Gruff pt. 2

N.B.  Hey, you crazy cats and dogs. Mealing here. I hope you don’t mind, but I decided to continue my story from May, Gruff. I hadn’t finished it (writing like a fool close to the deadline- YES, I ADMIT IT ARCHER. I SHOULD HAVE STARTED EARLIER BUT THIS WAS VERY UNLIKELY TO CHANGE). I think I want to extend this further again, so if anyone has ideas- holla at me. To read part one, click the smiley face that looks like it’s lying on the floor… 🙂 

Thank you for being lovely readers, readers. It’s, as expected, lovely to have a year’s worth of writing to account for. I, as I’m sure the others do, am grateful to our resident asshole, Archer, for facilitating this…whatever it is.

The room has been acidically white for 14 years. However, in my time here, I have decorated the place with desperate scratches and smatterings of now dry blood. Somewhere along the way, I stopped trying and began incubating, stewing in notions somewhat resembling an acceptance of my new, unwelcomed form. 7, maybe 8 years in. But it took barely an hour to learn that the mangled remnants of Capra’s body could appear, by a trick of the eyes, imprinted psychedelically upon the blank walls when I looked at them. When my nervous system kicked in, propelling my arms topped with hideous appendages in sporadic jolts until I had more fluid control over the stumpy little stalks, I’d crawl to the wall. I’d claw at the monster holding Capra’s head with its talon pierced in his eye, beat it with newly acquired fists until I bled a different blood. The grim, taunting image merely grinned and multiplied with each flicker of my eyes, vanishing and reappearing at a new slice of the chamber.  There was no relief when I gained control over the fleshy mechanics of my eyelids. Well, physically some relief. Unable to close for some time, my eyeballs itched something fierce as it accumulated invisible dirt and grime until I was able to coolly scrunch my eyes and blink it away. Yet I found that Capra’s image remained, presumably scorched into my retinas- but they weren’t even mine. Not my eyes, not my body. Only my brain remains from my old form. At least, I think it’s mine. I’m not sure how they did it, but…no, I no longer have any confidence to say that any part of me, the real physical me, still exists. Although my reflexes kicked in with the rest of my naked body and I could now begin to walk almost fluidly, I have largely been crumpled on the floor, head curved down and instinctively clutching my knees to my chest. Eyes loosely fixed and out of focus downstairs, my mind hopelessly bored and numb. The silently ringing and blaring whiteness will not end.


There’s a faraway noise.

I almost miss it, with my dormant brain and my unfocussed eyes weighing heavily, but it’s there. A succinct little tsuuum. A tsuum unlike any other I had seldom heard here from the monsters beyond the wall (though, I guess, that was more crackle-y and click-y than a tsuum but anyway). I press my head closely to the point in the wall I’d heard it from. Silence. Tsuum. More tsuums follow, the frequency now increasing within seconds. Squashing my face to the wall firmly now, more sounds appear. Squelchy. Painful. I think I hear a crackled roar. And now a thunk. Then no noise at all.  I ram my head closer, furrowing my brow in a way that will allow me the hear better. Nothing.

A whirring blade breaks through the wall, just a hair away from my nose. A noise emits from my mouth that neither myself nor the body I was forced into expects: sharp, brief and odd.  Regardless, I hurl myself into the centre of the blank space and watch the furious metal grind a circle into the white. For the first time in about 10 years, I’m desperate to move but my now gelatinous legs splay out and my arms are locked upright behind me. Instead I stare blankly, screaming, as a chunk of the wall hurtles towards my

Head. Is. Throbbing. Bruised. My eyes are closed, but I distinctively know that it is my loose jaw bone, flopped over entirely on its hinge, that is gently grazing my left ear. “I couldn’t leave him. He could be useful to us!” A blunt yet soothing voice fades into earshot. I roll my head to the side, inadvertently trapping my jawbone under my neck and letting out a feeble grunt. The voice stops, apparently halting mid argument with another voice, and soon I feel the warmth of two callused hands turning my head back up. My sore eyes open and I see a female two-leg staring back. I raise my head confused, wondering whose voice I had just heard, but the two-leg lowers it down with a gentle force. “Don’t rush yourself, take it easy” she says. Or, at least, I think that’s what she says. I’m now screaming in her face, my jaw wobbling and clanking loudly against whatever hard surface I’m laying on. Words. I heard and understood actual words. From her mouth. A two-leg’s mouth. She looks, understandably, concerned as I flail in blind panic in front of her. “It’s- uh- it’s okay. Don’t scream, I- god” she blathers at me. Which, of course, elicits additional, more aggressive screams. Into her face. She grabs a mottled grey slab, and whacks it into my

Face is very much swollen. My eyes are loosely shut again, and my tongue lolls further down my neck than normal. I go to move my head, but it feels like it’s being held down by two different hands across my forehead. Another 2 sets take the arms and legs. The one on my right leg is somewhat overzealous in his pressing. “Looks like he’s wakin’ up,” “Great, more screaming,” “Poor kid,” the woman sighs with a strain in her voice, “lord knows what they were doing to him in there”. My eyes bolt open as I hear the word kid. The trio holding me tense up, pressing down harder. “Kid?” I try to reason with my captors, but the lack of jaw turns it into a slurred, dribbling kuurg sort of sound. I seek the eye of the female who, despite being the subject of my previous unintentional screaming, seems the warmest of the three two-legs. She points a hand-sausage at my face. Somehow I know this is a good indicator to stop moving or trying to talk. “Don’t scream. No more screaming from you. No.” I blink in pain, trying desperately, as instructed, not to scream. “Good. Now, you can understand me yes?” I hesitate. How to communicate this without a scream or a fully affixed jaw… She realises the error. “Uh…Yeah. Right. Okay? Blink if you can understand me.” I’m not sure whether it’s my pre-existing subordinative relationship with the two legs (“eat this hay” means I eat hay) or the threat of being walloped in the head again, but I try incredibly hard to scrunch my eyes into the most definitive blink I can make. “Good. Blink twice if you agree not to scream again.” I scrunch my eyes twice. With an edge of caution, she softens. I guess she knows I was lying. Nevertheless, she releases her grip and instructs the other two to do the same, “Thanks guys, you can go.” “Sure?” “Yeah. I can take it from here”. They leave. We stare at each other in the silence.

She is dressed entirely in grey, save for a little fabric orange image on her left breast. It probably means something. Her legs are strongly planted and her arms folded. The rotund two-leg who came to the field every so often to feed us used to do that exact same pose. Father theorised it was a two-leg way of asserting dominance. Lying down, jaw misplaced and barely cowering, I know think there was something to the old goat’s thinking after all. She blows her cropped mane out of her face. “Sorry about the-“ She loosely points towards my head. I feel a half nod is probably appropriate now. She smirks and we return to silence. I fill the gap. “I suuhuuy  thurr err scheenging”. She nods back politely but blankly. Which is fair. Not even I could understand it. After a thought, she makes a definite hmm and wanders off around the corner behind a brown wall. I get a little lump in my throat as I take in the not-white surroundings. The lump gets harder, heavier, as I noticed the brown is mud. Close to home.

She reappears wielding a whirring metal thing. I do not like the whirring metal thing. It’s a different one to the one in the room but nevertheless it is whirring and metal and, I have recently discovered, I do not like those things. She lays her eyes my floppy jaw. Oh no.  “This might make things a little easier…” she grimaces as, and I don’t think she’s doing this on purpose, she abruptly whizzes the metal thing. I piss a little, anyways. She yanks the free end of my jaw up to my cheek and presses the soon-to-be whir-y barrel to it. I flail my right arm to claw the instrument away but she persists, deftly shooting her palm into the crook of my elbow and continuing the job one-handed. “Ready? The female grins through her jet black fringe. “N-“ The drill bites into the bone, a metallic hurricane spitting out slithers of flesh and bonemeal as it bores through my face. My head furiously knocks the table as the machine vibrates it. She pulls out the horrible metal thing  and replaces it with another, inserting it tightly into the hole. My hands claw the air as the whirring starts again.

It stops and she lets me go. I curl into a ball, clutching my jaw which now seems to be moving up and down like a gate rather than side to side like a horse’s tail. It works perfectly, but I still frown at her beadily. “Better now, huh?” I frown deeper. “Hey, don’t be like that. I helped you out here.” I frown slightly less. “Still,” she continues with a chuckle, “you didn’t scream as much as before.”

“I’d not heard-“ I suddenly stop mid-sentence, struck by the clarity of my speech. The woman acknowledges this and urges me to continue, which I do. Slowly. “Sorry. For screaming at you. I’d never understood a two-leg before.”

The female’s face drops, confused and concerned, “…two-leg?”


