Jane Killick sat in silence at the laden dinner table. Usually she would have visited Nick in the afternoon, her heart pounding after a morning of thinking almost constantly about him, imagining his strong body against hers, an afternoon of passion waged against an afternoon of shopping and cleaning, the highlight being a particularly good offer at Iceland. There was no contest and she would come back around half past four, feeling empty, almost disappointed with the hurried, frantic sex she had let him do to her body.
As she re-entered the home she shared with George the remnants of the conscience she daily suppressed would harry her and she would rush to the shops, coming home to cook a large, steaming meal, trying to be a dutiful wife in penance for her adultery. She would ask George about his day as he came in, tired from work, answering monosyllabically, as hungry as he was clueless about his wife’s infidelity.
George suspected nothing, his world of hard work, comfortable wage and wife lulling him into security. Her attempts to cover up her own guilt would subside into a thick tension over the dinner table. George noticed something was wrong but he ignored it as he was used to doing. There was nothing wrong that he could understand and so everything must be alright. And so he lulled himself asleep to his cuckolding and ignored what was too devastating for him to ever accept on his own: that his wife’s love was shared with another. In his deepest heart, unknown to his conscious mind, his senses picked up the clues but never did they allow him to think the black word, ‘adultery’. Because the word was so dark, so huge to the quietly living, contented little office man that it could never be brought to mind.
Yet neither of the two people now sitting at the table quietly eating knew of George’s mind, not George, ignoring the tension as he had done for over a year now, nor Jane, thankful only that on the surface at least George didn’t suspect of her infidelity, yet secretly wishing he would, the yelling, the hurt in his eyes and voice at least ending the tension, the lies, the fear and the guilt.
Today however Jane hadn’t been to Nick, she had barely thought of him since this morning, since the knock on the door. She hadn’t hurried to the shops and the meal wasn’t cooked in guilt, a frozen pizza and beans had been heated up and served with a bowl of lettuce. George ate it hungrily as he always did, oblivious to the difference in what manner his meal had been conceived, he ate it as food, taking for granted that what had been would always be. Jane had hardly touched it though, her mind still thinking of Angela and the things she had said.
Jane didn’t know whether to believe her friend. Despite the total acceptance of what Angela had said at the time, her leaving had taken that surety from her. Truth, so clear in Angela’s presence, had become fickle. Jane had never had belief, she was an atheist, truth was something to be guessed at. She was pretty certain there was no God but she had never had the surety of faith to make her certain.
Jane, for the first time in her life had realised she was totally, completely sure of something. She was sure that Angela had transcended. She had been struck by the certainty that what stood in front of her had been Angela’s soul, free, beautiful, uncorrupted by flesh or doubt or worry or pain. Untouched by the world, the daily suffering that bent the backs of humanity and led them to their own destruction, that led Jane to Nick.
Now that surety was gone. Jane wondered about truth, belief didn’t come into it. Logic and reason were the foundations of modern society. And logic and reason stated that you could not step outside your body for a quick bliss trip. It was impossible, unrealistic. And therefore untrue. And yet, her soul said different, her instinct screamed against her mind. She had never listened to them before but now they came backed up with facts. Angela had given them to her, her presence was the strongest one, no mere human could look like that, however happy they were.
Other facts also made Jane turn against what her mind, once so sure of the plainness and solidity of the world, told her was true. Mark for instance, how his captor, apparently also Mark, had seemingly vanished off the earth. In reality, Angela had told her with eyes alive in their wonder, huge in their beauty, he had come back to it. And he had now left once more. Angela and Sean had chosen to follow her. And they had agreed to offer Jane the gift as well.
And now, confused, uncertain, her life suddenly more unstable than it had ever been before, Jane thought of the offer Angela had proposed. It was bliss, pure, unadulterated happiness, she had said. Angela’s proclamations put Jane in mind of cult leaders, proclaiming happiness through this or that, their faces lit up with the love of their God, eyes wide with wonder. Yet surely Angela could not be likened to a cult leader, surely Mark could not have brainwashed either her or Sean, at least not in his current state. And Angela looked like no human had a right to look in this world, more alive, more content, more serene than the most zealous churchman Jane could imagine.
And then it hit Jane, suddenly, in her gut, she wanted that happiness that she had witnessed. She wanted to be like Angela, she didn’t know whether transcendence was real or just a figment of Angela’s mind but, really, when it came down to it did it really matter why Angela was so happy, it only mattered that she was. And if she could be, with the gradual destruction of her own happy life, surely Jane, with all her problems, could do it too.
Jane wanted out of the trench she had dug for herself, the frantic, guilty sex, the hating of herself afterwards, when she looked at her husband, the boredom of her life with him and the constant temptation of Nick. She was not happy; she hadn’t been for quite some time. Neither was George, content, oblivious though he was to the ever-present disruption of his ordinary life, he was not happy, his wife no longer stroked his hair lovingly or pressed softly up against him in bed. His ordinary, contented life had grown stale rather than comfortable and though he did not think on such things, he was not happy, his wife no longer fully loved him. The shadow of Nick had reached further than Jane’s life; it had spread to everything she touched.
*** *** ***
It had been a week, a week of work more taxing, more mentally exhausting than Farrier had done in many years as a policeman. It had involved searching through dusty archives, searching for something that he didn’t know about or even could believe. It had involved leaps of faith; instincts long forgotten had driven him to annuals of yellowing newspapers, buried under bundles of identical papers.
It had been a week of astonishing revelations, based on history and circumstantial evidence rather than the hard facts he preferred. Yet even built on such shaky, improvable foundations, Farrier was convinced he had hit on the answer. Maybe he hadn’t cracked the case but he had finally found the right path to search along. Admittedly he was a desperate man, clutching at straws to save a career he had been on the brink of losing. He had taken such bias into account on those long nights unable to sleep, working the day’s findings over in his mind. Yet still, he knew he was right.
Stanhope stared at his superior with, awe, or at least as close to awe as he could manage, being a practical man, little given to hero-worship, unimpressionable, a mind like stone, as sure of itself as the same, but also as hard and unyielding as it. Still Detective Stanhope was impressed. All the lads in the station had watched Farrier go under with pity, keeping themselves apart, as if failure could be catching. It seemed Farrier was in possession of a disease that would destroy its carrier, and no one wanted to get too close to such a lethal thing in case they caught the sickness of failure. Stanhope had remained loyal, if a little off, he owed Farrier his promotion from uniform for Farrier had seen promise in the young constable. He wasn’t imaginative or even particularly bright for a detective, yet his hard, solid mind could carry a thought along easily and safely, undisrupted until it reached its logical conclusion. Many a time when Farrier had been bogged down by an accumulation of facts, had Stanhope glanced at the case file and seen something vital that Farrier had overlooked in the mess of detail and useless information. Stanhope had solved cases that had infuriated his peers. Yet when it came to crimes out of the ordinary, or different, that required a certain skewed perspective or leap of instinct mixed with blind faith, Stanhope was lost.
Because of this flaw in his character Stanhope had been even more perplexed than Farrier at the case of Evergreen Lane. The illogical nature of it had infuriated his ordered, stone-like mind and had driven him to distraction. He had come to the conclusion that the case was unsolvable. It was this conclusion, believed in so surely (for if you couldn’t believe in order, there was always some comfort to be gained from believing in chaos) that led to the uncharacteristic awe that Stanhope now felt as his superior explained to him the theory he had come up with.
Farrier’s study was now cluttered to the point of looking like a storm had been set loose in a library. Thick bound, blank-covered books were piled on the table and shelves. Yellowed papers lay in their ragged folders on every available space, ancient newspaper cuttings scattered in front of where Farrier sat. He had a cup of coffee in his hand slowly cooling, unnoticed as Farrier excitedly explained his theory to Stanhope. For the theory, based on such things as he could never understand, Stanhope equally could not deny that it fitted the case almost perfectly. The M.O. was exact. Farrier understood what was going on, and as realisation slowly dawned in the rock face of Stanhope’s mind, he was struck by how, even in the face of certain failure, the old inspector had brought himself and his career back from the brink.
*** *** ***
And so life had continued, plagued by depression, unhappiness, guilt, fear, temptation, lust, worry and indecision. It had been a time of indecision especially for Jane as her mind worried and chewed over the thing she now knew. Unable to come to any conclusion, unable to even contemplate the vastness of what such a decision would mean.
She had been buried in her rut for so long she could not escape and now suddenly she realised that the great rebellion she thought she had undertaken, the great affair, the ultimate cry for attention, had become part of that rut, that anchor to a life that, although no longer comfortable nor wholly tedious in its staid comfort, was still familiar, a world to which she knew the rules if not followed them. It was a world which she understood, that she had built her visions of the future on, her dreams, her idle thoughts, her deepest plans and expectations had all been plotted along a straight line from her current position.
Even the upheavals she imagined, the inevitable blazing break-up of her marriage for instance, had been plotted on this continuum. Her mind simply could not take in such a new direction. Just as a train could only go along laid tracks, (even its changes of direction only at set points, previously seen and planned for, if only merely by contemplation of its possibility) Jane’s mind could only contemplate that which it knew, that which it could understand, that which was part of her world (if only as a possibility) that she had made for herself.
And so Jane worried and fretted, wracked with indecision, tempted but unable to contemplate such a disruption to her life.
*** *** ***
It was a newspaper, the front page even. The story had apparently been big enough for most of the newspaper. And no wonder, for the little Victorian village of Little Marlton had never seen such happenings. Farrier had taken a trip to Little Marlton in fact, just to see the house where it had started. He had been disappointed; the huge, brooding, Georgian Mansion had long been replaced with a Sainsburys, the original building long having been burnt down or fallen into ruin or just demolished by greedy contractors during the sixties while any concerned preservers of history weren’t looking.
Still the picture on the front page was enough to conjure any number of images of the place. The picture wasn’t good yet even so it contained a similar air to that of the Evergreen Lane house. Perhaps it was just his imagination but still, the empty, faintly sinister look behind its immaculate appearance, as if bad things had long taken place within its well-kept walls.
Indeed, bad things had taken place within the unassuming walls of the huge mansion, far worse than his own relatively meagre case. Seventeen people had been found hidden within it, all in various stages of still-living decomposition.
There were no pictures of those brought out of the building, the reservations of the Victorians censoring such images lest they upset the delicate constitution of some of their more gentile readers. Even so, Farrier could easily imagine the scene, despite the newspaper’s equally censored reporting of the situation. Some he had got from other sources, the rest was easy to imagine, the confused milling around of the criminals, all fearful, all scared, none repentant or guilty. There would be policemen retching in the perfectly tended rose bushes, there probably would be isolated incidents of brutality, disgust and horror giving way easily to anger and righteous wrath. It had been reported that seven of the victims had died before reaching hospital, three more inside hospital.
As the numbers of the victims dwindled, so did those of the criminals, fifteen of them making a brutal escape from their captors, three police constables had died, beaten to death as the criminals had ran. Five had later been spotted hanging around the house and the hospital, the other ten were never seen again.
Two of the criminals remained however, attempting to explain why they had done what they had done to the horrified inspectors that interrogated them. Eventually they too disappeared into the night from a locked cell somehow managing to pull the bars open, possibly with help from their friends who had already escaped. They were never seen again.
Eventually the surviving victims, never having regained consciousness, died from the doctor’s efforts to revive them.
It was the interrogation of the prisoners that had interested Inspector Farrier though and it was this report that had helped him conceive his theory of how such a foul and depraved occurrence, admittedly on a smaller scale could have reappeared almost exactly over a hundred and fifty years later. It was the headline that he had seen on the torn newspaper clipping that was now the label he had given to this theory.
He had found the original clipping it had come from, not the exact one obviously, but another copy of that edition in the public library. It was part of a follow up story to the Massacre at Glean House that the local rag had written almost a week later. It read,
“Transcendence- The new Satanism.”
It was quite simply sensationalist rubbish yet it was based on the interrogation of the prisoners, unfortunately leaked to the press, or at least parts of it. The original interrogation Farrier now had on the desk in front of him. It was much more informative reading.
*** *** ***
“But how?” Jane complained. “You haven’t told me how it works yet.”
“I have, it’s like a trance, mental projection…” Angela replied calmly.
“Yes, yes, you’ve told me what happened but not how, or why it works. It doesn’t make sense, how can it happen in the real world.”
“Does it matter? It doesn’t matter how or why it is, only that it is. Does truth become less true if you can’t explain why or how it works, do lies become true if you have a believable explanation for them? Some things are beyond our understanding. ‘There are more things under heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy’. Ninety per cent of the universe is not known, there is so much we do not know, scientists are still working on basic rules of the universe, trying to understand why things are what they are. They have been working on such physical rules since the beginning of science and will probably still be working on them a thousand years from now. Will we ever totally understand everything there is to know, will we ever be able to explain why things are what they are. Such inability to explain reality does not detract from its existence, nor its wonder. I do not know why I was able to transcend; I only know that I managed to do it. And so can you.”
*** *** ***
Transcendence. The word conjured images for Farrier. They weren’t nice images. They were of torture, of sick psychos acting out of a completely self-sure sense that what they were doing was right, of Mark Camden being carried out of the house in Evergreen Lane, his body emaciated and all but a corpse, yet still, horrifically, still breathing.
The two that had been interrogated were named James Fowler and Richard Pascoe. They didn’t stand out in any visible way, just ordinary village men yet they had acted calmly and rationally in their depraved acts, unable to understand that what they were doing was wrong as they tricked seventeen young men into the mansion, (the property of Sir Reginald Yeoman, one of the ten who escaped without trace in the beginning) and proceeded to starve them and incarcerate them until they were little more than corpses and then keep them in that state for years, on the edge of death, probably in constant agony.
Their explanation was confused, hurried, both men interrupting each other, neither able to fully explain why they had done what they had done, only that Sir Reginald had been the first to do it and had taught the rest of them later.
As far as Farrier could gather, the men, or the ‘Transcended’ as they called themselves, believed that by keeping their victims in that state that they became one with them. The victim was never named by the men or given an identity, indeed their identity was never discovered by the police, all being in such states of emaciation that no distinguishing features could be seen.
Farrier couldn’t work out whether the Transcended thought they were incorporated into the spirits of their victims (or ‘Sleepers’) or whether the spirits of the Sleepers were incorporated into their bodies. Whichever way round it happened or that the criminals believed it happened in; apparently both, (or the ‘one’ that they became) experienced perfect happiness forever and also happened to be immortal, which was a nice bonus.
And now this belief, this cult, had resurfaced in his town. He thought he had caught it in time, before it spread to more followers, that at least was something to be thankful for. Admittedly his Transcendence Cult theory didn’t help him find who had abused Mark Camden, but it let him see why he had done it, and to understand the criminal’s mind was the first step, a step that had long eluded the inspector. And this new breakthrough gave him something to work on, a new focus, a new hope.
It would at least buy him time from the Chief Inspector and more importantly, from the local press. From the ashes of failure Detective Inspector Farrier’s career would rise once more, maybe not as high as it had once been admittedly, but its wings were strong, the means to fly was there, he just had to work to do it.