Punk Faction Online Serial Part 22

“Fucking hell Stiggy, you can’t do that on here,” Colin said when he saw Stiggy pull out a can of glue.

Stiggy shrugged. “Why not?”

“Because it will fucking stink,” Brian said, “and the train guard will chuck us all off.”

“Yeah well,” Stiggy said, “not if I open a window it won’t.”

“Can’t you do it in the bogs or something?”

“Nah, fuck that. I’m sick of hiding away, it’s not like it’s illegal or nothing.” Stiggy unscrewed the lid and poured a blob of glue into a bag.

Brian frowned. “Yeah, well, you can fuck off to the other side of the carriage with it. And when the train guard catches you we don’t know who you are, right?”

Stiggy shrugged and rose to his feet. He walked along the carriage to the exit door and pulled down its window. He leaned out, turned his head to face away from the wind, and raised the glue-bag to his mouth.

“Fucking dick,” Brian said, shaking his head. Colin turned to watch Stiggy.

Stiggy let out a roar and leaned out further. He stretched up on his toes and shuffled his stomach across the window edge, then roared again. He raised his arms out sideways as if they were wings, and the glue-bag flew out of his hand. His feet rose from the ground.

“Fucking hell, quick,” Colin shouted as he jumped to his feet. He ran to the door and grabbed one of Stiggy’s ankles. He could feel something hard in Stiggy’s sock, but didn’t have time to think what it might be. Stiggy’s other leg kicked out wildly at him, narrowly missing his face. Stiggy clamped his hands against the outside of the train when Colin tried to pull him back into the carriage.

Brian rushed forward and took hold of Stiggy’s other ankle. They both tugged, fighting against Stiggy’s apparent desire to jump out of the train. With both of them pulling together, Stiggy’s hands began to slip, and with a final roar he fell face down on the floor of the train carriage.

Colin bent down and lifted up the bottom of Stiggy’s combat trousers to see what was hidden in his sock. It was a knife with a vicious looking six inch blade, fastened to Stiggy’s ankle with black masking tape.

“Fucking hell Bri, look at this!”

Brian’s eyes widened when he looked at the knife. “Jesus fucking Christ. I told you that cunt was trouble. What the fuck’s he doing with something like that?”

“Help me get it off,” Colin said, pulling at the masking tape.

Between them they were able to remove enough of the tape to twist the knife loose, and Colin tossed it out of the train window.

Stiggy stumbled to his feet and made straight for the window. Brian grabbed his arms and held him in place while Colin closed it.

“What the fuck did you do that for?” Stiggy yelled. He struggled in Brian’s grip.

“Why do you fucking think, you mad bastard,” Brian said. “You can’t take a fucking knife to a gig.”

“What’s going on here?” A voice thundered from nearby.

Colin spun toward it. A six-foot, well built man of African descent wearing a train guard uniform glared at him.

“Nothing,” Colin said. “Um … he’s not feeling very well. Travel sickness, you know.”

“So why are you holding his arms like that then?” The train guard looked at Brian. Brian let go of Stiggy and shrugged. “Well?”

Brian glanced at Colin, then looked at the train guard. “Um… so he doesn’t fall over? He got a bit dizzy.”

“Is that right?” the train guard asked Stiggy.

Stiggy shrugged and glared at Colin. “Yeah,” he said.

The train guard grunted. “Right, okay. Let me see your tickets.” They presented their train tickets and he punched holes in them with a clipper. “Right. Now go and sit down, you’re blocking the gangway here. And no more trouble or you’ll be off the train at the next station. Clear?” They all nodded. The guard stood to one side and gestured for them to pass.

Colin and Brian sat down in the nearest vacant seat. Stiggy walked to the opposite end of the carriage, where he remained for the rest of the journey to Shefferham.

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Thatcher Day everyone!

thatch1thatch6thatch4

thatch3thatch2thatch5

Posted in Other | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Punk Faction Online Serial Part 21

5 I’m an Upstart

Colin leaned against the side of a Moon Cresta machine in the train station buffet and watched Brian perform a docking manoeuvre to join two spaceships together. Brian jabbed the fire button and waggled the joystick from side to side, his movement becoming more frantic as the ships got closer together. He banked too far to the left, and one of the spaceships exploded in a ball of pixelated flames. Brian swore and thumped his fist down on the control panel.

“All right, Col,” Stiggy said from the doorway.

Colin looked around and raised a hand. Brian continued playing the Moon Cresta game, frowning while he tried to avoid multi-coloured blobs falling diagonally across the screen toward his remaining spaceship. Stiggy looked over Brian’s shoulder, sighed, and sat down at a nearby table.

“I thought you said there was loads of people going?” Stiggy asked.

“They’re not here yet,” Colin said. “Shouldn’t be long though. I think they were going to the football this afternoon, maybe they had extra time or something. The train’s late anyway.”

As if in confirmation, the train station tannoy announced the next train to Shefferham would be approximately twenty-three minutes late.

When Brian finished his game, he and Colin joined Stiggy at the table. They both lit cigarettes. Stiggy frowned and wafted smoke away from his face.

A few minutes later Twiglet and Spazzo arrived, along with another youth dressed in casual gear that Colin didn’t recognise. Colin looked toward the door, and when nobody else entered he asked where Mike was.

“He got nicked down at the footie, didn’t he?” Twiglet said with a shrug as he sat down at the table. “The daft cunt only went and nutted a fucking copper.”

“What did he do that for?” Brian asked.

“Pissed up, weren’t he? Anyway, all of a sudden there was loads of fucking coppers everywhere lashing out at anyone who stood still long enough. The rest of us fucked off sharpish and melted into the crowd.”

“Aye,” Spazzo said, running his fingers through his bristly green hair. “Mike got a right fucking smack round the head, split it right open. Next thing there’s three of the bastards on top of him and more of the cunts running toward us. Fucking mental, it were.”

* * *

Trog looked up at a black and white display hanging over platform 3B and frowned.

“The fucking train’s late,” he said.

Don stood by the edge of the platform, bent over with his hands on his knees. He gasped for breath, having run up the stairs from the subway under the train station. He coughed, and spat a glob of mucus between his feet.

“Just as … fucking well or we’d have … missed the cunt.”

Trog looked at Don and hitched up his bleached jeans. “Mate, you’re out of fucking condition. We’ve only been running a few minutes.”

Don straightened up and stretched his arms out behind him. He reached into his flight jacket pocket for a pack of cigarettes. “Yeah well, looks like that were a waste of fucking effort anyway.”

Trog hooked his thumbs in his pockets and polished the toes of his boots on the back of his legs, one after the other.

A bored-sounding male voice, adding unnecessary emphasis to random words, made an announcement over the tannoy.

“The next train to arrive at platform 3B will be the late running eighteen-thirty service to Shefferham. We apologise for the late arrival of this train, which is now due to arrive in Shefferham at nineteen-fifty-five approximately. Passengers are advised that the smoking carriage is at the rear of this train, and smoking in any other area of the train is not permitted. Platform 3B for the late running eighteen-thirty service to Shefferham.”

“There you go,” Trog said, “looks like we’re just in time.”

A group of punks wandered out of the buffet. The gobby student, his two mates, and a couple more Trog hadn’t seen before. With them was someone he knew from work.

“All right, Johnno?” Trog called out. “You off to the Cockney Upstarts then?”

“Aye up, Trog,” Johnno said, nodding. “Yeah, Spazzo here were going on about it at the footie, it sounds a right laugh. So how’s it going then? I haven’t seen you in the showers for a while.”

“I’ve been working the afternoon shift.”

“Yeah? Can’t say I’m looking forward to that myself, I reckon I might put in for permanent days when I turn eighteen.”

Trog smiled. “Yeah, you and thousands others. It’s not so bad really, you finish just in time for the pubs opening. It’s the night shift that’s the real killer.”

