Monday, 7 November 2011

'"Boxed In" live on Escape Pod

My story "Boxed In" has been published in the Escape Pod podcast! I'll write more once I'm home though =D

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Some News and a Previously Published Story.

It has been a while since I have even thought of posting here; it's strange to be back.

For anyone reading this who doesn't know me I recently became a father which has taken up rather a lot of my time and left me more than a little behind in my writing.

I did however submit a story ("Boxed In" which appeared in the BFS Winter Journal 2010/11) to Escape Pod (a rather excellent podcast) not really expecting them to take it. Lo and behold they liked it. Not just liked it; they bought it! I signed the contract the other day and I am just a wee bit happy about it.

Hopefully this will create a little more traffic here so I really have to get posting again. To get me started I am posting my story "Soul Search" which was published in Abolute-X-Press' anthology "Thieves & Scoundrels". Give it a read and let me know what you think. There might even be another story or two for this universe in the future, who knows.

Soul Search


The first thirty-five floors of the building played host only to non-magickal humans, so I had no problem slipping by the security guard with a simple glamour. He smiled as I walked in and greeted me as if I was his best friend, even though it was the middle of the night. A quick scribble to indicate a signature and he was wishing me all the best. It’s always bad when the beginning is so easy; you tend not to pay as much attention as you should to the events that follow. A lesson I had learned the hard way. Still, the Cailn didn’t like the dark so I’d be okay.
I paused at the bank of elevators, closed my eyes, and felt nothing, which was strange; the elevators should have been warded up the wazoo. Reaching out to press the button, I felt it. A tingling across the pad of my finger made me hesitate; I moved closer and wrinkled my nose as I caught the sour stench of Yra magick. It was amazing. The wards were so tiny and intricate, like nothing I had ever seen before. Even if I could have made them out properly, it would have taken hours to unravel them. Hours I didn’t have.
With a reluctant glance back at the elevators, I headed for the stairs. I was definitely not as fit as I should have been. The seemingly endless flights of stairs were taking their toll, so much so that I nearly walked right through the barrier separating the thirty-fifth and thirty-sixth floors.
The wards here were much larger than those downstairs. The smell was different too, like spicy food and milk, with a touch of gasoline. Three types of magick combined: Cailn, human, and something from one of the lower planes.
Once my breathing had calmed, and my muscles no longer burned as much, I closed my eyes to get a better look at the sigils on the wall and stairs.
For the most part it was an organic flow of Cailn magick, a twisting neon green pulse, mixed with the bright red curves and corners of human magick. Woven through these were three brown slashes; they had the look of violence about them. Demon magick.
I let the power flow to my hands and carefully began to unwind the ward’s strands. I had to stop seven more times on my way to the sixtieth floor. I was amazed at how simple the magick used to protect this place was. Other than the marks smelling of gasoline it was pretty run of the mill stuff. After that first set, I had a taste of what they were using and was able to raise my own defences. As I did, the rich coffee scent of my magick wafted around me, comforting as ever.
The sixtieth floor had two sets of signs on its doors. The first, for the everyday human, welcomed you to MGen Labs Inc. and politely explained that entry beyond this point was for authorized personnel only. Thank you very much, have a nice day.
The second set was only for people like me. It was nowhere near as friendly and the
warnings weren’t quite as polite. Basically, it let me know that if I dared enter through these doors one of their pet demons would tear my face off. Pleasant.
I could already feel the cage they had set up within the door itself. I wasn’t sure what it was holding but I was pretty sure it might screw up my plans for the rest of the night. A look at my watch told me what I already knew; this was taking way too long. I had until dawn to get it done and get out. After that my power would be severely depleted.
In the middle of summer, dawn came early.
Screw it,” I said. It was barely a whisper but the door seemed to hear. It began to writhe and I got a lung-full of gasoline.
Training kicked in and I could feel magick surging through my body. Without thinking, I unleashed a bolt of energy at the door, bursting the physical structure open before the creatures could haul themselves out of their cage. And then I ran straight into the lab.
Behind me, I could hear reality fracture as the demons forced their way onto our plane. I didn’t dare look back, not even to see what kind of being was after me; the twists and turns of the lab demanded my full attention. There was no point in fighting. If I didn’t get the vial before the sun poked its head over the horizon, I was screwed anyway.
Power still lay coiled in my body, barely held back. I couldn’t afford to let it go yet. They would be coming whether their demons got me or not.
I expelled a little power behind me, adding an extra burst of speed I knew I would have to pay for later.
The walls trembled as I ran past, the clinical white warping and twisting; they were trying to come through. I caught a glimpse of Gregan’s face, the plaster pulled taught over his angry features before it sank back into the wall. Behind me, the monsters roared like some kind of demonic tigers, but they weren’t close enough to catch me.
I found what I was looking for in Gregan’s office. The small vial holding Sophie’s soul lay cradled in a wooden stand; it had pride of place on the bastard’s desk.
The glass door shattered as I ran through. I didn’t stop as I grabbed the vial, just lowered my head and threw energy out before me.
The wall exploded, and glass rained down on the streets. I stepped out into nothing,
and wings burst from my back fuelled by the power I had stored.
I had her.
Behind me Gregan arrived on our plane roaring in fury. Sophie’s soul flared bright
in my hand and I felt her energy urging me home, to reunite body and soul.


