Friday, August 2, 2013

Dead Trick & Other Things

Been a while since I posted but not been dead or anything. Just writing and working on some interviews(yup same as last time me asking writers such deep questions as 'where did your dad hide his porn? etc, but different spin this time'  which will be coming soon as I get them finished. Writing wise I'm back to the old ways of writing, instead of scanning markets and writing specifically for them I'm back to where it was fun, having an idea and writing the story, not caring if it finds a home, just back to enjoying the game of words itself. Which is working well, getting a nice little stable of finished-friends again, gonna let one out to trot on here in a moment.

First two victims for interviews are Dene Bebbington author of Zombie Revelations and Matt Hilton, back for a second interview because he's a sucker for punishment. Don't forget his Rules of Honour is now out in paperback, released yesterday.

So here's a short story.

Dead Trick.

Anna watched the other smokers stomp out their half-finished cigarettes and head back inside. It was her last night of smoking and she'd be fucked if she was going to waste one. She flicked the butt away only when she tasted burning filter.
Any hopes of sneaking to her seat after the intermission were lost as an orb of light bubbled her.
A shout from the stage: “A late returner!”
She managed a shrug.
“Well it seems only appropriate that I reward you by making you my assistant for the next trick.” The crowd applauded and Anna died a little inside. There was no option other than to get it over and done with.
She was led over to the tall bald man who was billed as 'The Prince of the Fantastic, Tobias Corbaux'.
Corbaux beckoned and two ladies brought on a wardrobe like box. Corbaux regarded the crowd. “I know, I know, you've seen this one all before, many times no doubt. Lady goes into the box, lady disappears from the box only to reappear... I do it a little differently.” He turned to Anna. “To waste no time let me lead you into, 'The Box of the Bizarre'.” He garnered earfuls of silence from the crowd who'd seen better on the television. Anna stepped inside and Corbaux closed the door with a slam turning her world midnight. She blinked a few times, not sure why she was doing so, the world was the same hue whether her eyes were wide or whether they were shored up tight. Her other senses became heightened, her fingertips ran over every ridge in the panels like Braille but found they tattled no tales. Her nose huffed up the staling air but found no roses, though a new scent, one slightly acrid wafted up. Black turned to blacker and things became forgotten.
A breeze brought her to as the door opened.
The air in the box had grown hard to breathe and nearly not worth the effort to draw. She staggered out of the box to the din of rapturous applause. She wasn't sure what she'd done to deserve such a reception until she looked down and her eyes filled with the sparkles and winks from the thousands of sequins on her cocktail dress, a dress which was not hers. Her eyes widened with the realisation that she'd only been in the box a matter of seconds. She began muttering out some quasi-words but her brain wouldn't conjure any coherence. Corbaux settled the audience with a wave of his hand. “I figured she may as well look like one of my wonderful assistants.” That brought laughter from the audience. One of the real assistants came and took Anna by the hand and led her off stage.
“How did he just do that, I mean, I was in the box and didn't feel anything.”
The assistant smiled and stonewalled her with. “Magic.”
“Where are my clothes?”
“In our changing room you can swap back into them there.”

Anna woke and reached for the packet of smokes before remembering she'd twisted the packet so they'd be useless if she caved. She threw herself in the shower and felt an itch inside and knew it to be the start of cravings. A couple of hours was all she had to stay strong for. Stacy from work had used a feller when she'd quit smoking, just a bit of hypnotism and she'd saved a fortune and gained a better than average lung capacity.
As she dried herself she thought about last night and the trick she'd been a part of but not a party to. The shock had waned, though there was still a little intrigue, but that was fading.
Doctor Steve sat her in a comfy chair and swung a pocket watch. Anna felt herself dozing off and it reminded her of how she'd blacked out the previous night. Then she was under and oddly back in the box. She began to feel like she was falling. Then it was over and she felt a stone floor beneath her. The darkness was gone too. The light was weak but she could see through it and wished she couldn't. Anna tried to move away from the thing but her limbs felt foreign and uncontrollable. Hands came into view, obscuring the obscenity. Anna's eyes followed the hands to the wrists, to the arms and then all the way north to the face. It was one of Corbaux's assistants. The hands took grip of her ankles and dragged her to the shores of the filthy being. All lumps, eyes, teeth and tendrils of writhing flesh, all working towards her, ready for contact. Anna tried for a scream but found no voice. The dragging hands relinquished their grip and began to work at disrobing her before exiting to allow the creature its play and its pleasure. The thing rolled her over, manoeuvring her into the position it wanted and then she felt it bite deep into the soft spot between her shoulder blades. She felt the scrape of a thousand needle-teeth breaking skin and flesh, worming around until it had her heart surrounded before farming the juices of her soul.
The scream she forged was a natural one, shrill, piercing and deafening in its decibel level.
“One, two, three awake!”
Anna opened her eyes, the scream still spilling from her lips until she realised where was. She dragged in a breath, keeping it in her lungs until she had to spew it back out.
“What happened?” Asked Dr. Steve.
“I... I don't know.” She got up and began undoing the buttons on her blouse.
“What are you doing?” He asked as she took off her top. Anna turned her back to him.
“Are there teeth marks on my back?” Pure panic rode the words from her mouth. The hypnotist arose and went to inspect her. He reached out, his forefinger landed on her skin betwixt her shoulder blades. “What the...”

Friday, March 15, 2013

A new tale, a review and some stuff you need to read.

Firstly, my short tale has gone up over at Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers, get to it here

Secondly, that Manc feller Col Bury has grafted some more and swept up a pile of grit and put it to pages again with a new collection. You can grab it here.

Even though he's now got an iMac and keeps buggering it up, the words they keep on flowing. A new Joe Hunter short has battered its way to freedom, grab it here. And don't be forgetting the new novel Rules of Honor, grab it here. I'd suggest shoplifting it from Waterstones but they're a big bunch of cunts and don't stock it. It seems you've got to be dead for a ton score years, or write about Vampires who go out in daylight and sparkle to get some shufty room on their shelves.

