[Destiny] Chapter 37: Quiet Kind Of Fog

~~~

The Barcelona simulation wasn’t the same the next day, it was greyer, a forensic shade of purple, with cops at certain corners, hawkers, non-descript, nebulous tanned whiteness, whispering threats that would’ve been Hungarian if he’d gotten close enough

and it took a further hour walking around the Museum of Modern Art for Tak to realise he couldn’t stay

not if he wanted to keep his mind on the right track

westwards

distant from the claws of Count Otius.

~~~

He bought his ticket openly this time and sat down on one of the benches, looking at La Vanguardia online.

Made it four lines before he had to reach for his dictionary and as he searched

the demon girl floated back into his brain

telling him she was still there

still on the beach

blood dried

so why didn’t he come and say hi?

Tak repeated the usual phrase in five different languages, struggling on the Japanese version even though he’d always thought it was his best one

then went back to the news.

He read all the stories he was interested in and hissed at the business section, then went back to the dictionary and double-checked the headline words

blocked the demon girl speaking to him

again and again

blocked that fucking Dahli too

buffering in the background

halfway out of the sea in a seaweed smoking jacket.

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[Destiny] Chapter 36: Beach Fear

~~~

The long route back to the beach did not pass through any panda fields or council estates or industrial ambush sites or forbidden zones of alien junk and beyond those four types what danger was there, really?

It took them a while to find the spot they’d left as it was a few hundred metres from the road, and, as they trudged like geriatrics across the sand to kill a little bit more time, Sila talked about what to do next, and when the best time would be to ditch the demon killing weirdo cos, although he hadn’t done anything explicit to them yet, he had passively forced them to hold his hand in Barcelona the whole day and never explained why, just said it was smoother if they all stuck together, and he hadn’t even talked to them most of the time

in fact

every time they’d stopped somewhere, like Burger King or the zine place, he’d simply opened his Spanish textbook and started studying

saying nothing

not even a request for one of them to test him on his vocab.

‘Only time he does speak is when he’s trying to talk us into something. Like that stowaway train debacle.’

‘I think he’s useful,’ replied Joanna, picking up a lump of wet sand and throwing it into the sea.

‘For what?’

‘Your cabinet mission. Demon killing. In other places.’

‘Places like three metres outside Ljubljana castle?’

‘One day, maybe. Why not?’

Sila picked up sand of his own, moulding it into a disc and trying to skim it along the surface of the tide.

It didn’t work.

just sank diagonally.

‘Look, I don’t mind the guy most of the time, when he’s not telling me to fuck off…but he’s too unstable. See what he did to that guy in Burger King?’

‘No.’

‘Yes, you did. He walked in and came back out with blood dripping down his nose. Must’ve beaten the guy up. Maybe worse.’

‘Okay. We’ll avoid Burger King.’

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[Destiny] Chapter 35: Tired Of Gothic

~~~

According to Tak, the best strategy to avoid the conductor on the night train to Valencia was to stand with your bags in the carriage with no seats, wait till the guy got close then go and hide in the toilet.

‘It’ll work as long as we don’t move, long as we’re confident.’

‘In the carriage or the toilet?’ asked Sila, half his head still with the horse statue.

‘Come on, action time.’

‘I feel tired,’ said Joanna, looking at a platform bench with an old man pinned to it.

‘Remember, confidence.’

~~~

Five minutes before the train was due to leave, as the three stowaways stood with bags at their feet, blank, drained and Delon, a door opened half a metre in front and the conductor stepped out.

There was a moustache, a grey uniform, an ossified sense of fatigue and when Tak tried to pre-emptively explain things in Spanish, the man simply pointed to the platform and said, ‘out’

not in Spanish

in English

which was the real blow cos Tak had reeled off at least eight distinct sentences.

‘Can I sit down now?’ asked Joanna, dropping her bag on the platform as soon as they were off the train.

‘Fucking pedant,’ said Tak, eyes still on the space residue of the conductor.

‘Upstairs?’

~~~

Back in the main chamber of Barcelona-Sants Station, all the benches were taken and even if they did get one, they couldn’t sleep there or lie down as the guards would come and swat their legs with night sticks

which could’ve been worse

Tak said

if they were in the US

Detroit or Chicago

though he’d never been to either city and, to be fair, in the US they’d probably be able to at least find a shelter somewhere, a place they could get a bible, sleeping bag, hand-job, maybe soup

to be honest he didn’t know

he really had never been there

just guesswork from a Danny Glover film he’d seen.

