Author Topic: Paradise lost  (Read 471 times)


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Paradise lost
« on: August 07, 2018, 11:09:03 PM »
At long last, the strange journey had reached an end for this unlikely band of companions.  They had endured much and learned more still.  Learned about each other, the greater world around them and most of all themselves.  As each made their preparations to retreat into their fey selves for good, Frederick came to a final conclusion.  He had been right all along.  This was utter nonsense.

After struggling time and time again to make rational sense of this new world and the associated flood of information for several months, he ultimately concluded that of the fey, perhaps half of them were reasonable people, capable of conversation and rational thought.  The others he considered so mired in whimsy, in their own beauty and their almost theatrical approach to life that they were completely alien to him.  Barely to be considered sentient by any reasonable mortal understanding of the term.  He hated them bitterly.  The frivolity, the endless mirth and joy, that they had so much to teach but would so often withhold.  So full of life, so full of love, always (he perceived) to be denied to him.  He would be the butt of their collective joke no longer.  No, their world was not his but he would make good use of their gifts.  With his command of the magical arts, no "adult" would ever exploit him, ever belittle him or ever defy him again.  Did Habibi have the power to strip him of his arts?  Possibly.  There was but one way to find out.  He turned his back on his former friends, pausing only to spit a curse at the leprechaun, and walked out of their lives.

Down weather beaten and dark back streets he slowly trudged to what he used to consider his lodgings.  The memories were fading fast but a slight hint of his former life still nagged at him.  It was 4AM.  No other would be out at this time of night, it was quite safe to walk alone.  He considered his efforts to understand where he had gone so wrong in his life.  Why his eternal youth?  A curse?  Why not?  The important part was that it gave him someone to blame.  How could he, always careful, always sure of himself, be expected to have struck a fair deal with a magical creature?  And as a mere babe, naive and innocent?  Simply prey for a predatory beast, that's all he was.  That was closure.  Closure was important.  Keeps a fellow grounded, removes self-doubt.

As he settled down under a familiar bridge for the what was left of the night, curiously empty of the usual discarded and forgotten members of London's greater community, his troubled and selfish mind danced.  Dreams of power, knowledge and boundless cruelty fuelled by the ill informed and prejudiced notion that the entire world at large owed him a debt to repay the countless perceived injustices he had endured over the past century.  Never to dwell upon the pain he had brought to the world in return (such acts were always justified after all).  Tears of rage mingled with stifled laughter as his rational mind, overflowing as ever with banality, struggled to cope.  He punched and kicked the brickwork around him, scratched at his arms and legs, scarcely aware of his actions or the pain they were causing him.  His skin split and blood trickled to the stones beneath him.  He imagined himself a tyrant.  He imagined himself a sorceror.  Not a leader of men but a driver of the weak.  There should be so, so many weaker than he.  He dreamed himself an immortal nightmare incarnate.  The perfect union of dreams and human inginuity!

Frederick was abruptly snapped out of his fevered reverie by a soft voice.

"Such a messy boy...  Well little Freddy, I can see you are enjoying yourself.  How have you liked your birthday present so far?"

He reflexively tightened his grip on Mr. Patch while rummaging in his satchel for one of his heavier shivs.  That voice...

"How quaint.  No, no, don't bother.  You couldn't harm me even if you knew what or where I was.  I've been watching you, Frederick, and I'm very pleased with your progress.  Do you know how much suffering you have caused these past decades?  I have witnessed it all and, I can assure you, it was sublime.  Pure ambrosia.  I really admired your creativity in particular."

Frederick's stomach turned.  He'd been waiting for this moment almost his entire life and he wasn't prepared!  No time to plan!  This creature still held all the cards!

"Have you come to gloat?" the boy asked.  "I do not understand what more you expect from me, miserable shade, but you can torment me no longer.  I have turned this situation to my advantage at long last.  I am no longer the child you chose to torture.  One hundred years have changed me.  You hold no power here.  Leave me now; you have had your amusement."

