Tag Archives: run

The Change. Short Story.

I think I’m doing a bit better, the stomach cramps have eased off a bit so I’m hopeful! Still really tired but then what’s new there really! I’m going to try and get my next appointment with my GI doctor moved up anyway, if it’s just a lull or if it’s passing no harm in getting looked over!

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Brad held his hands out to the fire, letting the warmth seep in. It probably wasn’t the safest idea they’d had but it was too damn cold, their options were to light a fire or potentially freeze to death. After a few minutes debate they decided the risk was worth it. They were far from any cities or towns and hopefully far from people. A lot of people were doing what they were, striking out for the wilderness, it was the safest thing they could do. The threat of changing was getting worse every day, they’d waited as long as they could then packed their car and started driving. They’d abandoned the car four days back, they’d run out of gas and the last few gas stations they’d passed had hand written signs saying they were out. Well, that wasn’t true, the very last one had a large sign proclaiming that there was still gas and to “Come on in for a bite!” that sign had seemed too suspicious to them both, so they kept driving. For Brad the strangest thing about it all was that to a casual observer they might not notice anything was wrong. You could gloss over the stores with dwindling supplies (they couldn’t seem to keep the shelves stocked no matter how hard they tried) or the sight of someone frantic and running down the street, hell you could even ignore the way that people would watch you out of the corner of their eyes. The news was useless, blathering on about celebrities and the usual fluff, like it still mattered. The internet was being censored, occasionally you would come across a post about a family member changing, about the way everyone was on edge, but almost as soon as it went up it was taken down again. Brad and Helena had hit the road after the last call from Helena’s parents, they’d sounded bright and cheerful, far removed from the quiet, anxious voices that they had heard previously. Brad’s own parents had gone over about a week back and had been aggressively inviting them over for dinner since.

They’d ditched their phones with the car, it wasn’t like they had anyone to ring, it seemed like almost everyone had gone over. Part of him wished it was all more dramatic, that the people who changed were flesh eating zombies or weapon wielding maniacs. At least then you’d have a chance, you’d know to defend yourself. They looked like normal people, acted like them too for the most part, but they were different, changed. He couldn’t explain it properly, even now, but there was a subtle wrongness to them, something that was just off. He hadn’t managed to pinpoint it, whether it was the way they moved or sounded or smelled. Sometimes it was obvious, the personality change or the sudden insistence at meeting up, but other times it was subtle. Subtle enough that you could miss it. So they’d did the only sensible thing and ran.

Helena poured hot water into two cups, neither of them particularly liked tea but they’d run out of coffee yesterday and hadn’t been able to resupply yet. They’d need to do it soon, their food supplies were dwindling rapidly, much faster than either expected, and they had no idea how to even begin hunting or foraging. Brad popped a hole into a can of spaghetti and put it beside the fire, it was only a few days and he was already sick of canned food, they had both thought themselves reasonably prepared and believed that they could pick up the rest on the way, it was only now he was realising how unprepared they really were. A branch snapped nearby, Brad’s head whipped around, a voice called out, low and frightened, “Hello? I’m sorry if I scared you but can we warm ourselves by the fire? Just for a minute, please, my wife is pregnant.” Brad glanced at Helena, she nodded slightly, “Yeah. OK. But don’t make any sudden moves.” They had no weapons with them, save for an old baseball bat, but the new comers didn’t know that. A man and woman emerged from the trees, the woman moved slowly, her large stomach protruding in front of her. Their faces were red and they were both shivering from the cold, both had light jackets on. “Jesus, you’ll freeze to death out here if you’re not careful. Where are you coming from?”
“Livington, it’s about fifteen miles east of here. We weren’t planning on leaving.” They sat down, holding their hands out to the flames. “My brother attacked us. We barely got out of the house.” he looked at Brad, “I just thought people were overreacting, that it was just in peoples heads.” his eyes were pleading, as was his voice, Brad thought the man was hoping he’d agree, tell him that it wasn’t really happening, that it had just been a mistake. “Do you want some tea? It’ll help heat you up.”
“That would be great, Thanks. I’m Patrick, this is Francine.” Francine nodded at them both and gave a half smile.

An hour later and they were all talking like old friends, Brad was surprised at how much he missed just chatting with people, without worrying whether they were still people. What ever was replacing people was sticking close to the towns and cities, carrying on their scheduled humanity, going to work or school, doing the shopping, they weren’t out in the wilderness. Patrick finished off his tea, his second cup, “We should probably get going. W just wanted to heat ourselves up and we don’t want to intrude.”
“Nonsense, you’ll catch your death out here. Besides us humans need to stick together.” Brad nodded, Helena was right, they’d be better off in a group. It would make keeping watch easier, bother Brad and Helena had managed to fall asleep the night before, leaving them entirely exposed.

Helena poured more tea into Francine’s cup, she clutched the cup tightly, enjoying the warmth radiating through her hands. “Thank you. You know I never thought I’d experience this again. Drinking tea with friends” she sniffed, Brad looked away awkwardly as Francine wiped away a single tear.

The muffled gasp woke Brad, he was groggy, how long had they been asleep? It was still dark out, there was a low moan, his first thought was Francine, that the baby was coming here in the cold, dark woods, he sat up and looked across the faintly glowing embers, who was supposed to be on watch? The fire shouldn’t have died down that much. He saw something in the dark, a hunched shape over where Helena was sleeping. He shot to his feet and charged at the figure, just as he took his second step another shape hurtled out of the darkness, knocking him to the ground. He landed hard, the weight on top of him driving the air from his lungs, it took him a second to make sense of the shape on top of him, it was Francine, her pregnant belly hanging above his face. She was holding him down, her hands wrapped around his shoulders with a painfully tight grip, she leaned down, an angle he would have thought impossible, then her lips were over his creating a seal. He felt something oozing into his mouth, he bucked and writhed as he felt the liquid moving, pulling itself down his throat. Suddenly there was pain, bright hot at first but quickly becoming dull and far away.

The next morning they packed their bags in silence, Francine and Patrick had left during the night. They shouldered their bags and started walking, they knew the woods held more people, they just had to find them.

Laketon. Short Story.

“I’m dead and I have been for a long time. Before we begin properly I really need you to understand what that means. I have not seen friends or family, I do not know what they look like now, I don’t know how they’re living their lives. I don’t even know if they still live in the same city, but I know they had a funeral for me. I know they mourned for me. I left on the day I died. You might think it’s overkill, hell I even wondered that myself when it happened, but you’ll see. You’re new to all this, aren’t you? Have you seen them yet?”
“Seen who?”
The man chuckled and shook his head, “You’ll know them when you see them. It’s none of that men in black suits bullshit, they look like regular people but they’re not. You won’t notice it at first, but as time goes on you’ll be able to spot them. They move oddly, they don’t seem to eat, they tend to stare for just a little too long before they blink. I’ve seen groups of them in a restaurant with full plates of food, they move their forks around, it’s almost like they’re pretending to eat like in a movie. You’ve talked to one or two people so far, but the more interest you show in what happened, the more interest they’ll show in you.” The man took a drink from his coke and set it back on the diner table, “You won’t know my name, someone will probably be able to figure it out eventually, but I’ve taken steps. I’ve changed how I look, I’ve taken great pains to disappear, but I think they know where I am. They’ve been content to leave me alone for the most part, I think because they know I’m scared.”

He took a deep breath, then shook his head. “Sorry, I’m rambling. Ok. I’m going to start at the beginning.

It was Stephens idea to go camping, he loved camping, always spending time in the woods and trying to convince us to come with. That weekend we were all free so we decided fuck it, why not? It had been a while since we had all gotten together properly and had a laugh. The plan was simple, grab a few tents and some food, a couple of beers, maybe a few joints and Stephen would help us with all the outdoorsy stuff. We arrived early enough and started out, the hike was longer than I expected it to be, and I was in worse shape than I thought. All of us were really, except Stephen, he was laughing and joking the entire way, trying to keep up morale. When we got to the camp site he chose we were all tired, but we took a short break and got everything set up with minimal fuss. The weather was nice out, sunny and warm but not too hot. The night was supposed to be cool, but not cold. We all had our jobs to do, get fire wood, help set up the tents, that kind of stuff. Nothing too interesting happened really, it was just a normal day. That night, after we had a few beers and smoked a few of the joints I had to take a piss. So I left the camp and started walking. I always needed a bit of privacy to go, if there were people around I just couldn’t. I made sure to keep an eye on the fire and what direction I was going in so I wouldn’t get lost. One of the others, I’m not sure who, called out they’d send a search party if I wasn’t back in ten minutes. It didn’t take me long to find a good spot.

I was finishing up when I looked up at the sky, it was a clear night and there were so many stars out, it was beautiful, I’d never seen anything like it. Most of the time if you looked up you’d see a couple of stars, and even then they were most likely satellites. I don’t know how long I was looking up at the sky, it was kind of hard to keep track of time at that point, but then I noticed something. A sudden burst of light to my left. I looked out and could see it over the trees, it looked like light pollution for a town or city, but I knew that couldn’t be it. Stephen had guided us out here and said there wasn’t anything around for miles and miles. Whatever it was was close. I moved my way through the trees, until I came to a ridge, and I saw it. A town. It was so close but there was no noise of traffic, nothing. Just silence. I didn’t notice the quiet at first because I started to laugh. Stephen always bragged about being an experienced outdoors man and he had managed to get us all turned around. I was looking forward to making a few jokes at his expense.

