Spirit Runner by Leon Southgate - HTML preview

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Chapter One – The Psychic Agency

Quietly scratching away, the gold-nibbed fountain pen gracefully swept across the expensive cream-coloured, hand-made paper. There was a muffled roar and then a short high-pitched squeal of tyres as an RAF fighter jet landed anonymously, somewhere nearby. The tall, bird-like man looked up from his desk. He surveyed the moonlit airbase from his comfortable antique-furnished office. He was three storeys high in an immaculate, white-corniced Victorian building on the edge of a military compound somewhere in the south of England. The ex-military man loved the dark mahogony tones of his office, his rounded wood-framed chair, the expensive oak floor. He especially enjoyed looking down on things from high up here in his ‘perch’. But now, he steepled his fingers, closed his small and suspicious looking eyes and went deep down within his own mind.

‘Sigil? Snake!’ cried the man telepathically.

‘I am here - master. Why do you trouble me so Alistair?’ came the hissed reply.

‘That disabled boy is nearly ready, you know the one, your favourite neurode. Get him to send this message to the global mind, straight away – if you can,’ Alistair, who still had his eyes shut tapped the paper on his desk, his prim Oxford accent ringing out across the ether. It annoyed the snake entity, the green slits of its eyes flashed. He disliked humans and had no favourites as Alistair knew. ‘And prime his mind ready for occupation Sigil. You can call me, Master Civil by the way. Mind who you’re talking to snake.’

‘Your kind don’t frighten me,’ it whispered slowly, emphasising each word.

‘You wouldn’t want me to have a little chat with the Elif again, would you old chap?’ Alistair breezed. The snake entity suddenly felt itself chilled to the core. Even the agency was said to fear that thing.

Alistair smiled slyly and slowly levered his long slender middle finger against the antique, black, bakelite phone that sat to the right of his desk. For a moment, Alistair briefly admired his perfectly manicured nails. The phone was a working 1920’s model. He picked up the cup-like receiver from the candle-stick cradle with a cold, thin left hand and began to enter a number with his right. The moving dial at the base clicked through the digits with a satisfying grace. Instantly, the snake entity felt itself dissolving, transported, controlled…

On the other side of the country, an owl called out hauntingly as it glided past Danny’s bedroom window. There was a loud crack of breaking wood from a tree outside and a fox ran for cover, startled. Danny strained to see over the blue padded cotsides of his bed. He could smell a faint tang of urine and sweat. The full moon shone against one side of the big old ash tree tree that stood outside his sash window. The light against the branches created a beautiful silver sillohette. Faintly, he could hear the midnight chimes of a church-bell in the distance, evocative of things lost but half-remembered.

Something felt amiss. There was a menacing, cold feel in his room, as if someone was sucking the heat from the grimy, stagnant air. Danny felt a chilly sliver of fear slowly crawl up his spine and then run back down again into his bladder. There was something evil, a cold presence gathering in the room. Bit by bit, a swirling circle of grey energy formed near the ceiling until it looked like the ouroboros trying to swallow its own tail.

‘Ssso, you’re the one they call Danny?’ hissed the sly, snake-like voice that suddenly appeared inside his head, ‘think you’re going mad do you?’ it added with a slight sneer.

‘Why would I think that? I’m used to this kind of thing - as you well know,’ Danny replied telepathically in a defensive tone. Internally he tried to ratchet down his level of fear. He knew the entity, he sensed it was a snake, could smell the stuff. In fact they lived on it, eat it - salty, bloody, fear. Danny shook his box-like head, his scruffy dark hair sticking to his pale skin with toxin-loaded sweat.

‘I know you are quite the gifted one, disabled boy that is true. And don’t think I don’t know you’re trying to control your emotions too. Let it all out. We wouldn’t be,’ it paused, ‘working with you if you didn’t have the right “qualities”. My master has a job for you boy.’

‘Can’t you just leave me alone? There must be thousands of psychics out there in this world. I am just a disabled lad trying his best to get by. Why don’t you go and pick on someone else? Someone with your talents doesn’t need a loser like me, a mere human.’

Danny could begin to see the snake now. It had dark red eyes with a luminous, dangerous, thin slit of green. Its body was just swathes of grey, out of focus. It was not a large creature.

