New Town. Part 27

Part 1, Part 26

The ground shook harder, throwing them off their feet. A tear opened in the ground, the dull roar began to fade, replaced with screeching.
Todd looked at Max, then Doug, “Maybe it would be better if you came with us.”
There was noise from the hole, growing steadily louder.
“C’mon, lets go.”

They started to walk quickly.

They were a short distance away when the ground rumbled again, behind them there was a shriek, they turned to see a long centipede clawing its way out of the earth. It was about eight foot tall and impossibly long. They spread out, ready to attack, but the centipede moved right past them, ignoring everyone. They watched as it moved towards the wall.
It wasn’t the only one. More insects pulled themselves from the earth and started to swarm the wall, crawling over its surface, looking for what ever was attacking it.

As they moved closer to the wall the air grew hotter. They moved carefully, scanning the area around them should there be an ambush, but there was nothing. In the distance they could see someone standing at the wall, a great, hulking beast.

 

Samantha was starting to falter. Her strength was reaching its limits. She felt lightheaded, weak, but still she pushed on. Just a little longer, she could feel it weakening beneath her power. The wall seemed to shimmer, then it began to bow outwards. She was almost there. Her breathing was fast now, coming in shallow gasps, she could almost touch that well of power, she could feel it moving just out of her reach.

 

“Why hasn’t it attacked us?”
“It must be using all its energy on the wall.”
“Ok, but then why isn’t there any kind of back up for it? It had to have known that someone would try and stop it.”
“Maybe it didn’t think it would take this long. Look, if we just attack it, surely the break will stop the magic.”
“Yeah, but I-”

Both of Max’s men started to run at the beast, one let out a roar and as he did so a ball of blue light lefts his mouth, shooting at the creature. One of the insects detached itself from the wall and flung itself in front of the ball of energy, it exploded spraying chunks of viscera and thick black goo everywhere. The other insects began to drop off the wall and home in on Max’s men, before anyone could move to help them, they were torn to shreds, dragged under hundreds of the creatures. The screams faded away, the insects moved around restlessly for a moment, then began to crawl back to the wall.
“What the hell was that?”
“Either they thought they were attacking the wall, or they work with that thing.”
“If they worked for it, they’d be surrounding it in a protective barrier. They must be connected to the wall.”
“Then why did they attack?”
“Maybe the wall is trying to absorb the power being thrown at it? The bugs might view it as another power source.”
“So how do we stop it without magic?”
“We need to get close to it, but I don’t know if the bugs will attack us.”
“They haven’t yet. They might let us get close enough to be able to stop it.”
They were about twenty feet from the beast when a gargantuan beetle detached itself from the wall and moved in front of them. It stopped and made no move to attack. Everyone paused.
“We’ll need to distract it.”
“If we do the rest of them will come down and attack us. We need something else.”
“We need someone to attack the wall.”
“What?”
“Just hear me out. One of us goes a few hundred feet down, attacks the wall and runs for a bit. When the bugs get close, get out of here and back to New Town, they won’t be able to follow through and they’ll be distracted long enough for us to have a shot at that thing.”
“I’ll do it.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. I’m a good runner.” Mark kissed Todd, then started running away from them before anyone could object.
Doug couldn’t quite make out what Mark was doing, but the bugs suddenly turned and started to run along the wall. Once the area around them was slightly clear, they put their attention to the beast standing in front of them. Max started to shimmer and shift, his arm elongating and changing. He shouted something, his voice deep and hissing, a bolt of scarlet left his hand and struck the beast, it stumbled to the side but when it regained its balance it was standing taller. Todd shouted something, and a ball flew from his hand. It struck the beast but had no effect. Doug looked back, some of the insects were returning, and quickly. They had to end it soon. Max and Todd kept hurling energy at the beast, but if anything it seemed to be strengthening it. Then needed to get it to stop, break its concentration. He looked at the beast it was tall, taller than him. He hadn’t realised how much the beast was sagging until it started to regain some of its energy, even now it wasn’t standing at full height. Max and Todd had stopped flinging energy at it. Doug gritted his teeth and started to run, he launched himself at the Beast, his shoulder slammed into it, hard. It felt like he had just tackled a wall, but the beast was still weak and faltered, then fell beneath the weight. Its head crashed into the ground, stunning it. The power stuttered, then seemed to increase in strength. Someone dragged Doug off the beast. There was a blinding flash of light and the wall shuddered, becoming shadowy again. The beast seemed smaller, more human. The insects behind them stopped, then started to scuttle away from the wall. As Doug watched the beast transformed into a young girl in her mid to late teens. Her eyes were closed and dark, her skin was pale. As they watched her body seemed to thin. When it stopped she looked small, frail.

“Who is she?”
“I don’t know.”
“Neither do I.”

