Category Archives: Short Stories

Every short story that has been posted, regardless of genre

Growing Pains. Short Story.

Grace stretched and yawned, she stood for a moment at the kitchen sink looking out the window at the field of cows. She was still having difficulty adjusting to all this space and the wandering farm animals. Before moving out here she’d never seen a cow in real life, never mind sheep or goats. She could hear Brad moving around upstairs with his usual heavy footsteps. The kettle clicked and she picked it up, pouring hot water into two mugs. She hadn’t slept well the night before, though Brad had slept like a log. During the night she heard an almighty bang, it was so loud it almost felt like the house shook with the noise of it. She’d prodded Brad awake, asking if he heard anything and all she got was some mumbling as he rolled over and went back asleep. She never appreciated the feeling of safety she had in the city, the fact that there were always people around and if needed, the police could be called. Out here god only knew how long it would take for them to arrive. Grace glanced out the window and frowned, there was something wrong with the fields, they were the wrong colour. She squinted at them, they were still green, but they were a brighter green than before. With a shock she realised that the brighter green was moving towards her, moving over bushes and animals alike. “Brad!”
he thundered down the stairs, “What? What’s wrong?”
she pointed out the window,
“What? Is there another cow in the garden? Just-” he stopped, staring wide eyed as the rush of green came closer. Grace reached out to Brad and gripped his hand tightly, “what is it?” by then it was almost upon the house. Grace flinched and turned her head. When she opened her eyes again a few seconds later she expected the room to be in darkness, but it was as bright as ever. She looked out the window and saw the green had stopped in a perfect half circle around the house. This close it looked like soft, verdant moss. Brad was staring out the window, his mouth hanging open. A second later the alarm started beeping, Grace looked around and saw the oven clock was off. “Power cut.” Brad stepped away from Grace, moving towards the back door, he reached for the handle and Grace leapt forward to grab his hand, “Don’t. What if it comes inside.”
“It stopped, why did it stop? Besides it’s like moss or something. That’s all.” He reached for the door again, Grace didn’t stop him.

Outside the air smelt fresh with a cool undercurrent to it. Grace and Brad had walked around the house and saw the moss had stopped in a perfect circle, about ten feet from the house. Brad’s car had been parked across the odd boundary and the moss had covered almost half of it. They were standing near the back door again, ready to make a dash inside if necessary. Brad squatted down to get a better look, then he stood. “It’s moss. It has to be, it looks exactly like it.” Grace gasped, Brad’s head snapped up, he looked to where she was pointing. A cow, completely covered in bright green moss was casually strolling across what had once been its field. It stopped and lowered its head, it looked like it was eating. “Why isn’t it dead? how can it be walking around like that? Can it even breathe?”
Greg shook his head, he had no answers for her, the cow looked like it was made entirely of moss. He picked up a pebble that was lying on the tarmac and tossed it onto the moss, it was quickly covered. He pulled his phone from his pocket, maybe the internet would have a solution, maybe it was just a rare natural phenomenon. He unlocked his phone then cursed under his breath, no signal. Grace went inside to check hers, she joined him a moment later, useless phone gripped tightly in one hand.

Inside they sat at the kitchen table, sipping their almost cold tea, they had taken a stock of the house and it didn’t bode well. They had enough food to last them a few days, a week at most with severe rationing and enough water to last a few days. Greg had tried to fill the bathtub with water but when he turned the tap nothing came out, not even a drop. They drank their tea in silence, Grace was scared, but angry too, she hadn’t wanted to move out here to the middle of nowhere, not at first, but Brad had managed to convince her. If he had listened to her they wouldn’t be here in this mess, they’d be around people, in a city somewhere and completely safe. Greg stood and moved his cup to the sink, he was going to throw the dregs down the drain, he paused and set the cup to the side, they might be thankful for that later. He looked out the window and frowned, had the moss moved closer? He moved to the backdoor, “What are you doing?”
“It looks like it moved closer, I want to get a better look.”
“don’t go out there. It’s dangerous, we don’t know what that is, what if it releases spores or something?”
Brad rolled his eyes and pulled the door open. He stepped outside into the cool air, it had definitely moved closer. He went to the edge, where black tarmac met startlingly bright green and squatted beside it. He was tempted to reach out and touch it, it looked soft, but he held back. “Well?” Grace’s voice startled him from his thoughts, he jumped then over balanced, he fell forward, hands lunging out to stop him. They sunk into the green moss, it was soft. Then the moss was crawling its way up his arms, down his chest and over his head. By the time he’d fully fallen Brad was coated in it. Grace took a step towards him then stopped, she didn’t want to get infected too. “Brad?”
He didn’t say anything, couldn’t say anything. He knelt on all fours, shuddering. When it stopped Brad stood and shook his head slightly, like trying to clear away the remnants of a bad dream. He smiled at grace, wide and open, even his teeth had been covered .Grace gasped then turned and fled into the house.

Brad was circling the house endlessly, occasionally he would pull at a door or jiggle its handle, testing. Grace was upstairs, hiding in their room. She could see him from the window every so often, the moss was moving closer too. He hadn’t spoken to her yet, though she’d seen his mouth moving as she watched him. Finally after what seemed like hours he stopped, she watched him go to the garage, he went inside and started rummaging around. A few minutes later he pulled the lawnmower out. Grace’s chest felt tight, it was hard to breath. Saturday morning, that was when he always mowed the grass. She watched as the thing that was Brad dragged the mower across the moss until he was standing where their grass had been. He bent over and tried to start the mower, which was already covered in the moss and after a few pulls on the cord he stood up and started dragging it back and forth, like he was cutting grass with the dead mower. Grace turned from the window, she had a cramping lump in her throat that made it hard to breath. It was too much like him, she couldn’t watch any more.

An hour later and the thing that was Brad put the mower away, closing the garage behind him. Grace was shaking slightly, her eyes burned from crying, her nose was red and sore, wads of tissues were around her. She jumped as she heard someone pulling at the door downstairs, he was trying to get in again. After mowing it was always time for some TV, then lunch. A part of her wanted to go down and let him in, welcome her once husband with open arms and join him in whatever passed for the afterlife. Downstairs she heard the shatter of glass, her breathing quickened as she ran and locked the bedroom door. She heard the front door open and close again, then the sounds of someone sweeping up glass, the swish of the brush, the almost gentle tinkle of glass. Then the TV switched on, the noise was faint but she could just about hear it. Carefully she unlocked the door and crept to the top of the stairs, the door to the sitting room was open and she could just see his green arm on the armrest of the couch. Quietly she crept down the stairs, maybe she could make a break for it? She shook her head, that was crazy, there was no way she could cross that moss, but she could grab supplies while he was distracted.

She moved through the kitchen quickly and quietly, pulling open cupboards and filling a canvas shopping bag with what she could find. She hefted the bag and moved towards the hall, as she stepped out of the kitchen the TV turned off. Grace froze, eyes going wide. The green thing walked out of the sitting room then stopped, surprised to see her. It grinned, a grin that was so like Brad’s it made her stomach twist, but completely alien at the same time. He held up his hands and lightly clenched his fingers. Grace recognised that sign, it was the same one he always gave her before he would chase her down and tickle her until she couldn’t breathe, until she was screaming with laughter and tears ran down her face. She dropped the bag and sprinted to the stairs, Brad leaped forward to block her path but she ducked around him, his fingers trailed along her back and she was gone, up the stairs and into the bedroom. She had it locked before he reached the landing. The thing stood on the landing for a minute, then there was a soft, gentle knock. She knew that knock too, the soft, gentle tap tap tap letting her know he was here if she wanted him, if she’d forgiven him for what ever he had done. She sighed in relief as she heard the creak of the stairs. He was leaving. Grace stood from the door and moved around the bed, she expected to see him outside in the garden again but there was no sign of him. The moss was almost touching the house now. She turned, her heart leaping as she caught sight of bright green, then she let out a slow breath, he hadn’t gotten in. She frowned at the mirror, then crept towards it, not wanting to see. Slowly she turned and looked over her back, the back of her top was encrusted with the moss, she let out a strangled cry and ripped the top off her, hoping that somehow she was safe. As she wrestled it off herself she felt the cool softness of it against her skin, finally free she let the top drop to the ground, by the time it landed Grace was covered in moss. She stood there for a moment, then twitched. she breathed in deeply then moved towards the door, unlocking it. She went downstairs, Greg was sitting at the kitchen table, a mug with a teabag and nothing else in it sat in front of him. He stood when he saw her and held out his arms, Grace went to him, feeling his arms enclose her. She closed her eyes and breathed in deeply, inhaling the light mossy scent that surrounded them both. Outside the moss grew across the house, coating it as it had coated the couple inside.

