Slow Apocalypse

We’re a touch overdue for some fiction around here, so here you go. This was initially meant to be part of a ‘Chuck Wendig Flash Fiction Challenge’ ages ago (and if you don’t know what that is, I heartily encourage you to look it up), but I ended up submitting it to an anthology instead. Since the anthology has decided that my little story isn’t quite right for them (they sent me the nicest rejection email ever), I am now free to display it here for all you lovely people. It’s a bit weird, but I hope you enjoy it!

The world ended and nobody noticed. Cars drove chokingly by, spewing black gas down cracked highway streets. Coffee machines whirred and poured dirty coloured liquid into chipped and broken glassware. People arose from cold beds in draught filled rooms with pane-less windows and convinced themselves that cold was the new warm.

Crumbling skyscrapers reshaped skylines as they were filled with leaking water-cooler talk and flaking complaints about Mondays that resonated from the peeling walls. Phones were looked at, with their cracked screens and draining batteries, and it was wondered ‘how did we ever do without?’.

A young boy wandered the busy decayed streets, eyes wide, bewildered at the orange sky, and pointing up shouted ‘that used to be blue!’. Those who could hear him rolled their eyes, looked back down and marvelled at the ridiculousness of young children.

A young woman shared a picture of herself in her soiled floral dress, and was criticised both for the body underneath the ragged cloth and for the sexuality that body demanded.

An artist of no discernible gender grabbed their gun and wandered the streets, scrambling over ruins dubbed ‘construction’ and killed mutants, zombies and demons where they stood. Other people commented that the artist’s work was ‘important, but it’s not really very practical, is it?’ and constantly bombarded the artist with false admiration, condescending praise, genuine derision, and that never ending question ‘where do you get your ideas?’. As if the world were not crawling, scurrying, writhing with ideas begging to be made flesh.

An old woman hunched over her overworked laptop, googling her hopes, her dreams, repeating her mantra of comfort. ‘Just one more year. Just one more year. Just one more year. Things will change, if I just give myself one more year.’

A scientist found the cold dead remains of the very first microbe that held the very first spark of life. She shouted her discovery from the rusted rooftops and was sneered at for her efforts. After all how could a single cell ever become human? The metaphor of an endless tree, sprawling, branching, evolving, was invisible to those who had never seen the sky. Perhaps, it was suggested, if the scientist made an effort, did her hair well, wore something nice, put on some lip gloss, and smile sweetheart, then she would be taken more seriously.

The evening came. Burning orange to black, extinguishing the sun. The artist returned home to find their wife sobbing into her hands, soiling the pattern of her new dress with lip gloss and tears.

The young woman curled herself into a barren bed, satisfied with her fictional attention and sighed at a gush of chill wind through the empty window. ‘It’s so warm’ she mumbled to the threadbare mattress.

The old woman watched her grandson watch the night sky, and spoke a lie.

‘Things were better when I was young.’

The young boy turned to the old woman, his eyes full of stars and spoke a truth.

‘But, grandma, things have always been this way.’

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A Real Vampire

Although my wishes are belated, I do hope the small amount of people who actually read this blog had a happy and safe New Year. It’s been a few months since there was fiction here, so I figured I’d give you guys a vampire story. Why a vampire story, you ask? Because it’s never a bad time for a vampire story! This one is an old short story that I wrote many years ago and lost. I have only just rewritten it. Remembering the old one, in comparison to this new version, it is a really good insight into how much I have developed and changed as a writer in the five or so years since this story was first written. I may do a larger blog post about this at some point, but you’ll probably have to wait until next month for that. In any case, I hope you enjoy my recycled vampire story. 

Welcome to VampLife.com.

The inner sanctum for all vampire enthusiasts!

You’re logged in as Girlluvzbats96

You have 1 new message(s).

CreatureoftheNight: Hello.

Girlluvzbats96: Hey 🙂

CreatureoftheNight: You haven’t been online much lately… Is everything alright?

Girlluvzbats96: Yeah, everything’s cool. School’s getting me down a bit, but after exams it’ll all be over.

CreatureoftheNight: I see. So, what have you been getting up to, outside of school?

Girlluvzbats96: I just finished reading Twilight again.

CreatureoftheNight: How many times have you read it now?

Girlluvzbats96: 4 or 5. I’ve lost count lol

CreatureoftheNight: I might have to read it sometime.

