Fates Avow: The Arbiter: Part Four

At school Connie was smart and athletic. Both these attributes served her well during her teenage years and they were required once more in the alleyway.

She was smart enough to realise the two dark figures meant her harm; although, to be fair, the large knife brandished by one would have been a strong indication to even the less intelligent that a friendly welcome was not on offer here.

Connie’s athleticism allowed her to stop and change direction in almost a heartbeat. Those hours spent on the sports field responding to the sound of a whistle paying off. This time the prize was not some athletic pride in her fitness but her life.

She could hear her old coach barking orders in her ear as she sprinted down the alley towards the safety of the crowded street.

Connie was fast. She knew she could out run her would be assailants. Nevertheless she was unable to resist looking back to check. The two figures were in pursuit but they did not run instead opting to walk, patiently stalking their prey just as a tiger would do. At that pace they would never reach her. The odds were in favour of even the slowest runner to outrun someone walking.

It was however this moment of curiosity, that need to see behind her when once again she failed to notice what was in front of her.

A stone lay innocuously in her path, too small for Connie to have noticed but large enough to cause her ankle to turn as her foot landed on this nuisance mineral.

With her balance interrupted she fell to the ground, the elegance of her sprint now reduced to an unceremonious flailing as she hit the floor.

Dazed by the speed in which she went from upright to prostrate, her immediate thought was the proximity of her attackers. She looked up to see them approach, their journey still at that stalking pace. There was certainly now no need to run, Connie wasn’t going anywhere.

But she tried to go somewhere, her will to live too strong to just passively lay on the floor and await her tragic fate. Yet despite her resolve to escape her ankle had other ideas.

Any movement she made to continue her journey towards safety was met by a growl of pain that travelled up her leg and forced her back on to the floor.

Her resilience continued and through gritted teeth she crawled towards where the alley opened onto the street; close enough for her to see the people who could save her yet too far away for them to notice her.

Despite her brain crying out through the pain that escape was now a hopeless endeavour, her desire to survive pushed her further albeit slowly down the alley.

Connie turned to see her attackers, they were close now. She could see the blade more clearly, soon this object of destruction will be pushed into her ending an altogether brief life.

Tears began forming in her eyes as any hope of escape made way for the realisation of her death; and it wouldn’t be a pleasant painless death but the absolute opposite.

Her eyes closed as she waited for the inevitable moment of her doom. She need not witness anymore and mournfully submitted herself to her conclusion.

A long shadow formed over Connie, yet it was not from her attackers but from behind her. Connie’s curiosity caused her to open her eyes and standing over her was the man from the pub…Ryan.

“Come with me if you wish to avoid the threat to your life posed by these two people.” he said, holding out his hand to her.

Forgetting he was the reason she had ran in the first place Connie reached up and grabbed his hand. The actual threat in front of her outweighed any potential threat that Ryan posed.

From behind him emerged the woman, Heze. She leapt at the two attackers striking them on the chest. They stumbled back but quickly recovered to swipe at Heze with their blades.

She pulled a weapon from her belt to fend them off. It was a curious object small enough to be gripped with one hand. The handle was curved like that of an umbrella with the end pointed. At the other end it forked off with three blades, one made of gold, one made of silver and the other bronze.

Connie watched as Heze deftly swung this weapon knocking the knives from the grip of the attackers. Then in one quick stroke she dove the weapon into the stomach of one before pulling it out and slicing the throat of the other. They both fell to the ground in a bloody heap.

Heze wiped her triple pronged weapon on the back of one of the attackers before putting it back in her belt.

She lingered over one of the bodies and rolled up his shirt sleeve. Connie could not see exactly what it was but it looked like a tattoo. Whatever it was it caused Heze to flash a look over at Ryan; was it a look of fear? hate? It was very difficult for Connie to tell.

The adrenaline from her near fatal encounter was still running and perhaps in a different scenario she would have been horrified she had just witnessed the violent death of two people.

But they had tried to kill her, they deserved what happened to them. Any concern she should have about how deadly Heze had been was overtaken by a feeling of relief and gratitude. Heze had saved her and with that came an automatic element of trust.

Therefore without protest she limped back to the pub flanked by both Ryan and Heze.

Once inside she sat on one of the worn wooden chairs and rested her injured foot on another. Heze brought her a glass of that potent alcohol.

