“Good evening, ladies,
Before I say
anything else, I wish to thank you all again for volunteering.
This is going
to be a very difficult job.
This is going
to be far messier than it really needed to be.
forget that if we had started this process only a few months ago, it
been perfectly straightforward.
The public were
on our side.
Thanks to the
Prop Centre, we had a population both terrified and disgusted.
these new creatures were merely symptoms of some mysterious
disease slowly moving through our people.
suddenly, some of our more softheaded media-brains decided to put
Martin on screen.
screens, in fact.
all those creatures with his childish humour and his sentimental pleas
For all these
sorrowful, weepy outsiders.
that he himself was one of their kin.
And so, the
But that was
then and this... is a very different moment in time.
The old regime
A new dawn is
We must act now
before anybody else starts to give in to their fears and doubts.
All your Group
Leaders have been given a list.
different names on every list except for the one at the very top.
Fergal Martin has gone on the run.
His capture is
a top priority.
People seem to
think that I have become obsessed with this individual.
He is a
He is toxic.
I am concerned
that he’s already infected a great many of our citizens.
This is why I
I say this
The word “hate”
is both appropriate and justified.
But he is not
to be killed.
He is not to
become a martyr.
He is to be
He must be made
to see the obscene error of his ways.
As for the rest
of the names on all your lists, I don’t care.
Do what you
Ask them about
Martin if you feel it may be useful, but remember, ...they are not
They are not
They have no
So, ladies and
gentlemen, good hunting.
Let’s end this
cats-eyes that glowed in the darkness. Her bright green hair seemed to
beneath a streetlamp, as she nervously looked around that littered,
Suddenly, she heard her young son behind her, calling out "Mam".
around to see her son standing beside her husband. They both had the
of eyes and hair as she did.
“We have to go now,"
the father spoke as a whisper turned into a growl.
The three of them started to
run, but as they turned a corner, they were suddenly confronted by a
light exploding from the top of a military jeep. Hiding behind
a soldier speaking through a megaphone, said "Don't move. Stay
They were asked if they knew where Martin was.
They did not.
Eventually, they were believed.
He was exhausted. His legs felt like
lead, but somehow, some way, he knew he had to keep on running. But it
and this part of the city was a confusing maze of identical little
Soon he found himself nearly
crashing into a tall, brick wall. He was confronted by a
poster that said
simply in bold black letters "Ignorance is Purity".
Suddenly, a cold, hard voice
exploded from behind him.
“There's nowhere to hide,
He turned around to see four
paramilitary soldiers walking towards him. He stretched out
arm in front of him as the hand started to glow bright red.
The soldier who had shouted at
him a few seconds before, now raised his rifle and pointed it straight
“Don't even bloody think about it,
He was asked if
he knew where Martin was.
He did not.
There was a small explosion at her
front-door. The light wood and stained glass shattered into dozens of
splinters, as five heavily armed soldiers came crashing into her house.
all over in an instant. They found her standing beside her
“Hands up. Hands above your
She raised both her six-fingered
hands above her head. There was a childlike terror in her wide, staring
Indeed, she would have screamed. If she had a mouth. And not the smooth
freckled skin that covered the lower part of her face.
She was asked
if she knew where Martin was.
She did not.
the medium of sign-language and fear-stung eyes), she was believed.
She was very loud, this other
woman, as she was half-dragged along by those older soldiers. She was
pulled towards a death-black van. She noticed that there were two
frightened-looking young policemen sitting in the front-seat of a
beside it. She let out a screaming, angry snarl, sticking her fanged,
leopard-spotted face up against the side-door glass.
She was asked
if she knew where Martin was.
She did not.
A rather eccentric young man walked calmly
into one of the Sentry Public Offices in the centre of town. He had
shoulder-length, jet-black hair, and extremely pale skin.
himself alone staring at a wide Reception area with thick glass
the space above a long iron counter.
There were five
Sentries on the other side talking quietly amongst themselves.
home?” the figure asked.
turned to look at him.