Girlluvzbats96: lol You always say that XD

CreatureoftheNight: And maybe one day I will… What are you wearing?

Girlluvzbats96: I’m wearing that dress you sent me, the red one with the lace on the collar and around the bottom. I’m going to sleep in it tonight and pretend you’re lying beside me.

CreatureoftheNight: And what else?

Girlluvzbats96: Nothing else. But I have on that new red lipstick I told you about and my hair is up in a messy bun.

CreatureoftheNight: Sounds absolutely delectable.

Girlluvzbats96: Hey, Jonathan… I have something to tell you…

CreatureoftheNight: Yes…

Girlluvzbats96: I kinda told my mother about you. Please don’t be mad.

CreatureoftheNight:

CreatureoftheNight: Explain.

Girlluvzbats96: Well, we were just talking over coffee, you know and then I kinda just said that I was talking to this guy online and that he was really nice and we had a lot of stuff in common.

CreatureoftheNight: And…

Girlluvzbats96: And that’s it. She said that it was good that I was making friends and to be safe if we ever met in person.

CreatureoftheNight: Did you tell her about the meetings?

Girlluvzbats96: NO! I would never! You told me not to.

CreatureoftheNight: I also told you not to tell anyone about these conversations. You disappoint me, Emma.

Girlluvzbats96: I know, I’m sorry. I won’t tell anyone ever again. Promise.

CreatureoftheNight: As it is, I know don’t know if I can trust you. You make me doubt you, Emma. You make me doubt if you are worthy to be one of us.

Girlluvzbats96: PLEASE!!! I’m so so so sorry, Jonathan! It will never happen again! I am worthy! Please, please give me another chance!!

CreatureoftheNight:

Girlluvzbats96: Please don’t leave me, Jonathan. I love you.

CreatureoftheNight: Alright. One more chance. Meet next week, when the moon is full at the usual place. I will be waiting.

Girlluvzbats96: Thank you, soooo much! I’ll be good. I’ll show you that I’m worthy! I’ll prove that I have what it takes to be a real vampire too!

CreatureoftheNight: See that you do. You had better go to bed now. I want you well rested when next we meet.

Girlluvzbats96: 😉 Ok. See you soon. Night!

CreatureoftheNight: Goodnight, my love. Parting is such sweet sorrow.

Girlluvzbats96: lol what?

CreatureoftheNight: Never mind. Sleep well.

Girlluvzbats96: K. Goodnight.

***

It was the full moon. Emma snuck out of her house with practised ease. The air rippled her skin into goosebumps and set her hair on end. Dew soaked the cuffs of her jeans, even as it shone under the glaring moon, creating another world within her ordinary backyard. A better world. A darker world.

Beyond the mirror still birdbath, past the garden gnomes and carved swans with dead eyes, under the thin wire fence, lay the forest.

Within the trees, everything was still. Everything was black, speckled with brief snippets of shining silver. A small droplet of cold pattered onto the back of Emma’s neck and she shivered, waiting for her eyes to adjust. Air colder than even the crisp spring night could produce brushed against her neck, long fingers snaked around her waist. Emma gasped and jerked away from the icy grip on instinct. The hands grabbed tighter and a familiar voice entered her ear.

“Don’t run away from me now, little lamb.”

Emma relaxed into Jonathan’s embrace, still quivering from cold and fright, her heart beating a quickstep rhythm through her body.

“Jonathan!” She gave a breathy giggle. “How long have you been out here? You’re frozen!”

He sighed another chill breath against the back of her neck.

“I’ve been here a while. Waiting for you. But that is not why I am cold.”

Emma frowned into the darkness.

“Then why?”

“Because I have not fed in a week. My body has lost the warmth it would have gained from the blood. I told you Emma, I am a real vampire. And real vampires don’t give second chances.”

Her eyes widened, her breath quickened.

“You’re so warm.” He rested his lips against the bend of her shoulder into her neck, tongue just tasting the salt on her skin. He pulled her closer, desperate for the heat. She was silent now, her breath subtly irregular, he smelled the tear as it slipped from her eye. He caught it from her cheek and placed the delicate drop of water on his tongue. Her heart beat so fast, like a bird’s wing against her ribcage. It was intoxicating. She spoke through her shuddering breath.

