Ayesha lit the black, scented candle, her hands shaking slightly as she did.
"By the rites of fire and Wormwood, I summon you unto us. Abhoth, bless us your humble servants with your presence."
Silence filled the room, the flame of the candle flickering slightly.
"It's not working." Emily hissed.
"Shut up!" Ayesha snapped.
The water in the bath began to ripple, faster and faster, draining clockwise. Without warning, a tentacle burst out of the drain, reaching out into the air.
"Mary, mother of God." Kerry whispered in fear.
"Bind unto us the man we seek. Bring him to us upon his hands and knees." Ayesha screeched. "Abhoth, give us this what we speak, I command you!"
The tentacle shattered the bath, dripping filth into the remaining water and then slowly it retracted. The flame of the candle went out and when the turned the light on once more, nothing was left but the bath's shattered, enamel shell.
"It is done." Ayesha smiled darkly. "Soon Abhoth will bring us that which we have prayed for."
Emily looked uncertainly at her friend and then slowly the two remaining girls agreed, voices hesitant and shaking.
"It is done."
WISDOM: MU: TF ISSUE #2
WRITTEN BY JACOB MILNESTEIN
Based on concepts and characters created by Warren Ellis
"It happened on the fourteenth day...something infinitely evil and slimy was pushing its way from inside me. I realised I had been wrong to think of the parasites as separate beings. They were one with IT. An immense jelly like octopus whose tentacles are separate form its body and come about like individuals..." - Colin Wilson The Mind Parasites
"(...And this being is none other than the ancient slug Abhoth the Dark, also known as Abhoth the Unclean)..." - William S. Burroughs, The Voracious Aliens
Pete Wisdom sat in the uncomfortable chair, fingers twitching and head throbbing. He turned the cigarette packet over in his hands. He could still taste the Scotch of the previous night burning at the back of his throat.
The walls were shades of beige and orange, oppressive sentinels of mediocre decorated only by the occasional memo from one teacher to another or the odd newspaper clipping concerning the relative victory of the school football or netball teams.
He had never liked school, especially not the dull eyed fashion zombies that walked the corridors, faces drawn in the same expression, uniforms of Adidas trousers and jackets that looked like they could keep even the fattest bastard afloat at sea.
They all seemed so dead inside, so devoid of meaning and that meant a lot coming from him, who, whilst attending school, had occupied the highly coveted position of prince of apathy.
But even he had been emotional about something, even the prince of apathy managed to give a toss about the things that mattered to him.
These kids were driven only by aggression. There wasn't a focus, just an animal drive to fight and fight and fuck and die. It was if the whole sodding generation had backslid down the evolutionary ladder.
He smiled to himself, remembering the time Tucker Swinburne and himself had smashed the shit out of the headmaster's new car and defecated through the broken glass and onto the leather upholstery. That had been a good laugh, seeing old Mister Coupland standing there, face red and veins bulging out of his head whilst both Swinburne and himself had sneered in the way London had taught them and fastened and unfastened the safety-pins that held their clothes together.
The door in the corner of the room opened and a familiar face, slightly older than when Wisdom had last seen, beamed at him from the sanctuary of the headmaster's office.
"Hello, Mister Wisdom, so glad you could make it."
Wisdom rose from the uncomfortable chair and returned the cigarette to his coat pocket.
"Morning, Mister Coupland." He uttered uncomfortably.
"Well don't just stand there, Wisdom, you look like a nervous student." He said, gesturing for him to step into his office.
"Funny that." Wisdom smirked and crossed the threshold.
Ayesha Swanson looked aimlessly out of the empty window, the sun touching it at a certain angle and blinding her to the outside world.
Just like education itself, she reflected. A system by which to blind you to the truths that inhabited the world outside. Effective as well.
The teacher's voice droned on and on.
Yeats and Keats and other poets ending in 'eats'.
Not effective enough.
In her mind she liked to imagine the English teacher, Mister Burroughs, his leathery old bastard's skin torn and gaping with false mouths, crimson seeping from within as he pleaded and pleaded and slowly she would raise the small, light metal of the handgun, her fingers would squeeze around the trigger and his head would erupt in a indelicate stain upon the blackboard.
"Miss Swanson, if you could please tear yourself away from whatever riveting exercise of the mind currently engages you."
She heard his voice but didn't register it at first. It was slow, so otherworldly, the words like a trail of slime stretched upon the fragile membrane of her consciousness.
