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by garmac 

Posted: 19 April 2009
Word Count: 4318

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Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Part One

As above, so below

Chapter One

Jack was rattled. As he prepared himself to go in to the bedroom, he felt fear and confusion wash over him like a cloud of anarchy, and a buzzing filled his ears. The louder it got, the more paralysed he became. Suddenly, he had no control. All he could do was to wait for it to pass. There was still the work to carry out.
The latest in a long line of clients sat waiting for him. They came to him half out of their minds, full of fictions and wild beliefs. They were raw and unfocussed shards, the schizoid and paranoid wrecks of the city. When no one else could help them unpick the lies their minds had weaved for them, there he waited, Jack Adamson, healer of the sick and perverted.
“I’m going in to see Jimmy now,” he said.
Azubuike just looked at him, his gaze inscrutable. He offered no opinion; he trusted that the boy knew what he was doing. Putting the book he was reading on the sofa, he followed Jack into the bedroom. A heavyset man in his fifties sat in the chair, rocking on the back legs. His wiry beard was patchy as though he had forcibly pulled clumps of it out, and his rheumy eyes were rolling back in his head. His patience was wearing thin.
“Ah, wee man, you’re finally here! I’ve been sitting here like a fanny for fuckin’ ages!” He looked directly at Jack. “You going to fix me then?”
Jack walked towards him. “Jimmy Craig; what’s your story then? Let me guess, you’ve come to me because you’re suffering, and you don’t want to live like this anymore. Is that right?”
“Aye, that’s right; and you better be good, or I’ll batter your melt in.” Jimmy’s voice then dropped to a whisper. He looked shiftily right then left. “These fuckin’ demons are doin’ my heid right in, Jack… why the fuck are they followin’ me?”
Jack looked around the room conspiratorially. “Demons, Jimmy? Well, we’ll just have to do something about that.”
Jack gently laid his hand on Jimmy’s head and smoothed his hair in a tiny act of compassion, then asked him to lie down on the mattress, before closing his eyes.
The room was rudimentary; a chair sat isolated against the wall, and at the far side the mattress, uncovered. Stains formed arabesques on it, from the fluids of many of his clients. They had sweated here, and shat. They had bled and pissed on this bed. They had expelled lust and torment, and left their mark.
For a while, nothing happened, and Jimmy looked bemused and agitated. Then, the air seemed to buzz with excitement. The breath of the two men started to synchronize, and get louder with each new rise and fall of their chests. Jimmy tilted back his head and arched his back, arms spasming out at his sides. Then, just as quickly, he lay completely still. Jack’s eyelids fluttered, as a strange display began to fill the space.
The room around them seemed churned up and transformed, folding and collapsing, as new scenarios painted themselves on the walls of reality. The visions were drawn and redrawn around him, and soon, he was standing inside the old man’s mind, both processor and projector of his innermost memories.
It was a ghastly place to be. All around were signs of violence and horror. A woman crawled towards him, eyes bruised and swollen with blood, her lip split and her outstretched hand crushed and pulped. Jack stepped back as if this ghost might actually make contact with him, but the vision turned to smoke and unravelled before that happened.
In the next instant, a new memory began - now he saw a little boy standing in the corner of the room, tears streaming down his face. A huge shadow pressed down on his back, and he could smell stale drink in the air. The boy turned to Jack and put his finger to his lips, then smiled a horrible, lecherous leer. Traces of the older man were visible in the young Jimmy’s face.
A quick series of images then, a belt striking a young boy’s bare backside, a hot iron pressed against his back, baby teeth knocked out too early.
The scene changed to that of a young adult in casual gear battering in the head of another lad the same age with his foot. The boy lay prone on the floor as, presumably, the young Jimmy stamped on his head repeatedly. He was laughing hysterically as he did it, laughing and singing. As the boy slowly died, Jimmy walked over to a cowering female who sat in the corner. Jack continued to watch, almost dispassionately, as he picked her up by her hair and raped her against the wall of the filthy alleyway in which they stood.
