Still in Central Park, the Devil looked around at the people passing him. He was thinking, (Binaries.) He closed his eyes and smiled. Once again he was reminded of Heaven’s power.
He stared up at the sky.
(You know them.)
(But you can’t read my mind. And you can’t see my cult.)
Ashley shuffled along, dragging his bag, which careered side to side. As he walked, barely looking at his route, he tried to erase the memory of the shouting, bullying suited man. He shook his head several times, trying to dislodge the feelings from his head. His bag almost overturned and he glanced at it, impatiently jerking it back onto both its wheels.
Sometimes, he’d look up, gazing round at his surroundings as he confirmed his direction.
(No longer in the park) he sadly thought.
Soon, he was walking down an alleyway and went to a large, metal, dented door. He paused and then he struggled to push on it. With a loud creek, it opened and steam with the smell of old grease greeted him. He heard a loud, gruff voice. “You’re late.”
Ashley left his bag near the door inside and looked over at the red-faced chef. As he closed the door, his head nodded apologetically, “I- I- I’m sorry. It’s just that-”
“Whatever. Clean, now.” He indicated several encrusted pans. Ashley sighed. Most crockery and cutlery he put in that machine thing. He didn’t know exactly how it worked except that it was some kind of giant dishwasher. The chef wouldn’t entrust the washing of his precious pans to any machine so Ashley had to wash them by hand.
Dalton uncertainly walked along the street from the subway alongside the two people who helped him. He looked at the high buildings around them. He could barely believe he was back on Earth.
The woman asked his name. He immediately replied, “‘Red’ Dalton - well, that’s what people call me.” Then he started to think he shouldn’t have used his previous name but then-
He touched his fingers to his head. (My body - my previous body - must be buried somewhere.) He shook his head, dismissing his thoughts.
He looked at the woman.
She smiled at him, replying, “Well, my name’s Anna, Anna White. My friend’s Bill, Bill Couche.”
Bill was waving for a taxi. One stopped and the driver wound down his car window. He talked to this driver and then smiled. Bill looked over to beckon Dalton and Anna over. He spoke, “This taxi will take us where we need to go.”
So they all climbed in and the taxi started moving.
Dalton was looking out the side window he was by. He whispered, “I never thought I’d see this again.”
Anna turned to him, “Sorry?”
Dalton licked his lips as he turned to her. He didn’t realise he’d spoken those words rather than just thinking them. “I was just- nothing, nothing. I- I- I wasn’t saying anything,” He paused, “major.”
Anna smiled. “Well, don’t worry. Your life will change,” She leant slightly towards him, “for the good. I only started doing this job recently. Bill’s been doing it for years.’
Dalton frowned. “You mean - helping people,” He breathed deeply, “escape? Like- like me?”
“Well,” Anna delayed her reply, “Bill understands more about the kind of problems you’ve had.” She paused and looked at Bill, hoping he would begin speaking.
Bill replied hesitantly. “Well, we’re employed to help homeless people and those who’ve had,” He paused trying to think of the right words, “hard times. I know of someone who might be able help you.”
Dalton smiled and nodded not quite understanding but it didn’t matter. He turned to the taxi window and looked up at the sky, whispering, “Thank you.”
Now, Lila stood across the street as she watched Joe Chalmers walk up the building steps to its entrance. He strode with authority and people leaving the office block deferred to him as he passed.
She waited a few moments, adjusting the front of her low-cut dress. She jogged across the road and entered the building. Lila paused, scanning the lobby before approaching the security desk, glancing at the lifts behind him. She smiled alluringly at the guard on duty. He smiled in return, mildly attracted to her.
She flashed her eyes excitedly. “That was him wasn’t it?”
The guard queried, “Who? You mean the guy who’s just gone in? Mr Chalmers?”
Now she knew his surname. She turned to the lifts and looked up at their dials. She spoke again, “I saw him recently, talking to a friend of mine in a nightclub. ‘Mike’ she said to him-”
The guard frowned, “‘Mike’ you said? I’m sorry but Mr Chalmers’ first name is Joe. You must have the wrong man.”
Now, she knew his complete name. She turned, nearing the desk, and smiled winningly at the guard. “I must have misheard. Clubs can be noisy after all.”
