Spinneyhead Blog

Zombies vs Vampires, part 14   Recently updated !

“Sorry mate, they’ve gone.” The cabbie waved his hands around, taking in the whole of the road ahead of them. “Way he took off, like, I say they saw you. What they done that they’re avoiding you?”

“We haven’t done anything to them. We just wanted to ask them some questions.”Danielle said, upset.

“Running like that does suggest guilt about something though, doesn’t it? I think we’re onto something, I just don’t know what.” Tom said. Perhaps it would offer some consolation. “And if that was Terry, at least now we know he’s still alive.”

“I suppose so.”

“Do you want me to drop you here? I could drive you around a bit, a car like that’ll stand out. And black cabs all look the same, they won’t know we found them again.”

Tom looked to Danielle for a decision. “Let’s drive around a bit. Who knows?”

“Okay. Which way at the lights?”

Now Danielle had to turn to Tom for a decision. “Straight on, then head for Ancoats. We’ll go and have a look at the old tent town. Then, I don’t know.”

Part 15

Zombies vs Vampires, part 13   Recently updated !

Salford University campus was quiet. It was past time for lectures and study, but still too early for crowds at the students’ union. So no-one noticed six dead men staggering around.

Glenn led them on whenever he could see any of the three towers that told him which way Manchester was. When the landmarks disappeared behind a building, the group would wander in a random direction until one appeared again.

The random motion had taken them to the Irwell first, then along the river’s bank into Peel Park and onto the pale grey and angular white of the campus. Now, it delivered them to Salford Crescent, which would bend around the curve in the river, then send them into Manchester city centre. They wandered toward the flow of traffic, able to understand that there was food in the metal boxes.

Somehow, they had avoided, or been avoided by, any potential meals, and they were starting to get hungry again. The need for blood, flesh and offal made them pause in their journey toward the towers.

Glenn, Carl and Karl stared at the cars passing by, getting confused, and sometimes scared, stares back. Meanwhile, Henry, Rav and Ricky were confused by a bus shelter. They bumped into the glass walls, stepped backwards, then bumped into them again. After doing this a couple of time, they stood under the shelter, staring at the traffic. In particular, they watched the big, tall box that was approaching them. Part of it flashed orange, and it slowed down.

The bus pulled up at the stop, its doors opened, and the driver looked out at his next three passengers. He immediately knew he should have passed them by. The blood on their many wounds was obvious up close, as was the hilt of the knife that stuck out of Henry’s chest.

The driver’s hand went to the switch for the door, but Henry and Rav were inside the vehicle already. The door slammed on Ricky, who struggled and hissed for a moment. They parted again, and he tumbled onto the floor.

To protect against theft and attacks, the driver’s compartment was enclosed. Facing passengers when they stepped on was a section of thick perspex, with just a small slot by the ticket machine. Even Henry’s undead enhanced strength couldn’t break the screen as he lunged for the driver. The plastic flexed, and the driver flinched back from the attack.

Henry pushed at the screen again, but Rav had spotted more tempting food in the seats beyond the driver’s cabin. As the passengers realised something was wrong, and started moving, Rav lurched toward them. Ricky crawled after him.

The driver panicked. He needed to get away, and the only option open to hijm was to drive. The bus started moving, swinging out of the bus lane and scraping along the sides of two cars. Leaving the occupants of the vehicles shaken and surprised, the big vehicle pulled back into its lane and pulled away surprisingly quickly. The driver didn’t know where he was going, but he wanted to get there quickly. Too late, he thought to open the doors again. But Henry had already moved away from him, and was closing on the passengers along with Rav and Ricky.

Car horns sounded disapproval at the erratic way the bus was moving. Glenn, Karl and Carl registered the noise, and looked around in its rough direction. Vaguely aware that some of their number were missing, they displayed the nearest emotion to confusion that they were capable of. The move of their shoulders, almost in unison, might have been a shrug, if they had remembered the motion through their deaths.

They spotted a pedestrian on the other side of the road, who had heard the crash and car horns, and was staring at the receding bus. Glenn stepped off the pavement, in front of a van that only just stopped before hitting him. He didn’t look at the vehicle as the driver shouted at him and hammered the horn. The other three followed him across the road.

Zombies take public transport, vampires lord around in Bentleys. I’m playing the class war angle a bit in this story, but even I didn’t notice what I was doing in this scene until after I’d written it.

Look out for a bunch of shorter chapters for the next few, as I do the last bits of shuffling to get everyone into place for a bunch of big set pieces.

Part 14

Zombies vs Vampires, part 12   Recently updated !

He hadn’t been paying attention before, as the Mistress went down on him. But now, Terry was beginning to see the variations in all the humans they drove past. Some of it was body temperature, but he could pick up so many little details beyond that. He could sense their heart rates, tell when they were running fast or slow, see the discord brought on by drugs or excitement. But there was an aura around them, some larger and more vivid than others.

“Many of us develop a taste for a particular blood type as time goes by. But I like to try a bit of everything. It is also fun to taste their vices in their blood.” the Mistress said.

“What does it all mean, the glow around them?”

“There are nearly as many theories as there are old ones. Great deals of vampire philosophy has been written on the subject. I find it makes little difference to the flavour, however. The chase, the excitement and terror, and, as I said, the chemicals in their blood, they make much more of a difference.”

Terry had a thought. He turned to stare at the shape of Leech through the partition glass. The barrier didn’t block his body heat, or the thin, brittle blue aura that wrapped around him. It was as unappealing as everything else about him. Terry looked at the Mistress, who had a cruel little smile. She shrugged.

They were on Deansgate, and it was busy, as usual. Almost blocked with cars, and with pedestrians flitting across and trying to disappear under their wheels. Behind them were the black towers they had come from, in front, the silvery-blue Beetham.

The lights changed, and they finally crossed the junction. They didn’t get far on the other side, barely a car length beyond the line. They stopped, and Terry went back to looking out of the window. There was something about the woman standing right by his window that caught his attention.

As Terry pressed close to the window to get a better look, the woman turned. Terry couldn’t hold in a little gasp, and the woman seemed shocked as well. She tugged at her companion’s hand, trying to get his attention.

The Mistress was intrigued, and moved closer to Terry. She studied the woman, and made a little cooing sound. “Her aura is interesting. It is much like yours was, back when you were one of them. Is she, perhaps, your sister?”

“I don’t have a sister…. I don’t think I have a sister.” The car was moving again, and they both turned their heads to watch as the woman disappeared behind them.

“It would be interesting to meet her properly. But maybe not tonight. You have so much you need to learn.”

“I don’t know. I want to know who she is.”

“Ah, well, maybe we will find out soon. Oh look, she and her friend are following us.” The Mistress gestured at a black cab, pushing its way into the traffic a few cars behind them. “This shall make tonight a little more interesting. Let’s see how determined she is, shall we?” The Mistress leant toward the partition and pressed a button. “Leech, we are being followed. Do try to lose them.”

“That won’t be easy in this traffic. We could get away at one set of lights, only to have them catch us at the next ones.” Leech replied. He was checking the mirrors, studying the traffic behind them.

“You are not in charge of traffic and roads, are you?”

“I’m not on that committee, no.”

“Perhaps I should find someone who is.” The teasing tone made Leech’s shoulders tighten. If he hadn’t been so shocked about the woman, Terry might have enjoyed the sight.

“Do try to lose them. It would not be seemly for Terry’s first victim to be his long-lost sister, would it?” The Mistress studied Terry, checking his reaction to the suggestion. He looked back, trying to see the woman’s aura through the steel and crowd.

The lights changed, and the big car jumped forward. Leech twisted the steering wheel, and they cut in front of smaller vehicles, bullying their way onto the pavement. Accompanied by the sound of horns, they cut left, and headed back toward the city centre.

Part 13

Zombies vs Vampires, part 11   Recently updated !

Danielle looked out across tent town from their vantage point at the top of the slope. She looked distressed, and Tom understood why. It was the feeling that had overwhelmed him when he had first realised the extent of the city’s homeless problem. He did what he could to help, but it was always going to be too little.

“He lived here?” Danielle managed, after a while.

“Not at this one. He was in the previous location for a while, but he disappeared in the move.”

“This Glenn found him. If only I’d started looking for him sooner.”

“Before you even knew he existed?” After he’d said it, Tom didn’t like the tone. But he wanted to tell her that it wasn’t her fault. You can’t solve a problem you don’t know about. He couldn’t solve problems he did know about, and thinking about that futility had stirred old angers at his failings.

As Tom worried over his phrasing, Danielle had digested his meaning. She nodded to herself. “My father was a bastard. I’m glad I hardly knew him. So, should we go down there and ask about Terry?”

“I don’t think we’d find anything new, to be honest. I know a couple who bring food here every day. I’ve asked them to keep an eye and ear out for anything that’ll help. I just thought this would be a good place to start our sweep through town. We can head for the old site, which is over in Ancoats.”

Danielle had been studying maps, and learning about the city’s districts. She thought for a moment, turned and pointed. “Which is over there somewhere?”

She was pointing under the tall railway arch over the road beside them, towards all three towers that they had suspicions about. The more direct route was a fair way to the right of hers, but didn’t take them past as many places of interest. “More or less.” Tom said.

“Shall we go, then?” Danielle didn’t want to look at tent town, and think about her half brother living in such a place, any more.

“Okay, let’s….” Tom spotted the van at the traffic lights, and recognised it instantly.”Let’s wait a minute.”

The lights changed, and the van cam straight across the junction, rather than going left or right as it should, to pull onto the wide pavement beside them.

“This is Richard and Sue, the people I told you about, who bring the food. I didn’t think they visited this late in the day.”

“We don’t, usually.” Richard said, having caught the end of the introduction.

“But, you know how sometimes you just get a feeling? Well, Richard got one of his.” Sue added.

“Not a feeling. I remembered an old case. About a bunch of disappearances, mostly the homeless. There are a lot of similarities. I hadn’t made the connection before, because it was so long ago.”

“How long ago?” Danielle asked, beating Tom to the question.

“Early in my career, back when I was a wooden top. Twenty five, maybe thirty, years.”

“You think those disappearances were murders? Or something else?” Tom asked. He wished he hadn’t when he heard the sound Danielle made.

“Well, there were never any bodies found. And then, just like now, the runaways and homeless didn’t get much sympathy. They could have gone home, moved to other towns, all sorts of things. And that’s what we told ourselves back then. But I went back to the names a few years later, and all but one of them was gone for good.”

The four of them stood silent for a while, not wanting to make the logical leap.

“I wish I’d realised the similarities sooner.” Richard said, eventually.

“But you have now.” Sue laid a comforting hand on Richard’s arm. “And you’re going to get them to re-open the cases.”

“Maybe. There are a couple of officers who are going to meet us here. We’ll try to get people to talk to us.” Richard looked down at Sue, and squeezed her hand. “What are you doing here? And I don’t believe we have been introduced properly.” He made a little turn, and almost a bow, to Danielle, extending his hand. “I’m Richard. This is my wife, Sue.”

“Danielle. Tom’s helping me find my brother.”

“Terry? The one you were asking about?”

“Him, yeah.” Tom nodded. “We’re going to wander through town. Look for….”

Now it was Sue’s turn to make a little shocked noise. “Oh. Oh shit.” She stepped forward and took Danielle’s hands in hers. “I’m sure your brother’s okay. Not part of this thing we’re….”