Now for the review. It's about 6 months late, but we all know I'm one of the laziest people ever. I now have a little dedicated office that's all mine, should mean I'm more productive, nah bollocks, there's a tree in the garden and all I can think about is seventeen different ways to climb it, so I have thje blinds down.

Gathering Darkness by Chris Allinotte. The man is one of the nicest writers I've met, never seems to have a bad word for anyone. In that way he kind of reminds me of the intro to the late Richard Laymon's Fiends written by Dean Koontz where Mr. Koontz basically said you wouldn't expect words and sentences quite like it from the man himself. I think Chris is a bit like that, nice family guy, stand-up person in general, but leaves all that in a puddle at the door of his writing room/brain.

The review is gonna be done over two posts. You could just skip what I think and buy it here.

The collection starts off with a previously unpublished tale called, 'Coming Home' and within a few lines you know it's going to be a stonker. Chris has this ability to take a seemingly normal thing like a tattoo and use it to help set the level of emotion his wants from his readers, it's only a tattoo yet it looks depressed which then makes you automatically think, 'If the tattoo's a bit fucked up then how fucked up is the bearer of the ink?'

And within a few more sentences you forget you're even reading it and swept away with the pace. It's the realism of the characters, Ty, his busted up life and junkie girlfriend. He stays away from simple stereotypes, or preaching and lets you see to the heart of the matter and their failings. That's where the normality ends and the true fucked-up world of the Allinotte comes stampeding out baying for blood.

Next is Sex and Beer, another little treat for me as I never read this one when it premièred. Said I missed it then but chuffed to have found it now. The good thing about Chris as a writer is his skill to tell a tale with great pose but he doesn't shy away from being vulgar, which is how I like my fiction, the gent of this story after realising he didn't have a rubber, so this was his reasoning – He'd pull it out and pop on that perfect back of hers, or something. Pure class.

Bones of Contention - A quarter of a page in and a grin came to me dial. One of the many things Chris does well is character interaction, believable character interaction at that, especially when the characters in question aren't exactly mature. A few more lines in and you just know the shit has hit the fan. The ability to introduce a fucked up scenario and make the reader think nothing of it is great. He doesn't feel the need to give a shit-load of back story, just drops you in it. Now I'm pausing and hoping to God above that this isn't a Bromance...or worse 50 Shades of Gay...Phew nope.

The Doll Maker and the Rat – If there's one thing Allinotte isn't it's that he's not frightened to experiment with his writing. This one is going to be either weird and wonderful, or just weird and leave me wondering if I somehow missed something along the way. it's good if not a little fucked up, but hey, fucked up works.

Devil's Night – Two teens out for some shenanigans. Bog-rolling houses and trashing peoples pumpkins, all harmless fun...until they pick the wrong house to fuck with. There's some great banter between the two main characters. I'm glad I never went trick-or-treating to this blokes house.

Pick Your Own Pumpkin – Introducing Detective Blackwood. Pumpkins holding the body parts of a farmer's wife. This one was sharp as it was short.

Newpaper Hat – A dark and lyrical bit of poetry.

Kittens for Sale – You kinda got the feeling of what was going to happen, but the story flowed so well you swam along with it. The ending leaving you with a very real sense of sorrow. Definitely one of the more emotional pieces.

The Moustache – There's the ability to come up with insane weirdness and then there's this. I can't even begin to fathom how the hell he came up with this story. Definitely one of my favourites in the collection.

The Sins of the Past – Noir'ish and smooth with a subtle helping of the supernatural.

Part Two Soon'ish

Friday, February 15, 2013

On Target

In the last post I said what my immediate plans were. Getting a piece done for Matt Hilton's new Pulse Antho and getting one done for Thrillers, Killers 'n' Chillers. Halway done with the thriller, it's taking longer because unlike horror I have to stay in the confines of the 'real' world, don't know how people do it! The horror piece is in at TKnC so will hopefully see the light of day soon.

Couple of things worth a mention.

Red Skies Press still has some open anthologies, and if you want to get a taste of what the editor is like he has an interview up here with Richard Godwin.

The Dark Lady Lily Childs has a new collection of dark verse out, Courting Demons, available in eBook and paperback, it can be seen here.

And everyone's favourite hard man is tooled up and ready for action in his latest adventure, his 8th to date. Rules of Honor by Matt Hilton, get it here.

I've been going through the 'Vault' It's a collection of files I've carried like an old trunk from computer to computer and has all my writings in. After mooching through it the other day I realised how terrible I am at finishing stuff. I'm going to spend a week or so tying them up and then letting them loose on here before sitting down and writing something new.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Week 1 of the New Year

New Blog Posting:

It seems that there's going to be a second outing for the anthology Action: Pulse Pounding Tales. I never made the deadline for the first one but bought it and found it was chocker with top stories by both familiar names as well as some new ones. So this time I'm gonna be getting my own attempt in sharpish and hope to make the cut. I'll re-post the details once they've been released.

Anyone looking for a home for their horror stories should consider giving Red Skies Press a whirl, Mark McCrittenden is a top editor and artist and I've bagged a spot in one of his new ones with a re-print of a vampire story of mine: They, the Discarded.

Writer's Talkback is a forum I've been a member of for a few years now. Each month they have a challenge, The One Word Challenge. You're given a word and have to come up with some flash fiction, 200 words max. I've won it a few times, latest being month before last. This month I got the runner's-place with this piece, I was quite chuffed with it for a lunch-time effort. The word was: Brace.

Another, Fresher, Come Hither.

There was more than dust beneath the carpet, and more than carpet above the boards, decades of evil had been swept there. The peculiar shadow in the corner stretched like ethereal elastic, morphing to human-shape, male. His movement fluid, poured ink that had spilled upwards and outwards. His dark mood was on the hob and busily coming to the boil. His eyes, their stare, five degrees past simmering and his saliva nowt but hot fat and spitting from his rump-lips. A new shadow joined the obscene. Breasts to show the feminine in the mirrored shade, shadows stretching her legs, fattening them, copying what was happening in-betwixt, spewing pitch black across the floor in a visual mimicry of the baby that was falling forth from her loins.
The shadows paused as the door inched its way open and a little boy called out. “Momma, I want this room, this room is mine.”
“Okay, honey.” Came the voice from below.
A ghostly tongue swept the rump-lips.
The shadowy umbilical chord wafted away on a dead breeze before showing itself afresh and worming towards the small boy who had no chance to brace himself for the coming horror.

