Archive for October, 2015
EXCERPT # 5: The following is an email received by FUGUE magazine, May 20–.
SUBJECT: FAO Mr. Jamie Carter – Appeal for Information (Zodiac)
Dear Mr. Carter,
First, let me say what a great job you’re doing with the Jason Zodiac articles for Fugue. I have fond memories of both the Banana Sundial concerts and The T-Service TV series, and I show copies of your magazine to all my friends.
You gave out an email address in the magazine and appealed for information regarding Jason Zodiac and his whereabouts. Well, here I am, because I have a story about not only Jason but also Joe Strummer of The Clash, and I think you might be interested.
My name is Terence Morgan and I’m over fifty years old now. You wrote in your article on the Sex Pistols that you would never forget the day you heard God Save The Queen. Well, I can tell you there’s one day I will never forget– and that’s the day Joe Strummer died.
I was in Naples at the time, of all places. My wife Julie and I had gone to Italy for our Christmas holiday with the kids, and we’d driven over from the Amalfi coast. In fact, we’d just got into the room, put down our suitcases, and sat down on the bed. We flicked on the TV and the BBC worldwide news, and there it was. Joe Stummer passed away at age fifty after a heart attack. My wife and I jumped to our feet and screamed ‘WHAT?’ – we couldn’t believe it. I still remember the shock of it all.
You see, I knew Joe Strummer. I met him on maybe four or five occasions, enough to be on first name terms – and he and Jason saved my life. Let me explain.
I’ve been a record collector all my life. The first seven-inch single I bought was David Bowie’s Space Oddity, and the first album I bought was T. Rex’s Electric Warrior. I started buying Punk singles in 1977; it took me a while to get into Punk, but when I did, I didn’t mess about. The Clash, The Jam, The Stranglers, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, Rock Against Racism gigs; I saw them all at least three times each. I got to know Julie, my wife, through the records and the gigs. Our first date was a Clash gig at the ICA. Afterwards we went back to my student flat, I put Working for the Clampdown on the turntable and she started singing along and imitating the way Mick Jones swung his guitar about on stage.
That’s when I fell in love with her.
I studied economics at University College, London, and lived in a run-down student house in Hammersmith. In the summer of 1979 I had a part-time job in a corner shop in Pimlico. It was run by Mr. Gill, a huge Sikh with thick NHS glasses and mustache, turban, the full monty. He looked a bit scary and he was dead serious about money but as a boss, I’ve met people far worse.
Anyway, it turned out The Clash were working just down the road, in Wessex Studios. They were recording the London Calling album. They used to play football in a little park across the square and call in the shop afterwards for beer and crisps and ham rolls. Brilliant, eh? My claim to fame. I’ve got all their autographs on shop receipts and flyers – Mick Jones, Paul Simonon, Topper Headon. And Joe. Poor, wonderful Joe.
Let me get to the point. On the last day of August that year I started work at five, as usual, looking forward to knocking off at ten, getting over to the Black Horse for a couple of pints and back to Colin’s flat for a weekend spliff. About seven o’clock – Mr. Gill was in the back room stocktaking, and the radio was playing I Don’t Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats – Joe Strummer walked in. This time he wasn’t with the band – he was with Jason Zodiac. I was gobsmacked. I knew from reading the NME that they were mates, but even so, I never expected …
Joe came in wearing black drainpipe jeans, red brothel creepers, lemon yellow T-shirt and matching socks – and that famous jacket from the photo shoot, the one with PASSION IS A FASHION stenciled on it and a few razor blades and safety pins artfully placed around the lapels. Jason had never been into Punk gear, as you know. Jason’s look was instantly recognizable, and kind of timeless – the denim cut-off with the Banana Sundial logo painted on the back, the long black hair, the tanned brown skin and shades perched on top of his long, Roman nose.
So anyway, I could tell they’d both been drinking. Joe saw me behind the till and came over. “Hi Terry, you all right?” He was great like that. Always remembered names. We started chatting away about stuff but I noticed Jason wasn’t buying anything. He seemed more interested in the door he’d just come through. He squatted down, muttering things like ‘far out’ and ‘heavy’, then got up and came over to the till.
“Mr. Zodiac,” I said, trying to keep cool, “you don’t know me, but …”
“No, I don’t know you. What’s your name?”
“Terry. Terry Morgan.”
“Well listen Terry Morgan, can I ask you a question? How long has that graffiti been there?”
