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Average Zombie

Average Zombie

 

“You know, it's an urban myth. That whole zombies craving braiiiins. Totally false. The average zombie is just happy to get something juicy to munch on. No concern for where on the body the meat is, or even if it's still on the body at all. It's the smell of the living you see. Like blood in the water to a shark. It will attract the undead so fast, you'd think someone was giving out free food at a restaurant. And once they start in on you, well table manners tend to be forgotten. And certainly no thought is put into whether it's thigh, wing or breast meat. Nope, I have to say unless it happend to be spilled out in front of them, that the average zombie couldn't care less about getting at someones brain......But then, I'm not the average zombie”

“Oh, I now what your thinking. I'm a crazy person. Your thinking that right now you are being exposed to nothing more then the ramblings of a lunatic. I mean come on, Zombies? Everyone knows they're not real. However. Not everyone has had the misfortune of being with a group of people that managed to run afoul of a real life Haitian witchdoctor. Fortunately for me, one of my companions happend to have the good grace to crack his head open as he was shuffling off his mortal coil.”

“I have to say....That first taste is a bit of a blur. I remember the hunger and the desperation to satiate it as I tore into the grey matter. But I am ashamed to admit that I do not remember the taste of that, oh so momentus, first meal. However, I remember everything afterword. Bear in mind that I was far from the only ambulatory being in that old fort but I was, most definitely, the only one with the capacity for thought. You see for the walking undead such as myself, the old adage, you are what you eat, really does apply. I was newly necrotised and my first food source was a fresh brain. And that's the key here, fresh. You can't just munch down on the grey matter of your fellow zombie. I learned that the hard way.......Necrotised flesh tastes horrid. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for saving food for later under the proper conditions. But all meat spoils and if that meat is infected with, whatever it is that brings us back, then it really is quite unpalatable. No, for one to retain any self of themselves then I highly recommend the freshest source available. And don't be afraid to be picky about your food. Different minds breed different tastes and effects. Personally, I've grown found of creative minds. There's just something about the way the neural pathways form that give it a pleasing texture on the tongue. However, that being said, I would always go for intellect over anything else. The greater the mind, the greater the cognisance I obtain after ingesting it. You know, I actually suspect I may have grown more intelligent as I dinned on higher IQ's”

“Of course, it doesn't hurt that great minds often come with great fortunes. You wouldn't believe some of the things people will offer up in a bid to save themselves. I have gotten the keys, combinations and pass codes to enough monetary gain as to make some countries jealous. And the women. Some of the most beautiful women have been offered up, and in some instance offered themselves up, in attempts to stop what they thought to be the acts of a human assailant. As a result, I have a nice home, several well hidden nest eggs and some of the fondest memories modern technology can record. But all of that is inconsequential to the hunger. To the ever present need to feed. You see, our metabolisms run faster then yours. Or at least they do when we have a steady food supply. As long as we eat regularly, our bodies can metabolise everything from our food without leaving waste. The more we eat, the better we function and for longer then humans. I've never investigated it, but I imagine whatever is in my stomach may be far more dangerous then just hydrochloric acid.”

“Once again, the money comes in handy here. It is really quite sad how many people in this world are willing to throw their lives away for the prospect of money. Some out of greed, some out of obligation but most, in my experience, do it out of desperation. Promise you can make their lives better and they will walk right into their own slaughter. And in this day and age, you don't even need to leave your own home. I may enjoy the thrill of the hunt when it comes to specialty items, but I'm not above calling some of the shadier contacts I've made over the years and having a homeless person picked up or perhaps some newly acquired foreign delicacies delivered to my door. One of the reasons I chose this area to live in. Privacy is assured and the security is borderline Orwellian, provided you've passed their strict vetting system. Which, in my case, consisted of a donation to the community fund that was in the nine figures range and an agreement with the community counsel of mutual ignorance. I do not exist to them and therefore, they need not exist to me. I inform security of any deliveries that are to be made and they allow unobstructed entry. You know, I almost can't remember the last time I had to hunt to survive.”

“I believe I've already said how fortunate I've been. My first bite and I manage to stumble onto the one and only thing that could have prevented me from wasting away into nothingness like the others. The capacity for thought, for reasoning. To be able to look at your surroundings and your condition and to know that you are changed for all time, yet also be able to adapt and survive. I couldn't eat my fellow undead but I did have a non infected corpse on which to feed. Not knowing how long I could go without food, I decided to gorge myself on what was left. That managed to see me through the town near the fort, but I was straining by the time I got into the city. The smell was everywhere and it was almost irresistible. As a result of what had happend at the fort, it was essential that I go unnoticed and that I get out of the country as quickly as possible. Some naive tourists provided me with funds and a meal when I showed them the injuries I had suffered in a brutal mugging earlier that day. They even provided me with a car, which they thought to bring me to a hospital in. I bartered the car into passage on a cargo boat headed to Miami. I faded out for a long time while I was in the back of that cargo container. When I came back to myself, I was standing over the dead body of a dock worker. I had smashed his head into the steel frame of a heavy wooden paneled crate. My instincts had somehow managed to see the brain as the first thing to be eaten. Either that or I had just gotten very lucky again. Whatever had happend, I was myself and I was once again covered in blood. I stripped my meal of it's high viz vest and donned it's fallen hard hat before calmly walking out of the cargo container and into the Miami evening.”

“Fed, but with precious little cash in my pockets, I decided my best bet was to find some place to stay while I figured out my next move. I may have come to terms with what I was, but I could never go back to my old life nor contact anyone I used to know for help. Instead, I decided to accept the fact that I was a monster and live accordingly. Thanks to the many show rooms and abandoned housing projects in the area, I was able to find a rather spacious house that had been left unfinished and available at a very reasonable price. I did find two occupants in residence, but they assured me the property was essentially in some form of financial limbo and no one would be interested in it for at least six months. They were also kind enough to set up a new bank account in the cayman islands and provide me with full access before they transferred their joint life savings, and those of their spouses, into it. Such a nice couple they were. Shame about the mess I made of the bed sheets that first night. But I made it up to them over that summer, feeding him scraps from the prostitutes and promising her I wouldn't turn her into scraps as long as she was a good girl. Oh, the things we did in that house. Even after all these years it still brings a tear to the eye, metaphorically speaking, and a stirring in...other areas. Yes, as I'm sure you've gathered by now, not everything changes once you've actually become a near death experience. True, I can't cry and certain bodily functions no longer seem to occur. But when it comes to the basic human instincts, I am far more then I was.”

“My eye sight appears to be about the same as it ever was. Yet, I can see the tinniest of movements. A blade of grass moved by the air from a passing foot, a twitch amidst the deepest corner of a darkened room. Nothing goes beyond my notice. Even when they have turned cloudy on occasion, a sure sign that it is time to turn the nearest skull into a desert bowl at the earliest opportunity, I retain this interesting ability. Indeed, it doesn't end there. My hearing and sense of smell are greatly improved as well. I can smell fresh meat from nearly a mile away. I have even honed my sense of smell to distinguish quality of grey matter based on origin and strength of the scent. As for my hearing, the slightest breath amid a cacophony of music would not escape my well trained ears. I truly think that if more zombies had gotten the opportunity to be like me, you humans would become an endangered species. As it is, for the most part we are only a problem in numbers. Which is true both ways, let me tell you. You see, along with all of these enhancements for hunting came an enhancement in other things as well. At least so far as my labido is concerned. Maybe it's just the freedom of being able to let go, maybe it's a by product of cognisance or perhaps it's the fact that those early months had so many obvious opportunities. Whatever it is, it forced me to eventually burn down my first little love nest. I learned a valuable lesson that night. If your going to have an orgy involving teenage tourists and some recently necrotised local talent, don't lose track of which ones need leashed colars with gags and which need full restraints. Everything got the water hose after a party from that night on, I can assure you. Even still, the damage was done and the police were on their way. Fortunately, by this time I was already well into my new life style as a well cultured monster with an obscene amount of money to rely on. The crime rate in Miami, coupled with the amount of people reported missing on a daily basis and the vagrancy that occurs in any city allowed for me to conduct my activities in total anonymity. I would forage from the local fauna and when something worthwhile would cross my path, an exceptional mind, a vast bank account or even on one or two occasions an attractive woman or three, I pounced. Ruthless, efficient and as time went on, virtually unstoppable. I ate drug lords and high finance executives in the same day I took their wives, daughters and portfolios. By the time I had to put the match to thermite and napalm, I had accrued four different identities, six different multi-million dollar bank accounts and a rolodex of blacklist, no questions asked contacts for every type of contraband one could want.”

“Which of course brings us to today. I knew, the moment I saw you that you were special. The way you moved, such confidence showed a strength that I've always found rather endearing. Now, I know that having taken in my story you are understandably apprehensive of what comes next. But rest assured that for putting up with my brief, though admittidly a bit disturbing at times, undead origin you will be givin a choice. Enter into my employ, do what I say when I say it and you will never want for anything. In time, if you prove yourself, you might even enjoy this rather liberating lifestyle yourself. As I mentioned earlier, a few more like me in the world could change a great many things. Especially if done properly. I think you could handle the change, adjusting to a new way of existing. Learning what it is to forge your own rules and having others live by them. I am offering you a chance at Godhood. The only question is, do you have what it takes to live by my rules in my world or do I enjoy what, I am no doubt sure, will turn out to be a most exquisite taste?”

