Choking on snow up north? Well I was too hot to take pics and too mad at a neighbourhood dipshit and his 4-hour over-revved line trimmer orgy on a fucking empty paddock full of dead grass. On a 30ºC day. If I believed in hell, I would believe there was a special place in it for all the chainsaw-humping, whipper-snipper-riding windowlickers and their obvious erectile dysfunction. Fuck them, right in the arse. But anyways... pretty flowers.
^ My Wilsonara orchid. From the front this time. BELOW LEFT Rose Brother Cadfael & Lilium regale.
ABOVE Helenium Moerheim Beauty. BELOW RIGHT Lilium Shocking. BELOW LEFT Lilium Bonbonini.
ABOVE LEFT Bumblebee on a white Salvia. ABOVE RIGHT Lilium Robina.
ABOVE Clockwise: Unknown Hammet Dahlia, Helenium, Ligularia Britt-Marie.
Who do I have to blow to get that fucking deceased turtle bag, yo?
I've got a persistent semi for that gaucho/kneepant cuffed business too, now that I have calves that can withstand public scrutiny. And jesus that beaded coat on the right uarrgghhhh.
It's all highly fuckable. See the Collection H E R E
In slightly belated honour of midsummer.
Ignore the Catholic appropriation. The Candida lily has been a symbol
of the Feminine divine since the beginning of recorded history and has featured in
the art and literature of many traditions right up to the present day.
In life it is a choosy little beast, its squat, pallid, broad-beamed bulbs demanding certain, largely mysterious, conditions before it will settle in and send up those lissome lime green spires that promise so much in the drowsy heat of midsummer. The first one opened yesterday; light is everything when you're shooting white flowers and the Lovely R scampered up to the vegetable slash rose garden in the evening to get this lovely pic.
The scent contains a single brightly honied note, deeply dewy-sweet, like something dripping from your lips and fingertips.
The smell of Aphrodite's naked wrists.
I'll stop shoving flowers up your arse and get back to the regular-type posting next week. Probably. You're welcome.
Drawing the collar of her new green parka closed, Susan walked as quickly as the broken ground permitted past the arcing neon moth as though it were some mythic peril, a Scylla sans Charybdis amid brick as slick and black as cobra scales. The club door stood unmanned, as was usual before the customarily tardy entrée of its loathsome impressario. She scuffed the far wall of the alley with her sleeve and hurried on, chin almost to her chest, slowing to study the wall for the low-set trompe l’oeil panel painted into it. Looking down, she saw that she was standing in a puddle the colour of fly-blown flesh and grimaced silently; she shaped her right fist with the help of her left hand and thumped it against the sodden wood.
Leaning forward, she thought that she detected the faintest suggestion of movement from the passage inside beneath the dull bass throb from the Moth itself. A shudder through the monstrous timbers hurried her backward.
“What th’ cott’n pickin fuck?” the occupant demanded from the shelter of its hide.
“It's Susan.” she told it. "I need to talk to you." The vampyre’s gloating chuckle passed through the wood between them as it worked the latch; she felt the violent grinding of the iron in her chest, remembered details of the creature's brutality toward her churning in her gut.
Without its slathered cosmetics, Siobhan’s face possessed a strange, hypoxic blandness, an anonymity more startling than the corrupt theatricality she had braced for, and at first she attributed her surprise to this irregular state. But while Susan marked its surroundings in perfect detail, the vampyre presented as an insistent anomaly, like a sun-bleached watercolour, blanched and impoverished. It stood squinting back at her, dark little eyes narrowing with its tongue-stuffed smirk in an expression of dismal delight, then froze like a jammed film, before leaning forward from the doorway and peering hard in both directions.
“Heh heh heh... them critters’ll bounce ye off a stiff dick soon’s ye core temp takes a fuckin nose-dive.” it chuckled. “Ye kin fuckin thank meh, an git back on ye wey.”
“Either let me in or I’ll go and make a fucking scene in there.” she insisted, nodding toward the Moth, a tiny lateral flinch afflicting her for a second; it was enough to trip the vampyre’s seasoned guard and it snapped out an arm for the door, too late, Edward pinning it to the wall with his boot while he caught the creature's throat. Susan bent low, turning quickly to heave the huge bolt back into place after them.
Adrenaline carried her down into the darkness, the sound of Siobhan's wheezy carping extinguished by the grip on its neck. On the landing Edward set the shotgun from the boot of his sedan against the wall and used a finger to enjoin silence, listening to the contents of the chamber beyond the dark arched door before holding up three fingers for her benefit. She nodded, half-comprehending, the flagrant reality of his intention transpiring only as he walked her back against the wall and stooped to retrieve the firearm.
He shouldered open the door with no more urgency or duress than some familiar invitee, the two figures smoking methamphetamine before the vanity looking up at him with pipes poised between their fingers, the feeble candle flame as still in the darkness of their eyes as it was in the dead air of the chamber. The tallest broke first, snatching a pistol from the foot of the mirror, only to lose the offending hand then two thirds of its shrieking head to the shotgun, its skull arrayed like an egg struck by a stone against the chalky wall. In the bright flash of the closely-coupled blasts the second vampyre dived onto all fours, making a scrabbling dash for the door; Edward kicked it onto its side as it scurried past and swung the hinged wood, the creature's squeals becoming a high scream, its shoulders, spine and ribcage crunched like seashell between it and the frame. Siobhan's hands clawed at his throttling grip as Edward set down the shotgun, turning both his attention and a freshly-drawn forty-five toward the portiére curtain. He listened intently, shifted his aim to the right and discharged the weapon twice into the heavy fabric. It sagged outward, permitting the fugitive to topple forward, stolen blood expanding slowly across the flags beneath its featureless corpse.
