Tag Archives: horror

The Morning after Hallowe’en

The friar emerged from the crypt, blinking against the morning sun.  It was later than he had expected; there had been no cockerel crowing to herald the dawn.  He found the bird – little more than a collection of scattered feathers now and the odd gout of blood.  Who would do such a thing?

Not who, he corrected himself.  What?

His heart quickened as he picked his way down the hill to the village.  From a distance, he could see the tiny settlement was quiet – too quiet.  No vehicles were on the roads.  No pedestrians bustled around.

There was no sign of life.

The friar thrust the back of his hand into his mouth, trying to stave off the horror rising in his gorge.

I must not get ahead of myself.  I must find out for sure…

But he knew it was true.  Despite his warnings, everyone was dead.

Fools!  Damned fools!

At the end of the only thoroughfare stood the general store.  Still shuttered but an arc of blood splashed in an upstairs window confirmed the friar’s fears.

Shaking his head in sorrow, with revulsion leaping in his stomach, the friar crossed to the saloon.  He found the doors unlocked but the place abandoned.  Debris of the night before was all around: empty glasses, discarded bottles, the odd upturned piece of furniture.

Something moved on the stairs.   The friar froze.

“Who’s there?”

Silence.  The friar held up his hands to show they were empty.

“I will not hurt you,” he smiled.  “Please.”

With a sob and a shuffle, a child peered over the banister.

“Peter!” the friar cried.  “Come down, child!  Let me look at you.”

The boy hesitated then descended.  The friar inspected Peter’s throat and wrists for injury and was relieved to find the skin unbroken.

“I’m hungry,” Peter snivelled.  “Mama – her bed – empty.”

More relief.  The child had not walked into an horrific scene.

“I shall find you something,” the friar shuffled to the kitchen.

“Not pumpkin!” the boy followed.  “I’ve had enough pumpkin.”

Despite himself, the friar chuckled.  More pumpkin might have saved them all.  He found some bread that wasn’t too stale and set about toasting it, rummaging in the cupboard for jam or some such.

“Father, where is everybody?” the boy chewed thoughtfully on the crust.  “Is it true?  Were they taken in the night?”

The friar nodded sadly.  “I am afraid so, my boy.  Despite all the warnings, they are gone.”

“But – but – that’s not fair,” the boy scowled.  “They did everything they were supposed to.  Dressing up as scary monsters.  Carving scary faces into pumpkins to frighten the evil spirits away.”

“Yes,” said the friar.  “But not at the right time.  You see, my boy, one must do all these things on the appropriate evening or else the magic will not work.  But we live in an age of convenience.  People want to observe the traditions but only if it is fun to do, and if it is convenient.  And so, everyone did their dressing-up on Saturday night.  And I’m sure everyone had a lot of fun.  But last night was when it mattered.  But no one bothered.  They were all partied out.  And they have paid a heavy price.  We have these traditions for a reason and they are not to be taken lightly.”

The kitchen door slammed shut as though shoved by an invisible hand.  The friar wheeled around.  The boy elongated until he towered over the holy man, his teeth bared, sharp and glistening.

“No need to sound so smug about it, Father,” a deep voice rumbled.  “You’re an irrelevance, a throwback.  Obsolete.”

“Perhaps,” sighed the friar.  He whipped a small pumpkin from his robe, a snarling face carved into it.  The thing that had been Peter recoiled, screeching.  “But I still know what works.”

pumpkin

 

 

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Sheep-watching

Taran pulled the cloak around him.  It didn’t stop the shivers but it blocked out some of the biting wind.  Feeling sorry for himself, he rubbed his hands.  Beside him, the torch flickered; if it went out, he’d be stuffed.  It was hours until morning and he daren’t show his face back at the village before dawn.

We all must take out turn, his mother had admonished, although Taran had never seen her hobble up the hills.  He caught himself.  It was unfair.  Of all the people he knew, his mother was the hardest-working member of the community.  Everyone was in debt to her for something or other: some balm for a sick child, some potion for a nervous husband…

A rustling sound wrenched him from his thoughts.  He tensed.  His ears strained to determine the direction… There it was again.  Taran swallowed and reached for his staff.  The heft of it, and the nails sticking from the end, gave him comfort, made him a little bolder.

