Thursday, April 29, 2021

PHONEFACE

Gannet was walking up the road looking at her phone.

It was a Saturday, the sun was shining and she was happy. The latest bubblegum classic was honeying her ears. Gannet was messaging.

"U comin over?"

"Yeah b 5 mins. Gettin candy."

"Mint!"

It happened then. She didn't hear the screeching brakes or the burning tyres. It just happened.

The chocolate lorry lost control and mounted the kerb at 50 miles an hour. The front end ploughed into Gannet like a train and smashed her frail body against the candy store wall. It collided with a sickening splat and blood showered the two kids coming out with slushies, the blue ice flecked with crimson.

A shocked and distraught driver shook his head and alighted from the cab, the phone he'd been looking at still in his bruised hand. He staggered to the crushed cab grille and stopped dead.

He screamed in horror at the sight of Gannet mashed like a spud by his negligence. Her chest was pinned to the bricks and appeared to be now nothing, a flat void where the cab front was. Her arms had been hurled violently backwards and now dangled like string, her muscles dribbling down the window over the candyfloss sign, the bones thrashed to powder in bags of skin. The driver was appalled at these injuries but what made him spew his guts up was the girls face and what he'd done to it.

Instead of eyes, nose and a mouth, her phone had been pressed entirely into her skull like an iron, pushing her features into her head and replacing them with the device, now catastrophically lodged in her split cheek bones and burst eye sockets, Blood poured over the screen and keys like raspberry sauce.

The retching driver stood up straight and panting he stared at the atrocity in front of him again. There was no sound coming from the girl but suddenly the mobile's screen lit up. He could see type appear and he felt the bile rise again as he read the words behind the blood.

I'M GOIN TO FUCKIN KILL YOU!

The surgeon's did their best to save what they could. Everything beneath Gannet's waist was relatively intact and her legs were fine. Above the waist was irretrievably damaged. They had to amputate her string arms, scaffold her ribcage, plasticize her lungs, starch her organs and re-plumb all her piping. 

But it was the phone jammed into her face that posed the biggest problem. The front of the thing had somehow stayed intact but after inserting a camera beneath her cheeks it was clear that the rear of the phone hadn't survived. Its back plate was shattered into smithereens, the battery was wedged tight between her lobes like a burnt toast and the simcard stood bisecting her nasal cavity. Most catastrophic of all was the circuit board. It had inserted itself deep into the brain tissue but still connected to the phone through its stretching wires. It was clear that to attempt to remove this from the brain would cause the girl irreparable damage and possible quadriplegia. 

And so the phone was left on Gannet's head and she laid in a coma for a year. Over time the hospital staff referred to her as phoneface and as the months went she was almost forgotten in the children's ICU annexe, its high windows overlooking the candy store where the accident had happened.

The driver never admitted to being on his mobile and blamed his chocolate truck being overladen with wonky palettes of pralines at the sweet factory. He was ordered to go on a forklift precision course and that was that.

At first friends and family visited Gannet. At first they brought fruit and flowers but realised that there was nothing there. The girl was inside herself and not coming out for gifts. She was fed intravenously and turned every week like a spitroast. The visits petered out and the grapes withered in the bowl.

After about six months the driver's morbid curiosity got the better of him and went to the hospital. he posed as a relative and Gannet's room was pointed out to him at the far end of the most distant corridor. Don't turn the lights on they said. It disturbs the few comas in at the moment.

He entered the ICU's hidden wing and his eyes began to adjust to the gloom. He recognised the girl straight off as she was the only one of the three who had a phone welded to her face. He peered at it and cringed. Despite the lack of light he could see that skin had formed around the edges of the unit and puckered round it like some god awful mouth.

"Fuck me!" he exclaimed under his breath and felt the sharp claws of guilt digging into him. Damn, it had been a bad idea coming here he thought. Phoneface, what a fuckin mess I've made of her.

He turned but as he did so he caught the glint of a light coming on in the corner of his eye. He looked at gannet and to his astonishment the screen of the mobile on her head was lit up. It beeped and he could quite clearly see typing.

U R SO FUCKED MISTER! IT'LL B SWEET!

He gasped and ran from the ward stuttering, his phone ringing in his pocket. He knew who it was and shuddered.

Gannet woke up on a Saturday. It was the anniversary of the accident. Her parents came over, walking down the corridor slowly. They were frightened as to what the future held for their daughter.

"Darling! The doctors said you were awake" the mother cooed stroking her disfigured face and recoiling as her fingers passed over the scarred  tissue and the phone case. Her father just stared wondering how it come come to this, a tear bubbling under his eye.

Gannet's face lit up and she typed on her screen.

"Hi Mum, Hi Dad! It's me, your little Gannet!"

The two visitors stepped back in terror. Their daughter was talking to them through a mobile growing in her face! They screamed and nurses eventually arrived to help them out of the hospital.

"Bye Mum, Bye Dad".

Gannet got out of bed, dressed in her blood soaked clothes still hanging in the locker and strolled down the fire escape. She took het time as she had no arms to guide her. She could see through her camera.

As she walked down the street people gasped and got out of her way holding their mouths. A group of youths got their phones out to film her. They laughed shouting 'Phoneface, phoneface' but stopped when they all received a text message:

"I CAN SEE YOU YOU CRUEL BASTARDS!"

Gannet then messaged the driver posing as his girlfriend. 

"Meet me at the chocolate factory honey. It'll be sweet!"

She walked with conviction and hid inside the building. The driver came in and shouted his girlfriend's name.

"I'm in the sugar room".

He wandered over excited by the prospect of some 'sugar'. The lights were dimmed when he got there.

