The Unforgivable Act Dream

My friend Joe had accidentally killed someone again. The first incident resulted in the death of a little girl, and he’d received only a caution. This time it was a teenager; part of a renowned gang of brothers, and although the law still weren’t after him, the gang were.

For days they drove around his house in their fancy-ass purple convertible. However, as a law-abiding gang they never attempted anything murderous, but they were enough to make Joe terrified to leave the house.

They often glimpsed me in the upstairs windows, but I wasn’t afraid of them. Au contraire, we actually got on really well. I was trying to persuade Joe to turn himself in and they were happy to let me try. Joe, however, was just shrugging off my words. He was grateful for the company, but not for my advice.

He paced about the house in an utter state. As I followed him around, I examined the decorations I’d put up for him over the years; with each visit I’d added to the duvet mural pinned up on his wall. This duvet was so enormous that it extended the width of the house. It began in the master bedroom, where I had intricately decorated and coloured in the quilted squares, and through into the spare room, where I’d balanced it over a wooden frame and made him a cute lil’ tent.

I started adding to the colourful wall above the stairs, where I had previously drawn an ABC of animals and objects. I began to write subtle messages throughout the grids in chalks and charcoals to make him feel guilty. Things like, “H for he was just a boy,” and, “T for think about his poor family.” When he saw what I was doing, his eyes filled with tears. He grabbed me by the wrist and led me to the front room.

“Look, see?” Joe gestured to a masquerade mask lodged firmly into the wall. Next to it he had scribbled ‘JON DAMM.’ He looked at me pleadingly, as if waiting for my confirmation that this display was suitable repentance. But it didn’t fix anything. In fact, it added to his problems; his landlord would go mental at the wall damage.

I shook my head at him and returned to the spare room, where the tent section of the duvet had fallen. I tried to fix it, but it just kept falling, until I accidentally yanked it too hard and the pinned part came off. This was not what I needed. Not after witnessing the accident firsthand and having to deal with my friend’s guilt. I walked into Joe’s bedroom and realised in that short space of time he’d reorganised his furniture. The room was incredibly tidy, but where he’d newly positioned the bed, I could no longer put my duvet art up. More frustration.

I looked around his room. Everything was pristine; the only mess was a small pile of trinkets on the bedside table, hiding a used train ticket to a place called Kenfrew. The date was quite recent. I knew it was a woman.

The house was quiet. It seemed he’d snuck out. I looked out the window to see if the gang were still there, and saw the ginger-haired family in the garden of the house opposite. Two young girls and their thirty-something dad were hiding behind a wall in their swimming gear. Their younger sister was running towards them with a water pistol, but they were all far better armed. She didn’t stand a chance. She was pummelled by three strong, separate jets of water, and they all fell about laughing. I felt alone.

I decided to try and find Joe. As I reached town I saw him enter a restaurant. I followed without really seeing what kind of place it was. From the cuisine and décor I assumed it to be Turkish; the cubes of soft, creamy dessert I saw on everyone’s tables looked insanely good. They were served on big silver platters and round, ornate dishes by fancy waiters, and placed on rich red or purple tablecloths. The restaurant was absolutely massive, and after a couple of minutes I found Joe on a long table in the middle. Not only him, but my parents too. And my High School best friend and his family. Even some of my work colleagues. Some of the gang members were there too, seemingly unaware of Joe’s presence.

“What the hell?” I aimed the exclamation at my parents in particular. “Where was my invite?” Nobody answered. This entire restaurant looked kitted out for an extravagant party, like every table knew each other. What had I missed?

There was a spare seat at the head of the table near my mum and I asked if I could fill it, but nobody answered. They all just looked away from me awkwardly. I perched on it anyway, and could tell everyone was annoyed at my presence. Why though? I was the sole person that tied this group of people together! It was like they had all outgrown me. I reached across the table and picked up a fancy looking cereal bar from amongst the desserts; I wasn’t brave enough to take those without permission. I ate the bar out of spite, but I couldn’t really taste it.

“Mum, why wasn’t I invited?” I whispered quietly. She pointedly continued to ignore me. Her friends came over to our table with their prosecco glasses and glamorous dresses and smiled warmly at me.

