whispers-in-the-shadows

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					Whispers in the Shadows
           Vol I

           By
     Alan James Keogh
This work may not be copied in it’s entirety. Short samples may be used as long as credit is given to
                      the author and a link to the authors website is given.

                          © Alan James Keogh, 2011. All rights reserved

                                       Smashwords edition.
        Table of Contents

        They are Coming

           They Live

            Inevitable

        Together Forever

   From the Corner of Your Eye

      Suffer Little Children

              Nails

            Sanctuary

A Night of Wonder and Enchantment

        Alpha and Omega

          Relinquished

        To a Heathen God

       Beneath the Surface

         Invisible Killer

          Cosmic Joke

         Deadly Secrets

     The Fabled One Hundred

          Resurrection

          Afternoon Tea

        Beneath the Trees
                                         They Are Coming.

The sun was shining fiercely, the day was hot, not as hot as some, but enough to make you sweat.
She paused as she wound her way through the graves, it seemed almost perverse to be here
surrounded by death on such a beautiful day. A reminder that life continues whether you live or die.
All around the graveyard there were trees and plants, reminders of life. Blooms of colours where
flowers had been laid to rest above the final resting place of others. The day had a surreal quality.
Everything was so bright, so spectacular. The colours seemed more real than they ever had before,
as if the colours she knew previously were only shadows of themselves and here she was seeing
who were casting the shadows. A sprinkler misted water over the grass, preventing it from dying
like the occupants of the graveyard had. The mist cast a rainbow, it hung in the air, promising life to
those who could find its end. She took a deep breath of the clear air and continued on her way. She
would be there soon. She passed the mausoleums, running her hand gently along the outside. It was
still cold despite the sun’s intense heat. It was cool and soothing, she felt a shiver run along her
spine, letting her hand drop from the marble surface, she felt the heat rush in on her again, as though
she was no longer under its protection. Everywhere she looked tombstones were covered in
decorative wreaths and flowers. A few at the back were empty of adornment, looking lonely and
solitary amongst the colourful boasts of the others. She considered moving some flowers to them,
then wondered if that was disrespectful. Glancing at her watch, she discarded the idea. She didn’t
have much time left. As she walked in her sandals, she could feel the grass pressing against her toes.
She quickly looked around, then bent and removed her sandals, carrying them in her hand. The
grass was cool and pleasant. She continued her journey, feeling some trepidation as the final
destination appeared. The tombstone was slightly larger than those around it and more ornately
decorated, an angel sat perched atop the stone, looking sadly towards the ground, its arms bent
upwards, as though calling the soul of the dead toward her.

Facing the tombstone, she smiled, then apologised for not visiting sooner. She spent so little time
here. She wished she had longer. She looked up at the statue, and saw with some surprise, the angel
was holding a bouquet of dead roses. It seemed perverse, but she was feeling tired. She would have
to go soon, the day was getting hotter and sweat began to run down her back in thin rivulets. Her
dress wasn’t as cooling as she had hoped. Carefully, she kneeled. She was still alone in the
graveyard. Slowly she lay herself down atop the grave and positioned herself carefully, she would
be lying on his body, if he were here now, his hands would be wrapped around her, giving comfort.
She closed her eyes, then opened them. It was so nice here, so peaceful, she could feel herself
drifting into a slumber. She looked around the graveyard again, the grass was brown and dead, the
gravestones crumbling. Rubbish blew about the tombs, skeletal bushes and trees shook angrily as
the wind moved through them. The sky was grey, deep thunderclouds clashed against each other,
rolling together, like the waves of the sea. Her dress was tattered, her feet bare, no longer bound in
the sandals made from scrap rubber. As she closed her eyes again, lightening struck followed by a
deep rumble of thunder. The rain began. It was cold, so cold and soothing on her feverish skin. She
smiled, then opened her eyes and looked up at the sky, feeling the rain on her face and body. It was
a torrential downpour, already her dress was soaked and sticking to her emaciated frame.
Lightening cleaved the sky, out of the corner of her eye she saw movement. Something was coming
toward her, her eyes, blinded by the lightening couldn’t quite make it out. She wasn’t worried. She
would be gone by the time it reached her. She had places to go. Important places. She turned her
face toward the ground again, there was another flash of lightening, followed by deep thunder that
drowned out her words. “I’ll be with you soon.”
                                               They Live.

It began slowly, innocuously. Although the first appearance was quite sudden. There was no
warning, no dent, it was just there. As if the small little hole had always belonged on my calf. As
though it had always been there and always would.
I first noticed it, and, after a quick moment’s inspection, I thought that I should visit the doctor
soon, then, I went about my day and it promptly left my mind.

The next time I noticed, I chided myself for not making an appointment and once more thought to
do so. However, this time, it seemed fascinating. Sickeningly so. On the outside of my left calf was
this small, although rather too large, hole. It was perfectly circular and completely black. It was as if
no light could penetrate it. I studied it for hours, twisting this way and that, trying to see if there
were more. I even used a torch to try and find what the cause was. The hole was too deep to see
completely into, what I could see was regular looking skin and the rest faded into shadow. There
was no redness, no swelling and no pain. Once I had satisfied my morbid curiosity, I went to the
phone to call the doctor, but, on my way, it slipped my mind. One moment I was striding
confidently, if a little panicky, towards the phone, the next, I stopped, paused, then wondered who I
was going to ring.

It seemed every time I saw it, I immediately remembered, but, once it was out of my sight, it left
my mind. This went on for a few days, then, another began to appear. I could see a small dent,
perfectly circular, and watched as, over a few hours, it deepened. It happened imperceptibly. I was
only aware of it if I looked away and back again. But, curiously, each time I looked away, I
momentarily forgot what I was looking at. they were completely erased from my mind. I can think
of numerous times I glanced at my calf and saw nothing but smooth, slightly hairy, skin.

It was a week before I noticed them again. This time there were seven. They had taken on a slightly
honeycombed shape, thin walls of skin separated each one. I used a magnifying glass, but could not
discern their cause. They only thing I was sure of, was that they were there and they were not pores.
When I next saw them, I was shocked and horrified. I counted fifteen and what appeared to be three
more. Their overall honeycomb shape became more apparent. I stared at them for hours. Moving
this way and that, seeing how they would react. They seemed to compress slightly if I stood, as
though, weakened, they could no longer support my weight. I went to bed, troubled, but unsure of
what. I had written down, “Call a doctor about your calf, NOW”, on a piece of paper, but, when I
looked at it again, the writing was scribbled out, obscured by thick, black marks.

When I awoke the next morning, I felt a strange sensation in my calf. Swinging out of bed, I
glanced at the sheet and saw a strange, yellowish liquid that had soaked into the sheet where my
calf had rested. The residue seemed sticky, almost mucousy. The area around the holes had a sheen
and the skin was also coated. Counting, I found thirty four. I tried not to gag at the sight. The
sensation returned, more uncomfortable than before. Quickly, I grabbed the flashlight and tried to
see what it was, but I still could not penetrate the depths of those damn holes. Quickly, I looked for
something, anything, that was thin and long.

I noticed that as I walked, my left leg seemed to sink slightly as my weight was put on it, like a
spring under pressure. Finding a thin needle, I carefully pushed it into one of the holes, slowly so as
not to accidentally stab myself. As it went deeper, the golden yellow liquid oozed around it.
Becoming thicker and faster flowing the deeper the needle went. Finally it stopped, however I could
not feel the tip. I could feel the sides of the needle, but nothing else. I pushed it further and felt
something writhing.

Slowly, ever so slowly, I pulled the needle from my flesh, dragging more of that disgusting goo with
it, a slight smell of rotting fruit filled the air, vile but with a sweetness to it. As the needle head left
my flesh, I wretched, then vomited. On the end of the needle was a small, black worm, wriggling as
it died. As I watched the creature that had lived in my leg squirm, I realised what the sensation was.
It was coming from each and every one of those holes. Something was inside each one, something
was squirming in each one. Something was burrowing deeper in each one. Shudders pulsated
through my body as I tried not to vomit again. I stared at that tiny dying creature, unable to look
away. There was no time. No time to think, only to act. I made my way to the kitchen and, grabbing
a sharp knife, I sat down and set to work..

First I cut through the tiny pockets of skin, allowing the holes to become one. Then I dug out each
and every one of the vile creatures. The deeper I dug, the more I found. blood had begun to flow
freely and fill the hole I had created, I limped to the bathroom, barely able to walk. As I sat on the
side of the tub and grabbed the hose, I could feel them inside me, hundreds, perhaps thousands. All
gorging. Turning the water on, I rinsed the wound clean, clearing my field of vision. As the blood
cleared, I saw them. A writhing mass, living inside me. Occasionally, one would fall from the group
and, squirming, would be washed down the drain. At first I used the knife to try and remove them,
then, my fingers.

I felt something sharp bite into my hand. One of them had attached themselves to the tip of my
index finger. With a shout of horror, I cut it away from my flesh. I carefully cut until I found tissue,
then I began to saw. Hacking away, trying to remove as much as I could. Clumps of those insidious
things fell from my leg, my vision grew cloudy, shooting stars of red and black flashed across my
eyes. I knew I was going to pass out soon and still I tried to work, faster and faster, trying to finish
the horrific job. I remember breathing deeply, then darkness.

I awoke in the hospital, an untold amount of time had passed. A delivery man had looked inside my
window to see if I was home and had seen a trail of blood, he had called the police. I tried to explain
my actions to the doctors. They didn’t understand. There was no trace of those creatures. But I can
still feel them, I can feel them advancing, burrowing deeper and deeper, gorging on my flesh.
Thriving in my warm body. Soon, they will burst forth. I will have to stop them. Some how, I will.
                                              Inevitable.

I almost died. I would love to tell you what happened, but I don’t remember. My memory goes as
far as waking up that morning and going to the shower. My next memory is three weeks later. I
wasn’t in a coma or anything exciting like that. I just can’t remember. Supposedly I was in a lot of
pain so I guess my mind simply blocked it out. I recovered well, faster than was expected. Out of
the hospital in two months and walking on my own in three. They say I was in a car accident, a
lorry ploughed into the bus I was on. I was the only person that survived.

For a while in school I was called the boy who lived. Though I had no arch enemies from my
experience, unless you count those who had lost someone. It quickly petered out though, I didn’t
really care what I was called. It made no real difference. Besides, the nickname was far too long to
stick. At least, as one that’s used when trying to get my attention.

I don’t really know when I started to know when I would die. It just sort of occurred to me one day
that I had a date and time stuck in my head for no apparent reason. Three days after I realised it was
the date I would die. Then, it changed. At first I was concerned as the date came closer or further
away, then I just started to live with it. I didn’t concern myself to much with the date. Usually it was
a few years away. Sometimes I got flashes from people. What they were feeling, how they were
doing. I don’t really attribute this to any magical or mystical being, rather, I just think I am more
observant than those around me. A little tilt of the head, the slight movement of the lips and I can
instantly tell how you feel. This doesn’t happen all the time. Only when I am not paying attention.
Once I try to read people, it goes away.

I don’t interfere with people really. Not often. Occasionally if I get that someone’s really down, I try
to say something, but really, what can you say to a stranger in the street? “Hey, I know you’re
down, buck up, don’t kill yourself?” generally I don’t feel too bad about what happens to them.
They are of no concern to me. Some of you may think it’s cold or heartless, but it’s neither, I am
ambivalent. If I know I can help, I will. But otherwise, why bother? Most of the time it doesn’t
work or people think I’m crazy.
There was only one time I felt bad about not stepping in.

Katrina Welts. She was the closest thing our school had to the popular girl. There were no groups of
gorgeous, snide girls every one wanted to be or be with. There were no handsome, dumb jocks
everyone feared and respected. But there was Katrina. She was kind to everyone, no matter who
they were. She had a knack for spotting people who were down, she would always go and talk to
them. Comfort them. If there was someone in tears, Katrina would be there. She had a magic touch.
If you had no friends, a simple chat about homework with Katrina would lead to others talking to
you. She had a kind of magnetism that rubbed off on people. If they were close to her, they seemed
to take on some of her allure.

I was passing her in the corridors, trying to remember if I had any biology homework left to do
when it hit me. Full force in the stomach. She was in agony. And I felt it. Burning though me,
sapping my energy. Draining my will to continue. When I turned to call to her, she looked back.
What I saw terrified me. There was something fundamentally wrong with her. She was damaged in
ways I could never begin to comprehend. I stood, unable to move, to call out to her. By the time my
brain kicked into gear again I had lost sight of her. I could have gone after her, I could have rang her
house or left a note.
But I didn’t.

I pushed it away, rejected it from my mind.
I developed theories, they can never be proven, but it helps sometimes. All those times she reached
out to people who were drowning, all those times she helped others, I think that maybe she too was
reaching out. Looking for help. Hoping that rather than frantically clawing at her like a life
preserver, that they would simply take her by the hand and together, they would go to safety. That it
wasn’t just me who could have done something, could have stopped her.

Of course, there was shock around the school the next day. I tried to hide my guilt, luckily most
thought I was just upset like them. They didn’t know that it was far worse. In time, everyone moved
on, people stopped crying, her seat was filled by another student, her locker cleaned out and given
to someone. They forgot. Maybe not completely, but I wouldn’t allow myself. Her parents and
friends said they had no idea. That everything was fine until the morning she didn’t come down for
breakfast. But that’s bullshit. There’s always a sign. Always an indication that something is wrong. I
felt it, that day she looked at me. She was screaming and no one could hear her. No one but me. I
have often thought of telling someone. What I did. But then, what would that accomplish. They
wouldn’t understand. They would try to placate me by saying I couldn’t have known, that it wasn’t
my fault, that nothing could have been done, that I simply imagined the whole thing later.

Sometimes I wonder if she did it voluntarily. If there was something there, something small and
insidious, telling her to do it. Maybe a friend or relative. Maybe some fucked up cousin. Maybe it
was unintentional and they will never know that they set her death in motion. We go through so
many interactions with others that mean little to us, if we strained our minds to breaking we would
probably never remember, but they on the other hand, will never forget it. Some off hand remark, a
casual glance could set events we could never know in motion. How many people have been
unintentionally saved from suicide, or death? That quick hug that’s given so freely, staying their
hand later. That five minute conversation that stopped them getting hit by a car running a red light.
Even a sincere smile of thanks or gratitude. Equally, there’s the reverse, people who talked to those
in their last few hours of life struggle to remember something, anything they could have done to
prevent it. Sometimes there was nothing. No way to avert the impending tragedy, but what about
those that could have done something, noticed they were down and didn’t offer help, would they
remember? People talk about how if they had said something, actually talked to them but would it
have made a difference. Would our subconscious pipe up to correct us when we say “no, they were
perfectly fine” would it remind us of the subtle cue’s that we didn’t pick up or ignored? Probably
not. No one wants to hold themselves accountable. They blame themselves but do they think it was
my hand that pulled the trigger, it was my hands twisting the rope, it was my hand reaching for the
pills, the alcohol, the blade.

Those truly responsible, those who really push and push and push till something gives, rarely accept
responsibility. Those who do it purposely with that goal in mind relish what they have done. They
feel no shame or horror.

I like everyone else try to make excuses. It wouldn’t have made a difference. I couldn’t change it.
But I know better. I could have done something. I should have done something. There’s no way to
get the blood from my hands.