"Where are you babe?" he whispered.

"Make me some candy floss love and I'll come out naked!" she messaged.

A frisson of lust ran along his spine and he began to spin some sugar in the big flosser, its blades deep at the bottom of the bowl whirling fast.

Suddenly he was violently pushed forward and felt a body on her back pushing him down deeper, his arms heading straight into the flosser blades. they sliced through his descending arms with ease and his blood, bone and sinews mixed with the sugar forming a thick red candy mist like hair. The driver yelled in excruciating agony as his arms disappeared in a cloud of wet scarlet.

Gannet spun him round with her knees clasped round his waist and kicked him to the floor, where he'd dropped his phone. He landed face down on it and was kicked again. He was dazed. behind he could hear his forklift starting up and gunning forwards, which he simply couldn't fathom.

Remote-controlling the vehicle with her new circuitry Gannet drove the ton thing straight over the man's head. It flattened into the toffee-specked floor.

Gannet lifted the body on the forklift and dropped it in a huge vat of sugar solution. It misted up red with blood. He could lie there as she watched. It was the Easter week so the factory was shut, while the world stuffed their faces with chocolate.

The driver's wounds began to heal a little in the vat, the sugar sustaining him. He twitched and shuddered in the syrup like a seal.

After six days he sat up, sugar drying his hair. His face was gone completely and in its place was his mobile crushed deep into his cheeks. He blinked as the camera came on, saw his missing arms and then he tried to scream. His phone vibrated.

Gannet typed.

"NOW YOUR'E A FUCKIN PHONEFACE LIKE ME! SWEET!"

A video of a mouth laughing loudly appeared on her screen.

Monday, April 19, 2021

THE OLD ONES

The old man was out on the allotment with his wife that day. The sun was shining on their ageless forms and Spring bestowed them with the vernal zing they needed to live again. 

After a radiant morning digging in fresh, firm seed potatoes to boost their ration the elderly couple sat on deck chairs, ate potted beef sandwiches and drank sweet tea from an old stripy flask they got as a wedding gift before the war. The old man mopped his brow with a white cotton hanky stuffed in his rolled-up shirt-sleeve. It seemed as if they'd been digging for decades, the victory of hard work that broke the Hun and freed the world.

It was around one when they packed up and looked forward to listening to Sowerbutts on the wireless and maybe an afternoon nap. The May sun was at its fulcrum and all the world seemed to balance motionless on its point.

The old man brought their pride and joy, a brand new Morris Traveler, one of the first from the factory, round from the car park nearer to the gate where his wife was waiting with a well-maintained wheelbarrow full of old-fashioned but well looked-after garden tools. A spate of thefts from Andersons had put them off leaving them there.

After heaving the barrow in the Traveler's boot his wife sat in the passenger seat waiting for the old man to finish loading the last few tools, wiping oil on the sharp blades with an old rag. She wanted to catch the start of Down the Garden Path but loved the smell of tool oil, savouring this moment of peace.

As the final hand-tools were going in a very loud revving could be heard. The old man turned to see a gleaming BSA doing a ton up the road towards him. It had to brake to avoid hitting his Morris.

"Fuckin' move your car you old bastard!" the young rider screamed from under his helmet.

"Just ride round!" suggested the old man clutching his potato spade. 

"Your taking up all the fuckin' road you old cunt! Fuckin' shift your wooden car!"

The angry helmeted youth got off his bike, lowered his aviators and approached the old man.

He poked him hard on the chest, were he had a medal pinned, with his gloved finger.

"Move this heap of shit now!"

The old man's wife heard the commotion and got out of the car.

"What the fuck do you want bitch!"

"Please don't speak to my wife like that you jumped-up streak of baby grease!"

"You fuckin' what!"

The helmeted youth went up to the old man's wife and screamed in her face.

"Biiiiiiiiiiiiiitch!"

With surprising speed and strength for his age, the old man lunged and grabbed the youth's leather-jacket collar dragging him away.

"DO NOT SHOUT AT MY WIFE!"

The youth kicked out catching the old woman hard in the stomach. She doubled-up in agony and fell to the ground, where the youth kicked her again with his boot.

The old man hefted his spade with the hands of a seasoned warrior and swept it up high into the air. He brought it down in a beautiful arc of light and steel straight onto the youth's pudding helmet. It split in two like a walnut. Thwummp! The old man wielded it again, attuned to it's ancient grain, this time cleaving the youth's combed skull clean in half. He fell to his knees and shrieked in pain holding his riven head. The old man swung the spade round one last time, a perfect glistening circle from the side, susurrating through a split, cleaving the youth's slicked head clean off at the neck. It fell to the ground next to the helmet's halves with a thud.

The old woman stared at the old man.

"He shouldn't have kicked you."

"No dear. He shouldn't have."

"No respect these greasy boys. Not for us."

They didn't finish filling in the new vegetable bed until tea. The body took time. The bike had to be hidden in the Anderson. Sand had to be strewn on the road. Exhausted, they napped on deck chairs holding hands.

It was dusk when they woke.

"Lets go home and have a nice piece of carrot cake."

The two ethereal figures drove into the dying shards of sunlight, their radio stuttering from another age. The car's red rears faded in the shadows beneath the planes and they were gone until tomorrow when they would dig it all over again.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

THREE BOYS

The three boys walked into the village little knowing it was a most evil place.

They sauntered down the main street jostling each other. 

Curtains twitched and eyes followed.

The boys were swigging cans of Red Bull and were looking forward to some stronger stuff they had in a Co-op carrier bag.

A bench at the the back of the cemetery beckoned them through the gate. 

One of the boys slapped a giant statue of a resting angel as he swaggered past the rows of graves.

