Article: 288540 of talk.bizarre From: "Nikolai Kingsley" <email@example.com> Newsgroups: talk.bizarre Subject: the Implement Date: Sun, 1 Dec 1996 00:54:24 +1100 Organization: anarchartists Lines: 430 Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> The Implement for artemis and pumpkin "It's a strange feeling you don't get from wielding knives." - after I first held a replica pistol 1 Being one of those alternative types, I didn't pay a lot of attention to the media, so perhaps I missed some subtle warning signs; even so, the rapidity of it surprised me. My friends used to joke amongst themselves that we never were living in a democracy, but when they started arresting us simply because of the way we dressed, I for one was somewhat jolted out of my complacency. The old joke of "Don't blame me – I didn't vote for them" became less funny every day. I carefully modified my behaviour to escape prosecution and watched with an increasing sense of unreality as the trappings of a police state suddenly sprung up around us. It didn't help to protest, either. I was going to take part in a rally, and if I hadn't been delayed by a broken-down tram, I would have been arrested along with the rest of my friends. I watched edited highlights on the television that evening. No mention of what happened to them; if you called the police and asked, you were told not to waste their time and hung up on. None of us dared to complain in person. Jonathan Beffrey seemed to be behind it all. A government minister; a fundamentalist christian evangelist, a homophobic, misogynistic racist gun enthusiast. I'd once joked that he only needed to start selling plutonium to the French to complete his set of undesirable characteristics. I shut up when he started doing just that a few days later. It had gotten to the point where I couldn't stand to watch the man on television; his smile seemed (to me, at least) so fake that if he shook his head it'd fall off. I would have thought that a child of six could see through his lowest-common-denominator appeals and arguments, but it was as if he had hypnotised everyone. You didn't even dare criticise the man in public unless you wanted to be verbally abused, or even physically assaulted (as I found out once, the hard way). I couldn't help thinking of Jello Biafra as they started putting the gays in camps, "for the protection of the community". Armoured personnel carriers were parked at major intersections. Random house-searches were conducted without warrants. I saw people being dragged off the street into police vans for no obvious reason. Certain book stores were closed down. New laws were passed every week, increasing the number of things they could put you away for. Certain parts of record stores were suddenly empty. Certain radio stations went off the air without warning. I didn't dare think "Well, all we need now is TV cameras on every street corner, watching us all the time" for fear that they'd do it. I watched as the closest thing to an anti-Beffrey movement was "disappeared", the leaders arrested and given media attention as "terrorists", the lower-level cadres simply vanishing, supposedly to the concentration camps. They actually called them that. Beffrey went on TV and explained how they weren't executing dissidents and these camps couldn't be compared to the ones run by the German Socialists during the second world war. No-one dared make jokes about it as every copy of Pink Floyd's video, "The Wall" vanished from video libraries, along with a lot of other films. All this in the space of about six months. I couldn't believe it; I would have gone to see a psychiatrist about it if the public health service hadn't been more or less scrapped. My few friends who hadn't been arrested – those clever enough to disguise their non-mainstream natures – would meet every so often under the guise of "prayer meetings". We were praying, all right; praying that they didn't start forcing people to attend church at gunpoint. There were five of us. Me, a part-time employee at the Post Office; Gary, a very carefully disguised homosexual television technician; Jennifer, who was his legal wife but who was passionately in love with Emma, a goth Wiccan priestess who worked at the local newsagent's (now that the holes from her many piercings had closed – fortunately, her many and elaborate tattoos were hidden by her clothing) and Paul the Discordian (who alternated his attention between me and Gary) and worked in a local bar, one of the few officially sanctioned releases allowed to straight society. We'd drink beer, listen to our alternative CDs at very low volume (in case the neighbours should complain and call the police) and argue about what we could do. The system wasn't set up to give the overwhelming impression that resistance was useless; they didn't need to. They weren't concerned with putting the fear of God into dissenters; they simply arrested them. After seven such meetings, the best we could come up with was to move to another country, if they'd let us. "This doesn't help the people already in the camps," Gary pointed out. Paul (currently the drunkest of all of us) retorted hotly, "There has to be some legal means of… um…" His argument dried up when he saw the look Gary was giving him. I glanced at Emma. She'd been silent all evening, occasionally taking sips of tea but seeming lost in thought. She noticed me noticing her, leaned back in her chair and said quietly, "Full moon tomorrow night." I raised my eyebrows to indicate that she should continue. "I thought I'd do a ritual… ask the Goddess what to do." "You aren't going to do it