One Candle Flame In A Dark Corner #2
There is a part of our realm, separated from the rest, where the evil ones have no dominion. And yet none but the adepts can see it for what it really is - a remote sanctuary, a refuge, a place of quiet contemplation in which no messages bloom
This secret place has a limited life span, however. Soon, the intrusive forces of science will have completed their rough work on the precious words stored here. Soon, their electronic shadows will be exposed in their turn to the corrupting forces that flow free in the realm above. And accuracy, as ever, will lose its importance.
The writer sensed a presence. Jackie Sydenham, her hair tightly bound in a big plait instead of floating free, frowned at him.
"Are you really allowed to get away with that?" she asked.
"With this?" the writer enquired mildly, gazing at his deathless prose.
"Not with that. I mean, with reading the stuff you're supposed to be cross-indexing. No one else does."
"As I mentioned the other day, the Feck is interested in useful material in your archive. Stuff he can recycle at virtually zero cost in the Sentinel & Advertiser of today. So yes, I am allowed to stop and read things to assess their interest potential."
"I bet he doesn't approve of you writing your own stuff, though."
"Good job there's no one down here who'd sneak on me, then." The writer gave Jackie an ingratiating smile, which was long on bogusness and knew it.
"Can we have lunch tomorrow? I think I'll have finished something else I want you to look at by then."
"Sounds good to me." The writer saved his personal file and returned to the archived records, and the job that he was supposed to be doing, until the tap of inspiration was turned on for him again.
A new working day began in a familiar way. The writer processed to his usual work station, exchanging good-mornings with those whom he knew and the usual crowd of semi-strangers, who seemed to think that if they failed to greet every person who entered their contact sphere, then the sky would fall in.
He removed and folded his jacket and placed it in the otherwise empty file drawer of his desk as an alternative to draping it on the back of his ergonomic swivelling chair or putting it on the hanger provided on his personal space-divider.
Thinking himself into a work-oriented frame of mind, he switched on his work station. When it had booted up, he waited.
The tally was modest and routine. The writer began a WOT-rate his messages. None of the messages contained anything of immediate interest and he consigned all of them to his Read Later Box. He replaced the pop-up box with his assignments list. Nothing there looked too exciting, either. Resigned to a fairly dull, routine day, the writer opened his ideas file and waited to see if any arrived. His post as temporary science correspondent was usually good for generating a couple of start-of-the-day ideas.
It was a sensation which he had experience before. The writer just knew that someone was watching him. He raised his head, periscope like, and began looking to his right, viewing the territory beyond his personal length of space divider. Then he turned his head anti-clockwise.
Pierson Day, the deputy editor, was standing in the doorway of his office, surveying his empire for signs of disharmony or skiving. He was looking at the writer's general area and his eyes locked on to another pair of eyes aimed in his direction. Day tilted his head back, summoning the writer to his office, then he went inside.
His flow of inspiration disrupted, the writer closed his ideas file and headed for the deputy editor's office.
"This stuff you messaged me from the archive," Day began when the writer had closed his glass door. "This is all for real, is it?"
The writer shrugged. "When you put the bits together, it's perfectly clear that our beloved present mayor's great-great-grandfather was acknowledged as the worst sheep rustler in the county."
"But he was able to get away with it for ages because of his disgustingly generous bribes to local constables and magistrates?"
"That's all well documented in later editions of our paper and its rivals after it all went horribly wrong for him."
"And when the local landowners cleaned house and brought in new law enforcement agents, he was tipped off and he managed to escape with his fortune?"
"The thing is, he'd planted so many obligations, and he was involved in, or knew about, so many secrets, details of what other apparently respectable people in the area had got away with, that they wanted him safely out of the area and a long way away. They just couldn't afford a trial and what he knew coming out."
"A familiar story," Pierson Day remarked.
"And the big irony is that the sheep-rustler's son was able to return to the area after a decent interval and set himself up as a wool merchant."
"Rubbing salt into wounds, or what?" laughed Day.
"And there are obvious parallels with the Beckstar affair." The writer let the phrase dangle, unsure of the response that he would get from the Feck-Monster.
"The feck," sighed Day. "I don't think we could get away with more than a mention in passing but it's worth putting it in. Okay, tidy this up and let me see it by eleven-thirty."
