How to Kill Ken MacGregor – by Linda Angel


Don’t invest in the character of Ken MacGregor – he’s gonna die. Horribly so. I’ll introduce him to you nonetheless, but as I shall imminently be discarding him, so should you.

It’s Experimental Fiction 101, here – and Ken’s the ideal subject. He is, quite simply, a guy who dies in the end. There’s no twist – hell, there’s scarcely a plot. There’s barely even a writer for this one, being that I’m leathered and stuffed on JD and Diet Coke and fat fuck pizza. Extra cheese. Pepperoni and streaky bacon. BBQ chicken. You can picture it, right? If it died, it’s on there.

Can’t … move. Undoing … belt. Pants … coming off.

Aaaand … that’s better.

Don’t get me wrong -he’s all right, is Ken. This isn’t a vengeance gig; he hasn’t done anything to me. Not really. But I just don’t trust writers. They get up to all kinds of weird shit. Some of ’em stink. I have Ken right here with me now, as it happens – and he’s about to become a funny smell in my basement.

I’d always wondered how best to kill someone. Or, more specifically, how to kill someone and get away with it. Yeah, there’s the whole Do Not Get Fucking Caught thing, but could I get away from guilt? Would I be able to live with myself? And after minutes of turmoil, I decided that yes, I would. Yes, I could. If I could get a story out of it, I could live with anything.

I can do whatever I like, really -the Ken is my oyster. And it’s not like he’s gonna nick the idea off me, is it? Dead writers can’t plagiarise. But should I slaughter first and stick it in a story later? Or do I sit there and make lists of possible hows and whens, before doing the actual killing thing? Either way, I know this: if I’m gonna give it the works, I need to prepare for potential spanners.

This means I’ve had to prepare. Now, as anyone who knows me … erm … knows, I don’t plan ANYTHING. Every single fucking thing I do has to be wung. And winging it has got me this far already: I have the weapon, I have the set-up, I have the victim. I just need to go through with it. And I will go through with it. And you will learn to embrace my love of italics (you’ll soon come to appreciate my love of parentheses, too – but I might save that for next time.)

It may help if you learn a little bit about the fucker first. I mean – it’s not like I need you in my corner, but y’know –exposition and shit.

Ken’s penchants for communal dogging, sausage-baiting, and swinging with pestilential lardboys aside, he does have a few features which might, if you are forgiving and open-minded, ultimately be considered redeeming. Good Dad, I’m told. Pretty decent husband, I understand – aside from the whole lardy unfaithfulness gig. But have you seen those pictures of him? Every third photo has him grinning like he’s just slowly peeled off someone’s face. And in every second one, he looks like he’s about to eat the peelings. And yeah, I’m well aware that this puts me in a potentially dangerous sitch, but STORY. Stay with me, guys.

All I know is that currently, Ken’s arse is tied to a chair. You won’t catch me describing the thing for seventeen pages – it’s just a fucking chair. Doesn’t matter which type of wood it’s made from, or which room he’s in, or whatever the fuckever he’s tied to the chair with.  You don’t need to know about the sounds the chair legs make as they scrape across the floor (we’re talking Chewbacca, by the way.)

Neither do I need to tell you about the chinks in the vertical blinds that hang from the tiny basement window enabling rays of light to illuminate particular segments of the floorboards. And I definitely don’t want to ramble on for sixteen pages about the temperature of the room just so I can crowbar in some imagery about visible breath. Because atmospheric, yeah? You can picture it, right? Let’s move on.

Although I’ve gagged the fucker, the volume of his silence speaks … well, volumes. He knows he’s got it coming, the twat. And I’ll tell you the exact kind of twat he is.

I’m reminded of that time we were in the pub down the road. Well, one of the times we were in that pub down the road. Him, me, and his favourite barmaid. Huge Jugs McGinty, they called her. It wasn’t the most inventive of nicknames, but there it was. You can pitcher her, right?

We were having a pint or six. I was on the blackstuff, and he was necking whatever the cheapest ale was that day. That’s precisely how he used to ask for it, as it happens. Jugs’d ask him “what’s yours, fella?” and he’d go “cheapest and nastiest.” Didn’t care. Liked his ale like he liked his women: cheap, wet, hoppy, fermented, and I’ve forgotten where I was going with this. Oh, right – yeah: Ken being a twat.

In between burps (he could belch for Britain,) he was perving at Jugs and getting all melancholy. Telling me how beautiful his ex-girlfriend had been. As in WAS. Used to be. Had been. She was no more. Probably coz he’d killed her in the fucking woods or something. Fucking psycho.

“Long blonde hair, she had. Just like Jugs over there. Right down to the waist, it was. Looked like Brigitte Bardot, she did. Of course, that was three decades ago. She doesn’t look like that now.”

Of course, I had to ask. I was going in. “What’s she look like now?”

“Brigitte Bardot.”

What a twat.

Bit of a punbotherer, too. Jesus – enough, already! Leave. The. Words. ALONE! And he’s such a wanker about it. He once wrote a whole story just so he could crowbar in some wordplay at the end. E-mailed it to me in some kind of passive-aggressive pun-off, the weirdo. You should’ve seen it. A great big high-falutin’ rootin’ tootin’ convoluted set-up, with a cheap little gag as the payoff, which he’d clearly used as inspiration for the whole sorry story. I mean – who does that?

This is the sort of stuff that distinguishes yer average hacks from the literary geniuses. Not that you’d care – none of the dude’s characters are likeable. He swears like a motherfucking cuntdragger, which, as I am sure you are aware, is highly unoriginal and shows a clear disrespect for the beauty of the English language. All that shit tends to do is expose how bollocks a writer you really fucking are. But I know you know this. And you know this because I know this. And so does he – but he continues to write shite.

Not for him the kind, well-rounded characters you can get on board with, either. He prefers the self-loathing sort of protagonists– y’know, those completely unsaleable sorts of stories about horrible people who keep pigs and kidnap children. Yo, kids – come and see my puppies.

But this is all good. All these weirdnesses are good. It meant that getting hold of him was easy. I know his sort – they’re unashamed promotion-whores, that lot, so all I really needed to do was lure him over to my place in a not-so-easily-turndownable and most definitely lurey way. Easy: Yo, Ken. Come and see my bookshelf. You’re on it.

Every writer loves being beshelved right next to their heroes, so I messed with alpha-order and fucked the OCD off for a day. In between Dan Brown and EL James he went – y’know –  proper writers, like. Ten copies of the same MacGregor. Can’t remember the title – something like Chainsaw Slaughter in the Fucking Woods While Grinning Like a Madman or something like that. Or maybe it was Death by Eviscerating Someone Really Fucking Slowly (and over-writing about it.)

