Written by Chris (alcoholandaphorisms)
They run, the survivors of “The incident”,they run through the crumbling corridors below Waterloo station. Run past pealing posters on yellowed paper that advertise services that no longer exist, an anachronism here. Run through the mildew and damp lit by flickering bulbs above.
Police officer Ryan Winters brings up the rear, trying to keep herself between the group and the thing that stalks them. She steps backwards carefully over cracked tiles, the cracks rearranging themselves into new patterns, unseen by human eye, her asp baton in hand ready if need be.
A servant of the god machine, a mishmash of piston flapped wings made of interlaced clockwork, human flesh and arcane machinery, it is there in the darkness, lit by blue lightning that flashes from it and writhes across the tube lines beside. It cannot be fully seen, moving in a haze of static, the tube lights dying one by one before its advance. Words speak out, seemingly echoing from everywhere
“Halt. Cease. Listen so I can bring to you the fount of Revelation”
Sanjiv Mangat, trying to push the rest of the group ahead, glances back and something snaps. His mind refuses the sight and he freezes, his eyes not seeing the panic and delirium rippling through their running ranks. Trisha is screaming as she runs, no direction now, lost into the maze of tunnels. Milosh has vanished, he can be known only by the echoes of his weeping and prayer from the darkness. Sanjiv looks around wild eyed, seeing nothing as Gwil Short grabs his arm and drags him on, broken already Gwil somehow manages to keep it together, dragging them on. In the dark he mutters words to Sanjiv “This is just life, the suffering, the blood and pain, but we live, we survive. Don’t break Sanjiv. Repeat, Sanjiv, repeat the words”
Sanjiv shakes his head, muttering Hindu mantras, trying to gain strength from his own faith in the darkness. As they run on Gwil realises they have lost sight of Nate, the last of them and the only other one that did not seem to break down before the machine angel’s sight. There are marks of his passing though, equations on the wall, some sort of advanced maths, equations to protect them from the machine, to fight it with its own weapons. Still Gwil and Sanjiv run on, Ryan further and further behind them, alone with the electric angel. Blood pump in their ears, drowning out everything but their panicked heartbeats. Then, somehow each is alone, separated in the dark, surrounded by screaming, whimpering and sounds of pain but with no company to help them through. Ryan’s screams echo repeatedly, the words lost in the distortion of the reflected words, the screaming rising higher and higher then cut off at a single note.
Silent now, Sanjiv feels through the dark, he has never been one to get lost and he knows the lines, he is confident he is still below one of the main lines, and heading south under the Thames. If he can just keep to this route he should find light, shelter and freedom. Minutes later his faith seems to be answered, his fingers finding a ladder affixed to the wall, scaling it he finds himself in a small room lit by a flickering emergency light-bulb. Deep breathes come instead of the shallow hidden breaths he has kept to for the past minutes, the light’s flickering revealing niches carved into the walls, a circular portal in front of him leading to more tunnels inter crossed with each other. Another breath, something sickly sweet in the air that catches in his throat. That cloying sweetness of decomposition. His eyes look down, to the shadowed floor, to figures laid down across the ground, people laid down in the dark. The room is hot, so very hot and the aroma thickens, Sanjiv pushes out through the portal, a wish to escape stronger than ever before as he runs from the stench.
Gwil bashes from wall to wall in the darkness, his sense of direction shot, alone and running full tilt, bruised and battered he takes step after step, just concentrating on away until one step he finds nothing but air. Vertigo rushes over him, his arms windmilling backwards trying to grip something solid as he falls out into the open air. His arm catches something, but gets nothing but more bruises for his troubles, tumbling end over end into a raging torrent of water in the dark. Somehow holding his head above water he is pushed down this liquid stream, chemical and oil stink rising from it as it plunges down and down deeper into the dark. Without warning he is loose in the air again, plunging down into a deep pool that envelops him.
Coughing and spluttering he pulls himself up onto some ceramic shore that promises sanctuary. Disorientated and shivering he huddles upon the white ceramic tiles, adrenaline coursing through him in fight or flight reflex. Thick tarry oil drips from him on onto the ceramic, onto what appears to be a section of underground platform cut and isolated in the midst of this black viscous pool. A thin yellow light illuminates the vast chamber around him, concentric rings at least eight meters across surrounding him, a dizzying mesh of gears and cogs turning against each other in the distance. More than that, something moves upon them, as if blindly groping across the surface of gears, defying the pull of gravity.
