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‘We Are Legion’ out now in Aphelion Webzine.

My short story ‘We Are Legion’ has appeared in Aphelion Webzine.

It’s only short (around 1,000 words). You should be able to get through it in a few minutes.

#Short Fiction #Sci-Fi #Dystopian #Cyberpunk

Click the link below to have a read for free and check out some of the other stuff on their site while you’re at it!

https://www.aphelion-webzine.com/index.html

MOTHER’S LITTLE ANGEL

(Abt. 8 mins read)

by Kilmo

The girl with the long, straight, hair as silver as the moon looked at the interview room’s clock for the hundredth time and buried her head in the depths of her black hoodie – it had barely moved.

‘Ghamnit’

Aaliyah’s tongue still felt swollen and raw from the spike stitched through it despite the hours she’d been under lock and key. But that was nothing to the beating she’d received. Only the lies she’d spun had stopped the boots from landing, and even the slightest movement made her groan now. The Mākatu filling the slim metal pin was so good at deception the words had spilled forth like a song, and her tongue had grown tired not just swollen after all the work she’d made it do.

‘How long are they going to keep me in here?’ asked Aaliyah hoping the fetish would give her a clue. But there was no answering tremor from the metal staple in her mouth, not this time.

Aaliyah must have dozed off because when she could open her eyes she could see straight again and the pain had sunk to a dull ache as her bruises ripened. As she hobbled from wall to wall she remembered something her mother used to say.

‘Ugly on the inside, ugly on the outside,’ muttered Aaliyah thinking about her captors.

The men had had faces like office clerks: pale from lack of light, and the going over they’d given her had been professional like they’d done it a thousand times. It hadn’t exactly done wonders for the secret in her mouth either. She’d been spitting blood even before they caught her. Aaliyah wondered how many more coppers the station held, and shuddered. They’d dealt with her brother’s first and the screams and shouts had been enough to make her hoarse from shouting for it to stop.

The episode when they’d come from her had been just as nasty, but it did have its plus side. If the law was prepared to ignore the rules Aaliyah and her siblings must have found what they were looking for.

‘Please Max, just keep your gob shut like we told you.’

She raised her eyes to heaven and muttered a quick prayer.

Carey knew to say nothing but Max was only fifteen and this was her brothers first brush with the law. She shuddered; the thwap of steel hitting flesh wasn’t something she’d forget in a hurry.

‘Didn’t have much time for politeness once the surveillance cameras weren’t there, did you? Not like when you found us.’

She felt the thing in her mouth tremble and remembered the operation that had put it there. The thrill of something foreign sliding into her had been a bit like that time she’d kissed Paul from down the block. Aaliyah shivered, enjoying the warm wet taste of the metal in her mouth. With a bit of luck, it would keep her from telling the cops what they’d found in the building. That was better left hovering behind her eyes where it was safe.

She decided to try cheering herself up but her voice bounced around the empty cell sounding hollow and without conviction despite the words she said.

‘It’ll be alright we’ll get out of here.’

She tried again.

‘They’ve got nothing on us.’

Aaliyah jumped as the door opened and her tongue sprung from the old woman’s gift like a guilty finger caught where it shouldn’t be.

‘Webb, that’s your last name isn’t it?’ said the smaller of the two cops with a smile and Aaliyah had to force herself not to turn away. It was like looking at radiation grin. All that was missing was the crackle of a geiger counter.

‘That’s the name my mother gave me,’ she said to hide her nerves.

‘Why didn’t you tell us the truth earlier?’ the copper continued. His colleague was staying quiet waiting to play bad cop for his pal.

‘I was scared.’

‘If you’ve done nothing wrong you’ve nothing to worry about have you?.’

‘I’ve never been in trouble before.’

The Mākatu trembled with the deceit.

‘You’re not in trouble. We just want to help,’ said the copper and the spike through her tongue spread ice through her like a balm.

It looked like the Mākatu could recognise lies as well as tell them.

‘I don’t like getting into trouble. It’s not what nice girls do,’ said Aaliyah quickly.

That at least was partially true, but what made her blood flow quicker than a spring tide was getting out of it. She thought back – the old Maori who’d performed the operation had had a kind face even when she’d stabbed the fetish through her tongue and Aaliyah had to admit she’d asked her to do it. She’d known she’d need help if things went wrong. If Aaliyah concentrated she could still hear the soft hum of the migrant’s voice as she’d sung while she worked.

