Parallel Part1: Prologue By Chris Kneipp

An office, or what had once been an office. Its wood panelled walls, soft lighting and fine furniture, testified to its opulence, but no glory remained. The room was shattered, destroyed by something sudden and violent that had swept in and left a blanket of silence over the rubble.
Unevenly distributed across the faded walls were darker rectangles. Once there had been framed boasts of high achievement and honour, but all were now gone. Someone’s life had ended in that place and even if they had survived the disaster, their life was over.
The rest of the office had been visited by the same chaotic force, its mark left on everything.
A large filing cabinet lay across the door. Broken shards of glass were strewn everywhere, with paper and debris covering every square inch of the floor. The disorder and silence filled the room, creating a tangible tension, like the hours after an earthquake waiting for a tsunami.
There at his desk was the room’s occupant, dishevelled and dull-eyed. Doctor Martin Francis Laynor, M.D.; obstetrician and murderer. He sat corpse-like in his chair, staring at a space neither in nor out of the room. Only a dim light of life remained in his eyes, like a cooling ember not quite dead.
The doctor’s appearance was a desperate cry for help, with his face unshaven, his grey whiskers matched his wild grey hair. Sprayed across his shirt, face and hands was what looked like drying blood.
In his mind Laynor still argued with himself “Murderer / Healer /Murderer / Healer”
The two concepts tumbled together struggling violently for his sanity.
Laynor’s mind was a blur of nightmarish images with no order or resolution.
The hospital nursery with many cribs and the peace of the sleeping new-borns.
The images were all mixed up in his head, coming in powerful waves, bitter and sweet, one after another.
The delivery of a child. The nurses, the midwife and the hysterical mother. All of them came into his memory as the conflicting thoughts continued to wrestle.
He’d attempted to write the report several times, but how could he explain the mother’s death? How would he explain the cold fire that only he saw, leaping from the child and destroying her? He could not believe the cold callousness of the child’s eyes nor the growing fear within himself. It was like bile in his throat, a silent dread that had been rising ever since seeing that child.
Laynor wrote, “The child already appears to be able to focus on objects, and is highly responsive to external stimuli. Pupil response is unusually advanced. Something is..,” he could not bring himself to write the words. Something deeply sinister, fearful and terrible, like malice personified.
Laynor remembered the eyes of the child. He could picture them, dark, almost black, and filled with a terrible knowing. The iris was indistinguishable from the pupil, and he relived the nightmare again of having looked into them. The child had been in his hands for only a moment, but that moment was burned into his mind’s eye.
“It’s stupidity to be frightened of a child. It’s just a child,” he rebuked himself.
“An evil child,” came the mental reply.
“Get a hold of yourself, Laynor. It’s just a child,” he said.
Yet even as Laynor was reproaching himself, a chilling thought was crawling into his mind. It forced its way into his personal hell, and would not leave. A resolve that was too grotesque to be given voice.
“If you don’t do it now, you’ll never have the chance again.”
Attempting to contain the quaver in his voice, Laynor had handed the child to the midwife and muttered the usual instructions, before departing the birthing suite, barely containing the urge to run.
Then the images of the birth lost their hold on him and the psychic storm returned once more, tearing at his fragile mind.
“Murderer/healer/murderer/healer.” The accusations were more powerful now, obscuring all other thoughts.
Pain and confusion filled the doctor’s mind and something more; something disturbing. At first he thought it was just the madness, but slowly it had grown in strength and malice.
Laynor began smashing his office. He tore the useless pieces of paper from the wall and smashed their frames, pushing the filing cabinet across the door to prevent anyone from entering his world of pain and madness. The child would come for him now. Finally spent he had grabbed his finest scotch and collapsed in his chair.
Less than a day was all it had taken for the child to destroy his life. It would have been incomprehensible to him only a day before but now he sat and drank 12-year-old Malt Scotch from the bottle. He tried to drown the quarrelling thoughts that filled his mind, to drive the suspicion of what he might have done from his head. As he lifted his hand to take another swill from the bottle, the crimson-brown spray confirmed his madness.
“Murderer/healer/murderer/healer/murderer/healer/MURDERER!” the wicked thoughts screamed.
Dark images came at him like shadows cast over his mind and it was more than he could bear. The implication of what he had done returned. All the while he obsessed over the child.
“Only a child/Evil//Child/Evil child,” The accusation consumed him.
“The child/Evil//Child/Evil child,” Slowly the appalling resolve had taken hold of his mind.
