A Mobius Red
By Neil Burlington
Ed Timinson dropped one smooth
stone, then another into the still pool of cold water at his feet. His
green eyes watched the spreading ripples on the waters’
surface, where they
crossed one another, where they were brought to an end at the muddy
and twisted smile formed on his blistered lips. His filthy
torn shirt hung ragged and loose on his shoulders. His bald pate slick
sweat shone in the bright sunlight. His thick
brow bent as astonishment filled his expression at the
thought of what
he’d survived, and his miraculous good fortune. Finding the
far off hole down
the range. The last hole in the great nothingness that had brought him
A shadow passed, a cloud crossing
the sun. As Ed began to speak aloud to explain once more to himself
that he was
here alone and had been for as long as he could remember, and after all
blood and misunderstandings he was finally happy, finally really free,
voice from nightmare cut through the dewy sweet air.
Ed’s fingers curled in the dirt; his
eyelids spread and his jaw tightened as an animal nausea of
sudden fear touched him.
Stricken, his mind quailed and
denied he’d heard it. Sue was dead. Sue was swallowed up and
gone. He’d seen
her step through the hole. He’d seen her step through a
How could she be here? The garden
was his home. The garden was for good things. It was where he could
right things. And Sue did not feel right. Not at all.
With effort he slowly uncurled his
fingers where they clawed the dirt. He brushed his hands against his
rags and sprang
into the stooped run, running hand to foot, that seemed to come so
must speak of change,”
Sue’s voice sounded again. Flinty and hateful
and somehow liquid enticing.
“Didn’t hear her,” Ed
bitterly as he headed toward the small rise from behind which the voice
to arise. “It’s in your head, Ed. Ed.
It’s in your head. Sue’s gone. Maybe
dead. I hope, she’s dead.”
Ed crawled the rise and peered over.
“No. She can’t be...” The
his lips, the last hope and desperation of a lost soul.
His hands found the heavy stones in
his pants pockets. Stones he’d planted there just in case, in
case the need
might grow. Sue stood within the zephyr and profusion bloom of primary
lacy flowers that were here everywhere found.
A dark haired maiden, pink, fresh
and lovely in intoxicating nakedness rested in her shadow, listening to
learned council. This maiden’s wide dark eyes, those of a
child. Her repose one
of complete contentment.
Ed raised his stone. One hand
knotted around a black rude rock and squeezed until his hand was red.
shook and his breath came to him in shuddering fits he struggled to
“I’m not afraid. You’re not
afraid of her Ed. You can fix this. Yes I am that afraid of her. It all
with her. It’ll be okay if you fix it. You know you can Ed.
Sue brought her hand to the girl’s
shoulder, then slid it down her shoulder and helped her to stand.
turned and walked from the spot in shady darkness toward the largest
verdant part of the garden. The center.
Ed remained still and watched as
they left him there. Still holding his stone. Unable to move his arm.
“I’ll tell you what’s the
Timinson was grunting and groaning and making little noises of
didn’t fit either of those terms. He clambered up over the
remains of the massive shielding and confinement wall of Isolate,
Silvers and beside Kevin Gorestall. Nobody was listening to him. His
forehead dripped stinking sweat. His wide-set
staring pale green eyes were fixed to the top of the
what remained of the above-ground Shock Wall, shattered by a wave of
unknown and devastating. This was the crumbled wall that had protected
entry and exit point to the underground Isolate facility that they were
leaving behind. They were climbing, still climbing up the crumble.
nothing left in the visible area, the black ground, but smoulder, ash
cinder, and spirals of chary smoke spanning miles of grey sky.
“You know what’s
the worst?” He continued as if believing they were listening.
“We don’t even
have a compass. We can’t even tell which way North is, or
South for that
Sue turned her head. Her cold blue
eyes seeming to gleam even in the dim light. “Hey
Timinson?” Her voice was
rough, harsh from the impure air. But even in the filtered air, in the
facility, it wasn’t a pretty voice.
“Ya?” He moved his gaze from the
zenith to meet her eyes. “What?”
A sliver smile crossed her bare
lips. Her brow lowered, then arched. “You know which way down
She raised her left roughed up
steel-toed work-boot, stolen from one of the Isolate staff corpses.
the fuck up or you’ll go that way. And I’ll be only
too glad to start your
Kevin Gorestall, the big-man, the
silent scientist amongst them. He was the only one with a hope to
their sorry lost assess out of the disaster now visiting them. He
“She’ll get you on your way.” His smile
“I’m not sweet on you, Kevin. Recall
what you’re dealing with here. Who. I butchered a family in
Working out issues, Kev. From childhood, Kev. I burnt down the houses
more. And what he did. Holy shit. Forget about it. I don’t
think they ever
found all the body parts. Did they Ed? You fuckin’
psycho-retard. So don’t give
him an excuse, to bleed you out.” She ran a finger preciously
slow across her
neck, and turned back to climbing. Keeping her pace. “And
don’t, “ she laughed
darkly, “ give me a reason to either. Everyone has to sleep.
sometime.” She pressed a rock-dusted hand to the side of her
head, as if
remembering something. “Oh. But that’s right. You
know all that, smart ass.