“Yeah, that’s what my dad says too. He’s a right grumpy old bastard when he’s on nights.”

“Did you hear about Ian?”

Johnno nodded. “Yeah, it were in the local paper, it said he took a right fucking beating. How is he?”

“Still unconscious. You heard anything about who did it?” Trog glanced at the student punk and his two mates. They glared back at him.

Johnno shook his head. “No, mate. But if you find out, let me know and I’ll help you sort the bastard out. He were a good bloke, Ian.”

“He still is,” Trog said.

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Punk Faction Online Serial Part 20

Outside on the street, Brian held his arms out straight before him and moaned, “Urrrrrrrrrrhhhhhhhh.” He held his head at an angle, his mouth gaping open, and shambled toward Kaz like a zombie.

Colin put the record inside his leather jacket and tucked a corner into his jeans. He zipped his jacket up and raised his own arms, then lumbered toward Becky.

“They’re coming to get you, Rebecca,” he said in a drawn out, gormless-sounding voice mimicking a character from an old black and white film he had watched on TV.

Becky squealed and grabbed Kaz’s hand. They ran down the street together, twin pairs of monkey boots clattering down the pavement. They kept glancing behind them at Colin and Brian, who shambled after them. Their loud moans drew attention from a group of trendies passing by on the other side of the road.

“SID’S DEAD!” one shouted.

Colin gave them a two-finger salute and continued following Becky, who had stopped with Kaz a short distance away to look at the trendies. Brian lumbered toward Kaz, moaning, and closed his arms around her back. He turned his head and made a chomping sound against her neck. Kaz jerked her head to one side and screamed. Brian jolted away and clamped his hand over his ear.

“Ahhh, I’ve gone deaf,” he cried.

“What?” Colin asked.

“I’ve gone deaf.”

“What?”

“I’ve gone … oh, fuck off, you cunt.”

“Poor Brian,” Kaz said, laughing, and looped her arm through his. They walked down the road together.

Colin glanced at Becky and followed them.

* * *

At the bus station they all sat on a long, wooden bench while they waited for Kaz and Becky’s bus to arrive. The girls lived in a different suburb to Colin and Brian, and their bus was due to arrive a few minutes before their own. Brian and Kaz held hands and chatted away to each other.

Colin sat next to Becky and looked down at his shoes. He wondered if Becky would punch him in the face if he tried to kiss her, and decided it wasn’t worth the risk. He looked up at her. She smiled and brushed against him with her shoulder. Colin bit his lip and looked away.

The bus arrived with a hiss of hydraulic brakes. Becky and Kaz jumped up and walked toward it. Colin and Brian waved goodbye and started to shuffle off to their own bus stop. Becky stepped in front of Colin, threw her arms around his neck, and kissed him on the lips. Colin winced when she crushed the cut on his lip, but the surge of emotion coursing through him as he tasted the Pernod, blackcurrant, and cheese and onion crisps on her tongue sent his head reeling. He raised his arms to return the embrace, but as suddenly as she appeared, Becky was gone. She sidestepped his grasping hands and jumped onto the bus after Kaz.

Colin watched as they stomped their way across the floor of the bus to the back seat. He waved idiotically while they blew kisses through the back window as the bus pulled out from the station.

“We should have got on that bus with them,” he said to Brian when the bus disappeared from view.

“It’s the last one, how would we get back home?”

Colin shrugged. He felt like he was walking on air. “What would that matter?”

He was still grinning two hours later, laid in bed, wide awake and bursting with energy while a record played quietly in the background. It was the Cockney Upstarts gig tomorrow night, and he would be seeing Becky in town in the afternoon, so it looked like it was going to be the perfect day.

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Punk Faction Online Serial Part 19

Stiggy lurched out of the toilet and staggered toward Colin’s table. He stumbled into the back of a chair and changed direction, the chair’s occupant turned and glared at him. Stiggy shrugged and carried on walking, then came to a swaying halt. He looked around, seemingly lost. Colin waved to get his attention, Stiggy nodded and veered off toward him. He flopped into his chair and picked up his half-empty glass of cider. He looked over the rim at Colin.

“What?” Stiggy asked.

Colin laughed. “Nothing, mate. We thought you’d gone home.”

Stiggy put down his glass and tapped his chest. “No, not yet,” he said, shaking his head.

Colin laughed. Brian and Becky did too. Stiggy looked at them with a puzzled expression.

“What?” Stiggy repeated.

Colin smiled and shook his head. “Nothing, mate.” He picked up the record and showed it to Stiggy. “Here, look what Becky bought me.”

Stiggy cocked his head to one side as he looked at it. “What is it?”

“A record. It’s by that band that were just on.”

Stiggy blinked and rubbed his eyes with his fists. “Yeah? Can you tape it for me?”

Colin shook his head and put the record back down on the table. He took out a cigarette and lit it. “I can’t mate, me tape recorder’s broke. But I can borrow you it if you want? Then you can tape it for Brian as well.”

Stiggy nodded. “Yeah, cheers.”

“I’ll fetch it round to your bedsit tomorrow afternoon, we can do it before we go to Shefferham.”

“Why, what’s in Shefferham?” Becky asked.

“Cockney Upstarts are playing,” Brian said. “We’re all going down there on the train.” He turned to Kaz. “You fancy it? It should be a good one.”

Kaz frowned. “No, my dad won’t let me. Anyway, I don’t like skinhead bands, and I don’t think you should go either. It won’t be safe.”

Brian shook his head. “Nah, there’s loads of us going, we’ll be okay. Anyway they’re not a skinhead band.”

“Do you have to go?” Kaz put her hand on Brian’s chest and stared into his eyes.

Brian shrugged. “Well yeah. They’re from that London, they don’t come down here very often so it’ll probably be the only chance we get to see them.”

Kaz frowned again. She leaned back and folded her arms over her chest, glowering at Brian. Brian looked away and toyed with his half-empty beer glass. Kaz sighed and turned to Becky. “I need a wee. Are you coming, Becky?”

Becky smiled. “Yeah okay.” She turned to Colin. “You’ll wait for us, won’t you?”

Colin nodded. He grinned at Brian and took a drag on his cigarette. “I need a wee wee, are you coming Brian?” he said in a high pitched voice, mimicking Kaz.

Kaz glared at Colin and stamped off, arm in arm with Becky. Brian sniggered, and took a long drink from his beer. He belched at Colin and rose to his feet. “Come on then. But no peeping at me cock.”

“Fuck off,” Colin said, and turned to Stiggy. “You watch our stuff for us?”

Stiggy nodded and picked up the record.

In the toilet, Brian and Colin took up positions either side of the urinal. Colin threw his cigarette end into the middle and it landed in the water with a hiss. He aimed his urine at the cigarette end, pushing it toward Brian. Brian smiled and aimed his penis to push it back, shuffling closer to Colin for a better aim. Colin’s bladder emptied first and his urine turned to dribbles while Brian’s was still in full flow. The cigarette end hit Colin’s end of the urinal and Brian bellowed in victory.

“Cheating bastard,” Colin said, zipping up.

Back in the bar, Stiggy was reading the song titles from the back of the record sleeve when Colin approached him from behind.

“Have they gone?” Colin asked, looking around the pub. Most of the other customers had already left.

“Have what gone?” Stiggy asked without looking up from the record cover.

“Becky and Kaz.”

“Who?”

Colin sighed. “Them birds you’ve been sitting with all night.”

Stiggy shrugged. “Still in the bogs, aren’t they? What time is it anyway?”

Brian looked at his watch. “Half-ten.”

“What?” Stiggy looked up at Brian, wide-eyed. He dropped the record on the table and stood up. “I’ve got to go. See you tomorrow night at the train station.”