Gwil look down at himself, at his hands, everything covered in this thick flammable liquid. With compulsive need Gwil pulls cloths from his metal tin, scrubbing his hands, trying to clean them, make them pure once more. As he rubs them raw to no effect, grazed and bleeding, Gwil huddles against the concrete shelter muttering to himself, an oasis against the unreality around him.
Elsewhere Sanjiv follows the tunnels, taking one branch then the next, fear slowly subsiding within him. He can hear the reassuring rattling of trains in the distance, the flickering of signal lights attracting his attention. Moving carefully towards it he sees a carriage solitary and still, dust upon it. The markings and style are of those of the second world war, slide access door pulled back. Not questioning this shelter Sanjiv pulls himself inside. Empty gas mask piled up surround him, staring with vacant eyes, the air silent. Something resonates here though, the silence, the dust in the air, the small light reflected in gas mask eyes. Something here is holy. In this place Sanjiv sits, pushing the breath out, trying to rest his mind, to find peace once more. Watched by hundreds of plastic masks Sanjiv meditates.
The oil won’t clean from Gwil’s hands. The impossibly huge gears moving through a lake of diesel and blench around him. The light is coming from somewhere arched far above, electric lights tucked away in unseen recesses. High pitch chattering comes from all sides. In the dim light Gwil feels around the edge of this small sanctuary he has found, the smooth tiles of tube tunnels below his fingers slowly giving way to flaking plastic and warm steel plates that feel organic below his fingertips. Something pulsing, something alive below the plates skin. The only way out is to swim once more through the thick lake that despoiled him already. Something in Gwil finds this place familiar. As is he should remember it but he doesn’t, as if his fingers brushed upon the underground map on a blank spot where this was not. Looking around Gwil speaks to the air
“Are any of you things out there? You think I don’t recognise your touch by now demiurge?” His voice, already torn and crackled by recent strain now rises to a shriek that echoes back at him distorted.
The barely seen movement upon the gears slows to a stop, and in return the chittering from it rises in intensity. Something’s attention has been caught, and they move slowly down the gears towards Gwils isolated island.
“I know you are there” Gwil screams “Show yourselves”
Splashing around him signifies the creatures dropping into the thick liquid nearby, their waves a tell of their purposeful movement towards him. Deep blue electric lights glow in pairs around him, closing in, revealing pale skin poking from the liquid as they come closer, the light embedded in what would be eye sockets were these heads. The sound of pistons come with each of their movements and the hair of the back of Gwils neck stands on end. The platform is visible properly now in electric blue, a small circle, maybe the underground logo, maybe just cracks in tiles visible along its twenty yard edge. Rust and grease tars most of its surface. Finally now Gwil turns and runs as fast as he can, diving into the thick liquid away from the lights. In the distance a cog turns, pushing the waves of liquid against him but he strikes out, his arms swimming him forwards as fast as he can. He doesn’t look behind, but the lights around him tells him his followers are close. Chittering echoes almost from inside his ears. He dives for a tunnel, its walls bathed blue, and swims three strong strokes underwater and the tide breaks. Breaking surface in the dark once more, the liquid is still around him, shallow and gravel crunching below his feet.
A small tube tunnel rises up before him, normal fluorescent light from above and a wave of emergency exit signs. Glancing around Gwil sees none of the muck he was just swimming in, though it still sticks fast to his clothes and skin. The nigh omnipresent piston and stochastic machinery sounds fading as he steps into the light. Bathed in glow from above he spins, arms outstretched and babbling “Are you happy now? Are you? Are you happy with whatever you are doing to us?”
There is no answer, and he did not expect one. Walking away his fingers grasp a rusty door, he needs a shower, food, rest and to find out what happened to the others, in that order. As he turns the handle there is a silence, a pregnant pause then deep bass notes rumble within his bones. The sounds of an entire rail network within his head. Crushing pressure forcing a wince from him as a hundred languages speak. A single one recognised
“System Anomaly 0 5. Query. Terminate Y/N? Respond”
“Stay Broken “ Gwil says and pushes the door open. Before him lies a small chamber, a cctv station, but overlaying is more space than he could ever imagine. His stomach rises, needles behind his eyes as he collapses to his knees and vomits. There is machines from every age of history here, row upon row of dot matrix printers, Athenian brass cogs and ancient flywheels, flesh tubes coiled around each other, bundles of wire gaffer taped together and pocket watches. On the cctv screens are images of every person that Gwil has known and cared about.
