Banged Up

Sylvar stooped to pick up a rock and sent it skipping across the open ground towards the edge of the plateau. It bounced three times, sending up little clouds of red dust before flying off the side and toppling into the pit.

He stood near the edge of a circular shelf of dusty red stone a couple of hundred feet wide. Ahead the shelf dropped away into the darkness of what was known colloquially as the shit pit. It was called the shit pit for reasons which became obvious when you took in the complete lack of any hygiene facilities and the large number of people scattered across the plateau. The shit pit wrapped around the rock like some evil-smelling moat just a few feet beyond which were a plethora of bored-looking sentries in a strange open-faced tower.

The walls of the tower were tall, but the inside was open like some ancient ruin so that everyone on the rock could watch as the sentries gambled their wages away at cards, drank themselves into a stupor of more irritatingly, pulled faces and waved their cocks at the people on the inside. It meant those on the inside knew they were being watched at all times but also gave the impression that one could simply step from the desolation of the rock to the safety of the tower in one easy hop. Unfortunately, in Blastrock Maximum Security Prison things were rarely that simple.

“What’s the matter Sylvar? You’ve had a face like a slapped arse all morning” asked Ludo, the huge half-orc his voice like rumbling like a barrel of rocks rolling down a hill.

Sylvar let out a sigh and waved a theatrical arm to take in their surroundings. Broken people dressed in nothing but rags and dirt lay still, waiting to die or scrabbled about like insects scavenging for scraps of food from sleeping bodies. At least he hoped they were sleeping bodies.

“You mean the prison?” asked Ludo, scratching his head with a thick black nail.

“No, I don’t mean the prison,” sighed an exasperated Sylvar. “I mean those clowns.” He jabbed a finger towards a group of sentries who were tossing coins into an upturned helm.

“The guards?”

“Yes, the guards! It’s offensive how little interest they take in us. Don’t they know who I am? I’m Sylvar Theren III, master lover, inimitable thief and menace to the rich and boring. There hasn’t been a prison made that can hold me.”

“This one isn’t doing a bad job so far.”

As the talked a wild-haired man, who looked more skeletal than some of the bodies in the pit dashed towards the edge his tattered robe flailing behind him like a banner. As he reached the edge, he leapt into the air, easily clearing the gap only to crash into an invisible barrier, rebound back and topple end over end down into the pit where his scream cut off abruptly. It was such a common occurrence that neither of the pair even blinked. Instead, Sylvar shot his big friend a scowl before continuing.

“Well, it’s not like I’ve been here very long, is it? Besides can’t they even pretend to be vigilant. It is their job, after all. The real ones stealing in this city are them, not us. Stealing a living from the crown they are. Look at them, drinking, playing cards and not giving me the slightest bit of attention. I have a good mind to escape.”

“Do we have to? We only have one more week in here.”

“Yes, because fuck them and their snooty disdain for my ability. I might even kill one of them on the way out to teach them a lesson.”

“Well, can’t you just…” Ludo waved a thick paw in what he considered a vaguely mystical manner.

“What do you mean?”

“Like, you know magic.”

“I don’t think they will like that. Besides no matter how incompetent they are I’m pretty sure they will notice someone casting a spell powerful enough to dispel that barrier. Unless…”

“I don’t like it when you do that Sylvar,” said Ludo as Sylvar stared into space with a smile on his face. “That look usually ends up with me getting hurt, or robbed, or sent to a maximum security prison…”

“Do you trust me?” said Sylvar.

“Not even a little.”

“Great.” Sylvar picked up a large, rather pointy looking rock and hurled it with all his strength at a Goliath lounging nearby. The rock cracked off the side of his head, leaving a line of red, bright against his grey skin. The goliath spun its face twisted in rage, and Sylvar put his hand in Ludo’s back and pushed. “Good luck.”

Ludo staggered forward-looking over his shoulder to where Sylvar was beating a hasty retreat, and a roar echoed around the prison that shook the walls. Ludo turned just in time to see a giant, gnarled fist rushing towards his face and then he was fighting for his life.

Around the rock, the prisoners started to gather around the fighters. Ones and twos at first and then, when it was clear the smaller man wasn’t going to be hammered into the ground like a nail into a board, at least not immediately, the rest flooded in forming a loose ring. The fight even piqued the interest of the usually indolent guards who gathered in small groups, watching from the safety of the tower.

Ludo slipped a wild swing and hammered a fist into the goliath’s ribs. His knuckles cracked on the creatures iron-like hide, blood flowing, but he heard a satisfying huff of pain that brought a grin to his face.

