Slowly I start putting the things back into the grubby satchel. the woodencup and plate, the small battered books. there were only two this time. They told me that there had been antoog other lynching. things were getting worse, not that I thought that it was possible. Footsteps crunch on the gravel I laid by the door on the way in. My fingers close over the hilt of a combat knife tucked into the back of my jeans, conveiniently hidden by the long black coat worn by all of us. not as silly as you might think, waring one has become a bit of a fasion item. A long dirty blood-=red cloack wrapped around a man who’s only ability in life was to not care why, and just do as he was told. Probably had a name like Mikkah or Goliath. He stepped to one side, and let another giant of a man step through. Two inquisitors. Never a good sign. This second thug took his place on the other side of the door. I was on my knees before their leader was through the door. He was medium build, with a roundish face, waring a brown suit. Totally forgettable. Only those in the know would see the line of purple on his right cuff that marked him out as a Bishop. Odd, I didn’t think that any of the inquisitors worked for us anymore. I say nothing, my head half-bowed in respect, my eyes still watching. This could be a trick. It was a hard thing to give up, trust. A lot of us paid the learning cost with our lives. Once upon-a-time they would be remembered by name as Martyrs. But now you just remember thsoe you know didn’t make it, or rather, made it to paradise before you.
“you bless me with your presence Bishop”
“I’m just a umble servant of you and the church.” he responds. A recognised answer, but then updates can take some to tmake it this far out into the badlands.
“I am Bishop Sayth, sowrn in at Canterbury by Bishop Ashren, may God rest Hi Soul, who was sworn in by Bishop Roberts, may God Rest His Soul”.
A good geniology, and a shame about Ashren. He was a good man.
“You are humbly welcome” I say. I don’t know this man, but I’ll hear what he has to say for himself. The Bishop nods at me and I stand.
“Reverend Joseph McNeil, you are a hard man to find.”
“I wish I could be more visible, but in these times…”
“Yes, in the these time it is prudent to remain hidden, ministering to the brave few. I fear your parish has been changed.”
“Changed?”. For a breif moment I panic. They’ve sent a Bishop in person, this is either good, or ver, very bad. I’ve not upset anyone. heck, I’ve not seen anyone in three years.
“you probably won’t like it.” there it was. That unerving way Bishops have of appearing to read your mind.
“Were sending you to the smoke”.
“The Somke?”. London had re-gained it’s nickname from the eighteen hundreds, but not for the banal reason of coal-burning stoves. At least, not entirely. It was also home to the most dangerous parishes, not that there are any non-dangerous ones since the incident. Only the most experienced get to go there, or those with ways and means. Even on it’s knees, there are still corrupt elements.
“I am honoured, Bishop…” I pause. My question obvious. He smiles and thrust his hands into his pockets.
“I wish I knew, Son, but it’s the darndest thing. There I was, on my knees a praying, and it come to me. This idea so strong I just knew”. A wry smile danced over his lips. “It was almost as if God himself told me”. He took a manila envelope out of his pocket and put it on the table. “You leave tonight”. I nodd, dumfounded. You hear of Bishops who’ve got it, but you never see it. Normally they are just good at organization, or espionage, and other vital mundainaties.

So I pack my things. Not really difficult, it’s all in the rucksack in the corner. There are no ties, no-one to say good-buy too. I sling the bag on my shoulder and blow out the candle. I rub the sign out with my feet. My congregation will only be slightly surprised at my replacement. If, no, I shouldn’t think like that, When they get one. I bow my head and pray for the parish for the last time. All of it, all of them, the greasers, the splicers, the guicers the pirates and the swords.

I brush asside the tattered and faded curtain that served as a door and unclipped the small painted rose, slipping it a well-practices move into my pocket. without a backword glance I step out into the neon-lit squalid street. Derelict and scroched buildings form the place for squaters, The scortchmarks visible on most of the buildings, even at this time of night. Without looking back I know the shout and the sounds of fighting are over the room I vactated. A veritable mansion for most people. I thrust a hand into my pocket and count the change. The takings from the collection to feed the priest, taken from people who can hardly feed themselfs. We don’t ask for money. not my order anyway. They give it regardless. It’s important to them. A connection to the divine. I wouldn’t expect anyone to understand, I don’t really get it. They trust that I will somehow do some good with their money in this wretched world. It’s a big responsibility. I stop off and buy a hot-dog. There not enough for a train ticket, to I guess I’ll find another way. That’s the curious thing about this job. You always get guided. Sometimes you win, sometimes you loose. A finger, an arm, your life. Or worse, someone elses life.

Screams reach my ears. Only just audiable above the other noises of the streets. You can’t help everyone, despite a moral need too. I turn towards the screams. A profesionaly busybody, perhaps there is something I can do. An alley way, lots of people carefully studying the walls, or the floor. Some staring off into space, smiling and gigglign to themselvs. Escaped to a false reality in their head. Futher down the alley, and the noise has been muffled. Scratch marks and a nail stuck in the wall show what’s going on. I start buttoning up my coat, all 39 buttons.

I reach a corner and peer round. Two guyes wrestling with a tough middle-30’s woman. no visible guns, but a knife, and a machette. I wrap my fingers around the handle of my knife, and after a quick prayer I step out into the alleyway.
“Excuse me genglement, Have you heard the Good News?”
They look up, startled, and smile at me.
“Hey look, it’s a Geno.” Geno, a name we gained from the incident. “I thought you’d all been wiped out. Guess it’s our civic duty to put you down.” The taller of the two with a mohawk brings his tatoo’d elbow down on the back of the woman’s head and she sinks to the floor.They rush me, in that text-book kind of a way. Everyone knows how to fight. We were taught it as an essential skill. This is also not my first fight. I take a step back, which causes them to speed up. I wait, as still and as calm as I can manage. Then forward as side of the hands to the throats of each. A surprised chocking sound and they fall on their backs. I spin round and kneel down hard on their clavicles, feeling them snap. There would have gave been a noise of pain, but it was a case of scream, or choke. I relieve them of their wepons, and patted them down. I removed the drug vials and break them. The look of anguish on their faces was haunting. I bow my head, keeping my eyes on them. I pray that they will be safe, and change their waays. They look less haunted. I stand and turn ot the woman. I move towards here, and she draggs herself away.
“It’s okay.. I’m here to help…”
She shakes her head. “Geno… Geno!”
“No, no, were not like that…”
She pulls herself to her feet, and staggers down the alleyway, and into the street. I unbuttong my coat and run the other way. Any moment now and people are going to come looking.

Copyright Black Xanthus. No Reproduction of this work without prior WRITTEN permission. A Charge may be levied for use, authorised or otherwise.
Written By Black Xanthus, published March 10th, 2009. Regardless of what the Page it’self claims.