I don't remember what he was to me before.
This twisting barb of deju vu, of having walked here many times before. A nightmare of the cradle, that I resisted with every infantile breath, that I woke from screaming in the dark. No one and nothing to console, to quiet me with nonsense and lullabies.
Maybe why I went wandering in the first place, why I fell. Losing myself, cold, feverish, starving. Hungry eyes through the snow, between the trees. Black, sweating hulks, eyes like sick stars, teeth like black thorns.
All I remember, before waking there, in the quiet darkness, beside the lake, in the flowers that should never have bloomed so far beneath the Earth.
Elation. I remember that; to be alive, to be lost at last, with no way back home, to its emptiness and unwanting, to its dead eyes and cruel tomorrows.
Hunger. Hunger that stabbed me almost as sincerely as the cold of the mountainside, that twisted like frozen fingers in my belly, threatening to pull me inside out.
I remember...faces. Faces in the shadows, faces in the water, skittering across the stone. Faces that stared at me with curious, frightened, mistrusting eyes. Faces that formed from the mist, straying close to me before others dragged them back, dispersing them.
Forms that fled, melting to meaningless nothing when I spoke, when I tried to approach them, leaving behind only whispers and dreaming suggestion.
Except a smiling few. All lost, now. Nameless dust. I think he may have been one of the first, before today, before we met for the first time in this life. And the last. Not afraid of me, not even after everything I've done, the emptiness behind, the unravelling I've inspired. The seams of this subterannean world slit open, gaping at my back, bleeding chaos and reality. The dream's children burned, slaughtered, scattered with little more than words, glances, gestures.
Times when I might have reformed it, times when I might have allowed it to recoalesce, when I would have been happy to fall again and again, to wake to stories I already know.
Not any more. I'm tired. So tired of it, of remembering. A time when I might have prevented that, when I knew how. Now, all I have is memory, as confused and uncertain as it is. All I have are lost and abandoned lives.
There are those in which I live, in which I learn from them: the arts that have sustained them here, that allow them to be. In which I show them the way, break open the mountain, re-write them so they might walk in sunlight and rain and stars without being scattered, without fading to dust. Stories in which I lead them out, amongst my former kin, in which I become their ambassador in the waking world.
Such strange, strange stories. Tales that irrevocably alter humanity, history, all that is, that force those I fled from to re-evaluate their own conditions, their place in being. Stories that expose them for what they are: unable to see, unwilling to change. Brutes and bigots and abusers, animals I have no choice or compunction in slaughtering, allowing my adoptive kin, my truer tribe, to take their place.
All ultimately failing, no matter how long the legacy, how far into time and possibility they thread. All returning me to this essential moment, a lost and lonely child, frost-bitten and bitter in the snow. Falling, not even seeing the hole in the ground, the statues protruding from beneath the snow, between the trees.
Not allowing it, this time. Not allowing the child to take me, to subsume me. Fighting, when my time finally comes, activating arts and devices I concocted for that very purpose, that flared at my final breaths, my last heartbeats.
Agony. I remember that; the lunatic searing as I became a walking contradiction, the child whose skull and skin I infest crying out soundlessly, tumbling in the snow, spattering it red.
How he cries, how he laughs, as he struggles to rise, as the hated, smothering world around him wavers, fraying apart.
The wolves coming, then. Wolves no longer, but cruel boys and girls, their dark pelts shed in favour of snow-pale skin, their animal snarls giving way to wicked leers.
He knows them. I knew them. Once. The one that leads them...a tall, muscular girl, her hair pulled so taught against her head, it stretches her features back across her skull, making her eyes narrow and feline, her grin unnatural.
A gnarled bough in her gnarled hands, the violence in both plain.
The others...pathetic whelps, baying and snapping, shimmering between states of beasts and children.
"Where are you running to, Taylor? Where do you think you can go?"
The girl, Simone, having said the same a thousand times in waking memory, in a thousand different ways. No response I can give that doesn't end in violence, that doesn't result in blood. Times when I've laughed at her, when I've fled, when I've lunged at her with sharpened stones or boughs of my own. Times when I've called her a slope-browed troglodyte, a thick-as-pig-shit whore. Nothing I can say or do that doesn't bring pain.
Until today, when I am not me, and the boy, Taylor, isn't himself. When we are both and more, when we still mourn in the ashes of the one we've forgotten, who he has yet to meet, but knows, through me, my memories, the days that will never come.