Saturday, 22 January 2011

A Rather Pleasant Surprise

The British Fantasy Society winter journal came out a week ago and it happens to have a story of mine in it. Now, as pleasing as that is --very, in case you didn't notice-- DF Lewis, publisher of the Nemonymous series of themed story collections, has been writing one of his real time reviews and he had some very nice things to say about it.

So go and have a look at what he thinks of the other great stories in the journal, and see what else Mr Lewis has on offer.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Look what I found!

Last year at Christmas, I was lucky enough to have my first story published in Screaming Dream press' eZine Estronomicon. It is a Christmas story and written specifically for that issue but I had basically forgotten about it until today, when I stumbled across it in a very nice eZine format released through Issuu.

It might be short and only one of many but I remember it fondly. Check it out and let me know what you think, it's called 'The List'. Enjoy!

Monday, 6 December 2010

Human Nature

When the siege ended Padraig was one of the first through the ruined gates. Burning muscles suddenly fresh as the excitement rose within him.
He could hear, smell and see everything. From the stale sweat on his shield brother Duncan's brow, to the grinding of that madman Girn's teeth. Not to mention the fear in the few remaining defenders eyes.
This was a part of battle that he couldn't help but enjoy. The heightened senses, blood-lust roaring through his head, the certainty of victory.
His sword had cut and hacked at the pitiful defence, no finesse, no skill just savagery. The reward for eight months in this stinking shithole of a land.
He felt free.
After, came the shakes and the shivering. He sat on the remains of a small fountain in a square near the centre of the city and watched a pile of left hands burn. The smell was disgusting and the sight grotesque but he new in every direction there was much, much worse.
A hand clapped on his shoulder and Padraig stifled an unmanly yelp.
“It never gets better, does it brother?” Duncan said, seating himself beside Padraig, wineskin in hand.
Padraig wanted to reach out and drain the skin in one but he was sure his bastard hands would betray him, spilling the cheap wine all over himself.
Duncan jumped slightly as something 'popped' in the fire; a splash of wine landed on Padraig's foot.
He couldn't help but smile at that.
“What's so fuckin' funny then?” said Duncan, a smile on his face.
Another pop and it was as if a switch had been thrown causing a portcullis to fall.
“Why do we do it Duncan? This is what, our fourth siege together? Why are we always there at the fall? Rushing in like animals. What if Sadie could see me now, eh?” He felt a moment of revulsion as he looked at the blood of the men, women and children that covered his armour.
Duncan shook his head, “Truthfully? Some part of us likes it. It's human nature.”
“Bullshit!” he felt bile rise in his throat. The idea that he could enjoy such evil sickened him. He was only here for Janie and the bairn that would have been born already.
“Think about it, Paddy,” Duncan said, standing. “I'm off to find a place to kip, I'll save you a spot.” He placed his hand gently on his friends shoulder. “Drink the wine; forget all this. We'll be heading home soon.”
Padraig didn't look up he just took the skin in his no longer shaking hands and took a long swallow.
“Dark thoughts,” he whispered to himself.
He remembered the first siege. He had been seventeen, newly married and aching to be the hero. He was one of the last to enter through the massive gates, hours after the battle had been won but he could still hear screams. Men, women and children.
Some had been hauled off in chains, others killed out of hand. The unlucky ones raped or tortured. Piles of burning bodies had flanked the entrance; the smell had distracted him for a moment, allowing him to forget where he was long enough to accept a drink from another soldier.
After that he could remember very little. But for weeks after he would awake in the night drenched in sweat.