With a scream Gwil grabs a chair and smashes monitor after monitor in, sending shards everywhere. Through a window out onto what would be a tube station platform, past dirt and grease covered oyster card readers, an announcement screen flickers to life on a derelict station. Zeroes and ones ride across followed by words
“Where are they?” Gwil shouts “Show me Dave. Show me Lisa. Show me where they are”
Two screens cut to new scenes, the first Dave in broad daylight, cuts deep in his bald head. His body is shrivelled and hunched over, cabling coming from the walls and going deep into the gouges in his head. It flickers to a second image. Dave hanging from beneath a set of spider like apertures into his skull, his body being moved through a procession of rooms. Image after image, blood starts dripping from Geil’s eyes as he stands, unable to look away. Another image, a spider like creature, mechanical parts from its maw, probes digging into Dave’s screaming skull.
“Why are you doing this to him?”
The screen falls to static in response to Gwil’s question, then to the words “Human Resources” emblazoned in red. The second screen, Lisa’s screen. Is a still image, an image of a school. The school that Lisa was trying to get into. Somehow the machine can not show more than that. Each screen has a microphone below it. Looking at this Gwil sees another screen. Milosh.
Milosh is on his knees before gears and flywheels intertwined in an image of crucifixion, drill probes reaching from the image of mechanical Christ. Milosh’s eyes are rolled back into his head as they come closer and closer. Another screen, Sanjiv meditating in the midst of gas masks. Another, Trisha fleeing towards light, towards the underground. Another, Ryan running, flash-light in hand, Inspector Grey wounded on the floor behind him, crawling across the ground, sparks flying from where his clockwork wings graze the ground. Ryan mouths something silently to the fallen form then she is gone.
Trying to figure our the mechanisms in front of him Gwil presses the button before Lisa’s screen “Lisa, this is Gwil, are you there? If you can here this we are coming”
The screen drops to static then the words “Subject precluding, unable to penetrate obfuscation”come to the screen. Turning to the screen still showing Mr Grey Gwil smiles, remembering Nate’s words on how to combat him “Mr Grey, can you hear me?”. In response Mr Grey pauses in rising to his hands and knees and shouts something silently.
“Mr Grey, I don’t think you are supposed to be here, do you have a warrant?”
Genuine anger flashes across Grey’s face, then fades, silent laughter filling the screen. He collapses to the floor, his body racked by laughter for an age, then suddenly his face goes very still. He stands, looking directly at Gwil through the camera. He points to his left and makes a gesture like turning a dial.
Looking to the side of the screen Gwil sees a matching dial, with fear in his stomach he slowly turns the dial, static rising.
“I’m cut off from the machine” Grey says, audible now
“You’re cut off from the machine. Great. What does that mean?”
“It means we are all in great danger”
“Yeah, a lot of my friends are in trouble as well”
“I know some tricks still “Grey says “ but god no longer speaks to me. I , I am fucking terrified, if you can get your friends together I have ways of getting you out, but Gwil, I want you to take me with you, take me wherever you go”
A petty sadistic smile crossed Gwil’s face “say please”
“Say pretty please”
“Say pretty please with sugar on top”
“I’ll say whatever you want, you can beat me up, you can abuse this body, but the angels are coming. We don’t have time”
Finding the whole endeavour less satisfying than he thought it would be Gwil acquiesces “very well, how do I get them together?”
“Turn the dials six degrees anti clockwise, then turn six times. This is the infrastructure, how it conceals its activities from the world. With it you can realign space so the people will converge there. It is a tassaract”
Unsure, Gwil turns the dials as instructed and the world turns with it.
In the midst of gas masks, after hours of trying, Sanjiv has found his calm. His eyes open to a moment of dislocation the world shifting around him. The sliding door of his carriage does not return now to where he was, instead opening to a door and glass window. A standard London underground door under intermittent lights. Inside Sanjiv can see Gwil who seems to be covering up one of the cctv screens within.