Today, he lets her approach, shivering in the snow, as the gale howls, as the sky darkens, the last, pale pink rays of day seeping down through the clouds.
"Dad's gonna beat you senseless, you know that? You'll be lucky if you can walk anywhere ever again."
I laugh in her face. She stops, the cruelty in her eyes giving way to something far darker.
"No he won't, you brainless cunt. He won't ever touch me again."
For a moment, the snow seems to pause in its descent, the wind slows, the boughs freeze. Her followers yip and yammer at one another, almost rabid at the imminence of violence.
Until she howls, a sound to shame any wolf's worship of the Red Mother in the sky. She's on me before I can breathe, before I can think, black stars bursting across the world as I hurtle back, as it melts around me. I taste snow and dirt and blood, thoughts shattering, feverish fingers trailing down the side of my face.
Still laughing, as I struggle up, as she comes for me again, as the bough catchs me beneath the chin, cracking my jaw, my teeth crunching together, carried another several paces back down the path I carved through the snow.
Heaving, steaming, hurling the bough aside as she shifts and swells, the wolf taking her place once more.
"You're never going home. I'll tell them I found you already dead, ripped open, eaten alive."
Sputtering laughter at that, spraying the snow with blood.
She comes, loping towards me, muscular and scarred, lips peeling back from throat-puncturing teeth. What will she start with, I wonder? My eyes? My entrails? My cold-shrivelled excuse for manhood?
The others hold back, content to watch, certain that, were they to interfere, they'll be the ones bleeding out, the ones opened up and gnawed on.
"You...you won't tell them...anything."
The wolf yelping, becoming smoke again, the girl beneath staggering, clutching at her throat as though invisible hands clench it.
They still don't come, even then. Too afraid, of her, of me, as I stagger to my feet, as I stumble to her, smiling through my mask of blood.
"I...know so many ways to hurt you, Simone. So many ways to make you scream."
She doesn't, though she knows, though she sees. Not the same creature she expected to find, that she has a thousand times and more in the past, in different whens and wheres. When the rules of reality still applied.
What does she think I am, now? As I hold her fast, as I hoist her up, with little more than looks and gestures. Some sort of goblin-thing, a changeling of the woods? Ha! Not so wrong. Not any more.
The bravest, the most loyal or mind-rotted of her followers, skulk from their places in the shadows, laughing anxiously, begging me to stop:
"Hey. Hey there, Taylor. Man, we were just kiddin' around, weren't we? Come on, man!"
I used to know their names, once. Now? I don't know anything about them, any more than I do the ones below, the lost people who would have made me just like them, conditioned me with the same sickness and called it necessary, called it truth.
She struggles, her legs kicking, her jeans darkening at the crotch, her face turning purple.
"A game. That's all it is. Everything. A sick children's game."
I smile at them, the ones who haven't run yet, not knowing what they see; only that they squeal, gasp, skitter away. Not even a gesture, barely a breath, and they fall, clutching at themselves, the sounds in their throats those of beasts strangling on blood and splintered bone, of wolves choked by wasp's nests swallowed whole.
The masks fray and fall away, red and glistening meat. Beneath? Wet, dark fur. Quivering shadow. Cold burning eyes, reflecting a moon that has yet to rise.
Better. Far better. Truer than anything their Mothers and Fathers tell them, that they've convinced themselves of, over lifetimes of lying.
They growl as they stagger to their feet, barking feebly. I silence them with a look, a smile that spreads far beyond the bounds of my face.
They flee, wailing into the woods, to become their own monsters, beasts that will become the sources of fairy tales, in time. That the surrounding villages and townships will tell tales of, to their surviving siblings, warning them against the wolves that wail like children, when the moon is full, that weep and pray as they howl.
As for her...
I let her go, let her fall. She lands hard, bruising, breaking, her wails music, her pain more beautiful, more comforting, than anything the child I was ever knew in the life they shared.
She scrabbles away, spitting curses, streaming snot and tears. I follow, reaching for her, though not with my flesh and blood hands.
Nowehere she can go, nothing she can do, now. This hot, sweating, bleeding moment; the most perfect we've ever shared, in which the child she has tormented and abused his entire life bursts into black flame, sheds himself and becomes his own species of beast, far removed from the unseen creature that she's made of her own soul, that she's swollen and sickened on a diet of perpetual, unthinking cruelty, to the point whereby it has become rabid beyond control.