Out in the Darkness. Short Story.

Nancy pulled the blanket tighter about herself as the wind shook the trees against the sitting room window. She made a mental note to talk to Hanna about getting someone in to cut the trees back a little, then promptly forgot about it. The fire crackled in the hearth, providing heat that Nancy just couldn’t seem to feel. The heating had been on all day and she spent most of the afternoon in the sitting room, doors closed and fire blazing, blankets layered across her lap. She had a sip of tea, now only lukewarm, and changed the channel on the TV. Outside the tree tapped on her window again, the sound reminded her of something, though she couldn’t quite place it. Nancy dismissed the feeling and pulled the blanket closer. She’d have to have a talk with Hanna, maybe there were some drafts and she hadn’t realised, she couldn’t even remember that last time she was this cold. A voice spoke up at the back of her mind, soft but with a hard edge, “that isn’t true, you do remember.” she frowned at that. The weather had taken a turn about three days back, the mild, wet winter they’d been experiencing giving way to the freezing winds. The scent of snow hung on the cold air, fresh and promising, Nancy always loved that smell, ever since she was a little girl. The tree hit against the window again, only this time it was a gentle scratching sound, it sent a chill through her already cold body and she remembered the last time she had been this cold.

She had been fifteen and finishing up her shift at the store, outside it was already dark and the store was mostly empty. Keith, the manager, was somewhere in the back. Nancy didn’t mind working in the store too much, it was easy enough work and most people were nice enough. The only thing she hated was walking home during the dark, winter nights. Nancy buttoned up her coat and shoved her hands in her pockets, she’d forgotten her hat and scarf in her rush to make it to the store on time. It hadn’t been too noticeable then when the sun was shining down on everything and the wind had fallen still. Now the wind was blowing steadily and the air was frigid. She stepped out into the street and for a second found it hard to breath. The feeling passed and she took a deep breath, smelling the snow on the air. She smiled, Nancy always loved the snow and as she started to walk a few solitary flakes started to fall.

Ten minutes later and Nancy felt frozen to the bone. Snow was falling steadily around her, thick flakes drifting to the ground. Her ears were burning with the cold and she had a strange feeling that she’d never feel warm again. She paused at the intersection then turned down the alley, it would cut off a good ten minutes of her walk, her parents didn’t like her going down it but on a night like tonight she wanted to be home as quickly as possible. The alleyway was poorly lit and seemed darker than usual. Nancy kept a steady pace, ignoring the pounding of her heart and the sudden bloom of fear. She wasn’t a child any more and it was just an alley, she knew there weren’t monsters lurking in the dark. A figure lunged out of the darkness and she shrieked arms going up, Mr. Franklin from down the road stood in front of her, his eyes wide and staring, alarm replaced by concern Nancy touched his arm gently, “Mr. Franklin? Are you OK? Did something happen?”
“It’s coming again. I have to warn them. Have to warn everyone. It’s coming.” he looked at her, his eyes suddenly focusing, “Nancy? What are you doing here? Get home, now. Don’t talk to anyone on the way either it isn’t safe.” his head whipped around, he let out a strangled yell, “it isn’t safe. Get home and stay there!” and before Nancy could say anything else he took off, half running, half stumbling through the alley and out of sight. Nancy stared after him for a few seconds, torn by indecision, should she go after him? He didn’t seem to be in his right mind after all and if he was lost or confused. A freezing wind tore through the alley with a howl, Nancy stiffened, the cold stole that last of the warmth she had, shivering she turned and started to walk again. He would be fine, of course he would. She’d let her parents know when she got home, they’d know what to do, she wasn’t dressed for this weather and Mr. Franklin had been dressed warmly.

That night Nancy lay in bed, staring at the ceiling. Her parents had rang the police and last she heard they’d found Mr. Franklin, he’d been going through the town raving at people and was currently safe and warm in the local police station, sleeping off whatever he had drank. She shivered beneath her heavy blanket, the cold had gotten into her bones and she couldn’t seem to get warm again.

Nancy slipped from her bed and put on her slippers and dressing gown. Normally she brought a glass of water to bed, but with all the excitement of the night she’d forgotten and now her mouth and throat were dry. She crept across the landing and down the stairs, avoiding the parts the creaked. She didn’t bother turning on the lights as she went, she knew where everything was. In the kitchen she grabbed a glass then went to the sink. She peered out the window that was just above it, into the darkness and the sheet of falling snow in front of her. It was still coming down pretty heavily out there, maybe school would be cancelled tomorrow. She turned on the tap and started to fill her glass, listening to the pipes gurgle. Outside something moved amongst the snow. It was too dark to get a proper look, but it was large. Nancy frowned and squinted, trying to see something, anything but it was too dark. Then something was pressing itself against the window, Nancy stood frozen as she looked at the creature. It tapped on the glass gently, almost as though testing it. It had two dark eyes, a cruel, hooked nose and a short gash of a mouth. Its eyes met hers and it grinned, even though it looked like a man Nancy knew in her very soul that it was anything but. The thing winked, then it was gone from the window. Nancy’s glass overflowed, bitingly cold water washed over her hand and she dropped her glass with a startled gasp, it clattered as it landed in the sink.

By the time Nancy slipped back into her bed she had convinced herself it was just a trick of the snow and her overactive imagination. As she rolled over she heard a gentle scratching against her window. She nestled deeper into her blanket and squeezed her eyes shut. She had the urge to look, to get out of bed and walk to the window, the pull it open and let the cold night air in. Her stomach twisted, nausea building, the urge turned deeper, into a maddening need, an itch that she refused to scratch and still she heard that gentle sound that seemed to fill the entire room. There was a loud bang on the window, Nancy jumped her eyes opening. The scratching had stopped, she needed to know. She swung her legs from bed and stood shakily, goosebumps rippling across her skin. She walked to the window and gently pulled back the curtain revealing her empty window. She let the curtain drop back into place and went back to bed feeling foolish. She was just a little jumpy from her scare earlier. That was all. Nancy repeated it to herself again and again, but still she couldn’t’ seem to believe it. Eventually she fell into a fitful sleep filled with dark and violent dreams.

When she woke the next morning her parents had been sitting at the table in the kitchen, clutching cups of black coffee, her mother was pale, her father looked angry.
“Schools cancelled today.” her father’s tone was sharp.
“Snow day?”
her mother and father shared a look, “No, something happened last night, there was-”

“Joseph!” her mothers voice was high and slightly scandalised.
“What? What happened?”
“She’s going to find out sooner or later. It’s all the kids will be talking about, hell it’s all anyone will be talking about.”

Her mother was silent, “some people were attacked last night. Killed they think. They’re not sure.”
Nancy frowned, “what? How are they not sure?”
Her father looked at his coffee, “they didn’t find any bodies, but there was blood. Lots of it.”
Nancy sat at the table, feeling light headed. “Who? Who was it?”
Her parents shared a look, “we’re not sure yet, they haven’t released the names, but we know three of them were kids.”
Nancy felt her stomach clench, “Three of them? How many were there?”
Her mother slammed her hand on the table causing them all to jump, “That’s enough I don’t want to hear anything more about it. It was just a drifter, that’s all. The police will catch him and everything will be all right.”
An image flashed in Nancy’s mind, the man she had seen last night, maybe it wasn’t a dream. She opened her mouth to speak and her mother gave her a hard look, Nancy closed her mouth again.

In the end twelve people were killed, six children, six adults. Nancy didn’t know any of them personally, but she knew of most of them. The killer was never caught and the bodies had never been found. Most people seemed to think that Mr. Franklin had been involved somehow, he kept raving about the killings, he always seemed to know the nights something would happen. After the seventh victim a mob, consisting of the family of the victims went to his house. Mr. Franklin hadn’t been seen after that and the police were too concerned about the murders to worry about a crazy old man going missing.

