New Town. Part 6.

Happy Halloween!

Hope everyone has a really awesome night!

I’m really looking forward to going out, mostly because I’m super, super happy with my costume (at least, what I have done so far!) There’ll be a picture of the completed costume on my twitter later tonight, I’ll also throw up a picture here on Monday. If you want to see what the prosthetic I’ve done looks like (sans make up) there’s a picture on my twitter here.

On with the show!
________________________________________________________________
Part 1, Part 5

Doug wondered when he’d be able to wander about the city by himself. It was unlikely that Max would let him off today, but perhaps he’d try tomorrow. There was a knock on the door and Doug stood, shuffling his things together, he opened the door to find Max waiting,
“Morning, have you eaten breakfast?”
“I’m not that hungry.”
“Ok, then do you want to get right to it then?”
“Yeah sure, what did you have in mind for today?”
“You wanted to talk to people who haven’t changed yet, I thought we’d give them a visit.”
“Great.”
“Oh, grab a jacket or something, it’s going to rain later on today. We’ll try to get where we’re going before that though.”
“I didn’t think you’d have weather forecasters here.”
“Yeah, the weather inside the walls is different to that outside it, though I don’t think there’s much of a change from the weather before, we seem to get the same amount of rain and sun. We have a few people who can predict the weather, so we rely on them to let us know what it’s going to be like. We use one of the local radio stations to broadcast things like that.”
They stepped into the hall, Doug closing the door behind him.
“It’s pretty handy, we can get news out quickly and efficiently too, though it’s mostly boring stuff. I think our last big headline was that a new train had been added to the system to ease morning congestion a little.”
They walked out of the building to find a car idling in front of it, “It’s a little far away and I didn’t think I’d subject you to the subway system just yet, it’s pretty crowded and that might be a bit intense for you. I figured we’d just get a car there, not many people drive, so we don’t have that much traffic.”
“I saw a few cars last night, I didn’t think anyone still drove around here.”
“Well, we have to for some things, trucks and stuff, we have a bus system too, mostly to ease traffic in the subway. We try to ration the fuel we have, we get some from your government, but it isn’t really enough to keep everyone going. People can apply for a car and if they meet the requirements they’re granted one along with a fuel allowance. There are a few taxi services, but they don’t drive around aimlessly, they have to be requested.”
They sat into the car, Max sliding in first, Doug closed the door gently, the car smelled faintly of cinnamon and vanilla. The driver was hunched over slightly, almost nervously.
“Doug, this is Hank, Hank, Doug.”
“Hi, nice to meet you.”
Hank mumbled something in response, Doug glanced at Max, Max leaned over and whispered into his ear, “He’s a bit nervous around new people. It isn’t you.”
They sat in silence, Doug stared out the window most of the time, looking at all the unusual people who walked down the sidewalk. Max occasionally tried to engage Hank in conversation, but it never lasted all that long. A few moments later Hank switched on the radio.
“I’ve a bit of a weird question, what do you do about clothes? Are they shipped in or made here or?”
“A bit of both. We get some shipments of clothing, not much these days though, and other stuff is made. We have some really skilful workers in that area. There’s things like clothes that don’t stain, ones that fit you perfectly, even if you gain or lose weight. It’s pretty handy, though the prices can be quite high. The shipments of a lot of things from your government has slowed down, not that it’s necessarily a bad thing. The essentials are still coming which is important, at least until we can become self-sufficient and afford to trade things.”
“Have you tried taking the clothing outside the walls?”
“We have, and the effects stay the same if it’s created. We’re looking at selling some of it outside, though we have to be careful. The prices will be quite high and there’s some concern over the money. We’re probably going to tax the garments quite heavily, as will your government I’m sure. We have to strike a balance between what’s fair to the creator and what’s a reasonable tax.”
Hank suddenly flickered, one moment he was there the next he wasn’t, Doug jumped but before he could speak Max put his hand on Doug’s arm. “Don’t worry, it happens sometimes. We’re safe, even if it looks like he’s disappeared, he’s still there.” He dropped his voice slightly, “it’s a bit of a nervous tick.”
“Why would he be nervous?”
“You’re the first person he’s met from the outside since the wall came down. A few of the people here are still nervous about how people will react, particularly when they hear about the soldiers reactions to us in the beginning. There’s some rumours that it turns regular people crazy and other such nonsense.”
Ten minutes later Hank pulled up at the sidewalk, Doug got out, followed by Max, Max leaned into the car and said something to Hank, then he closed the door. The car pulled out and drove off. “He’ll be back in an hour or so. I feel bad making him wait around when he had other stuff he can do. C’mon, we’re just up here. I wanted to walk the last bit of the way, it has a much better effect.”

