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Coming soon in digital...
Coming soon in digital... Folk'd
Coming soon in digital... Completely Folk'd
Coming soon in digital... Folk'd Up Beyond All Recognition
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Completely Folk'd

Below you will find the opening chapter to Completely Folk'd…I'm always keen to have feedback on my writing, so if you have any comments - be nice people - do drop me a line!!

 

The Atonement


For hours, who knew how many, his father had continued to talk, continued to outline a family history he had known nothing of and casually one-eighty everything Danny had ever thought he’d known about his life.

When he’d finished, for a long time all Danny could do was sit there, dumbfounded. At some point in proceedings his father, still talking all the while, had gotten up and made two cups of coffee. He was finishing off the last dregs of his own cup now. Danny noticed that his father’s hands were shaking as he knocked back the by-now tepid coffee.

His fingers flickered out and to his surprise, they were able to grasp the cup in front of him. It was a strange sensation; the cup was there, was solid…and yet Danny had the distinct impression that if he really wanted to he could pass his fingers right through the china shell and into the liquid within.

What to say? Where to begin? To hear his father talk about the Morrigan lineage, the traditions…he’d told Danny the story of that first day in the Mournes with his own father, the circle of dead bodies, discovering his place in the world.

He’d told him how his granda died. Danny had ached with sympathy for his father. All of the agonising he’d done over his own worth…he couldn’t begin to imagine how it would feel to be, however accidentally, the cause of your own father’s death.

Tony Morrigan was sitting now, staring into nothing. Convinced still no doubt that this was all some dream he was having. He looked lost, haunted, and every time his eyes focussed somewhat and he saw the image of Danny before him a look of pain ghosted across his face.

He hadn’t abandoned Danny by choice.

Except…he had, in a way. He’d chosen to reverse the curse and accepted the price for it, knowing full well it would drive a wedge between father and son, destroy any semblance of relationship he’d built over the first ten years of Danny’s life.

Danny had known little Luke for less than a year, and having him taken from him had been the event that had sent him down this rabbit hole. He wanted his little boy back so badly it amazed him.

What would it be like to be with your son for ten years, and then to have to walk away from him. More than that, to have to walk away from him and pretend as if it was something that you wanted to do?

“Talk to him.”

He started. The voice that had just spoken was not his father’s.

“Hello again,” said Doubt, perched vulture-like on the end of the kitchen table. “Miss me?”

“You’ve-”

“Changed. Yes, I know. Well I thought two of him might get confusing. Doesn’t he look so sad? I think you should talk to him, Danny. That’s why you’re here, isn’t it?”

“Why are you shaped like him?”

His father glanced around. “Who are you talking to?” he asked.

Doubt, now embodying the personage of Thomas, late of Lircom PLC and Danny’s boss/underling, depending on which parallel universe you subscribed to, tilted his head to the side to regard father and son. Together with the birdlike stance he’d adopted on the table, the overall effect was disconcerting to say the least.

“It’s…nothing. Just daydreaming,” he told his father.

“My imaginary grown-up son…is having a daydream…inside my dream?”

“Yes.”

“I think I need to reconsider my teetotal policy,” Tony said, standing up and walking in a rather wobbly line to one of his cupboards.

‘Thomas’ tutted disapprovingly. “This is probably how it starts,” he said ruefully. “Wee drink here, wee drink there…and then when he eventually does come back, they’re not so wee anymore, are they?”

Danny turned his attention to the apparition. “What do you want?” he hissed. “I thought I left you behind.”

Thomas giggled. “Left me behind?” he said. “Jesus Christ, it’s a wonder I can squeeze myself into only one body, Danny, the amount of issues you’ve got wandering about upstairs,” and he tapped his head.

“I’m past that. He’s explained-”

“Yeah. Daddy’s in the clear. Hooray. It’s what every abandoned orphan wants to hear, isn’t it – it was all a big mix-up! Daddy had a gun held to his head! He didn’t want to leave me!”

“Fuck off,” Danny snarled.

