Anthropocentric by Simon Allington-Jones - HTML preview

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never plea, only ask

Disenchanted with life Byron Diaeh placed an advert in the paper for Death. It read: I sit in a chair of the finest apathy and as I wait quietly for the world to become fiction, I request a tryst with Death. May we discuss Life. Please Respond.

If you are anthropocentric it is your belief that mankind is the centre of existence. Not an unusual belief, most of mankind believes it to be true, that they are not only the dominant species but they are also the superior species. But what exactly have they achieved due to their superiority? To stand on two legs? Big advance. Ask the ape, or the bear, or the dinosaurs that preceded them. Opposable thumbs? I suppose it makes it easier to poke these thumbs further up their collective arses. But then again, monkeys have four opposable thumbs, and bigger arses. And of course not forgetting to fight; to have the self awareness to hate others of the same species for reasons that eclipse on a planetary level the conception of the ridiculous. It gives them the minds to invent endlessly more efficient and entertaining ways of destroying themselves, and the planet that they carve up with misconceived ownership, to disperse in the most self-gratuitous way possible. Rhetorical questions are not my strong point.

Not all mankind, now a term the wrong side of politically correct. Not all personkind (even the women) believed this. Byron Diaeh didn’t believe this. Death herself didn’t believe this. Byron would have liked to have been a poet, but he wasn’t very good with words, his heart had the poetry, his tears bypassed language. Alot of animals have the capacity to love, no other animal but the human has the capacity to hate. There is a civilisation wide delusional feeling of grandeur on this place, a phenomena which might be somewhat ironic, cause mirth even, to those that can sit, watch, and realise. The folk that laugh to themselves in the many establishments designed for the mentally unhinged, I believe they get it. Give them the world and go home for jelly I say, you’ll feel better. And before this fictional story starts, pay human kind the greatest honour, and laugh at yourself. With respect, you’re funny.

Mr Diaeh stared with a mix of pretend apathy and real disappointment at the scrap of paper upon which the advert had been written. It had been three weeks since it had been placed, and it had run for the full three weeks since. He had received the usual abusive response, it had amused him at first when he collected the mail from the post office box. Now it was merely vexing; threats on his life, from people who did not know him, the recipient of a dozen leaflets from a dozen different religious groups, offering their help. Now you may ask, what of these believers and their gods a plenty, do they not give credence to the previous statement of anthropocentrism? I will merely speculate; however high the power, humankind does not do humble.

Someone had even sent Byron a packet of razor blades, the note attached said “see you on the other side”. Byron could not raise a smile to this one. The cup of coffee under his nose began to steam his reading glasses, the noise from the coffee shop began to filter back in, Byron added a sigh to the general blare. He sat uncomfortably in his middle twenties, of average height and weight (if not a little undernourished). The one redeeming feature he held was the cause of the destined solitude he had endured his whole life. Beneath his dark and untidy hair, matted in places, hid his eyes of indistinguishable colour. They were dark, of that people were sure, but how dark no one could say, they appeared to be permanently under shadow. It had led to his peers never knowing or understanding whether he was actually looking at them or not. Therefore he had never been included, his appearance made him an outsider to the normal folk. But it was something he never did mind, his voyeurism on life gave him a perspective he thought he would not have had if his eyes had been blue, possibly a forced superiority complex of his own. Those who did see him, and did not look to his eyes first, may have seen the scar on his arm if it was uncovered. And they would still have walked away. His left arm had a jagged disfigurement running from his shoulder to half way down his forearm, the scar was raised in parts, indented in parts and the sewing punctures were still visible. The accident had happened over fifteen years ago, and still he was judged a man of questionable ethics, they assumed it had happened in a fight of somesort. They probably watched too much television.

When Byron was ten years old, he used to swim in the local reservoir. He was always alone, even at this age, although he did not understand, he had learnt to accept his fate. If you believe such things: Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos, may spin, apportion, and cut his life yarn, but his destiny was his own. Of this he was adamant. Byron believed he was in control of his destiny, a director, and not a player in somebody else’s. He had swam here for the last few years, no one asked him anymore where it was he was going, he had isolated himself long ago. The day was bright, the sun warmed his poets’ heart and he even managed a smile at the sky. He striped off to his cut up jean shorts and carefully folded all his worldly belongings into his towel. A yell of excitement echoed through the woodland beside the reservoir as Byron threw himself into the dark blue water. The glacial chill accepted him again without emotion. The water was always cold even on a hot day like this, as it stung his bones and reminded him he was alive. An event was soon to happen that reminded him what being alive was. The fair folk of his hometown had an inherent laziness when it came to the dumping of household bulk, the tip was another town away, and the reservoir was not. The basic mathematics of humankind dictated that an old bed and half a car were better off under water. Unfortunately certain sides of this reservoir were not man-made and therefore sloped as nature’s erosion intended. The stinging at Byrons' bones was no longer just the cold, he had twisted under the surface to swim back to air, but as he did, somewhere between the iron bedsprings and the decaying bonnet he became stuck. The iron springs gripped at his arm, the bonnet snapped at his legs like an emaciated hippo. As he struggled vainly his lungs expelled the air he wanted to keep, rising to the surface in bubbles, each bubble wore a face of mocking as they burst to the surface leaving Byron behind. Panic pushed adrenaline to all corners of Byrons small frame, his legs at last came free, and with what little oxygen that remained reflexively hurled his feet against the solid metal of the dead car. The sting became a burn in his arm as he exploded towards the surface to inhale a breath to rival his very first. Pain swan across his arm and legs, he lurched against the agony to reach the bank and dry land. As he crawled out he noticed his legs were cut and bleeding, the water mixed and turned the blood pink as it cascaded across the downy hair on his shins. Not too badly hurt he thought, until the pain in his arm forced his eyes to look. A hideous mouth stretched from his shoulder to his forearm, white puffy tissue smiled at him, blood did not pump, it seeped maliciously from the opening. Blind terror forced his other hand to grip at the fissure, trying to force it back together, it was then it started to bleed. In sporadic coughs the blood that was supposed to feed his brain vomited from his arm in thickening clots. Grabbing his t-shirt and wrapping it about the gash, more to take his eyes from it than to stop the bleeding, he slammed his feet into his trainers and ran home. Blood pumped faster around his body and it was sheer terror alone that got him to his front door. He kicked madly at the wooden blockade, his heart in his ears. He remembered his mother’s face, looking worried for the first time that he could remember, her screams for his father were the last thing he could remember before passing out.

The doctors had said the reason for the uneven technique on his patching up was due to the fact that parts of his flesh were literally scoured out and that they had to bunch the skin in places, it could be corrected by cosmetic surgery after it had healed. Byron looked at his forearm now, it had never been corrected. Partly, he remembered, because of his stubbornness not to have it corrected, it had made people care after all, but mostly because he slipped back into anonymity soon after the accident. He remembered getting a telling off by his father, never to go back to the reservoir again, the disciplinary speech rose in tone as his father demanded that Byron look at him when he was speaking. Unfortunately Byron was looking at him. His father walked away in mid scream, yelling to his mother that the boy was impossible, that he didn’t pay a blind bit of notice to him. Life wound on.

Behind this memory was the passion to meet the personification named Death. He knew she existed, he had told the councillor that, after his accident in the third and final meeting before he was dismissed, he had seen her. Death was a girl the same age as him, he was sure. She was in the water with him, she had swam to the surface with him, he remembered. He remembered her complexion, ghostly white, nearly florescent under the darkness of the water. She had walked from the water with him, always a few steps away, looking at him calmly, constantly. His mind racing with the pain he had hardly noticed that she was there, until he thought back later. She had run all the way home with him, just looking. Her face blank and expressionless, but within the features carved from stone was something, something of a feeling rather than any impression that he got from her, sort of like compassion, maybe even concern. As he reached his house, she stopped behind him, and then Byron could remember no more. He knew that she had been Death. She had been wearing a black dress. Her lips were red, her eyes were black, utterly black, without pupils. They had reminded him of his own eyes. Byron had been persuaded that it had been part of the panic he had felt, that his mind had been playing tricks on him. But Byron knew it to be true, his ten year old logic told him so, and so he had kept quiet about it ever since. Begrudgingly leaving the warmth of the coffee house Byron began to speculate, his resolution still fixed on his truth; that it was her turn now, to stay quiet about his existence.

Never get in a boat going to Hell

The day was cold and the warmth of the coffee shop disappeared quickly from his bones. His arm had begun to ache. The city he had moved to a few months ago, the city he now attended, busied itself around him, it paid him no heed as he meandered through street and park. Those he looked at he recorded their faces, he could watch longer than others, who can pass only the merest of glances between strangers for fear of making too much eye contact. A sad state that people can no longer greet a stranger in the street without being branded a pervert, a mugger, a thief, or a killer. Even hormones are fought in the battle not to touch another’s eyes with your own, men do not want to be mocked, or worse, misinterpreted for a rapist. And women do not want to appear to offer themselves as prey, or become part of the male dominated sport of “nice arse, shame about the tits, but I could still ‘ave her”. If angels sing in the clouds it is without societies enlightened inhibitions.

The letters clutched in his hand were a weight to his soul, the huge park he walked through seemed nothing more than an offensive scar on the city’s otherwise self delusive perfect complexion. He discarded them, threw them in a passing bin and muttered a curse pulling his coat around him tighter. “Hey glum gus, Maybe there was the reply in that lot.” For a moment Byron ignored the voice of the woman sat on the park bench next to the bin, Byron wasn’t used to people making conversation with him. “Hey you, do you hear me?” Still no reaction. “Byron you plank.” She spoke again, this time with a little more volume, enough volume to rival a gas explosion. Byron heard his name, from someone other than himself, an odd experience he hadn’t been familiar with for a while. He stopped and walked back a few paces to behold the women calling him, apart from a little tug in his stomach at the appearance of the pretty stranger no recognition fired in his mind. “You think I’m pretty? Why thank you.” The voice took on a girlish tone of sugar, the kind fathers cave into all over the world. Perplexed, Byrons face showed an emotion that may have resembled a smile, but it lacked practice. He continued to look at her silently, the subtleties of manners passing him by with a tisk. His colourless eyes whirled in reverence at her milk coloured skin touched with peach, presented to him by a plunging v-necked jumper and visible between the open lapels of a heavy woollen coat. She uncrossed and crossed her legs unconsciously pulling his eyes to her short skirt and thick woollen tights, all cloth made of black. Byron's eyes followed the indulgent symmetry of her reclining figure, ascending her slender neck, the colour of her skin and slow recognition, to her poetic face. Her full lips were painted light blue, the colour was vibrantly alive compared to the paleness of her cheeks, her eyes were wide, open, and beautiful. And they were black, without pupils. She flashed a smile at him. “Do you remember me now my little Houdini? I’m a bit dryer than when you last saw me.” She whispered with sugar. “Death? …but your older.” Replied Byron, the total lack of notation of a possible insult passing his non-existent people skills with deft speed. “Why thank you.” Death replied indignantly. “No I didn’t mean... I’m sorry” Stammered Byron, his alarm diminishing as Death flashed another playful smile. “I didn’t think you’d reply,” He Said, “They thought I was mad you know, when I told them I saw you all those years back. Behavioural problems and delusional tendencies they said.” Byron stopped. He’d noticed Death looking at his face quizzically. “I know, my eyes.” The sorrow in his tone discharged the excitement he felt at an actual conversation. “They’re pretty.” Death replied. “They’re grey.” Byron flinched unable to disguise his astonishment. “Are they?” His voice nearly pleading for confirmation, “I didn’t know, or at least I knew but no one else has ever known. Thank you. Your....” “I know, you think I’m pretty.” Death laughed easily, Byron could just stand, stupefied. She reached out a slender hand her fingers tipped in blue to match her lips, chilled to the touch she gently caught his hand and pulled him carefully to sit next to her. She swung around on the bench and sat cross-legged facing him. He turned his head, a little overwhelmed, his eyes darting across her beauty and to the floor without control. His brow furrowed for a second, his mouth forcing a question to challenge his reason, a conversation is a powerful tool to those who cannot converse with ease. “How can I know that it’s really you? You could just be another nut or predator like the others that responded to my ad. Or would you like to save my soul?” Byron avoided the girl’s eyes, unfortunately the sweep of her sweater offered the only other view. Byron’s eyes narrowed, just visible under ribbing of the v-neck was the tip of an odd tattoo, it was a crude design, it looked freshly scribed but in a style that must have died in the last millennium. From what he could see it looked to resemble the tip of…., “It’s a scythe.” Death pulled the neck of her jumper to the side, quite an unfortunate act for Byron’s already shivering heart. Her skin lifted with the shape of her breast, too smooth and faultless, it seemed unreal. The barely perceptible crescent of subtly darker pink whispered promises of equally perfect nipples. Byron’s attention flitted nervously between the two. Finally, and surprisingly, the black and ancient shape of the scythe won. It looked engraved rather than painted into the skin, scoured by tools that no longer existed. He looked to her eyes for an explanation. “It was done by a people that live now only in myth, just before their island sunk. And yes, it hurt like hell. I am Death Byron, I don’t have to prove it. I am who I am, just as you are who you are. And stop looking at my breasts.” She demanded. He looked shameful in his questioning, embarrassed with his line of vision, but to most people Death’s anthropomorphism was a fictional creation at best. Byron was just touching on a corner of society’s rationalism, within its square was a place totally void of fancy. Life. A place, to his credit, he did not visit often.

“Now this tryst that you requested, shall we begin?” Death leant forward, Byron’s eyes, heart, and lap, twitched in foolish and uncontrolled anticipation. His heart nearly gave up as he saw Death’s tongue dart across her lips, wetting them before a kiss. She touched her lips to his. The delicate pressure fed his heart with as much adrenaline as it had ever tasted, soft was a word that would be left describing thorned bricks in comparison. The frictionless moisture pressed against his dry mouth, her lips opened slightly and he felt the tip of her tongue like a waterfall sending pulses of sensation through his chest, some parts of him indicated that they might explode. Death pulled away slowly, tracing the bow of his top lip with her tongue before she departed. Byron could not open his eyes. He dare not in case she had gone. “Open your eyes little one.” He heard hear voice and knew she remained, but it sounded different, the atmosphere it resonated in had changed, they were somewhere else, but where? There was a slight echo to her speech, inferring a space enclosed, and the silent wind of the park was now deafening in its absence, but how? Slowly and anxiously Byron opened his eyes to find himself still sitting beside the figure of Death, he went to breathe a sigh of relief, until he realised the park bench he had been sitting on was no longer a bench.

Death sat beside him continuing to stare at him with a smile wide across her face, the ease of her smile failing to subdue him. “Where the hell are we?” Byron jumped from his seat, which now took the form of wooden seat at the bow of a half built river barge. That is to say the barge was without cover, the wooden seats were the only interior visible, and they stretched back the thirty or so feet to the stern in shapeless irregular rows. The boats rudder was manned, if such a description could be bestowed on the creature leaning nonchalantly on the ancient and knurled wood, the only other presence on the boat. Red lensed glasses perched on his long nose, his skin looked as it had been weathered by the sun, for about eternity, his hair struck out from his scalp to resemble the sweep of the device he leant on, it too had been bleached by the sun. The skeletal frame held on to his skin loosely, as if it could no longer be bothered with the effort. A cloak of faded black, more fitting in style to Byron’s travelling companion, used him as a coat hanger. It lay undone giving up the fight to maintain any decency the creature had left. The creature’s eyes stared calmly ahead in a tranquil lilac colour, a dry smile permanently pulled at the side of his mouth. “Charon.” Death acknowledged the man, her voice soft but carried to the ears of the ferryman as if she had stood next to him. “Lady Death, how’s it sailing cheri?” His voice carried back in the same manner, his accent for some reason was of New Orleans descent, yet he must have been in existence well before the United States were even a twinkle in Columbus’s eye. “Good my old friend, this is Byron my.. Guest.” She replied. “I though I smelt life in him. I will not question, I just hope he pleases your loins.” The gravel of his voice broke into a dry chuckle. Byron sat bemused. “This is the river Styx?” He asked instead. “It is live one, it is indeed.” Charon chuckled again. “So we’re going to Hell?” Byron’s voice took a tone of understandable panic. “That’s an inaccuracy of journalism at the time. Myths may start in truth but the truth rapidly becomes invention, a necessity of recital I think, who knows? Charon ferries all dead across the river, to the Island, and to the wait.” “What Island?” Byron queried with idiosyncratic predictability. “That one.” Death pointed before them, and Byron wished he had never asked. The river, if you could call it that it was too calm for any reality to present itself as the norm, was more like a sea in it’s sheer size. Byron had not questioned what land they had come from, for there was nothing behind them but what was in front of them. The whole plane seemed to be covered by a dome of clearest blue sky sporadically interrupted by opaque orange clouds This offered uneasy explanation for the eerie echo to every uttered word.

The boat came to a halt suddenly on the beach now very much beneath them. There was no tide washing back and forth, just glittering sand which seemed as it should be shimmering in the sky and not on ground beneath them. The beach stretched as far as the eye could see to each side of them, but instead of the expected steady incline of the beach leading the quintessential height above sea level theory, twenty feet away from them inland the Island became concave, graded to create a huge basin. Everything else was there, the sparse foliage leading to a denser, sanded forest entwined with well-trodden paths in no particular direction, just the land forgot to rise but fell instead. “Where is this? Where are we?” Byron asked, before he made any attempt to vacate the old wooden barge. It seemed safer. “Precisely or with a touch of fiction? Precisely we are inside one of those tacky snowglobes which currently sits on the desk of an estate agent, a present to him from his brother. Or with a touch of rational fictionalisation, this is the Waiting. People…, wait here.” Answered Death plainly. “For what?” Asked Byron suspiciously. “Humans like to wait, what can I say?” Vagueness, Byron was beginning to understand, being one of Death’s multi-faceted talents. It wasn’t that she answered Byron’s question, or even hinted that she could not give an answer, she merely hinted that to enquire further would be a mistake. And still she smiled. “Why have you bought me here Death? Am I to die?” He stood stock still even his unusual sanity was beginning to question itself. “You asked to see me, requested a tryst sitting in your chair of finest apathy.” Her voice took a mocking tone, playfully he hoped. “But why did you decide to answer me?” “Because you asked.” She responded sincerely. “Not many of you even believe we exist anymore, it’s nice for a girl to be asked out once in a while. Now come on.” Death pulled off her coat and fell to a seat on the glistening sand. She hurriedly tugged at her shoes, throwing them down the beach like an excited child, with more grace than Byron thought possible she squirmed her bottom on the sand grabbing at her tights and pulling them off and discarding them the same way as the shoes. Death jumped to her feet beaming at him. “I love the feel of this sand, it’s like dew touched grass.” Byron watched her bemused and enchanted and Deaths unimpeded happiness crept onto his face in a small smile as she wiggled the sand between her blue painted toes. Can you love Death he thought, or was that just a mixed metaphor? “You can love me if you wish.” She replied. “Now do I have to kiss you to move you anywhere?” “Yes.” Byron mouth opened before his brain could intercede, or even think. He felt his face blush red, an unusual feeling he had not felt for a long time. He tried to look away but just felt his eyes drawn to the newly unveiled legs of his companion, aiding his embarrassment tenfold as blood left his head and began to migrate south. His body had mutinied, and his mind was quick to follow, as he momentary thought of running his hand from her feet and over her smooth calves. He saw her legs bend before him in a curtsy, pulling the sides of her skirt slightly away from her thighs in mock reverence. “Thank you sir, your thoughts are most becoming.” Byron forced himself to look at her face again, past the burning in his cheeks, to read her features in prayer that she was joking once more. Her smile remained, the burning of his face began to fade. “I’m sorry, it’s just I haven’t been in many situations of conversation, especially with someone…” His voice trailed into silence unable to eek a compliment from his diminishing confidence. “It’s alright, you’ve said already you think I’m pretty.” Death cut in. “Beautiful.” His mouth spoke again without his brain, this time he was pleased. “Thank you, but you didn’t have to say, I mean your jeans seem to be trying to tell me all on their own.” Byron closed his eyes and realised how lucky he’d been, to be able to forget exactly what embarrassment felt like. He was being reminded now, he didn’t even have to look, he felt the crotch of his jeans push out with a further kick in the teeth pulse of blood. Death continued to laugh easily, the sound impelled him to reopen his eyes. The laughter stooped and the girl Death stepped closer to him, her face tilted down slightly but her eyes wide and provocative staring into his with the innocence of a devil, Byron could do nothing but stand stock-still. With one hand around the back of his neck the other brazenly caught and squeezed his jeans in the place that had been the source of his embarrassment, his jeans pushed back in an attempt to imbedded itself into her palm. She giggled again. “Now are you coming or what?” Again she touched her lips to his, and again he fell into an abyss of rapture.

the tryst between lovers

The sensation of both of Death’s hands on his face, the gentle but passionate touch of her tongue entwining with his, bought Byron back from the heady darkness. He felt her pull slowly away, kissing him twice in quick succession as if to bring him round. The world suddenly felt as if it tumbled awkwardly 360 degrees but forgot to tell Byron, noise filtered back into his ears, or became noticeable because of its new abundance. He felt a cushioned bench beneath his rear and assumed he must now be sitting down, something pushed his shoulder. “Come on Mr Diaeh, open up. What flavour soda do you want?” Byron opened his eyes again slowly in time to see Death’s foot poke him in the chest again. She sat crossed legged on the table in front of him, grinning again, she withdrew her foot and folded it beneath her. “Can I kiss or what? So what flavour do you want?” The oddity of the question did not fail to pass Byron by, the reasoning behind it became clear as he saw where he was now sat.

Something you get few of in England, are the million or so evolved life forms known as soda shops. The whole place was clinically clean, decorated in memorabilia from what must have been the dawn of time, like one of those hideous themed places. It looked to be a small place but there was a feeling that if Byron attempted to walk from one end to another it would take him half an eternity. The carbon trimmed booths and red vinyl bench seats shone with a newly born glow, the chequered floor immune to the dust friction of the rollerblading waiters and waitresses busily taking orders and asking for no payment. The place was almost full, the reverberation of uncountable conversations bounced of the plate glass walls. The building appeared to be situated within a graveyard, also seemingly without boundaries. Byron looked harder amongst the infinite gravestones of all shapes and sizes and saw groups of mourners scattered around the grass and gravelled ground, they were inconsistent in their spacing, and all were obviously unaware of the ceremony beside them, or along from them. His head began to ache. “It sometimes helps the new arrivals to put their current circumstances in to perspective.” Death answered without being asked. “You mean remind them unequivocally that they are dead.” Retorted Byron with muted emotions. “Yeah, something like that. The funeral just in front of you is happening in a small village in Cumbria” They sat silently together for a while, Byron saturated with a dozen feuding feelings of fear and laughter. His face was stony, the standard expression, that his face could fall into without the compromising action of thought. He watched the tearful mourners closest to him, Cumbria oddly being not a dozen metres away from the glass. He saw the deceased quite obviously standing amongst them, the dead man’s face was serene and calm, breaking only into concern as he looked upon what Byron assumed was his wife, crying without the restraint of stability. He saw the man walk towards his preoccupied wife to hold her, it offered her no comfort but the deceased appeared placated. Drawing himself away from these proceedings Byron finally spoke. “Cherry peach smoothy please.” “And a blackberry milkshake.” Continued Death as the waitress materialised at the table. Byron saw the waitress show some amount of surprise and fear as she immediately recognised this particular customer. “Certainly Lady Death, my name is Tess and I’ll be your waitress today.” There was an air of stammer in her voice, behind the well-practised words. Death smiled at the girl. “I know your name Tess.” It was a statement, purely and simply, but a statement can never be simple. The waitress skated away barely managing to disguise the speed in which she wished to depart. “What’s up with her?” Asked Byron. “Well its like if you find your proprietor sitting at a table, and you want to please her in case she makes you work here for another century.” Byron’s mouth opened to question further but Death looked at him, without her smile, and he fell silent. Tess appeared again next to the table and placed the tray with their order on next to Deaths knee, as she remained perched on the table. “Will there be anything else? Food perhaps, substance, waiting times?” The waitress asked timidly. “He is not waiting Tess. But thank you.” Tess bowed her head briefly and without question, and skated away again in some relief. “She’s scared of you.” Byron stated looking directly into Deaths eyes for a response. Death continued to watch waitress Tess roll away but replied. “Everybody is scared of Death.” She said absently, Byron tried to read the words, between them, through them, even underneath them, but found it just to be a sentence, nothing more, nothing less. To Byron’s relief Death’s smile returned as she turned back to him. She uncrossed her legs and placed her bare feet on each of his thighs, she handed his drink to him and playfully rolled around the straw in her own drink with her tongue. “So Byron Diaeh, what do you want?” She asked with a small sway of her legs, forcing Byron to compel his eyes with renewed vigour to look only at Deaths eyes, a feat he surprisingly managed, much to Deaths humour. “You have me here, what do you want to ask?” To tell the truth Byron had never thought this far, he believed he knew Death was alive, or in existence anyway, but it was the type of belief that he was happy just to believe in, and not actually test. This was, with a few exceptions, the longest conversation he had ever held, he just wanted to stay here and talk, but he hadn’t the slightest idea what about. He remained silent, Death continued to look at him drawing slowly on her drink, she was not known for her lack of patience for she must have forever. When the silence was broken, it was neither by him nor by her, it was by another.

