Liminal Rites – Index

21 Aug

Well, since this story is quite long, I thought that I’d provide an index in case anyone wants to skip to a particular chapter:


Prologue: Rasputin And The Mammoth

Chapter One – Fridge Horror

Chapter Two – Jasmine Tea

Chapter Three – Welcome

Chapter Four – A Slow News Day

Chapter Five – Fifty Two Thousand Pick Up

Chapter Six – The Usual

Chapter Seven – Percent

Chapter Eight – Tasseomancy

Chapter Nine – This Place Is Dead

Chapter Ten – Ink

Chapter Eleven – Last Orders

Chapter Twelve – The Forgotten Art Of Oneiromancy

Chapter Thirteen – Gargoyle

Chapter Fourteen – Impressions

Chapter Fifteen – Cartography

Chapter Sixteen – Less Abstract

Chapter Seventeen – Patterns

Chapter Eighteen – Dfghjgygrfxdigultdjktdyjtdyf\sefgegr

Chapter Nineteen – Bleeding Out

Chapter Twenty – Shopping

Chapter Twenty One – Wrong

Chapter Twenty Two – Found

Chapter Twenty Three – Carbon Copy

Chapter Twenty Four – Polydactyl Prank

Chapter Twenty Five – Channels

Chapter Twenty Six – Lots

Chapter Twenty Seven – Basic Physics

Chapter Twenty Eight – Hardware

Chapter Twenty Nine – Blue

Chapter Thirty – Reflection

Chapter Thirty One – In Private

Chapter Thirty Two – Immunity

Chapter Thirty Three – Science

Chapter Thirty Four – Red Light

Chapter Thirty Five – Room 32

Chapter Thirty Six – Pass

Chapter Thirty Seven – Immersion

Chapter Thirty Eight – Inkocalypse

Chapter Thirty Nine – Blue Line

Chapter Forty – Echoes

Epilogue – Back

Writing The Rites – A Retrospective

Writing The Rites – A Retrospective

20 Aug

Well, forty chapters, an epilogue, a prologue and 30,000 words later – it’s over. “Liminal Rites” is finished.

I hope that you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed reading it.

“Liminal Rites” was my second, and longest, attempt at writing a daily episodic story and I have to admit that my exhausted reaction when I finished the epilogue was something along the lines of ‘never again!’. I’d be lying if I said that writing “Liminal Rites” was anything but intense.

Still, it was fun. And it is also the longest story I’ve ever written too.

In case anyone is wondering, my original inspiration for this story was a dream I had on the 11th July. Whilst the content of the dream was quite different to this story, it was filled with a constant feeling of being stuck in between two places. When I woke up, I felt like turning it into a story of some kind – but I didn’t know how. Eventually, later that evening, I suddenly thought ‘I should make it completely and totally bizarre!’.

And, in that moment, “Liminal Rites” was born.

I launched myself into writing it and making this blog for it fairly quickly and my my mind was filled with all sorts of strange ideas about it. However, just after I’d posted the prologue online I suddenly realised the enormity of what I’d just committed myself to. A story (which could easily turn into a novel) that I had to update daily. I have to admit that I felt like a total idiot, but it seemed too late to turn back.

So, I carried on writing.

And that’s how “Liminal Rites” got started.

I have to admit that it ended up being a slightly different story to what I expected (the spectral hand I drew on the cover never made an appearance, but the dark scenery I chose for the background of the cover and this blog was oddly prescient).

Another thing that turned out differently about this story was the general tone of it too. When I started writing “Liminal Rites”, I pre-emptively flagged it as “mature content”, since I expected it to be this gruesome and bizarre horror story.

However, in the end, it turned out to be something which – if it was a film – would probably be at the very upper end of the “12A”/ “PG-13” categories (or possibly very slightly higher). I don’t know, I guess that I tend to write horror a lot differently than I used to.

