HAVE YOU MET THE NIGHT?

Have you met the night?

No, really. Have you?

Not just been stroked by its sleek darkness or soothed by a distant coolness that masquerades as sensual menace. Nor simply travelled the moonlit ways that cheat and deceive, but never really fool the void treader. No, I mean the real thing. The blue-black depths. The ancient fissure where a billion years of chilling cold leaks into the world and turns your blood to dust. Yes, that night. The one where he lives. The one called Genge. The grinder of bones. He is the night.

You will know him when you see him, but only in the instant that you can tolerate his brutality. He is the blunt edge of night. The darkside terminator. The light of day cannot cleanse his flesh, but with yours he will feed when he has had his way. No, you have not met the night for if you had, you could not bear these words. Could not anticipate such painful intensity. But it is coming. Inevitably and indefatigably he walks. Genge draws up from the wells of torment. He crosses the wildest beyond.

Ever closer, ever darker.

This is the night you face.

From the stars came Genge. Out of the cool corridors of celestial complacency he spun from his orbit into your midst. Assuming human form, he strode amongst you, not as a splendid Adonis as he should have, but inconspicuous in grey infiltration until the night madness claimed him. I watched forlorn as the shining scales of sophistication were shed in the darkness until only a pristine and primitive force remained; no longer Genge, the gleaming and the glorious, but simply the wild wreaker of havoc whose motives at the time eluded me.

And why would such a creature devolve so, I hear you ask? Why would the voyager of sparkling stellar seas plunge to these depths amongst beings that he so clearly despised? Well, I say to you, that the ways of gods are not to be questioned. Not to be rationalised by one such as you. Our paths are too distinguished, our reasoning divinely enigmatic and all you or even I need to know is that Genge requires no justification for his ravenous hubris.

So who am I to issue such decrees? To insist upon your compliance and ensure that you know your place? Well, I am the alternative. The antidote to the shocking savagery that is Genge. It is true that he and I are of the same ilk. Offspring of the cosmic deities that wander the great expanse, crafting harmonious balance as they advance, yet sometimes our notions of symmetry differ. He is the deconstructor, the devastator of form while all I offer is a simple peace. I am the soothing silence to his ragged noise.

Do you wonder why I tell you this? Why my counsel is for your ears alone? Perhaps you consider yourself extraordinary or favoured by the elite? Do not be deceived. Genge hungers for your vitality not your company and no plaintive cries for mercy or exemption will even register upon his consciousness. Your significance, I'm afraid, is subatomic. My words only reach you to alleviate my boredom. For Genge, you are merely an anonymous transporter of blood and bones.

I catch the glint of scorn in your eyes. I notice the curl of your lip, the twitch of your nose. A thousand times before, I have seen these sneers only to watch them be scraped away by gore-encrusted claws that heed no pleas for mercy. Disbelief will not deter the destroyer nor will ignorance be any defence. Genge will meet corruption and compassion and treat those two imposters just the same, for without a second's meek hesitation, he will crush the virtuous as well as the venal. He is the night, the bleakest of hours and you will surely feel its chill if even for a second you catch his eye.

And catch his eye you most certainly will. History is full of dark corners where the fearful cower, but their masks quickly dissolve under his blistering inspection. In Genge's world, only the light is lost. A drumbeat pulse will soon draw his attention though it is really the stench of fear, drifting like plague across the world, that stimulates the particles that drive him. Can you dissuade your furious heart from beating out a revealing tattoo? No, you cannot. Will you expose your position with waves of dread? Of course you will. They all do. Genge has no need of the invitation that your mutinous organs transmit. He is the ultimate stalker. A relentless exterminator.

So now do you take me seriously?

Are you yet convinced such a creature stirs in the world and not just in your nightmares? You would do well to believe for as each sunset shimmers then sinks lazily into evening ashes, a furious, devouring night hurtles forward on its heels; its teeth jagged and sudden like some great serpent from the deep. The folds of darkness are razor-sharp. They flash silver in his hands before scarlet trails tint their brightness. Genge is no artist or devotee of finesse. His strokes are broad and long.

