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Thursday, 2017-08-24, 1:03 AM
Abraham's Hill Part IV
A Swiss Cheese
The old man and woman shook their heads. The Swiss mountain that had reared up in front of them as unexpectedly as laughter at a funeral brought all the painful memories back. Though much higher, it was the same shape as the one back in Glencoe where they had first encountered the god. It was still hard, all this time later, to believe it actually happened.
When the god had said it was time for the games to begin, they had no idea of the catastrophe that was to descend on their community. They themselves had led him back to their village. They were the most enthusiastic builders of the great hollow Maypole that the god ordered to be erected in the centre of the village square. They had imagined the god was some kind of fertility deity. They chatted happily in the pub about what kind of saucy games he had in mind for them.
He instructed them to assemble in front of the Maypole at ten o’clock at night. They were mildly surprised that the games were to take place in the darkness, but when they saw the many bonfires dotted around the red and white striped pole, they assumed the god was going to treat them to some kind of firework display.
As the tenth hour struck, ten of the female villagers emerged from the village hall in the guises of witches. An expectant murmur greeted them.
‘We always perform the ceremonies of our god in the darkness,’ they chanted rather enigmatically. ‘Only in the dark can we become what we truly are. Our God dispenses Pharmakon, the universal drug. Pharmakon is the night visitor, the first imaginary number, the gateway to the imaginary cosmos where we are what we want to be, what we ought to be.’
The ten witches processed slowly around the towering maypole. Their fellow villagers scratched their heads and wondered what was going on. And where had the god gone? There was no sign of him even though it was his party.
No sooner had that thought occurred than a door opened in the side of the Maypole and out stepped the missing god.
‘I choose nightfall for my brutal epiphanies,’ he cried in a voice so strange it had shed all trace of humanity…like a swan shaking snow from its wings. ‘The tedious daylight with its dreary demands on us to perform unpleasant labours has been dispelled. The time is our own now. We are liberated. Enchantment has opened every door to us. The cares of the day have gone. Now we can play. We may bathe our frustrated souls in the forbidden sins of darkness.’
He raised his hands towards the heaven. Divine Pharmakon cascaded from the night’s darkest portholes. Blackness is a sea and the stars are glittering ships sailing onwards as pointlessly as the Flying Dutchman’s ghostly schooner. The crystals of the universal drug glowed like fireflies. This drug contained release from all constraints. It shattered every taboo, allowed the thinking if the unthinkable, the dreaming of the undreamable. The chains of the day had all been loosed irrevocably.
‘Inhale my freedom,’ bellowed the strange god. ‘It is only now that we can contemplate the ultimate crimes. Death awaits our command. He is our slave. I bid you do your worst with his services. He carries a lantern of secret things. He celebrates the imagination while the stolid angels of the day deal only with the obvious. The divine exists solely in the dark.
‘An execution on a night like this always involves a cruel game. Derision is invariably present. The game of death has simple rules. Each contestant must carry a sack full of rocks and run round the Maypole twenty times. Each contestant who succeeds will be rewarded with his life. Those who fail will be torn limb from limb by their fellow contestants.’
Suddenly the local minister and the leading members of the Church Council were pushed forward from the throng of curious onlookers. Each was heavily drugged. Each carried a heavy black sack over their shoulders. The sack contained the weight of life.
‘Begin!’ cried the cruel god.
Round and round. Round and round. Death rotates. The grave revolves. The execution is spinning, the wheel of destiny turning. The circle of tragedy tightens. Beginnings and endings. This journey has no terminus on this side of life.
After nineteen laps, no one had fallen. All of the contestants were within one lap of deliverance. The god stepped forward. As the village minister was passing him, he stuck out his foot. His face betrayed no expression as he tripped the hapless holy man. The minister dropped his load and sprawled headfirst onto the hard ground.
‘Valhalla has come to earth, the god declared triumphantly. ‘Even the most humble of you may revel in the infinite pleasure of the moment. Pay no heed to the future. It will never come. Only the present exists. I am the king of the now. Say all your prayers to me. Murder those who condemn me. They are worse than death. They have betrayed joy. Joy is morality. If you enjoy it, it is justified and it is good. The truth is whatever you want it to be. Go berserk, my beauties. Let the anger of the universe pulse through your veins. Kill this dog-collared clown. He has played the game and lost. The sentence must be capital. That is the law.’