 

Samantha lay on the ground, unable to move. She felt so weak, so helpless. She reached out for her power, there was nothing there but a faint trickle. She tried to pull it forward to giver herself strength. It responded weakly, then stopped. She could hear people speaking, but she couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. She didn’t care, why would she? She had failed. The wall had won and it had taken almost all her power from her. She was useless. Weak. She felt a faint breath of air across her face and darkness fell over her.

“What should we do with her?”
“She’ll need to face punishment for her crimes.”
“Well, for now I think she needs medical attention. Look at her, she’s barely alive.”
“We’ll have to guard her around the clock, it’ll be too dangerous for her to be unattended.”
Todd started to mutter something under his breath, then he leaned down and blew into her face gently. She became almost completely still.
“What did you do?”
“She’s unconscious. She will be for the next month. We can treat her body safely and once she’s well you can move her to a prison.”
“Why didn’t you do that sooner?”
Todd shrugged, “I need to be relaxed when I do it. It can’t be done under stress. Otherwise bad things can happen.”
Doug stood in front of the door, waiting for the army men to step through and escort him back out. Now that the threat was apparently over he would have liked to stay longer, but Max had insisted it would be best if he left for a short while at least. He had everything he needed and even a few plans. He thought that despite what happened they’d open the doors soon enough, but before that happened he might be able to convince them to allow him to come back. Write a kind of travel column about restaurants and places to visit. The door in front of him opened and two men in army fatigues stepped through. They grabbed his bags and after a few words with the people standing around, indicated that Doug should step through. As he did so he felt a faint shiver along his spine, a feeling of longing, he wanted to go back. It passed after a few seconds. The army guys stood either side of him, Doug turned to look back at New Town, but the doors had already closed.
 

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Traditions. Short Story.

Tom took the pen from his father and signed his name quickly, then passed the pen to his brother John.

“Well, go on, sign it.”
John frowned, then started to write his name.
“It’s not like you have a choice anyway.”
“I know. I still wanted to give it a quick read.”
Tom shook his head, “why bother? We both know what it says.”
John put the pen down and handed the contract to his father.
“Good. Now that it’s done, it starts. How about a drink?”
“Yeah. Sure.”
“Okay.”
Their father stood and made his way to the small drinks cabinet, he poured a measure of whiskey into each glass, then returned with them.

Tom took his glass but didn’t drink, John downed it in one swallow.
“So who do you think will win?”
“I don’t know. It’s not for me to say. All I know is the best of you will win, as it should be.”
Tom nodded and took a sip of his drink, then after a moments hesitation swallowed it all.
“Want another?”
“Yeah. Sure.”
Tom took Johns glass and went to the drinks cabinet.

“I’m not sure if that is bravery, or stupidity.”
“It’s fine Father. Tradition dictates we have twenty four hours.”
“Tradition is not law. The law says it begins once you both sign.”

John shrugged, “I know Tom. He is going to wait the twenty four hours. He won’t lose face like that. Isn’t that right?”
“Why break from tradition? Besides, I know you won’t start until the time is up because of your sense of honour. We’re both safe until tomorrow night.”
John nodded.

“Have you both spoken to your mother?”
“Yes, I have Father.”
“As have I.”
“Good. She wouldn’t be happy if she didn’t get to speak to both of you before it all started. She asked me not to do this you know.”
“Oh?”
“Yes. Though of course she knew it was the best option. It’ll save everyone grief and heartache down the road. And it will prevent any major losses. I am sure you have both adequately prepared for this. In case something happens before you can sire a child?”
“Yes. As the contract stipulates we have that all covered. I can’t imagine needing it.”
“Just be thankful its an option. Years ago you would have already have had children by this point. And whoever lost, would have their-”
“We know father. It was much more barbaric back then.”
Their father frowned, “Don’t think that you have become men, purely from signing your name. No. You will not be a man until the terms of the contract have been met. And even then, I will still be your better up until the day I die. Do not interrupt me again. The punishment will be harsher than it was when you were children. You may not be men, but you know enough to know better.”
“I’m sorry father. It was wrong of me to interrupt you.”
Tom handed the glass to John, it was noticeably fuller than when their father had poured the drinks. As he passed it, he turned his head slightly and made a face. John took the glass and raised it to his lips to hide the faint smile.
He would be sad when his brother was gone. They got on very well, better than anyone had expected. Still. That was life. It would play out as it had to. He swallowed a mouthful of the drink, enjoying the heat of it. John knew he was going to succeed, but it was still best not to underestimate his brother. He knew how sly Tom could be. Hell, they had worked together to get Frank out of the running all those years ago. It had been quite simple really and no one had suspected. It had just been a terrible accident. A child too young to have been playing near the pool unattended. A child, naïve enough to trust his brothers until the moment that he fell in. John sometimes wondered if Frank realised what they had done to him in the seconds before the died.

He took another sip of his drink and realised his father was speaking.
“And I hope it won’t be a long, drawn out affair.”
“I don’t think it will be father. We are both eager for this. I don’t think either of us wants to waste time.”
“He’s right. I think it will be done before the year is out.”
Tom looked at his brother and smiled, “Yes, I agree with that. I see no reason to waste time.”