The shadows find her, swarming upon her, plucking her up like a wounded fly, stretching her limbs out as she quivers and denies, as she slurs every species of prayer and apoology.
Not enough. Not enough for him or me. My gift to him: payment for the days that will never come, but that he remembers, through me.
Letting him take her, letting his unseen talons rake her, tearing away clothes, lacerating the flesh beneath, steaming chunks falling from her, a rain of deep red, as she silently screams, as the crows and magpies in the boughs overhead take flight. As the surrounding snow flushes scarlet.
They hear. I make sure of it: the idiot, shivering, hateful things in the villages below, especially the ones that love her, that remained wilfully blind to the momster they made. I make sure they'll hear until their dying days, until, perhaps, they happen upon her again, following her pathetic, mewling cries in the woods, and murder her, for the crime of her own consumption.
A wet and shivering scrap of a thing, a cankerous beast, lame in one leg, blind in one eye, infested with silvery fleas. It drops from what remains like a mewling turd, a thing shat rather than born into being. What remains of Sister Simone rains around in strings and tatters, that it instantly begins gnawing on, momentarily forgotten to itself, in its agonies.
He would love to sit and watch her, to laugh as she gnaws at her own hide, as she yelps at sounds and shadows, as she twitches in irritation and dementia.
But we have no time. We fall, soon, into that place, beside the lake, in the darkness, amongst the strange and impossible flowers, the uncertain shadows.
Only this time, we do not fall. We find the edge, buried beneath the snow: the fissure through which we first plumetted, running from wolves. This time, we see the broken statues surrounding it, that perhaps once held some art, some magic, for swathing or shielding the place, preventing our intrusion. If so, nothing left of it, now: the stones broken and eroded by time, whatever might have been woven into their stone long since faded.
No cries, no sudden dissolving of the world, no flares of pain as we bounce from outcrop to outcrop. We step out, into the darkness, with not even a backward glance for the world we leave behind.
Drifting, descending serenely through the layers and depths, seeing as we couldn't before: the places we might have landed, the states we might have walked and dreamed of.
All dissolving with our passage, becoming as insubstantial and ephemeral as smoke.
Until we set down, familiar yet alien flowers caressing our naked ankles, the familiar smell of water on rock in the darkness, shapes and shades already emerging, already whispering to us, hissing welcomes, threats, casual curiosity.
We know them well. This time, there'll be no introductions or revelations, no gradual seduction. Our last smiles for them, their names evaporating as they go to the same stuff as discarded memory, as they flee, realising the apocalypse we represent.
Dust and echoes left, the ones that fled, the ones that remained, the thin and unlikely darkness in which they carved their kingdoms, their nurseries: places that stretched for many, many miles underground: a tomb kingdom of the happy dead, in which black and mouldering skeletons and barely held together corpses perpetually lit their blue torches, engaged in their absurd sports and arenas. A worm-realm of eaten hollow tunnels, a labyrinth whose sides glowed with luminous excretions, their creators singing through their maws full of rock and earth, choirs that rang out amongst the other kingdoms, that lulled them to sleep or roused them from dreams. Underground forests of luminous, crystal trees, their jagged structures shimmering with all colours, surrounded with refracted rainbows, the strange, spidery forms that tended them of the same stuff and substance, weaving the light into webs that stretched and clotted between the boughs.
All dust, now. Not even darkness: only this grey emptiness, that I have trailed since I first fell, since I first realised the absurdity of this dream.
And now, him, whose dust is still warm between our fingers, that still snares in our eye-lashes, whose name we cannot recall, but who we see smiling his strange, lop-sided smile, whose scales shimmer with nacreous bands of colour with every motion, whose tail scrapes along the rock and stone behind him, whose mane bursts into blue and green flame when he's excited or afraid, amused or aroused.
Why? Why can't I remember his name? The others...they are more fixed, more certain in my memory, though I know I never shared anything close to the same intimacies with them.
Not a single marriage, an isolated affair, but countless; a million lifetimes lived together, down here in the darkness. Sometimes happy, sometimes not: always, always adored, regardless, regretted when they finally came to their ends.
