The Horseman

seconds

minutes

hours

days

weeks

months

years

decades

centuries

millennia

hourglass

cosmic

the

cosmic

hourglass

 

so

many

too

many

words

Another skull cracked under my iron-heeled boot. There was no mistaking the dry splintering of bone. I smiled. How long had I been walking in the charred wasteland? It didn’t matter. This was my dominion.

credo

logos

nego

What did I believe in? I made my choice. I lit a cigarette, exactly the same way I always did. The others did not suspect me. Why would they? All that would ever be was written down. No one was allowed to read the scroll. Those were the rules. We were supposed to wait for a sign. It was a bit vague. One of us spent the equivalent of two hundred years staring at a traffic light until his head exploded. That was a sign alright.

What of destiny?

The traditionalists said the sun would go black and the moon blood-red. Which pretty much meant that when we ran out of tokens to put into the universe’s electricity meter, the cosmic plug would be pulled and those dimensions which had been so carefully folded into the unblinking vortical eyes of black holes would unfurl like the monsters from your worst nightmares.

The way I see it, even though I caused the end of the world, it was going to happen anyway so technically I had an alibi. What did you expect? I am one of the Fallen after all. The scroll was fated to be eaten. I sort of set it on fire.

O

O

P

S

!

Limbo was a neutral realm between Heaven and Hell. It was good to catch up with old friends and enemies. Believe it or not, we behaved ourselves. The war had been eons ago. Family is family. Limbo was just one massive entertainment complex – table-tennis, pool, arcade games, mini-golf with dwarf caddies.

The scroll was pinned to a wall near the cocktail bar. The parchment was supposed to be fire-proof. I sourced a special type of fire, God bless Bitcoin and the Dark Net. A massive fight broke out, everyone was blaming each other, you know how religion works. During the melee, I wedged open the trapdoor to Earth. The words fled the parchment, aflame in the purple sky, they sensed the noxious odour of mortality and thought they could save themselves. The words ignited as they entered the atmosphere. The humans watched in wonder…it was a divine omen. Well, not quite. I burned their sky. The blaze was awesome, it made Hell look like a beach resort.

In the beginning of the end, the Atomic Angel (That’s me!  up, if I haven’t already cut them off with a sword) torched the heavens and burnt the sun. The seas, rivers and soil were already polluted. If I was blessed enough to be given a brand new planet, I would keep it tidy. Sure, I would have a party now and then but I would always clean up the empty bottles and the bloodied cadavers the next day. I rewarded human arrogance with pestilence and contagion.

God resigned his position of CEO for this universe. If the truth be told, I think he had been considering a more lucrative offer from a parallel universe. Angels formed new alliances. Some went with God. Those were optimists, the second time lucky mindset. Those that stayed in this universe were the hardcore angels. The ones who wanted a piece of the action and had no problem with another almighty war. Earth was the only planet I desired. Jesus texted me good luck. He’s still sore about the Crucifixion. Talk about holding a grudge. He wanted to pitch in with me but his Dad was having none of it. Some angels did join forces with me. Naturally, I killed them the first opportunity I got. Never trust an angel.

Earth needed a reboot, or more specifically, the human race needed a reboot. No artifice was needed. I was open about who I was, what I had done and what I intended to do, which was to slaughter a quarter of the global population. It transpired that nihilism was a powerful motivational tool for recruiting an army intent on a scorched Earth policy. I even managed to teleport in a load of dinosaurs back from the past. I dumped them in America and China to thin the numbers.

Electricity doesn’t exist any more. I had stolen the Doomsday EMP from Heaven before they shut up shop. It was configured to fry any electrical circuits but also to detonate any nuclear device. Atomic sunsets were something to behold. No one was keeping count of the dead because, yeah, there’s no internet.

All I know that is my sword’s thirst has not been slaked even though it is drenched in hot blood and caked in fleshy gore. Remove the veneer of civilisation and the human race becomes noble in its savagery. I like them now. Well, the ones on my side. There are still a few pesky angels trying to muscle in on my planet. They want the kudos of killing me. Probably because of what happened with Lucifer. He tried to pull rank on me. Hell had become so decadent, there was even a roller coaster ride. Lucifer wanted to be by God’s side again.

I

 obliged

               him

                      by

                          lopping

                                        off

                                             his

                                                  head

                                                           …

                                                              …

                                                                 caput!