The execution took place in a blur. There was only one clear moment in that blur, the moment when the truth finally dawned on the minister. Every act is one of either birth or death. There’s nothing else. Every passing moment sees and infinity of creation and an infinity of destruction, the cosmic scales of balance. It’s the dynamic that propels the universe. Death is life’s meaning, its only meaning.
He found this an oddly comforting thought to cling to as he met his own death. But there was enduring comfort for the minister. Just as he was about to close his eyes and give himself up to holy oblivion, one of the witches tore off his toes and stuffed then into her mouth. The pain was so great that the minister’s right hand, the only one he now possessed now that the other one had been pulled off by one of his attackers, reached up involuntarily towards the mask of the his torturer. He pulled the terrifying scarlet mask away from the woman’s face. It was something he immediately regretted for when he looked at her he felt that numbing horror that always accompanies the unthinkable.
As he started at the crone’s hideous face, he realised he was staring at his beloved wife of twenty years. The hag reacted by putting her hand straight through his chest, pulling out his heart and chewing it right in front of his dying eyes. The rest was darkness…
Afterwards, no one spoke about the incident. A church commission declared that the village had been temporarily taken over by Satan. The police brought no charges due to a lack of anyone willing to testify. There was no sign of the weird god who had walked down from the mountaintop on that infinitely strange day.
In the months that followed, the villagers left their cursed community in dribs and drabs, always in the quietest part of the night. At last, the village was completely deserted. It had become just a ghostly shell, a spectral cluster of rainswept stones near a haunted mountain.
No explanation for the extraordinary episode was ever forthcoming. Maybe that’s why the old couple had come to Switzerland in their attempt to forget the nightmare. Every time they ate Swiss cheese, they were confronted by all the holes that had appeared in their lives. They were reminded of something a wise old philosopher once said: Be careful not to gaze too long into a hole or you may find the hole gazing also into you.
My Love is as Red as Blood
The passageway leading to the wedding chamber is full of blood. Has there ever been such a beautiful sight? I know I am going home now. Only one task remains – to pass on my unique gift to another.
My bride awaits. I have chosen well. She is a princess of the House of Orange. Her blood is royal. Soon it will inherit a still more important quality.
She shares the dream. She wants to wrap herself in its silken sheets, to let its velvet moonlight songs caress her weary mortal flesh. The dream is a royal orb of solid gold set in a blue sky that has never seen a troubling cloud. Midnight sea-sirens dance around it, stroking it with weightless mermaid whispers.
Tonight she will come to me. It will be the darkest hour. She will be wearing a white wedding dress. I will be in black, as ever. I look thirty years old, but I have seen thirty thousands winters.
The time has come to return to the primal blood, the blood of my fathers, of my ancient race. In blood, everything is redeemed. Purity flows along its red rivers. The truth circles overhead like an imperial eagle. I have come a long way. I have travelled far and wide, through every country on earth. How many souls have I have liberated in all those years? It has been a pleasure, but even the greatest joys are eroded by repetition.
Someone more vital must take up the torch. The passion must be reborn, restored to its original vigour.
I will kiss the bride. I will kiss her as only I know how. My kiss is like no other. It transcends. It soars into the sky like a prince’s prize falcon. It transforms. Blood is exchanged. My condition is transmitted. My lover inherits the magical blood, the blood that brings immortality. She will come to know the joy of always waking in the dark, never having to pay fealty to the tedious banality of daylight chores.
She will have a thousand ebony coffins to choose from: vampires can tolerate nothing less. She will be able to bite and feed as I have done, to know of sex of a far higher order than mortals understand. Every carnal pleasure shall be hers. She shall never die. She shall never age. Never will she have to genuflect to another human being.
The Count met his bride at the Midnight Hour. For hours he spoke to her of the great inheritance soon to be hers. Only as the first stirrings of dawn crept like assassins into his heart did he insist on the completion of the wedding ceremony. And only then did he discover that his bride had already inherited something else – the name of her famous father, a great medical man.
Only as he watched her pulling the hammer and the stake from her honeymoon bag did Dracula remember that the ancestral name of the House of Orange was one he knew all too well.
That name was, of course, Van Helsing…
One of us was crazy and I was sure it wasn’t me. Well, what would you think if someone came into your office and asked you to help him contact a man who had departed this mortal world twenty-four hours earlier? I would have thrown him out with a flea in his ear had it not been that he was a good friend of my father.
