A Story of a Small Vampire, cont from Bar Brawl

Continuation of Bar Brawl by a reader of the original fiction. Check out their profile for more awesome things!

Alarura's Blog

EDIT: Adding a link here to the original Fiction that inspired this piece which is worth the few minutes it takes to read, although as a pre-warning the pieces are written in two different styles.

https://alexigrainewade.wordpress.com/2015/01/07/bar-brawl/

“Sloppy.”

Silky tones of an olive skin woman came from the darkness of a nearby ally, she stepped deliberately out on the pavement, high heels clipping against the floor loudly. She wore a pencil skirt with matching blazer and a loose fitting blouse underneath. Her eyes were darkened even against her tan skin with heavy black eyeliner; her hair tied loosely into a ponytail with a single curl falling over her face.

Fear coursed through Mary’s body as she stood like a deer in the headlights, daughter soaked head to toe in the blood of a man twitching his last movements on the floor in front of her. Her bain stalled as this new…

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Bar Brawl

I sit with my head in my hands at the bar. The hard wood under my elbows has made the length of my arms go numb; I can feel my own pulse in my temples, thwump, thwump, thwump. I’m getting a headache.

The place is disgusting, I’ve flicked at least half a dozen dodgy looking crumbs off the wood work in front of me, the glass that held my double, straight whisky is murky around the edges, like a fine mist crept across the cold glass.

My daughter sits on the floor next to my bar stool, playing with something in the dirt and drinking something red from her sippy cup. She’s a little too big for it now at six but it saves time and effort and it’s the only thing that seems to placate her these days. She’s not dealing very well with the changes I’ve been making recently.

Maybe it seems odd to you, bringing a child to a dive like this, and believe me, it’s a dive, but I have all these parenting duty things that I need to do. I also need a drink, a good stiff drink that’ll clear my head. Then I can go home and focus on all the things I need to get done. I can’t seem to think straight these days.

The cheap lino that covers the bar is peeling away, bubbling like some great, ulcerating blister where something wet has got under its skin. My long nails chip away at it, bursting its edges and peeling away the rotting flesh; it’s satisfying, like opening a wound that never healed. Something black and sticky lingers underneath it, it reminds me, prods me into a darker corner of my mind that I’ve been trying very, very hard to avoid. Funny how the most mundane of things do that to you isn’t it?

I’ve been waiting what seems like a life time for this little bit of peace and quiet, so when this large, sweating lump of a man heaves himself down onto the stool next to me the anger begins to spark in the pit of my stomach, like two whet stones clanging together down there in the darkness. I wish you’d just fuck off.

I brace myself for what I know will be a dazzling opening line, a “hey-there-good-looking” dash away from cheesy that I am longing to avoid. He drops a giant, bear like hand onto the bar, demanding the bar tender’s attention. It’s hairy, almost black and his fingers are chipped, chapped and dingy looking. Small black particles of dust cling the under slide of the flaps of skin like little lodgers. It makes my skin crawl.

“I’ll take another beer Dom, and whatever the lady’s havin'” He slurs ever so slightly, the hint of a man used to heavy drinking. The years, tell on his voice and I don’t even have to look at him to know he’s a full blown, alcoholic fuck up.

“I’m not having anything, thanks.” I mutter into my empty glass, rolling the last drop around, wondering what would happen if I smashed it over his obviously meaty head. Fuck off, fuck off, fuck off.

“Double vodka, straight.” The man says and I feel that anger burning up, wracking up the heat. Asshole.

“I said I didn’t want anything.” I said a little louder, sounding tetchy and strained even to my own ears.

“Just trying to help a lady out. You look like you need one. Are you really going to say no?” He waves the fresh glass of clear liquid under my nose. The smell hits me like a freight train running at a hundred miles an hour; something black is floating in it. I can see the sweat from his fingers bunching on the slippery surface.

Finally, I turn to face him. His grin is lopsided, the half slide of a drunk. He stinks of course, his red checkered shirt flecked with paint and dirt; a labouring man. I mop of brown hair fell in a slap dash fashion across his pudding face. The slight flush of red in his checks broken up by flecks of a dark, peppery beard. The round swell of his face was a little too close to mine, too intrusive, his green watery eyes gazing intently at me out of all that pink.

“Look, I don’t want it ok? I’m just trying to have a quiet drink in peace.” I hissed under my breath. This dumb fuck will get himself killed if he doesn’t make himself disappear.

“Hey. What’s your problem, huh? Can’t a man get a little respect these days!” He was shouting now, raising his rolling, slurring voice over the sound of the other drunks stumbling over themselves for their next drink. It fell quiet; the karaoke machine still played It’s a Long Way to Tipperary on an endless, grating loop. It’s a long way to Tipperary, it’s a long way to go! That woman has a voice that makes me want to silence her, permanently.

“If you know what’s good for you, you’ll get out of my face.” I snarled, turning my whole body to face him now. He’s shaking a little, with rage or alcohol I’m not sure but he’s definitely unsteady. He’s about to unleash an ungodly verbal tirade when something tugs on my trouser leg, urgent and demanding.

“Mummy, I’m hungry.” My daughter stares up at me with wide, saucer eyes. Their icy, blue depth looking curiously up at me, my trouser leg still clutched in her vice like grip. Her sippy cup hangs from her; red stains the collar of the white dress that she’s wearing. Her brown hair is matted but it still shines in the half light of the bar. The man looks down at her and wrinkles his nose a little at her dishevelled appearance but dismisses her almost as quickly as he acknowledged her existence.

“Your mum’s busy kid.” He shuffles himself closer and I feel a little of his spit land on my cheek. I want to scrap it off and take half my skin with it but I make myself stare him down, refusing to be the first one to crack.