“Hey sis, I like what you’ve done to the place. Who’s your friend, because I don’t think he’s quite dead yet?… So introduce me.” Byron’s eyes were locked on Deaths and so he saw them blink a non-verbal curse before they opened again to a natural smile. Death leaned herself over to the edge of the table and kissed her sister. “Life, this is Byron. Byron this is my twin sister, Life.” Byron looked over and extended his hand, which Life ignored and instead leaned past her sister and kissed him square on the mouth. “Hello Byron.” There was bird song within her words. She was indeed the image of Death, or at least the same features. Her hair was the same length and style but it was sky blue in colour, tipped with green. Her eyes looked to be the colour of sunrise and had more life within them than Byron had ever seen. Her mouth was as full as her sisters with the same small downward turn, but they were unpainted and naturally moist as opposed to the aesthetic colouring of Deaths. Her clothes were of exactly the same cut, except her v-neck top was vibrant orange, her short flowing skirt the colour of a sun-drenched meadow. Both items of clothing were almost translucent in fibre, a further strain on Byron’s heart, but not the strain he felt as he glanced back to Death. Death felt this and something that might have been concern on her face disappeared, she winked at him and Byron felt warmth. Visible through the cut of her sweater and through the transparent nature of the material, he saw her tattoo equal in position on her left breast, over her heart. But this image was of an Egyptian ankh a symbol of life herself. Her skin had none of the paleness that Death’s had, but still conjured images of peaches and cream to his mind. Life took a seat next to her sister on the table and facing Byron, her unshoed feet on the vinyl a respectable distance from her sisters that were still resting on Byron’s thighs. The varnish on her toes and fingers were flaked in away that suggested the entanglement with life, unlike Death’s that would always seem freshly painted and untouched. Still the remaining reds and purples resonated vitality. “So what are you lovers discussing?” Life smelt of flowers in a summer breeze. “We are not lovers as far as I am aware dear sister.” Replied Death a little indignantly. Byron visibly appeared upset, as if he knew this to be the case but there was nothing wrong in pretending. “I’m sorry Byron darling,” Said Death in response, she touched a hand to his cheek in a gesture that Byron felt was a kick in the teeth, an affection he could not possess. His reaction again was visible, Death tilted his face towards hers and kissed him tenderly on the lips once more. “Is that what you want? Me?” Byron looked sheepishly from her eyes, catching sight of the all too apparent curving of Life’s thighs. Before Byron could answer, if he could indeed manage an answer, Life interrupted. “Byron darling,” Her voice matched her sisters with tenderness, “Would you please give me a minute with Death, maybe go and get me a drink or something?” Glad of the reprieve from honesty Byron nodded silently and lifted himself from the bench, making every attempt to remember the feeling of Death’s bare feet running smoothly from his legs. He walked away to where he assumed the counter to be without looking behind him.

Life and Death re-seated themselves in the booth, Death slipped herself in to the cushioning bench seat, her legs resting across it’s length to prevent her sister from sitting next to her, and thus Byron from taking a seat beside her when he returned. Life duplicated her movement in to the seat across the table. Death looked away from her. “What are you doing? Why did you bring him, a mortal who should inhabit my realm, to this place?” Life could not sound demanding it was a character flaw, but it was a good impression. “I couldn’t take him to my place could I? He would have to be dead.” She replied coolly. “Why Death? He’s the one you let go isn’t he? A boy then of ten, he should have died that day but you didn’t take him. I didn’t understand then, and I as sure as bananas don’t understand now.” Life continued, her impression of anger getting better by the sentence. “Why should he have died then, where is it written?” Death demanded back at her sister. “It’s not written, you know it’s not written, it just is, you know when and you know where, it is your purpose.” “And what harm did it do the existence of humanity? Bugger all, that’s what difference.” Death’s annoyance at her sister was not a simulation. “He carries round half a life, half a death, he’ll never be completely alive, those he comes in contact with will feel it, and they will take an unscheduled step closer to their own end just by touching his life.” “Have you seen his life? He is shunned, or ignored, invisible almost to those he comes in contact with.” “Do you not think that has something to do with you?” Life interrupted with one of those infallible statements that can be so annoying. “No.” Was Death’s masterfully created riposte. “Do you love him?” “That’s an odd question Life, why do you ask it?” “He asked to meet you, you met him, he obviously has fallen for you, if he hadn’t already when he was ten years old. What can you give him, death?” Life pushed for an answer from her sister. Death paused for a moment and saw Byron being led back to the table by an anxious Tess, she rolled along side of him her red hair fluttering behind her and caught sight of the twin sisters in the booth. She almost stopped dead. The lady Death was disconcerting enough, it was her that had ‘requested’ that she take this job, but the lady Life, both of them on her table. Whatever existed after waiting, she had forgotten, but it seemed to be more inviting by the minute. If they had minutes here. “Maybe Life darling, it’s what he can give me.” Answered Death. Byron’s timely interruption ceased any further enquiry from Life as they both flashed a smile at the dearly un-departed. “I didn’t know what to get you, so I got you a strawberry cream soda, hope it’s ok.” He did indeed hope it was ok, though the wrath of Life’s was not as common a saying as a rolling stone gathers no moss, omnipotent eternal beings were not the type of personification you wanted to piss off. “Thank you Byron it’s my favourite.” Life lied, though nice of her to bother. “But I have to go, babies born and life ongoing, you know the drill. I’ll be going sister, It was nice to see you, we should do lunch in that beach front café in Australia.” She prompted. Death conceded. “Yes, we’ll talk more.” She agreed. And with that Life hopped from her seat, gave the standing Byron a kiss, and disappeared. “Nice to meet you.” Byron stuttered his words to the place in time where Life once stood, the scent of flowers hung sweetly in the air around him forcing a smile from his chest to his mouth. Death bought his attention back by patting the seat next to her, Byron obediently and eagerly sat down, managing to hide his elation a little better this time when Death placed her legs across his lap and wiggled her toes at him. “So Byron, back to the question. What is it you want from me?” She asked sweetly. Not being one for reading signals carefully, or indeed at all, he looked at her, took an initiative and for the first time instigated a kiss. To his delight and without question she kissed him back, she reached her arms around him and did not stand back from the lighted touch paper. He pulled away this time, for fear of losing consciousness, he vaguely registered that the soda bar had become silent and that all eyes were upon him, but he could not take his eyes from her. With the kiss ended conversation hurriedly started once more, louder and with more vigour to cover its momentary silence, all occupants fiercely and notably made every attempt not to flick even an eyelash in their direction. The fear in the place became tactile, understandably unnoticed by Byron. He took a deep breath, an unusual occurrence in this soda bar.

“You Death, it’s you I want.”

Power, Flower & Candy

The silence from Death could only be presumed to be a bad sign thought Byron, and he inwardly cursed his idiocy. “I’m touched Byron.” She finally began. “But.” Byron stemmed coldly as he withdrew finally from the kisses lean, he sat bolt upright, but found he could still not take his eyes from her. “But…, you’re alive for a start.” Death tried to joke. “So kill me, if that will work.” His words a little louder than they should be and carried an unwavering honesty, but neither of them looked around at the other dinners, despite a second audible drop in the volume of conversation around them. She looked inside him, and he let her, he failed to read the thoughts in her mind but she could read his. Should she tell him? No, she tried the direct route. “You are mortal, a human. I am Death, at this moment in time we will not become involved.” Byron’s head jumped before his mouth to avert a coming train wreck. He did not try to protest, the tone of her voice sounded as if the words were being chiselled from stone, possibly his gravestone. He fell silent and did not even ask about a different moment in time. “But, I will offer you something else.” She said, maybe because of what she felt for him, maybe because it was preordained, her voice was tender and not the voice of death. “Your life as it stands is unused, you went to the city with every bit of money you had ever saved, and spent it trying to find me, I know you have nothing left. I will not lie, I do care about you and have done since you were a child.” Byron leant toward her again, to kiss her, to quieten the rest of her monologue, if it stopped now it was what he had wanted to hear. She let him kiss her again, a small tender touch of lips but pushed him back before it could escalate. “I do care about you,” she repeated. “and for reasons that you do not need to know, I feel responsible for at least part of your life. So,” Death took a deep breath, whether she needed it or not was unimport. “So, I’m going to give you everything you want, even if you did not think you wanted it. I’m going to give you my power, part of my essence, you will not obviously be another Death or have any of the responsibilities, but you will have a glimpse of her power. It’s a power, or part of a power that releases you from all mortal rules, you will be governed by nothing but your own heart. What you do with this power is your choice, but bear in mind it is in no way equal to my own, or my sister’s, it is only part of it. I give you this because I want you to be happy, I want you to know that this is against all the unwritten rules of my…, job, but your happiness means more to me than you can know.” Silence. Byron’s face remained fixed in stone, without emotion and without reaction. Slowly he opened he mouth, disregarding all that she had just said. “My happiness as you call it, will not be obtained until you take my life and make me your paramour.” The absence of a pause was as harsh as Death’s answer. “I am not married, and should I chose to take you as my partner it will not be under illicit circumstances. We will not be together now, we can not be, how ever much either of us want it.” Exasperation was beginning to show in Death’s voice. “It is all I can offer you now, would you refuse?” She asked. Byron hesitated for a moment, his eyes looked pleadingly at Death, was this all she will offer? If he refused he knew he could not see her again, but the other side, to see her again would be as dying. He chanced his heart once more, and pulled her towards him, she slid easily into his lap. Without the use of an instigator they kissed each other one last time, Byron had not cried since the accident all those years ago and found he could not now, but still he tasted someone’s salt tears in his mouth. Byron would not halt the touch of lips and tongues and it seemed his partner was not about to either. He did not know how long they kissed for, but it could never have been long enough, he had circumnavigated her body with his fingers catching her owns hands as they did the same to him. It was a lovers kiss and Byron wished they could be turned to stone for eternity. They were finally interrupted by voices of unknown and unknowing origin. “Wow, look at those two, you’d think they’d get a room. If you can get a room in this godforsaken place.”

The lovers separated but Byron could not see a trace of tears on Death’s cheeks, in fact after a tender smile she gave him, her face turned to one of black annoyance. She turned herself on Byron’s lap to face the booth next to them, the air around them turned bitter cold, and the occupants of the booth turned death white. “Oh shit.” One of them managed to utter. “I didn’t realise, it’s you, but we’ve only just seen you, seconds ago, we’ve only just got here, we didn’t know, shit we’re sorry, sorry. Sorry.” The other cascaded the words from her mouth like a burst riverbank. Death’s face remained rigid, and the piercing breeze began to ice itself up across the once shiny red vinyl. It was Byron that interceded before the area around them looked like someone had spilt a barrel of liquid nitrogen, he squeezed Death’s thigh to calm her, to remind her where she was, with him. Because of this action or not, the ice dissipated, the red was once more gleaming, the light in the soda bar was restored. Byron looked upon the two girls and came to the slow realisation that he knew them. He had never met them but he knew them, just as he now knew every soul in the bar; Death had passed her gift to him without his acceptance. He had no choice, no reprieve in her affection, this was what he was getting from Death, not want he had wanted. The message was silent, but still, it was understood.

The two girls were both of the same age, sixteen, a sadly young age to die. I take the time to bring them to life for they were to participate greatly in the scheme of things, and Byron knew their story, it was a part of his. He continued to look at them, their faces regaining as much colour as their deceased status would allow, each of them raised a half smile to him in appreciation of calming Death, who continued to glare at them in some displeasure. As he looked their lives became an open book to him, he ventured further, paddling in his new knowledge. They had died sneaking out of the boarding school they both attended. One of those very English ones, nicely up to date in their teachings, without the uncouth distraction of it being a mixed school. Because of this the girls felt it necessary to sneak out with an almost nightly frequency in search of a more exciting side to their gilded lives. To say they were rebellious is an overused cliché rarely used in the correct context, they were just bored and believed their undeniably attractive faces deserved a little more than ten o’clock lights out and grand staircases. Besides, their parents had money, and certain types of money juniors are bred to egotistical proportions, with a heavy touch of conceit. Blame the parents, or the money, they appear to be the same thing. Quite without grandeur they were knocked down and killed by a drunk driver as they came out of an off-license having just bought cigarettes and two bottles of cheap expensive wine, an understandable oxymoron to the rich void of taste. Unglamorously they lay sprawled in the street for twenty minutes before the police and ambulance turned up, blood seeping from previously non-existent orifices, their short dresses indecorously situated somewhere about their navels. They were dead before they could hear the sirens, and dead before the driver had gotten a mile into his getaway. “Flower?” Byron muttered in a whisper of disbelief and amazement. The girl he spoke to looked perplexed. “Have we met? I don’t mean to be rude.” She added quickly flashing a glance at the still ill tempered Death. Flower’s hair was jet black, long to her shoulder. A classic novel schoolgirl. Her eyes were fluorescent blue, light as ice, even dead they were alive. She had English rose skin that was milk white, paler than Deaths’ herself. The girl’s slip dress failed with precision to hide her figure. A full and symmetrical chest, a little too unveiled, suggested soft whipped ice-cream nipples beneath the shift material. The make-up upon her face looked six years past her age, it was smudged, presumably by the grazing tarmac on which she died, but still it would rival that of Cleopatra. Flower looked sixteen, she could not disguise it, when she tried she became an uncomfortable stimulant. She swam naked in the clearest blue water with sex in her eyes. “Candy.” Byron said moving his attentions to the second girl, not so much a question this time, more an announcement. Candy blinked in response, quizzically she tilted her head and awaited recognition, there was none. Her slightly younger physical appearance belied her age more so than Flower’s, smaller curves ran the course of her equally uncovered, yet equally exquisite, body. Her hair was shorter falling just below her jaw line, unusually blonde was its natural colour. The red died tips were not, however, natural. She wore it in small bunches, as it was the current fashion to look schoolgirl young, and she had schoolgirl youth on her side. Candy’s eyes were as captivating as Flower’s, emerald in colour they grew lighter and darker in accordance to her dress, making them seem as if they sparkled with a life of their own. You could not guess whether these two girls were aware of their own power or not, maybe to an extent as it is constantly said that girls mature faster than boys, but then how mature is a boy of sixteen? A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing, but it is all schools teach. Not that it mattered anymore to the living world, the two girls were dead.

Byron turned to face Death once more, her face had calmed and she waited for Byron’s accusations of a life without choice. “So this is my power? A substitute for you? Why do you care anyway, come to think of it why do I? You are Death, beauty beyond my possible hopes, knowledge of you beyond my possible dreams. It’s funny, in a needle in your eye sort of way, I could not find love in life it was a fictional and laughable notion, then I meet Death, and die without dying, to be placed back in the living without my heart.” Predictable but well said. Death ran her fingers across his face, if he knew the truth of destiny she thought. “It is all I will offer. And no, that is not the full extent of the power you hold, not even a fraction of it.” She replied. “And this is it, I cannot have you?” He asked again, temper and tantrum playing on his voice. “Yes it is what you have. And no, you cannot have me yet, it's not the right time..” She answered. “Then my darling, in observation of these words I wish to use my power for the first time.” He paused and looked back to Flower and Candy. “I want them.”

Dead Flowers

Whatever Death was expecting from Byron, it was not this. She was a creature that existed outside of the constraints of time, therefore there is no future, no surprises, only history to be remembered in a particular order. This is true, but even Death didn’t like to look at what people called the future in too much depth, it was an infinite knowledge only herself and Life could receive, yet alone understand. Still to them it was uncomfortable, unnatural, possibly a result of the million or so years spent with humans and their chronological thoughts. Things happen in three steps, one to be remembered one to be considered, both to determine the third, the future. It was all that people, including Byron, even without his new power, have to understand. “Flower, and Candy, I want them.” Byron repeated to Deaths silence. The girls watched Byron speak, understood the words, but they had no meaning. It was bad enough dying this evening but to be faced with a tiff between Death and her boyfriend was too much, what the hell happens when you die anyway? “We are not what you would call an item.” Death explained to the dead girls, her voice tight with her badly concealed anger at Byron. For Byron it was a further nail in his chest. “No we are not.” Byron spoke to the girls but looked at Death, his face a rejected lover. A hush, a moment of annoyed simmer fell about the four of them. The dead girls thought of protesting their role as nameless belongings, but it seemed this wasn’t the time. The game span on without them and being dead was not what they had expected, it seemed to be just like being alive except they knew they didn’t have to go to school ever again. Byron looked for an answer within Deaths black eyes. “You know you can have them, they are dead and you have the power of Death, you may do with them as you will. You know this, so why do you ask with your eyes, or are you waiting for me to stop you, to change my mind in jealousy? Take them Byron Diaeh, do not attempt to play human games with me, or do you forget who I am?” “My eyes see nothing through my heart, only the goddess Aphrodite dressed up as Death.” He paused at the flinch of her eyes and hoped it was her heart calling his name. “I will take them for I am human, and nothing more can be expected from me.” He finished, his anger at himself greater than his anger at Death. He was a mooncalf, but credit to his intelligence, he knew it. “So be it my darling.” Deaths’ voice was empty of hostility, if she felt hurt she did not show it, except maybe in her compassion. She slid herself from his lap for the last time and stood herself outside the booth, one knee resting on the red cushioning with the reluctance to leave. He looked at her once more, all of her inch by inch to seal her picture in his mind, the way she looked to him at this moment, timid and unsure of the world she stood in, but still she was the centre of that world. “Goodbye my love, till I see you again.” Byron wanted to shout ‘When?’ demand that she stay with him, apologise profusely, he wanted to do anything that might make her stay a few seconds longer. He shifted himself across the benched seat kneeling on its edge to be face to face with her again all notions of personal space discharged in favour the lovers’ distance. “I met Death, I loved her, and she left.” He whispered to her. “Be wise Byron Diaeh, we will meet again.” The tender smile returned to Death’s mouth, he held her to him and she placed her lips to his, life was perfect for a second more.

When Byron opened his eyes Death had disappeared from before him, everything else was the same, except him. He rapidly bought is arms to his side again, the place Death left didn’t need to be held. From his kneeling position he stepped out of the booth and slid into seat across the table from Flower and Candy. They sat bunched together, without words asking him for some sort of explanation. There was nothing fragile about them as they looked intently onto his face, an explanation was the least they deserved. The only living person at the table thought hard about his words before he opened his mouth, he looked at the dead as he did so searching an answer in their eyes. “You could start by telling us who the hell you are. Your alive, we know this, I don’t know how but we do, just as we know that we are dead. So why?” Candy spoke first fed up with Byron’s search for tactfulness. “Look, if it helps we’ll come with you. I don’t know about Candy but I think all you do in this place is wait for a while, then I have a feeling you don’t remember what happens next. Maybe you wake up, your personality disappearing before your eyes as you leave another womb, finding the only thing you actually know for sure is how much you want a tit in your mouth. I like being Flower, and I don’t think I had a good enough shot at it. If you’re going to take us back to earth, or whatever, then we’re in?” Flower looked to Candy in a question, and Candy replied. “Yes we’re in, I haven’t finished puberty the first time round, and I don’t want to have to start again. All that becoming a woman crap, presents from your family making it a hallmark occasion and all the time your leaking blood from somewhere that really doesn’t look like it should leak blood, and the accompanying suffocating feeling like there really is somebody somewhere that needs to be killed, horribly. No thank you, that’s something I won’t miss with being dead. Although I wonder, your not offering us our lives back are you?” Strangely, Byron found that he had become a mute. Eventually however he managed to lift his jaw and found his voice. “No I cannot do that, you will still be dead. But the upside, should you see one, is that you will be released, as I, from a number of mortal rules. You cannot and will not die again, and age is a ravage for the living not you. You are of spirit if you wish it, or of smooth skin if it pleases you. I seem to have you, it is part of the bargain, you can refuse me, but then you will refuse all that you have, your existence. I don’t think I made these rules up, I think they have been bargained for since the beginning of man.” He was quiet for a moment, sucking in his pride. “I think I may have to apologise, it was a stupid stab at jealously, to make her not leave, and you seem to be a part of the screwed up shell that is my life…. You’re both beautiful, and I never had anybody like you when I was your age. I may want what I cannot have again.” Flower and Candy were aware of their beauty, but not their power. Experimentation with each-other, games with the innocence of boys of the same age, and the secret condescension for the older lecherous men that showered them with gifts in hope to see a flash of underwear, had led them to believe that their faces would do two things for them. Allow them to get away with murder, and cast them out from any other interaction but the physical. They had only each other, a product of their beauty, or a product of peoples small minds, it mattered not, they were to go back amongst the living and they owed the dark-eyed man for this. His price whatever it may be, was easily accepted, and by Flower, quite looked forward to. “So what do we call you?” Asked Flower. “Sir? Master?” Suggested Candy with more than a little hint of sarcasm. “You heard Death call me by my name, its Byron.” “Reputedly a scandalous womaniser, a licentious lover, and a drunken poets heart. We did him last year in school.” Flower answered sweetly. “Do any of the above strike a familiar cord in you Lord Byron?” She continued to push her sweetness card; it just needed a lollipop, a shift in power maybe. Without a pause Byron remained above the gutter and salvaged his soul once more. “My eyes have pushed me out of most of the above, I have had only two girlfriends, neither of which were what you could call a success. I have not enough experience to be licentious. And my poet’s heart is only occasionally soaked in alcohol. And that, when my wallet allows. Now may I have a cigarette?” He asked. Candy had almost forgotten about the cigarettes she still clutched, she remembered the last thing she thought before she died was that her parents were going to kill her for smoking, a pretty shit last thought she pondered. She handed Byron the packet and he gratefully lit one of the tubular pieces of heaven inside. Inhaling deeply, the part of him that was death, laughed quietly with an eerie patience. Byron grinned at himself and his absurdity, and said with moronic glee, “So, should we bring Flowers and Candy to an unsuspecting world?” The conspicuous absence of laughter was a rough indication that his attempts at light humour would still need more work, he was still practising with this interaction concept. “You talk like we are the ones that pose a threat, you’re the living time bomb with all that “power” the two of you were talking about. We want our due time on earth, its’ not easy dying young you know. ” Flower answered with a stony chill. “I’m sorry… would you like to see your funerals? Would that help?” Still practising. “I have never seen my mother or father cry, when I actually saw them at all. I’m not sure I want to risk seeing them fail to cry at my funeral.” Candy answered in a strange monotone, it was beginning to tell on her face, her anxiety creeping inside her, her grip on the oddity of death was loosening and her eyes glistened like brimming pools of sorrow. “To my head I still have my body, what they are burying I care not. My parents played truant from my life more than I played truant from school. They are still alive, its enough for me for now. But thank you.” Flower interrupted drawing Candy’s attention from the salty burn in her eyes. They held hands beneath the silver coloured table, their fingers growing white with the pressure. “Whatever you require from us one day will be given to you gladly if you will just get Candy and I out of here now. I can hear the other dead waiting, its becoming deafening and I’m about to scream.” Byron looked pale for a second, his power, his knowledge, had not come with an instruction manual. The look of panic illustrated his imbecility in this matter. The girls smiled at his slip from superiority, through equality, and down to window putty. “How did you get here Byron? I know how we got here, but death in reverse doesn’t sound like it’ll work.” Candy’s eyes had dried, they now shone with sport. Byron felt a mix of embarrassment and absurdity at his answer. “I got here, to the shore, and to the ferryman, each through… a kiss.” Byron pulled again on his cigarette to actively push himself through his self-conscious wince, he knew what he had sounded like, something less than inspiring. The dead girls looked at each other and Byron waited for the laughter at his expense. He was surprised that he only received a giggle, and it didn’t seem to be directed at him, although he felt he figured somewhere in the light tune. “Then a kiss it is.” They said in unison. Byron could not deny the tensing of his chest at this prospect, anticipation coated guilt pushed his heart faster. Guilt, not for their age, for they were dead, but for the image of Death still fresh in his mind. But guilt has a funny way of hiding behind the present, it only resurfaces thereafter, to gloat over the unchangeable nature of the past. It certainly hid well in Byron’s mind as Flower and Candy crawled with choreographed enticement over the boundary of the table and both to his lap. His arms encircled them with little required thought. The sparkle in their eyes were as a sun in the desert, and he felt their moist and petite lips against his, but his mouth seemed to be in spasm and could not answer them. Until, he felt the two small tongues push between his lips in search of his, it was then his balance took a familiar turn for the worse.

Death watched the empty space appear where Byron, Flower, and Candy had once sat. Despite herself she muttered irritably. “The kiss isn’t actually necessary you fool.”