Sir Giles Carson…that was his rather impressive name, and he had only recently retired from a lucrative and prestigious position in the City. I had never taken an interest in his career because I knew he was a freemason, and freemasons are something of a bête noire with me.
He was an extraordinarily tall man with a taste for old-fashioned tweeds. He resembled an elongated Sherlock Holmes, and he was every bit as pompous. It was difficult to imagine his dabbling with cocaine though, and he didn’t look the sort who stuck a violin under his chin of an evening.
The tale he had to tell me was most inventive, I have to give him that. His closest friend, an individual by the name of Edward Fitzwilliam, had passed away in somewhat supernatural circumstances. A servant claimed he’d seen a demonic apparition hovering over Fitzwilliam’s bed on the night of his death. The bedchamber reeked of sulphur and brimstone.
Fitzwilliam was a well-known clairvoyant. Just before his death, which he claimed to have personally foreseen, he declared on TV that he would take the opportunity soon to be afforded to him to confound all of the sceptics by providing irrefutable proof of life after death. His last will and testament was where he outlined his scheme to convince even the most determined Doubting Thomas of the truth of the beyond.
That, in fact, was where I entered the equation. Fitzwilliam had named me as the person he wished to execute his spooky posthumous instructions. Well, what the hell, I was game for it. I was a scientist with an international reputation. I had exposed a host of scientific frauds, and there was no doubt in my mind that this was just another scam. I admit humiliating a corpse isn’t quite so much fun as disgracing real flesh and blood, but Fitzwilliam has asked for it and I didn’t intend to disappoint him, corpse or no corpse.
So, I went along with Sir Giles to the home of the late Edward Fitzwilliam. Sir Giles took a wax-sealed envelope from an old wall safe and portentously opened it in front of me. The first set of instructions could not have been clearer. I had to select three names, and only three names, from a list of ten thousand reputable scientists from respected universities and institutions all across the world. That was simple enough: I selected three of my best friends – veritable paragons of integrity – one from Brazil, one from Germany and one from China.
The next step was to summon the chosen three to England on an all-expenses-paid trip. Sir Giles took care of all the tedious arrangements. Thank you, Sir Giles.
A week later, all three were safely ensconced in luxury rooms in the mansion of the dear departed…and having to suffer the tedious company of their irksome host. But the food was good, damned good.
Stage Two was to lead the three men down to the mansion’s gothic dungeons and place each man in a separate secure cell, to be tightly locked as soon as they were inside. There were no windows in the cells and the walls were exceptionally thick. I supervised the incarceration, as per instructions. That stage was easy too.
Then came the supposedly psychic part of the crazy scheme. Each of my friends was given a photograph of the deceased and told to concentrate as strenuously as possible on this item. This procedure would allegedly create a channel to the afterlife, allowing the late Edward Fitzwilliam to transmit, from beyond the grave, a message to each man.
The clever part of the scheme was this: each scientist would be presented with only a third of the overall message, and a random third at that. The message would make sense only when the three meaningless fragments were added together. The idea was that there could be no possibility of fraud if three sceptics, none of whom was known to the deceased, produced, in perfect isolation, messages with no inherent sense, whose meaning only became clear when linked with other seemingly senseless messages. I had to concede it was a devilishly cunning plan. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was now distinctly intrigued.
So, on with the test…
After one hour, all three of my friends were amazed to find themselves suddenly scribbling furiously. As predicted there appeared to be neither rhyme nor reason to the individual messages.
They read as follows:
Number One: He who night William night For other He in Your sin unably.
Number Two: Tom may cern etern detain ward is un to to any all ity is ed ll. . . sly, an.
Number Three: Or it con avoid Ed Fitz able commun with you Sat icate cere…
I tell you, we were all very bright men, but it took us the whole night to fit the bizarre messages together. In the end, of course, the way to crack the code was a plain as the nose on your face, but there you go. When we eventually succeeded, the message brought the deepest chill to all of us, a chill such as none of us ever imagined possible. You see when we deciphered the cryptic message this is what it said…
To whom it may concern. Edward Fitzwilliam is unable to communicate with you tonight. Or any other night. For all eternity. He is unavoidably detained… in Hell.