Finding Prey. Short Story.

I was in a bookshop the other day, looking through books, as you do in a book shop, and found something quite strange. A lot of the books, on the back of the cover had, not the description as you would expect, but instead endless praise by people I’ve never heard of and whose opinions I don’t really care about at all. I am sure those people are good at their jobs, but my opinion of the book is not affected by theirs. I look at the description to see if the general plot is interesting, if it is, I then crack open the book and read a few pages, if I like the style I may consider getting it, depending on the price and how many other books I want to get.

This does of course change when I know the author and know I enjoy their style.
It actually made it difficult for me to find out about the book, it got to the point where if I did not immediately see the description on the back of the book I put it on the shelf because I was getting pissed off. No, I don’t care that it is a mind blowing thrill ride, I just want to know what the fuck it’s about. I did not buy any books that day, partially because I didn’t have much money on me so I was much more careful in my selection and partially because none held my interest.
It seems ridiculous to me, that I am already in the shop, ready to buy something and these road blocks are being thrown in my way. it would be like going to watch a movie and you go to buy the ticket and the movie counter guy starts telling you about how people love the movie, about how all the critics raved about it, but the one thing he is not doing, is taking your money or giving you the ticket, instead, he rambles on and on until you just leave because you don’t care what other people have thought of it, you thought the adds looked good, or the poster made it look interesting.
Even the covers seemed strange, there was an Edgar Allen Poe book I saw on my way out, the cover was pink  and kinda sparkly and there was a drawing of a brooding teenage guy on the cover, I cannot claim to have read all of Poe’s work, but really, I cannot think of anything that would warrant a pink, girly cover with a teenage guy they were obviously trying to make look attractive on the front. I understand that they want to hit new audiences but it seems like teenage girls who would pick up a book with that kind of cover are not looking for Poe and I say this without judgement, everyone has different tastes, but it will not translate to a sale most of the sale. It would be like having a fantasy book with the cover of a thriller. The kind of people who read thrillers may not read fantasy.

I am going off my original point somewhat, but it still stands, why is the description not on the back of the book where it is easily seen? and why do some of the blurbs begin like reviews? there were a few books that I thought had no description until I realised that it was not another recommendation, but the description that began with “in Authors, exiting stylish thriller that is setting the publishing world alight blah blah blah praise, fluff, praise, blah literary blah, a woman if found murdered…” I am sure someone will point out I may have missed out on books I would have really enjoyed and I am aware of that, but quite frankly, I don’t have the time to shift through mindless crap, either tell me what the book is about or I’m not gonna buy it.

Anyone else experience this or was it just a freak occurrence?

Anyway, on with the show!


Finding Prey.

A loud shrieking filled the air, quickly followed by the sound of thousands of leathery wings beating frantically. The sound grew louder briefly before fading away, the creatures continued to hunt as people slept, unaware of their presence.

They swirled and cart wheeled through the air, performing intricate stunts to expend their excitement, they were moving on, finding something new. It was always such an exciting time. Though they filled the air, anyone who glanced upwards would only see the sky, they would see nothing of the creatures skin, glistening in the moonlight, nor would they see the wild, mad eyes that never closed. A few animals who were aware of the creatures moved deeper into their secret places, trying to make themselves smaller, but the creatures were not interested in such meagre prey, at least not yet. Perhaps, if they were starving, or there were slim pickings for a few days, then they may move against smaller animals. For now though, they were happy in the hunt. Their last meal was gone now, and they were full of energy. That special energy all creatures released when they died, it was so potent, so delicious. They fly across the sky, chattering to one another excitedly, occasionally shrieking, their hunting cry. They were not too concerned. They would know their prey once they found it. They could afford to be picky, but they usually weren’t, whomever answered their call would be their prey.

Sandra rubbed her eyes sleepily, she had woken a few moments before, incredibly thirsty. Really though, she wasn’t surprised, it normally happened when she ate Chinese. She’d normally bring a glass of water to bed with her, but, being so tired she had forgotten. The shock of the cold tile helped wake her up, she went to the cabinet, trying to ignore the coldness that was spreading through her feet. She grabbed a glass and went over to the tap, quickly filling it, she drained the glass, then poured another. Now that she was in the kitchen, she felt incredibly awake, and she vaguely wondered if she’d be able to fall asleep again. She tried not to think too deeply, that would definitely wake her up. She sipped her water slowly, then, once the thirst was completely gone, she refilled the glass. Outside she heard something shrieking. She shivered slightly, damn birds. It was the middle of the night, why the hell were they chirping. They cawed again. She rubbed her eyes and turned towards the door, flicking off the light as she left. The stairs were carpeted and reminded her how cold her feet were.

Her bed was still slightly warm and, climbing beneath the covers she sighed. Her feet ached slightly as the coldness left them before she was warm again. She closed her eyes and felt the gentle tugging of sleep. Giving in, she heard birds cawing again in the distance.