A carousel of such situations proceeded, memories from Jimmy’s bruised and fractured life. They displayed the violence he himself had faced, and the punishment he had meted out to those individuals who had become involved in his hateful life. Worse, though, was to come. Jimmy’s journey had gone beyond memory, and into the metaphorical landscape of his personality. The detritus shed by these memories began to incarnate; they stood up and breathed. Vicious looking creatures of blood and filth took shape from the bruised palette around them and pressed in. They were ludicrous scrawls, pages from a lunatic’s sketchbook, but they were dangerous enough to the eye.
They looked so real! Each one was naked as a new born, with physiology that only barely resembled human. It was if God had fallen crazed and ill while in the process of designing Man. They were truly perverted; wasted limbs covered in exposed veins sang a song of agony as the molecules of the air caressed them. Rent muscles hung uselessly from unfinished bone, some dragged along the ground behind their owners, others tossed over shoulders to keep them out the way.
Some crawled while others walked; sporting pierced and split erections that fanned out outlandishly. These members seemed to point in odd directions, as if sniffing out the air in search of a way to fulfil their lust.
As he surveyed them, Jack noticed that though they seemed blind, they had eyes. On closer inspection, he felt revulsion to see a trace of Jimmy in each one. The display was disgusting. These monsters had incarnated themselves from Jimmy’s illness.
He could smell the putrefaction from the one that crawled closest to him. It looked his way and turned towards him, unfurling a huge, black and purple tongue. The tongue probed the air, its master blind and idiotic, searching him out. He could feel it make its way towards his cheek, could feel the heat, emanating from it.
It chattered its yellow teeth together, licking its cracked lips to wet them, and then spoke, in a clacking, hissing voice.
“I am coming for you…”
Unable to take any more, Jack stood up. He stretched out his arms from his sides and waded into the middle of the ghastly scene. White light emanated from every pore in his body, and the light undid everything around him. He walked into the centre of the room, his breathing almost imperceptibly slow.
Jimmy began to moan, tears streaming down his face. Jack was cleansing Jimmy’s mind of the events that had hurt him so badly, the ones that had left him riddled with guilt and doubt.
The mind-demons started to scream, a cry that curdled Jack’s blood and left it cold; no matter how many times he carried out this operation, it had the same effect. The light unmade them, wiped them from existence. Their cries were Jimmy’s now; he was howling on the bed, raking fingers down his face.
Soon, there was nothing but the two of them; Jimmy, and the little healer, and all around them, endless white; a world without end, clean and pure.
Jimmy opened his eyes, seeming to float in the unlimited space. He got up onto his feet and walked over to Jack, a different man. It was as if the light had imbued him, somehow, right down into his cells. It had sluiced his skin as well as his mind.
His blood-shot eyes had become clear, and his broken, cracked skin was now soft and waxy.
Jimmy collapsed into Jack’s arms in broken, agonised sobs. The weight of the man’s history was catching up with him. The real healing would begin now, but he would have to do it on his own.
“What happends now, Jacky boy?” the man asked.
“What you choose to do with your life from here is up to you Jimmy.”
“I feel wierd.”
“Weird how?”
“Just, I don’t know… like my memories belong to someone else.”
“You’ll be fine Jimmy; just stay out of trouble.” He smiled.
They were back in the scabby bedroom, as if nothing had happened. Jack walked Jimmy into the living room where Azubuike sat watching the horse racing and sipping from a can of something.
“You all better now, Mister Jimmy?” he asked. Jimmy nodded his head, and Azubuike led him out of the room. The man followed him, seemingly in a trance. “Go sit down, mister. You look like shit,” Azubuike said to Jack.
He nodded, went over to the chair and sat down; a thin film of sweat covered his whole body. He wiped his forehead with the back of his hand. Thank fuck it was finished. He hated the sorry job, and hoped never to lay his eyes on Jimmy Craig again.
“Why do you do it, mister? There are other ways to pay the rent, you know that,” Azubuike said.
“I don’t know anything else, Azu. What else am I supposed to do with these fucking gists, huh?”
He looked down at his open hands; felt hollow: hollow, and cold. The damn buzzing had returned, and he was afraid of what it heralded.
“I am coming for you,” it said…

