. She had thought about it so many times, drafted so many letters, come so close to posting them, that there had been times in her weariness when she really thought she had.

The sun shone through the window of the day room. The inspector sat on the hard hospital chair and stared at the large shapeless figure of the deranged woman who did not respond in the slightest to his gentle questioning. Mary did not notice him at all, she would never come back to the real world again. The inspector sighed, one hand clutching his luke warm coffee, his forehead supported on his other hand. This was the wierdest case he had known in his 25 years. He did not know whether he was coming or going.

In the little cottage, in the little bed, her crass but lovely Mellors shouted Ohaaargh! Lady Sarah Gorman was definitely coming.

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Hell came among us

I reach to get my razor from the bathroom cabinet and even with this tiny exertion my limbs protest. I rub the condensation from the mirror and an old face gazes from the almost clearness. Dimly, I recall how it used to look 60 years ago. I am not so bad for 86 but then I wonder, would I have had the same perspective before the day that hell came? Compared to the ugliness we live with, those of us who do still live, so very few of us now, we are all beautiful.

Hell is among us now, the living, and most who are left remember nothing else for we are surrounded by the tormented. As if in response to my thoughts, the red haired girl drifts between me and my reflection although the mirror shows only me. She lived here once and died young. The photographs show a thin faced but pleasant looking teenager. The face I see now, although there is neither warmth nor sound, is engulfed in a lambent flame. It is a face sculpted by pain, rendered ugly with an unspeakable torment, the mouth almost tearing apart with a silent scream that never leaves her.

Why did they come back? The religious cranks and would be prophets had many answers and logically tortured quotes from Revelations or Nostrodamus. Was it an illusion sent by Satan to make us seek answers in devilry, a vision sent by god to test our faith or to warn us that we should seek deeper repentance? Who knows? The more rational of us, or rather those who had thought we were the rational ones, those of us who has never believed in hell, had no answers at all. Perhaps Satan died or the bottomless pit was not truly bottomless and just ran out of space. We only knew that suddenly, in May 2009, the countless billions, all the men and women and children who had ever lived and died came back among us and wandered the areas they had been in life in unspeakable torment. We the living were outnumbered by more than ten to one.

They are all of them like her, every single one who ever died. Back in those early days, men of science still existed and they looked for answers, checking the backgrounds of the tormented, why these people? But it seemed it was all people. The wicked, the good and the average, the bloody dictators, the murderers, the selfless charity workers, the saints, the atheists and sinners, the priests and the popes and Imams, all of them, every one, in perpetual torment. In Berlin, Hitler wanders government buildings engulfed in flames, his face contorted with agony, in Calcutta Mother Theresa drifts through the mean streets, her body blazing and contorted with pain.

If there was a hell, why was there no heaven? Many had asked that question and none had an answer. Perhaps it is simply that god demands more of us than we can give. We are commanded not to sin in thought, word or deed. Some of us, to the limited extent that free will exists, can exercise our wills and control our words and deeds but how can we control our thoughts? If we sin each time an uncharitable, selfish or angry thought enters out heads what hope is there for us? Maybe somewhere, there is a vast and empty heaven where a god frets over an endless paradise made for riteous men that has never once admitted even one.

Mankind began his end the day that hell came and all hope died. Many went mad at being surrounded by images of torment, often seeing their own departed loved ones engulfed in agony without end. Perversely, many saw the horror that followed after life and took their own lives, for madness is never rational. Few cared to carry on and raise children and few of those survived in a disintegrating society of frightened despair and short term headonism. Those of us who had lived before hell came, who had imbibed of the normality and optimism of a childhood in those days, managed to cope the best and our skills carried a few along with us. We are fewer now and mankind may not long survive our passing.

I finish shaving and walk downstairs, passing through two screaming children, their faces ugly with torment. I lean heavily on the bannister as I descend, my joints aching with every step. My own life cannot be much longer, who knows, maybe it will end tonight while I sleep.

Either way, I will see you all tomorrow.

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Josh

They were only acquaintances so maybe I am being unfair but I have been thinking back to some people I have known, people who did not seem to be real people at all.

Before Josh I could think of three offhand, two girls I had a couple of dates with and a bloke I went to college with. They all said things, did things, ventured opinions, laughed at jokes but there was nothing there. On leaving them I was left with no impression of character at all, it was as though I had spent the time alone watching TV or reading a book.