I had to do a bit of track-covering –all the obvious things– to make sure I wouldn’t be linked to him. Went through his phone. Turned off the location thing. Deleted all our messages. Lined my walls with polythene, and other As-Seen-on-TV sorts of things. Ad-libbed an ad-hoc alibi and posted it on social media. He, of course, about to be dead ‘n’ all, won’t be telling anyone about our little rendezvous – but I’ll nick his phone later and make some shit up about his being in fucking Chicago or Bognor bleedin’ Regis or wherever the fuckever.

All that hard work was merely scene-setting, if you will. Everything’s better when I just sit back, smell the Ramen, and see what happens –and how. I never felt satisfied at dinner parties unless I’d scratch-made the sauces, hand-kneaded the bread, and caked the cakes. The fact I hadn’t laid the eggs myself used to bother the shit out of me.

I just needed to see if it could be done – and how well. Will it be a good story? I don’t even know. But finding out is the exciting thing. And I get to make my first kill. The great thing about writers – well, ‘writers,’ is that their evil hides in plain sight. Some of ‘em bounce around on social media for a laugh and post shit like “tonight’s exploits included slitting a woman’s throat and burying a guy alive.” I fuckwithyou not – they could confess to all kinds of shite on there and no-one’d bat an eyelid.

Ken’s Facebook page was exactly like that. Aside from the psycho photos, he’d go into detail about every single fucking thing he was writing. Word counts, the lot. He went into this whole fucking diatribe once, about how he’d just strangled someone in their bed, sliced ‘em up in the bathroom, minced ‘em, cooked ‘em, ate ‘em. He had all these hangers-on going, “yeah, maaaan. Sounds great. Can’t wait to read it.” Hmm. ‘Read.’ Yeah – sure. Coz it’s just a ‘story.’ Fucking psycho.

Now, I suppose I’d better get down to it. You wanna read the gory bits, right? Well, there are many interesting ways to explain how Ken lives to death. Because I will kill him. He does die in the end, I promise you.

He knocked on the doorbell (yes, really – he’s THAT weird) at 9 this morning – bang on time. Made a beeline for the bookshelf, exactly as anticipated. Offered him a coffee, but his stinkin’ hip flask told me to fuck off. I dunno what was in that thing, but it caused him to cough up his metatarsals.

Once he’d recovered, and once I’d wiped all the phlegm off my face, we made some lame-arse chit-chat about nothing, and exchanged photos of our kids. Except neither of us could be arsed looking at the pics. I was more interested in killing the bastard, and, if truth be told, his grinning eyes said he probably had a similar idea in mind. But about me. Just to be clear.

And whilst he was ogling himself in the mirror that was my bookshelf, I realised I had to get in first, seeing how I didn’t wanna be minced and munched like one of his ‘characters.’

Hiding in plain sight made it soooo fucking easy to nab the twat, though. I told him to take a pew, in the creepiest room in the house (under the house, really, but whatevz.) I suggested this would be the ideal place to torture someone – it’s virtually sound-proof, comes complete with slop bucket and mop, and there’s even one of those old coal chutes for chucking food down or whatever. You could hole someone up in here for months, I said. Telling it like it is has always been kinda my thing – and with Ken, it was like a double-dog bluff or something.

Horror writers are the easiest prey of all. You can bring ‘em down to a rank, fithy basement, expose the makings of their imminent doom, and they still won’t get it. It just doesn’t click. In their minds, they’re going “ooh – great setting for my next story,” or “I wonder how—”

And that was it. As soon as I saw him drifting off into author mode, annotating the pages of his brain, I was in. Didn’t need any sedatives, needles, or knocker-outers; writers do tend to become lost in their own worlds. But Ken was about to be found. This would be the making of him; he’d snuff it in a way that only he could be proud of.

“Sit here. D’ya think this’d make a good starting point for a torture porn piece?”

He nodded –with just his weird fucking eyes alone– and sat down. You know – in the chair. The chair whose ropes dryly anticipated his fleshy limbs.

“Lemme see if it works for real. You see it in movies all the time– people strapped up, strapped down, or whatever. See if you can get out of this.”

He couldn’t. Ken being Ken, though, he didn’t panic. (What? I did tell you he was a proper weirdo.) We just sat and had a right old chinwag –me, eager to get started, he, calm as anything. I could sense he had a story brewing. He was glazed over in the way writers get –I could almost hear his brain ticking.

And then came the cloth. I’d had enough of listening to his bullshit.

As he sat, gagged, he thought. And as he thought, he wept. And as he wept, I moved around him and swept away the cuttings of his skin; beautiful outcomes from the first hundred slices. I had never intended to simply de-hair him; I wanted to shave his legs. I’d fashioned a device somewhere in between razor and vegetable-peeler and it worked pretty much first time. Okay, maybe there were a few tentative grazings where I was working up the confidence. I think it was that which knocked him out, to be fair – poor love.

And, to my delight, I discovered there’s skin-under-skin-under-skin. I’m no expert, but if you’re an anythingologist or near a computer that serves Google on tap, you can look up all the different dermises. Dermi? Anyway. That wasn’t gonna kill him, though, was it? That was just gonna make a hell of a mess. Which it did.

Blood gushed out and dripped down and settled on the ropes that once were white – the bindings that kept him still. Ish. I mean – there was a bit of twitching and stuff. Whimpering and whining and shit. What a waste of good blood, though. I did feel a little guilty – like I should be collecting it for the needy or something. If only this was some kind of quaint old abbatoir – I could have collected it for black pudding. Mind you, there was the distinct absence of pig piss, so I guess not. I still managed to take some notes about his bleeding habits, though. These would be the word-spatter patterns I would use in future; first-hand experience for second-hand stories.

But this was not how he would die. He would die in the simplest of ways. Death, swiftly quick or quickly swift, in the punniest of ways. Once the skin had gone, there would be no more hardly any gore, no punky splitter-splatter, just a good old-fashioned gun and a pun.

The weapon came from another writer. It had to – I don’t know weapons. I don’t DO guns. I was even talking to a bunch of people about what you even call the buggers. Guns, pistols, whatever, they’re all the same to me. I’m a peaceful fatherfucker, what can I say?

So yeah – I’ll just call it a gun. It works. It goes BANG, and that’s all I care about. Ain’t gonna go pretending I know shit about ballistics only to have some expert come and dissect my research in a blow-by-blow critique of how shit this fucking story is, and how holey the plot holes are. What has two thumbs and doesn’t give a crap what you think?

So yeah – back to the imminent corpse. He’s currently sitting there, out of his tree and off his face. Which is … erm … hanging off. I think it’s the bloodlessness that’s keeping him zonked, to be honest. Exsanguination for the nation.

SO we’re kinda coming to the end now. Which is about fucking time- I’ve been killing him for way over a year now. Just been waiting for the perfect method, that’s all. The perfect ending. Which kinda sucks, because in order to kill him like he truly deserves, I had to keep him alive first. Twelve months’ worth of promises. Every day, I would tell him, “I’ll kill you tomorrow,” so he’s had a year’s worth of last days. Kinda gracious of me, don’t ya think?

And coz he was a bit of a writer, I owed him a bit of respect – I had to give him the perfect ending. And this was his. This is his.

