[Destiny] Chapter 5: Time Out Joint Of


Sila killed time by rolling snow and kicking it at the Dr Caligari poster. It was harsh, he didn’t mind the play they were doing, it was more the other guy, the Grand White Wizard. What was she doing? Did she not understand what he was saying? Was his accent too strong?

He tried to work it out before she got back but there was no solution without extra data from the enigma herself, so he kicked more snow and waited for her to return, which turned out to not be five minutes later, but fifteen.

‘The wizard reappears…’

She nodded, wiping something off her hand and onto her jacket.

‘Did you get your grey thing?’

‘This time, yes.’

‘Great. What’s next?’

‘We take it.’

Sila looked around, checking for cops hiding in snow-dressed trees. ‘You mean now? Out here?’

‘I told you, it passes the time faster.’

‘So does talking to racists.’

‘Roll up your shirt.’

‘I said so does talking to racists.’


‘Back there.’ Sila looked back at the café/bar in case she was confused. ‘You gave that caveman your number.’

‘We did this conversation already.’

‘Caveman white supremacist. And that stuff he was saying…I don’t get it. You didn’t even flinch.’

‘What is flinch?’

‘And you put him on the same level as me?’

‘What levels?’

‘The level, the same kind of respect. You’re giving him the same treatment you’re giving me. Actually, if anything, you were nicer to him.’

‘You’re tonight, he’s for tomorrow.’


‘What’s the problem?’

Sila stared at her face as she double checked the label on the vial. ‘I really don’t get it.’

‘Roll up your shirt.’

‘Is it lack of contact? Do black people not live in China?’


‘Are they accepted?’

She looked up from the vial label, perplexed.

‘The Chinese population. Do they welcome black people?’

‘I am not a representative of all Chinese citizens.’

‘Okay, generally…do they welcome them?’

‘Generally or historically?’


‘Historically, apart from Han, Qing, Ming, the CCP, maybe Tang, Chinese culture has been friendly to others. Generally, it is still friendly to others, on a social level. Except for the occasional washing machine advert.’

‘Washing machine? Is that a joke?’


‘I don’t get it.’

The woman jiggled the vial of grey in the air. ‘Are you taking with me or not?’


‘This. Are you taking it or not?’

‘The grey thing? Maybe, I don’t know…if you promise not to meet that guy, I’ll take it.’


‘Is that a promise?’

‘I’ll think about it.’

‘Good.’ Sila paused, wondering if he should speak out loud what really happened in the bar, decided against it then changed his mind straight away. ‘Actually, I half suspect he’s not even human. That racist guy. It felt a bit like he was baiting me. That’s why I pulled out my knife. Or my sword as you call it.’

The woman took out her blade and dipped four drops of grey vasic onto the tip.

‘You don’t really care, do you?’

‘Are you ready?’

‘Thought not.’

‘You’re not ready?’

‘I don’t know. Does it hurt?’

‘… … … … … …’


‘Not really.’

‘Just a little sting, like an injection?’

She nodded and then, without waiting for confirmation, moved the knife down, slicing his forearm, unlike the Serb guy in Zagreb who’d just waved the knife in his face and said more money, I need to buy a plug.

God, that Serb guy was annoying.

but probably desperate too

which is why Sila had just stood there, in the alley near the church on the hill that was a tourist spot during the day and a place to get mugged at night and, fuck, the Serb guy called him a gay slur too, just because he was alone and wearing glasses.

‘When’s this drug gonna kick in?’ he asked, but the woman had gone.


Where did she…

No, wait, she was over there, very far over there, one street ahead and then, hey, so was he and, what, how the hell did that happen, did they teleport or run, or something else, but there was no time to answer as now they were at the door to some place he didn’t know, talking about satire and anti-war novels, but only single lines cos before he could go further they were both on a bed he’d never seen before, in a room with four other beds, and he turned and tried to ask her for an answer, why was this happening, was it really teleportation, but she was gone and he was staring at a letter that said, I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want to meet you tonight, don’t come.

He put the letter down but not really as it was already gone and instead he was staring at a guy on another bed with earphones in and he thought about saying, hey, who are you, what are you doing here, what am I doing here, but he didn’t because he was wiping himself off with a tissue and wondering where the other tissues were, where the other guy was, why he didn’t feel anything but that wondering was brief as you can’t wonder too long when you’re already standing at the bottom of the icy path leading up to the castle on top of the hill.