The rustling stopped.  He could hear the creature’s breath, gargling in the back of its dread throat.  It sounded close.  Too close.

Taran held his breath.  A pair of red eyes glinted, looking at him, looking into him.  Low laughter rumbled.

“And so you have come, my boy.”  The voice was deep but soft like velvet to the ear.  Taran frowned; he hadn’t expected the sheep-killing beast to have the power of speech.

A shadow stepped in front of the torchlight, the silhouette of a man.  Tall he was and broad-shouldered.  His hair was shaggy, flowing to the small of his back.  His hands were claws.

“Do not be afraid,” the shaggy man soothed.

Taran leapt to his feet, brandishing his spiked staff.  “I’ll not let you take no more of our sheep,” he vowed.

The man laughed.

“Oh, my boy!  The times I have heard that!  Do you know, this would be so much easier if they just told you the truth.”

Taran was puzzled.  “Are you telling me you do not take our sheep?”

The man stepped closer.  Long teeth glinted in the torchlight.

“Put the stick down and let me embrace you.”

“No!”  But Taran found he couldn’t move.  The man plucked the staff from his grasp and cast it aside.  His arms enfolded the youth and the heat of his embrace made Taran swoon and collapse.

He woke at midday, his head pounding.  Panicked, he looked around.  The torch had burned out and the scene was strewn with bits of wool and patches of gory red.

I have failed! Taran cursed himself.  He trudged back to the village, prepared to face the approbation of his elders.

But they cheered when he approached.  The whole village was there to welcome him, to celebrate his return.

Taran didn’t understand.  “Another sheep –”

His mother rushed forward and silenced him with a hug.  She planted kisses on his cheeks and neck.

“My boy, my sweet and lovely boy!” Tears coursed down her face.

The mayor clasped his hand and squeezed it tight.  “Well done, my boy,” he grinned.  “Now you are truly one of us.”

The mayor encouraged everyone to cheer.

What big teeth he has, Taran noticed for the first time.  What big teeth they all have!

dragon-eyes-md

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A Night Out

Charlie ducked out of the club and turned up his collar against the damp night air.  Another disappointing night.  There simply weren’t the pickings anymore.  Oh well, the students would be back in town in a couple of weeks and suddenly the sea would have plenty more fish.

A figure stepped from the alley between the club and its neighbour, an all-night kebab shop.  Eyes glinted beneath the figure’s hoodie.

“Oh, you’re not leaving already?”  The voice was rich, deep and more than slightly mocking.

Charlie shook his head to signify he wasn’t interested but the man in the hoodie blocked his path.

“I was watching you,” the voice continued.  “Across the bar.  You were looking for something – for someone.  Looks like you didn’t find him.”

Charlie shoulders twitched in a shrug.  “There’ll be other nights.”

“There’s still this one.”  The hooded head jerked toward the alley.  “And it’s still young.”

“And so are we!” Charlie laughed.  “All right then.”

He followed the stranger into the alley.  The walls were wet and slippery; on one side, the pulsating music, a dull, humming throb that got into your bones; on the other, the spicy aromas of the kebab shop, the tang of overcooked fat, the stench of death.

Charlie unzipped the hoodie, revealing the stranger’s incongruously frilled shirt, like something from a costume drama, from a time long ago.  The stranger’s hands, pale and skinny, reached for the buckle of Charlie’s belt.   His mouth nuzzled against Charlie’s neck while his long fingers searched in Charlie’s underwear.

Panting, Charlie sought to pull back the hood, to get a look at the man he was snogging.  The stranger froze, stepped back.

“If you don’t mind,” he said in steely tones, “I’d rather keep it on.”

Charlie laughed.  “I’ve been with worse, mate.  Don’t worry about it.”

The man took another step back.

“Bloody hell,” said Charlie.  “What are you, some kind of vampire or something?”

“Actually,” the man straightened, “I am.”

