The Musings of a Hideous Mind is also avaialble for a free preview on Bookbzzr.com

Saturday, 21 May 2011

It's a Long Walk Home

This is a new post taken from my new site www.alexlaybourne.com please visit me there for much more writerly fun.


I was there the day he gunned my family down. I stood and watched their lives ended. I took my vengeance and by the night’s end the air was blue with gun smoke.
I swore to the Gods that I would see true vengeance served. I stood, bathed in my family’s blood, and the oath was made.
I ran, I hunted, I followed and sought. I walked every day always on this trail. The aroma of his guns was heavy in my nostrils; the salty taste of his sweat stung my tongue. He was always close at hand, yet just out of sight. I never slowed my pace, never sped for I ‘knew he was oblivious to my presence; for he made no attempt to hide his tracks.
The days rolled by, the states changed, seasons came and went. Oceans were travelled and bodies were laid in the ground. For he understood that I was chasing him. I came close to him once, on an ocean liner heading across the seas. We called a strange truce; our feud put aside during journeys. Over land, sea or air, we would often meet, yet our bond stayed our hands.
He sent many a follower to get me, to halt my pursuit over the years, and each one I greeted with a smile and a flash of gun smoke. I think he sent them to die, thinning his own numbers so that it would just us.
And so it was; after countless decades of chase, the thrill began to die, and we stood alone, beneath the blazing desert sun. Finally I saw him, really saw him; my enemy. The rage, the feral desire to see his blood shed, body emptied, hollowed out and left to dry… was gone. For before me stood not the dashing villain that had slain my beloved, heartlessly murdered my children, but an old man. A decrepit bag of bones with skin several sizes too large. Fingers knotted with arthritis, and about as able to yield his weapon as an infant.
He smiled his teeth long since left by the wayside. “Has it come to this?” He asked.
“Aye” I answer. My weapon roared, his body wilted like a flower removed from its bed. He did not bleed, for too many years had passed for both us to have anything left to shed.
The stench of death hung heavy in the air and as the sun beat its relentless tune on my back, I knew it was not him but me that was the source. So with my body rotting around me I turned and made my way back across the desert, for it was a long walk home to be with those so long ago left behind.

Monday, 28 February 2011

THIS SITE HAS MOVED

I have decided to go it alone and have created a new website where I will be discussing life, writing and posting more of my amazing fiction. Please join me at www.alexlaybourne.com

Thanks for following me I truly, and deeply appreciate it and I hope to see you over at the new site.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Bloodsport

The two dogs snarled and leapt at each other with a ferocity that none of the spectators in the barn that night had ever seen. The animals were large and nobody really knew what breed they were. Buy someone had put them in the ring and they were going at it tooth and nail, so people laid their stakes and began to cheer on their mount.

Shouts of "Sick 'em" and "Have at him" circled around the barn and were the only real words that could be picked out from the screams and cheers.

The dog fights had been a monthly fixture in the abandoned farm house for some time now. Nobody knew much about it, and nobody cared to, the more secretive the better and they knew it.

It was always the same sort of dog, two large beasts; they looked like German Shepherds only bigger, much bigger. They were strong too, if one was thrown into the guardrails the provided the walls to the canine octagon they would shake as if hit by a train.

The dogs were always in place when the guests arrived, often all having gathered outside the locked barn doors before hand, so as that they could all enter together and avoid any name calling or potentially volatile accusations being thrown.

The fight tonight though was a real hum-dinger. The dogs were really giving it to each other. One was missing an ear and the skin over the left part of its skull and been pulled back and flapped around like a bad toupee. The other was bleeding from a deep wound in its flank and its left hind leg was clearly broken. It dragged limply on the floor like a poorly placed second tail. They snarled and roared and just kept coming. It had even been more than some of the regulars could bear to take. Three had already stepped outside... not venturing too far for they still had to collect their winnings should they have backed the right beast.

Eventually, or perhaps thankfully, one dog took control, closing its jaws around the throat of its opponent and with a series of violent shakes snapped the beast’s neck. It fell lifeless to the floor, while the other beast stood, breathing heavily, and its half scalped skull pumping blood into its eyes. It stood and almost looked at each of the spectators in turn before simply lying down, exhausted.

The victors strode forward and collected their winnings, the losers trundled home their heads bowed yet already eager for the next round, whenever it would be.

Nobody bothered with the dogs, it would be taken care of, and they all knew it.

The next morning, just as the sun was cresting on the horizon the doors to the barn opened, and two men strode out. The barn behind them was empty, everything tidied away.

"You really went for it last night brother." One man said as they stood squinting, allowing their eyes - always sensitive after the change- to adjust.

"You too. It must have been a clear night, the moon was strong." The largest and eldest of the brother spoke.

"How much did we make?" The other asked.

"About fifteen grand at first look. Shame it's only once a month." He mused.

"Yeah. Listen man, this is fun, but next month I want to win." The youngest asked hopefully

"Okay." His brother replied, slapping him on the back and setting off towards their car which was parked behind the barn.

Marked

"What did you do?" Elias roared, grabbing his young cousin and fellow vampire Ryan by the throat and throwing him back into the wall of the small alley they stood in. His face was one of rage, his eyes blackened his teeth bared and humanity gone, pulled away by the demon.

"Nothing, honest. I just fed on him a bit then turned him. You said I could." Ryan choked as the hand squeezing his neck tightened its grip even further. Even though he was dead having his ability to breath taken away from him still had the same effect.

"I also said we were to lay low, we were going to set up a life here. Don't you remember what happened back in Amsterdam?" He roared and slammed his fist into and through the brick eliciting a scream from the occupants of the living room on the other side.

"It's nothing, don't worry about it, just carry on watching X-Factor" Elias said, hypnotizing the two mortals who stared back at him. They turned and sat back down without saying a word.

"I remember." Ryan smiled in spite of his situation. "All that blood." His words were cut off as the fist closed as much as possible without breaking the skin.

"Enough. We were close then, they almost had us both, so don't fool yourself in thinking that bloodbath was the good kind. We weren't the ones in control cousin. You would be well served to remember that." Elias sneered, leaning in close until their noses were touching.

He released his grip on Ryan’s neck and turned to look down at the man who was writhing in agony on the floor. "What is his problem anyway?" Elias mused. Ryan wasn't sure if it was a question or not and paused before answering.

"No idea, I turned him then he started screaming so I dragged him in here and called you." Ryan continued to explain his actions.