The bullet shoots through his head, an apparent nanosecond after I pull the trigger. He is an ex-Ken.

As I go to inspect his squishy, bloody corpse, I make sure my notebook devours every last detail. I’m gonna be a writer one day, you see. Not like him, with his fucking dreadful puns and shit. I’m gonna be a proper writer. I’m even gonna have one of those Facebook pages with AUTHOR in front of my name, and make thousands of friends. And then I’ll add them all to the Linda Angel Fan Group.

It’s interesting, this. I can see all sorts of voids where little things had stood in the way of the spray. Even the light bulb has a new means of illumination – a fine frosting of red diffuses its output. This is exciting stuff!

I didn’t know a single head could cover so much space. It’s fascinating, really. I’ll put it all together later, once I’ve washed him down. I’ll make sure I treat him right, so don’t worry. He can stay here for a while – a living (ok, deceased, but you know what I mean) experiment to serve the good of mankind. Well, writerkind. It can be like one of those body farms they have in Tennessee or some shit. This is where I learn the science. And it’ll be me on that bookshelf soon enough.

The bullet is the most interesting thing. What’s left of it, that is. It’s a bit knackered and gnarled now, of course, having been through that weird fucking head and out the other side. It’s brought with it some gooey red-and-white shit, some scalp, and a bunch of hairs. It’s the most appropriate ending for the man who loved to pun and lived to die.

The bullet that killed Ken had his mane on it.


A JOB FOR THE BOYS -by Linda Angel


The interview scene was typical: one besuited man, one potentially impressive woman, one office.

“You know there’s an easy way to – let’s say … fastpath this whole process, right?”

“What are you suggesting?” 

“Well, I find you rather … endearing.

“Are you serious? What year is this?” 

“I’m just saying, that’s all. Letting you know how it is around here. We are more likely to accommodate those who are prepared to grant certain – liberties. Favours.”

With the birdflip of a finger, and without a further word, Andrew followed his you-can-shove-your-fucking-job-up-your-arse face out the door. 




Millie was doing the usual morning autopsy of the previous night’s antics. It was simple really: get the poor guy on a gossip slab and dissect him with chavtastic chatter for girlie enjoyment.

Graham’s just … too … well, sexual.”

Yeah, coz that’s the last thing ya want, innit.” Alice was a sarcastic bitch.

You know what I mean. He’s too much.”

How? How can a person be too sexual?”

Well – he sorta studies it, I reckon. He must do – he knows everything about everything. Makes me a virgin by comparison. He’s probably into all that tantric stuff – all I ever wanna do is just enjoy it and let shit happen”.

Can we not talk about shit and sex in the same conversation please? Unless, of course, that’s one of his things-”

Oh frig OFF! Ewww!”

So, go on – what was it this time? What put ya off?”

Millie tried to explain. “He was all intense, right? I couldn’t figure out if he was bein’ creepy or wha’. He looked like he was takin’ mental notes or something . Nothin’ spontaneous – rehearsed, almost.” She paused for breath and took a swig of 10AM Prosecco; it was never too early.

He stood there, right, and just stripped – before we’d even kissed. He was just stood there in the buff, tackle out – hard as anythin’, an’ there it was, pointin’ right at me”.

And this was a problem because?”

It was just weird, that’s all. It was like he didn’t even wanna come close, but was happy to stay over there, getting’ on with it by himself.”

You mean …”

Yeah. He had a wank. Standing up. Asked me to lie on the bed, and – well, perform.”

So did ya?”

Well, yeah. He was all hypnotic and stuff, I just sorta did what he said.”

And then what?”

Well, he shot his load all over the floor. And you shoulda seen his FACE as it dripped – it was like he was on drugs”.

Alice tried to hide her what-the-fuck face. “Maybe he was, Millie. How d’ya know he wasn’t?”

She didn’t, so she took a long gulp of the fizzy shit before advising Alice that she had no frame of reference when it came to druggery: “I don’t know about any of that. I’m a good girl.”

Projectile booze from Alice’s gob interrupted the conversation. She dabbed at the soggy coffee table with an entire kitchen roll, too unarsed to unravel the thing.

Good girl my arse. Hahahah!” She threw the damp wad of paper the bin’s way, and missed. She watched it as it floomped onto the floor with a heavy splat, and continued: “… so, Millz, there was one thing I was meaning to ask ya…”

Go on…”

Is it true what they say about black fellas?”

Fucksake. Why does EVERYONE think that? That’s SO out of order, that is. It’s really fuckin’ racist to assume that just because a person has black sk- ”

Is it not true then?”

Well, yeah. Totes.”

Laughter. Swigs. The opening of a second bottle.

What happened next? After the – erm – dripping, I mean …”

It wasn’t so much a drip as an explosion, really. Landed ten feet away. Nearly took me eye out.”

I can see Smearly Now that Graham has come …” sang Alice.

Very funny.” Millie wiped her left peeper with the memory of last night’s cumsplat. “Aaanyway …” she continued, “… after that, he came over, still as hard as my fuckin’ arm – and started the next round”

Jeez – ya mean he wasn’t all floppy by then, like?”

GOD no.”

Ya reckon he’d taken a little purple pill then?”

I dunno – I mean, is it even HUMAN to be in that condition for so long?”

Yeah, I heard you the first time, you said it was long already.”

Alice sniggered at her own crap joke and stood up to pour another glass. “So, Millz, did you ever actually get to – well, did you actually get fucked?”

I’m getting to that. Sit down – you’re gonna love this.”

She sat.

Get comfy.”

She got.

OK, when we finally got to – well, when we were about to … I mean we did, but we kinda didn’t.”


He was THAT big that he was fully in me and there were still like six inches that weren’t.”

Fuckin’ ‘ell!”

Yeah – so it was almost like he wasn’t – because he was so fucking far away! I’m all about the closeness, me.”

Ha! Jesus, girl. You’re fucking killing me here!” Alice spat the words out along with the cheap booze.

Don’t be laughin’! What about poor little me! I’m startin’ to dry up over here! It’s been a whole WEEK – an entire bastard WEEK – and I still didn’t get any.”

Well, ya DID … but maybe it just wasn’t how ya planned.”

Ya got that right.”

If she’d been smarter, Millie might’ve entertained the notion that perhaps it’d been Schrodinger’s sex – where you simultaneously got some and didn’t. Being either fucked or unfucked, your true state was only revealed once the sheets were peeled back. But she wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box – nah, fuck that – she wasn’t even IN the box.

Alice, fifteen years older, had had enough – it was time to piss off home anyway. As she gathered her crap up into her overnight bag, Millie thanked her for having babysat the previous night and told her “you SO fucking owe me a bottle, you do – spluttering that all over the place. Big waste.”

Oh, shut it, you. Stop your whining. I get enough of that from your father,” said Alice, on her way out the door.

All right, all right. See ya next Friday, Ma.”

