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Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Notes on Adventure in the Aqua Park

This is my longest short story yet, and to be honest doesnt really qualify as a short story, but here it is in all its rough glory.

The idea came to me one day when I was biking to work. The simple notion of going down a slide, being taken out of the world for those moments. Anything could happen and you wouldnt know about it.

I wasnt really sure about what was going to happen, I let the story unfold itself. This is the very first draft and I am certain of a few changes I am planning to make. But I wanted to get it uploaded because I am now planning on taking a bit of time off to edit and finalize my existing stories to hopefully publish a compilation.

Thank you for reading my work, and I hope you continue to enjoy what I produce.

Sit back and enjoy....

Adventure in the Aqua Park

Adventure in the Aqua-Park
“Hey, isn’t that Colin Edwards over there?” Madeline McGraw pointed rather obviously in the direction of the sauna, where a athletic looking young boy was strutting his way across the slippery floor heading in the direction of the hot steam room. Latched onto his arm was an blonde woman whose curvaceous body gave the illusion of greater age and experience that was really the case. On the other arm was a dark skinned girl who went to school with them all and was well known for the ease with which her legs parted.
“Yeah, I wonder what he is going to do.” Helena Vander answered as she swam towards her friend. Keeping an eye on the boy as he walked, unable to stop herself from staring at his well defined body as it disappeared into the steam like a chiselled god being summoned back to Mount Olympus.
“Come on you can’t hide it from me, you still want him.” Madeline jokingly kicked her friend under the water. They were now resting against the side of the pool, which was fairly quiet for a summer’s day.
“Fine, I admit, he still holds a certain appeal to me, but I want something a bit longer than. . .”
“Six inches.” Madeline jumped in. The pair burst into a giggling fit, that drew a few blank looks from some of the adults who were swimming in section roped off for lane swimming.
“I was going to say longer than one night. Plus, it’s a lot more than six inches I’ll have you know.” Helena was blushing but she didn’t care. She was seventeen, it didn’t matter who she slept with or how she did it. She had only slept with five boys, and for her school that was a conservative record. The only girl who had less experience was Madeline who claimed she was waiting for my right.
The girl’s had been best friends every since nursery school, and had remained almost inseparable, even through puberty, boyfriends and problematic family experiences. They were best friends and planned to stay that way; each looking out for the other, supporting them all the way regardless of what they thought on the inside.
“Did the others say if they were going to head up or not?” Helena asked, looking around the pool, not trying to change the subject for any reason other than necessity.
“Yeah, Gareth, Mickey, Tina and Jo said they would be here about three-ish, so you know Tina. That means about three-thirty.” Madeline answered. It was just a few minutes before three; the afternoon sun was beating through the windows. The noise of young children frolicking in the two smaller pools filled the building. There was a small wading pool for babies and toddlers, which had a large plastic whale protruding from the wall, spraying water into the air and at random intervals it played music and sounds. Then there was a junior pool, which had a small slide and was about two feet deep, this was either filled with older toddlers or on quieter days juvenile delinquents in training, showing off for their friends. The main pool was much larger, It had a waterfall, a water cannon which fired water in jets every five minutes or so, and on the opposite side was a separate area which swept people away on a water jet current which pushed people straight to the deep area of the pool, which was shaped like a mushroom, and grew wider as it grew deeper. The right hand side held the rapids as they were called, and on the left was a water slide, A towering slide much bigger than was necessary for a small town pool, but it brought the kids flocking year round. The slide itself had just been refurbished, and was supposedly taller and faster than before. It had opened the week before. The only difference Helena could see was that it had been red but was now bright fresh yellow.
As she looked at it two young boys came crashing down together into the roped off splash zone, their faces almost cut in two by their large grins.
“Are you gonna try it?” Madeline asked, she didn’t like the slides, especially the ones that were closed off as this was for the first third. The slide began above the room of the pool, it wasn’t outside, but the tower that housed the stairs and start of the ride had been built after the pool itself and so when you stood waiting at the apex for your turn you could look through the windows and see the roof of the pool below. You could also look out and see the whole town centre in the distance and the working dockyards beyond that. There was normally at least one large boat in dry-dock being either built of repaired.
“Yeah, maybe later.” Helena answered.
“Are you scared?” Her friend joked, tickling her under the ribs. “It’s ok you know, I mean it is such a tall slide.” Madeline continued.
“Hey, I’m not the scaredy cat here.” Helena answered, spinning round in the water slashing Madeline in the face as she moved. The pair broke into giggles again. There was something about the pool that always seemed to lighten their mood and lift their spirits.
“Sure, its fine I believe you. I’m sure the others will be here soon. You fancy a race?” Madeline asked. She was a good swimmer, she didn’t practice very often anymore, but at one point had actually been considered a talent to watch, and still even swimming only once a week she was more than capable of beating any normal person in a race; especially someone as un-athletic as Helena who considered a day at the Aqua-Park a work out.
“Ha. I know what you’re doing. Fine I’ll go. You coming over to meet me?” She asked, just before pushing herself out of the water. She made sure she splashed her friend doing so. Standing tall she wrung the water from her shoulder length chestnut coloured hair and shook her head.
Her feet slapped noisily on the wet floor, a noise that sounded much louder in her head than it did to anyone else. She felt people watching her as she walked. She looked into the pool and saw a few guys staring at her. Who could blame them she was five feet nine, slender but athletic in build, with sturdy shapely legs, and an arse that seemed to drive even most women crazy. It bounced slightly as she walked but was firm enough from sight alone to not get confused with anything but perfection. Her stomach was flat and smooth, free even from moles or the tiny silver hairs that most people have. Her belly button was pierced and from it dangled a delicate silver chain with an emerald coloured stone set inside a silver butterfly. It fluttered lightly against her stomach as she walked. A slight gust of cool breeze grazed over her skin, and she felt her nipples tighten beneath her bikini. It was new, she was wearing it for the first time, it was white with black trim, the top had a tribal pattern the cupped each breast, gently accentuating their graceful, full curve. The bottoms were plain white with the same black trim, there was nothing else needed as the tribal tattoo she had gotten on the base of her spine the day she turned sixteen. Her skin seemed to have an attractive glow to it, as if romantic backlighting was part of her genetic code. It was a gentle light that attracted members of both sexes to her like a moth to a lamp after dark.
She felt more eyes watching her as she hooked her thumbs beneath her bikini bottoms and ran them along her skin, smoothing out the material. She saw her reflection in the polarized windows that covered to wall by the slide entrance. She smiled at herself and headed up the stairs.
It wasn’t very busy on the slide, and she worked her way uninterrupted to the top. There was a group of three boys, no older than 12 who were waiting to head down. They all gave her a glance, and the pre-pubescent tact nudged each other and giggled loudly about the ‘nice one’ that stood behind them.
Helena paid them no mind.
One by one they disappeared into the dark tunnel, engulfed by the blackness before they turned the first bend in the twisting, turning water chute.
“Hey.” The lifeguard spoke, it was just the two of them standing at the top now. He was half sitting and half leaning against the side where his seat had been built into the platform. He was about her age and in good shape, although certainly not someone who when looked at in normal circumstances would stand out from the crowd. He was running his eyes over Helena and she watched the smile begin to curl up the corners of his mouth.
An uncontrollable reflex.
He began to blush.
“Hey, nice view you have up here.” Helena teased him, she gave him one of her best smiles; the cock teaser as Madeline called it. The boy was instantly uncomfortable.
Helena sat down, her long legs extended into the tunnel; the water was rushing against the top of her thighs. She shuffled further forward and lay down; the current was really trying hard to pull her through. She raised her head, something felt odd, but she wasn’t sure what. The water was cold, much colder than normal, or was it the strange empty echoing sound reverberating its way up the tube towards her, the darkness seemed a bit too black. It was silly. She knew it, just a random girly case of nerves. She shook her head and returned it to the floor.
The lifeguard was watching her again, his face still slightly flushed. There was a small group of people behind her now, working their way up the final few steps. “Maybe I’ll see you around.” She smiled again and pushed herself over the edge.
She moved fast, the water shooting her around the first corner and into the pitch blackness of the slide. The air was cold, even though it was a sunny day outside. Water sprayed up from her feet and into her face. Helena closed her eyes, not from fear but because she didn’t like the feeling of the water hitting them. She moved quicker and quicker picking up speed, the descent was steep, much steeper than she remembered, and as she passed through the darkness, gliding smoothly with the curves, water rushing with similar ease over her own curves, she wondered just how much bigger they had made the slide.
Slowly the darkness began to face, and as the slide passed through the roof and into the building itself light began to pass through the thinner material. Helena opened her eyes, her speed had slowed a little, and the last section was more about the twists and turns than the speed. It felt as though she was suspended in time, she had been in the darkness for so long. She found that she was actually relieved to come back into the light.
It was silent in the tunnel, a strange lingering silence. She had never noticed before how cut off you were, no shouts and shrieks of pleasure drifting up from the pool, nor the shuffling sound of the following bodies preparing to launch themselves into the dark oblivion. She felt suddenly, and absurdly lonely; she longed to emerge back into the world, shooting from the dark mouth of the slide into the cool water of the splash pool. Her body was thrown this way and that, and she felt her skin pinch slightly as it passed over the joint entering the penultimate turn. ‘Some things never get sorted out’ Helena thought to herself as she winced at the sensation.
Helena erupted from the slide, spilling messily from within the hollow tubing, hitting the water with all of her limbs spread apart. She prepared herself for the impact, but when it came it was nothing like she had expected. The water was beyond cold, it was freezing, as though the heating had never been turned on. It brought back memories of the previous summer when she had gone away for a week with Madeline and her parents to a camp site in Holland, there had been a huge lake with various water slides dotted around it. The two of them had gotten up early one morning to see who would dare go down a slide before the sun came up. Helena had gone first and when she hit the water her whole body had shut down for a few moments, she had sunk to the bottom of the lake before she managed to regain control. The pain she had felt, overpowered the shock and granted by the time she had walked back to the shore the water felt better around her, the initial memory was one that had stuck.
She felt a similar reaction now, the water was warmer than the lake had been, but she had expected the lake to be cold, she had not planned on the pool being unheated.
She pulled herself back to the surface, but the water felt strange, almost slimy as she ascended. She broke the surface and immediately pulled herself over to the side, heaving her body out of the water breathing heavily and deeply from the shock. She stood and rubbed her hands down her body, pushing away the excess water, trying to rub off the strange texture of it.
It was once again the silence which hit her first. It was so intense she was deafened by it. She stood facing the windows, her own reflection vague from the layer of grime and dirt that now covered it. She turned around, slowly, as her body began to freeze. Her joints locked and her muscles tensed, stiffening her frame so that it looked like she were a figurine in a music box turning on a motor while a delicate tune played in the background.
It took a while for the sight that Helena saw to filter through into her brain, which had seemingly shut down automatically before the extent of IT was registered. A natural defence if you will.
Unmoving, unable to even raise her hand and move the strands of hair which were poking her in the eye, she scanned the pool, starting in the back where the entrances to the lockers rooms were; one door for men, another for woman and a third for families and disabled people. She then moved closer to the pool, and then to the far left was the small restaurant bar area, with its brightly coloured, ice-cream advertising umbrellas, then over to the right and the smallest children’s pool. Her eyes scanned quicker as the horrifying reality began to sink in. The second pool and the main adult pool were the same, as was the tropical bath, and the sauna, the door propped open by something. Helena didn’t want to see what and so raised her eyes to the roof. It didn’t matter where she looked;
Everybody in the pool was dead.
Bodies floated aimlessly on the water, some face down, others staring blankly at the ceiling, some were bobbing like fishing floats, their bodies standing straight in the water, somehow kept upright. There were even bodies already bogged down and strewn over the bottom of the pool. Their outlines blurred and refracted, giving them an even more grotesque appearance.
Helena began to sweat, a cold and sickly sweat like that of someone suffering from a bad case of the flu. Her skin had paled, and taken on a pasty colouring, her legs felt like jelly beneath her and she wanted to vomit. The whole building began to spin; Helena reached out with both arms to steady herself on whatever she could grasp. What she found was the cold stiff shoulders of an old woman, who was sitting in one of the poolside chairs, facing the toddler pool, a gossip magazine still clutched between her over starched fingers.
Helena screamed the instant she saw what she was holding onto. She ran, her mind a sudden frenzy of panic and terror. She sprang over the bodies that lay strewn, abandoned on the still damp floor beside the pool without even thinking. She headed straight for the bathroom, collapsing before she got there. She vomited all over the floor, the acidic smell of her partially digested tuna salad lunch, stung her nose and made her vomit further. She knelt on all fours, breathing rapidly, her mouth suddenly try, the world spinning around her in a grey haze. She tried to rise, getting to her knees before unconsciousness took control and she fell to the floor, landing in the puddle of her own vomit.
When she came too, she remembered exactly where she was, and felt somewhat calmer than she had before. She was shaking all over, but her head seemed clearer. She rose unsteadily, and trying not to look at anything other than the roof she shuffled her way towards the changing rooms. She jumped, and occasionally screamed when her foot met an obstacle, but she stepped over with a greatly exaggerated movement without looking down. She made it to the changing room, and somehow through it, only stumbling three times, grazing both her knees once when she tripped over the shoulder straps of a child’s Disney swimming bag. Bursting through the changing room doors, Helena charged into the reception area of the building. The air was noticeable fresher there, although the body count was still high. Against the side wall, which was windowed from the middle point up to the unusually high ceiling and looked over the rapids area of the pool, was a small café area, with tables and padded wicker chairs. Several bodies were slumped in the chairs, heads either lolled backwards, eyes rolled into the back of their heads, mouths open like landed fish, or forward, resting against the table, as if they had fallen asleep while praying before their meal.
“God.” Helena cried out quietly. “What happened here?” She was unaware that she was talking to herself.
She picked her way towards the large front doors, holding one hand against her right eyes to cut off her vision of the dead. She got to the doors, stood in front of them, and for a moment she was surprised that they didn’t just open up for her, parting like the sea at the arms of Moses, the warm breeze of the late summer afternoon washing over her. Nothing happened, and she lowered her arms, which she hadn’t even noticed she had extended.
“Shit. Come on. Hello….Hello, is anyone there?” She called out hopefully. The only answer she received was her own voice rebounding from the dead walls. She shuddered at the echo. Her own voice had never sounded so menacing before.
Looking around, hugging herself, Helena thought about the button that was under the counter. In the winter months the receptionists would press a button to open the inner doors, to keep the warmth in as much as possible.
Leaning over, Helena began to spider-walk her fingers underneath the counter top, creeping along for anything that felt like a button, but she found nothing. She leaned over a bit further, peering over the top, she didn’t see the button, but she did see the receptionist; a middle-aged woman who was always friendly, if not slightly strange looking. Now she looked even stranger, her eyes were blackened as if she had been in a fight, her lips were swollen and purple and her face was already blue. Her arms here held up as if in self-defence, her hands by her face, fingers curled into claws, her front teeth were exposed even behind the swollen flesh. It made her look like a horrifying cross between a woman and an angry gerbil. Helena screamed and jumped backwards. Stumbling over her feet, she fell into the wall, slumping into the seats that lined the wall by the door. Sitting there, tears stinging her eyes Helena looked out of the double doors, and saw that it was raining. Hard, the ground was soaked, the trees were brown and bare, and the few plants that were still around looked battered and beaten, their petals drowned and hung limped from the top of the stalk. The sky was dark, almost purple with rage. A similar colour in fact to the receptionists engorged lips.