On the other side of the river, unseen by the rabid child, an emaciated, elderly troll sadly shook his head.  This one had the tinge of glamour about him but it had been buried by banality.  He watched the child screaming at something only he could see.  For such a sharp mind to be reduced to shouting meaningless syllables into the night.  Maybe society would be better for the loss of this one.

"Ah, hark at him!" the voice laughed, "Such a brave, brave boy!  To think, you still believe you can make demands of an entity such as I.  That is quite delightful!  I expected nothing less of Frederick, the schoolboy terror who imagines himself a god!"

Despite his fear, Frederick could feel the red mists beginning to descend.  What right had it to speak down to him?!

The voice laughed, softly.  "Do you know what makes it all the sweeter?  Would you like to take a guess, little Freddy?  Go on, guess.  But you have to promise me that you won't get cross when you find out..."

Mr. Patch twitched.  His head turned to look over his moth-eaten shoulder.

"You owe all your new found power to me."

Frederick lost his composure.  He screamed, threw the bear to the ground.  It stood, looking directly at his owner.

"Oh, my poor, lost little Freddy.  It's scary, isn't it?  Don't despair, old friend, for I intend to make amends!  I can make you one last offer, dearest Frederick.  Think of it as thanks!  Thanks for the years of careful ownership and tender, loving care.  A binary choice.  No more tricks, I know you hate tricks, but a simple, branching path that you will commit to for the rest of your life.  Are you ready?"

Frederick, now retching with fear and disgust, did not answer.

"Two paths.  I restore what you gave of your own free will.  You choose your predetermined destiny and cast out the last shred of Frederick Connor.  No peaceful coexistence, your human self will die and become something much greater.  I will continue to loan you but a fraction of my strength and in doing so, you will retain your unnatural youth.  You will, provided you don't make any foolish mistakes, live at least one full millenium.  Not immortal, goodness no, but prolonged.  You will be able to continue to pursue your boundless, soulless quest for knowledge, learning but never experiencing.  I will spend the rest of your life within your bear and if you ever let it out of your grasp, I will punish you terribly."

Sweating bullets, Frederick managed to croak: "Or...?"

"You discard me.  Kill Persistence Clearwater, the man you forgot before you ever came to know him.  Symbolically cast out the last remaining fragment of innocence you have, finally complete our original contract and live as a human.  Commit me to Mother Thames and the curse is lifted."

Freddy's frenzied screaming echoed down the river.  The Sluagh once known as Persistence Clearwater, still unborn thanks to Habibi's magic, died.  Overwhelmed by denial, Persistence passed as he would have lived, quietly, unnoticed and alone.  He would not be missed.

With barely a second thought, Frederick, insensible with fear and grief, ran at the toy and aimed a kick squarely at its head.  It tumbled slowly through the air and landed with a faint splash.  He watched it as it gently bobbed along, bumping into stones and accumulated rubbish.  He watched it until it was well out of sight, for well over an hour in case, against all odds, it swam back.

But no.  It was gone without ceremony or acknowledgement.  He sat and carefully watched the water for a while until the sun began to rise, a new day dawning on him.  He clutched his foul little pouch of blades and tools to his chest as if it were the bear he'd lost.

The troll quietly left.  This one was beyond rescue.

By the end of the week, Freddy had the body of a late teen.  His fey self now stripped from him, his endless springtime was fading into summer, not that he understood why.  He was thrilled at the prospect of a new life.  At long last, he would get what he so sorely deserved.
By the end of the following week, he had the body of a matured adult.  Thrilled further still he began to frequent the city's pubs and clubs, as if to prove he could.  Drunkards were easy marks for sticky fingers and sweet words.
By the end of the third, meagre savings and spoils of petty theft now spent on cheap alcohol, he was penniless.  He realised that his usual "lost little orphan" act was no longer a way to gain resources or sympathy.  He was also noticing a stiffness in his joints.