He beckoned me out from behind the till and over to the shop’s only door to the street. I wasn’t supposed to leave the till, and we had about five customers in the shop at the time, but … well, I went over to the door and we both knelt down and he pointed to what was bothering him.
It was a weird mess of circles and criss-crossing lines drawn in black marker pen. There were words as well, two lines of what looked like Arabic, which made me think of Mr. Gill – but he wouldn’t graffiti his own door.
“How long has that been there?” Jason asked.
“I’ve no idea. Never seen it before.”
“So it’s recent?”
“In fact, do you think it was here before Joe and I came into our shop?”
I shrugged. I didn’t know what to say, so he stood up, and so did I. “Try the door, Terry.”
I did like he said, pushing the handle, expecting the little bell to ring as it opened into Pimlico High Street. It wouldn’t budge. I kept pushing at it as hard as I could, then I checked the lock, and stood back, baffled.
“It’s stuck,” I said.
Jason turned his shades on me and grimaced, the smell of alcohol and patchouli wafting into my face. “Bit more than stuck, I’m afraid.”
He walked back to the till. Both Joe and I were a bit befuddled by this time. I mean, you expect rock stars to act weird, but there’s different kinds of weird, isn’t there?
“Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen,” Jason called, raising his voice and waving his arms. “Can I have your attention, please? Can you all come over to the till?”
There were six people in the shop: me, Joe, Jason, a middle-aged gypsy looking woman, a black woman a bit younger, and a hippy guy about my age. They all looked a bit miffed as they came over to the till with their shopping baskets. Then there were seven, because Mr. Gill came out of the back room where he’d been stocktaking. “What’s all this bloody noise?” he yelled.
“Listen to me, everyone,” Jason called. “The shop has been sealed off by the sigil of an Elder God. Anyone who’s walked past the freezer and around the chocolate bar counter in the last few minutes has added to the power of the Sigil – a bit like spinning a prayer wheel, really. Anyone know what a prayer wheel is? Well … okay, forget that bit. But basically we’ve been taken out of normal time and space and pretty soon, the dimensions of this shop are going to warp and distort and … well, I’ll try to get us out before the worst happens. Any questions?”
They arrived by flying saucer ten minutes afterwards.
From the ramp leading out of the shining silver torus they stepped into the main lobby of the Empire State Building, where Lt. Cambridge and the other NYPD officers waited. Cambridge stared in shock. When the Chief had said they were sending an ‘incident squad’, he hadn’t thought it would be the heavy hitters.
There were three of them. Soldier Blue looked around her with a face unreadable through the half-mask, her red lips tight beneath the shielded eyes. Her statuesque form was sheathed in the red, white and blue costume, made of God knows what kind of indestructible fabric, and in her right hand she held her trademark torch. The torch that flickered not with fire but with a red, ghostly light that had never been put out in thirty years.
Beside her walked a giant in shining green armor; Gauntlet. He moved in smooth, precise movements, his head enclosed in a helmet that bore the stylized, minimal depiction of eyes, nose and mouth embossed on to the metal. His suit hummed with power that made the hair on Cambridge’s arms prickle with static.
The third member of the group had no costume or mask, but wore a black jumpsuit with the E.A.G.L.E crest on one shoulder, next to the holster with its futuristic looking ray pistol. He clenched the stub of a cheroot cigar between his teeth, and looked around him with shrewd grey eyes. This was Max Jankowitz, the Executive Director of EAGLE himself.
Cambridge studied them carefully as the cops in his squad muttered behind him. Jeez, he thought, how old were these people? They’d fought in World War Two, and Cambridge had seen them on TV since he was a kid back in the Fifties. They still looked younger than him. There were rumors that Jankowitz and Soldier Blue were involved in something called the ‘Over-Soldier Program’ back in the early days of the War, but whatever loopy juice they took, it sure wasn’t available to the public.
Gauntlet was another mystery. He looked like a robot, but it was a common knowledge there was a man inside, working the suit; he was officially known as an employee of Stone Industries and served as the corporation’s security chief. His identity was a strictly guarded secret.
These guys almost never have contact with the public, Cambridge thought, they’re usually hidden away in the giant pyramid-shaped Tetra-City, headquarters of E.A.G.L.E., floating out in Hudson Bay. What were they doing here?
“Who’s in charge?” asked Jankowitz, his deep, gruff voice echoing off the lobby’s marble.