Heze seemed different from before, her previous warm and friendly attitude had made way for a more icier demeanour. Connie was unsure if any of this clear hostility was directed at her or at Ryan.

“As I was saying Connie” said Ryan “You’re not safe and so best you stay here.”

His voice appeared stronger than before and he was less confused. Connie didn’t respond, the pain in her ankle was matched only by the throbbing in her head. Instead she smiled and nodded her appreciation.

Certainly she had questions and suspected that Ryan had the answers but that could wait. For now she was content to sit in silence and relax. Silence. Connie noted that the music was not playing anymore.

“Ryan. Can I talk to you for a moment” asked Heze.

Connie watched as Heze walked to one of the doors at the back of the pub and went inside, Ryan followed immediately thereafter.

Behind the door was not the toilets as Connie had first assumed but a hallway. Almost immediately as you entered was a wooden staircase that led to the first floor.

Heze waited by these steps as Ryan entered and spoke “Well done Heze that was good wo….”

Heze punched Ryan hard across the face “We’ve intervened. Haven’t we?” she said angrily.

Ryan said nothing, instead rubbed the side of his face, Heze had quite the right hook on her.

She removed her weapon from her belt and begun to furiously stab at the bottom step.

“We’ve fucking intervened” she shouted “You know who they were? You saw their mark!”

Ryan passively held his hands out “Heze” he said, ensuring that he was a safe enough distance to dodge Heze’s weapon if she chose to throw it.

She flashed him a stern look “Don’t Heze me!” She said twisting her weapon further into the wooden step “We’ve intervened! And you promised we would never do that…again.” Her voice trailed off as she completed that sentence.

Ryan stared at Heze thinking of the right words he could say to her. Even if he had those perfect words to hand, Heze was certainly not in the mood to let him speak.

She stood up to face him “Why Ryan? Why have we intervened?”

“I don’t know” he replied instinctively flinching in case another Heze punch was about to arrive.

“You don’t know?” Heze said, twisting the weapon between her thumb and forefinger “What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means I don’t know!” replied Ryan raising his voice before taking a breath and speaking more calmly “Look Heze I’m not sure what is going on. I just know we had to do it.”

“Why? Why now? Why her?”

Ryan thought for a moment then replied “Again I don’t know……It was the music and…”

“The music?!” Heze interrupted “What about the music?”

Ryan put his hands on Heze’s shoulders “I don’t know. I’ll find out Heze. I will sort this. Trust me.”

He flashed a smile at Heze which was met with a strained one from her.

“Now” he continued “Let’s go back in and talk to her. Maybe we can get some answers.”

He turned and opened the door to the main area of the pub.

Connie was gone.

Fates Avow: The Arbiter : Part Three

< Part Two

Any hope that the tired and worn out exterior of the pub would not be replicated inside faded as Connie entered.

Although spacious there was a perpetual gloominess about the place. A few lights hung casually from the ceiling, the cracked glass coverings revealed dull yellowing bulbs. Black specks marked the final resting place of curious insects.

The murkiness of the bulb betrayed its main purpose and all that it could muster was to illuminate a constant stream of dust that seemed on an infinite loop round the mouldy yellow light.

To the right were a row of cubicles, three wooden benches adorned in tatty red leather enveloped tired looking tables. The gloom would not allow Connie to see as far as the furthest benches.

Further down the room a number of tables were haphazardly laid out and the chairs that surrounded them were not arranged in any particular order.

Towards the back were two doors side by side, Connie presumed these led to the toilets but there were no signs indicating which one was intended for Gentleman and which for Ladies. Connie doubted, given the decor, that this particular Pub was trailblazing with Gender Neutral facilities.

In the furthest corner was a pool table. The green velvet covering was scratched and it was unlikely a competitive game could be had with just three balls and one cue.

Connie followed the dark green carpet which in places was so worn away she could see the floorboards beneath. Stains sporadically embellished the carpet, some appeared of dubious nature but no doubt the origin of each stain was, in itself, an interesting tale.

There was a musky smell that immediately had filled Connie’s nostrils as she entered. It was as if she could smell every pint of beer ever supped in this establishment. The aroma was so heavy she had to swallow it down to allow herself to breathe normally.

To her left was the bar and there framed by the optics and beer taps stood the woman. She was illuminated by a neon branded sign advertising a beer that Connie was sure did not exist anymore.

The woman smiled and Connie made her way over to the bar and sat down on one of only two tall bar stools at the front of the expansive wooden bar.