As he struggled from meal to meal, the horrible truth dawned.  At a rate of roughly one year per day, he was aging.  It didn't stop.  Within two months, he had the body of an elderly man, his body and mind finally united.  The cold wind hurt his joints and the hard ground, previously an annoyance, was sheer agony to sit and sleep upon.  This was the beast's final insult, he realised.  The end would come soon.

On the last day of Frederick Connor's life, he climbed carefully onto a bus.  He aimed to reach his old family home.  He didn't know why, exactly, but then he didn't know why he did a lot of things these days.  He was growing confused and scared.  Walking slowly along still familiar streets, his thoughts as slow as his aching legs, he reflected that he hadn't travelled to this part of town for over 80 years. His family would be long dead, of course... ah, but with old age came nostalgia.  To see the old place would bring comfort to a troubled, weary soul.  To his dismay, the entire street was now a building site intended for a large industrial park.  He walked to where he was certain his front door had been and closed his eyes.  He could still see them.  He reached his hand out and turned a doorknob, no longer there.  He saw mother, sewing at her little table in the kitchen.  She gave a cheerful wave.  Father was there in the living room, looking over the top of his paper, eyes full of pride.  The same as every other day he'd come home from school.  He was finally with his family again.  He wept.

His senses dulled by the weight of years and distracted by remorse, he never heard the footsteps behind him.  What he did notice, however, was the heavy impact of a walking stick on the back of his head.  An insistent pressure placed itself upon his back.  He fancied he could feel a warm, wet, metallic-smelling something pooling around him.

"Well, if it isn't little Freddy Connor..."


It had been quite easy for Gerald, the former tutor explained.  The rumours about a little boy who never grew up were well known throughout the criminal underworld, an underworld that Frederick had forced Gerald into by using him as an intermediary for his dirtier jobs.  A recent lack of regular communication from his tormentor, coupled with the increasingly strange nature of the few messages he had sent over the past year had emboldened his teacher into conducting a few investigations via a number of uniquely interested parties.  Frederick had made a number of powerful enemies, enemies who knew nothing of his identity but were all too keen to follow up on even a fanciful rumour, especially when it came from a source as credible as that sweet elderly chap who, tearfully, would regularly purchase controlled substances or order physical beatings on behalf of "that gentleman".  They'd taken to inviting him home for tea and a chat, in the end.  Even hardened crooks are occasionally capable of sympathy, especially when some of them had been taught by Gerald in their youth.  You rmemebered being taught by Gerald.  He was that one teacher, the one who really cared how you were feeling, no matter how bad a kid you were.  Gerald loved his students.

Frederick's movements had been followed, particularly in the recent weeks when he'd begun to allow himself to get careless in his frantic search for a cure for aging.  Even the public had taken notice; his face had been in newspapers and #YoungOldFred had been a social media sensation for a solid week.  And so, finally finding Frederick at his weakest, Gerald explained exactly what he thought of the man.  It didn't take long.  How he had endured years of fearful depression, his emotional distance driving out his wife and children, had to resign from a long term career and his place as a respected pillar of the community.  A life of pain, all at the hands of one sadistic little boy who just couldn't bring himself to forgive, learn acceptance or even to admit any kind of fault.

Gerald Turner.  The only mistake in a meticulously planned, century-old campaign of terror.

"And that", he concluded in a dreadfully level tone, "is why I've come for you today.  You're older than I am now, Freddy.  But then, you always have been, haven't you?  I still don't know what you are but I know this: you can't fight back in this sorry state.  We're equals now."

This last remark lead to spluttered, furious cursing as Frederick, now insulted, attempted to fight back.  He achieved nothing.

"Oh for God's sake, show some grace.  It's over, Frederick.  It's finally time a silly little boy learnt his lesson."

Frederick screamed in impotent rage with lungs that weren't up to the task.  He wheezed, struggled, spat, cried, pounded his fists.  His tantrum was all for nothing.  His now 100 year old frame could barely support him.  It certainly couldn't help him as Gerald, face set with solemn determination, brought around his other hand to swing a slender iron pole into his knees.