Susan's muffled voice was resolved as he heaved the door back, the vampyre's oily remains dropping wetly to the stone though some stuck fast to the black wood where they were most condensed. She jumped over the glistening mound of offal into the dirty glow of the chamber, lifting the collar of her parka against the thick, webbed stench of corruption, like something shouted in her face, gelling on her tongue like cold fat. Edward released the vampyre's throat and threw it to the floor, where it lay, cursing shrilly under the boot he planted on its back. Rendered in the disparaging colours of Susan's new perception, neither the expectorating creature nor the remains laid out in the shadows of the curtain and the vanity table inspired much more than simple disgust, the latter's catastrophic, widely-broadcast misfortune almost completely abstracted by the effect.
“I can see them...” she exclaimed, holding out a hand for comparison. “Vampyres... they stick out like dog’s bollocks...” Stepping forward, she scraped the pistol from the jellied gore with the toe of her boot and scooted it across the floor toward him.
“Lydia said you might develop an eye.” Edward replied as he trussed Siobhan’s ankles with the green sash of its robe.
"Dralna paramedic.” Pausing, he tossed a pair of shells from his pocket onto the ground by the shotgun. “Reload.”
“I don’t know how.”
“Learn.” He hoisted Siobhan from the flags and looped the sash over the lowest tine of the sooty candelabra overhead, tying it off so that the vampyre hung like a vanquished game fish, its robe and slip of jewel-green satin flapping down over its head. It hacked and spat and fixed them both with an inverted scowl.
“Least ah kilt that piece as close t’ fuckin dead as she gonna git fer th’ fuckin ferseeable.” it croaked, batrachian grin aimed squarely at Susan. She struggled to break the shotgun with both hands before the carousing Arabs and placid tigers on the wall behind her, replying without looking up from her task.
“I survived, you idiot.”
Siobhan questioned its ears in a moment of silence, its almost stately spin beneath the candelabra directing it toward Edward.
“'Suff'rable fuckin hellion... ye nev'r did hev no respect fer th’ nat’ral fuckin order... resurrectin poontang... how many fuckin chickens died fer that shit?”
Edward reclaimed the shotgun, employing his customary monotone.
"You seem almost surprised to see us."
"Aint ev'reh day ye bring a sahde a fuckin gash t' tune a blameless fuckin by-stander!"
“This is not a social call. The sooner you comply, the sooner we can leave town with your life savings.”
“Go rob mah fuckin cash drawer lahk every oth’r fuckin crackhead!” the vampyre croaked.
“Just give us the fucking money..." Susan insisted. Siobhan seized on her intervention, spitting from the maw that had rent her flesh.
“Ye kin suck mah cold dead cock b'fore ah tek orders from a chickenhead bitch on her dirty fuckin rag... tek more then yew t' poke th' fuckin lahks a meh! Ah were tradin simple gash fer needful shit since fuckin Noah quit crappin off the port sahde... shoulda chugged ye harder while ah hed the fuckin chance!"
The salty insult returned Edward's gaze to Susan. She stooped to collect the door brace from the ground and strode past him with it in both hands, swinging the iron back over her shoulders. It struck the helpless vampyre on the full and then again, ringing dully with the weight she threw behind the blows, her arms burning, the corybantic joy of dealing agony bruited like streaks of sky-bound sulphur by the rhythm of her strokes, the dead flesh thuds and beaten grunts baring her own teeth. At first the creature screwed its black eyes shut and weathered the broadsides with a hoary veteran's resolve, though it grew far less supportable, driven by her white-faced rage, loosening her victim's grip on its own sorely-goaded animus. It thrashed and writhed within its binding flesh, snapping and foaming at her beneath the chandelier and she whipped it with the iron until her arms were almost lost to her, snarling back at it. Edward raised a hand to spare his face the blood flung from the brace while the vampyre relinquished defiance and hung slackly, expressing a low, hollow sound of such inarticulate character that she would have mistaken it for the scurl of groaning pipes if she had not stood before its source. With her face clenched like a fist, she battered the creature’s knees into a bagged and shapeless purple sludge and opened wet black gashes across its thighs, returning to its midriff for good measure before being halted by her failing grip upon the iron. Susan leant over the brace to catch her breath, glancing back at Edward's silence. If she had looked to him for judgement he offered none, handing her instead a half-spent taper from the vanity with an attitude of ascetic, pristine detachment.
“Say it with me. My name is Susan Ellen Christabel, and I am an apex predator.” he told her.
Her victim swayed in the heat that boiled about the flame, still swinging faintly from her final stroke, the candlelight a slick, licking gold upon the viridescent satin swagged against its battered form. Its hem curled out toward her almost in invitation. Edward's terrible smile had defrayed his impassivity, his eyes an eldritch shade of electrum and she felt their wildest qualities glowing in her own. Wax bled over the back of her fist, stiffening swiftly. For an instant she saw terror in the vampyre's gaze and felt herself its object; she wiped unwitting blood across her chin and the smell belted the milkshake from her stomach, throwing her forward and ejecting an arcing stream that slopped onto the stone beneath the creature. She shook the candle from her grasp as she spat, groping for the edge of the portiére curtain in the darkness and wiping her face. A thick black rill escaped her victim’s little pug nose and pooled in its eye for a moment before dripping from its forehead. Susan held onto the curtain while her stomach threatened further action, turning her face from the smell of the vampyre on the ground beneath it.
“Does it even have any money down here?”
In answer, her companion stepped over the body he had left beneath the drape, pushed it back and disappeared, returning with an ancient, seal-grey safe that he dragged over the flagstones, the steel screeching and sparking on the granite. At the sight of it, Siobhan writhed from the sash that bit into its ankles, exasperated profanities growing less comprehensible with the fruitless violence of its struggle; as if in sympathy, the perforated corpse under the curtain began to tic and shudder.