Rational thinking is overrated

“Filthy pervert.” An odd phrase to wake up to, a little unpleasant thought Byron. As the unwelcome sensation of sound came back it was accompanied by a chorus of similarly worded and equally anonymous judgements. Each voice passed him in a kaleidoscope of direction, the heavy and familiar scurry of a hundred worker ants in suits dawned the realisation that he could only be at the tube station that had taken him to his small apartment with a monotonous frequency for the last few months. He hated the city, the country had its bird song and its natural breeze, the city had it’s myriad of nameless curses and it’s artificial diesel fumes. He accepted the insults for he stood with his arms entwining two young girls, barely wearing the sliver of material that pretended to be their dresses, girls that currently lapped at his lips with barely disguised glee. The glee was for being back. The insults were a mix of envy and outrage. Most occupants of the city were quite adept at blatantly ignoring the rest of the occupants of the city, and when the need arose passed their morality with an ethereal quality, quickly and without point of origin. Unfortunately the city sold alcohol. And occasionally when you placed a pint of your weakest larger before a certain type of man. Multiply it half a dozen times. And mix it with dreams of scoring the wining goal on match day whilst bedding a model, so out of his league, in the most degrading way possible, add to this a touch of egocentricity, and you have… well your typical and all too abundant wanker. Looking for a fight. “What are you some sort of pimp? Think your cool do ya? Holding onto two horney little girls like ya something special? Wanker. Come on I’ll take that stupid smile off your face, then I’ll take ya girls and take ‘em back ta daddy.” The lumbering side show pushed Byron in the chest, turning his stomach with the rancid smell of alcohol and vomit on his breath. The mans expensive suit hung crumpled on his shoulders, no longer a status symbol, more a bib. The crowd about them went on practising walking by without the slightest interest. “Come on ya dirty pervert.” He pushed Byron again, Byron remained still. Flower and Candy looked in some bewilderment at this example of the city’s finest moneymakers, perhaps panic might have set in once, but not now, they were more intrigued to see what Byron would do. They knew too little about their mysterious looking benefactor yet he seemed to know them from the inside. Byron’s matted hair hung about his face, darkening his eyes further, what little focus the side show man had was wasted and angered at his tormentor. Byron’s frown was visible to both Flower and Candy, the stillness of his temperament agitated more of their nerve endings than the large drunken fool. The lights in the tube station dimmed for a moment. When they brightened again to their full power, and the audibly startled crowd around them regained their breaths after the exciting interlude to their routine lives, the dead girls noticed the obvious departure of the side show drunk. Byron had not moved, they had felt his arms about them the whole time. Perplexed and more than a little impressed Flower asked. “What happened to him, what did you do?” Byron thought for a moment, his face quizzical of his own actions. “I’m not too sure.” He replied. “Either I stopped him getting up this morning and ever getting to work, and therefore getting drunk this evening and hurling abuse at us. Or, he was never born. I don’t know, still practising.” Byron had stretched his power like flexing his hands, unsure whether it was his arms that needed to constrict and relax. It was an unstabling attempt at understanding what he had, yet there was no remorse at the vanishing tormentor, more a curiosity. He would need to practise more at this he thought.

The three of them boarded the train, finding seats vacated for them by a group of commuters, the travellers were neither getting off nor aware of the last few minutes events at the tube station. And it was too much to expect the seats were given up in courtesy for the girls. It was more the strange aura Byron had enveloped himself with, if you squinted, tilted your head, he looked to be surrounded by an abnormal dark light, it flickered like fire from his clothes. He was ignorant in his contemplation to the anxious looks he was receiving, Flower and Candy saw their faces and smiled as they huddled closer to his pliant body. Power offers security. Byron remained oblivious.

Still deep in thought Byron rounded the street that held his apartment building, it is enough to say it was not a property of wealth, yet it needn’t be pulled down in this decade, and the streets were clean. The dead girls had been cold in the evening air, but couldn’t decide between them whether it was because they were dead or just the evening breeze. So Candy wore Byron’s coat, it brushed below her knees and swamped her hands, and his jumper now belonged to Flower, it’s dark fleece flaming on her skin still warm from his body heat. Both of them smiled as they each held one of Byron’s hands, playing at skipping next to him, mocking their own age and goading his guilt, as if they were too innocent to have known better than to go with a stranger. Flower and Candy wanted a reaction, something other than his gentle, constant, cradling of their hands. Not to be contemptible, just to remind him that they were there at his request, and they did not want to go back. Byron felt no chill as he walked in his T-shirt between the girls, he smiled inwardly to himself at the sensation of their hands in his, they were small and hot despite their deceased nature. He had always walked down this street alone, no one ever looked or nodded at him, and he remembered it had always been colder than it was this night. He liked company. Whether a flex of his ability or his ego, the door to the building opened graciously in front of them before they reached the top step, as did the door to his flat on the second floor, and the illumination of the lights without touch to the switch. The dead girls made impressed sounds more in sarcasm than admiration, the sounds were noted and Byron grinned shyly, allowing himself to laugh with them at his bruised pride. “This is it, it’s not much before you say anything. I realise you are a little more accustomed to the maid opening your curtains to wake you when your at home with breakfast in bed, but money I don’t have.” Byron explained hiding his face from theirs and purposely not mentioning the fact that the apartment looked like a small explosive had gone off. The money he had saved before coming to the city had paid for the rent of a one bed roomed fairly spacious apartment. The hallway led to an open-plan living room and large kitchen with diner taking most of the space, it led on to make a small corridor holding doors for the bedroom and bathroom. Flower and Candy took the lead and looked around without chaperon, their secret hushed conversations at the lack of personal items around the place falling without insult on Byron’s ears. Unsure of what to do he made them dinner, or put pasta and sauce in a saucepan, brewing coffee at the same time. With dinner served they sat silently at the table for a while, the steam carrying a surprisingly inviting smell from the unprofessional presentation on the plates. Finally Candy broke the silence, and revealed the cause for their distracted picking at the food. “Do we still need to eat? I mean I’m not hungry, but then it does smell nice.” Her voice was almost an apology. “Neither am I.” Admitted Flower avoiding Byron’s eyes and instead sheepishly looking to her friend. “I’m sorry I should have thought it through. You don’t need to eat, or drink, you see I’m having trouble letting go of what should be and what actually is. But I don’t suppose that’s anything compared to what you’re going through… Your funerals are to be next week, you could have seen them in the waiting place, but in that place time has no laws. Your bodies have been identified preliminarily by your schoolmistress, and your parents will bury them next week. What you currently are, I cannot explain, as I don’t entirely understand myself. You are your consciousness’ made flesh, but, the flesh doesn’t work as it did before. Perhaps it’s easier to say, if you think your hungry, then you should eat.” Bemused faces looked back at him. “Flower, hold my hand.” He instructed, and she did so. “Now think your hand empty, lose the sense of touch.” Flower looked puzzled but still attempted to carry out what Byron had asked. Her shock was evident as her hand remained visible but passed through Byron’s as if he wasn’t there. “Like a ghost.” She muttered letting out the breath she had held in disbelief. “Kind of, but you can have touch back, you can be for all intents and purposes real again, ghosts don’t have that option. There are certain rules of life that no longer apply to you, just like there are certain rules of everything that don’t seem to apply to me anymore.” Byron’s lowered his voice to a tender whisper. “If you want to go back, please just say, I didn’t mean to drag either of you into this, but I did.” He looked at both of their faces, one at a time, and he could not help thinking how beautiful they were. The decision was quick, for there was no decision to make. “No.” They said together. “We would like to stay here for a while.” Flower continued. “Cause some damage to the small minded.” Finished Candy with a hint of misconduct in her voice. She smiled sweetly, they both did. “Tell you what Candy and I do want, or think we want…, or whatever. A bloody bath, and we’ve seen your somewhat of a dark-horse with that big ol’ corner bath in the bathroom.” Byron felt a further onslaught of embarrassment coming. “It came with the apartment, all the furniture did.” He felt he should explain. “We saw that.” Retorted Candy. He threw a sarcastic smile in their direction. It was strange to hear such a thing as laughter in the apartment thought Byron as the deceased left the table leaving their cascades of giggles behind them. He liked the sound. However, unfortunately for Byron together with laughter, the deceased girls began to shed their clothes as they left the kitchen, purposely within his view, leaving a trail of discarded material and shoes throughout living room. In accordance to their choreography he saw two bared behinds step from their underwear as they entered the hall and rounded the corner followed by further cascades of laughter. “We’ll be in the bath, and you stink. So when you’re ready.” Was the non-corporal invitation shouted from the bathroom. It was a good twenty minutes before Byron entered the steam lacquered room, many deep breaths had been taken between then and now. He had eaten, washed the dishes, and drank two of the cups of coffee on the table. It was not because of the contemplation he was putting into the morality of the situation that had taken the time, it was more that he experienced what anyone in a similar situation would go through, the gradual accumulation of courage. They saw him enter the bathroom and a silent smile was passed between them. “Thought you weren’t coming.” Smiled Flower. They watched him with expressions of sweetness as they sat at either end of the corner bath, the water that held them was discoloured with the peach hue of soap and the bubbles from the shampoo he rarely used. The steam rose gently from the water that lapped about their shoulders. Both girls sat up slightly, purposely exposing the flushed pink of half emerged nipples, his eyes flashed between their faces and the distorted view the water offered. Their skin was seamless, without crease or wrinkle, sickeningly smooth. He remained standing, hardly breathing. “You can’t get in with those clothes on.” Candy’s voice rippled though his blank mind. Flower stood gracefully naked from the bath and stepped out towards him, he remained motionless but allowed her to guide him nearer to the edge of the bath. Flower climbed back in and Candy stood to be with her. Cautiously they removed his clothes from his body, Byron could only silently consent, he stared in awe at each droplet of water that slipped from their skin. His eyes were wide as his prominent anticipation was bared with the disrobing of his jeans, yet he failed to register embarrassment as the tender touch of giggles caressed his ears and instead let them guide him into the waiting water. Flower and Candy washed him together, sporadically pausing to kiss his mouth, or allowing their skin to brush gently against his in long drifts of sensation. He took his turn to wash them, using the soap to caress them without friction, his hands running smoothly and carefully over their entirety. Their joint innocence was maintained, though the delicate hands of the deceased glided easily to bring an elated Byron to the peak of his consummation. All three of them, one living two dead, slept deeply that night in a tight bundle of entwined limbs. The presence of each other in the bed warmed them all, a simple craving of touch rewarding them the unequalled press of another’s skin, at the same time it deliciously unsettled them in the knowledge that at some point they must let go. When they woke their limbs still encircled each other, in an elaborate bind of assurance. Subtle and harmless shifts of position in half sleep; a drawing in of a thigh, the stroke of a breath across a chest, the nuzzle of cheeks, and the search for warmth, each escalated slowly until their joint innocence had been seduced and lay moist with sweat. When Byron eventually pulled himself from the bed he left Flower and Candy asleep, they slept like the dead. He found himself to be whistling as left the house to buy them clothes for the day, for he knew they could not continue to wear the dresses they died in, it seemed a little morose. Not withstanding a touch of necrophilic irony. As he moved between shops his wish to return home increased with each step and Byron wondered absently when exactly it was he had learnt to whistle.

Flip flops and no underwear

When Byron returned to the apartment he found his new roommates at home on the sofa. They were absently flicking through the educational abyss that was daytime television, half dressed in a couple of his old shirts casually unbuttoned to the navel. He bought the bags to the girls in the living room and laid them down on the table in front of them, smiling widely and pleased with himself and the gifts. Summer had announced it’s arrival in the air outside, a reward from the greenhouse effect that the country finally had a summer, even if it came so suddenly and choked the air that you were supposed to breathe. Byron was not used to buying clothes for anyone other than himself, but he had had the forethought to look at the discarded dresses for size, and with a little help from a dozen accommodating, but mildly suspicious, shop assistants he had managed to buy them a few items. His taste ran to what ever the assistants picked for him, and so he produced two short summer dresses, two pairs of oddly decorated flip flops and canvas shoes, two pairs of jeans (you couldn’t go wrong with jeans he thought) and a couple of cropped T-shirts. “I didn’t know what to get, and we can go out and get some more, but I didn’t want to, you know, put clothes on you, I thought it a bit… sugar daddyish.” He managed to stutter through his grin. “You loved it you liar.” Accused Flower. “Your right, I did.” Admitted Byron sheepishly. “Might be a strange question, but, underwear?” Candy said as she nosed through the bags. Byron flushed red. “Two reasons. One; I couldn’t really bring myself to buy age sixteen underwear, it raised a few questioning eyebrows getting the clothes. And two; well if I picked it, it would either be… impractical, or in an awkward attempt not to imply that you are objects or objectified or possessions or anything, more conservative than blue is possible.” “So you didn’t buy any?” Asked Candy again. “No.” answered Byron “Fair enough. We didn’t like wearing them much anyway, we just will not wear any anymore.” Candy winked at Flower and they passed a smile between them. Their embrace on Byron’s weak male hormonal mind, and thus their continued presence on the planet, strengthened. It was not a calculated action, just games of cliché the moral humankind had taught them to play. “We might, however need a few other things, for instance I’d kill for a bottle of nail varnish.” She continued. “And lipstick.” Suggested Flower. “You may have what you wish for, for plastic is a wonderful thing.” Announced a reaffirmed Byron. Each girl unfolded herself from the sofa and tip toed to press their mouths to his. “Thank you, for the clothes, and before the jury re-enters, for bringing us back.” Whispered Flower.

The shopping trip was an experience for Byron, he became wrapped in the youth that he forgot to experience. The slapping of feet attempting to run in flip-flops from store to store pulled a less reluctant Byron’s mouth into a small smile for hours on end. He enjoyed being pulled by the hand in to the stores, he even enjoyed the endless waiting to the joyful chorus of excitement that called to him from behind the dozen and more changing room curtains. Each girl would take turns to come out and twirl for him, laughing at each other and supplying him playfully brief flashes of more skin than was decent in such a place. Each shop assistant would turn their back uncomfortable in the questionable relationship between the older man and the younger girls, yet more uncomfortable in the lack of their obstruction to such events. The customer is always right, wasn’t he? Where there was no assistant positioned in the changing rooms he allowed himself to be incarcerated behind the curtain or door with either Flower or Candy, assisting them in the removal and adornment of various items of clothing. He felt part of something, something not necessarily real, but something that consumed entirely his attention, his mind, and his body. For these hours of these days there would be nothing allowed except laughter, touch, and total submersion in the embodiment of enthusiasm that was Flower and Candy.

Late morning had turned to mid afternoon by the time the three innocents paused and took a moment to breathe, figuratively speaking. They stopped within the boundaries of the same park Byron had been alone in just the day before, each of them took their seat on the warm dry grass. As Byron fell in to place against a charitably positioned tree, Candy laid her head onto his lap and Flower lay on her stomach next to him, she faced the park stretching before them rocking her legs contentedly, and occasionally poking at him mischievously with a bared foot. Candy watched the sky, Flower glanced through a magazine she had bought, and Byron watched them both. The silence was warm and alive. Observant to Byrons lingering gazes, Flower pulled up the hem of her summer dress, discreetly revealing the very top of her thighs and a dawning glimpse of her delicate unclothed buttocks, she chuckled quietly with a watching Candy. “So Mr Byron, do you have any plans for your new found life?” Candy asked after a while of letting the sun warm her face. “New found life? Or my virginal introduction to the company of life that I have never yet been a party to? I have been given what my eyes had taken away in both of you. I’ve been given a non specific and almost omnipotent power, but all I wish to use it for at this moment is to create a packet of cigarettes from the air, and spend the afternoon with you, the sun, and the warm grass.” Byron held his hand out and sure enough a packet of cigarettes appeared as if they had never been anywhere else. He offered the packet to both girls who accepted with a smile. Flower turned and sat up to face Byron allowing him to light her tobacco and filter tube. She looked on his face warmly. “You know this power of yours, you understand that it would be a vacuous and fruitless entity without someone to show it to. Candy and I are reason enough to use it, and use it you must for the instigator of change can be a god and they can be Satan within the same misguided breath, and you need to know which way you will turn. The clothes you bought us this morning, you paid for them with your credit card. You didn’t have to, you know that, just as you know that walking here was not necessary, but you did it. You’re no longer one of them, and I wonder if you ever were.” Flower pointed at the plentiful amount of inhabitants dotted around the open grass before them, groups of people, couples, solitary readers of novels wanting to leave the planet they were on and walk with freedom within the pages of a book. Byron’s frown slipped back to his features, his contemplation shrouded with anxiety, did he want responsibility where there once was none? “No I was never one of the people you see, I might have been. You see that man sitting bolt upright, pouring himself into the pages of the book he reads, that might have been me, except for his companion laying next to him. The smile she causes to cross his face was never offered to me. It might sound as if I’m baiting you with my melancholy, but I’m not, once I was bothered, now it wouldn’t even occur to me.” He paused, putting words in order. “Except now, both of you, I will have to bear the pain of being alone again should you chose to leave, and I have sunk too deeply to feel anything else. Perhaps my destiny altered irretrievably when I asked Death for your hands, perhaps the only way I can go is onward with thankful blindness. I have to use this power, for I’m only human. But for now, all I want is to sit here, with you, with someone other than myself.” He looked away from them as he spoke, watching the people around him lead their normal lives, if he had it in him he would hate them all. The dead rose to his mouth and kissed him deeply. “Flower and I are going nowhere. You gave us this sun, this grass, and this life after death.” Said Candy to his mouth. He kissed them back his arms wrapped about them to protect them, and to protect him from the future yet to come. The embrace ended and the other occupants in the park turned back to their conversations, most of them now about the perverted man by the tree, within some of them their disgust was tainted with audible envy. Byron smiled at them, they were all only human. He pushed himself to a laying position to allow both girls to use his chest and lap as a pillow, the pleasant warmth of the sun on his face was quietly equalled by the rising heat from where his heart remembered how it used to beat.

The afternoon wandered away and the evening beckoned with salutations. The three figures by the tree had not moved, their conversation had filled the afternoon in hushed whispers and the ebb of dispersing people from the park had forgotten them. Twilight left them alone on the grass and Flower climbed quietly onto Byron’s lap, all the while looking attentively towards the empty park. The light rocking of her hips against his pelvis wakened his senses. Candy smiled and taking a silent cue from her best friend she reached between them and released the growing desire from his dark jeans and placed it gently inside the receptive Flower, inducing a sigh of velvet to the forgiving sky. Candy kissed him as Flower bought them unhurriedly to a tenacious rhythm, climbing slowly spirals of ocean waves to their equal, elated, completion. Without moving from his lap Flower laid her consumed body against the grass between his legs, she whispered silently through her short shallow breaths; “I love you.” No one heard her, it was enough for the grass to know. Through the remembered thumping of her heart in her ears she heard Candy’s giggles from behind her. She turned her head to see her friend affectionately teasing Byron, removing her T-shirt and displaying to him her small peaked breasts, caring not for any opportunist passer by, for there was no one around. Candy guided his hand across her chest, dwelling deliberately on the yielding discs of her stiffening nipples, moving his fingers slowly in a circling caress. Enticing his desire back from satisfaction she pushed his hand from her chest and across the smooth contour of her stomach, it’s precious horizon interrupted only but the honey dimpled mouth of her bellybutton, she pushed his hand further still, descending carefully inside her unbuttoned jeans running Byron’s touch through downy hair. Passing a glance at Flower she knew she could not take her place on his lap and so satisfied herself with his dazed but tender agreement, her grip tightening around his wrist as she pushed him to realise her own thirst. Flower felt his excitement from within but jealousy failed to accompany the sensation, she laughed freely as Candy’s fingers tightened white around his wrist, her guiding hand stopping suddenly into short shudders, chorused by a small whimper. She laughed harder when Candy finally opened her eyes to poke her tongue out at her in counterfeit abashment. She looked back to Byron, his face a static impression of wonder and exhilaration. “Darling.” She said, kissing him deeply. “Take us somewhere, use your ability. I think maybe the sea would be nice, what do think Flower?” “I think the sea would be ideal.” She grinned back, squirming herself into Byron’s hips teasing his reaffirmed desire. “I will take you anywhere my sugared orchids.” His voice above land and sky. He motioned to stand, Flower removed herself from his lap obediently. Redressing himself as he rose he motioned to the tree behind them, holding his arms as if to perform some astounding magic trick, the poorly mimicked cliché was lunar eclipsed by the outcome. Where the tree once stood was his living room, where the park once was, his apartment. Within blink or transition they stood and sat as they were in the park, but now in his apartment, any conjecture to follow would have to be answered only after you could say for definite whether you had left the apartment at all. Byron grinned smugly, the fleeting thought of no kiss required relaxed his mouth from smile as he thought once more of Death, but his teeth were displayed once more as he saw the look of wonderment on the deceased orchids’ faces. “How…?” Began Candy. “No don’t answer that.” She rebutted herself quickly. “I thought you might want to change first, the evening air can be cold near the sea.” Byron’s attempts at flippancy might have worked if he hadn’t have been grinning like a baboon’s rear end. Both girls picked themselves from the floor, grabbing the shopping bags as they did so, they kissed Byron sweetly on each cheek and ran to the bathroom to get ready. Byron walked to his kitchen to make coffee for himself, his mind split between the day and the early evening. Why had he been given this, he was entranced by both Flower and Candy, and it had been the power given to him that had bought them home with him. But why him? He wasn’t anybody, he had no idea what to use his life for anymore, what he wanted he had been given, and the space left he had to fill with a new wish list, except now it needn’t be based in reality. He wandered off through images of Death in his head, creating ethereal hallucinations of her before him, in these hallucinations she did not turn him away, but he knew this was a wish he could not have, could not make. From the corner of his vision he was distracted from his minds false icons and saw the naked forms of his new lovers walk hand in hand from the bathroom to the bedroom leaving delicate damp footprints on the carpet in between. Flower looked toward him, her towel precariously balanced on her head, she smiled at him and threw him a wink, and he was unsurprised at the sting of salt he felt in his eyes. Maybe heart attacks felt like this.

Moon, sea, sand, and the accumulation of wealth

The answer to how they were going to get to the sea was answered by the awareness that the front door to his apartment, which usually, with steadfast predictably, lead to the hall and stairs of the building, had irresponsibly shirked it’s previous dependability. It now irrationally opened to a set of steps of moon bathed stone that descending gently to a patient evening lit beach. Much to Candy’s enjoyment Byron invented an ice blue flame from his palm, the light emanating flame took to the air on command and lit her way down the manmade steps to the sand. Slowly their eyes became accustomed to the darkness, vision filtered back with help from the lights from the promenade now behind them, and the stilted pier now to the side of them, illuminating their surroundings. “We’re no longer in Kansas then?” Asked Flower looking around her, she recognised nothing as even in the same country as the one they left. “No, but right country. We’re in California, I saw this place on the T.V. once, and I remembered it looked a little too picturesque not to visit one day. Do you mind?” “No.” Flower answered looking at Candy, both in astonishment. This power he had, how much was there? “We don’t mind.” Eyes of wonder turned to excitement only found in youth as yet unjaded by life in general. They yelled out with unburdened enthusiasm and ran head long to the waterfront, kicking their shoes off in mid run and shedding their coats on the sand behind them. Byron watched them scoop and kick water at each other with further screams of glee, he remained standing at the top of the beach smiling widely. He wondered why the vanity of age kept him there, he remembered that the last time he had done something like this, he was a child and the sea was a reservoir, he wondered again why he stood still. An odd sound he barely recognised left his mouth in a whoop, his legs began to run with an unstoppable strength tightening in his chest, his shoes and coat went the same way as Flower and Candy’s, and he fell arse long into the water between his new life. Both girls took their advantage and charged at his re-emerging body, they yelled in laughter as they used every available method of pouring more water on to his elated bellows. Soon they had all been soaked and eventually staggered from the sea with perfectly aching sides. Falling to the sand in heaps, Flower managed to speak through painful giggles, “So why is it we had to die to feel so alive?”

They managed to crawl off the beach a while later, and found a table outside in a sea facing boulevard restaurant. The looks of bemusement from the other diners at their slowly drying appearances only made them ache more. It was a young man with sun bleached hair that took their order, his irreverent gaze lingered unwelcome on the girls wet, clinging, clothes. He introduced himself as Mitch, flashing what seemed to be a patented and copyrighted smile and his bewilderment at being rebuffed seemed almost virginal. “Bugger off sun boy, slip yourself back over there and get us some ice tea.” Candy spoke up. “You’re English then?” He grinned, unused to being brushed off, his was the delectable perseverance of the young American dream, blind to consequence. “If it’s alright with your dad, I’d be happy to show you the local sights in the evening light, I get off in an hour.” Perseverance. Flower and Candy spurted laughter at Byron’s expression, father indeed. “Listen Mr Baywatch reject, he is our lover, you could even say our salvation, what he’s not is most definitely our father. Now piss off and fetch the ice tea, theres a good boy.” Flower’s pseudo anger was betrayed by her amusement at Byron. To prove a point and repair a male ego, both girls leant over to Byron and ran their tongues over his lips, their eyes playfully wet with laughter and looking deeply into his. Byron did not stereotype egomania and so did not look up to the waiter with elevated conceit or smugness, instead he looked at both girls as they returned to their seats, his sheepish wonder apparent by his expression. The sun boy muttered something derogatory about the English as he took his leave, refusing to scurry and to obey his dismissal in such a fashion, the deceased calling unsubtle and very audible insults after him. Their drinks came and came again, though Byron was the only one to eat. As the alcohol drifted from Byron’s glass to the youthful drinkers both Flower and Candy remembered what it was like to get drunk, no questions were asked of Byron as to why he ordered his drinks in threes, and as to why the Ice teas were filled only occasionally. The music from a dozen sources drifted about them making an uncomfortable opera of infectious melodies and cats dying. All these sights and sounds were like nothing any of them had ever experienced, and though Byron remained as tranquil in appearance as a wave rider sitting before his ocean, his heart and eyes raced with an awakened hunger to fill each minute with intoxicating life. He felt his release in the impassioned jubilation of his company.