The oak panel was deeply scored and down the entire length were dark rings from the many drinks that would have been placed upon the bar by careless customers and staff alike. They occurred all the way down the bar leading to what appeared to be a wooden box.

Connie squinted in the gloominess to see what that box was because it looked out of place. She was shaken by her surveillance of her surroundings by the woman slamming a glass onto the bar.

“So you’ve had a bad day?” asked the woman, pouring some amber liquid into the glass.

“Terrible” replied Connie

“Well this will make you feel better” said the woman sliding the half filled glass over to Connie.

Connie picked up the drink and took a tentative swig. There was a surprising potency to the liquid and she coughed a frisky ‘Wow!’

“It’s good stuff!” laughed the woman “I’m Heze by the way” (she pronounced it Haze).

“Connie” replied Connie still choking slightly on her drink.

Heze leaned on the bar and rested her chin on her hand “Well Connie tell me about this bad day you are having”

As Connie begun to tell Heze of all the annoyances she had to endure something peculiar happened.

A low hissing sound began to fill the room, then,faintly at first, the soft hum of music. This melodic interruption caused Connie to stop talking and seek out the source of the tune. She presumed that it was from a jukebox but a quick scan of the gloomy interior did not reveal one.

Listening intently she followed the tinny notes to the box at the end of the bar, the box that appeared so out of place when Connie had first seen it.

The music became louder and it was a familiar song to Connie, one that her parents used to listen to. She believed it was by The Beatles although she couldn’t remember the precise name of the song, John Lennon was singing about a Guru called Dave or something.

Heze who had been resting against the bar stood up straight and glanced towards the box then out at the cubicles opposite the bar.

From the gloomy shadows a man emerged and he walked slowly towards the musical cube as if he were in a trance. The presence of someone else being here had initially surprised Connie.

Both her and Heze watched as he took the box between his hands and started to examine it, lifting it up to study all four sides. He glanced up from the box and looked at Heze before his head snapped round to intently stare at Connie.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“Connie” she replied nervously, the intensity to which he studied her made her feel uncomfortable.

“Connie? Do I know you?” he returned his attention to the box, looking it over once more before returning to Connie “Who are you?”

This man seemed confused and Connie presumed he was a regular in the pub that had just woken up after sleeping off a particular heavy night.

Connie was unsure how to respond to this individual. Indeed her only thought was how best to leave the pub. Her day was bad enough as it was and she could do without an altercation with some random drunk guy.

She watched nervously as his attention returned to the box. With the song still playing he wandered back to the cubicle, his apparent interest in Connie over. She followed him until he was consumed by the gloom, the only indication of his presence was the tinny tune that still played.

Connie spun back round to look at Heze who gave a forced smile “That’s the boss” she said with an embarrassed shrug.

Connie thought it was best she left and took one final swig of her drink and coughed her goodbyes.

“How much do I owe you?” she enquired.

Heze threw up her hands “On the house” she replied.

Connie expressed her gratitude once more and then walked towards the large wooden door.

“You can’t leave”

Connie spun round to witness the man emerge once more from the darkness, still cradling the musical box.

“I’m sorry?” replied Connie, trying to hide the anxiety that was building up inside her.

“You can’t leave. It’s not safe ” said the man.

Connie’s heart begun to pound as the realisation that her exit from this pub may not be an easy one. She shot a look over at Heze who was trying to get her bosses attention “Ryan. Ryan” she kept repeating.

“What do you mean it’s not safe?” asked Connie taking a step backwards further near the door.

“It’s not safe. You leave here. Bad things will happen.” continued Ryan.

Connie reached behind her, blindly grabbing at the handle. She stepped further back as Ryan approached.

“What bad things?” she asked , hoping that engaging him in conversation may distract him enough so she can make her exit.

“Terrible things. Horrid things. You are only safe here. You cannot leave” he said, there was a confused mania in the pattern of his voice which did little to calm the rising panic that Connie was feeling.

Her heart was racing and she inwardly gave a small sigh of relief when her she finally found the handle to the door. Although the music was still playing the sweetest sound Connie heard was of the door unlocking as she twisted the handle.

With her back still to the door she tugged at the handle and a comforting ray of light from the low afternoon sun shone through.

Her eyes were fixed on Ryan as she stepped back. She could feel the warmth of the sun on her leg. The unexpected breeze challenged the musky smell for dominance in the air. The dust that had dutifully followed its same infinite path now swirled around on a new chaotic route.