“GWIL. GWIL? That you?”
Having just covered the screen that shows where Lisa is, hiding it before Nate arrives Gwil turns “Sanjiv. I fucking did it..I ..I have no idea what I just did”
“Is it safe to come in?” Sanjiv asks, to which Gwil laughs in evil cackle
“No idea, is it safe to stay there?”
Taking that as the best he will get Sanjiv turns the handle stepping into the room, seeing only a normal CCTV booth with several monitors smashed in. On the screens, one by one the figures are seen, now standing outside of this room the two are in. On the final screen Milosh can be seen, scrabbling away, Chief inspector Grey before him taking a serious sledgehammer to the prosthetic clockwork Jesus. Sweating and bleeding from pinpricks around his eye sockets Milosh looks directly up at the camera. Burned and bleeding Grey discards his hammer and leads them both to a door, as he hammers upon it the same hammering echoes inside the room. The thumping of pistons accompany the turning of the world and soon all are in the room together. Milosh collapsed on the ground, Grey looking from one to the next with crystal clear blue eyes, his coat tattered and fingers covered with a mix of oil and blood.
“Gwil. Sanjiv. PC Winters. Thank you”
“What the hell happened, last I saw you faced the child of all sins, and now you are helping us?” Gwil says
“Ah yes” Grey says “What was that?”
Gwil pauses, not answering “Did you know, the person who knows most about the faith told me you were a metaphor. My world hasn’t made much sense since then
Taking that in his stride Grey turns to Sanjiv, speaking in perfect Hindi “Sanjiv, I used to work for law enforcement but I asked too many questions. Now I am my own agent, a rogue operator. I am on my own for the first time” Switching back to English he continues “I was made never to question. I existed to obey my programming, my orders. Now thanks to you and whatever the hell that thing was, I find myself surplus to requirements. I fell. I now have a very strong inkling that, to paraphrase someone wiser than me, that it is better to reign in hell than serve in heaven. Trust me, you do not want to see heaven”
“So you served the demiurge” Gwil says.
“I served the prime mover. I served the god machine. Now the god machine cut me off. I can be recycled or throw my lot in with you. I think now, I feel. I am tired. I can hear them…they are close. If we do not get out of here soon then we are completely and utterly fucked.” Grey pauses “I never used to swear, what happened?”
“Life happened” Gwil says “Now, we need to get to Dave that’s why we started this”
“Your friend is lost”
“No he’s not. I saw him”
“He is lost, that angels saw him as a resource to be used. Where do you think all those people were going? Ryan had an inkling. The god just wants bodies, he doesn’t care about you, doesn’t care about what you went through. God is unknowable, unknowable to man, and unknowable to me and I was an angel. What there is is human recycling and you do’;t need to go there to see it. They will take you and make you serve the machine”
“Then we burn it to the ground” Gwil says
“I can get behind the sentiment, but since I am a police officer I will not be able to turn a blind eye to that” Grey turns to PC Winters “This is who I am, and I have to be that, to be police chief inspector Grey. If that means banging you people up then I will. If you do something like this then keep me out of it”
“Very well, burning it down is off the table” Gwil lies
“I know a way to exploit the system, it is loud and we can’t get too close to the facility but I can get you to Romford station. Any closer and they will sense it”
Stepping up Gwil stares straight into Grey’s eyes “Listen, you tell me, and don’t even think about lying to me. You tell me is there no chance of getting Dave back, none at all?”
“He is dead, and even if he wasn’t he would wish to be” Grey says with absolute sincerity.
“Fuck” A monitor shatters beside Gwil as he embeds another chair within “Then let’s go”
Grey reaches out, his hand clamping around the door handle, blue light emanating from within, the handle turns with a resolute click. Suddenly the monitors, every monitor flickers to life, bathing the room in light.