Frederick was left alone for days.  Writhing in pain, weak and unable to move, his soft cries for help would never be heard..  Gerald's contacts saw to that, much as they saw that any evidence was removed swiftly and professionally.  Eventually the body was found, an inquiry was launched but quickly resolved.  A old man, a possible victim of dementia, had wandered off his normal route and had simply slipped and fallen heavily in a remote part of the city.  Already malnourished, he had wasted away.

Elsewhere, a bear floats out to sea.  It, like its owner, will forever remain lost.
I can still tend the rabbits, George?


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Re: Paradise lost
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2018, 11:09:22 PM »
-London, December 2106, an unmarked warehouse on the South bank of the Thames-

Peter Clearview was a pharmacist, in the politest terms.  He made pharmaceuticals which he sold on to trusted distributors who passed them on to their intended recpients.  All this was done without prescription and without tax paid.  Peter mostly made things which wouldn't be noticed easily, wouldn't leave a notable heat signature, had an easily suppressed smell.  He told himself that by not selling directly, he could not be blamed for the consequences, for the lives he ruined.  To further ease his wear conscience, he tended to keep his prices low.  In truth, he was barely breaking even and even then only because he paid no rent on the property he worked and lived in.  But then, on the South side people asked few questions and seldom got answers.  This was where the crimes were committed, acts of terror plotted, secret meetings held away from the eyes of the now-fearful law.

Peter was 35, tall, thin, generally appeared underfed.  He did forget to eat, on occasion.  Black hair, black clothing and sunglasses worn at all times gave him an almost vampiric look, improving his ability to avoid attention in the late hours during which he worked.

One day, a person knocked at his door.  Reflexes kicked in, he grabbed a knife before he answered.  Trouble was infrequent but not unknown.  A man, bald but with a beard you could lose small animals in, clearly in at least his 80s.  He begged a cup of tea and brief shelter from the cruel winds.  Despite his better judgement, Peter allowed him entry before, a moment too late, the critical question struck him.

"How the Hell did you know this unit was occupied?"

The man turned with a glint in his eye.  He threw off his tattered sweatshirt and tracksuit trousers revealing grand clothing, vivid colours and a suggestion of tiny bells.  A harlequin in the guise of a beggar.

"You can't hide anything from the eyes of Tim the Sly, young lad.  You're destined for something better than all this cooking you've been up to.  Sit yourself down, I'll pour you something to drink.  You're going to bloody need it."

Peter listened.  For hours he was told of his true self, his sluagh nature, but that he also had a bigger role to play than most.  He was the most recent incarnation of Persistence Clearwater, a slaugh who had been present for the most important moments of London's history and, if he played his cards right, could witness dozens more.  He was a actor on the world stage with a tremendous role to play.  Peter, now Persistence, realised that his willingness to push drugs upon others, practically at cost, was due to his affiliation with the unseelie court.  That he drew strength from the fevered nightmares and crippling, lasting addiction that he had forced upon others without ever even meeting them.

"So in short, lad, you're a nasty piece of work who's come from a long line of bastardly little shits.  But, as a member of the unseelie court m'self, I'm proud to tell you that you're one of our bastards and this is your formal awakening.  Welcome to the club."

That last line bothered Persistence.  A long line?  He grew increasingly obsessed with the idea.  Were there truly other Clearwaters in his past who'd achieved great feats of infamy?  He began to research local history, devouring book after book.  The acquisition of knowledge, empty, cold and clinical knowledge, felt natural to him in a way he'd never known.  He became friendly with a local second hand bookshop owner, old Mr. Draco Oleander.  In return for covering a few lunch hours here and there, Persistence was allowed to use his shop as a library and never paid a penny.  It helped that he'd learned that Oleander was a Pooka, of course.  One day the old snake (literally) had a wide grin on his unnervingly hairless face.

"Got something special here for you, Percy."

