The Regal Rat Dream

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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.

The Hypnotic Ham Dream

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I don’t know how I’d gotten to this low point in my life, but I was suddenly conscious I was working and living in an old lumber mill. (If you’ve seen Netflix’s new series, A Series of Unfortunate Events, this will give you a visual idea of how my dream looked, as this was the last thing I saw before I went to bed).

Our uniforms were khaki green and pyjama-like. They were ill-fitted and made of basic, itchy cotton. My boots were already worn in at the toe and slightly too big. I hated to think what had happened to their previous owner.

Our tiny bunks were made of leftover timber from the mill, meaning you were lucky if you didn’t wake up with splinters in your hands and feet. Our bedsheets were of an identically horrible material to our clothing, ensuring even rest periods were hell. The only decency we were shown was in the form of bacon. Every mealtime our plates were stacked with crispy pink meat. The mouthwatering smell was almost the only thing to persuade me out of bed each day.

After a while of being conscious to this world, I started to realise that everyone else was strangely subservient to the boss. Considering we outnumbered him fifty to one, and the poor pay and poorer conditions weren’t fit even for a criminal, I’d have expected a riot by now. Yet each worker kept his glazed eyes on his task, working swiftly and efficiently and never ever talking. I decided some digging was in order. Maybe it was because in his spare time, our lumber mill boss was also a scientist. Scientists could be scary.

Shortly after clocking in I hid outside the boss’ cabin and waited. Nobody seemed to noticed my absence or raise any alarm. It was beautiful sitting outside, breathing in the fresh air without the sawdust clamming up my lungs. If it wasn’t for the ten foot high wall surrounding the mill, I’d have turned my thoughts to escape.

Eventually the boss returned to his cabin and headed straight for the kitchen. I peered in through the window and watched as he pulled out a massive griddle pan and whacked it on the stove. He started piling bacon into the pan and whistling to himself. Surely he had a chef? His cabin was certainly fancy enough to suggest so. I was still perplexed when he pulled a small vial out of the top pocket of his lab coat, uncorked it and emptied the purple contents all over the bacon.

Oh, so that was how he controlled them. There was a hypnotic substance in their food. Let’s be honest, it was a genius plan; nobody could ever turn down bacon.

But I’d been eating it for days and I hadn’t been affected. How was that possible? Did it only work after a certain time, when the spirits of the workers had been broken? Unfortunately I found that out much sooner than I would have liked. I hadn’t realised the boss had seen me, and before I could react he was dragging me inside. He dropped me down into a chair in his office and paced in front of me, deciding what to do.

“How come I can eat the bacon and not be hypnotised?” I blurted out after a minute, sick of the silence.

He smirked and stopped pacing, completely unsurprised I’d fully figured it out.

“Because child, you are an orphan, and orphans are exceptionally good at not doing as they’re told. Which is why you’re here, of course. I’ve written my whole scientific theory on the defiance of orphan protagonists.”

I almost physically saw his lightbulb Eureka moment.

“You shall be new subject! Somehow an orphan of my own has always eluded me. How do you feel about electric chairs?”

 

So there you have it. Bacon is the way to a man’s heart. Unless that man happens to be a main character who also happens to be parentless. Then, they are invincible. (Go Batman!)

You guys learn so much from my dreams.

The Stew Maker Dream

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In times of war, we look to our leaders for guidance and courage. But who do the leaders look to?

In this particular war I was looked upon as a leader. In real life, I might have been called General, or President, maybe even Queen. But in this, I was known as a Stew Maker. 

Stew was a sacred food in this war, and few of us knew how to make it. But there were ancient and sacred rules the Gods decreed upon my duty:

1: Thou shalt not give thy stew to any other mortal unless in dire need.
2: Thou shalt not divulge the sacred recipe to any living mortal.
3: Thou shalt never be without thy bowl of stew.
4: Thou shalt not fight for fear of spilling thy heavenly supplement.

Follow in these commandments and thou shalt have our holiest protection.

These rules saw me standing on the sidelines of battlefields, watching my men die around me whilst raising the tender, slow cooked beef to my mouth. It was torture. I watched men die of starvation in the trenches, the last thing they remember being the succulent scent of home-cooked stew. Every day I walked through the poverty and famine of my people, forever eating and never gaining weight.