My words have unsettled you, I see. So much so that you contemplate flight. Where will you go then? To the barren and inhospitable north, perhaps? Where a man might subtly blend with the damp earth beneath an impenetrable pine canopy, settle in remote anonymity? Or maybe amongst the western towers, to become lost and faceless in the burgeoning throng? Could the southern tropics smother your taint for you can be sure that there will be no concealment in the east from where the night advances with Genge in the vanguard. Perhaps you consider the moon in your evident dismay?

Despite my levity, I am quite serious in my warnings. All destinations are equally dangerous when you mistrust your shadow. Don't let your panic mislead you. If you travel in eccentric patterns, might then the beast will be beguiled? No. He will note your erratic twists and turns then match your course. Genge is the ultimate hunter. Such a tracker of morsels seeking to outflank him shall not be starved of spirited blood nor the engorged muscle that drives it. So settle down now and listen to me before you present yourself so eagerly for his table.

Far away, in all but memory, yet still a few miles from the edge of the world, a being stained by crimson dusk stands silent and still with his head tipped back. Idly watching the sun expire. At his feet, a life similarly ebbs away, pumping and pulsing in diminishing spasms then with a rasping sigh, vanishes smoothly into darkness along with the sky and the rocks and the dust.

The creature waits patiently until the last orange talons lose their purchase on the horizon then slowly raises his black, scarlet-streaked hands allowing the thick blood to trickle down his fingers and drip on to his face. He opens his mouth. Extends a swollen tongue in search of revitalizing fluids. In his throat, something old and dry rattles, but soon blooms in the hot immersion. Laughter like the pealing of a cracked, brittle bell reverberates discordant to all corners of the new night.

Genge is ready. He is galvanised. His solitary quest is underway and the bones of the earth tremble to his footfall. Once he resembled a man, but now the sinews slither, his muscles torque as his frame extends and all those human characteristics which he emulated so carefully have now distorted in his rage. Maybe his hair is wild and his red eyed stare only moments from madness, but there is still a languid grace in his loping run. A remnant of forgotten days when he marched like a conqueror over the dust of ancient stars. Somewhere beneath the ferocious flesh, the real Genge lurks and I have not lost all hope of his recovery.

Across the dirt he rumbles eroding the cooling air in front of him with corrosive breath. One sound passes his lips and speeds ahead into the night. His night. A word. A terrible word. So all the sons and daughters of man know he is coming.

"Die!" Genge bellows. And the creatures of the air shrivel.

"Die!" It echoes on. And the denizens of the water seek unbearable depths.

"Die!" The command still lingers. And the once fertile land decays.

Genge smiles and thunders on.

The flickering city squats before him, its rhythmic gyrations failing to stir his implacable core. Genge stands impervious to provocation. His emotional immunity bends on occasion, but then only to the grim satisfaction that accompanies destruction. If the sight of blood trickling slowly away like spilled wine through neon stripes was ever seductive to one who hugs the shadows, then it was fleeting and no more than the unnatural lust that drives a monster.

The monster stops, rubs its hands together and salivates. Genge spares no time for the dry fragrant winds that stir the dirt from the road. He ignores a revealing moon and the sly, accusing stars that bring unwelcome exposure to his grisly excavations. The urban corruption calls to him, inviting his brand of indiscriminate cruelty into her embrace as if he were one of her own. She sings out in wretched notes and flaunts her fecund sensuality. Genge sneers at the wanton complacency. He will not be distracted. He will recognise no equal.

At the civilised edge, Genge sniffs the air. He smells their fetid whispers, the secret conspiracies that desolate humans employ so contemptuously to preserve their future. He spits his disgust into the ground. He will rip their snivelling conceit from them. Tear loose the majesty of existence that sets them so high, but has for so long been denied to him. Genge bares his teeth to the wind and hisses his resentment. It is night. His night and he will be denied no longer. Into the city he thrusts. He is the blurred blade. The arcing scythe. The streets run red and carnage reigns.