“It’s okay. You haven’t said anything I haven’t already thought. I mean, I don’t want to think it, but…. You know,”

“I’m sure you’ll find him.” Sue and Danielle couldn’t make eye contact, neither of them confident about Sue’s reassurances.

Another uncomfortable silence was broken by the arrival of a dark blue Ford Focus. There was something about it that shouted Police. Possibly the paint and trim obviously being the cheapest options, but more likely the man and woman in bulky, stiff looking black jackets who got out. There was something about their heavy black trousers and sensible shoes as well, but they had left their hats and other identifiers at the office.

The female officer recognised Richard and strode over. “Good to see you again, sir.”

They shook hands. “I’m retired now, you can call me Richard.”

“I’m not sure I can, sir. Years of habit to break.” She had a smile, though. “This is Sergeant Markham, of the rough sleepers squad. Some of the folks here might already know him.”

Tom and Danielle took the opportunity to leave. They nodded goodbyes to Sue, and headed for the railway viaduct.

As they stepped under the arch, Danielle asked, “Do you think he’s right? That there might be a…. a serial killer going after the homeless? And that Terry could be a victim.”

“I….” Tom didn’t want to be honest. But he couldn’t bring himself to deny the possibility, either.

Danielle read everything she needed to know from Tom’s silence. She made a sort of shrugging, head shaking motion, accompanied by a sigh. Then she looked down.

It was almost a surprise top both of them that they were holding hands. Neither of them made the move to let go. It might not be the most professional thing for Tom to do, but it seemed appropriate.

Under the vault of the viaduct, they couldn’t see the Beetham tower. Once again, it was hiding behind a lower building, and above the brickwork. But as they walked out of the cover, it became obvious. They slowed to stare up at it, then moved their gazes to the two black towers further on.

Without needing to consult, they crossed the road at the next junction, to stand on the pavement in front of the Beetham tower’s taxi rank. They stared up and up, until they each had to put a foot back to keep their balance.

There was a stream of traffic, nose to tail, all the way along Deansgate, and feeding in from either side of the cross junction. No more than four vehicles could cross the junction each time the lights changed, though there was always at least one more driver who tried their luck and ended up trapped in the yellow lined grid of the box junction. Which just made things worse.

Danielle stopped staring up at the top of the tower, not sure what made her turn to look at the traffic. Pulled up next to them, having just made it across the junction, was a big black car. The windows were darkened, but, somehow, she could just make out the face staring out from the rear passenger window. Possibly because he was so close, and maybe due to the way everything was lit.

The boy on the other side of the glass stared at her, confused recognition making his mouth drop open. Maybe her expression mirrored his, though she knew why he was so familiar.

The car moved away as the traffic shook itself loose again. Somehow, it had a larger gap than before to move into, as more cars got through the next lights than usual. Danielle tugged at Tom’s hand. When he turned, she pointed at the car.

“I just saw him! He’s in that car!”

“Terry? You’re sure?”

“I’m sure. I’m definitely sure. Come on!” Danielle strode off toward the car, just as the traffic started moving again. It made it all the way to the next traffic lights, just as they turned red.

“No. We’ll lose it that way. This way.” Tom directed Danielle to the black cab waiting in front of them to join the traffic. He opened the door and pulled her in. the driver was surprised by his new customers, but checked them in the mirror and reached out to the meter.

“Where to?”

“Follow that car.” Tom said, pointing.

The driver turned as far around as his seat would allow, to stare back at the people in the back of his taxi. “Are you shitting with me?”

“No. Not at all. Please follow that black Bentley. We need to find out where they’re going.”

The driver must have had all sorts of strange requests over the years. But it seemed this old favourite had never before been one of them. He glanced at the Bentley, shrugged, then set the meter running. The taxi jumped forward before he was even properly back in the driving position, and soon they were bullying their way into a gap in the traffic.

Part 12

Zombies vs Vampires, part 10   Recently updated !

The brass of the elevator doors reflected a distorted, gold-hued vision of the room they opened onto. Leech was a wavering black blob topped by a pale spheroid with indistinct features. Terry looked for the shapes that must be him, or the Mistress, but couldn’t find them.

Vampires have no reflection, he reminded himself, and I’m a vampire. Who is about to hunt and kill a mere human for the first time. He had accepted his new reality when he had first drunk blood, and when the Mistress had explained the cattle and other matters to him. But in the moments between revelations, he forgot, and started thinking like a mortal would.

His senses were still heightened. He could smell whatever Leech had drenched himself in, and got an inkling of the underlying scent it was supposed to mask. The human servant was excited, maybe angry as well. Terry couldn’t help but feel the anger was directed at him. He wondered if the Mistress smelt it. She certainly didn’t show it if she did.

Terry had already decided that Leech couldn’t be trusted, this just made him more certain of his judgement. Now that he had ascended, he wasn’t sure how the little man could be a threat to him. But he had got by on the streets by being wary, and he wasn’t going to change yet.

There was a ping, and the elevator doors slid open. Terry followed the Mistress into the red leather interior, pleased that it meant he cut off Leech and made him wait. The vampires stood in the back of the carriage, leaving the human to do the hard work of pressing the button.

Terry leant against the leather, feeling the texture of it. The almost imperceptible wrinkles gave away that it had once been skin. A cow, of course, not a human, but it had once wrapped a living creature, before being torn off and put to use by its superiors.

He wondered how long it had been since he had come up in this lift. Before he had changed, back in his previous, humdrum, life. Neither the Mistress nor Leech had given any indication of how many hours, or days, had gone by since Glenn had brought him up the tower. He had entered as an intended sacrifice, but was leaving several steps closer to a god.

He stroked a finger over the smooth, soft material of the suit he wore. The weave was so fine, he could only just feel the separate threads with his heightened sense of touch. The suit, and the silk shirt and underwear, and Italian leather shoes, that went with it, fitted him perfectly. It sat on his body like a second skin, moving like one as well. Another, huge, change from the dishevelled, messy mortal he had arrived as.

The Mistress wore a long, tight dress that fitted her even better than Terry’s suit did him. It moved with her, without the slightest of wrinkles, letting anyone see the perfection of her body without revealing anything. Terry was excited by what he saw. Leech was fighting the urge to turn and get a look himself, knowing it was more than he was allowed. He had seen her in the corridor, and would catch glances as he opened doors, but staring would earn a rebuke.

They were light on their feet as the lift dropped, then pressed down against the marble floor. But for these sensations, the journey was smooth and practically silent. A floor down from where Terry had first entered the elevator, the door opened onto the basement garage.

Leech left first. He had to bring the car round, whilst Terry and the Mistress waited. Terry’s newfound aloofness and poise almost deserted him when the matt black vinyl wrapped Bentley silently came around the corner and stopped before them with the briefest of rubber squeaks. As well as the wrap, it had darkened windows and sat low and threatening on big golden-chrome rims. The grille and all the other bright highlights had been plated to match the wheels. It looked just like the car the Russian mobster in a cliché action film would be driven around in.

Leech jumped out and quickly opened the rear door for the Mistress. He was wearing a mid grey, peaked chauffeur’s cap, which made him look even more pathetic and ridiculous. He was leaning as he held the door, almost a bow, but looking up enough for Terry to spot the flash of anger as he slid onto the back seat beside the Mistress. There was pleasure in seeing Leech’s pain, but it reminded Terry to stay wary of him.

The interior was soft, black leather with more gold plated highlights and dark, beautifully grained wood. There was a partition between the front seats and the passenger compartment. Built into it was a television screen, drinks cabinet and, no doubt, other cool hidden storage. Terry was sure that, if he could find the right button, a barrier would raise up to block off Leech’s view of them.

Sat before the shutters of the garage entrance, the Bentley slowly raised up to gain the ground clearance needed to go up the ramp without scraping anything on the ground. Leech waited for the shutters to lift all the way up before daring to drive out.

As the car sank back to its cruising height, and Leech watched the roller door to make sure it had closed, Terry decided to ask him a question. Despite the warnings his instincts were giving him, he wanted to needle the little man. “What do you do, Leech, when you’re not serving us?”

There was a stiffening of Leech’s shoulders. Beside Terry, the Mistress turned slightly toward him, as if lining up so that she could look from Terry to Leech with just a little flick of her eyes left or right. She had an amused expression. Yes, she had definitely picked up on Leech’s hostility toward Terry, and was going to let any conflict play out for her entertainment. She relished the thought of mortal and vampire fighting over her.

“I am on the Council.” Leech said, voice level as he concentrated on navigating the narrow route between parked cars. “I am responsible for planning decisions. I helped get the towers approved.”

The big car sat at a junction now. To their left was a bus stop, and the double decker taking on passengers from it had a tailback of cars and vans behind it, blocking the exit from their side road. “It was through the planning job that I met the Mistress. She…. Persuaded me to pass the plans through.” Leech’s tone suggested he was getting excited remembering the persuasion the Mistress had used on him. His body language said he was angry it hadn’t gone on longer, and that her choice to change Terry hinted that she had only ever used him.

The Mistress twisted the knife, for her own amusement. “And then, I persuaded the men who proposed the towers that they should sell up and let us move in.” All she had to do was run her tongue over her lips and give a sultry, open smile, and Terry knew all the erotic persuasion she had used on Leech and the fools she had bought out.

“Which direction, mistress?” Leech asked, quickly, failing to hide the discomfort of having let his feelings show.

“Let us do a circuit of the city centre for a start. Terry must want to see what it looks like as an ageless one.” She laid a hand on Terry’s knee and leant in close. “If you use your blood sight, it is quite an incredible vision. I liken it to the most beautiful of abstract paintings.”

Reaching out to the partition, the Mistress found the right button without needing to look, and the darkened glass slid up to separate them from Leech.

“There is also one thing that makes the view even better.” The Mistress pulled Terry into a lingering kiss, then sank down his body, nibbling the silk of his shirt until she ended up at his crotch. Her long, talented fingers released his trousers and rearranged his clothing.

“Eyes out the window, now. You must tell me what you see going past, so I know how well you are using your blood sight.”

The Mistress’s lips were cold, but incredibly exciting. Terry stole a quick glance at the dark shape of Leech, still, just, visible through the dark glass. The little man must truly hate him now, he thought. And it gave him the sort of entertained grin the Mistress had had when she teased her servant.

He turned his attention to the humans walking past, or in the cars that shared the road with them.

Part 11

Zombies vs Vampires, part 9   Recently updated !

A quick warning. This part features one of my most gruesome kills yet, of a particularly nasty character. Who’s also a clowm.

Less seriously. I’ve played fast and loose with Salfordian and Mancunian geography in this part.

Ricky was a scary clown, and he took his role seriously.

He had worn a mask the first few times, and baggy, charity shop clothes. But today, he had done the makeup properly, and now had a marble white face with red dots on his cheeks, creepy, over wide smile and, of course, the nose. The curly wig he wore was a plastic and unnatural shade of green, and the costume had come from a fancy dress shop that was closing down. The ensemble was set off with the vital scary clown prop- an eight inch, sharpened and shiny, chef’s knife.

Of course, dressed up and painted like this, he couldn’t afford to travel far. He was within escape distance of his house, if anything should go wrong. When he had worn the mask, he had been able to travel incognito into Manchester and down to the student area of Fallowfield. He had scared pretty young student girls down there, and that had turned him on.