A log in the fire popped, startling Nancy out of her memories, it was happening again. She could feel it. What ever that thing she had seen was, it wasn’t human and it was coming back. She stood from her couch, disentangling herself from the blankets. She needed to get to the phone, needed to warn someone before it happened again. She didn’t know how she’d get people to believe her, but she’d find a way. The scratching at the window came again, but it was different this time. Nancy froze, then slowly turned around, he was standing at her window, he raised his hand slightly in a half wave, around him snow was falling steadily. Nancy let out a shriek, she turned from the room and ran. Panting, Nancy stood in the kitchen, searching for the phone, it wasn’t in its cradle, as she searched she curse under her breath. How many times had she told Hanna if she used the phone she was to put it back in the god damned cradle? She could hear it tapping at the window in the kitchen, she refused to look, some part of her knew that if she just didn’t look everything would be fine but that need was back, that itch she knew she shouldn’t scratch. She felt herself turning, eyes rising and meeting the gaze of the thing on the other side of the window. It smiled at her, a slow, lecherous smile that made her stomach drop. Nancy started moving forward, unable to stop herself, she moaned as her shaking hand reached towards the latch, her hand gripped it, feeling the cold metal beneath her fingers. It turned and opened, the lock opening with a gentle, light click that filled her ears. The wind caught the window and blew it open, ripping it from her grip, thick heavy snowflakes blew into the kitchen, melting as soon as they landed. The creature was suddenly inside, she hadn’t seen it climb through the window, it was just there, in front of her. It nodded at her, the gesture was startlingly friendly and familiar, a quick “nice to see you again.” then it lunged. Nancy started screaming, a high shrill sound that was suddenly cut off.

Hanna let herself into the house, she stepped inside and stopped, it was freezing in here, did something happen to the heating? It had seemed fine yesterday. “Nancy? Everything OK?” Hanna didn’t bother stripping off her jacket or gloves, she opened the door to the sitting room and peered in, it was empty. She moved into the kitchen, Hanna pushed the door open and stopped. The window above the sink was open letting in the cold air and there was blood, so much blood, it seemed to have covered everything. Hanna fumbled for her pocket, wrestling to grab her phone with fingers that felt numb and somehow too large at the same time. After what seemed like an eternity her phone was finally in her hands and she called the police, fighting against the vomit that was at the back of her throat. She left the kitchen and stumbled into the sitting room, half collapsing on the couch where she’d remain until the police arrived, phone still gripped tightly in her hand

The Sickness. Short Story.

John walked down the empty street, his breathing was slow and heavy, each breath came with a wheeze. Occasionally he would stop and hawk up a lump of phlegm, spitting it onto the ground. He ignored the twin streams of mucous running from his nose. He’d been sick for two weeks now and it seemed like he was the last person left in the city. When rumours could still circulate he’d heard the other cities weren’t fairing much better, at this stage he could be the last man anywhere. He was tired, so very tired but he kept going. Around him the street lights began to grow brighter, it was dawn. He started coughing, each cough tore at his chest, his vision started to swim, John stumbled forward then dropped to his hands and knees until the fit passed. He spat on the ground again, ignoring the flecks of blood that streaked through the mucous. Slowly he got to his feet, that alone took almost all of his strength, but he was nearly there now.

He stopped outside the door, it was smaller than he remembered, less imposing, about eight foot tall and ten feet wide. John went to the small computer screen at the side of the door. He’d soon find out if he was right or not. He pressed a few buttons before he found the option he was looking for. He clicked open, a woman’s voice spoke from the wall, startlingly loud in the quiet “Opening the door will expose you to harsh conditions outside and may mean your death. Should the doors fail to re-engage it would mean the destruction of this city. Do you wish to continue?” he clicked yes. His throat was sore, each time he swallowed it felt like he was swallowing razor blades. He hadn’t spoken since Matilda died a few days before, he wasn’t sure if he still could, most people couldn’t at the end. A siren started blaring from the door as red lights began to flash, “I require identification from the highest ranking member of the community. Please look directly into the camera for your retinal scan.” John moved closer, here went nothing. The computer scanned him and quickly located his profile, “John Henry Adams, you are cleared to open the door.” he stared at the screen, he didn’t expect it to actually work. So it was true, he really was the last one left. There was a loud, high pitched whine followed by a deep grinding noise, the ground around him trembled as the door opened. How long had it been sealed? Someone somewhere must have known but he didn’t. He knew what had been outside, before the bad things happened. He knew that there had been life, animals and trees and plants but now there was nothing left but great desolate plains, filled with nothing but ash and death. Still, he wanted to see it, before he died, feel wind on his face, see the world that they had come from. Besides, what did it matter now? He was dead already, he was just waiting for his body to get the message. The door revealed a large room, thirty feet by forty, it was brightly lit by intense flood lights, empty biohazard suits lined the walls. He stepped into the room and as soon as he crossed the threshold the door started to close again. The voice spoke, “Warning: Once you leave the city limits you may not be able to re-enter depending on your level of contamination.” John ignored the voice and shuffled across the room to the final door, it was as large as the first, there was another computer pad here, “please confirm retinal scan.” John moved closer to it. He was feeling weak now, he didn’t have much longer. He leaned against the wall as the computer scanned him, “Retinal scan confirmed. Door will open in five minutes.” John let out a surprised gasp that turned into a coughing fit. Did he even have five minutes? He shuffled to the edge of the door and leaned against the wall, letting it support his weight. Slowly he began to slide down it, he didn’t have the energy to stop himself.

As he waited he wondered what outside would be like, no one had been outside since the city had been officially opened all those years ago, when the doors had been sealed and humanity had been saved. He could be the first human to go back outside since then, all transport was done underground via railway and they had everything they needed in the cities. A siren started blaring, startling John from his thoughts, had it been five minutes already? There was a rush of cold air as the door opened and the air flooded into the room. He breathed deeply then started coughing. His vision swam, darkness crowded the edges of it as bright spots of black and red danced across everything. Finally the coughing slowed, then stopped. He felt light-headed and dizzy, but he wasn’t done yet. He tried to stand, but his legs quivered and shook before coming out from under him. He waited for a moment, getting his breath back, he rolled onto his stomach and started to crawl. His hand reached outside and hit something cold, but surprisingly soft and slightly wet. He peered out at the expanse of green in front of him, it was magnificent. He dragged himself from the doorway, feeling the wind on his face, flowers dotted the grass along with trees, reaching towards the heavens. The sun shone down, warm and comforting.

John rested against the tree trunk, he couldn’t go any further, this was it for him. He ran his hand through the grass again, how long had it been like this? How long had they been kept cooped up in the cities? He wondered if anyone else knew but that didn’t matter, he wouldn’t be able to tell anyone anyway. He closed his eyes, each breath coming with a wheeze and phlegmmy rumble. Nearby he could hear something moving towards him, he was too tired to feel fear, what did it matter now? A large creature appeared, walking on thin, almost delicate legs. It had brown and white fur, large eyes and slightly pointed ears that stuck up form the top of its head, it leaned down towards him, sniffing curiously. Slowly, gently he reached out and placed a hand on its side, feeling the warmth of it through its fur. He smiled, then closed his eyes for the last time. A second later his hand dropped from the creature sending it bounding off with a graceful leap. John’s chest fell still and with the sound of birdsong in his ears and the feel of wind across his skin he slipped away into the darkness.

Survival. Short Story.

Vincent walked through the scattered corpses, around them dying fires were smouldering, a thick haze filled the air. He didn’t pause or look at their faces, it was better not to know. When it had began all those long months before he had seen his first dead body, it haunted his dreams, but these bodies were nothing now, just part of the backdrop. It had been a teenage boy who was running just ahead of him when one of the monsters grabbed him. Vincent hadn’t paused, hadn’t stopped, he just kept running, it was the only thing he could do. He made it another twenty steps before something sailed over his head and landed in front of him with a heavy thud. It was the body of the boy, his head ripped from his shoulders, a gaping hole where his stomach should have been. Vincent had been sure he was next, kept expecting something to grab him but nothing did. That night the scene played over and over again in his dreams, the boys body crashing in front of him. When Vincent finally woke from his nightmare he’d just enough time to turn and vomit onto the ground beside him rather than over himself. How many people had he seen killed since? How many bodies? It was an endless parade of death and destruction. He’d seen people torn limb from limb, screaming all the while, he’d seen people killed in the blink of an eye, a giant stone falling from above and crushing them. He’d seen buildings collapse and burst into flames and somehow he’d managed to survive it all.