Genge does not hurry. He is meticulous in his rending. His appetites know no limit and soon the taste in his mouth is no longer bitter. His empty night has taken shape and the cries of the demolished fill it with music. She who had called to him, cajoled him, from the heart of the city stands aghast at his ruthlessness. In ruins, she withdraws to tend her wounds. Genge does not notice. His frenzy is over. From the warm pools of wreckage he emerges and nothing in his eyes suggests that pity ever dwelt there.

A sliver of light ripples the distance. Genge shudders and frowns his displeasure. He grinds his teeth as the intrusion jars him. Now his night is no longer pure and the moment has come to depart. The stains of a polluting sun seep forward into darkness forcing him from the killing grounds. There will come a time, he muses as he runs, when the spoiling star will rise no more and then the dark stretches of eternity will belong to him.

Do you see it now? Has the sheer audacity of his violence made an impression upon you? For millennia I have watched the naive hordes bare their throats to his pitiless bite; their gazes limpid blue and guileless. Locked in strange fascination, they tumble like pillars of ancient glory beneath the barbaric advance of heathen avarice; blood congealing into cold smears of a long life lost. You should not be one of them. You must rise above. Be anything but a thin phantom of fading regret. Genge will take everything from you and rinse it away. Do not be expunged. A drop in the ocean is a drop nonetheless.

In his recess he remains, sure in the knowledge that the sickening brightness has always and will ever decay. Genge does not sleep nor does he dream for the tastes and touches never leave him. He simply waits as still as stone until once more his soothing night returns with its songs of lust and longing. The thick rhythm of blood, dripping through the empty darkness of his memory is calming. He smiles. Now he remembers. The heartbeats call to him and he will answer. Soon, he promises them. Soon.

And then in an instant of shocking clarity, he turns towards you.

"Why me?" I hear you whimper.

"Why not?" is my curt reply.

Now you will see.

Now you will try but fail to understand.

Now the agonising gaze is upon you.

Now you will meet the night.

Hush now! Contain your misery. I dislike the whine of falling tears. There is a chance. Small, I'd say, as small as you. Yet still a chance. You must use the tides of light to conceal yourself. Be bright, too bright to notice. Do not hide in secret places for he is there before you. Even where the air is thin, there will be no room for whispers when darkness squeezes. Stay in the day. Outrun the nightfall clouds that will rake your back with grasping fingers. Only in the world of brilliance will Genge not travel, but be sure that he is ever vigilant in his blindness. Make moving forward just like breathing for soon one will become dependent upon the other.

Ultimately, your task is simple although many that have fled before have made such elementary mistakes. Sometimes, so elaborate are they in their bids to weave convincing misdirection that instead of reflecting harmless illusions they blaze like novae in a starlit sky. Be bright, but not brilliant. My instructions are not riddles for the deft to penetrate. Radiate, do not scintillate.

But I see that you consider more spiritual solutions. More solvent agencies of appeal. Your eyes flick upwards in pleas so earnest that I'm moved by your sincerity, but Genge too has faith in such petitions. He glories in the blood of those whose lips still hold the word. Grey stones of sanctuary are puny and powerless against hands that do not burn beneath the scrutiny of the cross. In his night the signs grow dim and when the black is deep and hungry you will forget your entreaties as the jaws snap tight. Seek the light by all means, but when you find it, you can never leave it.

So. Can you breathe yet?

Have the shreds of ritual bondage fallen from your shoulders?

Have you left your childish things behind?

Will you walk into the sun and shed your skin?

Why do you resist? What have you to lose? Surrender yourself to the tranquil blue of endless days and thwart the monster's murderous embrace. Certainly, he will thrash and snarl in his rage. Yes, he will curse your very soul from the caverns of the night, but no slicing claw will incise your flesh. Not a drop of blood will feed his fury. Genge, the grinder of bones, cannot be stopped while he casts a moonlight shadow. but you can foil him with a single step. Take my hand and accept the future while you still have one.

