by Domenico Pisanti


From Issue 15 (Nov 2011)


He walked into the restaurant, a man in his early fifties; someone who turned heads and for a brief moment reminded all who glanced in his direction of a happier time in their lives. Then it was business as usual. A waiter was already making his way towards the man, who was looking around as though trying to find someone.

“Howzit, sir. Are you here for the lunch special? It’s a carvery today. Table for–?”

“For two,” he said, absently, and then seemed to focus on the waiter in a most direct way. “I don’t have my reading glasses, Kenneth, but this is Scission, is it not?” He wasn’t in the habit of making mistakes, but his eyes were a little faded these days. Still, he could feel her. This must be the place.

The waiter blinked in surprise at the use of his name, but then remembered that his nametag gave him away. “Ja, sir, of course. Voted best restaurant two years straight, ek se!” There was real pride in his voice. The tall man looked so familiar to Kenny. He wondered if he was someone famous, maybe even internationally famous. He almost wanted to say, “Here stood Seal.” Except it wasn’t Seal. He’d have to ask Mpho, the assistant manageress who was always reading Heat magazine and keeping up with who was who in the entertainment zoo. The tall man turned his attention to Kenny and the young waiter felt like he was having a nap on the couch on a lazy summer afternoon.

“Has a lady come in here, Kenneth?” The man asked.

Kenny snapped out of his daydream. He cleared his throat. “Lady, sir?” His voice implied that many ladies came in here all the time, and could you be more specific, sir?

The man grimaced. The windows overlooking Sandton and the Michelangelo Hotel let in a ray of sunlight, which glanced off his perfectly bald black head.  “I believe you’d remember her.”

Oooh! Yes!” Kenny’s eyes lit up with delight. A thin sheen of perspiration immediately covered his forehead. He whistled. “Ja, of course sir. She chose the best table. She said she was expecting a companion. Please follow me.” Kenny made his way through the restaurant. It wasn’t that full, but it was the height of lunch hour, and the businessmen would be coming in shortly. Nothing was ever accidental with her. She never missed an opportunity to have a dig at him. Even this restaurant had been carefully chosen – not only for its location, in the beating heart of Johannesburg’s business district, but also its name: Scission.

She’d never forget – never let him move on. Some scripts were doomed to be re-enacted, dances waltzed through time. He already felt tired, which meant she had succeeded in her first attack on his defences.

The waiter walked past three tables where people sat alone. The table she had chosen was near the back for privacy’s sake, yet raised on a dais, so that the view was uninterrupted through the solid wall of windows that curved around the restaurant.

She looked up, and both men gave a sharp intake of breath. Her skin was olive-coloured, with a hint of cocoa, her eyes so dark they might have been violet. Her hair was a curtain of raven, the sheen made you want to touch it to believe it was real. She wore a summer dress the colour of burning autumn leaves that hugged every curve, to her advantage. There was a glow about her of pure confidence, danger and sex appeal. She had a daiquiri in hand and was sipping at it, the ridiculous umbrella bopping as she looked up and saw the tall man. Her smile was as bright as the window behind them.

She stood up, and the grace of her movements brought another shudder from the perspiring waiter. “Your table, sir. I’ll give you a minute to decide on drinks,” he stammered, then reluctantly walked away to join the huddle of waiters all lounging nearby, trying to make their obvious stares anything but.

Her eyes looked up into his, and the energy between the two seemed to hold the restaurant in thrall. He discovered that his hands were shaking as they took hers. She’d always had this effect on him – on anyone really.

“Are you impressed?” she whispered, the curve of her smile and upraised eyes toying with his resolution.

“You’re early,” he replied, and had to clear his throat.

Her smile curved upwards. “Maybe I missed you. Maybe I thought, this time round, I’d make an effort. Does it impress?”

“You’ve never fallen short of impressing anyone.” He paused. “And what do I call you this time?”

Her smile lost some of its lustre. They were still standing. “Oh, you’re so boring. Why break the moment with an inane question like that?”

“You know me. I’m a traditionalist.”

“I think you love being human a little too much, love the labels.”

“Names are power.”

“What do I call you, then?” Her breath carried the scent of cherry blossoms, and the heat of her body was all over him, trying to find a way in. Her fingers played with his. “I see you have no wedding ring.”

“There is only you.”

“The universe is so big. You haven’t been looking hard enough.”

“With you in it, why should I look elsewhere?”


“You look lovely, by the way. But then, you always do.”

“Thank you, kind sir.” And for all her power and strength, he could see that he had pleased her. It broke his heart a little more. He knew they could never be together again.

“Alright, then. I’ll go first. Just for the record, and the rules. Miranda. And you are?” She had taken possession of his hand again.


“Oh, come on! Of all the names in the world!” She sat first, the same graceful movement. He plonked his long frame into the chair opposite her. He noted an empty daiquiri glass standing to one side; the one she was now sipping from was in front of her. “Low marks for imagination, Jeff.  How American of you. The alcoholic in the White House will be so thrilled!”

He did not rise to the bait, but instead lifted the wine list to peruse. Behind him, the first group of businessmen came swaggering in, some on their cell phones, others talking rugby. One or two in the group called a ‘Howzit’ and winked to the two youngest waitresses. A man in a suit of blue silk lifted his eyes from his conversation for a moment, and staggered to a halt, his conversation forgotten. Miranda smiled a secret smile at him. Then turned her attention back to the old man.

“Fans of yours?” the old man asked politely.

“Could be,” she returned, and sipped the daiquiri, enjoying the discussion that was still going on near the window on her account. “But we’re not here to discuss business, are we?”

The waiter suddenly reappeared. He had wiped his forehead free of perspiration. “Are you ready to order, sir?”

“Yes, thank you. I’d like a bottle of red. Graham Beck.”

“And only from the vine, never the vein,” she said, and giggled at her own joke. The waiter raised an eyebrow, his hand poised over the note pad. “Imagine drinking your own son’s blood! Two sins in one: filicide and cannibalism! What a pickle!”

“Graham Beck, Merlot. Any year is fine.”

The waiter left, trying not to stare, only for a different reason this time.


‘Yes, Jeff?”

“Breaking a rule isn’t going to do either of us much good. You have to behave, and not step out of any bounds. That is part of the agreement.”

She made a movement with her hand, like a puppet speaking. “Blah, blah, blah. That is why we have these nice minders all over. To make sure I colour inside the lines.”

“I noticed when I came in. Some are friends of yours–”

“And some of friends of yours. That table over there. The old lady looking lost and so not part of the scene, is a dead giveaway.”

“Well, subtlety doesn’t run strongly in your people either. Who does that man over there in the spiked hair think he is? Beelzebub?”