His father blinked as he set two shot glasses down together with a bottle of whiskey. “Alright,” he said equitably, “I wasn’t sure if I should be encouraging my son to drink-”

“Not you. Him.”

His father looked in the direction. Thomas danced a merry little invisible jig. “Who?” he said.

“He’s…he’s…ach it’s complicated. He’s my nasty wee inner voice. I accidentally brought him to life when I was creating the universe.”

A shot glass full of brown liquid slid to a halt in front of him a few seconds later.

“Drink,” Tony said firmly.

“You think it’ll help me?” Danny said as he lifted the shot glass to his lips.

“It’ll help me.”

Knocking it back, he felt the whiskey enter his system. It was beyond strange – slightly out of phase as he was, he could feel the liquor go places it wasn’t supposed to go. He shivered spasmodically and then felt a warmth spreading from his gut.

“Another?”

“Another.”

The second was even better than the first. When he’d finished draining the glass the second time, he risked a glance over to where Thomas had been perched, hoping to see only empty air there. He was to be disappointed; not only was he still there, he actually seemed to have grown a little.

“The one thing you always had,” Thomas was chortling, “the one crumb of comfort you clung to when you were miserable, was that hey, no matter how unhappy you got, as long as you stuck it out, saw it through, you’d be better than that bastard of a father of yours.”

Danny shut his eyes, and found to his horror that even this didn’t completely banish the vision from sight. His own eyelids were transparent.

“What’s wrong?” his father asked.

“He won’t shut up…” Danny whispered.

“That was what made you stick around. It wasn’t love. It wasn’t even a sense of obligation. It was a way to stick two fingers up to your Da. To say – I’m better than you. And now…now you’ve found out the old wanker didn’t walk out on you. He was torn away and it almost killed him.”

“What’s he saying?”

“He…he won’t shut up…”

“He made a deal with the devil just to get you born, knowing that the price was his own image in your eyes. Meanwhile you…Danny Morrigan, carefree student, professional loser, you stick your cock in some random girl drunk one night and get her pregnant and what do you think? You think oh no, why me? Why’d it have to happen to me? How’d I get so unlucky?” and by now Thomas was rocking with laughter.

“Who’s the better man now, Danny?”

Tears stung his eyes, but even as they did so, he felt for the first time that something was wrong. Self-doubt he could accept; but this was more than that. This was self-loathing, and much as Danny Morrigan may have second-guessed himself over the years, much as he may have felt deep down that he wasn’t as good a person, a partner, a father as he could be, he had never had the sense that he hated himself.

But if this thing in front of him wasn’t speaking in his own inner voice, then-

Two things happened. The first was that in mid-hysterics Thomas stopped laughing, as suddenly as if someone had just flicked a switch.

The second was that Tony Morrigan stood up with a yell and a string of swearwords, almost knocking over his chair as he did so.

“Who the fuck are you?!” he demanded.

Danny followed his eyeline. “You…you can see him?” he asked his father, pointing to Thomas.

Tony didn’t reply with words. Danny simply watched as all of the colour drained from his father’s face. A second later, moving his attention back to where he was pointing, Danny could understand why.

He hadn’t been imagining things before when he’d thought the Thomas-shape had grown. Now fully nine feet tall, and broad as a tree trunk, the former Lircom team leader was looking less and less human with each passing moment and more and more like one of the monstrosities Danny had walked amongst in the Otherworld; this one bearlike in its bulk, but with four-inch claws sprouting from its hands and feet and teeth like tongues, each of which undulated in its mouth like grass stalks in the wind.

“The circles…” his father croaked.

“Circles don’t work if I’m brought in,” the thing slobbered, and smiled hideously at Danny. “Right, Danny?”

“You never were a part of me.”

Part of you? I am you!” the Thomas-thing howled, and then it attacked. Danny had been steeling himself for this ever since the transformation had begun in earnest; thinking back to the things he’d learned during his time in the Otherworld, trying to line up the knowledge in his mind. Making himself ready for the thing when it came at him.