‘Nobody deserves to be punished for something they haven’t done,’ said the other copper looming in the corner. His head nearly touched the ceiling and there was a furrow on his brow that almost made Aaliyah laugh. He was talking as if he’d read the words somewhere and not understood what they meant.

But she could see by their faces they weren’t listening to her anymore; not really her. There was another voice whispering in their ears, and the Mākatu was alive in her mouth like it had stolen their lies to use as her own.

‘Punished… ? No, that’s not what we’re going to do,’ said the first with a confused air and his companion was no better. Whatever the Mākatu was doing it was clear it was easily a match for the feebleminded.

‘Not anymore,’ said the bigger man.

The vacant look hadn’t gone from them yet, and Aaliyah was fighting hard to keep her grin to herself as the Mākatu bounced and quivered with the fun of it. She’s just a little girl, and so stupid too to have got herself into so much trouble. She made sure she showed it.

‘Please,’ said Aaliyah and let a tear fall from her eye as she recited a quick prayer in her head. If the fetish had a breaking point she didn’t want to find it.

‘You’ve just made a mistake.’ It was the copper with the radioactive grin again, ‘a silly mistake, kids are always doing that.’

His colleague shook his head, ‘You shouldn’t get your friends in trouble because of us. We wouldn’t want that.’

‘Don’t tell us if you took anything if you don’t want to,’ said the first. ‘We don’t care; it’s not really important. After all there’s more where it all came from, isn’t there?’

Aaliyah thought back to the ranks of glass vials reaching back into the warehouses dimly lit depths, and what floated inside them. If there was more what would that mean for the world’s sick? More importantly what would that mean for the companies that made money off them?

The more talkative of of the two looked like he wanted to punch himself. Anger and disbelief chase themselves across his face in equal measure before his jaw cracked shut.

Aaliyah stepped back.

‘We’re all friends here, aren’t we?’ said the copper with a resigned air as he surrendered to the Mākatu’s charms. It was his bad luck he couldn’t control himself thought Aaliyah with a viscous edge of pleasure.

But she still wanted to check.

‘You’re not going to hurt me again?’

The smaller copper’s smile became even more forced, like he’d tear his tongue out if he could.

‘Of course not; we’re friends.’

‘Yes, we are,’ answered Aaliyah and the Mākatu kicked hard. ‘But I think I need to leave now. You’ll let me do that?’

‘Yes.’

She concentrated on breathing, slow, and deep, letting the interrogation room’s stale air fill her lungs. She had to stay calm. It would be alright, the Mākatu had her back.

‘Please…. will you tell us how you found out about it?’ said her new friend. ‘I’m so sorry to have to ask.’

His partner shrugged, ‘Orders; you understand don’t you? It’s just what we do. Not who we really are.’

Aaliyah nodded, she knew when to be generous. She watched the larger of the pair’s eyes narrow as the Mākatu crackled like fire. She better give them something.

‘We were looking for my Mum’s cat.’

‘In the middle of the night? In the grounds of a covert government facility?’

‘He’s been gone for days, probably starving by now. You could try and find him?’ said Aaliyah with one raised eyebrow. ‘It’s very important.’

She let the Mākatu put the force it needed into the words, pleased as the results unfolded before her eyes.

‘We’re pushed for time.’ The smaller copper looked like he was ready to explode. His smile has grown so big it nearly filled the room, and Aaliyah noticed with barely a flicker that he hasn’t been looking after his teeth. Bits of lunch peppered the air as he nearly choked. When he spoke again she can see the desperation in his eyes. She almost felt sorry for him… almost. ‘But of course we will. Like I said: we’re friends. But you know it’s dangerous in there don’t you? The earthquake… .’

He was probably right, but falling masonry and treacherous stairs aren’t what came to mind. The hole punched through the warehouse’s back filled her mind’s eye. Cold and vast, like a black hole descended to earth. Tremors: they played havoc with the best security.

‘Yes, officer.’

Aaliyah wondered whether to try another tear or two, and decided against it. She’s had enough of unnecessary dramatics. She’d put her trust in the old dear who lived down the corridor from her and her gift. After all, she had some pride, although the lies were flowing so fast by then she wasn’t sure she could stop them if she tried.