here?" Paul asked nervously – we'd been meeting at his house. She smiled and shook her head. "In the privacy of my own bedroom. Although I'd like one of you to be there if you can." I'd never been to Emma's place before; a two bedroom flat on the first floor above a christian youth resource centre. I could appreciate how galling it was for her to have gangs of pious teenagers singing banal pseudo-pop hymns below her, four times every week; I hoped she had a good set of headphones. The main lounge-room looked decidedly normal, as was only sensible; couch, television, stove, refrigerator. The only non-straight touch was a large poster of k.d. lang next to the 'fridge. Her bedroom, on the other hand, looked like a cross between a goth nightclub and the Sybil's cave, black-painted walls with arcane posters and a small altar in one corner. I inhaled the aroma of incense with pleasure. She sat cross-legged on the bed, one black-stockinged knee poking through an uneven rent in her long black dress, mixing something in a small black ceramic bowl. I approached and sniffed; it was dizzying. It smelled like smoke and forests and rain-damp soil and human sweat. The aroma became more prevalent when she added a pinch of the stuff to the top of a broad white candle to her left. She shuffled back on the bed until she was sitting up against the wall, framed by an air-brush-art poster of a dark-haired goddess metamorphosing into a panther. They seemed to hang above her, as if she were part of some equation: Goddess times Panther equals Emma. With a gesture, she invited me to sit on the other end of her bed, and after removing my shoes, I did so. She took both my hands in hers, gentle touch of cool fingers adorned by a variety of rings with dark stones and smiled at me warmly. I smiled back uncertainly; she closed her eyes, her smile grew broader and she laughed. "Do you trust me?" she asked. "Oh, implicitly." She opened her eyes again and the pupils seemed huge, candle-light glimmering in their depths; hypnotic. The rest of the room seemed to fade from my peripheral vision, and I hardly noticed when something jabbed into my arm; almost absently I looked down and saw that she'd made a deep cut in my inner forearm, directing a stream of blood into the bowl, mixing it in and passing me a dark purple scrap of cloth to staunch the wound. I sat and watched silently as she mixed it, stirring first one way and then the other, pausing every so often in concentration, as if she were multiplying large numbers in her head. She put down the pestle and held the bowl out towards the window with her left hand, staring at me intently. Somewhat unnerved by her attention, I closed my eyes and inhaled the heady scents around me then looked at the bowl; moonlight was streaming in through the window and falling onto the bowl's contents. Presently, she replaced the bowl in her lap, murmured something too quiet for me to make out then lifted the bowl to her lips and gulped the contents down. She dropped the bowl, spilling some of the stuff on her bed-quilt, then retched and flung her body back against the wall, gasping. I grimaced in sympathy; whatever it was obviously tasted dreadful. I sat there wondering if I should get her a drink of water or hug her or clean up the mess when she looked straight at me… and it wasn't her. I got the impression that she was a carved ivory figurehead at the front of a huge, ancient ship made of black wooden beams, bearing straight for me; for some inane reason, a line from the Sugarcubes' song "Cold Sweat" popped into my head: This side of the blackest meadow I'll make my winter dwelling… My eyes widened and I swallowed nervously. Again, she took both my hands in hers, brought them up to her lips and brushed my fingertips against them. "This is going to be very dangerous for you if you don't succeed," she said in a hoarse voice (yet unmistakably her own). "Do you want to risk it?" I thought about the things I'd seen in the past few months, of the people I'd known who were probably in camps; that image kept coming back to me, my friends pressed up against cyclone fencing, their fingers poking through, their eyes pleading. "Whatever it is, I'll do it." She held her arms out; somewhat awkwardly, I swivelled around to kneel before her. She placed her hands on my cheeks, brought me closer and kissed me, passing some of the stuff to my tongue with hers. It had just made her gag; it hit me like a truck. I spent the rest of the night there, sprawled on her bed somewhere between waking and dreaming. The few times I got anywhere near consciousness I wanted to crawl off to the toilet and vomit. She knelt next to me the whole time, occasionally wiping my forehead with something cool and damp. At one point I feebly tried to push her hand away under the delusion that she was daubing my face with the bloody scrap of cloth; I imagined that people on the street would see me, see the blood on my face and know... "I've been marked… you're marking me…" I repeated over and over deliriously. "Hush… they won't see. They won't know. This is between you and me and the Goddess." I laughed with relief and lapsed back into black dreams where three shadowy shapes told me what had to be done and how to do it. I awoke abruptly some time the next morning with that vile taste still in my mouth, lying on Emma's bed, the quilt wrapped around me; a dull pain in my forearm and odd phrases at the edge of my perception. I lay there for a while, blinking, deliberately not straining to hear them (knowing that, as with dreams, chasing them would drive them away). Emma had wrapped a corner of