The wicked voice had waited for the perfect moment and uttered a single command.
“Kill the evil child.”
“I can’t.”
“No. Please, not that. I can’t.”
The pain, the madness and the wicked voice were overpowering and all Laynor’s defences crumbled.
The words had taken control holding Laynor like a puppet and there was nothing he could do.
Half-formed images flooded Laynor’s damaged mind. The nursery with many cribs. The peace of the sleeping newborns. The scalpel in his hand. Then a scream, high pitched, like fingernails on a blackboard.
Laynor recalled feeling no emotion as he turned and lunged at the duty nurse. Blood sprayed from a red line across her throat, spraying him and the sleeping infants. Laynor’s memory was filled with the sight of the nurse’s blood. So much blood and he had felt nothing.
“Evil child, Find, Kill.” Once more, the wicked voice spoke and Laynor obeyed.
The cause of his pain was the child and only in its death was peace to be found. There was no logic in the knowledge, just an inarguable instinct that drove him on towards that act of evil.
There were so many clear plastic cribs and they all looked alike. He’d thought blandly how he needed his glasses as he moved from one to another seeking that tiny monster. So many cribs and so many children and all of them identical.
Finally, he saw the deception.
“Hiding/Same/all/all the same,” the thought’s roiled. “Kill them ALL!”
He watched himself raise the blade again, the image clear and undeniable but then, darkness filled his mind, and the events that followed were lost. Try as he might, he could not recall what had next taken place.
Suddenly he had found himself back in his office, alone with the hole in his memory, and the unbearable madness. The mess, the fear, none of it caused him the anguish of the unanswered questions raised by the sprayed accusation of blood, turning red-brown.
Laynor considered his options and assumed the worst. The pain had passed now, leaving only numbness in the place where it had been. He was exhausted. What was needed was a sacrifice as an atonement for his sins.
Taking a large swig from the bottle Laynor began rifling through his drawers. Pills and vials chosen and stacked in a growing pyramid on the desk or discarded onto the floor as he rummaged for his exit. Blades he laid out in a line on the desk, along with syringes and assorted potential tools of self destruction.
He searched cupboards, cabinets and drawers, all the while stockpiling his armoury. As he reached the bottom draw he stopped, sighting the shiny edge of a well oiled cedar box; a memento of his time at the hospital. He pulled it out of the drawer and placed it on the edge of the desk. It was not very large, with a silver plate engraved on the lid. Lifting the lid revealed the contents which taunted him. The black starting pistol was awarded to the department that won the hospital charity games. Obstetrics had won it for the last three years running. A tear came into his eye.
In the soft light of his office the pistol looked real enough but fired only blanks. It’s impotence teasing him like an empty promise and without thinking he pulled the trigger. The replica exploded into life and the gunshot reverberated through the confines of the office.
“Great, deaf and crazy,” he said and then laughed. Taking another swig from the bottle he considered the mountain of options spread out before him.
Outside his office he heard scurrying feet and muffled voices, the sounds of panic were growing. Someone knocked on his door and he screamed obscenities finishing with a stern, “I’m busy.”
He began sorting through his collection of drugs and tools, weighing up his options carefully, writing notes on a pad. For a while he wrote notes for his treatment until he heard another knock at the door.
”Doctor Laynor, this is the police. We’ve got a few people worried about you, do you want to open the door and tell us what’s going on.” The voice seemed reasonable, almost pleasant.
“Go away,” Laynor shouted. He turned his back on the door and returned to the desk, his notes and the pistol.
Was it his thought or the child playing with him still, he had no way of knowing but either way he saw how the pistol could release him.
Opening the barrel he removed the spent cartridge and replaced it. He had two shots and if his plan was going to work he would have to be convincing. He smiled as he remembered his university days, doing amateur theatre. He could be quite convincing.
“I’ve got a gun, get away from the door or I’ll shoot.” He felt a strange exultation as he said his line and punctuated it with another gunshot. His ears ringing, he laughed at the thought of the headlines; remembered as the Medical Maniac who killed a bunch of newborns.
Suddenly the door heaved under the weight of the police as they rammed it. The lock splintered its housing with a terrible crack and the two policemen burst through.
Laynor prepared himself, calmly raising the pistol and pointing it at the shattering door. “Wait for your cue,” he joked wryly.
The tactical response police slammed against the door one more time, pushing the filing cabinet away and exposing them both to the barrel of Laynor’s harmless pistol. Laynor pulled his trigger again and the police revolvers echoed his shot.