Sometimes, when nobody else was looking, I would throw pieces of meat to the hungry, or use it to keep my family alive. Of course the Gods would know this, but I couldn’t help myself. I felt powerless without their protection, but if I kept it a secret, people would still believe I was untouchable, and that would prevent me getting instantly lynched.

I wasn’t the only Stew Maker in our district; there were a few of us, including my little brother. We were seen as guardians, as good omens. As long as the Stew Makers followed their duties, the majority would be safe from harm.

The only people more revered than us were the priests. Every time they sang, thousands and thousands of people would make the ascent up to the ruinous castle, myself included.  No matter which side of the war you were on, everyone followed the rituals. The hill was situated in the very centre of the country, easily accessible from each of the four districts.

Each night we would all gather at the top of the hill in quiet contemplation, listening to the humming melody of the priests.

My African-American warrior friend sat with me on a rock as I gazed into the night’s sky. She wasn’t a Stew Maker, but she was well-known and cherished among our people for her feats in battle. Today, however, several idiots from our enemies’ ranks decided to mess with her.

They picked and pressed and bullied her until she stood up on a high rock and hissed, “dammit, don’t you know who I am?” I saw her fists clench and I prepared for the wrath of the priests when a fight ensued and the holy song was disrupted. But the men just shrugged and laughed at her. She sat down, ego instantly deflated.

When the dawn began to break and the first stain of colour spread across the horizon, the song dissipated and we all went home. My parents sat on the sofa in our humble house. Our allies surrounded us; they felt safer being near us at all times. My parent’s stew making days were long over, but they were still sworn to keep the recipe secret. However, the Gods were not kind, and did not permit previous Stew Makers to continue eating once their time had run out.

My mother’s face was gaunt and thin. After a life of constant delicious meals, the latter years of her life had not been kind. I stood on the balcony and occasionally chucked them a piece of beef when no-one was looking.

A couple of hours later I set off for work, stew bowl still in hand. All this war and tension around me and I still had to work. Typical life.

It was a foggy morning and I could barely see anything. Still, I knew I was early. Through the bleak whiteness I saw the men from last night on the other side of the street, jeering at me but not daring to come near. I was wary of them. But soon I began to daydream as I walked, completely unfocused and yet walking automatically towards my goal. My mind became as fogged as the air.

When I finally came to my senses, the first thing I realised was that my hand felt considerably lighter. I looked down with dread to see that my stew had disappeared. How was that possible?

The air was clear now, and I figured someone had placed a sleeping draught or hallucinatory into it in order to steal my stew. I began searching for the men, but had no such luck. Turning into the nearest alley, I fell to my knees in grief.

My little brother, only six years old, was chained to the wall and slumped in death towards the floor. His angelic blonde floppy hair shrouded his face, his knees bent at awkward angles. Beside him in the dirt was my stew bowl, recently washed up and still warm. The stew was no more.

The Wonders of the Universe Dream

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My life is just one big game. No, literally. Or at least it was in this dream. I was on a team with the cast of Community, exploring a submerged and ruinous world in our little jet-ski-motorboat hybrid. The game glitched an awful lot (we were in Beta) so whenever there were waves or little pockets of land, we drove over them in a straight line.

We were supposed to be discovering the mysteries of the universe. Somehow they were the key to beating the game. In the final level we found four statues facing a wall with an intricate circular pattern. Abed studied the markings and decided it looked very much like a closed gateway. The exit!

Having played many games between us, we decided the key must lie with the creepy statues. Each had an intricate carving on their blank stone faces and unlike everything else in that city weren’t so much as chipped or scratched. They were each placed on unusual square tiles; the kind that blatantly need something heavy on to make the switch work. But they were already on them, and we couldn’t so much as budge the crumbling stone figures. Jeff  tried with all his might, but the only thing he managed was a broken nail and a blow to his ego.

In the end we decided the key must still be out there. We left Britta to watch the statues in case anything happened and the rest of us split up. I went with Abed on the jet ski. Sometimes the glitches would go from its straight line facepalmery to dipping us underwater and, of course, we got wet despite not properly going in.

After one of these soakings we stopped amidst a glorious turquoise sea to dry off. We could see many broken islands on the horizon. It was a wonder the purple sky didn’t affect the vibrant blue pigment of the sea. Was that one of the mysteries? Probably just science I didn’t understand.