Helena looked around, slowly eyeing everything in a slightly different light; the true reality of her solitude seeming to hit home thanks to the sudden change of not only the weather but also the season. Her mind was still racing, images flashing before her eyes like an early move reel, but beneath it all, under the crust of revulsion was a pool of serenity, its waters a crystal blue, cool and refreshing, it invigorated her before she really knew what was happening, and by the time she had dragged her body out of the pool and back into the solid footing of her mind, she felt more In control.
“Ok, I can do this. I just need to break the glass. Then I will be fine, No big deal.” Helena explained to herself, gesturing with her hands as she spoke.
She rose from the chairs, damn; they were not only bolted together in one long row, but also to the floor.
The desk chair, or one of the chairs from the café area, oh . . . what about the fire extinguisher? Helena’s mind reeled off the options. She chose the last as it was the one she remembered, plus it was on the wall next to her and meant she didn’t have to go near the bodies.
She removed the heavy red cylinder from his rack; resting it on the pan of the seat she had been in to get a proper grip. Raising it shakily above her right shoulder, Helena threw the whole thing at the window. It collided with the glass and fell to the floor, bouncing back from the normally fragile structure without even leaving a mark. Helena stared at the door and tried again. This time casting the extinguisher as if playing a cover drive but once again the glass resisted.
“It can’t.” Helena began before remembering she was alone. She stared at the glass, pressing her face against it. There wasn’t even a scuff mark.
She kicked angrily at the glass door. “Stupid” She said under her breath. She turned around, looking for something else she could use, when the idea of a back door, probably in the kitchen area might be a possibility. She didn’t really want to move away from the doors, in case a rescue team of someone came along, but she knew there was no choice.
Cautiously, one hand over her mouth, not that there was much of a smell. . . yet. . . . The kitchen was empty, three plates of cold, un-served chips stood on the counter top, but the waiter and the chef, who quite often in all fairness was the same person was nowhere to be seen. Helena felt slightly better. It meant that there wouldn’t be a body in her way.
The kitchen was only small, and seemed overfilled with stainless steel counter tops, and had a cooker / fryer unit which spanned almost the entire length of the long wall. Three of the oil pans were empty and still completely unused. There was a back door in the kitchen, but much to Helena’s immediate dismay it was closed. She tried the handle, but it was locked. She kicked out again and this time screamed. She screamed until her lungs hurt, and when she was over she ran back through to the reception area and began to pound her fists on the glass doors. The glass shook and felt as if it was moving from her blows, but never once did it give the impression of breaking.
Once her energy began to fade, and her breaths began to come in longer, slower, and deeper gulps she stopped. Taking a moment to gather her thoughts, she then tried to force her fingertips between the furry strip that acted as a buffer for each sliding glass plate. Neither would give any ground, and when she finally decided to give it up all but three of her well manicured fingernails, had broken or split down the middle. Tears were running down her cheeks but she hadn’t noticed them.
Somewhere, just out of her field of vision, something moved. Helena was sure of it, something, somebody moved, passing through the doorway of the hallway which led to the changing rooms.
“Hey, Hello. . . Hello. Is someone there? Please help, I’m stuck in here. Do you know a way out?” She called out, her voice strong and confident. She received no answer, and her heart began to fall again.
Helena found herself staring at the bodies sitting behind the tables, their expressions not as pained as that of the receptionist. If anything, Helena thought that they looked peaceful, as if they were just sleeping. Apart from the blue tint that was spreading across their skin.
Something moved again, in the pool this time. She was certain of it, just a shadow passing over the glass, but she knew it was something. She ran over to the glass, ignoring the bodies for the first time. She slammed into the window, her nose compressing against it. Her eyes scored the pool, but all she saw were the floating bodies, the bodies and the slide. At the far end she saw the black mouth of the slide. It was laughing at her. She could almost hear it, a deep guttural laugh that mocked her. It had chosen her; it had swallowed her up and spat her back out into a world that had simply stopped.
Outside the world darkened even more, and the rain intensified, the drops sounding as large as golf balls as they hit the floor, slammed against the windows and drummed on the roof like fingers on a table top.
A fear washed over Helena at that point which surpassed that of the bodies, which had already passed from fear, through to shock, and was now beginning to change itself into a mild form of acceptance. She knew she had to escape, it was simple. The calmer she thought, the more obvious it all was, she had been very lucky, she had survived something, the technical details were not important, but she had, and now all she had to do was escape. The notion that things may not simply be confined to that one building had arisen, but she had pushed it down and out of her mind. No point in worrying about the end before you even made it to the starting line.
The fear that she was being watched, not just be dead eyes but by something else was overpowering, skin tightened all over her body and it was beginning to itch. It grew to the point where it was almost burning. Helena was frozen in place, staring at the pool through the windows, unaware that she was now leaning against the rather large corpse of an elderly man, who had died painlessly and suddenly only a day before his doctor was going to tell him he had inoperable bowel cancer.
Suddenly, an idea hit her, and it obviousness was so sharp it almost doubled her over.

