[Destiny] Chapter 27: Scraped Forgiveness

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Being low on cash and far from the train station was fact in this realm, but Joanna skewed all that analytical Popper shit and made it, in scattered bursts, to the taxi rank outside the hospital before her legs gave way and the body followed.

‘Stop being sneaky,’ Sila said, lifting her up into a wheelchair and pushing her back inside.

Joanna didn’t answer beyond a guttural wah. If she did, she might elaborate too far. And then they’d ask her what happened in the castle again, and she’d already forgotten her original story.

What had torn her leg up

in that version?

She couldn’t remember.

Defensive wolf?

Out of town bear?

‘You don’t have to say anything, it’s okay,’ said Sila, steering her back into the room with a Vicenza in the 60’s painting on the wall, and laying her on the bed. ‘I’ll do all the talking.’

Joanna muttered raw Cantonese and pulled the blanket over her head.

‘They said we can leave tomorrow. Officially leave, I mean. Your injuries aren’t that bad, mostly just shock, the doctor said, though you’re lucky they didn’t find anything in your blood.’

No movement from the blanket.

Sila picked up a pamphlet, said, ‘ah, this place,’ and pointed at it even though she couldn’t possibly see anything.

‘I figure we can go here next.’

The blanket creased as Joanna shifted onto her side.

‘Genoa. You know where it is? I think it used to be a famous port in medieval times, one of those city states. Can’t find any info on cabinets…yet.’

He placed the pamphlet on the bed, close to where he thought her hand might be.

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[Destiny] Chapter 26: Her Nightmare Castle

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‘Are you sure?’

The words were said without context or stealth, but as soon as they were out of her mouth she knew exactly where she was and what was happening. They were in the castle of doom. Both of them. And they’d been in there a while.

‘Quoi?’

She focused in on the trestle table nearby, the paint cans she felt should’ve been on it. Tell him to fuck off again. Hit him on the back of the head and roll him down the slope. Just leave.

‘Are you sure it’s empty?’ she asked, finally.

Patrice popped his Roma bubble jacket back in the room and said, ‘no, you are correct, there is nothing here.’

‘Did you check all the corners?’

‘There’s nothing. I check everywhere.’

Joanna looked around for more potential hiding places. ‘There’s another staircase over there.’

‘Where?’

‘There.’

‘We go up there twenty minutes before, you do not remember?’

‘No, we didn’t.’

‘Yes.’

‘That was a different one. On the other side, the left part of the castle, not this one. This is the right side.’

‘I tell you, there is nothing here. We look everywhere, nothing.’

‘There must be.’

‘It is a castle, at midnight, who will be here?’

‘It’s hiding somewhere.’

‘Yes, hiding, like Jack et le haricot magique…the big plant, how to say…the fairy tale story, Jack and the-…’

‘I’m going up the stairs.’

‘Jack and the magic plant.’

‘Wait here, or go outside. Grab a weapon.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 25: Black Hole Persuasion

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The hostel room was empty when Joanna got back, except for a note on the desk that said:

‘you may not give a shit, but there’s a cabinet in a castle near a town with a giant chessboard in the main square, the castle possibly built on the ground where the spine girl demon’s cottage used to be. Though the castle also seems to be on top of a hill so that might be wrong. Anyway, that’s where I’ve gone. Not that you care. I expect you’ll be gone by the time I get back. Two months and nothing. Just Ljubljana, Ljubljana, Ljubljana, every single day. No wonder you don’t have any friends.

Fuck it, do what you like, I don’t care.’

Joanna read it once and then half of it again, instinctively making defences in her head:

He’s too self-absorbed to have insight

He doesn’t know what I’ve lost

I said sorry for the hill thing

He’s a child

and all the defences were strong enough to ossify a wall around herself and everything she’d done, though she only needed two defences for those 22 other men.

They were sleazy assholes who wanted sex

I didn’t kill them, the Krsnik did.

She put the note back on the desk and picked up the little blade she’d bought in Ljubljana eleven months earlier.

After indulging in a few seconds of wai gau, she washed it in the sink with hot water, dabbed some alcohol onto a cotton bud and sterilised it. I should probably clean it more, she thought, but it’s only me using it, sometimes the child too, no big deal.

The vial of grey vasic was in the same place she’d left it that morning, untouched. She only needed two drops to get her through the rest of the evening, though part of her wondered if there was really any point. The only thing she’d be doing would be sitting on the bed, or maybe lying on the bed, reading a German book, and even when she did move around outside, it didn’t seem to change much.

In fact, she’d gone all the way from Denmark to Italy and remembered pretty much everything.

Was the effect of it wearing off on her?

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[Destiny] Chapter 24: Half-Hearted French Arc

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The next morning, Sila was up early, translating a local article into Slovene, only this time he didn’t care enough to tell her the results.

Sliding off the top bunk, Joanna exited the room in kung food fighting t-shirt and OB knickers and brushed her teeth in the bathroom one door down, half-listening in on the two blonde women speaking Polish next to her.

She didn’t know for sure it was Polish, it was more of a guess, based on its tonal similarity to one of the guys she’d taken up to the top of the hill in Ljubljana. He was Polish, or so he claimed. With a masters in Life, Literature & Thought. And an ex-girlfriend from Turkey.

It was strange, why did she remember all that?

Maybe cos he was the only one who tried to fuck her on the path leading up to the hill?

Perhaps.

As she brushed her teeth she said cha ah a few times then cha yune, then zau la as she left the hostel and walked to the train station timetable to see if anything was running that day.

The board was light-less and full of CANCELLATO, so she steered left and asked the man behind the glass.

‘No train, 2 days.’

‘None?’

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[Destiny] Chapter 23: Mufeeen And Dan Go Zai

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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

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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?

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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

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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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[Destiny] Chapter 19: The Creepier Version

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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

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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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