“I think we should explore the nearest island and then work in a clockwise rotation from there so we don’t miss anything,” Abed said logically.

“Yeah? I just want to explore a bit. I might go for a swim, catch you up in a bit?”

Abed gave me a look. “You know what always happens when teams split up in movies.”

“I know. But this is a game. Dude, I’ll be fine. If I don’t find you in the next hour just go on without me.”

He sighed, then waited for me dive overboard before starting up the engine.

“Good luck!”

“You too,” I smiled reassuringly.

The water was beautifully warm and clear, and surprisingly shallow. I almost forgot we had a mission to complete, I was so relaxed just floating along. Something on the sea bed pricked my hand and brought me back to the moment. I looked underwater and saw nothing. There was no blood, no sign of anything. There wasn’t even so much as an urchin, just smooth sand. Something pricked my leg.

“First wonder of the universe,” I whispered excitedly. There was a grinding sound from somewhere in the distance. I swam to a nearby rock and prepared for a cutscene.

Sure enough, I watched in my head as one of the statues turned all by itself to face East.

One down, three to go, I thought. Abed would be mad he’d missed this. And about the fact I’d been right to go off on my own. Hah.

Someone coughed. Looking over the edge of the rock I saw an old man, knee deep in water and wearing nothing but a white loin cloth. He had a long stick in one hand and was covering his mouth with the other. During his coughing fits he was prodding at something out of his reach on another rock. As I approached I realised, impossibly, that he was prodding at an iPhone.

We conversed briefly, but I couldn’t get much sense out of him.Whatever language he spoke it wasn’t English. Not anymore, anyway. After a while he seemed to decide I wasn’t a threat, and shared with me the second wonder of the universe; the iPhone. I reached up and took it uncertainly. But when I turned it over, my breath caught. Somehow, in the camera lens, was a full-sized thimble. I grinned and thanked the old man. I had to show this to Abed!

I swam quickly to the nearest island, which Abed was thankfully still on.

“Abed look! One of the wonders! I think we have to find four of them to turn the statues!”

“I know,” Abed said. “I saw the cutscenes. I found something too.”

He led me to a crumbling old wall with centuries old Egyptian engravings. There were sketchings of robe-clad men on a long boat and lots of cats. Like, loads of cats. But in the centre of everything were four monumental figures commanding all. Abed gestured to take a closer look. Just above the four Gods someone had scratched something. The player before us had scrawled:

A/
ED

Abed looked at it thoughtfully. I could almost see the possibilities running through his head. “Do you know what it means?” I asked after several minutes of complete silence.

“Not entirely,” he replied. “But I have a vague idea. What was it you wanted to show me?”

I took the iPhone out of my pocket and handed it to him. He took it, looking horrified.

“We have to get to Britta.”

 

The models had already begun moving by the time we made it back. They marched slowly towards the gateway, which was already open and casting a striped shadow across the figures. The wind gushing forth from the other side made it all the more difficult to get there in time. We yelled at Britta to stop the statues from entering the portal. The wind carried away our words, but not our intention. Britta grabbed the arm of the nearest one just before he made it through. She pulled with all her might. Then suddenly everything stopped moving and Britta fell to the floor with the statue.

Silence.

We sat for a moment and caught our breath.That was a close one. Now we just had to figure out how to get the Gods through properly…

 

The Hazardous Hospital Dream

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Zombies again. For someone not into this particular genre I sure as hell do dream about them a lot. This time there were about fifty of us hiding in an abandoned hospital. The zombies had trapped us in a large room with nothing but graffiti and debris. There were the usual violently colourful tags on the walls and an unusual skull shape painted on the floor. But to be honest, we weren’t being overly judgemental of the décor.

Beyond the skull was a corridor that bent in a way that was impossible to see what was coming. As the somewhat designated leader of this band of survivors I had to check it out. I raised a hand to ensure everyone stayed quiet and didn’t follow me.

The hospital was in a sorry state. The pipes along the walls had cracked over the years and trickled freely. Moss grew in every gloomy corner and the mouldy tiles squelched under my feet.