MY BEST FRIEND – by Ivan Zoric


I will always be your best friend.

Ghosts are back with first dark. The blizzard is a drunken sailor, throwing fists at my windows in white rage. The walls of my bedroom protest this violence with a shriek of wood, making me miss my childhood brick home. I’m sitting, propped up in my bed for going on the third night with no sleep, and staring at my tormentors. They occupy every corner of the room, their eyes unblinking pools of darkness, following my every move.

At first, I wondered why I always see them in the corners, never straying away further than arms’ length. Then I remembered. I killed every single one of them from behind. Even in the afterlife they are afraid to turn their backs on me. But you wouldn’t know anything about it, right? Because you’re a fucking saint.

I still remember the day we first met. We were what, three?

You came pedaling down the street on that new tricycle of yours, all sunshine and smiles. I was nursing gashes in skin, an imprint of parental love, too afraid to cry. One look at you, and envy came pouring of me like a toxic wave. It is not fair, you know? Three year olds should not be able to feel stuff like that, not even as a primal instinct. Then again, things have a way of playing out different around you, don’t they?

Not even after I swung at you with my jacket, pockets filled with rocks, did you stop smiling.

“ Look, we both bleed now!”, you laughed. “ Want to ride my bike?”

Funny how kids start friendships with a transaction. I should have never climbed into that seat. Not at this price. You bought me, just like everyone else, with a handful of kindness.

I have loved you throughout – for all these years. I never questioned that. It was a simple truth of my existence, just like my dad’s drinking or my mom’s misdiagnosed bipolar disorder. Every time I was sent to the store for beer, or to the floor for mouthing off, I would hold on to that smile of yours in my head, and I would manage. Even as the country descended into the madness of civil war, I knew that as long I was around you, things would somehow be okay. You knew how to heal broken spirits and broken bones with a single word. It was your Gift showing, even that early on.

Oddly enough, you could never recognize jealousy or hate. Whatever was the thing that made you who you are, a beacon of hope for many, also made you blind to all emotions that were like flashing neon signs to me. You only saw the best in people. I only saw the worst. So, I did the only thing I could.

I protected you from it.

Remember the kid who went missing in senior year? Sasha, the basketball player, driving the red Mazda around, making fun of kids for wearing cheap knock-off Nikes and Levi’s? The one whose dad owned a tombstone business, and eventually had to make one for his kid’s empty grave? Life size statue, no less. Yeah?

I split his head open with an axe.

You never noticed his girlfriend falling for you. How could you? You were lost in books, talking about Däniken’s theories and Nazca Lines while helping her to pass English class.

It was never more than tutoring for you. Oh, but it was so much more for her. The way her cheeks turned red every time she would pass by us in the hallway, the way she played with her hair as you tried to explain her indirect speech during the breaks, it was all so clear. And not just to me.

Sasha could see it too – and he hated your guts, man. There was a storm brewing, I could sense it. One too many times I could hear him whispering to his buddies how he would end you, if anything happened with you and Ana.

There are no coincidences. Things happen for a reason, even though it seems as we are just swimming in primordial soup of randomness.

The night he disappeared, I was getting shitfaced at Talia’s. I was so drunk, in fact, that I fell asleep on the toilet, unaware and unwiped. I woke up when Sasha entered the stall next to mine and started talking to someone on the phone. He was going to beat you up that night. Bloody-up that pretty boy face, was the way he put it. Make sure you never came close to Ana again. He knew you were tutoring her and was going to jump you on your walk home. Baseball bat and brass knuckles.

I tiptoed outside while he was still on the phone and found his car running. Without thinking I hid in the back between the seats and grabbed the first thing I could find.

He whistled as he drove. I waited until we parked in the dark of Memorial Cemetery, where he was planning on jumping you. I hit him with the axe right as he was lighting a cigarette, the skull making a wet, egg-cracking sound. Dead on target.

I wish I could say it made me nauseous. I wish I was more like you and that taking a life did not make me calm and centred, as if I had just found my life’s purpose.

But I was not.

I was not like you.

I was me, and I always had been.

I whistled the same song Sasha did as I drove the car to my dad’s pig farm. I whistled it still as I chopped the body and ran it through steel burr mill and mixed it with ground corn. Damn pigs, man, they’ll eat anything. Funny, but months later, after they gave up searching for him and finally decided to bury an empty casket, sausages made from those same pigs were served at the wake.

I will always be your best friend.

Your first wife? She hated you, you know? She might have loved you once, but yours is a cold shadow to live under. You don’t love selfishly as we do, you don’t turn love into an us-against-the-world fairytale.

It is always us AND the world. The whole fucking world. It’s the Gift running through you, making everyone who loves you resent you in time. They can’t keep up, they can’t be the lighthouse you are, always weathering other people’s storms. Saints are not meant to be loved, just worshipped.

She fucked my brains out that night. It was revenge sex, of course, a middle finger to your reputation as a philanthropist and peacemaker. The one who brought peace could not bring his wife to climax. Or, at least that’s what she said as she was pumping my cock, not looking at me, but somewhere beyond the walls, to wherever in the world you were at that moment.

“You know what the worst thing is?”, she said. “He actually really is that nice. Not a mean bone in him. I fucking hate it. The whole world puts him on the pedestal and I am supposed to be there, right next to him, just as holly. I can’t even…I just can’t. He won’t fuck me the way you do. He’s always gentle. It’s sickening”.

I kept silent and thrust away. I did not love her, it was just friction. Something else, too.

I knew what her plan was. There was a camera hidden in the wall, recording our session, every embarrassing detail displayed in full 4K resolution. She was planning on going to the tabloids with it. She loathed you so much she’d rather crash and burn than be married to a saint.

I strangled her before she came. I wasn’t going to give her even that much of a satisfaction.

She died cursing your name. I was nothing more than a tool for her, and I was OK with that. I understood it. I had already mastered the art of the cover up, by that point. She was just one of the many who had tried to bring you down, and had the misfortune of running into me first. A self-appointed watchdog. It took two phone calls to turn it into a robbery and sexual assault. The world cried with you the next day.

They are both here tonight, with all the others, clustered around the corners, waiting. There is glee on their faces, even with those dark holes instead of eyes. A welcome committee.

I am not afraid. Not of them, not of dying. The cancer is eating me from the inside, but I refuse the painkillers. I welcome the agony. One is not suppose to leave this world peacefully. At least not one like me.

This is your world now and I have no place in it anymore. You have succeeded in your mission. Humans are better now. Kind, empathetic, understanding. The Gift has spread across the globe like a virus, reaching even the most distant regions. They had prospered and they are about to reach for the stars. I suppose, in a way, you really are a saint, even if you deflect the notion every chance you get.

I am the only leftover piece of the old days. I do not belong and I do not approve. Mankind is not supposed to be this docile, this perfect, but this was never my decision to make. I was just here to keep you safe and you will never even know it. Maybe it’s for the best. At least this way someone will mourn me.