They walked side by side, there were a few people walking along the path but they gave both Max and Doug a wide berth, Doug wondered if they were avoiding him or Max.
They turned the corner, then stopped. Max smiled as Doug gazed at the building in front of them. It was a large, gothic style church that loomed over them. Around it was a large park, distancing it from the buildings either side, making it seem so much more imposing.
“Nice, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, I expected something much smaller.”
“The priest who used to run this place allows them to use it.”
They stepped through the wrought iron gates, the temperature seemed to rise a bit and the sun seemed brighter. The gardens looked perfectly tended the grass was cut cleanly , the flower beds were perfectly aligned with one another and free of weeds. They walked down the cobblestone path to the large, wooden doors.
“They know you’re coming, though I don’t know how many of them will be here. Some of them have jobs.”
“Really? I would have expected them to have segregated themselves from the local community.”
“They did for a short while, but Father Callahan told them they wouldn’t be allowed stay if they continued.”
Max opened the large doors and the stepped inside, instantly Doug felt the reverent quiet that seemed to accompany all churches. The sun shone through the stained glass windows, casting pools of brightly coloured light. At the top of the church about ten people sat on the pews, a woman stood before them, speaking quietly. At the sound of the door closing she stopped, then smiled.
“I see our guests have arrived.” The others started to quietly whisper to one another as she strode down the aisle. She was younger than Doug had expected, perhaps mid-twenties, with long brown hair and a clear, smiling face. She was quite pretty, and wore a long, floor length skirt and a t-shirt. She shook Max’s hand, then Doug’s.
“Welcome, I’m Angela, you must be Doug?”
Her hand shake was firm and warm, “It’s nice to meet you.” She shook Max’s hand briefly then turned back towards the people.
“C’mon, they’re all looking forward to meeting you.”
She led them both up to the top of the church and introduced everyone, to Doug it was just a blur of names.
“We weren’t sure how you’d like to talk to people, so we figured we’d all just gather here. We can talk as a group or, if you like, individually.”
“I think as a group would be best for now.”
“Ok, perfect, here, have a seat. I’m sorry Max, but would you mind sitting off to the side?”
“It’s no bother at all, I think I might go for a bit of a walk around the grounds.”
Max turned and left, as he did so Angela turned to Doug, “I thought it might go a bit better without him, everyone would be able to talk freely, and you’d know that he wasn’t directing us or anything.”
“Thanks, I appreciate it.”
“Where do you want to start.”
Doug sat down, “Well, why don’t one of you tell me what exactly it is you do and believe. I only got a bit of a gist from Max.”
One of the men cleared his throat, then began to speak.
“Well, as you know the wall came down three years ago, it was chaos, I’m sure you’ve been told. We all saw so many horrible things. A few of us grouped together, hoping to survive, and others were by themselves. As things began to settle we realised that people had changed, they were no longer people, but we were. We don’t really know why. As time went on we began to group together, at first it was a kind of support group I guess, dealing with the changes, the fear that we too would change. We came here seeking Gods protection, Father Callahan was, is, a good man. Despite the change he welcomes us and granted us protection within Gods walls. We think that this is Gods judgement. That he has revealed the true forms of the wicked and that we, the unchanged, were granted God’s grace. We were the true believers.

At first, we were afraid, we segregated ourselves from the wicked, we didn’t speak to them or touch them. To be touched was to risk being dirtied. As time went on we realised that they were still in control, they didn’t give in to their baser desires, they weren’t beasts. We still believe that they are unclean, but that through God’s grace, they can become human again. Some people say that the change will happen to use someday too, that it’ll happen to everyone, but we have faith that our lord will protect us.”
“By God, do you mean the Christian God?”
“No, we don’t discriminate religions. We believe that there is only one God, but that he comes to people through other means, Jewish, Muslim, Christian, they’re all just words but at the end, it means the same thing. It’s one God and he will protect us all. We run an outreach program, where we try to include everyone. Many of us are Christian, and we attend the Christian services in this church, others go to their own churches or worship in their own way. However anyone and everyone is welcome to the support group, whether they’ve changed or not.”
“How many people belong to the support group?”
“About two thousand. The numbers fluctuate as people come and go. People are free to leave whenever they want. We have a meeting every two days and people attend the ones that they can.”
“What happens at these meetings?”
“Well, people share their experiences, their fears. We discuss events that happen in the city, we talk about the plan that God has for us and we socialise. It seems odd to say, but it feels very lonely, being human in here. Every other kind have groups they belong to, areas that they live in, but us normal humans have no such luck. We don’t have our own area, at least not yet, we’re working on moving closer together. It’s a slow process. We want to feel the comfort and safety of a community and the group helps.”
“do you hold ill will towards the other inhabitants of the city?”
“No, even if you think it sounds like it. We don’t judge them. God may have judge them unfit, but there is always room for healing and redemption. God is full of love and he will welcome anyone to his flock.”
“Has anyone had the change reversed?”
“No, not yet.”

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Funeral. Short Story.

They stood in a small group, not saying anything and occasionally sipping their drinks. People moved about the room carefully, talking in hushed voices. Every so often someone would stop by the group, offer condolences and try to engage in some kind of conversation, but they blocked all attempts at conversation, giving monosyllabic answers. As the day wore on, more and more people left the house until finally, it was only the three of them left. They migrated over to the sitting room and sat on one of the couches, on the table in front of them were bottles of alcohol, they drank in silence. Finally Tom drained his glass and set it down, not bothering to refill it.
“We should eat something.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Neither am I.”
“We should still eat.”
Tom stood from the couch and went into the kitchen, a few moments later he returned with a tray laden with food. He set it on the table and sat down again. He studied the food for a moment then picked up a sandwich, he took a bite and chewed methodically. He filled his glass with soft drink and used that to wash the food down. After a few moments, the others began to eat too.
“So It finally happened.”
“Yeah.”
Tom picked up a bottle and filled the three glasses.
“Are we toasting?”
“No, just. I don’t know.”
Together they picked up their glasses and took a sip.
“So What do we do now?”
“What do you mean?”
“It feels like we should do something.”
“It’s over now. She’s gone. That’s enough for me.”
They drank in silence for a little longer.
“What are we doing about the house?”
“Sell it.”
“Agreed.”
“Split the money three ways then?”
The other two nodded.
“Ok, we’ll go through it over the next few days, mark anything we want to keep. What do you want to do with the rest? Donate it?”
“I think we should burn some of it.”
“I kind of like that idea.”
“I don’t know. Not sure if that’s legal.”
“Why not? I don’t mean like a big bonfire.”
“I guess then. If that’s what you want.”
Tom looked at his watch.
“I should be going. Will you two be ok staying here tonight?”
“Yeah. There’s food here, the beds are clean. We’ll be fine.”
“If you need anything let me know. I’m not that far away.”
“Thanks.”
Tom stood, he waited awkwardly for a second, to see if either would stand for a hug, but they didn’t.
“I’ll see you in the morning then.”
He left the house, not looking back.
The drive was short, only ten minutes, but it had still been five years since he had last seen his mother. Eight since he had seen his siblings. It was weird. They had both moved out at the earliest opportunity, he didn’t blame them really, he would have done the same if he could have. They had both moved as far away as possible. He didn’t think they kept in contact with each other, but then he wouldn’t have felt excluded if they did. They were closer in age, spent more time with each other growing up. Going by their overall demeanour today, he didn’t think they had much contact. Just another few days and it would be over. They’d go back to their separate lives. In some ways it was a relief, but in others it made him a little sad. He wondered what it would have been like to have a close family, like his friends had. They met up for meals, even went out to bars together. He didn’t have that with anyone in his family. They were distant. Cold.

