The Reaper

Gary had always loved the sound of their screams. At 6am every morning, he cut off another pretty little head and left it purposely to rot beside those still living, imprisoned in their earthen pits. A warning of their imminent future.

In these uncertain times, he was lucky enough to have a job he truly enjoyed, even if the salary was poor. Lord Mycroft had entrusted him to keep the estate immaculate, and thus given him free reign of the grounds. He must have known about Gary’s hobbies, having regularly witnessed him massacre thousands at a time, rotating blades with glee as their bodies spattered and fell about him. And yet, he still kept him in his employment. In fact, he encouraged it. Asked him to bury innocents; hundreds of them in neat rows, just to pillage their limbs several weeks later. Gary was all too happy to oblige.

He would often linger in the toolshed after hours, caressing the equipment of his sadistic pleasure. The shovel was a personal favourite. At a touch of the worn metal, he imagined pushing it deep into the flesh of the earth, feeling the agony of the ground beneath, begging him to stop. Of course, that only drove him to continue, until a gaping wound had been made. In this he would bury a fresh victim for his games. It was an obsession. There were millions just waiting to feel pain at his hands, and nobody was going to stop him.

Oh yes. Gary fucking loved being a gardener.

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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.

Modern Fairytale

This piece was born from an exercise in an Urban Fantasy Lit Circle to place a fairytale character into a modern setting. This was the first image that came to mind:

 

“Yeah, Karen? We’re gonna need your assistance in Footwear.”

Karen sighed and clicked the microphone button. “Sure, what’s up?”

“See for yourself,” her boss crackled back.

Straightening her blue work shirt and smoothing down her hair, Karen entered the service lift and pressed the Level 2 button. She was always given the shitty jobs, but hey, it’s what you had to do to get a promotion around here. They certainly didn’t pay her enough now. Karen wondered what kind of job this would be; another kid throwing up everywhere, or another group of women fighting over the same cute pair of sandals?

She exited the lift into a new chaos.

As far as Karen could see, each shelf was empty. Every single shoe had vanished. Even the discarded pairs that usually littered the floor were gone. The bare white metal reflected Karen’s face as she tried to comprehend the vast emptiness. She was vaguely aware of a woman complaining to her right, and mumbled a brief, “we’re very sorry madam, we’re sorting it.”

A loud sobbing made her turn sharply left and follow the wretched sound.

She found the shoes.

Every single style, from slippered boot to stiletto, had been accumulated into a large footwear mountain. Amongst this, a woman sat crying into the folds of her pink and white dress. A crowd of women surrounded her, mumbling and giving her funny looks. Any time they reached for a pair, the woman in pink hissed at them.

They turned as Karen approached, expecting her to know how to handle the situation. She smiled nervously and knelt beside the distressed lady.

“What’s the matter, love?” She asked. The lady was surprisingly beautiful behind her puffy red eyes and soggy blonde hair.

“They all fit!” she moaned, hugging some court heels to her chest. Karen raised an eyebrow.

“Surely that’s a good thing?”

“No, you don’t understand! They all fit! All the shoes here fit more than one of us! There’s not a single pair here that just fit me! How will he recognise me now?”

Before Karen could reply, she broke down again, collapsing on the cheap pile of footwear and muttering about pumpkins between sobs.

 

Mayday

Mike caressed the worn woodwork in a way that he had never caressed his wife. Each dent and patch of sticky varnish rekindled memories beneath his fingertips; the chip where the ladder had fallen whilst decorating for Paddy’s Day; the dark red stain where Beth had dropped an entire bottle of rioja over a customer; the shreds of silver tinsel still stapled to the underside. He looked around the empty pub with tired eyes.

He had purchased The Captain’s Wife when he was just thirty years old; a derelict pub on the brink of demolition. Mike remembered as a child sliding on his knees across the hardwood floors, begging his parents for another coke as they contributed to the heavy smog around them. The pub had been a regular scene of his childhood. But time had eroded the decor and the owner until he could no longer maintain it. Mike, on a whim, decided to buy it, and with love and hard work restored the bar to its former glory.

The Captain ran in his blood like his current dose of morphine. It was the reason he got up in the morning and he could never shake it from his mind. But it was also a disease, eating away at his brain and crippling his brittle bones. The Captain was an addiction, and without his permission, Mike was being thrown into rehab.