“Everyone needs a hobby.” She said this with real fondness in her voice. The silhouette of a man with four flies tied to his shirt collar showed against the bright light through the windows “Ah, see. That is why we need minders and rules. Just like old times, Jeff. Wouldn’t you agree? Us arguing over a nice meal. Oh, what’s the matter now? Don’t you like this place I chose for us?”

“I’ve never liked any of the places you’ve chosen for us.”

“Well at least it isn’t on top of a mountain in Tibet. To me that smacks of bragging, and pride is the first deadly sin, may I remind you.”

“All I’m saying is, it’s far more peaceful than the Spanish Inquisition.”

“Don’t look at me. I just wanted to appreciate all your creations, not just mountains.”

He took a deep breath and exhaled. The lines on his face were a little deeper than when she had last seen him. She didn’t mean to dig at him so much, but they always brought out the best and the worst of each other.

They remained silent until Kenny returned with the bottle of Graham Beck. He poured, Jeff sipped, approved, and his glass was filled. Kenny hovered. “Er…are youse going to have starters? Or just go for the carvery?” His thick Afrikaans accent grated over the English words.

“Hmmm. Well that all depends on whether Jeff here is going to be interesting company. We may do seven courses, or just a quick meal. What do you say, Jeff?”

“I’ll have a starter please. The calamari and salad.”

“Another of these,” she purred, holding up her daiquiri.

“So!” she said, leaning forward so that he could get the best view of her cleavage. “What is it going to be first, sex, religion or politics? Because let’s face it, nothing else is worth talking about.”

“I find it hard to imagine that after all these years, you’re still bitter.”

“Me? Bitter! About what?”

“About us.” He sipped his wine, and watched her face in that way that had always frightened her. He wouldn’t dare cheat and go against the rules, but she sometimes wondered how much he knew what she was thinking. Even in these human suits, he had an unpleasant way of seeing through her carefully constructed armour. “The venue alone is a start.”

Scission?” She threw her pretty hair back and laughed, eliciting worshipful glances from the table of businessmen. He continued to watch her. “That’s really amusing.” She threw her carefully manicured hand out as if dealing cards, indicating the two of them, “That would be like saying Hitler had a small disliking for Jews. Are you saying your first clue was the name of this restaurant? Are you really that dense? Because there are more…obvious reasons why you and I find ourselves where we are now.” Her eyes darkened for a moment, like pools of black smoke. “I despair, I really do.”

“I only ask, because each time we do one of these…” It was his turn to deal an invisible hand of cards. “I always hope you’ve moved on.”

“Honey,” she said, leaning forward, and catching his hand in mid-air. She kissed the back of his knuckles with her soft, full lips, and the sensation rippled up his arm. “If I stopped being bitter, you’d be the first to know.” She ended with a whisper. A part of him – the part that would always be in love, as well as lust, with her – took a moment to reflect that it was these kinds of tactics she used each time they met. It had almost led to a disaster in a cheap motel more than once.

“You’re not doing that again, Miranda,” he said in a tight voice, and removed his hand from hers.

“Doing what, sweetness? Doing what you crave and want?” Her eyes looked through lashes as soft and large as palm leaf shadows. “Scission – the act of cutting or dividing – a split. Yes, maybe I chose this restaurant in this area of Johannesburg because I knew just how much you’d understand–”

“I understand how hurt you are. After all this time…I am sorry–”

“Shut your mouth and keep your pity away from me! I need neither!” she suddenly spat.

She sat back, and he saw her blink a little too rapidly. Kenny reappeared, his brow soaked again. He handed the daiquiri to her as carefully as he could, and she touched his hand in the briefest of moments.

“Your boss is ripping you off. He pockets the tips,” she said, and the young man’s eyes clouded for a moment. “I thought you should know.”


“What?” Her smile as innocent as an altar boy’s. Kenny looked as if he’d been hit hard in the solar plexus as he walked away, stiff and taut. “I’m righting a wrong. You should be proud.”

“Rules,” he growled.

She heaved her bosom in a deep sigh. “Are you going to be this…principly all day?”

“Are you going to misbehave all day?”

“Is that an invitation, Jeff?”


“There must be some mistake. I didn’t order this.”

“This is from the gentleman at the window.” The waiter’s face pleaded that she accept the drink. She sighed, and nodded.

“Much appreciated.” She squinted over the waiter’s shoulder towards the young man with the flies tied to the lapels of his jacket. The man’s face was hidden by the light of the windows behind him, but she spied the flash of a smile. She lifted the whiskey and sipped with pleasure. After a few moments her eyes moved over the table of businessmen, back to the focus of her attention: the couple at table six.

“Thought I’d introduce myself.”

She nearly knocked the entire glass over. The buzzing of flies filled her ears. “Oh my–”

“Didn’t mean to startle you.” His voice was low, pleasant and American.

Like hell you didn’t, she thought, and turned her most radiant smile up at him. “Just nerves. It’s the occasion, I’m sure.”

“Buster Leebs at your service.” He held out his hand. It was the smoothest hand she’d ever seen. Like a suit that had never been worn, she thought. “These little guys are…” the smooth finger pointed to each fly in turn. “Azrael, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.”


“And let me guess: Joan of Arc? Mother Teresa?”

“You flatter me – just call me Marleen…well, you may as well sit down. It looks like they,” she pointed with her chin towards the tall black man and the curvy brunette, “aren’t going anywhere.”

“Them’s the rules,” he agreed, sitting down. “Well, this is cozy, ain’t it? Can’t say I’ve had much occasion to sit with…” He seemed to lose his words.

“So this is your first assignment, then?”

“Yep.” His face clouded nostalgically. “Reminds me of the Cold War years, you know. Just two fellows shootin’ the breeze, a momentary truce where KGB and CIA meet at the same little East Berlin pub to discuss…” He waved his hand vaguely, missing Azrael or maybe Michael, “…I don’t know, women, life, the price of oil. You name it.”

“But never shop.”

“Nah. Well…sometimes…especially if you were ‘running’ an agent, you know.”

“A turncoat.”

“I suppose.” Both of them turned to stare at the couple. “You think they’ll–?” he began.

“Unlikely.” Her answer was sharp enough to cut him, and he lifted a smooth fingertip to his mouth and sucked on it.

Her face filled with surprise. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean… Please let me–” she reached forward, and suddenly the buzzing of the flies became so loud in her ears that she fell back in her seat, her skin paling, her hands clutching her ears.

“Down, boys!” Buster chided, but he wore a sly smile on his tanned face. “I wouldn’t come any closer…you’ve obviously upset them.” He pulled his finger away from his lips, and examine the near-invisible slash of blood near the fingernail. “Paper cuts, so tiny…you know there is a form of torture in hell involving paper cuts?”

“Again, I apologise–” she began. “If there is anything I can do.”

“Nothing a Band-Aid won’t take care of.”

