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pen Ecanus•net :: Stories

This page was intended as a home for news about ‘the great unfinished novel’ which as the name suggests never quite got finished. Fallen Angel (in part the reason for the naming of this site) was started many years ago, back in my college days (I'm not going to admit to how long ago that was) and over the years has changed a lot. Its orginal inspiration was from a Stephen King short story "Strawberry Spring", but it's nothing at all like that now. Now in its fourth incarnation there's a totally different plot, location, fact it's nothing like the original. And one of these days I will get it finished. One of these days...

I have decided...2008 will be the year of Fallen Angel...I am gonna put some serious work into it, honest...

In the meantime you'll find some of my short stories here. Some have been seen out in public before; others have been hidden away for a long, long time. I figured it was about time to give them an airing. Words are for sharing, after all.

Unlucky Thirteenth

Looking down at my hand, it didn't feel like my own, and it took me a moment to place the ivory handled letter-opener that should have been at home on my desk. A smear of crimson streaked down the handle, and a small rivulet of blood ran the length of the blade, a heavy drop suspended at it's tip. When would it fall?

One, two, three, drip.

It was fresh blood, bright and red, oxygen saturated, arterial blood. Not good. Or good. It all depended on your perspective.

Reflected distorted on the bright mirror blade, like the grotesque result of some hall of mirrors, was a thin sliver of the crumpled figure on the floor. The loud-mouthed Yank would probably have been okay if the lift hadn't stalled mid way between the twelfth and thirteenth floor. Even with drops of his blood soaking into the leather of my shoes, I couldn't bring myself to call him by his name.

He was standing there by the lift when I walked into the glass and chrome lobby, briefcase in hand and mobile phone clamped to his ear, jabbing at the lift call button with a pudgy finger. I was running late. One misdirected click of the mouse and the email I didn't want to read then, because one look at the subject line told it'd only stoke my hatred further, was there in front of me on the screen. Follow that up with a missed connection and a gum chewing fellow passenger with bleached blonde hair and three out of control kids, and your day can only get better.

He was nothing out of the ordinary, just your typical loud Yank in his cheap suit and scuffed brogues. Slicked back hair did nothing to conceal a distinct lack of hair up top; it just made him look vaguely ridiculous. He was obviously going for The Godfather look, but managed only comedic parody.

When the lift arrived and the doors slid open, he marched in, still barking orders at whoever was on the other end of the phone. I imagined some harassed, hapless employee frantically making notes and sweating profusely, terrified of the big cheese. As the doors slid closed he jabbed the button, not even bothering to ask which floor I wanted. I craned around and saw that fifteen was lit up and slumped back against the wall. The cool steel felt good through my blouse. I was still flustered from my dash from the station and the coolness was welcome. It wasn't like the fake wood panelling and chipped flooring of the lift at work; all gleaming chrome and mirrors this one with a deep shag pile under foot. Only the best for the Brant Corporation's London headquarters. It also meant that the damned Yank was reflected back at me in every direction. I was beginning to understand what claustrophobia was about.

The Yank turned slightly and gave me a side–long glance, then with a sneer turned back and continued his conversation. "Listen to me Billy–boy; you don't ask questions, you just do as you're fuckin' told. I run the show, and when I say jump, you ask 'How high?' You got that bitch?"

He'd got one of those faces that you just want to slap. No particular reason. There was nothing particularly grotesque about him, just that the features didn't fit together quite right, and time hadn't been kind to him. He'd certainly never been no oil painting. I'd imagine unless he'd gone rapidly downhill from an early age. He'd inherited the ugly gene and been an ugly bastard from birth and I imagined that on seeing what she'd produced his mother wished she'd had an unfortunate accident while she was carrying him.

Christ, I was in a foul mood! I'd really no interest in going to the conference that was on the fifteen floor now, but I supposed I'd enjoy it once I got there.

"Billy, you ain't listening. Just do it! The plan's good. Do as you're told and we'll soon be running the show." He gave a humourless laugh. "Or I'll be running the show. You couldn't run a god–damned orgy in a whorehouse!"

I hated the guy already and I'd got another nine floors of him to endure. I wanted to rip the phone from his pudgy little hand and ram it down his throat, or at least say something to him in defence of the poor employee who hadn't got the balls to stand up to his bully of a boss. Of course I knew I wouldn't. I'd just stand there quietly seething.