"Gives you fuckin' wings! ha ha!" he quipped and the other two howled with laughter. It was going to be a right laugh tonight.

They sat down and handed out cans of lager.

"I need a piss!"

The boy stood over a World War II grave and peed across the headstone. 

"foo foo foo foo," he gunned mimicking an ack ack canon as he strafed the words.

"We'll meet again" turned darker.

In their revelry none of the youths had noticed eyes peering at them over the wall. More and more appeared as the sun began to set over the long dead.

The villagers gathered at the gate and filed in. About a hundred of them.

They walked with torches and mobile phone lights towards the rear plot, where the bench was.

"What the fuck do you want? " shouted one of the boys standing with arms spread defiantly, his beer spilling.

The villagers said nothing and stood three-deep in a half-circle around them.

"What's your fuckin' problem you old cunts?" roared the other boy launching an empty can into the gathering.

Unperturbed the assembly began to chant strange words and phrases, which grew louder the longer they went on.

"Sanguis", "Bibimus".

The boys, now frightened, ran at the crowd, but it was no use. There were too many. The villagers encircled them and smiled broadly.

Suddenly the village folk stopped. A sound could be heard. Large stones were grating as if something heavy had shifted.

The boys heard it too and were now scared as hell.

They hammered on the faces of the old folk, smashing their noses but the villagers just laughed.

The grating turned into a loud sizzling thump, thump as if something huge and hot was walking towards them on the path.

"You're in for it now you disrespectful scrotes!" the gathering shouted and howled with laughter as they parted to let something or someone through.

The three boys saw a vast dark shape enter the ring and stand up tall in front of them.

"Oh, fuckin' 'ell" one cried looking up at the face and pissed his pants.

The shape grew bigger as it outstretched huge wings over the boys and as the setting sun was blotted out completely they realised that this thing before them was the giant statue they'd laughed at earlier.

"Gives you fuckin' wings!" it hissed at them grinning widely, its sharp teeth slightly parted.

The congregation yelled with delight as the three were ripped apart and thrown into the air; blood spraying across the crowd as they scrambled for tasty pieces.

Some of them excitedly filmed it on their phones for later.

The dark angel turned, red gore dripping from its mouth and claws. It walked through the parting throng, its wings trailing behind.

They bowed their heads.

"Thankyou Lord Lucifer," they whispered as he passed.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021

THE FEAST IN THE MIDDEN

The colossal landfill bubbled in the mid-day sun like a giant bowel.

Dran's bulldozer muscled its way across the huge mound, barreling bags of household crud further up the slopes all the way to the steaming summit, where he stopped. He got out of his sweltering cab and stood on the footplate mopping his sweating face with his T-shirt. From here he could see the stricken city below, spread out like a terrible buffet beside the midden. Misery ruled its streets since the great crash.

Dran saw it all clearly from the landfill. He stared at the city he loved and despaired. The future was bleak and no comfort formed on the horizon, no shining knight in armour was coming. His own job was ending. Still in his twenties and made redundant. His final week. The rubbish would have to rot at the foot of the hill, where the trucks let loose. Nothing he or his mates could do. All on the junkpile he thought standing there on the garbage. The irony wasn't lost on him and he shook his head. I'm already there he thought. He took one last look at his city, where men wandered aimlessly in the streets, stalked by the indignity of sloth. He wondered how his Mother and little brother Lamb were coping with the hard fists of his violent Father.

Suddenly, there was a ear-splitting roar from deep within the earth and the ground shook violently. Dran was thrown headlong from his dozer straight onto the garbage. It shifted like a million bodies beneath him and shuddered back and forth as the noise got louder and louder.

"Oh Shit! an earthquake!" cried Dran, desperately trying to get back into his vehicle, which, unbeknown to him, was now teetering dangerously on the edge of a wide rift opening up at the peak. Dran managed to clamber back into the cab and seeing the split widening he gunned the tracks in a wild bid to escape, but it was too late. A vast hole appeared at the summit and Dran's bulldozer fell in, engulfed by the yawning dark inhaling like a hideous mouth. The vehicle and its driver Dran plummeted down and down into the bottomless guts of the landfill, a massive thing fed by a thousand years of the city's burgeoning filth. They smashed onto the bottom-most layer, the ancient foundation of its mass and the canopic heart of a world forgotten.

The bedrock split.

Something stirred.

It arose, awoken from an arcane slumber in which its songs had fed its dreams for thousands of years. Now its hunger was millennia-old and it yearned for the music of flesh.

The crippled Dran saw the thing unfold from the cleft and screamed. 

"Mum. Dad. help meeeeeeeeee!"

He was fed upon as he watched.

The creature licked its red lips and unfurled its gigantic wings. She began to wail.

A darkness then crept over the city. No, a doleful lament, like the cries of a buried child, which slipped out of the wasteland, her melodic notes fingering the doors of the depressed.

It found easy access in the houses of the hopeless.

A miasma of desolation had befallen the once industrious state. Its denizens were broken. The slump had bit deep and the jobless numbers rose like a funeral pyre. Crestfallen men were desperate, their souls aching for work. Women were bereft, their larders empty. The pall of desolation hung in the air like smog. It could be seen by those who lived there. Felt by everyone else.

The creature's song entered Gristo's house first. It contained a hint of deep distress among the slurry of notes.

"You've seen what its like so get off my back. There are no bastard jobs out there!" bellowed Gristo at his wife as she dried the dishes. She had scrimped her money and cooked gyros for him this week but it hadn't helped. It had made things worse somehow, aggravating his already bruised ego and deepening his growing emasculation.

