The ‘Brexit novel’ is a thing, but they tend to be literary works, which aren’t really my thing. I would like to make the case for Northern Gorehouse being not only a fun alternative, but also one of the first to be published
The novel was finished in April or May of 2017, but it didn’t feel right to release it so soon after the Arena bombing, given the violent ending of the story. So it came out for Halloween of that year.
The book was written as an action horror story. The ability to map the stupid politics of the last few years onto it is a bonus. Indeed, the B word is only mentioned once in the story, right at the beginning, to establish the run down state of the nation, and show how the vampires have come in to take advantage of it.
Vampires as a stand in for capitalists and the ruling elite is not a new metaphor, but as I’ve established it’s post Brexit, I’m going to call them the disaster capitalists who caused, and benefit from, all the pain. Being vampires, they, of course, take advantage of the homeless the country has abandoned. And have corrupt servants in the political system, covering up for them, and pushing policies that aid them. Again, not new tropes in vampire fiction, but ones that map perfectly well onto the Brexit theme.
Of course, the political allegory was never the main aim of the story, and it’s harder to map metaphor onto it once the action really starts. The zombies are created by the vampires but (spoiler) it’s an accident. In a true Brexit allegory, they would be a deliberate method for distracting people at street level and keeping them away from turning on the elite.
Similarly, the fact that vampires exist wouldn’t be such a shock in a more pointed Brexit take. Everyone would have at least an inkling they were there, but their bought politicians and the media would be demanding that people look the other way.
Since I wrote the book, I’ve discovered another character who wasn’t included- the Brave Warrior claiming to be from a long line of vampire hunters, who has actually betrayed the people they pretend to be protecting, for reasons that don’t make any sense. There’s no Lexit Van Helsing in Northern Gorehouse.
I think you should read my accidental Brexit novel. If nothing else, you can pretend the vampires are Farage, Gove, Johnson et al. (It won’t be any stretch at all with Rees Mogg.)
The ships appeared from nowhere, or so it seemed. The world’s
governments had known there was something coming for a month, but
no-one could tell them what it was. They were as surprised as
everyone else by the shapes that arrived in orbit. Simple platonic
solids from a distance, up close the scoring of heat dissipation
trenches and hangar doors, and the dimpling of sensor arrays and
weaponry became clear.
They hung over the planet for half a day, visible from the ground
as they caught the sun. Then the smaller ships arrived, and the
Space Force lasted seconds, its satellites swatted away before the
order had been given to release their nuclear payloads. Conventional
forces fared better. In the air, fighter pilots became aces as they
met the first wave of the attack. But the alien ships kept on coming,
and were joined by larger, tougher vessels. Despite mounting losses,
the air forces of Earth kept on downing invaders, but could not hold
the mass of them back.
On the ground, as the landing craft disgorged all manner of armed
creatures, infantry and armoured divisions fought as bravely as their
comrades in the air. The aliens had more powerful weapons, and were
heavily armoured. But they weren’t invulnerable. If they could be
made to bleed, then there would be a way to kill them. Many did die,
but they took at least as many human soldiers with them, and were
Earth was losing the war of attrition. Prime Ministers, Presidents
and dictators around the world considered launching nuclear weapons
at the key landing spots. It seemed their only means of rebalancing
the battle on the ground. Hopefully it would be a harsh enough blow
that their remaining forces could repulse the attack.
The decision was made. A timetable was hurriedly agreed, and
fingers hovered over the launch buttons.
Just then, the invasion fleet started to drop from the sky. The
gigantic ships in orbit went dark. The spherical one had a bite taken
out of it by a huge explosion. On the ground, the menagerie of troops
fell into disarray. Many collapsed, or froze in place, trapped inside
the armour that had protected them moments before. Some threw down
their weapons and cowered in surrender. Others turned their guns and
blades on creatures which had, moments before, been their comrades. A
number fought on, but their depleted and confused ranks were soon
bested. A large number fled, and a significant number of them have
yet to be tracked down.
