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A Return To The Fold

Haraathi knelt at the altar and lit a stick of incense before placing it in the holder and clasped her hands together. Jaganath was at the reception desk, checking in a road-weary family but he assured her that he would join her soon enough. She still practiced her faith with a zeal that he was faintly embarrassed by, but accepted as part of the everyday material of their marriage.

The motel had been sold to them back in the 60’s, Haraathi had agonised over the offer but Jaganath’s ambitions had allied with her deference and so they found themselves taking part in the American dream. Her agonies had started, after the fact when she was told that they were sold the place in preference to the worst case scenario, of a black family owning it. Haraathi had learned a blunt, ugly truth about life in the South. A black man could work the land, but there were vested interests who worked really hard to make sure they would never own it. Still, it was a chance to own something, and she gave into him, especially when he sold her on the idea of their unborn son being able to achieve things that were the province of the wealthy, and all for swallowing their pride and rolling their sleeves up to make the place a going concern.

The motel was a peeling, squat building, raised like a boil against the black soil. The pair of them worked endless hours, drunk with exhaustion until the ratio of insects to paying guests turned in their favour. Jaganath had agreed to swear off chewing betel and made good on every promise he made to her.

Elango was born in an American hospital on bleached white sheets whilst Jaganath was held in the blissful embrace of powerful anaesthetics and soft-spoken, focused doctors. She held him in her arms and vowed that he would never have to suffer the indignities that they had.

Like so many promises, it came too true.

He had taken from both of them. His father’s ambition and his mother’s intelligence had been apparent in him in the start. What tested her unconditional love of him laid in wait until adolescence when he embraced the politics of his country. Jaganath had been proud to vote Republican. Haraathi agonised over her small act of deception when she would cast her ballot in favour of humanist or liberal candidates. Such defeats were both comforting and upsetting to her, especially when Elango and his father would become boorish and ungracious at the results. By then, the motel was doing great business and Elango was headed for college, with grades that reflected their investment and his potential. She worried about whether he would get into drugs or reckless, casual sex, drop out and reinvent himself as a beatnik of some description.

He became the chair of the Young Republicans on campus, and his heritage was sold as a shining example of the ideals that the country, she observed, spoke to but seldom practiced. His letters carried the density of political speeches, seldom sharing the things that she wished to know. She worried whether he was eating enough or getting the required amount of sleep, his concern was the tide of liberal ideas that would undermine the fabric of the nation.

Jaganath’s pride stopped her from making her worries public. He threw himself into the business, taking over a second motel and a concern in a soul food restaurant that he passed management of, onto his second cousin Pav. She noted that her son’s ambitions had paternal precedent and threw herself into community work when time allowed. That, and devotion held her upright.

What finally did it, was not when Elango announced his candidacy. Jaganath had wept with joy. It was when he introduced Jacqueline, his fiancée and then dropped in casually that he was now going by the name Eric, that his tears of joy simply became joys. Haraathi did not react as she imagined she would. She once heard a quote when she attended (tolerated, really) her monthly book club where she had weathered naïve, vaguely insulting questions about life in India that stayed with her.

I think being a mother is the cruelest thing in the world

That night, she slept well for the first time in years. That her suspicions had been correct. She loved Elango, but she was not sure that she liked him. Now that he was Eric, she was free to admit that to herself.

He announced that he was going to resolve ‘the Hindu problem’ by converting to Christianity and that he hoped they wouldn’t say anything to any journalists, well that sent Jaganath into a deep, fitful depression. He went back on the betel for a while but Haraathi prayed and with a love that had seen them through back-breaking decades, got him on his feet again. With the muted, blank expressions of torture victims, they agreed to their son’s demands.

They watched the inauguration on television. Eric sacked an aide for not sending the invitation, but the three of them knew the truth.

Haraathi took in a deep breath and chanted to Hanuman for his guidance and deliverance. She felt a rush of certainty and a mischievous amusement that made her smile in a way that life in America had not delivered to her aside from brief, manic bursts, mostly when she was alone. By the time, Jaganath joined her to pray, she had concluded her business with Hanuman and they both observed devotions to milder, kinder gods.


No one knows who managed to hack into Eric’s phone and find the salacious sext messages, sent to the buxom intern. Nor was the matter of how it ended up in the email account of the journalist who had dated Jacqueline around the same time and still held the combination grudge cum candle for her but what did make the front page was enough. Haraathi understood politics and American politics in particular, enough to know that with the left wing, it was always money and with the right wing, it was sex.

Elango came home, and in the end, took over the second motel’s management. He would join his parents in devotions but it was always with a grim reluctance which Haraathi accepted as the price of his return to the fold.

After all, she loved her son from the first. Liking him, she accepted, might take a little while longer.


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A Bridge For The Furies: Leviathan’s Church


The idea that an organisation might form to advance the cause(read appetite) of Leviathan would not surprise anyone, least of all Cara. There was something to all intelligent life that pulled towards destruction, no matter how enlightened they might otherwise be.