Chapter Two

“How are you feeling, Marianne?”
She looked at her counsellor as he asked this. Right now, all she felt was scrutiny. When she started seeing him, she had felt warmth and empathy; now, he eyed her as if she was a prize. Was she that messed up?
“How do you think?” she fired back.
“Why don’t you tell me how you feel, instead of having me guess?”
Of course he would say that. This evasiveness would get her nowhere, and anyway, she did have a tale to tell this week.
“I honestly don’t know whether I’m coming or going, Michael. Something happened to me during the week, and it’s really messed with my head.”
“Do you feel like talking about it?”
“I suppose… but it’s so weird. You probably won’t even believe me.”
He neither confirmed nor denied this, unwilling to read the future on her behalf, so she carried on.
“You know I found out Oliver was cheating on me, right? Well I found her number when I was getting his coat ready to take it to the dry cleaners. Can you imagine? A little bit of paper, with a telephone number scrawled on it. It must been from back whenever they had first met. Nicole.
I cried for hours, just holding it. Then I decided to phone her. I knew she wanted him to leave me, and I just thought, I don’t know… that I could somehow reason with her, make her see sense. She sounded young, and she was angry. I think she was patronising me right from the start. My mind was all over the place, I’d taken some pills, but I asked her to meet me.”
As Michael watched her, she could swear a look came over his face, shock that she had been so bold, maybe. Certainly, he was not accustomed to hearing her be so brave.
“Did you meet her then, Marianne?”
“I did. At the Necropolis, can you imagine?” She laughed. “She works at the Royal Infirmary, so I told her to meet me on her lunch. I think I thought it might be nice and summery, somewhere peaceful.”
“You thought it would be a calm place to meet her? Did you have a quiet chat in mind?”
Marianne stopped to think about the question. “Not really, no. I chose the Necropolis because it represented how I felt. Cold and dead. When I got there, I remember thinking how opulent some of the graves were, how unlike the city it overlooked. I remember living in the city, the poverty…”
“Anyway, I met her there, and we spoke for a short time, just nervous babble really, at least from me. Then, I pulled a gun from my handbag.”
“A gun?” Michael could not conceal the shock. Marianne smiled. It was so completely unlike her, she was pleased to have shocked him with this news: shy and timid Marianne brandishing a gun!
“Yes, Michael, a gun. I didn’t plan to use it, of course. Just to aim it at her, and tell her to leave us alone. But I was so nervous, I fumbled with it, and while I did, everything changed.”
“What changed?”
“Everything! I looked over to see her saying ‘No!’, and she held her arm straight out towards me. When she did that, it all went weird. It was as if she was casting a spell or something. I felt as if she was pulling the hairs out of my arms, my skin was rippling as if there was a gale blowing, but there was no wind; just her. I was so scared, I dropped the gun, and fell crouching to the floor. I curled up.”
As she described this, Marianne’s body tightened, and started to curl tightly in her chair. Her focus had gone inward, and she appeared to be totally inside the story she was telling. Her hand unconsciously went to the little gold crucifix around her neck.
“Terrified. I threw up over my dress; I could smell the gin I’d had earlier. She tightened her fist and it felt like she was squashing and crushing my body. Her face… she looked so angry! An old guy shouted across at her, walking his dog or something. When she looked over to him I grabbed the gun and fired at her.”
Michael was leaning forward in his chair, all pretence gone. “Did you get her?”
“God, no; it was the first time I’ve fired a gun! I wasn’t prepared for the way it slammed me backwards. I was nowhere near her… She just threw a look at me, then turned and walked away.”
They both sat in silence for a moment. Marianne felt relieved to have spoken the words, yet she worried about what came next.
Michael looked at her in silence.
“You think I’ve lost the plot? I wasn’t on the pills, Michael, not that day. I wanted to be clear-headed. In fact, it was the most lucid I’ve been for ages! I know how it sounds, but look!”
Marianne held up her two forearms for his inspection. He looked, and shook his head. “What am I supposed to see?”
“Nothing. No hair. None at all. Somehow she removed every little hair from my arms. If you look closely, it’s like she somehow burned me.”
He looked closer, and it did look like there was a very minor burn covering the surface of her skin. No hair… She was right. Her arms were entirely bald. It was a minor truth, but it seemed to prove her tale.
“What did you do?” Michael asked.
Marianne crossed her arms against herself, one hand absent-mindedly stroking the other arm.
“I went home, of course, to tell Oliver. He wasn’t there, and the more I thought about it, the more I decided to keep it a secret.”
“You know how he is. Everything’s facts. It’s the lawyer in him; he’d have picked apart the story until he proved that I was lying. He’d never believe it.”
“You know something Marianne, I think I do believe you,” Michael said, finally. Marianne just smiled forlornly.
“But can you help me, Michael. That’s the real question.”
“Actually, perhaps I can.” He went over to the desk at the far end of his office and shuffled some paper, then returned to his seat. He handed Marianne a tattered business card.
It was naively designed, a crude, primitive sun in one corner, and a name – Jack Adamson. All it said in lieu of an address was Prospecthill. Marianne knew the name; it was an area in Toryglen, in the South Side of Glasgow.
“What is this?” she asked, turning it over.
“Jack is well known in some circles as the little healer. He’s only twenty-one, but he’s a powerful healer.”
“What does that mean, what kind of healer? A counsellor, like you?”
Michael laughed loudly, in one burst. “No, no, nothing like me.” He looked nervous, and his voice dropped almost to a whisper. “He can cure people, Marianne, their mental health. He has this power…” Marianne raised an eyebrow. “He works from a dingy flat, takes no money, lived on donations from those he’s saved. He cures people of all kinds of things, heals murders, rapists, junkies. They leave him changed, in some way, for the better, usually. They say he helps those without hope.”
“Are you serious? And what, you think maybe he’s like Nicole?”
“Would it hurt to find out?”

