(A short story)
Almost thirteen years had passed since Brimston Town had
been discovered under Glasgow, and mild mannered Neil was sat at his
desk, miserable, but trying to look busy when the lottery programme
started. Its announcements seized everything, confiscated every screen,
window, ceiling, pair of spectacles, entrance and exit with
transmissions, projections and holograms. Every loudspeaker, telephone
and hearing aid was adopted and adapted, even the town statues and
gargoyles became animated, taking on the roll of its host - the old and
wise, if somewhat elusive town Mayor, Mr. Nicholas Dickens - and with
entry being mandatory, the lottery could not be avoided. Even those
asleep were woken with a mild burn.
The programme itself was a mockery of fantasy, and the people of
Brimston had only recently began to question - on account of the people
of Glasgow - how it was possible for it to be so perfectly tailored to
every single individual simultaneously, but still remain primarily the
same. Even if a large group of people watched the same screen, the Mayor
would address each person by name as though they were the only one
"Yes, Mr. Raeside! Could today be the luckiest day of your life so far?
Let's hope so because we both know you could use a bit of luck after
that incident in the park yesterday, right?" Neil hadn't told anyone
about 'that incident in the park yesterday' where his leg had been
violated by a massive stray doberman while he tried to eat his banana.
"Let's find out as we play this month's lotto!"
Every single soul in Brimston watched with white knuckles as the numbers were read aloud.
"And this months numbers are, drum-roll, please... 2, 9, 11, 7, 6..." Neil went dizzy. "And the final number is... 3!"
"Neil Raeside, you are this month's lottery winner! Everybody, let's all
come together and congratulate Mr. Raeside for a spectacular choice of
numbers! What a lucky guy! Fantastic! Mr. Raeside, your loved ones need
never worry again, isn't that just spectacular? Neil Reaside you have
until six minutes and six seconds past six o'clock this evening to
With elbows on knees and head in hands, Neil despaired as his entire
office briefly gathered around to congratulate him, feigning joy and
smiling through their teeth as they did. A moment later he was alone
again, listening to his suddenly not-so-miserable co-workers muttering
under their breath as they glanced over, and with only half an hour
until lunch break, Neil had no idea what he was going to say to Kate,
who without a shadow of doubt definitely knew he'd won. After all, there
was no avoiding the lottery. He was sat hunched, kneading his brow,
almost in tears when his phone rang. It was Kate. He answered but didn't
"Neil, mate, it's alright, don't worry yourself."
"It's not alright, Kate. It's totally fucked."
"Yeah, that's what I thought but what the hell. Fuck it. D'you reckon you can pull a sickie for the rest of the day?"
"I could probably get away with that today, yeah. I did win the lottery."
"Exactly! We'll get a carry out, head up the mountain, get pissed and everything'll be fine. Sound good?"
"Right then, I'll get you outside your office in, say, what, half an hour?"
"Sorted, then. In a bit!"
Neil was in shock and grateful for it. Being numbed let him see his
situation from a distance, like looking at a bright light through a
blacked-out window, he knew it was there but it didn't seem so. And as
though he'd held his breath without first taking one, the passing
half-hour was a single moment drawn out. Then he was outside.
"Alright!" There were few people in Brimston unaffected by the lack of
what the locals had recently come to know as sunlight. Kate was one of
"Not really, no."
"Aw, come on, there's no need to look so glum, we've got a massive
carry-out!" Kate was holding a carrier bag full of beer in each hand.
Neil took a bag and they began clunking their way through the business
district towards the town centre.
The streets were almost empty on account of it being considered
respectful to remain indoors when a lottery winner was collecting the
prize, and the few people they did pass looked uncomfortable to be near
them. Some gave a smile or a nod or even both, but not once was there a
smile in anyones eyes other than Kate's. The further they walked, the
more barren the streets became.
"We might as well get cracking with these, there's no fucker about to bust us. Here." Kate handed Neil a bottle opener.
"Cheers." Said Neil.
"Fuck me, it talks! Get it down your neck, you'll feel better about things."
Brimston town centre was a daunting place when quiet, in that it
never truly was. Regardless of how devoid of movement it might become,
its silence bounced off every wall, most of which stretched all the way
to the roof where the darkness of the city was rarely breached. The
buildings were tightly packed, and many had been derelict for longer
than anyone knew, pre-dating the town records. They stood now,
reinforced, only as support for the Brimston town canopy, lifeless until
the lottery required what gargoyles remained.
They passed through Stygian Square at the heart of town. It was
laden with massive columns and pillars that reached up out of sight,
some were man made as buttresses, others formed naturally from
dripstones. There were dozens of huge effigies, either sculpted and
mounted on slabs or just carved where selenite crystals had formed,
gleaming all-but see-through white and shining like an ice sculpture but
dry to the touch. Neil and Kate were walking open-mouthed, taking in
the magnificence of a place normally bustling, never seen in such
loneliness, when suddenly they jumped with fright as every single
surrounding statue came to life all at once, congratulating them. Both
of them. As a pair, not as individuals. It was the first time either of
them had ever seen any statue move other than when the lottery was being
announced, and they were addressed collectively.
