Extinction – Chapter 2





Projected release date of July 2017.


“It’s beautiful,” said Lieutenant Tosco from the bridge. Gazing out through the same long, glass window Captain Guy Granger was inclined to agree. The sight before them was most certainly beautiful. As perfect and as sublime as a mirage, but real.

Skip stroked his wiry, grey beard and grinned from ear to ear. “Well done, you Brits!”

Guy tried to count the number of ships amassed in the waters outside Portsmouth but gave up after ninety. There were more than a hundred warships huddled together in the Channel, large and small, and from many nations. Most were British, but Guy also spotted French, German, Belgian, and Spanish flags. Tosco had done what he could over the past weeks to discover the situation in Western Europe, but what spotty reports he’d garnered hinted that all human resistance was inland around the capitals. That left naval forces of little use to nations like France and Germany, and their capitals Paris and Berlin. Britain, however, being an island was an obvious rallying point for orderless sailors and marines. This was a place any seafaring man could go to wage war against his enemy—and it was glorious.

Ships everywhere,

“I think I even see a couple of Yankee ships,” said Tosco. “And look! That’s a goddamn German nuclear sub. You could flatten a city with what they have on board.”

The mention of nuclear capabilities turned guy’s stomach. A miracle that no country had let loose its sparrows of death and reduced the earth to wasteland. When the direst of times had come, no world leader pressed that big red button. There was something comforting about that. Perhaps mankind was still worth redeeming.

Guy cleared his throat and let the crew hear him. For those not present in the bridge, he switched on the ship-wide intercom. “Men and women of the USCG Hatchet. This is your captain speaking. As you all see from the railings, humanity is alive and well in the UK.” Guy chuckled as a cheer rang out from the decks. “We are low on food, thick with injury, and most of us have contemplated the future recently with a very bleak soul. Yet, today, we have arrived to greet our fellow man, and add our might to this great beast of defiance you see before you. We are about to enter the port of Portsmouth. Anglophiles amongst you will already know that this port goes back to Roman times. It’s been here a long time, and we are going to help make sure it survives a lot longer.” Another cheer. “We have radioed ahead and our presence is welcome. We are among friends, but we must act as appreciative guests. Captain Granger out.”

Those in the bridge beamed so widely that Guy worried they might get lockjaw. The old chief, Skip, looked like he might cry, but kept it together long enough to speak with Guy quietly. “You think things are better than we thought? Have the Brits managed to fight back?”

“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Chief. There’s a lot of manpower here, granted, but until we speak with whoever’s in charge we shouldn’t assume anything. The last thing we need is to give the people on this ship is a disappointment. It’s been a long journey.”

Skip nodded gravely.

Guy was, of course, referring to the suicides and fighting. In the last week, people had reached their inbuilt tipping points. Men and woman started throwing themselves over the railings with alarming regularity, and the Hatchet had lost more than a dozen souls—including three sailors. There had also been a spate of violence, no doubt stemming from the cramped confines and strict rations. The Hatchet had bordered on anarchy.

But now it had arrived. Today was a new day.

Guy turned to Tosco. “Lieutenant, spread word that no one is to disembark until arrangements are made. Last thing we need is an unruly stampede into an allies’ home.”

“Yes sir. Will I be coming ashore with the landing party?”

“Of course. I shall take you and Skip.” He turned to his petty officer, Bentley, sat at the ship’s console, and placed a hand on her shoulder. “Bentley, let British Command know we’re requesting to dock.”

Bentley did as commanded, and Guy left the bridge to oversee the rest of his people. The passengers and crew would be excited, and that was a danger. Excited people struggled to contain themselves, and the glorious sight of land might tip some of them into a frenzy. So, Guy spent the next hour moving between the Hatchet’s decks, speaking with civilians and assuring them that they would all be taken care of, and talking to crew to remind them of their duty. By the time he finished his rounds, he was only slightly more confident that all would remain calm.

Now he stood stiffly on the foredeck as the Hatchet drifted carefully into an allocated berth. Off the Portside bow, HMS Ocean towered over the far smaller Coast Guard cutter and reminded Guy how few resources he wielded. The massive Royal Navy vessel was a helicopter carrier, and Guy spotted half-a-dozen fully-armed Apache attack choppers. It gave him a warm glow imagining a downpour of hellfire missiles streaking down on the enemy from the clouds. Were things really as good as they looked? Compared to what Guy had witnessed at Norfolk base all those weeks ago, Portsmouth appeared a well-oiled machine. The sky buzzed with jets and choppers, and masses of soldiers patrolled the docks. It would take a whole lot of demons to overrun this place.

That didn’t mean they wouldn’t though.

Tosco and Skip joined Guy at the ship’s rail. Tosco handed him a radio. “Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer on the wire for you, sir.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant.” Guy took the radio and put it to his lips. “Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer, this is Captain Guy Granger of the United States Coast Guard. Thank you for allowing us to dock, Portsmouth. Over.”

“You’re more than welcome, Captain,” came a voice from a mouth that sounded like it was sucking plums. “We’re having ourselves quite the tea party as you can see. Can’t let our enemy have all the fun, can we? Over.”

“Never a truer word spoken, Colonel. Are you in command of operations here?”

“Oh no no, old boy. That privilege falls to General Wickstaff, but I’m afraid they are otherwise engaged right now. Afraid you’ll have to settle for a lowly lieutenant-colonel.”

Guy chuckled. Maybe it was just being so long at sea, but he was quickly getting to like this stuffy old lieutenant-colonel (pronounced ‘left-tenant’ in these foreign climes). “Meeting any superior officer is a welcomed comfort,” he admitted.

“Had it tough out there on the big blue, old boy?”

“You might say that. You’re not a sea dog yourself?”