I hate you. I love you.

You will always be my best friend.


NEEDS MUST – by A.S. Chambers


It was a nice well: roomy, dank and dark. There was just a glimmer of hurtful sunlight from the small aperture high above. This suited Odd Bod, suited him fine. As he sat in the noxious gloop that constituted the well’s floor he scratched the infrequent tufts of hair on his scabrous scalp and decided that, overall, life had been very good to him. He had a safe place to live and there had been no hordes of angry villagers chasing him with pitchforks or other horticultural accoutrements.

The food, however, was becoming a problem.

Odd Bod tugged at a small bone that was lodged in the sticky floor and it parted company from the clinging substance with a wet pop. He blew at it and a piece of green slime dripped onto his knee. Absentmindedly rubbing at the slime with one hand, his other used the bone as an impromptu toothpick between his blackened incisors whilst he contemplated the issue of supplies.

There used to be plenty of food. It would come to the well, drop the wooden thing down to scoop up the wet stuff and, if he was hungry, Odd Bod would give the wooden thing a big tug causing the food to come crashing down into his awaiting lap. True, it was a noisy experience when the food fell and sometimes it needed convincing that it really was food but on the whole it worked to Odd Bod’s satisfaction.

Recently, though, the food had stopped dropping the wooden thing down. Odd Bod thought that this must be down to one of two reasons. It was either because the horrid wet stuff that the wooden thing used to scoop up had finally vanished or, and this possibility troubled Odd Bod more, that he had eaten all the food and there was none left.

Yes, that troubled Odd Bod a great deal. The thought of a world with no food was not a pleasant prospect at all even if he did live in a very nice dark, dank well with very little sunlight.

He hoped that it was the lack of the wet stuff that had caused the food to go away, he truly did because if the wet stuff came back then the food would, too. If, however, he had eaten all the food…

Odd Bod sadly shook his head. He had never been a fan of the wet stuff. It had always gotten everywhere and had made him feel as icky as the wet stuff itself. Odd Bod had fashioned himself small ledges between the crumbling bricks which had provided places for him to perch on when the wet stuff had risen up at certain times of the year. Then over the last few years the wet stuff had stopped rising. Instead, it had gotten lower and lower until all that was left was the gloop and the bits of broken bone that Odd Bod had discarded during his time in the well.

Odd Bod liked the gloop. It stuck nicely to his bony fingers and made his nose wrinkle when he sniffed it. Much more pleasant than the wet stuff.

However, if the wet stuff going away had caused his food to disappear then that was a bad thing, whether Odd Bod liked the wet stuff or not, and something had to be done about it. The melancholy creature looked up to the small hole high above and sighed. There was only one way to find out what had happened to his food. Had it gone away or had it all been eaten? He had to find out or he would starve. It would not be the easiest of jobs, but one that had to be undertaken, nonetheless. His stomach rumbled and he whimpered disconsolately, his shaggy whiskers quivering around his mouth.

Odd Bod transferred the small bone from his hand to between his freshly picked teeth and placed a bare foot onto the lowest of the perches. He reached up with his hands – his cracked and broken nails searching out the tiniest of nooks and crannies with which to heave himself up. A foot edged up to another perch and his hands started to seek out more holes where he could cling securely between the bricks. After he had reached the same number of perches as he had fingers on his left hand he had to start work with the bone. Whilst clinging on with one set of fingers, the others used the bone to dig out handholds and footholds for him to utilise.

So it went on, time after time, transferring his weight onto newly excavated holes whilst digging out more and more spaces for his hands and feet. As he ascended the side of the well Odd Bod realised that the work was becoming harder and harder. Down below, the wall had been soft and easier to excavate. Up higher, it was tough and the bricks were much more firmly cemented together, but Odd Bod knew there could be no turning back. He peered down between his legs at his comfortable home and whimpered plaintively. What he would give to be settled down there once more with some fresh food, happily enjoying the knobbly, gristly bits that spurted goo all down his front as his teeth chomped into them. Instead, his muscles ached and his throat was dry. Moreover, to make matters worse, he was starting to feel very warm.

Odd Bod looked up and saw the reason for the increased heat: the hole at the top of the well was getting much larger! He had thought it was starting to increase in width when he had reached about half way but he had dismissed the notion as silliness. Now, however, here he was, much higher up and the round hole was definitely letting in more of the hated sunlight. Odd Bod blinked as the brightness hurt his eyes and he focussed yet again on the task at hand, digging furiously between two stubborn bricks. Even the bricks seemed to be suffering from the sunshine. Down below, they had been beautifully dark and shiny; up here, they were dry and much paler in colour. Odd Bod shuddered as he dreaded what the evil sunshine would do to him when he eventually emerged from the well.

He carried on climbing.

In time, his breathing became somewhat laboured as his throat felt parched. Odd Bod started to whimper as he began to fear that he was not going to make it to the top of the well. Despair started to wash over him.

What if he slipped and fell? Would he make the same noises that the food normally made when it jumped down to him?

What if he got to the top and discovered that he had eaten all the food? His stomach roared and he shook his head. No, he must not think such things. Food had to be out there. It had just gone away when the wet stuff had disappeared!

He glanced up and squeaked in both fear and excitement. Fear because the hole was now so wide that he could not see all the way around it. Excitement because he was only about an arm’s length from the top. A broad grin of blackened teeth spread across his face and he clambered towards the rim of the well.

Odd Bod’s stomach lurched as his foot slipped and his arm swung free. Screaming loudly he gripped with one hand on the bone that was currently dug between two bricks.

Silly Odd Bod!

Silly Odd Bod!

He had let his excitement get the better of him and had lost his concentration. With one firm tug on the bone, he swung his loose arm up and grabbed at the tiniest of gaps in the unforgiving brickwork. His nails prised themselves in and he hissed in pain as the rough surface dug into his grey flesh. Desperately, his feet scrambled at the sheer wall below him, propelling his weight up towards the rim of the well. He discarded the bone, ignoring the tool as it tumbled down towards the dark, comforting gloop. Instead, he hauled his hand up to the precipice above him. His fingers flailed around crumbling material on the rim until they found sound purchase and the rest of his withered body scurried up the last little distance. With one, firm lunge he heaved himself up and over the edge of the well. He rolled head over heels and landed with a thump on something that was most definitely not gloop.

Odd Bod bent over onto all fours and peered closely at the stuff. It covered the floor around the well. It felt strange to his gloop-accustomed touch and consisted of a multitude of little strands of near identical material that stood together in the near vicinity.

He sniffed it. It wobbled as he did so.

Carefully he picked some out and stuck it in his mouth before chewing.

Pah!” He spat the disgusting substance out and wiped spittle from his face with the back of his dirt-encrusted hand.

Why are you eating grass?”

Odd Bod’s head snapped up and his eyes located the source of the noise. It was food; a small morsel, but food nonetheless. He grinned.

The food giggled as it clasped its hands over its mouth. “You look funny,” it laughed.