Oh, Thrillers, Killers & Chillers has re-opened for submissions so this weekend I'm planning on putting something together for there, been a few months since I've darkened their doorsteps.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A New Year, New Start...

I blogged a few new pieces over the previous month, dipping my toes back into the world of displaying my writing. Having had a break away, plenty of writing got done, but it seemed to be sitting around doing nothing once I'd tapped out every writer's favourite short sentence, “The End”. A mixture of reasons, some personal, some not that contributed to me just getting my head down and getting the words out. Then last week I read on Matt Hilton's blog about whether or not people read blogs any more and his current perspective of them.

This got me thinking about when I was blogging at least once a week. It dawned on me those times were when I was most productive. It seemed to be an epicentre of everything I was up to. Whether it be announcing that some place had accepted a story, some place had rejected it. What new places were open for submission, reviewing a book or just having a rant about fuck-all.

I've decided I'm going to start again, it'd be impossible to pick up directly where I left off. I'm gonna be hitting the eZines and anthos again and get everything up to speed, and I'm gonna blog about it.

Now, before I say the following, I do not mean to offend anyone, hey, they're your words you can do with them as you wish. But you will not see me trying to pimp a self-published eBook, or anything like that on here, or anywhere to that point, this is about writing and the journey. It must suit some people and good luck to them, if it's bringing in some extra moolah for them, then enjoy the cash. There's something about the traditional route of publishing that has always had a kind of romance to it. I'm gonna keep to that this year whilst trying to get an agent for my novel etc. If it doesn't happen, nevermind, I'll just keep on writing. It should be about having fun, not spamming folks here, there and everywhere. I've bought some of the eBooks from friends, but only because I wanted to. One of the major turn-offs for me is when you see all these calls for, “You buy my book, I'll buy your book.”, “You review my book, I'll review your book.” “Please like my book page here, here and here, and I'll like yours.” To me I can't see how it can get you anywhere once you've exhausted the tit-for-tat sales and the 'group masturbation' session has waned.

I'll keep adding the eBooks and made-from-tree-books I do like to the pimped page above, so know that if your on there I'm not aiming anything at you lol.

Now I'm off to pick a couple of Ezines to send some stories to. I'll let you know what I find.

Happy New Year.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The New Greatest Human Indignity -

Bad weather causing problems with our phone-line out in the sticks left us bereft of the t'internet and phone for a week.

When I first realised the 'Information Super-highway' had taken a detour around my house I was just a bit on the irked side. No big deal. The money-grubbers at, rhymes with Smellyshom informed me that if an engineer came around and it turned out to be my fault or my equipment then it's a straight up 95quid fee. So best option was to see if things improved with the bad weather fucking off for a bit.

That's when I learned some new things about myself, I am totally reliant on the Internet. First proper morning with no internet I get up at my usually stupid o'clock time of around 5am. Make a brew and a bacon butty and sit down at the 'puter, remembering as I do a clickity-click on Firefox that nothing will happen, the magical portal has been closed, stranding me in 1987, which was shit the first time around and without Terrahawks on the telly.

I sat there staring at the Error Screen likely resembling an irate motorist whose car wouldn't start and was late for work. So first kick in the balls there, no news sites to read no greatgeekmanual updates to check on, no off-colour guffaws at Sickipedia to be had.

So you'd think I'd grab the time to get some more writing done. It seemed like I only had half a computer after a few mere minutes as I'm clearly not the cleverest of cats, I've been dumbed down by calculators and the ease of knowledge on the internet. No wikipedia, no Wiki Answers, Professor 01100110 01110101 01100011 01101011 01111001 01101111 01110101 1100101 isn't available for a one on one session. I look around the house, not realising somewhere along the way that we phased out Tree Versions of encyclopaedias. The nearest thing I've got to a book of knowledge is either The Bumper Book of Monsters, or Roger's Profanisaurus. I quit and go to work.

Get home. Computer on, remember just in time not to click the knackered portal and forgo getting my chuckles at Cracked.Com or catching an episode of Celebrity Juice on ITV Player.

I found myself sat on the sofa being forced to watch Eastenders and Coronation Street. I didn't get a choice, I was the refugee to the lounge, I'd entired the missus' domain and her word was law. The only good thing to come out with that is a new phrase to annoy her with when asked to do something. "I am so Tyrone'd!"

The silliest came yesterday. Not sure of the Sunday bus times, but reckon they are about every half-hour, but no idea which bit of the half hour. So like a goon I sat by the front window Bus Watching for one to go past. Was that a future echo of my old age, sat like so many others waiting for God, slumped in a chair by the window so I can watch cars and buses go by.

Internet came back last night, it brought with it both my soul and my sanity.

Sunday, November 18, 2012


Here's an unseen story for if you're a bit bored.

