Day 214: Put your iPod on shuffle. Write down the lyrics of the first song that comes on, and use it as an opening line.

lost-places-old-decay-ruin-162389.jpeg

“Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one.”

“Oh, if you only knew what we’d been up to.” Major Blackthorn lifted Herbert’s chin, looking down into his bloodshot eyes. “But you don’t, do you? You’ve got no idea how far this goes.”

The giant screen behind him showed the baying crowd, having just watched Marlowe take a swan dive from the Wessler building. People were screaming that it was a trick. He had dived off and nothing happened,no falling, no screaming. He just stayed there, floating high above the plaza.

Blackthorn threw back his head and laughed, long and loud. “See! All Marlowe wanted was to be loved. To be special. That’s what we gave him!” He drew a remote from his pocket. Two buttons sitting next to each other above a small keyboard. “Yes, Herbert. We made him special. And look at him, adored and wonderful!” Herbert shifted against the flexicuffs around his wrists, but he couldn’t find any give. “Mr McCoy, we made Marlowe. Didn’t intend for him to go quite so public yet, seeing as we’re still in the beta testing stages.” Blackthorn removed his cap and threw it expertly onto the hatstand, pausing for breath and to scratch his thinning grey hair. “We got enough of the freaks together to work out how they ticked. There was a little bit of collateral, but this is a war after all. It was a real shame about your brother but… Such is life.”

Herbert lurched forward, dragging the heavy metal table forward a couple of inches in his rage. Blackthorn leapt back a foot, landing silently. “Haddock. Don’t respond directly, just tell Blackthorn he’s an ass if you can hear me.”

“You’re an ass, you know that?” Haddock said, jerking his body to try and snap the cuffs again to no avail.”What the hell are you doing?”

“Right now? I’m detracting attention. After all, Marlowe’s playing the role of a magician. Wouldn’t it be a shame if one of his tricks were to tragically fail. He dies in a trick gone wrong and all the talk of powers dissipates until we’re ready to release it. To the chosen ones, of course.”

“You mean you and your bunch of racists?” Haddock said out loud, screaming internally for the mysterious voice to come back, for  Marlowe to give in. He hoped he could distract Blackthorn long enough for the show to be over, or at least for Marlowe to get low enough so he wouldn’t die if Blackthorn hit the kill switch.

Blackthorn spluttered. “Racists! No, Mr Haddock, we are patriots.” He launched into a diatribe against Haddock and his Boatmen.

“Thank God for that. I thought he was never going to do his evil villain rant. Now then, Haddock, you need to listen closely. And take the stupid look of your face before Major Disaster over there realises we’re in your head. We’ve lost Marlowe. He’s not surviving the day, so that’s out. You’ve got to get to that remote, Haddock. Then, you need to bring it to us here. Don’t ask where here is, you already know.” The voice laughed. “It’s all in your head! Now, get a bloody grip of those cuffs, will you? He’s going to be distracted when he pushes the button. That’s your moment. East door, up to level two and into the hangar bay. I’ll talk to you again then. Back to Blackthorn now, there’s a good chap.” It wasn’t a Boatman talking to him, that was for sure. He knew them all. He’d been the one to recruit each and every one.

“There Marlowe goes, gearing up for his big finale. He’s going to fly higher than he’s gone before and then I get to push the button.” Blackthorn spoke with glee, staying transfixed to the drama unfolding on the screen. “Yes, he’s all keyed in, our good old 24601. Look at him go!” Blackthorn raised the remote as Marlowe reached the peak of his climb then pressed the right hand button. Haddock watched as Marlowe’s flight turned into a fall, his face twisting even as he yanked apart his bonds. Blackthorn didn’t even notice as he made his way through the east door.

Haddock slammed through into an empty corridor. It was only a matter of time before the Bastards arrived. The voice had said the hangar was on level two, which would be great if he had any idea about…

The luminous green sign on the wall screamed that level two was to his right and up some stairs. He tipped his head and sped off.

Meet Herbert ‘Haddock’ McCoy, my new protagonist. Who are the Bastards and the Boatmen? Not entirely sure yet but stick around and hopefully we’ll find out.

The song from which this entry’s prompt was taken is Vegas Lights by Panic! at the Disco. Thoroughly recommend it. 

If I can find an appropriate entry, I may look at writing this from Marlowe’s point of view. Recipient of amazing powers and he uses them to be a celebrity? Sounds like my kind of guy. Any questions or thoughts, drop me a comment! 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 199: Everyone has a special talent. What’s your special skill?

pexels-photo-29970.jpg

“Dani, you need to come round. Now.” I didn’t even give her time to answer before I snapped the phone shut. Yes, I have a flip phone, I am majorly uncool in that respect. Go eat a bag of… Whatever. It started ringing again, but I ignored it. Pushed my finger down onto the red phone and held it there, watching the screen fade to black. I followed suit with every other light in the house, leaving me in darkness.