“You only let me go to piss Nyāti off.” Susan assured Edward, frowning as the inspiration struck her obliquely. “How fucking thick am I?”
“Dummer then a fuckin shitpost if ye think that dirty snakeface aint gonna do yew lahk he fucking durn us.” the vampyre spluttered brokenly.
“Shut your fucking cakehole." she told it.
“Combination.” Edward demanded, his stare an analogue to the grasp he maintained on the gun.
“I kint re...”
The first two syllables of Siobhan’s prevarication discharged the weapon at the left side of its head, leaving a tar-coloured hole the size of a fist where its ear had been and dressing the distant wall with mottled tissue, setting the vampyre off in a spin. Susan kept her hands to her own ears as it slowed, offered an alternating view of Siobhan’s unilateral disfigurement while it spluttered out the numbers Edward required. Sounds of sucking liquid movement, of wet constriction and release gurgled distantly and yet issued indisputably from within its inverted person.
“Hurry up... I think something’s happening...” she hissed. The sight of the vampyre's throat, distended to the thickness of its head when he looked up, inspired Edward to rise and drag the safe toward the door.
Almost as he did so its mouth fell open and loosed a lapsing, fetid freshet onto the flagstones at the impartial behest of gravity, emptying the great elastic sinus in the vampyre's torso of its horrible capacity. Susan leapt back and scrambled up onto the padded stool before the vanity, watching the black slick wash around the folded legs of the corpse beneath. The stench besieged her; as she retched against her hands the wormy stool frame cracked and pitched her forward, forcing her to jump down into the sludgy pond of blood. Turning his shoulder against the thick splash from her boots Edward heaved open the safe while she stumbled over the mephitic remains crushed in the doorway, skidding wildly on its squandered fluids. She caught a hold of Siobhan’s dress rack, a sequined sheath coming away in her hand while the rest toppled into the spill.
The rank alley seemed alpine-sweet to her when she burst out of the passage under the eaves, flapping her parka to throw off the stench that seemed to mouth them even as Edward propped the trompe l’oeil panel shut with a broken crate. The bag from the safe weighed half as much as she did, stuffed tightly with soiled, looted currency; he hoisted it onto his shoulder and hung the shotgun from his elbow, swinging it toward a pair of gossiping vampyres descending the steps of the club. They froze, dumping a shower of wallets and credit cards into the skirt that Susan held at his command before reversing through the door. She hurried after Edward, shaking the scaly, Persian-green sequins of Siobhan's gown from her arm.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
Because moisture is the essence of wetness.
If you get that reference, you'll understand that gardens sometimes throw blue steel and the Lovely R must document that shit like the compulsive photographer he is. We'll be in the middle of a conversation, the light will change and then boom, he's swapped lenses and is out the fucking door.
Sometimes I forgive him.
Clockwise: Echevieria Rainbow, pansy, iris, Pilosocereus cactus.
Rebutia, pansy, Lilium pyrenacium
Daylily, Phlox White Admiral, Dahlia, hybrid spider daylily.
Ralph Eugene Meatyard
He's dead, but he's still the business. Ripped off so hard by so many and so rarely credited.
In contrast to his gently-domiciled legal representation, Edward's bankers inhabited an elephantine tower of blackly gleaming, gneiss-like plate, a single legend etched into a stainless plaque beside its entrance. Susan looked from the sinister quarters to its client, allowing her seat belt to retract slowly through both hands as her smile widened.
“Oh go on... I took you into my bank.” She stripped off her coat and fell in behind him as he crossed the pavement with the slender black case.
An aegis-like desk formed both a greeting and a barrier across the midst of a vast reception shaded by dark glass walls that soared away into the waist of the tower, the sound of their feet on the stone floor echoing back at them in soft, delayed confusion. Behind the sweep of granite and veneer two brunettes stood like a matched pair of horses in their Prussian blue livery; they treated Edward to a fulsome greeting, smiles expanding and decaying in unison. The ambience that had always flagged the thought of wealth in Susan’s estimation was freshly embodied in the smell of polished metal, computer terminals and a simple bass note of exclusivity itself, the green tang of a dollar bill rolled into the ghost of wood smoke. Her companion completed the required codes and exchanges at the scrupulously polite behest of the fractionally taller woman, who led them to the end of the counter.
“This way please, Mr Alton.” she suggested. Susan’s frown flew to his profile; he ignored it, glancing at the guards who nodded in deference and allowing their guide to discharge her brief spiel while she admitted them to a narrow, glass-walled antechamber, then stepped back from the sliding door beyond. They were left to enter the spacious vault alone. It was faced entirely with rows of numbered silver partitions, their monotony extending to the two low desks fabricated of the same brushed metal; they occupied the middle of the alcove, like altars to the mysteries entombed around them. Susan gazed in a circle until it began to affect her balance.
"I can't believe I'm actually standing inside one of these things."
“We're phasing them out."
"Why?" He held up one of his irregular hands. "Oh, right... biometrics." She frowned in sympathy with his predicament. “Having this much money seems more trouble than it’s worth.”
Edward stood staring at the wall before him.
“I gave up a black tent in the Empty Quarter to come here, and I don’t remember why.”
"Why do you bother?”
“This is the West. Being poor is too expensive.”
“I know. You were only paying me two fifty a week.” Susan folded her arms against the chill of the vault and watched him unlock the first cache, drawing out the smooth compartment and bearing it toward her. “It's got to be well strange, choosing your own name.” she added as he sorted through the enclosed documentation.
“Sachiin asks a woman to guess.”
“Really? How long have you been Edward?”