Star Nicholas II

“The star died; despite everything I did, everything I tried to do…” “That’s how the story is going to end, unless you listen to me this time” were the irritable words that hissed from Culper’s cracked and bleeding lips as her veiny hand shot up to blast a bubbling blue portal into the frosted brick wall. The cluster of soldiers in cobbled-together reds had barely turned the corner as Culper swung her companion through the rift, with only the slowly dissipating plume of her icy white rebuke left behind as the blue circle closed.


Poe’s body slammed, almost perfectly horizontally, onto the middle of the table of a regency dinner much to the horror of the party guests. He groaned into the venison as wobbly-haired ponces shrieked accusations of witchery, whilst one solitary and particularly dense guest applauded the host’s ingenious surprise entertainment. Two heavy, mismatched boots landed either side of Poe’s neck and he knew best to keep his head meat-facing for the time being. He felt the accusatory gaze shift from him to the wispy haired, electric eyed woman with both feet planted firmly in ridiculous platefuls of now crushed meals. Silence hit the room as hard as Poe had entered it, until a giggle emerged from aforementioned moron squeezed into her pastel pink corset. Culper sufficiently shot her in the face which, it is safe to assume, was a fairly simple indication for a mass Georgian exodus of the dining hall. Culper gently writhed her fingers into her palm, extinguishing the sapphire glow that crackled in the centre. She hopped off the table, wiping her boots on the chair cushions on her way down, and strode towards the gigantic doors. Poe listened as Culper rammed her hip into the lock, somehow bolting it, and as the somewhat cakey clipping of her feet on the marble casually made their way to close the rest of the doors. “What did we learn?”

Poe sighed heavily, inhaling an upsetting meaty warmth. “What did we learn, Poe?” Culper pressed again in a patronisingly melodic tone reserved solely for lecturing. “Don’t befriend the target” Poe muffled meatily. “And?” she probed. “Make sure you know the difference between the attackers and the defence”. “Becaaause?” “Because…” Poe resigned, “you may mistakenly let a friendly looking Bolshevik into the plan to save the star, forcing them to kill him and his family quicker whilst risking personal safety.” Culper’s hand, still warm from transit, patted Poe’s head. “There we go”, she exhaled, wandering off to scavenge for alcohols still intact on the table, “And by Kuiper’s belt, for the last time it’s TSAR, Poe.” The student lifted himself off the feat, picking out flakes of various hams and potato fragments that were now embedded in his eyelashes, and plonked himself on the edge of the table. “Okay, sorry, TSAR then”, he sulked, “but I’m sure he wasn’t so bad, I mean the Russian’s started making pilgrimages to Ekaterinburg in the Twentieth Ten’s and-“ An empty bottle flew in his direction, with Poe barely moving out the way of its projectile. “Stop with the fluffy-headed, andy pandy nonsense” belched his partner. There were a lot of things Culper would say that Poe did not quite understand, many of which were obscure references she had worked hard to pick up and throw out at will. Poe assumed that “andy pandy” was one of those, but regardless he understood that her threat was still very much looming. It was best to keep moving whilst various cutlery and dinner wares flew at great speed in his direction. “We are not contracted to buddy up with the targets. We get in at the fixed point in time, we get them out before they get their brains blown out and we take them to the Museum for processing by the Curator. This is not, and will not, be another Hitler incident!” Another plate crashed into the wall. Hitler-gate was legendary in the ranks as the greatest cock-up in the HPI (Historical Persons of Interest). Supposedly another of Culper’s squirts struck up some sort of vegetarian friendship with the dictator and, in some untraceable and likely indescribable occurrence led to Hitler, alongside his neue salad munching freund, was nowhere to be seen in any of the alternate realities. Some of the older recruits used to suggest that Culper was actually privy to what happened down in the bunker, but the resounding factor that remained was that the Curator was displeased.

 A small white napkin stained with various wine splatters waved furiously from under the table. “It won’t happen again, I promise!”, begged Poe as slowly rose with the cloth, “Can we try again? I won’t cock it up again I swear. By the book.”


The angry Russian man with disconcerting facial hair slugged Culper one square on her battered jaw, and she slumped forward on the chair to which she was bound. Red spittle and a bit of tooth fell from her gaping mouth and bounced off the cold, dirty floor of the very same improvised-prison they had just escaped. The idiot boy cocked up again. Contrary to opinion, there were a limited number of realities that could be accessed by the travellers, and Poe had knocked off one of the few remaining avenues. Another punch suckered into her cheek bone, and something cracked out of place. “I ask you again. Where is your co-conspirator?” growled the Russian to Culper as three of his red comrads glared at her like the homemade album cover of a moody teenage rap crew. Culper raised her head to shoot back a harsh stare, but hesistated a moment. Through the wintery locks that fell over her face, she could just see The Tsar and his family tip toeing up the cellar stairs behind the backs of the guards with Poe swiftly following, giving a fairly inappropriate thumbs up as he went up and out the back door. Culper snorted with a wry smile. “Well, what do you have to say?” probed the Russian. Culper grinned. Memories of Hitlergate had been punched forward into her head. Waiting until her cohort and the cargo were out of sight, she leaned forward coyly and whispered to the Russian: “Now I know what you’re thinking, performing a vasectomy on a Badger using your wife’s shoes with a gun to your head sounds like a serious situation…”


Lawrence of the Conservatory

0900 HOURS

I’m awoken abruptly by Eric, who’s bathed in grime from last night’s heavy sesh playing Overwatch. His face is as puffy and red as his hair, a far cry from the rest of his pearlescent white skin, and from this angle he’s dripping oily sweat on my cheek. I shove him away and growl, hurling the hood of my sleeping bag over my head and face planting into the damply fusty pillow. A spindly finger prods my back, at first hesitant but soon short, quick and…stabby. My frustrated cry dissipates through the knackered, lumpy pillow and I remind him, face down, that it’s really fluffing early and that we spent most of last night having to wait for him to install all 6.3gb of the game on Mrs Leigh’s practically-dial-up broadband which we all agreed to do BEFOREHAND and that Mrs Leigh is totally going to bollock us for. The prodding continues, underscored by the really disconcerting sound of Eric huffing and puffing like a panicked choir boy running away from a priest. I aggressively shimmy around to face him, rustling really bloody loudly so that Eric KNOWS I’m pretty irate about the situation. Sweaty Eric thrusts a small blurry orange and blue bottle in my face, and I grouchily slam my hand about until it falls on my glasses case. I examine the much clearer bottle with my half-rims on. I gulp as I realise how totally boned we are. There’s only 10ml left in the Factor 90.

0930 HOURS

We alert Adam straight away. As a registered dweller of this house and the conservatory we had gamed and slept in, we figured he’d know what to do. We, however, leave Dawn sleeping. The palest skinned and most vividly orange of the core four. Also the resident asthmatic. We agree it’s best not to panic her if there’s a solution to be had. Adam, our leader both in battle and in spirit, resolves to get another bottle from the bathroom.

1000 HOURS

The door between the conservatory and the living room is locked. Adam is now banging furiously on the glass and yelling at his little sister as she smugly digs into her Coco Pops and swings the conservatory key on her index finger. She’s completely unphased by Adam’s wailing threats to tell Mrs Leigh on her and she retorts that their Mum has gone to pilates with the girls and won’t be back until the afternoon. Apparently this teaches us for not letting her play with us and using a bot instead. Besides, she didn’t want “boy smell” to “infect the house”. The only way out now is via the garden. Adam has now turned rage purple.

1015 HOURS

Adam has absolutely scuppered any hope of his sister unlocking the door by telling her she’s adopted. We can hear her crying upstairs.

1030 HOURS

Adam’s war cries have awoken Dawn and she now won’t stop screaming. Eric has spent the last ten minutes trying to coax her off the wicker chair which she is rapidly peeling bare with her nails. I’ve been trying to calm down Adam who has been berating Dawn for not being a proper girl and bringing any bobby pins to pick the living room lock. He doesn’t mean it. I think.

1130 HOURS

The heat is becoming unbearable. We’ve all had to break into the Factor 90 at 1ml each measured with precision with Mrs Leigh’s gardening pipette. Although there might have been some residual plant food left in the pipette as Dawn’s neck has come out in a particularly nasty rash. She’s allergic to everything though, so we’re going to epipen her anyway just to be safe.

1245 HOURS

Emergency. Man down. The sun moved whilst we were trying to wrestle Dawn into submission with the epipen and severely burnt Eric’s ears. In a state of itchy confusion, he’s holding the sun screen hostage.

1315 HOURS

Eric has been banished to the hottest corner of the conservatory after he took Adam’s threat to delete his level 60 Pandaren too seriously and spilled at least 6ml of the Factor 90. Dawn is currently rolling on the floor to soak it up. Her neck has started to pus. Adam’s sister is still crying.