It mostly happens when I go for walks. I begin the train of thought that always leads to the same
destination. There is no way of derailing it. It will promptly arrive with its cargo of guilt. Strangely,
the walks clear my head. Oil the machinery, allow me to keep going without getting bogged down
with too much thought. Each breeze against my face clears my head a little more, snagging some
thought or idea with it and carrying it away. The countdown in my head is today’s date. A few
minutes away. I know I could probably stop it, but how? If I change course and go home, perhaps a
house fire kills me, if I continue, I could be mugged. If I go back, there could be a car crash, an
explosion. There is any number of ways to die. It could be something simpler. My guilt over comes
me and my brain stops, a congenital heart defect causes it to stop. An aneurism shuts down my
brain, a clot stops my heart. I continue walking. They air is warm, the sun bright. A gentle breeze
picks up some leaves and swirls them away. Releasing a deep breath, I continue to walk as the
seconds count down.
                                          Together Forever.

She was cleaning when she came across them.
She found vacuuming soothing, the gentle hum and repetitive motions. She was cleaning their
room, under the bed, it had been so long since she had vacuumed their room. The head of the
vacuum dragged them free as she tried to get at that difficult corner.

A pair of red, lace panties.

They were vulgar things. Far too vulgar for her to ever consider buying, let alone wearing. She
turned pale, and turning off the annoying drone of the vacuum she sat on the bed, clutching them.
Tears began to well before falling, dragging down her mascara, cutting through her rouge, so
carefully applied not long ago.

It was the end. She found it hard to breathe, with each breath she wanted to scream, give release to
the feelings building inside her. Slowly, she stood, feet unsteady in her high heels, and left the room
they had shared for almost twenty years. She made her way downstairs, to the sitting room. She
moved carefully, her mind spinning through a thousand emotional shifts. Hurt, anger, pain.
What was wrong with her? Was she not good enough for him? What did she do wrong?

Reaching the sitting room, she went to the fireplace, immaculately clean, not even a speck of ash
marred the surface. Carefully, she put the disgusting object onto the grate. She picked up the box of
matches and with a swift, practised flick the match head burst into life, the fire merrily burning. She
paused, staring at the flame, at its flickering elegance. She brought the match to the fabric, slowly
the fabric caught. the slut-red panties began to burn, unimpressively at first, then the flames
established their dominance, quickly burning through the underwear, leaving nothing behind but
charred remains.

She looked at the ash, thinking of her marriage, that’s all it was now. A sham. Their love had burned
away long ago, leaving them nothing but ash. Standing, she went into the kitchen, the fireplace
needed to be cleaned.

First, she scraped away the ash with a small trowel, then taking a bucket of warm water and a cloth,
she scrubbed feverishly at the remnants until it was back to its pristine glory. Each movement of the
cloth exacerbated her anger. How dare he? How dare he? She had given him her life. They had been
together since they were fifteen. There was no one else for her. She did everything for him, she
cooked, she cleaned. Everything.

As she poured the blackened water down the sink something snapped. Something fundamental. Her
mind began to fracture. Shaking her head lightly, she looked around, unsure of where she was. How
silly of her, getting distracted. She had things to do! With everything back in its place, she returned
to their bedroom, planning to finish the vacuuming, it was important to keep a clean and respectable
home.

She glanced in the mirror as she passed and was shocked to see the state of her make up, streaked
and uneven. Water must have splashed in her face as she emptied the bucket. A faint voice piped up
“then why aren’t there any black marks” she frowned for a moment before pushing the thought
down and smiling again. She would just have to fix her make up. Sitting at her dressing table, she
carefully wiped away the make up that was left. She reached for her night cream, then laughed. She
was so used to her make up remaining perfect, only removing it at the end of the day.
Reaching for her brushes, she began to reapply the façade with quick, practised movements.
Normally she took her time, enjoying the daily ritual, but she was in a hurry now. She had to finish
cleaning, then start dinner. She had somehow lost an hour. She could be so silly sometimes.
Finishing her make up, she continued to clean. The sound of the vacuum unnerved her, she didn’t
like it. She finished quickly and surveyed the room. Normally she would consider it lazy, but really,
who was going to notice. Only she would. Why should she care if no one else did? Simon cared. He
liked a neat and tidy house. She laughed, Simon? Like he would notice.

A sudden image of red panties flashed across her eyes. She had to sit down again. There was no
one. She had no one. No one but Simon.

They never had children, she thought they were too messy, Simon thought they were too noisy. No
friends, who was there to meet? Her old friends have moved away or their friendships had just
fallen apart. She had nothing. Every day was the same. Get up, shower, apply make up, wear a nice
outfit, clean and make dinner. The only times she left the house was to go grocery shopping or for
their bi-annual clothes shopping. Her eyes began to well up again, she could feel tears threatening to
fall once more. She shook her head, dispelling the images and thoughts. It was no time to be
thinking such silly things. Simon would be home soon, she didn’t have time to make their dinner
and reapply her make up.

She looked down at her dress, relieved to see it wasn’t stained with make-up tainted tears. She
realised with horror the dress she was wearing was slut-red. How on earth could she have bought
that? How could she have worn it? Her mother would never approve. Stripping quickly, she stepped
out of the dress that puddled at her feet and looked in her wardrobe. Picking a nice blue dress, a
respectable one, one that could be worn to church, she slipped it on.
Looking at herself in the mirror she saw with dismay her jewellery no longer matched. She didn’t
have many pieces, but what she had was carefully matched to her clothes.

Taking off her red necklace she carefully placed it on the display, then she took her blue one and put
it one, shivering as the cold metal touched her skin. She swapped out two rings, they were small,
subtle. She didn’t like to wear bracelets. They were gaudy.

She returned to the kitchen, her heels making the satisfying and reassuring click as they fell on the
tiles. She began preparations for his favourite meal, a roast dinner. She wasn’t as prepared as she
should have been, but no matter, it would be delicious anyway. She placed the joint of meat into a
dish. Drops of blood fell on the white counter. There was something, small and persistent in the
back of her mind. That colour, it called to her. Shaking her head, she wiped it away and continued
with the preparations.

He would be home soon, the dinner was cooking, filling the house with delicious smells. She
paused at the mirror to check once again. Her make up was perfect, hiding the fractured person
underneath. She smoothed her dress nervously, then went to the kitchen.

He was normally home by half five. As six o clock passed, she began to worry. It wasn’t like him to
be so late. Usually if he knew he would be late he would call her to let her know.

Seven passed.

Then eight.

She sat in darkness, terrified of what might have happened to him. She moved around the house,
turning on lights, she felt better, calmer. At half eight she heard his car pull up, his key in the lock.
His heavy footsteps entering the house. She frowned. His feet better not be dirty. She had cleaned
the hall just this morning. He came into the kitchen, then paused when he saw her sitting at the
table. “Where were you?” “I had to work late” “you should have called, I was worried.” “You’re
right. I’m sorry.” “No matter. Dinner will be ready in a moment, have a seat at the table.” As he sat
down she lit the candles she had placed out.
The flames seemed to mesmerise her for a second. He was about to ask if she was ok when she
snapped out of it. He didn’t give her her customary kiss. She felt slighted, but didn’t mention it.

“We need to talk.” “Soon, first, lets just enjoy dinner, it’s your favourite.”
She placed his food in front of him, piled high with everything he liked, generously doused in
gravy, exactly how he liked it. Taking her own plate, she sat down across from him and smiled.
There were glasses of wine, already out. He sipped at his at first, then took larger gulps. Soon
draining the glass. He ate quickly.

She ate slowly enjoying each mouthful, savouring it. Occasionally, she would sip her wine, but no
more than sip.
When they had finished eating, she cleared their plates from the table, putting them in the
dishwasher. Simon looked tired.

“Can we talk now?” “In a few minutes, just let me enjoy this moment. It’s the best part of my day.”
He looked uncertain, but stayed silent.

They sat at the table for a few moments before Simon clutched his stomach in pain. She smiled as
he groaned. He fell from the chair, landing with a thud, writhing in agony on the floor. His body
making new and fantastic shapes.
She knelt beside him, taking his head in her lap “shhh, shh, it’s ok, it’ll be over soon.”

She stayed with him until he died, then she began the difficult task. Slowly and carefully she
dragged his body upstairs, gently putting him on their bed. The bed they had shared for twenty
years. Lying down next to him, she reached for her bottle of pills, prescribed to aid sleep. Taking as
many as she could swallow, she nestled in beside Simon. Gently she closed her eyes, they would be
together now, forever.
Whether he liked it or not.
                                    From the Corner of Your Eye

The attic was almost unbearably warm. Even though both windows were open the heat was stifling,
they provided ample light though little ventilation. Motes of dust floated lazily in the shafts of light,
a butterfly fluttered briefly by the open window and outside birds sang. Jane looked at the
cardboard box dispassionately. Feeling hot and tired, she longed to be outside and, grabbing a
handful of papers, she flopped backwards onto the small couch. Plumes of dust erupted, waving her
hand in front of her face, Jane tried not to cough. As the dust settled she started to rifle through the
paper. She had no interest in organising the contents of the box, but had no choice.

Near the bottom of the box, there was a camera. Smiling, Jane turned the camera toward herself,
half suspecting the camera was broken. The flash lit up the room briefly, casting everything in pure
white light. Something moved behind her, startled, she gasped, turned, and realised it was only a
trick of the shadows, Jane laughed at herself while going back to the papers.

Finally finished, Jane quickly made her way downstairs, bringing the camera with her. Leaving it on
the kitchen counter, she made a sandwich. While sitting down to eat, her dad entered the room and,
seeing the camera, went straight for it. “Where did you find this?” “Oh, it was up in the attic, was it
yours?” “Yeah, it was, I thought I lost it.” “I found it in one of the boxes.” He snapped open the
backing and carefully took out a roll of film. “I don’t even remember how old this is. He went to a
drawer and dug through it, then finding what he wanted, he put the film into a small black canister.
I’ll get this developed tomorrow, see what’s on it.” “While you’re there could you pick up some
more film? I tested the camera and it stills works” “yeah sure, no problem.”

Jane was sprawled on the couch, watching TV, when a small, heavy package hit her stomach, sitting
up, her dad called out “there’s those pictures, it might be interesting to have a look through them” as
he continued down the hallway. Opening the paper folder she took out the pictures, most of them
were of people and places she had never seen, some seemed familiar.

Coming to the last one, she paused. Her heart began to beat frantically, the rest of the pictures
slipped from her fingers and fell to the floor. They lay there unnoticed as she stared at the image in
her hands. It was the picture taken the day before, incredibly, impossibly, there was something else
in the picture. A large dark shape stood behind her, seemingly looking at the camera. It was
humanoid in shape, but it had no features. It almost looked as if the creature was standing in the
couch rather than the small space behind. The top of the creatures head appeared to go through the
roof. Noticing the other pictures she quickly picked them up, returning them to the folder.

Jane lay on her bed, staring at the picture, “surely it’s a mistake, maybe the film was damaged or
something”. She stood, leaving the picture on the bed and began to pace. Seeing a dark shape from
the corner of her eye she spun around. There was no one there. She couldn’t show the photo to
anyone because what did it prove? That there was a dark shape behind her? Something that could
probably be explained by a logical and reasonable explanation.

Eventually, she decided to throw it in the bin and forget about it. She turned to her bed, the cream
duvet was still wrinkled where she lay but the picture was gone. Jane panicked and frantically
looked around the room. The window was closed, as was the door. She sat on the bed and breathed
deeply, it was gone. It didn’t matter how it was gone or where it went, the important thing was to
forget about it.

It watched her, pacing back and forth, occasionally muttering to herself. Hidden in shadows it was
safe from her gaze. She couldn’t see him. But she had before. He waited until she turned from him
before grabbing the picture. She spun around. He knew that she had seen him, even if it was only
briefly. Something had to be done. He didn’t know how she would react.

Jane looked at the camera, wondering if it should be thrown out. She made up her mind and decided
to put it back in the box in the attic. Feeling better she went to the bathroom and began brushing her
teeth. Bending down to rinse her mouth, she stopped, then stared wide-eyed in horror as the water
became a thick black sludge. It filled the sink and began to bubble over when she finally screamed
for her dad. “What? What’s wrong?” “The sink.” “What’s wrong with the sink?” The black sludge
continued to pour from the tap. Her dad moved closer, then, stuck his hand into the thick, black goo.
He removed his hand, now coated, and looked at her. “I don’t see anything wrong with it. He
twisted the tap, the flow slowed, then stopped. She realised he didn’t see it, didn’t feel it, even
though it coated his hand and wrist. She glanced back at the sink, it was still full, heavy droplets
hung from the edge, occasionally falling to the ground with a dull thud. “I…I thought I saw a
centipede in the sink.” He breathed out “that’s all? I thought something had happened to you.” He
smiled at her, then, shaking his head, left the room. Slowly Jane moved toward the sink and reached
out gingerly, taking a deep breath, she put the top of her finger into the goo. It felt oily and gritty.
She rubbed it between her fingers then held them under the light, expecting it to ripple with colour,
like an oil slick. Instead there was nothing. No rainbows of shimmering colours, no reflection of
light.. Not sure what to do, she tested the tap again, more black sludge filled the sink, then, a second
later all the sludge turned to water. It cascaded over the sinks edge, falling to the ground and
covering the floor. Quickly she turned off the tap and reached down to the plughole to try and
unblock it. Seeing something was sticking from the drain she pulled at it, then, gasped as it pulled
back, as it did the water started to drain out of the sink. The ooze she had touched left her skin
feeling unclean.

Moving from the computer, Jane stretched, she had found little information on what was happening
to her. Nothing fit. She had found a brief article talking about shadow people that secretly ruled our
governments. Realising what she was going through wouldn’t be found so easily, she decided to
keep a journal of everything that was happening.

Lying in bed she stared up at the ceiling, the stars and moons she had put there as a child glowed
softly, occasionally she forgot they were there and when she noticed them again it was always a
pleasant surprise, but now they gave her no comfort.

When she woke the next morning she opened her eyes, rather than seeing her room she saw
nothing. Darkness surrounded her. She was unable to move. Unable to scream. Two bright, fiery
orbs moved into her vision. Soon the darkness started to dissipate. Frustrated and frightened Jane
called out “What are you? What do you want?” she shivered and got out of bed. On the mirror, there
was a message,

“Park. Midnight. Alone.”

Jane didn’t know who or what had left it and going to the park could be dangerous, but, she
reasoned that she was not much safer at home.

While he was observing her, she saw him. He had cocooned people many times while they slept
and, sometimes they had woken, but they never saw him.

The moon was full, it hung, round and heavy in the sky, staring down at the world like the clouded
eye of a long forgotten god. A faint breeze stirred the trees causing them to chatter excitedly. The
streetlights bathed everything in a dark, yellow glow.

The moon had been covered by clouds, as if the events about to take place were too terrible to
watch. Jane moved through the gloom, not really knowing where she was supposed to go. As she
walked her watch beeped, indicating it was midnight. She stopped and looked around. She was in a
large clearing, she had wandered here aimlessly but wondered if perhaps she was drawn here.

