Archive for the ‘Scottish Urban Horror’ Category

Love Hurts

Saturday, August 23rd, 2014

There was something about the three blonde, black-eyed women that was not quite right. At least that was Colin’s opinion as he finished one pint and considered starting another. His thoughts turned as they always did to his bitch ex Jackie, who was giving him grief and not letting him see the wee man until he paid what she said he owed. Fat chance of that when he’d just lost his job in the off-licence where he had worked for ten years. Who could have predicted offies in Scotland would ever go out of business? You had to get through the cold, smothering dark of the winter months somehow and it had long been a family tradition that a vast quantity of booze was just the way to do it.
He decided on a another pint and whisky chaser and lumbered to the bar to get them in. The Bingo Wings was a run-down sort of place, but you could sit in the gloom and nurse drink and grievances in equal measure with no interference from anyone who knew what was good for them.
So the hot glances thrown his way from the blond bints, weren’t really what he’d come to expect from his inner sanctum, least of all on a blustery Tuesday afternoon. No, talent-spotting wasn’t the usual pastime in the Bingo Wings and there were other more likely venues for that sort of nonsense. This was where silent, angry men sat and drank themselves into a well earned oblivion before picking a fight outside to round the evening off.
Christ they were fit though: lush, full figured and from the long legs, not much shy of his six feet frame. He thought maybe they’d been to a fancy dress party because they were all dressed in white see-through dress things that rode right up when they sat down on the bar stools, so you could pretty much see everything. Little tarts.
The nearest one turned her head to look at him, a sinuous, twisting motion accompanied by a fall of arctic-blond hair that was so long she could have sat on it. Well, if the little slag played her cards right, she’d be sitting on something else before the end of the night.
“Are you sisters then?” he said controlling the slurring with a mighty effort.
The other two turned to stare at him with that same serpentine motion and three pairs of black eyes fixed on his face as though he was the most fascinating creature in the world. Probably couldn’t believe their luck.
They must have been sisters because their features were almost identical. There was also a sharpness about the nose and cheek-bones that he hadn’t noticed at first, but they were still stunners, no doubt about it.
“In a way,” the nearest one answered in a soft voice.
She was definitely up for it. Wait until Jackie found out that he still had the old one, two magic.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Eh, Colin. Colin McQuarrie. Yours?” he asked, finally remembering the finer points of leg-over etiquette.
“Margo. And this is Morgan and Marjorie.”
The blond in the middle, Morgan, slithered off her stool and came to stand next to him. Christ, maybe he’d be in a four-way before the night was out if he minded his p’s and q’s. He hurriedly calculated just how much he’d had to drink because it really wouldn’t do to disappoint the ladies. Not if the abuse Jackie had regularly showered him with was anything to go by.
Morgan put a hand on his arm and was so close he could smell her: an intoxicating scent that brought with it the green promise of spring woods. He was just about to press his mouth to hers and maybe even give her a bit of tongue, when she ruined the moment by speaking. That was women for you.
“Did you know you have an elemental attached to you?”
“An elephant? Are you pissed hen?”
The third blond, Marjorie had joined them and stood on his other side. He felt hemmed in for some reason and started to wonder where Rab the barman was; quelling a sudden surge of adrenalin as though some part of his brain was telling him to make a run for it. Why would he run from three lassies?
“An elemental,”
“It’s a lower form of spirit-”
“That attaches itself to people who have done bad things in their lives. It feeds off the energy that creates-”
“And for every bad deed, the elemental gets bigger-”
“And bigger and-”
“Yours is the size of this room. And it’s still growing. You must have been a very naughty boy Colin.”
He’d lost track of who was saying what but it didn’t matter because it melded into a seamless whole as though the conversation was taking place inside his own head. The three hadn’t taken their eyes off him, tracking his progress like a deer or some other prey that didn’t have a hope in hell. Being hopeless had never felt so good.
“You know those angry, frustrated feelings you get where you want to burn the world and everybody in it?”
He was pretty sure that was Marjorie who was stroking his arm, snaking a trail up to the back of his neck. He nodded, a heroic effort in what was turning into an epic afternoon.
“That’s from the elemental. Like waste products if you see what I mean. You’ll have noticed how it’s getting worse no doubt? That’s the elemental getting stronger. Soon it’ll be powerful enough to…extinguish you. Your essence as it were. Oh, don’t worry, silly billy: it won’t kill you. Isn’t that something?” Margo smiled. Was it just his imagination, or were her teeth more prominent than they had been a moment ago?
He felt dizzy as though the women had slipped him something in his drink. As long as they stayed with him, he wasn’t sure he cared.
“Can’t I get rid of it? I mean, couldn’t you help me?” he said, a little boy pleading not to be sent to bed. He didn’t question the truth of what he was being told: it was as if he’d always known. Ever since that hit and run that he’d been responsible for as a teenager nothing had gone right for him.
“Ah, now. We were just getting to that,” said Morgan tapping him on the nose. “But first there’s something you need to do for us.”