The morning dissipates like the dew before it and yet you do not move. I find your obduracy incomprehensible. Gentle breezes carry the warmth of a noon sun across your skin yet the caress fails to draw you from your torpor. Still you stand. Still you resist. Your shadow at last tries to pull away as it lengthens to the tug of late afternoon. The jet stream of time flows around you as you push against the world's spin, but the sun grows ever distant as your life erodes. The sad, slow notes of evening ring out across the land. It is time. I will offer only once more and then the howling, frothing, screeching madness that is Genge will be upon you.

Finally, you raise your head.

Not a moment too soon. The imposing shade of churning night looms like a great black wave at your shoulder; ready to release the splintering force that is Genge. Your hand is dry and loose with mistrust yet desperation drives you on to higher ground. You fidget with apprehension as we climb. Still the roars of outrage discharge like cannon fire from the trailing dark. Draining tension adds speed to your gait. You forge on in retreat.

A reptilian smile flickers.

It is not yours.

It is not Genge.

It is mine.

Into the heat we go.

How do you interpret the warmth? Is it a saving grace? A radiant salve? Perhaps your popping eyes perceive a golden cascade that can only be the beneficent attention of a noble spirit. As we get closer, you cast a cautious glance at the flaming sky. I am on the point of crushing your feeble dreams and impossible convictions, but there is not room in your head for my explanations. We ascend in silence. Somewhere, a lifetime away, Genge sees your shrinking shadow recede and shatters the fragile twilight with a dull roar.

Genge looks up again and shifts his burning gaze to me. Our eyes graze and sparks fly, but it had not always been so. Once our thoughts had conspired and in concert we translated the great ciphers with solutions of elegance and power. Our imaginings were the talk of wondrous beings and our names synonymous with grace and harmony. Alas, the ages have stained us. We are vulgar fractions of a once towering alliance and I feel his frustration as I feel my own. These fickle creatures of flesh and bone make obliging prey, but they serve only to remind me of the depths to which we have sunk.

Once, eons ago, when the affairs of men were merely the carnivorous duels of simian aspirants, Genge first planted his feet upon the shifting earth. It was, I'm sad to say, the beginning of the end. From my lofty peak, I watched him roam. Admired his sinuous flair as he ranged amongst this stumbling flock practicing his new art; administering his killing blows. At first, the bloodlust seemed crude and indulgent to me for I could not penetrate his intent. This raw dexterity seemed too coarse an exercise for a being of such refinement. And I was not alone in this concern.

The mighty looked down upon his works and did indeed despair. Those cultured colossi sneered at his pretence; so disapproving were they of his ill-conceived ambition that they shunned his displays and sentenced him to exile amongst the creatures of weakling flesh. Genge did not relent. Nor would he ever do so. Into the cold darkness he drifted, flailing this way and that in elaborate lunges. I wept to see this once distinguished hero so low and in my misery and madness, resolved to join him. To my everlasting regret, I did not grasp the subtlety of his design.

My mind wanders through halcyon days and then back again to despondency. From tumultuous times to this thin existence in which I guide you from the whirlwind fields of explosive disassembly into my own more subtle arbour of searing attrition. I sense something of your confusion, but it is nothing compared to my own feelings of resentment and loss. Is it from this desperate melancholy that Genge draws his potent rage? Should I too seek catharsis from more vehement displays? I sigh softly and soldier on. Once more the semblance of a question shapes your lips, but I am in no mood to explore the inevitable. You catch my look and subside. Climb on, is my only unspoken advice.

The slope is not arduous, but in such a shallow atmosphere your lungs labour as does your poor starved brain. My alarming descriptions of the villainous Genge have struck home and now any direction that is away will do. Remain calm, is my most sincere suggestion. In this rarefied air there is no need to concentrate your meagre resources in deducing your destination. Nor should you exhaust your depleted energies in search of alternatives. The step has been made. Genge no longer has claims upon your essence. It is now required elsewhere.

At the summit we rest. It is the last time you will do so.

If you dared look back, you would see that the crest of breaking nightfall had swept your footprints from the path. Erased your imprint from the world. Genge has gathered your discarded atoms and sown them in the wind. He regrets nothing of your passing save, it seems, the knowledge that without his purging ministrations, your essence will never surge joyously through the elemental channels in search of true light.