I found my way back to the campsite easily enough. I sat down and waited for a moment, finally it came and I casually asked about the town. Stephen got a weird look on his face and he told me there wasn’t any town or village anywhere near us. I started laughing then, I made a few jokes though I don’t really remember them. He was so insistent that I must have imagined it that I stood up and told him to follow me.

We stood on the ridge, Stephen was staring in disbelief, the others were cracking more jokes. Stephen hadn’t said anything since we got to the ridge, he looked at us, his eyes were slightly wide with fear and he asked why there wasn’t any sound. The others didn’t seem to take much notice of that, they shrugged it off, it was late, the town wasn’t terribly large, everything had probably shut down. But I could see cars sitting on the roads, they weren’t moving, but they weren’t parked up either. One of the others suggested that we go and check it out. I felt a little  scared, but I figured we’d be safe enough, probably just some small backwards town where everything closed at sundown. Stephen didn’t really want to go, which I found strange, he was always the brave one, pushing us all forward. As we made our way down the ridge he trailed along behind all of us. He didn’t say anything, but I could feel the unease from him. It was around this point that I realised that Stephen and I were by far the soberest in the group. The others had practically started drinking and smoking as soon as camp was set up. As we got closer I could feel it, something heavy in the air. The guys ahead were being too loud, too disruptive. I kept trying to get them to quiet down, I told them that we didn’t want to get hassled by any cops out here, but really I just didn’t want them breaking that heavy, oppressive quiet.

It didn’t take us long to reach the outskirts and everything seemed normal at first. Houses with blinds closed but lights on, cars parked in driveways. As we went I felt more and more uneasy, even the guys had started to keep it down. They stopped making stupid jokes and were talking in half whispers. We had also started to walk in more of a group formation, pulling in closer to one another, whereas before we were spread out.

It was when we reached a group of shops that we saw what was really wrong with the town. There were cars in the road, with drivers sitting up behind the wheels but not moving, there were people inside the restaurant, frozen mid-bite. At first I thought they were wax dummies, the others seemed to agree. We looked around for a little bit, but I was really starting to freak out. I approached one of the cars and gently tapped on the window, the person inside didn’t move and I started to feel a bit silly. Obviously they were just wax, it was some weird new amusement or something. But then I noticed that the wax dummy was breathing, her chest was moving up and down so slowly I had almost missed it. The other two didn’t want to go, they wanted to stay and explore, take pictures for the internet, after all we were the first people to get a look at this. I tried to tell them about the breathing but they dismissed it. Me and Stephen eventually convinced them we should get out, that there had to be security in a weird place like this and we didn’t want to get caught. We turned and started to go back the way we came. We had gone maybe ten feet before there was a high pitched whine in the air, we all winced and covered our ears. I turned to look for the source and saw that the people were starting to move. Slow, repetitive and jerky, but they were moving. I felt like my breath caught in my throat, I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t move. The others hadn’t noticed yet, I wanted to call out, to warn them. That’s when I saw her. She was about average height with long brown hair and white skin. She looked normal enough but there was something off about her. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but it was in the way she moved, like she was still learning how. The noise stopped as suddenly as it began and we could all hear her footsteps, heavy and kind of dragging. There were noises, snippets of music coming from the restaurant, a weird mechanical rumble from the cars. Like everything was stuttering and trying to start properly. The others had spotted her too, one of the guys raised his hand, he was about to call out to her but Stephen grabbed him. I could barely hear the scuffle over the sudden noise, but she had heard it. Her head whipped around. We could all feel it, that heavy gaze. She shouted something at us, but none of us could make out what she was saying. We all turned and ran.

The entire town seemed to be waking up and I knew with absolute certainty that we needed to get out before that happened. We were at the outskirts when everything finally started again. I was the last one out, behind the others, making sure no one tripped though they seemed to have sobered up considerably. I felt this awful, piercing pain in my head, it was like my head was in a vice that was trying to break open my skull. I kept running and the pain became worse, it was blinding. A few minutes later I came to, I was being half carried and half dragged by the others. I had passed out at some point and had thrown up on myself. The others were pale and shaky, but I had seemed to have gotten the worst of whatever it was. I could still feel it as we walked, though the further away we got the less it hurt.

We got back to our campsite and quickly packed, starting the trek back to the car. When we got home we tried doing some googling, to find out anything about the town, but there was nothing, nothing at all. It didn’t exist. We figured it was just some weird government thing, they couldn’t of known who we were so we figured we were in the clear.

Then we started seeing them. More people like that woman, they looked normal but there was just something off about them. I died two weeks after that camping trip. We were going away again, it had been planned for months. Stephen was driving, we were supposed to go across the country for two months, see what there was to see. I wasn’t feeling great, I was jumpy and nervous since I had seen that damn town. The others seemed to have moved past it better than I had. The other two had taken to saying that it wasn’t that bad, that we had just been too drunk and high and we had half imagined most of it anyway.

I cancelled going on the trip that morning. They drove to my house to convince me to go. Stephen even loaded up my half packed bag and everything, but I refused. They got a little pissy with me, not that I blame them. They drove off, my bag still in the car, there had been a bit of an argument and we had all forgotten about it. It was an hour later that I realised my phone had been in the bag, it wasn’t anything special, I was never big on carrying a phone around anyway. I figured I’d just pick up something cheap the next time I was out shopping.

I saw the news report a few hours later. The car had been in a pile up, no survivors. They could barely even identify the passengers of Stephens car. Mostly it was down to guess work. There were four of us that were supposed to go on the trip, there were four bodies. I was still in shock, the cameraman panned over the mangled wreckage of cars and I could see them, every emergency personnel there gave off that vibe, that they weren’t really people. It was then that I knew I had to run. It sounds crazy, even after everything that happened, but I could just feel it. I didn’t want anyone else in danger, so I didn’t tell anyone.

I don’t know for sure who that fourth person was, but I have a suspicion. There was a hitchhiker in the area, around our age, looked kinda like me, same height and everything. We were all kind of friends in that we’d always pick him up if we saw him hitching. I think he was the fourth body. I don’t know if they knew it was him at the time, I don’t even know if they know it now. They know it wasn’t me though. I was able to hide for a few years before I saw another one of them. They spotted me, their eyes never leaving me as I ran. The story broke not long after. It’s weird. I could see it happening on the news, the way the story shifted and changed. Do you remember the absolute panic in the early days? The droves of people that went out there looking for their loved ones? No? Of course you don’t. No one really does, but it’s out there if you look. Footage that’s floating around on the internet, photos. Little bits and pieces that were missed out in the clean-up. They’ve left me alone for the most part now that they see everyone is buying it. But I can’t go back, not now, after all this time. How could I even explain it to my family? I’m trusting you here, that you’ll be able to tell my story, but screw it up a bit more, change the details. I only named Stephen as it was his car that crashed and everyone knew he never let anyone else drive that car of his, even though it was a bit of a shitbox.”

The man took another drink from his coke, this time draining the glass. He reached across the table and shook hands with the man sitting across from him. “I’m not going to see you again. I’m not going to answer any questions. Good luck, you’re going to need it.” He slid from the booth and walked out of the diner.

The man sitting at the table, turned off his small recorder. He took another sip from his coffee. If he had this meeting two months ago, hell even a month ago, he would have dismissed it all as the ramblings of a mad man. He looked out the window and a man sitting on the bench across the road caught his eye. He wasn’t sure why at first, the man looked normal enough, grey suit, newspaper in hand. It took him a minute to spot what was wrong. The man was turning the pages of his newspaper every ten seconds. He watched as the man finished it, then opened it from the front and started again.

He shook his head and smiled to himself, he was just on edge, that was all. When he glanced at the man again the man was looking right at him, his eyes flat and emotionless. As he watched the man continued to turn the pages every ten seconds. Not even looking down. He stood from the small booth, not bothering to finish his coffee, he threw some money on the table, enough for what was ordered and a tip and he quickly left the diner. As he walked he kept glancing behind himself, expecting to see the man with the newspaper following him, still turning pages, but there was no one there.

No Good Deed. Short Story.

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy holiday!

Unfortunately I’m a bit under the weather at the moment (actually everyone here seems to be, be warned for this is a house of sickness. Maybe we should throw a red cross up on the door to warn people away.) I’m hoping I’ll be back to full health in a few days, thankfully the worst of it seems to be over! My nose has stopped dripping like a leaky tap and my head feels like the vice has only been tightened a little bit rather than all the way. As an aside, can we just take a minute to appreciate whoever invented Solpadine? My hat goes off to you, wherever and whoever you are!

Hope everyone else is doing well and is having a wonderful time!
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No Good Deed.