“British Army, man and boy. Spent most my career with 202 Signal Squadron, but spent the last few years as head of recruitment. Some fine young lads I’ve seen come and go. Anyway, enough jawing, I suspect you would like to come ashore.”

Guy shivered at the thought. “That would be most welcome, sir. The sea is my mother, but no man wants to live every day with his old lady.”

A bark of chesty laughter on the other end, then: “I can’t argue with that old boy. You and your people are free to disembark onto the docks, but I’m afraid they won’t be allowed through the checkpoint until they’re checked out.”

“Understandable. Where should I direct my landing party? I would very much like to lend aid where needed, but I have injured civilians on board that need attending to as well.”

“Settle down in the customs building, Captain, and someone will be with you shortly. It’s been a pleasure meeting you. Over”

“Likewise, Lieutenant-Colonel. Over and out.” Guy handed the radio back to Tosco and took a deep breath. The stuffy old officer had seemed as laid back as can be, which was a good sign. No hint of being under threat here.

The Hatchet clunked into place beside the long cement pier and the catwalk began to lower. Guy had all his remaining officers beside Tosco line up and block the walkway to prevent people spilling out in a mad rush. Already the civilians on board were bunching together and shoving one another. Some of them were waving at the crewman up high on the decks of the HMS Ocean.

Guy climbed up on the railing. “Okay, sailors, settle down. We have been given permission to disembark, but I will remind you that we are visitors here. The United Kingdom has long been our ally and today it welcomes us with open arms, but behave yourselves or face my consequences. My officers will be disembarking you all in groups, and if anyone tries to jump the queue or disobey instructions, they will spend the rest of the day in a holding cell. You want to stretch your legs, I understand, but don’t sabotage yourselves. Act like civilised Americans. The enemy can’t take that away from you.”

With that, Guy moved behind his officers and headed down the ramp. The same ramp that had seen him flee Norfolk. It felt surreal to still be alive after so much death, but here they were. Skip and Tosco followed Guy in silence, looking around with awe. The double-impact of stepping onto terra firma, twinned with the sight of largest naval force probably ever assembled in the modern world was unsettling. For the last few weeks they had lived a tiny, isolated existence aboard the Hatchet. Now they were stray ants stepping into a colossal nest not their own. Guy felt insignificant, which was liberating. Maybe now he could stop being solely responsible for the lives of so many. Someone else could give the orders now. Finally, he could hang up his hat and go find his children, Kyle and Alice. That’s all her truly cared about.

I just need to see them.

A small party of British naval officials met Guy on the pier. The fact they sported clipboards made him laugh. That there were still clipboards being used after the world had ended was absurd, yet strangely indicative of man’s fastidious nature—creating order from chaos. The British officials directed Guy to the customs building Lieutenant-Colonel Spencer told them about, and there they were left alone to settle in. Tosco was quick to spot a tea urn filled of hot water, as well as milk, tea bags, and— “Coffee. Oh my sweet Lord they have coffee. Who wants a cup?”

“I’ll take two,” said Skip. “I’ve been having unbecoming dreams about coffee, son.”

Guy chuckled. “I’ll take a tea, please, Lieutenant. My nerves are enough on edge as it is.”

“You know,” said Tosco. “I’ve gone my whole life and never drunk tea. I think I’ll join you, sir. When in Rome, right?”

“Good point,” said Skip. “Maybe we should do as the natives do.”

Guy shook his head, still smiling. “The fact that they have coffee leads me to believe the English don’t turn murderous whenever someone refuses tea.”

“Still,” muttered Skip. “Why risk it? I’ll have a tea too, please, Tosco.”

Tosco chewed his lip and looked sheepish. “Great, um, who knows how to make it?”

Guy sighed and had to tell him. Tosco had many talents, but apparently making hot beverages was beyond him. Eventually he got it, and a few moments later they were all sipping hot drinks. Two minutes after that, a petite woman stomped into the customs building. Late thirties, fit and attractive, she was wearing khaki trousers over a plain white t-shirt. Oil streaked her hands and arms.

“Greetings, men!”

“Hi,”said Tosco. “We’re waiting to speak with someone in charge. General Wickstaff ideally. Do you know where he is? We’ve been waiting here a while.”

The woman grinned. “And you are?”

“Lieutenant Tosco, ma’am, United States Coast Guard. We’re here to parlay.”

“Ah, so you’re not the Captain of the Hatchet, despite acting like it?”

Tosco frowned. “Well, no, th—”

“And to my reckoning you’ve been waiting here in the warmth, with fresh tea, for all of twenty minutes, so let’s not be dramatic, ay? You chaps are aware we have coffee, right?”

“We wanted to try the tea,” said Skip with an embarrassed smile.

The woman smirked and had a little laugh to herself. “We’re not simple tribesman, you know? You don’t have to saviour our local delicacies or risk offending us. Now, which one you two remaining gentlemen is Captain Granger?”

Guy had already stood, although he didn’t remember when. Despite the woman’s dishevelled appearance, she possessed a commanding aura. “I’m Captain Granger, pleased to meet you…?”

The woman offered her hand for a shake. “General Wickstaff. Pleased to have you in my home, Captain.”

Guy almost choked. He shook the woman’s hand vigorously, then wiped the oily residue off on his trousers.

“Oh, yes, sorry about that,” said Wickstaff, examining her soiled palms and then wiping them on her on trousers. “You’ll have to forgive my appearance. I’ve been tinkering with a Challenger 2 we have on base. Poor thing was scuppered in Afghanistan, brought her to be used as a display piece. Could use the bugger now though, so I’ve been trying to get it working.”

“You know how to fix tanks?” said Skip.

She shrugged as if she didn’t understand the question. “Someone has to know these things. I spent my career with the Royal Armoured Corp, you pick up a few things.”