This is Halloween (A Simon Hobb Story)

This is Halloween

 

It had been over a year since the events at the church and thankfully for Simon the year had been fairly quite. There was the odd bit of small stuff with nasty things hunting in places they shouldn't have been, but nothing that had really taxed his abilities. Over the last year Simon had spent alot of time thinking of what had happened to him in the church. He had actually channelled the power of the catholic God, something he hadn't even heard of happening to anyone that wasn't well versed in both catholic believes and the reality of what could really be done in this world.

He sat in the backyard of his most recent home enjoying a nice cold beer on a nice hot summers day when he heard a voice from the back gate, “Hey, how's it goin”. His sister Jen had rang him an hour earlier saying that she would drop in after she finished work and arrived right when he expected. “Not too bad” he replied, “Want a beer?”. Jen strolled into the garden and took a seat next to him by the back door “Nah, I'm good” she answered “So what did you want to show me?”. Simon took a swig from his bottle before placing it on the ground next to him, he then leaned closer to his sister and very quietly said “I've figured it out......kind of”. He then made a claw of his hand and began to concentrate. Jen could see small arcs of blue light travelling up Simons fingers until at the tips they sparked and began to form a ring of energy between them. “It gets better” he said. Energy shot from his finger tips into the centre of his hand where they began to form a ball of energy. Simon lifted his hand and pointed at the back wall before straightening his palm and thrusting it forward. A bolt of energy shot up his arm at the same time sending the blue white ball he held flying at the targeted wall. Chips of cement flew from the wall as a half inch crater was blasted from it. Jen turned from the wall to her brother with a look that spoke of both surprise and worry, “How did you do that?” she asked. “The way I see it” Simon replied taking another swig from his bottle, “When I was in the church I accidently drew on the power at the centre of the beacon. Now I may not be a follower but I do believe that the Catholic God exists and at that moment I needed an energy source that would work under the circumstances. Now maybe their God decided to lend a hand with that......thing and maybe I just happend to be in the right place at the right time. Either way, when I drew in that power it was like a door opened in my head. I channelled the faith that had built up in that place and was able to use it. Of course I also drew in some of whatever it is that guards those places, but the theory of drawing in energy seems sound. I can stretch out my hand and not only feel the energy that flows, but bending it to my will, I can draw it in”. To epmhasise the point Simon clenched his fist into a blue white ball before calmly opening his hand to allow the energy to drift, shimmering back to nothingness.

Three months later Simon found himself attending a Halloween fancy dress party with some friends at an old castle that had been converted into a hotel a few decades before. The party was a yearly event that had people from all over the world vying to claim one of the various different trophies for best costume. As a result, some of the most elaborate costumes Simon had ever seen strode past as he waited in line. With the popularity of certain supernatural themed tv shows recently there was more then enough inspiration for people to come up with, or buy, very convincing make up effects. A half dozen zombies waited up ahead of him, all of them looking like they had just walked right out of their own deaths to attend the festivities. Looking behind him, Simon could see the cast from a fairly well known horror laughing and making slight adjustments to their leather and spiked clothes. “How does he get those things to stay in his face when he drinks?” Simon muttered to himself. “Probably uses a straw,” said the giant blood stained purple dinosaur ahead of him, “At least till he forgets and gets a pin up the nose.” Keith always did have a way of finding the funny side of things. It was thanks to Keith and his fiancee Lianne that Simon was even at the party tonight. Living in the area, they had invited him up for the weekend to enjoy the holiday with them when they had managed to get four tickets through some friend, school or business contact of Liannes. All Simon had to hear were the words Halloween Fancy Dress Party to get him interested. He had spent the last couple of months skrimping his cash together so that he and his companions could splurge on themselves in the name of horror themed fun. Unfortunately that meant certain concessions had to be made in regards his costume. He hadn't cared at the time, but as he looked at his cheap plastic scythe through the eye holes of his even cheaper plastic skull mask he felt a little self conscious. A black hoody, black jeans, steel toed work boots and leather waist coat, covered by his oft worn leather trench coat, finished off what Simon loosely called a costume. “We came here to have a laugh, “ continued Keith, “Not win any contests.” “Apart from the odd impromptu drinking contest of course,” pointed out Simon with a sly smile. “Of course,” responded Kieth stoically, “Have to maintain certain standards.” “Don't try to hard,” laughed Lianne next to him, “Someone has to be able to guide the rest of us home later.” Standing a head shorter then Keith, she had gone to great lengths to either make or buy a blue coat, of a fabric Simon couldn't name, with leather shoulder pads. Which she wore with a leather sword belt, housing a plastic curved blade, brown leather pants and black calf high leather boots. With her hair recently bleached she looked the image of regal ferocity and beamed up at her man with a not so innocent smile. Finishing off their group was a pirate princess named Anna. A work friend of Liannes, she stood next to him happily reengaging Lianne in conversation as they watched the group ahead of them shuffle through the reception area. Attractive and intelligent, she had made a good first impression on Simon. See what happens after a few drinks to bolster my nerve, he thought to himself. He hadn't come here to pull, but he wasn't against the idea of getting to know new people a little better either. “Oh man,” exclaimed Kieth looking in past the reception to the main room, “I just saw two Predators in there, this is gonna be class.” “Easy for you to say, you look like every three year old's worst nightmare,” replied Simon while handing over his ticket, “I just look like Death's under funded helper.” “Give me five minutes and we'll assault the bar in a well organised military campaign of drunkenness,” laughed Keith, “That should cheer you up.” With that he put the head back on his costume and Barney, the blood thirsty dinosaur strutted with his Dragon Queen to the costume contests photo area.

Half an hour later the group, drinks firmly in hand, concluded their brief tour of the party by returning to the bar located beneath the main hall, with it's mainstream might club music, and above the sub basements secondary hall, currently hosting the more alternative and industrial loving revellers. The bar had a sound system that seemed to link with both floors, alternating between channels seemingly at random. Slightly quieter then either dance floors, Simon and the others found themselves an empty table, while their was one, and ordered another round of drinks. Once again, Simon found himself observing, and in more then a few case's ogling, his fellow fancy dressers. The Predators that Keith had spotted earlier had been more than willing to get photos taken with the group and where now standing at the bar drinking pints through slits in their prosthetic heads aided by black straws which seemed to be in nearly every drink served by the bar. Easier to get through the costumes, Simon figured. That being said, for every well thought out costume in attendance, there seemed to be just as many haphazard attempts at dressing up. And some of them had nothing to do with the season of monsters and madness. Two scantily clad nurses in stiletto heels sauntered down the steps and over to the bar, grabbing just the right amount of attention from every guy with a line of sight on them. The barman nearest them didn't even bother to hide his interest as one of them leaned up on the footrest of the bar getting closer to the mans ear, giving him the ideal vantage point from which to appreciate the woman's.....uniform. “Not to bad, eh?” said Keith taking in the place as he turned a chair backwards to sit, the tail preventing sitting normally of course. “Yeah,” replied Simon dragging his eyes away from the interesting view at the bar. “Think I'll take a wonder back down to the metal music in awhile. Let my hair down for a bit.” he said with a smile. The next hour passed with them more or less staying at their table drinking and generally conversing about everything from how their lives had been going lately to commenting on people's costumes as they passed through. Simon had chatted to Anna a couple of times as they sat and the occasional flirtatious remark from him had been met with smiles and laughs but not much in the way of reciprocation. Feeling none deterred, he decided to take in the sights of the secondary hall again and maybe return to chatting up Anna when her inhibitions were a bit lower. Turning to Keith he asked, “You up for goin down to the goth part for a bit?” “I think I'll pass man,” replied Kieth, “The suites alright to walk around in, but no way am I going to try moshing in it.” The mental image of that brought a smile to everyone's face. “Fair enough, I'm gonna leave the scythe here. Be back in a little bit.”

The Goth floor was an industrial dungeon dipped in multicoloured lights, feed with heavy beats bone jarring bass notes and ear shredding guitar riffs. Whoever was dj'ing knew what they were doing. Hardcore dance flowed into industrial rock only to be brought to a heavy high with bone crushing metal. The dance floor seethed at times with people smashing into each other, only to be replaced a few beats later with almost elegant ghostly movements as bodies twisted in time to some techno goth mash up designed to be both dark and energetic. For the most part, the costumes here seemed less fancy and more scary. Leather, latex and anything black were the general theme. The occasional neon colored hair do or stripped coloured piece of clothing acted like beacons amid the murky colours as they walked past the black lights set high up on every wall of the seating areas surrounding the pit like dance floor. It was while strolling around the seating area's perimeter and watching the dance floor that Simon began to feel it. At first he thought that he had just gotten too close to a speaker, but there were none around him. A vibration seemed to be going through him wherever he walked. For a split second he thought it was just the effects of the beer, but beer hadn't ever made him feel like this before. In fact, the last time he could remember every feeling like this, apart from standing in front of a big speaker, was the incident in the church. Of course, when it had happened that time he didn't consider his entire body vibrating as a big deal since it seemed the least troubling thing to be happening to him at the time. Casting furtive glances around at the crowd, Simon began to move back towards the stairs to the bar. He had to get to his friends and get them out of here. Someone was doing something big and magical here. “Yep,” he said to himself as he glided between people, “Knew there was no way I'd get to just enjoy a Halloween.”