It’s in those files you keep in your clean little monitoring
room where you
watch us; watched us,” her tone darkened further,
“in our cages. Our cells.”
Kevin lowered his gaze, pissed. He
reflected darkly on the idiocy leading to the destruction of the
research station. The underground research facility where they tested
psychopathic mentality, and its limits. The place where they tested the
emotional and physical tolerances of such individuals to learn more
about how to
make better soldiers. To make craftier and deadlier killers. The far
shared the same vast expanse of useless wasteland where they tested
weapons of mass destruction. That facility dubbed Facility 8. There was
to go, should one of the psychos somehow escape. There was only that
facility that would apprehend the fugitives, appearing as the only
objects for hundreds of desolate miles on the range. It was all worked
the subjects in Isolate were completely expendable should anything go
The research crew was spare. They knew the risks, and were compensated
suppressed the rage it created in him. The thought of the
monumental fuck-up and the incompetence leading to this moment. He
up out of the rubble of the Shock Wall. Climbing, with the only other
survivors. Both of which he knew would kill him at the first sign of
The only odds in his favor beside the fact that he was there only to
collected data and analyze it, that he hadn’t directly
tormented them in the
trials of their tolerances. That they would just as easily turn on each
And the fact they were fatigued and malnourished.
his gaze to the distant spot just visible beyond the
largest column of spreading smoke where some fantastic asshole had
underestimated the kill-zone of their latest destructive device. A
some esoteric and horrible kind.
Ed continued talking. He couldn’t
seem to stop putting the stream of his thoughts into words. Kevin
him as seen on the monitor, alone in his cell. Ed would
talk endlessly to the walls. Telling those
walls everything, about everything.
“You’d think with the facility
underground there would be no way that one of those, big-
ka-krackalacka-baboomba’s could get us. They keep us out
here, cause there’s
nowhere to run. Nothing to ruin. No one but the staff to
kill.” He eyed Kevin
coldly, and Kevin ignored him. “It’s shit-land.
Nothing-land. Nowhere-land. But
this thing, it seeped in. Right? It seeped in, like radioactivity. But
not what it was or we’d be dead too. Only I’m not
even sick. In my body, I’m
Sue quickened her pace. This
gibbering fool was a terrible draw, and a drain. She wasn’t
sure how much more
of this she could stand to listen to.
Ed elaborated. “We’re here in the
nothing, in the nowhere. And no one knows we’re survivors. Do
they? Do they
Despite his better instincts to just
keep on ignoring him, Kevin shrugged. “No. I
wouldn’t think so. They’ll think
we’re escapees. All of us. And they’ll shoot us at
the first sighting. Like you
said, the facility is underground. They probably think we’re
just fine; until
someone notices the shape of the wall. If they give a shit. Which they
And I don’t know why we’re still alive. Maybe
something in the blood. Maybe
whatever reached out didn’t quite reach us where we happened
to be standing.”
“Right,” Ed rolled the word around
in his mouth, as if it tasted gourmet. “That’s
right. We’re, we’re something.
Not free. But something. We’re out. And that’s a
Kevin felt a chill run down his
spine. He climbed on in silence.
It took them three hours and sixteen
minutes to cross the wasteland to Facility 8. All that only to find
everyone working on the weapons project, was dead. The facility was
with the dead bodies of military personnel.
Beyond the drifting smoke what might
be interpreted as a miraculous sight, appeared to them
They all looked to the sight, in
And many vortexes glowing with
energy, hung in the air.
Each of the vortexes was the size of
small car turned upright. The vortexes glowed with soft edges in an
blinding blue-white, and through them the survivors could see visions.
“What are we seeing? What are
these?” Sue took a step closer, and Kevin held up a hand in
“They could still be dangerous.
Don’t get too close.”
“Any idea,” Timinson peered into the
light and the strange sights centered in and seen through each vortex,
these are for?”