At their feet, Jacob Cummings, a local biker who had picked a fight with the pair when their paths crossed a few weeks before as they headed into town lay convulsing and screaming. Luckily they were in the bad part of town, a part which only really came to life at night, and was no stranger to the screams of death at any time.

"Help me." He screamed. Blood spewed from his mouth as he spoke, making it look like a messy eater.

"Fascinating," Elias squatted down onto the balls of his feet, getting a closer look.

"Help ....GOD...it hurts." The biker screamed, tears running from his eyes. His macho image well and truly shattered should he live through it or complete the turn and emerge as the faithful servant of Ryan -for the first hundred at least, unless Ryan was killed before then.

His body was hissing, like bacon cooking on a grill, his shirt began to smoke and his screams increased.

"What is it Elias, what do you reckon it is?" Ryan asked, I fed from him, do you think its catching?' He was concerned and made no attempt to hide it.

"No Rye, it’s not catching. Like I said it’s fascinating. Look." Elias reach out and pulled the leather jacket from the bikers back, ripping the seams as he tugged in one swift motion. The sleeves remained covering the man’s arms... not that he seemed to notice.

His shirt beneath had split open revealing his skin, it was bubbling as if the fat itself was boiling; blood blisters grew and burst spackling the surroundings.

"Hmm. That really is interesting." Ryan said, crouching down beside his cousin, wanting to get a better look for himself.

Jacob continued to scream, to beg for mercy, still not fully aware of what was happening to him, but the two vampires simply watched as the crucifix tattoo that stretched across his shoulders and down the length of his spine continued to melt. They watched with intense fascination as the skin disappeared and the milky white bones of his spine became visible. Then, and only then, did Elias reach down and snap the bones, squeezing them in his fist, crumbling them as if they were made from Styrofoam.

The pair rose in unison, the blood was in the air, the droplets hung like a fine, misty rain.

"That was fun. You reckon we could find more like that?" Ryan asked hopeful.

"You know something Rye, I really hope so." Elias answered, his face turning once more, the Demon not taking control this time, but being given it. "I really do."

Friday, 11 February 2011

A Love For The Ages

Samuel lay in bed. His brow was soaked with sweat; his eyes were sunken deep into his skull. His skin had darkened and drawn tight against his frame as if it were made of leather. His hair was thin to the point of translucence and his lips had curled in on themselves revealing gums so far receded that the root division of his teeth was visible.

He reached up, his arm thin and frail, while the joints of his fingers were swollen and twisted from arthritis; the nails were long and yellowed from age. He reached for the mug which rested on the table beside his bed, but had not the strength to reach it.

He took breaths in shallow rasping gulps, irregularly and often with immense pain.

The door opened and the gentle night breeze flowed through the small room.

"Samuel, I have been looking all over for you. Why are you doing this to yourself?" The woman asked, walking over to the bed and taking hold of the old man's wrist as if checking his pulse.

"Leave me." He whispered, his voice cracked and strained.

"Never, remember." She answered, bending down and kissing him gently on the forehead.

"Why do you look after me Jasmine? You have wasted enough time on me, go, walk away before it is too late and enjoy what time you have left." His voice grew slightly stronger, although it left him gasping for breath like a fish ripped from the water and left to flounder on the ground.

"Because I love you; the very first day we met I knew I would spend the rest of my life with you." She straightened her dress and sat down on the edge of the bed.

"I don't deserve your love. I killed them both, you know that, so just let me be." The old man tried to roll onto his side, away from the women he had spent the last 25 years with, but he just couldn't manage it.

"I know you did, but don't worry, it will all be ok. We can move, leave this city behind us. Maybe go abroad. Just move around." Jasmine suggested. She was 43 years old and had been living in the same place nearly all her life; apart from 3 years of college which itself was only just classed as being out of town.

"I won't ask you to leave your live behind. I can't go through that again." He moaned. "I won't watch another woman died because of me." He was crying now, or at least would have been had he had any moisture left in his body.

"Now, I won't hear any more of this nonsense Samuel Folly. Not a word. I knew what I was getting in for, I knew damned well, so you don't have the right to walk away, to push me away and run. Do you hear me; you don't have the god damned right. Not after all we've been through. I love you, and I won't let you do this." Jasmine was crying too now, her face smeared by her mascara.

The small wooden cabin Samuel had found to house him seven weeks before groaned and creaked as the wind increased. Jasmine took his hand in one of hers, and place her other against his withered cheek.

"You just need to eat something, get your strength up and you will be feeling better in no time." She smiled at him.

He pulled away, this time summoning up the strength to do so.

"No, I won't. Not ever." He began to protest. "I told you that. It's not what you deserve."

Jasmine pressed her index finger against his lips and hushed him gently, like a mother soothing a crying infant.

"Shush now. It's fine. I have an idea." She smiled wryly and rose from the bed.

"What are you doing? No. I beg you Jasmine, don't do this." Samuel began to protest, but his strength was failing, and he knew that Jasmine was a stubborn women. She had to be to put up with him all those years. She reminded him a lot of someone else.

Jasmine kicked off her does and climbed up onto the bed, straddling the man of her dreams before rising up her feet. The bed was old, and the springs rusted away to nothing and so it took a while for her to find her balance and muster the strength to move.

Several careful steps later, Jasmine was standing at the head of the bed, holding herself steady by keeping both hands against the wooden walls of the cabin. She could see the moonlight reflecting on the lake through the gaps between the planks, and it calmed her. She had spent weeks searching for Samuel before realizing there was really only one place he would have been. Sure enough, here he was.

"Jasmine…" He began once again, but before he had time to protest further, or even muster up just a portion of his strength she squatted down, pulling up her summer dress as she fell, smothering his face, she sank to her knees, pushing them into the old mattress trapping Samuel’s face between her thighs. She ignored the pain of the springs digging into her flesh and held herself in place. Beneath her Samuel struggled weakly, and then stronger, and finally his struggles stopped and he became still.

"Yes, that's it Sammy my love." She whispered, staring out into the night.

After a few minutes; although to Jasmine it had felt like an age, she relaxed and rolled off the bed. She was breathing hard, and felt a powerful rush of arousal swarm through her body. She resisted the urge to climb back and allow herself to give into the orgasmic tide that was crashing against her. She closed her eyes, and willed her thundering heart to reduce its pace.

When she opened them, the bed was empty. Before she could react she was grabbed by strong, muscular arms and thrown onto the bed. She turned and was immediately pinned down. Samuel; his body rejuvenated, his youth restored, kissed her passionately, his mouth still stained with her blood, which she had surrendered to him, to save him. She kissed him back and they made love and for the first time in their relationship Jasmine felt aware of her own mortality, and she begged him from within the silent world of her mind to turn her too; to feed from her and make her one of his kind. Yet she said nothing, she knew he would refuse.