The phone.

She ran over to the front desk, grabbing the phone from the desk. She had dialled half of her parents home phone number before she realised that the line was dead.
“What am I supposed to do?” She screamed, throwing the phone against the wall. The tears were beginning to well up again, but Helena knew she had to keep calm. “Ok, think it thought Hel, come on, are you sure everyone in the pool is dead.” She reasoned that nobody had moved since she had been standing there, and it seemed sound that anybody alive would have been equally panicked by the situation. Still, she couldn’t stand still all day, and the only thing left was to keep hunting for an escape, which means going back into the pool.
Hours passed, Helena had managed to search the locker rooms, checking every cubicle in both the male and female rooms, finding several naked bodies, and at least ten children in the family cubicle had died before they could even begin to get changed. She had found three fire escape doors, all of which seemed to have been welded shut, she couldn’t get them to even wobble in their frames, and had bruised her shoulder trying to do so. With the reception area, and locker rooms checked and double checked, Helena was exhausted, her legs could barely carry her any longer, her body was shaking with hunger, and the building was beginning to get dark. The wind outside was still howling, and even though the noise level inside was no different, the simple fact that the sun had gone down seemed to make everything sound more menacing. The power was gone completely; even the lights under the water which had been glowing at first were now dead.
Hunger eventually drove Helena to stop her escape attempts and instead begin to forage. She tried without much luck the kitchen area, but everything there had already defrosted and was beginning to turn bad. The only thing there was to eat was a bag of ready salted crisps and a packet of fruit flavoured Mentos. She ate half of each before realising she may need to save things for the next day. The notion that she may be in for a long term incarceration drove Helena back to her feet.
Back in the pool, she tried to break the glass windows, but with the same results as the front door. Finally, once the darkness had completely filled every space in the building, and the sound of the wind mixed with the dead bodies gliding through the water, occasionally releasing some built up gasses, or beginning to sink creating air bubbles which noisily broke the surface, Helena conceded that she needed a place to hide. To crawl away from the silent noise which, was already beginning to drive her crazy.
During her hours of searching, she had acquired a large broom from the cleaning cupboard and had managed to sweep some of the bodies to one side or another; some had fallen noisily into the water. Still, Helena had managed to keep control of her bodily functions and had cleared most of the paths around the pool. Now, in the complete darkness she shuffled her way slowly towards the back of the building. She knew the Sauna’s were there, and the steam room had been closed that day, which Helena thought would be a good place to curl up and wait for morning.
In the darkness of the closed off steam room, Helena pulled herself under the row of chairs, not caring about the stale, moist smell or the cold hard tiles that were now her mattress, she closed her eyes and fell, surprisingly quickly into a fitful sleep.
In her dream, Helena stood on the top of the slide, the young boys before her disappeared around and into the tunnel, their screams of joy turning sharply into agonised screams. A wave of blood flowed back up towards her and the lifeguard who was standing besides her peering into the dark. A strange belching sound escaped the slide as the boy’s screams faded away. Helena stood tall and turned around, she looked down onto the roof of the building but it was gone, hidden by a thick black cloud that hovered in a mist like state around the entire building. As she watched it began to rise, swirling around the tower that led to the slides entrance. Helena turned to walk away, back down the stairs, only the stairs were no longer there, replaced by nothing, the platform she stood upon was simply suspended there.
“You’re up miss. Please try not to stare at my crotch as you go past.” The lifeguard said.
Helena turned, and saw he was standing beside the slide entrance, his hands on his hips, completely naked, and behind him, the entrance to the slide had changed, it was no longer a simple plastic tube, but a mouth, with thick bright red lips, and sharp serrated teeth that lined the inside of it. Helena opened her mouth to scream, when the floor beneath her changed, it became flexible. She looked down and it was no longer a metal platform but a soft pink tongue. Her bare feet sunk into the soft flesh slightly. With one contraction and a slightly roll, Helena was sent shooting into the tunnel, the lips closing behind her. She was in darkness once again, sliding, the water pushing her along, but there was a smell along with it. An acidic yet sweet smell, her skin was burning from the water, as if it were acid. She could see the light at the end, the pool waiting for her, filled with corpses, bodies decomposed and stripped of their flesh. She erupted from the slide, the scream still trapped inside her lungs, paralyzed by fear. She felt the air rushing over her body as she fell, fully expecting to land in the bloody pool, yet when she hit the ground, it was just that. Ground, hard and unforgiving, a jolt of pain shot through her spine and left her buttocks with a pounding sensation.
Helena found herself sitting with her legs straight out in front of her, she was no longer wearing her bikini, but a long flowing ball gown, or possibly even a modern wedding dress, she wasn’t sure which, but her chest was constricted by the tightness of the material, which was pushing her bosom up to create a very misleading amount of cleavage. She looked around her; she was standing in what looked like a desert. The ground was dry and cracked, like a dried up river bed in Africa, only it stretched as far as her eyes could see, in all directions there was nothing until the dirty cream coloured floor met the dark purple coloured sky.
Helena rose to her feet, struggling against the rather constrictive nature of the dress. “Hello?” She called out, her own voice was swallowed by the seemingly endless barren stretch and was almost faded by the time it reached her own ears.
She began to walk.
It was hot, despite the heavy cloud cover, airless, damp and heavy. She was sweating, and when she turned around to see how far she had walked, expecting to see the end of the slide or something marking her entrance. Instead there was nothing, just the dry cracked floor stretching into obscurity.
There was a noise however, a low rumbling hum, which had been growing steadily louder, and seemed to come from the ground itself. A brisk gust of wind shot through, suddenly, whipping Helena’s hair around her face, and bringing another round of Goosebumps out over her skin.
“You do not belong here. Make your choice.” A scratchy, high pitched voice called out. Then, out of nowhere, a large face appeared, a head, the skin on it was rotten, hanging off in loose wet clumps, it was swollen, red and glistened with the look of an exposed sore. The eyes were milky white, and the teeth black and yellow. The hair was thin and wispy, handing from the wrinkled skull even in areas no longer covered by skin. “CHOOSE!” It roared, the sound along shaking Helena down to her feet. The mouth flew open and from it poured thousands upon thousands of tiny scorpions, black ones, red ones and deep purple ones, their legs scratching on the dry ground and over each other’s hard shiny bodies as they charged towards Helena.
She screamed, waking herself up just at the point where the first wave of creatures were beginning to crawl over her body.
Helena woke with a start, her body soaked with a cold sweat, her breathing accelerated but shallow, her body reacting to the nightmare by bringing her close to orgasm. A warming, sensation that was itching between her legs, calling her to bring an end to it and offer some release, and with her mind still whirring in a sea of confusion, she slid her hand under her bikini, and found the release she craved, kicking out with her legs at the unexpected force of the orgasm, the wave of pleasure heightening the lingering memory of the multitude of tiny legs trampling her body, covering her nipples, filling her to the point that she came for a second time before she became aware of it all. Now her breaths were rapid and deep.
She felt ashamed, almost guilty, and once the moment had passed, her body calm, the shaking in her legs and arms abating, she felt slightly repulsed at her reaction. It was light now, not bright, but certainly into the early hours of the morning, she looked at her watch, it said six o clock, and even though Helena saw it had stopped working, she thought it was probably a good estimate anyway.
She rose to leave her shelter, banging her head on the underside of the stools which had been her roof. There was another sound, and before she could rise, something heavy and cold fell on top of her, trapping her face down on the floor.
Helena cried out, her heart skipping a beat, if not several, her mind went black. She kicked out instinctively, screaming as she did. Finally the weight rolled away and she jumped to her feet. She turned and saw the man’s body on the floor, it was naked, well the swimming shorts were around his ankles and his penis was still erect, standing proud like the clichéd flagpole. The face was swollen and bloated, the skin already blacked, the eyeballs almost popping from the skull the pressure behind them was so great. Despite this, Helena knew instantly that it was Colin Edwards; it was a sight that even in death she would not mistake. She screamed, once again, her throat was still sore from the exertion the evening before, and by the time she took a breath there was a distinct crackle to her voice. There was another body she saw, and upon closer inspection she saw that it was two bodies, also naked, the bodies entwined in one another in a position that could only have come from the Karma Sutra. The worst part was that they were blocking the door. Helena had to climb over them to get out, a feat which actually meant she had to scale them, touching them with her hands, feet and bare legs. Their skin was cold and hard, She fought back the nausea. Not that there was anything to regurgitate anyway.
Helena felt better once she was out of the Sauna, although her back ached from the hard floor, and she still felt strange at the unusual way she had woken up. It was hot inside the pool, the weather outside was dry, but the sky was the same Purple colour as in her dream, and when Helena looked outside the grass and garden area which had been there was gone, replaced with the dried out river bed and cracked open earth. Footsteps were burnt into the dried ground; bare footprints, which ran not away from the building but towards it.
Helena’s stomach rumbled and her throat tickled. There was a certain smell already beginning to dominate the atmosphere, and when she looked at the pool, she could see that the bodies in the water were expanding, as if they were absorbing the water. Some of them had swelled up so much over night that there were stretch marks appearing on their faces, making it look like – in a few extreme cases – they were wearing war paint.
