[Destiny] Chapter 23: Mufeeen And Dan Go Zai

~~~

The train station was pretty much empty except for the odd passenger and ten to fifteen homeless guys lying on the benches. By the looks of them, she guessed a mix of local, African and Eastern European, the latter two most likely asylum seekers.

Like in Hong Kong, it was a harsh existence.

Every time it looked like they’d fallen asleep, the security guards would come along and hit them on the legs, telling them something in Italian, probably to stop sleeping on the benches, but it could’ve been something much worse.

Joanna pulled her pillow jacket tight and looked at the train timetable on the wall outside.

Her Italian was about as good as her Farsi, but she could recognise the word Ljubljana and the numbers indicating time, and she could guess that the column on the left was departures and the column on the right was arrivals because that’s the way it was in most places, so by deduction, the next train to Ljubljana was at five past eleven.

The next, next train was the day after, which was also okay, but it was eight thirty now and Sila would probably talk all night about that stupid spine story so what was the point in waiting?

She could go back, get her stuff and be back here within an hour.

Actually, yes, why not?

~~~

One hour and three minutes later, she was back, with the rucksack pulling down her shoulders and as she walked to the entrance of the station, a very tall guy in an Arsenal bubble jacket emerged from behind a pillar and said something in Italian.

She shrugged and said ‘I don’t know’, prompting the guy to quickly switch to broken English, telling her that her bag looked heavy and if she wanted a break, he could carry for her.

‘It’s not heavy.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 22: Spine Girl Monogatari

~~~

Sila sat on the top bunk of the youth hostel with the flooded basement, the only hostel in Vicenza apparently, and read from the book he’d traded his Slovene to Romanian dictionary for

Monogatari of Northern Italy

which used the word monogatari cos it was written by a Japanese woman who travelled the world looking for the demons she’d read about on the internet and when she didn’t find any, the alternative was to write a book about them instead and make enough yen to do the whole thing again.

Her name was Ritsuko Takano

though online she wrote as Fox Volant.

The folktale that Sila had focused on was the one that sounded familiar to the missing men he’d been reading about online, the reason he’d come to Vicenza, fifteen young men over the last seven years, which didn’t sound strange on its own, but when you heard that they’d all gone missing near a town in Northern Italy, a town famous for carpentry, during winter, during heavy snowstorms then it began to sound like something cabinet related.

Joanna was on the bottom bunk, the cover of the German book showcasing itself to the rest of the room, which basically meant no one as they were the only two people there.

‘You ready for this?’ Sila asked for the third time, getting back faint breath and muttered German. ‘Okay, I’ll take that as a neutral vote.’

He tried the first line, ‘many years ago,’ but his throat was a bit dry, forcing a cough and then a series of saliva swallows before a second attempt.

‘Many years ago, in a small town near the border of Italy and Austria, there lived a beautiful young girl called Damijana. She was the daughter of the local woodcutter, his only child, and he was well known to spoil her. All the young men in the village wanted to fuck her…’ A cough, unconvincing. ‘…marry her, but found it difficult to a] please her father, and b] please Damijana herself.

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[Destiny] Chapter 21: God, A Hypnotist?

~~~

There was no answer

so he tried it again and this time it was a woman’s voice, first in German then in English. ‘Hello, Meine Augen book shop, can I help?’

He hung up, annoyed the guy had given him the wrong number then relieved cos it would’ve been a distraction and he wasn’t going back there even though it was pretty decent and the darts bar was cool and

‘No answer?’

‘What?’

‘You’re not talking into the phone, so…’

‘Doesn’t matter.’

Joanna went back to her Gum Yong book, for about four seconds, then looked up again. ‘Was it the man or the woman?’

‘Where?’

‘On the phone. Were you trying to call the man or the woman?’

‘Which man?’

‘I don’t know his name. You disappeared with him for a long time. At the darts bar.’

‘Ah, that guy. We went outside to smoke. I told you that last night.’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘You say that a lot.’

She muttered something in Cantonese straight down at her book, pretended to read another page, gave up the act, spoke at Sila’s neck. ‘Did you not like that guy?’

‘Like him?’

‘Yes.’

‘To smoke with?’

‘… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … …’

‘More Urdu?’

‘I said you don’t have to worry. My ex flatmate is gay, I don’t care.’