What happened next made Marleen forget all about the old man and the woman at table six. Each of the flies landed on the man’s finger tip, as he held it up, like a tiny landing strip, and she watched as the flies went about their business of hoovering the blood, each proboscis working hard. Green abdomens flashed emerald in the afternoon light; blue abdomens like the blue eyes of a lost lover. The man smiled lovingly at them. “There,” he said, after an eternity of silence. “All better now.”

The table of businessmen exploded into confident, testosterone-filled laughter. One of them – the man in the blue silk suit sans jacket – stood up, his white shirt stained with liquor and sauce, red in the face. Marleen watched Buster untie one of the flies from his lapel, and hold onto the fine thread as he brought the fly towards his mouth. He whispered something, and the fly took off, trailing its thread like an afterthought.

“What are you doing?”

“Nothing,” he said innocently, as they both watched the fat businessman weave his way towards the men’s toilet. He paused for a moment, taking in an eyeful of the beautiful brunette’s breasts, whilst the fly tagged itself onto his shirt collar. Then both man and fly disappeared through the door.

“Well, it was good meeting you,” Buster said, standing up. “I’m sure you’ll agree that sitting in close proximity to one another doesn’t really help pass the time quickly. Just thought I’d be polite and pay my respects.” He walked back towards his table by the window, one fly short of an archangel set.

Marleen frowned for a moment, and then looked down at her arm. A few blisters were forming on the back of her hand.


“You shouldn’t drink so much.”

“And you shouldn’t preach so much,” she said, draining her glass and holding it up, summoning the waiter. “You worried I’m going to drive home drunk? I don’t have to drive – there’s a perfectly good hotel nearby…”

The old man sighed.

“Ah, Kenneth. Could you get me another? Looks like we won’t be lasting till dessert at this rate.” Her eyes held the old man’s. “Jeff is such a bore.”

Kenny’s face was pale, with an unhealthy sheen. As he turned from the table, the old man touched his elbow. The waiter’s face was a study in misery. The old man knew too that the misery would eventually turn itself into a dirty hatred. Some of the tension drained from his face, like colour from a painting.

“Don’t be angry, Kenneth. Your boss will never take from you again. Let it go.” He said this all with the warm reassurance of a grandfather. Tears of gratitude sprung into the young man’s eyes.

“Promise?” his voice croaked.

“I never lie,” the old man said.

The waiter walked away, this time a little slower, as if in a dream.

“So much for following the rules.” Miranda’s hand touched his, and he felt that electrical charge. “You see how easy it is? No harm, no foul. A little guidance here, a little nudge there.” Her fingertips continued to trace the back of his hand. “The best intentions…”


Marleen took out an ancient-looking cell phone and began to play Snake. The whiskey in her glass was all but finished, and as her eyes kept roaming over to table six, she felt a slight twinge of annoyance. Unlike the young man with the flies behind her, this was not her first time. This wasn’t even her tenth assignment. Her outward plainness and other-worldly wisdom drew little attention, which was what was required for the job. The fact that there was a man with flies tied to his lapels told her all she needed to know of how amateurish an outfit They had become.

With a sinking heart she watched her charge soften and fall into the honey trap set for him. Yes, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if these two were heading down the path they seemed to be heading towards. And Lord knows, it will do him a whole lot of good, she thought to herself. Clear out some of the fuzziness that had set in over the last few centuries. The world itself was a reflection of this.

But it still irked her no end to watch Her reel him in. Kind of like watching your father end up drunk at your prom night, kissing a cheerleader.

She drew the plain shawl around her shoulders. The businessmen were well into their cups – none would be going back to the office today. The young man who called himself Buster in that drawling American accent was sitting reading a magazine, every now and then allowing one or two of his pets to feed on his paper cut. On my cut, I gave him that. Damn near crossed a line, she thought, shuddering. But that was over.

So that left one more customer.

She allowed herself to turn her head, and to try and look askance at him. Unlike the rest of Scission’s customers, he had positioned himself in a corner, away from the light. He had chosen for himself an assassin’s chair. Had it been her imagination or had she felt a ripple from that corner the moment she had lashed out unintentionally at Buster Leebs? No. No accident. He was here for that reason – to observe the chaperones. To make sure no interference happened. No paper cuts were inflicted.

She reached 196 points before succumbing to the game.


“Where’s Riaan?”

“I r’know! He was taking a leak.”

“Jirre, he’s been gone for ten minutes. How much did he drink?”

“I’ll go check. Maybe he’s catching forty winks.”

This brought laughter to the table. Marten got up and weaved his enormous bulk through the restaurant towards the men’s room. He caught a glimpse of the pretty stukkie that sat provocatively talking to the darkie. Why a looker like that would prefer chocolate over good boere steak, was beyond Marten. It didn’t necessarily upset him, as he was looking forward to his own rendezvouslater in room 235 with a certain lady with whom he had a long-standing arrangement. He felt himself harden in happy anticipation: the really funny thing was, she was a darkie too. What would his wife think if she ever–?

“Riaan? Are you dead?” he asked, stepping into the yellow light with the air-con blasting away overhead. The oval basins stood in a row to his right, the mirrors showing open stalls except for one right at the end. Marten made his way towards the urinals. May as well make his own pit stop whilst he checked his buddy was cool. “Hey, Riaan. The boys are waiting! It’s your round! Hope you haven’t passed out or anything?” He felt sweet relief as he emptied his bladder over the strange pink cubes in the urinal. “Hey Riaan! Word wakker! Catch a wake-up! You okay?”

A toilet flushed from behind the door of the last stall.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” he said, zipping up. He heard footsteps behind him. Some alarm – a vague sense of unease – pinged in his alcohol-fuzzed brain, but mostly he was still filled with the prospect of Thandi later tonight. “So, ready–” But at that moment, Marten Van Wyk lost all ability to speak – in fact, he would never speak again. And Thandi would be a lonely woman come seven o’clock that evening.

The mirrors on the wall bisected the image of the thing that had once been Riaan Van der Vyver. Insect legs, with serrated black edges like barbed wire, had sprouted from bleeding holes in Riaan’s body. They carried him along, tottering beneath his enormous head, which had blown up, purple and swollen, with tumourous lumps all over what had once been his smooth, bald pate. His one human eye peered bleakly at Marten with pain and suffering. The other eye, stretched outwards, with bubbles of more eyes growing beneath it – looked on him with cold indifference. Riaan’s human legs hung like useless growths, not even touching the tiled floor.

“Mhaaaarrrten–” Riaan’s mouth – his normal mouth – tried to say, when suddenly a gaping hole below his chin, where his Adam’s apple would have been, stretched open, revealing a red maw, and an entirely different voice filled the men’s toilet. “Your time is at hand!” it hissed. “Don’t you know that in God’s great plan, slugs, bottom feeders and worms hold open the doors to hell?”