the quilt around herself and gone to sleep. She looked like a small kitten; innocent and defenceless. I was taken with a desperate urge to wrap my arms around her and keep the outside world from harming her (which was weird, her being four years older than me); at the same time, something started nagging in the back of my mind, as if I'd made an appointment with someone, forgotten it but knew it was scheduled for today. I was staring off into space, trying to remember whatever it was I'd forgotten to do when Emma woke up and hugged me tightly. She whispered in my ear: "There's some things you have to do today." I shivered and rubbed my forearm. "That was a very dark ritual." She shrugged. "These are dark times, dear." 2 An hour later I was in the local gun-shop. I'd never been in one before; it had the same slightly wrong, forbidding feeling as an x-rated bookshop. I stared open-mouthed at the racks of dull metal things that had no other purpose than killing things. Hundreds of different kinds of killing devices. I looked at a gaudy ammunition chart and thought of that old joke, "Guns don't kill people – exit wounds do." Somehow, it wasn't as funny in here. I'd imagined that people might wonder what someone like me was doing in here, but I saw that there already was a complete cross-section of society browsing the aisles; everyone from baby boys to grandmothers. I watched as a mother (with three small children hanging onto the hem of her windcheater) selected a shotgun with a disturbingly practiced air. When she sighted down the length of the barrel and smiled in knowing appreciation, I shuddered. I went down to the back of the shop, past the "eight items or less" counters, to the specialty section. I casually dismissed the pimple-pocked twenty-year old youth and asked to speak to someone who knew something about antique weapons. He fetched a balding, unshaven man in his forties with the cautious look of a suspicious small-town sheriff. "I'm looking for an action," I began, speaking calmly, no idea where the words were coming from or what they meant, "either an 'O3 Springfield with a non-rotary hook extractor," he looked surprised, as if a mouse had entered his store and wanted to buy a cat, "or, preferably a '98 Mauser." "A… a Mauser?" "Yeah. An old production technique one if I can get it. With the inner shroud cleared on the right only, not broached on both sides." What the fuck was I saying? It took all of my concentration to stop myself from laughing out loud. Balding sheriff stared at me like I'd just grown two extra heads and they were both poking their tongues out at him. "Bolt action?" he asked faintly. For some reason, his asking me this made me feel indignant. "Of course." He stared at me for almost thirty seconds, counted off by the almost-painful hammering of my heartbeat, then said slowly, "I think we've got one out the back somewhere…" I smiled thinly and placed an uneven stack of twenty dollar bills on the counter. One magickal principle that even I knew; you don't haggle when you're purchasing your tools. I took it home and examined it, an ugly squared-off lump of metal with some engraved curlicues along the sides, a sad attempt at decorating a killing thing. I saw now that "an action" was the business part of a rifle, the bit where the bullet went in, that other bit that you pulled back to load the bullet in and the trigger. I'd purchased twenty-three bullets and a gun-barrel to go with it, refusing the first two that he'd shown me as inappropriate for my needs. I was distantly impressed with the fact that I knew how the pieces fitted together despite the fact that I knew nothing about guns. While going through the phone-book for a place I could rent a small truck from, I was humming the chorus from that U2 song: "She moves in mysterious ways…" Late the next morning I drove the truck up onto the footpath and over the thick wooden cross outside the local church, snapping it off at the base. I dragged it home, hacked it apart with a hatchet and carved a rifle-stock from the upright, occasionally pausing to test the rifle action against it for size and fit. My bedroom floor was covered with wooden shavings; I took it as a sign that I'd gotten it right first time. I thought about joining a rifle club and getting some basic lessons on which end of the gun the bullets came out of, but I didn't feel any particular urge to act on this thought. We met again the next evening at Gary's place – Paul had been "officially detained" because someone at work had asked him why he was wearing a soft-drink can ring-pull tab on a string around his neck, and he was stupid enough to say it was a Discordian thing. He was busy trying to explain Discordianism to the local police without sounding like a mad terrorist. I wished him well. At some point during the evening, I took everyone aside separately and asked them for some small, personal thing made of metal. Gary gave me two earrings, one of which had belonged to Paul; Jennifer gave me a Celtic design key-ring decoration; Emma smiled at me knowingly, slipped a ring off her middle finger and handed it to me. I prised the amethyst from the ring with a kitchen knife, handed it back to her and added the bar post (that I'd planned on putting in my nipple piercing when I'd gotten up enough nerve to have it done) to the collection. Gary was watching television in the living room; I wandered past and heard (but didn't really hear) that Jonathan Beffrey was going to be opening a shopping centre nearby in two day's time. Just enough time to cast one bullet-head from the combined metals of our personal objects. For