Vincent kept walking as the military moved in, this was the truly dangerous part. If they noticed him, noticed that he was broad shouldered, that he was still strong, he would face a seemingly simple choice, join the army or die. The truth of the matter was it would be a death sentence regardless of how he chose. The army had been throwing men at the things since it began and still they kept coming. It was all humanity could do to stay ahead of them. He ducked into a dark and half collapsed alleyway, two children, a boy and a girl, were picking through rubble, the girl glared at him as he past while the boy kept rummaging. Vincent kept them in sight until he rounded the corner, it was always better to have your guard up around the kids, they tended to move in packs and didn’t mind using the knives they liked to carry. He moved through an old apartment building, it was leaning drunkenly against its neighbour, looking as though it would collapse any moment. As he moved through what was once the lobby he could hear the noise of people above him, those too stupid or too poor to go anywhere else. Not him, so far the only thing keeping him alive was being on the move. He’d met plenty of people in the last city who told him it was safe, that he should stay, find somewhere and hunker down until it was all over. Three weeks ago it had been destroyed entirely, last he heard there was nothing left but a smoking crater. He picked his way over bits of concrete and rubbish, it looked like someone had attempted to move it all to the side but had given up partway through. Vincent paused at the front of the building, looking out at the rubble strewn street, people were already coming out to scavenge after the last attack, some were crying and shouting as they dug, but most worked silently, looking for food or anything valuable. At one end of the street stood a tall, gangly boy in a green, ill-fitting uniform, it looked as though he had borrowed the clothes from his father and the tightly gripped gun was almost comically oversized, he had wide, staring eyes that were starkly white against his grey, dust covered skin, Vincent guessed he couldn’t be older than thirteen. Vincent stepped from the building and headed off in the other direction keeping himself hunched over, the kid wasn’t exactly threatening but when dealing with someone that young, that untrained and that scared, you never really knew what you were getting into. Somewhere to his left there came a deep, throaty cry and Vincent froze, already people were beginning to scatter, someone ran past him, knocking him down as they went. Vincent scrambled to his feet and started running.

Vincent watched the city burn, people streamed past him in a steady flow, he could still make out people fleeing the city, dark shapes lit only by the leaping flames behind them. The gunfire had stopped, the army had abandoned they city around the time Vincent had made it to the outskirts. Vincent turned from the city and started walking again, he had lingered too long here, growing complacent, he needed to keep moving, needed to stay ahead of the things. Some people were talking, but most trudged forward with their heads down, many of them carried nothing having no time to grab any of their meagre belongings.

Vincent stopped and sat against some rocks. His feet were tired and sore, around him he could smell food cooking over the campfires that dotted the area, his stomach grumbled sullenly. He hadn’t eaten since the day before, but he had gone longer without food. He had been moving with the others from the city and they swarmed across the countryside, picking everything clean. He didn’t know where he was heading, he wasn’t sure if anyone really knew or if they were just following the signs to the next city. A small family huddled around a fire nearby, he watched as the mother passed food to her children, the mother looked up and caught his eye, he saw a flash of fear and she moved closer to her children, Vincent looked away. He wouldn’t take their food, he wasn’t a thief and he wasn’t that desperate, not yet. He stood from the rock and started walking again, ignoring the protesting pain in his feet. If he kept following like this he’d never get anywhere, he’d just be another desperate refugee, penned into a resettlement camp or conscripted. Besides, there was safety in numbers, but it could also attract the wrong kind of attention, all those people, weak and frightened, would make easy pickings for anyone or anything that decided to come along. Vincent spotted an apple on the ground, a glint of green that had mostly been buried in muck, he pulled it out of the mud and quickly wiped it down, the green skin was smooth and unbroken, though he knew he’d have eaten it even if it was half rotted. Vincent ate it quickly, trickles of juice running down the side of his mouth, already things were looking up.

Settlers. Short Story.

Sandra pulled the door open, she ignored the squawking voice of the secretary to her left as she barged into the office, President Grayson was sitting behind his large desk, framed by a larger window that looked out over the valley, the green lie framing him perfectly. He looked up from his work, startled from thought, his pen freezing mid-stroke. “Sandra, what’s-” before he could finish his question she slammed down the basket of vegetables, the top of it was covered by strands of wheat, their golden colour was spotted with dark red and black spots. “It’s spreading. It’s still spreading and you’re doing nothing about it.”
His receptionist was standing near the door, “I’m so sorry President Grayson, I tried to tell Minister Williams that you were busy.”
“That’s OK Amanda, I have some time to meet with her, thank you.”
Amanda left the room, closing the door quietly behind herself.
She grabbed the wheat and slammed it onto the table, then she started pulling fruits from the basket, apples, pears, carrots one after the other and each had those same red black spots. “We’ve been trying everything to keep this stuff under control and nothing works.”
Grayson sighed and put the pen down, “I know. We’re looking into it and working as fast as we can but we’re not set up for this kind of research or development, not yet. There will be an announcement about it today. I am well aware of how bad the problem is, look.”
He gestured at the window behind him, they were standing at the highest point in the valley, Sandra stepped around the desk and looked out, she felt her stomach drop, first at the height then at what she saw. She put her hand to her mouth, she could see the infection from up here, the dark stains against the green of the trees and the gold of the wheat.
“It isn’t just you and your farm, it’s the whole valley. Hell, probably the whole planet.”
She turned to him, face pale, “How? I thought this kind of thing was tested for”
he shrugged, “The planet was seeded about twenty years ago, since then everything has been growing without problem. All the tests showed it as perfect. We don’t know what this is or why it’s spreading. It isn’t like any fungal or bacterial infection we know of on Earth. They may have similar colourings but they act in a completely alien manner, its spreading pattern is unlike anything we’ve seen before, it spreads against prevailing winds, it spreads to fields miles away. Tonight we are introducing a new measure, any crops found to be infected will need to be destroyed, it’s the only chance we have for stopping its spread, conventional methods just aren’t working.”
Sandra stumbled from the window and sat down heavily, “How fast does it spread? It only started appearing in the last week or so.”
President Grayson shook his head,, “It was first discovered two and a half weeks ago, Elena Jacobson found it in her strawberries and it has spread like wildfire since.”
“What if we can’t stop this?”
“Well, we’ll still have the animals so that should keep us going until we can get to the bottom of this. I’ve sent a distress call to Earth, it should arrive in a year. We just need to survive two years and we’ll have a solution.”
“I don’t know if we’ve got that long. I’ve heard rumours that Jensen’s cattle showed some signs of the infection. I went to go check but he denied it, I just thought it was rumours but what if it isn’t?”
“Jesus.”
“If this has spread to the animals then we don’t have two years.”
President Grayson shook his head, “Tonight I’ll announce the introduction of rationing. I’m also calling for people to can and store any fruit, vegetables or meat they can. The more we can stockpile before the rot gets to it the better.”
Sandra looked at him for a moment, “Do you think we can survive this?”
“What choice do we have?”
“How did something like this happen? Why didn’t it show up on any tests?”
The President laughed, “Do you know how expensive this mission was? Sending humans to a habitable planet? They sent out machines to test the atmosphere, to test the ground, they planted seeds and once they confirmed they were growing and growing well that was all they needed to know. Everything else would be learned on the fly. Those tests looked for anything that might immediately endanger human life, that was all. Hell, on the other side of this world there’s a species that look similar to wolves, only they’re the size of elephants. This was simply the safest spot for humans to build up a community and build up our defences. We weren’t given the supplies or equipment to deal with this kind of threat.”
“Well why not? Shouldn’t that be the first thing to be sent with us?”
“The more advanced equipment is to come with the second wave in ten years, once we’ve tamed this place a little, we’re just here to clean the house and turn the heating on.”
“How could they have missed this?”
“It could be a long life cycle, like the Cicada’s back home. Sure it’s poisonous to us, but maybe it isn’t poisonous to the local inhabitants. I’ve already been sending out foraging missions, we’re still testing to see if they’re edible but that’s a slow process, it wasn’t to start until the next wave and we won’t fully know if it’s safe or not until someone eats it. Even then what kind of problems could it bring down the road? Disease? Cancer?”
Sandra sat back in her chair, “What will we do? What the hell can we do?”
The president shook his head, “We can hope, we can try to survive. Nature has a way of balancing itself on earth, perhaps the same is true for here. Maybe the infection will stop on its own or we’ll stumble on a solution. We’re not out of options yet. I’ve already sent for help, it will take a while to arrive, but it will arrive. We have safe drinking water, we still have food supplies, there are still plenty of earth native plants in the area that are uninfected. We do have a fighting chance, no matter how hopeless it might seem.”
The buzz of the intercom startled them both, “President Grayson, you’re three o’clock has arrived.”
“Thank you Amanda, I’m just finishing up here.” he released the button, “I’m sorry Sandra, but I can’t miss this meeting, I should be done around four if you would like to wait. I’m going to announce this to the Ministers at five, then to the rest of the settlers at seven tonight.”
“No, I have some things I need to check on now. I’m going to go see where else it has spread to.”
President Grayson nodded, not bothering to point out he already had people do that. Sandra was stressed and when she was stressed she needed to keep herself busy.
Sandra stood, as did President Grayson, as she reached toward his hand her eyes moved past him to the valley below. It had only been a short while she had last looked out but it seemed as if the rot had spread even further. She felt a wave of nausea building at the back of her throat.
She left the office, already planning where she would go next. President Grayson glanced out the window, he tried to put a brave face on it for Sandra as he would for everyone else, but from what he’d been told so far it wasn’t looking good for anyone. He pulled his eyes from the large spots of blight in the green of the valley, he could feel the tightness in his chest and a small squirming snake of anxiety constantly moving inside his stomach. His next appointment walked in, “please for the love of God tell me you’ve good news.”
The man glanced down at the ground, “nothing particularly promising yet but we’re exploring some new avenues that we think could be effective in-” it would all be in the report later, he knew Kevin, knew by him that they had nothing. He nodded at all the right places, pretending that Kevin’s fake jocularity was working, that he truly believed they would be saved and still that snake writhed in his stomach.