“Thank you for receiving us, General,” said Guy. “We feared they’d be nothing here when we set off, but it appears you have quite the operation here.”

“I inherited command from Field Marshal Mackay. The blighter dropped dead of a heart attack two weeks ago now. He was eighty-two, I suppose, so no need to begrudge the fellow. Technically, Field Marshal duties fall to the head of the Armed Forces, Prince Charles, but who needs a soddin’ blue blood coming and messing things up? I hear there’s a bunker under Buckingham Palace, so I expect he’s down there right now growing plants under a UV light with his ma.”

Guy was a little lost by this, so he just smiled. “We’re happy to add our forces to your own.”

“Temporarily,” added Tosco. “In all likelihood we will resupply and return home.”

“Ah, at my expense, I presume?” The general went over and made herself a cup of coffee from the urn. “Never could stand tea,” she explained.




“If you don’t wish to resupply us,” said Tosco, then I am sure we can move further down the coast and find someone else willing to help.”

Guy waved a hand. “Be quiet Lieutenant.”

Wickstaff sipped her tea and sighed. “Lieutenant, anyone not here in Portsmouth is, I assure you, on their way here to Portsmouth. We are the only sanctuary in all of England and Wales. We have patrols bringing people in almost constantly. This is humanity’s only beachhead. By all means move on if you want to discover that for yourselves.”

“There are other last stands going on,” argued Tosco. “I’ve spoken to resistance in France, Belgium—”

“Not for us,” the general interrupted. “This is Alpha and Omega for everyone here. The radio lines are almost silent, and no other military forces exist that will be of any use to use in the battles ahead. We are on our own and, as such, I’m uninterested in resupplying you folks just to send you on your way. Stay and help, or don’t, but don’t make demands. Why are you even here in the first place?”

“My children are here,” Guy answered immediately. “My… my kids are somewhere here.”

Wickstaff raised an eyebrow. “And you appropriated a vessel and crew from your homeland to come get them? How very treasonous of you.”

Guy swallowed. “It wasn’t that simple.”

“I suspect not. Look, I don’t have kids, so I can’t say I understand why people love the little buggers so much, but I realise it would take quite the leader to gain the loyalty of a crew enough to make them desert their homes. I also see many civilians aboard your ship. Rescued?”

“Every one of them,” said Skip. “Captain Granger is the reason any of us are alive.”

“Part of the reason,” ammended Tosco.

Wickstaff looked at Guy and nodded her head sideways at Tosco. “He always this much of a pain in the arse?”

“Pretty much. He’s good in a fight though.”

Tosco grunted. “Gee, thanks.”

Wickstaff smiled at Tosco. “What do you think of the tea?”

He looked down at the mug in his hands, still mostly full. “It lacks something.”

“Sugar, my dear. You can’t make a good cuppa without plenty of sugar. Anyway, you’ll have plenty of time to learn how to make a proper brew. You chaps are welcome to stay as long as you like, and if you help out and pull your weight, I may opt to resupply you in the future and send you home. I won’t do it for free, however. That’s not the kind of operation I run.”

“My children…” said Guy.

“Are most likely gone, Captain, but I shall make enquires if you wish. If fate’s kept them alive, they’re as likely here as anywhere else. I’ll have a clerk come take some details about them later. For now, I’d like to get the Hatchet and personnel vetted, and your wounded seen to. The civilians may come aboard and stay in the barracks, but the crew must bed down on the ship, I’m afraid.”

“They’ll be dying to come on land,” said Guy.

“And they will be welcome to come and go as they please, Captain. They only need to lay their heads on the ship. Last thing I want is a bunch of ships dead in the water because everyone is asleep on land. The Hatchet needs to be battle ready, so keep your shift patterns in place, Captain.”

Guy nodded. It was something he would’ve done anyway. If the shit hit the fan, he wanted to be able to make a quick getaway. “I will do as you ask, General.”

“Good’o! We’re in an enviable position here, chaps. Things have gone poorly for us all so far, but that’s only because the bastards got the drop on us. Now it’s our turn. We’re getting our shit together here, and I plan on taking the fight to the enemy very soon. See how they like that. You gentlemen can be part of it. I would like you to be a part of it.”

“We’ll consider it,” Guy allowed, “but…”

Wickstaff nodded. “Your children, I know. Give me the day and I’ll see what I can do for you. In the meantime, make sure your people behave and tell them they are safe. I’m about to go and give the afternoon briefing to my senior officers. You gentleman are welcome to attend, if you’d like. There’ll be more tea, if you chaps are getting a taste for it.”

Skip cleared his throat and put his mug down. “Any coffee?”




Extinction – 1st chapter





So here’s chapter 1 of Hell on Earth book 3, Extinction. This is a rough draft, so no need to point out any typos. Just enjoy.


Max, come back here. It’s not safe.

“There’s food, mummy.”

Marcy crouched beside the crumpled, flat-tyred Volkswagen and motioned to her son. At four years old, Max had not yet developed an adequate danger-radar to keep him from running off wildly at every opportunity. Trying to control a child in the apocalypse was no easier than it had been before, but now there was a severe shortage of alcohol to help recover one’s senses at night.

Christ, I would kill for a G & T.

Bizarrely, Marcy’s bond with her enthusiastic son had only galvanised since the demons came and drove them from their home. No more rushed shopping trips or stress-filled play dates with her bitchy mum-friends to endure, she now spent every waking hour with Max and gave him her absolute attention. They were inseparable—apocalypse survivors scrounging through bins and hiding out in burnt buildings together. Marcy had to admit having only to worry about food and shelter was a simpler life than the one she’d had previously—an existence of mortgage payments and cheating husbands—but being constantly terrified did take its toll. Her hands shook constantly and she started most mornings by vomiting.