"I've asked you not to call me that.  Every day for two years, literally, I've been keeping track.  Are you going to tell me or am I going to have to stroke your ego to climax?"

"There's no need to get crude, Percy."  Said the man with a snigger, "Just have a look at this."

He threw a small book over the counter.  It was mouldy, slightly burned, torn in dozens of places.

"'Educated Edward's  Encyclopedia for Enquiring Young Minds: Adventurer's Pocket Edition'.  Draco, you're going to have to try harder than this to impress me.  This isn't history, this is outdated knowledge for infants.  Have you been rummaging through the bins behind Oxfam again or what?"

"Just read it, smart arse.  You'll thank me for it."

And so Persistence did.  And so it began:
My name is Freddy Connor.  I am 18.  I am from Horsell near London.  If you find this book, that means something horrible has happened to me.  I have been afflicted with a horrible curse and, unlikely as it may be, am forced to live in the form of a prepubescent child.  Through these words, I hope to convey what I did with my life and, God willing, how I came to cure this fearful malady.

Persistence read it without pause for hours.  Every detail, every deed all laid out.  It reeked of glamour, the negative emotion it emitted was almost a solid force, and yet from the moment of this terrible man's awakening, every act had been in defiance of his true self.  Resentment, tears, tantrums and all because, it would seem, he'd been told the truth too late, hadn't known how to cope with what was his gift and birthright.  But why?  Why had he never been told of his fey heritage?

A thought hit Persistence.  Maybe influenced by the dark glamour of the diary, maybe simple inspiration but the idea hit him so hard that he dropped the book to the floor and fled the shop.

The next few weeks were frustrating.  Persistence sought out fey bars, coffee shops, art galleries.  Places where the newly born could be found.  He needed just the right one, just the right time in their life, just the right personality.  After an age, she came.  A gorgeous creature, dreadlocked hair pulled back to just below her caramel-coloured shoulders, not a misplaced pound on her frame, the elegant bearing of a dancer but with a keen look about her that suggested a deep underlying intelligence.  Most importantly, she radiated.  She radiated glamour, authority, confident and calm assurance that she belonged in this place, that these were her people.  She sat at a table, alone, and ordered a small white wine.  Persistence walked over, introduced himself as a local artist who owned his own studio on the south side.  She, slightly attracted to his dark and brooding aesthetic, introduced herself as Leticia Chambers (though she preferred to go by Ellie).  She'd recently been told of her sidhe self and was keen to immerse in the diversity of this new world.  Persistence offered to show her everything he'd learned about it.

Their relationship took off at a tremendous pace.  Always emotional, never physical, their passion was their shared knowledge and love of the arts.  Persistence didn't care about art one jot but he knew enough to fake his way through a conversation.  But then, he didn't care one jot about Ellie, either.

As the months went by, they rented a small apartment together.  Filled it with mementoes of their relationship, photos, small keepsakes.  Evenings were for deep conversation.  One night, Persistence brought around the topic of trods.

"Well yes, I suppose being a sidhe I do know the way of travelling them and certain others in my social circle know of the opening of them.  What are you looking for?"

"Well... it's... it's about him."

This was going to be one of those nights.  Persistence was always quietest when talking about Freddy.  It seemed to Ellie like he regarded the elderly child like a dead brother, a weight to bear that nobody could help to relieve.  She worried about him, desperately wanted to help but how?  Unless...

"Are you trying to see him?"

"Ellie, I need closure.  His diary ends.  It just ends with nothing.  He got so angry and so lost and then it ended.  I need to know how he died, I need to see, I need to tell him that I'm sorry for everything that he blamed his people for.  I need to be there for him, right at the end.  You're the only person who can help me, Ellie, because you're the only one who'd listen."

"Look... I'm not saying that I won't.  You know I'd do anything I could to help you.  It's just wrong, that's all.  You mustn't meddle with the past.  So much could happen.  Things that could never be undone."