I met him here, in the snow, just like every time before. But, this time, I knew him, and he knew me. He said he'd dreamed of me, wept it through a smile, his teeth shimmering, dripping their purple venom. He said he knew I'd come, even before the cries began, before the silence that consumed them.
He knew, and knew what I'd do.
But came anyway, to see me one last time.
"And it is the last, isn't it?"
No more wakings, no more revolutions or rebirths. I've broken the engine, through my remembering: by infesting the child that was and showing him days he has yet to live and now, never will. Time and history are undone, and we are flailing at their ragged edges, hastening their decay.
This dust is all that's left. That, and the rumour of him that lingers in it. As it rises, sifting from the snow, from my hands, it forms a vague, smeared shape:
An echo, a rumour of him. Not even of the thing I knew, but of another: the child that went before, that perhaps fell or fled into the dark, that was stolen and secreted in it:
A youth, long limbed, attenuated, shimmering in the snow. He writhes, hating that he's returned to this half forgotten atrocity, this accident of birth, crying silently to me with his distorted jaw, pleading with me to either end it or return him to the condition he adored.
It takes so little; a blown kiss, and he's gone, dispersing into the snow.
I kneel for a while, wondering if perhaps the snow will bury me here, freeze the blood in my veins and allow me to sustain as a semi-living statue at the edge of all creation; a marker of the calamity that might have been.
Then, I stand, the frost on my skin melting, my veins pumping molten darkness. Oblivion flails and pulses at my back, the wounds I've carved in creation widening, merging to become more terminal hurts. It demands, with its silence, its emptiness: to be fed, to be evangelised to all who will listen and those who will not.
Happy enough, in that, now that there's nothing left for me above or below. Now that I've murdered the dream of my own strange Eden, and the possibility of waking from it.
Maybe, after it's done, when there's nothing left but this dust and the echoes that swirl and whisper in it, I'll pierce the mountainside from within, have it spill out into the waking world, let those I've left to suffer and shiver there have some measure of peace.
Perhaps, if forgiveness is a capacity I ever learn.
Until then, I'm happy to leave them to their wolves and their fireside stories, to the beasts in the wood that steal and devour their children, to the changelings that transform stolen infants into wolves and ravens.
Until then, there are still songs to silence, dreams to murder, an abyssal god to feed.
And maybe, maybe, when there's nothing left, when even the dust and echoes die, when there's not even darkness, I can dream something new. Something more. Something so terrible it will infest the dull, insipid imaginings of those that made me, and inspire new nightmares in its turn.
Her eyes are empty now. She cannot see. That's all right. The man by the window, grunting in the pale light, can do nothing. He wants to do nothing, other than scritch and scratch in his tattered sketch book, to record her here, at the end, as no one ever could in life.
It's all right. I'm here, Nikolai is here, to stroke her hair, to listen to the whispers in her skull, her flesh. I don't know what will happen when her last breath hitches, when her cankered heart grows still. Ha! Maybe it never will; maybe the things that have made their nests and nurseries of its chambers will keep it pulsing forever. A strange kind of life, I suppose.
She loves them so much, her unborn children, the things birthing and devouring their young in her cold meat, her suppurating bone. I see them in her hair, feel them: the silvery fleas that sing as they devour her, that I distress with every stroke.
The man at the window, the artist, as he thinks of himself, grunts in frustration, appalled at me, that I can sit here and fawn over her, afte everything we've done, everything we've been to one another, that I allowed her to come to this.
Not my doing, not my dream! Nothing I could do, after she made her wishes plain. This, this is all she desired, at the end: to lie and listen to her children's parasite hymns, to whisper their numerous names, singing them like a nursery rhyme to herself.
Not to me, never to me. Unworthy of their songs, as I am of being their host. The fleas, the worms...they retreat from me, recoiling from my touch.
That's all right, too. I never loved them, not like her. My siblings, she called them, when she still spoke to me, before her tongue swelled and her throat filled to bursting with tainted blood: my brothers and sisters. Never understanding, never knowing them as such. My true siblings, the hundreds she birthed from her belly, that she dreamed and breathed and wept and spat into being, all dead now, along with the stars they sired, the worlds they wrote and painted.
I am the last, and so is this place: a scrap, a mote of being, that she has sustained for so long, against every entropy and apocalypse, against fire and cold and corruption, against the rising and drying of oceans, the withering of woods, the collapse of every nexus and corner of creation.
This place, this sanctuary, sustaining, until its architect herself no longer dreams.