The Wild-Dead Park

By Lee Hughes
Steve knew he was going to hate the job, it was in his wiring to be idle. If he didn't accept the job then his benefits would stop, that didn't mean he had to keep the job. He killed the engine on the bike. A plump middle-aged woman was behind the glass restocking a badge stand, she smiled. "We don't open for another forty-five minutes."
"It's my first day. I'm working in the cafe."
She pressed a button. "Go on through."
Steve pushed his way through the turnstile with its click-clack noise.
"Do you know the way?" She asked.
Steve turned. "Haven't a clue."
"Here." She pulled a map from the display and slipped it through the gap. "It's basically just straight on, I'm Barbara."
"Steve," he said, starting upon the wood-chip path, unfolding the map as he went.
He lingered at the first enclosure where a tired old donkey was standing around looking bored to fuck. Movement caught Steve’s eye. He looked and saw a woman in her late twenties trudging over in Wellington boots and overalls. She smiled and said, "Hello."
"Hi." His return.
"Lazy," said the woman .
"Huh?" He wondered if they'd been tipped off.
She dipped her head towards the geriatric donkey. "His name's lazy."
"Nice," he replied. He watched another animal trundle out of its little wooden hut. It was about the size of a pig, but hairy and had the head of a giant rat. "What the hell's that?"
The woman leaned up against the fence. "That's Milly, one of our Capybaras, gorgeous isn't she?"
"Yeah, something like that." He watched the beast start to do something gross. He thought, ‘Dirt bastard’ and asked, "Is it eating its own shi...?" He kept himself from finishing the cuss word.
The woman flashed him a grin. "Yep. It eats its own faeces."
"Don't you feed it enough?"
She laughed. "We feed it plenty. There are bacteria in its faeces that aids with digestion of the grass."
"Fair enough." Though he wasn’t convinced.
The woman held a carrot out to Lazy. "I take it you're working over at the café?"
"How'd you tell?"
"Just a stab in the dark."
Conversation came to a strict halt as a loud crack tore open the quiet of the morning. A plethora of startled birds took to the skies in mass migration. The woman dropped the bucket of feed and yanked the walkie-talkie from her belt. "John?" She gained no answer. She took off at a run in the direction of the noise. Steve reckoned it sounded like a gunshot and took off after the keeper.