“Mummy. I’m hungry!” She tries again, yanking my leg off the stool. She’s welling up now, great, fat tears forming in her tiny eyes. I shove the man back as I stand up. Luckily for me he’s too drunk to maintain his balance and he falls backwards just enough for me to slink past, grabbing my girl’s hand and I haul her kicking and screaming out the front door.

“HUNGRY. HUNGRY!” God not now, not now.

We hurry around the corner of the bar, down a side alley. The darkness presses in on us, it’s thick and intense, suffocating. The only light reflecting from my daughter’s bright, angry eyes.

I can hear another, stumbling pair of feet pounding after me and I know it’s him. I quicken my steps but it’s too late. A great barrelling force almost knocks me off my feet as he strides towards me, too drunk to stop properly and grabs my right arm in a tight grip.

“Where the fuck do you think you’re going?” he’s practically forcing his mouth into the side of my face, swaying and angry. I’m pulling and tugging, wriggling and squirming to get away. I swear and curse at this huge, unmovable mass; the little girl in my arms doesn’t move. She’s hissing, quietly, but with a force of anger behind it that I’ve come to recognise. Another second passes before the man hears it too.

He pulls away from me, loosening his grip a little. It takes him a second to focus his eyes on her; the small, hissing bundles in my arms, squirming now to get at him like a giant ball of hungry snakes.

“What the fuck?” He mumbles, reaching up to rub his eyes with his free hand. It never reaches its destination.

Before I can stop her, not that I really want to, she’s gone, leaps from my arms and she’s clinging to him. Her head buries itself into his podgy neck, her sharp teeth hitting the mark and red spraying out across the floor and the walls. He wriggles, squeaking like a little pig before he falls to the ground, gripping her around the middle trying to rip her away from him. She’s so strong now.

I watch. I’m used to this kind of thing now, but it still makes me sick. It’s the smell more than anything, the smell and the guilt; maybe a little fear. As I watch the life ebb away from him I wonder, how long will it be before she turns on me, before I become that twitching mass upon the floor, leaking away into the ground.

When he finally gives up the ghost, she stands up, unsteady on her little legs and wipes a big smear of blood clumsily off her vampire lips. I don’t move to pick her up or touch her. It’s like this now, cold and unnerving. She’s smiling, THAT smile. So much for having a good first day in our new town.

“My dress is all red Mummy.” She says cheerily, coming up to take my hand. I can feel the man’s blood squealing under our interlocking fingers. That’s going to need one hell of a dry clean.

Raven’s Theoretical Construct of Potato Relaxation

A little something to ponder.

Alarura's Blog

Alarura looked down at Raven; her black pony tail shining in the brilliant daylight, breeze fondling it softly around her neck.

“Why are you peeling potatoes?”

Raven looked round calmly making eye contact with Alarura’s knees, before looking up to her face “Pardon?”

“You’re peeling potatoes, isn’t that the crews job?”

Raven smiled. “I like it”

Alarura gave her a confused look.

“What’d you mean you enjoy peeling potatoes?”

“Here” Raven passed her a knife and an unpeeled potato, she then raised her hand in front if her. A globe of water floated up from the bowl next to her, and stopped in the air just above the ground in front of Alarura. Raven’s eyes beginning to glow blue with that tell tale sign of magic.

Alarura looked skeptical but sat and took the two objects.

“You see” Raven began “a potato is simple.”

Alarura held the knife cack-handed and seemed not…

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Walking with Demons – Ghosts

I’m not a good man. I’ve never been very good at pretending to be anything else either so it came a huge surprise to everyone when I met and eventually married Amaterasu. Being the director of a large, inner city company that specialised in corporate business areas it was important that I practiced my cut throat edge.

I was so good at it. I lashed out and patronised and frightened people until I had what I wanted from each and every one. My job was my life. Before too long though it became obvious that my dark nature was over spilling into other aspects of my life. Never before in my life had I been violent, until I suddenly had a wife and small child to come home too.

That nag, nag, nagging really got under my skin. The thought of opening the front door after a long day of bitching at people to be greeted with a  surly expression, a screaming child and a list of endless jobs that still needed completing was too much to bare.

I became distant. I barely ever went home, I worked late; I even began an affair with one of the temps in on the floor below mine. A sweet, quiet girl, no strings attached sex on tap and little peace from the never ending riot that went on at home.

It was all a little too perfect, everything was sweet for me, I felt as though I’d lost twenty years of stress, hard work and responsibilities. It all began to unravel when Amaterasu found out about the other woman.  She screamed and cried and created such a riot that I just had to leave the house. The bar across the street was more home now than that cold, wretched box that I’d paid a small fortune for.

I don’t mind telling you I was plastered by the time I stumbled back across the road at one am. A stomach full of Sake had done little to alleviate my terrible mood. I fumbled with the keys, wrenching them this way and that in the lock until, finally one of them clicked.

The door swung open to capture Amaterasu in it’s black painted frame. Her skinny arms were folded across her pointlessly small chest. I’d always secretly hoped she might get some work done after the birth of our son but she’d never seemed bothered about her appearance. She’d gotten fat, she’d gotten lazy and demanding, she was everything I hated all rolled up in one great huge ball of woman.

As she began to screech, I don’t even really remember what she was saying, the urge to reach out and silence her started to itch at the back of my mind.  In my head I could see my long fingers reaching around that soft flesh of her neck, the part that’s just above the collar bone. The squeezing felt so therapeutic, the release of so much anger and bitterness with a little shaking and pattering of feet and the endless screeching would stop. I’d be free.

I don’t know when I acted on my impulses; all I remember is takin the body to some remote place and hiding it as best I could.