Dragon Act

Sunday, August 17th, 2014

Legend had it that an imprisoned dragon lay coiled in the rock under Edinburgh Castle and that the day it broke free and wreaked its revenge would be the city’s last. I had never been particularly interested in the story, but the supernatural critter that had wrapped itself around Maud Mulroney’s corpse in her open-casket coffin, appeared to be doing its very own winged worm tribute act.
A blob of phlegm flung by the corpse cuddler in question just missed the top of my head and that’s when it started to laugh, a rasping, guttural noise that sounded like thirty years of dedicated cigarette smoking put to good use. Its long, snake-like body curled tighter around the dead woman, so tight in fact that it pierced the bloodless skin with its razor-sharp scales.
This was Maud’s living room, or at least it had been when she was alive. She had lived in this house, a terraced affair in the village of Gilmerton, for fifty years and I wondered what she would have made of her wake. Ordinarily I could have just summoned her spirit to find that out given she had only just kicked the proverbial bucket. But not today, not here, because the fact was that this little supernatural charmer was not only holding the corpse hostage, it was also preventing the spirit from leaving the body.
The creature began to convulse, spasms running along it’s entire length before it vomited green bile all over the corpse’s head in an explosive rush. The acrid stench was overpowering and I had to fight not to add my own contribution to the gunge-fest.
Supernatural vermin extermination wasn’t my usual gig and it was beginning to show. My normal day job was hunting down and killing the perpetrators of unsolved murders but it was all I could manage after my last starring role had damn near killed me. I was, as the Fox twins kept on telling me, recuperating; which was why they had succeeded in foisting this particular no hoper on me. But it was true: I wasn’t back to anything like full strength and now it looked like I might not even be up to getting rid of this parasitic bottom-feeder.
I had to concede however that it was a bottom-feeder with a sense of humour because it had now transferred Maude’s blonde bobbed wig from her head to its own, the red glare of its eyes visible through the strands of hair. Slowly and with great deliberation it winked at me, opening its mouth to reveal rows of wicked looking teeth before settling down to nibble at the corpse’s nose.

Question was which of us had bitten off more than we could chew?

Edinburgh Dreaming

Sunday, August 10th, 2014

I had the dream again last night, always the same sequence of events, the same cataclysmic outcome. Except now I was dreaming it every night, proof as if any were needed that it was about to become reality.

It starts with me drying myself after a shower in the bathroom. I go over to the mirrored medicine cabinet on the wall, rooting around for something I can never find. As I open it, something catches my eye, a flash of movement, I’m never entirely sure. I slowly adjust the mirrored door knowing I’m being watched I rub the steam away and see the outline of a young woman standing directly behind me, clouds of water vapour eddying over her.

I whirl around and she puts her finger to her lips with one hand holding out the other with an odd formality as though asking me to dance. An alien thrumming through my head tells me she’s dead, although the solidity of her body belies that fact. But it’s her face that disturbs me the most: devoid of features apart from two indentations where the eye sockets should have been. What passes for skin is malleable like putty as though flattened by inefficient careless fingers, leaving bumps and ridges in their wake. She’s dripping from head to toe and her dirty white dress is torn and hanging off one shoulder.

I try to call out but my voice has deserted me and I know I’m alone. With her.

She moves towards me, the mottled flesh of her narrow frame discernable through the thin fabric of her dress. I press myself as flat against the wall as I can, eager to put as much space between us as possible not least because my traitorous legs are about to give way. I try again to shout, but can’t summon the breath and begin to choke as I fight for air.