A disc shaped ship, smallest of the first arrivals, dropped from
orbit and tumbled into the Western Pacific. Belly flopping into the
ocean, it drove a minor tsunami toward the Chinese coastline. It
floats in international waters, a new island of exotic alloys and
unknown technologies, circled by ships from all the world’s navies,
No-one in power knows why the invasion came to such an abrupt end,
though many want to take credit for it. Supercomputers and
intelligence analysts are working hard to crack even the slightest
bit of the spike in communications amongst the aliens that presaged
the collapse. It must have some bearing upon what happened, but they
can’t yet tell what. Everyone awaits the rebooting of the orbiting
platonics, a second wave of fighters and troop carriers, or some
other terror that they cannot imagine. Something must be set to
Until it does, the clean up must go on. Rubble is being cleared,
plans are being made for cities to be rebuilt. Refugees are being
found shelter, and provided with food and water. Elsewhere, dead
aliens are being dissected, and live ones are being examined. Their
languages are being learnt, where possible, and they are being
questioned. Their craft and weapons are being gathered up and
dismantled. Reverse engineered and reworked, some of their equipment
will be used against them, should they try again.
As yet, the question of where the fleet came from has not been
answered. The reason for the invasion is unknown, the wide array of
differing morphologies and biologies of their army unexplained. But
humanity defeated them once, surely it can resolve all of these
questions in time.
Meanwhile, a tiny group knows some of the secrets of the invaders.
They, with help, were the ones who halted the invasion and saved the
planet. But they dare not reveal themselves, because they also know
that the aliens arrived years before, and have implanted their
agents, and cultivated traitors, at the highest levels of Earth’s
They must lay low until they can be sure they and the world are
truly safe, avoiding the alien and human forces hunting them down.
And they have to help a friend who is no longer completely human, and
is fearful of losing her identity, but who could hold the key to the
ultimate safety of the planet.
Slashed is now available in paperback, printed and delivered by Amazon. This edition has a redesigned cover, and also features bonus content- the two short stories which made up book two of the Lost Picture Show series. Order your copy now.
A house with a grisly history.
The killer who calls it home.
Eight teens planning a party.
But who’s hunting who?
Warden’s Lodge has a blood soaked history dating back to before the Civil War.
After a violent massacre it has stood empty for over twenty years. The locals keep their doors locked and are never far from a gun, fearing what they think lives in the lodge.
When eight teenagers turn up, determined to have a party in the lodge despite the warnings, blood can’t be far away.
In one long, violent night the lodge is going to claim more lives.
The Lost Picture Show series I write as Garth Owen, is inspired by genre film. But horror paperbacks of the seventies and eighties are sneaking a bit of influence in there as well.
I don’t have anywhere near as many to read as the guy interviewed here (the book he’s just published is on my to-read list, though, so I can find more to look out for). My interest was renewed a couple of years ago, by re-discovering the works of Guy N Smith (Crabs, etc), and finding a big pile of them in a charity shop. I need to sit down and devour half a dozen or so over a week some time soon.
The next planned Lost Picture Show story is going to have a few nods to the sub-genre, with satanic rituals, sex in odd places, and gore. All updated and given a smartphone and internet twist.
In the run up to the launch of Northern Gorehouse, and then for the week until Halloween, I’ve watched a few zombie films. I shuffled over 70 of them to the top of my rental list at Cinema Paradiso (my chosen, and recommended replacement for Lovefilm). Obviously, I ddn’t get through all of them, but maybe I’ll keep adding undead reviews to this post as they arrive.
Something called the Hope Project is working to solve the problems of overpopulation and food shortages. Of course, they’re doing this by creating a eugenics gas that will be used to kill off the world’s poor. Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t work, and has unforeseen side effects (can you guess what they are?)
After a couple of establishing scenes- a gas leak at the Hope plant, involving a cool zombie rat moment, and a hostage situation at the US consulate in an unnamed country- we get into the action proper. Four special forces operatives, previously seen gunning down the hostage takers, are in Papua, New Guinea on a secret mission. Pretty soon, they stumble upon a reporter, her cameraman, and their unfortunate guides. The guides have brought their seven year old son along, and he’s been attacked by a “crazed native”, and will soon die. Cue the soldiers’ first encounter with zombies, and an undead toddler who was genuinely creepy.