“Shit they are here” Grey says, and with one violent motion he rips the door from its hinges. In a mad scramble the group pushes through, away from whatever is coming, Sanjiv holding until the last, guiding the others out
Stepping out into pure daylight Ryan staggers and she collapses, nerves finally expelling themselves as viscous vomit. They are on a platform, the sign hanging above declaring that they are at Romford. Tears flood from Milosh eyes in a form a religious rapture as he sinks to his knees, weeping and holding his head up to the sky. With a bellow he leaps back to his feet, sprinting down the platform, babbling about angels and demons and everything in-between as he charges headlong. The crowd stare at this strange group, in defiance of London’s usual ability to ignore everything short of an actual murder in front of them. Nonplussed Grey stands in the midsts of this, seemingly unaware of Nate staring at him with undisguised hostility and fear
“Do we have to hurry?” Gwil asks
“I have to hurry” Grey says ”You do not. I hope to not have too see you again, or at least not in the same role. The warehouse you seek, it is only one of many facilities on the M25, most likely one of many in the country. The new minister of work and pensions, he is one of them. An angel. He does their work. If you go after him, he will destroy you. His mission is to prepare humanity for the next phase of the god project.. You are nothing but resources to be used and cast aside. It wants to bring this country to a level where you are nothing but meek cattle who will do anything in exchange for food and water to drink. These are what those policies are, to make meek chattel. I cannot help, not directly. Goodbye” and without another word Grey turns and walks towards the bridge between platforms, vanishing as his feet touch the first step.
“Dave” Gwil mutters “Dave’s gone, no body, can’t even send him on without sin”
Nervous about the amount of attention they are attraction Sanjiv looks to Gwil “If we are going to do something we need to do it quickly, without drawing further attention. Something has to be done about that minister” He looks to Nate “This minister, this means of fighting the angels you found, we need to start working on that. If we want to take him down we only have one shot”
Thin, weary and tired Nate rubs his eyes, letting out a small shrug “I tried to resist the truth, but it is there, the truth is they are angels. Everything I’ve known, all the physics is just mere subroutines into a gods mind. Its all language, programming, mathematics, logic , everything. When I was researching Grey I looked into numerology, Kaballah, real old school occult shit. I took it with a pinch of salt, but it worked. We need to get to a library and work out what is bullshit and what is real. It will take along time, all of history, religion and physics it all blends together and still it isn’t the full language. It’s like leaves on sandstone, you need to scrape off the surface before you can start to read it”
“It’s not god” Gwil says “ I’ve seen it shoved down, broken before the child of all sins. It isn’t god, not in the all powerful monotheistic way you think. Trust me, I know people of the faith, they can help you face this, help you fight it. Talk to them and they can help you get Lisa back”
“All I’ve seen is what that thing said was true. It is all true”
“No” Gwil says “It is powerful, but I saw it smashed down like it was nothing. Grey didn’t know by what. There are things it doesn’t know. It is no god. Trust me, talk to the faith and..”
“and what?” Nate roars “You telling me that I have to join your cult to get my niece back. Tell me where my fucking niece is or I swear..”
“IM TRYING TO HELP YOU, YOU FUCK” Gwil stands, anger in his face to match Nates “I came out here to fucking find her you shit. I’m trying to fucking help you”
“Tell me where my niece is or I will…”
PC Winters steps between the two, ASP Baton out “Break it up you two or I swear I will plasticuff you to a post”
already assaulted me before and now..” Gwil says
“Gwil. I’m trying to do you a favour here, now shut up before I have to use the asp”
“Oh right , thanks, one of your mates already tried that back at the station, thought you were different, fucking police”
“”Listen” Ryan says, silencing the dissent “I don’t believe this bullshit about Dave being dead. I know where the warehouse is. I say we go in, then we torch the place to the ground”
“You think that there is a chance he is alive?“ Sanjiv asks
“Well if we are going there anyway we might as well take a shot. Trisha, how are you holding up?”
Trisha just huddles on the floor against a bench. Kneeling Ryan places one hand on her shoulder “it’s ok, everything’s going to be ok” Looking to the others Ryan speaks “Trisha shouldn’t come with us, she’s been through hell, I think I’d best call in some help to look for Milosh as well, right no he is a danger to himself. Right, Gwil, Nate, you two are coming but I don’t want you anywhere near each other, if need be I will hog tie you and leave you by the side of the road ”
Nate nods with grudging respect “Sure”
Sanjiv looks to Gwil “Listen, the people you know, do you think they will known anything about what is going on?”