For two years no one has really questioned Amarterasu’s disappearance. Her family was destitute, desolate and poor health was a constant problem, a fact they had gleefully hidden from me until after the marriage had taken place. She’d had minimal contact with them by her own choice so no one thought it odd when she didn’t call or visit. My parents asked on the few occasions they stopped by where she was, I made the relevant excuses; shopping, out seeing friends, on a course, the usual things you’d tell people after you’d murdered your spouse. She had no job, no bills, friends were few and far between and it was easy enough to fake a correspondence with them. It was all too easy to just cover it up.

The only person who did notice was my son. She had been the only contact the boy had had and he missed her presence almost immediately. Even when he watched me bundle her lifeless body into the boot of the car he looked for her everywhere. I feel for him, he is the only thing in my life that I truly love and to loose him would tear me apart.

Things ticked along as normal, days were the same, routines were established, I didn’t have a care in the world. The girl I’d been seeing became my new partner and before long she moved into the house I’d shared with Amaterasu.

I only started to notice the odd things that were happening around the house when my girlfriend pointed them out. The usual “supernatural” stuff would occur, vanishing keys, some banging noises in the night, someone walking over your grave. It was never anything that really bothered me and I chalked it up to an overactive imagination and the age of the house. Before long things gravitated to a point I could no longer ignore.

My partner pointed it out first. “Do you smell that?” She asked one afternoon about a month or so back. At first I didn’t notice anything but as I walked towards her I was hit with the stench of a perfume, sickly and strong.

“Jesus, what did you do? Shower in the stuff?” I asked, clamping a hand over my face.

“It’s not me! I’ve not put anything on today and even if I had, that’s not mine.” Her eyes had narrowed in suspicion.

Taking my hand away from my face apprehensively I sniffed the air cautiously. It was definitely perfume. It was familiar, like the calling of a memory that tugged on my mind; I couldn’t place it.

“You’ve not had someone else in here have you?” She asked me suspiciously, sniffing at my collar.

“No. I’m not stupid enough to bring another woman back here. I never brought you here when Amaterasu was still around, did I?” I saw the hurt flare up in her eyes at the mention of my wife. Her name, the perfume smell; they ground into my mind as the cogs began to whir. It was hers, the perfume; it was Amaterasu’s.

Turning away from the scene of confusion in the living room I stalked into the bathroom and clapped the door closed behind me, locking it with the hook. I dove into one of the little wicker boxes that still held the few beauty products my life had owned and fished out the one perfume bottle that lingered in a bottom corner. Spraying a little into the cap I took a lungful. It was the same stuff, without a shadow of a doubt. I was a little spooked, but I wouldn’t say I was scared, not then, not until a scream echoed through the house at a blood curdling pitched.

I came tearing out the bathroom, panting and still holding the perfume bottle in my hand. I promptly dropped it as I took in what greeted me. My girlfriend stood at the entrance to the kitchen, clutching the doorframe with both hands. Every picture of my wife, the ones I kept up for our son, to show to the relatives and friends who occasionally visited had moved. They sat on the coffee table, the shelves, even the floor closest to the kitchen. Amaterasu’s face stared out intent in every smile, each one now a sinister grin. The smell of her perfume began to waft back through the house as her many eyes stared intently at my girlfriend.

The Littlest Vampire’s Birthday Surprise

The Littlest Vampire was very excited. Tonight he would get to ride his very first steam train. The trains had never run at night before and he was so very keen to see the black pluming smoke and feel the prickling of dust in his eyes.

He stood on the moonlit platform, shrouded in his little black cape and with his father’s best top hat sitting atop his tiny head. The brim fell over his eager and bright eyes, obscuring his view of the star speckled sky.

The silence fell in droves around him as he waited for the train to arrive; excitement carving its way through his stomach like a sink hole. He glanced from left to right, hoping to catch a glimpse of its sparkling headlight in the distance, but something else caught his eye.

A dark figure sat upon the hard metal bench that loomed up out of the darkness a few feet away. Tall and imposing, the person made The Littlest Vampire uncomfortable. The shadow turned its head to face him, its bright eyes reflecting in the half light of the moon.

It was a man, tall and thin sporting a mess of facial hair and long red locks that reached his shoulder blades. The suit he wore gave him an air of sophistication and importance that the little vampire envied. The man grinned across the platform at him.

“I like trains.” He said, filling the silence with his deep and mellow voice.

The Littlest Vampire crept forward, taking tentative and slow steps on his chubby little feet.

“Today’s my birthday you know.” The man mused. “I’m travelling to find myself a top hat. My old one is all battered and bruised now so I thought I’d treat myself to a new one.”

The vampire crept so close he could rest his nose upon the arm of the seat, his wide saucer eyes gazing up at the man who stared out into the blackness and he wondered about him idly.

His little face lit up in the darkness, suddenly illuminated with the light of the on-coming train. Excitedly he bounded forward, his cape flapping behind him in the breeze.

The man stood, his hands stuffed into the pockets of his great, long trench coat. He moved not a muscle as the little vampire danced and whirled silently around him. The steam and smoke billowed up as the great, black engine roared into the station.

The Littlest Vampire gaped at the locomotive, open mouthed and awe struck, taking in its huge size. The man had stepped up into the train and now stood there in the doorway, a small smile playing on his lips as he watched the tiny creature become consumed with happiness.

Holding out a hand the man helped the little vampire scramble up into the carriage.

“Welcome to the Orient Express.” He gestured about him to the finery that the carriage played host to.

The vampire gasped with joy and wonder and twirled happily around in erratic circles; trying to drink in every last drop of splendor. The man had settled himself into a seat at the back of the dining cart; a cup of sherbet lemon tea in one hand and a saucer in the other. The little vampire peered around the door frame of the neighboringcarriage, a silent plea in his black eyes.

The man peered at him over the rim of his china cup, his reading glasses slightly fogged from the steam that rose in little clouds from the sweet liquid. Placing the cup and saucer on the table he patted the seat next to him. The tiny vampire let out a small squeak of delight before running full pelt up the doorframe, across the ceiling and down the back wall of the carriage to do a tiny summersault into the seat next to the man.