After this, the group stumbles around the jungle, meeting zombies everywhere and, each time, forgetting the lesson they’ve learnt about shooting them in the head. The best sequence is when they come upon a native village. The reporter says she spent nearly a year with local tribes, and knows how to gain their trust, promptly stripping off and daubing on body paint. The villagers are carrying out funeral rituals for their dead, who have all succumbed to a mysterious disease in the last few days. When the corpses come back to life, the soldiers and their passengers take off and abandon them.
One by one, the group are picked off by the undead, the soldiers proving too highly strung and incompetent to save themselves, let alone the rest of the world. They find the chemical plant and…. do nothing. The epilogue shows us how the gas has carried to the rest of the world and the true zombie apocalypse has begun.
This Italian production was one of the ‘video nasties’ banned in the UK in the early eighties. It certainly has the gore effects to merit that, all appropriately gruesome, backed up by stock footage for scene setting. It wanders from one bloody set piece to the next, lacking a coherent plot, But, be honest, it’s the blood that the story’s all about.
Not a classic of the genre, but a fun time capsule of blood and entrails.
Low-to-no budget efforts such as this should be applauded for seeing the project through to the end. However, a participation medal is all I’m willing to give out to this uninspired film.
The tautologically twisted title hints at the lack of invention inside. A dirty bomb has gone off in a British city, and a bunch of survivors are trapped in a provincial hospital filled with undead and with only one way out. They go nowhere for most of the film. Stilted acting struggles with a clumsy script, shot with little thought to production design and no obvious colour correction or grading to pump up the flat imagery.
Gore effects are good, and the mini movie in the closing titles is better than the rest of the film put together. So there’s hope. Best of luck to the team behind this, and I hope they come up with a more original idea next time, do a few more drafts of the script, and take the time to frame better shots.
Very few zombies in this one, despite the title. The ones who do show up are more brain damaged slaves than shambling undead. This is actually a cannibal film.
After a bunch of cannibal attacks across the US, a team of anthropologists is sent to the place the protagonists all came from. This place is the mysterious island of Kito in the not-at-all-insultingly-named Mullato chain. Along the way, they drop in on a famous surgeon who’s dropped out to do missionary service in the islands. Following his directions to the wrong island, they end up on Kito nonetheless.
Soon enough, their guides are being picked off and eaten by the natives. Whittled down to a final two, they eventually find out why one of this film’s alternate titles was Doctor Butcher M.D. (Medical Deviant).
The gore effects are mostly well done, there’s some gratuitous nudity, and the evil doctor gets his deserved comeuppance. But the storytelling is disjointed, the way so many Italian horrors of the era could be, and the racism inherent in the sub-genre.
Bonus material on the disc included a documentary about the short-lived cannibal genre, which produced few great works of art, but was well represented on the video nasties list.
Another case of false advertising, because it’s actually a were-rat virus. As the infection takes hold across Manhattan, the occupants of an apartment block on teh eponymous street fight to survive.
It’s another low budget effort, but not as low as Zombie Undead, and definitely more better scripted and directed. It also helps that it takes place in the Big Apple, rather than some non-descript English market town.
Similar in many ways to Mulberry Street, this Spanish horror is even more tightly paced and chilling. Its creatures are closer to the traditional zombie as well.
A two person film crew from a local television station is shooting a night in the life of a fire station. Responding to a call in an apartment block, they’re soon out of their depth as an unknown infection turns the occupants into flesh eating monsters.
With its found footage technique of viewing everything through the news cameraman’s lens, and the characters trapped in the block for most of the film, it’s more effectively claustrophobic than Mulberry Street. In that one, at least they got to pop to the bar next door. There aren’t many occupants in the block, but the confined space means that each one that changes increases the threat level immensely.
This one sneaked in as a last gasp from Lovefilm. A low budget vampire romantic dark comedy, it stars Jason Mewes, who’s initially unrecognisable without the long hair he sports as Jay in all those Kevin Smith films. He plays Jack, a lovelorn paramedic trapped on the night shift with his arse (well, ass, as this is a US/Canadian productio- but I can’t bring myself to say ass) obsessed co-driver and only friend.
