Chapter VI: Kick the Bucket

A bell rang out. It echoed along corridors, upstairs and across playing fields. The building came to life but the world was grey and grainy. Young people spewed out of classrooms and meandered around the school to their next destination. The noise was almost unbearable. Bells resonated beneath the harsh sound of teenage gossip. But there was more. A loud fuzzy sound, like a detuned radio, hissed above it all. No one seemed to notice.

Students went about their own business. The normal day to day of talking to the right people, wearing the right clothes, even saying the right thing put blinkers on their lives. Nobody saw the boy at the top of the stairs in his baggy hooded jumper and low riding jeans. But he saw them. He saw them as though he watched an old black and white movie.

The corridors quietened as classes resumed. Teachers carried on teaching, students carried on leaning. Life went on as though the boy had never been a part of it. Still, the white noise persisted. The scene flickered. The boy grew angry.

Brigid held the excess reams of her long green skirt. It made it easier to walk across the precarious gallery that lined the pit in the compound. An engineer with a PhD in the history of art had joined the women as they inspected Mark 356.

“I thought that they would look endearing,” the doctor of art said. His voice with clipped with a Mediterranean twang. The words were softened by his long white beard. Even if he was slightly rattled by being called up to explain the process of his thoughts to Madam Brigid he did not show it.

Brigid looked from the man back to the tall statues that held Mark 356 in place. “I suppose I can see where you’re coming from,” she said, “I just, well, they are quite imposing. Do they have to be so tall?”

“Of course,” the man responded, “If they were any smaller then 356 would roll away. And simple scaffolding is so boring.”

Brigid looked at the small man. While she did not approve of his long hair or beard, at least he had the decency to keep it neatly tied back.

“Quite,” she said. “Remind me of what I’m looking at.”

“Here we have a vole,” the man, Frank, pointed out, “This one is a heron, over there is a human and on the opposite side we have a fish. I’m not sure what species.”

“Right,” Brigid said. She studied the long beaked bird statue from a distance. “And why are they wearing cloaks and hoods?”

“You must be familiar with Hieronymus Bosch. The great medieval artist,” Frank confirmed.

“Getting more familiar every time I hear that name,” Brigid said. She tapped her knuckles on the side of the fifteen foot stone vole.

“I’ve always admired his work,” Frank continued, “Such imagination and expression, especially when one considers the period.”

Brigid ran her palm over the smooth stone surface.

Frank laughed to himself and said, “And who knew that there was some truth behind what he painted?”

Brigid hitched up her skirt just above the ankles and walked past Frank.

“Can I see inside it,” she said, completely ignoring the man’s comments. “I want to see inside it.”

Frank exchanged a quick glance at his colleagues who had brought Madam Brigid to him.

“It’s not quite ready yet,” he answered.

Brigid stopped and turned to look at him with an eyebrow raised.

“You mean to tell me that most energies have been spent carving a zoo over building the machine?” she asked.

Frank shook his head. His beard billowed in the movement. “No Madam Brigid,” he said, “Of course the necessary work has taken place to ensure that this project will be completed in a timely manner.” Frank looked to the academics behind him for reassurance. “I felt that to create the wonder inside, the external beauty must be completed,” he said. A slight smile lifted his facial hair. “I suppose,” he continued, “it is like the chicken and the egg.”

“I care less for metaphors than I do art,” Brigid said with minimal emotion. “Science is key. Without science you would have no art, no chickens or eggs and certainly no mile high rats in human clothing.” Brigid said. She took a long look at Frank and said, “Apologies.” She smoothed the arms on her jacket and neatly clasped her hands. “Please excuse me,” she said before she walked past her chosen great minds and out of the pit. She could not vocalise her thoughts that if she wanted something done, she would have to do it herself. It would not be proper.

“Can you see them?” Papa asked.

The boy barely heard him above the noise in his head. But Papa’s voice was deep. It carried well across the planes. The boy nodded.

“Can you feel them?” Papa asked.

The boy nodded.

“Can you smell them?”

The boy nodded.

“Now,” Papa whispered in the boy’s ear, “scream.”

The boy stalled. He could not scream. He could not even talk. He had not used those skills since he arrived in Necropolis.

“You can do it boy,” Papa said, “You always could.”

The boy hesitated.

“Scream,” Papa repeated the word.

The boy felt a tight sensation deep in his stomach. Something had sprouted. It grew. He could feel the warmth rise and course its way through his body. It soon reached his throat but that was as far as it could go. The warm feeling was stuck. It needed to escape. It needed to move but there was a hard surface above it. The warm feeling grew hotter. If the boy’s throat would not give way, the sensation would have to break through.

The internal heat turned even hotter until it exploded. The hot feeling came out of the boy’s mouth and roared around the small cave and beyond. It fired up to the light that tried to illuminate the deep space. It burned down the empty school corridor.

A woman stepped out of a cupboard with a silver bucket a nearly new mop. She walked along the corridor to the place where the young man stood.

He stared at the cleaner. He vaguely recognised her, even though the world had turned grey and flickered. His eyes did not falter from her. He felt ten feet tall. He was a lion and she was his prey. The young man felt the fire inside him and screamed.