“The acquisition of wealth my darling reaper, that is where everything begins.” Flower managed to announce as she peered into the bottom of another empty shot glass, the elbow resting on the table the only thing that balanced her more or less vertical posture. “We had money Flower, or at least our families did, and look what happened to us. It is the necessity of it that makes it nasty blue monkey thingy, it sucks… But it can buy horses, ohhh can I have a horse, can I?” Not the most contributory sentence Candy had ever managed but she was doing well to remain conscious. “Money, Why money?” Queried the more sober Byron. “Because it may not make you happy, it may not buy you love, but being poor sucks. Besides my dark eyed lover, we’ll need something for when you leave us.” Flower’s face looked away and intently at the glass, trying to find answers within. “Why would I leave you, either of you? Why can’t we just stay like this?” He asked. “It is the nature of power, the nature of having what you want until you no longer want it.” She replied. “Horses.” Candy offered. “What of the nature of acquiring a life you have sought since birth, what of contentment?" He asked again. “Some are true exceptions to the rule, others are fictitious, lies to yourself. Why stop when you know you can have more without even trying? I can’t lie to you, and I’ll deny this tomorrow blaming the drink, but I love you Byron. Candy loves you too, though she will not show it, but I can’t help showing it. If you say I’m too young to know what I’m talking about I’ll slap the shit out of you.” “I can not say you are too young, if you do love me your age only means that it is a love untainted by age or reservation, it is possibly the truest love anyone ever feels. And if you do love me, don’t expect me to leave. The future may or may not be predestined, whether it is or not is immaterial, because you can never hope to secondguess it.” “A white one, with a tail.” Candy said. “And bugger you Flower I do love him, you just take things too seriously, we’re dead for Christ’s sake, you can’t take that seriously…. And a big house with a stable and swimming pool and river.” She finished with a dash of sobriety in the middle. Byron leaned over the table to her and kissed her tenderly, Candy kissed him back then poked her tongue out and shook her head, covering his cheeks and nose with wet giggled affection. Flower gave in a little, and sat herself on his lap as he relaxed back in his chair, putting her arms around his neck allowing herself to be kissed and to feel what she was feeling. She was smiling again as she pulled away from him, Byron lit another cigarette to occupy his hands in public. “Money it is then, my darling dead orchids, but we need to think how. I don’t think I can just make it like the cigarettes. Besides I like having to sleep in the same room as you two.” Byron fell silent. The three of them thought for a moment, though not completely abstemious in their alcohol content, the girls faces contorted in concentration to think around the bubbles, but their speculations and ideas were interrupted. “Excuse me sir, there has been a report of disturbance of the peace by you and your friends here from one of the members of staff. But then that seems to be the least of your worries, supplying drink and lewd conduct with schoolgirls, in public. Possible soliciting, or do you want to explain how a man your age comes to be with two young girls of their age. You’re either paying for them, or pimping them. Now we can do this the hard way, or the easy way.” The Presbyterian Policeman rested his hand on the butt of his holstered gun, clicking the popper in emphasis. Byron wondered why he had chosen America, everybody seemed to have a gun here. “I am neither officer, and a man of my age as you put it, is only ten or so years older than my companions here.” Byron looked ahead, refusing to make eye contact with the officer. Flower remained on his lap, Candy had pulled her chair about to sit nearer to him protectively. “He’s going to buy me a horse, and I love him, even if I don’t get my horse. Is that a real gun? Is that a real donut gut?” Candy wasn’t being helpful, but poked her tongue out at Flower for she had said she loved him twice now, Flower stuck her tongue back. The officer began to feel like he wasn’t there. “Look boy, I think you should come with me. Quietly, you don’t want to disturb the other people eating here.” With one hand still resting on his holster the policeman placed his other hand on Byron’s arm guiding him to stand. Byron didn’t stand. “Officer I don’t believe any of the people here are eating anymore, they are all watching us, and if you don’t mind me saying it is you that seems to be causing the disturbance.” Still Byron looked away. The police officers face began to turn a funny shade of red and his grip tightened on Byron’s arm. Now Byron looked at him. There is an eighth colour in the rainbow, invisible to eyes of man and his machines, it is a base colour resembling the yoke of a blind eye and blood of the deepest red, it is a colour darkness itself is fearful of. Where Byron’s eyes should have been, under the shadows of his features, the police officer could only see two tiny balls of fire, fire of the eighth colour. The fire grew in intensity, lighting the late evening shadows around him. Byron then ignited himself with the same black flame he had emitted before, except this time it was clearer, brighter, and furious. The officer wrenched his hand away, yelling in pain, Flower smiled at the cursing officer herself wrapped in flame also, he grabbed at his hand feeling it burnt but seemingly without scar. Byron’s flame subsided, but remained a subtle aura around him, all mortal rules had left him. He continued to look at the police officer, his face expressionless. “You do not want to know what I am, or what these girls are. All you need to know is that we appreciate your concern, but we are fine and we won’t be pressing charges against sun boy over there.” The police officer looked bemused for a moment, his eyes glazed over and he calmly released his clutch on his once burning hand, letting it fall thoughtlessly to his side. “Sorry to disturb you Sir, ladies, I will talk to sun boy, give him a caution. Again I’m sorry for disturbing you.” If the officer noticed half the remaining occupants of the restaurant standing, shouting, crying, or screaming, he did not show it. He merely walked over to the sun bleached waiter Mitch, who currently stood stock still trying to ignore the damp trickle he felt descending his leg, and cautioned him for wasting police time, harassment, and having small genitals (that was Candy’s suggestion). Byron restored the world’s obsessive rules to the restaurant, he would only think back later to how easy it was to let go of them. How easy it was to like the fear he provoked. “I think we should leave, I don’t like the way the alive people are looking at us, you’re the big bad scary one not Flower and me.” Candy caught hold of Byron’s hand and pulled him easily to a stand, Flower grasped at his other hand, the three of them left quietly amidst the hysteria. All eyes were on Byron, each mouth clamping shut against its tearful and vocal fear as he walked past them. His face remained expressionless as he looked on the many blank wide eyed faces, he felt their fear of him and it made him momentarily uncomfortable in his skin, uncomfortable at the attention, and uncomfortable at his own presence. They walked in silence along the sea-facing promenade for a while, both Flower and Candy persistent in their clutch of Byron’s hands, guiding his listless frame across the artificially lit boardwalks and concrete manufactured, silver dreamed rivers. A number of living adolescents of Flower and Candy’s age skated past them in a shoal, each baggy trousered junior scanning the girls forms from front and behind. Comments of edible body parts were soon to follow as the shoal took another pass by them. They were abruptly dismissed by the unbecoming language that flowed a little too easily back from the girls of their own age, and hormones bowed down to heated embarrassment as they tricked their boards away in a final show of male pride. Byron managed to raise a smile, but a fearful apprehension whispered quietly in his head. The girls that held his hands loved him. His age, absence of charisma, lack of interpersonal relationships (yet alone conversational skills) in his sheltered life meant nothing to them. Had he caught them, or had they caught him? The vision of Death floated in the back of his mind amidst a field of lilies, it was a constant he had given up trying to push out, he merely covered it with sheets of silk and laid pictures flowers and candies upon it. He had never cared what people thought of him before, maybe because they hadn’t thought about him at all, being nobody was lonely, being somebody is lonelier still. He felt two small hands squeeze his, bringing him from his head and back into the world. He was no longer alone. How long would it be until he fucked it up?

Moon bathed skies of sun rainbows

The following day the dead tried hard to forget what hangovers felt like, in theory they didn’t have to feel quite so nauseous, quite so tender, but with heads hurting so much it was a theory that wouldn’t stand up to scrutiny. With dull mumbles they climbed in to the shower together, slow aching limbs meant they took the opportunity to use each other to wash, backs that would require stretching themselves were proving just too strenuous without the aid of someone else. Eventually the slow extravaganza of headaches and ouches concluded with Byron laying flat out in the bath, his face being painfully refreshed beneath the persistent cascade of lukewarm water. Flower and Candy blearily raised each foot for him to wash from where he lay, the act of bending to do it themselves sternly declined. They remained still for a moment before broaching the effort to get out. From the bottom of the bath Byron giggled to himself at the situation, and at the towering shapes of the girls half-asleep above him. They looked down on him, the subtle giggles from Byron twitching within their own small curved smiles. Flower pushed a wet foot into his shoulder, lightly taunting him to be silent. “Ahh, the reason for my life stands above me.” He chuckled. He found himself subject to a barrage of gentle kicks from both sides in retort. As he fended off the innocent blows he found the water that stung his eyes was not from the shower, it was a previously unknown happiness that choked his chest, and the warm sting in his eyes was not unwelcome as his eyes leaked too rarely to remember. The sight above him could well have been heaven, painted with sun coloured rainbows by angel’s feathers. He saw the two girls pass a glance between them, taking a breath before speaking in agreed unison. “We…” They paused unsure, maybe unready, to go on. Images from their minds flashed about in to his head, projected by them to him consciously or unconsciously he didn’t know. He saw last night’s discourse, the alcohol induced declarations of a much misused word, a word they wanted to offer to him again, a gift more precious than any material wealth. “I….” He replied, purposely interrupting but halting as they did, the words did not need to be repeated yet, it may have seemed too soon, too foolish to feel, yet alone voice. Each of them for whatever reason felt the others hearts beat in their chests, it was enough for now.

On the other side of the world, in a beachfront café in Australia two figures sat. The café was a purposely-planned mismatch of dilapidated wooden chairs and strips of wood on precarious legs cut through the centre with a star of shining chrome tables. The waiters and waitresses were all dressed as if they had just walked up from the picturesque beach reaching to the deep blue before them. The café fulfilled it’s design perfectly and called to the diners over the smooth paved path between the beach and the road, the toll free bridge to the fabled golden sand. A mix of sun umbrellas and make shift gazeboes peppered the sanded car park on which it sat, it was a place of lazy destiny, and was called the same. The two figures that blended as travellers amidst the gathered wave riders and ocean kissers were sisters, possibly twins from the look of it, they were also the owners of the café. They attracted casual glances from a few passers by, but no more than the other occupants drinking there to preen and be seen did, their pale colour and sun-worshipping attire incorrectly branding them tourists. Unknown to the other diners of the café, the two young women that sat at this table had existed since the first life and first death time had ever known, before time even knew about itself. Deaths black pupil-less eyes stared over the shoulder of her sister, away from the words her sibling spoke. “Look sister dear, I’m the oldest and therefore deserve a little attention when I preach nonsense that you don’t want to hear.” Death looked to her sister and smiled, her blue painted lips revealing the whitest of teeth. A stranger sitting a few tables away suddenly felt fear for sharks, his eyes flitting across Deaths face with a mix of attraction and an ominous feeling of shark bait. Her sand blonde hair was loosely tied back, and she seemed as the others did, that she had just come from the beach. Life appeared the same, wrapped in a sarong over a similar but slightly more vivid bikini set, she flicked at the ice-lolly in her hand spraying splinters of orange over her sister. Death brushed the chilled flecks from her open neck in mock annoyance. “I’m sorry Life my darling, but I know what I did was not necessarily within the rules, I don’t need to be reminded. Just whose damn rules are they anyway?” “I’m not reprimanding you sister dear, we do not judge you know that, and I could never judge you anyway. I just wanted to know why. I didn’t know why you let him live past his time in the beginning, but to give him your power now, it just seems blatantly foolish, detonating a mistake to make a catastrophe. That or premeditation in an elaborate scheme I’m not to know about.” Life looked at her sister with her sunrise eyes, trying to feed her curiosity with a response in her sister’s expression. Deaths placid smile remained unmoved. “I haven’t given him everything, but I took so much away when I let him live past the age of ten, it’s enough to say that I am capable of remorse. Besides there is something about the man, I remember him with different faces and I have always been attracted to his life force. I’ve seen him before in ages past, his soul has an energy that frankly warms my thighs, and our relationship or situation together is and will be unique.” She grinned at her sister. “Crap Death darling, it is never as Neolithic in reason as that. I’m afraid you’re above that as an explanation.” “Why am I above that? Why can I not have what the living have, the mortal purposeless but undeniable craving to feel someone else’s skin against their skins. Why can I not want?” Death sounded insulted, glaring at her sisters tranquil expression. “You can and you do, as I do. But if that’s all you wanted, that’s what you could have had, easily, for he loves you and you know that. Besides, I have had more lovers than Lilith herself, it is part of life, of feeling alive, and it’s part of me. And you darling sister, are by no definition a virginal creature. I more recently remember a certain Egyptian god now deceased, I remember it as ironic for he was supposed to be the guardian of the dead.” “Alright, but Byron Diaeh is different. He walks half-alive, half-dead, because of me. It would have been too easy on me if I had given into him when he asked me to. How was I to know that he would take those… girls, dead faeries and their glamour.” Death’s beauty pouted with scowl. Life looked surprised at her. “You really didn’t know he was going to do that? It is not their fault you know that, one day they may be left on their own, and I want you to promise me they will come to no harm, it is not your place, as it was not his, to consume somebody else’s destiny. You should promise me Death, they do not deceive anyone with any glamour, they are now alive in their death and should be allowed to continue to be until they decide not to. Promise me.” Life pushed an answer from her sister. “Alright Life, I will promise. Technically they are not really mine anyway, as you say they have life in them, removed from mortal rules from our rules. I will admit that they are yours until they decide otherwise.” Death tempered her voice, refusing to sulk at herself. “They love him, you know that.” Stated Life. “I know.” She paused. “He deserves the… happiness, they can give him. I can wait.” Her noncommittal remark registered in Life’s ears, but she declined to question further. What her sister was doing with this life, was beyond her control or understanding, but time held no secrets that it would not eventually expose. She worried for her sister, Life was born into existence first, but Death would be the last one to leave, to turn the light out. It was a knowledge that weighed heavy on Death’s consciousness. “Do you… love him?” Life pushed. Death looked surprised at her. “Sister I would need to answer that to myself before I could answer it to you. I will keep from his path until I can no longer do so.” She replied non-committaly. They sat looking at each other, each the reflection of the other’s existence. Words would not solve this saga, only the slow creep of mortal time. Life swung her shapely legs in quiet defeat on to the table between them, dismissing the intensity of previous sentences. “Does he have a brother?” She asked bursting with laughter as she spoke, “I feel the start of a new life being created between a couple in Norway, being present at that would just put me in the mood.” She laughed again at her sisters rolling eyes. “No he doesn’t, now drop it. Let’s bake ourselves on the fabled golden sand.” The matter was dropped for now and the sisters walked away from the café to the waiting wash of the sea at their toes. Byron’s image remained in Death’s mind, and behind lilac sunglasses perched on her nose she hid a smile.

Byron’s world continued, as he wanted it to. Flower and Candy had stayed living with him in his apartment for the last couple of months. They ventured out each day, Byron performing elementary parlour tricks, hiding himself from the true power but keeping himself amazed, and opening his mind to a new sight, a new experience each day. They went everywhere together, and had bought most of London’s clothes surplus. These relatively small but necessary amounts of money coming in plentiful amounts from generous, if not confused, benefactors as they passed them in the street or bumped into them coming out of their collective banks. Byron merely looked at them and they suddenly and harmlessly felt a need to offload large amounts of their folding promises of non-existent gold. The consequences of these donations effected them in various degrees, most wouldn’t actually miss the funds, such was the gold lined streets they walked and corrupted. Spring had pretended to exist for a day, but the global summer masked it’s freshness as the new sun filled days heated the pavements and parks underfoot. An answer was required however, a promised gift of fortune to two dead girls. “So our heroic, apathy-ridden lover, you have something to tell us?” Flower asked sweetly. The three of them sat beside an outdoor swimming pool, the girls feet pushing the water between their painted toes as they sat on it’s sun-baked edge. The pool itself was in the grounds of an enormous riverside home, three storeys of symmetrical beauty built four hundred years ago on the rivers pillowed grass banks. Willow trees bowed in awe to the water at the end of the long garden, and the other ancient trees that flanked the grounds applauded their branches in eternal homage to the architect. The current possessors were expectedly not at home, and they lay easily in the protection of the house and grounds, without fear of discovery, the open picnic basket that sat beside them a sign of their untroubled trespass. Byron lay on his back putting faces to the sparse clouds above him, the towel about his waist his only costume, he grinned at Flowers question. “First I ask for a kiss.” Byron answered pushing the explanation on a few minutes. Flower sighed with mock labour, and pulled herself closer to Byron. Candy however, sprung to her feet and dived on them both in a squeal of glee. There was no feeling in the world quite like your lips being kissed and licked by two girls together that held your life in their hands, each mouth on his lips shared it’s room with the other, each small tongue flicking his giving life to reason and reason to life. Candy planted herself across his middle wriggling on purpose with detained promises without answers, she pushed harder to his lap in challenge as she felt his towel tighten and push between her thighs. Flower sat behind his head, her bared legs across his shoulders pinning him to the floor, the material of her bikini bottoms rubbed against his crown, with detained promises without vision. An answer was required from within the laughter, Byron stood no real chance, as was his delight. “Alright, alright my dead Helens’, I give.” Flower bent over his inverted face and planted a kiss on his bottom lip and chin, licking his nose as she straightened herself once more. “We knew you would.” She answered with confidence. “Yes I expect you did. It’s the house behind you, the pool beside you, and the grass you park those small bottoms on.” He smiled. “It will take a trip by me to somewhere, but they are yours, ours, by request.” “What?” Exclaimed Candy her voice rising with a leap of joy. “Ours, this beautiful place, the huge house, the pool? Everything?” “Yes.” He answered with some smug contentment. “How? I mean it’s not even for sale?” Candy looked at Flower and matched her disbelieving grin, they pounced on him once more, each embracing him in a tight succession of thank yous and excited yelps. The disbelief was rhetorical, they knew if he said he could give them the house, he would give them the house. As they eased off and sat themselves up once more Byron explained, for he wanted to hear the words to play his part and convince himself that he could do what he was about to do. “Part of this...power gift, is a phenomenal and disturbing memory of all that has past, and all those who have passed with it. I think part of Death’s memory is mine, if I try, and believe me I don’t like to, for my brain feels too small to be able to comprehend, but I can remember those that Death has seen, those she has delivered, awakened. Or at least that’s how I see it, I think. I can’t think back too far or my head tends to freeze, but I remembered from school, or T.V., or something, about the raided tombs of the dead Egyptian pharaohs. I remembered that when they have been discovered over the last couple of hundred years the tombs had already been raided by tomb robbers, the gold and jewels from the first couple of chambers were always gone, taken and sold. So I thought, if I can remember the death of one of the robbers, as long as he died at the tomb, I could go back, take the jewels for myself and sell them now, enough of them will make millions.” He sat wide-eyed and childishly excited at his master plan. The two girls looked at him blankly, until they could not hold the explosion of laughter in their chests any longer. Byron’s face fell somewhat hurt at his audience’s reaction. “Who do you think you are my lover, Indiana Jones? Why go to all that trouble? Just go to a bank and take the money. We could even do that, walk through the walls pick up the cash, and leave, who’s going to stop us, and how would you arrest two dead teenagers?” Flower picked fault, but the sarcasm was withheld from her voice, trying to ease the pain to his ego. “It does seem a little elaborate my darling adventurer.” Candy agreed. Byron looked from the fluorescent blue of Flower’s eyes to the harmonised colour of the pool’s water, looking for an answer to back his idea in the peaks of the breeze kissed ripples, he bowed his head in rising bashfulness. “I have actually thought about that, but the idea of consequences plagued me. For you both and for the living people who would have to be affected. I thought back to then because nobody knows how much there was in these chambers, or where they went when they were stolen, it affects nothing of history if I take them. I didn’t want to come back and find you two missing having never existed through some bizarre act of historical consequential hereditary. The acts we commit now may do the same for the future past, and I don’t want to change anything, I don’t want the responsibility of knackering time. I don’t know enough about it, and I’m sure it would take more than a Band-Aid to fix it. At least this way I’m not changing anything too drastically. I expect the current owners of this place may not have moved out in a few days if I hadn’t of asked them to sell to me, but they will only go to a house just a big, just somewhere else, because money tends to fall on duck down bricks.” Byron looked at them letting a smile emerge on his face. “Besides I’d make a better than average Indiana Jones.” The dead girls exchanged glances and a small curve at the corner of their mouths. “I guess you would be testing the Lady Death’s gift, the extent of what you can do, instead of the small acts of sorcery you’ve done so far. I know that you can make paths between places thousands of miles apart, but are you sure you can do it with time? We’re not going to lose you to misguided antiquity are we?” Flower asked of her living partner, a trace of anxiety sounding audibly in her voice. “I’m pretty sure, I mean when we visited that Florida beach café it was evening here and evening there, yet there is actually eight hours difference between us. We visited the evening because I wanted to, because it was evening here.” He offered. “That was eight hours. This is…well how long is it?” “I don’t actually know, there are no calendars at the scene of the mans death.” “So you’ve picked a death then?” Candy deduced. “Yeah, spooky one, pharaoh’s curse and booby traps kind of thing.” “Can we come with you?” Flower questioned already knowing the answer. “I don’t think so, I don’t want to risk losing you to delinquent historical vacuums, if there are such things.” Byron confirmed. The two girls reluctantly agreed to let him have his elaborate plan. Still holding on to the indefinite apprehensions to an idea so bizarre.

They reclined the afternoon away swimming and touching, and simply being together. Each of them decorated a room in the house with excited vision and animation, playing down the disquietude of the unknown. As they left through the swimming pool, emerging from the freshly run warm bath in Byron’s apartment all thoughts of journeys were put off until tomorrow, for tonight there were bodies to be washed, mouths and thighs to be kissed, and a wet picnic basket to be dried.

The dog was called Indiana and the beauty was Jewel

The disillusioned adventurer of time and death left his apartment as dawn slammed at his door. He left his young lovers asleep in their bed and smiled at their small frames curled around the space he had left. The first acquisition was always wealth, it was the idealistic end of worries, and bought happiness in a poor theoretician’s mind. His mind didn’t stretch to the logic that achieving a desire only leads to another more unobtainable one above it. Another reason for leaving so early was his attire, he appeared a cross between the fabled celluloid archaeologist and an angel of the apocalypse, Flower and Candy would have had a field day abusing his fragile vanity with jest.

Byron knew that the doorway to the unspecific date in his head would prove to be a little more difficult than a doorway across miles and hours. He wasn’t sure where to make a doorway, how to aim with any accuracy. He only knew that at his death destination the man had died in pain from a ridiculous amount of scorpion stings, that he was in the tomb, and that the blinding terror of dead curses was the last thought to hurt his dying mind. Byron wandered in contemplation as the rest of the city began to wake up around him, the ascending wail of the disgruntled city existing against it’s will rose with the traffic of people and pollution. The irritation and the rising intone on his ears lead him quickly down the steps of the nearest tube station. To escape further into quiet he ignored abusive shouts from the station guards and jumped into the gorged out track of the train line, disappearing from their harassed yells and furious declarations of his idiocy into the dark silence of the waiting eastward tunnel. He looked steadfastly at the dark ground at his feet, they walked without instruction, or predetermined destination, ever forward. The chill and damp from the tunnel walls crawled across his skin in unpleasant waves of spiders legs, he thought of sun, of warmth, away from the damp unwavering track, he was approaching another station he could see the flicking light off from the tip of his vision. The moment had come he decided, the encroaching light before him was not the light he reached for. Byron focused his mind on the dead mans face, torn in agony at the burning stings at his ankles, he focused on the pain the man felt, made it his pain and visualised the expiring eyes last vision, this last vision gradually cleared and became lucid in his eyes. And the last image the man saw was Byron’s own face looking back at him. The sudden darkness unnerved him as the man died, and he blindly called his own eyes back to see the blurred figure of the man fall to the ground before him.