He darted up the stairs and through the doors to the bar. His entrance drew the attention of one of the barmen and a few party goers near the door. He quickly spotted Kieth and the girls still at the table and strode over to them. “Ok,” he said calmly, “This is gonna sound really weird but I promise you I am telling the truth. Something very wrong is either about to happen or has already happend and I think you should leave as quickly and calmly as you possibly can.” All three of them stared at him for a second before almost simultaneously bursting out into fits of laughter. Tears began to roll down Keith's face as he looked at Simon's own stoney visage waiting for it to crack. After nearly a minute of Simon not joining them and looking increasingly more anctious, the others began to become more serious themselves. “Your not joking are you?” asked Kieth, only traces of a smile left on his face. “No, I'm not. And I don't know whats going on either which is why I think ye need to get as far away from here as possible.” Simon's tone had alarmed Lianne a little and she looked witheringly at him, “You've just had to much to drink. Sit down for awhile and have something to eat, a bag of taytos or something.” The last was said with a kind smile, her annoyance vanishing as quickly as it had appeared. “Look,” said Simon with exasperation in his voice, “I'm not drunk. The world isn't the way you think it is and we don't have time for me to get into just how more there is to this world then is dreamt of in your philosophy, so would you all please just.....” A scream from the other side of the bar drew everyone's attention. One of the dead students walking that Simon had seen outside earlier had just ripped the flesh from one of the leather and spiked clad horror fans with her teeth. Pins stuck out through the flesh of her jaws as she tried to chew the meat, eventually hanging from her face as she got it all down only to have one or two fall as she leaped for a woman wearing an elaborate french period style gown. People screamed and the woman's companions tried to pull the zombie from her back, but it was too late. Flesh tore, blood spurted and another person had died. At the same time, one of the Predators had gone to the aid of the former Pin face, only to have his aid returned by violence. Whatever the Predators suite was made of was clearly stronger then teeth, but Simon didn't think it would save the man for long. As Predator and Pompadour both fell to their attackers, the downstairs doors flew open and a mob of leather clad people came screaming through. The last being grabbed by a neon green braided pigtail and pulled back through, only to be hurled back again with out a throat. When people think of zombies, they generally think of shambling corpses that are only dangerous when they get too close or are en masse. However, these zombies appeared to be fast, vicious and strong. The first two through the doors were on people before Simon had time to even think about moving. But once he started, he ran right at them bringing both arms up from his side as he turned his fingers into claws of arcing energy. Stopping a few feet from them, he brought both hand up and forward together releasing a wave of blue and white electric fire that blasted both attackers into charred bits. People were screaming, trying to get up the stairs to safety when the music cut and all that could be heard was the screaming of hundreds of people all panicking at once. The doors to the downstairs were open again, but this time what came through was exactly the stereo type. A pack came shambling through the doors and a few quite literally fell on the Predator before Simon could get to him. Realising that he could be cut off from his friends, he ran back to the startled group. Anna and Lianne were just staring at him as he came back while Kieth was standing in front of them with chair ready to hit anyone that came to close, “What the hell was that!?”exclaimed Lianne while clutching one of Kieth's empty bottles as a potential weapon. “No idea,” responded Kieth, a little bit in awe of what he'd seen.“We need to get out of here.” he said shakely as Simon ran back over to them. “You think?” replied Simon with a hint of sarcasm, “Anyone seen a fire door or something?” “Over there,” Anna pointed at an exit sign perpendicular to the downstairs doors. The mob was shambling it's way up the bar and had just passed the door as they turned to look. “Of course it is,” grumbled Simon as he hung his head for an instant. “Ok, Lianne get Kieth out of his suite. I hope your wearing somethin underneath that thing man cus we're gonna be runnin in a couple of minutes and I don't think you want it slowing you down.” “Agreed,” said Lianne as she moved to undo the zip at the back of the costume. Some of the crowd had started throwing things in an attempt to slow the mob but when a body came flying back down the stairs people started to panic again and Simon saw more then one person get trampled underfoot or pushed over the railing. “Get ready to run for the exit,” he said as he stepped into the bars thoruoghfare. Placing his left leg forward and his right leg back, he took a fighting stance in front of the mob. “What are you gonna do this time?” asked Keith as he stepped out of his costume revealing a wife beater t-shirt and a dark pair of baggy swimming trunks. “This,” grinned Simon as he once again made claws of his fingers, this time bringing them both together on his right side. As his hands came together, the arcs between the fingers of each hand leapt to great each other and a small ball of light began to grew between them. Kieth and the girls stepped out from the chairs to stand behind Simon and as he watched, Kieth would have sworn that the colors of objects close to Simon were starting to leech away into his hands. The side of the bar closest to Simon grew darker and even the lights above them seemed to fade in time with the growing ball of energy he was holding. After a second or two the Simon held a basketball size sphere of blue and white electric fire and that's when he thrust both arms forward and yelled at the top of his lungs, “HADOKEN!!!” The blast incinerated the first five, the next three had holes burned through them and every member of the mob had arcs of electric fire conduct through them ripping through necrotised flesh and tendons, popping eyeballs and generally making a sizzled mess of the newly re-dead. Simon turned to his friends with a smile on his face, “Always wanted to d that,” he panted, "Now run!”

 

Music

Music

 

David ran through the streets of the city. The thought of being late terrified him so, that he almost tripped over the large black leather-bound case which he carried. Quickly however, he regained his balance as though his life depended on it, because it did. He finally reached his destination, a little alleyway between a local bar and a high street clothes shop. David stopped near the end of the alleyway and began leaning on the case to catch his breath.

He heard a rat run by and was then suddenly aware of the figure standing in a corner of the alley. “Did you get them?” it said in a cold, calculated voice. “Yes”, said David trembling from head to toe. “Bring them here.” David obeyed handing the case to the hooded figure. “And here is the scroll” said David removing a cylindrical case which had been hanging at his mid-riff, he quickly placed the scroll next to the person’s leg. The black case was smoothly opened and a bright green, almost jade-colored light, shone on what were now clearly female facial features. Slowly she began to smile, revealing a sinister side to her flawless face.

“If that’s all?” stammered David, even more nervous than before, “I’ll take my payment and leave you in peace”. The woman took her gaze from the contents of the case and looked at David. “Of course you will” she said closing the case while placing it on the ground. Once again there was darkness, until David noticed the strange light that seemed to surround him. He could feel his blood heating up to boiling point and his heart began to beat like a jackhammer. His blood became lava in his veins as his heart pulsed like a humming birds wings. Eventually it all became too much and David was no more.

The woman slung the scroll over her shoulder and picked up the case with a smile firmly embedded on her lips.

 

Jason blasted out chord after heavy chord of fast paced metal. He was the rhythm guitarist and singer in an up and coming band called La Bido. They were playing his favorite song, “Last breath, new hope”. He thought it was funny to play it as a last encore. After the last chord had been struck he threw his hands in the air “Thank you…good night!” he yelled into the microphone. Immediately the two or three hundred audience members crowded into the downtown nightclub began cheering and clapping. The band left the stage and in the back dressing rooms already waiting for them was their manager Lydia. “Excellent gig” she said, throwing her arms around Jason. Jason fancied her but at times he wasn’t sure of how she felt. “I have a big surprise for ye, I got ye a spot in the Metfest” The band immediately started celebrating, the Metfest was the largest metal music festival in the country. “And for you”, she said leading Jason into another room, "I have a special surprise”.

Jason saw on the dressing table a black, leather-bound guitar case. He opened it to find a black electric guitar in the shape of a gothic axe with green thorns and red roses painted on it. “And this.” she said giving him a page. “What’s this?” he asked, examining the page, the letters and words of which were unfamiliar, and looked like Latin or something. “It’s your new song” she replied. “What?” said Jason, turning to look at her. “It’s about demons,” she said innocently. Jason looked again, and this time the words made sense. “I want you to sing it as a last encore at the Metfest.” “But what about “last breath”?” he asked. “You can sing that before if you want” she said, dragging him back to the party outside.