The bang had riled the animals. The caged birds darted from branch to branch in a frenzy. They followed a kink in the path. He could see the café. It was a one storey building what he guessed were his new work colleagues standing outside gaping. Around the side of the café lay a large veranda for patrons of the café that overlooked an enclosed area filled with flamingos. The enclosure was a hive of activity. A male keeper had a rifle levelled at the large birds within; he looked poised to let off another shot.
"John!" The woman shouted.
The keeper didn't lower the rifle, he called out, "Alice, don't distract me."
Alice ran over to join John at his shooting range. Steve thought it best not to follow. He looked over at the café workers and headed over. There were two of them. One was a timid looking lad with a bounty of zits on his face. The other a girl about his own age, she had her hair tied back tight in a council house face-lift.
She noticed him. "You the new starter?"
"Yeah, I'm Steve."
"I'm Claire, that's Colin." She was switching her attention between the action and Steve.
"What happened?" Steve asked.
She shrugged. "Not sure, we were inside when it all kicked off. Came outside and it looked as if one the flamingos, the big'un, was trying to kill the rest. Called John the keeper and he turned up, and then fucked off again to get his gun. Came back, shot one of them with a dart but it didn't do nothing so he shot it for real. Then you showed up." She nearly said it all in just one breath. Steve watched as John and Alice continued their heated discussion. John shrugged Alice away and took aim. Their ears filled with another bang, and pink feathers exploded like a firework. Steve went over to have a skeet at what John had just shot. The flamingo was bigger than the rest. Steve noticed there were about two dozen flamingos in total, and at least half of them were lying dead about the enclosure.
The keepers ignored his presence. They stared at the bird as it began to twitch on the ground. Legs first and then its head began to flop from side to side like a landed fish.
John was shaking his head in disbelief. "It can't still be alive."
"Put it out of its misery." Alice urged, her voice a little shaky.
John took a breath, worked the bolt on the rifle and put the stock tight to his shoulder. "I'm going for its head." Steve thought he should look away but he'd never seen anything get its head blown off before. The rifle made another bang and John's aim was true. Before the noise had finished the flamingo's head was gone. Its neck wavered in the air like a pipe-charmed cobra. They watched in silence until it was still.
John rested the rifle against the fence and went about opening the gate. He looked back over his shoulder at Steve. "You work here, right?"
"Yeah, it's my first day at the café."
"I need you to help me get the dead birds out of the enclosure."
"I'm supposed to just be washing dishes, and stuff."
"This is stuff. We're going to open up in," the keeper looked at his watch, "a little under half an hour and we can't have visitors seeing this….mess."
Steve looked from the bird massacre to the café. Claire and Spotty had disappeared inside. He looked to John, scratched the back of his head. "Okay." He set his crash helmet down. He couldn't believe that he was helping. He was aiming to get the sack.
Steve followed John into the enclosure. The birds, the ones that were still alive were cowering in the corner. John counted the dead. "Eleven dead, Christ, nearly half of them." He shook his head. "What's your name?"
"Well, Steve, grab the legs." John reached down to grab the wings. They managed to get it out of the enclosure and set it down in the flat-bed of the truck.
"Let's get the rest of them."
"Sure." Steve turned and walked back into the enclosure and over to the nearest one. He looked at the other corpses, nine dead. He stopped and quickly counted again.
"You just said there were eleven dead, right? I mean not including the big one you shot."
"That's right." John said, heading towards the gate.
"Think you might have miscounted?"
"Do a quick recount."
John started bobbing his head as he counted each corpse. He counted them all, then counted them again. His face contorted in puzzlement. "I counted eleven, I know I did."
"Well there's only nine…eight now." Steve said, as he pointed over to one of the flamingos that was on its back with its legs in the air. The legs started to move, all twitchy as though in the midst of a spasm.
"This isn't right." Alice said, watching another couple of dead flamingos pull a Lazarus.
Steve said, "I'm not picking up another, just in case."
John rubbed at his brow in disbelief.
Steve watched as the ones that had gotten strangely better went to have a go at the others. They were in a frenzy. Their beaks lashing out to tear at feathers and pulling free flesh. Others that had fallen and had arisen were making a full speed assault towards Steve and John.
Steve made for the gate.
John was rooted to the spot.
Alice shouted: "John!"
John refused to move. "They're flamingos, they don't attack humans!"
"I'm not waiting to find out!" Steve said, as he got to the gate. Once out of the enclosure he watched as John stayed put to prove them all wrong. Steve couldn't look away, the same way he couldn't when John had made the bigger flamingo three inches shorter. The first flamingo got to John and proved him wrong as it took a strip of flesh from his cheek. That broke John's resolve to be rational and he moved for the gate. The flamingos swarmed him and worked with beaks to pinch little bits off him. John made it through the gate, but so did a couple of the flamingos before Steve managed to force it shut. Steve didn't have time to think as he grabbed the rifle by the barrel and swung the stock at the birds beating them off John. The flamingos fled. Their long wings struggled with each flap until they got airborne.
  John fell to his knees, his hands covering the gore of his face. Both Steve and Alice could hear him muttering, repeatedly, "Not natural, it's just not natural!" Steve didn't know shit about animals but he reckoned that John was right. Alice watched the birds fly out to other parts of the park. She looked down at John, then to Steve. "We need to get him back to the centre." She put her arm around John and began guiding him to the truck. Steve stood still until the birds got small in the sky. He cast a glance back towards the café. He could see Clair and Spotty watching from one of the windows. He took John's other side. "Are you still going to open the park?" Steve asked.
Alice looked at him. "I never thought."
Once they had gotten John into the truck, she unclipped her radio. "Barbara?" There was a long moment before a reply came.
"Yes dear?"
"Do not open up the Park. We'll be closed for the morning at the very least."
"Oh, why's that then?"
"There's been an incident. John's injured, I need you to call an ambulance please."
John muttered something along the lines of, "I'm fine." Blood dribbled between his fingers.
Barbara sounded instantly worried, "Okay, will do."
Alice started the engine. Steve got in the far side of the truck without thinking. Alice put the truck into gear and they started down the path.
After a few minutes of silence, Steve couldn't help but ask, "Have you ever seen anything like that before?"
Alice shook her head. "Never, we've had animals turn before, but nothing like that. And the way they seemed dead and then got back up and attacked. I just can't explain it."
Steve remembered what Claire had said outside of the café and asked, "The big one, the one that John ended up shooting. The people at the café said it was attacking the others, do you think it was diseased?"
John managed to chip in. "It had been through quarantine. We only put it in with the mix last night. There's supposed to be a female coming too. We were hoping to breed them. Haitian Great Flamingos are an endangered species, it was going to be great."
"I'm not surprised they're endangered if they go around attacking everything," Steve said.
Alice turned off from the path that they'd earlier sprinted down. She slowed for a moment before putting the truck into reverse. Steve had heard it too. So did John. He lowered his hands from his face for a moment.
Steve cringed. The flamingos had done quite a lot of damage to one side of his face. Strips of skin and flesh from his cheek, a chunk from the corner of his mouth and a little bit of an eyelid had been rent away. Steve thought the man lucky not to have lost an eye. It was the chimps that they could hear. Alice steered the truck to Chimp Island. They got out of the truck; John was pressing a jumper to the injured half of his face.