Cambridge stepped forward. Jankowitz held out his hand and the Lieutenant tentatively shook it. He felt warm, firm flesh though the glove. This was Jankowitz’s real hand, Cambridge thought with relief, not the bionic arm that he’d been fitted with after a battle with the Bend Sinister.
You don’t remember me, Cambridge thought bitterly. We shook hands once before, after the Over-Human tests, but I was just a kid to you. Just another rookie cop who’d failed the tests.
Cambridge introduced himself and the team, and Jankowitz nodded quietly. He took the cheroot out of his mouth and spoke in a deep, throaty rumble. “You’ve been given instructions?”
“Something’s causing havoc with transmissions. We can’t get through to HQ on walkie-talkies or the car radio.”
Jankowitz nodded again.
Cambridge couldn’t take his eyes off the three Over-Heroes standing in front of him in the lobby. He’d seen them before – from a distance, soaring through the skyscraper canyons, and on stage at open-air public celebration services. Never before so close. Soldier Blue’s expression beneath the cowl was almost as unreadable as Gauntlet’s metal mask.
“E.A.G.L.E has declared a Code Resurgam,” Soldier Blue said in a voice of steel and honey, “which means a situation that requires full deployment of Over-Human resources. We released a statement to the media shortly before, saying that a series of lightning strikes at around 8:37 pm knocked out a tower carrying conductors between substations at Buchanan and Millwood. That led to a power surge that caused the other substations to overload and fail, cutting off power to most of Manhattan.”
Jankowitz clicked open a Zippo lighter and relit his cheroot. “The problem is, gentlemen, none of that is true. There were no lightning strikes and the substations are working normally.”
For a second, the men stood in the lobby, perfectly silent.
“Whaddaya mean, working normally?” asked Carlini.
“The electricity is being generated, but it’s being diverted. New York City consumes six thousand megawatts on an average summer night, and that power is being siphoned off and used for something else.”
“Used for what?” said Levitt.
“We don’t know.”
An electronic buzz signaled that Gauntlet was about to speak. “A TRANSMISSION FROM THE FUTURE FIVE LED TO SPECULATION THAT THE ENERGY IS BEING CONVERTED INTO MATTER.”
Cambridge and Levitt glanced at each other.
Jankowitz unclipped a futuristic-looking gadget from his belt and held it up. “The E.A.G.L.E sensors have found traces of a highly unusual radiation signature at several sites; Wall Street, the Rockefeller Center, and here – the Empire State.”
“Radiation?” asked Gonzalez. “You mean like someone’s got an atomic bomb?”
“THERE IS NO EVIDENCE TO SUGGEST A POTENTIAL EXPLOSION,” buzzed Gauntlet.
“Nevertheless, we’re not taking any chances,” Jankowitz continued. “We’re assuming overall charge of the investigation, and we’d like to ask you for any assistance we require.”
“What kind of assistance?” said Cambridge.
“S.O.P. Get in, assess the situation, respond within set parameters.”
“But this time there are no set parameters,” Cambridge said.
Jankowitz scowled. “Except the ones I’m setting now.”
“Hey look,” Carlini interrupted. “The whole of New York is having a party while we’re standing here, like it’s Looters Night Out. We’ve got neighborhoods to protect – can’t ya get some of your Over-friends to help out?”
“All E.A.G.L.E operatives have their assigned duties,” Jankowitz said grimly. “As for the Future Five, they’re fighting the Tyrant King in Central Park. He’s taking advantage of the blackout to open up a hole into the Mole Kingdom under Manhattan. The Morrigan should be here, but there was a crisis in Tir Na Nog, and she went back a couple of days ago to reclaim the throne.”
“What about Bohemiath?” Gonzalez asked from the back.
Jankowitz snorted with impatience. “Aw, nobody knows what side the big red brute’s fighting on these days. He turns up, he’ll start smashing your patrol cars as soon as look at them.”
“So it’s us,” Cambridge said, glaring at Carlini.
“This is a matter of national security,” continued Jankowitz, “so let me disabuse you of a few notions right now. The NYPD – “
It was almost impossible to stop the Director of E.A.G.L.E when he was sounding off, but the loud, booming explosion in the lobby achieved it.