“Hiya Claire, you alright?”

I’d not seen them in years. In normal circumstances I’d have gotten up and hugged them, but in this one I just said, “Yeah thanks… Actually no, I’m not alright. You’ve all had a fancy dinner without me. You know how much I like fancy dinners.” Their smiles vanished and they started ignoring me too.

Someone in a suit that I didn’t recognise stood up to give a speech. Sinking into my chair a little more, I’d never felt so out of place amongst my friends and family. I wasn’t sure what upset me more; their blatant dislike for my company, or the fact that the fuckers had eaten a whole 3-course meal without me.

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The Witness Dream

If there’s one thing to ruin your appetite at lunch, it’s finding a fresh corpse outside your office. The lifeblood of my faceless colleague pooled around the spring planters of the little courtyard; a close-range gunshot had ensured he was no longer identifiable.

I looked away to stop myself from throwing up or screaming, and in doing so noticed an old-school camera tripod setup nearby. It was focused on a man spray-painting a tag beside the body. There were three men in total, all wearing dark hoodies. Once they saw us watching, two of them scarpered.

Myself and Jess acted as if we’d seen nothing, but climbed up onto the statue podium in the centre of the courtyard for safety. The remaining man watched our movements. He made no attempt to hide his identity. I saw every detail of his face with clarity; the enormous crooked grin and dark-eyed pupils wide with pleasure.

An older man exited the office and was met with the barrel of the pistol. The gun barely made a noise, but his pale pink shirt darkened instantly.  I held Jess to me so she couldn’t see any of it, but the man didn’t once stop watching me. A woman followed shortly after, and with sickening grace he sprung on her. She whimpered and pleaded, struggling against the prison of his arms. The man’s eyes bore into my soul, daring me to try something. He looked almost disappointed as several seconds later he rammed the gun into her mouth and pulled the trigger. Her body dropped like litter.

Somehow she was still alive and looking at me, choking on her own cries for help. Blood cascaded down her face in silk ribbons, body convulsing as she tried to breathe with what was left of her mouth. Jess broke free of my shielding and saw. She sobbed.

“Please,” I begged. “We saw nothing.”

“You’re damn right,” he growled, pointing the pistol at me. “And you tell no-one.”

He disappeared, and it was apparent that we had to do the same.

I made sure Jess got home okay. We didn’t discuss it, but agreed with silence that we would tell no-one. This man was not ordinary. He would find us.

By 6pm the murders were all over the news. After three showers I sat naked on the sofa, hugging my knees. Several of my belongings were covered in blood, some of which I knew could prove vital in catching the killers. My white T-shirt was stained red, and for some reason bits of cardboard I’d dragged home were damp with blood too. This is someone else’s blood, I thought. The last of it. I couldn’t wrench my mind from the image of the woman as her face half-exploded. I’d seen it plenty of times in TV programmes and games, but reality…

Needless to say I didn’t sleep that night. Luckily the office was closed until further notice, so I didn’t have to worry about work. The hours passed in a haze of nothingness, until Saturday came and brought with it my birthday celebrations. People arrived a few at a time, and I plastered on a big smile. Jess was there, but refused to meet my gaze. We had cocktails whilst waiting for the latecomers, but the small talk didn’t block out the bad thoughts.

The restaurant district had a gigantic pool in the middle, so as the images resurfaced I went for a swim to clear my mind. The pool was full of people of all ages, enjoying the freak heatwave with their rubber rings and colourful Speedos. Somehow, I became topless. I swam up to the Turtle Bay pool bar, looking at the menu for ages, but not properly taking it in. The bartender was really nice, but I could see she was getting irritated with my lack of ordering.

Before I knew it, two hours had passed. I made my way back to the cocktail bar my friends were inhabiting. Miraculously they were still there, but they were far from happy. After months of planning they’d spent time and money to celebrate with me, and I’d ruined everything. I apologised nonstop. “I’m so sorry,” I choked. I caught Jess’ eye and whispered, “I just keep thinking about that day.”