The next few months were spent practicing and playing nightclubs. But with the bands upcoming big break tempers seemed to fray easier with small things turning nasty fast. Before long the only one that remained of the original lineup, was Jason. Miraculously, his manager had gotten in replacements for the Metfest. And although there wasn’t the same unity that Jason was used to, he had to admit that he played well with them. In fact they seemed very intent that he sounded the clearest out of the lot of them. At last, after months of preparation Jason’s big break was here. The drum kit and amps were set up with the microphone stands on stage. “Well” he said, strapping on the new axe, “This is it”. The others walked out on stage and she approached him. Her face was like that of an angel. Jason took a deep breath and then “I love you”. He blurted it out so quickly it surprised even him. She put her hand on his face stroking it and then kissed him. “I know,” she said, stepping away. Jason smiled and strolled out to face the crowd.

La Bido played a fast and heavy set churning out riff after chunky hard-pressed riff. The new guitar sounded better than anything he had played before. However, while playing an exceptionally heavy song Jason could have sworn he saw something very strange. He had seen a crowd move in unison like a living creature before, but never had he seen a face form out of a mass of people. But as quickly as it appeared it faded away and so Jason put it down to his imagination. At last it came for them to play the new song, which Jason had decided to call “Out of The Inferno”. Jason began playing the heavy riff while his new lead guitarist broke into a solo or two. Jason sang the opening verse and almost straight away noticed a change. The air itself started to solidify in front of him, faces seemed to appear and then disappear as if they were trying to break through some sort of barrier. Whole arms and torsos began to exist and then fade over the crowd. Even the band began to change, becoming more evil and demonic in appearance. When he reached the chorus those barriers broke, the band became winged skeletons whole taloned hands played living entities like instruments. The crowd that watched quickly became a banquet for demons as they ripped their way into this reality and began to feast.

Jason was horrified by this and had been trying to stop since he began singing but found he couldn’t. Some force moved his hands and forced his mouth to move for him. He could do nothing but watch the slaughter, until a thought pounded his head like a hammer. If he couldn’t stop playing, perhaps he could change the song. Slowly but surely he managed to change the tune to that of “Last Breath, New hope”. Unfortunately all this did was enrage the demons, which now began moving towards him. When all seemed lost, he suddenly felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to see his beloved manager, her hair now dyed a dark red, her face pale, her lips ruby red and wearing a black gothic dress. “I love you,” said Jason, hoping that would end the nightmare. She put her arms around him and kissed him, then with one fluid motion ripped his heart out of his chest. Jason let out a final scream of death and terror. And the demon queen smiled a sinister smile…

… “Music to my ears”

 

 

Crossing The Line (A Simon Hobb Story)

Crossing The Line

 

To an average person the church seemed like a typical building of it's type and age. Large and gothic with copper roofing that had turned to a bright green over what must have been at least a hundred years worth of oxidation. But to Simon, a lot more was visible. He hadn't really been looking this morning but now with heavy clouds over head and only street lights to see by, he couldn't help but notice the truth. Like most buildings of spiritual importance, the church was surrounded by a dome of energy with a thin line of the stuff ascending skywards. But instead of the blazing white light that would usually be seen around a Catholic church this old, Simon could see dark grey and in some places black patches swirling around. “This should be fun” he said to himself in a resigned and somber tone.

Stepping over the threshold wasn't difficult, a public building like this one would pose no problem for a human to walk into, but the energy field could be lethal to certain things that Simon knew exist in this world. Even still, he could feel it like a silk curtain flowing over him as he entered. Stopping in the antechamber before the church proper, he listened for sounds of activity. A low mumbling came to him and what may have been the occasional growl. Holding his Zippo lighter in his left hand and a large knife in the other, Simon pushed open the inner door as quietly as he could. He slid into the church and took in the scene at a glance. Nothing seemed out of place. Everything was exactly as it had been when he was a kid and being forced to attend Sunday mourning Mass. Then he blinked and the world changed in an instant. He could see the red and orange flames surrounding the alter, the two hooded figures standing either side of it and the monstrous shadow standing behind it. The stations of the cross, which had been carved out of finely polished wood were slashed through and everything was covered in dark red stains. The alter looked like a butchers slab and the two red skinned lion size reptiles that were charging at him looked very angry. “Jesus!” exclaimed Simon as the leading reptile took to the air in a ten foot leap. On reflex he threw the knife underhanded and, aided by a little energy and a lot of concentration, the blade spun like a buzz saw slicing the creature clean in two from front to rear. The second Lizard was two feet away and coming at him head on. Simon dropped to one knee, lit the lighter and blew a ball of flame that forced the lizard back a few feet but didn't really do much else. Summoning every once of energy he could, Simon tried again and this time got the result he wanted. An inferno of bright orange flame consumed the creature turning it's red scales to charred black and turning the black pits that were it's eyes into gooey paste. Inwardly Simon cursed himself for being an idiot. His knife was embedded in a wall at the far side of the church and trying to do so much under the dampening influence of the church's barrier had left him tired, weak and in serious trouble. Sweat beaded his forehead as he looked up at the alter. The two hooded figures were walking down the central aisle towards him and had sickles that were pulsing with a malevolent dark red glow. But it was the shadow that really did it for him. It stood a good nine feet in height, had a build that came out of a Japanese horror cartoon and, Simon was bemused to see, appeared to have wings. Slowly the shadow smiled and with a voice that promised destruction cheerily said “Fresh Meat”. Simon grabbed a nearby candle holder. It was about six feet long so he ran up the aisle and swung for the first guy near him. The figure ducked and slide under the swing but Simon followed through catching the second guy in the face with the large round stand at the other end. Raising the make shift staff in time to block a downward slash of both the first figures sickles. Simon let the momentum pull him forward to deliver a savage headbutt then twisted to his right and wrenched the weapons lose from his assailants hands. He hoped to the Gods he had enough for this next bit as he threw the staff in the air, reached up with both hands and forced the sickles spinning into the air. With a sweeping motion he brought one soaring down in an arc to take of his floundering foes head before turning and burying the other in the face of his second opponent.

Breathless and doubled over, Simon winced as the sound of clapping drifted faintly to him. “I am impressed little one” said the shadow with what he could have sworn was an attempt at affection. “You do yourself proud to handle so much through the influence of both myself and the false one who supposedly owns this place. I wander if you would be interested in making a deal?” Simon's legs were like jelly and it was everything he could do just to hold on to the end of the pew. “Phew” he said “Just gimme a minute here big guy. Need to catch my breath.” He sat in the pew with his head down breathing hard and thinking fervently. He was dead, no other way around it. Somehow a full fledged demon was standing inside a church attempting, successfully, to deconsecrate it and he was near useless to do anything about it. Constrained by how his own abilities worked, he knew that he couldn't muster enough strength through the beacons field to even do his most well practiced tricks. Even if he could tap his full potential in here, Simon doubted it would have much effect on that thing. It wasn't fully here yet but it still had enough juice to subvert the beacon of a very well established catholic church in the middle of an old catholic community. No two ways about it, Simon was screwed. He sat back and raised his head to look at the shadow. “Sorry man, I'm wrecked after that. You were saying?” The shadow tilted it's head to one side and the smile seemed to receded to just one corner, making it look almost mischievous. It straightened up and spoke again in a much more serious tone “Yes, I was asking if you would be interested in making a deal. I can offer you power and knowledge that will allow you to do whatever you want in this world.” Feeling ill but determined to look calm and cool, Simon leaned back in the pew and put his arms up on the railing. “Thanks, but no thanks man,” he said putting his feet up on the back of the pew in front, “ I already got that. I've pretty much got a licence to have fun in this town and I'd rather not be a demon's rent boy for a little extra juice that'll probably shorten my life span anyway.” “Nope,” he said standing up slowly and stretching himself out, “I've got a better suggestion. Leave. Get your ass back to whatever pit you belong in and do it fast. Because although me and the owner of this house don't always see eye to eye, I'm fairly sure he's on my side for this one.” Simon took a deep breath, exhaled and prayed that his plan would work. It was the only way to save this place and the souls of the congregation of the parish. If this didn't work everyone of those people would be damned and if their God was listening, this was his chance to step in. “I order you to leave this place.” he said walking laboriously up the aisle “In the name of the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit.” as he finished the blessing and crossed himself he flung his hands forward towards the shadow. It flinched and then began to laugh as Simon stood in front of it with his hands thrust out looking increasingly worried. Simon hung his head with a sigh and dropped his hands. “Of course,” he said slowly raising his head upwards, “Thanks alo.....” Suddenly piercing white light shot through him, his last thought was that he must have been in the center of the beacon. Simon's hands flung out to either side as his body was lifted into the air, the white light radiated from his skin and when he spoke the voice wasn't his “You were told to leave. Now you will suffer His Wrath.” At this Simon's hands shot forward and blinding white energy coursed through his arms and out his fingertips. The shadow screamed and howled as the light pierced it, filled it and finally exploded out through it. Simon descended to the ground and slumped to the floor as the light faded away returning him to the exhausted wreck he had been moments before. He was still alive, but he couldn't stop shaking “Too much,” he said to himself, “That was way too much.” He stood up and looked around the church, the fire had gone but through the shadows he could see the blood stains were still there. He leaned from pew to pew and slowly walked out of the church.