Odd Bod sat down on the horrid-tasting stuff and scratched his threadbare scalp. This food was strange. Food normally made noises like, “Oh, God! No! No!” or “Please no! I have children!” This one sounded different. In addition, it was not covered in delicious icky stuff.

He pointed with a chipped and broken fingernail. “Food?” his gravelly voice enquired.

Sure,” said the little red-haired girl. “I’ve got lots. Teddy and I are having a tea party on the blanket over there.”

Odd Bod’s eyes followed her small finger as it pointed over to a small furry thing sat on the thing called a blanket. “Food?” he asked again.

The little girl walked over to him and took his warty hand in hers. “Come on. We have plenty.”

Odd Bod clambered to his feet and slowly lurched along behind her as she led him over to the blanket where the small, inanimate furry thing was propped up against a grey stone. In front of it were a number of round receptacles of different sizes along with an object that had a handle on one side and a pointy bit on the other. The girl patted the blanket next to her and Odd Bod seated himself down, tucking his gangly legs beneath him. He frowned as his brain used to years of peaceful solitude tried to make sense of the situation. As his grey cells bumped together in confusion, the little girl handed him one of the round things. “Here you go,” she said. “Cake.”

The very perplexed diner took the object in both his hands and stared at it. It was flat and about the size of one of his hands. It was decorated around the edge with pink flowers. Not sure what to do, he shoved it in his mouth and started to chew.

No!” exclaimed the girl, leaning over and dragging the thing out of his mouth. “Don’t eat the plate. Eat the cake.” She proceeded to hold her own plate and apparently feasted on thin air.

Odd Bod did likewise. The air did not taste of anything. He frowned.

It is only make-believe, you know,” the girl whispered into his ear. “There isn’t really any cake. Just don’t tell Teddy. He’ll get upset.”

Odd Bod looked over at Teddy. The small, furry thing was making no apparent effort to eat the make-believe cake. Whatever cake was. Odd Bod sighed and glanced longingly over his shoulder to his well.

Are you thirsty?”

Thirsty?” Odd Bod asked.

The girl was now placing a different receptacle in front of him. This one was also decorated in flowers but was somewhat deeper in shape. “I’ll pour some nice tea in the cups.” She picked up the odd-looking thing with the handle and poured a clear liquid into the cups before offering one to her guest. “Here you go.”

Odd Bod took the little cup awkwardly in his misshapen fingers and raised it to his mouth. His nose caught a whiff of its smell and wrinkled in disgust. He snapped his head back and grimaced.

Now, don’t be rude,” the little redhead scowled. “Drink it all up.”

Odd Bod looked across the rim of the cup to this strange piece of food that was not acting as it should then peered down into the cup unsure as to what he should do. Part of him wanted to reach over and gobble her up but part of him felt he really ought to do as he was told. It was only polite.

He placed the cup to his lips.

The girl smiled and nodded for him to continue. “Down in one,” she said.

Odd Bod did as he was instructed and gulped the liquid down.

He immediately regretted the decision.

Emily carefully tidied up the blanket and the tea set. She cautiously poured the remains of the so-called tea down the dry, foul-smelling well – the well in which her mummy had died. She had no idea what she had put in the teapot but it seemed to have done the trick. It had been a concoction of all sorts of liquids from tins in the cellar, the labels of which had borne loud warning symbols.

It had worked a treat.

She had been terribly scared when the monster had climbed out of the well, but it had saved her the job of climbing down to do what had needed doing. Besides, Teddy had been there for moral support.

The thing that had eaten her mummy and so many other villagers lay dead at her feet.

She bundled Teddy and the tea set into the blanket, swung the improvised bag over her shoulder and skipped merrily home.


Needs Must first appeared in A.S.Chambers’ collection of short horror stories All Things Dark And Dangerous published in 2015.

Links for this book and all his other works (including the Sam Spallucci series) can be found on his website

ATTACK OF THE KILLER BANANA SPIDER! – a one-act play by John Moorhouse



JOSH: Nineteen. Student.

SOL: Nineteen. Student.

A quiet day in a student house until Josh brings home a bunch of bananas from the supermarket. Trapped in the bananas is an extremely irritated and extremely poisonous spider.

(The present day. A room with two dining chairs and a table. There is a fruit bowl on the table. In the kitchen: a plastic bucket, magazine and long-handled brush.)

(JOSH walks in talking to SOL who is upstairs. He is wearing jeans, a hoodie and trainers and carrying a supermarket carrier bag.)

JOSH: No, no, It’s OK, Sol. You stay where you are. I can manage. You finish your essay or your FIFA tournament or whatever it is you’re doing that’s so important. I’m fine. I’ll go shopping. I’ll carry all the stuff home and I’ll put it all away. Don’t you worry yourself.

(He tips a bunch of bananas from the carrier bag into the fruit bowl and reaches for one. He

snatches his hand back.)

JOSH: Yaaaaaaarrrgh!
(He jumps onto a chair.)

JOSH: Shit!

(SOL wanders in, in bathrobe and slippers, carrying a toothbrush.)

SOL: What’s up?

JOSH: Fruit bowl! Bananas! Spider!!

SOL: Spider? You big girl.

(He looks into the fruit bowl.)

SOL: Yaaaarrrgh!

(He jumps onto the second chair.)

SOL: We had a dog smaller than that. It’s a monster! Shit.

JOSH: What is it?

SOL: It’s a spider!

JOSH: Yes. But what? Tarantula? Black Widow?

SOL: I don’t know, do I? (PAUSE) I’m going to have a look.

JOSH: Don’t annoy it.

(SOL gets down and goes to the table. He looks.)

SOL: I think it might be dead.

(JOSH gets down and stands behind SOL at the table.)

JOSH: Is it? Please, please let it be dead.

SOL: Or it might just be sleeping.

JOSH: Poke it.

SOL: You poke it.

JOSH: I’m not poking it.

SOL: You want it poking – you poke it.

(JOSH looks.)

JOSH: It’s trapped. See? Its leg’s stuck between two bananas.

SOL: Oh yeah.

(SOL pokes it with his toothbrush. Pause.)

BOTH: Yaaaaaaarrrrgh!

(They scramble back onto the chairs.)

SOL: (PAUSE) Not dead then.

(They stare at the fruit bowl.)

JOSH: What’s it doing?

SOL: It’s going mad!

JOSH: It’s trying to get free.


BOTH: Eeyuw!

JOSH: Did it just do what I think it did?

SOL: It did.

JOSH: It did, didn’t it?

SOL: It’s a beast.

JOSH: Hardcore.

SOL: Yep. You’ve got to be pretty hardcore to rip your own leg off.

JOSH: Shit.

(SOL takes his phone from his pocket.)

JOSH: Good thinking. Phone someone – fire brigade, International Rescue.

SOL: Hang on.

JOSH: What?

SOL: I want to find out what it is first. It might be harmless.

JOSH: It just tore its own leg off!