The cleaner stood still and looked towards the boy. She had heard a faint noise, but could not quite place it. She looked along the corridor to where the sound had come from. Fear widened her eyes.

The cleaner shuddered as she felt a breeze, but the fear did not last long. It was abated by a sneeze and an extended nose wipe on her arm. Unphased, the cleaner walked towards the boy. She did not notice him. She walked through him. The boy felt the shiver that the cleaner had just experienced. He shuddered beneath his hooded jumper hidden in the cave. The young man’s anger fired up again. The cleaner had ignored him, even though he stood right in front of her. He cried out again.

The young man saw the cleaner walk up the stairs in the black and white school. She had not seen him. But it was impossible. He stood right there. He had screamed at her. She could not have not noticed him. The boy grunted and ran towards the cleaner. She would notice him, he would make sure of it.

The young man launched himself from the steps and into the woman. Somehow, he missed. She did not notice him once again. She had been distracted by the mop and cleaning a particular corner of the first floor. He must have passed right through her when he jumped. Frustrated, the young man cried out towards the cleaner. A faint whisper blew past her ear.

The cleaner looked up. She had definitely heard something that time. The boy saw her reaction. He was making progress. But it wasn’t enough. He cried out again. The woman looked at him. She looked beyond him. Despite his best efforts the boy remained invisible to the cleaner. Somehow, he needed to get her attention. If she could hear him then surely she must be able to feel him.

The young man took a few steps back. He would throw himself at her and send her down the stairs. That would definitely catch her attention. But she would not stay still. She stepped to the bucket, dipped the mop and threw the wet tassels around. The cleaner was not gentle in her work. Sporadic circles glistened under the stark light of the school, as though a giant slug had danced through the corridor. The boy assessed the best way to get her attention. It would be difficult. She moved too much, too vigorously. The bucket on the other hand would be much easier to move.

The young man studied the bucket while he decided the best course of action. The cleaner, oblivious to him, returned the mop to the bucket, rinsed and continued to half-heartedly clean the floor. He readied himself for the assault on the bright bucket. He stared at his target and charged towards it, fuelled by frustration. He screamed as he ran towards it. He knew that it could hurt. The bucket was near the stairs, and gravity would bring him down them. But at that moment that was not too much of a concern. He needed to let the cleaner know that he was there.

The bucket came near and the boy sped up. When he was close enough he kicked out his leg with all of his anger. He made contact with the bucket but it was not as dramatic as he hoped. As he passed through the dulled tin and floated above the stairs like a feather, the young man turned to look at the cleaner.

The bucket had moved no further than two inches. A small puddle had been created where water had been displaced. The cleaner had not noticed. She could have moved the bucket and spilled some water when she had dipped the mop last. The young man screamed out once again.

The cleaner noticed that time. She looked towards the stairs and leaned her head over the white frame that lined the stairwell. It was empty. The angry young man ran up the few stairs towards her. He seized the mop when he could but stumbled when he grabbed it. It was much heavier than he remembered.

He used to think a mop as being an insignificant weight, but in his new state it felt a hundred times heavier. It could have been made from lead. The young man fought with the weight for a while but it did not give easily. With one final surge of strength he tore the mop from the cleaner’s hands and threw it to the floor. The cleaner screamed out when the mop landed in an explosion of greasy water.

Caught in the moment, the boy ran towards the cleaner and vocalised his anger. He shouted at her when he ran into her and shunted her towards the bucket. The woman stumbled and tripped over the corner of it. She landed heavily on the wet floor and sent the bucket rolling towards the stairwell. Brown, soapy water cascaded down the steps as the bucket crashed down them.

An unfathomable distance away a young man screamed and thrashed about in the confined space of a cave. An older man stood near him. He laughed from his stomach and out of his wide mouth. Papa laughed to himself at a job well done.

“You a natural, boy,” he said as the young man convulsed. “I knows it in you from the moment I set my peepers on you.”

The noises echoed around the cave. The young man showed no sign of slowing down.

“Looks like you going be busy for some time,” Papa said with a smile, “I leave you to it. I gots some business to tend to anyway.”

He had to move quickly to avoid being hit by one of the young man’s flails. When he had stepped out of the small cave Papa smiled at the boy once again, like a proud father.

“Of course, you aware,” the old man said, “Papa didn’t just happen upon this place.” He laughed through his teeth as he stepped into empty subterranean space.

Chapter V: Be Not Afraid

Brigid followed two women who had recently decided against wearing a hood over their head. They stood either side of their young leader as they crossed the compound behind the false houses. Red sand covered the vast area. Lights reflected from the red and yellow rectangles that appeared periodically on the tall stone perimeter. Well used metal poles protruded out of the walls to add extra enforcement. Rings of sharpened wire and flames lined the top of the walls, just in case anyone found themselves in that impossible place and felt obliged to take a look into the compound. The whole area had been designed to be the most secure facility in Hades. There was one way in, which was the same way out, though the façade of a derelict house. It was so simple it was brilliant. It had been designed by the greatest minds in Necropolis after all. A slight breeze whipped up a few grains of sand. Despite this, Brigid’s guides still did not lift their hoods over their heads.