He thought Stacy might have been married, but she didn’t have a ring. Maybe it was just a boyfriend. Jake had a ring, but Tom never asked about it. Tom had suspected that Jake was gay before Jake had moved, but neither brought it up. None of them had talked about their personal lives with one another. Stacy would probably know if Jake had a husband or wife. Tom had already decided he would never marry, he would be alone. It seemed right. Safer. He was used to the silence of an empty house. It didn’t make him feel sad anymore. He had accepted it. He knew his few friends thought it weird, but how could he even begin to explain it to them? It was easier this way. Better. He had accepted it a long time ago.
As he pulled into his driveway he wondered what, if anything, he wanted from the house. There was nothing that didn’t have some tainted memory. Maybe there was something in the attic, something of Grannies. They were happy memories at least. He went into the kitchen and took out a bottle of beer. He wasn’t feeling drunk, despite drinking all day. He belatedly realised he probably shouldn’t have driven, but it was too late for that. He took a swig then went into the sitting room. He should eat dinner. He hadn’t eaten anything bar some sandwiches. He took another drink then decided it didn’t really matter all that much. He turned on the TV and found something half decent. He didn’t really watch it, he just wanted something on in the background while he drank. It really was hard to believe she was gone. When he was a child he thought she would live for ever, some dark goddess hiding in suburbia. They had all gone in together on a headstone. Small, subtle. She would have hated it and that’s why they got it. She would have despised everything about the birthday party. There were no family speeches, no speeches at all really. The flowers were ones she hated, the food were things she didn’t eat and of course, the alcohol. She never drank. Though that was something he should have been thankful for. It might have seemed spiteful to others, but it helped them. That was important. The people who came didn’t really know their mother. Their mother never had close friends, she had acquaintances, co-workers, but that was it. It made the funeral a little easier for them all. He drained the bottle then stood to get another, he stopped. No. Tomorrow he’d have to be up early tomorrow. He couldn’t leave that job to just them. Tom climbed the stairs to bed, maybe tomorrow he’d feel happy.
Maybe this feeling of strange ambivalence would end.
He should feel something, shouldn’t he?

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Revenge. Short Story.

Ed sat in the car, looking around the car park. It seemed pretty full, everyone should be in work by now. He took a deep breath, then turned on the radio to break the silence. He’d give it a little more time. Just in case someone was running late. He didn’t want anyone to miss this. He stroked his jacket pocket, feeling the hard, cold lump inside. It was still there, he just needed to stay calm, stick with the plan and everything would be ok. Soon they’d all know what they had done. It wasn’t his fault, no it was theirs. Them and their teasing jokes, always laughing and giggling at him. It had been like that from the start, on the very first day. Someone muttered something as he walked by and everyone started laughing. Ed had smiled nervously, hoping someone might explain what had happened, but no one did. Why would they? He was the outsider, he didn’t fit in, he wasn’t one of them and he never would be. Two years he worked there. Two years trying to get a job somewhere, anywhere else. Two years dealing with the subtle jibes and jabs, just trying to wait it out, sending out requests to be moved to another area only to have them denied. Two years of hell so he could keep his apartment, so he could eat and then last week they called him into the bosses office and let him go. Said they felt he didn’t quite “fit in with the culture.” They claimed a slow decline of his productivity was the cause, but Ed knew that was bullshit, he did more work than the others, he had to. After all, he didn’t spend the day giggling with friends. No, they just wanted rid of him. No doubt there were some cruel rumours circulating the office about him. Some sly lie that was the real reason for his firing. He had been shocked, but strangely relieved, as were the bosses, they thought he took it very well, very well indeed. He spent the afternoon in the pub, having a few drinks, just thinking. Perhaps he could take them to court, try for something like constructive dismissal or something. After all, he had made complaints to HR about how he was treated by his co-workers but nothing was ever done, he’d kept careful track of things and they’d told him they’d look into it and that was the last he heard. No, they didn’t care. It was like school bullshit all over again, the popular kids, the ones who the teachers liked, the gregarious, the confident, were all given carte blanche to do as they pleased and he was always left behind, the poor, unsociable, awkward Ed. To be pitied and laughed at, but never talked to or included. His parents weren’t much use their either. Forcing him into group activities with the people who hated him, making them think he was just some desperate, stalker loser or something. They always fretted that he wasn’t popular, that he wasn’t well liked, they blamed him, always him and never the people that excluded him.
And it was all happening again. He had been left out, teased, made the butt of every joke. No longer would he stand for this. He’d make them pay attention to him, make they remember him. For every single person in that building, they would remember his name for the rest of their lives. They would never forget him and that was enough for him. It was all he really wanted, no, all he really needed. To be recognised as a person, an actual, thinking, feeling person. Someone who couldn’t just be shat on every day without repercussions. Perhaps they’d regret it in time, perhaps they wouldn’t, but that didn’t matter to Ed, all that mattered was that they knew that they caused this, that it was their fault.
Ed looked at the clock, wondering if he should start heading in yet, but it was still too early for it. Besides, he hadn’t quite fully realised the plan, there were three options. Do it in HR, where those bastards ignored his complaints, who allowed it to continue. Do it at his old cubicle, where those pricks made their sly jokes, looking at him, teasing him. Or he could do it at the bosses offices. They were the catalyst after all, the ones who fired him, the ones who meant he’d be getting kicked out of his apartment, that he’d have to move home with his parents. Each option was tempting, it was a pity he couldn’t just do it in all three places at once. No. He wanted to send a message to the people who caused this, that was by his old cubicle. HR were to blame too, but they just allowed the problem to go on, they weren’t the route of the problem itself. He had to find the weed and rip it out by the roots if he wanted any chance of success. Yeah. That seemed good. Ok. So he had a plan. He already knew how he was getting in, that bit was easy. They told him to come in and pick up his last pay check in HR, that was what kicked off this entire idea, he had expected them to send it out to him, but they wanted him to pick it up. Lazy bastards. They’d see what happened when they were too cheap to buy a couple of stamps. He took a deep breath then turned off the car. He could do this. He could.