“Don’t you fucking dare,” she said between gritted teeth. I burst into tears. The rest of the group came back from the bar and looked at me with disappointment. I hugged them all and began the next round of apologies. This was not the night I had promised them.

We stuck around until they finished their cocktails, with next to no conversation to improve the mood. I sat alone on a sun lounger, sniffling until we went our separate ways.

It felt as if all my clothes had been soaked in hot, sticky blood. I went back with a couple of friends to their house, where I asked if I could be cheeky and use their washing machine. There was already a load on, which was five incredibly long minutes away from being done. I stood there watching the clock, wearing the clothes my friend had reluctantly lent me.

After a while he went off to meet his gaming friends, seeing as the disastrous night was already over. I looked at my watch; it was only eleven. This night was still salvageable! I decided to message everyone so we could regroup and still go to our Airbnb. There I would snap out of this stupor, forget the whole incident (with enough time and vodka) and enjoy myself.

I washed the blood from my hands, and the images from my memory.

The Daughter of Thanos Dream

So like, when a guy’s into you, but you’re not really into him, but he’s like, super powerful, trying to take over the galaxy and could easily kill you and everyone you ever loved with a snap of the fingers… what do you do?

I hadn’t encouraged him in any way. He’d simply picked me up on one of his population-destroying adventures and decided to keep me. Like a pet. He was ravishing me with gifts; the most beautiful gifts from across the cosmos. There was the ruby-encrusted diadem, delicately woven from the silver of a far-off planet, the sapphire pendant ablaze with the cold fire of a burning star… He seemed to have a thing for precious stones.

But none of these gifts would make me forget so much death. Wherever he went, bodies crumpled in his purple wake. I wanted nothing more than to hide in some forgotten corner of the galaxy, to never see that ridged chin again. But he wasn’t really the kind of guy you say no to.

Nevertheless, I resisted his advances as best I could without pissing him off, but this only made him try harder. He thought it would be romantic to make me an ice rink by freezing an entire city.

I fucking hate ice skating.

If you ignored the bodies frozen beneath your feet, the city did look beautiful. Crystallised towers glinted in the sunlight, sparkling showers of refracted light across the frosted ground. It would take years to melt ice this thick. A fresh start for the planet.

Somehow, this place held the key to my freedom. Not only was this a supposed romantic gesture, this was also a game. He watched intently for my reaction. Trying to ignore the outstretched hand frozen beneath my feet, I smiled and thanked him. For a moment he almost looked happy. But knowing he had a hidden motive in the skating, I politely declined to join him and his smile soon melted.

There was a delicate veil of snow floating along the ground. Watching something so pure made me feel a small sense of peace for the first time in weeks. It was the first of Thanos’ gifts I could almost be thankful for. I lay amongst it and it was soft and welcoming, like lying in a cloud of cool water. He watched as I made graceful snow angels, and I could tell he was losing his patience. He wanted to see his doll dance, to see her enjoy his wondrous gift and succumb to his will. He wanted to win a woman who would stand lovingly by his side while he massacred half the population.

Many people were already using the skate rink, drafted in from nearby cities to dance across their fallen brethren. They began performing some kind of ritualistic synchronised dance, supposedly to entice me onto the ice. A digital leaderboard appeared, tracking who had completed the most laps, but most were too wrapped up in the dance. I kept an eye on it.

People had hidden themselves in rooms frozen shut, so Thanos used his bladed foot to slice the solid walls of ice apart. Everyone had to be on the rink to appreciate his generous gift. He was getting angry, and I could tell more murder was on the cards. My time was running out.

Having exhausted all my options, I slowly began to put my skates on. They were beautiful; sleek and black, with swirls of silver stitching and incredibly long silver laces. For some reason though, I had rollerblades, as if he didn’t trust me with real blades. I was also burning thin pillar candles in each. I kept them in.

As I reached the rink, the toffee-nosed forerunner of the leaderboard came over and smirked. “Dead already? That’s a shame.”

I smiled innocently at him and said, “oh dude. I’ve not even started yet,” and his face dropped.