He felt the sun immediately upon his neck and back, but the assault of arriving had killed every sense he possessed and all he could see was the colour of sand, he looked about in panic, looking for a different colour to distract him, to ground him. He stumbled and fell to the sandy floor, his back to the dead man and all that surrounded him. Byron pulled his battered and patched knee length cow coat over his head voluntarily plunging himself into darkness, and tried only to concentrate on one sense at a time. His sense of touch first, the lightly grained floor that kissed his cheek, his smell, and he wished he had left that to last but attempted to bring only the dry dust to his nose. His ears next, they filtered sound to him slowly, and the voice that he heard made him question his presence there at all. “No I agree sir, not a nice way to go, now let me take you to where you will wait, I was in the district anyway.” Her voice, Death’s voice, sounded like a thousand ethereal butterflies kissing his ears with ember mouths. His urge to look up to see the face of the death Angel was overwhelming, but what would she do if she saw him there? More to the point what would he do? Possibly throw his demising narcissism off the nearest pyramid and throw himself at her feet. But her decision to give him her gift was not to happen for another three thousand years or so, would she even recognise him? Or take him to be a stray soul and in wrath put him back into the waiting place to live a different set of lives than those he has lived so far. Wait, three thousand years? Was he that long ago? As the maddening cascade of abnormal consequences battled for space to be heard in his mind, her voice disappeared, the butterflies dispersed, and her participation in the desert sand ended. He slowly drew back the coat from his head, squinting at the brightness of a younger sun, breathing heavily with subsiding anxiety and barely perceptible self-control. “Three thousand years ago?” He questioned aloud to himself, dusting off his inappropriate clothing. He turned to thank the deceased behind him for being a beacon strong enough for his path, and indeed the man was there, collapsed to the ground his legs still in the puddle of scorpions. Slow realisation of inconceivable coincidences threw bricks at his minimal logical thinking processes, and he questioned the likelihood of a man accidentally tripping into a puddle of scorpions, and where would you get a puddle of scorpions? Unless… The man very much alive standing behind the deceased glared at him in an inhospitable manner, he had not moved until now, his anger was spurred by an itching fear as to where the oddly dressed stranger had appeared from. Byron looked blankly back in return, his eyes drawn slowly to the landscape around him, consciously not wandering to far from the barely dressed and furious man in front of him. Byron had seen pictures of Egypt, holiday shows and documentaries on Egyptian life but they had always shown ruins, this was something different. The sandstone pillars stood tall and magnificent uncorroded by time and 3 millennium of wind abraded erosion, they flanked the landscaped necropolis of aligned pyramids and tombs, as kept as a stately English garden. The lack of intermediate colour lent uncertainty to the size of this theatre, the historic proportion likening itself to a Hollywood epic, understatement being a nonexistent as an adjective in the American dictionary. The shallow valley that they stood in fought the sky for the winning majority of the hazed horizon. Cloudlessly the diamond blue sky filled the air with heat from the sun, only the sporadically placed bleached linen tents at the valley’s entrance offered any variation on the sand coloured theme. The growing agitation of the living ancient Egyptian was voiced in a torrent of foreign tongued abuse. Byron stared in confusion at the man dressed in the short skirt and leather strapped sandals, his olive skin was flushed with anger, and his irregularly beaded jet-black hair was becoming pasted to his temple with angry perspiration. The words swam visually before his eyes in scripted pictures of birds and boats, slowly words of English crept into his dialect, until finally, “Tell me now stranger or die vomiting your own entrails at the hands of Anubis! Who are you? From where did you appear? You are man in shape, you are no god, and your skin is the colour of Nile washed ass’ milk. You defile the pharaohs’ resting place, the city of the dead. Speak or I will kill you where you stand.” The Egyptian cleaved the air with the short sword gripped in his hand showing Byron fear-spurred strength. The scripted words of pictures transformed into letters of a twenty-six-letter alphabet, English words presented themselves to Byron before deteriorating to pure sound, words voiced by a man more than pissed off with his presence there. But at least he was in the right place. Byron inadvertently smiled at his new found translation skills, his unthoughtful actions continued to upset his tormentor. “Ox molester.” Or words to that effect, the Egyptian shouted. “Who are you?” He demanded again. Byron straightened his shoulder slung leather satchel, pausing in his answer, deliberately causing shifts in the dominance of the conversation before it began. “Dr Jones.” He grinned dryly touching the brim of his symbolistic dark brown hat in salutation, and completing the vanity driven facade for his own amusement only. The ancient Egyptian notably missed the witticism. “And who are you?” He asked courteously. “I am of the Necropolis Administration, and you are trespassing, that means you are a tomb robber and will suffer the same fate as this camel vomit.” Answered the assumed soldier, still he held the short sword between them but failed so far to venture closer, Byron could feel the subtle fear the superstitious man felt. “Enough of these pleasantries sir, could you tell me where the nearest tomb entrance is?” The question was more rhetorical in nature. Byron knew that to make the man disappear, as he had done to the drunk in London, might call for too much unwanted attention to his presence there. Death’s sweet lily and strawberry smell was still fresh in the air. Still something must be done about the guard. The two men’s eyes remained locked and silent, Byron pondered his options and the Egyptian fought his superstitions mustering the courage to attack. The Egyptian resolved himself first and charged around the scorpion puddle taking a long violent swing at his unknown adversary, he yelled out to accompany the vicious, if not a little ignorant, lunge. The settled features of Byron became unsettled, and he hurriedly went to escape the attack surprising himself at his sudden appearance behind the assailant without seemingly any movement in-between. Some actions are reflexive. It occurred to Byron that without the restraint of physicist-made incontestable rules, his reflexes bought about a whole new range of reactions. He passed thanks that reflex was an unconscious reaction, or he might have found himself uncomfortably impaled on the wrong end of a sword. The reaction of the Necropolis guard was altogether different, fear and anger are two emotions in one circle, somewhere there is a point that one snaps to the other, unfortunately it is a grey line within a grey circle. Anger fuelled anger and fear dropped from the disc as he picked himself from the dusty ground and threw himself with renewed vigour at Byron. Again Byron moved without movement, again standing unflustered behind the grounded guard, he smiled with inevitable narcissistic indulgence, and the guard’s anger escalated to flame. The game could have lasted for as long as Byron’s interest was maintained, but he was still rooted in some small part of morality and cruelty was not a personality trait a self-imposed recluse has the inspiration to develop. As the defender of the sacred dead stood once more and turned to make another pass, Byron wished him elsewhere. And the skirted man with a fading look of utter shock flew backwards, pulled from the ground he had relied on, and so free of friction he diminished to a small speck on the horizon within a matter of seconds. Away from the newly arrived petty thief of the ancient. Byron looked around him once more, breathing his surroundings and letting himself feel again, the wonderment of being somewhere that was soon to be lost under the sand for the next few millennia, to be forgotten and ignored by odd men that believe in just the one god. Men that would turn from the persecuted to the persecutor, and would eventually beat their Christian beliefs in to the last of the first storytellers. Byron kept expecting to turn around and see a herd of white socked with sandals tourists clicking their way through a hundred film rolls in-between suitable gasps of wonder and curses about the heat. But there were no tourists, no bloated and pale, red-flushed mosquitoes, communicating to each other in stern warnings; not to eat the food, and telling mystical tales of epic bathroom visitations. The sky was free of aeroplane noise, the horizon was free of electricity giving monsters, the air was free of car exhaust, and the sand free of cigarette ends, Byron was truly three thousand years ago. A thoughtless appreciater, he fished a cigarette from his pocket and lit up. He laughed to himself and wished briefly for the company of Flower and Candy, but his head still reeled from the journey and he knew he wouldn’t have been able to move the three of them this long ago. He resolved himself with their picture on his eyelids, their laughter at his attire in his silent ears.

The tomb robberies were most rife long before the sand encroached on the Necropolis’s forgotten majesty, between 1075BC and 945BC. It had surprised Byron that he was now within when, but it made sense: A few hundred years pass after a Pharaohs death and mummification, his burial site in the dead city is still known, a little less guarded but as rich as a bank. A simile probably not used by the Egyptians at the time. He scanned the sand around him looking for what he quickly found, steps carved into the ground leading down to the entrance into the earth to the broken sealed door of the tomb. The entrance was as dark a Death’s eyes, its depth only perceptible on inspection with a torch, the forward planning Byron produced one from the satchel he carried. The artificial light he shone violated the virginal natural darkness as he stepped through the rubble that was once the seal, and into the long, gouged corridor. His sharp inhalation was one of veneration as he marvelled at the myriad of tiny carved pictures adorning the corridor’s walls from top to bottom, more birds and symbols. He didn’t care to translate, lest it take their mystic beauty away from his inspired eyes. He traced his fingers across their intricate grooves reading poetry into their meaning. The air had circulated well enough but remained slightly stale in his nostrils, still it failed to distract him from the mesmerising walls. The corridor sloped gently away from him, descending into further darkness, Byron peered uselessly down its length, abruptly he noticed a light to the side of the corridor coming from one of the antechambers, causing him to switch his torch off quickly. The light flickered subtly, indicating a flame, maybe a torch hung from the wall within the room, he wondered if the Necropolis guard had missed all the tomb raiders, that he had left others to fill their pockets with Byron’s future wealth. With an indignant huff he stalked closer to take a look, the chamber was one of two that he could see along the corridor, the other rooms doorway outlined by flickering shadows past the first. He gained courage as he approached, his steps light and barely audible on the sandy floor for a dramatic surprise entrance, rewarding him with the consumption of superstitious men’s fear. But something made him stop just before the broken doorway. It was the sound of ember butterflies kissing someone else’s ears. Her laugh pushed blood from his brain and quickened his heart, he knew immediately that the laugh was intimate in nature, someone else was with her, making her sound like that, and unjustifiable jealousy kicked brutally in the pit of his stomach. Resentful anxiety pushed him to look, to see with his own eyes his heart pulled from his chest. Byron attempted to hide his presence from discovery by pulling the shadows in around him, he steeled himself and carefully peered around the broken door. Illusions of crimson destruction danced before his eyes as he saw her again.

Death, the Death of three thousand years ago, sat giggling to her companion on a small wooden chair carved from African Ivory, her feet lightly touching the similarly carved footrest. The room she centred was gently lit with the warm flamed glow of the torches supported on two walls. Small and symmetrically square, it was decorated with multitudinous, basic-coloured paintings, stacked with clay pots, small furniture, and small boats carved from wood. She wore her smile and little else, the little else were the woven linen bandages that were being wrapped around her ankles binding them to the footrest, the same bandages that bound her hands lightly behind her back. To Byron’s disbelief the contemptible man that constrained her looked to be no man at all. The voyeur’s face contorted in horror as the scene clarified with offensive lucidity before him. The undressed man he saw kneeling at her feet winding the linen bandage delicately about her ankles, was a man to his broad shoulders only, above the shoulders he displayed the head of a Jackal. Byron’s mind raced to lessons at school he should have paid more attention to, until anger quickly bought the god’s name to his lips. It was Anubis, the Egyptian god of mummification, the guardian of the dead. The god’s black fur shone offensively in the torches flicker, his muzzle was smiling like an excited pet dog. It spoke in a low growl. “My goddess,” He half whispered in her ear, Byron’s ear, Byron’s Death. The warmth of her laugh iced his soul. He watched the Jackal god’s hands ascend her body to caress her cheek and he watched Death lean her face to his touch, until he could watch no more. Byron threw himself back into the corridor wall, away from the sight of his torture. He pulled the shadows closer around him until he could see nothing but darkness, but he could only take sight from his eyes, not sounds from his ears. And he heard the deafening sounds of her lips on the Jackal’s chest, he heard the nauseous sounds of the dead god’s mouth on her body, and he felt blood drip from his eardrums. Still holding the shadows tightly around him he crawled across the corridor to the other doorway to escape, the rubble from their chamber’s broken seal hid his retreat. He kept his belly to the floor until he entered the second antechamber, pushing himself to a sitting position he released the shadows and tried to halt his eyes from weeping. Why was he bothered? Death had not wanted him, and the Death he saw here was the Death that didn’t know him and wouldn’t know him for another three thousand years, she didn’t even know he existed at this time, because he hadn’t existed here. Still the disillusioned jealously clawed at his throat, still his crimson heart danced into pieces before his eyes. Byron attempted to quell the painful constriction of his stomach, to put his mind to other things, his reason for being here for a start. He steadied himself on the wall of the second antechamber, long minutes went by as the distant giggling from the other room continued to set flame to his ears, until finally, it faded and there was silence. He knew however, that the sounds had only moved to another place, not stopped, that the echo of smiles were still whispering, just elsewhere, and this knowledge was relentlessly present in his anguish. At least his ears had stopped bleeding. Byron collected himself and made his legs once more take his full weight pushing himself off the painted surfaces and to a stand. He thought hard about his Flower and Candy, the shape of their smooth carves above him in the bath, and the droplets of water cascading towards him. He managed to push a smile on to his mouth thinking of their heavenly faces, but still could not stop the sky coloured curses seeping from under his breath as he searched once more for the flashlight in his satchel.

The sudden luminescence of dissipating circles of light bought his horde into proportion, despite himself the smile remained, even widened. On small tables, in crates, and in jars before him lay a treasure trove of jewellery, ornate urns, and beautifully sculpted statues. Gold and semi-precious stones flashed at him, patiently laying in wait in blissful ignorance, their only purpose to be taken with their owner to an afterlife of riches, to decorate the gods themselves. Coloured glass sparkled, laid into yet more gold along with stones of turquoise, lapis lazuli, and carnelian. There were anklets, armbands, rings, jewelled ointment boxes, and ivory bracelets, undisturbed or thrown hurriedly to the floor by the apprehended tombs raiders. Noticeable gaps appeared in the rooms bounty, obviously already removed to make someone else’s fortune, but there remained enough here to make the most professional Egyptologist or museum curator physically salivate. Byron had no idea what to take, his schooling didn’t run to the present market value of three thousand year old antiquities, so he picked the shiny things, and although aware of a market for it he avoided the ivory, out of some morality, bizarre given his present situation. His pockets filled quickly as did the satchel. When all chambers of storage on his person were full, he took time to scan the remaining contents of the room. And on catching his eye he carefully picked a gold necklace with ankh pendant and an intricately designed toe ring for Flower, and semi-precious stoned anklet and finger ring with the same ankh symbol for Candy. He smiled to himself and surmised that there would be nothing more suitable than the symbols of life for his beautiful dead.

Byron decided he would not stop at the burial chamber as depicted on the tourist map but instead leave this place through the same shadows that he arrive in. He switched his flashlight off and noticed again the flickering orange light from the torches in the first antechamber. The illume warmth shivered it’s way along the corridor offering its distorted guidance to him through trembling shadows of fire and darkness. Byron couldn’t help but feel that it gloated at him, delightfully reminding him of the sight that it had beheld. He winced again seeing Death’s slightly blue lips on the back of his eyelids, her wide eyes and shivering skin, all at the dog man’s touch. Perhaps he should have been a vet, or a great white hunter.

The dead are more alive than me, for they have nothing to lose

Flower woke naked beside Candy, the space between them empty. There was only the shrouded form of her best friend stretched extravagantly across the bed to crease and hug the sheets beside her. Candy’s fingertips extended across the gap resting gently on Flowers side, her yellow chipped nails making a reassuring circuit once more complete. Flower carefully leaned over to her friend and kissed her lovingly in the dip of her back. Candy stirred enough to whisper smiles in her sleep. “He’s gone hasn’t he?” She murmured to Flower, her eyes still firmly shut and her mind still dancing on the edges of dream. “Yeah.” Whispered Flower in return, her voice low and a little disappointed, it wasn’t that she didn’t know where Byron had gone, but for some strange reason she missed seeing him as she opened her eyes. “I bet he took that bloody awful hat as well.” Candy added dryly whilst appearing not to move at all. “Our little boy adventurer.” Flower giggled lightly as she sat up pulling the covers about her arms. “Still, I don’t like waking up without him though.” “I know what you mean, he’s warm.” Candy turned herself over and nestled up to Flower, her eyes only briefly half opening to look at her friend and smile. She wrapped herself around Flower to offer warmth to both of them. The dead give off no heat as such, just the memory of heat, but it was enough. They lay in silence for a while and Candy drifted comfortably back to sleep, but Flower found she couldn’t sleep again and clicked the T.V. on by the remote to pass the time until Candy finally woke up.

Half way through the cartoon network’s early morning, soon-to-be-repeatedthroughout-the-day, scheduling the deceased girls received a visitor. There was a rapid knock on the bedroom door just before it was swung open and the beaming face of a female stranger strode into the room, though her face was instantly recognisable her smile was not. “Ooh, I love this show,” She exclaimed without a hello or salutation as the glowing T.V. in the corner of the room caught her eye and she launched herself to a seat on the bed next to Candy. “Bloody Hell.” Candy cried as she was bounced from her warmth into waking. She peered un-threatened by the radiating compassion of the recognisable stranger through half-open eyes. “Who let Tigger in?” Life grinned widely back at her and Candy buried her head into Flowers side trying futilely to grasp at the tails of sleep, retreating into the darkness between Flower’s body and the pillows. “Bugger.” She cursed and forced herself to sit up next to Flower and enquire with decorum the purpose of this most welcome visit. “What?” She stated plainly. Flower nudged her sharply, warning her silently to mind her manners. “I know you’re not the Lady Death are you? I can see life like a colour in, and around you, and your eyes, they look like sunrise.” Flower interrupted timidly, her anxiety mixed with a deep-seated fear that she had come to take them back. “She’s Life.” Candy settled “I am that children, I am Life, Deaths sister.” She flicked her green tipped blue hair over her shoulder, her smile had not faded since she strode through the door and it put Flower slightly at ease. Candy however, had always had defiance coursing through her veins. “Are you here to take us back?” She demanded. “Nope.” Life answered simply. “I’m here to take you shopping. I know Byron’s not here and won’t be back most the day, so I thought I’d keep you company.” “Or to stop Lady Death taking out her dislike for us.” Retorted Candy sourly. For a moment Life’s smile waned, maybe out of annoyance, or maybe out of concern that some truth hid inside Candy’s statement. She looked away and deferred her answer, straightening her short linen skirt and playing for a moment with the straps of her roman sandals. “Why do you say that my dead angel?” She asked finally as Flower nudged Candy harshly in a bid to make her silent. Candy tempered her answer. “When we first met Byron he was with her, they were kissing.” Jealousy flashed in her tone, a quieter jealousy shared by Flower, but she pacified herself at Flower’s gentle caress of her arm. She looked to her friend and back at Life, her tone now a little soothed. “He asked for us and she didn’t like it. From the small amount Byron has actually spoke of that day, I believe she had the opportunity to take him for herself, but didn’t. We could both feel that his request did not sit well with Death.” “No, it was… unexpected. I admit that I do not know what plans she had or has, but believe me when I say she did feel responsible for him. And that I have my sisters word that what is done is done, and you can stay here in this world for as long as you please, whatever happens.” Life’s sunrise eyes looked from Flower to Candy, looking for an acceptance and an end to this subject. “He loves us you know.” Candy concluded, putting in a footnote, “Whatever reasons lay behind his request, fate had no option but to bring the three of us together.” Life’s smile widened at both the courage and naivety of Candy’s declaration. “You know, you two have more life in you than most of the living.” “We’re dead, we have nothing to lose.” Retorted Flower.

After showering and dressing the beautiful dead conceded to the offered day of shopping with Life. They left the apartment building and were excitedly ushered to Life’s mortal transport. An old distressed camper van stood on the kerb waiting for them, smiling through its pain, it looked to be directly torn from the seventies and probably would have been old then. The split safari windows winked at them in the hot summers day. The van’s paint-work could only have been sprayed on by tree loving hippies in a state of mind expansion. Daisies and mismatched rainbows covered every inch of the bodywork and bizarre quotes and song lyrics had been sporadically inscribed with marker pen. Flower recognised only ‘I am a passenger’ and ‘Jingle jangle morning, I’ll be following you.’ The writing seemed to have been penned by a six-year-old with small red symbolic lines replacing any recognisable letters of the English language. “Don’t you love it?” Life asked excitedly “That was an odd summer, there was this freedom in life once more. I sometimes think conformity killed most of my children.” Flower and Candy looked at each other in concerned bemusement. Perhaps to an observer the two girls looked to be slightly embarrassed at what would be assumed to be their hippie student sister. The observer, however, smiled, and I remember thinking how beautiful they all were. “We have to be back before Byron comes home, I want to see him to make sure he’s alright.” Flower demanded as she stepped into the back of the camper and sat with Candy on one of the velvet cushioned bench seats. “Of course we will be.” Life negated to tell them that Byron may be more than a day coming home, but that would be for later, there would be no value in starting the day with sadness. Life climbed in after them, shutting the door behind her as she sat on the opposite seat, as she looked to them the dead girls looked back a little confused. “Aren’t you driving?” Flower asked. “That’s what drivers are for.” Life answered pointing to the drivers seat. A man that looked like he had dragged himself from a permanent beach life to be there looked over his shoulder at them and grinned widely behind his sunglasses. His unusual pure white hair fell past his neck to his shoulder blades, and the worn out summer vest he wore offered suggestions of images, long since bleached by the sea. The vest showed off a tan that looked too healthy, without a trace of leathered skin to contradict his sandcastle appearance. If they could have seen his legs they would bet he was wearing shorts and flip-flops. “Morning salutations ocean beauties, my name is Stork and I’ll be your driver for today.” His voice sounded like the sea and both the dead girls flashed him smiles of diamonds, not a little unimpressed at his appearance and his presence. “A lack of flirting with my guests would be very much appreciated Stork my darling.” Life glanced at her acquaintance with a dry cautionary smile, for his mind could always be read on his face, and in his shorts. Perhaps she should have left him a bird, but she had wanted company of the human kind, one night alone a few hundred years back. He still bitched to her that he missed his wings. Maybe she would give them back to him one of these days. “Now if you would be so kind, drive us to the part of town that you require gold bars to purchase shoes. We will give life to the humdrum day of the too good to be called shop assistants and their condescending toleration. Pushing those noses from the air and being generally, thoroughly, inappropriate.” Life giggled at her companions, her energy was fast becoming infectious, even managing to penetrate Candy’s sullen distrust. The van leapt from the kerb into the traffic, most unlike a van of that kind, and the white haired Stork cheerfully exchanged hand signals with a number of other cheerful drivers on the road before heading to streets literally lined with gold.

Their conversation was light and carefully avoided all references to siblings or spouses. Life had been correct, they did superbly upset many of the shop assistants they saw that morning. Even more so when they each bought a pair of shoes from a shop at five hundred pounds a pair, where the assistants had been gratifyingly outstandingly rude, though money did indeed break the boundaries of their self imposed ostentation and made sucking up to the deceased a little easier. Life had insisted on paying, and had even insisted on buying the dead girls underwear after feigning mock shock at the revelation that they no longer wore any. Although Flower did pass comment that eight hundred pounds on a few garments that all fitted in one small paper bag might have been on the extravagant side. Both of the deceased found it increasingly difficult to stop the woman Life buying them things. They were intentionally in a heady spin of opulence and intoxicating revelry, life after all should be rich in one sense of the word. But Life herself was the intoxication, she exhaled passion with every breath, and Flower and Candy found little time to think, let alone brood about Byron. Behind her peach sunglasses Life afforded herself a smile, they would be all right on their own she speculated, although she wished against fate that they would never have to be.

The three took lunch at the most fashionable restaurant in London town, and Flower and Candy brushed excited shoulders with the rich and famous, unperturbed by the exposé that most of them were shorter in life than they were on the telly. Without their pedestals. Life allowed them to dance from table to table collecting autographs on expensive but still paper napkins. Their wide eyed in awe pleading eluded most of the assorted stars anger at being bothered in their haven of pseudo anonymity. After all, most anonymity is better with a side of adoration. One particular Hollywood gem of the day even requested, in near salivation, the two lightly clothed girls phone number, for his hotel room would be empty tonight and naivety, from his experience, was a great bed companion. And he wouldn’t have to pay them. To this abuse of power Flower gently sat herself on the celluloid hero’s lap heating the mans eyes with sweet aflame smiles. Candy took the lead from her friend and leaned into him, her face close enough to feel his breath on her cheeks, close enough for his eyes to descend her loose top to her uncovered chest. The tables flanking the same wall became aware of the proceedings, and today’s gem became a little uncomfortable at his new admirers public display of worship, their ages known to him were becoming equally known by others causing him some embarrassment. When she was aware that she had some of the other tables attention Flower with truly audible clarity announced, “My girlfriend and I will gladly have sex with you, but can you pick us up from school, because our friends will be so jealous, and the headmistress likes us in our beds by ten o’clock. But when we become sixteen in a few years we’ll be able to stay up till eleven. Is that ok?” Flowers voice dripped with honey and sweetness, her performance applauded by a dozen whispers around them of “That’s disgusting” and “He’s a movie star, dirty little pervert.” Chorused by a sting of tutts and disapproving glances from influential producers. Candy affirming whisper was kept from others earshot, “Your movies are shit and you can’t act for toffee.” Both girls turned gracefully and left, leaving the star alone and angry at his table. They returned to their seats hand in hand, leaving behind them the scribbled signature of someone who used to be famous. Yesterday. Life was simulating applause as they returned to the table, her words peppered with laughter. “Most entertaining, he’ll be tending his ego for a month.” She managed. Through their own smiles the deceased could not help but feel a little disappointed and a little cheated, but they were to come to understand that an ideal has no option other than to induce disappointment. For ideals are slippery creatures, often kept in cages and sold by cynics. The sour taste of disillusionment cooled the easy cheer from Life’s dining companions. “Do we make Byron look like that?” Asked Flower her confusion tainted with her concern. “I hope not.” Replied Candy her own concern rising to Flower’s question. Life clutched their hands over the tabletop catching their eyes with empathy. “You told me earlier that he loves you, and you told me that you love him, does opinion matter to that?” She could have gone on but the question needed no complication. Life found that people had always tried to complicate her meaning, it still amazed her now the amount of philosophical man-hours that went into that one simple question. If they wanted to know the meaning of life why didn’t they just ask her? The deceased were appeased but remained unsettled, they did care what opinion was judged on Byron, it was love after all, and it’s easy to say I don’t care what people say until they upset the one thing you have no control over, your lovers feelings. “I might as well let you know that we’ll be going out his evening, Byron won’t be back until tomorrow.” The deceased looked to Life, their small features open and hurt - that she would know such a fact and they would not. “But why would he stay away the night? What does he have to do?” Candy’s voice rose in pitch her hostility growing once more. “Why wouldn’t he back tonight, is he alright?” Flower’s own concern became infused with objection to having heard this news from someone other than Byron, he was theirs, no one else’s. “He’s fine, but he is not used to the power he has and thinks he has to be fatigued after his journey. He has decided to stop in another time eight years ago, to sell the artefacts he has acquired. Then come back to surprise you with the house being ready.” Life added the last part specifically to calm them, she didn’t add that he had seen her sister three thousand years ago, and she didn’t add what happened eight years ago. “The house,” Candy turned and smiled at her dead friend, once more excited at the reason for his trip in the first place. Flower allowed herself a smile also, that he had wanted to have everything already set up for them, their ideal of him was intact. “No sex tonight then,” Answered Flower with a sly grin, the statement was a release from worry: that wherever he was, Byron was thinking if them.