"I don't know why you're wasting your time. There's no one to see."
The artist doesn't glance up from his work, maybe doesn't even hear me. He didn't even when the screams of a million murdered children rose from the vale below, when their souls raked and scraped at the walls, the gates, the windows. Barely even blinked. Not even when the angels of a thousand different Heavens descended, hurling themselves against the walls and windows, singing such temptations to us as to make their fallen brothers blush. Not even when they started to wither and sicken, when the silence stole their exquisite songs. Not when the stars that sired them and they sired in their turns started to flicker out.
I almost laugh. Almost cry out. The first voice, save for those of the unborn, that I've heard in so long, so long. Dry and dusty, croaking and quavering, the most unlovely thing, compared to the choirs she contains, but, against the silence that presses in from outside?; The poetry of angels.
Barely pausing in his renditions, his chalk and charcoal and blood smeared fingers moving over the page, tearing failed or preliminary sketches free, letting them fall like Autumnal leaves around his chair, to drift into the nearby fire.
A time when there might have been some ritual element to it all, when the symbolism of our state might have spawned new states of being. I've seen it happen, watched her dance and sing worlds, witnessed her tears and poetry become stars, her blood the oceans from which new gods arise, as I did, though from what manner of effluent she would never tell.
"The last...the last."
The artist sneers, eyes roving to and fro like a bird's enraptured by some clockwork engine, some machine in perpetual motion.
"Don't think that means anything. You were lucky; that's all."
As was he, though he seems to be in denial of the fact. Yes, I was lucky. I came to her, wretched and bleeding and empty, as I so often did, seeking her pity, her milk and songs. Why she ever indulged me, I can't say: I was never the most beautiful, the strongest or most inspired. When I think of the brothers and sisters that have gone before, who have been forgotten, while I have survived and sustained to her final days, to the last days of all...
No, there is no poetry here, no artist's intent, no wider purpose. Maybe, maybe, we might have made that together, once. Maybe we could have created something more enduring than the states we did, the sad and sorry rounds that hosted the same sad and sorry creatures, portraits and gospels of the same misery, over and over and over...
We deserve our pain. She certainly does; not the Mother of all suffering, but of enough to make little difference. So much of it ours, her lost and abandoned and unwanted children, so much of her abuse heaped upon us, as though we might bear some blame for the rapes and random chances that saw us conceived, the violence with which we were born.
"You can stop, now. For Heaven's sake, you can stop."
The artist laughs, dry and rasping and humourless.
"For Heaven's sake? What has Heaven ever had to do with it? I know I can stop. I've known since the last bells ceased pealing, since the last whimpers faded. I know you won't look, wouldn't understand, even if you did. I know there's no one, except perhaps the fire."
"The void. The dark. The emptiness. When it comes, and it is so close, now, I will show it my work. I will let it gaze into my soul that I've poured out on these pages and fill me with such abyssal nothing, such a lack and silence...oh, you can't imagine. Can't imagine how much I ache for it."
He's wrong. I know that ache, to be nothing. I've known it since my first kindling, since the earliest thought. Of course I have! Wretched, writhing whelp! Ugly, deformed, diseased little grotesque! Of course I know. In the hateful light of my dead brothers and sisters, in their luminous beauty or fathomless, majestic darkness, of course I know. I should have passed long ago, become less than rumour, as they all have.
But she...she wouldn't allow it. I don't know why; she's certainly spat her share of cruelties my way in the past, heaped disgrace upon me that should have inspired hatred enough to abandon and forget her, as so many of my brothers and sisters did, before the end.
Always allowed to crawl back, to sift through the open window, the cracks in her temple walls. Always rewoven, from her milk and menses, from her spit and filth. I don't know why, even here, in extremis. Will never know and don't care to.
All I want now is to be here, to wait and watch as the fire burns low, as the whispering silence closes in, as we wither together, praying against all hope and despair that there'll be no revolution or rebirth after this, that we can go to nothing together at last.
I never deluded myself that there'd be any dignity at the end, when I finally felt the last of her flicker out, the last ember dying in the cold night. I never pretended that I'd be more than I've been in all of the myriad lives and states she's woven for me, that I've crafted and stolen and scavenged.
A thing of shit, always. A thing of gnawed bones and disease, of rotting flesh and deformity. The resented babe, who robbed her of all ego, who showed her at the last what monstrosity she was truly capable of creating.
