The Chocolate Egg

Tommy didn’t believe his parents, no way, he was fine, he could eat way more before it affected him, and hey, he never went to sleep on time anyway. Tonight’s trick or treat haul was, average at best, but it was still free sweets, and his parents wouldn’t eat too much of it, he’d stashed the good stuff as well, in his secret box, under his bed. The crown jewell in tonights collection was a halloween egg, composed of spooky green chocolate and containing a terrifying surprise, “yuck” was all it had elicited from his Mom. He was looking forward to that egg, it was huge, so big the lid on his secret box wouldn’t shut, tomorrow was Saturday, plenty of time to play Nintendo and devour it. It had been a funny trick or treat though, it came from a house at the other end of his street, he had no idea who lived there but they had set out a whole family of carved pumpkins on a bed of fake spider web, he’d stepped onto the porch and was reaching for the bell when he saw the note,

“Sorry kids, not feeling well so gone to bed, treats, or maybe a trick 😉 in the box by your feet, just take one, Happy Halloween!”

He lifted the flap on the huge box, there was only two items left, both Halloween Eggs, there was plenty of chocolate in his sack so he reservedly grabbed just one and went on his way, paying no attention to the To Let estate agent sign at the foot of the overgrown path, or of the shuttered windows behind him.

Bedtime, his father declared, he grabbed one more jelly brain and put the sack on the side in the kitchen, went into the lounge, hugged both his parents and headed up to bed, despite all the sugar he didn’t take long to drift off.

Then he was awake, it seemed like only minutes later, but it had obviously been hours, the house was perfectly dark and he could hear his parents snoring from the next room, he adjusted his pillow, poked a leg from under his duvet and closed his eyes.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

His eyes were wide, his mind raced, a mouse, under the bed, in his secret box, eating his Halloween egg.

The boy flicked on the bedside light and hung over the edge of his bed, his hair dragging on the carpet.

It wasn’t a mouse, and it wasn’t eating the egg, it was emerging from it, one sinewy limb at a time, three of them were scrabbling at the underside of the bed, they found purchase.

Crack.

The egg split, a real Kinder Surprise moment, the boy screamed.

He was still screaming when his father stumbled into his room, the boy had made it to the doorway, his feet still kicking in front of him. His father knelt and embraced him, the boy raised a hand and pointed.

“Under the bed, a monster, under the bed”

His father sighed and kissed his head.

“It’s ok Tommy, there isn’t a monster under the bed, there’s no such thing.

Tommy’s legs resumed pistoning at the carpet. His father stood and headed for the bed.

“No Dad no, come back, it’s there, it’s there” the boy screamed.

His father dropped on one knee, lifted the discarded bedding and lent to look under the bed. The boy jumped as he heard a step behind him, his head jerked around to see his mother reaching for him.

“What’s up Tom…”

Was as far as she got, two heads jerked in unison, looking toward the bed, the man had managed to elicit a small scream of his own just before the breath was taken from him, he fell onto his side then rolled onto his back, reaching for his face with both hands, grabbing at the bronzed form clamped there, stick like digits disappearing into his hair, his chest rapidly rising and falling in time to a mucous filled gurgle.

Time stretched, inflating like the mans lungs, release, exhale, still.

“Dad?”

The man’s chest no longer rose, a whistle escaped, rising in pitch like a kettle on the hob.

Crack.

Deep crimson squirted everywhere, the arachnid squirmed in the pulpy mess it had created for a moment before rolling upright, it span a complete circle before pitching itself towards the screaming pair in the doorway.

Tommy reacted first, slamming his mother back into the hallway and ripping the door shut behind them, it bounced with a loud thud a moment later.

They made it down the stairs and to the kitchen door, the woman grabbed for her keys from the table and dropped them, the sound was echoed by a smashing window from upstairs, the back door was left open behind them as they ran for the car.

The drivers door creaked open, she threw her son across to the passenger seat and followed wrenching the door shut behind her.

Her shaking hands struggled to find the ignition slot, the boy covered his face and sobbed,

“we have to go Mom, please, we have to go”

Blessedly the key slipped in, habit took over and clutch was engaged, the key turned and the Volvo coughed exhaust, the pedal was flat to the floor, the front wheels squealed and they were on their way.

Suddenly the boy was screaming again, the woman looked to her right, the arachnid was on the passenger side mirror, glistening red in the moonlight, she swerved, smashing the offside into their mailbox, the mirror and it’s passenger were gone. She straightened the car out, grabbed her son’s hand and began to cry.

They drove.

They reached the edge of town and slowed when she saw the blue flashing lights, two patrol cars were angled across the road, a yellow road closed sign was in the right hand lane. She stopped the car and got out.

The boy watched, the blue lights took it in turn to illuminate his mothers slow steps between the vehicles, she appeared to moving in stop motion, even with this effect he could tell she had frozen, one hand on a cruiser bonnet, the other raised to her mouth, she turned, she ran, she was back in the car, firing it into life.

As she executed a perfect three point turn the boy caught a glimpse of what she had seen, two arms, two legs, a torso, and a puddle.

“I guess”

Said the boy,

“it was a trick after all”

The Dolls House

The man never liked the dolls house, it sat hidden for a while, a gift for his daughter from relatives still flat packed in a pink box.  But he knew it was there, knew it needed building, knew it was going to be his job before Christmas morning.  The man finally attempted this feat on Christmas Eve, after a couple of hours in the pub and with a stiff short drink and a multi-tool at his side the pink box was retrieved and opened, what he’d hoped would be a snap together quick assembly was evidently a more complicated task, he regretted the drinking now.  Had the house been for anyone else the man would have wrapped it unassembled, made the building project part of the fun, but the house was for the little girl, and he wanted the magic of Christmas to envelope her fully, wanted to see her wide eyed wonder as this new toy was revealed and explored.  Two hours later the house was done, the stockings were hung, and the man went to bed.

As is a child’s way on Christmas morning, the presents which parents had been so excited about giving were largely ignored.  Noise and mess were far more fun.  In hindsight the little girl was too young for a dolls house,  and it quickly found it’s way into the corner of her room, where it sat, becoming an ad-hoc toy box, waiting.

The little girl got older, the family grew and the family moved, the dolls house came and kept its place in the corner of the little girls room, it was even played with on occasion, it wasn’t in a rush, it had time.

Night terrors they call them, the little girl would wake in the night and cry out, the parents would find her upright in bed, tears rolling down her red puffy cheeks, quick to settle her with soothing words and cuddles and soon the little girl would be back asleep under the duvet, parents stroking her head and watching her chest rise and fall with each sniffly breath, still in awe of how perfect their little girl is.  Two or three times each week this would happen, sometimes the little girl would wake with such a start that she would fall right out of the bed, the parents would come running, not merely to calm the little girl, but also to stop her waking the little boy.

Then the little girl started to talk in her sleep.

