Monday 11 August 2014

Read the First Chapter of The Cult of Me

Continuing my celebration of The Cult of Me's re-release here is the opening chapter of the book. If you like what you read then you'll find purchase links at the end of the excerpt. And remember The Cult of Me is available at half price for August only!

The Cult of Me

Chapter 1

The first night

The shout for lights out echoed along the corridor, accompanied by the jingle of keys that signified a prison guard on patrol. The lights in all of our cells snapped off, leaving me alone in the darkness. This was my first night in Her Majesty’s Prison. For most this would be a fearful event, but for me only the first step in the plan for my last stand.

The darkness wasn’t total. A shaft of pallid light from the security lamps outside leaked through the tiny window. The bars set into the concrete sliced shadows into the weak glow. I saw the toilet, shrouded in gloom in the far corner, the slatted privacy barrier collapsed against the sink next to it. In the opposite corner stood a simple wooden table and matching chair, now only visible as shaded forms beneath the window.

I lay still upon the bed and absorbed the atmosphere around me. With my heightened senses I smelt the fear and rage from the occupants of the cells nearby. It was a satisfying scent that reminded me that here was exactly where I needed to be. Beneath me, the thin mattress failed to prevent the metal slats digging into the bruises that covered my back: fully deserved bruises I should add. You don’t kill several people in broad daylight, including two police officers, without some repercussions.

Despite the pain, or maybe even because of it, I felt content — more content than I had been in a very long time. It felt good to rest after such a busy day. I guessed in some way I should be thankful that all I received were a few bruises from those well placed blows… Petty revenge really considering the deeds I committed. The first stage of my plan was now complete. There would be a reckoning, but not yet, for now I was content to lie still and drift through my new surroundings.

Every half hour the flap in the cell door slapped open, and stern eyes peered through to make sure I still lived. They took such care of all new prisoners, especially those who were never likely to see the outside world again. On that first day only two new prisoners were admitted: me and the man now sobbing at the far end of the corridor. They didn’t need to be concerned about me. I was exactly where I wanted to be. Him on the other hand — well, we’ll get to him shortly.

At ease in the darkness and listened to the unfamiliar sounds. At the far end of the cell water gurgled through a large pipe in its vain attempt to warm the chill air. The thin prison issue blankets provided little warmth, but that didn’t matter. It was still warmer here than on the streets where I lived for the past few years. Besides, I now had a purpose, and that brought its own warmth.

From all around the prison I heard noises, mostly voices. I listened to snatches of conversation. All used the peculiar patois common to those that have been incarcerated. It was like learning a new language. Ordinarily it would have taken time for a newcomer like me to learn the intricacies of this language, but I had an advantage. I just plucked the knowledge from the minds of the experienced cons.

Beneath the chatter I detected an undercurrent of fear. I sensed from their thoughts that even for the old hands this could be a frightening place. Violence often erupted easily, whether from the guards or from the other prisoners. I didn’t mind: for me it took more than tall concrete walls to cage my will.

I smiled as I remembered the short poem a previous occupant had scrawled on the wall:

“If these walls were made of blow,
I’d smoke a hole and away I’d go.
But as they’re made of brick and stone,
I leave the fucking things alone.”

The same wit, obviously in fine form, had labelled the emergency bell. Above it he’d written “Push button for sex!” and below the red button “When pressed a cunt will appear.” It pleased me to know that, even in this place, some humour remained. The guard who escorted me to this cell warned me against pressing the button: “I had better be dying or I soon would be,” had been his eloquent warning. He needn’t have worried. I wouldn’t be dying here, not yet at any rate.

In the cell beside me, I heard the soft rhythmic sound of a man masturbating himself to sleep. I relaxed and expanded my awareness, allowed it to drift through the wall and into his cell. Being able to leave the confines of my mind had been a talent of mine for many years.

Well, well. That wasn’t something you saw every day. In his mind he pictured a pretty blonde, much older than himself. Her body was well formed and all too familiar to this man. She certainly appeared to be enjoying his energetic exertions. Delving deeper I discovered that this was no ordinary blonde fantasy; the women in question was much closer to him. I smiled to myself. His mother possessed a fine figure, well worth the attentions of an obedient son. Not that my tastes ran that way, you understand.

As always he detected my intrusion and it disrupted his rhythm. It always annoyed me that people detected my presence. Luckily for me, most people paid little attention to their mind’s warnings and ignored me. Anyway, disturbing a man mid-stroke seemed a little impolite, so I withdrew and left him to his solitary pleasures.