Deborah looked up at the sky, she loved the stars at night, millions of them all shining at once, she always had, but they weren’t much comfort tonight. She was huddled against a tree, shivering slightly. It was a cold night and she was tired, too tired to run any longer. Her legs ached steadily and she knew they would be cramping horribly tomorrow, assuming she lived that long. Somewhere a branch snapped and her breath caught in her throat. She slowly eased out the breath, then inhaled just as slowly. Mentally she cursed at herself again, why had she been so stupid? She hadn’t been thinking, she had just run, she had thought that trees would provide cover and protection, but he had followed her. She had kept going until everything looked the same and she was hopelessly lost. Every time she moved forward she remembered the first rule of being lost, stop and wait for someone to find you, but then that was the danger, wasn’t it?

She had been driving to her boyfriends, a normally pleasant enough drive, when she came across the man lying at the side of the road. She pulled over and got out of her car, she was careful to keep some distance as she called out, “Hello? Are you ok?” there was no response. As she moved closer she realised that the man wasn’t breathing. She turned to go back to the car, to her phone, and froze. Another man was standing between her and her car, he was grinning at her, his grin was wide and jovial but his eyes were flat and dark. “You startled me. That man over there, I think he’s in trouble, I was just about to call for help.” She hadn’t heard another car pulling up, she hadn’t seen another when she had stopped either. The man nodded, “Yes, I saw him too.” His voice sent shivers up her spine. She needed to keep him talking, another car could come by any second. He looked her up and down, his eyes examining every inch, “Do you have your phone with you?” Deborah nodded once, “Yes, I wanted to move out of the road, in case someone came speeding by. People come up and down this road all the time, usually going pretty fast too. They’d be on you before you realised it.” She thought she was babbling but she couldn’t stop, she was too afraid. He shrugged, “You’d be surprised how lonely this stretch of road can be, especially now.”
“I guess. I wouldn’t be too worried though, my boyfriend is expecting me soon, so if anything happened I know he’d call someone or come check on me.”
“Oh, you’ve a boyfriend? How nice. Tell me, are you one of those good women who keeps her purity? Or one of those floozy’s who spreads her legs at every opportunity.”
Deborah’s heart was hammering in her chest. She couldn’t show she was afraid, she needed to be confident. She needed to get to her car. She moved slightly to the left, he shifted with her. “I don’t think that is an appropriate thing to say to someone.”
He smiled at her, “So you’re one of those whores? I get it, you just don’t want to admit it. Or maybe you’re just shy and virginal.” She shivered as he said virginal, the way he leered over the word made her feel dirty, soiled, his voice sounded wet as he said it, almost as though he was salivating. “There isn’t anyone around here for miles you know. Even if your boyfriend is expecting you it would take him a while to notice you were missing.”
“That man over there needs help, do you know CPR? I’ll dial 911, maybe you could check for a heartbeat?” She needed to distract him, but his eyes never left her.
“Oh, don’t worry about him. He’s not going anywhere. How can he? He’s a mannequin after all.” Deborah felt coldness flooding through her. She had to get to the car. She had left the keys in the ignition, if she could just get there she could lock the doors and drive away. She could make a run for it, try to duck around him. Her eyes moved to her car, it was just a quick glance, but he caught it. He held up a set of keys, “Oh, I wouldn’t if I were you. I made sure to grab these while you were distracted.” The entire time they had spoken that smile had never left his face. It felt like she had been standing on this road for hours. He took a step closer, “I’m a fast runner too, who knows. Maybe you’re faster. I like a good chase.” He winked at her and Deborah ran.

Her only thought was escape, the road was long and straight, she’d be able to run on it easily, but then so could he. There was nowhere to hide and he was right, it could be a while before another car came along. The woods were her best chance.

Deborah wrapped her arms around her knees, trying to keep herself warm. Somewhere in the darkness she could hear someone yelling, though she couldn’t make out what they were saying. Part of her wanted to run towards the voice, though she knew that would be a mistake. She lowered her head to her knees, whoever it was they were far away and their voice was fading. If it was that psycho he was moving further away.

Deborah woke with a start, at some point she had fallen asleep. Her entire body was stiff and sore and she was covered in scratches she hadn’t noticed the night before. Slowly she stretched and stood, trying to work out the stiffness. As she did she looked around herself, making sure no one could sneak up on her. There was no sign of anyone. Part of her felt relief, but at the same time she knew she was in trouble. She had no experience with the outdoors, she didn’t even know what direction she should be heading in. How big were these woods? After all she had only ever driven through them and it felt like she had run for miles the night before. After a moment’s hesitation she started walking.

About two hours later she had found a road, she didn’t recognise where she was but the road looked like it was well maintained. That was good, it meant people used it. She moved back into the trees, using them as cover. She heard a car coming and she stood, getting ready to wave them down, then she stopped. What if it was him? He had to get into the woods somehow, she didn’t know where he was, it could be him driving towards her. The sound of the engine was getting louder, she needed to make a decision. She took several breaths and stepped out to the side of the road.

Deborah was crying silently in the passenger seat, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The woman beside her kept reassuring her it was ok, that she was safe, and she knew the woman was right, but part of Deborah was afraid she’d wake up and find herself sitting in the woods again, that the man would be standing over her, leering, and then he’d pounce.

Up in the Mountains. Short Story.

Jessica stopped running, her chest was burning and it felt like her legs would collapse any second. She leaned against a tree, gasping for breath. They were still out here somewhere, looking for her. She tried to slow her breathing, by taking long, slow breaths but it felt like she wasn’t getting enough air. Her mouth was dry, so very very dry, but there was nothing to drink. Somewhere to her left she could hear something moving, she couldn’t get going again, not now. She crouched down, trying to hide her body behind the thick trunk of the tree. Jessica managed to slow her breathing a little, but she couldn’t hear anything else.

When she had counted to three hundred without hearing anything she stood again, her legs felt stiff and cold, she stretched slowly, trying to get the blood back into them. She didn’t know if she could continue running, but she knew she needed to move. She scanned the trees around her and started walking. She didn’t know how far she would have to go, she just knew she couldn’t stop.

It had been a normal day before all this started. She had met up with Bobby and Rick and they had all decided to go up to the mountains. It was a sunny day out and they didn’t want to waste it. Originally there were supposed to be more coming, but Johnny was too hungover, Ashley had given herself food poisoning somehow and Joanne had decided it would be better for her to sit around the pool in her apartment. Everything was fine until Bobby had grabbed her arm tightly, she hadn’t noticed how they had been directing where to go, how they led her away from the paths. She had tried to laugh it off, make a joke of it, but his eyes were flat, dead. Rick was suddenly behind her, grabbing at her too. She couldn’t remember much of what happened afterwards, it was too fast. She had managed to get away somehow before they did anything. She heard them yelling after her, shouting that they were only messing, that it was a joke, that she should come back. Jessica kept running.

The only thing that reassured her out of the entire thing was that she knew they weren’t great outdoorsmen. She wasn’t exactly a pioneer woman herself, but she knew they’d have a hard time tracking her. For the moment she wasn’t concerned with thinking, just moving. The further she got from them the better off she would be. Besides, the mountains were usually swarming with people, she’d run into someone who could help sooner or later.

Jessica sat on an overturned log, she needed a break, she was more stumbling than walking. She knew she was probably a bit dehydrated, she had dropped the bottle of water she had brought in the struggle, and her phone was dead. That was the worst of it all, she had forgotten to charge it the night before and Bobby claimed his car charger was broken. She shook her head, she was such an idiot. She had always gotten a weird vibe off the two of them. She had thought that Rick had balanced Bobby out a bit, brought down his creep factor. Apparently he just got better at hiding it. When they were younger Bobby would always stare at her, she didn’t want to make a big deal of it though, so she just made sure they were never alone together for very long. She should have just pulled out when everyone else did, or gone to Joanne’s place to drink and splash around in the pool. She had felt a little trepidation when she found out it was just the three of them, but she had shaken it off, dismissing it as just a little anxiety from when Bobby was weird.

It was getting dark, clouds hard started rolling in and it looked like it was going to rain. She had found a stream a short while ago and started following it. Her throat and mouth were dry and the temptation of the stream was almost maddening, but she didn’t know how to make sure the water was clean, she couldn’t make a fire and even if she could she had no pot to boil it in. She was dehydrated, but if the water made her sick she knew it could kill her. For now the risk wasn’t worth it.

Darkness was falling and it was getting colder, it was still relatively warm but she was wearing only shorts and a t-shirt. Jessica finally sat down on an over turned log. She couldn’t keep going in the dark like this, already her legs and arms had scratches and cuts, it would be far too easy for her to twist or break her ankle. She hadn’t heard any sounds of pursuit in a long, long time, but she hadn’t seen any signs of people either. She had spent a good hour of the day debating whether or not she should leave some kind of marker or signal behind her as she went, but the fear of Bobby and Rick finding it was too great. She had no idea if they were even still on the mountain, but it would be easy for them to tell someone that they decided to stay camping so they could keep looking for her. No one would question it, after all why would they?

She was so tired now, she kept dozing off slightly before her head would jerk up again. She needed to sleep but she was afraid that they would find her, if she was awake she’d have some fighting chance, but if they caught her unaware she was doomed.