Ed opened the door and stepped out into the cool air. It was sunny out, but the wind held an edge. It was strange. He felt like the day should have been overcast, dull. Not this bright autumn morning. There should be rain or thunder. Some kind of portent for what was to come. He walked towards the building, the windows all gleaming in the sun. He wondered if anyone was looking out, watching him as he walked to the building. He got inside with ease, no one stopped him, no one seemed to even notice him. That would change soon. He pressed the button for the lift and waited. He could feel a cold bead of sweat slowly travel down his back. Ed already knew what he’d say if someone stopped him, he’d laugh it off, say he was on autopilot, got all turned around. He felt slightly nauseas, he was probably pale, clammy. The lift doors dinged open and Ed stepped inside, they closed again, leaving him alone. He studied his reflection in the metal, he didn’t look all that pale. His eyes, they might have looked a bit too wide, but it wasn’t that noticeable, not unless you were looking for it. The lift travelled upwards without slowing or stopping. Maybe it would be best if someone stopped him? Maybe he shouldn’t do this?

The lift dinged and the doors slid smoothly back revealing row and row of cubicles. It was sign. He was meant to do this, his entire life had built up to this moment, his final triumph, where he’d show just what damage they had done. He stepped out of the lift, around him was the noise of keyboards and gentle chatter. As he walked towards his cubicle it seemed to all fall away, were people stopping what they were doing? Were they paying attention? Or was it just his imagination?

He stopped at the cubicle, someone passing by said hello, paused and kept going, scurrying away. No doubt to tell someone to call security, but it was already too late for that. He started to speak, but no sound came out. He cleared his throat, then tried again.
“Excuse me, I need everyone’s attention.”

Ed pulled the gun form him pocket, someone screamed but he wasn’t sure who, he raised the barrel and pulled the trigger.

The first and only shot was explosively loud in the office, someone was screaming, people were straining to see what had happened, what the noise was. They stared at the blood splattered people, those who were too close, who were covered in gore. People began to move, some closer, others running away. Soon they were crowded around Ed’s body, looking down at him in confusion, someone was crying somewhere. His body was still, he had only needed the one bullet.

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New Town. Part 5

Part 1, Part 4

They arrived at the empty space, Max slid into the booth and Doug followed his example, when he looked up he jumped, Max shook his head, hiding a small grin. There was a woman sitting across from them, even sitting she was tall. Her skin was pale, with a faint blush on her high cheek bones, her blonde hair was shaped upwards in an intricate hairstyle, she wore a bright white dress that hugged the curves of her body. She looked beautiful, exceedingly so. Everything about her was perfect, he met her eyes, they were a light grey, but as he watched they changed and shifted, like storm clouds moving across the sky, she was the most exquisite being he had ever seen and- a hand waved across his face, causing him to jump, Max was saying something.
“What?” He looked at Max,

“I asked if you were all right.”
“I, uh, yeah, I’m, yeah.” Doug looked back at the woman, she was smiling faintly. Her eyes were a light green with hints of hazel, they weren’t changing colour. Her skin seemed a little darker too, as though she had more colour than before, her hair was still blonde, but now it hung casually around her shoulders. Her dress had changed to a simple t-shirt and jeans. She looked a little embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean for that to happen. I can’t always control it.”
Max’s eyes widened, “you didn’t.”
“I’m sorry. I really am.”
Max shook his head, “Do you know what you could have done?”
She nodded, lowering her head.
Max sighed, then looked at Doug, “Feeling ok?”
“Yeah” his voice was thick, Doug coughed, clearing his throat, he answered again, sounding more sure of himself, “Yeah, what happened?”

“I showed you what I look like. Properly. Without all this.” She gestured at herself.

Doug remembered the woman before and felt a small throb in his stomach, he wanted to see her again. He opened his mouth to speak, Max cut across him. “Stop. Don’t ask. She won’t do it again.”
She looked at them both, “I will look like this for the remainder of the evening.”
“Good.”

“I…What are you?”
She chuckled, “I’m queen of the fairies.”
“So, you grant wishes then?”
She smiled at him again, “Of a sort. I make trades. Nothing is for free. There are rules to what I do, ones that even I cannot break. Ancient bindings. I do what I can to help, but my nature doesn’t always let me.”
“What do you mean your nature?”
“The change didn’t just change me physically. It changed me mentally too. I know over time I will shift and change more. I will probably become crueller, harsher. Even now I can feel alien thoughts pushing in my mind. Everyone here knows to be careful of me. I’m sure you were warned too?” She glanced at Max, then back at Doug, “Now, I’m going to provide you with my own warning. I cannot lie, but I can speak falsehoods. We might become friends and that will protect you for a while, but I will be fickle soon. I control it now, but soon it might control me. If that happens I cannot stop it.” She looked at Max again, “I say this for your benefit too.”