Around her the shadows began to move before gathering into the shape of a man. “Who are you?”
“I am everything. I am everyone.” “What do you want from me?” “Knowledge” “what kind of
knowledge?” “How can you see me?” “I don’t know, I just can.” “You are special. You are
different.” “I don’t know why I can see you, I really don’t, why can’t you just leave me alone? I
won’t tell anyone I saw you and I’ll just forget it ever happened.” “You can’t.” “Why not?” “You
will have children. They might see us.” “Us?” the shadows moved once again, forming more
people. Jane took a step backwards. “We must not let that happen.” She continued backing away.
“You must be stopped.” “But I haven’t done anything!” “It does not matter.” “How can you punish
me for something I have no control over?” “We are strong. We are powerful. We decide. We can
give life and we can take it away.” “But why? Why does it matter if people see you? You’re
shadows! You can’t be real!” “They cannot know.” “Why not?” “It would drive them mad.” The
head figure pointed behind Jane, she turned and saw a large Oak tree, once majestic and tall, lose its
leaves, they started falling, faster and faster, coating the ground beneath it, the leaves continued to
age, curling and disintegrating, disappearing. The trees limbs started to droop, then fall, one by one
as they continued to rot. The stump that was left continued to decay. There was a slight breeze and
the trunk crumbled, it’s dust carried away on the winds. Jane turned back toward the creatures. “It
never existed. No one will remember its presence in the world. No one will notice it’s gone.” “But I
know. I saw it.” “Did you?” “Yes I did.” “That is why you cannot be.” Jane continued to back away
from the creatures, planning to run as soon as she could. “There is no point” the creatures started
talking as one, their voices in unison. “No point in what? Life?” “No. There is no point in running.
We are everywhere. We are everything.” Jane turned and ran, the eyes of the shadows grew brighter
as they dove after her, they covered her completely, engulfing her, destroying her. Erasing her
existence. She tried to scream but she made no noise. The ball of shadows contracted then burst
outwards, the clearing filled with light, as they fed on her energy.

Jane’s father woke the next morning and made breakfast as usual. He looked out at the beautiful
day. The kind of day she had loved. He thought of his wife, Angela and how she had died giving
birth to their stillborn child. He sighed and gathered his things, getting ready to go to work, thinking
of his life and how it should have been.
                                       Suffer Little Children

The freshly fallen snow was invitingly unbroken. The world seemed to hold its breath in awe of the
beauty. The skeletal trees which before had seemed dark and threatening now looked clean and
fresh. The silence was only broken when two children ran into a clearing, the crunch of snow and
their gasps for breath filled the air. Their eyes fill of glee and their cheeks red, they continued
running, the boy in front stopped and scooping snow as he turned, threw a snowball at his sister.
The cold seeped in through her jacket as she went to pick up snow to retaliate. Before she could aim
the cold missile her brother set off again. She started to after him but she realised he was too far
away. She looked around her surrounding, realising they were deep in the woods she called out to
her brother “Joshua! We should go back, the snow will start falling again soon and we won’t be able
to find our way back.” Her brother slowed but didn’t stop, wary of trickery. The girl looked at the
grey sky, growing nervous.

She didn’t want to be caught in a snow storm, they were close to home, but if the snow fell as
rapidly as before it would obliterate the markings along the path. She looked over to where her
brother was running. He had disappeared from view. She muttered “idiot” under her breath and
started to go after him. She walked carefully, she thought Joshua would hide behind a tree and
would try and surprise her. Now aware of the cold she did not want her jacket to get any wetter.

As she got closer to the spot she had last seen him a sense of dread grew in her stomach. “C’mon
Joshua, we have to go back” a twig cracked to her left, causing her to jump. She turned towards the
noise “Joshua, I know you’re there, stop playing games, I’m getting cold.” Behind the trees he
started giggling, she shook her head, he always giggled when he was about to get caught in hiding
games. She looked for his footprints, figuring she would double around and catch him from behind.
She followed his foot prints further down the path, trying to pretend she wasn’t following them. In
doing so she nearly fell down the hole. Seeing it she stopped suddenly, fright causing her to stumble
backwards.

Creeping carefully closer she looked into its inky depth. Standing once more she notices Joshua’s
footprints stopped at the hole. Her eyes were drawn to a splash of brilliant red at the edge, she bent
over again and called out “Joshua?” she could hear a faint moan. She was still unsure if he had
fallen or if it was just an animal. She remembered hearing him behind some trees and realised he
was probably just trying to scare her. Already a plan was forming, she too would pretend to fall by
screaming and then she would hide and when Joshua came to investigate she would sneak behind
him and scare him. As she turned she felt long fingers with sharp points rest on her back before
being pushed into the hole. Her head barely missing the edge. She screamed as she fell, her hands
flying out and grasping at the sides, hoping to grab a root, but her hands found nothing but smooth
earth. The fall seemed endless in the darkness. The light from the opening failed to penetrate the
darkness, no longer was she aware of which direction was up or down. She readied herself for the
eventual impact.

Her screams which had died off started again as branches started to hit her face and body, her
clothes tearing as they tried to protect her. She slowed as the branches were beginning to grow
closer together, although they slowed her, the thud of the impact left her writhing in pain and trying
to breathe. When the pain had subsided she gingerly stood, remembering the way the ground had
shifted as she had hit it. She could hear someone whimpering “Joshua?” “M-Martha?” as Martha
moved towards her brother her feet sunk into the ground, she noticed that she seemed to be standing
on a mound and, holding her hand outwards walked towards the sounds of her brother “Joshua keep
talking, I can’t see anything” Joshua had once more started whimpering, following the noise she
soon found him. Bending down Martha wrapped him in her arms “are you hurt?” “I-I don’t think
so” relief flooded over her.
Now that she wasn’t concentrating so hard on finding her brother Martha became aware of a rotting
stench that surrounded them. Behind her there was the sound of breaking branches before a thump.
They could hear the ground shifting as whatever landed moved about. The thing started to giggle.
Martha turned towards the noise “you’re the one who pushed me! Where are we? And how do we
get out?” the giggling stopped “wouldn’t you like to know” the creature giggled against, it’s voice
was old and unused, the words sounded as if they had to fight to escape the clutches of the creatures
throat “I’ve been alone so long. No one to play with. Its been so long” “maybe if you showed us the
way out we could play together outside, in the fresh air with the snow” the creature sighed “but if I
let you out, you might run away. I’ve been so lonely and so hungry” “I promised you we won’t run
away and there is food at our house, we’ll happily share” Martha knew their only hope was to try
and bargain with the creature.

As Martha felt warm breath caress her ear, she suppressed a shudder “so many have made promises,
empty promises. They lied, like you are lying now. I can smell it on you. So many come here to
visit, it’s so much fun, no one ever leaves” the stench of the creatures breath filled her nostrils.
Martha though she might pass out from the wretched stench but the creature seemed to move away
from her. She could hear it take a deep breath before it giggled again.
                                                Nails.

Her long nails kept drumming the table. Never stopping their steady beat. It was a habit of hers that,
at first, annoyed him, now, it filled him with seething rage. Such a little thing symbolised everything
wrong in their relationship. His own fingers began to move restlessly, itching. The bright red polish
caught the light, bouncing it into his eyes. She was as oblivious to her movements as she was to his
anger, her free hand turned a page slowly, before letting gravity pull it the rest of the way. He stared
at her intently, a small part of him trying to warn her to stop. Another, urging her to continue.
Reaching up, she scratched her cheek, her nails temporarily stopping. He knew that if the rhythm
was different, or if she had missed the starter beat, the spell would be broken. Finished their job, her
hand fell back to the table, and once more began their march. His hands started to clench. It would
be soon. His eyes danced over her, finding the perfect target. As he surveyed her, he was filled with
disgust. God. When did she start looking like a whore? When did the make-up go from a light coat
to this thick plastering layer? He noticed the little lumps where she had tried and failed to hide a
spot. They seemed to multiply under his gaze. Her lips were painted the same slutty red as her nails,
her eyes were heavily clouded from over-zealous strokes of the make-up brush. She bit her lip as
she read, the white tooth startling against the blood red. Her clothes were far too tight, both for her
age and her weight. He wondered who she was trying to impress. Most likely herself. God knew she
never left the house anymore. Just sat around all day, watching TV, reading, or the pastime that
seemed to be growing in favour, eating. He could just see the small rise of stomach that spilled over
her waistband, disclosing her white, pallid flesh. And still. That constant noise. He gripped the glass
tighter, briefly wondering if it would smash beneath his fist. The sun had begun to angle into the
kitchen, throwing squares of orange light onto the floor and cheap, white cabinets. God, he hated
the colour. “Cindy?” she looked up, her fingers never pausing, in time to see his knuckles coming
toward her. There was a meaty thud as they connected, then a harsh bang as she and the chair fell.
He looked at his knuckles, coated in smears of blood and makeup. She lay on the floor, to stunned
to react. Soon she would begin to cry, tears flowing silently, accusingly. Then the shouting would
begin. Then, who knew? He didn’t care. The drumming had finally stopped.
                                              Sanctuary.

The long robes covered his body, obscuring even his feet. the hood jutted out above his face,
normally, this would obscure it, but now, he was wearing a dazzlingly white mask, its nose was long
and pointed and from where his mouth should be, a long black hose snaked down his side before
disappearing underneath his robe near his ribs.

As he walked the robes swished along the ground, concealing the sound of his feet, he moved
steadily, almost without movement, it seemed as if he was gliding. As though the ground was liquid
and he was merely sliding through it. His hands were interlinked beneath the voluminous fabric,
hidden from view they intertwined, parted then joined once more, continually twisting, taking on
new and fantastic shapes.

Stopping he looked, trying to see through the thin, glass plated slits in the mask, moving his head
slightly to either side. Satisfied he was still alone he continued his journey in the darkness. For a
distance it appeared that his mask was floating through the air, unconnected and ungrounded, only
accompanied by the unrelenting rustle of cloth.

The floor was stone and cool, cracked and broken. The cloth slid over each crack easily, never
stopping or snagging. Finally coming to a door he stopped, glanced around furtively and then
entered. The door banged loudly, reverberating inside the empty building.

Gripped with some unknown determination he ascended the stone steps, his fingers, hot and sweaty,
paused their frantic dancing, his feet began to feel icy. With each step his movements increased in
urgency, no longer smooth and subtle his movements became jerky and violent. Reaching the top of
the tower he restrained himself from jumping onto the old thick gnarled rope which dangled in front
of him.

He grabbed the rope with both hands, it was rough and welcoming. Tightening his grip he pulled,
again, harder and faster. All around the sound of bells filled the air, growing louder and louder in the
small, confined space. Echoing and reverberating around the room. His breathing became shallow
and rapid, the mask was hot and stifling. Reaching up he ripped it from his face, a small cloud of
steam rose from the mask, the small box which had worked with exquisite precision previously,
grinded to a halt. The mask clattered to the ground, it lay there, forgotten but attached.

his face freed from its prison he lifted his head and breathed deeply, savouring the air, although old
and still, it tasted sweet and fresh. His breath became deeper, then slower. A feeling of perfect
tiredness washed over him, he half walked, half staggered over to the wall, leaning against it the
coldness moved through the fabric. He slid down it slowly, no longer wanting to stand.

His eyes started to burn and his head became heavy. Closing them, his head fell forward, chin
resting on chest. Strands of his hair started to fall from his head, unseen and unnoticed. The prayer
beads he had kept safe slipped from his pocket, clicking as each bead hit the ground and dragged
the next with it. As he lay there his breathing slowed, then, with one final effort he exhaled. He
would lie there, undisturbed for untold years, his chest muscles softening, his head falling deeper
into it, the rotting muscles in the back of his neck unable to hold his head aloft, until, his head
overbalances and the weakened muscles releases its grasp on his head, it falls onto his clothed lap
with a muffled thump. The room grew dusty and insects moved in the darkness, spiders cast their
silken webs, but always his body remained free of their gossamer strands, each insect knowing what
would happen should they touch the rotting flesh.
                               A Night of Wonder and Enchantment.

The billboard had promised a night of wonder and enchantment, and, though these were claims
often repeated by many other shows, he had believed it. The billboard had given the location of
both the show and where to buy tickets. He had impulsively decided he would get a ticket, right
then. Everything else could wait. He vaguely knew the address and, once he was near, he knew
why. His parents had sometimes gone to the theatre in this district. Though the buildings were now
run down and some boarded up, he recognised them. They had brought him once, the memory
distorted through the excitement of an eight year old. Everything back then had been so glamorous.
The shop fronts bright and enticing, lights beckoning him in. now they were faded and cracked. The
windows, once filled with amazing displays, were empty and broken. As he passed an alley, he
glanced down, in that brief second he had a moments doubt of what he was doing. Down the alley,
he had seen someone lying against the wall, a syringe sticking out of their arm. He wasn’t sure, but
he thought that they were dead.

His legs pulled him past and continued toward the theatre he remembered so well. Outside the
theatre, a woman sat in a glass ticket booth. She stared intently across the street until he came into
her view. Seeing him, she plastered a smile across her face.

He paused for a moment before walking up to her. Her face was coated heavily in make-up,
intricate designs looped around her eyes, sinking below her cheek bones before wrapping around
her mouth. Her eyes were bright against the darkness of her eyelids. He smiled, trying to hide his
nervousness. He felt slightly ashamed, as if he was doing something dirty.

“hi, I’d like to buy a ticket for tonight’s show” “of course. Where would you like to sit?” “up in the
balcony if possible.” she looked down at a chart she had nearby, then searched a box for a ticket,
taking one out, she scribbled something onto it, smiled at him again, “that will be 30 dollars” “oh,
ok.” reaching into his wallet he was surprised at how cheap the ticket was, but then, he realised it
must have been some kind of last minute deal. Taking out his wallet, he counted out the money and
passed it through the slot. “thank you, here’s your ticket, the show starts at nine thirty sharp, we
recommend you get here at nine to make sure you get in. once the show starts, you cannot enter.”
“ok, thanks a lot.” “no problem.” as he took the ticket he noticed her arms and hands were covered
in a layer of white makeup. He took the ticket carefully, not wanting to get any one his hands. He
glanced at the ticket in his hand, its colours were iridescent they changed and shifted in the light. He
couldn’t make out what she had written on the ticket, but, happy with his purchase, he started to
make his way out of the area, making sure to avoid the alleyway.

After he had walked a good distance, he remembered Sally, she probably would have liked to come
along too, but, not wanting to spend another half an hour going out of his way, he decided that if the
show was good enough, he could go with her again.

Night came quickly, he found that, rather than checking the time constantly, he mostly forgot about
it until he had to leave. He arrived at 9 o’clock promptly, slightly worried walking through the
empty streets. When he had come here as a child the pavement had been bustling with people, he
had clung to his mothers hand tightly, not wanting to be swept away in the crowd.

The theatre was bright and colourful, though he thought it was drab and grubby earlier, it had been
transformed. Bright, fresh colours coated the walls, the giant marquee proclaimed the name of the
show, surrounded it in lights, making it glamorous, sophisticated. Already there was a throng of
people standing outside the doors, waiting to be let in. there was a sense of anticipation in the air, so
strong he could feel it reverberating around his body. The people in the crowds shuffled restlessly,
looking all around them, trying to take in the theatres façade. He noticed that while people talked to
one another, they could not take their eyes off the entrance. More people began to appear,
thickening the crowd. There seemed to be no orderly queue as everyone tried to move closer to the
front. Finally, the intense wait was over, the woman from earlier stepped through the doors and
flung them wide open. “Welcome! Welcome to a night of wonder and mystery!” her arms remained
in the air, forming a graceful arc above her head. As the people passed her, she began to laugh.
Slowly, she started to move, exquisite, subtle movement, her arms never quivering. She turned and
danced, arms moving, spinning in a circle. She reminded him of a doll on a music box. As he passed
her, she winked, then smiled, her teeth yellow and crooked.