She woke sometime in the morning, the light streaming through the trees. Her body felt cold and stiff, her muscles ached. Slowly she started moving and stretching, warming up her muscles. She had a long day ahead of her, she needed to get moving. Ignoring her growling stomach she started to walk again, she would get out of this. She had to, there was no other option.

Jessica froze, up ahead she could hear voices, the stream was too loud to make them out properly, but she could definitely hear men. Could Bobby and Rick have gotten in front of her? Had she gotten all turned around? Slowly she moved closer. She could see them through the trees, a group of twenty something’s, laughing and joking around a small fire. Her heart started beating faster and tears starting flowing as she stumbled out of the bushes, she was finally safe.

Shadow Crawlers. Part 1

“Look at them all there, rich bastards.” Tom spat on the ground “Christ, will you just shut up and get a move on? We’re on a limited schedule here.”  Tom grumbled to himself quietly while they worked, Grady caught a few words here and there, mostly curses. “Shut the hell up will ya? I’m tryna get this done. Why do you even care so much?” “Why don’t you care more?” “cos I have shit to do.” Grady scowled, then grinned, “We’re in.” “You sure?” Grady sighed. “Yes. For the last time, I’m sure. Look all I’m doing here is stopping any calls going out of the house. If the alarm system goes off, which it won’t, there will be no calls to the police.” “There better not be, if we get caught I’ll kill you.” Grady rolled her eyes. “I’m sure you will. C’mon.” She stood, the sudden rush making her feel faint. They’d be in and out in no time. At least if Tom followed the plan, which was always a worry. He was too easily distractible. Last time he was let out on a job, he almost got everyone caught, smashed a glass container, setting off the alarms. He tried to blame her, but it wasn’t Grady’s fault it was on a separate system, nor was it her fault that Tom was retarded. Well, at least in her professional opinion he was. Tom hopped up and quickly scaled the wall, Grady scrambled after him, she always hated climbing, she had almost no upper body strength and god forbid Tom would stop at the top to try and help her. She heard a muffled thump as he landed, she was barely half way up yet. She reached the top and quickly started down the other side, she didn’t want someone to see her up here. The security weren’t supposed to do a drive by for at least another ten minutes, but it was always a risk they’d just pop up. They paused on the other side for a second to allow Grady to rest. Tom kept muttering to himself about the “rich bastards.” Grady took a few deep breaths then signalled they should move on, mostly to get him to shut up. He was right about one thing though it was a nice house, a rich one.

They stopped at the windows and she allowed Tom to get to work, he was good with locks, which was why he hadn’t been ditched yet. He fiddled with something, Grady couldn’t quite see what he was doing, not that it mattered; no matter how closely she watched, or how often she tried, she couldn’t replicate the skill. The window swung open, “yesss.” Tom slid through, he was supposed to go after her, after she had a chance to scope out the room. She rolled her eyes and followed, it seemed to be the theme of the night. They were in the library, books lined the shelves, no doubt many were priceless, but they had no time to look through them. Grady wasn’t quite sure that Tom could even read. The room was in shadows and darkness, the lights inside the house were off and it was too dark to see. Still, this was the closest room to the obviously shoddy alarm system. Grady hadn’t seen any wires when Tom was screwing around with the windows and no alarms had gone off. Their entrance should have triggered it. She took the lead, Tom never bothered to study any of the plans they had for houses, though it was rare enough they had access to any. Grady navigated the halls with ease though it was almost too dark to see, it didn’t take her long to locate the alarm box. She shook her head. It was a really, really shitty system. There was no other word for it. It took her only a few seconds to disable it entirely. Only a workman would find what she had done, the outside of the box looked completely fine. “Ok, we’re clear.” Sudden light blinded her. “Fuck. Point that somewhere else.” Tom chuckled and used it to scan the walls, bright circles of colour bloomed in her vision, Grady rubbed her eyes, “asshole.” “You love it.” She swung out ineffectually as he stepped back. She took her own torch and turned it on. Paintings lined the walls, no doubt expensive,  but still ugly. The hallways were hideous. Deep gold carpet with red strips at the edges, the walls were painted an off green, she wondered if the decorator was colour-blind. Electronics and jewellery, that was their first stop, along with any cash lying around. “The master bedroom is this way. Be quiet. They’re supposed to be gone for a few days but you never know.” It had happened to Scotch, he got killed when the couple returned home drunk and the husband shot him in the face.

The bedroom was equally hideous, but everything still looked comfortable. Grady could barely believe it sometimes, how some people could leave jewellery out like this, on display. She could never figure out why either, it wasn’t like they brought people on a tour through their house “And here’s the pool, and that’s our bedroom, this here is my wife’s big-ass collection of jewels, aren’t they fabulous?” She took a necklace from a stand and put it on, Grady didn’t like using bags, not until she had to. If they were chased she wouldn’t lose as much that way. She picked up a ring and slid it onto her finger, it fit, she grabbed a few more and slid them on, they were joined by six bracelets, three on each wrist. There was a stack of money sitting on the left bedside drawer, she pocketed that too, “got everything?” Grady grabbed the rest of the jewels and filled her pockets “I think so, you?” “Yeah. Dude had a shit ton of watches.” “Worth anything?” “Probably.” Grady shook her head. “Ok, we’ll split up, you go where ever, I wanna check out the study.” Tom went right when he left the room, he didn’t know where he was going, Grady would meet him in twenty minutes where they had first entered. That was the plan, but Tom would be late, as usual.

The study was panelled in wood, though she couldn’t see what kind, there were a few books, their bindings thick and unmarked. She went to the desk and searched through the drawers, at the end of it, she had five Mont Blanc pens, a tablet computer and a few extra bills she found in a leather wallet. Brett was waiting in the car, he’d know if the tablet could be wiped to make it untraceable, if not they could always clean off prints and throw it back over the wall. She looked around the room quickly and not seeing anything else, Grady began to make her way towards the library. It didn’t take her long to get there, she settled in for the wait.

“C’mon, c’mon, where the hell are you?” Tom was ten minutes late, a new record for him. She didn’t like staying too long in places and they were here too long. She hadn’t heard any noises, but that meant little in a house this large. He could have fallen over or something, maybe he had even gotten caught. Grady looked around the room once more, then carefully moved outside, she wanted to be able to make a quick getaway. She heard someone running towards the room, there was shouting, “Jesus fucking Christ run.” She didn’t wait for further instruction. Grady took off towards the wall, hoping that she’d be able to get up it before whatever Tom was running from caught up. There was a crash from the kitchen, Grady didn’t look back. If you look back you could stumble, if you stumbled you could fall, if you fell, you were fucked. Tom had taught her that. Leave no man behind was bullshit, save yourself first, then worry about the others. She scaled the wall and at the top paused and looked at the garden, there was Tom, running towards her. He was almost at the wall, she couldn’t see what was chasing him, he looked up at her, “Fucking go.” She swung her leg over, Toms eyes widened, Grady felt something warm splash onto her face. Tom gurgled and fell against the wall, Grady dropped down, pain racing up her legs. She kept her balance and ran to the car, she flung the door open, “Tom?” “No.” Before she could close it fully Brett had already pulled out from the side of the road, as he drove Grady rolled down the window and tossed the tablet out of the moving car. “The fuck is that on your face?” She pulled down the mirror, the small golden light illuminating her face, it was splattered in blood. Grady used her sleeve to scrub at her face. “What the fuck happened?” “I don’t know, someone got him.” “Who?” “I don’t know, I didn’t see.” “Shit. Did they see you?” “Maybe.” Shit. Think they saw the car?” “No, I don’t think so.” “We’ll ditch it.” “Ok.” They drove in silence, Grady stripped herself of the jewellery and put it into the bag. They’d dump the car and sell everything. She shuddered. Tom was gone, there was no coming back from what happened to him. Grady hugged herself, feeling as though she was being watched. She tried to push the feeling away, she was just on edge, that was all. Understandably. Shit. Dom would be pissed. She closed her eyes and leaned back into the seat, opening them almost immediately. All she could see was Tom’s face, with his wide, staring eyes. Once they got back to the place, she’d have the longest shower she could, clean Tom off her. A giggle escaped her, high and at the edge of hysterical, it lasted only a second before turning into a sob.

Part 2

The Hunters. Short Story.

My weekend was pretty awesome, went out for my friends birthday, drank lots, danced lots, got stuck talking in a Northern Irish accent, ya know, the usual.

Beyond that I didn’t really do much, I’ve been planning out my thesis thingy now and doing some reading. I’m currently going through Feed by Mira Grant, which is really awesome. I found it when I went on a dystopian novel search on Amazon and I had heard some good things about it previously so I decided why not? And I’m pretty glad I did. I’ve almost finished the first book in the trilogy, will definitely be getting the second, hope it’s as good as the first.

On with the show!