Marten opened his own mouth to scream before his face was sprayed across the mirrors in an angry Jackson Pollock canvas.


The Graham Beck stood half empty as Jeff drained another glass.

“I see you’re getting into the spirit of the occasion.”

“Well, neither of us is going anywhere…” he hiccupped. “Excuse me.”

She giggled like a little girl. “I love it! You are so…so human!”


“Don’t blush, it’s true! Hiccupping!”

“I sometimes forget, okay?”

“Well…it’s endearing. Makes you less of a stuffed shirt…”

It was her turn to observe how this comment had pleased him. Such little things matter, she found herself thinking, as she watched the way his neck moved above his clean, white-collared shirt. Not bad looking, all things considered. She thought that maybe he’d made an effort this time around.

“What are you smiling at now?” he asked. “I seem to amuse you to no end.”

“Just remembering some of the old times…”

He raised an eyebrow. “Like?”

“Like when you showed up as a street vagrant in Rome–”

“And you showed up as the wife of a Prefect.”

“Hardly a way to keep ourselves from being noticed. You gave me fleas.”

He rubbed a long-fingered hand over his bald head. “That was before Pompeii–”

Her hand reached out and lifted his chin.

Their eyes locked, and in hers he found his will deteriorating. “It was one of my favourite times…we made love all day, and when you climaxed–”

“Miranda – you can’t say these things–”

“But why not? What else do we have to get us through the next twenty-four hours?”

“Well, Vesuvius was reason enough not to…to do anything,” he finished, feeling his shirt stick to his back. “We killed innocents.”

“We kill innocent people every day,” came her response. “You know this. It has always been.”

He dropped his head away from her hand, breaking the spell. “This universe is like a wind-up toy, Miranda. Once it’s wound up…it just goes and goes, and there is no telling where it will end.”

“Like people,” she said, her eyes skipping past the businessmen (who seemed to be a few short in number), towards the pious-looking woman beyond them. “Let’s ditch the chaperones. What do you say?”

He shook his head, but it was a weak response – more a reflex action. “I’m tired, Miranda.”

“I can keep you safe. Your shoulders are broad – but even broad shoulders grow weary.” She felt the desire building in him – it happened every time. Why he insisted on playing it straight when sooner or later their attraction alone was enough to light up a city…

She decided to seize her moment, and stood up. Immediately, all chatter around the restaurant ceased. Waiters, chaperones, businessmen, even the cleaner near the TV, had all paused in what they were doing or saying.

She held out her hand, knowing he knew it was there without lifting his head.

The restaurant waited. The clockworks of the universe slowed for a moment.

He put his mahogany hand in hers, and stood up. They walked out of the restaurant together, and no one said or did anything.

Not until a scream came from the men’s room.


“This is nice.”

“Nice? That’s not very complimentary.”

“If you’re talking about what we just did – that was phenomenal – but lying here, feeling safe…it’s nice.”


Two waiters disappeared into the men’s bathroom, answering the siren wail of one of their own. The woman Marleen paid them little attention. She turned around, feeling all the hairs standing up on her neck and arms as she looked at the man who called himself Buster Leebs.

His eyes found hers, and his smile was as flat and humourless as light on a blade.

He stuck his finger in his mouth and sucked his paper cut. His three remaining flies were orbiting his head like planets.

A strong sense of foreboding sank into her heart as she stood and said, “What have you done?”

He continued to smile at her, saying nothing. She had thought him an amateur, but now it seemed she had been wrong. Was it his spy skill to appear harmless coming through? Who had put him up to this? Her eyes flicked to the darkest corner in the restaurant. Surely–

But the corner was empty.

Her foreboding shifted to fear for the first time. “What have you done?” she repeated.

Behind her a waiter was running, calling out to another, “Phone the police, for fuck’s sake, call the cops, quickly! And an ambulance!”

He finally stood up and said; “The doors of hell are held open by the scum-sucking, the bottom feeders and the corrupt. What better place…” He raised his arms to encompass the view of Johannesburg behind him, taking in Sandton City and the Michaelangelo hotel. “What better place to go knocking?” And then one of the businessmen who had had followed the throng into the toilet came stumbling out, vomiting fresh crayfish and vodka all over the smooth tiles of the restaurant. It looked like pink detergent. One of the waiters went slipping in it, and ended up winded by a table in his midriff.

“This is against the rules,” she said, and now she felt the anger – white, righteous anger – building up, finally filling the hole left by the fear. She felt her skin itch with fire, and her eyes prickle madly with the blaze. Mr Leebs took a hesitant step backwards towards the open vista of glass.

“The blood sacrifice has been made. You can’t–”

“No I can’t,” she agreed. “But you’ve already opened that door.”

She took a step towards him as he continued his backward progression. She felt her hands heating with white fire. She did not hear the screams and the panic from the other customers around her, the chairs overturning, the glass breaking. They were all scrambling. Buster Leebs’ eyes widened to two round windows of blue.

“Wait! Please! Don’t do this!”

“It is done,” she said, in a voice that was her own. Not the glove of the human shell she wore. “By the power of the first Power. I order you to stand!” she said, moving over the cowering cleaner who had dropped where he was, knocking over his SLIPPERY WHEN WET sign. The TV bolted against the wall imploded like a popped eyeball. Then the art deco light fixtures exploded, adding to the chaos. “Stand!” Her voice rose, and now he had his hands up and she saw, stark in the relief of the bright day behind him, the crisscross markings of scars on his palms. Saw how the flies tied to his shirt circled him as if to protect him. She smelt the burning in her nostrils, the electrical charge. His back fetched up against the glass wall, and he stood.

She raised her hands, palms blazing white, arms shaking. Pieces of her clothes were burning. She was beautiful and terrible. Her eyes were a gold colour. She moved to touch him. He began to scream an inhuman scream.

And then she saw…

She saw in Buster Leebs’ eyes all she needed to know about what was behind her, as it approached, throwing its long shadow against the wall to her right.

“My Lord–” he began, his fear sliding off his face like a mask. Beneath was that same flat, sly regard. “You’ve come.”

Reflected in the glass, superimposed over the city of Johannesburg like a portent, the black, shambling form came, pushing chairs and tables out of its way, its large furry legs and bulbous head…at its centre, Marleen could see the unfortunate soul it had chosen to come through. She finally turned around, and saw that the man was still alive.

“Kill…me,” he managed, before the second mouth at his throat interrupted.

“Who dares?” it asked in a wet voice, as fangs jutted from the businessman’s throat. His loose tie flapped like a long, purple tongue. “Who dares?”

“I dare,” she said, but now there was more than fear. She was terrified. She swallowed hard as she watched the approaching monstrosity. “And I know you.”


“You are insatiable! Who knew?”

“It has been a while…”

“Way too long…Don’t you wish it could stay like this?”