The giant poured a little lemon tea into his saucer and slid it across the table to the vampire, who chugged it down greedily, little drops of tea sliding down his chin. His happiness filled him like a warm, fuzzy glow of sunlight, pouring into his soul.

The man huffed in frustration as he attempted to fill in his crossword, his wooden pen with the gilded name “Luke” sprawled across it in golden lettering.

The little vampire was thoughtful. The man had been so kind to him he wanted to give him a present, it was his birthday after all, but what could he give his giant? He took off his top hat to scratch at his head as he pondered the question.

It suddenly came to him, a flash of inspiration. Turning to face the man he pulled his feet up underneath him and sat upon his haunches with an eager face. He held out his top hat, stretching across the small space between them to put it into the man’s upturned hands.

The Littlest Vampire grinned from ear to pointed ear as the man raised one eyebrow at him in surprise.

“Happy birthday Mr Luke!” The small vampire squeaked in delight. The man smiled as he let the little vampire place the hat atop his head. His look was now complete.

The Little Vampire who went to the Beach

The Littlest Vampire Sketch by  Alarura https://alarura.wordpress.com/

The Littlest Vampire Sketch by Alarura https://alarura.wordpress.com/

The littlest vampire had always loved the sea. The moon shone in dappled freckles across its shifting surface; reflecting back a light from the sun that he could no longer see. Something about the beckoning call of the crashing waves seeped into his soul and pulled at his heart strings. The littlest Vampire was lonely. Normal children did not suffer the blood lust, they could play in the sun without the itchy scratch of imminent disintegration. They still had parents, the littlest vampire had eaten his a long time ago. Darkness was his only friend now. When the clock struck midnight every evening he would creep excitedly through the streets of the nearby village, skulking in doorways and under bridges until he reached the white shore. His little bucket clunked against his leg, the hollow plastic sound penetrating the silence. Under the soft moon light he sculpted sand castles, chased crabs along the sand, struck with his supernatural reflexes at the fish that swam underneath his feet. In sudden fits of elation he bounded, jumped and twirled across the beach, kicking large clumps of sand up with his clumsy feet as he went. Tottering slightly he span around and around in a moon beam, reaching out his chubby little fingers to the sky to grasp as the moths that danced in the light. A large purple specimen floated down ethereally to land on his outstretched index finger. It flapped its huge wings, tickling the Littlest Vampire’s hand. He wondered what it would be like to fly, the soar away into the night like the bats that hung upside down in his cave. He’d tried to fly once and give himself a headache with the effort and crashed into a trailing wall of ivy that dripped over the local haunted house. The butterfly took off suddenly, its juddering movements flicking his colour through the air. The Littlest Vampire chased him, his feet pounding across the sand. One foot got caught in the other and he stumbled, flying through the air, arms outstretched. He landed with a thump on the soft ground, his face buried in the sand. Spluttering he propped himself up on his elbows to rub the dirt from his eyes. Two little feet stood in front of him, slightly turned inwards with chipped pink nail varnish over spilling onto the skin of the toes. The Littlest Vampire raised his head slowly, if he had any blood left in his undead body he would have blushed. A little girl stood before him, dressed in a white frilly nighty. The hem was dirty and a little wet from walking through the surf, her black ringletted hair coiled like Medusa’s around her, framing her startling green eyes in her pale face. In her hands, she grasped a bucket and spade. The Littlest Vampire looked at her, suddenly afraid; he’d heard stories of pitch forks and bonfires. What if this little human tattled on him? Humans were mean creatures and the Littlest Vampire was scared of their fear. The girl slowly reached down to put her bucket on the floor and stood inspecting him with an understanding look. She tilted her head a little to one side and smiled, a bright, brilliant white smile that showed off her young vampire fangs. The Littlest Vampire smiled too, suddenly filled with elation. She reached out a small hand, slightly blue and veined, he could see the dried blood underneath her finger nails. Reaching up he clasped her little fingers with his and allowed himself to be pulled upright. The Littlest Vampire and his new companion gazed at each with a look that only the creatures of the damned understand. Picking up their respective buckets they walked away hand in hand across the beach, off into the moonlight.

Shadows

Gray’s shoes resonated along the long, dark corridor like the rapping of impatient fingers upon a wooden desk. The smart, rapid click of his highly polished shoes gave off the demeanour of a man in a hurry. The dawn was just beginning to think about peaking over the horizon and the sky was tea stained with a smart pink that hinted at the bright day to come. To anyone watching him from the shadows they wouldn’t have seen anything out of the ordinary, simply a man clothed in a black trench coat stretching to his highly polished formal shoes. One lace flapped idly in the breeze that scuttled over the bare floorboards, barely catching the attention of its impatient owner. The shoulder length black hair curled lightly around Gray’s shoulders framing the pale face that was barely visible in the shroud of his upturned collar.

The door to Gray’s bedroom slid open as silently as a breath of wind. Throwing off his trench coat and prying off the tight shoes, he gazed around the room with keen eyes. At first glance there was nothing irregular about the place; from the dark, oak desk littered with papers and financial documents to the strong backed arm chair that stood proud next to the large fireplace on the southern wall. The only startling thing about the place was the lack of light, even at this late hour the vague waxy shine of the waning moon light should have been creeping through the slits in the curtains that remained hurriedly pulled to did not penetrate the thick darkness. He shifted his presence over to the window and took one last longing look at the rising dawn before dragging the curtains together to completely envelope the room in darkness. He reached up and using the index finger of his right hand gently wiped away the winding tendril of blood seeping from the corner of his mouth before lifting the lid of his coffin, the satin as inviting as the softest pillows. Lowering himself in the vampire closed up the lid and settled down for the day.