The water was moving, not quite flowing, but there was something creating an undulating surface. Small waves broke against gently against the side. It caused some of the bodies to impact the tiled side also, just like boats moored to the harbour.
The large change in such a short space of time was too much for Helena to understand, and in the early hours of the morning she urinated all over the floor, a strong concentrated urine which only added to the aroma.
The words from the dream were still echoing in her mind. “Make a choice.” What did it mean. What choice was there to make. Live or die, that was basically what it boiled down to, but she was trapped. It felt as though something was making the choice for her.
She knew that the best chance of this was back in the reception. There were no more doors left to try anywhere else, and prising open the electronic front entrance way still seemed like the best option. Plus there were some drinks in the unit by the kitchen. The thirst was giving her a pounding headache.
“No, Come on. Please.” Helena grunted, the door that led into the women’s changing room was somehow jammed shut, or locked, as was the male door and the invalid access. She had been trying for almost forty-five minutes to open them, her body already aching from the exertion.
Turning, she slid down the door and sat with her head in her hands. It was getting even hotter. Her hair was wet with sweat and she felt sticky from the previous days coating. Her hair was knotted and clumped against her scalp. She was hungry; her stomach was rumbling and wouldn’t stop.
“Who is doing this to me?” She asked with a whispered, pleading voice. She could feel herself near tears, and knew that once they began they wouldn’t stop.
She rose and walked back towards the pool, her feet slapping in the water. The sound echoed around the building, and Helena couldn’t help but think once again that she wasn’t alone. Helena wrapped her arms around herself as she walked. Despite the heat, she was cold, and beginning to shiver. A series of bubbles burst the surface behind her and she spun around.
She heard them whispering her name, she was sure of it, then there was more, behind her once again, this time she was certain. “Get out.” They whispered, “Run” said another burst, this time further out in the centre of the pool. Helena spun around, and around, trying to keep up with the bubbles, the entire surface of the pool suddenly looked like a Jacuzzi, bubbles throwing the slimy water in the air, splashing the sides. It was freezing cold and the droplets startled Helena as they hit her skin. She ran away, back towards the changing room, the noise of the bubbles getting loud and louder, until they were no longer whispering but screaming at her; a multitude of faceless voices calling to her, singing their own sirens song.
“Don’t look back.”
“Come here”
“You don’t belong.”
“Don’t wait. It’s already too late.”
The latter was final straw and it caused Helena to stumble as she ran, she fell heavily to the floor, her left wrist absorbing most of the impact. She heard as well as felt the snapping sensation. It hurt, she screamed, but was drowned out by the bubbles, which had whipped the pool into a frenzy, the bodies within it were almost being thrown around. In some cases it even looked as though they were coming to life and trying to claw their way out of the water. Trying to escape and claim their prize.
“Stop… Leave me alone.” She screamed, charging at the doors, raising her shoulder she ran with her whole body weight, tipping the scales at the beginning of the summer at 57kg’s. The door didn’t move, and Helena bounced off, falling to the floor once again, scraping her shoulder open. The chlorinated water stung and made her cry out again.
She lay on the floor, the voices growing louder and louder, the bubbles so violent that steam was beginning to rise from the pool, while the acoustic nature of the building echoed the cried and heckles, which repeated themselves inside her head.
Helena curled herself into the foetal position, hugging her knees to her chest, shivering from the cold water, crying, her hands then moved and clapped over her ears, but the sounds didn’t lessen. They were inside her mind. They passed through her skin, diffusing into her body.
“Stop… Stop.. STOP!” She screamed repeatedly, until her hoarse voice broke completely. By the time the voices began to fade she had passed into a semi catatonic state. When she opened her eyes she was looking down on her body.
Looking down, she saw four figures appear around her prostrate corpse, one at her head, one on either side and the fourth was circling her, inspecting her. The one by her head bent down, grabbed her by the hair and pulled her head upwards. Helena felt her hair tighten on the back of her head and cried out. The figures didn’t look up, they didn’t even flinch.
“Hey… Who…Who are you. Leave me alone. Please.” Helena whimpered, unsure what was happening.
“You don’t belong here Hel, you need to get up.” A familiar voice sprang up behind her. She knew the owner without looking.
“Madeline. You’re ali…” Helena began as she somehow floated around to face the voice. Her words stopped instantly, as her friend wasn’t alive. She saw that easily. Her skin was white, her eyes sunken with thick dark rings around them. She looked as though someone had handed her a pair of binoculars with ink around each eyepiece.
“No, I’m not. You are. You don’t belong in this place Hel, you need to get out, you need to wake up. They come when you’re asleep, they are waiting for you to die.” Her friend said, never taking her eyes away from Helena. She stood in the water, waist deep. Helena had somehow floated back down to the ground and was standing on the floor beside the pool. She was wearing her bikini still. She suddenly thought about why she hadn’t grabbed some clothes from the changing room when she had the chance.
“What do you mean. What’s going on Maddy, I’m so scared. I can’t get out. I tried, but this place is like locked up tight.” Helena was beginning to cry, her breaths becoming shorter and shorter again, until it felt as though she couldn’t breathe quick enough to take in all the air she needed.
“Calm down. Listen, they are coming back to us. You need to wake up. Now. Just remember that there is always a way out. It might be hard to find, but there is a way. Now wake UP!” Her friend shouted, splashing her with water, which was very much real, and very cold.
Helena woke sharply, the water still wet on her face. She was facing the pool, and just as the haze in her mind was clearing she was certain that she saw Madeline standing by the water watching her.
The water was still again by the time Helena was back on her feet. Her arm was throbbing and she could see that it was swollen, the last two fingers hardly moved when she made a fist, and the others were stiff and brought her to tears as they moved. She tasted the slick coppery taste of blood in her mouth and saw in her reflection by the windows that her shoulder was also severely bruised and her nose had a strange lump on it which had never been there.
She walked with a limp, noticing coldly that the bodies all seemed to follow her. Every single body in the water –which was the majority of them – were bobbing vertical in the pool, their eyes all milky white, and staring straight at her. They followed her as she made her way around the pool, dragging her left leg behind her by the time she reached the locker room again, having completed a circuit of the room.
She was alone. It was all a dream, it must have been, she had fallen and hit her head that was it. Helena was beginning to convince herself of this, and when she saw the door to the female changing room was open her spirits rose immeasurably. Pulled herself along she jumped through the door and pulled it shut behind her. The staring eyes had carved an icy chasm into her spine which had not yet begun to thaw.
After searching for some time she managed to find some clothes that fitted her nicely, and a warmed her greatly. She felt better for being clothed. Her feet she left bare, the idea of sharing someone’s sweaty trainers was still too gross for her, even given her current circumstances.
“I’ve got to get out of here.” Helena said aloud once more.
“You can’t escape. It’s too late for you.” A whispering voice came through in response. It was the voice of a crowd, and if came from in the pool. Acting against her better judgement, Helena reached with a shaking hand and opened the door. Just a small crack, enough to see what she needed; the faces of the dead still staring at her, like members of a congregation staring at their preacher.
“They’re coming for you. You can’t escape it, but you must find the way out.” The words came through the air, spoken by dead, motionless mouths. A contradiction in all its glory.
Helena screams and closed the door again. Turning and leaning against it with all her strength as if they were liable to climb onto dry ground and charge at her.
She froze. She knew she had to look again.
Staring at her, from the doorway that led to the reception area was a large bald man, his head bulbous and swollen, the skin stretched tight over it. They eyes were red dots on its face, the nose flattened and the mouth thin and small, any distinctive features or characteristics were missing. The face was plain, expressionless and grey, despite the yellow tint the skin had. Helena assumed it was a man from its height and stance, but there was no real way to say for sure. It was wearing a long white gown, which seemed to gleam in contrast to the dirty skin. The gown had short sleeves and the arms that protruded from them were stick thin, the skin was dry and flaking, there were circular calluses dotted along them, a few of which were oozing a strange milky white substance which seemed to seep out and then withdraw again through the same hole. The fingers were long and bony and tapered to strange pointed claws at the tip where nails had once grown.
“Are you ready to come with us?” The voice asked. The mouth opening and closing in a circular motion that didn’t match the sounds it created. The head cocked itself to one side in a gesture that would have been comically inquisitive had it been under different circumstances.
The pair stood facing each other neither looking to make the first move. Helena could feel her body tingling, her muscles suddenly awake are balancing on the cusp of an explosive movement. She waited, holding it at bay for as long as she could, her hand slowly twitching in anticipation. There was only one way to run.
Everything that happened occurred in a heartbeat. Helena grabbed at the door handle, pulling it open and fled once more into the pool area. She closed the door behind her, slamming it shut, and then with her repulsion put to one side she grabbed the stiffened body of the second lifeguard and pulled it to block the door. The body was heavy with death, the skin cold and slightly rough to touch but once position before the door, Helena felt better.
The figure didn’t follow, the door remained still, yet Helena knew she was trapped. She turned around to face the pool, but the bodies had gone back to their assorted positions.
Outside the rain began to fall again.
