At the end of the alley something stirred, 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 point. A little unsteadily, on account of all the whiskey I’d consumed at the World’s End pub (where I only drank because of the thrillingly cataclysmic name), I made my way towards the epicentre.

The sharp crack of a window smashing, the unmistakable tinkle of glass and the entity paused, as though surprised at its own strength; but only for a heart beat and 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 blinded, deafened, but unbowed.

Which was a shame really because if ever there was a moment when a kindly fate I don’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 that one.

But I was hooked now, because I could see it, motionless in the midst of its self-created mayhem.

I took off the dark glasses and studied it with more interest. There was a partial notion of a face: a snub nose so extreme it should have belonged on a shrunken head, and a sliding slant of facial feature that only just erred this side of human. This was what happened to those that had been long dead. They forgot the exact size and shape of the flesh over-coats they had worn in life. Eventually they lost all resemblance to their living, breathing, human selves, spiritually decomposing in ironic homage to the way of the flesh and finally becoming nothing more than a plume of dirty smoke; a patch of cold that you might feel as a shiver down your spine if you walked through it, but nothing more. The emotions were always last to go, stubbornly clinging on like dim witted hangers-on after the main attraction had upped sticks and gotten the hell out of Dodge. Which is exactly what I should have done.

And I could have too: right up until the moment it reached for me…

Matters Of Life And Death

The legions of the dead reach out to me with insubstantial fingers and when I can’t or won’t pay attention to them, it makes them angry, mean. And it never stops. The demands are incessant and if I’m lucky obscene rather than insane. It goes on day and night wherever I happen to be, whatever I’m doing. If someone has died there, I’ll be the first to know. The thing is that death doesn’t improve most people. Especially as time passes and they forget who they were in life; then you’re left with what you might call the raw essence. Mostly, that’s not a pretty sight, sound or feeling.

No wonder I drink.

It’s almost the only thing that deadens the complaints and perverse whisperings that go on constantly whether I’m in the toilet going for broke or trying to get a leg over. It’s all the same to them and they don’t care if I’m asleep or awake. I can screen it out to an extent like white noise, but not always and never completely. They wait like jackals, greedy for that moment when my concentration starts to slip so they can subsume me with desires that should have died along with their flesh envelope.

But it’s what they evolve into that really sickens me. Still, I suppose it’s a life of sorts.

Just not as we know it Jim…

A Dark-Adapted Eye

I was flying high above the city, lights like rusted stars beneath me. The big beasts were out tonight and I raced past vast serpentine shapes, coils arcing through the air, some with prey leaking their lives onto the night wind and others with joy-riders astride their sleek flanks, wild cries swallowed by the sky. On the ground a dark mass had devoured half of the Meadows and was making it’s way up through Morningside. But I wasn’t confined to the prison of my own skull anymore and such concerns were only part of a larger and more intricate whole, one that consumed me even as I tried to unravel it. No longer separate and discrete, I was part of the fabric of the world: the weft and weave of night joining the dance of the cosmos and beyond; the rhythm of prey and hunter, light as air, fast as light.

I swooped down past lit tenement windows, orange beacons to whatever wanted to spy, past lovers’ quarrels, furtive stirrings in dark alleyways, the blare of car horns, the desperate calls of dogs and other creatures one to another, the ebb and flow of life incessant, irresistible. Low now over pubs and clubs, pumping out a never ending sea of humanity in search of fast thrills and faster food, the debris nourishing the wild things that crept out from the shadows.

Soaring over the affluent houses of the Grange, a massed, silent citadel of privilege set apart from the tattered glamour of the rest of the city. Huge Victorian villas in enormous grounds, some containing only one elderly coot too stubborn to die, too infirm to make the most of it. This was where the bankers and the wealthy elite lived secure behind their stone fortresses, dreading the day the barbarian hordes stormed the gates.

And come it would.

Monday, Monday

I woke up after seven to darkness and the dead, so closely packed it was impossible to tell how many there were. They stood silently, their milky eyes though blind, still able to track me wherever I went, like a field of grey translucent sun flowers.

Had my live visitors wrecked my wards earlier today? I’d rip their limbs off and feed them to them if they had, but somehow I didn’t think it was their style. Besides the wards were so powerful, I didn’t see how anyone could disable them but me.

The Deadlights woke, excited by the promise of all that dark energy and the room thrummed with them, making my head hurt worse than it already did. I waded effortfully through the frozen press of the dead, as though miles down underwater, with a million tonnes of water bearing down on my unprotected head.

I remembered I had a job on tonight and as if to confirm I got a full on visual from one of the Boabhan Sith showing the unmistakable shape of Salisbury Crags and the whispered message:

“The Guardian is awake. You must come.”

I also remembered that it was probably a bad idea given the Hand-of-Glory some kind soul had sent me last night.

It would be madness, mayhem, murder and worse if I accepted such a rash invitation. But then again, it was either that or spend a cheerless Monday night in the cold bosom of the dearly departed.

Of course I went.