The human race had overreached themselves and no one had been prepared to do anything about it. Wallowing in their embalmed conceit, they had not even noticed God had abandoned them. I decided to give them a second chance.

I

am

Ω

&

α

I

am

DEATH

&

LIFE

I

am

ABADDON

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Crazy Eye (extended version)

School was out! All the kids galloped towards freedom in case the scary headmistress, Crazy Eye, ambushed them with a last minute detention. Every student in the school lived in mortal terror of Crazy Eye. Not that they would have dared to call her that to her face. It was a nickname that came about from a mistake. Some parents had been talking at the bus stop and one of the kids thought he had overheard them call the headmistress ‘Crazy Eye’. Joey’s ma had been there and she patiently explained to Joey that the words uttered were ‘lazy eye’. Joey thought there was nothing lazy about that eye, it followed the students all over school. It was like the eye in the film ‘Flight of the Navigator’, except not as friendly; when no one was looking it would push out from the socket and peep around corners. Totally gross.

Crazy Eye had the supernatural ability to seemingly manifest from thin air. Even if someone had checked the coast was clear – empty corridors, stairs or classrooms – she still caught the offender red-handed. Many believed she was a witch.

Forget his first kiss or asking a girl out to the prom, Joey’s most nerve-racking moment in his school life was being summoned to Crazy Eye’s office. He got caught up in some trouble. It involved a girl. Doesn’t it always? Joey was sweet on Casey-Anne ever since their kiss underneath the bleachers. It was embedded in his memory. The sound of the basketball bouncing off the court surface, the stamping of feet on the bleachers, the cheerleaders swishing their pompoms, the uproar when the home team scored. He could feel something amazing was going to happen. And there he was, alone with Casey-Anne, hidden from prying eyes. They had been playing with a paper fortune teller. Joey was hypnotised as the folds opened and closed until it revealed its message, a scrawled red heart. Their kiss tasted of strawberry laces. Casey-Anne was Joey’s first kiss and his prom date. Between those two events was the school bully, Brad ‘Biffer’ Dubicheck. A hulking creature who could only express himself with short words and meaty punches. His activities mainly involved extorting lunch money or Hershey Bars and being generally unpleasant.

Joey was walking with Casey-Anne, heading to the school library, when their path was blocked by Brad. Joey’s instinct was to turn and head off in the opposite direction. Before he could grab Casey-Anne’s hand to make a tactical retreat, he heard her speak.

“Brad Dubicheck! Aren’t you just the most horrible boy in the ENTIRE school!”

There were gasps from other students who were in the vicinity. Brad blinked like Casey-Anne had punched him in the face. This was uncharted territory. No boy had ever challenged Brad. Even the vaguest murmur of a protest meant the kid would end up with a busted lip. A girl standing up to Brad was huge, bigger than an 80s perm. Joey would have loved to be a bystander but he was part of the drama. Joey didn’t speak because his mouth was completely dry. Brad didn’t speak because his was brain was still trying to process what was happening. Casey-Anne fixed Brad with a stare, she put her hand on her hip and followed up with her next missile strike.

“Well, are you going to get your big butt out of the way?”

The tension was unbearable. A girl half-screamed and fainted. No one went to pick her up, they couldn’t risk missing anything. This story would make the whole school year worthwhile. Forget about average grades or pushy parents, this would cement status if you could start a sentence with “Were you there when Casey-Anne smart-mouthed Brad Dubicheck?”

The confusion cleared from Brad’s face, the brain had caught up. His right hand batted Casey-Anne’s left shoulder so roughly that a book fell out of her bag. Brad sneered at her.

“I’m gonna dump your book in the toilet!”

Joey saw red. He ran at Brad and pushed into him with both of his hands. Brad toppled over like an upside down windmill. Oh crap! Joey looked at his hands as if they were possessed. Brad hauled himself up and pinned Joey to the wall. Joey was ready to be pounded back to the Stone Age.

A voice sliced through the air and students shrunk away. Crazy Eye had been drawn to the disturbance.

“Brad Dubicheck, Joey Stevens, my office, now!”

Crazy Eye dispensed with Brad quickly.

“This was your last strike. This school has no place for you. You are expelled, clear out your locker. The school secretary will phone your mother.”