Time passed, Helena had no idea how long, but eventually night fell, or at least she felt it was night. She had been sitting in the same spot, in the far corner her back against the wall, her knees hugged against her chest the entire time. She hadn’t moved, not even when she had needed the bathroom. She had removed the trousers she had been wearing once the warm urine had cooled and began to smell. She was now sitting naked from the waist down, shivering. Her eyes were constantly darting from wall to wall, staring at nothing, yet absorbing everything with quick nervous glances. Her head remained motionless. Her breathing fast and shallow, her nails were bleeding from where she had unknowingly bitten them almost down to the cuticle. They were sore and throbbing, matched by the pain in her wrist. Her hand was going red and the fingers were swollen to the point where they were almost completely immobile.
A strange dusk light had settled over the pool, and outside also, as if a full bright summer moon and broken through the clouds.
Her stomach rumbled with hunger, tying itself into a knot beneath her skin, while her throat was begging for a drink. The shaking grew steadily worse, and by the time midnight arrived and she rolled into her third day even her own breaths were enough to cause her alarm. The wall no longer felt like a solid thing behind her spine, but something soft, malleable, something that someone or something could easily dig their way through.
Her legs were number beneath her, the skin blue from cold, and her joints were frozen from having been still for over twelve hours. She tried to move and an explosive wave of pins and needles surged through her legs up to her waist.
A scraping sound broke through the silence of the pool, it sounded like chairs being pulled over a tiled floor. It wasn’t abrasive, it was simply a noise. Helena, who had by then managed to get back onto her feet spun around. She lost her footing and fell into the pool. She coughed and spluttered, thrashing the surface with her weakened limbs. The cold water flowed into her mouth and she swallowed it in gulps. Her stomach cramped at the liquid, and despite her revulsion her throat seemed to welcome it. Helena managed to control her strokes and rose to the surface, come up for air between the bloated corpse of a hairy backed middle aged man, and a young girl whose pink swimsuit was still decorated with flowers and ponies. Her arm bands clung to her tiny arms, deflated and floating in the water like a flattened out jellyfish. Swimming as quickly as she could, thrashing wildly with her arms trying to keep her head above the water, and not to get too close to any of the bodies Helena made her way to the side of the pool.
A cold hand grabbed her, she felt the icy fingers wrapping around her ankle under the water. The shock of the water temperature seemed like nothing compared to the freezing touch of dead fingers. It felt as though someone was burning her. She reached the side and tried to pull herself out. She was easily pulled back down into the water. Her legs standing on the ledge that ringed the pool a few feet beneath the surface, and the hands fell away. She spun around, but she was alone. She kicked her legs wildly, hoping to scare anything under the water away, before frantically pulling herself out.
She lay on her back, her feet flat on the floor, knees bent, she was breathing hard, her lungs partially filled with stale water. She looked up, forgetting that she was naked and was happily showing her spread sex to the window like a woman giving receiving a public pelvic examination.
There, standing in the reception area, lining the wall staring through the window stood seven of the same creatures she had seen in the locker room. All of them identical, the same height, same clothes, the only difference was that their eyes were black, and seemed to pulse slightly. Even that was in sync.
They were looking directly at Helena, and then one by one along the line they raised their left hand and placed it on the glass. Helena watched in frozen horror, her heart skipping several beats for what felt like a lifetime, as the glass began to shimmer and ripple as if its surface was not long a solid thing, but a liquid. She screamed as the beings slowly reached through, pushing their arms through the glass. The all stepped down and into the pool area in unison.
“Helena Vander. It is your time. You cannot hide anylonger.” One of them spoke, its voice the same as the being from the locker room, but there was no way of knowing if it was true.
“Who are you? What do you want with me?” She asked, her resolve somehow gone. She was scared and tired, hungry and dizzy, her body was in agony and screaming at her to just stop.
“We are not important. It is time for you to complete the transition. Before it is too late. Come with us now.” Another said, the one on the far left of the line.
Helena felt herself take a couple of steps away from them, careful not to fall back into the pool.
“Don’t run, please. It is for your own good. Come with us and things will be fine.” The middle one spoke again. His words were cold to Helena’s ears. She turned and ran, screaming for help, imploring somebody to listen. A homeless man foraging in the bins for scraps would have been enough, just so long as they would take her away.
The men followed her, but at a steady pace, never breaking the near perfect line in which they stood.
“Helena, listen to us. It is too late. Come now before your time is up. Once the choice has been made it cannot be undone.” They voice now carried a note of urgency and more shockingly to Helena a subtle hint of pleading.
She stopped running and turned to face them.
“What do you want?” She asked, at the point of collapsing onto her knees, offering her hands up in sacrificial surrender.
The figure stopped.
“It cannot be explain, you must understand yourself where you are. The decision is not something that we can make for you. The outcome is never predetermined, it is a war, a recruitment, and the strongest wins. The decision is yours, but I can only tell you that you should listen to us. I have seen your past, I know who you are, and you are a good human being. This is not where you belong.” The being spoke, its voice changing as it did to take on much more human qualities.
“No, NO NONONONONONONO!” Helena shouted, putting her hands to her ears. She let go and winced as her wrist shouted a painful reminder to her. “Leave me alone. I don’t want to be here. Just let me go.” She begged turning to run once more she saw the slide. The very same thing which had started it all, and her eyes, which almost exploded at the sight of something real, saw a thin trickle of water dribbling from the slide.
The noise that followed this discovery seemed to shock the seven beings more than it did Helena. It may have been because her nervous system had suffered enough and had begun to shut down, or it could have simply been that the beings were not suspecting anything to come crashing through from the changing rooms.
All eight of them by the pool turned and looked at the noise; in the doorway stood the being that had first spoken to Helena the day before. Its red eyes flaring like flashing car headlights warning of danger round the following bend.
“You have broken the rules of engagement. You much not have contact with the beings.” The red eyes man screamed, his voice loud but still flat and monotonous.
The seven other being all turned and were now standing facing the changing rooms, their flank exposed to Helena, who somehow managed to keep her mind in one place and turned back to the slide. Slipping as quietly as she could, she re-entered the water and half swam half drifted over to the mouth of the slide. It was only about six or seven inches above the water level, but it felt like meters. It seemed so distant and out of her reach that she almost didn’t try.
“We have broken no rules. She must choose, her task has not been done. We simply told her what she had to know. Nothing more.” One of the beings with black eyes answered. Helena didn’t know which as she was busy hauling herself out of the water. Their voices were muffled to her ears and she wouldn’t have been able to repeat what they had been saying anyway.
“Where are you friends? You never work alone.” The black eyed man continued, his expressionless face staring straight at the red eyed being. He was fully aware of the girl disappearing up the slide, but he had failed to notice the water trickling out of it. He had simply assumed that it was another attempt to hide or outrun her responsibility.
“Things here are fragile, it is bordering on collapse. I am here to plant the seed and then leave. You would be wise to do the same thing. Climb on your white horses and head home.” The red eyed being answered, his eyes watching the girl ascent the tube. He had noticed the water trickling, and the ramifications of this were beginning to filter through. “There is a fracture in the walls. This place isn’t safe any longer. You may have her.” He said suddenly and faded back into the darkness of the changing room. He said no final words and made no grand gesture of his (mis)intent, he simply turned and walked away.
The seven others, who stood silent returned their attention to Helena and saw her bare backside disappearing up the tunnel like an oversized baby crawling back into the bleeding tunnel that just forced it out.
“With your rebirth comes a new choice. I hope you make the right one.” One of the voices carried up the wet inside of the slide where Helena was busy pulling herself along, legs spread eagled toes digging into the curve of the tube while her arms with palms flat on the bottom pulled her forwards, inching slowly, before the trickling water greased her palms and she slid back slightly.
The higher she climbed, the weaker she became, exhaustion racked her body. Her wrist had cracked several times and was now beginning to swell once again, her vision was weak, her chest was on fire, and felt as if it were stuck in a large vice that someone was tightening, crushing her ribs and trapping her lunch in between, until the spongy tissue was poking through the gaps in her bones like when you squeeze a balloon.
The current got stronger, the water warmer. After climbing for what felt like an eternity, Helena reached the final point. Her body would not listen to her any longer, it was dark in the tube, her body was sore, her legs stiff and bleeding somehow, her eyes were swollen and she couldn’t shake the taste of blood from the back of her throat. She lay her head down to rest on the floor of the slide and let the water wash over her. It was flowing harder than ever now. Bringing with it a noise that sounded like the clamour of feet, and scrambling hands. It was dark inside the tube, and when it started to rattle and shake as if caught in an earthquake Helena hardly registered it. She was ready to give in. “I’ll go with you. Anything, just please make it stop.” She whispered, aiming her comments at the seven beings who had melted the glass. Their showing being much more memorable and impressive than the simple sneak up and shout boo approach taken by the red eyed thing. “I choose. Come on. Take me.” She called out, her voice weak and broken. She collapsed once more, just as light filled the tunnel, a warm rush of air swam over her body. She twitched unconsciously, and felt nothing when the rough woollen blanket was draped over her exposed lower half.