He loved her, as he had loved others in the past but he would not turn her for the very same reason. She deserved the chance to both live and die, to complete her life unlike him. She loved him in return and instead of saying anything, she kissed him once more and allowed a tear to roll down her cheek.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

The Ties That Bind Us

Margaret awoke with a start. The front door to her house had just slammed shut. She sat bolt upright in her bed and looked at the alarm clock. It was 2:45, not that the time really made much of a difference if she was being broken into. She didn't move, but sat listening to the sounds of her house, and when a high pitched and agonized scream filled the air, before being cut off by another slamming door, she felt better and lay back down. It was just Martin coming home.

About an hour later, Margaret heard footsteps on the stairs and quickly slipped out of bed, her arthritis shouting out its protestations at her rapid movement but she forced herself to ignore the stabbing pain and ran into the corridor.

"Martin." She whispered, she didn’t know why, the house was empty besides the two of them.

"Yes?" He asked politely, turning to stare at the old lady of the house.

Martin himself was only 25, and yet technically he great grandfather of Margaret whose life purpose it had been to watch over and control Martin and stop him from losing control.

"She sounded very young, where did you find her?" Margaret asked accusingly.

"Don't worry yourself Margie I covered my tracks well enough." He said with a wry smile, blood still staining his chin.

"I have to worry, it’s my job, and I'm not as quick as I used to be, I can't go through another incident like the one you caused back in the 60's when you snatched all of those babies." Margaret flinched as she spoke, the memories of having to bury thirty tiny corpses in the basement beneath their basement still made her blood freeze.

"Don't worry old girl; I keep my profile low these days. This last one just looked too good to leave alone, but I stick to my limits, two a week no more and certainly no less. But if you're getting too old to keep up with me, well that's just too bad." Martin took a few steps towards her, his eyes a deep red, his skin pale as opposed to the normal tanned appearance he had when calm. His fangs descended, still stained from his recent kill.

Margaret wasn't intimidated by him, and stood firm, straighter than she had in years even. "Listen to me Martin, I may be old, but I'm still the lady of the house, and you are to obey my command. That is the way it always has been and always will be. You will be well served to remember that. “This time Margaret took a few steps forward, until she stood pressed against Martin.”Now my granddaughter is graduating next week, and then she will be coming to take over her duties, and I'll tell you now she is one feisty girl." Margaret stopped talking and took a few steps back, her head suddenly light, and her arthritis firing warning shots all over the place. She winced as she moved.

"Well then my dearest great grand-daughter I had better make the most of my time then hadn't I." Martin growled, and then in one smooth motion twisted the old woman’s head a full rotation and ripped if from the shoulders, holding it above his head like a trophy; head back and with his mouth open he let the blood rain down over his face, bathing him in it before he headed back down the stairs and out into the night, a free man once more. Until the young one arrived, but that was a week away still, and that gave him plenty of time for fun and games.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Twitcher

Barry sat; he sat and waited, his body motionless. The binoculars shook gently in his hands, and his arms were beginning to cramp from having been raised in the same position for almost 45 minutes.

A wind rustled the dried leaves that covered the hide but Barry didn't really notice it. He was waiting, his heart racing with excitement. He had first heard the rumors that the Split Tailed Wagpile had been spotted nearby a few weeks previously, but there was no way it could have been true. No birds had been seen this far inland since the virus hit.

Yet much like the virus, the notion of a real bird, and a Split Tail nonetheless got into Barry's brain and consumed him. He couldn't sleep, he didn’t eat, all he wanted to do was catch one more glimpse of the feathered friends that had made his life so meaningful before.

His eyes were dry, it was hot and arid in the small, hastily built shelter and the dusty earth didn't help either. Still Barry kept his focus. He knew exactly which tree the Split Tailed Wagpile would go to, and he wasn't going to leave until he had seen it. If he could prove that birds had the ability to survive the virus they would write books about him. Not that he cared about fame. He just wanted that one last glimpse at his old life before he died.

He knew his time was short, the zombies had smelt him the minute he left town, picking his way over the pile of decomposing bodies that blocked all entry and exit points; a sort of sacrifice to the walking dead, who despite their condition seemed to understand and in return for the meat left the town alone.

If he left now, Barry knew he stood a good chance of making it home... but he wouldn't see it, and he knew that he wouldn't bring himself out here again. So he waited. The zombies crept closer when suddenly, there is way, sitting on the lower branch of the tree, a Split Tailed Wagpile. It was a large specimen, but what a beauty, its plumage was full and healthy, the emerald green tips to its wing feathers, the azure blue of the split tail and the gorgeous chestnut brown of its body. Barry took a deep breath and smiled, he had seen it, it had survived; there was hope after all.

Twenty minutes later, Barry emerged from the hide, his legs stiff, his body aching, the blood still drying on his shirt from where the first zombie had bitten him. He walked to the tree, where the Split Tailed Wagpile still sat, he stared at it, reached upwards and with a swift movement snatched it from the branch and shoveled into his mouth before turning and heading towards town.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

One Mans Trash

"There you go Jared, and Merry Christmas" The Duchess handed Jared an envelope filled with crisp bills, and not of the single denomination variety either.

"Thank you Duchess." Jared answered, "Same to your and yours." He didn't raise his eyes from the floor, and soon hurried back to his garbage truck, ready to head back to the depot and pick up the rest of the crew.

Jared had never seen the rich lady who had approached him one morning with a business proposition. He had been told to ask no questions, and just respect the privacy of the lady who had promised him that his obedience would be richly rewarded. She hadn't lied. All he had to do was collect her garbage once a week, and the only promise he had to make was not to look her in the eyes.

The Duchess was the name she had asked him to call her. He doubted it was her real name, but she did live in the rich part of town. A part not normally on his route; where the houses were easily three times bigger than the one Jared and his family lived, and they were just the smallest homes.

Jared had obeyed his orders, not finding it strange that the rich old lady - he could tell she was old by her mannerisms, her voice, and her wrinkled hands - wanted her privacy. He was fine with it in fact.

Jared pulled the truck out of the street and pulled over by the side of the road, ignoring the honks of the traffic behind him. He pulled the wad of notes out of the envelope and started to count. He stopped once he hit $2500. Smiling, he slipped the envelope into his pocket and pulled back out into the road. He was running late to pick up the others, they knew nothing about his little side arrangement and given his recent bonus, Jared planned on keeping it that way.