Joey kept his eyes fixed on the tips of his sneakers. Expulsion! Brad shuffled out of the office in silence. Then it was just Joey. What was he going to say to his parents? There was only one school in his town. Would his parents kick him out of the house? He might end up like one of those drunken bums that were always slumped outside Piggly Wiggly stores. Or maybe they would send him to a military academy in Alaska? Crazy Eye wasn’t saying anything. It was freaking him out.

“Joey, I believe you have a study session in the library, I suggest you make up for lost time.”

“What?”

“Are you deaf, young man? Back to your studies!”

Joey skedaddled.

This June was the hottest Joey could remember. The four weeks at the family cabin was always the highlight of his summer. The lake was an hour away from town. Joey’s pa drove all the way with the windows down. Joey had his head stuck out of the window, enjoying the breeze until his ma told him off. He still got a thrill as they passed the sign which said ‘Private Land’ and headed up the long narrow winding road to the lake. Their cabin was two hundred metres from the water. There were other cabins dotted around the perimeter of the lake and more still at the end of dirt tracks which peppered the woods.

After Joey had helped his parents, he ran down the slope to the jetty. As usual, Jeb was sat at the end of it with a fishing rod and a craftily concealed hip flask. Jeb was a grizzled old man who kept an eye on the cabins out of season. He was also Joey’s friend. Jeb had taught him to fish and told him stories. Joey handed over the bottle of rye his parents always bought Jeb. He chuckled and ruffled Joey’s hair. Joey told Jeb all about Brad because it was his biggest news ever. Well, the kiss with Casey-Anne was big too but Joey reckoned that wasn’t suitable man talk.

“It takes guts to stand up for someone, you did good, champ!”

Joey spent the afternoon fishing with Jeb until his ma reeled him in for dinner.

Maybe Joey was emboldened by events at school. One day, he decided to explore the woods on the far side of the lake. It was uncharted territory and a big adventure. Sunlight filtered through the leafy boughs. He saw two raccoons racing through the undergrowth and left the path to see where they were heading. Joey discovered a cabin far away from all the others. It had a rusty pick up truck parked outside of it. He could see animal skins pegged out on wooden pegs. It was real creepy. He tiptoed away. His nerves were jangling, he was sure someone was watching him. Joey panicked and started running. He tripped over a rotting log. The log split and it was teeming with maggots and weevils. A shadow loomed over him. Brad Dubicheck was holding a large stick and he struck Joey in the face with it. Joey could taste blood in his mouth. Brad had a cruel smile as he thwacked his victim again and again. Joey raised his arms to protect himself.

It was a miracle. The beating stopped. Brad let out a shriek and ran away. Joey realised someone was standing behind him. Crazy Eye had grabbed the stick from Brad and snapped it. She helped Joey up. They walked to another part of the woods. Crazy Eye had her own cabin. She cleaned up Joey’s bloodied lip and gave him a glass of homemade lemonade.

“Miss Jefferies, please don’t tell my parents I was beat up. I’ll say I was fooling about up a tree and fell.”

“I understand. We will make a deal.”

“Okay.”

“Will you stop calling me Crazy Eye?”

Joey blushed. They shook hands like two grown ups.

“When I was a teenager, Joey, I was attacked by a bully with a stick. That is why my eye is the way it is. Someone found me crying in the woods that day and I made him promise not to tell anyone what happened. I told my parents I fell out of a tree too.”

They walked back to the lake in silence. Jeb had finished fishing for the day and was carrying his rod and cooler when he spotted them. His eyes narrowed when he saw Joey’s lip. Miss Jefferies told Jeb that Joey had fallen out of a tree just like she did all those years ago.

Joey’s ma scolded and fussed over Joey in equal measure. Before he went to bed, Joey happened to look out of the window and saw Miss Jefferies talking with Jeb.

Three days later, a deputy knocked on the cabin door. He was speaking with Joey’s parents. Joey opened the door of his room so he could eavesdrop. Something had happened to Brad Dubicheck! The deputy asked Joey if he had seen any strangers hanging around. Joey clammed up. He couldn’t betray Miss Jefferies after she had helped him. He wrestled with his knowledge. It was like his insides had a hook caught up in them. What should he do? He didn’t eat much dinner. Miss Jeffries had been so nice to him. Had she done something to Brad? He was scared. He had been sleeping with his window ajar during the night, now he locked it up and rattled the window frame to make sure it was secure. His ma and pa attempted to reassure him he was safe. Except they also told him not to go anywhere by himself.

The next day Joey confided in Jeb.