Ryan walked towards her still clutching the box muttering all manner of warnings about impending danger as Heze continued to try and attract his attention. All the while the song continued to provide the soundtrack to this weird encounter that left Connie feeling confused, frightened and clear she had to leave.

She spun round and completed her escape from the building, slamming the door behind her. The street was rather busy but rather seek comfort in a crowd her instincts told her to run. She turned and sprinted up the alleyway that ran alongside the pub.

She could hear the blood pumping in her ears as she sprinted along the alley. She looked back to see if either Ryan or Heze were pursuing her.

Such was her concentration of what might be behind her that she neglected to pay much attention to what was in front of her.

Had she done so she would have noticed two figures standing there. Although it would have been difficult to make out their features in the dullness of the alley she would at the very least had seen the glint of the knife that one held in their hand.

Different path. Same Conclusion.

Fates Avow: The Arbiter : Part One

<Prologue

Connie was having a bad day. A really bad day.

Indeed by the time the day was out there would not be sufficient superlatives to describe just how staggeringly bad this day would be.

It had started with her waking up already late for work. The commencement of this truly bad day would begin with her phone blatantly lying to her about how long 63% of battery would last. At some point as she slept her phone decided to switch off and not undertake its task of waking her up with an irritating beeping sound incorrectly described as ‘morning sunrise’.

Connie had contemplated charging her phone overnight but on seeing a news report about exploding batteries she had thought it was best not to. Her phone irritated her at the best of times and it would be the height of irritation if it actually caused her to die.

The irony of this thought process is that by the end of this horribly bad day she would, in fact, be dead.

Perhaps if her phone had killed her she would not have to endure all the other bad stuff that would occur before her ultimate demise.

Blissfully ignorant that this would be her last day on earth Connie cursed as she rushed out of bed and into the shower, promptly skipping back naked and wet to put her lying unreliable phone on charge.

She quickly got dressed and hurriedly straightened her hair before rushing out of her cramped flat.

Clip clopping her way to the train station Connie took a bite of a breakfast bar she had grabbed from the cupboard on her way out.

She had hoped that the nutritional information printed on the side of the wrapper was correct and this would provide her with sufficient sustenance. The groan from her belly after she devoured the bar told her otherwise. Eating what was effectively crumbs glued together was hardly a hearty breakfast.

Connie arrived at the train station to witness the train already in the process of departing. She had a futile burst of speed in some strange hope that she would be able to catch up with the train and leap on; alternatively she may have expected that the train driver might spot her and happily stop the train. She hadn’t even reached the gates to the platform before she realised that neither of those things would happen.

Connie cursed again. There wouldn’t be another train for at least an hour. She was going to be very late for work.

Yet in the final moments of her life she’d probably look back and think oversleeping and missing a train was rather pleasant in comparison to being dead. Indeed, such was the suddenness of her demise she would have no time to curse at the unfairness of being killed…..and that is really something that is curse worthy.

Connie’s only chance of getting to work at a time vaguely respectable would be to get a taxi. She saw a row of taxis and smiled that perhaps her fortune maybe changing.

She went to a cashpoint to draw some money out but any hope that good luck was now firmly on her side faded when the screen announced she had no money and then promptly ate her card.

Connie cursed once more. It was payday, the only day of the month she could be confident that there would be money in her account.

Pulling out her phone she tapped on her banking app to enquire about her lack of funds. Her phone chose not to break the news to her gently but instead made the pixelated pronouncement that she had been paid but someone had nefariously then took all her money.

Connie cursed even more, she had no money and had no idea how she would pay for things such as rent or food. Had she known she would be dead by the end of the day this probably would have saved her some unnecessary heartache over these issues.

After several more moments of cursing Connie decided she would simply go home, call the bank then just go back to bed and wake up tomorrow when everything would be better.

She turned to walk back towards her apartment when her phone alerted her to a text message, it was from Ann, a colleague from work.

Where are you? Boss really wants to see you Now!!!!!!

Maybe it was the liberal use of exclamation marks but Connie, cursing again, decided she’d better try and get into work. She rifled though her jacket pocket and found some loose change, it would be enough to get the bus.

Connie found herself on her way to work in a cramped bus sat next to a guy who appeared to have chronic bronchitis. The onset of his spluttering coincided with the bus hitting any divot or pothole, of which there were many.