He nodded, understanding. “That’s very likely, miss.” His eyes widened in lust as she sensuously caressed the edge of the desk in front of him and then leant on it. He leaned forward slightly, whispering, ‘If you want my advice, watch out for him. He’s a bit of a ladies man.’ He briefly glanced down at the front of her dress as he continued, whispering, “I- I might not be an important divorce lawyer from,” He looked mockingly impressed as he spoke, “‘Amos and Vernon’,” He leant forward conspiratorially, “but I do know this really good Italian restaurant.” He trailed off, looking up at her sheepishly. “If you’re interested?”
Now she knew his job, the company he worked for and one of his weaknesses. She smiled seductively. “That restaurant would be‑?” She stood up sharply, her face becoming suddenly serious. “What time is it?”
The guard, startled, glanced down at his wristwatch. “Erm, nearly two.” He looked up. “Why? What’s-”
But Lila was rushing to the entrance. As she reached the doors, she twisted slightly. “I’m late. My boss’ll kill me. Can we speak again soon?”
The security man answered quickly, “Of- Of course; what’s your-” but she was gone. He finished his sentence subdued, “name?”
Joe sat behind an imposing mahogany desk. He was upstairs in his office, looking at the long windows that curved across two walls, so the room was illuminated with sunlight. He wore an earpiece and rocked side to side on his leather armchair as he spoke, “What was the computer program she was using to communicate online with this,” He paused, “individual?”
A client, Ian Morrison, was speaking to him via his phone. Joe leaned forward to this desk and wrote notes on the pad in front of him as he replied, “OK. I- I don’t personally know about that program.” He frowned a little as he asked, “But you say that they send each other online messages while,” He hesitated, “interacting via their cartoon avatars?” He sighed. “Oh- intimately you say.” Again he listened to a reply. “OK, so you didn’t know that for absolute certain, but her body language made you assume,” He paused while he listened, “Made you quite convinced.”
There was an extensive and impassioned response. Joe wrote down more details. “No, I understand you’re upset. It must have been quite a shock to find this program’s storage of some of their conversations on your computer.”
His client spoke sternly. Joe responded, “Indeed, but I think-’ He was interrupted but replied, “I understand that but we need an outside group of experts to analyse your computer so backup everything and-” Joe sighed as once again his client interposed. “I do get that Ian, but we’re not searching for things you have on the PC. It’s your wife’s – your ex-wife’s - communications that we’re interested in.” Joe smiled as his client spoke more calmly. He spoke, ‘OK, no probs. Look, I’ll get in touch with this computer company we work with. They’re very good and safe. I’ll get them to call you to get the computer. We’ll get this sorted – to be more in control.” He paused again, listening. “Yeah, that could be wise.”
He stopped as Ian Morrison spoke again. Joe nodded. “Exactly. So I’ll phone you first before they come over. Sorry,” Joe smiled, “before they visit you I mean. And we’ll take it from there. OK?” Ian responded more calmly and Joe answered, “OK. Good. Goodbye.” He leaned forward to his phone on the desk and ended the call. Joe sat back and whispered, “Asshole.”
He was about to make another call when his secretary walked in. She smiled at him. “Your coffee and donuts, sir.”
Dalton started as Anna touched his shoulder. “We’re here.” she said. He looked around. Their taxi had stopped somewhere in the city he didn’t know. He asked himself. (Queens?)
Dalton shuffled along the seat to the open door while Bill stood by the front taxi window paying the driver. As he stood up from the car, Dalton looked around at the neighbourhood they were now in. It was a fairly ordinary row of townhouses.
Anna pointed to one house. She spoke gently. “This door – the one that’s blue - leads to a very special man we’d like you to meet.”
Dalton shook his head in alarm. “A man- a man- what kind of man? Who are you taking me to? The Devil - is the Devil here? I saw him coming up here. I saw him.”
Anna frowned. “No, no, no Devil I assure you. He’s not here.”
Dalton wasn’t convinced. “He’s somewhere near here.” He backed away. “I saw him. I followed him.” Panicky, he looked around.
Bill was nearing them. He looked at Anna. “Why don’t I get Fred out here?” He looked at Dalton who was still moving away and spoke to him. “You don’t have to go in there. Fred can come out to us.”
Dalton stopped moving. “Out here?”