The footsteps of someone approaching the heavy door of his bedroom could only have been heard by his keen vampire ears. The sound of padded feet crept their way up the winding staircase of the stately English home. Shifting his position in the chair he’d moved himself into Gray hurried his face into the deep shadows cast on his left hand side as the door gently swung open a crack on the hinges. The light from an oil lamp spilled into the room, creeping its way around the doorframe and pooled around a delicate pair of bare feet that appeared in the doorway. The petite toes stopped short of the carpet, tentatively bending over the wooden instep that separated Gray’s inner sanctum from the outside world. A small, brunette head peaked around the doorframe, nervousness showing through the haze of fascination in her eyes. Amelia; young, sweet, fresh and pulsing with a life so strong it made his heart pound with longing to drain it from her.

As she stood in the doorway; her hair coiling around her pale pink cheeks and a dusting of the ends falling prettily on her chest; he praised himself for his impeccable choice. A desperate silence fell upon the room as the pair took in each other, unsure of the first move that should be made; Gray, nonchalant in his uncaring fashion and Amelia, mindful of his difficult moods and brooding stupors. The silence dominated and all but swallowed them until one dared to break it.

“You required my company Master Gray?” The vampire sat forwards, his elbows now resting, poised on his knees; his flawless white complexion falling into the light available for his scrutiny. Her sharp intake of breath was the only indication she had seen the vampire light in his steady eyes. He shouldn’t really have asked her here, she was too lovely to be playing his usual games of cat and mouse with, but it was that beauty in the face of his unnatural evil that drew him to her. Still he said nothing as he beckoned her into the room with one long, pale finger that curled enticingly with each new gesture. From the moment her delicate feet touched the carpet she was destined to die.

The Empire’s Line

The constant clatter of distant gunfire was almost too much to bear. A thick, choking smoke filled the trench and surrounded Edward as he pushed his face into the dirt, hands clamped over his ears to gag the din. He was out of ammunition and allies, the dead all over the ridge of the trenches; laid low in cold and sodden earth. For two months he had lived in the dirt of Trench Twenty-Six and now he cowered there, too afraid to see what was thudding towards him out of the darkness. He wished he had never signed up to the defense movement; he had never expected to die, not really, he had come to kill Cogs not be killed but now there was no way any of them were getting out of here alive. He started as a heavy thud landed next to him, splattering his already plastered uniform with fresh flecks of mud.

“Watcha, taking a little nap are we?” The man was familiar, vast, bulky and tall. His sergeant’s stripes only just visible under the muck. Pulling out a small, copper box he offered Edward a cigarette. Shrugging when he shook his head he lit his own and took a long calming drag.

“Bloody Cogs, they’ve taken half of the East Lands already and their fast marching on the Southern border. I happened to overhear that we’re one of the last fortifications between them and the South Tower.” He snorted a little and coughed on his cigarette. “Some defense this turned out to be.”

Still Edward said nothing, choosing instead to gaze up at the steel grey sky. Skysliders powered through the smog, their engines rattling with the effort of staying above ground. Great wings slicing through the clouds to reveal a hint of sunlight beneath. For a moment Edward felt a stray ray of daylight upon his face before the gap closed and the cold air settled in again, stealing the warmth from his skin.

“Where have you been Bram?” It had been a number of weeks since he had been separated from his superior. The lines between trench Twenty – Six and Twenty – Four had been blurred by the detonation of a planted mine, a showering of mud and sandbags collapsing in the intricate networks.

A sudden abrupt thudding reached both their ears, cutting the conversation short and making both men leap to their feet in shock. The very ground beneath them shook violently making them stagger and slide on the uneven surface, as if the world itself quaked with the force. The sergeant grabbed Edward’s arm as he nearly toppled backward over a dead man’s leg. Still holding tight to him, he popped his head over the edge of the trench and Edward saw the colour drain from the sergeant’s face.

“What, what is it?” Edward wailed, the distortion of fear shaking in his voice. No one hid their terror anymore. War was the great leveller.

His eyes grew wide as Bram slid back on his arse with a heavy sigh. Unable to hold himself back Edward hoisted himself just far enough over the ridge to glimpse a long line of androids marring the horizon. A military bike chugging black smoke came roaring up from the rear and the leader leapt off the back with a flourish. His long trench coat gleamed with a sheen of water from the previous hours of rain. His bronze occulace roved over the battlefield, winking in the little light that was left.

A sharp tug on his boot made him loose his grip, causing him to slide back into the trench. He turned an angry face on the sergeant, who met him with an equally foul gaze.

“Are you trying to get yourself bloody killed? Why not just run out into the Deadlands and get yourself shot now if you’re going to be so damn stupid? You’ll give our position away and I have no intention of dying for your blunder!” Edward scowled and turned his face away, it would do him no good to argue with a superior, he might need his help later on.

The sergeant fumbled with his Lee Enfield rifle, roughly tearing the scope out of its bracket and cautiously leaning up over the trench to use it as a telescope. After a few minutes silence he took his eye from the horizon and sat back down, fixing the scope back into place.

“What I wouldn’t give to see Tetra again.” Edward sighed, casting a shaking look over at his comrade. The whistle of the odd shell dropping a few miles off pierced the void in their conversation.

“On the South Border? I wouldn’t hold out much hope of that my friend.” Bram remarked without looking up from the task in hand.

“My family.” He whispered to himself, he couldn’t even remember their faces; all of them blurring together to create a void peppered by old memories.

“That doesn’t matter.” Bram’s keen hearing just picking out the sadness in Edward’s voice over the screeching of their oncoming death. “What matters right now is that we have about ten thousand cogs on our backs just riding the ridge. I estimate there are about three thousand directly behind with the rest fanning out towards the west. The one in the front, with the coat, that’s General Hicks, so named after the great Doctor. I assume you’ve heard of him.”