Their father finished his drink and put the glass down, then he stood up.
“I wish you both luck. I will no longer acknowledge your existence until one of you is the winner.”

With that their father left the room.
Tom took another sip of his drink and they sat in silence.

“I’m surprised that it has come to this to be honest. I thought you’d do something reckless and take yourself out of the running years ago.”
“You underestimate me dear brother. I would do no such thing. The risks I take are calculated for the best returns.”

Silence fell again.

“Well, I guess this is the last time we will be able to speak to one another in a relaxed setting. Is there anything that needs to be said between us?”
“No. I don’t think so.”
Tom smiled, “Me neither.”
They drained their drinks and stood, then they shook hands and left through different doors.

Tom sat into his car and drove off, smiling to himself. John had been correct, he would observe the traditional twenty four hour truce. At least, it would appear as though he had observed it. It had been a simple matter to procure a poison that would only visibly take effect after twenty four hours had passed. John would be dead within three days and Tom would receive everything, as the contract stated. He Just had to keep himself out of harms way for two days. Neither could use intermediaries. It had to be done by themselves. Once his brother was dead, he would sneak some food into his house and claim to have poisoned that. They wouldn’t check how much poison was in his system, after all they would have no reason to. Once he was able to prove he had supplied it to his brother, Tom was in the clear.

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The Coffee Shop. Short Story.

Hope everyone’s weekend went well. Mine was pretty relaxing. I have been cat sitting for my sister for the past three weeks. She’s was being kept in my room as the two dogs are not fans of cats. It was pretty ok for the first two and a half weeks. Then she decided it was ok to wake me up at night for attention. How do you wake a sleeping human? Oh, plenty of ways. You can walk on the pillow, or their head. You can meow lots, perch on their shoulders, poke at their face with your paw. The only thing stopping you is your imagination!

Yeah.

Despite that she is a pretty nice cat. She’s friendly and gentle. I was scratched once the entire time, and that was trying to get her into her carrier when she was leaving. Even then it was less a “fuck you” scratch and more of a “oh god, oh god no!” trying to get a grip on something scratch.

Despite her being nice and the room seeming quiet and empty, I’m fairly happy I was able to get a good nights sleep last night that was pretty much uninterrupted.
It was also nice to have a quiet weekend.

_____________________________________________________________

Jane sat against the wall, hands wrapped around her coffee cup. She brought it to her lips and took a sip, as she did so she glanced around the coffee shop, then she placed the mug down and looked at her book. Occasionally she would turn a page, but she wasn’t reading it, it was a cover. She was sitting in her usual spot, on the bench that ran along the wall, and scanning the people who entered. She knew them all, by sight if not personally. Those who actually knew her wouldn’t bother her, everyone knew she took the time for herself, a little break. They wouldn’t interrupt that, not with all the stresses she had at home. This was her third day of observation and she was starting to feel more confident. They wouldn’t notice that she wasn’t actually reading, why would they? She needed to be subtle, discrete. Something was wrong and Jane had to figure out what it was.

She noticed it a week before, some of the people she saw and talked to were slightly off. It wasn’t extremely noticeable, an extra beat before answering, a faraway look they had. It had been going on for a few days but she had assumed that people were just having an off day. But the off day continued. Slowly more and more people began to exhibit the same quirks, the same pauses. They looked normal, like their every day selves, but something was different, something was wrong. Once she had noticed it properly, she began to feel it, these weren’t the people she knew, they weren’t the people she had come to recognise in the street. No these people were different, at the very least imposters, if not something more sinister. Once she had realised that it didn’t take her long to notice the patterns. There was Pink Housecoat, bringing her dog for a walk, sure, nothing unusual about that, except that it happened every day at 1.07 P.M. on the dot, they would pass the tree and wave at someone across the street. Now, that wouldn’t be all that odd if it happened once or twice, but it happened every day for the last week. Every day at exactly 1.07. Before Pink Housecoat would be walking sure, but some days she would be running a little late or a little early and others Jane wouldn’t see her at all. Jane didn’t know what she did during the day, but she always looked a little dishevelled, hair messy, a quick swipe of make up across the cheeks. The outfits changed, sweatpants or jeans, plain, bright t-shirts, but she always wore that pink housecoat. She still looked dishevelled, she still had the fly away hairs and changing outfits, the same pink housecoat, but something was wrong. She was too exact. The person Pink Housecoat waved at was Leather Briefcase. Jane thought that perhaps he was some kind of lawyer. He certainly had the look, perfect suits, shined, leather shoes and that black leather briefcase. Every day for the past week he would be leaving the bakery at exactly 1.07, the door opening with a faint ding as he stepped out with a coffee cup and a bag of pastries clutched in one hand. The hand he always raised in return greeting. Before it wouldn’t have been unusual for Jane to see him every second or third day, but now it was every day at the same time for a full week.