He swept back his hood to reveal a high forehead, the blue-black hair in a sharp point, the eyes red rimmed and hungry, the cheekbones sharp as the fangs teasing the thin line of his lips.

“It’s not a problem, is it?”

“Not for me,” said Charlie.  “You do what you want, mate.  Just not with me, OK.  Not being funny but it just won’t work.  I’m a – a – Undead too.”

He lifted his Britney T-shirt to reveal the stitches and scars of an autopsy.

“Impressive,” the vampire traced the Y shape with a pointed fingernail.  “But not my thing.  I need the blood of the living.”

“And I need their life-force to keep me going.”

“Oh well, no harm done.”

“No fun had either!” laughed Charlie, pulling his shirt straight.  “Tell you what, Sniffers is still open across town.  We could double up, try our luck there.”

The vampire zipped up his hoodie and linked his arm through Charlie’s.

“Double trouble!” he chuckled, “I’ve never done a three-way.”

They stepped out into the street.  The vampire’s grin glinted in the streetlight.  “I’ll get us a cab.”

alley

 

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Breakfast in Bed

Rebecca woke with a start.  She froze, listening hard.  She held her breath.

Someone’s in the house!

She hitched herself onto her elbows and wondered whether she should get out of the bed and hide underneath it – or the wardrobe, perhaps… Or the window.  She could climb out, then there was a short drop to the garage roof, the neighbour’s fence…

Who am I kidding?  She lay back, head reeling.  How much did I have to drink last night?

Footsteps on the stairs struck terror in her heart.  She whimpered; the handle on the bedroom door turned.

“Morning!” came a chirpy voice, a man’s voice, as a tea tray came in followed by the man in a cardigan who was carrying it.  “Oh, good; you’re awake.”

He held the tray over the bed until Rebecca sat up, then he placed it on her lap.

“Croissants and jam, coffee black, grapefruit juice, just how you like them.”

Rebecca gaped in horror.  “How did – how do you know?  How did you get into my house?”

The man smiled patiently, the circular lenses of his spectacles resting on the ruddy apples of his cheeks.

“There’s no need to get upset, love,” he whispered.  “It’s only me.”

Frowning, Rebecca shook her head.  “No, no, no!  I don’t want this!  I don’t know who you are!  You could be trying to poison me for all I know.”

She flung the duvet aside, sending the breakfast tray clattering to the floor.  She tried to swing her legs to the floor but the effort made her swoon.  She fell back onto the pillow.  The man stooped over her and covered her with the duvet.  He stroked her face.

“There, there,” he cooed.  “No harm done.  You’re just a little confused.  What kind of husband would I be if I minded a bit of confusion after all our years together?”

Rebecca’s mind reeled.  Husband?  Years?  This was all news to her.

She searched the man’s face for something – anything – she might recognise.  He looked kindly enough, she supposed, pleasant… but who the hell he was and what the hell his name was, she had no clue.

“The doctor spoke to us about this, remember,” the man retrieved a syringe from the bedside table.  “And those nice people at the dementia club.”  He tapped the barrel of the syringe and pushed the plunger with his thumb.  A spray of droplets sprang from the needle’s tip.

“There’s a good girl,” he smiled as he took Rebecca’s forearm.  “This will help you calm down.”

As the needle went in, Rebecca stiffened.  Images flashed across her mind.  A hand over her mouth, a dark alley, the boot of a car.  And that voice, that same soothing voice, calling her Sally and saying how glad he was to have her back.

croissant

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Warren makes Peace

“I can’t believe you have done this!” Steven’s voice cracked with anger.  Warren panicked.

“Keep your voice down!” he hissed.

“Make your mind up,” Steven complained.  “You bring me here because you say you want to talk and now you’re telling me to pipe down.”

“It’s just that the walls are thin and my mother’s in the next room.”

Steven laughed.  “You still live with your mother?  Christ.  Then don’t you think you should have found somewhere – I don’t know – a little more private for this – whatever it is you’re trying to achieve.”

“I – I – wanted to – needed to talk.”  Warren put his fingertip on the upturned glass.  Overhead, the dim blue light from which Steven’s voice was emanating flickered in time with Steven’s laughter.