The next two were different. The battles themselves had been harder, more drawn out. Weeks of hearing the wounded on his own side scream had hardened him against the defenders. By the time the walls had been taken they were no longer human in his eyes.
At least not until after the battle lust had faded and he could remember the feel of a babies ankles in his hands, a scream cut short with a thud or a terrified woman keeping still as he had his 'turn'.
“Did I enjoy it?” at first all he could feel was disgust but somewhere beneath the surface he knew it. It was the feeling of power, of being in control. “Fuck!” it came out as a stifled cry.
He shook his head, a tear running down his face and lifted the skin to his lips. Empty. 'How long have I been sitting here?' he thought.
The sky was beginning to darken, making the fires seem all the brighter.
The world tilted and swam as Padraig made to stand, almost toppling in the process. He was drunker than he had thought. He closed his eyes trying to calm his mind.
Then he heard it: the echoes of tiny feet slapping against the cobbles, a child's breath labouring in its run. He opened his eyes to see a terrified boy race past.
'Shit,' he thought, 'they'll get him.' He knew most of the men were like him, only capable of such things with the heat of battle still on them, but there were others and they were the ones who searched for survivors.
“Stop boy!” if anything the boy increased his pace, diving into an alleyway. “Fuck!” Padraig gave chase, he couldn't let those sick bastards get him.
'What difference one more?' a part of his mind asked mocking.
He gritted his teeth and ran into the alley; straight into a cudgel.
When his head cleared he saw several children looming over him, little faces grim.
Padraig didn't even try to move. “I'm sorry,” he sobbed.
“Why?” asked one of the bigger girls, tear tracks cutting through the soot on her face. “Why do you do it?”
“I don't know,” this time his voice was firmer, he could make this good he could save these children, take them to safety. “A friend of mine says it's human nature, but I...”
“Human nature my arse! You are just weak,” she said as the cudgel arced down to smash into Padraig's face.
Even as his face was crushed his last thought was that she was right.



Lazy, lazy me!

Ok, so I haven't posted in a long time. Yes I've been busy but mostly lazy.

Anyway I have a couple of things coming up one is the TTA advent calendar on the 9th, where an old story of mine will appear.

Then there is the new BFS journal where I also have a story. So happy days.

Over the next couple of days I am going to try and post a couple of flash pieces in case anyone likes what I write =D

Friday, 30 April 2010

Duotrope's Digest Needs Our Help!

Duotrope's Digest is an excellent free writers resource which helps us find markets and manage our submissions. Whether you are an editor or writer, if you write prose or poetry Duotrope is an invaluable service.

Because it is free, however, they rely on our support in the form of donations and spreading the word. If you can't afford to give then why not follow them on Facebook or on Twitter. Or put a banner on your site. Anything to help spread the word.

If you don't know it, check it out and if you do, see what you can do to help.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Campaign for Real Fear submission - Loyal to the End

[This was my submission for the Campaign for Real Fear, it was rejected but I still think it's a good piece. This is definitely my greatest fear at the moment; that the world could go this way. Let me know what you think of it, all feedback welcome.]


The day of the election was tense, people were on the edge of their seats waiting, hoping, for the right result. It was the highest turnout in Britain for seventy years and it went our way.

Finally, a strong party, a party of the people. The party we needed.

The Queen was subdued in her congratulations and didn’t that speak volumes.

It was the bombs in Berlin and Newcastle that tipped the balance. Over three million dead. Terror took on a whole new meaning.