Kevin slowly shook his head. His
answer came almost as a whisper, dread. “No. Maybe
possibility. Take a closer
look. Maybe something from a shared consciousness. A dreamworld, or
Maybe what we’ve summoned here. Maybe madness and evil from
many places. Could
it even be places where we are supposed to be, or have been
Through the first vortex they could
see an 18th century village in deep woods, a
ghastly alien centipede
creature hidden behind clouds and casting down barely visible strands
landed with poisoning and killing effect on helpless villagers. In the
painter, moving his brush deftly across a canvas, illuminating an
of transiting phenomenal color and grace. A fearsome place of great and
terrible creatures. And on the artists’ side of the canvas a
dark and angular
figure conspiring to tear his art away from him, forever. This
continued in the
next vortex; a daughter studying her haggard mother, sharing their
and making a futile attempt to treat her mothers’ mental
anguishes. In the
fourth a sharp conical tooth was held up to the appraisal of a
Following this in the same vision a giant ice-white mouth filled with
teeth opened in a pool of blue, devouring little children. And on to
An over-weight cop, hemmed in by zombies in an art gallery. Pale
on his puffy face. In the next; a beautiful young girl, her forearms
coiled snake tattoos, smiled with obsessive affection as she sharpened
and twisted blade and entered a pentagram drawn in red on the floor of
basement. Something writhing and muffled and screaming in a human-sized
rest in the nearby shadows. In the next vortex a view of a historical
study, was seen a detective in his repose. Dark mists seeping in,
poisonings of the mind that invaded his precise intellect and turned
analysis of the criminal mind into murmured fitful contemplations of
needed to do murder. And on to the next. A dentist consoling a
homeless man. This man says his name is Eno. Eno is
insistent that the end of the world is at hand. The
engages Eno in a casual conversation, tying to placate him and telling
what he believes is simply not the case. And on, through all the rest...
The three looked to each vortex, and
each to one another. Were these things real? Could they be? What was
of what they encountered? What would they decide in the face of it?
In the last vortex lay a garden. By
all appearances a place of tranquility
and restful beauty illuminated by a bright and a clear young sun.
intrigue of the other gateways; this was the loveliest place of all.
the lunacy and the terror of the others drew them. But the garden
make no call to drama and was compelling of its own virtue and promise,
finally, of peace.
Sue turned. The considering look,
gone from her harsh and beautiful face. Her sliver-smile replacing it.
Kevin looked to her, expecting;
comment, questions- perhaps violence.
She offered none.
Ed stared at the last, the garden,
in dim wonder.
Sue turned from them, taking three
quick and graceful strides forward. And in a smooth motion leapt into
beyond the boundary of the vortex and through it, toward the garden.
to hang before the garden, suspended in air. And turned, floating, to
Even as she did, still smiling, the
garden vortex began to shrink. It began to shrivel and to grow small
face with sprite calm eyes and her sliver smile widening, was all they
And then, that too was gone.
Kevin felt a moment of panic. His
blood rushed, and his eyes darted.
It was too late.
Ed watched, dumbly.
All the other vortexes in sight
rapidly shrank and shriveled, and quickly disappeared.
A moment of silence, of staring out
into the endless miles of deathly nothing, followed.
Kevin turned to Ed and saw that the
brain-damaged man had begun carrying on a one-sided conversation that
nowhere, speaking with no one. Ed started walking off in a new
Kevin decided he would let him go.
She stood before the vision-
Of the Garden.
On the other side, the vortex had
The illusion, that she was already
She wasn’t there, yet
She had another part- the other side
of the vortex
To step through.
She closed her eyes,
And stepped through it-
Sue’s skin heated
It kept, heating.
Sweat beaded, and covered her,
The light- blinding.
Traveling through a deformation of
A loop of searing light, blistering
The sweat, running dry
She moves, inches
Through it, to the other side-
Inside, her mind is screaming-
She is tumbling out, hands and arms
and legs slipping,
On the wet green grass.
sliding, work-boots tearing at the grass
In the wet and the cool
Of sheer exhaustion.
Sue awoke, hours later. The vortex
was gone. The sound of bird song, A Bird of Paradise- hung upside down
Sycamore branch, trilling close. Kudzu, ash white birch, and ancient
oak, surrounded. Something rustled in the fallen clumps of bright
Little creatures furry, soft and
scampering, beautiful little beasts without hesitations darted in the
gently illuminated garden. The garden itself: vivid greens, pale
ochre, umber and red, sharp and piercing blue all overhead, with
clouds drifting in that sky. The sounds of vital flowing streams
rocks, the calls of one animal to another as assured and restive as any
she had ever before encountered.
Sue curled her fingers in the grass,
easing her injured skin with the cool and the wet of it. And smiled.
home. This place, if she could call any place this, was home.
She brought herself to standing,
legs trembling. She looked about her. There was no sign of any
shelters, no smoke. There were no other human voices.
She turned about in a circle.
The garden continued as far as she
could see, bounded only on one side by high gray mountains topped in
snow. She felt a strange sensation grip her. Tightness formed in her
sharp and rolling, and spreading out. She knew, she would vomit. She
and bent at the knees, and braced for the roll of her shoulders and the
clenching of her neck. The thick stuff inside, rose. Her hands gripped
knees, and she heaved and spewed the contents of her small knotted
the grass in a runny trickling pile. Strands of saliva and mucous
her lips, still connected to the squishy mass of the floating bits of
ground beef and milk on the grass. What they had last served in the
When it was done, she brought a
trembling hand to her lips and wiped. The goo and runniness came away
and there were only a few bits of semi-solid food stuck to her chin and
When she was done wiping she took a
few deep and steadying breaths of the rich new air of the new place she
stood within. She began to feel clean for the first time in decades.
in a way she had never felt.