My own power blazes through my bones and before I can direct it, bursts from me slashing the thing’s face and body; again and again until I lose count. Bright blood wells to the surface of the featureless face like jagged red mouths and there is a pause as though the world is holding its breath before it begins to gush onto the floor in a waterfall of red ruin. Something is moving around beneath the skin like a frightened rodent and the more I cut, the more excitable the burrower becomes. I throw myself to the left towards the bathroom door, but the bloodied figure gives me a contemptuous, almost lazy swipe that connects with my shoulders. I hit my head off the tiles, and feel a warm wetness running down my face and pooling beneath me as it cools. My vision blurs and I fight to stay conscious, but it’s only a matter of time.

I can only see the creature’s bare feet from my vantage point on the floor and now they begin to walk towards me slowly, no need to rush, not now. With a detachment born of blood loss and shock, I watch it approach, stand over me for what seems like an age and then it squats down beside me, so I can see its face. The wounds I’ve slashed into its skin gape wide and move of their own volition. Inside the raw meat, the wet flick of an eye, the extrusion of a decayed tooth roils in fevered constant motion. I whimper and try to edge away but I can’t move, can’t call out, can’t get out of this one.

The Beastie Girl

Sunday, August 3rd, 2014

All I could see of the beast at the bottom of the garden was a pair of red eyes shining out from the thicket where it hid. A trail of blood on the grass told me it was wounded and all the more dangerous for it.

The question was: what flavour of beastie was I entertaining in my own backyard? Judging by the neon glare it wasn’t one of the usual suspects. Or at least none of the critters that usually roamed the mean streets of Bruntsfield.

A low, trickling growl grew in ambition to a full throated roar. What the hell was I going to do with the damn thing? It wasn’t exactly a SSPCA or council call-out because if it was what I suspected, everyone would die. And die hard as Bruce Willis would no doubt have said if he’d known.

Then I remembered the steak in the fridge. It was to have been my Sunday night treat: burned to a crisp and washed down with a bottle of Talisker. Now it was bait for whatever skulked in the bushes. A beast whose tastes, I was willing to bet, were rather more rarefied than my own.

An icy north wind nipped the back of my neck and I noticed for the first time that no birds sang. It would be dark soon and whatever it was I was going to do, I needed to do it now. I turned to head back to the house until a desperate rasp stopped me in my tracks.

It took a few precious moments to figure it out, but when I did there was no cigar.

The thing was laughing.

Fairmiledead

Sunday, May 4th, 2014

Martin didn’t mind that he was dead so much as the fact that he’d been killed by his unloving wife of twenty-three years. To add insult to injury the bitch was now living the high life in what had been their suburban semi in Fairmilehead on the outskirts of Edinburgh.

Mary had laced his dinner with arsenic night after night for weeks and smiled at him over the dinner table as he’d eaten every last mouthful. She had tended him as he vomited his guts up and held his hand when the pain got so bad he begged her to put a pillow over his face. Finally she had relented and, picking up one of the over-stuffed cushions she liked so much, had done as she was bid with a little quirk of the mouth he didn’t recall having ever seen before.

He had tried not to fight of course, but found that his wasted body’s instinct to survive thought differently. He began to struggle, to signal to her that he’d changed his mind, that she didn’t have to carry out her grisly promise after all. But she only bore down harder with a strength he hadn’t known she had in her. And then:

“Die you fat bastard, why don’t you die. You should go to hell after what you’ve done.”

That was strange he’d thought, because he hadn’t been fat at the end. On the contrary the weeks and months of illness had rendered him skeletal, skin hanging in folds around a wasted frame as though he was wearing a flesh suit three sizes too big.

Well, she had got her wish, the dead part at least. Except he didn’t think he was in hell. No, it looked very much like he was still here in the home sweet home they’d shared together for over two decades. He had tried to leave, but found he couldn’t get further than the gate at the end of the garden. This was unfortunate as he subsequently discovered that he had also fallen victim to the oldest cliché in the book: she had been having an affair with his so-called best friend Cliff Morgan, the man he’d played golf with at the Swanston Golf Club twice a month for almost as long as he’d been married to Mary.