“Drunk heiress, house party in the Loire. First half of the fifteenth century.”
"It doesn't suit you."
"I am aware of that."
"Who were you before?"
"I don't remember."
“So... I only think of him as William because of some trolleyed French tart, five hundred years ago?” Edward left the table for the other wall. “How do they say it? Guillaume?” She laughed to herself at the dubious sound of the word, and regretted the lack of nerve preventing her extending her enquiries; as if to underscore the inadvisability of doing so, Edward stood looking into the second deposit box for a moment before slamming it back into the wall and turning in the midst of a suddenly-visible state, for once so poorly contained that she slid carefully from the desk and retreated behind its furthest end. He watched her without explaining himself, a thick, white piece of paper grasped in his hand. Unwilling to goad him further with timidity, Susan came forward, watching his face all the while, and slid the note carefully from between his fingers, only to find that she could not understand its printed Latin maxim.
“Where now does the sun shine?” he muttered, translating for her.
“Was it imp...”
“Four deeds, sixty eight carats, six hundred and twenty seven thousand, five hundred and sixty six dollars US.” He stood with his arms by his sides, re-imposing moderation, however extrinsic, while consequences and implications rolled out and concatenated of their own accord. She reached down into her bag, offering him the money he had gifted her. Though he refused it with a look the spirit behind the gesture was accepted and seemed slowly to relieve his most unsettling elements, winding back the stunning, whiplash process that had rendered him a stranger.
“I don’t think Opal leaves fuck you notes in Latin.” she concluded, hands on hips. Edward brought the first box to the table and cleared its contents into his black case.
"Old World undead standard operating procedure. Incorporate the willing, strip and pillory dissenters. We fall into the second category, and now, so do you. Félicitations."
"Well, I could have ended up one of them." She groaned into her hands. "Oh god... why does anyone care about this bollocks? Why can't they just suck blood and mind their own fucking business?"
"They're human before anything else. It's an intrinsically totalitarian condition."
"Don't call me intrinsically totalitarian, and you're partly human... I suppose we're just lucky whatever else you are doesn't like politics. If your brother was here he'd ask who we have to fuck to get out of this, so I'll just go with that."
"The Bailiss." Her blank look prompted him to expatiate. "Vampyres are a nation, a nation needs a figurehead. They appointed a notary, an administrator, stationed in Praha. The current one burnt his predecessor in the sixteenth century, recruited a praetorian guard and has been extending tentacles ever since." He fastened the catches. "Who could have predicted something like that?”
"Is it hard, being right all the time?"
"Marginally less so than the alternative." Edward consulted his phone once again, studying the appliance in apparent resignation.
"Shall we... I don't know... just go and have a cup of tea or something?
“I am going to meet Nyāti. Wait in the car”
He walked from the foot of the black tower some time later; Susan stood on the footpath, arms akimbo, glaring at their blurred and impoverished reflections in the side of the SUV that had blocked in his sedan. She looked over her shoulder at his approach.
"Give them the finger." she urged, lifting her own to do so then letting it fall as she watched him reach almost into his coat, a motion of intent that sent the vehicle on its way.
The last hours of the afternoon had drawn enough heat from the sun to recall a more vernal incarnation by the time they had found the nominated café, visiting on the pedestrian leg of their journey a hunting boutique that had caught Edward’s unfailing eye. Susan found herself encumbered with an oil-green anorak and gaiters in spite of her stony-faced opposition, and humped the glossy bag through wrought-iron tables into the shade of a plane tree pressed between two blocks of gentrified brick. Despite her annoyance she was struck by the figure awaiting them in the spotted shade, enclosed in an elegant dove-grey trench, a heavy string of fat, vivid turquoise beads wound around the pallor of her neck. Nyāti watched Edward leave room for Susan across the table from her and the latter sat down before them, forming the notion that the two seemed like halves of the same forbidding animal. They spoke quietly to one another, exchanging some cursory greeting. Susan glanced at the menu and conferred her selection to a waiter, frowning at Nyāti's unblinking interest.
“She seems to have survived your strenuous attempts to dispatch her.” the latter remarked cooly, the disclosure prompting Susan to look purposefully toward Edward.
“Young people today.” he replied. “I’m prepared to accept the commission, but I don’t get out of bed for less than a hundred thousand US per individual, inclusive of disposal and a limited schedule of expenses. She'll float as she is. I'll need a new chainsaw.”
“I'm less inclined than you to throw money at Sachiin’s mistakes.” said Nyāti, clearly weary of the subject.
Susan sat with her bags propped on her lap.
“And I don't really want to die just at the moment.” she scowled. “Mind you, I haven’t been forced to wear this yet.” she added, shaking the anorak out of its plastic cowl and holding it up in both hands. “He did have a go at killing me, but he’s either going soft in his old age or he forgot the bullets and just didn’t want to say anything.”
“You must have been born lucky.” Nyāti replied to her facetiousness. Susan shrugged.
"I suppose we can't all be perfect."
“We’re leaving sometime in the next two weeks. I suggest you do the same.” said Edward.
“I’m going today. Frankfurt, and then on to Nepal... if I see no articulate creature for another century, I will consider myself blessed.” She seemed to have at last expressed a sentiment to which he could subscribe; Nyāti steered their conversation into unintelligibility, and Susan set down her bags and made for the bar in the rear of the converted terrace. Seating herself at the counter, she nodded to the barman’s offer of a lager and answered her phone, relieved to hear William’s voice over strident rocksteady.
“Packed up?” she inquired.
“Getting there.” He sounded weary, half-troubled.
“Nothing... just... baked.”
“Make sure none of them drive the truck into town with a bong in their face because I don’t think today’s the day we need to be bailing anyone out or having things confiscated.” she sighed, sipping the froth on her beer. “Someone cleaned out your brother’s bank vault thingy, and mine... he’s not very happy.”