Perfect.

I sat down  in the middle of the hallway, cross legged. Started watching my breathing, focusing my energy on every breath in and out, letting it fill my lungs all the way. It was something I’d learned after the third time I’d been sent to the Head’s office for fighting. They’d sent me to counselling. I mean, it’s ridiculous. I didn’t need counselling, I needed to punch David Gorman’s stupid bloody lights out, but that’s a different story.

So, I’m sat there, focusing. I can feel it then, like an itching at my fingertips. It’s as if there are spiders beneath my nails, clawing to get out. I wait until the feeling’s worked its way up my arm to my elbow, then I release it. From every fingertip, converging onto my palm, then away. May have taken out Mum’s favourite vase, but she’ll live. Especially when she sees what I can do.

Someone starts hammering at the door. “Alex! Let me in, dickhead!” That’s Dani. She’s always been one for the niceties. “I mean it! Call me saying shit like that then turning your phone off! Open this damn door!” Well, I wasn’t getting my focus back until I’d let her in. But that was why I’d called her. I had to show somebody.

“I’m coming, I’m coming!” I cracked my knuckles after I stood up, they always felt stiff after I’d been practising. I grumbled all the way down to the door. Checked the peephole, just in case, and there she is. Blonde hair, cut into a bob. Angry blue eyes and –

“I said let me in!” She slammed a fist against the peephole.

“Fine!” I opened the door and she barged through, heading straight to the kitchen. “Nice to see you too,” I mumbled.

I heard the tap running, meaning that Dani had sorted herself out a drink. Saved me a job at least. She flounced back through into the lounge and sprawled onto the sofa. “So, what’s so important?” I figured that it was easier to show than tell, so I sat cross legged on the floor. “Fantastic, I assume you’ve found religion. Is that what’s so important?”

I raised a hand to shush her, then got back to my breathing. In, out. In, out. Let the wallpaper fade into nothingness, let nothing exist but the breath. Certainly tune out whatever tripe Dani’s going on about now. Then you get the itching, the building up. This time, I let it go when it reached the third knuckle down. It had taken a lot of experimenting to get this much control. No, I’m not going to talk about those experiments just yet. You’ll have to wait for the prequel comic. I heard the smashing, then Dani’s gasp.

I grinned and opened my eyes. “That’s what’s so important. How about that?”

“You got something too?” Her eyes widened the same as mine.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 195: The next blockbuster medicine that will be invented and what will happen as a result.

pexels-photo-119931.jpeg

Influenzalin. Not a cure for the common cold, but a preventative. One pill, taken every day with a glass of water, followed by a little breakfast and there we have it, no more sniffles and snuffles. All of it in one little pill, containing what they called ‘shifting-antigen pattern’ or some other scientific nonsense. Most people just called it Magic.

No side effects either. Not one case of headache, nausea. Not one person in any of the trials showed a hint of a side effect. Then, even after mass distribution, not a single case of a side effect in the whole damn world.

Best of all, it was free. Distributed without cost or care by Richtus, so there was no reason to pile them onto the black market. In three weeks, everyone in the world was taking their daily pill and had that a little Magic sitting in their system.

Which was great. Not one case of the common cold in over five years, all because of Richtus’ magical little pill.

Five years, then the Magic really kicked in. You see, it tuns out that a shifting-antigen does exactly that. Shifts. The antigen base sat in the body, sitting in the cells, bursting and replicating and bursting again, each time adapting to the new threat. When there was no threat, the virus started adapting to imaginary threats, possible threats.

That’s when the Magic happened.

They say that patient zero was Charles Dyer, 54 years old. He was being followed by two young men in black hoods, chased in fact. The increased heart rate forced the virus into overdrive, forcing the conversion.

In Charles Dyer, the virus forced his metabolism to increase. He found his 54 year old frame moving faster, his size twelve feet hitting the floor in far more rapid intervals. Magic caused him to speed up.

That was the first case. The rest followed swiftly. Five years of build-up, followed by a stressful event triggered it. The world that followed, the world we live in now, is vastly different to anything we’ve ever known before.

Okay, so my science is probably a little skewed. But still, it’s a vaguely plausible explanation… Okay, it’s not. But it’s still fun!

Also, blockbuster medicine? That’s a thing?

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 191: You have a dream that you’ve murdered someone. Who is it, how and why did the murder happen, and what happens afterwards?

pexels-photo-191070

I didn’t recognise the face of the man across the table. We were alone in an empty restaurant, where phantom plates, piled high with all manner of things, were passing us by. The man across from me is telling me a story of some kind.