The parents would hear her cry out as she unsettled, but now there would be words, prominent among them no and close it, repeated between sobs as the little girl, with eyes still closed, stretched and turned on the bed.  The man took his daughters hand, brushed the stuck strands from her forehead and kissed it gently, the little girl didn’t wake but she squeezed that hand as the sobs subsided and she slept.

Bedtime became toil, story after story the little girl would lie there, trying desperately to stay awake, each time she drifted and her parents snuck away she would wake screaming, hours of cajoling each night exhausted her parents and disturbed her little brother, cries of “no no no” followed her footsteps across the the room as she escaped her bed, her father would come to her and lift her back in, knowing she wasn’t truly awake whilst her mother soothed the baby in the next room.

The little girl was walking in her sleep.

The gate was hastily returned to the stop of the stairs, lest she should come that far and tumble, they’d need it for the boy soon enough anyway, he’d almost outgrown his cot and his bum shuffle.  They were assured by it’s presence but the little girl never went that far, they always found her in the same place, screaming in the middle of her room, eyes glazed over and tears rolling down her face.

Back and forth they went, three or four times each night until she would eventually crash and sleep until sunrise.  At this point, like all small children, she would join her parents in their bed, where she had no trouble returning to sleep.

The boy was walking well now, he mostly followed his sister into the adults bed at daybreak but every now and then he would go to his sisters room first.  They found him there one morning playing quietly with his toy tractor in front of the dolls house, his mother asked him if was playing farm, he shook his head and pointed at the dolls house and clapped his hands once, the mother noticed that all of the little shuttered windows and doors of the dolls house had been closed.

The boy pushed his tractor to the hallway and his mother followed, already having forgotten the house.  That night the little girl slept, no tears, no talking, no walking.

The next night was peaceful too, and the next, things calmed down for a time, the parents thought it a breakthrough, they rewarded her with a toy.

A birthday came, and with it a party, little children ran riot in the house and played with everything.  Whilst the little girl was bathed her mother tidied her toys away, a few things were shoved in the dolls house, a few windows were left ajar.

It initially seemed like another good night, the parents retired to bed at ten, neither child had woken, the days play and excitement had worn them out.

The father woke with a start, his daughter was screaming, and he’d had a horrible dream, he couldn’t remember details, only that she’d been in danger of falling and that he was unable to help her.  He stumbled to her room and lifted her into his arms, gently kissing her forehead as he seated himself in the rooms rocking chair and calmed her back to sleep.

He fell asleep there too, when he woke in the morning his daughter was still snoring with her arms tightly around his neck, his son was stood in the doorway looking at him, “light” he said and pointed, “yes” said his father, “it’s wake up time buddy”, but his son wasn’t pointing at the windows, he was pointing at the dolls house.  His father stood and returned the little girl to her bed, as his back was turned he didn’t notice his son toddle to the dolls house and close the windows.

Things returned to normal, the parents convinced themselves the party was the cause, too much sugar, too much fun.

The house was growing impatient.

It was a calm night, the girl slept soundly in her own bed, there was no breeze through an open window, no preoccupied parent hands had been near, but a small window shutter found itself open anyway.

That night the girl was late to bed, her father was away and the routine was ignored, she fell asleep on the sofa in front of a Disney film, her mother carried her to bed.  As she turned to leave the room she caught a glow of red in her peripheral vision, she began to turn towards it when she heard the baby stir, the glow was forgotten as she headed to her son’s room.

The boy was still awake when his sister began to shout, the mother told her son she would be right back and returned to the little girls room, she wasn’t awake, but it wasn’t sleep walking either, the girl was on her knees crawling across the room, her eyes were closed but the shouting didn’t stop, “no no no” over and over again.  The mother grabbed up her child and left the room, as she swept past the dolls house she caught that red glow again for a moment, then it was gone.  Both children slept soundly with their mother that night, she wasn’t so lucky, she had a nightmare, one her husband would have recognised.

The next morning as the kids ate their Coco Pops the mother went to the room and stood in front of the dolls house, sun streamed in through the windows and she could hear Peppa Pig jumping in muddy puddles from the TV set downstairs, she chided herself for such silliness and headed back to the door, she paused, then returned to the dolls house and closed all the windows.

The father returned and so did calm nights, for a while.

The family didn’t have a cat, but the previous occupants had, the cat flap was still in the kitchen door.  It had been secured on the day they moved in but that night a small ginger cat came through it, ignored the dirty plates on the side in the kitchen and ascended the stairs, it slunk into the little girls room and clawed at the dolls house a couple of times before retracing it’s steps back into the garden, when it climbed back out of the flap it found a large mouse waiting, seemingly frozen to the spot.  The cat collected his pay and headed home.

The girl wasn’t sleep walking this time, she was very much awake, and terrified, her movement wasn’t her own, she tried to scream but she couldn’t make any noise, she reached for the wardrobe, her finger nails scrapping against the door as it slipped away from her, she wanted to close her eyes, they were fixed on the house in front of her and the red glow at the middle window, a window which seemed to grow larger with each reluctant step, she heard a voice she didn’t recognise, it was coming from the window, beckoning her, it was a soothing voice, her steps became a little easier.  She was close now, she could reach out her hand and touch the dolls house, it was smaller than her but now it seemed like she could step right into it.  The voice continued to encourage her, she became calmer, her breathing normalised and she no longer wanted to scream, she began to lean forwards, as if sleep was taking her, when she heard her name, she couldn’t turn her head but she was sure her brother was calling her, it sounded far away.

He was calling her, he was screaming her name from only a few feet away, reaching for her with both hands, stepping towards her as fast as he could.

Their father woke at the sound of his son’s screaming and ran in that direction, he’d been having that awful dream about his daughter again, he took a step beyond her room before realising that was where his son was calling from, he grabbed the door frame and hauled himself through, his son was on his knees crying and his daughter was stumbling forwards, he reached down and picked her up by the waist, he could see the red glow coming from the dolls house and was sure he could hear a scream of pain from within as he grabbed his daughter.  He picked up his son with his free arm and retreated to the parents room, passing them into bed with his wife.

The man returned to his daughters room, he flipped on the light and turned to the dolls house, there was no light, the shutters were all closed, for a moment he felt foolish, had it been part of the dream?  He reached his hand to the roof of the house, it was warm, he believed.  He picked up the house and took it outside, he smashed it against the paving and piled it onto the outdoor grill, he connected the gas and lit it.  The wood began to burn, cracking and fizzing above the blue flames, dying, as the little girl slept.

The Stop

Both locomotives were producing thick black clouds now, exhaust from each chug of the twin English Electric engines at their heart.  The driver in the forward cab was running his departure checks, confirmations were supposed to made over the radio to the driver in the second loco but these two had held this detail for so long they could get by with a few hand signals whilst hanging out of the doors.  Thumbs were raised toward each other, then toward the signal box, the response was a red light shifting to green at the end of their siding, break leavers went down, engine rev’s went up, the train was on it’s way, right on time.

The phone was silent, but she felt the vibrations against her thigh, tonight was the night, and she didn’t have long, everything was ready, she just had to go through with it, she lifted the bottle back to her lips, it burned.