Bill nodded. “Yes; he can come out to talk with you. Just sit on those other steps you're standing by and I’ll go and get him.”
Dalton looked at the steps Bill referred to. He slowly walked to them. “OK, I’ll sit here. He and me can talk.”
In a diner a few miles away, the waitresses studied him as they stood behind the bar. Or at least they thought the person was male. Even his voice was on that cusp of being male or female. He just sat there for hours at the window table musing, watching the passers-by and glancing at some papers he held; never taking off his sunglasses.
Oh, he paid for his things but-
The waitresses had tried not to stare but-
Those horrible scars and tattoos he had.
One of the waitresses had glanced at some of the sheets he was holding as she served him coffee. She was puzzled by them-
And a little shocked.
She walked back to the other waitresses and leaned on the bar. They looked at her expectantly as she spoke, “Well. The papers this person’s reading,” She momentarily glanced back at the customer, “One has, like, a drawing of the Devil, or something, dressed sortov like a car salesman kind of thing. You know?” She looked at each of the other women. “Checked jacket and the haircut? Know what I mean? And a woman was standing next him and, of course, she had big tits-”
Another waitress interrupted, “Ah, right, so he’s definitely a guy then.”
The first waitress frowned at her. “As I was saying.”
“Oh, so-rry.” the other woman answered quietly but sarcastically.
“Anyway.” She paused, gathering her thoughts. “It was weird. I- I saw on the sheet some name like, like,” She frowned. “Levay or something.”
She glanced behind, feeling a little afraid of this stranger.
This stranger glanced at the muttering waitresses and smiled. (Of course they’re wondering about me.)
(I know what I am. I am an apostle. I have been accepted by the Devil’s Cleric.)
It’s hard to follow the Cleric’s teachings. The mental anguish of being aware of the power of societies’ binaries, but to resist them. Constant practice. Sitting in an anonymous diner surrounded by ‘conventionals’. Surrounded by binaries. This was worse than the pain of the scarrings that ensured that a true disciple’s body was never symmetrical.
The disciple looked down at the poster, thinking.
(LeVay’s Church of Satan never had it quite right.)
The cartoon images of big breasted women. The posed photographs of naked female flesh celebrating Satanism.
(They failed to learn. Satanism merely reinforced the beliefs of the ‘conventionals’.)
The Cleric had shown the disciples the Truth and why the Cleric was cast out of the Church of Satan.
The Cleric was an inspiration to the disciples. Born intersexual. Born with heterochromic eyes. Born intelligent. Born different.
The Cleric’s parents defined their child as a ‘boy’. The Cleric knew that this was wrong. “He” fiercely resisted any operation to normalise when their ‘boy’ began to grow breasts during puberty.
Their child ran away.
Eventually home became a strange circus, which was a mingling of misfits who were outcasts from ‘normal’ society. The Cleric learnt to cherish and own the harsh labels by ‘conventionals’. They learnt to embrace being called ‘it’. Better than being a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. They came to refer to each other as ‘I’s. “Speak to that ‘I’ over there.” they would say.
The disciple stood up, dropping a few dollar bills on the table, proudly thinking, (I am an ‘it’. I am an ‘I’. I am not part of the binaries.) The ‘I’ took up ‘it’s bag and walked out of the diner.
The Cleric’s devoted follower paused outside the diner and checked inside the bag. The ‘Hot Stuff’ super glue and ‘NCF accelerator’ were still in the bag, covered in bubble wrap so only suggestions of their colours could be seen. Knowing how important they could be made the ‘I’ even more paranoid. ‘it’s stomach twinged nervously as the ‘I’ walked away towards the Cleric’s den.
Eventually ‘it’ got to the house that was the Cleric’s. The house was dark, dilapidated and completely unlike others remaining in the neighbourhood - those that had not already been demolished on the instructions of the people who were secretly the Devil’s devoted servants.
The neighbours that lived nearby stayed clear of the Cleric’s place and any who entered.
The ‘I’ did not need to open the front door. It was opened and another disciple stood at the entrance. “Lapidary, the Cleric knew you were coming.” The disciple bowed respectfully.
The ‘I’ nodded, unquestioningly accepting both the Cleric’s precognition and the given title – ‘it’s name - Lapidary. ‘it’ was a lapidary – a gemcutter. ‘it’s sole purpose was to shape gemstones. ‘it’s exclusive existence was to cut and shape the most important gemstone of all.