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In the distance he could hear the whoops and yelling, the gentle hum of idling engines. He leaned against the tree, breathing deeply and slowly, relieved to finally have a break. He didn’t know how long they had been chasing him, only that it was still dark. It couldn’t have been longer than an hour, but it felt like much longer. He didn’t even know he could run that far, or that fast. He was losing strength fast though, even now his legs trembled, if he sat down he wouldn’t be able to stand again. If he survived, he’d be in serious pain tomorrow. He chuckled between gasps, if he was in pain tomorrow, he’d just be thankful to be feeling anything. The engines were being revved, no doubt they’d continue the chase any second, shit. He needed to get moving again. He pushed himself from the tree and started to walk quickly, no bothering to try and hide the noise of his movement, they wouldn’t be able to hear him over the revving of their engines or their whoops and catcalls. He stumbled, almost falling, damn branches were everywhere, he caught himself against the trunk of another tree and used that to propel himself onwards. He needed to get away from them, as far as possible, but they had their bikes and quads and an almost eerie talent for tracking him. If he was more paranoid he’d think they’d marked him somehow. The noise of an engine grew louder behind him, he took a right and started moving parallel to it, trying to get away, a headlight flooded the area to his left with blinding light before the bike and its passengers disappeared, he turned again and started to move away. There’d be no one to help him out here and if anyone did come across him, well they wouldn’t interfere, it was sink or swim time and he was struggling to merely stay afloat. There were only supposed to hunt him, technically there weren’t allowed to kill him, no that was to come later, but it was rare someone actually returned from a hunt, more often than not there would be an accident, the harpoon went too high or a throwing knife lodged itself into the neck rather than the leg. No one was questioned or punished when this happened, it saved the government time and money, the expensive chemicals for his execution wouldn’t need to be wasted on him.  If he could avoid getting caught, he would be free. In a way he was lucky, if his crime had been more serious he would have no chance of escape. He had heard stories from other prisoners, about how you might find a wall suddenly blocking your path when you were almost free, or a tree would fall down in front of you, giving your pursuers enough time to catch up. Those stories had been around for years, though there was no way to know if they were true, not for him anyway, as soon as they were confirmed it would mean his death and the truth would mean very little then.

He could have been more careful, they both should have but it was his fault they were caught, he had been the one that was followed, not her, not his Sandy. Even now he didn’t blame her for what she did, if she hadn’t said it, she would be right here with him. There had been no way out of it, they had burst into the room while they were together, and she had started to scream. It was then he knew it was all over and there was very little chance of escape. Still, he’d keep running.

They had been meeting for months now, it started off innocuously, they met for drinks and dinner outside of work, as friends, that was always completely fine. The trouble only started when they were selected for breeding together. Participants were usually friends, it made the process easier, but sometimes feelings did develop. They had stopped their inhibitors, as they were supposed to and copulated. Sandy hadn’t gotten pregnant, which wasn’t any big shock, it was happening more and more frequently. They would be given another two tries and if she didn’t fall pregnant by then, well, obviously there was a problem and they would be matched with other partners. Well, Sandy would be matched with another partner. He would be struck from the record until Sandy had her sixteenth unsuccessful try, then the problem would be with her. They both tested positive for sterility, but that meant little these days and no one could quite figure out why.

After their first time, he felt something more, something he didn’t even know was possible and he thought it was just his own feelings. Even on the inhibitor they were there, just slightly under the surface, small enough to ignore and that was what he had done, until Sandy had drunkenly told him of her feelings too. That started the meetings. They both stopped taking the inhibitor too, to fully feel what it was like. He had even found some condoms on the black market, it was difficult and expensive, but he managed it so there was no worry of an accidental pregnancy.

Her defence was simple, he coerced her, forced her to stop taking her pill. He was expendable, she wasn’t. You needed women to carry a child, you only needed men for sperm and there were plenty of men. She was going to get off no matter what, everyone knew it. It was always the way, women were important. It had been fun, when it was happening, but was it worth it? Not that it mattered now of course. He couldn’t quite decide, all through the trial, waiting in jail, he just couldn’t figure out if it was actually worth it or not. Sure, he had moments of joy, but if he had lived longer, he would have had more. If only she’d gotten pregnant when they were trying, they’d have been able to stay together, at least for a few years anyway. After their child reach its fifth year it would be taken from them and they would both be relocated but they would have had time together.

A bike crashed through the trees in front of him, he skidded to a stop and fell, jolting his arm against the ground, pain flared along it, he couldn’t breathe the air driven from him. He groaned and rolled over onto his front and struggled to his feet, he didn’t think they’d seen him. He started to walk again, staggering along. He could hear them all now, so close, so very close. He wouldn’t get away, he couldn’t, there was no escape. He dove to the left he wouldn’t give up. Someone shouted behind him, he turned, light illuminating their grotesque masks, distorted animal faces, a woman’s shrieky laughter filled his ears as the harpoon left her hand. Pain, hot and bright from his midsection, the impact forced him backwards, into a tree.  Breathing was difficult, coming in short gasps, there was so much pain. They got off their bikes and slowly surrounded him, cackling and whooping still, it would be over soon, but first they’d have their fun. As they moved closer around him he finally reached his decision.

The Countdown. Short Story.

My weekend was pretty boring. I finished up the antibiotics on Friday, so I’m hoping it’s done with. My throat is slightly sore, but I’m not sure if I’m just really, really paranoid. I’m hoping I am.

On with the show!

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They ran. There was nothing else they could do.

Hand in hand they dodged people in the crowded streets, ignoring the cries and shouts of indignation, they slipped through side alleys and raced down boulevards. They had to reach the gates, before word spread of her escape, before they sealed the city. If the gate were closed they were both dead. It would be by firing squad if they were lucky, if unlucky, slow and drawn out, they might be made fight to the dead. He squeezed her hand tightly, not wanting to lose his grip. They couldn’t be separated.

They were just ahead, large, imposing doors. The doors were made of some unknown substance they were the purest white, almost glowing in the afternoon sun. They looked heavy, but he knew they could swing closed in a matter of seconds, he had seen it before, when others had tried to run. The gates were still now, the guards looked as though they didn’t much care what was happening. They wouldn’t look twice at the young couple running. It was none of their concern, they’d think they were just a couple running from their parents and eloping, or a couple out for an afternoon of exploring the outside. They made it through the gates and continued on the stone path, running until they could run no more.

“We should get off the path, they’ll follow it when they look for us.” “You’re right, we can slip off, just wait a little longer, until we can’t see the city.” She nodded, they were walking now, trying to blend in with the others. The people here were returning home, to one of the suburbs nearby, they lived close enough that they didn’t need transportation. Three city gates, one for processions, one for automobiles and one for foot traffic. They scanned anything moving through the Auto-gate, keeping records, foot transportation was mostly ignored, though the cameras in the city would trace them to it. The procession gate was always closed, except on coronation days or when important dignitaries came to visit.

Soon they reached the woods, an area four miles wide had been cleared of foliage around the walls, so no one could sneak up on the city. Once they reached the woods they slipped off into the trees, gaining a few disapproving glances from some of the workers. It was a little jarring, stepping from the moving path onto solid ground, he always forgot how fast it moved. They had come almost five miles in fifteen minutes. They  moved quickly, the deeper they were the harder they’d be to track down. “Where are we going to go?” “I don’t know, I hadn’t really thought that far. I didn’t even really think we’d get out of the city.” “We’ll have to get out of the system, once we cross the border we’ll be clear of them. I don’t know much but I could give them information, they’ll let us through.” He nodded, good, that was good. He had some money, but not enough to bribe their way by. “I heard that there are a few houses around here, not much, but they’re mostly left alone. They might be willing to help. They were all marked as potential up risers.” “Won’t they get in trouble?” “The city was planning on moving against them soon. We won’t make it any worse for them.” “Shouldn’t we warn them?” “They won’t believe us and if they do, they’ll just report us in hopes that they’ll be spared.” He sighed, she was right and he knew it, but it still pained him. He didn’t want people to die because of them, but they needed to get out.

They had walked for four hours before stopping. They reached a small village, fifteen houses, a village that didn’t exist on any maps. “We should go in, look for food or shelter.” “No, I don’t like this place. The city would know if it and if they knew, I’d know. They made me study the surrounding area. This is probably a base for them.” They had skirted it carefully, and then rested in a small grove. It was getting darker and she started to shiver. He pulled her against him. “Do…Do you want to talk about it?” She shook her head. “I’m here if you do.” She leaned into him, “I know.” They began to doze.

He didn’t know how much time had passed when she woke him, shaking him frantically. “What’s wrong? Is someone out there?” “No. It’s not it’s started.” “What’s started?” “The countdown.” Tears were streaming down her face. “What? When?” “I don’t know, I woke up at fifteen. I don’t know when it started.” “Shit. Shit what do we do?” “I don’t know. Ten.” “Why didn’t you wake me sooner?” “I thought it might stop I thought that I could stop it somehow. You have to run, you have to get away from me.” “No, I’m not going anywhere. We’ll figure something out. We will.” “Nine.” He smiled and kissed her gently. “Remember when we met?”