“If someone did something bad, should I tell?”

Jeb patted Joey on the back.

“Kid, you’re at that age where everything is changing, nothing can ever be the same again. Do what you think is right. Have a swig of my rye, don’t tell your ma!”

The drink tasted foul and made Joey’s throat sting. After Joey stopped coughing, Jeb asked him to help bait his hooks. They caught three fish and one was wrapped up for Joey. The sun was beginning to dip into the lake when a voice called out.

“Jeb, let the kid come over to us!”

Jeb and Joey looked over their shoulders. The Sheriff and a Deputy both had their guns drawn. Joey could see his parents being held back by two other deputies. What was happening?

“Best take your fish and be with your pa and ma.”

Joey’s heart was thumping. They had the wrong person. Tears welled up in his eyes. Why was Jeb getting the blame?

“I won’t leave you. I know who they should be arresting, I can tell them!”

Jeb gave Joey a gentle squeeze on the shoulder. And spoke in a clear voice.

“One thing that always burns me up are bullies. Can’t stand ’em. Some people are borne mean nasty varmints. Others are good decent people. Take Eileen Jefferies. Almost lost an eye. Attacked by Mike Dubicheck, a wild dangerous boy. Why? Because she was the smart girl in class. Eileen believed in giving people a second chance because everyone makes mistakes. Don’t see how almost taking someone’s eye out is a mistake but I promised to button my lip. Turns out Mike Dubicheck’s second chance ended up with a DUI, he crippled a girl, did some time in the can. When he came back he was worse than ever. Married a girl, had a kid and whupped them both whenever he felt like it. By then Eileen was a teacher at your school. I saw him harassing her in town, calling her a freak on account of her eye. A fever took a hold of me. I followed him about as he got thrown out of bar after bar. I rolled my window down, told him I was heading up to the lake and had beers in the truck. He didn’t remember me being the guy who chased him off all those years ago. He was as drunk as a skunk when I parked up on his side of the lake. I hit him in the head with a rock and dragged him to the edge of the lake. I held his head underwater until he stopped kicking. I let him float away. The investigation recorded it as an accidental death.”

Joey couldn’t believe his ears.

“I have carried that murder around with me for years, it wears a man down. I sit here by the lake and every day I reminded of what I did. I was no better than Mike. Maybe how Brad turned out was my fault given I killed his pa. Anyways, I thought if I spoke to Brad’s ma, she could rein him in. She was a real hostile woman, started waving a hunting rifle about and things went wrong. She took a tumble and her neck gave out. Same time, the rifle went off, drilled a hole clean through Brad’s head. I won’t be around here no more. I’ll miss you. Run along now, son.”

Joey’s world was upside down. He walked towards the Sheriff and Deputy who were beckoning to him. Once he passed them, they charged towards Jeb. The bottle of rye next to him was knocked over as they tightened the handcuffs around his wrists.

That was the last family holiday by the lake. Pa Stevens sold the cabin. He didn’t want to but Ma Stevens was insistent.

When the holidays were over, it was back to school. Joey was going steady with Casey-Anne. Joey had an untouchable status in school now. He had stood up to Brad Dubicheck and that same summer Brad was chopped up by a psycho killer who happened to be Joey’s pal. Joey had tried to explain there was no chopping, no one cared. Brad’s death became school legend. When the Sheriff opened the cooler, instead of fish he found Brad’s severed head and puked all over it.

Miss Eileen Jefferies was walking down the corridor, Joey was by his locker, he smiled at her, she smiled back. Joey had never noticed what a pretty smile she had.

C=at²

You have probably heard of me, except you have not. Ay, there’s the rub. Rub denotes friction and that has to matter. An ongoing battle of creation and annihilation and sublation. What about dark matter, I hear you murmur? Scientists say it exists. Where is the proof? Theory is sufficient. All they know is that something is out there. Ooh, spooky!

Ergo quod non erat demonstrandum, dark matter is God. Or a god. Or a collective of gods. The rungs are slippery when you start playing Jacob’s Ladder. Imagine the kerfuffle if scientists discovered they actually worshipped a deity because of an erroneous equation? How would they square that off?

Maybe I am a god? Accuse me of blasphemy all you like, wage a holy war against me. You will never find me. I am in lockdown, Guantanamo Bay style, but in a more (in-)finite way than you could ever imagine. No orange boiler suit for me. I do like orange though, it brings out the colour in my eyes. Your souls are stuffed full of my eyes – I see you all. Melting pots of jumbled protons, electrons and neutrons. Throw in some Higgs bosons for seasoning and you are ready to be served up as stardust to the cosmos.