“Max, be careful. We don’t know if we’re alone out here.”

Max peered back at her from the wheelie bin he was leaning into, and frowned in a way only inquisitive four-year olds could. “Monsters? I don’t like the monsters.”

Marcy looked left and right, then scurried from her hiding spot and crossed the road to the bins. She placed a hand on her child’s warm back and felt the relief of physical contact. “We haven’t seen any for a while, but we still have to be careful, okay?”

“Okay, mummy.” He gave her a hug and she shuddered at the feel of his ribcage against her own. “But look!”

She eased her son away. “What have you got there?”

Max yanked a crumpled pizza box from the bin and held it out like a prize. He lifted the lid with an excited smile, but his expression quickly turned to a frown when all that greeted him was an unravelled condom. Max called them wet worms. Now he groaned. “I want pizza.”

“I know, honey, but I think all the pizza is gone. I still have a couple of chocolate bars in the backpack. You want one?”

He shook his head, pouted. “I want pizza.”

“One day, there’ll be pizza again, I promise.”

It wasn’t easy lying to her son.

Food was becoming an issue. The supermarkets were full of pests and stray dogs, and anything not in a can was either spoiled or devoured. Searching through bins was usually a waste of time, and they had survived the last couple of weeks by rummaging through the cupboards of empty houses. Sometimes they found bodies. Max knew to close his eyes and call to her whenever that happened.

Six weeks now since the gates had opened.

Six weeks since those first horrifying reports on the news.

Six weeks since Max had last seen his father.

Marcy’s sweet boy didn’t deserve this. No child did.

But at least mine’s still alive. I’m the luckiest mother in the world. Maybe the only mother…

“Come on, Max. It’s getting dark. We should find somewhere to sleep tonight.”

“Can we find somewhere with a boy’s bedroom? I want some new toys.”

She nodded and smiled, buoyed that her child could still be entertained by colourful trinkets. Max’s innocence protected him in ways she envied. For Marcy, their inescapable fate tied a constant knot in her tummy. Human life was ticking seconds on a rusty clock, and time was growing short. She couldn’t protect her child forever. Not in this world.

A noise.

“Shh! Did you hear that?” Marcy pulled Max close to keep him quiet, then tilted her head, sure she had heard something.

No, not heard—she had felt something. Vibrations beneath the worn soles of her shoes.

Thwump

There it was again. Something distant. Something big. Big enough that the ground shook.

“Oh no…” Marcy felt the knot in her stomach tighten. “Max, we need to get inside.”

The son had come to learn the mother’s instincts well enough over the last weeks that he didn’t argue now. He stuck close to Marcy, and the two of them took off across the road, heading for a row of shops further along the pavement. Marcy had already made an earlier mental note of a ransacked charity shop with a broken door. That’s where she headed.

“The monsters are coming, aren’t they, mummy?” Max’s short legs had to hop to keep up with her frantic strides. “Mummy?”

“Yes, sweetheart. We need to get indoors now.”

The charity shop lay just ahead. A dead cat lying in the gutter marked its location. Funny, the methods she now used to navigate in this new, horrifying world. No more sat navs. Not in this world where Marcy and her son existed alone—alone except for the odd demon or crazed survivor. Without Max, she would have lost her mind weeks ago. It was love that kept her going.

Marcy yanked Max’s hand and pulled him into the charity shop’s doorway. The interior smelt damp—rank and rotten. A pile of paperbacks covered the entryway rug and their yellowed pages were stamped by muddy footprints. The broken door was unrepairable, but the shop’s plate glass window was still intact. Looters had put through the windows of most shops, but obviously charity shops were not prize pickings. Good for her and her son, as it meant they had shelter.

Max released his mother’s hand and went running deeper into the shop, already picking through the detritus of abandoned and refuse. He grabbed a grungy old bunny rabbit off the floor and clutched it by his side. “I like it here,” he said.

She shushed him. “Just keep on moving towards the back.”

The demons were more roaming gangs than fastidious searchers. If you kept off the streets and avoided the open, most threats would pass by, but it still meant you had to spend your days hiding. The early days of the apocalypse had seen mass slaughters, but human beings were now so rare that the demons seemed uninterested in picking off stragglers. Marcy assumed they were focused on something greater—perhaps taking on a last bastion of humanity that Marcy didn’t know about. Maybe mankind was holed up somewhere fighting back. She hoped.

If there was some place safe—truly safe—then Marcy had to get her son there. Max was just a little boy.

“Mum, can I have this?”

Marcy looked over at the wall shelving and saw that her son had procured a hobby horse. Its brown and black fur was still plush and upright, and it still sported both beady eyes. Such a rudimentary toy would have held no interest to her son two months ago, but now, in the absence of electronic entertainment, it was the kind of thing that leapt out at him.

“Sure, you can have it, but no more talking.”

“No, you cannot have that!” someone shouted. “How dare you come in here and start taking things that don’t belong to you. This is a charity. You are stealing from a charity!”

Marcy stumbled backwards and collided with the cash register. It slid across the desk on rubber feet, making a screeching sound. “I-I-I was… we were just looking for somewhere safe. I’m sorry, sir.”

“Don’t you sir me, you thief. Get out of here right now before I call the police!”

“The police? Are you crazy?”

“Mummy says the police have all gone away,” said Max gravely.

The old man stepped out of the shadows at the back of the store and into the dim light coming in from outside. His eyes were swollen and red. His cheeks were blotchy. A feral look about him—a crazed look.

Marcy threw out her hand and waggled her fingers. “Come here, Max! We should leave this gentleman in peace.”

Max frowned. “But the monsters. You said the monsters were coming.”

That was right. Something was coming, and that wasn’t good, but something about this old man made Marcy feel more threatened than being outside did. “We’ll hide somewhere else, sweetie. Let’s just go.”