Down in the nursery the babies lay without making a sound, all united by their bloody christening. All bound to the dark eyed child, Tyrren.

Max’s Eyes

It was one of those spring days when the sunshine falls like golden rain and it seems anything is possible. Max left his house at three minutes to nine, as always, and set off for his ritual morning walk. There were three or four different routes he could take but that morning he chose the nature strip between the Logan Motorway and the backs of the housing commission houses.
It was a surreal little walk passed the graffiti covered fences on the left and the chain link that caged a little patch of bushland on the right. A few trees adorn the strip of public space, as does the rubbish that has been thrown over the fence by people trying to remove the stink from their lives.
Discarded soft drink bottles filled with paint litter the ground, left behind by the Chromers that frequent the space at night. Yet on a spring morning such as that, Max saw only the beauty that poked its head above the chaos that other people had left in their troubled wake.
To his eyes the world was full of magic and it filled his eyes. Wattle like a flag of green and gold waved by the birds that played among the branches. Wattle birds and noisy minors chased each other while the rainbow lorikeets postured noisily or hung upside down like colourful clowns performing just for him.
As he passed a bloodwood tree he broke off a little of the sap, powdering it to a pink dust that glittered in the morning sun. Max had used the sap as a dye in the past, dissolving it in Metho to make a blood-red wood stain. The tannic smell was unlike anything else and the dry powder made a good styptic to staunch the flow of blood.
After one hundred metres or so, the trees gave way to a cleared area of grass, with a basketball half court and a dog off-leash area with its long missing gate.
Max hated that barren square. There was so little to distract him from the broken bottles that lay like mines in the unmown grass or the stench of decay and dog crap. Black crows ripped at the scraps that lay scattered next to a burned out bin, now a molten rotting lump glued to the concrete. The whole scene was like a piece of modern art entitled “All that’s wrong in the world.
The nature strip continued beyond the forty metre square and he decided to focus on it instead. He allowed the red flowers of the bottlebrush guide him across the emptiness like a beacon. The air between havens was full of unnatural sounds, the roar of the truck engines as they thundered down the road and the metal pounding rhythm of the industry on the other side of the motorway. All that cacophony confused his senses but he kept his eyes on the bottle brush beacon, and made it to the other side.
As Max reached the far side the trees whispered soothing words to him and he became calm once more. A butcher bird whistled a sweet morning song and the sounds of the outside world faded away to nothing. It was then that he felt it, a darkness in the morning light. Not an evil but a desperate product of the man-made world. He looked around to see the young hooded boy who stepped from behind a tree his eyes and face hidden from view.
“Hey mate, you got a smoke?” the young boy asked.
Max scrutinised the young man as he approached and said “I don’t smoke. Never felt like killing myself, sorry.”
“That’s okay, “the young child said as he pulled a flick knife from his pocket and threw back his hood.” I can buy some with your money. Hand it over.”
Max looked deep into the mugger’s eyes and laughed with a deep throaty laugh that was devoid of any fear. The hood tightened his grip on the knife as he stared back into the eyes of his laughing victim. It was a mistake to do so. He was in Max’s world now.
“Doesn’t that hurt?” Max asked pointing to the rose that now lay in his hand where the knife had been.
The young assailant looked down at the flower to see a trickle of blood from the deep wounds inflicted by the thorny stem. He dropped the rose like it was a snake. The thorns had been driven into his hand hard by his nervous grip and he held his open palm before him rendered speechless by the sight of his impossible injury.
Max reached down and picked up the knife, steel and grip replacing the stem and petals.
“It’s all about how you hold it.” Max said spinning the knife deftly between his fingers. “You have to hold it with your fingers if you’re going to avoid getting hurt.”
“I’m sorry,” the young hood stuttered, “I just needed the money.”
“You could have asked,” Max said and without so much as a gesture the knife became a furled up twenty dollar note which he pushed in the young man’s undamaged hand.
“Who are you?” the young hood asked.
“Come back tomorrow without your darkness, and I’ll tell you then. Now put some of this on those cuts,” Max sprinkled the powdered glitter of the tree sap onto the wounds and the thorn’s damage was erased like it had never happened. “Come tomorrow and I’ll let you see through my eyes again. Bring your light and I’ll set you free”
As Max turned to walk away he added, “I might even tell you who I am?”
And the next the hood blinked and the strange man was gone.