And they weren’t the only ones, Homeless Bob, Half-Naked Jogger, Poodle Skirt, they all seemed to be following the same routine, every single day like clockwork. And there was no way that was possible unless something about them was different. Changed. Maybe they were working together for something, though that was unlikely, she had seen them about the place for months, if not years in some cases. All these people who occupied her neighbourhood, who she didn’t really know. It wasn’t just them either, the people she knew were doing the same thing. Johnny, Clara, Sammy, the baristas at the coffee shop and, as each day passed, it seemed more and more of them were changing. Acting oddly. So far she hadn’t mentioned it to anyone, why would she? They would think she was insane, hell, even she wondered if everything was ok up there for the first few days. But now she knew, she knew that something wasn’t right, that everyone was changing. She didn’t know how or why, but she knew she had to keep a careful watch to make sure it didn’t happen to her. So, she continued with her little ritual, every day. She left the house at around one and she walked to the coffee shop, book tucked into her small bag. She would enter the coffee shop, order her coffee and tea, then sit in her usual spot and take the book out and begin to read. Then, once she had enjoyed her coffee and following cup of tea, she would leave the coffee shop, wishing the staff a good day and having left her money and a few coins for a tip on the table.

She took another sip of coffee and glanced at her watch casually. There was Owl Man, taking a bite of his muffin, at exactly the same time as yesterday. She frowned at the page slightly, he had been normal until the day before yesterday. Something had happened to him. He was switched out or changed seemingly over night. The sound of a cackle cut through the dull murmurs, Jane didn’t wince, she had been expecting that laugh. Lipstick always laughed like that. Jane looked up slightly, and there it was, Lipstick gently placing her hand on the arm of Larry, one of the baristas. He smiled back at her, then moved slightly to get her drink started. Lipstick turned and weaved through the tables, it was even the same path! Then she plopped down onto a seat, took out a mirror and checked her make up. Jane looked away, already knowing that she was going to dig through her bag for three seconds, no more, no less, and retrieve a tube of bright red lipstick, then she would carefully apply it to her mouth. Just as she finished, Larry would place her drink onto the table and smile at her, then he would say something annnddd…Right on cue, that cackle again.

The first few times it happened Jane questioned her sanity, then she questioned time itself, perhaps she was just in a kind of loop that they sometimes have in TV shows or movies, but the day kept changing, Monday moved into Tuesday as it should, yet still she saw the same things happening again and again. She had dismissed her theory that they were spies, spying on someone, maybe even her, because their movements were so repetitive that if someone like her noticed, surely a spy would see straight away that something wasn’t right.

Jane finished her coffee, then placed the empty cup down, she looked back at her book and started the countdown, when she reached one Karen picked up the coffee cup and placed down a mug of herbal tea. Jane looked up from her book and smiled, “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome, do you want anything else?”
“No, thank you, the tea is plenty.”
Then Karen would turn and clear off the table to her right.

Jane picked up the tea and took a sip. As she placed it down a sudden thought struck her. What if it was through the food and drink? What if they put something in it. She looked at her tea, it looked normal. Could she trust it? Sure, she had been fine, but what if what ever they put in it had a cumulative effect, taking a few days to happen?

She glanced around quickly, no one was watching her, no one was making sure she drank her tea. She left it where it was.

As Jane was packing up to leave, Karen came over again to pick up the empty tea cup, but it wasn’t empty. Karen frowned slightly, “Was the tea ok? If there was something wrong I would have made you another cup.”
“No, it was lovely, I just wasn’t in the mood for it today.”

Karen shrugged, then glanced around, “Ok, then it’s on the house for today.” she winked.

“No, that’s really not necessary.”
“I insist. You come in here every day, really, it’s the least we can do.”
“If you’re sure then.”
“Definitely”

Karen took the cup and walked away. Jane placed her money onto the table and left, leaving enough to cover the coffee, tea and her usual scattering of coins for a tip. As Jane walked home, she didn’t pay too much attention to what was happening around her. It had been different today, she had caused a change in the behaviour of someone. She had never set out to try and disrupt anyone before, but now that it happened it lead to some questions. Karen didn’t seem to mind that Jane didn’t drink the tea, so it was probably safe enough to drink. Unless it was the coffee. The interaction struck her as vaguely important, though she couldn’t pinpoint exactly why she thought that.

Jane let herself into the house, “I’m home!” There was no response, though there never was. She felt better here, safer. There was no danger, no risks of being changed like the others. She had been feeling the stress build up the last few days. The coffee shop was supposed to be her time to relax and unwind, but now that was gone. She leaned against the closed door and took a deep breath. It was fine, tonight she’d take a bubble bath and relax a little then.