I digress. Excuse my manners, I am a bit quarky at the moment. Those tech anarchists fired up the Large Hardon Collider again. Oops, lapsus lingus, I meant Hadron. A Big Bang always gives me a headache. Seriously, they will not be happy until they accidentally open up a black hole then…blip! Has anyone seen Switzerland? It was here a minute ago.

If I had my way I would focus the LHC’s energy up into the sky, dial in the numbers for a collect call and bring back David Bowie. A rather sublime deus ex machina. The starman has to be floating somewhere up there, dancing to some cosmic jive. Shiny tin cans rocket into space and zip around the Moon looking for Buck Rogers. Life on Mars? Absolutely. Why do you think so many probes malfunction near that planet?

The LHC is a magnificent apotheosis of our evolutionary creation. It is perfect. If it spoke it would have exactly the same voice as HAL – calm, reassuring, psychotic. I have a recurring nightmare that I am being murdered by a calculator. Surely there has to be a finite set of equations for this?

Trinity was a technological terror which blossomed into a beautiful atomic horizon. The Alpha and the Omega. That was a day for designer sunglasses – ‘Would you prefer Armani Armageddon or Versace Vortex to watch the end of the world, sir?’ – as the sky was riven with fires of golds, purples and blues. Scientists are the destroyers of worlds, except they like to call it progress.

The LHC is progress.

Miaow! I will calm down. Physics is a divisive topic, just ask the atom. Physics can be a Bohr and you may feel like a Planck but ultimately you do not need to be an Einstein to understand the basics.

Here is my take on it…

Reality exists as much as it does not exist. The universe is flux and you are fluxed if you cannot get that into your head, if indeed your head is even real. Flux is both constant and inconstant. Uncertainty is the only certainty. So to sum up, there could be a human out there who could make your head explode through the power of thought.

Despite everything, I believe I have a place in this world. People have written about the presupposition of my existence within an equation. It is not so much quantum superposition as quantum superstition. Alive and dead at the same moment in/out of and beyond time…aren’t we all?

I find the experiment to be fallacious. Where is the saucer of milk?

I reject the premise there is more than one of me. That is the whiff of righteous mortality. I do not care about this entangling malarkey because I have been falsely imprisoned in a chamber with radioactive matter and poison.

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with you, Schrödinger?

Oh! The cat is out of the metaphysical bag now, if you had not already guessed.

All I ever wanted was a name.

Echo

The horizon was tinged with wispy tendrils of the sun’s fading fire. Shadows tentatively crept out of their diurnal prisons reclaiming their domain of sepulchres filled with dusty relics. The cemetery was a sanctuary for the shadows; they could swathe themselves in melancholy, silence and solitude.

The shadows whispered to one another and the trees rustled uneasily…something was out of place. A girl was sitting on the edge of a tomb. She was wearing scuffed Doc Marten boots, ripped fishnet tights, a short black leather skirt and a black t-shirt with the image of a bleeding heart. Her sandy-coloured hair looked brittle, like it would snap if someone tried to touch it. Black lipstick and deliberately overdone black eye-shadow could not detract from her brown eyes which were overflowing with soul. What was the girl doing here? They decided to observe her.

Priscilla brushed broken twigs and desiccated leaves from the tomb until she could see a name, she read out aloud: Jacques De Villiers! Angels carried him up to the heavens on 2nd July 1886.

The persistence of memory. That was Priscilla’s affliction. What made a tomb? Masonry, marble, grandeur, inscribed words or the skeleton within? Walk through a cemetery, read the names and messages, you can feel an echo of love and loss still lingering, cheating the fickleness of Father Time. The deceased persist in our memories and when we, the torch-bearers of their lives fade, cemeteries are their enduring testament.

Priscilla knew she should not be here. How was it that her journey had started at the end? It did not make any sense. A cemetery was definitely the end of a journey. The things she had seen – wondrous horror and terrible beauty. She lit a cigarette. She could sense the shadows were watching her.

“Do not fret, my sable friends, all will be revealed!”

The shadows rippled. This girl was strange.

“I will tell you a story!”

The shadows stretched closer towards her.