The run was smooth, double green signals all the way to the main line, which meant they would probably have a longer wait at the depot in the morning before the empty return, long enough for a fry-up hopefully.  It was the bottom of the hour, two men craned a shoulder through a small window, almost in perfect sync, two upturned thumbs felt the wind race past.

Her hands were freezing, she cursed herself for leaving the gloves in the car, she wasn’t worried about prints, there would be nothing to identify her at the site, everything she touched would be vaporised.  She knew she wasn’t the only involved party tonight, there would be someone else closing the access road a mile away, and then another crew picking up after her handiwork, for security she knew nothing about either, not that she had any intention of being caught.  She approached the bank as silently as she could, despite it being an obvious loading area it was deserted and unlit, she made her way onto the track, un-shouldered her backpack and got to work, she didn’t have long.

He waited until he could no longer hear her footsteps through the woods, then waited another couple of minutes just in case, he approached the car at a crouch and tried the drivers door handle, it was unlocked, that was good, that would save him time, he opened the door and removed the plastic cover under the steering wheel, in less than a minute the transmitter was connected to the ignition wiring.  He stood and went to close the door, it was his lucky night, there were a pair of gloves on the passenger seat, he reached in and took them, he’d forgotten his, he put them in his back pocket and removed the small black block that had been waiting there, it was identical to the one’s the girl was currently fixing to the railway tracks, he dropped to his front, reached under the car and placed the block under the drivers side.  After returning to the cover of the trees he retrieved the remote detonator for the charges he had placed on his own car and checked there was still a connection, satisfied, he put on his new gloves, and headed further into the woods to prepare for the next stage.

The train’s progress had been checked by a couple of warning signals and a diversion onto a passing loop, the driver in the front engine watched the late night passenger train pass on the mainline, the second driver was taking the opportunity to do the required cargo check.  He made his way from the cab into the engine bay of the loco, it was a tight space and he had to duck, everything to his right was exceedingly hot, eventually he reached the rear cab and went up through the access door.  As it was a clear night and they only had one wagon the inspection could easily  be done from here, the flask was still there, the logo of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority was glinting in the moonlight, the green status LED underneath was lit, all was just as it should be.  He snorted to himself at that thought, as if it was right that he should be dragging a box of nuclear waste across the country at night, past the homes of unknowing families, through forests and fields, to be dealt with God know’s how and God know’s where.  He was sweating now, he had another look at the flask’s status LED, green not red, he was worrying himself, he’d done this too many times.  He decided to walk back to the front cab outside of the loco, he could do with some fresh air.

She was done, she retreated back to the tree line and checked her transmitter,  she had a connection, it was time to find a spot, close enough to see the train coming but far enough away to survive the blast, had she known what the train was hauling she would have recalculated that.

The man had the rotors going, he wasn’t taking off yet as he was worried about radar, but he wanted the engines running so he was ready to go, he also needed to hear the blast of the little car bomb he had just rigged, that was his go signal.  On the dashboard of the helicopter the Geiger counter purred contentedly.

The driver checked his watch, despite the passing loop interruption they were still on time according to the schedule he’d taped to the cab window, they’d be passing the old dairy depot in about 2 minutes, as it was the top of the hour he opened his window and leaned out with his thumb held high, his mate was nowhere to be seen though, he retracted his arm and waited.

In the rear loco the driver hadn’t noticed the time, he was sat at his controls running on autopilot, day dreaming.

Back in the first loco the driver had given up waiting at the window, he picked up the walkie talkie and pressed send twice, expecting nothing more than a pause then reply from his embarrassed colleague, the last thing he expected was the explosion beside the track fifty yards ahead of them and the sight of a burning car lifting into the air, he got the expected response from the other engineer, albeit no more than an exasperated cry, but didn’t bother replying, they both stared at the flaming box of metal blocking the access road to the milk depot as they passed.  He grabbed his cell phone from his pocket and called line control.

At the blast she flattened herself to the ground, burying her face in the foliage, she hadn’t been expecting the blast and unprepared her ears were now ringing, she wouldn’t be able to hear the train approaching, she had to get closer.

The man saw the signal drop from the remote detonator before he heard the blast, he took a deep breath, it was no time to panic, even if they were onto them and that was a controlled explosion there was still a chance the girl would stop the train, without air interference he still might get the opportunity, he strapped himself in and got ready to take off.

Her hearing was starting to clear now, she stumbled out of the woods further along the track than she expected, still before the depot opened out, she could hear the engines now, moving slower than she had been told to expect, the track ahead of her was brightening from the loco’s headlamps but she was concealed by a line side equipment box, it was too early to push the button.  As the train passed her hiding spot she could see the wording on the only wagon, her eyes widened as she processed them.

The man was silent, focusing on his hearing, it would be any second now, one hand was on the HAZMAT mask perched on his head.

She was thinking fast, how much of a bang could that flask handle, did she have the only detonator for those explosives, how had she been stupid enough to not check the target.  She had to end this, she couldn’t risk the flask crossing her trap.  She pushed the button and dived back into the undergrowth, aware that the explosion had come from two directions but not understanding why.

The driver dropped his cell phone, he’d not done much more than give them his name, he jumped forward and hit the emergency brake, invoking the same in both loco’s, ahead of him was a white orange mangle of steel.

The driver in the second loco was still looking at the flames from the first explosion, the sudden stop threw him into the control console knocking him unconscious.  The status LED on the flask remained green.

She was running through the woods now, playing her get away route in her mind, the key was in under the visor ready to go, she knew she was close, when she reached part of the path she recognised she slowed, something wasn’t right, she could smell burning, and a glow was visible ahead of her, it was her car.

He was in the air now, disgusted with himself, he hadn’t disabled the remote trigger on the explosive he’d put on her car, when she set off the track detonation she’d also unknowingly destroyed her escape plan.  She was a loose end he’d have to tie up later, for now he was the only bird in the sky and he had some cargo to collect.  The Geiger counter was still unconcerned but he didn’t dare remove the mask just yet.

She heard the helicopter heading towards the chaos, as it passed above her she could see the winch unit and suddenly everything fell into place, she’d been double crossed, they had tried to kill her, and what they were planning with the contents of that flask didn’t bear thinking about, her actions were automatic, she had a plan, she began to run back to the train.

The conscious driver was outside of his loco now, ranting into his cell phone, tears streaming down his face, he was heading to the second loco to check on his friend, but first he wanted to check the flask, he was terrified of approaching it.  Mercifully the status light was still green, the fire was half a mile away and he began to have ideas of backing the train up, the fierce wind and bright light from above pushed such thoughts out of his mind.

Despite the bulky suit the man manoeuvred the helicopter expertly into place and hit the automatic hover button, the radar was still clear, the Geiger counter still recorded background radiation only and the cargo appeared intact, he began to lower the huge electromagnet towards the wagon.

