The Office

April 21st, 2013

Inside it was dark and smelled of ozone. I took my glasses off and flicked the little torch on. I was in a huge open plan office with broken furniture throwing shadows on the windowless walls. I ran the torch around the ceiling and found it was a long way up and that the unit had a mezzanine floor. Scarlet and burnt orange mingled sickeningly telling their own tale of what had taken up residence in this godforsaken part of the city. Where the hell were twins?

“Ruby. Rufus,” I called. Whatever was here knew of my presence so it wouldn’t have mattered if I’d crept in or marched up and down with a brass band. I motioned to the vampires to follow me over the threshold but they would not obey. All three had returned to there natural form, stubby wings beating hard on bony bodies like heavy fists on flesh. They were on all fours, massive hind quarters and strong forelimbs giving me an inkling that they were built for more than speed. I was betting they could run like dogs although a hell of lot faster. One of them started a growling sound at the back of its throat and the other two took up the refrain. It rose in pitch as though warning of imminent attack and the hackles on the back of my neck rose.

“Come with me,” I said again.

They fell silent and glared at me with slitted red eyes. The sudden silence was shocking after the little siren song I’d just been treated to.

“Stick then,” I said moving back outside and to fasten the collars around each throat. I secured them to a metal grille next to the door and locked them with the key as though they were mere mutts and not the carnivorous monsters that they were. “But if you misbehave I’ll kill you myself.”

It was pathetic move more for the symbolism of sit stay than anything else and I was under no illusions that they could not escape with contemptuous ease but I was running on empty so it would have to do. They’d either go along with me for whatever twisted fucked up reasoning such creatures used, or they wouldn’t.

One of the monsters was trying to say something around all those teeth. I didn’t catch it at first but eventually I made it out each gasping word:

“You. Will. Die. They. Burn. Down. There. They. All. Burn.”

I snorted in disgust and went back inside to whatever waited and the unpleasant smell of sulphur. The spectral colours I saw without my glasses, the residue of unhappiness, violence and pain were familiar to me, but the concentration was not. It was as though someone had thrown luminous paint in those shades over the walls, the floor, the fabric of the building. Whatever haunted this place, it was not a simple thing and it would not go easily. I was also getting the distinct impression that it not just one presence, but legion.

The Dead-Lights raced ahead, lighting the way in more ways than one. They raced along the ceiling, along the walls, into corners and crevices, swept the building and the ground underneath. And that was when the first ball of fire streaked down from the mezzanine and exploded into the wall inches from me. It burned hot and bright but it was no ordinary fire.

I was beginning to understand why the vampires had not wanted to enter the place. Why three flesh eating freaks had the luxury of a choice denied to me was something I’d deal with later. If I survived….

Talking Heads

April 14th, 2013

Riding the X12 bus home after another dispiriting day at the office usually brought Robert at least some grain of comfort. Not today though. It was just after 6pm on a wild November night with gusts of wind so strong, they shook the bus like a terrier with a rat. Reminded of the Twilight Zone episode where an airplane passenger looks out his window during a storm-racked flight to see a monster on the wing tearing it to shreds, Robert shivered, pulled his anorak tighter around his neck and studiously stared ahead at the CCTV monitor as it flicked from upstairs to down. There was something wrong with the colour, as though it was being leeched out of the screen leaving only a jaundiced, sepia tint. Just like my life, he thought.

He turned to the Metro newspaper article he’d been tussling with all the way from Corstorphine, but it was no use. He was thinking as usual about Jenny, his darling wife, who had not only just told him she was in love with another man, but was pregnant with his child.

That had ‘brought things to a head’ she’d said, smiling faintly, as though her adulterous coupling had been some sort of boil that she was desperate to pop. But she was the one who was going to do the popping in eight months or so. It wasn’t as though she was some prize pig either. Robert couldn’t for the life of him work out where his shy, dowdy, little wife had met her fertile Romeo never mind why he’d been attracted to her.

