Our Lady Of Sorrows

March 23rd, 2014

I strangled my two sisters in the womb so they would stay with me always. Now we traverse Princes Street on this sunny Sunday in March, brushing past the cattle clutching the hands of their young as though fearful someone may snatch them away. And maybe they have cause for such concerns given the Ice Cream Man, so called for his method of storing his young victims, has once again taken up his old ways down in darkest Leith.

But we, we unhappy three, we hunt for a different kind of victim; a live and willing flesh suit to do our bidding out here in this too, too noisy world with its trams and buses and the harrowed faces of those who no longer have the time even to notice the passage of their miserable lives as they slip down the drain into the eternal dark.

I see her, blonde and bumptious, talking to an invisible friend on a metallic device that has just slid from her fingers as I reach out and caress her hair…

Toilet Troubles

November 10th, 2013

The hand around my throat had been pressing down hard on my carotid and now my vision was beginning to spot, clots of darkness that threatened to join up and take me into oblivion. I forced myself to go limp as though I had fainted letting my attacker take the full force of my dead weight. He shifted his balance to accommodate the fact and loosened his grip on my throat by a fraction. A sense of calm descended on me, the harbinger of my worst berserker rages. Without conscious thought my thumbs quickly flipped the switches on my finger-knives and plunged them into the eyes behind the mask.

My would be murderer screamed, a high pitched feminine sound. He dropped his own knife and threw me bodily out of the toilet cubicle. I landed on the floor, hard, sliding along it only to bang my head on the metal bin. I lay momentarily stunned on my bed of assorted garbage until reality reasserted itself. I staggered to my feet, putting the finger-knives to bed in favour of the two curved blades that hung at my waist only to fall back down, tripping over my trousers and smashing my cheekbone for good measure. The screaming from the bathroom had descended the octaves and was now more of an agonised moaning.

Sounded good to me…

Reign of Fire

November 3rd, 2013

But there was no more time because the world was fire and fire was the world. Through the flames I could make out charred bodies tied to stakes and a man sitting astride a throne of molten bone, his long hair aflame and the skin peeling from his body like an overdone roast. A huge crack appeared in the cobblestoned street and a dark tide rose, taloned beasts fought their way to the surface and flew into the air shrieking their blood lust. I just had time to haul Rufus into the circle with Ruby and I before the horde were upon us. We never stood a chance.

Stockbridge Siren

July 14th, 2013

I knew I was being followed as I walked down Lothian Road. The walk was supposed to focus my mind on strategy and absorb the energy from the presences in the November night air while I was about it. I got to the block where the old Woolworths had been and felt it again: that sense that eyes were boring into the back of my head. I looked back and got a quick flash of something small and scaled diving into a doorway.

Acting on impulse I jumped onto a number 11 bus intending to get off somewhere along Princes Street. The town was quite crowded for this time on a Wednesday night especially since it was arctic and had started to snow, little flurries soon becoming big, fat, fan dances.

The bus was packed and full of wet, steaming people, some of them in all senses of the word making me want a drink myself. Instead I contented myself with going over what I knew about the Baobhan Sith, or common or garden vampire’s that haunted Stockbridge.

They tended to live in clusters with a dominant vampire calling the shots. They were like insect colonies operating on what seemed to be a form of weird shit telepathy although no one had gotten close enough to know for sure and lived to tell the tale.

Holy water and stakes were a joke and one soul who’d tried them ended up impaled on the pointy end of his own stake driven by slow, incremental degrees through his rectum. It had taken him a long, long time to die so I’d heard. Like Luke she could withstand daylight and although she did not sleep in a coffin, she kept some for her own amusement, once memorably to bury one of her human hangers-on alive.

How she had ever managed to attract any human followers given her meat-eating proclivities was a question for the shrinks frankly.

But then fools and their lives were easily parted in my experience.

Old Gods And New Tricks

July 7th, 2013

I took a fast black north to Granton, a part of the city clinging for dear life onto the south shore of the Firth of Forth like a spurned lover. The landscape was flat and bleak in a city famed for its curves and vitality. It had been heavily industrialised and then left to rot like so many places in Scotland. To be truthful, it had always depressed the hell out of me: grey and abandoned as though it had been stuck onto the rest of the city as an afterthought by an absent-minded god who had promptly forgotten about it. Trust Ravi to have picked this spot.