“Progress has been made,” one of the women advised her. It was the same woman with the tight hair bun who had spoken in the assembly. Brigid had personally asked her to show her into the crevice. “I’m sure that you will be pleased,” the old woman said with a smile.

“Let’s hope so,” Brigid said. She turned her face away from a heavy gust of wind. It died down as quickly as it rose. “Is there a name?”

The two guides exchanged wide eyed looks. Enthusiasm beamed from their wise, old faces.

“Yes,” the same woman said.

A few steps across the dusty space and Brigid asked, “Am I allowed to know what it is?”

“Oh,” the woman with the tight bun collected herself, “yes. Of course. Mark 536.”

Brigid processed the name in her mind. “Mark 356?” repeated. Is there a logic behind that?”

“Of course,” the woman said.

“One simply cannot put the greatest minds in Necropolis together without creating some kind of logic,” the quieter woman said.

“Genius, if you will.”

“Right,” Brigid said sceptically, “Would you care to explain it to me?”

“Mark,” the woman with the hair bun explained, “Three, fifty six.”

“Yes…” Brigid encouraged.

The quieter woman smiled until she nearly exploded. “Be not afraid, only believe,” she said.

“I’m sorry?” Brigid asked the woman. “I’m a mathematician. I’ve never enjoyed riddles.”

“It’s the gospel,” the quiet woman squealed.

“The gospel?” Brigid said.

“Matthew, Mark, Luke and –”

“I know all about the gospels,” Brigid interrupted, “I just don’t understand how a group of esteemed academics, mostly scientists, settled on a biblical reference for the name of their afterlife’s work.”

“Precisely,” the woman with the bun said with a smile, “That’s the genius of it.”


The boy floated through shadows. Papa had told him to follow, and the boy had obliged. He copied Papa when he stepped out of the window and dropped into a shadow between the building they were in and the next one. Papa, in his white jacket, walked at a pace in the darkness and the boy followed. It was all he could do. The young man, this confused boy who had left the overworld too soon, still was not sure of his current circumstances. He had no choice but to follow the man who had plucked him from the crowd.

Shrouded in darkness the two travelled in the shadows between buildings. They floated in silence and passed through Necropolis unseen by any other soul. Papa and his new protégé were the real ghosts in a ghost city.

After a rapid journey Papa slowed his pace. The boy stood next to him and together they walked around a corner. The stark white scene in front of him stung the young man’s new eyes.

“Quiet today,” Papa muttered, mostly for his own benefit. With his arms outstretched, he turned to the young man. “This is the place boy,” Papa announced, “This is the place where you become the man you meant to be. You can vent your anger. Release that hatred. Get your vengeance.”

The pain relented as the boy’s eyes adjusted to this new scene. Darker shadows started to show themselves and defined the scene in front of him. A wall ran around and almost over the space which gave the feeling that they stood in a cavern, despite the fact that they were exposed. It was like nowhere else the young man had seen before.

“See here,” Papa continued, “is usually the place where folk come to speak to the living, half living and other such mumbo jumbo.” He winked at the young man and flashed his golden teeth. “Except this place looks like someone got a bit, shall we say, overexcited?”

Hollowed spaces, like white termite mounds, filled up an area that was hidden from the hazy iridescence of the Necropolitan daylight. Except it was bright, as though snow had fallen on it, or the whole place was covered in ash. It looked to the boy as though a forest had been destroyed. All the trees had been severed during a bleak winter. All of the inhabitants had run away. The obscure glade was silent. No other soul was around. This did not feel like a happy place.

“Looks like it would’ve been quite the spectacle,” Papa said as he stepped into the space, towards a far wall. His feet left imprints in the chalky white surface. “I wouldn’t have minded bearing witness to that.”

Papa dragged his cane across the surface of an empty hollow. It left a dark trench where the grey matter flaked to the ground. He came close to the edge of the space.

“Now usually,” Papa said as he tapped on the solid rock in front with his cane, “folk need to be in some kind of slumber when they make contact with the overworld.”

A hollow sound came from behind the wall.

“But if you ask me, and I know you would if you could, they doing it all wrong.”

Papa held his cane against the rock wall and tapped lightly three times. On the fourth tap he forced his cane through the surface. The rock face cracked. Its noise should have echoed around the glade but it was absorbed instantly. Papa repeated the movement until the rock started to crumble.

“I mean,” Papa rolled up the sleeves on his white jacket and pressed his knuckles against each other to produce a series of cracks and pops, “what’s the point of having access to another plane if you just snoozing, you hear what I say?”

Papa plunged one hand into the freshly made hole in the wall. He inserted his entire arm, up to the shoulder, and tore the rock away. Light seeped out of the rock.

“And it’s distracting and all sorts up there. People just get so desperate. They sees an opportunity to talk to their living loved ones, they momma, the kids or cat or whatever and it turns into a struggle.