Through the rare breaks in his coughing Connie listened to the various automated security questions she had to pass to be able to speak to someone at her bank. The irony that she had to provide answers to the most ridiculous questions whilst someone had quite easily just wiped out her bank account was not lost on her.

The bus did not go directly to her work place and Connie alighted to begin the walk. As soon as she stepped off the bus, dark clouds appeared in the sky and it began to rain heavily down upon her. She looked at her phone which proudly displayed a big sun.

“Lying. Bastard. Phone!” she muttered.

Her walk to work by the standards already set was relatively uneventful save that as she walked by every puddle a car would splash her.

Connie finally arrived at work, tired, drenched and annoyed. She just wished this day to be over and of course it would be soon albeit with a permanence that perhaps she hadn’t wished for.

As she walked through the vast lobby of the building where she worked she cursed again on seeing that the lift was out of order. After ascending 16 flights of stairs she eventually reached her desk.

“Bad day?” Ann enquired looking at a drenched and exhausted Connie with a mixture of concern and bemusement.

“Horrible ” Connie replied “I don’t think this day can get any worse.”

No sooner had those words left her lips but her phone bleeped, it was a message from Darren, her neighbour and head of the Resident’s Association for her block of flats.

Hey Connie. Look I don’t know how to tell you this but your flat has just burnt down.

Connie stared at her phone in disbelief. She read the message a number of times before she believed what she was being told, even then her primary thought was whether it was appropriate for Darren to sign off with a sad face emoji.

Connie slumped into her chair and raised her hands to her face. She cursed loudly at the culprit of the fire

Fucking hair straighteners!

In her rush to get work she had forgot to turn them off. Her desire to look presentable had now, in effect, left her homeless.

No money. No home.

“Everything okay?” enquired Ann

“My home has just burnt down” replied Connie, tears beginning to form in her eyes.

“Oh dear! You could do without something like that happening”

Connie decided she would have to go home to see whatever was left of the charred remains of her home; she’d also have to make arrangements to find somewhere to stay. Maybe she could stay at her boyfriend’s house, although she remembered he was away on a conference for the next few days.

She had been dating Luke for over a year and things had become quite serious. Secretly she had been hoping he would ask her to move in. Perhaps her burning down the flat would force the issue. Every cloud and all that.

She wished Luke was with her now. To hold her in his large arms, kiss her on the top of the head and tell her everything will be okay.

“I gotta go” Connie announced to Ann

She got up to leave but was immediately faced with Clive, her boss.

“Ah Connie. You’re finally here. I need a word if I may” said Clive, clearly oblivious to the level of distress Connie was experiencing.

“Can it wait Clive. My flat has just burnt down” she replied

Clive thought for a moment then responded “Not really and if it has already burnt down a few minutes more won’t matter’

Connie sighed “I’ve really got to go”

“Okay” Clive said “I’ll be quick about it. We are having to downsize the department and your employment here will be terminated in a week.”

“Seriously?!” replied Connie “You tell me like that!”

“Well you did want me to be quick about it”

Connie just stared at Clive as her brain desperately tried to process yet another bombshell.

“Anyway I’m sorry your flat has burnt down ” said Clive offering a sympathetic pat on her shoulder before he turned and left.

Connie looked around at her co workers who stared back at her in open mouthed silence. Fighting back the tears she grabbed her bag and left the building.

It was only after emerging onto the street, which was now bathed in brilliant sunlight, that she realised she had no money to get home. She then realised she actually did not have a home on account of the fact it had burnt down.

No money. No home. No job.

Her brain offered no ideas on what next to do and so she just walked, her eyes brimming with tears.

Her brain that had failed in offering any solutions could only remind her of the extent of her problems.

No money. No home. No job.

She was momentarily distracted from the magnitude of her problems by her phone bleeping. She stopped to search through her pocket right next to the only remaining puddle left over from the earlier downpour.

As Connie desperately tried to locate her phone in her pocket a HGV drove past and covered her with dirty puddle water. She let out a few expletives at the driver before turning her attention back to retrieving her phone.

As she wiped the grimy water off the screen she became aware that she was in the shadow of a large building. She’d probably had walked past it countless times but never really noticed it. The facade was quite worn and the stain glass windows were dirty and cracked.

Suspended by a rusty iron chain was a sign. The wording was faded and she could not make out precisely what it said but there was a symbol that looked like a star and she could just about read the words ‘Public House’.