Problem was, it didn’t come at him at all.

Tony had time for one shout of alarm and pain before the thing barrelled into him full-tilt, sending him sprawling through the cottage. Furniture splintered in the Thomas-thing’s wake as it captured Tony in its grasp and shook him this way and that like a ragdoll before tossing him to the floor, looming over him.

“Da!” Danny shouted. Before he had time to plan, he had thrown himself onto its massive back and wrapped his arms around its neck. The smell of the thing was overpowering; his mind reeled from the sensory overload even as it tried to bring its massive arms around to bear on him, to tear him off.

Failing in this, it adopted a different tack and simply slammed its entire bulk backwards, crushing itself against the nearest wall, or more accurately crushing Danny’s body-

-except Danny’s body wasn’t solid enough to be crushed by the impact.

He phased partially through the wall, momentary flashes of Al from Quantum Leap passing through his mind as he did so. The world spun crazily as his opponent threw itself this way and that in a desperate bid to shake itself loose of this passenger even as Danny tried, tried with everything he had to squeeze tighter around that neck and ignore the waves of stench coming off this fucker-

Tony was up and charging, something in his hand-

Too slow. A massive hand, swinging out…

“NO!” Danny shouted, and in the moment the Thomas-thing managed finally to get him loose. He crashed through two of the legs of the table and phased through the remaining through, half of one leg passing through the floor. He was able to pull his leg back up before the urge to solidify got too much.

His father was down, and bleeding. Out of the fight. Danny picked himself up and circled around until he was between the Thomas-thing and his father’s prone body. Around him, the cottage’s interior was in ruins.

Just like that, the Thomas-thing was no longer. It shrank, condensed, and now-

“Alright lad?” said Steve.

“Never better lad,” Danny said grimly, never taking his eyes off the shape in front of him, watching for a flicker of movement, anything that would signal the next attack.

“Enjoying all this aren’t ye?”

“Oh yeah. Laugh a fuckin minute this is.”

“Come off it. You, the centre of some mystic prophecy? You, the last hope for Ireland against the powers of darkness? Right up your alley this is. Always so pleased with your own cleverness. Loved putting one over on dopey Steve. Funny how I ended up with the life you envied, isn’t it.”

“You’re not Steve.”

“You always were an egotistical cunt,” the Steve-thing carried on as if he hadn’t spoken. “That’s why the mundanities of family life weren’t floatin yer boat, right or wrong?”

Danny didn’t reply. He was trying to stay calm. Everything he’d learned, all of the synaesthesia tricks he could employ to fight these fuckers on their levels, they depended on him staying calm. If this thing got him angry, he was dead.

“If all this hadn’t happened, how long do you think it would have been? Before you fucked off and left them, I mean. Oh maybe not the way your Da did it, admittedly – the total walkout, the complete vanish. No. You’d have done it the standard way. Probably had a wee affair with some random buck from work and then give Ellie the speech,” and his voice changed to Danny’s, “it’s not working out love. It’s not what I’m after. I’ll see yis right though never you worry – and I wanna see wee Luke every weekend…every other weekend….every month…every few months…on special occasions…definitely next birthday, sorry about that last one there, I’d a lot on…

“No.”

“You’d have left them and gone back to the life you thought you were robbed of…” and the Steve-copy smiled, “and you’d have been glad you did.”

“You don’t know that.”

“So I’m wrong?”

Danny didn’t answer.

Steve was gone a moment later, replaced in an eyeblink by another phantom facsimile.

“Why? Why wasn’t I good enough for you?” Ellie asked him.

“I’m not playing this game,” Danny replied, his voice betraying him by quavering as he spoke. “You’re not Ellie. You’re not Steve. You’re not anyone. You know nothing about me.”

“I don’t know you?” Ellie laughed mirthlessly. She took a step toward him. Danny had to stop himself from matching the gesture. She looked, sounded, smelled so perfect…

“I know you alright. Do you think when I found out I was pregnant, when I rang you, I did it because I wanted to trap you? I thought you had a right to know. That was all. I didn’t ask you to leave Maggie. Didn’t ask you to come back to me. So when you did those things I thought – I hoped – it was because you loved me, not because you thought you had to. Did you really think I didn’t know, Danny?”