"I only asked if you were going out tomorrow Love. I need some honey for baklava. Not much mind."

"Honey! You want fuckin honey! When we can't even afford glasses for our Lamb! Are you fuckin serious!" He roared and threw the last of the beef stew against the wall.

"That was Lamb's tea you damned oaf!"

"A bastard oaf am I now?"

He was up on his feet in a flash and grabbed his wife by the throat, pinning her against the cupboard with brutish force.

"Well make some fucking more you stupid bitch!" he roared and smacked her hard across the face. She fell down and lay sobbing uncontrollably on the kitchen lino cowering.

He stood above her with clenched fists shaking with misplaced fury. As guilt began to flood his heart he turned, grabbed his coat and stormed out of the house.

Lamb had seen it all from the staircase and when his Dad had left he went to comfort his Mum.

"He doesn't mean it. Your Father. He's a good man really. He just gets things mixed up in his mind. He misses Dran and he still loves us little Lamb."

Gristo still fumed as he trudged up the street, past the allotments and into the broad stony ground between the city and the country beyond. The wide realms stretched out like new beginnings and he yearned to step into them, to leave this living death behind and regain his rightful place.

He thought of his boys. On good days his youngest was the apple of his eye before he became weary of life. He'd been so small and cute they nicknamed him Lamb. 

From without his reverie he now heard a sweet trill whispering from above. 

It was so faint that he doubted he'd heard it at first. A mere breeze across his ears, a hint of song. A skylark? Yet it appeared to grow louder and his curiosity got the better of him. He looked to see where it might be from.

His gaze took him to the landfill site. Gristo was entranced.

The musical note carried him to its dark edge and he began to climb. On he went to the black summit, where the song bid him enter the cavern. He was compelled to do so, the allure of the singing so strong that he forgot who he was or what he was doing. It spoke of a life of unbridled passion, of vast wealth and public success, a life far beyond the cursed one he had.

He descended into the crevasse. The pitch dark swallowed him but the music guided his steps ever onward. In time he came to a gigantic cluttered jumble of ancient statuary, a decrepit shambles of stone figures and clay coffins and it was here the voice was loudest. As Gristo stared at the archaic ruins his heart pounded and his neck keened to see what could be making those alluringly sweet sounds.

"Come here my love!" Came a whisper from the coffin nearest to him. He thought it sounded like his wife.

"Come and join me!"

Gristo was sure it was his useless wife's voice now and somehow she had lured him down here to humiliate him. Well she was in for it now. He'd beat her so hard she'll never look in the mirror again! He clenched his fists as rage surged through him.

"Come out witch! Come out or I'll drag you out!" Gristo roared.

"As you wish my love," came the soft response.

A pale hand with enormously sharp fingernails clutched the side of the coffin.

Gristo momentarily teetered.

The hand was joined by a long arm and lithe shoulder and then a face.

It wasn't Gristo's battered wife.

It was the face of a beautiful girl, pallid but alive. Her lips were scarlet and full, her eyes deep and enticing. She was quite gorgeous and a glorious main of reddish tresses framed her voluptuous features perfectly. She rose completely and Gristo was now transfixed by her naked body. Her breasts were firm and tantalising and a dark v-shaped shadow between her thighs spoke of untold pleasures for the fortunate man.

Gristo was that man. He was sure of it and as with all the women in his life he would make sure of it and use his fists of he didn't get what he wanted. This young sow was no different and he stepped forward with tightening knuckles as she stepped out of the coffin.

Gristo grabbed the woman by the neck and forcibly kissed her face, lips and breasts, whilst throwing in a punch to her kidney. She winced but smiled. A smile that Gristo had never seen on a woman he was about to force to the floor and he stopped. The smile grew and he saw for the first time a mouth filled with razor sharp teeth. The smile widened and the teeth turned to fangs as the woman brushed off his arms. She seemed to get taller and Gristo swore he saw wings unfold and rise high into the abyss. He was frightened for the first time in his life.

The winged female leaned towards his quivering face and she laughed loudly. As she did so she rose into the air with a single flap of her colossal wings and cackled and sang in a caterwaul of terrible sounds.

"Puny human! You think you could have me! No human has ever! I am the defiler of hearts and the jailor of souls. I devour all that you have. I eat your future for I am damnation. I am Terpsichore and I am a Siren!" 

Gristo stared in horror at the creature.

"I am the lurer of sinews, the temptress of flesh and the end of courage. Heed my song and you shall perish."

At this the Siren screamed a discordant mewing, which filled the cavern and entered the world. Her neck craned and her mouth opened wide.

Gristo could now hear a new sound. A stampede clambering along the hollow streets making its way gradually to the tip and then up the side of the landfill's slope. The cacophony echoed around the chamber and then he saw.

Hundreds of men where flinging themselves into the mouth of the hole and falling with a hideous thud on the hard ground at the feet of Terpsichore. The bodies piled up around her, a bloody necropolis of the worshipful dead.

The stench of iron consumed Gristo as he gagged at the sight of the broken men, their blood swilling round his feet. As he wretched he saw to his horror the mangled face of his eldest son Dran poking out of the midden, where the beast had feasted.

Terpsichore smiled as she felt the father's agony and licked the dead youngster's cheek with her immensely thick tongue.

"I shall gorge myself on all men but I will not be sated by this fat larder. To live again I require a sacrifice, a tender offering of immaculate flesh. I need a child. I need your child, who kneels sobbing in the arms of his crying mother, their tears cleansing his innocent being. I want to feast on this child. Now bring me Lamb. Do this for me and I will spare you."