‘It is not up to me. But in any case my kind, we made you. We helped you become what you are. There is power beyond your wildest dreams, Danny. There are rewards you would find it hard to even imagine.’

‘I’m not interested – Sigil,’ he had picked up the entity’s name from the ether. ‘I just want to call my life my own again.’ Danny continued.

‘That’sss not possible. When your mind delved into our realms we picked you up. Yes, I know, that was years ago, you were but a child,’ it paused. ‘We nurtured your skillss. We took you under our wing. Now it’s time to repay your debtss. After which, I have been told you may go free.’

‘I’ll believe that when it happens,’ Danny’s mental voice was tinged with anger.

‘Do as you will human-child – it is none of my concern. But know this, you have already chosen. This life - it is just a play. You could turn away, yes. But then you would forfeit my masters. And believe me, you don’t want to do that,’ said the telepathic snake viciously.

‘I’m not afraid of dying,’ snapped Danny.

‘Who said anything about dying? You’d pay me to die a horrible, painful death in return for nullifying the forfeit.’

‘I don’t believe you.’

‘Need I remind you that I can read your intentions?’

‘I’ll do whatever it is that you want – this time. But I want out,’ Danny replied.

‘Everything has its time human-boy, no need to rush. Have you not read any of our teachingsss?’

‘You’ve had your snake-like fingers in every ancient teaching under the sun. Even I know that. I’m not stupid,’ said Danny bravely.

‘We are watching, listening, tasting your every move - your every thought,’ Danny could feel the creatures forked tongue sensing the ether. ‘There is nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide,’ the snake continued, ‘the plan is inevitable. But use your talents right and you could find the view from the top of the mountain quite to your liking. Think about it. Here is the message for the masss mind.’

Danny held his hands to his head as his brain vibrated strongly with an unpleasant throbbing low-pitched hum. The message downloaded itself straight into his cortex. He could feel his brain physically shake with the aftershocks. The first time he experienced a download he thought he was having a cerebral stroke. He had got used to it now.

Danny shifted his mind sideways and entered a slightly altered state of consciousness. He was relaxed but aware, drowsy but conscious. He was using the universal ether, the unseen force that surrounds everything. Part of himself was still attached to his unwashed physical body, clothed in yesterdays striped pyjamas, but the deeper part of him had shifted entirely into the Thought Realm. The Thought Realm is made of thought-substance. It is a web of imagination hidden just below the surface of our everyday world.

Danny still had his disabled body in the Thought Realm. In fact, he was still in his bedroom but his point of view had changed entirely. He was now looking out from above his body. He was a subtle yellow light streaming like a ballerina’s ribbon. He was a spiral of electric yellow that moved up and down and around his sleeping physical form, prone on the bed.

Telepathically, Danny called the mass-consciousness. Once he was sure he had been heard he asked it to broadcast the message he had just been given. Some people think the mass-consciousness is just a concept, but Danny knew better than that. The mass consciousness is a thing – a living, breathing child-like thing and it always responded to Danny. The message streamed out all over the Earth, like an immense electric spider, reaching every man, woman and child in seconds. Danny quietly shifted his mind back to the everyday realm.

Danny wished he knew what that broadcast really meant. The real meaning was hidden within a dream-like code, a code that could twist and change, translate and transmute itself. It was part communication and partly an infectious mass-dream. He disliked using the mass consciousness, he felt he was deceiving it, delving deep into its dreaming mind and harnessing the hidden energy there. The actual message had consisted of two granite mountains side by side. They exploded dramatically one after the other and then crumbled into a blood-red stormy north sea. The music was classical piano with a feeling of complete calm. The soundtrack could not have been more opposite to the pictures. A short written message accompanied. It said simply, in every language, ‘We will protect you’. It was not Danny’s place to wonder why.

The coldness in the room began to dissipate and the grey dirty swirls flickered away into the nothingness from which they came. A sense of peace, and of warmth returned. The fear that Danny felt was not so quick to leave.

As Danny knew only too well, that message had come courtesy of an organisation that was almost too secret to exist. It laughed at the rule of law. It scoffed at the ups and downs of finance. It was a world-wide psychic agency and it was older than civilisation itself. It had no name but those who knew of it preferred to pretend that they didn't.