“It’s not true-”

“So I’m wrong?”

His head was spinning. Any hope of remaining calm had long since been pissed away. He was barely keeping upright, let alone staying calm. The cottage around him was swirling.

He half-expected the attack to come then, with him so off-balance.

He was right. Just not in the way he’d expected.

“Hey, Da,” said Luke.

Not Luke the baby. Not Luke who he’d held in his arms and listened to his full-stomach breathing until he himself had drifted to sleep.

This was grown-up Luke, likely around Danny’s age himself. It wasn’t just the hey, Da that immediately made it obvious who he was; everything about the bo..the man before him said to him, plain and simple, this is your son. He was tall, he was broad-shouldered, he looked a little like Danny but more like his mother truth be told. But he had Danny’s eyes, just like his baby self.

As a baby those eyes had twinkled with mischief and merriment, and now…now there was only deadness there.

No hate, no anger.

Nothing.

“Luke?” Danny croaked. “Luke, I…”

“How’s things?” Luke said, glancing down at his watch. He was dressed smartly, in tailored trousers and a fitted white shirt and tie. He looked good, like a successful young man.

He also looked as if he was impatient for this meeting to be over.

“I tried…” Danny sobbed, staggering forward, the cottage long forgotten. “Luke, I tried…I tried to get you back-”

Luke held up his hands as if to ward him off. He smiled a smile reminiscent of Ellie’s father and the way he’d smiled at Danny – that expression that seemed to ooze disgust, disdain.

“That’s grand, Da,” he said. Another check of the watch. “Look I…I don’t mean to be rude, but I’ve got so much on at the moment and…” and his son sighed heavily, “…look let’s not kid ourselves, right? Every few months we do this lunchtime thing and we talk about football and the price of mortgages and whatever shite we can think of to get the time in. Why not just call it quits, eh?”

“No…” Danny breathed, aghast. “No…please, Luke. I’m sorry…I-I-don’t know what I can do to make it up to you-”

Luke shrugged expansively. “Forget about it! You said it yourself – the fatherhood thing came too soon for you. You weren’t ready. Hey, at least you gave it nearly a year, eh? And I turned out alright and things turned out,” he paused and there was that fleeting expression of disgust again, “alright for you too. So where’s the harm.”

No. No, I didn’t want this. You’re my little boy. My baby boy. You looked up at me and I was your whole world and I CAN’T LOSE THAT-

Luke spread his arms. His eyes, until now dead, glittered with an inhuman light that Danny was too far gone in grief to have a hope of noticing.

“C’mon, then. One last hug,” he said, and beckoned.

Danny staggered toward him without hesitation, spreading his own arms wide, ready to throw himself into his son’s embrace-

-and was pulled back.

“Stay away from him,” said Tony Morrigan, blood-encrusted and looking like shit, but very much up and awake.

Luke’s expression darkened instantly. “Let him go,” he hissed through teeth no longer square and human, but pointed and predatory.

“He’s my son…” Danny said weakly, trying to struggle free of his father’s grip.

“No he isn’t. But you’re my son.”

Luke launched himself forward. Tony shoved Danny to the floor and brought something around from behind his back, swinging it in a wide arc-

There was a wet noise from somewhere above Danny’s head. As he heard it, he felt the fogginess that had descended upon him begin to clear almost immediately; the shapes above him coalesced from what had once been an image of his son and his father into-

-a shape, with too many arms (legs?) and a head that began from somewhere on its chest; to call it simply monstrous would have been to undersell its alienness. It was unrecognisable even as something humanoid, let alone human.

What was recognisable was the iron shortsword impaling it right through its chest.

After what seemed an eternity, the shape pitched forward and slammed face-first into the floor, unmoving.

“Your son, eh? Hope that comes from the Ma’s side of the family,” his father grunted.