‘We’re really sorry,’ said Aaliyah. ‘I was supposed to keep an eye on him. I’m going to be in so much trouble.’

She kept what the old Maori woman had told her to herself. From start to finish the cops had had the air of being in someone’s pocket. They’d even taken her in through the stations back door where the camera’s were father apart.

‘Why’re you so interested anyway? The place is run by the army,’ said Aaliayh for once deciding to risk saying what was really on her mind.

For a moment she thought she’d gone too far as something they were fighting hard not to show burrowed beneath their faces.

‘Just don’t play there,’ said the first.

‘Never,’ his colleague shook his head. ‘You might get hurt.’

‘That’s right,’ continued the other officer. ‘It’s dangerous. We’ll find your missing cat for you. These things are better left to professionals.’

‘That warehouse should be demolished if you ask me. It’s a health hazard. What if it spreads,’ muttered the big cop. ‘Should have told the boss.’

The Maori had been right then: they weren’t letting their superiors in on the news,’ thought Aaliyah to herself. ‘Probably didn’t want to cause a riot. Half the world’s sick would turn up on the earthquake’s doorstep if they realised what had opened in the aftermath. The facility in the warehouse cellar would only be the start if she was any judge.

‘Just don’t play there.’

The small copper looked like he was coming back to himself, and  Aaliyah supressed a shudder. She might have found the limit of what the Mākatu could do.

‘Don’t keep anything you found there either. It could be dangerous.’

‘We won’t, I swear.’ There was no time to waste. ‘Can’t you let us go now? My Mum will be worried, and we weren’t doing anything wrong, were we? The pair looked at each other then back at her. ‘We won’t go back,’ said Aaliyah with all thoughts of smiling long gone. ‘You can trust us.’

She winced internally. The statement was pushing it to say the least.

‘We’re going to let you go. Of course we’re going to let you go.’

The copper with the radioactive grin reached over and squeezed her shoulder, soft, and urgent, like he wanted something more than just to look in her eyes.

‘You can come back any time. We’ll wait.’

It was over surprisingly fast. It turned out their captors had more pressing matters than their three new friends after all. As the the cell emptied of her interrogators Aaliyah relished the confused frown on their faces. She doubted they’d even remember the names of the three kids they’d picked up before the hours out. There’s no charges brought, or official record either. Instead Aaliayah and her brothers carried their bruises back onto the street with their lesson duly learned.

‘Alright Aaliyah? What did they say?

That was Carey, with one hand raised to stop the sun burning his eyes now his cap was gone.

‘The usual crap; they’ll have forgotten us already. The Mākatu will make sure of that. But, we’re on to something that’s for sure,’ said Aaliyah letting the light wash over her as the sun came out from behind the clouds. She took stock of her brothers: one limping, and the other nursing his arm.

‘We got off lightly,’ she said to Carey.

‘Yeah, maybe. You still got it?’

‘Never even searched me,’ said Aaliyah pulling the specimen pot from her bra. Inside the chunk of meat slapped and wriggled against the glass as alive now as it had been when they’d taken it from its prison.

‘How does it do that?’ said Max with his nose scrunched up as he peered at the the intruder from another world. ”Shouldn’t it be dead?’

‘Better not be. That’s all we got. But that’s not all our problems is it?’

Carey’s eyes darted sideways and for a moment Aaliyah wanted to ask him what’s up? What was the problem? But Max’s too quick. He gets there first.

‘The Mākatu didn’t make you rat on us did it Aaliyah? Tell them how Mum got ill?’

‘No, don’t be silly. It’s special, and it’s on our side.’

Aaliyah stroked Max’s battered cheek. He was too young for this. But there was no one else; no one else she trusted anyway. There hadn’t been much time to be picky, not with Mum screaming with pain.

‘They bought it, though,’ said Carey. The relief finally showed in his eyes, ‘and now we know the Maori’s telling the truth. At least some of it.’

‘About what’s in there?’ said Aaliyah. ‘Maybe, all we found was that hole. We didn’t go through. But, if they’d known we’d found that much there’s no way they’d have let us go. They were unsure. I don’t think the Mākatu would have been strong enough otherwise.’