It wasn’t as though she worked for a living, Robert had seen to that. He’d insisted she stay home and taken care of her every need. Or at least, that’s what he’d thought. Clearly he’d turned out to be a bit of a disappointment between the sheets. Images of the pair in a hundred different positions came unbidden as they always did, searing themselves into his brain. The bitch had actually told him that she hadn’t wanted kids, but apparently she had.

Just not Robert’s.

Round and round on the vicious cycle merry-go-round. When would it end? Christ he needed to pull himself together. He heard a faint, insectile whine and looked up at the monitor again. He couldn’t tell which part of the bus the camera was spying on because the picture had distorted as though it was being stretched. But that wasn’t it either, because as he watched, Robert could see what looked like a face forming, with sharp humanoid features and long gleaming eyes. The lipless mouth opened impossibly wide as though in a silent scream.

Was that what the whine was?

The wind rocked the bus as it rounded a sharp bend and Robert thought they were going to tip over. Good, he thought. It would be a relief if it ended here for all of them, here in the no man’s land of the A8 as it led away from the city into the enveloping dark. If his life was ruined everyone else’s should be too.

The alien head on the monitor had now developed serrated teeth the colour of old dishwater. Was it smiling for Christ’s sake? It was almost as though it could hear his thoughts. Was that even possible? Had his distress driven him over an edge that he couldn’t even see any more, much less scramble back onto.

Free me, it said, voice like the tinkling of tiny, malevolent bells. Free it? And then what? His head felt heavy as though he’d been drinking all day as opposed to the four pints with whisky chasers he’d downed in quick succession during his lunch-hour, uncaring of the consequences.

Free me. Kill them all.

“What, all of them?” Robert asked aloud, prompting curious looks from his fellow passengers.

All.

Robert thought for a moment. He wasn’t a monster godammit.

“Can we start with the fat guy at the back and just see how it goes?”

When The Moon Is Fat

April 1st, 2013

We were in a small freezing room, devoid of furniture apart from a gurney that looked like a relic from a haunted asylum horror flick. Undaunted, Vic had been pummelling my bruised flesh and stretching my aching bones with such a sustained ferocity that I was seriously considering asking him to knock me out.

“You’ll feel better in the morning,” was all he would say. I lay under a thin cover stark naked and feeling like my entire body had been set alight. And not in a good way.

“My mother always told me to live in the present,” I moaned.

“You never knew your mother and I’m beginning to doubt you ever even had one. Oh, by the way, what I said to the blond geezer, what’s his name? Rudy isn’t it? Brave bloke by the way. Takes guts to even think about standing up to Mike or me. Oh yeah and talking of guts, unless you want to lose them, lock your door when you turn in tonight.”

“What about all that owe you stuff Vic, are you planning to off us in an all singing all dancing show of just how grateful you are?”

“Rose, don’t you know what tonight is?”

“Go on, amaze me.” I winced as he dug his fingers deep into the meat of my shoulders.

“Just think about it.”

I did. My spirits, low enough to do an Olympic level limbo, flatlined.

“What if it doesn’t hold,” I said eventually. “The door, I mean.”

“Don’t even think about it. Now hold still.”

“What do you know about wulvers Vic?”

The pummelling paused and then:

“Enough to know you leave them the fuck alone. Here goes.”

I felt the slow trickle of something warm across my back and didn’t bother asking him what it was. A low rumbling sound filled the room until a heavy weight fell across me muffling my hearing but it didn’t matter because I could feel it, like a cat’s purr. A warm lassitude spread through my limbs as though I had been injected with something. A persistent little voice at the back of my mind was trying to remind me about something vital but I was too tired to make the effort and instead opted for the proffered oblivion. I was at the end of whatever served as my rope and if my body didn’t heal some of the damage it had suffered over the past few days it was Goodnight Vienna, whatever the hell that turned out to mean. As long as it didn’t involve Midge Ure, I was psyched.