Max nodded, “I know. I’m well aware of what you are going to become, but that doesn’t worry me Mags.”
Her expression hardened, “It should. In a few months I will move on from here.”
She glanced at Doug, “for now though, I am here and I will answer some of your questions.”
“Who were you before the change?”
“I was a teacher. I taught children, and enjoyed it. I cared for them very much. When the wall came down I protected them, some until their parents came for them, others for longer. It wasn’t only adults who were trapped here when the walls came down. I stopped people from hurting them, using them. I was one of the first to change. I didn’t know what was happening, neither did the children, but they accepted it, I was their world. We played games and made merry until it was time for them to leave.” She shook her head slightly, “it was a time of learning for us all.” She looked sadly at the table, then she took a sip of her drink.
“It was difficult, trying to protect them and preserve their innocence. If I didn’t think their parents could look after them I invited them to join. Most did. When things settled, I released them when they wished to leave. Almost all of the children are gone now, some have stayed with me as there was no where else for them to go. I look after them still, keep them safe. Teach them. I worry for them, when the gates open. I fear that some of them may not be accepted by their parents. I know what it feels to be rejected by the ones that you love and I cannot bear the thought of any of them going through that.”
“Surely their parents would still love them, even with the change.”
“You would be surprised at the reasons some people give for abandoning their child. We don’t know what will happen to them until they hit puberty, we don’t know how they’ll develop and grow. At first we thought that the change would hold off until puberty for the children, but we were mistaken.”
“Are there any others here who look after the children and provide schooling?”
“Of course, there are many others. I am not the only one who protected children while the worst of it was happening. Even in my own school other teachers stayed and helped as much as they could. Of those that left, most returned, some alone, some with their families. We cared for one another, kept everyone safe.”

She took another drink.
“tell me, have you met the Baron yet?”
“Who?”
She looked at Max, a faint smile on her lips, “I see dear Max hasn’t told you of him. He made a grab for power when the wall came down. Tried to use intimidation to rule. It failed, fortunately. A few people stood up to him, got him to back down. He’s still there though, a blight on our city.”
“I was planning on bringing it up once he’d seen the good side of the city.”
Doug doubted it but didn’t say anything. “Is he dangerous?”
“That depends on who you are and if he wants anything from you.” Mags finished her drink, “I’m afraid my time here is short and I must leave. I hope to see you again before you go. It was a pleasure meeting you Doug.” She bowed slightly at the waist to them both, then simply vanished. Noise came crashing over Doug, he hadn’t noticed while they were talking, but the background noises of the restaurant had faded away. Max scowled at where Mags had been standing. “Should have expected her to say something like that, try to set you on edge. She can be a bit tricky sometimes. Don’t worry though, you’re safe. The Baron isn’t a danger to you at all.”

“What is he exactly?”
“As Mags said, he’s a criminal, tried to make a grab for power, he failed. He tries to keep crime going, we stomp it out, he’s a powerful businessman these days. None of us trust him, but we can’t go seizing his assets without enough evidence, so for now we have to leave him be mostly.”
“Would it be possible for me to meet him at some point?”
“Yes, I’m sure he’d be more than happy to arrange it, however personally I don’t think it’s a good idea. He is powerful and while I cannot imagine him hurting you, I don’t doubt he’d try to manipulate you and feed you lies to reach his own goals, which, frankly, no one really knows but him.”

 

They left the restaurant, having been told that the meal was “On Rosie” by the golden waiter. The air outside had gotten chillier and rather than being discomforted, Doug found that it woke him up a little. The day had been a long one and despite his earlier nap he was ready for bed. He hadn’t seen as much of the city as he would have liked, but he knew a lot more than he had this morning. Despite his tiredness, he knew he had some work to do when he got home. They walked back the apartment, Max had offered to show him the subway system, but Doug declined, he was tired enough as it was and he feared that should he sit anywhere, he’d fall asleep. Besides that it was a short enough walk to the apartment. Max left him at the doors and walked off in the direction of his office, promising he’d see him tomorrow. Doug made his way upstairs, taking the elevator. As he walked down the corridor of the fifth floor he could hear occasional muffled noises. It was comforting and reminded him of his own apartment building. He let himself in and again locked the door behind him. As he did so he reminded himself that the area had to be safe, the council wouldn’t have put him somewhere dangerous, but that didn’t stop him turning the lock and sliding the chain across it. When that was done, he went into the kitchen and got himself a beer from the fridge, he had spotted them earlier. He sat down at the table and began to fill in his notes, jotting down impressions and views. He transferred any notes he had made by hand onto his laptop, typing them out with few mistakes. When he was done his eyes were gritty and sore, he rubbed them, downed his beer, then stood from the table. He shuffled things together to make it look a bit tidier then he stumbled into bed. He set his alarm then rolled over and fell into a deep sleep.

 

The alarm woke him early in the morning, as he sat up he could hear the faint sounds of others moving around the apartment building. He stumbled into the sitting room rubbing the sleep from his eyes and got himself a glass of water, he downed it, then filled it again. As he sipped his second glass he looked out of the window, outside people were moving about the street going, Doug assumed, to work. A few cars trundled passed, surprising him. He had thought that cars weren’t in common use in New Town. He’d have to ask Max about it later. He left the glass on the table and went into the bathroom.

Ready for the day Doug returned to the kitchen, he had a quick look in the fridge before grabbing an apple from the bowl on the counter, deciding he wasn’t all that hungry. It was crisp and delicious. As he ate he read over his notes, adding a few things here and there.

Part 6

 

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Talent. Short Story.