Her jaw was feeling heavy now. The words that had moved it so recently a distant memory. Only the expressions on the copper’s faces have stuck in her mind. She wondered how much more there was beyond what they’d said. She’d go back for sure, with or without her brothers. The Maori had said what Mum needed to keep the illness at bay forever was hidden in the world that had brushed against there’s and Aaliyah was a determined girl. But she was tired. The metal dragged in her mouth, sour like lead now the life was gone. What little they’d retrieved would have to do for now.

‘At least we found something,’ it was Max again sounding unnaturally chirpy for someone who’d gone through last night. ‘We can save a bit if Mum gets worse. Maybe sell a bit. Get her treatment from a real Doctor.’

Aaliyah’s head swivelled to one side, ‘You don’t say? That Maori’s good enough. She’s clever. But I doubt we’ve got enough. What do you think we should do Carey?’

‘I think we better find what she told us about before they block the place up,’ said her eldest brother and they set off across the roads shabby tarmac. ‘It’s the only way we’ll help Mum properly.’

They better hope the thing doesn’t shut thought Aaliyah. Although she kept her thoughts to herself. She never noticed the expression on Carey’s face as he watched her back and probed his teeth with his tongue.

END

Advisory: If you ever are arrested by the police you’re much better off not telling them anything at all until you’ve got yourself a duty solicitor. Particularly if it’s something important they’ve got you in for.

You can support my work by making a donation on the link below.

RELEASE: The Sirens Call eZine Winter 2021 Edition – Issue 56 | FREE Online #Horror and #DarkFic #eZine #magazine @Sirens_Call

The Sirens Song

The Sirens Call

The 56th issue of The Sirens Call weighs in at 190 pages containing 139 pieces of dark fiction and horror in the form of short stories, flash fiction, and dark poetry! This issue also features artist Dave Dick who has shared 12 pieces of his artwork with us, including Sky Monster, which is featured on the cover. This issue also spotlights our first glimpse from cartoonist D.S. Ullery, his article A Cartoon Saved My Life, and 12 of his satirical and humorous Goulash panels. Our featured author, Mike Salt, has a bit of advice for budding or struggling authors, and has graciously offered an excerpt from his novella, The House on Harlan.

Come grab a copy! No sign-up required, no tricks when you get there, just a free Zine packed full of incredibly talented writers and artists!

Click on the cover for your #

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January 28, 2022 at 09:11PM — EchonCique

nevver: Life in Ruins, Matt Emmett via Tumblr

January 28, 2022 at 09:11PM — EchonCique

#BookTour “Bluebird at My Window” by H. Noah

Nesie's Place

BluebirdatmyWindow copy

Welcome to the book tour for Bluebird at My Window, a dark exploration into the human psyche and deep trauma. Read on for details!

Bluebird square2

Bluebird at My Window

Publication Date: February 15th, 2022

Genre: Dark Fiction/ Psychological

When faced with trauma, how would you react?

Would you survive, succumb, or lose yourself to your own meaning of justice?

Ann was only seventeen when she died. She tried to be a dutiful daughter, to pray, to repent. But it wasn’t enough. Her mother, Diane, didn’t mean to kill her but when she found Ann consorting with devils, she had no choice. She believed the angels—that in the end, the water would save them both.

But every choice holds weight.

One death, and Arthur is thrown back into the work he wanted to leave. One death, and Richard must face the reality of his choices. One death, and Maddie and Marie…

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Counting Coup

Native Heritage Project

Counting coup – I’ve known this phrase so long that I don’t ever remember not knowing it.  It’s one of the cultural artifacts that somehow was handed down in my family. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I realized two things:  First that everyone didn’t know what that meant and second, that it might be significant.  In my family it was said as “counting coo” with the p being silent.

Counting coup was additive.  Those little numbers never “went away.”  Indeed, it was a very “Native” thing although I never realized it. It was just “normal” to us, a way of saying “Gotcha.” War without the blood.  Made Mom happy.

But counting coup has a much deeper history beginning long ago and perhaps on both sides of the Atlantic.  The Cheyenne or Arapaho pictograph below demonstrates the act of counting coup.

Counting coup refers to the winning of prestige in…

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BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

#Short Fiction #Dystopian #Apocalypse

Abt. 7 mins read

by Kilmo

You could hear them, that was the worst of it. The stumbles, thuds, and half choked rattles as what had been the town’s latest crop of donors squeezed beneath the door like the wheezing of a dying man.