Somehow, I needed to be top of that leaderboard. Somehow, that was the key to escaping Thanos. I just needed to not die in the process…

The Fantastic New Year Dream

Nothing like a nice nightmare to end the year, eh? Would appreciate it if this isn’t the narrative for my 2018, thanks very much!

***

On a night out, casually drinking in work, one of the guys asked me to take a few plates to the potwash. For some reason we had two of them; the one in the kitchen and another in a shed-like building out back. I decided to explore the second.

During this exploration I had an omnipotent cutscene play in my head. A paramedic sat in his ambulance, and something about him seemed off. He wasn’t doing anything, simply sitting there, waiting. Watching.

Outside of the restaurant was like a completely different city; chainlink fences, hard concrete, graffiti. I dumped the plates on the side and explored the crumbling brickwork of this alley.

As I reached its end, I heard a scuffling noise behind me. I turned to see a woman at the other end of the alley, slowly raising her arms to point a gun. With a second flash of omnipotence I knew she would fire it, and I even saw the bullet spinning straight for my head. I ducked beneath a stone pillar and stayed down. That bullet missed me, but a second shot pierced my chest. I couldn’t scream (if anyone can scream in dreams I’m amazed), but the pain was astonishing.

The woman stopped firing. A man appeared from my end of the alley and stood over me, looking thoughtful. He was dressed like a stereotyped chav; cap, puffed jacket, trackies and chains. “Please,” I begged him. “Please help me!”

He raised his own gun and shot me in the shoulder.

As he walked away, I reached into my pocket with my good arm and pulled out my phone. I began to type a status of help on Facebook, but I’d barely written “been shot” before the woman appeared.

“Stop that,” she said in a Spanish accent. I tried to get up, but she booted me in the back and I felt a rib snap. I wasn’t sure why they didn’t want to finish me off, why they wanted to cause me such pain, but she too left me there.

I got to my feet and staggered through the halls of University. There was a distinct lack of blood and not as much pain as you’d imagine. I just felt numb. Why had this happened?

I jabbed 999 into my phone and began babbling about being shot and needing an ambulance from the front of the University. They asked me which entrance and I broke down. There were so many damn entry points that I couldn’t figure out which would be nearest.

As we concluded the phone call, I once again envisioned the ambulance driver. It was clear this was the man I had been talking with, and as we finished speaking I saw him smile, hang up, and fold a piece of paper. The last thing I remember thinking was, “at least I didn’t give him my home address.”

Next thing I knew I was in the ambulance, only it was more like a minibus. My head was fuzzy and there was a stiffness in my neck, but I realised I was not alone. I looked up to see several others in similar drug-induced states to me, and at the front of the bus the paramedic grinned. From the driver’s seat he picked up a machine gun. Not again.

I undid my seatbelt and slowly slid below the seats. I heard the rapid cracks of firing, but there was no blinding light, no screams. I don’t even think any bullets fired. But sure enough, the first three rows of people all dropped dead. I peered over the top of the seat to see sparks flying from the necks of the recently deceased. Touching my own, I felt a small electrical box on a collar. I ripped it off.

I guessed the gun automatically triggered the boxes whenever they were aligned. And everyone else was too out of it to realise. What were we, test subjects? How had they chosen us? Why?

I waited until the paramedic had left his warm corpses before sneaking off the bus. In my messed up head, I didn’t think of walking myself to hospital. Right now I trusted no-one, so I hobbled all the way home.

But they must have followed me. Before long a For Sale sign appeared in my garden, and without any of mine or my parents’ consent, the house was sold. Eventually my parents disappeared. There was no note, no slight indication as to what happened to them, but after recent events I feared the worst.

I was told the new tenants had decided I could still live with them. I waited in the living room to meet my landlords. The front door burst open and the new owners walked in. It was the woman who had shot me. And her loving husband.

They gave me a small space in the kitchen and one of the cupboards for my belongings. They emptied the house of everything they didn’t want, and sat on my parents’ sofa watching my parents’ TV. I sat cross-legged on the kitchen floor, trying to think about nothing.

Obviously, me being alone for five minutes without fresh pain wasn’t an option.