The driver didn’t see the girl approach him, she kicked the cell phone from his hand and trained her pistol on him whilst demanding he get back in the train and reverse it, he was in too much shock to process the command and starred at the gun with his mouth wide open, she fired a shot near his feet to snap him out of it, he headed for his cab.

She climbed up onto the wagon, hoping the green light she noticed was meant to be on and fired two shot’s towards the helicopter above her, it didn’t move, and the magnet continued down towards her.  She removed the spare plastic explosive block from her pack but just as she grabbed the remote detonator the train lurched into motion and she dropped it, she cursed and tore off the adhesive strip as soon as the magnet was close enough she attached the device and jumped down onto the ground.

He looked out the side of the helicopter, the train was moving now and the magnet wouldn’t lie flat for some reason, he’d have to adjust and have another go, he thought he could see somebody moving around down there, something hadn’t gone to plan as both loco’s were still working, the entire mission was a disaster.

The driver was in a state of high panic, he’d done nothing more but release the brake and throw the throttle into full reverse, the engines screamed under the command.

It was no good, he’d have to reposition, he’d get one more go before the train became to fast for him, he retracted the winch a few feet, disengaged the auto hover and began to track his target.

As soon as the winch was far enough away from the flask she fired her gun, it took four shots but she eventually found the explosive, it was a small block but it was enough to destroy the magnet surface, it sent a shockwave up the cable strong enough to rock the helicopter and disable the winch.

He felt the movement from below and knew the game was up, he ripped the HAZMAT mask over his head and took his anger out on the the winch retract button above him, he wasn’t at all surprised that nothing happened, he began to wheel the helicopter away without taking into account the extended cable, as the magnet swung away from the train it felled a collection of old milk pails and smashed through a window of the derelict warehouse, getting caught on the metal framing as it did so, he increased the rotor speed and pushed the stick forward hoping to break free, under this stress and coupled with a weakness from the explosion the cable snapped, the half still connected to the winch coiled back like a snake, it whipped up into the rotor blades entangling them to a grinding halt, the helicopter fell from the sky.

She didn’t wait to see it crash, she knew she had to move, away from the rapidly departing train, away from her burning car and the wreckage of the helicopter, she skirted her earlier explosion and got back onto the railway track, she ran.

The Adult

There was nothing supernatural about his shivering, he was outside in January in short sleeves, feeding wet clothes into the drier, at least that’s what he told himself.  As the appliance groaned into action he flipped the garage light, and stepped out into his garden, closing the door behind him, no keys, “thats because they are in your pants dumbass”, an attempt to check his running mind, he locked the door and turned to the house, then stopped, he was sure he’d heard a growl.

He muttered an obscenity at himself and began to move, it was his garden, he could see the backdoor only a few feet away, he was scaring himself like a child, the largest wild animal in the area was a fox, and if one of those was around his dog would be out here trying to fuck it, not be sleeping on the sofa.  Unconsciously he moved the empty washing basket into his left hand, the side his mind suggested the sound had come from, he reached for the keys and stepped into the back porch, they snagged on the plastic basket and dropped to the floor.

Another obscenity, he bent and collected them, sat the basket on the shoe rack and glanced into the den, the dog wasn’t asleep on the sofa after all, it must have been outside, he really did need to grow up, he turned and pushed the door a little wider open, began to jangle the keys and call the dogs name when movement in his periphery made him glance back, the dog was in the den, jammed under the side table, as far back as it could get.

It was now too late.  A warm breeze caressed his face, an unpleasant smell swirled into his nostrils, his neck locked, his body wouldn’t allow him to look, again the growl, again the keys hit the floor.

The Pond

Two Little Ducks went swimming one day, over the pond and far away, Mother duck said “quack, quack, quack” but her two little ducks were on the attack.

Cold and crisp the morning was, early, still a frost on the sidewalk and the man’s breath was visible in the air.  He was late for work, again, no time to stop for a coffee today, he had a call at 10, one his boss would be on, a nervous glance at his wrist belied his concern.  He shouldn’t have fretted though, twenty minutes later he’d be lying face down on the path, dead.

The woman was blissfully unaware of her mornings main event, she thought it would just be a leisurely jog around the park, for her at least it darkened in installments.  The first hint that something wasn’t right arrived, as she did, at the pond.  There was a bench, which was fine, it was there yesterday, there was a wheeled shopper, again, she had seen this before, likewise the bag of crumbed bread that sat on top of it, rustling in the breeze off the water, there was something missing though, the pensioner feeding the birds.  Her first thought was that they had fallen in, her jog slowed to a walk, then accelerated into a run, she reached the railing and peered over, at first she thought there was nothing to see, no tell-tale arm or leg protruding from the water, no wooly hat floating on the surface, just a few cubes of bread, bread soaked in the second of the signs, bread, that was red.  As the pennies dropped she swirled to check her surroundings, wiping the sweat matted hair from her brow, no movement, no noise, other than her breathing, no noise out on the pond, no geese, no gulls, no ducks, no wait, there were ducks, two of them, swimming in her direction.

The man checked his wrist again, tempus fugit, time was his enemy this morning, for now at least.  He cleared the avenue of trees and could now see the pond, a troubled looking woman was turning, scanning, something was wrong, you could tell by the look on her face.  His initial concern was that he would be dragged into it, he was late enough already, the way she was leaning over the rail though, that bothered him, someone had fallen in, it could have been a kid, before he knew it, his feet were moving, racing him into trouble.

Those ducks didn’t look right either, she thought, one swimming funny, quick, but at an angle, both beaks were open too, wide open, no noise came from them, there was distinct lack of quack, or hiss, as ducks are wont to do, the world was eerily silent, except for, she wheeled around again, footsteps.  A man was running towards her, she instantly felt relief, although she wasn’t sure why, maybe just another human to share this with would be enough, enough to make the world right again.  Had she not turned at that precise moment she might have known sooner how far from right the world was, as the nearer of the ducks spread his oily black wings and lurched into the sky.

The man did see this, kind of, with his peripheral vision, he was focused on the pretty lady though, was she smiling at him, was there really some crisis or had he misread the signs, it was most likely that he was about to embarras himself but he raised his hand in greeting anyway, he opened his mouth to speak but the word didn’t make it out.  The shock of what happened next dropped his jaw, the woman went down like a gunshot victim, it wasn’t a bullet though, it was two kilos of duck, straight to the side of the head.

She saw the mans mouth open, hi or hello was coming, he was definitely shaping an H, then she was on the ground, with a ringing in her ears, something soft but weighty, and wet, had smacked her in the head at considerable speed, she got onto her hands and knees and tried to clear her head, she wondered why the man wasn’t helping her, she looked in his direction, and began to scream.

As she fell he started towards her, he was scared but his feet were in control today, he heard a rush of air then the world went dark.