The empty space that Johnny Baker had left was hardly noticeable. The chair remained, albeit not titled back on its metal legs, and the desk was the same, still wearing its scar of JB 15/3/99 with pride.
All was as it had been the previous Friday, except of course that Johnny Baker no longer sat in the chair. No, Johnny Baker sat in Heaven now, his rotting earthly vessel folded in upon itself and buried in the thick grass and loam at the end of the school football field.
Ayesha smiled as she remembered the way he had screamed in those final moments of ecstasy.
She was brought back to the dull, monochrome reality of the classroom with the slapping sound of old Burroughs' favourite plastic ruler shattering against the charred wood of her desk.
"Miss Swanson, see me after class!" The gargoyle shouted, face a ruddy red from too many late nights with the old boys from Cambridge. Red wine and a bleeding from the tight, leather skin of his arsehole. Oh yes, Mister Burroughs was one of the 'old boys' all right.
She looked up at him, smiling innocently.
"Yes, Mister Burroughs. Of course, Mister Burroughs." She said, her voice dangerously low.
The old gargoyle backed of a little, like a wounded dog sensing her animosity. He snorted once, pert nostrils flaring in the centre of his face and then turned back to his desk, voice droning on and on and on.
In her seat, Ayesha Swanson closed her eyes and dreamt of murder.
Wisdom leant out of the window, lit cigarette dangling from the corner of his mouth. On the school field, a class kicked a football unhappily through the churned grass as the rotund Welsh PE teacher bellowed insults in a manner that for all purposes and intent could have been German.
"You haven't changed a bit, have you, Peter?" Coupland reflected, nostrils objecting to the stench of Wisdom's cigarettes.
"Tried me best, sir." Wisdom responded venomously. He turned, leaning against the window frame and looking at the old bastard's withered vulture face. "Is there any reason for me actually being here or is this to be viewed as catching up on some old community service, then?"
Coupland looked decidedly uncomfortable.
"One of our students is missing." He finally admitted.
"Not a dinosaur then?" Wisdom smirked. "Did you ever see that flick? Lots of old women driving around with a sodding dinosaur skeleton on the back of this big bloody truck. Brilliant film."
"To involve the police in such a matter would be detrimental to the school's image. You can imagine the scandal if the papers got hold of a story like this." Coupland continued.
"Then why didn't you call Jeff Randall? I hear he specialises in this kind of bollocks."
"Because," Coupland said, a little sadly. "We didn't want someone who doesn't know the, ah, special attention we pay to students specialising in drama at this school."
"So you thought you'd bring back old bastard Pete Wisdom, everyone's favourite punching bag because, after all, no one else is low enough down the food chain to be ignored like I am." Wisdom spat back.
Coupland lowered his eyes.
"Something like that, yes."
Wisdom leant in closer, exhaling smoke through his nostrils.
"This is going to cost you a shitload of money." He snarled.
"The school is quite aware of that and prepared to pay you whatever sum you may chose." Coupland said, voice drawn and embarrassed.
"Good." Wisdom said straightening up. He took a final drag on his cigarette and tossed onto the old headmaster's desk where it smouldered between reviews the school production of Twelfth Night and the minutes from the previous PTA meeting. "I'll call you when I'm done."
Emily Singleton nervously cupped her hand around the cigarette and inhaled. She coughed quietly for a moment, smoke seeping through her nostrils making her look not entirely unlike a dragon.
First cigarette of the day, between English and RE and the taste rippling over her tongue and going down into her where it lingered about her insides, filling them with its own, personal government sanctioned death. Still, anything to make life more interesting - anything to make life shorter. She tugged at her blouse, undoing the top button to prevent choking and allowing a shade of the T-shirt slogan to at last become visible.
Carefully she peered over the top of the hedge to make sure no teachers were on their way to apprehend her. Her eyes drifted to the outside wall of the school and the phrase scrawled upon it;
'There's too much concrete for us to breathe, we are kept down because we hate.'
The sudden brush of a hand against her neck brought her reverie to an unscheduled end. She jumped, shivering at the contact with the other's flesh - just as she had done the night Johnny Baker had died.
"Jesus Christ, Emily," Ayesha snapped. "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"N-Nothing." Emily stammered, relived to see her classmate instead of whatever-it-was she originally had imagined.
A damp glistening caught her eye, a trail amongst the compost. It was a slug, a fat one at that, slithering its way from the compost and down onto the path below. She was barely able to conceal her sickness, bile and vomit almost spilling over from the pit of her insides and staining the compost a new shade of yellow.