“What you have?” She growled. “I want to see.” She reached for my cupboard door, and upon looking in smirked at my measly possessions. “This all you have, eh?” She poked me in the side and saw me wince. “Oh sorry,” she purred. “Do you have a broken rib?” I nodded through tears. She laughed and punched me.

As another flash of agony reared up my side, I thought, somehow, I’ll get my house back.

The Shrunken Ship Dream

tescoooooooo

Dictionary Definition:

Holiday

NOUN
  • An extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling.

Claire’s Dream Definition:

Holiday

NOUN
  • A period of time spent traumatised from nearly drowning with a boatful of passengers and all your belongings.

The holiday itself had been alright up until the near death experience. I’d been to this part of Greece before, but my companion had not. The hotel was lovely as always; the staff now knew me on a first-name basis, which probably suggests we should have gone somewhere new…

When it was time to go, we said our goodbyes and boarded the boat that would take us to the mainland to catch our flight. We were less than halfway across the ocean when I felt that something was wrong. There were two mini waterfalls to traverse in order to reach our destination, and I saw them in the distance with a fresh sense of foreboding. Well, I say waterfalls, they were more like water speed bumps. We were stood on deck at the front, and I watched as we went down the first one, but then the boat lurched forward and tackled the second vertically. It didn’t recover; we plunged into the cool water and didn’t come back up.

I looked at my friend and yelled “jump!” just in time and we abandoned ship. Treading water, I watched the boat sink further into the depths. I was hoping it would miraculously right itself and we’d just jumped overboard for nothing. It didn’t. I thought about how far we’d come and decided the mainland was still too far to swim. “Let’s head back,” I said, and we swam all the way back to the hotel.

The staff were confused to see us again. Soaked through and crying, I explained what happened and they gave us food and drink. I was exhausted, both physically and mentally. All of my possessions, gone. Like a typical millennial, I was most upset about losing my phone. I thought about all the holiday pictures, my point of contact with the rest of the world, my home. How would my mum contact me? She would want to know I was okay when she heard the news about the boat capsizing…

We wandered around the hotel for the rest of the day, a bit lost. People were still sunbathing and enjoying themselves as if nothing had happened.

A random memory popped into my head; an old man once warned me to be wary on this holiday. “Whatever you do, keep your phone with you,” he’d said. “At all times.” For some reason I had listened to this man – I mean, I usually had my phone with me anyway, but this time I’d kept it about my person rather than in my bag. To my amazement, I checked my back pocket, and there it was; completely fine, not the slightest bit of water damage…

I checked it and went straight to the news, typing in words like “Greece, boat, dead.” Nothing. Was this a cover up? Had it just not been reported yet? There had been at least thirty people on the boat, so surely this was important? I turned my phone off to conserve battery and we went to reception to speak about a room.

Later, someone offered to go check out the boat, to see if there was anything salvageable. Despite our recent trauma, we decided to go with them and show where the boat had capsized. We were on a much smaller boat this time – more a speedboat than a ferry – and when we got to the waterfalls we managed them fine.

“That’s how you’re supposed to do it,” I said knowingly to my friend.

“It was just about here.” Divers jumped off the boat and searched around. They were gone for quite a while and when they came up, one guy brought a Tesco carrier bag with him.

Inside the bag was a model of the ship, exact in every detail to the larger version, even down to singular items on board. The man handed me the miniature ship and said, “that’s everything. Anything you want me to save?” I looked at the ship, with dolls house versions of my clothes, my money and my passport – the keys to getting me home, and the words that tumbled out of my mouth were, “my laptop and PS4 please.”

The Window Cult Dream

I used to have slightly peculiar dreams, and for a long time these were documented via this blog (go check them out; from judgemental sheep to multiple homicide, there’s uh… something for everyone?)

And then I had to adult, and for some reason that destroyed my unconscious imagination. I went for months without dreaming – or at least without dreaming anything remotely memorable or exciting.

But it pleases me to say that the fucked-uppery of my brain has returned in full force! …Yay?

***

Nobody had noticed my breaking into the church. There had been reports of suspicious activity, news of some new cult in town, and the disused church on the hill was the source of it all.