The Devil strolled over Central Park’s Bow Bridge, stopping to look across the Lake, ironically just where Ashley had stood earlier. Fallax and Leah followed just behind him. Atrox walked quietly behind. Leah uncertainly glanced back at him as the Devil leaned on the bridge railing, stroking its smooth surface as he thought. He then looked along the bridge at the trees and dense bushes on the other side and decisively continued walking to it. The Devil’s companions meekly went after him.
“Apparently, they call this woodland area the Ramble.” The Devil turned to his assistants and stopped as he watched a squirrel scurry along the rock near him and disappeared behind a tree. He smiled. The animal reminded the Devil of how this seemingly natural forest contrasted with the skyscrapers surrounding Manhattan’s Central Park. He spoke without looking at his subordinates. “I want you two to follow Ashley. See his home and find out about the neighbourhood where he lives. Do whatever you need to.” He sharply turned to Leah and Fallax. They alertly stared at him. He then turned his head, looking for the squirrel before adding, “But remember - demons can’t hurt innocents. So be careful.”
They both nodded and backed away carefully, passing Atrox who stood motionless and focused on the Devil. They passed him warily. Atrox didn’t seem to register their departure. The Devil turned to him. “Come.” he ordered and turned. He paused for a moment. “Now they’re out of the way, we can meet my followers.” Atrox followed the Devil as he strode deeper into the Ramble. He didn’t get confused or lost.
Eventually they came out at a car park by a transverse road that crossed Central Park. The Devil spoke confidently, “This is 79th street.” He turned to his companion. “Hail a taxi for me.”
Atrox nodded and scanned the passing traffic. He calmly stepped into the road in front of an approaching taxi. Its tyres squealed as the cab skidded to a halt. The driver sat panting as he stared at Atrox who calmly stood in the middle of the road. He was then distracted as the Devil climbed into rear of the cab. He then looked forward but Atrox had gone. The driver uttered, “What the fuck-” but then heard the other rear door opening and twisted round to see Atrox climbing in. He began to speak, “Now, look, I don’t want no trouble-”
“Good,” interrupted the Devil who added, “because neither do we.” He leaned forward, speaking to the driver, “I’d get moving. There are several cars waiting behind us.” Hurriedly, the taxi driver began driving.
As the Devil gave instructions to the driver Atrox sat motionless, his face blank. The driver loudly replied, “You know it’s gonna cost to go to South Bronx.” He paused before adding, “and that part of the Bronx’s crappy.”
The Devil took out his wallet and pushed several bills through the opening in the driver’s perspex shield. “Keep the change.”
As he drove, the driver glanced at the money lying next him and nodded. “You wanna go there, I’ll take ya.” He spoke more loudly, “Your buddy could have got himself killed back there, standing like that in the middle of the road.”
The Devil glanced out of a side window. “No, he wouldn’t.” The driver frowned but didn’t answer.
The drive was lengthy but eventually they arrived at their destination. It was an unattractive area. Many of the homes in the area had been demolished. As the car stopped by the house, the driver turned, “Are you sure you want to get out here? You’ll have trouble gettin’ a cab back.” He looked down at the notes the Devil had left. “I can stay here if you want.”
The Devil shook his head. The driver sighed deeply and turned to look ahead. “OK. Your choice.”
As his passengers climbed out, the Devil simply responded, “Indeed it is.”
As he closed the car door the taxi quickly drove off. The Devil watched the retreating cab before turning to the building. Paintwork was faded and peeling or had fallen off with parts of the wood surfaces. The wood remaining looked warped and dirty. The Devil smiled and walked to the front door.
He stood at the entrance and shortly a shuffling could be heard. The door noisily swung open revealing a short, one-eyed person, who was opening it with difficulty. In the hallway was the Cleric, seemingly standing calmly and measured but the Devil could hear his follower’s racing heart as he stepped in. Atrox followed quietly and the door person cautiously watched him pass before closing the door behind him.