"Will you be ready tonight?" Ayesha demanded, calling from a far off place. Emily allowed the cigarette to fall from her hand, grinding it out with the heel of her shoe.
"What for?" She asked.
A sudden slap across the back of her head alerted her to Ayesha's annoyance.
"For the fucking ceremony of course!" The other girl hissed. "What did you bloody think?"
"I-I don't know." Emily whispered. "Maybe we could go out, down Covent Garden perhaps? I mean we don't have to stay in every night do we?"
She looked pleadingly at her friend but there was no hint of mercy there. Slowly the other girl leant in closer and snatched a handful of her hair, yanking her closer till they were face to face.
"Abhoth demands his sacrifices, Emily and we're responsible for him." She whispered dangerously. "If you don't sort yourself out you may find yourself next on the menu." She yanked her hair once more, harder this time. "Understand?"
"I-I understand." Emily whimpered.
"Good." Ayesha smiled, her smug grin returning and she loosed her grip on the other's hair.
"I'll see you in Maths. Don't be late."
And with that she left, leaving Emily alone with only the compost, and its hideous, slithering guardians for company.
The sixth form common room stunk of hastily discarded cigarettes, the horrendous sound of some god awful chart record blaring from the speakers.
All eyes turned towards Wisdom, left hand in his jacket pocket and the other nursing a half-smoked cigarette. He motioned towards the tape recorder, screaming its mantra of one word repeated to infinitum and irritating, get stuck in your head for the next week and a half drum machine accompanied only by the same plinking of two keys on a sodding Casio over and over again.
'Christ,' he thought. 'Even the bloody New Romantics were easier on the ears than this.' A pause and then the other half of his mind, the more rational side perhaps piped up with: 'You're getting old, Wisdom, time to give up the game.'
"Do you mind turning that bloody racket off?" He motioned with his cigarette.
An obliging sixth former, suit and NHS glasses looked nervously over to one of his fellow students, who nodded. Slowly Mister NHS flicked the 'stop' button and the room lapsed into silence. Wisdom nodded obliging and retrieved his driving license. He flicked it open, just like he'd seen on The X-Files and then snapped it shut again.
"Detective Inspector Wisdom," He announced himself. "I have a few questions for you 'orrible lot."
They looked nervously about at one another until the lanky bastard who Mister NHS had looked to for reassurance slowly rose from his seat, smiling.
"What can we do for you, Inspector Wisdom?" He cooed, his voice far too middle class for Wisdom's tastes.
"One of the kids in the year below, Johnny Walker - "
"Baker." The student corrected.
"Johnny Baker." Wisdom said, pronouncing the name in Queen's English, mimicking the younger man's accent. "Anyway, this kid's vanished without a trace and I wondered if any of you lot would be able to spread some light on the matter."
"I'm afraid, Inspector Wisdom," The younger man said, rising from his seat and trailing a hand across the desk. "That we're the last people you'd want to ask about such a crime. We don't socialise with the lower classes you see."
"I bet you don't," Wisdom snorted. "Too busy driving your bloody BMWs around Kensington whilst the poor sods that make bloody Rovers in Birmingham are fired en masse because some relative of yours decided he could do it cheaper if he sold out to BMW. Twat." The younger man looked at him blankly for a moment and then chuckled quietly.
"Really, Inspector Wisdom, I don't see." Wisdom snatched his lapels and hauled him from the ground.
"Listen here, you conniving, little wanker, I want to know exactly what happened to this kid and I think you know what's going on."
The younger man's face contorted in fear as gradually, he filled with his underwear with the ripest turd he had let slip since the first time his mother had get bored of waiting for her husband to stop screwing his secretary and had taken to spanking him to get herself him off. She hadn't expected her son to reciprocate in shit, of course but after the first few times she began to like the smell, the texture of it on the palms of her hands. The young man was eighteen now and his mother, on occasion, still ate out of his arsehole now and then. The smell permeated the room, overpowering the smouldering cigarette butts thrown outside open window and dragging the standard of the common room down to a lower state of squalor than even Wisdom could have imagined. He released the young man and allowed him to fall. Warm lumps of shit attempted to crawl their way back up his arse as his buttocks slammed against the floor.
"That's going to leave a stain." Wisdom commented off hand.
"Sir." A quiet voice spoke up. Wisdom looked up as Mister NHS waiting expectantly behind his fellow student.
"Johnny Baker's dead, sir." He announced.