As she approached the back room, she could hear the machines beeping. She found it reassuring. She opened the door and entered, the machines kept up their steady rhythm. Jane walked to her husbands bedside and kissed him gently on the forehead, “I hope I wasn’t gone too long.” She didn’t know if he could understand her, but she still said it every time. She moved around the bed, checking that everything was still in order. Francine, the nurse entered the bedroom, “I just checked, everything is fine.”
“I know, I just wanted to sit with him for a little bit.”
Francine hadn’t changed. Yet.
“I’m just making myself some tea, do you want anything?”
“Yes, I’d love a cup, thank you.”
It was always the same. The nurse would sit with her for a little while, they’d chat, talk about concerns, then Francine would be off to her next patient and Jane would be left alone with her husband. The thought of it still worried her, despite being prepared in case something should happen.

She sat, holding his hand until the Francine popped her head in again, “The tea is ready.”
Jane squeezed his hand and left the room. As she walked to the kitchen, Jane wondered if she should tell Francine about what was happening. Surely it would be good to tell someone other than her husband of it. Particularly if something happened to her. But she held back. What if Francine thought she was crazy and had her committed? Then who would look after Mark? He’d be left in some hospital, alone all day. She wouldn’t let that happen to him. Besides, she wanted to be there if something happened, if he changed. The doctors had told her it was unlikely, that there was too much damage but still, Jane knew he would get better if she just waited long enough. She just had to have faith.

Jane sat down at the kitchen table, hands wrapped around the hot cup, not drinking any of it. They talked for a while, mindless chit chat. Towards the end, Francine reached out for Jane’s hand and squeezed it slightly. “You’d tell me if you weren’t doing ok, right? It’s a lot of pressure and stress on you, looking after him as you do.”
Jane opened her mouth to speak, to say something, anything, then the moment passed, she smiled, “Of course I would. I’m fine. Really.”
Francine gave her hand another light squeeze. “If you have any worries or concerns, you have my number. I know I say it all the time but really, do ring me if you need to, about anything at all.”

“Thank you, I will.”

 

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New Town. Part 26

Sorry this is up late, I’m having a really off day. I can’t concentrate on anything. I don’t know. It’s a little short this week, but next week will be the final installment, then we’ll either launch into something else or have short stories for a few weeks. I’ll talk about it more next week.

Until then!

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Part 1, Part 25

“surely if the wall comes down it won’t matter what happens to me.”
“We don’t know that, it could be a distraction.”
“Even if you get me out now, it could be weeks, months before free travel is allowed. There’s going to be all kinds of debates, discussions and legislation that’s going to be written. I don’t think me going through will be enough. That doesn’t constitute free travel, at least not in the way that matters.”

“Still, we’re going to try and get you out if we can. Even if it doesn’t change anything it will hopefully protect you if there’s some kind of magical rebound. I don’t know if the reset will protect you as you’re not technically a part of this.”
“Maggie did something to me, I don’t know what. That would cover me in terms of being protected, wouldn’t it?”
“It might.”
“Ok, so then don’t worry about me, worry about how you’re going to stop this. Are there plans in place for something like this happening?”
“Not that I know of, Max would know more than me, but as far as I know the council just assumed the wall would protect itself. I mean, what ever did this should have made the wall strong enough to withstand everyone in here.”

Outside the rain, hail and snow stopped, thick clouds still covered the sky, but everything was bright. They stopped speaking and moved closer to the windows, staring out. “Do you think it’s stopped?”
“No, the wall wouldn’t be glowing still if it was over.”

 

Max walked in the front door, “How did you get in?”
“The defences are down. They’re down everywhere. Magic is being drained from everywhere.”
“Shit. We should get out of here now.”
A hole appeared in the middle of the room, Todd stepped through, followed by Doug and the others. They were in a garden, though everything in it looked sick and weak.
As the last person stepped through the hole closed, “Defences are still here, they’re weak, but they are here.”
Doug could feel himself vibrating, the ground was trembling.
“The wall is draining power from everywhere, it’ll tear everything apart before it breaks down.”

“Look, over there.”
Max was pointing at a large, black barrier that was growing taller as they watched, “What is it?”
“It’s the wall on this side.”

“You wait here, we’re going to go try and stop it.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“No, you’re going to stay here. If we manage to stop it I don’t want you dying in the mean time. You’ll be safe enough here.”

 

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Giants Road. Short Story.