When Jack meets Danica, she’s covered in blood down a dodgy alley near his home. Trying to help her out, and clean her up, he falls in love almost immediately. Things are going great, until he comes home to find she has taken a big chunk out of his ex-girlfriend’s neck.
Desperate to sate his vampire girlfriend’s thirst, Jack initially helps her feast on the local drug dealers and hide their bodies. But things soon get out of his control.
Not a masterpiece, but I’d definitely call this a little known gem. The Apocalypse part of the name is a bit off, and it seems the original name was Bitten, which is more appropriate.
This one hits the new low, taking the prize away from Zombie Undead. On top of the poor script, direction and acting, there’s also some really bad CGI as well.
In the future, everyone lives on walled cities, spending all their time in virtual reality. Five wannabe real-life hunters break out, intent on bagging a deer. Unfortunately, the place they’ve chosen is just over the hill from a secret military research establishment which has just created, and leaked, a magical wound healer that also raises the dead. Cue boring, tension-free, useless zombie killing.
Another little gem, this one is full of inventively gory Aussie humour. After meteor chunks and/or aliens- it’s kept nicely ambiguous, right to the end- land in an outback town, people start turning into white eyed walking corpses. A slowly dwindling bunch of survivors tries to fight their way out of the town. I won’t try to break down the action for you, but recommend going off and watch it yourself.
This five film series- based very loosely on a Yakuza member’s prison memoirs- traces gangland conflicts in Hiroshima and neighbouring Kure from teh late forties to early seventies. Shozo Hirono is the character based upon the author, but not the lead in every one of the films. Calm and honourable, he’s permanently being undermined by the hot-headed behaviour and back stabbing of Yakuza in his own and others’ families.
The Yakuza life, is presented as less than glamorous, shabby, even. Violence, when it breaks out, is realistically gritty, clumsy and brutal, more scuffle and brawl than bullet ballet. If, like me, you have problems keeping track of characters’ names, it gets tricky following exactly which factions are working with or against each other. But that’s just me.
Shortly after the service launched in Manchester, I took a Mobike hire bike out for a test ride. Whilst I was about it, I visited some of the locations of Northern Gorehouse (aka Zombies V Vampires). Here’s A Writer’s Life, episode 3.
I’m not a big fan of all these plans to build higher and shinier and more expensive towers in the city centre. I can’t shake the feeling that more down to Earth developments, aimed at people on an average wage or below, and not backed by the super wealthy, would have a harder time getting planning permission. But I am a natural cynic.
Zombies vs Vampires got a big bit of inspiration from Gary Neville’s plans (even if I put my versions somewhere else by accident), and it feels like I may be tapping into something of relevance with my ‘1% lording it over the 99%’ narrative.
Take a look at some of the towers and skyscrapers which could sprout up around the city centre over the next few years
The lowest I can price my books on Amazon is 99 cents. In the UK and Eurozone, because of VAT, they price match to 0.99 (pounds or Euros). In other shops- India, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Mexico and Canada- it matches the local currency. But, in all those places, I could price them lower. So, I just went through my catalogue and lowered the prices of my cheapest books. The following are now available at bargain prices, if you’re in the right place-
Garth Owen has taken a break from writing about zombies and vampire to start an ongoing side project.
Alternative Facts is an ebook (also available from Smashwords and other stores) and a mailing list of flash fiction, satire and silliness. As long as Donald Trump and co. keep providing inspiration, the mailing list will update weekly, and the new material will be added to the ebook every month. Volume one of the ebook will update until December, then volume two will be published in January 2018. Half the royalties will go to appropriate charities.
You have to buy the book. Donald Trump has signed an executive order saying so.
(You don’t have to buy the book, but it would be lovely, and would help the project along, if you did.)
Coming soon- Alternative Facts: Totally True Tales Of Trump, a constantly updating ebook of flash fiction, commentary and satire inspired by Donald Trump.
Trumpy Bear and his little pal Boo-Bannon had a plan to get themselves all of the pic-a-nic baskets. This time, they would outsmart Ranger Smith, indubitably.
“We will have the best pic-a-nic baskets, the biggest pic-a-nic baskets. I always get the biggest and best pic-a-nic baskets. Everyone says so.” Trumpy told Boo-Bannon.