Gristo stood aghast, his shoulders slumped. He know he was no good. A wife-beater, a psychopath and deserved to be punished. he knew that. He was emotionally inept, a castle ogre lost in the dark but but really in his shredded heart he loved Lamb above all else in this world. His eyes filled with hot tears of remorse.

"I'll be damned to Hell before I let you near our Lamb as well!" he yelled at the Siren.

"So be it."

Terpsichore pursed her lips and blew an awful melody round Gristo's head. She slinked and slithered over the corpse-heap wrapping her victim in song. He winced as the vile notes squeezed his face and made his ears bleed. He tried to cover them but the music enveloped him like a shroud and he knew that all his stature, his rage and his violence meant nothing here in the face of this supreme creature from pre-history.

In a final gathering of strength Gristo faced upwards and bellowed his own final words of regret.

"I'm sorry Dran. I'm sorry Lamb. I always loved you!"

Terpsichore ate Gristo there and then and he was gone, but his dreadful note carried out of the pit and across the town to the his old home.

Lamb, still weeping into his Mother's breast, suddenly stiffened and heard his Father's dying cry. Lamb stands and, as if hit by a lightning strike, arches his back and yells in agony. Bright light filled the kitchen and Lamb appears to grow, his body becoming that of an adult, his muscles expanding and his chest bared. He stood six feet tall in a pool of luminescence and in his hand was a long spear.

His kneeling mother gawped in wonder and touched the side of her son. He stroked her head and whispered gently.

"I love you Mother. It is your strength and Father's remorse that carries me now. For I am aggrieved, this boy. I am the lamb. I am wrath."

The sun-lit figure unfolded vast wings and flew into the darkening sky heavy with men screaming as they hurtled toward the landfill and their death. Lamb shot past them like a falcon, his heart breaking and his spear quivering with fury.

He descended the chasm and landed with a blinding flash, his massive wings outstretched to their full size.

"Lamb! How nice of you to visit again. Its been too long!" rasped the Siren.

"Terpsichore, you wanton harpie, it is always a pleasure to dispatch you once more"

"Tut tut, young titan, I have sacrificed you as many times. Who knows. Maybe this day too!"

"I think not Siren. In this life I have a spear cleansed in agony and forged in penance. Even your fell symphony will not withstand it!"

"Ah, the spear. Last time it was a sword. A sword hewn in truth I recall. Truth, Agony, Penance, you are running out of virtues my illustrious foe. Your God grows bored with this pointless fray. Put down your spear and I shall fill your life with charm and melody."

"Waste not your broken squawking on me Minstrel, for I am renewed and the Lamb will prevail once more!"

At this the statuesque figure ran at the creature, his spear outstretched. Terpsichore spiralled upwards sending corpses spinning in a whirlwind. She flung her hands this way and that hurtling bodies at the running boy.

Bathed in the blood of the innocent, Lamb parried the unrequited dead, ran with all his might and finally stood in front of the Siren, his spear tip pressed against her throat.

"So, my sacrificial Lamb, you appear to have the upper hand. Let me sing one last song before I am vanquished."

"There is no time for singing left Terpsichore. We must restore the balance and let the world renew itself once more. It is the way. It is your time."

"I am sorry".

As the titan heaved his spear deep into the throat of the Siren he regretted this part he had to play. He always had, even more than his own death each thousand years. Feeling an overwhelming sense of loss, like that of his father, Lamb paused his pushing.

He paused too long and realised the fatal error of his reverie but it was too late. Terpsichore was able to emit one final trill, a dreadful note of wholesale destruction, which carried like a devil's seed on the rising air and out into the world, where it sounded like a titanic child crying before descending to fertile soil.

The boy covered his ears shrieking.

"Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"

Lamb slumped onto his shaft dying as the spearhead cleft the Siren's neck. Her face fell against his and she hissed as her wings wilted around his drooping head.

"Both of us!"

SLINKY

At night my blood leaves me to join the other in the room. It lives under my floorboards like a pearl and has done since I was born. I never really see it clearly but it enters my dreams every night. I will never hurt you but I need to lend your blood it says to me in raspy whispers as if its gurgling the mouthwash my Dad uses. I know it leaves the house but that's all I know for sure. The rest is siphoned in my head whilst I'm dead to the world so it could all be made up. I sense it leaves my window, slops across the lawn like a water bomb and scales the garden fence. Beyond lies the village where it feeds all night. Not blood. It feeds on muscles. Not enough to kill but enough to make its victims weak. In time they strengthen again. Like all cattle I guess. It liquifies their muscles and drinks them. I think its brown, the juice. Its brown in my dreams. Pouring out of their mouths into its quivering open excited cavity. It slurps and smacks and licks. Such enjoyment from something so gross. Muscle soup. Yuk! People wake up utterly tired and visit the doctor. A tonic is needed she says. To fortify you. Its a bug. There are lots of tonic bottles in homes in our village. When its full it comes back home. I sense it cooling down in the fishbowl, licking my goldfish and making it thinner. I have to chuck extra flakes in when it does. My poor fish. Hardly any muscle left. I think it came from the sea, my floorboard friend. Or the hospital waste. Sometimes I sense my dead Mum. Like I was, I suppose its sort of my undead baby. Living next to me. I've seen tentacles in my dreams, blood-filled tendrils reaching into open throats to do their slippery work. They head for the heart first, its favourite treat, so thick and strong. Then the limbs get diluted leaving just enough to move. For fun it often fingers the anxious brains of its victims but this thinking mass is of no real interest to a muscle eater. All those stringy neurons. All that baggage. That's how I know it drinks muscle. In my dreams. We're sort of connected mentally I guess. Sometimes it leaves a trail of fluid like snot across bedroom floors and straight out the windows, but by morning it's crystallised into nothing. Maybe its my strange placenta or a sick moat mollusc. Who knows. It could be ancient. Or my age too! Its hard to say. Anyway, I call it Slinky because it moves like one. You know, sort of flippy floppy. Sometimes, if my head is turned straight, I see it back-flipping up my bedclothes towards my mouth. When I get my blood back in the morning and re-inflate I feel great. Really great. I hope my parents never move house. I'll have to take Slinky with me. In the fishbowl I imagine. For now we're doing well. I'd better get up. It's time for school and as usual I skip breakfast. I take an apple or two to keep my Dad happy and then I run. I run past houses where I know its been. Like circuitry the faded trails all lead to me, a battery of blood muscles ready to pop. I lean back in class and smile at the girl sitting next to me. She looks tired. Really really tired. A thin line of brown stuff dribbles down her chin.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