“Like I say kid, they doing it all wrong. But not you. You the lucky one, you better than all that. That’s why I found you.” Papa shook red dust from his arms and returned the sleeves to his wrists. “I saw that passion burn inside you the second I clapped eyes on you soul. You got it right boy, you got a talent for it. And I’m here to show you how to use it.”

The young man stepped towards the small cave that Papa had just created. He creased his confused brow at Papa.

“Show me how to use what?” Papa said in a comically high pitched tone to mimic the question that went through the young man’s mind. “Show you how to get your revenge on them folk who are still up there.” Papa pointed to the eternal grey light above them. He then wrapped his arm around the boy and ushered him into the space behind the rock.

It was small. The young man had to follow Papa along a short, darkened path. Ahead of them the boy saw the darkness start to break.

“I feels we nearly here,” Papa said. His voice echoed around the empty cave.

The young man felt cool air rush past him. The path opened. It was wide enough for the young man and Papa to walk side by side. The cool air rushed over their heads. There seemed to be no ceiling. Above them, the cave ran on into infinity. It was darkness, crowned by a perfect white circle that was an immeasurable distance away. This was where the light came from. By the time it reached the bottom of the cave it had been diluted to nothing more than the suggestion of a glow.

“You see boy,” Papa said, “in this space I will teach you a great many thing. I will show you how to get to the overworld without been seen. I will show you how to go to the places you used to know. I will show you how to torment the ones you left behind. I will show you how to make fun of them, aggravate them, scare them. You, my boy, are special. People will fear you. They will talk about you. You be famous boy, you be remembered forever. All you got to do is listen to my say.”

The young man turned to look at Papa with his usual face of confusion.

“Just close your eyes,” Papa said, “and think of where you’d like to go back to first.”

The boy did as he was told.

“Now,” Papa said, “I need you to really see this place. Feel the air on your skin, the ground under your feet, that roof over your head – if that’s the kind of place this is. See the people. Feel they warmth. Feel they humanity. Smell it. Taste it. Taste that whole putrid place. Live it boy, live it.” Papa’s voice had shrunk to a whisper, “You just nod when you ready.”

Chapter IV – Follow The Leader

“Exercise caution. Always be aware of who is around you,” Brigid called out to the group of hooded figures who had assembled around her. She stood above them on a walkway that supported the back of the fake houses.

Each robe was black, all faces were hidden. Every set of eyes, hidden by the shadow that the hood created, were set firmly on Brigid as she spoke. She stood on the metal walkway that was built into the back of the fake houses. The old man had done well to round up everyone so quickly.

“I advised you to do this long before we started work,” she continued.

Two stragglers joined the back of the group raising the number above thirty.

“We don’t want to draw attention to ourselves. We don’t want to be seen. If other citizens – normal citizens – find out what we are working on then we will be exposed. There will be no project. No hope. I implore you, lose these robes. It’s making us all look bad.”

A person at the centre of the group raised their hand.

“Yes,” Brigid invited the person to ask their question.

The figure removed their hood. Long silver hair was tied up into a tight bun at the top of her head.

“If I may,” the woman spoke, “we are following your advice. That’s why we invested in these robes.”

“To remain inconspicuous is the key to freedom,” a second figure, who remained hidden beneath their black hood, chipped in, “I believe those were you very words Madam Brigid.”

“Yes,” Brigid agreed, “but to remain inconspicuous one needs to fit in to their environment.”

“What are you trying to say Madam?”

“How many people out there are running around the city in black hooded robes?” Brigid asked. She pointed a finger towards the facade of the house.

Murmurs rippled through the group of mysterious figures.

“I thought I had assembled the greatest minds in Necropolis,” Brigid continued.

“We are the greatest minds in Necropolis,” a man’s voice croaked loudly, “We should really be praised for our intelligence, not chided for it.”

“Who is chiding you?” Brigid asked, “I am concerned for our wellbeing. If word gets out of what we do here on a daily basis, the whole of the underworld would go into a state of panic. None of us want that. We need remain inconspicuous, yes, but in the right way.”

The old man with a croaky voice whipped his hood back and revealed his wrinkled face.

“Madam Brigid,” he said, “by remaining inconspicuous, as you put it, do you really mean you want to keep us all hidden? You want to push us all aside while you take the glory for all of our hard work?”

Brigid stared at the man in silence before she turned and walked down the steps. Tension gripped the group while she found the hooded man who had granted her entry earlier that day. Without a word, Brigid held out a hand. The man nodded with the same school-boy fear that he had felt not long ago. He reached into his sleeve and produced the daily newspaper. He handed it to Brigid. With silent thanks Brigid marched towards the wrinkly old man with a croaky voice.

“It’s glory you want?” she said. Her voice echoed around the group. Air was sucked out of the compound as they all breathed deeply. “Well congratulations,” Brigid continued, not shy from the spectacle. She thrust the paper into the old man’s hands. “You made the front page.”

“You angry,” Papa reminded the boy.

He was alone, the young man knew that no one else was with him amongst that wreckage of a room. Still, Papa’s voice was near. The young man roused himself from the debris that he had created.