“Are you going to kill me?”

A smile rose to his lips.

“Yes.”

“Why? Is it because I talked?”

The question provoked a soft laugh from him.

“Partly that. But also because you are human. What else would I do with you?” He raised a hand to her throat and felt her swallow her fear.

“You could turn me, make me one of you, like you promised.”

“My dear, it would take one much better than the likes of you to convince me to turn a human. No. You were my plaything, and now my meal.” His hand raised to her mouth, and gripped her jaw closed. “No noise now. It would lessen my enjoyment.” Then his teeth sank into her flesh.

Once the girl was good and dead, painted scarlet and silver by moonlight, Jonathan ran his tongue around his lips and turned his gaze towards the house that he could see through the trees. Not so far away that his senses, heightened by feeding, could not detect Emma’s parents, peaceful, asleep in their bed, their hearts pumping slow and steady. A resting rhythm. With a wicked smile, the vampire began his silent way towards the house. After all, no parent should live long enough to bury their child.

 -End-  

The Fifth Stone

(This is just a little piece of folklore I wrote to go along with the book I’m hoping to publish late 2015-16. It’s short, and hopefully sad. Any questions, feel free to comment below. Hope you enjoy!) 

There once lived a small clan near the Southern Mountains. It was so small that even the children were needed to help with the chores, pulling water from the rivers, fetching and hunting, even the felling of trees and building of huts. The children of this clan were put to every possible use they could.

One day the smallest child in the clan was carrying stones from the riverside to help repairing a hut that had been destroyed by a falling tree. The sun was setting and the child was in a hurry to return to home because it was winter and the wolves were beginning to howl. As a result she filled his bucket too full and could not lift it. And so, the child emptied out five stones and laid them neatly in a line so she could find them later and hurried back to the village.

However it turned out that they were exactly five stones short of repairing the hut. When the child learnt this and told the others of the five stones she had removed from her bucket she was sent back into the woods to find them again. The sun was just beginning to set properly and at every step the child was afraid for her life, but she found the five stones, resting just as she put them, and managed to lift all but one. Once again she hurried home, sure she could feel the hot breath of a wolf on her neck the entire way.

However, once it came to light that the fifth stone was still lying somewhere out in the forest she was ordered back out into the woods to retrieve it, as all the workers were tired and wanted the hut finished before they went to bed.

By this time it was almost completely dark in the forest and the child stepped carefully through the twigs and leaves, for she could smell the wolves circling her and knew they could smell her in return.

At long last she reached the fifth stone. Sighing with relief, she rushed to pick it up but the thing would not budge. The stone was heavy and she was weak from a day of fetching and carrying. It was now that the wolves chose to attack.

Her body was found the next day, ripped to shreds by wolves and the other life of the forest. She was almost unrecognisable, were it not for her hands. Untouched and still gripping so hard to the fifth stone that they were never able to lift.

 

 

 

 

Monkey Glands

(This is my contribution to Chuck Wendig’s Flash Fiction Challenge: The Cocktail is Your Title. Needless to say, I got Monkey Gland, which I changed to Monkey Glands because I like the sound better. Anyway, enjoy!)

They lay in the bowl. Specks of vibrant blood shining against the stainless steel. Perfectly smooth, pink as an infants backside, they didn’t seem real, let alone something he had cut out of a fellow primate just moments before. A scalpel was raised, it’s blade a dull grey apart from the razor fine edge, so sharp that anything living would see their own blood long before they felt the pain. By then the scalpel’s work would be done. There was a clattering in the corner. His eyes snapped up, electric yellow surrounded by a ring of deep brown, pupils expanding as his gaze moved from the bright light to the gloom beyond.

“Servile? What are you doing back there?” There was a pause. “Servile?” He called again. The pause was deeper, somehow darker. Sighing at interrupted work he removed himself from the office chair and moved towards the cage. Peering through the bars he leaned closer. A vaguely human shape huddled in the far corner. Every few seconds a shudder rocked the dark form. A second, shallow, stainless steel bowl was overturned. The yellow eyes searched the cage but found nothing else out of the ordinary. He stood and sighed again, looking down at the cowering creature. “Well, are you going to pick that up?” No answer. Another shudder. Perhaps the language centres were malfunctioning. Chewing the inside of his cheek he breathed a word. “Shit.” If the language centres fucked up then he might as well scrap the entire thing. Stooping, he reached through the bars and began to right the overturned bowl. With a movement twice as quick as a shudder, the creature’s hand shot out, it’s black nails dragging bright lines of pain across the back of his hand. Hissing in pain he reflexively cradled it to his chest. “Damn you!” He kicked the cage as he turned back to the desk. The kick did little, but sent a ringing through the bars. The creature leapt to the centre of the cage, and sat there, head tilted to the side, russet hair flopping over one ear.