After Stiggy rushed out, Brian looked at Colin and shrugged. Colin looked over at the women’s toilet door. “What do you reckon they’re doing in there?”

“How the fuck should I know?” Brian said. “Probably escaped out the window so they don’t need to look at your ugly mug any more.”

“Fuck off.”

Brian laughed. “Well whatever they’re doing they’d better hurry up or we’ll miss the bus home.”

They lit a cigarette each and smoked them. Becky and Kaz were still in the toilet when they stubbed them out. Colin looked at the toilet door and sighed. “Fuck this,” he said, and rose to his feet. He banged on the door with his fist. “Oi Becky, are you in there?”

A muffled voice answered him. “Yeah, won’t be long.”

Colin looked at Brian, who tapped his watch with his index finger. Colin shrugged and pushed open the door.

Becky and Kaz stood before a large mirror, dabbing their faces with balls of cotton wool. Colin watched them from the doorway for a few seconds, then asked what they were doing.

Kaz looked up at Colin’s reflection in the mirror. “Oi get out, you can’t come in here,” she said.

Colin slid through the door and let it close behind him. “Too late, I already did.”

Becky smiled and continued wiping her cheek with a cotton wool ball. Kaz spun to face Colin. “Get out,” she said, pointing at the door.

Colin looked around the spotlessly clean toilet with amazement. The place smelled of flowery perfume instead of shit and piss, and there wasn’t even any graffiti on the walls. He watched Becky’s reflection in the mirror, and when he caught her eye she smiled back at him.

“Are you going to be long?” Colin asked. “Only me and Brian need to go for the bus soon.”

“Come on Becky,” Kaz said. She brushed past Colin and left through the door.

Becky dropped a cotton wool ball into the sink and turned to face Colin. She leaned back against the sink with her hands, her chest pushed out.

“Do we need to go right now?” she asked, looking into Colin’s eyes.

“Yeah,” Colin said. He turned to the door and followed Kaz through it.

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Punk Faction Online Serial Part 18

Colin turned to face the stage area when he heard a high-pitched whine of feedback. The long-haired man tapped his fingers on a microphone. A guitarist tuned up, while a bass player crouched down to adjust dials on a small amplifier. The drummer sat behind his drum kit, drinking from a bottle of lager.

“One two, one two,” the long haired man said.

Someone from the audience, a local punk with ripped purple trousers and an unruly mess of purple hair to match, strode up to the stage area.

“Go on, Marco,” a female voice shouted from one of the tables near the stage.

The youth said something to the long-haired man, who smiled and stood to one side, then gestured at the microphone. The youth grabbed the microphone stand, tilted it toward himself, and scowled at the audience.

“Fuck Thatcher,” he shouted. “You took us into this fucking war but nobody knows what we’re fighting for some fucking sheep some fucking land what the fuck do we want that for you fucking skank you fucking—”

He continued shouting for several minutes, to the accompaniment of blasts of feedback and an occasional beat on the drums. As one poem ended he started another before anyone could react, until with a final scream he walked off the stage and retook his seat.

“Well I hope the band is better than that,” Brian said.

“I thought he was cute,” Becky said, smiling. She craned her neck to see where the youth had gone.

The long-haired man tapped on the microphone again. “Right. Hello, I think we might be ready to start now. I’ll just take my pullover off, it’s a bit hot in here.”

“Fucking hippy,” someone shouted from the bar. Colin smiled and looked to see who it was, and saw the two skinheads standing there. His heart sank. He nudged Brian and nodded to them.  Brian turned to look.

“Thank you for that contribution,” the long-haired man said.  He smiled and flicked his hair back over his shoulder with a jerk of his head.

“Don’t worry about it,” Brian said, “they’ll not do anything with this many people here.”

“What are you on about?” Kaz asked, looking toward the bar.

“Nothing,” Brian said. “Let’s watch the band.”

“Right. Okay,” the long-haired man said.  “Well I’m Mark and we’re The Astronauts, and we sound a bit like this.” He counted in the band, adding emphasis to the final digit. “One two three four, one two three four.”

* * *

Trog turned his back on the band when they started to play. He clapped his hand on Don’s shoulder to get his attention and leaned over to shout into his ear.

“I still reckon that student cunt knows something about it.”

Don nodded. “Yeah, so do I. Not much we can do about it tonight though, just the two of us, so we might as well get fucked off. This fucking hippy music’s doing me head in anyway.”

Trog picked up his lager and drained the glass. He turned and watched the singer cavorting around the microphone stand like some demented ballerina. He turned back to Don and put the empty pint glass down on the bar.

“Yeah, drink up then. Hopefully Ian will come round soon, and he can tell us who it was. Then we’ll get a fucking army together and do the cunt proper.”

Don drained his glass in one go and belched. He thumped the glass down on the bar and walked away. Trog took a final look at the band, shook his head, and followed Don through the door.

* * *

The music took Colin by surprise. From the long hair of the singer, and the promise of folk music on the poster outside, he had expected something like Pink Floyd or one of those other ghastly bands of that ilk, and had been ready to walk out as soon as they started. But while being a lot more melodic than Colin’s usual taste in music, the songs were certainly catchy and the tales of urban decay told by the lyrics were definitely something he could relate to.

Colin looked at Brian, intending to ask if he wanted to get up and dance with him. Brian had his arm around Kaz’s shoulder. He turned to face her and shouted something into her ear. Kaz smiled and shouted something back. Colin sighed and nudged Stiggy.

“Come on, Stiggy.”

Stiggy looked at Colin, but remained seated until Colin pulled him to his feet and dragged him by the arm into the midst of a few punks who were shuffling around before the band. He let him go, then swung his arms and jumped about in time to the music. Stiggy caught the back of Colin’s hand across his face when he didn’t move out of the way in time, and shoulder-barged Colin in retaliation. Stiggy kicked out his feet and leaped around, flailing his arms at anyone who got too close to him. Colin kept his distance, having seen Stiggy dance lots of times before and not wanting to get any fresh bruises to go with the ones he already had.

A few songs later, Colin’s energy started to sag. He squeezed his way out of the make-shift dance area and returned to his seat. He sat down and lifted the front of his T-shirt to wipe sweat from his face, then took a long drink to cool himself down.

“I can see how you got your bruises now,” Becky shouted. “Do you always dance like that?”

“Yeah. Why, what’s up with it?”

Becky smiled. “Nothing. So what do you think of the band then? Glad you came?”

Colin nodded. “Yeah, they’re pretty good. I wish I’d bought that record now.”

Colin turned to watch the band. Stiggy was still jumping around haphazardly, lurching into the other punks and sending them stumbling away from him with his fists.

The band announced their final song, and three minutes later it was all over. Dancers drifted away from the stage area, bruised and happy. Some headed for the bar, others returned to their seats and made ready to go home. Stiggy went into the toilet.

Becky stood up and approached the stage area, said something to the singer. He bent down to listen, nodded, and reached for the bag of records. He pulled one out and handed it to Becky. Becky paid him and returned to Colin.

“Here you go,” she said, smiling.

“Er … thanks,” Colin said, and took the record from her.

Becky stood before him and swung her shoulders. She smiled. “Buy me a drink?”

“Er … yeah, sure.” Colin looked to the bar, expecting the two skinheads to still be there. But all he saw was a smattering of punks and a few old hippies. “What do you want?”

“Pernod and black.”

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Punk Faction Online Serial Part 17

The long-haired roadie finished setting up the band’s equipment and picked up a Sainsbury’s carrier bag that was propped up against a wall behind the drum-kit. He reached inside and pulled out a twelve inch record with a black and red cover, then walked up to the nearest table with it. He leaned over to talk to the people sitting there, a pair of hippies in their late twenties, and when one of them nodded he handed over the record and took some money for it. He moved on to the next table.