Something else I didn’t realise about daily writing until I started this story was how intense it was. Even though I quickly made a large “buffer” of chapters which gave me a bit of space to take a break – writing this much this quickly had quite an impact on my writing style in general. For starters, my writing style quickly ended up becoming a lot more “functional” than I expected and, due to time reasons, some parts of this story read like a first draft too.

I don’t know, all in all, making “Liminal Rites” was certainly quite an interesting experience and I hope that reading it was too 🙂

I’ll post the index here tomorrow at the usual time ( 22:30 GMT ) – since it’s quite long and it took a while to compile.

Oh, if anyone is interested in more of my work – my DeviantArt page can be found here and my main blog (with lots of articles about writing/art/comics and another copy of this retrospective) can be found here.

Epilogue – Back

19 Aug

They’d only kept me in hospital for a day or two. Apart from a few strained muscles, I was completely fine. Even the police hadn’t asked too many questions, they just assumed that I was just another tourist who had drunk a bit too much or taken too many pills.

Apart from giving me a formal warning, they took pity on me and didn’t bother doing anything else. I guessed that the ink either hadn’t made a perfect copy of my fingers or that my fingerprints weren’t in their records. Either way, I wasn’t going to bring up the subject.

When I got back to my house, there was a pile of junk mail left behind the door and, from the calendar on my computer, there were another four days left on my lease. As relieved as I was to be back in the real world again, it just felt kind of flat. Kind of like everything was in dreary black and white.

So, after sorting through the junk mail and doing some half-hearted packing. I found my jacket and walked back into town.

The Caffe Noire was still there, leaning drunkenly against the wall of the Royal Court pub. I felt a warm glow of nostalgia flowing through me as I prised the stiff door open and stepped into the gloom. Rosie wasn’t there. The man in the yellow suit was still leaning against the mural on the far wall and sipping an espresso. He glanced in my direction and winked at me, I winked back.

By the time I got to the counter, George was already waiting for me. I didn’t know what to say, so I just blurted out ‘Is everything ok over there?’

He smiled at me warmly and nodded. The radio crackled and “Hotel California” started playing yet again. I turned to him and looked at the menu above his head before saying: ‘Just one question, why did you put the black ink in my coffee?’

‘Rosie asked me to. You’d never have been able to swim through that much of it if you hadn’t built up some kind of immunity. Yes, she told me all about that. Apparently, the mayor – or, rather, the other mayor – wants to give you a medal for saving the town.’

‘Rosie’s ok?’

George nodded again and looked around the cafe for a second or two before saying: ‘Ok, so what will it be?’

I said ‘give me a minute’ and looked at the menu again. Everything was back to normal. I could leave in four days and get on with the rest of my life. As relieved as I was, I couldn’t help but think back to everything I’d just been through and everywhere I’d been. There seemed like so much to explore. If I left here in four days, there was a good chance that I’d never come back. That the rest of my life would carry on ordinarily. That my best days would be behind me.

As I thought this, the music kept playing behind me. My eyes darted over all the words on the board behind the counter. I looked at everything from “Puer Tea” to “Orange Pekoe” until my eyes settled on two barely-readable words scrawled along the edge of the board. I smiled to myself.

‘So, have you made up your mind?’ George smiled at me and started wiping the counter with a cloth.

I reached into my jacket and pulled out a couple of coins before saying ‘ One jasmine tea please.’

(stay tuned for a retrospective tomorrow at the usual time)

Chapter Forty – Echoes

18 Aug

For a second, I thought that I had been torn apart. Everything rushed past the top half of my body and everything pulled furiously at the lower half of my body.

I grimaced and cried out in pain. If I stayed here much longer, I’d be ripped in half. Still, over the red-hot pain, a part of my mind showed me a mental image of being stuck in a leaky pipe. My head in the middle of the pipe and my legs sticking out the side of it.