“Who are you?”
one of them asked, before another one suddenly grabbed a rifle from a
pointed it in the direction of the figure.
hell-what?” the first Sentry asked.
hell-me!” the figure said with an almost giddy expression on his face.
is Fergal Martin.”
five Sentries reached for the nearest firearms.
continued. “That Fergal Martin. No autographs, please.”
walked closer to the glass partition.
“Are you sure
you’d want to shoot from where you are?”
He knocked at
“I don’t know
if this stuff’s supposed to be bullet-proof or just basic glass. Either
could get messy.”
placed his right palm on the glass saying, “I have been and always will
The Sentry who
had recognised him shouted “Stay where you are!”
off to the side of the reception before reappearing through a metal
was on Martin’s side.
“Long time, no
see,” Martin said.
“Why are you
here,” the Sentry asked.
“Oh, to give
myself up, of course. To help you with your enquiries. I’ve been
unpleasant stories. You’ve been violently asking certain brothers and
of mine where I am. This is where I am. So, let’s talk.”
Where Fennell Was
It was an eye.
About the size
of a football.
It was a
The head was the eye.
The eye was the
He thought he
He turned around a corner and there
He had a
He was pointing
it straight at the eye.
David Fennell had been waiting for
this moment for a long time. He had even prepared a short little
Magnificent in its sarcasm.
“Well, well, well.
His mobile rang.
“For fuck’s sake," he shouted.
There were two soldiers behind the
"Eye". Fennell looked at them and said, "Take him away."
Fennell looked down at his
“This better be bleedin' worth
The two soldiers took the
"Eye" away. The "Eye" looked back at Fennell as he put
the mobile up to his ear. He spoke with a hard, but quiet anger.
“What is it?"
“It's good to hear you,
The voice belonged to O'Brien.
Fennell imagined him sitting at his desk. In his voice, he could hear a
“We want you back here at the office
“With all due respect, sir, is
this some kind of bloody joke?"
“Relax, son. It's good news. It
looks as if your prayers have finally been answered."
There were a few soldiers
congregating a couple of metres away from Fennell, so he turned around
lowered his voice.
“I'm back in the Group?"
“You're back in the Group. You
really do have friends in high places, don't you?"
“I still think the timing
could've been better."
“Well, there's a reason for
that. They finally found Martin."
Fennell almost smiled.
“Is he talking?"
“Talking? He won't shut up. But
he’s not telling us what we want to hear.”
revealed any party tricks?”
“Not yet. All
the tests show that he is, but nobody knows what
O'Brien was in his
mid-sixties, but retirement as far as he was concerned was simply not
He was, after all, a member of that
blessed generation who had been preparing for this moment all their
was entering his rather spartan office with Fennell walking closely
“He sounds like quite a
character," O'Brien was saying.
“He's a mystery," Fennell
replied, "I hate mysteries."
“Well, this will give you a
perfect opportunity to solve one. Congratulations, by
the way, on
your new promotion."
O'Brien sat down on the most
extravagant piece of furniture in the room. A large, almost throne-like
Behind him, there was a framed
poster that said "Knowledge is not a Right. It's a Privilege".
“Well, I get the
impression," Fennell said, "that you were more responsible for that,
than I was."
“Nonsense. You deserved
He indicated for Fennell to
sit down on a smaller wooden chair.
“And don't you be
listening," he continued, "to all those people saying that we
organised it just to keep you quiet. We trust you, Fennell. This
you one of the chosen few. In fact, all in all, we in the Government
extremely impressed by your career, so far."
He smiled as he leaned back.
“Of course, we knew you
wanted to return to the Group, and we may have pulled one or
but don't get too comfortable in your new position. I
have a higher destiny. And I suspect, you believe it, too. But enough
future. Let's talk about "now". Let's talk about Martin. Do you know
where he is?"
“He's in Cell Alpha 1," Major
Johnson was saying. "Only the best, of course, for such an honoured
He was sitting in the rather
makeshift office he had been using since he had been assigned as
this rather exclusive little prison.
“He's under constant
observation by two old friends of yours. Mitchell and that young Harris
On the other side of the desk,
“Yeah, I know them."