He sighed. “But it’s not real…is it?”

She didn’t answer.

There was suddenly a knock on the hotel door.

Merde!” she swore. “What’s the point in hanging up a DO NOT DISTURB sign?”

“Relax. I’ll get it. Maybe it’s room service.”

“When did either of us have time to order room service?”

His tall silhouette disappeared into the late afternoon gloom to unlatch the door’s golden chain. “Yes?” she heard him say. She sat up in bed, suddenly sure it wasn’t room service.

She wasn’t disappointed.

A man’s voice said something. He answered. The chain rattled and he returned, discarding the hotel’s white towel onto a chair. He pulled on trousers, and his shirt.

She didn’t have to ask what was going on when she saw the man who had followed Jeff into the bedroom.

He nodded. It was with such deep respect and humility that the words she had ready to fire at him for this intrusion – this audacity – died on her lips. She nodded back.

“I suggest you get dressed, Miranda,” came her lover’s voice. “Something has happened. At Scission.

She already knew. Otherwise this silent, dark figure wouldn’t be standing in the bedroom doorway. She pulled the sheet off the bed, padded over to her discarded dress, picked up the trail of underwear – like Gretel trying to retrace breadcrumbs. The bathroom door shut behind her.


“We must get out of the building, quickly,” the dark figure said. Only his eyes were discernable, as if the shadows had left that part of him alone. The rest was all liquid black. “The hotel is not safe.”

“What about Scission? The people need help.”

“We’ve dispatched a unit. We already know who the culprit is. They’ve opened a door.”

Jeff looked down at Miranda. “One of yours.”

She stared back defiantly, but said nothing. An apology at this point would have sounded empty. She wasn’t sorry.

She wasn’t thrilled about it, either.

As if to underscore her turbulent thoughts, they passed through the lift lobby with the sun setting over the city of gold through a bay window. Above the orange ball of fire, like a spray of diamonds, the long tail of MacNaugh’s comet flew. She turned away from it, and saw that he was looking at it too. Her heart broke a little more at the sadness in his face.

The time between – a lifetime of lifetimes he had written to her – when? Mesopotamia?

“The stairs. I don’t trust lifts,” the shadow said, casting a glance over his shoulder. His eyes were the colour of a Bengal tiger.

All the Israelites saw pass their doors was a dark shape of a man – but the Egyptian’s first born saw those golden eyes in the night…she pulled her shawl tighter as they took the stairs.

“My Pradas–” she said, bending to take them off.

“Classical reference?” he asked, eyebrow cocked playfully. She loved him more for trying to make light of everything.

Once she was barefoot they made good time, taking the stairs quickly. The liquid shadow in front spoke into his wrist in a language she did not understand. Yet it was a language she had once known.

“Don’t get lost,” came Jeff’s voice, and she realised she had fallen behind. His hand was held out to her as they continued down the flights of stairs. Emergency exit signs and fire escape drill signs passed in a blur.

“Once was enough,” she panted – panted because that’s what was expected.

This time he turned his radiant smile full on her, and she stumbled, feeling her knees give way.

Careful with that smile, Mister. You got a licence for it?

“Now you’re teasing me. You never pass up an opportunity to have a go at me. Not for one second.”

“If I did –” she began.

“If you did…maybe things would be different.”

“Maybe is the worst teasing of all…can’t hang your coat on a maybe.”

Both became aware of the shadow at the bottom of the stairs, his eyes shining amber. “It will be nightfall soon.”

She sighed. “Don’t remind me.”

They followed, moving quickly through another lobby and outside towards a waiting car, its exhaust burning white smoke in the deep dusk light: the driver a film noir villain with a cigarette.


Marleen thought calmly: As chaperones go, we didn’t do a very good job.

Beneath her sensible shoe (the other had taken a tumble twenty stories down) people continued about their sunset trip home after another long day of making money and driving the economy. The main roads of Sandton were full of gleaming cars.

She tried to turn to face the creature, whose long, black, serrated, hairy arm held her suspended over the traffic. One of the glass panes was broken in a jagged star roughly the size of a person. The creature’s bulbous head with its many eyes peered indifferently at her through the hole. The rest of the wall of glass reflected the spectacular view of the sunset – strips of a gold and purple sky and Johannesburg – like a cut-out of building silhouettes. She even had a moment to appreciate the effect of her looking like she was standing on top of the city. The long tail of the McNaugh comet curved across the approaching evening sky, reflected in the bulbous purple eyes that peered at her with murderous intent.

“You cannot destroy me,” she gasped, feeling the furry rope-like texture of its leg tighten its grip around her throat.

It suddenly pushed its whole head through the glass, breaking the city’s reflection into a million pieces. Shards fell to earth. The half-dead businessman, somehow still alive, groaned, his own human legs hanging over the long drop.

“I am a Lord of Hell…and it will give me great pleasure to destroy an insect like you,” said the mouth in the dying man’s neck.

“I think you’re confusing who the insect is here, Azazael.”

The half-dead man’s throat widened – the tendons stretching, fresh blood trickling as the thing smiled. “Look down.”

She did. There were four lanes of traffic going east and west, backed up and not moving at all. Their headlights were coming on in the fast-fading light. There was nothing unusual about this scene.

“I–” she began, but was interrupted by the sound – clear even from up here – of metal screaming as it was tortured into new shapes…mingled with the screams of people. “Don’t hurt them,” she pleaded, as cars’ roofs began to peel back, as if a giant tin opener was working its way through the metal. The destruction continued in a ring around some epicentre as the ground rumbled and shook, and the tiny insect shapes of people scattered from their idling cars in all directions of the compass.

“Witness the power,” Azazael’s mouth roared.

The ground beneath the peeled cars spat up dirt and white dust. Pieces of machinery flew like missiles. Marleen had time to realise that these were coming from the underground works of the Gautrain rail system. Cranes with long arms creaked, while a hole grew in the centre of the turmoil, sand and tar and road falling away into the hungry mouth of the earth.

She saw into that hole, saw the tortured souls, the people in torn business suits that had been flayed from their bodies. Carpetbaggers, travelling medicine men, priests and politicians – familiar faces of con men throughout the ages, all lined the long larynx of a tunnel that spiralled into the earth. Rows upon rows of them, each bound in tangles and snarls of barbed wire, thorn bushes and hooks, and all screaming with one voice.


Marleen looked back into the hateful eyes that reflected their own hell. “You’re not lord of hell.”

“Save yourself! Show me your pretty wings,” the creature mocked. The grip around her neck loosened. And she was free falling.

At that precise moment, the sun set – and the comet overhead lit up the sky. A car with tinted windows, an angel’s wings on the hood, appeared down below.

The world froze.


“Say it. Say it again.”

“You know–”

“Say it!”