Max moved towards her, but the old man struck like a snake and caught the boy by the wrist. “Hold it right there, sonny.”

“Mum, help me!”

“Let my son go!” Marcy’s fists curled at the sight of this man accosting her son. “Don’t touch him, you crazy old fuck!”

The old man shot her a bug-eyed glance, all while still holding onto her son. Max struggled and twisted, the grungy bunny in his free hand flopping around. “What did you just call me, miss?”

“Let my son go. We’re leaving.”

“He’s trying to steal this horse. This horse was donated to charity. Your boy is trying to steal from charity.”

Marcy strode towards the man holding her son. “No, he forgot he was holding it. Let him go, right now.”

“You people disgust me.”

Strangely, Marcy was offended by the comment. Perhaps it was because it sounded like the crazy old man truly meant it—she disgusted him. She’d never disgusted anyone in her life. “What do you mean?”

“I mean mothers who let their kids run amok. Whoring about with a different man every month, smoking drugs while their kids get up to knows what. I see it on that Jez Karl show every morning. Scum the lot of you.”

The Jez Karl show? This guy had lost the plot entirely. There hadn’t been any television for weeks. “I’m sorry, sir, but you you’re mistaken. I’m a married woman, and Max is a very well brought up boy. We just made a mistake coming in here, that’s all. Let him go and we’ll leave.”

“No. I’m calling the police.”

“You’re mad.”

Max struggled and the old man yanked his arm, making him cry out. “Mum, he’s hurting me.”

Marcy reacted. She closed the short distance between the two of them and lashed out, shoving the old man under the chin and knocking his head back. He cried out in surprise and let Max go. Max scurried over to Marcy’s side and she gathered him close Pointing a finger in the old man’s face, she spat with anger. “Maybe you’ve got Alzheimer’s, I don’t know, but my son and I are leaving and you are going to back the hell away.”

The old man did the opposite. He lunged at her.

A jolt of pain shot along the back of Marcy’s hand in an arc. She looked down and saw blood.

“Mummy, the man has a knife.”

Marcy spotted the small pen knife in the old man’s claw-like hand. “Stay back. Just…”

The old man lunged again, his delusion evolving to full blown mania, his expression twisting and distorting like his face was full of maggots. His snarling mouth was devoid of teeth and his tongue darted in and out of crusted lips. “Bloody whores and thieves. Ruining the country.” He slashed the knife and missed Marcy’s face by an inch. If it had been a longer blade she would have had a hole through her nose. “I’ll kill you!”

“Mummy!”

“Just run, Max. Run!”

No use in fighting, Marcy shoved her son towards the doorway and clambering over the debris. The old man’s aged joints popped as he pursued her. He turned the air blue with his language.

Max made it outside onto the pavement, and Marcy was only a step behind him. He was crying, the chase summoning panic. “It’s okay,” she told him. “It’s okay, sweetheart.”

“Mummy, he’s coming.”

Marcy shielded her son behind her and faced the old man down. She took several steps backwards, being careful to avoid the dead cat, but was ready to defend herself. The old man slithered out of the shop doorway, pathetic yet deadly little blade held out in front of him. “I’m going to do the world a favour, you dirty whore.”

“Fuck you,” Marcy covered her son’s ears. “Fuck you, you crazy old fuck!”

“How dare you.” He slithered towards her, quicker than an old man had any right to be. In the grey glow of the waning sun, he revealed his true madness. Shit and piss caked his trousers. Bruises covered his the tissue-paper skin of his forearms.




Marcy kept her son behind her and threw an arm out in front of her. “Stay bac-”

All of a sudden the old man was airborne. One minute he had been there, about to strike her, the next he was launching like a rocket into the sky. He didn’t even make a sound. Marcy’s vision blurred. Her hearing buzzed. She heard her son’s terrified screams, but was too confused to react.

She sensed a presence.

Slowly, she turned her head to see what stood over her.

“Mummy, it’s one of the big monsters.” Max dropped the grungy bunny on the floor and clung to Marcy with both arms.

Marcy was frozen. She’d known this moment would eventually come, but now that it had she could do nothing except yield to its inevitability. The suffering was about to be over. Her son’s life was about to be over.

She muttered the word, please.

The twenty-foot angel glared down at her, same disgusted expression on its face that the old man had worn shortly before being launched into oblivion. The angel had saved her, but it had been no noble deed. The beautiful thing, with its perfect snarling face wanted her death for itself. “Bugs,” it said in a booming voice. “Insects and bugs.”

Marcy knelt and pulled Max into her breast. The boy trembled. It hurt her heart. “Be brave,” she said. “Mummy’s got you.”

The angel reared back, massive hand outstretched and ready to swat her like the bug it deemed her to be.

Just let it be quick.

Bang. Clatter-tatter!

Marcy flinched. The angel tottered, reaching out and catching its balance against the roof of the charity shop. It let out an angered roar and spun around, ripping out a section of roof tiles that shattered onto the pavement like giant hailstones.

Bang-bang. Clatter-tatter.

Marcy clutched her son tighter, stifling his terrified screams against her.

Gunfire? Someone is shooting!

In the early days of the apocalypse, gunfire had been as common as bird song. Marcy had had no idea that Britain possessed so much firepower, but every old, antique revolver came out of the cupboard to join the modern equipment of the nation’s armed services. Then, a week or two later, the gunfire had stopped and only silence remained.

Now the gunfire returned as an anthem.

Bang bang. Clatter-clatter-tatter.

The angel swatted it arms like a swarm of bees attacked it. To Marcy’s surprise, the angel bled. Bloody holes pockmarked its body—bullets finding their mark. But that was impossible. Angels could not be harmed. The news reports had declared it with certainty before going off the air.

“Take that, you big piece of stank!”