Well, as he had been fond of saying when he was alive, this was indeed a pretty pickle. The first time Cliff had come round, he’d tried to get through to him, screaming himself hoarse to make his friend understand what Mary had done. It was only when Cliff put one hand on Mary’s breast, while unbuttoning his trousers with the other that he realised the full horror of his predicament. What was he to do?

What, he wondered, had Mary had meant when she had referred to something he’d done. He couldn’t for the life or even death of him fathom that one out. He also wasn’t sure what had upset him the most: Mary’s betrayal or Cliff’s. To his surprise, on balance it was his friend’s behaviour that cut deepest. She had killed him to be sure and he wasn’t about to forget that; but it was Cliff’s treachery that had cut him to the quick. He hoped fervently that didn’t mean he was some sort of homo. No, that wouldn’t do at all.

Tonight the traitorous love-birds were having a romantic dinner for two: scented candles, roses, and the big dining table set as though it was a fancy restaurant. She of course was done up like a dog’s dinner in a pink evening dress that was far too tight and revealing in all the wrong places for her frumpy body. He was freshly coiffed with that hideous Bobbie Charlton comb-over that Martin and Mary had laughed about behind his back. Well, she wasn’t laughing now, the two-faced cow, as she slid her stocking-clad foot up and down Cliff’s pinstriped leg and gazed adoringly into his eyes.

Maybe this was hell. Doomed to imprisonment in his own house watching his killer and his best friend canoodle with not a thing he could do about it.

Or at least that’s what he’d thought. Just the other day (although time was fluid in this state so he couldn’t really be sure) he had met another occupant of the house that could see, hear and understand him perfectly. She said she had died in the house when she was young and she certainly didn’t look older than sixteen. She told him she used to watch over him when he’d been alive to which he retorted that she had obviously not done a very good job given recent events. She huffed for a while and only came round after he had apologised profusely. Some assiduous flattery and ego massaging later (of which he was rather proud given he’d never had to do it before), she revealed that yes, there was a way to intervene in the physical world after all. It was tricky and dangerous, even for ghosts such as they, but it could be done.

It would be done, he thought with mounting rage. As though in response, a china dog he had never liked fell off the mantel-piece and shattered on the hearth. Things were looking up.

Thrice Bitten

Saturday, April 26th, 2014

There was something about the three blonde, black-eyed women that was not quite right. At least that was Colin’s opinion as he finished one pint and considered starting another. His thoughts turned as they always did to his bitch ex Jackie, who was giving him grief and not letting him see the wee man until he paid what she said he owed. Fat chance of that when he’d just lost his job in the off-licence where he had worked for ten years. Who could have predicted offies in Scotland would ever go out of business? You had to get through the cold, smothering dark of the winter months somehow and it had long been a family tradition that a vast quantity of booze was just the way to do it.

He decided on another pint and whisky chaser and lumbered unsteadily to the bar to get them in. The Bingo Wings was a run-down sort of place, but you could sit in the gloom and nurse drink and grievances in equal measure with no interference from anyone who knew what was good for them. So the hot glances thrown his way from the blond bints, weren’t really what he’d come to expect from his inner sanctum, least of all on a blustery Tuesday afternoon. No, talent-spotting wasn’t the usual pastime in the Bingo Wings and there were other more likely venues for that sort of nonsense. This was where silent, angry men sat and drank themselves into a well earned oblivion before picking a fight outside to round the evening off.

Christ they were fit though: lush, full figured and from the long legs, not much shy of his six feet frame. He thought maybe they’d been to a fancy dress party because they were all dressed in white see-through dress things that rode right up when they sat down on the bar stools, so you could pretty much see everything. Little tarts.

The nearest one turned her head to look at him, a sinuous, twisting motion accompanied by a fall of white-blond hair that was so long she could have sat on it. Well, if the little slag played her cards right, she’d be sitting on something else before the end of the night.

“Are you sisters then?” he said controlling the slurring with a mighty effort.

The other two turned to stare at him with that same serpentine motion and three pairs of black eyes fixed on his face as though he was the most fascinating creature in the world. Probably couldn’t believe their luck. They must have been sisters because their features were almost identical. There was also a sharpness about the nose and cheek-bones that he hadn’t noticed at first, but they were still stunners, no doubt about it.