It was the surprising sexual thrill he got from seeing confusion turn to fear that had got Ricky hooked on the scary clown game. As he had gone out more, and tried his act in different places, he found he couldn’t get enough.

It was the act of frightening people that worked for him, he found. Their age and sex wasn’t as important as their reactions. He wasn’t a paedo, he assured himself, but the extreme way that children reacted made them his favourite target. It helped that they were smaller, and less likely to fight back, as well.

He’d changed masks and costume often, so there was less chance of any link being spotted between his attacks. Now, for the first time, he was trying out makeup. The past few days, he had been scouting for the best place around his house to do the act, and working out the route back for afterwards. If he got a good scare in, and really got his blood up, he could be back in his home in minutes, wanking under the shower as he washed the makeup off.

A bunch of paths converged on a stone arch tunnel under the railway embankment, and that was where Ricky had set up for his first scare. On his side of the embankment, the paths disappeared behind trees and bushes quickly, part of his escape plan. On the other, streets full of semis rolled down the hill to feed people into the stone mouth. Kids used it, mostly, with the occasional cyclist.

He heard them, as they approached the other end of the tunnel. Kids. Two or three of them, with the squeaky voices of tweens or pre-teens. Just what he was waiting for. He edged closer to the entrance, and waited for the first echoes that told him they were in the tunnel, then he stepped out. He exaggerated his gait as he walked to the middle of the entrance, then slowly turned to face them. The sun wasn’t quite low enough to cast a long shadow through the tunnel, but it did enhance the shadows of his face.

The kids stopped. Three boys, the age he had expected. They weren’t scared enough yet, though. He wasn’t excited. His creepy slouch had been perfected by many hours in front of a mirror. He dropped his shoulders and tilted his head down, so he had to look up to stare at them. His mouth dropped into an open, drool ready grin, and he cackled, a high pitched “He he he he!”

One of the boys was walking backwards already. Another looked ready to join him in fleeing. But the third, the smallest, held his ground. “It’s just some creepo tryin’ ta scare us. Fucken creepo won’t hurt us. Come on yous two.”

The brave boy took a step forward. This happened sometimes, which was why Ricky had the knife. He had practiced turning the handle so that the blade seemed to appear from nowhere. His right hand reached out to the side and, as far as the kids could tell, the knife was suddenly there. He emphasised the move with another high pitched cackle and a step forward.

For the briefest of moments, the brave boy held his ground. Then he heard the slapping footfall of his fleeing companions, accompanied by screams, and decided not to risk the clown by himself.

Ricky laughed at the backs of the running children. Then he turned to head home. He was so turned on, he needed to get back and pleasure himself as soon as possible. In fact, he might even hide in the trees and bash one out right now, rather than wait.

No, that was how he would end up getting caught. He could stay hard until he got home, easily.

Except there was somebody coming along the direct path back to his house. They were moving slowly, as if arthritic, and didn’t seem to have seen him. He could try scaring them, but something about their gait put him off. They weren’t going to be able to run, it wouldn’t give him the same thrill.

There was a second route, which would take him around the occupied section of path. It was longer, but not by much. Ricky turned to head down it before he was spotted.

But there was someone on this path as well. A big white guy and a shorter Asian man, and they had seen him. Their walk was similar to the man on the other path, slow, slightly clumsy, but determined.

Time to scare them, Ricky decided. He flashed the knife again, waving it around for effect, and took a step toward them. They showed no sign of stopping, didn’t appear in the slightest worried.

This should have doused Ricky’s excitement, but, perversely, only made it stronger. He was already anticipating the moment when these big, brave men broke and ran from him. He did the cackle again, started a spring-heeled dance, and jabbed the knife at the air between him and the big guy.

The large man didn’t stop. And Ricky could see something in his gaze now, an empty hunger.

Ricky turned to check his previous route. The figure he had seen on the path had reached the junction now, and was heading his way. Back around, and the big man was closer still.

The knife went into the big man easily. It slid through fabric and skin with barely any resistance, then scraped over a rib before burying its full length in viscera. The point didn’t quite make it all the way through the thick trunk of his torso.

Ricky hadn’t meant to stab him, it had just happened. “Fuck. Oh fuck. Fuck.” He let go of the handle, but, before he could step away, the big man’s left hand had shot up to grasp Ricky’s throat. A finger and big thumb squeezed at his windpipe, and he was lifted off the ground.

His feet flapping at the air, Ricky struggled to free himself. He grabbed the thick arm that held him aloft and pushed against it. It made no difference. He made a desperate stretch for the knife hilt, but it was just beyond reach.

The blackness was beginning to come in from the edges of his vision, but Ricky was aware enough to feel what happened next.

The big man’s right hand came in low, maybe looking for leverage to lift him higher, perhaps with malice. Ricky realised he was still hard just as the strong fingers closed on his balls and the base of his cock and pressed hard. His darkening vision was lit up with the white pain only an injury to the testicles can create, and he could feel the queasy pain in the pit of his stomach, even over all the terror.

Then, it got worse. The fingers at his throat closed that little bit more that pinched it tight, crushing it closed. The big man started to lift him up by the groin. The locked tight grip twisted, and material, skin and gristle tore before Ricky fell away.

He landed hard on his back, and lay there, arms and legs splayed out. Asphyxiation from his crushed windpipe was racing blood loss from his eviscerated crotch to see which would kill him first. But, even as he faded away, he could still have the final horror of seeing what the big man did with his severed manhood.

Henry eyed the bloody mess he held, and realised it was full of lovely blood to drink. He held it to his mouth and let the war liquid splash out over his lips and down his throat. When the last of the drops was drained, he eyed the two soft, tasty looking morsels attached to the squashed tube. He picked one and put it in his mouth. As he chewed, an expression that might have been pleasure fought the rigid muscles of his face. He quickly sucked up the second one, then dropped the mess of fabric and flesh. He had always hated clowns, the feeling grown from fear and revulsion at an event at a party when he was a child. He had carried over that hatred into death, and acted on it when confronted by a pale painted face.

Rav tore at Ricky’s wounds, pulling out viscera and handfuls of blood to sate his new-found hunger for human meat. As his baptism continued, Glenn joined them to watch. Carl and Karl slouched up behind Henry to complete the audience.

When Rav was temporarily sated, he stood up. Some part remembered fastidiousness saw him wiping the blood from his hands on the thighs of his trousers, but he left the rest of it, around his mouth and down his front. He looked around at his fellow dead men.

Carl and Karl moved as if setting off for the tunnel. On the other side of that were streets full of semi-detached houses. Larders where more human meat was stored. They took a step each, then looked to Glenn for affirmation.

Glenn didn’t want to go under the railway. He had spotted a landmark. The top of the Beetham tower was just visible. Instinct, or what little was left of his conscious brain, told him that, if he headed for that landmark, he would find others. A hunger for something other than flesh told him there would be a sort of satisfaction waiting him if he found those two black markers.

Following their leader, they walked up the track, toward the road that would lead them from Salford to Manchester, where they would feed and get a form of vengeance.

They hadn’t gone far when the body of the scary clown that had been Ricky started twitching. Unsteadily, it pushed itself up to a sitting position. Eyes that didn’t fully comprehend looked at the red, pulpy mess where his crotch had been. Not knowing what to feel about it, barely able to feel anything but hunger, it struggled up and started shuffling after the five other dead men.

Part 10

Zombies vs Vampires, part 8   Recently updated !

The Beetham Tower had loomed over Manchester city centre for years. A blue-grey glass and steel exclamation mark, it was visible for miles around. Every road toward the heart of the city seemed to be aimed straight at it.

However, in the centre, it could be hard to get a good view of it. Few of the other buildings may have been over five storeys high, but they were close enough together that they often eclipsed line of sight on their much taller neighbour.

Getting a good view was made doubly tricky if, as Tom did, you also wanted to see the two newer black towers as well. He had considered a number of meeting places, then given up and chosen the sculpture gallery tea room in the town hall. They were close enough to the window that they could look out across Albert Square and see a few floors of the nearest of the black towers above the buildings opposite. The Beetham wasn’t visible, but, somehow, it seemed that he could sense its presence anyway.

The stiff leather, buttoned couches, and the table between them, were low. Tom’s knees were above the level of his butt, and the surface of the table as well. He had shuffled until he was hard against the back of the couch, but it didn’t help, and he just couldn’t find a comfortable way to arrange his feet.

Across from him, his client looked just as uncomfortable as he did. More so, in fact, as she wore a knee length skirt that wanted to bunch up in revealing ways. Tom’s gaze never dropped lower than her shoulders as they talked.

Danielle Bloom had cut her titian hair short, decided it didn’t suit her, and was letting it grow out again. Right now, it was an uncontrolled mop, the very definition of tousled. It framed a narrow, pretty face with pale skin and freckles, a small nose and thin, light pink lips. Her eyes were ice blue, so light they could sometimes appear white.

She had listened to Tom’s report on his findings so far with increasing concern, and was now pouring Earl Grey from the pot between them to keep her hands occupied whilst she considered her response.

Danielle took a slice of lemon and placed it delicately on the saucer by Tom’s cup, which she slid across the table. He shuffled forward again, to the edge of the couch, so he could drink it without risking spilling tea into his lap. “Do you know anything about the person they were going to meet in the Beetham?” Danielle said.

“Not a lot. Beyond the implication that they were looking for young men to have sex with. And I’m not sure they’re in the Beetham, either.” Tom tipped his teacup slightly, pointing out of the window. “I’m more convinced that the mystery customer is in one of those two.”

Danielle ducked down to get a better view of the black tower. “Why them?”

“Just that they were mentioned more often than the Beetham. I talked to some others, and they all said the same things about this Glenn and his ‘friend’, but more of them named those towers over the Beetham.”

“Of course they did. I mean, look at them. Great black monstrosities, almost alien. They look just like the sort of place that create dark rumours.” Danielle wasn’t looking at the towers any more, she was staring the other way, checking out their fellow customers.

Most of the clientelle were middle aged ladies taking a break from their shopping trips. But there was one young couple in a corner with eyes only for each other. There was also an incongruous trio of hipster looking twenty-somethings with Edwardian beards and lumberjack shirts. If asked, no doubt they would claim their choice of cream cakes was ironic. Around the cafe, the marble busts of Victorian worthys stared down on them, their gazes and expressions resolute.

“You don’t believe them about the black towers?” Tom asked.

“I don’t know. I mean, I think I do, but it feels like the sort of thing people would say. They are so much more mysterious. The Beetham’s been around for years, hasn’t it? It’s kind of…. Accepted now. It’s bedded in to the city’s consciousness. These new towers, they’re…. Well, new. I remember reading about their construction, and all the mysteries around their owners and where the money to fund them came from once the original developers pulled out. It’s like the perfect example of how urban myths get started.”

“So, you think they really meant the Beetham and just got confused because these new ones are scarier?”

“I don’t know what I think. I know this Glenn is the key. Is there any way we can find him, if the tower stories turn out to be fantasies?”

“Who knows. They haven’t seen him around the new tent town site. And they’re wise to him, which he’s probably figured out. He’s probably moved on to finding vulnerable kids somewhere else. If I can work out where…. I’m going to wander around town tonight, see if I can find any leads.”

“Can I join you?” DAnielle said. She put her cup down and started refilling it as she waited for Tom’s reply.