I hated bullies in any form though; cowards of the worst variety. And then of course thinking of bullies set me off thinking about Him.

It's difficult to believe that you can hate someone so much, someone you've never even met. He has the power to make my heart race and my boil boil, stalking the room scattering everything in sight and hurling obscenities at the computer screen, making me incapable of coherent thought let alone work. I knew him only as the name 'Missouri' and that damned avatar. I hated him with a vengeance I'd never known before. I knew his style though, his every post, his every word dripping with bile and stinging venom.

Online communities are just like 'real' communities. Each one has it's own unique style and feel, it's 'characters', and the regulars who set the tone of the place, living their life in the sometimes strange online world of forums and bulletin boards. There are communities all over the globe, all over the 'net; groups of people getting together with a shared interest in some pop fad, some hit TV show, online role–playing games, cars, hobbies, professions, or just plain fun. They're places of general chat and juvenile silliness, of debate and politics, philosophical discussion and support and friendship.

The Helix boards, were a nice place to hang out, most of the time that was – a welcome antidote to the stresses of work, home to a ragtag bunch of off–duty genetics researchers. Search around enough and you'll find a community for just about anything. Even undertakers have their own joint. They make jokes about it being a dead end job and their customers not being much into conversation and stuff like that. Online community forum software brings the strangest of the web together. Helix is a non–proprietary, international joint. There's no politics and no company rules. Many of the Helix's members are academics, and the beauty of the Helix, like communities the net wide, is that you can kick around ideas and ask those questions you'd be laughed out of the lab at if you asked your offline peers away from the anonymity of the Helix. It's the best way to stay on top of the latest news before it hits the journals and debate whether there just might be a molecule of truth in the latest wacky story to hit the press.

It's not all 'work' though. The 'off–topic' areas of the Helix are the heart and soul of the community. Folks argue and bicker and exchange heated words, but on the whole everyone gets along barring the odd major ruckus where someone either storms off, never to be seen again, or the Mods or Admins boot 'em out. The Helix is admined by a guy known only as Cytosine. No-one seems to know his real name, or where he's from, or who he works for. It doesn't matter though. Cytosine's known for, well, just being Cytosine. There's folks you get along with and folks you don't. Folks whose posts make you laugh, and folks whose posts bore you to tears. Akira's one of the latter, though she's known amongst the Helix as 'Why', as in WTF do we bother to read her teenage angst dramatic Anime drivel–full posts? She's a lab tech with delusions of grandeur who's not yet figured out that there's a lot more to this game than setting out equipment and feeding results into a system, who sees conspiracy theories around every corner. There's a Missouri in every community though. There's always one guy who rubs everyone up the wrong way, starting flame wars every time they come online.

It started out as minor spats; an odd disagreement here and there, progressing to outright war. It started with just skitting at first, then overt hostility, progressing to outright nastiness. Anyone who dared to disagree with him incurred his wrath. You were pretty safe on the genetics boards. Despite his posturing and his huffing and puffing, his knowledge was limited. He was always careful on the genetics boards not to get into anything too deep. Things were different in the off–topic areas though. There it was open season, and anyone who dared to get in Missouri's way got stomped on.

Matters came to a head though when the emails started. I started receiving dozens every day – email newsletters from companies worldwide, ads from purveyors of sexual aids, gambling sites, porn sites, just about every unsavoury site on the web. They never stopped. They all came to the email address I only use in one place though – the Helix boards. There was only one place they could be coming from. He was clever though. It's pretty easy to spoof email headers, and there was no way of linking them back to him.

We knew who he was though and where he lived. You're never really anonymous online. There's always a trail leading back to your offline life, and it's pretty easy to find out all about someone, especially if you know the right people. We'd got no concrete proof it was him, but it was just nice to know who our foe was, and maybe, just maybe if we dug deep enough we might be able to find out who he worked for, and unearth something about his shady dealings offline, because people like him are always dodgy.

I was deep in thought about Missouri, my hands clenching into fists, my fingernails digging painfully into my palms, when with a shudder the lift just stopped and the light flickered. The doors stayed firmly shut, and both the twelfth and thirteenth floor buttons were illuminated, flashing.

