Tag Archives: Fiction

Parade of Hate

Sean dodged the flag as it’s owner swung it in another swirling circle, narrowly escaping a clout from the pole it was attached to. A brief glimpse of the bearer’s grinning face flashed through the blur of colour. The drink was kicking in now, not before time either given that he’d been wandering through the parade, bottle in hand, for the last two hours avidly trying to work up a drunken glow.

A hand clapped him on the back and was gone by the time he’d turned to see whose it was. Everyone was a friend here though, any passing stranger could have been acknowledging his attendance with approval, just as he’d done in half a dozen hurried and vague conversations himself already.

As he walked, or increasingly stumbled, forwards he could feel the vibrations of stamping feet and drum beats up ahead where a crowd had gathered to break up the shuffling procession with an outburst of raucous noise. Sean recognised the tune, if not the words, which had clumped together in an incomprehensible blob of excited noise, more communal growl than chant. Another swig and he joined in himself, grunting in tune to feel like part of it and earning smiling affirmation from the crowd he was joining. Over their heads he could see the police line monitoring their progress, warily waiting to see if collective celebration would slip over into anger. It would, Sean knew that much, sooner or later it always did when drink had taken it’s grip on everyone and the joy of looking inward gave way to the simmering anger of looking outwards. It was why he was here, why he tried to drink himself ahead of the rest, he wanted to be ready and willing when the tide turned and the good spirits gave way to malevolence.

Flags were bobbing up and down ahead of the band, piledrivers digging in and out of the mass of people towards the front of the parade. The start of something hopefully, the embryo of a reaction fuelled by some hold up along the route. Sean smiled and raised his voice in the eclectic chorus, throwing an arm around the stranger next to him and shaking him with heartfelt familiarity. It wouldn’t be long now before they started moving as one, pushing forward and into the waiting line of police, and that was where the real beauty of the day lay.

For more from me you can check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

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Platform 323 (Part Three)

This is, possibly, part on of an ongoing serialisation derived from something I’ve already written. The plan is to put a new part up every Tuesday so feel free to like it, or follow the blog, if you want to see more. You can find all parts here.

“Captain?”

Murat was in bed when the heavy thuds fell on his door. By the ship’s clock it was some time in the afternoon on their ninth day hanging vacantly in space but for the life of him he couldn’t think of a good reason to get up.

There was more knocking on the door to his quarters. Pulling the blanket up over his head he did his level best to ignore it but as it grew more insistant and he found himself more and more awake until it became clear that he wasn’t just going to be allowed to drift back off.

“CAPTAIN!”

Rolling out of bed with an unhappy grunt, still in his faux-uniform from the night before, he stumbled over to the bulkhead and swung it open.

“What?”

“The ship, it’s here.”

Momentarily phased Murat stared blankly at Ecce, his second-in-command and perhaps the only member of the crew to retain any vague faith in him. She was young, she didn’t know any better he’d concluded, she’d learn to drop that soon enough.

“What ship?”

“The ship captain, the Neftech one. They’re not sending out an ID signal but it’s them alright, their design, no weapons, just a cargo ship.”

‘Shit’, was Murat’s first thought. He’d reached the point of zero expectation a few days ago, anything more demanding than lying in bed feeling sorry for himself was an unwelcome interruption. Ecce was staring at him though, eyes full of nervous expectation. She was like that, enthusiastic, efficient, a complete mismatch with the rest of the crew. She’d even had her own uniform made. It was black, had epulets and made Murat look like he should be cleaning out the drainage systems while she ran the ship. At times like this it made him feel that he should being doing that too.

“Erm, ok, lock the missiles on, I’ll be right up to talk to them. Don’t fire, just make sure they know we’re here.”

Weaponless cargo ships on covert missions were the worst type, in Murat’s opinion, they were bound to be up to no good, and Ecce was just the sort to get carried away and start shooting. It came from being brought up on the Platforms, that unnecessary sense of romanticism. Planet-siders were pessimists, happy to have escaped but certain in their pessimism that bad things were only ever a wrong step away. The natives of 323 were the same, caught as they were at the nexus of illicit activities among the Platforms; cynicism came easy to them. But Ecce was from a hydroponic station where solidly built kids were raised to lift things, shift drums of chemicals and take undue pride in being ‘red hands’ rather than worrying about the fact that the nutrient additives they spent their lives amongst were changing the colour of their skin. To everyone else it was a bizarre rural affectation for people who lived on a space station, but they grew the food, albeit in large plastic irrigation frames, so they could do what they liked. To go from that to 323, or piracy meant either a secret shame that the folks back home viewed as so scurrilous as to bar you from civil society, even if no one else gave a damn. Or a streak of romanticism so wide that you could still pretend, or even believe, that you were living the dream after 9 days of floating around pointlessly in a steel can surrounded by admittedly high functioning drunks, drug addicts, reprobates and failures. Ecce had the latter and despite keeping an eye on her Murat had never gotten the sense that it was faked.

