Chapter 2 Yuri

Yuri tried to walk with his usual imposing attitude, but this was proving more challenging in this unfamiliar terrain. The path leading away from the house led into a land the like of which he had never seen before. Huge trees with thick trunks and dense branches stood proud across the undulating hills. Sounds could be heard, from all kinds of animal life, hidden from view by lush green leaves. Gulag pricked up his ears, alert to his surroundings but not afraid.

Looking up, Yuri noticed the sky was awash with vivid hues in a sweeping gradient. Purple, pink, peach, orange, red – it was breathtaking. But he was a little unsettled by what appeared to be three suns in the sky. One seemed to be the sun as he knew it, but there were two other orbs that also illuminated the cosmos, too big to be stars and too bright to be planets, yet there they were. 

Yuri and Gulag walked for a long time, and he began to feel a creeping sense of desperation. For most of his existence he had been surrounded by people who listened to everything he said. They feared him and he thrived off it. Every day he had all his wants taken care of. To be without human company in a strange land was a nightmare come true. He felt robbed of power, and it angered him. 

Eventually, Yuri sat down on the grass at the side of the path, and Gulag nuzzled up beside him. The only sounds were the animals in the trees and a gentle breeze rippling through the long grass and leaves. Yuri looked at the sky and, for the briefest of moments, he forgot his anger as he took in all the colours. Suddenly his anxiety returned. He stood up and looked back in the direction from which he’d come. He’d lost sight of the house a long time ago. 

Scanning the horizon in the other direction, Yuri’s heart jumped when he saw two figures on the crest of a hill. They were a good way off but close enough for him to see that they were dressed in white. One was clearly a big man, and the other also tall but more slender. 

Yuri immediately began calculating how he could rob them. Surely travellers had money, maybe food and water. To his intense irritation, he realised they weren’t coming toward him and that they were watching him. 

Trying to appear as big as possible, Yuri began marching up the hill, his chest puffed out. The two figures in white simply watched him approach. 

Yuri detested being looked down upon. Approaching from beneath them made him feel like a child and by now he was raging. 

“Yuri!” one of the figures called out. 

This stopped Yuri, a good hundred metres away from them. 

“Who the fuck are you?” he demanded. 

“Would you like some food?” asked one of them, a slim, willowy man with brown wavy hair to his shoulders and short beard. 

Yuri didn’t know what to say so remained silent. 

The men simply turned around and began walking. 

Perplexed, Yuri kept his distance but followed them, his curiosity overruling his pride. 

As they came over the top of the hill, a forest lay out before them. As far as the eye could see, the thick green canopy was teeming with life. Birds were swooping back and forth and colourful apes could be seen swinging through the branches on the tree line. 

Yuri took it in but soon realised that the strangers had not paused for the view and had disappeared into the trees. 

“Hey!” he shouted and let gravity lead him heavy footed down the incline and into the cover of the forest. 

The two men were peeling bark off a tree next to the path. Vapour rose from the trunk as they each pulled strips off it. Laying them on a large leaf, they handed Yuri a small stack of bark peelings as he approached. 

The light steam coming off the bark strips smelt amazing, and the portions looked juicy and inviting. Yuri’s mouth watered, but he couldn’t shake off his paranoia. 

“What are you giving me?” he asked again, looking at one of the men directly. 

“I’m not sure it has a name as such,” said the man calmly. “Would you like to try it?” 

By now Yuri could not ignore how much he wanted to eat. Unable to resist, he picked up a strip between his thumb and forefinger and, not wanting to look weak, dangled the whole thing into his mouth. The morsel began to melt like butter and had a savoury flavour. 

“Tastes like steak!” Yuri exclaimed. “What tree is this, to get bark that tastes like that?” he asked, taking another strip in his fingers. “It’s hot as well!”

“See those orbs in the sky?” asked one of the men, glancing up at them. “They are between planets and suns. They’re close enough to bring a new kind of light and energy to this earth,” replied the man. 

“New energy, new plants,” added the other. 