1350 HOURS

Mrs Leigh still isn’t back. After trying to drain some of the Factor 90 from Dawn’s face, we have managed to salvage 2ml. 3ml in total. Someone is going to have to get more Factor 90. Someone is going to have go outside.

1400 HOURS

Adam found some of Mrs Leigh’s nail files and has snapped them to different sizes. Eric has been omitted from the drawer for on account of passing out from heat stroke. He’s still in the corner of shame, but we’ve chucked a crocheted decorative blanket over him.

1415 HOURS

Dawn picked the short file. She doesn’t want to go outside.

1420 HOURS

We pushed Dawn outside. She is screaming at us with her face pressed up to the window. She’s not listening to our instructions to get more sun screen from the offie.

1430 HOURS

Dawn is now trying to file the lock open with the remaining nubbin of emery board. Adam and I are pressed to the wall closest to the house, as the sun has started to encroach upon the conservatory. We may need to use the remaining 3ml

1432 HOURS
Dawn’s got the sun screen. As long as she remains too sweaty to open the cap, we’ll be fine.

1433 HOURS

Dawn is using her top to pry open the sun screen. We’re doomed. And she’s already the colour of Charmander. Three bulbous yellow, pustular sacs wobble on the back of her irritated neck. Eric is completely in the sun now. We’ve assumed he’s dead.

1450 HOURS

Adam drank his own urine. I’m not sure why. There’s still some cans of coke by the sofa bed.

1500 HOURS

Mrs Leigh finally returned from pilates to find Dawn passed out by the nationalist themed Chrysthanthemums. Adam, Dawn and I have been let into the living room and presented with a bottle of camomile lotion. I have never been more aroused.

1800 HOURS

Mum dropped Dawn at her parents after a quick visit to A&E to sort out her neck. Turns out she’s allergic to whatever was in Eric’s epipen. I’ve been slathered in more camomile lotion. Laying down feels like I’m being grated finely like parmesan. Sleeping may be an issue.

2200 HOURS

I think Eric might still be in the conservatory.


(Note: this is part of a much longer story that I fully intend to complete, but sadly my computer is having quite the hissy fit. I hope you enjoy what I have written so far, but much of it had to be finished via iPhone so please excuse any glaringly obvious mistakes! Much love, Mealing)

The new body aches. What once was redundant and wasted has been hijacked, recycled.

Before The Above broke into an electric hue and spiralling iridescent pools splattered it, the horizon rippled with a warm, gentle light until eyes opened and slept. Green blades rocked back and forth as the Great Mother sucked in and released her heavy breaths into the world. And they burst on our tongues with a replenishing, life-giving dew as our teeth ground it into a delectable mush, gulped it down our throats to greedily make way for another explosive, satisfying mouthful. My youngest brother Baan, who was eager and the most alive of all of us, could always be found disgracefully face-down in the knoll. A headless arse and tail floating over the green. Every eye-open, we were graced with a moon in broad daylight before it toppled over with a dense thumpf. Capra, with bleary deep-set eyes would scowl deliriously at the hungry young mess, seemingly still unsubtly bitter four years later at not being the youngest anymore (a status I had likewise remorsefully relinquished to him a mere two years prior).

Naïve as the kid was, Baan noticed the absences first. Not with much consideration, though: his attention span was sweetly fleeting. Enough to sadly question one day the reassuring buzz that the air lost, but greedy enough for that thought to be usurped by the latest mouthful. It is my adamant belief that Capra, more than anyone, yearned for that youthful ignorance again. I’d taken my as the eldest, both since brotherhood and since my father’s sacrifice. I remember little of this, but those memories that stick surrounding him I’d rather not dwell on. With recent, more critical developments his departure almost seems moot. It was an unremarkable circumstance. He wasn’t the first and, we thought, he wouldn’t be the last.

Then the two-legs disappeared. Not with a trickling dwindle like the little hummers: just gone. Poof. Like a swatch, no, switch? Sorry- I’m not quite used to the terms yet. But yes, it was like a switch had instigated them to just pop out of existence. The horizon was swathed with a blanketing hush, a silence thick with just the inhales, the chewing and trotting of ourselves. Baan was, of course, unphased and in fact delighted. The two-legs no longer had a consequence on his life-span, and each new day survived was a bonus buffet. Capra however was apparently unnerved, and his weary eyes would shoot towards mine for a reassuring acknowledgment. I never quite managed to meet them. I’d feel their weight push heavily on the back of my head, making my ears twitch something fierce. Maybe it was my duty as alpha, a role I expected to be taken from me as swiftly as it had fallen to my charge, that drove a guilty suspicion that I could not confirm their safety as my remaining herd. A correct intuition expected very much otherwise, but for now they could eat peacefully. Whether Capra obtained any of this comfort, I cannot say nor will I discover it. A bitterly warming consolation comes from my perception that Baan remained ignorant throughout all of the silent days. And that’s…something.

The turf bred like nymphomanic rabbits not long after those disappeared too, feverously shooting up and out and everywhere. Baan’s eyes, the moment he realised that meadow became an edible treasure trove, glowed with a gluttonous awe. Shortly after, the little moon grew rather rotund with twig-like hooves wobbling from it. Capra himself slowly took to the daily feast, his gut concerns eventually giving way with time, and even I foolishly abandoned my intuitions about the deeply eerie yet pleasant muted air. As the Above played and rested at whirlwind speeds, I relaxed from my duty as eldest. The great light galloped around and around and around the world, and with it we gorged the meadow dry. We, with our bellies growling like injured wolves, began to starve. A final punishment struck with a cold sinking shock to my stomach as I realised my brothers had gone.

I don’t…I don’t remember much mo-

I hurtled myself across the barren plain, knowing the one place they might have gone despite my warnings, despite the rules veiled with fantastical tales of trolls and goblins. A luscious green preserved by a strict instruction from the leaders our fast dwindling herd. I cursed my brothers as my heart pattered with an icy cold hopefulness and panic-driven legs pounded towards the river. Towards the bridge.

My hooves- oh my hooves– they touched the ground where the remaining sprouts of vegetation met the stony grey edge of the cobbled bridge. My throat prickled dryly and sat in a low hard lump as I fixated on the cold patchwork path, glancing away only to check as far as I could under the bridge. With the Great Mother ignorantly sleeping, the river was flooded with darkness. All was still. I made a hesitant step forward, clipping the stone. Then by the pillar’s base, the water sharply glistened.

That’s it! That’s all I know!
My breath coarsely scraped the roof of my mouth as I shot across the bridge, my hooves clanking heavily. The peripheral blurred, the salivating jungle seeming to remain out of reach as I pelted across. A hideous crashing arose from below. It gargled and frothed loudly through fangs! I could hear it hissing and spitting as something, something enormous pierced the bridge’s legs and dragged talon-ridden feet as it scaled the walls. It couldn’t be true, the childish stories and horrors. I fearfully prayed that I’d been naïve to accuse my brothers of crossing the bridge, that they had now returned to our homeland. I felt the bridge buckle as the monster leaped to the surface, blocking my path with its monstrous sight.

Please! No more! I didn’t mur-

Mucus shot out and retracted in a long, dangling globule from a protruding yellow snout. The creature towered high, eclipsing The Above. Stinking river water poured down the muscular legs. It looked amphibious, but the scales appeared crusty, unwell. In one hand- I can’t, please! Argh! In on-one talonous hand, Capra’s bloated, waterlogged head waggled discontinuously from his neck.

I saw red. I saw nothing. I cried aloud and distraught as I senselessly pelted forward.

A shock courses through my new bones, and I scream a fractured scream. The beast freezes and the world explodes. The clouds loosen and fall as blue tiles, sparking as they hit the floor. The Above breaks, piece by piece, and as it does cold light blinds my eyes. My hooves are not hooves but five ugly sticks on a fleshy base, and they grasp instinctively to the metal board on which I lie as they sear me again. I roll a heavy head back and roar, my jaw flopping sideways to my face. Two shadowy figures tower over me as another taps the air, strange green markings following its claws as it drags and more markings appear. My vision, slowly returning but stinging and stained with red, focuses and I see the yellow amphibians again. They glare at me accusingly, and another thuds the metal bed angrily.

“Djakka! What happened?!” The burliest barks at the scrawny monster tapping the air. “The creature’s brain is still incompatible with the database,” it replies “The memory collapsed, Kiraak”. That must be it’s name, Kiraak. It’s hideous. “I know it collapsed, idiot!” Kiraak snarls, “But why?!” Djakka shrinks back, stammering “We still don’t know enough about these creatures, my lord! The points of reference, the way they operate… it’s different to the humans. Once the kinks are worked out, the next operation will be successful. But for now, we cannot charge hi-”

Kiraak erupts with a furious roar, and turns to me. “You piece of shit!” My elongated spine presses hard against the stone slab as he lunges his grim face in front of mine. “Yes, I know you can understand me, you pitiful worm! I don’t care what you are, how much the humans pandered to you lower life forms, your pathetic slavery to them that you thought was freedom. Justice will be sought for my son’s death, and when I have proof you will suffer.”