Joe hated disposing of the bodies, it was never any fun. Why couldn’t one of the others do it? They enjoyed it for crying out loud. That was the only reason they were making him doing it, because they knew he didn’t like it. It wasn’t like he was squeamish, no, give him a live one and he’d have them singing in a matter of minutes, then after he extracted everything they needed he could have his fun. They’d seen the bodies after he was done with them, no way could they think he was squeamish. But once the life was gone, it wasn’t really fun anymore. It was more like work than pleasure and now he found himself slicing up a cold corpse, how could anyone think this was fun? The damn thing just lay there. No screams or attempts to get away. What was the point of it? It had to be done, sure, but someone else could have done it, he was sure Larry liked this kind of thing, he sometimes volunteered. They’d all joked about what he’d done when alone with the bodies. Ick. Joe didn’t judge, whatever anyone was into, hey, it’s their thing, but this? How could it be enjoyable? He’d understand maybe if it was still warm, but cold? Cold and unmoving? Gross. He didn’t understand it and probably never would. He didn’t know who this bitch was when she was alive, he wasn’t given the option of torture. He didn’t recognise her, which wasn’t all that surprising, but usually he at least felt the person was familiar, this time she was a no one. They didn’t seem happy when they left the room though, no laughing and joking, no ribbing each other or mocking this bitch. Either they couldn’t get anything out of her, which if that was the case she was one tough bitch, or they did get everything, but really didn’t like what they heard. Joe was betting it was the latter, but if she kept her mouth shut, he was sorry to see her go. It was rare to find someone like that and it was always an absolute pleasure going up against them. Reminded him that he wasn’t infallible, but it also reminded him to stay creative, kept him on his toes.

The work was simple enough, extract information when needed, be ready to get rid of them, or leave very little marks. He’d gotten into it accidentally, they’d found him when he was having a little fun with some random guy and the boss offered him a job on the spot, said they always needed people like him. It was great, getting paid to do what you love? He didn’t need much convincing. Beyond that he didn’t really much care what they were doing. He knew there was some general plan to how things went, but that stuff always went over his head, in meetings he was usually devising new ways of inflicting pain, storing them away to test them out the next time. He knew it was more than a skill, it was an art and he needed to keep himself fresh. He didn’t want to turn stale, end up doing it for the sake of doing it than doing it for fun, or to see just how far he could go.

His friends, at least the few he had outside of work, didn’t really know what he did. Whenever they asked he’d always give some vague answer, making everything sound super, super boring. His parents didn’t know either, though he thought his father suspected. He could see that look in his father’s eye, the same one Joe got when he sized someone up, thought about what could be done to them. He was never brave enough to broach the subject. It was safer not to, after all, what if he was wrong? Then where would he be? Down a parent and with another that’d soon have to go too. It wasn’t as messy this way.
He was paid well, which always slightly confused him, even though he understood why. Normally the money was so you’d keep your mouth shut, so you wouldn’t rat on anyone or anything and you’d keep coming back, but Joe enjoyed the job, so did the others. They didn’t need an incentive like extra cash to keep them coming back. They did so willingly, and no one knew about them, not enough to try and poach them anyway. Besides, what could they offer? No one needed more money, who would want to betray their friends like that? People they knew for years? No one, that’s who.

He piled the pieces into the cart then set up the hose, quick blast of water to get rid of the surface evidence. Every few weeks someone would come in and wash the place down with cleaners, bleach and the like, Joe and his friends weren’t involved in that part though. The body suit he was wearing would be incinerated, like the others, then he’d shower here and change back into his street clothes, sometimes it was a pain in the ass, but the system worked, none of them had been caught yet. He wasn’t going to complain and start rocking the boat, where else would he find this kind of employment and find a steady supply of people to practise on? He had tried to keep track of them in the beginning, but after a while they just blended into one another.

He scanned the room, eyes going over the shiny and wet walls, checking there was nothing he had forgotten. Clothes and personal effects were in a bag in the designated space, they’d go to an incinerator soon. The walls had been washed, everything seemed properly done. He opened the door and wheeled the cart outside, smiling to himself, now that it was done, he could look forward to the next time. As he passed he checked the roster, just to double check, grinning he continued on, it was definitely his turn for the next one. He had found a strange, but interesting instrument in a hardware store, he didn’t really know what it was, but he would definitely have fun with it.

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A New Beginning. Flash Fiction.

Hope everyone had a good weekend, mine was pretty sedate, watched some movies with a friend, all fairly relaxing. Beyond that haven’t been up to too much. Found a really simple brownie recipe I quite like, which is both good and bad. Good, it’s easy, Bad, I’ll have brownies super quick and therefore more temptation to bake them.

On with the show!

__________________________________________________________________

It wasn’t just the betrayal that pissed her off so much, it was the sheer scale and organisation of it all. Could she have been a better friend at times? Sure, but the same could be said of pretty much anyone, she had never done anything awful to them, never treated them badly, yet they all turned on her for no apparent reason. They just froze her out, no explanation, no contact. Hell, she didn’t know anything was wrong until she turned up to their weekly girls night and found no one was there. Apparently they decided to go somewhere else, somewhere they wouldn’t have to see her. She could see Diane and Franny doing this, but not Becca, they’d been friends since they were children. It just didn’t make sense. Of course, had that been the end of it she could have dealt with it all, sure it would be painful and the next few months would be awkward, but no, they had to go around spreading lies, rumours and even her secrets. Things she had told them and only them. And why wouldn’t people believe them? She had known them all for years, but even casual friends seemed to be freezing her out. Like, ok, there might have been a few things, but hardly stuff that warranted her dismissal from the group, least of all that thing with the cat. That hadn’t been her fault at all. How was she supposed to know it wasn’t an outdoor cat, no one had thought to tell her that. Not her problem the stupid thing managed to get itself run over while outside. She felt bad for it, she really did, she even apologised for crying out loud.