Red velvet curtains lined the foyer, swooping in careful curves. There was a small refreshment
stand attended by a young man, dressed similarly to the woman outside. Makeup covered his face in
a thick layer, obscuring his natural skin tone, a large hat, branching into two and ending with bells
adorned his skull. Though his mouth smiled his eyes remained dull. Ignoring the food on display, he
moved closer to the doors, eager to hand his ticket to the attendant and go to his seat. It was nine
twenty now, he didn’t want to be refused admission.

The corridors were dark, much darker than he expected but they were still decorated opulently,
thick plush carpet carefully cushioned his feet as he walked, the walls were painted a deep red, a
golden handrail trailed along the wall and up the stairs.
He was alone. At least, at the moment he was. No one else seemed to have a balcony ticket.
Carefully ascending the stairs, he made his way to his booth. He expected there to be seat
attendants, but when he reached the top, he realised they were not needed.

There was a long, thin corridor which circled around the top of the theatre, small alcoves jutted
occasionally from the walls. Each one was numbered with bright, silver letters. Hidden by red
curtains lined with golden tassels.

Finding his number, he carefully parted the curtains and stepped through, there were four seats in
the balcony and he had a perfect view of the stage. The seats weren’t numbered, so he sat at the
front and watched the crowds below, milling about the theatre looking for seats. There were
attendants downstairs, he imagined that they were dressed in similar outfits to the ones he had
already seen. Now that he was seated he was restless, he didn’t think everyone would be seated in
time for the show to start.

He was wrong. As the last person sat, the lights dimmed even further and the curtain was raised.

The hushed tones of the crowd whispering to one another immediately silenced, all eyes were
focused on the stage. It was dark, save for a single spotlight, casting a great pool of light. There was
movement in the shadows, then an unseen orchestra started to play. Slowly they began to build,
heightening the tension. Then, as someone stepped into the spotlight, the music ceased immediately.

He was tall, covered in makeup, a smile was obscenely drawn on his lips, stretching up to his eyes.
He smiled, revealing his teeth, dark, yellow. The grin widened, further and further, following the
lines of the painted mouth. He was wearing a dark cape, wrapped tightly around him. He flung his
arms outwards, the cape expanded, impossibly so, encompassing the entire stage. It hung
momentarily in the air, suspended by some unknown force, then it dropped. The show had finally
begun.

The stage was covered with bizarre and complex scenery, trees twisted upwards, dark and pained
creations disappearing into the heights of the stage. Bushes crowded close to the ground, heavy with
painted fruit. Though he couldn’t see them clearly from the balcony, those closer could see the
pained and horrified expressions that adorned the fruits faces. The painted background gave the
impression that the forest went on for miles, there seemed to be a million trees contained with in.
birds suspended by thin wire flew back and forth across the stage, their feathers moulting, their
appearance sickly. The orchestra began to play once more. In the background, cries of dying
animals could be heard. He felt his heartbeat quicken.

A young girl danced onto the stage, she wore a white dress, torn and tattered. She was pale,
astoundingly pale. Both her skin and dress were stained with dirt. Her lips were blood red, here eyes
shadowed and deep. The orchestra swelled with her introduction. There was movement in the trees.
Impossible. It was a painted background. But yet, there was movement. Someone was approaching
the girl from behind. She looked either side of her, then, moved against a tree. Securing her back.
She sat down, resting. The person moved closer, into the light. It was the man from the beginning of
the show.

He moved towards the girl, slowly, his mouth splitting into that insane grin again. The girl spotted
him, too late. He pounced, cornering her. The music became faster, building again. His mouth
continued to split, suddenly, inexplicably, he consumed her. Once more the music stopped abruptly.
He turned towards the crowd, as though sharing a particularly funny joke. The curtain fell,
obscuring the scene. Off stage, there was a horrific scream.

He sat in the box, feeling uncomfortable. He was exquisitely aware of how alone he was. The other
boxes appeared to be empty. He saw the girl again, walking down the centre aisle of the theatre. She
was dressed the same, but now, it appeared as though her eyes were bleeding, drops of blood fell on
her dress, staining it. Her wrist was tilted at a peculiar angle. One of her legs appeared to be broken.
She shuffled through the crowd, occasionally touching people. Those she touched appeared to pass
out, their head lulling against their chest.

When she had finished her trip, members of the audience straining to move away from her in their
seats. She returned to the stage. The curtain rose again. This time a piano began playing. The rising
curtain revealed the stage and the new act contained on it.

Two woman in elaborate costumes, reminiscent of 18th century finery, sat at either end of a table.
The room around them at first glance, seemed normal, but there were oddities with in it. There was
a portrait of a man, what at first appeared to be his tie was actually a noose, tied carefully around his
neck. There were hands resting against the windows. Statues performed obscene and perverted
acts. Carefully, one woman poured out a dark liquid for the other. They each sipped their drinks,
then one rose, carefully brushing her long white hair back. Then, grabbing the handle of the platter
lid, she revealed what was underneath with a flourish. It was the previous girls head. She placed the
lid behind the head then picked up a knife and began to delicately cut slices, placing an equal
amount on their plates. As they ate, they seemed to be filled with an incredible hunger, discarding
their cutlery, they began to eat with their hands, tearing at the flesh and smearing it in their faces. In
the window behind them, the man appeared again. His grin widening once more. When the two had
devoured the head, one of them started to lick her fingers, then, carefully, she held it out to the
other. She took the proffered finger in her mouth, gently cleaning it of blood before biting through
skin and bone. Severing the finger. He watched in horror from the balcony, expecting her to scream.
She opened her mouth and began to laugh. He began to feel sick. He wanted to leave, needed to
leave but couldn’t. something was stopping him. He was unable to move, unable to look away. He
could hear people in the crowd groaning, then retching.

The show continued, getting worse and worse. Each one featuring that man. That man with the
impossible grin. His hat, branching out into two, ended with bells which jingled merrily as he
watched.

Then, finally, mercifully, the final act came. He knew they were right. This was something he would
never forget. The curtain rose but no music accompanied it. There was silence. The stage was in
darkness. He felt the need to close his eyes, to try and avoid seeing what was going to happen, to
avoid watching the horrific crescendo to the night of terror.

The man from the beginning walked out from the wings. He stood in the centre of the stage. The
theatre was completely silent. He closed his eyes and began to sway, back and forth, increasing the
tempo. Slowly, he began to rise, higher and higher off the ground. The grin widened, further and
further, splitting his skull, revealing a giant maw filled with teeth, each one moving back and
forward, searching for flesh to tear. Long tendrils of flesh began to move from his mouth, each one
seeking a member of the audience. Each one found a victim, attacking itself to their forehead, it
began to feed. No one could move, no one could escape. A few who had watched the show had
already been destroyed, their minds shattered.

He watched from the balcony, afraid to breath. Each tentacle had found someone, there was only
him left. Only he was witness to the vile ceremony. Slowly, each tentacle detached itself with a
sickening squelch. As they removed themselves, they took something, although what was not clear.
The tendrils returned to the mouth which consumed their offerings, saliva dripping on the floor. The
smile began to fade, until he looked as he had previously. He turned, then looked up at the balcony.
He winked.

The spell was broken.

Standing, he ran, shrieking from the theatre, into the night.

When the police finally heard his garbled report, they dismissed him as insane, but eventually
conceded to send someone to look. Just in case he had seen something and his crazed mind had
distorted it completely.

The theatre was old and rundown, it had been closed for years. The last show had played there over
ten years ago. He looked around and found an open door, carefully slipping through, he found
himself inside. One quick look, then he could go home. It was his last stop for the day.

Carefully moving passed the dusty, moth eaten curtain, he entered the auditorium. It was dark and it
took his eyes a moment to adjust. He coughed, trying to breathe shallowly so as not to consume the
stale air. There was a musty smell, deep and unpleasant. Reaching for his torch, he shined it around
the room.

The lens cracked when the torch fell. He tried not to scream. To stay calm. Each and every seat was
filled. Each containing a dried husk of a person. He turned to leave, as he spun, a tentacle attached
itself to his forehead. Draining him.

When he had eaten his fill he knew it was time to move on. It had been a big show. He wouldn’t
need sustenance for awhile. He could subsist on the forgotten for a few years. Taking his bag, he left
the dark theatre and walked away, never stopping to look back.
                                         Alpha and Omega.

When it happened, it happened simultaneously.

Ground is sanctified for a reason, to take it away from evil. But sometimes evil cannot be removed.
It is buried deep in the dark depths of the earth. Sealed by the erection of a sacred building atop
their grave. A perverted gravestone to keep the dead in the ground. It was once well known, prayers
were said and rituals were carried out to prevent the demons from escaping, but as time passed and
demons fled this world, those rituals were changed to myth and legend.

The spells and chants that kept them in their prisons were used less and less, weakening the
protective charms. They stored their power, sharing it amongst themselves, something no one could
have predicted. Demons are greedy. They build up their power, their fortunes and guard it jealously.
Anyone, demon, man, angel, spirit, who comes near it is almost certain to die, whether from the
demons attack or a curse they have laid on their bounty.

The world shuddered and convulsed as they broke free, vomiting them from it’s depths as they burst
through the buildings designed to imprison them. They were free. But with their freedom came a
shocking revelation. They were all that was left. The other demons had long ago departed, driven
out by humans. Abandoning them in their prisons. Anger turned to glee as they realised that now
they were in control of everything. With much fewer demons there would be less battles for power.

The world was unprepared for their revolution, millions died, torn apart in an orgy of blood and
violence. A defence was mounted, but it failed, their weapons having no effect on the demons. They
would be wounded, but could heal at fantastic rates. The old myths and legends, long ago discarded
and forgotten held the key to how the demons of old were driven from our realm. But now hope was
lost. There was nothing to be done.

The demons scattered around the globe, staking out their own claim on lands, ruling them as they
saw fit, becoming lords and masters over all they saw. Demons destroyed buildings and land,
making nests for themselves. Commanding their slaves to provide them with sustenance along with
anything they required.

The humans were to farm the land and raise animals, they were given just enough to survive and
anything else was given to the demon to do as he pleased. Humans were allowed to marry and
breed, but with strict controls. If too many children were born in one year, an adult was sacrificed to
make room. Likewise if someone became to old or sick to work, a child had to be born to replace
them.

The demons sat on their thrones and watched as those around them did their bidding. At first, they
were satisfied by what they saw, but, as is a demons nature, soon it was not enough. They
commanded humans to breed more, forcing the strongest to mate before sending them to battle.
Their dread armies marched across the land, killing everyone they came across, battling one another
for supremacy, weakening enemy demons until their master could kill it. Empires slowly built up
around the demons, each society believing theirs to be the strongest, they fought ferociously against
all those who would overthrow their king.

Anyone who was found to have escaped the demons were sacrificed, as were those who were taken
prisoner.

As the years passed so to did the demons, the weaker ones failing and falling, as they stronger
absorbed their land and people, those unwilling to dedicate their lives to their new masters were
executed publicly and their bodies and souls consumed.
For centuries battles raged around the world until there were only two demons left, their armies
equally great, both fearing defeat. As their armies marched to war, they burnt the earth behind them,
both jealously destroying their land lest it fall into the hands of their enemies. The battles lasted for
years, wave after wave of men, women and children fought one another, each dying in their turn.
The ground was soaked in blood, bathing the entire globe. They fought until the last fell, leaving no
one left. The demons rose from their dens to meet each other in battle. They fought for decades,
neither gaining the upper hand.

In their final battle each killed the other, knowing that neither could win, each in turn decided that
they would kill the other while they themselves died. When the dust settled and the smoke cleared
the planet was barren. The seas had boiled, the sky had been filled with smoke. The rain that fell
scorched and scalded the earth.

The great civilisation that was man had ended and any evidence of their presence was burnt from
the earth until there was nothing left. In time, small pockets of vegetation that had survived the
harsh conditions began to spread out, cleaning the world. Animals began to flourish once more,
years went by, then decades. millenniums passed before the world was once more thriving with life,
a lush and verdant beacon in the cold harshness of space.

But even as the earth was entering its final stages of recovery, the demons began to return.
Dominating the land once more, mating with animals, produce unholy offspring, intelligent and
cunning. As they began to plot to overthrow their creators, the never-ending cycle began anew.
                                             Relinquished.

He makes his way through the house, careful to remain silent.

As he walks, he runs his gloved hand along the wall. The other hand holds a knife, its surface bright
and shiny in the dark. At a window he pauses and looks out at the still night. He smiles, it’s as if the
world has stopped for him. To allow him to do his work.

Stepping away, he comes to the stairs, then, slowly eases up them. Reaching the landing, he turns
left and pushes open the ajar door.

She is lying in bed, asleep.

Her eyes are closed and her face is serene. The bedclothes are the purest white, a chink in the
curtains allows a moonbeam access to her chambers, it lies across the bed, a thin beam of brilliance.
The bedclothes are clean and undisturbed except for her form. They are pure, virginal. Soon he will
defile them with bright splashes of her warm blood.

He can hear it, her heartbeat as it pumps away, oblivious to his presence. Her breathing is soft, but
deep, each breath an eternity.

He watches her chest rise and fall. Rise and fall. Her hair is spread around her head, like some dark
halo. A grim aura marking her for selection.

The room itself is of little interest to him, its shadowy depths hold no allure, he keeps his eyes on
her and her alone. She is his need. She is his victory. She is his salvation.

He moves deeper into to room, raising the knife, he holds it before him, looking from her to it. His
merciless weapon would soon come to life, sharing the last remnants of hers. Cutting through the
darkness like his beloved knife, he stands beside her bed, his hand inches from her full, dark lips.

He gets ready to clamp his hand over her face, dampening her screams as he plunges the knife into
her supple body.

He gasps as he hears a key penetrate the front door.

Mentally cursing as the tumblers turn, then click, opening itself and giving entrance to the late night
visitor. He considers killing her anyway, out of petulant spite, then decides against it.

Death should have some dignity, some purpose. Hers would have neither if he could not enjoy the
experience. Easing away from the bed, he slips from the room, leaving no trace of his presence, like
a shadow.

As he hears the heavy footsteps of someone coming up the stairs, he moves into a room, giving the
darkness a quick gaze as he determines where he is. He waits in the guest bedroom as he hears the
footsteps enter her room, he listens as the person undresses and as the bedsprings creak, welcoming
their form. He hears a sleepy mutter “Malcolm? I thought you were at that conference?” “It was
boring. I slipped away. They won’t miss me. Besides, I hated being away from you. I shouldn’t have
gone in the first place” He heard her sigh and imagined him taking her in his arms. Gripping the
knife tightly, he moves from the guest room, past their door, and releases himself into the night.

The only trace of his presence is a single, solitary footprint, pressed into the soft grass in the back
garden. When morning comes, this too is gone.
                                          To a Heathen God.

She walks along the riverbank, enjoying the feel of the sunlight on her shoulders, the pleasant heat
warms her muscles. A slight breeze tugs at her hair and dress, providing reprieve from the hot sun.
She pauses, then turns, eyes closing, and faces the sun, trying to capture its warmth, a smile tugs at
her lips.

The breeze dies.

Turning away from the sun, she sits on the grass. The dew, soothing on her feet, shocks her skin and
turns her white dress opaque. Lying backwards, she shifts slightly, then closes her eyes and sighs.

The sun is warm and the rivers gurgling provides relaxing accompaniment to the birdsong. She
doesn’t know how long she lies there, enjoying the silence, the warmth, the simply joy of
experiencing it all. She thinks she may have dozed, and probably has. The sun is stronger and has
shifted, the heat, once relaxing, is now sweltering as the day becomes humid.