William let the phone fall for a moment.
“Is he still talking?”
“Don’t let him go quiet... distract him.” A waiter emerged from the kitchen with her order and she slid down from the stool, following him out.
"You're scaring me now. What is it, for god’s sake?”
“Frost’s gone.” he sighed. “She lost her shit and ran. I couldn’t stop her.”
“You mean you didn’t try."
“Christabel, if she’d wanted to be chained to a headboard... I think we both know how that sentence ends. We’ll just... let him find out for himself...”
She choked on a mouthful of beer.
“Are you mad? He’ll go absolutely fucking mental!”
“We don't know that... maybe he’s... already over it...” William pressed his palm to his eye, despairing at the pathetic nature of the assurance.
“Your brother is a six foot four inch repressed homicidal maniac who never deals with anything! He just told me that himself! Have you stood next to him lately? Do you know how big he is? I'm stuck here with him...”
“We’re all the same size.”
“The only person he ever listens to just pink slipped his arse and went back on the fucking stroll.”
“You should have made Lilian tell him... this is her bloody mess.” she complained. “I have to go... I only ordered steak so I could eat it in front of Nyāti. I’ll tell him, alright? Just... don't do anything else stupid.”
Back at the table, her companions' implacable antipathy transformed the consumption of her jus-dressed rib eye into the defilement of some echoing sanctum beneath the sacred golden gazes of its statuary. Only the urging of her own biology allowed her to press on, hunching over her plate and sawing quickly at the grilled flesh while her eyes fell to the highest element in the scarified design descending from the base of Nyāti's throat. Beneath the turquoise beads it spiraled in two opposing directions before disappearing under her collar, suggesting curving horns, or some double headed serpent. Her substance had resisted exile, existing in its impossibly distant remove like strung pearls recalling the forsaken sea. Susan could see something of the same in Edward, though the loss had closed over inside him.
“What of Rana?” Nyāti asked, returning to their conversation.
“I don't possess the authority to question her divine imperative.” he replied.
“So you leave her to these creatures. And what becomes of this unprincipled preoccupation of your own? Which imperatives prevail in her respect?” Nyāti replied to his silence with an incisive stare. “Another fortunate soul. You must both treasure the thought you gave to the consequences of your patronage before extending it. Will you hand her directly to the interested parties before you go, or let her think she has a start on them?”
“You’d say the same thing if I were forcing her to leave with me.” he told her. She frowned faintly at his response, following his gaze as though hearing something more.
“Until now, I would have never suspected you of wanting to.” she assured him. “Whoever she is, Kala'amātya... let her go. None of this becomes you.”
“Speaking of expedient repudiations, have you heard anything from Avi'ashān, or does he cease to have ever been?”
Nyāti accepted the retaliation with the same dark brand of contained displeasure, retaining his attention as she set down her glass, the sun casting shifting white refraction through its contents onto the table cloth. She stood up.
“There is blood on your face.” she informed Susan, by way of farewell. Fishing a mirror from her handbag, the latter wiped at the corner of her mouth, glancing across to Edward, who had sat back in his chair and lapsed into staring in the direction of the bar.
"Cow." she muttered. She nursed what remained of her beer and then drained it, reclaiming his attention with the grave use of his name, glad of the table between them, and of the strangers sitting behind her. “I was just talking to William, and... I don't know how to say this, so... Lilian left this morning. I mean, for good. I'm sorry.”
She was deeply relieved that he did not seem surprised. Edward's gaze fell to the table, then moved slowly past her, losing itself in the distant dust-red of the brick wall. That he did not wish to speak was plain, but he did so, in recognition of her struggle.
“In’sha’Allah.” he said quietly, the phrase weighted with such charred fatalism that she yearned to contradict him.
“Did you ask her to come with us?”
“I can offer her nothing more than Sachiin offers you.” The admission settled like a pair of cold hands on her face and she was reminded of the first time she had spoken to him, though it was the absence and not the weight of sanction that impressed her, the knowledge that her observations enjoyed passage after all, alighting within him in unseen forms.
"It couldn't have been easy for her to go." she sighed. "But if she has..." A breeze shifted the slender, half-denuded branches overhead; she abandoned her suggestion and brushed the leaves from the auction catalogue he had neglected, thumbing aimlessly through the pages, absorbing little of its contents and returning to the cover image of a slender Tibetan Avalokiteśvara figure carved of smoke-stained wood, long robes sinuously plicated, the swept curvature of her gaze reprised in Edward’s. She remembered William's advice about his silence and forced herself to intrude upon it once more. “Gideon’s stuff does look incredibly stolen.” She turned the featured image toward him. "That looks like your grandmother.”
“Our grandmother went into the sea when Sachiin was born.”
“My god... why?"
“Two grandsons. Social death."
“And he’s almost a girl after all.” she smiled ruefully.
“I would say to tell her when you meet her, but she'll be in the hell for orthodox hypocrites, and you and Sachiin will be in the one for the people who never listened.”
“What about you?”
“I'm already there.”
Susan followed his lead out through the bar and across the road with her bags, catching him up in the shadow of their alley park. She let herself into the car uncertainly and looked through the window at him in section, his almost disembodied hands such fearsome artifacts though powerless to effect his only meaningful desire; he stood in a darkness he saw nothing of, rain-curled bills fluttering on the walls behind him. Content to allow him the time he needed, she lay back in her seat, remonstrating mentally with Lilian and William until her companion stooped to join her.