“Of course you do Trumpy. I’m one of the people who always tells you so. I think your plans gonna be swell. Specially if it lets me hurt some folks that don’t look like me. So, how are we gonna get the picnic baskets?”
“Well, that’s where I used my big brain. After all, I am smarter than the average bear. I’m smarter than all the bears. Lots of people say so. I have the biggest brain, and I know lots of words. Like…. words…. and pic-a-nic.”
“The plan Trumpy. What is the plan?”
Trumpy made little pinching movements with his tiny paws, as if he were snatching tiny flies from the air. “The plan. Yes, I have the best plan.”
“What is it?” Boo-Bannon tried to keep his voice down. He had explained the plan to Trumpy in great detail, now he had to wait for it to be repeated as if it was the other bear’s idea.
“The plan. It’s a wonderful plan, the best plan. Now that I have been elected to the Park Rangers’ guidance committee, I have passed a rule that says that all the fire warning signs in the park are ugly. They don’t look good, and believe me, I know looking good. Because they look so bad, and they send such negative messages- I mean, who ever heard of a lit match starting a fire? I certainly haven’t. And lots of people have said that it’s ridiculous, and there’s no evidence for it. So Ranger Smith has to go around taking down all those ugly signs warning good, honest, hard working folks about dangers that don’t really exist. Forest fires are a myth. I think a myth made up by…. made up by….. Chinese restaurant owners! Yes them. Made up by them. To keep good, honest, hard working folks in their homes, phoning out for lasagne.”
Trumpy had forgotten what the plan was supposed to achieve. He would start speaking again soon, but would it be more meandering nonsense, or would he get to the point. “And that’s my plan. It’s a great plan, I came up. And then, and this is the best part of the great plan. Then, while Ranger Smith is collecting all the signs from the far side of the Park, that’s when we shall steal all of the pic-a-nic baskets on this side.”
“You’re a genius Trumpy. Lots of people tell me so.”
So Trumpy and Boo-Bannon walked down the path toward the picnic site. Along the way, they were proud to not the empty poles where all the ‘No Littering’ and fire safety signs had been. Without those pesky regulations around, people would be free to do what they wanted and have better picnic food and enjoy themselves more. Particularly if those people were bears like Trumpy, Boo-Bannon and their friends.
“This is so great, isn’t it Boo. When we’re full of pic-a-nic, we should call on our friend Puty-Tat and help him catch that annoying yellow bird that he’s after. That would be great, so great.”
“That bird is definitely Muslim, or Jewish. But we shouldn’t help Puty too publicly. I’m sure that’s a different brand, and we’re barely getting away with this pop culture reference.”
“That’s what I thought Boo-Bannon. It’s the best idea to let Puty-Tat catch the yellow bird all by himself, that’s a great idea I had. People told me so.”
When the two bears arrived at the picnic site, all the campers screamed and ran away, even the one lighting a barbecue under the sheltering branches of a big pine. Though it meant he had the pick of the picnics, Trumpy wasn’t happy about this. “Where are those losers going? Don’t they know that everyone loves me. They must have been listening to the failed park ranger losers. Sad.”
“I bet they’re all foreigners and Muslims and Jews. We should ban them from entering the park. Even if they’ve got America The Beautiful passes.”
“That’s a great idea. The best idea. I’m so proud of myself for thinking of that idea. If we keep the foreign campers out, we’ll be able to turn our failing National Parks around and make them so successful. We’ll make them succeed bigly. And then all the foreign tourists will want to come and visit our beautiful National Parks and light their fires where they want.” Trumpy said, between shovelling up small portions of food from the nearest hamper with his little paws.
“Do you smell smoke?” Boo-Bannon asked, as they hunted out their second hamper.
“That’s just the smell of the failing National Park. We shall rid this great park of that smell, wash it away, until it smells of lovely antiseptic Chlorine and gasoline. We will knock down the mountains as well, I have decided. Then I won’t have to face stairs any more. Stairs and slopes are a conspiracy by the losers in the park rangers service. Why haven’t they put in lifts and escalators? I would have added lifts and escalators. The best lifts and escalators, with gold plating, and my name on them all.”
“That pine tree is on fire. It must have been started by a Muslim.” Boo-Bannon pointed.