Still, as he drove he couldn't stop his mind from wondering just what the Duchess was throwing away each week that was worth such a lot of money.

"Don't think about it Jared. It's gonna put your daughter through college just so long as you don't screw it up." He chided himself.

Three streets further along, Jared pulled over once more. His mind was made up he had to see.

It was a hot day and the idea of climbing up and peering into the back of his truck didn't appeal to him, but the higher he rose the sweeter the smell became. Not roses sweet, or even sugary sweet but a strange, heavy sweetness that actually made his mouth water and his stomach growl.

Jared felt his heart begin to flutter as he leant over to peer into the truck's container, unsure what he would find.

Bones, the back of his truck was filled with bones, most had been picked clean, but several still had strips of tender looking meat hanging from them. A strong barbeque aroma rose from them and made Jared's mouth water even more. He loved to barbeque.

Climbing back into his cab he thought nothing of it, the rich were strange and had more money than they knew what to do with. A private garbage disposal was just another thing that set them apart from the neighbours ... or the competition as it was doubtlessly classed within their privileged circle.

It was three weeks before Jared received another call from the Duchess, asking for a next day collection, not that she ever asked for anything else.

"Sure, no problem whatsoever." Jared had said, in his mind picturing the envelope of note. Only once the call was over and he concentrated on the image, he saw it wasn’t money but skin that filled the envelope. Folds of skin, stripped from a body and still wet, the envelope was sodden and breaking apart and even more blood spilled out; poured out and flooded the image, washing it away.

Jared shook his head. "Get a grip man." He said to himself, but couldn't shake the goosebumps from his flesh.

The next morning Jared collected his truck and took it out early to go make his scheduled pick up by the Duchess. It was icy on the roads and the sky was grey. It had been threatening to snow for days.

"Sorry I'm late Duchess." Jared whispered when she opened the door. He could tell she was annoyed from the way she was tapping her foot on the floor.

"I expect you to arrive on time Jared, I thought I was very clear on the arrangements." Her words were short and sharp.

"Sorry Duchess, its the weather." He paused, not realizing he was speaking before it was too late. "I'm impressed that you can barbeque in this sort of weather. I would it I could, but my yard is all exposed." He stopped himself,

The foot stopped tapping the floor and was still.

"You looked in the dumpster Jared. I am very disappointed in you." The Duchess voice was firm; there was no level of surprise in it at all. It was as though she had been expecting it long ago.

"I'm sorry Duchess, really I am, but what's the deal, why be so secretive over having a barbeque?" He pushed on, knowing that each word was crossing further over the invisible boundary that had governed their relationship.

"For a few moments the Duchess said nothing.

Jared turned to leave. He was halfway down the drive when he heard her.

"Jared, if you have nothing else to do, I would very much like to invite you and your family over to dinner next Saturday. We can barbeque if you would like."

Jared turned. "Thank you Duchess, it would be an honour.' Jared smiled, and was about to raise his head.

"Don't be a fool Jared'." She stopped him at the last second. "Be here at "sixteen hundred, no need to bring anything you understand." With that the door was closed and Jared left, taking the rubbish with him.

This time he didn't need to look in the back. He could smell the leftover meat from inside the cab.

The following Saturday Jared arrived at the Duchess's house his wife and child in tow. His wife hadn't asked how he knew the Duchess, nor did she question her strange name, she trusted her husband and was planning on enjoying a nice afternoon with her family. Despite the instructions to bring nothing, Jared had insisted on buying the nicest bottle of wine he could fine, using some of the Duchess's Christmas bonus to pay for it.

It was a lovely wine, a Cabernet Sauvignon that proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the meat that was served. It also made a wonderful sauce reduction, which was served over the tenderloin of meat that was served as the fourth course of the evening meal. Luckily there were six guests for dinner and exactly 6 cheeks to go around. The sweetest cut of all meat.

The following morning a strange call was received by Arthur Malcolm, asking him if he would possibly consider bringing his garbage truck to 1571 Wintershore and make a collection. The old ladies voice on the phone was very convincing.

"Yes mam, no problem, I'll be there. There isn't any um... security that I need to worry about right?" He asked smiling.

"No nothing like that my dear man. Just ring the bell and ask for the Duchess. Now let's discuss the rules shall we."

Friday, 28 January 2011

Reality Check

I remember with perfect clarity the precise moment the world ended. Contrary to popular belief and ancient prophecies, it did not occur with burning rain and fiery skies, not was it a natural disaster. There was no earthquake to crack open the earth's shell and drop us all into oblivion, not great flood to wash us away.

No none of that.

The world ended on a Saturday in fact, at 20:30 exactly, Eastern Time that was.

'What was it grandpa?' You may ask me 'What happened?'

The truth is somewhat simple. Television ended the world, a simple show. America's next celebrity hair stylist’s assistant the season 4 finale. The show was all the rage back then, and everybody was eager to watch it. Across the world businesses and school closed down so that the final could be broadcast live on a global scale.

We should have seen it coming. Seven billion people, all tuning in at the same time to watch the same thing.

'What was it?' I see you on the edge of your seat, we'll I will hold the suspense no longer.

What happened was simple, broadcasting stopped. Not the channel but everything, we simply ran out of reality. A grey static filled the world and a grating white noise erupted. Then everything disappeared and then black, a fading circle of black until nothing remained but a pinprick of light. Who knows how long it was so, there was no way of telling, and once the light returned we had more important problems.

Unreality had arrived. Sure everything seemed the same, buildings, and clothes, even the weather. Only then did we see them. The monster, the vampires, werewolves, giant apes swinging through the cities, dinosaurs roamed through farmers fields, zombies walked the streets picking off whoever stumbled into their path.

Sure, smile now my young ones, for you know no better than this life. But believe me, there was once a time when the world was a simple place, we didn't have to fight off mad scientists for a day job, nor dodge booby traps and evade giant rolling rocks just making it to the end of our driveway. One upon a time that stuff was what movies were made of. I kid you not.

You want to laugh. I see it in your eyes. But it is true; the fate that your father suffered getting the mail would have been called fantasy when he was a boy. Spontaneous combustion indeed.

But I must stop, the hour is late and there is a movie on soon that I really want to see. The Insurance Salesman Part 7: A Business Lunch. Ahhhh yes, those were the days.

Science Fiction you claim. Maybe now my young mind, but once it was fact, and I miss it so.

Good night my little ones hold your crosses tight for the silver bullets are running low.