After a brief conversation with Father Goodwin, in which Simon outlined a rough description of what had happened leaving out demons and divine intervention, he got back on his motorbike and drove very carefully home. The Priest would collect the knife Simon had borrowed and clean it before throwing it in the river. The last thing either of them wanted was to have two dead bodies in a church linked back to him. The incident would be taken care of by some rather shady members of the community that used the confessionals every so often as a form of keeping their fate. Simon spent the next few weeks trying to come to terms with what had happened. His plan was to maybe tap into the church's energy field, the last thing he expected was to become an avatar for, what? An Angel? God? He sat and lit a cigarette with only slightly shaking fingers “Too much”

Sinister Urges

SINISTER URGES

 

David sat on the red leather couch of the office looking out through the window. He followed the flight of a small bird as it flew in and out of view several times before disappearing out of sight. Had he wished, David could have got of the couch and watched the bird for a little longer. Instead however he simply smiled and began to imagine himself soaring next to the bird, zipping in and out of the clouds, diving from incredible heights before reaching out with his hand and devouring the winged thing.

It was at this point that the door of the office opened, and flanked by two guards, in stepped a small dark haired man of about thirty years of age. The man wore a grey suit with a white shirt and light grey tie. David by now was on his feet and sitting back behind his desk. At a nod from him the guards went back out into the corridor. With a gesture of his hand David bid the man to sit on the couch. “I see you're starting to trust me,” the man said as he sat. “Trust, mister Mathews, is a two way street.” replied David politely, “I leave the guards outside”. “And I don’t tear your face off”, interrupted Mathews with a smile. “I was going to say that I leave the guards outside and you begin to tell me more about these impulses you referred to in our last session,” said David, a little bit put off at the obvious joy brought to his patient by the thought of disfiguring him. “Of course, doctor Reed.” Mathews responded with a harmless smile that didn't quite reach the eyes, “I’m just kidding. I would never stop at just tearing your face off, I would have to cut all the muscles and tendons in your face before I was satisfied.” Once again David saw the smirk on his patents face and let the comment go, while at the same time being aware that Mathews could and probably would do such an act if need be or if he was bored enough. “Lets get to it then, shall we?” David's voice took on a more professional tone while he indicated that his patient should lay down on the couch.

“You mentioned impulses yesterday which compel you to act the way you do, excessive violence, torture, even murder they all seem so natural to you that to do otherwise is almost a foreign concept to you. Would you like to explain these urges mister Mathews?”. “I shouldn’t have to.” said his patient outright. “Every animal in the world has these urges, especially humans. To think otherwise is to deny your true nature.” David looked slightly puzzled but nevertheless attempted to gain insight from his patient on the matter. “So you’re saying that every human has the potential to be a homicidal maniac, to be truly evil?” At this Mathews looked slightly disappointed, “Doctor Reed, when did I say anything about being evil? What I said was that every human can follow these urges if they wish”. “ I see”, lied David. “What makes a person good?” asked Mathews. “Doing the right thing” answered David straight faced. “And what is the right thing? Isn’t it merely doing what society deems as correct?”. “No” responded David, “By that logic you could kill someone for no reason simply because you lived in a society which allowed it”. “So you admit that it is a personal moral code that dictates what the right thing is?” Mathews asked while placing his hands behind his head. “It's not a moral code, it's just natural,” answered David realising that this seemed to be turning more into the patient treating the doctor. “Isn’t it also natural to have urges which drive you to do things you might not ordinarily do?” Mathews mused, “If you saw a building on fire, would you run into it?” David looked carefully at Mathews, “That depends. If there was someone trapped inside, then I would try to help”. A smile cut across Mathews face “No, you wouldn’t. It takes years of training to ignore the urge to run away from a burning building. Now I’ll admit that there are selfless people who would run in but the average person couldn’t. It's impossible for most people to fight the urge to run from danger”. “Wait a minute,” interrupted David, “there’s a difference between running into a fire to save a life and disembowelling someone simply because your bored”. “The only difference is what people think is good and what isn’t.” said Mathews coolly. “Very well, doctor Reed, answer me this. When you were a child in school did you ever have the urge to suddenly jump up in class and attack the teacher? Or for no reason, to bury a knife into the neck of the person in front of you just to see their expression”? “Well I ….”, the doctor stuttered, clearly caught off guard. “ Be truthful doctor,” Mathews pressed, a predatory gleam creeping into his eyes. David closed his eyes for a second then looked out the window again, “Yes, yes I have. But I didn’t act on those impulses!”. David's voice had been harsher then he intended, at the last unprofessional. “Of course you didn’t ! ” exclaimed Mathews, all good humor and friendly smiles again, “But you can’t deny having them. It is those impulses that give us free will.” Mathews looked out the window as well for a moment, his face somber and almost sad. “You all believe me insane because of the impulses I have, but the truly insane people are the ones that don’t have these impulses at all. They are merely slaves that will do as they’re told and never ask why.” Mathews saw the truth dawning on his doctor’s face and gently smiled to himself. “Let me ask you another question doctor Reed, knowing what you now know, do you still think that it is a crime to follow your impulses? Should you still get locked up simply because you have decided to follow an urge created by your own brain? By your own conscience, that just happens to fall outside the realm of normality?”. David thought for a moment and then replied, “I think that these urges have their place, but not when they compel you to do something you know is wrong. Those acts thought up by a person's dark and evil sub-conscience should be ignored and, if possible, destroyed.”

That question answered, David sat back with an almost smug look on his face. Mathews was now sitting forward on the couch, leaning on his knees with his elbows “So your solution to fighting your urges is to try and destroy the dark side of your soul, the side which you admit exists within everyone. The side which compels a person to do the wrong thing, as it were?”. “Yes,” stated David flatly. “Bah! You’re an idiot!” exclaimed Mathews once again sitting back on the couch. “If you eliminate the darkness, how do you recognize the light? How do you know what is right with out something to measure it against?” Once again a disappointed look came over Mathews. “Its quite simple doctor Reed. Every one needs a dark side. It is the badness in us that makes us who we are. Every mistake, everything done wrong teaches us. Allows us to understand and learn. It is the pain caused to us and that we cause to others that truly tells us who we are and what it is we should do in certain situations. What is the right thing to do and what needs to be done. It is the darkness that lets us know if we are what we need ourselves to be to get through the day. We need the darkness and anyone who claims that they have no dark side is either truly blessed, or else it is they who belong in here not me.” Mathews made a temple with his fingers on his stomach. “So doctor Reed, what do you do when faced with urges on a daily bases?”

Later that night David went on his weekly trip to the pubs and clubs with some of his friends, including his girlfriend Susan. He was introduced to Dianne, the sister of one of his friends, “David Reed,” said his drinking buddy Alex “Meet my sister Dianne”. “Pleased to meet you” said David shaking her hand, the touch of which sparked thoughts of perversion in his head that he fought to ignore. As the night went on David noticed Susan and Dianne becoming very friendly. Even occasionally making some fairly flirtatious jokes with one another. Once again David suppressed the urge to take them both there and then. At about half two the group left the nightclub they were in with David, Susan and Dianne walking arm in arm. Alex and the others were destined for a party somewhere, so Susan volunteered David's nearby place in town for Dianna and herself to recover in. Although all three of them could walk and were coherent, none of them would be passing a sobriety test any time soon. They walked holding each other up and David could feel hands moving in interesting places from time to time. Conscious or not, David didn't mind coping the occasional feel from either women and he felt sure that one or both of them were aware of their own hands sliding over him. As they turned a corner near David’s apartment they were confronted by a group of four drunken men, all of whom began leering at the women. “Hey baby!” said one catching Dianne by the arm, “why don’t you ditch this loser and come with us? We could have a real good time.” The group began laughing amongst themselves and one walked right up to David’s face. “Get lost!” growled the man bringing himself up to full height, which was only a few inches taller then David. David looked at Susan and Dianne for a second. He then smiled at the men in front of him, “Make me!” and with that he bit into the man's nose. The more David turned, the more blood gushed out of his victim's nose. The other drunks stood shocked as David released the man’s nose before grabbing him by the back of the head with both hands and proceeding to head-butt him repeatedly in the face. The more he head-butted the man, the more he could hear and feel bone crack and shatter. Finally he let go, blood trickling from the top of his head and off his lips. “Right,” he said looking at the other terrified men “I’m going to hang on to this guy for a while. Ye, fuck off!”

The following Monday morning David sat in his office as once again the guards brought in Mister Mathews. “Good morning, Doctor Reed! ,” said Mathews sitting on the couch. “So, how did fighting your daily urges go?” David threw Mathews the local paper he had been reading which depicted a drunken man that had been beaten up by another group of drunken men at the weekend and was now in hospital. “I won.” replied David with a slight smile. At that moment the phone rang in his office. “Excuse me for one moment” he said picking up the receiver, “Hello?” “Morning, Dave.” a woman's voice purred on the other side. “Dianne! ” David responded as a sly smile touched his face. “Is Susan with you?”.