“Well, I think that’s just
about everything. All that remains for me to do..."
Major Johnson picked up a three-page
document and handed it over to Fennell.
“Is to formally hand over this
agreed text for the
Martin to sign at your earliest convenience."
The automatic door slowly
opened with a low hum followed by a tiny squeak. Fennell walked calmly
Observation Room. It was rather small with Mitchell, a
in his mid-thirties, along with Harris, a slightly younger man, sitting
desk looking at a two-way mirror. They both turned to look at the
“Is that him in there?"
Fennell asked, indicating the mirror.
“Oh, yeah. That's our boy, all
right," Mitchell said.
Fennell walked behind them to
have a good look at the mirror. Looking through the glass, he
the interrogation room. He saw Martin. He was sitting on a
chair on the
other side of a table. There was an empty chair waiting on the nearer
appeared to be just sitting there staring into space, with a calm,
smile on his face.
“What's he bloody smiling at?"
Fennell asked quietly.
“I stopped trying to
understand these bastards a long time ago," Mitchell
"Speaking of which, how's "Operation Dawn"
“I've been told that it'll
only be a matter of days before we can officially announce we've caught
all. So, our friend here can smile all he bloody wants. His day is
There was a pause, as Fennell,
Mitchell and Harris found themselves staring at Martin who almost
seemed to be
staring back at them.
For the first time, Harris
spoke and almost nervously asked "Are
we completely sure he
can't see us through this glass?"
With a bored sigh, Mitchell
replied "Life's too short to answer questions like that."
He looked back at Fennell.
“Do you want to go in and have a
He glanced back at Harris and said,
"Unlock the door."
Harris keyed a code onto a
screen on the desk in front of them and pressed a large red button. A
random bleeping noises came from a door that was beside the
Inside the Interrogation Room,
Martin suddenly looked towards the door and said "Oh, I have a visitor,
I? Groovy. Well, come on in, buddy. Let's have a chin-wag."
Mitchell and Harris both
slowly took out their pistols. As the they both clicked off
switches, Mitchell said quietly "Bloody comedian."
They stood up and accompanied
Fennell to the door. Mitchell grabbed the large plastic handle
that was on
the left-hand side of the door and slowly turned it. They walked into
to be confronted by a smiling Martin, as he asked, "How's she
Mitchell and Harris kept their
guns fixed on Martin.
“This is Fennell," Mitchell
said, "From the Interrogation Group."
“Hello," Martin smiled at
“Keep in mind," Mitchell
said, "That we'll be watching from just next door, so let's try to keep
bullshit to an absolute minimum."
“Are you sure about that? It's particularly
good for the roses, they say."
He looked at Fennell and asked
"Do you like roses, Fennell from the Interrogation
Although, I have to say that at first glance, you don't really strike
me as a
Mitchell and Harris slowly backed
out of the room.
“Would you mind shuttin' the door
after you, lads?" Martin asked. "There's a terrible draft coming from
He looked straight at Harris and
said with a smile. "Be seeing you."
Harris almost looked worried
as Mitchell closed the door in front of him. There was a loud bleep
door to signify that it was locked.
“Where are me manners, for
goodness sake? Please, sit down. Make yourself at home."
Fennell slowly sat down in the
chair across from Martin.
“Do you even have the vaguest
idea of the trouble you're in?" he asked.
“I don't really
have vague ideas. I leave all that to you boys and
gals with your notions
and your nightmares."
“Well, at least,
this particular nightmare's coming to an end. Let me
something. Do you have any understanding of what it
felt like for us?
To walk the streets and be confronted everywhere you bloody looked by
like you? Not to mention some of your more outlandish lookin' cousins.
walking around as if they owned the place. As if they actually thought
belonged here. As if they actually thought they were just like
the rest of
“Yes. I do," Martin said,
"I know exactly what that feels like. What you're describing is
Like a fireworks display firing off in every single direction. That's
has, does and always will develop... and change."
Fennell leant back in his
chair and smiled a rather bitter smile.
“Ah, yeah, here we go again.