They had been nine, in line to get vaccinations and he started to cry. He didn’t like needles, he never liked them. His mother had scolded him, telling him to stop being a baby, but not her, she started to talk to him. Distracting him from what was happening. They talked for an hour and he had forgotten all about the needles. When it was his turn for the vaccination she watched him, smiling encouragingly. He didn’t cry, he stayed strong for her. It was two years before they met again. There had been an outbreak of the Bots, they both caught milder versions. They met in the treatment centre, this time trading contact info. They had been inseparable after that, spending most of their time together. His parents disapproved of it all, told him he shouldn’t be getting involved with one of the Pawns, but her parents had been welcoming to him, treating him as a second child.

They had known it was coming, she had been going to lessons for years and the day she turned 18 she was taken. He couldn’t just leave her, he had heard stories of what would happen to her, from those radical groups. So he decided he’d break her out. It was the only thing he could do.

It had been surprisingly simple, they had walked out of the place, she had gotten a day pass with ease. The entire time he expected to be captured, he never thought they’d get away with it. He had regretted getting mood hair at that point. It kept rippling to light purple, luckily most of the staff were old, they didn’t keep up with the fashion trends, a few that noticed just thought it was because of the guards.

They held onto each other tightly, waiting for it to happen. “two.” She looked at him, fear in her smile, eyes brimming with blood,  one drop began to roll down her cheek. She began to shiver uncontrollably, she coughed a mist of blood which settled onto his face. “One. Thank you for trying.” Tears began to roll down his face, he wasn’t sure if she was still crying or not, the blood made twin tracks on her face. He nodded, unable to speak. He held her tighter. She gasped, “zero.” And their world became white.

The city trembled, his glass tipped and rolled off the table, shattering on the marble tiles. “Right on schedule. Is everyone ready to mobilise?” “Yes your Honour.” “Good. Give it a few moments, then send them out, the communications grid had been taken off line. Kill some citizens. Destroy a few buildings.” His assistant nodded, then left the room. Perfect. It was a brilliant plan, he could now openly attack Free Zone 93, just across the border from them. Everyone would believe the story of the attack, he made sure everything was perfect down to the last detail. The bomb was even one of theirs, it was difficult to smuggle across, but he had managed. The citizens would fight back most of the dead guards that were found would be wearing Free Zone uniforms. He turned on the television and watched the emergency broadcast.

The Body Snatchers. Short Story.

Still sick, though doing better thankfully!

I went into college on Monday, though it took a lot more out of me than I expected it would. Still the class was good and it wasn’t that long, so it wasn’t that bad at least! It was also brought to my attention that there are only a few weeks of classes left. It’s insane! Seems like only a few weeks ago I began the course. Very unnerving. Sure we’re almost into April already.

I’ve been reading through the wheel of time series, I’m about mid-way through book 4 at the moment, it’s pretty good, some very intense bits and I’m enjoying it more than I thought I would. I’m still having a little difficulty remembering characters names though. I think it’s because they are not based on real names, that it has been harder. One of the most annoying aspects of the books is that when a character is introduced, there is sometimes, but no always, a little background information so you can figure out who they are. Not all characters have this and it seems to be only the ones I don’t recognise. It’s done for major characters that have been in all four of the books so far at some point, but not for ones that only popped in for a few chapters and then went off again. At least I’m able to figure it out as I keep reading, either through some more information given or characters reactions to them.

On with the show!

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He stopped at the tree, breathing heavily. He slowed his gasps, he needed to listen, his heart thumped painfully, his lungs begged for more air. A bead of sweat formed and slowly rolled down his face. A gasp, quick and sudden then silence. His lungs continued to ache. There was no sound of pursuit. He started to breathe deeply, allowing the air to fill his lungs. He began to walk, carefully picking his way through the undergrowth. He didn’t think they were following him, but with the body snatchers, it was hard to tell. They were supposed to  be safe, they were camping, these woods were supposed to be safe. They even had permits but the body snatchers didn’t care. They had gotten Steve, while he was walking towards them with his disarming grin, permits held out to prove they were allowed be here, that they couldn’t be taken. They had shot a stun-bullet at Steve, just shot him then and there. He could still Steve shuddering on the ground, screaming. They had ran then. He didn’t know if the others had gotten away. One of them had to get out, if just one escaped, they could contact the police, get the others free. If it wasn’t too late by then. He had no permits with him either, no identification, if any of the patrols found him, he’d have a hard time convincing them he was telling the truth. Still his parents were connected, that should get them moving, even just to debunk his story.

He kept going, there was no other choice. When he had left the others he had heard someone scream, maybe it was Miranda, he wasn’t sure and he didn’t look back. He just kept going. He had abandoned them. He had to. They all had to look out for themselves now. At least for a little while. He had heard stories of the body snatchers, everyone had, but he didn’t know how many of them were true. Police and news outlets tried to diminish the fear that surrounded them. They were perfectly legal after all, but still, they were shady and everyone knew it. They claimed their stock came from a mixture of volunteers and criminals, though few people believed it. Only the naive and wilfully ignorant. Workers, that was the nice way of putting it. Slaves was more accurate. He had seen a few of them, their products. What used to be people, with everything that made them human stripped out. Sure they seemed to have memories and they could answer questions put to them, but they weren’t all there, they’d lost the spark of humanity. He didn’t want that happening to him, and that was if he was lucky. There were rumours, denied of course, that for a fee you could have your consciousness inserted into one of the bodies. New body, new you. There were other stories too, much worse. He couldn’t allow himself to be taken. There was a noise behind him, he started to run again. Hoping it was just an animal. Wild animals were plentiful here, it was a nature reserve and the animals seemed to be doing ok, though this was one of the largest reserves in the world. It used to have cities, until the wars broke out. The cities had chosen the wrong side. It was said that if you went deep enough, you could still find remains of them. It had all happened long before he was born though, history that held little appeal for him.

It had been Steve’s birthday, that’s why they all came out here. He was the one who suggested it too. He had wanted them to experience camping, apparently he had done it with his father when he was a child. They had wanted to go too, it seemed like such a novelty. They should have just gone out to a club somewhere, maybe a brief, weekend vacation somewhere. God damn, when they all got out of this he was gonna kill Steve. They should have known it was a bad idea, even getting the permits had been a giant hassle. A tree to his left exploded, he ducked and kept going. They were behind him, and they weren’t going to let him escape. Whatever they wanted, they didn’t care if he lived or died. Did that mean they had already killed the others?

Cassandra was back there, they were supposed to be wed soon. Arranged marriage, ever since they were children. He still remembered that day, his mother had been so happy that the deal had gone through, it looked as if it might not for a while. It would consolidate their companies, boost their power. That was probably gone now. Maybe it was his father’s enemies, he was an only child, well, the only biological child. None of the others could inherit anything. If he was gone, the company would be divided amongst the board members. His father intended to fill those positions with his adopted siblings, but they were still too young for it now. He didn’t know if there would be time for them to grow up. If he was right, and they were making a move against him, his father would be dead soon, as would his mother. That was the only explanation. Something whirred past his ear, a sudden warmth flooded down his neck, soaking his shirt. There was no pain, not yet, but he knew something had gotten him. He kept going.

Breathing seemed to become more difficult, the world started to spin, tilt, he stumbled, banging against a tree, then tripped and fell, the air driven from his lung. He struggled to get up again, to move, but his body wasn’t responding. There were there, standing above him, smiling. He was caught. He continued to try to move until everything went black.

He slowly drifted in and out of consciousness.

Flashing lights, the dull roar of an engine.

Darkness.

It was cold, so very cold, rain was falling on his face.

Darkness.

Someone yelling, “I told you not to hurt them I-“

Darkness.

Cassandra, lying across from him, blood staining her face.

Darkness.

He came to slowly, his head pounding, he was alone in a cell. It was small, only enough room for him to sit. He stood, using the wall for support. His muscles were sore, his chest burned with each breath. A voice, he looked around, trying to find its source, a speaker above him. He tried to focus on the words. “I’ve watched you now for a few years, and I do not believe you will ever be ready. You’re not responsible enough, you don’t take life seriously, going off on adventures with your friends. It isn’t the proper way to act.” He recognised the voice. It was his father. “So, your mother and I have decided that this will be the best course of action. Unfortunately, we were both killed you see, at least, that is what everyone will think and sole ownership shall fall to you and your new bride. Your mother didn’t want me to do this, but I felt I had to. Really, you forced us into doing this.” There was a slight hissing sound, the air smelled strange, a faint hint of chemicals and everything started to dim.

 

The Stalker. Short Story.

My weekend was pretty good. My sister came across briefly, brought with her the giant dog. I had to sleep in the same room as him, he won’t sleep here if he’s alone, he gets upset and he knows how to open doors, so he’ll just open them all and roam the house.

So I’m getting ready for bed and all of a sudden there’s a giant dog, on my bed. Nope. Nope. Nope. I was told he was too fat to jump that high.

LIES.

So I get him down and get into bed. Whumpf. There’s a dog where there was no dog before. Except he seems to have encountered the jumping difficulty this time, so rather than getting onto the bed, he instead has half his body on the bed and the other half standing. And he stayed like that for about half an hour. Every time I moved my hand away from his head/back he nudged it. I was reading so I didn’t mind too much, I felt pretty guilty when I made him get down, but it wasn’t like he was sleeping on the floor, he had a duvet to sleep on and everything! He settled down once I rolled over to go asleep, he seemed to understand that it was time to sleep, so he got comfortable. Luckily I didn’t wake up with big-ass dog crushing my chest. Though he did pretty much follow me wherever I went while he was still here.