The rescue operation itself had taken days, the damage caused by the blasts had been far reaching and the weather had made for slow rescue progress. So far only nobody had survived, not in any of the three places that had been hit. The swimming pool, the small local church and the community centre which shared the same central car park had all been full, and subsequently decimated. The search was almost called off, until suddenly a rescue worker heard a muffled cry; not of help or agony, but one of acceptance, or so that person would refer to it as in later years. The sound of someone who had given up on rescue, made their piece with God and were simply waiting for someone to come and lay claim to them.
“Take me. I’ve made my choice. Come on. Come back, take me with you.” Helena mumbled in her sleep, throwing herself from side to side in her hospital bed. Rattling the safety bars which had been risen as a result of the previous days restless slumber. Overnight she had been fastened to the bed, the restraints only removed this morning when the new shift started and there was once again sufficient man power to have her supervised.
Helena’s eyes opened suddenly, and the ceiling lights coupled with the mid morning sun streaming through the window caused her to shut them again. The blinding pain shot along her optic nerve and nestled itself in her brain where it proceeded to thunder away for several minutes.
“Where am I?” She asked in the darkness. She was panicked, the last thing she remembered was the pool, climbing up the slide and the strange people that had been there, and now she was in a bed, somewhere. She lay back down, and opened her eyes, one at a time, slowly. She kept her hands over them also, allowing the light to filter through her fingers first.
“You’re awake. That’s great news. I know some people who will be delighted to hear that.” A voice spoke from the doorway.
Her eyes now adjusted, if not still struggling slightly with the contrast Helena looked over and saw an elderly man, with thick grey hair combed in a side parting, standing there. He held a clipboard and worse a white jacket. A stethoscope was jutting from his breast pocket. He had a kind albeit wrinkled face, with a thick moustache the same colour as his hair and a pair of glasses which at least made him look slightly younger. He walked over and proceeded to withdraw his equipment, one item at a time; tongue depressor, small torch, stethoscope.
He didn’t speak as he examined her, excluding the occasional Hmmmm or Uh-huh sound that escaped his throat. When he lowered the sheets slightly to listen to her chest, Helena neither noticed nor cared once she did that she was naked. The man made her feel safe, he smelt of tobacco and peppermint, in equal quantities, and he wore the same aftershave as her father.
“You are one very lucky girl, and given some rehabilitation and getting your strength back, building up your strength, you can lead a perfectly normal life.” He spoke the words nonchalantly, yet they hit Helena with the force of a freight train.
“What do you mean?” She whispered, her voice still broken and gravelly.
“Well, you survived a great deal. Being in the slide when the bombs went off probably saved your life, but the injuries to your arm and left leg were too severe. But listen. I’ll go get your parents. They have been sleeping in the room next door ever since we brought you in.” He said with a slightly smile. Although his eyes were filled with sorrow, a natural human emotion that couldn’t be kept hidden. Pity was what most people called it.
“How long have I been here?”Helena asked shaken, still trying to piece everything together. Her mind was fragmented, she had many different images which all felt like dreams, yet had an eerie lingering quality like the hazy memories of a drunken night out.
“You have been here for just over a week now, they pulled you from the wreckage a three days after it happened. “ Helena’s mother’s voice answered her. She suddenly realise she had her eyes closed, and when they opened the doctor was gone.
“Where is?” She began. Trying to sit up, but when she went to lean on her left arm she fell. There was nothing there to support her.
“You fell asleep. Don’t worry. You’ll get used to it. The doctors said you got off pretty lightly considering.” Her father said, he was standing beside on the opposite side to her mother. He leant over and kissed her on the head.
Unsure what people were talking about, Helena looked down and saw that her left arm was missing from below the elbow. She was shocked, unable to react at all, her thoughts were blocked as if that one specific thought path was anesthetised. “What?” She began, but her head felt dizzy and her parents laid her back down.
“We’re just so glad to have you back with us.” They said in near unison.
“I don’t remember anything.” She lied, but something insider her told her that is was the right time to lie. “Did Madeline get out? I went on the slide but she stayed in the pool to wait for me.” Helena began, but the sudden change of looks on her parent’s faces quietened her.
“Nobody. . . .um… You were the only person that made it sweetie. I’m sorry.” Her father’s voice did little to comfort her and she burst into tears. A wave of emotion flooded over her, images flashed before her eyes, confusing pictures, but ones she knew had to be seen one more time. She cried for months, sometimes to herself, while at other times she cried out loud. She cried for her lost limbs, her friend, for all of them that died, but most of all, in reflection of everything, after days and weeks of rehab, she cried at herself for not making a choice when it was offered to her.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Notes on Bus Driver