Cambridge spun around in shock, seeing the other cops react in the same way; Jankowitz, Gauntlet and Soldier Blue did not even flinch. The crash and bang of tortured metal peaked, accompanied by screams of fear and alarm. It sounded like a bomb had gone off. He ran through the lobby towards the corridors holding the dozens of elevator shafts, the others behind him, past huddled groups of bystanders looking around in horror. “Christ!” he muttered.
“What is it?’ asked Gonzalez, in a tone that suggested he really didn’t want to know.
As he turned into the corridor, it really did look as if a bomb had detonated in the east reception area. A ruin of twisted wreckage lay outside the door to one of the elevators, wreathed in guttering grey smoke. Blackened chunks of metal, wood and plastic were scattered across the tiled floor.
The uniformed figure standing near the wreckage swung round, and Cambridge saw the Fire Chief had got there first. “What happened?”
“Cable must have snapped,” said O’Hallorhan. “The elevator car fell maybe fifty floors.”
“Any casualties? Anyone inside?”
O’Hallorhan closed his eyes and nodded. “Yeah.”
Cambridge waved away the smoke and leant in for a closer look. He’d seen a lot of violent death and gruesome crime scenes in his career, and this was as bad as he expected. There had been maybe half-a-dozen passengers trapped in the elevator, and now they were just a heap of arms, legs, ripped clothes, burst shopping bags, bloodied faces and dead, staring eyes.
“Madre di Dios,” whispered Gonzalez, the other two cops right beside him.
Cambridge leaned in closer. The corpse closest to the door was almost intact – a young man in a business suit, his face smeared with blood. “What the hell’s that on his hands and jacket?” the Lieutenant said.
The dead body’s hands and lower body were covered in some sort of grey gunk – not blood, not dust – something like machine oil but the wrong color. It was clear, almost transparent, and it glittered as the cops turned their flashlights on it. It reminded Cambridge, for one crazy moment, of the stranded jellyfish he’d seen occasionally on the beaches at Coney Island.
“Stand aside.” Jankowitz shouldered his way past, the gadget in his bionic hand again. He held it out over the young man’s body, and it bleeped and clicked excitedly. He grunted, put the device away, and turned back to Gauntlet and Soldier Blue. At a brief move of Jankowitz’s hand, all three of them began to walk away.
“Hey!” called Carlini, “you gonna tell us what’s goin’ on, or should we just go screw ourselves?”
Jankowitz halted and turned back. “Boy, you are really startin’ to piss me off. We’re gonna go up top in the helisaucer to take a look. I suggest you use the stairs and clear the civilians from the building, like we agreed – unless, of course, you’re inclined to refuse.”
Cambridge looked at Carlini and glared. “Shut your mouth, Carlini, for once. We got a job to do.”
TO READ THE WHOLE STORY, GO HERE!
TO READ THE WHOLE COLLECTION WITH LAVISH ILLUSTRATIONS IN FULL COLOR, GO HERE!
TO READ THE LAVISHLY ILLUSTRATED PAPERBACK, GO HERE!
There was a smell in the air, a smell that David noticed the moment he opened the car door, leaving the air-conditioned interior to stand in the middle of the parking lot. It was the smell of sulfur. The smell of brimstone, volcanoes, geysers bubbling out of the earth.
To the west of the road they’d traveled by was a lake. “Lake Usoriyama,” Mrs. Yoshida had announced. “The lake of the spirits.” Beyond it on the horizon stood a range of mountains, their summits lost in the cloudy haze.
David and the Yoshida family stood in front of the entrance to Entsuji Temple. He stared at the grotesquely weathered stone of the three Buddha statues that reared up in front of the gate. Each of them had hands frozen in different arcane gestures, eyes in their pitted grey heads downcast, their expressions unreadable.
Around the gate milled a tangle of visiting tourists in sunhats and light summer jackets. On the other side of the waste ground sat the coaches and cars that had brought them, and a row of antique-looking wooden shops and stalls vied for the visitors’ attention.
In his guidebook, David had read that the Osorezan temple complex lay on the Shimokita Peninsula, where the northernmost tip of the Honshu mainland ended and the sea leading to Hokkaido began. The mountain was actually something called a composite volcano, with the lake inside the crater. Apparently only one species of fish could survive in the waters of the lake; the Ugui.
The guidebook had tried to describe the strangeness of the place; in David’s eyes, it had failed. Approaching the gate, David had the uncanny feeling that the stone heads of the colossal Buddha figures were watching him. He looked behind him, at the lake and the distant mist-covered mountains. The mournful sight made him think they had entered a place where natural laws no longer operated. Something just felt wrong.