“There’s new things in space?” asked Yuri, trying to understand. 

“Yes,” said the man. “It’s a new earth, and there are new heavens.”

Yuri had helped himself to the rest of the bark strips and shared them with Gulag. Feeling much better, he decided he needed more information. 

“Who are you?” he asked, bluntly. 

“This is Thomas, and my name is Bull,” said the broader one with short, light brown hair. “Come, let’s walk and talk. We have a long journey ahead of us.”

“No.” Yuri wasn’t finished with his interrogation. “What do you mean? Tell me who you are and where we are going. I don’t know you!”

“There’s a place for you,” said Thomas. 

“A house?”

“Yes, a house for you within the community.”

This was appealing to Yuri. Surely this meant that he would be with people he already knew, in which case he would find ways to dominate them. If there was one thing Yuri knew he could do, it was finding people’s weaknesses and exploiting them. 


The sound of cracking ribs always gave Yuri a distinct feeling – a sickly satisfaction. He had crafted his ability to be such that he could strike a body blow and break ribs, leaving his victim choking for breath. 

The city at night was his kingdom. He knew how to use gang culture to lure young people into a twisted family. He was the head of the household, ruling it with depraved abusive strategies. It was a tried and tested technique, offering increasingly heavy drugs to bring people into Yuri’s cabal. Pushing people along a devastating pathway of addiction and dependency, Yuri created addicts who were easy to control. 

Helena was fourteen when she appeared on the edge of Yuri’s circle. Young, fatherless and eager to please, she was easy prey. Yuri had several men in their twenties trained to groom young girls for the sex trade. They knew how to conjure a sense of belonging and hook them on drugs. 

Helena accepted all that she was offered and soon developed a dependency on heroin. Her handlers only gave her what she so craved if she serviced the men who came to their brothels. Pimping young women and selling drugs gave Yuri and his most loyal men a lavish lifestyle. It was easy to pay the police to turn a blind eye and avoid their quarters of the city. 

Helena was ambitious. By the time she was seventeen she was regularly having sex with Yuri. He pulled her off the brothel work and had her installed in his penthouse as his personal sex slave. At first, Helena couldn’t imagine a better life. She was able to wash whenever she liked and even had her own wardrobe for the clothes that Yuri enjoyed seeing her wear. For the first time in her life, she felt like she had something of her own. Yuri kept the purest heroin aside for her. 

One evening, the heroin she took was unusually strong. She fell unconscious on the bed. When Yuri came to her for sex, she was unresponsive – unable to fulfil her only function in Yuri’s world. Frayed by business that had gone badly that day, Yuri’s temper snapped. 

Helena’s ribs broke easily, weakened from years of malnutrition. Helena wasn’t even conscious; unable to resist or express pain, her body began to convulse. Her shattered ribs had punctured her lungs and now she was drowning in her own blood. 

Yuri held her by the neck against the wall while blood poured out of her mouth and nose. It ran down the back of his hand, thick and hot. Repulsed, he let go of her throat and she slumped to the floor. A soft gurgling sound came from her mouth as her frail body gave in and she died. 

Yuri wasn’t sure why thoughts of Helena had come to him now, walking through a forest following two strangers. She was neither the first nor the last person he had killed in his life. Her face seemed to float in his mind, eyes rolled back into her skull and her blue lips slack and motionless. 

Suddenly Yuri felt sick. He stopped walking, turned to the side of the road and readied himself to vomit. Gulag had been following Yuri closely, and he stopped to remain near him. He let out a little wince, upset at seeing his master unwell. 

Sensing Yuri had stopped walking, Bull and Thomas turned. 

Yuri felt panic rise inside him. He desperately wanted to disappear, to be well and truly dead. 

Breathing deeply to quell his nausea, he closed his eyes, but all he could see was Helena’s lifeless face. 

Yuri felt there was nowhere to hide. 

Thomas turned to Bull. “Bad memories,” he whispered. Bull nodded but didn’t take his eyes off Yuri. Yuri locked his eyes back on Bull, trying desperately not to give any ground. 