“Yes, she’s right next to me but I’m afraid she’s still asleep. What time are you finished?” David’s smile grew as he looked out the window once again following the progress of a bird across the sky. “I should be home around five,” he said casually,“I’ll see you then. Try not to tire her out too much until I get there. Bye”. David turned to see Mathews smiling at him, “At last he understands”.

Knowledge is Power (A Simon Hobb Story)

Knowledge is power

 

The sun was blazing down and everyone agreed that you couldn’t have a better day for a wedding. The entire family had gathered for the event, new dresses had been bought and old suits had been freshly dry-cleaned. Most of the family were in the church observing the usual religious ceremonies, including Jen and her boyfriend. Outside however some of the younger less patient cousins played under the watchful eye of Simon, at heart the biggest kid of the lot. Like his little cousins he had no patience for what he saw as boring lip service for the most part and narrow-minded bigotry at the worst. Instead he chose the role of entertainer for the children of his aunt’s and uncles. It was a much more fulfilling use of his time until the wedding reception when he could get drunk with the rest of the family.

Inside the church Jen shifted uncomfortably in the pew next to Tom. There was something not right, she could feel it but she didn’t know what. Mercifully the wedding came to an end and the crowd began to file out of the church. Tom noticed her discomfort as they were walking out, “You alright?” he asked concerned. “Yeah, just have one of those bad feelings that’s all” she replied. Tom knew from experience that his girlfriend’s bad feelings usually meant that something very bad was about to happen. He didn’t understand how or why, but for some reason both Jen and her brother tended to know when something wasn’t right. As they emerged from the throng Simon could be seen next to the grass at the side of the church with one cousin over his shoulder and another wrapped around his leg. All three were laughing and smiling, but with one look from his sister Simon gently disentangled himself from the kids. “I gotta go talk to Jen for a little bit guys, go find your parent’s and drive them nuts for awhile” he said with a final smile. Jen and Tom stood slightly apart from the rest of the family in an effort to get some measure of privacy. “What’s up?” asked Simon in a tone much more serious then the one he had a heart beat before. Jen looked at Tom uncertainly then closed hers eye’s briefly as though coming to an inner decision. She looked her brother straight in the eye, “I think you should take a look around the church. Maybe even have a chat with the priest that did the wedding” Tom had a mild look of concerned confusion but decided not to comment. Simon looked through the crowd and found the priest. There was something not right, he could smell it and he began to quickly understand why Jen had looked so uncomfortable. “I’ll take care of it,” he said walking towards the rest of the family. Tom waited till Simon was amongst the family before turning to Jen. “What’s wrong? What’s Simon going to take care of?” he asked in a tone that Jen knew meant that he wanted to help as well. “Trust me,” she said taking his arm and leading him back through the crowd, “The less you know, the better off you’ll feel”.

Simon quickly arranged for a lift back to his house stating that he’d be at the reception shortly but a previous promise meant that he’d need to stay sober so as to be able to drive his bike later that night. He decided that speed was of the essence and so when he jumped on his motorbike he was still wearing his version of a suit, red shirt with black tie, black jeans and a black leather box jacket. The only potential weapon he had on him was a black Zippo lighter. But he figured that and a solid bike helmet should be all he needed. Arriving at the reception Simon quickly wasted no time in discretely locating the priest that had overseen the wedding. Without directly engaging him in conversation Simon managed to keep the priest in view for most of the night. Around nine o’clock the priest, who Simon had learned was named Father Steven Goodwin, bade his farewells to the family and left the reception. Simon made his excuses aswell before jumping back on his bike and calmly following Father Goodwin’s car. He figured the priest would head back to the house next to the church that had been set aside for the parish priest, so Simon wasn’t too worried about losing track once or twice. True to form when Simon pulled up down the street from the house he could clearly see the car he had been following. There was also a van parked outside the house with another car parked directly across the street from it.

Father Goodwin was in the kitchen of his modest home making himself some tea and sandwiches in preparation for watching whatever might be on offer for tonight’s television viewing. As the kettle came to a boil he noted, not for the first time, that he would need to get the light fixture fixed. The bulb seemed to be only partially working and caused shadows to dance around the room every so often. He cut some ham slices and jumped suddenly. For just a moment the priest had thought that someone was behind him, but the room was clearly empty apart from him. He bent down to pick up the knife, which had fallen blade first into the lino floor, just as a knock came from the front door. Shadow’s danced around the kitchen as Father Goodwin went to answer the door. He opened the door to find a vaguely familiar young man staring straight into his eyes. “Hello Father” said the man pushing past, “Don’t mind me, just need to do some pest removal”. Father Goodwin stammered after him “Um…Simon isn’t it?” he asked tentatively following his strange visitor into the kitchen. “What can I do for you at this late hour?” asked the priest in what was becoming an increasingly more worried tone. “Oh, nothing much” replied Simon casually looking around the kitchen at the shadow’s dancing franticly along the walls, “But you should stay out of this room for a second, it’s about to get very hot”. In one fluid motion the black zippo was flicked open and ignited off Simon's leg, before the flame was raised to his mouth and blown in a whirlwind of fire around the kitchen. The shadows caught fire and began to shriek in pain before dissolving to nothing more then charred bones. Father Goodwin’s expression was changing from worry through fear and into hysteria as the full horror of what he had seen came crashing into his mind. Simon moved quickly to the priest’s side and grabbed his head forcing him to make eye contact. “Relax Father” Simon said in a calmed relaxing voice, “They hacked into your psyche and now I’m gonna have to do some damage control before your mind is lost”. Father Goodwin began to feel an overwhelming sense of calm, almost healing like energy flow into him. “I don’t understand”, he said quietly. “First of all, I’m very sorry for what’s happened,” said Simon leading the entranced man back to the sitting room and placing him in an armchair. “Your mind was violated by those…people,” he said inclining his head towards the kitchen. “They did it by letting you get a glimpse of what’s really out there. And I’m afraid the only way I can stop what they did from ruining your mind is by telling you about how the world really works” As Simon spoke time seemed to slow for the priest while waves of that strange healing energy washed over his mind. “All the God’s of every religion are real. We created them and it’s our belief in them that gives them strength. The combined strength of belief in all of these different religions and spiritual ways has created an atmosphere of energy, which permeates everything on the planet. There’s two ways to tap into that energy, the first is through spells and old rituals. Fortunately this doesn’t work most of the time and even when it does, the people using this stuff only have the barest idea of what they’re doing so they’re not much of a problem” Father Goodwin took in everything and with each word he began to realise that for the first time in days his mind was slowly becoming his own again. “What’s the second way?” he asked. Simon was impressed with the strength in the priest to have regained that much of his mental capacities so soon. He sat back in his chair and began to slowly withdraw the energy he had been feeding into Goodwin’s mind. “The only other way to tap into the energy is to be a natural, like me. There’s naturals everywhere but most don’t know what they can do”. “Because they don’t believe they can do it?” ventured Goodwin. “Very good,” said Simon with a smile “For us the old adage really is true. Knowledge is power” With only slightly shaking hands, Father Goodwin took up the cup of tea that had been on the coffee table and took a sip. “You obviously have a lot of knowledge” he said, “Just how powerful are you?” Simon shrugged innocently, “I know a little about a lot. Just enough to make me dangerous”. “Not to me though” said the priest standing and walking to the window looking out towards the church. “It’s obvious you came here to stop something truly insidious from happening and I assume it has to do with the house of the lord”. “Do you mind?” asked Simon producing a steal cigarette tin from his pocket. Father Goodwin looked disapprovingly but nodded his consent. Simon took a puff before he began, “Every sacred place devoted to a God is essentially like a shielded beacon. It can be seen or sensed very easily but unless you’re inside it you have no idea what’s going on in there magically. I wasn’t inside the church today but my sister was and she can sense when magic is being used.” “And she sensed that something was wrong with me” it wasn't a question, Father Goodwin had gone to far to bother questioning any more. Simon took another drag and nodded. “Once you were out of the church I could practically see the influence at work on you. The people we’re dealing with don’t care about being subtle, which is good and bad. Sure they might’ve been easy to find but to be able to work against the natural flow of the church? Either someone very powerful is walking around right under my nose or else a deal has been made with something dark. And judging by the strength of your catholic beacon, it’d have to be one evil prick.” Father Goodwin’s calm demeanour was beginning to vanish once again so he sat back in his chair and drank some more of his tea. “What are we going to do?” he asked between sips. “Well, your going to stay here” said Simon rising from his chair, “Me, I’m gonna take a chance” As he walked past the kitchen Simon spotted the knife Father Goodwin had used for his supper, “Mind if I borrow this?” The priest looked uncomfortably at the sharp edge, “There’s going to be blood spilled in a house of the lord, isn’t there?” “It’s already been spilt there,” said Simon as he opened the front door, “You just can’t see it yet”

The Beast in the darkness

A small light shines very dimly by the wall. It'll be coming soon. Every night this week it's tried to get him, the damn beast has his scent. But that's why I'm here, to make sure he's safe and that he'll stay that way until the morning. I've fought things like this before, I know how they operate. They love the dark, it's where they're born and it's how they move. Sticking to the darkest places and sliding from one shadow to the other so quickly that you almost don't notice. That's when they strike, lashing out with claws that freeze the soul before clamping down hard for the kill. I've seen it happen, the teeth sinking into the head of another poor victim as they thrash uselessly to be free. But that was then and this is now.