He heard banging outside and looked away from the empty optics. Outside, a man in a suit was hammering a sign into the flowerbed, its crude letters sending a stabbing pain through his chest. It was like an invitation for the world to come and peer at his loss. A few weeks ago his wife would have been ecstatic at the sight. Well, he thought, you got what you wanted after all.

“You got everything, dad? This is the last from the cellar.” Paula plonked a cardboard box on the bar and began sifting through the pile of mail next to it. He smirked at the irony of her question, but didn’t have the heart to make a joke. “Yes, thanks love.”

Paula tutted. “More of the same,” she said, holding up several envelopes with “URGENT” stamped across the top. “I wish they’d just leave you alone, they know the situation.”

“It’s fine, love.”

“It’s not fine, everything’s-”

“It’s fine.”

Paula sighed. She squeezed his shoulder and said, “I’ll be in the car when you’re ready.” He smiled gratefully as she picked up the box and backed out of the front door. Silence engulfed Mike, and he loathed it. This was a place of noise and raucous laughter; the clinking of bottles and the smashing of glasses, the roaring chants of football fans, the tinny din of the outdated games machine. He’d give anything to have those back. But the iceberg had already been hit. The ship was sinking with its captain, neither steering through the storm without the other.

With a resigned sigh, he flipped the lights off, gave a last fond gaze and locked the door.

Taxes and Taxis

Dusters at the ready, kids; I’ve finally uncovered the blog from underneath the enormous stack of paperwork on my desk! Much has happened in the many months I’ve been away/too lazy to upload anything – predominantly adult chores like work and bills and crying. I won’t bore you with that. In fact, I’ll get straight to the awesome bit:

I’m back at Uni!

This time I’m tackling the MA Creative Writing, and it has finally prompted me to write again! Not only does that mean I get motivated towards doing something with my life, but it also means you wonderful people get a lovely story to read (or another lousy post to scroll past, depending on how you look at it). And expect many more to come!

 

Just Here is Fine

Rosie watched the wooden prayer beads swinging dangerously from the rearview mirror and thought, Christ, even the car needs God right now. She had been in this taxi for less than five minutes and was already regretting her decision. Evidently she’d been kidnapped by some psychopath who’d just forged his license and stuck an Eagle Cars sticker on the side of his Peugeot.  Although what was the point in kidnapping her just to crash the damn car?

She put her phone on silent and sent a quick text to Megan. The driver didn’t notice. Her bare arms stuck to the old brown leather and her hand slipped from the grab handle. Fog slowly crept up the back windows and Rosie held back the urge to write “HELP!” with her fingertip.

Oh my God, why were they going this way?

Her eyes darted around the taxi interior, trying to peel her mind away from what would happen when they stopped. If they stopped.

 The minibus had six seats; two foldable for wheelchair access. There was a step on either side by  the sliding doors. The plastic screen separating the passenger from (their demise?) the driver had a visible handprint on it. There were smears across the floor; mud – blood maybe? It was too dark to tell. The driver started humming tunelessly. Rosie closed her eyes and muttered under her breath.

The musky stench of the leather mixed with the stale smell of other people – (How many others has he killed?) – and her own anxious body odour. This, combined with another sudden jolt had her heaving. Was this really going to be her final memory? Her mind flashed through all the people she’d ever loved. How many would even know she was gone? Did she have time to text more? She dared a quick peep through the window and almost cried when she saw her street name.

“Just here is fine,” she whispered. The taxi came to an abrupt halt and Rosie shot forwards in her seat. Fumbling to remove her seatbelt with wet fingers, she froze as the driver, this hulking silhouette of a man, lifted his arm –

– and pressed the button on the meter.

“Six fifty darlin’.” His voice was low and gruff, disinterested.

She reached a shaking hand into her purse and held out a ten pound note. The driver flipped on the lights and turned to take the money. She saw him for the first time: face set in a scowl beneath a jail cell haircut. His clothes were scruffy, layered beneath an even scruffier beard. But his clear grey-blue eyes yielded their terrible secret; he was painfully, exceptionally ordinary.

“Keep the change,” she mumbled, half disappointed, and fled.

 

…I’m exhausted already!

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.

The Hypnotic Ham Dream

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.