And so I see it now. The gift of ascension was his plan all along. I had not understood. Had not conceived such magnanimity might be possible. When I took my stand against him, no such liberation had occurred to me. These creatures, in their death throes, were embarking upon a journey towards Godhood that I myself had abandoned. For Genge, the angel of the night. I would laugh at this delicate irony if I were not seething so with anticipation.

But you do not turn as your gaze is focused elsewhere. Do you feel the energy at last? Can you bear the new intensity that fills you? Not the smooth release you were hoping for perhaps? No, I thought not. The heat, my heat, draws your moisture. You seem surprised when the flesh of your hands begins to erupt. When the blood boils up beneath in purple blisters. It is only when the dust that forged your bones starts to separate in the furnace that the pain becomes so very real. Are you shocked to discover a genuine Hell?

Out in the brilliant world.

Out of the night.

It is by no means the first time that I have witnessed horror at this revelation. It is a rather piquant twist to the enduring delight of your collapse. A wicked spice in the rich ambrosia that is ruin. Rapt agony is all very well, but it lacks the drama that Genge injects into his work. Since my earlier introspection, I am aware of some dissatisfaction with my craft and so am alert to the finer, more sensuous details of conflagration. Perhaps you will be the one to restore me. With some glee, I anticipate my renaissance in the heat as you burn.

Despite my elation, I am concerned. No, not concerned, bemused. Why do I tell you of these things? What insolent sleight do you think to perform from the confines of your pyre? Through your tears that vaporise into the heartless sky, is there a vestige of cunning that might set you above these lines of tormented beacons who still smoulder upon this hilltop? No, of course not. It is just my imagination. Genge has distracted me with his reproachful glare. I do not share his interest in your kind. Puny mortals are artless shells that house no real talent for deception. Artifice is too high a virtue for your lumbering minds.

Even so, a trace of disquiet remains. Genge, of course, cares nothing for these nuances. His notions, though sharp, are more linear and direct. I might envy his single-minded force, but for his lack of variety which is a bleak and cheerless thing. Once, so long ago, he was as arch as I and between us we would forge such perilous plans in the furnaces of reason that their very existence could bring the weeping universe to its knees. Now we are simply instinct and impulse. And it is these very sensations that have set my nerves tingling now. I must attend to you before the urge to investigate further gets the better of me.

If you are afraid to die, I will spare you that. The agony of disintegration is not finite. The fire is never extinguished. Your continuing inflamed vitality is assured as the pain burns ever on. Purity, I'm sorry to say, is unattainable. Smoke hisses between your teeth as your tongue scorches. I am astounded when your ragged lips again form the shape of a word. Suppressing my distaste, I lean forward to catch your lingering sulphurous breath. The harsh, grating whisper is a pitiful lament.

"Help me!"

I am disappointed at the banality.

You try again.

"Help me... Genge... help me!"

I spring back as if poisoned and throw up my hands to the sky. The name of the night! Summoned! Here, on the punishing hills of light. Before your eyes boil away, do I spot a glint of satisfaction flickering there? White light, turned blue at its edges, flashes like a summer storm. I stagger from the pull of a hundred new shadows while old wounds throb like fresh incisions. The hot air locks tight and still, but the ground shifts just a little to the left. I shudder. Time shudders. A hollow moan issues forth from the aching sky and then darkness falls.

It crashes around me in silent sheets. The heat, my heat, is sucked away into the vortex of an instant eclipse yet still burnt upon my eyes is the image of that ruined smile that would not vacate your face. Too late for recriminations. About anything. I feel the emptiness crawl up next to me and settle like some dying beast. No shadows writhe here. No pungent vapours of charred flesh pierce the icy gloom. It is an anonymous vacuum that does not even have the virtue of being peaceful. I wait. I wonder. I am grateful.

Finally, from the blackness a voice growls savagely in my ear.

"Have you met the night?"

"No really. Have you?"

THE END