Edward grimaced to himself. Everyone had heard of Doctor Hicks, the orchestrator of the two year war that everyone could only just remember. Hidden away in the big house on the Palace Hills he had created the first android, an all functioning killing machine with cognitive thought, reasoning and independently powered. Rouge artificial intelligence had raged through the race making them more than copper and cogs. They were exceptionally hard to kill, their metal skins near impenetrable, and in all of the years they had existed only three had ever been recorded to have been dispatched. The machines had wanted more for themselves, more freedom and power. His father had died in the first war, trying to hold back the steady flow of malicious metal, and now he would die in this one. Revenge had brought him to his knees in this hell and yet he had killed no cogs, sated no grief. His revenge was worthless and unearned. He balled his fists against the tirade of bitter anger and despondence.

“So he’s …”

“That’s right, The First Creation.”

A dull sounding blast fired off somewhere behind them, throwing up large chunks of earth and rock, showering down upon their unprotected heads. A man screamed somewhere in the chaos, and the gunfire increased its muster. A sudden queasy feeling hit Edward in the stomach like a fist and refused to budge, it was all he could do to prevent the nerves from getting on top of him.

“How ready are you to die for the North Lands?” Bram asked, fixing him with a deep stare that sought out the lie in his eyes.

“I’m always ready to do whatever it takes to keep the Lands safe,” he replied with practiced ease.

“Very good.” Bram didn’t question him, if Edward wanted to buy into all that ceremonial bull shit that was his decision. He wasn’t going to die by someone else’s code. He would die on the edge of battle shrouded in glory and honour and live forever, becoming the sung hero of the Floating Earths.

“Right then, let’s get on with it. No time like the present.” Springing up Bram loaded up his rifle and extended a hand down to Edward, who took it albeit shakily.

“I’ve got no more ammunition.” Bram nodded and crammed a small pack of spare bullets into his hand and cocked his own weapon. Quickly stuffing a bullet into the chamber, Edward scrambled to his feet, his heart in his mouth and yet still pounding painfully in his chest. Sneaking a look he could just make out the first cogs pouring over the edge of the hills like hot oil. Without a seconds hesitation Bram vaulted over the top of the trench screaming every curse word that came to mind. His mind hurtling at a thousand miles an hour Edward hauled himself up into the battlefield a great deal more clumsily than the sergeant. The mud and pools of water clung to his feet like angry hands. Stumbling, falling and dragging himself through the chaos Edward let off his first round with his body pressed into the ground.

The chaos raged around him as sparks flew as metal ricocheted off metal. All around him pistons, nuts and bolts littered the floor but there were no bodies of the cogs, just his own friends. The blood pooling, the copper gleaming with the slick red, mingling with the metal in death. He heard the crunching of metal feet over the barren ground before the flat of a foot powered into his back pinning him with super human strength against the sludge. Rasping his breath and blowing up bubbles of water in the mud he waited for the inevitable blow that would end his life. Using every inch of strength he had left he gazed upwards into the barrel of Bram’s gun just in time to watch the bullet plough a hole between his eyes.

Breathing heavily Bram rammed the Webley Revolver back into the leather holster at his waist, his final instructions fulfilled. He’d spent months with the last dogs of humanity on the edge of hell all for a little glory and by God would the rusting, degenerate race of Cogs bring him that and then some. Fate always favoured those who took risks, who were prepared to sink to the lowest. He glanced up from the bleeding body to grimace at the face of the living machine who still stood on top of Edward’s cooling body and wiped the sweat and blood splatter from his face. He cast a gaze over his shoulder at the land behind him; the now still terrain at the rear of the trenches spat black smoke up into the broken horizon. The deep scars of land now his to own, the only survivor of the great wars; Elog would weep for his return.

The feeling of something watching him made him turn on his heel to meet the gaze of The General. Raising a hand in comradeship he narrowed his eyes when his metal counterpart refused to acknowledge him. An age seemed to pass between them of unspoken malice and shaky alliance before The General raised a hand to the clouds and motioned to something hovering over the battlefield. Bram went cold as a deep, long, dark cloud poured over him, from above the gentle grating of the rusting Skyslider was suddenly the only sound in the world. A great chasm in the belly of the ship shuddered open, raining a fine rust down into his eyes. Terror froze him, for all his glory and deception; he had seen this happen before.

A sudden clattering and rasping and a multitude of cables and wires came flying out of the great hole in the gut of the ship and plucked Bram from the ground. Whipping him up into the air and slamming the wound shut. The ship juddered and rolled onwards through the sky, casting its silhouette across the pockmarked land. The General’s eye roved over all his now owned, the last defense in his way cleared, men had proven weak. It was over.

Walking with Demons – The Jolt

It had rained for three days; a relentless thundering that battered at his windows like a hundred howling demons trying to pluck him from this life. In those three days Takeo had made four attempts to leave the flat. The first, a panic fuelled need to escape.After the woman on the stairs had come to his door his tiny apartment no longer felt safe. Arming himself with the curtain rail he’d unhooked from the window, he unlocked the door with trepidation. He’d crept his way to the bottom of the stairs before he noticed the rain water pouring in through the front door. The lobby was flooded, water reaching up to the skirting boards around the walls and still rising. Taking a careful step forward he had plunged a foot into the freezing water, the current had felt strong against his unsteady limb. As he moved toward the front door it had become painfully obvious he wasn’t going anywhere. The water level was way above the top of the door; the flood squeezing up against the glass, forcing it’s way through the cracks in the frame in high pressured streams.

He had stood blankly for a while, gazing into the swirling murky water at his feet. He had no way out, no way to escape from her. Everyday she had come to his door, she twisted and turned the handle, she shuffled about in the corridor buthad yet to break through.