Dream soft.

Come Over For Dinner

Paul Rabinsky sat at the dinner table, still unable to really believe that Sylvia Van Wolf had agreed to join him.

Paul had been hopelessly infatuated with Sylvia ever since she started working for the company three years previous, but she had been in one of those off again on again relationships with a personal trainer from the Ukraine. He treated her like crap but revved her engines. That was the water cooler consensus at least.

However, after one particularly aggressive outburst which actually resulted in physical abuse, Sylvia finally saw sense and moved out. It was exactly the chance Paul had been waiting for. Of course he left it a few weeks, not wanting to seem like a predator at all.

"Sylvia, I was just wondering, would you like to come over for dinner one night? I make a mean roast and would love to have some company." He had said, not really expecting her to take him up on the offer . . . but she did.

"That would be great Paul. I'd really like that." She had smiled at him, her blue eyes sparkling.

"Great." His answer had been short but she didn't seem to mind.

***

"Bon Appetite, I hope you like it." Paul said, speaking to his dinner guests. "She didn't put up much of a fight so the meat should be tender." He added as he lowered the carving knife and sliced himself a thick slice of rump steak; pink and succulent just how he liked it.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Its A Cruel World

The U.S.S. Capital entered the third quadrant on July 15th, exactly on schedule. There was a buzz around the ship, from the cooks and cleaners through the ranks of scientists, crew and officers. Suddenly everyone had become equal once again.

The planet Stip had come into view, its two large landmasses clearly visible, and in an aligned position across the northern hemisphere. It was a large planet, easily bigger than Jupiter which had been the rough estimation given back home before they left.

"This is it, we have front row seats to an meteorite impact that will help us answer so many questions about our own universe.' The captain spoke through the coms system, although nearly all 999 passengers were crammed onto the viewing deck. "It may have taken us seven years to get here, a lot of sacrifices have been made, but today, we will have our hardships justified." He spoke, not that a rallying speech was really needed, but it was his way.

The comet, for that was what they had discovered it to be upon entering the second quadrant came into view a little ahead of schedule; 5 seconds to be precise. There was a weighty silence that overtook the deck; the pressure of excitement and expectation in perfect balance with apprehension and fear. Nobody had known the precise calculations, this part of the quadrant was unexplored and even the best scientists NASA had to offer admitted the distance they needed to be was more of an approximation than anything else.

The comet came; the horizon glowed as if a new dawn was rising.

"Impact in 1 minute" The computerized voice of A.L.A.N the ships on board processing unit announced.

A few worried murmurs began to rise up from the crowd.

"Here it comes" Someone spoke excitedly, as if they were watching a child being born into the world.

It was then that it happened, just as the impact seemed inevitable and the majority of mans questions regarding their own existence were to be answered. The planet Stip awoke. A large black crack appeared along what would have been its equator, it opened up revealing a black inside as if the comet had already impacted. The planetary mouth opened into a gaping yawn, and a burning orange magma tongue lolled out, licking through space and enveloping the comet as it approached. Caught in the slobbering embrace of the planet it was pulled inside and simply swallowed whole. The two landmasses bunched together peered out like eyes, checking for anything else to eat, a desert perhaps to follow a spicy main course.


As the mouth began to close, as the planet returned to its peaceful slumber, everybody on board was sure they saw the corners flick up in a ghastly smile. Satisfied that its safety was once again guaranteed, the planet Stip resumed its presumed peaceful slumber. The land masses drifted apart once again, each heading towards to customary polar positions.

The crew of the U.S.S. Capital dispersed each walking away heads down, the mixture of emotions now split between shock and disappointment. There was nothing left to do than begin the now arduous 7 year journey back home to report the results. The only thing they now knew for certain was that movie perceptions were indeed correct, and that the Earth itself, not just the people on it were now beyond doubt the inferior race.

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Interstellar Relations

Szwergi people were friendly, welcoming and not unlike humans in the way their went about their lives. Their planet may have been largely barren and their cities built within the craters made from the regularly impacting comets, but there was a distinct order to things, they were educated, they worked and once they reached what we would call elderly they were retired, or banished I suppose would be the word back home. Although I was assured there was a city not too far away that had been built just for them, a retirement home I suppose, although nobody under the age of 329 had ever seen it for obvious reasons.

Dating also seemed to follow the traditional earth customs, which I found oddly comforting when I first asked Fraihu out for dinner. The first date was slightly awkward; the food was still alive when we got it for one thing. A delicacy I was told, but I was sick for three days afterwards, especially as it was still alive when it came out.

The second date we saw a sort of play, which involved a large cast all with minor roles telling a story in both speech and song, while I didn't understand much of it, my proficiency in their rather complex language still rather weak, it was still a very rousing and entertaining evening.

The third date, was much more relaxed. We went out of the city walls, and wandered beneath on the seven moons, Ataran I believe it was, it cast a beautiful pink glow over the land, and when we stopped at the edge of a shallow crater I saw a picnic, a real picnic spread out on a square of Szwergi cloth. Fraihu had done her best, with sandwiches and fruits.

We sat and ate, and then she took me by the hand and gazed into my eyes. I felt the strange connection that seems to exist on this planet. Eye contact was reserved only for those in courtship or marriage.

"I want you." She spoke in perfect English, smiling at my surprised expression. "Take me!" She whispered. She raised her arm, showing her armpit to me, and with it her arousal. We made love there and then, and forever we were entwined. It was awkward, I was the first of our crew to mate with the Szwergi, but looking back, I have no regrets, and look forward to the pregnancy with some trepidation.

Elementary Dear January

Being bitten by a zombie hurts, not in the way they claim a vampire bite hurts, - and yes, we thought it was bad enough when the vampires arrived too - but rather in an excruciating way. A chunk, or rather a mouthful of your own flesh is ripped from your body, and that all before the virus gets in your system. First your temperature increases, your heart races and your blood actually begins to cook, your brain is attacked by electrical impulses telling it your body is in pain and eventually becomes overloaded; in many cases is melts completely.

Of course, that's not even the worst part… no… that comes much later. My studies into the zombie phenomenon have shown that their bloodlust goes far beyond the mere rumblings of hunger we have should we skip breakfast, but rather it causes them pain, actual physical pain. As a side note to this report, I have conducted some basic testing into pain relief on a number of subjects both male and female, and the results were remarkable. In both cases the aggression of the subject was reduced significantly and in a direct correlation to the level of pain suppressants they received. Interestingly enough, there also seemed to be a level of reduction to a placebo subject, although this may have been due to his capture and remains inconclusive. I intend to publish a paper on pain reductive treatment should I have the time.