Beyond that I haven’t really done much this weekend. I’ve started reading the Wheel of Time series, which is pretty enjoyable although I had to force myself to read about a fifth of the way through the first book before I could get into it. I found the names very, very confusing at first.

On with the show!

———————————————————————————————————————–

He was walking when he first heard it, that damn shuffle scrape. He had been working late to finish up his project, it was due in the morning and someone had fucked up massively, deleting a weeks’ worth of data. He had gotten it back, though it took him longer than he expected. He had never been in the business section at night and now he knew why everyone advised people to stay away after the workers went home, the streets were completely empty apart from him. He thought he saw someone a few minutes before, but they were too far away to make out properly. Whoever it was they had been walking quickly and he decided he should do the same. He was passing one of the many intersecting streets when he heard it, it was a strange noise, something shuffling, maybe someone dragging something, he paused and looked around himself, searching for the source, it sounded close, but he saw nothing. He shook his head slightly and decided he should keep going. He had another twenty minute walk ahead of himself. It was probably just some lazy janitor, dragging a bag of rubbish behind themselves as they went to the bins. He started to walk again, then pulled out his phone to check the time. There was some food in the fridge, but he wanted something hot, that didn’t need him to cook it. It was just coming up to midnight. The Chinese place would be closed, goddamn, why did it have to be Wednesday? The only night the Chinese closed so early. Damn. Oh well. He could have a cereal before going to bed, it’d be quick and easy and then tomorrow night he’d treat himself to take away.  It was cold and getting colder, he sped up a little, trying to warm himself. He’d have a shower when he got home, just a quick one to take the chill from his bones.

He heard the noise again, the shuffle drag, but he didn’t notice, too wrapped up in his thoughts of a hot shower and some food. He felt better when people started to appear, it was reassuring. There weren’t many at first, only one or two but after a few more blocks there were crowds. They weren’t very thick, but they were still there. He passed by the old shop, abandoned now, but it was always a reassuring marker, it meant he was only a few moments from home.

The apartment was warm at least, there had been a few problems with the heating the last week or so, something that was being looked at, but it didn’t appear as though it would be resolved quickly. He was just thankful that they were going into summer, soon the heating wouldn’t be necessary. He suspected that the boiler needed to be replaced and that management were just too cheap to pay for it all. He was just thankful they couldn’t up the fee. He would be moving out in a year or so anyway, once his contract was up, the placement was only temporary, eleven months then he’d be going back to his old job. He was looking forward to it, but the change had been nice, refreshing. He had more free time here too, there were surprisingly less obligations, it gave him time to relax. He dumped his bag to the side of the door, then started stripping as he moved deeper into the apartment. He’d shower first, then have food. He gathered everything he needed and went to the small bathroom, it wasn’t the greatest bathroom in the world, nor the most stylish, but it got the job done. It was slightly cramped, but it wasn’t too bad, it would be worse if there was two people in the apartment, there wouldn’t be enough space for everyone’s toiletries. He showered quickly, turning the heat of the water up, enjoying it. He felt much better afterwards, more content. He dried himself quickly and dressed in pyjamas. The kitchen was small too, but there was plenty of room for him. He looked through the contents of the fridge, looking for leftovers that he could just throw in the microwave, but there was nothing. He had planned on making a nice dinner, to celebrate the completion of the project, but that wouldn’t be happening now. He sighed then looked through the cupboards, trying to find a cereal. He ate quickly and once done, he rinsed his bowl in the sink before putting it in the dishwasher. As he closed it over, he heard a soft scraping noise, it sounded like something was being dragged across the carpet in the hall. He shook his head, lazy neighbours. Then he went into the bathroom again.

He went to bed straight afterwards and lay in the dark, trying to sleep. Normally he fell asleep quickly, but not tonight, tonight he tossed and turned, unable to get comfortable. When he did finally manage to sleep it was broken, he would wake up for a few moments, turn, then nod off again. Each time convinced he had remained awake the entire time. In what seemed like no time at all his alarm started to blare, he turned it off and forced himself out of bed. He considered staying  where he was a little longer, but that would make his morning routine rushed. He stumbled through his room and into the bathroom, hoping a shower would wake himself up a bit. It didn’t help. He ate breakfast quickly enough, going for cereal again, then he left the apartment, just as the door closed he remembered his bag. Shit. He opened the door, fiddling with the lock, the key didn’t seem to want to go in. Finally he had access, he stepped in and grabbed his bag, then left, again.

The trip to work went by fast enough, the distance didn’t seem so long in the day time, with people all around. The crowds were loud, the traffic rumbled by, but still, underneath it all, was that noise.

His day went exactly to plan, which he hadn’t expected after the rough start. The presentation had gone very well and everything on the project was perfect, he may not have been able to celebrate last night, but tonight he’d make a nice dinner rather than get take away. It was suggested they go out for drinks at the weekend, something he was amenable to, it would be good to go out with his colleagues, they had seemed cold to him, maybe that would change. He thought he heard a strange noise while in the bathroom at work, but he dismissed it, just the tiredness flaring up again, it couldn’t be what he thought it was.

He left work a little early, after all, he deserved it, and walked home in the daylight, with plenty of people around. It was reassuring, he didn’t know why, but he felt better when he wasn’t alone. He got home and changed out of his work clothes, then he started to cook. Steak, with fried onions and mushrooms, along with some beer battered chips. They were oven chips, but they sounded interesting, at least they had in the shop. Soon the entire apartment smelled of the food and he was hungry. He ate his food slowly, enjoying it. When he was done he cleaned everything away, he hadn’t bothered with clearing while he cooked, he felt better when the place was neat. Once it was done, he went to his small bookshelf and picked one out, it had been a long time since had enough free time to read.

It was late when he put the book down, he would have kept reading, but the he was distracted, the pipes had begun to shake and clank, he couldn’t concentrate. He marked his place then put the book away. He’d go to bed, he was up early in the morning after all. He went into the bathroom and started to brush his teeth. He never heard the noise in the hallway.

The door clicked open softly, then gently closed. That shuffle scrape moved slowly across the carpet, towards the bedroom.

He was sleeping heavily, the stress of the project was gone and after the long day, he was out as soon as he lay down. He didn’t hear the noise, nor did he feel the light tugging on the blanket as it dragged itself on top of him. He tried to turn over, but he couldn’t move. Something was weighing him down. He opened his eyes sleepily, not sure where he was. It was there. He opened his mouth to scream, but no sound came out. It grinned at him, then spoke, it’s voice raspy and dry, “thought you’d gotten away did you? There is nothing you can do to escape me.”

He couldn’t move, could barely breathe. He shut his eyes tight, trying to block it all out. It would be a long, long night. He felt it caress him, scaly skin gently moved down his cheek. Its breath on his face, hot, damp and fetid.

Deadly Secrets. Part 25

Part 1, Part 24

Things had gone much faster than Ariadne had expected, it seemed as though there was a hurricane of activity around her while she just stood still. Her parents did most of the work, followed by a few tweaks by Patrick. They had rented her a bungalow, the guy renting it had known Patrick a long time and gave a discount, Patrick vetted the owner and the property, though her parents had viewed it too. She had been relieved and a little worried that it wasn’t an apartment. On one hand, she would have been nervous with all the people around her, but on the other, they would provide some sort of safety and security. The house itself was in a good neighbourhood and fitted with a good alarm system. Within a week she had been moved into the house, Patrick and Diane assuring her she could stay a few more days if she wanted and that they were nearby if she needed. Her parents had assured her of the same. They had spent a night in the house, but she was still nervous being around them. It seemed better to meet them on neutral ground in case they were followed. She didn’t like the way her mother looked at her when she said it, the sad look she was given. Her mother thought she was being paranoid and while Ariadne conceded it could be possible, she much preferred knowing they were safe. She was pleased with the progress though she had little input, it made her feel as though her life was moving on, that she could be normal. She had even gone to the local shops alone and had food delivered to the house. It was still nerve wrecking, but she expected to get more comfortable with it soon enough. She had an appointment with a therapist too, things were getting normalised, and that was good. She already felt better now that she had a place to call her own, it was a little strange, but she much preferred it.; The house was lonely but she no longer felt as though she was intruding on Diane and Patrick.

Patrick was feeling nervous, a car had been following him for a while now, he had noticed it the day before. aAt first he thought that it was most likely the car was just going the same direction as him, to be sure, he went around a roundabout twice. The car pulled off at a turn, but a few minutes later it was behind him again. There was no mistaking it, the colour wasn’t distinctive, but the driver was the same person, a man in his mid thirties. There wasn’t anything distinguishing about him, but Patrick felt as though he had seen the man before, though he wasn’t sure where he had seen him. As he drove he wondered where he had seen the man, trying to think of anywhere he was recently, but his mind kept coming up blank. It was becoming infuriating as he was normally able to place faces easily, but it wasn’t working this time. After a few minutes, he decided to drive in the direction of home and see what happened, a few streets from his house the car turned off, obviously the driver knew where he was going. He was interested in something else. But what? Then it hit him. God he was stupid. Ariadne. When he got home he logged into his computer and after a few minutes googling he found what he was looking for, it was Joseph. Mary’s right hand man. This wasn’t good. They must be searching for her. Damn. He picked up the phone and rang her parents. The conversation wasn’t long, but during it they agreed not to tell Ariadne. Her parents would stay away from her, as would he. He didn’t think they’d be able to track her down through either of them. There was nothing in writing to connect them with the house she was in. The Lambs didn’t have that kind of power and he was thankful for it.