Possessed. Short Story.

Jacob stood at the gate, looking at the house, it was two stories tall and made of red brick, the garden was quite large with an abundance of flowers, all of which were wilting and dying. The houses either side were easily twice, if not three times the size of the house in front of him. He took a slow breath, then opened the gate, it creaked as he pushed it in. He walked up the path and knocked on the large, black door. It opened a few seconds later to reveal a woman in her mid-fifties, her hair was in a messy bun, her eyes were red and swollen, it looked as though there had been an attempt at putting on make up but most of it had streaked. “Are you Mr. Vander?”
“Yes, I am and please call me Jacob.”
“I’m Meredith, please come in. Do you want to see him straight away?”
“No, first I’d like to have a quick chat with you and your husband, I need to know what I’m dealing with before we start anything.”
“Of course. Michael’s in the kitchen, would you like some tea or coffee?”
“Water would be great, thank you.” she lead him down a long hallway, her slippers whispering along the hardwood floors. The house itself seemed gloomy, despite the large windows and sunshine outside. Meredith opened the door to the kitchen and stepped inside, Jacob followed after. The floors and counter top seemed to be made of marble, everything in the kitchen gleamed in the light. A man was sitting at a small table, he stood as they entered, “Hi, Mr. Vander? I’m Michael”
Jacob shook his hand, Michael had a firm grip, but his palms were sweaty, “Please, call me Jacob. It’s nice to meet you Michael, I wish it was under better circumstance.”
“Me too.”
“Have a seat, are you sure you just want water?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He wouldn’t have turned down a shot of vodka or two, but it was still early, the vodka would come later, to help him forget.
Jacob sat at the table a second later a large glass of water was placed in front of him, ice tinkling gently against the glass, Jacob took a sip. “So, when did this all begin?”
“About eleven months back, right?”
“Maybe a year ago. We’re not sure. The change was gradual, we thought maybe it was just work stress or maybe he was fighting with his girlfriend again.”
Jacob nodded, “Yes, most people think it’s something like that at first. Has he seen doctors?”
“Yes, as we said on the phone he’s seen multiple doctors and psychiatrists and he’s been on multiple medications but none make a difference.”
“I know, I just have to be certain. What kind of behaviours did he exhibit?”
“Well, at first he was just more distant, he was closing himself off from us, then he started making mistakes in work, simple ones here and there. He was fired, he wouldn’t tell us why, just kept ranting about them not knowing how to take a joke. Since then he hasn’t really left the house unless he has to, mostly he stays up in his old room. He bathes regularly, he eats healthily, he seems normal enough.”
“But?”
“The things he says. Awful, horrible things. My mother” Meredith paused, her voice hitching slightly, she pulled a crumpled tissue from her sleeve, “My mother died in a car accident ten years ago. She was driving home and swerved to avoid hitting something, we think it was a deer.” She paused and took a sip of her tea, “She wasn’t found until the next day, it wasn’t a well travelled road, they told us that it had been quick. That she hadn’t suffered.” she paused again.
“I know it’s difficult but it would be helpful to know what he said, take as much time as you need and if you need a break that’s OK too.”
She nodded, took a slow breath, “he said that she hadn’t died straight away, that she’d slowly bled out, that she was just sitting in the cold, calling out for help for hours.” She shuddered, “he started calling out in my mothers voice, I don’t know how but he did. He called for help, then he started coughing, he stopped then and grinned at me, “She was coughing up blood, cold, trapped and scared, waiting for help that wasn’t coming.” I ran from him then, I couldn’t help it, I just had to get away and as I ran he started laughing, this awful screeching laugh.”
“He’s told us how every single person we’ve ever known has died, the fear they felt, the pain.”
Meredith looked at Jacob, tissue tightly clutched in one hand, “If that monster didn’t look like my son I’d have killed him myself long ago.”
Jacob reached across the table and gently put his hand on hers, “this is an extremely difficult thing to experience for anyone but you need to remember that it isn’t actually your son in there any more. It’s just a thing, a cruel, heartless thing that’s just looking to hurt you. It feeds off pain and misery, now it’s still young, still a baby that makes it easier for me to get rid of it, but it also makes it dangerous. The older ones fall into patterns, they become predictable, the young ones could do almost anything. What other behaviours has he exhibited?”
“He um, well, we think he has killed some of the neighbours pets. There’s no proof one way or the other but they started going missing the same time this all started. He’s also had issues with vomiting, this black bile hat has stumped the doctors. He has also experienced diarrhoea and incontinence.”
“Has he ever gotten physical with either of you?”
“He’s never hit us if that’s what you mean. Son or not if he had he wouldn’t be living here any longer.”
Jacob nodded, “That’s a good sign. It means it’s more likely to be a lesser demon, more of a pest than a true physical danger.” Jacob took a sip of his water, “I’ve to ask you something and I know you’re not going to like it but we need to be honest with each other. Do you want your son back?”
“How could you even ask something like that?”
“Look, you’re not the first family to go through this and you wouldn’t be the first family to want nothing to do with the possessed after it’s all finished. They can never look at their family member the same way again after all the things they’ve said and done, even if it wasn’t really them.”
“We want our son back, no matter what.”
“I do have to warn you that while you will get your son back he won’t be himself. He’ll be depressed, despondent. Some come out of it on their own, others don’t. I’ll give you the number for someone experienced with this kind of thing to talk to him. However, of those possessed, over 95% of them go on to commit suicide.”
Meredith gasped, her hand going to her mouth, Michael hugged her to him.
“He’s been through a lot, mentally, physically and spiritually. He isn’t really aware of what’s going on at the moment, he will remember once he’s free again, but to him he’s experiencing another world.”
“Oh my poor baby, it must be so terrible, what is that foul creature doing to him?”
“Unfortunately it isn’t that easy. You’re son isn’t living in hell at the moment, he’s in a sort of paradise. His life is going exactly how he wants it, he’ll have gotten promotions, money, he could even have a family in there. There’s just no way to tell until he comes back. We know that that life was never real, but to him it’s as real as this kitchen is to us. We don’t know how much time has passed for him either, it could be around eleven months or it could be a week or even twenty years. He’ll be distant when he first comes out and in mourning. It won’t be like flipping a switch, there’s been a lot of psychological damage and he will need time and support to recover, if he ever does. The procedure is mostly safe however that doesn’t guarantee that he will survive this, he may die, are you willing to take that risk?”
“That isn’t our son, but we want him back. If he doesn’t…doesn’t make it, well, we’ll be putting him to rest.”
“OK, I think it’s time I see him. I want you to both stay here, I shouldn’t have any trouble but it might have a trick or two up its sleeve. It won’t take me long, ten, fifteen minutes and then it will be over.”
Meredith grabbed his hand, “No matter what happens, thank you.”
Jacob nodded, “Where is his room?”
“upstairs, down the hallway, last door on the right.”
Jacob stood and left the kitchen.

