Rapha Cycle Club, Soho by Nathaniel Fowles
Rapha Cycle Club, Soho by Nathaniel Fowles

She was born bow in hand, slinging her very first arrow through her mother’s skull, slaying the malignant cunt dead where she lay, then one more just after, swift through the bitch mid-wife’s throat who was holding a dagger high and ready. Her father had long since fled, knowing full well the thing he was and the thing his daughter would be. He had only asked that she be named after her birth-cry, a cry he had heard on conception, a cry so trill that when she was born it carried for miles and drew blood from every eardrum north of the river, a cry she cried long after her banishment, both a lament for the dead and the dead to come, and a warning for all time that she was born bloodthirsty and in chase, a cry and a name to stay a reminder that even if it meant death, even if it meant every death, she would never stop her hunt—a cry and a name to mark a ferocious fucking juggernaut to which respect must be given and caution shown. [private]

The thing was, out in the wilds, abandoned and alone, chasing and crying, she began to burn, a trickle at first from the embers of a countryside campfire but as she grew, the fire raged terrific in the window of a gin shop, then glowed brilliant and furious like a trillion tellies and singed the air around. And when her ironstone skin burnt molten white and beautiful, and it didn’t quench or even cool, it became quite clear that she would never age, that she would always be young, feckless and desired. And so, despite the warning of both her name and her cry, the masses flocked to her. They trampled Messiahs and rules and whole villages in the stampede, all wanting, all craving her eternity. They washed her warmth on their faces—gulped down her phosphorescence and liquid crystal diodes, inhaled her rays of curling, spiralling beams, her LED’s, her twinkling flashes—all dazzled and itchy, numbed and light-stoned.

They began to run at full sprint beside her in the chase, calling her name, wanting her in their lives so much that they completely lost the fucking run of themselves, forgetting the warning, hollering for her, reaching for her, craving and yearning to join in her hunt until their breath shortened and the cartilage in their knees ground down, until their hamstrings snapped and muscle tore from bone, and when they finally slowed she was unmerciful, letting loose an arrow that pierced their chests and exploded their hearts, and as they died in her wake, gurgling and spitting blood, they wondered why them because their crave made them mad and deluded and clueless.

And still she chased and cried, chewing up life with grinding teeth, guzzling up months and years, a never-ending canter, beginning all over again, teaching new children through mistakes of the dead in fleeting moments of clarity with a raw and stone-sweet voice, showing them the leaflet touts, the charity muggers, the panhandlers, the addicts, the street sketchers, the human signs, the event promoters and made them take tactic from it all. She showed them the bike thieves slithering around dark corners to check the racks for loose wheels and flimsy cable locks, bolt-cutter boners in their tracksuit pants. She showed them the butter-wouldn’t-melt guys, the not-doing-nothing-to-no-one-officer guys, who whispered blow about, need blow? She showed them the phone snatchers waiting by the tube exits, the long-lost friends putting their arms around the drunk’s shoulders and snatching the wallet with their free hand. She showed them the couples on first dates kissing goodbye, the girl hailing a black cab and zipping off home with a smile on her face then the guy jumping on his phone for the old reliable. She taught from initiations gone awry and situational stalemates and made sure they had the right answer the next time. She taught the angles to play, the tricks of the trade. She taught the role of cheeky scallywag, the entertainer, always sharp with quips and comebacks and then when all that could be learned was learnt, she sent them to the front line of the hunt.

They searched first in art. The writers pickled their livers in the chase, words simply not enough, crying autonomy of language as their hearts exploded from the infallible arrow. The musicians who sang things for sake of the thing turned voiceless and redundant and she often shot them down in their prime, and nights slung on past like a dead animal, and painters, poets, dancers and actors all fell by the wayside.

They searched in love but found it too unstable a thing, a thing that changed with time and could never be fully found because of it.

They searched in money, in Lamborghini Murcielagos, in thousand pound bottles of champagne, in gold-trimming, guestlists and exclusivity, coming back to her, heralding it all a sinking ship, only to be shot through the heart with an arrow for the effort. And forward still they cantered, searching in work, using caffeine in the morning for instant determination, bottled energy in the afternoon, television at night. Hoards of them fell under the arrow.

They searched in fucking. They fucked and sucked and balled, writhed in orgasm, clawed and scratched and bit and caught an ephemeral glimpse but lost it as fast.

They searched their own bodies. They inked and pierced and self-flagellated, scarified and the trapped women chopped their own cocks off and gobbled oestrogen, the caged men popped testosterone to grow dicks in attempt to find something but their search, their search came up empty, purpose always that one cunt hair away, and it was not enough—it did not escape her arrow—and the fiends and moon-juiced, the pot-valiant and the chemically enhanced searched for it one moment, one piece of perfect, everyone, all of them and all at once in pursuit of purpose, trying for God or reason or an answer.

And still she chased, hot on the heels of the thing they did know and could not see, only felt in the tailwinds of her hunt, falling under her bow, unable to keep pace, falling as monstered men and women who knew there was some meaning somewhere but could not quite grasp it, who died cursing her unanswered question. Because in the distraction of their search, they had all forgotten or at least chose not to remember the warning that had been issued alongside her, the name she was given, the cry she cried. The dazzled and itchy, numbed and light-stoned that packed the cemeteries with arrows in their hearts had all forgotten, too. They were but the game. They were never the search. The search was more than they could ever be. They had forgotten that it was all more than just one person, that it was her not them, that she was the search—she was the hunt. Because wanting eternity and being eternal were different things. Because a small part was all that was needed from them. They were never the whole chase and never could be. She would always outlast. She would change and forge the future path, not them and they would fall and would always fall under slings and arrows, because that was what men were for, and nobody would ever be safe from her as she upturned pub and church alike for her cause, stomping through her streets with fists clenched and teeth grit, knocking down entire buildings if she had to, burning and gripping hard in charge, hunting and crying all the while—Soho—Soho—Soho. [/private]

David McGrath

About David McGrath

David McGrath has won the Peirene Press Short Story Competition, StorySlam Live and was highly commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize 2013. He received Most Valuable Player for writing from Liars League London 2013 and placed third in the Words with Jam Story Competition 2014. He lives in London.

David McGrath has won the Peirene Press Short Story Competition, StorySlam Live and was highly commended in the Manchester Fiction Prize 2013. He received Most Valuable Player for writing from Liars League London 2013 and placed third in the Words with Jam Story Competition 2014. He lives in London.

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