A little tremor, moved within her.
A tiny sensation-
A minute and a perfect wave
Of absurd and even painful, levity
And a calming beyond it.
Of a different order,
Complete and full.
Just for this moment,
And she raised her head
Looking to, the kingdom
Rousseau, would so have loved it.
And allowed, as tears she could
Show in the hell of the Isolate
And her little disturbance,
Reached her lips,
To form, in actual sincerity
True laughter, not with irony
Not bitter, not cynically
Of the slightest and real promise,
Of a new beginning.
She ventured forth. This new land,
to discover. The past, the terrible confrontation with the self she
longer face, now in the past. Now, gone forever.
Time; as it existed here, moved for
her with the passing sense, of a dream. The grass was soft underfoot
soil was without sharp stones or bits of anything sharp, where it lay
bank of a gurgling slow-flowing stream. She neared it.
She sat at the stream on the rounded
rocks and considered the movement and the rhythm, and the texture of
blue and green of the flow of water. She sat at the base of a wide
willow. She felt a separation. She felt a nothingness separating
her own conscious observance of self. She felt the isolation of
replacing that isolation of complete
deprivation she had long endured.
She filled, with the moments of it.
She took in the realness of it. This ideal land, more real to her than
hard and undeniable, before.
The sun remained constant for many
hours. As the day was meant to end it faded gently too, into night. All
motions and the changes that, flawless, contained everything needed
need of excise. Nothing impure, extant.
felt like sleep.
To drift in this was rest beyond the
illusion of rest and restoration she had known before this.
Moles scurried and little bats,
flitting. Sparrows swooped and dove and turned. All of this and the
stream whispering her to sleep felt implicitly, of safety.
Sue’s eyes closed. Her head turned
and relied upon the ancient willow. Her body rested against the dark
bowed and ancient tree.
Night passed warmly, dreamless.
In morning her eyes opened afresh,
to see the risen-sun and the illumination of its rays across the garden.
She rolled, stretched up and out,
refreshed and restored to healthy strength. She looked to her arms, and
that the blisters, were healed. Saw her skin, pinky peach and
seeming more youthful than she remembered.
She stood and did not ache from her
twisted position at the tree-side. She did not feel the creeping
touches in her joints that had plagued her from the time before transit.
She walked to the stream. She knelt
and splashed its waters, cool, on her face, rubbing at her eyes.
sleep. She slid her still wet hands to the back of her neck and rolled
across to the cleansing, like a cat.
“This is morning.”
Her voice was calm and balanced. The
characteristic razor edge in it, all but gone.
“This,” she said looking down into
the stream, its sinuous surface not completely obscuring that the
somehow touched her there with youthfulness too, “is the
She rose and looked about her.
She turned back to the tree,
glancing back, to the stream. At a whim she slipped her hands to the
her shirt and gripped it, sliding it up and off. She wore no bra and
breasts were still proud with some vitality, improved she was sure, by
influence of the garden. She ran a hand down her back to the small of
leaned back, craning her neck to one side.
“Ah. That’s better.”
She gripped the sides of her faded
and torn pants and slid them down. She wore no panties. She bent and
work boots. She kicked them off, a little awkwardly. Sitting on a rock
her toes to push down her white bobby socks and pull them off at the
smiled and gave a little laugh, one more girlish and
less guarded than any she’d enjoyed in
She looked about her again. No one
there. Not that she was particularly self-conscious about nudity. In
the inability to control when you would be naked and where and in front
or of what would happen to you when you were, was a fact of life. She
of her body. She had kept it in good condition. And here it was better
recalled it being in many years.
She stepped toward the water,
contemplating another kind of pain,
very thought of a full cleansing in this wild stream. She was near to
could feel it. An instinct. A real cleansing of the soul. She felt this
carefully stepped toward the stream. She felt close to a complete
disentanglement, disengagement, from a terrible life. Much of it her
making. She could admit it. A frozen dark part of her that
she’d never been
able to fully master, was proud of it. A life of violence, and fear and
She was so close to really leaving it behind. Here and now making small
toward this stream.
She wondered in the silence. ‘Would
this divinity in a manifestation of nature wash away all the bad and
and yes the madness of what had made her this Sue Silvers? Could she in
in it restore completely? Could she leave from it as another creation?
again. Inhabiting a new and a better kind of reality? And be a nobler
A tear threatened as she moved into
the waters. She brought herself down in one smooth movement, for fear
tear would belie a doubt.
And was in the stream.
resting in it.
It flowed over her,
And as the babbling, the whispering
sounded and surrounded.
no other sound and no sight, and no person, and no pain to confront
her, to vex
her, provoke her,
The following morn.
Softly whistling wind carried in the
A tinkling sound accompanied it.
A sound like kind laughter,
Another sound, of safety.
Sue raised herself within the
She swam to the side of it.
To the sound.
And she saw
They were two.