She contemplated for a moment going inside to get dried off but there was nothing about this place that looked inviting. Indeed, Connie didn’t even think it was open.

Having dried her phone she clicked on her messages, it was from Luke. Oh sweet Luke. He’ll know what to do.

However any comfort in seeing his name quickly turned to confusion. The message was a picture of him laying on the bed in nothing but tight underwear, below the text read;

Come and get it Tiger! Room 113. Ready when you are! Grrrr!

Why would he send this to her. He was miles away. Was he honestly expecting her to go all that way to meet him? And since when as he ever called her ‘Tiger’?!

Connie replied with a simple question mark, followed by ‘Luke?’ then ‘Luke??’ and finally ‘Luke??!!’

She stared impatiently at her screen but no response came. She tried calling him but there was no answer.

Her brain, reeling from failing to comprehend her other problems gleefully announced that it had solved what was going on here.

He’s cheating on you!

That was it. The final straw. She threw her phone to the floor and began stamping on it whilst screaming every obscenity she knew, including some she had never previously uttered.

Her phone had done nothing but conspire against her to make this the worse possible day ever.

Dictated by rage she stalked off down the street, each angry step she took a reminder of what her life had now become.

No money. No home. No job. No boyfriend.

In the midst of anger and confusion she found herself down a secluded alley. Had she not been so preoccupied with her problems she may have paid more attention to where she was.

If she hadn’t been replaying every bad thing that happened she might have noticed the two shadowy figures approach from behind her.

She may have been able to run away before they grabbed her and slammed her head against the brick wall.

Had she not smashed her phone it may have aided her in calling for help.

As it were, it was in that alleyway that Connie died.

It was reported in the press but only briefly. Connie simply became another statistic to add to all the other statistics about the rising levels of crime.

She would be mourned by her close family and friends but not really by anyone else. A few who had noted the brief report of her death would comment on social media but merely to reflect upon their own self worth.

‘OMG. So sad. RIP. I visited that place 3 years ago. That could’ve been me’

But for the billions of other people Connie’s death would go unnoticed. As her story came to an end theirs would continue unimpeded by her unfortunate demise.

Yet however tragic this tale may be there are always other stories waiting to be told. Each life carries an infinite amount of possibilities. Inevitably, these stories all conclude in the same way…..with death.

Connie’s story ended as she drew her final breath alone, bleeding in that alley. It marked the final chapter of her tale. A story that to anyone who didn’t know her would seem unremarkable.

However, the story of what happened if Connie did not die in that alley….well that is a far greater story to tell.

Part Two >

The Fates Avow : The Arbiter : Prologue

“Time for bed!”

The voice of the Mother startled the young girl who had been entranced by the stars in the clear night sky. Normally, she would have heard her Mother’s footsteps on the staircase, the fourth step creaked and that would be her cue to get into bed. She’d have precisely fifteen seconds from that ominous creak to get under the covers and feign sleep. But not tonight, she had been distracted by the beautiful dark sky.

She gazed wistfully out at the stars that shone a bright path to the candescent moon. It seemed larger than normal and it’s immense prominence in the sky had an hypnotic effect upon the girl.

“Come on monkey…Bed…Now!”

The girl reluctantly got down from her perch near the window and climbed into bed. Her gaze drifted once more to the illuminated sky and she hatched an impromptu plan for her to stare a little longer at its brilliance.

“Can you tell me a story?” She asked, ensuring she adopted her best doe-eyed look.

The Mother tired and hoping she could just return to the wine that waited for her downstairs replied “It’s getting rather late!”

Such a feeble excuse would not stop the demands of the child

“Pllleeeeeeaaaaassssseee Mummy”

“Aren’t you a little old to have Mummy read you a story?” said the Mother, the futility of the question evident in the tone of her voice.

The child shook her head with youthful enthusiasm. Sighing the Mother reluctantly stood up and went to a small wooden bookcase adorned with bright stickers and graffitied in crayon.

“No Mummy! I want you to tell me a story. Like you used to do” said the child.

The Mother sighed again, her hopes that she could get away with reading a few pages of ‘Daring Duck Goes On Holiday’ had faded.

“What would you like me to tell you a story about?”

“The Stars!!” replied the child enthusiastically.

The Mother smiled “Very well then let me tell you a story that my Father….Your Grandfather used to tell me about the stars. Lay down.”