“In a way,” the nearest one answered in a soft voice.

She was definitely up for it. Wait until Jackie found out that he still had the old one, two magic.

“What’s your name?” she asked.

“Eh, Colin. Colin McQuarrie. Yours?” he asked, finally remembering the finer points of leg-over etiquette.
“Margo. And this is Morgan and Marjorie.”

The blond in the middle, Morgan, slid gracefully off her stool and came to stand next to him. Maybe he’d be in a three-way before the night was out if he minded his p’s and q’s. He hurriedly calculated just how much he’d had to drink because it really wouldn’t do to disappoint the ladies. Not if the abuse Jackie had regularly showered him with was anything to go by.

Morgan put a hand on his arm and was so close he could smell her: an intoxicating scent that brought with it the green promise of spring woods. He was just about to press his mouth to hers and maybe even give her a bit of tongue, when she ruined the moment by speaking. That was women for you.

“Did you know you have an elemental attached to you?”

“An elephant? Are you pissed hen?”

The third blond, Marjorie had joined them and stood on his other side. He felt hemmed in for some reason and started to wonder where Rab the barman was; quelling a sudden surge of adrenalin as though some part of his brain was telling him to make a run for it. Why would he run from three lassies?

“An elemental,”

“It’s a lower form of spirit-”

“That attaches itself to people who have done bad things in their lives. It feeds off the energy that creates-”

“And for every bad deed, the elemental gets bigger-”

“And bigger and-”

“Yours is the size of a tenement. And it’s still growing. You must have been a very naughty boy Colin.”

He’d lost track of who was saying what but it didn’t matter because it melded into a seamless whole as though the conversation was taking place entirely inside his own head. The three hadn’t taken their eyes off him, tracking his progress like a deer or some other prey that didn’t have a hope in hell. Being hopeless had never felt so good.

“You know those angry, frustrated feelings you get where you want to burn the world and everybody in it?”

He was pretty sure that was Marjorie who was stroking his arm, snaking a trail up to the back of his neck. Dumbly he nodded.

“That’s from the elemental. Sort of like waste products if you see what I mean. You’ll have noticed how it’s getting worse no doubt? That’s the elemental getting stronger. Soon it’ll be powerful enough to swallow your soul. While you’re still alive I mean. You’ll be little more than a walking, talking corpse. Isn’t that something?” Margo smiled. Was it just his imagination, or were her teeth more prominent than they had been a moment ago?

He was really confused now, unsure if it was the drink or if the women had drugged him. He wasn’t sure he cared, as long as they stayed with him.

“Can’t I get rid of it? I mean, couldn’t you help me?” he said, like a little boy pleading not to be sent to bed. He didn’t question the truth of what he was being told: it was as if he’d always known. Ever since that hit and run that he’d been responsible for as a teenager and then all the other stuff since then…

“Ah, now. We were just getting to that,” said Morgan. “But first there’s something you need to do for us.”

Sometimes It’s Hard To Be A Psycho

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

I hauled the body over my shoulder in a fireman’s lift, hindered by the fact that it was encased in slippery plastic. It was just shy of ten and I was confident I wouldn’t bump into any lurking neighbours.

That confidence burst like a balloon as I opened my front door and a young man with golden dreads and a nose ring strode onto the landing.

“Well hi there gorgeous,” he said, with an Aussie accent you could cut with a knife and still have enough to balance the drinks on.

“Let me help you with that,” the fool continued, yanking the body from me. He was tall and fit but even so it cost him no little effort. Just for a second the Cheshire cat smile faltered until machismo reasserted itself and he began to make his way stiffly down the stairs.

“What have you got in here?” he gasped, reaching the second floor. “A body, by any chance? Maybe an old boyfriend refusing to take the hint?” He winked and laughed at his own joke.

“It’s actually a nosy neighbour incapable of minding his own business. I keep my exes in jars in the living room like normal people. Together forever as Rick Astley used to sing.”

He stopped short just as the gaffer tape came loose and a shrivelled finger poked out like a mummified worm. A dark liquid dribbled down his chunky knit pullover and he began to vomit, dropping the body into the stairwell with a sickening crunch. I knew the song was bad, but this was throwing the body out with the bathwater….

