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“I am admonished by Doctor Blakeson for my barking nervous laugh as I stand in the atrium outside The Clarion’s room. If only I were a bit meeker full stop and could contain my erratic laughter, perhaps I wouldn’t be in this awkward god damn mess in the first place. Stop laughing you dumb ass. Oh man, now the doctor is looking at me like I’m some red-neck hoo-har with shit in my pants. If so, he’s almost right about the latter. Fear has a grip on my heart tight as a drum; I can only hope it can be just as dedicated when it comes to my bowels. I can just about breathe. A nod from the esteemed doctor and I step forwards, slipping my fingers around the brass doorknob, burnished to a silky softness by countless numbers of digits squeezing and turning, squeezing and turning. I pause, and contemplate just how many people have swayed, just as I sway now, in this very spot, nervous and shaking, unsure of just who or what awaits them on the other side of the thick knotted oak and carved glass door that is inches from my face.  A soft amber light is defused and refracted across my anxious features through the cut glass pane, belaying nothing of that which lies on the opposite side. I make myself breathe slowly, talking to myself in a whisper of whispers; “Breathe Dan, breathe, if you hyper-ventilate now your future will be all but over, and the repercussions for your family…..” I blanch, drained white with horror at the reality of my situation and suddenly freeze. Rock solid with fear. I can’t move a muscle, because this is it, whatever happens in the next few minutes will change the path of my life irreparably forever. I sway slightly again and see dark iridescent edged blotches swim before my eyes.  My tweed suit itches like hell. I feel like my balls have retracted back up into my body, like cowardly rats leaving the incompetent, half-witted captain on his sinking vessel, never to return, waving a white flag as they go – whilst down my misshapen spine, a small fountain of ice-cold sweat is rippling, heading towards my ass crack with the kind of focused determination the infamous explorer Roald Amundsen exhibited in his search for the North West Passage. I think I’m beginning to rave. Move. Move. Move. I’m still pleading with myself silently when the doctor coughs sharply, with clear malicious intent, and a Brattender 300 stun-gun begins to hum as it powers up menacingly behind me. No more delays, I bolt forwards with a heaving jerk. One melodramatic squeak of hinges later and I’m in the room, the door slipping home smoothly behind me with a delicate click. My senses are immediately assaulted. A trilling electronic squeal tears at my ears, my eyes blur as a cavalcade of malodorous vapours hit them, and the smell….by Asmodeus himself the smell is an over powering one of iodine and bergamot, and…..and what the heck is that?! Oh man, oh that gagging acrid odour……I’d say chicken shit, no I’d swear its chicken shit, but that’s fair impossible, no chickens have been seen out of the Ganicfactory for two hundred years or more in Atlanta. Hell, the only reason I know what Chicken shit smells like at all is because Slippy Danes broke into one of the more remote storage facilities outside the day fence when we were both kids, he the elder by two years, dragging me along as though no more than a rag doll as I cried like a baby girl, my pleas falling on cloth ears. When I entered that cursed place I reeled with the smell, it was thick enough to make opossum stew out of I tell you, and not one you’d try twice either. We were found and captured by the guards in less than a minute. Slippy was sorely penalised; had his Aldrin stars ripped off his small khaki waistcoat, then was whipped in front of the five parent families until eventually the the cries and screams ceased, and all that remained where he once stood was a heaving shiny red mass of raw flesh and scraps of cloth that was duly scooped up and taken away In a Bluecorps carriage.  We were told by Pa Johann that Slippy was sent to the ‘bad boys’ facility immediately to be rehabilitated and ‘learn his lessons well’, and we’d see him again one day, but we never did, though I heard some pure terrible stories about what really happened to him out there. I only escaped his fate by the skin of my teeth. I was judged to be just young enough to not know any better. At four years old. My fifth birthday was two days later. Aged five and I’d be wherever poor Slippy lies today, and I’m guessing that ain’t anywhere kind. I didn’t sleep for months on end afterwards, and still to this day wake up from nightmares where I’m being whipped to a pulp, screaming and bleeding again and again. And everyone who loves me just stands and stares. After the age of five you should know better than to commit any of the stated misdemeanors in the Revelation Rules apparently. And if you do break those rules there are consequences and no exceptions, dragged away from your ma and pa you go, a lost boy in the most cruel sense. We were such obedient children.

That’s fear for you.
The here and now Dan, the here and now. The smell is the least of my worries right now, it’s the woman in the bed I fear. Old auntseema Jessica. The skater of minds. ‘Woman’. That’s a lie, I can see that straight enough for myself as I look at the shuddering shape under the flannelette bedspreads. Sure she’s been spoken of, talked of in tales and stories as sky-high as the Scritchley birds soar, but never seen, not by myself nor any of my kin until right now. She looks like a tissue paper bag that’s been screwed up and thrown in the trash, pissed on for a week, then dragged back out again. Her eyes are like cockroaches, slick black, jittering about, but still looking straight at you the whole time, her eyelashes flickering spindly legs, and through the torn flap that passes for her mouth I spy long thin brown pegs encased in crimson red and bone white bloodied gums. Rotten. She’s rotting. Turns out that rotting old auntseema Jessica smells of chicken shit. Don’t laugh Dan! Don’t you dare laugh, not now, NOT NOW…..I shove my hands into my woollen itchy trouser pockets and pinch my thighs so hard I cry out…but I don’t laugh. Because I’ve just caught sight of something. Something bad. Something real bad. Next to the bed head, leaning against the peeling varnish of the bedside table is an axe. The biggest son of a bitch axe I ever did see. I notice there’s some engraving on the head, following the curve of the blade. I bend cautiously forwards, acutely aware of those beetle-like eyes, carefully watching my every move, and try to make out the text. It’s in old style copperplate script, swirling and curling, a mass of flourishes, and I can’t make head nor tail of it. Then all of a sudden it’s a clear as a bell. It’s my name. The goddamn axe has got my fucking name engraved upon it. I pass out.”

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