He extended a hand to Danny and pulled him to his feet.

“Thanks…” Danny wheezed.

“This isn’t a dream,” Tony Morrigan said. It was not question.

“No.”

Tony absorbed this revelation and all of its frankly staggering implications for the timeline.

“Shame,” he said.

“Nice sword.”

“This,” his father said with satisfaction, putting one foot on the corpse and yanking the sword free with not inconsiderable effort, “is Moonblood.”

“Now that’s a cool name,” Danny said approvingly.

His father grinned. “See, I knew it-”

It was then that the corpse decided it wasn’t a corpse after all.

Catapulting itself upward, it struck out, sending first Danny and then the shortsword flying from Tony’s grasp, leaving the older man defenceless.

Danny rolled and got to his feet, reminding himself as he did so that no matter how convincing the illusion or strong the enchantment, what he was seeing wasn’t Luke…

…unnecessarily, as it turned out. The figure before him, the thing that had his father by the throat, lifting him clean off the ground and throttling the life from his lungs, was Luke no longer.

“Kill me once, shame on you,” James Morrigan growled, looking into the wide and terrified eyes of his son Tony. “Kill me twice…”

“Daddy…??” Tony choked, his eyes wide and terrified. He was making no moves to fight back, even to struggle, as the air was being cut off from his lungs.

“You caused all of this,” James was saying, even as his grip intensified and black spots peppered Tony’s vision as oblivion beckoned. “Your incompetence…you doomed us all…you miserable, worthless excuse for a son!”

Akkk-” it was all Tony could manage, the only sound his collapsing windpipe could form as the life was squeezed from it. He was about to die, and the last thing he would see was his father’s angry face. Just as he’d always known it would be.

Moonblood’s blade erupted from James’ throat.

Tony was released. The blade was removed. James turned, and even as he did those features began to ripple again, to change as he searched for a new form with which to probe the mind of his attacker, find a weakness, exploit it-

Not this time.

With a roar that shook the cottage, Danny Morrigan swung the sword and cleaved the head of the monster before him clean off its shoulders.

The head fell one way, the body another. Neither man moved for a moment, awaiting another resurrection, until both pieces of the thing began to steam. Moments later, they had dissolved into the ether, leaving behind only a foul-smelling gunk.

With perfect timing, a plate that had until that point been teetering on the brink of one of the cottage’s sideboards chose that moment to launch itself into oblivion, in so doing completing the total and utter destruction of every piece of furnishings inside the small dwelling, leaving only Tony and Danny Morrigan sitting amidst the wreckage.

“You know…” Tony was the first to speak, although with the red ring around his throat still glowing fiercely it was scarcely more than a fierce whisper he could manage, “it’s not easy having kids. You doubt yourself. You have bad days. And if, from time to time, the reason you tell yourself that you’re not up and leaving for something easier is because of some sense of duty…well, that’s not cowardice. That’s having balls enough to see a responsibility through even in your long dark nights. And then before you know it, you’re through it, and you realise you were just over-thinking it.”

“And what if I’m not?” Danny said. “Over-thinking it. What if I’m not?”

“Do you love her?”

“How do I know?”

“Does she make you happy?”

Danny blinked. It was such a juvenile question…

“You’re thinking about it aren’t you.”

“Of course I-”

“Jesus. You must have gone to university or something, am I right? Too fuckin clever for your own good. Stop thinking ab out it, just answer. Does she?”

“Yes.”

“Does making her happy make you happy?”

“Yes,” the answer was out almost before he’d realised he’d even spoken. The suddenness of it amazed him.

“Then I’d say one, you love her, and two, stop over-thinking it.”

“I just…” Danny started, and then stopped. “I just…when you walked out on me, and on my Ma, you didn’t seem unhappy. And I always thought, is that how it happens? Do you not even realise and then one day you just up and walk away-”

“I’m sorry,” Tony said softly.

“Don’t be. You did what you had to do and you couldn’t have done anything different. In fact…” Danny exhaled and said something he never thought he’d say aloud, “…the whole reason why it hurt so fuckin much when you left was because you’d been a great Da.”