Boots entrenched in a crusted case of sludge and broken bracken squelched their drunken path onwards into the black, a dark as thick as the bloke who walked through it. Not that he thought that, or would admit so. He was the king, royalty roaming with no castle to go home to. Did he like it? Did he fuck, but whinging wasn’t his style. He owned his status, he was accustomed to “his sort”. The “sort” the sober’d cross the road to avoid, or secretly wield a concealed key in their palm. No, he preferred to bait an easier prey (in nature, the famished would rather eat four somethings than one challenging catch). The rat-assed, the vulnerable, or the little lost child.

Shadows streaked across the park as the sun gave up on the day, the suited scum had had their chance. The diminishing light gave way and the rejected stepped forward in a sort of hopeless freedom where the nobodies can pick fights, lose teeth and drink to forget the whole debacle. That was the way he liked it. His eyes watched the potential targets scrapping away by the gates whilst he sat on the damp memorial bench, betting silently on who would be the victim of his unique brand of comforting. He swigged something more akin to turps than alcohol: an acidic lick to the back of his throat as it passed through rotting yellow teeth.

“Hello,” arose sweet and soft little voice by his side, which did not shock him so much as gently lure him out of his focus from the task at hand. His head turned to a pale little girl, in Sunday dress perhaps and a lost expression.

“Hello,” he drawled as he observed the new situation, and weighed and altered his evening’s plans in an instant. “Where’s your mummy?”

To this, the girl dropped her eye contact, a little ashamed or embarrassed at asking for help he thought. She must be worried. “Would you like me to walk you home?”  Her eyes of palest blue raised with a newfound glimmer of hope, and her lips could barely conceal an excitable smile. A little nod and it was agreed. The stranger- the absolute bloody stranger- would escort her home. Naïve or stupid, this was now just a simple course of events. Did she never hear of the big bad wolf, the hungry teeth of a stranger in the woods that little girls were warned about tucked in their beds? This time Little Red had saved him from donning granny’s piss stained intimates. This was quite literally a walk in the park. Think of which, he quickly surveyed the park they stood in. No one gave a crap. Or were conscious, at least.


He looked back to find that the girl had already started to walk ahead, though she stopped to make sure he wasn’t lost. A little odd: she seemed eager, not just to get home, but for him to join her on her way. Don’t question it, he concluded as he sidled up to her silently palms sweaty with a pensive tremble and a neutral smirk.

“Can we…?”


“Can I show you something, Mister? I have something that might help you.”

“Help me?” A chuckle broke from his lips with a questioning lilt.

“Before you take me home. Follow me. Please, Mister?”

Weird. Normally he wouldn’t pander them, but even he’d admit that his process was becoming tiresome, like automatically slumping into a repetitive missionary position. A small change, a little risk, could be a treat. I’ll humour her, he mused, call it a last request. He could always purchase ice cream after.

Her detour took them into the city to North street and staring up at a crumbling complex, cheaply knocked together and stewing in its own filth. This deviation out into the open had initially made him nervous but again no one stared, nor whispered accusations like suspicious nonagenarians. They didn’t look too dissimilar as a pair, heck maybe he looked like a schlub worth breeding with. Once more, the girl had disappeared from his side and silently hovered impatiently by the door. He caught up to her, pushing the greasy grey door handle with grime deeply set in its grooves. The girl shot through the lobby way and leapt up the receding hotel-reject carpet. By now, the brat’s behaviour had reached peak irritation, had grated too much, had diverted his plans off course for too long. He pounded up the stairs after her.

Breathless, he grasped the chipped handrail as he tailed the child up into a decaying corridor. Clutching the wall he caught his breath, and upon inhalation noted a faint chemical odour amongst the airborne grime. The coldly lit corridor was long, apparently hastily wallpapered by maintenance and left untouched and peeling for the last seven years. One grubby door in a series of five was ajar. The child’s stubby fingers grasped around the edge, peeping with an intense glee exclusive to the eyes of children. Apartment 213. Impatience started to hit him in hot waves, allowing exasperated grunts to escape through breaths as he barged into the apartment.

The room he stepped into smelt like savoury bleach. The stench smacked him in the face instantly. It was empty save for a few essentials: a steel kettle, cleaning chemicals, and a polaroid camera resting upon a wooden side table. But the girl was gone. How? The little shit had been right there. Not enough time had elapsed for her to unclasp her hands from the door then hide. A blonde man turned the corner. His stoicly indifferent face expressed a muted confusion as he cocked his blandly attractive head.


The intruder hovered, awkwardly seized as the ashy-haired man drank in his body head to toe like a strong margarita. The drunk blue eyes flashed suggestively. How unexpected, salty, delicious.

The girl perched on the mottled kitchen counter, idly swinging her legs as the machine drilled through her unconscious friend’s skull piercing and bit into soft peach flesh, spraying a fine dust of bone meal across the carpet as a circle of human mince gathered around the furiously spinning metal. She liked to stick around to observe the job being done, to confirm that the men had passed over, had stopped suffering. Fluorescent liquid sloshed the sides of the plastic tank wielded by the blonde man as he poured it into the open frontal lobe. It hissed as it cooked the fleshy build up around the hole, claiming the skull as its new vessel. She closed her eyes as choking cries frothed and gargled, content. What followed she didn’t much care for: adults had their strange addictions, some ate pills and others hugged many people under sheets or in the park.  She didn’t quite get it, but she had liked dolls when she was burdened by skin and bones and she imagined that they probably weren’t of interest to the nice blonde man with the drill either.

The smell akin to a stale aquarium and rotting tropical fish faded as the freshness of cold air and clean grass cut through the stink. She opened her eyes. Her legs now dangled from the damp memorial bench of the park. Coughs loudly spluttering blood and vomit rose by the overflowing bins. The unsuccessful brawler from earlier that evening had finally awoken, the acidic contents of his empty stomach hurling themselves across the gravel path. The little girl hopped off her seat with a kind smile. He was among the suffering forgotten. And she knew how to help.

The Raven and The Boy.

“What is that?”

“Who let that thing in here?”

“Demon! Kill it!”

The scarlet boy fired himself through the crowd, pushing himself through the stubby legs, swollen abdomens and grubby coats that blocked his escape via the tavern door. The blaring heat of the Mexican sun greeted him along with – hello- more screaming, shrieking, morally offended locals. “Look, over there”, the boy pointed in a non-specific and wildly chosen direction. This fooled no one. In fact, the scamp had unwittingly presented them with a stone hand: something that was definitely demonic and not normal to grow upon the arm of your typical 5 year old human boy. If the thick horns on his head hadn’t already indicated otherwise. “Oh f-funk”. Whilst the real bad F word was highly appropriate given the situation, Professor Broom’s stern censorship of language managed to hold up somehow, and no matter how big or naughty the swear was, it wasn’t going to armor the kid against the mob of religiously furious Mexicans now reaching for their closest weapon. So the Hell boy ran.

It was to his benefit that, though stocky, he was freakishly fast for his age, allowing him to manoeuvre with some speed but zero delicacy. Barrels exploded into shards as he executed a poorly chosen corner and tumbled into an alleyway. Hoards of the terrifying “do-gooders” flagged behind him, spurred on by their quest to vanquish this devil spawn. Frustrated by the growing void between them, they’d now started to throw things. The boy yelped as pelted rocks sliced through his skin, sending chunks of red flesh and a spray of darker blood flying. Spurred on by the jeering, he lowered himself to pick up the pace before shooting around the corner. He launched himself backward into the shadows, pressing himself flush to the red brick and swallowing a mouthful of air. The swarm grew louder, trampling past in a deafening burst before fading into the much yearned distance.

In the cooling silence, the boy remained firmly pressed to the wall, hesitant to relinquish the air that was now trembling in his lungs for fear of revealing himself. His breath finally exploded out of him, propelling him to clutch his bent legs with exhaustion. Now the flood gates opened, a torrent of tears trickled down his chubby cheeks and a translucent blend of blood, sweat and tears cascaded to the floor as the boy shrank himself. Droplets plopped into the ground and from the soil a sort of muddied lily grew. Within moments, lilies carpeted the area around him, purer ones sprouting where the kid’s bloody feet lay. He rested his horned head on his knees and sobbed quietly. Fearfully. Alone.

“You look weird.”

…Or not.

The boy yanked his head up in alarm to see a red headed girl towering closely over him. Though his observation that she seemed to match his age was somewhat soothing, he was very aware she could tattle on him. Humans were like that. Most, anyway.

“Don’t tell on me,” he whispered in a panic.