The Cleric led the Devil into the front living room; a bare place with patches of wallpaper clinging to slats of old wood. The carpet was worn, uneven, and too small for the room. However, four clean and well‑cared for leather armchairs were arranged, contradicting the derelict and dishevelled appearance of the house. Without prompting, the Devil sat in the furthest one from the doorway and the Cleric sat in the chair next to him. Atrox wandered over and stood behind the Devil.
The Cleric looked up at Atrox. “I’ve never seen one like him.”
The Devil didn’t look behind but merely replied, “You won’t. Demons are usually powered by the human soul inside them but this one,” He casually waved an arm at Atrox. “This one took a bit of practice.” He turned to look up at Atrox who didn’t stir. “He’s powered by me.” He turned back to the Cleric. “Or at least part of me.” He smiled.
The Cleric politely smiled back and then raised ‘it’s head a little. The small person the Devil saw at the door staggered in. The Cleric didn’t look but instead asked the Devil, “Would you like a drink - a herbal tea perhaps? My companion here, Attendant, is very good at preparing them.”
The Devil nodded. He didn’t need to ask what teas were available. “Lemon and Ginger.”
The Cleric nodded. As Attendant turned to leave, the Cleric raised ‘it’s head a little. The companion paused and nodded whispering, “Camomile.” to ‘itself’ as the ‘I’ left the room.
The Devil watched the servant leave. “I noticed your telepathic connections with that one. I take it you have similar links with other members of your sect?”
“Yes I do but only when they’re physically very close. So I can detect a member coming to the front door but not very much further than that.”
The Devil glanced over his shoulder at Atrox and held out his hand. Atrox immediately reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a fist sized rectangular brass box, which he placed into the Devil’s open hand. The Devil then turned and offered it to the Cleric. ‘It’ took the box and as the Cleric carefully opened it, ‘it’s eyes widened. Inside were six raw, unshaped crystals. ‘It’ looked up at the Devil in awe. “Are these- are these- are these from-” The Cleric gazed at the crystals. ‘It’ looked up again.
The Devil smiled. “Yes, fragments from my throne.”
Gazing at their changing colours, the Cleric spoke quietly, “Tura Mali.”
“Indeed. Yes, tourmaline.” He leaned forward. “To provide stability and enhance my willpower.” He looked severely at the Cleric. “You know how precious they are.” He paused, gazing studying his devotee, then pointed at the crystals. “The redder one I want you to shape for my ring. The others put at the four corners of this house and one up in the attic. They will give you protection but also enhance your telepathic abilities. So you can communicate with me when the ring’s ready.”
The Cleric scrutinised the Devil’s fingers as he slipped off a ring and passed it across.
The Devil sat back as the Cleric respectfully held it. “Make the ring to the size of that one and make the tourmaline stone itself about my middle finger’s width.”
The Cleric blinked rapidly and hesitantly. “I have an expert gem cutter.”
At that point Attendant came in with a tray of the drinks and offered one to the Devil. He smiled at the Cleric as he took the tea and sipped it carefully. As he put it down from his mouth he calmly spoke, “Of course you do.”
The Cleric then took the camomile tea and dismissed Attendant with an impatient wave of the hand. The ‘I’ then slightly tilted ‘its’ head, summoning someone again. After a short while a person rushed in, who, upon seeing the Devil, stopped sharply and bowed ‘its’ head. The
Cleric indicated the individual with a nonchalant wave of the hand. “This is Lapidary, the gem cutter.” The box and the ring were passed across.
Lapidary held them reverentially and whispered as ‘it’ looked at them, “To actually hold them. To be so honoured.”
The Cleric looked at the gemcutter and spoke, “Use the redder taura mali for the ring. The other pieces place at the four corners of this house and up in the attic. Those five don’t need to be cut.”
Lapidary nodded and looked at both the Devil and the Cleric. “I will prepare the ring perfectly.” The gemcutter looked down.
“Then go and get on with it.”
“Yes, my Cleric.” and to the Devil, “My Lord.” Lapidary backed out of the room and then rushed away.
The Devil gently took another sip before continuing, speaking calmly to the Cleric as he looked at the door, “You know, of course, that if your gemcutter makes any mistake at all I’d have no hesitation in having you killed.” He calmly took a small sip of his tea before quietly adding, “Quite inventively,” He looked at the Cleric and smiled, “and painfully.” He paused, looking thoughtful and then refocused. “Then, of course, your real problems would begin.”