Everything living dies, except memory, and memory lies

Byron kept his manifested shadows; he took them around him into the heated blue air of the outside. As he stepped from the tombs entrance he waited for his eyes to again become accustomed to the bright glare of sky and sand, a transition made easier by the cloud-like darkness that clung to him. His shadows fought for their life against their return to the earth by the sun. His ears, however, were snapped to attention long before his eyes could focus and he heard a wall of presence surrounding him. It came from the top of the descending steps that he was standing at the foot of. He heard the sound of a crowd’s group inhalation, sharp breaths of wonder and awe, and a little fear. Words must have spread from hidden observers that had seen and exaggerated his dismissal of the Necropolis Administrator. For as Byron’s eyes cleared and he peered through the filtering darkness of the clinging shadows he saw a group of twenty or more Egyptian slaves or thieves, they must have been slaves or thieves for they were not dressed in the splendour that the Pharaoh documentaries catalogued. The group retreated as he climbed the steps retaining his shadow aura about him, he stood again on the shifting sand and looked with suspicious defiance at the unknown gathering before him. In turn each of the crowd knelt to him uttering whispered praises in his honour. From what he could decipher they were indeed families of thieves, stealing the treasures to make money and keep them from the good pharaoh’s slavery. The Necropolis Administration had apparently been over zealous in their policing of late, for rape and murder surely did not come under good security measures. They were praising Byron for his dispatch of one of the killers. And for opening the tombs for late night shopping Byron assumed, but the faces of these people were not those of jubilant looters, they seemed barely to be living on what they had managed to steal. They were outsiders to the Pharaoh’s grace, refusing maybe to die in slavery. One of the children stood from the crowd’s homage and offered Byron water from a worn skin flask, he took the gift much to the happiness of the crowd, sniffing the water to be safe before he drank.

Above the gratuitous praise of Egyptian tongue the sound of horses rudely suspend the jubilation, carried toward them by the caustic sand breeze it broke Byron’s unanticipated flock into a running screaming mass of disappearing bodies. A little disgruntled, Byron remained standing where he was and waited for the plume of dust that followed the six strong force of Administrators to come closer. The six heavily armed guards leap quickly from their horses and surrounded Byron in an impressive militarised manner, their agitation closely checked by blind obedience to orders. There was little point in interpreting the meaning of their blue tinted pictures, the continual stabbing the air action of their sword play gave away their intentions. Byron released the shadows from around him and stared cleanly eye to eye with each soldier, his face was unreadable, his fear strangely non-existent. He held more annoyance at their untimely entrance than anything else, a feeling as much a surprise to Byron as to the angered Administration. In amongst their shouting he had lit another cigarette and now inhaled the chemical infused smoke with a look of calm boredom upon his face. This attitude did nothing to endear him to the man in charge of the official murderers, so Byron took a step forward, the guards took a step back. A wry smile creased Byron’s jaw and he took another step forward. The Guards took another back. His next step forward was the catalyst for action and the soldiers lunged on order, in one smooth movement. Byron waved his hand over them and stopped them in mid lunge, the man in charge yelled at his men, his voice losing some of it’s authority in a furiously high pitch. Again Byron waved his hand and replaced his position with the head Administrators position, he then released the guards, who with highly trained skill found themselves unable stop their attack and within moments the head Administrator found himself in small carved pieces on the floor. Byron knew Death would be arriving soon and could not take the perverse enjoyment he found he felt any further with the other members of the Administration. Byron had never killed anyone, and from within his head he still did not take responsibility for this man’s death, he had no sword in his hand, he threw no blow, and there was no blood on his hands. Because of this reasoning he did not take any retribution on the remaining five men who now stood over the bloody chunks of their once commanding officer. Each soldier stared at dissected pieces, his features locked in bemused horror. Byron did not want to explain his existence there to an unbelieving audience, to see Death again flushed from her liaison with the dog man, knowing that she would not know him, could only cause his brow to sink lower. Instead he decided to leave the scene to his Lady Death and quickly and ran down the stone steps to the comforting darkness of the tomb. Within the darkness he sought he saw his way home. As he descended the steps he saw, from the corner of his eye, the stealthy approach of the hidden crowd as they wove their silent way to the stunned guards, he saw the first blow from the reanimated crowd. Byron closed his eyes against the first drop of blood as he heard the guard fall to the ground. Still he was not responsible, he told himself.

The light Byron created at the end of his tunnel led him, not back to the warmth of Flower and Candy that he craved, but to a time eight years before. He had told himself he wanted to get everything ready for his return, having the antiquities sold and the house bought ready for his Flowers and Candy to simply move in. To his renewed relief he found that within his own life time there was no need to pick a death to travel to, but hidden in his relief was a deeper reason for his choice of destination, and it was eight years too late for an apology. On his many trips into town over the last months he found he remembered a number of places he thought would be interested in the purchase of recently rediscovered, three thousand-year-old jewellery. However, to his disillusionment it was never as easy it was shown to be in the movies to fence stolen items. There were more questions than were comfortable involved, that he later figured would have proven too time consuming for the writers to write and the actors to act. Yet he continued to wait for the background music to fade up and the long shots of him walking in and out of prestigious antique shops resulting in a growing amount of money in his pocket. The only piece of luck his dark shadow had lit had been the Egyptology department of the national museum, he had been told on his first apprehensive visit to return at closing time and the curator would see him again then. It could have been a trap, Scotland Yard’s finest may have been in waiting for him, but with only a few thousand pounds in his pocket from the sale of only one gold armband he had to stretch what was left of his four leaf clover, ‘til the sap bled. He had discarded the hat, lest it make him somewhat of a clown before the lions, and walked through the main doors five minutes before closing. His pockets and satchel were now very heavy with the disappointment of gold and semiprecious stones three millennia old. The neatly pressed guard informed him that they would be closing soon to which Byron uttered in hope that he was here to meet one man, the guards scepticism was abased at the curator’s timely arrival. “Mr Diaeh, I’m extremely pleased you could make it. Would you like to follow me please and we’ll discuss our business in my office.” The curator threw a placating glance at the over efficient security guard, the guard nodded in mindless obedience to his superior. For this guard, rank negated suspicion. To him the affluent were above petty crime and were to be respected in their stature. Unknown to him the end of that sentence was they deal only in superior crime and should be respected for their corruption. The reference to the abuse of power and position was not lost on Byron, and he managed a growl behind the curator’s back. The tall slight man led Byron among the maze of rooms with definitive precision, the back of his tailored suit glowed at Byron with the sheen of money. The curator must have been in his late fifties or early sixties, a man of obvious intelligence and exemplary breeding, he spoke in the assured manner that only the aristocracy can manage when their family has been above the law for historic centuries. Byron assigned him his stereotype and was willing to take bets that he liked young eastern boys. The curator however, was in some confusion over Byron’s pigeonhole, he looked to be no thief or archaeologist with financial problems, maybe of dubious education, and why did he seem as if he did not possess his eyes? He was led into and through the Egyptian display and into a short maze of back rooms stacked high with polished wooden storage racks and trays, each highly manicured draw hiding another priceless example. Finally the man stopped his pace in a dimly lit corner of such a room and opened a previously unseen door to his small but spotless office. The room could have been no more than twelve foot by twelve foot; each wall flanked with yet more shelves and worktops where the order to the disorder of the categorised antiquities was startlingly clear. There was no window only the bright illumination of several specifically designed non glare lights which shared the ceiling with a dust free extractor and large wooden propeller fan that hummed its way through slow eternal circles. All this made the room perfectly cool, odourless, and eerily desolate at the same time. “Please sit down Mr Dieah.” The curator indicated Byron to sit on one of the leather upholstered chairs on the other side of his desk, Byron sat and the curator perched himself jauntily on the edge of the desk next to him, the thrill in his voice could not be masked. “I must admit to being a tad bit anxious to whether you would come back or not. From what I saw of your collection I was extremely impressed, yet I am enough of an expert in my field to not ask you where they came from.” The curator paused a little shy with his next statement. “Though I will admit to checking the stolen artefact list of the computer when you left, but none of these appeared.” The curator’s words were an apprehensive but excited barrage of perfect Queens English. But his voice dropped suddenly altered to a sombre tone, the white-haired gentleman leant into Byron peering over his wireframed glasses. At this close distance Byron could read the word Armani stamped onto one of the arms. The curator almost whispered. “I do hope they are not fakes. I have made a number of telephone calls since our brief meeting this afternoon, and I would not be happy if they were to turn out to be fakes, neither would the collectors.” It was an odd experience to be threatened by an aged stick of elevated stature adorned in a pristine suit. His perfect annunciation may have been the most disconcerting part of it, that and his solemnity. But as quickly as his warning was spoken the summer day came back to his voice and he leant back on his perch, smiling widely once more at Byron. Byron shifted in his seat and remained expressionless. “They are not fakes, I can guarantee that.” The curator looked in consideration of Byron’s statement and quietly replied. “Yes. Yes I believe you could.” He beamed once more. “Now if you would be an angel and make an old man happy, may I see them again?” Byron stood up and emptied the contents of his pockets and satchel on to the neatly pressed velvet cloth the curator had quickly laid on his desk with childlike excitement. For the first time Byron saw his full horde in daylight, manufactured daylight though it was, the coloured glass sparkled brighter, the gold seemed purer, along with stones of turquoise, lapis lazuli, and carnelian, they physically took his breath away. He heard the gratifying sigh from the curator who was staring wide-eyed at the everincreasing bounty before him. The anklets, armbands, rings, jewelled ointment boxes, and ivory bracelets, were finally all laid on the table spilling over the velvet cloth like water. Byron closed his hand around the remaining presents in his pocket, reassuring himself that they were still there, and smiling at the faces of those who were to receive them. Almost rhetorically the curator asked, “Is there any more?” His eyes were firmly glued to the table and his smile firmly glued to his face. Byron pulled his empty hand from his pocket. “No, there isn’t any more. I couldn’t carry any more.” His statement was not lost on the curator, surprise registered, but his sense of business overwhelmed his sense of curiosity, and deep within his head he felt that he really did not want an explanation anyway. “I am most impressed, most impressed indeed. I have not seen many examples in this pristine condition, they are as fresh as the day they were entombed with whomsoever the delusioned pharaoh was that once owned them.” He looked up at Byron. “Do you know from which tomb they hale? Not that it matters, research will provide the answer if you do not have it.” “I don’t know I’m afraid, I didn’t…” Byron stopped, realising that he was going to say he hadn’t asked the tomb guards. Whoops. “No I don’t.” He stated again. The curator beamed back. “Not to worry. If you don’t object I’ll just look a little closer.” Without waiting for an answer the old man collected magnifying glasses and various sized toothpicks galore from one of his many shelves. He proceeded in handling the jewellery eagerly, making appreciative noises in rapid succession as he turned them carefully over and over in his hands. Byron stood back and let the man continue, time was something he had plenty of. He fished in his pocket and lit another cigarette, watching the curator trying to resist the urge to hop from foot to foot. The old man smelled the smoke. “If you don’t mind could you stand under the extractor fan if you’re going to smoke in here.” Worried that his voice was a little brusque he quickly went on, “The quality of the craftsmanship, undoubtedly authentic, the colour of the gold, the semi-precious stones and faience, all perfect. Not that I doubted it, but on inspection they are better than I could have hoped. The museum, myself, and the collectors all thank you for bringing them to our attention.” Avoiding any answer Byron could offer the older man turned immediately back to his inspection, and Byron shifted slightly to stand beneath the extractor fan.

Over the following hour the curator made a number of short and enthusiastic telephone calls and finally a price was offered. Byron resisted the urge to jump from his seat in a choking fit, he had never been party to a conversation that directly involved himself and the word million, especially the word million with another number before it. As calmly as he could he responded. “I want you to know that I realise that that figure is a small fraction of what they are actually worth. However, given my unusual acquisition of them, and the lack of providence, I admit I would be willing to accept your offer should you increase it by another five hundred thousand.” The sentence made his mouth salivate. “Done sir.” The curator shot his hand out to shake on the deal before Byron could change his mind. “I do however have somewhere to be and would like to discuss the technicalities of payment.” It transpired to Byron that there were certain banks in certain countries that were more than happy to create a bank account for you over the phone, keep it formal, keep it tax free, and asked no more questions than were absolutely necessary. Byron answered the questions to the best of his ability, aware of the sickening irony that his current self would not know about his fortune in a foreign bank account for another eight years. However, the gilded phrase of ‘eight years interest accumulation’ was enough to keep him more than buoyant about the sentence he had endured. Only when the transfer of funds was confirmed an incredibly short forty minutes later by the Bank’s manager, did Byron afford himself a smile. “Mr Diaeh, it has been a pleasure conducting business with you. I trust that if you ever find yourself with further examples of this quality you will keep my name in mind.” Byron was about to explain the future likelihood of this was close to nil when the curator went on, a look of supplication on his face. “Please, take my card.” Byron took the card and accepted the curator’s vigorously enthusiastic handshake. He was escorted to a side exit of the museum, the bitesize history of ancient Egypt accompanying him in the form of the curator’s exhilarated chatter. The curator shook his hand again at the door, reluctant to release his grip this time, unwilling to let Byron slip into the obscurity he had come from. The old man had lived a long life, the one constant within it had been his passion with Egyptology, and then this strange and untidy, eyeless man walked into his life and bought him the finest treasure he had ever seen. Byron backed out the door, removing his hand and collecting his cigarettes from his pocket as an excuse to do so, as he did his hand touched on a small, previously undiscovered, engraved gold ring wedged in the very corner of his coat pocket. He pulled it out and looked at it for a moment, it wasn’t one of the girl’s presents, he huffed in a casual manner and handed the ring to the curator. “A present, for you. Call it a souvenir from sunny Egypt.” As he dropped the ring into the speechless curators hand grains of three thousand-year-old sand sprinkled with it into his palm. Questions were abundant in the old man’s head but his mouth remained in open silence, his expression of wordless gratitude. “I’ll call you if I ever go back, you might be able to tell me when the Necropolis Administration ceased to function, I don’t fancy seeing them again.” With that Byron walked away smiling to himself, the curator, staring baffled at Byron’s retreating silhouette.

It was around eight o’clock and Byron had just enough time to get to his next destination. Five minutes later he walked into a bar over two hundred miles away from the museum. Guilt had bought him here, that and a sense of incompletion. It is said that you can never go back to change the past and dwelling on it will only lead to a waste of the future. But then what if you could? Byron slipped through the door, through the heave of people, and became easily anonymous in the crowd. He achieved his ultimate aim with relative ease and managed to conceal himself from his own ignorant eyes that stared obliviously eight years earlier, oblivious and contentedly into the eyes of his old girlfriend as they sat together at one the tables circling the room.

The bar was one of the new increasingly popular places, it was huge, laid out on two floors with large open grazing plains on both the lower floor and the smaller balcony area, overlooking the downstairs bar, which at this time on a Friday night was always full. Predatory tables and booths lined the balcony and sporadically interrupted the ground floor space, as they crept away from their circumscribe of the alcoholic assembly. The whole place was a bewildering mix of strawberries and stylised rustic en-vogue. He loved this pub. It was situated away from any built up areas and had to be driven to, therefore as soon as anybody passed their driving test in this area this was the first place they came, it meant you had arrived, you were grown up. Someone should have told Byron that eight years ago, he may have attempted to grow up a bit before he walked through the door. It was eight years ago that he sat with his first established girlfriend at one of the tables away from the strawberry crush of young hormonal feasting. He was seventeen or eighteen, the same age as her. His girlfriend’s name was Emily. She was a perfectly constructed, petite girl, with bright blue eyes and an infectious smile. She currently flicked her long dark hair over her shoulder and looked into the darkness of Byron’s eye space. Byron watched himself smile, something he remembered he did a lot when Emily was around, but as history was to prove his smile would not last the night. He had forgotten what the argument was about, but it happened in about an hour from now, perhaps it was selective memory on his behalf, he was willing to take the blame for what happened but preferred not to remember the catalyst. They had been together a while now, they had not known each other intimately, but were on terms as close as you could be without taking the last moon step, an achievement to commend Emily for. Too many moved too quickly, she said, and Emily’s self control was admirable. He couldn’t remember if he had had the same opinion eight years ago however, shallow being an adolescent boy’s inspiration.

Whatever the reason, Emily’s smile would soon disappear. He would soon have drunk too much to have any control over his hideous personality, he was to become less and less coherent and begin ranting, unpleasantly, and Emily would finally leave. There are sentences in everyone’s life when no matter what retraction you give them, in the sour light of the next day’s sobriety they can never be removed. It was an endearing feature for such a delicate elfin figure that Emily drank tequila like a champion, but tonight she had driven them there and Byron had made the uninformed decision to aspire to her quantity crown. The night was good to this point he was merry and actually tolerably funny, although the older Byron could watch himself with no more than violent cringes. So far he had managed to keep himself as a spectator and remained at the bar, resisting the urge to cut in on himself heavily and apologise before the event. He barely resisted the equally compelling urge to walk over and run his fingers though Emily’s luxurious hair and kiss her glistening red lips as deeply as he used to. Memory seems to purposely blur images, the further they lay in the past. To have Emily’s exquisitely pretty face alive in his eyes once more sharpened every image he had ever held of her, to him the beauty of her appearance was equalled only by the soul she displayed in her smile. The older, wiser, Byron was running out of time. He had only a fraction of the tolerance Emily had to the tequila and he knew his wit would soon run dry and turn a nasty shade of malicious. He needed a plan, did he change the past? Intercede somehow, letting his younger self sleep off merely small embarrassment at the present time? But how would he explain the sudden stubble he had acquired, the longer matted hair he now lazily supported? An idea reluctantly reared its head in his and he called over the barman, trying hard to shout quietly over the noise of the music. “Excuse me, there is a boy over there, looks a little like me wearing a green T-shirt, sitting with that very attractive girl.” The barman looked through the crowds quizzically and nodded in reserved acknowledgement. “He’s drinking tequila. He shouldn’t drink anymore.” Byron handed the barman five neatly folded twenty pound notes. Unsurprisingly the barman took them eagerly. “No problem.” He grinned and slipped away to tell the other staff. Byron watched himself come to the bar to order another couple of shots, he pulled away into the crowd avoiding his younger yet more unfocused vision. Although he could not hear what the barman said to him strange memories filtered in to his head that had not been there a moment ago. He remembered the barman had told him he had had enough to drink and that he would only serve him cokes for the rest of the night, he remembered his dazed confusion, and unfortunate inebriated anger flare up. He had sworn at the barman, a lot, and loudly. Emily quickly came over to the rescue and pulled him back from nearly mounting the bar trying to persuade the barman a little harder. “Hey you, I think we’ll call me the queen of tequila from now on. I think it’s time I got you home.” Her voice was tranquillity itself washing over his stupefied state and he let himself be pulled away from the bar and exit the pub with only one further imprecation aimed at the barman’s questionable sexual habits with a horse. The barman looked over to Byron and shrugged at the unforeseen completion of their monetary transaction, Byron gave an appeasing nod, it was altogether for the best.

Outside the strawberry haven a drunken Byron supported his uncooperative legs by leaning on the composed mirth of Emily as he swayed himself to the car. A sober Byron watched from the doorway and lit himself a shamed but celebratory cigarette. Emily looked over toward the clink and spark of his zippo lighter. “Excuse me,” She called over to him. Byron froze in mid inhalation. “Excuse me, I hope you don’t mind but could you hold him up while I open the car, I’m afraid he might have had a little too much.” He hated to hear her apologise for him. Unconscious will pushed his legs and before he could stop himself he took the short walk to her car, deep seated obedience had lay waiting in his subconscious which her voice had awoken, and all that he felt was his need to respond to her. Emily gave him a big apologetic smile, and shifted his shameful weight into his sober arms. “Thanks a lot.” She said, mercifully without dwelling eye contact. He looked at her bending shape as she opened the door, the line of her back through her strapped short dress, he could not help but secretly inhale the smell of her perfume once more. No thought of those pesky possible temporal time dimensional explosions from body contact with his past self, all the sci-fi films he had ever watched seemed to be wrong, he just found himself to be a dead weight in his arms. He searched his new memory for recollection of this moment of a stranger that held him up whilst Emily opened the car but found none. Emily brushed close to him to relieve him of himself and put him unceremoniously into the passenger seat of her small car. He felt tingles of connection between the two of them, as her hand brushed his arm in thanks. She looked up to his eyes, “Thanks again.” A brief look of confusion, of vague recognition crossed her face, it was dark but he looked helplessly with the aide of memory at each flicker of light reflecting from her eyes. “Have we met?” She began. Byron pulled away quickly turning his side to her and muttering a response. “I’m sorry, I don’t think so. You’d better get your boyfriend back home he doesn’t look well.” “Yeah,” Emily said still pondering at his shadowed face. “We were supposed to go on to see a film but I don’t think we’ll get there now.” Byron silently thanked whichever gods were listening and watched Emily walk around to the other side of the car and waved goodbye again. He could see she was not completely sure of his answer and he raised a quick hand back and turned, walking away as he did so. Only when he heard the car start up and pull off behind him did he finally let out a sigh. He walked around to the back of the pub to the deserted picnic tables set-up and sat down heavily, lighting a second cigarette from the first.

After a while in the dark, Byron tentatively looked back to his new memory, scrutinising events of tonight and following nights. Emily had dropped him home and no unretractable statements were spoken, she remained his girlfriend the following day. He allowed himself a beaming smile, for hindsight was no more such a punishing weapon. He filtered through his memory like looking through a photograph album, his spirits lifted by new memories of days out together, of another ten months of happiness, of… his mind’s eye halted suddenly. Of.. her body with his, his body inside her, of glistening sweet tears mixed with sweat. Byron’s heart thumped loudly, his eyes newly full of her previously unknown rhythmical movements and his ears chorused by her honey drenched butterfly squeaks. He readily allowed himself to enclose his senses in the memory of her touch, Emily had finally consented to him after five months he previously didn’t have, consented like rabbits for the five months to follow. Resolutely his mind rebelled and forced a topple of further memories to saturate and cover the sanctity of the naked ones. They had inevitably broken up, and this break up was still as painful as the first she never had. Byron invoked the distance of time to dull the anguish he felt back then, they were after all memories of the past, of the ten months he never had. His heart thumped loudly in his chest. Irrational rationalities, fuelled by a cacophony of hormones, screamed throughout his body. A test he contrived, weakly and rapidly, after all his powers were not being used to their full range or potential, and it was no longer a consummation that never happened, no advantage would therefore be taken. His memory was memory and he craved the touch of her hand in the present, he craved it now. Delusion was not seen, for his mind was still full of Emily.

Byron’s figure walked quickly in the dark, one street accelerated to become another in a succession of brief and blurred colour changes. He walked to the centre of the road, his direction obtained from memory and led by the once stuttered white lines that had converged into one with his speed. It was a trail of pheromone breadcrumbs, he created her perfume from memory to lead him blindly to her door, and the streets he passed were filled with it as he swept through them. Too fast to be seen, his presence was indicated only by her scented breeze. The nictitate snapshots of places he remembered as he passed them came to a sudden halt as he stopped inches from her front door. The momentum of desire corrupted any hesitation he might have held, and as quickly as he had arrived there, he opened and shut the door to the house.