“Why would I?” The girl tilted her head to the side. Her eyes were wide, pale green and fixed on him curiously. She was a slight little thing topped off with a chubby cheeked porcelain doll face. A regular cherubim, save for the shocking orange hair that fell to her shoulders.

“I dunno, I just-“

She cut to the chase. “Is it because you look like a freak? Because you’re hidin’ in an alleyway bleedin’?”

The little girl’s outspoken bluntness caught him off guard, but somehow he knew that she wasn’t trying to be rude.

“I was being chased,” the boy replied.

“Because you look like the Devil?” questioned the girl. He nodded, averting his eyes with deep shame. After a moment of quiet hesitation, the cogs working furiously, she plonked herself beside him for further questioning.

Are you the Devil?”

“No!” the boy retorted, shooting a quick scowling look at her.

She paused again. “Then what are you?” The boy shrugged, still sulking from her previous question. I’m guessin’ you’re not from around here, huh?” she continued. He shook his head. “Where you from then?”

“Somewhere secret,” he murmured, “I…I ran away.”


“They…they wanted to control me,” he began to fume, “They wanted to hide me away from the world, from the eyes, a-and use me. Said I was helping to save the world. But they wouldn’t let me go outside! And the guards, well they’re not really allowed to talk about open-world stuff around me but I heard them. Two of them. Talking about picking up their kids and their friends from school. Friends! I didn’t even know that friends meant something other than “the ones you don’t kill”! It wasn’t fair, so…so I ran away. I wanted to meet other kids, other people. But…” The boy’s voice broke, “they all hate me. They run away or they…try to…” He began to sob harder.

The little girl smacked him one.

“Argh!” He reached for his face, his hand nursing the freshly spanked skin, “What was THAT for?!”

“So you look weird. Like me. I like it.” She grinned cheekily, a sparkle flashing in her eyes. The boy stared at her dumbfounded.

“You don’t look weird, you look like them!” cried the boy, almost insulted at the suggestion that she could be any way as tortured as he.

The little girl smirked. “Watch this.” She placed herself in front of him and, as her eyes remained steadfast on him, the boy witnessed something strange. Her fair skin rippled back and revolved into a complexion of his own hue, and horns rolled up from her forehead. Soon he was face to face with a doppelganger.

A “woah” fell out his mouth as his jaw dropped agape.

“Woah” the little girl’s replicant voice echoed.

“How did you do that?”

“How did you do that?”

“Stop that,” he frowned.

“Stop that,” she frowned back.

“Stop it!”

“Stop iiiiiit!” she whinged back.

Silence. Then the two demon children rocked back and laughed.

“The name’s Raven,” said the unscathed mirror.

“Hellboy,” the bruised one replied, having now long forgotten the extent of his flesh wounds. “So you can turn into anything?”

“Pretty much, yeah” Raven shrugged arrogantly, “I don’t even look like I did just then, really”

“Cool!” Hellboy exclaimed, before curiously furrowing his brow, “so… are you a girl then?”

This warranted another slap, apparently an ungentlemanly thing to ask of a woman.

“Okay,” he sighed rubbing his cheek, “Can I see? What you actually look like, I mean.”

A flash of uncertainty seemed to skip over the girl’s face. Something vulnerable. This was an unfamiliar request and had he not been monstrous like herself she would not have complied. But his experience had comforted her, and before him her skin evolved into a brilliant sapphire from head to toe. Still the same little girl he’d met but with lizard-like eyes, slicked back orange hair and, well, blue. She was the most beautiful thing Hellboy had ever seen. There’s not much to say when someone reveals themselves fully, and the awkwardness is always palpable. So instead of grasping for words, the little devil plucked a pure lily from his side and presented it to the girl.

“Uh…” Raven squirmed, “no thanks. If it’s all the same. No offence.”

Hellboy nodded. “None taken.”

She smiled.

From the distance, the sound of the angry mob drew closer once more, shaking the pair out of the silence.

“Play dead.” Raven ordered.


“Just fuckin’ play dead,” growled the girl, pushing him face down to the dirt. He dutifully froze into position, both stunned by fear and her use of the really bad swear word. Damn, she was cool. The noise was very close now, and in his peripheral he saw Raven’s petite shadow evolve into that of a tall and apparently balding man.

“I have caught him,” Raven’s husky ancient voice announced to the baying crowd, “The demon is dead!”

The crowd cheered. “Let’s burn him!” cried one of the followers.

“No, my children you must away” the man replied sternly.

“But Father-“

“No! You must go to you houses, far away- else your souls be tarnished by the demon’s remains!”

A collective of gasps rippled throughout the group and quickly the mob dispersed. Watching the last of them flee into their houses to douse themselves with holy water or whatever religious trash they possessed, the pastor laughed heartily. “Suckers…” he smirked. Satisfied, he turned to the boy. “Go home, son” the pastor’s gravelly voice melted into Raven’s honeyed tones once more, “you ain’t ready for the world just yet.” Hellboy obediently bowed his head and picked himself up, running down the alley way. He stopped and, before leaving the scene for good, called “I don’t think they’re all bad, y’know.” Then Hellboy vanished.

With the echoing goodbye of Hellboy’s grinding footsteps upon the dirt, Raven was now alone. She shrank back into her cutesy porcelain form, a little lost. One thing about being in camouflage for so long is that with time you become unaccustomed to conversation, something well suited for the girl until now. She bent down, hovering over the place where the boy had sat and offered her a pure white lily. Raven smiled, plucking the singular undesirably muddy lily that held its little ugly head high in the swarm of beauties. The little girl placed it carefully in her vibrant hair, and strode out proudly into the blazing heat of the Mexican sun.


I Never Won (‘Til You Blew In)-Inspired by White Buffalo’s “Love Song #1”

Pfffffffft. Pfft. Pft. What is that? Pffft. It’s –hack- sand? Sand! I’m alive! Holy crap! I’m –hack hack- alive! I’m on land I made it I’m not dead oh Christ I’m not dead ah ha ha ha HA FUCK YOU DEATH AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON Ah ha! Beautiful, beautiful sand! –Hack- ergh that –hack- that was a ba –hack– bad i- hack HACK– ughhhhh. Don’t –hem- kiss sand, that was a bloody stupid idea, Paddy. Christ it’s hot, where am I?


That’s a lot of sea…and not a lot of island. Great. Oh well bloody done Paddy, you’ve really fucked it now, haven’t you. “Go to New York” they said, “It’ll change your life” they said. Well no shit son, frying to death on a godforsaken island in the middle of nowhere is a big fucking change, isn’t it? Knew I shouldn’t have listened to Michael. Michael, you’re a twat.

So, where’s the plane?

Oh. There’s the plane. Erm. I guess I…I mean, do I salute? I probably should, yeah.

Thanks a bunch, Ryan Air. Fucking nailed it.

Okay, so what do I do? Find water. Yeah, that’s good. Good plan, uhm…right. You’ve seen Bear Grylls, can’t drink sea water. You’ve got to make natural cups out of leaves and stuff, collect the water when it rains. Then you’ve got to make a hut, off the floor, like, so the nasties don’t get to your bits. Next…next is…sharpen some wood, make a spear, catch some fish, make a fire with, like, all the fibres. Yeah, the fibres and dry wood. So I need…I need…I need to go into the forest! Make cups out of coconuts, wood for shelter, and Bob’s your uncle! Ah ha! Thank you, Bear! I take it back, Channel 4 aren’t just traitors who snatched Bake Off from the BBC! Ah ha ha ha ha HA! Right, let’s venture into the forest!

One tree.

I’m so fucked.

12 minutes later.

My…my…MY Delilah
– diddle diddle dee-
I could see that girl was no good for me
But I was lost like a slave that no man could free
At break of day when that man drove a- ARGH!

What’s that! What is this?

It’s…a page from a newspaper. It’s…

Oh bloody marvellous, it’s the Sun.

FANTASTIC. I’m STUCK on an island with page three as my last ever reading material. I knew there was no God, and if there is he’s not fucking merciful ARE YOU, YOU PRICK? The Sun… what orphanage did I torch in a past life to deserve this?! The Mirror. The Guardian. Bleedin’ Cosmo! Not this…this…this…

Well. I did like Pamela Anderson… Thought her performance in Baywatch was very- ahem- formidable. I suppose…if I’m going to burn to death- thank you MICHAEL- I might as well have one last… hoorah.

1 minute later.

Christ, that chaffs.

1 gust of wind later.

No no no no! Pfft! Hack- HACK- hack! Fuckin’ no, nooo… -sniff- euh heuh heuhhhhhh -sniff- why me…why me he he he heeee…

Wait. What’s that?

Is that…

It can’t be…

It is! It is! That’s a person! Oh great, I don’t even get to die alone. How embarrassing. I guess I probably should… sigh… HELLO?! HELLO!