But even I didn't expect this.
A scream that shudders the surrounding stone, cracking the glass in the darkened windows, that makes the wooden beams and book cases groan and splinter.
They swarm from her, the nameless and unborn children that she so loved, that she adored more than any that inherited her divinity.
Bitch! Selfish, uncaring bitch!
The last lamentations, the final cries of all creation: a spoiled child's resentment of its own birth. What else does it warrant? What else can there be?
No storm, no fire, no blood: nothing like the ends I have witnessed and sired, that I have watched her weave in her moments of ennui and disappointment, in her rages and despairs. Such ends we have seen! I wish there were time for at least one more, a world to sire, to dream, to allow to dream of itself, then to crush, crumbling it to nothing between my fingers like a grain of dust, the cries of those lost to it my only lullabies, the only diversion from my own wretchedness.
I don't try to stop them; my wiser siblings, her more beloved children. They surge from her, the sack of her last flesh withering, bursting before my eyes, the children of her rot, her diseased marrow, her black and septic soul, spilling across the stone floor, swarming across the the walls as they blister and bleed darkness, fading with every heartbeat.
The artist, the one they used to call Peake, before he went mad, before he lost all he loved and lived for, scribbling furiously, biting his lip bloody, trying to record these final moments, this ultimate decay.
Not even a whisper of love left for me, not a rumour of contempt. She is gone, the Mother of all creation, murdered by her dissatisfaction with what she spawned, the ignorance of her most beloved.
And we are left: the most wretched and diseased of her bastards, the great ones, the lords of death and storms, the makers of oceans and galaxies, the inspirations of civilisations, all long, long forgotten, no one left now to remember them, except me.
And I have forgotten most of them by my own will, out of envious spite for their beauty, their brilliance.
They feed themselves to it, the carrion and parasites she loved more than any of us, swarming to be devoured by the silence, to become emptiness in their turn.
I know that inclination, feeling it like invisible chains lodged in my entrails, drawing me away from the fireside, to the windows as they fracture, to the door as it shudders in its lintel, swelling, splintering.
Peake murmurs as he scribbles, his pencil worn to almost nothing, his fingers bleeding. Prayers to divinities that no longer exist, that wouldn't answer, even if they did.
He and I, the last. A whelp and a mad man, all that remains of everything. Every myth, every dream, every state and story.
Standing, I stumble through them, the living, seething carpet as they worm and skitter towards the pools of expanding darkness, the absence that hurts my eyes and mind, that isn't even darkness, the mere absence of light, but nothing, a condition that even she never dreamed of, that she never believed could be, until the very end.
That she is one with, now, as my siblings are, and we all will soon be.
"Where are you going?"
Not glancing up from his work, his lips bleeding freely, now. His fingers, too.
He sniggers, understanding the joke. Maybe the only man who ever could.
"Are you coming? The fire's almost out. Not much paper left."
Piles of it surrounding him, that might have become the inspiration for hills or mountains, in a more verdant and inspired age.
Not here, where there's nothing and no one to imagine it, nothing and no one who cares.
"No, I...no. I'm going to sit for a while, and think of nothing."
Leaning back, setting down the wretched nub of his pencil, closing his book at last. With barely a flinch, he hurls it into the fire, lambent tears streaming down his face as it and he both kindle, as the pages and his skin char. He doesn't scream, doesn't even quiver, but watches as the stuff of his soul goes to ash, as its embers rise and fade.
I think I hear him laughing, as I go to the door, as I grasp the handle, so cold that frost forms upon the moulded brass, wrenching the frozen mechanism open.
Nothing. Emptiness and silence enough to make me scream, to break whatever parody of sanity I ever entertained.
It whispers to me, its silence sings, abyssal hymns, a suicide's lullabies. It won't merely take me, as it has everything else: it will fill me, it will undo the fact of me. Every rumour, every echo, silenced at last.
What else have I ever begged for?
A choked farewell, mutilated by fire. Then, I step out into the dark, forget myself and everything: the answer to my first choked and shrieking prayer, that of all born things, in resentment of the being they never asked for.
George Lea is an entity that seems to simultaneously exist and not exist at various points and states in time and reality, mostly where there are vast quantities of cake to be had. He has a lot of books. And a cat named Rufus. What she makes of all this is anyone's guess.