“In the beginning, there was a word. A single word, floating out into the void where it began to fester and grow, forming sentences and paragraphs that conglomerated to become, well, everything. The paragraphs became stories and the stories grew and changed and got retold.” A plate was put in front of me, a silver platter that was completely empty. In front of him, between his liver spotted hands, was a blue willow china plate on which sat a single egg. He took a silver spoon and slammed it onto the top of the egg.

The restaurant shook, plates and food tumbling to the floor as cracks spread across the ceiling. Everything lay where it fell and silence spread through the place like treacle. The man across from me frowned, lines stamped into his forehead from a long life, full of hardship and pain and his hands shake as he plucks the egg from its cup. “The world is an egg and inside lies all possibility.” He took a shattered piece of shell that was clinging to the soft skin below, lifting it away gently. Above me, a piece of the ceiling lifted away to reveal a patch of blue sky. “Now, the only thing that can go wrong is the fact that this whole sorry mess lies in a loop. The words get erased, the stories no longer get told and the whole world tumbles down, leaving just a word. Then it all starts again.” He picked up the egg, holding it in the space between us, focusing on it with bright blue staring eyes. “Do you remember the last time we had this conversation?”

I shook my head. This place was alien and new to me, from its shifting scenery to this old man across the table. He sighed, then wrapped a fist around the egg. I could see it starting to bulge from the missing part of its shell, forcing its way out.

“There’s only one thing to do!” The old man had started shouting in response to the thundering that had begun. It was as if the restaurant were shaking itself apart. “You have to break the cycle! There’s only one way to do that!” The lights flickered on and off, plaster fell form the ceiling as the whole place trembled. I watched in horror as the man snapped his fist shut, pieces of egg and shell exploding in the sudden motion.

Then, there was silence. My companion and I were standing in an open field watching a sunrise. “You have to break the cycle.” He said again, holding an intact egg in the palm of his hand. Then he hurled it away and threw himself at me, ancient fists pummelling my face and my body, all while crying at me to fight back, calling me a coward. “Break the cycle! Close the loop! Coward! Bastard!” I was throwing my arms up to defend myself when I realised I was holding the knife. My knife. The knife that my Dad had given to me as a present on our first camping trip.

My companion was still attacking, oblivious to the knife in my hand. I had to make a choice. I could keep taking the beating, or I could fight back.

I chose to fight back. With a roar, I plunged the blade into the old man’s chest. He looked shocked, but satisfaction flowed into a smile as he fell backwards. He lay there, fighting for words amongst quickening breaths. “Remember. Break. The. Cycle.”

The heavens opened and everything was white.

***

I woke up as I fell from my bed. I’m not sure whose idea it was to go for hardwood in these flats, but I’m not a fan of them. I checked the alarm clock to see that, as usual, I was late for work. These nightmares were getting ridiculous. I’d slept through four alarms this week alone and if I was late much more, Johnson had said he was going to fire me.

I quickly threw on some clothes, completely ignoring the odd socks element to the outfit, then thundered down the stairs, barrelling past the old man who was waiting there. He frowned at me,  lines stamped into his forehead from a long life full of hardship and pain. He shouts something as I go past, glaring at me with bright blue eyes. “Sorry Mr Williams” I call. I’m sure I know Mr Williams from somewhere before I moved into the building, but I just can’t place him…

Who is Mr Williams?

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 188: You walk into your bedroom and discover someone going through your drawers.

vintage-old-furniture-woods.jpg

I’m sure I heard a noise.

No, it’s nothing. There’s nobody here but me. It’s late, I’m forcing ideas into my own head.

No, shit, that’s definitely a noise.

Fine. Let’s check it out.

I edged my way out from beneath the safety of the blanket. Every part of me was screaming that this was a mistake, but I did it anyway. What, did I want me to think I was a coward? Not a chance in hell. I grabbed the baseball bat that rested against the cupboard, relaxing a little as I felt the solid handle in my hands. I took a moment to grab the torch as well.

It was definitely a noise, a rustling sound coming from upstairs. What the bloody hell could it be? I looked over at my front door, latch and chain both still firmly affixed. But there was somebody in my flat.

I rested my foot on the first step, about to begin making my way up to my room, when I paused. The first step has creaked ever since I moved into this place. I should probably avoid alerting anyone to the fact that I wasn’t snoring my head off on the sofa now. I moved to the second step, feeling like a ninja as I prowled upstairs. Step two, step three, step six (two creakers in a row there. I should really get this place fixed up.) I reached the top and saw the light seeping around my door. I took a deep breath then let it out as silently as possible. I counted to three in my head.