FOR GOD'S SAKE DON'T YAWN!

It all started when the world got hotter. The seas receded and their sandy shores grew like deserts. The Earth was drying up.

The coasts were parched and inland it was even worse. The land cracked like eczema and water become the new gold.

Animal and man faced a common enemy, thirst. It stalked us like a virus as everyone and everything slowly dried out.

Yet the richer countries stayed wet. Money bought water and their citizens hydrated every day as gallons of fresh liquid gushed through the pipes of the wealthy.

They watched the rest of the world with moist vacant eyes. They were okay as long as the water kept flowing in their direction. It didn't matter if they sucked dry the remaining underground stocks and so the tentacles of the rich spread out across the world, a secret mesh of pipelines bleeding the water from the very mouths of the poor.

The hotter southern regions became a death zone. Waterless corpses rotted on the sun-cooked roads and only the crows grew fat for a short while, until even they searched in vain for life-giving pools.

It was around this time that those in the Southern hemisphere who had the strength to notice saw the first crabs.

They crawled out the vanishing seas in their millions desperate for the the sanctuary of anything damp. The search for moisture drove them inland and eventually they found the secret pipelines full of sweet liberating water heading North.

They entered and walked along the pipes until they came to the cities of the Northern zone.

Its thought that the very first crabs to encounter the citizens there were those siphoned straight from the countless street hydrants into large glasses of clean fresh water guzzled on the spot by the thirsty residents. These were smaller crabs and were washed straight down as people drank and drank and weren't even noticed.

But then came the big ones.

They'd seen their little cousins enter the humans and sensed a damp, warm, attractive hole waiting for them too. The best holes around in fact; mobile, dark, wet and with a constant food supply coming through the teeth.

But as much as the big crabs tried they just couldn't get in. They'd hide in the undergrowth. They'd sneak by the buckets. They'd clasp the defiles between the walls and pounce.

Launching themselves onto the screaming victims the crabs pawed and clawed at their mouths forcing their way in but to no avail. As long as the humans kept their mouths shut the crabs would suffer in the sun relying on the small drips from the outdoor taps and meagre scraps from the bins to keep them alive.

Citizens became intensely fearful of the crabs and attempts were made to crush as many as possible. Gangs with mallets were paid to patrol the streets. They swept the cracks and nooks for secreted crabs, smashing any they found, leaving their flattened guts bubbling in the relentless heat. The towns began to reek of rotting seafood and the greedy crows had a field day.

The remaining crabs muttered in the darkness. They needed a plan. They needed a breakthrough, so they hunkered down and waited for it to come.

It came as a unusually wealthy man was sleeping by his pool. He snored contentedly under a wide parasol shading him from the damaging rays. A tray containing a half-eaten lobster thermidor shell, a used lobster fork, several lemon slices and a tall drink stood on the marbled patio next to his lounger. A female crab was lurking there too enjoying the cool shade. It picked lazily at the crustacean's cheesy carcass and licked the droplets of condensation slowly descending the glass.

The man woke and sleepily reached down for his drink. The crab was balanced on top. The man hadn't seen it and momentarily paused lifting his drink as he yawned dramatically. It was a huge wide loud yawn, the yawn of the carefree rich and lasted and lasted.

The crab sensed the appealing damp breath of the man's wide-open mouth and leapt. It landed smack inside and for a split-second rested on his tongue as it squeezed its rear legs in as well. The man gagged and reached for his lips, desperately trying to drag the creature from between his teeth. He let out a muffled scream and his wife came running to his aid from the house.

She arrived to find her husband on his knees clutching at his mouth and imploring for her to help him as he choked and screeched next to the pool. She knew he was choking. Quickly getting closer and clutching his hands so she could inspect his mouth, his wife peered deep between his teeth and was horrified by what she saw. 

She screamed and screamed as she watched the crab gingerly turn itself over so that its soft belly pressed neatly onto her husband's upper palette and its mouth faced his top teeth. It hung there like a bat, snug in its new wet dark place. The woman fainted when the crab's long thin maxilla began to finger her husband's incisors and pick the lobster flesh wedged there in the gaps.

Other crabs near the pool had seen the way their sister had gained its entry and spreading out they tapped out their hideous observations to the others.

And so it began, the terrible invasion as people yawned; unseen crabs legging into their mouths before they could shut them, sitting inside and turning to rest on the upper palette like hard cats, their twitching mandibles waiting for their hosts to feed and drink, which inevitably they did after the initial days of wretching.

The notice went out not to yawn. Posters, billboards and webspots proclaimed that 'under no circumstances must citizens yawn!' 

People tried so hard to keep their lips tight as crabs stared directly at them, but it was no use. 

The natural human urge to stretch and yawn after a day playing croquet was too strong and as soon as mouths widened in flew a crustacean. 