The chimps were insane. They could see one of the chimps swinging a flamingo as if it was a toy against one of the trees. The flamingo was limp. The chimp finally discarded it. Alice could see blood on the chimps face. She wondered if it was its own or the flamingos. It turned to one of the other chimps and rushed it. Arms held up over its head and ready to come down like dual jack-hammers. Within a couple of minutes it started to look like a brawl. Chimps were smacking each other down and beating each other to a pulp. The fallen ones were rising to fight the remaining chimps, never attacking each other. Most looked ruined, yet they still moved about.
The three of them watched from the wall until the last chimp had been cornered, slain, and picked up to its feet again by an apparent resurrection. The flamingo also had gained back its functions and was trying to take to the air; it was futile as it only had one wing. Steve watched as the chimps, most with body parts hanging at funny angles or missing altogether lined up at the edge of the water and stared at them. Steve could see the fury on their beaten up faces. He noticed something else.
"Do you see their eyes?" He asked.
"Yeah," Alice replied.
John had noticed it too with the one eye that wasn't covered up.
The eyes, were red as though there was haemorrhaging occurring behind them.
The chimps screamed in frustration at being landlocked. The biggest of them, the one that had played with the flamingo like it was a bat was building up its fury. Its rage reached a crescendo and it picked up one of the many large logs and tried to throw it at them. It was a valiant effort and the log went nearly ten feet before landing with a splash in the water but it was still a good thirty feet shy. The chimp started to tantrum, then stopped to watch as the log floated gently towards them. The chimp broke into a dash and hurled itself at the bobbing log. Its weight forced the log to dip beneath the water for a moment before resurfacing. The chimp screamed in panic.
The chimp's act of diving onto the log caused it to move forward. The remaining chimps cottoned on and started grabbing the other logs and tossing them into the water.
Steve's eyes were wide. He thought of the old saying 'Monkey see, monkey do.'
"If they make it to the wall do you think they'll be able to climb it?"
"Chimpanzees are afraid of the water, we've never had this problem before."
John spoke and he was thrifty with the words, "Get the rifle."
"Me?" Steve asked.
John nodded.
Steve ran to the truck and grabbed the rifle. He went to hand it to John who shook his head, still holding the bloodied jumper to the injured side of his face. "You ever used a gun?"
"I've fired an air rifle a few times."
"Ever shot anything?"
"A friend in the arse."
"Same idea, just aim higher."
Steve looked to Alice who shook her head. "I abhor guns, especially when used on animals."
Steve raised the gun. He felt a little dizzy. This was not what he'd been expecting when he'd gotten out of bed this morning. He'd been expected to be bored shitless cleaning tables and washing dishes. Now he was about to smoke a chimpanzee. He wasn't sure whether it was fucked up, or cool. He caught a glimpse of John's face and realised the whole thing was for real. He set the butt of the rifle to his shoulder and took aim. The telescopic sight made the chimp look like it was only a few feet away. He could see the wound caused by the flamingo. The chimp's bloodshot eyes were blank. It was as if there was nothing working behind the scenes apart from an automated need to get at them and tear them to shreds. He took a breath and squeezed the trigger. It gave one hell of a kick. The shot was true. It struck the chimp in the chest with the force of a body shot from a heavyweight. It flew backwards into the water. It flailed for a moment before sinking beneath the surface. Steve lowered the rifle. The chimps that were about to embark on the same journey continued as though not caring about what had just befallen their alpha male.
Steve looked to Alice and saw tears rolling freely down her cheeks.
John broke the silence. "Do you think you can fire a couple of warning shots at the bank? We don't want to hit any more of them, just scare them into staying put."
"I'll give it a try." Steve replied, and worked the bolt the same way that he'd seen John do earlier. He took aim and fired at the dirt bank. The chimps didn't care, they carried on.
Steve looked to John, who shook his head. "There's no way we can shoot them all, there's not enough ammo."
"What are we going to do?" Steve asked.
John looked to Alice. "Who else is on shift today?"
She wiped at her eyes. "Kat's back at the centre sorting out the feed buckets and minding the phones. Alex will be in later. Barbara's on tickets, and the two at the café."
"I want Alex in sooner. We need to work out what's happening with the animals before we lose any more."
Alice sniffed back some snot. "Don't forget there's an ambulance on the way for you."
"Radio Barbara and tell her to wait at the gate until they come. Then tell her to ride with them up to the centre and not to get out for any reason."
Alice leaned back against the compound wall and got on her walkie-talkie. John looked to Steve. "We'll swing back by the café to pick them pair up, Should of brought them with us in the first place, don't know what I was thinking. Then we'll head to the centre where we can hole up until the vet gets here.”
Alice hooked the radio back onto her belt. "Barbara says she'll do what you…" She screamed the last of the sentence. Both Steve and John spun see what the matter was. The chimp that Steve had shot from the log had managed to make it to their side of the moat and climbed up. It dragged her to the ground and started to beat her with both fists. John grabbed the rifle from Steve's hands and used it like a club. It connected with the chimps head but it only faltered in its attack on Alice. John reversed the rifle and worked the bolt. He shot the chimp in the chest, hoping for a heart shot. The chimp flew back against the wall but was soon back on the attack. Alice was laying still, her facial features blurred into mush from the relentless blows. John readied and fired the gun again. This one took some of the chimp's right shoulder off. It continued with its left arm whilst the right hung idle at its side. Steve could hear splashing over the sound of lunacy and gunfire. He knew the other chimps were making their way across.
"John, the others are coming!"
John ignored him and worked the bolt again. "Fuck, out of rounds!" He turned it into a club. The chimp managed to get hold of the gun and ripped it out of his hands. It threw it to one side and bore down on him. He stood no chance and the chimp quickly bested him. Steve didn't know what to do. He could tell that both Alice and John were dead and that the chimp would come at him next. He ran for the truck and jumped into the cabin, slamming the door shut and locking it just in case. He tried to get his breathing under control. It was a hard with his adrenaline pumping like it was.
They'd kept talking about the centre but he had no idea where that was. The only place he could think to head was back to the café. He could hide there and call for some help better than an ambulance. He started the engine. He didn't have a license to drive cars, not that it mattered, not in such circumstances, besides, he didn't have one for the bike anyway.
With a heavy thud the chimp landed on the hood and started to wail on it with its good arm. Steve ground the gearbox into reverse and hoped to spill the beast from the truck. It worked when he spun the wheel hard. He threw it into gear and tore up the path in the direction of the café. He chanced a glance in the rear-view mirror and saw the big chimp in the middle of the path thumping the ground in frustration whilst the other chimps made their way over the wall.
As he opened the truck door, he could hear the riot of noise from the flamingos that they'd managed to contain within the enclosure. They were all mindlessly pressed up against the fencing making as much noise as they could.
"Hey!" Called a voice from behind him. Claire was standing in the doorway with Spotty hovering behind her.
Claire closed the door after him and asked. "What the fuck's happening?"
Steve went to the fridge and helped himself to a coke, broached it and took a long swig before sitting down on the nearest chair. Spotty piped up with, "You can't just help yourself to stock."