Sila put his hand out and grabbed the wall, his legs shaking.

There was cold sweat on his forehead. He wiped it off three times, but every time it rushed right back.

He lowered himself down onto the ground, not feeling the cold, looking around cautiously for Serbians and men on beds.

‘Did that really happen?’

‘Yes,’ said the Chinese woman, holding the camera at the top of the hill.


‘Grey vasic speeds things up, takes away consequences.’

‘I don’t understand.’

‘Or there are still consequences, you just don’t know the event they’ve grown from.’

‘Where did you get it, this grey valic?’

‘But there are no psychological consequences. You take it enough times, you get used to it, same as everything.’

Sila nodded and looked around. The top of the hill for the second night in a row. The castle wall with the Argento red light. How long would this bit last? If he blinked, would they be back at the bottom of the hill, eating breakfast?

He blinked.

The creepy red wall was still there. Hypnotically red. Which was strange in itself as from the triple bridge, the walls looked a regular stone colour or blue sometimes, but never red. Was this just the other side of the castle? The part you couldn’t see unless…

‘Your dose should be done by now,’ the woman said, walking across the wooden plank towards the corner of the castle.

‘You sure about that?’

There was no answer, so he hurried after her, asking her again when they turned the corner, but she still didn’t say anything, she just pulled out her camera and started fiddling with the lens.

It could’ve been the sweat or the comedown or both, but Sila desperately wanted to push her against the castle wall and say, ‘answers, now, for fuck’s sake,’ but some part of him, either the pragmatist or the coward, reminded him that they were alone on top of a hill after midnight and pushing a woman against a wall could only lead to darker things and he didn’t want to be sitting on a bench the next day, staring at the river and wondering, are there reeds, how long are they, can they really drag someone despicable like him down to his death?

He walked up and peered at the camera over her shoulder. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Setting up.’

‘For what?’

‘Stop talking, you’re disturbing me.’

Sila bit his tongue and backed off a little. He waited for her to talk again, but the silence seemed to fit her like a shell suit, so he walked slowly to the next corner of the castle, picked up a twig and threw it at a motorbike parked next to the main gate.

Hang on

it was past midnight

why was there a motorbike?

Was someone else here?

Another guy?

The gate was closed and there were no lights on in the windows, though he couldn’t see them all. But it was unlikely that anyone official would still be here. Why would they be? For what possible reason?

‘… … … … … … …’

He turned and saw her standing in the same place, pointing at a tree near the beginning of the slope that led back down to civilisation.

‘What did you say?’

‘I need your help.’

Sila walked back over to her, not to the tree, and glanced at the camera.

‘Don’t look.’

‘Why not?’

‘It’s blank.’

He almost laughed. ‘That doesn’t make any sense.’

‘I don’t like people looking at my camera.’

‘Okay.’ Sila looked at her instead. ‘I have a question.’

‘There’s no time.’

‘That whole grey valic thing we did…it was pretty weird, but…I remember one part…a few parts, actually, but this one part…we were on a bed and…it’s a bit patchy but…did we have sex earlier?’

‘Fong sam. Krsnik are harmless, far as I’ve heard.’


‘Nothing will happen.’

Will happen? Did we change topic or something?’

She pointed at the tree again. ‘Stand over there.’


‘And don’t move.’

‘You know, I just saw a motorbike over there, round the corner.’

‘I don’t care.’

‘Someone else might be here.’


‘Walk, why? You’re not telling me anything.’

‘It’s just a photo, don’t worry.’

‘Feels more like ritual, actually.’ Sila sucked in cold air and edged backwards. ‘And not an erotic hippy one.’

‘Keep walking.’

‘Okay, but I’m only doing this if I get a reward.’


‘After this is done, we go back to your room and have a drink. Just a drink, nothing else.’

‘Of course.’

‘You agree?’

‘A bit further.’

‘Do you agree?’

She lowered the camera and walked up to him, saying, ‘yes, I agree,’ then grabbed him by the arms and shifted him left towards the side of the tree.

‘That didn’t seem very enthusiastic.’


‘Neither did that.’

‘Stop resisting.’