Feeling hot and sticky, she looks at the cool river, then glances around. Seeing no one, she smiles,
stands, then dives in. Her dress, clings to her body, turning translucent, revealing her underwear.
Turning in the water, she opens her eyes and looks up.

The sun enters the water and scatters, the beams refracted by the rivers glossy surface. Releasing a
short breath she watches the silvery bubbles rising, shifting and warping before breaking the
surface. The riverbed is stony, but the stones are smooth, their edges worn away by the calm
persistence of the water, washing and shaping each one.

Diving deeper, she runs her hand along the bottom, she sees something silver dart by, turning her
head, her red hair drifts into view, blocking the sight of the fish. She looks around once more, she is
almost touching the bottom and her lungs have started to burn in anticipation of air. She moves her
feet under her, planning to use them to rocket herself to the surface, she feels the cool stones
beneath her feet, she crouches, then takes off.

She feels a moment of weightlessness before her foot catches on something and she stops suddenly.
Something hard and cold is wrapped around her ankle, she tries to cry out in pain as something else
grabs her left foot. More air escapes her lungs and flees to the surface. She looks down and sees two
hands, each one holding an ankle, each one made of stone.

Trying not to panic she tries to sink deeper, to free herself from this weird formation. One of the
hands tightens its grip, painlessly breaking skin which is numb from the water. As the wound bleeds
the blood floats serenely away, carried by the rivers increasing current.

She struggles, fingers scrabbling on hard, unforgiving rock. Finding no purchase, she tries to kick
out. Her hair drifts in front of her face, obscuring her vision again, ignoring it she continues to try to
free herself. Another hand, unseen by her, erupts from the riverbed and grabs her hand, dragging her
deeper. The hand jerks backwards, forcing her closer, laying her down on the riverbed.
Another hand erupts and grabs her flailing free hand. Securely fastened to her, the hands grip tightly
and wait. She tries to struggle. To escape. Her lungs screaming for oxygen, she watches as air
bubbles erupt from her mouth. She vaguely wonders if she is screaming, the air bubbles twist and
warp, rocketing to the surface, taking on new and fantastic shapes as they go.

As her vision begins to darken, her hair floats in front of her face, blocking the light in which she
had bathed only a few moments before. As the river’s pace quickens with her slowing heartbeat, her
hair is caught in the current, revealing her pale, terrified face.
As her body goes limp, the hands began to loosen, letting her go as the lazy river becomes a torrent,
whisking the body away. She floats along the surface like a piece of flotsam, bobbing, occasionally
changing course as her body slams into rock, she goes with the river, prisoner to its whims. Her see
through dress clinging to her body.
                                        Beneath the Surface.

On the surface, Saunderville looked like any city, filled with people and buildings. There were
schools and hospitals, gyms and churches. Beneath the top layer of normalcy, there lay a darkness.
tunnels, burrowing into the earth, going unfathomably deep. They formed a complicated maze that
was thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of miles long. some were spacious, others cramped.
They twisted and turned, filled with sudden dead ends and holes, yawning open hungry for an
unwary traveller, hiding, almost invisible, in the dark.

The ground was not always secure, sometimes people would be going slowly, carefully, only to find
the ground beneath them giving way under their weight, sending them plummeting to their deaths,
others would be plunged into the warm water that flooded the tunnel below, unable to find the hole,
they struggled amongst the filth until it filled their lungs.

An unlucky traveller could stumble across anything, a pile of bones, a rotting carcass of
questionable origins, strange drawings, daubed on the walls with an unknown substance. Once
entered, it was uncertain if you would ever leave the tunnels.

Down in the dark, it was easy to lose track of time, of distance travelled, of whether it was a left
turn, straight then right, or right turn, left then straight. Some travelled for days, screaming
themselves hoarse as they ran out of water, searching for a way out, only hearing their echoed voice
answering the call. While some tunnels carried the sound, others muted it. That was the most
agonising. There could be someone, a traveller, less than a few turns away who knew the way out,
but could not hear the cried of anguish. The air is thick and stale, and, though rats and insects
inhabit the upper layers, the deeper you go, the less they are seen.

Jason was prepared for his trip into the depths of the tunnels, a supply of food and water for two
days, a torch and cache of batteries, a watch to keep track of time, a small first aid kit and a large
amount of thin, but strong, cord. There had been many entrances but most had been blocked off or
their location unknown, some ended after a short distance.

There were rumours of tunnel locations and, going by these Jason had found a supposedly good
entrance. He was ready. Taking a few deep breaths of fresh air, he lowered himself into the exposed
hole. It was a short drop to the floor of the tunnel, now inside, he could see hand holds that would
allow him to climb out again. Walking a few feet into the cave he found a piece of rock sticking
from the wall, carefully, he knotted the rope around it then tugged it a few times, seeing if the stone
would dislodge. Pleased at the placement, he made his way deeper into the tunnels, the rope would
only allow him to go so far, after that, if he wanted to continue, he had a piece of chalk and, every
few feet, he would mark the wall with a directional arrow.

Tom and Rick had both been told Jason’s plan, they had agreed that, should he not contact them in
three days, he was either hurt or lost and they were to raise the alarm that he was missing.

On the third night, they both went out to the entrance that Jason said he would use and, carefully,
Tom lowered himself into the hole. he walked a few feet and, seeing the cord tied around the rock,
he returned to Rick. “The rope is still there, even if he didn’t roll it up as he came back, he would
have untied it or left something so we would know he was back. He must have gotten hurt” together
they went to the nearest police station to report Jason missing.

A group of four would go into the tunnels and follow Jason’s signs for as long as they could, if the
signs ended they would follow them back and try to figure out what direction he may have went, if
they found Jason, dead or hurt, two would stay and two would return for assistance.
The four walked carefully, following the rope and checking the wall for chalk and the ground for
any holes Jason may have fallen through.

They slowly made their way deeper into the subterranean system, occasionally coming across
evidence that someone had been along the passage recently, an empty wrapper, a small chalk
doodle. As they began to wonder how far in the rope went, it stopped. The rope had ended, but it
had been cut badly, although the ends were frayed it was obvious it was cut with a knife and not
gnawed on.

They searched the tunnel carefully, looking for the other end of the rope or more chalk marks. When
they came to a turn, one person would go down it ten paces, staying in sight, and, if nothing was
seen, the group continued. The tunnel went fairly straight until the path diverged, there was nothing
on the left fork, but further down the right, they could see the tunnels split again. Deciding it was
too dangerous to continue on without getting lost, they followed the tunnel back.

They walked for what seemed like hours before panic began to set in, they had moved slowly both
ways, but all were convinced that they should have come across the rope again. Slowly, they sat
down and had a break. Each having a drink of water. They needed to stay calm, otherwise they
would be lost. Each worried that they had taken a turn without realising it. Did one of them check
every time they came to a turn or bend that there wasn’t another tunnel branching off?

Though no one could remember any new tunnels, they began to question if they had checked each
time. A flash of blue in the distance calmed everyone, the severed end of the rope was in sight, soon
they would be away from the cramped tunnels and out in the open air. Away from the stale, musty
odours that dominated the caves.

As one stooped to pick up the rope, his light passed over something. At the time he thought nothing
of it, a few drops of perspiration could have fallen from his forehead. God knew sweat was
pumping out of him. But later, when he was out of the tunnels, in the dead of night, he was certain it
was something else. He would wake, shivering from nightmares, ones lost and forgotten in the light
of day. the drops were deep maroon, almost blending with the cave floor, but as he always saw in
the dream, the bright blue was also marred, there were dark splashes of something, perhaps simply
mud, but in the morning, as he vigorously washed his hands for an unknown reason, he would
shudder, a thought flitting through his mind it barely registers, “I touched it, and it touched me.”
                                            Invisible Killer

In this underwater silence, nothing is real, not her pain, not her sadness, nothing. The eerie calm
spreading through her, completely at peace. Those images flash back, she screams. Air bubbles rise,
stopping water from flooding her mouth. Her hair, floating like seaweed is pushed aside from the
rising bubbles. Her eyes shoot open, her mouth closes, the silent scream ending. She rises, her nose
meets the surface, breaking through, she sits up, gasping for air. Dripping hair plastered to her face,
she looks around, grins then picks it up.

The sweet release, blood slowly pouring from her wrists. She sits in the bathtub, her wrists
submerged, blood lazily rising, separating and mixing. She lies back, the razor slipping from adept
fingers. It bounces as it hits the floor. Clack. Clack. Clack.
Panting from the exquisite feeling of release, her emotions, fear, sadness, pain, slowly rise from her
wrists, being purged from her body.
As the water turns pink she laughs, still feeling the high of her emotional release.

She walks back to her room, wrists pressed against towel to hide the new marks from her mother.

Jessie smiles, soon she will be free from her prison. She knows the only way is to kill her guardian.
The only person stopping her from leaving.

Sarah dries her hair, wraps it in a towel then lies back. Staring at her wrists, she mentally makes a
list of the problems in her life. One by one. She thinks of an answer. The only available answer. End
it all. Soon.

Jessie reaches under the bed and retrieves the handgun. She quickly returns to her room. Aware that
she could be caught. She sits cross-legged on her bed and waits.

Jessie smiles, takes aim and fires.

Sarah tries to scream but its too late as the bullet races towards her, the gun falls from her hand, her
body goes limp and crashes backwards onto the cold mattress. Her legs still crossed.

Jessie laughs, her vision dims she can hear someone running up the stairs.

The door slams open, Sarah’s mother bursts into the room. Before darkness closes in, she can hear
her mother screaming, and a strange laugh bursting from her lips.
                                            Cosmic Joke

She was gone, she called him a bastard, and then she left. The rain fell softly on the window,
thunder crashed, lightening flashed. He couldn’t live without her, he grabbed the butcher knife, the
blade glinted in the lamplight, he raised it slowly, hand poised, he brought the knife down stabbing
himself again and again, the knife dropped, it clattered on the floor, leaving bloody prints on the
linoleum, his body landed with a thud, blood spread on the floor, he took his last breath, his life
departed. The blood congealed covering his face and creating a bloody cocoon.

She had to hurry to get there to apologise, her car stopped the houses lined neatly, each one almost
identical. She couldn’t see the numbers in the rain, she ran into his house.

She burst through the kitchen door; she saw him lying on the floor, face down and covered in
congealed blood. Tears flowed down her face, she couldn’t live without him, she picked up the
phone and rang the police, she hung up and then wrote a short note. She turned and picked up the
bloody knife, she took a breath, steadying herself.
She plunged the knife into her stomach over and over, she fell, knife firmly in her hand. Her hand
loosened, her life departed, she knew no pain.

The police arrived and found them there cold and lifeless, congealed in blood.

They found a note saying:

I’m sorry I couldn’t live without Mark.

They checked the mans wallet, his name was Jason.
They later found out she ran into the wrong house.
                                           Deadly Secrets.

There were many things about her that were special. Many things that were worth noting. However
only one of them was truly important. And that was that she could see into your soul. With a glance
she knew everything she needed to about you. Were you a good person? Bad? Suicidal, happy or
anything else in the emotional spectrum, she knew. She knew if you were going to literally kill that
cheating sonofabitch. She knew if you were planning to cheat. She knew if you were lying and why.
Some have said she was merely highly intuitive, or observant. Others have called her a witch.

But she learned pretty early. These things must never be shared.

That man there is going to kill himself tonight, after downing glass after glass of vodka for
encouragement.

Tough.

That woman has found out she’s pregnant and can’t wait to share the news.

Stay silent.

That policeman right there is planning to beat that man to death.

Stay out of it.

Anytime she interfered, she got noticed. At least, until her parents stepped in, no doubt she would
have been dead long ago were they not who they were. Occasionally she slipped and said or did
something she shouldn’t have. The inability to act drove her to coldness. There was no way she
could live with what she knew if she still cared. She shut down her emotions out of necessity. She
locked everyone and everything out. There was no way for her to feel anything at all.

She watched her father kill her mother, knowing that it was going to happen. But, she did nothing.
This, she felt, was justice. They had pressured her to keep everything a secret. To never tell a soul
no matter what. They punished her otherwise.

This was her revenge. She saw her father and knew what he was going to do. It wasn’t until after
they were dead that she regretted her decision. Not that they had died, but that they were no longer
around to protect her. After they had died, she was quickly arrested and taken into the storage
facilities.

People said that she was cold because of what she saw, when she witnessed the terrible things her
father did before finally, mercifully, killing her mother and himself. Three hours of torture, with her
forced to watch. There was some speculation that she made her father do it, though this was later
proven to be false.

Though she was arrested, she was not executed. She wasn’t considered a danger, she was an asset.

There were others who weren’t as lucky as her. Ones who were not studied as long as she was.
Others who were summarily executed. Everyone know what would happen if you were found to be
able to do impossible things.

You would think that, seeing their child’s extraordinary abilities, they would counsel the child to
hide them and keep their mouths shut. But their parents were frightened too. There were cases
where the parents would call in the authorities themselves and deny ever having the child.
The world is a harsh place. Cruel to some, sadistic to others.

The burnings happened daily and were mandatory watching. If you were not in attendance, then you
had to watch at home. There were treatments available, ways to stop the abilities from working.
That’s how they were able to execute them. Rather than offering it as a treatment so those people
could live a normal life, they were turned into symbols. Symbols of evil that needed to be
eradicated at all costs. They were symbols of everything wrong in society. Of all that could and has
gone wrong.

The abilities were wide ranging, each equally feared, regardless of power or propensity.

The numbers of the executed continued to rise, any protests were crushed quickly, protesters burned
together with those damned from birth. Rumours spread of an underground resistance, composed of
those with abilities, carefully orchestrated rumours spread to encourage fear of them. No one asked
how they would organise or recognise one another. It was taken as fact that they would see
something of themselves in the others and would be drawn to one another. Some were falsely
accused, and, after being arrested, were slated for execution anyway. The government couldn’t be
seen to let them go. Even if they did, that persons life would be irrevocably destroyed.

Though some were destroyed, each one was carefully evaluated first. Their execution depended on
varying factors, including the ability, the power of the ability and their willingness to help. Each
was carefully examined before the decision was made. Those deemed useful were kept, those who
were not or too dangerous were destroyed without hesitation.

She was lucky. She had been slated to death, for the mere reason of being a remnant of her parents
existence. They had enemies, like most politicians, and their enemies saw it as a perfect fuck you to
their lives and works.

She had been on her way to sentencing, when she warned them of the man about to kill a judge for
sentencing both his wife and child to death. Before it was only suspected what she could do,
however she could not be tempted into revealing herself like some of the others could. Torture and
strong emotions were not triggers.

Once it was realised how useful she would be she was kept alive. She was deemed safe to society
and allowed live alone, though monitored. They used her emotional blockade to their advantage;
she could be tempted with things she wanted or needed. She had no reverence of human life. She
was able to quickly and efficiently determine who had abilities and how they could be used.

The more she used her abilities, the stronger they grew. She was able to act as a divining rod for
those who were abnormal. By walking through a crowd she could see who had abilities and what
those abilities were. She kept the growth of her powers to herself.

Content to use them as a bargaining tool if needed.

She began to wonder. She knew she could easily bring down the government, stop the punishment
if she wanted. But she waited. Her desire for power grew slowly, but it was there. She planned in
her silence. She would make the rumours true. She would build an army, one totally devoted to her,
and assume control of the government.