The man had fallen on his back, his arms and legs splayed like he was making snow angels, two ducks sat on his chest.  The one facing her still had it’s beak wide open, the mouth was wet crimson, bordered with little serations, tongue flexing from side to side.  Both ducks were slowly rising then falling with the chest of the man, he was still alive, they were riding him like a boat, she had an image of a duck in a captain hat, an image that was soon shifted by what she could really see, the second duck was facing away from her but she could see it pecking at something between its feet, the dirty little head bobbing up and down as it ripped at the white jellied mass, she screamed again, with everything her lungs could give her.  The nearer duck’s head jerked in the direction of the sound, eyes fixed in their sockets, a milky yellow soup, obviously blind.  The screaming continued, all that aerobic work was paying off, had she not been at full panic she might have read the signs and realised the sound was the only thing that could belay her location.  The duck stood and slid off the man, it only had one foot, the stump dragged on the tarmac, one wing partially extended for balance as it stumbled towards her.  She was on her backside now, scrambling back, Reebok’s scraping the wet pavement, grit digging into her palms as she backed away, still screaming, her throat would be sore tomorrow, if she made tomorrow that was.  Her heart was pounding, nostrils flared, she had never felt more alert, and just as she was making ground on the demonic little beastie she felt the rail at her back.

The man was awake now, it hurt, it hurt like hell, so much he couldn’t pinpoint exactly where the pain started, also, worryingly, the world didn’t look right, it looked flat, he could only see from one eye, he instinctively moved his hand to the other and felt space, and concentrated pain, his hand came away red, thick deep red, it was the mans turn to scream.

Stumpy stopped, his head moved towards the sound coming from the man, the woman reacted fast, extending her left leg, swinging viciously, the blue and white sneaker connected with a satisfying crack, the duck took a flight without a single flap, it hit the bench and landed on its back.

The man became aware of the weight on his chest, he struggled into a sitting position, moving it away, it felt like a cat, then he rememebered the ducks, and that he was late.  He looked down at the wet black mass writhing in his lap, choking on something, he could hear its wheezing breath, the beak angled up at him, something was jammed in there good, something that looked like an oyster, he hoped it would choke, his brain was catching up now, the pain in his head, the blood on his fingers, the thing in the ducks mouth, he began to vomit.

The woman was on her feet now, she had to help the man, his face was covered in blood from the obvious wound under his brow, the second duck was in his lap extending its neck, trying to get something down its gullet.  She reached for it, it wasn’t solid, it had mass, and bones, but it squirmed, like a half empty bag of wet rice, feathers came off in her hands as she threw it after its mate, she could still feel in on her hands though, she looked down to see maggots and a yellow sticky juice.

The man watched as the duck arced perfectly onto the first, they clashed beaks then turned to face their quarry.  Stumpy’s neck was broken, it wasn’t his day, he was back on his foot and heading for the arena but his head was hanging down by his flank, beak dragging on the ground, his mate had finally swallowed his starter and was after more, the screaming had stopped but they could still hear heavy breathing and sobbing, it wasn’t over yet.

The woman lifted the man to his feet, they were leaning on each other as they staggered away, unconscious of direction, desperate to leave this horror behind them.  The man had lost a lot of blood, he had no idea how long he had been out for but he knew he was really late now, he missed a step and took them both down, as they untangled and retook their feet the woman felt a sharp pain on her ankle, just above her sock, just do it said the stitching, just chew it thought the duck, which had torn a good inch of flesh from her.  She was too angry to scream at this, only a guteral cry made it out, the duck swallowed then hissed right back at her, spitting blood as it did so.

The man was deep in shock now, he went down again, onto one knee before keeling completeley forward onto his face, the pain was already a fire and he noticed no change.  Stumpy went for the easy target and tore a square of silk from inside the mans collar, he didn’t care for this so went back for some neck instead. All the man could smell was decay, his stomach turned again, with the uncontrolable sobbing he was starting to choke, he pushed his arms out in effort to raise himself but could still feel the weight of the duck, now from his throat, Stumpy was hanging on, swinging like a pendulum , tick then tock.

The woman had also straightend up, it hurt to stand, there was clearly tendon damage, she punched the duck away and looked up just in him to see Stumpy return to earth with a full beak, she heard the flesh rip and could see the pink windpipe underneath, it was time for another scream.

Stumpy’s mate had decided to change table, this one fought back, and was a little chewy, the duck could smell the fresh blood and headed away from the woman, he was then lucky not to be crushed as the man gave in and collapsed back to the ground, he was done.  The blood from his empty socket had run into the other blinding him completely, he could hear his breath leave him from a new place, not his mouth or nose but lower, under his chin.  He was colder now, really cold, his passing out was blessed relief, and final.

The woman had somehow made it to the bench, she grabbed it as she would a life raft and hauled her body up, she looked back to the man and wished she hadn’t, one duck was tearing at him like a vulture, Stumpy couldn’t raise his head to eat so seemed to be only lapping at the growing pool of blood, there was no mist of breath above the mans face.  It was time to go.  Her ankle wouldn’t allow her to run so she hopped, she didn’t care how ridiculous she looked, she could now see people through the clearing fog, cars, lights, the park gates, help.  Her screams gave way to cries, her arms waving maniacally, she had escaped.

The man was gone, had he not been he would have heard the noise, a quack, emminating from the pond, the ducks did hear, both turned to attention and ambled back towards the water, they entered with little grace and swam towards the reeds, back to Mother duck, back to the nest, back to the eggs.

The Rim

Morning on Ensadium 19, not that you’d be able to tell from the available light, midway though the winter they couldn’t be further from the twin system suns, a bad place to live, but a great place to earn.

Dex was outside the hanger, enjoying his morning smoke, despite the furious hammering and shouting going on behind him, the scout was fucked, again, Kip thought a couple of reconditioned power converters would sort it, it bloody well better do, today was a high risk drop, they’d be skating the rim pretty close, dangerously close in Dex’s mind.

The tab was thrown and he headed back inside, out of the wind, but unable to escape the cold, every breath exhaled a cloud in the empty hanger. It used to be the busiest in the quadrant, thanks to the ore rush of 4014, despite it’s number it was the only real planet in the system, 1 through 18 we nothing more than boulders really, full of valuable minerals needed back on Bb.

Amazing how much a place can change in 6 years, back then there would have been two thousand miners based here, another hundred service staff, there were shops, bars, churches, a regular home far from home. If you knew where to look you’d even find drugs and by the hour companionship. Then they found the hole, or you could say, the hole found them.

It was before Dex and Kip’s time, before BHWM Incorporated was even a glint in its founders eye. At first no one knew what was happening, a few satellite’s and navigation buoys went offline, a maintenance crew of six went to investigate but never returned, initially pirates were blamed, buoys were always being hacked to lure privateers into un patrolled channels, but killing OreEx crew, no one had been so bold before, and beside’s there were no reports of stolen transports.

Then the penny dropped, big penny that it was, the star of the OreEx fleet, Costaguana, a 20 million tonne ore refinery and transport, also disappeared. It was different this time though, the crew fought their attacker and radioed for help, reporting the sudden surge in radiation levels, it could be nothing else, it was an event horizon.

Nearly 200 lives were lost on that day, all of them OreEx staff, by the time the company had arranged a remembrance service on E19 the population had dwindled to 84, the place was cursed, the mining finished, the orbit could not be trusted, not until it was thoroughly charted.