Bilious Gods and the Vampire Next Door

March 17th, 2013

Edinburgh’s birth and the land upon which it was built was nothing more than a volcanic plug spewed out of the belly of a bilious god; destined to become a precarious high point where people felt safe from invasion, but unfortunately were not. They built a wall, a stone girdle as though that would protect them from what was within. And when the girdle became too tight, they built up and up giving the world its first plague ridden high rises. But that of course was so Old Town darling, and the New was supposed to be the antidote to all that nasty disease and poverty. And maybe it was, but it was also sterile, without the bloated, infarcted beauty of the old where most of the supernaturals made their home.

But there was a newer, tougher breed of supernatural that had no need of such sentimental aesthetics and I was going to its lair. As I turned left into Dean Terrace past the carefully preserved des res from another era, I tried to focus on the non-existent plan which so far amounted to rooting around in the monster’s lair while it was absent hoping to find The Mask which of course would just be lying at the end of a trial of arrows along with some clues about the identity of two murderers who may or may not have known its owner twenty very odd years ago.

Finally onto Ann Street and I would have loved to have known how a flying lizard centuries old had managed to infest one of its mansions. Number 28 was next, the lights were not on but that did not mean no one was home. I walked up the short rubbish strewn, weed filled path and rang the bell which I could hear clanging around the house.

No one came. Not one to take no answer for an answer, I pushed at the door and it opened. It wasn’t really that surprising that she didn’t think to lock the door, it wasn’t as though she needed to be security conscious and if random council workers or posties went missing more plausible explanations could be found, palms greased, influence exercised. The beauty of this type of predator was that it lay in wait amongst its prey perfectly camouflaged until it was too late.

People didn’t tend to suspect their neighbours of being vicious, vampiric killing machines. Or at least not for long…

Burns Night

March 10th, 2013

Back at my thankfully Rufus-free flat I sat in the living room eating toasted cheese washed down with a large crystal tumbler of Talisker and listening to Rod Stewart warbling The First Cut is the Deepest in grim tribute to a grim day. My trusty home stitches kit had been required to patch up the saw wounds and the effort had drained me. The Sith had been banished to their room like sulky teenagers and I tried again to call Ravi with no luck. Where the hell was he? He always had his mobile on him that much I knew.

I was going to have to abandon my flat for a while as doubtless Crowe knew where I lived. Even coming back now was very risky but I had shit I had to attend to not to mention take with me so I had no choice. The plan was to go to a different hotel every night to make it harder to track me. Crowe could find me if he really wanted but I was going to make it has hard for him as I possibly could. Magic, even the kind Crowe practised took time and sacrifice and I intended to take full advantage.

Turning the television on to the BBC 24 channel, I was treated to Edinburgh in flames, reminding me of the vision the Guardian had shown me on Arthur Seat.

The fire had not stopped at Gorgie.

There were now separate blazes starting, apparently spontaneously, and no one could figure out why. A map plotting their progress showed clearly that the city was indeed surrounded by its very own burning ring of fire.

My phone rang giving the first few bars of Snapper’s Dumping You displaying Ravi’s number. But it wasn’t Ravi on the other end…

The Vampire’s Prayer

March 3rd, 2013

We circle the house

each one of us the eyes and ears of the others.

Where there were three

there is now

one unholy trinity.

We slide like water over brick and mortar, seeking a way in.

Seek and we shall find, wherever the meat tries to hide.

Fi, fo, fi, fum, we smell his blood and it has begun.

Somewhere inside this concrete nest

trapped blood races through untapped veins.

The flesh overcoat inside these insecure walls has no idea he is about to be worn.

Let us in
Let us in
Let us in

Burn Baby, Burn

February 17th, 2013

“All right back there?” shouted Rufus.

“Peachy,” I said. “Are we there yet?”

The van came to an abrupt halt and I fell across the smaller wulver causing it yip, a high distressed sound. My face was now level with the Guardian’s faithful friend and its top lip wrinkled, a low snarling sound, so basso profundo that I felt it in my chest. I hurriedly pushed myself away from it, pressing for all I was worth into the farthest corner.

“What the hell happened?” I yelled. Ruby and Rufus jumped out the van, shouting something I didn’t catch. Carefully edging towards the door handle, I slowly pulled it down and got out into the cold night. It was snowing heavily as though the city was trying to put out the flames. We were on the winding road that led to the top of Arthur’s Seat and I could see the dull sodium glow of the fires that were razing the city to the ground. Of Ruby and Rufus there was no sign.