Straining against everything around me, I opened my legs as much as I could. If I’d punched a hole in the side of this pipe, then it needed to be as wide as it could. My thighs burnt and I could feel the muscles being pushed to their limit. But I kept pulling them apart, screaming clouds of bubbles into the sheer blue around me. The rushing got faster, the pipe was leaking even more.

As if to compensate, the ink flowing past the top half of my body got faster. I knew that I couldn’t hold on for too much longer. Gradually, I felt myself turning around, my body taking the path of least resistance. My legs were still wide open, by now I was facing in the right direction. The ink was pushing my back like a team of wild horses charging into it. Like a battering ram. Like a force of nature. I screamed out another cloud of bubbles and doubled over.

I could feel my legs slipping further into the pipe. Even though the leaking ink was doing it’s best to pull me out of the pipe, most of it was flowing between my legs by now. I hoped that it would be enough. My legs were going numb. I hoped it would be enough. Everything was going hazy. I hoped it would be enough. I felt my body go limp and crouch into a foetal ball. I hoped it would be enough.

I was still barely conscious. I felt peaceful. my body didn’t ache. I felt everything flowing around me. Everything flowing perfectly.

Gradually, the world got darker.

I let it.

For what seemed like forever, I was nothing. My thoughts would start and then fade away before I knew what they were. On one deep emotional level, I tried to wonder if this was what dying felt like. Being nothing but darkness and echoes.

I heard a distant babble of voices. I thought that it was my thoughts. But everything started to get brighter again. I was aware that my eyes were closed. Pulling together whatever strength I had left, I eased them open a milimetre at a time. The light was blinding, everything was blurry.

I could make out a few yellow shapes and babbled voices. I heard something wailing. Someone was lifting me up. I felt a hand on my face and the elastic of my goggles loosening suddenly. I didn’t know what this was. I didn’t care. I smiled and closed my eyes again.

Everything felt right with the world.

(stay tuned for the epilogue tomorrow and other stuff)

Chapter Thirty Nine – Blue Line

17 Aug

I saw nothing but darkness.

I was falling.

Everything was silent.

I turned my head from side to side and leaned forward. I saw a trail of bubbles rushing past me. There was something else in the ink. Leaning further forwards, I tried to swim, but the ink was too thin. I guessed that it only started to get denser when it left this place. I saw another bubble trail and reached out for it. Nothing slipped through my fingers.

I had no way to tell how long I’d been in here, I guessed it was only a minute. But it could have been five. If Jules was right, I only had twenty left.

Another bubble trail whooshed past my face, this one looked slightly different. It was more jagged than before and all of the bubbles were triangular. Of course! It was the synchronistic virus! It was the pyramid shape which kept appearing everywhere I looked. The pyramid shape which appeared whenever I closed my eyes.

Knowing nothing better to do, I shut my eyes. A vivd riot of multicoloured afterimages flashed past me. For a second, I couldn’t make sense of any of it. It was like one of those old “Magic Eye” pictures which I could never quite seem to decipher properly. Logically, I knew that this was useless and that I was wasting my time, but a part of my mind told me to keep my eyes closed and keep looking.

Two shimmering purple blobs rushed towards my face and passed through me. I turned my head to the side and saw an intricate array of green triangles twisting and flickering in the distance. I kept falling and looking. Then I saw it.

There was long, glowing blue line running right below me. I opened my eyes for a second and saw nothing but inky darkness. I closed them again and stared at the blue line. It must have been a couple of hundred metres below me and it was gradually getting thicker and thicker as I felt the ink rush past my body even more quickly. Mustering all of my strength, I leant forward as far as I could and pulled my arms in front of my head like a diver.

As the blue line got wider, I wondered what it would feel like. Would it be completely solid? Would I crumple and shatter into nothing but a bag of pulverised bones as soon as I hit it ? Would the blue be as soft and insubstantial as all the other afterimages were? I had no way of knowing.

Still, I kept falling. It kept getting wider.