At first, we started to deport them, the Muslims, the Arabs, and it wasn't just us; all of Europe --all the world-- was doing it.

We struck back, making the Great Glass Deserts. We made an example.

But it wasn't enough.

We closed the borders and let Europe burn in its own filth. We had our own problems to deal with.

The ones that were left showed their true colours, they attacked us so we did our duty. Groups of us roamed the streets, our boots smashing into bodies and faces. We brought them all to justice. They were all a threat; man, woman and child.

The Queen spoke out against the violence; we never heard anything about her, or her family, after that.

Then the hangings started. A gallows in every city. We came out to watch, we cheered, and we revelled in the justice.

After a while we stopped letting the necks break, we let them kick and struggle, a lesson to everyone.

Once we were done with the Arabs, we turned to the Indians. I mean similar colour right? They were no different, no matter how long they said their parents had been here. We had to stop them before they got started.

We had to make things safe, didn't we?

And when the foreigners were gone? We looked for the traitors in our own ranks. Rooting them out, one by one.

They questioned me because of that bloody leaflet. I told them, I was never going to read it I just picked it up. I told them I was loyal.

They didn't believe me.

I'm standing at the gallows now, waiting. The smell of piss, shit and vomit is overwhelming.

“I’m innocent,” I want to shout, “I’m loyal!” But my mouth is swollen and my teeth are gone.

The noose is damp with the sweat of I don't know how many people. How many vermin. As it tightens I hold my breath, the tears running down my face nothing to do with the stench.

To the left and right of me real traitors are being strung up. Treasonous bastards the lot of them but not me.

The trapdoor falls and I start to choke. I wet myself and my bowels loosen. My feet kick out and all I can think is how unfair it is, that I'll be buried with all these traitorous bastards.

It’s not fair.


Wednesday, 7 April 2010

Virtual Book Launch and stuff ;)

This Saturday (10/4/2010) some of the authors of the 'Thieves & Scoundrels' anthology and I will be taking part in a virtual book launch. This will include a live chat, with each of us allotted a 15min slot to answer questions and talk about our stories.

The whole thing will kick off at 5pm UK time and I'll be on at 6.15 UK/1915 Europe. It seems like it'll be a lot of fun and the more people who are online to grill me the better. If you are interested you can find the link here. Also if you are on Twitter you can follow the night's festivities under the hashtag - #ffc3


On the 10th we are also trying to get as many people as possible to log on to Amazon and check the book out/wish list it or even buy it, anything to help push it up the chart.


You can also pick it up on Smashwords for $2.95, which, to be honest, is nothing to grumble about. If you read the book please let me and the other authors know what you think, all feed back is welcome.

Oh, one last thing.

Last year my first story was published in the eZine Estronomicon, which was a big boost to my confidence. Now, Screaming Dreams presents their annual Dead of Night Award, there are plenty of great stories, authors and artists in there so I am not expecting many votes, but one or two would be nice (thanks mum, dad). If you haven't read Estronomicon yet you can find all the issues under the link above and they are all free. Good, eh?

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Thieves & Scoundrels

The anthology 'Thieves & Scoundrels' from Absolute Xpress, which contains my story 'Soul Search', has been released on Amazon =)



This is the first actual print story (i.e. not e-based) that I have so I am inordinately happy. My name is unfortunately not linked there as they only have room for 15 authors and there are 18 of us (curse my fathers lack of alphabetical superiority ;) but I'm in there.

The virtual book launch is on the 10th of April and there will be a Q&A session with the authors and something called a chart rush. So even if you don't wanna buy it give it a click on the 10th or stick it on your wish list :)

More details as I get them.

Ta

Monday, 1 March 2010

Motherhood

The world shuddered and something cracked.

Annabell spooned the tea bags carefully out of the mugs, wrapping the cords around them to squeeze the last of the bitter liquid out. One and a half sugars in one and a splash of milk in each, a soft clink as she stirred; the spoon tapping the sides.

Shudder.