The adrenaline had ebbed away and Steve was suddenly feeling worn-out. He looked up. "I just did." The realisation of how serious things were came crashing down upon him.
"Well?" Claire pushed.
"Everything's fucked up," he said.
"No shit. What's happened though? Those birds out there are just freaky."
"Whatever was the matter with those flamingos must be contagious, they passed it on to the chimps. They went about killing each other and then got up and acted like nothing had happened, but they were different, changed somehow. Then they escaped. Alice and John are dead, I didn't know the way to the centre so figured I'd hide out here with you. An ambulance is on its way but I think we need to call something a little more useful. I shot one of the chimps in the chest and it got back up and attacked again. Where's the phone?"
"In the kitchen." Claire replied.
Steve stood and headed for the kitchen.
Claire shouted after him, "You can't get an outside line on it. It goes through a switchboard. Dial nine," she said, as she followed him.
He pushed the button and listened as it started to ring at the other end. He looked over at Claire and saw Spotty rambling on about something in a hushed tone. It took a good minute until someone decided to answer the phone.
"Kat, here." Was the greeting.
"I'm Steve, I work in the café."
"What can I do for you, Steve, kinda busy here."
"There's been some trouble…" He went about telling her the details.
When he was done there was a long pause at the other end, followed by, "This better not be a joke."
"You'll know it's not, there's an ambulance on the way, but we need something bigger, armed police, whatever, okay?"
There was no reply.
He spoke loudly into the handset. "Kat?" He had to yank the handset away from his head as a scream flooded out from the receiver. All went quiet. Steve looked to Claire and Spotty. The way they were standing it was clear they'd heard the scream. Steve hung up and leaned against the wall. He could hear them fidgeting beside the door. He looked over. Spotty was urging her on but she looked reluctant.
"What's up?" Steve asked.
They did a little bit more shuffling. Claire elbowed Spotty. "All right." She hissed. She took a breath. "Colin reckons he knows what's going on."
"Go on," Steve said.
Claire scowled at Spotty and pushed on. "He reckons they've become zombies." She stared at her shoes, looking embarrassed at making such a fanciful statement.
Now that the subject was broached, Spotty seemed keener on getting verbal. "It started with that flamingo, the new one. I read the plaque yesterday, it's a Haitian Great Flamingo." Spotty stopped and looked at Steve, then Claire. They stayed quiet. Spotty ploughed on, though he looked uncomfortable in the spotlight. "Voodoo!"
Steve had seen all the usual films and he wanted to laugh but couldn't. He started thinking about the big flamingo. The way it had kept getting up until John had blown its head off. Steve had something to say, "But how?"
"I don't know, they use chickens in their magic, maybe they use flamingos from the wild. Something went wrong, maybe it got free and some conservationists picked it up, I don't know."
Steve nodded. "It's a better than any explanation I have."
Spotty looked chuffed to fuck they were listening. He chirped up with. "What do we do now?"
Steve shrugged. He wasn't a leader. He was a nineteen-year-old fuck up and this was supposed to be his first job. He scratched at his head. The only thing he could think about was getting the fuck out of the place and leaving it all for someone else to sort out.
"We go to the centre, wait for the ambulance, then we get out of here. How's that sound?"
"If you think that's the best idea," Spotty said.
"I'm not in charge here. That's what I'm doing, come along if you like."
Claire was quick off the mark with, "I'm coming."
"Me too." Added Spotty.
Steve started the engine. "You'll have to give me directions to the centre."
"Just head back the way you came as far the chimp enclosure," Claire said.
Spotty added. "Do you think John and Alice will still be there?"
Steve had been wondering the same but had decided to try not to think about it. He couldn't help but look as they approached the chimp's enclosure. He breathed a sigh of relief. Both bodies were still sprawled where they'd fallen. Steve looked to Spotty. "Any explanation?"
"Mustn't be communicable to humans, animals only," Spotty said.
Steve nodded to show he got the gist. "Do I just follow this path all the way?"
Claire had been quiet since seeing the corpses. That had made it real for her. Spotty was looking pale and a little sick. Claire nodded. "Just until you get to a fork in the path, take the left and keep following it."
They drove in silence. Steve took the left path. The building was like the café in that it was a squat single storey building, but more spread out, like a small complex. There were a couple of vehicles parked outside, but no ambulance. Steve swivelled in the seat, scanning all around, remembering that the woman Kat had screamed. The chimps or something else had attacked her. He'd seen the flamingos and the chimps turn but God knew what else they had come into contact with and tainted. He looked at Spotty. "You seem to know a lot about the park."
"You don't think I want to be working in the café for ever do you?"
"What other animals do they have here?" Steve wanted to know exactly what he might end up coming face to face with.
Spotty took himself a moment to do a stock check in his mind. "Loads of birds, wild cats, chimpanzees, monkeys, deer, raccoons, snakes, spiders…"
Steve cut him off. "I get the idea, any sort of animal I could imagine."
"Apart from elephants, we don't have any of them…or giraffes."
"I get the idea."
Claire came out of her quiet reverie. "Why don't we stay in here until the ambulance arrives and then they can use their radio to call for proper help?"
Steve took a moment to think. "I want to use the phone. I know we're out in the middle of nowhere but even an ambulance would have been here by now. What if something happened between the entrance and here? We could be sitting on our asses forever."
Claire pointed out that. "You don't even have a weapon."
"I had a gun before and that didn't make much difference, I think my feet are my best asset as this point." He grabbed the handle and knew the pair of them weren't planning on joining him. He hopped down and slammed the door. He motioned for Claire to lock it. She did.
Steve was aware of one thing; and that was he just wanted to get out. If it meant ducking into the centre and making a call to the cops and then darting back to the truck he'd do so. He thought about maybe just heading back to the main gate but remembered the fencing and walls.
He skidded to a halt at the door as a thought came to him and it struck him hard, he hadn't asked where the phones where. He swore beneath his breath and tried to open the door as quietly as he could. He dipped his head in first, saw the hallway empty and slipped inside, closing the door silently behind himself. He could see where the phone was. Not the phone itself, rather a set of feet sticking out from one a doorway.
He edged over, bracing himself to come face to face with the rest of the body. He looked around the corner and then fell back. He doubled over and dribbled bile as he rretched. If it wasn't for the tits on the body there would be no way of knowing whether it was male or female. Whatever had slain her had removed her face all the way to the bone, the eyes were gone too. He saw the handset of the phone dangling. He stepped around her and picked it up. He reset it and called the cops.
"I'm up at the wildlife park and things have gone bad."
"Bad in what way, Sir?" Her nonchalant voice was annoying him.
"Bad in the way that three people are dead, the chimpanzees are loose, killer flamingos, fuck I don't know what else, probably fuck-tons lady, just send coppers with guns, now!"
"Is Claire Raymond there?"
"Hair pulled back tight with a bad attitude."
He cottoned on to whom she was referring. "Yeah," he said.
"Tell her that I'll be reporting this to her father." The woman hung up. Steve stared at the handset. Not believing what had just happened. He dropped the handset as he heard the screech of a chimp. It was chased by the smash of glass. The chimp kept making its noise, but it was getting quieter, further away. Steve hoped that meant it was moving off in the opposite direction.