Then I heard it: a vast roar of rage that came from further up the road just at the sharp bend in the road. I ran towards it and then down a snow covered grass embankment in time to hear Ruby scream:

“Oh my God. Oh MY GOD!”

But at first I couldn’t see what the fuss was about because a battery of Corpse-candles rose and began buzzing around my head limiting my vision to a mauve coloured blur of light that had its own weight, like a coating of scum on the top of a pond. Whatever was out there would be getting a great heads up with my whereabouts all thanks to these little bastards. I remembered the old tales about them, that they lead unwary travellers to their deaths in peat bogs and over the edges of cliffs. They didn’t like the wind and driving snow judging by the way they parted slightly after a particularly vicious blast straight from the North Sea.

Ruby was sobbing, a hoarse, guttural sound of defeat and despair and still I could see nothing. But it didn’t matter because by then I felt the thrum of the life force flowing through the Park, Arthur’s Seat and the Crags. The Deadlights rose up and out in that familiar silver spill which could only mean one thing: something or someone was at the point of death. I was lost momentarily in the pull of all that elemental magic, a high that no amount of alcohol or drugs could match.

Or at least I was until a body was hurled from somewhere above, landing with a bone-shattering thud not ten feet from where I stood, ruining the mood.

The body was followed by an enormous mass I couldn’t make out. It took precious seconds before I could work out that both were locked in a fight to the death the ripping of skin audible even above the frenzied snarling and snapping. The second arrival was a creature of smoke and darkness swirling in upon itself and yet at the core, a scarlet light burned as though whatever it was had caught fire.

Mortality Tale

February 10th, 2013

Standing for ages at the bus stop near the Minto Hotel desperate for a pee. Still no bloody bus. One had to come soon surely to God? She should have had Jerry pick her up but she’d been so involved with Joyce that she’d forgotten the time. By the time she’d spoken to Jerry, he was three beers in. She calls the taxi number again and then another. Engaged or no answer. She’ll try again in a minute. Another woman is already standing at the bus stop: small and slim with a tailored dog-tooth coat and high heels.

“I’ve only come out in the worst possible outfit haven’t I?” the woman says grinning and sounding a little pissed. “It’s okay though, my husband’s picking me up. He’ll be here any minute.”

Pause.

“Would you by any chance like a lift?”

“No thanks, I my husband’s coming for me.”

Not true but there is something about this woman with the fluting, fake laugh. A white mini pulls up at the curb next to them and the woman totters to the back seat which seems strange to Michelle. The driver rolls down the window.

“Happy to give you a lift darling.”

“No, really it’s not necessary,”

“I insist,” says the man, leaning over to open the passenger door in front. “Always happy to give a lady a free ride,” he continues, winking broadly.

“No,” she says with more force than she’d meant. “My husband’s coming-”

“Don’t know why he’s not here already darling. I wouldn’t let my wife out alone at this time of night. Not with the perverts that go about nowadays.”

“I’ve told you-”

“Okay, okay,” the man laughs, raising his hands in mock surrender. “It’s your funeral, isn’t it Steph?” Giggling from the back seat is the only response. Why on earth had she got in the back?

“Tell you what though, could you do us a favour and shut the door. It’s bloody Baltic.”

There’s no harm in helping him out, is there? She approaches the car, almost slips on the ice and snow slimed pavement and reaches out to shut the door. The woman for some reason has gotten back out the car and is now behind her. Maybe she’s dropped something and is going to retrieve it. Before she can reach out for the door, she’s pushed from behind and falls against the car, hitting her head on the side of the roof. Strong arms bundle her inside and the car screeches off.

Unholy Wedlock

February 3rd, 2013

I led the three vampires into the living room and ordered them to stand in front of a small table containing a crystal decanter foolish enough to have its top off.

“You must now bind yourselves to me by blood,” I told them. Another tip from Ravi although I don’t think he had expected me to be foolish enough to use it.