OreEx were out though, the only company with the funds to research the hole thought better of it, reports suggested the sector was not worth the cost, they moved on, Costaguana was forgotten.

But one of those 84 had an idea, and two rotations later she was confident of the holes location and strength, the event horizon was mapped and with some stolen OreEx buoys the safe zone was marked, then she had another idea, and a business plan was marked as well.

Black Hole Waste Management Inc was founded, and the transport route from Bb re-opened, albeit in reverse. Where once valuable harvest was taken from E19 now dangerous and unwanted material was brought to it.

A flask of this material was Dex’s next responsibility, as he walked up into the loading bay he heard a couple of expletives then a laugh from Kip, followed by the comforting whine of the scout coming to life.

The take off was standard, plumes of sand buffeted them back and forth as they raised to safe distance, the thruster was engaged and acceleration locked them into their flight seats, seconds later the atmosphere was breached and they were in low orbit, the planet below them now completely uninhabited.

Docking with the flask was easy, the auto-pilot handled this impressively gently, Kip voiced his regular analogy of a fly landing on shit, pretty accurate today, this flask was hot, nuclear waste from Bb’s main atmospheric conditioner.

The scout slowly rotated the flask to face the target point, once this was done the locks were disengaged, Dex and Kip were both required to check visually, they didn’t want to be locked on once the hole had the flask in its clutches.

They started to push, very slowly, with a load like this it was tricky to gauge the release point, despite it’s lethal contents the container was light, they’d have to get it closer than during a standard drop.

They’d had scares before, a frozen link had to be cut through on an axe wieldng EVA, a lesson learned, the breach had electro heating fitted after that.

Dex engaged the reverse thruster, the flask slipped forward, a test release, so far so good, Kip reported this accordingly on his console, the cockpit continued to glow green, forward thrust was returned and the scout once more progressed the flask towards its final resting place.

With the two safety test’s complete the mood in the cabin relaxed, they had a few moments to rest before release and return, Kip closed his eyes, he couldn’t block out the green glow of the cabin though, not that he minded, it made him think of the grass at home.

It was time, the rim was approaching, the safe distance where they could release their cargo into the pull of the hole yet easily reverse thrust and move to safety.

The sensors were starting to wake up. The radiation probe first, then the gravity detector, two distinct tones a couple of seconds apart pulsing with their updated information, the gap between the beeps decreased, Dex had the rhythm in his head, tapping his fingers against the stick. Normally, as the sounds converged it was time, but not now, he needed to be closer before release, the container didn’t have the mass of his regular garbage. He counted, one, then two, then all the way to five, the the pitch of the alarm was higher, the lights around him were alternating red and yellow, a massive contrast to the blue safety buoys flanking them. Now, he pushed the button, nothing happened, that split second seemed to last an hour, his chest tightened, his breath held, pupils fully dilated as fear gripped him, he jabbed at the button again, this time blessedly followed by the firing of the reverse thruster, but they still moved forward, towards the nothing, he pressed again, a second thrust, these damn gloves needed replacing, they had slipped across the control and the thought of a failed thruster had nearly given him a heart attack, they stopped, the flask was clear, headed for oblivion, into the black.

Dex flicked the stick to turn the craft, making eye contact with Kip as he did so, they said nothing, their eyes has moved out to the display before them, flask, after flask, after flask.

The Contents

On North Boundry Road there is a house. In this house is a room. In this room is a cupboard . In this cupboard is…

The cupboard is locked.

I have no idea whats inside, or why its locked.

It’s right in front of me, at the end of my bed.

I can’t sleep, I can’t stop wondering, whats inside, why is it locked.

It could be empty, thats the most likely, its a holiday home after all, who would leave anything they valued where people they don’t know could get at it.

Then why is it locked, who would lock an empty cupboard, no, there is something in there, something they don’t want me to see, something they don’t want anyone to see.

Surely that’s their right, it’s their house, it’s their cupboard, it might just be an old suitcase, or cleaning products, yes, that could be it, makes no sense carrying the hoover here every time a guest leaves, might as well have one here, it must be a nice one though, one worth stealing, else why lock it up, of course, that must be it.

I slept.

Then I woke.

No not a vacuum cleaner, we saw the maintenance guy leave when we arrived, he was loading a vacuum into his van, one of those squat red ones, with a face on it, called Henry.

What then, what’s in there.

Clothes, maybe they keep clothes here for their own visits, or if they ever need to stay unintended, backup clothes, just in case, if I owned two houses I would do something like that, it makes perfect sense.

I slept.

Then I woke.

They live nearby, I have their address in my phone, its by the bedside table, lets look, yes, very close, same postcode, no need for clothes here.

I can’t sleep.

I should sleep, I should put this out of my mind and sleep, remember the proverbial cat.

I can’t sleep.

It’s pitch black now, even the light of the moon is gone, I can’t see the cupboard, but I know its there, knowing it’s there is making me think I can see it, a blacker shape in the darkness, darker than the dark itself.

This is ridiculous, i’m a grown man, I must sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I move downstairs, quietly, carefully, not wanting to disturb my family, they’re not concerned with the cupboard, they’re asleep. Their curiosity under control.

I find the keys, one for the front door, one for the rear patio doors, one marked shed and one small one for the windows, no big key, not big enough for that big old lock on the cupboard.

I return to bed.

I can’t sleep.

Big old lock, big old lock, to big to pick, not that I would no where to start, big enough to shine torch through though maybe.

Enough.

I must sleep.

I can’t sleep.

I get the torch, and move to the cupboard door. It’s no use, whichever angle, whichever way, the light reflects only off the inside of the lock. I can see nothing.

Although.

What was that, did I smell something, from the keyhole, damp, musty.

Another check.

Nothing.

How about sound, I place my ear to the keyhole, i’m actually scared, why am I scared.

I must get back to bed.

My ear is still at the keyhole, it’s been some time, i’ve heard nothing, yet I feel that i’ve heard something. My mind is playing tricks I fancy, I hope.

I return to my bed. It seems safer there.

I must sleep.

I can’t sleep.

It’s not so dark now, the sun is rising, I can see the cupboard, I can see my wife in bed beside me, i’m no longer scared. Only tired.

I sleep.

I dream.

I’m standing in front of the cupboard, there is a key in the lock, my hand is on the key, the key is turned. The door is open, a portal, a stairwell, lined with sheets of pine descends before me, the smell is back, musty, salty. I hear the sound of water, lapping gently against the unseen coast.

The torch is forgotten.

I step forward, one step at a time, they are stone, worn smooth over how many years, by how many enquiring feet.

It’s perfectly dark here, the light of the bedroom spills into the aperture above me, I want to go back, I know I should go back. But there is light below me as well, white light, not the comforting yellow glow of that behind me.

My steps are not my own, I still descend, the atmosphere thick in my nostrils, the echo of my footfalls louder now, I’m at the bottom.