Sharply clicking her heels together Murat watched as she strode off down the claustrophobic gangway which led to the command room before stepping back into his room and squaring up to the few inches of mirror which hung from the wall. Which quickly confirmed that he looked like crap, in a jumpsuit that had gone unwashed for a week and with a face that would have made a bloodhound suggest a nice lie down and a few days off. His mess of black hair had picked up a few greys, as had the ramshackle beard his aesthetic indifference had fuelled. A couple of scars above his eye and across his chin stood out too, mementos of his fighting past. He used to look military. Clean-shaven, cropped hair, rigid bearing – he still could do, he reckoned, he just needed a good run up to respectability, but there was no time for that. Instead a few tentative slaps to the face and a hand run through his hair would have to do. The creases in his makeshift uniform would flatten out and his tired brown eyes would look less bloodshot after a coffee or two. He’d have preferred a vodka to take the edge off but the drink free policy on the ship was his own idea even if he was the only one who ever adhered to it. The crew more than happy to operate a few tonnes of spaceship whilst completely battered on un-named ‘alcohol’ and whatever illicit chemicals they’d managed to pack.

There was no point dwelling on any of it though, there was a ship waiting and self-doubts aside, he was a Pirate. He’d learnt from the best, or at least the slightly above average and even if it had been failure all the way for a long time now success wasn’t wholly beyond his capabilities. With a grunt of self-assurance he left his quarters and headed to work.

For more from me you can check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

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Dead Man Dying

It was dark and it was cold and it was a cemetery. Kay shook as he squinted into the night, looking for tell tale signs as to the quickest way to get out. No matter how many of these places he ended up in, no matter how certain he was that he was the scariest thing in them, it never got any easier.

Looking down he could see that his sign was gone, another idea to cross off of the list of potential solutions. ‘Not dead, do not bury’ – how much clearer could he have been? And why did people never listen? A bird made a noise in the distance and Kay let out a brief gasp of fear. Why did everything have to be so goddamn atmospheric? If he had to have his… condition, then why did they always have to take him to the most gothic, spooky, Hammer Horror place they could? Why was it never a nice clean morgue that he woke up in? Why was the graveyard never a brightly lit one overlooking the sea? Was it him? Well, of course it was. Things like this never happened to people who weren’t him after all. Normal people didn’t have to worry about falling asleep in case the coroner came to haul them off, but then normal people didn’t look like the walking dead. For the fiftieth time he reminded himself that whoever had interred him here had probably meant well, in their own way. No point being angry about it. And at least they hadn’t buried him, that was a definite plus, a crypt was infinitely preferable to another six hours spent scraping away at wood and dirt in a desperate bid for the surface.

His night vision was kicking in now, he could see the obligatory gothic gravestones all around him, the elaborate angels carved over the mausoleum he’d just exited, the desiccated trees which never seemed to grow any leaves. He suspected there was some janitor whose sole duty it was to hack off any sign of green shoots in places like this, an aging Goth probably, revelling in the aesthetic continuity of it all.

There was a crack. A loud one that sent Kay leaping a foot into the air, which played havoc on his barely hung together knees. That wasn’t a bird, not unless it was an ostrich anyway.

“Hello?”

With luck it would be a groundskeeper, or a late night mourner, even some Emo kids out playing at being vampires and having sex between the graves would do. Any of them might, after suitable persuading that he wasn’t a zombie, give him a lift back to civilisation, or at least a pointer in the right direction. Kay held his breath for a heartbeat as he strained to hear a reply, a bit of a pointless exercise given that he neither breathed nor had a beating heart – facts which had led him to his unfortunate funereal routine.