Then there was the thing with Frank, but that wasn’t her fault either, after all he came onto her and she had turned him down. It might have taken a little longer to do it then it should have, but she was just being thorough, gathering proof. That was all. Hell, the pictures she sent him weren’t even of her! It was just ridiculous and there was no way that Franny could be angry with her, she had stopped Franny from making a horrible mistake. It was all just so ridiculous. They were lucky she wasn’t into the whole revenge thing. She could definitely drag them all through the mud. All those little things that were shared with her added up. She could tear the remains of her friend group apart with a few well placed phonecalls. She would be the bigger person.
When it first happened, she was worried that they suspected something, but that didn’t seem to be the case at least. If they had suspected she would have had to pull up her roots, move her entire life. It would have just been too messy. She was good at what she did and she enjoyed it, so she wasn’t ashamed, but it didn’t mean she wanted people to know. Besides, it wasn’t exactly legal and she didn’t want to get onto the wrong side of the police. It had been a temporary job that had expanded. It gave her an entire extra income. It was brilliant really. Her friends wouldn’t understand though, they’d think she was being abused or forced into it or something . Of course there were still dangers, but she was as careful as possible.
Why did they all seem to hate her so suddenly? It wasn’t like her behaviour changed or she did anything to any of them. It was just so sudden! Even her bosses seemed colder towards her. They must have done or said something but no one would tell her what, it was infuriating. It was all well and good trying to convince herself it was just some form of jealousy, but that didn’t really hold up, after all they wouldn’t be jealous of her, she had a lot going on in her life, but no more than any of them. She hadn’t gone after any guys they wanted, hadn’t flaunted any of her money, she was generous when she could be. Hell, just a few weeks before she picked up the tab for an entire night out. Did she even get a thank you? No. And then they just go ahead and cut her out?

It was downright cruel is what it was.
She looked at the small bottle, so full of promise. Would she continue? Could she? She had to though, she didn’t have a choice. It was part of the conditions. She didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye. She took out three then swallowed them with a glass of water. They said she’d be on a lower dose in a few months, that things would level out. That was something to look forward to. At least there were no side effects yet. At least none that weren’t intended. Still, it was cruel, even if it was her fault, it was easier, nicer, to blame them. It had to be done.

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New Town. Part 4

Part 1, Part 3

Max smiled as Doug opened the door, “Hey, are you all set to go?”
“Yeah, sure. Where are we going?”
“That depends, how are you feeling now?”
“Much better. I had a nap and a shower, I don’t feel all that sick or anything.”
“Good, I was hoping as much, in that case I think we’ll give Rosie’s a try, if it’s too much for you we can leave, but I think you’ll enjoy it, besides there’s someone I want you to meet.”
“Who?”

“I thought I’d introduce you to Maggie.”
“Didn’t you say she was dangerous?”
“Well, yes and no. She’s powerful, like, crazy powerful, also, don’t take any gifts from her, rarely is anything from her free. Don’t make any deals or agreements either. I don’t expect her to be like that tonight, but I just wanted to give a warning. She promised me she wouldn’t hurt you when you met, but that’s not much use. She wouldn’t agree to anything more.”
“This just sounds better and better.”
“She really isn’t all that scary. I’m just trying to prepare you. Just in case. It’ll be fine though, it really will.”

They left the apartment building, “so, who were you, before?”
“Me? I was no one. Really, I mean that. I had no family, no friends, worked in a crappy job I hated.”
“Then how did you get to be a part of the council?”
“Well, when the wall came down people panicked, I mean freaked the fuck out, understandably of course, but it was mayhem, absolute and complete. Riots, robbery, attacks. I helped calm things down, saved a few people here and there. Talked some other people down. It wasn’t any kind of power grab or anything, things just seemed to fall into my lap, people liked me, trusted me to help them, keep them safe. Some of the people I fought against now are my closest friends. I don’t really hold how people behaved back then against them.”
“But surely you should, I mean, when something like that happens you get to see what people are really like, don’t you?”
“I don’t believe that. I believe I got to see what people were like when they were terrified, when they were afraid that they, or their family were going to die. I mean, we didn’t know what was going on, lots of people thought it was some kind of terrorist attack and with all the new powers floating around that didn’t seem implausible, I mean it made more sense than magic wall. No one knew who they could or should trust. It took a lot for people to come back from that and I respect them for it. We’ve come a long way in three years. When those walls came down it was anarchy, and now we’ve a society, we’re functioning, we have law and order. People are happy to walk through the streets, nobody starves or freezes to death. That is what people are really like. They care, but they have to fight through a thousand instincts screaming self preservation in order to show it and that takes a lot of guts. It’s easy to stab someone in the back and steal their food, it’s harder to share it knowing it might be the last food you hold in your hands for a long, long time.”
They walked in silence for a few minutes. As they walked, Doug looked around the street, at the working streetlights, at the few cars that were parked up. It looked like a regular city, if not one with much less traffic. He could see lights in the windows the buildings, occasionally glimpsing an occupant as they walked by. The streets were not deserted, but there were only a few people out, rather than feeling creepy, it felt safe. There were well maintained trees planted regularly along the sidewalk, it all added up to make it a pretty nice place, even if it was a kind of prison for the people inside.

After a little while, Max broke the silence.

“They probably told you that they came in, sorted us out and we went back to being civilised. It was six months before they came in, eight before they offered any aid whatsoever. We already had the council at that point, it was new and a little shaky, sure, but we had it. They came in, thinking we were already dead or under attack by aliens or something. They didn’t expect to find us alive, functioning and recovering. If we hadn’t pulled together, they’d have been right. We fixed the problems ourselves, sure the government helped, but we did most of it.”
“I thought the government came in immediately, sent in teams for observation, brought food and aid, they said there were all sorts of diseases going around.”
Max smiled slightly, “yeah, I’ll bet. They sent in a group for observation. They lasted an hour before they fled. There was no aid, no help. Sure some of us were sick, but not that bad. There was no epidemic. They probably said that as a cover, could claim that we all just died out if they had to kill us all. Of course now they’ll say differently, say they thought the change was a sickness. That’s bull. The change isn’t pleasant, it lasts a few days, but it wasn’t communicable, we figured that out pretty quick. It would have been obvious to any outside source looking in.”
“You sound bitter.”
Max smiled again, this time wider. “It’s all in the past. No point in dwelling on it now. You’ll find some bitter people in here, no doubt about it, they think that the government failed them. I don’t think that, I think they made a pisspoor effort with what they had, but at least they tried. I think some of them are just still angry that people they knew and loved died. I mean we didn’t lose nearly as many as we could, or should have, but we still lost a lot. I don’t hold anything against your government. I don’t particularly trust them all that much, but I don’t blame them for what we went through. I think it was necessary. A kind of chrysalis. We could throw away what we didn’t need, keep what we did. We try to run things with the best intentions, but it doesn’t always work out. That’s something we learned pretty quick. Intentions count for shit when it comes down to it all.”