Beauty And The Beast

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

All I could see of the beast at the bottom of the garden was a pair of red eyes shining out from the thicket of brambles where it was holed up. A trail of blood on the grass told me it was wounded and all the more dangerous for it.

The question was: what flavour of beastie was I entertaining in my own backyard? From the neon eyes clearly not one of the usual suspects. Or at least none of the things that usually roamed the mean streets of Bruntsfield. You’d be surprised what you can find lurking just over your threshold, waiting for a gold embossed invite RSVP.

A low, trickling growl grew into a full throated roar. I flinched despite myself and wondered what the hell I was going to do now. It wasn’t exactly a SSPCA or council call-out because if it was what I suspected, everyone would die. And die hard as Bruce Willis would no doubt have said if he’d known.

I remembered I had a steak in the fridge. It was to have been my Friday night treat: burned to a crisp and washed down with a bottle of Talisker. Now it was destined for the gullet of whatever skulked in the bushes. A beast whose tastes, I was willing to bet, were rather more rarefied than my own.

An icy north wind nipped the back of my neck and I noticed for the first time that no birds sang. It would be dark soon and whatever it was I was going to do, I needed to do it now. I turned to head back to the house when:

“Don’t go,” the beast rasped. “I want to kill you here, out in the open where I can see the light fade from your eyes. A last request you might say.”

And it chuckled, a gurgling, phlegmy affair that couldn’t quite disguise the rustling of old leaves as it tensed, gathering itself for that final leap.

At least it was attention for me.

The End Of The World As We Know It

Sunday, April 6th, 2014

Whatever was waiting at the end of the alley, it was something long dead.
And yet, judging by the roars of rage and the maelstrom of rubbish battering the surrounding buildings, that something was not prepared to concede the fact. A little unsteadily, on account of all the whiskey I’d consumed at the World’s End pub, chosen because the name suited my mood, I made my way towards the epicentre.

The sharp crack of a window smashing, the unmistakable tinkle of glass and the thing paused for a heart-beat, as though surprised at its own strength and then the onslaught resumed with renewed frenzy. Walking through the flying shards of assorted crap, arm raised to ward off the worst of it, I was bloodied but still curious.

Which was a shame really because if ever there was a moment when a kindly fate I didn’t believe in should have intervened, turning me back to wend my weary, drunken way home instead of into the belly of the beast, it was then.

The air crackled with static as it rushed me like a rabid dog, maw vast, flayed flanks heaving. Bigger than a grizzly, it pinned me with ease to the ground with talons that sliced through the meat of my shoulders faster than a hot knife through butter.

“Roseeeee,” it growled as drool from its mis-matched jaws fell in ropes across my upturned face.

“You could always just ask for a date like normal people,” I wheezed, forcing myself to lie still in the forlorn hope of minimising further damage to my abused flesh.

The skinned features moved and shiny, black bone protruded through the small craters in its head. It was only as my consciousness began to spot and fade that I realised it was smiling.

Sleeping Dogs Lie

Sunday, March 30th, 2014

Although the place had been wiped clean of ghosts, there was one that had not been persuaded to go. One that was so much a part of the fabric of the house and the people who lived here, that it had refused to make that final journey along the Highway of the Dead.

The question was why.

Looking at me warily from the corner of the room, the ghost fiddled with its over-sized granny glasses, the pattern of the wall paper behind it showing clearly through the insubstantial body. The forehead just above the left eye had been stoved in and something fluid glistened inside. This was how it remembered the injury it had received, a vague recollection of an outrage perpetrated on a body it no longer possessed.

I held out my hand and it came, bringing with it a wave of loneliness that crashed over us both leaving us adrift on a vast featureless sea under a leaden sky, moorings cut, compass broken. But the conduit between us had been opened and the ghost’s secret self was concealed no more.

Grudging details came at first, like reluctant suitors on a first date. In life it had been called Anne, but what had rooted it here in death was still buried deep down under the surface like a sleeping leviathan. My death sense began to whisper to it, threats and enticements in equal measure, prodding the monster to wake.

And wake it did.