I sensed movement. Beyond the running water there was another gentle sound. I saw a shadow glide along the pipework to my right, heard the groaning as a great weight slithered along them.

As it grew closer to the light I saw the shimmering green scales of the snake. Its head fanned out in vibrant orange, a warning sign to prey. No, wait a minute. A traffic cone. Stuck with the smaller end around its body and the base framing its head like a last minute lion costume. I backed away. Just because his head couldn’t reach past the plastic to bite me didn’t mean it couldn’t crush me to death.

I crept back to the large room where everyone was talking amicably and discussing what they thought we should do next. They all shut up when they saw how pale I was.

“Guys,” I whispered. “Stay calm… there’s a snake.”

They all looked at me as if I was an idiot. A snake? So what? Zombies were the main threat. Someone giggled and the room returned to a hum of chatter.

Dougie, a good friend of mine, approached me with a pretty good sketch of the skull painting on the floor. “I’ve been studying this,” he said eagerly. “There’s something about it. What do you think it is?” I looked at the painting again. He was right, there was something odd about it. It wasn’t like the other graffiti.

I shrugged. It was important right now. I left Dougie to his musings and wandered around the room. I was surrounded by people from my High School, people from my past. I wondered which ones I would make an effort to save if the worst came to the worst.

I heard a yelp near the corridor and pushed my way back in time to see the snake. He’d followed me into the room, but rather than attack anyone he meandered straight for the skull. His elongated body traced the paint on the floor  and somehow sank into the skull, bringing it to life with a jolt of electricity.

For a moment we stood around it, wondering what it meant. We didn’t have to wait long to find out. Suddenly the skull shot white sparks to the ceiling and loud 80s music began to play. Disco lights shone in all corners of the room and everyone automatically started dancing. It was as if they’d forgotten their situation and were being forced to let loose. I’d never known Rick Astley had had that power.

I felt the rhythm try to take me and I fought it. This may have seemed harmless but we were attracting attention to ourselves. I grabbed a few of my closer friends and broke them out of their trances. We ran.

Before we’d even made it to the other end of the building we heard their screams. There was nothing to be done. If I’d brought too many with us we’d all be in danger. I climbed up the nearest flight of stairs, heading for the top floor, and my band of merry men followed.

We found a penthouse office that spanned the size of the hospital. The entirety had floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the sea. If you looked straight down you could see the cliff that the hospital had been erected into. This wouldn’t be an easy escape.

Floating like wisps of black silk on the skyline, the vampires were hovering. I studied them as they created new zombies below. Their cloaks were like rags floating on an invisible breeze, masking their hideously deformed faces. Long crooked fingers reached out towards their new armies, ripping out their souls and twisting the flesh. There was no way humanity was coming back from this.

Dougie joined me in the window. He’d been on one of the computers and had found the scheduled deliveries timetable.”There’s a boat leaving in ten minutes heading for the mainland. If we can figure out a way of getting past the zombies and finding a way to the port, we could make it.”

Before I could even begin to hope that this was a plausible plan of action, the big white cruise liner sailed out of our eyeline. Dougie sighed. “Guess we’ll have to wait til the next one. If there even is a next one…” Dougie leant against the nearest desk with his head in his hands. Everyone else slumped in the desk chairs. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t just sit and wait for either death or an opportunity to find me. I had to make an opportunity.

“I’m going for a walk,” I muttered. Nobody so much as reacted, let alone offered to join me. So I walked. I walked through endless abandoned corridors and dirty white rooms until I lost track of both time and direction. Soon I became aware I was well underground, and hadn’t once encountered a zombie on the way.

Walking down an unfamiliar corridor, I noticed how considerably colder it was getting. In a moment of disbelief I realised it was fresh air. The corridor began to curve upwards towards a trapdoor. Taking a deep breath, I pushed it open.

I was in my garden. My garden, several counties away from the hospital. It was as if I’d stepped into a parallel universe; no vampires, no zombies, nothing wrong at all. Like I’d stepped into a page of my own history.

I walked cautiously through the house. It was all so neat and modern, nothing like the real thing. My parents had evidently been renovating whilst I’d been running for my life. My parents were sat on the sofa, casually watching TV. They didn’t seem particularly surprised at my entrance after being away for several days.