“If you want to, yes. The more eyes we can put on the job, the better.”

“Great. I’m not much good at sitting around waiting for results. I’d rather be out there, trying to do something.”

“I can understand that.”

“If…. If we do find Terry, what do you think he’ll make of it? Having a sister, and some money. A house, maybe, if he wants it instead of selling it and settling the mortgage?”

“Every runaway is different, so I couldn’t say.” This was obviously not the answer Danielle had been hoping for, so Tom tried elaborating. “They’ve all- well, most of them- been let down. So there’s often some anger, and they don’t necessarily know where to direct it. Even though you only just found out about him, so you couldn’t have done anything to help him before, he might act like you abandoned him. If he feels that he’s had to fend for himself for the last few years, he could be insulted at the suggestion that he needs help. The people in tent town who knew him said that he didn’t seem to have any substance abuse issues, so that won’t be an issue, thankfully.”

“I almost wish I hadn’t asked, now.”

“Sorry. But I prefer to be honest. And I’m only talking about possible problems in the short term. I’ve been finding people for a while now, and I keep track of how they’re doing. Most of them are doing well now, the ones with families who wanted them back and were willing to work to sort the problem that made them run away, anyway.”

“Well, our father’s dead. He was the problem. Most of the problem. How do you sort that out?”

“With time, I suppose. I’m going to see what I can find out about the owners and residents of the towers- all three of them-then we can meet up on the square at about seven. That’ll give us some daylight to start making enquiries.”

“Okay. “I’ll go back to the hotel and change into something more suitable.” Danielle pushed her skirt back over her knees as she said this, as if realising Tom could look down at any moment and get a view. He managed to keep his gaze above waist level.

“Well, I should get back to work.” Tom put the cup on the table and stood. “If he’s still in town, I’m sure we can find him. See you later.”

Danielle didn’t stand, struggling up from the couch would be too clumsy as a preface to simply saying, “See you later.”

When Tom had gone, Danielle poured herself the last of the Earl Grey. She bent down to get a better view through the windows at the closest of the black towers. She had dismissed the tales Tom had been told about Terry being taken to them, but there was something about them that was giving her second thoughts.

If Terry really had been taken to meet someone in the towers, was he still there? What was happening to him if he was?

They’d never met, but Terry was still her younger brother. She couldn’t bear to think something bad had happened to him because she hadn’t found him soon enough. With a shiver, she sat up, and looked away from the windows as she finished her tea.

Part 9

Return To Boom Town

Welcome to Boom Town

I started Boom Town last year, put it aside for the Summer, and returned to it recently. Click on the image above for the full gallery.

I also did a walk around video, which is a little shaky and blurry. When it gets it right, my phone’s macro focus is great. But when I’m working on something so close, and moving around, it keeps getting confused.

Zombies vs Vampires, part 7   Recently updated !

The Thurloes had sold their business, and its name, to Carl and Karl, no questions asked, and put the money into property. The new owners had used redundancy and hiring to tune their workforce’s morality. Now, everyone they employed knew their bosses were into something that wasn’t legal, and none of them minded or were inclined to learn enough to be able to give evidence.

So, when Rav and Henry arrived for the day, and found the gate bent outward where one of the company’s pickups had rammed it, their first thought was not to call the Police.

“There’s a hole in the windscreen. Sort of… head shaped.” Henry reported. He had climbed up the metal bars of the gate, and was now holding tight so he could study the damage. “There’s blood around it, too. I think that’s a bit of skin.”

“Are they still in it?”

“Is who still in it?”

“Whoever drove it into the fucking gate. Who do you think?”

“No, no, they’re not. The door’s open, though. Hey. And that might be blood over there.”

Rav had started pacing before the gate. The mention of blood just sped up his strides. At least the entrance was down a dead end. No one could have driven past and become suspicious about the damage to the gate. “Did they have one of their special collections on last night? They never tell us a thing about those, though, do they? What’s the point in…. What the fuck are you doing?”

Henry had contorted his body so that he could squeeze an arm around to the padlock on the chain securing the gate. “I’m opening the gate. I can get me key in the padlock and unlock it.”

“What? No, don’t….”

There was a click, and a soft ping. Then a hollow thud as the padlock dropped from the chain and hit the bonnet of the Transit. The chain relaxed and unwrapped, and there was a series of metallic clacks as each link bashed against the uprights of the gate. As the halves of the gate separated, the chain and padlock dropped to the ground with a final rattle and thump.

The gate Henry was on started swinging out. He didn’t think to jump off, so ended up clinging on as it sped up. It scraped against the ground where the pavement rose again, then jammed and threw him off. He landed on his feet and, for the briefest of moments, looked set to stay upright. His boots skidded, then caught, and he fell back, landing on his behind in the grime and mud of dried up run off.

Rav resisted the urge to laugh. He even considered walking over to help his co-worker up. He pushed that thought away, the idiot had brought it on himself. Henry was big and dumb, and would neither learn nor suffer from his fall.

The left side of the gate hadn’t opened as far as the one Henry had been hanging on. Rav pulled on it until it swung out and, with a little difficulty, locked it in place. Then he walked over to get a closer look at the Transit.

“Carl ain’t gonna be pleased with this, is he?” said Henry. He was looking at the front of the pickup whilst fiddling with the key in the padlock. “Looks like both headlights are bust. And there’s the windscreen and….”

The driver’s side door was open further than it should be. Rav tried closing it, and got creaks and squeals of complaining metal in return. This got Henry’s attention, and he came round to stare at the creased metal in front of the door. “That’s nasty. Real nasty. Were they trying to steal it? Did they think it’d break through the gate?”

Rav reached into the cab and turned the key until it pulled from the ignition. He held it up. “It wasn’t hot wired, look.” He caught sight of the hole in the windscreen, then looked around. “Did you say there was blood?”

“Yeah. Over there by the incinerator.”

Rav spotted the dark patches now, and he walked over to them, followed by Henry. The blood had spread out to fill the undulations and pits in the concrete, and hadn’t quite dried yet, turning a glossy maroon.

“That’s a lot of blood. Why’s it in two pools?” Rav stepped gingerly around the edge of the nearest patch of blood. “If someone lost that much blood, they’d be dead.” He didn’t know that for sure, but was basing his claim on many hours of television crime shows.

“Who’s blood is it?” Henry dabbed a toe into the blood, testing the surface tension and smearing a small section around.

“I don’t know, do I? I left the DNA tester at home.”

Henry was going to ask about Rav’s DNA tester, but stopped himself when he saw the other man’s expression. He recognised angry sarcasm from other times his dumb questions had got on his workmate’s nerves.

Rav had noticed a sound. Rather like a low rumbling roar, it was so familiar that it hadn’t registered at first. But now his brain had put the pieces together. Dodging around the second blood patch, he walked over to the incinerator.

“What’s this doing on full power? It’s supposed to go onto standby overnight.”


“I know you did that last night. I saw you do it. Put it in the log book and everything. But it’s been turned on, and at full power as well. I’m calling Karl. See if he knows owt about this.”

It was as Rav held the phone to his ear, waiting for the ring tone, that he scanned the yard again, and spotted the severed leg. He pointed with the phone, not quite able to form words. Henry went over and picked up the limb, studying it from the battered old trainer it wore over black socks, all the way up to the knee joint sticking out of gnawed flesh. He couldn’t think of anything to say, either.

The ringtone was a klaxon sound, like the chemical leak alarm in an eighties sci-fi film. Neither Rav nor Henry believed they were hearing it at first. They looked at each other, then in the direction the sound came from- on the far side of the Transit, near the bins by the gate. When they both accepted that they had to investigate, Rav lead the way.

He brandished his phone like it could be used as a weapon, occasionally checking the screen to see the status of his call. Behind him, Henry held the severed leg like a baseball bat. They slowed as they approached the rear of the pickup. Rav crouched down, moving slowly toward the corner of the metal box on the back of the vehicle. Henry didn’t stoop, but looked inside the container, quickly picking out the shapes of jumbled bodies.

Henry stared at the bodies in the back of the Transit, then looked at the leg he held, trying to work out where it fitted in. So he didn’t see what happened when Rav dared to look around the vehicle.

Rav had a moment of recognition as he looked at a familiar, if bloodied, battered and gruesome, face. Then, the thing that used to be Carl reached out. His hands moved quickly. Fingers found there way into Rav’s open mouth, and grasped his tongue and jaw. Another hand grabbed his shirt, ragged nails scraping at his skin through the material. With a force that dislocated his jaw, Rav was pulled around the corner and tossed to the ground, where two more dead men dropped onto him to tear at his clothes and bite into his skin.

Henry heard Rav being pulled away, but didn’t recognise what it was. He looked at the spot where his co-worker had been, took a step toward it, thought better of it, then stepped back and moved away from the pickup.

A familiar figure came around the side of the Transit. “Oh, thank fuck. Carl, do you know what’s going on? Can you….”

Carl’s gaze was almost blank. He stared at Henry and took a step forward. His expression, what there was of it, could have been hunger.

“Carl. Do you know what’s….”

Carl took another step forward. Henry registered the blood around his mouth, so obvious, he should have seen it earlier. And his boss’s movements were jerky and uneven. Then there was the pallid skin around the hunger-filled eyes. And the scars gouged into his scalp that matched the torn skin Henry had seen in the Transit’s broken windscreen.

“Carl…. Boss?”

Henry took two steps backwards. Remembering the limb in his hands, he raised it again, ready to take a swing. Carl stepped forward. Henry thought about the gate. He stole a look at it, still open and offering a way out.

Carl took the opportunity to make a lumbering dive. Henry managed half a side step and a blow with the leg. The flesh made a heavy slapping sound as it connected with the side of Carl’s head, but hit hard enough to send him sprawling.

Taking a step toward Carl, Henry raised his gruesome weapon, ready to batter his former boss. Then he remembered the gate, and thought better of fighting. He was going to run.

Perhaps he should find Rav, and see if he was okay. The falter that this notion caused was fatal. As Henry took an uncertain step toward the Transit, another dead man came around it. Henry didn’t recognise this man, but saw the same blood drained face and hungry stare he had taken too long to recognise in Carl.

The man stepped toward Henry. He wasn’t as uncoordinated as Carl had been, but his movements were still stiff and unnatural. Henry raised his leg again, then decided he’d rather run. As he took his first step toward the gate, Carl’s hands grabbed an ankle and pulled his foot out from under him.

Henry’s face hit the concrete hard, breaking his nose and jaw and knocking him unconscious. It was the nearest thing to a blessing he was going to get, as Carl bit into his calf and Glenn stood on his head and chewed on his forearm whilst he suffocated.

Part 8

Zombies vs Vampires, part 6   Recently updated !

Terry stared at the deep red liquid in his glass. He tilted and twisted the goblet, watching the way the thick liquid moved. “This is really blood?”

“Yes, it is.” Leech assured him.

“Human blood?” It was warm, but not hot, which didn’t feel right at all.

“Human blood. You must be hungry. You need sustenance.”

Terry stared at Leech. He didn’t trust the man, or the way he talked.

Leech wasn’t a vampire the Mistress- or himself, Terry thought. It was a novel idea, but Terry was beginning to accept his new identity. He was different now, and he could feel it. He felt stronger, though he hadn’t had any opportunity to test this, and more aware of his body. And more agile with it. He stood from his seat in one easy, fluid move, the liquid in his glass barely registering a ripple.