“I…” His voice faltered. “Miranda…the world.”

“Can wait a moment – a moment is all I ask.”

“A moment we’ve been trying for so long to what? Find? Re-enact? We’ve got to face reality–”

“Reality is the last thing we need to face…there’s only us…we are reality.”

“People are dying, Mir…”

“People will always be dying, just as they will always be born…we, on the other hand…I always think there is hope for us. And then I go away…what is it you said to me once?”

“A time between – a lifetime of lifetimes.”

“Do you still feel that way?”


“And you long for me? Far away in your kingdom?”

“Every day of every human life. You know it.”

“Then that is all I can have…for now. Perhaps next time…will be the last time…and we can be together…no more Scissions. Just us.”

“I’d like that…Mir…the comet is gone…the sun has set…you need to go.”

“Your keeper grows anxious…He always made me nervous.”

“He does what he is supposed to.”

“…one last kiss?”

“For now.”


“Freakiest thing I’ve ever seen,” Genny said, inhaling and puffing on a cigarette with a shaky hand. Her eyes kept straying to the human-shaped hole in the glass that hugged one side of the restaurant.

The policewoman nodded in sympathy, writing down everything she said.

“She just…jumped. One minute she’s got the chef’s salad in front of her…then she just jumped.” Genny’s young eyes stared into the older and more experienced gaze of the policewoman. “She just jumped. Smash, through the glass. How can a person…just jump?” she repeated. “What was so awful about her life?”


The paramedics arrived on the scene, the ambulance making its way between cars parked willy-nilly, bystanders and rubber-neckers in the peak hour traffic, bright orange cones and the tricky rubble of a construction site. A fire truck could be heard approaching. Paramedics Thabani Nkosi and Jason Fouche made their way to the body of the old lady.

“Mind there, please! Medics! Please, can we get through?” Thabani called, his voice seeming to awaken the crowd, which moved in a sluggish, dazed way. Jason had always thought that when people crowded they took on the hypnotic look of holocaust survivors. He planned to write a thesis on it one day.

The last of the people moved back…revealing a bizarre scene. The blood made the new tar gleam like polished stone. A star-shape of it had splattered from the body at its centre, like an explosion frozen forever. The white-shrouded shape lay like a broken rag doll, of no use to this earth. Shattered glass glinted like eyes reflecting the evening sky. Both medics were young, but had experienced so much death in their short careers that they were already hardened to what they witnessed every day.

This was different.

As streetlights started flickering on, and the shadows became artificial, Jason bent next to the old lady, feeling for a pulse, even though there was no evidence as to why a pulse should exist. There was none.

Thabani was trying his best at crowd control.

“No, baba, please. We need to do our work!”

An elderly man in overalls held his Zionist Star badge up like a policeman’s ID. “She should not be touched! She is not of this world!” he cried in a clear, preacher’s voice. His well-travelled face was illuminated with an inner light. “She is an angel of the Lord!”

At least we know what you do on the weekends, old man, Jason thought.

His hands slid under the body, feeling along – they caught on something. Jason peered closer…

What he saw made him oblivious to what was being said:

“…opened up…I saw. The sun shone on them–”

“She didn’t even scream–”“

“The Lord has spoken to us.”

The fire truck was hooting its way through the crowd. People seemed reluctant to move out of the way.

Jason continued to stare down at what was underneath the old lady. His eyes darted to her face – serene and pale, with a trickle of blood drying at the corner of her mouth. They moved back to where his hand was. He held a large white feather – a feather that felt like silk, spots of blood on its pristine whiteness, glaringly red. He moved her slightly…there were more of the same snow-white feathers caught in the blood beneath her body. And something else. The tip of what looked like…a large wing…


The police report would later rule what had happened on the corner of Grayston and Sandton Drive as nothing more than the suicide of an elderly Caucasian woman. She had no ID on her. No record of her having ever lived in Johannesburg, or indeed South Africa, seemed to exist. All witnesses in the restaurant had put forward that she had sat quietly, eating her salad, though some had agreed that at one point a man had sat down with her. But this could never be confirmed or corroborated, as this man was not in the restaurant. Either he had vanished, or had never existed in the first place.


The city was alive. So alive it ached in his bones. He knew humans had deserted its terrible heart in droves over the years, but there were others who flocked to its bosom. The city’s heart was both fascinating and cold. The wall at his back bit into his jacket. The breath gusted out of him in white plumes. The nights were so cold. It was amazing to feel again. He hadn’t felt this…   human since Berlin. He was aware of so much – his own fear, the hollow hunger, the sirens, the alleyway with its stink of human waste, biological and material, the moans of people living under rubble not too far off.

He had been promised a kingdom.

This was his reward.

He couldn’t even blame the woman. He huddled, arms folded in front of him. The chill was beginning to creep through his human clothes. He held up his index finger by the light of a flashing blue neon Vodacom signboard high up in the sky. He had only two left. Michael and Gabriel – both buzzing lazily around his head. They may save him yet. In the meantime, he’d save his strength and hate for his master.

Someone moaned in their sleep nearby. A pile of papers and cardboard shifted on the ground.

His eyes were large in the semi-dark he found himself in now. Above him, two fire escapes framed a black, cold sky and stars. No comet.

Then he heard it: a new sound, nothing to make anyone too concerned. Not in this city. He thought of his master’s serrated legs bursting through the body – the doorway – of the businessman. He thought of the sound those large insectile legs had made.

The sound he was listening to now was that of footsteps – but they had the distinct quality of heels.

Woman’s heels.


“Buster Leebs.” Her voice was velvet. He looked up, his heart locked, frozen, his body instantly covered in perspiration. An orange square of light had appeared above one of the fire escapes, and there she stood – a black outline of curves, one arm leaning lazily on the railing, the other bent on her hip. There should be no lights in these buildings…they’re derelict and abandoned, he thought.

“I can hear you down there…I can hear your fear pumping through your veins. You may as well show yourself…besides, your pets give you away.”

Despite the assurance in her voice, he remained frozen.

“Very well…have it your way.” The silhouette turned and the sounds of her descent down the metal staircase matched the sound of coffin nails being pounded with a mallet.

“What were you promised?” she asked, her voice caressing the shell of his ear as if she were right behind him. “Were the keys held up before your ignorant eyes? Your greed has followed you beyond death…defecting was your death sentence in life, and now here you find yourself…” She reached the bottom of the staircase, her shoes crunching rubble, gravel, old newspapers, plastic bottles. She walked slowly towards him, a swagger, a hip shot out. A street lamp caught her briefly like a gasp – she was naked, all smooth flesh and planes of seduction. She wore only the shoes.

“Maybe…” she said, “maybe this is all my fault. In the end, I should never have left such weak minds in charge.”

He was shivering now as she walked though the bodies of sleeping individuals, a shadow again.

