3LBE 16
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by Graeme Penman


I hate him.

It is a tragic fact that while the kind and generous die young the cruel and insipid live long healthy lives. And in all the world there is none as unpleasant and miserly as a warlock, so there is little surprise that the greatest of that near forgotten profession live to ripe old ages. In his youth the warlock will drink, smoke and abuse himself terribly because he is so drunk on his own magnificence he doesn’t believe his legend will ever end. Then as the years go by even if our warlock gets no wiser he will start taking better care of himself. He will care for himself as best as he can so he can collect and hold desperately on to every waking moment, not because he wants to spend them wisely or because he wants a particularly long life but because, as previously stated, a warlock is a miser by nature and gathers anything he can to himself whether he needs it or not. A habit acquired through searching for spells, sigils, incantations, artifacts and information no other warlock has discovered. Because there is nothing a warlock hates more than another warlock. And that is why we will never be ruled by them, because every time one starts to rise a dozen will leap up and tear him down again.

Among any profession there are always high achievers regardless and while any given warlock would argue until he was blue in the face about who is the greatest of his kind, generally putting forward his own name, your average person, one like you or any child in the street, would unflinchingly say “The greatest of all warlocks in this age is named, Julius Barnum.” And if asked why each and every one of them would say, “Because he made us live forever.”

I hate him. I hate Julius Barnum. I hate him. I hate him.

There are a great many members of the opposite sex who have a great dislike for him also, though not so great a dislike as I in all likelihood. When Barnum was casting his greatest achievement across the world he knew there would be a price to pay but he couldn’t care less because he was flying towards the history books. In one moment a million women felt the greatest loss that gender can feel, the greatest misery known to the female species. Every pregnant woman in the world miscarried. Everyone was struck barren too, though it took us some time to realise it. Immortality had its price but it has benefits too. I was shot through the head a moment after the spell took hold across the world and while it hurt like hell I was healed in a few moments without a scratch on me. That was three years ago today. I have been twenty-four for three years.

So today I walked down the street to my newsagents, sidestepping the kids playing with Uzis outside my building. One had his knees shot off as I passed and started crying while the others laughed, his mother ran out into the street on hearing his shrieks, some of us still haven’t adapted to the pain without destruction. A car, speeding through the busy streets at almost 100 miles per hour ploughed through her without even slowing, she shrieked as well and her newly healed son ran across to drag her off the road before she became a nuisance. The other children went on laughing as a van trundled over both, crushing the boy’s head beneath its wheels and completely severing the mother’s arm. To teach them a measure of respect for life I grabbed the nearest of the children, couldn’t be older than ten, and threw him face first into an oncoming taxi. The windscreen shattered and the driver slowed enough to see the look of slight apology on my face.

I hate Julius Barnum.

I arrived at the corner shop with little more excitement, a small pileup of cars but little of interest. The same teenager works here as three years ago, immortality has had a huge effect on him, I can tell.

“The usual sir?”

“No, I am not in the mood for heroin today, just leave it out, and don’t bother with the newspaper either, always just the same old stories with the same old faces”

“Alright sir, anything else?”

“Yeah, stop calling me sir, I see you more than I see my own mother.”

“Alright sir.” Was his predictable reply. I sighed, took my bag and dropped a note on the counter.

“See you tomorrow kid.”

I never felt so old as when I stopped getting older.

My apartment looks almost like the day the world changed, her paintings still hung on every wall, her photograph on the bedside table. My beautifully crazy wife, the love of my life. Back when there were doctors they said she was a manic depressive and gave her pills but I was too doting, she would ask for a day without them, a day when she could feel awake, feel like herself again and I would always give it to her because secretly I wanted her back, wanted her to be vibrant and alive again, wanted her to love me without seeing those doped, sad cow eyes. Before long it was two days. Before long it was three days. Before long it was every day. I have made some changes, just for practicality, so that my routine is less difficult to uphold. The spare bedroom has tarpaulin on the floor and the walls. First thing I do each day is to replace the tarp, then I go to the shops. I took my shopping from the bag and separated it into little piles. I took the single bullet and loaded it into my gun and I prayed. I went into the spare bedroom and shut the door.

I came out ten minutes later and ran the tap in the kitchen over my head until all the bits of blood and bone and brains were out of my hair. Then I went to the graveyard with the same bunch of flowers I buy each day.

I hate Julius Barnum.



Graeme Penman - Raised from birth on a diet of literature, folk tales and tortilla chips, Graeme started writing speculative fiction as an act of teenage rebellion which rapidly blossomed into a lacklustre career. Articles based on his research for a series of novels have appeared in several new age magazines, his short fiction is appearing in an upcoming issue of The Blue Lady magazine, his back story and world building for the Rusted Blade role-playing game has gone largely unnoticed and he works sporadically as the Sub-Editor for the popular Forgotten Worlds magazine while acquiring seemingly irrelevant qualifications. The little free time he has is dominated by caring for his fiancé and two dogs, one of whom is conducting a subtle campaign of espionage to prevent him going outside by chewing up all his shoes.


January 2007