Leech was still an ordinary human, who was a servant to the Mistress. He was well dressed. There was something about his appearance, and manner when he wasn’t snivelling, that said he was used to being important. Away from this tower, he had some authority.

So, why was he here, willingly being bossed around?

The only possible answer was that Leech wanted to be a vampire too. He hadn’t been chosen, the way Terry had, so maybe he had to prove he was worthy of the transformation. If that was the situation, then Terry felt sorry for him. He would grovel his way through years of service to the immortals, only to be forgotten by them, tossed aside when he was no longer any use to them. He would be lucky to be a memory worth holding on to by the end of the century.

Something had switched on in Terry’s mind, to go with the physical changes. He was thinking in terms of decades, centuries, even millennia, the way he used to look ahead days, weeks or months. He was thinking in immortal terms.

But, he had yet to drink blood. There was still that little part of him that found the idea repulsive. It kept him from putting the glass to his lips.

They were in the room where Terry had first met the Mistress. The full height curtains had been drawn back and bunched up in the corners of the room. The dark tint on the windows let muted, grey light in. Terry stepped right up to the glass. He breathed out, but none of the usual fog frosted the window. Something else to get used to, but he could adapt to this change easily.

The sun came out from behind one of the few clouds in the sky, and shone on the side of the tower. The light was buffered by the filtering glass, but it still made Terry uncomfortable. It raised warmth on his skin, just a little too much to be pleasant. He felt like he was getting sunburn, even in this low light. But he wasn’t going to move, and admit the discomfort, whilst Leech was in the room watching him.

He looked down on the city. To the right was Albert Square and the town hall. The building’s faux-gothic design stirred something in Terry that he had never known was there. A sense of the dramatic, an urge to do everything with an over the top flair. And the knowledge that he could get away with it, now, because he was special. He had been chosen.

People walked across the square, foreshortened figures unaware they were being observed. Each one of those warm little sticks was potential food. If he could bring himself to drink blood.

He considered the glass in his hand, then raised it to his lips and tipped it back to drain it. Despite the violence of the movement, not a drop escaped.

Now, Terry staggered back from the window. He hadn’t expected the drink to hit him the way it did. It coated the inside of his mouth, metallic at first, then an array of flavours he had never tasted before. But it was the sudden, ecstatic high that shocked him the most.

The feeling of strength, and the improvements in his senses, were amplified. He could feel the way the air swirled around his body as he moved through it, hear Leech’s heartbeat as it sped up, smell the man’s deodorant and the soap he had used. He resisted the temptation to turn and stare at Leech, forcing himself to step up to the window again.

He saw the pedestrians far below in a different way now. They were slashes of warmth, each with an aura that made some more attractive than others. A tram was moving past the square, turning onto Corporation Street, and he could see the spots of warmth that were the passengers. He touched the glass, and felt the vibrations in the tower’s structure caused by the wind.

He could even tell that the Mistress had entered the room. She moved almost silently, but there was just the slightest squeak of her feet on the marble floor. Even stronger, though, was all the ways that Leech reacted to her presence. His heart rate had jumped again, and there was a smell that disgusted Terry.

“Your first taste of blood. It is incredible, isn’t it? Even after so many years, I still remember mine.”
She was beside him now. He pulled his gaze away from the fascinating fireflies walking the streets, and studied her face. Her skin was perfect, even to his enhanced gaze. He wanted to ask when she had first tasted blood, but was sure that would be rude. Whilst she appeared, to a cursory glance, to be little older than he was, there were hints in her expression and confident gaze that she was far older.

“It was a long time ago.” she said, knowing just what he had been thinking. “But look at me, I still have the body of the girl I was when He chose me. A better body, in fact. Don’t you agree?”

Terry nodded. He couldn’t argue with her about her body. He had experienced it, and the ways she knew how to use it, and it had been incredible. “Where did you get the blood? Can I have some more?” he asked, with a croak then a cough.

“More blood at this time will have no more effect upon you. You are primed and powered by having tasted it, and will not need more for a while. To drink more now would be greedy.”

“I’ve always been a bit greedy. But, if you insist, I’ll resist having any more.”

“We do not want to drain our cattle too quickly. Just a glass a day is all we really need. But sometimes it is fun to hunt and drink direct from the source. Save your blood frenzy for the first time you do that.”

As the Mistress talked of drinking direct from the source, Terry couldn’t help but envision a neck, the head pushed over to expose the flesh, the skin pulled so tight that the pulse was visible just under it. He felt the need to bite into it. It was desire, though, not hunger. It was strong, though, and he didn’t know if he could resist it for long.

He stared down at the oblivious humans below. All those warm, inviting meals. Cattle, she had called them. And he had been one of those cattle, not so long ago. But now, he was chosen, destined to live above them, controlling their fates.

Again, the Mistress knew what he was thinking. “We shall hunt tonight, and you shall know the joy of drinking from the very source. The first kill, like the first drink, is not something you ever forget.”

Terry liked the thought that he would soon be down there, hunting mortals. But there was one worry that nudged into his thoughts. “How do you…. How do we hunt without them knowing? If people disappear, surely they investigate?”

“Do you think anyone is investigating where you have gone? Or that man Glenn? We choose the ones we hunt with care, but human society has always provided us with those who will not be missed as much. It became harder, recently, but this country is sliding back toward caring less again. Which makes it easier for us again. And we have…. Retained the services of people who help hide the evidence of what we do. If there is no body, it is so much harder to investigate, is it not?”

Part 7

Don’t say I didn’t warn you about Trump

Just bumping the content of a couple of posts from earlier this year, and pointing you all at Sounds of Soldiers again. Sounds of Soldiers is currently an incredible bargain at $0.99/£0.99/local equivalent. But, if you want an even better bargain, pick up Britain Looks To The Future (also just $0.99/£0.99/local equivalent), which includes it and eight other great tales by independent British authors.

I did this interview for The Daily Rundown last month in May, and only just worked out where to find it. It’s a little segment on the inspiration for Sounds of Soldiers, and why it’s still relevant- maybe even more relevant- in the age of Trump.

SoundsofSoldiers-cover_thumbI started work on Sounds of Soldiers in November 2008.

Luckily, the premise genuinely was fiction within a few days of starting the project, as Obama was elected US President, rather than McCain. Thus the (implied but not stated outright) backstory for the book- that Sarah Palin rose to commander-in-chief and started a stupid war with Europe- genuinely was fiction. For the next eight years, anyway.

Now, the USA is, once again, teasing us with the potential has delivered the setup for thousands of dystopian novels, in the shape of Donald Trump. Trump’s far scarier than Palin ever was. She’s stupid and incompetent, but he takes those two traits and piles bullying, vindictive, (more) racist, and thin skinned into the mix. If anyone had written President Trump (or even potential-presidential-candidate Trump) before this year, people would have said the character wasn’t believable.

If anything, Sounds of Soldiers is an optimistic read in a world where “The Donald” could be leader of the free world. A Trump inspired future would look a hell of a lot more like Mad Max.

Zombies vs Vampires, part 5   Recently updated !

The corpse that had been Glenn only ate Karl’s flesh as long as the blood was flowing. He bit a chunk out of the throat and windpipe, his favourite spot, then chewed on the cheek as Karl thrashed out his final moments.

One final blow landed on Glenn’s jaw, pushing his head away. With surprising speed, he whipped around and clamped his teeth on Karl’s forearm. Karl was past the point where he could feel pain. He never registered the gnawing and tearing that took a chunk out of his arm.

Glenn preferred the firmer muscle of Karl’s arm, and grasped it so he could take a couple more bites. Then, sensing the blood flow had stopped, he dropped the arm and sat back on Karl’s chest. Looking bored, he scanned his head slowly back and forth, chewing lazily on the last mouthful of arm flesh.

Carl’s body started twitching again after a while. The movement attracted Glenn’s attention, and he watched as the dead man struggled to stand. Knowing he wasn’t looking at fresh meat, he didn’t get up to attack. Carl slipped a couple of times in his own blood, then made it to his feet. Standing with legs awkwardly splayed, like a politician after bad body language advice, he stared at Glenn and Karl.

Carl’s expression almost suggested thought. He turned and walked toward the Transit. The engine was still running, and the driver’s door was open. Not remembering how to use hand holds to pull himself into the cab, he leant against the edge of the driver’s seat and tried to lever himself up onto it. His right leg twitched out and up, taking steps on air until it found the step and pushed him up.

Under Glenn, Karl had started twitching. He was reanimating as well. Glenn watched the pain and horror slacken off his face into a confused expression. Levering himself up with a hand on Karl’s face, Glenn stood and tottered away from him. Finding his balance again, he started walking around the recycling yard. He was looking for food, or a way out. Or just wandering where the contours of the concrete took him, it was hard to tell.

Carl had pulled himself into the Transit’s cab, so that he was sprawled across the seats. The little bit of memory that was inspiring his actions told him there was something else he should be doing. Somehow, flailing hands and legs got him into a sitting position behind the steering wheel. His right foot found the accelerator and pushed it down. The engine didn’t exactly roar, but the vehicle vibrated harder and faster.

Muscle memory, rather than any actual memory or intelligence, somehow let Carl get the Transit into gear. It lurched forward, the torque of the diesel engine hauling against the grip of the hand brake. With a twang and clunk, the brake gave up the battle, and the pickup jumped forward.

The Transit turned as it left the bay, swerving to the right, retracing the arc it had followed reversing in. The steering wheel spun as the front tyres straightened out. Carl’s hands were flipped off, and his upper body twisted as he fell onto the passenger seat. The vehicle slowed as his foot came off the accelerator, then sped up as he sat up again.

Glenn had been attracted by the warmth of the incinerator. Hand held out before him, he plodded toward it until flesh pressed against the hot door. The flesh sizzled and cooked, but Glenn barely reacted. His vacant expression changed to something that may have been vague interest. He didn’t look away until there was a crash on the other side of the yard.

The van had side-swiped a row of heavy metal sorting bins, then veered away to scrape along a low brieze block wall. These two collisions pointed it in the direction of the gate, which it hit square on. The two sides of the gate swung out, until the chain holding them together pulled tight. The angle-iron of the frame bent under the impact, but the hinges mounted in the wall held.

Carl had been thrown forward by the impact, then deflected upward by the air bag. The top of his skull punched a hole in the windscreen which closed up again in a way that held him in place. The engine finally stalled, rather than continue pushing against the gate.

Glenn and Karl, mildly interested, headed toward the accident with drunkard’s walks. They veered off the direct path, as if distracted or attracted by something in the shadows, or walked into obstacles they would have seen if they were still alive. Eventually, they reached the Transit, and stood by the driver’s door, which had swung open on impact, twisting its hinges.

As the air bag had deflated, Carl had dropped back toward the seat. The pressure of his weight was pulling his head out of the windscreen, but the glass was peeling away the skin of his scalp as he worked free. With a last bit of tearing, Carl sat back. The speed and a lack of coordination threw him from the seat and out of the cab. Upside down, legs still inside the Transit, he stared dumbly up at Karl and Glenn.

They left him struggling to right himself, and moved to push at the gate. What little reasoning they were now capable of told them that this was where they got out of the enclosure, so they could find more fresh meat to feast on.