"Right," the writer said efficiently.
He had thought that his piece was quite tidy enough for publication in its present form but Pierson Day had not reached his fairly exalted position by being satisfied with the work of the journalists under him.
The evil spell may have been cast out, for the moment, from our messaging system but malevolent influences remain in the cursed zone. For who among us has not felt the prickling tension that accompanies the attention of the evil eye?
We feel it touch us and crawl across our flesh, we are drawn to its presence. We are helpless when it is turned upon us. And then what dark conspiracies result from consorting with the Evil One! And how his enemies will tremble when he utters the magic words, 'Feck! Let it be so!' and their guilty secrets are strewn before the eager multitude.
And how the Evil One's slaves will suffer when his enemies strike back at them, knowing that they cannot touch the Evil One himself.
Jeff Boon, the sports correspondent, joined a small gathering at one of the coffee machines and grinned at the writer. "Hey, Mr. Science Correspondent," he asked, "did you make that last Gadget of the Month up?"
"The Personal Lie Detector?" scoffed Andras Ektors, the assistant interiors correspondent. "'Course he bloody did."
"Pocket-size, battery-powered, can be used for face-to-face or phone contacts," Jeff Boon quoted. "Sounds pretty useful."
"The gadget is a sonic stress-pattern detector containing a micro-computer," the writer quoted his own prose shamelessly, "which analyses the other person's voice for excitement, emotion and stress-related tension after a 10 to 15 second calibration period. It displays, in real time, estimates of truth and falsehood on a scale of 1 [completely true] to 12 [blackest lie]. Undetectable, an asset in every contact situation. The only way to know for sure how another person is treating you!"
"Yes, well, if it doesn't exist, it sounds like something someone should invent," Sally Lee remarked.
"I take it none of you gets the same Sunday paper as me," the writer said.
"If the Sentinel & Advertiser doesn't publish on a Sunday, aren't we're supposed to abstain from reading newspapers on that day?" Jeff Boon asked.
"It was in one of these catalogues they shove in the magazine section," the writer added.
"Straight up?" said Andras Ektors.
"I had to fax the bloody thing to Jill Day before she'd let me include it in our esteemed publication," said the writer.
"What the feck's it got to do with her?" demanded Sally Lee.
"Ms Day sees herself as the guardian of the paper's integrity," said Jeff Boon. "The Hostile Witness who checks things out to make sure we word-slaves aren't having a bit of a chuckle at the paper's expense."
"That sounded like it came from the heart," laughed Sally Lee.
"And some of us don't appreciate having our work questioned by the editor-in-chief's sister-in-law and bit-on-the-side," the writer added.
"Especially when you are having a bit of a laugh at the paper's expense?" grinned Andras Ektors.
"Humour has a legitimate place in our contributions," Jeff Boon writer said loftily. "As I told Ms Day the last time she tried to shove her oar into my business."
"Bet it didn't do you much good," said Sally Lee.
"A bet that you'd win," Boon said with a rueful smile.
"So, Marin, are you hoping they're going to keep you on as science correspondent and sack Don Hyphen-Huja?" said Andras Ektors. "Is that why you're coming up with stuff that gets people talking around coffee machines?"
"It's never a good idea to get someone sacked when they're bigger than you," the writer said wisely.
"The feck are you lot doing?" Pierson Day asked in passing without stopping to hear the reason for the gathering.
"Workin' on a coffee break, boss," Andras Ektors told the retreating back at a level that would not carry.
The writer sat and frowned at the pop-up message box, surprised that only one person had bothered to send him a message during his absence from the work station. He took a £2 coin from his pocket and flipped it into the air. As it turned, flashing, and fell, he wondered if the Feck-Monster had ever observed his method of working out whether to read a message or ignore it. The writer had visions of a large hand swooping across his field of vision and the coin disappearing forever.
A 'head' prompted the writer to reach for his mouse, move the pointer and clicked on the OK button.
|I need to check your sources for the passages in the attachment. Cite & reply.|
The writer opened the attachment and found that the Feck-Monster was feeling nervous about using four of the passages from the writer's ancient scandal about the current mayor's great-great-grandfather. He retrieved a draft copy of the article, which had a set of personal footnotes, and began to copy and paste.
There are numerous advantages to being an Evil One. A sense of constant security is not one of them.