Still swearing he returned to work, desperately hoping that the scratches wouldn’t bleed and cause a vitium. The white envelope stopped him. Placed carefully against the edge of the bowl, it certainly hadn’t been there before. His name, Tages Haruspice, was written in unfamiliar elegant script across the front. The envelope itself he had recognised instantly. Tages tilted his head back as he looked at it, as though repulsed by the innocence of the crisp white paper. His nose instinctively wrinkled as he reached for it. Black nails shining under the harsh white light his lithe fingers opened the envelope with barely a sound. He cast a cursory look around him. The room seemed normal, concrete walls running with water and mottled with green, the doorway leading to the storage units, the cage, the railway pallet piled with mouldy blankets and pillows he used as a bed, and the desk, with it’s secondhand office chair, stainless steel bowls, scalpel and bright, bright light. There was no sign of unfamiliar life. With a shrug he turned right back to the envelope. The folded paper slid smooth as cream out of it’s confinement.

Dear Haruspice,

Terribly sorry for using your surname, but I can never remember which of you is still human. I expect my runner will observe you and rectify this once he arrives, in order to assure correct delivery. In any case, it hardly matters. As long as you are still practising, you will do this for me. Find someone. Of the same kind as you. I understand how your barbaric art works and realise what it means, but it is imperative that this specimen is found. Drastic times call for drastic measures and this is not a step I would take otherwise. You understand? Yes. Of course you do.

There was a movement from the cage and one of Tages’ russet ears flicked backwards before slowly swivelling forward again.

I, of course, am sorry for the sacrifice you will have to make. I know of your attempts to revive him, but all your efforts will fail. Trust me on this. No matter how many humans you slaughter and insert into your brother, it will not fix him.

On a related note, those ‘storage units’ as you so inadequately put it, and their contents, will continue to be permitted as long as my request is met within seven days. After which… I leave the consequences to your abundant imagination.

Your father is well. He talks of you rarely if at all and then often with a spit on the floor. I trust this news pleases you. Your brothers and sisters are developing nicely. Well enough to escape at any rate. We managed to catch all but one when it happened, which is of course why you have been sent this letter.

Much obliged for your cooperation in this pressing matter.

Yours,

Mother.

Tages sat for a long time before putting the letter aside. His eyes travelling anywhere but the now silent cage in the corner. He then pulled his phone out of his pocket and began to dial a number. The voice on the other end was short, but Tages cut them off. “I couldn’t find him… There was an interruption, several actually…. No! Of course it wasn’t my fault …. Look, I have a much more pressing matter to attend to so if there’s nothing else… Good. Pleasure doing business with-” The line was dead. Placing the phone back on the table, Tages delicately picked up one of the kidneys and took a delighted bite out of the adrenal gland. It wasn’t much, but after three days of ritual fasting it was better than nothing. He considered giving Servile the second, but decided against it. After all he had another three days without food ahead of him. Afterwards, he would have to go out and hunt again, supplies were running low. At least he would only have one mouth to feed.

Three days later, with his twin still and dripping before him, Tages felt his first flicker of emotion for a very long time. All his work for nothing. The regret was a small, hard lump, just underneath his thyroid. He swallowed, and learned that emotion could not be shifted with physical movements. Then the scalpel was put to work. Within the space of fifteen minutes it was done. Kidneys slashed to peices in the shining bowl gave Tages all he needed to know. After scrawling his reply on the back of the letter, he scrambled out through the single window and was suddenly, violently sick. Afterwards, he was hungry and so a night of hunting began. Two children, only one adult but it would be enough, a dog and a cat. Enough to feed him and give him more than enough to search out his most popular requests.

By the time he returned both the letter and the body of his brother were gone. The small concrete room had been scrubbed of blood. After storing the bodies safely away, Tages crawled into his former twin’s cage and slept.