I had a lucky brush the other day; I was preparing Subject A1, (a large alpha male) for his latest course of pain relief but made an error with the chin guard. It wasn’t a bad bite, just the tip of a finger.

That, and the fear surrounding the bite are my main reason for beginning this diary. I think I got away with it, I have been taking the vaccine tablets they passed around the laboratory, I think the government are taking them too; everyone in the cabinet is still alive and well. I'm surprised nobody noticed.

Although, I think the tablets are a hoax, just plain old-fashioned hokum, I have just woken up from a rather strange but nowadays not uncommon afternoon nap, but find myself to be with company. Apparently my current neighbour, a molecular physicist by the name of January Collins popped by; maybe to ask for some sugar, perhaps coffee.

At least I think it's January, most of her face and the contents of her torso are missing, and the A1 male has gone.

I just hope above all things, that the finder of this diary does not find it by my side, for if they do I am sure they will suffer the same fate as poor January. I'm just so hungry...it hurts.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

A Cheater Can't Change Its Spots

I loved that Mandy Watson, I had loved her ever since I moved to into the same street as she lived on when I was nine years old. Now, twelve years later I care more about her every day, and she said she felt the same way about me.

Sure, back when we were in high school she had a few incidents that led to her sleeping with a few members of the football team, but I forgave her.

Of course, High School was over now, and since the dead rose and started eating the brains of the living, a lot has changed. We live together; we found an old pillbox from the Second World War in the fields behind her house. It was just big enough for the two of us, not that there was anybody else left in town.

She said she loved me and would always be with me, and I believed her, I mean people change, and what with everything that had happened I had to believe her.

It all went fine, until this morning. I came back from looking for food and found her with Richard Williams, the quarter back from the high school. At first I was just shocked; I mean I didn't realize that Zombies could have sex.

She begged me to take her back, she cried and called out my name, but I was done, my heart had been broken one time too many. I know she hadn't been bitten yet, but I threw my last grenade into the small box as I left, she was dead to me anyway.

Now I just hope I can find somewhere else to live before night fall.

Good Neighbours

We didn't want to appear too aggressive, not for the first contact at least. After all we were the ones visiting them. So we concealed our weapons and set them to stun.

Their ship was enormous, bigger than I could even comprehend, although if pushed to put a size against it, I would say Europe.

They were very gracious hosts, and although we couldn’t understand their language they did their best to communicate with us. The dinner we had was an experience, and honestly not one I would wish to endure again. Their sustenance is obtained through a series of tubes that extend from their stomachs directly, like a sort of proboscis umbilical cord. Three men are still in the sick bay having eaten their meal the human way, but the doctor says it isn't terminal and that the change in skin color should go away after a few weeks.

We have decided to invite them over to our ship for brunch tomorrow. Not sure how many will turn up. I hope just one or two; otherwise it could become a bit crowded, our ship isn’t that big after all. I think we will leave the weapons in our chamber this time. They seem harmless, even with all of the spines.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A Matter of Logistics

What with all the looting and rioting that occurred after the infection first appeared, it was not surprising that once martial law ended and a real government was instated behind the secure walls of the five state compounds that the prisons were the first places to be built, and expanded, filled and then expanded once more. There was even talk of creating a new separate compound in the far North to house only convicts.

Murders had increased as had rapes and a general feeling on anarchy still hung in the air. Criminality had changed in its ideology and everybody was beginning to fall foul of the law, the threat of being locked away in a secure cell with three meals a day provided for you actually began to sound much better than what was on offer in the rest of the world.

Something needed to be done, not only to change society’s views and mindset back to what it had been, but also so try and free up some space in the cells. The prisons were already bigger than the living quarters and the streets were just as dangerous inside the reinforced concrete walls as on the other side.

It was then that the Cell Space Law was passed. It was simple, and amazingly obvious when thought about. Not only did it reinstate a genuine fear of the repercussions of criminal behavior but it also seemed to help create a safer slightly more stable environment outside the compounds.

The zombies soon learnt that Friday was feeding day, the newly sentenced prisoners were moved into the cells, and the longest serving members were moved outside, and left to fend for themselves. At first we tied them up, but the zombies seem to prefer the chase, something about the hormones released into the brain during the fight or flight reaction just turned them wild with hunger.

The world went soft

When the message was received, the signal decoded and life on other planets was finally proved, the world changed.

We stopped squabbling and warring over religion and land space. Our minds united and together as a single civilization we moved forward, focusing on the space, the limitless possibilities that it must hold for our future.

Shuttles were built, trips were planned and five new space stations were commissioned and built in record time, they were manned by specially trained scientists, engineers and astronauts from all countries across the globe and back on earth we enjoyed living a life without fear. Even regular street crime decreased as everybody suddenly realized what their place in the universe meant and could mean.

The problem was that with our attentions turned away from war and aggression, we became soft, weak and vulnerable, and when real contact was made, rather than just an intercepted signal we were not ready

They came under no false pretences, appearing in the sky within the blink of an eye, they did not ask for our leaders nor ever mention the concept of peace, and now we bow down to a new God one we can see and one who is vengeful and armed with laser cannons and deflector shields.

Good Communication Skills

Everybody can understand English, it's just a question of finding out how hard you have to shout it. With Zombies it turns you, the answer if very hard. Initial communication with them was hazardous to say the least, and many casualties were suffered trying to find ways of getting close enough and loud enough for them to understand.

Communication was slow, their grunts and growls all sounded the same, and with the death rate of Zombie translators being so high, it was hard to find people qualified and willing to take on the position.

The survivors began to complain, the governments set up within each compound were meeting and discussing plans to shut down Operation Gentleman, and simply got to war with the zombies, and then, suddenly the breakthrough came.

We used radio waves and set it to such a low frequency, like the opposite of a dog whistle.

We started with simple commands like stop, stay where you are, and put the baby down, and it worked, much to all of our surprise.

It didn't take long before we had established a modicum of control over the undead, and the number of casualties during scavenging trips went down, and people were almost able to move around from one community to another, strictly by day you understand. The zombies seemed less willing to cooperate after dark.

It has been almost three years since the disease came, it appeared out of nowhere, and disappeared just as quickly. There were no outbreaks un-related to a direct bite as quick as 4 months after the outbreak began. Our lives have changed, that much is true, but we live them as normally as we can. We live in a state of peace, although I have heard rumours that they are using the radio waves to train the Zombies in combat. I don't know what their plans are, but the compound due east of hear has got some very fertile land that they are growing corn and potatoes in. .... mmm, I could go for some mashed potatoes right about now.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Houston We Have A.....