The stairs creaked beneath his feet as he climbed them, the floors upstairs were also hard wood, paintings hung on the wood walls, mostly landscape scenery and a few family portraits. Jacob paused at the last door on the right, he could smell it from out here, a faint stench of rot, a slight tickle of sulphur, as though someone had just lit a match. Jacob didn’t bother knocking, he opened the door and walked in.

Douglas sat on his bed, as Jacob walked in he turned his head slowly and smiled at him. Douglas looked like a normal twenty-five year old, his hair was scruffy and there was stubble across his cheeks. “I was wondering when someone like you would show up. They warned me of you you know.”
“Really? I didn’t know I was famous.”
“More infamous than anything. Oh there’s a lot of people who want to get their hands on you. Just you wait.”
Jacob closed the door behind himself, despite Douglas looking normal, there was something off about his eyes, they seemed oddly flat, they were a pale, washed out grey colour.
“So where’s your bible? Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do, splash holy water on me while reciting scripture? I hear it burns so good.”
Jacob shook his head, “I’m not a priest. Those aren’t the tools of my trade. I come from something different.”
“Oh?”
“Yes, but my secrets are my own.”
“You’re no fun. Where’s the banter, the wit? Or are we just going to get down to business?”
There was a yowling screech from the closet, Jacob recognised the sound, “So you were the one taking the pets then?”
“Well, I figured Mr. Snuffles from next door would appreciate a few…changes.” there was a heavy bang on the closet door. “you know, make him bigger, badder, sharper claws. That kind of thing.” the banging on the door continued, “I’m getting stronger you know, every day. I’m still learning how to use this body, but I’m getting there. I’m starting to get sexual attraction too, that mother, she’s looks very fuckable, doesn’t she? Might have to show her what her son is really made of. I’m sure she’d enjoy it, she looks like a filthy bitch.”
“First time in a human?”
“How’d you know?”
“Sexuality is one of the first things the old hands get started on. You’re taking your time, getting a feel for things.”
“You got me. I tried to be subtle, keep things normal enough. I had them going for a while, they thought it was some kind of mental disorder.”
“They’d have kept thinking that too if one of my sources hadn’t spotted you.”
“And who might that be?”
Jacob shrugged, there came a crack from the closet door as it started to splinter. Douglas grinned, “You might want to go ahead and do something, my little friend there isn’t going to be stopped by that door for much longer.”
Jacob shrugged, “I’m in no rush.”
There was another crack, Jacob slid his hand into his pocket and pulled out a small vial.
“What’s that?”
“You’ll see.”
Jacob uncorked it and as the door shattered he downed the contents of the bottle in one gulp. A heavy wind filled the room, ripping old posters off the wall, sweeping things off the desk. The cat had been changed, it was about four feet tall and packed with heavy muscle, patches of different coloured fur covered its body along with thick, ropey scars. The cat jumped at Jacob, as it hit him it started screeching, its paws were stuck to his body. The cats body became rigid, then it dropped to the floor leaving nothing but a pile of meat and fur. Jacob took a step forward, Douglas screeched and scuttled backwards off the bed and onto the wall. Jacob reached out for him, Douglas shuddered then collapsed forward onto the bed, Jacob reached out and took his hand.

Douglas woke a few minutes later, his head pounding and his mouth dry. He looked around slowly, “What? What am I doing here? Where’s Samantha and the kids?”
Jacob shook his head, “They never existed, you were possessed, they were just creations of the demon.”
“What? What the hell are you on about? This isn’t funny where the hell are my wife and kids? Why am I in my old room? Mom!? Dad!?”
“Just take it easy for a few minutes OK? Your parents are downstairs, you’ll start to remember bits and pieces soon, just rest for now.” Douglas’ eyes rolled into the back of his head and he collapsed onto the bed.

An Easy Deal. Short Story.

“Now, I’m sure none of this is what you expected.”
Connor shook his head, “No, not at all.”
“We’ve had to streamline a bit in the modern day. People just don’t go into that whole ritualistic sacrifice and slaughter, it used to be huge though. It’s going to come back around though, just you wait.” The man behind the desk gave a small chuckle, Connor smiled nervously, the office was smaller than he expected, about five foot by ten, it was sparsely decorated, a simple large desk had been crammed in somehow and took up most of the space, there was a large window on the back wall, but Connor found it difficult to look at. It was like seeing the world through a heat haze and it made his head hurt if he looked at it for too long. The man sitting across from him wore a slightly wrinkled charcoal grey suit, his hair had been neatly arranged at some point, but now it was sticking up in places.
“The truth of the matter is we do need blood, blood contracts are the oldest and strongest available. Now, I’m sure you’re asking yourself ‘What is a blood contract?’ Well, simply put it writes the contract into your very DNA, that sounds scary, but it actually doesn’t take up a lot of space and is completely harmess. It just ensures that both of us hold up our end of the bargain. It can’t be destroyed or erased, once it’s done it’s done. The reason we call it a blood contract is because you have to sign in your blood. Don’t look so alarmed! Don’t worry it’s only a drop or two, you’ll barely feel it. You’ll use a single-use, disposable pen which will harvest your blood and allow you to write with it. It’s quick and almost painless.”
“And what do I get for that?”
“Now that’s just the standard package, wealth, women, or men if you’re into them, large house, fairly successful life. We can throw in fame, but it does cost a surprising amount if you don’t come by it honestly.”
“How much for the fame add on?”
“Well, as it stands we get your soul, for fame we have to add something in, bit of demonic power. You won’t be able to control it, but it will seed a bit of chaos wherever you go. Nothing too dramatic or dangerous, but enough to keep things lively. You can see it in action with some of the more out there celebrities. Your immediate family will be safe enough, as will you if you’re a bit sensible.”
Connor shook his head, “No, I don’t like the sound of that.”
“Not many do, but there’s no rush, if you decide to do business with us today you can always add it on in the future at any point.”

The man reached into a drawer behind his desk and took out a single white sheet of paper along with a pen sealed in plastic wrapping.
“If you’d like to just sign here?”
“What? That’s the contract? I thought it would be a stack of paper.”
“Yes, most do. It’s as standard enough contract, I, fill in your name, agree to trade my soul for wealth and success. The house and the women, or men, come later, after you’ve completed a personality test that will help us determine the best matches. Then there’s just some protections for us, like we can’t be blamed for anything you do with your power, wealth or success and we are not responsible for any of your actions after signing. We had to add that last bit in a few decades back, we had a messy situation on our hands then.” The man shook his head with a small smile, then pushed the piece of paper towards Connor. Connor picked up the pen and unwrapped it, it fit his grip perfectly, he felt a short, stabbing pain in his finger then it was over. He held the pen poised above the line, “What if I change my mind. What if I’m not happy?”
“We guarantee happiness, if you’re not happy you can always request your soul back, in that case we do a straight swap, we take back what was given and what was gained and you take back your soul. I will warn you this will leave you with nothing if you do get a refund, you will have the clothes on your back and one thousand of whatever currency you wish. There are also limits to protect us, such as you cannot request a refund if you are terminally ill or dying, you need to be in good health.”
Connor took a slow breath, that all seemed reasonable. Extremely reasonable. He lowered the pen and signed. As he finished the man stood and shook his hand, “Thank you for coming aboard with us today.” He walked Conner the few feet to the door and opened it, “If you’ll just head own the hallway and take the first door on the right, they’ll get you sorted with your bank transfer. You can arrange your success and wealth however you like. Inheritance from a dead relative, selling some new software, lottery win. It’s quite fun.”