This story is almost a tribute to the mind of David Cronenberg, a director that a friend of mine considers one of the best, and I to hold an appreciation for his mind and imagination, although have seen only a couple of his movies.

The final scene in Videodrome (if you have seen it you will know ) gave me food for thought and when I coupled it to the idea of a suicide bomber it began to come together.

In my opinion this story is still rough, I hope to receive some feedback on this one to polish it off further, but that being said I am happy with this as the initial draft I will submit, obviously otherwise I would not have uploaded it.

Thank you for reading this and hope you have enjoyed or will enjoy the following tale.

Sit back, and enjoy!

Bus Driver!

The lumbering bus pulled to a stop the brakes groaning under the strain. Eric Matthews sharply pressed the brake causing the stop to be a lurching sudden one, which send the kids who had already risen to a standing position tumbling down the aisle; their arms flailing as they tried to grab the seats to stop themselves from falling.

Eric smiled to himself as the kids rose and slowly filtered out the two doors, one at the front near him, and the large double door in the centre.

“God Damned kids.” He muttered under his breath as the last of them stepped out. He looked in his rear-view mirror and saw the mess that they had left behind. Pieces of paper with notes and answers to the homework hurriedly copied on the journey. Items of homework, soon to be classed as forgotten which he would gather up and burn for his own pleasure during lunch.
Some of the windows were smeared with the leftovers of the breakfast sandwiches, thrust into the kids hands by parents to didn’t really care about the giving their kids the nutritious breakfast they needed.

“Good Morning Eric. Still haven’t thought about changing careers I see.” An old female voice spoke. It was one that carried authority with it, and was always fighting to hold back an undertone of sarcasm mixed with aggression.

Eric turned and saw Martha Hoggworthy the school headmistress had climbed aboard. She was an evil looking woman, who looked about as caring of a Head Mistress and Miss Trunchbbull. She was wearing a long Bottle green skirt, with a cream blouse, topped off with a green cardigan. Her glasses were perched on the tip of her nose, attached to them was a thick bead chain which went behind her head connected the two arms together. He hair was grey, and cut short in a neat bob. The was nothing about her which didn’t scream out both her profession and personality. Eric swore that the bus got colder when she was around.

“Gotta pay the bills love.” He smiled and winked at her before closing the door in her face and backing away.

He hated doing the school runs, the noise, the fat greasy children, ripping the seats or covering them with graffiti. Even the general smell of children made him want to vomit, but the school runs paid good money, and it gave him some additional time off during the day to relax and watch some movies.

Eric drove the bus straight back to the depot to be cleaned, and waited for Bus 72 to return for him to take over the route.

He hated every moment he sat behind the large wheel; he never spoke to his colleagues, unless he was spoken to himself. There was never any need to be rude. Growing up, his parents divorced before he was born, an accident which had turned into the straw that broke the camel’s back, or so his father told him many times growing up. Eric had wanted to join either the army of the police force, but a genetic condition which left him with reduced lung capacity and a weakness in his spine removed the option from his life table. He wasn’t a very smart person; there were many people in fact who regarded him as slightly retarded.

He didn’t care. He liked to be on his own anyway. As a child he had always been afraid of group altercations because they always seemed to end with him performing something unspeakable. He couldn’t remember what it was exactly, but he knew it was horrible, and that the more he refused the more he was made to do it.

Whenever he cast his mind back to his childhood, a task his psychiatrist had tried to get him to do, he saw nothing, he heard voices and recalled certain settings; a day at the beach, a family BBQ, the visits to the basement, etc, but the main picture was nothing but a black cloud. A thick bubbling storm cloud, filled with anger and a powerful rage. It was like looking at a piece of art after someone threw a can of paint over it. All you can see it the edges, a glimpse at what was being hidden.

The day passed quickly, it was grey and overcast, most cars had their headlights on the entire day, and by the time 15.30 arrived Eric had a steadily pounding headache, only exaggerated by the seven coffee’s he had drunk since his lunch break.

Wednesday was always the worst day with the kids, for some reason they were always more hyperactive then the other four days. Not to mention the fact that he had the retarded kid today also. Some monkey faced hybrid in a wheelchair. He didn’t know what was wrong with IT, but he knew what should have been done. It gave him the creeps to check his rear-view mirror and see this twisted face grimacing at him, mouth open, spit dribbling over his shirt in thick gelatinous strands.

Today they were particularly rowdy; the back seat gang were bouncing around, throwing the leftovers of their lunches at the other kids. They were only just out of the school drive and already a banana and two sandwiches had been smeared over the back window, and he was sure he could smell smoke of some sort.

“Oi, pipe down will you.” He bellowed just as the content of a bag of crisps was sent crumbling over the floor. A few of the kids listened and sat, although the volume remained the same.
Cries for help, cries of mild pain caused by wedgies and flying textbooks, not to mention the odd fist dealt out swiftly and severely by Alistair Sharp the largest kid in the school, ‘a real young fuckface in training’ thought Eric every day when the kid dragged his soon to be overweight carcass from the back seat. The most overpowering noise however, and equally the most irritating was the shrieks and bellows of laughter, ranging from nervous to the deep belly variety it didn’t matter, they all merged together to make a sound akin to fingers on a blackboard, or cutlery scratching against the surface of the dinner plate.

“Shut up you damned brats!” Eric called at the top of his voice, his throat scratching from the sudden outburst. He rarely spoke at all, and when he did it was in a whisper. “Don’t make me stop this bus and come down there. Hey!” His rant continued, and he could feel that there was nothing he could do to stem the flow.

The faces in the bus, sitting for the most part in pairs like lovebirds locked inside a mobile cage, set straight forward, staring at him. Not necessarily listening, but certainly the shock factor would generate a few moments of peace. He smiled to himself, the words stopping quicker than he had expected; a good thing too. He had been warned twice already about his manner with the children, a couple of parents had taken offense to his grumbling at the children’s high spirits at the start of the holidays.

As he studied them, watching them carefully, wanting to study each of their faces, he became aware of something happening, and slowed the bus down. He looked back at the road. It was clear, but when he accelerated the bus didn’t respond. Instead it continued to slow, it was almost at a standstill, the engine still grunting in the unhealthy sounding way it had.

“Come on your bitching thing. You just got serviced last week.” Eric spat under his breath, his hands clutching at the wheel, squeezing hard enough to whiten his knuckles.

Then, as if it could hear the threats that were about to come, the bus leapt back into life and began to pick up speed again. Only it felt different. It felt slightly less responsive, as if he had less control over the great yellow beast. He shook his head, trying to shake the feeling.

The bus picked up speed and continued down the road. The first stop was approaching, and the kids were so far still sitting still in their seats. Too motionless, it made him nervous, and he kept flicking his eyes up to the mirror more frequently.

The first stop arrived, three of the kids got up and jumped off. He watched them go, the first a young girl seemed to be limping, her face grimacing with each hobbling step she took. The final two were dirty, their clothes dark and wet. He squinted into the mirror. They were bleeding, He turned around quickly, and saw them jump into the afternoon weather and walk away with no problems, no blood soaking through their clothes.

“Get a hold of yourself man.” He thought, giving his head another shake. Nothing rattled so he knew he wasn’t losing his mind. Not just yet at least. They continued to drive, the kids began to chatter but nothing too bad for once. He kept checking though.

He raised his eyes to the mirror, but what he saw caused him to throw his foot on the brake. He didn’t see the kids sitting patiently, he didn’t see the kids at all, the bus was gone, ripped apart of so it looked, the back end was missing completely, the sides ripped into jagged metal teeth, the ends twisted blackened shards. A trail of sparks erupted from behind the vehicle as the undercarriage dragged over the tarmac, gouging deep trenches in the road. The air was filled with soot, thick black flakes that snowed to the floor in darkened brilliance. In the distance a large fireball spread across the road. This black smoke billowing out as the orange ball of physical heat rose into the sky like a golden mushroom cloud.

Eric shifted in his seat, suddenly uncomfortable. His clothes stuck to the fabric, he pulled himself loose and settled back down. He closed his eyes, clamping them shut with all the strength and control he had over the lids. When he opened them again the bus was back, the kids sitting there once more. Their bodies perfectly still, their faces fixed forwards, unmoving.

Out of the window, the road was clear, nothing behind, and nothing before them. He put his foot down and watched the speedometer creep upwards.

The road continued to extend before him, it felt strange, the houses either side seemed somewhat distant, their colours faded. It was as though they weren’t even there, just an illusion, his mind telling him that they had been there once, years ago, but now all he saw was their residual image, burned into his mind after years of the same route at the same times each day.

There was movement behind him, his words of warning finally beginning to wear off he thought. ‘ Ignore it. The fuckers will be gone soon.’ He thought as he smiled, a crooked smile, revealing his yellow teeth, rotted by years of heavy smoking, drinking and bad personal hygiene. He looked at himself in the mirror, his lips were thin, his skin had taken on a yellow hue over the last few months, his eyes sunken and dark, quite often bloodshot. His hair was long, greasy and uncut, he couldn’t remember the last time he had it cut. He would trim the ends of it every now and then but actually going to a professional, he couldn’t even remember.

The shuffling behind him got louder. He glanced up in the mirror, it was the bully, Sharp, who was standing, walking down the aisle towards him. He ignored the others, his eyes staring dead ahead. His skin was pale, a shade away from white, dark circles around his eyes, and blood running from his nose.