She planned, slowly but picking those she would contact and how they would build themselves into
an unstoppable power. Days before she planned to initiate her plan, the assassination occurred.

She was screening the crowd and missed it completely. Later it was determined that the bullets were
fired from a long range gun, one that fell outside her radar.
One moment he was standing beside her, the next, he was on the ground, his head split in two, his
brains splattered on the wall behind them, the ground, her face. She stood perfectly still while others
around her panicked an ran. She couldn’t move through the tide of emotions. She stayed where she
was, covered in gore until someone tackled her.

As she fell, a bullet grazed her cheek, embedding itself in the concrete. She lay on the ground,
frozen. Still paralysed by the fear of thousands. The crushing weight was making it difficult for her
to breath. Then she was free. She never saw who tackled her, who saved her life. In the seconds
before the panic caused her to pass out, she realised that she would always be a target if she
followed the plan. Later, she would realise she valued her life more than power. But as she lay in
the growing pool of blood, she felt a tear roll down her cheek. She had liked Derrick, he was kind,
kinder than most though he tried to hide it. His blood, still warm, coated her hair, she retreated
further into her shell. she welcomed the encroaching darkness, an escape from the screaming, the
blood, the gore that began to slowly slide down her face.
                                     The Fabled One Hundred.

He sat in his cell, face immobile. The guards were all afraid of him. Everyone was and they were
right to be. He had killed 98 men, of course, it was kill or be killed, but something like that will
change a man. He was close to freedom, closer than anyone had been in decades. No one living
could remember seeing or hearing of a man reaching the fabled one hundred and he was so close.
Thousands around the city bet on him, hundred of thousands in the outer regions laid wagers,
betting he would win gave good odds, better he would lose did not. Though he was close, in the
history of the games, only three people had ever reached one hundred. Some had reached 99, almost
thirty, but they failed in the final battle.

It was thought that the knowledge that they only had one person to go made them cocky. They were
not wary of their opponent, almost convinced of a win. That was their downfall.

Though he looked calm and collected, his stomach was a writhing ball, squirming in his belly. He
did not eat before the battles. Most did, he couldn’t. He knew he would throw up. In the first few
fights it had been an advantage, people thought he was weak, an easy kill. But as he made his way
further through the rounds, he stopped. People no longer fell for the ruse. He wanted his freedom,
needed it. The beauty of the system, at least, to those in charge, was that thousands of men opted for
the fights, most of whom had life sentences anyway. A fight was only held twice a week. It might
take thirty years for a fighter to reach one hundred, some would die without ever seeing combat. He
had been lucky, or unlucky depending on your view. He was only battling for three years. Every two
or three weeks he would be chosen for a fight. The draws were completely random and if you were
chosen, you had to fight no matter your condition.

He knew that he would not have won every fight if not for luck. Four of his opponents were
renowned, believed that they could reach one hundred. Of those four, when they had to fight, three
were sick, horrifically so. They could barely stand. The fights were more akin to execution than
battle. The fighters lived in squalid conditions, sickness was rife. The fourth was old, he had been at
89 kills, but then his name stopped being drawn, there was a gap of almost twenty years since his
last fight. He had become weak. Complacent. He had fallen easily.

A guard knocked on the door, “oi. You’re up again.” silently he stood and waited for the door to
open. The guards did not bother with handcuffs. A riot would be quickly quashed. The prisoners
were stored in separate buildings in the same compound. A large, sprawling city, surrounded by
high walls and vicious guards. Any building that rioted was burnt to the ground, killing prisoners
and guards alike. Anyone left alive was brought out to the arena and made face the lions, including
guards. It was a tough job but it paid exceptionally well. The door stopped vibrating, a hum that you
got used to after a while, then opened. He stepped through carefully, though it was no longer
humming, he might still get a shock. It had happened before. He followed the usual corridors to the
hall with a three guard escort.

The hall was large and filthy. The floors were originally gray, but now they were covered in a thick
layer of dirt. Prisoners were not allowed wear shoes. They had to go barefoot at all times. He was
used to walking barefoot, but there was something in the dirt in the hall that made his skin crawl.
Carefully he made his way over to an empty chair, then, once seated, he looked at those around him.
The hall wasn’t full yet. Three hundred names were drawn each week, of those three hundred, four
were chosen to fight each other. He tried not to smile, there was no one that caused any alarm. He
was confident he could defeat any of them. They last few were being brought in. his heart sank. Of
the late comers, he knew he would have problems with some. They had obviously kept the strongest
fighters till last.

Women weren’t as rare as they used to be, more and more chose the option, few fell in their first
fight, most lasted till at least ten. A respectable number. The head guard stepped forward, turning
the large drum in front of them all. They could see the small slips of paper tumbling over one
another. He stopped, then reached in, groping blindly. He removed a name, then passed it to the
guard, the guard laid it on the table in front of him. Three more names were chosen in the same
fashion.

Taking the four slips of paper, he entered the numbers into a screen. Four names popped up, a few
seconds gap between each one. As each name was called out there was a sigh of relief. Though they
had chosen this life, no one relished fighting. His name had come up again. He felt the usual
emotions begin to boil up. Fear of who he was going to fight, hope that he would survive,
determination that he would win. He forced them to retreat, dampening them down, his face
remaining impassive. He was going to fight against Smith. The man was a good fighter. Not the
best. But good.

They were herded back to their cells, to contemplate the coming fights. Those who earned a
reprieve would relax until their name was called once more.

The yearly raffle was soon, if he could beat Smith, he might be there for it. Though he only had two
more fights till freedom, he wanted it to be earned some other way. Every prisoners name was
placed into the raffle, regardless of their length of time in the prison. One name was chosen, that
person was pardoned. It was the carrot the encouraged so many to risk their lives. They could live
forever in their cells with no human contact, food and water delivered through pipes or they could
fight and potentially be free.

He was due to fight in only a few hours. He sat in silence and meditated, finding the dull hum of the
door soothing. It helped lull him into memories.

He did not intend to end up in prison. It was accidental. His family was starving. Three children, at
first they screamed and cried, they were so hungry. Their screams turned to whimpers, their bellies
becoming swollen and distended, their arms thin and weak. Eventually they stopped making noise,
trying to retain their energy. Any meagre scrap of food that came their way was given to the
children. They bought what they could, stole what they couldn’t. Their plight wasn’t unusual. It was
happening all over the country, and no one cared. They had tried to beg, but the beatings were not
worth the small amount of coins they collected, a pittance which could not even afford them the
basics. For a while, things were going ok. Their children began to grow stronger. They lived in a
compound, a collection of the starving and homeless, they lived together in their shanty town,
sharing food. Disease spread quickly and easily through their small town, but thankfully none of his
family became sick. Farm animals were bought, they gave nourishing milk, when they became old,
meat which was made into large stews. Though he never ate the remains of the dead like so many
others, he nor his family questioned the stews and soups that were made with no loss of animals.

Then the police came.

He had gotten his family out. They did not witness the horrors of that night. Men were beaten,
women raped, children trampled as terrified masses tried to flee. Fires broke out. People screaming
as they burned alive. Ash clogged their air, making it thick and hard to breath. Animals tethered to
the ground screamed as they were killed, some trampled, some burned. There was nothing left. The
ground was charred or soaked with blood. The bodies left to rot in the open. A reminder to everyone
of what would happen, a deterrent for anyone planning to move back. Walls had been built around
the town, to protect them. When the screaming began he brought his family to one of the doors. It
had been unlocked. The others hadn’t.

He had no doubt someone had been paid off by the police, giving them access to the town, locking
the escapes. He had been lucky. Others weren’t. Bodies were piled against the walls where they
tried to escape. Those who reached the doors first were crushed by those trying to get out, surging
forward with no where to go. Those who were not crushed were shot or burned. The smell of flesh
stayed in the air, stagnant and cloying.

They were back to living on the streets, once more starving, he occasionally got jobs here and there,
once offs, but they were not enough. There wasn’t enough to feed them all. They had tried. They
really had. Their youngest, Tommy, had been their first child to die. That was their breaking point,
they could not allow that to happen to the others. They would not allow it to happen.

They had tried to rob a bank, they were almost successful. A guard tried to stop them, they wrestled
for the gun when it went off, killing the guard. Both him and his wife were charged with murder and
sentenced to life. He did not know what happened to his other children. He hoped they had been
taken in by someone, anyone. It was stupid of them to go together. His wife should have stayed
home, looked after the children. He shouldn’t have let her risk herself.

He breathed deeply, the air was clear. He shuddered and returned to the cell, he did not like to dwell
on his memories, but made sure to do so before battle. It steeled him for what was to come. Enabled
him to face the battle, to kill.

It was time. He was brought out to shower and changed. showering was a luxury that was not
permitted to those of the population. Only those who fought were cleaned. It made those outside
think the prisoners were treated well. He took his time in the shower. He washed, then just enjoyed
the warmth of the water, allowing it to relax his muscles and mind. When he was done, he dried
then changed into his clothes. A pair of trousers and a t-shirt. Both were loose enough to allow free
movement, but tight enough to help prevent clothing getting snagged.

Once cleaned, they brought him to the waiting cells. He would be left there until the battle. When
they were ready they would call him.

While he waited, he thought over which weapon he would choose, he did not think he favoured one
over the other, rather, he chose each equally. The only weapons that were forbidden were long range
ones. They would both end the fight too quickly and potentially endanger those who came to watch.

They came for him, far too soon, but there was no slowing time’s steady progress. He stood, and
walked with them. He would not be dragged out the arena like some, kicking and screaming,
begging. He was brought to the weapons rack. He picked up a few, testing their weight before he
was told he needed to decide. Carefully, he picked up a sword, liking how it felt. Almost like an
extension of his arm. He would not know his opponents weapon until they were face to face in the
arena.

He stepped out of the gate to a dull roar as the crowd screamed, most were rooting for him. The sun
was bright and high in the sky, the air was still, there was no wind to cool him, no breeze to take the
heat from the sun. the arena was circular and small, about thirty feet in diameter, but the seating
area extended outwards in each direction, the stadium could seat five thousand, those who could not
get tickets could watch from home.

Smith stepped out from the opposite door, the cheers turned to jeers as he stepped forward,
squinting in the sun. a loud voice filled the stadium, announcing who was fighting and their odds.
He took a deep breath and allowed the noise to wash over him, becoming meaningless. There was
nothing to do but wait. He stared at smith, trying to unnerve him.

A loud whistle cut through the noise as a clear shield covered the arena. It helped protect the
viewers. Objects could penetrate it, but it was rare. They stepped forward slowly, getting ready to
fight.

A hush fell over the crowd and suddenly they were fighting. The crowd roared encouragement,
which fell on deaf ears. All they could hear were their hearts beating. The blood pulsing as they
clashed together, blades stopping one another. They spun away from one another, before clashing
back together, performing a brutal ballet in perfect precision. One might nick the other, but the
wounds were quickly made up for, each one returning the favour. He twisted and twirled, waiting
for the right moment. His face was dirty, rivulets of sweat cleared paths as they dripped down his
body. Blood congealed, creating dark clumps which reopened as he turned in new ways, sending
more blood cascading down his body. The fight was long, longer than usual. He was beginning to
get tired, his arm sore. He blocked a strike coming towards his face, their blades meeting, the
impact resonating up his arm. He didn’t think he would last much longer.

He stayed calm, focused. Then, he saw his miracle. An opening, clumsy and stupid, a mistake that
was only made due to fatigue. Ignoring his own muscles screams he darted the sword forward,
piercing the chest of smith.

The blade went deep, severing something in smiths arm, it dropped to his side, unable to support its
weight. He drew the sword out, twisting as he pulled it free of its fleshy prison. The pain he caused
was an unintended side effect, he wanted smiths death to be as quick as possible. He jerked it free,
covered in blood and gore. Smith stood for a moment, his sword dangling limply before dropping.
He looked confused. A hush fell over the crowd as they watched him fall. smith was gasping for
breath, still trying to breath, choking on the blood that had already begun to fill his lungs. Thin
flecks burst from his lips in a mist, coating his face.

He fell to the ground.

Kneeling beside the body, he leaned over “I’m sorry.” carefully he brought the sword to smiths neck
and dealt the final blow. Smith died quickly, blood pooling around the body, soaking into the
ground. The silence was broken, the crowd screamed wildly, cheering and shouting for him. Slowly
he stood, then dropped the sword. Turning, he ignored the crowd, the praise from the announcer and
stood at the door, waiting until it opened.

There was a flurry of activity now that he was at 99, very few had expected him to win the last
fight. He was surprised to find himself hurt that people had thought he would die so easily. His next
fight, his final fight, was a week away. The other fights were pushed back. No one could wait, there
was a flurry of betting, there were even offers of interviews, which the prison denied on his behalf.

He did not know who he was to fight. They were the rules. With the final fight, no one was allowed
know. Not even the guards. They still managed to find out some information though. They told him
the fighter was new, no fighting experience. He felt bad for who ever he was going to fight.
Everyone was put in a draw to fight the final fight. He was confident he would be able to win. He
would be free. Free to put his life back together, free to find his family. Once he won he was set for
life. He was given a house and a lifetime supply of food and money for whatever he needed. He
could live almost as well as the emperor if he chose. With that amount of money behind him he
could easily find his children. He refused to think the worst. He knew they were still alive. They
were safe. Someone had taken them in.

The night before he could not sleep, nerves danced through his body, preventing any chance of rest.
Finally he managed to get a few fitful hours. He would need the energy. He was so close. One more
fight and he was free.

They came for him, as usual. He could barely contain himself. Forcing himself to breathe, he
stopped pacing. He showered quickly, then chose his weapon. His heart thudded in his chest as he
waited to be released into the area.

He was in the arena before the door was completely open. The crowd was screaming, his hands
were clenched, slowly he opened them, letting them relax. He ignored everything, his eyes focused
solely on the door, waiting for it to open, waiting for his opponent to step through. The announcer
said something, probably his opponents name, the crowd went wild, shouting and howling. The
door across started to open, his opponent stepped through. He stopped breathing. He recognised his
opponent. His heart quickened, there was no way he could ever win.

His wife stepped from the door, her eyes filled with hate.

The alarm sounded and they moved forward, the crowds yells and catcalls had tapered off before
they fell silent. He looked at her helplessly. The mace he was holding became heavier, he couldn’t
hold it any longer. It fell to the ground, it’s thud almost deafening.

“it’s your fault.” “I’m sorry.” “shut up. Shut the fuck up and pick up your weapon. I’ll kill you. But
I’ll do it properly.” “I can’t.” “pick it up or I will gut you where you stand.” he looked at the mace,
then at her. Her entire body vibrated with anger. He saw her fingers clench the hilt of the sword.
Beads of sweat stood out on her forehead, beading together. “they’re dead because of you” her
words hit him hard. He couldn’t breathe. She was lying. She had to be. He gasped for breath, trying
to stem the flow of emotions. She moved forward, sword raised. Stabbing forward quickly, she
plunged the sword into his stomach. Looking in her eyes he fell to the ground. He lay there, feeling
the blood pour from his wound. Taking the sword, she began to hack at her body, screaming with
each blow. In the distance he could hear the crowd screaming. His wife began to cry. Her tears
rolling down her face, falling onto his. She saw the life fading from his eyes. Letting loose a heart
wrenching scream she struck the final blow, his body convulsing around the sword.

Letting it go, she left it standing upright in his body. Energy spent, she collapsed beside his body,
fading out of consciousness. As she looked at his body she thought of their honey moon.

They were so in love then. So happy
                                            Resurrection.