‘I’m not.’

‘Your feet…more to the left.’

‘Okay, relax, they’re moving. I give myself over to your puppet hands.’

Sila let himself be pushed until his back was against the weird-looking tree, switching topic and asking more questions about the drug he couldn’t pronounce but there were no answers, still no answers as the Chinese woman who definitely wasn’t his accomplice, she wasn’t acting like one anyway, was now thirty feet away, back in her original position, pushing buttons on her fucking camera.

This is beginning to feel like a murder rehearsal, he thought, looking up at the bird-less, nest-less, ninja-less canopy above

thank God there’s no Croatian church behind me

and no Serb guys

cos then I’d really be in trouble.

‘Are we nearly done?’ he asked, trying to remember details of the sex they may or may not have had earlier and only pulling back images of the guy on the bed and someone’s jizz on a tissue and, why that one, why him and not her?

He couldn’t even remember if the guy was good-looking or not. The only image he could pull back was a pair of eyes and the back of a laptop. Were they pretty eyes at least?

‘… … … …’

‘What’s that?’

‘… … … … … …’

‘You did this before.’

‘… … … …?’

‘You’re not speaking English, are you?’

‘… … …’

‘You’re not.’

‘… … … … … … …’

‘Ste strašen ženska. See, I can do it too.’

‘… … … … … …’

‘Come on, what are you saying?’

‘… … … … … … … … … … …’

Sila looked up at the branches again, checking to see if any wildlife was about to drop on his head. Then at the trunk. Then at the mass of shadow looming as a backdrop, that may have passed for a forest during the day, but right now, in this void, could’ve been anything, Cthulu on a prayer mat.

‘… … … … … … … … …’

‘You’re not gonna tell me?’

‘… … … … … … … … … … … … …’

‘Sounds kind of like chanting…’

‘… … … … … … … … …’

‘Are you chanting?’

‘… … … … … … … … … … …’

‘Look, if you’re chanting, just tell me. I can handle it.’

‘… … … …’

‘You’re not gonna tell me, are you?’

‘… … … … … … … … …’


‘… … … … …’

‘That was a joke.’

‘… … … … … …’

‘Look, I didn’t tell you this before…or I might’ve done, I don’t know, that drug was pretty destructive on my memory core, but if I didn’t, I’ll tell you now. Are you listening?’

‘… … … …’

‘Fuck it. My big secret, here it is. I open cabinets and stab whatever’s inside. Most of the time it’s nothing. Sometimes it’s a jacket or person. But I haven’t got who I’m supposed to get yet.’

‘… … … … … …’

‘I will though. Even if it takes me my whole life, I’ll get him. Or her. I don’t know which. I think it’s a guy, he was billed as such, but I’m thinking he may have shape changing abilities.’

‘… … …’

‘That was a short sentence.’

‘… … … …’

‘Can you go back to English, please?’

‘… … … … … … …’

‘Govorijo angleško strašno žensko.

‘… … … …’

‘Look, this is starting to get weird.’

‘… … … … …’

I can’t die here. If that’s what you’ve got in mind.’

‘… … … … … …’

‘I’m not joking. I have a mission, the cabinet thing. If I died then it wouldn’t make sense.’

‘… … … …’

‘Yeah, you’re not gonna kill me, I know.’

‘… … … … … …’

‘I was joking.’

‘… … … …’

‘Can I move now?’

‘… … … … … …’

‘Why am I even asking you? I can move anytime I like. You’re not my master.’

‘… … … … … …’

‘If you don’t switch back to English, I’ll move.’

‘… … … … … … …’

Sila took a step forward in his head, but not with his feet, as he knew that if he did she might not go back to her room with him.

Whatever this camera routine was, it had to end soon.

‘Stop moving,’ she said, her eyes lost in the trees behind him.

‘Finally, the common tongue.’

‘It’s almost over.’

‘Still using creepy words though.’


The Chinese woman walked behind the nearest castle wall and peeked back round, one eyeball showing.

A cute eyeball, objectively.



objectively was a cow eye in a science lab.

‘What are you doing?’ Sila shouted, following up with exaggerated shivering sounds.

The woman put a finger to her mouth, only the right half of her face visible now.

‘Okay, this is getting really weird.’