“Grrrrawwwwwl”

Knees giving way he did his best lurch back to the doorway of the crypt he’d just emerged from, cowering in the meagre security of only having the definitely dead behind him and the growling darkness in front.

There was shuffling and more low-pitched grunting, definitely not a bird although teenagers still weren’t out of the question. And then he saw her, shambling out of the night, skin tattered and rotting, eyes sunken into black pits, desiccated orbs glaring at him with an unnatural glow that he recognised from his own fleeting experiences with mirrors. And she smiled at him, as best she could through wasted cheeks and with blackened teeth.

“You alright there? Sorry about the growling.”

Kay saw the world rising around him before he noticed that his legs were buckling, just in time to grab onto the wings of a passing marble angel adorning the doorway. A grunt was all he could manage as the natural urge to either grab a pitchfork and get to stabbing or to run to the hills washed over him. A process of inertia which lasted just long enough for the woman to drag her clumsy form over to him and stick out a welcoming hand.

“I’m Lou-Anne, pleased to meet you.”

“Ugh”

Kay reached out tentatively and shook her hand, for once in his life as wary of someone elses fingers becoming detached in the process as he was of his own.

“So, got a name there?”

“Kay, I’m Kay, and you are?”

“Lou-Anne, like I just told you. Shit, don’t tell me you’re one of those ones whose brain has rotted away, if you are I’ll take a lighter to you myself now, save the angry mob the trouble.”

Rushing to martial what remained of his motor skills Kay pulled himself back into something resembling an upright position and grunted in what he hoped was an eloquently coherent way to buy himself a few more seconds to gather some words.

“No, my brain works good. I mean, no, it hasn’t rotted away. You’re… like me?”

“No flies on you there Kay. Well, obviously some flies, but that comes with the territory, yes, I’m dead, just like you. First time meeting one of your own eh?”

Kay took a second to consider the question, half aware that his jaw was hanging slack as he stared at her. Technically speaking he had known for a while that he was dead. The lack of a heartbeat, the lack of breathing, not needing food, being hit by that bus, they’d all been clues that a more willing mind might have picked up on. Then again, he’d also been successfully walking around, talking and even, occasionally, working for the last three years despite those minor disabilities so the idea had been an easy enough one to avoid. Barring the occasional good Samaritan hauling him off to the with grave ceremony when he fell asleep of course, something he did his best to avoid given that the ‘sleep of the dead’ seemed to be a genuine thing which could endure all sorts of autopsies, funerals and internments. Faced with one of ‘his own’ though he couldn’t do much to deny his somewhat unliving state.

“Yeah, erm, yes… I suppose I hadn’t really thought about there being others…”

Lou-Anne smiled again, a few flakes of skin falling away as she did so. Kay did his best not to register disgust, after all, he was no oil painting himself. Unless it was an oil painting of a cadaver of course.

“Well, don’t worry, you’re not alone and we all process it in our own way. Anyway, fall asleep did you? Gotta be careful about that, the more you do it the deeper you go, heck, it was only when they tried to cremate me that I got the message about doing that. Best to stay awake eh? Avoid all confusion.”

“I had a sign, it said I wasn’t dead.”

She nodded sympathetically.

“Nice idea, always hard to convince people though eh? Especially when you reach the point you’re at, I mean, you know your nose has fallen off right?”

Kay didn’t, although he had been feeling like something important was missing recently, but mirrors were always something to avoid if you could.

“No need to look so glum there Kay, it’s not the end of the world. If it makes you feel a bit better I’ve got a box of spares somewhere – prosthetics you know – we can sort a new one for you. Something nice, you’ll feel like a new man.”

“Are there a lot of… us?”

“Oh yeah, there’s a fair few. That’s why I come down here, never know when you’ll find a stray like you wandering around. Always in the spooky graveyards too, never been sure why that is. I like to pick ‘em up and get them back into society, you know? Doing something productive with themselves.”

Kay wondered to himself if ‘productive’ meant shambling around and growling but it felt rude to ask.

“Y’see, Kay, there’s all sorts of things you can do with yourself now you’re dead. I’m guessing that so far you’ve just drifted right? Lost your motivation? Lost that lust for life you used to have? Well it doesn’t have to be that way, sure society might see us as abominations but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a place for us. Just look at reality TV, there’s a place for everyone in this world.”

