First Page – Gape by Aiden Truss

When Rose woke up in her favourite shop doorway, she was resigned to yet another day of hunger, struggle and abuse. This was life on the streets after all.
What she wasn’t prepared for, was a visit from a demon, an invitation back to his temporally insubstantial sanctuary, and forced to take sides in a battle involving most of the denizens of hell. Oh, and a boat trip down the river Thames.

After a disappointing start to the day, things were about to get a bit more interesting…


Aiden Truss


Separated by those vast and normally insuperable gulfs of space, time and imagination, two beings sit at the crossroads of their lives – one human, and one something more than human. Both feel the weight of their existence and a solitude born of their introspection and contemplation. Both are equally lost and shackled by their seeming impotence in the face of the storm blowing around them.
Of all the different types of crises we face, it is the internal, personalised ones which hit hardest, cut the deepest and yet teach us the most valuable lessons. In that sense, it makes not one jot of difference that one of our protagonists is a female human and the other a male demon. As we shall find, near omnipotence does not denote omniscience and incapacity need not mean weakness.
Life cuts through complications – it’s just that we seldom step back and allow it to take its course. We always assume that there is a point, that there is something more to it all than a series of contiguous moments, a chain of causes and effects – that there must be a cosmic narrative and a divine plan. Sometimes it’s handy to know what’s around the next bend in the road, but still, we must negotiate that bend and the change of direction that it brings. Whether you’re a milkman or a 7th level demon, you still have to get your head around your day job and the challenges and satisfaction that it may or may not bring. In Paradise Lost, that shrewd observer of the eternal struggle, John Milton, wrote:
The mind is its own place, and in itself,
Can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.
It was poetic license – Satan never really had to jump to such conclusions, but you get the gist don’t you. It’s where you’re at in your head that defines the world around you. For this reason, our tale is set in recognizable worlds, with familiar terms of reference. The everyday world of humanity is set in the unremarkable London suburb of Bromley. I would have used Croydon for a setting, but this might have placed us nearer to purgatory in terms of imaginative leaps. (Papers recently unearthed during Dan Brown’s search through Vatican records reveal that the medieval Catholic Church considered calling the transitory state between Heaven and Hell ‘Croydon’, but were persuaded differently by its connotations of helplessness and despair; at least in purgatory there’s the hope of something better to come!).
The universe, or cosmos as your author has chosen to describe it (paints a bigger picture than just ‘universe’ don’t you think?), is full of different levels of life and evolution. Creatures living in dimensions unknown to traditional science co-exist in areas of space occupied by more conventional life-forms. Every so often, these planes intersect and cross over. Hence we have unexplained sightings, strange craters in the wilderness, ghosts and silly old women making a fair living at pretending to be psychics. None of which are the least bit extraordinary if you have a tiny inkling of the true nature of the…
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