The angel spotted its attackers and stomped across the road. There, Marcy saw a small group of three men. One black, one white, and one notably Asian with baggy trousers and shirt. Each of them sported guns and were firing confidently at the approaching angel.

No, thought Marcy. It’s they who are the angels. They saved us.

But it might not be enough. The bleeding angel was undeterred, and picked up speed as it raced across the road. Marcy cried out as the three men scattered, leaving her once again to her fate. Max went silent in her arms, the wetness of his tears soaking through her blouse. “It’s okay, sweetie. Everything is okay.”

One of the men legged it across the street, gaining the attention of the chasing angel. It was the white man. He was hugely-muscled and wearing a tight black t-shirt. He dodged between parked cars, using them as obstacles to keep the angel at bay. He held what looked like a machine gun, but he wasn’t using it. What was he doing? He was a sitting duck.

In the corner of her eye, Marcy saw one of the other other three men emerge from a side street. It was the black man, a lad with a bright green baseball cap. He held what looked like a bottle of whiskey in his hand. Then he lit it on fire.

Marcy watched the flaming bottle arc through the sky where it came down and shattered against the angel’s back as it attempted to get at the muscled white man. Flames engulfed the creature and sent it into a panicked rotation. Its deep bellow became an animalistic screech, and it turned and fled. Marcy watched the giant disappear down the road behind the shops.

Several moments passed while the three men let the dust settle, then they came racing across the road towards Marcy and Max. Marcy continued to cower, having no reason to trust these men any more than she had the old man or the angel. Everything living had the potential to kill you. Probably would.

“You okay, luv?” asked the lad in the baseball cap. When he spoke, she thought she caught a glimpse of metal in his mouth.

“Who are you?”

“I’m Vamps. These are my bros, Mass and Aymun.”

“It is a joy to see a female soul,” said the Asian gentleman in a very thick accent. He gave a little bow.

“You’ll have to excuse him,” said Vamps. “He’s from the Middle-East or summin’. Got here by way of Hell Gate. You okay? Your little boy okay?”

“What? Oh…” Marcy let go of Max and moved him a step away so that she could look at him. His eyes were wet and nose snotty, but he was no longer crying. Slowly, she turned him to face the three men. “This is Vamps, Mass, and… I’m sorry!”

“Aymun, my dear. My name is Aymun.”

Max waved a hand shyly, but did not speak.

Vamps grinned at the boy, exposing two gold fangs. “You must be a right gangster, little man, looking after your ma out here. What’s your name?”

“M-Max.”

“Buzzin’ to meet you, Max. Hey, you know what, I think I have something for you.” Vamps nodded to his colleague Mass who turned around to expose a backpack. Unzipping it and fumbling inside, Vamps pulled out a colourful packet then handed it to Max. “Here ya go, bud. You like these?”

Haribo! They’re my favourite.”

Vamps smiled again, flashing those teeth. “Good thing it’s a family pack, huh? Should last you all day.”

“I think you’ll be surprised,” said Marcy, giggling with joy at a stranger being kind to her son. Those days had seemed gone. “Thank you for saving us. I… I have a few things in my pack you can have but—”

Vamps waved a hand and cut her off. “We don’t want your stuff, luv. We do just fine. The streets ain’t so bad once you know how things go down.”

Marcy chuckled. “I’m afraid I spent most of my life as an accountant.”

The big guy—Mass—shrugged his wide shoulders. “S’okay. Aymun here used to be a terrorist. Past’s the past, innit?”

“Are you… are you comparing accountants to terrorists?”

Mass shrugged again.

“I was no terrorist,” said Aymun. “Just a soldier born to one side fighting against those on another. Now there is no sides, only brothers and sisters. We all must be as one.”

Vamps rolled his eyes and gave Marcy a subtle smirk. “What Aymun is try’na say is we all need to look out for each other. It’s us verses them.”

“Really?” asked Marcy, finally trusting the situation enough to stand. Max clung to her thigh. “Because that would make you the first good guys I’ve seen in weeks.”

Vamps nodded as if he understood. “We’re on the search for more. You fancy tagging along with us? I’m sure we can rustle up some more sweeties for your boy?”

Marcy went to speak, but wavered. “You’re…. really what you say you are? You won’t hurt us?”

All three men shook their heads adamantly.

“Only things we hurt,” said Vamps, “are demons. So, tagging along or not?”

Marcy grinned. “Hmm? Stay here on my own, waiting to get attacked again, or go with three heavily armed men who just saved my life. Hell yes we’re tagging along! Thank you thank you thank you.”

Vamps laughed and patted her on the back. It was a friendly gesture and not lascivious in any way. Ironic, because in her previous life, this apparent street thug would have frightened the life out of her, but today, in this moment, she was eager to trust the lad with her life. He made her feel safe for the first time in weeks.

“Thanks for being our friends,” said Max, already munching on his sweets. “I miss having friends.”

Vamps put an arm around the boy as if he were a big brother. “Let’s go find you some more then, bud. We could all use more friends right now.”


Let me know what you think in the comments.



Chapter 1 of TAR

So to tide you over until I release the full novella in a couple months, here is Chapter 1 of TAR. It takes place after a prologue where an experiment in the Australian Outback goes very wrong. This is where we meet our main character Finn during his sister’s funeral of sorts.




Tar - Chapter 1

The silence was punctuated by stifled coughing. Dust was no longer escapable by moving indoors. The world was shedding its cancerous skin and you took it with you everywhere.

Finn looked down at the bundle of blankets that held his dead sister. No one made coffins anymore so covering her in her old duvet was the best her family could do. He winced when he saw a damp patch where her face was hiding. He’d always thought of a corpse as being a dry thing, but the truth was different. Dead things were moist.