Karl spotted the chain, and the padlock that held its ends together. The hint of a memory, similar to what had allowed Carl to make his short, destructive drive, told him this was an important part of getting out. He thrust his right hand at it repeatedly, twisting his wrist each time as if turning a key, but only succeeded in batting it back and forth. He gave up and went back to pushing at the gate.

Eventually, Carl extricated himself from his ungainly position. He joined Karl and Glenn in pushing at the gate. There was the occasional creak, but it didn’t move. If being rammed by the Transit hadn’t opened it, the lackadaisical efforts of three reanimated corpses wasn’t going to do it. After a while, they gave up and went back to wandering around the compound.

Glenn found an old doorway in the wall, the bricks that had sealed it up lighter than the aged ones around it. Understanding what it had been, he walked into it a few times, trying to step through. When that didn’t work, he went back to tracing the way along the inside of the walls.

Very slowly, night gave way to dawn, and the sky lightened. The cloud cover was light, and the sun shine drew the shadows ever closer to the walls as it rose. Glenn, Carl and Karl didn’t like the bright light. It made them itchy and uncomfortable. They’d put up with it for food, but, as there was none, hid from it behind a row of bins close to the wall by the gate.

They didn’t exactly sleep, but stopped moving and let their limbs hang limp and jaws drop open. Occasionally, one of them would look around, but they mostly looked like what they were- three dead men.

Part 6

My week in tweets

Not all the tweets. I’ll leave out the automated posts, most of the promo tweets, and the argument with the guy who blamed everything on immigrants and sharia law, but got offended when I told him he was being racist.

Zombies vs Vampires, part 4   Recently updated !

Any search for a runaway started in Tent Town. Nearly half of them ended there as well, and it provided direction in most others.

The homeless encampment drew in the lost and abandoned. Some, it even saved and sent home. Others found the wrong members of the community, and the rent they paid for canvas over their heads added to the damage that had driven them there in the first place.

Tom Harries knew most of the saints, and some of the demons, of Tent Town. The good guys would help him search for lost boys and girls, and the bad ones would take his money and not always lie to him. But he hadn’t been around for a month, and the town had moved, so he had to learn the new layout before he could start asking any questions.

The battered Astra van with a crowd around it was a good place to start. The couple who ran a soup kitchen out of the back of it visited every day to provide broth made from food past its sell-by date. It was on the edge of the new location, as well, slightly raised so that it looked down on most of the tents.

“Long time, no see.” said the short, grey haired woman ladling thick liquid from the insulated pot into plastic bowls.

“Would you believe I had to follow someone to Spain?” Tom had the tan to back up his claim. He put a bag of groceries on the van’s roof. A donation, not a bribe.

“Did you find them?”

“Not as far as their father knows. Not once they told me their side of the story.”

“So, you didn’t collect your fee?” The woman watched the four ragged recipients of the soup wander off. There were no more takers at the moment, so she closed the lid on the urn and turned to face Tom.

“Of course I did. If I suddenly stopped taking his money, he might get suspicious and realise what I’d found out.”

“Cheeky bastard. But at least you’re on the right side.” She hugged Tom quickly, then ducked into the back of the van. “Coffee?” She started pouring into a vintage style white and blue enamelled cup before he answered. “You’re here for a different client, or the same one?”

“A different one. An interesting one. Looking for her half brother, even though she’s never met him.”

“How does that work?”

“Oh, divorce, remarriage, some Jeremy Kyle level bullshit. The usual.” Tom savoured the coffee. “Sue, you really have to tell me who you get this from. Really good.”

“I’ll get you a bag of beans for when you’re here next. Do you have a picture of this missing boy? I suppose not, if she’s never met him.”

“I have.” Tom reached inside his jacket and pulled out a sheaf of photos- printed in a supermarket from scanned images- and separated out one for Sue. “Their father died recently, and his daughter got a box of stuff and legal letters. Turns out, he was really shit at being a husband, and he left wife two some time ago. She died a couple of years ago, and the boy went into care.

“So, now, the daughter from the first marriage is the boy’s only living relative. She’s just found out about her little brother Terry, and she wants to make sure he gets some of the inheritance. Not that it’s much- a house that’s half paid for, some savings and debts that more or less balance out, and boxes of stuff.”

“But the boy, Terry was it? Terry has run away.”

“He turned eighteen, and the system had no space for him any more. He stayed with a friend, for a while. Then there was an argument- I didn’t ask- and he disappeared properly.”

Sue considered the photo. “He’s very pretty.” It wasn’t really a compliment. Her tone was concerned.

“Too pretty?” They both knew what could happen to the innocent and attractive if they were desperate enough.

“You know how it is when Tent Town moves. People get lost, but most of them straggle in over time. Well some of the younger ones, the fresher meat, haven’t found their way back yet. There are rumours, about a guy with big promises, mostly. Richard’s down there now, trying to find out more.” Sue gestured over the tents, pointing in particular at a tall, upright figure, near the centre, talking to a group of the residents.

“Still Police, I see. I’ll head on down and see what they can tell me.” Before he set off, though, Tom theatrically looked down into his cup and swirled the last of the liquid around inside it.

“Top up?”

“Yes please.”

Richard spotted Tom’s approach over the heads of the two men and a woman he was talking to. He gave a barely perceptible nod, telling Tom he could join the conversation. Tom walked round to stand just behind Richard, trying to be unobtrusive and listen in. But he’d managed to arrive just as the talk petered out into nods and hums of thought.

“Hunting for another runaway?” Richard asked, looking across and down. He was broad as well as tall, straight backed and tough looking in a quiet way.

Tom handed over one of the photos, and Richard studied it. He shook his head. “Don’t recognise him, sorry.” He handed the picture to the woman.

Skinny, and with a narrow, drawn face, she wore the effects of her time living rough quite visibly. Her distant, unconcerned expression was practised, but failed her as she recognised the face in the picture. “Oh, that poor boy.” she said.

“You know him. Babs?” Richard prompted.

“He were here…. No. He were in the old site, don’t think he made it here at all. Took up with Glenn. We tried to warn him.” Babs passed the picture to the man to her right. He tilted his head as he studied it, and nodded confirmation.

“Who’s Glenn?” Tom asked. It wasn’t one of the names he associated with the sharks and bad guys, so he needed to be updated.

“Nasty little fucker.” said the third man, scratching at an itch under his straggly grey beard. Every so often, he had a little twitch of his head that transmitted down his left side. He didn’t offer any more details.

“He talked to some of the younger’ns. Round the time we all had to move. Not all of them made it here.” Babs elaborated.

“He said he had a client, the little fucker did.” said the man with the beard. His face twitched, then he cocked his head to the side a little, as he sorted the memories. “Nah, not a client. He said he had a friend. We all knew he meant client. Well, those’ve us who’s been around.”

“Did he say he’d introduce Terry to this friend?” Tom asked.

“Likely. Don’t know for sure. But likely. He tried the tale on a bunch of boys before we got up to telling him to fuck off.”

“But you didn’t get to tell him to fuck off, did you?” said the man in the middle. “He fucked off before we could tell him to fuck off.”

“Any clues where this friend lived?” Tom asked, before an argument started.

The bearded man turned and looked up. Tent town was wedged between the canal and the railway viaduct, just off the end of Deansgate. The viaduct was a tall, red brick wall. But it wasn’t tall enough to block out the top floors of the Beetham Tower, its windows blue-grey and mottled with the reflections of clouds. He nodded at it. “Said his friend lived in the tower. Said he was rich as fuck and wanted to help young men out.”

Part 5

Zombies Vs Vampires, part 3   Recently updated !

Carl and Karl never joked about how their names were practically the same. They never joked about anything. They had an important job, cleaning up after the ageless ones, and it didn’t leave any time for levity.

As well as having nearly the same name, they had practically the same face. Square, pale and blank, with sunken eyes, large nose and thin lips. Not very attractive, but not so strikingly ugly that anyone would remember them. The only real difference was that Karl had once broken his nose, and there was a kink in it where it hadn’t set straight.

Carl and Karl arrived at the tower in an unmarked white Transit pickup. In place of the bed, there was an ugly metal box on a pair of rails, and a short reach crane that could unload it. The box was heavy gauge steel, with box section strengthening it, painted a faded blue grey and streaked with rust and the grime of years carrying refuse. The white paint spelling out ‘Thurloe’s Recycling’ had almost disappeared, and the symbolic triangle of arrows beside it seemed to be bleeding rust as parts of it flaked away.

The roller doors to the underground car park rattled and clanked open. Rather than waiting until they were all the way up, Carl let his foot off the brake and rolled under just as they had opened far enough. Karl scowled, but didn’t waste the effort of casting an angry look at him.

A rectangular section of concrete took up the centre of the parking space. The elevator doors opened on one side, and on the other was the stairs. There was also an alcove, which ran all the way through. On the elevator side of it sat the twin of the box on the back of the pickup. Karl dropped from the cab, and, as Carl negotiated the Transit into position, uncoupled the box from the waste chute.

The bottom of the chute formed a neat seal with the box, not airtight, but sufficient to keep the contents from splattering out. Karl pulled out the bolts that held the chute in place, then heaved on the handle that lifted the end up and out of the box.

He was used to the rank smell from inside the box- it wasn’t as bad today as it could get in summer- but slid the lid over it quickly anyhow. By now, Carl had the pickup lined up, the rails on its frame almost butting against the ones in the alcove.

Carl left the engine running, to power the crane as he used it to push the box off the pickup and into place under the chute. As it moved, it shunted the other box through the alcove. With Karl’s guidance, he lined it up perfectly under the chute.

As Karl opened the new box and placed the chute in it, Carl took the pickup around to the other side of the alcove, and hooked the crane to the old box. By the time Karl was done, the box was in place, and only needed a couple of pins pushing into place to hold it.

The whole operation took little more than fifteen minutes. The Transit drove out of the garage and soon joined the night time traffic. They rolled down the hill and across the river into Salford, their only company taxis and night buses.

Salford was Manchester’s older, shabbier neighbour. Where much of Manchester’s industrial heritage had survived long enough to be converted into expensive apartments, Salford’s had mostly been razed in the sixties and seventies, replaced by concrete and asbestos. What post industrial red brick there was, was in areas less conducive to redevelopment. Such as the one Carl and Karl were headed to.

Here, the buildings that had previously built goods to send around the world had found new lives stripping the products of others’ industry. They stripped, crushed and recycled the city’s waste. The area was pervaded by the smell of composting paper and card, occasionally overlaid by the sharp taint of burning plastics that hinted at toxicity. And, every so often, another smell, like horribly failed barbecue but much darker.

The building that housed Thurloe’s Recycling was really just a shell. Four carefully propped walls no longer supported a roof, and paler bricks denoted the spaces that had previously been windows. It hid the recycling centre from prying eyes. Even in the middle of the night, it was best if you cremated bodies where no-one could see you.

Karl opened the metal gate that had taken the place of the factory’s main double doors. When the Transit was inside, he pulled them closed again. They swung on well oiled hinges, and he lowed them so they didn’t clang as they shut. When they were locked up again, he trotted over to the corner with the incinerator in it.

Carl had backed the pickup into the bay beside the incinerator, so that the doors on the box were at a convenient height to reach in and unload. They took a door each, folding it back and hitching it to the side of the box. Then Karl went to boost the burners on the incinerator, ready for their load.