Connor left the room, the man moved back behind the desk, his appearance began to change, his hair smoothed out becoming perfect again, his suit became crisp. The office stretched out becoming a bit bigger, the desk more imposing, the view more impressive. There was a knock at the door, it opened slightly and a woman popper her head around, “You’re next appointment has arrived.”
“Great, send him in, I’m ready for him.”

Survival. Short Story.

So the storm has past and everything was pretty ok. Thankfully there was no major damage around us, no cars destroyed or trees pulled down, unfortunately my sister and brother-in-law werent as lucky, they’d a few roofing slates pulled off the roof and there’s a hole in it. They did keep their power though which was great!

_______________________________________________________

Keith listened to the radio, straining to hear what was being said above the heavy static. “Anyone… Don’t…Think.” he shook his head, he couldn’t make any sense of it, but hearing another human voice did give him some measure of relief. It felt like an eternity since he had last heard someone speak though in reality it had only been four days. He stood from the small desk and went to the window, the sky was carpeted in thick, heavy clouds and the rain was still falling heavily. They had talked about weather disruptions before it all went to shit, he had been sitting on his couch, watching TV when in the distance he could hear a rumble, the TV flickered once, twice, then the power went out. A few seconds later the entire house was shaking, he could hear glasses smashing in the kitchen, things falling in his bedroom. He stayed where he was, paralysed with fear, when the shaking finally subsided, he stood and went outside. He couldn’t see it, though he knew what the swirling vortex looked like, he had seen it on the news the day before, some new kind of weapon they were saying though it was still unclear as to who was attacking.

He had tried to get into town but his shitty car wouldn’t start, not that that held any great surprise, it had been on its last legs for almost three years now, hell he was surprised he had gotten this long out of it. He had enough food supplies for another two weeks, that was when he’d normally make the next trip into town. The nearest neighbours were about a two hour walk, he hadn’t gone to them yet, he was afraid of what he might find once he got there. The McKenna’s were nice enough people but they were religious nuts, he didn’t want to think about how things were playing out over there. It seemed better to just wait until things settled down a bit. After all it couldn’t be the end of the world, there were too many people, it was a disaster, a tragedy that would scar humanities conscious for millennia, but it wasn’t the end of the world. People would rebuild, they always did.

Keith had taken to keeping himself busy, there was no TV any more, his power had never come back and the generator was only big enough to keep the fridge and chest freezer going. The radio would do for now, he had plenty of batteries stocked up, though he limited his listening to a few hours in the evening. He would sit, fiddling with the knob, searching for any voices until eventually he would end up where he always did, with the garbled and staticy transmission. He figured that it was just someone out there talking for the sake of talking. There seemed to be no real narrative or repetition to what they were saying. They didn’t sound overly distressed either. Everything would be fine, it was just going to take some time, that was all. A voice came through, it was only for a second, “taking people from their homes, I don’t know where they’re taking them, I-” the static came back, stronger than before. He frowned, it was a different voice, it wasn’t like the one he usually heard. He quickly grabbed the radio dial and started turning it slowly, searching for the voice but it was gone. He sat in front of the radio for hours, easing the dial back and forth, every time he caught a hint of a voice he felt his heart jumping into his throat and his fingers would grip the dial so tightly they hurt, but he couldn’t find it again.

Eventually night came and he decided to stop, it was too dark to see much of anything in the room, the clouds were obscuring the moon and the stars outside, rain still hammered against his windows. He got up carefully and made his way to the small kitchen table, there he felt along its surface until he found the box of matches. He struck one and looked away as the match flared to life, carefully he lit a candle, then another, the two would have to do, he didn’t know when, if ever, he’d get his power back. The broadcast earlier on had rattled him, more than he was willing to admit even to himself. For the first time since this all began he moved around the small house and closed the curtains making sure there were no gaps as he did so. It was dark outside, too dark to see much of anything and he was afraid now that the light from his windows, however faint, might act as a beacon to anyone outside. He told himself it made sense to close the curtains, there were plenty of people who had lost their homes, everything they had, they’d be on the move and god only knew what desperate people might do. He was out here alone and he wasn’t in the best shape of his life either.

The night passed without incident, in the morning he opened the curtains again and stared out at the grey, rainy day. In the distance he could see thick plumes of black smoke rising into the air, despite the rain it was fairly still out with little to no wind. The smoke was coming from the direction of the McKenna’s. He wouldn’t be able to get to them in time to do anything, all he could do was wait and see if any of them had made their way to him. It was probably just an accident, that was all. Their kids were always rough housing with one another, it wouldn’t be a surprise if one of them knocked over a candle or lamp. Besides, the youngest one had gotten in trouble before for playing with fire, he’d managed to set an entire field of grass alight two years ago, they’d just barely been able to get the blaze under control before it managed to do any real damage.

Keith tried to keep himself busy through the day but he kept finding himself staring out the window at the smoke, which now looked like nothing more than a dark smudge across the sky. The voice on the radio was completely gone now too, there was nothing but static. He spent the afternoon looking out towards the McKenna’s, the smoke had disappeared but still, he couldn’t seem to look away. He expected to see the family of six walking along his road at any moment, tired, wet and perhaps soot stained, but otherwise unhurt. They didn’t arrive that evening, nor did they arrive the next day or the next.

On the third day after the fire he saw someone on the road, they were crouched slightly and moving slowly, at first he thought they were injured, he went outside, raised a hand in greeting and yelled, at the sound whoever it was crouched down lower and ran off into a patch of trees. Keith scrambled backwards into the house and locked the door, he had expected whoever it was to call out for help, not run away. He checked that the windows were locked too, though they wouldn’t do much to stop someone who was determined to get inside. Keith kept circling the windows, moving from one to the other and peering out, it would be dark soon and after that he wouldn’t be able to see anyone approaching. The rain had finally died off, but it was still cloudy outside, once it darkness fell it would be almost absolute. He looked out the front window again and his breath caught in his chest, there was a group of men marching down his road, they wore all black, even their faces were covered by masks, each one held a gun. Keith s heart started hammering in his chest, they weren’t moving incredibly quickly but they were moving steadily, they’d be at the house in no more than ten minutes. He grabbed a bag, the biggest he could find, and stuffed it with some canned food, he threw in a box of matches and some clothes. He didn’t have any real survival supplies, no tent, no sleeping bag. There wasn’t time to grab anything else, he slipped out the backdoor, not bothering to lock it behind himself, then he took off running.

When he finally stopped he was gasping for breath, he looked behind himself and was relieved that he couldn’t see his house. Once his breathing had slowed he started walking, who ever they were he had to stay ahead of them. Occasionally he would look behind himself to make sure there was no one following. He turned and looked again, he stopped and stared at the large plume of thick black smoke in the distance. He felt a bolt of nausea, he hoped that the McKenna’s had seen those men coming. A gust of cold wind shook him from his thoughts, he turned and kept walking. He couldn’t think about the McKenna’s, he couldn’t think about his house. None of it mattered now, the only thing that mattered was surviving.

Church of the Divine Sight. Short Story.

Hi everyone, waiting for Ex-hurricane Ophelia to hit at the moment. I’m expecting everything to be fine but just wanted to write a quick note in case we lose power or something like that for a prolonged period. I should be back on Wednesday with another short story, but if I’m not it’s because of Ophelia and should be back on Friday at the very latest.

Hope everyone is safe!