Inside the house the stairs led off the entrance hall before him, the door along the hallway was open and from within its frame, flickering lights and sounds of the television cascaded into the darkened passage. Emily’s parents were still up and he heard their mumbled voices above the dull blare of the television. Her father was getting up to check where the sudden gust of breeze in the house had come from, Emily was already home and he wondered if she had shut the door behind her. He despaired of the child sometimes, if she couldn’t even shut a door properly. Byron froze in his place and watched the doorway with self-destructive morbidity. Instinctively more than intentionally, he found himself hidden to the man’s eyes as Emily’s father walked straight past him to the front door and rattled it with vigour to check its seal. Byron felt the man’s breath on his face as he walked past him again, oblivious to Byron’s presence, muttering to himself about the value of old fashioned draft excluders as opposed to new fangled double glazing. The man returned to the front room still muttering and sat down next to his wife, once more. Byron followed him with curious silence and stood before him and his wife staring with anxious wonder at their lack of sight for what was right in front of them. He cautiously moved himself in front of the television, walking back and forth, slowly to start with, then with vigour, waving his arms around in a bizarre conspicuous dance. They could not see him, their eyes remained fixed in the soul draining glamour of the sparkling box furnishing them moving pictures and stereo sound from it’s strong hold in the corner of the room. Byron smiled and retained his new found form, or lack of form. Unconsciously he remained silent and took his leave from Emily’s parents to ascend the blue carpeted stairs in the hallway, and walk the short distance from the top of those stairs to Emily’s bedroom door.

The blue of the carpet swept him with a tide in to the room both his girlfriend and his ex-girlfriend slept in. The door was ajar and Byron slipped easily through the small gap. His heart regained its hormonal fuelled speed as he heard the manufactured rainfall of the shower coming from Emily’s small en-suite bathroom, he froze and stood stock still. Right in front of him was the stretch of the double bed, its strawberry bed sheets harmonised by the deep summer colour scheme of the room. A desk stood against the wall before you reached the bed and a large window faced him like a huge mirror on the opposing wall. The en-suite was off to the left of the room from where he stood. Mustering strength of character he didn’t know he had, Byron resisted the urge to enter the small bathroom and instead sat himself in the chair next to the desk, next to the bed. The waterfall died suddenly and was followed by the squeak of wet skin against glass and the pad of bare feet on carpet. He watched her movements by sound, unconsciously holding his breath as she walked into the room. Her hair was tied up to keep it dry, her face was framed only by the scented soaps on her body. Obliviously she walked past him and closed the door to her room, shutting them both inside. The unseen boyfriend and ex-boyfriend was paralysed by her passing figure, the towel wrapped around her body hid all but the curve of her neck, shoulders, and calves, but what was beneath was as beautiful as what was seen. Emily padded to the end of her bed giving Byron her profile, as she let down her hair and brushed it in the mirror of the dressing table opposite her. She sat down and Byron felt all the pent-up animal fury leave him suddenly as his head dissipated soothing adoration through his veins to replace the unabated teenage lust he had felt before. He wanted to take her in his arms and hold her, he wanted hours of consenting touch, hours of sweat and sex, but she was not his Emily anymore. He was eight years older and his desire held emotions that carried consequences more complicated than eight years previous. His body relaxed into the chair he was no longer going to leap from. He settled himself to just look at her, paint her once more onto the fading canvas of memory in every detail. His mind wandered as he imagined placing his hand on her skin once more, he would sit at her feet and kiss from her toes to her eyelids, the desire he felt may have altered in state but it remained desire. As he ascended her body in his mind he began to notice she was breathing a little deeper, her eyes flickered from open to shut, his concentration deepened as he began to watch his images take motion in her body. Without instruction her watched her hand brush casually across her uncovered skin, raising her towel and uncovering her thighs in one gentle action. Byron’s heart thumped in his ears once more as he listened with vehemence to her soft undulating breath. The heart almost stopped when Emily unfastened the towel and lay herself delicately back on the bed. Skin as soft as cream lay open and uncovered, it rose and fell in poetic phrases and Byron with saucershaped eyes followed her form: across her thighs, her navel, to her neck and face. He watched her flick a moist tongue across her drying lips, felt her breathe deeper still as her hands crept tenderly to her small breasts and awakened her long sensitive nipples to erection. Byron’s lap physically ached as Emily stroked her fingertips past her navel and effortlessly through her shaped downy hair catching her caressing hand between her thighs and squeezing it tightly in place. The unseen man watched with breathless wonder. Emily continued to embrace herself evoking more and more waves of pleasure, her hands slipping smoothly across her body with slowly swelling urgency, touching her fingertips against a soft skin demanding her attention. With one hand grasping at her breasts and her hips rising to meet the other between her legs, Emily was finally rewarded with the violent shudders of ecstasy both she and Byron craved. Emily came down slowly, caressing herself gently for long moments afterwards, regaining control over her breathing, and questioning absently her sudden need to do what she had just done. Byron’s mouth remained open, the intensity of Emily’s body burned into his eyes, his mind had reached it’s peak as she did, and although his lap still throbbed wantonly he had been satisfied wholly and totally. A strange tranquillity fell over the room, eventually Emily rose from the bed and returned to the bathroom. She hummed to herself as she brushed her teeth, unaware of Byron standing behind her looking with her at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. He followed Emily back to the room and retook his seat and waited as she pulled on a pair of flannel shorts and vest top and climbed into bed. He could have left at that point but he didn’t, he stayed and watched her fall asleep, curling her body into the bedclothes, deeply comfortable her presence soothed him. That night Emily dreamt of him, a curiously older version of him that sat beside her bed and watched her, she felt oddly protected, safe even. The older Byron smiled at her in her dream as she slept, and in turn she smiled back. From where he sat Byron warmed as he saw her sleeping lips curve upwards. He stayed the full night leaving just before dawn, sleeping himself for only a few hours, and in that time he woke repeatedly to find himself staring into Emily’s closed eyes. Each time he woke he had forgotten where he was and felt immediately the empty space around him, each time his memory reminded him of his surroundings and each time he missed the warmth of Flower and Candy cuddled around him. He had to go home.

Eight years in the future the deceased Flower and Candy huddled close to each, their bed contained three hot water bottles and four extra blankets. Both girls slept clothed in Byron’s shorts and jumpers, the absence of a heat generating body in their bed had made it colder than they would have liked, the absence of Byron in their bed had made it more empty than they would have liked. The small amount of warmth they gave each other was the furnace Byron craved in the past. The lady Life had offered to stay the night but the girls had declined, sure that Byron would still make it home. And besides, they told her, they still had each other there. Life had smiled and kissed them both. She thought fleetingly of offering them Stork’s more than willing body for the night, but decided better of it. There would be plenty of time for that, answered the future.

Every experience has a story and every story has a moral, even the stories that are never told

Some would say that time is an inflexible line of unrelenting continuity. It has to be, for mathematics is involved, and mathematicians get upset if their numbers cannot shape our existence. Much in the same way as psychiatrists get upset if your childhood was trauma free. To Byron however, time was becoming more and more like a fictitious labyrinth, the blueprints to which had been laid out for him at each junction. For people the time labyrinth constrains movement. Where Byron would see a hundred paths, humanity would see just one, it’s path being generally perceived as just a single track to the horizon. What is deja vu but random meanders through time of the dream mind? The dictionary says ‘illusionary’, Byron would say ‘arse’.

He arrived at his destination from the door of Emily’s bedroom to the door of the large house on the river. His negotiations with the present owners were short, the money involved spoke a language beyond sentiment and beyond the inconvenience of being moved out by the end of the week. For a society based around the unrelenting accumulation of wealth, when money talks it’s like listening to God. The idea of a single person commanding such an abundance of money is enough to fuel someone else’s ambition to acquire the same amount of money. People listen when money talks for they no longer want to be silent. Money bought Byron the house by the same afternoon. Once negotiations had ended Byron left the purchase in hands of their solicitors, acting for both of them for a rush fee, Byron told them he would be back that afternoon to sign what was required. The path leading from the house led to an alley, which in turn led to the street his apartment building resided on. Before he leapt the steps to his building he checked his pockets for the girls’ presents, and grinned from ear to ear as he closed them between his fingers. The well-worn steps gave way to the soles of his shoes and launched him in to the building, he smiled like a school boy having just received his first kiss, his excitement for being home a feeling he hadn’t tasted for as long as he could remember. Clumsily apprehensive he stopped in front of his door and brushed himself down, sand still worked into the seems of his coat and trousers fell with their silent story to the discoloured carpet at his feet, he realised he probably should have freshened up before he came home. Byron’s hand hung over the door, waiting to knock as he tried to beat the inane grin back from his jaw. With a deep breath he went to tap the badly manufactured wood effect that barred his way from the inspiration of his smiles. Before his hand met the counterfeit wood, the door swung open and presented him with the beaming smile of Flower, a shrill yell of glee accompanied her leap as she wrapped herself around him, followed quickly by an airborne Candy. Byron stumbled back into the corridor, the opposing wall the only thing keeping him upright as the combined weight of Flower and Candy’s embrace threw him backward. He laughed out loud and swung his arms around them both, catching them and embracing them at the same time, small lips showered him with kisses and he tilted his face toward the onslaught seeking to meet their lips with his. “Your back.” Was the obvious statement from Candy, followed quickly by; “Where have you been?” “I’ve been making sandcastles into houses my deceased angels, and each minute there was a minute too long without you both. Now can I come in? I have gifts.” He replied as vaguely as he could. Still they would not let him put them down and he struggled through the door with them both wrapped around him, kicking it shut awkwardly behind. As he lurched toward the lounge Flower and Candy surmised other ideas and leaned themselves over in his arms, steering him away from the sofa and into the bathroom, Candy leaned back from him and turned the shower on, their ideas becoming increasingly clearer. They released him and dropped their bare feet on to the tiled floor with delicate pads of sound. Together they pulled at his clothes, breaking buttons and removing sand encrusted cloth hurriedly, until within short moments he found himself standing naked before them. With laughter instead of words they pulled their own clothes off in seconds and pushed him into the shower following close behind. Wet hands soaped him quickly and energy spilled from the their beings as if time had become their enemy, mouths were sought in rapid succession for deep and passionate kisses. The cascading water reduced friction between skin and skin, touch demanded touch, squeeze reciprocated clutch, until the event culminated into the carnal with the consumption of one another’s souls, their craving fuelled by absence and the desire never to let go. The three of them held each other tightly for long moments afterwards, until all breaths worked as one. It took them time to leave the bathroom, each of them unconsciously wanting to shut the world out of this little room and keep each moment for an eternity. Drying each other became an art form until finally Byron led his deceased to the bedroom and sat them on the bed. “Wait there.” He said holding his figure up and he disappeared back to the bathroom and rooted in his clothes for the presents. He returned to the room quickly with a large grin upon his face, and his hands clasped firmly behind his back. Flower and Candy bounced on the mattress in undisguised excitement and held their hands toward him in impatient plea, the fresh towels they had wrapped around them only just managing to remain fastened. He watched them with a smile as wide as a canyon somewhere across the Atlantic Ocean, he tried to remain focused and waited for them to stop bouncing. The young women finally halted their bounce and edged themselves to the end of the bed, kneeling up towards him as he produced his closed fists from behind him. The left he held toward Flower, the right toward Candy. Gathering his concentration he opened his hands together, watching intently the eyes of his life shine with surprise. In the left hand he held out the gold necklace with ankh pendant and the intricately designed toe ring for Flower, who stared at them wide eyed for long moments before gently lifting them from his palm. Her eyes flickered between his and the gifts, eyes that shone so much brighter than the tiny stone in the toe ring. In his right he held out the semi-precious stoned anklet and finger ring with the same ankh symbol for Candy, who after the ooh’s and ahh’s collected them swiftly from his open hand, the emeralds in her eyes glistening with encroaching tears as she tilted their gleam toward Byron. “These are from the tomb aren’t they?” Candy asked pulling the ring on and off her fingers until it found one it fitted, which happened to be the engagement finger on her left hand, she smiled at Byron. “Well what do you know?” She said holding her ring fingered hand toward him, her face was lit with playful sincerity. In response to her friend Flower fitted the toe ring smoothly in place and lay the adorned foot against Byron’s chest, she pushed him gently with painted toes, “Not the same, but our answer’s yes.” Flower trailed her foot down his body and squeezed his lap with her toes. Byron grinned and caught her foot, bringing it to his mouth he kissed it gently. “As is mine.” He whispered in return. Candy pushed her foot next to Flower’s, the anklet hanging loosely in place, in reply he kissed her painted toes also and looked from ice blue to emerald, his mind skipping over last nights events for that was then, this was now. From her smile Flower caught hold of the pendent and looked at it quizzically. “This reminds me my love, the lady Life called here yesterday.” She said absently. Byron could not hold back the startled look before it streaked across his face. He knelt on the floor in front of them quickly turning his head to the floor as he knelt, hiding the remainder of shock and regaining his composure. He continued to hold each foot in his hand and stroked them gently, he looked back to the deceased. “Really? What did she want?” He asked in a bad impression of nonchalance. Byron knew Life held the same almost omnipotent power as Death, she would know all that happened last night and why he didn’t come back straight away, she would know of his history for she would have been there. His male guilt ran deeper than it’s normal aesthetic surface, it ran to true guilt. He hadn’t touched Emily, but Emily had touched herself, and for him, because of him. Unluckily a spade was a spade whether you kill someone with it or not. The two girls had glimpsed his look of brief shock, but had not caught the following wince of guilt, incorrectly they assumed something else entirely. “Look Byron, we know that you had this thing for the lady Death, but why must you act like that when you hear her or her sister mentioned. It was a long time ago that we agreed to come with you, and for whatever the original reasoning behind your request matters very little now. We are together, the three of us.” Flower looked him open eyed and a little disgruntled. “And we are happy aren’t we? So the past is dead, even for someone like you that can move through it. It still remains done. Over. Death is in the past, we are in the future.” Finished Candy confirming her statement with an earnest Flower nodding her agreement. Candy grinned widely surmising past is past, Byron did not argue, his face remained still and sullen. An alteration in the mood was needed. “Besides, what can one woman do that two can not do better.” She spoke again pulling her towel away from her playfully, unveiling to Byron her perfectly naked form. Capturing him with her wide stare, she trailed her toes around his lap once more. Her meaning was obvious and Byron had never been inclined to disagree with her. Flower unwrapped herself beside Candy, their skin brushed against each other silently, skin as smooth as milk, she parted her legs slightly caressing her thigh against Candy’s, giggling at Byron’s seemingly unending supply of enraptured facial expressions. She pushed and fought playfully with Candy’s foot across Byron’s lap, acting as one against Byron’s rapidly beating heart. Silently Flower stood up and walked with lithesome grace behind the newly and familiarly immobile Byron, gently brushing as much of her body against him as she took a position behind him. She lightly gathered his arms and directed him to advance, moving his limbs carefully and slowly, placing him at the edge of bed, still kneeling, between Candy’s beckoning legs. Flower touched his fingers against Candy’s skin, guiding his attentions to all parts of her body, constantly skimming the surface of her own body against his as she moved him from place to place. Byron’s own towel was ritualistically removed and both girls lavished their attention on the newly bared skin, their delicate small hands torturing his arousal in long slow strokes. Their caress was endless, each hand touching each body a hundred times over; even time obeyed and slowed as they devoured each long second with each other. But time has it’s own agenda, it will always be an immutable nemesis and the culmination of the hours pushed each of them to their summit until nothing was left but sleep. The conversation could continue after sleep, there is always the priority of the siesta embrace.

At dinner that night, the three sat as they usually did if they were staying in, around the low coffee table in the deceptively small lounge. The deceased had taken to eating small amounts for they knew their dead tongues could still taste, and although they did not hunger, eating was a familiar and comfortable action, and chocolate is heaven alive or dead. It had taken them a while but it wouldn’t have been too hard now to remind a body how to digest food. In their case however they preferred to remind the food that the dead cannot eat so the food can not exist, and food being a moronic commodity realised that it too couldn’t then exist. It saved on trips to the bathroom. Byron sat with the largest plate in front of him, assorted remains of things that used to have faces set indiscriminately on its dulled patterned surface. He pushed the s meat around his plate under the watchful gaze of Flower and Candy until finally, “What is it Byron? If silence be a golden thing, then shower me with silver. Your face, it seems to be trying to hide something your mouth wants to spill.” Asked Flower. Byron looked away from them lest his guilt beat his features to submission. “Nothing.” He uttered. “Not good enough my love.” Stated Candy. “I didn’t like leaving you for that long, that’s all, you might, you know, realise that I’m not good for you anymore.” He paused, “Or something.” It was in fact a partly true statement, he did worry each day that someone would remind them who he was and they would realise he was no one. They had been the light in a thousand fires, attention followed them like a love struck cupid, he had been no one, and one day he knew he would return to being no one, it was fated, cyclical, and unavoidable. Silence met his explanation, curiosity burned his eyes and he had to look up again, trying to read their expressions. “Shakespeare scribbled one: “Fish not with your melancholy bait” or something like that, I think he meant self-pity sucks arse on you.” Reproached Candy, “Or fish with worms because you’ll catch shit with vacuous self-dejection like that. If you’re looking for undying conformation of our feelings, you are not going to receive it with comments like that.” Flower butted in, the annoyance in their tones sharpening. “You might however get a kick between the eyes.” Candy answered his silence. Byron looked at the floor once more, his embarrassment heating his face. The girls sighed, “Alright, you are our future Lord Byron. And although a future is immeasurable, we love you now. And for as far as we can see. And I’m beginning to realise it’s not for your eternal optimism. Our bizarre triangle has something some people spend a lifetime looking for only to realise they were born blind. We are happy, you are happy, we have a new house and great sex, what more could two deceased sixteen year old girls wish for?” The jest about their age was not exactly what Byron needed from Flower, but with sugar comes spice and the subtle reprimand was to reproach his gratuitous wallow into self-pity. But it bought a smile, his guilt slipped its hold and he leant across the small coffee table a kissed his loves gently once more. In the face of forgiveness it is better to be forgiven for something you haven’t done than the truth. “Could you get me juice now then Byron darling” Candy asked sweetly, Byron was all too eager to comply and almost leapt to his feet in humble service to his mistress’ voice. As he stood in the kitchen collecting the glass and orange juice, Candy looked over her shoulder confirming his distance away from them. She turned to Flower when she was sure he was as far as the little apartment would let him be. “Flower, you know he’s lying don’t you.” She whispered. Her friend nodded slowly collecting her words before she answered. “Do you want to know? He feels guilty for something, but knowing him it was probably just a stray thought about a dress being too high. I think he would feel the same guilt whether it had been a kiss or something more. I think I will believe the kiss story I’ve just made up.” She pondered. “Can I borrow it, or I’ll cry and kill him and I would rather give in to neither.” “Of course Candy.” She paused. “Do you believe it would have been anything else?” “Honestly?” Flower nodded. “Well no, I don’t think it would have been.” Candy smiled at her own revelation, trust was not a commodity she used to possess, death had changed many things. “No nor do I.” The same revelation occurred to Flower, her smile was interrupted. “What are you two smiling about?” Asked Byron, returning with two glasses of iced orange juice, placing them on the table and himself between the girls on the sofa. “At you Byron dear, at you.” Both the deceased curled themselves onto his chest, and listened smiling at each other at the beating of his heart. They had missed that sound. Byron grinned and encircled them in his arms. “So what colour will our bedroom be?” He asked through his smile. It began a long talk of satin drapes and extra large king-size beds that continued into the early hours of the next day, and soon all three of them had forgotten he had ever been away.

The land of the belly button Dragon .

There is a land of the belly button dragon, Without rock or stony pebble but dimpled smooth. To the south lays soft grass before the heaven, And to the north rounded hills as yet unmoved. Travel further, past the crests to bow shaped bliss, There is a boy who stands bare at the lips of kiss. A girl stands unveiled beside his stance, whispering ifs and onlys and willing chance, The boy echo’s her whisper with if only and time. The girl smiles sadly In another place she was mine.

It took four months for the three of them to move in and sit at last within walls that had finally been claimed theirs. Every room had been changed on a scale that went from subtle to drastic to cataclysmic, there were even rooms that although were there on purchase, were now strangely conspicuous by their absence. The master bedroom had been knocked into the bedroom beside it offering an expanse of space engorged on extravagant. Despite its size, or because of it, it remained on inspection a simple and uncluttered space of farmland proportion. A huge custom-made bed dominated the vast wooden floor. It sat in jest on crafted iron legs, its head looking out through the huge balcony windows, draped in cascades of floor-length cloth that shimmered like water. The best view in the house was offered overlooking the rear grounds to the river, seen through the semi-permeable texture. On two small deep pools of rug two dressing tables faced away from each other. The left side Flower’s, the right side was Candy’s. On either side of the bed were two heavy oak bedside cabinets and at the foot of the bed an entertainment system of next century technology. The remaining acreage of space brings all eyes to the bed itself, making it the centre of its own small world. The walls and ceiling of the room were painted in sky blues that had been blended to create a depth and illusion of an unending cloudless sky. The two girls had said it felt safe, a world in a room, a world of sun filled skies and river breezes. The abundance of the other rooms that were available now stored what Byron remembered as clutter in the old apartment. The illusion of open spaces was continued throughout the home, next to the bedroom was another large room where full length mirrors and two chairs were the only furniture, and the walls had been fitted with shelves and rails to create a true walk-in wardrobe. Even Byron had a wall space allocated to him here, and his lamentable single suitcase of clothes. To the other side of the bedroom through a connecting door was the bathroom, or health spa depending on your view of things. A sunken bath in the middle of the floor had again been custom made in size to fit three, a separate glass panelled shower had been built the same. As they watched the place take shape Flower and Candy had found that the abundance of money seemed to equate to a lack of curiosity from the people happily constructing these designs. It didn’t matter what hints or conversations they purposely had within earshot, they could not bait the workers, it was almost disappointing. Even the housekeeper failed to raise any more than a pleasant greeting to them, although Flower had caught her eyes narrow as Byron passed on a few occasions, but could not reconcile to herself whether it had been disdain or fear.