“Oh great.” Eric said under his breath. “Let me pull over.” He spoke but the boy continued to walk forwards. It was then that Eric saw the large piece of metal protruding from the boys shirt, dripping with blood, glinting darkly in the overcast light.

“Jesus Christ.” Eric went to put his foot on the brakes but found it couldn’t move, it was stuck to the accelerator pedal. “What the….” He began, but before he could say anything, Sharp was standing next to him, the wet and sticky point of the length of metal was jabbing at his arm, droplets of semi congealed blood fell onto his trousers.

Eric turned to face him, the skin was missing on the right side of his face, in some places the meat was removed down to the bone. His ear was hanging loosely against the side of his head and his hair was now just a matted clump, and the portion of his skull beneath wobbled with each bump in the road as if on a hinge.

“Why don’t you sit down, I’ll call you an ambulance. . Shit.” Eric stuttered, fighting off the waves of nausea and shock that were competing for control of his body. His eyes flicked back to the road briefly, but couldn’t quite shake the image of the boy, who was still standing beside him, staring at him blankly. “I said go sit down kid.” He said again. He went to reach across and push the kid into the front seat but found his hand wouldn’t leave the wheel.

Sharp opened his mouth, and began to screech, it wasn’t a cry, not even a bellow, but a screech. It was the sound of tires coming to a racing halt, or slipping on icy bend.

Behind him, the other kids began to rise from their seats, each one suddenly injured, the twins, who were the only well behaved ones stood in unison, their hands not just joined but seemingly fused together, the bodies burnt to the point where they were almost unrecognisable. Their lips scorched away, revealing their white teeth, both had a gap in the same place where one of the last milk teeth had fallen. Their hands were missing, the skin melted and fused together before somehow cooling, forming an unbreakable bond.

“Get back.” Eric called out, as the Sharp boy raised a broken arm to him; the wrist twisted a hundred and eighty degrees, the fingers curled up uselessly like the legs of a dead spider.
Eric tried to raise his hands from the wheel, but like his foot, they were also stuck. He pulled harder, and harder still, until with an excruciating ripping sound they came away. Pain surged through him, and he looked down at the wheel while tears stung his eyes. He saw strips of his own flesh clinging to the wheel, thick and gelatinous, the raw red meat glinted like diamonds. He looked at his hands, inspecting the damage; blood was pouring down his forearms already, dark and thick, too thick, too dark. He looked at it and watched it flow from his wounds, which already seemed to be healing. Only the skin that regenerated wasn’t the healthy pink colour, but black and leathery, just as the steering wheel itself.

It wasn’t blood, he could smell it now, it was oil; an untapped reserve of pure black oil ejaculating from his hands in thick spurts.

He cried out, a hand clamped down on his shoulder and it burn, he turned and saw three more kids had joined Sharp at the front of the bus, the twins were there now and also some fat kid whose name he never knew, he had simply called him ginger.

“What do you want with me?” Eric asked, unable to think of anything else to say. He tried to move, but found himself frozen in his seat. His hands were now beginning to throb, he looked and saw that they bleeding had stopped, his arms still slick with oil. Hands grabbed at him, and forced them back onto the wheel.

He cried out, kicking with his legs. He felt something pulling at his legs. He looked down to see the twins were kneeling down reaching for his ankle with their free hands.

“Get off me.” He called, swiping at them with his hands, which he felt tear a little again from the wheel.

The girls ignored his demands, and wrapped their small hands around his ankle. The heat was intense, as if a blowtorch was being passed over his skin. He could smell the burning, even hear the sizzle of his flesh as it was blasted from his bone. Other hands reached forwards and thrust him back into his seat.

Eric was panicking, unable to move, or escape, and at the same time the bus kept moving along, The same stretch of road or so it seemed.

In the mirror Eric could see all of the kids standing, lining the aisle as if waiting for their turn to grab at him. Even the retard was there, he held himself upright with strong muscled arms, his hideous grin spread even wider. He was panting and roaring like a primitive beast, and looked strong enough to rip Eric apart with his bare hands.

The bus began to round a bend in the road, and as it did the weather changed, the clouds were thicker and it once again started to snow ash, blackened flakes that fell daintily to the ground, gathering until there was a thick layer covering the ground. As if a cloud and simply rotted away and fallen from the sky.

Thinking quickly, Eric reached over with his left hand and grabbed the door handle, it gave easily and the door flew open, the rushing air and wind was a shock, the bus didn’t seem to be travelling that fast. Preparing himself for the impact, Eric pulled himself free from the grip and leapt from the bus. Only he never left, he fell from the door, and instead of hitting the tarmac he fell onto something hard and rough against his skin.

He opened his eyes and he was lying along the back seat, stuck still within the confines of the mobile tomb. The stench at the back was almost choking. It was thick with the aroma of burning flesh and hair.

The group turned, sensing his presence somehow. The seats he was lying along suddenly moved and pushed him to the floor. He fell into the aisle where he was pounced upon but the five younger kids who sat normally on the first few rows, but in the change had waited for the big kids to make the first move.

Their faces were bloodied and broken, but their eyes were ferocious. They scratched at him with sharp nails and tried to bite him. They were shooed away and Eric found himself raised and lifted into the air, carried aloft like a rock star. He was passed forward, thrashing around like a landed fish, unable to worm his way out of their dead fingers, which clamped onto him like small vices. He was swiftly dropped back into his seat.

“You’re our driver now.” The twins said in unison, their voices unaffected by the fire that had somehow ravaged them, even their eyes had melted; their empty sockets stared at him like the finger holes in a bowling ball.

“Yes, the driver.” The Sharp boy concurred, not long before they all began to chant in a eerie whispering voice “Driver...Driver...Driver…” It grew steadily louder and louder.

“Fuck off, worthless kids, what do you want from me. What’s going on here?” Eric cried, unable to keep himself composed any longer he broke into tears, and wet himself. His body shook as he sobbed, his head thumping like a bad hangover, the leathery – vinyl skin that now covered his hands rubbed against his eyes. It felt strange and alien. He looked and saw that it had spread, his entire palm and fingers where now covered in the material.

Out of nowhere the seatbelt whipped around him and fastened itself, locking Eric into his seat. His hands clamped on the wheel and burned, smoke rising from between his fingers as they melted into the wheel. Before he knew what had happened, his hands had disappeared, dripped to the floor in red, bubbling semi liquid pile. He screamed as he stared at it, also noticing that his foot had suffered a similar fate, it had flattened out, thinning and become the accelerator pedal, which his other had disappeared through the floor, locking him into place.

The seatbelt began to tighten pulling him back into the upright position; the road before them was blocked. The window blackened by the soot, but through it a bright orange light shone. ‘Shit, I’m in the wrong lane. I fell asleep and this is just a dream’ Eric thought to himself, a sudden moment of hope filled him. The windscreen wipers came on automatically, clearing away a large sooty semi circle. Eric saw it then, the orange light was coming from a fireball that filled the road. There were people milling around, hundreds of them, standing in the road, large groups in gardens and some standing in doorways or peering through the curtains.

The children were gone, he thought. They were no longer beside him, grabbing at him. He looked back, and they were all sitting back, calmly staring ahead. Their dead faces already beginning to rot, the skin falling from their bones in wet lumps, the stench was worse now, filling his nostrils with every breath he took.

The bus approached the fire ball, and all Eric wanted to do was cover his eyes, instead all he could do was look down, and stare at the timing device strapped to his chest, hidden beneath his uniform jacket, which had at some point been removed. The last thing he remembered was a thick black taste rise from the back of his throat. The veins on his arms standing proud, swollen and pulsating, stretched to their limit with the thick black liquid that now flowed through them. They continued to swell, splitting the skin on the back of his leathery hands, before slicing open his forearms. His veins rose into existence, no longer veins but cables, red, green and blue, woven around each other. They disappeared back beneath the skin at the start of his biceps, but he could feel them worming their way through his entire body.

He felt the muscle in his right thigh tighten, and the bus began to pick up speed, passing through the fireball and bursting out the other side.

The incident rocked the city, and was used as the basis for large nationwide court case asking for stricter rules on the checking the suitability of drivers on the school routes.

A suicide note was found in Eric Matthews’s house, stuck to his fridge with a large magnet. It simply said,

God Damned Kids.
Had it coming. Fuck it.


It was written in block capitals with a soft pencil.

Nobody survived the bomb, which was concluded to have been either worn by the driver or strapped to his seat. Only a handful of bodies were able to be identified, the remaining fifteen were sorted over a period of time. It was almost two years before the final burial took place. The body of the driver was never found, although investigators said that there was the presence of a great deal of oil at the scene which could not possibly have come from the bus as it was crude oil, unrefined and as of yet unidentified.