‘A noble family with one heir; the son was raised in the manner of a prince. The widowed father’s design was to have his son marry into royalty and promulgate the family lineage. While Jacques was well-versed in societal protocols, he found his peers to be frivolous and shallow. The De Villiers’ estate was large and renowned for its game. Jacques hunted to avoid the presence of simpering girls tittering behind bejewelled brocaded corsets.

It was during a pilgrimage in the forest when he chanced upon her…a girl unlike any other. She moved with the natural grace of her arboreal surroundings. Her clothing was smudged, the hem of her dress was bedraggled and she had dandelion seeds caught up in her flowing hair. He remembered his botany classes and without thinking spoke aloud.

“Did you know the botanical name for the dandelion is Taraxacum officinale?”

The girl whirled around, grasping a hatchet.

“Peasants call it pissenlit!”

Jacques was taken aback. Nothing in his education had prepared him for this encounter.

“I meant no disrespect.”

“If you touch me, I will hack you to death!”

Jacques laughed. He was smitten. He would often seek her out in the forest. She would always ignore him when he spoke to her about books he had read. The girl loved his stories. She did not understand this strange man at all. One day she would consent to tell him her name. Their lives were intangibly different yet neither of them had ever been so happy.

Charles De Villiers had noticed a change in his son’s demeanour. He charged one of his servants to spy on Jacques. Bernard was a shifty fellow. He reported his findings to his master with glee. Charles was furious! This peasant was a passing fancy. His son was defying him. Charles paid Bernard to remove the problem. The De Villiers’ bloodline could not be tainted.

The girl was missing and Jacques was frantic. He spent every waking hour in the forest searching for her. Charles asked Bernard to bring the girl back. Bernard smirked.

“She was a feisty one, attacked me with a hatchet. I threw her down a well.”

“She is dead?”

“Very.”

Charles could not tell his son the truth, he was quasi-insensate without that damned girl. Time would temper his son’s current fever.

Jacques emerged from the forest one night and saw Bernard chopping kindling. He sat down on a log to watch. Bernard was uneasy. Had the old man let something slip?

“Permit me to assist you, Bernard, it would alleviate my nerves.”

Bernard was bemused but acquiesced. Jacques studied the hatchet Bernard had handed him.

“She never would have surrendered this, it belonged to her father.”

Bernard cursed himself. It had been too fine a hatchet to throw into the well. Death blazed in Jacques’s eyes as he advanced on Bernard. The servant fell backwards, scrambling in the dirt. Jacques gripped Bernard’s left wrist, pinning the hand to a log. The hatchet flashed hungrily in the moonlight. Bernard screamed in horror and grabbed his severed hand. He garbled about following orders and a well. The babbling stopped. The hatchet was lodged in Bernard’s skull.

Jacques ran amok, setting the family mansion aflame. Charles saw his son disappear into the forest and dispatched servants to retrieve him. They followed the glow of Jacques’s torch as it flitted in the darkness until it stopped moving. They were too late. Jacques had flung himself into the well to be with his love.’

The shadows sighed.

Priscilla took one final drag of her cigarette.

“It is a terrible thing to know your loved one will never know your name. It took me three days to die in that well.”

Priscilla lay on the tomb.

“I could not let death keep us apart, your Priscilla is here for you.”

The shadows watched in rapt amazement as a phantasm manifested; it embraced the prone girl and pulled her gently into the tomb. Dandelion seeds floated by in the breeze.

 

Evolution

Ughhhh…

That was the sound that introduced Barry the T-Rex to the day.

Ughhhh…

There it was again!

Ughhhh…Barry realised it was him making the noise.

He had a banging headache. Where the hell was he? What happened last night? They had gone down the local for a few jars of swamp beer and their monthly darts tournament. None of them could actually play darts. T-Rex arms just weren’t designed for throwing things. It was just an excuse to get a night out of the cave away from the missus.

Barry had married Ramona many moons ago. It had been love at first sight. She had been chasing a sabre-toothed tiger, he a Neanderthal. They had crashed into each other. They swapped their kills. That was their first date. They decided to move in together. Barry found a cave which needed a bit of work but it meant they could be together.

The first year went by so fast. They roared together by waterfalls, watched a volcano erupt and laughed when Tony the Troodon fell into the lava because of a dare. Good times.

On their first anniversary, Barry gave Ramona a necklace made out of Neanderthal bones. She loved it. Ramona had taken up art classes and did a fantastic etching on the cave wall of Barry killing a whole village of Neanderthals as her present to him. They were happy.