“Are all the doors locked?” I asked, alarmed. My mum looked towards the nearest open door and shrugged. Doing a perimeter check of the whole house, I had to shut and bolt the doors, all of which were made of incredibly protective basic glass. The white curtains blew in the gentle breeze and I shut them too, desperately trying to keep the horror away.

I could sense the vampires swarming outside. They were surrounding the whole house, but they couldn’t come inside. I relaxed a little. If a door wasn’t open, they could not cross the threshold. So we sat and watched TV for a while, almost as if this were a normal night. I felt bad on the people I’d abandoned in the hospital, but if I went back for them I almost certainly wouldn’t be able to find the secret passage again.

That night I dreamt about them. A coach full of people was on their way to rescue them. At least, that’s what it would look like. One black guy with a long jagged cut from forehead to cheek hid amongst their ranks. He had the disease in his eyes; they were milky white with the departing of his soul. He smiled.

I woke up and instantly rang Dougie. Surprisingly, he answered on the third ring. I was surprised he still had battery.

“Dougie!”

“Yo, where’ve you been? There’s a coach here, we can go home!”

“No, Dougie! Do not go near that coach.”

“What? Don’t be daft, what else are we going to do? It’s our only chance of getting away!”

“One of them has the disease! He’s a black guy, long coat, big cut on his face…”

“Okay, Claire,” he said, but I knew that tone of voice. He wasn’t listening. “I’ll keep my eye out.”

That was the last I ever heard of him.

The Binned Bodies Dream

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I got a job in Tesco (already you’re thinking, wow Claire, I’m gripped! Tell me more!) It was a giant store with two floors filled with absolutely everything, with a work force of over a hundred. It was such a big and awe-inspiring Tesco that even on my days off I’d turn up and just chat to the team, sitting on the railings behind the tills and munching on cola bottles. That was the life.

For several days I followed this routine, sitting in my spot and people-watching. One particular day I noticed a few shifty looking guys with full matching tracksuits and caps, scouting around the supermarket. For some reason the security staff didn’t seem to notice them. Lots of people in the area had gone missing lately – maybe they were in some way related?

After several days of these men coming in, looking around and buying nothing, I followed them outside (not an easy job when in uniform). One of them had a vicious looking pitbull on a metal chain, foaming at the mouth and barking at anyone close to it. I watched as they followed a woman through the trees across the park; heard the snapping of bones as the dog’s teeth went through her arm; her pitiful, hopeless scream…

Nobody so much as blinked.

The next day I went back to work on autopilot, still in shock. The men and the pitbull were nowhere to be seen, despite me watching vigilantly all day. There was a full bin bag where the dog was usually chained up and I dared not look inside.

At about 5pm the manager’s voice echoed over the intercom:

“This is an emergency announcement. Can all customers and all staff please vacate the premises immediately. A mass fumigation is underway.”

The entire building and surrounding streets evacuated, heading for the train station ten minutes away. I was one of the last to leave with two colleagues; Mark, who I had confided everything in earlier that day, and Dan, who laughed and joked, blissfully unaware of the danger unfolding around him.

A mist descended over everything. We could barely make out the road in front of us and the crowds we were following had long since vanished.

“Proper zombie weather, this,” Dan said. We remained silent. This was no fumigation. At least not of any pests. And this mist wasn’t natural.

The further along we walked, the more lost we became. There was nothing to see but the mist and several full bin bags littering the pavement. These rapidly increased in quantity until there were more bin bags than floor space. Hundreds of them lining the walls and up against trees. Around lampposts shining dimly in the foggy winter sky, they were piled in vile pyramids.

“Jesus, where did all these come from?” Dan kicked the nearest bag.

“Don’t!” I hissed. He looked at me as if I’d gone mad. “There are bodies in them.” I felt sick. He laughed, waiting for me to reveal a big prank. When I didn’t he looked at Mark, whose pale and trembling face held no comfort. Dan swallowed.

“If they really are bodies,” he said slowly, “Who’s killing them?”

“A group of men.” I started walking again, encouraging them onwards. “Although I’ve only seen three, and there must be more of them to kill this many so quickly. But I’ll know them if I see them.”

As if on cue, a silhouette in the mist appeared from the treeline. I could just about make out the shape of a chained animal.