One.

Take a firm grip on the bat, both hands now that I’ve put the torch on the floor.

Two.

Big deep breath ready and waiting for…

Three!

I burst through the door and saw someone rifling through my desk drawers. He lifted a hand towards me and said “Stop.”

I did. I lowered the bat and asked, “What the fuck are you doing here?”

That broke his attention from the papers he was looking at. He looked up, looked at his hand, looked back at me, back at his hand then back to me and said “Stop.”

“You tried that bit. What the hell is going on? Who the fuck are you?”

“Hold on, this usually works.” He put the papers onto the desk, shaking his hand as if he was trying to clear pins and needles. “Stop. Stop? Stop! God dammit!” He paused, looking up to the ceiling. “Sorry.” He mumbled before looking back at me.

I looked right back. Stared, boggled… I’m still working out the best thing to describe how I was feeling at that moment. The guy at the desk did nothing, just stood there in a long coat. It may have just been me, but it didn’t look like he was casting a shadow. “Are you… What are… Who exactly are you?”

“Sorry. The name’s Garianda. Most people just call me Gary. By that I mean the people I usually talk to, not you mortals. How are you fighting the time stop?” He spoke quickly, forcing the words out as if he were on the clock to speak them.

This, understandably, had me really confused. I figured there was only one thing for it. You can’t deny it, you’d have done the same thing.

I hit him with the bat.

Oops. I’m not sure who Garianda is yet, but I imagine he’s going to be a little upset when he wakes up. Stopping time, mysterious figures… Strange times lie ahead for this protagonist. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

 

Day 183: What broke your heart?

pexels-photo-14303.jpeg

It could have been her words. It was nothing I hadn’t heard before, but this… This was Karen. We’d been together since we were seventeen, for crying out loud! We’d fallen in love in the summer and had stayed in love through that long winter. I remember shovelling snow off her driveway in the night, just so that I could be sure that she’d come and visit me the next day. It was a fifteen minute drive there, stretching to half an hour in heavy snow but it was worth it, just to make sure that I got to see her pretty blue eyes every day.

I made that journey a lot, every day of every winter until we moved in together. Then the fights came with the winters. Then the rest of the seasons became poisonous as well, with hostility and a dash of viciousness thrown in as well. Those were the words that really went for the throat.

They hurt my heart, but I don’t think they broke them.

It might have been the look in her eyes as she told me she was leaving, going to her mothers to get away. Those pretty blue eyes were flushed with tears, cutting pale lines across her rosy cheeks. Full of hurt and pain, the suffering of being stuck with me. I thought that I was more than that, more than just the pain. I figured that that pain was just a blip, a momentary spike on our line of happiness.

I guess I was wrong. I still don’t think it broke my heart though.

The door had just closed behind Karen after the final row. She’d thrown a glass at me, she’d thrown the worst words she could find at me. She’d compared me to my father, a waste of space who just damaged those he loved. Then she’d walked out of my life. Even that wasn’t the thing that broke my heart.

No, that honour belonged to the bread knife. It passed between two of my ribs, straight through my left lung and came to rest in the left ventricle. I’d called her name weakly before collapsing to the floor on my back.

The knife stood tall, a parody of the flag on a conquered land. I didn’t even see the person that stabbed me. Just turned around and felt the sharp pain in my chest. 

The worst part? Being stabbed and dying wasn’t even the start of my problems.

How to take things literally, a lesson by The Idiot. First, take thing in hand. Then, walk away with it. You have now taken something, literally. Much like I did with this prompt. 

That was an awful joke, but a fair one. Sometimes the most fun thing to do with a prompt is to go literal. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 171: Her secret obsession

pexels-photo-189349.jpeg

Julia sat in the passenger seat of the 55 plate Ford Focus as they drove down the street. Her new leather jacket, glistening burgundy under the sodium glow of the streetlamps, creaked as she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Her back itched, but she couldn’t reach around in her seat to scratch.

Snowy was driving. White knuckles gripping tight at ten and two, rigid and matching the grim set of his mouth. His lips pulled tight, eyes focused firmly on the road stretching into the night. His hands only moved occasionally, steering wheel to gear stick to steering wheel, every once in a while his hand might move to the radio, but then it returned to the steering wheel.

They had been driving for five hours, starting when the sun had dropped below the horizon and chasing it, dropping onto the motorway and that’s where they’d stayed. In the darkness, the only thing that changed were the number of brake lights that they went past and the number of headlights that came towards them. It had started with many, numbers dropping as the car had eaten up the miles of tarmac.