Chapter Three

“She’s a nutter, Ollie. You need to get rid of her.” Nicole had this habit lately, insulting Marianne while she ran her fingers over his back. He shrugged her away.
“Marianne’s my wife, Nicole. Don’t talk about her that way.”
“Oh, come on. Bloody Christian. She’s so boring, it’s a wonder you didn’t leave her years ago,” Nicole said.
“She was beautiful, once, and fun. She was like you.” Oliver smiled up at her. He put the pile of papers down on the desk finally.
“Don’t say that.”
“Okay, she was never as beautiful as you.” He got up and slid his arm around her back. “Or as sexy.” He kissed her neck. “Or as naughty.” He laughed and nuzzled her.
“Then leave her,” Nicole said, and broke away from him. She turned so quickly, from passion to rage in seconds, and usually without warning. Something had quickened her this time, though, he was sure of it.
“What’s wrong, honey?” Oliver asked.
“I just want you to myself! Marianne’s dangerous. She’ll do something stupid.”
“Dangerous? She’s a woman! What harm can she do?” Oliver said, half in jest.
“You fucking pig. You really believe that? That we women are weak?”
“We women, is it? You and Marianne, sisters in gender? Ha! You can’t rule, not the way men can. It’s a simple fact, we are more powerful than you!”
Oliver was smirking, and Nicole’s anger grew. “Power? What do you know about power, you fat, old man?” she asked, then raised her hand as he walked towards her. “Back,” she said, and he flew backwards against the wall. Some unseen force pinned him there, before her enquiry. She had changed, subtly, become more than before.
Nicole walked towards him, arm still outstretched, and as she did so, Oliver was forced backwards still, pressing into the plaster of the wall, which was cracking and crumbling away.
Oliver looked terrified, but he was trying not to show it. “Stop this! Whatever it is you’re doing, stop it now!”
She looked at him, like a child inspecting an insect as it decides which leg to pull off first. Her eyes were aflame with rage and power, and she had taken on the appearance of something inhuman, more solid than flesh and yet also in flux. She was as a goddess. Oliver got hard looking at her this way.
“Pathetic,” she said, noticing his arousal. “You think with your dick. All of you. You think you were born to rule, but you stole your power. As you can see, I’ve taken it back.”
“What is this, where did it come from?” asked Oliver, in a whining voice. A look flashed across Nicole’s face, a look that simply said, “I don’t know.” Oliver memorised that face. Whatever was to come, he would remind himself that she was unknown to herself, never mind anyone else.
“You’re a psycho, Nic. That’s it. Whatever this power is, it’s driven you insane. Let me down from here, and let me go home to my wife. This is over.”
Nicole glared at him, then started to scream. Fists clenched at her sides, and eyes closed shut, she started to destroy the office. Objects of all sizes and materials were ground down to dust by the power of her mind, that dust whipping through the air.
Oliver fought the urge to close his eyes; this was something brand new, and he wanted to see it. It was a crime against nature, watching this goddess in action. Matter was nothing before the vicious touch of her mind: glass, wood, metal, all were broken into their atomic materials and scattered through the air.
He had been frightened since she had first displayed this power, but now he was aghast. She broke every physical law, and in doing so, she cast doubt on everything he had ever learned. Reason and logic, those twin pillars that held up the roof of his life, were crumbling, yet he did not want to hide from it. Be witness, he thought, if you survive this. The world should know of such power, know it and prepare.


Jack felt the same sense of chaos rise in him as before. It came with images this time, snatched from some other mind as yet unknown to him. First, he saw a howling, formless void, and then he felt like he was in the body of a woman, someone immensely powerful.
His, her hand stretched out in front of her, pinning an older man to the wall. Sweat lashed from his brow, and tears stood in his eyes. His feet hung below him, as she held him up, a foot from the ground. Jack could feel her anger, and the sheer thrill she took from using this power.
This vision jarred, flashing images mixed with emotions, and it went as quickly as it arrived, leaving Jack feeling sick. Azubuike ran into the room.
“Mister Jack, what’s wrong with you?” He went to couch and put a hand on Jack’ back. He looked worried.
“I don’t know, Azu. Something’s happening. I just got this vision, of another person with a gist: another person like me.”
Azubuike stared at him. Jack could not read the look he gave, but he fancied he could see fear in it somewhere. He was sure his own face portrayed the same. “Azu?”
“Something bad is happening, eh Mister? You don’t have to be psychic to sense it.”
Jack nodded. “Something’s coming, and I don’t know what it is.”