The situation was starting to sink into it’s own normality, as the shock wore off Kay started picking up the slighty manic tone in Lou-Anne’s voice. She sounded like an evangelical, a TV preacher, her words just that little bit too enthusiastic. He smiled politely, he hoped, and started scuffing his feet a bit, trying not to let the awkwardness in the air show.

“Oh yeah, it’s a whole new world Kay, there are all sorts of things you can do and I’m here to make sure you find your way. We have meetings you know, every week, kind of like a support group – which trust me some of us need when bits start falling off! You’ll have to come along, get involved in the community.”

Kay could feel his smile growing stiffer, becoming a rictus grin that he vaguely suspected would never fade. Taking a step or two sideways, out of the doorway and away from Lou-Anne, he started to trawl his dusty and decaying brain for excuses to make a move.

“Well, that sounds great and all, but I really need to go.”

“Oh Kay, where could you possibly need to go? You’re dead, remember? Come on, I’ll take you to meet the crew, we’ve got a meeting tonight and Stewie’s bringing his ukulele! We’re going to have a sing a-long. It helps keep the mind active you know, very important when you’re one of us. Of course he does struggle a bit, poor guy, always losing fingers in the strings but we’re there to keep him going.”

With a surprising turn of speed her hand shot out once again and clamped itself on his shoulder, pulling him in closer with the inevitability to of a black hole. Before he knew it she was steering him into the night, radiating an iron will that his atrophied muscles felt helpless to reject. She was still talking too, something about an annual summer camp and a mentoring programme. His limbs surrendering to her guiding hand Kay gave out a low growl of his own.

Why did it always have to be somewhere like this that they left him?

For more from me you can check out my novel Crashed America – available in paperback and digital formats. Or you can try any of my other work here – variously available as ebooks or paperbacks. 

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The Digger

They can bury me, beneath ten, a hundred, a thousand corpses. I won’t care. Suffocate me with the dead, fix me in place with carrion for a casket. It means nothing. When morning comes, and it will, I’ll rise again. Same as I always have.

I see them. I see them staring down at me from their gallows of flesh. The ones who see their death and the ones who don’t… they hate me. As they walk to their own slaughter or slide the knife home. They hate me and they judge me and pile more death upon me. I’m their dump, their rubbish pile. They hurl their guilt and fear and hate at me, but I don’t care. This is nothing new and when the morning comes I’ll rise again.

More bodies to bear. Is that what irony is meant to be? Perhaps. I, the one who digs and hauls and heaps dirt on their shame, buried by the lot of them. No matter. Let it cover me, I can bear the weight, they’ve shown me that.

She’s watching me, one of the ones who sees her death but rages against it. Your fear, woman, not mine. More piles on. Your hate, not mine. But why not? Hurl it at me, cover all of me. You’ll be dead soon, I’ll not deny you this. When morning comes I will rise again.

No Cure for Shell Shock, the collection this is from, is available free on Kindle until the 14th of January. You don’t need a Kindle reader to download it, the app can be installed on any phone or tablet. You can download the book here.

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The Accursed Blessed

‘You are blessed. You are blessed. You are blessed. You are blessed. They’ve given you love, all the love you’ll ever need. You are blessed.’

The woman had been crying and repeating herself for hours now. No one was staring at her any more, though a few dull eyes still fell in her direction. There was nothing there though, just eyes hanging in sallow faces. They’d had their vision drained on the journey they had taken and been blinded by their arrival.

“… they’ve given you love, all the love you’ll ever need. You are blessed.’

I hug my baby closer and try to filter out the unceasing chant. Perhaps I am. I’m the only one left living here. The rest have stepped over already but I have something to fix me in place, love, all the love I’ll ever need. Her words are meaningless, a desperate lie but my eyes aren’t lost yet. I still see. I see enough to know that they took him and he won’t be back, enough to have watched that old love cut apart and buried. I saw them slice at him, through cracks in flimsy wood. He was made nothing, another object to be dragged away, no longer lover, father or man. And I was given a replacement, all the love you’ll ever need wrapped in rags torn from the blind who bore broken witness to the birth.

I feel no blessing though, no love, no nothing. I am no better than the rest. But still, I am not yet blinded. All the love you’ll ever need. Enough to see, for now.

“… you are blessed.”

No Cure for Shell Shock, the collection this is from, is available free on Kindle until the 14th of January. You don’t need a Kindle reader to download it, the app can be installed on any phone or tablet. You can download the book here.

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