“Oh, I think we’re beyond the moving-the-glass stage, don’t you?  And if you want me to spell out a message letter by letter, I remind you I fucking hated Scrabble.”

Warren despaired.  Things weren’t going well – the opposite to the way he had hoped, the way he had rehearsed and rehearsed.  Where was Steven’s gratitude, for one thing?  Warren supposed the dead have little to be grateful for.

“So, what do you want to know?” the blue light flickered.  “What it’s like over here?  Frankly, there’s not much to tell.  It’s all one big fat load of nothing.”

“No – no, there’s some things I want to tell you.  Things I never said when I had the chance.”

“Christ.  Not this again.”

“Look, I know I was a pain in the arse sometimes.”

“Putting it mildly!”

“And I’m sorry you had to block me on social media and everything.”

“So you said.  You were becoming obsessed with me and – look at you now! – you haven’t changed!  You just can’t let me rest in peace, can you?  You just had to summon me with your little incantation and your little trinket thingy.  Take a hint for once in your life.”

“But you still came!”

“I didn’t have much choice.  Don’t take it as encouragement, for fuck’s sake!”

“Listen!  There’s not much time.  To make up for all the hassle I caused you, let me do this one little thing.  And then you’ll never have to speak to me again… Unless you want to.”

“I won’t!  What thing?”

“I’ve been studying.  The amulet, the incantation, they’re just the start of it.  What would you say if I could bring you back?  You could live again!”

“I’d say you were round the fucking twist.”

“Possibly – but look!”  Warren sprang across the room and whipped the duvet off his bed.

“Fuck, no!  No!” The blue light flared angrily.  “Tell me you didn’t.”

“Ta-daa!” Warren grinned.

“You dug me up!  You went and fucking dug me up!  What, you couldn’t have me when I was alive so now you – You’re sick, man.”

“No!” Warren blushed.  “It’s not like that.  This is for you.  Let me complete the ritual and you’ll be right as rain.  And you probably won’t hunger for the flesh of the living at all.”

The blue light swooped over the bed, scanning the desiccated corpse, shrunken in its Sunday best.

“But – people know I’m dead.”

“Go abroad.  New life somewhere else.  It’s the least I can do.”

The blue light circled Warren, scanning him.

“It’s crazy!  You’re crazy!  But you’d go to all this trouble for me?”

“I really was your friend, you know.  I just didn’t know how to show it until now.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

The blue light hovered in front of Warren and took on Steven’s form.

A sharp knocking on the bedroom door was followed by Warren’s mother’s voice.

“Warren Makepeace!  You better not have anyone in there, do you hear me?  We’ve talked about this.  You promised me you wouldn’t do anything unnatural.”

blue light

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‘Til Death

The reporter held a finger to his earpiece and turned to the camera.  Behind him, a crowd jostled to share his shot.

“Quite a number gathering here at the law courts.  So far, they’re a good-natured lot and the police are having an easy time of it.  So far.  With me now is Janet from the equal rights organisation, Sweet F.A. – Freedom for All.  Hello, Janet.”

“Hello.”

“What makes this particular issue so important to you that you come down here with your placards and your banners?”

Janet scowled.  “When I could be at home with the kids, do you mean?”

The reporter’s smile faltered.  “Um, no, I –”

“We’re here for everyone,” Janet cut him off.  “We want this law brought onto the statutes.  The test cast going on behind us in these hallowed halls of justice will decide what kind of country we live in.  Is it a country in which anyone and everyone is free to find love and have it enshrined in a legally recognised contract?  Or do we live in a country that continues to discriminate against and alienate many of its citizens?”

The reporter pulled his ‘I’m impressed’ face.

“Strongly held views there.  Thank you, Janet.  With me now is the Archbishop of Canterbury.  Good morning.”

“Good morning.”

“You – that is to say, the Church – take a different view.”

“Well, of course we bloody do!” snapped the Archbishop, giving rise to an upsurge of boos and an increase in placard-waving.  “I am all for fairness and equality – Check out my voting record on issues of gay rights and all the rest of it – but this, this is a step too far.  The marriage ceremony clearly states, ‘’til death do us part’ – Anything else is abhorrent.”