James walked slowly, a dry wind picked up, stirring the dirt around his feet and bringing with it the scent of dust. He breathed shallowly until it passed and the dust started to settle again. He should have brought a mask with him, but he had thought he wouldn’t need it for some stupid reason. He had seen others go through without masks, so he figured he would be okay. He stopped and fumbled through his pack for a moment before he found a bandana, carefully he tied it around his mouth. Then he shouldered the pack and continued. He could feel their gaze on him, staring down with dead eyes. He could feel them calling out to him, beckoning him closer. He stayed in the centre of the path. Sometimes he would glance at their feet and see shapes huddled against them. He had shone his light on one, revealing a body, withered like the husk of some insect. He couldn’t make out her features, couldn’t tell if she had been young or old. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t shine his light on any of the other lumps. He had agreed to walk through the Giants Road, but now the reasons as to why were becoming muddy. He was told that would happen. His thoughts would begin to fade, his mind emptying until either he reached the end or died. What ever it had been it must have been important. He knew that he had been repeating it to himself at some point, but time was strange here. It could have been ten minutes ago, or seven hours.
The giants were perhaps four hundred feet tall, they were lining the edges of the canyon, huddled together, standing tall in long, draping clothes that appeared to be made from rock, but would shift slightly every so often. Their heads were harsh and pointed, their eyes glaring down. They had been here as long as anyone could remember. They had never left the road, or the canyon that it ran through. James had heard, and taken part in, debates as to whether or not they were alive or just statues, he knew now that they were alive. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands down here. All staring. All waiting for him to slip up. One mistake and that could be the end of him. He stopped. Staring ahead. The road seemed endless. Did he have to come back through here again? Or was it a one way trip? He started to walk towards one of the walls, he would sit for a moment and figure it out. As his foot hit the sand at the side of the path he froze. Then took a careful step backwards. No. It was a trick, that was all, he would remember when he reached the end. James took a slow deep breath to steady himself and began to walk, he was struck by a sudden feeling of frustration. As he walked it began to fade. Feeling shaken, he kept his eyes down as he walked, focusing only on the path, that was all that mattered. Once he remembered to keep walking on the path he would be ok.

Time passed in a haze. In the beginning he would look back occasionally to see how far he had come, but the deeper he went, the less useful it became until all he could see were the giants, stretching into the distance either way. As his thoughts became less organised he started to feel more flashes of emotion, pulling and tugging at him. He ignored it as best as he could, the path was the most important thing, everything else was irrelevant. He knew he had been walking for a long, long time, but he had yet to feel tired. Occasionally he would feel a pang of hunger and when that happened he would grab something from his pack and eat while he walked.

Finally he could see it, the end. He walked a little faster, feeling it pull at him. He wanted to be out, to be free of the gaze of the giants, to look up and see the wide, open sky. He wasn’t sure what it looked like, but he remembered that it was beautiful. The air here seemed cleaner, fresher.

Only two more and then he would be free. He started a light jog and burst out, breathing deeply, almost laughing as he looked at the wide, blue expanse of sky above him. He moved further from the entrance and collapsed onto the ground, staring upwards as he felt things come back to him. After a while he sat up and looked around, in front of him there was nothing but a large grass plain, stretching for miles. In the distance he could just make out what appeared to be mounds on the horizon. James rested for a little longer, then he stood and started walking. This trip went by quickly, the sun was shining down and the breeze was fresh and sweet.

He climbed the small hill and looked down into the small bowl that it created. It was filled with flowers. He walked down and picked one, it looked like a daisy, but it was completely white, down to the stalk. He took out a small container and put it inside carefully. You were only allowed take one, he didn’t know what would happen if he tried to take another, but he didn’t want to risk it.

James stood at the entrance of the Giants Road, breathing slowly, steadying himself. He could make it through, he knew he could. He took one last look at the sky, then he started to walk.

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Discovery. Short Story.

Shelly sat in the attic, looking at the pile of paper before her.

Her father had died three months before. She had inherited the house and everything that was in it, but she hadn’t the strength to start clearing things away until now. Even then, she was more looking through things than throwing anything out, the black bags she had brought up here were still sitting neatly to one side, completely empty. She had found this box of letters and recognised her fathers handwriting immediately, neat and orderly, and a few that seemed to have her mothers spidery scrawl. When she had opened the first she had expected some kind of love letter or letters from when her father would go on long business trips. It felt strange to be reading them, but she hoped it would provide some connection to her parents, who were always very affectionate to one another, and to her, in life. It had practically killed her father when her mother died three years before. Shelly could see that he was just going through the motions and she had feared for him. She had tried to bring him to life, to encourage him to go out and make friends, do something, anything than sit around the house. It had seemed to be working for a short while, until he shut himself away again.

The letters had begun innocuously, the top few were between her parents, general conversation sprinkled with love. As she worked her way deeper, the tone started to change, they were more formal letters, listing details they should have known about one another. Business like in their discussion of marriage and children. About half way down the letters between her parents stopped and the letters took a strange turn. To her left was the first letter she had found between her parents, from her mother to her father. It was short and simple,

“Dear Mr. Conway,

My name is Edith Smith, I’m sure are this point you have been made aware of the arrangement. I thought this would facilitate our eventual meeting.

I graduated top of my class and immediately started in the field. I worked alone for the first three years before it was decided I should have a partner.

I am a clean person, I enjoy cooking, but not cleaning. I expect each of us to look after our own laundry and mess. I will happily cook for us both if you are happy with that. I enjoy listening to the radio and reading books in my spare time. I enjoy dinners out and going to the movies occasionally.

I do hope we will get along as it seems we are to be together for a long time.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

Edith Smith.”

Her fathers reply had been similar in tone, it was a few letters later that they began to become friendly to one another and eventually, she could sense the easy familiarity and then love.