The weapon is new, only got it today, but already I like the feel of it. It's a strong sword, don't know if it'll cut the beast's hide but it doesn't need to. It's the eyes that are the key to victory. Windows to the soul and all that. You stick the pointy bit through the eyes and they're done. No more sleepless nights, no more waking terrified because of the beast's low ominous growl or it's burning touch. Tonight I'm gonna get this thing and then he'll be safe. For awhile anyway. When he's brother was under my care I had to beat at least ten of the beasts. There was something about that kid that just seemed to call to the beasts. One year they came every night for a whole month and not always one at a time. I blame that trip the kid took without me, they can smell when their prey is vulnerable or unprotected. He must have shone like a beacon in that old house, the smell of his fear drawing them in like moths to a small fragile flame. Poor kid, but when I was back by his side I done for those scaly critters. It took me the rest of that month to kill the last one that was onto him but when I did it must have sent a message to wherever they crawl from that this was one piece of prey they should not try for again. The rest of that year went without so much as a hint of the beasts being onto him. After that I think they couldn't get his scent anymore, kid must have reached that age where they don't smell as ripe to the beasts as when they're young. I tell you, it's those few years when a kid is just getting they're barrings that you have to watch out. That's the time to be watching the shadows and listening for anything that might go bump in the night. And when it does, you make sure your there to bump back.

I hear the faintest whisper of movement from the cave they like to enter through and I know that something is coming. I jump down from my perch near where he's sleeping and quietly stalk my way around the room. I can't make a sound or he'll wake and the game will be up. As soon as the kid wakes up they go slinking back to the darkness and are gone till the next night. But that's no use because as long as they have his scent they will come back, unless I finish them once and for all. That's how the game is played, no mercy, no surrender and no sound. Except for the beasts growl. It's not a noise, it's a feeling you get when they're near. Your insides quiver at they're approach and there isn't a thing you can do to stop it, as I've learned for myself. You just have to accept it's there and get on with the job anyway. You tell yourself that as bad as it is for you, at least you know what you're fighting. In their sleep, the kids don't see it but they feel the growl because that's what the beast's do. That growl gets under the skin, into the head and that's when they have sleepless nights. That's when the beast's strike, when their prey is made ripe by the fear of whatever is out there stalking them. So that's why I'm gonna try something new tonight. The last few nights I did the standard bit of placing myself squarely in the critters path and staying there till the morning but last night it got bold and made a swipe for the kid anyway. I have to finish this thing tonight, no matter what. I creep up over the entrance to the cave and wait for it. Waiting to pounce on the creature that loves to strike when it's prey is most afraid, well tonight I'm gonna teach it how fear feels from the other side and then I'm gonna break it. I'm gonna play it at it's own game and make it slink back to the darkness where it can tell all the rest how this place is off limits. There will be no more attacks on kids under my care and the new little one that's due to enter this family soon will never have a sleepless night. Not if I get this right, not if I teach them how to be afraid!

I can feel the creature's growl rattling through me. Second by second the growl grows stronger as the beast approaches. Quieter then a mouse I creep to the edge of the cave's entrance and get ready. My feet are shaking from the closeness of that scaly nightmare, but I'm ready. I can't see it, but I can feel when it slides it's way through the caves entrance. It's moving slowly though, trying to figure out where I am. It knows I should be here but when it doesn't see me guarding the kid it decides to make a go for him. That's when I strike. Jumping down from my ledge I strike at the beast's eye with my sword. I've hurt it but not enough, the creature's claw comes up and swipes past my face. I feel something rip and then I'm on the ground and rolling to get back on my feet. I can't see through my left eye but a smile comes to my face when I realise that the critter is half blind as well. I've been ready for this, planning how to do it and where to keep my weapons in case I didn't get it first time. I find one of my spears and get ready to throw it at the beast to get it's attention. I don't think I needed to, the loss of one of it's eye's did that for me. It's behind me before the spear leaves my hand so I spin and jab it upwards hoping to pierce the scaly armour that protects it. I don't. Instead I'm lucky enough to get it through the critters mouth, which scares me more then anything yet, that's how close it is to me. The creature rears up in a silent scream and I notice that I don't feel it growling anymore.

But I am. A joyous exultant thing that rumbles from me in challenge and defiance at this predator's approach into my house. It's one eye focuses on me in rage and fear before I do something it would never expect. I run straight for the darkness under where the kid is sleeping. Straight into the same kind of black pit that the beast's love to slither from and I can feel it follow me. Good, I'm gonna teach it some more lessons in pain and fear. I'm barely to my goal when I feel the claw miss my foot, it's right on me and I can't help but smile. My hand close's around my next weapon as I become enveloped in it's home turf. The utter total darkness that these things call home has got me just where I want it. I feel the beast right behind me and that's when I turn to spring my trap. Blinding light pours from the torch I had hidden here, forcing the creature out of it's house and causing it so much pain that I actually her a little whimper come from the silent stalker.

I'm out the other side now and quickly place myself between the kid and the beast. It's still staggering in pain, but I don't move. I'm waiting for it to see me, I want it to see me. I want all it's kin hiding in the shadows, the small ones that aren't big enough to skulk from they're hiding places, to see what I do here. I could feel them when I was in the blackness trying to claw me. But the light did for them when I got they're big brother.

Here and now I want the ones hiding in the cave to see why they should never hunt in my house. Finally the beast see's me and does just what I want it to. With the barest whisper of a hiss it lunges just as I jump at it. I can feel it's teeth in my side, but I don't care because my sword is so far through the beast's remaining eye that I can feel the socket around my grip. I go down with the beast and force it's jaws open from around my waist. I don't know if I'll survive these wounds, but I do know that anything left in the darkness just got a lesson in what it means to be afraid. Even if I don't make it, I can go out knowing that whoever my replacement is they'll do what they need to do to protect this kid and the next one. But I doubt they'll need to do it for a good long while.

The following morning James woke to find Ted on the ground near his bed. Grabbing him very carefully he ran with him to his mother, “Mammy, look at Ted!” he cried. His mother took the bear very gently tutting as she did, “I'm sorry baby, the cat must have gotten at him. I'll get you a new one tomorrow.” “No!” cried James, “I want Ted!!” “Oh, alright” said his mother, “I'll get a needle and tread and see what I can do. Your brother was the same way you know, wouldn't let us get rid of this old thing. He kept saying how Ted was the best and no one beats him” That night there was no growling from the darkness, just a stitched up bear and his kid.

 

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Scary Things (A Simon Hobb Story)

The street seemed oddly quite as Jen, Susan, Peter and David walked down it. Somehow Susan had managed to talk the other three into going with her although, to be honest, Jen couldn’t figure out how. The thought had occurred to Susan that it would be fun to spend Halloween exploring a run down house on the outskirts of the town. It was at this point that the thought occurred to Jen that her friend had drank to much, again, and was now looking for a convenient place to get lost with Peter. But since she didn’t want to ruin a good thing she decided to let her friend have her fun, at least until the following day when Jen had every intention of making Susan’s life as unpleasant as possible.

“This is it,” said David in what was starting to become an almost slurred voice. David was a big guy, in the sense that he had spent the last five years of his life either lifting weights, playing rugby or else drinking himself under the table. But even still after downing a bottle of vodka in record time it was easy to say that he wouldn’t be winning any sobriety prizes tonight. “Shall we?” said Peter offering his arm to Susan, who quickly grabbed it giggled and started walking the stone steps up to the house. Jen thought once again about how she wished her brother was going in with them but unfortunately after a fast phone call he had decided to do more interesting things, something about a fight on TV. Even still though she marched up the steps determined to at least make sure Susan didn’t fall through the floor.

David had laughed at her about the phone call saying that he’d protect her, showing that he both didn’t like her brother and really didn’t know her to well either. To be honest Jen figured she’d end up having to pick at least one of them up off the floor by the end of the night. “The joys of being able to drink” she said walking past the grinning idiot holding open the door that was David attempting charm. The house was of course pitch black, especially since the overgrown trees around it blocked all but the tiniest light from the street. But a bit of unusually clear thinking from Susan had ended up with peter getting some torches from he’s dad’s shop, so at least they weren’t going to fall over each other. Apart from the darkness there was moldy smell in the air that spoke of little ventilation and absolutely no maintenance to add to the spookiness of it all. Which peter insisted on demonstrating by springing up on to chairs every two seconds going boo. Which of course every one found funny, except Jen.