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Jacob kept his head down and walked past the Surveyors, most people did the same. Even now after all these years the pitted scarred tissue where their eyes should be made him uncomfortable. They didn’t smile as he passed, but none of them made a move to stop him and really that was the best he could hope for. The Church of the Divine Sight was still considered a fringe religion despite the steadily growing popularity Jacob himself hadn’t been to any of their services yet but as more time passed he felt the need to go. Not for any religious reasons but because he could see the fervour with which people believed and it frightened him. People were dissapearing from the streets, unbelievers mostly and usually they had last been seen with some of the priests. People would dismiss the rumours almost as soon as you brought them up, their eyes darting around the room quickly to be sure that there was no one else listening. The priests wore long black robes and had shaved heads, though he knew little about them he assumed they had taken some kind of vow against pleasures of the world. All of the priests bore shaved heads, men and women alike for there was no distinction made between the two, and all had gaunt faces, he suspected that underneath the robe their bodies would just be skin and bones. Jacob jumped as he felt a firm hand on his shoulder, “Excuse me sir, can you come with me for a moment?” He recognised the harsh raspy voice that all the priests seemed to have, he turned slowly, already the crowd was parting around them, everyone was looking away. “I’m sorry, I’m in a bit of a rush at the moment.”
The priest smiled, “Don’t worry, we won’t keep you long.” The priests grip tightened on his shoulder, it was just on the edge of painful.
“I’m really sorry but I’m afraid I can’t.”
The grip tightened again, “I insist.” Two priests emerged from the crowd and stood either side of him, both grabbed his upper arms, their fingers squeezing into his flesh, Jacob knew he would have severe bruises their tomorrow, if he lived to see tomorrow.

The priests had practically dragged him from the street and into an office building of all things. They brought him through a pair of large double doors, past a row of empty reception desks and into an elevator. As the doors closed Jacob found his voice and outrage, “You can’t do this to me! I didn’t do anything wrong or illegal, this is kidnapping! This is illegal!” He ripped himself free from their grip and started pressing buttons on the panel but they didn’t seem to work. He turned around and faced the priests, they didn’t say anything, their faces were passive. “Let me out of here right now. I swear to god if you don’t I’ll hurt you.” he took a step forward, raising his fists, one of the priest’s hands darted out and caught him in the jaw. Jacob stumbled backwards, bright pain blossoming along his chin, he felt a little disorientated and already his jaw was starting to swell, “You can’t do this!” The elevator stopped and the doors opened behind him, one of the priests, the same one that hit him, shoved him backwards and through the elevator doors. Jacob stumbled and fell to the ground, as he watched the elevator doors closed and the priests disappeared from view. As he stood up two men entered the small waiting room. The room itself had wall to wall white carpeting, the walls were painted white with large strange symbols painted across them in black. These men weren’t priests, they wore dark suits and had matching haircuts, they looked like FBI agents from a movie. The men stood a few feet from him, their hands clasped in front of them. “We are sorry for the way you were brought here. You have been chosen.”
Jacob rubbed at his jaw, “I was kidnapped off the streets and assaulted and you expect me to go along with what ever bullshit you’re selling? No, you’re letting me out of here right now.”
“I’m afraid we cannot do that. You have been chosen.”
“I don’t care, let me out of here right now, this is illegal, you can’t do this.”
One of the men smiled slightly, “You can cooperate or not, though it will be easier for you if you do.”
The other of the men reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a syringe, he uncapped it.
“What are you going to do to me?”
“We’re going to show you the truth. The ultimate truth.”
Jacob took a step back, “I don’t want to see it.”
“You don’t have a choice.”
The man holding the syringe nodded, the other man tackled him before he could react. He felt the sharp sting of the needle then a second later everything went black.

When Jacob woke he was strapped into a chair and unable to move, the men were standing either side of him, just at the edge of his vision. On of the men stepped forward and pressed buttons on a panel to the left of him, he couldn’t quite see what was happening. He heard the sound of gears and then a helmet was being lowered over his head. A bright light appeared, sudden and blinding, Jacob yelled and closed his eyes, the light got bright and brighter, his eyelids doing nothing to protect his eyes. Colours started appearing in the white, large swirls, his screams grew louder and the lights started to shift. Blood ran from beneath the helmet and coated his cheeks like tears. Jacobs body shook and jerked in the chair as he screamed. After a few minutes the helmet began to rise, Jacobs face was gaunt and pale, there was scarred, twisted flesh where his eyes had been, his hair fell about him on the ground. One of the men checked his pulse while the other unstrapped him. “Welcome Brother Jacob.”
Jacob looked around the room, he could see everything clearly, the two men beside him weren’t men at all, they hulked and towered over him, crouching to fit in the room. He nodded at them both, then spoke, his voice raspy and hoarse, “Thank you for opening my eyes.”

Close to Salvation. Short Story.

Larry gazed up at the sun above him, he licked his dry, cracked lips with his thick, heavy tongue. It had been so long since he had last had a drink, almost two days now at this point. Yesterday he had come across an old dirty bucket that had been filled with rain water, he had been tempted but the algae that covered the surface and the tiny wriggling things had put him off. Now he would give anything for a single sip of that water. He had been foolish to think he could survive out here, what did he know about the wilderness? The closest he had ever been to nature had been sitting out in his parents back garden on a nice day. Hell he hadn’t even been to the beach in years. He had been safe where he was, he’d still have water and food, though that would have run out in other few days anyway. In the distance he could hear the rev of an engine, his heart beat faster and he quickly broke into a shuffling run, he needed to get somewhere safe, some kind of shelter, before they spotted him. Even at full strength he wouldn’t be able to take them. He didn’t know exactly who they were but he didn’t need to, he had already seen what their kind did. The strong survive, the weak perish, that was their motto. He’d seen them run down an old man, he watched from his apartment balcony as the old man had struggled to get away, watched as they gave him a head start, then all took after him at once. The old man made it another five, maybe ten feet before they caught up with him. He didn’t want to see what happened next but he couldn’t look away and as he watched they beat the old man to death before tearing him limb from limb. At least Larry hoped he was dead at that point.

He had always thought that at the core of it people were good, that if there was any kind of mass disaster people would group together, try to help one another out. He was wrong. Or maybe the sickness just took all the decent people. He had watched as they broke into stores, sometimes they didn’t even take anything, they just broke the windows because the whim had struck them. He had seen them going into apartment buildings, making their way up through the floors. Sometimes they’d come out with someone, sometimes kicking and screaming, other times unconscious. He knew it was only a matter of time until they did a sweep of his building and if that happened where could he hide? His apartment was small and minimalistic in decoration, white floors, white walls, smooth clean lines everywhere. The day he saw the old man was the day he left. He packed a bag for himself, stuffed it with food and bottled water, then at night he snuck out, moving through the city slowly, listening to every sound and praying it wasn’t one of the gangs. He had made it out easily enough and then he’d just kept going, he didn’t have any place in mind or any real plan. It seemed like an adventure and, like all adventures, it was just supposed to work out for him. He was supposed to come across lakes and rivers as he needed them, perhaps a friendly farm house or two that had managed to survive or avoid the sickness. Perhaps he’d find a small town, a group of people trying to claw their way back from the apocalypse, people who wanted civilisation, peace.

He was going to die out here, in the middle of nowhere, all alone. His throat was dry and felt as though it was sticking to itself, what little saliva he could gather was thick, more like mucous than spit. He had stopped sweating sometime ago, he knew that was a bad sign but he couldn’t remember why. His brain was slow and fuzzy and the only thing he could really focus on was the constant, screaming thirst.

Larry lay on the ground, he couldn’t go any further, he had collapsed a few minutes before, ahead of him he could see the shimmer of a lake, could hear the waves lapping against the shore. Slowly, painfully he reached out and grabbed a handful of grass and he began to crawl. The progress was slow and each movement took more and more out of him. He had kept his head down and just focused on moving forward, he looked up again and saw that the lake appeared no closer, he let out a low moan, he couldn’t do it, he couldn’t go any further. He was going to die here, alone and so tantalisingly close to his salvation. No. He wouldn’t die here, he couldn’t. This wasn’t going to be the end of him. He started moving forward again.

Larry lay on the warm ground, his breathing came in low, laboured gasps. The water was so close, maybe a fifty feet, but he had nothing left to give. He reached out and tried to pull himself forward, he didn’t move. He reached out again, trying to adjust his grip. He tried to pull again but he felt the clump of grass sliding through his fingers. There was a sick, steady throb in the back of his head. The water of the lake gently lapped against the shore, a cloud rolled across the sun sending cooling shadows across the land, somewhere a bird called out, Larry let out one last gasp, then he lay still