If they kept going, they’d make it just before dawn. Just when Julia wanted to arrive. This was her ritual, whenever the moon was hanging high and full in the sky, that they make this trip. Sometimes it would be Snowy who drove, sometimes Phoenix, but she always made the trip. Of course, by the time the moon was in this stage she was unable to drive herself. She’d tried it once and she’d been unable to concentrate or even think, too focused on the feeling of a million ants crawling over every inch of her skin. She’d called Phoenix in a panic, not explaining anything, just saying that she had to be in a place at a time. That’s when she’d explained, partially, what happened every month.

They’d just accepted it, as she knew they would. They didn’t ask for explanations or expect anything in return, they just worked a schedule between them as to who would take her and when. They tended to alternate, unless there was a reason that one of them would be unavailable. Somehow, one of them was always available and for that she was eternally grateful.

She couldn’t tell them what it was. One day, she might have to but until then it would be a secret, her secret.

They arrived as the first rays of the sun peeked above the horizon. She practically burst from the car, peeling off that burgundy jacket and hurling it to the sand. Snow turned around and drew the blindfold from his pocket, something they’d arranged during that first conversation. He placed it over his eyes and tied it in a knot behind his head.

Julia knew that all of this was happening behind her, but she couldn’t concentrate on it yet. The ants were flowing from her skin, streaming down to the ground and far away from her, letting her focus as she stripped her vest top and tossed that away. With a rush of displaced air, her wings unfurled, feathers rustling  while the loose ones danced away in the sea breeze.

The human body is not designed for flight, not even with wings. It requires different sets of muscles, different bone structure, different body shapes. But, somehow, whatever gift that had granted her these wings had granted her the strength she needed in her battles with gravity. With two powerful flaps, she was aloft, dancing with the songbirds in the morning air. The smell of the salt sea disappeared as she flew up into the sky. She flew across the ocean, wings locking as she swooped down to draw in the white crests. She laughed with delight, whooping and yelling as the sun came up in all its splendour.

She circled around to the clearing, where she always went. She perched up in the oak tree and looked across to the little cottage. She sat and waited as the front door opened, the light of an open fire streaming out into the morning. The man took two steps out onto the porch and waited, looking from side to side, up and down. She shrunk back into the trees every time his eyes brushed across her and she waited.

Every full moon he was here. Other times, not a chance. She’d driven out here a few times outside the full moon, but the cottage had been empty. But every full moon, regular as clockwork, he was there. The days that she could fly, he was waiting.

As if what was happening to her was something to do with him.

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 156: Describe Heaven

pexels-photo-29047.jpg

A bright light surrounds you. Everything is soft and fluffy, full of clouds and forgiveness.

It’s a lie.

You want to know what Heaven’s really like? Is that what you want? I should warn you, it’s probably not what you want to hear. I should leave you to your preconceptions, everything you heard about heaven being glorious. About standing at the right hand of the Lord… It’s all wrong.

The truth about heaven is a much darker affair. I’ve been there. But I was lucky.

I came back.

You’re still here? Okay, then I guess I’ll tell you. The road and the tale are both long and arduous, with no convenient stops on the way.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.

***

It started the way most stories about heaven do. With my death. I was hit by a car going at seventy miles an hour in a thirty mile an hour zone. I found out later that the driver was a seventeen year old girl, passed her test two weeks before. She never even stopped.

I died in thirteen minutes and four seconds. That’s how long it took for my body to give up after the impact. That’s how long it took for my soul to flee my shattered bones and broken skin.

The shapeless shape of my soul began to rise. A promising sign, when you’re dead. After all, haven’t we always been told that Heaven is above us, with Hell waiting like a beast below, hungry for the sinners.

In the bible, it states that there are three heavens. There is the firmament, covering the Earth that holds the birds and the clouds. Travelling through that alone took what felt like days. But as a disembodied spirit, time takes on a different meaning. Seconds last for days, but weeks pass by in a moment. It stretches and compresses like putty in the hands of a child.

The second heaven, with the stars and the moon and the planets, everything from here to the edge of the universe takes a long time to pass through, even with the warping. An eternity, in which you think all the things that you can think, feel everything it is possible to feel. Every single experience flows through whatever passes for you. I was still interested when I got to Pluto, but past the Kuiper Belt, in the empty blackness, that’s when I got to losing my mind or at least whatever was remaining of it.

Finally, after that infinity, I passed through to the final heaven. The realm of the Lord and all those waiting at his right hand. All of them waiting for me.

***

The first thing that struck me was the colour. Everybody knows that Heaven is full of light and splendour.

It’s not supposed to be red. Deep red, blooming like blood through the streets of a town. I felt cobblestones beneath my fingers, roughly cut, harsh against my hands. My hands… I was no longer disembodied, no, I was firmly re-embodied.