He was becoming cut off from the world. His flat grubby, food dwindling and all the while an ever increasing sensation of panic had balled itself up in his chest. For days he had sat in front of the television, flicking channels. Nothing had changed, not one programme or news report gave a hint to his predicament. The news reporter shuffled papers and gazed out at him with a vacant expression and a fake smile. Everyday was the same; Sunday 27th July on repeat again and again. Sometimes a little detail changed here and there, the presenter’s hair colour, the make of the laptop that sat on her desk, the time. Takeo had recorded everything, combing back through every episode of a cheesy drama, weather reports, chat shows, pausing at every little moment that had changed. He’d fall asleep only to wake the next day to find everything erased.

The sweet, balmy air of the mid summer came rushing in through the lofty curtains that did nothing to block out the sunlight streaming in masses through his window. Takeo’s eye opened just a crack to the blinding, deathly glow of the sun, making him wince. His mind swirled lazily across bridges of thought that took him far away from his heavy reality. It was the fifth day.

Not a sound had been heard from outside the flat in the longest age. No one from above or below seemed to be going about their business; the ever floating stream of life was his alone to contemplate. Throwing his covers from his bed with a groan he sat up and staggered into the bathroom, his body unwilling to comply. He tripped a couple of times over the rubbish that was building up on the floor. The orange juice carton he had finished on the second day rolled with a hollow sound across the floor, spilling its last drops upon the parched surface. He relieved himself in the yellowing toilet and stumbled back through the room to lean against the doorpost. Passing a hand over his bloodshot eyes he stopped dead as he heard a rustling, the rustling of bed sheets.

Peaking through his fingers, heart pounding like the drum of a jazz player he inspected his bed. The woman, that white, ethereal devil that he had been barring from his flat for almost a week was lying in his bed. Her naked skin shone with a milky hue in the half light of the morning. The blanket gathered around her petite waist, drawing across her silken hips and for just a moment Takeo lost himself in the beauty of her. She filled him up, occupied his mind, arrested his sense and stole the very breath from his lips.

A sudden moment of clarity hit him as her dark, cold eyes met his trembling gaze. She couldn’t be here, the door hadn’t been unlocked in days. Rubbing his eyes with a vigor and pressure that made them burn he opened his eyes wide; she had vanished. The sheets lay, thin and flat against the mattress. Creeping forwards he reached out a hand to gather a fist full of the fabric, tugging it back to feel the space, still warm from her perfect body.

Leaning heavily back against the wall Takeo pressed the button the top of his mobile phone for the hundreth time, to flood the screen with a bright white light. No messages, full signal, not a single person had tried to contact him. He’d made calls to his mother, his boss, his colleagues every single one of them answered, but only static, distant breathing or background sounds leaked into his ears from the harsh speaker.

A dark, grey hue had settled itself in the skin of his face; dark circles under his eyes screaming out for sleep. He walked, slowly and silently to the window, the thick pile of carpet muffling the sound of his heavy, tired footsteps. Pressing his head against the cold glass he felt his pupils expand and retract with the changing light. A soft creaking on the stairs outside the flat made his eyes flicker to the left, just catching a glimpse of shadows under the door.

The past few days had provided the same relentless torment; eyes at the peep hole, shadows on the floor, creaking and visions but now something all the more terrifying crept uninvited into the claustrophobic room.  A whispering, barely distinguishable burrowed it’s way into his ears and lodged itself deeply into his brain. As it increased in pitch and fervor Takeo pressed his hands to his ears but it did nothing to stifle the voice. It seemed inside of his, part of him and the rolling , pitching gabbling of a voice talking impossible fast was enough to make him scream out in fear and pain. Crouching down into a squat he listened to the voice and rattling door handle as it twisted violently in its frame.

“What are you?” He screamed out. Everything abruptly stopped and silence filled every corner of the room with a eerie and empty presence.

He steadied himself, placing his sweating palms on the cold floor. As he began to steady his ragged breathing the sound of someone calling his name came to him faintly from somewhere outside of the desolate flat. He clawed his way across the floor, frantically pulling himself back to the widow ledge where he hoisted himself up. The sun poured in, streaking his face with a warmth that bathedand calmed him. Closing his eyes he listened; his eyes flickered; he could see the blood moving around his eye lids. He heard it again, short, sharp, half formed but definitely his name. Peering out through the muggy window he scanned the street far below.

Sitting in the middle of the deserted road was an animal, a dog, brown with black strips and flash of startling white across the nose. It looked familiar, a distant memory flickered in his mind; something stirred. The animal gazed towards him, unfaltering; a giant grin on its face that seemed to fill with friendly recognition. He reached out a lethargic hand across the room to the front door, his feet carrying him with surprising certainty.

Pelting down the stairs he pitched over the last couple of steps and pulled open the front door. The dog still sat in the center of the street, motionless but it had turned to face him.

“Takeo!” It shouted in a half bark as he crept towards it.

“Kerī?” He whispered a little hoarse from days of silence. The dog stood, its huge tail swishing to and fro rigorously in the breeze. Takeo made to walk towards her, but a few cold drops of rain splattered onto the top of his head startling him enough to make him look up.  The freezing water trickled down his forehead in rivulets making him blink rapidly. A great rushing noise tumbled down from the sky along with a torrent of rain that lashed at his unprepared and upturned face. Turning away from the heavens he searched for Keri in the thick downpour that clouded his eyes; she had gone. Running out into the middle of the road Takeo turned in rapid circles, desperate and distraught.