Marianne let herself into the building. Oliver worked long hours, and was not home when she returned from the session with Michael, so she had come to the office. She was eager to talk to him; now that someone had believed her, she was keen to tell him all about his mistress and her wicked powers.
She also had a safety net if the worst should happen. If Nicole became vengeful and dangerous, they could contact Jack Adamson for help.
At first, she tried reaching Oliver on the phone, but with no luck, so she decided to go ahead and surprise him by picking him up at his work.
Years ago, he had given her a set of keys to the building and his own office, in case he lost his. As she left the elevator and walked the corridor to his office suite, she heard a strange noise, as if someone were throwing furniture around, but with a hissing and fizzing static behind it. Her hackles went up as she found the door open and walked in.
The main office had many desks, where the administrators and juniors sat. This part of the office was empty, and peaceful. Beyond that sat the partner’s offices; glass boxes in the centre of the room. The blinds of Oliver’s room were flapping wildly against the glass, and she could just about make out a cloud of dust and swirling objects.
Instantly, she thought of Nicole. She ran to the window and pressed against the glass. Through the gaps in the blinds, she saw Oliver, hanging in the air, against the back wall. The plaster pressed in around him, and was cracked and dropping off in chunks. He wore bruises and small cuts on his face.
Her hand went to her mouth as she looked at him. What had Nicole done to him? Her instinct was to rush in and protect them, but fear made her sharp, and she questioned that immediately. If she went in now, the witch might actually kill her. She looked as if she was powerful enough to manage it, and if this were how she treated her lover, why would she be any less damaging to his wife?
No, she couldn’t enter like this; she needed help. Marianne considered contacting the police, but how would she even start describing what had happened here? They would think she was crazy, and they would never believe her. She reached into the pocket of her jacket, and thumbed the business card Michael had given her. It was an outlandish thought, seeking out this stranger for help. Yet look what was happening right now! Reason had fled, and the world turned upside down. Michael was right: she had to try.

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Comments by other Members

NMott at 00:04 on 21 April 2009  Report this post
I read the opening chapter and found the story quickly sucked me in - lots of great stuff in there. Aside from the occassional technical niggle it's an excellent start.

Just some suggestions, but you could move the paragraph describing the room, up a few lines, ie - The room was rudimentary...and left their mark - maybe move it to the moment when the man enters it - he followed Jack into the bedroom, to help the reader visualise the scene.

Watch out for the wandering point of view (pov - ie, what the character's thinking and feeling). The chapter starts with Jack's pov, but at one point it switches to Azubuike's pov:
Azubuike just looked at him, his gaze inscrutable. He offered no opinion; he trusted that the boy knew what he was doing.

And at one point in that section it's unclear who's pov it is:
A heavyset man in his fifties sat in the chair, rocking on the back legs. His wiry beard was patchy as though he had forcibly pulled clumps of it out, and his rheumy eyes were rolling back in his head. His patience was wearing thin. - who's patience is wearing thin?

Since Jack seems to be the main character, it's best to keep to his pov. If you need to switch povs to another main character then start a new scene or chapter and remain in the pov until the end of the scene or chapter.

All the best with the rest of it.

- NaomiM

garmac at 06:25 on 21 April 2009  Report this post
Thanks for the comment Naomi, much appreciated. The POV niggle is probably the most insidious of all the technical flaws - it's so easy to get carried away as the omnipotent narrator!!

The book's complete in its current form - is there scope on this sight for having the whole lot read? Would people be interested in that? I've had the first few chapters commented on to death in one form or another, I'd love to know what people think generally of the story from start to finish!

Thanks again.

NMott at 11:55 on 21 April 2009  Report this post
You're right, wandering pov is insidious, and is the most common technical fault I've seen - I even do it myself .

The book's complete in its current form - is there scope on this sight for having the whole lot read?

Not unless you have a lot of patience and post 2000 word extracts at regular intervals in one of the more active Groups, but even then there's no guarantee that you'll have every extract read and commented on. However, some WWmembers have done it, and it's cheaper than an editorial report.

There are the sites: You Write On and Authonomy, which allow the whole book to be uploaded, but even so you'd be lucky if anyone reads it right through and offers constructive criticism.

The only real alternative is to spend £300-£400 on an editorial report.

- NaomiM

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