Sylvar better have a bloody good reason for this, thought Ludo as the beast leapt for him again. He tucked and rolled through its legs, feeling claws rake down his back as he narrowly avoided being crushed like an overripe melon. Chest heaving like a newlyweds bossom he backed away and scanned the crowd for his friend, but he was nowhere to be seen. Ludo circled right, keeping an eye on the frothing goliath as he scanned the crowd. Where the hell is he? Thought Ludo. Then he saw him and stopped his mouth hanging open. Sylvar was off by the edge of the rock squatting down taking a shit. If he did this just so he could have some privacy to pinch one off I’ll… 

Ludo’s vision narrowed to a thing tunnel and stars danced before his eyes, and the last thing he saw before the goliath pounced on his was Sylvar giving him the thumbs up.

Sylvar grimaced and retracted his thumb as the goliath fell on Ludo like a tsunami. With his other hand, he gingerly held the wand that he had recently retrieved from his brown pocket. It was one of the less fun things he’d had in there, but it would be worth the discomfort, assuming it still worked. Holding it between forefinger and thumb, he shook it clean and then pointed it the barrier. “Here goes nothing.”

On his back with a goliath’s hands wrapped around his throat choking the life out of him, Ludo thought about his poor life choices. The one top of mind being getting together with an idiot elf with a bad habit of taking things that didn’t belong to him. The goliath smiled, and ropes of drool slapped on Ludo’sf ace, but he barely felt them. As he slowly died, he saw a bright flash in the sky and wondered if that was a sign from the gods. It turned out it was a sign, just not a divine one.

Get up you idiot the barrier is down. Ludo felt the voice rather than heard it.


The barrier is down, stop pissing about and let’s get out of here before anyone notices.


Is now really the time to talk about this while some big lump chokes you to death!? I used the butt wand okay? The butt wand! Now stop getting killed and get over here.

Ludo lifted his legs, looked up into the wild orange eyes of the goliath and slammed his legs down, arching his back. The goliath shot upwards losing its grip for a second and Ludo grabbed it’s arm twisted and pressed into its elbow with all his strength. There was a crack and a tearing sound, and then the weight was off him, and the goliath was on the floor rolling int the dirt one arm hanging uselessly by its side.

“Sorry about that but I’ve gotta run,” said Ludo before charging through the crowd and pelting it over to where Sylvar stood in the tower waving to him. The crowd turned as one and seeing a prisoner beyond the barrier they went mad. Prisoners threw themselves across the pit as guards scrambled to draw their weapons and all around were screams as men fought to the death. While on the far side of the rock Sylvar and Ludo slipped quietly down the stairs and out into the warm night air.


The Revolution

“Lizard people, once a far fetched political conspiracy theory, has been confirmed to have a startling element of truth after thousands of people across the nation woke up this morning to find friends and family members gone, and numerous sightings of large lizard-like beings on the run. Mrs Cartwright was coming home from a night shift when she encountered three humanoid reptilians. Diane is with her now-”
I turned down the television and pulled my worn book from in between the sofa cushions. It was hard not to get distracted by the news, no matter how many times I’d heard it. We were warned to stay in our homes, keep our loved ones close and report any disappearances to the police. I was reading The Great Gatsby. A timeless classic, but not my favourite book. I used to claim, with a whimsical, hubris air, that the description of the party at the start of chapter three was one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I have ever read. It was half a lie – I was an English literature student who couldn’t name her favourite book and was desperate to find some footing in the forced conversations within the first term of university.
The reason I was truly reading it was to comfort myself because when I said that – spouted that bullshit in some ridiculous, long winded way – another student had lit up.
“I love that book! Don’t you just fall in love with Gatsby?”.
Ella. I sat next to her in the lectures we had together, shared hangovers over steaming lattes, read poems out to her whilst we laid out on her bed, and loved her, entirely. Our deep and incredibly personal friendship had blossomed over this precious little novel, and I dared not forget that.

That morning she had disappeared. Her and her husband were due to catch an 8am flight but when had he woken, she was gone with her phone still plugged in on her bedside cabinet and her belongings untouched. People were unsure, at the time, whether people were becoming these reptilian creatures or being killed or eaten or taken by them. I don’t know which would have been worse. 

“Your wife doesn’t love you,” says Gatsby. “She’s never loved you. She loves me.”