Sila spun his phone and dropped it on the second loop. ‘I’m not worried.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 20: Dogged Autobahn

~~~

The gap between the east side of Denmark and the south west coast of Sweden was tiny, smaller than the English Channel, and even though the bridge only led to Malmo, it was enough for Sila.

He stared at the map and told Joanna in intermittent bursts that they would be going to Sweden next then Norway then maybe Scotland, if they could get a boat, what did she think?

Not that he really cared,

she could either come or fuck off back to Ljubljana, but he asked her anyway and

when she didn’t answer,

he flipped over to ask the top of his bunk, but there was no need, she was already there, with the knife and the vial and a resigned look on her face, like Joan Severance plucking white hairs from her muff for Corman’s Blue of Noon adap.

‘Okay, Sweden. If we must. But I looked at the map and the ferry ride looks dull. The wind will be freezing too. Why don’t we make things go a little faster?’

‘You mean take that stuff?’

‘I do.’

Sila looked at the vial then switched to the blade. He’d refused the grey almost every time she’d offered

which had been about seven so far

the most aggressive one coming in Salzburg, when she’d grabbed him and screamed right in his ear, ‘we have to go back, we have to, right now,’

Of course, he’d pushed her off and stepped on her wrist to stop her stabbing him and, okay, he’d relented in Innsbruck, when he was low, but he’d told her afterwards, on the train, never, ever again, and now here she was asking again, for a fucking ferry ride, why?

What was her ground game here?

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And Then…

~~~

Cut in half at the waist and still giving out pep talks.

Punched through a wall complete with outline but didn’t see the guy who did it.

Unsurprised when zealot’s little fob ends up impaled on out-of-nowhere spike.

Chained in abject fuck pose, whiny.

The wife still went back, after he threatened to chop her?

Who’s this?

Spam?

Ah, not now mum, I’m trying to think. Map my way out of this shit.

No money

some money.

maybe enough money

to get Portuguese lessons. Move to Lisboa. Glare at all those pastel coloured buildings until I’m in one. Fuck a poetess. Mimic Pessoa. Achieve something intangible that I don’t yet know of, that might add something in some way.

Why does Nezuko have breasts? She’s 12.

~~~

Tak forced himself off the couch the same moment he saw 48 episodes to go on I Died And Got Reincarnated As A Reincarnation Machine Capable of Infinitely Reincarnating Boy cos if he didn’t he’d never leave the flat.

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[Destiny] Chapter 19: The Creepier Version

~~~

Back at the hostel, Joanna put her plan into action, cajoling, deceiving and finally outright shoving Sila off his bunk and into the bar on the second floor.

It was instantly pastiche,

borderline hauntological

posters of Scarface and Run Lola Run and Carlito’s Way and Miami Vice and Manhunter on the walls

music via Kraftwerk covers in the air

no visible cabinets.

Around a hundred hostel guests provided vague dancing, none of them over 25, so Sila stayed put in the corner, let Joanna manage the supply line of alcohol, and drank and drank and drank, and the drunker he got, the more unguarded he got, but also the angrier he got and

by two in the morning he was at last balanced enough to open up yet

despite Joanna being the only person in the bar he knew

the Slovene nut managed to open up the wrong way

to the wrong person,

a Danish guy, not Joanna and

for some reason he talked about Danish people he liked and 60’s hammer movies and representation of Danes in Hollywood and how tall and strong Danish men were and then

finally

about the girl they’d rescued from the wooden box

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[Destiny] Chapter 18: Reflex Shivers

~~~

Everyone knew that Copenhagen was dangerous if the only film you’d ever seen was Pusher, and even more dangerous if you swerved away from the tourist areas cos there were no drug deals next to the little mermaid statue and no killings outside those colourful houses by the harbour, ever.

Sila and Joanna [trailing fifty metres behind him] were not couched in the tourist area anymore, they were walking into a live version of the picture Sila had pulled from the internet, the playground on hard concrete with the youth centre in the background.

It didn’t look that much different from the online version, except for a few needles and burger wrappers, and neither Sila nor Joanna flinched at the needles cos both had read the recent story about Hackney, how activists had placed fake used needles in the streets to get more attention for the area, how artists and pseudo artists had put more fake used needles down next to the first batch to make it seem like they were living in a slum, how locals had added even more fake used needles to get rid of the artists, and how the drug addicts had placed used needles down cos they didn’t know where they were or what they were doing, so

needles could have any story, it didn’t have to mean drugs or danger, in fact, because there was a youth centre nearby, it probably meant the owners were trying to get more funding though

‘…that guy does look pretty dodgy,’ said Sila, who had noticed Joanna stalking him, waited for her to catch up and was now pointing at a pale white guy in a Juventus jacket standing next to the slide, staring a yard to the right of them.

‘I have my blade,’ said Joanna, patting her jacket pocket,’ if we need it.’

‘He might just be tired.’

‘Like Giovanni Ribisi.’

‘Yeah.’ Sila scanned the building and saw what he thought might be the entrance, then cough-laughed when the Ribisi reference got through. ‘I’m going inside.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 17: A Book You Can’t Read

