THE MIRROR OF THE NAMELESS
The Children of Naz Yaah—the Little Nazs—ran at me across the dirty street and my first thought was a simple one.
I should have gone a different way home.
There were six of them, all big men waving their handguns or clubs. Each wore the uniform of the Little Nazs— smart black trousers, polished boots, jet-black coats over black shirts. And glinting in the light cast by the few working streetlights, the familiar white line curved its way down their shirts; the distinctive white line of Naz Yaah the Worm.
“Hello, sacrifice,” one yelled. Another struck me in the back with a metal pole. I dropped to the ground. As much as I attempted to pull myself through the dirt and stinking rubbish spread over the pavement, it did no good. The men were too close. One booted me in the stomach. I rolled over and blinked away the tears of pain, gagging and coughing.
A few of the men giggled, their laughter high-pitched and nervous. All stank of cheap beer, the stuff with which I was all too familiar.
One of the men, the leader I presumed, crouched down in front of me and pulled me upright into a sitting position. Thin scars lined his cheeks. Greying stubble grew around them. His eyes were wide, staring. A tell-tale amount of white powder clung to his nostrils. Unlike the others, he was large, not fat but muscular, broad-shouldered and dangerous.
“Your name, sacrifice?” he said.
Although there was no point in delaying, I stayed quiet. The man yanked my wallet out of my jacket, thumbed through it and slid my ID card free. The cracked plastic bent between his fingers.
“Dave.” I held my stomach and fought for breath. So close to the ground, the reek of garbage made me want to vomit. “Anderson.”
“So I see.” He placed my wallet back in my pocket and slapped my arms as if we were old friends. “Congratulations, Dave Anderson. You’ve been chosen as an offering to our Lady Naz Yaah. May she welcome our humble offering. May she swallow your soul and cast you into her belly for all eternity.”
The giggling again. Not from all of them, though. That might have given me some hope. No. Enough of the Little Nazs were believers. Even if a couple of them were just along for a laugh or for a free snort or to just get a kick from killing, it didn’t help me.
“Against the wall,” the leader told the others.
They shoved me hard against the side of a terraced house, the brickwork loose and flaking. Although we were on one of the many densely populated streets less than half a mile from the centre of town, no lights shone in the windows. Nobody walked the streets here after nightfall. Not a curtain twitched. All because nobody wanted to end up like me, a sacrifice. The leader raised his gun. Levelled it with my forehead. Behind him, the other Little Nazs laughed and shuffled. I wished for the real squads of sacrificers to appear. The people who worked for the Department of Public Order, who took prisoners and volunteers and the sick to offer them to our gods. They didn’t look kindly on the freelancers surrounding me. Not at all. It was about order to the people in charge, all about keeping things calm. Even the police would’ve been better than the men with their makeshift weapons. This group of ex-coppers and drunks, their focus was the denial of our terrible situation. But then, the same could be said for everybody else.
“Oh, Lady Naz Yaah, our dear one, our sweet ruler. We, your playthings, wish to give you this man as a symbol of our devotion. A gift of gratitude for your continued and eternal rule, for allowing our existence in your universe.”
“Amen,” shouted the other men.
“You are permitted your final words,” the leader said to me.
It’s funny. I’d often wondered what they’d be. As has everyone, I imagine. After all, we never know when Naz Yaah and her siblings will tire of their involvement in our world. It could be today, tomorrow or the day after. And it’s been like that for decades. Which explains the state of the world today and the position I was in.
I drew breath and stared at the man’s face beyond his gun. Sweat coated my entire body even though I hadn’t been walking fast when they jumped me. The night was as sticky as ever. Eleven o’clock and dark for just the last hour. Another hot day. Another short, hot night and nobody gets any sleep. And the same tomorrow and the same the day after. What a world. What a miserable, shitty world.
“I love my daughter,” I said to the man with the gun.
“Love is meaningless. Naz Yaah rules all.”
I kept quiet. I’d said my final words and would say nothing more.
“Naz Yaah will eat your soul.”
His finger tightened on the trigger.