He reached out his hand – the one with the paper cut – and said only, “Mother.”

The neon board high in the sky cast a blue light over her. Her dark hair framed a face he couldn’t see. She stood with one leg forward, bent, playing with her shoe. “You must decide, Buster. In Hell, it’s what we all decide. You were wrong…” and now he could almost see her face – see her eyes. “You were wrong to try and take away what you thought was mine. For in the end…it’s not mine to give. It all belongs to Him.”

He still held his hand out…but now a tingling sensation was beginning in his index finger. And then the most excruciating pain he’d ever felt erupted – it was far worse than anything the Russians had ever done to him in the cell in Czechoslovakia. He tried to scream, but no sound emerged. His eyes looked down at his fingertip…he could see the underside of his nail in the blue light. Even through the pain he knew this made no sense – until the nail travelled up his finger, and the sound of skin ripping reached his ears. The paper cut had expanded out, and was now slowly eating his finger, skin wrinkling backwards over bone and tendons. Tearing itself off of him; a crawling beast of pain moving up his arm. The rest of his fingertips burst as skin and nails and knuckles wrinkled towards his wrist. His teeth gritted in the neon blue light.

This is my punishment, a cold, distant part of him announced, as the flesh continued to fold back up his arm. This is my decision.

“Not the brightest in the galaxy – your Lord Azazael. Before he dropped the old woman, had he forgotten that Angels’ blood can seal the doors to Hell?” she asked matter-of-factly, as if there weren’t a man crouched in front of her, watching his own flesh slowly consume him. “In the end her sacrifice sealed all your fates. She could have used her wings…oh well. Better luck next time.” She turned away from Buster, and he saw through the haze of pain the forbidden sight – the one no demon in Hell was privileged enough to see – her delicate shoulder blades were a tattoo of scorched and pulped flesh. Even in the throes of his agony he felt a thrill…

Buster watched his sleeve disappear under a mound of flesh and blood and tendons. It had all peeled back over his arm to his shoulder.

In the end, we all decide what we deserve.


He had walked into the morgue of Jo’burg General Hospital at exactly midnight. The passageways hummed with the refrigeration and the general hush of the dead resting. The nurse on duty had looked up from her desk. A tall, well-dressed black man stood before her. He could be a doctor – but she didn’t think he was.

Kind eyes, had been her only real impression when she talked to the police later on. Not like the other. The amazing thing was, when the CCTV footage was viewed, there was only the tall, well-dressed man talking to the duty nurse, and no-one else. But Nurse Sally Zaglog insisted there had been another man. One whose eyes she remembered, too.

“Eyes like…like the coins they put on dead men,” was how she described them. “To keep their eyes closed. Flat, and yellow.” The police chalked this ‘second man’ up to the hysteria and shock they saw all too often at the scenes of bank robberies and hijackings, where an extra villain was imagined by the victim or victims. A second man. But as the footage showed, there had only been one.

“Sally, I’d like to visit a dear friend of mine. I believe you’re keeping her.”

Sally had smiled at him. He had that air about him. How could you not smile at him? “Certainly…which one is she?”

“She was brought in from Sandton…”

Sally had gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. “The angel,” she whispered. The nice man’s smile had seemed to understand. The second man had looked on impassively – his eyes two amber mirrors.

Captain Venter paused the tape.

“What are you saying here?” he asked. A blurry line shivered in the centre of the screen. Sally watched the shape of herself holding her hands up to her face.

The angel.

“I…I can’t remember,” she finally said. The policeman’s eyes were all over her face. “Like I said…it was weird to have visitors at midnight…and what happened…you know how shock works, Captain? It messes with your recall and time perception.”

The captain let it go. Again, he and his sergeant exchanged glances. Sally knew that look. The Little Woman look. Dear God help me, she caught herself thinking.

They continued viewing the tape. It showed her getting up and leading the man (the men, in her mind) down the corridor, the tall black man looking up directly into the camera. There seemed to be a…shimmer in the viewing room. She saw the Captain’s eyes glaze over. He was standing with one hand on the back of her chair – looming, more like it.– The sergeant blinked a few times.

The TV showed a different room now. The lights were on dim. Sally saw herself step through the glass double doors, and turn up the lights. The doors to the fridges marched off left and right.

“Sally,” said the tall black man with the kind eyes, “I’m not going to lie about why we are here.” He reached out and took her hand in his. She felt warmth travel up her arm – the same warmth that one experienced through the lens of childhood, lazy afternoon warmth. “This lady who was brought in this evening…she is a dear, dear friend of mine. My…colleague and I, well we’ve come to take her home. This place, noble and respectful of the dead as it is, is not for her. She needs to come home…” His eyes filled with tears. It startled her. “Can you understand the need to go home?”

Captain Venter paused the footage again. He bent into the light thrown by the gooseneck lamp. Sally wiped her eyes quickly.

“What did he say to you?”

She couldn’t lie to the policeman either. “That he – they were there to take the lady…the dead lady. She needed to go home.”

Again the searching look. His moustache quivered slightly. She wasn’t sure if he was about to laugh or if he was holding back annoyance. “Is this all normal procedure, Ms Zaglog?” The sarcasm bit her. “Letting strangers take people from the morgue at midnight?”

She shook her head. “No.” Her fingers played with each other. They were still warm from the man’s touch, hours ago now.

“Then how do you explain what happened?”

She looked up at them, aware of the smirk on the face of the sergeant who was writing it all down in a notebook. She was aware of the distant ebb and flow of a hospital waking up as the new day stole in through the windows.

“I can’t,” she said. “I want to…but how can I explain?” He was leaning in close to her, and she never knew what made her, but she reached up with a hand and touched the side of his face. His eyes glazed immediately. “Your wife…she misses you. Go home to her.” The tears continued to roll down her cheeks. “Go home right now. Your job is important, but she is more so.”

A chair scraped back, the sergeant had his gun halfway from his holster. “Get your hand off him, lady!”

The Captain’s eyes widened and he pulled back as if he’d felt the heat of an oven burn his face. He reached up and touched the burning spot on his cheek where she’d touched him. “What is this?” he asked, his voice hoarse. “What is this?”

“Should I cuff her?” The sergeant sounded unsure. After a moment, the Captain gathered himself and held up a hand. “No…’sfine. Sit down, Sergeant.” He turned back to the screen and played the rest of the tape. There would be no more pausing it. His eyes did not meet hers again.

The third door on the right was pulled open, and a tray large enough to support a human body slid out. A body bag lay on the tray. The tall man pulled the zipper downward. She stood near the feet, which held the name tag. It simply read: Engel.


“I can’t let you do this…” Her voice was weak, with no real conviction. “We should not be here. This is against regulations.”

She felt the presence of the other – remaining in the shadows.