It is no exaggeration when I tell you that hundreds of cloaked figures of varying height and size were scattered around the halls. Each knelt in complete silence, hoods over their heads and legs splayed on purple prayer mats. I tiptoed amongst them, and even though I was not perfectly stealthy, not one of them looked up.

I made my way to the second floor where there was more of the same. I crept along, weaving amongst the people. Still nothing. One woman, a nice lady by the name of Doris who had been intrigued by the town gossip, had come with me. I found her now, sat down amongst the others and smiling. As I approached she said her name out loud. Her voice echoed throughout the entire church, her ghost replying a hundred times across the vast ceiling. I shushed her, horrified that the cultists would awaken at any moment. Doris giggled and did it again.

A man built like an armoire stood up in the corner by the stained glass window. He walked menacingly towards us. He lunged. I dodged out of his way, dragging Doris with me. It all happened so fast but next thing we knew his gigantic frame was over the edge and falling to its death. Blood spattered across the railing, but the only other blood sprayed a considerable distance to the window. I hadn’t noticed it before, but down the intricate designs of the window, a singular line of deep red blood flowed from top to bottom. There was no starting point, nothing the blood was draining from; it simply existed. It had nearly reached the very base of the window, but the recently deceased man’s blood joined with it – just a single drop – and the stream began to reverse. I looked down to the ground floor of the church and saw no body. The prayers of the cultists remained undisturbed.

These people were sacrificing themselves for magic. I had to find out what it meant.

Unfortunately, they knew we had been there, and wherever I went they had connections. Whilst visiting the shopping centre, random members of the public were called by name over the intercom. In each shop I entered, that named person would walk to the nearest window and, whilst looking me dead in the eyes, ensure that their blood ended up on the pane. The shoppers around us wouldn’t so much as flinch, continuing with their day to day lives. Was I the only one to see it? To watch as the one important drop of blood, the life’s essence, was wasted?

The worst thing was that the cult began to favour children for the sacrifice.

I was taking a night off from my cult investigations. Myself and a few friends went to the pub and had barely sat down when a young boy walked in. I watched in horror as he climbed through a window onto the ledge, and then the ledge began to move so quickly and shook him so fiercely that I expected his brain to explode. I would have intervened, but at that moment Tom Baker walked in, smiling. He was a well-known member of this cult now. I had begun to believe that celebrity endorsement had played a part in its popularity.

Tom was followed closely by a man with an extravagant crimson cloak. I knew this to be the leader. He towered above the rest, and had a presence that made you want to hide in a corner. He lifted his hood and grinned at us, this old man. I grinned back. Now we were in trouble.

The Regal Rat Dream

Taking God Save our Gracious Queen to a whole new level.

That was the premise of the game. Not many people would have jumped at that. The games company should have fired their marketing team (and hired me instead!) But the chance to be an undercover detective with the prospect of high employability rates and the royal family’s eternal gratitude? You’re on to a winner!

This game required skilled detective work and strong willpower. In teams of three we were expected to uncover and terminate any plots against the queen’s life. I was picked last for my team, being the only female of the party. I was left with Johnny Depp and a man named Lewis.

We began in a basement, where an apparent clue had been left as to the identity of the latest plotter. I however, never saw any of the clues. The guys dealt with that. In fact, I never really did anything other than tag along. Any time I suggested an approach they looked irritable I’d spoken at all, so for the most part I just watched them.

When they found this clue, they discussed where to go next – without me, of course, and began the steep ascent out of the basement. It was a high gradient slope that led to the outside world instead of the ground floor of a house. At the top was a Metro-esque sign on curly black iron, enveloped slightly by the bushes and trees on either side.

Johnny managed one foot on the slope before a sound like thunder rolled above us. A singular rat ran towards us, large grey body covered in mangy wet clumps. Following him were his brothers, hundreds of them, all running straight for us.

Johnny and Lewis raced up the slope, with me following closely behind. I had to leap over several crowds of rats for fear of them dragging me down with them. One misstep, one stampeding rat stood on and it was game over. The thought of being stuck down there covered in those feral creatures was enough to get me out.

By the time I’d made it to safety Johnny had already gone. I walked behind Lewis for a while as he spoke to Johnny over his walkie talkie.