It hurt. It hurt a lot.

I rolled onto my back and gasped for air, fighting for control of my aged mind, fraught from those countless years ascending through space. Above me, I saw no stars, no moon, no sky at all. Just an emptiness, above a clear shell. The clearest view of absence.

‘Hey. New arrival?’ A voice, gruff and low, came from about six inches next to my ear. I heaved myself onto my side and looked into the single ugliest face I’d ever seen. A twisted mouth below a bulbous nose, with patchy fur covering the lower half of the face. The eyes were the most worrying part, one deep blue, almost black, and staring straight at me, through me, beyond me. The other, milky but roaming in the socket as if it were looking for an escape.

‘Where?’ That was as far as I got before I heaved, stomach clenching and attempting to escape.

‘Where are ya? Look at the signs, kid. You’re in Heaven. Population you.’ He grinned, all tooth and gaps. ‘Have fun! Look out for the Seraphs.’

The creature moved away. As I’ve been writing this tale, I’ve been trying to describe how he moved. The only thing I’ve got, however, is multiple dislocations. It was as if he removed each joint from the socket, placed the limb where he wanted to go, then plugged it back in.

It did nothing to help my already churning stomach.

After some time retching on the ground, feeling incredibly sorry for myself, I had to explore. I found my feet, unsteadily, then made my way through the oddly familiar streets.

***

Cobbles gave way to tarmac, and small stone houses turned to skyscrapers, shining beacons of metal and glass. I’d have described them as reaching for the heavens if I wasn’t already there.

You’ve seen pictures of Times Square, thousands of adverts on every surface? It was recreated perfectly, but with my face everywhere. It’s quite disconcerting having your own eyes staring down at you. A face you know so well, having seen it every day of your stupidly short life.

A rumble set the glass panes shaking in their settings, reflections dancing on the red streets. I turned, slowly, to face the source.

It was a monstrosity. A mechanical creature, humanoid in shape, but a hundred times the size of a man. Ticking and whirring and stomping through the roads, clicking through jerky movements.

A voice, a thousand voices, emanated from the armoured creature. They called my name, a harsh siren song calling me towards the creature, clicks and whirrs as each layer of voice joined the chorus. It called me to it, a great armoured glove reaching down from the heights to pull me into its grasp.

I ran. I’m not ashamed to say it, but I ran. Through all of those familiar streets, until I came to somewhere I knew. The creature stomped after me, but was falling behind. I saw an open door in a small cottage and dived through.

***

I knew this place. This was my childhood home. This was the place where my father had beaten my mother until she bled, locked me away in a cupboard until I stopped crying. This was a place with no happy memories.

I’d come through to the old sitting room, a horrific, floral print sofa sits in the corner facing an old CRT television set. Match of the day was playing, just as it always had been, Des Lynam and his cronies chatting about something I’d never understand. He’d have been drinking since noon, cans of Tennent’s and Special Brew casually discarded all over the floor. I’d hear him calling from the sofa, he’d just shout…

‘Boy!’

I whirled around. It had been his voice, the voice that had haunted my nightmares since I was eight years old. There he was, sat on that awful print sofa, can in hand. A thin line of drool running down his mouth that he hadn’t bothered to wipe away. ‘Boy! Get me a goddamn beer!’

I looked down to see shiny shoes on my size four feet, just as they had been back then. Mum had polished them, every night, just to make sure that I wouldn’t cause any embarrassment at school. There were creases in my trousers that you could shave with. I felt the fear rise, muscles tensing as I prepared to fight… Or run away.

The can flew at me, crashing into my temple. A lance of pain flowed through me, shooting down my spine and rooting me in place. Fight or flight was no longer an option. The only option was to take the beating as it came, as it always would. The sound of leather against leather, the small tick as the buckle came undone. His face drew into a grimace as his hand went high, the lampshade swinging as the belt caught it, setting the shadows dancing around the room.

Then everything stopped. Everything was still. The shadows ceased to dance and my father froze in his anger, the brown leather of the belt defying gravity in his grasping hand.

I fell to my knees, retching once again. This is not how I’d ever imagined Heaven.

***

‘What were you expecting?’

I’d been lying on the Axminster carpet for a long time when the voice came to me. It was my father’s voice, but softer. The father I’d imagined instead of the father that I’d had.

‘I… I expected the Heaven we’ve been told of. The lights, the chorus of angels, peace and goodwill?’

‘This is a path to peace. I created this place for you. Your truest fears will prevent you from finding peace in any guise. Your fear of your father has followed you throughout your years, preventing you from peace. Here, I provide you the chance to find it. This is Heaven.’ My father’s body released it’s grip on the belt, leaving it hanging in the sickly yellow light. ‘Nobody said that it was easy.’