"Then let me SEE!  I won't speak, I won't act, I'll watch from a distance, a wraith in the shadows.  He... he won't have died alone, then..."

Persistence sobbed.  He sobbed for hours, beyond consolation.  It was an act.  Ellie eventually quietly left the room, made a few calls.  She made arrangements, made deals, promised things she didn't have.

"Tuesday next.  Horsell Common.  There's a compatible trod nearby.  We'll go to 2018, to the Thames, try to trace his steps."

It was a clear night and warm.  Midsummer.  In the way that her friends had taught her, Ellie performed the ritual.  Her movements were poetry.  The way was opened, a silvery path into nowhere in particular.  Persistence's pulse quickened.  They walked through, arm in arm, and in an instant there they were.

-London, Beltane 2018, the underside of London Bridge-
In the distance, they heard a shrieking voice cursing the night, cursing everybody it knew, sobbing and cackling, incoherent and furious.  A small boy, barely visible in the gloom, rolled on the ground and pounded the stone flags with feet and fists.  This was Freddy.

"Oh Persistence.  My God.  I'm so sorry..."

"Not yet, my love.  You will be soon enough."

Persistence pressed the concealed blade to the base of her neck.

"No sudden movements now or I promise you, your next few days as a paralysed husk of your former self will be truly foul."

"Persistence, I don't understand, what are you saying?"

"1920.  July 10th.  You will take me to Horsell immediately.  Any action outside of those specifically instructed will be punished."

Now crying, she nodded.  The lack of physical intimacy, the oddly cold demeanour, it made sense.  He'd been using her to get to him.  To get to his former self.  For what she didn't know but as instructed, she forced a way, she felt the tearing through herself as she felt the door being opened to a location never intended.  This way was wrong, it was dangerous but it could work.

-Horsell, July 10th, 1920-
Ellie sagged.  The trip had taken a severe toll on her and she doubted she'd survive another.  Persistence pushed her roughly to the ground and began to climb the tree behind the small house they'd arrived behind.  At that moment, she knew.  Persistence was going to bring about his own chrysalis.

"Little Freddy?  Freddy my love, wake up..."

She was physically ill.  Disgusted and terrified by what she was witnessing.  This was perverse!  He wasn't going to teach the boy to be fey, he was going to teach him that his fey self was an occult curse and then abandon him!  He was going to force a lifetime of bitter resentment by instilling doubt and entitlement!

Persistence came down, deed done.  He forced her, one more time, to open a trod to home.  She was right, she wasn't able to survive another trip and he knew it as well as she.  Her body was disposed of.  He'd known that others in the fey community would have considered teaching the child of his heritage but then, this child had a reputation.  The fey knew him better than his teachers.  Don't trust this one, they'd say.  This one scratches and bites.  This one takes things too far.  It keeps secrets as ammunition, not out of interest.  It won't share, it won't integrate, it worships banality.  Better to let it fade away, hope its next incarnation is more pleasant.

-London, December 2106.  A city centre apartment-
Persistence sat in his apartment, surrounded by false memories, by lies and promises never kept.  He laughed.  She'd been so trusting.  As he smiled, he let the glamour wash over him.  Not only had he ruined his past life, through the actions of the misanthropic infant he took on the anguish of all the others that Freddy had hurt.  He relished that the child had all the clues, had even been shown the answer to the question that had haunted him all those 108 years but wouldn't let himself see the truth.  As the full force of all the mirth, the pain, the sheer power of emotion, as the consequences of his deed hit him in a cataclysmic wave of glamour, his last thought before his mind broke was of Ellie's body.  For her he still felt nothing.
I can still tend the rabbits, George?


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Re: Paradise lost
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2018, 11:37:16 AM »
Jesus. That was bleak.

But absolutely superb, you twisted genius.


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Re: Paradise lost
« Reply #3 on: August 09, 2018, 09:38:16 AM »
There was no way he was getting a happy ending.  It feels better this way.
I can still tend the rabbits, George?