“Shh. Shh” Gwil says with his finger up in elaborate stage pantomime. “ Lets take the advice of Mz policewoman and find somewhere quiet to talk about this”
Ryan gives Gwil an odd look but says nothing, heading instead up to the front desk of the Train Station and waving her ID “These lot are with me, if you can let them through” Thus the group departs the station with no further interruptions. Just on the edge of their eye lien a couple of television screens flicker inside the officers. Sky news and BBC 24, silently showing images of Waterloo station. It is cordoned off, images of bloodstains and bodies taken away in black bags. Bellow rolling banners proclaim “Terrorist attack on Waterloo Station. Dozens injured. Unknown dead”
“Fuck” Gwil says as soon as they are at safe distance “Ryan, can we talk? Is this linked to us?”
“Us?” Ryan asks “Why would it be linked to us?”
“I know what I saw, what the machine can do. Twisting worlds. It could stage something like this”
“I don’t know, I’m not good with this stuff, I know my faith but I’m just some fool who takes other peoples bur…” Gwil’s voice trails away as his self control overrides the madness scrabbling in his skull.
“Gwil, I saw what the documents said. What these people are capable of, what they are doing. Taking them down, burning down this warehouse, this isn’t just right, this is our civic duty” a thin laugh comes with the words. “Everything seems stacked against us but this is our chance to hit them”
“Well then policewoman, tell me, how do we do this and get away then?”
“Gas mains. We would need to get access to the central supply on the network but we can hit that and it would look like an accident”
“What would it take to get access?” Gwil says
“An engineer, someone who can either break in or has the clearance. Someone with decent knowledge of machinery”
“Right then, I’ll see what they can do. They own me enough already”
“There’s a bus not too far from here “Ryan says “but I think we should avoid public transport all things considered. There’s a cycle path that leads out to the train line. Mostly reclaimed by the undergrowth but it leads to the factory. Shouldn’t be too difficult to walk out there. You do what you have to do Gwil, I”ll talk to Sanjiv and let the others know what the plan is”
Sanjiv is sat, looking out onto the street, his mind back at Waterloo. Gwil was being followed he said, followed by people trying to pressure him and them all into obeying them. Now there has been an attack on Waterloo, it all seems too closely tied to be a coincidence. Ryan breaks up his thought process, greeting as she approached “Hey, Gwil says he is going to try and call some friends to help us out”.Sanjiv nods, Nate beside him pacing back and forth restlessly.
Out of earshot Gwil lifts the receiver on a public phone, dialing Head Druid Steven’s number. After nearly a minute of repetitive ringing the line cuts to answerphone. “Damnit” Dialing again Gwil tries the home of the faith, this time getting a response.
“Hello, who is it” a panicked voice greets
“Its me, Gwil”
“Oh, what do you want Sin Eater?”
“I’m trying to get hold of Steve, its important”
“Steve’s dead. Everyone who wen’t with you is dead. They are all dead. What the hell happened out there?”
Before Gwil can answer there is the sound of an argument, the phone taken over by another person, a female voice.
“Sin eater, brother Gwil, it is good to hear you. The false one isn’t a problem for you any more, he has been dealt with. We have seen the child of all sin. The false one he told us the demiurge was just a metaphor, he was leading us astray. How can we help you?”
I, we need, I need” Gwil stammers unsure of this sudden change “I need an engineer. The warehouse we were investigating, I need an engineer who can get access to that”
“We will come to you, where are you now”
Gwil quickly explains their locations and the woman continues “You know, I always believed in you, that you would come through. I’m afraid I think Mark is involved in this, I think he is with the demiurge now”
Suddenly things click into place, the voice, Lucy Brent, the woman Gwil has been staying with, the woman he has been hitting on for so long, Marks girlfriend. “You? You know who I am?” Gwil stammers
“Steven, the false prophet, he told us to take you in. Keep an eye on you, he told us not to let anyone know. Stay where you are, we will come to you.”
and the line goes dead. Accepted in the faith, knowing Steve is dead, seemingly by the faiths hands, his heart should be soaring, but all he has is the realisation. His hope was false, he has nothing outside the faith, nothing of his own, he is theirs.
His wishes have been realised and still Gwil sags to the ground, leaning against the phone sobbing for the realisation of all the lies his life has been.