He turned away from his sister’s resting place at the front of the living room where the television had once been and glanced at his ma. The old girl was numb, her face grey and expressionless, and the back of one frail hand against her mouth as she fought off another cough. Maybe in the old world she would have been wailing at a church, but death was too commonplace now to be melodramatic. The end would soon come for them all, a withered old man standing before them, palm outstretched and ready to give them that final handshake. In some way’s Finn’s sister had been lucky to escape humanity’s last, choking breaths.

If you could call being raped and murdered lucky.

Finn clenched his fists, ignoring the pain of knuckles once broken as a younger man. His mother seemed to sense his anger and moved her gaze towards him. She did not smile, but gave a very small nod—the extent of what her numbness would allow her.

Clive put a hand on Finn’s broad back and handed him a tumbler full of whiskey. “Enjoy it, brother, because there’s no more left. I’d pop the shop but it’s not there anymore.”

Finn huffed at the joke. The corner shop nearby had gone up in flames a few days ago when some kids set fire to it for the craic, but it had dropped its shutters long before that. The only way to get anything anymore was to take it, find it, or bargain for it.

Take it, thought Finn. Like someone took my sister.

I should have been here.

He and Marie had not been close since they were kids. She had moved with the family to London in the early nineties, while he had remained behind in Belfast, an eighteen year old with a chip on his shoulder. A perfect recruit for the IRA. Following in his father’s footsteps.

Now Finn realised, more than ever, how much of his life he had given up to fighting. He wondered if Northern Ireland even existed anymore, or had it finally welcomed the joyless oblivion it had been toying with for the last century. Finn’s homeland was probably now blackened and lifeless like the rest of the globe. The killing had finally stopped there. It was over. It was all over.

All that remained in Finn’s world now were the people in this room. His mother, his brother, and him. A killer and the loving family he had turned from. Finn had chosen hate.

He downed the whiskey despite the warning that it would be his last. He would not draw out the agony with tentative sips. His final whiskey would be given a chance to work. Even now he felt the warmness in his legs.

“You never were a patient one, were you?” said Clive, his native accent now all but gone after two decades living in the English capital. He was just nine when he had moved here.

Finn patted his younger brother on the shoulder and smiled. It seemed he was one of the few who could still do so. Maybe it was only the insane who still smiled. “I’m an Irishman with a drink in front of him,” he said. “You having one yourself?”

Clive shook his head. “Knew you would enjoy it more.”

Finn felt a lump in his throat where the whiskey had burned. To get back to emotions he was used to he glanced back at his dead sister. A brief memory of her threading daisy-chains while sitting on his lap flashed through his mind. It hurt like a rusty blade across his ribs. “What happened to her, Clive?”

Clive looked away, hiding his eyes. He rubbed at his left wrist, almost nervously. “No point thinking about it. She’s gone, brother.”

“I know that. Why is she gone though? Which low-life gobshite did this to her?”

“I don’t know and it doesn’t matter. We’ll all be gone ourselves before the week is through. Danny Stanton said he drove down to Ramsgate and the English Channel was gone. Just gone. That grey sludge had taken over it and was crawling up the beach.” He stopped rubbing his wrist for a moment and rubbed the dust and sweat from his brow. “It’s stupid, but even after all the news reports part of me hoped it was all just a load of nonsense. I prayed to the almighty father that it wasn’t really happening. Seeing the fear on poor Danny Stanton’s face was all the proof I needed. He reckons it will be up this way before the week ends. We should move north with ma soon. They say Newcastle will be the last to go. Makes you proud in a way. The last surviving patch of land will be right here in England.”

Finn sneered. “Why would it make you proud? You’re Irish.”

“I’ve lived here for twenty-years, Finn. I might be Irish but England is my home. Do you really look back at that place fondly? It was a battleground. Why did you stay so long?”

Finn stared firmly at his sister’s body beneath the damp blankets. “This place is no different. Monsters dwell everywhere, little brother. One of those monsters did this to Marie. I want to know who.”

Clive sighed. “Like I said, I dunno who.”

Finn’s brother went to turn away but he grabbed him by the wrist, harder than he’d intended, and it made him cry out. “You’re lying to me, Clive. I want to know who did this. Which fucker raped my sister?”

Clive yanked his arm away and rubbed his wrist as though it were on fire. “What the fuck does it matter? We’re all dead anyway.”

“It matters because she suffered alone and afraid.”

“Ha! Don’t act like you give a shit about Marie being alone. She had to get by without you for the last twenty years. I was just a kid when we moved here, but she was almost a teenager. She missed you her whole life.”

Finn recoiled. “I was here. I saw her.”

Clive spat on the carpet—it didn’t matter. “What, you mean on the odd Christmas or Easter when you weren’t too busy fighting pointless wars?”

“I was a soldier, Clive. I had a duty.”

“You had a family, but you decided to follow in dad’s footsteps. The IRA has a lot to answer for…” he trailed off, “but there’s no reason to debate it now. There’s no reason to do anything anymore. Don’t you get it, Finn? Marie is dead. She doesn’t care what happened to her and neither should you. Instead of worrying about it you should be making peace with God. You more than most.”

Finn clenched his fists.

Clive’s lower lip trembled, but he stood his ground. His younger brother thought himself a man. At twenty-years old he should be, but Finn could teach him a few things.

“Finley!” Both brothers turned to face their ma, who had chosen this moment as one of the few times she spoke as of late. “I won’t see you at each other’s throats,” she snapped. “We should all be making peace with God, not just Finn. Let’s count ourselves lucky that we have any time left at all. To be amongst family for our final days is a blessing. Don’t squander what most are not lucky enough to have.”

Clive nodded. He looked at his brother. “I’m sorry.”