"Is that so?" Wisdom arched his eyebrows. "I think you better sit down and tell us all a little story."
NHS nodded obligingly and sat back down.
Kerry Redmond looked nervously at the doorbell, her right hand twitching nervously in mid air - half- drawn towards the small black domino and half wishing to return to her side. She wanted to turn and run, to leave all this behind and pretend it never happened, she wanted better than this - she wanted her old life back, the life before all this had set in. But she knew that could never be. So many bridges to her past had been burnt by this one act of summoning and now there could be no return. She closed her eyes and bravely pressed down the white button on the black doorbell. It rang for what felt like an eternity, the tune filtering through the air until finally there was movement behind the door concluding eventually in its opening.
"You're late." Ayesha scowled from her place in the doorway.
"I know, I'm really sorry." Kerry replied.
The older girl leaned out of the doorway and looked up and down the street.
"Come in, its nearly time for the ritual."
Kerry nodded once and followed her friend over the threshold.
Night had fallen by the time Wisdom had made his way out past the football fields. In his right hand he carried a smouldering cigarette whilst in his left, slung carefully over his shoulder, was a shovel he had pilfered from the caretaker's shed. Owls whispered to one another in the cold night air and rodents scurried across the uncut grass beyond the school field. The school itself was located just outside of London, not close enough to Watford to be claimed with the boundaries of Hertfordshire, the shitehole, but distant enough for the struggling comprehensive and its ailing headmaster to try and proclaim it as a grammar school. And what a load of bollocks that had turned out to be. He turned, casually throwing the cigarette down onto the damp grass, and eyed the group of sixth formers that had previously occupied the common room. With a sadistic smile he threw the shovel up in the air, watching as it pirouetted for a moment before landing at the feet of the boy with the NHS spectacles.
"Alright, you little sods," He beamed. "Time to start digging."
George Coupland swirled the brandy round in his glass, eyes unfocused and looking out into the space beyond his comfortable living room. In the seat adjacent to him sat Henry Burroughs, the school's Head of English.
"This Wisdom character," Burroughs ventured, shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "Are you sure he's kosher?"
"About as kosher as a bleeding pig." Coupland snorted derisively. "Of course he's not bloody kosher, Henry, he's also not bright enough to work out what's going on. I know his type, never amount to anything. At best he'll trouble us for a week and a half, after that he'll most likely get bored and end up at the bottom of a bottle or something. Not the brightest spark, our Peter Wisdom."
Burroughs nodded uncertainly, looking down at his brandy.
"I hope you're right, George, I really do." He whispered.
The shovel hit something, sending shudders reverberating up his arms. He tried to wriggle it free but it was no use, the shovel was stuck fast.
"Mister Wisdom, sir," The boy with the NHS glasses stuttered. "I think I found something."
Wisdom nodded, flicked his cigarette stub into the tall grass about them and bent down, digging with his hands around the shovel. The first few times they came away brown with soil and then increasingly changed to the dark red of congealing blood. Wisdom moved the dirt aside, revealing a young boy's face, agape with horror.
"Pete meet Johnny, Johnny this is Pete." He whispered grimly to himself.
The candle was already alight when Kerry entered the room. Emily stood uncomfortably in the corner of the room, shuffling her robe on over her school uniform. Ayesha nodded for Kerry to do the same, which she did, and once more the three young girls gathered about the black candle, a dead raven carcass laying beneath it and the empty grime of the Swanson family bathtub.
"By the rites of fire and Wormwood, I summon you unto us. Abhoth, bless us your humble servants with your presence." Ayesha whispered in that strange sing-song voice she acquired during these ceremonies.
Silence filled the room, the flame of the candle flickering slightly. Once more, the water in the bath rippled as something dark began to push from underneath the plug.
"Bind unto us the man we seek. Bring him to us upon his hands and knees." Ayesha screeched. "Abhoth, give us this what we speak, I command you!"
The tentacle pushed its way up through the plug hole once more, tenderly feeling the inside of the shattered bath. On her knees, Ayesha bent down and kissed the slithering flesh. It shuddered once before retracting slightly.
"Bring us this man," She whispered, dropping a Polaroid photograph of Mister Burroughs into the water beneath, just within reach of the slithering tentacle. "Bring us this man tonight, and let our will be done."
Pete Wisdom palmed the fifty pence piece into the payphone and dialled the number. It rang for several moments before finally being picked up on the other end. The tired voice of his sister whispered down the line:
"Alright, Romany," Wisdom grinned. "Listen, sorry I missed you earlier. I've got tied up here for a while, might be some time."