Ariadne wanted to start looking for a job, but the thought of having to interact with so many people was nauseating. She didn’t think she’d be able to work in a shop, it would be too exposed, something where she was out of the public eye would be perfect, maybe an office, but what could she do there? She had never worked in an office before. She had been working in shops, sure she had good experience, hell she was manager of the store when she joined The Lambs, but what good would that be in an office? She didn’t know what kind of work would be expected of her, she could type quickly with few errors, that skill had come back much faster than she had expected, but she didn’t know if she’d be able to handle the tasks they’d set for her. They’d probably go for someone with office experience. Then she’d have to explain the five year gap in her resume and that would probably be enough to deter any potential employers, why would they employ her when she could bring a shit ton of crazy onto their business? Maybe she could lie, say she went travelling, but they’d ask follow up questions. She’d have to think of a convincing lie that wouldn’t allow for too many questions. For now her parents gave her money, enough to survive on, but she wanted to be independent again, she wanted to be able to pay them back. She knew she would, but the sooner she could start, the better.

The house had a bath, it was one of the things she had been happy about. She enjoyed baths, relaxing in the soothing water. She could take her time and use any and all sorts of shampoos and lotions if she so desired. She allowed herself one luxurious bubble bath, but after that she decided she would use the soap sparingly, it wasn’t expensive, but it would be an unnecessary expense that she could cut down on. She was also pleased that she was able to cook for herself, when she left Diane and Patrick they had started cooking again, to Ariadne it seemed as though they got take away a lot. Then again, it had been a long time since she had it. She could understand it, they had been stressed and busy, plus they had her to look after. The meals she made were cheap and filling, she was careful with her money, budgeting as well as possible. Her parents assured her that if she needed something they’d get it for her, but she didn’t want to put that kind of pressure on them. They hadn’t told her, but she knew they were using the dregs of their savings to support her and it wasn’t fair on them. They were getting to the point in their lives where they should be able to relax and enjoy their money, and here she was, stealing that from them. It wasn’t right.

She had been living in the house now for almost a month, she felt comfortable here, she even had a job interview lined up, everything was looking good. She had been to a therapist too, a grand total of twice, but it was a start. It was good talking to someone, she didn’t like the way her mother sometimes winced when she talked about her time in The Lambs. She was really looking forward to the job interview, a friend of Diane’s had gotten her the interview, the interviewer knew about her time in The Lambs, so she wouldn’t have to lie. She was walking slowly, her feet were tired, it had been a long day. She had bought a suit, the first one she had owned since she had given up her possessions. Her mother had helped her pick it out. She hadn’t seen her parents as often as she would have liked and she had only seen Diane and Patrick once she had been settled. She missed them but understood their pulling away. She knew she felt such a strong attachment as they had been the ones to help her in her time of need. It was silly, but she couldn’t help it. Still, she would always be thankful for what they had done for her.

She unlocked the door and stepped inside, she closed the door and went to her bedroom. The house was silent. She was wrapped in her thoughts. She’d have to hang the suit up right away, it might wrinkle. She opened the door to her wardrobe and froze. She didn’t turn off the alarm. Normally it started a high pitched whine as soon as the door opened. She put the suit in the wardrobe and left her bedroom, going straight to the alarm. It seemed fine. She entered the code, feeling better as the alarm set itself. Had she turned it on on her way out? She normally did, but had she today? She was distracted after all, it would be an easy mistake to make. She felt nervous, jittery. She’d check the locks on everything. It was fine, she had probably just forgotten to set it, still, no harm to check. The windows were all closed and locked, that much was obvious, otherwise the alarm would have started going off. That just left the front and back door, the front was fine, she had just come through it, it had been locked and she relocked it behind her, including the deadbolts. She went through the kitchen and to the backdoor. She gave it a slight tug. It moved. Her heart started to beat wildly. She took a breath, calm down, don’t be stupid. When was the last time you used it? She couldn’t remember. Had it been unlocked that long? She turned the lock, feeling better. She looked around the kitchen, nothing seemed out of place, there were no footprints, nothing in the room seemed missing, the place was as clean as she had left it. The alarm started its high pitched whine. She went back and entered the code, then rearmed it. No, no one had been in here, she was the only one who knew the code. She took a breath calming herself. She slipped off her shoes and went to the bedroom to change into pyjamas. As she slid a top over her head, she froze again. The alarm had been off. She took another breath. Stay calm. The phone. She’d ring Patrick, then the police, tell them someone might have broken in, then she’d leave the house. Her hearth was thumping, adrenaline pouring through her system. She had to stay calm, control her fear. There was nothing wrong, she was just being silly. She had to control her fear, it couldn’t control her. She opened her bedroom door stopped. There he was, grinning at her. Joseph. Her breath caught in her throat, she couldn’t move, couldn’t do anything. He shoved her, hard. She fell backwards, landing heavily, the breath being driven from her body. He stepped forward. “Did you think you could get away so easily?” He bent down and grabbed her shoulders, dragging her to her feet, “what do you know?” his fingers dug into her arms, her mind wasn’t working, it had gone blank. He shook her again, then he released one hand and slapped her. Her head rocked backwards, dazed, her cheek turning an angry red. “I asked you a fucking question.” His hand drew back again, she flinched. “Good. You know the score. Answer my questions and I’ll go on my way. Ok?” She felt herself nodding. “I’m sorry I had to hit you. We’ll go into the sitting room, have a nice little chat.” He dragged her out of the room.

He sat her down on the couch in the sitting room, he was gentle, more so than she expected. He sat on the coffee table. “Ok. So I’m going to ask you again. What do you know?” “What do you mean?” she had to get out, he’d kill her, she knew it, there was no other reason he’d be here. It had happened to the others, now it was going to happen to her, she had to get away, get out. He sighed. “Ok. Let’s start easy. Why did you leave?” She took a deep breath, as though preparing to speak. Her hand gripped something hard, she didn’t know what it was. “Well-” she swung her arm, fast, too fast for him to react, it smashed into the side of her head, shattering, as she swung she stood, then bolted. She dropped the remains of the remote and ran. The door. She ran from the room, turning right. Shit. Wrong way. Fuck fuck fuck. The backdoor, of course, the lock was easier. She heard him in the sitting room, screaming at her, his footsteps. He was coming. Shit shit shit. She reached the door, her fingers trembling, she twisted the key violently, it unlocked, she pulled, nothing. Fuck. She pulled again, he was getting closer. She started crying, tears streaming down her face, she was going to die here, oh god. She was going to die. She pulled again, using as much strength as she could muster. Pain, bright in her fingers. She felt something warm on her hand, she looked down, blood, blood everywhere. Then she saw it. The plastic handle, it had cut her. Her fingers scrabbled at it, it was already slick with blood, it moved down, he was behind her, she pulled again, the door sliding easily along the track, behind her the alarm started its whine. The air was cold, shocking. She ran. She heard him curse, then she could hear him, running too, behind her.

She didn’t remember hopping the wall, she had cleared it in one leap, cutting her palm on the wall as she used it as a pivot. She didn’t remember running, she didn’t remember if he chased her. When she finally slowed her lungs were burning, she leaned over and threw up, retching again and again until there was nothing left and her stomach was cramping. Slowly her breathing returned to normal, she was shaking, her legs barely able to support her, her feet were sore and bloody. She was still crying. They had found her, they had really found her. She could never get away. Never. She looked around, trying to figure out where she was. Nothing. She started to walk, limping. She needed to get help. She didn’t know how she had lost him or where. The thought sent a surge of adrenaline through her system. She looked around nervously and tried to decide what to do. Her hand started throbbing, the blood had dried on it. The cut on both hands seemed to have scabbed over. After a while she saw a taxi and hailed it with her good arm. She knew what she was going to say, as soon as she sat in, the guy gawped at her. “The fuck happened to you lady?” he didn’t notice she wasn’t wearing shoes, it was too dark outside for him to have noticed. It didn’t take her long to tell him her story. She had been staying at her boyfriends. He was abusive and she had run. She didn’t have a phone or anything. She gave him the address and sat back as he began to drive. He spent the entire ride giving out to her, telling her she was stupid to stay, that her boyfriend would kill her if she wasn’t careful. She didn’t care, it was warm and she could sit. Her feet were still bleeding slightly, she felt bad about that. She hated herself for giving him Patrick’s address, she didn’t know where else to go, it was safe there. She’d ring her parents when she arrived, warn them it wasn’t safe. She put her head in her hands, she was so tired now. She wouldn’t cry. She couldn’t. She needed to be strong.