“So…” the reporter angled his body away from Janet, who was quietly seething in her kagoule.  “What you’re saying is no one in Heaven is married?”

“Ah, that’s a different matter for another time.  What we’re discussing here is the notion that the dead, here on Earth, have no right to get married.  They’ve had their chance while they were among the living.  Now it’s time to rest in peace and await final judgment.”

“Bah!” Janet jeered, forcing herself back into frame.  “You need to modernise and get with the times.  They’re still very much with us!  They’re not resting in peace.  They’re still walking about!”

The Archbishop gave a patronising smile.  “A few isolated incidents –”

“Bollocks!” Janet roared.  “Things are changing.  The Dead are back.  They’re part of society and – newsflash! – they’re still people, mate.  And as such they should be afforded the same rights that the rest of us take for granted.”

The Archbishop sneered.  “Like claiming benefits?”

The reporter, with a pained expression, apologised to the viewers at home for the bad language.

The crowd, on Janet’s side, yelled at the Archbishop.  The police finally had reason to hold them back.

“So you can see,” the reporter tried to finish up, “Debate is still lively on this issue and –”

He was cut off by the sound of every alarm in the law courts blaring out.  People streamed and stumbled from the building, blundering into the crowd.

“Run!” they urged.  “Just fucking run!”

The reporter grabbed a wide-eyed woman and thrust the microphone under her chin.  “What happened? Can you tell us?”

“It’s all kicked off,” she whimpered.  “The – the dead one – the bride – got out of her restraints and took a chunk out of a copper, who turned – I mean, changed – it was the blink of an eye – and sank his teeth into a solicitor.  Within about thirty seconds, half the courtroom was turning on the other half – it happened so fast.”

Sirens wailed.  A helicopter circled like a noisy vulture.

The crowd gasped and screamed, some of them at last having the sense to run away.

In the doorway stood the judge, his red robe already in tatters, his pale grey wig askew.  His jaw hung slackly and his chin was smeared with gore.  From deep within him a low growl arose, hungry and ungodly.

“Well done,” the Archbishop rounded on Janet.  “This is the country you live in!”

zombies

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The Tattooed Hand

Murphy sat back and rubbed his eyes, as though that would enable him to see the kid across the table in a new light.  Hard to believe this skinny, preppy streak of piss could rip a man to pieces with his bare hands but hey, here we are.

Hard but not impossible.

“Come on, kid.  Save us both a lot of time and effort.  It’ll go easier on you if you co-operate.  Make your confession.  You killed that guy; time to admit it.”

Beside the kid, a lawyer shook his head and put a finger to his lips.

“Kid?” Murphy prompted.  “We got the guy’s blood on your hands.”

The kid looked at his lap where his hands, clean now, were wrapped the one over the other.  He looked up and met the detective’s gaze.

“I already told you, I was walking past the alley when some guy rushed out, knocked me over and ran off.  That must have been how I got the blood on me and – there’s – this.”

He uncovered his hand and held it up.  Murphy took in the intricate design: a mountain of gaping, grinning skulls, with a sword at the summit.

“Nice ink,” he said flatly.  “Where’d you get it?”

“I – don’t remember.”

“Drunken night out, was it?  Wake up next day with a headache and a bunch of regrets?”

“No – no, I – don’t drink.  I’d never seen it before until your officers cleaned me up.  It was there.  Under the blood.”

Murphy’s eyes darted to the lawyer, whose pursed lips suggested the kid might be going for an insanity plea.

“That tattoo looks pretty old to me, kid.  Some of the lines are smudged and faded.”

It was true – but at the top of the pile, several of the skulls were sharp and pristine as if they had been recently added.

“I keep telling you, I don’t know how I got it.  It just – showed up.”

The lawyer leaned toward his client and murmured something the kid apparently didn’t like hearing.  In a flash, the kid leaped to his feet, his tattooed hand seized the lawyer’s throat and crushed his windpipe.  He discarded the body; the lawyer’s chin struck the table on its way to the floor.  Murphy was quick to react: he sprang back, drawing his gun.