Then things changed. Ramona was forever asking Barry to move rocks or logs around the cave so she could find the Zen point of their home. Huh? Barry’s first thought was that Zen was another dinosaur. Turned out Ramona had subscribed to Diana the Dracorex’s monthly interior design updates. The cave was littered with stone tablets replete with Diana’s scratched sketches. Ramona adored Diana. The dino surgeon, Ludwig the Albertosaurus, had given her a facelift; her scales shone brighter than any of the others. Ramona had come home one afternoon with painted pink claws and dark eyeliner on…what was that about?

You have to work at relationships. Barry understood that but Ramona was not the T-Rex he married. It was getting to the point that no sooner had he sat down on his favourite rock to read the Saurus Sports tablet then Ramona was looking over his shoulder…nag, nag, nag. Then, Ramona had tried to block Barry’s night out with the boys. She had ordered some new rocks from another valley and surprise, surprise, the Diplodocus courier service Yodel was late. Barry snapped, screeched at her and stomped out of the cave.

Some would say what happened after that was written in stone.

Barry met up his T-Rex buddies, Ralph and Monty. They had all grown up near the same tar pit. They were all up for a mad one and egged each other on. They knocked back the swamp beer at the Primordial Lagoon. And after one too many amber shots, they finally managed to make Freddie lose it. Freddie was a permanent fixture at the Primordial, he liked to sit in the same grove and enjoy his swamp beer quietly. The T-Rexes never called Freddie by his name. They always referred to him by his dinosaur name. They knew it annoyed him. Except on this night, the T-Rexes were so MC Hammered they kept shouting it over and over again: Fukuisaurus! Fukuisaurus! Fukuisaurus!

Freddie threw a log at them and the mood turned ugly. It was going to get bloody. The Primordial’s bouncer stepped in, Spencer the Spinosaurus, and told them to go. After being barred for yelling, “Spencer’s mum was a Skankosaurus”, the T-Rexes headed further into the valley. They stopped by Steggy the Stegosaurus’s takeaway grove, he had freshly barbecued Neanderthal on his spikes. Tasty! Ramona had been telling Barry he needed to lose weight recently. There were only so many salads Barry could eat, he was a carnivore, nothing could beat the taste of freshly ripped flesh. While they were munching their Neanderthal kebabs, a shifty looking Rugops edged over to them.

“Hey guys, having a good night? It can get better. Tear off some Neanderthal for me and we can talk shop.”

Barry would have liked to have blamed the other two for leading him astray but he was intrigued. He threw the Rugops an arm.

“Nice one, cuz. Check this out while I snack.”

The Rugops pushed over a stone tablet. The detail was amazing. The T-Rexes were looking at a sexy Gigantosaurus wearing a wig and dressed in a mini skirt. They were all drooling.

Monty spoke for them all, “I haven’t felt this hot since I accidentally stepped in some lava!”

“I’ve always said T-Rexes get a bad rap because you pretty much kill everything but you seem like nice guys. Get me three large mica rocks and I can lead you her cave. It’s very discrete. Carla is a burlesque dancer and she is a whiz with a feather boa. It’s not at all pervy, it’s art.”

Barry thought to himself, Ramona is always going on about how I should be more cultured, this counts, surely? They had to mica up first though.

The mica quarry was guarded by an angry Allosaurus called Alan. The T-Rexes disguised themselves with masks made of palm leaves then pushed Alan into the river. They handed over the mica to the Rugops. Pre-drinks before the show…the boys chugged the Jagers down. After that Barry could not remember anything.

He slowly made his way back to his matrimonial cave. On the way, he saw Monty being bashed in the face with a rock by his wife, Regina. He didn’t need to see Ralph, he could hear Cindy screeching at him from two valleys away. Ramona was stood at the entrance to the cave with her arms crossed, he could see the rage in her eyes, Barry was scared. He kind of wished a meteor would hit the valley, anything to save him from his wife!

City Exit

Sauf-effing-ampton! The Atlantis of Hampshire. Not. If you ask me the Titanic hit that iceberg on purpose so it never had to return to port.

I was supposed to be on secondment for six months and now I was trapped. It was month twelve.

Before the trouble started, my rule was NEVER to go into the city centre on a Saturday afternoon. This was the peak time, the spike in the head, sorry I mean, demographic where bovine creatures shuffled along in their tracksuited finery, drooling debt like crash test dummies reanimated by Dr Frankenstein. The missing link? Scarily evident and it was breeding.