"What?" Said Kate, baffled. "Neil, are we celebrities? We fucking are,
we're famous! Woohoo!" She held her half-empty beer in the air for a
second, then dropped it back by her side and continued, "No, wait...
celebrities are knobs," prompting Neil to laugh aloud. He stood looking
at one of the statues as it jeered him on, then threw his beer bottle at
it, smashing it across the face. Mid-sentence it went silent, assuming
its normal posture. "That's more like it, mate, lets get pissed!" They
carried on, walking and drinking, enjoying more merriment with every
emptied bottle, and before too long they were at the edge of town,
outside the very last pub, The Brimston Cavern Tavern. They weren't
going to go in on account of Kate's being barred for lewd behavior, but
they both needed the toilet so they snuck in, used the facilities and
"Full of bloody tourists anyway." Said Neil, and with the city behind them, they marched into the forest.
The forest was a large, dark hollow left behind by the long dried
up Loch Dis, dense with thousands of huge, dead tree roots which hung
down from the blackness above, some pierced the lake bed where only a
glimmer of light was reflected, having splintered through from above the
mountain beyond, where the breach of Brimston and Glasgow was. They
walked carefully and in silence until the light began to greet them in
tall, thin beams, and the forest finally opened up to the foot of Mt.
Apollyon. The mountain was massive, looming menacingly with the godly
glow of sunlight from the world above which shone through the hole in
Brimston's roof, hanging directly over the mountaintop just as a halo
would hang, shimmering, above an angel. They stepped out into the
dazzling flood of daylight and began their ascent.
“Wow, it's really bright... and I'm staggering about all over the shop
here. You know that way when hills just seem to develop all around you?”
"We're on a hill, you twat."
"Yeah, I know, but I think my stupor's making it a bit more hilly than it actually is."
"Neil, mate, it's a bloody mountain. There's no such thing as 'more hilly'."
"Is a volcano still called a mountain?"
"Fuck knows, it's a bastard either way. Let's stop for a bit." They sat
and looked out at the stillness of the forest. To the right of it, away
in the distance, they could make out the fires of the Brimston
"After the last eruption, when the barrier broke, they called us the
Eighth Wonder of the World. The real Atlantis. Then they got to know
us." Said Neil.
"Twats. Having said that, I think I’m generally quite an honest person. You know, when I’m not telling lies."
"You are, Kate. You're the best person I know. If you weren't you wouldn't be with me now."
"I suppose, yeah. Come on, let's drink the rest of these at the top."
“You know, apparently everyone up there says drink's a depressant.”
“Ha! Only when you’re sober.”
The cliff-face grew so jagged that the radiance of the sun was
shattered over it, then so sheer with overhang that they found
themselves back in their familiar shade and had to circle the slope on a
narrowing ledge, spiraling the dark, scraggy, towering height until the
ridge at their feet became barely passable faltering rubble.
Side-stepping with their backs to the cliff, they eventually found a
pitch-black cranny and followed it up, single file, into the mountain.
"You got a match?" Said Kate.
"Why, you going to fart?"
"Ha! Aye, right in your face, you twat. I cant see a bloody thing."
"Me neither, I don't like carrots."
"Hold on... Yeah, I think there's light ahead." The tunnel mellowed and
broadened to walkable rough-rock as they ebbed towards the light. They
were awkwardly stumbling, giggling and swearing at how ridiculous
climbing a mountain was drunk, when they were suddenly completely
side-swiped with awe, finding themselves again in sunlight, but now
surrounded by lush, overgrown grass, flowers and foliage. "What the
"I honestly have no idea. I've never seen anything like it. Never even heard of anything like this."
"It's ace!" The garden was completely still, like a larger-than-life
three-dimensional photograph all of their own, and as they strolled
through the soft expanse, ushering the only movement, they inspired
thousands of seeds, leaves and petals of all colours to fall and float
gently around them. They continued up the easy gradient, elated, all the
way to the volcano's mouth at the far side of Brimston town, where they
stood and looked up out through the breach at the grey/blue sky above
which seemed a lot lower than they had expected.
"It's moving. Is it supposed to do that?" Said Neil.
"I don't think so. Maybe, though."
"Do you think things would've been better if we'd been able to move up there?"
"Nah, there's supposed to be people up there haven't brushed their teeth
in so long, when they open their mouth all you get's white noise."
"Yeah, and thugs that don't know the difference between a paedophile and
a Paediatrician. And I hear their licensing laws are just ridiculous."
Neil looked down to his feet then at the mouth of the volcano in front
of them. "I'm just so sorry Kate. I haven't got the words."
"I know mate. Look at it this way, if I'd won it'd still be us two standing here."
"You think? I'm not sure I meet the required standards."
"Don't sell yourself short, Neil. You're awesome. And anyway, I've lived
my half-life to the full." At that moment they both felt something gently soak
their skin, and saw it was tiny pellets of water falling from the sky. "What is it?"
"I don't know."
"It's amazing!" Kate looked at Neil, the sunshine above put to shame by
her eyes. She stepped forward, peering over the edge of the volcano at
the molten inferno rising below, then turned her back on it, downed the
rest of her beer, smiled her broadest smile, and cool as stone carved
into beauty, she lent back and let herself fall, appeasing Mt.
Apollyon's hunger, ensuring it would not need to erupt.
Copyright Roddy Smith 2015.