"The school?" Romany questioned, he could almost picture her frown. "Pete, why the hell are you still there?"
"We just found a corpse." He smiled, child like delight infecting his voice.
Henry Burroughs fumbled with his keys. Brandy swished about the inside of his head and belly, clouding his vision as he tried to force the keys into the paint-work of the old Ford's door. If he hadn't been so inebriated, he would have sworn that the lock was moving.
A sickening shudder filled his stomach and he felt his bladder hollering to loose itself. Sighing loudly, he resigned himself to fate and shambled off into the bushes. Holding his manhood in his right hand, he began to let loose a stream of acrid, pungent smelling urine. It burnt a little, the remaining sign of his cystitis and Burroughs found himself wincing uncontrollably. The piss spattered against the leaves beneath his feet, occasionally veering too close to his patent leather shoes before he managed to redirect his aim. Beneath him a slug slithered through the rivers of his urine, oblivious to the burning sensation the liquid carried through Burroughs' own slug.
A sudden noise caused him to jump, loosing his grip on himself, urine drenched his left leg and soaked through his shoes.
"Jesus Christ." He muttered, cursing his ill fortune.
Another moment before he turned back to the art of relieving himself and as he did, his face became pale, draining of blood. A fleshy tentacle unwound itself from the darkness and lashed out at him. He screamed once and this pseudopod slapped against the exposed flesh of his buttocks and then slithered its way inside of him. His face contorted in burning rage and humiliation and then he saw the gleaming Cyclops eye that governed the serpent and his mouth opened in screams and screams and screams.
The night covered their movements. The three girls, hair tucked between the cowls of their robes moved out through the council estate and made their way onto the underground, empty platforms and abandoned carriages.
Ahead lay their destination, the place where their 'education' had been carried out upon a daily basis and now, it would prove to be the graveyard of another of their enemies.
Ahead lay the palace of Abhoth.
George Coupland looked tired as he stood in the cold, his overcoat pulled tightly and looked down at the blue, rotting (and recently deceased) body of Johnny Baker.
"Poor sod." Coupland offered his faux commiseration. "Not this nicest way to end up, still you solved the mystery, old boy. Congratulations." He slapped Wisdom on the back, silently seething and looking at the collection of sixth-formers around the makeshift grave.
"I don't think I have." Wisdom announced loudly, puffing smoke through his nostrils. "Poor old Johnny Baker here looks like he's been sacrificed." He turned and looked accusingly up at Coupland. "I always knew you were an eltist old bastard, Coupland but I didn't think you'd take it this far."
"W-We didn't do this." The boy with the NHS spectacles stuttered, almost an admission of guilt. "The drama society."
"Shut up, Matheson!" Coupland hissed.
"Drama society, eh?" Wisdom sneered. "Really Coupland, old boy, using black magic to raise the standard of a poxy school play, it's a bit sad, innit?"
"You always were a little bastard, Wisdom." Coupland hissed venomously.
"Haven't changed much, 'ave I?" Wisdom smiled.
None of the group noticed as the light grew from behind him. Bellowing loudly, Coupland threw a punch at his former student.
"You little wanker, I'll bloody kill you. I'LL BLOODY KILL YOU!" The headmaster screamed.
Wisdom ducked effortlessly, flicked his cigarette and floored the old bastard. He spluttered once and fell, gracelessly, on his arse. By now the increasing light had managed to attract the attention of some of the group of students.
"Inspector Wisdom.?" One of them whispered nervously.
Wisdom turned and faced the school building as it lit up in flames. Slithering across the carcass of the school was the great form of Abhoth, Lord of Deceit and standing before the huge slug were three young ladies, dressed in robes of midnight dark.
"Oh Jesus, attack of the Sabrinas. That's all I bloody need." He muttered.
"Aren't you going to do anything, sir?" NHS questioned desperately. Wisdom shrugged.
"No, I don't think so." He smiled, lit another cigarette and turned his back. "I never looked this bloody school anyway."
He smiled, flicked ash on the ground and disappeared off into the night leaving the small circle of sixth- former standing alone with the corpse of Johnny Baker on the school field, the great, flaming building illuminating the night. The looked to one another and slowly, nervous laughs began to erupt.
"I guess this means no Hamlet this year." The boy in the NHS specs smiled.
"Guess not." Another replied.
Silently the school continued to burn.