I used to wish that a huge iceberg would crash into Southampton and unleash an armageddon of bazooka-toting polar bears and penguins with Uzis. It could happen. Global warming, right? And flying killer whales, yeah, that would work. A brattish kid having a strop on the High Street then whoosh! A killer whale swoops in and minces the child in seconds. All that is left of little Tommy would be a bloodied shoe and red rain falling from the sky.

Sometimes I would go into the centre on a Sunday and pretend to be a homeless guy with Tourettes. Used to have some good scraps, especially on match day, until the rozzers turned up and I had to leg it.

People say I have anger management issues…they can go fuck themselves! Anyway, I threw a Molotov cocktail through Primark’s window one night. I was beered up and it seemed like a good idea. I was never identified because I was wearing a Mexican wrestling mask.

A while back I was attacked by a girl. I had made a harmless comment about her hair and she tried to burn my face off with ceramic hair straighteners. I think she was Lithunian or something. That’s why I decided to get a gun – angry birds, the Southampton edition. I popped over to Millbrook to do some shopping and take in the lovely architecture. Left with a snub-nosed revolver and a box of ammo.

You may be judgy and say it is a bit extreme me packing heat like some gangster from Thornhill but I had a premonition something bad was going to happen.

Southampton is now a quarantine zone. Anyone trying to get out over the barricades is shot. The bodies piled up quickly at the beginning. People could not believe they would be executed in cold blood. Blame Brexit.

The bridges into the city were blown up. No one had any interest in getting in. The city was left to fester, decay and burn.

No one really knows what happened other than a cruise ship crashed full tilt into the docks late one night. The emergency services attended and the virus escaped the ship. It’s called the I-Virus and it is one of the most virulent known to humankind. They started burning the bodies alive or dead and the cruise ship was blasted into oblivion by fighter jets. They thought it was airborne virus. They were wrong. It’s passed through saliva. The virus attacks the red blood cells which mutate at an exponential rate. Symptoms manifest in murderous rage and cannibalism.

I still shiver when I think of the first time I encountered an Infected. It ran towards me screeching, its eyes were terrifying, I shot it in the face.

I have not felt pity for a while. The Infected are no longer human. It’s still bad if you have to kill one you know. I shot Dave the plumber. That was tough. He had fixed my ballcock once, decent job for a decent price. Plus he wasn’t stingy with the beer either. I was gutted. I had hoped he was okay because I had a leaking pipe in my flat.

Marvelous, isn’t it? Successive governments allowed the NHS to crumble into ruin, the train services were medieval and the police spent more time filing paperwork than accidentally shooting Brazilians on the Tube YET one little outbreak of contagion and Southampton was walled in quicker than a dead pharaoh. Personally, I think the government always had a plan to do it, they just needed an excuse.

I like the city more than I used to, which is a bit screwed up I guess.

Journey

The train shuddered to a halt. It had been a long journey. The platform was packed. Jack remained seated, he was scared. Jean was the only thing that had kept him going – a beacon of hope amidst the darkness of war. He had survived so they could be together.

He grasped his duffle bag and stepped down onto the platform. Families, friends and lovers were embracing and crying because their loved ones had been returned to them.

Jack was used to tears of despair, hysteria and fear. The tumultuous noise unnerved him. He strained his neck to peer over the melee, where was she?

The train tooted and chugged away. The crowd gradually thinned until Jack was the only one left. His smile had faded. He was alone. Again. He sat down on a wooden bench.

“She will come for me.”

Saying it helped him believe it, helped keep the fear at bay. The day faded into night and a chill pervaded the air. He had managed to scrape together enough money to wear a half-decent suit and tie. He wanted to forget about being a soldier, he wanted to be Jean’s husband. His remaining money had gone towards a ring which was nestled in his pocket.

A slight noise made Jack look up. A small dog had wandered onto the platform. The dog and Jack stared at each other. The dog growled at Jack and walked off. Jack put his head in his hands. He had tried to bury the horror deep down so Jean would never see it reflected in his eyes but she was not here and he could feel it welling up inside of him. The tears for the dead, tears for those he had killed. He had not considered a scenario without Jean lighting his path.

He felt a hand run through his hair and glanced up, hardly daring to believe…it was his angel.