It was an impulse that existed long before Leviathan, and if it were defeated, it would exist long after it.

Cara had dealt with every flavour of nihilism, in a variety of species. When she had spent a cycle on Feruba, she had found a species of intelligent plantlife who had spliced in herbicide producing glands into their matter and launched themselves into the city-forests. After wandering around a region once the size of Newfoundland, reduced to withered scrub, stood over the reeking bodies of plant-people curled up into the pugilistic position common to the victims of fire, she had debated whether she had much fight left in her.

The spirit of Leviathan was there at every book burning, every call for censorship from left or right of the political spectrum, it hid between the spaces in the speeches of politicians, preachers and activists. In terms of active advancement, there was a church.

One follower.

One high priest.

One woman.

She had, before her discovery and conversion, been a poet of the Gublai-7, a variation of humanity that had been far in advance of the version of Earth that Gloria, Olivia and Drea were recruited from. This was due to the lucky escape of Hypatia, the Alexandrian mathematician from an angry mob of Christian zealots in the 18th century and the resulting leap forward in mathematical development for civilisation. Gublai-7 was once part of a post-Singularity collective, sharing information at light speed, with an array of enhancements and modified organs that made her capable of great atrocities and inventions.

She had travelled out to the edge of her universe, modified for deep space travel, lungs and stomach packed with a nutrient rich clay that released oxygen and nutrition over glacial periods, solar-collecting wings that extended around her, sailing through the vacuum, in constant dialogue with the rest of her collective. Her senses were sucking up information, collecting and translating solar signals, radio frequencies, the white noise of space collected and made sense of with the fervour of a zealot.

When she saw the increasing amount of absences in this information, the husks of civilisations, her curiosity drew her deeper and further into the path of the Leviathan. She lost communication with her collective as she passed beyond the limits of her parallel universe and came face to face with the Leviathan.

It was love at first sight, if love were truly the destructive, withering entropic force that it sometimes felt like. It decided not to drain her of knowledge, and made an offer she could not refuse.

She returned as its herald, led it to her universe where it fed with a terrible and fervent glory upon the rest of her collective and the other brilliant, shining points of light in the universe that she had renounced in favour of the only entity she considered worshipping.

This was the flaw in Cara’s plan. She knew that terrible gods and intelligences drew worshippers like shit drew flies, but Leviathan was on a scale that challenged her enough to miss the details.

That Leviathan had a herald.

That Iria was sat in the same bar, watching Cara with the three women, transmitting every word of their conversation through a subspace frequency which Cara mistook for the beginnings of a tension headache, through to the Leviathan.




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The Devil Went Down To Pensacola

What offended Lou most about the protest was it’s lack of taste.

The signs were written in black, bold fonts on neon and hot pink pieces of card glued to lengths of wood. Some earnest art project gone horribly wrong.  He stood and watched them with his forehead furrowed in amusement, smoking and smirking to himself.

He seldom took time off. Today though, he had outsourced the day to day affairs to a few ‘trusted’ subordinates and had found himself in Pensacola. The weather was something that he found entirely comfortable, even with the dark pinstripe and the cravat, his hair remained a perfect sculptured wave of white blonde hair and his face was a perfect study of milk poured atop ivory.

He tutted to himself, cast the cigarette to the ground and crushed it beneath the heel of his boots before walking to join the other mourners. He walked alongside a young couple, their eyes red with tears who kept looking to the small, vicious knot of people across the street. The elder of the two went to approach but his partner put a steadying hand out and shook his head.

‘They’re not worth it.’

The young man turned and looked into the perfect, violet eyes of the stranger.

‘Sorry, he hates those guys.’

He looked past them and narrowed his eyes.

‘On grounds of taste alone, I’d agree.’

He knew that the couple were Iain and Benjamin, that they had met in college and were at one point, experimenting with the deceased in a polyamorous relationship before primal notions of dominance asserted themselves and they did not speak for a while. He knew the worst in people, and that was why he loved them so much.

Looking at the church, he knew what would be said and what would be meant. Funerals were clumsy affairs and seldom captured a life, good or bad. They were for the living, and the dead oftentimes spoke of the self serving omissions and errors that irritated them. The event that marks your passing has all the depth and veracity of a celebrity autobiography.

So, seeking amusement, he walked across the street. He heard calls and ignored him, lit up another cigarette because it would irritate them and he smoked like a fiend. He was not afraid of cancer, cancer was afraid of him.


They spoke in upper case, angry comments on the internet without the excuse of anonymity. He pitied how empty they looked, even he knew the fullness of existence. Even though it hated him.

‘I was actually coming to thank you, actually.’

His fringe had fallen into his eyes but he kept it in order to avoid having to look at them directly. He inhaled the cigarette smoke, enjoyed the tickle in his throat and how they had lapsed into silence.