‘They’re not going away.’ In the store room’s corner a face emerged from the huddle of arms and legs wrapped around each other. Laura’s voice sounded small and alone, ‘are they?’

Hank nodded, he‘d almost forgotten he had company. After listening to what had happened to the other pupils the blonde who sat two rows in front of him and occupied most of his attention during class had been all but catatonic. Now she’d resurfaced he could see her eyes were glued to the splinters round the lock with the same desperation as a rabbit caught in headlights.

‘Yeah, but they must be weaker. He got up and stretched, Hank was tall enough for a kid twice his years. Not that he enjoyed being the giant amongst his fellows. More often than not it led to trouble he’d rather avoid. ‘When was the last time you heard anyone scream?’ he said nearly tripping over the last word. His eyes shot towards Laura, but she didn’t seem to have noticed. ‘Couple of days, maybe?’

Laura jabbed her knuckles in her mouth and stifled a sob.

Hank stepped forward to comfort her, and stopped, not sure if she would welcome the intrusion. Back when he’d first come barrelling in the harvesting centre’s escapees had only just reached the school’s edges and he’d had to tell the terrified girl hiding in the shadows what was happening. Hank pushed the memory aside and wondered how Mum and Dad were doing; then wished he hadn’t. Judging by what he could glimpse through the cracked safety glass of the narrow room’s solitary window it wouldn’t be good. Most of the street was invisible behind the plastic laced exhalations of a dozen fires, and no one had come to rescue them.

‘Hank, what are we going to do?’

‘I don’t know, but we have to do whatever it is soon.’

They both looked at the corner they’d been using as a garbage can. You couldn’t really call it that anymore; landfill would be a more appropriate word.

‘Can you drive?’ asked Hank.

‘No.’

Neither could he, not really, but he could see a car outside that looked like it only had a few scratches and his father had let him behind the wheel of the family automatic once or twice. Maybe that would be, ok?

‘Listen, we could make a run for it. They might have forgotten we’re inside.’

‘What if they haven’t?’

‘Laura, we stay here much longer everyone will be dead. Don’t you want to get out of this place?’

There was a pause and then she answered, reluctantly.

‘Yeah, ‘course.’

‘Then we’re driving.’

That meant crossing what was fast looking like an ocean of tarmac, not to mention the window was so small it barely deserved the term. If Hank hadn’t spent enough hours truant to be familiar with its tricks he’d have rated their chances as somewhere close to zero.

‘We’re going out the fire escape. I’ll pull the wires off the alarm; no one will be any the wiser.’

Even to his ears it sounded like fantasy.

‘I hate them.’

For a second Hank’s confused, cars, or the rampaging indebted poor? The bankruptees that should be in the harvesting wards not populating the town’s centre inspired a lot of emotions in him but hate wasn’t one of them.

‘No, you don’t.’

Laura’s feet began to beat a rising tattoo on the linoleum.

‘I do, oh god, I do. All I ever did was try and keep my head down. I wanted to be something. Now they’ve gone and mucked it all up.’

Hank had to admit she’d got a point. The streets of Newford have never looked so bad. In a way he was impressed. It had taken a serious effort to turn a dump into a hell hole.

‘Come on let’s just get it over with, shall we? It’ll be alright so long as we’re careful. You can fix things later.’

But, in the street it was worse than he’d thought. Bodies lie twisted around each other like energetic lovers illuminated by light from fires that refuse to go out. The carnage shouldn’t come as a surprise, but he couldn’t stop the shock that ran down his spine as the scale of the devastation became apparent.  Hank supposed it could have been worse: there were enough combustibles around after years of drought to keep the party going for weeks.

‘Hear that?’ His words arrived with the rustle of arid leaves, but its not them that brought Hank’s head snapping round. At least Laura was nearing the vehicle. Hank found himself praying to a god he didn’t believe in. The SUV’s keys had better still be inside.

Before long what he’d been waiting for arrives and at first he notices how close to death they looked with discomfort only. The sick, vertigo inducing, fear came later when they’d gotten close enough to see what condition the harvesting had left the town’s donors in. Cleary the community had taken a lot more than its pound of flesh.

‘What’s wrong with them Hank?’

‘They’re crashing. I doubt there’s enough dopamine left in their systems to keep them moving much longer no matter how much they’ve been stimulated. They’ll be getting desperate by now..’