“Boo!” he yelled jumping on to a couch and proceeding to put his foot through it before falling over the back. Susan of course ran to his aid while Jen merely barked out a laugh at his stupidity. “Hey Peter why don’t you and Susan have a look upstairs and me n’ Jen’ll have a look around here” winked David while nudging his head suggestively at the wood stairs in the hallway. “Good idea” agreed Peter smiling and leading the intoxicated girl to the stairs. Jen thought for a second about going up to look after Susan but then decided it’d be better to let them off and use this as insult material later. David meanwhile was putting on his best cheesy face and pointing his torch at what was left of the couch. With a throwing of her eyes to the heavens look, Jen left the grinning idiot stand there while she strolled around the house.

There weren’t that many rooms to it but they were all huge and seemed to have been pretty well furnished. There was nothing of value of course just old chairs and couches but it was pretty obvious that the previous owners had been fairly well off. All in all it could still be a nice house with some work put in. Jen started suddenly at the sound of footsteps above her then relaxed as she realized it was just the drunken couple. Sudden movement near the door behind her made her spin fast with the torch. “David that you?” she asked tentatively as she crept towards the door. She waved the light up and down the hallway but could see no one, “David where are you?” she asked in an above normal tone. “In here” came the response followed by a beam of light coming from a room near the end of the hall. Jen made her way down the hall listening for any sound out of the ordinary. The occasional giggle informed her that the other too were still upstairs and the smell of smoke coming from the room ahead told her that David was getting stoned.

 

Meanwhile Peter and Susan were busy exploring the massive bedrooms, and each other whenever Peter could try to cop a feel. “Cut that out,” giggled Susan unconvincingly as she slapped away his hand again. “Is that what you really want or would you rather see if these beds are comfortable?” he chided while pulling her towards the four-post bed in the center of the room. Laying the torches face up on the ground he picked her up and leaned back with her on to the bed. As they fumbled with each other on the bed a foot hit the torches spilling their light on to the floor and opposite wall. Peter lay on top of Susan kissing her neck and caressing the inside of her thighs while slowly but surely making his way towards the zip of her jeans. Susan moaned gently and kissed his neck, it was while doing this that she looked at the canopy of the bed. She wasn’t sure but she thought some of the shadows cast by the arc of it looked strange, sort of lighter then the rest. Too late she realized she could see a form hanging under the canopy, and eyes looking down at her. In one fluid motion the shadow dropped, Peter’s head flew from his shoulders in a gout of blood and Susan found herself with a knife to her throat. Large icy fingers held her jaw closed so tight that she thought it might crack. She tried to struggle but the additional weight of Peter’s corpse made her assailant impossible to move. “Shh” it hissed, “If you don’t stop trying to move my knife might slip and accidentally slit your throat. And I don’t think either of us wants that, yet.”

Susan stopped struggling, not out of fear or even self preservation as one might expect from such a traumatic event, but because there was something in the sound of his voice, or was it her head, that compelled her to do what he said. “Good girl” he said pushing what was once Peter off of her. “Now stay,” he said as he slipped off of her, once again she found herself not moving. Very gently he took her by the hands and pulled her back to her feet. It was by this time that the sober part of Susan’s brain realized that while the whole time it had been screaming to run, the body was doing the exact opposite. She even found herself nodding when he stepped in whispering, “ You like this don’t you”. What little she saw of his face in the reflected light revealed a very pale face wracked with faded scars. “Do you find me ugly?” he asked slipping his hands around her backside and giving it a squeeze. Susan couldn’t help herself, she nodded despite every instinct telling her not to. “An unfortunate event of youth” he said smiling almost shyly “but nothing to put you off I’m sure”. He licked her face before slowly and deliberately running his tongue along her lips. “Lets put those lips to some good use,” he said kissing her gently before laying one hand on her shoulder and the other at the back of her head.

 

“Want some?” inquired David as he lounged in a particularly comfortable looking armchair while extending the joint towards her. “Nope” she said walking past him to look at the rest of the room. As she swept her light around the room she noticed a piece of it reflect back at her. She edged backwards and shone the light upwards to reveal the remains of what was once a very ornate mirror frame. She walked back towards it focusing the light on a shattered section. It was while looking at her reflection in one of the shards that she heard a thud. “Great” she said out loud “Sounds like one of them's fallen over”. “Leave ‘em off” was the response from David as he puffed away. “Ye alright up there?” she called. Nothing. “Susan?” still nothing. This time Jen started walking towards the hallway. “They’re probably just having a good time,” announced David before deciding to follow her. “Yeah, well I’d rather know she’s alright then go on your opinion” responded Jen with probably more force then she meant.

Once again she found herself creeping along alert to any possible sound. This time however she had a giant stoned rugby jock bumbling behind her. At least there’s more light, she thought to herself while peering down the hallway. A door to her left was left slightly open so she slowly pushed it with the torch “Susan? Peter? Ye in here?" There was no answer so she swung the door open the rest of the way. Torches lay on the ground reflecting light off the ceiling and opposite wall. In the center of the room was a four-post bed and on it was a massive red stain which had the sickly reflective sheen of something that had just been spilled. “Jesus” exclaimed David as he shone his torch on a foot resting on the edge of the bed. Jen ran over and then froze at the end of the bed “Peter” she said quietly. As she stared horrified at the corpse she suddenly had a mental flash of how much she wished her brother were with her. It took her a minute to drag her eyes away from the scene but once she had, the thought of Susan returned.

“Where’s Susan? We have to find her!” she exclaimed running past the stunned David. “Come on lets go”, but try as she might David wouldn’t budge. Something moved from behind the immobile youth and Jen had a split second to register something fly at her head. Instinct and years of growing up around boys playing football in the middle of the street caused her to duck. A quick analytical mind however is what made her run for the stairs. A hand snaked out to grab her arm and once again instinct kicked in. Her fist impacted on what she figured was a face, but in the dark she wasn’t sure. The sound of someone cursing told her the punch had been effective. Unfortunately her triumph was short lived as her foot slipped at the top of the stairs, which caused her escape to turn into a plunge.

Bouncing off steps is bad enough but when the bottom three decide to shatter on impact it just becomes painful. Jen groaned and carefully brought herself to her knees. She had been vaguely aware of movement above her as she was trying to figure out what had happened and so was not surprised to see a shadowy figure standing in front of her. “Shh” it hissed putting a finger to what Jen thought must have been his lips. “You shouldn’t move, that was a nasty fall after all,” he said moving in to look at her. “Dinner and a date. I guess my night is looking good after all”. “My brother’s going to kill you,” she said defiantly while looking right into what she could now see was a heavily scarred face. A puzzled look came over the face before being replaced by a small smile. “I’m afraid you brother is slumped on the floor upstairs with a knife in his heart” he said running a hand along her cheek. “David’s dead?” she said puling slowly away from his hand a look of dismay on her face. At this he pulled himself back once again, a look of mild puzzlement on his face . “Although I find it slightly amusing,” he mused, “I am somewhat curious as to why you continue to move and speak. I haven’t seen someone do that before”

Jen raised her head to once again look him in the eye but this time instead of dismay there was a smile and a glint of mischief. “Scare you does it?” she said moving to stand. A quick back fist left her sprawled on the floor again. “Nothing scares me!” he said producing a knife. “My brother will,” said Jen wiping some blood from her lip. “Not the big guy upstairs eh? Doesn’t matter,” he said casually “Even if he does know where you are he isn’t going to get here in time to save you”. “He’s already here” the voice came from the now open front door behind him. Standing in the doorway was a classic goth, black hoody, long hair, leather trench coat and everything.

About the same height as the girl, he strode confidently forward, light leaking from the street behind him. “Stay where you are” said Scar mildly. The new comer cocked his head to one side to look at Jen, his hair falling across half his face. From the uncovered side of his face Jen could see her brother raise an eyebrow and half a smile “Is this guy serious?” “Yep,” said Jen standing again. “What?” exclaimed Scar “How can ye do this? I don’t understand.” “The same way I knew he was coming” said Jen as she landed a right cross on his exposed face. “NO!” screamed Scar as he recovered and went to grab her. Steel flew through the air suddenly, impaling Scars hand to the banister of the stairs. “Hold this Jen,” said her twin as he handed her the trench coat he had been wearing. Underneath he wore a leather waistcoat over the hoody, which he revealed to have throwing knives holstered into the inner lining of it. Twice more steel flew through the air securing Scar’s feet to the wood.

“I hate guys like you” he said pulling a large hunting knife from the back of the waistcoat, “Not only are you an upper class fancy ass snob. But your also one of these idiots who seems to thing they’re special just 'cus they got a few tricks.” By this stage Scar realized that he couldn’t speak and that his free hand was hanging limply at his side. “Let me guess, mind control through cannibalistic rituals?” at this the blade of the hunting knife was slipped in between Scar’s ribs. “Doesn’t work on us natural users of magiks.” A twist of the blade led to the sound of ribs cracking. “Head home Jen” he said turning to his sister. She nodded closed the door of the house and started walking down the road. Inside the house scar looked into eyes that seemed to begin glowing softly in the darkness, and as the eyes grew brighter the blade grew hotter “I love it when scary things get scared”.