The climb was much harder than he expected. The way she had told him about it he was expecting a
pleasant little walk up a slowly sloping hill. So far they had climbed three of them with no signs of
stopping or slowing down. His legs were tired, had been since hill number two, but now his throat
was dry and he was breathing heavily. He could see that she was sweating and he wondered if
maybe, just maybe, she didn’t want to be the one to suggest a rest first. Some ego thing perhaps?
Taking a deep gasp of air “can we stop for a moment?” “Huh? Oh, yeah sure. As soon as we get to
the top here” goddamn it. God-fucking-damn it. He felt like just sitting, right where he was like a
petulant child but no. He would get to the top if it killed him, which, judging by how tired he was
and how strenuously his heart was beating it just might.

The truth was that she was just as tired, but unlike him, she had a need to continue forward. She
could feel it. There was something up ahead, something good. These hills weren’t walked much and
though she could find little information about the area online, she knew there was something here.
And this sense had never failed her before. There was something good and she was going to see it
today. With or without him. She brought him along because she thought he would enjoy it. She
didn’t know what it was, but it would be something both of them would like. She couldn’t explain
this to him, at least, not without sounding insane and so she kept quiet about it. Telling him it would
be a pleasant day out. Reaching the crest of the hill she shrugged her backpack off, letting it drop to
the ground and she quickly followed it. They would rest for fifteen minutes or so. Enough to cool
them down, then they would continue.

They sat in silence for a few moments, catching their breath and drinking water. He could feel his
heart, booming against his ribcage. He hadn’t considered himself out of shape until now. He didn’t
exercise much, but he knew he should be able to handle these hills a little better. His only
consolation was that she was equally tired. He hadn’t realised it and neither had she but they were
walking quickly rather than strolling, something was pulling them both forward, pushing them on,
wanting them to go faster, faster, faster.

They considered eating but neither was hungry yet, they didn’t want to waste their food and find
themselves starving in the middle of nowhere and despite their thirst they were careful to conserve
their water. Feeling somewhat strengthened by the brief reprieve he stood, hoping there would be
some kind of view at some point that would make this all worth it.

It seemed that this hill was slightly lower than those around it, preventing him from seeing much of
anything at all, but, at the base of this hill there was a small stream. When he saw it he wished he
had brought something that would sterilise fresh water. Though they were careful with there water,
he was worried that it may be all drunk before they were able to make it back to the car and
dehydration was the last thing he wanted to deal with. He knew that upstream there could be dead
animals lying in the river, or chemical run off. The water there was off limits for drinking, but they
could use it to cool off if they needed. From what he could see of the stream he guessed that it
meandered wildly through the hills. As he turned the sun bounced off its surface, at least, that’s
what he figured. As he turned the water turned blood red. Looking back at the stream, it was as clear
as it had been a moment ago. He shook his head slightly, then sat down. They had a few more
minutes of rest before they needed to push off again. “See anything?” “Not really, there’s a stream
down there, but other than that just some more hills.” “I don’t think we’ll be going much further,
one or two more hills at the most.” He looked at her suspiciously “why? What’s after that?” “I
dunno, we’re both getting tired and I don’t think it would be a good idea to go much further than
that. That’s all.” “Ok. Well, it is up to you. You are the one who wanted to come here.” she smiled,
then started to put her water away. “c’mon, lets get going.” He stood up, legs feeling slightly shaky
but much better for the rest and together they made their way down hill.
About halfway down he started to hear the stream. He didn’t notice on the hilltop that there was no
sound, only realising it once the noise hit his ears. It was a pleasant sound, soothing. As they drew
nearer he realised that the stream was less of a stream and more of a river. It was wider than he had
thought, deeper too. Though they could see the bottom clearly, it was at least thigh deep. Each
walked in the opposite direction of the stream, trying to find some place that was shallower and
each finding none, they returned to where they had first reached it. “It doesn’t seem to get any
shallower or slower at either end. Here is as good a place to cross as any.” “Holding onto one
another to keep their balance they carefully made their way across and, though now they were wet,
they would be dry again soon enough. Once they had crossed the river, each had a thought jump
briefly across their minds, “why did we not turn back?” which was quickly pushed away. They
could have followed the river further, trying to find a bridge or a spot that wasn’t as deep.

This hill was steeper than the others, they were closer to climbing that walking, scrambling for
purchase with both their hands and feet. Despite the difficult journey, they quickly reached its
crown, standing there, looking at the valley beyond them.

They stared in silence, awe struck by what they had found so unexpectedly. Before them lay a city,
a giant sprawling city. From their vantage point they could see the houses lining the streets, the
roads twisting and turning, what appeared to be a large temple along with smaller ones dotted
around. He looked at her “did you know this was here?” “No I had no idea, there was nothing on the
maps or internet that even hinted at a city.” “How old do you think it is?” “I don’t know. It looks old
enough, I mean it’s made out of stone.” She stepped forward “c’mon” “where are you going?” “To
get a closer look” “shouldn’t we tell someone?” “We will of course but do you really want to pass
up this opportunity? I mean when is the last time anyone has walked here?” together they slowly
made there way down to the city. He could see the river twisting through it, spanned by bridges and
surrounded by houses. How ever long they were sitting undisturbed they remained in good
condition, only a few of the houses had collapsed, the majority were still standing. Their facades
worn and faded by wind and rain but still clean and visible. There were statues dotted about the
place, some were missing appendages others remained intact. As they reached the edge of the city,
they paused again. It was quiet here. A hush had fallen over the world. “Do you think it’s safe?”
“Well, we’ll be careful walking around the buildings. I don’t exactly want one to crash down on top
of me. Nor do I want to fall through the ground.” “It’s strange though, isn’t it?” “What?” “That it
was built in a valley? The logical place to put it would be on the surrounding hills to have them as
vantage points and then expand downwards toward the river.” “Maybe that’s what they did, the
places on hills would be more exposed to the elements, maybe there’s ruins there that we didn’t
notice? Maybe they all collapsed? Who knows really? Besides, maybe the hills acted as walls? You
couldn’t exactly bring an army over them without making a lot of noise.” “And another thing, why
isn’t it buried? Or plants growing all over it?” “I don’t know. Maybe they salted the earth or
something. C’mon for christsakes, just be happy that we’re here. We’ll look around, then go back
and alert someone. We’ll figure out who when we get back but for now, just enjoy it.”

Together they moved around the city, towards what appeared to be a main road, a large arch had
once spanned the road, but it appeared to have collapsed at some stage. The large pieces of rock that
littered the road were covered in intricate designs, fantastic animals cavorted while wreaths of
flowers twisted around the outsides. As she passed by she wished she knew the tale behind the
carvings. Carefully stepping around the stones, they walked deeper into the city.

Everything was remarkably intact, as they wandered its depths he wondered if perhaps it was an
archaeological dig that hadn’t been announced to the public. Maybe it was just some new museum
they were designing to attract tourists. Either way, it was fascinating. They went into two or three of
the houses, each had a similar lay out, a large main room with smaller ones branching off it. It was
still pretty easy to figure out what each room was used for, there were still some jars sitting on a
counter in one of the houses. They moved deeper, heading toward the largest building in the entire
city. The temple. It was on raised ground, hundreds of steps leading upwards to it. Up close it was
even larger, giant columns reaching up towards the sky, supporting the giant ceiling. Stepping inside
they could feel the air change. This was defiantly a place of worship. There were four altars, each
one had a hole the centre, below each hole was a channel, the four of them moved in a straight line
towards the centre of the room before twisting around one another and finally, they reached another
hole. Statues decorated the room, each majestically tall, reaching the heights of the ceiling. They
were exquisitely carved, each one appearing as though it may step off its pedestal at any moment.
Every wall of the temple was a blazing with colour, each wall depicting a different scene. She
followed one along, reading the story. It was of a large procession moving around the town before
reaching the temple. The people were cheering and shouting, she could almost hear them. As she
followed the story on one wall, he looked at the others. Of the other three walls, two depicted great,
bloody battles which appeared to have raged for days. In the final scene the ground and river were
red with blood as bodies lay littered around the victors. The final wall was covered with a story of
the gods. The four statues that were in the room were shown on this wall. They were fighting off
some grotesque beast, covered in sores and gaping maws, they fought to protect the people of the
village. When the battle ended, it showed the four gods walking towards the centre of the town,
which was a slight hill, and standing at four corners, each looking into the distance, surveying the
land. As the guardians stood watch, they turned to stone and the temple was built around them for
protection. It was obvious that the people of the city believed that the gods would return to their
original form from the stone.

She followed the procession around the town, by following the picture she was able to identify
different buildings for what they were, that strange building they passed was a market, another was
a fish mongers she moved along with the picture slowly, following each step. The crowd were
carrying four large boards, on which four people were chained. They were not as clear as those that
carried them, but she assumed that they were criminals or a sacrifice of some sort. Finally the
procession reached the temple and carefully carried their bounty up the steps. Though knowing
what was coming next, she continued on, the people were slightly clearer now that they were the
focus of the painting. As she got to a scene towards the end, she called him over. “Hey, c’mere and
look at this?” “What?” “Just look for a sec” as he moved closer she moved out of his way so he
could get a better view. “What is it?” “Those two there” “what about them?” she gave him a second
to inspect them. “Do you see it?” “That they kinda look like us?” “Yeah.” “Ok, that is freaky. I
mean what are the chances. But, in saying that, this was made possibly thousands of years ago, plus,
there are only two of us. If there was four I would freak the fuck out and run like there’s no
tomorrow, but they’re not even wearing similar clothes to us. Besides, this part is kinda worn. I can
name a few other people they look like too.” “Your right, and I’m not saying it is us or anything. It’s
just weird.” Together they looked at the final scene, it showed the four people being sacrificed and
the four statues coming alive. Having seen everything in the temple they began to leave. Though
they were both slightly unnerved by the painting, neither wanted to admit it fully.

They were half way down the stairs when they heard it. Drumming, rhythmic and repetitive,
booming out from all around them. They looked around trying to pinpoint its source, but it was
coming from all directions. They started down the stairs quickly, wanting to leave as soon as
possible. They didn’t know what the sound was, nor where it was coming from but, as it began to
get louder they realised just how far away from the car they were. No one really knew where or
what they were doing beyond hiking. As they reached the bottom and stepped onto the ground the
drumming stopped. There was no lull or wind down. It was instantaneous. They looked at each
other, then began to walk back towards the entrance of the city. As they walked they became more
disorientated, the layout seemed to have changed since they entered. After passing the same
building for the fifth time, she stopped him. “Wait. This is pointless. We’re going in a circle. We
need to stop for a moment. We’re both freaked out, that’s why we’re lost. Ok. Did we pass this
building on the way in?” “Yes. We did. It was one of the first ones we passed.” “Are you sure? It
could just be one that’s really similar.” He looked again. “I was sure until you said that. Ok. If it
was the one on the way in, the gate should be up ahead and to the left. Otherwise we took a wrong
turn.” There had been no noise since the drumming, the silence, though unnerving was calming.
They would hear anyone coming. “Ok. That’s no big deal if we took a wrong turn. Some of the
buildings here are two stories. We can go to the top of one and use it as a vantage point to see where
we should go from there.” All around them were large hillsides. They did not know from which one
they had descended, nor did they want to make a mistake. Though they knew the river was at the
base of the one they came down, it could be at the base of another. Nor did they want to have to
traverse the entire city again. It had seemed so much smaller from the top of the hill, now they
realised how big it actually was. They moved slowly, cautiously, trying not to give in to panic again.
Once they reached the turn, they went left, then continued down it for a few minutes. “No, this is
definitely wrong. We would have come across the entrance by now.” “Ok. That’s no problem, we’ll
go into one of these buildings and see if we can see anything.” As they turned toward the entrance
the drumming started again. A different rhythm but still deafening. They tried to shout to one
another but no noise could be heard over the deep, heavy beat. They stood where they were, unsure
of what to do. As they listened they could hear it getting closer. It was coming from their right.
From where they had just been. They looked at each other, each realising it at the same time and
together they began to run.

They ran for what seemed like hours, every turn they took, every alley they ducked into, the drums
followed. The belief that they would come across the entrance soon was fading quickly, they
seemed to move deeper into the city regardless of which direction they went. They found
themselves being pushed closer and closer to the temple. Though they were being chased neither
had seen a single person, the drums made it sound as though there was a great gathering of people,
it could have simply been the reverberations, the drums bouncing around the buildings, building
and building, layering upon itself.

They were both sweating profusely, they had run out of water a long time ago, abandoning the
empty bottles in the road. They had not eaten, both of their stomachs rumbled but it barely
registered as they tried to find an escape. Any at all. Though at first they were being pushed toward
the temple they had begun to move away, though they were still being chased, she found it
reassuring that they were making some progress. If they could last a little longer they might be able
to get out of the city and hide in one of the hills that surrounded it.

He could see a large open space up ahead and, grabbing her hand, he ran faster. He could sense their
salvation up ahead. Soon they would leave the city, they just had to go a little further. Together,
hand in hand, they ran out of the alley way and stopped. They were surrounded by a sea of people,
but the crowd made no noise, no one shuffled or coughed. There was nothing but silence. Not even
the wind blew across the crowd. As one they exhaled, it sounded almost like a sigh of pleasure.
They turned, to dart back into the alley, to try and escape, but the crowd had moved together, as
smoothly as water, making no noise, they blocked the exit. They were surrounded. The drums had
stopped without either of them noticing. Before they had wished for silence, but now, now they
wished for noise. Any noise.

The people were wearing trousers and t-shirts, their clothing looked like it was made using modern
methods, they did not look like the ancient savages they had both expected. From the loud, tribal
drumming, they expected large tattoos, piercings made from wood and bone, tribal scarring, they
expected to see loincloths and bare breasts, spears and twisted daggers, made from the bones of
dead animals. The crowd began to move forward, closing in on them.

The crowd reached them, and in silence, grabbed them both. Despite their screams, despite fighting
back they were held down. Two wooden frames were brought forward. They were each tied to one,
then lifted above the heads of the crowd. Though he could barely lift his head he could see two
other wooden frames, both with people attached were brought from the sides. As the crowd began
to move forward, the crowd’s unnatural silence broke and they started to shout, scream, sing and
dance.

The procession had begun.

Together as one they made their way toward the temple, the drumming began once more, though
not as loud. The noise of the crowds drowned out the noise of their offerings. After what seemed
like hours they reached the temple once more and they were carefully moved forward, lifted up and
placed on the stone alters. She had appeared to have gone catatonic, the only thing that moved were
the tears that slowly moved down her face. He still screamed, still tried to fight, but there was
nothing he could do. He was tied securely, there was no escape.

Four people stepped forward, each one carrying a large, silver dagger. They positioned themselves
above their offerings, and, after taking careful aim, plunged them into the stomachs of the four
victims.

At first the knife in his stomach burned, causing exquisite pain, but as his blood began to fall on the
ground and run along the channels he started to become numb, then cold.

He tried to hold on, but he was so tired now. So very tired. As his eyes began to close, he could feel
the ground shaking. Bits of rock began to flake away from the statues of the gods. As he drifted
away, he saw the head of a statue turn and look at him sadly, it was crying tears of blood.
                                           Afternoon Tea.

She moved slowly, she was getting older now but it needed to be done. She had almost expected
some kind of feeling of loss as her mobility was reduced, but really, she had nothing to worry about.
There was a lift in the house that she could use and Patrick was still very helpful. He was out now,
so she had to make the tea herself. Her friends were experiencing the same problems as she was, so
they did not mind the extra few minutes wait.