Flush and healthful and graceful
The thought came unbidden
She was not alone.
The girl was dark haired, midnight
eyed. She called out a uluation, the sound of wild beloved children,
exploration and impulsiveness, in a voice of strung gold. She was
Slightly muscular and wide in her shoulders and hips. Her hair as thick
dark as a black mare’s mane. Hair spanned across her
shoulders and back that
narrowed at its ends in fine black licks on her rosy pink skin. She was
movements the joy of life. Unconscious of self. Ease in her turning
yellow, red rose petals in her hair. Her hands searching through the
through the grass to a delightful aim.
She gripped him and softly held him.
A man, large, quite muscular and fair with blue eyes. She held him with
small hands, one upon his shoulder and one on his strongly veined
slid atop of him still with her tinkling laughter sounding, expressing their shared understanding
He turned in the grass. He rolled
She held him down. She slid up and
onto him, leaned forward.
She moved in subtle motions,
initiating an act that would lead to an ecstacy, of a kind Sue could
Maybe having moved this way, in
Through the perfect veil, of her
Her newness, restored her from the
Sue felt another thing
The first sharp sting.
And a dark emotion
The girl’s dark hair, her midnight
Incompleteness within herself, and
shock, that this was so,
A crucial, a missing something,
An essential, lost, need
In the garden,
And hurting, not to feel this
Sue accepted what she could not deny
Predatory, eyes once again sharp.
Like a whisper of shame,
For the other,
Who possessed what she knew by
instinct she herself could not.
How many years,
In a prison,
The only males,
To torment her.
To molest her in secret.
Fat bellies, foul breath.
Aches from their blows,
To silence her,
In the night.
And only foul Adroma
Her only, and forcing,
No one tender
And to witness this,
Within her garden,
Was again, anew-
Of the deficit self,
Which she could not,
Despite her betterment.
And all the good of the garden.
She promised the bad-self,
That lived somehow and, ever?
That she would avenge,
Her pain at the sight.
A day of fume followed.
A dull day, a dark day-
Where charms of the sublime, could
not reach her
And all the gardens bounty,
Appeared to her as mockery
In absence of the one-
Ecstasy, but more than that-
She did not possess-
Though she daren’t speak it
In a silent way,
She cursed it all.
Making out a plot.
If she could, to make it real.
A stealing wish
For an exiled soul.
In a dream of new life,
Transmuted into nightmare.
Something, its eerily familiar way,
rustled the grass.
Serpentine eyes, jaundice yellow,
rimmed in gold appeared within the blades
Sue had seen,
She had stood still
To await it.
Knowing, as the others never should
Exactly what HE, was.
Not expectant, until sighting them-
In what dire predicament-
She was now by HIM, found in.
And by her failings,
In choice that had not been remade.
‘You know me.’
‘You are here for a reason.’
She nodded, taking a precious step
“Not reason.” She bit at her lip,
her hands twisted inward.
‘No.’ answered the snake, great and
curling and gleaming in scale.
Sue nodded slowly, and it was so.
The Snake and Sue conferred in a
shaded glade surrounded by tall grass, on one side a dense growth of
curled on the grass below him in the cool and dark, and attended him.
“Symbols. Yes,” the snake continued,
His head resting on a large gray stone.
“As in pictures,” Sue elaborated.
Trying to follow.
“As in the behavior, the image,
representations of self. Mingled with surroundings. Reflection. How one
by oneself within, what is observed. This is shown, in the
“Symbols,” Sue repeated softly.
“What they most value in themselves, shown reflected in their
themselves, within their surroundings.”
“Standing-up,” the snake whispered.
“To look large. To be more. But not more.”
“I don’t understand,” Sue
closer, pulling herself against the rock. As slithering as the snake
“To magnify one’s presence. To need
to. To believe this is needed. To choose this from fear of a loss. Of
diminishment. To be threatened, by not choosing it.”
“A symbol, of this?” Sue whispered,
her voice rustling, nearly as dry as the snake’s.
“Of virtue. To add virtue, for the
can be added?
They have all.”
The snake’s tongue flickered. Thin
hissing filling the darkness they shared.
“Not all.” This sound, so close to
pale laughter, yet devoid of any sense of safety, slipped from His
emulation. Not the symbol of this attempt.”
“They don’t want, this.” Sue
her frustration grow, but looking into those ancient eyes, patience
“Can you confirm it? Is there no
question, left in their hearts? No, desire. To be as their creator if
better love HIM?” My daughter. The snake tail slid across her
legs, about her
waist embracing her. “Consider. A complete creation
entertains no novelty. Do
you believe they will not entertain this? If they are provoked. Are
complete, as they seem? Will you see with my eyes? And if they are
the novelty of gain by the novelty of the possibility of loss do you
they will not, risk? ”
In a moment, Sue understood. Moved
by her own desire, this conferring.