Oh joy, they’re running over.

How did they get here? They can’t have survived the plane. They look pretty dry for a start and I would have seen them earlier, surely.


Jesus, they’re the slowest runner I’ve seen since Arnold Hopper at primary school sports day.

What are they wearing? Looks like a red…


I don’t believe it. Is that…? No…

It’s Pamela bloody Anderson.

Miss Anderson! Miss- DAMNIT the one time I meet a model I’m stuck on an island and don’t have a bloody pen- I just wanted to say that I am a HUGE fan of your work. I mean, I was blown away by your –hack– portrayal of C.J. in Baywatch and your cameo in Scary Movie 3? HIL-arious!


Really? You’re too kind, Pamela. Can I call you Pam? No, Pamela is much classier, far more accurate for a bir- woman of your calibre…


Who, me? I’m just an Analyst, me. Well, Online Systems Business Analyst, actually. If you want the full title.


 Well -heh- I was praised for the presentation of my data flow diagrams. Really put Michael out, on the odd occasion.


Yeah, he’s a knob, like. But he’s alright, his heart’s in the right place. Said I could make a bit more of myself in the States. Really go up in the world there. Not just wasting away as an Online System Business Analyst. But make it big as a SENIOR Online Systems Business Analyst. Oh yes. That’s why I’m here, actually. Heh. Was on my way there. Then there’s turbulence, a mask drops down into my microwave strogranoff and before you can say Bob’s your uncle, I’m here. Dying.


Yeah, you’re right. I should look on the bright side. And it is bloody sunny here- heh- because you said I should- ahem- sorry. I’m not too hot on- (nope, stop it.) Sorry, I’ll be honest I’m a bit flustered, what with being slow roasted and talking to a pretty girl. Not that you’re “just a pretty girl” I mean I think you’re lovely and your beauty is a bonus but not in a sexual way NOT THAT I DON’T FIND YOU SEXUALLY ATTRACTIVE I WOULD I mean that’s not the plan no no NO I didn’t mean plan I’m not planning on doing anything to you I mean WITH you I mean you’re fine and I don’t mean you’re average you’re great and you seem like a nice person and-

Oh god, just fry my brains and get on with it.

Giggle giggle.

Really? You think that?! Well I I mean I aha uh I uhm…thank you. I ah uhm like talking to you too.

10 minutes later.

Pamela, where did you learn to cook like this? It’s better than Mario’s, and I tell you he can cook fish like an Italian God! You really are amazing, m’love.


Nah, I mean it!


Yeah! I do! And… I’m just…alright, I’ve got to do it. I’ve been saying to myself “Patrick Eamon Evans, if you don’t tell her you’re a fool”. And I am. And I’m a fool who’s never been happier. Or happy, for that matter. Pamela, when you blew into my life like… like a paper in the wind… I was nothing. Just an Online Systems Business Analyst. My data flow diagrams weren’t even that accurate. But, I dunno, you…well, you acknowledged me for a start. And you laughed- not at me but with me! I’ve never laughed so hard with anyone. Every second I have been with you- would you like some wine?- every second I’ve been with you has been full of wonder. I’ve never met a woman who talks like you, who spearfishes in heels like you. I gotta pinch myself, and yeah I mean it bloody kills, what with the severe burns and peeling. But honestly love I feel like I’m dreaming, so I do it. And I’m like “Oh. I’m with you.” I’m actually with you, Pamela, this charming, funny, talented woman. And I just wanna be your man, your friend. For ever. Pamela Anderson, I-


AHEUH heuh… I’m sorry Pamela. I think… this is it.


Don’t…-hack hack- don’t be silly! I love you, of course I would take a coconut for you -hack-


Yes, and I’d do it again. –hack HACK HACK HEURGGHHH-


I…I’m afraid so, my love. It’s…oh man I don’t feel -HEURGH hack heurgh- Ever-everythingshgettin’ a bit…hazy…


Before I…heuuhhh…before…heuhhh…hold me Pamela…heuhhh…before I go, promisss me somethin’?


Get off this island. Get outta here and go to New York for me. Take life by the balls…heuhhh… I didn’t make it, but- no no! Heuhhhhh… Listen. I didn’t make it but…you’re too good to waste. -HACK HACK HACK HACK HACK-



Thank you…

Tango Charlie Five-Zero, this is Papa Alpha Niner-Four.

I have a visual on what seems to be a stranded civilian at the crash site.

We have a clear landing.



Doppelgänger Me.

Most people would be concerned to find their inebriated doppelgänger dancing erratically to Peter Andre’s Mysterious Girl in their Nan’s living room. And Bradley was.

That afternoon a sudden blast of Andre’s finest shook Bradley awake, followed by some even louder “shooosh”s coming from downstairs. It very obviously wasn’t Nan. She was more of Radio 4 or Megadeth kinda gal. Besides, she was out. Bradley lumbered pyjama laden down the stairs into the hallway. He grabbed her trusty cane from the umbrella bucket, fully prepared to beat the crap out of the intruder with the ferocity dear old nan would be proud of. Muffling a pained “argh ye fu-“, he learned quickly to tip toe around the smashed ornaments that sprawled across the floor as he crept toward the living room. The unwelcome visitor continued to bellow off-key through the door. Bradley lifted his grip, as Nan had taught him, on the walking stick. “Always leave room on the bottom end of the stick, Bradley,” Nan would stress, “you’ll get a better impact. Hob nob?” Memories of Nan’s unorthodox and not-particularly-legit training stirred bubbles of biscuit-hunger in Bradley’s belly. If the pyjama’d warrior took down this burglar, surely the deed would warrant a nosey from the sacred biscuit tin. He placed his other hand gently on the door. From within, a something smashed. Bradley pushed, leaping with furious enthusiasm into the room.

“FUCK me!” shouted the worse-for-wear edition of Bradley as he fell backward on the edge of the sofa and lazily ricocheted to the floor. Another Bradley. In the flesh? This required at least a minute of gormless staring and guppy-mouthing to compute Dirty giggles erupted from behind the newly stained coffee table.  As cheated as Pyjama Bradley felt by the heroic act ripped from him, this “two of me, no mirror” scenario was almost just as overwhelming. Dropping the cane, Pyjama Bradley resolved to creep towards the shoddy semblance of himself. Other Bradley was drenched in deeply choking cocktail of sweat, Sambuca and Lynx Africa™. The warmth of this aroma hung like his own personal o-zone layer, increasing in pressure the closer you got to the planet’s surface. Suffice to say, Pyjama Bradley didn’t fancy getting too close to it. Him. He hadn’t wanted the shower gel/ deodorant when it was gifted to him at Christmas for the 6th consecutive time, let alone in its newfound pissed-up concoction that floated around his “other”. Instead Bradley (the vertical of the two) silently advanced upon the now Flava-blaring CD player and turned the beast off.

“Oi! What’re you doin’?” The top of a scowling head emerged over the coffee table.
“Turning this rubbish off”
“S’not rubbish! That spent a wh-week at no.1 in 1996-”
“I know”
“-jus’ after the Spicesh Girls…” continued drunk Bradley with surprising clarity. His head flopped back to the floor.

Sober Bradley waited in the horribly thick silence.
The rosey head popped up again. “Wha- ah fuck, it’s you again…” he sulked. “…what happened to Peter Andre?”
“I turned it off-“
“I know you fuckin’ did, Geesuss…”
“Bra-bradley,” burbled the sober one in a desperate scrambling for the right question to ask first, “how did…what the…”
“Oh, fuck off.” The glowing red head slumped down once more.
By this point, OG (Original Generation) Bradley had had enough of his own steaming shit:
“Oi, you fat lard. Get over your yourself and your underwhelming dick and just fucking listen!”
The drunk Bradley’s head shot up immediately:
“Wha d’you say about-“
“We both know it’s true,” retorted OG Bradley, feeling like a smug Cumberbatch Sherlock in ASDA nightwear. “Now that I have your attention, can we talk about…this?”

2nd Gen Bradley scowled, a nerve not so much touched but tasered. Nevertheless, he purchased himself on the coffee table, grabbed some of the pot pourri from the bowl, and hurled himself (much more successfully this time) onto the sofa. Before the OG could stop him, 2nd G shovelled the handful into his mouth. Shortly, the contents were eruptively spewed back onto the table. “Fuck’s sake, Nan,” he spluttered into a cough, “why put it in a bowl on the table if you CAN’T BLOODY EAT IT!”
“Actually that one’s not bad…”  He leaned forward, carefully selecting the stick-looking one, and sat back crunching on it happily.  “Right. What did you want?”
What Brad the First couldn’t comprehend was why this situation, the “this could be but probably isn’t your twin you’d never heard of” scenario that was playing out here didn’t seem to phase his miserable-looking counterpart. Well, disregarding the fact that the man was pissed as a Parisian post.