Adults, men, women, children and the infirm all succumbed to what became known to scientists as Palette Crabs and to citizens, Gum Fucks.

To their utter disgust, over time people got used to the passengers inside their heads, the gum fucks. A few hundred citizens died from choking after trying to chew the crabs inside their mouths but many thousands settled into a new life with their visitors and any further attempts to chew them resulted in the crabs descending lower into the throat until the danger passed and the violent heaving stopped.

As months passed residents became familiar with seeing crabs' small front pincers waving around between the lips of their friends . Lovers got used to their maxillae touching as they kissed, which somehow heightened their arousal to a whole new symbiotic climax.

For their part the palette crabs were settling down in their new homes and learning how to make things easier for themselves. Rather than wait on tables and beds for someone to yawn they began to sit on top of people's heads until the inevitable mouth opening came. Some crabs even sat directly on people's faces, hanging vertically over the nose with their pincers dug slightly into their cheeks or even stretched them to hook into the ears. This was particularly evident in children, where the smaller crabs were much lighter and could hang like this quite easily. Even babies had tiny crabs waiting for them in maternity wards, standing on their foreheads bobbing up and down, waiting for their tender yawns. These small crabs were guarded by much bigger ones inside their adult hosts, so that no-one was tempted to flick the little ones away. Every crab deserved a home and like their hermit cousins, as kids grew up, different sized crabs would take up residence.

As time went on the behaviour of humans began to change. They could no longer speak in the same way, as their mouths were now more or less full. A new way of talking came about, with muffled words, hisses, head and hand gestures and even some crab teeth tapping. Eating and drinking were also affected. Food tended to be partially liquidised because there just wasn't enough room for anything substantial and besides, chewing had become awkward to say the least. Drinking was easier and both host and crab would open their mouths.

In the beginning their was a lot of resistance to the crab invaders. Posters were plastered on billboards denouncing the creatures. 'Kill the Gum Fucks!' and 'Chew the Crabs: they're just Seafood!' and 'Our Mouths are Ours!' were popular. But the occupation continued apace and hosts resorted to drastic measures: attempting to rip them out of the mouth, drinking bleach, piercing them with screwdrivers, drilling into them and burning them with lasers, but these usually ended in the hosts being badly injured or even dying. Some truly desperate hosts took themselves and their Gum Fucks out of the cities and walked way into the parched deserts beyond to lay down and dry.

But by and large the situation stayed the same for decades and over the next half- century, whilst there was still enough water for the rich, the two species co-habited without much trouble.

After about 70 years some reports eventually trickled through of the two species merging, suggesting that humans with crabs' faces were ambling around a few towns and in the far reaches of the enclaves there was talk of humans walking on all fours in a sideways fashion.

There were even rumours of really big crabs, much to big for mouths, about the size of dogs in fact, mating with citizens and even giving birth to crab children.

And have you guessed, I'm one of them!

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

DAUMEN KINO'S MESMER

Daumen Kino was obsessed with flicker books. 

He just couldn't get enough of their whispery animations and regularly spent entire days mesmerised by the flapping images contained within. Its fair to say that Daumen got utterly lost in the flickers and was hypnotised by the sound.

He had hundreds, if not thousands, of flicker books in his higgledy-piggledy house. They were everywhere and covered every surface, only interspersed by the candles Daumen loved as well, rising like spectres from the gloom.

Not only did Daumen buy flip books from wherever he could, he also made his own flickering images. Birds, explosions, feasts, unfurling leaves, pies rising, gun's firing, children yawning, eyes closing, mouths opening and suns setting. He drew them all and adored watching his efforts murmur past his eyes like glimmers of another world.

It was this other worldliness that really caught Daumen's imagination. He felt sure his twitching images held the key to unlocking the thin veil between the spheres, the gossamer betwixt vast dimensions. 

Like mayflies, the flickering papers conquered the light in a fury of existence and are gone. Once flipped they are done in a instant. A flick. A fleck. A mote. A speck. A ghost.

Daumen Kino felt sure he'd seen evidence of ghosts in the depths of the fluttering papers. Hazy figures skipping on the edges of vision like crystals forming in his tears. He was transfixed by the possibility and felt both elated and frightened in the midst of these animations.

Daumen craved entry into the filigree within his dancing leaves. He sought traces of the ether and dreamt of crossing the untouchable boundaries therein and lighting a candle on the other side. He would have given his very soul to gain passage.

His lust for the ethereal took him to every dusty emporium within the county and beyond and the older the book the more excited he got, as they were clearer portals, more perfect mirrors and the thinnest of curtains through which to step.

The best subjects were the wispy minstrels favoured by Victorians, the jittery troubadours and shadowy fools. Within the dust of these frozen dances lay the stepping stones to a younger world. He searched deeper behind the murky windows of antiquarians and delved further into the dark heart of the Capital's relics.

Owning countless originals, Daumen sought a truly rare item, an 1886 Melville Living Picture Book. Now, one of these Melvilles would have been hard enough to find but Daumen wanted the fabled hexagon, a mythological array of six books creating an almost animate entity within. None had ever been found and Daumen did not hold out much hope but trudged the metropolis nonetheless.

If Kino could locate such a hexagon he might stand a chance of discerning the shapes within and at last touch the lodes of the ancients.

He felt compelled to continue and it was only at the very end of his quest that he made the discovery.  After months of disappointment it was a non-descript public library down a poorly-lit alleyway into which he stumbled one summer morning.

At the end of a remote aisle covering magic and lore his fingers, piercing deep abandoned cobwebs, scratched a small spine. Slowly pulling it out he released a bank of dust which surrounded him like a fog. Kino coughed and spluttered but continued to pull.