Hank’s father had been a specialist. One of the corps assigned to look after the labour pools. It was a well-known family secret what that had entailed.

‘Are they dangerous?’ said Laura and Hank had to hold down the urge to say what was on his mind. She already the tracks of enough tears on her cheeks and the indigents were moving forwards.

The murmur from the crowd’s throats redoubled as Hank’s first blow cracked against the car’s glass. The second swing performed better and the driver’s window went in.

A dozen heads followed their movements.

‘Don’t run.’

It was one of the women that had spoken. Although her rasp was a long way off a normal voice. Judging by the huge pits in which the glitter of pupils could only faintly be seen that she could speak at all was a miracle.

Hank shook his head.

‘We’re not going to hurt you,’ the woman’s desiccated voice whispered down the empty street.

Threats had sounded more enticing.

‘We just need more. You’ve got more haven’t you?’

Never had Hank been more aware of the dopamine in his body. Evidently, he wasn’t the only one who could feel it either.

More … we need more.

The chorus of voices sounded like wind blowing through a forest.

‘We’ll only take a little bit.’

If he’d been younger he might have been tempted to believe them. But even from this distance Hank could see that the only thing showing between their lids is bloodshot white.

‘Just leave us alone.’

‘Can’t do that,’ croaked the woman as her companions joined in again.

‘They took ours … .’

‘Said we had to pay … .’

‘Only wanted to feed my kids … .’

‘My husband needed a lung transplant … .’

Soon they’re all telling them their stories, the words like the waves of a sea crashing against the shore.

‘Look, it’s not our fault. We had nothing to do with it. You’re criminals: debt accumulators. That’s the law.’

He finished, and the crowd falls silent before they begin to shuffle forwards. Already those at the front have their arms outstretched.

Hank dove under the dash. Even in that bunker his shoulder blades hunched as he heard the scuffles coming closer. A forgotten childish part of him was tempted to try and use it as a hiding place. But these bogey men looked a bit realer than the ones that used to live under his bed.

When the ignition wires refused to still in his trembling hands Hank tried desperately to remember what the older kids had said. Laura’s gone quiet on him and he daren’t look up to see why. When the engine finally caught, he nearly knocked himself out as his head rebounds off the wheel.

‘Get in Laura; we’re leaving.’

The crowd was so close now he could smell them: unwashed, and rank. You heard stories about the wards but until then he hadn’t really believed them.

‘Laura, come on.’

‘No stay away, leave me alone.’

The indebted donors were nearly on her and Laura’s hands batted feebly at the front row. There were seconds to spare and no time to be gentle as Hank yanked her back and they struggled through the jeep’s shattered window.

‘Adios muchachos.’

As the joyous sound of gravel spraying into the air reached their ears Hank allowed his finger to unfurl. Another few minutes and it would have been like trying to drive across a football pitch mid game. There was a bump as one of the mob he hadn’t spotted in time goes under the wheels and then they were flying down the nearest thoroughfare against the stalled traffic. Hank’s always wanted to do that. It was a pity the circumstances stank.

‘Look Hank. There must be survivors.’

He followed Laura’s eyes: some of the citizens had built barricades. Although it had done them any good. Holes were punched through all of them wide enough to take the SUV with ease.

He tried to think of something encouraging to say, and failed. It really was the end then.

‘Where are we going?’

‘Don’t know, I was thinking into the hills.’ Hank kept his attention on the road. That at least was a task he could control.

‘What about my family? For that matter what about yours?’

Pictures of happier times flashed through Hank’s mind.

‘Laura, look out the window. They’re not going to have lived through that. My Dad said it was coming. If supply hasn’t met demand and the indigents realise they’re not coming out of the system standing up any more, they’ll rise. Of course, everyone laughed at him. Most of the time the poor fucks were so tranquilised they could hardly remember their names.

But, at the thought of his parents, an itch started up behind his eyes. Hank scowled; taking his hand off the steering wheel to deal with it seemed like a bad idea.

‘Alright,’ Hank forced himself to breath normally. His head hurt from all the fumes, and it was taking him all he’d got not to slam his foot down on the accelerator. ‘If we go by our driveways will that be enough for you?’

‘No, but I have to see. It will do.’

‘This is going to be quick.’

Afterwards they sat in silence. Hank felt hollowed out, and empty. Driving anywhere no longer seemed that important.