the next forty-eight hours, I continued to live my normal life. Occasionally odd memories surged up within me, but I dismissed it, thinking that there would be plenty of time to remember whatever it was I was supposed to be doing. I certainly didn't plan on turning up to the shopping-centre opening, and I know Emma hadn't planned on being there; we just happened to be passing, and I just happened to have my home-made assassin's rifle with me. There was a sizeable crowd of people around the wooden platform that had been set up for the opening ceremony; typically, the whole thing was a cross between an overblown American political convention and a demented Baptist revival meeting. They even had a choir. There were armed police everywhere, and after a while I had to wonder why none of them asked me why I had a rifle slung over my shoulder; it was as if they couldn't believe or take in the fact that there was a seventeen-year-old girl with a gun wandering around. It made me feel like Bilbo Baggins wandering through Mordor. I was moving through a fog, the other people in the crowd reduced to distant silhouettes. I walked past Emma; we made eye contact briefly, and there was a hint of that presence I'd sensed in her room, reassuring me, lending me strength. Goddess knows I didn't feel that I needed it; this was all seeming very easy. Suddenly I was standing before the main podium, with only a few people between me and the place where he'd be standing. I lowered the rifle, holding it by the stock, the fingers in my left coat pocket occasionally feeling for the single bullet, to make sure it hadn't slipped out of a hole. I just stood there, successfully emulating the sheep around me, occasionally shifting from one foot to the other. There was a bustle of people behind a row of helmeted riot police, and all too suddenly, there he was. Television didn't do him justice; he looked, if it was possible, even slicker and less trustworthy in real life. He approached the podium, put his hand over the microphone; turned to say something to one of his cronies; he laughed nastily and turned back to the crowd with a look that (to me, plainly) said, "What a bunch of suckers." I didn't wait for him to start speaking; I took the bullet out of my pocket, fitted it into the breech, made that "ka-chunk" motion with the bolt and raised the gun. He was less than three metres away, the spot between his eyebrows framed in the notched sight at the end of the barrel. I took a breath and my finger tightened on the trigger – – and he looked down and saw me. We were two people in a forest of department store mannequins; no-one else moved; no-one else breathed or made a sound. We were joined by a line that began just under my right cheekbone and ended between his eyes. He didn't look evil or threatening; he was just another politician with more greed than morals. I thought of my friends in the camps. I thought about Paul's easy laugh which I probably would never hear again. Most of all, I thought about what would happen to Emma if they ever found out about her bedroom and what she did in there. Beffrey's camouflage fell away and his true nature flared through; he wasn't just another politician and he wasn't an Evangelist; he wasn't even a christian. He was something else, something completely outside the sphere of human existence, some alien saboteur whose sole purpose was to keep us ignorant and frightened and submissive for a council of unknowably distant overlords. He was something that H.P Lovecraft's villains would summon, not knowing the folly of their acts. And he knew who I was and why I'd come here today. Suddenly the gun felt impossibly heavy in my hands and my body temperature plummeted. He sneered down at me, sensing that he'd won. It was that sneer more than anything that gave me the strength to bring the rifle back up. The ugly lines on his ugly face seemed to flare like neon as the implications of that sneer burned into me; he was saying, "You're only a girl. You're just a weak girl and there isn't a damned thing you can do to stop me." My eyes widened with rage; in the hush around us, I snarled at him, "You arrogant... patriarchal... old fuck," and pulled the trigger. The shot was startlingly loud. It woke them all from their daze; they glanced about with the same half-frightened, half-bemused look of sleepwalkers who find themselves wearing their pyjamas out in the street. I almost panicked, then; the spell had been broken, and here I was holding a smoking rifle – Someone stepped forward, took the gun from me and handed it to none other than the balding man from the gun-shop (and he looked just as dazed as everyone else) It was Emma. She grabbed my arm and took three steps back, positioning us behind a lost-looking policeman cradling his riot helmet in his arm. People around us started moving again; someone shouted for an ambulance. Emma snorted. "Ha. That'll do him a lot of good. Like they need an ambulance to scrape his brains off the ground." I stared at her, wide-eyed, breathless. "Did I… did it –" She gave me a flash of her smile – the one I'd first seen the night of her ritual – before resuming the mask of concerned and slightly scared citizen. "Oh, yeah. You did, and it did. Hey, just before – I mean, just as you were lining up… did you get the feeling that he was a kabuki mask with no-one behind it?" I nodded, still shaking from the rage I'd felt. "Oh, yeah. 'Touch the Puppet Head'. Jeez, that's scary." She hugged me openly, not caring if the people around us noticed. "I get the feeling that things are going to change for the better." She was right.