I grimaced and closed my eyes as tightly as I could. The edges of it distorted slightly, but it was still there. I suddenly remembered that I’d have to open my eyes if I didn’t want to look at it. But it was too late. By now, all I could see was blue. There were a couple of seconds left at most. I felt my whole body tense with anticipation, I felt immediate grabbing gravity around me.

This could be it. This could be the end.

I hit the blue line.

Chapter Thirty Eight – Inkocalypse

16 Aug

As much as I hated to say it, he was right – we didn’t have much time. The entire high street was filled with a foot of shiny black ink. Above us, there were all sorts of signs hanging out of the upper windows of the shops saying things like ‘Woe and doom! The end is near!’ and ‘Inkocalypse!’ Below us, I could see two crowded pavements and cars roaring past in the reflection. Before we left, Jules had sprayed our feet with the blue ink. The last thing we needed was chaos in the reflection below us as pairs of cloned feet emerged from the road. All three of us needed to focus.

When we got to the dark door of The Demon, Jules reached into his pockets and pulled out a thin strip of metal. For a second or two, I thought that he’d try to pick the lock. But he just wedged it against one of the windows before jerking his arm violently. The glass spiderwebbed with a loud screeching sound. I looked over my shoulder, there was no-one else around. Taking his jacket off, Jules wrapped it around his arm before smashing the window out and climbing in.

Rosie almost slipped onto the jagged edge of the window as she climbed through, I followed carefully. When we’d got inside, Rosie pointed at the silhouettes at the end of the flooded pub. There were ten wooden models by the doors to the backroom and I guessed that there would be more inside. Jules fumbled through his pockets again until he found an old atomiser filled with blue ink. He looked at me and said ‘Are you ready? Once we’re done here, Rosie will create a distraction – just get past the models and dive into the coffin.’

‘Will I drown?’ I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought of that question earlier.

‘No, the blue ink will take care of that, now put on the goggles.’ Jules started to spray my jeans, my feet again and my ankles with the blue ink.

I took my jacket off and put it on a nearby table before pulling the goggles over my head. They gave the world a slightly blue tint – my guess was that this was some kind of coating designed to stop them fogging up. All the time, Jules kept spraying me with the blue ink until he eventually reached my hair. By this time, he was shaking the bottle between sprays.

Eventually, I felt a shivering coldness on the top of my head and he said: ‘There! I’m out! Go!’

I took a deep breath. Rosie walked over to the bar and started fumbling with one of the bottles of spirits and reaching around under the bar. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to work out what she was planning to do. I broke into a sprint and aimed myself at the gap between the two models in the middle of the doorway. As I got closer, I crouched down out of reach and passed between them. Wooden arms whooshed past the small of my back as I got to my feet again.

Everything was dark, I kept moving. I heard splashing behind me. The coffin should be in the centre of the room. There was a clicking sound behind me, followed by a loud fwoosh! Everything got brighter. Surprisingly, there were only three models around the open coffin.

As I got closer, their heads turned towards me in perfect synchronisation. I saw six ornately-carved eyes staring at me. But I kept running. As I got closer, one of them stretched out it’s left arm. Swinging my arm round, I smacked it with my elbow. White-hot numbing pain lanced through the right side of my body as it connected and sent the model bouncing off of the side of the coffin and into the other two models.

Wincing through the pain, I saw my window of opportunity. The coffin was right in front of me. Everything in my mind told me that it was only a foot or two deep, but I tried to ignore it and focus only on the electric pain running through my right arm. Taking another deep breath, I heard the models next to me move again. It was now or never.

I dived into the coffin.

Chapter Thirty Seven – Immersion

15 Aug

Rosie plucked a crumpled piece of yellow paper out of the stack of papers and rolled it out on the floor in front of us. Jules leant closer to it for a few seconds before shaking his head and saying ‘Too risky. It’d be a suicide mission.’