One of them, with his dad bod, undulating chin waddle sparsely covered by a beard that resembled glued on pubic hair stared at him. Every instinct screaming to run, but self righteousness and hitherto undiagnosed fetal alcohol syndrome made him stand his ground.

‘For saving your immortal soul? I should think so.’

Lou chuckled, a dry, ugly sound like dessicated branches sweeping against a window pane. It was a laugh that once sounded chimes in the heart of creation, but time and circumstance had rendered it’s beauty into something practical and terrifying.

‘Oh you sorry little sac, you really have no idea how it works, do you?’

Lou managed something that had eluded the great and the good who encountered the group’s feverish infant protests.


‘He doesn’t concern himself with hatred, neither does the boy. He pities your lack of understanding, if anything.’

He lit up another cigarette. It carried an unearthly scent, due to the fields it was grown in, fertilised with the eternal corpses of the damned. It made marijuana look like child vitamins and the crowd’s noses wrinkled collectively in response.

‘But why let the facts get in the way of the resolutely good time you all appear to be having, eh?’

Dadbod gripped the sign in his doughy hands and began to advice. Lou laughed and waved his finger in a mocking gesture.

‘Seriously, don’t.’

Dadbod, looked around, lost in a storm of primal panic and aggression, before committing to the worst possible decision and charging him. Huffing to accommodate his lack of experience with actual aggression and a cardiovascular system that would lose in a race with a sleepy dormouse, he charged and for a moment, imagined shoving this petulant asshole to the floor. In an instant, he saw the approval of his peers as a parade of hateful good feeling and was heartened by it.

Which was when Lou stepped neatly to the left and watched him tumble, using his face as a brake. Pink and scarlet shreds of skin laid in streaks against the asphalt, like abandoned gum, devoid of flavour but not colour. Dadbod screamed, clutching his face and Lou walked over to him.

‘This, Gary, is a perfect metaphor for your approach.’

His smile uncoiled, a bright and terrible beauty that made it’s mark on this world and he continued.

‘I have no time for lectures, but I encourage you to really pray. Listen to that small voice, the one that you actually struggle with but you pretend is dyspepsia, and follow that.’

He stood up, bowed formally from the waist and went about his day with a wink that made the nascent libidos of many of the protestors and crowd flutter like a newborn butterfly. There was a woman at the tent hire place he wanted to look at, and a plate of chicken parmesan to enjoy.



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Create Your Own Religion by Daniele Bolelli



CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION is a call to arms — an open invitation to question all the values, beliefs and worldviews that humanity has so far held as sacred in order to find the answers we need to the very practical problems facing us.

Writer, philosopher and professor of comparative religion, Daniele Bolelli, leads the reader through three thousand years of mythology, misogyny, misinformation and the flat-out lies about revealed truth that continue to muddle our ability to live a peacefullife, free of guilt and shame and the ultimate fear of death.

Our worldviews are in desperate need of some housecleaning, says Bolelli. We enter the 21st century still carrying on our backs the prejudices and ways of thinking of countless pastgenerations. What worked for them may or may not still be of use, so it is our job to make sure to save the tools that can help us and let go of the dead weight. In CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION, he examines a variety of answers pushed forth by many religions to address the key questions of human existence and, on the basis of this knowledge, he encourages us to come up with our own answers.

Irreverent and illuminating, CREATE YOUR OWN RELIGION challenges readers to re-examine what it means to be human and bring a better way of life into existence.

Atheists can be as intolerant and strident as fundamentalists. Thankfully Bolelli has such a warm and inclusive love of life, passion and humanity that he presents a call to arms that doesn’t lead to the guillotine or the rack, but to the sadly radical idea that we’re all on this planet together.

He writes with a musical sweetness, bringing together disparate ideas and stories that reveal the savage excesses and commonalities of fundamentalists as well as clear and cogent insights into a way forward for us. He’s too passionate and smart to punch ideas into us, rather he points out the flaws and encourages us all to forge our own relationships with the world around and within us. No cultist nonsense, no sticking the knife in, just a lot to think about and it was a pleasure to read this book. There’s enough there to make me ponder a few things, mostly that I’m grateful there are people like Bolelli around to put a hypothetical arm around us and reassure us that there is hope and joy in the world.

Also he quotes Tom Robbins, which is never a bad thing. Regardless of your religious persuasion, this is a great book that I would like to see better known. There’s a measure of partisanship that I think stands in the way of our collective evolution but thinkers like Bolelli offer another way, one where we can all be friends.

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Lilith Went Out

When she was cast out.

No one knew where she walked,

And who she spoke to,

Because if you believe

The idea of other forces

Hidden from a Creator’s gaze

Should keep you awake at night.

Were their voices,

The snap of a child’s femur?

The whisper of a paramour?

Who knows,

Maybe she listened,

desperate for comfort

But never regretting

The decision not to submit.

And sometimes,

I wonder, between the gaps

Of witness and myth,

History and story

If the devil were actually

A beautiful woman

And if that were made public,

Then Hell would be so full

That Heaven would take in

The evictees.