‘We're all mutants,
after all. It's all part of the evolutionary process.’ I've heard it
before, friend. That joke stopped being funny
a long time ago."
He then leant forward, placed his
hands flat on the table in front of him and said very quietly and
"You... are wrong. Not just in what you say... but in what
Every single last one of you. You're all just genetic malfunctions.
Martin smiled and then in a rather
theatrical whisper said, "I'm glad they sent you here."
“Does my reputation precede
me?" Fennell asked. There seemed to be almost a touch of pride in his
“No, not at all," Martin
replied, "Before you just came in, I didn't have a clue who you were.
Maybe your reputation doesn't precede you, as such,
it just follows
you around like a snail's... trail. Okay, that's
a very strange
image, but one of the reasons I'm glad they sent someone like you to
here, is that I get the definite impression you've got a very
brain. I think you know a lot of stuff. Oh, dear. Oh, I'm sorry. Are
offended by me saying that? I know some of you lot really believe in
bliss as a theological concept. But don't you worry yourself, pal.
secret's safe with me. If anybody asks me, I'll say you're a complete
but let me ask you something. Why do you always assume that we'd
word "freak" as an insult? I really think, David, that the world
would be a much better place, if we could all just embrace our "inner
freak". Of course, I know you don't believe me, but at this moment, I
what's really worrying you is the fact that I seem to know what you're
Fennell suddenly looked
“David," Martin continued,
"Or would you prefer Dave or Davo or Davoroony or the Davemeister. Oh,
like that. The Davemeister. It's better than your bleedin' middle name,
Out in the Observation Room,
Mitchell and Harris looked bewildered.
“What the hell's going
on?" Mitchell asked quietly.
From beyond the glass, they
could hear Martin who seemed to shout an answer.
“Life's going on. Life always
He looked back at Fennell and asked,
"Don't you agree, Percy. I mean, Dave. But anyway, I suppose you're
to ask me now about the sort of company I keep. But really, I'd much
talk about all those fascinating people you hang
around with. It's
amazing, really. You've met all the really serious
shakers. You know all their secrets and plans and codes and guess
At this point, Fennell was
beginning to look genuinely frightened.
“As of a few moments ago and
thanks to the one of my two mutant powers
that isn't my devastating
charm, so do I."
“Actually, I think we were
told to keep that to an absolute minimum."
Fennell tried to appear
relaxed but failed.
“There's obviously been some kind of
security leak. I mean, you've obviously been well-briefed..."
Martin interrupted him.
“The code to your PC is Doubtful
Fennell suddenly stood up and
started to back slightly away.
“Apparently, it was the first
word that came to mind. That may have been your sub-conscious trying to
through. This delightful little crackdown you've been working on, was
originally called "Operation Crackdown", which shows an incredible
and perhaps not surprising lack of imagination on the part of your
superiors. You were in fact the one who suggested
"Operation Dawn". You told them that it suggested a new beginning,
but in fact it was because, for some peculiar reason, "Tie a Yellow
Around the Old Oak Tree" had been floating around your head, all day.
fellow. You've just come from a meeting where
astonishingly I was the
subject of the conversation. It was attended by yourself and Major
of course, being the nickname you've christened him with, and have
another soul about. But more importantly than all of that, last night
dreamt that you were being sat on by an elephant, which any Jungian
would confirm as being highly symbolic of a deep-seated fear of being
sat on by
an elephant. The fact it was covered in red and blue stripes
is just plain
Fennel suddenly took out a
pistol and pointed it straight at Martin's head.
“What the hell have you just
done?" he asked.
“Only what comes naturally,
David, and may I say how impressed I am at the mature and thoughtful
dealing with this situation."
In the Observation Room,
Harris took out his gun.
“That's it. I'm going in," he
Mitchell grabbed Mitchell's
arm and said, "No! Let's see how this plays out."
“What's gonna happen, now,
then?" Martin asked back in the Interrogation Room as he literally
down the barrel of Fennell's gun. "Go ahead, make my day? Do you feel
lucky, punk? Luck. What a very strange concept? Good luck. Bad luck.
seven years grab you?"