As far as the agency were concerned, every thought, every mind on the planet was an asset that belonged to them personally. Its one fault, it could be said, was that it was almost entirely evil, although Alistair B. Civil certainly did not like to think of it that way. Their’s was just a superior perspective that was all. A view that was free of all the usual trivialities.

Danny heard footsteps. He could tell by the sound and speed both the identity and the mood of the carer. It was good old Michael – and he was not feeling too tired tonight judging by the upbeat patter of his footfalls. The bedroom door, covered in teenage stickers, creaked open and Michael’s large and prematurely bald head poked itself round the corner. This corner was created by the false wall that hid the ensuite toilet.

‘Can’t you sleep Danny mate?’ enquired Michael kindly.

‘B-Been having those d-dreams again, Mike. And then I couldn’t settle. Just lying here thinking,’ replied Danny, his tired voice crusty with sleep.

‘Put the TV on would you Mike? Music or landscape c-channel,’ said Danny casually, trying to delay Michael as long as possible.

‘You can leave the light on too, if you wouldn’t m-mind,’ spluttered Danny as Michael left the room - he wished his vocal cords worked half as well as his telepathy.

‘Okay, but try and settle down now, eh? Or you’ll be knackered tomorrow. You’ll end up like me, old before your time.’ Michael smiled then shuffled off, his shoulders hunched within his light-brown, unkempt cardigan.

For some reason, Danny began to think of all the tears he had failed to shed over the long years of his short life. The tears he should have cried when his Mum died. Then there were the tears that should have fallen when his Dad cancelled another of his sporadic visits. So many unshed tears.

Danny could hear the distant call of the local owl. Danny’s house was in a leafy, ancient suburb of south Liverpool and horse fields adjoined the rambling but ornately styled garden. Foxes would steal past the crumbling grey stone entrance pillars and survey the leafy curving drive up to the house. It was a large, square, ivy-covered limestone cottage graced by a lovingly tended Victorian-era front garden, full of red roses. It had once been owned by the son of a local lord.

Gazing at the soft movement of the moonlit branches outside his window, Danny was reminded of Sarah’s long hair. She had beautiful, sweeping locks of natural blonde hair that fell lightly across her shoulders and bounced every time he saw her. She was kind but in her own cheeky way, ‘Hey Danny! Hows my scruffy old teddy bear keeping?’ she might say in passing, giving him a cuff around the head for good measure.

Danny shared his supported housing with two other teenagers. There was his best friend, Bendhu, Ben for short, a boy not known for his words. His longest sentence in a day might be a withering glance. And of course, there was the gorgeous Sarah. Danny was the youngest, at fourteen. What Danny lacked in years he made up for in other ways. He had a certain sadness that lay hidden in the depths of his character. A melancholy that might have been more at home in someone many times his age.

Sarah had moderate learning disabilities and was locked into experiencing the life and anxieties of a much younger girl. Her mind had never been able to get past some outpost of childhood. On top of that, she obviously had the feelings of a young woman. Danny and Sarah got on well. Anything more than friendship was unlikely Danny reminded himself. He had a body that barely worked and she was forever a child - albeit a child trapped in a young adult’s body. Besides which, he was not exactly a great catch and she was – there was no other words for it, simply beautiful.

He, on the other hand, had a head that was slightly too large, untidy short black hair, greasy pale skin and blue-green piercing eyes. These were eyes that seemed to look right into the depths of your very soul. He had overheard some of his carers talking about that once, ‘You ever notice how Danny looks at you? Those are seriously weird eyes he’s got.’

‘Yeah, you’re telling me. I wouldn’t like to get too deep inside his mind that’s for sure. It’s like he looks right inside you, if you know what I mean.’

It was just another throwaway conversation, one that he shouldn’t have overheard, but for some reason it had got stuck inside his mind. His brain seemed to have a masochistic need to replay it every now and again when his confidence ebbed. Sometimes though, if he caught himself a sideways glance in the mirror, he thought he might even be a little handsome. He was also slightly overweight, or so the nurse had kindly told him. He had been born with cerebral palsy. It meant he could move his head with full control, his upper body with limited degrees of success and his lower half, stupidly, did not respond to requests at all.