“You better stay back, kid.  Don’t make things no worse for you.”

Uniformed cops burst in.  They grabbed the kid’s arms but he kicked out, knocking Murphy’s gun across the room.

“Your turn now, detective,” the kid cried out as he was dragged away.  “It’s your turn now!”

Murphy stooped to pick up his gun and was startled to see the kid’s tattoo blossom on the back of his hand, like blood seeping through a bandage.  At the top of the pile grinned another newly-added skull.

skulls tattoo

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The Night-Watchman

“Oh no, you don’t, sunshine.  Stop right there!”

At the sound of the night-watchman’s voice, the slender figure in black raised its hands.  The beam of light from the night-watchman’s torch danced around the scene.  At first glance, everything seemed to be intact – then how had the bugger got in?

High above the intruder’s head, a skylight was ajar, letting in the chilly night air.  A rope ladder dangled like a broken pendulum.

“Don’t you bloody move!” the night-watchman threatened.  He sidled to a nearby control board, twisted a key and pressed a red button until it turned green.  The skylight whirred and clanked into place.  “Right, sunshine,” the night-watchman shone the full beam of his flashlight into the intruder’s face.  Only the eyes, blue and squinting, were visible; the rest was covered by the coarse wool of a balaclava.  “What the hell do you think you’re playing at?”

“Three guesses, grandad.”

A young woman’s voice.  The night-watchman chuckled.  “You’re from the university, aren’t you?”

“Might be.”

“You kids and your idealistic nonsense.  Animal liberation, is it?”

The intruder didn’t reply.

“Look, love, you’re barking – up the wrong tree, I mean.”

“I’m not your love!”

“You should be so lucky!” the night-watchman laughed.  The young woman gasped, aghast.  “What I’m saying is, you’ve got it wrong.  There are no animals here.  Not even a mouse.  This is a strictly controlled environment.  Air quality, temperature, light – well, it was until you forced your way in.”

The young woman jutted her chin in defiance.  “Don’t feed me your lies, grandad.”

“Now you’re being ageist!” the night-watchman interjected with a look of faux offence.

“I’m sorry,” the intruder faltered.  “But I don’t believe you.  Everyone knows what goes on in here.”

“Do they?”

“Yes!”

“Are you sure about that, lo –  I mean, are you?”

“Well, it’s wrong, isn’t it?  Everybody knows that.”

“Wrong?  Wanting to feed people is wrong?  I may only be a part-time security bloke but even I know there’s a food crisis going on.  I don’t claim to know all the science behind it but it seems to me the boffins here are heroes.”

“Bah!” the intruder crossed her arms.

“No, hear me out.  They’ve come up with a way to provide meat for everyone on the planet.  Healthy, sustainable meat that doesn’t decimate the rainforests and – this is for all you bleeding hearts – doesn’t involve the harming of a single living creature.  Now, you tell me what’s wrong with that?”

The young woman opened her mouth, stretching the fabric of her disguise, but she couldn’t reply.

“That there,” the night-watchman directed his torchlight at her boots, “That tank you’re standing on fills this entire enclosure.  It’s the width and breadth and depth of a swimming pool and it’s full of ethical protein – or will be, when it finishes growing.”

The young woman looked down.  She was standing on one of the narrow metal walkways that crisscrossed the tank.  A pink substance, glowing faintly, pulsated beneath the clouded Perspex.

“It’s wrong!” she persisted.  “It’s Frankenstein food!”

“Think of it, love!  World hunger solved!  Deforestation halted!  Factory farming a thing of the past!”

The young woman put a hand to her brow and shook her head.

“Come on, love,” the night-watchman held out his hand.  “In the spirit of compassion, I’m going to let you go.  I’ll take you to the way out and no harm done, eh?”

“I –” the young woman’s knees buckled.  The night-watchman rushed to catch her.  He steadied her on her feet and helped her along the walkway.

“You’re bleeding,” he observed, as red drops landed on his hand.  “Must have cut yourself when you forced that skylight.”

“I’m – sorry –” the young woman sounded dazed.

