A Sad Affair in Verbatim City, by Liam Sharp

Hellraiser

Liam Sharp is a British comic book artist, writer and publisher working mostly in the US marketplace. 

Liam made his debut in the late 1980s drawing Judge Dredd for 2000ad.  He later moved to Marvel UK, where he drew the best-selling Marvel UK title ever, Death's Head II. Thereafter he began working mainly in the United States on books as diverse as the X-Men, the Hulk, Spider-Man, Venom, Man-Thing (for Marvel Comics), Superman, Batman, and The Possessed (for DC Comics and Wildstorm), Spawn: The Dark Ages (for Todd McFarlane and Image) and Red Sonja for Dynamite comics.

Liam has also worked on more mature themed books for Verotik, drawing Frank Frazetta's The Death Dealer, and a strip originated by Stan Winston called Realm of the Claw.  

In 2004 Sharp set up his own publishing company, MamTor™ Publishing, with wife Christina. This saw the launch of the critically acclaimed and award-winning anthology Event Horizon, and the prestigious collaboration with Mother (London) Advertising, Four Feet From a Rat, which appears as a quarterly comic in Time Out magazine. 

Liam recently finished the controversial DC Vertigo title Testament with best-selling novelist and media commentator Douglas Rushkoff, the comic adaptation of the seminal XBox game Gears of War, and the Aliens graphic novella Aliens: Fast Track to Heaven for Dark Horse. He is currently working on an epic personal project that he is co-writing with wife Christina McCormack called Captain Stone is Missing. 

Liam also worked on designs for the movies Lost in Space, Small Soldiers and the animated series Batman Beyond.

 Liam's first novel GOD KILLERS: MACHIVARIUS POINT & OTHER TALES was published in 2008 with a second edition in 2009.

 

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I bowed, and, with the grace of goodness, I took my leave.  I did not look back, such was the pain I did not wish him to see the tears.  So little he knew, and so it should be.

When I came to that place I had little to recommend me.  I’d been the sort to seek anonymity, while always craving admiration.  As such, not being of a forthright disposition at that time, I looked on, smiled, said little, and stayed out of trouble in all the manners I could conceive of.  But I watched, and I learned what I needed to.  I bided my time.  And eventually, when it was exactly right, I arrived at Verbatim City dressed in the manner of one accustomed to higher circles than the fact of my heritage would ordinarily afford me, wearing a button-hole Bloom of Recommendation in white from the Pons of Aisles - who had much appreciated my work.  Good grace, an open face and ready smile were my armoury, and I was determined to use them.

The people of that new city looked upon me, as I knew they would, with fear.  I had practiced well.  I cowed to submission with a faint ironic smile two Salemen in floral suits at the centre of the public arena that was the Market Circle.  They whimpered at my feet, which I let them kiss.  It was a good entrance, and Mediators came rushing from the grand Council House amidst a hastily donned throng-of-certificates - it’s irregular frame adorned with printed matter threaded onto a cotton web.  They plucked symbolic paperwork from it, stuffing my pockets with it and waving their arms in rings of welcoming.  I accepted with grace, naturally, and allowed them to lead me to a Quarterman who sent his Dormers rattling through the streets apace, wooden soles announcing in advance the need for a room. 

I settled on a spherical apartment balanced on three long curved legs in the Artisan sector.  It was, of late, a fashionable area of the city, and the Dormers applauded my choice, continuously clapping in unison - as was the form - as they backed out of the room and descended one by one down the steep ladder inside the Bilge Street leg.  The open plan spheroid was ringed with a corkscrew balcony and smelled of honey and wine.
At the apex of the sphere was a small patio fenced with ornate railings.  From there I could see the purple and green hues of the Threadbush Reservation, hear the pentatonic din of the Accordium, its pitch-perfect denizens enthralled – and at once captive – of the rhythmic seesaw language that was law there.  But what I most yearned to see, what had called me to Verbatim City since I first glimpsed a moving imago of it in an optibiflex as a child, was the mythic effluvial darkness of the Jubileumboek.  I braced myself as I slowly turned in its direction, my breath catching, fearful that it would somehow be less than I anticipated; less than the destiny my imaginings afforded it. 

I need not have worried.

The Jubileumboek was at once a part of the city and somewhere else entirely, and indeed it was many places and yet one.  It flitted constantly as though a godly thumb flicked though the pages of a book, their myriad surfaces briefly glimpsed, similar certainly, but not the same.  Above it the sky flashed through a strobing array of weather fronts and times - clear star-flooded nights; dazzling summer noons; wet-stone rain-heavy gloom.  And somewhere in those shifting streets and times she waited for me, I knew.  Was it not as the child’s rhyme said?

“To Jubileumboek,
the Earl of Form took
all that rightly held him
in stature aloof.
In Jubileumboek
he was gifted a look
in dreams that felled him.
And to the hoof
to Jubileumboek
the Earl of Form took
to seek that truth.”

Well then, such truths were mine also to seek.

I sought employment at the House of Shadows, where my grace proved effective enough to very quickly elevate me to the position of a Magisclerk, and my hours were soon fully taken up with law and organization.  At the Workends I took to strolling along the darkly shimmering boundaries of Jubileumboek careful not to gaze too directly, for fear of attracting unwanted attention from the denizens of the city, but I was peripherally enraptured by it.  With a stern face I hid my excitement.  I came to know where it opened most safely, where roads remained roads and buildings were never built.  And I bided my time.  I was, after all, good at that.

One overcast night in Julain, after the Hawksmen had rounded the streets with their squawks and threats, and a heavy rain had driven such Midwork revellers as there were indoors, I wrapped myself in a black feathercloak and donned a Masque of Sorrows I had acquired in part-payment for an act of mercy as Magisclerk.  The rain obscured further the limited vision of the circular glass eye-plates, but by now I knew my route well.  At the rippling edge of Jubileumboek I strode, heart fit to burst, and when I perceived the shadows deep enough, the rain fat enough and the streets empty, I sidestepped over the boundary, into the openness I knew lay there even in its shifting - and I was in!

The shock was immense.  Immediately I realised it had been folly, for all about me moved people as tied to their moments as the shifting buildings, and I stood amongst them as a wraith.   What should happen were I to blunder into a space about to be occupied, however fleetingly, by one of them?  Should we merge into a ghastly assemblage, barely human and trapped neither in their realm nor my own?  Should we drift through that place gathering more and more of its people into ourselves until at last we became merged with a built structure, eternally immobile in that constant motion?

With an overwhelming sense of panic I ran for the perceived sanctity of Verbatim city’s less temporal, undamaged heart, to where I had left it.  I had not been long, I thought.  It was a foolishness I could escape.  But when I stepped back into the solidity of linear time I met the former aspect of myself about to step in!

We regarded each other with horror.  The conundrum of time, the paradox it presented me, swam, immediately apparent, in my head.  I had not yet stepped into that place, and so how could I exist?  Should I exist?  Did I yet remain inside Jubileumboek also?  For a moment my hand clenched around the hilt of my blade, as I’m sure did that of my former self, but I knew what I must do: 

I bowed, and, with the grace of goodness, I took my leave.

 

(C) Liam Sharp 2010

 

 

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