Rosie’s was bristling with people, Doug felt slightly off when he scanned the crowd, but nothing was close to how he felt before. The place was dotted with tables, most were completely filled, staff weaved their way through carrying trays of food and drinks, the walls were lined with booths and in the centre was a square bar lined with stools. The bartenders in the centre of the room were a bit more sedate than the rest of the servers, but were still moving quickly. Max led Doug through the crowd to the back, where there was an empty table.
“I didn’t expect it to be so busy. I would have chosen somewhere a bit quieter if I’d have known.”
“It’s fine.”
They sat and a second later a waiter appeared, hanging them both menus before pulling a small pad from his pocket, he flipped to a new page, “Hi guys, welcome to Rosie’s, would you like a drink while you peruse the menu?”

The waiter was of average height, but it looked like he had been made out of gold, his skin shone faintly, as did his hair, his eyes were a bright, almost impossible, sky blue. Doug tried not to stare.
“Could I have a coke?”
“Make it two.”
The waiter jotted it down, nodded then disappeared. They looked at the menus in silence, it was pretty standard restaurant fare. The waiter appeared again with their drinks, “are you ready to order or do you need a minute?”
“No, I’m ready, you?”
Doug nodded. They placed their orders, the waiter scribbled it down, then taking the menus, left them again. They sat in comfortable silence while Doug surveyed the room, he felt a little bad staring at people, but no one seemed to notice all that much. After a moment, his head started to feel a bit swimmy, he redirected his gaze to the table, “are you feeling ok?”
“Yeah, little head rush.”
“Have a drink, the sugar will help.”
Doug picked up his coke and took a sip without looking up. When he started to feel better he looked at Max again.
“Was it like this in the beginning? When people started to change?”
“Yes and no, we didn’t get it nearly as bad as you or the army guys, though good news, once you go through it all that’s it, you’re set for life. I think because there were less of us at the time we got used to it a lot more easily. It lasted about the same amount of time for us, probably a bit longer as we were all feeling shitty anyway. Then when the change happened, if you were still feeling it, it went away completely.”
Doug scanned the room again. “it’s pretty intense. I’d never thought I’d see something like this. I mean, even knowing it’s real, it’s hard not to think some of them are just wearing make up or costumes.”
“There’s some people out there that are still a bit hard to look at, unless their your own kind, makes your head hurt a little. It can be a bit hard to understand them too, the words sound all garbled. Takes a while to get used to it.”
“Are there many like that?”
“A couple, we’re not sure how many, they all keep to themselves really. They’ve a few representatives we meet with every few weeks or so depending on any issues they have and the severity of them. Mostly they’re able to look after themselves.”
“Would it be possible for me to meet one of them too?”
Max frowned, “I’m honestly not sure. I don’t think I’ve seen a pure human meet them before, I don’t know what’ll happen. We could give it a shot if you like, though it might be a little dangerous. If you’re comfortable with it we could set it up so you can’t see them, just hear. I don’t know, I’ll ask the others, they might be able to come up with an easy solution to it.”
Doug looked around once more, wondering what it would be like to meet something that screwed with these people. It was almost like a normal restaurant, he could see friends chatting, couples holding hands, but everyone looked, simply put, wrong. Sure, a few looked human, but Doug was sure that none of them were. Some had simple things, like strange and brightly coloured skin or hair, others were tall, towering at high tables and chairs at the back. Others were large, unbelievably so, taking up the space where three or four people could easily sit. Despite the size of some of the patrons, the place didn’t seem overly full. Whoever had changed everything around had done a good job, making sure that there was enough space for everyone.

The food arrived a moment later, the waiter placed their food down and with a smile asked if there was anything else. Assuring him they were fine, he left to check on another table.
Doug took a bite of his food, lasagne. It was perfect. Just the right balance of meat, sauce, pasta and cheese.
“Oh my god. This is the best lasagne I’ve ever eaten.”
“Rosie’ll be delighted when she hears that. She makes it herself.” Max was steadily cutting off pieces of steak and popping them into his mouth, occasionally pausing to eat a chip or take a sip of coke.

 

After the plates had been cleared, the waiter returned again, bearing two plates of cheesecake, “Rosie sends this with her compliments and she wanted me to thank you for what you said, it meant a lot to her,” the waiter grinned, “She said it wasn’t like you had to lie about it so she’d keep feeding you.”
“How did she know?”
Max looked amused, “don’t worry about it. Tell her thanks.”
The waiter nodded and left them. Doug looked around, the ambient noise meant no one was close enough to have been eavesdropping. He frowned at the cheesecake, then picked up a fork, it, like the lasagne, was perfect. light and creamy. Doug ate slowly, savouring each bite. When he was finished, he found himself absolutely stuffed and wishing he had room for more.

“This is one of the more popular places, I’m sure you see why. In a bit they’ll stop serving food, sometimes they have bands in too. Everyone is pretty friendly. C’mon, we’ll go say hi to Maggie now. She’s over there at the back.”
Doug looked to where Max was pointing but couldn’t see who he was talking about, there was an empty booth against the back wall. Doug stood and followed Max around the tables, Max would occasionally wave or call out to someone, but he never slowed too much.

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