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[Destiny] Chapter 34: Hungarian Rule

~~~

The info shop opened at 4 not 3 and only on Wednesdays/ Fridays.

Luckily this day was a Friday.

To kill an extra hour and a half, Tak took them down a few streets he knew, past a low key gallery with Klee-copy electric fish drawings in the window, some kebab shops, some old school garages, ignoring all of them, even the Museum of Modern Art, which Joanna and Sila actually wanted to go inside, but Tak said no, it’s all shit, made by posh people, the info shop’s better, and besides, he was feeling hungry and the woman he’d just asked said there was a Burger King two minutes down the street.

‘Ah, Spanish food,’ said Sila, blunting the sarcasm with a half-smile…then scratching it when he remembered the last time he’d gone into a Burger King.

‘Mate, it’s in Spain, it’s food. What’s the puzzle?’

‘It’s American. Manufactured.’

‘So?’

‘Nothing. Just…you speak Spanish and Slovene, and you still want to eat at Burger King. In Barcelona.’

‘This is where real Spanish people go, not Javier Bardem or Almodóvar.’

‘And tourists.’

‘What’s my language skill got to do with it anyway? Most multilingual people I know are working class or lower middle, Indians, Chinese, Filipinos, they speak loads of languages.’

‘I was joking.’

‘Whereas westerners just lie about speaking them. Like those fucking polyglots online.’

‘Polyglots?’

‘Nah, fuck, retract that one. It’s too annoying’ He nudged Joanna in the shoulder, not too hard. ‘What do you think? Burger King or not?’

Based on her Sokurov-void reaction, it didn’t seem like she thought anything, except perhaps how to maintain the trance she was embedded in, the same trance that had been hanging over her since they’d disembarked, accentuated by weirdly lethargic limb movements.

‘She on?’

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[Destiny] Chapter 33: Tak The Usurper

~~~

Even though his Algerian audience had gone, Tak kept explaining himself all the way back down to the cabin

saying it wasn’t even a fraction of a woman

or a man

but a Dahli, demon of some region he couldn’t pronounce, possibly close to Quetta, and the only reason he’d known the thing was on the ship was down to his headache and

he hadn’t been sure it was a Dahli specifically, he just knew the impossibly beautiful Pakistani man was not human when he appeared next to the milk vending machine and invited him to his cabin and

even though he hadn’t fucked anyone in four months, Tak held his nerve and cut the Dahli’s throat before it could paralyse him, though due to lack of research, he hadn’t realised it could survive throat cutting, which is why it came back and overpowered them and thank god for the boasting respite in the bathroom cos if it weren’t for that both of them would be dead now, instead of just the demon and

with a bit of luck it wouldn’t have a valid ID, wouldn’t be missed

unless this Dahli was a pack hunting demon

which was doubtful as traditionally they were isolated and cynical types, especially the ones using the tried and tested siren approach.

‘Okay, I’ll believe everything you’ve said on one condition,’ said Sila, stopping next to the bin outside the ship nightclub, which from a cursory half-strip glance of the entrance doorway had three guys passed out on the floor and a single cleaner mopping around them.

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[Destiny] Chapter 32: Beyond All The Purple Shit

~~~

It wasn’t really him

she knew that

on all levels

but it looked like him and was walking like him and it wasn’t on top of the hill next to the castle, it was in Sevilla, on the giant waffle

walking towards her from the other side and

she was walking towards it

saying his name

‘Yute Long, Yute Long,’

yet no matter how many steps she took, she couldn’t get any closer, and worse, the waffle itself was expanding, stretching out its wavy lattice motif to intercept, and she called out, told him to walk faster, but commands didn’t work cos he was too busy smiling, pulling the skin of his face over the top of his head and

then it wasn’t him

it was Patrice

god, how predictable

Patrice the whisp

probably coming to apologise for following her up to the castle, for not taking her seriously when she told him what was in there, that it only preyed on men and

Joanna opened her eyes.

Patrice spun esoteric into the ceiling web of the cabin, and it took her half a second beyond that to realise exactly where it was she was pinned to.

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[Destiny] Chapter 31: She Siren

~~~

It turned out that fifteen hours straight was impossible, but Sila kept I told you so in his jacket pocket as Joanna opened one eye, kicked at his thigh from under the duvet and asked him where the black guy was.