The phone call had narrowed down his options. He stopped and shook his head. The muppet from the government that had been holding the interview for the poke-hole job was called Mr. Raymond. Steve laughed but it was a short laugh. There really was only one thing to do now. That was to get the hell out of there. The thought of ploughing through the big-ass fence was a fleeting one. It would open the way for all the animals to escape. Steve retreated the way he'd come. He checked outside before running for the truck. Claire was sharp enough to spot him and open the door. He settled in and stared at her. "Your pop's a bigwig for the council?"
Claire shrugged. "Yeah."
He looked Spotty and said, "We're gonna have to make a break for it."
"But not through the fencing?" Spotty said.
"No. Already thought about what that'd mean, we're not gonna let any of these things out."
Spotty seemed happy. "Good."
Claire just looked puzzled. "How're we gonna get out then?"
Steve put the truck into gear and said, "I'll think about that on the way." He pumped the pedal all the way and spun the wheel around. He knew the way back to the entrance and he just hoped that inspiration would pitch up before he got there.
It was only three turns in the path before he learned he was driving too fast. He slammed the brakes on and locked the wheel. They missed the overturned ambulance by inches but managed to find the ditch beside the path. Steve head butted the wheel and everything went dark for a couple of seconds. He sat back up, touched his brow, knowing that the tips of his fingers would come back red. He looked over at Claire she was holding a hand to the side of her head and wearing an 'ow' expression.
"You okay?" He asked.
She nodded. "Yeah, I'm fine, just bumped my head on the window is all, bet it leaves a mark."
"What about you?" He called to Spotty in the back.
"I'm fine, had my seatbelt on."
Steve opened the door and climbed out. Just looking at the truck he could tell there would be no way to get it out without a tow. He went to check on the ambulance. Claire and Spotty clambered out and joined him. He wasn't a doctor but could tell they were all dead and all three hadn't died of natural causes. They were all slumped with their faces three times the size they should have been. He felt a little bad that it took a few moments to remember her name, but it was definitely the woman, Barbara from the kiosk.
"What do you think did it?" Claire asked.
Steve shrugged. "Who knows what else has been infected. The driver probably swerved to miss something in the road. Rolled it, the windscreen shattered and then the animals came to play."
Spotty was looking around nervously. "We can't just stand around here."
"Come on." Steve tested the wound on his brow, it felt tacky, that was a good sign, meant that it had stopped bleeding. "We all up for a run? Might as well make a dash for it."
Claire nodded. Steve could see the side of her face was bruising from the crash.
Spotty nodded from where he was standing having a good gawk at the dead people.
Spotty squealed like a little bitch. Steve and Claire turned and saw a black smudge on his face. It was a spider, and a big one at that. More were climbing out of the windscreen. It was a marching army of undead Arachnids, all leaping to join in the poisoning of Spotty's face. Spotty collapsed to the ground. Steve and Claire couldn't help but stand and watch as a good dozen fist-sized spiders repeatedly worked their fangs into Spotty's exposed flesh.
A rustle of the foliage being disturbed yanked Steve's attention back. A three-legged puma, the fourth nothing but a bloodied stump skulked out, eyes red and with strings of slaver idling at the sides of its mouth.
They ran full pelt. He looked over his shoulder and saw the puma ravaging Spotty. They ran past the donkey and the shit-eater, both had red eyes and were trying to batter down the fence. The fence wasn't budging and with each fresh connection from the beasts they lost a little bit of their animal faces. Steve grabbed Claire's hand and yanked her onwards, knowing that the main entrance was only a hundred meters away. He kept glancing back. The puma was struggling with its front, bloodied stump. Its red eyes showed it wasn't in the mood for giving up, no matter what the cost as it limped and raged after them.
Steve yanked on the door to the kiosk as Claire tried to force the grated turnstile. Steve cussed. The woman had locked up when she'd left to get into the ambulance. Claire looked back. The puma was still coming. Steve wheeled and grabbed up a rock from the side of the path. He used it to smash the window. He reached in and worked the catch.
"What are you doing?" Claire asked.
"Shit, how do you set the turnstile?"
"I make beans on toast, how the fuck would I know!"
Steve started pressing buttons. He heard something grind to life and kept his thumb on that button. He looked at the lumbering tripod of a puma and relaxed a little, it was a good ways off. "Try that."
Claire pushed, the 'click-clack' aired, and she was outside of the park. Steve rushed out and pushed at the turnstile. It didn't budge.
Claire's eyes were wide. "Come on!"
"It won't move!" He looked over, the beast was getting too close for comfort. There was no way that he could reach and the button whilst he slipped through. He grinned, remembering when he'd taken the dare of setting off the fire alarm in Safeway's. All the emergency doors had opened and door locks were released.
"Got a lighter?"
Claire looked puzzled.
Steve snapped. "Give me your lighter!"
She dug it out of her pocket and through it over the top. Steve snatched it from the ground and rushed back into the kiosk and began to set fire to the maps. He looked up at the smoke alarm and the wisps of grey that were rising in a twirl.
The red light started to flash and a concealed siren began to wail. Steve hoped it was connected to the Centre and that the fire engines would be automatically called. The police would probably pitch up too, or so he hoped. He looked down and saw lights come to life above the switches, followed by the same noise he'd heard whilst he had thumbed the turnstiles button. He yanked open the door and made to dash through it. The puma was too close. He pulled the door to with a slam. Steve shouted through the gap that Barbara had originally passed him the map through, "Claire! Run, just run, the fire brigade and cops will be here soon. Get away, just in-case."
There were tears of panic in her eyes. She looked past Steve at the head of the puma that was trying to thrust its way through the window that Steve had broken. She backed away as she looked to him but refused to leave.
Steve nodded. He turned and began to pelt the puma with cans of pop, and whatever else felt heavy. He moved on to his fists. He could feel its wetted snout meet his knuckles and it felt cruel, like sucker punching a dog.
He took a step back, looked at his knuckles, back to the puma that wasn't giving up. Fear shook him as he heard the screeching of chimpanzees. Then they were upon the kiosk. Already damaged ape-hands punched through the glass. Blood spurted as the shards clawed at their brutish arms. He looked at their battered faces pressed up against the glass. Sunken, blood red eyes wept crimson. Their strength brought further panic as he watched them destroy the wooden frames. He grabbed the badge stand and started slamming it into the customer window. A half dozen attempts later it was clear it was reinforced glass, yet he could see the onset of a crack birthing. He grinned at Claire, hope rising within him. The grin slipped away as he realised that if he broke through and escaped then the chimps would be able to do the same. He dropped the badge stand.
Claire's eyes widened. "You've nearly broken it!"
"I know." He dug a hand into his pocket and brought out his bike keys. "Can you ride a bike?" He asked.
Claire had had a few goes on a moped; they were nearly the same thing.
She nodded.
Steve pushed the keys through the money slot. "Take my bike and get away from here, just in case. Go." The sound of the final frame giving way under the brutal strength of the chimps sounded behind him.
Steve closed his eyes.
Claire screamed and staggered away towards the car-park, towards the bike, towards safety.
Little Sammy passed the rag-doll a plastic cup filled with sweet but invisible tea. She smiled and served teddy. She looked up to the sky and her smile widened. A pretty pink bird was flying over head.
Sammy waved and shouted out a loud, "Hello" Her smile grew even wider as the bird wheeled in the sky and looked to be heading over to say a 'Hello' right back.
The End