Finally it was their first night in their completed home, the three lovers sat out in the waning evening sun beside the pool. The pool itself had been re-tiled to resemble a summer clouded sky, which Byron had found to be quite disconcerting when he first dove in, it felt to him like diving upside down and falling to the sky. The dinner had been laid out for them on the garden table before the housekeeper had left for the evening. Byron sat, half dressed in shorts he had owned for years, that had began in trousers he had owned for years before that. He pulled on his cigarette and sipped at something with alcohol in it, as he watched with an unfaded smile his Flower and his Candy kick water at each other as they dipped their feet into the pool. Clothes being a habit, Flower wore a small vest top with her bikini bottoms. Being less of a habit for some, Candy made do with just the bikini bottoms. He had not stopped wanting them since the day he had bought them home. The deceased turned to look over their shoulders and caught Byron’s warm smile, on cue as silent as a heart beat they joined him at the table pulling their chairs closer to his. Flower discarded the idea quickly and sat herself in his lap, her legs draped over the wooden arm. The air had turned slightly toward chill and the evenings shorter, causing Candy to pull Byron’s shirt over her cooling body. Flower stole Byron’s cigarette from his mouth and giggled at him. “So my love, are we happy?” She asked “We are peachy Flower.” He answered. “So what’s next?” Questioned Candy pulling her chair closer still and resting her bare legs on what was left of Byron’s knees. “Why what’s next Candy darlin’? Does there have to be a next? We have longer than any to do as we please, it’s not as if times against us.” Byron paused, his smile without ebb. The burning energy in Candy had been given another chance of life in death and her desire was to live it to the fullest, Byron would always be in awe of this, her unending spirit was her brilliance with which she shined. And her beautiful small breasts. “Because Byron darlin’ there has to be a next, because there always is, because until I live an eternity I will not believe I will exist past tomorrow. And if you think about it, time is supposed to have no meaning to us, but it still has meaning to everything else. Ironic when you remember where the hell you got your power from: Death, the stopwatch to all things. Things always end my love, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to wait for it. Existence might be free but wasting it will cost you your soul.” Her conviction was inspiring. Her annoyance at the misapplication of indolence was mounting. “My point, my angel” Byron replied evenly, grinning at her contrary expression “is that neither of you two have a stop watch, or hour glass or whatever metaphor you wish to use. You have, as the song goes, all the time in the world.” “Precisely why we should use it to it’s fullest.” Completed Flower, looking to her best friend and winking she dared Byron to answer back. He would lose, he always did. Byron sighed lightly, giving in to their determination to prove him wrong. Equally as much with their philosophy as their playfulness. “So what would you like to do next my fugitive angels?” “With power Byron darling, comes money it would seem. And with money comes….” An enthused Candy paused briefly. “With money comes…..” Flower repeated. “More money.” Answered Byron sarcastically. “It’s true that money shags like rabbits but money doesn’t buy happiness, “ corrected Flower indignantly, then continued; “Just every ingredient ever invented to make it. I think that you’re a happy person or your not a happy person, I mean look at the money wallowing film stars that harp on about loneliness from their golden lined clouds…” “That’s it,” Interrupted Candy suddenly a smile wide on her face. “We’ll make a film, with money comes envy and thus fame.” She beamed from ear to ear and waited for a response from the blank audience. Byron smiled like a wolf. “What sort of film?” He oozed, his eyes wide with thoughts of Flower and Candy wrapped about him. In some home shot extravaganza of something that was no where as pretty as movie sex. Both the girls slapped him in unison, their expressions somewhere between amusement and distaste. “Dirty old man.” Scathed Flower. Byron opened his arms motioning his submission and dry apology to both girls, indicating that that insult was a given. He laughed at their barrage of tuts. “Besides, we’ve done that.” Candy’s scowl dispersed into a sly grin, there was a video upstairs that starred them all already. A badly shot static tripod kind of film, where bare bums are real and not so elegantly lit as on plastic breasted celluloid. “A proper film, acted so marvellously that it’s premiere will cause an onslaught of Oscar and Bafta nominations galore. A blockbuster of a scale never known before in cinematic history, driven by story rather than explosions.” Enthused Candy. “A story about a man and his two lovers?” Suggested Flower. “Before you get carried away,” Byron interrupted. “You have to know by now that I couldn’t possibly star in a film, I’ve been ignored all my life, unnoticed and unknown, and I’ve grown to like it. How the hell am I suppose to then lay myself bare in front of a million of people in this blockbuster of yours?” “Why would you be the star darling?” Asked Flower and Candy in unison. “What’s unbelievable about Flower or I staring in this movie,” “Narcissistic much?” Added Flower. Byron looked away at the pool, feeling like he had just been caught kissing himself in the mirror. “Kidding!” Flower laughed catching Byron’s cheek in her hand “You know we love you shy boy.” She persisted, kissing him wetly on the face. “It’ll be fun.” Pursued Candy pushing him in the thigh with her toes. “I don’t act, have never acted, wouldn’t and couldn’t even get an audition.” Said Byron. “Will you never let go? We didn’t say that we would do this fairly, that’s why we’re dead, and you’re death…ish. The power of influence is there my dear, you must know that.” Flower persevered. Byron’s head flew into the past and Emily’s impromptu exhibition of a feeling he desired. A brief flicker of guilt re-emerged, heavily and quickly banished. Past is past. “If you’d put that influence on screen you’d be making your own best actor awards, it cannot fail. Produce some of it even, make some more of what causes envy. I mean do you think that now, people still don’t see you, walking hand in hand with us about town, public shows of affection, owning this house. I’ll tell you, we are the gossip of the decade in this village. Power, money, fame, it’s inevitable.” She looked at her friend, Flower responded, almost quietly. “It’s destiny my love. Unavoidable, unquenchable, in your face, end in bright teary flames, destiny.” Her thoughts automatically avoided thinking any further of destiny’s plans, she felt as Candy did, that they were on borrowed time. Borrowed from where she didn’t know, but she knew that this much love had a habit of causing explosions. The question remained unasked…would they survive it? “Hang on a moment, how are you going to be stars of a world changing film when you’ve been deceased for nearly a year. Do you not think that your fame may ask of you questions that cannot be answered?” Byron asked, unconscious of Flower’s briefly slipped smile. “No more than the other famous!” Candy quickly retorted. “Besides, we don’t want big parts, little cameo’s like the really famous do will do. Just so we can dress up, watch a film be made, and grin proudly at our man. I just think it’ll be fun. I’ve never done it before and it beats the shit out of singing a ridiculously catchy and annoying tune, rocket to fame over night only to slip back to oblivion two weeks later. The other, cliff edged, path to fame.” She looked to Flower for agreement. Who nodded enthusiastically back. “We’ve heard you sing and trust us film is the best way to. Candy’s right, we don’t want staring roles, just some fun. You know you want to.” Byron sighed, his mind torn between the hideous embarrassment at the thought of his acting debut, and a subtle yet nagging feeling of boyhood dream excitement. “Destiny it is then my loves.” The excitement of a myriad of possibilities rose in his consciousness, eclipsing his previously cherished comfort in anonymity. His core would wait quietly in the dark, wait for him to return, fame or failure he’d want his irrelevance back.

The draw of plastic Hollywood

There is a drawer in a chest of drawers that cannot be opened without a key. It’s an old chest. Old, that is, to modern standards. Built at the start of the twentieth century it has inspired the downfall of a countless number of fame seekers. The draw is called Hollywood, and those that find the key are allowed to gorge themselves on the content of celebrity. But those that lose the key once found, are doomed to an existence lived in the past, their youth forever preserved for them in tortuous circles of empty resemblance and forgotten names. So why does humanity search for the key? Fame is the grail of modern times, a drink from it promises eternal life, and Hollywood is the new religion with more congregations than any other. The flock wait patient and wide-eyed before a million thirty-foot screens, to pay homage to the profits of the new world. To be a movie star is to be loved and everybody wants to be loved. There are pitfalls of course, gaping chasms of self-doubt, of false love, and of the type of alone that can only come in a crowd of friends, friends who can only be described as moths to a light. But it is fame; awe inspiring, fulfilment promising, never-quite-as-good-when-you-get-there, fame. And this was Byron’s fate, a hidden desire or a willing participant in Candy and Flower’s dream it didn’t matter. Fate was fate, and destiny didn’t like to be argued with.

Admittedly Byron’s road to the key holder was considerably shorter than the other roads that led there. Candy had decided they would come up with the story, to then pitch to the producer of their choice. Writing the story would take too long, and their enthusiasm was on a crest of an intractable wave. It would not wait, and theirs would not be the first film in history to begin shooting without a finished script. The storm of ideas was to begin the next morning, and by late afternoon a synopsis had been devised. Candy flopped back on the bed and sighed in mock relief, not having changed from waking this morning. One of Byron’s shirts was all that hung loosely and unbuttoned around her, her skin almost too delicate to touch mused Byron’s bruised eyes. The glint of the bright nail polish on her toes drew Byron’s stare from the chair he sat in next to the bed. Flower lay on her stomach next to Candy, facing Byron’s lounging form, he had been up and dressed, fetching them breakfast, lunch, and drinks, to command all day. She smiled with open love at his grin, catching his eye he looked to her half dressed shape on the bed, his boxer shorts the only thing she wore. He wondered again that with all the clothes that they had, why did they spend most of their time in his? Flower rocked her legs behind her, the movement spellbinding him further with a slow and languid rhythm. He would never tire of just looking at them, of questioning himself again and again what it was he had done to be this happy. “Finished.” Sighed the collapsed Candy to the world in general. “It’s a good story.” Replied Byron, having heard the idea form from places, to plots, to subplots, and further. “Not bad is it.” Agreed Flower pleased with their finished work. “A love story, a disaster movie, and a tragedy the like that hasn’t been seen since Romeo and Juliet.” She continued. “And you Byron honeyflower,” Said Candy lifting her head to see him, “Are to be the leading man.” She smiled at him, the underlying desire to give him a gift as great as he had given them was quietly present in her eyes. They could not give him his life back for he had not lost it. But they could try to give him a life of boundless elation, of experience after experience, and unwasted seconds. “However, I’m thinking we possibly shouldn’t have had so many kissing moments, perhaps we’ll revisit that later.” She gave him a wry smile, jumping to her feet and launching herself from the bed to the chair where he sat, landing with practised ease astride his lap. She placed her arms around his neck peering into his dark eyes, “We don’t want you getting carried away with your leading lady, whomever she may be.” Candy kissed him quickly. “We’ll just have to get an aesthetically impeded actress for the part.” Her eyes glittered with mischievous intentions, as she showered him with a rain of kisses between fits of giggles. Flower leapt with the same precision, landing behind Candy on Byron’s struggling lap, each of them took a side and turned the rain in to a storm across his face. “Can’t have you leaving us honeyflower.” Flower whispered, verifying Candy’s assertion. “Not till we’ve worn you out anyway.” She added. A prisoner with every will in his body Byron took no shelter from the storm, he only tried not to squeeze them too hard in his embrace. Ice-cream whipped nipples brushed his cheeks as Candy rose up and pulled him toward her, her softness brushed his skin. “You can’t leave us.” Byron could not see her face, but her tone had an almost indiscernible lull of sadness. Was she telling him, or herself? Familiar hands, familiar lips, crept over him in playful circles and he warmed from the inside until his hair stood on end.

The technicalities of such an adventure were easier than one might think. Normally impossible to get a meeting with a producer with no notice whatsoever, but then it was also impossible to get to the film studio in America from your back door in England. Flower and Candy had taken care to dress for the occasion, in fact that care had taken most of the morning, but being sixteen generally means you are not taken seriously. Their clothes, hair, and make-up had all been composed to add ten years to them, subtle shape alterations from the right clothes and height extending shoes, even Candy’s red tips had been folded into the back of her hair. Business-women they had aspired for, business-women they had achieved. Very hot business-women thought Byron to himself, but young business-women nevertheless. Byron’s suit restricted him nicely as he pulled at the sleeves, the shirt, and the trousers in constant discomfort. Even Candy’s biting remark, that he wasn’t that big, didn’t stop him from pulling at the tightness of the trousers crotch. No amount of pleading could make him wear a tie, but in mourning black he looked at least respectable. Candy and Flower each held their typed synopsis in leather bound folders tight to their chests, their nerves not eased by the guaranteed outcome of the meeting. Being taken seriously was a big deal.

The sun was hotter in America as they arrived within the studio complex, sheltered from view by one of the house stages, it was higher in the sky and looked metaphorically bigger in the land of opportunity and corruption. Byron walked between Flower and Candy, their hands linked over his arms, a display far from uncommon with the abundance of egocentricity in this town. Looks were passed between them and the studio employees as they ambled past in their short walk to the office building of their chosen producer, one wondering who the other was. Yet no questions were asked, only well practised smiles exchanged, forged in man made plastic. Their slow walk had been purposely engineered to give the impression that they belonged. For they had surmised that if you can look like you belonged wasn’t that half the battle? The entered the building and walked up to the reception desk, it was Flower that spoke; “We have an appointment, with the producer.” She said with nervous confidence, the receptionist looked them up and down and with practised ease after harsh judgement smiled sweetly and replied. “Name please.” Flower looked to Byron and back to the girl. “Flower and Candy Diaeh.” Flower caught Byron’s look of hidden surprise, and felt easier after he registered a small smile on his face. Byron looked to the appointment book, the receptionist’s look of flawless supremacy disappeared briefly when she realised against her judgement that they did indeed have the appointment they claimed. People didn’t get appointments with her boss, it didn’t happen, he was too important. Were they that important? Before she looked up again she regained her composure. “Please take a seat I’ll let him know you’re here.” She indicated to the leather factory behind them and waited until they were out of earshot before ringing through to her employer. “I like it,” Whispered Byron. “Flower and Candy Diaeh. I like it.” Both girls squeezed his hands in hidden affection, resisting any further temptation to insult him after a complement as they usually did, remaining quiet and waiting for the receptionist to take them through. From his seat Byron searched briefly for the mind of the man they were to see, amongst the din of voices and minds across the complex he managed to pin point him with relative ease, his close proximity making the task that little bit easier. He caught the man’s voice muttering harshly to the girl that he had no such appointment. However, seconds later after she had finished saying that she hadn’t thought so, reconfirming to herself her position in life compared to others, noting once more that her judgement was always correct, the producer corrected himself. “No, my mistake, I’ve been expecting them Rachael. If you would show them in and fetch us some coffee, I would be most appreciative.” Rachael’s judgmental pursuits were once again hit from behind. Byron smiled quietly to himself from the leather sofa and waited for the girl to come over.

The office they were shown to, looked more like a board-room in appearance. One huge table dominated most of the space, with chairs set evenly around its edges. To the side of the room two relaxed armchairs and a couch trimmed a smaller, lower, table that looked out of the large corner window into the studio lot. The young women were shown to the couch by the expensive man, they were not the first or the last young girls that had been led to that couch. The expensive man was in his late forties, and had seen the studio come back from the brink of bankruptcy a number of times; he had lived the popular proverb that you were only as good as your last picture. But he was one of the few that had finally made it. He had the power they talked about when they whispered about ‘those in charge’. It had cost him three wives, four therapists, and a minor heart attack two years ago, but he was happy now. His girlfriend was twenty-three and had dedicated her life to looking pretty for him. He knew it wouldn’t last, but here happiness came in easy bite size pieces and he had trained his appetite. He would of course always have his first love: money. The producer ran his hand through his thick black hair and took in the picturesque view of the two girls sitting before him. He barely noticed Byron sat on the arm of the couch. He surmised the girls were collage graduates, with an idea that would astound him, they had to have or they would not have got in to see him. His own importance took precedence over his memory of making this appointment. The introductions were made, the producer taking time to feel the touch of the young women’s hands as they shook his, there was something about them, a freshness he dreamt about, and their aristocratic English accent just killed him. He hadn’t stopped smiling throughout the preliminary small talk and Candy was beginning to become annoyed at the whiteness of the man’s teeth. Rachael bought the coffee in, passing only a cursory glance toward Byron, taking a further opportunity to reassess the young women before her. There was something about them, a freshness she had dreamt about, and how come they were so damn pert. “So then ladies, it is time for the pitch, the window of minutes that we all live for. Inspire me.” The producer sat forward in his chair, his elbows resting on his knees rubbing his hands in anticipation. Still his smile did not dull. Candy looked to Flower to start, in unison they opened their folders and reached for the words inside. “OK…. So it’s a tragedy of two lovers the power and eloquence of which hasn’t been seen since Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and I speak about the original play, not the film.” Well you had to start big thought Flower to herself. She took a deep breath before continuing, and purposefully did not try to gauge the producer’s reaction, for his smile was a permanent feature by now. “The story spans thousands of years,” “Historic.” Added Candy quickly. “It revolves around two lovers.” “Tragedy and timeless romance.” Candy interpreted. “The man eight years older than the girl, she will be eighteen each time they meet in each reincarnation.” “A love to transcend conservative conformity.” Candy thought she saw the producers smile widen briefly. “The story begins in the time of myth and legend, the man was set to marry the daughter of a Greek Goddess, a rare and unsurpassed honour. But he meets another girl, he falls so completely in love, the type of love only seen in movies and the insane, the type that burns your eyes when they do not look upon the object of your desire. The two try to hide their relationship for a time but as the marriage looms they are found together making love by a stream. The goddess is understandably furious.” “Really pissed off.” Added Candy succinctly. “She opens the stream bank and entombs them beneath the water still entwined in each other, cursing them to an endless succession of lives searching in despair for something they cannot remember, to meet in each incarnation only to find death together before their hearts can remember. There is no get out clause, no loophole, just the judgement of a Goddess. And each time afterwards they do indeed meet each other and planets collide, unspecific recognition and fated attraction pull them together. And this is where you can change the circumstances and conclusions, he will be married in one life time, possibly the first, she will work in his house, and they will have to deny their fated feelings. But alas they cannot, overpowering them they inevitably come together. In a later incarnation, she will be pregnant. The teenage father a drop out who disappeared on notice of his impending fatherhood. He will become closer and closer to her throughout the pregnancy, avoiding declaring his true feelings until after the baby is born. But true to the curse, before any consummation, any happy ending, they are always both killed, always together, always at the cusp of the revelation. You will have the audience shouting at the screen, begging that they be given more time together. Their death always an indirect result of hiding their feelings, the girls boyfriend comes back to claim his fatherhood, finds them holding each other. The gun in his pocket too much of a temptation to ignore.” Flower’s voice rose with the story, her anxiety rising, she had never listened in debate class and in hindsight began to wish she had. Candy noticed the paleness of her lover and best friend and took over. “He shoots them, takes the baby, and they live again only to find each other and go through it all again. The supporting cast are constants in each time period, the characters around them taking on different roles, disappearing from some lifetimes only to reappear again. The man’s wife becomes his sister, then a nurse at the hospital. The girl’s boyfriend, a sergeant in the civil war responsible for killing them half a dozen lifetimes before, or the man’s best friend in another life, encouraging him to throw caution to the wind and tell the girl of his feelings. The audience never being given the security of a permanent good guy, or permanent bad guy, the only constant is their fated demise at the most inopportune times.” Candy paused and grinned. “Until the last life time.” Said Flower taking a deep breath: trying to maintain the producer’s attention by giving him the pitch in stereo. Candy went on, the producer’s eyes feasting on the young girls before him, the pitch was secondary. “The Hollywood finale of an independent looking film, the best of both worlds.” Candy could do no more to bait this man short of drawing dollar signs on her breasts. Which she did consider doing for a moment. “They meet on a boat, neither of them are attached, neither of them are travelling with anyone else. They had both decided to get away from their lives at the same time to travel the world in search of something, not knowing what, and for the first time they were born in different countries, he left England, she left America. By fate and script they end up on the same ship off the coast of New Zealand, or South Africa, or India, the Mediterranean even. Somewhere with a dramatic coastline. On board the ship he meets his wife of the previous life, she meets her boyfriend, they all connect and begin to begin something, and just when you think they are going to do it again, they see each other in the middle of a storm.” Candy gave what she hoped was a dramatic pause. Byron smiled with pride and amusement from the arm of the chair for both girls. Flower took over again. “Instant recognition, but this time there are no words, whether it is the chaotic weather or just their time, there is no mustering of nerves, they see each other, almost run to each other, though not actually run that’ll be a bit too Hollywood. The man stares into her blue eyes and she stares in to his, and finally, after several life times, they kiss, a long deep passionate kiss, the audience cheers. As they run to one of their small cabins together they pass the wife, the boyfriend, but they hurry past pulling each other’s clothes off as they crash into the cabin.” Both Candy and Flower could not resist the urge to glance at Byron as Flower spoke that sentence, maintaining professionalism they resisted smiling, but the association was made between words and wants. “They speak few words but rain smiles and kisses on each other, sharing memories in single sentences between kisses of their previous lives in a bizarre recollection of a situation that would seem impossible between anyone else but each other. However, the climax, due to the freak weather, the storm, the boat grounds on a reef or shallow rocks, the ship crashes, and after the screams and panic from all passengers, before they again manage to steal enough time together, the nearly lovers end up in the water together. Surrounded by fifty or so other passengers, the majestic vertical cliffs within sight. The survivors cling to the shear rock faces, ledges too far above them to reach, but still glad of solid land of any sort and too exhausted to swim any more. The weather is rain, the scene dramatic, but the lovers remain holding each other, clinging to the rock ledges, if they can hold on they might be rescued. But they are not rescued. A mudslide from the cliffs, a huge wave, something they can see before it happens. The girl looks at him and smiles kissing him one last time she pushes her head in the man’s chest, hiding from the inevitable, he grips her with insurmountable strength, and in their eyes there is no fear for this was the point, the answer to everything, each other. You can see their embrace is unbreakable. Unworried about causing damage they hold tighter to each other than should be possible. The camera fills with the wave and they slip beneath the surface, still no fear on their faces, the camera looks through their eyes as their vision fades, and the last thing to leave is the sense of the embrace, the sounds filter out but the last to leave is the sound of their grip tightening.” She stopped. Flower leant back with some relief in to the couch behind her. Candy remained leaning forward, trying again to measure a reaction and before the producer could say anything she finished. “Whether it is because they are holding each again, as they were thousands of years ago, whether it is their recollection of all that has gone before, but from the long black silence a rising whisper becomes a roar, sound filters back and it’s the sound of rushing water. As they break the surface you can her the man shouting “No”, light blazes back, and she is propelled from the water, his love still holding him. They are hurled to height impossible to reach and he grabs the waiting ledge with one hand and lifts her to the safety of the rock. She, however, is unmoving. He is exhausted and only just manages to fall next to her, both facing the sky. You don’t know who’s dead, if either is dead, they lay motionless. The film closes and the camera pulls away, and the audience is allowed to just make out her hand reaching for his and then falling exhausted by her side their fingers entwined.” Candy stopped and fell back against the sofa next to her Flower. They both waited. Annoyingly the producers smile became contemplative and he stood up and began to pace. After a long moment too long, Flower felt the need to put words in the aggravating silence. “Of course, done well, it will leave audiences stunned. Done badly and they’ll walk out thinking why the hell did the two characters bother. The acting, the framing of the scenes are the key.” Candy nudged her and frowned, the word “badly” was not in the practised pitch, Flower shrugged indicating her exasperation at the silence of the producer. Finally he looked at them and managing to utter something. “Is that the end, what happens next, is that it for the two of them? What?” He looked to them for an answer, the girls were unsure how to continue, they didn’t know whether he was unhappy or he wanted confirmation of the end. Candy answered hesitantly. “That would be the end of the film yes. If you wanted a neat parcel of uplift at the end it would take away the point of the unconfirmed tragedy.” She studied his unchanged face, concern married with thoughtfulness. His silence caused her discomfort this time and Candy heard her mouth continue. “Perhaps at the very end of the credits, or the part before the sound track comes up you could have five seconds of camcorder footage of their life together should they have survived, wordless footage of them obviously together, not dead or dying. Is that necessary?” She asked a little perturbed. “A good thought young lady, it would have to be tried at preview screenings, people like a happy ending you know.” Still the producer failed to confirm his opinion, he remained thoughtful in face. The deceased looked towards Byron, waiting for his intervention, Byron held his hand up to them to indicate patience. And was rewarded with a loud bellow of a laugh. “Hah!” The producer managed to exclaim. “Hah!” He bellowed again. Candy turned to Flower, “hah?” She whispered in question. “Quite outstanding ladies, you truly have merited my time and attention, it is a good story. Perfect angst ridden tragedy, the current market in fashion, it’s up there in the money bringing statistics. Where may I ask is the script? We must begin to arrange approval, negotiate terms, etcetera etcetera.” He waved his arms about waiting for the well-organised women to hand him the script. He looked bemused at their sudden shyness. “Well actually…” Flower began slowly. “It’s in your folders.” Byron spoke for the first time, startling the producer, reminding him somewhat upsettingly that he was there at all. Flower and Candy looked questioningly at him. He nodded toward their folders, urging them to open them. Still perplexed but trying not to underestimate him they reached for the folders and opened them. And accompanied by large smiles they pulled out two completed scripts, written as they spoke from the pictures in their minds, and written well. Byron grinned, he had almost out done himself this time. “Here.” They said passing him one of the two scripts, they looked back at Byron both faces mirroring questions, was he responsible for its acceptance or were they? In the months to come Byron was questioned again and again on this subject, only to reply again and again simply; ‘It’s a good story’, nothing more, nothing less. The girls turned back to the producer unashamedly grinning at the image of cash in his hand. “However,” began Candy. “there are a couple of conditions of sale.” The producer’s smile slipped briefly only to be regained in a well-practised and professional manner. “Yes, yes, details, all of which can be sorted out in the negotiations.” He said hurriedly. “No.” Flower interrupted him, relieving him of his smile for longer. “The conditions are simple, we would like casting approval, creative input, and set privileges.” Flower stared the producer in eyes, her face still as expressionless. “For these we would take a smaller of percentage of box office takings. But the conditions are non-negotiable.” She paused again allowing Candy to finish. “The leading man is here with us,” The producer began to make mouth movements of protest but Candy spoke louder. “These terms are non-negotiable, Byron will take the lead.” Annoyance in a bright shade of crimson clouded the producer’s face. He threw the Script on the table in front of them. “Who is he? A nobody. Do you want me to make career suicide? Independent films are fine, but you have independent famous actors to take the roles. Can he even act for god’s sake, he’s not even much to look at.” The producer calmed slightly, feeling his point had been made. Still he felt the need to clarify. “Look, this is why we have negotiations, let me run a few actors past you when we have looked at the script.” His face had paled from red, though his eyes still flickered in some contempt toward Byron who the whole time had remained seated and expressionless. Byron stood slowly, his face remaining blank and emotionless, which had the strange effect of conveying deep uninterested malice. He stepped toward the producer, drawing him to the side of the room. The producer’s face held mild concern and a great deal of annoyance, Byron leant in to his ear and whispered. The producer paled, his eyes widened as the other man whispered on, sweat beaded instantly on the expensive man’s clammy temple, and blood began to trickle thickly from his ears. Byron pulled away, his face expressionless, then suddenly as if someone had yelled action from the side lines animation hit them both. Byron face heartened quickly and he smiled at the producer’s suddenly regained humour; he shook his hand warmly. “Thank you, I appreciate your confidence in me.” Smiled Byron, like a wolf to a rabbit. “No, Thank you Byron, I can tell you have all the qualities to give an unforgettable performance, star material, we’re lucky to have you aboard.” Both Candy and Flower looked to each other, their faces reflecting concern over the producers ears and the blood that had reached his jaw line running in a single lines of deep red. Death’s power was the dark to the light of life, tricks were tricks that Byron had shown them in the past, admittedly the extravagance and scale of some still inspired wonder, but they had been given as gifts. Byron’s whisper hinted in the weight of the air about them, at something far darker than they ever imagined. There was no fear in the deceased eyes, not for themselves, only the subtle flinch of concern for Byron’s once dispirited mind. The producer wiped absently at his ears, his beaming smile remained fixed, as if his life depended on it. The red departed his skin without leaving stain or signal that it was ever there at all. “Thank you Byron.” He said again.