I mentally shrugged and let my awareness drift down the corridor, past the patrolling guard. With my mind’s eye I saw him clearly; his sharply pressed black trousers, polished shoes, crisp white shirt and black tie. He walked carefully and deliberately along the corridor. His mind followed the familiar routine, but he still relied on his instincts for any change in atmosphere.

Along each side lay a bank of eight cells, all maximum security as befitting category A prisoners. Every convict on this wing had been deemed a serious risk to the public. Even so everyone in this wing had demonstrated a taste for murder or rape, the kind of acts that excited the newspapers so much. Every prisoner had their own bloody tale to tell.

Normally a remand prisoner wouldn’t be included in such exalted company, but as the court deemed me a significant threat to public safety the court ordered me in with the convicted felons. I was forced to wear the special striped denim uniform and not my usual street clothes. That wasn’t a great hardship. My street clothes acquired many unusual smells over the years.

Being housed in the security wing brought mixed blessings. On the positive side it provided access to the more dangerous prisoners - they would prove essential for my plan. On the other hand it meant that my movements would be restricted and that I’d be kept under closer observation.

The guard stopped by the door for a few seconds, long enough to open the flap and check that I still lived. From his eyes I saw my own vague form, as if asleep on the bed.

At the far end of the corridor whimpered the other prisoner from the day’s intake. His sobs marked him out as fresh prey and already he found himself surrounded by the catcalls of the prisoners in the neighbouring cells.

I slipped into his mind easily, like a worm through soil. I encountered no resistance, only horrified confusion. The chaos inside him appeared driven by two great conflicts. The first was the emerging realisation of his guilt and the act that caused it; the second was his rapidly growing need for a fix. Satisfying the second would drive away the first, if only for a little while. Sadly for him, no such escape could be found here, not on the first night — and most definitely not without the right friends.

A quick fix would take the pain away - and not just the pain of withdrawal, but also the pain of the memory of the deed he committed. Even now he barely remembered, but I could see with great clarity the dreadful crime he perpetrated, the sin which even the murderers and rapists around him would never forgive him for. Like me they already knew the truth. The grapevine informed everyone before he even arrived, and with eager anticipation they waited for him.

The prison guards were right to maintain a watch on this one. If he had the means and the will then I doubted that he would last the night. The fever that gripped him caused enough pain on its own to make him seek that final option. He barely remembered what he had done, the terrible crime that he committed. I could help him remember, lay every detail out for him to relive. It pleased me to do so.

His cries increased in volume, shrill with grief. His mind fractured under this new torment as I revealed the truth to him. First I resurrected the vision of his young daughter, only weeks from the womb. She looked tiny, wrinkled and vulnerable. My second action created the sounds of her crying, seeking attention and nourishment. That provided the trigger for his own memories.

For him, it seemed a lifetime since he waited alone in the squalid flat. The mother was not there. She’d left some hours previously to score the drug they needed: the brown powder that would bring the relief he craved. For now he sat alone with the child, bombarded by her shrieks for attention. All he wanted was for her to be silent. Not too much to ask, he thought; all too quickly his temper snapped and he grabbed her from the cot.

With a shout and a shake she fell silent.

Unaware of what he had done, he dropped her back in the cot, now satisfied with the peace and quiet. Neither he nor the mother noticed the silent corpse slowly turning blue as they got high. She went unnoticed until the visit from the social worker the next day, and then he knew only the frenzied confusion that ended with him here, alone in his cell, surrounded by the baying wolves.

Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t alone. I would help him remember. Like a proxy conscience I resurrected his dead daughter and smiled as his screams echoed from the walls that closed in on him. His screams just goaded the killers around him. They shouted through the gaps in their doors and through the windows, promising him torments even greater than the one he currently experienced.

He looked at those same hands now. They looked the same as they did before. It seemed strange to him that he could see them with such clarity. He barely heard the rough voices around him, the promises of what would happen to him in the days to come. I withdrew and left him to his misery. There was no real sport there. With a nudge it would be easy to convince him of what must be done, but why waste the effort? His fate was already sealed, and I had more fun times ahead of me. If by some miracle he survived the next day then I could visit him again.

With no effort at all I returned to my body, lying on the hard bed. I felt contented and allowed myself to sleep and to dream.

In my youth I developed a talent for reading other people’s minds and with practice, forcing my will upon them. I have never encountered anyone capable of resisting my thoughts and for a time I enjoyed the fruits of my power. A terrible tragedy led me to a darker place and then I wielded my ability not simply to satisfy my desires but to torment and judge the throng of humanity around me.

Years passed until I realised that my life lacked meaning and I lived without purpose. It wasn’t a difficult change to make. And with that choice I have one final act to inflict upon the world and they will remember my name with fear for ages to come.

The Cult of Me is the first book in The Third Path trilogy.

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