The letters before that were from some kind of business. Lots of letters congratulating him on a job well done, the details were not very clear or specific. Mostly just “congratulations on your solving the Frederick case, it was a tough one.” And “We were pleased you were able to complete the case so quickly and with minimal fuss.” Along with a few details regarding payments or how he could follow up on the case.

None of them went into detail, though neither did they seem to contain codes. Shelly couldn’t understand it. Her father had been a businessman, but the letters seemed to hint at more than just simple business. As far as she had known, her parents had met when they were in their early twenties at a dance and had fallen in love quickly, married within a few months. There was no mention of this strange correspondence or the apparent arrangement of their get together. Was it some kind of arranged marriage they were ashamed of? Were they some sort of spies in deep cover? Shelly dismissed that theory quickly, if they were spies they certainly would have put any of this in writing, nor would they have kept it. Even now she wasn’t sure why her father had done so. Perhaps he couldn’t bear to part with a physical memento of her mother. Maybe he had just forgotten they were here. His mind had been slipping at the end.

She gathered up the letters and placed them back into the box. She would bring them with her and study them later. Perhaps something of their mysterious past would be revealed once she had time to digest it a little. She set the box aside and grabbed another, hoping she would find more clues.

She went through several boxes, each one full of useless junk, none of which she could figure why they would be stored here. One was simply full of doorknobs, none of which matched any of the others in the house. As far as she was aware her father didn’t collect them though she had started to question what she really knew about her parents.

She pulled over another box and feeling the weight of it, decided it would be the last one for the day. She pulled it open and revealed books, some thin, some thick and all crammed in together. Frowning she started to unpack them. Both her parents were voracious readers, but they never kept books for long. Usually they were stacked on a shelf in the living room until it was deemed time to bring them to a second hand bookshop, usually when there were about ten or so. Each one of the books had a thick cover that felt like leather. None of them had titles written on the front or the spines of the them. She opened one and found her fathers neat writing. Were they diaries? She flicked through it, but found no dates listed. She opened another few, grabbing them at random. One or two had her mothers writing, but most seemed to be written by her father. She stopped at one entry,
“It was a difficult case, I was almost caught twice by the police. Luckily, I was able to dispatch Mr. Smith quickly and quietly. His body was sent back for examination. It seemed we were right and his kind were mutating, even if it was only slightly. They had failed to disclose this information to us. There is some discussion as to whether they will be exterminated. They have appeared friendly and open in our past dealings, but we all know that can be a clever ruse on their part. We learned that hard way with the events in the village of Heatherford. I still have nightmares about that place.”

She stopped reading. It sounded as though her father had murdered a man, and what was this talk of extermination? She read through more entries, some followed the same theme but others talked about meetings and seemingly peaceful ends.

“Edith is pregnant. We have discussed it at length, well, more argued. But she has finally agreed to stay at home once the child is born, though until then she is allowed to work. I worry for her terribly, even though I know she is a capable woman. It is a dangerous job, few live until retirement. I am fully accepting of this, as is she, but the child complicates things. I cannot bear the thought of it being orphaned. We had discussed other options, but we agreed that neither of us would be happy with that. The truth is we have wanted a family for a while even though it is a taboo subject among our kind. We are happy together, much happier than we ever expected. I would have liked more children, but we have agreed that this will be the only one. I am open to Edith returning to work at a later period, after the child has had a chance to grow some. She has accepted this compromise, though I do hope she will change her mind. If she wont, I have considered giving up this line of work myself. If she will allow me to do so, that may be the only option.”

As far as she had been aware, her mother had always been content to be a homemaker. She hadn’t realised her mother had even had the choice at the time. She closed over the book, wondering if she really wanted to continue reading it. She could just leave them here, forget about them and let them gather dust. She placed the books back into the box carefully. As she closed it over Shelly came to a decision. She needed to read these, not just for her curiosity, but for peace of mind. She had to know what her parents had been up to, what if they had enemies or people that might come after her? Sure, it wasn’t very likely, but it always paid to be prepared. Her parents had always said that and well, now was the time to take that advice. If they mentioned who they worked for, she might be able to figure out what they actually did. Work out if some of it was written in code or something. She picked up the box with a little grunt of effort and brought it downstairs, then she went up and got the letters. The rest of the stuff in the attic could wait for now. She’d go up there again soon to search for more information, but everything else could wait.

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New Town. Part 25

Part 1, Part 24

Samantha stood at the edge of the wall, waiting. Slowly she reached out and felt along it. Her hand tingled lightly, the wall underneath was almost vibrating with power. If she could bring the wall down, there was a chance she could absorb all that. She shivered slightly and pulled her hand away. She looked around, almost self consciously, then let herself transform. She closed her eyes for a second as she reached out, finding the edge between the shadows, when she could feel it, she focused then ripped it open. She stepped through the hole, feeling her ears pop. Once she had gone through fully she closed it behind herself. The wall had been powerful before, but here the air hummed. She looked up at the wall, it stretched in every direction, as far as she could see. It was a dark, smoky looking barrier, despite its appearance of weakness, it was solid. She didn’t reach out and touch it from this side, she had seen what happened to those who had. It was designed to repel anyone who was going to attempt what she was about to do. Obviously who ever, or what ever, had created it hadn’t planned on someone of her strength coming along.