“Anyone want to buy an album?” the man asked when he reached Colin’s table. He held one out for them to see. Its stark black and red cover image showed two stencilled figures, a businessman and a court jester, staring at each other across a diagonal divide.

Colin read the lettering printed around the edges of the record sleeve and saw it was by The Astronauts, the band who were playing later. He took the album from the man and flipped it over to look at the song titles printed on the back. The first track was something about seagulls, the second a Dixieland blues song.

“Nah, you’re all right, mate,” Colin said, shaking his head, and put the record down on the table.

Becky leaned forward and picked it up. “How much are they?” she asked.

“Three pounds,” the long-haired man said.

“Giz a look then,” Brian said, and snatched the record from Becky’s hand. Kaz leaned over to look at it with him.

“You want to buy one?” the man asked.

Brian shrugged and handed him the record back. “Nah, not really.”

“Okay, fair enough. Catch you later, yeah?” The man turned and walked away to try his luck at the next table.

Colin finished off his beer and looked toward the bar. The two skinheads were still standing there, staring at him. One made a gun from his fingers and pointed it at Colin, then raised it to his mouth and blew imaginary smoke from it. Colin looked away.

“You want another drink?” he asked Becky. Becky smiled and nodded. Colin turned to Brian. “Get the drinks in, yeah? I’m just off to the bog.” He took out two pound notes and gave them to Brian.

Brian sighed, then rose to his feet. “You coming to help me carry them, Kaz?”

“See you in a bit,” Colin said, nodding to Becky.

Stiggy stumbled out of the toilet door just as Colin approached it, and staggered toward the bar. Colin went inside, frowned at a strong smell of solvents, and headed for one of the two cubicle toilets. After his experience in The Queen’s Head he didn’t want to take any chances, and bolted the door behind him.

He lifted up the seat and urinated into the toilet with a sigh. He zipped up and wiped his hands on his trousers, then slid back the bolt and opened the cubicle door.

The two skinheads scowled in at him from the doorway.

Blood rushed to Colin’s face. The earth lurched beneath him. He reached out for the cubicle wall to steady himself and gasped for air. His eyes darted from one skinhead to the other.

“What do you want?” Colin’s voice came out with a squeak.

One of the skinheads, the short one who had attacked Colin in The Queen’s Head, took a step toward him. “What do you know about our mate?” he asked in a gruff voice.

Colin took an involuntary step back and felt the toilet bowl press against the back of his legs. The short skinhead stepped into the cubicle. The taller one stood guard in the doorway, staring in. Colin wondered what his chances of pushing past them both and escaping back into the bar would be.

“Er … you what?” Colin asked.

The skinhead grabbed Colin’s leather jacket and pulled him out of the cubicle. Colin lost his footing and stumbled. The skinhead held him tight, pulled him back to his feet and dragged him across the toilet. He swung Colin around to face him, pressed him up against a wall, and raised a fist. It hovered before Colin’s face, ready to strike.

“I said, what do you know about our fucking mate?”

The taller skinhead stood behind him, a look of fury on his face. He clenched his fists and puffed out his chest, his eyes blazing.

Colin felt his knees weaken. His hands shook when he held them out before him.

“Look, I, um …”

“Well?” the short skinhead asked, and pulled back his fist.

Colin flinched and closed his eyes. “I don’t know nothing,” he said, quickly. When no blow came he opened his eyes. “Why, what’s happened?”

“One of our mates got done over. We think you know something about it.”

Colin shook his head. “Look, I …” He swallowed hard to clear his dry throat. “I don’t know nothing about it, honest. It wasn’t me.”

The short skinhead laughed. “Yeah, I guessed that. But I reckon you know who did do it, and I want you to tell me. Now!” He pulled back his fist again.

 “Look, mate …” Colin began, holding up his hands. He heard the toilet door open and looked toward it. Brian and Stiggy stood in the doorway, looking in.

“You all right there, Col?” Brian asked.

The two skinheads looked around. The short one released Colin and stepped away from him. They both turned to face Brian and Stiggy, their fists clenched by their sides. Colin sidestepped away from them toward the urinal.

“Is there a problem?” Brian asked, looking at Colin.

The two skinheads looked from Brian and Stiggy to Colin and back, then glanced at each other. The short one shook his head slowly.

“No problem here, mate. We were just having a chat, weren’t we?” He glared at Colin.

“Is that right?” Brian asked. Colin shrugged.

Brian walked up to the urinal, keeping his eyes firmly on the two skinheads the whole time. Stiggy stayed by the exit, and when the two skinheads walked toward him he held the door open for them.

“Fucking yeti,” the taller skinhead said under his breath as they left. Stiggy let the door close behind them.

“What was all that about?” Brian asked.

Colin shrugged. “They said one of their mates got done over, they wanted to know if I knew who did it.”

“You didn’t tell them, did you?” Stiggy asked. He looked toward the closed toilet door.

“Nah, did I fuck. But I don’t think they’ll let it go, so you’d best watch your back from now on. And don’t go bragging about it to anyone else.”

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Leave a comment

Punk Faction Online Serial Part 16

Just inside the doorway, a man dressed in black sat behind a small table.

“Evening, lads,” the man said. He picked up a lidless Quality Street tin and rattled loose change around in it. “Fifty pence to get in.”

Brian put a fifty pence coin down on the table and pushed through a door into the bar. Stiggy followed him without paying. The man looked at Colin.

“Fifty pence each, that is. You paying for your mate then?”

Colin sighed and shrugged. He unzipped his leather jacket pocket, took out a pound note and handed it to the man, then followed Brian and Stiggy into the bar.

A few local punks and older hippies sat around small tables placed in front of a make-shift stage area near the toilets. A tall, thin man with long hair threaded cables across the carpet and taped them down, getting everything ready for the band. Colin nodded to a few people he recognised and headed for the bar to join Brian.

“Any sign of them birds yet?” Brian asked.

Colin shook his head. “Not seen them. Where’s Stiggy?”

“He went in the bogs, probably getting glued up again. He’d better not get us chucked out before we get our money back.”

The barman approached and they ordered a pint each, then took them in search of a spare table to sit at so they could watch the entrance door. They skirted around the long-haired man in the stage area, who was positioning a microphone stand to the right of a small drum kit. All the tables immediately in front of the stage area were full, so Colin and Brian headed into a small secluded area in the corner. Becky and Kaz sat there, sipping from glasses of Pernod and blackcurrant. They both smiled and waved.

“All right. Been here long?” Colin asked. He put his pint down on the table and sat down opposite Becky.

“No, not really,” Becky said. She sat up straight in her chair and pulled down her pink mohair jumper to smooth out invisible creases. Colin stared at her green fishnet stockings and nodded absentmindedly.

“Budge up,” Brian said, and squeezed himself between Becky and Kaz. “You fancy getting off somewhere else after this?”

Kaz shook her head. “No, we want to see the band. We’ve never been to a gig before, and we already paid to get in.”

“What, never?” Colin asked. “How come?”

Kaz shrugged and looked away.

“Kaz’s dad won’t let her,” Becky said, “he says it’s too dangerous. He’d have a fit if he knew she was here.”

“That’s just daft,” Colin said. “We’ve been to loads and we’ve never seen any trouble.”

“So far,” Brian said.

* * *

“What the fuck are we doing here?” Don asked, looking at a crude drawing of a nun in the window of The Juggler’s Rest.

“There’s a fucking punk gig on tonight,” Trog said. “Word is that student cunt I battered the other night will be there and I want to have a word with him, see if he knows anything about Ian.”

“What, you reckon it was him that did Ian over?”

Trog laughed. “Nah. He’s all talk that one, but he might know who did. Here, did I tell you he pissed himself when he saw me?”

Don looked at Trog and smiled. “Yeah?”

“Yeah, straight up. He turned round, saw me, then fucking pissed his pants.”