“You angry at what you’ve become, who you are, why you here,” Papa’s voice continued, “You angry with them. All of them. All of them peoples who drove you down here. Them same peoples who took away your opportunities, your ideas, your future. But there is a way.”

The young man no longer felt alone. A figure stepped towards him from a far flung shadow. He blinked hard, like he needed further confirmation that he could now function properly. His sight had returned. He was sure of it. Shapes formed in front of him but they weren’t obscure shapes like before. Reality had returned. Light broke the darkness, and across the room a man in a white jacket came near.

He walked to the place where the young man sat crumpled on the floor. Fear overcame the boy. He was stuck to the place where he had landed in the table, but still this ghostly figure came near. The young man blinked. He looked at Papa.

His fear gave way to a hotter emotion. Anger consumed him. The boy needed to know where he was and why he was there. He needed to know who this Papa character was. He went to ask his questions but stumbled over the silence that he produced. He remembered that it was impossible. Papa had told him so.

“Remember,” the figure said in Papa’s deep voice, “don’t talk. Don’t even try to talk. You new to this city. Your voice ain’t ready yet. But it will be heard, believe me. Even if you don’t use it.”

The young man frowned. All he wanted were answers, but Papa spoke in riddles. Riddles were not helpful. The young man’s world had disappeared. His sense of reality was different now. Papa had alluded to him that he had died, but he had only known Papa in this existence. Papa had helped him, or so he believed. Other than the shadows that he had ran across the wastelands with, the young man had seen no other soul. Papa was his only human contact. If, indeed, Papa was human.

There was a timeless quality to the man. His white suit and gold accessories placed him anywhere from an illusion of olden gentry to a seedy back-alley jazz club in New Orleans. His skin was dark, but not like any other human the young man had seen. Perhaps Papa darkened his African tones to make more of an impact of the white skull that was faintly drawn on his face. This was the young man’s reality, but he could be living in nothing more than a dream.

“I can see you confused,” Papa said. “How you feeling? Tired?”

The boy shook his head.

“You will,” Papa smiled and winked. “Perhaps we should burn some energy.” Papa ran on the spot and laughed loudly. “Come,” he said, “I shows you something.”

Papa stepped to the curtain in the room and pulled it from the rail. Heavy cotton dropped and rings rattled as they hit the cold hard floor of the only place in Necropolis the boy had known. Light filled the space. It stung the young man’s eyes. Greys reflected from the sparse wall in front of the hole. It was just enough to illuminate the empty room where the young man and Papa had spent the last few hours, days, moments – there was no way to tell. Papa stepped to the hole in the wall. He kicked the curtain aside as he passed it.

He turned to the young man, with a smile on his face.

“Suivi moi,” he said.

Chapter III – Going Places

A figure, shrouded in dark robes under an imposing hood, released a lever that had been built into the back of what should have been the house that Brigid had entered. Behind the façade they were nothing more than crudely put together structures of metal poles and sheets of metal. The effect was more like an amateur stage production than a row of derelict houses. When Brigid was safely behind the structure, and it had creaked shut, the figure crossed an empty space. Dust billowed around his feet as he stepped towards the woman.

“We did not expect your company today,” the figure said. His voice was nothing more than a deep whisper.

“Believe me,” Brigid answered as she walked towards the figure, “there are other places that I’d rather be right now.”

The figure stood a short distance from Brigid. His hands were hidden beneath the baggy black sleeves.

“To what do we owe the pleasure?” the figure asked.

“Let’s just say that I had a sudden urge to hold an assembly.”

“I don’t understand,” the figure said.

“Get rid of that stupid hood,” the woman said and snatched the hood down from the figure.

“Madam Brigid,” the exposed elderly man said with the air of someone who been intruded on whilst in the nude, “this is highly unacceptable. What if we are seen?”

Brigid retrieved the newspaper from her jacket and thrust it towards the old man’s face.

“A little too late for that,” she said.

The tall man tore the newspaper from Brigid’s hands and glanced at the front page. Brigid marched behind the fake houses towards a makeshift staircase. It led up to an equally shabby gallery that was composed of poles and pieces of metal.

“Madam Brigid,” the man said, “I must protest, you cannot simply walk up there. I–”

“I can do as I wish,” Brigid responded. The words flew over her shoulder to the man.


“Look,” Brigid stopped and turned to look at the man who stood at the bottom of the metal stairs, “this is my project, my funding. I can do as I please.”

“I mean no offence,” the man said.

“Then shut your mouth and follow me.”

Bushy grey eyebrows furrowed on the man’s forehead.

“Madam Brigid,” he said in his most stern tones, “I will not be spoken to like that. I will have you know that I taught at the finest universities across–”

“Then you will know that I will not ask you twice.”


“No buts.”

“I must—“

“Look,” Brigid said. Her brown eyes widened, her lips were taught. The man in the robes cowered at the glare, even from the distance. The school mistress was back. “I personally selected you to join us. As such I demand that you treat me with the utmost respect and obedience. Things may be spiralling, but everything is still in my control. Now, needless to say, you must summon the rest. We need an assembly. I need to address you all. Do I make myself clear?”