She pottered around the kitchen as the kettle boiled, she was becoming more forgetful, Patrick was
supposed to put labels up on the cupboards for her, label where the tea was, and the cups. She knew
where the milk was though, most days anyway. Eventually she found a tray, then, laying it down
began to get cups and saucers. He had done that much at least. Carefully, she poured the water into
the cups, paused for a moment, then remembered the tea bags.

Adding the milk to the tray, she picked it up, proud to note that the tray barely shook, and together,
they made their way into the tea room. She was most proud of this room, something which Patrick
could attest too. He had been in the room a grand total of five times in his life. Only twice when she
allowed it. The others times were when he was a child, twice when he was too young to understand
the room was off limits and once, late at night when he took a wrong turn after going to get a drink
during the night.

The room was still free of dust, she dusted though it took her longer than it had before, it was the
only room she still took care of cleaning herself, Patrick took care of the other rooms. The carpet
was a tasteful white, deep and comfortable. The decorations were slightly old fashioned, but still
stylish, at least, in her opinion. There was a large table with enough seating for six, but now, only
four seats were filled. Angelica was unable to make it today, she had fallen and broken her arm, it
was a terrible fall, but she would mend. Eventually.

Carefully, so carefully, she set the tray down and passed around the cups, offering tea and milk. She
had even remembered the sugar and biscuits. She didn’t need any return trips today. Each
murmured their thanks for the tea and she sat down, gratefully.

Their visit did not last as long as she would have liked, but it was pleasant none the less. Once they
were gone, she surveyed the cups left behind. She did not want to clean, but she knew Patrick
would do a poor job. Slowly, she moved the cups back onto the tray, Patrick could clean them once
they were in the kitchen. She would just leave the tray out for him. He would take care of it.

Using a cloth she wiped down the table, then began her inspection, as she had done after every time
she had tea in the tearoom. First, the table was checked for stains and crumbs, if any were found
they would be removed, then, she circled the table and checked if there were any stains or crumbs
on either the chairs or the floor. She vacuumed once a week, she used to shampoo the carpet
monthly, but she hadn’t been able to do it for almost a year now. Her final checks took almost two
hours, but once they were done she felt better.

It was getting late and Patrick had not returned yet. She knew he had his own life to live and she
tolerated this, but she did not like him coming home late. She worried and he knew this. Still, she
was tired, it would be time for her snack, then she would go for a nap, maybe she would sleep until
morning. Before she would have been horrified by the idea, but there was nothing for her to do, she
had no obligations to fulfil. A long sleep might just be what she needed.

In the kitchen, she reminded herself to tell Patrick to finish labelling the cupboards, she really
needed them to be labelled now. She was getting forgetful. She made herself a sandwich, she took a
bite out of it, enjoying the taste, then, turning she went to the fridge. A glass of ice tea would go
well with her snack. She surveyed the fridge. It was getting emptier now. She would need Patrick to
go shopping soon. The ice tea pitcher was empty. She had really wanted some.

Closing the fridge she yawned. She felt too tired to make her snack and decided that she would nap
first. Leaving the barely touched sandwich behind, she began to make her way up stairs. One step at
a time. Halfway up she remembered the lift, but it was too late now. She would get to the top of the
stairs, then have her nap, just what she needed after such exertion.

Her bedroom was dark, she had forgotten to open the curtains and the light bulb in her lamp had
gone out. She flicked the switch at the doorway and the chandelier sprung to life, revealing her
room. She always felt a faint tremor of pride when she entered her room. The carpet was thick and
comfortable. Her makeup table was clean and neat. She only used spare applications of it, she knew
that trying to hide her wrinkles would only make them much worse. She had seen how her friends
looked and she did not want to be the object of the pity she had seen in waiter’s eyes. A part of her
believed her friends saw it too, that’s why they didn’t go out so often now, rather they came to her.

The mirror by her makeup table was large and had magnifying attachments so she could see better.
The names on the makeup were small and sometimes she couldn’t see the colour properly through
the glass. She had what seemed like hundreds of pots, all in a specific layout she knew and loved,
each filled with arcane creams their purpose only known to her and perhaps Patrick.

She changed into her nightie, it was long, almost Victorian in style. Moving the heavy duvet back,
she slide between the sheets, they were soft and comfortable. Patrick had washed them only the day
before. The pillows were piled high and, though she knew it was probably not good for her posture,
she liked them that way. She considered reading one of her stories, books were piled high on the
nightstand, but her eyes were tired and heavy, they began to droop. Soon she was fast asleep, lights
still on. The noise of her whispery breathing filled the room.

He let himself in silently, it was hard to tell, but she usually took her nap around this time. He didn’t
want to wake her. There was a thin coating of dust over everything. The cleaner must not have come
when she was scheduled. He didn’t really blame her though. The house was large and creepy. Going
into the kitchen he began to clean the cups she had left out. They were still full of tea. He never
understood it really. Once the cups were clean and left to dry he went through the house, checking
for any accidents. She had broken vases before and simply walked through the shards.

The tea room was dark, the sun would light it in the early afternoon but the night was pushing on.
The carpet was ragged and stained, the table dirty. He could see where she had made attempts to
clean it. Four dolls sat at the table, all stared at him creepily. He knew the fifth doll was sitting
upstairs in the doll room with a broken arm. She had hundreds of dolls, each with their own name
and apparent personality. She used to bring them out to her with restaurants, she would order food
for them and spent her entire time talking to them. He would need to go to her room soon, he
always hated it. There was a deep fetid stench that could never be removed no matter how hard he
or the cleaner had tried. It had been absorbed by everything. They tried to clean the entire room but
she had started screeching at them until everything was returned to normal.

He stood outside the door, preparing himself. She was already away when he walked in, “Hello
Patrick” “Hello, how are you feeling today?” he never felt comfortable being called Patrick, but it
was easier than correcting her. She was more cooperative this way. “Mummy has a lovely treat for
you today, a new toy, it’s in the chest beneath the window, have a look, I know you’ll just love it.”
“What is it?” he hoped she would tell him, it would be easier for him to play along once he knew
what he was supposed to be seeing. “Oh, you’ll see” sighing he made his way over to the chest. She
had done this before, but never with the chest, it had always been drawers or something similar. He
lifted the lid, then wretched before vomiting. Huddled in the chest lay the body of a teenager, the
flesh dried and desiccated. As it dehydrated it had been pulled back from his mouth, making him
look like he was screaming. His sightless sockets started up at nothing. Before the lid closed he saw
the scratch marks on the lid. He didn’t hear her approach him, as he turned she swung a silver nail
file towards his chest. Her eyes blazing. As the blade plunged into him, over and over again,
sending splashes of blood misting outwards she screeched “You’ll never leave me for that whore.
Never.”
                                          Beneath the Trees.

The trees were swaying in the wind, back and forth, dancing to and fro. Their leaves rustling
together, almost as though the trees were talking and laughing. Taking part in some divine festivity
only they were aware of. The sun bathed their branches, leaving them warm to the touch. Nearby a
river rushed passed, paying no heed to the dancing trees, it continued on its journey as though
carrying an urgent message to a master far out to sea. Sunlight bounced off its surface, glittering in
the tiny currents and waves that populated the river.

The calm and order of the place lulled visitors, relaxing them as they walked, or picnicked. The
pleasant days gave no indication of the terrible nights that passed. Of the evils that stalked the forest
and of the obscene celebrations they would hold. Leaping and dancing, screeching and laughing.
They would feast on a thousand delicacies, foods too rare and wonderful for man. They would sing
songs that were sweet and would draw all those who heard them. Bringing them closer until they
wandered into their party, uninvited, and were set upon by claws and teeth and biting things.
nothing to mark their passage from life into the darkness, the only evidence of their presence were
the small flowers that would bloom the next morning, where their blood had fallen, but by nightfall,
these flowers would already have withered and died.

When the first rays of light began to grace the world with their presence, waking those from
slumber, the creatures would flee in terror, ending their festivities; they would dive into their dark
places beneath the ground, to escape. The sunlight on their skin burned their flesh and melted it
from their bones. They resented those that could walk unharmed in the daylight, those who could
frolic freely to their hearts content both day and night.

Once they had been able to walk in the light, unhindered and unharmed, they would cavort
throughout the day and into the night, resting only briefly before starting again.

A beautiful youth was walking through the woods, when he heard their singing, he began to follow
the sweet sound to find its source.

He wandered amongst them unseen for a time as already their minds were twisted from the
poisonous concoctions they consumed. At first he remained quiet, content merely to listen, until he
became drunk from the sweet melodies, and he began to join in. They accepted him in their games
for a time, before realising he was not one of them. In their horror and fright, they attacked him,
ripping him apart. As they were bathed in his warm blood a frenzy took hold, they grabbed and
fought for the meat, cleaning the bones before consuming them too. Once they had finished, they
continued their celebrations, coated and covered in gore. Unknown to them, the youth was the son
of a great king who sent out messengers to every corner of the world to try and find him.

News had spread that the youth was seen wandering into the forest and despite warnings from many
to stay away, the king’s messengers entered the forest.

Of the ten that entered, only one returned. He was delirious from fever, his many wounds infected.
As he lay dying he told those looking after him of what he saw and what he suspected had happened
to the prince.

When the king heard news of this his anger was great and terrible. He amassed a giant army in
which to destroy the vile creatures and the place they called home. His army marched day and
night, the ground shaking beneath their feet until they arrived at the forests edge. There the king
gave orders for the forest to be destroyed.

The flames took hold of the forest quickly, devouring everything it could, sending animals fleeing,
trying in vain to outrun the spreading flames. The smoke was thick and heavy, filling the sky and
blotting out the sun, shrouding the surrounding lands in darkness. The creatures enjoyed the
destruction, teasing the flames, darting closer before twirling away. The fire, enraged by their calls
and jeers raced faster, the creatures, seeing the fires rage began to fear him. Their dancing turned to
running, their jeers to panting breaths as they tried to escape the flames.

The fires burned for twenty days, but still the creatures survived. The rivers ran black with ash, the
smoke turned days into night. Burnt and twisted the creatures howled for vengeance and invoked
the ancient gods of the forest. The king’s men marched through the wreckage, killing everything in
their path, animals or creatures, dying or healthy. Each was destroyed. Still not satisfied, the king
ordered that the earth be salted so nothing would ever grow in the accursed land again. After the
lands had been salted, the army began their march home. Each was covered in soot and ash, almost
invisible in the darkness that surrounded them. As they marched the ground rumbled, then cracked.
They were used to their marching causing the land to shake and paid no heed, few noticing as the
rumbling became louder. The earth groaned as the land twisted and spewed forth walls, surrounding
and trapping the warriors and their king. Though they had stopped marching the rumbling
continued. A great river rose from the depths of the earth and flowed through the destroyed land, the
vast wave washing away the salt. Once the forest was clear, the water became a great, winding river,
which continued to flow in the direction the king had come. The walls around them began to crack
and crumble, and the men began to fear, they prayed they wouldn’t be washed away in the torrent
and cursed their king for leading them to destruction.

When the walls had crumbled, they looked around in awe, the forest had begun to grow once more,
threes sprouted from the ground, growing tall and mighty before their eyes. From the darkness
strode the gods, great beings bathed in light, their eyes aflame. Beneath their gaze the army
trembled and gibbered. The king, reckless and bold, strode out to meet them. “I am the king of the
greatest city in the word, I control this army and I have ordered them to destroy this place. They
acted under my orders and as such, they are not at fault.” Their attention shifted from the army to
him, “why have you done this? Committed such a heinous act?” “The forest was home to evil
creatures, depraved beings that destroyed my son and in repayment, I wanted to destroy their homes
and their lives.” “The creatures lived in the forest, but it was not their home, it was ours. You have
destroyed that which is precious to us and we have done the same to you. Your kingdom, once the
greatest in all the world has been destroyed, its people dead, in a hundred years its existence will be
forgotten, no one will remember you, or the greatness of your city, drowned beneath the waves of
salty water. You had completed your task when you destroyed their home, but you salted the earth.
We could have forgiven you had you not committed this act. We did not know of the creature’s sins,
but you tried to destroy our realm permanently. For that you and your people shall suffer. Already
those of your city have been cast down into the realm of the death gods. Who will see to it they are
justly punished for your actions as you acted on all of their behalf.” “Please, no, they are not
responsible for what has happened here” “but they are. You are their leader, you represent them, you
committed acts of atrocity, as did they. Once their punishment has ended they will be judged on
their own merits. Though many will have gone mad and will forever be locked in torment.” Behind
him came the sounds of screams and tearing flesh, he turned to look at his army and saw them on
the ground, a heaving mass, ripping at their skin. “Please, stop, what are you doing to them?” “They
are becoming that which you tried to destroy. We cannot stop it, they were infected while marching
through the ashes. This too is your fault.” “What of me? What is my punishment?” “You shall
become a powerless god. You will live forever knowing of what you have done to these people and
those under your command. You will be doomed to wander the earth alone and broken for all
eternity. You will know of every pain that your people endure. You will feel every lash of the whip,
every torture. You will hear every anguished cry and be unable to stop it. You will be responsible
for the creatures you tried to destroy. Every life lost will be a life lost due to you. You will be unable
to intervene or stop them. You will only be able to observe.” The king dropped to his knees to beg,
but the gods had turned their backs and began to walk away. His army once faithful, now twisted,
set upon him, ripping him apart. So ferocious were they that parts of his flesh flew up into the
heavens, taking their place in the sky as stars, so they could watch for all eternity but unable to help.
Part of him was cast into the realm of the death gods where he was forced to watch the torture of his
once loyal subjects. Parts of him that were consumed lived on inside the creatures forever forced to
endure their evil deeds. And his spirit, the last part, the part that could not be consumed, was tied to
earth, where he was forced to wander alone. Aware of each part of him but unable to reassemble his
body or stop the pain. The gods had lied to him. His people had not been killed yet. He watched
helplessly from the heavens as the great wave washed over his city, frothing and bubbling, as people
vainly tried to flee the waters wrath. The river continued to flow, filling the area with water, creating
a deep sea from which dark creatures rose, created from the spirits of those who hated their king
and sought revenge.

The kings army was further punished, from them was taken the day, the sun would burn their skin.
As they cavorted with the other creatures, the sickness spread and soon none could venture into the
light. The smoke cleared from the sky, the rivers ran clear, the forest was reborn, the gods returned
to their slumber, and the creatures continued their insane rituals, their hatred growing.

Though the trees of the forest grew back, taller and greater than before, the area was never used for
logging, no hunters dared to stalk the woods, there was something worse than their guns and bullets,
things which would not take kindly to their intrusion. During the day, the beasts were held at bay,
but at night, they were free to reign.
And now, you have reached the end. That's right. No more short stories, but, do not be upset. No,
stem those tears, you might damage something.

This may be the end of this eBook, but it is not the end of my stories. In order to read more, you can
go to

AlanJamesKeogh.wordpress.com

there, you will find new stories posted every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. That’s right, 3 times a
week. 3 times!

Ok, I know that’s a tantalising thought, but please, stop drooling and wipe down your keyboard.
Unless it’s waterproof. Then make sure you’re alone and drool away.

Why alone? Well, you don’t want someone to think you’re some kind of pavlovian dog do you? Do
you? Oh…you do? ….well….this is awkward…

I suppose you should go to AlanJamesKeogh.wordpress.com in that case.

*ding*

				
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