There was a lip at the bottom of the opening, which kept blood in, and stopped the bodies tumbling out as soon as the doors were opened. Carl spotted a foot, in battered training shoe, sticking up over the edge of the lip. He took hold of it, and leant in to find its partner. With an ankle in each hand, he tugged, to see how the pile moved. It was his idea of fun- corpse Jenga.

Both legs came loose, and Carl staggered back. He looked at the bare limbs, each going only as far as the knee, where the skin and muscle was torn in the strangest way.

That had never happened before. There was always a little blood left in the bodies they recycled, but most were so drained that they were beginning to become like leather. Carl stared dumbly at the legs, then, framed by them, spotted movement amongst the remnants in the box.

Rats, maybe? The boxes were well sealed to the chute, but it was surprising where the rodents could get to when they tried. It would be an annoyance that made the job that little bit trickier. He dropped one of the legs, and took a two handed grip on the other. Stepping forward, and wishing he had better illumination, he prepared to beat the vermin with a lump of the food they sought.

A hand came out of the pile, so fast, Carl barely registered it until it had grasped the leg, squeezing the shin.

Carl thought to let go of the leg and step back, give himself some space from whatever this was. But his body didn’t act on the message, and he was still standing there when another hand came out and grasped his right wrist. Just emerging from the shadows of the box, he could see the outline of a face, eyeb rows and nose highlighted by the light from above.

With a scream, Carl took a step back. It wasn’t easy, because he was pulling whatever this creature was with him. He drew more of the thing out into the light.

It had been a man, and it had been drained by one of their clients. The pale skin and familiar gaping wound on the neck told Carl that much. But it was moving, and that had never happened before. It pulled itself towards Carl, freeing the rest of its body from the pile of corpses in the box and falling to the concrete. Carl was tugged down by its weight.

Karl heard the scream over the roar of the burners. He didn’t register what it meant at first, and took a moment to check pressures and temperatures before he turned. It looked like Carl had stumbled whilst lifting one of the bodies, and was now struggling to lift it with a clumsy hold. Karl shook his head. His co-worker was usually much more capable than this.

It was as Karl started off to help that he realised the body was moving. Its left arm swung out and grasped Carl’s overalls just below his shoulder. Carl tried to push away its head. His determined, if shocked, expression soon changed as the corpse bit into his palm and thumb. The dead head shook from side to side, tearing the skin.

Karl faltered, shocked by what he saw. In all the years of clearing up corpses for their employers, he had never seen this. The dead could be gruesome and grisly, but they were dead, nothing to be scared of. If any victim was to be revived, they weren’t thrown out. Had there been some terrible mistake?

Carl’s uninjured hand slapped at the creature that had ripped the palm and half the thumb from the other. It was frantic violence, without enough power behind it to be effective. The body’s right hand scratched upwards, nails scraping lines across Carl’s cheek, grabbing hair. Pulling Carl’s head back, the corpse dragged him down to bite at his windpipe.

Finally, Karl was roused from his shock. Whatever this thing was attacking Carl, it had to be stopped. Obviously, fists wouldn’t do the job, he needed a weapon. There was a bench beside the incinerator, with a large adjustable spanner nearest to hand. Karl grabbed it and, too late, charged to help his co-worker.

Carl was making a horrible gurgling noise, as blood flowed from the ragged hole bitten from his throat. The body was chewing at the flesh, and trying to lap up the blood at the same time.

With a cry that was supposed to be frightening, but really revealed his own terror, Karl brought the spanner down as hard as he could. He missed the creature’s head, but landed a heavy blow on its arm. There was a crack of breaking bone, but the corpse didn’t seem to notice.

Karl drew back his arm for another strike, faltering as the creature released Carl and stood up. Carl’s body twitched where it fell, sliding across the laid concrete on his own blood. Distracted and disgusted by this, Karl reacted too late to the dead man stepping toward him.

The creature reached out, the left forearm slightly crooked where it had been struck. Karl swung the spanner, swiping aside the arms, as he stepped back. The corpse carried on walking, bringing its hands back round. Karl swung again, and completely missed this time.

Karl took another step, caught his foot and tumbled backwards. His head cracked hard on the concrete floor. He was stunned, light dancing around his eyes. He couldn’t control his limbs to defend himself, but, as his vision cleared, he was able to see what was coming.

The creature stood over Karl, looking down. Dribbles of chewed flesh and blood dropped from its mouth onto Karl’s chest. It considered Karl for a moment, then dropped to its knees, landing on his chest so hard that ribs cracked. Through the pain, Karl was aware of the hand grabbing his jaw as teeth came down for his neck.

Part 4

Britain Turns To Crime

crime-200Available from Amazon.

Take a trip through British crime, with eight great independent crime writers. From cosy to gritty, country house to council estate and Victorian Bradford to near-future London, there’s something for everyone.

A Novel Way To DieLynda Wilcox

When Verity Long’s boss invites her to a crime writers’ workshop, she expects a relaxing stay at a country house hotel.

But there’s a real body in the library, and plenty of writers around, all capable of plotting the perfect murder. Verity must use all her sleuthing skills to solve the case before the police step in and arrest the wrong person.

The Bite CaféJ.A.Armitage

Emma doesn’t know a Singapore Sling from a Long Island Iced Tea. But she volunteers to take over her sister’s bar after an accident. The Bite Café is not all it seems, and when there’s a murder right outside the bar, Emma has to solve the mystery before she loses all her customers.

Three Years DeadA.D. Davies

Snarl – Celina Grace

Detective Sergeant Kate Redman is back at work after a long sick leave. The stakes are high when a multiple murder scene is discovered and a violent activist is implicated in the crime. Kate and the team must put their lives on the line to expose the murderer and untangle the snarl of accusations, suspicions and motives.

The BleakKeith Dixon

Sam Dyke’s new client is watching her boss fall apart, and she can’t bear it.

He soon discovers that it’s not the pressures of work that are getting to her boss. It’s his colleagues, and their leader, who’s personal philosophy is taking him towards a calamitous event that will destroy the lives of hundreds of people.

Dyke sets out to foil this madman. A course that endangers him, his new partner, and anyone else who gets in the way of the doomsday plan.

SolsticeIan Pattinson

Maria wants to find her cousin, who has disappeared after being put into a children’s home run by a company called Vantage.

Tomas wants to find out who Vantage are bribing to get all their contracts.

Kay Wood has landed her first murder case- a body in the Irwell with a strange symbol carved into his chest.

Irwin Baker has been asked to help with Kay’s investigation.

It’s going to be a very long day for all of them.

Devil Gate DawnTim Walker

In 2026, Britain is in chaos. Democracy has collapsed due to voter apathy. In America, President Trump has built his wall and has created Fortress USA.

Enter George, survivor of a pub bombing, who finds himself drawn into the hunt for a terrorist group. George and girlfriend Sunny join a deadly game of cat-and-mouse between police and terrorists, culminating in a stand-off at Devil Gate Dawn.

Who Killed Little Johnny Gill?Kathryn McMaster

One foggy morning, just after Christmas, John Gill’s mother waves off her son, not knowing it will be the last time she sees him. He’s found dead early on Saturday morning, his wounds eerily similar to the murders of Jack the Ripper. Was he killed by the Ripper? Clues involving Masonic rituals point to the possibility that he was. And yet, William Barrett was the last one to see Johnny, and he isn’t saying much.

Time Trumps

January 20th 2017

It happened just as President elect Donald J Trump went off script whilst swearing his oath of office. A figure appeared from nowhere, gun hand outstretched toward The Donald, finger already pulling the trigger.

She had come from the future, her mission- to kill the President before, on January 25th, he nuked Latvia to prove the country’s Prime Minister wrong and show that his fingers were long enough to press the atomic button.

Even before the bullet had left, she was joined by dozens, maybe hundreds of other assassins. With everything from lasers all the way down to clubs, each of them had come back with a specific mission- eliminate Trump before he could carry out the action that blighted their particular future.

It was one of the lasers, by an almost immeasurable fraction of a second, that got the job done. Which triggered the second wave of temporal assassins. These were dedicated to cutting down Mike Pence before he could institute his plans for homosexual re-education camps and sexuality snooping.

Into the middle of this already confused mess came a pair of twenty-second century Men’s Rights Activists. Angry at the unfair advantages equal wages gave females and the sissification inherent in paternity leave, they had decided to travel back and kill the first female President. Incompetence had shunted them sideways as well as backwards, but they never found that out, as they were burnt to a crisp by one of the many flamethrowers present.

With so many bodies and temporal anomalies overlapping, a critical mass was formed. A gore explosion was followed by collapses in the fourth dimension. Time went crazy.

Washington is now the flickering city, to look at it is to watch a jump cut time-lapse of the city’s past and possible futures. Buildings and people appear and flash away randomly, as the time-line tries to knit itself back together.

The inauguration was ground zero, but the effects have radiated out, and there are pockets of temporal instability all over the world. There are pockets where you can step into the past and pull people and things back. The USA is currently being run by the dream team of Kennedy and Lincoln, snatched up just before their assassinations.

It’s a crazy world, ripe for adventures and wacky hijinks. Annoyingly, I can’t think of any silly stories to tell in it right now.

Zombies Vs Vampires, part 2   Recently updated !

Terry woke into a dream. He was floating, he was sure, laying on a soft cloud.

His hands stroked across it, the only movement he seemed capable of. Somehow, the fact that the rest of his body was frozen didn’t bother him. There was sensation from his extremities. They’d come back to him soon.

He carried on stroking whatever it was he lay on.

No, it wasn’t cloud, he decided. It was material of some sort, sheer and smooth. A sheet, maybe? If he was in a bed, the white above him must be the ceiling. His upper arms had loosened up now, so he traced his hands over his head and found something light and fluffy. A pillow? He still couldn’t sit up, so he lifted the cushion up so he could see it and confirm it was what he thought.

So, he was in a bed. A luxurious bed, with incredibly soft sheets. He stretched out, but neither hand found the edge of the mattress.

It wasn’t just the bed that created the luxurious feeling. He was naked on top of the sheets, and his skin felt wonderful. It wasn’t just that he was clean for the first time in weeks, free of the horrible oily feel that had built up in that time. There was more to it, a deeper cleansing. He had been bathed, oiled and pampered.

But he didn’t remember any of it happening. Nor was he sure, at first, what his last clear memory was. Surely the beautiful pale woman hadn’t been real. But if she was imaginary, what, of all the build up to meeting her, had been real?

There was a sound, the gentle clip of flat soles on stone floor. There was someone in the room with him.

Struggling up, Terry tried to looked around. The strange paralysis that had held him down was dissipating, and he could push up and twist his body to look around. There was a man in the room. An older man, very well dressed, standing by a door that wasn’t immediately obvious. He was staring at Terry, and his expression wasn’t pleasant.

It could have been jealousy, disgust or straightforward hate, Terry didn’t get the chance to read the nuances. When it was obvious that Terry had seen him, the man forced his face into a reassuring smile. “You are awake. Good, so good. The mistress will be so pleased to hear that. Can I help you? Can I get you anything?”

Terry couldn’t get that flash of negative emotion from his memory. The man was looking down now, carefully studying the floor as he talked to Terry, his shoulders drooping. The body language of subservience.

“Would you care for a drink, sir? Something to help with your revival?”