He could see those words settling on his father like snow. Tony didn’t meet his son’s gaze at first and then he seemed to shake off that urge. When he looked at Danny, he did so with gratitude and with tears in his eyes.

“Thank you. But you’re wrong, you know. There’s some things I could have done differently. Done better.”

“His death wasn’t your fault. It was an accident.”

“Do you think he knew that?”

Danny smiled. “After the stories you just told me about you and him, against the worst Carman had to throw at ye? Now who’s over thinking things?”

Tony’s mouth opened to respond…and stayed open. Danny thought at first his father was in a state of shock at something he’d seen; he whirled around, expecting to see the wet mess of the whatever-it-was he’d just decapitated reforming itself, like Dracula in a Hammer Horror movie or the T1000. Nothing was there.

“Dad?” he said, now concerned. He moved forward and waved a hand in front of his father’s face. He didn’t blink. His mouth remained half-open. It was as if time-

“You’re almost there.”

He turned, and now something was there. Not the monster.

“How did you get here?” he asked the Morrigan.

She was standing amidst the rubble and the detritus of what had once been a neat, if rather cramped, little home, looking incongruous in her usual green-tinged finery amongst the wreckage. She looked around at the results of their battle and raised an eyebrow.

“Been working out a few issues?”

“I thought that…thing…was my own self-doubt. What the hell was it?”

“What was it?” she echoed. She shrugged. “It was me.”

You?”

“An aspect of me, at any rate.”

You tried to kill me? My Da?” he said, his anger rising.

“I wouldn’t have killed you. Either of you.”

“I can’t believe this! You put me through all of that – you attack me, you attack my Da, you near destroy the place?! Are you fuckin crazy?”

She wasn’t blinking an eyelid. “Nobody’s fucking around here, Danny,” she said, her voice crystalline hard. “When this is over with, when you’re back there…there’ll be no more stalling. It’ll be you versus the best she has to throw at you, and if you somehow best them, it’ll be down to you and her. And no matter how much you think you’re starting to get your head around this, understand the power you have – understand this; she has thousands of years of experience behind her. You need to wake up and realise what you’re up against.”

“And how did…” he replied, struggling to bring his temper back under control, “how did bringing me here, how did attacking me help with that?”

“It’s all part of the Ordeal, Danny. When you go into the Cauldron, you don’t automatically spring back out fully-formed. You have to earn your resurrection. That’s why it doesn’t work for the Low Folk, for the faeries – they go in, and they come out, but they come out wrong. They come out twisted. For us, for the Tuatha…it’s different. It has to be, otherwise what’s the difference between them and us?”

He sighed and turned away from her, not able to look at her at that precise moment. How did she expect him to handle all of this? A few days ago the biggest crisis in his life had been putting the bin out and stepping in a suspiciously solid, brown and squeaky puddle.

“And I didn’t bring you here. You did that. You chose this place as your third stage.”

“Third stage?”

“Think of the Cauldron as a speeded-up model of your entire existence, except it’s a little out of sequence. To gain entry, you have to go through death, which you did-”

“Thanks. I’d almost forgotten,” he said, knowing full well that every time he closed his eyes for the rest of his life – however long that may be – the sensation of literally being ripped apart wasn’t likely to be lurking very far away.

“-and after death,” she continued as if he hadn’t spoken, “you have to negotiate your birth. Your emergence from nothing.”

He thought back to the indeterminate amount of time he’d spent in that formless void. Was that the magical equivalent of the womb?

“How long was I…?”

“It doesn’t work like that there. Minutes. Millennia. It’s all in the perception. The important thing is, you had the strength to pull yourself together. To reform yourself. Have you any idea how difficult that is?”

He thought back to the endless cycle of thought. The utter unshakeable conviction that he was dwelling in Hell, and that it was going to last for all eternity…and the feeling that in some ways, as the Morrigan had hinted, it had lasted an eternity.