“That is terrible. Terrible. They started it to hurt the good American camper who had set up his barbecue right under that tree. The fire would never have started if he had just been left to get on with cooking his food the way he wanted to.”
“I wonder if the fire will move to other trees, and burn the forest down.”
“Oh there’s no evidence that that has ever happened, and it’s not happening now. But look at all the other trees the foreigners have set fire to. This is why they should be banned from the park. Let’s go back to our cave and plan how to keep those trouble makers out.”
But the fire had spread to encircle the whole picnic site. Trumpy stared at the fire, and declared that it was sad and started by losers, and that he would have made a bigger, much more beautiful fire. Boo-Bannon looked at the flames. He had wanted the forest to burn, but he hadn’t planned on being caught up in the conflagration.
Water plummeted from the sky, drenching Trumpy and Boo-Bannon and quenching the fire. A great wind, and powerful buzzing, was over them now. They looked up, to see Ranger Smith leaning out of the fire-fighting helicopter with a bullhorn. “Look what you nearly did there Trumpy! You could have burnt down the forest, and destroyed your own home. From now on, we shall be keeping all the warning signs up, no matter what you tell us to do.”
“How dare he get us all wet like that. I only let people drench me in Russian hotel rooms. Though that’s a lie, put about by losers and the fake news notice board at the park gate.”
A metal pole, topped with a no littering sign, landed like a javelin right beside Trumpy. Ranger Smith already had another, and was leaning out the side of the helicopter, ready to throw it. “Yoiks! Let’s get out of here Boo-Bannon. We’ll be back, Ranger Smith. You can’t keep us away from the pic-a-nic baskets forever.” Trumpy clasped his hat to his head. His feet ran on air for a moment, then he set off down the path away from the picnic site.
“We’ll be waiting for you, Trumpy. We’ll be waiting.” Ranger Smith said grimly, as he aimed his second sign at the ground just behind Trumpy’s receding furry butt.
The black tower was a stake driven into the heart of the city. Overbearing and ugly, it loomed over the pale sandstone and red brick of the lower rise buildings cowering under it.
Terry knew the story- a version of it, anyway. The development had been proposed by a pair of footballers, looking to invest in property for lucrative retirements. But post-Brexit decline meant all the floors remained unsold, and the sportsmen wanted out of the project. Mysterious partners and backers- Russians, everyone agreed- stepped in to buy out the famous faces and finish the buildings themselves.
No-one got into the tower. No-one that anyone knew, anyway. It was a mystery. A slab of darkness looking down on the city centre. There were shops at ground level, then two storeys of offices, but, above those, the dark windows swallowed sunlight during the day, and never lit up at night. So it was surprising- and thrilling and frightening- that Glenn said he could get in.
Terry wavered between being wary of Glenn, and being in awe of him. The older man- only a few years, but it seemed to count for so much- gave the impression he had decided to be Terry’s protector. It didn’t feel like the other times men had taken an interest in him, Glenn didn’t look at him the way they had. And he wouldn’t let anyone else. There were plenty of predators around Tent Town, prowling for a piece of fresh meat who looked as young as Terry did. But Glenn wouldn’t allow them the chance. So far, he hadn’t asked anything in return. Perhaps he was truly a good person.
They were in an alley behind the towers, where the goods for the ground floor shops were delivered. In front of them was a heavy door, clad in pale grey metal, and with a large shiny handle and security grade brass lock. To the right were the roller shutters protecting the windows of one of the shops. Left of the door was a galvanised fence, to keep them from falling into the bottom of the ramp that ran down to another large roller shutter. This lower shutter blocked the entrance to the tower’s exclusive underground parking.
Glenn put his hand on the door handle and turned to grin at Terry. “Wait’ll you see inside here! It’s mad.” He pressed down on the handle and pushed at the door.
The door didn’t open. Glenn’s confident smile faltered, until they heard a click, and the door opened.
It was dark on the other side of the threshold. Much darker than under the bright security light outside. Terry waited on the threshold, unsure, until Glenn grasped his cuff and pulled him in. The tug was more violent than Terry had come to expect from his protector. He was too shocked to pull back, though, and quickly found himself inside.
