We finally won through to the strong-room to which the Lictor had retreated with his chosen men – the elite of humanity’s warriors, his last bulwark. In order to have got this far we had had to fight our way through an army of android replicants, each one taking on the face and form of someone particularly dear to us. Their cries were all too real as we cut them down, but we did not falter. Our faces were grim masks of stone, our blades blurs of death in the air. We had at last tracked down and cornered our slippery supernatural adversary and we were not about to be put off by any of his wiles.
‘Go not forth when the Lictor passes by’, the future-prophet Zoroaster has warned us in his wisdom but this time that accursed enemy of human kind was going to find the boot on the other foot. I kicked in the reinforced six-inch oak door and we rushed in, careless of what awaited us. The elite warriors were waiting and sprang at us – in hundreds of years, none of them had ever been vanquished in battle. They would taste bitter defeat now however, I promised myself grimly, my sword moving too fast for the human eye to follow, and too fast for any Lictor’s eye to follow either I fancied, as I fought my way through the ring of heroes that surrounded us. I could see the Lictor now, sitting apparently unconcerned in his jewel-encrusted leather seat, watching as his hand-picked men fell one by one, with a bored look on his face.
He laughed mockingly as I approached him, his cold metallic eyes shining with poisonous mirth, “We both know you’re not going to kill me,” he said softly, in those horribly hypnotic liquid tones so characteristic of the Lictor kind, “for do we not both serve the same master?” My companions turned to look at me at this, wondering what the creature meant perhaps. They stood there, waiting to see me dispatch him. The moment had arrived at last – the balance of power on this world and untold reams of its parallels would be changed forever with a single decisive movement of my sword. Unaccountably, I hesitated. I stood there, apparently in a moment of indecision, and I could see that repulsive mocking smile growing slowly wider and wider on the Lictor’s frighteningly unpleasant face…
Then everything suddenly came to an abrupt halt. What had been a living moving unfolding moment that I had been part of had now been turned into a frozen tableau. The Game-Cycle had been interrupted. It is always disconcerting when something you think can’t stop does exactly that. It’s as if the whole world were a moving bus and you didn’t realize it and then the bus suddenly stops dead and then – retrospectively – you do realize it. Or perhaps a better way of describing it would be to say that it is as if time itself suddenly came to a stand-still when you didn’t know that it could, when you had no idea that this was possible, and it was only then you realized that there had never actually been any such thing as time…
The frozen moment then broke up with a soundless crash like a giant pane of glass hit by an immense iron bar wielded by a giant and everything devolved into thousands and thousands of frantic mini-games, all of which are somehow running simultaneously, spinning like little glittering wheels. In one of these fragmented micro-realities I am sitting across from two plainclothes detectives in an interview room in Union Grove Police Station, in South London. I am being questioned in relation to the death of a man in Vauxhall Park the night before. I am not suspected of having anything to do with the death, I am informed, but they want to know if I saw anything unusual that night. They knew I had been in the area – one of their sources had identified me. I told them that I hadn’t seen anything and eventually – reluctantly – they let me go.
I never talk to the police – it’s a point of honour with me, one of the few I have left. I could tell that they suspected me of knowing more than I was saying however and I also had the distinct feeling that they were – in some way – right in their suspicions. I was hazy on this point because I didn’t have any memory of the evening. There was a nasty gap from six in the evening to when I woke up in the hostel this morning. Feeling sicker and more depressed than I can ever remember having felt before. I had the very unpleasant feeling that this was the type of gap from which anything could emerge. Anything at all. Maybe I had killed someone? And then as soon as I had this worrying thought I immediately had another, far stranger one – maybe this was the afterlife and someone had killed me?