At Mrs. Yoshida’s suggestion, they took a wooden bench inside one of the shops and asked for bowls of kakigori – finely shaved ice flavored with fruity, sugary syrup. The mother and father muttered their blessings and began to scoop out their bowls. The chilled sickly sweetness made David’s teeth ache. Saori picked at hers, saying nothing, looking pensive. She was out of school uniform today, wearing a black skirt and a light black cardigan over a T-shirt, jeans and sturdy-looking sports boots with thick white laces. As usual, she had only the slightest touch of make-up on her clear skin.
As David tried to finish the sticky confection dissolving in front of him, he glanced around at the other customers. Not many seemed to be below the age of sixty. He looked around at dulled faces stained with liver spots beneath almost identical cloth sun-hats, hunched figures with sticklike arms poking out of their short polo shirt sleeves.
“Entsuji Temple,” Mrs. Yoshida was saying. “It is the very famous temple of Osorezan, do you know? It was founded long, long time ago by the monk, Jikaku Daishi. He had gone to China and in the China, he had a dream. The very powerful dream told him to come back to Japan and walk east for thirty days, and he would come to a special place, a most sacred place. And so he did that.”
“So he discovered this mountain? Osorezan?” David guessed.
“Sono tori desu.” That’s right.
“One thing,” Mr. Yoshida confided, leaning over his plate of blueberry slush. “Gomen nasai, David. We are sorry but this place has no beer.”
David couldn’t stop his face from dropping its smile. “Oh.”
“A temple, you see. Buddhist. No meat, no alcohol.”
David nodded sagely, shrugging his shoulders. “Well, not to worry. That doesn’t seem to deter the crowds, does it?”
Mr. Yoshida followed David’s gaze to the line of elderly tourists with backpacks and walking sticks, standing in front of the cashier’s desk. “We have a saying in Japan. Heaven’s nets are large, and they catch everything.”
“Otsukare, David-sensei,” Mrs. Yoshida said. “You must be very tired! Let’s check in to the hotel.”
Leaving the shop, they wheeled their suitcases away from the main temple entrance, down a path that led to a modest three-storey concrete building. The path was lined on both sides with blue tarpaulin tents; something to do with the Itako festival, David guessed.
“I thought we’d be staying inside the temple,” he whispered to Saori.
“We are,” she whispered back. “Wait and look inside.”
The reception desk was manned by monks. Some of them had the customary shaven heads, some had hair with the short tidy partings of businessmen, but all of them wore the brown and orange robes of the temple.
Mr. Yoshida gave David the keys to his room. “Wash your face, David, and meet us here in the lobby.”
As he’d expected, it was a room of tatami straw-mat flooring, a low table coming up to knee-height set in the center. Floor cushions were arranged in a corner. Along one wall stood the wardrobe with sliding doors where he knew the futons were kept. He unpacked the change of clothes he’d brought, washed his hands, checked his hair in the mirror and returned to the lobby
Mrs. Yoshida was busying herself with the parasol that she’d brought. Even though the day was overcast, she wore clothes that concealed every inch of her skin; a thin cardigan that stretched to her wrists, a white skirt that went down to her ankles.
“David-sensei, shall we take a walk? While we try to make an appointment for tomorrow, perhaps you would like to see the grounds? Saori will walk and talk with you for while, desu sho? Jya – dozo.”
Leaving the hotel and turning right, Saori led him back to the main concrete path to Entsuji Temple. The path was lined by massive stone lanterns, each one twice the height of a normal human being.
In front of the solemn green pagodas of the temple, Saori stopped and pointed to the left. He saw an open gate of the same leaden stone, and beyond it canyon-like surfaces that blocked the view, and on the other side a steep narrow flight of wooden steps led up a muddy hill. A volcanic, sulfur-laden mist wafted through the air. There were no trees, just anemic-looking shrubs up on the hill. A sign in kanji told them this was the beginning of the walking course. David looked around and peered through the gate.
“Shall we go in?” asked Saori hesitantly.
“The Osorezan Legacy” coming soon!
Read more of Zoe Drake’s work here:
“Dead Hand Clapping” – a psychological thriller set in Shibuya, Tokyo
“Dark Lanterns” – a collection of Yokai-inpired short stories