The child happily obliged, pulling the covers up to her chin and rolling over so she could stare out of the window at the dazzling sky whilst her Mother told her a story about the stars.

A long time ago before there was even anything you know exists, there was nothing but the infinite density of space. A vast black canvas that stretched beyond anything you can comprehend.

Over time within this intense darkness tiny white lights appeared, in the expanse of space they seemed like nothing more than pin pricks. You know them as stars and people will tell you that all they are just balls of hydrogen and helium waiting to explode and light up the darkness around them. But they are not..well not back when it all began.

For these celestial bodies that appeared were for all intents and purposes as human as you and I. They could feel, communicate….dream. In their infancy they would move around space with the same enthusiasm as a toddler would in a park. They played, chasing each other in this infinite playground, gleefully laughing; all the stars together swirling with playful abandon. But as the millennia passed they grew bored of this pursuit. One can only tolerate so many years before the monotony of simply running through the endless vacuum of space would become tiresome. It is surprising that they lasted as long as they did.

The stars therefore no longer ran and played but instead stood and talked. To relieve the crushing boredom they now felt they told stories just like the story I am telling you now. They would create characters and scenes and together they would live out the most fantastic of adventures.

Now I know what you are thinking – how can these stars tell stories? How could they know anything when all they had experienced was just the dark nothingness of space? Well, these were not just stars and were not restricted by what they had experienced or what they had been told. The canvas of their minds was as infinite as the vastness of the space that they occupied.

Have you ever wondered why you have two arms, two legs and a head? Or why a whale looks the way it does? These are not moments of evolution but by design – the design of the stars.

However, they began to grow weary of these stories and the companionship of sharing these adventures faded.. They then began to do the most human of things – argue. In the early days of this story sharing they would rejoice in the collectiveness of their creation but as the stories grew in grandeur and became more elaborate voices of discontent could be heard.

Initially the arguments were rather miniscule in nature just some odd disagreement over names or places or a description of something in particular. Take the elephant for example; well it got its large trunk as a result of particularly mischievous star who objected to the way a story was being told. One day I will tell you what really led to the Alpaca being created.

You may think it ridiculous that such pettiness could occur over the way a simple story was being told but there really was not much else for them to do. They had told stories for so long that this is all they did, all they knew and it was important to them.

Slowly the resentment grew and these disagreements became larger and more intense until no longer could the stars remain together and they split into two groups. Imagine space as a giant blackboard, at one end you had a group of stars who all believed that a story should be told one way and at the other end another group who wished the story to be told differently.

And there in the middle was a single star shining bright. He never participated in the story telling but instead just glowed bright in a beautifully translucent meditative state. He was not creating places or things but just imagining himself running freely around the entirety of space. He liked when they all used to do that and hoped one day they would all return to such gleeful pursuits. The vastness of space was too scary for one little star to do it alone and so he just waited for his friends to once again join him.

For a while the stars cohabited with very little issue, they enjoyed sharing their stories with other like-minded stars and were pleased there were no more disagreements and that their creative adventures could continue unabated. But soon the groups became suspicious of each other and wondered what each other were up to. One group would often get disturbed by the other with loud laughter or cheering.

Curious, the other group would confront them and ask “What are you up to?” Of course they did not speak in a human voice what with them being celestial beings and all. However, I can only communicate this part of the tale by expressing it as a human would.

So the other group would reply “Nothing we were just telling a story”. The other group interested to know what had caused such mirth and merriment would ask what the story was about and so the group would tell them.

“That’s rubbish” they would say “It’s not even funny.” Or words to that effect.

This continued with each group seemingly more interested with what the other were doing than themselves. Like a virus the willingness to sabotage a story rather than assist spread through the groups. There would be shouts of ‘Rubbish’ or ‘That didn’t happen’ and ‘We tell it better’ and before long neither group could finish a story due to all the interruptions.

This then led to a different emotion being experienced by the stars – Rage. They became angry and what started off as name calling soon escalated. Whilst shouting insults at each other the star in the middle was blissfully running through the miles of space in his mind unaware the changes that were occurring in his friends.

Then one day the insults escalated and two stars one from either group ran at each other. I say ran only so you can picture it in your mind, stars of course do not run. They headed towards each other at some velocity neither one willing to change course. They collided with some force and with a…poof…they were gone.