The message was broadcast on the news for days. The recording was analyzed and digitalized repeatedly, broken down into chunks mere micro-seconds in length and evaluated by some of the top scientific minds in the world, but it was no use, there was no way to decode the message that was picked up by and then transmitted back to earth from the ISS, and even more worryingly there was no way to tell which direction the laser fire came from.

We all now simply have to wait and see if an invasion comes.

Drafted

"I'll take this one." The gravelly voice utters, a frail looking arm raised and pointed a shaking finger at the well built, muscular framed man that stood first from the right of the current lineup. Behind them stood another three lines of equal length, waiting their turn to step forward.

"Ok, but if you get him, I get both of them." A much healthier looking man spoke, his beard was thick and grey but his face was colourful and his eyes sparkled unlike the dark unreflective eyes of his counterpart.


"Two? Granted he's a strong one but two in exchange," The rather sickly looking man paused, his chest wheezing slightly as he drew each breath. "Ok, you drive a hard bargain my old friend but ok."

The pair shook hands and the deal was sealed. The three men were lead away.

"That one looks strong, but he is soft in the gut, and I from the look of your tactics I need a few people who will stand firm, so I'll take her instead." The bearded man pointed at the leggy brunette who stood with her shoulders back and ample chest pushed forward. Her posture screamed military and made her a good choice.

"Ooh great choice." The grey man responded, "I'll take the flabby one then." He pointed with almost disregard and once again the deal was sealed and the two lead away.

The remaining six people in the line all stood staring at the floor. The two men sitting in chairs at the head of the far end of the great hall, beneath sparkling crystal chandeliers looked at each other and shook their heads almost in unison.

"I don't think any of them are what we are looking for." The bearded man spoke. "If you want you can have them all, otherwise I suggest we just dismiss them and call up the second round."

"Couldn't agree more. Last thing my team needs are more time wasters, I've learnt my lesson from last time." The old man wheezed. The pair shook hands and before the summons could be given the remaining individuals were led back out of the great room and into the grey wintry weather outside.

"I do hate this time of year." The bearded man whispered to his comrade. "I say we leave the second round of the draft to tomorrow." He added

"Agreed, give them a chance to think about how badly they want it." This was followed by a retching series of coughs that would have sounded unhealthy in a hospice let alone a great hall.

With the first round over and their choices made the pair both rose and shook hands.

"May the best man win." This time unison was achieved and with it the pair separated. One rose to the heavens and one sank through the floor, both heading to their respective worlds and new recruits eager to be welcomed to the flock.

The lights in the great hall went out and the remaining souls were cast into darkness simply waiting for their turn to be allocated their role in forever.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Stripes (Raw Unedited Version)

“You were the one who found the body?” Charles McAllister asked, holding his notebook before him, jotting down in his own form of shorthand everything the girl had to say.

“Yes, I had left my bag here after work and came to pick it up on my way to the movies.” Dana Turner spoke.

For a young girl who had just found her boss savagely beaten to death she seemed remarkably calm. But then again shock can have that effect Charles thought to himself as he decided not to note her manner down.

“Ok, well here is a number for the police victims support line. If you need to talk to someone just give them a call. It’s a free number.” He said handing her a page torn out of his notebook.

“Thank you. Can I go now?” She asked turning as she did so. There was unsurprisingly a small crowd gathered already at the front of the store, including he had been informed a group of Dana’s colleagues who had been waiting for her at the movies.

“Yes, if we have any further questions we will be in touch. Thank you.” She walked away and Charles, a normally happily married man with two kids not much younger than Dana couldn’t help but stare almost forlornly as she walked away. He felt suddenly tired and slight light headed.

With a strangely heavy heart Charles turned his attention back to the crime scene itself. The body was in the storeroom of the Foot Locker in the centre of the local shopping mall. The forensics lab were busy collecting as much as they could, but it was hard work, as far as anybody could tell the store manager had been beaten to death, although it looked more like he had been run over by a truck. The floor was almost completely covered in blood and his both his skull and ribcage had been crushed almost flat.

“Have you found anything?” Charles asked Alexandra Talbot the current lead forensic pathologist in the absence of their regular chief who was taking his first vacation in ten years.

Alexandra stood up from her position crouched over the flattened head of the man and shook her head. “Nothing concrete, a few small hairs, definitely animal in origin and that’s it. We’ll analyze them back at the lab and let you know but other than that we’ve got nothing. No fingerprints, no sign of forced entry, no obvious murder weapon. A few strange marks have been found on the body but we’ll need to have him moved and cleaned up before I can tell you anything else.”

“Thanks Alex.” Charles offered.

There was a strange atmosphere to the room, a strong scent unlike that of any normal murder scene. The air almost seemed thick and slightly unreal. Too much coffee and cigarettes Charles told himself.

By the time the body was moved and the Foot Locker had been both locked and taped up the mall was deserted. The crowd had begun to disperse not long after the uniformed police had set up the tape and cordoned off the area. The closing of the mall had also helped although even then some people had remained.

Charles was back at the station; his wife long since in bed and his children long passed the age where he needed to set them curfews. In his left hand he held both a cigarette and a coffee and he alternated between the two without even breaking his focus on the pieces of paper in front of him.

He had pulled up the records on the Dana Turner, just a hunch he had told himself. She had only been working there a week.

Nothing strange about that Charles old boy

He then looked at the company records that they had obtained at the scene and realized that out of the seven members of staff, six had only been there a week.

The station was empty, even the janitor had gone home by the time Charles stood up from his desk to take a leak and get another cup of coffee. There was no point going home now, he lived a good hour drive away and was expecting the autopsy results first thing the next morning anyway.

His footsteps echoed in the linoleum lined halls, but that wasn’t it, there was something else. A steady clacking sound that tried hard to fall in time with his steps but the stride wasn’t long enough. Charles turned around, but the hallway was empty, the majority of the lights on his floor were turned off, in fact only the light in his section of the office burned. He started walking again, and again the clacking sound of horse’s hooves followed him again like a pre-emptive echo. A warm breeze came washed down the hallways, stiff enough to rustle the various posters and advertisements on the cork boarding that lined the corridors.

“Charles” His name seemed to be carried on the breeze. He turned around and saw nothing, for the light in his office and those in the hallway (which had been dim but enough to give some visibility before) had been extinguished.