Don shook his head and laughed. “Mate, I wish I’d been there to see that. Fucking hell, what a classic. Come on then, let’s go and see what the cunt’s got to say for himself.”

* * *

“That’s the cunt there,” Trog said, pointing from the bar. “The one with the bleached sticky-up hair, looks life a fucking scarecrow. That’s his mate, he’s probably weak as piss too.”

Don nodded and took a sip of lager. “The bogs’ll probably be our best bet. More secluded, less chance of being interrupted by the other yetis.”

While Don spoke, the student punk turned and locked eyes with Trog. He stared for a few seconds, open-mouthed, then looked away.

“You see that?” Trog asked. “The fucking cunt just gave me a right look.”

“Fuck him,” Don said, “he’ll get his soon enough.”

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Punk Faction Online Serial Part 15

4 It’s All Done by Mirrors

Colin leaned against a wall outside The Juggler’s Rest while he waited for Brian to arrive. He looked down at Stiggy, who sat on the pavement by his side, breathing into a glue-bag. Colin didn’t know how Stiggy had the nerve to do it right there, out in the open where anyone could see.

“Look at my shoes!” Stiggy shouted. Fucking hell, look at my shoes!” His eyes were wide and staring, and the glue-bag flopped around in his hands as he gestured wildly at his trainers.

“Yeah, very nice,” Colin said.

Stiggy raised the bag to his mouth and spoke into it, still staring at his trainers. “My shoes have got magical powers. Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

Colin sighed and shook his head, wondered if that was what he had been like himself at Stiggy’s bedsit the previous night. He reached into his leather jacket pocket for his cigarettes, and was about to light one when he thought about the solvent fumes in the air around him. He didn’t know if they would be flammable or not, so he decided to be cautious and took several steps away from Stiggy first. He took a deep drag and looked down the empty street. No sign of Brian yet, and he was already fifteen minutes late. No sign of the girls either.

He turned his attention to a poster displayed in the window of The Juggler’s Rest. A hand-drawn, simplistic doodle of a nun brandishing a crucifix in a suggestive manner advertised the evening’s entertainment. Welwyn Garden City’s pranksters in revolt The Astronauts present an evening of folk in hell, it promised, for an entrance fee of fifty pence. The poster didn’t inspire Colin with confidence, and if Becky and Kaz hadn’t said they would be going he would’ve given it a miss and gone to The White Swan instead.

“All right, Col!”

Colin turned away from the poster. Brian strode toward him, his leather jacket flapping open in the wind to reveal an Exploited T-shirt beneath it.

“About fucking time,” Colin said. “We’ve been here ages.”

“Yeah well, I’m here now aren’t I?” Brian pointed at Stiggy. “What the fuck’s he doing here? Talk about fucking gooseberries.”

“Never mind Stiggy, what’s that fucking stink?”

Colin leaned closer to Brian and sniffed. A flowery, chemical smell mixed with tobacco smoke assaulted his nostrils, so potent he could almost taste it in his mouth. He wafted his hand under his nose in an attempt to disperse it, but the smell lingered, overpowering him.

“Borrowed a dab of me dad’s aftershave, didn’t I?” Brian said. “Got to make an effort now and again, haven’t you?”

“Smells like you used the whole fucking bottle.”

Brian grunted. “Any sign of them birds yet?”

“Not seen them.”

“You checked inside?”

“No, you have to pay to get in tonight. There’s a band on.”

Brian looked at the poster in the window. “An evening of folk? Sounds crap.”

Colin smiled. “Yeah. When them birds get here I reckon we should fuck off somewhere else with them.”

“Yeah, maybe. Let’s go see if they’re inside. If not, fuck it. We’ll wait half an hour, then get our money back and go down The White Swan.”

Colin nodded at Stiggy, who was mumbling something into his glue-bag. “What about him?”

“Just leave him there, he’ll not know any different when he’s in that state.”

“Yeah, but what if some coppers see him?”

Brian shrugged. “Who cares?”

“Nah, I think we’d best take him with us. You hold his arms while I get the glue off him. They’ll not let him in with that.”

* * *

Continued next Friday.

Punk Faction by Marcus Blakeston is also available in paperback and ebook if you don’t want to wait that long.

Posted in Fiction, Punk Faction Online Serial | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Preview: Meadowside

“Dawn of the Dead meets Benefits Street”
— Nathan Robinson (author of Starers)

Nobody knows where they have come from. The police are powerless to stop them. Everyone trapped inside the Meadowside shopping centre is on their own, with no hope of rescue. With the whole of Yorkshire under attack, they are the lucky ones.

Kylie and her friends from the council estate are shoplifting in Sportswear Direct when Meadowside is invaded by thousands of crazed killers with a taste for human flesh. Fighting to survive, she must choose who is most likely to be able to save her — an off duty policewoman, an aging skinhead in his sixties, or a psychotic football hooligan with a chainsaw.

Marcus Blakeston takes his usual mix of characters from the underclass and stirs them into a near-future post-apocalyptic setting. Not for the faint hearted or easily offended, Meadowside contains graphic violence and swearing throughout.

————————————–

1

Kylie knew she had to have those yellow Nike trainers as soon as she saw them on the shelf in Sportswear Direct. They were the best trainers she had ever seen, Trisha and her gang of skanks on the council estate would go mental when they saw her wearing them. They’d be jealous as fuck, and so would everyone else who saw them.

Kylie plucked the trainers from the shelf and turned them around in her hands, admiring them from all angles. She ran her finger over the logo and smiled to herself. There was no doubt about it, she would look the fucking bomb wearing those. She sat down on a nearby padded bench and kicked off her skanky no-brand trainers, wishing it could be for the last time ever. Wishing she could toss them into a burning skip, never to see them again.

The amount of ribbing Kylie got from the other kids on the council estate over those horrible trainers was unbelievable. Like it was Kylie’s fault her mother would rather spend the child allowance on booze and ciggies. She’d begged for months and months for a proper pair of trainers, then got yelled at for not being grateful when her mother came home with those awful things instead.

“Pumps,” she called them. “There’s nothing wrong with pumps from the market, they’re just as good as the ones you want. You should be fucking grateful, I didn’t have to buy them, you know, and I never got anything like this when I was your age.”

Yeah well, she wasn’t the one who had to wear them out in public. But Kylie was going to put that right soon enough. She glanced at Tom and Mike, who were running around the shop dribbling a basketball to each other, attracting the overweight security guard’s attention. That just left the cameras to worry about.

The security guard told Tom and Mike to pack it in and get out of his shop. Tom laughed and told the man to piss off. The security guard made a grab for the basketball, but Tom and Mike ran rings around him, passing the ball back and forth between them and laughing at the fat man’s clumsy ineptitude.

Kylie smiled. It was definitely worth blowing out her dad for his weekly Saturday afternoon access time to go to Meadowside with Tom and the others. She was getting a bit too old for visits to the local zoo anyway. Who wants to go and look at miserable-looking smelly animals with some old geezer when you can have fun like this with your mates instead? Dad would just have to get used to the idea Kylie wasn’t a little kid any more.

Kylie dropped the new trainers and slid her feet into them. They were a perfect fit, just like she knew they would be. She stared down at them, rotating her ankles to get a better look. They were the fucking bomb all right. She bent down and tied the laces, then straightened up to see what the trainers were like for walking. It was like walking on air. She had to see what they looked like in a mirror.

Kylie walked through Sportswear Direct, past displays of tennis racquets, golf clubs and hockey sticks, into the clothing area. Britney was there with her Spongebob Squarepants backpack, looking a lot fatter than she had when they first entered the shop together. Britney winked when she saw Kylie walking toward her. Kylie nodded back and made for a full-length mirror. She turned around and craned her neck over her shoulder, trying to see what the new trainers looked like from the rear.