“You just be sure to tell your friends at that university not to trouble us again, OK?  You can do that for me, can’t you?  And let that be an end to it.”

The young woman nodded weakly.  The night-watchman took her through an airlock and the car park beyond.

“Releasing you back into the wild, love,” he laughed.  “Off you go!”

“Sorry,” the young girl was downcast.  She shuffled away.  When she was some distance from the compound, she straightened and laughed to herself.  Job done!

The night-watchman returned to his office and put the kettle on.  Kids, eh?  They mean well but they should do their homework first.

On the bottom right screen of a bank of monitors, unnoticed by the security guard, the intruder’s blood seeped through a tiny crack in the Perspex.  Beneath the lid, the pink mass darkened and trembled.

And an appetite for human blood was born.

torch

 

 

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Meanwhile at the campsite…

Robert couldn’t sleep.  Beside him, Tony snored like a warthog trying to start a motorboat.  Robert pulled his sleeping bag up over his chin, eyes wide in the darkness.  Outside the tent, something rustled.  Robert held his breath.  What was it?  A plastic bag scurrying in the wind?  A badger snuffling for worms?  Or a psychopathic killer whose shoes didn’t fit?

Robert gasped.  It was a killer, had to be!  The campsite was spotless, there was no litter at all.  And there were probably no badgers for miles – they’d all been culled, hadn’t they?  So, it could only be a psycho on the prowl.  It stood to reason.

Holding his breath was proving impossible.  Robert was certain he could be heard right across the field at the toilet block.  Tony had insisted they pitch the tent in the farthest corner so that ‘we won’t be troubled by drunks stumbling back and forth all night’.  Cheers for that, Tone.  Now Robert’s bladder was brimming and he would have to unzip, crawl out, slip his boots on and traipse across to the breezeblock hovel.  Putting my life at risk.  Bound to get caught by the killer as soon as I open the flaps.  And I’ll piss myself into the bargain.  I’ll be found with my head off and my pants full of piss.  How mortifying!

Or perhaps he’ll catch me while I’m standing at the bucket that passes for a urinal.  Attack me from behind like they do in the films.  And then I’ll spray everywhere, blood from one end, piss from the other.  Robert was amused by the thought.  But there was nothing else for it: when you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go.

Gingerly, Robert unzipped the bag.  He tipped his boots upside down and shook them.  In case of spiders or scorpions or whatever else might be lurking inside.  He slipped them on, not bothering to lace them up, unzipped the flaps and crawled out.  He stood but remained hunched in order to present a smaller target and protect his vulnerable areas.  He hurried toward the sodium glow of the solitary light outside the toilet block, bootlaces swishing around his ankles.

Come on, come on, come on… With every step away from the tent, attack seemed more likely.  Robert whimpered with terror.  And then the rough walls of the block were in front of him, solid and real, and rasping beneath his fingertips.  Robert breathed out.

Bladder empty, his return to the tent was more confident, as though a corresponding weight had been lifted from his mind.  He walked tall, striding across the grass, past the tents of others, shadowy forms of all shapes and sizes.  It was quiet.  Too quiet?  Robert’s imagination set to work again.  They could all be dead!  Lying on their inflatable mattresses with their throats cut.  The killer could be working his way across the site and our tent is the last in line!

Tony!

Robert froze.  To run toward or away from the tent that contained his best friend?

A man was looming over the tent, standing straight, a silhouette, silver-edged in the moonlight.  Blood dripped darkly from the blade of his axe.

“Oh, you’re back are you?” the man grinned, eyes and teeth glinting.

“T-Tony?” Robert backed away.

“I thought you’d never go for a piss,” Tony approached, both hands on the axe handle.  “Here’s the plan.  I’m going to make it look like you did this, you went on a spree, killed all these people, and then I got you in self-defence.”  He shrugged.  “Sorry, mate, but it’s how I get away with it.”

Robert fled.  His bootlaces lashed out like snakes, coiling around his ankles and tripping him up.  He rolled onto his back as Tony raised the bloodied axe over his head, and the last thing Robert felt was the warm sensation of his underwear filling with piss as his bladder miraculously found one last load to let go.

orange-tent-md

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RIP Raffles

“Hello, Timmy,” David grinned on the doorstep.  “Thought you might need some company?”