“This morning-“ Bradley looked at the clock, “-afternoon, I get awoken by what seems to be a really bloody drunk version of myself doing karaoke in the living room which is, BY THE WAY, an absolute freaking mess-“
“Freakin’?” mocked Lord Sozzled on the sofa.  After a while: “Why don’t you schwear?”
Bradley wasn’t expecting that oddly psychiatric probing. “Because…Nan doesn’t like it.”
“Nan’s not here?”
“No, she’s out.”
“Then WHY I’m not allowed to lisssten to Natural I DON’T know…” replied Steamy B in a very pointed tone, avoiding eye contact.

Again, Bradley did not enjoy being put into the position of speechless parent to a sassy man-child. His “other”, very much satisfied by this one-up-man-ship, rose from the chair. Suddenly, the smile melted away from his face. Bradley watched as the atmosphere in the room suddenly flipped from tense to panic stations in a very long second. The feeling was all too familiar. Slow motion. Echoes of 6th Form benders on the Heath flooded to Bradley in waves of White Lightning.  The doppelgänger was about to vom.

Thus began, in 7 swift movements, the less conscious of the two’s evacuation from the living room. Grab the man. Semi-hoist him up. Avoid pressure on the stomach. Guide him across the carpet littered with pizza boxes. Tread in an open pizza box. Squirm out into the hallway.  Steam through the shattered ornaments. Swing open the door. Drop the Brad. Lift the loo lid. Leave him to it and let the chunder commence.

Having given up entirely on the novelty of second Bradley’s existence, Bradley plodded vacantly into the kitchen. The muffled sound of pizza dough chunks mercilessly bombed the toilet in hefty spurts. Running the tap in the kitchen, Bradley realised that it had in fact taken 11 steps to evacuate the living room. Disappointing. Nan could do it in 5. He stared blankly out the window.

Half a Mighty Meaty™ lighter, the intoxicated mess leaned back on the door and waited to be “definitely done”. Heavy breathing. Slow. Steady. A little congested, but a few snot rockets sorted that out quickly. Through the door, the novelty doorbell sang Chim-Chimney. It went unanswered. Twenty seconds later the arrival patiently rang again: this time, with a tinny rendition of Fleur De Lis. A third tune, the mono Jurassic Park theme, politely indicated that the visitor was not going away. Bradley irritably pulled himself up from the floor. Nan had left her bloody keys again. Entering the hallway, the Slipknot keychain hanging on the hook by the door confirmed the theory. He grabbed it off the wall.  “Honestly, Nanna” Bradley carefully chose his words as he unlocked the door and swung it open, “we moved them by the door so you wouldn’t forget-“

“Bradley!” a soft and kind voice exclaimed in a hushed tone, “You look-“. The girl hesitated. “I just wanted to pop by and see…how you were doing…”



The Neverend.

On the first day of Christmas, my papa gave to me an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Christmas eve was the only night Sammy ever willingly leapt into bed. A comforting ritual between him and his aunt took place that night, and the creaking of stairs meant that it was about to start. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside, gently cradling a somewhat worn book to her bosom. Her eyes twinkled with a kindness that Sammy adored, and as she opened the book her sweet-smelling perfume wafted towards the boy. She began, “T’was the night before Christmas when all through the house…”. Sammy shimmied his duvet up to his shoulders and listened intently. Before long, he was snoring. The gentle woman kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Hello everyone, and thank you for inviting class 3B to sing a few Christmas Carols here at St Nicholas’ Nursing Home,” spoke Mr Barclay in honeyed tones, “The children have been practicing very hard, so this year I’m sure you’ll enjoy something extra special.” He went on, calmly explaining the efforts of his class as they sat crossed legged on the floor. Chunk, or Edwin to his parents, pressed his finger firmly to his lips to show he was being extra good in front of the geriatrics. Santa could see him always.

On the second day of Christmas, my papa gave to me two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside. Her eyes twinkled as she began, “T’was the night before Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Okay, 3B, please quietly stand in your places”, smiled Mr Barclay. Christmas was Chunk’s favourite time of the year. The lights, tinsel and the cold teasing a white Christmas in front of everyone’s noses filled him with joy. And singing to the Wrinklies, as he called them, swelled pride within him too. Regardless, each year one particular and morbid concept always followed him to the carol service. An overactive imagination, mother said.

On the third day of Christmas, my papa gave to me three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside. Her eyes twinkled as she began, “T’was the night before Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“The child is a King, the Carollers sing, the old has passed, there’s a new beginning…”. The Wrinklies beamed as the falsetto choir embarked upon a Sir Cliff Richard classic. Some, Chunk noticed as he strained to sing louder than everyone, were vacant-faced and barely able to smile. Probably from a stroke, like nan had.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my papa handed me four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door and made her way to his bedside. Her eyes were intense as she began, “T’was night ‘fore Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Away in a manger, no crib for a bed”. The children continued, and so did Chunk’s curious thought. His bespectacled eyes landed on one of the old dears who had fallen asleep in her chair. What if, he grimaced, one of the Wrinklies popped their clogs during the concert? The songs were quite long, maybe enough for someone to shuffle off their mortal coil. Would an orderly notice and stop the concert, or leave them there until the children had gone? At that moment, the old lady’s head slumped.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my papa threw to me five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy leapt into bed. Auntie opened the door. As she arrived by his side, Sammy noticed that she looked quite haggard. She began, “T’was the night the night the night before Christmas…”. Sammy fell asleep, she kissed his forehead and left the room.

“Bless all the dear children, in thy tender care”. Chunk looked around at the room. No one had noticed the ashen woman. Chunk sought eye contact with Mr Barclay to no avail. So Chunk awkwardly concluded Away In A Manger and nervously eyed the old dear. At which point, the tiny lady’s body rocked forward as she chomped into the shoulder of the gentleman in front.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my papa threw at me six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy was about to leap into his bed when a crashing stopped him. He cautiously slipped under the covers. Auntie bundled through the door. Something about her walk, no, her posture reeked of sickness. Her wrinkles resembled peculiar vines and her skin was discoloured. She slurred, “Hevura kep childro nestled all sn-snug gurba Krismau…”. Auntie placed her lips on his forehead. They were cold and sharp.

“Fear not, he said, for might dread had seized their troubled mind”. Had Chunk actually witnessed that? He couldn’t have mistook it. He’d been watching her intently since she’d snuffed it. The bitten man made patting grasps at his shoulder, before slumping sideways on a neighbour who didn’t quite appreciate the gesture. And he bit her.

On the seventh day of Christmas, papa dropped on me seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy was standing in his room. Something bugged him, but he wasn’t sure what. Auntie stumbled in, smelling rotten and backing Sammy to the bed. A toothier smile than normal spat “Shoogar pluhms Krismau terk tat khai”. Flaking blue lips pressed to his forehead.  Sammy shrieked as their skin fused together. He fainted.

“…All meanly wrapped in swathing bands, and in a manger laid”. The Wrinklies were shedding their wrinkles in favour of a rapidly decaying grey. He had heard of Dickens’ Christmas tale and Scrooge’s festive turnaround, but this was an entirely new festive infection. By now, the entire audience were hissing through missing teeth in the otherwise silent room. Silent. The choir had stopped. In fact, Mr Barclay and the rest of 3B had vanished. In Chunk’s palm was the choir’s crumpled sheet music.

On the eighth day of Christmas, papa covered me with eight tubs of lego, seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy clutched his head. It ached, but why? As the door burst open, he remembered everything. But now the breath, the teeth, the stature of his Aunt was more imposing than before. Her hand lunged to his throat and she carried him, as he choked, to the bed. Sammy kicked her, but she held him down. And shot for his head.

“Nnnerghhhh…” Chunk backed slowly towards the giant wooden door as the mass of undead geriatrics groaned and stumbled about their chairs. He reached for the handle.

On the ninth day of Christmas, papa smothered me with nine furbies crying, eight tubs of lego, seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

Sammy remembered it all. He searched his room for something to block the door. The chair. He forced it under the handle as it began to furiously rattle, but it slid away and Auntie broke through.

“Come on…”, Chunk barely muttered as one attempt failed. He slid the sheet music into his armpit, and tried turning it with both hands. It wouldn’t budge. And one of the crones had noticed.

On the tenth day of Christmas, papa drowned me in ten blow up paddling pools, nine furbies crying, eight tubs of lego, seven large dollhouses, six pink rollerblades, five bowling balls, four useless dogs, three silly clowns, two stupid bears, and an ugly Christmas Barbie.

The pain hadn’t left Sammy. He had to act faster. All furniture were pushed and crammed to the door, which groaned and pulsed. The thud increased and furious screams shook the walls as she battered. And punched. And clawed. And stopped. Sammy quietly placed his ear close to the wall. When he heard the beast’s remaining footsteps echo away, Sammy burst with relief. Then the window opened. Sammy’s shoulders fell. The last thing he heard was something likening a harpoon.