The boy shivered, pulling his threadbare jacket tight.
Night was the best time to get food but it was also the coldest time. He had already tried three of the bins on his usual round just one more to go.
As he reached the alley he stopped, his stomach turned and he shivered again, though not from cold.
"Hello?" he said into the dark.
And something answered.


Annabell smiled to herself as she arranged the biscuits on the fine porcelain. They were the good ones, the ones for special guests.

Shudder.

Gunfire and screams echoed through the night. Theresa was terrified. Mum had said to wait, and she had waited, but now she was really hungry. Her belly ached and growled and mum still wasn't back. She was scared, hungry, tired and alone.
She wasn't sure how long it had been but all the water mum had left her was gone. She had been careful with it too, just like mum said.
A thump and Theresa jumped.
"It's ok hon, mummy's home," it was her mother's voice but it was strange. "Come on out honey, I have food."
The girls stomach gave a loud rumble and she slowly made her way out of the hidey hole.
She looked up to her mum, glad she was home and screamed. Mother grinned and pounced.


The mugs of tea were cooling on the table, biscuits perfectly arranged on the tea plate. Annabell sat straight backed, waiting.
She heard the key turn in the door and smiled, straightening her skirt.
"Hello, James."

Shudder.

It was chaos.
People cheered as others were beaten. The strong chased down the weak. Wives stabbed husbands, siblings fought tooth and nail ripping each other to pieces.
Above them all the crack widened and something started to come through.


"Stop this, Annabell." James' voice was deep and gruff. It was an old voice.
Annabell sipped at her tea; wincing at the heat. "You know what I want James."
"There are other ways to get your way, Bell. You know there are. Now stop this foolishness, people are dying."
The woman's eyes flashed red, "No, not until I get what I want."
James watched a spider crawl out of her ear and scarper to her mouth, disappearing as quickly as it had appeared.

Shudder.

Reality tore and blood flowed. And a world cried out in pain.

Wind howled through Annabell's living room, tearing at James but leaving everything else untouched. James could hear the fires of another plane roaring in the distance.
"You can have it, anything, just stop." He spoke calmly, ignoring the pulling at his hair and clothes.
"And he will be mine? Mine alone?"
"Yes," James thought he heard defeat in his own voice. "It can be your's, just no more destruction."
Annabell smiled and took a sip of her tea, "Biscuit?"

The world shuddered and woke from a nightmare.

        Upstairs in Annabell's house a newborn baby began to cry.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Monsters at the Gate

Two monstrous machines flanked the entrance to the gate. They towered above me, vaguely man-shaped; two arms, two legs and one ugly-as-hell face. I had been warned about them, told how I could pass unharmed.
Something about a toll at the gate.

My left arm hung limp at my side, my hand caked in dried blood. Other than that I was just dandy.
Behind me the town was already beginning to smell like death.
I could have sworn that I heard the flies gathering, an army mustering for war.
Then the world tilted, and the ground punched my head.

The town was a dark spot in the golden desert. It couldn't have had more than three hundred or so inhabitants.
And it had a bad reputation.
Supposedly I had been there before, but I couldn't remember. There was so much I couldn't remember, important things; like how the fuck I got here, for a start.

My horse had died the day before. It was almost ready for the knackers when I bought it, so I couldn't complain too much.
I wanted to raise it, but I was too weak and besides, I would need everything I had for the town.
That night, I ate horse for the first, and hopefully the last, time in my life. Then I slept, dreaming of rush hour traffic and shitty reality TV. Funny what your mind thinks of as home, no?

The morning brought a messenger.
A black bird, the size of a large house cat, was perched on the horse carcass. It's head cocked, black, beady, eyes fixed on me.
"Well good mornin' to you too, ya old bastard." My voice was dry, hoarse.
Of course, black birds can't speak, not even here in this land of magick. The message, however, was clear. As was the messenger.
I almost said thank you, before remembering that this was mostly the old man's fault. Instead, I looked the bird in the eye and slowly nodded.
With a shrieking caw and a single beat of it's wings, it was gone and I was left to prepare myself for the journey home.