My destination, Granton Square, turned out to be more of a circle as I discovered after being turfed unceremoniously out of the taxi by the taciturn driver.

“Watch yourself here hen,” he said through a cigarette clamped between his teeth Clint Eastwood style, “they come out at night.” And with that he roared off down the road speeding on his way to suck the fun out of someone else’s night.

Hen, indeed. Where the hell had that little generic moniker come from?

I stomped round the faux square trying and failing to establish where 1A was. It must basement but I just couldn’t find which one. In the pitch black surprisingly few lights winked out and the street lights only managed an anaemic glow. There was no one about and surprisingly little traffic as though everyone had just decided that this really was not the place to be and had left it to its fate. Rather like Ravi’s previous home in the murky depths of the Gyle.

There was the distant noise of the occasional car, but the serenity of the square absorbed it like an over-indulgent mother. I remembered from somewhere that Granton had not been inhabited by people until comparatively recently and that may have explained the wraith like creatures that stalked the place. These wraiths resembled animals that couldn’t decide what species they belonged to: feline shaped heads, with tusks where teeth should be and legs ending in human hands not paws. One was following me now, a low growling deep down in its malformed throat. I sympathised with both the sentiment and the indecision.

A door slammed and then the sound of someone young and fit on stairs and indeed it was because Ravi burst into view from the building two doors down. He bounded over and picked me up as though I weighed nothing and, swinging me round, kissed me full on the lips. The familiar clean, herbal smell of him made me forget momentarily that I had been considering kneeing him in the nuts.

“I didn’t think you’d come,” he said, putting me down.

“Well to keep me here, you’re going to have to get me a massive drink and get it now.”

“All taken care of. I made some food in case you were hungry, or in between incidents.”

He laughed and the swirl of darkness that always accompanied him hugged him tighter as though protecting him from me. I was again reminded that this man had had a violent past: maybe that was why he was trying so hard to have a peaceful, nurturing present. I hoped to the god that I didn’t believe in that nothing like ever happened to me….

Dark Heart

June 23rd, 2013

I came to in a huge room with a high vaulted roof. A fire crackled merrily in the grate and I wondered briefly if I’d fallen into a fairy tale. Beauty and the Beast perhaps where the twist was that Beauty actually turned out be a bit of Beast herself. I was wrapped in a musty smelling blanket and the appetising smell of roast beast reminded me how hungry I was. The Guardian sat opposite me, bandaged but surprisingly chipper given the filleting he’d just had.

“For you,” he said indicating a little side table to my right. On it was indeed a roasted animal of some unidentifiable species part rodent with a large dash of goat judging by the horned head. Beside it was what could only be described as a goblet, albeit cracked and stained. But it was full to the brim with red wine and I did as I was bid.

“I usually prefer my food live and uncooked,” he said smiling.

“Where was I?” I said, ignoring him and stuffing huge mouthfuls of surprisingly tasty meat down the hatch. “And what the hell is this place?”

“Well to answer your second question first, this is the heart of the city. So many souls living and dying here have made it…beat shall we say. You were about to join the Highway of the Dead. Had you fallen all the way, I wouldn’t have been able to bring you back.”

“The Highway of the Dead runs through your gaffe. That’s not very cosy. Why?”

“Rose,” he said gently, “I keep telling you. This is the Edinburgh’s heart. When its citizens die, they converge here and make the journey together.”

“Journey? Where?”

He smiled. “Where do you think? To whatever’s next. I take care of all the people who live here, my people, from the cradle to the grave. Sort of like a supernatural welfare state.”

He laughed, but if it was a joke, I didn’t get it.

“So you’re telling me I didn’t fall all the way and if I had I would have died? Well what bastard pushed me?”

“Yes you would have died. Would that have been so bad? You are a very troubled soul Rose. Death might bring you peace.” My expression seemed to amuse him mightily and he continued: “One of my servants was angry at your presumption to open that which was not offered. I caught you before you hit the ground. I may be injured, but this is my home and I am master here.”

The handsome human features became neutral, composed. He was clearly healing at a rate of knots and I knew that was my cue to get the hell out of Dodge.

There was only one teensy tiny little problem however.

I didn’t know how.

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…