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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 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.


"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.