"SUV twats." she muttered, directing his glance to the rear view mirror. The party in question had parked across the mouth of the alley some way behind them, sealing it off; he released the brake, their wheels spinning then throwing them forward over wet cardboard and rotten pallet wood into the intersecting depths of a decrepit byway. "I don't think you can get out this way..." she warned, bracing her hands against the dash at the sight of a stockade of padlocked chain-link in the gloom before them. Choosing reverse, Edward drew them backward in an arc that halted in a bay adjacent to the alley, a forgotten sinus stuffed with sodden, discarded shapes of sheenless cinder-grey, cradled by towering conjunctions of Victorian brick. Fire escapes sagged like the blackened skeletons of giant reptiles blasted in the act of scaling the rust-streaked walls on either side.
She settled back into her seat, eyes wide in the darkness while her companion drew the slender case from alongside her legs and flipped it open. Staring blankly while he locked a series of satin-black elements together in both hands, she swore as it resolved into a elongate pistol, turning to struggle with her seat belt, prompting him to pause and lock her door remotely. The headlights of the pursuing vehicle played across the lower courses of the walls before them, the alley filling with the thick chug of its engine. He kicked open the door while Susan sank down at the sight of it edging past the black mouth of the bay, sliding into the footwell as the driver swept a spot across the brick and mounds of boxes, its hueless eye burning through the windscreen on the full as it slowed to a standstill. Edward stepped out from the wall into the beam and raised his pistol to the driver's window.
Five rounds flew in bursts of silver-white and the hard, cuffing knock of struck steel, denatured by the suppressor but still so loud that she contracted into a ball and covered her head with both arms. The sound of Edward's stride preceded him; he swung the weapon to cool it as he returned, drawing open the door and bringing with him the narrow, needling smell of scorched metal.
"Get up." he told her, the words dulled by the whine in her ears. She demurred, remaining in her static hunch until his fingers changed their grip upon the gleaming object in their grasp, spurring her to crawl back quickly into her seat. He gazed at her wordlessly as he resumed his own behind the wheel. Susan sat without moving before reaching across to instate her seat belt.
The bleeding neon flare left on her retinas by muzzle-flash spared her the sight of the remaining vehicle as they edged past its tail lights. Daylight, however vestigial, flushed so much from the encounter that she found she could look out as though blameless, impunity settling around them like loosed down, sinister in its weightlessness and alkaline inside her mouth.
"Is it better when you're angry, or when you're getting paid?" she asked, the words dragging as though melted by the effort of marshaling coherence and he offered no response.
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
The Lovely R outdid himself with these gorgeous images of our cacti going off from early summer.
Above left and top right: Rebutia & Sulcorebutia. Above right bottom: Mammillaria
Above: More Sulco/Rebutias. Below: Neochilenia/Eriosyce
Above & Below left: Rebutia. Below right: Echinocereus
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William reached across the mattress and yanked the shunga scroll from the hands of the lycanthrope absorbed in its graphic erotica and dumped it into a drawer of the blood-red chest, taking his place at one end and bending to reach beneath its carcass. Luc rolled from the bed and at the count of three they heaved the chest toward the doors, tripping on the curling edge of a tulu, both of them cursing Gideon’s consignment of his services. Squeezing out into the hallway with their burden, they were met by Étienne and the fat joint he had constructed while secluding himself in the kitchen. William confiscated it and administered a punitive flick to the latter’s new piercing, catching him off guard. From cradling his affronted nose the lycanthrope lifted his hands and ran them hastily over his hair, straightening up and brushing off his pale blue shirt, a process echoed with peculiar fidelity by Luc, who added a moody gaze to the rakish posture they had both adopted. The click of Lilian’s tall black pumps slowed as she was confronted with them.
“You fucking losers can die trying on your own time.” William remarked. “Get this shit down the stairs or I’ll tell Kala'amātya you were dogging his piece.” He squeezed past the door frame toward her, scowling at their soi-disant allure and walking back along the hall with her in the nominal hope of privacy, closing the door to Edward's suite behind them.
A pane of sunlight slid over the matte black of her suit as she walked past the window, the shadow of an elm bough lying on the floor around her feet. Her face was lightly powdered, a slim, dark line painted over her lashes; when she looked at him he could see the strange marriage of desperation and impassivity in the black circles fixed so tightly in the centre of her eyes. Toward the bathroom door her clothing rack stood emptied. William glanced down at the suitcase by the foot of the bed and then at the phone she held out to him.
“Call me a cab.” Lilian insisted. When he made no move to comply she lifted a hand to her brow as though something kicked against the inside of her skull.
He took the phone from her and sat down on the corner of the bed.
“I have dreams about him sometimes... he's always an animal in the hold of a plane that's breaking up at thirty thousand feet... I can't do anything, but I get to watch.” he told her. “I lost him when Helaine died, for four hundred years. If you go, I lose you both.” She stood looking down at the floor. "What does she say?" he asked quietly, looking up as she leant her head against the window.
"She came to say goodbye, because he needed that, but... the more she holds his hand... If you don’t help me leave, she'll fucking stay with him, and you’ll have to watch that too.”
William murmured to himself in his own language, pressing his hands to his face as she sat down beside him. The dry, powdery scent of the orris in her perfume reminded him again of her avatar, the smell of Helaine's fields swept up across the river to her house; he saw his brother sitting with her in the kitchen door of that ancient pile while she read from the creaking volume on her knees.
“Where are you going?” he sighed.
“I got a trick waiting... it’s fine. I’m good.”
"Fuck." William closed his eyes. He reached slowly into the pocket of his dirty jeans, pulling out a business card and handing it to her, then spoke carefully, conscious of the rote, suspended nature of her gaze. “This is Gideon... he’s in France. If you’re in trouble, if you ever need anything... he doesn’t ask questions, and he knows where to find us.” He looked down at the phone and turned it over in his hand.