“Come ON!”, Chunk willed in a panic, rattling the lock of the door as he pulled. The dragging of slippers edged closer.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, the pipes burst and drowned me.

The Captain intensely traced the movements of his Lieutenant on the screen, only breaking to dart a look towards the cockpit’s entrance. If he could get one man out alive of this shit storm, his captaincy would be worth remembering. He pressed the console, turning off power as the Lieutenant raced through one door to redirect it to the next one ahead. He was transfixed on the task; the tiny green blip on the monitor had blind trust that he would be led to safety. The Captain jolted and his vision ran dark purple. His skull sharply gave way, speared to the short circuiting, brain splattered console.

“Open! Jesus Chr- come on!” The Lieutenant shoved his shoulder into the metal doors as the corridor flooded with pulsing red light. The ground lurched, throwing the C.L.A.U.S drive to the floor with a clang. Edwin sharply turned towards the sound. The drive’s survival was more important than his own. His body could be unrecognisably shredded, but that drive needed to make its way into the escape pod. They needed to know what had happened to the ship, the memories inside C.L.A.U.S would stop this ever happening again. Precautions could be made. He lunged for it as a pustular vine-ridden claw shot for him.

On the first day of Christmas, my papa gave to me an ugly Christmas Barbie.



“Guillaume! Away with you. Now!”

There was very little that the child had not seen. Electing now to protect a naïve mind, nine years in, was a patronising pretence to uphold. Particularly to Guillaume herself, who had learned early on to trust no one, to not spare any person from scepticism regardless of their beauty or wealth. And Guillaume knew that the latter tended to be the most dangerous.

“Guillaume!” the Madam barked huskily once again in a voice grinded down by tobacco and copious oral sex, “I will not tell you again. You are disturbing the gentlemen.” Guillaume blinked into consciousness from her boredom-induced coma on the stairs, alerted now to the buxom lady in green bent over a table of red faced nobles. “Yeah, piss off boy,” burbled the man boasting the puffiest face, “you’re gettin’ me soft.” Guillaume squirmed as the gent was swiftly knocked down with blunt force to the nose. Madam Liane’s fist was harder than her tits were big, and the blood splattered man now knew it. His companions cheered, and the Madam crossed the room to the child. She kneeled to her level, her voice softer now. “Please, Guillaume. To your place. I do not want you here.” The girl sulked her head down, and nodded. “Good boy”, the Madam sighed, before returning to the table. Traipsing up the wooden staircase, the child heard the familiar crunch of an unconscious man being dragged by the collar and chucked out the door. “Monseiurs!” cried the Madam, “my girls are ready!”

It is easier to get to sleep in a brothel than you’d think. When there’s nothing else you’ve known, the moans are no different than the sea to a sailor. But Guillaume did not rest easy at night. A child’s imagination is the most potent thing in existence and at night time, whilst she waited for her mother to finish, Guillaume’s mind feverishly rode upon concoctions of the dark. Here was a child born in a time of war, of revolutionaries and influential scum. And, as such, a remarkably educated mind electric with conspiracies grew in the rotting streets plagued by thieves, poverty and venereal disease. An optimist might have foreseen a bright future for the kid, but for her. The sullen girl stared at the unremarkable clothes rocking above her. It was a familiar and embarrassing sight. Guillaume’s ear pricked up as one body heaved from the creaky mattress, stumbled its inebriated heels across the room, hurled some coinage to the floor and left. Shortly after, Madam’s boots strode into the room. “Bon sang…”she muttered before calling, “Guillaume. You may come out now”. The child did. Though she never wanted to.

The sound of the name had triggered the woman splayed out on the bed. “Guillaume…my bab-baby…com’ere, Gui…”stammered the woman, like a disorientated and atrociously trashed siren. The child slid out of the wardrobe, and patted towards the drunken mess. Over the years, Mama’s vague beauty had eroded away, comparable only to the specks of crusted vomit that frequently resided in her hair. Guillaume stared bitterly at this bloody, spread-eagled mess. Mama’s hand whacked a bottle on her bedside table into her grasp, and lunged to cradle her reluctant spawn. She smushed her face to the girl’s. “You are my favourite bastard child, Gui,” she slurred before her rotting smile disfigured into a lonely grimace, “the only one who didn’t leave me”. Mama’s sentence had barely parted her lips before she smothered it with a bottle again.

Call it intuition or hope, but from what Guillaume had gathered, Mama had not chosen this lifestyle. Her past was hazed over, but one point she’d stressed to never let the child forget was that she was the only seed that took. Mama had been a troubled woman what seemed a hundred times over, but stillbirths and bloody sheets cured that. As Mama liked to remind the girl, there was no happy family to be had and they were alone together. Despite this tainted affection, it was no secret that mama had bitterly wanted a boy. And Madam knew well that there would be no hope for the child if she grew up destined to serve a life on her back, to seek profit and confirmation from men for the rest of her days. So as Guillaume was ripped scarlet and screaming, a boy’s name was thrusted upon her. There was her first truth hidden, and marked an existence scrambling for little snippets of her identity for all her nine years where she could. The most burning of all was Guillaume’s heritage.  But Mama, in her crumbling state, couldn’t (or refused to) remember for the life of her. “Many ‘av sailed in me, Gui!” she’d choke in a phlegmy retort to the repetitive question. Tonight, like every other, this joke wheezed into a cough that spluttered globules of reddish brown onto the bed. By now, Mama was so fucked over by the state that no one knew exactly what was killing her and again, Madame Liane ordered the girl out of the room to protect her. Guillaume, however, was wise and cynical enough to come to her own conclusion. And plan.

Guillaume noted as she crept down the stairs that most of the oiks had gone, although some of the girls had unflatteringly propped one or two forgotten mislanded gentry against the entrance, their breeches open, with the intent of disposing of them later. The child withdrew to the bar, unhooked a key hidden behind the most expensive whiskey, and snuck to the back. Guillaume seethed as she stalked the long corridor to Madam’s office. Unbeknownst to Mama, Guillaume resented her. In this instance, the apple had been hurled far from the tree. Whilst Guillaume had hopes placed higher than the gutter she was drowning in, Mama chose to wallow like a diseased pig in the shit. She despised the way Mama’d allowed numerous men to wreck her body for a meagre pay, to spoil a path that could have led to an honest status. To the nobles and gents that discarded their frustrations within her, she was their reliable cunt. Mama could have been a Lady, she could have been loved. Though love was not the issue here, nor did Guillaume particularly care, the child was unwaveringly certain that Mama had been unjustly ripped of a destiny that could have belonged to her. The lock clicked open in the child’s hand and she entered the office.

Madam’s office was not foreign to the young girl. She’d been there both supervised and very much unsupervised, but rarely on a greater mission than ferrying crap to front of house. With youthfully sharp precision, Guillaume took to rummaging through drawers, cupboards, boxes. The Madam’s house was meticulously run, not in cleanliness or great hosting but with a mathematical eye. She knew at all times who entered her doors, which client was with whom. Her back catalogue of ledgers spanned a decade or two, kept safe in case of the well timed persuasion of anyone too big for their boots. Now all Guillaume had to do was find approximately nine months before her birth and Mama’s name. It didn’t take too long. Guillaume was fortunate to be educated enough by the Madam herself; the benefit of being the only survivor, the child supposed. Grabbing a scrap of paper from the desk, angry hazel eyes flitted from names in the ledger to the quill as a barely legible scrawl penned a list. A knot tightened in Guillaume’s stomach as she turned the ledger’s pages and her own list grew longer. Whatever she had planned, it hadn’t been this extensive.

A furious flame burst and crackled within her as the names of more scumbags, noblemen, dukes and gentlemen littered the parchment; as the trail of her bastardised paternity became fainter to follow. Guillaume scowled. It was clear to her now that there was no one man to blame for Mama’s undignified fall. One thing she could conclude. These were men of power; men more accountable for their actions. They toyed with a higher risk, one that Guillaume could take advantage of. Were they regulars? She flicked to recent months of the ledger. Some had been anomalies, it seemed, but others were patrons. She could start with them first, but that would be suspicious. And after all, she didn’t want to frighten away clientele from Madam’s earnest business. The anomalies would go first, interspersed perhaps over a few months with the disappearance of one or two of the regulars.


Content with dead-set resolve, Guillaume made her barefoot walk back to her mother’s room and into the wardrobe. As she lay that night under Mama’s cheap hanging ruffles and dresses, plots of slit throats, poisoned ales and crushed spines played out like constellations above Guillaume’s head. A new path was to be made, and the slate of nine years’ dissatisfaction with her station was to be wiped clean. Tomorrow, the world would change.