“Nice shoes,” Britney said. Kylie turned and smiled. She looked at Britney’s over-stuffed pink tracksuit and wondered what goodies it contained. “They look like they’d be good for running, yeah?”

Kylie shrugged and looked down at the yellow trainers, suddenly afraid of the consequences if she got caught stealing them. She remembered the last time she had been caught shoplifting. That look of fear on her mother’s face at the sight of a police officer on the doorstep. That mixture of relief, fury and disappointment when she realised they weren’t there to see her. And then the beating Kylie got for bringing police to the house. She didn’t want to go through all that again. But at the same time she knew she would never hear the last of it from Britney if she bottled out now.

“Yeah, I guess,” she said with a frown.

Britney winked. “Well come on then, let’s test them out, yeah?”

Britney turned and strode away. She waved to Tom and Mike, who were still dodging around the security guard with the basketball. Mike nodded, then they both lured the security guard further into the shop while Britney made for the exit.

Kylie looked up at a security camera and sighed. Her heart hammered in her chest at the thought of being caught again, but she was determined not to let her fear show. She closed her eyes and tried to steady her breathing until she could get her racing heart under control. She jumped at a loud clatter and looked around. Tom or Mike had thrown the basketball at a display of golf clubs and knocked them off the shelf. The security guard was shouting at them, red-faced, while he picked the golf clubs up. Tom and Mike ran for the exit together.

An alarm sounded when Britney passed through the shop’s security barrier. Its shrill, piercing siren made Kylie jump again. She ran for the exit herself, her arms pumping by her sides.

“Oi, you lot,” the security guard shouted. Kylie could hear the man’s laboured breathing as he gave chase.

Kylie ran like she’d never run before. Even on that cross-country run a few months ago when her sadistic PE teacher had been right behind her shouting abuse like some world war two army drill instructor she hadn’t run this fast. Her lungs felt like they were on fire, and a pain in her side felt like someone had stabbed her with a red-hot poker, but she didn’t dare stop running. She darted around bemused shoppers, following Tom and the others as they veered left onto another concourse, then barged past people on the escalator down to ground level. She ran past the bronze war memorial statue and the wishing fountain where people with more money than sense tossed their unwanted pound coins, then into the big department store near the train station exit.

Britney, Tom and Mike were laughing when she caught them up. They had slowed to a casual saunter past rows of clothing designed for old women. Frumpy purple dresses nobody in their right mind would want to be seen dead in. Silly hats like the ones the posh people wore when they went for a day at the horse racing. Awful green cardigans for grannies too senile to know any better.

Britney pulled a garish, plastic-flower-covered hat from a shelf and placed it on her head at an angle. “Look at me,” she said, spinning before Tom and Mike, “I’m a fucking lady.”

Tom laughed and shook his head. “Girl, you’re no fucking lady.”

“Piss off,” Britney said, pouting. “I am too a fucking lady.”

Kylie panted, desperate to get her breath back. She bent over and clutched her aching sides.

“Check it out, I’m a fucking lady too,” Tom said.

Kylie looked up and couldn’t help smiling. Tom had a big floppy pink hat on his head, with a matching pink woollen scarf draped over his shoulders. He pinched the chest of his Adidas T-shirt in both hands and stretched it out, forming pointy breasts.

“We should … we should get … going for the train,” Kylie said. “Before … we get caught by … that security guard.”

“Nah,” Britney said. “He’ll have given up long ago, the fat ones always do. Besides, if he chased us for too long everyone else in the shop would run off with loads of stuff so it wouldn’t be worth it.”

“Even so …”

“Fucking intense, weren’t it, Kylie?” Tom said. “And them new trainers of yours look fucking smart.”

Kylie looked down at her new trainers and smiled. They’d got a bit scuffed from the run and had lost a bit of their new-shop shine, but they still looked good. She lifted them in turn and polished them on the back of her tracksuit bottoms. Then she remembered her old trainers were still in the shop. She looked up at Tom, her eyes wide.

“We need to take them back, say it was a mistake or something.”

“What? Don’t be daft, what would be the point of that?”

“But I left my old ones behind, they’ll know they’re mine.”

Tom snorted. “What, like in fucking Cinderella or something? What are they going to do, take them round the council estate and see who they fit?”

“They might have DNA in them, or fingerprints? Footprints, even.”

“So what? They still wouldn’t have anything to match it with, would they?” Tom took off the pink hat and placed it on Kylie’s head. It was way too big for her, and flopped down over her eyes. “There you go Kylie,” he said, “you’re a proper fucking lady now, too. So stop worrying.”

Kylie lifted the brim of the hat over her eyes and smiled at Tom. That was the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to her, and she wanted to reach out and grab him, plant a massive kiss on those lips of his.

But Tom turned away before she could do it. “Come on then Lady Kylie, let’s get fucked off out of here,” he said, walking toward the exit. Mike and Britney followed him, hand in hand. Kylie took off the hat and put it back on the shelf when a woman at a nearby till glared at her. She smiled at the woman and shrugged, then hurried to catch Tom up.

It was raining outside, a heavy downpour that bounced off the pavement. Black clouds filled the sky.

“I ain’t going out in that, it’s fucking pissing it down,” Britney said, pulling off her Spongebob Squarepants backpack. “We’ll get fucking soaked if we go out there.”

“Yeah, fuck that,” Mike said, shaking his head. “We’ll wait until it stops.”

Hidden behind Tom and Mike, Britney pulled out the clothes she had stuffed inside her pink tracksuit and transferred them to her backpack. She had gone for top designer brands, and Kylie sighed when she saw their labels. Britney was sure to be the envy of the entire council estate when she wore those, and Kylie’s new trainers would barely get a second glance next to them.

“Look at that daft bastard,” Mike said, pointing.

A bedraggled-looking man stood outside, looking up at the sky. Rain bounced off his face, but he didn’t seem to care.

Tom laughed. “Oi mate, you’re getting wet,” he shouted through the door. If the man heard Tom from outside, he didn’t acknowledge it. Tom shook his head, grinning, then turned to Kylie. “Well I don’t know about you, but I’m with Mike and Britney. No way am I going out in that. We’ll wait and see if it eases off first.”

“So what are we going to do then?” Kylie asked.

Tom smiled and took her hand. “Let’s go and see what’s on at the cinema. I’ve got a mate who works there, he’ll get us in for free.”

 

2

Amy Saunders couldn’t believe her luck. For over five years her and Ryan had been trying for a baby, with nothing but monthly heartbreak to show for it. Something wrong with her fallopian tubes, the doctor explained, but Amy was too busy sobbing into her hands to listen to the details. It was Ryan, stoic as ever, who asked what their options were.

The doctor suggested IVF, and Amy looked up with renewed hope, wiping the tears from her eyes. But that hope was soon dashed when the doctor said she was too old to qualify for NHS treatment. He was, however, more than happy for her to proceed as a private patient, and rubbed his hands with glee when Ryan said money wasn’t an issue.

The treatment failed, and Amy wept into Ryan’s arms when they were told none of the embryos produced were viable enough to be implanted. Most had simply stopped growing in the lab’s incubator, something Amy was told was common. Those that survived all had chromosomal abnormalities, and had been destroyed.

Undeterred, Ryan took on a second job, working a combined total of fifteen hours per day, seven days per week. With Amy’s own job, working in the offices of a meat processing plant, they hardly saw each other. They scrimped and saved, and sold anything they could do without, so they could pay for another round of IVF six months later.

The second treatment also failed, so they took out a secured loan to pay for a third, putting their home up as security. This time, miraculously, it was a success, and Ryan had fussed over Amy non-stop ever since. If Ryan had his way Amy would have been confined to bed for the entire pregnancy, with doctors and nurses on hand twenty-four hours a day.