He reached a hand down to me, kind wrinkles around his eyes as opposed to the anger lines I was so used to seeing. He pulled me to my feet, staring deep into my eyes. ‘But…’

‘No, there has always been misconception. Heaven is a trial, an ordeal. And then you can rest at last.’ He sighed. ‘So few of you understand.’

I heard the Seraph bellow outside. It was coming back for me.

‘I can let you out. I can send you on your way.’ He said, holding my hand tightly.

‘I want to go home.’ I told him.

‘I might be able to do that.’ He smiled, sadly, before continuing. ‘Most people just want to rest. Are you sure this is what you want?’

I looked into my father’s eyes, those same eyes that were once so terrifying. He had been right. This was a path to peace. But I wasn’t at my destination yet. ‘Yes. I have to go back.’

The Seraph’s hand burst through the wall, fingers circling my body. I heard the gears clicking within, as the grip tightened. My father’s hand was still in mine, my own grip matching the Seraph’s. A final bellow from the multitude voice, then the fingers fully closed.

***

I woke in incredible pain. I had been officially dead for six minutes. I’d been I had fractures in more than half the bones in my body and I’d lost three pints of blood. The doctor’s told me that I shouldn’t have made it out alive.

My father was sat by my bed. Eyes of anger softened by pain. For the first time, I saw him as he was.

An old and pitiful man. Hurt and lonely, where he’d put himself. I reached out from my bed and took his hand in mine.

‘I forgive you.’

Blimey, that was a long one today. Could probably do with some editing, but here it is. What would your trial be? 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 145: Getting hit by lightning

pexels-photo-29970.jpg

Shrink dashed for the woods, chasing a squirrel or some other small animal. ‘Shrink! Come on! Get back here!’ The first drops of rain landed on my burning skin, soothing it for the shortest of moments before that burning heat came back. I’d been feeling under the weather for weeks, but today was bad. ‘Shrink! You stupid dog!’ I charged after him, booted feet squelching in the boggy ground as if it was trying to pull me in.

I wish it had done. It would have saved me and everyone else from everything that came after.

Shrink paid me no mind, dashing onwards into the woods with a bark and a howl. His natural predator only every came into play when it was starting to rain. In the sun, or the crisp autumn air, he’d walk dutifully by my side. But no, the second the rain starts, the wolf takes over and Shrink becomes Hunter McHunterface. ‘Shrink! Where are you?’ I shouted at the birch trees surrounding me.

The only response was a distant howl and a rumble of thunder.

I followed the howl, fallen branches and leaves from red to gold crunching underfoot. The darkness started creeping in as the clouds moved overhead, bringing with them the first flashes of lightning. Everything around me was water, soaking me through to my burning skin.

It was refreshing. For the first time in months, I felt cool. ‘Shrink!’ I called as I burst through into a clearing.

It had to be a man-made clearing, perfectly circular. The remains of what could have been a stone circle sat in the middle and there, grinning around the corpse of the squirrel in his mouth, sat Shrink. His tail wagged rapidly, water droplets spraying onto the stones around him. ‘Shrink, you little bastard. Come here.’

I took a step towards him, holding his lead in my left hand and whistling. That’s when it happened.

It started with the trees around the clearing, one by one a thunderous rapture descending in a cascade of light. Every one beginning to burn instantly, even in the deluge. It only got worse from there.

It seemed to happen in slow motion, each of the hairs on the back of my hand standing on end like spikes in a pit. The crackling came shortly afterwards, running up my arm. I felt my heartbeat increasing, pounding out a rhythm that nobody could dance to. The air turned to white, harsh white stabbing into every square inch of my burning skin.’Shrink!’ I cried, but he’d disappeared in the haze of monochrome, as did everything else. I felt the shock blast me off my feet and hurl me towards the centre of the circle.

The rhythm fell silent. I felt my own heartbeat stop. I felt myself die.

Three minutes is a long time when you’ve died. But you know how they say that lightning never strikes twice?

It did here. Three minutes and forty two seconds later, a second bolt of lightning fell from the skies like Thor’s Hammer and struck me in the heart. I gasped, the rain trying its best to drown me as I lay in the ever increasing puddle. I reached up towards the sky, which is when it happened.

Lightning. From my fingers, flashing to every tree surrounding me, contributing to the hellfire that swirled and grew in ferocity with each passing second. Flames that crept towards me, vicious and barely held back. I passed out for a second time, but at least my heart kept beating this time.

***

I found out later that fourteen people were struck by the same storm as me. Fourteen separate lives changed, not all of them for the better. I kept my gift quiet… But it caught up with me. When the Good Doctor knocked at my door.