Impossibly, the light of a moon, illuminating my surroundings, foundation beams, as far as the eye can see, with a narrow pier on each, for there is water, a lot of water, a subterranean sea.

My brain starts to piece things together, to pull logic from the chaotic haze, then it freezes, as does my heart.

There he is.

There it is.

I hear the water lapping at the side of his bright yellow dinghy as it slowly sways towards me, his yellowed reptilian eyes stare right through me.

And that smell.

Cold, shivering, i’m scared again, terrified.

I’m asleep.

I can’t wake up.

He’s smiling at me now, his scarlet red lips, bright against his white face, I barely notice his red hair, or the pom pom’s on his suit. I know whats coming next.

His lips pull back, revealing his yellow teeth, fangs sharp like a dog.

Pennywise the clown.

I scream.

I wake.

Thank god, it was a dream, he’s not real, it’s not real.

I move close to my wife, blessedly undisturbed.

I lift my head to look at the cupboard.

Closed.

No key in the lock, no sound or smell out of place.

Only good sounds invade my ears, my wife’s breathing, gulls squabbling outside the window.

I don’t dare close my eyes.

I must sleep.

I dare not sleep.

I dare not dream.

I slept.

I awake, my wife is not there, I panic.

Then I hear my children, and smell bacon.

I descend the carpeted staircase, without so much as glance towards the cupboard, without so much as a thought to my nightmare.

I reach the bottom of the stairs, there is an envelope on the mat by the door.

I collect it.

Nameless, just a plain brown envelope.

I tear it open.

A key.

The Cigarette

The metal on metal sound was as unmistakable as the design, the lid was open long enough only for its owner to thumb the wheel and light her Morley. As the first snakes of smoke wound from her nostrils the flame of the lighter died, starved of oxygen as the lid snapped shut, the Zippo dropped into a jacket pocket, the ball was rolling.

Rolling, like the ring of flame down the paper cylinder, exposing the packed leaf to the elements, an ember wrapped eye surveying the calm before the storm. Her own gaze followed the exhaust trail, up towards the fluorescence of the service stop’s sign, the strobing of the logo matching the beat of her heart.

Not that she noticed, nothing was heard, even the sound of cars racing by on the interstate, they were irrelevant, like time itself, there was no going back.

The sting in the back of her throat was noticed though, this was her first packet, only one removed so far, none would follow, she knew it was true, they could kill, the taste bitter, almost like coffee, but something more, something elusive.

As the fingers of her left hand caressed the golden filter, the fingers of her right explored the steel pump handle, lifted from its bay, reflected in the gleaming chrome of her bike, metal on metal again.

Her grip strengthened, low by her side, moving ever so slightly between the wheels of her target, it pooled quickly, the bright light of the forecourt painting colours on its surface, she heard the shouts, there wasn’t long now, she fixed her stare into that of the loudest voice, stopping him from advancing further, a raised eyebrow changed his direction totally.

The pump was replaced, one hand on the throttle, the other removing the cigarette from her lips, her shade of cherry red forever marking its base, then, it was gone, arcing through the air, towards the end.

The Shot

He blinked the water out of his eyes again, the rain was getting harder, the ground had become a puddle beneath him, he didn’t dare move, his quarry was slowly moving into view, if he got this wrong the cold wet mud would be the least of his problems. He was kneeling against one of the many fallen trees brought down by the storm, his heart beating in time with the drips of rain onto a leaf to his right, his eyes were wide, he suppressed a feeling from his gut, something approaching fear, fear he couldn’t allow in. This would be his second take down tonight, the first was flawless, but the target had been easy, old, dumb, and the weaker sex, his new enemy was in her prime, and angry. A few yards up the path she stalked towards him, driven by her instincts, the hunter was also the hunted. The drips became further apart, as did his heartbeats, he could feel the time slowing down, he knew the moment was close, he slowly found tension on the trigger, he could hear her breathing now, hear the scraping on the path, could see her shadow encroaching from the corner, he held his breath, held the rifle as steady as he could, her head began to emerge, she stopped, she sniffed the air, almost as if she could read his mind. One more step, he could see her eyes, looking past him, so close, tiredness crept down his arm, he couldn’t afford to breath, the moment was upon him, there it was, he had a clear view of her neck, he squeezed the trigger, blinked and gasped down lungfuls of air, the crack of the dart leaving the rifle was instantly replaced with the cry of the lioness, her head whipped around, attempting to attack the invader on her nape before she collapsed on her side. He put down the rifle then relaxed on to the tree trunk he’d used for cover, the vets had moved in on the big cat, he had the thumbs up, she’d wake up, home in her enclosure with her mate, waiting for another tree fall to aid escape.

The Flash

Its funny how certain moments stick in your mind forever, its as if the brain can see the future and records those few seconds in high fidelity knowing their importance. My mind has collected a few in my life, but one I know, is all i’ll ever think about again. I was in the spare room of my parents cottage sorting through boxes and bags in preparation of the house sale, it was dusty work, the dirt under my fingernails and the feeling of the old browning papers was making my skin begin to crawl, I sat up straight for a moments rest and looked out the window at a dark sky, a sky that suddenly went bright purple, then pink, again to purple then back to black. The whole event had lasted only a couple of seconds but still the complete silence that accompanied it unnerved me. I left my work and headed downstairs and outside, hoping that someone else would be thinking the same, no such luck, no sign of life anywhere, no surprise in this village. I stepped back into the empty house and turned on the TV, I was greeted by a news update, apologising for interrupting the regular programming, I was feeling anxious, and flicking through the 5 channels to see the same public broadcast didn’t help.

“no threat, American officials have admitted surprise at the size of the size at of the blast but consider it a successful test, the UN has contacted President Walken demanding an explanation, Iran has admonished the US for its radical hypocrisy to the on-going nuclear treaty. The Prime Minister has assured people that there is no risk to the public in the UK and that she will be addressing the nation after speaking to President Walken. Once again, the United States of America has tested an experimental device in the Arctic circle which was powerful enough for the blast to be seen in the entire northern hemisphere, this new type of weapon allegedly has no fallout outside the target radius and presents no threat…”

No threat, a light show like that from a bomb four thousand miles away and no radioactive fallout, I needed a beer, I left the TV on and headed to the fridge, popped a can then started leafing through a box file in the lounge, end of the world or not, I joked to myself this needed doing before I returned to London.

Thats when the first storm started.

The sky, which minutes ago, had been typical of a clear summers evening, was fast becoming grey, the moon had disappeared into this mist and rain started to fall, fast and heavy, perfectly vertical, had it been any colder I would have described it as hail, but no icy residue was left on the windowsill. The downpour was torrential, it sounded like a waterfall, crashing against the tarmac of the road outside, which already resembled a lake. Thunder roared from all angles, the storm must have been right overhead. I waited for the lightning strike so I could gauge the distance, but it never came. I headed for the front door, as soon as I pulled it open I could smell ozone, I could hear that electrical hum in the air around the telegraph lines, like whispering in the next room, then as suddenly as the storm had begun, mid roar the thunder ceased, and the world went dark. All of the lights in the cottage were out, and the streetlights, the power must have blown, the storm, despite its lack of wind and electrical discharge must have taken down some power lines, I was in almost perfect black. The storm was over, but the heavy rain remained, that was just over a week ago, and it still hasn’t stopped.