Suddenly, the mirror between
the two rooms seemed to explode with shards of glass shattering and
down onto the floor. Mitchell and Harris jumped up quickly
chairs and moved back, trying to take cover.
“What is it with glass? Anyway, it's
been absolutely lovely talking to you, amigo," Martin continued, "But
I really have to be hitting the road. You know how it is. Places to be.
to meet. Freaks to set free. Or maybe you don't know how it
Martin slowly stood up,
as Mitchell and Harris came rushing in.
“Sit down," Mitchell
Martin smiled gently and quietly
“What do you mean, "’No’?"
“I'm sorry. You're quite right, of
course. No, thank you. Good manners cost nothin'. That's my
know. Well, no, it isn't. It's "Nil Desperandum". Words to live by,
don't you think?"
Fennell still had his gun
trained on Martin, as he asked, "Do you seriously believe you can just
walk out of here?"
“Yes. I seriously believe, but I
also believe in a zany, madcap way. Madcap. There's another strange
word. A cap
that makes you mad. What's that all about?"
“Shut up," Harris said with
what sounded like a touch of panic in his voice. "Okay, just bloody
Mitchell glanced nervously at
him and said "Harris?"
“You don't bloody care, do
you?" Harris shouted at Martin. "If we let you go, what happens
“What do you think will
happen?" Martin asked.
Harris now seemed almost hysterical.
“Oh, I know exactly what'll happen.
That's why we’re doing this, you see. The fact is, you people, you just
control yourselves. At the end of the day, given half a chance, I think
slaughter the lot of us."
“But why would we do that? We love
There was a pause, for by the
matter-of-fact way Martin said it, it was obvious that he wasn't being
or ironic or even the slightest bit sentimental. If anything, it almost
like a patient parent talking to a child in mid-tantrum.
“What?" Harris asked with
a rather pained expression on his face.
“Slaughtering people just ain’t our
style. We're better than that, you see. We're... better than you.
personal, you understand, but basically, we're superior. And we say
that in all
“Shit," Fennell said
quietly, as he raised his pistol and pulled the trigger.
There was a click. He tried again.
Another click. Mitchell and Harris both tried to shoot, but
with the exact
same result. For ten seconds, the only sound in the room was
“I could make an extremely
rude joke at this moment," Martin said, "But thankfully, I'm a
gentleman. But what is it with you people? You're always trying to
higher, evolved beings. Didn't you try to do that 2,000 years ago?
Didn't go to
plan, then. Why try it again, now? If at first you don't succeed, why
try to do something that you may actually be good at? Look, I'd love to
around and chat all day and I think you'll agree, I'm entirely capable
that, but I have to bid you all a fond adieu and by the way, it's not
imaginations, your feet are genuinely glued to the floor."
Suddenly, Fennell, Mitchell and
Harris noticed that they couldn't move their feet.
“I wouldn't try to move to stop me
if I were you, because you would look extremely silly."
Fennel walked calmly towards
the door. Just as he was about to leave, he paused and said to Harris. “And don't you worry, my
friend. The effect is only temporary. I could say that it was like
that would be incredibly pretentious. Of course, since I'm an elevated
it'll probably be very difficult for me not to be
hard to believe, I know. Pretentious, moi?"
There was silence.
“You know. Don't mention the war.
Basil in the ratatouille. My God, you really are primitive, aren't you?"
Martin started again to walk
towards the door.
“Some people have just no sense of
culture. Slán leat."
Fennell, Mitchell and Harris
were left standing there in the Interrogation Room listening to
footsteps moving through the Observation Room before opening and
“Bloody comedian," Mitchell
Fennell looked around him. The
three of them had stopped trying to move and were just standing there,
for something to happen.
dignified?" he said quietly.
a pause, Harris asked,
"What's supposed to happen now? I mean, is that it?"
suddenly started to
softly laugh, before looking at Harris and saying quietly "Don't
Pointing At Each Other
“Oh, you should've seen the chaos
that ensued after that. All the internees escaped, me included. The
the normal.... is that the appropriate word? Normal? Well anyway, the
non-mutant population were terrified at what might happen next. The
seemed to be on complete lock-down in preparation for the imminent
Which didn't happen.