“Can I have one of those?” I asked.

He barely glanced at me. “No.”

“Why not?”

“Because you have nothing useful to say.”

I fell back behind him. He meandered along the roads for a bit, then struck off in a more purposeful direction.

“Where are we going?” I asked

am going back to the palace. You should go somewhere else.”

Despite his somewhat uncalled-for doucheyness I too returned to the palace. There was bound to be clues there from where the schemers had planned their schemes. The guys took to the restaurant whilst I went up to the royal chambers. I didn’t bother telling them where I was going, they wouldn’t care anyway.

The Queen’s bodyguard awaited me outside the royal apartments. He had a suit, shades and an earpiece like your average stereotyped secret service man. He held his palm out to stop me, then listened to the person in his ear before saying,

“The Queen says she fancies you. You have her royal pardon to search wherever you deem necessary in your quest.”

Awesome. Wasn’t sure how I felt about that, but hey, it worked in my favour.

I was about to proceed past the guard when I heard two annoyingly familiar voices. It was Lewis and Johnny, but they were nowhere near me.

“Yeah, but you wear it in your ear like this. No-one will suspect a thing.”

I doubled back and followed the sound of the idiots all the way back to the banquet hall, where they were surrounded by diners all staring at them. They’d found an upgrade to their walkie talkies in the form of a state of the art earpiece. I couldn’t believe they’d spent our whole team budget on something so unnecessary!

Somehow, they’d inverted the audio into a microphone. This resulted in their voices booming across what I could only imagine was half of London. I walked up to their table, trying to avoid the irritable stares and titters of the crowd around us.

“You idiots, we can all hear you.”

Johnny looked at me with disgust, screwdriver in hand and wires all over him. “We know. We’re trying to fix it. You wouldn’t understand.”

I ignored him. “Where’s mine anyway?”

Lewis vacantly tossed me his old humongous walkie talkie. “Go look in the basement, would you?”

My heart pounded. I knew what await in the cellar. It involved lots of fighting, and I could barely punch. “Can’t one of you guys go?”

They tittered like I’d told a hilarious joke. “If we went down there, who’d do all the important stuff?”

“Yeah, the queen would die if we left it to you. Then you’d be up for treason with the culprit when we catch him!”

I sighed. There was no way of getting round these stubborn bastards. But I knew the secret lay in that room. If I didn’t go we’d be here forever and other teams would get ahead. “Fine… but if you’re insisting I go, give me one of the earpieces. Carrying this big thing around will hinder me down there.”

They looked at me as if I’d asked them to suck their grandmother’s toes. I realised it was futile even trying, so I left them to their tinkering and sought out the basement.

Evidently it went horrible wrong because I found myself back at the start of the level in the cellar. I could sense the impending rat stampede. You’d think after the first time I’d be well prepared, but for some reason it took me a lot longer to get out. Several times I nearly toppled over but somehow I stayed alive and on my feet.

At the top I paused out of reach of danger to catch my breath. As I did, I saw eight of the largest rats carrying a dying rat towards the cellar. He was clearly of important rank; he had a pimp cane and cane rows and looked inexplicably regal. I think it was the Rat Prince, come to the end of his reign. This was a ceremony for the people to say goodbye to their beloved leader. So moving! I believed I saw his royal ratness moaning and holding his little paw to his head.

Woe is me!”

Something out of the corner of my eye caught my attention. There was no breeze tonight, but the trees still moved. Squinting against the darkness, I realised they weren’t leaves at all, but even more rats. Each of them held onto their comrades’ paws, making star shapes with their bodies like synchronised swimmers against the night sky.

After watching this religious rite of passage, it dawned on me that I hadn’t seen my teammates in a deliciously long while. I searched the nearby alleys and eventually found Lewis yelling at his earpiece.

“Where’s Johnny?” I asked. Lewis threw me a quick glance, then shrugged. “Trying to find him. This stupid thing ain’t working.”

Then without warning he he ran off again, down random alleys and off into the town. I tried to keep up but lost him.

Damn I wanted a new team. One with actual intelligence and less sexism. I sighed and set off for the palace again.