The others in the groups watched in initial disbelief at the destruction of two of their fellow stars. Then the accusations began as to who or what had caused that to happen – each blaming each other with some venom. With rage running through them they all charged at each other whilst the star in the middle hovered unaware above them.

They could have stopped, they all could have realised , having witnessed what they had, the folly of this pursuit but the rage consumed them and destruction was all that they cared about. Having spent millennia together they could no longer bear to spend one more moment and this huge cluster of stars collided with each other…BANG!

It was the biggest bang that you could ever imagine and out of this chaos and destruction all their dreams, ideas, stories flowed; leaking out into the blackness of space. When the dust had settled the previous endless void of space was filled with planets, the sun, the moon and of course earth.

Hovering in the sky above earth were three stars – one from either group and of course the star in the middle who had remained passive to the destruction that had occurred below.

Before they noticed anything they were struck by a feeling of loneliness. Space was no longer filled with these celestial wonders and the two stars felt a feeling of remorse.. The two stars did not blame each other but instead called a truce to the fighting that had seen so many of their fellow brethren fall. In honour of the fallen they flew through space which now hosted so many wondrous creations and every now and then would stop and leave a little ball of light amidst the darkness. The middle star had followed, happy to once again be flying through the infinite sky.. Before long space was once again alit with stars but these were not (and still aren’t) real stars. Only three real stars remain and they shone the brightest of all.

Once they completed their memorial journey they returned to hover over earth as they found this to be the most beautiful of all their creations. They admired how much better it looked compared to the image conjured by their storytelling. The two stars were excited to be able retell their stories and create new ones using this wonderful plaything that had appeared, just as a child would create wondrous battles with his toy knight and horse.

The middle star did not want to join in and still very much childlike he just wanted to fly through space again. But the other two stars would not join him as they were too busy creating more stories on this planet, weaving tapestries of glorious tales, each event perfectly planned and created.

But it was inevitable that this creative harmony would not continue and soon the disagreements begun and they could no longer agree on how this story taking place on earth should be told. Recognising that such disagreements had brought about such previous destruction they went to speak to the middle star for him to decide. They requested he be the arbiter in their dispute. At first he was reluctant, much preferring to allow his mind to wander across space, however his fellow stars persisted and so somewhat reluctantly he agreed.

Initially he was not called upon to arbitrate that often perhaps every once in a while but then the demands of him as an arbiter became more frequent. This irritated the middle star who having never participated in this storytelling had no inclination to do so now and just wanted to be left in his meditative peace. He therefore refused.

This of course angered the other two stars but they did not return to their previous rage, instead they grew bored of telling this story on earth, indeed they grew tired of telling stories altogether. Therefore they just sat in the sky and looked down and watched the story unfold before them below. Observing what they had created as it begun its first unscripted chapter.

However, the urge to intervene became too great and as the stars looked down they could not help themselves but to weave the tapestry of the story once more. This time, however, they did not tell this story in unison. Like they did with their brethren they kept to their side of the sky and told their own story. But there was now no coherence to the narrative and it was as if one had written his story in ink on a page only for the other to write over it in a different colour.

The stars began to move further away from each other, paranoid that the other would see what they were doing. Soon, they were telling new stories just to spite the other and they no longer cared about their beautiful creation. They would purposely seek to destroy what the other had created and the other would reciprocate. More and more they moved away from each other until they could no longer be seen, leaving only the middle star in the sky to shine down on the consequence of their spite and rage.

When the middle star awoke from one of his meditative journeys through space he felt immediately alone. The last time he awoke from a trance all the stars had disappeared save for two and now this time there was no-one. They had gone. He looked down at the curious green and blue sphere and thought his friends maybe down there, experiencing up close what they had created.

He therefore descended upon the earth and took the form of one of his fellow star’s creation and began searching for his two celestial companions.

No-one knows what ever happened to those three stars. All that we do know is that they never shone in the night sky again.

The End…..Now go to sleep.

“That was a silly story Mummy” said the child, desperately stifling a yawn “Tell me another one….A better one.”

“Not now. Sleep!”

“But Mummy…”

“Get the fuck to sleep!” mumbled the Mother under her breath before leaning in and kissing the child on the forehead “Night monkey.”

As the Mother turned off the light and gently closed the door the child let out one final cry of “Its a silly story!” before sleep finally overtook her.

The Mother leaned against the door and thought;

A silly story? Perhaps. Most true ones are.

Part One >