The tall, old man nodded his head once. He walked across the dusty compound as fast as his legs would let him. He would have run but that would have lost him his final shreds of dignity.


“You stays here,” Papa said to the boy. “You stays here for as long you need.”

The room was dark but it was not empty. Forgotten cupboards, tables, chairs and all manner of lost furniture filled a forgotten storage room. Dust floated in the air. Individual specks glittered in the light that tried to creep in from behind a long curtain. A tall man in a white jacket crouched behind a folded table.

“See,” he said to the boy who lay as a heap in a dark corner, “you with me now. There a lot of punks out there who would see you, identify your spirit and they’s use it against you. In fact, I might be one of them punks myself, but at least you safe with me. Better the devil you know, you know?” Papa laughed a subtle but sincere laugh. It bubbled out of his belly and hissed between his teeth.

The young man tried to see the person who spoke to him, this Papa. The room was too dark and his eyes had not adjusted yet. His world was nothing more than muddied night. Occasionally he caught a flash of white as Papa swooped past him.

“But you ain’t got nothing to worry about. Not while you with me boy.”

The young man went to speak.

“Don’t try that,” Papa said.

The young man looked into the darkness, towards the place where Papa’s voice came from. Blurred white lines formed from behind the darker patches in front of him. “Ain’t no good ever come from the words of a dead man,” Papa’s voice came from the shapes in front of him. They crawled across the boy’s vision and merged together. They spun and squirmed and wriggled like bright, white maggots. The white shapes created a skull. “No, now you with me, you won’t be needing to endure that burden. Remember boy, actions have always spoken far louder than any word man can utter.”

The skull smiled at the young man who cowered back in fear. There was nowhere for him to go. The young man was already backed into a corner and lost in the clothes that he worn in the overworld. The skull was in his head. There was no escape from it.

“Don’t hide from you fear,” Papa’s deep voice growled out from the skull, “Use it. It wants to help you. You need it. It need you.”

The boy tried to cry out but was stuck in the darkness of his mind. The skull drew closer to him until it completely dispersed into the black of his mind.

“You just need to remember why,” Papa’s voice said. It was close, as though he stood in the young man’s ear and whispered into it. “Never forget why you ended up here. Never let go of that anger.”

The young man shook his head as fast as he could in his fresh state. Every motion was new. He needed to learn everything again. His neck flinched as though he tried to deflect a fly.

“Ain’t feeling that,” Papa said.

The boy writhed in his space to get rid of the nuisance that was in his head.

“Try harder,” Papa encouraged him.

The boy started to shrug his shoulders. Aggression crept into his movements. His elbows broke free of the lethargy that held him back. His wrists flicked. He fists punched. The young man launched himself into the darkness to escape the irritation. He landed into some solid furniture. Noise erupted as items fell on top of each other. Bangs fought to be heard as the contents of the room, uninterrupted for years, collapsed on themselves. Papa’s laugh sparked up again. It grew from a hiss to a hearty laugh.

“You gonna go far boy,” he said as the din quietened.


Chapter II – In Other News

A steamtram rattled along Grand Parade. Its bell sounded out as it whipped along the long road in a train of steam and dust. A small boy jumped from a carriage on to the busy street. Red dirt dispersed into the particles that made up the Necropolitan air as he barged his way through the crowds. Swear words and insults floated up with the dust.

The boy stepped to a tall, narrow doorway which stood between unclean windows. A bell delicately chimed when he stepped into the office.

“You’re late,” Mrs Butz said in her voice of a thousand spent cigarettes.

“No I’m not,” the boy defended himself.

Mrs Butz looked up from the desk where she sat and inhaled deeply on a smoking stick. Red embers flashed as she smoked.

“How do you know?” she asked.

“Because I start when there enough crowds to buy the news.”

Mrs Butz slowly nodded. Her hair had been neatly pinned high above her head. It has long since started to fall apart. “I see,” she said, “and are there enough crowds out there now?”

The boy glanced out of the ink smattered window. He nodded his head in agreement.

“Then you’re late,” Mrs Butz said and threw an empty canvas bag at the boy. “Now fill this up and don’t come back til they’re all gone.”

“No problem Mrs Butz,” the boy said and stepped past two empty desks and towards a back room. The smell of fresh ink and hot metal filled his face. He barely noticed it.

“So what’s in the news today?” he called out as he loaded his bag.

“You can read can’t you?” Mrs Butz called back to the boy.

“Thirty years and counting,” the boy responded with pride in his voice. He observed the paper in his hand. “Doomsday Cult,” he read out loud. There was a black and white sketch of a group of hooded figures standing by a fire. “What does that even mean?”

“We’ve had a few reports of people walking around in long black coats, hooded, you know,” Mrs Butz responded, “They look evil.”

“And are they evil?”

Mrs Butz flicked her smoke stick and shrugged her shoulders. “How do I know?” she asked.

“Is this news?” the boy said.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s news. It sells. People like a story.” Mrs Butz put the smoking stick to her lips and inhaled. “Now get out there and sell it,” she said through billows of grey smoke.