I motioned to them to come forward, extending my two index finger-blades. They hissed, features distorted to display a little of what lay beneath. I’d have to teach them the error of their ways and hope that I wasn’t turning into a ghoulish version of Henry Higgins in the process. If I was very unlucky they’d develop cod-cockney accents and the horror would be complete.

Sullenly they extended their wrists and I slashed each in turn, quick slicing motions that brought brackish blood smelling faintly of the sea welling up from pale skins. Like an old hand I caught it in the decanter before slashing my own wrist, taking care to do it horizontally. The wrist was probably not the best place but I only needed a few drops and the symbolism was worth it. The delicate patter as my blood joined theirs: a metallic tang, a brief spot of crimson in the darkness of the viscous fluid marked the most dangerous point of our brief acquaintance. Morgan’s cheeks visibly hollowed and Marjorie choked, drool running down her perfect chin onto her t-shirt.

They were, I realised, starving. For the first time I felt like the idiot in the tigers’ cage who had volunteered just to impress but now wished he hadn’t as they picked his limbs off like boys with flies’ wings. A brief hiatus, pregnant with the import of what I’d just done hung heavy in the room. To my knowledge no one had messed about with this particular little ménage a quatre and there was usually a good reason for that.

“To blood of thine add blood of mine, together ere we die. So mote it be,” I whispered. The spell was cast and, much like the act of flinging yourself under the wheels of a bus, there was no undoing it. No going back.

With their gaze boring into the back of my head I locked the decanter in a small cupboard by the window, noticing absently that snow was falling thick and fast obscuring the world as though some old god had wished it away. Even Fife, usually all too visible from this window, was a distant nightmare that I couldn’t see anymore. I needed to get going or I’d suffer the same fate. I threaded the key onto a chain and put it around my neck where it hung glistening dully in the meagre light. No sound disturbed the gravid silence apart from the tick-tock of the clock and the faint rumble of traffic muffled by the snow.

A marriage made in Hell, indeed. But who was going to wear the trousers?

Carnivore Carnage

January 27th, 2013

The three vampires materialised out of the gloom luminous against the night sky gravid with snow.

“We found nothing mistress,” said Morgan in her best imitation of polite. I wasn’t fooled though, being able to see into her bloody little fantasies with me as head scream queen. Of the three she was adapting the fastest to simulating humanity. Was it so wrong to improve the already considerable skills of a ravening predator?

Her prey of choice was, after all, only human.

“There’s nothing here,” said Margaret in her fluting, girlish voice. Marjorie said nothing, curling her lip to reveal sharp, white teeth.

“Where are the…brother and sister?” asked Morgan.

“I was hoping you’d be able to tell me,” I said.

Marjorie lifted a slender hand.

“Something comes.”

A milky, tainted light appeared from our left, coming from the city. But it wasn’t anything to do with the fire. A multitude of corpse-candles, will o’ the wisps, fizzed past my face and I involuntarily stepped back to avoid them. Their touch bewitched the mind into seeing what it wanted to see: loved ones long dead; treasure beyond counting; the list limited only by the imagination of the willing victim. I wasn’t ready to know the shape of my heart’s desire.

Not yet.

A chill wind blew my hair across a frozen face obliterating momentarily the piles of rubble and hulking machinery dotted around like a dinosaur’s graveyard. I was bone weary and sore from my assorted wounds. The playful scratch by Morgan throbbed and I suspected it was infected.

But I hadn’t been paying proper attention because the tainted light had not passed with the corpse candles. A low sepia cloud descended with the suddenness of a tsunami. It roiled in on itself briefly before covering the ground, enveloping everything in its path. I could see odd elongated shapes within it, like the distorted shadows of human beings thrown out by a fire. One shape raised a six fingered hand the fingers of which looked as though they had more joints than any mere human possessed.

Mistress

The Sith were afraid. My beautiful bold carnivores were finally afraid. A thrill of satisfaction gave me the strength to go for the knives hanging at my belt. Whatever it was would have to pry these steel babies from my cold dead hands.