SOL: We don’t want to look stupid.

JOSH: We don’t want to look dead either.

SOL: Wait.

JOSH: How are you going to identify it anyway?

SOL: I’m googling it.

JOSH: What are you googling? Banana…Spider?

SOL: Yes. Actually. (PAUSE) Here we are.

(He shows JOSH the screen.)

SOL: That’s it, isn’t it?

JOSH: I reckon. What is it? Tarantula?

SOL: Sadly, no.

JOSH: What then?

SOL: According to this, it’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider.

JOSH: That doesn’t sound too bad.

SOL: (READS) ‘Also known by its Greek name – phoneutria – which translates as…’murderess’.’

JOSH: I take it back.

(Silence. SOL reads.)

JOSH: What is it?


SOL: Shit.

JOSH: What?!

SOL: (READS) ‘The Brazilian Wandering Spider also known as The Banana Spider…’ See? ‘…is probably the most venomous spider in the world.’

JOSH: Shit.

SOL: (READS) ‘Its fangs inject a neurotoxin which causes intense pain, loss of muscle control leading to paralysis, breathing problems and death by asphyxiation.’ Shit. (READS) ‘In men, its bite can cause an erection that lasts for four hours.’

JOSH: (PAUSE) Four hours?

SOL: Four hours.

JOSH: (PAUSE) A four hour erection followed by death by asphyxiation.

SOL: Sounds like a Consevative MP’s dream, doesn’t it?

JOSH: (LAUGHING) They’d never get the coffin lid down.

SOL: (LAUGHING) Ahhh. Stop it.

(They force their laughter down. Thoughtful silence.)

JOSH: What’s it doing now?

(SOL leans forward to look. The chair topples and he lands on his knees by the table. He

cautiously brings his eyes up level with the fruit bowl. He freezes.)

SOL: Yaaaaarrrgh!

(He grabs the chair, rights it and springs back up.)

JOSH: What? What?!

SOL: It reared up.

JOSH: What do you mean?

SOL: Reared up! Reared up! On its back legs! It reared up! Fangs…

JOSH: Shit.

SOL: Two…massive…fangs. Oh God. And it swayed. From side to side.

JOSH: Swayed?

SOL: Yes! Yes! Swayed! Like this. (DEMONSTRATES) It stood on its hind legs and bared its fangs at me and…swayed. And it…it reached out its front legs…well…leg towards me. I feel sick.

JOSH: Then what?

SOL: It ran off.

JOSH: What? Where? Where did it go?

SOL: I don’t know, do I?! I was too busy escaping a four-hour erection and a hideously painful death!


JOSH: So, it could be anywhere.

SOL: Yes.

JOSH: OK. (PAUSE) We should find it.

SOL: (AWESTRUCK) It’s as big as my hand…


JOSH: These…er…fangs…

(SOL demonstrates with two fingers.)

SOL: Huge.


JOSH: It’s probably more scared of us than we are of…it.

SOL: Well, in that case, it must be bloody petrified. And that’s just what we need, isn’t it? A killer spider from Hell that’s feeling a bit hysterical!


JOSH: We should catch it.

SOL: (PAUSE) Google said…

JOSH: Yes?

SOL: It said that…when it bites, it doesn’t always use its venom. Sometimes…it just bites.

JOSH: Sorry?

SOL: Only one bite in three is venomous.

JOSH: And this makes me feel better how?

SOL: I’m just saying. The odds – you know?

JOSH: Well, that’s a relief. Let’s get after it then and hope we’re not the unfortunate one-in-three. Ah! There’s two of us, so we could both get lucky!

SOL: (PAUSE) We’ve got to do this.

JOSH: Have we?

SOL: Can’t stand up here forever.

JOSH: (PAUSE) OK. After three; we’ll carefully get down, find it and catch it. One…

SOL: Or kill it.

JOSH: Won’t that just piss it off?

SOL: How can it be pissed off if it’s dead?

JOSH: But if we try to kill it and miss – it’ll be pissed off.

SOL: Actually, I would imagine it’s pretty pissed off already. I mean, you would be, wouldn’t you? One minute you’re wandering around Brazil deciding whether to give someone a playful nip or a four hour erection and an agonizing death. And next minute you wake up in a fruit bowl in a student house in Leeds with your leg stuck in a bunch of bananas. Pissed off? Yep. I reckon. (PAUSE) We need a plan.

(SOL looks around then gets down from the chair.)

SOL: Cover me.


SOL: Cover me! I’m going to the kitchen.

(JOSH gets down. He holds the chair in front of him as SOL backs out of the room. SOL returns

with a magazine, a plastic bucket and a brush. They get back on the chairs.)

SOL: Here.

(He hands JOSH the brush.)

SOL: Right. This is the plan. First we locate the creature then you use the brush to maneuver it onto the magazine then I slam the bucket over it.

JOSH: OK. Got it. (PAUSE) Just a minute. What if it runs up the handle? Sod that!

SOL: It’s only got seven…six…(CHECKS PHONE) seven legs. It’s disabled, isn’t it? Anyway, the cold will slow it down. It’s used to a hot climate.

JOSH: Didn’t look very slow to me.

SOL: No, it’ll be lethargic.

JOSH: Lethargic? It just ripped its own leg off!

SOL: Swap then. I’ll have the brush – you have the bucket and mag.

JOSH: We’ll stick to Plan A.

SOL: Ready?

JOSH: Ready.

(They slowly dismount and search.)

JOSH: Where is it?

SOL: Must be here somewhere.

(They search.)


SOL: What?

JOSH: Shhh! It’ll hear you.

SOL: Do they even have ears?

JOSH: Sh. Look.

(JOSH is staring at the corner of the room. SOL looks.)

SOL: (QUIET) Right.

(He places the magazine on the floor and holds the bucket ready.)

SOL: Go on then.

JOSH: I’m doing it!

(He slowly pokes the brush handle into the corner.)

SOL: Is it moving?

JOSH: Shut up, Sol. (POKES) Yaaaarrrgh!

SOL: What?!

JOSH: It’s got hold of the brush!

SOL: Shake it off.

(JOSH flails the brush around in the air.)

JOSH: Get off! Get off!

SOL: What are you doing?! On the magazine! On the magazine!

(JOSH swoops the brush down over the magazine and shakes.)

JOSH: Get off!

(SOL slams the bucket down. Pause.)

JOSH: Did you get it?

SOL: Most of it.

JOSH: What does that mean?

SOL: Well it’s got an even number of legs again.

(JOSH slumps into a chair.)

JOSH: Oh God. I think I’ve just had a heart attack.

(SOL carefully picks up the bucket and magazine.)

JOSH: What are you doing?

SOL: Throwing it out.

(He approaches the audience.)

JOSH: No!!

(He stops.)

SOL: Why not?

JOSH: It’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider. What if it decides to wander back in?!

SOL: Good point.

(He places the bucket and magazine back on the floor.)