A woman caught a glimpse of the headline. She hitched up the long green coat that fell over her small crinoline, which was the height of fashion in her time, and crossed the road. She paid little attention to the speeding wagons and steamtrams. Her eyes were locked firmly on the newspaper in a scruffy boy’s hand. When she was close enough, Brigid O’Brien snatched the paper from the boy.

“Doomsday cult?” she read out loud with a good dose of scepticism. “Is this really news?” she asked the boy. The natural cheer in her Irish accent could not be masked by her stern face.

“I don’t print the headlines lady,” the boy responded, “As much as I don’t give them away. You going to pay for that?”

With the paper under her arm, Brigid reached into a pouch that hanged from her jacket belt. She produced a black coin and handed it to the boy.

“Keep the change,” she said and walked along Grand Parade with her eyes still firmly on the story in her hand. She did not notice the man until she stepped into him.

“What do you make of that?” the man asked when she had walked into him.

“I’m sorry,” Brigid said.

“Doomsday cults, hooded figures,” he elaborated as he tipped his round head towards the newspaper, “Mysterious goings-ons. Secrets and lies. Can’t be a good thing.”

“Oh I–”

“I mean you never know what goes on in this city. Close to the gates of hell and all.”

“I don’t–”

“Folk worshiping all sorts around here,” the man said. He raised a bushy eyebrow at Brigid.

“I don’t fall for tabloid speculation,” she said and disappeared into the crowds of the morning.

When she had walked a safe distance from the man, Brigid turned into a quiet road and read the front page of the newspaper. Eager thumbs sifted through the large, thin pages. Brigid shook her head and rolled her deep brown eyes to the sky.

“Idiots,” she muttered, closed the newspaper and folded it down to a quarter of its size. She slipped it into her green velvet coat.

Brigid carried on along the road with added urgency, fuelled by her disapproval for the morning’s headline. Along the road, down a lane and up some steps, Brigid soon came to a short building of two storeys. On one side rested a ladder that reached up to the small castle that was built into its roof. Brigid hitched up the excess reams of her deep green skirt and climbed the ladder.

Inside the castle, Brigid followed stone spiral steps that led into a tower. Necropolitan daylight streamed in through a doorway at the top. Fine debris hanged in the air, caught between the rays of light and stark shadows. Beyond the doorway was a bridge.

Brigid crossed the bridge and came to the attic of a large house. Across the attic, down a ladder and along a rooftop, Brigid made her secret way to the Northern slums that festered below Parcae. In the shadow of the fortress in the mountain she soon came to her destination.

A bin burned. It was the kind of bin that people would gather around to keep warm in the harsh winters of the overworld. But no one stood around this bin. Putrid smoke plumed out of it. Its foul stench hugged the walls of the houses behind it. Dark grey smoke hid the spikes and barbed wire that had been built into the houses in place of rooftops. Brigid lifted her pink silk scarf to shield her face from the offensive by-products of burning gula and other life forms that lived around those parts.

She stepped to a makeshift tin door in the central house and knocked on it three times. An upper curtain twitched. The woman repeated the rhythm. The front of the house grumbled and moved. It slid to the right. Just enough space was created between the buildings for Brigid to step through unnoticed. The front of the house slid back into place with a subtle growl.

Chapter I – Name’s Papa

“You better than this,” a voice said. The tone was deep and the words struck hard.

The young man turned around. There were more faces.

“Better than all this,” the voice continued, “I can shows you a way.”

The young man went to respond but no sound came from his throat. It felt as though a thin membrane covered his insides. Like the compressed lid on a carbonated drink.

“Come with me,” the voice said.

The young man felt someone grip his arm. At least he thought it was his arm. There was no way to tell. In his short years he had always known that he had two arms, and that they were always by his side. They grew from his shoulders. But now, well, how could he be sure that what he knew was real? Perhaps he had only thought that he always had arms by his side, growing from his shoulders. It sounded inhuman now, to think that things protruded and grew out of him. But everything he had come to know had changed. Everything had vanished, slipped into a void of darkness. Now it had resurfaced, but everything was somehow different.

Daylight had turned purple; grass had turned to red dust. Houses transformed into low, red hills and trees had completely disappeared. The world had turned black. The boy, for that’s all he really was, had left the comfort of America and was now in some alien world. Some desert. But who’s to say that this was not how it had always been?

Perhaps there had never been a school, with its bells and lockers. There had never been modern geography, history or further mathematics. Hundreds of people may never have walked through the corridors, up and down stairs or sat in classrooms. In this moment the school could only have been a fleeting thought in the young man’s mind, along with all those people and the town that he had been born in. It had all been taken away. The boy had woken up into a new reality.

Voices had asked questions. He had spoken, but the words were not his. His body was not his. His thoughts, memories and feelings belonged to someone else. He had existed, once but it was not enough. All the young man had now was a fading sense that he had been somebody. That, and a burning fire of anger inside him.

“I sees you boy,” the voice said to the young man again, “I sees that fire. You got passion in you. I can show you how to use it.” The young man was plucked from the shadows. Cold reality bit him where the comfort of thousands of other lost souls had concealed him. The boy was too lost to feel vulnerable.