The sound of hooves started again, only faster this time. Running away, and a happy giggling laugh followed close behind, swiftly followed by the sound of the double doors at the end of the hallway closing.

“This is a police station. Stop.” Charles called out as he instinctively gave chase drawing his weapon as he did.

The darkness was momentarily disorientating and Charles ran into the double doors before he had expected to. Luckily they swung outwards in the direction he was moving and he crashed into the communal hallway. The lights here were also extinguished.

He felt something move behind him. He spun around,

… nothing

Another round of girly giggles bounded around the building. More than one laugh this time.

“Show yourselves.” Charles called out, releasing the safety on his raised weapon as he gave the command.

The giggles became louder, and the hooves started up again. Behind him, approaching fast, they thundered towards him, the sound intensified until it was like a rolling thunder making its way towards him.

Suddenly Charles was thrown to the floor, shoulder barged in fact and the group of intruders stampeded away, crashing through the doors at the entrance of the station, sending a shower of glass and wood splinters into the street. Their frolicsome laughter remained in Charles head long after their shod steps had faded to black.

When Charles got back to his desk, he turned on the main overhead lights and cried out when he saw the message that had been left for him.

BILL RAMIS GOT WHAT HE DESERVED the words were written in block letters across the large evidence board at the end of the room. Beneath it were a series of Horseshoe impressions. It wasn’t until he got closer that Charles realized that the message had been written in blood.

He knew he should call the captain, if not about the message, certainly about the damage to the station, but it all revolved it seemed around the Foot Locker murder and that was his case and as far as he was concerned it was his job to solve it.

Until then nobody had known the name of the dead man, no formal identification had been possible due to the extent of the injuries he had suffered. The circumstances may have been unusual but at least there was now a lead to follow.

Charles ran a quick search through the police system and was surprised when he got a near instant result. Bill Ramis was had been questioned and suspected in a number of sexual harassment and rape allegations none of which had been proven or had been dropped before trial could begin. He had been the manger of the Foot Locker since it had opened nearly eight years ago. All of the complaints had been made by employees of the company, and all of them had withdrawn their complaints and resigned from their jobs.

The more Charles read into it the clearer the picture became, Ramis seemed to make it a policy to only hire young women. Thinking back to the young girl Dana who had found the body, all of the colleagues who had been waiting for her outside had looked the same. They were young, attractive; all brunettes with shapely figures, even Charles remembered how he had felt attracted to the girl as she was giving her statement. There was no way that any of the girls could have inflicted the damage on a large heavy set man like Bill Ramis, but it was the best lead that he had and it was about a solid motive as he had seen in recent months. Ramis had simply tried his luck one too many times. Of course it could have been any one of the ex-employees but at least the list of suspects was now being defined.

“Help me.” A broken desperate voice cried out in little more than a whisper.

Already on edge, Charles leapt to his feet and spun around, drawing his weapon as he moved. He was surprised to see he was shaking.

“Please” The girls spoke but her words were drowned by the blood that was filling her lungs. She staggered forwards a few steps into the light, her face a beaten pulp, one eyeball had exploded the other was swollen shut, the socket around it shattered, her hair clung to the scalp which flapped like a poorly fitted toupee against her skill. Her clothes were ripped and bloodied, and before she could say anything else she staggered a final two paces and collapsed to the floor.

Charles ran to her, his weapon holstered once more. “Miss, hello Miss, stay awake for me. Who did this to you? Don’t worry. I’m going to get you some help.” He was already dialing 911 on his radio but knew it wouldn’t be enough.

“The ne….new…gir….” The young lady started to speak but her breath gave out before she could finish and she died on the floor of the local police station.

Charles stared at her, trying to understand what she was trying to say. It was then that he saw the black and white (and largely red) shirt she wore, and slowly it began to fit together. He rose to his feet and ran from the station.

The streets were empty so there was no need for the siren as Charles raced the streets to the Mall. He wasn’t surprised to see the entrance way doors had been smashed open and the two security guards on duty lying dead just inside, both of them trampled in similar bloody fashion to the other two victims.

Charles made straight for the Foot Locker where he found the tape had been pulled down and the security door had suffered a similar fate. With his weapon raised and the safety off he entered the shop. It was dark; he groped on the wall for the light switch.

The six young women were standing together in the far corner huddled together, and when the lights came on their heads all snapped up in union. Eyes wide with fear.

Charles froze, and for a second all he saw was their beauty, these poor girls, they were helpless, there was no way that they could have been responsible.

“Are you ok?” He asked “What happened here?” He continued, his brain suddenly intoxicated by their beauty, their scent, his mind sang a happy chorus and he felt giddy, like a schoolboy in love.

One of the girls, Dana he thought, although now he saw just how alike they all looked. “I don’t know. You saved us.” Her voice was strangely high pitched.

They all moved out of the corner, encircling Charles, staring at him with large brown eyes, smiling at him. They walked in a circle, it was dizzying to watch and soon Charles found himself feeling sea sick, nauseated. “Please, stand still.” He asked as a retch began to bubble in his stomach. He leant forward, hands on his knees. It was then that he saw it… their legs.

“What…” He began just as the first black and white striped leg shot out and kicked him in the centre of his spine.

With a crisp cracking sound his spine broke and Charles McAlister fell to the floor. The beautiful women continued to walk around him, their bodies perfect, their legs all the same, thick and muscular, hoofed and covered in a unmistakable black and white striped pattern.

“He got what he deserved. Justice was dealt and all those who stand in the way must be dealt with.” The Zebra-woman Dana spoke. Her voice now deep and gravelly.

“Who are you?” Charles stuttered

“We are called upon by the scorned women who were done so wrong. That man needed punishment for his crimes.” Dana continued to speak.

“Why the girl?” He coughed and spat a mouthful of blood onto the shop floor.

The girls stopped walking and stared at him. “She accepted him, she let him touch her, father her child and take her whenever he wanted. We offered her the chance to take vengeance but she refused.”

“She was scared” Charles somehow found the energy to shout. This shocked the girls and seemed to spook them the way a loud noise can cause a horse to bolt.

“She stood in our, as do you, you would have saved him, you would have locked his killer away, you will stop us if you could. We have been around for centuries and we will continue until the world is an equal place.” Dana spoke

In the distance the sound of police sirens grew louder, all six of them heard it. Their eyes widened, nostrils flared, and still they were beautiful, or so Charles thought.

By the time to police arrived the girls were long gone, disappeared into the night with no trace left behind besides a few bloody hoof prints beside the crushed body of Detective Charles McAlister.