SOL: So…What now? (PAUSE) I’ll call someone.


SOL: Could do. (PAUSE) Wait.

JOSH: Problem?

SOL: What if they think we pulled its legs off, you know, deliberately.

JOSH: Who, in their right minds, would do that?!

SOL: I’ll phone them.

(He does.)

SOL: Hello. Yes. We’ve caught a spider. No…I’m not taking the…Listen. Hang on! It’s venomous. It was in the bananas. Yes, I’m sure. We looked it up…

JOSH: The bucket!

SOL: Shush!

JOSH: It moved!

(SOL puts his foot on top of the bucket.)

SOL: Sorry about that. It’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider. (PAUSE) Yes. That’s right. Four hours. What? Why not? Right. Thanks for nothing, pal!

(He ends the call.)

JOSH: What did they say?

SOL: Phone the police.

(He does.)

SOL: Police. Yes, it’s an emergency. Yes. We bought some bananas and there’s a venomous spider in them. Yes, I’m sure. We looked it up on Google. It’s a Brazilian Wandering Spider. (PAUSE) That’s the one – four hours. Yes. I know. That’s what we said. We trapped it under a bucket. Really? Brilliant! Thanks! 62 Claremont Street. OK. Cheers. (ENDS CALL) they’re on their way. With… ‘a team’.

JOSH: Oh thank God.


JOSH: Sol?

SOL: Mm?

JOSH: (PAUSE) When did you kick the bucket over?

(Silence. He looks.)

BOTH: Yaaaaaaaarrrrgh!

(They run off. The front door slams. Silence. The spider is still in the room.)


SPEED – by Mark Cassell


I like to floor the accelerator on a straight, feel the speed pushing me into my seat. Only ever in the countryside though, and with no one else on the road. I’m not a boy-racer. Damn it, I’m a thirty-five year old man with a great family, a steady job and a promotion on the way; you know the type. It’s just I enjoy the odd hit of speed. So on a straight, I open it up…then brake firmly towards the bend. Never on the bend. We’ve all seen bunches of flowers at the bole of a tree somewhere, with a rain-smudged picture of someone, often a teenager, pinned to the trunk. Sometimes police tape flaps in the wind, but always the bark has been stripped by the impact.

Wood versus metal. Physics versus flesh. Don’t brake on a bend, kiddies.

Right now, sunlight flickers in my peripheral vision but not in that annoying way to make me angle the visor. I hope I don’t get stuck behind anyone who’ll deny me my fun, someone thoughtlessly turning my homebound stretch into a journey much slower because they don’t appreciate the engine connected to their toes. Tarmac spears into the summer countryside and my playground spreads out. The road is mine. I thumb the front window buttons and the air rushes in. I’ve never been one for air-con. The freshness fills me and I taste the sunshine, the foliage, the woodland.

The speedometer needle creeps up, hovering at 40 mph. I take a gradual bend at almost 50, and it straightens out. Clear ahead, open tarmac hemmed in by bushes, and the needle pushes 60. Engine revving, clean air howling. Now pushing 70…


And then I brake. Hard.

Branches and leaves and hefty chunks of earth litter the tarmac. Beyond that, a fallen tree.

Tyres rumble, the steering vibrates, and my knuckles whiten as I squint over them. The car jerks to a halt, my breath heavy. Seconds drag as I stare ahead.

I’ve no idea if those seconds turn to minutes…

My mouth is dry and I find it difficult to swallow. I want to say something, anything, but…but it’s what is on the tree that has frozen me in my seat. Even my hands remain clamped to the steering wheel. They’re now cold, clammy.

The felled oak is one of many, twisted and splintered and flattening the hedgerows either side of the road. Roots tangled in brambles and ivy and great upheavals of earth. In the midst of branches, a bloated creature straddles the great trunk. As grey and wrinkled as an elephant and equally as large, its immense torso glistens. Folded leathery wings hang down its flank to curl beside clawed feet. Bristles cover its bulk, and a collar of longer hair circles its neck, giving way to a horned head—six or is that seven horns? Each, chipped and gnarly, of differing lengths. Its lidless eyes, black, wide, piercing, gaze down a twisted snout and in its mouth, a branch dangles. Saliva drips from wet lips.

The fingers on my left hand peel from the steering wheel and drop to the gearstick. My jellied leg pushes downward, foot dumping the clutch pedal. Finally, the car crunches into reverse as my heartbeat crashes between my ears.

I watch the branch slip from the creature’s mouth. Head thrown back, it bellows. Deep, throaty. Neck stretching, torso slimming, those great wings extend. They reach out, wider and wider.

My neck clicks as I whip my head round for a view behind me. I accelerate, hard, and the car shoots backwards. I steer one-handed down the lane. I hear rather than see the wings beating, sounding like a sledgehammer whacking a mattress. Over and over. Getting louder. Approaching…

Metal shrieks, glass implodes. Pain flares across my face and I look round into a shattered windscreen and bodywork buckled by yellow claws. The car is lifted up. Up. The engine revs; such a shrill sound and I spy the rev-counter blasting into the red. My arse comes off the seat, then harsh into the cushion again, shaken left and right, forward and back. Blue sky fills every window.

I fumble the seatbelt release and my shoulder smacks the door.

Up higher, blue sky, blinding sunshine, clouds, wings beating…

The patchwork of English countryside spreads out too far below. I can even see the coast…and is that Hastings pier over there? Cold air whistles all the while there’s that continuous thump of immense wings. More tearing of metal, glass shattering. The windscreen breaks free and spins off. Higher we go. The car tilts.

I slam into the dashboard and slide over it. Metal and plastic tears my forearms, my palms. Heart in mouth, my ears roar from the wind, the fear, the madness. My fingers scrape and scratch as I slide out over the bonnet, blood smearing a handprint over the bodywork. The creature’s body blocks out the sunshine, great wings punching the air. For a moment—only for a moment—my slippery fingers clutch the front grill, legs dangling. Far below, there’s the country lane and those fallen trees.


I fall. Now weightless. A cold speed snatches the Earth closer.

My arms cartwheel and I’m aware that I scream the word “Fuck” louder than I’ve ever needed to; one dragged out expletive. The ground, this creature’s nest, gets larger, closer.

Such speed.

Curled around one another are a pair of smaller creatures. Marginally smaller. Bald, skinny, evidently the offspring of the nightmare that now flies somewhere above me. Closer to Earth, I see their mouths agape, forked tongues whipping to and fro, flicking saliva.


Something cracks. Loud. Pain explodes and white light blends with the raging agony. My body has landed half in, half out of one creature’s mouth. The other grabs my useless legs. No more pain as I’m torn in two. Through the mad rush of white and black, of blurred and focused, there’s a pressure on my head and upper-torso. The creature’s jaws squeezing…

I see my intestines stretch in a dark red mess, and—



Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous anthologies and ezines. His best-selling debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is closely followed by the popular short story collection, Sinister Stitches, and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos. His most recent release, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography.

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