The symbol was something that the
Snake agreed to show. It’s representation, shown them, to
remind them of a
forbidden thing. An object presenting in consumption, knowledge,
freedom, shame, terror, and death. The snake was a very good salesman.
he would provoke an unwholesome appetite with the promise of
“Not him.” Sue felt and heard the
words escape her, so impulsive, now released. “Not him. The
woman. Suffer her.
“You want him?” The
snake was turning, slowly and always
“Yes.” She felt a strong freedom in
the word. It was true. She did want him. So very much. She would do
have him. She would burn beauty. She would murder an innocent. Or damn
“An object to reflect her. To recall
in her the nature of what she is. What she could be. That she is ripe
change. And must change to be, enough. That she must change, to
continued to be
loved. That she can only sustain the love so freely given her by daring
that symbol I will describe as one of growth, to become more than she
Prevent the loss threatened by the novelty of the notion that in time,
lose favor. That there is room, for rejection. I will suggest that to
this stagnation, she must attempt to become more like her creator, whom
loves without question and eternally. They are only words, but they
most powerfully and will evoke fear. The symbol will seem to answer. It
more complete answer than his blissful, thoughtless children can
“Yes.”Sue breathed the word,
“Yes,” answered the snake, in her
Days of the Garden passed. Days
unlike process, absent of trial.
The a day of change, the last day,
Eve stood before the tree.
The Tree of Knowledge.
She knew it.
The snake had told her-
That he would
Turn from her
And her love.
If she did not,
If she would,
Fade, in his eyes
In the days yet to come
Become plain, as nothing,
The snake, was wise.
She, was innocent
Sue watched, in shadows
Her body, and her still darkening
Shadow under Shadow
She turned, to flee
And there was nowhere,
To run to.
The piercing blue sky,
The cotton white drifting clouds-
The blinding light,
As innocent as Eve.
Sue watched in silence-
The snake, HIM, who’d conspired in,
Coiled on her leg,
Around hips, waist.
To her shoulder blades,
Appeared behind them,
The snake hissed softly in her ear,
A sound of quiet laughter
“You have failed,
You have failed,
To win him,
In your gambit,
As the blinding light, essential white
and frozen blue-
Tore out the scene,
Of both wilderness children,
She turned to HIM,
“Treachery,” she hissed.
Lucifer hissed in turn,
And to others-
“They are one,
As they began,
So very close,
To the point of their,
And you see,
And it cannot be otherwise,
That their suffering, is your own.”
Sue felt a first hot tear-
From the light,
Sting her cheek.
As the snake uncoiled, slipped from
She shed it-
Like a wasted skin,
And turned to the vortex,
Her only passage-
Beyond the thundering,
And the terrible,
Of the Garden.
Sue burned as she transited the
vortex and emerged, again tumbling out the other side. Her skin was
worse and deeper than the first time. It welled and grew redder. She
hand to the surface below her that was made of something hard,
floor. She braced her other hand against that floor with splayed
pushed up. Her eyes were painfully dry and her skin twitched all over
stinging sharp burning sensations.
She rolled back onto a knee and
curled, just for a moment over-struck and stunned by the combinations
loss. By what she had bargained in. And helped to be.
She shook her head back and forth
above the blue and gray tiling. Illusion, hallucination, dream.
torment and terrible strain. She was lost in something, a gayness of
agony. Some vision that she had tripped time and space to arrive here
her thoughts and clawed at her insides. Returning her out of fugue to
awareness of containment. Confinement. Within her prison, of choice.
it. The answering riddle. The puzzling-solve to this conundrum. Not
was, and is, and always would be like this. Not that she had been given
chance, one decision to yield to and to have real happiness and
had destroyed that chance. Not that she had been given an opportunity
the reality of peace beyond any dreaming, fantasy or delusion. And she
still made, irreversibly, the wrong choice.
And had been brought back here.
Back to the beginning,
Of all her pain,
Sue slowly brought herself to
She cast her gaze about her,
sweeping and gaining detail- scratching at the burning itch all over
and her exposed flesh. And she realized something, critical.
She realized, she was not back in
Isolate. She realized she had dreamed nothing. She had suffered no
hallucination. And Sue realized she was now standing in a
This was a control room.
Screens displayed, all of the information
relevant to the operation of a device called- The Dimension Gate, the
in sharp blue against the green background of the large monitor at the
She was alone.
There was something at the periphery
of the monitoring sweep- for a wave of particles that seemed to radiate
the device. A device that was housed meters away within the facility.
display showing a rote
practicing, for real execution.
She said it, and understood.
She watched the camera feed on
smaller screens- uniformed personnel moving through the corridors of
Sue looked to the time on the
digital clock above the display, and was certain.
“It hasn’t happened yet. The wave
that killed them. It hasn’t happened here yet.”
She understood further.
“I’m still inside. Though I am here,
I am also still inside Isolate, as well. I am still,” she
hardly dared to
breathe the word, “a prisoner.”
And she realized something even more
“I have to cause it.”
“I have caused it.”