Finn shrugged, but said nothing. His anger had risen and the only thing that would bring him back down was taking a few breaths and remaining silent. His brother was right, and that was what was so infuriating. It meant that Finn was wrong—had been wrong most of his life.

Fighting pointless wars against neighbours and children.

“Finn, can I speak with you in the kitchen, please?” his ma said, moving past the mahogany china cabinet that was older than she was. It would outlive her too.

Finn nodded and followed her into the kitchen. The small room was streaked with filth. Earth’s atmosphere was in tatters, and the solidification of the oceans had put an end to climatic winds. England was hot, dusty, and still. Never so much as a breeze gave relief from the muggy heat and dust and grime covered everything. In the last few weeks, the trees had begun to die, choked off from the sun by whatever foulness clung to the air. Some said it was the decayed corpses of animals. Others said it was flecks from the creeping grey tar that was casually devouring the earth. Finn didn’t care what the dust was, he was just tired of choking on it.

His ma stood in front of the empty fridge and stared at him. “You’re still angry, Finley? Even after all these years?”

He went to argue but ended up nodding. Anger wasn’t something he was ashamed of. It was just a part of him—the only thing his father had left him.

“Good,” his ma said, surprising him.

He frowned. “Good?”

She took a step towards him and placed her hands on his shoulders. Her eyes had once been green, but now they were grey and tired, set above sunken cheeks. When she spoke again, she kept her voice low as if she didn’t want Clive to hear in the next room. “Marie had a boyfriend. Real piece of work.”

Finn swallowed, the lump in his throat returning. “Go on, ma.”

“It was a year ago when she first came home with a black eye. She’d been down the Hobby Horse with a new guy. She swore he had nothing to do with it, but it was more regular than her period after that. Your brother, Clive, went down the pub one evening to try and put a stop to it-”

Finn raised an eyebrow. “Clive went and confronted the guy?”

“Aye, he did, bless him. He came back with more than a black eye that night though, I can tell you. Took three months for his wrist to heal. Even now I see that it hurts him. We didn’t see Marie for weeks later. The brute kept her from us.”

“Who is this guy? I’ll wring his bloody neck.”

“I know you will, Finley. That’s why I’m telling you.”

Finley took a moment and tried to think. “Are you saying that he did this to Marie? It was him who killed her?”

His ma shrugged her shoulders and folded her arms. For a moment she was once again the strong, no-nonsense Catholic woman he remembered from his youth. “Don’t have no proof, but if one day you see a cat eyeing up a mouse and then the next day you have a dead mouse, it don’t make much sense to blame the dog.”

Finn nodded. “His name?”

“Dominic Harris.”

Finn leaned in and gave his mother a hug. Then he left her in the kitchen.

“Everything okay?” Clive asked. He was still rubbing his wrist.

“Sorry I hurt you, little brother. I never meant to.”

Clive nodded. He didn’t hold grudges—never have.

Finn pulled his brother in for an awkward hug. Then he turned and knelt down beside his sister. He knew that beneath the blanket her face was a mess, but he placed his hand where he imagined her cheek to be. “I’m sorry I hurt you too, baby sis.”

He stood up and left the house without saying another word.

Don’t forget that you can get five of my novels for free by visiting here: http://www.iainrobwright.com/squeeze-pageweb/




Legion: Chapter 1





The room stank of death. A syrupy sweet odour melding with a brown, noxious rot. Sweat, blood, piss, and filth. It was all there. The blanket stench of the infirm.

Hospitals. If ever there were a place John Windsor loathed, it was hospitals. Prime Ministerial obligation was the only reason he inhabited one now, and the last time he had entered one voluntarily his granny Margaret gave in to the smoker’s curse and let lung cancer take her. He’d been twenty years old, but he remembered it as being the very last time he had cried. His Law degree completed not long after, he had begun his journey to the courtrooms, where emotion was a hindrance. Now, twenty years later he was the youngest Prime Minister of the 21st Century, the prospects of his own hospital stay still many years distant. Being faced with other people’s impending death was an unwelcome task, even if a necessary part of the job, and he was counting the minutes until he could leave.

A sycophantic nurse waddled over, a proud grin on her chubby face. No doubt she felt important, getting the job of shaking the PM’s hand, but the truth was she would be forgotten the moment he turned his back. Some people held such small ambition, yet he did not deny her the small moment of victory. Leaning forward, he paired the hearty handshake with a peck on the cheek that sent the woman giddy. He fought the urge to wipe his mouth on his sleeve afterwards.

The plump woman gushed. “We’re so glad to have you here, Prime Minister.”

John smiled, certain he could taste the woman’s sweat on his lips. “It’s my pleasure, Joan.” Good spot on the name badge. Plebs love it when you used their names. “It’s a wonderful job you’re doing here.”

“We do what we can. It’s a hard job, but so vital. We had our funding cut last-”

“Shall we take the tour?” said John, waving a hand towards the ward. Cramped tent cubicles filled it, and likely housed various dying occupants. So much money just to park the nearly dead. So inefficient.
“Oh yes, of course, the tour.” The nurse nodded. “This is the oncology ward where we care for stage 4 patients. I would introduce you to our guests, but most will be sleeping. Best not to disturb them.”

John nodded gravely although it was great news. He had held little desire to look upon the diseased. “Of course, Joan. You are an angel to these people.”

“Me? Oh no, I’m just one woman doing what she-”

“Shall we move on?”

“Yes, Prime Minister, of course. There is lots to see.”

And lots to see there was—a dreadful amount in fact. John endured over an hour of sweaty handshakes and prattling small talk. In the children’s ward, he had to go so far as to kiss a collection of clammy foreheads (his PR Secretary’s idea, not his). By the time John looped back around to where he had begun, exhaustion had set in. Two bodyguards accompanied him the entire time and looked just as bored as he was.

It was time to go. Continue Reading →