When I woke, it was dark already.
The guardians were still in place, unmoving and, somehow, terrifying for it.
Left arm still useless, I carefully got to my feet, spitting blood from my now mashed cheek.
Life, didn't get any better.
Taking a moment to gather myself, I felt for my guns. I almost panicked, then I remembered the kid and the destruction I had left behind me.

By the time I reached the town the sun was well up. Baking heat made me carry my heavy duster under my arm, my wide brimmed hat still atop my head despite the sweat soaking the band.
Even knowing what to expect, the sight of them was shocking. Man, woman and child, all had changed into a grotesque parody of humanity.
The old man had warned me, told me I would have to use what he had taught me to get through the town to the gate. He had spun a tale of the demons the townsfolk had become: bulging faces, budding horns, even stunted wings. Some were even beginning to rot.
What he hadn't told me was how quiet it would be.
The inhabitants shuffled along, as if about their normal, daily chores. The shop keeper -- jaw hanging loose, giant canines protruding down from under his puffed lip, -- swept the boardwalk in front of his store. A woman in a bonnet carried flowers in her basket, chatting with what looked like a little boy with four arms. If it weren't for the fact that they were no longer human, it could have been any one-horse town, in any cheesy western on the TV back home.
Steeling myself, I drew the two enchanted weapons and stepped over the invisible barrier I knew was there.

I didn't know if I could do it without the guns.
All I wanted was to go home, I had been through enough. Torn away from all that I knew to this hell of a world. Forced to do things a middle-manager should never be made to do. I had done it all, I had played my part.
I gathered what little power was left to me, squared my shoulders and walked towards the guardians of the gate.

Once I had passed the border, into the town itself, I could make no sound. Silence was king in the town of demons. It was worse than if they had screamed, shouted and cursed.
The shock I felt, when the guns didn't produce their usual boom, almost made me drop them. Sheer terror kept my hands tight around their butts.
Snarling faces rushed at me, blood and saliva dripping from gaping maws. I made each shot count, putting enough magick behind each one deadly.
As they dropped, they writhed. The demons that possessed the towns inhabitants fought to control the bodies, but, as the magick forced them out, the corpses resumed their human forms.
Searing pain flowered in my arm as claws bit deep, small cuts appeared on my back, chest and face. Walking forward became an agony.
And, suddenly, there was only one left. Small like a child but with fully formed wings and horns, black flames burned in its eyes.
The demon laughed at me, throwing its head back in silence. Its lips moved and its hands burned black.
The weapons became so hot, I dropped them and watched them melt into a silver puddle, the runes along their barrels flaring briefly. All fear fled me then and I felt the power rise in me, it wasn't my power and it wasn't me controlling it. My mouth opened in a soundless scream and I felt as if I would explode. I screwed my eyes shut, wishing it to be over.
Next thing I knew, I could hear myself screaming. In front of me lay a young boy, no older than eight, his chest was a mass of red.

As I approached the metal monstrosities stirred.
Faces born of hell turned to look at me and I braced myself for the worst.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Who'd a thunk it, a reprint!

The wonderful people at Jersey Devil Press have included my flash story Kali's Dance in their current issue which you can access here.

Even if you have read it please click on the link and read the other great stories on offer.

As always, let me know what you think.

Cheers,

Marc

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Busy, Busy!

I am in the middle of writing a few short stories that are taking longer than I thought. I am also waiting on a couple of flash submissions, which, if I get a knock back I'll post here. :p

I recently took part in SF Signal's Mind Meld on Anime films, check it out for some great choice from among others Charles Stross.

I also volunteered to look after TTA Press' fan page on Facebook.

Other than that I got word that my story Boxed In has been accepted for a future issue of the BFS's New Horizons publication. It will not appear until December, or possibly even June 2011, due to the fact it only comes out twice a year. I am well chuffed.

I will try and get something posted over the next few days.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Kali's Dance

They danced as the world fell around them. Her head on his shoulder, his hand placed delicately on her waist.
Steven could hear people scream in the distance, causing him to start.
"Shhh," her soft voice tickled his ear. "It'll be done soon." He swept her round in a spin as lightning flashed above them, followed immediately by the cymbal crash of thunder.