“You… you can fuck off now,” he snarled. 

Bull had learned by now that threatening behaviour and even violence went hand in hand with the task of trying to help people. Bull looked back into Yuri’s eyes and stood his ground. Thomas stood with him, shoulder to shoulder.

“Yuri,” Thomas said quietly but with resolve, “what have we done to wrong you?”

There was nothing aggressive about how Bull and Thomas were communicating, but it still felt to Yuri as though he was being taunted. 

“Where is this community?” he asked curtly. 

“It’s some way yet,” answered Bull. “We will show you.”

Bull didn’t wait for an answer. He and Thomas turned away and began walking. Yuri could tell they weren’t looking to talk to him at this point, so he followed at a distance with Gulag alongside. 

Yuri only interacted with Bull and Thomas when they stopped to eat. He was surprised to discover they treated him with no malice or hatred. They served him food and drink at various stops. At night they all climbed into certain trees that had hammock-style branches. They showed no fear of him, nor tried to control him, and Yuri could not understand why.

Now and then, Bull and Thomas would greet various people on the road, sometimes with a newly resurrected person walking with them. The terrain changed periodically, all familiar and yet new. The New Earth clearly had many of the same natural attributes as the old, with mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, meadows and heathland. Yuri grew curious as to why there were so few other people, and no cities to be seen.

After many days of walking, Bull and Thomas had led Yuri to a stark landscape. Bleached rock formations jutted up from the ground, shrouded by thick dark trees. 

They came to a cliff edge and sprawled out beneath was a mass of grey concrete huts, laid out in rows. There were some larger buildings arranged around a square, with colourful flowers and bushes growing along and up the walls. Yuri could make out various figures walking about and a river on the far side of the camp with irrigation channels that were feeding what looked like allotments and vegetable patches. 

“This is your new home,” said Bull. 

“This is one of many communities across the New Earth,” Thomas explained. “I am sure you will quickly identify with many of its members.”

A sudden thud came from behind Yuri and distracted him from the scene below. He turned and saw a huge creature, with wings like an eagle but a body like a lion. 

“Cedric!” cried Thomas. 

Bull turned to Yuri. “Cedric is a seraph. He’s the guardian of the community.”

Yuri tried not to look worried, but this strange creature was four times bigger than him. 

“Come,” Cedric said to Yuri with a voice deeper than any he’d ever heard. 

Before Yuri could protest, Cedric was approaching him. Yuri hoped Gulag would defend him, but instead he was sitting calmly. 

Breathless with anxiety, Yuri turned to Thomas.

“I suppose you will be keeping my dog?”

“No,” said Thomas. “Gulag is a gift from Jesus. Let him be a reminder that you are loved.”

Yuri was thankful but didn’t voice it. 

“Come!” said Cedric in a voice like thunder. He opened his huge wings and began to beat them. 

Yuri gathered Gulag in his arms just as the seraph took hold of his waist and leapt over the side of the cliff. For a few seconds Cedric was in flight with Yuri and Gulag tucked close against his stomach. He landed, sending up a cloud of dust, and released Yuri and Gulag, who jumped down and began sniffing the ground.

Yuri could see Thomas and Bull observing from the cliff top, and in a final desperate act of defiance, he lifted both hands, fists balled, and slowly erected his middle fingers. 

“Fuck you!” Yuri mouthed before turning away. 

“I wonder how many jubilees it’ll be before he finally learns the way of love,” mused Thomas. 

“A fair few I reckon,” said Bull. “He’s a proud soul in a community of proud souls.”

“We’ll be back soon to settle in with them,” said Thomas. Living alongside these difficult men was one of the toughest assignments, but they knew there was much reward in the challenge. 

Cedric had flown back up to the cliff top and had resumed his usual position watching over the camp from a comfortable nest. Bull and Thomas waved goodbye, and Cedric lifted a huge paw to his head in a salute. 

“And now our meeting,” Thomas reminded Bull as they set off back down the road.