Everybody loves an origin story, especially me. 

The Idiot in Tin Foil

Day 142: How to get from point A to point B… and why you might not want to.

7ccb42c82fc0e75901527fa38ae48b54.jpg

‘Alright, I’m closing up. Get out of here, ya bunch of losers.’ Ryan looked around at the band of people still finishing their drinks, counting them off in his head. There was a new guy, tall and mysterious, definitely one who’d be a hit with the ladies or that way inclined gents. ‘Oi! I said I’m closing up!’ The new guy stood up groggily and stepped into the harsh neon lights. A Fortune Towers logo shone on his jumpsuit. ‘Ahh, shit. I didn’t realise you were Fortune!’

Jumpsuit just stared at him blankly. ‘G’Night Ry.’ Mayhew said, stumbling through the door at the back of the crowd. It was just Ryan and the Jumpsuit left.

‘Look, the last air cabs from here finished a good half hour ago. Why are you even in Paragon Glade after dark?’ Ryan switched off the screens and cranked up the lights, bathing the dingy bar in a sickly yellow glow. ‘I need to get the sterilisers in…’ He limped around the room, collecting the filthy glasses from the tables.

‘I gotta go home.’ The Jumpsuit finally spoke, a deep rumble that echoed around the bar.

‘Tough titties. There’s only one safe way back from Paragon to Fortune and that’s the air cabs. Maybe next time you’ll find a watering hole closer to your own patch!’ Ryan sniffed, and spat onto the floor. ‘Damn tourists. What are you even doing here?’

Jumpsuit sat on the high stool by the bar, raising slender fingers to his temples. ‘I got a message from someone. Said he wanted to talk about Fortune but he was a bit persona non grata in those parts.’ He sighed, and lowered his head as Ryan slid a double across the bar to him.

‘Drink up. You’re gonna want some dutch courage if you’re gonna get home tonight.’

‘Guess the joke’s on me anyway. He never showed.’ Jumpsuit put his head in his hands. ‘Took the day off. Bloke said he’d pay for the air cab when he showed up.’

Ryan looked around the bar, making sure that there was nobody left hiding in the toilets or passed out under the tables. ‘Look, pal, I know how you can get back. It ain’t pretty though.’ He leaned on the bar, claws resting on the stained and pitted surface. ‘It’s gonna take you through The Scar.’ The Scar. That terrible rent across the face of the world, passing straight through the middle of the city. An abyss, that like all abysses, housed the monsters of the city.

Jumpsuit looked suitably worried. ‘The only way to view The Scar, is with binoculars from afar.’ He said those words while staring into his whiskey, swirling it around the tumbler before drinking it all in one. ‘You want me to go through it?’

‘Oh no, no. I can put you up here if I really have to. But you said you wanted to go home. I’ve got a camp bed I can set up in the office, but you don’t want to be leaving little ones alone in Fortune. I hear the monsters are spreading further from The Scar every day. So, I guess it’s up to you.’ Ryan cracked the joints in his fingers, then picked up a second tumbler. His companion raised his own and let Ryan fill it.

‘There’s only one option, isn’t there? I’m headed through the Scar.’

‘Fair enough pal. Rather you than me.’ Ryan drained his glass and turned to the cupboards behind him. ‘I’ve got a map in here somewhere, but it’s a fairly easy path to follow. Head down Hangman’s Hill, hang a right at the opera house and then you should be headed straight for The Scar. Then it’s just across Smuggler’s Bridge and a straight run along to Fortune. Sounds easy when you put it like that, don’t it?’

Jumpsuit shrugged. ‘Like I said, I’ve got no choice. I’ll take the map. And another whiskey.’ It appeared, then vanished into Jumpsuit’s gullet. ‘If I ever find out who called me here, I’ll kill him.’

The door opened, a portal to the monster-ridden darkness. Jumpsuit stood, illuminated by the flashes of lightning, pausing before coming to a final decision. The door closed.

Ryan started whistling as he moved through to the office. ‘Corrigan.’ He moved to a computer terminal, glowing green. ‘Corrigan, you there?’

A tinny voice came from an old set of speakers. ‘Ryan. You got something for me?’

‘He fell for it. Hook, line and sinker. He’s on his way to Smuggler’s Bridge now.’ He said with a chuckle, leaning back in his chair. He drew a cigarette from the jewelled case on the desk, took a deep drag, and let the smoke hang in the air.  ‘Let’s hope the monsters don’t get him.’

Stay away from the Scar. Would you bring in real monsters? Or do you consider the real monsters to be the men? Comments, queries and those niggly mistakes, let me know below!

The Idiot in Tin Foil