The door closed with an ominous thud. Terry flinched at the sound, then again as a light in the ceiling turned on. The glow was only around them, the rest of the space wasn’t illuminated yet. The darkness was thick, and the detail revealed by lamplight fell off quickly. Terry could see the door, the wall either side of it, and a short way along the narrow corridor. There was no handle on this side of the door, just a vertical pull bar from top to bottom of it, and a brushed steel number pad on the wall.
Glenn was his smiling, reassuring self again, the flashes of impatience and anger gone. He beckoned Terry to follow him. As he strode into the dark, another light came on above him, revealing more of the corridor.
The floor was marble, Terry thought, looking down at the blood red veins marking the shiny off-white surface. A stone stuck in the tread of Glenn’s boots clicked against the floor with each step.
The space wasn’t very large, but it was lavish. The marble of the floor extended halfway up the walls, where a narrow gilt band separated it from the dark wood of the upper half and the ceiling. The lights were set in the cornice at the top of the wall on alternate sides, and activated by movement. The sections behind went dark as they left them. When the fourth set of lights turned on, they were at the far end of the hall, standing before the polished brass of an elevator’s door.
Glenn pressed a button on the wall and, with a ping, the door opened. He stepped in, beckoning Terry after him. “Come on. Come on. He’s expecting us.” Terry worried about what that meant, but stepped in anyway.
The floor and lower wall of the elevator was the same sort of marble as the hallway. There was a wide band of pleated and padded red leather at waist height, and flat brass above that. The metal gave the appearance of having been polished to a gleam, then brushed with a stiffer metal to take the shine off and distort the reflections until they were matt shadows.
Terry stroked, then pressed, the leather, and found it surprisingly soft and supple. He looked to Glenn for some explanation of what came next.
There was a polished panel of buttons set in the brass. As the door closed, Glenn pressed the top one.
The box rose up its shaft rapidly. Terry felt the acceleration in the soles of his feet and the pit of his empty stomach. Glenn had promised him food if he came along, but had said nothing about someone waiting for them. Terry knew, now, that he should have questioned Glenn more. The hunger was stronger than the worry, though, so he leant back against the soft leather and waited to reach the top floor.
Suddenly feeling light, Terry knew the lift had halted. How high up were they, he wondered, as the door opened. He couldn’t remember how many floors the tower had, but he knew they were above anywhere else in the city when he looked across the wide space that had been revealed, and took in the view through the dark tinted windows. “Penthouse suite.” Glenn told him.
Terry walked toward the windows, drawn by the view. The floor was the same marble again, but he couldn’t make out many other details. The room was dark, lit only by small lights in the ceiling. Reaching the window, Terry touched fingertips to the glass, finding it warmer than he expected, and looked down at the Town Hall. A long way down.
The lights that illuminated the Gothic façade of the Town Hall were muted, made a strange grey by whatever coated the floor to ceiling window. This must be the tint that kept the building dark, no matter what time of day it was.
“Life in the sky, mate. Innit brilliant. We can have this view as long as you keep him happy. He does like pretty boys like you, he said.”
Terry didn’t turn round to look at Glenn. He just had to look up to see the reflection in the glass. Glenn was about halfway across the floor, under one of the lights, the lower half of his face shadowed, so Terry couldn’t properly see his grin. The top half of his face, however, showed greed. Terry was going to fight his expression back to passivity before he turned. He wouldn’t show Glenn his disappointment. The older man wasn’t his friend, but his pimp.
“Lap of luxury, am I right? You’ll let him do what he wants, and we’ll be set.” Glenn wasn’t asking. He expected Terry’s compliance.
Focussing on his own reflection in the glass, Terry forced the down turned edges of his mouth flat. This was just another betrayal in a lifetime of betrayals. He was angry at himself for having thought Glenn wouldn’t let him down.
“He should be here soon. I mean, he said he’d….” Glenn’s words were cut short, and he made a sucking sound, then a strange, pained whistling.
Still, Terry couldn’t bring himself to turn. He shifted his gaze to Glenn’s reflection, and fought down a cry. Glenn’s head was tilted to the left, an expression of wide eyed surprise on his face. The skin down the right side of his neck was torn open in a jagged U, from which blood flowed profusely.