‘Do you think they … ?’

‘Don’t Laura. It won’t change anything.’

They hadn’t found them, not breathing at any rate. They hadn’t even found much of their homes either: just smoking ruins and bits of their relatives scattered over the lawns. Laura had yet to shed a tear. Hank’s best guess was the shock had yet to catch with her, but it was hard to tell. She looked like she was watching events unreel in some place that had nothing to do with the remnants of the town they’d grown up in.

‘We’ll leave in a minute, I guess. I know a place,’ said Hank.

‘Where?’

‘There’s a cabin next to a lake. We used to go fishing there. It’ll be alright you’ll see. No one will harm you.’

‘I wish I believed it.’

‘Why wouldn’t you?’

Laura made a quick nervous movement as she pulled down her sleeve to hide the marks there and finally the penny dropped.

‘Oh … you’re one of them. How long have they been siphoning you?’

‘Since Dad got into debt. He said it would only be for a short time. But then … it was why I was hiding at school. I didn’t want to go home.’

Hank’s cheeks began to burn. He should have known, and there was him still bloated with dopamine regardless of what had happened. He could almost smell it. He stared out of the windscreen. The sun had finally begun to rise, only the town below them still held the last of the night’s outliers, and even the cicadas had begun to quiet. The first rays skipped off Laura’s face like feathers.

‘No, I bet you didn’t. We’ll take some of mine if you need it.’

Hank turned his offer over in his head like a piece of driftwood he’d found at the beach. He’d blurted it out without even thinking about it. But he’d seen her father once, a tall man with a salesman’s greasy smile.

He watched the nearest of the buildings tucked behind their well manicured lawns and white picket fences collapse.

Sparks shot up on a whirlwind of greedy flame.

‘Hell, take it all if you want.’

Laura smiled. It had to be the first time since it had all begun that he’d seen her do that. Suddenly Hank felt ten stone lighter.

‘What about the others?’

‘Let ‘em burn,’ said Hank.

Turned out he wasn’t as bothered by the destruction as he’d thought.

END

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READER - WRITER - CURATED RESOURCES - & MORE

ANDREW LEON HUDSON

links to writing by him

The Cartesian Theatre

every audience is an audience of one

Gunnar De Winter

Biologist * philosopher * storyteller

A. P. Howell

Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror

Jordan Taylor

World Fantasy Award-nominated author of short fiction

Aliya Whiteley

Writing novels, short stories and articles. Usually strange ones.

komplex-KULTURMAGAZIN

Plattform für Kunst und Kultur

wanderingandwondering

To wander means to move with no preset route. To wonder means to think, to question, to ponder.

Brandon Crilly - Writer / Teacher / Human

The madcap ramblings of an Ottawa creator

Eunoia Review

beautiful thinking

Jayne.press

A place where you can be human.

Native Heritage Project

Documenting the Ancestors

Exquisite Corpse

Speculative fiction writer Tracie McBride talks writing. And book reviews. And dogs. And kids. And any other random thing that she feels like.

Bristol Skeptics Society

Promoting Rationalism and Critical Thinking

Slattery Publishing

Established 2021

Pandamonium Publishing House

Publishing Made Simple.

Wyldblood Press

science fiction and fantasy

Fevers of the Mind

Writing, Poetry, Short Stories, Reviews, Art Contests

Rosie Oliver

Progressive Science Fiction Author

TAB54

A street art photo blog

silicasun

In Pursuit of Mystery and Folklore - Fiction With Imagination and a Zing

The Sirens Song

Sirens Call Publications: A Horror & Dark Fiction Publisher

Writing Despite Computers and Programmes

Writing writing and more writing

The Inkling

Have you ever been told that you think too much? Lucky you if you have, but don't worry if you haven't, you can still read The Inkling. At The Inkling you can look forward to weekly installments of our serial "The Inklings", weekly solutions to your problems by The Spark, finding out how one lucky person went at our monthly challenge and feature articles every two months

Blind Corner Literary Magazine

A home for speculative fiction

Mugilan Raju

Prime my subconscious, one hint at a time

The Chamber Magazine

the strange and dark and beautiful

Piazza della Carina

Geopolitics and Foreign Policy ... english and italian

Artisterviews

Short, lighthearted interviews with amazing artists from all around the globe!

Wise & Shine

Understanding ourselves and the world we live in.