“Yeah,” he said, with feeling. “Yeah, I have.”

“And from death…to birth…to childhood,” she said, and waved a hand to indicate the cottage in which they stood.

Danny began to understand. “I came here…to grow up?”

“Yes.”

“So this…this really happened? I really came here, to this place, thirteen years ago?”

“Yes.”

“But won’t that…I don’t know, fuck up the timeline or something? My Dad’s going to remember me-”

She smiled a brittle smile and looked at him not unkindly until he understood what was going to happen.

What had to happen.

“He’s not, is he.”

“No.”

“But the cottage…”

“Fix it.”

He blinked. “Excuse me?”

“Fix it.”

“What, like Mary Poppins? Sing a jolly wee song and watch all the plates jump back on the shelves and the table legs unsplinter themselves?”

She looked ill. “Sing a wee song?” she said. “Jesus, I hope not. Danny, tidying up a cottage is not beyond you. Wasn’t that long ago you created a universe.”

“Fair point,” he said, and closed his eyes. Okay. You can do this. Remember back to the blackness. You took that blackness and made light. This is the same principle, surely…except it’s not blackness. Remember back to how the cottage looked before. Now overlay that with how it looks now, like…like…like you’re putting a tablecloth on a table. Except it’s a shitty tablecloth.

He exhaled, eyes still closed, and tasted the faint but unmistakable tang of magic in the air around him. Now…grip the tablecloth. Good solid hold. Fuck, where did those all plates come from?

“From me,” the Morrigan’s voice butted in, laced liberally with amusement. “Just wanted to make this a bit more challenging.”

“Thanks so much,” he hissed.

Grip it. Come on you’ve seen this trick done before. Jesus they look expensive. Okay. PULL

Anyone walking past the twilit cottage would have seen the interior lit by a pulse of blindingly powerful white-blue light, a single heartbeat of force. Thankfully, the nearest living witness larger than a beetle was an elderly badger, who merely put the sight down to experience and wandered off.

Danny opened his eyes.

“Jesus Christ…!”

“Well done,” the Morrigan said.

It had worked. He couldn’t believe it. Not a plate smashed, not an ornament out of place. The fireplace, the table, the kitchen, all were back in one piece. It looked as if the place had been hit by a twister with Asperger’s.

Danny staggered. The walls of the cottage were suddenly transparent; looking down, he could see himself phase almost completely out of existence.

“Almost time to go,” the Morrigan said urgently.

“Go? Where?”

“No time,” she said, walking to him and, taking his hand, placing it on his father’s forehead. Danny had the extremely odd sensation of his fingers phasing slightly into his father’s brain; the effect was electric…images, sounds, smells, sensations, all of them pulsed up through his arm into his own cerebrum through the conduit-

“Make him forget,” the Morrigan said. “Quickly. You must.”

A thousand objections raised themselves in Danny’s mind, but there was something more; some higher power perhaps, that told him unequivocally that this was non-negotiable. He plunged his digits into the melting pot and was momentarily overwhelmed by the overload; memories rushed at him like speeding cars on an insanely busy motorway.

For long moments Danny felt sure he’d be taken out by some of the sixteen-wheelers, not least of which was the lumbering behemoth of James Morrigan’s death, the monster in the closet of his father’s tortured mind, although running it a close second was the image of his own son, waving cheerily to him for what – unbeknownst to him – would be the final time for a decade.

He saw the recent memories, from tonight, from Danny’s arrival. Good memories. They came to him like puppies, all yipping and excited barking, making the painful memory of ten-year-old Danny’s betrayal at his father’s hands much less powerful.

You know what you have to do, the Morrigan’s voice resounded in his mind. Do it. Now.

He reached out for those memories.

Killed them.

When it was done, he removed himself from his father’s mind, recoiling from the horror of what he’d just done. Feeling a hand on his shoulder, he looked into the Morrigan’s face and saw, for the first real time, genuine respect reflected back at him.

“One more stop,” she said.

They had faded from existence before he got a chance to ask her what it was.

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