I rolled my eyes. No doubt if there was a suicide mission being planned, I’d probably be the one who ended up going on it. Finally, I leant closer to the piece of paper and took a closer look. It was just an indecipherable series of lines and shapes and the occasional cluster of small dots.

‘Does either of you want to explain this?’ I looked at Rosie.

Jules took a deep breath and said: ‘The dots are wherever we’ve sighted the models and the lines are the direction which the ink has flowed from. Using this, we’ve been able to map the location of all the wounds in the fabric of this universe.’

‘And?’ I muttered. I still didn’t know what Rosie’s plan was.

Rosie put her hand on my shoulder and said: ‘We need someone to go into one of these wounds and find a way to get to the blue ink. We think that there’s a lot of it in the space between the universes. Jules thinks that it’s contained in some kind of tube or tunnel. Like a blood vessel. Basically, if you can break one of them, then you can divert the blue ink into this universe.’

‘Me? Hold on, we’re probably talking light years here – I can’t imagine that each universe is just separated by a few metres of space. Plus, since you two know so much about all of this and Jules is able to stay in a bathtub of the stuff for five minutes totally untouched, I think he should do it.’

Jules just shook his head and said ‘We’ll need to stay here to keep the models away from you. Not to mention that we’ve only got enough blue ink left for one person to go into the ink.’

‘Let me guess, neither of you know how to swim either.’ I sighed at them both. They shook their heads. Typical.

‘Don’t worry, we’ve got goggles so you won’t have to close your eyes. Not that it’ll probably do much.’ Jules handed me a pair of swimming goggles.

‘Hold on.’ I muttered ‘Won’t I get copied as soon as I go into the ink?’

‘The layer of blue ink should slow the process down, but it’s a one way trip. Either you’ll have twenty minutes in there before the ink wears down and you get copied into the old universe until your body dies. Or, if you succeed, you’ll either get flushed into one of the two universes or stuck between them. Whatever, at least you’ll come out of it in one piece.’ Jules smiled at me, I looked away.

Eventually, I said ‘Ok, how do you plan to keep the models away?’

‘With fire!’ Jules’s eyes gleamed and he grinned at me. Rosie just rolled her eyes and sighed. Even if he was a pyromaniac, his plan was still fairly solid.

‘Ok, then. Where do we begin?’ I looked at the map again.

Rosie put her hand on my shoulder and said: ‘Where you first saw the ink. In the backroom of The Demon.’

‘But it isn’t even open yet. Not to mention that the door to the backroom disappeared after I left too.’

‘We’ll take care of that.’ Jules said as he got to his feet and reached for a large bag. ‘But we should get going, we don’t have much time left.’

Chapter Thirty Six – Pass

14 Aug

I raised the chair leg and waited as a hand emerged from the tub. To my surprise, there wasn’t a single drop of ink on it. Another hand emerged and gripped the other side of the tub. I stepped back further as I saw the ink rippling again.

Finally, his head emerged. Again, there was no ink on it at all. I blinked a couple of times and tried not to distract myself by thinking about how he’d been able to do this. Slowly, he turned his head towards me and said ‘You’ve found me. Hey, where’s Rosie?’

‘She ran off as soon as I worked out that you were in here. I don’t care what you’re planning, but I don’t want to be a part of it. You tricked me once and I’m, not going to be fooled again. Right, Jules?’ I lowered the chair leg and pointed it at him.

‘Don’t judge her for helping me out here, our goals are the same. Sort of.’ Jules said as he stood up and stepped onto the tarpaulin. Surprisingly, he was wearing a pristine white tracksuit and pale blue jeans. I didn’t know why, but the fact that he wasn’t naked seemed more shocking than if he had been.

He glanced down at his clothes and just said ‘I sprayed myself with the blue ink. It’s invisible if it’s spread thinly enough and it’s totally non-toxic. The only problem is that there isn’t enough of it for anything other than travelling in style.’ He grinned at me.