Not long before, the sun had been shining and children had played on the streets. They called out to one another in their games of hide and seek or tig. A girl screamed at the sight of a slug in her brother's hand, this teasing a squeal of joy from the brother. Water balloons were thrown and footballs kicked.
In the shadows of his living room Steven sat, tapping his nervous fingers on the threadbare armchair that had once belonged to his mother. Usually when he sat there memories of his mother brought him calm. The smell of her perfume, soft and sweet, would fill his nose bringing comfort and security.
Not today though. Today he was going to go too far.

Eyes squeezed shut Steven,somehow, managed to lead his partner. He had never danced before, never had the opportunity, and yet he felt graceful. It was a strange feeling.
"What will happen to them?" He couldn't bring himself to look. His ears were filled with a music now, at once violent and gentle. His own voice part of the melody.
When she spoke it was a gentle soothing kiss in his head, "What do you want to happen to them?"

"Shit-head Steven! What's the matter mummy's boy? You shit your pants?" Brian Denning, Steven's tormentor since primary school, towered over him drawing back his foot for another kick. Fanned out behind him were his usual squad of vapid goons. Not an original thought in one of them, his mother had always said.
The size twelve landed with a dull thump on Steven's backside, eliciting a yelp of pain.
Denning beamed down at him, "I heard you get it worse from your dad." One of the goons plucked up the courage and aimed a kick at the prone boy's head.
Steven felt it connect then the warm blood trickled down his face.
The whole group laughed and a wad of spit hit his hair.

The beat was faster now, punctuated by explosions and screams.
All around them things were launched into the air, flung about as if in a tornado. Somewhere, in the background of the song, Steven could here other things; discordant notes, calls that he wasn't sure he wanted to be real.
Eyes still screwed shut, his hand tightened on his partners waist. "I-I don't know." Faces of the people he knew filled his mind. They weren't all bad, just most of them. "Will it happen to everyone?"
She let out a deep laugh, Steven was embarrassed to find himself aroused by it. "No, little one. You do not have so much power." Despite the laugh he didn't feel like she was mocking him. "Only those in your little world."

"You are always off on your own little world, ya wee shite!" His dad was drunk again.
Steven had made the mistake of doing his homework with his headphones on. His father had come in drunk wanting some one to shout at and didn't appreciate not being heard.
"Just like your useless mother." A hand lashed out, leaving a red mark on the boy's face. "You should have died when she did."
Steven thought his dad might have went to bed, then he heard the belt buckle being undone and began to shake.
"I'll show you boy." If he had thought it would have helped Steven would have screamed.

The discordant notes started to incorporate themselves into the tune, no longer sounding quite so dangerous. He knew those sounds were made by nothing human, but he didn't care. He shouldn't have to suffer anymore.
"I want them to pay," he whispered, afraid of the words he was uttering.
"To do that you have to open your eyes, honey. Look at me." There was a smile in her tone.
Gently she pushed him back, so that they were standing face to face.
Slowly, he opened his eyes.

At first they darted from side to side, unable to take it all in, then his mind began to separate things.
There was fire everywhere, not red and orange but blue and green. Bits of the sky were crashing onto streets already cracked and torn, cars were crushed or ripped apart. The roofs of houses had collapsed leaving ragged scars on the facades.
People ran in all directions, some cut and bloodied others with a look of madness that was infinitely worse. Behind the people came creatures cloaked in shadow, threatening shapes with hints of violence. Their voices now sounded sweet rather than terrible.
Then his eyes landed on her.

Her smile was sharp as a diamond blade, but stunning. She was the most beautiful creature he could ever have imagined. Like something out of a film, with alabaster skin, blood red lips and almond shaped eyes. The eyes caught him; black orbs that looked so deep, he could easily lose himself in them.
"See what I do for you my boy?" She pulled him to her her once again, making him take the lead in their dance. "Now we come to the question of price."
Steven pulled his head back slightly, "Price?" Her smile was still sharp, still stunning, but was now more terrible than the monsters had been.
"Nothing is free, my darling. Nothing." She kissed him, and he fell into darkness.