She moved to the chair. She sat in
the comfy softness. The pain of the dull burn, subsiding. The itching
every scratch, lessening. She raised her hands above the keyboard and a
and even sorrowful smile formed on her lips.
“I have to cause it.”
“I have to provide the vortex for
myself. I have to provide every vortex to destroy this facility. To
the main-power and kill those in Isolate. I will control the exact
the field, to save my cell and my hallway, from the killing particles
in the creation of the vortexes. I will also provide the vortex to the
Garden. I may try
again, to make
another choice,” her heart leapt at this thought. It
wasn’t too late, was it?
Could it be reaction, to action? Was this negotiation, or was there
fixed decision? Was there?”
And one more thing...
“I will give myself an exit to leave
by should the result of my decision within the Garden be
And one more thing, as well.
“I will leave the past to the
changing past, or to the fixedness of the past if it is so. I will
choose a new
path for this, the present manifestation of myself into a new home. My
yearning, the City. My home city. My chosen home in this world. And
other resolution to myself at another earlier time. I leave it to a
more pure and able manifestation of myself.”
She typed at the keys and placed her
present vortex, last.
And watched the counter.
When the first vortex-
That vortex leading into the City
appeared to her within the control room-
She did not hesitate.
And stepped through it.
Events, were set into motion
A decision had been made.
And what remained,
Remained to fate.
Sue, leaving behind her-
A reflection on the past,
A final sentiment.
(Written on the control room wall)
I didn’t know,
When first I saw-
Who were you then,
Before your fall?
If you forgave me,
Do I forgive them,
Live, to let me live?
I can’t confirm
I know no parts of
My name; and not my own
That reorient the world,
To a new way of
Thinking, and believing
Holes; in the fabric of all
Who am I?
After I’m redeemed,
Now I’m altered,
In your schemes
Rot you in hell; base Adroma
I grip the edges,
Of these realities,
And pull you,
From your scene
Farewell; Isolate, and the Dimension
-(the real world)-
Sue stepped through the vortex.
This one was not so blinding and did
not tumble her out.
Her arms were warm. Not burning.
Her skin was dry. Not itching.
She looked up,
And saw a silver reflection, of
For a moment, her heart beat in
And she turned,
And saw, buttons.
She was inside-
She was on the fifteenth floor.
There was no one else inside.
She was alone.
The elevator descended past four
The doors opened.
An elderly little lady, her hair in
snowy thin curls and her comfortable beige sweater billowed out around
bent body, entered. Her glasses were perched below the wrinkled T of
charmingly smile-lined forehead. Full smiles had made those lines over
years. Genuine smiles of happiness
had been fat and
rounded and sweet. Her
face, was thinner now. She shuffled into the elevator and reached a
skeletal finger out to press for the ground floor. She saw mid-reach
button was already lit.
Sue hadn’t pressed this button,
Sue nodded and smiled with deeply
Was it here?
Was she free here?
Had she found it?
The little old lady, watched the
button lights moving, down- and she remained rooted there, as if she
never decide to leave that spot. Showing the conservation of energy of
octogenarian who had learned
excess movement for this purpose.
Sue nodded again.
They traveled on, and soon reached
the ground floor.
The doors opened. As they parted Sue
felt a surprisingly strong and nearly skeletal hand covered in sagging
translucent skin, grip her arm.
“My,” the little old lady, said
looking up, speaking in a voice like crinkling paper. A voice like sand
over glass. “You are warm. I was warm once, too. But things
will change, my
dear. You can be sure of it. Nothing remains the same. And we have no
it. Any of it at all. Save the choices we make, from time to time. That
bend the course of things, possibly.”
Sue looked down to the hand. To the
She answered, as honestly as she was
“I’m not so certain. Even about
that.” Sue smiled and nodded at the hand. The little lady
took it back and
watched as Sue left the elevator. She watched as Sue walked through the
darkened lobby, and out to the light and the life of the street.
Sue Silvers curled in her cell.
Security lights, lit the green
The green cell walls,
The silvery reflecting metal-
Of the door.
Isolate was in emergency state.
They ran drills for this-
This was no drill.
No one had come for her.
Adroma watched her through the
monitor. Adroma’s muscular body, still naked in the
monitoring room chair.
Kevin had left her behind. She’d awoken to see him leaving on
walking cautiously through the halls of Isolate. Halls filled with the
Adroma, thought it through, fast. As
she had always been able to do. Rapidly seeing the details and then the
picture composed by them,as unity. She scanned the facility.
Sue was all that was left.
The little scruffy haired blonde
Adroma’s bitch, when she wasn’t with
And Adroma, understood.
She hit the lock-release for the
door to Sue’s cell.
Sue looked at it from the inside,
She stood, and tried it-
The door opened.
She looked out into the hall.
The hall with no dead bodies in it.
She stepped out-
Ran through the emergency-lit
Kevin was at the only exit-
Talking to Ed Timinson
‘We should work together,’
he was saying-
‘To get away’
Something disastrous had happened.