Maybe he hadn’t dreamt it all. Maybe he was mad, hallucinating. In spite of himself a large stone of despair began to settle itself in his chest, drawing the very breath from his lungs and pushing all hope from his body until he was utterly deflated. Weeks of crippling loneliness and fear descended on him and poured into the racking sobs that shook his small frame. Crouching on the hard tarmac his anguish mingled with the rain, creating new currents across his face. The well of despair opened up within him, spilling its tar across his soul, crushing his chest with the weight of grief. Would there ever be a way out of this hell?

Tilting his head back as far as it would go, he allowed the tears to roll down his face. Fear chocked him as his eyes widened with horror as a face filled his vision. He opened his mouth in a silent scream as the woman, this terror towered over him, her ghoulish breath clawing at his face as she breathed down upon him. Scrambling backwards on his hands and rear he clawed at the pavement beneath him. She seemed to lean endlessly towards him, her face still as close as it had been before, impossibly close and demonically deadpan in the icy rain. As she began to growl gutterly in the back of her throat andTakeo thought that his life was surely forfeit her eyes flickered from his face to gaze at something behind him.

Wrenching his head round so hard that he pulled all the muscles in his neck and shoulders his gaze found Kerī. She stood a few feet from him, her legs planted wide apart in a stance that could only suggest that a fight was about to take place. Baring her teeth she lowered her head a little, the bright yellow of her fierce eyes just visible under the hood of her forehead. The woman stretched back, straightening herself but towering high over Takeo. Raising her arms above her head she stretched, like the willowy sillohuete of an arrow, the loose fabric of her clothes billowing around her as the wind came charging in from all directions. Takeo half scrambled, half rolled away to the left as the colour of the woman’s eyes began to mist over into a startling, pure white. From his new vantage point at the side of the street he watched, open mouthed and aghast as Kerībegan to bound with a new found vigor and strength towards the demon that had plagued his dreams.

In a sudden and swift motion the woman clapped her hands together. The sound that rang out echoed like a death toll across the empty street, shattering a few windows in the closest buildings. Takeo saw Kerī’s gaze switch rapidly from left to right as great waves of water rushed towards her. Swirling dizzyingly fast the white foam threw itself violently up into the air in a great whirlpool of powerand came crashing down upon the little dog with a thwack. The water screeched with rage as it wrapped itself around her small form in a death like vice. The demon slowly began to lower her arms, swaying a little from side to side, her whole body rocked in motion with the water that she controlled.

With a blast of light and power the water suddenly broke; a jet stream of hot liquid thrust its way upwards into the sky, hissing as it hit the cold pavement with a slap. Kerīstood atop the swirling mass of foam and bristled the fur on her back til it stood up on end, intimidating and sharp. Digging her claws into the mass of water she launched herself forward with an unprecedented speed. She weaved under and over the masses of liquid that charged and crashed around her, the demon beginning to sweat and shake under the strain of the fight.

The little dog pelted forwards, her fur rippling out behind her as she hit the demon in the chest with a fierce head butt that knocked her backwards with a stifled cry. Skidding slightly out to the left, the water slippery under her feet, Kerī  scrabbled at the ground finding her grip against the tarmac. In one swift motion she had leapt across the yawning expanse that separated the two foes and landed neatly but heavily on top of her victim. She growled deeply as the demon hissed and writhed beneath the weight of her body. Barking shrilly she pounced with snapping reflexes to grab the monster by the throat and pull the head from the body in one clean, smooth motion.

Takeo slumped to the floor, clinging to the lamppost that he had been propping himself against.Kerītrotted towards him, her usual grin plastered across her face, the demon’s head swinging from her mouth. Not a drop of blood had been spilled, the mouth of the creature still moved up and down, silently cursing his protector. Reaching out a hand he ruffled the soft fur on the top of the dog’s head as the world began to spin and shift, turning black before his eyes he hurtled through dream into reality.

 

xxx

 

“You are one of the worst Soul Hunters we’ve had in at least ten thousand years.” Maikeru said, exasperated as he helped Takeo sit up on the cold pavement.

“What happened? How did I get here?” He mumbled, bewildered, his mind still numb from the shift in reality.

“Well, let me see. You barreled in, summoning demons all over the mortal plane. Chaos ensued, gateways to hell opened, we had a minor judgment day. Blood and death and shit reigned for about twenty minutes before the Hell Hounds put an end to the party. We had to wipe the memories of half of Tokyo! Before we had time to blink you were spread eagled on the floor, drooling and senseless. I’ve never seen anyone direct their own Kitsune summon at themselves. Stupid.”

Takeo scratched at his head where a small scab was forming over a cut on his crown.

“Kitsune?”

“It’s a shape shifter, she can mould a reality around you, sculpt it in your mind until you immerse yourself in that vision. Mainly she presents herself as a fox but it will transform itself into some tempting form of a woman for the right victim.” Maikeru eyed Takeo suspiciously as he blushed under his black hair as the image of the naked woman flashed into his mind.

As his senses fully returned to him he sat up. Feeling a heavy, burdening weight on his back he twisted slightly to glimpse the hilt of a huge sword, sheathed in red leather, glimmering gently in the morning light. He remembered, their visit to The Blacksmith, the forging of the sword, the birth of Itano, the provider of light. He got to his feet, cracking a few joints as he went, he had his purpose, Itano’s creation went hand in hand with his own rebirth into the world of demons. He had had his first taste of hell, his first enchantment, his first summon. The sense of helplessness and fear still sat in his heart, spurring him on, kindling a spark of revenge.

You know you’re an English student when… (Part Two)

So tragically true.

Classicritique

1. Your local paper prints this.Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 13.40.06

“Me no know how to sudoku. Me forget how to maths.”

2. Hunger is the only thing that can get you to leave the library.

“Have you heard the news? The library is going to let us bring food in with us.”
“Oh god. I’m going to die there, aren’t I?”

3. You thought that guy/ girl in the library was Hot, with a majuscule.

“Baby, you’re just like the books in this library. I love checking you out.”

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