‘You mean the Interrogator General? Don’t know. Just said he was going out again.’

‘He came back?’

‘Yup.’

‘When?’

‘He was here when I opened the door. Had that book open again. Don’t know if he was trying to ask you anything.’

‘What book?’

‘Told you already, the weird questions he was asking me before, about you. That’s where he was pulling them from.’

‘I don’t remember that.’

‘You had the duvet over your face.’

‘I remember the Spanish playboy on the main deck.’

‘Ah, the ship guidelines guy. Without a doubt, one of my best-loved topics.’

Joanna reached under the pillow and came back with her phone, grunting when she saw the time. ‘Where did the black guy say he was going?’

‘Tak.’

‘Is he not the black guy?’

‘Yeah, and his name’s Tak. Not sure what it’s short for, but, maybe you should use it instead of-…’

‘Where did he go?’

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[Destiny] Chapter 30: Urdu With Claws

~~~

The upper deck was freezing, sub-Moodysson with

nothing to see except bearded Moroccan men, life rings, the ship guidelines and a huge wispy cloud of lilac mist particles coating the sky to the left, the same purple shit Joanna had talked about in the cabin, most likely harmless and naturally occurring in the area, though, from the deck angle, it did look more than a little insidious, a sapient mist beast encroaching on its sedate, nothing-bad-at-night ferry prey

and when it hit, driving them all into sexual frenzy

fucking plus threats of it

perhaps inter-dimensional death doors, new forms of cabinet, mist aesthetics

yet

for now, thank gods

it was keeping its distance

hanging back.

Maybe it also feared Moroccan men?

Sila laughed to himself, stubbed out an imaginary cigarette then crossed the deck and went back inside. Or attempted to. The door seemed to be locked from the other side, the handle stiff and implacable.

‘Fucking boat mechanics,’ he muttered, putting his shoulder against it, and

without notice creak or alarm

fell ahead at light speed

tripped on the lower door wedge, prepped for severe head trauma when he hit the bottom of the metal steps then

in a reversal of death physics

got yanked back hard at the last second.

‘An impressive move,’ said an accented voice attached to a Pakistani-looking guy whose brown irises stared directly into his own, bobbing gently on anime-white sclera.

Not Amir

same hair but

facially different, eyes different

wouldn’t take all the blanket

not him

not Amir

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[Destiny] Chapter 29: Ferry Of Men

~~~

The words Ferry Terminal may have been written in Italian, but almost everyone waiting inside was North African, and it wasn’t until he double-checked the boat timetable that Sila realised there were two stops in total, Barcelona and Tangiers.

He walked back, sucking coffee through a straw, wondering if the way the North African guys were acting was similar to the way Iranian guys would if they were on the plastic seats instead.

He’d always wanted to go there

to Iran

but it would be hard to get the green knife through customs, unless he travelled by train or car, which would inevitably lead to other problems

called Syria

and probably death by sarin gas or

cleansing artillery.

Maybe if he got a tan and grew a beard, learnt some Arabic, learnt some slang

he could make it past the border

all the way to Tehran

as long as they had their eyes closed

but then

what about Joanna?

~~~

The Chinese patient was sitting on one of the green plastic chairs near the ferry entrance gate, surrounded by men. Ten minutes ago, when Sila had left to buy a coffee and a bottle of not Evian, it had been seventy-five per cent empty, now it was standing only.

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[Destiny] Chapter 28: Unburnt Asa Vajda

~~~

Alpine postcard

rough lindenwood panels surrounding

black hole

shouts of accented English

the Chinese girl

Joanna

saying she had to follow, it was wounded

door open

cold wind, specks of snow

laboured attempt to shift left leg

tearing his own wounds

and

alpine postcard, wooden panels

white face

white cup, white floating bowl

scattershot Italian

‘can rest, I’ll take care of you’

four heads

spinning wooden panels

black hole.

~~~

The Italian followed him past the event horizon and into the café he used to go to in Marcory, telling him to eat some soup, or drink it, whichever verb he preferred, as it would give him his strength back and possibly heal the neck wound too.

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