They could be personnel and
Right now, they had to flee.
Sue plucked-up her courage,
And slipped out from the shadows,
And appeared to them.
Kevin waved her on.
They were, all of them, getting out
Adroma watched them go, and smiled.
She had her canaries.
Sacrificial birds, to test the land.
To watch, if it would kill them.
The more the better, and Sue the
You could never tell with these
crazy-ass weapons they tested
Who would fall, and who wouldn’t,
In the after-effects.
How it would hurt one kind of person
and not another.
She and Sue, were not so different
Though Adroma, had a higher
Before they’d brought her down.
Down to Isolate
She might let Kevin live-
When she followed him,
If he was sorry-
If she could see in his eyes that he
She watched them cross the
wasteland, as far as Isolate’s surviving and shielded ground
cameras could see.
Not too far. And she saw something glowing in the distance, and near
She decided to leave.
She left the dread and the death
filled Isolate, behind her.
She stepped out into the open air.
She began an ascent, of the broken
She clambered up the wall faster
than they had, and by a better route.
She didn’t see-
Any bodies, lying on the featureless
She continued on.
The glow was now gone.
She reached the facility
In a shorter time,
Than it had taken the others.
The facility, was in ruins.
There was no sign of any of them.
She entered the facility, looking
for a control room.
A monitoring room.
Emergency lights, were still on.
Emergency power, still running.
She found the control room.
She was shocked-
To see Kevin, a paper plate with the
remains of his meal
At the foot of the little bed, he
slept in- in his underwear
The large monitor with the green
And all the other monitors were
Running on Emergency power.
She approached the bed.
She slipped the covers,
She considered, and decided.
She reached down a hand,
Rubbed softly, gently.
She rubbed him, into arousal,
She slid, onto the shaft,
Grunting, just a little.
His eyes opened,
He saw her,
He was, affected,
From poisoned food.
From the wave, poisoned.
He reached up with powerful hands,
Clutching at her neck,
But some vision,
Out of nightmare,
A poisoned hallucination.
He moved, with animal force-
And his desperate strength.
She never panicked-
And reached for something, shining,
On the shelf,
His blade, Kevin’s knife.
She brought it down.
Into his throat
He struggled still,
And bled and bled,
And bled and soaked the sheets red
And shuddered, finally and relaxed,
And fell back, limp
Up, and off of him,
And lurched to the chair,
In front of the monitor.
Bathed all over-
In her lover’s hot blood.
In the empty,
All, of death.
Exhaustion soon took her,
And she did not dream,
In a formless black.
In dried blood.
To be alone.
The body in a twisted,
turned up, around and,
In the dark-blooded sheets-
Still in his throat.
It appeared to her then-
Unfolding from a center-point.
On Emergency Power,
Sue had not accounted for.
In her tangled thoughts,
The return, as in a loop-
Computerized, and timed.
Of the hole in space,
She had made,
The main power blown out,
To the Gate.
By the demand of too many vortexes-
On the range.
Only this one,
The last one-
On emergency power.
The Gate itself-
And Adroma stepped up,
To the vortex,
To a home-
She dressed in Kevin’s shirt,
Clean and folded at the desk.
And cinched his belt tight-
To hold up his jeans on her hips,
And Adroma, entered.
And it burned.
Sue, walked in the crowd. She was
free. Free of Isolate. Free of The Garden and the Serpent. Free, of the
She considered her new name.
Who would she be?
What would she do?
Where could she start?
Who would she exploit?
Maybe, thieve from?
Maybe, and the thought was like a
She hadn’t dared to think it-
To feel it in Isolate
Where they demanded her to express
such dark emotion- in order to learn more about her kind, to coopt it
She’d withheld it, as best she could
When it wasn’t hers.
Hers alone to use.
Now it was-
All for her
Who would she see in those crowded
And who would she maybe-
Adroma spun out of the vortex,
Into an alley.
Strewn, with trash.
She caught herself,
With strength and power
She felt the burning,
At her skin.
And dismissed it,
She walked out, into the street.
And to her amazement,
On the very same Avenue,
The little blonde girl,
up to her.
Who could pay her,
For many kinds of suffering.
Suffering, Sue hadn’t caused,
Sue could still, make it up to her,
In taking back her place,
In a wider, greater prison
In the Real World-
And in this way,
To Adroma’s universe.
And Adroma in seeing her-
Little, psychotic, malevolent Sue
Plotting, planning no doubt,
Adroma, made another decision
And to doom,
Her last connection,
To the past.
© 2007 Neil Robinson
Neil Burlington lives in Ontario Canada. His young reader book Mitch Kingly & The Weekend Monsters is going to be published with James A. Rock & Co., Publishers. His short stories are published in Planet Magazine ('The Qual'), Pantechnicon ('Visions'), Bewildering Stories ('The Far Moai'), and Screamingdreams ('Horror Stories' and 'Gossamer').
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