~~~

On the surface that generics perceived, Copenhagen had surprisingly few cabinets, but sometimes cabinets had the habit of blindsiding you with cosmological paws, and that’s what happened in a bookshop off Prinsessegade where Sila was reading a 60’s French comic that seemed ostensibly to be about a sex demon sailing on a cruise of the damned, but was really about mid-century French petit-bourgeoise acting like pieces of criminal shit.

‘Have you read this before?’ he asked Joanna, who was hovering nearby, a German book hanging loose in hand.

‘No.’

Sila showed her the cover to make sure, but she shook her head and said, ‘the name’s weird, and I don’t speak French, but, actually, that naked woman next to the boat funnel does look a little like a comic I saw in Ljubljana once.’

‘A French comic?’

‘I think it was the day before I met you, a few days before you came out of the cabinet in my room.’

‘Jezus…’

‘Don’t know where you were before that. You haven’t told me yet.’

‘I thought we’d moved past this.’

‘Maybe you don’t remember. Maybe your brain isn’t very strong. What do you mean? I am moving past it, I’m moving forward, here, in Denmark.’

‘I’m buying this comic.’

‘You’re the one who won’t move past anything.’

‘… … … …’

Sila took the comic to the counter, but there was no one serving so he poked his head into the back room and that’s when he saw the cabinet, all green, standing completely alone in the corner.

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[Destiny] Chapter 16: In The Rusted Arms Of Sci-Fi

~~~

Near the zine store was a park with a bench.

They bought some Czech cereal bars and sat down and watched the pigeons for a while. After eating half of her bar, Joanna started breaking off little pieces to give to the birds. Sila told her not to, they might not be able to digest it, but she ignored him. Irritated, he switched tack and talked about how to prevent arguments for the next two days.

First idea, don’t talk at all, but that was unrealistic as they were sharing a room.

Second idea, only talk about the city. That was more plausible, though also depressing.

Third and final idea, talk about anything except Ljubljana and don’t get so wound up, both of them. After that, after two days were up

he could go his separate way

she could go hers

and they’d never have to see each other ever again.

Joanna wasn’t convinced, saying, ‘despite everything, we make a good team, and your cabinet mission is really growing on me. It’s something I think I can adapt to.’

‘Bullshit, you just wanna get me back on that hill.’

Joanna broke off another piece of her bar, threw it at a bored-looking bird and said, ‘not true.’

‘Sure…’

‘Not true at all.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 14: Everywhere But Ljubljana

~~~

For people with occult missions, the peak of mourning was well known to last only four days, so, despite the vague what the fuck am I doing aura floating about, Sila still managed to pick up the map and plot the next cabinet ambush, which turned out to be back in Salzburg, only two hours away by train, two and a half by bus.

‘Ljubljana is four and a half,’ said Joanna, leaning forward from the seat behind, the Austrian Demonology book in her right hand.

‘How the-…’

‘Maybe five.’

‘I thought I lost you in the station.’

‘It’s not too late. We could change tickets and be there by mid-afternoon.’

‘We?’

‘Early evening at the latest. Yes, we.’

‘I’m not going back to Ljubljana.’

‘We could be at the castle by six.’

‘No.’

‘It’s not that far.’ She took out the vial then the blade and mimed a slicing action on her arm. ‘Not that far at all.’

‘No.’

‘Just a drop.’

‘I’m going back to Salzburg then on to Czech land. After that…ne vem. I don’t know.’

‘Those places are okay, but Ljubljana is better.’

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