I glared back at him and said ‘Why did you want me to find you some ink? If you’d crossed back over into my world before you hired me, then you didn’t need it.’

‘No, I didn’t. But I needed to see whether you were any good or not. Think of it as a test. You passed with flying colours.’

I kept pointing the chair leg at him and said: ‘A test? Ok, what was it for? This better be good.’

‘Well, Rosie told me that you’d worked out what was going on here. The multiverse is diseased and it’s immune system is planning to flush all of the toxins into this universe. We plan to stop it.’

‘And you need blue ink for it? Lots of blue ink. Hold on, is this stuff rarer than platinum or something?’ I lowered the chair leg. As pissed off as I was, at least he wasn’t planning anything too evil.

Jules climbed out of the tub and sat on the tarpaulin. I heard a rustling behind me and I raised the chair leg again as I spun round. Rosie stood in the doorway, her arms were full of old papers and notebooks. Obviously, she’d stopped off at The Caffe Noire to get all of her stuff. Well, at least she hadn’t gone to the police or anything like that.

Looking at the ground, she walked past me and sat down next to Jules, he put his arm round her shoulder and they smiled at each other. At least that was one mystery solved and one inevitable disappointment out of the way.

‘Claura, I’m really sorry. We’d planned to tell you about all of this when the time was right, but we needed to be sure that you would be on our side.’ Rosie looked at me and smiled thinly.

I just nodded before dropping the chair leg and sitting next to both of them. We sat in silence for what felt like two hours as Rosie rustled through all of her notes and circled things with a pencil.

When I was just about to get up again, she looked over at me and said: ‘I think I’ve worked out a plan.’

Chapter Thirty Five – Room 23

13 Aug

‘I still think it’s a bit over the top’ Rosie looked again at the chair leg that I’d taped to the inside of my jacket. It wasn’t noticeable at a glance, but the seam of my jacket definitely looked straighter than normal.

‘If he tries anything, then I’m prepared.’ I whispered back as a the shiny new block of flats came into sight. They’d been building them all year and I still half-expected to see a building site when we arrived. Interestingly, in this universe, the bricks were slightly darker and the edge of the car park was covered in ink. Other than that, it was fairly unremarkable.

‘What makes you think that he’ll try anything?’

‘What make you think that he won’t?’ I replied, motioning for Rosie to be quiet.

We got up to the door and, as I half-expected, it was locked. There was a keycard reader next to it and we were going nowhere until we could get past it. For half a second, I thought about staving in the door with my chair leg, but it would probably draw too much attention to us, break the chair leg and land us in all sorts of legal trouble. Whilst I was trying to plan something, Rosie walked up to the intercom beside the door and pressed one of the buttons.

‘What did you do that for?’ I hissed at her.

She just smiled and leaned closer to the intercom before saying ‘Delivery.’

I facepalmed. If I’d known that Rosie was going to try something like this, then I’d have looked around for some clothes that vaguely resembled a uniform. As plans went, it was the most the most stupid one I’d ever seen. Even spies in films take the trouble to put on a disguise before pretending to deliver anything.

Still, I heard a crackly voice on the other end of the intercom and then the door clicked. Rosie pushed it open and motioned for me to follow her into the hallway. It was completely empty and I could still smell the magnolia paint on the walls. I looked over both of my shoulders to check for any porters or security cameras, but there weren’t any.

‘Ok, any idea which room he went to?’ I said.

Rosie just nodded and started walking up the stairs. I followed her and kept my hand in my jacket, ready to pull out the chair leg at a moment’s notice. When we got to the second floor, she stopped and pointed to a door by the stairs. Room 23. There was a small note stuck to the middle of the door. It just said ‘open me’. I could feel more than a bit of deja vu.

As I glanced over my shoulder again, Rosie nodded and said ‘It’s unlocked.’

‘How the hell do you know that? Don’t tell me that you’ve been working with him.’ By now, my fingers were around the end of the chair leg. If I’d been betrayed, then I was going to go down swinging.