It was a long time ago now. I met Josh one summer while on contract in Bristol and rented a second floor flat in a rather dingy house in Eastville. Josh had the ground floor flat. We were of similar age and chance encounters in the hallway led to the odd walk to the pub together. I suppose I got to know him quite well, in so far as I knew the basic facts, but there was nothing I could actually like or dislike. He just did not register as a person at all. When we went out for the evening I did not have any sense of having company and I mostly avoided these trips, pleading (and usually inventing) other arrangements.

That wasnít anything I felt guilty about, after all, I was the one staying away from home in the week in a strange city with little to fill my evenings, Josh had a great social life. He had at least two girl friends on the go and a bunch of mates on the other side of the city where he used to live. He would tell me endless stories about the things they would get up to, the late night drinking, the crazy practical jokes of his best mate Alan, the wild weekend parties.

Perhaps my lack of empathy with the guy had a little envy in it, or resentment at the fact that he never invited me to these wild nights out with his mates but then again why should he? Maybe he found me as uninteresting as I found him. He did ask me to a party at his flat a few times, although he knew I always travelled home to the family on Friday evenings and couldnít make it. Except that one occasion when the wife was at her motherís until Sunday morning and I decided to stay in Bristol. The party never happened, apparently his best mate Alan was taken ill at the last minute and it had to be postponed but if I could make the next one, probably in a few weeks, then it would be just great. I never had another invite.

It was early September when Josh collared me outside his flat door and asked me to come in for a drink and I couldnít think of an excuse fast enough. I was seriously thinking of feigning illness when he got out a photo album but actually it wasnít so bad. There were numerous shots of all his mates on various holidays, on beaches, hiking in the hills or standing in front of well known tourist spots in the UK and abroad. What a sociable guy he was, I never knew anyone before who had quite so many friends, every double page of photos seemed to have a different bunch of people in them.

What some great girlfriends too. He was especially keen to show me the pictures of his latest conquest whom he had taken for a long and very dirty weekend in Rome. I turned the page at his urging and immediately recognised the Trevi Fountain in the background; the wife and I had been there earlier in the year. As the photo showed. It was my wife standing there in front of the fountain staring straight at the camera with a slightly bemused expression on her face. I remember asking her about that expression after I took my own photos. "There was some bloke standing behind you and I am sure he was taking photos of me, he has been watching me for a while"

I hadnít see anyone in the crowd when I turned to look but suddenly it made sense. I flipped back to the photos of all those friends. All a little further back and filling less of the picture than would be normal, all looking slightly to one side as though posing for a picture taken by another camera. I said nothing, I had no idea what to say. Pleading tiredness after a long day I left. What should I have done? There was no evidence the guy was a stalker in any malicious sense. Just a harmless fantasist. How many others had he regaled with tales of his social life, his sexual prowess? How many others, not handed the truth by a trillion to one chance, had been taken in by that album?

I was coming back from the off licence a little later and Josh was coming out of his flat dressed to kill. He glanced at my lonely bottle of vodka disapprovingly. "Iíll be having a few myself tonight, off with Alan and some of the others to a club, end up at the lap dancing place I expect, we always seem to. Hope I donít wake you up when I come in" Was it all untrue? The girlfriends, the mates, the best pal? I donít know why exactly but I had to know. I politely murmured a hope so too and went up to my room closing the door loudly before silently opening it a crack. I saw Josh quietly creep back to his room.

The rest of the house was silent that evening apart from the TV of the middle aged couple on the top floor. At around 11 I went out and around to the back by the bins. Joshís flat was dark. Maybe he had gone to bed or perhaps he had gone out after all. Maybe, despite the apparent stealth, he had just returned for something forgotten and was now at that lap dancing club. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness I could make out his figure in the armchair, staring at the wall. A trace of tears glistened in his eyes.

I left Bristol soon after that when the project folded unexpectedly. Occasionally, some chance thing reminds me of Josh and I think of him sitting there alone and staring at the wall night after night, thinking of the life he has no idea how to make except in his imagination.

And all I can think is "How strange" I know I should feel sympathy but that is a feeling one can only have for real people.

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All stories copyright xoggoth unless otherwise stated