Days passed. Then weeks. They
would've been relieved if they weren't so bewildered. And so,
became embarrassment, which in turned deepened into a burning shame.
began to think twice... and in many cases, once.
The government fell soon after. It
fell so hard; it left a crater on the ground.
And Fennell? I'm afraid he couldn't
deal with the new situation, at all. His state of mind quickly crumbled
the tumbling pressure of history.
It was also at this time, that I and
the rest of my kind were welcomed back into polite society with
open arms. I even got my old job back. Which was amazing. The husband
were delighted. No more running. No more hiding.
I'm not even hearing the sort of
comments I used to get about my appearance and how it might affect my
know, the green hair and the cats-eyes. Tapetum
Oh, I'm sorry, I should've said at
the beginning that I'm a Psychiatric Nurse. By both profession and
Which is how I met Fennell.
We had actively encouraged him to
paint and draw in the hope that by putting everything down on paper,
better able to deal with the contradictions that had overwhelmed him.
Or at the
very least, he'd be able to communicate what was going on inside his
wasn't very artistic (no surprise there), and it has to be said his
tended to be rather child-like and simplistic. And strangely rather
It was almost always the same image. Two figures standing and pointing
other. In the earlier ones, the two figures would be completely
Different clothes. Different features. But slowly, but surely, this had
changed. The two figures had come to resemble each other. In the last
weeks, they had almost become identical. Like in a mirror's reflection.
A couple of days ago, it was
decided that he should have a visitor. A very special visitor. In fact,
the one who brought him into the common room.
Fennell was sitting at a table at
the middle of the room, feverishly drawing with his head down, close to
“Mr. Fennell?" I asked.
There was no response, so I raised
my voice slightly.
Slowly, painfully slowly, Fennell
lifted his head up. His hair had grown long over the last few months,
was now pale and unshaven. His eyes looked weary and mournful.
“You have a visitor," I
said as gently as I could. I stepped aside to let Martin walk towards
“Hello, David." he said.
Fennell looked up at him and his
eyes suddenly widened. What was he thinking? Was he angry? Fearful? I
was obviously surprised, but for one terrifying moment, I thought we'd
Maybe this was the worst thing we
could've done. After all our good work, was he just going to withdraw
Martin sat down on the chair
that was across the table from Fennell and quietly said "We meet
Fennell picked up a
red-coloured marker and bent his head down in order to start drawing
Martin smiled rather sadly and
continued, "I would've been, in fact, I should've been here earlier,
it's been extremely busy out there."
Fennell kept on drawing.
“We wish you could've been a part of
Without looking up, Fennell
said, "We thought you were devils, you know. You terrified us, but we
could deal with that. We could deal with you being devils. But we just
deal with you.... not being devils."
“Well, we're definitely not
angels," Martin replied with a chuckle in his voice. "I mean, let's
not go crazy..."
Fennell almost started to laugh at
this beautifully, inappropriate statement, but he didn't raise his head
kept on drawing.
Martin cleared his throat and said,
"Sorry. But the thing is...”
He slowly raised his right
hand. There was a small orange light glowing in his palm.
you," he continued, "It's time to pay our debt."
his head back up. He found himself
staring at the
orange light that was at the centre of the palm. Suddenly, it seemed to
until it covered all of Martin's hand.
Fennell seemed hypnotised by it, as multicoloured rays
started to emerge from deep within the orange. They appeared like
tendrils reaching across the table to touch his face. Without realising
doing it, he raised his right hand and pointed at Martin who raised his
hand and pointed at Fennell.
© 2022 T.J. Matthews
Bio: T.J. Matthews works as a
Civil Servant in a Government Department in Dublin, Ireland. Over the
years, he has had several poems published in various Irish and British
His story "Aidan in St. Stephen's Green" appeared in the April 2020
issue of Aphelion Webzine"
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