Timmy looked puzzled.  “Why?”

“Because – you know – Raffles.”

Timmy nodded.  He beckoned David in.  “I’m all right,” he said.  “Raffles is in a better place, Mummy says.”

“Oh, what’s this?”  Timmy’s mother emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on her apron.  “Talking about me behind my back!  Hello, David.  Staying for dinner?”

“Um…”

“You’re very welcome.  There’s more than enough.  Now, you two go up to Timmy’s room and play quietly.  I’ll call you down when it’s ready.”

“Thanks, Mum!” Timmy pounded up the stairs.

David lingered in the hall.  “Is he all right, Mrs Farrell?  I thought he’d be sad.”

“You’re a good friend,” Mrs Farrell smiled.  “And losing a pet can be tough.  Did you know, Raffles was as old as Timmy?  That’s quite old for a dog.”

David did the mental arithmetic.  “Raffles was 70!”

“Yes.  But he’s not in pain any more.  Now, you run along.”

She went back to the kitchen.  David caught a whiff of the dinner to come.  It smelled delicious.

He joined Timmy in his room for a quick game of superheroes, bashing action figures into each other and doing all the sound effects with their mouths.

“Timmy…” said David, toying with a figure of Wonder Hound.  “It’s OK, you know.  If you want to talk about Raffles.”

Timmy scrunched his nose.  “What for?”

“Perhaps you could write it down.  Then you could bury it.  With him.  With Raffles.”

Timmy looked aghast.

“It could help you.  That’s what funerals do.  They help people.  When my gran –”

But Timmy wasn’t listening.  He bombarded Mr Terrific into Blast-o-path, making noises like explosions.  David sat back and watched his friend.  Bottling things up; that’s what Timmy is doing, David diagnosed.  And that’s never good – not according to David’s mother’s magazines, anyway.

Mrs Farrell called them from the foot of the stairs.  Dinner was ready.

“Looks delicious, Mrs Farrell,” David tucked a napkin under the collar of his Fabulous Five T-shirt.  “And it smells – like heaven!”

Mrs Farrell grinned.  “I’m glad you approve, David.  It’s nice to get a compliment.”  She sent a meaningful glare across the table to her husband, who was already tucking in.  “Roger,” she hissed.  “The prayer!”

David dropped his knife and fork.  He had forgotten that Timmy’s family were quite religious and did things David and his family did not do at home.  He decided the best thing would be to close his eyes and bow his head.

“We thank Raffles for the time he shared with us and the love he gave,” Timmy’s father intoned.  David thought he heard Timmy sniff back a tear.  “And we say our final farewell to him with this commemorative repast.  So be it.”

“So be it,” echoed Mrs Farrell.

“So be it!” said Timmy enthusiastically.  “Come on, David.  Don’t let your dinner go cold!”

David looked up.  The Farrells were all smiles.  They made enthusiastic noises as they devoured the meal Mrs Farrell had prepared.  David tried a forkful of the mashed potato.  It was the creamiest, smoothest he had tasted.  Even the peas – and he had never been a fan of peas – were sweet and – and – minty!  David’s mother would never put mint in the peas.  She would dismiss it as yet another of the Farrells’ odd ways.

“Something wrong, David?”  Mrs Farrell gave him a look of concern.  “You haven’t touched your meat.”

“It’s the best part,” said Mr Farrell.

“I always save it until last,” said David.

“Some people have funny ideas!” Mr Farrell rolled his eyes.  “Get it down you.”

Not wishing to appear rude, David sliced the end off his portion of meat.  It was thick and succulent.  It seemed to melt in his mouth.  But – but – there was something else.  David coughed and spluttered.  Mrs Farrell sprang to her feet and began to pat his back.  David pulled a clump of hair from his mouth.  Long, red hair that reminded him of Raffles.

“Perhaps we should let him choke, love,” chuckled Mr Farrell from the head of the table.  “Lad like him would keep us in dinners for a fortnight.”

dog

 

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