I can barely recall what my life was like before “the flash”, as its now known. The last normal thing I did was get in the car to drive back to London the morning after. After some sleep I’d almost forgotten the events of the night before, tied up with my own personal problems. My thoughts evaporated when the sound of heavy rain on my window replaced the beeping alarm of my phone. With the radio as my companion along the motorway I learned little more of the situation, only repeated plays of last nights official announcement, and our own Prime Ministers call for calm and business as usual.

Back in London things were pretty normal for the first few days, people awoke, went to work, went to the pub and went home, children went to school and kicked footballs around wet playgrounds. There were sporadic power outages over the capital and throughout the country. On the surface it looked like a typical city winter, but there was also a deep sense that something not right was going on, a look of foreboding carried in the eyes of all, the sound of laughter a distant memory. The newspapers were filled with conjecture and paranoia about the weather change and the national grids reliability, understandably insistent that the cause was the Arctic experiment, that the Americans “had gone to far this time”. The Daily Mail, had taken things a step further and arranged a peaceful protest to Whitehall to demand an apology and a full and open enquiry from the governments of the world.

This protest, scheduled a week after the incident, was heavily attended, dwarfing the anti-capitalist protests of a few years previous, over 3 million people brought the capital to a stand still, despite the weather. The timing, whilst poignant, was also horrifically fatal, the earthquake hit London in mid afternoon, the first meaningful quake in London for over 250 years. This was the moment that everything changed, the world went black, I was instantly nauseous from the movement of the ground, the noise was incredible, I could hear the city being ripped to shreds around me, glass windows exploded, sections of the road disappeared into steaming holes, concrete and bricks rained down from building facades, I collapsed to my knees just inside a railway arch, immediately I was lifted by a stranger and hauled out of the arch onto the road, I landed to the sound of groaning steel as the viaduct folded down onto the ground, the railway tracks buckled as they were dragged along into a cloud of rubble and dust, as this began to settle I could see a bundle of thick electrical cables fizzing and popping away in the spot I had previously been in. I lay there in the light of these sparks, in the pouring rain and began to cry.

I didn’t return home that night, I doubt I still have a home to go to, it was either destroyed on that first night or made inhabitable since. I awoke in that same spot at daybreak to the sound of crisis. The panic on the streets was harrowing, the entire city was completely without electricity, great plumes of smoke rose into the cloudy sky from fires so fierce that even the ceaseless rain could not extinguish them and the sirens of emergency service vehicles were so constant that they became unnoticeable. The devastation was overwhelming in the daylight, in every direction was destruction, the remains of crumbled buildings descended like a beach into the sea of torn tarmac, leaving only the wireframe of the supporting structure, lamp posts and trees lay like fallen soldiers, cars had been upturned where they sat and amongst all this, masking all of this, the bodies, they were everywhere, broken and bloodied and bruised, faces contorted in pain, many with grieving company in tears at their side, but many many more, tragically alone and ignored. I stumbled to the Thames, to the aftermath of a massive tidal wave, the Thames path looked more like a muddy salt marsh. The overwhelming view was of the HMS Belfast, which had been crudely thrown into London Bridge with enough force to rip a forty foot hole in its side, it had listed to an uncomfortable angle with its prop clear of the water. Around it fragments of other boats and any traffic which had the misfortune to be on the bridge at the time crashed around in the rapidly rising river.

I wandered through the carnage in search of news, in search of understanding, and not least higher ground, trying to come to terms with what had happened. There was no television, both the landline and cell phone networks were down, and no papers had been printed.

I determined to head for the nearest Police station. I wasn’t surprised to find I was not the only one with this idea. A mob of over a hundred people were grouped around the riot van angrily demanding everything from three well worn coppers inside. The scene was reminiscent of the breadline handouts so common in eastern Europe two decades ago. As I began to cross the road to join the mob a sound came from an alley directly behind me, at first I thought it was the rustling of rubbish from the bins outside an underground station but it sounded again, it had to be a radio, whats more, it sounded like a news report.

I headed to the source of the sound, an access alley for some ventilation system used by the station, sure enough there was a man there holding a radio to his ear, his back to me. A few days ago I would have considered this man a tramp, a man to avoid and at least ignore. Roles had reversed, he was probably cleaner than me, and certainly warmer, in addition to this he had something I was desperate for, information. I shouted for his attention, hoping not to startle him off and away, at first he didn’t seem to hear me before slowly turning in my direction, he didn’t speak, merely eyed me over, he then reached into his pocket and slung some change at me. I was shocked, and despite the situation, guilted. I collected up his money and went closer, placing it on the floor between the two of us, the whole time our eyes were locked. I explained that I didn’t want his money, only to hear the radio in his hand, which he then held towards me and increased the volume.

The news was brutal, it was a suicide note, not only mine, but an entire planet.

The experiment in the Arctic circle was a bomb, a supposedly clean bomb with no nuclear fallout. But something had gone very wrong, the chain reaction had spread from the blast zone down through the ice and punctured the earths core, molten magma was pouring into the Arctic circle releasing massive heat. This was rapidly increasing the evaporation of water which had caused the constant rainfall, sea levels were rising as the Arctic ice melted into the steaming sea. All around the globe floods and storm surges caused mudslides and further destruction, fault lines were breaking up and new volcano’s were born. We had managed to decimate the water cycle and expedite the greenhouse effect in an instant.

My mind wandered, the further report of a US Navy exclusion zone and attempts to extinguish and plug the hole was useless to me, I could see the endgame, very soon the clouds, of both condensation and volcanic ash would be so thick that sunlight would be history, however the air would no longer be breathable a long time before this. Collectively we were breathing our last breath, before our inevitable extinction.

I ran, as fast as I could, to nowhere in particular, just a vague notion of heading north, away from the flooding Thames. My tears of despair washed by the battering rain, ran down my face until I had no more to cry, my lungs ached and my legs failed, I was once more on my knees. There, in the gutter, was a pen. I picked it up, regained my feet, pulled this envelope from my pocket and began to write.

Thats it, we are up to date, I’m writing now from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral, I’m surrounded by survivors, some here to pray, but most like myself for the shelter. I had no time for religion during my life, it would be highly hypocritical to start now. The Thames is at the steps, its advance has not slowed. We have no food and no clean water, a few of the more optimistic souls are attempting to fish, we have collected rainwater but found it impossible to stomach. The sun is a forgotten friend and the cold is closing in. Many of our number are hysterical, the screaming and crying is over powering, the fear and uncertainty are thick in the air, all i’m uncertain of now is how I will die. I’m thankful that many of the things i’ve seen over this last week make no attempt to haunt me, but when I close my eyes, all I see is the flash.