 

Samantha stood about eight feet tall, her shoulders were broad and elongated into points. Her skin was a mottled grey that shifted and swirled constantly. Her skin was thick and jointed, almost like armour, but she had complete freedom of movement. Her jaw jutted outwards, the lower half of her mouth sticking out and rimmed with teeth, the upper half had long fangs that curved down the side of her face. Her nose was pointed and severe, her eyes were a deep red and looked as though they were entirely too big for her already large face. Thick strands of saliva hung from her teeth, from her own experiments it seemed to be able to paralyse people. Anyone who looked upon her was struck with sudden and immediate fear. So far only a few people had been able to over come it to the extent that they could speak in her presence.

 

Samantha took a deep breath then she reached for her power, she gathered as much as she could and directed it at the wall, she released the breath slowly and as she did she released her power. It flew at the wall in a steady stream, a bright golden beam. She started to breathe normally, pushing with all she had. The wall seemed to shake, almost like a shudder, then the shadows solidified, becoming a pure black. She could feel it, pushing against her. She increased her effort. She wasn’t concerned, she could feel her power, a large ocean inside her, she had barely even begun. Somewhere in the distance she became aware of chanting, she ignored it, not letting it distract her. She had important work to be doing. A bolt of red light hit her in the back, she arched and almost cried out. She smiled, right on time. With her own power and the extra that was being channelled to her, there was no way the wall could stay standing. She felt it shudder again, this time in protest. The darkness became a little less solid, a little less dark.

 

Doug was woken suddenly by a shout, sunlight streamed in the window. He still felt tired, but he must have slept much later than he had planned. He swung his legs over the bed and rubbed his eyes, the house was silent again. It must be about 10 a.m. He glanced at the clock and frowned, the clock said it was 3 a.m. that meant he had only slept a few hours. No, it must have stopped during the night. As he watched, the number increased. He stood and went to the window, a ball of dread growing in his stomach. He stood for a moment before the curtains, then he pulled them open. He had expected to see people in the garden, had expected some great battle. Instead his eyes were drawn to the wall. It glowed with a pure, white brilliance. It took a few seconds for his eyes to adjust and when they did he saw that it wasn’t the entire wall, just shapes. It reminded him of the thin gold swirls that had been on the doors. He frowned again, the rest of the walls were blank, only the doors were marked. The door banged open behind him, Doug jumped and spun around, Todd was standing there, dressed in pyjamas,

“What’s happening?”
“Someone’s trying to bring down the wall.”
“What? Who?”
“I don’t know. We should get you out now. I don’t know what’s going to happen here.”
“Wait, it should be ok, shouldn’t it? I was told there was like a reset?”
“I don’t know if it’ll cover something this large. People attacked the wall before, it would fight back. Any where it was hit it would glow, I’ve never seen the entire thing light up, what ever is attacking is powerful, I don’t know if the wall will be able to withstand that kind of attack for long.”
Outside there was a loud crack of thunder, Doug looked out the window again, rain started to pour from the sky, thick, dark clouds filled it, it looked as though the clouds were boiling. Lighting hit the wall again, the lights dimmed slightly, then they flared back to their original brightness.

Rain hit the window, thick, fat drops. A second later the rain was replaced by hail stones, large and heavy, then it was rain again.
“What the hell?”
“I have no idea. C’mon, we should get out of here before it gets worse.”
The hail returned, this time bigger, the size of golf balls, one struck against the window, the window cracked, but didn’t break.
“Fuck. Those windows are supposed to be able to handle bullets. This is not good.” Another hailstone hit against it, adding another crack. The hail stopped and for a second everything was still, then outside became a blizzard, Doug squinted, trying to see anything, but there was nothing but swirling white. He turned from the window and together he and Todd left the room.

Samantha could feel it fighting back, calling up its own power. It was struggling, but she was starting to fade. It would be a close one, but she would do it. She had to. She could feel something against her, scrabbling, searching for weaknesses.

 

Doug, Todd and Mark stood in the downstairs kitchen, light came through the window in flashes as the weather changed. The lights had gone out a moment before. The others were moving through the house in case someone took the opportunity to attack. Those who were outside had come in a few seconds before the golf ball sized hail started. Looking out the window it looked as though the hail was getting bigger.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get you to the wall, not without someone getting hurt by the hail, or getting stuck in the snow, the roads are probably going to flood soon. We’ll have to think of something or wait it out.”
The wind blew against the house, a screaming torrent, as Doug watched a tree leaned over drunkenly.
“I vote wait it out.”
Todd nodded, “I was able to speak to Max briefly, he’s sending some more people, if they can get through the storm.”

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