But Amy knew better. She had read all the information in the New Mother’s Welcome Pack she picked up at the chemist, and knew she could carry on working for at least another seven months, maybe even longer. Which was just as well, considering the amount of debt they were in, and all the new things they would need to buy for the forthcoming baby.

And now here Amy was, in Mothercare, looking at baby-grows, buying last minute items in preparation for the big day. Just two more weeks and the round lump Ryan had christened Bumpy would be cradled in her arms wearing one of these outfits. The nursery was all prepared, decked out with the best equipment they could afford. They hadn’t wanted to know Bumpy’s sex, they wanted it to be a surprise, so the nursery had been decorated with neutral colours, the cot mobile chosen because of its genderless dangling farm animals.

A baby-grow with green scales caught Amy’s eye and she picked it up, smiling at how cute the gurgling baby on the packaging looked wearing the outfit. The baby looked like a tiny smiling dinosaur, with built-in scratch-mitts designed to look like claws, and a hooded crown-cap with large buggy eyes printed on the sides. There was even a small tail growing out of the back of it, with a bright yellow triangle of soft material at its tip. Ryan would love this one, Amy decided. He was like a big kid himself as far as dinosaurs were concerned.

“You’ll love it too, won’t you Bumpy?” Amy said, rubbing her hand over her distended stomach. As if in reply, she felt the baby wriggle inside her. She smiled, and patted herself gently. “That’s good enough for me.”

Amy hummed to herself as she took the baby-grow to the pay desk. A movement outside the shop caught her eye and she turned to look. A small group of people ran by. Amy shrugged, and turned back to the counter. She placed the dinosaur baby-grow down in front of a young shop assistant.

“Oh, that’s so cute,” the young girl said, scanning a barcode on the packaging. “How long have you got now?”

“A couple of weeks,” Amy said, smiling. “I’ve already started having Braxton Hicks, and I can’t wait.”

The shop assistant smiled back as she placed the baby-grow in a carrier bag. Amy took out her purse and paid for it, then took the bag and turned to leave.

“Bye then,” the shop assistant said, “have a nice day.”

“You too,” Amy said, still smiling to herself.

A woman ran by outside the shop, casting furtive glances over her shoulder as she ran. She looked terrified of something. Amy stopped and watched the woman through Mothercare’s shop-front window until she was out of sight. More people ran past, shouting and screaming. Amy glanced quizzically at the shop assistant. The girl shrugged and smiled, shook her head slightly. Then her eyes widened. Her mouth hung open and she gasped.

Amy turned back to the window. A man in a wet, crumpled suit stared in at her. His hands were bloody, his face too. His eyes were wild and staring, as if he were in shock.

“Are you okay?” Amy asked, raising her voice so she would be heard through the thick glass.

The man lunged at the shop window with a snarl. Amy startled, then stepped back in horror as he hit the glass face first with a dull thud. His head bounced off the glass and he staggered back a few steps before launching himself forward again. The man’s nose shattered against the glass, leaving behind a dripping red smear when he reared back for another charge.

Amy screamed. She backed away, unable to take her eyes off the man as he repeatedly launched himself at the window, impervious to the pain he must be causing himself. Her fingers uncurled from the handle of the shopping bag and it dropped to her feet as she raised her hand to her mouth.

Blood poured down the man’s face as he continued battering his head against the window. Then he stopped, and pounded on it with his bloody fists instead. The window shuddered in its frame with each blow. The man bared his teeth and snarled like a dog. He stared in at Amy with malevolent, bloodshot eyes, then resumed banging his head against the glass.

Amy didn’t know how much more of this punishment the window would take. She didn’t understand why the man hadn’t already rendered himself senseless from the repeated blows to his head. And why didn’t he just walk through the door instead?

An ice-cold shock of fear ran down Amy’s spine. She spun to face the shop assistant in panic.

“The door!” Amy shouted, her eyes wide. “You need to lock the door!”

The young girl stared past her, open-mouthed, at the man pounding on the window. Amy walked up to her and shook her by the shoulders.

“You need to lock the door before he gets in!”

The girl shuddered, then blinked several times. She shook her head slowly. “What?” she asked, her voice barely audible over the noise the man outside was making.

“The door,” Amy yelled. “Where are the keys?”

“The … keys …?”

“Yes, the keys. Where are they?”

“I … they’re in my pocket.”

Amy released the girl’s shoulders and reached into her uniform’s left hip pocket. The girl stood immobile, staring past her, her face deathly white. Amy pulled out a bunch of keys and looked at them. They were labelled main door, alarm, store room and staff toilets. She shuffled the main door key to the fore, and turned back to the shop front.

The window shattered inwards. The man stumbled and fell into the shop. He writhed around on the carpeted floor, glass shards tearing through his clothes and slicing into his flesh. Amy and the shop assistant both screamed simultaneously. The man snarled through blood-stained teeth and pushed himself up onto his hands and knees. Glass sliced through his wrist and red arterial blood gushed from it. He crawled toward Amy and the girl, leaving a thick trail of blood behind him.

Amy backed away, brandishing the keys at the man as if they somehow held the power to stop his advance. She sensed, rather than saw, a movement behind her. The shop assistant ran past, heading for the entrance door. She wrenched it open and ran out—

—straight into the grasping hands of another man lurking there.

The shop assistant cried out and beat at the man’s head with her fists, raked her fingernails down his face. The man snarled and lashed out at her, knocking her sideways into the window frame. A jagged shard of glass still clinging to the frame pierced her neck and her screams turned into a choking gurgle as she coughed blood. The man grabbed her shoulders and pulled her down. The glass shard tore up through the shop assistant’s neck toward her ear as it resisted for a few seconds, then came loose from the window frame and fell with her.

The man dropped down to his knees and pulled out the large sliver of glass, slicing through his own fingers as he did so. He threw the glass to one side and lowered his mouth to the gaping wound in the girl’s neck. He slurped and smacked, drinking the life-force pumping from her veins with relish.

Amy watched it all from inside the shop. She trembled in fear, frozen in place, unable to tear her eyes away from the horror outside. Her legs turned to jelly. She reached out for the counter to steady herself. Something warm and wet ran down her legs and soaked into the carpet. Amy didn’t have time to worry what that meant. A snarl came from close behind her, to her right. The man in the suit crawled toward her, a look of determination on his battered and bloody face.

“Help me,” Amy yelled when she saw someone running by outside Mothercare. But the running figure didn’t even look in her direction.

The man in the doorway looked up and hissed. The shop assistant’s blood dripped from his chin as he locked eyes with Amy. He stumbled to his feet and stepped through the broken window, his arms swinging by his sides.

Amy backed away further into the shop, unable to look away. She felt something dig into her back and cried out in alarm. She spun around, fearing the worst, expecting to come face to face with another psycho lurking within the shop. Expecting her life to end at any moment in a savage attack she would be powerless to defend herself from. But it was just a clothes rail, filled with coat-hangers displaying brightly-coloured maternity dresses.

Amy reached out and grabbed the clothes rail to steady herself. She felt it move on tiny wheels as she leaned against it. The man lumbered toward her. As he got closer he reached out with both hands, his fingers grasping. Amy backed away, edging herself around the clothes rail. When she reached its far side she pushed it as hard as she could in the man’s direction. The man hissed in anger when the clothes rail collided with him. His hands flailed at the maternity dresses, pulling them from their hangers. One wrapped around his face and he roared as he thrashed around, trying to free himself from it.

Amy ran to the back of the shop, where she saw a solid wooden door bearing the sign Staff Only. She pressed down on the door’s handle frantically. She cried out in frustration and banged her fist on the door when it refused to open. Angry snarls came from behind her, the sound of coat-hangers clashing together.

Amy remembered the keys she had taken from the shop assistant, and uncurled her fingers from them. Her hands shook as she located the store room key and inserted it into the lock. The key turned impossibly slowly, as if time were coming to a standstill. Amy wrenched down on the handle and stumbled through into the store room, almost losing her footing. She tried to pull the key from the lock but it was stuck.