He thought of the motorbike parked round the corner. A double team, the woman and…who?

‘Is there someone else here?’


‘No Serbians?’

The woman pointed at her camera on the ground, the lens of which was rigidly fixed on him [or the tree], then vanished completely behind the castle wall.

‘Where you going?’

No answer.



Not even a loud hush.

‘Ah, fuck this, it’s freezing.’

Sila took a step forward, but as soon as he did a gust of wind blew in and almost took him off his feet. What the fuck? He put a hand back against the tree trunk to steady himself, felt the wind get stronger and colder and thought, well, okay, whatever happens, at least the prospective murderer’s gonna be caught on tape.

He reached for the inside pocket of his jacket, gripping the handle of his knife.

‘Mine won’t be the only blood,’ he muttered, looking behind to see if the motorbike guy was creeping up from the slope then, seeing it was clear, spinning back to see if the guy was coming from the front.

But there was no one and

nothing happened

for one and half minutes then

something did happen, something coming up the slope with a fresh gust of Siberian wind, a creature that was an outline at first, a hundred yards out then, another fifty yards on, something crooked and tall, something that looked kind of like Nosferatu but with a pointier face, and it wasn’t walking, it was jumping, flickering like a faulty hologram, moving ten yards closer each time, jumping and buffering and jumping until it was next to Sila and sniffing his neck like a bloodhound.

Hold still, Sila wanted to say, but it wouldn’t come out. He tried to pull the knife out from his pocket, but that wouldn’t come either. Was it bald fear? The wind?

The creature raised its hand, its claw, and ran a nail along Sila’s throat, not firm enough to draw blood. Sila waited for it to look up into his eyes, but the creature didn’t seem interested.

It was looking at him like his Mum used to look at the washing machine.

Shit, was the only thing left for Sila to think.


Having your neck slashed at wasn’t a nice thing

but it was something that happened sometimes to people unlucky enough to find themselves standing on a hill at night in Ljubljana with no one else around except a Chinese girl who clearly didn’t give a shit.

Even if you had a green knife in your jacket pocket,

Didn’t matter

cos it was done quick

quicker than any human could do it

though to be fair

Sila did manage to hit the ground without smacking his head on anything.

‘Professor?’ he rasped, holding out a bloodied hand to touch the claw coming down from above.

That was slashed too.

And the arm that owned it.

Then the void arrived and slid him in.

The pointy Nosferatu creature poked at Sila’s body, auditing its catch, then dragged it with one claw back down the hill it had come from, flickering in and out of reality until it reached a small forest outside the city and disappeared between the trunks of the trees, its escape completed by a cloud of mist drifting in from both sides.


Back on the hill, which was mist-free, the Chinese woman, Joanna, came out from behind the wall and ran to the camera, picking it up and clicking back and calling the castle a cunt in Cantonese when she realised the machine had captured nothing.

It’s some variant on the drug, she thought. The thing can speed up and slow down and the only way I’ll ever get it is if I turn into a man.

The idea churned in her brain, if churning was the right word, until the next day when she sat in the bar in the art commune and wrote down the details of her twenty-second failure to catch the thing old Slovene people called Krsnik.

‘The creature only takes men. I am not a man. If I cut my hair, would that help?’

She looked around the bar, at the three men talking quietly in the corner.

‘Twenty-three won’t make any difference. Maybe I should. Cut my hair, buy some male clothes, a muscle suit.’

But that wouldn’t bring him back, would it?

She took the book out of her bag and flicked to the page on Krsnik and, with the Slovene-English dictionary at her side, read the whole chapter for the eighty-seventh time. There was nothing on Krsnik sparing anyone. Each time was a kill. A palpable kill.

Closing the book, she took out her knife and stabbed her arm and went back to the hostel room she’d rented for nine months straight and looked at the old photos they’d taken in Lisbon, in Faro, in Seville, the one where he was biting her cheek and the one he always thought was funny, where they were looking sad with cigarettes hanging out of their mouths even though the sky was azure and the sun was clear and no matter how many times the drug dragged her forward in time she was still there on the bed looking at the same photos and not even crying anymore, just sitting there blank, wondering in spurts where her soul had gone, was it ever there, would it come back now she’d led twenty two men to their deaths?

And would one more make a difference either way?

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