The cloud of creatures swooped and swerved, flying in formation around one house, circling a few times before each one began to land, finding a comfortable spot in which to rest.

Sandra woke the next morning and dragged herself out of bed. She was tired, but figured it was due to getting up in the middle of the night. She turned on the shower and after it reached a pleasant temperature she stepped in, normally the rush of water would wake her up slightly, but she still felt drowsy. Halfway through her shower she couldn’t remember if she had washed her hair or not, and poured more soap into her hands. She stood under the water and, after a second, she gritted her teeth and turned it to cold. The blast of water shocked her and she gasped. She forced herself to stay underneath the icy spray for a moment, before she finally turned it off and stepped out of the shower, shivering. She took the robe from the radiator and wrapped it around herself, thankful for the warmth.

In her room, she checked the time, she was running late, she had spent longer in the shower than she had thought. Quickly drying, she dressed herself, she didn’t have time to dry her hair properly and left it damp, grabbing her bag, she left, closing the door behind her.  “Fuck” she’d left her keys in the house, she rang the bell and waited for a few moments, Julie, one of her housemates opened the door, looking angry, “I forgo-” Julie turned from the door and stalked deeper into the house, Sandra quickly grabbed her keys and re-shut the door. She barely made the bus and as she found a seat, her stomach began to rumble, she had forgotten breakfast. She sighed, today was going to be one of those days.

The day passed slowly as Sandra tried not to fall asleep at her desk, she got most of her work done, but there was still stuff left, normally her desk was clear at the end of the day, but no matter how much coffee she drank she was still tired, nothing seemed to wake her up, it was like something was draining her energy. She rubbed her eyes distractedly, maybe she should go to the doctor if it doesn’t clear up.

She wandered to her bus stop, in no real rush, it was still early enough, rush hour hadn’t started yet. She found a seat quickly and sat down, she searched in her bag for her headphones but couldn’t find them, she needed something to help keep her awake. She stared out the window, trying to keep herself amused, but soon, her head was nodding downwards as she began to drift off. The bus went over a bump, jerking Sandra forward and waking her. She jumped and looked around wildly before she remembered where she was, she looked around the bus, it had filled steadily, she took a breath, trying to calm herself. She looked outside and realised she had no idea where she was. Groaning, she stood and pressed the stop button. She crossed the road carefully and stood at the other bus stop. After a few moments of waiting, she realised she could have asked the bus driver where the hell she was. She cursed her own stupidity and pulled her coat tighter, the jacket was light and it was getting colder. She glanced at her watch, it was getting late, she’d slept for a good 45 minutes, her stop was usually only twenty minutes away.

When she finally got home, she went to the kitchen and shoved a pizza in the oven, she just wanted to have something to eat and go to bed. While the food was cooking, she went upstairs and changed into pyjamas and, feeling slightly better that she was at least home now, she went downstairs again. She watched TV until the timer started beeping, she was getting hungry now and found she was looking forward to her food. She glanced at the oven on her way passed and paused. The pizza looked undercooked, she moved closer to add time, then realised she had only turned on the light. She stood still for a moment, breathing deeply. She turned the oven on properly, and reset the timer, it would take just as long to cook something else. She stomped back into the sitting room and watched television distractedly until the timer finally went off again, going back into the kitchen she feared that maybe, just maybe, she hadn’t really turned the oven on again.

She  carefully slid the pizza onto a plate, careful not to burn herself, she half expected it regardless of any precaution she took, it was just that kind of day. Cutting the pizza, she returned to the sitting room, she’d have the house to herself for another hour or so.

When her housemates returned from work, she was already in bed. When she awoke the next morning she still felt tired, but much better than she had the day before. She was on time and able to eat before having to leave. The day passed quickly and she was able to catch up on her work.

The creatures soared through the sky, diving and darting about, playing intricate games with one another. The first day was always so intense as their prey’s bodies adjusted to them, there was massive bursts of energy, it always left them feeling restless, but as their prey got used to their draining presence, it would change to a more sedate, steady supply. The prey normally lasted for a few years before burning out. At night they jostled one another, trying to gain comfort and warmth as overhead swarms of their brethren flew through the sky, screeching and calling, looking for prey.


About Alan James Keogh

I am a 26 year old writer who somehow tricked U.C.D. into giving me not only a degree in English and Classical studies, but an Hons Masters in Creative Writing too. Visit my blog where I post short stories twice a week (Monday and Wednesday) and an installment of a serialised novel on Fridays. I did consider writing this in the third person, as though it was written by someone else, but Alan is not comfortable writing in the third person as it seems kinda creepy and unbalanced so Alan decided it was probably best to write in the first person. He hopes it went well for him.
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