Susan walked with Edward through the sliding doors into a branch of her domestic bank, feeling the immediate, gravitational assault of the attention he so unwillingly commanded. One by one, as though in response to an audible demand, the clerks and store assistants in the teller queues turned to satisfy their curiosity; security guards shifted in their shoes without knowing why, touching hands to the equipment on their belts and frowning. She was appraised for the first time of the manner in which William absorbed and diffused such unwelcome notice, sheltering her from its effect. Edward's person offered no such concession. He performed instead the discreet examination of the room that was his first act in any new situation, turning gazes from himself with a retaliatory sweep of his own. Perforated ceiling tiles floated overhead; the new carpet, printed with busy triangular motifs in scarlet and grey, smelt strongly of solvent-rich glue. Susan murmured her inquiries.
“Should I close my account? Won't that look like I'm planning to leave or something?”
"Withdraw two thirds of whatever you have." he replied.
The teller processed her demands with bored efficiency, her neat bleached hair crowned by a white halo of static-riven frizz, glancing past her repeatedly as she worked the keyboard. Susan looked back to her companion herself; his gaze was focussed squarely through the wide glass frontage and on something in the street outside. Rejoining him, she stood stiffly at his side, clutching a half-crushed printout.
"Someone's ripped me off!" she whispered. He perused the transactions briefly, and took out his wallet, discreetly handing her the sum in cash, which she initially refused, and then stuffed into her bag, shaking her head. "You owe me a month anyway." she muttered as they returned to the street, making a lightning dash through the traffic and coming back to the car with a plastic-wrapped bunch of pink chrysanthemums, a white paper bag that grease had already rendered half-translucent, a large milkshake and a sack of sugar-dusted donuts, handing him the flowers and pressing her face into the paper as she slumped down beside him. “How long has it been since I had a kebab?" Susan sighed, chewing busily. "What I could actually murder right now is a whole tandoori chicken just... dripping with ghee, and a great big bloody Kashmir naan..." The frigid milkshake tingled in her sinuses as she drew on the thick blue straw, gaze wandering to the blooms with which he had been so unceremoniously presented. She plucked one of the slightly ragged flowers from its stalk and bit into it herself, pulling a face and spitting it out the window. He refused the donut she offered in compensation, watching cinnamon-tainted sugar drop into her lap as she stuffed it into her mouth. The sight of a huge oil-black SUV in her side mirror attracted her attention with its polished panels and darkly obscure windscreen, crawling two cars behind their own. Eating the rest of the donuts in a brown study, she watched the vehicle for three more blocks before fishing her sunglasses from her tote and sliding them onto her face. “This sounds stupidly paranoid, but I think that great big thing back there is following us.”
“It’s not those... what are they? Something Investigation muppets?” He did not respond to her speculation and she blew a frustrated breath, scowling over her milk shake at him. “Well I don’t know... I didn’t join the secret bloody service in my gap year.”
“You can see them. Perhaps you studied logic in your gap year.”
“I couldn’t afford the fees and had to work for sarcastic people instead.” She spat out the straw. “Alright, so I can see them, which means... they’re not trying to hide... which means... they want us to see them because they’re trying to... intimidate us?”
“Are we intimidated?”
Edward planted his foot and cut over the sidewalk, in front of a car already occupying a parking building entry lane; they ducked the boom, skirted a reversing van and took six ramps in a smoking drift, climbing four more toward the roof at a slightly more leisurely pace while Susan squeezed between the front seats and knelt upon the rear, blowing bubbles into her lidded cup. She hung out of the window and peered down into the floors beneath them.
“Bastards! They're still there... what should we do?"
He chose a park in the midst of the floor, circled the car and caught her elbow, marching her swiftly across the tarmac toward the lift bay. She chuckled to herself inside the mirrored compartment as the purpose of their eccentric detour occurred to her, shuddering at the pungent yellow brass and faux marble mall scape revealed by their debouchment. They walked together through a flock of preening teenage girls, their dour, thickly-pencilled stares following Edward as the latter accompanied her toward an outdoor retailer. Glancing over her shoulder, she took some time to look both ways along the crowded aisle, then disappeared with him into the head-high racks of pastel puffer vests and stripy thermals.
"The House always wins." he mused.
“I know, alright, but if we have to come into a mall we should make it count. I need some gear for wherever we're headed anyway. And you can stand there with your death ray going but you shop for underpants like everybody else, so can we just get on with it?"
Tugging items from the displays on her way toward the changing rooms, she stuffed the overflow into his arms but Edward abandoned the pieces as fast as he was entrusted with them; he took the remaining clothing from her, dropped it onto the attending counter and walked away toward the men’s department. Susan strode after him, folding her arms against the lengthy, number-coloured parka that he handed her.
“It looks like it fell off a skip. Or a wino." Compounding her dismay, he chose a drab brace of thermal underwear and hiking pants, wholly unconcerned by her displeasure. "I'm not a fucking trainspotting troll!" she hissed, glancing around them. His patience shorted when she refused even to examine them for herself, eyes brightening like a glimpse of distant hazard lights. Susan stood in her defiant attitude for as long as she dared, then trailed him toward the counter.
“All you need worry about is how fast it will dry in the shade. And how you’ll look to twelve drunk paramilitaries while they’re still only joking about who goes first.” he informed her, looking toward the till girl's open-mouthed dismay. Susan's gaze rose, wide and vehement; from his height and with his stare he invited her to contradict him, and they suffered deadlock until she felt her pique subside, finding points of interest in his tactics.
“Does that work on Lilian?” she asked. Edward took money from his pocket and dropped it on the chair beside the clothes, leaving her to carry them herself.