As the booklet fell finally into both his hands he could not believe what he was seeing. A Melville Hexagonal Book of Living Pictures. 

"Oh my God!" he shouted loudly, so loudly in fact that he caught the attention of the librarian sitting at the front desk behind a stack of leathery tomes. The librarian stood and walked slowly towards the farthest aisle.

Daumen Kino had struck the motherlode. He had actually found what was probably the only copy of the book in the entire world. He shook with excitement and his hands quivered as he turned its rare geometry round and round. 

His mouth formed a huge grin and his eyes widened as he realised the enormity of his find. His rapture knew no bounds as he commenced his greatest wish, his destiny, a moment he had been leading up to his whole life, the moment he would riffle these legendary pages.

He began to work the papers.

Immediately a flickering image of a young girl appeared. At first she was sat at the back of the picture slouched on a small stool. Very quickly she looked up and ran towards the front, her face appearing large on the page. her mouth was opening and closing as if shouting something and she clung to the edges of the book as if it was a window frame. The final image was of the girl screaming and sobbing into her hands as a shadow passed by.

Daumen was mesmerised. He gawped at the fluttering life in his fingers. He was shivering with glee but began to feel something else. Was it hesitation after all his searching?

His body felt fatigued as if it were fighting to stay upright. He felt his shoulders hunch and his face descend a little towards the Melville hexagon. His balance shifted. He staggered forward, his hands quaking, clenching the book. His knuckles were white with the strain and slowly but surely his nose nudged the flickering pages, now powering themselves in an endless image of the girl yelling and shaking her head wildly.

She stopped suddenly and Daumen realised that his hair was actually entering the picture, then his face and then his entire head. He grinned euphorically as his dream came true. To peek at secret alchemy, the spirits behind our eyes. 

But a dark stain welled up in front of his eyes and revealed its absolute hatred for the living and its stark compulsion to enter our world to feed its toxic appetite.

Kino shrieked in terror as he stared at this malignancy and tried desperately to force himself back out but to no avail. His torso plunged into the book and with one final scream he knew he couldn't hold on and he vanished completely into the papers.

Scwhupp! 

The librarian reached the aisle just as Daumen Kino was no more. The book, as if hanging in mid air, fell to the floor with a thud. The librarian picked it up and looked at the first page of the drawings.

Sat at the back of the picture was a young girl on a stool. Near her a young man was on his knees with his face in his hands howling. He ran to the front and began to mouth something imploringly to the librarian, something like "I know now. I can see what's here. I've seen the ghosts. Now please let me out. Please!" 

A smudge suddenly rushed past him and a shadow darkened the face of the Librarian. She shut the book and smiled.

She date stamped the ticket for that day. 1st April 1936. It sat below the only other stamp, exactly fifty years earlier, 1st April 1886. The day Melville had secretly hidden a copy of his Living Pictures hexagon in the bookcase.

Still grinning, the librarian tucked the book back into its dusty slot deep in the shelf and walked back to her desk, where she began making her own shadowy flicker books to give away to her lenders.

Friday, January 1, 2021

THE RED TUSSOCK

I saw that tussock thing in the field before anything else. It stuck up like sore thumb.

It was a dark day. Winter full done. The sky was heavy as quicksilver and my mood were no better having told my Father in Law to shove his blue potion up his arse.

Sick of him balling at me I'm no good. That I'm a wastrel. A retard. He can fix me. Well, he's a pompous old crusty bastard warlock. Yes. He damn well is. I don't need fucking fixing!

The tussock thing was right before me now. I'd walked across the whole rank plot. It was more reddish than green and stank to high heaven.

I prodded it with my boot and I could have sworn it moaned. It groaned like a kicked dog. I kicked it this time proper and it screamed. I had to cover my ears.

"By Jesus! What the fuck is that!" I heard myself shout as the high pitched wail filled the air.

It then split. Scarlet gunge oozed out and spilled onto the ground, sizzling like puke. It reeked like rotten meat and bubbled and popped as it pooled.

The scream had stopped but the liquid just kept coming. It was then I noticed some on my boots and socks. It fizzed and stung. It burnt through my cloth and hurt. More of the stuff poured over my feet and before I could turn and run it had smothered my legs.

The pain was inexplicable. It was agony as the red fluid turned my limbs to fizzling puss. I fell onto my hands and knees and it was I that now screamed.

My entire body from head to foot was blathered in the foulsome gunk and I felt my form dissolving.

"What is this vilest magic!" I yelled till my thinning lungs burst.

Only my head remained fully intact resting on the ground. I could see a figure approaching. His cape blowing in the winter gloom.

He arrived and towered over my pitiful carcass. I looked up.

My Father in Law!

He was Holding a big bottle of red potion.

"You sorcering gobshite!" I burbled.

He laughed and tipped out the rest of the bottle onto my face.

"Nooooooooooo!" I croaked like someone drowning.

"You should have drank the blue stuff you fucking wastrel!" he said and pressed his boot onto my head. 

It squashed like a duck-egg and just like that he was gone.

Monday, December 28, 2020

THE WITCHWIVES' PRAYER

Stay by us my cloven Lord, stay by us a night.

Let bread be broke, hot broth spooned up, for thy forked delight,

Upon'st you make your progress up our stairs to where we wait

Atop the mattress on all fours to pleasure for our date,

Me, my kin, as we give in to all of your hot wiles,

Seeding pouting hams, farming the defiles

Of us submissive sisters, from whence your regal grain shall rise,

As cherubs from the puke of hares and babes from dying flies.

Saturday, November 28, 2020

WINTERS WILL

Warning: offensive spoken language