“Run,” I whispered, but they’d already seen us, undoubtedly had been hunting us the entire time. “RUN!” I yelled. Mark and I made good time, but Dan wasn’t as prepared as we were. The dog caught him easily and ripped him to pieces.

There was no time to stop, no time to cry or throw up or even think. We had to keep going with no direction or idea of any safe place. Everywhere we ran we heard the snapping of jaws and gleeful laughter. It felt like we were getting nowhere.

But the further we ran, the clearer the air became. Soon we could make out roads again and a glimmer of hope reached my heart. We’d come to a motorway where cars were running as normal, as if a massacre wasn’t happening only streets away. There we met a woman who we didn’t bother explaining to, we just told her to run, and to her credit she did.

Until her shoe fell off and the idiot went back to get it.

I turned just before the dog’s jaws clamped down over her head. It stood there, chewing, blood dribbling down its flews and insanity in its eyes.

We ran.

 

 

 

 

 

The Ludicrous Letting Dream

Standard

Moving house is never fun. There’s the packing, the sorting, the endless application forms and fees. But when you’re all sorted and the ordeal is over it’s usually worth it.

…Unless you move into an old cottage on the top of a block of flats with no roof on it.

I don’t know what I’d been thinking when I’d arranged to take it. Maybe I hadn’t arranged it – I didn’t remember doing so. There was something unique and cool about having a whitewashed cottage with original beams five floors up on a modern building. And a little odd.

I was handed a two pronged key, much like a cattle prod, and the final paperwork. Then the estate agent left me to it, probably ecstatic some moron had finally taken the troublesome cottage off of his hands. I walked up the several flights of stairs and arrived at my new abode.

Inside was a little derelict to say the least. Beams hung broken from the ceiling, there were holes in the floorboards and a thick layer of dust lay over everything. But hey, it had character! And bonus, the windows were all in tact. The whole house may fall down around me, or even on me, but at least I had windows.

I began tidying and unpacking my things optimistically, and it was long into the evening before I finished. As I stopped moving around, I noticed it was getting much colder. There was a considerable draught, and as I looked in the direction of its source the afternoon’s optimism thoroughly dissipated.

There was a ruddy great hole in the roof.

And ‘hole’ is an understatement. There was more sky than roof in the main bedroom. And bedroom is hardly the word. There was a raised bit of floor I’d chucked my bedding over to make a sort of bunk bed. I lay down on it and looked up at the stars whilst I reevaluated my life choices.

There was a knock on the door – the front door of the cottage that led to a large drop into nothingness. I looked through the door pane to see my friend, Beryl. She was peering through, so I waved and let her in.

“Hiya!” she said in her usual chirpy manner. She held her handbag tight on her shoulder as she walked around my new home. The longer she looked, the more forced her smile became. It disappeared completely when she clapped eyes on the roof.

“Oh Claire,” she said, “what are you even doing here?”

“It’s not that bad,” I said, smiling. Karma chose that point to make the sky rumble and pour torrential rain onto my freshly made bed. I watched helplessly and shrugged as my life fell further apart. Beryl just stared awkwardly at it.

“Aaaand over there you can see the bedroom and shower. I’m saving space,” I said, trying to lighten the mood and stop myself from just breaking down and sobbing.

Beryl didn’t laugh. We were interrupted by the side door opening. One of the guys from the neighbouring flats walked in. I hadn’t realised they had such easy access to my cottage. The man glanced briefly at the watering splashing all of my possessions, then demanded my rent payment. I blinked blankly back at him, then asked who the hell he was.

Of course this tosspot had to be the landlord’s son. Beryl chose this convenient moment to make her farewells and disappear, and I’ve never seen her more happy to leave. The guy shoved an invoice in my hands which showed an amount far larger than the agreed rent.

“What’s this for?” I asked, gesturing to the extra figures.

“We’re having a camping party, he said. “Someone’s got to pay for it.”

Sure enough, through the open door I could see several tents and a camp fire set up in the corridor of the flats. Tenants in sleeping bags lay on the floor, watching us eagerly.

“Am I even invited?” I asked.

He chuckled in response. Took that as a no.

I handed him over the money in a slight how-did-my-life-get-to-this trance and he smirked and left me to it. They began playing loud music and laughing at my misfortune.

Well, I told myself. Could be worse…