Realising I was reading the same line over and over, I gave up.
“Mark?” I called, shuffling my feet into his slippers and standing up.
I was met with silence.
A soft rustling came from the kitchen.
“Uhhh, Mark?” I tried again, my sense of reason dissipating as the news reports echoed in my head. Trying to be soundless, I peered round the door. My husband, not half reptile, was right there in his long, creased apron taste testing from the large pot on the stove, moving his hips and shoulders jauntily in some ridiculous attempt at dancing to the music from the headphones in his ears. I breathed a heavy sigh of relief, laughter creeping in at the stupid, lovely sight of him. Finally he noticed me stood there and pulled his headphones out, offering me a soft smile.
“Hello Darling.”


“Any news about Ella?” he tried, his face hopeful. 

I shook my head, trying not to think too hard about it. It was hopeless. We all presumed the worst.

“You don’t think she’s…?” my voice faltered. 

He considered it for a moment, and then shrugged, “I wish I could say no, Darling.” 

But your best friend is, in all likelihood, a giant lizard. Cool. 

I slumped into a seat at the dining table, the weight of the situation settling upon my tired shoulders. It didn’t seem possible. Every heartfelt moment we’d spent together couldn’t have been a lie. 

“Come on now.” Mark tried, bringing the wooden spoon over to my face with a coy grin, “Try this.” 

I couldn’t sleep that night. Gently, I placed my hand against Mark’s warm chest, and felt it rise and fall evenly. He was so calm. Did he dream? Was his mind totally undisturbed by the dramatic events happening across the globe, by the fear and grief apparent in every face he passed in the street? He still seemed so cheerful, despite it all. I mean, he knew Ella. He liked Ella.
Suddenly, a shadow darted past the open crack of our bedroom door. I jumped, recoiling my hand and pulling the cover up around my shoulders.
You’re overthinking. The stress is getting to you. It’s nothing. 

My heart beat heavy against my ribs, and nervousness rose like bile in my throat. 

Just go out there and check. Put your mind at ease. 

Yes. Clever. Face your fears. Gently, I pulled the cover away and stood up, avoiding the creaky floorboard that I had mastered locating after years of waking up earlier than Mark for work. 

I crept around the bed, watching my husband intently for any signs of waking. I reached the door and, composing myself, yanked it open fiercely, ready to confront my empty corridor. I went to scream as I found myself staring at a pale, wide eyed face, but their hand clamped securely over my mouth and suddenly I was being forcibly pinned against the wall. They closed the bedroom door with a swift movement and glared at me from beneath a thick hood. 

“Would you shut up!?” the intruder whispered sharply, and my nerves melted away as I focused on familiar eyes and that soft, caramel voice I knew well. It was Ella. 

She stepped away from me, sighing with agitation, “It’s just me.”

“Where have you been?” I questioned, trying to make my tone sharp but breaking into relieved laughter at the sight of her. She pressed her finger to her lips, indicating silence and gestured towards the bedroom door. 

“We mustn’t wake him, but we have to go. I know people who can help us escape before it’s too late. There’s an underground network-”

“What? What do you mean, escape?!”. 

“You can’t trust anyone anymore. I mean, Mark shows all the obvious signs of being one of them-”

“Mark!? Not a chance.” I argued. 

Ella took my hands in hers, running her thumbs across my palms gently, her eyes pleading with me. 

“I wish I could prove it to you. We’re not safe. He isn’t, well… who he says he is. Most people aren’t. They’ve been taking over for a while now. Has he seemed happy still, unworried, calm?” 

I thought back to the kitchen, the way he danced, as if it were a normal Tuesday evening and all was right. I felt the weight of the silence in the air, and knew he was still sound asleep despite it all.

I leaned gently against the door, torn. 

“And why do you trust me?” I whispered, “How do you know I’m not one of them?” 

“Well, I don’t.” she replied, shaking her head at how ridiculous it seemed, “But you seem true. You seem real. And I’d rather risk it all then leave without you. You’re like… my soulmate.” 

“Soulmate?” I repeated, my conscience swaying. 

She nodded, and the air seemed to thicken around us. Surely I would be crazy to run off, to run away from my own husband, because of one conversation? Then again, could anything truly be deemed crazy in a time of lizard revolution?

It felt absurd, too fantastical to be true. But I trusted her. I let her guide me down the stairs, out the front door, and into the depths of an uncertain fate. I sat nervously in the passenger seat of her car, and watched her lean over me into the glove box. It fell open onto my knees and within, amongst cables and old food wrappers was a well read book, the corners folded upwards and weak with touch.

The Great Gatsby. 

Of course.
I liked the word she’d used.
Soulmates, with their fates resting in each other’s palms, escaping absurdity, beating on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.