The man was close. Very close. Amy was sure she could feel his breath on the back of her neck as he hissed and snarled at her. She screamed and tugged at the key. She glanced over her shoulder. The man was even closer than she thought, only a few feet away. Wide-eyed and hysterical, Amy wrenched the key from the lock and slammed the door behind her just as the man lunged at the doorway.

But the door wouldn’t close. The man’s fingers curled around its edge, trapped in the doorway, flexing and unflexing. Amy pulled the door open a few inches and slammed it back. Bones crunched and the fingers stopped moving, but the door still wouldn’t close fully. The man hissed again. Amy heard scratching sounds, as if he were trying to claw his way through the wood. She leaned her shoulder against the door and pushed with all her might, barging it into place. A severed finger slithered down the door and dropped by her feet. The others hung down from flaps of skin holding them in place for a few seconds before they fell to join it. The man pounded on the door, his guttural snarl turning into a wail of anger.

Amy inserted the key into the lock and twisted it. She leaned back against the door and slumped down to her knees, sobbing with her head in her hands while the man’s pounding vibrated through her back. Her stomach tightened, like the worst menstrual cramps she had ever felt. She cried out and clutched her stomach. Tears ran down her face as she panted through the pain, knowing there was a lot worse to come.

 

3

Kylie had seen 18 rated movies on TV, but none of them had been as intense as the one showing in Meadowside’s cinema. She didn’t understand why Tom was more interested in playing on his phone than watching the movie. He’d been tapping away on it all the way through, giving a running commentary on what he found people saying about the movie on Twitter.

Bare Knuckle Bitch, the movie was called. The poster outside the cinema described it as a romantic comedy with lashings of ultra-violence, the perfect date movie for feral underclass. Kylie found that an accurate description. Abby, the movie’s main character, was certainly one tough bitch who took no shit from anyone, but she had her gentle side too. Abby’s best mate, Shaz, reminded Kylie a bit of Britney the way she acted around boys sometimes, and Abby’s skinhead boyfriend had a little bit of Tom’s loveable goofiness about him.

Britney seemed to be enjoying the movie too, and cheered Abby on as she stuck the boot into some toffee-nosed students who had been giving her some lip earlier on. Mike laughed and sneered, saying three blokes, even wimpy ones like those, would be more than a match for such a skinny looking bird as Abby. But Kylie knew better. It wasn’t strength that mattered in a street fight, it was what you did with your fists. Kylie’s arms and legs twitched as she imagined herself in the movie, punching and kicking someone unconscious just like the girl on the cinema screen.

Then Tom nudged Kylie in the ribs and broke her concentration. “Check it out,” he said.

“What?” Kylie whispered. She didn’t want to look away from the screen. The posh students were covered in blood, lying groaning in the street while Abby rifled through their pockets and stole their wallets.

“There’s some sort of riot going down in Shefferham,” Tom said, holding up his phone. “Check it out.”

Kylie glanced at Tom’s phone and shrugged. “Yeah, so?” She turned her attention back to the movie.

“Let’s get down there,” Tom said.

“What for?”

“For the looting, what do you think what for? Shit’s just there for the taking when there’s a riot going on, I’ve seen it on the telly.”

“Yeah?” Britney said, leaning forward to look past Kylie at Tom. “I could do with a new phone, my old one sucks.”

“I don’t know if we should,” Kylie said, shaking her head. “There’ll be coppers everywhere, and people fighting, we wouldn’t want to get caught up in all that.”

“Nah,” Tom said, “the coppers aren’t doing fuck all, Twitter says so. People are just smashing stuff up and getting what they can. Come on, let’s get down there before all the good stuff’s gone.”

Britney picked up her Spongebob Squarepants backpack and shuffled to the exit, closely followed by Mike.

Kylie frowned. “But I want to watch the rest of the movie,” she said to Tom. “Don’t you want to see how it finishes?”

“Nah, it’s boring. I’ll download it for you later, you can watch it on my laptop.”

Kylie sighed. She didn’t really want to go, but it seemed like everyone else had already made their mind up. And she had always wanted a laptop of her own, so maybe she could get one from the riot?

“Well okay, if you’re sure it’ll be safe?”

Tom smiled. “Yeah, we’ll be fine. We’ll just go down there, get some stuff, then get fucked off out of there before the coppers change their mind and start laying into everyone.” He stood up and looked down at Kylie. “Come on then, let’s get going.”

Kylie took a final look at the cinema screen and made her way to the exit door, where Mike and Britney were waiting. They pushed through into the lobby and headed for the main exit. Tom stepped through first, and collided with a man running past outside. He was knocked off his feet and sprawled to the ground. The man continued running without looking back.

“Are you okay?” Kylie asked. She reached down to help Tom up.

“Yeah. Some people have just got no fucking manners.” Tom glared after the running man and shook his head. “Fucking wanker.”

They set off in the same direction as the running man, past the food hall where delicatessens and salad bars competed with burger joints and tea rooms, and back into the main shopping centre. More people ran by. Someone screamed in the distance. Kylie cast a worried glance at Tom, but he just shrugged and led the way to Meadowside’s train station exit.

A young woman, her hair and clothes drenched from the rain, staggered toward them swinging her arms. A small baby strapped to her chest in a harness made an odd rasping sound and raised its tiny arms. Its eyes were wide and staring, its face screwed up in hate. Its mouth opened and closed, making the gurgling, hissing sound undulate. As the woman stumbled closer she bared her teeth and hissed too. She raised both hands and reached out, her fingers grasping like claws.

Kylie stepped back out of the way just as the woman lunged for her. The woman spun around with a snarl, and made a grab for Britney’s tracksuit top. Britney cried out and swung a fist at the woman’s mouth. The woman’s bottom lip burst and blood dripped down her chin, spattering onto the baby’s head. The baby thrashed wildly against its restraining harness, seemingly desperate to get at Britney itself, but its arms weren’t long enough to reach her. It hissed in frustration.

Mike tried to wrestle Britney from the woman’s grip, but she clung on tight, her fist clenched around Britney’s tracksuit top. He struck the woman’s arm with the blade of his hand, but all that did was drag Britney closer to the woman’s gnashing teeth. Britney yelled and pushed out with both hands, kicked out at the woman’s legs. The woman snarled and jerked her head forward, clamped her teeth over Britney’s arm. Britney screamed. Blood gushed from between the woman’s jaws.

Tom rushed forward and grabbed a handful of the woman’s hair, then yanked her head back. She came away with a lump of Britney’s flesh in her mouth and thrashed her head from side to side trying to free herself. Britney fell to her knees, clutching her arm, blood pumping between her fingers from a gaping wound. Her face was deathly white as she stared at the struggling woman wide-eyed in shock and fear.

Tom dragged the woman away by her hair while Mike knelt down and reached into Britney’s backpack. He pulled out one of the designer shirts she had stolen from Sportswear Direct and tied it around her arm, wrapping it around several times in a makeshift bandage.

Tom dragged the woman up to a shop window and smacked her forehead into it a few times, then spun her around and shoved her in the back. She stumbled a few steps, then toppled forward with a sickening crunch. Almost immediately the woman rolled over and sat up. The baby hung limp from its harness, its head flopped to one side, blood dripping from its ears. The woman bared her teeth and hissed. Tom stared down at her and backed away, horrified at what had happened to the baby. The woman leaned forward and dropped onto her hands and knees, then started to crawl toward him with the baby’s limbs dangling lifelessly beneath her.

Tom looked at Mike, his eyes wide and staring. “Let’s get the fuck out of here,” he shouted, and ran.

————————————–

Paperback UK

Paperback USA

ebook UK

ebook USA

 

Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment