A late summer evening in the city, some stretched sundown; dusk settled to night in foamy wisps of orange light. The streetlights came on and the madness began on this inky street, lit by a single orange streetlamp. The light radiated to encompass an adjacent bus stop, illuminating an ad on the side of the shelter reading ‘Datavox – we please your ears’. Formidable and dark, the concrete buildings around overshadowed the little shelter. A woman was waiting for a bus, diminutive and with a clear expression of nervous fear painted across her porcelain face. This area was no place for a woman to walk at night, but Amanda Parker was stuck trying to get home from work.
Recently she had taken a job downtown, in Barrboro; to spend her days in a little office beside the docklands. She had been hoping to get the last rail out of the town, but missed it and now had to contend with the buses instead.
“Night-bus or nightmare”,
the thought had barely formed in her head when she noticed shadowy figures stumbling toward her from the far end of the street. The misty dark masked them, until they reached her perimeter. One by one they emerged into the light. like ravenous dogs they surrounded her, approaching and encircling, grinning and pushing each other. Amanda clutched her bag tight in fear and prayed to the stars.
“Give me a ride, come on just give…me…”
The largest man, Val, a monstrous product of society, was grinning from ear to ear. He towered over Amanda, imposing himself. She pulled back, not wanting to meet his eyes, fighting to avoid peering into that soul, terrified of every possibility popping into her mind. “Give me” He pulled at her shirt, snagging skin between his fingers. Amanda, falling away to nothing, let out a scream, quickly muffled by a forceful hand. In his haste to break this woman’s heart, he had not noticed the crow perched and watching him from above and he did not see his own image reflected in it’s eye. The cloud of smoke and ashes that suddenly burst into life by his left shoulder came as a surprise, and instantly the beast and his mongrel friends were gone.
Valentine O’ Connor was born, in a city centre hospital, 29 years ago. The child of a loveless marriage between another violent creature and a prostitute. His mother took the young boy and fled the nightly brutality. The life she built was far from perfect, her body became their only source of income, besides selling a hit for a note or two. Life, from the get go, was a cold and dark place for him. Nothing so far in his life had prepared him for what he now saw around him.
“This is the void”, a voice intoned, “where you will remain, alone, for a very long time”.
The voice was without owner and was filled with disdain, the last booming reverberations quelled, and the echoey eternity around him became silent.
“Hello?” he called out, “is anybody there?”
His voice repeated into the endless darkness, and was met with no reply. Valentine was left to mull over the pain he had caused, in silent darkness and infinite space, for the rest of his life.
The Morrigan was able to observe the entire city from the terraced crown of the Elysian. From the doped up heroes and villains on Barr st. to the busy side alleys in Murphy’s Quarter. The city was ripe with pain and suffering, but not bereft of hope. She had seen too much pain, year after year, city after city. As the centuries passed and the course of life unfolded, she became disillusioned with the great divine experiment. Her sentient existence as a god involved unbridled and constant exposure to a horrifying series of images; a reel of people’s misfortune and pain. The Morrigan was in ways a cursed god, always to be a harbinger of some forthcoming doom, to see death before Death herself.
Meditating on her circumstance, she concluded that Death went too easy on many of those she took from the living world. Death allowed rapists to live to an old age, murderers to prosper from their misdeeds; they all died smiling, surrounded by family and friends. She, the Phantom Queen, materialised in the otherworld, to plead with Death for the lives of these innocent wretches.
“Times now are not as they were, and the world is a different place. There is no honour left in the world, the wraith thoughts of cities now engulf fragile minds and create vile sickness”.
The Morrigan paused, regarded the figure poised before her. Death, the shapeshifter, appeared as a black dog, curled up by a hearth of hewn stone. She did not answer.
The cavernous hall around the pair, adorned with little decoration, was as black as the dog lying in front of her. The Morrigan was used to death in any form: a tall slender figure with a white hat, a robed skeletal figure with fiery eyes or the black dog that regarded her, eyes dark as coal. The dog changed, dissolving into the ground and slowly re-emerging and coalescing into a hooded frame. With a single motion of an arm, a bony finger extended and beckoned for her to come closer. She stepped forward and was instantly back in the world of the living. Erupting on the street in front of her was a vicious assault, with six youths circled around an older man. His face was partially caved in and blood gushed from a wound over his eye. She had her answer, Death stopped for no man or deity. It was on this fateful day the Morrigan began her mission, and for this reason she intercepted, to save the life of a small lady waiting for a bus.
Amanda Parker put her hand to the side of her head as she collapsed backward onto the bus stop bench. The ravenous men that had swarmed around her, blinked out of existence in a plume of, what appeared to be, dense black inky smoke.
“I’m going fucking crazy…or I got spiked or something”
The episode had sent her heart into hyperdrive and she was only barely holding on to consciousness. Turning to her side she began to dry heave and wretch. Suddenly, another burst of jet black, and a white delicate woman, with a pretty but stern face and bright blue eyes, appeared before her. The smoke quickly transformed into a shock of black locks that flowed down the figure’s back; ringlets rippled, like cresting waves, in her hair, a sea of ash and coal.
“Hello Human, Amanda Parker” Her voice was like silk but delectable in it’s power, “I hope that you are well and that your vitality has not been diminished”. The language was stilted, definitely not a local accent.
“Uh…I’m dying…I think, what was that? How did you…”, the little woman was quickly interrupted,
“Those men wished you harm, I saw to it that their attempts at debauchery were met with a quick end”.
Amanda had grown up in a pretty reasonable neighbourhood, her parents were respectable but very strict, not wealthy nor poor. At 8, her elder cousin was sent to stay with the family, and he began to abuse the child. The incident left it’s mark on the girl, she had become deeply depressed, and searched for any gender preference to the point of depravity. In her teens she failed to identify sexually with anything in particular, only reliving her earlier experiences. In the turmoil of those years she resigned herself to a bleak, loveless, future. It wasn’t until she fell on top of Jenny Bradley in a game of football that she realised what her preferences were. She cropped her blonde hair and began to wear the clothes she wanted. Her father kicked her out of the house, her mother sent money but they didn’t really talk much after that. She had no siblings, and besides an aunt and a grandmother, she didn’t really have a family.
Attacked from the front by a downpour of rain, she was still dazed, and began to howl crying, pitiful sobs muffled by her sleeves as the wave of shock receded. She felt something wrap around her, comforting and warm, and opened her eyes to see black feathers enfolding her.
“What are you?”, she barely got the whisper out, “What are you?”,
this time loud and clear. The reply came in a foreboding, but benevolent tone:
“I am the Phantom Queen, bringer of bad tiding and misfortune, the foreteller of loss and mourning, the messenger of Death”.
Amanda smirked for the first time all night, “Cheery stuff”, the quip seemed to go unnoticed as the woman continued. “I am the Morrigan, and I am the one who saved your life”, the figure gestured toward the girl,
“You are Amanda Parker, a human, and now you may become my anointed envoy in the realm of the living”.
“Go fuck yourself”,
Amanda stormed past the deity and began for home; but, in a flash, she found herself, again, facing the Morrigan.
“You’ve done something to me or…something”,
she scrambled to understand reality for a second while the Morrigan flashed her out of existence and into the void.
When Amanda opened her eyes, she found herself in open dark space, infinite and endless in all directions around her. She felt as if she were standing in space, floating in eternity, and was completely unaware of the presence of her body. Existing as merely thought, she felt The Morrigan speak through her.
“Amanda, only you can choose what you want to do in life, but I have seen your true potential. I am offering you this choice. You can become my envoy on earth, and fight with me against the destruction of innocence. You may not survive, it may be arduous, you will need to be very strong. I represent neither Fate nor Destiny, but I can tell you they wilt at the power you can invest in your own future.”.
“No, you’ve got the wrong person, I’m not who you think I am, I’m not strong and I can’t do this”
Amanda was pleading with the other voice.
“Are you not the same Amanda Parker who devotes herself to charity and good will? Do you think I choose you lightly?” the Morrigan sounded impatient.
“Just leave me alone” As she thought it, it became so. She found herself back at the bus stop; a city bus pulled in before her, hazards blinking as it waited for her to board. It appeared empty, devoid of passengers and driver. She noticed parts of the world around her drifting and dissolving into nothingness. Far away she could see buildings crumbling into each other and falling away to forever. Again she heard the voice in her head,
“Only you can choose”.
The Morrigan was right, Amanda had worked for charity, she had been working as a cook at a soup kitchen for 8 years. Confused, and frightened of the Morrigan’s omniscience, Amanda stumbled toward the bus. As she reached for the rail to hoist herself onto the lower deck, she felt the wind blow through her. An awful shiver overtook her and, revolted, she recoiled and fell backwards crashing through the sidewalk, plunging into an inky pit of nothing. The Morrigan was before her, bursting with light in this colourless world. “Fate and Destiny” Cautiously she looked up at the Morrigan,
“i’ve always wanted a higher purpose, maybe this is it”.
“Then you accept?”, the Morrigan asked, her eyes fixed on the girl who ,was still trembling before her.
“I accept, i’ll try I guess”, she took the Morrigan’s hand, and they blinked back into reality. “Where do we go from here?”, Amanda questioned hesitantly.
“From here we make our mark on Death itself Amanda, from here we change the order of the world”.
She turned and walked away into the misty night. Amanda followed, still gripping the rucksack that contained the remnants of her old life; making her way forward, gingerly, by the light of the moon.