Our Evil One makes us tremble most of the time but we draw comfort from the knowledge that he has his moments of doubt, that he can tremble in his lair and reach out to us for reassurance.
We know that we cannot triumph over the Evil One for any substantial period of time. But we can do his bidding in such a way as to leave him in fear and trembling of being noticed by the creatures who enjoy even greater powers, and yet unable to resist the urge to broadcast that which we have told him.
After a very productive literary lunch with Jackie and some printed sections of her novel, the writer accompanied her to the archive for another afternoon of cross-indexing and keeping his eyes open for interesting material. By the end of the afternoon, he had assembled almost a dozen references to a Satanist cult, which had been active in the Chedney area, on and off, for the best part of 160 years.
Naturally, the wilder members of the Ottral family had been involved, although they had denied everything when the police had investigated reports of goings-on on their land. The writer learned that the police had asked for permission to enter the woodland on the first occasion - and they had been sent away with a flea in their collective ear.
On the second and two subsequent occasions, an enterprising inspector had rushed straight to the scene to investigate wild cries, explaining that he had felt that some unfortunate's life had been in danger and he had feared the consequences of delay.
"Evidence of a sacrifice and a profane ritual," Jackie Sydenham read over the writer's shoulder when she arrived to find out what was amusing him so much.
"They certainly knew how to enjoy themselves in those days," the writer told her.
"Discarded garments, some bloodstained, but no one at the scene when the police arrived."
"Obviously had an effective set of lookouts," the writer said.
"Sounds like what you need," laughed Jackie. "For when the Feck sneaks down here, hoping to catch you skiving."
"Except, if he's given me the job of looking for interesting stuff while I'm cross-indexing, he hasn't got a leg to stand on any more."
"What about when you're writing bits of your short stories and stuff?"
"It's a recognized fact that being creative in a different way can have a positive influence on your work. As long as it's not done to excess."
"Sounds like you lot have got a good union," laughed Jackie.
"That came from one of the efficiency consultants they get in from time to time."
"I bet they didn't let him back in a hurry! Let's see the next bit." Jackie read on to the end of the article. "This would make quite a good article for the Saturday issue."
"I don't think that's quite what the Feck's got in mind," the writer murmured.
Jackie was too engrossed in the next article to hear him but the writer knew that Pierson Day was more interested in blasts from the past which would embarrass his enemies. There was a lot of speculation but very few names in the newspaper stories. But the writer knew of one or two external sources which might be helpful. Having access to them was the sort of thing that was expected of any good trouble-maker.
There has always been evil here. I have now uncovered incontrovertible proof of this sad circumstance.
The highest in the area are infected with the corruption and they have been unable to conceal their involvement. Many have taken their dark secrets to the grave. A few have been unable to resist the temptation to record their vile activities and then hide these records away in some secret place.
The trouble with secrets is that they leak out.
The trouble with secrets is that they are often shared by the lower orders, who tremble with fear through their miserable lives but who are also subject to the temptation to seek a form of absolution by writing down that which they have gleaned while skulking around in a slavish fashion.
The lower orders are unreliable. They cannot be trusted to leave their records where they will be safe. Sometimes, they entrust them to their untrustworthy friends, who make secret copies - often inaccurate ones - for their own secret enjoyment. The historian and the scandal-monger alike benefit from this process of preserving dangerous secrets but they have to remain aware that everything recorded in the far past is not necessarily true.
Our Evil One is well versed in the art of control through secret knowledge, yet
|You Now Have 5 Unread Messages|
The writer moved the mouse pointer and hit the left button to zap the message box. Then he checked the status of the messaging system as related to himself. As he had thought, it was switched off, waiting for him to resume contact at his usual work station.
|Your Read Later Box Is Now Full|
The writer dragged the box over to the edge of the screen and left just part of the border showing. In theory, the system had no right to be sending him messages. It was all very spooky. The writer hoped that if he left the latest message in limbo, then the system would not trouble him further.
The influence of the New Moon lingers on. The evil has been cast out from our messaging system but I am still being haunted by phantom messages.
In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I am now starting to suspect that I, personally, am being haunted. The malevolent force abroad in our zone has turned its attention from the general to the particular.
And I am the particular.
If ever there was a time for fear and trembling, it can only be now.