“You ain’t like the others,” the voice said to him. The roar of thousands of the other souls had quietened, as though the young man walked away from a powerful river. “You don’t deserve to get caught up in all them other losers like that. You got talent boy, I can sees that.”

The young man’s eyes had not yet adjusted to his new existence. Daylight had been taken from him. It had been replaced with this other incandescence. Warmth from the sun had turned to the chill of a thousand shadows. The young man had not yet developed. He was covered in an invisible membrane that stopped him from breathing, seeing or feeling. The young man was being born again.

“I understand your fear,” the voice said to him again, “We all been there, but I saved you now boy. I’ve saved you the heartache, the confusion. The anger. All those other fools, they gonna carry on down that same path and spend their entire afterlives piecing together this and that and wondering where they all went so wrong, but I’ve found you boy. I here to tells you the truth. You dead. You dead and there ain’t nothing you can do about it.

“The boy I look upon right now is just the soul of that boy who walked in some god’s blue daylight. He ain’t got your face, your voice or your heart. But you carry his anger. And I here to show you how you can give it back to him.”

An arm draped around the young man’s shoulders. A hand littered with gold jewellery gripped his shoulder and gently pushed him forward. The young man followed his companion blindly through forgotten alleyways and caves.

“Lucky for you I found you,” the man said, “You gonna stay with me for as long as you needs boy. Ain’t no way you gonna run around that city looking for answers, not like them other fools. You special. I can see that. Anyone can see that, plain as the nose on they face. You got gifts, talents, a je ne se qua that is so rare to find in the youth of today. No, you got talents and you gonna stay with me while I teach you how to use them. I gots a job for you.”

The young man’s eyes started to sting. Reality started to form. He blinked as though it was the first time. The young man stepped into life. Light caught his attention to the right. Darkness shrouded the rest of his space. A figure formed in front of him. He was dressed head to toe in black and white. White shoes with a black trim; White trousers with a black belt; White shirt with a black tie; White jacket with a black handkerchief.

Gold glittered from his hand, neck and face. The young man blinked again. A man stood in front of him. Gold teeth glittered when he smiled. He extended a hand that was covered in rings of all sizes and colours with a manner of colourful jewels.

“Name’s Papa.”

The young man uncertainly took the hand and shook it.

“Welcome to Necropolis,” Papa smiled.


Nechronicles are an original series written by M. R. Fortis. Aimed at ‘older’ young readers, they have delighted younger readers too. With stories of adventure, monsters and humanity, it’s not hard to see why.

On the banks of the River Styx stands Necropolis, the city that is the life and soul of the afterlife.

Governed by the minotillary, Necropolis is populated by the souls of humans, mortals of ancient civilisations and a whole manner of creatures who could only reside in the underworld.

Stories cross over and characters interact as each tries to figure out what it really means to be in the city by the Styx.

Buy Nechronicles by M. R. Fortis today

Circus Extravagansicus


Cinnamon – Free Taster

A young man has arrived in Necropolis. Papa sees him. Papa knows what he is capable of. Papa has found his protégé.

Meanwhile, more hooded figures are assembling around the northern slums of the city. Their intentions are as shrouded as their faces. Whispers are spreading around Necropolis. The mysterious group keep impossible secrets. They know the answers to questions that too many are afraid to ask.

And now Papa knows how to stop them.


Enjoy Cinnamon for free. The underworld has never been so close.

Chapter I – Name’s Papa

Chapter II – In Other News

Chapter III – Going Places

Chapter IV – Follow The Leader

Chapter V – Be Not Afraid

Nechronicles: Circus Extravagansicus

Laughter is good for the soul, so where are the clowns?

Purchase your copy now!

The Circus is coming to Necropolis and it will be bigger and louder than ever before. Or so General Pip Rickett hopes. Paulo Puck, the previous Ring Leader, met his Judgement before the last tour finished. Circus Extravagansicus has never reached a successful finale. The company need to see the final curtain fall. General Pip Rickett has some very large shoes to fill and the clown who owns them has disappeared into the Necropolitan night. But before any work can get done, General Pip Rickett needs to discover what it really means to be a resident of the City by the Styx.

Drum roll, please.

Nechronicles: Exodus

Necropolis is a city like no other, built into a valley on the banks of the mighty River Styx. Generations of departed souls have set up home in the underworld while they await their final Judgement. However the process has been slowed. Centuries have passed and the souls of mortals in the Overworld have clouded. It is not simply a case of ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ anymore.

Purchase your copy now!

Edwin Tinker may know the reason. He was one of the first men to question the afterlife and has been stuck in Necropolis for over 300 years. Dimonis, the Chief of the bull-headed Minotillary will stop at nothing until Edwin is under his control. He believes that once Edwin is Judged and in the fiery pits of Tartarus where he belongs then normal Judgement will resume. The worlds can continue as the creator intended. Destinies will come true.

Nechronicles: Exodus is the first part in a new book series aimed at anyone who expects to pass on to the next mortal plane. Inspired by mythology from around the world, most notably Greek, Norse and Roman, Nechronicles will please both heroes and gods alike.

Myths, monsters and mankind will collide.