The Yank stopped his ranting mid–sentence. He banged the control panel with his fist and the floor buttons flickered then held steady. The silence, to coin a phrase, was deafening.

"God damned backward country! Can't even maintain an elevator, so I'm stuck here in this tin box with some prissy broad, and it'll be just my luck if that fucking Gemma bitch is here too when I eventually get out of this fucking thing..."

And that was when I knew, and something cracked.

Dreamlike I straightened up and pushed away from the wall. It took only a couple of steps before I was face to face with him. I was only inches from his face and I could smell stale garlic on his breath and the musty odour of sweat. He disgusted me.

"I know who you are Jim Bryant."

His widened in surprise. If he was thinking he was stuck in a lift with a crazy woman, then he was damned near right.

I don't know how it got there. I can't remember reaching into my bag, but then the letter-opener was in my hand.

"Who a..."

He never got a chance to finish his question before I plunged the blade of the letter-opener into his chest. It went in easy at first before I felt the grate of bone and the contact sent a shock wave up my arm. I shifted my weight slightly, and again it went in easy, like slicing butter.

My eyes never left his. I was staring into his pupils, the windows on the soul, but all I saw was blankness. Grey eyes that had been dancing with sparks of defiance were now strangely still. I wanted to see the look in his eyes as I took revenge for all those words, for all those slurs, for all the cruel jibes, for all those emails. His eyes were wide and full of fear. No defiance, no Mr Big Man any more, just a fixed stare widening in fear and pain. He uttered a strangled moan as the hilt of the blade made contact with his skin. Apart from that he was silent. I was kind of disappointed in a way. It was all over in a matter of seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

"You okay in there?"

The metallic voice startled me out of my stupor, and slowly the world came back into focus.

"Yes, we're fine thanks."

Jim Bryant lay crumpled on the floor. Blood bubbled on his lips with each laboured breath. His lips had taken on a blueish cast and his ugly face was the colour of unbaked pastry. I liked seeing him like that.

Around the blade of the letter–opener, incongruous planted in his chest, blood pooled and bubbled. Strangely, it fascinated me, and I saw millions and millions of tiny helices, like tiny coiled springs spilling from him. Alphabetti spaghetti. Guanine. Adenine. Thymine. Cytosine. Hydrogen bonds breaking down. Telomeres fell off the ends of the helices, dozens and dozens of them and the helices uncoiled, guanine, adenine, thymine and cytosine tumbling from them as they unravelled, piles of useless molecules, like so much litter. Crazy? No more crazy than a guy with a letter–opener sticking out of his chest lying on the floor of an elevator.

The letter–opener was still sticking out of his chest, a small circle of blood around it's blade soaking into his shirt...piles of useless molecules. I stooped and wrapped my hand around it's handle. It pulled out easier than it had gone in, and as it did so his spine arched and he sucked in a breath with a twisted grimace. Air sucked through the hole in his chest and the small patch of blood began to spread. Guanine, adenine, thymine, cytosine.

"We'll have you out of there in no time," the voice returned, "Just a temporary electrical fault. Soon be sorted."

A tinny voice was squawking from the mobile that lay. I knew Billy of old too. I bent and picked up the phone and put it to my ear.

"Billy. Jim's a little indisposed right now so he can't talk to you. Go get a life of your own without hanging onto every word of a loser like Jim. He's really not worth it."

Looking down at my hand, it didn't feel like my own, and it took me a moment to place the ivory handled letter–opener that should have been at home on my desk. A smear of crimson streaked down the handle, and a small rivulet of blood ran the length of the blade, a heavy drop suspended at it's tip.

"Okay, we're good to go. Be out of there in no time. Sorry about the delay," came the metallic voice.

I pressed the button for the ground floor, and with a small jolt the lift began it's descent. It didn't stop and the doors didn't open. When we reached the ground floor the doors slid open, and as I stepped out of the lift I turned for one last look at the pathetic figure who'd only ever been a pathetic figure hiding behind a name and an image.

"Who...are you?" he gasped, his voice a whisper.

"I'm the one you pushed too far."

© Fallen Angel/Bliss Carrington, December 2006

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