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Shady Lane prologue

by Alex Kuhnberg 

Posted: 05 April 2013
Word Count: 894

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We adepts of the noble art of alchemy have no patience with the simplistic bunkum peddled by the latter-day advocates of ‘causality’: simpletons who would have you believe that the universe is a sort of coin-in-the-slot machine, where you put in, say, one pound ten and sixpence, and take out in exchange a gobstopper, or a bag of gold, or an aspirin tablet. In fact the universe is more like an enormous game of snakes and ladders, littered with invisible trip-wires, secret passages, and ejection devices: a compendium of apparatus designed to bounce an individual whose life would appear to be running along a boringly predictable path into a maelstrom of perilous options and fearful consequences.

Lanithro Shrubb, Immensities (London 1962)

Most people see what they are told to see; the Magister creates whatever reality best serves his purposes at the time.

Alexander Dalrymple, Practical Magick: The Occult Road to Power (San Francisco, 1962)

I was brought up to believe that the worst thing you could do was let your family down.

N.A. Lightfoot, My Convictions Volume 1: First Offences (University of Wight Press, 2070) 


Some dreams you prefer not to remember.

The rear door of the police-car flaps open as I approach. Inside is my grand-uncle Lugs, wearing a policeman’s uniform. He beckons with one gnarled finger. I climb in next to him.

A man gets into the driver’s seat, slamming the door behind him. He too is wearing a policeman’s uniform. So am I, which strikes me as funny. The not-policeman starts the engine and swings us round in a half circle, spraying gravel from his tyres. We hurtle through the gate, and swing onto the open road, going very fast.

“So, Nole,” says Lugs hoarsely. “I hear you’ve been a naughty boy. Bit ungrateful that, ain’t it, after all your uncle Roy has done for you?”

“I don’t know, Lugs.”

“You don’t know nothing, Nole. Your dad hasn’t taught you right.”

“No, Lugs. I suppose not.”

“There’s free rules in this business. What’s number one?”

“Don’t get caught?”

“Don’t be funny, it don’t suit you. Number one, be loyal to your family. It’s family first, last, and all the ones in between. Got that?”

“Yes, Lugs.”

“You say ‘yes’, Nole. But my understanding is that you haven’t always put your family first. Am I right?”

“Yes, Lugs.”

“That’s why you need a lesson. Get me?”

“Yes, Lugs.”

Lugs goes on talking for some time. Eventually I stop listening. My eyes are sore from staring at the headlights coming towards us. The Lustre leans into a bend, throwing me against Lugs’ shoulder. I can smell his hair-cream, and his aftershave, and his hot smoky breath.

“Steady on,” says Lugs. “Let’s not get too personal.”

“Where are we going, Lugs?”

“Don’t ask questions. Watch and learn.”

The police-car ahead of us pulls over outside a big house: red-brick with black beams, a well-kept garden, box tree, rhododendrons, wishing well, slide, swing. We park behind them. Our driver gets out. So does the driver of the other car. He is wearing a police uniform too.

“Is this a police raid?” I ask.

“What’s it look like?”

“But we’re not real policemen.”

“Clever boy.” Lugs takes some sun-glasses out of his pocket, and puts them on. They are a bit like aviator’s goggles, and cover most of his face, making him look like an enormous insect.

“Don’t I get any shades?”

“Didn't Roy give you any?”


Lugs whistles. “Not your lucky day, Nole, is it?”

Our driver comes out, leading a man by the arm. The driver of the other car comes out with a woman and a small boy. Lugs steps out and holds open the door. The man turns round to say something to the woman and child, then climbs into the back seat, next to me. Lugs gets in on the other side. Then he produces a gun.

The man’s mouth and eyes form three shocked circles.

“Hold this,” says Lugs, passing me the gun, “while I truss the turkey.”

I take the gun.

The car coughs into life.

“I wouldn’t worry too much,” says Lanithro Shrubb, who has somehow swapped places with Lugs.

“Why not?”

“Sometimes one has to surrender to whatever it is the universe has in mind. It’s rather like falling from a window: once you’ve started you’re going to go down whatever you do. So the question is, are you going to go down kicking and screaming, or are you going to do it in style?”

“I don’t know, Lugs.”

“No dozing on the job, Nole. Hand us me shooter back, there’s a good lad.”

I hand it back.


“What’s going to happen to me?”

“Don’t ask me!” says Shrubb. “It’s your fate, not mine.”

This strikes me as a touch dishonest. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be in this mess. I was perfectly happy with my life, until I met him.

Well, not happy exactly. Actually I hated my life. But I was reconciled to it.

“This is all your fault,” I say.

“You’re mumbling, Noel,” says Lugs. “Wake up, lad. We’re there now.”

The car is pulling up outside a heavy gate topped with barbed wire. Beside the gate is a notice.

CALIGULA SECURITY, it reads. And in smaller letters: “Your cash is safe with us.”

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Comments by other Members

GaiusCoffey at 08:53 on 09 April 2013  Report this post
Hi Alex,
Discovered this while browsing your profile after you joined Whole MS group. (Welcome, by the way.)

I'm typing on a phone and haven't got much time before a meeting, so won't comment on this now other than to say I enjoyed the style and pace. I was sometimes foxed by the voice of Lugs - he flits between coarse and intellectual, so I think some of his dialogue may need tweaking. The quotes all seemed good, but maybe could be spread out? Three together seemed one or two more than I needed, also. Still, an enjoyable start. Doubtless, I will read more.

On the subject of "more"; you will get more comments if you have this as a group piece - the general archive can get overlooked. I noticed you'd posted a blog asking for help navigating, too! ; Again, you'll get more help if you go to the Forum page and use the New Topic button to create a forum thread instead. People will be very happy to help you find your way around.

Finally, welcome to WW!

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