“Who are you?” Terry still had trouble moving his legs, but he could lever his arse off the bed and haul it up until he could lean back against the wall. He wasn’t looking at the man as he asked the question, but studying the room.

The floor was marble, again, with walls and ceiling a similar creamy shade of white. Paintings in ornate gilded frames were all over the walls. Across from the foot of the bed was a large stormy seascape. The door frame and skirting board were similarly decorated, and the light switch and lamp fittings were plated in gold as well.

There were no windows.

“My name is Leech.” the man at the door said.

“Who are you?”

“I am here to provide for you. The mistress asked that I see how you are feeling.” Leech moved closer to the bed. He still looked down, and stapled his fingers before his chest, the very image of subservience. “Do you feel ready to drink? Has the thirst taken you yet?”

Leech talked strange, Terry thought. But his meaning seemed obvious. “A vodka and coke. If you’re serious about the drinks.”

“That, I think, would not be appropriate. But I can get you something more…. Suitable.”

“What, is it too early to drink? What time is it? And why isn’t there a window?” Terry was beginning to get the feeling back in his thighs now. He rubbed his hands over them, to see if it would speed the recovery up. His skin was so cold, he was surprised he could feel anything.

Leech dared to look Terry in the eyes again. “This is the mistresses repose room. It is kept safe from sunlight for her protection. And it is too early in your transformation for you to consume alcohol without serious side effects.”

“Like, I’d get wasted? I drink to get wasted.”

“It would be somewhat more…. Serious than getting, as you put it, ‘wasted’.” Leech had a smug little smile, happy to have more information than Terry.

“You would be very sick. Your body needs time before it can consume anything but blood again.”

Somehow, she had entered the room and walked up to stand close to Leech without he or Terry spotting her. Terry jumped, shifting across the bed with the surprise. Leech flinched and cowered away from the sound of her voice.

Terry looked at the woman. She was just as pale and beautiful as the night before, but wore sequinned hot pants and a tie dye top that was out of character but somehow suited her perfectly.

“Where the fuck did you come from?” Terry’s voice was squeaky with shock.

“I was born in a part of the country you now know as Germany. Before Germany was Germany.”

“I…. No. I meant, how did you sneak up on us like that?”

“It is a skill I have.”

Terry’s brain was slotting things into place out of order to how he was told them. “Blood. You said blood. I’d have to eat it…. Drink it, whatever. And he,” Leech was walking backwards away from the bed, eyes averted again, “said something about a transformation.”

“You drank of my blood, so your transformation has begun. You will properly be one of us soon. But, even then, it is many years before your body can hold down the food and drink you used to enjoy. And then it is only for the sensual pleasure, the taste of it. You need blood now, if you are to stay healthy.”

“Blood.” Terry repeated, the word helping connections form in his memory. “You’re fucking joking. Vampires don’t exist. They ain’t real.”

“If vampires aren’t real, then you aren’t real.” The woman’s smile was so full of certainty.

“Vampires don’t exist.” Terry said again. But it was so quiet, it was obvious he didn’t believe himself.

“Glenn promised you were a pretty one. You do not disappoint.”

Terry stared at her blankly. The change of subject had derailed the few thoughts that had survived the talk of vampires. “You…. Told Glenn to bring me here?” he managed after a while. He presumed they were still in the tower, if only because the tasteless decoration was up to the same standards.

“I persuaded him. He brought me others, in the past. But none were as lovely as you.”

“He said we were meeting a man.”

“A dirty old man who enjoyed boys and young men. I know. A woman seeking such things would still be considered strange. So Glenn saw what he expected to see when we were discussing business. He got paid, and he never said anything when the boys he brought here did not go back to the place he called tent town. It was an arrangement that worked. Whilst it worked.” She sat on the bed beside Terry, and stretched her long legs out so that one of her feet brushed against one of his. To his surprise, Terry found he had a strong, and very obvious, physical reaction to her proximity. She looked down, studied it, and smiled.

“You killed him.” Terry’s voice warbled again.

“I did. I had wanted to kill him for much time. A human who preys on other humans in that way. Well, he felt like…. Competition. He tasted terrible, by the way. I do not know much about drugs, but he had the flavours of several different ones in his blood.”

“You killed him.” Terry tried to sound angry, or appalled. But then he remembered that Glenn had brought him here thinking he would be entertainment for a dirty old man. Used in whatever ways were most entertaining, then never seen again. Glenn hadn’t just sold his body. He had done it knowing it might cause his death.

“And then I drank your blood, and made you drink mine, so the transformation could begin. You are more than just food, like the others, you are to be my lover.”

“What if I don’t want to be your lover.” Terry’s own body had betrayed him on that point, even before he had said it.

“Don’t you?” In a fluid move, the hot pants were suddenly on the floor.

“What have you done with him?” Terry didn’t really want to know. She was lifting the tie dye top up, and that was all he really cared about.

Leech stood by the door and watched. After all, the mistress hadn’t dismissed him. He wished she had, because then he wouldn’t have to watch the disgusting display happening on the bed.

The mistress was beauty itself. Her sinuous body, with its long limbs, formed sensuous sweeping lines no matter what strange shapes she bent it into. How could she waste it on this angular, gangly youth?

They were tangled up on the bed, now. The boy was defiling her now. Leech hated watching it, but wasn’t going to stop.

At least, not until she looked up and spotted him. Anger flashed on her face, the lines etched sharp and dark. Her eyes flicked to the door. Leech averted his gaze, bowed and shuffled backwards out of the room.

The boy might not know what had happened to his pimp, but Leech did. He had swabbed down the marble floor, washing away the blood. The stone surface had been chosen for just that reason, obviously. Before the cleaning, he had dragged the body to the door beside the lifts and manhandling it into a hatch. Then he had listened, with a sick little giggle, as it rattled down the shaft all the way to the base of the tower.

Even so many floors below, the thud as the body had hit the bottom had been audible. It wasn’t as satisfying as the cracking crunch of an empty body bin, though. There must be a few more corpses in it, softening the impact. The occupants of the tower had been busy. It was time for a clean up. Leech made the call.

There were spy holes that allowed peeking into the mistresses room. He was going to look through one. The boy was not worthy, his presence disgusted Leech. But the mistress was always mesmerising to watch.

Part 3

Zombies Versus Vampires, part 1   Recently updated !

The two black towers were stakes driven into the heart of the city. Overbearing, ugly, and completely out of place, they looked down on the pale sandstone and red brick of the lower rise buildings cowering under them.

Terry knew their story- the outline of it, anyway- everyone did. They had been proposed by a pair of footballers, looking to invest in property for lucrative retirements. But, when they were half finished, the post-Brexit decline had priced the sportsmen out of the project. Mysterious partners and backers- Russians, almost everyone agreed- stepped in to buy out the famous faces and finish the buildings themselves.

No-one got into the towers. No-one that anyone knew, anyway. They were a mystery. Two slabs of darkness looking down on them. There were shops at ground level, and two storeys of offices, but above these, 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 them in.

Terry wasn’t sure what he should make of Glenn. The older man- only a few years, but it seemed to count for so much- had decided to be Terry’s protector. There were plenty of predators around the tent town, lots of them looking 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. To the left of the roller shutters was a heavy door, clad in light grey metal and with a large shiny handle and security grade brass lock. To the 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 and the 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 faded, until they heard a click, and the door opened.

It was dark on the other side of the threshold. Much darker than outside, under the bright security light. Terry faltered, 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 shut with an ominous thud. Terry jumped at the sound, then again as lights in the ceiling turned on. The glow was only around them, the rest of the space wasn’t illuminated yet. He could see the door and the wall either side of it. There was no handle on this side, just a pull bar the height of the door, and a brushed steel number pad on the wall.

Glenn was his smiling, reassuring self again, the flashes of impatience and anger gone now. He beckoned Terry to follow him. As he strode into the dark, more lights came on above him, lighting the way.

The floor was marble, Terry thought, looking down at the blood red veins marking the shiny white surface. A stone stuck in the tread of Glenn’s boots clicked against the floor with each step.

The lights, still not very bright, illuminated the space. It 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 rest of the wall and the ceiling. The lights were set in the cornice at the top of the wall, and seemed activated by movement. At the far end of the hall, there was the polished brass of an elevator’s door.

Glenn pressed a button on the wall by the lift and, with a ping, door opened. He stepped in, beckoning Terry after him. “Come on. Come on. He’s expecting us.” Terry wondered what that meant, but stepped in anyway.

The floor of the elevator was the same sort of marble as the hallway. The walls, however, were covered in pleated and padded red leather. Terry stroked, then pressed it, and found it surprisingly soft and supple. He looked to Glenn for some explanation of what came next.

There were only three buttons inside the lift. As the doors 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. The hunger was stronger than the worry, so he leant back against the soft wall and waited to reach the stop.

Suddenly feeling light, Terry knew the lift had halted. How high up were they, he wondered, as the door opened.

They were as high up as they could be, he decided, looking across the wide space that had been revealed, and at the view through the dark tinted windows. “Penthouse suite.” Glenn told him. “What a view.”

Terry walked toward the windows, drawn by the view. The floor was marble again, but he couldn’t make out many other details. The room was dark, lit only by a small number of 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. He couldn’t guess how many floors up he was.

The lights that illuminated the Gothic façade of the Town Hall were muted, made a strange grey by whatever lined 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 knew he was not yet ready to turn around, or even say anything. Just another betrayal in a lifetime of betrayals.

“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 left side of his neck was torn open in a jagged U, from which blood flowed profusely.

Some of the blood, the more powerful spurts, seemed to be caught in mid air and disappear. They were going into a red rimmed hole. It might have been in the shape of a mouth, 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 it 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 across the air.

The blood mouth closed, then opened less wide to let out a little sound of disgust. Glenn collapsed, a soft bag of flesh and loosely connected bones.

“Do let me ssee you, little one. Are you as pretty as he promised?” the floating lips 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 down the left to reveal a shapely leg and thigh, and with wide sleeves that hung down from her arms. She reached down, and tore a strip from Glenn’s shirt with ease, 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- a wound that had already closed. Done with the rag, she dropped it so that it draped itself over Glenn’s face.

“You are lovely. Yesss, you are. He was a horrible little man, and he tasted horrible, but at least he was honest about that.” The woman took a step toward Terry. She was beautiful, even in the unforgiving light. Terry felt himself relaxing, as far as he could. His limbs weren’t under his control, it seemed. Just as he felt happy to succumb to this stunning woman’s charms, her expression changed. She was hungry, looking at him like a delicious meal. Somehow, without lines appearing on the perfect, white skin of her face, she appeared ancient. The centuries showed.

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 ssskin, no. No. And you can take a taste in return. I think you ssshall be so much more than just one meal.”

The teeth entered Terry’s neck so gently he couldn’t believe it. An ecstasy he had never before felt flowed out from the perfect wounds and filled his body.

Then it all went black.

Part 2

It’s almost Halloween, so how about I start a little story about vampires and zombies.

A month or so ago, I pondered on Twitter about the existence of any films pitting blood suckers against the walking dead. It seems there is an awful film called Vampires Vs Zombies, but nothing else. So the idea started to brew, and here’s the first part. I’ll write more bits as I can. It’s all first draft, and if I finish it, it’ll get edited, expanded and published as a Garth Owen Lost Picture Show novelette or novella.