Rosie looked at me and just said ‘ You’ll understand when you talk to him. You aren’t in any danger.’

I pulled my hand out of my jacket and gestured towards the door. Rosie just rolled her eyes and opened it. The room was completely unfurnished except for a bathtub on a tarpaulin in the middle of the room. As I got closer, I saw that it was filled with ink.

‘Look, Jules is in the other world. You’ll have to climb into the tub and go across that way. Don’t worry, there’s a shower and some spare clothes here and I’ll pull you out if you’re in there for too long.’ Rosie looked at the tub again and poked it with her foot.

‘Hold on, if… Jules… is in the other world, then who answered the door?’ I gripped the end of the chair leg as I saw an alarmed look flash across Rosie’s face. Before she could stutter out an answer, turned around and ran towards the door. I tore the chair leg out of my jacket and held it at arms’ length.

Rosie fumbled with the door handle before getting it open and running. Turning back towards the empty room, I shouted ‘Show yourself! Come on, asshole! I’m not playing around here!’

The ink in the bathtub began to ripple.

Chapter Thirty Four – Red Light

12 Aug

No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t sleep. I churned the whole thing over in my mind and tried to make sense of it all. Either the man who hired me was up to no good and the models were on our side or the man who hired me was up to no good and so were the models. However I looked at it, someone was up to no good. Then another thought crossed my mind, almost making me jump out of bed. How far had the ink spread?

I picked up my torch and walked out of my bedroom and opened the front door for a few seconds. The street looked as normal and deserted as it usually does. Apart from the ruby glow of the streetlights, there was nothing unusual on the pavements. I was just being paranoid.

I went back in and lay back down on my cold bed and looked into the gloom again. Although the curtains were closed, I could still see the faint glow of a streetlight in the corner of my eye. I still couldn’t get my head around the fact that they had turned red. Maybe it was a warning of some kind? A danger signal carefully woven into the fabric of the universe? Maybe they just changed the bulbs?

Every answer could be wrong and every answer could be right. Well, whatever the answers were, this universe was dying. And here I was trying to sleep.

Yawning again, I sat up and picked at the plasters on the side of my hand. As I peeled back the corner of one of them, I realised that there was nothing I could do, nowhere I could look. It was all up to Rosie.

Yes, I could wander around the town and maybe I’d even find something. But it would inevitably just raise more questions. It could even be another red herring. Sighing with frustration, I lay down again and closed my eyes. If I lay here like this for long enough, then I’d get to sleep eventually.

Staring at the afterimages behind my closed eyes, I saw the pyramid shape again. Rosie had said that it was a synchronistic virus, something like a song which gets stuck in your head and never quite leaves. Maybe I was looking at all of this in the wrong way? Perhaps there wasn’t a logical series of reasons behind everything? Perhaps things here spread like ideas? Perhaps this whole universe was a virus?

It was all too confusing, so I focused on the glowing green pyramid behind my eyes and tried to go to sleep. Some unknown amount of time later, I felt myself beginning to drift away.

The next thing I heard was a knocking sound outside my room. Rubbing my eyes, I scrambled to my feet and opened the curtains. Rosie was standing outside the door and I could just see a few ink spatters on the road in the distance. If it kept spreading at this rate, the house would be covered in a day or so.

Wandering over to the front door, I unlocked it and let Rosie in. She looked exhausted and smelled of old teabags. Before I could say hello, she put an ink-stained hand on my shoulder and said: ‘I’ve found him.’

‘The guy who hired me?’

‘Yeah, he’s in a flat on the other side of town. I spotted him when I was going through the Caffe Noire’s bins, don’t ask. I’m not sure if he was just visiting someone, but I followed him and waited nearby. He didn’t leave.’

‘Great, give me five minutes and then we’re going.’ I muttered as I went back into my room to look for my jacket, some clean clothes and something I could use as a club.