“She did a great thing for all of us today,” the tall man said, looking down at the body. Sally couldn’t see any wings like the paramedics had claimed. But she knew by the large crowd of people gathered outside the hospital with their candle-lit vigil and their singing that this body had caused them all to believe something had happened. Some brush with the Divine. She looked up at the man, and wondered if this was a continuation of that encounter.

“Are you an angel too?” she whispered.

The dark figure stepped forward, ninja eyes burning. It reached out a hand and placed it on the tray. The lights overhead dimmed, and the camera footage hissed as the picture turned to static.

The Captain turned to look at Sally. His eyes remained fixed above her head.

“What happened?”

She found she couldn’t stop weeping. “It’s like I said – they took her away. They took her home.”


“Once you see them…you can’t unsee them, like. You make out?”

“These are the angels?”

“And the demons. They don’t look so different, you know.”

“Is that what your boss…Mr Morera – is? A demon?”

“I don’t know about him…he just stole from us. We work hard, you know! For such little money! And he takes it from us!”

“Was that the reason you attacked him?”




“Was that the reason for you attacking him?”

“Suppose so…I don’t remember…it felt right. It felt like he should be hurt for stealing. You make out?”

“Kenny…how did you know your boss was stealing tips from the waiters?”

“I was told.”

“By whom?”

“I was told here…gut instinct! You check? I’d seen him out the corner of my eye taking the money.”

“Why didn’t you call the police?”

“The cops? You nuts or something, lady? The cops are more corrupt than the crooks! It’s freekin’ chaos out there!”

“What can you remember?”


“What can you remember, Kenny?”


“I beg your pardon?”

“I remember the smell of…dead animals…and flies.”

“What else?”

“A…dead man in a suit.”

“One of the missing businessmen?”

“I’ro know! Maybe…But he was walking funny…like he had new legs growing out of him. They…wasn’t human legs.”

“Go on.”

“He spoke to me. Said I could be his servant if I wanted to be. Said I had a hand to the keys…all I had to do was make a blood sacrifice. That way I could open the doors–”

“Doors. To what?”

Hell, lady. Haven’t you been paying attention? Hell.”

“This is what the businessman…Riaan Van der Vyver, said to you?”

“He wasn’t called Riaan anymore, lady…see, what I now see everywhere is doors…doors going in and doors going out. And the keys are just…lying around. If more of us knew this–”

“Did you kill Riaan Van der Vyver, Kenny?”

“No, uh-uh. Not me. That guy was already dead. Dead as a doorway…” Laughter. “Beelzebub was already using him as a doorway.”

“The Lord of the Flies.”

“Now you’re getting it. You’re a sharp one. Not just a pretty face.”

The tape clicked.

“The rest is just the same thing over and over again.”

“The Devil made me do it,” the policeman said. He frowned. “Nothing fits. The suicide of a woman who jumped from Scission’s window. An attempted murder of the restaurant owner, and the disappearance of two businessmen. Where is Kenny now?”

The psychiatrist looked into the policeman’s eyes. “He’s being kept under observation. We’ve given him a sedative. He says we won’t be able to stop the angels or the demons from finding him.”

The cop made a noise of disgust. “Speaking of angels…I’m hearing strange things from the on-the-scene people. There are claims this suicide lady had wings.”

Her eyebrow arched. “Wings?”

“Captain Venter himself is down at Jo’burg Gen checking out the apparent disappearance of this woman. Someone came and took the body away.”

“What do you mean? Took the body away?”

“Spirited it away. Past staff, past security. Captain Venter tells me there is some strange CCTV footage – but it doesn’t explain anything – what are you thinking?”

“Something Kenny said: ‘There are doorways everywhere’…what does it mean?”

“I’m not sure…but one thing I do know. Keep an eye on Kenny. He is now our only link to what went on at Scission. I’m not having him find a doorway out of this station.”


As it happened, the doorway found Kenny.

He awoke on his bunk bed.

A voice: Kenny…

Kenny looked around; sleep had scurried off.

Kenny…the keys to the kingdom await. Are you my loyal servant?

“They don’t believe me,” he said, eyes darting around. His own cell was dark, but there was a passage light that hummed with fluorescent consistency.

Does it matter? The only thing that matters is that you have proven yourself worthy. Kenny, do you want to leave your cell?

“Yes! They scheme I’m mal!” He frowned. “I could be, actually. But I know what I know.”

Then be ready.

And there it was – a sound, like the hum of the fluorescent lights. A sound that had been there all along – the buzzing of flies. His eyes picked them out in the gloom. Two of them, each with a long hair attached to it. The guy! The guy at the restaurant. He’d had four of these buggers attached to him. Kenny had pointed them out to the other waiters…but they had not seen anything different about the American.

Because they did not believe. He lifted his hands and plucked at the two fine threads. Immediately, he felt a weightlessness steal over his body. He lifted. Damned if he didn’t! Like the world’s strangest hot air balloon powered by two tiny engines, he levitated off the bed. He crossed his legs, arms stretched above him.

It’s time to go, said the voice. It was a lot more seductive, that voice. He knew it belonged to the creature he’d seen half-in and half-out of the businessman. The doorway.


There are doorways everywhere.


The car idled at an intersection, black, with angel wings on the hood. This was the deadest part of the night. When the world seemed to be inhaling deeply. The exhale would come soon. And with it, the first chilly dawn birdcall.

The shadowy figure sat at the wheel, his breath misting in the cold air that crept through the lowered window. His eyes were fixed on the rear-view mirror. His strange hands held the wheel – they were scarred with the endless years of souls not wanting to leave this world. Everything about his form spoke of readiness. He’d watched the lights change from green to amber to red so many times he’d given up counting.

The occupant in the back seat sat calmly, holding a cell phone. Every now and then he’d check it…a pointless waiting ritual, like counting how many times traffic lights changed.

Finally the phone vibrated.

The occupant exhaled – and the world outside began to wake up. The first bird made its song heard.


He opened it – read it. A smile appeared on his face. He put the phone on the seat beside him.

“Let’s go home,” he said.

The amber eyes in the rear-view mirror dipped in assent, and the car pulled off. The occupant looked out of his fogged-up window at the shapes of buildings. Of forgotten corners and intersections. Of people even now moving among the rubbish.

The message still shone in the darkness of the backseat:

Can’t wait for our next date. You choose the venue. I’ll bring the glamour. Until then…a lifetime of lifetimes. LxM

illustration copyright © 2011 by Jesca Marisa
Copyright © 2011 by Domenico Pisanti

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Domenico Pisanti

Domenico Pisanti lives in Johannesburg and believes every word he writes.

He was a visitor back in issue one of Something Wicked, and promises to not leave it for too long before he is back.

He has been a top ten finalist for the past two years running in the annual Citizen Book Prize. Currently he is trying to get through all the stories in his head.
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