The more powerful spurts leapt out into the air, then disappeared. They were going into a red rimmed hole, which might have been in the shape of a mouth, ringed with sharp, even serrations that could be teeth. Two of the teeth, at the top of the circle, were longer than the others.
Glenn managed to move, finally. His right hand reached into a pocket, and drew out a knife. The blade flipped open with an instinctive move of his thumb, then came up and back. Most of the determination drained away, however, before the knife reached the top of its arc. It struck something, slid to the side, then dropped from Glenn’s hand. There may have been the hint of a line of blood, raised by the blade, hanging in the air.
The bloody mouth closed, then opened in a grimace to let out a little sound of disgust. Glenn collapsed, a soft bag of flesh and loosely connected bones.
“Do let me see you, little one. Are you as pretty as he promised?” the floating lips of blood said.
There was something about the voice that could not be ignored. Terry turned slowly. What he saw made him take a frightened step back, until he was pressed against the glass.
Standing over Glenn’s body was a woman. She was tall and slim, with long, jet black hair, wearing a tight sheath dress, split on the left to reveal a shapely thigh, and with wide sleeves that hung down from her arms like limp wings. She reached down, and tore a strip from Glenn’s shirt, using it to wipe the blood from around her mouth. Running it across her forehead, she dabbed up the blood from the wound that Glenn had inflicted. The skin under the thin red line had already closed. Done with the rag, she dropped it so that it draped itself over Glenn’s face.
“You are lovely. Yes, you are. He was a horrible little man, and he tasted foul, but at least he was honest about that.” The woman took a step toward Terry. She was beautiful, even in the unforgiving light directly above her. Terry felt himself relaxing, when he was sure he should be running. His limbs weren’t under his control, it seemed.
Just as Terry felt happy to succumb to this stunning woman, her expression changed. She was hungry, looking at him like a delicious meal. Somehow, without lines appearing on the perfect, pale skin of her face, she appeared ancient. Centuries showed themselves for the briefest of moments.
Terry could do nothing as the woman drew right up to him. His head tilted to the left, exposing his neck to her. “You will taste so much better than your friend. And I will not tear at this perfect skin, no. No. And you can take a taste in return. You shall be so much more than just one meal.”
The teeth entered Terry’s neck so gently he didn’t know his skin had been penetrated. An ecstasy he had never before felt flowed out from the wounds and filled his body.
Rick is a Lupan- human/wolf hybrid, whose forebears were created for war- tending his small bar on the lowest levels of a dead end station in neutral space. When he comes into possession of a small vial of genuine Earth water, he sees a way home and away from the dangerous situation he’s put himself in. But is the water a McGuffin? Are there more important things at stake?
This is a universe, and characters, you could happily find more and more about. It’s almost a shame it’s self-contained and doesn’t appear to be setting up further stories.
Scientists in Iceland have managed to turn carbon dioxide emissions to rock, which would make true carbon capture a possibility.
Scientists working at the Hellisheidi geothermal power plant near Reykjavik, Iceland, were able to pump the plant’s carbon dioxide-rich volcanic gases into deep underground basalt formations, mix them with water and chemically solidify the carbon dioxide.When basalt — a volcanic rock that makes up roughly 70 percent of the earth’s surface — is exposed to carbon dioxide and water, a chemical reaction occurs, converting the gas to a chalk-like solid material. Scientists previously thought it wasn’t possible to capture and store carbon this way because earlier studies suggested it could take thousands of years for large amounts of carbon dioxide to be converted to chalk.
Of course, the proper answer is to stop using processes that create carbon dioxide, and move over to renewables. Announcements such as this are likely to be taken up by the pollution industry as a reason for them to keep on dsestroying the planet, on the promise that a technology may come along to undo all their damage. This could be useful in many ways, but this isn’t the silver bullet that’s going to save the world by itself.
The final paragraphs conjure up some interesting visions of geoengineering projects- sucking CO2 out of the atmosphere to bring the balance back down to non climate change levels. It’s the sort of thing I imagined happening in the backstory to the Mongrels series, as the AIs bring the planet back from climate catastrophe to some sort of stability.