Nursing an enormous soft-serve ice cream in her free hand as the elevator returned her to the car park, she performed a watchful traverse of the bays, both elbows weighed down with bags that she threw onto the back seat, cracking the stiffening chocolate at the top of the cup with a plastic spoon as she sat down.
“I know going on the lam probably isn't a picnic, and I know you’re trying to get that through my thick skull, but sometimes I just have to stick my fingers in my ears and go la la la first.” she confessed, dragging a bag into her lap to show him the items she had acceded to. “See? Neutrals. I’m sure I’ll have plenty of time to sew my name into them on the train to Crapistan. It's going to be bad, isn't it... where we're going?"
"Everything is relative." he said, looking pointedly at the handles of another, smaller bag beneath her thigh. Frowning, she hauled it out and discovered a forest-green presentation box, compressed by her unwitting weight; it contained a hunting blade with an antler hilt, its gift card left blank. She smiled at him and tossed the box over the seat, dropping the knife into her handbag.
The windscreen framed a view of the vehicle that had prompted their excursion as they reversed and swung past its position between two supply vans. It continued after them until Edward engaged the hand brake at the foot of the descending ramp; behind them, the pursuing vehicle was forced to a halt, boxed in by tail-gaters, and she whispered a furious caution as he pushed open his door and walked back up the ramp. He stood gazing in through the windscreen; Susan's disquiet gave way to appreciation of his unorthodox gambit as he returned.
“Who are our numpty stalkers?" she murmured, looking back between the seats.
“Nothing exotic. Low-ball contractors... geriatric Special Forces, dishonourable discharges."
"Judging by the taste level."
"Wouldn't you feel like a dick following someone around all day?" she wondered, scooping out the bottom of her ice cream.
"Viagra and hair plugs won't pay for themselves." She smirked into her cup at the ungenerous sentiment. “Were you not tempted to stay at the house and supervise? I wouldn’t advise leaving Sachiin with Auberjonois’s entourage for longer than it takes to source hash and pornography.”
"I don't care. They probably don’t accidentally touch you inappropriately twenty eight times before nine o’clock in the morning."
“I assume he and Gideon have resolved their glittering differences.”
“You're asking the wrong person.” she assured him. “Why? Is it just because he loses his pants in the woods, or is there something else I should know?”
“Auberjonois is not my field.”
They rode in silence until she muttered and began scratching at her neck.
“Are you going to sue Opal for being a horrible bloodsucking trout?” she asked, brightening.
“There are no applicable statutes.” Edward admitted, pulling up outside a manicured brownstone while their pursuers continued onward. “Keep your eye on the road. There’s a full clip under my seat if you don’t like the way things are going.” he told her. She scowled.
“I'm not a bloody gangbanger.”
“They’ll be pleased to hear that.”
C O N T I N U E D N E X T W E E K
© céili o'keefe do not reproduce
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The Lovely R and I would like to express solidarity with the twelve magazine staffers massacred and the dozens of others traumatised in Paris today by alleged Islamic militants. And every Parisian who still believes that freedom and tolerance are worth the candle.
This is why we loathe (all) organised religion. Not that these mouthbreathing dickheads need the lavish encouragement these shitty doctrines provide, strictly speaking; it's just that they're happy to have something 'significant' to namecheck in their quest for masturbatory gratification. This grotesque fuckery will be the highlight of their lives. Ponder that for a moment and be grateful for your own.
Why do people too stupid to achieve successful human engagement imagine themselves qualified to be its arbiters? Fuck them all right in the arse by flaunting your high-functioning personal freedom today.
"There’s one orca that I’ve rescued and his name is Ben. When I get in the water he’ll swim right up next to me, sorta get this feeling there’s somebody there, you turn around and there’s this face right there and he’s just peeking over. I mean here you have this sentient being, this animal that’s self aware that looks you right in the eye. If there was such a thing as coming back in another life I would want to come back as an orca." -Ingrid Visser
Stills from Orca Rescue in 4k (x)
As you can see from the size of the stick in these pics, I do use Dragon Girl regularly enough, just... rarely on its own. I do an intense gradient look with MAC Girl About Town more than anything else since they share quite a bit of their cool blue pinkness. GAT lends DG some textural relief too. There is a point beyond which absolute-zero matte begins to militate against these very intense hues, creating a weirdly unflattering one-dimensional look; to get the kind of graphic red you might be wanting out of Dragon Girl, I find I have to slather it on until it looks like someone did a really bad job powder-coating my lips.
I will say it is an easy shade to control; you can dial it up or down to your heart's content and at 50% it's a very pretty, doll-like bright berry. There's certainly no bleeding or migration to worry about. A good beginner's red, perhaps?
BELOW L 2 R: Nars Mascate, Guerlain Garçonne, Nars Dragon Girl, Bite Pomegranate,
MAC Just A Bite + MAC Russian Red. indoor daylight.
I photographed this old Tearose in late light to emphasise the texture of its petals, which possess an odd, almost disturbing combination of powder and fleshiness, as though it were made of baby skin or grandmotherly décolletage. It's another of my newish acquisitions, planted last year; sulked for a wee while then set to forming a busy little nest of mahogany and pewter twigs that have flowered quite generously for such a little plant.
Like most teas, the scent won't exactly have you coming in your pants- it smells more like the packing crates than the Darjeeling itself, dusty blonde wood with a hint of ghostly incense smoke and the most latent dash of mallow sweetness imaginable.
Jean Ducher, as it is known in New Zealand, is the subject of persistent nomenclature fuckery. Where there is doubt, I wish experts in the field would just give the darn things a fresh appellation instead of confusing the hell out of everyone. Identity fraud/misattribution is already rampant, as almost anyone who chases old roses has probably learned. A rose by any other name, etc. etc.
Check out her glorious portraits of people with albinism H E R E